One-time oil executive and former Bishop of Durham Justin Welby was formally enthroned (twice) as the 105th archbishop of Canterbury on March 21 during a two-hour ceremony that blended an ancient liturgy with a few modern twists.
With Welby’s enthronement, he joins a succession spanning more than 1,400 years, dating back to 597 AD when St. Augustine became the first archbishop of Canterbury.
Anglican Communion and ecumenical leaders, members of the British royal family, including His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, and senior representatives of the U.K. government, including Prime Minister David Cameron, were among the 2000 invited guests attending the service at Canterbury Cathedral in England’s southeastern county of Kent.
The U.S.-based Episcopal Church was represented by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, as one of the Anglican Communion’s 38 primates, and her canon, the Rev. Chuck Robertson. Bishops Shannon Johnston of Virginia, Ian Douglas of Connecticut and Andy Doyle of Texas also participated in the enthronement, or inauguration. Jefferts Schori noted during an ENS interview that Welby had attended the Episcopal Church’s General Convention in 2009 and House of Bishops meeting in March 2012 and that people who spoke with him appreciated his good humor and depth of spirit.
Rob Radtke attended the service as president of Episcopal Relief & Development, as did heads of other Anglican Communion relief agencies.
The service began at 3 p.m. local time (11 a.m. EST) when the Very Rev. Robert Willis, dean of Canterbury Cathedral, read out a letter from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, supreme governor of the Church of England, authorizing the dean and cathedral representatives to go to the church’s West Door to greet the archbishop.
In a famous tradition, the archbishop banged on the West Door three times with his pastoral staff, and the dean opened the door to welcome him.
The archbishop was then greeted by Evangeline Kanagasooriam, a young member of the Anglican Communion and student at The King’s School in Canterbury, who asked Welby questions about his purpose for seeking admission to the cathedral.
Archbishop of York John Sentamu introduced the Declaration of Assent, used at the beginning of every new ordained ministry in the Church of England, during which Welby affirmed his belief in the faith “which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds…”
In one of the service’s innovative touches, Welby then signed an ecumenical covenant with two of the five co-presidents of Churches Together in England: His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain and the Rev. Michael Heaney, moderator of the Free Churches Group.
Welby, 57, swore an Oath of Faithfulness on the historic Canterbury Gospels (believed to have been written in Italy in the 5th or 6th century and presented by Pope Gregory the Great to St. Augustine in 597 AD) and made an Act of Commitment to strive for the visible unity of Christ’s Church.
The archbishop was then enthroned in two seats – the Diocesan Throne and the Chair of St. Augustine. The two enthronements formalized Welby’s multi-faceted role as bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury, Primate of All England and spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion. The cathedral dean installed him as Primate of All England but, perhaps most significantly, the Ven. Sheila Anne Watson, archdeacon of Canterbury, became the first woman to install an archbishop as bishop of the See of Canterbury.
Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi blessed the newly installed archbishop of Canterbury in French and Welby responded with an Act of Commitment to the Anglican Communion.
Following the greeting of peace, a Ghanaian song, Gbeh Kpa Kpa Ba (A New Beginning), was performed as African dancers led the archbishop to the Nave pulpit to read the Gospel of Matthew 14: 22-3, in which Christ tells Peter to leave his storm-rocked boat and come across the water to him, before returning to preach from the Chair of St. Augustine.
“[T]he church transforms society when it takes the risks of renewal in prayer, of reconciliation. And of confident declaration of the good news of Jesus Christ,” he said during his sermon. “There is every possible reason for optimism about the future of Christian faith in our world and in this country. Optimism does not come from us, but because to us and to all people Jesus comes and says ‘Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.'”
“We are called to step out of the comfort of our own traditions and places, and go into the waves, reaching for the hand of Christ. Let us provoke each other to heed the call of Christ, to be clear in our declaration of Christ, committed in prayer to Christ, and we will see a world transformed.”
The full text of this sermon is here.
Jefferts Schori described Welby’s sermon as moving.
“The archbishop preached about the Christian grounding of society … He also spoke about reconciliation … That’s what Jesus was about – his incarnation, life ministry, death and resurrection is about reconciliation,” she told ENS following the service. “It is something of which the world continues to be in great need. It is really what all people of faith are called to be and do in this world.”
Another innovation in the ancient ceremony followed the sermon as five Anglicans each placed on the High Altar a symbol representing different regions of the communion. Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani brought a cross made of Jerusalem olive wood. Adele Finney, executive director of the Anglican Church of Canada’s Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, brought blessed water from various parts of the Americas which she mixed at the altar as a symbol of unity. Real Kewasis, a Mother’s Union International trustee from Kenya, brought traditional vessels for bread and water or milk. The Rev. Peter Koon, provincial secretary of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, placed a pound of rice on the altar. The Rev. Desiré Mukanirwa, from the Anglican Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo, brought a wooden carving showing a volcano and people working to represent the desire for peace.
“The sense of the breadth and depth and diversity of the Anglican Communion was right through the whole service – in its music, the dancing, the salutations brought from the corners of the world. It was very much a communion service,” said Douglas, a member of the Anglican Communion Standing Committee and the Episcopal Church’s episcopal representative on the Anglican Consultative Council.
“Archbishop Justin’s key commitments were very well represented in the service, specifically in the emphasis on reconciliation, and the fact that in Jesus we can all be reconciled, and that the gift of diversity that we all embody in the many different races and traditions and cultures from which we come as the body of Christ is a gift that we can give to the world.”
Doyle, who is a member of the board of directors for the Compass Rose Society, an association that supports the programs and ministries of the archbishop of Canterbury, agreed. “It really was a service of the communion,” he said. “It was very clear that he has an eye to the greater church and its mission and ministry and hope for health and vitality.”
Robertson said that “today was a day of hope, of reaching out to one another,” adding that Welby “did a beautiful job of helping us to think about what we can do together … and that gives me great hope for the future.”
For Episcopal Relief & Development’s Radtke, what struck him most about the service “was how personal it was to Archbishop Justin.”
Radtke said that his invitation to the enthronement, along with his relief and development counterparts in Australia and Canada, “shows the commitment that the archbishop and Lambeth Palace have to … alleviating global poverty, which is going to be a critically important focus for all of our agencies.”
The cathedral choir performed Benjamin Britten’s Te Deum in C, and a new composition, Listen, Listen, O My Child, by contemporary composer Michael Berkeley, commissioned for the service by the archbishop’s mother and stepfather.
Berkeley’s composition is set to the opening words of the Rule of St. Benedict, chosen for the saint’s significance on this chosen day (March 21 is the feast day of St. Benedict), for the cathedral (a thousand years ago, it was a Benedictine monastery), and for Welby (who is an oblate of the Order of Benedict).
Dean Willis, in his welcome printed in the Order of Service, said: “Our worship never ceases to reflect this season of Passiontide but it is also an act of enormous celebration when we are able to surround Justin our Archbishop and also his family with prayer, encouragement and affection.”
Much of the music for the service was chosen by Welby, Willis said.
During the procession before the service, the cathedral choir performed several anthems and motets. They included Salvator Mundi, by 16th century English composer Thomas Tallis, who served as a vicar choral in the choir at Canterbury Cathedral before the Reformation; Justorum Animae, by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford; Ave Jesu Christe, by Peter Philips; Deep River, by Sir Michael Tippett; Set Me as a Seal Upon Thine Heart, by Sir William Walton; Vox Dei, by Philip Wilby; and Os Justi, by Anton Bruckner.
German Lutheran baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach featured prominently in the processional organ repertoire, with cathedral organists performing Prelude in E Flat (BWV 552), Trio Sonata in G (BWV 530), and Prelude and Fugue in C (BWV 545). Organ music at the end of the service included Marcia (from Symphonie III), by Charles-Marie Widor; Fantasie sur le Te Deum et Guirlandes Alleluiatiques, by Charles Tournemire; and Grand Dialogue in C, by Louis Marchand.
Hymns during the service included Come down, O Love Divine; Great is thy Faithfulness; O God, my Father; I am the Light whose Brightness Shines; Come, Holy Ghost, our Souls Inspire; The Church’s one Foundation; and In Christ Alone my Hope is Found.
The Rt. Rev. Jana Jeruma Grinberga, Lutheran Church of Great Britain, read the Old Testament lesson (Ruth 2: 1-2 and 15-20) and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, read the New Testament lesson (2 Corinthians 5: 16-21). Both Jeruma Grinberga and Nichols are among the five co-presidents of Churches Together in England. The archbishop of Canterbury is the fifth.
Prayers were offered in remembrance of the anniversaries of the death of St. Benedict, and of 16th century Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, whose Book of Common Prayer shaped the worship of the Church of England. The Episcopal Church’s calendar commemorates Cranmer on March 21.
The vestments worn by Welby during the service were originally designed and made 21 years ago by Juliet Hemingray for the late Bishop of Peterborough Ian Cundy. They were bought as a gift for Cundy from the students and staff at Cranmer Hall, Durham, where Welby was a student.
“Archbishop Justin wears them in gratitude to a teacher and bishop who had a formative impact on his ministry,” according to a press release from Lambeth Palace.
The design is based on Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana. “The blues and purples represent water changing into wine, as well as baptismal waters,” the release said. “The three fish suggest the Holy Trinity, while serving as a reminder to Christians to be partners in mission as fishers of men.”
In the lead-up to his enthronement, Welby embarked on a six-day prayer pilgrimage to various cities under his jurisdiction throughout the midlands and the south of England. (The archbishop of York overseas Church of England dioceses in the north.)
In a recent interview for Anglican World magazine, Welby said that in his new role he, with the rest of the Anglican Communion, is faced with “a challenge for the imagination.”
“What do we mean by the Anglican Communion, and how does it contribute as a blessing to the world in which we live in its present circumstances?” he asked. “That challenge to the imagination is something that is constantly renewed and we need to be very reactive to it, and not allow ourselves to get bogged down in looking inward.”
Following months of anticipation and media speculation, Downing Street confirmed on Nov. 9, 2012 that the Queen had approved the nomination of Welby as the 105th archbishop of Canterbury.
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.
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.
As bishop of Durham, the fourth-most-senior position in the Church of England to which he was consecrated in October 2011, Welby was automatically granted a seat in the House of Lords.
Welby succeeds the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, who stepped down at the end of 2012 after serving as the 104th archbishop of Canterbury since February 2003. Williams is now master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.
Welby is married to Caroline and they have five children, ranging in age from mid-teens to late 20s.
The inauguration’s order of service is here.
A Press Association photo gallery from the service is here.
– Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.