It is almost too easy to pull the BBC up for its slips and mistakes but taxpayers might be interested in the brief interview it ran on BBC for the Queen’s accession anniversary in February. The Most Rev Justin Welby said warm things about Her Majesty but the subtitles described him as ‘The Archbishop of Cant’. Considering the dictionary definition of cant as ‘hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature’ this seemed harsh even by their standards.
Certainly Charles George QC takes the archbishop’s words seriously. February’s General Synod took place at the same time as the Ely Consistory Court hearing in Jesus College, Cambridge, concerning the proposed removal of a chapel plaque dedicated to Tobias Rustat, benefactor and slave trader. He created the first fund for the purchase of books at the university but his memorial is problematic. ‘Why is it so much agony to remove a memorial to slavery [sic]?’ opined Archbishop Welby in a Synod debate. The remarks ‘should not have been made,’ wrote George, formerly Dean of the Arches and our most senior ecclesiastical judge, and fellow experienced lawyer John Bullimore, to the Church Times. ‘The case is presently under consideration…His Grace’s clear indication that the result should allow the relocation is a breach of the sub judice rule that forbids discussion of matters under active consideration in the courts. Such comments would not have been allowed in the Houses of Parliament; nor should they be in the General Synod…restraint in commenting needs to be maintained by members of the General Synod, however senior.’ Legal advice worth noting.
Forget social media and the internet, the CT Letters page seems to be the place now for major announcement or challenge. It was where the Revd Vicki Burrows ignited a row over ‘bullying and harassment…a culture of fear’ in the Diocese of Llandaff where June Osborne is the bishop. A Church in Wales disciplinary committee found that the bishop had ‘a case to answer’ over treatment of the Dean of Llandaff, the Very Revd Gerwyn Capon, who has been on sick leave for the last two years with work-related depression. Exonerated of spurious charges over mis-spending, he has ‘documentary evidence’ that Archdeacon Peggy Jackson is also hostile. Burrows says her original public correspondence brought about ‘a flood of responses from others referring to Bishop Osborne’s behaviour’. A survey of diocesan clergy there in January found morale to be low. 56 per cent responded and ranked diocesan leadership at a maximum of 2.2 out of 5; the rest said they didn’t participate for fear of recrimination. Bishop Osborne remains in post but Vicki Burrows has resigned as Garth Ministry Area Leader because she ‘can no longer minister with any sense of integrity in Llandaff’. How different The Two Ronnies’ little serial The Worm That Turned (1980) where England was run by a militant Diana Dors and her all-female stormtroopers; at the end the two men escape over the border to Wales for their happy-ever-after. Probably not so likely now.
Also in December, the Church in Wales published the Monmouth Enquiry and Review on the ‘retirement’ of the Rt Revd Richard Pain as Bishop of Monmouth in 2019. The previous December the CiW released a controversial statement which ‘had not been agreed with the members of the Diocese of Monmouth senior team and caused them considerable distress’ adding it ‘formally withdraws the statement and unreservedly apologizes’. The report is also ‘partially redacted to protect the anonymity of some of those involved’; on many pages more than half the text is blocked out.
A theological debate recently for perplexed pilgrims. Weary travellers arrived at the Walsingham children’s pilgrimage one Friday last month to be served sausages – in Lent! The dilemma for some was helped by the custom that those on pilgrimage have a dispensation from the Friday Fast. And anyway, the next day’s main meal was fish fingers. What a teaching opportunity.
Several Roman Catholic brothers and sisters seem upset at the banning by Pope Francis of the ‘Extraordinary Form’ or Latin Mass as it’s more affectionately known. The Ordinariate was designed for Anglicans to embrace Rome but maintain their ‘Anglican patrimony’, including the Book of Common Prayer. They could pass their copies around at a time like this for consolation in the 39 Articles, particularly XXXVII: The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.
Former ND editor Fr Philip Corbett reports concerns with his church building at All Saints, Notting Hill. They hope to get up a fundraising appeal to address its leaning. Located in the Tory stronghold of Kensington & Chelsea, the constituency memorably went red in the 2017 election but returned a Conservative again in 2019. It is not known whether the church is currently leaning to the right or the left.