Briefing: Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury for 10 years, steering the CofE through a troubled decade

Justin Welby was virtually unknown outside Anglican circles when he became Archbishop of Canterbury in March 2013. Ten tumultuous years later, the mild-mannered Old Etonian has become a globally recognised figure, having helped the Church of England navigate troubled times, ranging from bitter theological disputes over women bishops and gay relationships to the Covid pandemic and the death of Queen Elizabeth.

His leadership style, achievements, and legacy were reflected upon during this Religion Media Centre briefing to mark 10 years since he took up the post.

The panel discussed the key flashpoints he has faced – deep divisions over sexuality, the consultation Living in Love and Faith leading to a vote to allow blessings for gay couples, the resulting row with evangelicals and traditionalists threatening to leave, damning reports on safeguarding issues over multiple cases of sex abuse, new initiatives to combat racism in the church, falling church membership, loss of income leading to church closures, evangelistic missions regarded as a threat to the parish system, more bureaucracy, and bishops.

Yet he has successes – he got through a measure allowing women to be bishops, he led a successful Lambeth conference of global Anglicans healing fractures for a while over sexuality, and he has spoken out on issues of morality, poverty, refugees, gambling, climate change, and peacemaking.

The panel discussed the personal toll of dealing with multiple crises, but he is regarded as a “gentle leader” whose self-deprecating humility meant he was not afraid to ask for help. He is 67, three years away from the mandatory retirement age for all CofE bishops and he has said he has no plans to stand down.

Our panel: Bishop Paul Bayes, the former Bishop of Liverpool; Rev Prof Alison Milbank, University of Nottingham, on the steering committee of Save the Parish; Prof Helen King, member of General Synod and the Living in Love and Faith project; Canon Dr. Anderson Jeremiah, University of Lancaster and former member of the Archbishop’s Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns.

To join future RMC briefings, join our mailing list here >>

Gentle Justin, the archbishop who has steered the CofE through a troubled decade

Reviewing the leadership of Justin Welby as he marks his tenth anniversary as Archbishop of Canterbury, steering the CofE through ten turbulent years

Read our report here >>

Full Briefing Video

Podcast Episode

We live tweet all of our briefings – find us at @relmedcentre




Hannah Scott Joynt


Voice-over artist, award winning radio and TV presenter and BBC continuity announcer


Leo Devine

Leo's Local

Media and Training Consultant at Devine Media. Former BBC Journalist, Editor and Senior Leader


Rosie Dawson

Journo's Notebook

Freelance religion journalist, documentary maker and radio producer with 20+ years of experience in the BBC’s Religion and Ethics department

Join our Newsletter