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Posts Tagged "Bishop Justin Welby":

Thought for the Second Sunday before Advent: Revolutionary Change

There is only so much you can do with Elastoplast or duct tape and pretending that if things are unpleasant or unwelcome they don’t exist. I make no apologies for using an image from the Tarot to illustrate today’s readings, particularly the gospel, but if this offends you please read no further.

In two days time, General Synod will vote on whether to recognise the 21st century by admitting women to the episcopate. And next spring a new Archbishop of Canterbury will be enthroned. Make no mistake, both these events will change the Church of England. It is my hope and my opinion that both changes will be for the better, but so far we have seen only the velvet glove of Bishop Justin Welby – if you ask those who have negotiated with him, either over oil or in the middle of the African bush, I imagine they would assure you that the iron hand is definitely there underneath.

Wikipedia describes the meaning of the card as follows:

A variety of explanations for the images depicted on the card have been attempted. For example, it may be a reference to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, where God destroys a tower built by mankind to reach Heaven. Alternatively, the Harrowing of Hell was a frequent subject in late medieval liturgical drama, and Hell could be depicted as a great gate knocked asunder by Jesus Christ, with accompanying pyrotechnics.

In this manuscript picture of the Harrowing of Hell, Jesus forces open the fiery tower gate of Hell to free the virtuous dead from Limbo. The enactment of this scene in liturgical drama may be one source of the image of the Tower.

To some, it symbolizes failure, ruin and catastrophe. Many differing meanings are attributed to the card:

  • To others, the Tower represents the paradigms constructed by the ego, the sum total of all schema that the mind constructs to understand the universe. The Tower is struck by lightning when reality does not conform to expectation..Life is self-correcting. Either [people] must make changes in their own lives, or the changes will be made for them.
  • [Are we]  holding on to false ideas or pretences; a new approach to thinking about the problem is needed. [We are]advised to think outside the box… It may be time… to re-examine belief structures, ideologies, and paradigms … The card may also point toward seeking education or higher knowledge.
  • Others believe that the Tower represents dualism, and the smashing of dualism into its component parts, in preparation for renewal that does not come from reified, entrenched concepts. The Ivory Tower as a parallel image comes to mind, with all its good parts and its bad parts.


This all sounds like very good advice from my pew in the Church – how does it seem from where you are sitting?

Two hymns:

And thou wilt bring the young green corn, the young green corn for ever singing…

And Laurence Housman’s

Father eternal, Ruler of creation,
Spirit of life, which moved ere form was made;
Through the thick darkness covering every nation,
Light to man’s blindness, O be Thou our aid:
Thy kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.


Races and peoples, lo! we stand divided,
And sharing not our griefs, no joy can share;
By wars and tumults love is mocked, derided,
His conquering cross no kingdom wills to bear:
Thy kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.


Envious of heart, blind eyed, with tongues confounded,
Nation by nation still goes unforgiven;
In wrath and fear, by jealousies surrounded,
Building proud towers which shall not reach to heaven:
Thy kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.
How shall we love Thee, holy, hidden Being,
If we love not the world which Thou hast made?
O give us brother love for better seeing
Thy world made flesh, and in a manger laid:
Thy kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.

The Chronicles of the Welbys (part the first)


The desire to know more about the antecedents of our spiritual leaders has a respectable history: much of the First Book of Chronicles is taken up with genealogies of the Israelites, the first ten verses of which are as follows:

1 Chronicles 1-1: From Adam to Abraham

Adam, Seth, Enosh; Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared; Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech; Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  The descendants of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The descendants of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Diphath, and Togarmah. The descendants of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim. The descendants of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. The descendants of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabta, Raama, and Sabteca. The descendants of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first to be a mighty one on the earth.

Like the rest of the human race, the future Archbishop of  Canterbury is descended from Adam. However, Giles Fraser, writing on the day Bishop Justin’s appointment was announced, wrote:

The CofE … like many religious organisations, it still thinks in terms of “Papa”… Which is why no guide to surviving the church is complete without a serious study of Freud. .. Freud was not wrong when he explained the need for God in terms of the child’s need for a father figure. Not, I would argue, that God is simply a product of this need. But it’s certainly the case that the whole knotted ambivalence of the Oedipal imagination bears down on the relationship between a priest and his parish – and even more so on that between the church and its top man. Man being the operative word…But as Mr Welby is now going to find out to his cost, this Reformation remains a work in progress. Progressives like me did it to Rowan Williams. And his own evangelical tribe will do it to him. We still project all sorts of needs and fantasies upon the man with the big mitre. And then we despise them for not giving us what we want. The church is where adults revert to children.

These two extracts begin to explain why I, along with thousands of others, feel a strong desire to know the lineage of the new head of the Church of England.


A mystery to be solved

Although it is obviously desirable to tell a story by beginning at the beginning, going on to the end and then stopping, it is not possible to do this in the case of the new Archbishop because his father’s line is clouded by the mists of time and recollection. I therefore propose to proceed backwards in time from the known to the unknown, and then outline some of  the various elements handed down by family members over the years. I will then suggest a hypothetical lineage which, most suitably, leads us back to the second Bishop of St Helena, formerly Archdeacon of Cape Town, in the middle of the nineteenth century, and hence to the known tree of the Lincolnshire Welby family. But before joining me on this speculative narrative journey, I must stress again that I have no proof, only a trail of clues. I have come to the conclusion that the balance of probability favours my explanation, but look forward to hearing the views of anyone else with a detective bent who has followed the trail.


 What do we already know?

(+)+Justin Welby was born in London on 6 January 1956 to Gavin Bramhall Welby and his wife, Jane Gillian Portal. He is definitely related by marriage to the present Welby baronet, Sir Bruno. It works as follows: Sir Bruno (7th baronet) is the son of Oliver (6th), and grandson of Charles (5th baronet). Sir Charles’s daughter Joan (ie aunt of the present baronet) married ‘Peter’ Portal, the 1st Viscount Portal, whose half-brother Gervas was the father of Jane Portal, mother of (+)+ Justin. (If you think that is complicated, wait until we get to the paternal line!).


So who are the Portals?

According to Burkes, the family of Portal, or de Portal, originally Spanish, established itself in Languedoc at the end of the 11th  century, and subsequently occupied a prominent position in the  South of France. ‘Oldric de Poitou, Capitoul de Toulouse 1204′, is one of the earliest of this family mentioned. Jean Francois de Portal (of whom more later) of Poitiers, was forced to fly from France on  the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.  He took refuge in Holland under the protection of William of Orange and subsequently settled in London. He was born (or more likely baptised) on 3 November1642; married Marie, daughter of Jacques Gousett, the pastor of Poitiers, and died about 1705 (will dated 26 May, 1704  proved in London 23 April, 1705), leaving a son, the Revd William, who married on 2 January 1733-4 Mary Magdalene Findlater Meure (1704 – 1754) and was buried 25 September 1768, leaving issue, from whom descend the Portals of Daventry, Northamptonshire and London.


Thus Oldric, of Poitou , (fl 1204), begat several generations of Portals until Jean,( fl 1530), begat Francois (who made his will in 1570), who begat his second son, Guillaume (who made his will in 1591), who begat Etienne, (who died before 1672) , who begat Jean Francois, who married the daughter of the Protestant pastor of Poitiers and, with her, fled France because of the persecution of the Protestants.

Their second son, the Revd William Portal, was a priest in the Church of England from 1720-1769, serving as Rector of Grindon, Staffordshire from 1720-1722, and then from 1722-1734 as Rector simultaneously in Thorpe and Clowne in Derbyshire. (Source: the clergy database).

Their third son, Henri, “having settled in Hampshire, acquired the privilege in 1724 of manufacturing the notes of the Bank of England’ (Burke‘s).


The Revd William Portal begat Abraham Portal, a playwright, who named his son Richard Brinsley, after Sheridan, the great playwright of the day. Richard Brinsley (1785-1859) begat William Thomas (1820-1889, who begat Edward Robert (1854-), who begat Gervas Edward (1890-1961), who begat Jane, who married Gavin Welby and together they begat the future Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Portal Welby.


Nature or nurture? What makes us who we are? I remember this forming part of our university course, and we all agreed that nurture was responsible for our views, inclinations and character. But when I started looking into genealogy, I changed my mind. I now think that our genes are also responsible for a great deal.

Archbishop-designate Justin is descended from a long line of Protestants, unwilling enough to convert to Catholicism that they fled their native France, seeking asylum in first Holland and then England. They seem to have blended seamlessly into English life, to the point of being entrusted with the manufacture of English banknotes, in other words our currency. So there you have it, a long line of interest in religion and money. And in the present generation….?





Candidates for Cantuar: Justin Welby

Justin Portal Welby was destined by his DNA for leadership. I realise I shall be howled down for that statement, but think about it. There are two sorts of Etonians: on the one hand the Bullingdon Club cadets and, on the other,  those ‘tranquilly conscious of an effortless superiority’ . Justin Welby is the archetypal self-deprecating Old Etonian, one of those who never say they went to Eton but only that they went to ‘school’. Giles Fraser, no boot-licker of the gentry, reports:

“Lets be clear, I’m one of the thicker bishops in the Church of England,” he tells me. I’m not taken in by this disarming self-deprecation – something for which Old Etonians like him are not especially noted.1 No, there is nothing remotely thick about Bishop Welby. Which is one of the reasons why he has just been asked to be a member of the new Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards looking into the Libor fixing scandal. That, and his background in the City. For, despite a faintly Mr Bean-like appearance, the fourth most senior cleric in the Church of England is no otherworldly bumbler. Until his ordination in 1992, he was a senior executive in the oil industry for 11 years.

“I drifted into it because I couldn’t get a job when I left university, and I ended up working for Elf in France in their international finance team. They needed someone who could speak English and didn’t know anything about anything, so they could shape them.” More self-deprecation. In fact, he read law and economic history at Cambridge – hardly a position of total ignorance. “I stumbled into the first thing in my life that I was reasonably good at, and ended up being group treasurer in a company called Enterprise Oil PLC.”

Early Life

Justin Welby was born in London on 6 January 1956 to Gavin Bramhall Welby and his wife, Jane Gillian Portal.  He is almost certainly related to the Lincolnshire Welbys on his father’s side, and is definitely related to them through his mother and the Portal family. 3

After Eton, he read history and law at Trinity College, Cambridge before going into the oil industry. During this time, he was also a lay leader at Holy Trinity, Brompton. Justin is married to Caroline. They have five children and one who died in infancy in a road accident.


In the interests of space, we will once again look to the inestimable Crockford’s for his clerical career:

St Jo Coll Dur BA91 Hon FCT. Cranmer Hall Dur 89. d 92 p 93 c 11. C Chilvers Coton w Astley Cov 92-95; R Southam 95-02; V Ufton 96-02; Can Res Cov Cathl 02-07; Co-Dir Internat Min 02-05; Sub-Dean 05-07; P-in-c Cov H Trin 07; Dean Liv 07-11; Bp Dur from 11


Welby has written widely on ethics and on finance, featuring in books such as Managing the Church?: Order and Organization in a Secular Age and Explorations in Financial Ethics. He also wrote a book entitled Can Companies Sin?: “Whether”, “How” and “Who” in Company Accountability (Grove Books, 1992)



Nobody  that I can find has pinned Bishop Justin down with a label as to his churchmanship, not even Giles Fraser in his Guardian interview in July.

“I have tried to avoid saying anything,” he admits at the end of the interview. Well, I’m not sure he succeeded. On many levels he seems like a central-casting Church of England bishop. On the subject of women bishops he speaks of the need to square the circle, reconciling those who think it a theological necessity and those who think it a theological impossibility. How do you do this? “Well, you just look at the circle and say it’s a circle with sharp bits on it.”

I laugh. So does he. And on this note he heads off to a large glass City tower to talk about ethical investment. Should be a doddle for a man who can imagine a square circle. Indeed, it’s probably just the sort of imaginative power we could do with from the next archbishop of Canterbury. There is quite a lot on which I would disagree with the Bishop of Durham. But with regards to being the archbishop, he would get my vote.

Leap in the dark assessment

I agree with Giles: Bishop Justin would get my vote as the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Evidently at ease with himself, with no known axes to grind, and no chips on his shoulder, visible or invisible (while retaining a becoming modesty), Bishop Justin has a proven record of negotiation with opposing factions which would stand him in very good stead as the next head of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I do not say he is the only man for the job, simply that he could do it. Few others could.


1 Giles should perhaps get out more. The Welby type of Etonian is not that uncommon and much more attractive than the budding Bullingdonians. ;>)

2. Pete Phillips gave him a warm welcome to Durham. The diocesan website for Durham has this. The Revd Charlie Peer also wrote a very perceptive piece on his move to Durham.

3. Justin Welby is the great-nephew of the present (7th) baronet’s aunt’s husband, ‘Peter’ Portal (1st Viscount Portal), i.e. he married Joan Welby, daughter of the 5th Welby baronet. I know this because, coincidentally, I have been working on the family tree of one of his Welby cousins. At present, I cannot link him through the Welby line, though it seems very likely that he does connect. Justin’s parents were divorced when he was two, and all that is known is some of his father’s history in America, where he then went, and the fact that Justin’s grandfather, Bramhall James Welby, lived in South Africa.

4. The description of his father as a ‘bootlegger’ perhaps needs a little clarification. I think it was originally a throwaway line, in the self-deprecating mode described above.  Gavin Welby is described here, by the future mistress of Jack Kennedy, as ‘polite, even courtly – a gentleman, and not at all dangerous’. I guess if you lived in New York at the time of prohibition, many people found more or less dubious ways of getting their gin!

4. The illustration is by North News and Pictures Ltd

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