HARD for "man come of
age" to believe though this may seem, about 250 people flocked to
St Martin-in-the-Fields for the debate on Monday evening last week
about John Robinson's work of uneasily digested German and American
theology, Honest to God (Features, 26
April; Letters, 3
May) - a mere 50 years after publication day.
The BBC World Affairs
correspondent Mike Wooldridge cycled to St Martin's to chair the
discussion before flying out the next day to Pakistan (where a
great many people probably do think that our image of God
Among the audience were
proud owners of the late Bishop of Woolwich's famous little
shocker, with the marginal comments that they had inserted back in
the day. Of course, the C of E's "ferment" no more began in 1963
than (pace Philip Larkin) something else of more general
In the audience last week
was the Very Revd Dr David L. Edwards, the former publisher who
brought out the book at the SCM Press - not having, he told his
latest successor, any idea that people would still be discussing it
half a century on.
Initial printings sold
out so fast, he recalls, that when a request for a copy came
through from 10 Downing Street, the SCM Press didn't have one in
Whatever else might be
said about Robinson's theology, it was a religious publisher's most
improbable dream come true.
IT WAS also a good year
for Her Majesty's Stationery Office.
Many of our readers can
have only just finished struggling through the more turgid passages
of Lady Chatterley's Lover when they felt duty-bound to
give their attention to Lord Denning's report, another instant
bestseller of 1963.
This concerned the Profumo affair, and was obliged to
explore the social circle of Miss Keeler, Miss Rice-Davies, the
Minister of War, and a Soviet naval attaché. It is surprising that
a little paperback about Tillich and Bultmann ever got a look-in,
when you think about it.
But, given that Robinson
had been "chipping away at the granite glory of the moral law", as
one of his angry correspondents on hanging had put it, it was only
a matter of time before he would be held a danger to national
"In the turmoil resulting
from the Profumo scandal it seems to me that we must accept the
fact that the Church of England has a heavy responsibility to bear
in the matter of lowered moral standards," wrote George Goyder, a
Church Assembly member, to the Church Times (14 June
"I believe it is . . .
helpful to consider the current trend of Cambridge theology in
terms of Mr Profumo's tragedy. For Mr Profumo can hardly be blamed
if it should be found in fact that he has taken the Bishop's
Bishops and osteopaths -
you know what they're like. But, while Profumo proved himself, in
the end, to be socially more useful than many whose lives have been
untainted by public scandal, the question remains whether Cambridge
theology did ultimately implant a certain quantity of iron in the
Church of England's soul, if not the nation's (which surely, most
of the time, goes its own way).
Goyder's sights were also
set on H. A. Williams and Professor Lampe and, by implication, the
editor of the symposium Soundings (1962), Alec Vidler.
Goyder was scathing about "the blind guides of Cambridge who reject
the Law of God and with it the morality of society in favour of the
morality of self-development and social selfishness".
No doubt Robinson was
right about hanging, and perhaps Williams was right about being
near to God in Tangier; but it wouldn't be hard to trace some of
the contemporary Church's difficulties back to the cult of self. If
Goyder was even partly right, a harvest of division,
disappointment, and bitterness, in due course, was
THE editor of a trendy
Christian journal, Prism, in 1963, the Revd Timothy (later
Lord) Beaumont, included in "Religion!" - a funny-old-world column
- an item from the Church Times's list of "Principal
Church Events in 1962". This was "August 30, Chichester win
Church Times Cricket Cup."
Thirty years later, it
was my job to write an entry still along the same lines each year,
long after Prism had gone out of print.
Those for whom the
Cricket Cup is, indeed, an annual highlight have a treat in store.
Christopher J. Gray, the author of The Willow and the
Cloth, his 1999 compendium of cricketing clergy since the 18th
century, has followed it with Parsons at Play: The cricketing
lives of 65 clergymen (signed copies available from the author
for £25* incl. airmail postage at The Old Rectory, Eureka, New
South Wales 2480, Australia; email firstname.lastname@example.org).
Did you know that Bishop
Coleridge Patteson, the Melanesian martyr of 1871, was "a sound
batsman, with a strong defence and opening the batting [for the
Eton XI] in 1844, hit 50 against Harrow at Lord's", and that in
1845 he had made 31 against the MCC?
No surprises that Henry
Edward Manning - one of those Tractarian followers who left the
field in 1851 - was not a good cricketer. A fairly useless batsman,
he was a slow under-arm bowler; but at least he wrote a (not very
funny) little comic verse to Charles Wordsworth, who had given him
a cricket bat. Wordsworth became Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld
& Dunblane in the Scottish Episcopal Church.
In contrast to Manning,
here are test cricketers - Vernon Royle, Clem Wilson, Tom Killick,
and David (later Lord) Sheppard - and the remarkable Lord Frederick
Beauclerk (1773-1850, fourth son of the 5th Duke of St Albans), who
fathered two capable cricketers, but was scarcely a role-model. His
language was appalling, and he had no qualms about making money out
of the game - indeed, claimed that he expected to win 600 guineas a
E. H. Pickering stepped
out to bat at Lord's in July 1844 in a dark clerical suit, when
called on to play for the Gentlemen against the Players. Some of
our readers may remember (Canon) Jack Parsons, who died in 1981,
and spent his 70th birthday scoring 65 in 43 minutes for
Warwickshire Old County Cricketers' Association against Solihull
School. He had bowled in the nets to W. G. Grace.
*or £17.99 from CT
THE Wurzels' song
"Combine Harvester" may have been turned down for a funeral (News, 26
April), but the Revd Mark Davys confesses to having allowed it
at a wedding.
"I considered the request
very carefully - mainly because of the method used to quieten a dog
in the first verse rather than any significant concerns about the
song's theology of marriage," he tells us.
"In my defence, the bride
and groom did drive a combine harvester to return to their farm,
and the groom did give the key to the bride when they were halfway
down the aisle. I regret that I failed to check whether the vehicle
was 'brand new'. I fear not."
Just "ancient and modern"?