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Archbishop of Canterbury to take three-month sabbatical in 2021

23 November 2020

richard watt

The Archbishop of Canterbury in his study in Lambeth Palace in 2018, during an interview with the Church Times

The Archbishop of Canterbury in his study in Lambeth Palace in 2018, during an interview with the Church Times

THE Archbishop of Canterbury is to take a three-month sabbatical next year to conduct “further study on reconciliation” in Cambridge and the United States, Lambeth Palace has announced.

Archbishop Welby had been due to take a sabbatical after the 2020 Lambeth Conference, The Sunday Telegraph reports, but it has been postponed until 2022 owing to the pandemic (News, 23 October).

He will be away from May until early August, during which time, Lambeth said in a statement on Monday, “he will be in direct touch with colleagues, and the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of London will take on some duties”.

Archbishop Welby will return to work in early September, after taking some holiday in August, Lambeth Palace said.

The statement continues: “All clergy are entitled to apply for a sabbatical every seven to ten years. The principle taken directly from the Bible. The Archbishop last took study leave in 2005.”

Archbishop Welby wrote on Twitter on Sunday: “The Bible has lots to say about work and rest. I’ll be taking a sabbatical and study leave from May to early August next year. All CofE clergy can (and should!) apply for this every 7-10 years. It reminds us no minister is indispensable to the work of God.”

Archbishop Welby later told BBC’s Newsnight on Tuesday: “I’ve been doing the job for eight years, and the Church of England has a general rule that they like to kick people out for a while, for two reasons: one is that otherwise they get really stale and boring. . . And the second reason is because it proves we’re totally dispensable.

“The Archbishop of York is there. I will come back, to the horror of my colleagues, full of ideas and full of tigerish energy, and by sending people away on sabbatical we allow them to step back, to get their heads above the water and stop being self-obsessed, self-immersed, but to care for what they are there to do.”

His predecessor Lord Williams took a three-month sabbatical in 2007, during which he wrote a book, Dostoevsky: Language, faith and fiction (News, 5 April 2007; Books, 3 October 2008). Lord Carey took two months off in 1997.


Read more on the story in Letters to the Editor and in Andrew Brown’s press column

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