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Anglican head to take sabbatical for ‘spiritual renewal’ after COVID delay

Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby preaches a sermon at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 27, 2020. |

The archbishop of Canterbury will take a sabbatical next year for “reflection, prayer, and spiritual renewal,” following a delay by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Bible has lots to say about work and rest. I’ll be taking a sabbatical and study leave from May to early August next year,” Welby, who is considered the spiritual head of the global Anglican Communion, tweeted Sunday. “All CofE clergy can (and should!) apply for this every 7-10 years. It reminds us no minister is indispensable to the work of God.”

“He will return to work in early September after some leave,” Welby’s office said in a statement, which revealed that he will spend the majority of the time in Cambridge and in the United States “doing further study on reconciliation – one of the priorities of his time as Archbishop and area he has worked in for many years.”

While he will continue to be in direct touch with colleagues throughout his time away, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell is likely to lead the church, and Bishop of London Sarah Mullally will assist, according to The Guardian.

The newspaper also said that Welby had been due to take a break earlier this year but it was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In May, the archbishops of Canterbury and York were criticized for asking clergy to temporarily close churches in response to the pandemic.

Welby’s stand on closing churches during lockdowns changed later.

During the latest lockdown in England, which began early this month, Welby was among the religious leaders who questioned the scientific basis on which the government closed places of worship for communal services.

Earlier this month, more than 120 church leaders said they were taking legal action against the government for its “unlawful” decision to ban worship services.

The leaders of various denominations demanded a judicial review of the government’s decision, arguing that the “measures involve a direct and serious interference with the independence of religious organisations and freedoms of religious people.”

Welby's sabbatical also comes after the Church of England announced that it was going to begin a formal “discernment and decision-making” process “about a way forward for the church” in regards to its teachings on sex, sexuality and marriage.

As part of the process, the church body launched the “Living in Love and Faith” resources, which seek to help people participate in honest discussions, listen to life stories and understand each other’s views. Part of the resources included a 480-page book that is “thought to be the most extensive work in this area by any faith group in the world.”

In the foreword of the book, Welby and Cottrell acknowledged and apologized for the “huge damage and hurt” the church body has caused to LGBT people “where talk of truth, holiness and discipleship has been wielded harshly.”

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