By John Martin
Archbishop Justin Welby has highly developed and widely regarded mediation skills honed through experience in Nigeria’s delta region. This has prompted one of the 13 Conservative Party candidates seeking to replace Theresa May as the UK’s next Prime Minister to suggest the Archbishop could have a role in finding a pathway out of the UK’s deadlock over how to exit the European Union.
MP Rory Stewart floated the idea of a Citizen’s Assembly on LBC, London’s leading independent radio news station. Under Stewart’s plan, a group of citizens would act like a jury and deliver a verdict to be recommended to the government.
He told LBC’s presenter Nick Ferrari the proposed Assembly would weigh expert testimony over the period of a couple of months. Stewart said the process could be chaired by “someone like the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
Stewart explained his choice of Welby. “He has negotiated an enormous amount … He understands how to do meditation and chairing.” Welby’s credentials include reconciliation work based at Coventry Cathedral and work in dangerous situations in Nigeria.
Despite the Archbishop’s credentials, the proposal seems unlikely to find wide-ranging approval. It is by no means certain, too, that a jury would return the verdict desired by “leavers” like Stewart. If the verdict said the UK should remain in the European Union, it would simply add another layer of confusion and leave the country in an even worse position.
Another potential flaw is not everyone would consider the Archbishop a neutral. Like the majority of CofE bishops he is on record for having backed arguments for remaining in the EU.
Besides, Welby already has his hands full trying to maintain unity among the 40 Provinces of the Anglican Communion.