Welby 'optimistic' about Church

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: The Rt Rev Justin Welby has been named as the new Archbishop of Canterbury The Rt Rev Justin Welby has been named as the new Archbishop of Canterbury

The next Archbishop of Canterbury has issued an upbeat message, saying he is "utterly optimistic" about the future of the Church of England in spite of the "hard issues" it faces over women bishops and the issue of sexuality.

The Rt Rev Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, spoke of the "massive sense of privilege" of being one of those responsible for the leadership of the Church of England as Downing Street confirmed his appointment as successor to Dr Rowan Williams.

He said: "To be nominated to this post is both astonishing and exciting. It is something I never expected, and the last few weeks have been a very strange experience. It is exciting because we are at one of those rare points where the tide of events is turning, and the church nationally, including the Church of England, has great opportunities to match its very great but often hidden strengths."

In a relaxed statement and question-and-answer session attended by his wife Caroline and five children in the Guard Room of Lambeth Palace, the Rt Rev Welby paid tribute to Dr Williams, saying he believed he would be recognised as "one of the greatest" Archbishops of Canterbury.

The Rt Rev Welby said he backed the Church of England bishops' statement in summer which was highly critical of Government proposals to introduce gay marriage but he warned there must be "no truck with any form of homophobia" in any part of the church.

He urged the General Synod to vote later this month in favour of giving final approval to legislation introducing the first women bishops, saying he was "deeply committed" to the ordination of women to the episcopate.

The Rt Rev Welby also paid tribute to the grassroots work of the Church of England in its parishes, and spoke of the "great privilege" of serving under a number of bishops including the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu.

He paid tribute to his diocese of Durham, where he was enthroned as bishop less than a year ago, saying leaving would be "one of the hardest" things. He said: "It is an astonishing part of the country, one which as a family we were greatly looking forward to living in for many years.

"The people are direct, inspiring and wonderfully friendly. In many ways, it has been the ancient cradle of British Christianity. It is a place of opportunity and an even greater future than its past."

The 56-year-old former oil executive, who was educated at Eton and Cambridge, will be enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury at Canterbury Cathedral on March 21 next year. He takes over from Dr Williams who leaves after a decade in post at the end of this year to become Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

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