Peter Levite: I'm joined by arch Anglican bureaucrat, Anglican General Secretary Keiron Kenneth, to discuss broad Anglican affairs, incluiding the resignation of Rowan Tree, and by Bishop Pete Straitasadie [sounds like straight a Sadie] who, among such things, is going to help explain the current women bishops legislation. So, Keiron Kenneth, are you sad to see him go?
Keiron Kenneth: Who?
Peter Levite: Rowan Tree. He's thrown in the ecclesiastical towel.
Keiron Kenneth: Is that a ritual?
Peter Levite: It could be. What do you think about it?
Keiron Kenneth: No one has told me about it. Where does it come in the liturgy?
Peter Levite: No, his resignation. Surely you know he is going. You mean it is news to you?
Keiron Kenneth: I need to see reports.
Peter Levite: I'm a reporter and I am reporting.
Keiron Kenneth: Why are you scratching around your crotch?
Peter Levite: I can't keep still. Bishop Pete Straitasadie [sounds like straight a Sadie], help us out.
Pete Straitasadie: My name is Strait-as-a-die. Like in opposite of bent.
Peter Levite: The Bishop of Willie's Den, in the Big Smoke.
Pete Straitasadie: Indeed. Is there something wrong with your willy's den?
Peter Levite: It's just nerves. I'm behind a desk.
Pete Straitasadie: I think he had a very difficult job. He had a grand vision of an international Church and overstretched himself - a herculean task that even he could not achieve. As he tried to give the international entity more coherence, to try and bring it together, he forgot the home front and the 'There is No Alternative' publicity gave space for people to develop an alternative. The enemies had a space and place to gather and they undermined him.
Peter Levite: Serious accusations, strong words.
Pete Straitasadie: Really? I don't think I can get into any trouble over these.
Peter Levite: And this is all news for you, Keiron Kenneth?
Keiron Kenneth: Well, he is an Archbishop and a colleague. I'll have to check the minutes to see if he is not coming to the next meeting.
Peter Levite: Of course what Bishop Pete is referring to is the defeat of the Covenant in the dioceses. As a General Secretary this must trouble you.
Keiron Kenneth: I have no idea what you are talking about.
Peter Levite: The vast majority of dioceses did not adopt the Anglican Communion Covenant. It cannot return to the General Synod for three years.
Keiron Kenneth: So far, with various wordings, eight provinces have adopted the Covenant. The Church in England, like any province, has to decide its own timescale of adoption of the Covenant.
Peter Levite: You surely have some idea when the Covenant comes into being.
Keiron Kenneth: When provinces adopt it.
Peter Levite: But what about a timescale after which you can say well so many have and so many haven't?
Keiron Kenneth: No, there is no timescale. Indeed, we agreed that there is no timescale. The whole effort is one of bringing together, encouraging, and adopting the Covenant whether provinces have adopted it or not.
Peter Levite: I put it to both of you that the Church in England has not told your international Council that it was defeated in the dioceses because it is embarrassed. Yes or no?.
Pete Straitasadie: I don't think there is a mechanism for saying that the Covenant was defeated because there is not a timescale by which it can be said that it hasn't been adopted.
Peter Levite: I don't understand that. Was there ever a press release about the dioceses not accepting the Anglican Communion Covenant?
Pete Straitasadie: To say what?
Peter Levite: What I have just said.
Pete Straitasadie: But in three years...
Peter Levite: In three years the dioceses have the same view, surely.
Pete Straitasadie: But in six years... This is the long game.
Peter Levite: Talking of long game - could be so with women's ordination as bishops.
Pete Straitasadie: We ought to just get on with it.
Peter Levite: Is that your view, Keiron Kenneth?
Keiron Kenneth: What happened?
Peter Levite: To accept - hang on while I look at these research notes - what the Gang of Six have said about what the House of Bishops has done in terms of the amendments to the legislation and bring the ordination of women bishops into force. Or something. The Gang of Six said small changes only but others think big consequences from the House of Bishops.
Keiron Kenneth: Well, if and when this happens I might pass an opinion about it. I'm not aware of changes in this general matter.
Peter Levite: Have you not even discussed this at Lambeth Walk Palace?
Keiron Kenneth: What's that?
Peter Levite: Where the Archbishop of All England lives. The one that is retiring is there now. A tied cottage, isn't it.
Keiron Kenneth: Oh. I'll have to see some maps. And read some reports.
Peter Levite: I'll try you, Bishop Pete. Now you were one of those who decided on the amendments. These amendments have really annoyed some pro-women's ordination folk. Some say you have introduced 'Pick a Bishop' and something called doughnutism.
Pete Straitasadie: Describe what you mean by doughnutism.
Peter Levite: It's not, not, on my notes. It was said on the Skype by some blogger to my researcher after our meeting. Presumably, like parliament, you create a bishop for the people who don't like women bishops and then crowd all around him to give him support. He is like the hole in the middle. Prop him up. Tell you what. You look like that bloke I see in the pub. Every time I see him I say here comes the Bishop of Willie's Den.
Pete Straitasadie: I've not heard of doughnutism. I have heard of donatism, which is about choosing a pure, perfect, minister, to preside over you, otherwise the sacraments are invalid, whereas we have always allowed for the Holy Spirit to work through anyone so long as general faithfulness has been evident among the whole people. Presumably in this case donatism means people picking their bishop according to approved theology rather than accepting who is available, and it is a charge I reject because we are not doing it that way.
Peter Levite: My head hurts and my stomach wants some sugar. There's no VAT now is there if someone heats up my doughnut? Just thinking - is it like then the opposite of doubt nut ism or dough-unt know ism?
Pete Straitasadie: He was Donatus Magnus, a bishop.
Peter Levite:Magnus? Doughnut Magnus Magnusson?
Pete Straitasadie: For a minute, I thought you knew what you were talking about. But you are clueless aren't you.
Keiron Kenneth: I think this is something that can be arranged.
Peter Levite: According to this, you've got priests and parishes who say in the Bible a woman cannot be head of a man - they are limited to flower arrangements and Sunday school - and you've got others who say the same but also a man bishop cannot have been ordained by a woman. So they need a man. So a parish PCC like this now, because of your amendments, says please send a bishop who agrees with us.
Pete Straitasadie: Now you really are clueless. Did you read the press release?
Peter Levite: Not only did I read it, we all read it in planning for this interview and discussion, and none of us had a clue what it was on about and had to ask those in the know via Skype and several blogs.
Pete Straitasadie: Bloggers? What do they know? They are the curse of the moment. They've wrecked the Covenant. And I should know, being a bit of a blogger myself, sort of, when not forced to be quiet. Just about every blogger has this wrong. No one understands the sheer subtlety of the amendments brilliantly produced by the wriggle room the Archbishop suggested, before he goes.
Peter Levite: He's left you a double train wreck, hasn't he?
Keiron Kenneth: Is he going?
Peter Levite: Do parishes pick their bishops like a person at the sweeties counter in Woolworths, at the Pick'n'mix. Yes or no?
Pete Straitasadie: No. Someone is coming in.
Peter Levite: Who are you?
J. Robert: I am J. Robert, of the Levitating Media Inquiry.
Peter Levite: Why are you here?
J. Robert: I'm investigating radio stations at the moment and dismal content. Yours was the station with the two old women providing cheap radio?
Peter Levite: You are interrupting my interview.
J. Robert: I simply thought I could do it better. So, if you just look at the research notes by your side, Mr. Straitasadie.
Pete Straitasadie: Yes.
J. Robert: I had better introduce myself. I am J. Robert QC. Your evidence, Mr Straitasadie, is that there is no pick-a-bishop because of the diocesan scheme. Is that correct?
Pete Straitasadie: Yes.
J. Robert: But the contention is that the brought in bishop, as it were, to oversee the parish requesting a different bishop from the diocesan; well, the parish still gets a bishop that is agreeable with the parish's own theological opinions. Is that not so?
Pete Straitasadie: It is so but it is decided by a diocesan scheme.
J. Robert: But is this not a technicality? For example, in how the diocesan scheme is drawn up.
Peter Levite: Is this man allowed to do this? By the way, bishop, are you looking forward to the Diamond Jubilee?
Keiron Kenneth: I'd have a nurse examine your crotch area.
Pete Straitasadie: It is drawn up according to the Code of Practice - how the diocesan scheme is drawn up, not the Diamond Jubilee.
J. Robert: And no one knows what this Code of Practice looks like yet. For example, the Code of Practice is bound to direct the diocesan bishop to investigate the theological views of the parishes that are requesting different oversight. And in that way they are picking their bishop.
Pete Straitasadie: The important thing is this is directed.
J. Robert: But the alternative view is that it is a technicality, is it not, if the theology of the delegated bishop has to be compatible with the parish. This is where the charge of donatism comes from.
Pete Straitasadie: Not if this is the Canon Law of the Church in England.
J. Robert: It isn't just a case, say, of one alternative bishop per diocese, is it Mr Straitasadie?
Pete Straitasadie: Why not?
J. Robert: One parish for example wants a bishop who theologically agrees with the view that a pregnant woman or a menstruating woman cannot bless the Eucharist.
Pete Straitasadie: That is sophisticated sexism.
J. Robert: Well, what is the difference between sophisticated and simple sexism? Presumably sophisticated sexism has a theological argument.
Pete Straitasadie: I can't see a diocesan scheme providing for that level or detail of argument.
J. Robert: Why ever not when the legislation as amended calls for theological compatibility?
Pete Straitasadie: It was always going to be selection of a bishop even without the amendments.
J. Robert: I'm talking about theological compatibility. Who, for example, is going to define the basis of agreement?
Pete Straitasadie: The diocesan scheme under the Code of Practice.
J. Robert: But if the legislation - never mind the Code of Practice - calls for theological compatibility, how is it met unless it is met according to the views of the parish? Do you see what I am getting at?
Pete Straitasadie: I think the important point is the initiative comes from above.
J. Robert: Humm. OK. But let us take a Conservative Evangelical parish. They would have a Conservative Evangelical bishop too. Is that right? It couldn't be you, for example, as you do not have those views?
Pete Straitasadie: Yes that is right, on both points.
J. Robert: Let's take two Conservative Evangelical parishes. Suppose one of those was universalist and another Calvinist in terms of theological belief. Would they each be entitled to their own kind of Conservative Evangelical?
Pete Straitasadie: Not if not in the diocesan scheme under the Code of Practice.
J. Robert: Well why not? Let me try and develop this. Other than not knowing the Code of Practice yet, and even without knowing it, the amended legislation is calling for theological compatibility. It does not say how wide, how compromised, how precise: just compatibility. And what is not important to the diocesan bishop might well be important to the parish - including, is it not so, acquiring a priest of that parish too. This is very wide-ranging legislation.
Pete Straitasadie: Er, it is unlikely some would be Calvinist and some universalist and make that matter.
J. Robert: Well, why not Western rite and Eastern Orthodox in some other cases?
Pete Straitasadie: This is ridiculous.
J. Robert: Do you see what I am getting at? It is not that it is a diocesan scheme as such, but the compatibility that matters. Perhaps that could be in broad terms, perhaps it could be in narrow terms. Is that not a possibility?
Pete Straitasadie: How do we measure broad and narrow?
J. Robert: Quite so. That is my point, I think. Moving on. Does this not, then embed sophisticated sexism? Women bishops will not be equal.
Pete Straitasadie: They will. From their perspective, they are the full deal. That's the clever wriggle room.
J. Robert: Well you say that but there will be a range of alternative bishops, many of whom regard women with theological - sophisticated sexism no doubt - taint. And others will still have problems with a woman delegating - I mean Evangelicals - even if others accept derivation.
Pete Straitasadie: Some might see the existence of taint. I might see they have that view. But I won't have that view. If you don't have that view, then it doesn't exist.
J. Robert: Accepting those who do embeds sophisticated sexism, Mr Straitasadie, unless one adopts a position of extreme subjectivity, presumably. Do you not agree, or how else would you put it?
Pete Straitasadie: So what is the alternative, Mr Robert? Have the traditionalists go to Rome, the Conservative Evangelicals go to some Free Church?
J. Robert: Presumably it is a question of the price being paid in ecclesiology for not seeing them go. But some would say they are leaving for the ordinariates anyway or indeed some Conservative Evangelicals are setting up their own structures of statements, fellowship, ministry selection, payment trusts, if nominally within the Church in England. You see the argument - that you might stop some leaving, and yet they are already going, and the changes proposed are too innovative for the benefit of keeping these people.
Pete Straitasadie: Innovative?
J. Robert: Like with the Covenant: you are introducing changes that are far reaching in consequence. The consequence of these changes is an uneven status of bishop, some multiple oversight in dioceses, and selection by theology. I am suggesting that selection by theology was never in the Church in England.
Pete Straitasadie: Ah, not formally. Perhaps this is more honest.
J. Robert: Which is the difference, is it not, between racism and apartheid. Do you see the distinction? We know there is racism, but we don't then embed it with apartheid.
Peter Levite: You might be some sort of clever clogs but you're no good reading the clock. We've missed George Hudson and the weather.
J. Robert: No doubt we will pause for tea at this point. Your other guest seems to be asleep.