M & Ms
The Portuguese and Dutch seaborne empires of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were noted for winning natives to Christ by the judicious distribution of much-needed provender. The hungry converts were known as ‘rice christians’. Now it seems a similar method of evangelism is to be employed in the impoverished northern outpost of Manchester. Bishop Nigel ‘Sweeties’ Mc Culloch will be offering new worshippers ‘The Big C’ as a reward for their first visit. No, not Communion, but Chocolate!
‘Back to Church Sunday’ is targeted at the over-50s who need an excuse to come back to church. In addition to the politically correct choccy bar (Co-op Fair Trade), hungry seekers will get a ‘goodies’ bag containing the diocesan magazine, Crux. This irresistible sweetener from McCo-op is surely straight out of an episode of this column’s favourite priestess, the chocoholic incumbent of Dibley, the lovely Dawn French. Indeed, a whole missionary programme could spring from this masterstroke. ‘Milky Bars for Children’ Sunday, university missions fuelled by ‘Smarties, Inter-Faith outreach – ‘Turkish Delight’, Prayer Book revival meetings – ‘After Eights’ and the over 80s reunions restricted rations of Ex-Lax. The Quaker founders of the great chocolate dynasties would surely be in rapture at the spiritual and commercial prospects.
When a few clergy are caught with pornography on computers, they are rightly sacked and, in some cases, imprisoned. The Church then suffers years of hostile comment and the 99.9% good guys have to put up with unseemly gossip, distrust and shifty glances in the street.
Consider Her Majesty’s Government. Half a single column on page 8 of a national daily recently revealed the Dept of Work and Pensions as a hotbed of pornographic activity.
While we fondly imagined their earnest but dull lives calculating what remained of our pensions (after Mr Brown’s annual £5bn theft) and comparing them unfavourably with their own featherbedded index linked benefits guaranteed by our taxes, their computers were a veritable orgy of abuse.
Over 200 staff have been disciplined as two and a half million pornographic images
(600,000 of child abuse) and 18,000 pages of filth were harvested from their computers.
Astonishingly only one person has been prosecuted.
AS PANTS THE HART
Clergy households in the Diocese of Chelmsford have received the following in a letter from Lydia Gladwin, wife of Bishop John of ‘Southwark Gay Day’ fame, regarding a retreat to be organized by SOCCS (Support of Chelmsford Clergy Spouses): ‘The overnight retreat will be led by Revd Rose Williams of West Horndon and entitled
“Vicars do wear knickers”. Having been a child and wife of the Vicarage, Rose will encourage us to look at ourselves with the help of some Old Testament characters and to know that we are not alone.’ Presumably Rose’s main text will be Daniel 10.13: ‘(Saint) Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.’
As the lovely Rev Rosie leads Lydia and the lingerie lovers through the Good Book she will, no doubt, dwell briefly on ‘The Thong of Solomon’ and, upheld by the ‘girdle of truth’, investigate Jehoiakim’s padded brazier (Jeremiah 36).
Next year’s retreat for men ‘The Ephod Squad ?’.
BOWN BUT NOT OUT
It is good to know that not every clergyman who has resigned from the Church of England is on his uppers. Fr Francis Bown, former parish priest of St Stephen’s , Hull, and founder of the modestly titled ‘Ecclesia’, is clearly thriving. Admirers who have faithfully followed Frank from his days tricycling down Jesus Lane in a frock coat will not be at all surprised at his latest enterprise.
‘Bown’s Best’ is a website dedicated to his reviews of top hotels and restaurants, most recently on the French Riviera. Under the heading ‘Fine Dining and Feisty Females’ (a reference to his great aunt) we are welcomed to the Hotel La Reserve Beaulieu where those of us tired by cheap plonk can sup a 1964 Romance Conti for a mere £2,500 or a 1970 Margaux for a trifling £670.
Bown notes that the restaurant is filled with ‘those who go to great lengths to appear elegant’. Which leads us on to Frank’s other website, ‘Bown’s Bespoke’, where pictures of our immaculately attired host leads us through the top Gents Outfitters for every conceivable item.
Gentlemen will appreciate particularly the advice that buttons for braces should be inside the trousers at the back, ‘so that when I drive the Royce I do not leave impressions on the leather seats’. Quite so.
Orthodox followers of the recent contortions of international Anglicanism are more puzzled by the day. Parishes in Virginia who reject the ministrations of the diocesan bishop, Peter Lee, because he approved the consecration of Gene Robinson have found someone else to conduct their confirmations. The substitute, approved by both Lee and the Archbishop of Canterbury apparently, turns out to be none other than that tireless battler for scriptural authority, doctrinal orthodoxy and ecclesial unity, our old friend, George Carey.
Apologists for the 1992 General Synod decision to permit the ordination of women have always argued that this was by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (Embarrassingly, the Holy Spirit had got it ‘wrong’ on every other occasion and will never be asked again but be that as it may). Those who were there are less convinced.
Layfolk especially had experienced some bizarre goings on. Of those who had been identified as voting against in the ‘dummy run’ vote in York some received heavy handed lobbying from their clergy and even the odd bishop,(‘What right have you to deny a woman’s vocation ?’ etc). On the day itself some evangelical laity were alarmed by a rumour that ‘our own dear evangelical Archbishop will resign if it doesn’t go through.’
Now comes evidence from our own dear evangelical Archbishop himself that it wasn’t just the Holy Spirit who was stacking the numbers. In his amusingly titled autobiography, Know the Truth, Dr Carey refers to ‘phone call from leading evangelical layman, Mark Birchall. Birchall tells George that he can indeed deliver 25 votes of evangelical waverers if the Archbishop can assure them it will not open the floodgates to liberalism and advance the case for the ordination of practising homosexuals. George, of course, offers him this, as it turns out, worthless assurance and the House of Laity scrapes home by 2 votes. Who knows, without George’s timely intervention the Holy Spirit might have got it ‘wrong’ again.