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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More