LONDON, November 9, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Prime Minister David Cameron has chosen Justin Welby, the former bishop of Durham, as the new Archbishop of Canterbury to replace Rowan Williams. Welby has wasted no time in revealing his interests and intentions regarding the hot button issues facing the Church of England like homosexuality in the clergy and the ordination of female bishops.
In comments that are unlikely to settle any of the disputes within the 77 million member global Anglican Communion, Welby said he agrees with the Church of England bishops’ opposition to “gay marriage” but wholeheartedly supports the ordination of women.
“In 10 days or so the general Synod will vote on the ordination of women as bishops,” he said. “I will be voting in favour and join my voice to many others in urging the Synod to go forward with this change.”
In a brief speech following the announcement of his appointment, Welby said he supports the decision of the House of Bishops to oppose the government’s plans for same-sex “marriage,” but decried the “language of exclusion”.
“I support the House of Bishop’s statement in the summer in answer to the government’s consultation on same sex marriage,” he said. “I know I need to listen very attentively to the LGBT communities, and examine my own thinking prayerfully and carefully.”
“I am always averse to the language of exclusion, when what we are called to is to love in the same way as Jesus Christ loves us. Above all in the church we need to create safe spaces for these issues to be discussed honestly and in love,” Welby continued.
The government, he said, was “absolutely right” to “define the rights and status of people cohabiting in differences of relationships, including civil partnerships”.
The Anglican Church, he said, faces “deep differences on the issue of sexuality”.
He added, “We must have no truck with any form of homophobia in any part of the church.”
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The Daily Telegraph’s religious affairs editor, John Bingham, called the speech “an olive branch to the gay community” who have been increasingly disillusioned with Rowan Williams’ ambivalent and vacillating position.
He said that the Church of England is “at one of those rare points where the tide of events is turning and the church nationally, including the Church of England, has great opportunities to match its very great but often hidden strengths.”
Welby, as a former oil businessman, will make a sharp contrast to the Williams, the intellectual academic. Welby left his business affairs in 1987 to begin studying for ordination in the Church of England.
His theology is said to be rooted in the “low” or evangelical branch of Anglicanism, a position he shares with Queen Elizabeth II. His interests include business ethics, and he holds a position on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards as a member of the House of Lords. He will take up his duties as Archbishop of Canterbury next March.
Referring to the Church of England’s ongoing disputes with the far more conservative, and numerous, Anglican Churches of Africa, Asia, and the Global South, Welby would say only, “The Church of England is part of the worldwide church and has responsibilities that comes from those links.”
Church attendance at Church of England parishes is at an all time low and is expected to fall even lower over the next decade.
Anglican leaders recently said the Church of England’s practising membership would virtually disappear over the next 20 years as the current generation of elderly members dies off. The average age of its members is now 61.
At the recent General Synod in York, Patrick Richmond, a Synod member from Norwich, told the assembly that the Church would no longer be “functionally extant” in 20 years. “The perfect storm we can see arriving fast on the horizon is the ageing congregations.”
“These congregations will be led by fewer and fewer stipendiary clergy,“Richmond said. “[The year] 2020 apparently is when our congregations start falling through the floor because of natural wastage, that is people dying.”
Meanwhile numbers of converts to Anglicanism are continuing to grow in Africa, despite pressure from Islamist oppression and assaults.
Anglican writer and commentator David Virtue, who runs the news aggregate website Virtue Online: the Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism, said the problem is that the Church of England’s wholesale liberalisation has destroyed its appeal to younger spiritual seekers.
“Liberal Christianity has gutted the church with only one in 60 Brits even bothering to attend church. The current push for pansexual acceptance to all orders of the church and the drive for women bishops will only continue the pattern of sexualization and feminization with church attendance and leadership more firmly in the hands of women,” Virtue wrote.
“Theological revisionism, moral relativism, a lack of confidence in Holy Scripture,” he said, has sealed the inevitable demise of the historic communion.
He listed a combination of historical trends, including “growing secularity,” the rise of “heretical churches like Mormonism and Scientology,” and the “push for pansexuality coupled with an in-your-face militant Islam,” that have resulted in a “slow but accelerating spiritual cancer in the Episcopal/Anglican body.”
He concluded, “All the available evidence is that within two decades Western Anglicanism will be no more.”