Bishop Anne


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.

Blinking into the sunlight

It’s just over six months now since I retired. I am a firm believer in the idea that you need to stop completely … totally … so that you can think about how you might re-enter the fray in a new way.

I can’t say that I have worked out the answer to that particular question. But I have stopped completely. I hope to get a licence for ministry this month. I haven’t conducted worship other than to preach at a family funeral. I’ve done quite a bit of broadcasting but always at the anodyne end of the spectrum. For the most part, I haven’t had contact with anybody – apart from a little ‘mystery worshipper’ turning up in churches. I’ve missed people of course but I haven’t really missed the rest. I like to think that is because I ‘gave it my best shot’ so I don’t have regrets or wistful longings about what I did or might have done. But I suppose one doesn’t have to justify not missing committee meetings!

And now? Well I just don’t know. Alison and I seem to be quite busy. But retired people always say that. Obviously there are the grandchildren .. and the yoga … and the cooking class … and the cycling. Beyond that I’ll just have to see what turns up. I’m hoping to recast this blog so that I can use it in different ways.

I’m hoping that we will get to the Aberdeen Consecration on Thursday – weather permitting. I’m starting to write Holy Week sermons for the Parish of Douglas in Cork. It’s where my ancestors on my father’s side are buried. And I’m doing to preach at the Chrism Mass for the diocese while I am there. It will be interesting to visit that far south bit of Ireland. It’s a part of the Church of Ireland which feels not unlike the SEC

And I’ll come back and say how I found the consecration.

Moving on. #pisky

The decision to retire produced an almost immediate standstill in the blog

So now that things are beginning to settle down a bit, I need to go back and fill in some gaps from the last few months. it’s been a significant and important period.   And then I’ll reflect a bit on future blogging

But for now … House renovation is under way and we are busy. I’ve been aware for some time of the sermons of my grandfather, Ernest Bateman. They are being used by a group of historians in Cambridge led by Professor Eugenio Biagini as an important contemporary source in the study of the minority Protestant community in Ireland after Partition.

We are off to a family wedding down south this week. The car is weighed down with six decades of Uncle Artie’s diaries – also heading for Cambridge.   It’s a solid hard backed book for each year and written in a microscopic script

I did a ‘test drilling’ to see what he had to say on the day of my birth and found a family swirling around me.  Obviously starting as I meant to go on.  I wasn’t a bishop at that point but I was already a proxy for other people’s arguments

So I am gradually realising that I belong to one of those families where nobody ever had an unrecorded thought – and I am as guilty as the rest.  And out of all this – and my more recent experience – will come something …

With the Founder #pisky

One of my final duties today – Commem at Glenalmond College. So I paused to pay my respects to the Founder, William Ewart Gladstone, in the Quad.

It was Gladstone who came to the conclusion that Ireland should have Home Rule and who gave effect to that in a series of Home Rule Bills. The third was passed but its implementation was delayed by the First World War. And then matters were pre-empted by the Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin. It’s another of the great ‘what if’s’ of history.

But somehow I think that Irish Partition could never have been avoided – for the Ulster Protestants were signing the Covenant in their blood

Good Morning on St Patrick’s Day #pisky

This morning’s Thought for the Day on BBC Scotland:

‘Welcome home, Father’. The flat vowels of the passport officer at Dublin Airport. I’m caught – misty-eyed – between Ireland which is home in the sense of deep belonging and family history and Scotland which is home by choice and calling, the place which has made me welcome, the place where my grandchildren are growing up with Scottish accents.So Good Morning to you on this St Patrick’s Day
One of the things which Ireland and Scotland share is the story of migration – movement from Ireland and particularly west Donegal to lowland Scotland – but of course a much wider diaspora to the New World and elsewhere. They were driven mainly by need and poverty, the Highland Clearances in Scotland and the Great Famine in Ireland. Work, dignity, place to rear a family .. and somewhere to call home.

Our faith traditions all have hospitality embedded – for Christians our welcome to the stranger as if welcoming Christ himself. Nothing in any of that about building walls and fences higher – dividing walls are for taking down. As peoples who have a history of migration ourselves we have an instinctive desire to welcome.
On Wednesday evening I was one of over 350 people in the Scottish Parliament for an event organised by the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society – which is rooted in the Moslem community. The theme of Exodus gave a gathering of people representing almost every strand of Scottish Society a chance to explore the issues of migration and hospitality

I heard people talking about the ‘new Scots’. That’s when the stranger made welcome begins to settle down, to experience what it is to feel at home in a new place and to share in the shaping of the society of which they are now a part.

This evening I’ll be at the party in Edinburgh for the Irish Community. We’ll all be talking nineteen to the dozen about home and how we miss it – but home is where you are welcomed at a deep level and wherever that is becomes home

Exodus #pisky

Over 350 people in the Scottish Parliament last night – apparently a record.

The Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society promoted this event on the issue of migration and refugees.  Almost every strand of Scottish society was represented.  This is one of those moments when Scottish attitudes and values are distinctly different …. accepting, welcoming and affirming,  I suspect that in Scotland, as in Ireland, there is a shared historic memory of the welcome and acceptance which Scottish people have received around the world.  The frustration evident in this gathering was with the refusal of the UK Government to accept more

Indyref2   #pisky #anglican

This is our statement on the call for a second Referendum on Scottish Independence


The decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union is an event with far-reaching consequences, many of which have not yet become visible. In those parts of the United Kingdom which have devolved administrations, particularly in Scotland, the Brexit debate had a slightly different feel. That difference was most clearly seen when the vote in Scotland was in favour of ‘remain’.
The Scottish Govern ent has announced that it intends to seek permission for a second Independence Referendum. Such a request is not unexpected. It reflects a continuing weakness in the relationship between the Scottish Government and the British Government. They have found it difficult to give creative consideration to the implications of this new situation together. That difficulty reflects a wider failure to make space for a debate about how the developed nations will relate together in the future, But at this moment, refusal on the part of the British Government to allow a second referendum will inevitably give rise to further ill-feeing in relationships.
Scotland is already a distinct national entity. It is rich in its history and culture. The Brexit debate has revealed that Scotland is also distinct in its values. The ‘independence question’ is an opportunity for a community to discuss and resolve whether its distinctiveness is such that it justifies separate constitutional arrangements and is therefore a question of national self-determination. Beyond that lie wider questions about Scotland’s relationships in the wider world and its future in challenging economic times.

Faith communities in general have adopted a position of active neutrality in response to this issue. They should exercise care about adopting positions ‘for or against’ on constitutional issues. But faith communities also care deeply about the quality of the national conversation – about the need for all voices to be heard respectfully. It is also important that the debate attempts to do justice to the depth and the complexity of the issues and does not become over-focused on the single issue of constitutional status.
People of faith will pray for our political leaders on all sides and will also pray for the future of Scotland and of all the nations of the British Isles.

Confirmation of Hazel and Ruth #pisky

I was in St Mary’s, Dunblane, last Sunday for the Confirmation of Hazel and Ruth.

Our generation of bishops has been supportive of Confirmation – believing that catechesis is a core activity of the church. I do believe that baptism is full initiation – but I also believe in ‘nurture for decision’. It’s good for those who come to be confirmed – and it’s good for the congregation as a whole.

This was a remarkable day. Since I was last in St Mary’s, there has been extensive renovation of the church. It is now an attractive and well-lit space conducive to worship of all kinds. They are now considering a re-ordering of the sanctuary area. There has also been some renovation – in the sense of renewal – of the congregation. I greeted many children at the Peace and they seem content with their sense of belonging in the congregation.

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