Justin Welby’s political Church is proving itself a force for decency, despite retrograde views on homosexuality. Under Welby, Lambeth Palace faces outwards. The Archbishop of Canterbury, a former oil executive who has also struggled on a clergyman’s frugal income, wants to engage the CofE with the lives of those 23 million people who say they believe in God but don’t go to church.
Yesterday he stepped into the fuel-poverty row, criticising energy companies for their “inexplicable” price rises and asking them to show more social responsibility: “They sell something everyone has to buy. With that amount of power comes huge responsibility to serve society.”
He has joined the recent national debate to criticise corrupt bankers, the avarice of payday lenders, and ministers who portray all people on benefits as “scroungers”. Welby’s interventions carry weight because he is no ingénue or hand-wringing theorist; he is a man of capital as well as the cloth, who knows the City and big business and persuasively makes the case for morals in markets.
He will need all his diplomacy to hold together the Anglican Communion, given the dismay of African archbishops at the Western Church’s relative liberalism on women and homosexuality. But his leadership is helping to reconnect Church with people and brings spiritual, if not yet numerical, growth.
The other matter of faith that catches my attention is the tale of the Rev Aftab Gohar, the Church of Scotland minister whose relatives and friends were killed in a huge suicide bomb in Pakistan. The Rev Gohar is a man of mercy. “Forgive them Father,” he says of the killers (page 22), “because they don’t know what they are doing. We can pray for them – that God gives them wisdom so that they realise they are doing a wrong thing.” One need not believe in Him to wonder at the humanity.