Those who lament the passing of the late great ‘Father Ted’ from our TV screens may find some consolation in a new Irish clerical entertainment, ‘Mother Thoms’.

Penelope Thoms, poet, master of divinity, spiritual director extraordinary and expert in Celtic Christianity (wouldn’t you just know it?) is to be ‘ordained’ by Bishop James Burch of the ‘Catholic’ diocese of One Spirit, USA. Penny, a Yank now resident in Kerry, will be the fifth priest ordained in this exciting little sideshow. ‘One Spirit’ practices a ‘generically Catholic model of Christianity as the early Christians practised’, so their propaganda claims. This, as you might imagine, involves divorce, remarriage, homosexual and lesbian agenda, women priests etc etc. ‘One Spirit’ claims that it ‘honours the Pope and other religious leaders’ but is not subject to them, their canon law or the guidelines of any portion of the Catholic Church. It ‘does not dictate what people must believe.’ All very Church of England really.


The Bishop of Lincoln, John Saxbee, has recently announced the appointment of a new chief executive of the Diocesan Board of Finance. The new money man is Max Manin.

Mr Manin was described as a former deputy director of a group dealing with equality and minority rights. Whether the well-meaning ‘suits’ on the DBF realized that the group in question, Stonewall, is one of the most aggressive advocates of the extreme homosexual rights agenda is presently unclear. Still, followers of the gameplan of Bishop Saxbee, President of the Modern Church Persons Union (88% of whose clerical members are enthusiastic supporters of homosexual practice in the priesthood), will not be at all surprised.


The Mothers Union, always keen for new excitements for their members, is offering famous men as role models for fathers. One suggestion is Michael Jackson. Can this be the same Wacky Jacko who dangled his baby over a hotel balcony, hides his own childrens’ faces from public view and is presently facing trial for sex offences against a minor? Still, we do live in an inclusive Church.


The Unitarian Church in Britain, which rejects many of the core Christian beliefs, now has fewer than 6,000 members of whom half are over 65. Senior Unitarians believe the denomination will disappear within a generation. Affirming Catholicism is said to be getting out the welcome mat in the hope that this will increase their lay membership ten-fold.


Anglicans like to tell the legendary story of Newman’s lament. After his conversion to Rome it is rumoured that he could often be found outside Anglican celebrations of Evensong gently weeping. Even if this legend were true, the reasons for Newman’s tears may have been less comforting than the usual Anglican interpretation. Be that as it may, future defectors will increasingly be pushed to find anywhere to stand outside and weep at all. The decline of Evensong continues apace countrywide. Henceforth, nostalgic left-footers may be reduced to huddling in the back of the diocesan rest homes for disappointed Affirming Catholics, the cathedrals. Overseas the hot prot Diocese of Sydney’s Cathedral has abandoned Evensong altogether in favour of a ‘Bible Service’, which some folk had mistakenly believed Evensong to be.


Fr Kirk, cookery correspondent of this magazine, recently received a birthday card addressed to him at St Bartholomew’s and greeting him as Stephen. Fr Kirk is, of course, Geoffrey and his birthday (readers please note) is on December ??. Where St Bartholomew’s comes in is altogether unclear. No such patronage exists in Lewisham. The nearest Fr Steven Kirk is at St Agnes, Port Talbot, birthday unknown.

Father Kirk’s surprise card showed a headless jogger running along a breakwater above the legend, ‘It’s your birthday soon’. Inside he was urged to ‘Have a great day’ by ‘everyone at Ecclesiastical Insurance’.

While grateful for this iconic reminder of the current state of the Church of England, Fr Kirk has written to the insurance company’s IT department suggesting that they take more water with it. A less honourable clergyman would surely have submitted a claim for the complete loss of St Bartholomew’s.


Sent on a ‘communication course’ at Church House recently, a young clergyperson was intrigued to find it directed by one Chris Rees, BBC producer and husband of the much more famous Christina. (Christina, an original member of the Archbishops’ Council, regular mouthpiece for WATCH and ‘rentaquote’ for the BBC, was recently headlined in The Times as the American woman at the top in English Church politics).

The £120 per head fee was no doubt excellent value for such independent counsel but one thing rather jarred. Over coffee a small group of the students were suddenly asked whether any of them had any ‘real dirt’ on Fr Geoffrey Kirk! The best anyone could come up with was that Kirk had been brought up as a Methodist.

Is the CofE training a new generation of Max Cliffords or is it simply an early warning that the forthcoming debate on women ‘bishops’ is intending to plumb new theological depths?


In less enlightened times, as listeners to ‘Round the Horne’ will recall, homosexuals had their own private language to avoid detection. Today’s clerical equivalents of Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick have nothing to fear and freely use the same language as the rest. There is, however, one caveat. Words don’t always mean the same thing and meaning is used very precisely where politically expedient.

Celibate, for example, means ‘not married’.

Chaste means ‘abstaining from unlawful, immoral (or even all) sexual intercourse’.

It is for this reason that some male religious orders have amended their vows to ‘Poverty, Celibacy and Obedience’ as, hand on heart, all their members can swear they have no intention of marrying a woman.

The live-in boyfriend of a senior Anglican dignitary was astonished to read, in a Sunday newspaper, his lover’s claim that their longstanding relationship was ‘celibate’. Mercifully someone lent him a dictionary and normal service was resumed.