Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Anglican Studies (10.2): The new Archbishop of Canterbury

Archbishop Justin Welby was enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury last Thursday … but what is the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury? And how is he chosen? (Photograph © Lambeth Palace/Picture Partnership)

Patrick Comerford

MTh Year II

Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

Tuesdays: 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m., The Hartin Room.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013, 3.15 p.m.:

10.2: The new Archbishop of Canterbury

Question: How many of you watched the enthronement of the new Archbishop of Canterbury on the television last Thursday [21 March 2013]?

Both the Archbishop of Armagh and the Archbishop of Dublin were present, representing the Church of Ireland.

Two days earlier [19 March 2013], at the inauguration of Pope Francis I in Saint Peter’s in Rome, the Archbishop of Canterbury was represented by Archbishop John Senamu of York, and there was a large delegation representing the Anglican Communion, including the Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon from Dublin, who is Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.

In many ways, the process of electing a new Pope was far more transparent that finding a replacement for Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury. So, how is a new Archbishop of Canterbury chosen? And who is the new Archbishop of Canterbury?

Both are important questions because of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury as an international Church leader alongside the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch, and his role within the Anglican Communion.

Archbishop Rowan Williams ... how was his successor chosen?

The bishops in the Church of England were sometimes perceived as presenting the vote on the Anglican Covenant as a vote of confidence in Rowan Williams as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Was last year’s decision by the Archbishop of Canterbury to announce his retirement before the “Super Saturday” vote an acknowledgment that the Covenant was defeated?

Did his decision give the remaining dioceses “permission,” as it were, to vote against the Covenant?

We may never answer these questions. But we may like to ask how was the new Archbishop of Canterbury chosen?

The responsibility for choosing the Archbishop of Canterbury rested with the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC). Its task is to submit the name of a preferred candidate (and a second appointable candidate) to the Prime Minster who is constitutionally responsible for tendering advice on the appointment to the Queen.

The membership of the CNC is prescribed in the Standing Orders of the General Synod of England. With last year’s appointment of a new Archbishop of Centerbury, there were 16 voting members:

● The Chair (a layperson): Lord Luce, a former Conservative MP and minister, and High Steward of Westminster Abbey, appointed by the Prime Minister in April.
● The Bishop of Gloucester, Michael Perham, elected by the House of Bishops of the Church of England.
● The Bishop of Carlisle, James Newcome, elected by the House of Bishops.
● Six representatives (three clergy and three lay) elected from the Diocese of Canterbury by the Vacancy in See Committee: Canon Clare Edwards, Canon Mark Roberts and Bishop Trevor Willmott; Mr Raymond Harris, Mr David Kemp and Mrs Caroline Spencer.
● The six representatives (three clergy and three lay) elected by General Synod to the Commission for a five-year period: Very Revd Andrew Nunn (Southwark), Canon Peter Spiers (Liverpool) and Canon Glyn Webster (York); Mr Aiden Hargreaves-Smith (London), Professor Glynn Harrison (Bristol) and Mrs Mary Johnston (Diocese of London).
● A member of the Primates’ Meeting of the Anglican Communion elected by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion: Archbishop Barry Morgan (The Church in Wales).

In addition, there were three non-voting members of the commission:

● the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Canon Kenneth Kearon;
● the Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary, Sir Paul Britton;
● the Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments, Ms Caroline Boddington.

Before the Commission first met, there was an extensive consultation process to determine the needs of the diocese, the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. This had several phases:

● The diocesan Vacancy in See Committee prepared a brief description of the diocese and a statement setting out the desired profile of the new Archbishop
● The Prime Minister’s and the Archbishops’ Secretaries for Appointments conducted a wider consultation exercise to inform the Commission’s consideration of the needs of the mission of the wider Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

The Commission had an initial meeting around the end of May to agree its process, which continued over the summer.

The process included:

● A review of background material and results of the consultations, discussion of the challenges for the next Archbishop and, in the light of these, consideration of the personal qualities required;
● Consideration of candidates;
● Voting to identify the recommended candidate and a second appointable candidate, whose names then wentforward to the Prime Minister.

Canterbury Cathedral ... the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Since 2007, the agreed convention in relation to episcopal appointments has been that the Prime Minister commends the name preferred by the Commission to the Queen. A second name was identified in case, for whatever reason, there was a change of circumstances which would mean that the appointment of the CNC’s recommended candidate could not proceed.

Once the Queen approved the chosen candidate and he indicated a willingness to serve, 10 Downing St could announce the name of the Archbishop-designate, and that happened on 9 November 2012. No 10 took the unusual step of announcing the appointment on the social networking site Twitter stating: “Downing Street is pleased to announce the appointment of Justin Welby as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.”

Then the 35-member College of Canons of Canterbury Cathedral, made up of senior clergy and may members of the diocese, formally and unanimously elected the new Archbishop of Canterbury on 10 January 2013. This could only take place once a Congé d’Élire and Letter Missive from the Crown has been received.

The election was confirmed by a commission of diocesan bishops in a legal ceremony (the Confirmation of Election) in Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, on 4 February. At that moment, Justin Welby became in all powers the Archbishop of Canterbury.

After the new Archbishop paid homage to the Queen, he was formally enthroned in Canterbury Cathedral last Thursday [21 March 2013].

The roles of the Archbishop of Canterbury:

There are six principal roles for the Archbishop of Canterbury:

1, The Archbishop is the Bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. He has delegated much of his responsibility for the diocese to the Bishop of Dover, who leads a senior staff team of the Dean, three Archdeacons and the Diocesan Secretary. The Archbishop continues to take a keen interest in the affairs of the diocese, to attend staff and other meetings, the annual residential staff meeting, and the Archbishop’s Council of the diocese when possible.

2, The Archbishop of Canterbury is also a Metropolitan, having metropolitical jurisdiction throughout the 30 dioceses of the Province of Canterbury in the Church of England. As such, he can conduct formal visitations of those dioceses. Establishing close links with bishops in his province is an important part of his work and he visits three dioceses each year.

It is a Metropolitan’s responsibility to act as the chief consecrator at the consecration of new bishops, to grant various permissions, licences and faculties, to appoint to parishes where the patron has failed to do so within the prescribed time limits, to act as Visitor of various institutions and release, where appropriate, those who have taken religious vows.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York are joint Presidents of the General Synod of the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is Chair and the Archbishop of York Vice-Chair of the House of Bishops and the Crown Nominations Commission. Two Provincial Episcopal Visitors (“flying bishops”) report to the Archbishop in relation to the 163 parishes in the southern province that have petitioned for extended episcopal care under the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod.

3, As leader of the “Church by Law Established” the Archbishop, in his capacity as Primate of All England, is “chaplain to the nation,” classically exemplified at a coronation. More routinely he has regular audiences with the Queen and the Prime Minister, and is frequently in touch with senior Ministers of State and with the Leaders of Opposition parties. In addition, both Archbishops and 24 other senior bishops have seats in the House of Lords.

4, The Archbishop is the Focus of Unity for the Anglican Communion. He is the convener and the host of the Lambeth Conference, the President of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), and Chair of the Primates’ meeting. In these roles he travels extensively throughout the Anglican Communion, visiting provinces and dioceses, and supporting and encouraging the witness of the Church in very diverse contexts. As primus inter pares among the bishops, he has a special concern for those in episcopal ministry.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is, along with the Bishop of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch, widely regarded as an international spiritual leader, representing the Christian Church. On overseas visits, a meeting with the Head of State is almost always a part of the programme, as are meetings with other significant political persons.

5, The Archbishop has a national and international ecumenical role; nationally he is one of the Presidents of Churches Together in England, who provide strategic guidance to ecumenical endeavours.

6, The Archbishop takes the lead in relationships with members of other faith communities both in this country and overseas, reflecting the increasing significance of those communities for the context in which the Church’s mission and ministry take place.

Who is the Archbishop of Canterbury?

Justin and Caroline Welby at Lambeth Palace (Photograph © Lambeth Palace/Picture Partnership)

Justin Portal Welby was born in London on 6 January 1956, the son of Gavin Bramhall James Welby and Jane Gillian (née Portal). They divorced in 1959, when he was three, and he was brought up by his father. At Eton, his contemporaries included the Tory minister Oliver Letwin, and Charles Moore and Dominic Lawson, former editors of the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph.

From Eton, he went to Trinity College Cambridge, where the Master was his mother’s uncle, ‘Rab’ Butler, a former Conservative deputy prime minister. At Cambridge, he met Caroline Eaton, later a classics teacher; they would marry in 1979 and have six children. He was 21 when his father died in 1977. He graduated a year later with a BA in history and law, and then worked in the oil industry for 11 years.

During five years in Paris with Elf Aquitaine, he became fluent in French and a Francophile. Tragedy struck in 1983 when his seven-month-old daughter, Johanna, died in a car crash in France. “It was a very dark time for my wife Caroline and myself,” he said later, “but in a strange way it actually brought us closer to God.”

Back in London in 1984, he joined Enterprise Oil, with interests in West African and the North Sea, and started going to Holy Trinity Church, Brompton. When he began considering ordination, the Bishop of Kensington, John Hughes, told him: “There is no place for you in the Church of England. I have interviewed a thousand for ordination, and you don’t come in the top thousand.”

He received a BA in theology in Durham and was ordained in 1992. After 10 years in parish ministry in Warwickshire, he became a canon in Coventry Cathedral in 2002 and co-director for International Ministry. His peace work at Coventry saw him shake hands with warlords and being held at gunpoint in Africa.

In 2007, he became Dean of Liverpool, one of England’s largest and most deprived cathedrals. He doubled attendances, abseiled from the roof, and allowed John Lennon’s Imagine to be played on the cathedral bells – despite the line “imagine there is no heaven.” He also encouraged a “Night of the Living Dead” service on Halloween, when a man rose from a coffin to represent the Resurrection.

He once fell into a fit of giggles during a reading from Leviticus that mentions a badger. As a mark of affection, Liverpool Cathedral gave him a small carved rock badger that he placed on the tip of his bishop’s crook when he became Bishop of Durham in 2011.

Online later today:

11.1: Is there an Anglican culture? Anthony Trollope and the Barchester novels.

Next week:

Tuesday, 2 April 2013, 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.:

2 p.m.: 11.2: Is there an Anglican culture? The poetry of TS Eliot.

3.15 p.m.: 11.3: Is there an Anglican culture? Rose Macaulay and The Towers of Trebizond.


1, Essays.

2, Evaluations.

3, Dissertation proposals.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. These notes were prepared for a seminar on the MTh Year II course, EM8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context, on Tuesday 26 March 2013.

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