New Archbishop of Canterbury on 'Hard Issues': For Women's Ordination, Opposes Same-Sex Marriage

(Photo Credit: Lambeth Palance / Picture Partnership)The Rev. Justin Welby poses for a photograph at Lambeth Palace in London on November 9, 2011.

The Rev. Justin Welby, who was officially announced Friday as the next Archbishop of Canterbury, weighed on contentious issues within the Church of England at his first press conference, saying he favors the ordination of women and added that he agreed with a report by bishops opposing the legalization of marriage for same-sex couples.

Rev. Welby, who is currently the Bishop of Durham, said he would speak more about the "major" and "very hard" issues "in due course," limiting his remarks to a brief view of his position on the issues.

He said he would vote in favor of ordination of women as Bishops at the church's General Synod later this month.
"I will be voting in favor, and join my voice to many others in urging the Synod to go forward with this change," he said.

"In my own Diocese, and before I was Bishop, I have always recognized and celebrated the remarkable signs of God's grace and action in the ministries of many people who cannot in conscience agree with this change," he said. "Personally I value and learn from them, and want the church to be a place where we can disagree in love, respecting each other deeply as those who belong to Christ."

He also remarked on the deep differences in the church over sexuality.

"It is absolutely right for the state to define the rights and status of people co-habiting in different forms of relationships, including civil partnerships. We must have no truck with any form of homophobia, in any part of the church," he said.

He alluded to the Church of England's impact in other parts of the world and its "responsibilities."

"What the church does here deeply affects the already greatly suffering churches in places like northern Nigeria, which I know well," he said.

Part of Rev. Welby's work in recent years has included taking part in the church's ministry of reconciliation, especially in Nigeria where Christians and Muslims are often at odds, with outbreaks of violence being common. The Church of Nigeria is also firmly against homosexuality.

The CoE's House of Bishops recently issued a statement expressing opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage as the government consults to introduce it by 2015. However Rev. Welby also said he would listen closely to differing views.

"I know I need to listen very attentively to the LGBT communities, and examine my own thinking carefully and prayerfully. I am always averse to the language of exclusion, when what we are called to is to love in the same way as Jesus Christ loves us. Above all in the church we need to create safe spaces for these issues to be discussed honestly and in love," he said.

Rev. Welby Says Appointment Came Amid 'Spiritual Hunger

The Church said Friday that Queen Elizabeth II approved the nomination.

Rev. Welby, 56, who will begin his work in January and will be enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on March 21, 2013, succeeds the retiring Rev. Rowan Williams, who will move on to become Master of Magdalene College in Cambridge.

"I feel a massive sense of privilege at being one of those responsible for the leadership of the church in a time of spiritual hunger, when our network of parishes and churches and schools and above all people means that we are facing the toughest issues in the toughest places," he said at the press conference.

From Oil Industry to Clergy

Rev. Welby, who was educated at Eton College and spent 11 years working in the oil industry, including a stint as an executive, said he sensed "a call from God" in 1989 and stood down from industry to train for ordination, according to a biography provided by the Archbishop of Canterbury's website.

He earned a degree in theology from St. John's College, Durham where he focused on ethics, particularly business. He also says his views on social thinking have been influence by the Roman Catholic approach to Christian social teaching.

He was ordained a deacon in 1992, serving for 15 years in Coventry Diocese. He became a Rector of St. James, Southam in 1995 and the next year at St. Michael and All Angels, Ufton, the neighboring parish.

In 2002 he was made a Canon of Coventry Cathedral, where he ran the reconciliation work based there. He worked extensively in the field in Africa and the Middle East and has a particular interest in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria where he was and remains involved in work with groups involved in conflict in the north.

In 2006, he also took responsibility of Holy Trinity Coventry, the main city center church, as Priest-in-charge.
After leaving Coventry five years later he became Dean of Liverpool in 2007. Liverpool Cathedral is the largest cathedral in England. During his time there the congregation increased significantly. He was announced as Bishop of Durham in 2011.

Nomination Panel Head: Rev. Welby is 'Best Person' for the Job

"I am delighted that Bishop Justin has accepted The Queen's Invitation to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury," said the Rt. Hon. The Lord Luce, chair of the Crown Nominations Commission in a statement.

He said the commission sought to identify the most significant issues facing the Church of England and the Anglican Communion in the years ahead, and said they "worked hard to find the best person to take up those challenges."

"I believe that we have found that person in Bishop Justin who has a deep commitment to the faith and a significant breadth of experience and I am confident that there are many gifted leaders in the Church who will do their utmost to work with him and to support him," he said.

Rev. Rowan Williams, who served as archbishop since 2003, will become Master of Magdalene College in Cambridge starting in January.

"He has an extraordinary range of skills and is a person of grace, patience, wisdom and humonr," Rev. Williams said. "He will bring to this office both a rich pastoral experience and a keen sense of international priorities, for Church and world."

'Conscious of My Own Weakness,' Will Seek Advice

Rev. Welby said at a press conference on Tuesday that he will be seeking guidance from fellow bishops in his new position. He became Bishop of Durham last year.

"Looking forward, I am very conscious of my own weakness and the great need I will have for advice and wisdom, especially from those who are senior amongst the bishops who see deeply into the issues that are faced by the Church of England, and amongst the Primates who guide the Anglican Communion in its present struggles," he said.

"There are some things of which I am deeply confident. Our task as part of God's church is to worship Him in Christ and to overflow with the good news of His love for us, of the transformation that He alone can bring which enables human flourishing and joy. The tasks before us are worship and generous sharing of the good news of Christ in word and deed."

Rev. Welby noted most of the Church's work is done at its 16,000 local churches, not on television or at Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop's main residence in London.

That is "where hundreds of thousands of people get on with the job they have always done of loving neighbor, loving each other and giving more than 22 million hours of voluntary service outside the church a month," he said.
"They are the front line, and those who worship in them, lead them, minster in them are the unknown heroes of the church. I have never had demands on me as acute as when I was a parish priest," he added.

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