30 Days May 1998
PAPA MAMA NON HABET ORBES
Congratulations to Peter Stanford. He has caused intellectual and hormonal ferment in all right thinking ecclesiastical circles by being the latest in a long line of people to re re-discover Pope Joan! Apparently Pope John Vlll was, in fact, an early English example of cross dressing. Unfortunately for Joan her cover was blown when she had to pause to give birth during a papal procession.
Stanford argues, quite erroneously, that the only thing preventing the Roman Catholic Church from embracing women priests is tradition and lack of precedent. Pope Joan clearly undermines this.
However before all those Affirming Catholics who believe in transgenderation crack open the Asti Spumante, they should notice the other half of the tradition. The outraged crowd immediately stoned her to death as an abomination. Clearly if this is a traditional response to women in the episcopate, the Lambeth Conference has an extra security problem!
One apparent upshot of the Joan / John fiasco was the introduction of a special, commode-like chair (sedia stercoraria) upon which a papal candidate would sit while a young cardinal reached under and checked if he was equipped for office. "Testiculos habet, et bene pendentes" was the formal verdict required.
Given the present state of the Anglican episcopal bench and its future prospects, the sedia stercoraria is an obvious replacement for the Crown Appointments Commission.
Readers of The Church of England Newspaper were stunned recently to read, in banner headlines, "PRIMATES BID TO SAVE ORTHODOXY". They neednt have worried; it did not refer to Canterbury or York but to poor old Maurice Sinclair, Archbishop of the Southern Cone who is trying to galvanise Third World Anglicans to overthrow their liberal paymasters at Lambeth later this year.
"The Bishop of Durham, Michael Turnbull, is recommending major reforms to ensure that unsuitable members of the clergy do not remain in their posts" (Daily Telegraph). The words brass and neck spring to mind.
A survey by a leading Sunday newspaper produced a bizarre, but sadly unsurprising, collection of episcopal views on the obviously secondary issue of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. The star performer turned out to be Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester. He is quoted thus:
"I dont see any harm, for instance, in people thinking how the Resurrection could be significant even with out emphasising the empty tomb or its physical aspects.....Suppose Jesuss body were to be discovered in Palestine. What would that do to the Christian faith? Obviously it would pose a problem, but we would still have an enormous amount left."
Not exactly St Pauls view (1 Cor. 15 v.12 - 19) but then the C of E knows better than St Paul on most things nowadays.
As usual, no resignations are expected.
The leaks have begun. Following two items in last months 30 Days, on the refusal of the Churchs Statistical office to publish this year's figures, some fascinating information has come to light. Apparently, even if the withheld figures are no worse than previous years, the projected decline for the C of E in the 90s reads as follows.
Baptisms down 30%, Confirmations down 47%, Christmas communicants down 22%, Sunday attendance down 20%.
These figures make all the more extraordinary a report in The Times of sixteen months ago stating:
"The turnaround in Anglican churchgoing numbers, which can be traced roughly to the date that Dr Carey took office, has taken many bishops by surprise. The Archbishop of Canterbury warned yesterday against the jealousy, pain and neglect that can result in an organising experiencing rapid growth - such as the Church of England."
One of our parish priests has written to suggest a little more loyalty from this column and our priestly members. Anxious to work with the establishment, wherever possible, he exhorts us to toe the party line and follow national example. He will, therefore, not be publishing last year's statistics for his parish nor be handing then over to the diocese - who, coincidentally, require them for assessing his parish quota.
An exciting diocesan letter from Neville, Bishop of Brechin, has arrived on the desk of 30 Days and he, too, is very excited about Easter. He tells us that the proclamation "He is not dead, but risen" is "picture language" and commends as "terrifically energising" those "wild tales of what was seen and not seen - so that years later we get fantastical stories in the gospels about Jesus's appearances. After Jesus had been killed and they found the tomb empty, for whatever reason, they did not feel cut off from him."
Good gracious! One can only wonder what those reasons might be. We are clearly in the presence of a future Bishop of Rochester.
MASS FOR THE MENOPAUSE?
The Churches' Ecumenical Decade of Solidarity with Women enjoyed a splendid day recently in go-ahead Winchester. The mother figure of Anglican feminist solidarity, Rev. Jean Mayland was the keynote speaker for a day entitled "Just balancing".
One of the highlights of the day was a session entitled "Creating ceremonies for times of change". We are sorry that our readers didnt know about this in time but would still like you to have the opportunity to participate.
30 Days offers a bottle of grog to the most imaginative ceremony title. (All rituals must be appropriate for collaborative ministry.)