The Next Archbishop of Canterbury is an oil executive. And maybe that’s a good thing.

Justin Welby, The next leader of the Church of England has a strange resume. Having only been a bishop in the church for about a year, he will now become the head of Anglicanism. Some might see this as reeking with privilege, and it is certainly odd that a man with much commercial influence and little time in ministry. However, I am not ready to dismiss the Archbishop of Canterbury quite yet, his background could possibly work in his favor:

Of his own “worldly” background, he said: “Worldly in Christian terms is a very loaded word” – and not something any good Christian should want to be. The key thing he had got from his career in the oil industry was “the sense of having lived and worked in a world where the church is felt to be completely irrelevant”

Hopefully his secular business resume could have positive, missional effects. If he is able to actually engage secular society with intentionality, this position could be very advantageous for the spread of the gospel in Europe.

As a self described evangelical (with egalitarian leanings), Welby has a great deal of work to do, and in his inauguration he promised to do so. His mission seems to be ecumenical in nature, and if that can be achieved without Welby himself compromising his evangelical theology, this could be a big step in 21st century Christendom.

He said he did not want Christians to agree with one another, “but to love one another, and to demonstrate to the world around us a better way of disagreeing”. Judging by the last 2,000 years or so, this is a rather more ambitious plan than merely reconverting England – but he seemed entirely serious about it.

While I do not expect Welby to be a Clapham-style Wilberforce character, in the words of The Guardian today,

This could be interesting.

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  • Geoffrey R.


    Thanks for bringing this up. I find Rowan Williams (the current Archbishop) a very thoughtful and intelligent figure, but I am also interested to see where Welby will take the Anglican Communion–especially in its relationship to the competing poles of the American Episcopal Church and the theologically conservative Anglicans of the Two-Thirds World.

    Geoffrey R.

  • While I respect your optimism about this new Archbishop – I have to say I find the choice absolutely appalling and disgraceful, and I believe more of us should boldly say so, rather than to err on the side of corruption.
    The man has *1 yr experience* in the church, and is appointed to this high level position? After a lifetime of working in a world where the church (and basic decency) are “completely irrelevant”? I cant even imagine the outrage that long term servants of the Anglican faith must feel, especially those good, honest and humble men who were passed up – in favor of an oil executive. This reeks of favoritism, nepotism, corruption – and rightly so. As an old proverb says best, “The fish rots from the head”

  • Hey Matthew, I totally can see where you are coming from. My first reaction was one of annoyance and cynicism. And I think that it could be a really ugly situation if it goes poorly. But in considering the benefits, I looked at it in two ways 1. He is an evangelical, which could help to reform the semi-apostate Anglican churches abroad and 2. It could be like a company hiring an outside CEO to change the organizational culture of the system. While this could be really bad, it will certainly be an interesting story to keep up with