“So the Church of England has appointed another middle aged, white, anti-gay guy to be the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. Big whoop.” This is how Emergent theoblogger Tony Jones describes the appointment of Justin Welby as Archbishop. I kind of have to agree with him even though I’m an Anglican priest. I’m actually kind of nervous, but yet with a glimmer of hope.
First my anxieties. Like Jones said he’s white, male, older and anti gay. Add to this the fact that he’s from a wealthy, privileged, well connected family and a former oil executive and he doesn’t look very promising. He has distanced himself from his oil industry days and says that his view on gay marriage is evolving. One of the knocks on him that I don’t necessarily agree with is that he is too inexperienced for the position. Perhaps this lack of experience will help him to not stagnate in what has been a very blah post.
On a positive note he does support the consecration of female bishops. That won’t win him any friends in some circles but it does give him some credibility in the public sphere. His appointment may be just the thing that nudges the English church toward allowing women bishops.
Then there are my problems with the process. He’s appointed not elected and to this lowly priest it smacks of back room dealing. How about a little more democratic input? Then there is the one thing about the anglican church that bugs me: we’re still pretty much a state church, at least the CofE is. The Prime Minister is involved, as well as bureaucrats, and then there is our beloved head of the church, the Queen. Don’t get me started on the queen!!!
I also have some hesitations about the position itself. For one thing the archbishop lives in a palace. I’ve never been there but I’m sure a flat could do. I’m also not sure of the role and significance of the Canterbury see. And I am especially nervous about folks who want the Archbishop of Canterbury to act like a Pope. There is really no power here and if the primary reason for the post is unity, well I’m not sure that can work anymore. But the hardest question I have is what does Justin Welby or anyone else as Archbishop of Canterbury have to do with ministry at the local parish level?
All that aside I am willing to give Welby a chance, although its not a job that I covet. He has his work cut out for him. Let’s pray for wisdom for him and patience for us.