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Miniblog #145: My Perspective on the New Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

by Carson T. Clark on November 11, 2012

This past week the Church of England announced its selection for the new Archbishop of Canterbury: Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby. A number of individuals11.Anglicans and non-Anglican alike. have asked what I thought of him. I was quick to reply that a life philosophy of mine is that when you don’t know what you’re talking about, admit it.22.Otherwise you’ll come across as a blowhard, dunce, or idiot. Quite literally the only facts I knew were that he was a white Englishman from the evangelical camp who’d succeeded N.T. Wright as Bishop of Durham. Since then, however, I’ve done a fair amount of research and am now prepared to offer my tentative perspective: While I remain a fan of Rowan Williams, I’m finding myself rather quickly coming to like Justin Welby as well. From what I’m seeing, he’s committed to intently listening to those with whom he disagrees and is serious by temperament yet loves self-deprecating/witty humor.33.I like this man already. Bishop Welby grew up in a broken home and without significant means, sent his children to public schools, and has experienced personal tragedy with an alcoholic father and a child’s death. Colleagues from the business world say he doesn’t come off as “churchy.” He’s theologically just right-of-center, has a passion for social justice, is egalitarian, and supports traditional marriage but isn’t a jerk about it.44.To put it in American terms, he’s neither a progressive nor a fundamentalist. From what I gather he’s something of a party outsider who exhibits steadfast integrity while challenging the status quo.55.To give two examples, he was originally rejected for ordination by a liberal bishop and openly criticizes unethical practices from the conservative banking industry. Perhaps most importantly, he has good, strong relationships with Archbishop John Sentamu and the Global South. It seems to me he’s the sort of irenic, principled pragmatist around which the Anglican tradition was historically formed. Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a winner. In the coming months and years my prayer is that Archbishop Welby will, by the God’s grace, be able to help heal the Anglican Communion and save it from fragmentation.

  • Denise Kinsinger

    You’ve pretty much nailed it. I’m living in Durham, England, at the moment and am quite excited that they’ve chosen our Bishop as the next Archbishop of Canterbury. We’re sad to lose him though.

    • Carson T. Clark

      That’s always the love-hate dynamic of such promotions of good people.

    • SamHamilton

      I can understand how you feel. If it helps at all, we had a rector at our (American) Anglican church who was appointed to be a Bishop. He’d been the rector for over a decade and was a very good leader, preacher and had amazing spirit. Many of us, when we heard he was being appointed, wondered “Oh no, what will we do without him?” But we hired a new rector who’s very different, but a good change in many ways. I wouldn’t trade our current rector for the former one if you paid me. Not that the former one pales in comparison, but that they’re different leaders for different times. It worked out well. God knows our needs, Durham’s, and the global Anglican church’s.

  • SamHamilton

    I think what I like most about Williams is his temperament.

    You might be interested in what Alan Jacobs had to say about Williams and his successor:

    I thought it was worth a read, and I agree with his summation of Williams for the most part.

  • Gill

    I must admit I am very uneasy about the choice of Justin, whom I know: not because of who he is, but because he has had so little experience and I don’t think that will make things any easier for him. Anyhow, the announcement has been made, and it’s time to put aside uneasiness and throw our weight behind Justin – he and his family need shedloads of prayer.

    • Carson T. Clark

      Hmmmm. Interesting point, and perspective. Sometimes I think people inheriting difficult circumstances can have an easier go of things when their thinking is fresh and they’re not bogged down by knowing all the crap, but other times I see your concern playing out. We shall see. As you said, he needs our prayers.

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