Archbishop of Canterbury on Speaking in Tongues: 'It Just Comes'

Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, recently shared his testimony with the press and said that not every "true Christian" needs to have a personal conversion experience and that for him, speaking in tongues is routine.

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(Photo: Reuters/Yui Mok)The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks at the Assembly Hall of Church House in this 2012 file photo.

"It's just a routine part of spiritual discipline – you choose to speak and you speak a language that you don't know. It just comes," said Welby in an interview with The Telegraph.

Speaking in tongues, or "glossolalia," is not embraced by all Christians, as some believe that the ability to speak in other human languages or an intelligible prayer language was inspired by the Holy Spirit only among Christians of the first century Church.

The archbishop, described as an evangelical in the report, also said in response to the question of whether it was "necessary ... for a true Christian to have had a personal conversion experience" that it was "absolutely not" necessary and in some cases is "a gradual thing."

"There is an incredible range of ways in which the Spirit works. It doesn't matter how you get there. It really does quite matter where you are."

Welby said his own personal conversion experience occurred on Oct. 12, 1975, while he prayed with a Christian friend at college. Up until that point he "vaguely assumed there was a God," but "didn't believe" and "wasn't interested at all."

The married father of five (a sixth child died in a car crash) explained that amid the prayer he felt "a clear sense of something changing, the presence of something that had not been there before in my life."

"Desperately embarrassed that this had happened," the then-19-year-old Welby begged his friend to keep it a secret.

The head of the worldwide Anglican Communion told The Telegraph that it was due to grace that he has remained committed to his decision to follow Jesus Christ. "It's grace. Grace is a reality: feelings are ephemeral," he said.

The in-depth interview with Welby also tells of his German Jewish background, his prayer life and, as the report states, how he plans to "find new ways in which this country, despite the secular age, can give its allegiance to God again."

Welby was announced on Nov. 9, 2012, as the 105th archbishop of the See of Canterbury. He officially assumed his post on Feb. 4, 2013, and was enthroned on March 21, 2013. He succeeded Dr. Rowan Williams.