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Thursday, 21 March 2013

God Bless the new Archbishop of Canterbury.

The new Archbishop of Canterbury, the 105th to hold the title since Augustin arrived in England (it is reported, reluctantly), was enthroned today in his cathedral. It is always a double 'enthronement' as he both the Diocesan Bishop of the See of Canterbury and the Head of the Province of Canterbury which includes all the diocese of what, in Roman times, would have been Britannia Prime and part of Secunda (Which stretched from the Thames up the East Coast). In addition, he is the "Primus inter Pares" of the Anglican Communion, a position the Media and many individuals always seem to confuse with the Papal position in Rome. It is not, he has no overriding authority over any of the Provincial Primates or their Synods. Nor does he have the power to override any resolution made by any Diocesan Bishop and his Synod. All he may do is offer an opinion or advice.

Archbishop Justin Welby brings a number of skills to the position that we have not seen in many of his predecessors. One major difference between him and almost all of them, is that he comes with experience in the highest corridors of commerce and industry. He will need these and his mediation skills in his new role. It is to be hoped that he will have the support of the laity and the clergy of all factions within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. He comes from the more Protestant wing of the Church, but one should not make the mistake of thinking he does not value and appreciate the more Catholic traditions, he most certainly does.

His enthronement was not the massively glitzy affair which saw the new Pope installed in Rome, but it is no less important for all that. From what I have been able to see of it, it had its moments of quiet dignity, some glorious music and its moments of spirituality. I would dare to suggest that it was a good start to this Archbishop's primacy. He faces some difficult matters, not least the now entrenched belittling and antipathy to anything to do with Christianity and the Church of England in particular in Parliament and the Media. He must find ways to make the Christian message audible, acceptable and inclusive in the face of all the negative arguments advanced by the vociferous atheist, humanist and secularist lobbies. He must find ways of encouraging people to join congregations and take active roles in worship and find a way to reverse the negative impact of the secularist 'open for business 24/7' which means that many families never have the same days off together or spend time together.

Among his 104 predecessors there are several martyrs, ++Thomas Beckett, the only Archbishop or bishop to be murdered in his own cathedral, ++Lanfranc, murdered by a mob in the Tower of London, ++Thomas Cranmer, the author of much of the Book of Common Prayer, murdered by Queen Mary I by being burned at the stake in Oxford, and several others deprived of the 'Living' or imprisoned after falling foul of the ruler of the day. It is a position with enormous political as well as spiritual demands upon the incumbent and there will be many among the Media pack eagerly watching for anything they may use to drag him down, just as they did with ++Rowan, the 104th Archbishop. Sadly, there will also be those among both the Laity and the clergy of the CofE who will find endless fault with his actions, advice and decisions. One can but hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will uphold, uplift and inspire him at every turn.

I shall be praying for the success of his ministry.

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