Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A New Archbishop of Canterbury

It seems like every time I go off to the mountains of East Tennessee, I return to learn that major things are afoot within the Anglican Communion.  Most recently, it's the news (old news by now) that we have a successor to Rowan Williams as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury: the Rt. Rev. Justin Portal Welby (currently serving as the Bishop of Durham).

I know very little about Bishop Welby and thus far have had little time to delve too deeply into the information out there about him.  I was struck, however, by Carson T. Clark's tentative thoughts at Musings of a Hardlining Moderate. Carson writes:

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. 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. 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. 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.

While Carson sees Bishop Welby's commitment to "intently listening to those with whom he disagrees" as a virtue, others view that as a reprehensible compromise with heresy.  See, for instance, Matt Kennedy's comments at Stand Firm here and here, and also his posting here

A number of statements on Bishop Welby's appointment from around the Anglican Communion can be read here. See also the congratulations from Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk and the welcome from Pope Benedict XVI.

I certainly will join Carson T. Clark's prayer that, by God's grace, Archbishop Welby will find ways "to help heal the Anglican Communion and save it from fragmentation."  But as much as I will hope and pray for that outcome, I think an answer to that prayer will take nothing less than a miracle.  For it seems likely that regardless of what he does, the fragmentation of the Anglican Communion will continue.  If Archbishop Welby leads as an orthodox evangelical, he will alienate "progressives."  If he bends over backwards to appease "progressives," orthodox Anglicans will be mad at him.  And if he leads as a centrist a la Archbishop Williams, then pretty much everybody will be unhappy.  It's an impossible job!

Of course, as Jesus reminds us, "What is impossible for mortals is possible for God" (Luke 18:27).  But that only underscores the reality that it will take nothing less than divine intervention to stop the fragmentation and begin the healing within the Anglican Communion.

1 comment:

Jay said...

+Welby has been put on notice by the R.O. Church: