It is six years, to the day, since I was sacked from my vocation and then evicted from my home by the then bishop of Newcastle because, basically, he believed that someone who had suffered from depression was not fit to be a parish priest. I remain unemployed.
During the last six years not one person in the Church of England who could help me has offered to help me and all those I have asked to help me have refused. This includes those my friends consider "good" people as well as those career clerics who view the church and its servants in the same way that an owner of British Home Stores (for example) may view his company and its staff. I have, in the past, attributed this lack of compassion (from the bishops, at least) on a fear of breaking collegiality but, to be honest, I did this to try and provoke certain, possibly sympathetic, bishops into holding out a helping hand. The real reason that so many “good” people in the church have not done anything to restore me to priestly employment is because they do not believe I should be a priest every bit as strongly as the career clerics. These people know the teachings of Jesus Christ but they have not got to the elevated positions in the Church of England that they occupy by putting them before pragmatic and earthly concerns. Jesus may have come to save sinners, dine with tax-collectors, chat with prostitutes and make disciples of women he had cured of mental illness, but these are not the sort of people the leaders of the national church want in their congregations let alone working in their church (and, boy, do they believe it is their church).
The present bishop of Glasgow summed it up when he explained to me that he would not allow me to be a priest in his diocese because I would bring too much “baggage” with me (his words, not mine). I do not think he was right to use this as an excuse not to employ me but he was right in as much as I do come complete with “baggage.” My illness makes me different, as any illness makes anybody different, and I would not be a square peg fitting neatly into a square hole. I may well be an embarrassment. I was chosen by God to be a priest in the Church, but I was also chosen by God to be a prophet to God’s people, in particular to those in the Church. To help me in this task I am fortunate to possess a complete lack of respect for those in authority above me (unless, of course, they actually deserve respect). My worst sin is that I relate to and talk to everybody as if they are just people like me and everybody else. Young children love it when you do this but bishops do not.
In deciding that I am not the right sort of person to be a priest, the bishops, archdeacons and area deans of the Church of England who have either refused to help me when asked or who have decided not to volunteer to help me, have behaved in a base and earthly way and not in a heavenly way. They have put their “commonsense” before the radical risk taking of Jesus Christ. They have put this world before the Kingdom of God.
I am fully aware that they will never change their minds and that I will remain an unemployed priest until the day I die. However, I do not and I never will accept it. If I was to do so I would be contradicting the one who called me and I am not of high enough rank in the Church of England to overrule God.