Lay Anglicana, the unofficial voice of the laity throughout the Anglican Communion.
This is the place to share news and views from the pews.

Get involved ...

Posts Tagged "Church of England":

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:


David Owen Norris: Master of Music, Communicator and Enthuser

Prayerbook: An Oratorio about Tradition and Change

First things first. If you love music, if you love Cranmer’s Prayer Book, if you love the Church of England, I urge you to make a pilgrimage to Romsey Abbey in Hampshire on the evening of 14 September, where you are in for a treat:

my Oratorio-with-a-Difference, Prayerbook. It features a Calypso sung by the Choristers of New College Oxford, and a comedy Fugue sung by the top Barber-Shop Quartet Over-the-Bridge, to words from the back of the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer about who you’re not allowed to marry, beginning ‘A man may not marry his grandfather’s wife’. The Waynflete Singers, one of the best choirs in the country, will be accompanied by glittering brass and percussion, by the mighty Romsey organ, and by the prize-winning Navarra String Quartet. The international operatic baritone Peter Savidge is the soloist.

The piece has its serious moments too, of course – it begins with a thought-provoking phrase from 1549: ‘There was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted’. At which point the chorus Hisses – the first time this effect has been used.

David Owen Norris

Second things second – is it possible you do not already know of  David Owen Norris? Born in 1953, he studied music at Keble College, Oxford where he was organ scholar; he is now an Honorary Fellow of the college After leaving Oxford, he studied composition, and worked at the Royal Opera House as a repetiteur. As a pianist, he has accompanied soloists such as Dame Janet BakerLarry Adler and John Tomlinson , and his solo career has included appearances at the Proms and performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He has also presented several radio series (his Playlist Series for BBC Radio 4 has recently finished its second series). He has also presented for television, and appeared in a number of television documentaries. He is a professor at the Royal College of Music and also teaches at the University of Southampton, where he is Head of Keyboard.He has also been Gresham Professor of Music and a professor at the Royal Academy of Music (having earlier been a student there). You can read about his career in more detail on his website here.

St Swithun, David Owen Norris and Me

I first had the privilege of meeting David Owen Norris in 2010 when the Lay Worship Leaders of Andover Deanery united to offer a service of our joint devising on St Swithun’s Day, 15th July. David, who lives in the area of the Deanery, kindly agreed to be our Music Director. With exquisite skill, he turned the offerings of a local hymn writer into something that scanned and had real meaning and jollied us all -possessed of only accidental musical talent, if at all, into a team (in other words, he directed much more than the music).

Each lay worship leader took a different aspect of St Swithun’s life – I was responsible for the saint’s remains:

St  Swithun was buried, at his own request, in a simple grave outside the west door of the Saxon church in Winchester so that ‘passers-by might tread on his grave, and where the sweet rain of heaven might fall on it’. In so doing, he unconsciously started a trend. The Mogul Emperor, Shah Jahan, famously built the Taj Mahal as a tomb for his favourite wife, but his second favourite scored a moral victory in the long run when, in writing her own epitaph, she said:

‘Let nought but the green grass cover the grave of Jahanara, For grass is the fittest covering for the tomb of the lowly’.

And in the 19th century Christina Rossetti wrote:

‘Be the green grass above me with showers and dewdrops wet; And if thou wilt, remember; and if thou wilt, forget.’

It is interesting that the word humility derives, as St Thomas Aquinas points out, from humus, the earth which is beneath us. According to legend, the monks first tried to move the body of St Swithun inside the old Minster some nine years after his death but, when the heavens opened for forty days in succession, the body was returned to the original resting place outside…

Attempt to update a Wesleyan hymn

When I rashly and ill-advisedly attempted to produce an updated version of Wesley’s hymn ‘Love divine, all loves excelling’ (Love divine, all loves embracing), I equally rashly thought to ask David for his views. He was kind, he was gentle, but he was adamant. Replying by email, I think to spare my blushes, he gave a reasoned critique which included the unassailable remark:

I think great hymns are as much works of art as Shakespeare’s Sonnets –  and we wouldn’t ‘improve’ them, or tweak them to fit our own preferences.

No. Quite. Lesson learned.

Back to the ‘Prayerbook’ Oratorio

I hope very much you will be able to join us in Romsey Abbey. But if an immoveable physical object such as the Atlantic Ocean makes your presence unlikely, then I urge you to read more about the work on David’s website.

We rely on donations to keep this website running.