Christmas is over and one feels it’s time for ecclesiastical reflection. The ‘most wonderful time of the year’ has been a roller coaster ride for the Church of England. The rejection of women bishops. The decision to allow gay clergy in civil partnerships to become bishops if they take a vow of abstinence. The resignation of Rowan Williams as head of the Church of England and the appointment of Justin Welby, whose alcohol-dependent father’s ‘secret life’ was laid out for all to see by the Sunday Telegraph. Who would want to take on the role of PR for the Church at a time like this?
Arun Arora, who became director of comms for the Church of England in September, has accepted this potentially poisoned chalice. The son of a Hindu mother and a Sikh father, Arora is an erudite solicitor-turned-anti-racist campaigner-turned-priest-turned-comms professional.
How does he react to the furore over women bishops? ‘This was a vote against legislation, not a vote against women bishops. The majority of the Church of England is sold on women bishops.’ He says the Church ‘might have to look at some of its structures’ in a reference to the voting system in the Synod that saw a minority of the laity effectively block the changes.
This considered response belies a certain feistiness of character. There are hints of his relish for battle when he talks about ‘militant secularists’, such as Richard Dawkins.
‘Arora cuts a formidable figure in the cloisters of the CofE,’ observes Ben Wilson, head of comms of the Supreme Court. ‘When he disagrees with something, you know about it. But he picks his battles with a finely tuned instinct for spotting the things that have the potential to damage the reputation of the Church he cares so much about.’