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Jo Bailey Wells named chaplain to Archbishop of Canterbury

Jo Bailey Wells named chaplain to Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury has appointed the Rev. Dr. Jo Bailey Wells, currently director of the Anglican Episcopal House of Studies at Duke Divinity School in North Carolina, as chaplain of Lambeth Palace. From Anglican Communion News Service:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is delighted to announce the appointment of the Reverend Dr Jo Bailey Wells as his new Chaplain, 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.

Speaking about her new position, Dr Jo Bailey Wells said: “I am honoured and delighted to be joining Archbishop Justin’s team at Lambeth as he takes on a heavy but exciting mantle. I look forward to supporting him personally and pastorally – above all by praying for his flourishing in that role – and so to facilitating the wider flourishing of God’s people in God’s church.”

Read more here.

In a March 2010 story about the election of Mary Glasspool, a lesbian, as suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, Wells offered the following to Daniel Burke of Religion News Service:

“The Episcopal Church, by its actions, is demonstrating that it no longer values its place under the historic headship of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and therefore the Anglican Communion,” Wells said.

The confirmation of a second openly gay bishop is even more significant than the first, Wells said, since the consequences—widespread dissent in the communion and persecution of Anglicans in countries where homosexuality is reviled—are clear.

Welby recently appointed a canon for reconciliation. Is the appointment of Wells consistent with reconciliation? In March 2009, in an article in The Durham News, Wells sounded like a reconciler (continues below the fold):

“The Episcopal Church has come to see gay rights as an issue on par with the civil rights of the ’60s, an issue that must be acted upon now,” says Wells. “There’s a sense in which Episcopalians have been in a hurry to progress on this front and because Episcopalians have led the way, other denominations have stood back and watched. Here at Duke Divinity School, there are plenty of students who watch what goes on and definitely seek to learn from it.”

“We try our best to understand each other,” said Sam Keyes, 27, a postulant for holy orders in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, one of the dioceses that has split from the national Episcopal Church [The Episcopal Church has a diocese of the same name]. Keyes will graduate from Duke Divinity School this spring. “There’s a commitment from the start that we’re going to maintain our friendship and manage our disagreements in peace. We do talk and get angry sometimes. But it’s important not to act as if the disagreements don’t exist.”

Many attribute the continued openness between the Anglican (sic) and Episcopal students to the leadership of Wells, who was recruited from her native Great Britain three and a half years ago to form AEHS. She is widely praised among students for her ability to remain neutral and serve as a bridge between students with traditionalist and liberal viewpoints at the divinity school.

“She makes a particular effort to see that we have honest and often challenging conversations about our differences,” said Ross Kane, 29, a master’s student from Virginia who hopes to be in parish ministry in the Episcopal Church following his graduation in May. “I think that goes a long way because it prevents us from seeking only like-minded people. Division becomes much easier when you don’t have to face the person you disagree with … .”


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Cynthia Katsarelis

Good point, June.

In November, when their Synod didn’t get enough votes to pass the legislation to consecrate women bishop’s, there were a lot of speeches. Sure enough, “male headship” was one of the arguments.

The ABC is selected by a small handful of generally unknown people, with no international representation (oops, Wales was represented!!!). +Mary Glasspool received many more votes than has any ABC.

How anyone can think that this method of selection could possibly be construed as legitimate “headship” outside of the UK is just bizarre. It is historical. If the person has strong moral authority, hooray. Otherwise, yawn.

I know people who are friends of ++Justin’s. I’m going to give him a chance. But the Jo Bailey Wells appointment is not auspicious.


There is nothing wrong with holding a person in a public position accountable for their statements.

And while I’m writing, I may as well get this off my chest, too.

“The Episcopal Church, by its actions, is demonstrating that it no longer values its place under the historic headship of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and therefore the Anglican Communion,” Wells said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the first among equals of the primates in the Anglican Communion. The autonomous churches of the communion are not under the “headship” of the ABC – at least not in my view.

Besides, “headship” is a loaded term, often used by persons who wish to keep women in a subservient position.

June Butler

Cynthia Katsarelis

I find Ms. Wells comments disturbing, and in this piece as well:

1. LGBT are PEOPLE not positions or abstract issues. And our suffering is quite real, as is Jesus call to love our neighbors and not judge. Her call to throw us under a bus is not appreciated and can not be viewed as loving, reconciling, or even Christian.

2. The American context includes a loud “Christian” presence saying that God hates fags. We have a high suicide rate amongst LGBT teens because of this message and we need to be a healing force saying, without hypocrisy, God Loves You!!! We need it to save our very own CHILDREN, let alone alleviate the suffering of us adults.

3. The UK probably doesn’t have the high suicide rate amongst LGBT teens, but only because the CoE has become irrelevant in the lives of the broader public. In the face of horrific discrimination, the British public left the church.

4. Wells position supports Rowans, which was APPEASEMENT with evil. You don’t achieve human rights by appeasing evil!!!!! You achieve it by acknowledging human rights and working for it.

5. The idea that we have to suspend basic human rights to appease abusers is INSANE.

6. As Ann pointed out, and my 3rd World experience bears this out, it is possible to talk, and to work together on poverty, health, education, etc., without agreeing on everything.

7. The CoE is a mess and they have no credibility to dictate to us. I find Ms. Wells statements “imperial” and “colonial.”

I’m glad that Ms. Wells is a terrific mentor, etc. But her stated public positions are ridiculous, hateful, and uninspiring, to say the very least.

Ms. Wells would do well to keep her Anglican imperial statements to herself and work things out in England. There, the majority of CoE member support both marriage equality and consecration of women bishops (they are BEHIND on woman bishops!!!) and the member sentiment is not in alignment with their upper management. This is a mess. Dictating to TEC isn’t what they need to be doing.

Geoffrey McLarney

It troubles me … that Jo is judged according to the lens through which they see their issues and positions, and weight such microscopic samples of her words according to their pre-determined perspective, rather than seeing her as a person

Well, quite! But as JCF points out, queer people don’t see ourselves as “issues and positions,” just people. Those who spin our inclusion as egress from the Communion aren’t disagreeing with some abstract proposition, but closing the door on real breathing Christians. If it is unfair for people to have a hard time “seeing her as a person,” was it not unfair when the shoe was on the other foot?

Jim Naughton

I am glad I could amuse you, Tom. Perhaps I can entertain you further.

We were in a vulnerable position in 2010 when Mary Glasspool was elected. We were in danger to being marginalized in the Communion or even kicked out until the Church of England’s dioceses rejected the covenant, and the mechanism by which we could have been kicked out died. At that vulnerable moment the Rev. Bailey Wells spoke the talking points of the people trying to push us out. Were she appointed to any sort of similarly influential position in the secular world people would go back over the record of her public statements. They would find and statement like this and they would make note of it. People in the church are not above being held accountable for their past statements.

I think you are wrong about the civil disobedience stuff as well. I worked for full inclusion despite the disapproval of the folks you cite because I think discriminating against LGBT people is a sin, and I thought I and we needed to repent of it as fast as possible. I think many others felt the same way. Civil disobedience had nothing to do with it.

To my knowledge no one in the Episcopal Church has stopped working with anyone else in the Anglican Communion who differs with them on LGBT issues of their own accord. Some of the strongest advocates for inclusion have actually gone to Africa and reached out to people with whom they disagree to initiate conversations.

Finally, here is what middle ground is: when you and I disagree, you allow me to act on my conscience. This is all the Episcopal Church was asking to do, to act on its conscience. It was Rowan Williams who wanted us to act on his conscience. And acting on someone else’s conscience rather than your own is also a sin.

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