Much of the world’s attention has been focused on Rome and the selection and installation of Pope Francis. But Anglicans also have a new leader.
On Thursday, March 21, Justin Welby was enthroned as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. With this the 57-year old former oil executive and father of six becomes the spiritual leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans.
In a traditional ceremony that was attended by Prince Charles and Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, Welby struck the door of the Canterbury Cathedral three times with his staff. In this age old ceremony that was mixed with contemporary praise and worship songs, he sought admission to assume his throne.
A young woman from the congregation asked “Who are you and why do you request entry?”
Welby responded, “I am Justin, a servant of Jesus Christ, and I come as one seeking the grace of God, to travel with you in his service together.”
The dean of the cathedral then presented the Canterbury Gospels to Welby. These were brought to England by St. Augustine on the orders of Pope Gregory the Great in 597 A.D.
Welby was born on London in 1956. After receiving a B.A. in history at Trinity College, Cambridge, he went on to work for eleven years in the oil industry. In 1984 he became treasurer Enterprise Oil PLC, an oil exploration group. He worked mostly on West African and North Sea oil projects.
While working in the oil industry, he became a member of the evangelical Anglican church of Holy Trinity in Brompton, London. He was first rejected for ordination by the Bishop of Kensington, but was subsequently accepted.
He studied theology and trained for the priesthood at Cranmer Hall and St. John’s College Durham.
In an interview before his installation, Welby said “It is the key theological concept for Christian faith: reconciliation with God and the breaking down of barriers between people, And therefore for me, I have this sense that part of the church’s role is to be reconciled reconcilers.”
He has already create a new “Director of Reconciliation” position at Lambeth Palace.
This will not be an easy task. The Anglican Communion has been embroiled in controversy as the Episcopal Church has consecrated two openly gay bishops and is moving to bless same-sex unions. The U.S. church has been accused of heresy by several Asian and African jurisdictions of Anglicans.
But Welby has hope and said in his inaugural sermon, “There is every possible reason for optimism about the future of Christian faith in our world and in this country. Optimism does not come from us, but because to us and to all people Jesus comes and says “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid”. We are called to step out of the comfort of our own traditions and places, and go into the waves, reaching for the hand of Christ. Let us provoke each other to heed the call of Christ, to be clear in our declaration of Christ, committed in prayer to Christ, and we will see a world transformed. [Washington Post]