I was enjoying a half pint of lager shandy down at the Goose and Garter the other evening after bell ringing practice, when Nigel, one of the lads said, ” ‘ere, Vicar, wot’s all this about the church needing more bishops? Aren’t there too many already?”
“Nigel is quite right”, I explained, “The Church does need more bishops.”
“But they’re all toffs, wot live in palaces and sit in the House of Lords ain’t they?” said Clive. “Yeh, I reckon the church needs less of them, not more.” said another. “Don’t they all have servants and chauffeur driven cars?” “Load of Oxbridge pansies!” said another.
Golly, it seemed like I had a little rebellion on my hands! So I took the opportunity to explain further. I always enjoy these homely opportunities for evangelism. So good to reach out to those beneath one socially, and share a bit of the wisdom one has gathered through the years.
“Now lads, look here.” I began, “I’m sure you don’t really understand quite how demanding the bishop’s job really is. First of all, he’s got a jolly big house and garden to look after, and that’s not an easy task at the best of times, especially when the house is likely to be hundreds of years old. A friend of mine from college became a bishop and he was telling me how impossible it was to live in a palace. The heating was virtually non existent and the butler was incompetent. He said when the grandchildren came round and rode bikes in the Great Hall the echo was deafening.
Then a bishop has got an awful lot of sherry parties to attend. You may well chortle at such things, but that’s where he meets important people like the town mayor, and helps to get things done. Then there’s the confirmations. Why only last summer the Bishop came to our deanery and confirmed six young people, and after the confirmation he’s got to eat cake and drink tea and have photographs taken. Jolly exhausting I’d say! Then there’s one meeting after another about things like the archdeacon’s report on sex education for Church of England schools. You wouldn’t believe how busy a bishop’s day is, and when that’s all done he’s lucky to have a moment to spare for Mrs. Bishop, who’s waiting to talk about her day organizing the cathedral flower guild or to ask him about the choice of curtains for the ballroom or the proper color of paint to redecorate the Abbot’s Library.
The bishops I know are exhausted by it all. I suppose, as usual, the Yanks have got the answer. They’ve cut straight to the point and are trying their hardest to have more pansies ordained as bishops. It’s not my cup of tea, and Mrs. Vicar is incensed by the move, but I can see the sense of it. Lavinia, the curate over at St Ethedreda’s says it’s a matter of equal rights. She thinks the church has discriminated against women and homosexual chaps for too long.
She’s a bit strident at times, our Lavinia, but I can see her point. It’s not really Christian to be unkind to someone just because they have different opinions about this or that. For my part I can see some practical advantages to the Yanks proposals for more bishops of that sort. A man like that will be able to reach out to all the folks who are that way inclined, and a chap who hasn’t got family responsibilities has got more time for the demanding work of being a bishop. Furthermore, when it comes to home management, he’s not likely to need any help deciding about curtains and paint colors, or what sort of china is necessary for the banqueting hall.
When I explained this to the lads, one of them said, “Half of them are pooftahs already, so wot’s the big problem?” I tend to agree, but it seems the more traditional members of our flock are up in arms over the whole business and they’re splitting off to make their own church. Honestly, such behavior is simply exasperating! Why go off in a huff over something so unimportant? What on earth does it matter to the Almighty what a chap does in his bedroom? It’s not like the fellows are hurting anyone.
I can understand somebody leaving their church if a vicar introduces foreign Roman style worship with incense and processions of statues and prayers for the Pope in Rome and so forth, but to leave just because a chap likes the lads and not the ladies seems a bit silly.
The fellows down at the Goose and Garter didn’t see eye to eye with me on that one, I’m afraid, but then they’re not especially well educated. They’re good lads, but I suppose one can’t expect them to be as enlightened in these matters as one might like.