Amid an entirely predictable result, there was mild surprise amid the results of the voting as the three Diocesan Synods of Ripon & Leeds, Bradford, and The Rest of West Yorkshire Nobody Knows Quite What To Do With voted on the proposal to merge central functions and devolve the actual business of equipping for mission to make it more effective.
While the Ripon & Leeds and Bradford synods voted the new ‘mission shaped Church’ proposals through as a no brainer, the Diocese of The Rest of West Yorkshire Nobody Knows Quite What To Do With voted against, with UKIP coming a strong second with their “At least we’re not some kind of Italian mission to Yorkshire Euro-Catholic plot” platform.
The Bishop of The Rest of West Yorkshire Including Those Bits You Assumed Were In Sheffield Diocese and the Other Bits Which Anyone With a Map Would Have Automatically Assumed Were In Leeds or Bradford and The Other Bits Which Are Almost In Lancashire said of the other Diocesan synods’ votes, “Obi-Wan once thought as you do. You don’t know the power of the Dark Side, I must obey my master.”
Sources close to the Vatican have hinted at the surprise anointing of former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams as the new Pope when Benedict XVI steps down at the end of the month. Following the shock announcement of Pope Benedict’s retirement, the first occasion a Pope has resigned in over 600 years, it was clear to outsiders that something of great significance was afoot in the See of Rome.
The key issue turns out to be one of ecumenism and practical interdenominational politics rather than theology. The appointment of Williams as Pope is seen by the Vatican as a way to build bridges towards greater Church unity, but not only with the Anglican Communion as might be assumed. As one Cardinal put it, “There is a great drive towards greater unity with the Orthodox Church, but the greatest stumbling block to progress has been that of facial hair. Basically, all the Orthodox and Coptic Metropolitans and Popes have lush beards and have teased our Popes for centuries that our Roman balls haven’t dropped yet and we can’t grow a decent beard between the lot of us. We’re sick of it, frankly, and since none of our Cardinals have decent beards, appointing known beardy Rowan Williams to exercise the Petrine ministry will get ecumenical dialogue on a more grown-up footing. And it will confuse the Ordinariate no end which amuses many of us here, too.”
Another known Anglican beardy, the blogger Archbishop Cranmer was unavailable for comment as he was turning too fast in his grave to type.
General Synod’s plans to introduce new EBACH qualifications for church musicians have been dropped, it was announced today. The proposed qualifications would have seen Associated Board organ exams and Royal College of Organist qualifications replaced by a new qualification, the brainchild of Michael Pob, the Church of England’s Secretary of State for Worship.
Pob’s vision for the EBACH failed to win the hearts and minds of church musicians
Pob’s plans for the new qualification would have meant that all church musicians, from Cathedral organists, to choirmasters and worship group musicians, would have to sit the EBACH examination after a 2 year course prior to being allowed to be involved in music making in Church of England services. “Standards are way behind those of other countries,” explained Pob, “and by narrowing the curriculum and focussing on the core skills of improvising in the style of J.S. Bach, accompanying hymns, reading figured bass to accompany Purcell anthems and composing fugues, my vision is of a return to a golden age of church music, probably the 1950s, or the 1740s.”
Worship groups had warned Pob that the proposed qualification was too narrow and did not reflect the range of musical idioms being used in Church of England services. “The EBACH did not meet the needs of most parishes,” explained Reverend Rock Sunderland, whose worship band Bon Jehovi employs a range of musical expressions lying somewhat outside the Baroque tradition, “and the idea of asking all members of worship groups to learn how to improvise double, inverted fugues is very old hat. Bass guitarists, you might be in with a chance of explaining that to, but for most worship group members, frankly, it’s enough of a challenge to get all of them to keep to the beat. Has Pob ever even met a drummer?”
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The clergy transfer season ended today with a frenzy of unexpected, last minute transactions taking place between Dioceses.
The much publicised signing of the Bishop of Durham by Canterbury had already gone ahead before the transfer window closed, but in a last minute frenzy, the impending retirements of the Bishops of Liverpool, Exeter, Bath & Wells, Tewkesbury, Dunwich, Colchester and the Diocese in Europe coupled with existing vacant team slots in St. Germans, Lewes, Whitby, Blackburn and Manchester meant that the field was wide open for a major bout of surprise signings. This was further complicated when Ian Duncan Smith at the Department of Work and Pensions became aware of the large number of vacancies and attempted to insist that these were filled by signing the Crown Nominations Commission up to his flagship Workfare scheme.
Under the Government’s Workfare scheme, the disabled, the terminally ill and those unable to find paid employment (due to austerity forcing many businesses to fold) are made to work unpaid for large corporations in order to continue to receive benefit payments.
A Crown Nominations Commission spokesperson commented, “While the concept of working for less than subsistence level income and becoming ‘a slave to all’ is very much in line with the kind of servant ministry we seek from Bishops, we feel that making the terminally ill turn up to the House of Lords and General Synod will breach their human rights as it possibly counts as a “cruel and unusual punishment”.
Anyone wishing to become a Bishop was asked to write to the Crown Nominations Commission, enclosing a CV and a sworn statement that they were not openly gay, a woman or a conservative Evangelical.
The Church of England has today announced details of its much-anticipated High Speed 2 liturgy which will reduce the arrival time of Eucharist-goers at their Sunday dinner table by around 20 minutes.
Following the launch of the HS1 project last year (the leaner, pared down Eucharistic Prayers for Children), HS2 will further speed up all aspects of liturgy, thus enabling multi-benefice Incumbents to fit in at least one additional service each Sunday and worship groups to repeat choruses an additional 28% without ruining Sunday lunch.
Rural areas affected by the impact of the new liturgies have, however, expressed disquiet. “This HS2 development will blight some of the most beautiful countryside in England,” explained avid birdwatcher and wildlife campaigner, Bill Brooke-Garden, “there will be a constant buzz of clergy whizzing along country lanes in their barely-roadworthy old bangers.”
A spokesperson for the Church of England’s liturgical commission said, “Clearly we took these concerns of countryside campaigners and Tory MPs whose constituencies are affected into consideration but we decided to press ahead. This is a major infrastructure project in the world of liturgy which will mean that clergy productivity and user experience will be greatly improved by 2025. Future congregations can look forward to seeing clergy who truly will spend Sundays on their knees. Well, they will be by 8pm after nine services…”
In an article in today’s Maily Fail, the Secretary of State for Policy Based on Whimsy, Mr. Brian Jove, criticised clergy who had closed their churches due to snow last Sunday. “It really should be the case that churches are kept open wherever possible. Many hardworking people rely on churches being open to have somewhere to send other members of their family while they catch up on their X-Boxes and read the papers on a Sunday morning, and this kind of over-cautious approach panders to the sort of idle scroungers who enjoy having a lie in.”
Jove will introduce a Bill creating a new Sunday on a Wednesday in the summer for each snow Sunday missed. These days will be named Jove Days. Bri Jove’s draft bill will be consulted upon by his friends at dinner parties, and by leaders of private sector churches including G4Sunday but not by the Church of England as Jove points out that he “wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise for them, like we did over the gay marriage legislation.”
The European Court of Human Rights today ruled that the Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, is legally allowed to bless vehicles in his workplace. The ruling came after an action by the British Humanists’ Association on behalf of an un-named octogenarian, referred to in court only as Monarch L, whose car refused to start following a service at a Norfolk church at the weekend.
A spokesperson for the BHA explained that they had brought the action “to defend the elderly lady concerned against intrusive and aggressive religious interference in her workplace”. The court, however, found that, since the incident took place at a place of worship of which the monarch concerned was Supreme Governor, it was quite reasonable for the plaintiff to have blessed the vehicle.
“Clergy are serial offenders,” said Richard Bonkers of the BHA, “always blessing things which do not want to be blessed. Besides, it was probably not the blessing itself which made the difference, but more than 60 years of the general population singing ‘God save the Queen’ that actually started the car. That’s science, that is. Hold on, is that right…?”
Meanwhile, the AA have hired a headhunter company to secure the services of the Bishop of Chelmsford should he wish to retire.