Justin Welby makes great strides, but his greatest challenge is yet to come

By John Bingham, Telegraph

 

It could have been like one of those moments in a country parish where a trendy new vicar rolls up with plans to rip out the Victorian pews to make way for a drum-kit and an overhead projector. The arrival of Justin Welby, a former businessman whose brand of Christianity is marked with the zeal of the convert, as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury had the potential to ruffle more than a few feathers in the established Church.

 

Within months of his enthronement, a year ago today, he seemed on course to do just that. He had overhauled his staff, with a series of new appointments. He had persuaded rival factions to take part in something akin to drama therapy sessions to confront their differences over women bishops, and he had delivered a blistering address to the General Synod on how it needed to face up to a sexual “revolution”.

 

[…]  But now the honeymoon is long past, Archbishop Welby is preparing for what promises to be a far bigger battle for the soul of the Church both in England and in the wider Anglican Communion over an issue that has plagued it for years: its unresolved position on homosexuality. Even his admirers admit privately that in comparison with the rows over women bishops, the battle over sexuality is like “an elephant compared to the flea”.

 

Many once-vehement opponents of women bishops have recently softened their stance precisely because they are keeping their powder dry for a bigger fight to come. In just over a week, the first gay weddings will take place in England, something senior clerics said would amount to the redefinition of a timeless institution. Despite their own disagreements over the issue, the Church’s bishops have circled the wagons and last month issued a joint “pastoral statement” effectively banning gay clergy from marrying.

 

But within hours, it was clear that a handful of clerics were preparing openly to defy the ban, with little sign that the Church will stand in their way.

 

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