Justin Welby and Identity

Many of you will have seen in the news that the Archbishop of Canterbury has has some surprising news.

In the last month I have discovered that my biological father is not Gavin Welby but, in fact, the late Sir Anthony Montague Browne.

This comes as a complete surprise.

– Personal Statement from Justin Welby

The whole statement is worth a read. The Archbishop was apparently approached by the Daily Telegraph about the story and cooperated with them, consenting to a DNA test. What makes this particularly interesting is not simply that he is the Archbishop, but the way in which he has responded.

It’s hard to imagine many (if any) others in the media spotlight responding to similar news so calmly.

This is not to underplay the significance of the news for Welby, nor the undoubted impact it will have on him as he reflects on his own narrative self-understanding of who he is. However, far greater than this surprise is his experience of the ‘grace and power of Christ to liberate and redeem us, [a] grace and power which is offered to every human being’.

As he says:

This revelation has, of course, been a surprise, but in my life and in our marriage Caroline and I have had far worse. I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes.

This is leadership. This is a vulnerable situation with mass public exposure for the Archbishop and yet he’s using this surprise revelation to demonstrate the reality which the Gospel has for our lives.

The Gospel is not just a nice idea or dreamy idealism, but identity defining reality.

This is true of Welby in this situation.

He explains that it has been true of his mother as she overcame alcoholism 48 years ago.

Welby identifies his experience as typical of many people.

To find that one’s father is other than imagined is not unusual. To be the child of families with great difficulties in relationships, with substance abuse or other matters, is far too normal.

More than this, as Archbishop he is:

…constantly aware of the real and genuine pain and suffering of many around the world, which should be the main focus of our prayers.

In all of these situations, it does not have the be the situation itself which defines us.

Whether we are struggling with:

eating disorders,
anxiety about studies,
family members getting divorced,
the end of our own relationships
or the death of loved ones.

Whether we are in war torn countries,
surviving day to day
or fearful of strangers and migrants.

We know to find our identity in who we are in Jesus Christ.

Whether we are are…

conservative or liberal,
‘In’ or ‘Out’,
black or white,
cis-gendered or trans,
gay or straight,
male or female,
rich or poor,
a feminist or a gamergater,
a cultural libertarian or a SJW,
catholic, evangelical, or pentecostal

none of these things should define us over and above our identity in Jesus.

Justin Welby ends his statement with a great example of how we should define our identity.

At the very outset of my inauguration service three years ago, Evangeline Kanagasooriam, a young member of the Canterbury Cathedral congregation, said: “We greet you in the name of Christ. Who are you, and why do you request entry?” To which I responded: “I am Justin, a servant of Jesus Christ, and I come as one seeking the grace of God to travel with you in His service together.” What has changed? Nothing!



To read Archbishop Welby’s statement click here

1 Comment

  1. Amen Sam, well said mate. And what an amazingly graceful man Gavin Welby is. Praise be in Christ our Lord.

    God bless you Sam,

    From Tom


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