Identity crisis? Not Mr Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Justin Welby
The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Justin Welby
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So, this week the news article that caught my attention was that of Justin Welby finding out that his biological father was not the man that he called Dad. I didn’t know much about our current Archbishop of Canterbury, apart from the fact that he has a very difficult job to do, leading the Anglican Church.

I was surprised by a number of revelations that came out as a result of the DNA test.

For example, I didn’t know that his mother and the father that brought him up were both alcoholics. If you look at photos of them as a young family together, they look a typical, happy family. Also, Justin seems to have had a charmed life, educated at Eton and working as an oil executive for many years…hardly the usual result of a child brought up in a very chaotic environment.

I was also surprised that his mother had slept with another man days before her sudden elopement with Gavin Welby. I know that’s not an unusual story in these “Jeremy Kyle story laden” days, but back then…well, I don’t know…it all just appeared more innocent in the old days, people seemed to be more prudish. I wondered how she felt about having to confess to something that she obviously hadn’t dwelled upon over the years, probably thinking it was something she would never have to admit.

I was amazed that Justin was in no way upset by the revelations, especially as the decision to take the test was to disprove the claim. That alone would have upset me…I don’t like to be proved wrong. But he made it very clear he is not, and won’t ever be, upset about it. When he discovered the truth, his first concern was for his mother.

But for me, the most surprising fact that came out of this scrutiny was a bit of background information at the end of the article. He gave up a six-figure salary to train as an Anglican priest, a decision that followed a personal tragedy, the death of his seven-month-old daughter Johanna, in a car crash.

Giving up a large salary, when the call of God is on your life seems amazing enough…but to decide to pursue God in the face of the unimaginable loss of a child really struck me as incredible. Often, when tragedy strikes our lives, we walk in the opposite direction, away from God, grief and anger turning any relationship with Him sour. For Justin, though, it brought him closer to God; he had to rely on Him to get through.

I listened to Justin speak on the Radio 4 programme Desert Island discs, to try to understand him better. He said that: “When the church is working, it is the most mind bogglingly, amazingly extraordinarily beautiful community on earth…it heals, it transforms, it loves…it changes society.”

The final quote from the article on the subject of who he is and how he copes sums it up:

“I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics and my identity in Him never changes…”