The 21st of March, 2013 at Canterbury Cathedral marked another history in the Anglican Communion worldwide as Bishop Justin Welby was enthroned as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury replacing Lord Williams, 62, who held the post for 10 years.
The highlight of the enthronement was at the point when Justin Welby sat at the 800 years old chair of St Augustine. This chair is the seat and symbol of authority for the head of the Anglican Communion. The old marble seat has been used since the 14th century and according to the last Archbishop, Dr Rowan Williams, ”the seat is far too big for any one person to fill it” Dr Williams simply was expressing the demands that come with leading more than 80 million Christians in over 160 countries.
Justin Portal Welby, was born in London on 6 January, 1956 to Gavin Bernard Welby and his wife, Jane Gillian (nee Portal). The father-of-five emerged as a late favorite for the Church of England’s most senior post having started the contest as an outsider. The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, left a successful career in the oil industry where he spent 11 years as an executive and became group treasure for FTSE 100 oil exploration group Enterprise Oil Plc to train as an Anglican priest.
The archbishop’s rise has been remarkable but not surprising to many. He was a bishop for little over a year. He was made a deacon in 1992 and became a priest in 1993. He served in the Coventry Diocese for 15 years. Between 2002 and 2005, he was Canon Residentiary, Coventry cathedral. Co-director for international ministry at the International Centre for Reconciliation, an anti-conflict organisation based at the cathedral. At this period, Welby risked his life during several trips to the Niger Delta, Nigeria working on a reconciliation between Shell and the Ogoni people. He knows a lot about conflicts and tribulations in Nigeria and West Africa. He also travels extensively to the Middle East to meet religious and political leaders.
He was able to develop a deep understanding of the nature of conflict in Africa as well as an admiration for the Nigerian people who, he says, retain their faith and energy in the face of terrifying odds – something he says continues to inspire him. Speaking about Nigerian people at a time he told BBC, ”You saw this practical vision, this willingness to overcome things that most of us would be traumatized by for a generation,” His hard work was crowned in November 2011, when Justin Welby became Bishop of Durham, one of the most senior posts in the Church of England.
There are already notable changes showing his intentions of reconciliations within the church. He was admitted into Canterbury Cathedral by 17-year-old girl, Evangeline Kanagasooriam, who said: ‘We greet you in the name of Christ. Who are you and why do you request entry?’ The Archbishop replied: ‘I am Justin, a servant of Jesus Christ, and I come as one seeking the grace of God, to travel with you in his service together.’ Evangeline added: ‘Why have you been sent to us?’ The Archbishop replied: ‘I am sent as Archbishop to serve you, to proclaim the love of Christ and with you to worship and love him with heart and soul, mind and strength.’ Evangeline went on to ask: ‘How do you come among us and with what confidence?’ The Archbishop said: ‘I come knowing nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified, and in weakness and fear and in much trembling.’ Evangeline then said to him: ‘Let us then humble ourselves before God and together seek his mercy and strength.’
The Archbishop was led to deliver his first sermon as the Archbishop of All England by a group of African Drummers. Notable also was the first-ever female chaplain to an Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev Dr Jo Bailey Wells who will be based at Lambeth Palace. Her primary focus will be for the spiritual life at Lambeth Palace and for supporting the Archbishop’s pastoral and liturgical ministry. The Venerable Sheila Watson was made the first female archdeacon of Canterbury in 2007. She also made history by installing the Archbishop on the diocesan throne which marks the beginning of Welby’s public ministry. This was a historic moment symbolizing his appointment as bishop of Canterbury – the first of three roles held by the Archbishop of Canterbury. By this installation and enthronement, Justin Welby is now; The Bishop of Canterbury Diocese, The Primate of the Provence of Canterbury and above all The Archbishop of All England and the Head of the Lambert Palace- Headquarters of the Anglican Communion.