On the day Justin Welby received the official offer of the highest paid clerical job in the Church of England, I received this. It is either the funniest joke ever or the sickest. Maybe both.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote to the Bishop of Durham asking for his help in respect of this job. I said that because of the baggage from my past I needed extra help in order that the playing field could be levelled. He replied that he would not help me because he never interfered with the selection process. But this decision came direct from the bishop's senior staff meeting without any reference to the parish involved.

That's two funerals and a kick in the teeth all within two weeks.

Oh, and I said this would be the last attempt by me to stay in the Church. What I have to do now is decide if all this proves that there really is no God or if it proves that God is either completely ineffectual in the face of institutional evil or a just a right bastard.



  1. if it proves that God is either completely ineffectual in the face of institutional evil

    Jesus, moaning from cross: “What does *this* look like to you?!”

    I’m really sorry, MP . . . but try to get beyond thinking of “in the Church” as merely “a vocational priest in the Church of England.” God’s Oikoumene is SO much bigger/richer than that!

    Keep on keepin’ on…

  2. MP if you are willing to move stateside, I’m sure the Episcopal Church would welcome you. I’m finding it harder and harder to distinguish the CofE from Rome (at least in its pastoral activities).

  3. MP if you are willing to move stateside, I’m sure the Episcopal Church would welcome you. I’m finding it harder and harder to distinguish the CofE from Rome (at least in its pastoral activities).

  4. Alright, I’m thick, so I’ll bite. I can’t quite see the connection between this letter from an archdeacon on the one hand, and the bishop personally interfering in the selection process (‘kicking you in the teeth’) on the other.

    I will however tell you why, if I was a bishop or an archdeacon, I might have some hesitation about offering you a job. I’d think, “This guy lives his entire life in public on one of the most successful blogs in the Christian universe, with thousands of hits a day. And every time he has a personal disappointment he blogs about it. How good is he going to be in keeping confidences?” (Whether you’re actually good about it or not is beside the point; what matters is that you give the impression of never having an unpublished thought or grievance).

    Furthermore, I’d think, “Every time I send him a letter that he doesn’t like, he posts it on his blog so that everyone can see what an awful person I am. Do I really need someone like that on my clergy team?”

    Look around you, Jonathan. Do you know any other parish priests who blog about their bishops and archdeacons the way you do? I don’t. Most of us keep our mouths shut unless we’re in a room with them by ourselves.

  5. You are somewhat stating the obvious, Tim. I am perfectly aware of what I do and why, as, no doubt, are my sentient readers.

    I am not breaking confidences because I am only blogging about me. If someone says something about me to me then it is my property. If someone hits me physically it would not be breaking a confidence to report the attack. If someone hurts me verbally then I do not understand why the same rule shouldn’t apply.

    At the end of the day I believe that any words or actions that affect another person’s life should be made public if the affected person wants them to. I think it is important that the public understands the true nature of institutions such as the Church.

    • If that’s the way the universe looks to you, then fair enough, but the vast majority of writers of letters and emails do not see it that way – to them it is the publishing of private correspondence, and they may well see it as a symptom of an inability to keep things private. I understand that you see it as a sort of personal crusade, and have no intention of giving it up; fair enough, but then don’t rail at God for being non-existent or ineffectual or a bastard. I don’t see anywhere in the teaching of Jesus that God promises to rescue us from the consequences of our own belligerence.

      By the way, I lost a ministry job too – my first one – and moved 1500 miles to get another, so I’m not unfamiliar with the feeling of having your confidence wrecked and your life uprooted.

  6. Dear MP.

    I don’t believe Tim is asserting that what you do is any way morally wrong, but is trying to impress upon you that it is entirely counter-productive to your desire to work within the CofE.

  7. Yes, Stuart. I know that. I am perfectly aware of action and consequence. But what I want is not the most important thing in life, not even for myself.

  8. I see absolutely no reason why a person should not complain when things go wrong even when they know it’s their own actions that have caused it, if they believe they are acting for the good. Hang on! You’re right, Tim. I’ve just remembered the four last words of Christ, “It’s a fair cop.”

  9. Jonathon, hugs from Sue-z and me, and purrs from Smoke and Sandstorm. I really have nothing else to offer.

    I am sorry you again got nowhere with the hierarchy. I have absolutely no advice to offer, living on this side of the pond means that I have at best limited understanding of how the CoE works.


  10. But, Tim, you don’t understand…..Jonathan has established a rep as an attack dog blogger and
    can’t retreat now!But he wants them to hire him.

    It’s a little like the Republicans in this U. S. campaign. To the elderly they promised to cut medical programs, but said “vote for us”so we can cut your programs. To the women who now can space their children according to family needs, they said ‘we think you are sluts and we intend to do away with contraception’, but vote for us, please do. to the student who need financial help, they said “we intend to cut Pell Grants and student loan, but vote for us, please do!
    (just don’t bother to send in a resume unless u r a college graduate) To the immigrants not yet naturalized they said “go home or go to jail” but please ask your relatives and friends who ARE able to vote to vote for us, please do. etc, etc.
    Just so, Jonathan promises to verbally gut the hierarchy of the C of E publicly on the internet while saying: hire me, please do!

    James Carville said the Republicans were defeated by reality, that seems applicable here also.

  11. I have a question for everyone: To whom was Jonathan supposed to turn for pastoral care? Who’s bounden duty was it in the institutional church to be his advocate, to offer him real assistance in addressing and overcoming the difficulties that have come his way through no fault of his own? (Yes, some of Job’s friends out there will insist that he must have been at fault but he has not been deposed and there has never been the slightest hint of any misconduct.)

    I am a cradle Anglican and I have served the Church in several different countries. It has been my understanding wherever I have lived that part of the bishop’s job is to be a pastor to his or her priests.

    Where is the bishop? Where has any bishop been in this whole sorry mess except sitting in a place of judgment and fault-finding?

    • Ellie:

      I also am a cradle Anglican and I have been in full time parish ministry for over thirty years. I have served under seven bishops, two of whom I consider to be among the best bishops in the Anglican Church, but I have never been under any illusion that a bishop can be a pastor to their clergy. The Bishop holds the power to discipline, hire, and fire. How can I go and pour out my heart to someone who has that power over me? It may be theologically sound but it’s pastorally and pragmatically foolish. So I have never looked to my bishops for pastoral support, and consequently I have not been disappointed.

      So who can he turn to for pastoral support? Well, I’m assuming he thinks of some of the people who visit this blog in that light. But does pastoral support just mean holding someone’s hand and saying, ‘there, there’? Yes, at times that’s necessary, but if you’re a pastor and you think that a person may be contributing to their difficulties by their own behaviour, don’t you have a loving responsibility to point that out?

      As for ‘Job’s friends’ – well, again, if you think that the entire job of a friend is to hold your hand and say ‘there, there’, I suppose that comment is justified. But I would not insult Jonathan by trying to do that. He is the least sentimental of all my blogging friends. He has a point of view which I think is seriously out of touch with Anglican pastoral reality. It is entirely possible that I am wrong to think this. But until I am proved wrong I will continue to tell him the truth as I see it. If our situations were reversed I would expect nothing less from him.

    • Actually, I never offer that sort of advice because I’m not interested in reality. My vocation, if I still have one, is to change reality.

  12. Oh, and before I forget: I would like to recommend to those who see Jonathan as somehow blameworthy in all this that you look up the “just world theory” – sometimes referred to as the “just world fallacy”.

  13. But Ellie, Job did nothing to bring those many
    misfortunes on himself. But Jonathan has managed to antagonize the next Archbishop of Canterbury before the man even gets seated. And in print,for all to read, and without finding out if the rejection letter was sent with the knowledge of Bishop Welby who must have been rather busy these past few weeks!

    Jonathan, stop shooting yourself in the foot, dammit!

    Seems to me that we’ve had this same conversation , deja vu is screaming in my ear as I write, sigh!

    As Archbishop Oscar Romero said: The Church is all of us.” (all baptized people are “The Church”)and I’m guessing that the hierarchy of the C of E have been baptized.

    “Good grief, Charlie Brown!”


  14. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again Jonathan. I was in exactly the same situation you are in. I decided to take a secular job and trust that God had it all in control rather than dictate to him what he should or shouldn’t do with my life. Almost two years in God has been very good. He’s looked after us as a family and whilst I’m not doing my ideal job, being based in London has opened up doors which I would never have got through if I’d stayed in a parish somewhere.

    Although it is furiously hard to lay down that which you think you *should* be doing, God will make a path open to you. You just have to stop trying to find it in the wrong place.

  15. When a friend is in pain, it seems to me that we should offer a shoulder, and a word of support. Telling that person then, what we think she / he should do differently, or should have done, is at best counter productive.

    When the bishop of Chicago told me to go be a layman, I did not need people telling me how I should have addressed the discernment committee, nor did I need someone telling me to do something else. I needed someone to understand how much that letter hurt.

    Later, after the immediate pain passed, then yes, some conversation about next steps was helpful, but not when the wounds were fresh.

    I know some whose response to that cold letter was to leave not only the process but the church. Let’s face it we suck at caring for those the bishops do not find useful.

    There is a time to simply offer a hug and acknowledge that somethings hurt.


  16. Well spoken, Jim.

    It has been said before that the Church is the only army that shoots its own wounded.

    And that, in my humble opinion, is to our very great shame.

  17. Tim, your point is certainly well taken to a degree. Certainly it would not be wise for a bishop to function as a confessor or spiritual director to his priests.

    There is, however, a very appropriate level of pastoral care that the bishop can and should exercise. After all, the priest does not have a rector/vicar to whom to turn. I have observed and been privy to very sensitive pastoral care by bishops toward priests — and I have also had bishops refer priests to ME when I was in a position to give the kind of care that the bishop could not give. In those cases the bishop(s) in the situation(s) were very caring and sensitive toward the priest and clearly had only the priest’s very best interests at heart.

    And, in addition, I’ve seen this kind of care even when a priest has committed some level of misconduct which is not the case with Jonathan at all. But the bishops in Jonathan’s case seem to have seen him as a nuisance and inconvenience at best.

    The priest, historically and even now, stands in the place of the bishop with the people of God – is the bishop’s representative, his vicar. The priest, therefore, is the bishop’s greatest asset. The bishop is duty bound to do everything in his power to make sure his priests are supported and cared for. It is the height of foolishness for him to neglect this duty and if the Church is losing ground in its mission, this negligence is undoubtedly part of the problem.

    • Tim is a different sort of person to me. When he says that people should accept reality he understands what he is saying and it makes complete sense to him. The problem is that I am the cat in the Far Side cartoon who just hears “blah, blah, blah.” What Tim is saying means nothing to me. No doubt, most of what I say means nothing to Tim because it comes out of idealist world view in which the impossible becomes a reality, whilst Tim is basically a pragmatic whose idealism is restricted to that which appears possible. Tim is a Kingdom Come sort of guy and I’m a Kingdom should be here now sort of guy.