Archbishop warns against 'hero leader culture'

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Media captionArchbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby cautioned against the dangers of putting too much trust in a "hero leader"

Justin Welby has warned against "pinning hopes on individuals" to solve all of society's problems.

In his first sermon as Archbishop of Canterbury, he warned against the "hero leader culture" or putting our trust in one person as this can lead to false hope.

Archbishop Welby delivered his Easter Day sermon at Canterbury Cathedral.

He said if we ignore "complexity and humanity" we end up "unreasonably disappointed" with everyone.

'Human fallibility'

"Papers reported on Friday that only 40% of churchgoers are convinced that the new Archbishop of Canterbury can resolve the problems of the Church of England," he said.

"I do hope that means the other 60% thought the idea so barking mad that they did not answer the question."

He urged society to recognise "human fallibility".

"Setting people or institutions up to heights where they cannot but fail is mere cruelty," he added.

Earlier, on the Christian Radio show Travellers' Tales, the archbishop had said that the Church of England must show it can manage discord "gracefully" over issues such as women bishops and gay marriage.

He said this was the challenge the church faced before it could be a "sign to the world" of peace and reconciliation.

The archbishop said: "We need to understand reconciliation within the Church as the transformation of destructive conflict, not unanimity.

"It doesn't mean we all agree, it is that we find ways of disagreeing, perhaps very passionately but loving each other deeply at the same time, gracefully and deeply committed to each other.

"That is the challenge for the Church and that is the challenge if the Church is actually going to speak to our society which is increasingly divided in many different ways, here and overseas, over huge issues."

The 57-year-old former oil industry executive, who was enthroned two weeks ago at Canterbury Cathedral, also talked about coping after the death of the eldest of his six children. His daughter Johanna died at seven months in a car crash in France in 1983.

"God is aware of our suffering, of the suffering of this very broken world, and our suffering was as nothing compared to many people and he is at work even in the darkest places," he said.

"I think the cross is the great point at which the suffering and sorrow, torture, trial and sin and yuck of the world ends up on God's shoulders out of love for us."

'Opened my life'

The archbishop, who left the oil industry in 1989 to be ordained, also talked about his faith.

He said he had first experienced "something impinging on his consciousness" as part of a Christian Missionary Society (CMS) scheme to Kenya during his gap year between school and university when he was not a practising Christian.

But he said he had "opened my life to Jesus" as a 19-year-old student at Cambridge University after a friend explained the cross to him following a church service.

He said working in the oil industry was "not even a quarter" as pressured as being a parish priest.

Asked if he could sleep at night given the pressures of his new role as Archbishop of Canterbury, Mr Welby said: "I sleep well on the whole. I think one of the really important things about this job is that it is not a papacy, the Archbishop of Canterbury is only one among the diocesan bishops.

"The Church of England is Episcopal led but synodically governed, so it is not even the bishops who all decide what happens."

The archbishop also made his radio presenting debut on Easter Sunday by hosting a pre-recorded Classic FM breakfast programme.

'Incredible role'

Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron issued an Easter message in which he praised the "incredible role to the benefit of our society" of faith institutions.

"In the Bible, Saint Peter reminds us of the hope that comes from new birth through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Christians, it also reminds us of Jesus's legacy of generosity, tolerance, mercy, and forgiveness.

"That legacy lives on in so many Christian charities and churches both at home and abroad. Whether they are meeting the needs of the poor, helping people in trouble, or providing spiritual guidance and support to those in need, faith institutions perform an incredible role to the benefit of our society," he said.

The prime minister's statement comes a day after he was accused by the former archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey of making Christians feel marginalised.

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