Friday, November 09, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Bishop of Durham Justin Welby appointed the Archbishop of Canterbury


I welcome the news that Bishop Justin Welby is to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury. I believe that his appointment should give hope to all of us who long to see renewal, reform and genuine unity.
Bishop Justin will bring to the Anglican Communion a special combination of gifts and experience. I know him as a deeply committed servant of Jesus Christ who honours the Scriptures as the Word of God and as a courageous peacemaker. I am confident that these qualities, together with his sustained involvement in business and finance, will enable him to articulate the Lordship of Christ to a watching world as well as to a Communion in continuing disorder.
After the Primates of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans met earlier this year in London, we said we were praying for a ‘godly leader of God’s people’ to emerge from the selection procedure for the next Archbishop of Canterbury and I believe our prayer has been answered.
The Most Rev’d Dr Eliud Wabukala
Archbishop and Primate of Kenya and Chairman of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans

The Rt. Rev'd Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, is appointed the next Archbishop of Canterbury.  Here is the announcement from Lambeth Palace:

Reuters reports:

Justin Welby, 56, who has been bishop of the northern English city of Durham for barely a year, will replace incumbent Rowan Williams in December.

He is widely regarded as an opponent of gay marriage but in favor of the ordination of women as bishops, two of the most divisive issues facing the Church.

The BBC Reports:
The next Archbishop of Canterbury has set out his support for the ordination of women bishops as his appointment was officially confirmed. 
The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, 56, said his appointment as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury was "astonishing and exciting." 
He replaces Rowan Williams who is retiring in December after 10 years. 
He will take on the Church of England's most senior post at a ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral on 21 March 2013. 
Commenting on the speculation that had preceded the announcement he told a press conference at Lambeth Palace: "Well, that was the best-kept secret since the last cabinet reshuffle." 
"It's something I never expected, and the last few weeks have been a rather strange experience, to put it mildly."

... Bishop Welby was educated at Eton and Cambridge University, and then spent 11 years in the oil industry before studying theology at Durham. He was ordained in 1992.

He became Rector of Southam in 1995 and was later appointed canon residentiary of Coventry Cathedral. He left the area in 2007 when he was appointed Dean of Liverpool.

He took up the post of Bishop of Durham in November 2011 and worked as Rowan Williams' special envoy to Africa, attempting to build unity between Christian and Muslim communities in Nigeria.

Bishop Welby is regarded by observers as being on the evangelical wing of the Church, closely adhering to traditional interpretations of the Bible with a strong emphasis on making the Church outward-looking.

Time Magazine has all ready posted a profile on the new archbishop:

Welby clearly has daunting task ahead, but many feel that if anyone is capable of uniting the liberal and conservative factions of the Communion, it’s him. Church insiders describe Welby as a people-person who’s skilled at seeing all sides of an issue and negotiating with both wings of the Church. He’s also traveled extensively in Africa and worked behind the scenes with many churches there, encouraging communication between them and more liberal churches in the West.

That’s not to say he hasn’t taken stands on certain issues. Welby is on the record as being in favor of ordaining women as bishops and he’s just as outspokenly opposed to gay marriage. And yet he has largely managed to avoid being characterized as either of the right or the left in the Church’s political spectrum. In business and as a leader in the Church, Welby is perhaps most commonly described as a mediator. Vivian Gibney, a former colleague of Welby’s, told the BBC that “one of his main strengths is to find the way forward in negotiation.”
Bishop Welby came from Holy Trinity Brompton, home of the Alpha Course and has been a strong supporter of the Alpha Course in his own ministry.

The London Telegraph reports:
There are two ways of looking at the decline of Christianity in England. One is to bemoan the relentless secularisation and the supposed decay of society in general. The other is to accept that being Christian in Britain now means being part of a minority, and that the Church’s mission is to explain the Word of God to people who have grown up having never heard it. Those who know Bishop Welby place him firmly in the latter camp, and say that his mission is evangelical, and that his approach to the task was summed up by his predecessor-but-six Archbishop William Temple: “The Church is the only society on earth that exists for the benefit of non-members.” 
This explains the relevance of Bishop Welby’s involvement in the Alpha course, one of the most successful innovations of modern British Christianity. It is a 10-week introduction to the faith, and an evangelical movement that has attracted two million Britons so far. It started at Holy Trinity Brompton, an influential church in west London, and now goes out to prisons and council estates, bucking the general trend of religious decline.

This is very encouraging news and it is a good day to pray for the new Archbishop and give thanks to God for the appointment of a strong believer and leader for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion and interceding on his behalf as he takes a position of leadership in the church when it is facing a global crisis over authority and revelation that is breaking the communion apart.  As Paul prays in his letter to the Ephesians:

I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

-Ephesians 3:14-21
The Church of England offers this prayer:
God our Father, Lord of all the world,
through your Son you have called us into the fellowship
of your universal Church:
hear our prayer for your faithful people
that in their vocation and ministry
each may be an instrument of your love,
and give to your servant  Justin
the needful gifts of grace;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Here is Justin Welby's statement this morning in London:

The Right Revered Justin Welby made this opening statement at a press conference at Lambeth Palace this morning:

The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby
“Let's be quiet for a moment and then pray. 
Come Holy Spirit to the hearts of your people and kindle in them the fire of your love. 
To be nominated to this post is both astonishing and exciting. It is something I never expected, and the last few weeks have been a very strange experience. It is exciting because we are at one of those rare points where the tide of events is turning, and the church nationally, including the Church of England has great opportunities to match its very great but often hidden strengths. I feel a massive sense of privilege at being one of those responsible for the leadership of the church in a time of spiritual hunger, when our network of parishes and churches and schools and above all people means that we are facing the toughest issues in the toughest place. 
I want to say at once that one of the biggest challenges is to follow a man who I believe will be recognised as one of the greatest Archbishops of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. He is some one with a deep love for Jesus Christ, an infectious spirituality, extraordinary integrity and holiness, immense personal moral and physical courage, and of course one of the world's principal theologians and philosophers. On the basis that you should only follow failures, this is a great mistake. To be fully serious, the church world wide owes him a great debt, more than it knows, and I shall be continuing to seek his advice and wisdom. I can only wish him, Jane and the family a wonderful end to his time atCanterburyand joy in their new roles. 
As I look back I am touched by the way in which so many people have contributed to who both Caroline and I have become. I learned a great deal from the companies in which I worked, above all from my bosses and my colleagues. We were nurtured and shaped as Christians in the churches inParisandLondon. I had the privilege of serving as a curate amongst wonderful people inNuneatonand making many mistakes as a rector in Southam. Coventry Cathedral opened my eyes to the church overseas and gave me a passion for reconciliation, andLiverpoolhumoured me, teased me and quietly taught me. Above all the providence of God has surrounded us in so many ways through tragedy and joy. Learning from other traditions than the one into which I came as a Christian has led me into the riches of Benedictine and Ignatian spirituality, the treasures of contemplative prayer and adoration, and confronted me with the rich and challenging social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. 
Looking forward, I am very conscious of my own weakness and the great need I will have for advice and wisdom, especially from those who are senior amongst the bishops who see deeply into the issues that are faced by the Church of England, and amongst the Primates who guide the Anglican Communion in its present struggles. There are some things of which I am deeply confident. Our task as part of God's church is to worship Him in Christ and to overflow with the good news of His love for us, of the transformation that He alone can bring which enables human flourishing and joy. The tasks before us are worship and generous sharing of the good news of Christ in word and deed. 
How we do those things is, of course much more complicated. The work of the Church of England is not done primarily on television or at Lambeth, but in over 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. They are the front line, and those who worship in them, lead them, minster in them are the unknown heroes of the church. I have never had demands on me as acute as when I was a parish priest. One of the greatest privileges of this role will the inspiration of so many grass roots projects that I will see around the country. We have seen the wonderful hospitality and genius of the people in this country inside and outside the church during this marvellous year of Jubilee and Olympics. 
Because of that vast company of serving Anglicans, together those in other churches, I am utterly optimistic about the future of the church. We will certainly get things wrong, but the grace of God is far greater than our biggest failures. We will also certainly get much right and do so already. Taking the right role in supporting the church as it goes on changing and adapting is the task where the collective wisdom of the bishops will be so important. The House of Bishops is very wise. I have had the great privilege of serving great bishops, Colin Bennetts inCoventry, James Jones in Liverpool and Archbishop Sentamu inYork. The Archbishop has great communication gifts, wisdom and deep understanding of the global church, and I am greatly looking forward to continuing to learn from him. 
The Anglican communion, for all its difficulties, is also a source of remarkable blessing to the world. In so many countries it is one of the main sharers of reconciliation and hope in Jesus Christ. Anglicans today stand firm in faith alongside other Christians under pressure in many places, especially in northernNigeria, a country close to my heart. I am very much looking forward to meeting the Primates of the Anglican Communion, and have sent them a message today. Many of them I know already, and again have learned from them and will learn more. 
Until early in the New Year I continue inDurham, and we have an Archbishop, so apart from the initial flurry I will just be doing what is in the diary already. 
One of the hardest things will be to leaveDurham. I work with a group of wonderful senior colleagues and remarkable clergy and lay people. It is an astonishing part of the country, one which as a family we were greatly looking forward to living in for many years. The people are direct, inspiring and wonderfully friendly. In many ways it has been the ancient cradle of British Christianity. It is a place of opportunity and an even greater future than its past. I will continue to do all I can to support the area. 
This is a time for optimism and faith in the church. I know we are facing very hard issues. In 10 days or so the General Synod will vote on the ordination of women as Bishops. I will be voting in favour, and join my voice to many others in urging the Synod to go forward with this change. In my own Diocese, and before I was a Bishop, I have always recognised and celebrated the remarkable signs of God's grace and action in the ministries of many people who cannot in conscience agree with this change. Personally I value and learn from them, and want the church to be a place where we can disagree in love, respecting each other deeply as those who belong to Christ. 
We also face deep differences over the issue of sexuality. It is absolutely right for the state to define the rights and status of people co-habiting in different forms of relationships, including civil partnerships. We must have no truck with any form of homophobia, in any part of the church. The Church of England is part of the worldwide church, with all the responsibilities that come from those links. What the church does here deeply affects the already greatly suffering churches in places like northern Nigeria, which I know well. I support the House of Bishop's statement in the summer in answer to the government's consultation on same sex marriage. I know I need to listen very attentively to the LGBT communities, and examine my own thinking prayerfully and carefully. I am always averse to the language of exclusion, when what we are called to is to love in the same way as Jesus Christ loves us. Above all in the church we need to create safe spaces for these issues to be discussed honestly and in love.

I know these are major issues and will come back to them in due course, but I will not be saying any more about that today. I will stop there before this becomes a sermon, and am happy to answer some questions.”

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