“the influence that the church used to exert simply by being the churches”

It’s probably evident that I don’t have much time for most supernaturalists.. but the new primate of the Church of Ireland, Archbishop Alan Harper, might just be one I can agree with – at least on the point he makes in this report.From the report, which refers to an interview in the Church of Ireland Gazette.

The changing role of the churches in society means that weight of numbers is no longer sufficient to ensure the churches` voices will be heeded in public affairs, he said.

Instead, the power and quality of the argument of their case and strength of analysis would be the litmus test, he added in this week`s edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette.

The Archbishop said: “We can no longer rely on having a place as of right in terms of public affairs, or the influence that the church used to exert simply by being the churches.

“We have now to command that, as a result of delivery and providing a critique of society that others can take with a degree of respect…. persuading people by the power and quality of our argument and the genuine strength of our analysis, rather than merely by weight of numbers.”

To which I’d add, as A C Grayling put it

In debates that crucially affect the wellbeing of the world, ideas and beliefs should be open to tough challenge and hard discussion. Let someone state a view, and let the view be subjected to rigorous scrutiny, no holds barred, and no pleas of offence, hurt feelings, self-proclaimed sensitivities, “sacredness” or any other excuse allowed to stand in the way. But with a strictly governed exception, namely, an office-holder speaking ex-officio, let no individual be the target of attack, and even then neither abuse nor ad hominem attack.

What Emperor Pope Benedict XVI will make of it all is another matter..