MIDWEST CITY — The spiritual leader of the world’s 85 million Anglicans said humans are inherently violent but a redemptive God can bring transformation to the human heart.
Thursday, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, said the Church must be committed to spreading the Christian gospel of peace and to view the tragedy of widespread violence not as the problem of someone else, but “our disease.”
“Without the intervention of God, human beings are lost,” Welby said at the “Reclaiming the Gospel for Peace” conference at the Reed Conference Center in Midwest City.
The event was hosted by the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma and the Episcopal Church USA, the American arm of the worldwide Anglican Communion led by Welby.
People from around the country gathered to hear from Welby and other clergy leaders as well as attend breakout sessions on a variety of topics including gun laws, domestic violence, crime and incarceration. Such topics were part of the conference’s overall aim to counter the increasing violence in America.
The Rt. Rev. Ed Konieczny, bishop of the Diocese of Oklahoma, said 220 clergy and laity from around the country were attending the conference, including 35 bishops. Konieczny said it was an honor to have both Welby, making his historic first visit to Oklahoma, and the Episcopal Church USA Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the gathering.
Konieczny and the Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton, bishop of the Diocese of Maryland, opened the conference Wednesday. Church leaders said the conference grew out of conversations initiated by Sutton, who asked those in attendance to make the event a “condemnation-free zone” while discussing the hot topic of violence. Konieczny, for his part, joked that he is a “gun-toting bishop,” referring to his background as a longtime Southern California police officer and his belief in the right to bear arms.
Meanwhile, Welby’s keynote speech on Thursday morning and a subsequent news conference were two of the highlights of the conference. As archbishop of Canterbury, Welby is spiritual leader for about 85 million people, spread across 38 provinces in more than 165 countries.