One of the things which amused me on the cruise in August was the difficulty which ordinary members of the C of E seemed to have in working out what I represented. ‘Are you a member of the House of Lords?’ they asked. ‘No’ ‘Do you have a seat in the Scottish Parliament?’ ‘No’ So – as they questioned John the Baptist – so they questioned me. And they struggled to grasp that I am part of a cheerfully independent Anglican Province. We’re catholic, evangelical, liberal, conservative. We have high levels of lay participation. We’re not much into hierarchy and certainly not into establishment. We give a very high value to worship, prayer and spirituality.
What Pope Benedict might find a little strange – but maybe I underestimate him – would be the nature of a church in which almost everybody has a view about almost everything; in which I and others offer leadership and exercise authority with almost none of the visible props with which he is familiar.
It can be maddening, slow and circuitous. But it is in the best sense edgy. We talk about most things and we’re getting better at working out how to talk about things we have difficulty talking about. Most elephants in the room get noticed after a while.