I wonder how long it is before Justin Welby is ravaged by Daily Mail.
Even before his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury is made official later this morning I note a dismissive, even offensive, editorial in the Guardian. Stephen Bates writes: “Every move and utterance will be scrutinised for heresy, error or obtuseness by the Pharisees of the church and the soothsayers of the media, not all of them actuated by faith, hope or charity.”
Archbishop Rowan, tellingly and rather sadly I thought, advised that his successor would need the skin of a rhinoceros.
I’m sure Justin thought long and hard before saying YES to this poisoned chalice, not least for the effect it would have on his own family. Okay – you get the best seats in the house but a heavy price is to be paid in terms of the hostility and unrelenting criticism that as Archbishop he will most certainly endure.
I recall some years ago a BBC Panorama programme being devoted to the failings of Archbishop Ronald Runcie. It must have been hugely difficult for him – at a clergy conference in Manchester at the time he revealed that he longed to be a vicar, just like us.
One of the contributors to this programme observed that being Archbishop of Canterbury is the second most difficult job in the country (the most difficult being leader of the Labour party!).
And it goes on, even when you retire. In the Guardian editorial I referred to earlier Archbishop George Carey is described as “that ultimate grey archbishop.”
This really is a case of bending down, taking up your cross and following Jesus. No surprise for the writers of the New Testament; for them, suffering is part and parcel of being a Christian.
The apostle Paul, who had his fair share of vindictive and unremitting opposition, holds on to this insight: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
In suffering for Jesus, you see his resurrection in a new light.
Giles Fraser commented in the Church Times that above all the new Archbishop will need courage, a refusal to be shouted down by the media and to be intimidated by the strength of opposition he will have to face.
Remembrance Sunday is a timely reminder of the need for courage, the resolve not to stay hunkered down but to take the fight to the enemy, even at personal cost.
So we pray for Bishop Justin as we steps out to face the world media later this morning. But I’m sure he’s the man for the job.
I just hope that at his enthronement in Canterbury Cathedral early next year they sing “Be bold, be strong – for the Lord your God is with you!”