OLD TIME RELIGION
When the England football team flopped in Portugal in the Euro 2004 Championship sports fans adjusted to the all too familiar disappointment. As it turned out, many of the soccer top brass had been ‘playing away’ well before the tournament and were emotionally and physically exhausted before a ball was kicked.
Hoping to prevent a repeat performance at the Olympics, the Sun newspaper, bastion of morality and righteousness, instituted a major campaign. The Sun called the nation to prayer! Almost immediately there was a shower of medals in sailing, badminton, archery, showjumping and synchronized diving. Accordingly the Sun was not slow to emphasize the direct link between the spiritual devotions of its readers and the immediate divine response. Unfortunately for the church the bountiful deity invoked by Sun readers was none other than good old Zeus who still has a significant say in events at his old stamping ground. To assist ‘faithful’ readers the Sun immediately published a guide to a build-it-yourself toilet roll temple to place on top of the telly so you can watch and worship simultaneously.
ANGLICANS UBER ALLES?
The prospect of shaven-headed, swastika-waving pensioners jackbooting their way up the aisles to ‘Heily Communion’ made the national news last month. Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hulme, raised the prospects of racists and reactionaries being encouraged by the well known and much loved hymn, ‘I vow to thee my country’.
Written in the shadow of the Great War, the hymn tries to make sense of those deeply old-fashioned virtues of service and sacrifice and points powerfully to the glories of heaven and the virtues of peace. Indeed, it was sung most heartily by the very generation that would offer itself in the fight against those curses of the twentieth century: racism, eugenics and totalitarian socialism.
This is not the first time that the blessed Lowe has demonstrated his remarkable perception. When he was Archdeacon of Sheffield he was a keen supporter of the ‘Nine o’ Clock Service’, the rock around the altar shenanigans of diocesan protégé Chris Brain, which collapsed due to the over-enthusiastic participation of lycra-clad lovelies. Lowe got the job of conducting the enquiry from which he and Graham Cray, another fan, came out smelling of roses. Lowe was duly rewarded with Hulme, Cray became Bishop of Maidstone.
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
According to psychologists about one in every hundred of the population is a psychopath and they often rise to the top of their chosen profession. Professor Robert Hare (Univ British Columbia, Hon Prof Cardiff Univ, Consultant to the FBI) has devised a test for spotting them in the workplace. These are the questions, he advises, you should use to assess any suspect.
Does he break promises? Does he take credit for the work of others? Does he manipulate people to his own advantage? Is he a bully? Does he fake sincerity with great conviction? Does he get angry when his plans are questioned? Does he think the world revolves around him? Does he blame others when things go wrong? Is he two-faced? Is he unreliable and changes for his own advantage? Is he lacking in personal depth? Would he disregard a previously agreed code of ethics?
A ‘Yes’ to these questions means you are dealing with a man (or woman) with serious psychopathic tendencies. Given the number of clergy in the CofE there should, statistically, be between 100 and 110 such dangerous and ambitious creatures at large. You have been warned.
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?
An unseemly spat has broken out in the normally calm offices of the Church of England Newspaper. Bishop Michael Marshall’s regular and seemingly eternal column accused Lord Carey of a breach of priestly confidence in his autobiography, ironically titled Know the Truth. Marshall alleged that George’s details of his ministry to the Royal Family and Mrs Familiar Parker-Knoll, the Prince of Wales’s favourite recliner, had transgressed the boundaries of priestly privacy. George was furious and bludgeoned the CEN into apologizing. Marshall himself, significantly, has not.
All this may seem a storm in a teacup but the sub-plot is the really entertaining bit. Andrew Carey (George’s son) is a consultant to the CEN and a long-term opponent of Marshall’s column. George rescued Marshall from his unhappy American sojourn and made him his ‘catholic’ rep on ‘Springboard’, his failed initiative for the Decade of Evangelism, then closed it early as a cost-cutting exercise. Marshall, a man with a history of less than successful projects behind him, then washed up at St Matthew’s, Westminster, which later became the cathedral of ‘Affirming Catholicism’, before becoming self-styled ‘Bishop-in-Residence’ at Holy Trinity, Sloane Street.
George, meanwhile, is belatedly banging the drum against homosexuality wherever anyone will give him a bandstand.
All of this is merely background. Bishop Marshall spoke out because he sincerely believes in a Queen’s right to privacy.