The emergence of revelations relating to our dear brother Archbishop Justin and his family remind us of the vulnerability of anyone who takes public office, and more so those who are called to public ministry. These revelations would have been startling and painful enough for any individual and his family to learn and process, but to have them revealed and discussed so publicly will need a very particular grace. Thankfully however, we know that this grace is in no short supply in the lives of Archbishop Justin and his family.
In his personal statement on the matter, Archbishop Justin writes:
‘I have had a life of great blessing and wonderful support, especially from Caroline and our children, as well as a great many wonderful friends and family. My own experience is 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.
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. Even more importantly my role as Archbishop makes me constantly aware of the real and genuine pain and suffering of many around the world, which should be the main focus of our prayers.
Although there are elements of sadness, and even tragedy in my father’s (Gavin Welby’s) case, this is a story of redemption and hope from a place of tumultuous difficulty and near despair in several lives. It is a testimony to the grace and power of Christ to liberate and redeem us, grace and power which is offered to every human being.
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!’
I know that it is unconventional to quote such a long passage from another’s statement, but I found the archbishop’s to be very moving indeed, and indicative of the peace, love, forgiveness and resolve that we are not only all called to, but all endowed with if we but allow God’s healing, reconciling and comforting presence in our lives. This is of course also indicative of the personable and ‘real’ character we have all come to know to be Justin Welby, who, I am confident, will have this experience further enrich his ministry of compassion.
We pray for Archbishop Justin and his family, and particularly his mother, as they deal with this challenging time, and for all those unknown to us who must go through similar experiences every day, but who may not be so supported. We also pray healing for every pain, reconciliation for every struggle, and hope for every apparently hopeless situation.