In the Canterbury stakes all speculation now centres on the ‘Welsh Wizard’. Members of the Crown Appointments Commission are adamant that they did not leak. They need not worry. Seasoned Downing Street watchers see a familiar pattern. Weeks before the CAC met, trusted New Labour clergy were hinting at names that would be well received by El Presidente. That paragon of liberal jurisprudence and feminist Christianity, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, was duly able to send the right list back down the line. Then came the familiar tactic. Leak and watch the public, and more importantly, the press reaction. If the policy leak gets the green light, then proceed to a background of ringing applause. If not popular, then it’s on to Plan B with no face lost.
So far, with even the Daily Telegraph and Father David Houlding publicly backing the ‘hairy lefty’ (as Williams once described himself), all other bets are off. The best a traditionalist could hope for is a Miner Canonry.
Hordes of under-occupied Anglican clergy have been on Jubilee jaunts to the
Holy City. The excuse – to attend the exhibition and events in Rome celebrating the Anglican Church. The Dean of Norwich, Stephen Platten, was so desperate for funding for this exciting cosmetic exercise that he was reduced to tapping up Catholic societies to fund the show. Visitors were delighted to discover that the Church of England was in very good heart and remarkably problem-free. They were also surprised, on closer examination, to discover in all the lovely photographs of Anglican activity, a complete absence, of our ground breaking evangelistic success story – women priests. This entirely accidental, if diplomatic, omission was soon corrected by the arrival of the blunderbuss of Canterbury. With his usual sensitivity he was soon publicly reminding the benighted Romans of his prophetic wisdom in ordaining women and looked forward to them catching up. Shall we ever see his like again?
BOTTOM OF THE CLASS
Congratulations to Warwick University Student Union!
This exemplar of liberal tolerance has banned the University Christian Union from its buildings and disaffiliated it for a year for breaching the equal opportunities policy. The CU bigots apparently told a male member that he could not be a practising homosexual and a Christian. Somebody should tell these biblical fusspots about the burgeoning career opportunities in the new CofE. The young man could be looking at a Deanship or even a pointy hat!
HANDS ACROSS THE SEE
The Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt, has just given the Church a bishop that it does not want. The shock waves of anger at the appointment of the new Bishop of Basingstoke have scarcely subsided. Now, it appears, from leaks to this column, that he is about to get a bishop he does not want!
The Open Episcopal Church (see 30 DAYS passim), proprietors ‘Rent-a Bishop’ Jonathan Blake and Uncle Roger have decided to boldly go where the Church of England dares not yet tread. They are planning the consecration of their first woman bishop!
Scotty, reports say, went ballistic when the dynamic duo ordained a woman to the priesthood recently. The woman in question was one Elizabeth Bridget Augustine Stuart, currently Professor of Theology at King Alfred’s College, Winchester! Now Prior of the Apostolic order of St Brigid, Professor Stuart runs the department which got the best university inspection rating recently of all the Anglican education departments. This has not stopped efforts to remove her, cut her department and withdraw ordinands from the college. A battle royal is promised.
Winchester watchers are suffering from mild hysteria as a bishop who deliberately appointed a Suffragan known for his hostility to opponents of women priests, battles against the religious freedom of other people to have women priests and bishops! Watch this space.
WE SHOULD BE SO LUCKY
We are pleased to record that, as a result of an unprecedently large grant of over £17m from the National Heritage Memorial Trust, Tyntesfield House (see The Way We Live Now, June) with its contents has been acquired, not by Kylie Minogue, but by the National Trust. It has, as people say these days, ‘been saved for the nation’.
But salvation comes in many guises. A house, which until recently was the home of a reclusive bachelor, will now be trampled upon by countless visitors, most of them ignorant of its fascinating past.
Whether there is a lesson in all this for the National Church, whose diminishing congregations are camping out in buildings too splendid for their diminished liturgy and too costly for their shrinking pockets, we will leave our readers to decide.
How long before the CofE, too, takes its destined place as part of the Heritage Industry?
Perhaps the disappointed Miss Minogue could be put in touch with estate agents who will be handling Auckland Castle, Rose Castle, Wells Palace, Wolvesey, Lis Escop, Abbey Gate House and all the other monuments to happier times for the Lords Spiritual !
One of the most senior, able and accomplished priests in Forward in Faith was recently called for his assessment by the local Suffragan Bishop. Egged on by close friends, he asked the visiting prelate how, in the light of the Act of Synod, he saw his future career? After a shuffle of embarrassment, the bishop said that, ‘in present circumstances’ he did not think there would be any ‘opportunities’. But then he added, ‘But you come from that section of the Church which has a great love of the parochial ministry and desire to stay in it’. So that’s OK then.
Surely he can’t be suggesting that bishops are drawn from those who don’t like being priests and can’t wait to get out of the parish?
HARTSHORN FOR LAMBETH
Want to avoid years of further debilitating argument ? Acknowledge the needful joy of women bishops and save Rochester years of synodical slavery? What need we the candidacy of sometime Evangelicals or former Catholics ? Let’s cut to the action and proclaim, by acclamation, Rhian Hartshorn, aged 13, the new Archbishop of Canterbury.
Rhian, you may remember, was the Welsh Girl Guide who did a day’s job swap with the Archbishop of Wales, Rowan Williams, last November. She’s a very nice young woman and, be honest, did anyone notice any difference?