NOW that the Financial Times has rebranded How to Spend it magazine as HTSI, the best place to go for the sort of conspicuous consumption that really burns up the planet is The Wall Street Journal. On the morning of writing this, it has a section on gifts for coffee-lovers, which contains one useful item — the aeropress, which is all anyone needs to make good coffee and costs about £30 in this country — but the rest lives up to expectations, culminating in the $130 internet-connected mug that will keep your coffee at the precise temperature your smartphone tells it to — because, of course, you’re too busy and important to enjoy it when it’s fresh.
I thought of this kind of insatiable hunger, which is quietly cooking the planet, when I read the Telegraph’s coverage of the Church Commissioners’ decision to raise money from the bond market to help towards the Church’s transition to net zero.
The story seems to come entirely from a Bloomberg report, itself sourced from a credit agency that has given the Commissioners an absolutely rock-solid rating. How does the Telegraph approach the story? “Church raises capital to fund net zero drive”, perhaps. No: you forget that global warming is for the Telegraph a bad thing, like Covid, a conspiracy by so-called experts against normal people. So, the actual headline is: “Church of England borrows money to finance net zero drive”.
Further down the piece, readers learn that “Last year, Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, likened climate change to the rise of Nazism, although he later apologised for the comparison.
“Earlier this year, clergy members warned that Mr Welby’s eco-drive could force churches to close and leave congregations shivering in the pews.
“The church proposed to cajole vicars into replacing traditional boilers with green alternatives, a move likely to pile excessive costs on parishes when some are already close to collapse.”
How you can shiver in the pews of a closed church is left to the reader’s imagination.
But the fact of the collapse of the rural church has now seeped into the secular imagination. Even Private Eye’s architecture column, which is normally unremittingly hostile to any kind of church reordering or closure, had an item about a Cornish church which seemed to acknowledge that the diocese simply could not afford it.
THE struggle between Pope Francis and the Trumpist wing of the American Church continues. Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco has banned Nancy Pelosi, a leading Democratic politician, from receiving communion in his diocese because of her support of legal abortion (News, 26 May). Such a ban would presumably apply to almost the entire Democratic Party. On the other hand, she has been visiting Rome, where The Washington Post reported that she had received communion at a papal mass in St Peter’s, though not from the hand of the Pope himself, who is still confined to a wheelchair by a knee injury. It is inconceivable that the Vatican did not know who she was at the mass.
Francis himself, in an interview with Reuters, conducted a week or so after this mass, compared abortion to “hiring a hit man. . . I ask: is it legitimate, is it right, to eliminate a human life to resolve a problem?” But, when he was asked whether it was right to exclude politicians (and, by implication, Pelosi) from the mass over the issue, he replied that “When the Church loses its pastoral nature, when a bishop loses his pastoral nature, it causes a political problem.”
He also rubbished the rumours that he is planning to resign this autumn, although leaving a clear hint that he might do so at some later time.
PERHAPS the nearest thing to a papal succession in the Church of England is the choice of a new Vicar for Holy Trinity, Brompton (HTB). The Brighton Argus had an interview with the Revd Archie Coates, who will succeed the Revd Nicky Gumbel as Vicar in the autumn (News, Leader comment, 10 December 2021). The story, as as it appeared in the Argus, was one of unbroken success: “When Rev Coates joined, the congregation was around 25 people. But after 13 years of hard work, things have been completely transformed.”
He suggested that before the pandemic they would have a thousand people come through the church every weekend, and that they had planted six or seven churches in the region. It is rather a glorious humblebrag to lose count of the number of churches that you have planted. He was himself, with his family, part of a plant into the husk of St Peter’s when he arrived, and his successor will come from an HTB plant in Kuala Lumpur.
As usual, when I see these stories of incredible growth in HTB parishes, I wonder why they seem to leave so little mark in the general statistics. Money, worship style, the planting of a seed congregation, and the personality of the leader all obviously play a part. But which matters and who comes to church as a result are questions that I have never seen properly answered.