MONEY WELL SPENT
Exciting times in Truro diocese. The first issue of the Cornish Cleric has landed on 30 Day’s desk. A multi-colour glossy eight pager, ‘by the clergy for the clergy’, gets to grips with key issues! ‘Low morale’ among the clergy will be tackled by diocesan-funded residential sessions ‘in a decent hotel’ where ‘some serious work could be done but also people could relax and enjoy themselves’. The ‘general aim’ of the days will be ‘to be confident in our identity as clergy’.
We meet the husband and wife team who have moved from the chaplaincy of the Merry Hill shopping centre, Dudley, to become Social Responsibility Officer and RE adviser as well as running six churches. Andy recognizes that lay people will have to do a lot of the pastoral work while Sian has noticed already that ‘some children have real needs.’
Another priest remembers the curious funeral of the man who was buried in a hollowed out log while his widow took photographs.
A gold, pink and blue banner headline screams, ‘Please help us to lighten up for heaven’s sake’ and another, ‘Sometimes true – but always tongue-in-cheek’. ‘Bishop Bill – pastor and teacher’ concludes with a thoughtful and unselfconscious reflection on why some people are missing from church. (Answers on a postcard please). There is even a caption competition for a picture of Bishop Bill holding a bemused guinea pig face-to-face (‘The Bishop of St Gerbil’s, I presume’). For those without a sense of humour suggested captions are provided!
Revival must be just around the corner.
‘They’ve all got it in for me’ was the unhappy theme of a day ‘Celebrating Ten Years of Women’s Ministry’ in a declining northern diocese recently. The girls took it in turns to lambast the ‘cruel’, ‘unpleasant’, ‘rude’, ‘harassing’, ‘persecutory’ priests from Forward in Faith who made their lives hell in the diocese. Our correspondent (female) was nonplussed. She knew both of the Forward in Faith priests in the diocese and they were unfailingly courteous, veritable pussycats. Who did the sisters have in mind? A long list of offenders followed none of whom were Forward in Faith and quite a few who had, for episcopal ears, vouchsafed their support of the novelty. Never mind. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
You couldn’t invent it but somebody just did. A leading spokesperson for the feminist lobby told a meeting of the sisterhood last month one of the reasons why they should oppose a Third Province. ‘I have it on good authority from a member of the Archbishop’s Council that a third province wouldn’t accept a woman priest as a godparent to a friend’s child!’ she railed.
You heard the lie here first. You know what to do if it comes your way.
BISHOP TELLS THE TRUTH – SHOCK !
The Church of England could disappear within a generation or two and is in danger of becoming a minority sect derailed by its obsession with sexuality and church legislation.
Who says so? It’s Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, in the foreword to the latest volume of Christian Research statistics. The story was printed in The Times as a big religious story. Well done, Ruthie, for getting it in but it was obviously a slow news day. The volume in question is nearly a year old and had been extensively previewed in your very own New Directions.
Bishop McCulloch’s profound and magisterial analysis should not be confused with the ‘negative’, ‘doom-mongering’, ‘hostile’ and identical conclusions drawn by successive articles in New Directions over the last seven years.
ANOTHER BISHOP TELLS THE TRUTH
Congratulations to Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells. In a revealing interview with the Bath Chronicle he was full of confidence for the future. The diocese is fully funded, Bath Abbey (in spite of the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the departure of the previous incumbent) enjoys high morale and is ‘the most visited church in the country’.
Declining congregations? Just a few years ago under the late great Jumbo Thompson, senior figures were bemoaning the fact that more of Bath and Wells was in the church triumphant and less and less in the church militant here on earth. Not anymore apparently. ‘Numbers of worshippers for big occasions like Christmas and Easter has increased in recent years’, enthuses our Pete and he reminds us that ‘Ten per cent of the population regularly attend church on a Sunday.’ As less than 2% of the population attend the CofE and national festival attendances have fallen (Easter by 300,000 in the decade, Christmas by 11% in the last two years) this is truly a remarkable story.
SOME MISTAKE SURELY
Quite how much General Synod has fallen into the hands of special interest groups can be gleaned from a headline in the Coracle, the Truro Diocesan newspaper, proclaiming the result of a recent ‘BI-ELECTION’. Were the clergypersons who declared their candidacies declaring a little more than they intended?
JUST THE JOB
Evangelicals do not gossip. If you want the stories read their prayer leaflets! Oak Hill College, bastion of orthodox Evangelical education, is under threat again. Is it failing in its job? No, on the contrary, it is thriving, sound and very popular. That’s the problem for the establishment. Last time the liberals on the bench tried to close it and seize its assets. They couldn’t. It’s run by a private trust. This time the threat is more insidious and anti-Christian. Bully the ordinands! Over 70% of Oak Hill ordinands report bullying by bishops or directors of ordinands with threats ranging from lack of funding for training through to promised ‘unemployability’ in the sponsoring diocese. It is, of course, perfect training and preparation for life as an orthodox incumbent.
Two years ago senior orthodox Evangelicals were granted an audience with the Chief Appointments Wallah. Why, they wondered, were there no conservative Evangelical diocesan bishops? The keeper of the episcopal patronage did not dispute the obvious fact but wondered out loud if a conservative Evangelical bishop ‘could really be bishop to the whole diocese.’ This is clearly not a question that has arisen in the appointments of men like John Saxbee (Lincoln), Peter Selby (Worcester), Martin Wharton (Newcastle), and all those other doyens of the via media.
The scandal of the unreformed appointments system rumbles on.