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Reactions to Bishop Welby's appointment

16 November 2012


New headgear: the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Justin Welby, swapped his mitre for a helmet with PC Keith Todd after blessing a new market cross in Sedgefield, County Durham, on Sunday morning

New headgear: the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Justin Welby, swapped his mitre for a helmet with PC Keith Todd after blessing a new market cross in...

FROM Malawi to Manchester the congratulations flooded in, some more guarded than others.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was "delighted" by the appointment of a man with "an extraordinary range of skills . . . a person of grace, patience, wisdom, and humour".

Among those whose names had been associated with the appointment, the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said last Friday: "The tipsters and lobbyists' predictions can now return to silence. The appointment of an Archbishop is neither akin to a horse race nor a presidential campaign, and it is a relief that the rumour-mill, which has been grinding out misinformation, has now ground to a halt."

He welcomed Bishop Welby, who, "like Archbishop Rowan, is a man of God. . . He can count on the same brotherly affection and co-operation that I have given Archbishop Rowan."

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, said that Bishop Welby had "the gifts, the energy, and the time to bring about the changes at the centre which the Church of England so urgently requires."

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, was "delighted" by the appointment of a man who "has made a big impact as a bishop over the past year, but has a wide experience which will serve him well and benefit all of us".

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones, took "some pride in him having so recently been Dean of Liverpool, and a close colleague".

The Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, said that he hoped to "endeavour to strengthen the bonds of Christian friendship and mission already established between the Catholic Church and the Church of England".

"Warm congratulations" came from the Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks. "I look forward to working with him closely, as I have done with his predecessors, to continue strengthening Jewish-Christian relations in Britain."

Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, described the appointment as "a huge step forward for the Church. . . We are confident he will bring unity to the Church so that it can speak with one voice." The chairman of the Church of England Evangelical Council, the Ven. Michael Lawson, welcomed the appointment of a man "committed firmly to the message of the Bible, and truth and power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to transform persons, communities, and the nation", and said that the Council was "glad that, as a recognition of his orthodoxy, the wider Anglican Communion is already welcoming the new Archbishop's appointment".

Bishop Welby's first speech after the announcement of his appointment made reference to the "greatly suffering Churches in places like northern Nigeria". The response to his appointment from Churches in Africa was largely positive.

The Primate of West Africa, Dr S. Tilewa Johnson, said that the views of the Anglican Communion had been "genuinely solicited" during the selection process. "We are confident that the daily life and death issues confronting the Two-Thirds World will be dealt with as such and given the priority they deserve."

Two comments came from Malawi, where conflict has arisen in recent years surrounding attitudes towards homosexuality. The Bishop of Upper Shire, the Rt Revd Brighton Malasa, and the chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, the Rt Revd James Tengatenga, both welcomed the appointment of Bishop Welby.

The Archbishop and Primate of Kenya, Dr Eliud Wabukala, who chairs the conservative network the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, said that the appointment of Bishop Welby, a "godly leader", "should give hope to all of us who long to see renewal, reform and genuine unity".

Nevertheless, it would be "unfair and misleading to suggest that one man can resolve the crisis which has beset the Anglican Communion". He reiterated the belief of GAFCON that "the chair of the Primates' Meeting should be elected by the Primates themselves."

The BBC reported on Friday that the Primate of the Church in Nigeria, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, had described the Communion as "grievously disunited", and said that attending church meetings was like "working in a police state with agents all over the place trying to catch people with their words".

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, said that she was "delighted" by the appointment. She prayed that God would "bless his ministry, shelter his family, and bring comfort in the midst of difficult and lonely discernment and decisions".

With days to go until the General Synod meets to vote on a Measure to admit women as bishops, the campaign group WATCH issued a statement saying that it had "every confidence" that Bishop Welby would make the most of the opportunities afforded by "a time of enormous opportunity for transformation, growth, and renewal."

The conservative Evangelical group Reform said that the Measure "could well fail. . . We hope that the new Archbishop will be able to promote a more realistic dialogue between all those involved, so that an agreed way forward is found."

On Monday, the Revd Colin Coward, director of the group Changing Attitude, said that Bishop Welby's rejection of homophobia on Friday was "as robust a statement as Changing Attitude could have hoped for". Although he suspected that Bishop Welby opposed gay marriage "on theological and traditional principles", Mr Coward said he would "have to deal . . . the reality of married lesbian and gay clergy and laity" after the legislation proposed by the Government was approved.

Bishop Welby would also have to confront the "substantial challenge" of the two reports from the House of Bishops' working parties re-examining the Church of England's stance on sexuality (News, 5 January), and should "act with greater vision and courage in the recommendations they make".

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that Bishop Welby's experience in business would bring a "breath of fresh air to the Church of England".

Aid agencies also welcomed the news. "His work in Nigeria and a strong commitment to addressing poverty, as well as more recently his engagement on transparency issues, shares a common focus in what we are working to achieve through churches globally," said Matthew Frost, the chief executive of Tearfund.


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