WE WESTCOTT persons stick together: so I was, I am afraid, in Cambridge over Easter (to hear Deacon Angela Tilby sing her first Exsultet - which she rehearsed, we were told on Radio 4, whilst ironing her Janet Regers - and very moving it was). In consequence I missed the events in Canterbury. The AbC seems to have had a rough old time
The trouble with Tatchell is that he is barking up the wrong tree - and certainly barking! The C. of E. is one of the oldest gay-friendly insititutions in the country. Twenty-four hours spent in a theological college would persuade him of that, and probably of much else besides. We even have an episcopate where doing a George Michael is no impediment to preferment.
But he has to understand that we cant go around turning every grey area into a purple patch; that would be ridiculous. Tatchell should just learn to let things run their natural course, in my opinion. If you ask me the AbC is on a hiding to nothing on this issue. (We call it paddling your own Canute in the office.) At this Lambeth there will be ructions - and an Archbishops Commission. At the next Lambeth there will be out American bishops with winsome life-partners in designer jeans bringing a whiff of something more exotic than Old Spice to Bishops Spice. We Anglicans do things gradually; but we get there in the end.
The question we at Lambeth need to be asking is how the Tatchell person got into Canterbury Cathedral in the first place. I take it that there must be some sort of security. Or are they all hermits without televisions who never read the popular press and have no idea what he and an array of banners and placards look like? I suppose they must be...unless we can detect here some sympathetic action by that very Anglican body, the Sodality of Lesbian and Gay Vergers.
Andrew Brown and Victoria Combe notwithstanding, I have to tell you that Bill Beaver is flavour of the month around here at the moment. As the AbC himself said, we have a lot to learn from New Labour - and spin-doctoring is the chiefest part of it. Beaver is our man of destiny; and he is coming up with the goods. Even before Tony managed to launch the Downing Street website (with grateful acknowledgements to Andrew Wilson), we were on-message and on-line with our spanking new Homepage.
I know what fun you will have surfing the C. of E., diocese by dynamic diocese. And if you tire of all the wonderful, relevant, community-based things we are doing nation-wide, the AbC himself will take you on a conducted tour of Lambeth Palace. Access: thats what the Peoples Church is all about. On the Internet you too can walk the corridors of power and see the place where the worlds spiritual leaders converge to pay tribute to the head of the worlds 70 million Anglicans.
Wow! All that, and worship, too! Because we in the Peoples Church havent forgotten the message all you non-churchgoers out there sent us at the time of Princess Dianas funeral. You are thirsty for spirituality. Right-on! So we have put together a thirst-quenching package for you all: we call it Viritual Cranmer, a media friendly compilation taken from liturgies which the C. of E. has only recently abandoned. So just tickle your mouse and sing along with John Mason Neale. Enjoy!
But if Dr. B is flavour of the month, a name you cant mention around here is R*b*ns*n. The AbC is spitting blood!
Canon G*n* R*b*ns*n is Bishop J*ck Sp*ngs secret weapon: an out gay man who looks set to be the next bishop of N*w*rk, N*w J*rs*y; and so drive a coach and horses through our neatly crafted solution for Lambeth 98 (see April Briefing).
You have to give it to these Yanks, they do things in style. Canon R*b*ns*n is not only a gay man in an active relationship, he is also one who has abandoned a wife and children to take up his present lifestyle. As I said to the AbC, in a joke which I am afraid did not go down too well, he is managing to trample gaily on several biblical prohibitions at once; and good luck to him, I say! No wonder J*ck Sp*ng has stopped writing us letters: why continue a war of words when you have an exocet in your armoury?
The trouble with the AbC is that he cant see when he has been outflanked. He thinks he can still pull it off (avoid a bust-up and keep the show on the road, I mean). What he cant see (and heaven knows I have tried to explain it to him enough times) is that the show may stay on the road; but it wont be the same show.
Now my view is that it doesnt matter what show it is; what matters is that we are in charge of it. But when I said that, the AbC got very cross. Apparently I was being destructively cynical, and I was out of touch with the real church out there.
Well, if I dont know anything about the real church, I do know a thing or too about other realities, let me tell you. And there is no principle in the world, I can assure you, which would turn me, if I were Archbishop, out of Canterbury Cathedral and into some squalid suburban garage. If Paris was worth a Mass (as Napoleon, or Louis XIV, or one of those people once said); Lambeth is worth a R*b*ns*n, I say. I am quietly confident that the AbC will see things that way, in the end. People do.
Can I finish with a few pastoral words to you New Directions readers? I value this opportunity to write for you, month by month, because I think that, in the People's Church, we have an obligation to keep the channels of communiction open. We at Lambeth want to share with you. But - and I say this in love - I have noticed a carping, negative tone in some of your other pages, which I think is not only unworthy but unhelpful. My advice to you is to stop seeing yourselves as victims.
As the recent paper from MSF has shown beyond doubt, the real victims of the 1992 vote to ordain women were the women themselves. It is they who are denied preferment, opportunities and promotion.
My word to you is this: that the way you and that fat-boy Archdeacon of York go on about appoinments is very unhelpful. The truth is that there are not enough jobs to go around for us, you and the women. And since, technically speaking, the women won, they take priority, after us.
The Anglican way is just to accept that. No one wants an embarrassing and unseemly struggle for power, do they? That's not what the Church is about. I shouldn't have to tell you Catholics that it's about Marian values: obedience, submission and deference. And even if the women have rather given that one a miss, we still expect it of you. We gave you your Flying Bishops and your Act of Synod. You have to accept that that's your lot. (Oh dear, that seems to be a pun!)
So be Marian - that's my word to you all. Show, by your obedience to the Church and your acceptance of marginalisation within it those sterling, central and neccessary gospel values. After all, you must see that someone has to.
Andrew Armitage-Shanks is Archdeacon-at-Lambeth. His opinions are idiosyncratically his own.