Category Archives: Church of England

13 Nov

Many Big Brothers are Watching You!

Relentlessly, day by day, the surveillance society is becoming more total – the word I am looking for is totalitarian

Last Saturday I was invited by the Church of England authorities to attend what is called a Safeguarding Course. If I had declined this “invitation,” I would have no longer possessed my work permit: the Bishop’s permission for me to officiate as a priest. So, along with thirty other priests and laypeople, I endured a couple of hours brainwashing session in which I was told to look out for incidences of “physical, mental, sexual or emotional abuse of children or adults.” Suggestions were offered as to how I might go about this. I should, for example, listen to children’s conversation from which I might glean some insight into their home life.

I was so uneasy about this that I mentioned it to my taxi driver on the way home in order to discover what he thought about these Safeguarding techniques. “Oh don’t talk to me about Safeguarding. I’m full up to here with it. We taxi drivers were told by the Safeguarders that we should look closely at our women passengers for signs of physical abuse. It’s sick, I tell you”

The Safeguarding industry is a nationalised industry and it has its branches everywhere. Clergy, teachers, doctors, nurses, members of the police and those in many other professions have to receive this education.

Everyone is under scrutiny

Safeguarding must be one of the most flourishing industries in the country and I wouldn’t know where to start to try to calculate just how many hundreds of thousands are involved in it. In the Diocese of Chichester alone, there is a full time Safeguarding supremo with his own office and machinery for the production and dissemination of propaganda on a huge scale. The supremo has many part time assistants who all report to him. And every parish church must appoint its own Safeguarding officer. If I suspect that someone I come across in the course of my work is being abused in any of the four ways mentioned above, I must on no account use my own judgement and, perhaps, intervene to find out what’s going on. No, though I am a priest with a lifetime’s experience, I must regard myself as incapable of any qualities of discernment and of any moral authority and, in the words of our safeguarding tutor, “Simply report your suspicions to your Safeguarding officer. And that’s your job done.”

Now, what does the “job done” look like? It might involve a child being removed from the family home by social workers. Or, in a recent case a teacher sent an email to an underage pupil which was suspected of ambiguity. Did it contain a sexual reference? Not according to the girl who received it. But others saw it and thought it did contain a sexual element and reported it to their Safeguarding officer who in turn reported it to the police.  The police interviewed the teacher but no charges were made. But, because an allegation had been made – albeit by people to whom the original message had not been addressed – the teacher was put on the sex offenders’ register. No trial. No charges. So the teacher was innocent – but he was being treated as if he were guilty.

Big Brother is no longer just a nasty character in a novel by George Orwell. He is alive and sitting in his office in charge of surveillance. In fact he is sitting in thousands upon thousands of offices nationwide.

I returned home to Eastbourne from that Safeguarding Course and opened the newspaper where I read:

“The headmaster of Eastbourne College, Mr Tom Lawson, was having to vet the sermons of visiting preachers – including bishops – in case there might be a complaint about extremism. Mr Lawson claimed that stifling rules and red tape had forced him to do this.”

So we have universal Safeguarding, we have safe spaces in our universities where students are hermetically sealed in case they come up against some ideas which they might find uncongenial. In alleged cases of abuse, we see many thousands of those accused treated as if they are guilty and punished accordingly without there having been any public examination of the allegations; and in some cases where the accused himself is not even made aware of the substance of the allegations.

We have complete freedom of speech. It’s just that we’re not allowed to say anything. Surveillance is endemic. The truth is being set at naught. Our liberties are everywhere traduced.

These things are not happening in some remote dystopia.

They are happening now and in England

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24 Oct

Softly, softly catchee monkee

The county of Herefordshire is one of the most beautiful rural areas of England and its people, being country folk,  are conservative in the broad sense of that word. It’s surprising then to see that the Diocese of Hereford is in the avant garde when it comes to issues of social morality. Hereford Diocesan Synod has put down a motion for the General Synod to debate blessings in church for homosexual “marriages.”

What do the boys and girls in head office think about this outburst of rural progressiveness? A spokesperson for the Church of England said:  

“Clergy of the Church of England are unable to marry couples of the same sex and, under the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement on same Sex Marriage, services of blessing should not be provided for those who enter into civil partnerships or same-sex marriages.”

Let’s tidy up that spokesperson’s language a bit. Clergy are not “unable” to marry couples of the same sex. By the Church’s rules, they are not “permitted” to marry them.

The spokesperson added:

“It is recognised, however, that there is real and profound disagreement in the Church of England over questions relating to human sexuality and the House of Bishops has recently embarked on the preparation of a major new teaching document on marriage and sexuality.”

That sentence could do with a bit of tidying up as well. Take the inaccurate statement, “There is real and profound disagreement in the Church of England over questions relating to human sexuality.” There is in fact no such disagreement, real or unreal, profound or shallow. There can only be rational disagreement when the pertinent facts are in dispute. And here the facts are plain and indisputable: the universal Church from its beginning has always and everywhere declared marriage to be the union of a man and a woman. This it has done on the explicit teaching of Jesus Christ.

So that statement, tidied up, would go something like this: “The Christian Church has always and everywhere declared that marriage is a union of a man and a woman. Only very recently, a vociferous sectional interest pressure group has refused to accept this clear and unequivocal teaching of Scripture and tradition. The Church therefore calls this pressure group to order and requests that they desist from suggesting that marriage can be anything other than ecclesiastical authority has always proclaimed.”

The spokesperson further muddies the waters:   

“We are seeking to find ways forward rooted in scripture and the Christian faith as we have received it and which values everyone, without exception, not as a ‘problem’ or an ‘issue’, but as a person loved and made in the image of God.”

Yet again there is tidying up to be done.

Why is the General Synod “seeking ways forward rooted in Scripture and the Christian faith” when there are no such ways? Scripture has not changed over the two millennia of Christianity. On the matter of marriage the teaching has always been the same.  What, therefore, could the bishops’ “major new teaching document” possibly have to say when the Church’s doctrine of marriage has never varied?

What is the purpose of the last part of the spokesperson’s statement saying that the General Synod “values everyone, without exception, not as a ‘problem’ or an ‘issue’, but as a person loved and made in the image of God”?

Of course, Christians value everyone as persons “loved and made in the image of God.” The reason this sentence is added here lies in the subtle policy of the Bishops and the Synod to achieve their ultimate aim of allowing homosexual marriage. Disingenuously, they insist that the rules cannot be changed but that homosexuals must be loved and valued by Christian congregations. Christian congregations knew that already. The valuing, loving and welcoming is being used as the first step in a process which will allow doctrine to be based on practice.

De facto acceptance – give it time – will lead to de jure approval. This is the political device preached and practised by revolutionaries everywhere  from Quintus Fabius Maximus to Vladimir Lenin: gradualism or softly softly catchee monkee.

Priestly blessings for homosexual “marriages” are already being performed by disobedient clerics. These are the storm-troopers in a guerrilla campaign. Bureaucracies such as the Synod prefer “due procedure.” They will get their way. It will just take a bit longer.

How long? I’d guess the Church of England will solemnise homosexual “marriages” within the next three years 

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12 Oct

Welby admits he’s hopeless

In an impressive epiphany of self-understanding, Justin Welby has admitted he’s “hopeless.” Never mind that I’ve been telling him as much for years. Still, deficiencies owned up to – even when so late-revealed – are to be commended.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was asked in a magazine interview if he ever suffered from mental ill health and said that in the past year he had sometimes felt hopeless and depressed but had never sought help for it. He said, “I think if you had asked me a year ago I’d have said ‘no’, and ten years ago I would have said ‘absolutely not.’ But what was that phrase Churchill used? ‘black dog’. There is an element of that. I think as I am getting older I am realising it does come from time to time. I have those moments.”

He certainly does have his moments. There was one last month when he returned from his holidays to demand “tax rises on the wealthy and more green technology.”

As his hopelessness lingered, Welby went on: “We are failing those who will grow up into a world where the gap between the richest and poorest parts of the country is significant and destabilising.”

There is a much larger issue which further demonstrates Welby’s hopelessness. Under his – can the word I’m looking for really be “leadership”? – the number of those identifying themselves as Church of England has fallen to an all-time low. Shouldn’t this hopeless Archbishop leave the running of the economy to those who know what they’re talking about and attend instead to the problems in his own backyard? He says the economy is “broken.” Let him first examine the fractures and decline in his own church.

In that magazine interview, Welby revealed to Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s old spin doctor, that he was hopeless yet again when it comes to giving “a straight answer” to the question: “Is gay sex sinful?”

Asked why not, the Archbishop replied: “Because I don’t do blanket condemnation and I haven’t got a good answer to the question. I’ll be really honest about that. I know I haven’t got a good answer to the question. Inherently, within myself, the things that seem to me to be absolutely central are around faithfulness, stability of relationships and loving relationships.”

His words look as if they were composed in the Circumlocution Office. So he’s certainly hopeless when it comes to expressing his thoughts in plain English

While an honest man will admit that he doesn’t know something, an intelligent man will know where to look for the answer. Justin Welby’s honesty is not in doubt. But what of his intelligence? Has the Archbishop of Canterbury never read the Bible? Well, an honest man in a state of uncertainty deserves not our contempt but our sympathy. I sympathise with Justin Welby so, since I have read the Bible, let me try to help him. What we are looking for, Archbishop, is the teaching of Scripture concerning sexual relations. Let us start at the beginning…

“And God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:27-28).

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24)

Nothing there about a man cleaving unto another man or a woman unto another woman. Never mind, let us look a bit further for more explicit guidance.

“If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination” (Leviticus 20:13).

Of course, some critics argue that these words are all from the Old Testament which was written a long time ago and perhaps the New Testament has something different to say? Let us look then at the teaching of Jesus:

“Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication and shall marry another committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:9).

The clear teaching of Jesus then is that sexual relations belong to a lifelong marriage between a man and a woman, and anything other than that is disallowed. But Our Lord’s plain teaching should not stir us to condemn those who fall short of this high standard. When the Scribes and Pharisees were about to stone to death “a woman taken in adultery, in the very act” (John 8:4), Jesus forbid them, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her (John 8:7). And to the woman, “Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

Thus we find here the origin of the Christian commandment that we should hate the sin but love the sinner. What we should notice though is that, while Jesus has mercy on the sinner, he specifically refers to her adultery as a sin.

Difficult as this might be to believe, it seems that the Archbishop of Canterbury has not thought to look at the 3000 years old tradition of Judaeo-Christian ethical teaching to help him settle his mind on the matter of sexual relations. I wonder then if Justin Welby has ever come across – if only in passing – a fairly famous Christian by the name of St Paul?

“And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet” (Romans 1:27).

It seems the Archbishop is so hopeless that he hasn’t even managed to read the Bible.

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28 Sep

There used to be a C. of E.

When I fancy a bit of excitement, which even at my ripe age I’m pleased to say is every day, I turn to the Church of England’s official website. Of course, the C. of E. being a dynamic, thrusting and very much up with the latest outfit, this is not called anything so dreary as Official Website: no, it’s called Top News Releases from the Church of England. This is the site which always sets my pulse racing. Take this morning for example. Today’s Top News Release simmers sexily for two or three pages, but I have space for only the scintillating opening sentence: 

“New research by the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) on the cement and steel sectors shows that few of the largest companies in these sectors are well prepared for the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI)? Now what does that remind me of? Why, of course, the Liverpool Care Pathway – the radical end of life treatment which denied sips of water to the dying. Happily, the LCP is now a thing of the past. One might hope a similar fate awaits the TPI

But really what most puzzles me is what the hell “the cement and steel sectors” of our industrial economy have to do with the C. of E.  – and that they should have so much to do with the C. of E. that the mention of them is first item on its website?

Think what might have appeared there instead: “Justin Welby urges people to repent of their sins.” No chance.

“Bishop blesses a bankers’ conference.” Are you kidding!”

But I do the church a disservice. The church still does think that sin and repentance are important, but in its new teaching there are only corporate sins. We don’t hear sermons on the wickedness of adultery, keeping the Sabbath day holy or the great wrong of coveting your neighbour’s new Jag.

But actually, the moral agent is the individual and acts of virtue or vice are products of the individual will. But for the modern C. of E. the individual has dropped out of its agenda altogether: it’s too reminiscent of Thatcherism and all that nastiness.

The C.of E. used to be known as the Tory party at prayer. Now it’s the Corbynistas on the picket line.

Sins are now only the politically incorrect acts of corporations – such as the corporations’ dealing in steel and cement. Good heavens – “They are not well-prepared for the transition to a low carbon economy”! That must score more on the Richter Sin Scale than sleeping with my neighbour’s wife.

The competence of the church to advise the steel and cement sectors must be in some doubt. Indeed the competence of the church in any area of management and administration is clearly in doubt. For example, the archbishops and bishops preside over an institution which has lost half its membership since the year 2000.

It is an institution whose leaders have so squandered its considerable assets that there is no money left…who sold off the old vicarages at the bottom of the property market…and its parish churches are closing almost as fast as the pubs

What to do in such a crisis? The bishops’ answer is displacement activity: think about something else. Their policy amounts to, “We can’t run our own affairs, so let us run someone else’s.”

It reminds me of when a previous Archbishop of Canterbury asked the prime minister if the church could mediate in the national coal strike. Stanley Baldwin replied, “Yes, if you’ll let the National Union of Mineworkers rewrite the Athansasian Creed.” 

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08 Aug

God gets it right at his second attempt

God got it wrong first time round and was told to try again.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office funds an institution called Wilton Park which has just published a report Opportunities and Challenges: the Intersection of of Faith and Human Rights of LGBT+  Persons

“Evangelical Christians in the Global South – mainly Africa – should be expected to re-interpret the Bible to make it compatible with LGBT+ ideology.”

This agency, supported by the British Government demands “direct action” and says, “Religious leaders should be held to account for their promotion of hatred against LGBT+ people. Queer lawyers and their allies are well-placed to challenge hate speech through administrative law and litigation.”

The churches must be obliged to provide “enlightened textual exegesis.” There should also be “…teaching of LGBT+ in Sunday schools and Queer theology in colleges training people for the church’s ministry.”

The report denounces missionaries and Christian teachers for “spreading prejudiced views”

The Wilton Park report calls for “the improvement” of the Bible, particularly of accounts of “Sodom and Gomorrah which perpetuate hatred.”

I quite agree. I have spent my life as a theologian and I confess that for all those years I took the Bible to be the Word of God. But, following my enlightenment by my LGBT+ friends and by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I now see that the Bible is a wretched travesty, a primitive and pernicious denunciation of homosexual behaviour which, thankfully, our enlightened and emancipated understanding reveals to be one of the greatest blessings received in the whole history of the human race. Not only do I approve, therefore, of the rewriting of biblical texts to demonstrate God’s Original Error and to prove what a holy and blessed thing homosexual behaviour is, but I shall make my own contribution to this new vision by offering a fresh translation of the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah.

“ And it came to pass that the Lord did look down upon the cities of the plain, even upon Sodom wherein dwelt the shirt-lifters and upon the whole company of them that did bat for the other side  which wast called Gomorrah. And the Lord repenteth of the wrath that wast aforetime kindled in his heart against them and all their doings which (in the days wherein God erred) he declared were abominations. And behold, the Lord said, ‘I will no more cause mine anger to be poured out upon them, neither will I destroy them in my judgement. And I will cause their works, even unto their shirt-lifting and their batting for the other side withal, to be blessed and to be honoured among all men…and women and among them that wist not what manner of creature they be.’

“So the Lord set his pink ribbon in the heavens as an everlasting sign that he would no more wax wroth against them that were in the olden time called an abomination but which are from henceforth to be called them in whom the Lord delighteth. And lo the Lord spake unto them and said, ‘I will give unto every man and woman and unto them which wist not what manner of creature they be boxed sets innumerable of Judy Garland movies and The Lamentations of Stephen Fry even unto every one of them in his/her/their own cottage.’

“And they all arose and with one accord said, ‘How come we shirt-lifters, brown-hatters and them that do bat for the other side to hear in our own polari the wonderful works of Stephen Fry?’

“And behold, the pillar of salt which aforetime wast Lot’s wife (Let him that readeth understand) wast turned into Judy Garland. So the multitude of them lift up their voices and sang Candle in the Wind.

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02 Aug

Well, well Welby

There are varieties of fatuity – and then we come to Archbishop Justin Welby.

Yet again this week he offered to the nation the benefit of his boundless wisdom and called for a cross-party commission to negotiate Britain’s departure from the European Union. He said major decisions should be “taken off the political table.”

Even someone with less perspicuity than Welby – always supposing such a person could be found outside Bishopthorpe Palace – would understand that Brexit and the whole business of Britain’s negotiations with the EU are political  issues and so it is nonsense to suggest that they be removed from the political realm.

We might as well suggest that when Welby sits down with his fellow bishops to discuss, say, a fresh translation of The Athanasian Creed, the matter should be “taken off the theological table.”

Besides, when Welby wades in as he has with his dazzling moral superiority on full beam, you would think that even he would understand that such an intervention is itself a political act. Thus incoherently he uses a political statement to declare that the matter should not be political.

The Archbishop’s first language is gibberish

He told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “Can the politicians not put at the front of their minds the needs of the United Kingdom to come out with a functional, working system for Brexit, and agree that certain things are, as it were, off the political table and will be decided separately in an expert commission, or commission of senior politicians led by someone that (sic) is trusted in the political world?”

Welby would benefit from reading the well-known primer for infants and juniors Janet and John Look at Polity. For the decision to leave the EU was a political choice made by the British electorate. What we did in the referendum of 2016 was to express our will and then hand the matter over to the politicians whose job it is to work out the details

He wants “an expert commission” or “a commission of senior politicians led by someone that (sic again) is trusted in the political world.”

Does such a paragon exist?

What he really wants is a nanny – someone who knows best.

I wonder that Welby hasn’t noticed that Brexit is a divisive issue and a sizeable minority of the electorate voted against it. Any “expert commission” would of course itself be contentious from its appointment, with one side claiming it to be independent and the other side accusing it of bias

Crying for nanny is of course a characteristic of the infantile mind.

Like weak men everywhere, Welby has a craving for authority, for someone to tell him what to think and what to do. Plato would have provided him with such figures. Plato called them Guardians which the Latin philosophers translated as Custodes.

And they immediately asked the question, Quis custodiet ipsos Custodes?

Who Will Guard the Guardians?

Round of applause, please everyone. Let’s hear it for the Archbishop of Cant.

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17 Jul

Four legs good; two legs bad

I don’t know how they get away with it. Let me try to explain, but first you’ll need a bit of background

The first Bishop of Loughborough is to be Rev’d Canon Gulnar Eleanor Francis-Dehqani, Canon Francis-Dehqani was born in Iran in 1966 and, along with a great many other Christians, she and her family fled that country after the 1979 Islamic revolution which brought to power Ayatollah Khomeini

The new bishop likes to be called Gull and the Diocese of Leicester (of which Loughborough is a part) has told us what they expect from her: “Guli will take a full role in the work of the Church across Leicester and Leicestershire, but the post will also have a focus on supporting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) clergy, lay workers and congregations in the county.”

Gull is delighted with her job specification:

“I’m very excited…”

(Newly-appointed hierarchs always start off by telling us how excited they are)

This one is excited “…about the potential for this role which draws together several important themes in the current life of the Church. Whilst being a bishop for the whole diocese, it (sic) will be a particular joy and a privilege to learn from and draw out the rich resources of Christians from minority ethnic communities.”

Well, she does not exactly speak as we speak in the street, but I think we know what she means. Since her escape from Iran, she has held a great many posts in the realm of synods, quangos and church committees and she has mastered the art of talking multi-culti bureauspeak.

That’s what I meant by saying I don’t know how they get away with it. I mean Gull and the Diocese ought surely to be arraigned for racism?

We can only imagine the furore that would ensue if a diocesan office had issued a job-specification as follows: “The post will have a focus on supporting White, English and Majority Ethnic (WEME) clergy, lay workers and congregations in the county>”

And if the appointee’s response had been: “It will be a particular joy…”

(Joy, like excited is another word they can’t leave alone)

“…and a privilege to learn from and draw out the rich resources from the majority white English population.”

An appointee saying such things would be denounced immediately for shameful and vile racism. She certainly wouldn’t be appointed. For the scandal is that you can be as racist as you like – so long as the objects of your racism are British and white.

I have listened to the arguments of the multi-culti fascists for for half a century and so I know them all off by heart. We are allowed to make exceptions in the case of preferred minorities, because they are under-represented and so we must give them a leg up with a good dose of positive discrimination.

The trouble with this is that there is nothing positive about it. Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination.

The multi-culti bureau-speakers are racists. And they get away with their racism because the counter culture, the culture of preferring minorities, is the culture now.

Do you remember chapter three of Animal Farm and Snowball’s condensation of The Seven Commandments of Animalism? “Four legs good; two legs bad.” 

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29 May

Hoo ha ha! Hoo ha ha!

A great part of the genius of the Church of England  authorities is their limitless ability to find ever new ways of wasting money to no significant purpose.

One of their wheezes is to finance congregations which model their worship on the pop concert. Prepare to clap and wave your arms in the air. Guitars at the ready. Bawl out times without number choruses so void of content that they weren’t worth singing once. This has been the trademark practice of Holy Trinity – chianti and pizza – Brompton for decades. It’s religion, but not as we know it, Jim. So what? It puts bums on seats and it brings in the cash.

Now the authorities are hoping it might just postpone the church’s final demise – for a few weeks, anyhow.

This method of “being church” has proved itself so successful that HTB now exports it in what are called “church plants.”  Churches in Derby, Portsmouth, Chelmsford and Bristol have…I suppose the word I am looking for is “benefitted” from this scheme and £1.35million has been given over two years to six of these HTB plants. In addition, St Luke’s, Birmingham, a church planted by the former director of worship at HTB, the Revd Tim Hughes, was given £350,000, while other HTB plants, St Swithin’s, Lincoln, and St Matthias’s, Plymouth, each received £200,000. St Swithun’s, Bournemouth, St George’s, Gateshead, and St Mark’s, Coventry, were each given £150,000.

Seven projects were paid for by the central authorities and, though six of the seven were operated by Holy Trinity Brompton, Andrew Brown, the secretary and the chief executive of the Church Com­missioners, insisted, “There is no bias towards HTB.”

Indeed not. For another new jape was launched in the Midlands when £2.6 million was given to Birmingham diocese’s Growing Younger programme.

I’ve just had a look at this jape and so I can tell you something about it.

It was started by the Bishop of Birmingham and the Archbishop of Canterbury with “star baker” Martha Collison. The two senior clergymen stood together on a platform in a darkened city centre church where they teased and chafed each other for a few minutes as if they were a comedy duo – which alas! they are not. Then they stepped down from the platform and called forth a group of teenagers called “The Sparklers,” Guess what they did next? That’s right, you’ve got it in one: they lit a sparkler and passed it around. This was supposed to symbolise something, but I forget what.

Those, myself included, who find it difficult to understand what Growing Younger is all about are in luck, for a commentary (in perfect Welby management-speak) is provided on their website. Let me try to give you the flavour…

There will be “facilitators” who will “work in a focussed way” be “highly skilled” (at what?) and they will “work flexibly.” The facilitators will bring “fresh thinking” to the project and “discern vision and strategy” while they will also “model good practice.” Then there will appear “a piece of commissioned evaluation” and the assurance that “research has been integrated” to provide “a baseline assessment” using “evaluation tools.”

There, there – don’t distress yourself: the mental nurse will be along in a minute, as soon as she’s finished tending to the Archbishop and the Bishop of Birmingham.

In fact I don’t feel very well myself. I know what usually wards of my hysterical collapses: it’s to quote Tom Eliot’s Sweeney Agonistes:

“And perhaps you’re alive. And perhaps you’re dead. Hoo ha ha. Hoo ha ha. Hoo. Hoo. Hoo. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock.” 

There, that’s better – just a bit, anyway.

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21 May

Sexual Apartheid

The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, has appointed Fr Andrew Woodward, priest-in-charge of St Mary’s Kemp Town and Rural Dean of Brighton, as the first Bishop’s Liaison Officer for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Intersex LGBTi community in the Diocese of Chichester.

Fr Andrew’s job specification is to provide the bishops and parishes with up to date information about the pastoral needs of the LGBTi community and to make the church’s ministry among this community more effective.

The priest will “represent the church in this community so as to build bridges and enable pastoral support for a substantial group of people who feel the Church is alienated from them.”

A spokesman for the diocese added: “Many in the LBBTi community feel they are tolerated but not included.”

Dr Warner says: “This post is about pastoral bridges in line with our diocesan strategy, know, love, follow Jesus. It is primarily about building, opening and crossing new and existing bridges towards great understanding and mutual flourishing.”

The Bishop added: “I think it is important to stress that the post holder is not expected to be an advocate for change in legislation or theological position. Neither should the creation of this post be understood as establishing a particular policy change or a new direction of travel in the Diocese’s position on same-sex issues.”

For this relief, much thanks

Of course it is the responsibility of the church’s ministers constantly to be looking for ways in which to make their ministry among all people more effective. But I’ve got news for them:

There is no such thing as “The LGBTi community.”

There are individual LGBTi people but they do not live in community. Those who identify themselves by one of the letters LGBTi are simply making public their particular sexual preference.

Why anyone should wish to make public what always used to be regarded as a sensitive, personal and private matter is a question that defeats me. But nowadays, it seems, many  feel the urge to advertise their sexuality. And the love that once dared not speak its name now shrieks at us at the top of its voice from lewd processions along the high street.

Inexplicably, perversely, this display is called “Pride.”

I wonder, is it only sexual deviants who are expected to announce to the general public their preferences? Perhaps I ought to draw together a crowd of my “straight” friends and process with a banner reading, “WE SLEPT WITH OUR WIVES LAST NIGHT.”

But there is a bigger issue and it centres on that word “community.”

Chichester diocese tells us that LGBTi people “feel alienated.” Well then, why do they insist on alienating themselves by self-identifying as a distinct community? Groups setting themselves up as “communities” received its reductio ad absurdum some years ago when The Independent newspaper, in all seriousness, wrote about, “London’s sadomasochistic community.” In the face of such utter barminess, satire becomes impossible.

The self-ascription of the word “community” by specific separatist groups actually destroys community and creates a multiplicity of sects. When this was practised in South Africa, the British political establishment condemned it as Apartheid. Why then when the very same thing is practised here is it applauded as “a celebration of diversity”?

There is one community in this country and we are all part of it. And to say otherwise is to destroy all possibility of social cohesion. Why don’t the authorities – religious or secular – understand this plain truth?   

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29 Apr

Suffer the little godchildren

We can always count on the Church of England to come up with an exciting new wheeze to stave off the final throes of bankruptcy.  So they have got Rev’d Canon Dr Sandra Millar, head of projects and development for the Archbishop’s Council, to produce an exciting new order of service to help facilitate this exciting new wheeze to put bums on seats and tenners in the collecting plate. This takes the form of an order of service for a freshly invented and exciting occasion in the liturgical calendar called Godparents’ Sunday

The new and exciting order of service aims to bring God’s people together and empower them to reflect and rejoice through many exciting activities.

I hope those who turn up will be enabled to cope with all the excitement.

Dr Millar is eminently qualified for her role as contemporary liturgist for, before she was ordained in 2000, she had a career in marketing with the Co-op and Boots.

Her exciting new service stands squarely in the imaginative tradition of modern rites and it reminds us of the luminously creative project of a few years ago called Love Life, Live Lent in which congregations were invited to stick little bits of yellow paper on larger bits of blue paper and perform a loving line dance for the Lord.

If the Lord enjoyed that, I’m sure he will enjoy the form for Godparents’ Sunday too.

If you promise not to laugh too loudly or for too long, I’ll tell you about it. But first, let me discipline my tongue and my pen and adjure the temptation to wax satirical. Here it is straight then, in all its infantilised glory, from the Church of England website 

“You will need large sheets of paper eg lining paper on a roll or a large sheet with the heading ‘Memory Wall.’

“Felt pens for directly writing on paper/fabric OR post-it notes and pins.

“A large sheet of paper, flip chart or projector with ten words written on Eat, Talk, Listen, Read, Watch something; Drink; Look around; Stop for a rest; Play Games, Meet people.

“Ten smaller cards and Blutak so that words can be covered up and easily revealed..

“Four large cards each with one of these phrases: Being There; Part of the family; Good choices; Sharing faith

“Yellow and white ribbons and two ‘prayer trees’ eg places where ribbons can be tied [optional]

“Heart shaped chocolates or godparent/godchild badges [available from www.churchprinthub.org] to give away [optional]”

What immediately strikes us about Dr Millar’s modern masterpiece is that it is deeply rooted in philosophical theology. That phrase we are asked to write on one of our four large cards, “Being there” is of course a translation for Godparents of Martin Heidegger’s phrase Dasein and represents the inauthentic condition of humankind “thrown” into the world and obliged to discover the courage “to be towards death.” ***

(Best not  make too much of that if their are any godchildren present).

As you can see, Godparents’ Sunday belongs to the scholarly tradition of Playschool and Blue Peter. And I needn’t have worried about the temptation to satire, as this latest offering renders satire impossible.

I confess I’m a bit worried about the chocolates, given that we’re informed daily we’re suffering an obesity epidemic.  But I needn’t have worried about this either, for Dr Millar suggests that congregations follow up their chocolate-scoffing festivities with a “Fun and Sports Day.”

Completely in character and true to form, the Church of England gets this bit wrong. They say this exciting “Fun and Sports Day” should be held on Bank Holiday Monday 2nd May

But Bank Holiday Monday falls on 1st May.

Suffer the little godchildren…

*** Sein und Zeit by M.Heidegger, in association with Noddy and Big Ears say “Let’s Play Church!”  by Enid Blyton and Justin Welby

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