Monday, 12 March 2012

Rowan Tree on Vatican Radio One

Vatican Radio One! Broadcasting from the one Church to about no one except those lonely priests' residencies around the world where there is no off button.

Vatican Radio One: Mister Rowan Tree, it's a sort of welcome once again. You're back in Rome almost as if you could have a second home here. You talk so often to Pope Benny that there's no official record of your chat. Go on, give us a shuffty.

RT: Mind you own business.

VRO: Well thank's Mr Tree and we'll see you next time.

RT: Well, alright then. We said how little influence we have on the Middle East and we got annoyed together helplessly. The Holy Father then said what sort of thing I ought to be saying to the General Synod in the autumn when I next speak. I'll send my speech to him in advance. And he told me where he agreed or not with my speech in Geneva when I said something of my own views that human rights are limited to our stance on Christian theology.

VRO: The Pope expresses the position you seem to agree with, Mr. Tree.

RT: The Holy Father and I were very excited that human rights must only be in the image of God and none of this modern philosophical stuff since the Enlightenment. This way we can bypass uncomfortable minorities and focus on the primacy of the Church and other plural religious communities in the discourse.

VRO: What about ecumenism, as you come from an ecclesiastical community rather than a Church, Mr. Tree?

RT: We are the ecumenical relations and they are at a very low point. I am trying to improve things back at home. So there was no point making them worse in saying any more. Basically I need to report back on several items, some of which you might want to discuss here.

VRO: You've been to vespers with the Pope. Can you sing bass? Did you sing together ecumenically if imperfectly?

RT: The service at San Tropez involved unusually few levels of liturgical dress among the congregants, I noticed, and I suppose the importance is the pilgrimage many Britons make there and from where Saint Gregory and Augustine, not the rhinoceros one, came from when they came to sort the Church out in England and for where the first Anglican Covenant emerged at the Synod of Whitby. So we have that shared past.

VRO: After which you nicked our property, like the cathedrals and so on.

RT: I said to the Holy Father a few years ago that the prize of ecumenism is great. It's like a big family that squabbled in the past to the point of divorce. Now we want the divorced couple - you would say annulled - to get back into bed together, for a wee bit of jolly close companionship. We don't do the full wotsit but vespers is like a bit of afterplay I think, the letting it all down gently after the I'm afraid non-existent between us central ritualistic orgasm that we can only imagine.

VRO: And you want to use the model of the Curmudgeonly Community based there at San Tropez as an example of a road map to ecumenism.

RT: Well, I tried to stretch my imagination to see if there was any link at all between a bunch of monks in the resort and the whole issue of ecumenism and mission on a more sort of Anglican incompleteness basis. And eventually a light went on in my head that, being focussed on the job, with the full orgasmic ritual, that they have no tribal loyalties, even if they do. That says something to me about ecumenism, even if it says nothing of the sort to anyone else. And furthermore it says something about mission, because San Tropez is a very attractive place among the laity at least. I've been asked to make a theological investigation by the Holy Father and report back in public, and I want to grovel my thank you as much as possible because I am not worthy to sweep the floor near his feet. In fact, I could be doing this next time. So in the I think important cause ahead of me I am going to do some presentation at Monte Casino, like a few chips placed down at 17 to 10 about whether I can get the Anglican Covenant through the dioceses. Trouble is, on this model, I need the casino to distort the wheel, to stick a few magnets underneath it and so on. I know that in the narrative of these things they used to first film the wheel and then do the betting, but that is a virtual theology that's even too postmodern for me I would gamble. The Covenant too leads on to ecumenism and mission and why therefore I need to get the outcome I need.

VRO: Is the solitary life of the gambler similar to the solitary life of an Archbishop?

RT: Not when you have the roulette wheel, so to speak, and can put your magnets underneath, measure the patterns of the numbers, and make better predictions of the outcomes. But, no, it is not about being the one and alone, but needing other mugs, I mean the pundits; and then theologically the other gamblers enrich the winner in the betting of. Remember that to be initiated is to enter into an organisation with both rules and officials, and I am Chief Official with my hand on the wheel, so to speak. I throw the ball too. Even those of a different institutional language who say 'I am the only gambler in town' needs the other, and those who don't think they are the only gambler in town needs the other rather more obviously. It is how you get a certain fullness from an incompleteness.

VRO: So talking about mugs, do tell us about the Anglican Covenant.

RT: I'm praying hard that people agree with me. I'm going buzz buzz fuzz fuzz into the ether and saying, 'Look God I'm not some spam but an Archbishop with my prayers. If there is one intercession you should respond to it is mine.' Otherwise, what's the point? Surely he's not listening to the No Anglican Covenant bunch of misrepresenters and interferers?

VRO: But the Synods are 5 to go against and you've lost your fortune.

RT: You're obviously not a gambler with a mind to God. Well, how to put it. Humm. Ecclesiastical decisions are often deeply sinful, like drawing up a Covenant, but it is amazing how this becomes God on our side and close up I can just about justify this without absolute unclarity. I've no idea why others cannot see this as clearly and simply as I perceive the issue, and go on to assume a level of sophistication and bad intention among my kind and others close as we make our deeply sinful decisions. If only we were like the Mennonites and then we could glue ourselves to the walls and ceilings. What a gift that would be to the Church, as they are not a proper Church of course. It's like when Cardinal Cock says what can we learn from Luther, that bad bad man. Keep it in his underpants. Well, God can say to the real Church, 'Now look at this aspect they do because you've forgotten that haven't you?' (when I have eaten quite a bit of cheese).

VRO: But through the Synods God might be saying something like, 'You are going down the wrong road.'

RT: I am frustrated so I don't want to get angry again and again. Bishop Monarch has likened it to chucking marbles rather than grapes.

VRO: What's that about?

RT: Search me luv. Look, it is the middle of a process and won't be over until the fat Archbishop sings.

VRO: Not John Sendme something.

RT: No. Me! Not that comedian. Did you see what he wrote in The Stunner? Deeply sinful article and publication but he said to me God will bring something out of it as he does in his province. No, people have all the right fears but don't necessarily place them in the right object. The Covenant is the sweetest document you ever did see, beautifully written with lashings of love for everyone. It is not a Charter of Inquisitions, which only comes with later interpretations by the more devious minded. No, it is about the fact that until now we have never been able to talk to each other and discern, and suddenly this document will make it all possible. We will soon know where to locate conversation - "Stop talking there in the pews!" - and make decisions at the very highest level, where I am as Chief Official. We can't always wait for Lambeth when lots of bishops visit and I make the rather less arguably unfeeble point that the Primates can't discuss these things even though they have asked me to do so and would make time for the purpose. So I would like to see a structure of relational consequences set up at the centre with a Standing Committee, and therefore in no way is this to decide things, make any decisions or do anything other than invite into the conversation to then make those consequences effective. Why people can't see this, as I say, baffles me.

VRO: You are gambling that you will get the Covenant through.

RT: I'm in charge of the casino, luv.

VRO: Those people you call bishops; will women be among them?

RT: Well, at the last Synod there was such good feeling on all sides that the clear decision of dioceses not to refer the thing to the bishops means I will refer things to the bishops just to tweak something not insignificantly in a less absolutist way so that we can end up looking in two ways at the same time. We don't want to lose the what some people see as our most obnoxious right wing misogynists to your Communion or Church is it; well, I'd like to keep them because they provide cover for my bureaucratic plans regarding the Covenant and the like. So with no triumphalism except mine we can surely find some creative way to sort it out, say by derivation and delegation, rather like I can see a connection between monks and then ecumenism and mission. 'Take one last look at this and just see if there's some final adjustments that can be made,' could be a song you know. I can think of a few crooners who'd take that on and the sort of music. Yes, could be part of vespers. So I am not cautiously pessimistic about the optimism some have about a transformation in ministry that I would want to resist.

VRO: Just finish about Her Maj.

RT: Well recently she said that the Church of England exists to give the space to other faiths to exist and feel as if they have come home. So that means there won't be mission to them, but ecumenism is still important within a former Christendom country such as ours, as seen in San Tropez, another former Christendom area. She isn't just a monarch, but is a missionary of the country, the whole country, and so members of faiths - some, not all, and no humanists (those we can still target) - showed us their valuables and so the Church is a pretty good religious museum in this sense with me as Chief Curator. But I am getting angry with Anglicans, I'd admit: frustrated certainly.

VRO: Thanks Mr. Tree; and next up it's marriage, for all you girls and boys together!

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