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A giant inflatable blimp is floating over the University of York as the Church of England’s General Synod met this weekend for its bi-annual talkathon. The bloated bureaucratic balloon called Safeguarding costs a cool £7 million; half of the total budget the church spends on training its clergy.

It is the season of big balloons and activists are competing with one another to prove that "my balloon is bigger than yours". It all began when anti-Trumpistas were so full of hot air and so short on real issues for debate that they raised £18,000 to create a helium-filled six-metre high figure, which they said reflects Mr Trump’s character as an "angry baby with a fragile ego and tiny hands".

London Mayor Sadiq Khan gave permission for the balloon to fly. In a sprightly counter-manoeuvre, Trump supporters have been crowdfunding to set afloat a giant size "Baby Khan" balloon of London’s mayor in a nappy hovering over the Houses of Parliament. The campaign has already raised over £34,908.

Can the ever-enterprising Church of England be far behind when it comes to being full of hot air and short on real issues to debate? This season General Synod took a refreshing break from debating gay sex, and and instead spent an entire apocalyptic afternoon on the gospel according to Al Gore, and how it could stem the global spread of nukes.

"Saving the planet is now the great cosmic quest," tweeted Bishop Ashenden commenting on the Anglican pantomime that has "set itself the task of restricting the spread of nuclear weapons around the world".

"No evidence yet that Iranian Government is following the debate; or Pakistan; or North Korea; but perhaps we have underestimated the effect of a Gen Synod motion on world peace?" he asks sardonically. "But this is the usual trajectory of the Progressives when salvation takes back seat," he sagely sums up.

The Church of England wants the world to be a "safe space". Its new anthem is the Simon and Garfunkel airy-fairy ballad from 1964 where the duo strum and sing of a "strangest dream" where "the world had all agreed to put an end to war".

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But even more urgently, the Nanny Church of Mary Poppins wants the church to be a "safe space". Why? Because so far the Grade I and Grade II edifices of the CoE listed in Simon Jenkins’ England’s Thousand Best Churches have been dangerous places packed with sexual predators lurking behind every pew waiting to up-skirt and molest George Orwell’s "old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist" (plagiarised by former PM John Major in his speech)!

Or, worse still, it could be the old maids who are sexual beasts of prey waiting to cannibalise the pimply-face curate who’s sermons are droopier than wet lettuce but who now has to appoint a safeguarding officer to his village church that is open once a month and draws a geriatric congregation of Batty Betty, Fumbling Fred, Georgina the Gossip and the blind man with a guide dog.

I know how terrible it is for children and vulnerable people to suffer sexual and other forms of abuse. I know choirboys and clergy who have been abused. But because I prefer clarity to agreement, I simply can’t get my head around one commonsensical concept. If a vicar fiddled a choirboy his parents could go straight to the police, couldn’t they?

Do they have to go to the Parish Safeguarding Officer who will take up the case with the Diocesan Safeguarding Officer who will then contact the Police Safeguarding Officer? It has been sometime since I endured hours of waterboarding at the CofE safeguarding training "courses" in my diocese so I could have missed minor details, but it is these colossal convoluted contortions that are turning the CofE into a circus and its the clergy into clowns and jugglers. No wonder the CofE is pissing away £7million on its inflated zeppelin of safeguarding.

At General Synod, Peter Hancock, the bishop of Bath and Wells, and the church’s lead safeguarding bishop, said it had spent £7m on safeguarding in 2018, up from £37,000 in 2013. Has there been an outbreak of sexual abuse spreading like a viral contagion in the CofE in a mere six years?

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If not, what justifies this fiscal profligacy on a parasitical industry in a church that endlessly harps on the good stewardship of God’s resources? Why does the church need a corpulent salaried Safeguarding Stasi to create a network of busybodies and nosy nannies whose first premise is to suspect that everyone in church is a potential paedophile, rather than a promising disciple of Jesus Christ?

"Over the years, the Church and its leaders have singularly failed to see what was before our eyes. We did not give safeguarding the prominence it deserved," Bishop Hancock contends. So you’re spending £7million to protect fewer than 765,000 worshippers who enter your ‘safe spaces’ approximately once a week? The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has more members than the CofE, so one wonders how much the RSPB spends on safeguarding – people, not birds!

But if the CofE makes three times more money than Starbucks and its income is bigger than the turnover of McDonald’s in Britain, why not piss away a piddling £7million on virtue signalling in a hyper-sexualised culture of therapeutic narcissism and canonised victimhood, even though half the church’s income is raised from churchgoers, who put nearly £700 a year into collection plates.

"Synod’s entire session on safeguarding was an exercise in gross empathy worn like an insurance cloak. There hasn’t been an escalation of abuse but of the perception of abuse," a godly bishop told me in a Facetime chat on the last day of the Synod’s meetings. "Even a hug can be construed as abuse. There is not the slightest bit of empirical evidence that all these gimmicks like repeated checks on elderly flower ladies in cathedrals will stop real sexual abuse where it does exist," he added.

The CofE strangles itself with its own lasso of contradictions. Earlier this week, we were told that it may be forced to sell one or more of its ancient cathedrals because of their overwhelming debts. But safeguarding is more important than cathedrals, yeah? Of course! Which is why Synod passed a resolution "recognising that safeguarding is at the heart of Christian mission". Duh? I thought the gospel was at the heart of Christian mission?

Oh yes! That makes sense doesn’t it? Our Lord Jesus first appointed twelve apostles and later chose another 72 disciples and sent them out two by two to preach the gospel. After Pentecost, the twelve apostles found administrative tasks an impediment to their primary task of "devoting ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word", and so they appointed seven deacons. Paul sailed around the Mediterranean planting churches and appointing elders and deacons.

Because the CofE is far wiser than Jesus and lives in the 21st century where it knows so much more than Jesus did, it would get Jesus to do things differently. It would pass a resolution compelling Jesus to appoint six safeguarding consultants alongside twelve apostles. Judas would then have to be given half the clergy training budget for paying a bureaucracy of 36 safeguarding officers alongside the 72 disciples.

St Paul would issue detailed instructions on safeguarding in all his epistles. The early Christians would daily "devote themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" and to safeguarding since it is "at the heart of Christian mission". Every synod in the early church would strain every sinew to make the church a safe space and no one would suffer any persecution, martyrdom or danger in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The church would morph into a safe space and its central symbol would no longer be the cross but a giant inflatable balloon of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism celebrating safeguarding, therapy and victimhood. Don’t tell me that’s already happened?

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Jules Gomes

by Jules Gomes

The Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes, BA, BD, MTh, PhD (Cantab) is a journalist and academic.

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