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After a slow news period post-‘inauguration’, everything accelerated again to the point where there is too much to cover in one week.

At the end of January 2021, the EU tried to block the UK’s coronavirus vaccine supply, specifically to the AstraZeneca vaccine developed in Oxford!

The EU poked at the softest, most vulnerable part of the UK-EU agreement post-Brexit: not to create division between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, covered by Article 16.

However, the EU, being short of coronavirus vaccines, briefly invoked the sacrosanct Article 16 on Friday, January 29, 2021, despite Jean-Claude Juncker’s old commitment to Ireland that there would be no hard border with a post-Brexit EU-UK trade agreement. This debate in the Irish parliament took place long before coronavirus. What a sloppy dress code:

Then, just less than a month after the UK made a full Brexit with a trade agreement, the EU did this:

On Friday, January 29, Guido Fawkes reported (emphases in the original):

As part of its plot to block vaccine exports to the UK, the EU has invoked Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol. This has effectively removed Northern Ireland from the EU’s customs. In plain English, Article 16, the so-called safeguard clause, allows both the EU and the UK to unilaterally suspend part of the Northern Ireland Protocol (which keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs territory) in specific circumstances.

Most discussion around this particular article had been how or whether the UK would use it. The fact that the EU has implemented it less than a month after coming into effect could set a big precedent.

Practically this new EU-imposed hard border won’t make a huge difference as Northern Ireland will receive their jabs via Great Britain, but this political move is extraordinary, after a week of terrible news for the Union. After years of arguing to keep Northern Ireland in its customs territory, the EU has just merrily kicked it out.

However, such an action threatened the long-standing peace agreement between North and South.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s action managed to unite Britain’s — and Ireland’s — Right and Left for the first time in years:

Guido’s article says of the centre-right Democratic Unionist Party:

UPDATE: The DUP have, not unsurprisingly, slammed the EU’s decision as “an incredible act of hostility”. Arlene Foster says:

“This is an incredible act of hostility. By triggering Article 16 in this manner, the European Union has once again shown it is prepared to use Northern Ireland when it suits their interests but in the most despicable manner — over the provision of a vaccine which is designed to save lives.

At the first opportunity the EU has placed a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland over the supply chain of the Coronavirus vaccine.

With the European Union using Article 16 in such an aggressive and most shameful way, it is now time for our Government to step up. I will be urging the Prime Minister to act and use robust measures including Article 16 to advance the interests of Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”

As for Labour:

UPDATE II: Labour join in with the EU condemnation: Louise Haigh MP, Labour’s Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, commenting on the European Union’s decision to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol:

“This move is deeply destabilising and undermines the huge efforts being made to make the Protocol work.

Unilateral actions like this do nothing to aid the stability in Northern Ireland which the Protocol was designed to preserve.

The European Union must remember the Protocol depends on joint working and they share a responsibility to uphold that. They must think again, and revoke this action.”

Later that day, Guido recapped the previous five days of hassle for AstraZeneca and vaccine supply. CEO Pascal Soriot insisted that the company never made a hard and fast commitment to the EU. AstraZeneca made what are contractually known as best reasonable efforts to supply to the EU. Guido’s article has a copy of the contract, which you can read at the link:

AstraZeneca has committed to use its Best Reasonable Efforts (as defined below) to build capacity to manufacture 300 million Doses of the Vaccine, at no profit and no loss to AstraZeneca, at the total cost currently estimated to be [REDACTED] Euros for distribution within the EU [REDACTED] (the “Initial Europe Doses”), with an option for the Commission, acting on behalf of the Participating Member States, to order an additional 100 million Doses (the “Optional Doses”).

The ball was then in von der Leyen’s court:

Guido reported von der Leyen’s response:

No. There are binding orders and the contract is crystal-clear. AstraZeneca has expressly assured us in this contract that no other obligations will stand in the way of fulfilling the contract.

However, Guido explained:

The key obligation in the agreement is in Section 5.1, which “silos” production for the doses to go to the EU, making clear that the AZ obligation is only to use best reasonable efforts to manufacture the initial doses within the EU. If they are manufacturing doses outside the EU that’s irrelevant to that obligation. Has the EU just shot itself in the foot?

Guido’s founder Paul Staines is based in Waterford, Ireland. He thinks that, for the good of relations between North and South, the UK should share their AstraZeneca doses with the Republic:

He was not alone. The Scotland editor for The Spectator agreed:

Fine. Let’s make sure that Britons get their share first. That’s why the deal was set up in the first place.

By the end of last Friday, right, left, centre and the Church of England opposed the EU action:

The Archbishop’s intervention seemed to have a huge impact in Britain, which is surprising for such an atheistic nation:

The strange thing about Article 16 is that the British EU-lovers assumed that the UK Government would implement it first against the EU. That was the big stink around the Internal Market Bill, which gives the UK leeway to back out of parts of the trade agreement if the EU becomes threatening.

In the end:

Late that evening, the EU president conceded:

Boris made no mention of it on his Twitter feed.

More on the UK’s coronavirus vaccine success will follow on Monday.

For now, here’s the next EU-UK drama, which also started on Friday, January 29 — international travel:

Macron’s probably upset because the Institut Pasteur vaccine failed this week. Because of that failure, he rubbished the AstraZeneca vaccine:

As Guido said:

The French haven’t been able to produce a vaccine, and the Germans couldn’t do it without American corporate help. No wonder voices in the EU were so keen to hit out, falsely, at the success of Brexit Britain’s Oxford vaccine. Poor Little EU.

Oh, boy. Politics, politics.

2021 will be a doozy of a year.

It is unclear what is wrong with the Church of England that it appoints so many unsuitable men to become Archbishops of Canterbury.

Justin Welby is the current incumbent.

On the back of protests in Britain about an American who suffered an outrageous death at the hands of the police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Welby makes this the problem of a large segment of Anglicans in England.

It is inexplicable, all the way round, from protests to finger-pointing at those who live an ocean and a bit away from the source of the problem.

On Tuesday, June 2, 2020, he tweeted something that got very negative responses:

Someone mentioned church closures during the coronavirus outbreak, a decision the C of E took on its own:

Yes, it’s true.

I can empathise with this next comment, too:

People found his tweet presumptuous and patronising:

That is true. It took from 1833 to 2014 for Britain to purchase the freedom of all slaves in the Empire, paid for by taxpayers’ money.

But I digress. Back to the aforementioned prayer:

There are many more comments criticising the CofE’s blind eye to child abuse, becoming increasingly secular and drifting to left-wing politics instead of religion. Others said they would question their giving to the Church, which is sad but understandable.

Someone tweeted about a Muslim family that converted to Christianity in the Church of England several years ago. They took a lot of abuse, including expensive property damage, as the Daily Mail, among other newspapers, reported in 2015. Where was the Church of England then? Nowhere. I do not know what became of them but I pray they are living in safety. The Anglican hierarchy washed their hands of this family (emphases mine):

Over the last year, Mr Hussain has had his car windscreen smashed six times at a cost of £5,000. His eldest son, a final year medical student, has also had his windscreen smashed.

A neighbour was convicted at Bradford Crown Court of a public order offence and bound over to keep the peace after one of Mr Hussain’s children recorded him on a mobile phone making threats in a furious rage in the street.

Mr Hussain insisted he has never been violent towards his tormentors but he was given a police caution for an incident last year when he lost his temper and made an abusive comment in response to a threat from the man.

Mr Hussain had worked as a hospital nurse but was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and has been unable to work. He owns several properties and now lives off rental income.

Although their faith remains strong, Mr and Mrs Hussain no longer attend church. ‘We have given up on the Church of England, they have done nothing for us,’ said Mr Hussain.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Looking at you, Archbishop.

I was of two minds as to whether to report on the royal wedding which took place on Saturday, May 19, 2018.

I turned off the television after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — Harry and Meghan — took their preliminary vows.

A wedding not a blessing

I wondered why they were given a full wedding ceremony rather than a church blessing, since Meghan Markle had been married previously.

However, Sky News reported that the Church of England changed the rules well over a decade ago (emphases mine below):

The Church of England agreed in 2002 that divorced people could remarry in church, with the discretion of the priest.

The duchess, a former actress:

married American film producer Trevor Engelson in 2011. They filed for divorce in 2013, citing “irreconcilable differences”.

The Most Reverend and Honourable Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, officiated at the service.

The Dean of Windsor, The Rt Revd David Conner, conducted the service and the initial vows (‘I will’), although rings were exchanged later in the service with the Archbishop of Canterbury officiating.

It was somewhat off-putting to hear the Dean’s words at the beginning, which included ‘the joy of sexual union’.

If people are getting married only to salve their consciences in that department, they’re headed down the wrong route.

There are two reasons for this.

The first is that a marriage should be a partnership of equals — the best friendship a man and a woman can ever share with God’s blessing.

The second is that no one knows what the morrow will bring. I do know of young couples who were deprived of ‘the joy of sexual union’ early in their marriages because of sudden debilitating illness or accidents.

Friendship comes first in a marriage. The Dean would have been better placed to use the old American adage:

Kissin’ don’t last, cookin’ do.

Prince Charles took the wise decision to walk his future daughter-in-law part way down the aisle:

The Duke’s aunt, Princess Diana’s sister, gave the one reading of the ceremony:

Here is Justin Welby formally joining the couple in matrimony. These video clips are excellent. No one does weddings like the Church of England (I’m so pleased to be a part of it):

The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States gave an address. reported:

The Most Rev Bishop Michael Curry, the first black presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, gained worldwide attention with his address at Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding on Saturday during which he evoked Martin Luther King and spoke of poverty and injustice.

Mr Curry, along with the gospel choir, brought a flavour of the American bride’s homeland with the speech at St George’s Chapel in Windsor.

At the end of the ceremony, the happy couple left St George’s Chapel, Windsor:

Back story: Meghan’s Baptism and Confirmation

The Duchess of Sussex was baptised and confirmed privately prior to the wedding.

Sky News reported:

Prince Harry and Ms Markle announced their engagement in November. A day later Kensington Palace confirmed that Meghan, who identifies as Protestant, would be baptised and confirmed ahead of her wedding day.

Heavy had more:

According to Access, Markle has already been accepted into the Anglican faith, and Welby baptized her in a secret ceremony in March 2018.

The cake and reception

The Queen hosted the first reception:

Sir Elton John, who had sung at Princess Diana’s funeral, performed:

Thankfully, the cake was not the usual heavy fruitcake:

A filling made from Amalfi lemon curd and elderflower buttercream ties all the elements together. The cake is decorated with Swiss meringue buttercream and 150 fresh flowers, mainly British, and in season, including peonies and roses.

Then it was time for the second wedding reception:

Official wedding prayer

This is the couple’s wedding prayer from the Church of England:

But Heavy pointed out:

This stands in contrast to the previous royal wedding, between then-Prince William and Kate Middleton, who wrote their own prayer for the ceremony, as the Telegraph reported.

God our Father, we thank
you for our families; for
the love that we share and
for the joy of our marriage.
In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on
what is real and important
in life and help us to be generous with our time
and love and energy.
Strengthened by our union, help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.

I have prayed for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and hope that they grow together in the peace and love of Jesus Christ.

The Archbishop of Canterbury — The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby — has a short sermon on the life of Christ and the importance of His sending the Holy Spirit to the disciples on the first Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit not only increased the growth of the Church from a mustard seed to a mustard tree (my words, not Welby’s), He also changed the world. Welby says that during the first few centuries, only Christians took time to help the poor:

I’m hardly the greatest fan of Justin Welby, but this sermonette, which runs just over three minutes, is well worth reading (subtitles) or listening to.

If you’ve been following my Forbidden Bible Verses series on the Book of Acts, you’ll feel the excitement that Welby describes — all thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit.

You can read more about Justin Welby at Heavy. Note the first point in the article, which must have come as a shock.

First, my thanks go to James Higham for bringing the following news story to our attention. He also sent me the link to yesterday’s post on the Bishop of London.

Most of us know that the Church of England has been in deep trouble for decades. The less our clergy believe, the emptier our Anglican churches become.

As every sheep follows his shepherd, the English instinctively know that what they hear from many of our pulpits does not come from dyed-in-the-wool Christians. Hence, they flee, rightly abandoning aberrant preaching.

Although we do not have eyes into the soul of our clergy, some really do not inspire confidence that they are men and women of profound, unshakeable faith.

The Guardian recently carried a report of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s — Justin Welby’s — interview with Lucy Tegg of BBC Bristol. I’ve read the article several times and am deeply disappointed with — although not totally unsurprised by — what he said. (Incidentally, this is the same man who in July 2014 told the paper we are ‘too hysterical’ about radical Islam and again mentioned the usual tiny minority — ‘extraordinarily small’ — engaging in it.)

If we are going to persuade people to follow Christ, then, may we never miss an opportunity to do so.

The Archbishop told Ms Tegg that he sometimes doubts — his word — if God ‘is there’. Welby then mentioned Psalm 88 as being one of doubt. Actually, it expresses a feeling of abandonment.

Perhaps that is what Welby meant to say. Perhaps not.

Before going to Let us look at definitions of the two words from the Collins English Dictionary (emphasis in the original below):


  1. uncertainty about the truth, fact, or existence of something (esp in the phrases in doubt, without doubt, beyond a shadow of doubt, etc)
  2. (often plural) lack of belief in or conviction about something   ⇒ all his doubts about the project disappeared
  3. an unresolved difficulty, point, etc
  4. (philosophy) the methodical device, esp in the philosophy of Descartes, of identifying certain knowledge as the residue after rejecting any proposition which might, however improbably, be false
  5. (obsolete) fear;


  1. desertion, leaving behind   ⇒ her father’s complete abandonment of her   ⇒ his abandonment by his mother   ⇒ Childhood experiences can leave behind intense feelings of anger or abandonment.
  2. cessation, discontinuation   ⇒ Constant rain forced the abandonment of the next day’s competitions.
  3. giving up, relinquishment   ⇒ the government’s abandonment of the policy

Psalm 88 was written by Heman and is a song of the Sons of Korah. The Sons of Korah wrote laments which express abandonment but then move towards hope and redemption. The first set encompasses Psalms 42 to 49. The next group of Sons of Korah songs are Psalms 84, 85 and 87. Nathan Albright has excellent explanations of the Sons of Korah psalms.

He also has a marvellous commentary on Psalm 88, which I would commend to the Archbishop and to all my readers, especially those who are suffering from depression and feeling very alone. It says, in part (emphases mine below):

In Psalm 88:10-12, Heman asks a series of (seemingly) rhetorical questions about God working wonders for the deadThough the questions appear to presume a negative answer within the psalm itself (given its grim and deeply frustrated mood), the whole context of the Bible provides a positive answer to these six questions.  God will work wonders for the dead (Ezekiel 37, I Corinthians 15).  The dead will arise and praise God (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  The lovingkindness of God will be declared in the Grave (Revelation 20:11-13).  The faithfulness of God will be declared in the place of destruction (Isaiah 58:12, 61:4).  The wonders of God will be known in the dark.  The righteousness of God will be known in the land of forgetfullness.  This is not only true for death and literal ruins, but also figurative ruins.  As our body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19), the restoration of our spirits and bodies, our thoughts and our emotions, is itself rebuilding the ruins.  It is not only waste places and destroyed towns and cities, but also shattered lives, broken hearts, and wounded souls that need to be healed.  Heman is far from alone in his plight, or his anguished longings to be made whole once again (or perhaps for the first time).

It would have been salutary if the Archbishop had mentioned some of these aspects of Psalm 88 in light of the fact he took the time to specify it in his interview.

Fair enough, he did say this:

It is not about feelings, it is about the fact that God is faithful and the extraordinary thing about being a Christian is that God is faithful when we are not.

He then went on to discuss his faith in Jesus Christ:

Asked what he did when life got challenging, Welby said: “I keep going and call to Jesus to help me, and he picks me up.”

For many of us, our belief in Christ makes us ever more convinced that God is everywhere and with each one of us every day, regardless of whether we choose to acknowledge it. Why would this not be true for the Archbishop?

The Gospels record Jesus telling His audiences that horrible things will happen in the world before His coming again in glory: Matthew 24:1-36 and Mark 13:3-13.

Perhaps the Archbishop could have mentioned those passages, because many secularists ask the same question: why do so many bad things happen and why doesn’t God put an end to them?

Perhaps the Archbishop thought that his more encouraging words about his own personal faith would make the headlines. Sadly not.

It would have been better for him to have said that, like anyone else, he sometimes feels abandoned but that, even during those times, he believes that God will work everything to His divine plan and for a divine purpose.

If we are evangelising for Christ, let us measure our words carefully and put forward a positive, biblical case for Him, the Church and God the Father of us all.

It has been said that our leading clerics embrace the world because they cannot say with confidence that Christianity is the true faith.

The Right Revd Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, recently expressed his thoughts on the correctness of England’s gay marriage law. Forget the Bible, it’s the yoof he’s after:

“One of things that I think is most noticeable where we make a bad impression in society at the moment is because we are seen as against things, and you talk to people and they say I don’t want to hear about a faith that is homophobic, that is this that that, that is the other.”

Asked later whether this meant that he regretted voting against gay marriage, he said he stood by his vote because he did not believe “rewriting the nature of marriage” was the best way to end discrimination against gay people.

He said: “The Bill was clearly, quite rightly, trying to deal with issues of homophobia in our society and … the Church has not been good at dealing with homophobia … in fact we have, at times, as God’s people, in various places, really implicitly or even explicitly supported it.

“And we have to be really, really repentant about that because it is utterly and totally wrong.”

He added:

“And we have seen changes in the idea about sexuality, sexual behaviour, which quite simply [mean that] we have to face the fact that the vast majority of people under 35 think not only that what we are saying is incomprehensible but also think that we are plain wrong and wicked and equate it to racism and other forms of gross and atrocious injustice.

He added that polling suggests that the majority of Christian young people, including born again evangelical young people, also disagree with the Church’s traditional line on homosexuality.

“We have to be real about that, I haven’t got the answer and I‘m not going to jump one way or the other until my mind is clear about this,” he said.

“I’m not going to get into the trenches on it.”

Well, we can disregard the New Testament, then — just the ‘Church’s traditional line’. Time moves on. (Irony alert.)

He makes it sound as if same-sex adherents were banned from C of E and most non-conformist churches. Nothing could be further from the truth. The question was whether the Church should condone and encourage a formal arrangement — marriage — between such partners.

One of the purposes of marriage is procreation, something which same-sex couples are unable to accomplish without resorting to manmade means.

What next? Will Welby also support incestuous unions in future?

This is where actor Jeremy Irons said we could be going — and many clergy agree:

Could a father not marry his son? … It’s not incest between men. Incest is there to protect us from inbreeding, but men don’t breed… If that were so, then if I wanted to pass on my estate without death duties, I could marry my son and pass on my estate to him.

There is more to this than ‘gay rights’. It will be interesting, if not alarming, to see how this legislation unfolds over the next decade.

On July 26, 2013, The Telegraph reported that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was deciding how much materialistic sin the Church of England could engage in:

The Most Rev Justin Welby said he had been left “irritated” after it emerged that the Church helped to fund Wonga – a day after he had pledged to put the controversial loan company out of business by throwing open a network of parish churches to promote non-profit credit unions.

The Archbishop, a former oil executive, said the Church would now be reviewing its investment arrangements but that the organisation has to decide “how much sin” it can tolerate.

He admitted that the rules currently allow the Church to invest in companies engaging in activities it is morally opposed to.

These can indirectly include pornography. The Archbishop said that if the C of E invests in a hotel chain, pornographic videos or television channels are part of the service provided.

And what about shifting from Wonga to promotion of non-profit credit unions for payday loans? More information required.

Of course, what we do not know is how other state churches (e.g. Sweden, Germany) and the Catholic Church invest. Yes, we know of the Catholic banking scandals, but there must be more of a general mainstream nature to their investments.

The Archbishop is right to say that this is a complex issue with many variables to consider. The C of E should be self-financing to the extent which it can. I would not wish to see identity-based lobbying groups or other money-rich entities (consider Qatar’s massive investment in the UK and France) financing my church and thereby extracting certain concessions in preaching and administration.

On the other hand, there is the danger that, by investing in short-term, high-interest lending, the C of E could fall into the moneychanging trap that so angered Jesus. He also railed against the corruption in the purchase of sacrificial animals in the temple. A poor shepherd might bring in his cleanest, fittest animal only to have a priest reject it, forcing the man to buy one from the temple. (See John 2:13-22.) Therefore, today’s C of E’s investment portfolio needs careful consideration and management. I wonder if they pray for guidance. I certainly would were I on their investment committee.

Not surprisingly, the warning light is on for Anglicans who are already suspicious of our elitist, left-leaning clergy. James Higham at Nourishing Obscurity points out:

This is not a religious post, it’s political.   There is an organization, it’s called the Church.  It does its thing, prostitutes do theirs.   The Church has a set of precepts.   These may, to many, be outdated, outmoded, fuddy-duddy, stick-in-the-mud, might be wrong in their eyes, might be homophobic or anti-Narrative.


The thing is, there is a set of precepts.   Welby is trying to be all things to all people, he’s doing the Relativism Shimmy.   He has no right whatever, spiritual or temporal, to do this.   The only thing he can do, whilst he holds that position and wears that mitre, is champion that Church of his for all he’s worth.

He’s succumbed to leftism and is deliberately wishy-washy, like his little-lamented predecessor.   What’s worse, the key questions which the laity have shown they are of one opinion on, the biblical opinion, is not shared by Welby and his cronies.   The enemy is within the citadel and I can see the smoke from here.

Few traditionalist Anglicans missed the critique of Welby by the Revd Peter Mullen earlier this year in The Telegraph:

He is of course an establishment man. I do not mean to suggest by that the old establishment based on the 16th century and the Elizabethan Settlement and supported by luminous divines such as Hooker, Law and Lancelot Andrewes. That wonderful creation was put to death decades ago. No, I mean the new establishment: a hierarchy among the bishops and in the Synod of Left-wing modernisers, devotees of all the secular fads such as diversity, social cohesion, political correctness and, of course, apostles of that sublime superstition, global warming.

Accordingly, Bishop Welby takes the Left-wing attitude towards economics in general and the banks in particular. These things, “…must be rebuilt from the ruins of the financial crisis to become something that helps people rather than being there for people to help it.” The banks must discover “a social purpose.” That “must” implies that if they fail so to discover it, then it will be discovered for them by higher authority.

So it’s banker-bashing as usual. There is no mention of the clear truth that in this country the crisis was produced by the excessive borrowing and spending of the Blair-Brown years, their employment of an additional million civil servants and their vast extension of the client state by increasing and proliferating an already excessive spending on welfare.

The bishop does speak from the highest moral ground: “One principle that seems to me to be clear. We cannot replace what was destroyed in 2008; we can only replace it with something that is dedicated to the support of human society, the common good and solidarity.” Who are this “We” who will do the replacing, we might ask? But the point to notice about what the bishop is saying here, is his supreme confidence in the objective infallibility of his own thoughts: he begins by mentioning a “principle” but proceeds only to offer his opinion. Clearly the implication must be that he regards his own private opinions as matters of principle. This is dangerous. It has been known to lead to demagoguery.

Back to the current Wonga controversy, about which the Archbishop said:

it was almost impossible for the Church to make an investment that was not somehow tainted.

He said: “If you exclude any contact with anything that directly or indirectly gets in any way bad, you can’t do anything at all.”

Signalling a potential review of its entire investment portfolio, he added: “I think we have to review these levels and make sure we are consistent between what we’re saying and what we’re doing.”

May the Holy Spirit guide him and his advisors in the way of righteousness.

After that is sorted out, the rest of us hope our prayers for a return to Anglican orthodoxy are answered.

Anglican_Communion Compass RoseIt’s a once in a lifetime that we have the installation of a new Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury (ABC) in one week.

Not having seen an ‘enthronement’ before, I tuned in to the BBC. (The link to the programme expires on March 28, 2013.) Huw Edwards, newsreader, hosted a panel of three Anglicans: the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, KCVO, former Bishop of Manchester; Christina Rees, a member of the Archbishops Council and the Revd Dr Giles Fraser, former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral who was in place during Occupy.

Before the ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral (Kent), Edwards asked the three for their impressions thus far of Justin Welby, the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. McCulloch said that Welby is ‘incisive’ and has a ‘firm commitment to the Gospel’, adding, ‘There is a great honesty about him’.

Rees said she thought that Welby’s business background would help him to take tough decisions. (He was an executive at Enterprise Oil.) She thinks he will break with tradition and take risks.

Fraser admired Welby’s ‘very human quality’ and said that he ‘is not afraid of his own authority’.

When asked about the challenges Welby would face as ABC, Rees thought the issue of women bishops would top the list. Fraser disagreed, saying that the primary concern was ‘reconciling Christian faith to an increasingly sceptical world’.

The ceremony was in the afternoon. In the morning, Welby went off for a jog in Canterbury. Edwards asked him for a brief interview. Welby told Edwards that the ceremony would be a commitment in prayer which would join people from around the Anglican Communion acknowledging their own weakness and God’s love. He said that the ceremony would exhibit ‘simplicity’, adding:

From me, there will be an emphasis on prayer, reconciliation and telling people about the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Edwards asked him if he considered himself an evangelical. As I strongly dislike the word being used by Anglicans to describe themselves (let’s continue with ‘low church’), I was relieved to hear him acknowledge that it can cause people to bristle:

‘Evangelical’ carries with it a vast amount of baggage. I would describe myself as an orthodox Christian. I’ve always drawn on the widest traditions of the Church.

As to the future of the Anglican Communion, he said:

In the grace of God, we will find a way forward.

With regard to what people should take away from his installation service, Welby told Edwards:

When we base our lives on Jesus Christ, we need not be afraid … In Christ, there is no fear.

The enthronement ceremony begins with the ABC-elect knocking on the door to the west entrance of Canterbury Cathedral. Later, he undergoes two installations: the first as the Bishop of the See of Canterbury and the second in the mediaeval marble chair of St Augustine as Primate of England and Metropolitan — the Anglican Communion.

The Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, the Very Revd Robert Willis, had a prominent role to play, not only during the service, but also in showing the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall (as well as other dignitaries) to their seats.

The Rev Canon John Rees, Principal Registrar of the Province of Canterbury, read the formal mandate for Welby’s installation before Welby approached the West entrance to the building. Anglican bishops were in place at the altar. Special guests, dignitaries and Welby’s wife, daughters and son were in the choir stalls.

After Canon Rees read the mandate, the cathedral choir sang the first hymn, which Willis composed: ‘I Am the Light’.

Willis and the clergy then processed to the West door as Welby, outside the cathedral’s Old Palace with his chaplains, walked towards it. This is the first time a woman has been among them — the Revd Jo Bailey Wells.

Once at the West door, Welby knocked on it with the pointy end of his crook. The door opened and Welby stood in the entrance with a faint smile on his face.

In Anglican tradition, an ABC is asked why he is presenting himself and if he is of sound mind. Normally, a clergyman asks these questions. On this occasion, Welby chose a 17-year old girl, Evangeline Kanagasooriam, whose parents had emigrated from Sri Lanka and are active members of the Cathedral congregation.

Welby replied (emphases mine):

I am Justin, a servant of Jesus Christ … and I come as one seeking the grace of God to travel with you in His service together.

I come knowing nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified and in weakness and in fear and much trembling.

With Welby still standing in the entrance, the cathedral choir of men and boys sang another hymn. They were glorious, by the way — marvellous, on-key, magnificent from start to finish. I really felt transported to Heaven listening to them.

Afterward, Welby offered intercessory prayers:

Turn to us again, O God our Saviour and let Your anger cease from us. Lord have mercy …

Show us your compassion, Lord, and grant us Your salvation. Lord have mercy …

The Dean — Willis — officially welcomed Welby to the cathedral. Welby replied:

With all my heart, I thank you for your welcome. May the peace of God be upon this house and upon this company.

At this point, everyone sang the processional hymn — Isaac Watts’s ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ (Rockingham). The clergy and Welby walked down the aisle towards the altar.

Welby knelt before the altar. The Dean moved around to face him and ask for God’s blessing for Welby as ABC. The congregation then recited the Lord’s Prayer.

In the Anglican Church, March 21 is the feast day of both St Benedict and of Thomas Cranmer (burnt at the stake on this day).  The Dean read out both names, saying:

… Benedict, Abbot of Monte Cassino, patron saint of Europe, ‘whose rule continues to influence the life of the Church … and Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, whose Book of Common Prayer shaped the worship of the Church of England.

He then read the Collects, the first for St Benedict and the second for Thomas Cranmer.

The choir then sang ‘Come, Holy Ghost’ (Veni, Creator Spiritus).

Afterward, the Most Revd Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, read the Declaration of Assent. To this, Welby affirmed his

faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds.

The Dean then read the Oath of Loyalty (to the Gospel) and held the ancient Canterbury Gospels before Welby. Welby kissed one of the open pages. The Canterbury Gospels were brought to Britain by St Augustine in 597.

A new addition to the ceremony was Welby’s signing of the Ecumenical Covenant with England’s Churches Together, a group of 38 Christian denominations. Archbishop Gregorios of the Greek Orthodox Church of Thyateira and Great Britain and the Revd Michael Heanery, the Moderator of the Free Churches Group made the presentation.

The first lesson came from the Book of Ruth and was read by the Rt Revd Jana Jeruma Grinberga, Bishop of the Lutheran Church of Great Britain. This is some of what she read from Ruth 2:

2And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” 3So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. 4And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered, “The LORD bless you.” 5Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6And the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest” …

17So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. 19And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where did you glean today? And where have you worked? Blessed be the man who took notice of you.” So she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.” 20And Naomi said to her daughter-in-law,”May he be blessed by the LORD, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!”

The choir then sang Psalm 8, which includes the verse:

9O LORD, our Lord,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!

The Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, read the next lesson, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21:

16From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The congregation then sang ‘The Church’s One Foundation’ (Aurelia), one of my favourite hymns.

The two installations took place afterward. For these, the clergy went up a set of steps to another part of the cathedral. Welby went to a pulpit-type structure where the first female Archdeacon of Canterbury, the Venerable Sheila Ann Watson, administered the Oath of the See of Canterbury, thereby inducting Justin Welby as the new Archbishop of Canterbury. This was the first installation.

Welby then received the blessing from the Dean of the Province of Canterbury and Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres.

Dean Willis then presented Welby with the pastoral crook of the See of Canterbury.

The Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott prayed his blessing for Welby.

The next musical interlude was a hymn from the Global South (‘developing world’) called ‘Saranam Saranam’.

After this, the second installation took place, that of the ancient marble chair of St Augustine. Welby sat down. Willis took his hand and read out the oath of installation for Primate of all England and Metropolitan. This has to do with the governance of the wider Anglican Communion.

The Archbishop of Burundi, the Most Rev Bernard Ntahoturi, then gave Welby a blessing, praying in French.

Welby then affirmed that he would work together within the Anglican Communion as well as with other denominations.

Then, a few things happened which, for me, ruined the solemnity of the service. The first was everyone applauding Welby, which Huw Edwards told us was ‘tradition’. Really? I was brought up not to applaud in church. Thankfully, one of the few not to was Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. The Prince of Wales did so only slightly.

The next thing everyone did was to exchange the Peace — a handshake — an execrable practice.

Afterward, the choir sang a hymn called ‘In Christ Alone’ which could have been used as a signature tune for a Western, especially with the trumpets in the background. It reminded me of Bonanza. Terrible.

This was followed by the African dance and drum troupe from London, Frititti, who performed something called ‘A New Beginning’. It was clearly syncretic. It would have been fine in a secular environment but looked totally wrong inside God’s house. I have no idea if it was Christian. It certainly didn’t look that way. It didn’t sound very happy, either, but Welby has a much greater appreciation of drums than I do from his time in Africa.

Welby read the Gospel passage, Matthew 14:22-33, which describes what took place after Jesus fed the 5,000:

Jesus Walks on the Water

 22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

 28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Frititti closed their drum and dance performance. Camilla nearly had a fit of the giggles. Most of the congregation looked rather ill at ease.

Welby then gave his sermon which was much better than I was expecting. It was Christocentric, grace-filled and spoke to the aforementioned Bible readings.

He opened by saying, ‘We are an international community’. He referred to the Gospel and spoke against fear, as Peter had when he realised he was walking on water in a storm. Welby said that Jesus Christ ‘liberates living courage’:

Each of us needs to get out of the boat and go to Him.

He emphasised that Christianity was the basis for British law and that we can face our challenges only with the courage that a belief in Christ will give us. He also referred to Pope Francis’s sermon discussing our role as protectors ‘under the authority of God’.

Welby likened Ruth’s experience in Boaz’s foreign fields to that of today’s refugees who are in a strange land but said that these situations can work out well provided that the lands which receive them are ‘based on allegiance to God’. He added that if we sever our roots in Christ we inhibit our ability to take good decisions:

Heed His words and we will have the courage to build a society in stability.

He then called us to reconcile ourselves, then others, to Christ. Only then, he said, can we begin to ‘change the world’. In this respect, he referred to St Benedict whose Rule has had a profound effect on the world at large and to Thomas Cranmer whose Book of Common Prayer is also known and used worldwide.

Welby then mentioned that as many Christians are martyred now as in the past. Even so, the Church still manages to transform society. Later, one of the panellists said that more Christians have been martyred in the 20th and 21st centuries than in all the preceding two millennia.

Welby discussed the many charitable work Church agencies accomplish and how a government mindful of Christ’s teachings can make a positive contribution (e.g. ending slavery, the NHS).

He closed by saying we are called to reach out ‘amidst the waves’ for ‘the hand of Christ’ and ‘we will see a world transformed’.

What followed was a beautiful organ solo, a solemn ‘improvisation in the French tradition’ based on themes from the sermon.

Several members from the greater Anglican Communion presented their country’s symbolic gift, placing them on the altar. These included a Jerusalem cross (from Jerusalem), blessed water for unity (from the Americas), a container for milk or water (Kenya), a picture made of grains of rice symbolising life (Hong Kong) and a woodcarving of people working which represented peace (Democratic Republic of Congo).

The congregation then recited the Nicene Creed. After that, the choir sang ‘Te Deum Laudamus’ (Britten).

Three young people then read out prayers for the Church and the world which concluded with the prayer of general thanksgiving from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

Afterward, the choir sang a hymn which Welby’s mother and stepfather commissioned called ‘Listen, Listen, O My Child’ (Berkeley).

Welby gave the two final blessings. In between them, the congregation sang a Charles Wesley and Thomas Campbell hymn, ‘And Can It Be?’ (Sagina).

There was more applause just before the organ recessional.

Outside, the cathedral bells were ringing — as close to divine a sound as one can get, next to Canterbury Cathedral choir.

Back in the studio, Huw Edwards talked with the panel. McCulloch liked the emphasis on faith in Christ giving us courage and perseverance. He said that if Welby takes that message to heart ‘with God’s grace’, he will do well as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Rees also like the many references to faith in Christ and echoed Welby’s optimism about the future of the Church.

Fraser demurred, saying that he had hope for the Church but he was not optimistic. He also appreciated the reminder about the many present-day Christian martyrs.

Asked to describe Welby in one word, McCulloch said ‘engaging’, Rees said ‘purposeful’ and Fraser said ‘determined’.


Incidentally, the retired Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams — not at the service — has a new title: Baron Williams of Oystermouth.

On November 8, Justin Welby was named as successor to Rowan Williams as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I wrote about the candidates — including Dr Welby — on April 13, 2012. Welby, currently the Bishop of Durham, was ‘astonished’ to receive the appointment, just as he was he was ‘astonished’ to be appointed Bishop of Durham in 2011.

It seems unlikely that traditional Anglicans will be astonished by anything the new Archbishop of Canterbury will encounter or undertake. Translation: we are likely to be somewhat disappointed. Hey ho.

Welby is an ‘evangelical’ but favours modern liturgy, church unity, Islam, financial sector diktats and, possibly, single-sex marriage.

The new Archbishop is also big on the Alpha programme and was a lay pastor at London’s Holy Trinity Brompton when the Revd Nicky Gumbel made the courses (more here) phenomenally successful to the point where they are now ecumenical and international.

Oh well.

At least Dr Welby speaks French — having worked for oil company Elf and serving later as honorary consul for France when he was Dean of Liverpool.

We can but pray that God guides him in the way of Scripture going forward. That could take some time.

The consultation process for finding Rowan Williams’s successor as the Archbishop of Canterbury will begin in May 2012 and end sometime during the summer.

The Anglican Communion will have a new spiritual leader by the end of this year.

So, who might be in the running?

Below are profiles of three possible candidates: the Archbishop of York, the current Bishop of Durham and a past Bishop of Durham.

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York

The Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu is the bookmaker’s favourite to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Sentamu is also the only Church of England bishop to be stopped under the ‘sus’ laws (‘reasonable grounds to suspect’).

Sentamu was born in 1949 in Uganda, one of 13 children. He then went on to read Law and practice as an advocate of the High Court of Uganda. In 1974, Sentamu had been married for just three weeks when Idi Amin threw him in prison for 90 days. Afterward, Sentamu fled to the UK. In 2007, he gave a speech describing the torture he underwent in Uganda, saying:

 the temptation to give up hope of release was always present.

Wikipedia tells us more:

He read theology at Selwyn College, Cambridge (BA 1976, MA 1979, PhD 1984). He was baptized at Eden Baptist Church, Cambridge. He trained for the priesthood at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, being ordained a priest in 1979. His doctoral thesis is entitled Some aspects of soteriology, with particular reference to the thought of J.K. Mozley, from an African perspective.[4] He worked as assistant chaplain at Selwyn College, as chaplain at a remand centre and as curate and vicar in a series of parish appointments before his consecration, in 1996, as Bishop of Stepney (a suffragan see in the Diocese of London). It was during this time that he served as advisor to the Stephen Lawrence Judicial Enquiry. In 2002 he chaired the Damilola Taylor review. That same year he was appointed Bishop of Birmingham where his ministry, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was praised by “Christians of all backgrounds”. Sentamu became President of Youth for Christ in 2004 and President of the YMCA in April 2005.[5]

On 17 June 2005 the prime minister’s office announced his translation to York as the 97th archbishop.[6] He was formally elected by the chapter of York Minster on 21 July,[7] legally confirmed as archbishop in London on 5 October, and enthroned at York Minster on 30 November 2005 (the feast of Saint Andrew), at a ceremony with African singing and dancing and contemporary music, with Sentamu himself playing African drums during the service.[8][9] As Archbishop of York, Sentamu sits in the House of Lords[10] and was admitted, as a matter of course, to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.[11]

Sentamu has also held university chancellorships and has been awarded a number of honorary degrees.

In 2006, television executives invited him to be part of the reality show Celebrity Big Brother. Sentamu declined:

saying “Celebrity can be malign in that it becomes a form of idolatry, and people live their lives vicariously through the rich and famous rather than attending to their own lives.”[30]

He has similarly traditional views on marriage and in vitro fertilisation (IVF); he supports St George’s Day and Christians working in the public sector who have been persecuted for their faith.

He also has not been afraid to take political stances against kidnapping in Palestine and Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe, among other causes.

Last year, he played things a bit safe by donating bird boxes to parishes in the Archdiocese of York and minimising premarital sex.

Sentamu is married with two children.

He would be a good choice for the Southern Cone (Asia, Africa and South America) as well as for the Church of England.  He would provide good structure and firm yet understanding leadership.

Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham

The Rt Revd Justin Welby was appointed Bishop of Durham in 2011, succeeding N T (‘Tom’) Wright, more about whom below. Prior to that Welby had been the Dean of Liverpool for four years.

He is married with five children. A sixth, sadly, died.

Welby, born in 1956, is the grand-nephew of former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister Rab Butler, later Baron Butler of Saffron Walden.  Welby was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. There he read History and Law.

He then spent 11 years in the oil industry and was Group Treasurer of Enterprise Oil. At the end of the 1980s, his life took a different tack:

From 1989 to 1992, Welby studied Theology and trained for the priesthood at Cranmer Hall and St John’s College Durham before becoming a Curate at Chilvers Coton with Astley (Nuneaton) from 1992 to 1995. He then became Rector at St James’ Church, Southam and Vicar of Ufton from 1995 until 2002.

In 2002, he was appointed a Canon Residentiary at Coventry Cathedral and Co-Director for International Ministry at the International Centre for Reconciliation. In 2005, he left the latter post when he was appointed Sub-Dean and Canon for Reconciliation Ministry.

Welby was appointed Dean of Liverpool in December 2007 and was installed in a service at Liverpool Cathedral on 8 December 2007.[4]

On being appointed Bishop of Durham in 2011, Welby told the BBC:

I was astonished to be offered the role. It is a passionate desire to see a church that is vigorously full of spiritual life, serving Jesus Christ and serving those around it.

Welby has written widely about business as well as a book about the Church which would not be out of place in a church growth reading list: Managing the Church?: Order and Organization in a Secular Age.

He is also a leading member of Coventry Cathedral’s Cross of Nails community, which travels to war zones around the world with this smaller version of the cathedral’s distinctive postwar cross. Last year, Welby explained:

In that sense, the cross within Christian thinking marks the end of disruption of a relationship, and of a new future. And we see, in the work we do now in the Community of the Cross of Nails and in our reconciliation world-wide, that the cross is a powerful way of demonstrating hope. Because it speaks of the possibility of new harmonious and peaceful relationships. First with God and then with others.

Harmonious and peaceful relationships are important to him. He would like Christians to understand and make peace with Muslims — a collective rapprochement (emphases mine):

… the Church has both the understanding and the means to face this great issue with tools and opportunities that can offer a genuine solution.

The understanding comes first. Christians understand the importance of the spiritual life, and thus should be able to relate to Islam in a way that the secular may find more difficult. In Nigeria I was challenged as to my own belief in the incarnation and deity of Christ, by a Muslim. … There was the capacity for dialogue based on mutual respect.

If you believe that can be applied universally, I would suggest that you read this catalogue of one month’s Muslim persecution of Christians around the world.

It is for that reason that I would be very wary of what sort of Archbishop of Canterbury Welby would make. One imagines that he would make more pronouncements as his predecessor did about integrating Sharia law into English law.

N T (‘Tom’) Wright

Some American readers might be surprised to see Wright’s name here: ‘Isn’t he an Evangelical?’

Yes and no. Not an Evangelical but an evangelical Anglican.

I was interested to read the first three comments to this post on the Anglican site Stand Firm:

Red Hat Rob: Could NT Wright be persuaded to return from academia?

Matt Kennedy: I hope not.

David Ould: Indeed, that’s the last thing we need. Please no.

Kennedy and Ould are clergymen, by the way.

Nicholas Thomas ‘Tom’ Wright was born in 1948, so is one year older than John Sentamu (see above). He attended Sedburgh where he focussed on Classics, then went up to Exeter College, Oxford, where he read Theology.

He was ordained in 1975 and held chaplaincies as well as academic positions at Oxford, Cambridge and McGill (the ‘Canadian Harvard’, in Montreal).

In the early 1990s:

He moved from Oxford to be Dean of Lichfield Cathedral (1994–99) and then returned briefly to Oxford as Visiting Fellow of Merton College, before taking up his appointment as Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey in 2000.

In 2003, he became the Bishop of Durham.

On 4 August 2006 he was appointed to the Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved for a period of five years.[11]

On 27 April 2010 it was announced that he would retire from the See of Durham on 31 August 2010 to take up a new appointment as Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews in Scotland, which will enable him to concentrate on his academic and broadcasting work.[12][13]

Wright is married with four children.

N.B.: What follows in the rest of the post will have highlighted good and erroneous theology. Please read with care and discernment.

Wright is a prolific author, espousing the ‘open evangelical’ perspective.  I’m not familiar with it, but it is a conservative stance which is ‘inclusive’, as it attempts to meet with ‘culture’. What that means in practice is unclear.

One of its manifestations is a site called Fulcrum, which has a selection of articles about Anglican issues as well as a discussion forum. Its home page features a quote from Wright:

I see the launch of Fulcrum as a call to evangelical Anglicans of whatever background to work together, to play a full part in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion, to make the running, instead of always reacting, to be in the front row of innovative Gospel-work.

‘Gospel-work’. Hmm.

Wright has ‘an appreciation’ of Rowan Williams on Fulcrum, which reads in part:

His mind has been, above all, for unity, always central to a bishop’s vocation. Not a shoulder-shrugging, lowest-common-denominator unity, but the hard-won, costly unity that makes demands on charity and patience rather than on conscience

Despite routine pessimism, the Church of England isn’t finished. In a sense, it’s just getting going. We need someone with vision and energy to pick up from where Rowan’s charismatic style has led us and to develop and deepen things from there …

I wouldn’t bet on the Crown Nominations Commission proposing someone with the right combination of spirituality, wisdom and strategic thinking, plus boundless, multi-tasking energy. But that’s what I shall be praying for.

So, we are to seek church unity over discernment and our conscience? Hmm.

On the discussion page for this article, there is a curious comment from reader David W (Monday 26 March 2012 – 09:41 a.m.):

The NT asks believers to serve our leaders, so that their job is not a burden. They take on great responsibility and will be judged by God more strictly.

On this basis believers should thank Rowan Williams for what he has done.

Really? I spent some time searching for such a verse, remembering that the Apostles always introduced themselves to their local ‘churches’ as ‘your servant’. Furthermore, the notion of blind obedience no matter what came to mind — the toxic churches I wrote about during Lent.

To refute David W’s comment — partly rooted in truth and partly in error — I would point to a considered essay by Steve Atkerson of the New Testament Reformation Fellowship, which favours congregations of under 100 people and a return to church leaders who are influencers not rulers. In ‘The Ministry of Elders’, he points out all the verses from St Paul which support the idea of the pastor, deacon or elder as an ‘overseer’, but adds a number of New Testament qualifications:

Much may be gleaned from the way that New Testament writers made appeals directly to entire churches.  They went to great lengths to influence ordinary rank and file believers …  Their primary authority lay in their ability to influence with the truth.  The respect they were given was honestly earnedIt was the opposite of military authority wherein soldiers respect the rank but not necessarily the man.

Hebrews 13:7 reflects the fact that the leadership style employed by church leaders is primarily one of direction by example: “Remember your leaders . . . Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”  Along this same line, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 reveals that leaders are to be respected, not because of automatically inferred authority of rank, but because of the value of their service — “Hold them in highest regard in love because of their work.”  Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave (Mt 20:25-28) …

Lest this lose its impact, you should stop to reflect that “the youngest and the slaves are precisely those without authority in our normal sense of the word.  Yet this is what leadership among Jesus’ people is like”.1

So, if so-called ‘open evangelicalism’ is about a military, cult-like automatic respect and service on demand for hierarchy just because of their title, especially for someone who might be destroying Christ’s Church, then count me out.

More on Wright specifically, though, and this is where his theology starts to get quite dodgy.

In the 1960s and 1970s, a few theologians began reinterpreting St Paul’s epistles. I’ll go more into this tomorrow, but by 1982, this revisionism was called New Perspective on Paul (NPP). Essentially, these theologians have reinterpreted these epistles to be more in tune with first-century Judaism. They say that Luther and Calvin misunderstood Paul’s letters.

N T ‘Tom’ Wright is today’s principal champion of NPP, which, depending on the interpretation of some of his fellow supporters, has the tendency to become a semi-Pelagian works-based error.

These are the major tenets of NPP, from Wikipedia:

Works of the Law:

Paul’s letters contain a substantial amount of criticism of “works of the law”. The radical difference in these two interpretations of what Paul meant by “works of the law” is the most consistent distinguishing feature between the two perspectives. The old perspective interprets this phrase as referring to human effort to do good works in order to meet God’s standards (Works Righteousness). In this view, Paul is arguing against the idea that humans can merit salvation from God by their good works (note the New Perspective agrees that we cannot merit salvation- the issue is what exactly Paul is addressing).

By contrast, new-perspective scholars see Paul as talking about “badges of covenant membership” …[6]

Human effort and good works:

Due to their interpretation of the phrase “works of the law”, old-perspective theologians see Paul’s rhetoric as being against human effort to earn righteousness. This is often cited by Lutheran and Reformed theologians as a central feature of the Christian religion, and the concepts of grace alone and faith alone are of great importance within the creeds of these denominations …

Wright however does not hold the view that good works contribute to one’s salvation but rather that the final judgement is something we can look forward to as a future vindication of God’s present declaration of our righteousness. In other words our works are a result of our salvation and the future judgement will show that.[9] Others tend to place a higher value on the importance of good works than the old perspective does, taking the view that they causally contribute to the salvation of the individual.

This can be easily misinterpreted. If Wright does not think that our good works — not necessarily grace-based but ticklist deeds — contribute to salvation, then why an NPP? Again, more on this tomorrow.

Grace or favour:

Old-perspective writers have generally translated the Greek word charis as “grace” and understood it to refer to the idea that there is a lack of human effort in salvation because God is the controlling factor. However those who study ancient Greek culture have pointed out that “favor” is a better translation, as the word refers normally to ‘doing a favor’. In ancient societies there was the expectation that such favors be repaid, and this semi-formal system of favors acted like loans.[17] Therefore, it is argued that when Paul speaks of how God did us a ‘favor’ by sending Jesus, he is saying that God took the initiative, but is not implying a lack of human effort in salvation, and is in fact implying that Christians have an obligation to repay the favor God has done for them. Some argue that this view then undermines the initial ‘favor’ — of sending Jesus — by saying that, despite his incarnation, life and death, Christians still have, as before, to earn their way to heaven. However, others note this is the horns of a false dilemma (all grace versus all works). Many new-perspective proponents that see “charis” as “favor” do not teach that Christians earn their way to heaven outside of the death of Christ. Forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ is still necessary to salvation. But, that forgiveness demands effort on the part of the individual (cf. Paul in Phil. 3:12-16). [18]

The Atonement:

For old-perspective writers the atonement theory of Penal Substitution and the belief in the “finished work” of Christ have been central. New-perspective writers have regularly questioned whether this view is really of such central importance in Paul’s writings. Generally new-perspective writers have argued that other theories of the atonement are more central to Paul’s thinking, but there has been minimal agreement among them as to what Paul’s real view of the atonement might be.

N. T. Wright has argued that Paul sees Israel as representative of humanity and taking onto itself the sinfulness of humanity through history. Jesus, in turn, as Messiah is representative of Israel and so focuses the sins of Israel on himself on the cross. Wright’s view is thus a “historicized” form of Penal Substitution.[19]

This is at odds with Luther and Calvin and, indeed, a number of Reformed (Calvinist) theologians have critiqued and criticised NPP. However, NPP has delighted Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox observers:

The increased importance new-perspective writers have given to good works in salvation has created strong common ground with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Historic Protestantism has never denied that there is a place for good and faithful works, but has always excluded them from justification and salvation, which Protestants argue is through faith alone, and in which good deeds are of no account, either within or without God’s grace. This has, since the Reformation, been a line of distinction between Protestantism (both Reformed and Lutheran) and other Christian communions.

The worst part of NPP — outside of the lack of agreement among its proponents — is the hyper-conservative cult-like offshoot movement called Federal Vision (FV). FV is highly patriarchal and legalistic where pastors and elders favour an ‘intuitive’ — not doctrinal — interpretation of the Bible. Salvation, they believe, is partly dependent on ‘covenental’ church membership — and all that membership might entail. Although it is not a denomination, a growing number of Reformed churches in the United States have been influenced by it.

Indeed, Federal Vision advocates have praised N T Wright’s thoughts on NPP:

Most of the Federal Vision proponents have publicly said they appreciate much of what N. T. Wright has written. Both Mark Horne[50] and Rich Lusk[51] have defended Wright against his Reformed critics. Horne has said that the NPP “is not a rejection of the Reformed doctrine.”[52] Lusk has said virtually the same thing, saying that Wright “is a true sola scriptura Protestant.”[53]

Peter Leithart, Steve Wilkins and Steve Schlissel share similarities theologically with the NPP, though they have not publicly said they have consciously shaped their theology after Wright’s. Leithart, however, has said that Federal Vision theology “is stimulated by Anglican New Testament scholar N. T. Wright . . .”[56]

It would be a shame if this line of thought were to overtake the Church of England and the Anglican Communion because it would appear to violate Articles XI through XIV of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (p. 3):

XI. Of the Justification of Man.

WE are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort; as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

XII. Of Good Works.

ALBEIT that good works, which are the fruits of faith and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God’s judgement, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

XIII. Of Works before Justification.

WORKS done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the School authors say) deserve grace of congruity: yea, rather for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.

XIV. Of Works of Supererogation.

VOLUNTARY works besides, over and above, God’s commandments which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety. For by them men do declare that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for His sake than of bounden duty is required: Whereas Christ saith plainly, When ye have done all that are commanded to do, say, We be unprofitable servants.

But, then, of course, the Reformers had it all wrong. Didn’t they?

Whilst I admire Wright’s belief, which is much more specific that Rowan Williams’s, because of NPP, I am unsure as to whether Wright would make a suitable Archbishop of Canterbury. He would do a wonderful job of bringing the Anglican Communion together, however, with what theology?

My apologies for the length of this post. If you have read this far, my thanks.

Tomorrow: N T Wright on the Resurrection

Monday: A British Evangelical’s criticism of NPP

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