BEATING THE BOUND
Whatever happened to clergy discipline? Over-excited naughty priests and dull legal pedants have been bombarding the 30 Days office seeking guidance. The problem, it seems, is that the much-heralded new ‘clergy discipline measure’ is proving as elusive as the Holy Grail. Enquirers at Church House are told that, ‘we’ve never heard of it’, while the Parliamentary stationers have ransacked their shelves in vain. In the meantime would-be sinners and urgent penitents are left in suspense as they await the smack of firm government.
Older readers will recall fondly the happier days when ‘clergy discipline’ had nothing to do with dreary old bishops but was regularly administered by Natasha and Mandy in a flat over the charity shop in Wardour Street.
Overstretched staff at 30 Days office have come to dread the Archbishop of Canterbury’s set-piece sermons. Within hours the phone lines are hot with religious hacks from all over the Anglican world asking the same question. As this is a family newspaper the gist may be translated thus: ‘What on earth does he mean?’
Veterans of ‘Williamspeak’ will know that this is a question to which there is no ready or amendable answer. Endless sub-clauses and a tortuous complexity of language couched in a tone of thoughtful compassion simply leave an impression of benevolent incomprehensibility. This near-divine inscrutability first came to international prominence at the Lambeth Conference 1998 where Williams gave the keynote address. The instant rave reviews from his fellow purple people-eaters were undimmed by the apparent inability of any of them to explain what he had actually said. Williams recognizes this trait in himself. At a recent House of Bishops meeting he was invited to explain a piece he had written. Williams declined on the basis that any explanation he might give would only complicate the issue!
This Government’s relentless hostility to family life continues apace. The Civil Partnership Bill is working its way through Parliament. Designed to bring tax benefits to homosexual liaisons it effectively puts old-fashioned married couples at a disadvantage. The ‘Civil Partnership’ set up for homosexuals and lesbians will embrace, at the most optimistic government forecast, 3% of the population by 2050. The other 97% may find that it is advantageous for tax and pension reasons to consider redefining themselves.
Our 30 Days taxation specialist advises that, two years before retirement, the Gender Recognition Act be invoked and either the husband proclaim himself a woman or the wife declare herself a man. They should then divorce each other and immediately contract a civil partnership. Thanks to Tony and Gordon the new couple would be immediately better off and their pensions and long-term assets enjoy greater protection.
WOMEN BISHOPS ALREADY
The Church of England could easily avoid another four or five years acrimonious debate about women’s ordination/consecration thanks to the ever helpful inclusivist Blair government. Under the new Gender Recognition Act it will be open to all women priests to declare themselves to be men without any physical evidence whatsoever. They would then be eligible for consecration both legally and in terms of canon law, no synod debates required. Of course an example could be set by one of the less masculine of the present bishops declaring himself to be a woman and, fait accompli, beating all the girls to it. Peter Tatchell apparently keeps a list of potential candidates.
HERTS AND BEDS
Future staff meetings at St Alban’s diocese should be fun. When Dr Jeffrey John takes up his friends’ patronage as Dean of St Albans Abbey, he will sit opposite the Bishop of Bedford, Richard Inwood. Bedford, it may be remembered, was one of those backward-looking bishops who signed up to oppose JJ’s original appointment as Bishop of Reading. In full knowledge of this his lord and master, Christopher Herbert, Bishop of St Albans, entered into secret negotiations with Downing Street and JJ’s old pal, Dr Williams, to bring him to the Abbey, a much better job altogether. Forced to choose between resignation and humiliation Inwood has demonstrated that vital episcopal quality, flexibility. A dean is not a bishop, so everything is tickety boo. As he stomps round the draughty and dwindling outposts of rural Bedfordshire, Inwood will be hard pressed to imagine he will have more influence than the fashionable dean of the great centre of a formerly Catholic diocese.
Where trust in democracy has broken down and confidence in a system of government has been undermined, disobedience is inevitable. Who says so? Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, in his recent Cambridge sermon. It was, of course, part of a stinging attack on the present British Government’s foreign policy and should not be confused with any reflection on the organization he purports to run.
APRIL IN PARIS
‘It’s never too late’ seems to be the motto of Bishop Otis Charles. This April, at the age of 78, the divorced former Bishop of Utah (1971–86) and Dean of Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, wed his latest lover, Felipe Sanchez Paris, 62, in church.
Charles told his wife of his inclinations in 1976 but waited until he collected his pension before divorcing her and ‘coming out’. Professor Paris has an even more diverse background having divorced four wives (with four children) before succumbing to the bishop’s charms. The 2 hour 45 minute ceremony took place at St Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco, noted for its congregational dancing and icons of dancing ‘saints’ including Malcolm X, Lady Godiva, Martha Graham and Charles Darwin.
JUST FANCY THAT
‘When a church slackens its grip on fundamental theology, it is on a slippery slope that leads beyond itself to liberalsm and death. We are called to embrace a credal and historic Christianity.
‘We are in danger of becoming a Christian sect. I’m 18 months out of office and rather glad I am’
George Carey, Colorado, April 2004