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 The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby
Official portrait, 2019
Church Church of England
Province Canterbury
Diocese Canterbury
Elected 4 February 2013
Enthroned 21 March 2013
Predecessor Rowan Williams
Other posts Bishop of Durham (2011–2013)
Personal details
Birth name Justin Portal Welby
Born (1956-01-06) 6 January 1956 (age 68)
London, England
Denomination Church of England
Parents Sir Anthony Montague Browne
Jane Williams, Baroness Williams of Elvel
Spouse Caroline Eaton
Children 6
Education Eton College
Alma mater
Coat of arms {{{coat_of_arms_alt}}}

Justin Portal Welby (born 6 January 1956) is a British bishop who, since 2013, has served as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. Welby was previously the vicar of Southam, Warwickshire, and later Bishop of Durham, serving for just over a year. Ex officio, he is the Primate of All England and the symbolic head primus inter pares of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Welby was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read history and law. Later in life, he studied for ordination at St John's College, Durham. After several parochial appointments, he became Dean of Liverpool in 2007 and Bishop of Durham in 2011.

Welby's theology is reported as representing the "open evangelical" tradition within Anglicanism. He worked in business before his ordination, and some of his publications explore the relationship between finance and religion; also, as a member of the House of Lords, he sat on the panel of the 2012 Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.

Early life and education

Justin Portal Welby was born in Middlesex, England, on 6 January 1956, almost nine months after the marriage of his mother, Jane Gillian Portal (born 1929), to Gavin Bramhall James Welby (1910–1977). Jane had served as a personal secretary to Sir Winston Churchill from December 1949 until her marriage to Gavin Welby in April 1955. Soon after she had a brief relationship with the private secretary to Churchill, Sir Anthony Montague Browne (1923–2013). Welby believed that Gavin Welby was his biological father until paternity testing in 2016 showed that he was Browne's son.

Gavin Welby, born Bernard Gavin Weiler in Ruislip, Middlesex was the son of Bernard Weiler, a German-Jewish immigrant and importer of luxury items who changed the family name to Welby shortly after the First World War broke out. Gavin Welby stood for Parliament in the 1951 and 1955 general elections as a Conservative candidate. Welby describes his early childhood as "messy". His parents divorced in 1959, when Justin was three years old, and he was placed in Gavin Welby's custody.

Welby's mother in 1975 married Charles Williams, a business executive and first-class cricketer who was made a life peer in 1985. Williams was the nephew of Elizabeth Laura Gurney, a member of the Gurney family of Norwich who were prominent Quakers and social reformers. Welby describes his stepfather as being supportive of him.

Maternal family

Welby's mother, Jane Portal, was the daughter of Iris Butler (1905–2002), a journalist and historian whose brother, Rab Butler, was a Conservative politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Home Secretary, Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. Their father was Sir Montagu Butler, Governor of the Central Provinces of British India and Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge. Montagu Butler was the grandson of George Butler, headmaster of Harrow School and Dean of Peterborough; the nephew of educator George Butler (husband of social reformer Josephine Butler) and Henry Montagu Butler, headmaster of Harrow School, Dean of Gloucester and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge; and the grand-nephew of John Colenso, the first Bishop of Natal.

Jane Portal's father was Gervas Portal, a half-brother of the World War II Chief of the Air Staff, Charles Portal, 1st Viscount Portal of Hungerford. Gervas Portal's mother Rose Leslie Portal née Napier was the granddaughter of General Sir William Napier and his wife, Caroline Amelia Fox. General Napier and his brothers, General Sir Charles James Napier and General Sir George Thomas Napier (respectively commanders-in-chief of the British armies in India and in the Cape Colony), were sons of George Napier (a sixth-generation descendant, via the Lords Napier, of John Napier, the inventor of logarithms) and his second wife Lady Sarah Lennox. Caroline Amelia Fox was the daughter of General Henry Edward Fox, younger brother of prominent Whig politician Charles James Fox; they were the sons of politician Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland, and his wife Lady Caroline Lennox. Caroline Lennox and Sarah Lennox were two of the five Lennox sisters, daughters of the 2nd Duke of Richmond, son of Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond, illegitimate son of King Charles II and his mistress Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth.


Welby was educated at St Peter's School, Seaford between 1964 and 1968; Eton College; and Trinity College, Cambridge, where his great-uncle, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, was then master. He graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and law; according to custom, he was later promoted to Master of Arts by seniority.

In a 2013 interview with The Daily Telegraph, Welby related his conversion experience when he was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge. He said that, while he was at Eton, he had "vaguely assumed there was a God. But I didn't believe. I wasn't interested at all." However, during the evening of 12 October 1975 in Cambridge, praying with a Christian friend, Welby said that he suddenly felt "a clear sense of something changing, the presence of something that had not been there before in my life". He said to his friend, "Please don't tell anyone about this." Welby said that he was desperately embarrassed that this had happened to him. He has since said that his time at Cambridge was a major moment of self-realisation in his life. At the age of 19, he began speaking in tongues.

Business career

Welby worked for eleven years in the oil industry, five of them for the French oil company Elf Aquitaine based in Paris. In 1984 he became treasurer of the oil exploration group Enterprise Oil plc in London, where he was mainly concerned with West African and North Sea oil projects. He retired from his executive position in 1989 and said that he sensed a calling from God to be ordained.

During his oil industry career, Welby became a congregation member at the evangelical Anglican church of Holy Trinity in Brompton, London.

In July 2013, following the report of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, Welby explained that senior bank executives avoided being given information about difficult issues to allow them to "plead ignorance". He also said he would possibly have behaved in the same way and warned against punishing by naming and shaming individual bankers.


Welby was at first rejected for ordination by John Hughes, the Bishop of Kensington, who told him:

"There is no place for you in the Church of England."

Welby was subsequently accepted for ordination, with the support of the Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, Sandy Millar. Throughout his ministry Welby has been linked to the charismatic evangelical wing of the Church of England associated with Holy Trinity Brompton, and in a 2019 interview said:

"In my own prayer life, and as part of my daily discipline, I pray in tongues every day."

From 1989 to 1992, Welby studied theology and trained for the priesthood at Cranmer Hall and St John's College, Durham, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree and a Diploma in Ministry (DipMin) in 1992. He was ordained a deacon at Petertide (on 28 June) 1992 and a priest the next Petertide (27 June 1993), both times by Simon Barrington-Ward, Bishop of Coventry, at Coventry Cathedral. He then became a curate at Chilvers Coton and St Mary the Virgin, Astley (Nuneaton) from 1992 to 1995. He then became rector of St James' Church, Southam, and later vicar of St Michael and All Angels, Ufton, Diocese of Coventry, from 1995 to 2002.

In 2002, Welby was appointed a canon residentiary of Coventry Cathedral and the co-director for international ministry at the International Centre for Reconciliation. In 2005, he was appointed sub-dean and Canon for Reconciliation Ministry.

Welby was appointed Dean of Liverpool in December 2007 and was installed at Liverpool Cathedral on 8 December 2007.

Welby has written widely on ethics and on finance, featuring in books such as Managing the Church?: Order and Organisation in a Secular Age and Explorations in Financial Ethics. Welby's dissertation, an exploration into whether companies can sin, marks his point that the structure of a system can "make it easier to make the right choice or the wrong choice." His dissertation led to the publication of a booklet entitled Can Companies Sin?: "Whether", "How" and "Who" in Company Accountability, which was published by Grove Books in 1992. He has said that the Benedictine and Franciscan orders in the Anglican churches, along with Catholic social teaching, have influenced his spiritual formation.

Interviewed by the BBC in 2011, Welby said that to be appointed Bishop of Durham was both challenging and a huge privilege:

"I was astonished to be offered the role. It is a passionate desire to see a church that is vigorously full of spiritual life, serving Jesus Christ and serving those around it."

Welby's election was confirmed at York Minster on 29 September 2011, and he left Liverpool Cathedral on 2 October. He was consecrated as a bishop at York Minster on 28 October 2011 by John Sentamu, Archbishop of York; and was enthroned in Durham Cathedral on 26 November 2011. He was introduced to the House of Lords on 12 January 2012, where he sits on the Lords Spiritual bench. He gave his maiden speech on 16 May 2012.

Welby was asked to join the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards in 2012.

He is a President of the National Churches Trust.

Archbishop of Canterbury

Justin Welby and Kim Geun-Sang at Seoul Cathedral
Welby and Paul Kim, Primate of the Province of Korea, at Seoul Cathedral in 2013

Welby emerged as a candidate to be the next archbishop of Canterbury; his appointment to the position was announced on 9 November 2012. In January 2013, Welby said that he initially thought it was "a joke" and "perfectly absurd" for him to be appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, because he had only been a bishop for a short time. His confirmation of election ceremony to the See of Canterbury took place at St Paul's Cathedral on 4 February 2013 (by this, he legally became Archbishop of Canterbury); on the following day it was announced that Welby would be appointed to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, as all archbishops are; the order for his appointment was made on 12 February and he swore the oath on 13 March.

Welby was enthroned as archbishop at Canterbury Cathedral on 21 March 2013, which in the calendar of the Anglican churches is an observance of Thomas Cranmer.

Welby's schedule included an official visit to the Vatican on 14 June 2013, with visits to senior Curial officials, including Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, an official audience with Pope Francis and prayer at the tombs of Saint Peter and Pope John Paul II.

In a 12 July 2013 interview with The Daily Telegraph, Welby addressed questions about his religion. His answers included the following:

  • Asked whether he can speak "in tongues", Welby answered, "Oh yes, 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."
  • Asked whether it is necessary "for a true Christian to have had a personal conversion experience", Welby answered, "Absolutely not. 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."
  • Asked about "his strange and lonely youth", Welby said that "at the time, it felt horrible. Now it feels hugely valuable. God doesn’t waste stuff." The interviewer asked Welby whether his family history had "wounded" him. After "a very long" pause, Welby answered, "I assume that I am, but I also assume that the grace of God is extraordinarily powerful in the healing of one’s wounds."
  • Asked whether he knows Jesus, Welby answered, "Yes. I do. He's both someone one knows and someone one scarcely knows at all, an utterly intimate friend and yet with indescribable majesty."
  • Regarding his religious practices, Welby called himself "a spiritual magpie". The interviewer commented about Welby, "as well as speaking in tongues, he adores the sacrament of the Eucharist. He also says the morning and evening office, Book of Common Prayer version, in the chapel of the palace, every day. For Welby, 'the routine of regular prayer is immensely important in overcoming the ups and downs of human moods.' For his spiritual discipline, Welby uses Catholic models – the contemplation and stability of Benedictines and the rigorous self-examination of Ignatius of Loyola. He also has a spiritual director, the Roman Catholic priest Nicolas Buttet.
  • The interviewer said that the church "is good at talking, but not at actually doing things to improve the social order." Welby retorted, "Rubbish! It is one of the most powerful forces of social cohesion. Did you know that each month all the Churches – roughly half of the numbers being Anglican – contribute 23 million hours of voluntary work, outside what they do in church? And it's growing. There are now between 1,200 and 2,000 food banks in which the Church is involved. Ten years ago, there were none. There are vicars living in every impoverished area in the country. This springs out of genuine spirituality."

In January 2019, Welby responded to Anglican priests defecting to the Roman Catholic church by saying "Who cares?" and that he did not mind people leaving to join other denominations as long as they are 'faithful disciples of Christ.'

Welby presided over the coronation of Charles III and Camilla on 6 May 2023. He was the first archbishop of Canterbury to preside over a coronation service in around seventy years. The last archbishop to preside over a coronation was Geoffrey Fisher who crowned Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953.

In 2023, following the Church of England's decision to offer blessings to married couples of the same sex, Welby's leadership of the Anglican church was "rejected" by a group of ten archbishops worldwide, who said they were "no longer able to recognise the present Archbishop of Canterbury as the first among equals leader of the global communion."


Environmental sustainability

In 2021, Welby, Pope Francis, and Bartholomew I, current Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, made a joint declaration to address together the urgency of environmental sustainability.

Food banks

Before Christmas 2013, Welby urged people to give 10% of what they spend at Christmas to food banks.

In December 2014, Welby expressed concern about the increasing need for food banks which he said would have been "unthinkable" a decade ago. He called the plight of hungry poor people shocking because he did not expect that in the UK, saying that it was "a very sad fact that they're there, but also it's a great opportunity for the Church to demonstrate the love of Christ."

Fuel suppliers

Welby is concerned about rises in energy prices in the UK. He feels that energy companies have a responsibility towards customers and should take account of this rather than only maximising their own opportunities.

The impact on people, particularly on low incomes, is going to be really severe in this [rising energy prices], and the companies have to justify fully what they are doing. (...) They have control because they sell something everyone has to buy. We have no choice about buying it with that amount of power comes huge responsibility to serve society.

High-interest lending

In July 2013, Welby spoke out against the payday lending sites and met with Errol Damelin, chief executive of Wonga. Welby pledged that the Church of England would support credit unions as society needs to "provide an alternative" to the "very, very costly forms of finance" that payday lending services represent. He noted that he did not want to make legal payday lending illegal as this would leave people with no alternative to using criminal loan sharks.

Payday lenders lead to people being assured, through impressively slick marketing campaigns and targeted advertisements, that the process of taking out a loan is quick, simple and safe. However, once the loan has been taken out, it is difficult to get out of the cycle. With the rates offered, simply paying off the interest becomes a struggle.

Shortly after this well-publicised intervention in the public debate, it emerged that the Church of England's pension fund had invested money in Accel Partners, a venture capital firm that had invested in Wonga. This led to accusations of hypocrisy and Welby noted that the investment was "very embarrassing" for the church. Welby and the Church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group were unaware of their investment in Wonga.

Welby also said that the Ethical Investment Advisory Group ought to reconsider rules which allow investment in companies that make up to 25% of their income from gambling, alcohol or high-interest lending.


Welby has expressed concern about inequality in the UK. In September 2017 he said, "Our economic model is broken. Britain stands at a watershed moment where we need to make fundamental choices about the sort of economy we need. We are failing those who will grow up into a world where the gap between the richest and poorest parts of the country is significant and destabilising." He has praised the welfare state as a Christian endeavour emanating from the likes of R. H. Tawney, William Temple and William Beveridge. He has also said that the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom has exacerbated existing inequalities, and has called for the building of "a new Beveridge".


Referring to poverty in the UK in March 2013, Welby criticised UK government changes which cap benefits below inflation.

As a civilised society, we have a duty to support those among us who are vulnerable and in need. When times are hard, that duty should be felt more than ever, not disappear or diminish. It is essential that we have a welfare system that responds to need and recognises the rising costs of food, fuel and housing. The current benefits system does that, by ensuring that the support struggling families receive rises with inflation. These changes will mean it is children and families who will pay the price for high inflation, rather than the government.

In a speech at Christmas 2013 Welby said, "Even in a recovering economy, Christians, the servants of a vulnerable and poor saviour, need to act to serve and love the poor; they need also to challenge the causes of poverty." In a speech at Easter 2013 Welby said, "In this country, even as the economy improves there is weeping in broken families, in people ashamed to seek help from food banks, or frightened by debt. Asylum seekers weep with loneliness and missing far away families."

Referring to poverty in the UK and generally Welby said that "we should all share concern for the poor and the marginalised, should work to build communities where people act responsibly towards one another, whether we are rich or poor we all have the same dignity. William Beveridge, R. H. Tawney and William Temple played a significant part in establishing the post-war welfare state in the United Kingdom and were committed Christians. We do not have the luxury of saying, 'Something must be done' without doing anything ourselves."

Welby has said that justice of the powerful is not justice at all and judges should decide issues based on truth and the common good rather than class and money. Welby quoted Nelson Mandela that "dealing with poverty was a matter of justice rather than charity." Welby felt that speaking out about poverty, fuel bills, financial insecurity affecting families and credit unions is part of the Christian duty to love one's neighbour.

Welby hopes that people will resolve to help deal with poverty in their own neighbourhoods. In a BBC television broadcast he said, "I want to suggest this year that each of us makes a resolution to try and change the world a bit where we are."

Welby has said that insecurity of income is also a problem for many people. He expressed concern that many people cannot save or plan for, for example a holiday because they do not know how much money will be coming in from week to week. In September 2018, Welby said:

You don't know from one week to the next what you'll be earning. And so for people trying to budget, people trying to just save a bit so that, I don't know, once a month they could have fish and chips with their kids or go to the cinema or go down to the beach on a nice hot summer, they can't plan. It comes back to justice and the common good.

Welby also said in 2018,

Certainly there are parts of the country where there's huge deprivation. We see communities caught in a poverty trap. Now, the economy has improved very much in many places but there's a significant group of people who just seem trapped and the system doesn't help them.


Welby disagrees with restrictions on child refugees being admitted to the UK. In 2017, Welby expressed fears that children were vulnerable to exploitation and even death.

Our country has a great history of welcoming those in need, particularly the most vulnerable, such as unaccompanied children. Refugees, like all people, are treasured human beings made in the image of God who deserve safety, freedom and the opportunity to flourish. We must resist and turn back the worrying trends we are seeing around the world, towards seeing the movement of desperate people as more of a threat to identity and security than an opportunity to do our duty. We cannot withdraw from our long and proud history of helping the most vulnerable.

Social injustice

Welby maintains social injustice is widespread and entrenched in British society. Welby said the gig economy is just one of many injustices. Welby maintains the weakest people get the least secure pensions and the strongest get the most secure pensions.

Women bishops

Welby has been a strong supporter of Anglican consecration of women as bishops. In November 2013, Welby stated he aimed to ordain women as bishops while allowing space for those who disagree.

Welby would like discipline applied over appointments to prevent opponents of women as bishops feeling alienated. Welby says he hopes to avoid a zero-sum game where people feel gain for one side inevitably means loss for the other, he sees need for caution, co-operation and unity. Slightly revised legislation to allow women to be ordained bishops in the Church of England was agreed in July 2014 and became law in November 2014.

2023 Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches dispute

On February 20, 2023, several primates within the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches released a statement stating that it had broken communion and no longer recognized Justin Welby as head of the Church.

Personal life

Welby is married to Caroline Eaton and they have had six children. In 1983, their seven-month-old daughter, Johanna, died in a car crash in France. Referring to the tragedy, Welby explained, "It was a very dark time for my wife Caroline and myself, but in a strange way it actually brought us closer to God." Welby established a special day for bereaved parents at Coventry Cathedral where there is now an annual service commemorating the lives of children who have died.

His daughter Katharine has written of her experience of poor mental health. Another daughter, Ellie, has learning disabilities.

Welby acknowledges his privileged education and upbringing, and has been praised for sending his own children to local state schools.

Welby speaks French and is an avid Francophile, having lived and worked in France. An announcement about his appointment as Bishop of Durham listed his hobbies as "most things French and sailing".


  • Master Justin Welby (1956–1974)
  • Mr. Justin Welby (1974–1992)
  • The Reverend Justin Welby (1992–2002)
  • The Reverend Canon Justin Welby (2002–2007)
  • The Very Reverend Justin Welby (2007–2011)
  • The Right Reverend Justin Welby (personal: 2011–2013)
  • His Lordship the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Durham (office: 2011–2013)
  • The Most Reverend Justin Welby (personal: 4 – 12 February 2013)
  • The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby (personal: 12 February 2013 – present)
  • His Grace the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England (office: 2013 – present)
  • His Grace the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Justin Welby DD, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England (office: January 2015 – present)


See also

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