Damian Thompson writes in The Spectator about the new Archbishop of Canterbury. Thompson has written many disparaging pieces on Rowan Williams and the Church of England but has some interesting insights about Justin Welby:
Just before stepping down as Archbishop of Canterbury, the late Robert Runcie told me — in a sotto voce conversation during the General Synod — that charismatic evangelical parishes such as Holy Trinity Brompton (‘HTB’) in South Kensington, with their American-style [ed. note: he does not mean the Episcopal Church except for a few] worship, near-fundamentalist teaching and smart social connections, posed more of a threat to the Church of England than divisions over women priests. I wonder how he would have reacted to the news that, 21 years later, an HTB man has been given his job.
Justin Welby, only recently appointed Bishop of Durham, is being translated to Canterbury with a minimum of fuss. His name just ‘emerged’; David Cameron, his fellow Old Etonian, had invited him to go to Lambeth before the media had even worked out who Welby was. Looking at the situation from the perspective of 1991, Dr Runcie (and I) might have said: ‘Aha! That’s how HTB works. Don’t be misled by the happy-clappy exuberance. Its urbane pastors spread their influence quietly. Look at the way they win converts to Bible Belt Christianity with a deceptively casual invitation to a drinks party. Like a cult, really. Welby? Must be a Manchurian candidate…’
But if he were alive today, and had kept track of Holy Trinity’s growing influence in the Church, I suspect Dr Runcie’s reaction would be quite different. He might say: ‘Thank God that, between them, Downing Street and the ecclesiastical appointments committee have found a man from the one bit of the C of E that actually works.’ Evidence? A simple introduction to Christianity known as the Alpha Course, devised by the parish in the 1970s and still very much the intellectual property of HTB, has now been done by 20 million people across the world. In the process, Holy Trinity Brompton has changed — to the point where choosing one of its alumni to become Primate of All England seems an entirely natural step. Or, to put it another way, the Church of England’s last chance to pull itself together.
Read more here.