It felt like time to give Martyn Percy a rest, then the Editor sends on an email. A former member of General Synod (who failed in their 2021 re-election attempt) has written in to take issue with this column in the December magazine, with one point about legal process and the other about referring to Christ Church’s former Dean as ‘the millionaire Martyn Percy’. Our correspondent continued: ‘True it is that Percy reportedly received over £1m in compensation when settling his dispute with the College Governing Body in February 2022 but, as well as compensation for loss of office, some £400,000 of that was, in effect, reimbursement of the legal fees the Dean incurred in his defence of the spurious 27 charges brought against him in 2018’. That’s alright then. Except there is a little more to this than meets the eye as another email quickly followed, from none other than Martyn Percy, replying to the letter’s author. ‘Many thanks for this… And for having my back once again. ND is a pretty bitchy magazine, and it will be interesting to see if they publish your letter. Watch this space.’ We hope this suffices, and satisfies their request.
But could such a high compliment come from the same Martyn Percy who wrote for New Directions and took to these very pages in October 1996 to criticise the Working As One Body report as ‘no Lumen Gentium, but a bourgeoisie-management-led bid for the centralisation and control of power’? Indeed it could, for he was then only the Chaplain of Christ’s College, Cambridge. Like so much of the very sorry Christ Church tale it is hardly an Oxford mystery worthy of Inspector Morse. With plenty of time for his crossword, he would have knocked off early and had an extra pint.
Free Church (of England) minister Calvin Robinson said recently to the Catholic Herald of Anglican training ‘the institution has been captured by a particular line of thought, repeated in short courses. It’s all a massive echo-chamber.’ He cannot surely have been speaking of his own alma mater, St Stephen’s House. He tweeted a photograph of the leavers’ service last summer with his own sober scarf alongside various ordination stoles being blessed and the simple caption: ‘Black scarves matter’.
The Living in Love & Faith team may find themselves back at the drawing board sooner than anticipated. Polyamory is involvement in a number of consenting romantic relationships at the same time. Progress (if we can call it that) is already being made in the US with some authorities in Massachusetts passing ordinances ‘recognising multi-partner domestic partnerships’ although marriage equality is remote considering all 50 states prohibit polygamy and bigamy.
A Synod speech from the Revd Miranda Threlfall-Holmes raises eyebrows. ‘As a historian, I want to challenge this idea that we have heard repeatedly expressed, that the church has always had one fixed doctrine of marriage,’ she began. But with a loose grasp of historical language use, she went on to thunder how ‘the 1938 report of the first Doctrine Commission in the Church of England spoke of marriage as being between “two Christian persons”.’ Indeed it did, although it seems to have escaped her scrutiny that homosexuality was illegal in 1938. She’s also overlooking the fact that for all of its history the Church of England has had a fixed doctrine of marriage. It’s to be found in the Book of Common Prayer, where she might also be interested to read the Table of Kindred and Affinity. Dr Threlfall-Holmes is currently the Acting Archdeacon of Liverpool.
Ecclesiastical legal processes are sometimes a little controversial. St Nicholas’s, Leicester, is currently standing in as the cathedral while it undergoes refurbishment. The city-centre church is hosting the cathedral’s usual weekday services, but has attracted attention for using a rainbow flag as an altar frontal. In fact, ‘something more permanent’ was stitched for them by ‘Margaret from Loughborough’ although it’s not clear if she belongs to NADFAS; the DAC has not been very enthusiastic all the same. A diocesan Consistory Court decision has tactfully yet to appear.
Leicester Cathedral’s Chapter is not itself a bastion of diversity and inclusion though. The newsletter for the First Sunday of Lent featured a line of ladies in copes on the front cover and the self-congratulatory tagline ‘Leicester Cathedral celebrates first all-female clergy team’. Perhaps they have given up men for Lent.
Passiontide approaches and many clergy will doubtless think of a day off for relaxation and refreshment before the strains of Holy Week and Easter. Maybe even a day at the races – like Aintree. (Fast trains from Sheffield.) But perhaps don’t wear clericals, or a top hat, or get caught by the Daily Mail (‘The booze is flowing at Aintree as the glamorous guests let their hair down’ was their 7 April headline last year). At least the 2023 Grand National is on Easter Saturday, which will surely confuse many.
Congratulations to Bishop Paul Thomas who wasted no time in getting to work in the See of Oswestry. But with his striking appearance, wonderful robes, and mellifluous voice, how long before he becomes known as the Bishop of Oz?