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Stebbing, Great Dunmow, Essex, United Kingdom
The occasional blog of an Anglican priest in rural Essex

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

'A life on every face

Ekklesia, The Church Mouse, Michael Wenham and Cranmer's Curate are among many people blogging away at the moment around the subject of the Pete Broadbent Facebook debacle and the Bishop of London's subsequent [overre-]action in withdrawing Bishop Pete from public office.

I have emitted many deep sighs about this sorry affair over the last few days, and probably need to write this post just to get stuff out of my system (but I shall be careful not to rant (too much)).

I like Bishop Pete. We met at NEAC, and  we were Facebook friends until I recently culled him along with a number of other "famous" people clogging up my wall  (mostly because he goes on about Spurs all the time).

He has been good for the church and good for Spring Harvest for many years. He is an Open Evangelical like me, and so there have been very few things he has ever said in public that I have disagreed with. Until now.

If you read the church press or read Anglican blogs or news feeds you will be fully aware of the kind of mudslinging that goes on between conservatives and, well, everybody else really, around the topics of Women Bishops, homosexuality, Flying Bishops, and so on and so on. On the Internet in particular feathers can fly. Very rarely does anyone get disciplined for (say) slagging off the Bishop of Chelmsford or Rowan Williams on the Ugley Vicar or slagging off Reform on Fulcrum. People lick their wounds and retreat out of range until things flare up again, or they (like me) get sick of the circular arguments and stop posting.

But Bishop Pete's Facebook discussion has elicited a big can of worms being opened. The comments, which weren't even as public as some stuff one reads,( e.g. the comments on the Guardian's Comment is free every time Christianity gets a word in edgeways, which can make your blood boil) have been splashed around the world, and the chap has been withdrawn from public office - I guess that means he's just doing a desk job.

One one level I'm thinking "you wally, Pete" - I don't think he should have posted what he did. But on another level, I'm bearing in mind cases such as that of the Priest who blessed a homosexual couple - and who received (from the Bishop of London no less) a letter slapping him on the wrist and telling him not to do it again. And that was for doing something that we have all been specifically told no to do; like, not ever. To my mind that applies, under church discipline, even if you disagree with it. Why wasn't he asked to "withdraw from public office"? After all, the daily mail (and yes those lower case letters are deliberate) hardly approved!

OK, breathe now .....

The wider issue I suppose is, do we take seriously what we have to do and say to be a minister in the CofE? All those ordained have to swear an oath of allegiance to their Bishop and to the Queen. Bishop Pete must have done that  - most recently at his consecration as a Bishop. Clearly he didn't mean it, as he is a declared Republican, but what is also clear is that being a Republican is not a bar to ministry in the Anglican church. Do the oaths mean anything then? Or are they just anotherr anachronism clogging up Ministry.

Don't get me wrong, I disagree with Bishop Pete about the Wedding and about the Royal family per se. I am just increasingly frustrated that both liberal and conservative words and actions go unpunished while leaving the church rather bruised and battered, and thus (actually, albeit indirectly) the Monarch under attack.

I can't see a way back for Bishop Pete under the current bishop of London. He was supposed to also be looking after the Stepney episcopal area during the vacancy there so that can't be much fun for them either.

I was going to call this post "Just remember there are two side to every story" from Billy Bragg's "It says here" but in the end went for an intriguingly relevant line from Talk Talk's "Such a shame"

1 comment:

  1. It's all quite salutary stuff and now that we have been caricatured, I guess we are keener of our own vulnerability, lower profiles undoubtedly but vulnerable most certainly.


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