Church leaders welcomed to Downing Street

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The annual Downing Street Advent Reception at No 10.(Photo: 10 Downing Street)

Church leaders were welcomed to the official residence of the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday for an Advent reception. 

The leaders represented a variety of denominations and traditions, and were hosted by housing secretary Michael Gove in place of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak who was fighting off a revolt in the Commons against the government’s Rwanda plans.

Downing Street said the reception “celebrated the vital work churches and Christian communities do year-round in service of people across the UK, as Christians around the world prepare for Christmas”.

The church leaders were welcomed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who said that Advent was a time to think about judgement and the coming of Christ, the “one and only Saviour”. 

Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, Archbishop Angaelos, said it was “good to be at Number 10 Downing Street … with mention made of the work of the church in communities, and the importance of its message of hope in Britain and beyond today”. 

Archbishop Nikitas of Thyateira and Great Britain said the reception was an “opportunity to exchange wishes and thoughts with other Christian leaders, ministers, and Members of Parliament”.

“The event was marked by a spirit of shared anticipation and reflection characteristic of the Advent season, further enhanced by the delightful sound of children’s carols, which added a festive and joyful atmosphere,” said the Sacred Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain.

“The gathering concluded with an exchange of Advent blessings and a united hope for peace and goodwill.” 

John Stevens, National Director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, was more critical, commenting that Gove had “thanked us for the ‘social action’ we organise and for the care of the church for those who need a helping hand”.

“This crystallises two totally different understandings of Christianity and what it is primarily about. To the Archbishop it was about salvation. To the politician it was about social utility,” he said. 

“The sadness is that far too many church leaders speak as if the church exists almost exclusively to do social action rather than to enable people to escape the wrath to come.” 

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