One of my favorite “Yes, Prime Minister” episodes is “The Bishop’s Gambit,” where Prime Minister Hacker has to select a new bishop for the diocese of Bury St. Edmunds, and wonders naively whether the ideal candidate should believe in God or not. From the script:
“The bench of bishops should have a proper balance between those who believe in God and those who don’t.”
“Bishops tend to live a long time, perhaps because the Almighty is not all that keen for them to join him.”
“In Arab countries women get stoned when they commit adultery. In Britain, they commit adultery when they get stoned.”
“We cannot leave the appointment of Bishops to the Holy Ghost, because no one is confident that the Holy Ghost would understand what makes a good Church of England bishop.”
“An atheist clergyman could not continue to draw his stipend, so when they stop believing in God they call themselves ‘modernists’.”
“The Church of England is primarily a social organization not a religious one.”
This comes to mind for two reasons. First, the vista outside my hotel room window, which you can see in the photo below, shows the Grace Cathedral of the Episcopal Church with some kind of demolition work going on. It would seem only fitting that, having demolished the inside of the cathedral (figuratively speaking anyway), they might as well start demolishing the outside, too. (See Paul Seabury’s classic Harper’s article, “Trendier Than Thou,” which I’ve mentioned here before).
But wait: maybe they’re just rebuilding the steps so people can come back into the cathedral more easily? It seems that the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, . . . actually believes in God. The old-fashioned way. Not in the “modernist” way. (Among other interesting details, Archbishop Welby’s mother was a secretary to Winston Churchill.) If this keeps up, the American Episcopal Church (whose presiding bishop, chosen for every craven reason of political correctness, is definitely a “modernist”) will secede for good from the mother Anglican Church.