“Keep the faith and we will be with you.”

The installation of Justin Welby as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury.


 The installation of Justin Welby as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury was an energy creating event. We both witnessed it, one on the internet in Bangalore, the other in the nave of Canterbury Cathedral.


The new Archbishop was unapologetic about putting his stamp of joyful evangelical Christian discipleship and service of Jesus as Saviour and Lord on the whole afternoon.


The doors of Canterbury Cathedral open to The Rt. Rev. Justin Welby

during the elaborate installation service. (Photos courtesy Andrew

Dunsmore/Picture Partnership.)

Distinguished guests, including the Prince of Wales and Duchess

of Cornwall, processing.

As he entered the Cathedral’s West Door, in a liturgy he created, he was questioned by Evangeline Kanagasooriam, a 17 year old student of Sri Lankan origin.


“Who are you and why do you request entry?”


“I am Justin, A servant of Jesus Christ, and I come seeking the grace of God, to travel with you in his service together.”


“How do you come among us and with what confidence?”


“I come knowing nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified, and in weakness and fear and in much trembling.”


The service clearly affirmed the gospel of Jesus Christ as the one Lord and Saviour in the presence of leaders of other faiths and of liberal leaders in the Communion.


Great hymns of the church were chosen by Archbishop Welby that speak of the centrality of Jesus as Lord and his death for sin: “When I survey the wondrous cross,” “The Church’s one foundation,” “In Christ alone my hope is found,” Wesley’s “And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour’s blood,” “Great is thy faithfulness.”


The service had elements from around the Anglican Communion: ‘Saranam, Saranam, Saranam,’ the signature hymn of the Churches of the Indian Sub-Continent by Sri Lankan D.T. Niles; a prayer in French from the Primate of Burundi who is chairman of CAPA, and Ghanaian drums.


His sermon showed that this gospel challenges and transforms the culture. His text was “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid” from Jesus’ call to Peter to walk on water. Immediately he said “Uniquely in all of human history, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the one who as living love liberates holy courage.” Then “the utterly absurd is completely reasonable when Jesus is the one who is calling.”


He was confident about the contribution of the Christian faith to public life in Britain. “For more than a thousand years this country has to one degree or another sought to recognise that Jesus is the Son of God; by the ordering of its society, by its laws, by its sense of community…


Slaves were freed, Factory Acts passed, and the NHS and social care established through Christ-liberated courage.”


Bishops from around the Communion surround the alter during the service.


He was unapologetic about presenting orthodox Anglicanism as he sees it as mainstream. He identifies that this tradition has shaped his own personal life and journey, while being open to other traditions, and that it will shape his future ministry. He has nailed his colours to this mast, just as Pope Francis has identified the Franciscan tradition as the source of his own spirituality and ministry. This contrasts with the previous Archbishop who separated his personal commitments from the requirements of his official position.


The attendance of the GAFCON Primates affirmed that they were part of and supported this understanding of mainstream. They wrote to him: “We greet you on this day of celebration and assure you and your family of our prayers for your future ministry. We are grateful for this opportunity to worship in Canterbury Cathedral and be reminded of our historic faith that is grounded in the revealed Word of God.” They had done their homework and their confidence in his expression of biblically faithful Christianity as mainstream Anglicanism was justified. 


Sometimes orthodox Anglicanism is cast as part of the dissenting tradition in British Christianity with the implication that it is at best a minority interest. It was therefore refreshing that neither he nor the primates saw themselves as in any way dissenters.



Archbishop Welby recesses out of the cathedral with eccumenical

guests (bottom left) looking on. 

Their open letter located Anglican identity in worship and ministry grounded in the Word of God.  They encouraged him “to stay true to the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ and as you do we will stand with you for the sake of Christ”. This will need to be reiterated many times to him to keep affirming the mainstream nature of orthodox Anglicanism.


The GAFCON primates avoided those elements of the occasion which would have cast them as outsiders. They did not attend the choreographed series of meetings of primates the following day, without agenda or preparation. Their absence signaled that the current centres of power in the communion or the contentious issues which remain unresolved neither define the Anglican Communion as they understand it nor the life of their churches within it. Their message was simple – we come to worship with you as fellow disciples.  Keep the faith and we will be with you. †


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