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
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
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."