ON THIS day last year, the Most Revd Justin Welby was enthroned
as Archbishop in Canterbury. He ends his first year without having
restricted his ability to manoeuvre through ill-judged utterance.
His biggest headache, the Anglican Communion, remains together,
though the centrifugal forces have increased. His work on the
Banking Commission and with credit unions has won him respect. His
public persona is undeveloped, but this is reasonable after just
In his inaugural sermon, Archbishop Welby quoted Pope Francis,
elected in Rome a week earlier. Comparisons between the two men are
inevitable, and this week's announcement of a joint initiative
against people-trafficking is an encouraging sign that the two
Communions are seeking more active engagement. As the Pope and the
Archbishop have tackled their respective offices, similarities have
emerged. Both are self-deprecating, uncomfortable with pomp, and
came to office having seen the worst that humans can inflict upon
each other: Pope Francis during the "Dirty War" in Argentina,
Archbishop Welby on his various trips to war-torn areas of Africa.
It might be argued that the Pope has the harder task ahead of him.
He was elected as a reformer, and has so far taken on the Curia,
appointed a personal "cabinet" drawn from outside Rome, summoned a
synod to discuss marriage and divorce, and issued an unprecedented
questionnaire to the faithful, the response to which will define
his willingness to change pastoral practice, if not doctrine.
Francis has the authority to make these changes because he is Pope.
A refrain of Archbishop Welby's is that he is not a pope. Every new
incumbent at Canterbury must learn how to operate with very little
personal power. On the issue of same-sex marriage, for example, he
has no power over his bishops to enforce discipline - and they, in
turn, most likely, have no power to enforce it over most of their
clergy. The effect of this powerlessness goes beyond the occasional
awkwardness with incredulous overseas church leaders. As successive
predecessors have found, it seriously inhibits the freedom of
expression that is an essential part of the job. If the Archbishop
disagrees with his Church's policy, he cannot complain or campaign.
Perhaps once or twice he can say: "I think this, but cannot do
anything about it;" beyond that, he undermines his own authority
and that of his Church.
In one respect at least, the Pope and the Archbishop resemble
football managers. Their words can be analysed, but at the end of
the day, it is the performance of their teams that must be judged.
The "Francis effect" has improved morale within the RC Church to an
unexpected extent, and there are signs that the ball might be
moving out of defence. Archbishop Welby is less of a public figure,
preferring backroom negotiation to open-air exhortation. This
approach has helped to prevent another own goal over women bishops.
On the issue of same-sex relationships, however, he has various
groups in his team kicking in opposite directions, and he is thus
constrained from speaking freely about it. It is for this reason
that an honest appraisal of the Archbishop's first year as leader
must also encompass the willingness of Anglicans to be led.