09 (September 2013)

The Road to Canterbury – Archbishop Justin Welby

The Road to Canterbury – Archbishop Justin Welby
Roger Fay
Roger Fay Elder at Zion Evangelical Baptist Church, Ripon, North Yorkshire. Chairman and former editor of ET.
12 September, 2013 2 min read

Archbishop Justin Welby — the road to Canterbury
Andrew Atherstone
Darton, Longman and Todd, 152 pages, £7.99
ISBN: 9780232529944
Star rating : 3

Well, it’s all here — or nearly so! For those curious to know where Justin Welby really does stand theologically, Andrew Atherstone’s well researched and, in the circumstances, remarkably full account is the volume to read.

It is well and sympathetically written, and a fascinating cameo of trends within Anglicanism over the last generation. The one thing missing is the author’s own evaluation of the theological journey his subject has taken and its significance for the nation, with Welby now in the hot seat.

This failure to critique is not an unimportant flaw for a biography and readers will be left guessing at what lies behind it. On the other hand, Dr Atherstone does do Welby the courtesy of allowing him to speak for himself on various issues.

After an unhappy childhood and an education at Eton College, Justin Welby went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, and was converted through CICCU in 1975. He was absorbed into the Round Church, Cambridge, and the ‘Bash camp’ circle, where he was exposed to further evangelical influences.

After marriage and entry into the oil industry, he worshipped at Holy Trinity, Brompton, the church that pioneered the Alpha Course. Is this where Welby’s doctrinal moorings shifted? Or was it during his international ‘reconciliation’ ministry, based on Coventry Cathedral, as an ordained Anglican minister?

Whenever it was, something clearly happened to his theological convictions — and not for the best, since he is now on the record as celebrating ‘the riches of Benedictine and Ignatian spirituality’ — an admission that must have ‘Bash’ (Rev. E. J. H. Nash, who this reviewer knew and greatly respected) turning in his grave!

This book makes it all too obvious that Justin Welby has become the usual highly confusing Anglican mix — a typical Anglican ‘mess’! Whatever sort of evangelical he is, he is not currently the robust type.

We must pray for Archbishop Justin Welby; that God will lead him back to his spiritual roots and give him grace to make a bold stand for ‘the faith once delivered to the saints’. Anglicanism sorely needs a leader at the helm who does not just pay lip service to, but unashamedly believes and practises, The 39 Articles.

Roger Fay

Roger Fay
Elder at Zion Evangelical Baptist Church, Ripon, North Yorkshire. Chairman and former editor of ET.
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