Archbishop Welby Says His Worst Hate Mail Are From Christians; Points Out Lack of 'Secure Tolerance' in Faith Groups

Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, leaving Canterbury Cathedral after his enthronement ceremony making him head of the Anglican Communion, March 21, 2013.
Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, leaving Canterbury Cathedral after his enthronement ceremony making him head of the Anglican Communion, March 21, 2013. | (Photo: REUTERS/Luke MacGregor)

The Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev. Justin Welby said that the worst "poison pen letters" he receives are from other Christians. The leader of the Anglican Communion said that Christian groups are failing to show tolerance to one another, and said that religious leaders should look to confront the "profound differences" between faiths.

"The worst poison pen letters I get are from other Christian groups on the whole," Welby revealed during his address to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Independent reported on Sunday.

"The reality is that we do not as faith groups in our society always exhibit that secure tolerance to each other that enables us to speak powerfully of secure tolerance to the world around us. Christians are as bad as anyone at this – in fact, if I dare to be competitive, I think we're worse."

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While Welby did not reveal the nature of the criticism directed in the letters toward him, the Church of England has faced division concerning its decision to change centuries of practice last year and allow women to be ordained as bishops.

Welby, who heavily campaigned for the change, faced opposition from conservatives, and admitted that the issue may cause a split in the Anglican Communion.

"I think, realistically, we've got to say that despite all efforts there is a possibility that we will not hold together, or not hold together for a while," the Archbishop of Canterbury said about a possible split back in December 2014.

"I could see circumstances in which there could be people moving apart and then coming back together, depending on what else happens."

Welby used the event at the Board of Deputies of British Jews to apologize for anti-Semitic comments from within the CofE, and noted that although Britain likes to view itself as an "inclusive" society, it still has a way to go to see religious communities actively engaged with one another.

The Anglican Communion leader has also warned, however, that pretending that all faiths are the same or united is "dishonest" and could help fuel religious extremism.

Welby pointed out that faith leaders who hide behind "bland" and "anaemic" statements about unity and ignore the fact that there are "profound differences" between faiths.

"We need to move beyond inter-religious interaction in which we the usual suspects issue bland statements of anaemic intent with which you could paper the walls of Lambeth Palace – and much good would it do you – all desperate to agree with one another so that the very worst outcome could possibly be that we end up acknowledging our differences," he stated.

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