Friday, November 9, 2012

Why I Am Grateful for Bishop Welby's Appointment


A number of you have asked if I welcome the news of Bishop Welby's appointment to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury.  Short answer is "yes."  The reason, in part, is because I see four aspects of his formation that are particularly timely - providentially ordered it seems to me - and together they promise to strengthen our Church's life and witness in the world.

1) HTB - +Welby was shaped by the ministry of Holy Trinity Brompton, which means he is comfortable participating in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  He is a fully functioning trinitarian Christian and thus he believes peoplc can change under the influence of the Spirit.  He relates to people out of an optimism of grace rather than a psyche draining, soul sucking hermeneutic of suspicion.

2) JPII - he is a student of Catholic Social Thought and has been profoundly influenced by Pope John Paul II's social vision.  In time, I hope he will become an equally serious student of JPII's exalted anthropological vision.  Though +Welby believes in original sin he does not start there nor does he think it symptomatic of a deeper, darker problem.  He views people with affection rather than alarm.  JPII's anthropology will strengthen his ordinary approach to the human situation and particular persons.  It is also an antidote to what ails us Anglicans.

3) Leadership - he understands organizational systems, what makes them effecient and what keeps them from serving the mission of an organization.  In that regard +Welby has a "Petrine charism."  He is inheriting massive, decades long organizational dysfunction within the Communion.  He cannot fix it by himself but he may be able to correct it enough to keep it from sabatoging his ministry to the Church.  He will need the help of his friends.

4) Reconciliation - he worked with the legendary Andrew White at Coventry Cathedral and he has traveled the world mediating "level 5" conflict.  +Welby understands the work of mediation and he makes important distinctions often missed when discussing the minstry of reconciliation. For example, he understands that reconciliation is a process and in conflicts, like we are experiencing in the Communion, relational conciliation will often precede the theological and institutional.   Honesty requires us to acknowledge that the theological and institutional division in Anglicanism will not be healed for decades (they are too deep and entrenched), but that fact must not keep us from trying to heal relational wounds, to walk the path of forgiveness and, yes, love. Only then will we be able to address the wounds inflicted against the Church's tradition and her ministry to the world.

One final word: be modest in your expectations but be bold in your intercession.  There are many destructive forces in the Church, but the Spirit of God is stronger still.  Our intercessions will help keep him responsive to the Spirit of Jesus.


  1. Amen, Tory. We as human beings too often forget that to exercise hope in obedience to our Lord's command means to some extent to think the best of people with that optimism of grace rather than a hermeneutic of suspicion. If we fall into the latter trap, we are too prone to slack off in helping others (I'm not speaking of Welby here) draw closer to Jesus and fail to see that even incremental steps toward Christ along the way are victories of God's grace. Thank you for reminding us of this.

  2. Thanks Ralph. So good for you to chime in and I appreciate what you write: "even incremental steps toward Christ ...are victories of God's grace."

    Every step in Jesus' direction is a victory.