When the western liberal bishops limped away from the Lambeth Conference the air was rank with recriminations. The invincible arrogance of the benighted black bishops, the superstitious fundamentalism of the third worlders etc, etc.
Unfortunately for the hubristic heresiarchs of Hoboken and Hibernia, these hallelujah house-boys of a darker hue turned out to be considerably better educated than they were, having obtained higher degrees at Western Universities than the liberal “intellectuals”.
It was at this point that a more poisonous accusation was made. American conservative bishops had bribed the Africans to vote for doctrinal and moral orthodoxy. As you must realise, members of the persecuted church who are prepared to die for the faith are always ready to sell their soul for a few bucks.
After the initial outrage, traditionalists are beginning to wonder if this is not all a fantastical practical joke. The source of the rumours is the chaplain of the bishopess of Rhode island, Ms Gerry Wolf, the deliciously named Randy Chase.
“Celebrate” is a magazine dedicated to publishing the Good News about the Anglican church. So dedicated that it managed to get the Church Commissioners to allow it to advertise in the monthly pay packet of every Anglican employee.
Its Christmas issue has a page on the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. by good old Jumbo Rosenthal (Director of Communications – Lambeth 98 and himself a colonial). Jim found a church fabulously wealthy, “vibrant”, “booming” “divergent but united” with “incredible seminary” “outstanding congregations”, “Breathtaking”, “extraordinary fellowship” etc etc.
This “school of merry laughs” parish magazine style where everything is just super, no problems, couldn’t be better, is so refreshing. We look forward enormously to the next issue where our unrealistic fears and fantasies can be quieted and our prejudices rebuked in such a charming manner.
After “Awesome Episcopalians” (the article’s title) surely it is just a matter of time before we get “A Hell of a Good Time” – a modern clergypersons refutation of Dante.
Listeners to Radio 5 phone-ins will be largely immune to the host Nicky Campbell. Campbell, a Scot, who has an ego the size of Ben Nevis and whose hectoring and opinionated style makes John Humphreys appear reticent and Brian Hayes courteous, appears to regard religion as a curious blend of moronism and fascism. Hence Campbell, who interrupts each contributors every sentence to correct it or “?top” it with some profundity of his own, was silent the other week during a contribution attacking the Orthodox Church in Greece.
Contributor: “98% of Greeks are Orthodox. In a poll 78% of Greeks believe in God. It’s the highest in Europe. Denmark, for example, only 14% believe in God.
Campbell: “Why is that?”
Contributor: “Because Greeks are poor and badly educated.”
Needless to say such a self evident truth went unremarked and unchallenged by “Five’s finest mind.”
Patience Please! It can all be explained. When Bishop “Nev the Rev” decided to move house, from a poorer area to a posher one, it was necessary to use Trust Fund money until the old one was sold. Yes, yes, the old one is proving difficult to shift and we know there will be a difference between the money raised and the money spent.
It is all perfectly legal and the Scottish press ought to know better than to spend their time pursuing Godly people like “Nev” and the Provostess about their perfectly legitimate use of church funds on their respective houses.
Members of the congregation at the recent consecration at Southwark Cathedral were thrilled to see how far down the road of cash conscious business management the C of E has gone.
Welcoming the preacher (a non stipendiary curate called Stephen Green) the Archbishop referred to him as a major contributor to the Church of England. Not wishing to be outdone in subtlety Provost Slee spelt it out. Our Steve is Director of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank who have put up the spondulicks for a bridge linking Southwark to St Paul’s.
Never one to miss an opportunity Slee, (not usually a great enthusiast for free enterprise capitalism) went on to suggest that Steve and his pinstripe pals might like to shift a further few lorry loads of wonga in the direction of that most needy and deserving Christian charity to wit the Chapel of Slees, otherwise known as Southwark Cathedral.
Green must have been turning that colour as the cost of his pulpit rental mounted. After all Peter Tatchell got one in a much more up market joint for only £18.50.
The Daily Telegraph (10.12.98) re the Dean of Westminster Abbey:
“A former evangelical, Dr Carr now describes himself as a radical conservative.”?
HOUGH TO THE GREEN BISHOP
As the “Cash for Sermons” scandal began to wash over Southwark Cathedral, at the recent consecration, the more theologically minded turned to an appreciation of the content of Stephen Green’s words.
Chosen by “Andy” Radford (Bishop of Taunton) to preach, Green gave a most helpful school leavers three point guide to leadership for bishops. As Radford’s job for the last five years has been teaching bishops how to be bishops – and what a triumph that has been! – one might have thought the teach-in superfluous.
Still, good of him to think of poor old Michael Houghton, who, unlike Radford, has spent all his ministry in parishes and therefore wouldn’t have a clue.
WICKEDNESS IN HIGH PLACES
A correspondent has written to voice his concern that the Archdeacon of York is in danger of losing his innocence if he should ever use his E-mail to contact Diocesan Office.
According to the York Diocese E-mail directory, his e-mail address if firstname.lastname@example.org and theirs is yorkdbe.demon.co.uk. Maybe the theme for their Christmas party will be “Virgins and Demons” rather than the well worn “Vicars and Tarts”
The Archbishop, of course, as part of the establishment remains aloof from all this; his address is given as email@example.com Some are “U”, the rest of us remain “?non-U”.
THE BUMS RUSH
When a well known national newspaper did a survey of Episcopal hospitality recently there were wide variations in response. Disguised as gentlepersons of the road the hacks knocked on diocesan doors and waited to be entertained as “angels unawares” or in the full spirit of Matthew 25.
Quite a few bishops, to continue the scriptural imagery, turned out to be old goats, but amongst the sheep, none was woollier and whiter than John Gladwin, Bishop of Guildford, a paragon of Christian welcome.
Alarming then to hear just recently that the episcopal pile “Willow Grange”, is having security locks fitted to the gates.
An insider tells us that “Its not the bums that Gladders wants to keep at bay, its the vermin of the press.”
Following the consecration at Southwark Cathedral two lay folk were sitting on a north bound train when joined by a senior retired bishop. The conversation was quite amiable until the “bish”? discovered that they were members of Forward in Faith.
“You people believe in “tainted hands!” he expostulated
“No we don’t”, replied the lady member.
“Yes, you do”
“No we don’t”
“Oh yes you do”
…and thus the pantomime continued for a minute or so. Exasperated the bishop asserted vehemently “I know for a fact that that is what Forward in Faith teaches”
“And I know for a fact that it doesn’t” replied Anne Williams, “and I ought to know because I’m Vice Chairman of the National Council.”
“Oh” replied a deflated and ungallant prelate “the horse’s mouth, I suppose.”
Professionalism and planning, that’s the key.
Clergy seeking serious promotion shouldn’t rely on old fashioned methods like significant theological college friendships, lodge membership or the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In these days, when greyness is all, how do you get your name to shine out on a list of fellow time servers. Well, according to the former curate of one recently promoted gentleman, a highly organised wife and a regular use of the epistles.
The wife made regular lists of where bishops and other significant and influential clergy folk were preaching. The diary would be cleared and they would be in the congregation and hope to greet the prelate afterwards, drop the name and congratulate him on a moving sermon etc, etc.
Lest his eminence forget this welcome tribute to his vanity, a letter would follow some days later on parish note paper saying how helpful the sermon had been. A little personal note on the church or feast day would be appended to help fix the memory – and, of course, differentiate it from the standard text which was regularly reproduced on the parish photocopier.
Our regular interviewer Fr. Robbie Low, was recently invited to conduct a funeral for a Prayer Book Catholic family in a neighbouring parish during an interregnum.
At the reception afterwards the forthright widow shocked Low by her opening remark.
“I can”, she said “hardly believe anyone with such terrible reputation for swearing could take such a beautiful service.”
Playing for time Low asked for evidence of his verbal misdemeanours. A mourner was produced who knew it was a fact – his son had told him. The son turned out to be the builder on the parish hall. Recently, when some vandals had damaged the site, stolen a cooker and moved the boundary markers Low had, apparently roared into the site in full fig and spent a good twenty minutes going up and down f…..ing and blinding at the thieves.
A look of relief passed over the cornered cleric’s visage. He had indeed spent a good while on site roundly cursing the culprits, he freely admitted, but, he explained, “f…..ing and blinding was not the usual description of Dr Cranmer’s excellent Commination Service which he had celebrated with conviction and in full. Much more effective than rude words.
BRECHIN WIND X
News has reached 30 Days of a recent and illuminating conversation with Nev the Rev Chamberlain, Bishop of Brechin, the ‘small is beautiful’ flagship diocese of the Anglican Communion.
‘Surely’, Nev was asked, ‘all this stuff in 30 Days was exaggerated.’ To the enquirer’s astonishment Nev confirmed that it was all true.
‘But what about the Provostess, ‘Attila the Nun’ Byrne? Why, when she was proposing to make all these changes in the liturgy and the life of the cathedral and overspend her housing budget, did she not consult the vestry?’
Quite simple Nev replied, she didn’t ask them about anything because she knew they wouldn’t agree with her!
This, presumably, is all part of the healing, affirming, collaborative ministry that was promised to Dundee Cathedral on her appointment.
Tired of dreary old nativity scenes, shepherds, angels, straw filled manger etc? – Carr’s the man for you. Yes, the Master Pastor has done it again! Out goes Westminster Abbey’s traditional crib and in comes Wesley’s ‘Treasure Box’.
Carr admits that the new model minimalist devotional item is ‘not really for the children’. Presumably for adults then?
No doubt this deft touch for popular piety and children’s work was picked up during the Master Pastor’s nought years experience as the incumbent of a parish.
It has only just come to light that a banquet was held to inaugurate a new Archbishop of York at which guests drank their way through 360,000 pints of ale and 18,700 bottles of wine.
While bishops must of course be allowed palaces, chauffeurs and other princely trappings, the Church Commissioners should note that it happened in 1485 after the enthronement of Archbishop George Neville. This Ebor’s aristocratic connections enabled him to gain his BA and MA from Balliol College Oxford without having to complete his academic course. He became fellow and later chancellor of the university, and at 27 was consecrated Bishop of Exeter at the recommendation of his father the Earl of Salisbury. He commended his son for his ‘blood, cunning and virtue.’
We still need bishops who are the right sort of chaps, and the Crown Appointments Commission are to be congratulated in maintaining this ancient tradition of bishops with the right connections, indifferent academic quality and total lack of pastoral experience.