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A new Canterbury tale | The Hindu

Opinion Editorial

Published: March 23, 2013 00:45 IST | Updated: March 23, 2013 00:45 IST
A new Canterbury tale
The 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, commenced his public ministry in a ceremony in Canterbury
Cathedral on March 21; the ceremony included African dancing and a Punjabi chant. For the first time in the
Anglican Churchs history, a woman, the Venerable Sheila Watson, Archdeacon of Canterbury, enthroned the former
Bishop of Durham as Bishop of Canterbury; he was then enthroned a second time, as Archbishop. The new
Archbishop, a former oil executive, had held the Durham mission for under a year and a half. He has known
personal tragedy and pain. He and his wife lost a baby daughter aged seven weeks in a car crash in 1983, and his
father was an alcoholic. He has also been Co-Director of the Coventry Cathedral-based International Centre for
Reconciliation, which is active in many conflict areas. As a member of the Privy Council, he has already made his
presence felt by supporting an open letter from 43 bishops criticising the British governments plan to limit
increases in state benefits to well below the inflation rate; the clergy argue that 200,000 children could be forced
into poverty thereby, and hold that a civilised society has a duty to support the vulnerable.
The Archbishops commitments on this kind of issue may stem in part from his experience of the contrast between a
well-paid job in oil and a modest living as a newly-ordained curate, and will resonate with millions of Britons as the
economic slump continues; he has said that Jesus did not live in a palace, and while on the Parliamentary
Commission on Banking Standards he made several strong interventions. He has also written a booklet on company
accountability. Various other issues, however, will be much thornier. For example, the bishops open letter does not
make the point that good jobs paying good wages are the best way to end poverty and dependence on benefits.
Secondly, His Grace is in favour of women bishops, a matter over which the Church of England is bitterly divided.
Furthermore, he has strongly opposed homophobia but supports the churchs opposition to same-sex marriage,
though he recognises that many same-sex relationships express lasting love and commitment. It also remains to be
seen how much influence the Archbishops earlier involvement with an evangelical branch of the church which has
had some success in reviving flagging church attendance will have on him. Whatever else, as spiritual leader of the
United Kingdoms established church and a worldwide communion of over 80 million, the new Archbishop will be
very much in the moral and political spotlight over almost any significant public issue that arises.
Keywords: Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, Anglican Church
Printable version | Jun 3, 2013 2:50:18 AM |
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