I only went away for a few days and all the exciting stuff happened at once. Nothing like being in the right place at the wrong time.

shellfishA word of advice: avoid the shellfish. I was persuaded to share a bowl of the little monsters with my wife and began to feel unwell even before we left the restaurant. Two days of serious unwellness followed – not bad for a four-day break. I am still suffering and not eating. So, the moral of the story is: DON’T EAT THE FISH – STICK WITH PIZZA!

While I was away the Bishop of Rochester announced his resignation with effect from September 2009. I have caught up on some of the media comment on this, ranging from the slightly optimistic (George Pitcher in the Telegraph) to the facile (Melanie Phillips in the Mail). It would never ‘do’ to represent reality fairly, would it? People will have mixed feelings about the bishop’s departure – especially as it is so unclear to what precisely he is departing – but it should be stated that he is a remarkable man and has proven himself to be one of the sharpest brains in the Church.

nazir-aliI remember hearing Michael for the first time at a clergy conference when I was a curate up north. He spoke without notes and without hesitation, repetition or deviation for an hour and then responded skilfully to questions from the floor. It was remarkable and his ability to remember details is formidable. Which is a good word to use of him. He is a formidable opponent, but a remarkable ally. Whatever one makes of his stance on particular issues or his absence from last year’s Lambeth Conference, what must never be questioned is his integrity or courage.

And this is where Melanie Phillips is facile. Lots of bishops draw attention to the seriousness of the persecution of Christians in other parts of the world. I (and many others, no doubt) seem to spend half my time engaging with the ‘secular’ agenda in this country. When I represent the Archbishop of Canterbury in interfaith conferences in Central Asia, I have neither the desire nor the need to compromise the Christian faith or play ‘niceness’ games. My colleagues from different faiths will attest that I have regularly raised uncomfortable questions about such matters as persecution of Christians, lack of religious freedom in Muslim countries and the need for integrity of action, not just speech from religious leaders. The fact that many bishops do such stuff passes by Melanie Phillips because we don’t publish it in the Telegraph or the Daily Mail. I realise that serious engagement does not afford good headlines for shock-horror newspapers, but maybe that’s the point…

flat-earth-newsMelanie Phillips draws all the wrong conclusions from Michael’s resignation. Having just read Nick Davies’s expose of the Mail in his worrying book Flat Earth News, I probably shouldn’t be surprised. I, along with others, will watch this space and pray for Michael as he prepares to move on.

Anyway, the G20 summit is happening, England beat Slovakia 4-0, the Home Secretary’s husband remembered some dodgy films, everyone is getting hysterical about something, I’ve just done an interview on rock music and Christianity for the Financial Times (out on Saturday) and I have come back to a desk full of work. Damn the shellfish…