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Why Old Etonian Justin Welby is good news for the CofE

8 November 2012

1:11 PM

8 November 2012

1:11 PM

So, another Old Etonian at the apex of the British establishment: Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, will be the next Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s sweet, in a way. All we need now is an OE named as Bank of England Governor, and David Cameron’s alma mater will have the complete power set.

But it would be wrong to be too chippy about Welby’s elevation. Representatives at Number 10 actually pushed for John Sentamu, the charismatic conservative African, who had the blessing of, among others, Rod Liddle. But they got Welby instead. And why not? He seems a worthy enough choice, regardless of his ‘lack of experience’ as a bishop – he’s a former oil executive who saw the light. He’s also, as Damian Thompson notes, a former worshipper at Holy Trinity, Brompton, the evangelical church in Knightsbridge (ahem), and home of the Alpha Course.

Alpha is widely mocked as a dating circle for privileged evangelicals, but it is more than that. It is one of the few vibrant operations in the Church of England, one which specialises in taking over failing parishes and bringing them to life. If Welby can bring some of the dynamism of Holy Trinity Brompton to Lambeth Palace, then the future of the Church of England might be looking up.

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