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Gay wedding sets things buzzing

17 April 2014


WELL done, Jonathan Petre, who got the first clergy gay marriage in the Mail on Sunday, and managed to have it plunge the Church into a fresh crisis in his very first sentence.

One imagines by now that the process of plunging the Church into crisis is something like tie-dying: first it gets all knotted up, and then it is plunged into a bath of fresh crisis, and left to marinate there for a while. Finally, when the knots are untied, a startling pattern emerges - except, of course, that for the moment the C of E is still so tightly knotted that it is just a dripping mess.

Everyone else followed the Mail. There wasn't much left to add: no one much was talking to the press except for the rentaquotes. I did like the unnamed "senior traditionalist cleric" in Petre's story who said: "This is a test of the authority of the bishops and a critical test for Archbishop Welby." This is a lovely way of pressuring the Archbishop, who is well aware that there is absolutely nothing he can do to discipline an NHS chaplain, as is the Bishop of Lincoln. Canon Pemberton does not even hold, or need, permission to officiate in the diocese of Lincoln, though he has one in Southwell.

TRAGICALLY, we couldn't get a quote from the best possible source, the bees at Lambeth Palace. The Telegraph had picked up a publicity plug for a new BBC series on bees and beekeeping, in which the Archbishop had been interviewed. He told Martha Kearney that his grandmother had taken up beekeeping, and taught him the Kipling poem "The Bee-Boy's Song". From that he had learned: "You must always tell the bees all the news.

"The bees knew more than anybody else. I assume they were reasonably confidential."

It's a line that has a certain poignancy in the life of a lonely only child whose father was so full of secrets himself.

THE other piece of Welby news was an interview he gave in Canada on last week's story about how Africans used Western openness towards gay people as an excuse to massacre their Christian neighbours. He looked to me like a man digging himself further into an ill-considered hole: "I'm not saying that because there will be consequences to taking action, that we shouldn't take action. What I'm saying is that love for our neighbour, love for one another, compels us to consider carefully how that love is expressed, both in our own context and globally."

Indeed, which is why the actions of the Church in Nigeria and Uganda are so damaging to the reputation of the Church of England. Some people might fail to see altogether how they are expressing "love for our neighbour, love for one another".

IN CHINA, there is no fundamental distinction between the mainstream media and the unofficial sort. All alike are equally subject to censorship.

This is what makes an article in the current issue of the Washington Foreign Policy magazine so fascinating: it looks at the terms most frequently used on Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, and finds that Christian subjects are incomparably more often mentioned than Communist or official ones (above). There were, for example, 17 million recent mentions of the Bible, compared with 60,000 of Mao's Little Red Book; 41.8 million mentions of "Christian congregation" as against 5.3 million for "the Communist Party".

"The Underground Church" is not permitted to appear anywhere online at all; so, to some extent, these results reflect the judgement of the censors that talking about Christianity is an acceptable substitute for talking about politics (except when it clearly isn't).

AND SO to the wonderful Marina Hyde, The Guardian's anti-celebrity columnist, and the only one who brings to the task the scorn it deserves. She discovered that the Kardashians, a family of professional and highly successful self-publicists, have founded their own tax-deductible church. Its pastor, Brad Johnson, had fallen on hard times after an adultery scandal at his previous ministry.

He was, in fact, working at a Starbucks. The Kardashians found him there. "Somehow, Brad found the strength he needed to leave the macchiato-making - one imagines the details are contained in his book entitled How to Forgive Yourself and Others."

Here's my idea: we give a copy of the book to every member of the General Synod.

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