Archbishop of Canterbury


Well, we didn't see that one coming, did we? The Archbishop of Canterbury has had to rethink who he actually is. As was revealed in the Daily Telegraph last night, his father turns out not to be his biological father after all, and his real father was another man with an 'interesting' life.

The Archbishop has demonstrated once again why he is the right man for the job. Look at his statement. Not a shred of self-pity or any attempt to use this news for some politico-emotional gain. His identity is secure in being known and loved by God (and I had no idea this was coming when I did Pause for Thought on the Chris Evans Show on BBC Radio 2 yesterday morning and quoted the same Psalm) – in being “in Christ”. No excuses rooted in genetics – no loss of perspective, given the recognition that people have to deal with such news every day (and worse). His senses of humour and irony have not gone – his security as a person remains intact. His theology is big enough to cope with challenge.

It is also worth remarking that Charles Moore's handling of both the investigation and the reporting of the result have been a model of good journalism. There was no sensationalism and no prurience – just clear, sensitive and humane observation on response to reality. It is very impressive and clearly a model of how journalism can work in the public interest with the parties being observed.

But, it is unfortunate for the Prime Minister that this revelation has coincided with a torrid week for David Cameron and his family. The truth about his benefits from offshore investments has had to be dragged out of him. Today even he admits it could have been handled better. And the political hounds are in pursuit.

It is not hard to recognise the case against David Cameron in his apparent obfuscation while in a public office that has demanded transparency from others. And he would certainly not be surprised to see people like me adding to the pain.

But, I feel sympathy for him. He is a human being and he has a family. He has always known who his father is. And this week the human being has been in tension with the public being in a world in which there is little room (or sympathy) for both. How do you cope with trying to protect your memory of your own father when it is under attack – not for its own sake, but because of who the son is and what he does for a living?

Now, I realise that people will respond that he chose to be in office and has to take what goes with it. I get that completely. Then they will argue that hypocrisy is unacceptable in public office, and, again, I will agree (even if even those who complain about the hypocrisy of others ignore their own hypocrisies). Next they will claim that this is bigger than just one prime minister or one politician, and that this is just one obvious symptom of a deeper and wider systemic corruption – one inherent to the unjust world in which we live. And I will nod to that one, too. And, just to be clear, I think the whole “offshore tax avoidance or money laundering” thing is scandalous and wrong.

But, I also see a man trying to not have his dad rubbished in public in a way that dehumanises.

OK, David Cameron deserves the scrutiny and some criticism. But, let's not forget the man behind the office (even if we insist on reminding him and his government of the human faces and vulnerabilities subject to some of the ideological policies that shape their lives and relationships and memories).

The Archbishop of Canterbury now has to consider his shaping of the memory of two men: the one he thought was his father and the man who he now knows is his father. The Prime Minister has to hold on to the memory of his father while abstracting himself from that in order to do the moral politics his office demands. I sympathise with both men.

 

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I know Dresden well. I know people in Dresden well. The devastation visited by Allied bombing on 13/14 February 1945 was horrendous. That is a phenomenological fact – apart from any moral consideration of the event.

It is shameful that a so-called free press, so often “defended” by the so-called “popular” press, sees fit to celebrate the freedoms gained by the sacrifice of so many 70 years ago by stooping to lies, misrepresentation, slander and brain-dead ideological nonsense. Is the Dail Mail going to have the courage and integrity – values demonstrated by those who sacrificed so much during World War Two – to apologise for the scandalous headline and story published a couple of days ago? There is no way that a half-thinking sentient being could read from the Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon in the Frauenkirche, Dresden, to a headline that accuses him of apologising to the Nazis.

There are no words adequate to describe the shamefulness of that front page. Is this the free press we fought a war to preserve?

And what was the Daily Mail's motivation in publishing this headline and story on the front page? What was its moral drive?

When can we expect the apology? Or will the absence of an apology be left to speak for itself?

Edited at 23.29hrs: a paragraph was missing from the version that I posted. I add it here:

“Read for yourself the Archbishop's speech in its context. Then read his subsequent blog post and the earlier statement. His sermon in the Frauenkirche today is here. Then tell me this wasn't just a nasty headline looking for a story.”

 

While in the USA this week I only picked up the odd headline about the Archbishop of Canterbury and Wonga. Now I am back I am rather surprised and encouraged at what is going on.

First, it is encouraging that the Archbishop of Canterbury is taking a shameless lead in addressing the cancer that such businesses as Wonga represent. Go on to any English urban estate and see the havoc created by desperate people needing immediate cash. Yes, some of them might be 'chaotic' (to quote Iain Duncan Smith), but almost all of them will find current government policy regarding welfare cuts (but not banking reform, obviously) existentially challenging.

The iniquity of pay-day loan sharks has been oft iterated, yet rarely heeded. Such a socially destructive and corrosive business is allowed to continue because (a) most people don't want to face up to it and (b) the implications of tackling it will also cast doubt on the ethical propriety of other elements of our social systems. It is all as corrupting as the win-at-all-costs loadsamoney greed culture mocked by comedians during Thatcher's eighties, but now rooted in our current polarised culture in England.

It was further encouraging that the Archbishop, on discovering that the Church Commissioners invest indirectly in Wonga, went straight into the radio studios, faced the world and pointed out the obvious: that the is no 'clean' money in a complex capitalist world that depends for its pension funds (for example) on investments from sources that will give the highest returns. At least, because of his immediate response, the Archbishop has ensured that this current business will open up deeper questions than simply the adequacy of credit unions for providing alternatives to the spivs.

The two best responses to all this are by the wonderful Marina Hyde in the Guardian and Dr Luke Bretherton on an Australian website.

The task now is to make sure that the debate does not go away when the media's attention shifts elsewhere, and that the deeper questions about “what is money for” and “is society really to be simply a market directed by profit and fantasies of endless growth” get addressed seriously by politicians as well as churches.

I am pleased that in the midst of all this there is a quiet – reluctant, maybe – recognition that the Church is ahead of the game in addressing debt (why do we keep calling it 'credit'?) both at local and regional level. Credit unions are being set up all around the country.

 

So, the Daily Telegraph has dug into the old writings of the new Archbishop of Canterbury and discovered something deeply shocking.

It would appear that he has said and written things in the past – in different contexts, for different audiences and free of archiespiscopal ambitions – that he might now either hold to, reject, nuance or express differently.

What this means is that – perish the thought – he might have grown up and learned and thought and developed as he has matured.

Now, I know anyone in public life is not allowed to have been a child or to have grown or changed. I realise that my own archive of parish magazine articles, etc. might be found to contain expressions that might embarrass me now. This is what happens to human beings as they grow up.

The bizarre thing is that anyone thinks this is anything other than story-creation. The Archbishop might or might not hold to views held or expressed in the past. I have no idea, and he can speak for himself. But, the notion that he should now be entirely consistent with what he said or thought or wrote twenty, ten or five years ago is utter nonsense. It simply suggests that he should never have grown up.

What matters is what he thinks now. The journey there might also be interesting. But, the fact that he might have said things or thought things in the past matters little… except, of course, to those looking for contradictions.

I remember a fellow curate in the late 1980s rejecting the idea that Jesus might have had to learn or change his mind (we were talking about the episode in Matthew 15 with the Syro-Phoenecian woman). In the end, I asked if he was suggesting that somehow ‘learning’ was sinful… and he said it was – the logic being that Jesus was perfect and didn’t need to learn. Er…

 

What a way to go out?

Dr Rowan Williams celebrates his first day of freedom from office with a brilliant documentary journey through Canterbury Cathedral: Goodbye to Canterbury. The BBC at its best and Rowan at his best: brilliant, poetic, articulate, fascinating, stimulating, educative, erudite, clear.

I still maintain – as I have consistently – that the 'Rowan is too hard to understand' narrative was mostly an excuse by lazy commentators who couldn't be bothered to work at thinking.

In this programme – written and presented by Rowan himself – he proves himself to be an adept communicator and media operator. How embarrassing for so many to have written him off so easily.

In this wonderful programme we have poetry, art, history, music, aesthetics, theology, philosophy, drama, beauty, honesty, storytelling, ecclesiology, evangelism, rhetoric, social analysis, realism, education, communication, interpretive clarity, personal reflection, politics, economics, explanation, and more besides.

Perhaps Rowan might be persuaded to do more of this now he has left office?

It wasn’t exactly a surprise – although even yesterday the speculation was simply that – but it is fantastic news that Justin Welby is to be the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. A remarkable man, he has the breadth of experience, the wisdom and the proven track record across the piece to make him the right man for the right job at the right time. I will support him 100% and pray for him with vigour. Excellent news all round.

I reproduce the press notice here:

The Queen has approved the nomination of the Right Reverend Justin Welby for election as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. He will succeed Dr Rowan Williams who is retiring at the end of December after ten years as Archbishop.

The Right Reverend Justin Welby, aged 56, is currently Bishop of Durham.  He will be enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury in Canterbury Cathedral on 21st March 2013.

He said today:  “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.”

Dr Rowan Williams issued the following statement:

“I am delighted at the appointment of the Right Reverend Justin Welby to Canterbury. I have had the privilege of working closely with him on various occasions and have always been enriched and encouraged by the experience.

He has an extraordinary range of skills and is a person of grace, patience, wisdom and humour; he will bring to this office both a rich pastoral experience and a keen sense of international priorities, for Church and world. I wish him – with Caroline and the family – every blessing, and hope that the Church of England and the Anglican Communion will share my pleasure at this appointment and support him with prayer and love.”

Biographical Information

Born in 1956 in London, the Right Reverend Justin Welby was educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied history and law. For 11 years – five in Paris and six in London – he worked in the oil industry, becoming group treasurer of a large British exploration and production company. He focused mainly on West African and North Sea projects. During this period he became a lay leader at Holy Trinity, Brompton in London, having been a council member at St Michael’s Church in Paris.

His father’s family were German Jewish immigrants who moved to England to escape anti-Semitism in the late 19th century, and integrated quickly. His British ancestors, on his mother’s side, include several clergymen.

A major influence both on Justin and his wife Caroline was their experience of personal tragedy. In 1983 their seven-month old daughter died in a car crash in France. Six years later in 1989, after sensing a call from God, Bishop Justin stood down from industry to train for ordination

He took a theology degree at St John’s College, Durham, in which he focused on ethics – particularly in business. He has since published articles on ethics, international finance and reconciliation. His booklet, ‘Can Companies Sin?’, drawing on his experience in the oil industry, evolved from his dissertation at theological college. He has frequently said that the Roman Catholic approach to Christian social teaching, beginning with the encyclical of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, up to Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas Veritate, has greatly influenced his social thinking.

For 20 years, his ministry has blended deep devotion to his parish communities with Church work around the world, especially in areas of conflict.

After being ordained Deacon in 1992, he spent 15 years serving Coventry Diocese. His Curacy was at All Saints Chilvers Coton with St Mary the Virgin Astley, in Nuneaton. In 1995 he became Rector of St James, Southam, a small market town in the same Diocese – and also the next year of St Michael and All Angels, Ufton, the neighbouring parish. He helped revive both churches, growing their congregations and launching bereavement and baptism teams, among other things. Between 2000 and 2002 he also chaired an NHS hospital trust in South Warwickshire.

In 2002, he was made a Canon of Coventry Cathedral, where he ran the reconciliation work based there. With Canons Andrew White and Stephen Davis, he worked extensively in the field in Africa and the Middle East. He has a particular interest in Kenya, the DRC and Nigeria, where he was and remains involved in work with groups involved in conflict in the north. In the Niger Delta, he has worked on reconciliation with armed groups. He met with religious and political leaders in Israel and Palestine, and on one trip to Baghdad reopened the Anglican Church with Canon Andrew White, shortly after the allied invasion.  In 2006 he also took responsibility for Holy Trinity Coventry, the main city centre church, as Priest-in-charge.

He left Coventry five years later, being installed Dean of Liverpool on 8 December 2007, replacing the Right Reverend Rupert Hoare. Liverpool Cathedral is the largest cathedral in England. Its local area, Toxteth, is among the most deprived in north-west Europe. During his deanship, he brought the Cathedral into much greater contact with its local community, working with asylum seekers and in partnership with neighbouring churches. The Cathedral also hosted events from a TUC rally to royal services. Over his four years, during which he also continued to work on reconciliation and mediation projects overseas, the Cathedral’s congregation increased significantly.

In 2011, he returned to the place where his journey towards becoming Archbishop began: on 2 June 2011, he was announced as the new Bishop of Durham, taking over from the Right Reverend Tom Wright. He was enthroned at Durham Cathedral on 26 November, and drew parallels between Liverpool and Durham – noting both the struggles and the enduring spirit of the two places.

On 9 November 2012, the Right Reverend Justin Welby was announced as the 105th Archbishop of the See of Canterbury. He will succeed Dr Rowan Williams, who is retiring at the end of December after 10 years as Archbishop. He will be enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on 21 March 2013.

An expert on the politics and history of Kenya and Nigeria, he has lectured on reconciliation at the US State Department. In the summer of 2012, he was asked to join the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.

His interests include French culture, sailing and politics

He is married to Caroline, who studied Classics at Cambridge, where they met. They have two sons and three daughters.

Chronology

Trinity College, Cambridge M.A. 1978
Société Nationale Elf Aquitaine, Paris 1978-1983
Elf UK plc, London 1983-1984,
Enterprise Oil plc, London, 1984-1989
St John’s College, Durham, B.A and Dip.Min. 1992
Deacon 1992, Priest 1993
Assistant Curate of All Saints, Chilvers Coton and St Mary the Virgin, Astley 1992-1995
Rector of St James, Southam, and St Michael and All Angels, Ufton, Diocese of Coventry 1995 – 2002
Canon Residentiary, Coventry Cathedral 2002 – 2005
Canon Residentiary and Sub Dean, Coventry Cathedral 2005 – 2007
Priest-in-Charge, Holy Trinity, Coventry 2007
Dean of Liverpool 2007 – 2011

Episcopal offices

Elected Bishop of Durham on 2 June 2011. Bishop Justin was consecrated at York Minster on 28 October and enthroned at Durham Cathedral on 26 November 2011.

The main roles of the Archbishop of Canterbury

The various roles and responsibilities of the Archbishop of Canterbury have developed over more than 1400 years of history. The one constant is his ministry as a senior bishop, though the nature and purpose of his authority differs in different contexts

Historically the central role, and the source of the archbishop’s authority, is as Bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury (the local church of Canterbury. His diocese in East Kent has a population of 890,000 people and comprises 261 parishes in an area of nearly 1,000 square miles.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the Primate of All England (the ‘first bishop’ of England), and shares several roles with the Archbishop of York. For well over a thousand years the distinction of the Diocese of Canterbury has given its bishop formal responsibility as a ‘metropolitan’ – the first among the bishops of a region. He has authority (also known as ‘jurisdiction’) at all times in the 30 dioceses of his Province – 29 in southern England, and 1 in Continental Europe. York has the same roles in relation to the 14 dioceses of his Province.

Based on his oversight in the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury became the original sign of the unity of the bishops and local churches of the Anglican Communion – all 34 provinces in communion with See of Canterbury, a total of about 80 million members throughout the world which has developed over the last 200 years or so. He is the focus and spokesman of its unity today, but shares his oversight as president of the Communion with other bodies.

In the last two areas of dialogue and activity – Ecumenical relationships between Christian Churches, and Inter Religious relationships between different traditional world religions – the Archbishop has no formal authority. But his role in England and the UK, and his leadership in the Communion at large, give him significant influence and the responsibility to speak authoritatively for the faith and witness of the Church, the Anglican Church in particular.

Outline of procedures for the Appointment of an Archbishop of Canterbury:

Since 2007 the agreed convention in relation to episcopal appointments has been that the Prime Minister commends the name preferred by the Commission to the Queen. The second name is identified in case, for whatever reason, there is a change of circumstances which means that the appointment of the CNC’s recommended candidate cannot proceed.

Once the Queen has approved the chosen candidate and he has indicated a willingness to serve, 10 Downing St announces the name of the Archbishop-designate.

The College of Canons of Canterbury Cathedral formally elect the new Archbishop of Canterbury.

The election is confirmed by a commission of diocesan bishops in a legal ceremony (the Confirmation of Election), which confers the office of Archbishop on him.

The new Archbishop does homage to Her Majesty.

The new Archbishop is formally enthroned in Canterbury Cathedral.

When I read the Old Testament passage in this morning's service at York Minster one verse took my eye: “And whether they listen or fail to listen —for they are a rebellious people —they will know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ezekiel 2:5) Knowing the preacher was to be the Archbishop of Canterbury, I thought this was apposite, if not ironic.

The Archbishop named the frustration that characterises not only the church at present, but infects our wider society. He was direct, funny and poignant. The sermon needs to be listened to in full here, but the transcript will be available from the same link soon.

But, addressing the two other readings also – 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 and Mark 6:1-13 – he noted that Ezekiel was a frustrated prophet, Paul a frustrated evangelist, the twelve disciples frustrated followers, and Jesus 'could do no deed of power there'. It was in this context that he observed:

There is no power that can force the human heart… The human heart changes when it is broken by love.

I can't do justice to the sermon – it has to be heard in its entirety and I am too busy anyway. However, he concluded by noting that Jesus did what he did anyway, touched some people anyway, and that he simply and wryly demonstrated that his grace is enough.

It certainly shines a different light on the fevers around the synod this weekend.

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