Bishop Pete, Bishop Richard, Archbishop George

November 24, 2010 § 5 Comments

The news and blogosphere are full of Pete Broadbent, the Royal family, and his subsequent treatment.

In short, Pete doesn’t like the fact that we have a royal family, and is an unrepentant rebublican. He Twittered about it, and a lively thread followed where, in answer to certain comments, Pete said some more. Crucially he wished William and Kate well, but that was outweighed by other comments which, taken together (and with the contributions of others removed) looked like an awful and graceless tirade against the royal family and the happy couple in particular.

He made a formal apology, which seemed well done. Then the Bishop of London released a statement saying how appalled he was, and that he had invited Pete to ‘withdraw from public ministry’ for a while. THis sounded like a suspension, and +Londin had to clarify that Pete was continuing to be the Bishop of Willesden, just not going out and about.

Now, hidden behind the Times’ paywall, former Archbishop George Carey (Pete’s training incumbent in Durham, where I was a member of the PCC all those years ago) says thate Pete was wrong, but that withdrawing him from ministry in such a public way was disproportionate.

This is how it stands at 3.15 this afternoon. What reflections therefore?

1. Facebook is dangerous. Even if you can plead that you were only talking to friends, if they number up to 1000 and you make your wall public anyway, you’re stuffed.
2. The Press can make certain comments made in a sequential conversation look awful when putting them all together.
3. No priest should say disrespectful things about couples they are to marry, or who are to be married by someone else.
4. Pete was probably trying to make a comment about how the tabloid press can turn on the royal family when they’ve had enough of the niceness of it all, and that’s why he gave the marriage a short life span. That was, however, drowned out by the stuff about the track record of the royals, not all of which was caused by the press.
5. I’m not quite sure whether the relationship between +Pete and +Londin is reparable. I hope it is, because Pete has been overwhelmed by messages of support from his area, and there is too much to lose. It would be good to think that +Londin can assure the royals that action has been seen to be taken, and +Pete that he’s got a future.
6. Bishops and Clergy say some amazing things about God, Jesus, the church, doctrine etc, and little is seen to happen. A media storm does have to be dealt with, but it seems harsh to punish comments which, in sum, were crass and inappropriate, but were not in the same league as others we can think of which have gone unremarked.
7. Archbishop George is someone to whom I owe a vast amount. But I can’t think of many of his interventions and comments about the current life of the C of E recently which have move things forward, and I’m sure +Londin didn’t need this comment. It continues to air the argument in unhelpful circles. And I rather dislike the fact that +George  is paid by the Murdoch press to write in the News of the World – not a bstion of press freedom and ethics. Oh well.

What now? Pete was going to keep a low profile at General Synod anyway. He’s got great respect here, as someone brilliant at sorting structures, prioritising mission, supporting the church on the ground and shaping us for the future. I really want him to be able to carry on doing that – and I hope that a low profile for a few weeks will enable that aspect of his reputation to be restored. But whether things can ever be quite the same I’m not sure.

§ 5 Responses to Bishop Pete, Bishop Richard, Archbishop George

  • JonathanE says:

    Hmmm…strikes me that when using FB you need to be clear as to whether you are on personal or work time (yeah I know that for those with a vocation this is the same thing!) – my employer has actually blocked FB for all staff (other than a very small number of marketing folks with a genuine need)…this is primarily to stop time wasting but moreover to prevent loss of sensitive customer information…if you are posting on FB in an official capacity then you need to make sure you are giving out the correct corporate message or accept the consequences! (of course this post is sent in a personal capacity!)

  • Doug Chaplin says:

    Why can’t +Londin spell London like everyone else? Mind you, if all bishops contented themselves with speaking Latin all the time, no-one would have understood +Pete’s remarks enough to get upset!

  • Jonathan Jennings says:

    Come on, Jeremy; this is lazy stuff and 7. was a needlessly cheap crack at George Carey.

    What is it that is wrong with the Murdoch press that isn’t found to an extent in any other branch of the media?

    As it is we don’t have a free press in the UK: we have a bought-and-paid-for press. None of it is owned by dispassionate journalists interested only in a search for truth; there’s compromise, skewed perspective and a willingness to tread ethically interesting roads in all branches of the media, as I know from experience.

    If you really want to dismiss the NoW just because it’s owned by Murdoch, you’re actually writing off a huge readership of people interested enough to read what’s in it. Murdoch thinks the views of an Archbishop (alright a retired one) are worth carrying, and to dismiss that is to invite the church to inhabit only a small, metropolitan belt, bounded by Radio Four on the one side, the Guardian on the other and to set an ultimately meaningless intellectual threshold around what you think is the real debate.

    If I were still involved, I would very interested in seeing where the main body of the population were gaining their perspective and learning from the ways in which the press who manage to reach them effectively do their business.

    • Jonathan
      Points very much taken. It’s true that I don’t very much like the Murdoch press, but its traits are indeed to be found in much of the mainstream media. My particular point was meant to be about the NoW. Again, it’s true that it’s effective, and read by millions, but I’m not sure whether the presence of a column by a former Archbishop makes the paper better or taints the Archbishop by association. The rest of the paper does seem to set people up only in order to knock them down.
      But I do agree that the church’s role is to be everywhere and not just in R4 and Guardian territory.
      Should have left my comment about Archbishop George with what I felt to be the unhelpfulness of his intervention. Again, opinion is divided about what and how much a former Archbishop should say – I don’t think that, in this case, it helped very much. Hope I’m proved wrong.

  • Anthony Archer says:

    Let’s be clear: this storm is entirely of Bishop Pete’s own making and many of us are very unclear of what he must have been thinking, although the Bishop of London now seems to know ‘how his comments came to be made’. This is a rare episode of the press running a story which was given to them ready made; they didn’t even need to edit or spin. I wish him well and am very willing to hold him in my prayers as he does the happy Royal couple. The offending FB thread, to which I contributed, was the most extraordinary outburst I have ever seen (even on FB) and it was clear when he made the fatal single post, without condition, ‘I give the marriage seven years’, that he was in deep trouble. If I took that at face value, many others did. His republican views and mindset are one thing, his deeply hurtful and pastorally crass comments about an impending (and rather public) marriage are quite another. The fact that he apologised unreservedly is important; what his bishop needed to do about it is another. I completely support the Bishops of London’s decisive step to defuse the situation and make clear that diocesan bishops absolutely care what their senior colleagues do and say. I was struck by the generous and warm retirement tribute to the Bishop of Lincoln today by the Archbishop of Canterbury when he said: ‘a bishop who is known to be not only free and willing to engage in comment but to be relied upon for intelligent and challenging comment is a bishop to be treausured.’

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