Welby admits he may have been wrong about COVID closures

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In a wide ranging interview with the Radio Times, the Archbishop of Canterbury discussed his second thoughts about church COVID closures, politics, his bouts of depression and his speaking in tongues, and the future of the Church of England.

The Most Rev. Justin Welby told the Radio Times in an article published this week, ahead of his forthcoming BBC Radio 4 series, “The Archbishop Interviews” that closing England’s churches may not have been the right move.

“At the time, we were being told the virus can stay on surfaces for ages and that it could kill 30 percent of the people who caught it,” he said in an interview ahead of his new BBC Radio 4 programme, The Archbishop Interviews.

He told the Radio Times: “It wasn’t just me. It’s not a dictatorship. I am not the Pope. But I had an influence and I’m not sure I got that right.”

“If I had the time again, I would be more cautious about closing the churches,” he noted.

Archbishop Welby also spoke of his battle with depression. “I’m on daily antidepressants, which work quite well, but it is a struggle. Certain things trigger it, principally about myself, and sometimes it comes out of the blue. But it’s a lot better than it used to be,” he said.

“The important stage was recognising it with the help of one of my children – and getting help,” he added.

“Only last week, I really messed up something in a way that really left me down for several days,” he said during an interview this week.

The archbishop discussed his practice of speaking in tongues each morning. “I get up very early in the morning and, after making a cup of tea, I go into my study, read the Bible, and speak in tongues. I don’t pray in a language I know. I do it quietly – it’s before six in the morning, remember – with no sense of ecstasy or excitement at all. I’d rather be in bed.”

“It helps me focus,” he said, adding: “It’s not something that leads to me dancing, or clapping, or waving a tambourine.”

He touched upon current politics. “If we demand perfect politicians, we are never going to have someone in office for more than a couple of years, because every politician is profoundly human – and they will fail,” he said, but added he hoped the country leaders would move the nation forward from COVID and threats of war in Eastern Europe.

The collapse of the Church of England would be “God’s problem, not mine” he observed.

“None of us want to see the thing go down on our watch,” but, “oh, my goodness, am I going to be the one who they’ll say finished the Church of England off? Then I realize it’s God’s problem, not mine.”