VEST FOR THE BEST
No self respecting Anglo-catholic priest would be without his umbrellino or sanctuary slippers of course. But now there is a chance to be even more sartorially complete. Sable, the clerical mail-order firm of County Tipperary, is offering upwardly mobile clergy the chance to buy ‘Eminence Pyjamas’.
Sadly, these are not yet available in papal colours.
Liturgical modernizers and pan-Protestant ecumaniacs will both have been thrilled by recent events in the Methodist Church. Women worshippers throughout the chapels and conventicles of the land were invited, on the feast of Christ the King, to smash crockery during the confession. This ‘symbolic act of violence’ was to mark the International Day of Action against Violence on Women.
The order of service, written by the Reverend Frances Bridger of Stourbridge, is called ‘Soaring Wings and Strengthened Dreams’, and contained testimony from the wife of a Baptist minister who was ‘beaten after Church for serving Angel delight at Sunday lunch’. It is not clear whether this was because of the gastronomic enormity or simply that the dish had High Church implications.
After the ritual crock-cracking, congregations made crosses out of the shattered pieces. Health and safety officers insisted that all crockery should be in bags lest flying splinters cause more violence to women (and men), and further reduce the overwhelmingly female and rapidly vanishing congregations.
UP, UP AND AWAY
‘Want to get ahead? Get a hat!’ ran the old advert. Few hats will be more coveted by career-minded clergy than the empty mitre hanging over the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. ‘Bargee’ Butler, managing director of Southwark diocese, has just vacated it by encouraging its recent and brief occupant, Peter Price, over the wall into Bath and Wells after only four years. Another scintillating occupant, Martin Wharton, was given Newcastle and his predecessor, the great theologian Peter Selby, was reincarnated at Worcester. Few suffragan sees have such a track record of swift and unerring promotion. No doubt one of England’s finest is already in the pipeline.
UP, UP AND AWAY 2
The pre-Christmas religious press was full of pieces telling us about the forthcoming retirement of Uncle George. ‘Seeing the Queen through her Jubilee’, ‘Her Majesty’s Request’, ‘67 and out’ etc etc etc.
While these stories were merely recycling what had been written by everybody much earlier in the year, there was one interesting additional piece of information. Two newspapers quoted a spokesperson at Lambeth as saying that, while unable to confirm or deny such rumours, ‘the Archbishop had completed his major programme of reforms and the Church of England was now in good shape and good heart’.
The Church of England was not available for comment.
The Perry Report on the choosing of bishops has gone up like a lead balloon in the Senior Common Room. Many bishops are said to be apoplectic that this laywoman has called into question the very dubious methods by which they find themselves in power. The report, which was a very thorough and sensible series of proposed reforms to a deeply corrupt and failing system, is now firmly on the back burner. It will have no effect on the next regular round of shenanigans which will produce the new Canterbury and half the bench for the next 10 to 15 years.
OPEN SYNOD ?
A portentous notice in the ‘Thunderer’ advised the world of a new Church, ‘the Open Episcopal Church’. OPEC was, apparently, ‘inaugurated by the College of Bishops in the Hazelwood Declaration’ on the 10th November this year. A glance at the website of this exciting ecclesiastical enterprise reveals it as the work of our old friend, ‘Rent a Vicar’ Jonathan Blake – in cahoots with a ‘ Bishop’ Richard Palmer of Caertroia ( actually resident at 9 Lyon Street, Southampton), recently resigned from the Liberal Catholic Church.
The need for a non-discriminatory, judgment free, all inclusive Church has long been obvious to readers of this column, so we are delighted to hear that OPEC will never excommunicate anybody and re-elects its Archbishop every five years. Women bishops are fully approved, and we are promised an ‘open ministry of creativity and relevance’. The good news is that ‘Blakey’ has been consecrated himself and anyone, of any belief, can apply for membership. As a non-authoritarian body the website reveals a touching openness to its members and would be correspondents. Under the heading, ‘Mandate and Canons of the Open Episcopal Church’, it notes simply, ‘At the moment these are still in formation. Please comment and advise’.
You may do so at email@example.com; and don’t forget to congratulate him on his stellar rise.
PRICE OF FAME
The appointment of the Suffragan Bishop of Kingston, Peter Price, to the see of Bath and Wells, was greeted by his clergy with a mixture of joy and surprise. Could this be the same bishop advertised to them not long ago as having serious heart problems and in need of their urgent prayer?
Those with long memories will give thanks for yet another episcopal miracle. Only a few short years ago ‘Jolly Jack’ Nicholls had heart problems after being mentioned in despatches by one Peter Tatchell. Mercifully, he too made a stunning recovery, and was able to move up to diocesan level at Sheffield.
SOME MISTAKE SURELY
There was great excitement among some of the more trusting members of the orthodox constituency recently. It had been widely leaked that the powers that be were seriously considering an orthodox appointment to the suffragan vacancy of Brixworth in Peterborough diocese.
Excitement reached fever pitch after an open meeting with the diocesan bishop, Ian Cundy. Cundy, let it be known that, as a former suffragan of Chichester, he saw the importance of a balanced ticket. There was, assembled Catholics were assured, awareness at the highest level of the need for a traditional suffragan in the Southern Province. Indeed, many left the meeting convinced that Cundy had all but appointed a traditionalist with whom he had worked, and who was both capable and had never been troublesome to those in authority.
Imagine the surprise when the new Brixworth was subsequently announced as the Archdeacon of Sunderland, Frank White. White is married to a woman priest, is a founder member of GRAS and, coincidentally, a former curate of one G Carey.