Durham Bishop Justin Welby named 105th archbishop of Canterbury

By Matthew Davies
Posted Nov 9, 2012

The Rt. Rev. Justin Welby. Photo/Bishop Auckland

[Episcopal News Service] Following months of anticipation and media speculation, Downing Street confirmed Nov. 9 that the Queen has approved the nomination of Diocese of Durham Bishop Justin Welby as the 105th archbishop of Canterbury.

As the 105th archbishop in a succession spanning more than 1400 years, Welby will assume the multi-faceted role as spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, Primate of All England, and bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury.

Church of England bishops are appointed rather than elected, with a 16-member Crown Nominations Commission putting forward two names — a preferred candidate and a second candidate — to Downing Street. The U.K. prime minister then seeks approval from the British monarch, who is the supreme governor of the Church of England.

Before his ordination to the priesthood in 1992, Welby studied law and history at Cambridge University and then spent 11 years as an executive in the oil industry. After a decade in parish ministry, he was appointed a canon residentiary, and later sub-dean, of Coventry Cathedral. He served as dean of Liverpool Cathedral from 2007-2011.

As bishop of Durham, the fourth-most-senior position in the Church of England to which he was consecrated in October 2011, Welby is automatically granted a seat in the House of Lords.

Welby, 56, will succeed the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, who will step down at the end of the year after serving as the 104th archbishop of Canterbury since February 2003. Williams has accepted a new post as master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Welby’s enthronement as 105th archbishop of Canterbury will be held March 21, 2013, in Canterbury Cathedral.

Welby is married to Caroline and they have five children, aged 16-27.

[An ENS article with reactions to Welby’s appointment and reflections on Williams’ 10-year tenure is available here.]

“I don’t think anyone could be more surprised than me at the outcome of this process,” said Welby, according to a Lambeth Palace press release. “It has been an experience, reading more about me than I knew myself. To be nominated to Canterbury is at the same time overwhelming and astonishing. It is overwhelming because of those I follow, and the responsibility it has. It is astonishing because it is something I never expected to happen.

“One of the hardest things will be to leave Durham. 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.”

Williams issued said he is “delighted at the appointment … I have had the privilege of working closely with [Welby] 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 humor. 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.”

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said: “I am delighted to hear of Bishop Welby’s appointment as archbishop of Canterbury. He brings knowledge of the immense challenges of the world in which the Anglican Communion seeks to partner in the service of God’s mission to heal and reconcile.”

Jefferts Schori noted that Welby has experience of churches in several parts of the Anglican Communion, “which should serve him well. The bishops of The Episcopal Church have met him and shared fruitful conversation, worship, and learning with him during a House of Bishops meeting earlier this year. We also welcomed him to our General Convention in 2009.

“I give thanks for his appointment and his willingness to accept this work, in which I know his gifts of reconciliation and discernment will be abundantly tested. May God bless his ministry, shelter his family, and bring comfort in the midst of difficult and lonely discernment and decisions.”

President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings told ENS that at every international gathering of Anglicans that she has attended, she has come away with the same conviction — that most of the people in the Anglican Communion are eager “to work together for the sake of the gospel whatever our difference over specific theological points. We need an archbishop of Canterbury who wants to facilitate that cooperation and encourage the partnerships that are waiting to be born.”

Jennings said that Welby “is held in high regard” by Episcopalians who know him well.

“As a conflict negotiator, he has demonstrated extraordinary courage and unusual skill in persuading people with far greater differences than those within the Anglican Communion to work together and to reconcile,” she said. “This gives me hope that he is the right person for this challenging moment in the Anglican Communion’s history.”


Comments (17)

  1. Christopher Cleveland says:

    Thanks be to God! May Our Lady of Litigation be stopped from further destroying what was once a roomy church for many views. God be praised for holy bishops who believe in more than social work.

  2. Bede Parry says:

    It is my hope that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in this decision. He faces many challenges. My prayers for him and his family as they begin this new important ministry.

  3. Jason Newton says:

    Sounds to me like it was a popularity contest…the word of our Lord doesn’t “evolve”..as Mr Welby says his convictions are evolving. I am deeply saddened by this.

    1. Ric Tanner says:

      The historical Word of The Lord may not evolve but our mortal, (and consequently) flawed understand most certainly does. God also speaks continuously and we should avoid being deafened to what our Lord is saying in the here and now by undue fixation on ancient wisdom.

  4. Michael Richard says:

    Mr. Newton, why the deep sadness and the negative tone?? How about giving him the benefit of the doubt? The man hasn’t even been enthroned yet!

    BISHOP Welby, in my opinion, meant that HE is evolving, as humans do through study/perception/prayer/knowledge/common sense. I used to think these were positive and enlightening traits, especially in matters of religion/spirituality…. Apparently since your life is now ruined, I might have to rethink this…. 😉

    1. Jason Newton says:

      My life is not ruined. You know where this is going and so do I. Either you think the word is the truth or you don’t. The church is subjecting itself to popular opinion and thought..little of which aligns itself with the teachings of Jesus.. in fact …was he not in direct conflict with the lust and self centered world. I deeply love our church as I am sure you do as well, but Jesus and his word is above all the conflict…we are asked to subjugate our lust and worldly pursuits all of which I am part . Why would I give a church leader the benefit of the doubt…when I doubt nothing from the wriiten word of our Bible

      1. Donald Jack Newsom says:

        Then, what is your position on the notion of viewing the Scriptures in historical-critical context?

        1. Jason Newton says:

          I regularly study scripture with a scholarly man. Our time and place in history does not change the value or intent of scripture. The inspired word was written for all ages…to add to the meaning just because of popular beleifs… is ..well …you know what.

          1. Donald Jack Newsom says:

            Then what do you and the scholarly individual you study Scripture with make of,

            1. Leviticus 19:19, particularly where it is written “Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.” It is entirely possible that the most prevalent clothing material in current use, cotton polyester, runs afoul of this dictum as not wearing mixed material clothing also spoke to the purity God expected Jews to observe and

            2. Deuteronomy 21:18-21

            These are both reminders that this question of historical critical context goes beyond mere popular beliefs. To take Deuteronomy 21:18-21 literally in this day and age would be tantamount to bring an unruly child before the city council, having said council pronounce sentence, then take him out side the city limits or the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction and kill him. In this day and age, law enforcement/judiciary system duties are no longer part of the City Council’s job description as they were in Biblical times. I would recommend that you and your scholarly study partner consult with your local District Attorney regarding the crimes and current procedure for putting a juvenile to death.

  5. Sam Colson says:

    I am interested in knowing what his stand is on the issue of same-sex marriage. We just passed a law allowing for such in the state of Maine. I know it has been an often heated debate in the Anglican community. Am I correct in my understanding that Archbishop Williams was against it? I welcome any information and discussion on the subject.

    1. Jason Newton says:

      Welby has been for traditional marriage but has indicated he is evolving…which to me means he will change his position and would never have been chosen had he not been wish washy. In our circle this change would fracture our relationship with the Anglican communion

  6. Julian MalaKar says:

    He is the man who bet with his life in reconciling between war lords (Shia/Sunni conflict) in Baghdad and Nigeria (between Muslim/Christian). He also have life experience with personal tragedy, losing his 7 month old daughter in 1983 in a car accident, and transformed to new life giving up his highly paid executive job in oil company to ministry of God . Evolving with sexual love and out dating biblical teaching, shredding of old self and transformed to new life with Christ is hard to believe. May God bless him and his family.

  7. Bill Hunter says:

    Interesting choice. I pray that he will provide much needed reconciliation and discernment in the Anglican Communion. He has a lot to offer in this field and is somewhat more open to listening rather than pontificating.

  8. Rev. Dr Dickson Nkonge Kagema says:

    We are indeed delighted that God has given us a new shepherd. We believe that Justin is equal to the task and he will work hard to unite the already divided Anglican family. Our prayers are with him and we shall support him. We are anxious to see how he handles the issue of same sex marriages which risks disintegrating the Anglican Church.
    Dr. D. K. Nkonge
    Chuka University

    1. Rev. Isaac Mbogo Rukungu says:

      It was indeed a timely season for the passing on of the mantle for the top leadership of the Anglican Communion. Under the sherpheding of our new Spiritual father, this great community will definately be led into newer and greener pastures. However, the 21st realities of “same sex union” and “divisions” which the Anglican Communion is not aloof will still need to be addressed. We look unto you the Most Rev. Dr. Welby as our Spiritual father and leader for direction. You have our support, prayers and love as fulfill this divine appointment.

      Rev. Isaac M. Rukungu
      Nairobi Diocese – Kenya

  9. Christopher Cleveland says:

    Donald Jack Newsom wrote: “Then, what is your position on the notion of viewing the Scriptures in historical-critical context?”
    My answer: from “Living Tradition”,
    The most basic issue is the question of reality. Catholic faith is an affirmation of the reality of its object. This means that Catholic faith, while it is primarily and per se an affirmation of the dogmas of Catholic faith, is also, secondarily and per accidens, an affirmation of the reality of what is stated in Sacred Scripture rightly understood. Therefore, what seem to be presented in Sacred Scripture as historical accounts are to be defended as historical accounts unless the contrary is proved to be true, both because of the presence of divine inspiration and because what is contained in the biblical accounts is recognized to be in the one continuum of reality that is first known from natural awareness and experience. Central to this whole discussion is the notion of historical reality. We contend that science is science only to the extent that its medium of thought is recognized and defined, and, therefore, that historical science is historical science only to the extent that the historical medium of thought is recognized and defined in the mind of the historian. The frame of reference in the mind of the historian is his historical present. Neo-Patristic exegetes contend that the awareness in the mind of the biblical scholar of the presence of the one true God, of the God who presents Himself in the Sacred Scriptures, is necessary for the scientific interpretation of the Scriptures. Gunkel makes a patronizing reference to the “providence of God” in the final sentence of his Introduction without endorsing the idea, 51 and in his form-criticism every mention of the action of God in history is deemed “mythical.” Patristic exegesis, on the contrary, is built upon the awareness of the presence of God, now and in the past. And neo-Patristic exegesis critically examines and rejects evidences of deism, naturalism, rationalism, and modernism in the mental frameworks of form-critics. Thus, for neo-Patristic researchers, the “criticism” in historical criticism, taken as an acceptable approach, requires study of mental frameworks as well as of biblical texts. Especially to be criticized is the form-critical assumption that supernatural events are “unscientific.” We shall examine whether this presupposition of naturalism is not a confusion of historical method with the special methods of the natural sciences. In the historical rise of the historical-critical school, literary-criticism led to form-criticism through the influence of Hermann Gunkel and others. In the rise of the neo-Patristic school, it is hoped that a healthy criticism of the historical-critical method will lead to a broad acceptance of the traditional Four Senses of Sacred Scripture, with special emphasis on the historical sense. The great thrust of neo-Patristic exegesis derives from the greatly expanded horizon of historical research and methodology, with all of the challenges that this brings to the Patristic approach, and thus, in the opening up of new dimensions of meaning in the sacred text to traditionally oriented exegetes as they meet the challenges presented by modern biblical scholarship.

  10. John M. Johnstone says:

    I congratulate Bishop Welby and I look forward to a very successful tenure. The Worldwide Anglican Communion has much to offer this very troubled world, and the Bishop’s background seems to have prepared him to grasp the gifts and Grace of the Holy Trinity. Godspeed.

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