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Hail, Your Majesty, the white bishop was the dark horse

Franklin Johnston

Friday, November 23, 2012    

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WE must not ignore changes in high office as they tell us where policy is trending. The choice of Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury is one such change.

What's the relationship between the church and business? Have Anglicans sold out? Is this Revelation's rise of Mammon? Is Howard Gregory compromised by this change? Will a rising business tide float the church's half-empty boats? What's up? The fact is that once entities, for example, church, charity, school, hospital, reach a certain size and complexity, they need business skills to run them well. Hence, a man of faith who has a business record is a good fit to lead the church. Televangelist Billy Graham was an early adopter of this and built a global empire. Anglicans have now found a leader of faith and business skills.

When Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, whose scope of work covers the north of England - say, from Manchester United upward - visited us, many saw him as "the one". Did he have a shoo-in to the Archbishop of Canterbury's job? His territory is the rich south of England, the global church and spiritual and temporal reach include Chelsea and Arsenal. Football is the true religion of England. God gave its Premier League the richest players on earth, but gave Catholic Brazil the best players. It seemed Sentamu might be promoted to Canterbury, but God, Queen and Prime Minister Cameron had other plans. I agree with God, you can't have two black men ruling church and state in the USA and England at the same time. Who then, Mrs Queen?

Anglicans are liberal, with a woman at the head, yet we make half the world's population ineligible to be bishop. This might change soon. Many Christian groups don't even allow women to be priests although more women attend church. It's a battleground for this decade. The selection team was so discreet that the 80 million Anglicans had no leak about candidates until late, and one horse was a runaway favourite. Bishop Justin Welby was not on my radar. He was the dark horse. We like black candidates so we supported Sentamu as we did Obama. Luckily, Obama had better credentials than Romney as America is not yet post-racist. So how did Sentamu compare to Welby? Lawyer, activist, judge; brand recognition, a man of the people; was it game, set, match for the black horse? God laughed! "Ah nuh suh it guh." So what do I know of my Archbishop-elect? "Nada!" So, I used my last battery life in an airline lounge to find out.

Sitting Archbishop Rowan Williams decided to ride off into academia, so it was game on for all aspirants. I had never heard of Welby. He was not in the form book, but by Tuesday he had more hits than all others and on Friday bets closed. So who is he and what does this mean? Come March, Welby will be the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury; a line which started in the 6th century as St Augustine (not he of Hippo) was sent to England by Pope Gregory. A thousand years later, randy King Henry VIII hijacked the Pope's church in England, rebranded it and Anglicans were born. Incidentally, Zimbabwe's Supreme Court has ruled that President Mugabe's bishop must return the billions of church property he hijacked from the diocese. Will the Pope get back Anglicans one day? Sex is a powerful drive - ask General Petraeus. Should it be licensed? All denominations exist, thanks to Henry's sex drive and many local pastors follow him to the "T". Henry got his women and the Pope a bloody nose. I support the Pope. Kings should have a modest number of women. Who does the King of England think he is? A Jamaican man?

Welby has many strikes against him. He is an oilman in an industry not known for humanity; entered the church 20 years ago and made bishop in 2011. To top it he went to Eton, a school for the rich - P M Cameron, Tory ministers, London's Mayor Boris Johnson, bankers, Admiral Band and Prince William - royalty, state, military and church. Public schools (private schools here) train some 80 per cent of those who run the UK. What is the ratio here? Will Eton control the flippin' world next? Communists, Socialists and the left are wary of his selection. Can he truly be for the people? Posh school, Cambridge, marked for greatness in Elf Oil - now Total - what does he know of poor people? Can we trust him? Clearly, the Queen does.

On the positive side, Justin had a conversion like Paul's: "I was unable to get away from a sense of God calling." He left oil - gave up a job paying millions for peanuts, abuse, and his wife and kids agreed to the sacrifice. He joined the church and became the hatchet man for things church men do not fathom - confronting warlords, banks, intolerance and irate believers in Africa. He is from the evangelical wing, stitched up deals across the gay divide and bloodied the big banks and loan sharks. The joke in church circles is: "How astonishing; an Archbishop of Canterbury who actually believes in God!" He is a cool dude. He told the bell ringers at Liverpool to chime to John Lennon's tune Imagine and abseiled from the roof of the cathedral. A man may be judged by his children. They support him, and Katherine, a 26-year-old former police officer, heard the news and tweeted: "What the !??! My dad is the new Archbishop of Canterbury ??? And nobody tells me?" She calls herself "ABCD" - Arch Bishop of Canterbury's Daughter - check Twitter. His other four kids seem OK with it too. I find no fault in him.

Justin has some challenges ahead. How to patch up issues with the African church: Nigeria has some 25 per cent of the Anglican flock; he may lock horns with PM Cameron on same-sex marriage or with his flock on women bishops. He leads parliament's banking inquiry and this could go very wrong. Several churches in Jamaica, led by greed, lost a bag in Ponzi schemes. They had no leaders like Justin. I don't know the man, but I love him. I lamented that more people of substance and talent do not go into politics; the church needs them too. PJ Patterson raised this matter of quality and Chris Tufton played a good stroke from the nursery end. Can PJ and Eddie give a "las lick" and recruit new talent using one mantra: "Join the JLP, the PNP and become a part of the solution. Your country needs you!" I believe in possibilities!

Justin may not be that unusual. In two decades the church here has garnered top talent. Men and women at their peak cashed out for Mammon and paid it forward for God. We have high flyers from engineering, management, environment, civil service, business, banking, consulting, law who are now priests, deacons, bishops, church and people's wardens of quality and commitment. They had choices and chose God! My ministry of writing a column, profane at times, does not compare, though many seek to nail little me to a cross. These wonderful men and women are among the 169 who keep this poor nation afloat. We are blessed. Justin is a good man and Howard must invite him to visit us in 2013 to get some reggae in his soul. May he be a good Archbishop of Canterbury! Stay conscious, my friend!

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education.

franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com

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