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(Arch)bishop Justin: The First Hundred Days

Napoleon set the pace with his hundred days. And then came the Americans, not as trailblazers as they might claim, but still with the same concept:

It’s not a perfect measure, but it’s a useful one—the 100-day standard for gauging presidential effectiveness. The underlying truth is that presidents tend to be most effective when they first take office, when their leadership style seems fresh and new, when the aura of victory is still powerful, and when their impact on Congress is usually at its height. There is nothing magic about the number, and many presidential aides over the years have complained that it is an artificial yardstick. But it has been used by the public, the media, and scholars as a gauge of presidential success and activism since Franklin D. Roosevelt pioneered the 100-day concept when he took office in 1933.

Although the enthronement does not take place until 21 March 2013, the chatterati had decided on the strengths and weaknesses of Justin Welby’s Primacy before the announcement of his appointment this morning. This is understandable, given the hopes and fears riding on the appointment. But it is hardly fair, before the poor man has had a chance to get his feet under the archiepiscopal desk. Commentators have been hard-put to pin down his churchmanship: although there have been straws in the wind as to his own views over the years, there has been scant evidence of any policy he would attempt to impose as Cantuar.

My own wing of the Church has been most nervous about his stand on gay clergy and same-sex marriages. This is what he had to say at his press conference this morning:

‘Steel in voice’

Yet there was also something even more apparent – the hint of steel in his voice as he went on to outline in pretty firm detail where he stood on some of the major challenges facing the Church, and how he hoped to tackle them. As we know, he very much supports women bishops and strongly urged the upcoming Synod meeting to vote in their favour. But he also made clear that a way had to be found to keep those people who were unhappy with female “headship” within the Church. It was on the issue of gay marriage though that Bishop Welby was perhaps the most forthright – and clear. He supports the Church’s opposition to the introduction of gay civil marriage, but in an organisation well known for clerics who often use ecclesiastical language which seems to fudge what they really mean, he also clearly produced an olive branch….Referring to civil partnerships, he acknowledged that the state had a right to define the status of people in co-habiting relationships. That hasn’t always been the position of bishops in the national Church – some who sit in the Lords spoke against that original piece of legislation. He also made clear that any homophobia in the pews adversely influences Anglican Churches in Africa (where clerics have often been accused of using rhetoric that endangers gay people). And most interestingly, in saying he didn’t want to engage in the “language of exclusion”, he called for the creation of safe spaces where issues of sexuality could be discussed honestly. That sounds like Bishop Welby is opening the door to what could be future talks with advocates of gay marriage, both from within the Church and wider society.

It seems to me, and it is possible that my view is shared by our Cantuar-designate, that there are two main ways to handle the work load of being Archbishop of Canterbury and some sort of leader within the Anglican Communion. The first is to treat it as a series of labours of Hercules, as envisaged by John Singer Sargent in our illustration, which involves the daily tackling of a multi-headed Hydra, armed with a machete and  the ‘constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros‘ in the words of the present incumbent. Although the Herculean protagonist may win the odd skirmish, he is unlikely to win the overall battle.

The other possibility is to try it from an altogether more laid-back position. The role model that comes to mind is the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland:

The metaphor is not perfect, of course, but  back in July he was considering how one might square the circle, seeming to promise a listening primate, not a dictatorial one.

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.”

In fact, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass might provide excellent bedtime re-reading for our Archbishop of Canterbury-designate in preparation for his role ahead.

A Plea for 100 Days for Cantuar-in-Waiting

The enthronement is in 133 days time. After that, would it be too much to ask for 100 days grace before we begin to judge Archbishop Justin Welby as our Primate? That makes 233 days in all in which to pray, think and consult, all of which he has declared he will do.

Now is the time to lobby, perhaps, but not yet to judge, certainly not yet to condemn.

I quote Grandmere Mimi’s prayer from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of The Episcopal Church, which she calls ‘The Bloggers’ Prayer’:

Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices: Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord.


And a prayer for Unity from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer for the day of Accession of a monarch:
O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace; Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly Union and Concord; that, as there is but one Body, and one Spirit, and one Hope of our Calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may henceforth be all of one heart, and of one soul, united in one holy bond of Truth and Peace, of Faith and Charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

4 comments on this post:

UKViewer said...

I am delighted that he has been so forthright at the outset. Perhaps nailing his colours to the mast.

His churchmanship, of whatever hue, will meld and mellow to allow him to carry out the liturgy and ceremonies of state as has every Arch Bishop before him. And I expect that 1662 Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral will be one of his occasional highlights, as it is mine.

His position on Women being consecrated as Bishops, is clear and transparent, as is his wish to keep those who oppose them, even FiF, which has been particularly vehement against them. But I also hope that he doesn’t permit the tail to wag the dog. The Code of Practice will be central to this. The position of a Women consecrated as a Diocesan must be clear. While she may be bound to offer alternative oversight to any parish that meets the criteria eventually decided on, it must be clear that it is her delegated authority to the Alternative Bishop that is given freely and generously in the spirit and grace which has allowed her to be consecrated. It is not a dilution of her authority, rather an acceptance of such diversity and celebrating it.

Human sexuality and Same Sex Marriage have been the stumbling block in this area.
I hope that when the Committee appointed by Arch Bishop Rowan reports it takes a common-sense approach, namely:

1. Accept that those in Civil Partnership are committed in love and trust to each other and allow them to be blessed in a manner befitting such a lawful relationship.

2. Abolish the intrusive policy of inquiry into the celibacy or otherwise of Clergy in Civil Partnerships, to give them a similar status as applies to the laity.

3. Accept that they will explore the subject of Same Sex Marriage in a spirit of accepting the Civil Authorities right to change the status of a civil marriage, and working alongside them to see where the issues which prevent the Church from accepting this change can be overcome in a way, which may be a compromise or classic Anglican fudge, but would allow those who choose same sex marriage to continue at members of the Clergy or Laity as those in civil partnerships.

If he can square all three of these, I will be polishing his Halo for him when he actually reaches Canterbury in March.

And, I also hope that he gives those primates in the Anglican Communion who want to turn the clock back 300 years the message that if they wish to do so, than they need to do it from a position outside the communion.

Lay Anglicana said...

Bravo, UKViewer, well said on all counts. I quite agree with all you say. 🙂

09 November 2012 18:36
09 November 2012 18:30
Tim Chesterton said...

The press – Anglican and otherwise – will keep trying to force him to speak only about female bishops and gay marriage, and will edit their video interviews to make it seem as if that’s all he has to say (I’ve seen that on some of the videos on the internet even today).

I hope that Justin will firmly resist them, and will continue to speak clearly and understandably about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how it can bring forgiveness, life and hope into the lives of ordinary people. If he can keep the Gospel central, then I think he has a chance to make a real difference in the life of the Church. He certainly has my prayers from faraway western Canada, and I heartily agree with your call to give him some time and space, Laura.

Lay Anglicana said...

Hear, hear! Gosh, this is a record – I am in complete agreement with everyone’s comments today 🙂

09 November 2012 20:36
09 November 2012 19:26

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