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'Scandalous' stripping of assets

THE General Synod vote on women bishops was a formality, or a non-event, tthe national press. The majority verdict was predictable, and there is weariness at news desks about long-running stories. More attention will bgiven to talk of splits and schism; most newspapers prefer open wounds to healing process. The Sunday Times headline "Church rebels plan 1bproperty grab" was a foretaste of the next stages in the saga.The Daily Telegraph on Monday gave priority to the claim by thcampaign group Save Our Parsonages that there had been "scandalouasset-stripping" in raising more than 100 million in the past five years bdisposing of properties. A Telegraph leader stated that the sale oparsonages might seem small beer, compared with the ordination of womebishops, but: "Not so. For while the arrival of women bishops is inevitablethe disposal of Church of England vicarages and rectories is not. Moreoverunless it is stopped, it may end up by doing more damage to the fabric of thChurch than any spat over bishops."Leaving aside questions about the relative importance of the issues, imight surprise traditionalists to learn that their trusted TelegraphThe Concise Oxford English Dictionary as a "petty quarrel". Tharticle continued: "A fine 18th-century rectory lifts the spirits of incumbenand parishioners alike; the authorities may argue that such a building is no'relevant' to the modern world, but the truth is that moving a priest out of large house that can be used for meetings and garden parties and into a drearsuburban close often has a depressing effect on the whole parish, and thuweakens the Church's roots in the community."By the same token, the Telegraph should have stayed in FleeStreet, where it was the oldest newspaper resident, instead of moving out tmore functional quarters in Canary Wharf.SEVEN diocesan and 12 suffragan bishops, headed by the Bishop of Bath &Wells, signed a letter published in The Independent, warning the PrimMinister against the replacement of Britain's nuclear weapons. The possessioof Trident was "evil" and "profoundly anti-God", threatening long-term anfatal damage to the environment and its peoples. They challenged Mr Blair ovehis commitment, made at the Gleneagles summit a year ago, to make poverthistory. "The costs involved in the maintenance and replacement of Tridencould be used to address pressing environmental concerns, the causes oterrorism, poverty and debt." In earlier days, this letter's natural home woulhave been The Guardian, but the Berliner format now demands sound-bitcontributions.FURTHER evidence of the switch from mainstream media came in the BBC'annual report. Younger viewers are abandoning TV in favour of the internet, anmobile phoning; there was a significant increase in the number using the BBwebsite. A leader in The Guardian described fast-growing websites sucas MySpace (54 million users) and Bebo (25 million), which enable teenagers tnetwork with their peers, as a social phenomenon of our time.An ambitious response to the technological revolution is planned by thAlpha movement. "Digital technology is to our era what Gutenberg was to th15th century when he created the press to print the Bible", said Ken Costachairman of Alpha. The Sunday Times reported that Lord Foster, tharchitect, has been appointed to convert St Paul's, Onslow Square, London, inta television studio, with a 1000-seat auditorium, to broadcast sermons tdevelop mission worldwide. It will be Christ for the iPod generation, said MCosta.CHURCH involvement was ignored in a Times leader about thretention of Sunday opening restrictions on supermarkets. Secular campaignwork best in secular Britain, said the paper. The Daily Mail impliethat the Government had rewarded Usdaw, the shopworkers' union, for itfinancial support for the Labour Party. If the decision had gone the other wayno doubt the Mail would have drawn attention to Lord Sainsbury as donor.The decision is good news for newsagents, whose livelihoods are threateneby newspapers and magazines on sale at supermarkets and garages. ThMail on Sunday reported that an estimated 30,000 newsagentstobacconists, and corner shops have closed in the past ten years. Ethicashopping means supporting your local newsagent.A QUOTATION from The Times by an Ohio farmer, Matt Peters, who iselling bat droppings from his church at Amesville for fertiliser: "Part owhat makes the poop so special is that it's been sung to this whole time." 

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