from the Bishop of New Wiltshire

To be read in every parish on the 8th Sunday after Trinity 2013

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

Grace, peace, joy, glory, serenity, happiness, comfort and enablement in the Spirit, by me and through me, to every last one of you, regardless of race, religion, height, weight, intelligence quotient, handicap, sexual orientation or economic status (within limits).

As you know, our diocese has been troubled by many nasty innuendoes this past year. There were, to begin with, those stories in the papers accusing me of bestiality, with complaints entered by various sheep farmers armed with photos which, I must admit, looked very much like me, even though it is possible they were contrived.

Then there were cruel accounts in the media about the rector of our most influential parish, the largest contributor to diocesan support, who has suffered the sorrow of three divorces in as many years, and lately ended a committed relationship with the church organist, by running off with his sixteen-year-old daughter. I am pleased to announce that the two are now duly married, and that Steve has been welcomed back to his parish with open arms by a loyal laity that loves him so very much, and knows a thing or two about Christian forgiveness.

There have come some additional unhappy tidings, among them a series of investigative reports on Channel Ten about evidence of widespread embezzlement by parish treasurers. The numbers given, ‘more than 90%,’ were vastly exaggerated. We discovered irregularities in no more than half our churches, a matter for which forgiveness was asked and forgiveness granted, according to the example of Our Lord when he said, ‘What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?’

Now yet another unworthy furore has been stirred up by my decision to appoint Tony Janus as Canon Pastor of the diocese. It is alleged that Tony is a paedophile with a criminal record that involves, among other things, child pornography. Further, he is known to espouse certain aspects of witchcraft that, we must acknowledge, only expand the horizons of Christian thought. Who can tell what spiritual insights might be garnered from our local covens, with whom we are even now establishing warm ecumenical relations?

I should add that Tony has publicly denied that he has in any way participated in human sacrifice, and I am inclined to accept him at his word. Besides, everyone knows Tony to be a capable and compassionate priest, a talented preacher, a wise and trusted counsellor, well-respected in the community and highly regarded by all who have known him over the years (and I don’t mean that in a carnal sense). What more could we ask for in one about to serve as our chief spokesman in matters of Christian pastoral practice? I hope I can trust all of you to endorse my decision in this matter.

What concerns me most of all in these controversies, Dearly Beloved, is the realization that by concentrating on these matters, our attention is being diverted from our primary obligation which, as you know, is to witness to the good news of God in Christ. If we allow secondary concerns to overwhelm us, we begin to lose sight of that Gospel we are called to proclaim. Think of people the world over who are dying of AIDS! Think of the starvation! Think of the deprived children! Think of the abused women! Think of the minorities that suffer discrimination! Think of our exploited planet! Truly these are the matters that deserve our prayerful attention, not silly allegations which, even if true, have no real bearing on our ministry.

I know I can count on all of you, Dearly Beloved, not to allow controversy to divide us. What could be a more grievous sin than schism? One of the glories of the Gospel has always been the ability to disagree in Christian love. Therein lies the real strength of our denomination. A person can believe just about whatever he or she likes, and yet remains a respected part of the koinonia – which, in case you don’t know it, is a Greek word meaning community.

We simply must not let petty differences rend the Body! No matter what the issue, we must remain united in our common witness, confident that we do the will of God.

Yours in the love and service of Almighty God,

+Vince (The Rt Revd V. Willing)

P.S. I am still short about a half million in my defence fund. The litigation of these sheep farmers knows no bounds. An outpouring of Christian love would be much appreciated.