One of our senior correspondents was visiting family Stateside in the early autumn of this year. On the first Sunday of the stay she and her husband duly pitched up at the local Episcopal church in Portland . Their relief in finding a male priest at the altar and a sermon which, while unexceptional, was not heretical was palpable. One thing intrigued our roving reporter. The entire service was a sin-free zone. No confession, no absolution, no Kyries, no humble access, not even a modish Romanesque pause to consider our shortcomings to the background of saccharine choral responses. On the way out she clutched the priest warmly by the hand and inquired, lightheartedly, about this Pelagian deficiency.
‘Oh, goodness,’ the very holy father replied, ‘we tend to leave the sin thing out over the summer and put it back for Advent or Lent.’
HOC EST CORPORATION
When the great architect of the New Church of England, Dr Carey, commissioned his old pal, the Bishop of Durham, to revive Ecclesia Anglicana, he cannot have imagined how far reaching the subsequent reforms would be. The Turnbull Commission laboured mightily and produced a weighty manifesto dedicated to ‘Salvation by Management’. Such humanistic response to severe spiritual problems might have made more of an impact if the Chief Executive Officers of most dioceses had actually managed anything other than their own preferment.
Turnbull himself, who was an example to his colleagues in the management of decline, may be gone but his wisdom lingers on. Southwark Diocesan clergy were astonished recently to receive a Turnbull-style Christmas missive from their much revered godfather, ‘Bargee’ Butler.
‘Tenderhearted Tom’, as he's known to his devotees, reminds the troops of the central truth of the Incarnation – ‘the child in the manager'.
Those who see this as a modern psychological insight or a simple misprint have missed the point. Tom's profound theological grasp of Turnbull's ‘new ways of being church’ at once provides the ultimate reason for the ordination of women (at least at the local branch level) and the ultimate end of the liberal agenda in the Church of England – Jesus Christ Limited!
I AM WHO I AM
Aficionados of makeover programmes (homes, gardens, clothes, families etc) are all too familiar with the lengths some people will go to in order to get on the telly.
One of the most embarrassing shows must be ‘What not to wear’ in which Suzannah and Trinny, two Sloane Rangers, abuse some shabby creature's execrable taste, give her two grand shopping money and try to persuade her into smarter unsuitable clothes.
Imagine the surprise of a small Bristol congregation when the ‘top toff totty’ complete with camera crew interrupted their morning service to ‘ambush’ the Reverend Julie Nicholls, at the behest of her aesthetically challenged family. Instead of having these coathanger harridans evicted or arrested for interrupting divine service the fifty- something cuddly priestess meekly consented to being transformed into an haute couture curate.
Before being wheeled to the shops the traditional purge of her wardrobe revealed several floral marquees masquerading as clothes. But, credit where credit’s due, when we were treated to Julie's inmost thoughts in successive retail dressing rooms, her replies were frequently religious.
‘God, no!’ she barked at one proffered garment.
‘I think,’ she mused privately later, ‘oh God, an almost middle aged portly frumpy woman.’
And later still, ‘God, this is horrible. This is painful. My bum is not that big!’
To be able to offer extempore prayer under such duress is surely an example to us all. Amen.
In the run up to Christmas senior clergy have suddenly become very concerned about declining numbers! No, not congregations but Deans of Cathedrals. At the last count there were six vacancies (Wells, Rochester, Norwich, York, St Albans and Carlisle). Rumours are rife as to why the Downing Street preferment mill has ceased churning out the right sort of chap. Some are rumoured to have turned down the Deanery. Sources cite the dreary catalogue of cathedral close scandals. Others that recent legislation severely restricts a Dean's power and makes him a glorified administrator and fund-raiser. Some Deans have discovered that diocesan bishops expect to dictate Cathedral policies. It's certainly not the job it was.
But there may be more to it than that. Under the new regime a disproportionate number of well-known celibates have been approved for Deaneries by Downing Street. In the wake of the Jeffrey John affair (himself a hot tip for Norwich) there is some trepidation in Lambeth and Whitehall as to whether another ground-breaking raft of appointments should not await less turbulent times.
A seventh deanery vacancy (Salisbury) had been in the pending tray for almost a year and a half but has just been filled as we go to press. ‘Bishop’ June Osborne has graciously consented to take on the unwanted burden. ‘Ozzie’, the leading radical feminist, was chairperson of the famous Osborne Report on sexuality, a document so explosive then that the bishops refused to publish it. Had they done so we could have seen now that New Hampshire and New Westminster are but logical outcomes of the same liberal agenda.
Another inspired appointment.
Want to save somebody? Why not purchase a messianic ash-tray? For only twelve dollars you can get a cut glass, four stub, butt bin complete with Our Lord in crown of thorns gazing up at you. Around his sacred head the legend, ‘Jesus hates it when you smoke.’
In one simple piece of tabletop evangelism you remind the guilty sinner that his body is 'a temple of the Holy Spirit ', that the everlasting bonfire is the destination of the unrepentant and that Jesus and his disciples didn't smoke and neither should we.
Forward in Faith is holding a collection to install one of these mission resources in the Director’s room – ‘The Consulate Suite' – at head office. Cheques should be made out to ‘Puritans for a new Parkinson’.
Not to be outdone by the politically correct lunacies of New Labour, the Tory burghers of Buckinghamshire have put in a belated bid for ‘Buffoon of the Year’.
The poster in the library advertising Christmas Carols at the parish church of All Saints, High Wycombe, was removed in response to Council policy. Notices advertising religious events are adjudged to be, de facto, politically offensive.
The truth is you would go a long way to find a Muslim, Jew or Hindu who was offended by a carol service advert. The people who are offended are the remorseless secularizers who have insinuated themselves into every level of government. The really offensive notice to most people in High Wycombe will be the one that informs them of the Council Tax they are obliged to pay to keep these, otherwise unemployable, creatures in financial clover.
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