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Please don't put me on a pedestal, says new Anglican head

The new Archbishop of Canterbury has asked people not to place too much faith in him.

  • John Bingham
  • United Kingdom
  • April 1, 2013
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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, used his first Easter sermon to warn against placing too much faith in political and church leaders – including himself.

He said that “pinning hopes on individuals” to solve problems was pointless and that the so-called “hero leaders” in fields from politics to the NHS inevitably fail to live up to expectations because of human frailty.

And he joked that those who expect him to single-handedly restore the fortunes of the Church of England must be “barking mad”.

Speaking at Canterbury Cathedral during the Easter Sunday service, the most important day of the year for the Church of England, he urged people to view the world through a lens of hope but also realism.

He also warned against living in “some golden age in the past”.

“Vain human optimism”, he said, would always disappoint because “human failure” would always get in the way.

He added that setting people up on a pedestal from which they could only fail to live up to expectations was simply “cruelty”.

The former oil executive’s appointment as Archbishop last year was hailed by David Cameron as a “breath of fresh air” and by many in the Church as a new beginning.

But Mr Welby used his first major address since his enthronement in March to attempt to play down expectations.

The “hero leader culture” is flawed he said.

“A political party gets a new leader and three months later there is comment about disappointment,” he said.

“An economy suffers the worst blow in generations with a debt crisis and economic downturn, and the fact that not everything is perfect within five years is seen as total failure.

“Complexity and humanity are ignored and we end up unreasonably disappointed with every institution, group and policy, from politicians to NHS, education to environment.”

The Archbishop referred to a poll last week which showed that most Christians in Britain accept the church has an image problem but that only around 40 per cent of them believe he will be able to improve it.

“I do hope that means the other 60 per cent thought the idea so barking mad that they did not answer the question,” he said.

He added: “As well as fear a false view of people leads to hero leaders, who always fail.

“Put not your trust in new leaders, better systems, new organisations or regulatory reorganisation – they may well be good and necessary, but will to some degree fail.

“Human sin means pinning hopes on individuals is always a mistake, and assuming that any organisation is able to have such good systems that human failure will be eliminated is naive.”

Taking St John’s account of the resurrection as his text, he said the Easter story made clear “the reality of God and of human beings”.

“Setting people or institutions up to heights where they cannot but fail is mere cruelty,” he said.

Full Story: Welby: people must be 'barking mad' to think I can solve all the Church's problems

Source: The Telegraph

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