Habemus Cantuara? – The New ArchBishop of Canterbury?

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We’re not quite there, but it seems that the cat is now out of the bag.

Sources have confirmed that the Eton-educated bishop will be announced as successor to Dr Rowan Williams as early as Friday, after the Crown Nominations Commission put his name forward to Downing Street.

It marks a meteoric rise for the former oil executive who has been a bishop for only a year, but insiders described Welby as “the outstanding candidate”.

Last night a spokesman refused to confirm his appointment. But it came a few hours after he pulled out at short notice from a planned appearance on the BBC Radio 4 discussion programme Any Questions due to take place in County Durham on Friday.

He also cut short a retreat with diocesan staff and returned to the capital where it is understood his wife is travelling down to join him tomorrow.

Earlier this week bookmakers stopped taking money on Bishop Welby after a flurry of bets on him being chosen.

Well, we all know that the bookmakers have a good handle on these sort of things πŸ˜‰

It really does look as though Justin WelbyΒ will be announced as the new ArchBishop of Canterbury this Friday. After a convoluted (and, dare we say it, quite badly managed) process that began to border on almost Roman orders of tension and secrecy, we now have our man.

And he’s not too bad at all.

Well, given the choice. OK, it’s actually better than that. Here’s a wonderful video made a few years ago when he was appointed to Durham

Welby places himself firmly in the evangelical camp and while some conservatives might not be best pleased with him they have to admit, it could have been far far worse. Now is not the time to despise the day of small (or even moderate-sized) things (Zech. 4:10). In keeping with the recent pattern of appointments to the Chair of St. AugustineΒ (Coggan/conservative, Runcie/liberal, Carey/conservative, Williams/liberal) we now have a “conservative”. So what ought we to be thinking about as we watch him take up the thankless rΓ΄le?

  1. Before any analysis of the man, let’s just remember that God is sovereign. This is who God wants to have in the chair, for better for worse, for our benefit or for our chastisement – which it will be, of course, is yet to be seen.
  2. He’s got a good background for the job. Establishment, in that he’s Eton and then Cambridge educated. There’s also some good corporate and financial experience. He covers a good number of bases. He’s written extensively about financial/corporate matters, the latest being a well-received piece on financial ethicsΒ [pdf] given in Zurich. Perhaps he lacks a little in experience, having been a bishop for less than 2 years, but it’s hardly as if masses of experience has served us well recently.
  3. On the key presenting issue of the day for the Church of England, women bishops, he is sensibly placed and advocates proper protection for conservatives. In a recent pastoral letterΒ  [pdf] to his diocese he wrote: “I strongly support, in addition to the ordination of women as bishops, finding ways of ensuring that those who in good conscience and for theological reasons are opposed to ordination, the proper place, pastoral care and love, which is the command of God and is in my own heart.” However, he will be enthronedΒ after the key vote later this month. For him the question will be how will he look after a church that will whichever way be divided – either because the Act is defeated and he’ll have extremely disgruntled proponents of WO, or because he’ll have to deal with the inevitable alternate provisions for oversight that conservatives will reluctantly feel forced to set up. It’s hard to see how even his own good will can overcome that one but he can at least try. His work at the International Centre for Reconciliation might help!
  4. Globally we will all be watching to see if he takes a firmer line with the liberals than Williams did. The ABC has incredibly powerful influence whatever he chooses to do. Williams’ inaction spoke volumes – so what will Welby do? We will, of course, be hoping he will chart a far better path, recognising that the job of the Archbishop is not simply to “chair” the Communion but to guide it and drive away false teaching. Welby has a bit of a reputation in his own diocese for not upsetting apple carts. That will have to change if he is to be the man who can help pull us back to where we should be. At a minimum we’re sure to see him advocating hard for the Covenant – but will he go further and speak out clearly against revisionism? Only time will tell.

So we wait with great anticipation. My mind is that it could go either way.

It’s entirely possible that he lives up to the promise, and even exceeds it. Perhaps he will recognise that he has an enormous responsibility. His term as ABC will, surely, be the time during which we either right the ship or fall apart properly. If he understands that and does not fear the backlash he could be a great leader of both the CofE and the Communion more widely. That means, of course, preaching not only in-season (so expect him perhaps to be invited to address, and to accept the invitation, to the 2013 GAFCON (no, I know nothing but I wonder if it might happen)Β Conference), but also out of season – will he have the courage to face down the wolves and denounce them for who they really are?

Of course there is the other possibility; that he will be the conservatives’ Rowan Williams. When Williams was first appointed the liberals were delirious with happiness since they knew he shared their convictions. That praise soon turned to criticism and worse when he failed to deliver for them. There is a chance that Welby could do the same for us. Perhaps, like Williams, he will be so keen to hold everyone together at the table that no-one will end up wanting to come to dinner. That would be tragic and, surely, he would have the wisdom not to repeat Williams’ mistakes, but ought not to be naΓ―ve about the possibility.

Either way, we ought to be on our knees for him. He loves Jesus and he has courageously taken on a very difficult job. And God will use him as He sees fit. Either to show us mercy or to discipline us. Who is equal to such a task?

ALMIGHTYΒ God, giver of all good things, who by thy Holy Spirit hast appointed divers Orders of Ministers in thy Church; Mercifully behold this thy servant, now called to the Work and Ministry of a Bishop; and so replenish him with the truth of thy Doctrine, and adorn him with innocency of life, that, both by word and deed, he may faithfully serve thee in this Office, to the glory of thy Name, and the edifying and well-governing of thy Church; through the merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Spirit, world without end.Β Amen.

(The Form of Consecrating an ArchBishop, BCP 1662)

See also, my thoughts given to Eternity Newspaper and Archbishop Cranmer’s fine piece.

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