Book of the Month: May 2013

archbishop-justin-welby-the-road-to-canterburyArchbishop Justin Welby: The Road to Canterbury,  by Andrew Atherstone (2013)

Who is Justin Welby and what sort of Archbishop will he be?  This little book offers a readable account of his life thus far.  It is not really a biography, but more a combination of an expanded commentary on his CV and a letter of recommendation by an evangelical scholar who teaches history and doctrine at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.

The book is well-documented, drawing on interviews, archives, articles from parish magazines and even audio recordings of seminars given at New Wine.  The references are all footnoted, but hard to follow-up in the absence of a list of abbreviations or a bibliography.  This gives the book a gossipy flavour in places that readers will either find entertaining or exasperating.  For example we are told that Justin was a honeymoon baby but that his parents soon divorced and his father became engaged to be married to Vanessa Redgrave, ‘a 23 year old budding actress less than half his age’.

The early chapters contain quite a bit of padding, such as the statistics of Enterprise Oil’s production between 1984 and 1989, and the chapter on Welby’s curacy and first incumbency in Coventry Diocese is unremarkable, describing the work of a capable evangelical minister.  In contrast, the chapter on his time at Coventry Cathedral is more nuanced.  It shows him using his gifts to engage in a costly ministry of reconciliation, particularly in Nigeria, complete with the ‘Six R’s’ of reconcilation.  It is notable that he has less success in reconciling groups of Christians in Coventry, than in Nigeria.  The recurrent themes of Welby’s time in Liverpool and Durham are mission and evangelism, with godly money management. Salisbury readers will be pleased to note his close links with the Benedictine monks now living in the Close.

Overall, the picture emerges of a likeable leader with a genuine desire to follow Christ.  I valued learning a little more about the new Archbishop’s experience and priorities.  These do not necessarily indicate the way he might take in the future, as his obedience to Christ has taken him in some unexpected directions thus far.

Reviewed by David Holgate, Principal of STETS.

Published by Darton, Longman and Todd, ‘Archbishop Justin Welby’ is normally priced at £7.99.  Mention the Website to order a copy at the special price of £7.49 and POST FREE FROM Sarum College Bookshop until  May 31st  2013. 

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