The Christmas season is made for non-stories. For example, The Times had to rediscover, yet again, that the diplomatic service is somewhat cavalier with its collection of art-works. The paper then had the decency to file that one under “entertainment” rather than real news: a sure guarantee that it had been sitting round, unnoticed and unloved, waiting its turn to become page-filler.
The prize turkey, though, was cooked up by the Sunday Telegraph:
Bishops deliver damning verdict on Britain under Labour rule
Leading bishops in the Church of England have launched a withering attack on the Government questioning the morality of its policies.
- Is there such a being as a “following” Bishop?
- Are attacks in the Press ever any less than “withering”?
- Would the preposition “under” ever appear in the Torygraph in connection with “Tory rule”?
- What, indeed, does that broadsheet, the fiefdom — successively — of fraudster Conrad Black and the bullying Barclays, know of “morality”?
These are imponderables, but suggest the piece was an off-the-cuff effort.
Even Tim Montgomerie’s band of bruvvers were not wholly sold on it: at least the acerbic (and usually entertaining, if misguided) Cranmer wasn’t:
The bishops’ comments may ‘coincide’ with those of David Cameron because they have been ‘coordinated’ by a higher power – be it God or the Barclay brothers.
So, to the parson’s nose
Malcolm admits to encountering the occasional bishop over the last half-century or so. He finds they seem to fall into two categories: the quiet, effective pastor and the barking-mad, verbose, would-be politician.
Each of the four Bishops cited here has a track record. Malcolm admits surprise that nobody in his recent reading has pursued that line. Perhaps it’s because the serious journos are de-toxing somewhere, far away from their desks. Or, perhaps, because the general view is that this is a non-story.
Malcolm would like to help them with a few clues.
Stephen Lowe, the junior of the team, is a mere suffragan in the diocese of Manchester; but one of just two suffragans in the House of Lords. He clearly is staking a more-conservative claim to the territory once decently and honourably occupied by David Sheppard. Lowe’s Faithful City is a pale imitation and clear homage to Sheppard’s Faith in the City.
Early this year, Lowe was robustly defending Rowan Williams over the Sharia law kerfuffle. It went something like this:
I’m fed up with politicians who shoot their mouths off about someone as intelligent as Rowan, without even thinking about what he said. This reaction just stirs up bad feeling between communities and plays into the hands of racists.
Lowe is strong on the racist thing: on a previous outing he was arguing for the deletion from the hymnal (on grounds of heresy, racism, and xenophobia) of I vow to thee, my country:
… it echoes Hitler’s Germany and is “heretical”…
He compares the hymn – which was sung at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales – with right-wing attitudes…
He added he was raising the issue in the wider context of the “vilification” of foreigners in the media and had noticed it was being sung at “various national occasions”.
Malcolm’s view is the music alone, Holst adapting his own melody, justifies its continued inclusion. He leaves the theology to others, while noting that the Bishop might not wholly object to the last verse:
And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.
Now to bigger fish and some stronger meat.
Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, is a product of the independent sector of education (Liverpool College and Selwyn, Cambridge; Cuddesdon). His main contributions to western civilisation include a voiced objection to the Playstation game, Resistance, Fall of Man (not for its quite appalling and mindless violence, but because—allegedly—it digitalises the interior of Manchester Cathedral).
He is the first Bishop to ordain his spouse. To be fair, he is the pick of this bunch and does not fall under section 2 of the Mental Health Act.
Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, is a real ecclesiastic grandee: Prelate of the Order of the Garter, no less. One persistent topic of bitchery among Anglicans is the surprise of Williams being preferred over Scott-Joynt for Canterbury (rumour has it that Scott-Joynt is also of this view). His choicest offering could be his Christmas, 2001, address, reflecting on 9/11, Afghanistan, Palestine and more:
Would we be in this situation, if western – north American and European – electorates, all with deep Christian pedigrees, had not encouraged, supported or at least allowed our governments, over so many decades, to develop our standard of living at the expense of millions in the southern hemisphere? And if we had not sold their rulers armaments on such favorable terms, and with so little forethought? Cruelly evil though they were, I find that I have to understand the events of September 11 as a judgment upon us…
Despite his confusion over planetary geography [the 9/11 terrorists = southern hemisphere?], he seems intent on reopening hostilities with the American colonies over women bishops. He is a High Anglican (Cuddesdon, again) and an outspoken critic of gay-rights.
Finally, at the other end of the Anglican spectrum is the Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle. He should be celebrated above all other follies for his hot-line to the Almighty as the Summer 2007 floods still washed around the knees of his flock:
… laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless…
“This is a strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way,” he said. “We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused.”
“We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate,” he said.
“In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as ‘the beast’, which sets itself up to control people and their morals. Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want,” he said, adding that the introduction of recent pro-gay laws highlighted its determination to undermine marriage.
Now, we can’t allow any nonsense about people … free to act as they want, can we?