One of my readers sent me this comment in response to Church militant? Church irrelevant, the blog about the recent Church of Ireland General Synod: ‘You seem to be carving out a reputation for being the St John the Baptist of the C of I. I admire you for that; though it is a lonely calling. … You are a rare breed and will probably suffer the fate of such species, i.e. being shot, stuffed and put in a glass case for the purposes of mildly diverting amusement!’
St John the Baptist was beheaded. Does that fate await? The church, like many organizations, has another way of dealing with ‘troublemakers’. Promotion. In the Church of Ireland, I suppose this means a bishopric—the equivalent of being stuffed and put in a glass case. The bishopric of Meath and Kildare is still vacant. Perhaps that would keep me out of trouble. The advantage of having me is that I wouldn’t be there too long: I am 63 this week, so death or decrepitude would limit any damage I could do. The C of I already has two courageous bishops so we don’t need any more. The last thing the church—any church—needs is realism. The church thrives on good news only. Read any church or diocesan magazine: churches are always full, people are always charitable, and sun always shines on the tray-bakes. I would wear a mitre that at first covers my eyes that I see not, then my ears that I hear not, then my mouth that I speak not.
Can you imagine how frustrating it must be to be a bishop? Having no spiritual centre, no ‘home’ church and congregation, clergy bothering you morn, noon and night, dealing with complaints from ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’, criticized for being courageous, criticized for not being courageous enough, pulled in infinite dimensions. Responsibility without power. Having to be a focus of unity when what the church cries out for is prophetic disturbance.
We are blessed here with a bishop with courage, integrity and vision. Deo gratias.