Archbishop Justin licenses Phil Potter

Thursday, 3 April, 2014

Archbishop Justin Welby licensed the Revd Canon Phil Potter as Archbishops' Missioner and Team Leader of Fresh Expressions during a service at Lambeth Palace yesterday.

Canon Potter, Director of Pioneer Ministry for the Diocese of Liverpool, succeeds Bishop Graham Gray, who has held the post since 2009.

Archbishop Justin said today that Bishop Cray would be

a really hard act to follow, and in Phil Potter I think Fresh Expressions have got one of the few people who can do it well. It's all in God's hands and I am confident that Fresh Expressions will continue to lead the reimagination of the ministry of the church in this country.

Canon Potter said:

This is going to be an exciting and challenging season as we all work together for the renewal of our Church and the re-evangelisation of our nation. I am looking forward immensely to working with new colleagues and forging fresh partnerships in the task of making Christ fully known to all.

During the Service of Commissioning Archbishop Justin, on behalf of the Provinces of Canterbury and York, gave his license and commission to Canon Potter, who made the Declaration of Assent and the Oaths of Allegiance and Canonical Obedience.

Archbishop Justin and the Revd Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church, then led prayers of commissioning for Canon Potter, joined by members of the congregation.

During his homily, Archbishop Justin noted that members of the congregation represented different church denominations and church groups.

I want to emphasise that this is truly a work of collaboration by those of different denominations who have been caught up by the life and presence of Jesus Christ,

he said.

We have all come to share not in an Anglican thing but in something that is the work of the Church of God.

The Archbishop went on to say that those involved in Fresh Expressions would need 'soft hearts and hard feet' and would need to run fast 'to keep up with what God is doing'.

It's about salvation; it's about God bringing life. It's about seeing what the Father is doing and joining in. He does it for the sake of the world, not for our sake.

Transcript of Archbishop Justin's sermon at Canon Phil Potter's licensing
2nd April 2014, Lambeth Palace Chapel

First of all I want to say thank you to those who've come here from different churches and church groups and para-church groups. Inside the order of service you've got you'll find a list of those [who are involved with Fresh Expressions].

I draw attention to that because I want to emphasise that this is truly a work of collaboration by those of different denominations who have been caught up by the life and the presence of Jesus Christ. We have all come to share not in an Anglican thing but in something that is the work of the Church of God. And that is a much more challenging thing to do, and Fresh Expressions is actually one of those rare things where the church has managed to work together.

And, despite the odd glitch, what we are seeing is the fulfilment of God being faithful to his promise that when we act as one then the world may know that Christ belongs to God, is one with the Father and has come from above and has returned to the Father. And we see this in micro in Fresh Expressions; we want to see it in macro across the world, but we see it in micro in Fresh Expressions and that's one of the most exciting things. It isn't about institutional survival, but it's about proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.

The best decision anyone can ever make is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. That's it. That's our job. And the readings today are relevant. The Isaiah reading, that wonderful, breath-taking sense of journey and of journey facilitated by the Spirit of God. But that has to be a journey. The exiles had to get up off their back ends where they were located and go home. And that won't have been easy. By the time the return began to happen, by the time you've got this picture of journey, of renewal, of God being present with his people again, of recall to Israel, to Jerusalem, by that time they will have been very well settled. They'd all have their kids in school, they were registered with the GP and they know where to go to the dentist... But they know all that, they've obeyed Jeremiah. They've dug gardens, they've blessed their communities, they've settled. But suddenly, off they go, into a world that was as insecure then as it is now... To be around people who really don't want you to be there and to do it in obedience to God and to trust that an invisible God...

The first thing about Fresh Expressions is we need to move and then God will act. He won't act without us moving. We have to move as God's people. We have to cast off the restraints. One of the quinquennial priorities of the Church of England, for this quinquennium, is that of re-imagining ministry... Well, I hope Phil has some sharp elbows because he's going to need them. Because journeys, however blessed by God, need sharp elbows.

Jackie Pullinger once said: 'What God wants is people with soft hearts and hard feet.... That's what Fresh Expressions needs. It needs the soft hearts and the hard feet, because when we come to the Gospel reading it ends with Jesus reminding people that this is about salvation, it's about God bringing life. It's about changing religious presumptions and codes so that the life of God spills out. It's about seeing what the Father is doing.

And Fresh Expressions, if it's doing its stuff, is going to have to run like nothing that we've seen in order to keep up with what God is doing, because he's doing some extraordinary things. And the faster that we run, the more things he does, and therefore the harder it is to keep up with what he's doing and to join in with him, which is what Rowan Williams and John Wimber said is basically the task of the church. And to give it permission and to break down barriers, because this is about salvation, it's not about institutional survival...

This is the most important thing. And what the Father is doing is raising the dead; he's doing it all over the place, he's bringing new life to people in the most extraordinary ways. And he does it to the church – he raises dead churches to life – he does it to the church for the sake of the world, not for our sake. All self-referentiality has got to be ditched. This is for the sake of the world.

And just to end, with a note of celebration – not triumphalism, because it is all grace... The latest figures show that God is bringing life. Thirty-four percent of Fresh Expressions worshippers who are over 16 have never been part of a church before. Praise God. Let us in this service, as we pray for Phil, let us come with hope and absolute determination that this is going to become mainstream in all our churches – not an added extra, but something that is part of the busy life of the church.



Hearty and sincere congratulations Phil. I was delighted to read about your appointment. May God continue to bless your ministry.

Enjoyed your sessions with us here in Kingston Ontaio. I referred you to a like- minded Irish catholic priest, Diarmuid O'Murchu, with whose views on the need for change in the church you might have much in common.

He is here in Kingston Ontario next week doing a retreat.

Congratulations Phil! Looking forward to working with and supporting you in this vital work for the Kingdom.
God bless,

Congratulations ..... and now it begins!!
looking forward to welcoming you back to Belfast in the not to distant future.

May you know God's hand on your life and ministry.

Dear Phil, this is such good news, and I pray for abundant blessings on you and the team as you go forward together.


Congratulations Phil - good news indeed. Prayers and good wishes come from Whalley Range and Moss Side!

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