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Welby fêted by HTB in Albert Hall

17 May 2013


THE laughter and standing ovation that the Archbishop of Cantebrury received in the Royal Albert Hall on Monday suggested that, despite his saying that the "deepest wounds" he had suffered had been at the hands of his fellow Christians, he does not lack support.

The Archbishop was the first speaker at the leadership conference organised by Holy Trinity, Brompton (HTB), the Evangelical church in London. The event drew 5500 people from 86 different countries, all "united around Jesus", the Vicar of Holy Trinity, the Revd Nicky Gumbel, declared.

Archbishop Welby's appearance took the form of an interview, conducted by Mr Gumbel, which perhaps vindicated the headline in The Daily Telegraph that greeted his appointment ( "HTB lands its first Archbishop").

Introduced as a "great friend", Archbishop Welby was asked what it "felt like" to be Primate, to which he replied: "A bit less overwhelming than this! What does it feel like to be Vicar of HTB? . . . We're in the same boat." It was the first of several self-deprecating jokes.


Prompted by Mr Gumbel to recall that his nickname while Rector of St James's, Southam, had been "Mr Alpha", he recalled the reflection of a churchwarden that "If Jesus isn't at the centre of the church, we are simply Rotary with a pointy roof."

The "toughness wrapped in love" that the Archbishop said he appreciated in HTB's leadership began to sound like a characterisation of his own approach. His assertion that "there is no safety in Christ" was backed up by references to his reconciliation work in Nigeria, as well as to the two summers he and his wife spent delivering Bibles behind the Iron Curtain.

They were able to carry "about 1000 Bibles" in an old Renault camping van: "You put a hairpin into the panel in the wall, and the panel slid back and you could get the Bibles."

Archbishop Welby ended on a note of encouragement: "I am more optimistic about the Church now than I've ever been in my life. . . I think we are seeing a moment where the proclamation of Christ, flexi-bility and a determination to win people to Christ meets the needs of the world in a way that people realise they have and haven't done for 70 years. The opportunities are endless."

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