Alison and I were in every sense fortunate to be at the consecration of Bishop Anne. We caught what proved to be one of the last trains from Edinburgh and we had to stay an extra night in Aberdeen before we got home. It was a great and joyful occasion and we felt the prayerful presence – and absence – of a great number of people who would have loved to be there but were frustrated by the weather.
The election of a female bishop was of course long overdue. It will change many things – not just in the diocese but also in the College of Bishops.
These days, my role is to be an involved bystander. And it allows me to watch … I watched the newly-consecrated Bishop Anne as she stood in the centre of the Cathedral and put into the hands of people the bread which is Christ’s body. She reached out to people. There was warmth and empathy which transcended her office. Yes I know that men can do that too and I have worked hard at it myself – but I have a feeling that it is characteristic of many women that they are able to do it with instinctive warmth.
I know that the new Bishop Anne is spiritually strong. I know that she will approach difficult situations with a combination of courage and compassion. I know that she will give spirit-filled leadership.
Her election has seen more than its share of controversy. I was glad to hear her setting out what I believe to be our position on same-sex marriage. We have made a decision about our canonical position – but that decision itself allows space for clergy in good conscience to opt in or to opt out. As a church, we acknowledge that we do not agree on this matter. So those who exercise leadership are called not simply to reflect the deeply held convictions of one group or another – but to ensure that our church has space for all.
I look forward to interesting times ahead
And I wasn’t just an involved bystander. Because of the travel difficulties, I ended up deputising for our Director of Communications. So I happily spent time at the end of the service arranging media interviews for others – without having to utter a word myself.