YOUR EDITRIX, a shy and retiring soul, is seldom given to speaking in public – not least because, when she does, the St. John’s Ambulance have to lay on a “crash” team by the dignitary seats. At the end of the recent Unity Week she dutifully attended a service at a local Church, in keeping with laity and clergy of all denominations. The invited guest speaker, a radical layman, proceeded to hijack the pulpit and harangue the congregation for 20 minutes on the evils of patriarchy, the necessary and inevitable triumph of feminism and the need for the voice of women to be heard in the Church.

Approaching the Speaker at the reception afterwards, the Editrix asked him, courteously, if he really wanted to hear the voice of women. He nodded eagerly.

“Well”, she said, “Pin your ears back and listen!”

There ensued several minutes of severe but loving maternal correction amidst the teacups and bridge rolls.

The, by now purple faced, preacher was heard confiding to a clergyman later that he had written his speech” in a hurry – it needed a lot of editing”. The final draft would now say, “the voice of some women should be heard in the Church.”


FANS OF “NEV THE REV”, Bishop of Brechin, will be delighted to know that, according to his new year encyclical, “there is a new found confidence in the diocese.”

He records that a number of clergy “are reporting increases in their congregations.” The number is not vouchsafed. But apparently increases are not possible in some areas “because of demography… and the number of local churches available for choice”. Quite so. But, “even where congregations seem to have fallen through the critical mass, services are still being conducted”. Critical mass is code for ‘unsustainably small, economically non-viable, closure looms’.

To all this unrestrained joy Nev. adds, a propos of nothing in particular, “The cry goes up often: thank God for Roman Catholics. At least they know what they stand for. We all know that life is not as simple as that”. Absolutely not.

Brechin, Nev reveals, is “unique”. It is numerically so small that the Bishop is “on Christian name terms not simply with his clergy but also with vestry (PCC) members and members of the congregations. As he concludes, “the Scottish Episcopal Church is a ‘wee’ church “.

“Small is beautiful” and, under the inspirational Nev, poor old Brechin gets more beautiful by the year.


WOULD BE PILGRIMS to the annual jamboree at Caister were somewhat taken aback by the booking forms which arrived in January. The keynote speakers were, as ever, a selection of well-known Catholic celibates. But, top of the bill was none other than that well-known married liberal evangelical, the former Bishop of St Albans, John Taylor.

Taylor, whose enthusiasm for priestesses knew no bounds (he ordained 64 at the first kneeling), pursued a scorched earth policy towards Catholic orthodoxy and left the diocese a hard-line Liberal one-party state. (current figures c.120 women priests).

The few Catholic survivors of his episcopal benevolence are unlikely to be rushing to book their chalets.


SOLEMN REFUTATIONS of our articles on the Church of England pension fund crisis must, of course, be taken absolutely seriously. Chastised and corrected by these official pronouncements we can therefore confidently dismiss the latest rumours. Rumours?

It is surely inconceivable that the actuaries have reported to the Archbishop’s Council that the pension fund is still far too small to meet its legal obligations. Consequently, it would be ludicrous to speculate that a possible “top up” source could be the guaranteed annuities of £1,000 per annum paid to each parish as a compensation for the institutional theft of parish assets in 1978 under the National Stipends Measure. Although such a move would produce £5 million p.a. to help fill the non-existent black hole it would mean more debts for the dioceses and, you’ve guessed it, more quota.


WHEN THE FATHER of the “New CofE”, Michael Turnbull, finally sets off for his retirement cottage, competition for his position is expected to be stiff.

Durham used to be the traditional posting for the Church of England’s intellectual bishop, so it is scarcely surprising that two of the great minds on the current bench are beginning to fancy their chances. Bishop Cundy (Peterborough) and Bishop Stevenson (Pompey) are both men who know their capacity and potential to be less than fully stretched by their respective rural outposts. Vacancy in See members should begin to do their homework now. They are clearly going to be spoilt for choice.


THE STRICTLY orthodox and disarmingly erudite Bishop of Basingstoke, Dr Geoffrey Rowell, was the hot tip and obvious choice to succeed John Hind as Bishop of Europe. Now leaks from Church House suggest that all is not proceeding smoothly for the hugely travelled and excellently ecumenically connected prelate. Uncle George is thought to be a un-keen on Rowell personally – dignitaries from the great communions understandably find it easier to converse doctrinally with Rowell than with his patron. The ABC also seems less than keen on single men becoming diocesan bishops. Why this should be, given the track record of some married diocesans, is a mystery.

Some of the smart money has moved to Stephen Platten, Dean of Norwich, formerly Uncle George’s Secretary for Ecumenical Affairs 1990-95.


A CORRESPONDENT who has been leafing through the Church Commissioners’ accounts (his parish always asks for the full set) has spotted potentially remarkable savings. Apparently repairs to the palaces of diocesan bishops cost £3.3 million per year. This is an average of over £76,000 each.

Why not, he writes, move into one of the more capacious “redundant” vicarages they are always selling off?

Such an innocent!


WHEN THE NEWS broke that Peter Mandelson had not helped Mr. Hinduja get a passport for Dome dosh and that Mandy had mistakenly resigned for not lying, the television was full of pictures of the innocent protagonists.

But wait, who was that familiar face that kept appearing in their company? Step forward the Bishop at Lambeth, Richard Llewellyn, representative of the nation’s real Faith Zone, the CofE!

Surely they should have sent Bhaji Butler.


QU: What do John the Baptist and Winnie the Pooh have in common?

Ans: The same middle name.