Diocese of Paranoia
A 30Days reader from the former colonies writes to bewail his difficulty in planning his holidays. Like all good 30Days folk, he naturally wished to plan his tour of England’s South Coast around the worship of Almighty God, and so he visited a diocesan website in order to identify suitable churches where he might attend Divine Service. Helpfully, the website told him: ‘Searches of the diocese’s directory data from this page and links/boxes on results pages are logged. We log your numeric IP address, the country in which this is located, the software you are using to search our data, the page on which you entered your search terms and what they were. Data Protection legislation means that personal data from the diocesan directory is only available to users located within the European Economic Area. Some ISPs disguise the country an IP address is located in. All AOL users, for example, appear to be located in the continental United States. We cannot circumvent this misinformation, and have to assume that the location is correct. In cases identified as being outside the EEA, we will not disclose personal data.’ More helpfully, 30Days was able to redirect him from the Chichester Diocesan website to that of Forward in Faith.
Diocese of Toytown
30Days readers will be heartened to know that clerical scholarship of the highest order is still promoted in the Diocese of Oxford. ‘Portfolio’ – the Diocese’s compulsory post-ordination training ‘for growing in faith and ministry’ makes onerous demands, as its website makes clear: ‘What can go in a portfolio? Anything that demonstrates what you know and what you can do… But one of our most important principles is that you can use evidence of any kind. This means you can play to your strengths – for example, to demonstrate your understanding of a passage in the Bible you could write an essay, or preach a sermon, or design a housegroup session, or perhaps draw a picture, or do all kinds of other things. We like to encourage creativity!’ 30Days readers may be forgiven for thinking that childish things would have been put away at this stage; but as most dioceses have an equivalent Noddy course for the great cohort of the cerebrally challenged in ‘training’ these days, perhaps it’s entirely consistent.
Value for money
Can you believe that Members of Parliament received expenses and allowances in 2004-05 averaging £122,677 each? A scandalous waste of public money? Of course not. Or so at least would bishops probably argue. In the same year, their costs, not including stipends, averaged £125,663. (We have included the cost of maintaining palaces and castles in this on the grounds that MPs can claim for a second home in London.) Perhaps it is little wonder then that in the late Nineties the Church Commissioners threatened legal action against New Directions if it dared to publish a leaked copy of the 1996 expenses which were then not in the public domain?
Melissa Hutchings, the Director of Communications for the Diocese of London recently emailed the clergy of the diocese thus: ‘A man called Marcus – white with dark, spiky hair (but fairly long on top), smartly dressed, quite tall and well spoken – approached one of the female priests after a Sunday morning service at St Martin-in-the-Fields in August and was verbally abusive, at length. His message was that all women priests are arrogant, self-serving, ambitious and utterly regardless of all those they have hurt by the fact of their ordination and the lives they have destroyed. He has never met one who disproves his theory. He says that he is the son of a vicar and his father left the Church of England because of women priests, thus destroying the family. The priest in question sought to respond to his statements peacably and without engaging in any real discussion, but Marcus was undeterred in getting his message across.’ The story continued in much the same vein and concluded: ‘He’s vitriolic, verbally very aggressive, and can be quite intimidating… Marcus at one point alluded to himself as having mental health issues and said that Westminster Cathedral were very kind to him recently because of this. He is, however, clearly sufficiently self-aware to know the effect he is having on people and to deliberately continue to achieve it. He appears not to be interested in listening to anyone else, but simply looks for openings to express his view, and does so vociferously to anyone who will listen.’
All of which prompted this reply from a priest of the diocese: ‘Thank you for the warnings about rum folk. I am sorry to hear that Marcus is unbalanced. I agreed with most of what he said.’
The Diocese of Manchester is advertising a course of six sessions of Continuing Ministerial Education next year which promises: ‘Space for disagreement, exploration, and even heresy!’ What can they mean?
Bradford Cathedral’s recent advertisement for two new Residentiary Canons naturally caught the eye of 30Days; ‘New Ways of Being Cathedral’ screamed the message in the church press. A visit to the cathedral website left us none the wiser as to what this guff might mean, so we turned our attention to the post of Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Public Affairs. The idea of being the ‘key co-ordinator and interpreter of advice to the Archbishop…working with the other senior Offices of State, politics, business, education, the media and voluntary organizations within and outside the church’ sounded terribly appealing, until we spotted that Lambeth Palace expects to appoint someone at an annual pittance of only £70,000. 30Days simply does not come that cheap.
Words, words, words.
Many thanks to the 30Days reader who pointed out that, with no less than 30,879 words, the 2004 Report of the Archbishops’ Council was some 552 times more wordy than the Lord’s Prayer.