Calls for Archbishop of Canterbury to resign

Justin Welby addresses the February 2023 meeting of the Church of England General Synod in London.(Photo: Geoff Crawford/Church of England)

The Most Rev Justin Welby has faced further criticism this week, with a formal request for his resignation being placed before the Church of England General Synod.

Mr Sam Margrave, lay member for Lichfield Diocese, presented two petitions, which Synod members will be able to put their name to over the coming days.

The first raised questions about the Archbishop of Canterbury's judgement in safeguarding matters – citing his links with John Smyth, his championing of Mike Pilivachi - including presenting him with the "The Alphege Award for Evangelism and Witness" in 2020 - and his willingness to meet with gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

That petition also challenges the Archbishop's personal commitment to safeguarding with references to a report that he allegedly "failed to alert police when a priest was accused of sexually assaulting a worshipper" and comments from Meg Munn (the acting chair of the Independent Safeguarding Board) on her resignation that the Archbishop had undermined her work.

The second petition suggested that the Archbishop of Canterbury misled General Synod in July when he was asked how he and the Archbishop of York had voted at the Archbishops' Council that decided to disband the Independent Safeguarding Board. His answer was that both he and the Archbishop of York had wanted to wait, but it was later confirmed that, whatever their wishes, they had both in fact voted in favour as it had been a unanimous decision. It called for a statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury and an apology to General Synod.

These petitions follow other calls for the Archbishop's resignation. During a private meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury on November 10, some conservative evangelicals indicated their belief that he should step down and Jayne Ozanne made similar comments in The Times the following day.

Speaking after he had made his petition to Synod, Mr Margrave said, "I will take criticism from those at the top of the Church, but my job is to represent those in the pews and to protect children, support survivors and embody good governance.

"It doesn't matter whether someone is a Parish Priest or Archbishop of Canterbury. We all need to be accountable. The Church of England is heading straight into an iceberg, if we haven't already, and we need a new Captain to helm the ship."

Responding to the calls, a Lambeth Palace spokesperson said on behalf of Welby: "The Archbishop remains focussed on serving the church as it navigates these challenging times. He has no plans to retire before this 70th birthday."