Welcome to the new Archbishop…

At the time of writing this, we await the likely announcement that Justin Welby, the current Bishop of Durham, will be the next leader of the Anglican Communion. There is a 15 min radio profile on him here.

Here is my gathering of a few facts about him;

Eaton school. Most expensive fee paying school in the land, where the rich and autocratic send their kids.

Trinity College Cambridge. Member of the Christian Union, a very Evangelical Grouping known as ‘the God Squad’. The dean however (in contrast to Dean of John Robinson, was a liberal radical, famous for a controversial liberal theology book called ‘Honest to God’.)

Evangelical. Attended Holy Trinity Brompton, Charismatic in outlook.

Joined an Oil Company, became treasurer. Very rich.

1989 gave it up to become parish priest.

10 years ago, fast rise up church hierarchy- Dean, Bishop of Liverpool, Bishop of Durham (less than a year.)

Now Archbishop?

Where does he stand on those totemic issues that have the capacity to rip the church apart? Apparently he is supportive of women in ministry, but his views on homosexuality are less clear. He has suggested that he supports the ‘churches position’ on the matter, which might suggest he holds to traditional teaching.

However, others have suggested he has really good skills relevant to the post- being a great communicator, intermediary, good with managing money and engaging with issues. This as contrast with the outgoing Archbishop, Rowan Williams, who was a brilliant, deeply spiritual, cerebral character.

Leadership matters. We only have to look at the things happening in the Roman Catholic Church at the moment under the leadership of Pope Benedict as he tries to roll back changes made in the church over the last 40 years since Vatican II.

The Anglican Communion is a very different animal however- much more about the vicarage kitchen table than the Papal palace. I hope and pray that Justin Welby will be a leader who we will look back on with same affection as most will be doing on his predecessor.

Archbishop suggests adding meditation to curriculum- shock…

Well, not quite.

Rowan Williams spoke to some Catholic Bishops at the invitation of an unusually reconciliatory Pope Benedict. The meeting focussed on how the Church might be more relevant to an increasingly secular world.

The good Archbish offered up the idea of teaching kids to meditate;

“To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit,” he said.

“To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter.”

“Having seen at first hand, in Anglican schools in Britain, how warmly young children can respond to the invitation offered by meditation in this tradition, I believe its potential for introducing young people to the depths of our faith to be very great indeed.” Dr Williams added that for adults who had “drifted away” from regular attendance at Church, the style of worship practised in places such as Taizé could offer a “way back”.

From the Telegraph.

What do you think? Can developing a contemplative life really have such a transformational effect on the next generation? Can you really inculcate the practice of spiritual contemplation at an early age in this way?

Some words from the Archbishop…

There was a lovely interview by David Hare in the Guardian yesterday with Rowan Williams- here.

It reminded me again why this man is something of a hero of mine- his deep, thoughtful, compassionate stance on so many of the issues facing us, and his fierce intelligence. I thought it worth extracting a few quotes from the article…

When he observes that economic relations as they are currently played out threaten people’s sense of what life is and what reality means, surely what he’s really saying is that capitalism damages people. To my surprise, he agrees. Does he therefore think economic relations should be ordered in a different way? “Yes.” So is it fair to say, then, that he’s anti-free market capitalism? “Yes,” he says and roars with laughter. “Don’t you feel better for my having said it?”

He goes on to rehearse what he insists he’s said before (“I don’t mind saying it again”) about how no one can any longer regard the free market as a naturally beneficent mechanism, and how more sophisticated financial instruments have made it even harder to spot when the market’s causing real hurt.


Is he paying too high a price for keeping together people who believe different things about gender, priesthood and sexuality? “I’ve no sympathy for that view. I don’t want to see the church so balkanised that we talk only to people we like and agree with. Thirty years ago, little knowing what fate had in store, I wrote an article about the role of a bishop, saying a bishop is a person who has to make each side of a debate audible to the other. The words ‘irony’ and ‘prescience’ come to mind. And of course you attract the reproach that you lack the courage of leadership and so on. But to me it’s a question of what only the archbishop of Canterbury can do.”


“We must get to grips with the idea that we don’t contribute anything to God, that God would be the same God if we had never been created. God is simply and eternally happy to be God.” How on Earth can he possibly know such a thing? “My reason for saying that is to push back on what I see as a kind of sentimentality in theology. Our relationship with God is in many ways like an intimate human relationship, but it’s also deeply unlike. In no sense do I exist to solve God’s problems or to make God feel better.” In other words, I say, you hate the psychiatrist/patient therapy model that so many people adopt when thinking of God? “Exactly. I know it’s counterintuitive, but it’s what the classical understanding of God is about. God’s act in creating the world is gratuitous, so everything comes to me as a gift. God simply wills that there shall be joy for something other than himself. That is the lifeblood of what I believe.”


I ask him if he’s happy to be thought of in a tradition of Welsh poet-priests – George HerbertGerard Manley HopkinsRS Thomas? “I always get annoyed when people call RS Thomas a poet-priest. He’s a poet, dammit. And a very good one. The implication is that somehow a poet-priest can get away with things a real poet can’t, or a real priest can’t. I’m very huffy about that. But I do accept there’s something in the pastoral office that does express itself appropriately in poetry. And the curious kind of invitation to the most vulnerable places in people that is part of priesthood does come up somewhere in poetic terms.

“Herbert’s very important to me. Herbert’s the man. Partly because of the absolute candour when he says, I’m going to let rip, I’m feeling I can’t stand God, I’ve had more than enough of Him. OK, let it run, get it out there. And then, just as the vehicle is careering towards the cliff edge, there’s a squeal of brakes. ‘Methought I heard one calling Child!/And I replied My Lord.’ I love that ending, because it means, ‘Sorry, yes, OK, I’m not feeling any happier, but there’s nowhere else to go.’ Herbert is not sweet.”

“And you like that?”

“Non-sweetness? I do.”







Pentecost bonfire tomorrow…

So- we remember the beginning of church, through the inspiration of the Spirit of God coming to live in and through us.

If you are local- come and join Aoradh for our Pentecost beach bonfire- Sunday, 3.30 on Ardentinny beach. Bring something to throw on a BBQ, but more importantly- bring yourself!

I saw this clip today- and it hit me with what a wonderful thing the church is- full of hope and good things…

And on a day when Archbish Williams got himself in to some controversy by making some political statements (well done Rowan I say!) here he is speaking about Pentecost-


The Archbish on relationship and community…

I usually find myself more or less in agreement with Rowan Williams these days. He has a way of saying important thing but, delivered in his dry academic oratory style, I wonder if enough people actually take the trouble to listen? Despite the fact that I have not been part of the CofE for about 25 years, in many ways, I still see him as a spiritual leader for whom I have the utmost respect.

My mate Simon pointed at this Christmas sermon, as the theme of relationship and community is likely to be a central one for me this coming year.

This year the Archbish started with a fairly standard Christmas theme-

God has always been communicating with humanity, in any number of ways; but what we need from God is more than just information.  The climax of the story is the sending of a Son: when all has been said and done on the level of information what still needs to be made clear to us is that the point of it all is relationship.

He then goes on to speak about the dependent nature of this relationship-

So the important thing is not that everyone gets to stand on their own two feet and turns into a reliable ‘independent’ consumer and contributor to the GNP.  What we expect from each other in a generous and grown-up society is much more to do with all of us learning how to ask from each other, how to receive from each other, how to depend on the generosity of those who love us and stand alongside us.  And that again means a particular care for those who need us most, who need us to secure their place and guarantee that there is nourishment and stability for them.  As we learn how to be gratefully dependent, we learn how to attend to and respond to the dependence of others.  Perhaps by God’s grace we shall learn in this way how to create a society in which real dependence is celebrated and safeguarded, not regarded with embarrassment or abused by the powerful and greedy.

God has spoken through a Son.  He has called us all to become children at the cradle of the Son, the Word made flesh, so that we may grow into a glory that even the angels wonder at.  To all who accept him he gives power and authority to become children of God, learning and growing into endless life and joy.

Well said Rowan.