On February 4, 2013 the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, the Reverend Robert Willis took the decision of the 35-strong College of Canons, made up of senior clergy and lay people from the Diocese of Canterbury, to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and presented it to the Queen’s commission. Dr. Willis said “The decision we made this morning (January 11, 2013) is taken formally to London. They will say it is valid, legal and right and at that moment Justin Welby becomes in all powers the Archbishop of Canterbury.” He is the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, succeeding Dr. Rowan Williams, the 104th who resigned at the end of 2012.
Bishop Welby is the bishop of Durham, the fourth-most-senior position in the Church of England, to which he was consecrated in October 2011 and automatically granted a seat in the House of Commons. Church of England bishops are appointed rather than elected, with a 16-member Crown Nominations Commission putting forward two names (a preferred candidate and a second candidate) to Downing Street. The U.K. Prime Minister then seeks approval from the British monarch, who is the supreme governor of the Church of England.
Before his ordination to the priesthood in 1992, Welby studied law and history at Cambridge University and then spent 11 years as an executive in the oil industry. After a decade in parish ministry, he was appointed a canon residentiary, and later sub-dean, of Coventry Cathedral. He served as dean of Liverpool Cathedral from 2007-2011.
Welby’s enthronement as 105th archbishop of Canterbury will be held March 21, 2013 in Canterbury Cathedral. He is married to Caroline and they have five children, aged 16-27.
Concerning his appointment, Bishop Welby said” I don’t think anyone could be more surprised than me at the outcome of this process. It has been an experience, reading more about me than I knew myself. To be nominated to Canterbury is at the same time overwhelming and astonishing. It is overwhelming because those I follow and the responsibility it has. It is astonishing because it is something I never expected to happen.”
Dr. Rowan Williams said: “I am delighted at the appointment. He has an extraordinary range of skills and is a person of grace, patience, wisdom and humor. He will bring to this office both a rich pastoral experience and a keen sense of international priorities, for church and world. I wish him –with Caroline and the family – every blessing, and hope that the Church of England and the Anglican Communion will share my pleasure at this appointment and support him with prayer and love.”
The goal of the movement for Christian unity, which the Catholic Church has embraced dramatically in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, is the visible unity of all Christians. Speaking of the Anglican Communion, the council emphasized that it has “a special place” because of its history, structure and influence among the Christian communions. Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran and Reform churches have been engaged in serious and continuous dialogue since the Second Vatican Council, and much progress has been achieved in the fifty years since the beginning of that council.