BILL'S BRIEFING

 

CAUTION NOTICE!

Everybody is permitted to reproduce this column - but with a Health Warning:

NOTHING IN THIS COLUMN SHOULD BE RELIED UPON AS FIRM EVIDENCE FOR ANYTHING.

All facts or opinions expressed herein are purely interim. They are constantly under review by our team of experts and will be revised upwards as necessity demands or occasion permits. Nobody should EVER AGAIN write articles which criticise the Church of England - which is completely committed to marriage as a permanent, life-long relationship. So don't take the documents at face value, boys and girls: read between the lines! That's where, as a Church, we always choose to locate meaning!

NOW JUST LISTEN UP!

* * *

OF COURSE everybody knows that one of the first principles of the Office of Public Enlightenment is to let the British Press know about the awesome world-wide responsibilities of the ABC. Whenever there is any chance that people may portray George as merely the Primate of the Incredible Shrinking Church, our job is to swing into action and let them know about his other role as SPIRITUAL LEADER OF THE WORLD'S SEVENTY MILLION ANGLICANS.

Except, that is, when it all goes pear-shaped. Then, as in the case of the Singapore ordinations, (in which no press person, mercifully, was particularly interested) we are eternally grateful that the Fourth Estate is mostly composed of Little Englanders. But we had some hairy moments, nevertheless.

'What are we going to do about this one, Bill?' the ABC demanded on the blower from South Africa. 'Give me time, George,' I deftly replied. 'After all, we have till the end of March in Portugal.'

But I need not have pleaded for an extension. Within days Andrew (ever his father's son) had given us the solution in the CEN! [Feb 11] An Archbishop's Commission! More of the same!

Of course, inexperience of the way we Anglicans do things led Andrew to suggest that we should go right ahead now. I told George that was sheer impetuosity. 'Play for time,' I said; 'after all, any Oporto in a storm!.' From my greater experience I know the golden rule of the world-wide Communion: always REACT, NEVER act! ( I am an American; we run this show!) This time round, as in the case of the Eames Commission, action will only be necessary when the crisis has reached the episcopate. Gay priests are one thing; gay bishops are quite another!

We have all agreed, as a result, to wait until Gene Robinson (or some other such person) is bishop of Northwestern Pennsylvania (or some other such place); then we will bring all the overwhelming authority of the Primates' Meeting into play. (And that is really something!)

So friends, in this edition of New Directions, I am able to reassure those of you who are apprehensive about the future coherence of world-wide Anglicanism that The Harris Commission on Communion and Sodomy in the Episcopate is already well into the planning stage.

Bishop Barbara is well-known as a facilitator of dialogue. And so I can only echo the deeply caring and profoundly Christian words of Ed Browning at the very moment of Bishop Harris's memorable consecration: 'GO FOR IT!'

* * *

And now a word about re-marriage.

I know that some of you think I did a pretty poor job over the publication of The Scott-Joynt Report [see Synod Insider last month]. Despite the usual press conferences and press releases beforehand, denying any such thing, all the papers, as you will have observed (even the quality dailies) gave the impression of a free-for-all: RE-MARRIAGE ON DEMAND.

Now obviously we intend no such thing. We are all for the balanced, cautious. gradual approach to things here. Some of you out there, it seems to me, have obviously failed to grasp the essential dynamic of such matters. Very well. I'll let you into a few trade secrets (though it's almost more than my job's worth).

First assess the nature of the problem.

The problem with the remarriage of divorcees is simple: a majority of clergy sees no difficulty in the present regulations and more or less abides by them. So the basic task in hand is to make a majority surrender to the minority (for the sake of greater 'relevance', 'consistency' or something else - it hardly matters how you put it).

The technique is simple.

Produce a glossy, official-looking Report. Give it a glitzy press launch (whilst not releasing copies to the clergy - who will have to operate it, but for the most part don't want it). Then sit back and hope against hope that the press (especially the sub-editors who write the headlines) will give the impression that it is far more radical than in fact it is.

With any luck the odd divorcee, whom some hapless Vicar has previously refused, will appear on the vicarage doormat, waving a copy of The Daily Mail and demanding to reapply under the 'new rules'. The Vicar will, of course, know no more about the 'new rules' than the belligerent parishioner, and may well be reduced to panic.

It is through moments like this, repeated up and down the country, that you will have managed to induce among the intransigent majority (which is your target area), a real sense of confusion and despair. They will think that what they most fear has already happened!

I am sure you are way ahead of me!

To all intents and purposes the Synodical battle is then won! What might otherwise have been roundly attacked by a bunch of bigoted backwoodsmen as an unnecessary change, will now be hailed, on the floor of the chamber (by the same people) as a wise and generous compromise. The majority will have bowed willingly to the minority, and the CofE will have been propelled another short step into the twenty-first century! Quod erat conficiendum (as an elitist might put it)!

I will not say it is like taking candy from a baby - after all, I have my salary to consider! But it does work every time.

* * *

And finally...(as one of our most respected undercover operatives used to say)...something about the exciting activities of our Marketing and Ecclesiastical Novelties Department.

To our present range - Carey Bear, Carr Bear, and The Revd Lucy and Archdeacon Pete (with their psychedelic, interchangeable, multi-coloured clericals) - we are pleased to announce a new addition.

To mark the retirement of a much loved, cheery, cheeky Anglican chappie we have teamed up with Past Times (who already produce nightgowns in Regency and Victorian styles) to offer the Michael Saward modesty vest.

More disclosing than enclosing, this wispy creation in muslin and antique lace will really let all your ambitions hang out. Available soon from forty-three (that's 43!) convenient Cathedral outlets, one of them close to YOU! And always remember the mission statement of Cathedral Shops, nationwide: 'You don't have to believe to PAY'.

William Badger is Public Enlightenment Officer of the Archbishops' Council. He is a Canon of Chattanooga.

P.S. Perhaps we could persuade Past Times to take over our flagship Cathedral Shops on a franchise basis. After all we are both in the Heritage/Nostalgia business!

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