The Independent rings for the Church Police

The Independent rings for the Church Police July 9, 2013

Son: (Graham Chapman, coming in the door) ‘Ello Mum. ‘Ello Dad.

Klaus: (Eric Idle) ‘Ello son.

S: There’s a dead bishop on the landing, dad!

K: Really?

Mother: (Terry Jones) Where’s it from?

S: Waddya mean?

M: What’s its diocese?

S: Well, it looked a bit Bath and Wells-ish to me.

K: (getting up and going out the door) I’ll go and have a look.

M: I don’t know who keeps bringin’ ’em in here.

S: It’s not me!

M: I’ve got three of ’em down by the bin, and the dustmen won’t touch ’em!

K: (coming back in) Leicester.

M: ‘Ow d’you know?

K: Tattooed on the back o’ the neck. I’ll call the police.

M: Shouldn’t you call the church?

S: Call the church police!

K: All right. (shouting) The Church Police! ….

And now for something completely different — a news report from The Independent on this week’s meeting of General Synod of the Church of England.

But, that is not exactly true. Not the news report from York on the meeting of the Church of England’s legislature — that is correct. Rather the suggestion that the story entitled “Disruption at General Synod as man arrested on suspicion of assaulting steward” is not a farce akin to the Monty Python Church Police skit.

I sympathize with generalist reporters who are assigned to cover religion news stories. It presents a golden opportunity to make an ass of oneself. Alas, this story is an example. I do not mean the mangling of titles … The Archbishop of Canterbury is called on second and third reference “Mr. Welby” and “the Most Rev Welby”. Need I say that this is an error.

It is not this naming error that prompted me to push this piece out in the Get Religion public eye. Rather it is the author’s assumption that churches in England are  prisons or military installations. Let me take you through this story to show you what I mean.

The lede gives the basic details:

A meeting of the General Synod was disrupted when a man, described by the Church of England as having “personal health issues”, was arrested for allegedly assaulting two stewards.

A spokesman for the Church said a man was asked to wait as the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu moved in procession to the front of York Minster. He reportedly then lashed out, leaving a member of Dr Sentamu’s staff Dave Smith requiring treatment from ambulance staff.

The story adds further details, insinuating the man a the heart of the fray was a loon. The story then shifts to a discussion of the issues before synod using this bridge.


The worrying breach in security came as members of the Church’s national assembly are today expected to formally endorse an apology over clerical child abuse.

What “worrying breach in security” can there have been? Public worship is public worship. Anyone may attend. The sub-title also stresses this security theme.

Embarrassing security failure man held just yards from Archbishop of Canterbury on day of high-profile formal announcement

The Independent does not explain why this was a security failure. Who was embarrassed? Security is provided at Church of England services by officious sensible-shoe wearing women bearing programs, weedy be-pimpled youths directing you to chairs or tightly blazered men passing the collection plate. There is actually a church office — vergers — responsible for security.

But the concept of “security” is utterly foreign to a church setting. The Independent approaches this story lacking a sense of what goes on, and who goes in to church.

What were they expecting? The Church Police? Though nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.


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3 responses to “The Independent rings for the Church Police”

  1. It’s the rare reporter who can figure out the use of “the [Very, Right, Most] Reverend”. It’s really not complicated if they simply realize it’s analogous to the use “the Honorable” for magistrates. You don’t refer to “[the] Honorable Smith,” you say Judge Smith or Mayor Smith. Easy.

  2. On the other hand, there are those who insist on referring to Attorneys-General and the Surgeon General as “General Smith”.

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