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Welby told CNC: ‘appointing me would be absurd’

Ed Thornton

by Ed Thornton

Posted: 01 Feb 2013 @ 12:14

THE Archbishop-elect, the Rt Revd Justin Welby, told the Crown Nominations Commission that it would be "a joke" and "perfectly absurd" to choose him for Canterbury, it emerged this week.

In an interview at the Trent Vineyard Church in Nottingham, alongside his wife, Caroline, on Sunday, Bishop Welby described the appointment process. He had been invited, along with other diocesan bishops, to write a statement outlining what he would do if he was appointed Archbishop.

"I'd been a bishop, let alone the Bishop of Durham, for seven months," Bishop Welby said. "So I wrote a statement saying: 'Well, if I was Archbishop of Canterbury I'd do this, this, this, and this.'

"And the final paragraph said: 'I've enjoyed writing this. I hope you've enjoyed reading it. But frankly it's a joke, because it is self-evident that it is perfectly absurd to consider appointing someone to Canterbury who's been a bishop for seven months. I shall be praying for you to make the right choice."

During the interview, Bishop Welby spoke of the death of his daughter, Johanna, at the age of seven months, five days after a car crash in Paris, in May 1983. In October of that year, the couple accompanied the Rt Revd Sandy Millar, then Vicar of Holy Trinity, Brompton, on a trip to California, where they met the Revd John Wimber, one of the founders of the Vineyard movement.

During the trip, Bob and Penny Fulton, who helped to found the Vineyard movement, prayed with the Welbys in their hotel room. "They enabled us to see that God was walking with us in this very painful period," Bishop Welby said.

"And we've had a lot of illness with the children and the family since . . . really very serious, life-threatening illnesses. And through it all there have been moments of great darkness; but through it all there's been this reality of the love of Jesus. And it was really through that encounter with the Vineyard that we began to see that."

Bishop Welby went on to say that he thought that the present moment was "the greatest moment of opportunity for the Church since the Second World War". Since the banking collapse of 2008, "all the idols on which our society was based have fallen. They've been toppled."

But, he said, "the Church needs to be a place of peace if, now that the idols have fallen, we are to show people. That doesn't mean that we all agree; it means that we love each other when we don't agree. . .

"If you look back on some of the arguments we've had over the last few months in the Church of England, it is poison to the mind of those who are outside the Church. It anaesthetises them against the gospel."

Speaking before a farewell service in Durham Cathedral on Monday, Bishop Welby said that the prospect of becoming the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury was "extremely scary and a huge privilege. . . It's exciting."

He said that the Church needed to find "a way forward" on women bishops and the debate over sexuality. "The Church at a national level has to be outward-looking and a body that is engaging, not looking inwards and consumed by its own problems. . . I am optimistic we can make progress."

The office of Archbishop will be conferred on Bishop Welby at St Paul's Cathedral on Monday. 

The interview with Bishop and Mrs Welby can be found here.

Dave Walker

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