IT IS obvious to any casual reader of the newspapers that Canon
Rosie Harper decided that the Church of England will have women
bishops. She was pictured voting in The Daily
Telegraph, The Independent, and The
Guardian - where she appeared three times all over the top of
the page. Are there really no other blondes in clerical collars who
could help a picture editor out?
The Mail, inexplicably, passed up the opportunity to
show Canon Harper fixing the destiny of the Church, settling for
half-a-column of prose deep inside the paper.
The women-bishops vote was a difficult story, since there was no
longer any real news value to it, but it still needed to be
covered. Only a cynic would suppose - like my colleague Brute of
The Beast - that the shadow of this large, if empty, story
explained why it was such an excellent moment for the Archbishop of
Canterbury to announce that he was postponing the next Lambeth
Conference indefinitely, pending a decision about whether any of
the potential invitees actually wanted another one.
The only other notable development came in the bookies' press
releases. I have no idea how they choose the odds for who will be
the next woman bishop. I suspect it is by reading the papers like
everyone else, including those who write them.
What would be more interesting to know is whether anyone
actually places any bets on any of the women named. I suspect that
hardly anyone does, and the sudden plunge in odds for Jane Hedges
meant no more than that someone somewhere had actually put a tenner
on her for a bishop. That, and the fact that a well-timed press
release gets the name of the bookies into the papers.
I got a small, personal moment of delight after the vote, when
the Archbishop of Canterbury came into the press room to explain
it, and I asked him about the theory that a woman could not be
appointed to Southwell & Nottingham since it would have been
illegal to appoint one when the long list was drawn up. "Nonsense."
The joys of a straightforward answer are very great, at least when
it is not my personal pet theory that is being shot down.
He did manage very well to say quite a lot without giving any
headlines away. This is a skill in which he has made great progress
over the past 18 months. I do hope I am giving a hostage to fortune
ARCHBISHOP WELBY certainly got a very favourable write-up in
The Spectator, of all places: "This week, payday loan
companies are facing reform (or in some cases oblivion) as new caps
on interest payments come into effect. That the industry finds
itself in this position is thanks, in no small part, to it having
been hooked around the neck by the Archbishop's crosier.
"Welby has inspired reform of the industry not by trying to set
himself up as the leader of the opposition in a cassock, but by
acting as an effective leader of the Church of England. His
approach to the payday-loan industry was not to demand that it be
banned, he being aware that an even darker industry of doorstep
loan sharks would replace it, but to compete with it head on."
If he can accomplish all that without actually setting up any
credit unions, then possibly the Anglican Communion will be
ELSEWHERE in the world, other stuff was happening. There was a
wonderfully fatuous story in The Sunday Times: "In the
week when Europeans succeeded in landing humanity's first probe on
a speeding comet, a YouGov poll found only 15% of Britons believe
life was created by a deity - while 19% think it began with organic
compounds carried to Earth by comets."
I can't believe this for a second. The idea that one in five
adult Britons know what "organic compound" means is
AND, from The New York Times, an extraordinary
sidelight into the progress of Ebola. It turns out that the
epidemic has been raging unchecked for months in a remote area of
Guinea that bears a religious grudge. In the 1960s and '70s, the
central government attempted to stamp out traditional religion
there. Masks used in initiations and sacrifices were burnt.
As a result, hostility to outsiders is still so fierce that one
party of journalists and officials, come to spread public-health
information about containing the epidemic, were lynched and had
their dismembered bodies dumped in a septic tank.
I do think it's progress that we don't automatically assume
today that this behaviour is the natural consequence of idolatry,
nor that Ebola is its punishment.