The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, recipient of numerous honors and awards, has now received an additional award: The coveted Anglican Watch Pandemic Pinhead award. The announcement comes shortly after Welby announced that he is going on sabbatical to reflect on reconciliation in the church.
Anglican Watch’s award is bestowed on Welby in recognition of his announcement that Church of England parishes will remain open for Christmas, even in Tier 4 regions, which are those areas hit hardest by the pandemic.
In a BBC interview, reported by the Daily Mail Welby urges the elderly to be sensible and not feel compelled to attend church. He adds that, if they do so, they should avoid mingling and stay away from the choir.
Welby’s off-the-cuff remarks, replete with the usual Christmas bit about the darkness not overcoming the light, come at a time when a mutant version of the COVID-19 virus is raging across London, and the EU is imposing travel bans to the UK.
In addition, the casual nature of Welby’s remarks ignore the fact that he is first among equals of the primates in the Anglican Communion, and second only to the monarch as the leader of the Church of England. As such, Welby can and should draw on the medical expertise readily available to him, close parishes, and issue written guidelines to help avoid further infections. Such an approach is particularly important in this time of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” and Welby could use his position for tremendous good by taking the matter seriously.
Indeed, if Welby is to live out the Christmas message, there is no higher calling than to actively work to protect the least among us from the pandemic. Welby’s cavalier approach to the matter mirrors his muddled approach to sexual abuse in the church and is a profound disservice to the church and the UK.
In short, Welby has once again demonstrated an abject failure of leadership.
For these reasons, Anglican Watch is proud to bestow the esteemed Pandemic Pinhead award on Welby.