October 1998

30 Days


Radio 4 recently ran a discursive item on the boom industry of counselling. One shrink was broadly in favour another shrink was fairly critical.

The interviewer turned, for “the church’s view” to none other than the Archbishop of York........George Austin!

Although the error was corrected towards the end of the item and George restored to his archdeaconry one can only speculate on how many trauma counsellors will have received urgent calls from episcopal clients trying to cope with this “nightmare scenario”.



A warning letter has gone out in some dioceses to parish clergy about an organisation called Christian Research. Apparently these rascals are writing to churches of every denomination seeking to know about attendances, rolls, make up of congregations etc. We are told, in frosty terms, that the C of E has not been consulted about this at all and uses words like “unnecessary”? and “unhelpful” and mumbles dark threats about the data protection law.

Of course it is unhelpful to have an independent set of figures when “the church is reviewing the statistics it gathers” (and how to present them in a better light.)

Most annoyed are the Statistical Unit of General Synod who, you may remember, refused to release the key statistics last year to the press until New Directions got hold of them and published!



There may be a glass ceiling” for the ladies in the C of E but not, apparently, in retirement. Grizzled old misogynists are murmuring about the remarkable rise of Canon Ruth Wintle in the National Council of Retired Clergy Association. Ruth (deacon ‘87, canonised ‘88, priested ’?94, retired ‘95) is replacing Bishop Bond as Senior Representative for Chester, Birmingham, Hereford, Lichfield and Worcester.

As women campaigners have managed to persuade the management of the justice of many of their demands perhaps Canon Wintle could begin a serious campaign for the rights of the retired.

“Why”, she might well ask, “does a man with forty years priestly experience have no say in the life of the church when a deacon of one day has a vote?"



Southwark Cathedral is to be the setting for the consecration of Fr. Michael Houghton as second Bishop of Ebbsfleet.

This unlikely setting has been chosen because of “difficulties” north of the river.

The deeply unlovely Dean of Westminster, Wesley Carr, is, as usual, responsible. Noted for his loathing of traditionalists and his belief that they should get out of the C of E, Carr has surpassed himself. Not content with a massive legal battle with his organist, distressing his faithful elderly helpers and outraging many of the congregation he has now insulted the Archbishop of Canterbury.

When asked by George to host the event, Carr refused, point blank, to have “that consecration”? in his Abbey. George, to his credit, is reported to have told London’s least admired clergyperson that if he wasn’t prepared to have the consecration of the Archbishop’s Episcopal Visitor, the Abbey wouldn’t be doing any consecrations.

So, appropriately perhaps, we move south of the river to the welcome of Provost Colin Slee whose policy of encouragement of persecuted minorities now, ironically, includes Forward in Faith.



As so often in the C of E satire cannot compete with reality. Bishops are finding increasingly bizarre ways of taking up their appointment and entering their new dioceses. Most recent entry on the “Wacky Entry” competition is Tom Butler, translated from Leicester to Southwark, who made a splash by barging up the Thames to be greeted by his loyal subjects. Those looking for historical precedent may recall our founder, Henry VIII, similarly entrancing Londoners by the magic of his presence or even Cleopatra on her grand entry to the Imperial City.

The “beast of Tooting Bec” is unlikely to prove as attractive as the latter and possibly the last man to have that kind of makeover. Early indications are that he may prove more tolerant than the former and enjoy better relations with the Romans - though not as good relations as the latter!

30 Days offers a bottle of Grog to the most imaginative proposal for a bishop entering a diocese.



Latest figures available reveal the fastest declining diocese in Scotland is...No it would be unkind to name it.

Suffice it to say - see 30 Days passim, and think of who you would expect to see leading the way in this, as in so many things.

For example - a Flagship Diocese.



A disgraceful rumour is gaining ground in the Episcopal Church of Scotland. Apparently the recruitment competition of Provost of Dundee was severely reduced by informal canvassing of candidates. So bleak a picture of the financial state of the cathedral was painted by the authorities privately that all but two of the candidates withdrew. The financial difficulties are much deeper that the unorthodox personal investments of the previous incumbent and we wait, with interest, to see of the intervention of Our Lady Provost will provide the required miracle.



Those who have accused Michael Turnbull of constructing a centralising power-grabbing cabinet system of government and of being desperately ambitious himself were reassured by his answer. He had no interest in power, had no intention of standing for a seat in Cabinet, if nominated would not run etc., etc.

Imagine their surprise when the results of cabinet elections were announced. House of Bishops: Turnbull (Durham) and Gladwin (Guildford.)

Before cynics rush to judgement they should consider that the bishops clearly wanted a senior northern bishop, desired continuity, need someone who understood the system and would provide necessary liberal Protestant balance to the er...liberal Protestant Bishop of Guildford.

You can write the rest for yourselves.

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