There is much that is surprising and impressive about the story in the news this weekend about the Archbishop of Canterbury discovering that his biological father was not the man married to this mother at the time of his birth.
Apparently the rumour started at a dinner conversation with a journalist from the Daily Telegraph. When the journalist told about it he decided that the bet thing was to get the facts. The facts have come out and, according to Justin, have made no difference to the question of who he thinks he is.
The irony in this is that it seems to have made a lot of difference to the way in which people regard him. Rather than having gone down in people’s estimation, he has gone way up – and largely because of the straightforward way in which he has handled the situation, and the modest and humane way in which he has commented on it.
Facts, are, of course, facts. But facts can also make people wriggle and squirm, even when as unequivocal as these. But Justin seems to be an entirely squirm-free person.
Of course he, like everyone else, has plenty of personality flaws and failings, but this is not the sort of situation to expose them. On the contrary – it is when dealing with the unexpected and the awkward that Justin is at his best because he is also his most straightforward and immediate.
People have written about the humility that has been evident in this episode, and that’s fair comment. But I wonder whether there is also something here about the way in which a mature faith works. Faith that is which is so anchored in God’s love and transcendence that it embraces the world and its facts with a combination of curiosity and courage. If you felt pompous you could call this mysticism that faces two ways. If you didn’t feel so pompous you could call it living in the real world.
Either way, this has been good weekend for the Archbishop of Canterbury.