Sunday Times on Justin Welby

There is a piece in the Sunday Times today (behind the pay-wall so no link) by Jonathan Wynne-Jones revealing that Justin Welby, the current Bishop of Durham, is the front-runner to replace Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury. The piece doesn’t really tell us anything new, but I was struck by one particular section.

Welby was ordained in 1992 after serving as the group treasurer for Enterprise Oil, which was acquired by Shell … The death of his seven-month-old daughter Johanna in a car crash in France in 1983 prompted his decision to become a clergyman. “It was a very dark time for my wife Caroline and myself, but in a strange way it actually brought us closer to God,” he said.

We had the same experience losing Zachary. Very very dark time (combined with other things going on) but it led to us relying on God more and trusting him more. In a perverse kind of way I would do anything to avoid it having happened in the first place, but looking back now I wouldn’t change a thing. It was part of God’s plan for our lives and it has shaped our future like nothing else ever could.

21 Comments on “Sunday Times on Justin Welby

  1. I’d only argue with one word in what he said, and that’s “strange”. Reading Scripture, why should we think it’s strange that adversity brings us closer to God? Psalm 56, Romans 8:28, and lots of other places.

    • In fairness, the quote above doesn’t identify who Welby was addressing. I think most people, not being bible readers, would regard the death of a child as a horrendous experience that would probably lead to depression and uncertainty I don’t of course disagree with your point about adversity bringing people closer to God, but I can understand that a secular audience would find something jarring if the “in a strange way” wasn’t there.

      Aside from which, I’d imagine that the death of a child is the sort of experience that would lead many people to question their faith in God rather than drawing them closer to Him (which is regrettable of course, but I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose a child and so feel very uncomfortable in suggesting how people ‘should’ grieve)

      • Surely gospel truth should be, in some way, jarring to a secular audience?

        Without wanting to get into an argument about comparative levels of adversity and pain, I regularly speak about my own experience of cancer as having drawn me closer to God, without qualification. If I said “strangely”, I think people would read that as _me_ being surprised it happened. And I’m not, and I hope Bishop Welby isn’t either. If _they_ are surprised that I am not surprised, so much the better.

  2. I’m glad Bishop Welby feels that way. Some questions, though: he never forgave the girl who was driving his car at the time of the accident — although it WAS simply that — an accident. Where does his unforgiveness fit in with the Christian message — or Welby’s own claim to a ministry of reconciliation? I knew the girl who was driving — she never got over either the accident or the loss of all contact with the Welbys, who had been her spiritual mentors when she was a very young Christian.

    • Hi,

      I don’t think it would be healthy to progress this thread. There’s nothing in the piece that suggests he did or didn’t forgive the person driving the car, so anything you have to contribute on this is, without documentary evidence and regardless of its veracity, hearsay.

      It is the Christian prerogative to forgive those who sin against them, but I can also, as a Father, understand why that might be a hard thing to do and take some time.

      I’m happy to follow this up by private email, but I’d appreciate people not publishing allegations like this on my blog before providing me with a touch more substance.

      • Hi Peter,

        I can understand your point of view.  It isn’t merely an allegagtion, but short of giving you Lois Brown’s (the driver) email address (and I haven’t sought her permission to post what I posted), I don’t suppose what I said can be proved.  What I can tell you is that I knew her before the accident and I’ve bumped into her on and off since, and I’ve seen how the loss of both Joanna and her parents AND her guilt about Joanna’s death, although it was an accident, has rocked her to the core.  I think if asked Lois would never claim that the experience has been anthing but a very dark time.  I also don’t think forgiveness should be an issue here, as this wasn’t a deliberate act — and it was nearly 30 years ago!

        • As I said, this is hearsay. I really don’t want to be aggressive or take sides, but I will not be well disposed to anyone who continues to discuss this particular allegation without first bringing evidence to me privately.

          • Far be it from me to tell you what you should blog about, but it strikes me, that a general discussion about the tensions between forgiveness and justice might more fruitfully arise from a post on the Hillsborough report, especially given the praise that +James Jones is receiving from all quarters, and the fact that +James stated that his participation in the investigation is consistent with his pastoral responsibilities to the people of Liverpool.

          • Peter, I wrote to you in a private email and asked you to remove the comments about the driver in the accident. You haven’t done so, despite saying yourself that it is inappropriate. So now I’m asking you in this public post to remove all references to the driver. Thank you.

            • I’m sorry – I’m not aware of that email (or who you are actually from your single comment). You can contact me directly through the Contact link above, but unless the person who made the comment chooses to remove it it will stay there. It’s very clear from the comments below that I do not believe that such assertions have any evidential basis.

              • Hello again, Peter. I wrote to you a couple of weeks back asking you to remote my name from angmack’s post, but you apparently did not receive it. My name on this email should make it obvious why i want the post removed. Whoever posted it knows that i was driving the welby’s car when their daughter died. They do not have my permission to name me and it would be the ethical and Christian response to remove the posts altogether- not just for my sake, but for that of the welbys, too. The accident has caused so much pain already, and angmack’s comments only make matters worse. Yours sincerely,
                Lois Brown

                PS. I have no idea why my post of a few hours ago generated its own funky email contact address. I’m writing this from a new phone that sometimes does things for no apparent reason.


      • Forgiveness is terribly difficult to achieve. How can you forgive the stupid pedestrian, say, who steps out without looking and causes a cyclist to to swerve under the wheels of an oncoming juggernaut? If that cyclist is your child how can someone so easily say that it is not only the Christian parent’s prerogative but their obligation to forgive? But forgive you must. It seems to me that is the essence of Christianity, not what the Pope thinks about transubstantiation or Luther about sola scriptura or Calvin about predestination to damnation……

  3. Peter, your post and your comments about losing Zachary reminds me of a fantastic sermon I heard on Psalm 23 about a year ago. It’s probably the Psalm we all know best… many of us have it memorized… and yet have you ever really noticed or thought about the pronoun shift?

    “The Lord is my shepherd… HE makes me lie down in green pastures… HE restores my soul, etc..
    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for YOU are with me… ” etc

    My pastor preached “it is in the valley of the shadow of death that we can get to know God most intimately. He is no longer distant, but He becomes PERSONAL and it is His presence and nearness that we recognize we most desire, not the physical blessings He provides.” I’ve found it so true in my own life as well.

  4. I must say I’m still concerned that this CNC, after apparently favouring several of the main evangical/traditionalist contenders but finding each one has weaknesses – too disliked, too young, too inexperienced as bishop, too old, etc (I’ll leave you to guess which is which) – will decide that the only option is an experienced “compromise” candidate in the form of +Norwich.

    Why else is he, a liberal catholic, still considered to be in the running at all?! No liberal catholic should be in the running because the last ABofC was a liberal catholic l!!

      • Just heard the rumour that the CNC might now be looking at bringing in another candidiate from left field – namely Gregory Cameron. He’s a former student of Rowan Williams at Cambridge and, more recently, heavily involved with him on the ACC and with the failed AC covenant… plus lots of insider experience of Communion politics, and institutional liberal (I guess – ordinand at Llandaff)… but only 3 years experience as a Bishop (in Wales again).

        Could be the “compromise” candidate – disliked by traditionalists and liberals – but basically liberal so would ensure that the church only moves in the “correct” direction regarding obediance to the teachings of Jesus and His apostles?

    • If that liberal Catholic has a ‘liberal catholic’ episcopate ( ooh, is there a fancy word to refer to an ABofC’s administration?) to rival +Rowan’s then most liberals on the ground would not exactly be delighted at his appointment (ascension?). The enemy of my enemy and all that…

        • I’m questioning the usefulness of such labels in this context. Hasn’t someone remarked on this blog that Sentamu isn’t really much of an evangelical, for example?

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