2022 has been dominated by the Christ Church saga. The millionaire Martyn Percy has left the college, cathedral and Church of England itself but still blogs furiously for anyone willing to read his pearls of wisdom. He also tried to sue the Independent Safeguarding Board for £7,000 of his legal fees. Except the District Judge ruled against him, on the basis the ISB is not a legal entity; it was the wrong process, he said, and ordered Percy to pay £4,500 in costs. Christ Church has also been blasted by the Charity Commission, in the form of an official warning over its expenditure of £6.6 million on legal and PR fees and accusing the trustees of ‘misconduct’. ‘Good governance should be a priority for all trustees,’ the report said. Dr Percy responded to this by describing the college’s ‘relentless, wasteful and unsuccessful campaign’ – and he should know.

Former Diocese of London employee Martin Sargeant was due to be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on 21 November for his £5.2m swindle. ‘A remarkable layman… who had an eye for development possibilities. His negotiating skills and attention to detail were also crucial in turning ideas into profitable ventures,’ was how Bishop Richard Chartres described him at a Lambeth Palace lecture in September 2015. Sentencing has been adjourned until the week before Christmas. No character witnesses required.

Congratulations to Helen-Ann Hartley who will become the next Bishop of Newcastle. But in her announcement day video speech, she appeared to be keeping a safe distance. There she was, with the Tyne Bridge in the background, but Newcastle is separated from its neighbour by the river and she was  standing in Durham diocese. ‘I can’t wait to get started,’ she concluded. Crossing the river first might help.

Winifred Peck’s 1949 novel Arrest the Bishop? Deals with ‘the Rev Elder…parish priest from hell’ whose misdemeanours including drunkenness, embezzlement and blackmail bring about his untimely demise through a spiked drink in the Bishop’s Palace one night. But who did it, and was it the bishop himself? A similar mystery surrounds the identity of ‘Anonymous’ who has penned a blog post online about the Rev Matthew Firth entitled ‘Church of England Evangelical Priest Resigns over Bullying and Abuse – Saga has left 39-year-old former astrophysicist unemployed’. In ‘Matthew’s Story’ we have a blow-by-blow account of how the former Priest-in-charge of St Cuthbert’s and Holy Trinity, Darlington, was the victim of a ‘backroom process’ to oust him, apparently over objections to his ‘orthodox teaching’. An evangelical who trained at Wycliffe Hall, relations between both parishes, their PCCs, and diocesan leadership including Bishop Paul Butler, deteriorated to such an extent that he eventually resigned and was serving out his notice period when the pandemic began. The bishop had, it is claimed, been ‘keeping a monitoring file of things that Matthew has said on social media [but] did not tell Matthew about this formal monitoring process’ and insisted he leave when his time was up. Ugly reading, it concludes: ‘Matthew is currently exploring the possibility of a new ministry within a different episcopal family of the Anglican world’.

June Osborne has retired as the Bishop of Llandaff. As is the way nowadays, her farewell service on St Andrew’s Day featured liturgical theatre in the form of a strip tease where we she was ‘unclothed’ of her mitre, cope and stole, cassock-alb, and finally laid down her crozier. She also referred to her ‘commanding leadership style’ to which many attest, not least the previous Dean of Landaff. But perhaps we shall ever be grateful for the media interview she gave when the King went to Wales as part of his loyal tour upon accession and visited her cathedral. ‘By his engagement with the Welsh nation today he’s looking forward in faith – and hope to what lies ahead of him,’ she said. Amen to that.

At the end of last month, a Swatch watch donated by Pope Francis sold at a charity auction in the US for $56,250. Considering the rate at which the Vatican has been making saints of its former popes, this canny investment could prove to be a second-class relic one day.

The war in Ukraine has thrown up some unlikely beneficiaries. Many thought that rallying to the country’s side in the Eurovision Song Contest was the right thing to do, the Ukraine song won. The usual system where a winning nation hosts the next contest cannot hold, so Britain has found a substitute host city: Liverpool. Except the Christian Resources Exhibition’s booking for the venue in May 2023 has now been usurped as Liverpool City Council requisitions the hall and CRE will shift to Birmingham instead. A silver lining for some clergy who need not change their travel plans after all. Fathers, you know who you are.

A word in for Southwark Cathedral, though. Recitals often take place in churches and cathedrals, and this holy spot between London Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe has a new outreach: events company Fever is promoting concerts there including ‘Sci-Fi and Fantasy Soundtracks’ (7 Jan-8 Feb) and ‘Candlelight: a tribute to Taylor Swift’ (14 Jan-11 Feb) – the latter billed as ‘a love letter to London’s Swifties’. Who needs Fresh Expressions? 

Happy Christmas one and all.