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Posts Tagged "Pilling Rport":

Time To Call In Mycroft?


A Little Local Difficulty

The Church of England has had a difficult week (if you need a quick update, I recommend the summary and collation by Thinking Anglicans as well as the piece on St Laurence’s blog).

The problem is as old as organised society itself: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who oversees the overseers? Who shepherds the shepherds? In the case of the Church of England, one would hope that the answer is the Holy Spirit. The difficulty is that, since we have free will, the Holy Spirit can only intervene if asked, and then there remains the problem of interpreting any reply. Now, our bishops are of course men of God and do spend quite a lot of time listening out for the views of the Holy Spirit. The trouble is that sometimes when they should, they don’t. It seems no one asked the Holy Spirit (or understood the response) whether, in the light of the Pilling Report, the speech by Sir Joseph Pilling at General Synod and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s placatory words at synod, the following day was the best time to release the most unpastoral of Pastoral Statements.

Who on earth am I to judge whether this was the will of the Holy Spirit? Well, we have it on good authority that we should judge such actions by their fruits. In this case, the statement has caused pain, distress, exasperation, anguish, anger, fear and ridicule, both amongst the faithful and the ‘not yet churched’ amongst whom the Church is urging us to evangelise.


Papering Over The Cracks in the Anglican Communion

It has been said that the statement was aimed at those provinces in the Anglican Communion who have threatened to leave the Communion unless the Church of England takes the same line as they do on sexuality. In other words, twenty-four hours after the promises were made, all that the Church of England has already achieved in this area, and the ‘facilitated conversations’ that had been promised at February’s General Synod, have been jettisoned as so much useless ballast, in order to stay in the same lifeboat as the GAFCON countries, who had this to say about the Anglican Communion:

“the fabric of the Communion was torn at its deepest level as a result of the actions taken by The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church in Canada since 2003. As a result, our Anglican Communion is currently suffering from broken relations, a lack of trust, and dysfunctional instruments of unity’.”

If we are picking lifeboats, I would rather be sharing mine with The Episcopal Church, the Canadians, New Zealanders etc etc. It may be pleasant to dwell in unity, but it comes at too high a price if it involves sacrificing what we believe to be the truth. Shakespeare put this thought elegantly into the often quoted words of Polonius, but the Book of Proverbs also has wisdom on the subject.

 Cherchez Une ‘Eminence Grise’

I do have one possible structural solution, an idea to help forestall some of the many self-inflicted wounds of the Church of England in future. That is, why not copy Cardinal Richelieu, a church politician par excellence?

An éminence grise (French for “grey eminence”) is a powerful decision-maker or advisor who operates “behind the scenes” or in a non-public or unofficial capacity. This phrase originally referred to François Leclerc du Tremblay, the right-hand man of Cardinal Richelieu. Leclerc was a Capuchin friar who was renowned for his beige attire (as beige was termed “grey” in that era.) The title “His Eminence” is used to address or refer to a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. Although Leclerc never achieved the rank of Cardinal, those around him addressed him as such in deference to the considerable influence this “grey” friar held over “His Eminence the Cardinal”.

I even have a candidate, Sherlock Holmes’s brother Mycroft, described in “The Bruce-Partington Plans“:

The conclusions of every department are passed to him, and he is the central exchange, the clearinghouse, which makes out the balance. All other men are specialists, but his specialism is omniscience.

The elder Holmes … might claim to hold a minor position in the British Government, but the truth is, he IS the British Government. Well, when he’s not too busy being the British Secret Service of course, or the C.I.A on a freelance basis… You do not contact Mycroft Holmes, he contacts you… Should you ever meet him, he will likely be the most dangerous man you’ve ever met. He will never text though, not if he can talk… His powers of deduction equal if not supersede Sherlock’s own who has always been so resentful. Not that he has the time for any case that requires ‘leg work’. After all, he can’t possibly be away from the office for any length of time, not with the Korean elections so… well, you don’t need to know about that, do you?



It is such a shame that Mycroft is not available – he would have fitted admirably. Sir Humphrey Appleby would be another choice. Even the Dowager Countess of Grantham might have filled the role, at a pinch. What we really need is a smooth man (like Mycroft) to head the team, with two hairy men (say Malcolm Tucker and Alistair Campbell) as his assistants. Alistair Campbell describes himself on his website as ‘Communicator, Writer, Strategist’, which is almost an application for the job.

The other route would be to look amongst the Whitehall warriors, perhaps more likely to offer a safe pair of hands.


Code of Practice for Bishops

When soldiers go into battle, they are given a yellow card which summarises the rules of engagement. It might be a good idea to issue all bishops with a similar card to help them avoid engaging foot with mouth, perhaps along the following lines:


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