Monday, May 09, 2016
Morning Thanks--On matters of identity
The Most Reverend and Rightly Honorable Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has an impressive resume, both long and distinguished. After taking degrees from Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge, and before entering the ministry, he spent several years in international business, living in Paris and doing extensive development work in African countries, especially Kenya and Nigeria.
Although he and his wife Carol are the parents of two sons and three daughters, those who know him claim that a major influence in his life was the tragic death of another of his daughters in a car crash. That terrible event didn't precipitate his determination to become a man of the cloth. He'd been an active lay leader in churches wherever they and their family lived since they were married.
When he left international business for the ministry, he entered St. John's College, Durham, and focused his attention on business ethics, a field he knew from the inside. But since taking religious office he has worked much more extensively as a peace-maker, both at home in England and abroad, especially in those areas of Africa where he has both training and experience. A number of his parishes have become revitalized after his ministry there. He was, it seems, a blessed choice for the office of Archbishop of Canterbury, succeeding Dr. Rowan Williams.
All of that is wonderful, but so is this peculiarly startling discovery, a story that broke just recently.
Rev. Welby's mother suffered significant problems with alcohol, even though she now, blessedly, has been sober for 45 years. Nonetheless, when her son Justin was born, she lived what you might call a profligate life. There are other ways of describing it, but I'm sure the British would appreciate some restraint.
His father, or so he thought, was Gavin Welby, a man who peddled whiskey. "His father’s family," says the pastor's web page, "were German Jewish immigrants who moved to England to escape anti-Semitism in the late 19th century, and integrated quickly."
Well, DNA has proved otherwise. It seems that the Archbishop of Canterbury is the illegitimate son of Anthony Montague Brown, who, in addition to have an eminently British name, was Winston Churchill's personal secretary. His mother acknowledges the affair but had always believed herself that the man she'd married (and divorced not long thereafter), Gavin Welby, was her son's father. Paternity tests indicate that to be not so.
All of that unfaithfulness is no fault of the pastor's own, of course. He had no choice in the matter of his paternity. In a certain sense, the truth here has made everyone free.
You're reading the story right now because of what the Most Reverend and Rightly Honorable Justin Welby told the press once the biological truth was revealed to him and to everyone. "There is no existential crisis, and no resentment against anyone," he said proudly. "My identity is founded in who I am in Christ."
End of great story.
This morning I'm thankful for a man named Justin Welby, child of the King.