News / Europe

Former Oil Exec Becomes Anglican Leader

New Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, attends enthronement ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral, southern England, March 21, 2013.
New Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, attends enthronement ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral, southern England, March 21, 2013.
Reuters
The new spiritual leader of the world's Anglicans was enthroned by a female cleric on Thursday, taking the helm at a time when the troubled church risks tearing itself apart over gay marriage and women bishops.
 
In a colorful ceremony featuring African drummers and dancers, Punjabi music and Anglican hymns, Justin Welby, 57, officially became the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury under the gothic arches of Britain's 900-year-old Canterbury Cathedral.
 
For the first time in the Christian church's history, the priest who placed him on the diocesan throne in Canterbury — the mother church of the Church of England and of the Anglican Communion — was a woman, Archdeacon of Canterbury Sheila Watson.
 
Another, male, priest then installed him in the chair of St. Augustine, marking his inauguration as Primate of All England and spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
 
Welby, who opposes gay marriage but favors ordination of women as bishops, now faces a tough balancing act to keep the 80 million-strong Anglican Communion together.
 
His voice echoing inside the vast cathedral, Welby told a congregation of 2,000 people including heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and Prime Minister David Cameron that the church should focus more on combatting poverty and protecting nature.
 
"The utterly absurd is completely reasonable when Jesus is the one who is calling," he said in his sermon. "Slaves were freed, factory acts passed, and the NHS [public health service] and social care established through Christ-liberated courage. The present challenges of environment and economy, of human development and global poverty, can only be faced with Christ-liberated extraordinary courage."
 
The archbishop finds himself in the crossfire between liberal clerics in the United States and Britain who are at odds with conservatives in Africa and elsewhere over those issues, and his handling of the dispute is set to dominate his tenure.
 
Homosexuality is the most divisive issue, and senior African Anglican leaders have already lined up to denounce a decision to allow celibate gay bishops, saying it would only widen the rift.
 
"It's true that not all the African bishops, but quite a number of African bishops, are strongly opposed to the way you understand sexuality in the West," Solomon Tilewa Johnson, Archbishop and Primate of the West Africa section of the Anglican Communion, told Reuters on the eve of the ceremony.
 
Others at the ceremony were more optimistic.
 
"He's a bridge-builder and a reconciler," Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Archbishop of Kaduna in Nigeria — effectively the largest province in the Communion — told the BBC.
 
"It is a good description to call it a holy anarchy," he added, referring to a phrase coined by Welby himself. "And how is he going to put all that together? We wait and see."
 
Pope Francis, who was formally installed as head of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics about a week ago, sent Welby a message from the Vatican to congratulate him.
 
"Please be assured of my prayers as you take up your new responsibilities, and I ask you to pray for me as I respond to the new call that the Lord has addressed to me," he said. "I look forward to meeting you in the near future, and to continuing the warm fraternal relations that our predecessors enjoyed."
 
Increasingly secular
 
Welby is seen as a pragmatic and down-to-earth trouble-shooter, hardened by years of work as a crisis negotiator in Africa among separatists in the swamps of the Niger Delta and Islamists in northern Nigeria.
 
His life changed dramatically in 1983 when his daughter was killed in a car accident, an event he described as a "dark time" which brought him and his wife closer to God.
 
The bespectacled and soft-spoken Welby inherits a church struggling with falling congregation numbers in an increasingly secular society where many see religion as irrelevant.
 
The church now counts about 26 million baptized members, but says only about a million of them attend services every Sunday.
 
Born in London in 1956, he was educated at the elite Eton College, and went on to study history and law at Cambridge University. His father's family were German-Jewish immigrants who fled persecution to England in the 19th century.
 
His liberal predecessor Rowan Williams — a self-confessed "old hairy lefty" who opposed the Iraq war — once famously said the next Archbishop of Canterbury needed "the constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros" to do the job.
 
Just hours before the ceremony, Welby spoke out publicly about gay marriage, offering a softer stance on the issue.
 
"You see gay relationships that are just stunning in the quality of the relationship," he told the BBC, while stressing he had no doubts over the church's policy on same-sex relationships. "The Church of England holds very firmly, and continues to hold to the view, that marriage is a lifelong union of one man to one woman."

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs