Pray for the Archbishop of Canterbury elect
He is not yet installed, but the carping and criticising have already begun. The Telegraph leads, as ever, with its myopic anti-Anglican tendencies and obsession with ephemeral trivia. The Bishop of Durham the Rt Rev Justin Welby was ill just before Christmas, and tweeted (yes, he himself) that he was grateful to the NHS for the advice it gave. That was all: a simple 140-character appreciation of a health helpline, by virtue of which the Telegraph manufactures a rather bitchy diatribe of the Bishop's commitment to socialist thought and the very worst inefficiences of Tory modernisation.
Today, Dr Rowan Williams departs as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury to take up the posts of Master of Magdalene College Cambridge. Since Justin Welby is not officially installed as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury until 21st March, the Church of England is in a kind of interregnum, perched tentatively between two princes of the Church - one a highly-respected intellectual, the other a relatively untried former oil executive.
But the incoming Apostle to the English needs our prayers, not smarmy wisecracks or snide imputations of deficiency. The Province of Canterbury consists of 29 dioceses over which the Archbishop will have jurisdiction 'as superintendent of all ecclesial matters therein' with the specific responsibility to 'correct and supply the defects of other bishops' (Canon C17:2). He will lead 80 million Christians in more than 160 countries. In addition, he inherits constitutional battles over the nature of establishment and a few more trivial skirmishes relating to gender and sexuality. With seismic demographic changes and multi-faith pluralism, the Church of England cannot continue as it has done in its present form for four centuries. As it adapted to the religio-political circumstances of the 16th century, so must it meet the challenges of the post-Christian era.
It will be for Justin Welby to steer the Anglican ship through the present choppy waters and impending whirlpools without foundering on the rocks of logical positivism or aggressive secularism. But with adherents of other denominations hurling stones of discontent even before Bishop Justin is sworn of the Privy Council, one may soon distinguish between those who obey the Lord's exhortation to love and those who sadly feel the need to tear strips off a character at every turn. Whatever happened to Ut Unum Sint?