Video: Bishop Justin Welby's opening statement at Lambeth
Palace, 9 November 2012
In his own words: Bishop Welby's statement on
TO BE nominated to this post is both astonishing and exciting.
It is something I never expected, and the last few weeks have been
a very strange experience.
It is exciting because we are at one of those rare points where
the tide of events is turning, and the church nationally, including
the Church of England has great opportunities to match its very
great but often hidden strengths.
I feel a massive sense of privilege at being one of those
responsible for the leadership of the Church in a time of spiritual
hunger, when our network of parishes and churches and schools and
above all people means that we are facing the toughest issues in
the toughest place.
I want to say at once that one of the biggest challenges is to
follow a man who I believe will be recognised as one of the
greatest Archbishops of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. He is some one
with a deep love for Jesus Christ, an infectious spirituality,
extraordinary integrity and holiness, immense personal moral and
physical courage, and, of course, one of the world's principal
theologians and philosophers. On the basis that you should only
follow failures, this is a great mistake.
To be fully serious, the Church worldwide owes him a great debt,
more than it knows, and I shall be continuing to seek his advice
and wisdom. I can only wish him, Jane and the family a wonderful
end to his time at Canterbury and joy in their new roles.
AS I look back I am touched by the way in which so many people
have contributed to who both Caroline and I have become. I learned
a great deal from the companies in which I worked, above all from
my bosses and my colleagues.
We were nurtured and shaped as Christians in the churches in
Paris and London. I had the privilege of serving as a curate
amongst wonderful people in Nuneaton, and making many mistakes as a
rector in Southam.
Coventry Cathedral opened my eyes to the church overseas and
gave me a passion for reconciliation, and Liverpool humoured me,
teased me and quietly taught me.
Above all, the providence of God has surrounded us in so many
ways through tragedy and joy.
Learning from other traditions than the one into which I came as
a Christian has led me into the riches of Benedictine and Ignatian
spirituality, the treasures of contemplative prayer and adoration,
and confronted me with the rich and challenging social teaching of
the Roman Catholic Church.
LOOKING forward, I am very conscious of my own weakness, and the
great need I will have for advice and wisdom, especially from those
who are senior amongst the bishops, who see deeply into the issues
that are faced by the Church of England, and amongst the Primates
who guide the Anglican Communion in its present struggles.
There are some things of which I am deeply confident. Our task
as part of God's Church is to worship him in Christ and to overflow
with the good news of his love for us, of the transformation that
he alone can bring which enables human flourishing and joy. The
tasks before us are worship and generous sharing of the good news
of Christ in word and deed.
HOW we do those things is, of course, much more complicated. The
work of the Church of England is not done primarily on television
or at Lambeth, but in over 16,000 churches, where hundreds of
thousands of people get on with the job they have always done of
loving neighbour, loving each other and giving more than 22 million
hours of voluntary service outside the church a month.
They are the front line, and those who worship in them, lead
them, minster in them are the unknown heroes of the Church. I have
never had demands on me as acute as when I was a parish priest.
One of the greatest privileges of this role will be the
inspiration of so many grassroots projects that I will see around
the country. We have seen the wonderful hospitality and genius of
the people in this country inside and outside the Church during
this marvellous year of Jubilee and Olympics.
Because of that vast company of serving Anglicans, together with
those in other Churches, I am utterly optimistic about the future
of the Church. We will certainly get things wrong, but the grace of
God is far greater than our biggest failures. We will also
certainly get much right, and do so already.
Taking the right role in supporting the Church as it goes on
changing and adapting is the task where the collective wisdom of
the bishops will be so important.
The House of Bishops is very wise. I have had the great
privilege of serving great bishops, Colin Bennetts in Coventry,
James Jones in Liverpool, and Archbishop Sentamu in York. The
Archbishop has great communication gifts, wisdom, and deep
understanding of the global Church, and I am greatly looking
forward to continuing to learn from him.
THE Anglican Communion, for all its difficulties, is also a
source of remarkable blessing to the world. In so many countries it
is one of the main sharers of reconciliation and hope in Jesus
Christ. Anglicans today stand firm in faith alongside other
Christians under pressure in many places, especially in northern
Nigeria, a country close to my heart.
I am very much looking forward to meeting the Primates of the
Anglican Communion, and have sent them a message today. Many of
them I know already, and again have learned from them and will
UNTIL early in the New Year I continue in Durham, and we have an
Archbishop, so, apart from the initial flurry, I will just be doing
what is in the diary already.
One of the hardest things will be to leave Durham. I work with a
group of wonderful senior colleagues and remarkable clergy and lay
people. It is an astonishing part of the country, one which, as a
family, we were greatly looking forward to living in for many
years. The people are direct, inspiring and wonderfully friendly.
In many ways it has been the ancient cradle of British
It is a place of opportunity and an even greater future than its
past. I will continue to do all I can to support the area.
THIS is a time for optimism and faith in the Church. I know we
are facing very hard issues. In ten days or so the General Synod
will vote on the ordination of women as Bishops. I will be voting
in favour, and join my voice to many others in urging the Synod to
go forward with this change.
In my own diocese, and before I was a bishop, I have always
recognised and celebrated the remarkable signs of God's grace and
action in the ministries of many people who cannot in conscience
agree with this change. Personally I value and learn from them, and
want the Church to be a place where we can disagree in love,
respecting each other deeply as those who belong to Christ.
We also face deep differences over the issue of sexuality. It is
absolutely right for the state to define the rights and status of
people cohabiting in different forms of relationships, including
civil partnerships. We must have no truck with any form of
homophobia, in any part of the Church.
The Church of England is part of the worldwide Church, with all
the responsibilities that come from those links. What the Church
does here deeply affects the already greatly suffering churches in
places like northern Nigeria, which I know well.
I support the House of Bishops' statement in the summer in
answer to the Government's consultation on same-sex marriage. I
know I need to listen very attentively to the LGBT communities, and
examine my own thinking prayerfully and carefully. I am always
averse to the language of exclusion, when what we are called to is
to love in the same way as Jesus Christ loves us. Above all, in the
Church we need to create safe spaces for these issues to be
discussed honestly and in love.
I know these are major issues and will come back to them in due
course, but I will not be saying any more about that today. I will
stop there before this becomes a sermon, and am happy to answer