Black christians give their response on the new archbishop of canterbury

Shirin Aguiar-Holloway gets a mixed reaction from Black Christian leaders on the appointment of Justin Welby as the new Archbishop of Canterbury…

The recent appointment of Justin Welby as the new Archbishop of Canterbury has drawn mixed reactions among church leaders, including hope for Nigerian Anglicanism because of his reconciliation work, and disappointment that the Archbishop of York was ‘overlooked’ in the appointment.

Giving his opinion of Bishop Welby’s appointment, Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, a member of the the National Church Leaders Forum steering group, told Keep the Faith, “What I am picking up from the Black church community is disappointment, and a sense of resignation about dashed expectations in regard to Archbishop Sentamu. Many people had formed the view -and raised their hopes – that Archbishop Sentamu would accede to the See* of Canterbury.

When you overlook someone with his credentials, and opt for someone who has been a bishop for less than one year, the feeling is that he has been overlooked.”

Dr Aldred said that the choice of Bishop Sentamu would have gone some way towards restoring the fortunes of African-Caribbeans. “There is some feeling that we need more of that kind of appointment of that significance. A Black Archbishop of Canterbury would have helped the restoration of Black people’s fortunes in the world, a way of addressing the inequalities that exist in the world which have historic roots. There is a bit of a wish, a hope.”

The Reverend Canon Ben Enwuchola, Chaplain to the UK’s Nigerian Anglican community, said he was pleased with Bishop Welby’s appointment. He said, “He is a person who loves God and the Gospel of Christ; is committed to that Gospel of Christ; is a very prayerful person, and one who has been very, very much involved in reconciliation work, which is one
of the essences of the Gospel.”

Before becoming Dean of Liverpool and Bishop of Durham, his previous post, Bishop Welby was Sub-Dean and Canon for Reconciliation Ministry at Coventry Cathedral, where he worked with the International Centre for Reconciliation (ICR) and the Community of the Cross of Nails. ICR has ‘formal partnerships’ with the Anglican diocese of Kaduna, Nigeria,
a deeply-segregated Muslim/Christian city, where hundreds have died over the last decade.

Canon Enwuchola said, “The Coventry work took him to Nigeria, where he was involved with a lot of reconciliation work, particularly during the Niger Delta crisis. And again, he had worked in Nigeria before, so he’s a person who knows Nigeria inside and out, and I hope that he will come with sensitivity and with understanding on the issue of the Anglican debate, to be able to bring that to the table.”

During his reconciliation work in the Niger Delta in 2004, where he and a colleague were seeking reconciliation between oil giant Shell and the Ogoni people in south-east Nigeria, where 100,000 lost their lives through the dispute, Bishop Welby was regularly blindfolded by militants and transported in speedboats.

Canon Enwuchola also expressed faith in Bishop Welby’s ability to unite the world’s 80 million Anglicans, including Nigeria’s 18 million, and to renew the sense of Anglican mission in Africa.

He said, “I see him as someone who is not new to what is happening, and who knows where the African Anglican church is coming from. I feel he’ll be sensitive in that, and will be able to steer the affairs of the Communion in such a way that he will bring everyone on board – not just bring everyone on board, but also bring the Scripture to the core of Anglicanism, because it’s in the Scripture that we will unite the Anglicans together. I hope that he will be a
man of faith, of God, who will seek to be faithful to the Gospel.”

Bishop Welby, 56, a father of five and former oil executive, replaced Dr Rowan Williams as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury on 9th November. He is widely reported to be against gay marriage, but in favour of the ordination of women bishops. Nigerian Anglicans stand strongly against same-sex marriages and the ordination of gay bishops.

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, Nicholas Okoh, congratulated Bishop Welby ‘heartily’ on his appointment, and said he looked forward to working with him, adding, “I am optimistic that he can do something, because he has a very strong negotiating ability.”

Bishop Sentamu called for an end to rumours about his own appointment, and urged prayer for Bishop Welby and wife, Caroline. He said, “This country and our world need a missionary to share with them the all-encompassing message of the love of God in Jesus Christ. That is the great role to which Bishop Justin has been called.”

The hope for the Black church is for Bishop Welby’s appointment to bring reconciliation and healing, not just to the Church but also the world, including Africa.

(*Archbishop – the primary instrument of unity of and for the Anglican Communion)

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