Lay Anglicana, the unofficial voice of the laity throughout the Anglican Communion.
This is the place to share news and views from the pews.

Get involved ...

Category - "Archbishop of Canterbury":

Decisions, Decisions, For The Next Cantuar

Will you help me draft a letter to (Arch)bishop Justin Welby? I would like Lay Anglicana to summarise for him the laity’s worms’-eye-view of the Church of England. I had hoped there might be a magic moment between the time he steps down from being Bishop of Durham and the time he assumes the responsibilities of the Archbishop of Canterbury. But that is not to be:

…the Confirmation of Election, will take place on 4th February 2013 at St Paul’s Cathedral. The Dean of Canterbury will report to a commission of senior diocesan bishops chaired by the Archbishop of York that Bishop Justin has been elected according to statute, and the Archbishop of York, on behalf of his fellow bishops and the wider Church, will confer on him the ‘spiritualities’ of the diocese of Canterbury. At this point, he becomes the Archbishop of Canterbury – until then he remains Bishop of Durham. On 21st March, after paying Homage to Her Majesty in his new role, his public ministry will inaugurated in a colourful ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral…

Nevertheless, although his last few days in office as +Dunelm are no doubt busy, it seems likely that he may be reflecting on the task ahead. It is perhaps one of those moments in the movement of celestial spheres  when worms may indeed address future Archbishops of Canterbury and cats may look at kings. After the enthronement, it will be a different matter.

So what should we say to him? I offer some random suggestions, which I hope you will comment on and add to. At this stage, we needn’t worry about the elegance of our prose, I think – that can come later.

  • The vote on women bishops vividly demonstrated the un-representative nature of the laity in the House of Laity: we hope steps can be taken to rectify this.
  • The attitude towards, and treatment of, the laity by the clergy in the Church of England still reflects the 1662 preface to the ordination of clergy: ‘it is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles’ time there have been…Bishops, Priests and Deacons‘. No account is taken of the Enlightenment, as does the 1979 prayer book of The Episcopal Church, whose catechism relates:‘The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons…The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.’ We seek a similar ‘priesthood of all believers’ in the Church of England.
  • The Bishop of Winchester addressed Andover Deanery churchgoers in November, saying: ‘The Church of England is an episcopal church. It is not presbyterian, nor is it congregational, it is episcopalian‘. While we do not dispute the facts of this statement, we suggest that it may be in the interests of our Church to borrow from the Presbyterian, Congregational, and even Methodist models to adopt nationwide the existing system of Lay Elders, for example, in the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. There are similar schemes scattered round the other dioceses, but nothing at a national level.
  • We believe that this needs to be addressed over the next decade in order to compensate for the increasing amalgamation of parishes to form mega-benefices under overall clerical supervision. Without clergy to take regular services in each parish church,  their place needs to be taken by lay people during intervening weeks  if the congregations are not simply to wither away.
  • Many of those willing and able to fill the role of ‘lay elders’ are those approaching retirement and the newly retired. It is not realistic to expect them to train and qualify as Licensed Lay Ministers – their long service as practising Christians should be regarded as sufficient (assuming their candidacy is backed by the PCC and incumbent).
  • We realise that there are very many pressing demands competing for your attention: the elevation of women to the episcopate and a greater inclusivity of LGBT in Church are but two of these. However, the greater use of the laity in ministry is, we hope, likely to prove easier to implement.

We should end by saying that Lay Anglicana has, of course, no official position in the Church. The website, which aims to draw together lay and clerical contributors alike to discuss the Anglican Communion, was set up in Autumn 2010. It currently has about 10,000 hits a month, and several regular and occasional contributors to the blog. We know of no other online organisation which represents views on the relationship between Anglican laity and the clergy  in this way.

King George VI: a Courageous Model for the CofE?

This photograph was taken immediately after the king’s Christmas broadcast in 1939. He looks wooden, almost rooted to the spot – still ‘petrified’ or turned into stone. He has just been through an ordeal, which he has undertaken because he believes it to be part of his duty as king, a role for which he was never prepared. The country has been through the turmoil of the abdication of his elder brother in 1936, and the then Duke of York  acceded to the thrones of seven countries (Australia, Canada, India, the Irish Free State, New Zealand, South Africa, and of course the United Kingdom) as: His Majesty George the Sixth, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.

All this was thrust on a man who wanted nothing more than to live the life of an English country gentleman, far from the prying eyes of the media. One of the reasons for this desire to stay out of the limelight was, as anyone who saw the film ‘The King’s Speech‘ will know, that he had a debilitating stutter. However, the Fates, or some would say the Almighty, decreed otherwise, and then, heaping impossible task on impossible task, expected him to lead our country in a war against Germany. Three months after the declaration of war, George VI made a faultless broadcast to the nation which genuinely, together with the speeches of Winston Churchill, stiffened the resolve of his people to walk into the new year, not knowing what they would face except that it would be hard and painful, trusting only to God.

The archivist of St George’s Chapel, Windsor (Castle) throws a little further light on this broadcast:

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown”. And he replied “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than a light, and safer than a known way.”

This quotation from a poem by Minnie Louise Haskins may be found in St George’s Chapel, engraved on a panel on the gates to the George VI Memorial Chapel. ..

Minnie Louise Haskins was born on 12 May 1875 in Bitton, Gloucestershire. An academic by profession, she lectured in Social Sciences at the London School of Economics from 1919 to 1944, having previously served as a supervisor of women’s employment and industrial welfare in the First World War.  A keen amateur poet, she had her first collection of poems published in 1908 in an anthology called the ‘The Desert’. However, it was not until 1939, when King George VI quoted from ‘God knows’ in his Christmas Broadcast, that her verse came to public notice. Acting on the suggestion of Jean Allen from Bristol who alerted him to the poem, the King decided to include the quotation in his seasonal radio address to the Empire, to serve as a message of encouragement in the dark days at the start of the Second World War.

In the late 1960s, when a new side chapel was added to the north side of St George’s Chapel as a permanent resting place for George VI, the (by now famous) words were inscribed on a panel to the right of the iron gates.  A booklet written for the dedication of the memorial chapel on 31 March 1969 in the presence of his daughter, HM the Queen, offers an explanation for their inclusion: “These words meant much to him and he hoped that they would be remembered by all who dedicated themselves to the service of God and the nation.”

And the comparison with the Church of England on this cusp of the old and the new year, of the old and the new Cantuar?  Some may think this forced, but to me it is very real. We too know that we are on the verge of great upheaval, which can be summed up by the pressures to treat every human being as loved by God and worthy of respect, no matter what their gender or sexual orientation. But this is a tug of war, with counter-pressures to treat every human being in relation to their standing under the status quo ante. Part of the upheaval is a change of guard at the top, but we desperately need a Cantuar who can offer a new way of deciding on the future of the Church of England. Rebirth and renewal is painful, the process is painful, but the rewards are enormous.

Let us pray, inspired by George VI, the people of England at the onset of war and during the blitz, and Minnie Haskins :

Lord, we face the unknown at a difficult and painful time for our Church. Trusting in your word as a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path, we go out into the darkness. With faith that this will be better than a light, and safer than a known way, we put our hands into yours. Amen.

cf Psalm 119.105

Considering William Temple: Wendy Dackson

William Temple (1881-1944) was the 98th Archbishop of Canterbury, and his commemoration in the Church of England is 6 November.  Although his time as Primate of All England was short (two and a half years), he was Archbishop of York for 13 years, and as Bishop of Manchester for several years before that.  During his lifetime, he was known as a Christian social reformer, on causes ranging from labor unions to prison reform.  In 1910, his participation in the Edinburgh Conference brought him to prominence as one of the great leaders of the ecumenical movement of the early 20th century.  Had he not died unexpectedly, Temple would have become the first president of the World Council of Churches; as it turned out, it took five people to do what it was expected he would accomplish.

Not enough people read William Temple’s work with any seriousness today, at least in my estimation.  There is a mild retrieval of his most famous work, the 1942 Penguin Special Christianity and Social Order, and some interest in whether or not the idea of ‘middle axioms’ contained in it (although this is a term ascribed by others, and not Temple himself) has any continuing mileage.  My own position, for the last 15 years, has been that Christianity and Social Order cannot stand, or be properly understood, on its own.  Instead, it is a distillation of an enormous amount of theological, social, and ecclesiological output over the course of Temple’s career. As well, Christianity and Social Order was a book that was produced in and for a particular context—that of the Church of England’s role in the life of a post-war Britain.  Reading it alone has led to the unfortunate assessment that William Temple ‘died at the right time’, as he was too tied to his place and time to be of use beyond it.  But Temple produced the equivalent of an average of a book-length work for each of the thirty-five years of his ordained ministry, and to take less than a hundred pocket-sized pages as the whole does an injustice to the Archbishop.  Perhaps more importantly, it deprives the Church of a rich resource for reflection and action.

One of the great gifts that William Temple had was the ability to write about complex ideas in a way that helped to clarify them without over-simplification, or drawing conclusions about problems that did not take into account a range of facts and experiences.  There is also the sense in Temple’s work that no verbal theological formulation, or Church teaching, is ever final—there is always something more to learn, and always the sense that we may have to revise our positions based on new facts and experience.

I am one of a small handful of people alive today who has read a significant portion of Temple’s work (and even in my early fifties, one of the youngest of that group).  I would like to offer a ‘tasting menu’ of some of the principles I see in the Archbishop’s work that could be of use, not only to the Church of England, but to the Anglican Communion more widely, and to individual Christians, as we go forward into the twenty-first century.  This is not a program of action, but a measure for the way that the church conducts itself in public. It describes attitudes and dispositions more than tasks. It does not move directly from Scripture or church tradition to action demanded by the contemporary situation.

There is great flexibility in authentic Christian belief and action. Temple frequently claimed that Christ left no written constitution to his followers, but a fellowship held together by common loyalty to their Lord. This is not a weakness or oversight, but a guarantee of the intellectual freedom that is required to apply Christ’s teachings to a wide variety of circumstances, especially to those situations which the Gospel does not directly address.

From Temple’s vision of what the church is supposed to be, a way of interacting with the wider culture is indicated. I see three qualities that the church should demonstrate in a post-Christian, plural context. These are (a) intellectual excellence, which in turn leads to both a self-critique and an openness to difference; (b) a gracious and attractive quality of Christian life, which deserves the respect of non-Christians in society; and (c) a selflessness on the part of the church which uses its privileged status not for its own good (a currently popular critique of the Constantinian establishment), but to transform social structures so that Christianity really becomes the religion of world redemption which Temple believed it was meant to be. [1]
All of this requires that the Church makes the effort to view itself as those who are not Christians see it.  One of the quotes I remember most clearly from Temple’s work is that the Church claims to be the foretaste of Heaven.  But, if non-Christians were to ‘look at us and say, “In that case we don’t much want to go to heaven”,’ it is at least partly because the church’s public presence is inadequately gracious.  In his lovely Readings in St John’s Gospel (1933-34), he writes that Jesus:

‘not only disclosed the divine reality, but therein also displayed its beauty. Truth is august, often austere, sometimes repellent. But here it is gracious and winning. John the Baptist, who is also in mind here, was full of truth, but there was not much grace about him!’

Commemorating significant Christians of the past—distant and recent—is great liturgical fun.  But in Temple’s case, I think there is something more to do than to call him to memory once a year in what is usually  not a very well-attended service.  I think we would do more justice to his memory if we actually studied the wealth of writings he has left us.  We could develop and disagree with his ideas as we sought to use them to help us in our ongoing life together in the presence of the Divine.  And in all our discussions, disagreements, and disputes, we could do far worse than to remember some of his words that I cherish deeply:

‘To become bitter in controversy is more heretical than to espouse with sincerity and charity the most devastating theological opinions’.


[1] This is more fully explored in my article ‘Archbishop William Temple And Public Theology in a Post-Christian Context.’ Journal of Anglican Studies.  December 2006.

The main illustration is a magisterial portrait by Philip de Laszlo, the society portrait painter of the time (1942). The black and white photograph shows the archbishop in more workmanlike, and perhaps more human, mode.

The Welby Chronicles – Part the Fourth

Lay Anglicana Claims World Scoop

The following story appears on page 11 of today’s Jewish Chronicle and is to be syndicated to other papers worldwide.

Ostrich feathers in Bishop’s family
The Jewish Chronicle
23 Nov 2012

THE NEXT Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at last knows the identity of his Jewish paternal relations, hitherto shrouded in mystery. It has emerged that his grandfather Bernard was one of four brothers named Weiler, who came to London from…read more…

This is the text I submitted (more or less the same, but I had deliberately left vague what kind of crash it was, as it might have been ‘the feather crash’ of 1914. Otherwise no complaints about the sub-editor’s tweaks- who knew it should be ‘chief rabbi’ and not ‘Chief Rabbi’?)

“The next Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at last knows the identity of his Jewish paternal relations, hitherto shrouded in mystery. It has been discovered that his grandfather Bernard was one of four Weiler brothers who came to London from Germany in the 1880s and became prosperous ostrich feather merchants. Bernard changed his name to Welby at the outbreak of the first world war, presumably because of anti-German sentiment, but his brothers continued to be known as Weiler.

Bishop Justin is not himself Jewish since his mother was a Gentile, but his father, Gavin, paternal grandparents and their known antecedents  were all part of a nexus of the Jewish haute bourgeoisie moving between London, New York and South Africa, dealing in ostrich feathers and diamonds. The son of the eldest Weiler brother, Siegfried,  married the grand-daughter of Anton Dunkelsbühler, who once employed Ernest Oppenheimer.   Anton’s daughter Fanny married Ernest Josephthal, son of the founder of the New York banking dynasty.

Bernard Weiler/Welby is said to have lost his money in ‘the crash’ and died in 1930. Although aged only nineteen, his son Gavin was put on a boat with £5 in his pocket and sent off to New York to restore the family fortunes. The fact that he did so reasonably successfully suggests that he may have had help on arrival from his Jewish cousins. For the next twenty years he worked in import/export, largely in liquor.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the (first among equals) head of the Anglican Communion, numbering 85 million, as well as Primate of the Church of England. It is hoped that this newly discovered background will help revivify the Anglican Jewish Commission; at the very least it will give him a talking-point next time he meets the Chief Rabbi.”


The rather charming cartoon which illustrates this is, as you can see, by James Whitworth, and remains the copyright of the Jewish Chronicle. Please do not copy without their permission.

I would like to point out that I did not take a fee for this article.

The Chronicles of the Welbys (part the third)

You are perhaps wondering why I illustrate today’s chapter with a picture of the Queen of Spain wearing a head-dress of ostrich plumes in 1820? Well, there is a perfectly sensible answer, but you will have to wait until further down the page to find out.

Today we are launching into the story of Bernard Welby, and I had hoped to bring you my hypothesis, of which I had grown rather fond, that he was the descendant of Katherine Welby, daughter of the Rt Revd Thomas Earle Welby, in turn the son of Sir William Earle Welby, the second baronet. In St Helena she had married Saul Solomon, an Anglican Jew who was the nephew of the great liberal political reformer in South Africa. Their descendants live on as the Welby-Solomons today. However, in the course of gathering further material to adduce in support of this lovely romance, I stumbled instead on the truth. And the truth, in its own way, is just as strange and romantic as my hypothesis.

Bernard Welby, formerly Weiler, 1867-1930

Bernard Welby was born in about 1867 in Germany. He was one of four brothers who came to London: Siegfried Hermann (1857-1935), Max (1865-1927), Bernard (1867-1930), & Ernest (1870-). All four became ostrich feather merchants. It seems  that Siegfried came first and established the business, and was then joined by Max and Bernard, who arrived together in 1886 (the year that Siegfried was naturalised British). To begin with, they both lived with their brother at 21 Warwick Road, North Paddington. They were not exactly struggling, the 1891 census shows that they had two live-in servants.  On 4 July 1893, Bernard and Max became naturalised British citizens.

In 1898, Bernard is on a ship bound for Cape Town, presumably in search of ostrich feathers. He is not in the 1901 census, so it may be he spent some time furthering the business of Weiler Bros in general while he was there. By 1909, Ernest leaves the family firm. This is also the year that Bernard marries Edith James, in the first quarter of 1909. They have two children, Peggy Kathleen in late 1909, followed by ‘Bernard G’ (ie Gavin) in 1910. Edith was born in about 1886 in Finsbury Park, and although her name sounds rather Anglo-Saxon, Bernard describes them both as ‘Hebrew’ on a ship’s passenger list.

On 4 August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany and on 25 September, 1914 (in what is surely a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc)  the following notice appeared in THE London Gazette:

I, BERNARD WELBY, heretofore called or known by the name of “Bernard Weiler,” of “Ivycot,” Maxwell-road, Northwood, in the county of Middlesex, and of 16 and 17, Devonshire square, Bishopsgate, E.C., Ostrich Feather Merchant, Hereby give public notice that I have renounced and abandoned the use of my surname of “Weiler,” and in lieu thereof have assumed and adopted the surname of “Welby,” and such change is formally declared and evidenced by a. deed poll under my hand and seal dated the 22nd day of September, 1914, and enrolled in the Central Office of the Supreme Court of Judicature on the 23rd day of September, 1914.­ Dated the 23rd day of September, 1914. BERNARD WELBY.

Interlude for assessment

This seems a good moment to pause for breath and assess.  We have already found all the clues to the strands that had been suggested: Jewish, German, South African and the change of name to Welby. The only niggle that remains for me is whether the family came here, as suggested, to escape anti-Semitism. The period when the Weilers came to Britain was a relatively benign one for Jews in Germany itself, although pogroms began in Russia in 1881. Also, it must be admitted that anti-Semitism was generally prevalent in Britain at that stage – think of Fagin, Melmotte and the novels of John Buchan, whose villains are often Jewish.

This is an area which needs exploring in more depth than I can at present, but I found the following passage interesting, although it shows a conflicted attitude on the part of the Germans:

Anti-Semitism gained ground in Germany during the 19th century. Anti-Semitic libels were published everywhere, and the economic crisis of the early 19th century was blamed on the Jews. Thousands of Jews fled to Germany from the pogroms in Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century – thus keeping up the level of German xenophobia. In a climate of economic crisis in Germany towards the end of the 19th century, Jewish bankers were blamed. The Jews were seen as evil and exploiting capitalists, and several anti-Semitic parties were founded. University teachers and other learned people also pleaded for anti-Semitism. In connection with the growth of modern nationalism and the motto of ‘one state, one nation’, the German author and philosopher Paul de Lagarde wrote, “I have long been convinced that Jewry constitutes the cancer in all of our life; as Jews, they are strangers in any European state and as such they are nothing but spreaders of decay.” Friedrich Nietzsche’s theory of the “superman” – Übermensch – as a race biologically and intellectually better shaped than others, was misused by anti-Semites, and later by the Nazis. Some Germans felt like a part of this race of superior human beings at the end of the 19th century.  “Scientific” race theories also surfaced as a new current in Europe and Germany in the 19th century. The Aryan myth came to play an important and terrible role during the Nazi era – including the idea of a special Germanic spirit and race that was superior to all else. In spite of the anti-Semitism, Jews were awarded legal equality in Prussia in 1859, and later in the rest of Germany. This, however, did not significantly alter the popularity of anti-Semitism.


Another area which you may like to explore further is the whole business of ostrich feathers and the luxury trade therein. Here I recommend a fascinating book by Sarah Stein called ‘Plumes, Ostrich Feathers, Jews and a Lost World of Global Commerce‘ – how’s that for a title. You can download it on Kindle as I did, quite reasonably.
Stein explains: ‘Nearly 1 million pounds of ostrich feathers, valued at £2.6 million, were exported from the Cape in 1912…over a 20 year period the value of Cape ostrich feathers had tripled’. She does not mention Weiler Bros, so they were presumably only minor players, but can you imagine what £2.6 million in 1912 would be in today’s money? It is hardly surprising that even minor players were doing so well for themselves. The market, however, was highly volatile. Stein goes on to explain: “some had lost their wealth once or twice over, particularly between 1886 and 1896, when shifts in fashion caused the value of ostrich feathers to plunge by 75 %…the mercurial feather market would ensure that in a few years time ostrich feathers would be nearly worthless, and many buyers would be deeply in debt.”
But to return to Bernard’s domestic life. In 1911, he was living comfortably at Ivycot, Maxwell Road, Northwood with his wife, two children and three live-in servants in a house of 8 rooms (bedrooms and reception rooms) . By 1913 he had moved to 54 Platts Lane, Hampstead, still a leafy street of solid villas.
However, (Arch)bishop Justin remembers his father Gavin telling him that Bernard lost all his money in ‘the crash’. The normal presumption would be that this the general crash of 1929.  But, given Bernard’s source of income this seems more likely to have been ‘the feather crash’ which, according to Stein, began in the late winter of 1914. In 1921 and 1926, Bernard put some pictures up for sale at Sotheby’s followed, five years later, by some  Oriental objets d’art.














There is not a great deal left to tell. Bernard and Edith moved to Torquay, where they lived at Dunalister, Torwood Gardens until Bernard’s death, on 5 February 1930, at the Trinity Nursing Home, Torquay. The cause of death was coronary thrombosis. Edith returned to London to live after Bernard’s death. And Gavin, father of our future Archbishop of Canterbury, set off to America to restore the family fortunes, which he successfully did.

The illustration is a portrait of Maria Josepha of Saxony, Queen of Spain (1803-1829) by Francesco Lacoma y Fontanet, downloaded from Wikimedia.

The Chronicles of the Welbys (part the second)

And so we continue to explore the roots of our new Archbishop of Canterbury. Bishop Justin himself described his father as ‘a mysterious character‘, and this is certainly the conclusion any genealogist would draw after several fruitless excursions down assorted blind alleys. I think it unlikely Gavin Welby had a secret life he was trying to hide (although employment in Her Majesty’s Secret Service cannot be altogether ruled out!). But the only time the official records seem to have pinned him down with any degree of certainty was on his death bed. Although even then, his date of birth is given as 28 November 1914, which does not tally with ships’ passenger records which suggest he was actually born three or four years earlier. He is usually listed as British, though on the 1940 Census he is said to have become a naturalised US citizen (again, I can find no trace of this via ancestry). His place of birth is variously given as Castletown, Uxbridge or Northwood, Hillingdon (but these London suburbs adjoin each other). If this were so, his birth should be recorded in English records but I can find no trace.

His father, Bernard, died in February1930 and in October 1930 Gavin arrived in New York, according to press reports with £5 in his pocket. Knowing of Edith Lutyens Bel Geddes’ experience ten years later, I know that it is not always a question of cash in hand: at that point New York, in particular, was very susceptible to English people and it seems Gavin fell on his feet and rapidly prospered, by bootlegging as his son claims or by other means. He made trips to England in 1937, 1938 and 1939, giving his mother’s address in Gloucester Place, London as his base.

During the Second World War, he seems to have returned to Britain to serve in the army as ‘Gavin Bernard Welby’ was gazetted on 9 August 1943 as being promoted to Second Lieutenant.

By 1951, it seems Gavin Welby was a man about town in London. The social page of The Times dated 16 June 1951 shows him as the proverbial spare man at a dinner given by the Chilean ambassador and his wife. And by October, he is standing as the Conservative candidate against Richard Crossman in the General Election at Coventry.








Gavin Welby’s marriage with Jane Portal was duly reported in ‘The Times’ as having taken place on 4 April 1955 in Baltimore where, according to press reports, they eloped in the face of disapproval by her parents. However, the Portals evidently relented since a month later they gave a reception to meet the couple at the home of Jane’s uncle, R A Butler, 11 Downing Street. The Butler side of Bishop Justin’s family has several priests, including three generations of  The Revd Weeden Butler: (1742-1823), (1767-1814) and (1806-1865). A brother of the second Weeden, the Revd George Butler, became headmaster of Harrow School.

“His father’s family were German Jewish immigrants who moved to England to escape anti-Semitism in the late 19th century”, says the official press release announcing Bishop Justin’s appointment. And indeed, on the ship’s passenger list in 1930, when Gavin Welby first went to America, he describes his nationality as British but his ‘Race or people’ as German.

He evidently returned to join the British Army during the Second World War as he was gazetted on 9th August 1943 as having been promoted to Second Lieutenant. (His name was given as Gavin Bernard Welby, rather than as Gavin Bramall Welby as seen on the register of his death).

Gavin and Jane Welby were divorced in 1958.  He continued to live at various addresses in South Kensington or Knightsbridge until his death in 1977.

In the next chapter of this chronicle, we will look at his father Bernard, which is where we come to the end of the known facts about the Welby antecedents and launch on the more speculative parts of this account…

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….?





(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.

Candidates for Cantuar: Graham Kings


 The Bishop of Sherborne looks a very jolly prelate, radiating bonhomie in every direction. In fact I am tempted to commission a Toby jug of him, so representative is he to look at of a certain type of John Bull Englishman, if not of Falstaffian proportions. But if you look below the surface, even in a necessarily superficial piece such as this, it is apparent that Bishop Graham is both a more complex, and perhaps a less jolly, character than this would indicate.

Graham’s wife, Alison is a psychotherapist, and Hon Sec of the Guild of Psychotherapists in London.


Graham Kings  was born on 10 October 1953  in Barkingside, Essex on the eastern outskirts of London.  He was educated at Buckhurst Hill County High School and then spent a ‘gap year’ as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards on a short service commission at   Sandhurst. Bishop Graham then studied theology at Hertford College, Oxford, followed by Selwyn College, Cambridge and he studied for a PhD from the University of Utrecht.


He trained for the priesthood at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. Following ordination he served as a curate in Harlesden for four years until, in 1985, he moved to Kenya as a Church Mission Society (CMS) mission partner to teach theology at St Andrew’s College, Kabare (in the foothills of Mount Kenya). In 1992 he returned to Cambridge to become the founding Director of the Henry Martyn Centre for the study of mission and world Christianity and affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of Divinity of the University.

Dr Kings became vicar of St Mary’s Islington in 2000 where, according to his admiring Boswell on the diocesan website, he quickly made his mark as a forward thinking, innovative teacher and pastor. Crockford’s more prosaically has:

* +KINGS, The Rt Revd Graham Ralph. b 53. Hertf Coll Ox BA77 MA80 Utrecht Univ PhD02. Ridley Hall Cam 78. d 80 p81 c 09. C Harlesden St Mark Lon 80-84; CMS Kenya Rest of the World 85-91; Dir Studies St Andr Inst Kabare 85-88; Vice Prin 89-91; Lect Miss Studies Cam Th Federation 92-00; Overseas Adv Henry Martyn Trust 92-95; Dir Henry Martyn Cen Westmr Coll Cam 95-00; Hon C Cambridge H Trin Ely 92-96; Hon C Chesterton St Andr 96-00; V Islington St MaryLon 00-09; Area Bp Sherborne Sarum from 09; Can and Preb Sarum Cathl from 09. 


He also served with the Bishop of Salisbury on the Liturgical Commission and the Mission Theological Advisory Group of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion Network for Inter-Faith Concerns.

He has a developed media awareness, as evidenced by the summer he led a camel called Cleo from Oxford to Selwyn College Cambridge in an imaginative ploy for the CMS to raise money for education in Kenya.


Amazon shows two books currently in print, Signs and Seasons: A Guide for your Christian Journey (2008) and Offerings from Kenya to Anglicanism: Liturgical Texts and Contexts (2001).

In 2003, Kings co-founded Fulcrum, the online evangelical Anglican journal, and is its theological secretary. The aim of Fulcrum was to “renew the evangelical centre of the Church of England”. Dr Kings, as he then was, has commented on the creation of personal ordinariates for disaffected traditionalist Anglicans entering the Catholic Church.



When Salisbury diocese voted on the Anglican Covenant (which it rejected), one bishop voted in favour of the Covenant, and one against it. As Bishop Nick Holtam is known to be against the Covenant, it seems a reasonable presumption that Bishop Graham voted in favour.  He had written on the need for Anglicans to be homogeneous like grapes, rather than heterogeneous like marbles.


Leap in the dark assessment

Do you remember the Grand Old Duke of York? If the CNC believes that Anglicans consist of grapes in serried ranks, Bishop Graham might be the one to lead them to the top of the hill, and then presumably down again?

Candidates for Cantuar: David Urquhart

After last week’s little flurry, we do not know whether the Crown Nominations Commission has made up its mind, but is going through administrative hoops, or whether it  has not made up its mind and is pretending to be going through administrative hoops in order to mask its failure to reach a decision. Either way, we are not likely to have a definitive answer for a while, so I propose to continue our gentle stroll through the presumed candidates. I think the bookmakers’ lists are increasingly unreliable, and many bookmakers have withdrawn from the fray. Certainly the rankings are all over the place. We will continue to use the original list.

And so we come to the Bishop of Birmingham, David Urquhart.



David Andrew Urquhart, born on 14 April 1952, was educated at Rugby  and Ealing Technical College Business School (BA 1977). Like Justin Welby, he then had a  career ‘in oil’, in his case with British Petroleum (1972-82).

He is not married. In the old days, the cryptic annotation ‘WHM’ (‘wife has means’) would have been looked for in Crockford’s when selecting a bishop – or indeed any priest expected to entertain on a lordly scale – but these days potential wives with private incomes are hard to come by.


Bishop David studied for the  ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and was ordained in 1984.  The Crockford’s entry is as follows:

* +URQUHART, The Rt Revd David Andrew. b 52. Ealing Business Sch BA77. Wycliffe Hall Ox 82. d 84 p 85 c 00. C Kingston upon Hull St Nic York 84-87; TV Drypool 87-92; V Cov H Trin 92-00; Hon Can Cov Cathl 99-00; Suff Bp Birkenhead Ches 00-06; Bp Birm from 06.

He became suffragan Bishop of Birkenhead in the Diocese of Chester in 2000. His succeeded John Sentamu as Bishop of Birmingham was announced in November 2006.


I have not been able to find any publications.


Bishop David has been described as ‘a low church evangelical’. He voted in favour of the Anglican Covenant, but apparently put no pressure on his diocesan synod to follow suit and in the event Birmingham voted against it. Bishop David, and the entire Birmingham delegation, voted in favour of adjourning the debate to enable reconsideration of  amendment 5.1.c, the position generally taken by those in favour of women bishops.


Bishop David joined the House of Lords in 2010 and is a spokesman on “Economy/Tax/Business; Foreign Policy; Local/Regional Government”. He was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Envoy to China in 2006. And he is the Prelate of the Order of St Michael and St George, the order awarded to diplomats.

He is a very active member of the community in Birmingham, where he has been the Chair of the ‘Be Birmingham’ Summit of the Local Strategic Partnership.

Leap in the dark assessment

At his enthronement Urquhart was presented with a cope which incorporated various images related to his life and the city of Birmingham. These included a bagpiper, signifying his birth and upbringing in Scotland, a motorcycle which represents one of his hobbies, and the emblems of Aston Villa and Birmingham City FC, the two most prominent football teams from the city.

More interestingly, as a potential Cantuar, the cope also features a passage from Isaiah (58.12), written in EnglishMandarinHebrew and Gandan.

 “You shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets to dwell in.”

Could David Urquhart be the peacemaker, the unifying force, that we need?


We rely on donations to keep this website running.