WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE ARCHBISHOP’S IDENTITY CRISIS?

The leaking of the Panama Papers from one of the world’s most secretive companies, a law firm called Mossack Fonseca last month caused a great deal of pandemonium in the press and society as it was revealed how the rich and powerful used so called tax havens to hide their wealth and reduce the amount owed in tax to their respective countries and governments. Shocking revelations were made worse in the UK by the fact that our Prime Minister, David Cameron was shown to have directly benefited from such arrangements made by his late father, in the form of an offshore investment fund called Blairmore Holdings. Despite the fact that no law had been broken and some taxes had been paid, the public perception was a damaging one, that somehow the Prime Minister had unfairly benefitted from some ‘dodgy’ tax arrangement which wouldn’t have been available to the vast majority of ordinary people living on more modest incomes and without power and influence. A rather frantic and clumsy ‘damage limitation’ exercise ensued with the Prime Minister ultimately encouraged to publish his tax return in the name of ‘open transparency’, forcing other political leaders to do the same.

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All this was in stark contrast to another astonishing story to hit the headlines, namely the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby’s father was not the man he thought he was (Gavin Welby) but the late Sir Anthony Montague Browne, the last private secretary to Sir Winston Churchill. What made this revelation all the more astonishing and poignant was that it came as a complete surprise not only to Justin Welby, but to Lady Jane Williams, his mother (although she instantly acknowledged that a brief liaison with Anthony Browne had taken place). At first glance the story seemed incredible, but upon closer inspection it became readily understandable. In fact, it was a human story that no doubt many different people and families could relate to, for as the Archbishop himself acknowledged “My own experience is typical of many people. To find that one’s father is other than imagined is not unusual. To be the child of families with great difficulties in relationships, with substance abuse or other matters, is far too normal.” The amazing openness and transparency of the Archbishop and his family appeared to be in great contrast to the other events of the week, but did nothing to lessen the impact and turmoil that this particular revelation must have had upon him and his family, who still have to come to terms with and be reconciled to it and all its implications. However, the extreme openness, honesty and candour of the Archbishop demonstrated that this man can be trusted – and trust in any walk of life is a precious commodity.

Jesus of course once described himself as being ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14.6), and it’s an appreciation of this truth which gives the Archbishop such confidence, not just about who he is ‘in Christ’ but about the way that he should lead his life. This confidence springs from an understanding that he is greatly loved, not just by his family and friends but by God himself as his loving heavenly father – a love demonstrated through the actions of Jesus and his death upon the cross cultivating trust. One might expect that the recent revelation might make the Archbishop question his identity, but not a bit of it, for as he himself put it:

At the very outset of my inauguration service three years ago, Evangeline Kanagasooriam, a young member of the Canterbury Cathedral congregation, said: “We greet you in the name of Christ. Who are you, and why do you request entry?” To which I responded: “I am Justin, a servant of Jesus Christ, and I come as one seeking the grace of God to travel with you in His service together.” What has changed? Nothing!

Perhaps we should all from time to time, take stock of ourselves and think about who we are – what makes me, me? What is my identity, am I trustworthy and in whom do I place my trust?


Jesus said “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14.1


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