A week after the election of Pope Francis four years ago, the Anglicans installed Justin Welby as their new spiritual leader. His crisp, business-like approach contrasted with that of his predecessor, Rowan Williams, but recent events suggest there may be limits to its effectiveness
Four years ago this month, both the Catholic and Anglican churches put into office leaders very different in style and character from their predecessors. In Pope Francis, the conclave of cardinals got more than they bargained for: a zealous, humane figure seemingly bent on giving Catholicism a thorough shake. But what of Justin Welby, enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury a week after Francis’ election – a managerial, evangelical figure chosen to replace the deeply spiritual, intellectual Rowan Williams?
Under Welby there seems to have been a distinct tightening up of the CofE’s traditionally meandering managerial style. Where Williams agonisingly sought compromise and delay, Welby seeks decisions. (It somehow seems appropriate that while everyone called Rowan by his first name, many use the current archbishop’s surname.) The decisiveness is not always welcome, but it is a change.
As is well known, Welby, 61, had a career before ordination. The first Etonian to become Archbishop of Canterbury for 150 years, he read history and law at Cambridge and was an executive in the oil industry until becoming ordained in his mid-thirties. He had only two years’ experience as a bishop before being elevated to Canterbury, though he had previously served as dean of Liverpool.