THE Most Revd Justin Welby
is not the first Archbishop of Canterbury to have attended Eton or
Cambridge. But he is, it is safe to say, the first to own an iPad.
The tablet computer enables him to write sermons, compose emails,
and Tweet on the move.
Archbishop Welby had the
iPad with him in the car, travelling from Lambeth Palace to
Norwich. It was the start of his prayer pilgrimage, leading up to
his enthronement in Canterbury yesterday.
Four days before, the
Archbishop had lent his support to a letter from 43 bishops that
criticised the Government's Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill (News, 15 March). He
had written that the Bill would force "children and families to pay
the price for high inflation".
The next day, in a blog
posted on his website - probably written on the iPad - Archbishop
Welby sought to mollify the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain
Duncan Smith. His intervention had not been a "grand, political
gesture, but a reasoned questioning of something that a lot of
people are concerned about".
intervention prompted accusations from Conservative quarters that
the Archbishop was revealing leftish leanings - even seeking to
lead an unofficial opposition.
Archbishop Welby gives short
shrift to accusations of partisanship. The Archbishop of
Canterbury's is "very much a political role - it's just not a
party-political role," he says. "I don't belong to a political
party; I'm not committed to any particular political party. I'm not
a leftie Archbishop, or a right-wing Archbishop."
Sitting on the Banking
Standards Commission, Archbishop Welby has been sharply critical of
the practices of some banks (News,
18 January). Yet he is not an ideological critic of capitalism.
He told The Sunday Times this week: "The
efficient allocation of capital is a good, enabling companies to
On Tuesday of last week, it
was the turn of MPs to make their views known on church affairs.
The Labour MP Diana Johnson introduced a Bill into the House of
Commons that would amend the law to allow women to be admitted to
the episcopate (News,
15 March). She accused the women-bishops working party, which
was set up to resolve the deadlock on women bishops, of "lacking
Did Ms Johnson have a point?
"Far from it. I appreciate what she's doing, but she's wrong. It's
not showing a lack of urgency - there's a great deal of urgency. .
. She obviously thinks that we're not going quickly enough; I think
we're working extremely hard on it and as well as we can. We want
to get this done."
Asked what sort of package
he would like to see brought before the General Synod in July,
Archbishop Welby refuses to prejudge the working group's outcome.
If the Church of England were a political party, the situation
would be more straightforward, "because we'd have passed the
Measure by a majority and chucked out everyone who disagreed with
us; nice and simple.
"It's just not Christian.
It's not what we do. We're bound together by a common baptism
through the work of the Holy Spirit, and I don't think we should
have the liberty of saying to people: 'This is how it's going to
be, and that's just too bad if you don't like it.'
"Now, in the end, we make
decisions, but I think, on the whole, that the fact that the Church
has existed for as long as it has shows that the way we do it tends
to have some virtue."
Soon after moving into
Lambeth Palace, Archbishop Welby appointed the Canon Director of
Reconciliation Ministry at Coventry Cathedral, David Porter, to his
personal staff (News, 22 February). An initial
focus for Mr Porter - whom Archbishop Welby describes as "one of
the world's major experts" in conflict resolution - has been to
facilitate discussions between the different factions in the
Holding discussions behind
closed doors has provided "safe spaces where people can say what
they think and listen to each other, and it not all be observed",
Archbishop Welby says. "You can't do everything with journalists
HE ALSO intends to adopt a
"relationally based" approach to the Fellowship of Confessing
Anglicans (FCA) and the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON),
which is scheduled to have its second meeting in May (
News, 27 April 2012).
"We've got to find good ways
of listening to what they have to say, and them listening to what
others have to say. I mean, you don't have to agree to be in the
same Church - we very seldom do agree in the same Church - but you
have to find ways in which we continue to love each other, because
that's the primary calling.
"The point about Anglicans,
of course, is that, unlike a number of other denominations, we tend
to do our arguing in public; so it's rather more obvious. But it
doesn't mean there's any more arguing."
During a meeting of the FCA
in London last year, the Primates of Nigeria and Kenya suggested
that the Archbishop of Canterbury should no longer chair the
Primates' Meeting. Instead, the chairman should be elected by the
Primates themselves, they said.
Archbishop Welby is
sympathetic to their point of view. "I think I very much understand
what they're saying. We have to find a way for the structures of
the Communion over time to reflect the realities of our commonality
in the grace of God, and ensure that they are not simply driven by
the imperial accident of history.
"All structures need to
change from time to time - to reflect changes in history, in
culture, in experience, in means of communication. They always have
done in the Anglican Communion: we don't have a single thing which
has always been the way it is. So I'm sure that, over time, the
structures will continue to flex and adapt."
When Archbishop Welby's
appointment was announced, much was made of his inexperience as a
diocesan bishop: he had been Bishop of Durham for just under a
year. But his experience of wider Anglican Communion affairs is
more extensive than perhaps has been realised.
Andrew Atherstone's new
biography, Archbishop Justin Welby: The road to Canterbury
News and Comment, 15
March), describes how he was appointed a "pastoral visitor" to help
resolve disputes in the Communion. Furthermore, through the
international reconciliation work that he first undertook at
Coventry Cathedral, he has forged close relationships with
Anglicans in Africa, especially in Nigeria, which he has visited 75
"The job of Archbishop of
Canterbury encompasses a role across the Anglican Communion," he
says. "All my experience over the last ten years has been of the
importance of recognising that what happens in one place in the
Communion has a deep impact across the Communion.
"It's not just that we have
an impact there, wherever "there" may be, but there, wherever there
may be, has an impact on us. And we are bound together not by mere
history, but by our baptism, by bonds of affection, by a deep sense
of belonging as a family, not as some kind of institutional
N THE matter of sexuality, a
fierce point of contention within the C of E and across the wider
Communion, Archbishop Welby reaffirms the Church's official line:
"The Church of England teaches that marriage is a lifelong union of
one man to one woman, and nothing we've done has changed that.
There is no challenge to that in anything that the Church has done
over the last few years. That remains absolutely clearly our
In an interview with LBC
Radio last week, he had said that it would be "completely absurd"
to suggest that the love expressed in gay relationships was "less
than the love there is between straight couples" (News, 15 March).
If this is so, is it not
time for the Church to offer blessing services to same-sex couples?
The Archbishop responds: "The House of Bishops made it quite clear
there will be no liturgical provision in that area, and that
remains very clearly the case, and that's a view that I
He says that he is
attempting to articulate "a fairly nuanced position" on sexuality.
"It's perfectly clear . . . that you find relationships within the
LGBT communities that are deeply loving, profoundly committed, and
stable. It's equally clear that you find some relationships within
marriage that are dysfunctional, damaging, harmful.
"So the idea that the
quality of affection in all straight relationships is always better
than in all gay relationships is obviously contrary to the
"But it remains absolutely
clear that the Christian ideal for the upbringing of children is in
a stable relationship between a man and a woman, committed in
marriage to one another for life, and to the nurture and support of
members of that family. Now, the nature of the family will vary
culturally; it may be more extended or less extended. But the
nature of the family in different forms is the basic building-block
of our society."
At the same time, Archbishop
Welby would like to see those on both sides of the sexuality debate
exercising "self-awareness as to what assumptions, what framework
we're bringing to the [biblical] text".
The disagreements over
sexuality are complex, and point to wider discussions about
"hermeneutics" and "issues around scriptural authority, and the
very nature of the documents themselves: are they documents only of
their time? Words like 'inspiration' - what do they mean by
HOW does Archbishop Welby
approach the Bible? "I think that there are moments - though I
wouldn't want to defend this - when I want to mutter to myself, 'It
all comes down to hermeneutics.' I certainly don't want to defend
that, because it's not true, but it sometimes feels like it."
It is important to employ "a
very self-aware hermeneutic, a hermeneutic of suspicion in how we
read, in what causes us to read in different ways". He describes
"our capacity simply to circle the wagons and have a nice, safe
system, which nobody challenges us on".
Listening to people with
whom one disagrees profoundly is "very important", he says. He
always has at least one biblical commentary on the go, "which will
often be deliberately taken in order to challenge my thinking, to
be slightly unsettling, because I'm very aware of the partiality of
my experience and my reflection".
He has recently been reading
Islamic liberation theology, which has "been very challenging,
because there you see from within a different faith-tradition a
very different approach, both to Qur'anic interpretation and
interaction with Christians".
Working through biblical
books, such as the Psalms, with Christian leaders overseas, often
in areas of violent conflict, he has observed the different
hermeneutical process "or grid" that others bring to the text.
"That is very challenging, and makes you question to a degree how
you understand it yourself."
Archbishop Welby was
converted to Christianity in the conservative Evangelical climate
of the Round Church in Cambridge. "I'd still describe myself as a
conservative Evangelical if I had to put a label on, but the
trouble with the label is it brings so much baggage."
The influences on Archbishop
Welby have extended beyond Evangelicalism. In Norwich, he is
pleased to bump into his former Vicar at Holy Trinity, Brompton,
Bishop Sandy Millar, through whom he became acquainted with the
Charismatic movement, in particular the ministry of John Wimber,
the founder of the Vineyard movement.
Archbishop Welby has
described Fr Nicholas Buttet, a Roman Catholic priest who became
his spiritual director in 2003, as one of the "formative
influences" on his life; and, since 2004, he has been a Benedictine
His theological influences
are eclectic: he finds Professor David Ford "very helpful";
Professor Anthony Thiselton's writings on hermeneutics have been
very influential; and he finds it "difficult to dip into Karl Barth
without finding something of worth". Revisiting the early Fathers
over the past two or three years, he has "been struck by what I
haven't seen before".
WHEN his appointment was
announced, Archbishop Welby said that the work of the Church of
England was primarily done in the 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" (News, 9
Archbishop Welby reiterates
his commitment to the parish, pointing out that he was a parish
priest for ten years, and that, for the four years when he was Dean
of Liverpool, the cathedral was "immersed in the local community".
He is "absolutely passionate about the capacity of parishes to
grow, serve their communities, and be transformational
But, while the parish is
"utterly essential", it is "not sufficient". It is necessary to
look "for new ways of enabling people to find the Church, for the
Church to come to them". Lord Williams was "extremely wise" to talk
about the "mixed economy", he says.
"Our understanding of the
incarnation of Christ is that God comes to us in identifiable form,
as a baby, not threatening. And that has to be the model. Fresh
Expressions and pioneer ministry are ways in which we say, OK, how
do we ensure that people find the grace and love of God, and see
the treasure that there is in the gospel of Jesus Christ, in ways
that they can find accessible?"
The incarnation should also
teach the Church about "risky living", he says. "The incarnation is
the most extraordinary example in human terms of risky living: it's
God emptying himself and taking the form of a servant; that just in
itself is full of the unpredictable.
"Now, obviously, at the same
time, it's entirely covered in the providence of God. But for Jesus
in his humanity, wandering around Palestine under military
occupation in the first century was not a risk-free
HERE is "no one technique by
which we will deliver a renewal of the Church and the growth of the
Church", Archbishop Welby says. "The only way in which that happens
Despite his career as a
treasurer in the oil industry, Archbishop Welby insists that he
does not intend to take "a corporate approach". He "wouldn't make
too much" of his corporate background. "I was never that brilliant.
. . I don't think it gives me any better qualifications to be
Archbishop than anyone else, just different ones."
Nevertheless, senior clergy
who have had meetings with Archbishop Welby have remarked on his
efficient, business-like approach. Does he plan to enact changes at
Lambeth Palace, which has been likened to a royal court? "I've
never worked in a royal court; so I've no means of comparing. I
mean, Lambeth Palace is full of people working extremely hard and
not paid a huge amount of money."
Becoming Archbishop of
Canterbury has been an "extraordinary" experience. The learning
curve, not surprisingly, is steep.
"You realise that quite
casual comments . . . have far more weight than one wants them to
have. And my old habit, and I think the habit of many in the
Church, of thinking aloud is actually one to be discouraged,
because it can be seen as a change of policy rather than a
He is keen, none the less, to continue to be open in his
dealings with the press and others. At a media reception in Lambeth
Palace earlier this month, he mingled happily with journalists,
seeming to enjoy their company more than his predecessor did. He
has commissioned Mark Elsdon-Dew, from Holy Trinity, Brompton (and
a relative by marriage), to conduct a review of his communications;
and, iPad in hand, will he be able to resist blogging about his
activities and views?