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Archbishop of Canterbury at Spring Harvest: 'We are going to heal the world's separation from God.'

Archbishop of Canterbury at Spring Harvest: 'We are going to heal the world's separation from God.'

By James Macintyre
April 5, 2017

More than four thousand Christians have gathered in the south west of England for the annual Spring Harvest festival involving worship, prayer, music and Bible teaching.

A highlight of Spring Harvest at Minehead, Somerset will be a visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

WATCH Justin Welby talk about Spring Harvest this year and how Christians can live together when they have 'profound disagreements'. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YbGPApg1mA

'Jesus prayed that we would be united. Our witness depends upon us being united,' he said. 'How we experience the love of Christ is transformed by unity.' Christians disagree on many important things. 'But we love one another... and we are going to love the world and heal, above all, its separation from God.'

The event in the coastal Somerset town of Minehead kicked off last night with a 'celebration' led by the popular worship leader Lou Fellingham.

Thousands of delegates sang along to worship songs including a version of 'How Great Thou Art' and 'The Lord is my Shepherd' as well as 'This I believe (the creed)' by Hillsong.

A show of hands indicated that around a third of delegates were attending Spring Harvest for the first time, while two-thirds had come before.

'A lot of people from my church were coming and I always wanted to come to a major Christian festival,' said Jean Allen, who was attending for the first time. Another first-time delegate, Claire Mottershead, 43, who had come with her three children said that she had come because 'I worry that the children don't get a chance to learn about God'.

The event was fronted by Abby Guinness, the head of Spring Harvest, Gavin Calver, the director of mission at the Evangelical Alliance, and the author and Baptist pastor Malcolm Duncan.

Duncan, who is head of planning at Spring Harvest, preached on the theme of this year's gathering, which is 'one for all' - Christian unity – and lamented the divisions within the Church today. 'We are stronger when we stand together,' Duncan said, adding that there has been 'too much fighting, dissent, disagreement' in the Church.

He went on: 'We split over unimportant things...in ways that are so unattractive to the world.' But, he said, 'There is more that unites us than divides us...Don't let your denomination define you. If only we would learn to be one family [despite] differing views over the role of women [and] sexuality'.

Duncan then helped launch an unprecedented display of evangelical unity across the UK in an initiative called '17:21'.

The initiative, which will roll into subsequent Christian festivals until October, is named after the prayer of Jesus in John 17:21: 'May they all be one that the world might believe'.

Unveiling a 'scroll' with a statement of unity read by the audience in unison, Duncan then invited attendees, especially the disabled, to mark the scroll with their thumb-prints.

A video played to the audience showed how £300,000 raised by Spring Harvest 2016 went towards the plight of refugees. Russell Rook, the head of the Good Faith partnership which helps house refugees in the UK, thanked Spring Harvest attendees for their support, while Eddie Lyles of Open Doors described how 'Christians have been in the cross-hairs of the conflict with ISIS' in the Middle East.

Announcing the launch of 17:21 in February, Duncan said: 'The 17:21 initiative calls all of us who stand under the shadow of the Cross to link arms in the great responsibility that God has given us – presenting a living Saviour to a dying world. I have been humbled and thrilled to be part of this call to the festivals, conventions and Bible weeks in the United Kingdom to declare that we are united by far more than what divides us. May God take us beyond structural and mechanistic unity and give us the boldness and courage to stand together for Christ.


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