CALLED north by the Lord, I have recently left the Diocese of Southwark. Famed for the complexity of its corporate, industrial headquarters, and the seriousness with which it takes its own management structures, it has a charming capacity for letting its right hand remain in total ignorance of what its left hand is doing, so vast is the labyrinthine tangle of this centralizing, metropolitan conglomerate. So utterly computerized are the various branches of its non-parochial network, that no single mortal (apparently) is able to understand or manage its workings. Consequently, I had to fill in an endless stream of paper forms for each separate department and area and section, since none can speak to other. It goes without saying that I am still receiving mail (redirected) from the more distant branches of the bureaucracy.
Of these forms, one has a value greater than all the rest, a copy of which I am proud to retain; I may even frame it. It is my (‘irrevocable’) resignation as ‘Honorary Canon of the Cathedral Church of Southwark’, a form with high quality typesetting on high quality paper, put together by the (presumably) well-paid lawyers of the Diocesan Registry, at some expense to the poor revenue-raisers, who double up as parish congregations. All impressive stuff; except that I have never been (to the best of my knowledge) an Honorary Canon of Southwark Cathedral. Do I now acquire an honour (or its shadow) after the demand to hand it back? Should I ask Crockford’s to list me as ‘Hon Can. Emer. S’wark Cath. from 01’?
It is clear that the new, managerial ambitions of our ecclesiastical ordinaries are to be resisted. The historic rights of parishes, their churches, clergy, churchwardens and people ought firmly to be supported, and surrendered only after clear persuasion that it is to the advantage of the Gospel, and not that of the ordinary and his non-parochial agglomerations. But some mirth can be had, mockery thrown, and encouragement gained from the sillier aspects of that obsessive desire to control and restrict. By their very hunger to cut down, we can (sometimes) grow. I shall cherish my Hon Can Emer as a unexpected victory over a foolish adversary, a trophy snatched from the managerial hydra.