THE Archbishop of Canterbury has said that he plans to stay in post until he reaches retirement age in four years — health-permitting, and if “people are happy” with his leadership.
In an interview with The Times on Saturday ahead of the Lambeth Conference, which begins on Wednesday, Archbishop Welby said: “It’s not about me, it’s what’s best for the Church. I will certainly take advice, and if my health is good and people are happy that I’m still there, then I’ll still be there.” It was not about what “pleases” him, he said, but “a decision that would be arrived at in prayer, thoughtful consultation with others, family, colleagues, friends”.
Archbishop Welby, who is 66, was confirmed Archbishop in St Paul’s Cathedral in 2013 (News, 1 February 2013). By the time he is 70, in 2026, he will have been in post for 13 years — the same length of time as Archbishop Michael Ramsey (1961–1974). His immediate predecessors, Lord Williams (2002-2013) and Lord Carey (1991-2002), were each in post for 11 years.
Earlier this month, the General Synod approved a motion to increase from one to five representatives from the Anglican Communion on the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) for Canterbury (News, 9 July). This was a “reasonable” step, Archbishop Welby said in the interview.
He also spoke about his experience of depression (News, 12 October 2017) and the “tough” aspects of the job, including his role as spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion. “Every stimulating job is gruelling and will have tough moments,” he said. “But I am still enjoying myself enormously. It’s such a privilege to do this job. I never take it for granted.”
His wish that sexuality does not dominate the agenda of the Lambeth Conference (News, 1 April) is already under threat. A row erupted this week over the inclusion of a call on Human Dignity, which reaffirmed the Lambeth Resolution 1.10, and included the line: “It is the mind of the Anglican Communion as a whole that same gender marriage is not permissible.”
This is now being revised by a drafting group.
The Primates of Rwanda, Nigeria, and Uganda are refusing to attend the conference in protest at the decisions of western members of the Communion to agree to bless same-sex unions in church (News, 10 June). Archbishop Welby said: “We will miss them. We regret very much they won’t be there.”
Speaking about his candid criticism of the UK-Rwanda deportation policy earlier this year (News, 18 April), he said: “The idea that I shouldn’t be political is a nonsense.” On the current leadership race for No.10, he said that the country needed “leadership that will give hope, particularly . . . to the poorest. . . But I’m not commenting further on where that might come from.”