BILL'S BRIEFING: October 2000

 

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NOW JUST LISTEN UP!

* * *

THE TROUBLE with this job is that you have only to turn your back for a minute...

Well, no sooner had we returned from Tuscany - as brown as a bevy of Blairs - than Lambeth Palace was sounding off about 'Dominus Jesus'.

Cardinal Ratzinger, it appears, has reminded the world of the long-standing Roman attitude to Protestant 'churches' and Anglican 'orders'. The Lambeth apparatchiks have responded with a knee-jerk repetition of 'Saepius Officio'. (That should be a sharp corrrective to those of you who thought I had no Latin and knew nothing of such things!)

Well, I do!

And, as a matter of fact, if they had left the response to me (rather than Andrew Deuchar or Richard Marsh or whichever soi-disant intellectual it was) the thing would at least have been grammatical. I mean, try this for size:

'Of course the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion does not for one moment accept that its orders of ministry and Eucharist are deficient.'

Now there's the nub of the matter: 'does not accept that its' or 'do not accept that their' ? Andy and Ricky have just got to come to terms with the fact that we cannot go on behaving as though it is still 1897! Bona fide Anglican primates are firing intercontinental ballistic bishops from one province to another, for Christ's sake! And Uncle Joe Ratzinger must surely have noticed!

I have to say that we have a structural problem here. Either I do the spin - in which case you will get a fair to average professional job - or the field is open up to this bunch of quasi-theological amateurs - in which case chaos ensues.

I asked them seriously to consider how you could possibly tell a fellow like Cardinal Joe that there was nothing deficient about orders which are accepted in some provinces of the 'Communion' but not in others, and which a major inter-provincial Commission has declared to have 'a degree of provisionality'? I tried to explain to them that the louche terms of Anglican ecclesiology ('Tannerisms', as we call them in the Office) simply will not do when you are dealing with people like Joe. Joe is a master of spin. He needs to be dealt with by professionals.

But, of course I was wasting my time. These people think they know everything - and with their degrees from Oxford and Southampton and important places like that, they look down haughtily on a mere Doctor of Administrative Duplicity from the University of Montana, like myself.

So I suppose that my task will once more be damage limitation. But more exciting and relevant things, I am pleased to say, are in the offing.

As any spin doctor will tell you, the average punter has no interest at all in what Uncle Joe thinks of the CofE. (that's just for the egg-heads). The problem is getting Joe Public interested in the CofE  at all! Which is where Harry Potter comes in.

After a number of pilot projects up and down the country, I am happy to announce that the Church of England is about to be comprehensively re-themed by our wholly owned subsidiary 'Anglican Novelties plc' as 'Harry Potter and the Bishop of Doom'.

For a sum which I am not at liberty to disclose (but certainly less, I promise you, than the sum total of bishops' expenses for a single year!) the Church Commissioners have bought the exclusive right to merchandise our own distinctive, yet supremely adaptable, form of religion under the J.K. Rowling name and logo.

Previously 'Harry Potter' sermons and the like have been largely restricted to the family service market (or FSM). But why, I asked myself, when commuter trains are full of adults reading the Potter books, restrict oneself in this damaging way? Harry Potter is for everyman! (And every-woman, I hasten to add!) In the words of an old evangelical adage from my distant Colorado past: 'never leave a bandwagon untrampled'!

So, from Sunday November 5, which we are calling 'Potter Sunday', all services in the CofE will be Harry Potter themed, and copies of 'Common Worship' will subsequently be adapted accordingly. Wizard costumes will be provided for all participants and the ABC himself will launch the new initiative from the appropriate platform of Kings Cross Station, on all terrestrial channels.

This, I have to tell you, has been a massive operation. But parishes are almost literally warming to the idea as they plan vast bonfires of their nearly-new ASBs, around which they will roast jacket potatoes, sizzle vegetarian sausages and welcome in the Potter Era of the People's Church.

We expect the whole thing to be even more successful than the Millennium Candle! Now that's something which will make Uncle Joe sit up and take notice!

And where bonfires are concerned they might even think of putting Joe on top.

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

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