Archbishop of Canterbury, Forgetting About Jesus, Warns Against Putting Trust in Any One Person

Sometimes you just can’t help but bury your head in your hands when a religious leader says something so basic, yet so beautifully ironic. 

Easter weekend provided just such a platform for the newly enthroned Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby — leader of the Church of England and symbolic head of Anglicans worldwide. He’s only officially been in the job two weeks but he has wasted no time in getting down to business.

He chose this opportunity to warn against “hero leader culture” and “putting our trust in one person as this can lead to false hope.”

(Erm, Jesus anyone…?)

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

“Papers reported on Friday that only 40% of churchgoers are convinced that the new Archbishop of Canterbury can resolve the problems of the Church of England,” he said.

“I do hope that means the other 60% thought the idea so barking mad that they did not answer the question.”

He urged society to recognise “human fallibility”.

“Setting people or institutions up to heights where they cannot but fail is mere cruelty,” he added.

Oh, so he’s not talking about Jesus — he’s talking about himself. Still, an unfortunate choice of words of someone who hero worships his own leader.

He used the rest of his sermon to talk about the challenges facing the church under his watch:

The archbishop said: “We need to understand reconciliation within the Church as the transformation of destructive conflict, not unanimity.

“It doesn’t mean we all agree, it is that we find ways of disagreeing, perhaps very passionately but loving each other deeply at the same time, gracefully and deeply committed to each other.

“That is the challenge for the Church and that is the challenge if the Church is actually going to speak to our society which is increasingly divided in many different ways, here and overseas, over huge issues.”

So in other words — let’s agree to disagree. Well, when you put it like that… I guess we’ll all just leave you alone to oppose gay marriage, women’s rights, and your plethora of superstitious nonsense. Opposing basic civil and human rights on issues like gay marriage and the rights of women can’t be waved away with a “let’s agree to disagree.” Not that the secular and non-religious community necessarily need do anything in this regard. If last year’s attendance figures are anything to go by, the Church seems perfectly able to slide into irrelevance all by itself.

About Mark Turner

Mark Turner was born and raised as a Catholic in the North East of England, UK. He attended two Catholic schools between the ages of five and sixteen. A product of a moderate Catholic upbringing and an early passion for science first resulted in religious apathy and by mid-teens outright disbelief.


  • ortcutt

    But Jesus is a magical person like David Blaine, so it’s different.

  • Chengis Khan

    Dear Turner,
    You forgot that Jesus is no person, but an active imagination. If he is considered a person, christian god will become a duality instead of a trinity. :)

  • Stonyground

    My question to him would be, do you actually know of anyone at all who actually does this? Apart from Christians obviously. Who, in the real world invests all of their hopes and dreams in one person, whether it be a pop star, a movie star, a politician a religious figure or whatever. Nobody does this, why on earth does he feel the need to warn us all against doing something that nobody does anyway?

  • Holytape

    I just want to say, that is one sweet hat.

  • LesterBallard

    How the fuck can anyone take a grown man who dresses like that seriously?

  • Mark W.

    When i saw the picture I was like,” Sweet cosplay dude, what super hero are you?” Then I read the article…

  • ortcutt

    “And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

    -Book of Common Prayer (1987)

  • Holytape

    He’s the Yellow Bishop ™. Super-power: can move diagonally around any issue. Super weakness: can not address what is directly in front of him.

  • Randomfactor

    Besides, he’s really THREE persons, right? Practically a committee…

  • ortcutt

    Jesus (the Son) is just one of the persons. I’m not saying that any of this makes any sense, but that’s the doctrine.

  • Beutelratti

    Oh dear, that gown actually sparkles.

  • Donaving


    That pretty much kept me from seriously considering Christianity for thirty or so years.

    And then I got it.

    And it’s made all the difference.

  • ortcutt

    Did “getting it” involve psychotropic substances of some kind?

  • Donaving

    So don’t. He’s not YOUR Archbishop, he’s mine. And I think he sounds perfectly reasonable.

  • LesterBallard

    Three In One oil, right?

  • Donaving

    Sure. Why not?

  • JohnnieCanuck

    One of the aspects of his god is a zombie, maybe he confused that with being a vampire.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Now that is some funny shit.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    My admiration to whomever came up with that. You, just now, perhaps?

  • Glasofruix

    Vampires don’t sparkle, fairies do.

  • ortcutt

    It takes a lot of chutzpah to complain about someone commenting on the primate of an officially established church. If you want the Archbishop to not be everyone’s business, get your church out of the everyone’s government.

  • Jason Sullivan

    In the picture it looks like he found an alter boy that he likes

  • Rain

    At least he’s humble and fallible. Yeah a little too humble and fallible, but at least it’s better than Jesus who went around calling everyone names and saying people are stupid if they don’t follow him. Like it was supposed to be obvious to people that they were supposed to follow Jesus. Yeah, didn’t think much of himself, did he? /sarcasm

  • Max Bingman

    Does your Archbishop have sparkly shoes to match?

  • Joe

    Sounds like he’s giving up before he’s even started. Excellent.

    Now, can we disestablish the church of England and get those bishops out of the house of lords?

  • Max Bingman

    Yes. Expect when I point out how stupid it sounds. Then I’m told I have it all wrong.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    Would have been mine too, if I hadn’t left all that unreasonable foolishness behind.

    He looks fabulous. Nice that Anglicans are willing to go out of their way to be so welcoming to LGBT people. Now if only he were in favour of equal rights for them, like marrying the person they love.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    No, no. It was Catholics that used to alter boys. The better your voice as a choir boy, the more likely it was they’d alter you.

  • Andy

    Cult members I guess? Dunno.

  • chicago dyke


    i was thinking the same thing. “that would make a great bag, if you turned it upside down and made some straps out of some of the other cloth.

    i wonder if his shoes are as Fabulous.

  • chicago dyke

    and ponies. don’t forget the ponies.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    Stephenie Meyer wrote it, I saw the Twilight publicity stills, I believe it. ;)

  • slaq

    Jesus fucking Christ. It’s like they’re doing this on purpose, just to torture those of us who still have our sanity.

    I can’t decide which is worse, his so-close-yet-so-far remarks about the dangers of hero worship, or his speech after that saying “guys, you can’t blame the Catholic Church for all its failings, it’s not like it ever claimed to be an infallible institution or anything.”

  • Verimius

    Cool hat, though.

  • LesterBallard

    No, he’s not mine, but his fucking ilk think they have some kind of moral authority over everyone, but they don’t, and they’ll never have it again if I can help it. And he looks like a fucking clown.

  • Beutelratti

    I’m starting to think they’re doing the fancy-dress-thing on purpose to distract from the actual problems. “There is no … OH WHAT AN AWESOME HAT YOU HAVE”.

  • Beutelratti

    It also looks suspiciously like a raincoat. Must come in handy with the English weather and all. Bazinga!

  • Wild Rumpus

    I read Anne Rice’s vampire series and I know for sure that vampires don’t sparkle. Only 89 year old vampires who date teenage girls wear that sparkle makeup shit.

  • Dezzydez

    Yea it is. I love the sparkles in the outfit too.

  • A3Kr0n

    What a colorful penis hat. I didn’t know they came in yellow.

  • Nordog6561

    Apparently everyone is missing the really funny aspect here. Hint: It’s seen the volume control in the embedded BBC video player at the linked story above. (At least in my browser.)

  • Claude

    What’s “it”?!

  • Timmah

    Never trust a guy who looks like he’s cosplaying his World of Warcraft character when its neither Halloween nor Comic Con.

  • Mick

    He also said [ ] “We end up, at least in public perception, unreasonably disappointed with every institution group and policy, from politicians to the NHS, local government to education and the environment, and the sense that there must be a conspiracy somewhere if only we could spot it.”

    He’s telling the flock to stop griping about the various institutions because their leaders are doing the best they can; it’s not their fault; things aren’t as bad as they seem, and all those stories about conspiracies and cover-ups are probably not true.

    And under his breath he is saying that the same thing applies to the church … so stop your whinging about the child sex abuse scandals and the stories about priestly cover-ups – it’s just a perception you have and it’s probably not true.

  • Donaving

    I don’t think that I was complaining. I was merely answering a (rhetorical) question that was asked.

    It’s kind of late right now, but I’ll work on getting my church out of everyone’s government tomorrow. It might take a while. Can I have until the end of the week?

  • Donaving

    Your mom looks like a clown.*

    (Yeah, I WENT there!)

    *I actually don’t know if your mom looks like a clown or not. If she does not, please disregard.

    As far as the rest of your statement–that’s kind of the point that he’s making in the article and video linked to. Did you read/listen to it?

  • Donaving

    Probably. You gotta accessorize, sweetheart.

  • Donaving

    It. The reason why, after all these years and all this conflict and turmoil and misreadings and misrepresentation and abuse, people still read the Bible and go to church and–all of that. It’s hard to explain, and this isn’t the place to try. It’s just “it”, okay?

  • Claude

    Thank you for your response, but here’s the thing. I’m genuinely interested in why people believe a failed 1st century apocalyptic Jewish prophet is Lord of the universe. I get that the Christian narrative is powerful and appeals to people on some fundamental level. The Jesus story is tragic. But “it” is a fantastic conviction that believers so often find “hard to explain.” It’s your ultimate truth! Why can’t you explain it?

  • Claude

    Thank you for your response, but here’s the thing. I’m genuinely interested in why people believe a failed 1st century apocalyptic Jewish prophet is Lord of the universe. I get that the Christian narrative is powerful and appeals to people on some fundamental level. The Jesus story is tragic. But “it” is a fantastic conviction that believers so often find “hard to explain.” It’s your ultimate truth! Why can’t you explain it?

  • LesterBallard

    My mom looks like . . . dust, I suppose. She’s been dead for over twelve years. She sure didn’t suffer religious assholes when she was alive, though.

  • Wtchgawd

    I can’t get past the hat and his staff. How is his costume any different than a bone through the nose and a bear claw necklace around the neck of a witch doctor/mystic/shaman? Magic incantations, prayer, tossing animal bones, holy water & incensors, Eucharist, peyote and vision quests, animal sacrifice, baptisms, blah blah blah. BULLSHIZA!

  • Donaving

    I guess that some of it hinges on how you define “failed”.

    There was a gentleman a few years ago named Plato (you can probably find something about him on the Internet) who wrote a story about caves and shadows. He explains things much better than I can, but the short short short version is: You have to learn for yourself. Don’t ever expect (or even desire) to be simply handed “the ultimate truth”. It will be cheap and unsatisfactory. It will fail.

  • Claude

    I would define a “failed prophet” as a prophet whose prophesies failed to occur.

    “But in those days, after that tribulation, THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL BE FALLING from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory. And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.

    Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place…”

    Mark 13:24-30

    Please spare me the apologetics concerning this passage; I’m familiar with them. As for your rather patronizing advice, I will simply note that you name-drop Plato instead of explaining why you are persuaded that Christianity is the ultimate truth. You are the one that brought this up, and now you are being coy.

  • TheBlackCat13

    You have 48 hours, starting…now

  • Donaving

    Gah! I was bluffing! There’s no way I could possibly…


    While I was doing that little misdirection I single-handedly* scooped and scraped every last bit of Religion out of every bit of government and you’re welcome.

    I scoff at your deadlines.

    *I actually used both hands, but that’s more clumsy, linguistically. Which is kind of ironic, when you think of it.

  • Donaving

    I don’t think that I “name-dropped” Plato any more than you “name-drop” Mark.

    Read the Parable of the Cave. Even if you’ve already read it (and I assume that you have)–read it again. Or don’t. Do whatever you want.

    I will, as per your request, spare you my apologetics concerning the passage you quoted.

    Your tone pretty much indicates that you’ll broach nothing that contradicts your preconceived notions, and I’ll respect that.

  • Donaving

    I’m sorry for your loss.

    My mom died about six years ago and I’d describe her in about the same way–she didn’t suffer religious assholes.

    I’d go a little bit farther and say that she didn’t suffer assholes, period.

    She was an atheist. I’m not. But that’s one thing we definitely have in common.

    Assholes are assholes.

    Read through the comments on this post. Then try to do the same without viewing it through the lens of your Tribal Affiliation.

    If you are truly skeptical, you can be skeptical about Atheism as well.

  • Claude

    Your tone pretty much indicates that you’ll broach nothing that contradicts your preconceived notions, and I’ll respect that.

    You would be mistaken.

  • Donaving

    Here’s the long and the short of it:

    Whatever “ultimate truth” there is to be had can’t be given to you. You have to find it for yourself. It’s sort of like how you can’t possibly expect anyone how to tell you how to–for instance–play the guitar, or fall in love, or understand a poem.

    Seek and ye shall find.

    Christianity works for me. It may or may not work for you.

    For myself, I’ve come to view it–that nebulous “it”–as sort of like choosing a major in college. Just because you choose–say–to major in Literature doesn’t mean that you can’t learn about Architecture as well. Actually, when you have some sort of focus, even those things which seem to have no connection–do.

    The Ultimate Truth is that you have your brain and you have the Universe. Learn all you can from from everything and be skeptical about everything. Assume nothing. Believe in the impossible.

    And go places where you never thought you’d go. You’d be surprised at what you’ll find there.

  • TheBlackCat13

    If you are truly skeptical, you can be skeptical about Atheism as well.

    That is an inherently nonsensical statement. It is like saying, “If you are truly skeptical, you can be skeptical about doubting the loch ness monster exists as well.” Atheism is, by definition, the skeptical position. So it is equivalent to saying “skeptical about being skeptical”, which is a self-defeating statement.

  • TheBlackCat13

    Reality is what refuses to go away when I stop believing in it.
    -Philip K. Dick

    Your “ultimate truth” really doesn’t sound all that ultimate. It sounds subjective and nebulous.

  • Claude

    Let me be clear that I was not asking you to “give” me some kind of insight into ultimate reality. I am simply curious about what convinces you that Jesus, about whom we can know very little, was the incarnation of God and savior of mankind. That the religion has a wealth of tradition, intellectual history, artistic brilliance and popularity makes its premises no less incredible.

    I anticipated that you would cite “Seek and ye shall find,” but I am not on a gnostic quest. Obviously Christianity can’t “work for me” because I’m an atheist/agnostic. You could have given me the most mundane answer for why it works for you (“Oh, I just like being in the choir”), and I would have thanked you and been on my way. Rather, you rambled off into a vague and generalized lecture about epistemology.

    Thank you for engaging with me and good luck to you.

  • Donaving

    What can I say? I’m a rambler. Anyway, good luck to you as well.