It has been a busy past couple of weeks for the global Church – first there was the election of a new Coptic Orthodox Pope and now there is naming of Rowan Williams’ successor as the Archbishop of Canterbury. While Protestants in the USA may not think much of these two events, they are actually very, very, very HUGE events as they affect the lives of millions Jesus followers around the world.
Take the Archbishop of Canterbury, for example, whoever sits in that chair affects the direction of the entire Anglican Communion, which has around 85 million members worldwide. The Coptic Orthodox Church is a tad smaller at 18 million members – bring the total number of people affected by the two leadership changes to 103 million believers. That, my friends, is a lot of people!
But, alas, we have digressed from the main focus of this post which was to introduce you all to the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Justin Welby.
Currently Justin Welby is the bishop of Durham, having succeeded Bishop N.T. Wright in that position last year. Which brings up the interesting point that Webly has only been a bishop in the Anglican Church for a year – hardly the resume one would expect for the new Archbishop…
However, it must be pointed out that Welby has quite the track record that more than over shadows this lack of experience. For example, he has worked as an arbitrator during religious conflicts around the world with the Coventry Centre for Reconciliation and he has 11 years of experience as an oil executive, which shows that he has leadership skills.
Theologically speaking, Bishop Welby is said to be within the evangelical tradition of the Anglican Church – a position that, I’m guessing, places him closer to more conservative churches in the Global South than the more liberal Episcopal churches in the USA. What we do know is that Welby has historically been outspoken against same-sex marriage while supportive of women bishops (two of the biggest controversies facing the Anglican Communion)…so it may be that his selection as Archbishop of Canterbury is a message to the Anglican Communion as to what direction the church is wanting to go…. I don’t know, but may the Lord guide them as they figure things out.