Like many others in this country, I am the same age and nationality as Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury. Unlike many others, but like him, I had six children, lived in Paris and attempt to serve Christ. At this point, resemblances cease. Cynics say that the future Archbishop has been chosen by the Prime Minister’s office merely because he went to the Establishment school of Eton – like the Prime Minister himself. This seems grossly unfair.
The two pronouncements made by the future Archbishop do not necessarily set him apart as negative in Orthodox eyes. One is his opposition to homophobia, but at the same time his firm opposition to homosexual ‘marriage’. With this we can agree. The other is his approval of female bishops. Of course, female bishops are unthinkable, in fact laughable, in our Orthodox Church context, but if we step outside our Church, we can see the logic in the Anglican scheme of things.
Anglican doctrine was written largely by a woman, Elizabeth I, is headed by a woman, Elizabeth II, and Anglicans do not, for the vast majority, believe in sacraments or, sometimes, have even heard of them. In a religious institution in which male and female ministers are basically social workers, there is no reason why there should not be female ‘bishops’. Without a theological understanding of sacraments, priesthood and episcopate, without Orthodox Church Tradition, the only reason for resistance to a female episcopate must be misogyny. Anglicans who are opposed to a female episcopate should have joined the Roman Catholic world when a female ministry was introduced into their Church in the last century.
The future Archbishop is clearly a Protestant, an Evangelical, like the vast majority in the Church of England. In this he is different from his predecessor, a liberal academic who had difficulty dealing with reality. We wish him well. We only hope that he may evolve towards a deeper understanding of Christianity, towards the fifteen centuries of the Church which lie beyond the Reformation, towards an understanding of the still living Biblical, Apostolic and Patristic Church, of sacramental life, the Mother of God, the communion of the saints and holiness through the Holy Spirit. May he be guided in this by St Justus, Archbishop of Canterbury (+ 627), whose feast day it is this very day.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips,
10 November 2012