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.


Fresh Expression, Stale Journalism

November 6, 2010 § 14 Comments

Giles Fraser’s Church Times column doesn’t rile me as much as it used to. But it was back to the good old days this week. Not sure whether he was short of copy, but it looks like he decided to do the old journalistic thing of setting up an Aunt Sally which most people would agree with, and then wait for the cheers as he knocked it down. Here it is.

Poor old Fresh Expressions: right in the firing line. FX have never been popular with the liberal fraternity. Cathedrals too were a bit miffed at their absence from the Mission Shaped Church report, and not many cathedral staff rejoice when a lowbrow flavour of church enters their portals. (Quote last week from one such: “not looking forward to the second service with a worship band in 24 hours”.) I was there. I know.

From a safe vantage point Giles Fraser was therefore able to have a pop, though dignifying it by telling us he’d read a book by serious people, one of whom he, gasp, knows; and wih the use of the phrase ‘theological grounding’. “It is time,” he says grandly, “to stick up for the traditional parish model”.

Now it would be lovely to hear him for an hour on all this, and i’m sure his views are really subtle and nuance, but I’ve only got the column to respond to.

Firstly: What cathedrals do, par excellence, is minister to ‘special interest groups’ (like those who love Choral Evensong and Latin Mass settings, and do 100 mile round trips to be there). That’s why cathedrals were miffed at being omitted from MSC. I spent seven years engaing with all sorts of such groups, based around their work (like the armed services or local industries), their charitable endeavours, their associations. St Paul’s is stuffed full of them, and Giles Fraser will have to do his bit – indeed, part of his job is to engage with the life of the City of London in just such a way.What’s he going to do – tell them to go back to their parishes? Or seize the opportunity?

Secondly: St Paul’s is not a parish. He therefore lives and works in a model he’s left. Well, thanks for sticking up for us, but his very job title says that there are other ways of being church beyond the parochial. Even those cathedrals which have parishes have a significant ministry which has nothing to do with that model.

Thirdly: the whole point of FX is to recognise, in good mission style (and there is plenty of ‘theological grounding’ here too) that some cultures in contemporary society just do not relate to the parochial model. The best version of FX is when the Kingdom of God is revealed as living and active in unexpected places, and where the church is started afresh from the ground up. He highlights the goths, surfers and skaters paraded by the FX website. Well, there aren’t too many of them in my congregations, and I’m glad that, within their culture, someone is enabling them to meet with Christ.

Giles Fraser gets it wrong when he says that an FX is about teachers wanting to  ‘get down with the kids’. That’s exactly what a true FX is not. Inherited church sprucing itself up always carries with it the danger of dads dancing badly at a disco, of course. But that should not stop the parochial model looking carefully to see whether some inherited practices are just off putting, and whether some fresh clothes might enable some new connections to be made.

An FX is about the discovery of God at work beyond even the fringiest of the fringe. I think I heard Bishop Graham Cray say recently that a lot of things which called themselves FX weren’t. They were the parochial model doing some reshaped things. But where new life is found in the most unexpected places, and that begins to exhibit the marks of church – then we should sit up and take notice.

Fourthly: the church today is all about choice. People vote to go to 8, 10.30 or 6.30 here, BCP or CW, All Age or Taize. The point of FX is that a lot of people will choose to go to none of them. So the church has to be among them insted. To the goths I became as a goth. Or is that too simplistic? When they get it right, FXs do exactly what his beloved authors want: “serve the whole people of the country”. Not all parish churches do. And ‘the whole people of the country’ won’t always best be served by being told that one size fits all.

In other words, there’s room for both. Giles Fraser is spot on that trendiness can just be cringemaking. And he’s spot on that we have to think carefully about how we are one body in Christ when the church is expressed in so many different ways. But some FXs are at the cutting edge of mission, and deserve better than a stale journalistic putdown.

Perhaps he should visit a few, read some more books, and get Graham Cray to debate with him at St Pauls. And then write about it for us.  Please.


Giving up Football

October 23, 2010 § 8 Comments

The road was not to Damascus but between York and Beverley. Somewhere near Pocklington I decided to stop watching football on the TV, and stop reading about it in the papers.

Not that I have been a fanatic – I support Bradford City after all. But I got in the papers a while ago when I wrote a spoof prayer for England and Ruth Gledhill put it on the front page of The Times, and journalists being what they are it gets trotted out every now and again. I’ve not seen a live game in a few years, but football has always been there, and Saturday or Sunday evenings have seen me watch MOTD more or less every week.

And I’m stopping.

Because…because Wayne Rooney is about to be paid Nine Point Three Six Million Pounds per year. Rising to Ten Point Four Million Pounds per year at the end of his next five years.

Silly point out of the way first: why quote footballers as pounds per week when everyone else is per year? Tell it like it is. Per year: Ten Million Pounds. That would pay for the Diocese of York. Just about.

And it hit me, on the A1079, that much as I enjoy seeing a beautiful move or a thrilling shot from twenty-five yards bulge the net (etc etc etc) I just can’t watch a game where someone gets paid that amount of money. There has to be something very wrong with us to think that football is worth that much. Its thrilling, and fun, and a bit of human life is there, and it gives you something to talk about down the pub and in sermons, and communities have their spirits lifted on occasions (I was in Hartlepool when they got promotion and there was a spring in the step for everyone for a while). But that is not worth one out of form player (with a gift) to be paid £9.36 million per year.

The Bible talks about labourers being worth their hire. I guess what saddens me most is that Rooney has only done what’s expected, and got the going rate. That’s why it’s football which has depressed me, not just Man U. Society needs entertainment, artistry, a lifting of the spirits, and professional sport can do that. But not at this cost. What are the values of a society  which believes that Wayne Rooney is worth £10m per year?

I’m sure that the BBC will not notice that I’m not watching. Nor will the Daily Telegraph know that I turn now to page 10 of the so called Sports section.  And I’m sure that there are other sports which have similar out-of-control stories to tell. But Rooney’s new contract is my particular straw. When Bill Shankly said that football was more important than life or death he knew he was being ironic. There is nothing ironic in the financing of 21st century football. And I don’t want to watch it any more.

Jeffrey John and the CNC

July 4, 2010 § 4 Comments

Story in the Sunday Telegraph today about Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans. He’s in a Civil Partnership, and fulfils, it is said, all the criteria of ministry in the C of E while having a homosexual orientation – ie he’s celibate. He was fanously deprived of the Bishopric of Reading in 2003.

The STel says that he’s top of the shortlist to be Bishop of Southwark. The Crown Nominations Commission meets this week to finalise it, and then sends a name to the Prime Minister who sends it to the Queen.The STel is clear that this is a done deal, and that the Archbishops, who could have, have not blocked his name thus far.

Well…if you can put someone in charge of a Cathedral you can put them in charge of a Diocese, as long as their gifts match up. JJ was in Southwark before, and in my fleeting experience he was much liked and respected across the theological spectrum. So no problem there, apart from those who’ll oppose him whatever.  Southwark has some seriously vocal conservative evangelicals.

What interests me is where Jonathan Wynne-Jones in the STel is getting his inofrmation from, and why. Clearly there’s a mole in the CNC. I know from close acquaintance that the permanent members of the CNC are scrupuloulsy tight-lipped. So is the mole one of the diocesan representatives? And are they leaking it to ensure that JJ gets in (the CNC would now look bigotted if they nominated someone else)…or to ensure that he does not get in (the outcry being so great that the CNC learn the error of their ways)?

All very interesting – unless you are JJ (yet more media intrusion into the life of a respected and faithful priest), or unless you are a member of the CNC. The meeting may be very politely conducted, but they will all know that someone around the table has leaked something.

Pity the Archbishop of Canterbury, who will leave the CNC meeting knowing his next biggie is Women Bishops at the General Synod. What a life.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Media category at Jeremy Fletcher's Blog.

%d bloggers like this: