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Unity and togetherness: what could go wrong?

22 December 2016

Sources say: a tip-off to Jonathan Petre in The Mail on Sunday

Sources say: a tip-off to Jonathan Petre in The Mail on Sunday

I WAS enchanted by a story in the Stockholm paper Dagens Nyheter about disputes within the Jewish community there. Two parties are fighting like cats in a sack for control of the equivalent of the Board of Deputies.

So far so normal. What makes the story is their names. One is called “Jewish Unity” and the other “Jews Together”. Oh, and they have three synagogues between them.


NOT quite as timeless was Jonathan Petre’s Mail on Sunday story “Church of England leaders are set to spark a fresh row over homosexuality”, although this, too, feels as if it could have appeared at any time in the past 2000 years.

This time, the suggestion is that “gay vicars should no longer have to promise to abstain from sex.

“Under current church rules, gay clergy wanting to enter into civil partnerships are required to assure their bishops they will remain celibate — in line with traditional church teaching that sex is only permitted within heterosexual marriage.

“Such clergy also have to make similar official assurances to their archbishop before they can be promoted to the rank of bishop.

“But sources said the bishops could now call for the rule to be scrapped so that clerics living with same-sex partners would no longer have to make a solemn vow. They would still be expected to remain celibate.”

Expected by whom, exactly? I am all in favour of a Church that does not require its employees or officers to perjure themselves, but this is the kind of fix which will work only if everyone wants it to work — and “everyone” here would mean both Anglican Unity and Anglicans Together.


SOME of us are wondering which will be solved first: the problem of human sexuality, or the bell-ringers’ dispute at York Minster. This, too, in the Chapter’s version, concerns a matter of human sexuality, or “safeguarding”, but it is extraordinary how quickly it has turned into a fairly traditional strike, the bell-ringers invoking solidarity among their co-workers, while the management complains about intimidation.

In The Times: “The message is very clear: if you cross one bellringer, you cross them all.

“The bells of York Minster are expected to remain silent this Christmas after another team of campanologists [sic] snubbed an invitation to fill in for sacked local volunteers.”

The Guardian’s story reproduced much of the extraordinary press statement put out by the Minster: “Bellringing leaders from other parts of the county and country have been in contact to explore options for ringing in the next few days and months.

”However, we have learned that many of these kind people have been subjected to intimidation on social media and in the local press. At least one member of the clergy who has offered to help has been threatened with legal action.”

I saw that the Dean, Vivienne Faull, had been active on Twitter, trying to engage with people. I urged her not even to try: eternity is not enough time in which to win an argument there.

The publicity could be still worse. Had it been the organist, or the choir, we would never have heard the end of it. But no one gathers to sit in reverent silence for 20 minutes of bell-ringing every weekday afternoon, whereas choral evensong still flourishes. It must also help to diminish national coverage that this is happening in York, not Westminster, although there will undoubtedly be stories on Boxing Day.

THE ECONOMIST looked at the claim by Hope, a pressure group, that there had been 50,000 tweets welcoming the murder of Jo Cox MP in the week after her death at the hands of a fascist maniac. These were widely reported off the back of a press release, but the real figure turns out to be about 700.

Good news in what has been a pretty bloody year all round. But I had not realised, until I read Lord Tebbit in the Telegraph, quite how much we had lost this year: “Until very recently in our society, child marriage, bigamy, divorce at the will of the male partner, the imprisonment of wives at the will of their husband, female genital mutilation and abortion on the grounds of the sex of the unborn child were unacceptable and, indeed, criminal offences.”

Yet the repeal of all those laws has been entirely concealed by the mainstream media. I can’t remember reading a word about all those hours of parliamentary debate. Yet another thing for which we can blame Brussels.


IT WOULD be contrary to the policy of this column to see hope anywhere, but I do hope that if next year is not much better than this, it might at least be a little saner. In the mean time, Merry Christmas.

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