Sunday, 30 December 2012

Interim Arrangements During the Absence of An Archbishop of Canterbury

So the sad news is that Rowan Williams is retiring as Archbishop of Canterbury today. While the exciting news is that Justin Welby will be enthroned as the new one on 21 March (appropriately Druidic, in my opinion). (Edit - I have it on good authority that he actually becomes the Archbishop of Canterbury on 4 February,  on his Confirmation of Election).

But who's in charge in the meantime? The answer lies in an ancient manual, of which the Beaker People have the only copy. In it, the period between Archbishops is described in similar terms to the old "Lord of Misrule" traditions in English folklore. And the good news is we translated relevant passages from the Little Geste de St Anselm into modern English before we "lost" it. So here's the official low-down on how to keep the show on the road:

1. Anyone grabbing a mitre and heading into Canterbury Cathedral can be "Bishop for the Day". This gives you the right, for 24 hours, to offend other provinces of the Anglican Communion in any way you see fit. Of course, Synod will continue to ignore anything you say, regardless.

2. Just like a normal interregnum at parish level, this is the church's chance to completely reorganise everything. You've got 3 months to start using Latin (or, according to choice, Syriac or Klingon) in masses, introduce women bishops, swear-in feline sidespeople (or sidecats), merge with the Unitarians, and bring in new festivals for the nativities of George Clooney and Eric Bristow. When the new Archbishop starts, you all swear blind it's always been like this, and it's exactly how Rowan left it.

3. Somebody will suddenly decide it's their job to make sure everything keeps going. In a church setting it'll normally be the person that always wanted to be Churchwarden but knew they wouldn't get elected. However in this case, it'll probably be Giles Brandreth.

4. If you're the first person to get hold of a Telegraph or Mail reporter after a news story breaks, you are entitled to present yourself as the holder of the opinion of "The Church of England". Feel free to say whatever drivel you like. It will all be reported as if the C of E is a monolithic bloc of people with exactly the same views.

4. While no-one's looking, why not redraw the diocesan boundaries? Hack off bits from Ely, Peterborough and St Albans to create a new job for the "Bishop of Fenland". If there isn't one already, there really should be. Make sure he has a flat mitre, in keeping with the post.

5. Sell off a cathedral. Not a big one, obviously. Just a little one, which nobody will notice is missing. If there was an Archbishop around, he'd want to know about it. But for the next few months, this sort of thing will be delegated to the Property Committee. Spend the money on decent coffee for all churches for the next 50 years.

6. Declare war on a smaller denomination. I know churches don't fight wars much any more, but surely even the C of E can beat the Quakers? They're pacifists, after all.

7. Make the Church Commissioners take out all their investments, give half to a sensible charity, and spend the rest on copes, doilies, Moog synthesisers and Badger Tanglefoot beer. Sure, it'll be bad news for retired clergy. But it's gonna be a heck of a three months. 

8. After ten years of people moaning he's too liberal / conservative / incomprehensible / bearded, after 21 March next year, Rowan Williams will officially be a saint whose every word was a long-pondered gem, and every move a strategic, prophetic masterpiece. This has never really worked for George Carey, mind you.

9. Don't forget the Queen is Supreme Governor. You're all gonna look awful sheepish if you go too far, and she makes the class stay in at lunchtime till the miscreants own up to moving Westminster Abbey to the Isle of Dogs for a laugh.

10. Try not to get into an argument about sex. You can save that until there's someone in charge again.

1 comment :

  1. So point 10 is already out, then. What's next on the HoB agenda?


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