The vicar of St Mary’s Church Horsham has spoken of his friendship with Bishop Justin Welby, who was appointed to the top job in the Church of England last week.
Bishop Justin has only been in his current role of Bishop of Durham for a year. As an oil executive, he was earning a six-figure salary in 1987 but gave it up to train to be an Anglican priest. He took a degree in theology at Cranmer Hall in and was ordained in 1992.
Canon Guy Bridgewater, also rural dean for Horsham, knew him in the early days.
He said: “I first met Justin 30 years ago, when he was an oil executive working in Paris, and we worshipped together at St Michael’s English Church where I was on the staff.
“I vividly remember the terrible loss of his baby daughter in a car crash at that time, a tragedy that continues to deeply affect Justin, Caroline and the whole family.
“I believe that his meteoric rise through the ranks of the CofE is not that of someone driven by career ambition, but rather speaks of an outstandingly wise and compassionate pastor whose personal gifts have been tempered by suffering. I pray that those gifts will be a source of great inspiration to both Church and society in the years to come.”
The Bishop of Horsham Mark Sowerby also welcomed him to the role.
“Bishop Justin is a person of extraordinary experience and ability, commanding widespread respect and admiration.
“I particularly welcome his resolve to see those who disagree profoundly on matters of sexuality and on women bishops living together in a structured unity.
“The Bishop of Chichester has wisely invited us to pray for the people of Durham who are losing a bishop who was appointed to meet their particular needs and whom they were only beginning to get to know.”
In a statement issued shortly after 10 Downing Street confirmed the announcement Dr Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester said: “It is good to have an end to speculation and to know that Bishop Welby has been appointed as the next Archbishop of Canterbury.
“He brings many gifts and a rich experience of life to this calling.”
“He faces a daunting task, but the priority he attaches to a spiritual life of prayer, to reflection on the Bible and dependence upon the Holy Spirit will sustain him, as will the love and support of his family and friends.
“To that support I add my own and my prayers for his future ministry.”