Thursday, February 06, 2014

Tessa Munt MP intends to gate-crash General Synod on behalf of the Bishop of Bath and Wells

In their wisdom, the Church Commissioners have decided to move the Rt Rev Peter Hancock – the new Bishop of Bath and Wells – out of the medieval Bishop’s Palace and into a property which they say offers greater “privacy” and which is more “conducive to effective ministry and mission”. This has somewhat irked the good people of Wells (not so much the good people of Bath), and their local MP, Tessa Munt, is now on something of a crusade to restore the Bishop to his palace, gardens and moat.

She even put a question to the Prime Minister in last week’s PMQs.
Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): The Prime Minister is an ex officio Church Commissioner, and he will be aware of the plans to house the new Bishop of Bath and Wells outside the city. Will the Prime Minister do everything in his power to postpone the loss of the bishop’s palace in Wells, which has served perfectly well as the residence of the bishops of Bath and Wells for 800 years?
Ms Munt is unusually fractious (for a Liberal Democrat) about this rather prosaic domestic ecclesiastical concern. So restive is she about the matter that she has even started a petition (currently with 1,062 signatures). With an electoral majority of only 800, you may understand why she has suddenly become very troubled about whether or not Anglican bishops should live in palaces. It is an ultra Con-Lib marginal: the Conservatives would be absolutely distraught if they failed to win here. The Prime Minister responded to her question thus:
The Prime Minister: That might well be a question for the Second Church Estates Commissioner, my right hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Tony Baldry), who guides me on these important issues, but I will go away and look into the issue of the Bishop of Bath and Wells. I shall try to put the image of Blackadder out of my mind and to come up with the right answer.
It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister should find himself incapable of referring to the Bishop of Bath and Wells without referencing satire. Would he have dealt with a question about mosques and imams with “I just need to get those ‘Jesus and Mo’ cartoons out of my mind”? Or to one about cardinals and the Vatican with “I just need to get The Da Vinci Code out of my head”?

But the Church of England is routinely mocked and derided by many in the House of Commons because the vast majority – the Prime Minister included – either do not understand history or they have very little grasp of the importance of spirituality to the nation’s health. Secular-minded politicians see the Church as an inconvenient, anachronistic constitutional appendage which needs amputating to rid the enlightened legislature of its medieval bigoted baggage.

The Bishop’s Palace in Wells dates back to 1206, and it has served bishops well for 800 years. While the Church Commissioners have deemed it unsuitable as an ongoing place of residence, it will remain the working headquarters for the diocese. His Grace would like to point out that the previous Bishop did not inhabit the whole palace: he occupied a modest flat. The Church Commissioners want to move the new Bishop temporarily to a larger detached property while they work with him and the Diocese to identify a permanent property.

His Grace is no fan of commissions or commissioners, be it in selecting bishops, managing assets or presiding over the Continent of Europe. They are distant bureaucratic bodies, generally stuffed with aloof oligarchs who are invariably indifferent and unresponsive to the voices and concerns of the people.

In this case, the Church Commissioners appear to have used an episcopal interregnum to turf a bishop out of his palace and proclaim that it must be so. They talk about the ‘sustainability’ of ministry and mission, and the ‘suitability’ of the accommodation. And there the reasoning stops. It is not clear why a bishop in a palace impinges upon ministry or mission (don’t visitors to palaces rather like them to be occupied?); and neither is it explained why the flat is no longer suitable. The Archbishop of Canterbury, after all, occupies Lambeth Palace; the Archbishop of York lives in Bishopthorpe Palace; and the Supreme Governor occupies quite a few grand palaces and a couple of castles. The people generally prefer these to be functioning historic buildings rather than monuments to an age of opulence and glory.

The Church Commissioners appear to care little for the local community. His Grace says “appears” because the body is made up of sincere and devout Anglicans who undoubtedly do care and are serving the Lord with their administrative gifts as they believe best. They are, however, hindered by certain medieval attitudes and tainted with a tinge of divine right.

The Church is (or ought to be) concerned with community and mission, and these require pastors, teachers, prophets and evangelists. It is for deacons – which is effectively what the Church Commissioners are – to serve as the administrators, organisers, planners, managers and reviewers of ecclesiastical investments (£5.5bn) and other material assets. It might help to know that the Commissioners did not take their decision in a unilateral bureaucratic vacuum: it was decided by a committee of diocesan bishops that the Bishop of Bath and Wells would no longer live in his palace. The Bishoprics and Cathedrals Committee is made up of:
The Third Church Estates Commissioner: Andrew Mackie
Two Bishops: the Bishop of Birmingham and the Bishop of Warrington
Two Deans: only the Dean of Wakefield patricipated (the Dean of Wells wisely recused himself)
Two clergy: Canon J Haselock and the Revd Mary Bide
Two members of the House of Laity: Jacob Vince and Betty Renshaw.
Together they decided, as Sir Tony Baldry explained to Ms Munt, “that more suitable arrangements could be made for the ministry and living conditions of the new Bishop if he were not to live in the Palace”. In a further parliamentary response, he explained: “the palace is unsuitable because of the number of tourists and a resulting lack of privacy.”

But none of this, Ms Munt insists, was a problem for the previous bishop, nor is it a problem for countless other people living in palaces or castles which are open to the public.

But she has a majority of 800 to guard.

And her petition is now at 1,083 (yes, it increased by 21 while His Grace has been typing away). She intends to present it to the Synod as it meets next week, though it is not clear how she is going to do this given she won’t even be able to get in the building without a pass. You may disagree with the Church Commissioners’ reason, but please consider that the age of diocesan bishops living in palaces may indeed be at an end, and that may be a good thing for public witness, ministry and mission. After all, even the Pope of Rome has moved into a hostel.

His Grace has received a more detailed exposition of the reasoning from the Church Commissioners, published here for the first time. They are not so pompous, detached and aloof as not to respond to this humble blog:
As the providers of housing for all Diocesan Bishops in the Church of England, the Commissioners consider that the sustainability of the ministry of each bishop to be of crucial importance. This means that every Bishop should be housed appropriately and that their homes are properly places of rest and privacy in the midst of ministries which are increasingly demanding in terms of leadership and management, civic engagement and pastoral support of the whole diocese.

In arriving at their decision the Commissioners held two meetings with senior members of the Diocesan leadership team, including Bishop of Taunton, prior to any decision being taken and kept them informed of the progress of the matter through the Bishoprics and Cathedrals Committee and the Board of Governors. We listened carefully to their concerns. The fact that they do not agree with the decision that was ultimately made is not evidence of a lack of consultation.

The provision of housing inevitably involves choices and on occasion making hard unpopular decisions. In recent years similar decisions have been taken in Durham Diocese and Carlisle Diocese. In every case the provision of housing is appropriate to the local context. In Wells, the Bishop’s Palace is currently celebrating record 2013 visitor figures of 61,100; a 39% increase compared to 2012 (44,100 visitors). In addition, 53 events were held at the Palace (an increase on the 47 held in 2012), including festivals, fairs, medieval falconry, outdoor theatre, hands-on workshops and family trails.

The Church Commissioners share with the Palace Trust, who continue to be responsible for the day to day running of the palace, the hope that this increase in visitor numbers and activity will continue in the years to come.

In light of such activity it is right and proper that considerations such as appropriate privacy for any new Bishop are considered and whether it is sustainable for a diocesan bishop and his family to live in the midst of an increasingly busy tourist attraction. The Commissioners believe that it is not. Inevitably such decisions are hard choices and in this instance the Commissioners are aware that their decision has not been popular. It must, however, be balanced against wider considerations, not least where the welfare of those who by virtue of their calling find themselves in demanding positions of responsibility.

The Commissioners believe that by living in the palace, the Bishop will in practice find it very difficult to avoid devoting significant amounts of time to its maintenance, operation and upkeep. The experience of the last bishop bears this point out. It remains the Commissioners’ view that any incoming bishop should not find his ministry restricted in this way before his ministry commences.

The new Bishop played no part in the decision with the consultations with the senior leadership team taking place before the Bishop’s appointment. Going forward, the issue of the Bishop’s housing is not something which should overshadow the Bishop’s ministry. We agree with the Diocese that it would be unhelpful for this issue to be one in which the Bishop himself is expected to become involved.

In the short term, the Commissioners have invested in a property in Crosscombe which they believe will enable the Bishop to carry out his ministry whilst the search continues for a more permanent home. The property was formerly owned by the Diocese and not by the Commissioners, contrary to some media reports. The Diocese sold the property to a purchaser who invested considerably in repairs and upgrades to the property. The Church Commissioners have subsequently completed their purchase of this property. No funds from the Diocese, the monies given by parishioners on a regular basis, were involved in the purchase of the property which will be part of the property portfolio held by the Commissioners for investment purposes.
Clearly, Ms Munt's 1,090 protestors (still going up) do not agree with the Commissioners on this matter, and the Church of England is apparently divided. The new bishop is (rightly) remaining above the political fray.

It may be very boring and is certainly far less entertaining, but is Grace believes that a broad-church Conservative-Anglican via media is eminently possible on this matter, and he exhorts his political compatriots and ecclesiastical brothers and sisters to work on it, for we are concerned with Church mission and a Con-Lib marginal.


Blogger Gareth said...

I must admit, when I read "Bishop of Bath and Wells" I went straight to Blackadder.

6 February 2014 at 12:42  
Blogger Tom said...

Surely the opinion of the new bishop is crucial in the matter; if he'd rather live in the palace, let him live in the palace. If he thinks living in the palace poses problems for his ministry, let him live elsewhere.

What will he do for a chapel while living in Crosscombe?

6 February 2014 at 12:46  
Blogger David Hussell said...

I know the City of Wells and the village of Crosscombe very well from a period of some five years living and working there, half a lifetime ago. Those settlements, plus a lot more, and including much of the Somerset Levels as it happens, was part of my area of responsibility for all new development and the such like.

The Bishop's Palace accessed through a medieval gate, off the town square, plus moat (with swans I think? ) and fine gardens is quite an asset to that small gem of city, Wells. It is part of a truly beautiful English scene.

However the question as to what is the best and most suitable accommodation for the Bishop, for both his home and administrative functions, is not, as His Grace states, properly explained by the terse statement from the Commissioners. In my opinion Bishop's are not merely interesting, colourful figures representing our historic past, but they should be a focus for Christian mission. He needs to be a focus for growth in ministry. Therefore his accommodation must form a centre of mission to its hinterland, the diocese. So how that can be best accomplished is the main criterion that should be used in ranking the alternatives, informing to a rational decision. Cost of course must be taken into account.

6 February 2014 at 13:11  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Goodness! In the light of this dreadful de-palastation (sic) I have chained my Lord to central staircase in The Palace at Barchester. With a bit of clanking he can perambulate to most of the other rooms, though how I shall get him to the Cathedral is another matter. They will not rehouse the Proudies! Petition, anyone?

6 February 2014 at 13:16  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

This post should come with footnotes for Americans.

Who or what is Blackadder?

What has Blackadder to do with a Bishop's residence?

Why should any citizen care where a Bishop lives?

Why would this question ever be addressed in Parliament let alone be addressed by the Prime Minister?

Did I remember to ask about Blackadder? OK, OK. I'll Google it.


6 February 2014 at 13:22  
Blogger David Keen said...

I don't really see how someone who has 61,000 people passing through his front garden every year, and whose work triangle consists of a Palace, the House of Lords and the House of Bishops, is supposed to
a) Get the rest and reflection he needs
b) Remain sufficiently grounded to lead the diocese in mission and ministry.

Jesus did the seclusion thing by hiking up the nearest hill at crack of dawn, even he needed to get away from the crowds. The people of Wells may want the bishop 'in house', but the Bishops Palace will still be the Bishops Palace even without the bishop living there.

6 February 2014 at 13:47  
Blogger Uncle Brian said...

Your Grace comments, about halfway down: and neither is it explained why the flat is no longer suitable.

The question was not explicitly addressed, it seems, but the bureaucrats have, in fact, provided an answer: the C of E can make more money out of the palace by selling tickets to tourists and by renting it out for "events" at the rate of one a week. Would Your Grace go so far as to assert that leaving the bishop's housing arrangements unchanged should override all other considerations?

6 February 2014 at 13:50  
Blogger Uncle Brian said...

carl jacobs

Blackadder was a singularly unfunny* British television "comedy" series starring Rowan Atkinson before he went on to make the vastly superior "Mr Bean" series.

*This heresy may get me into trouble from other communicants. I watched as many of the episodes on DVD as I could bear to, namely one of the medieval ones and one of the First World War ones. Total two episodes, out of I suppose forty-eight or so.

6 February 2014 at 13:57  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Carl @ 13:22

In case the googling didn't clarify:

'Blackadder' was an historical comedy about a devious aristocrat, each series in a different time period, and culminating with the death of the last Blackadder in World War One.

The baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells (and he looked quite capable of it) was a character in one series.

6 February 2014 at 14:03  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Uncle Brian's explanation appeared as I was posting mine.

6 February 2014 at 14:05  
Blogger non mouse said...

Mr. Jacobs - your Public Television channels carried some of the Black Adder series.

Like Uncle Brian, I found them unwatchable. Very nasty - what you Americans would call "mean."

6 February 2014 at 14:06  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

No one could be in any doubt of how the C of E is regarded by the present government after David Cameron's joke. He is confusing the role of Prime Minister with that of a stand up comedian . He cannot even be bothered to adopt the formality of being respectful to the Church State's Bishops .What a piece of work this rude and ignorant man is and in my opinion not fit for office of Prime Minister.His party should re - elect a new leader.One who is not such an embarrassment to the nation.

6 February 2014 at 14:11  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

All & Sundry

Thank you for the explanations. Is this about anything more than fear that the departure of the bishop will inevitably lead to a closure of the palace and subsequent loss of tourist revenue?


6 February 2014 at 14:14  
Blogger Uncle Brian said...


Rather the opposite, I suspect, Carl. Kicking the bishop out is (they hope) what will enable them to screw even more money out of the tourist trade.

6 February 2014 at 14:45  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Uncle Brian

Then why would an MP consider this a winning wedge issue? There is money at the root of this but I can't see where.


6 February 2014 at 14:52  
Blogger Francis Arabin said...

(From Vicenza)

Dear Mrs Proudie, I can say that you have the whole and undivided support of the Chapter on the matter. It is here that we see the Spirit, the same which drove John Bold to persecute my (and his) father-in-law, everywhere at work and triumphant.

6 February 2014 at 14:54  
Blogger Uncle Brian said...


I share your puzzlement, Carl. I look forward to seeing an explanation here on this thread from someone closer to the heart of things in the C of E.

6 February 2014 at 15:04  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear dear Dean, the Bishop and I are deeply gratified to know the Chapter - and indeed your good self- is right behind us on this most vexed matter. Dr. Spacely-Trellis might be happy to live in a prefab in Lower Neasdon, but one has to draw the line somewhere. One dreads to think what the Jupiter might get up to if it decides to make this a cause celebre! I'm sure it is written in Ecclesiastes that a bishop needs a decent Palace and a coach and four if he is to fight the good fight and cast pearls before swine. If not it should be. As for the Prime Minister, all I can say he is no Duke of Omnium and that's a fact. I trust you will lambast the blighter in your Lenten Sermon Dean, perhaps on the text 'Speak not through thy arse on matters beyond your ken,' or 'Behold, ye Toryites. the Serpent is amongst ye and he talketh bollocks.'

6 February 2014 at 15:13  
Blogger The Explorer said...

I seem to recall that during the time of last Labour Government, new Defence Headquarters were built. However, the project went so over budget that in order to fund it there had to be a reduction in the number of troops.

Something similar seems to pertain in this case. The Bishop's Palace is too much of a money spinner to allow a bishop actually to reside in it.

Before I read HG's article, I expected something like this. Old place, expensive repairs/maintenance, declining church membership, declining revenue, no longer affordable. But that doesn't seem to be the issue at all.

6 February 2014 at 15:14  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

That would be me, dear Uncle Brian.

6 February 2014 at 15:14  
Blogger Tom said...


The reason it's a wedge issue is that the seat is fairly finely balanced between the Liberal Democrats, who hold it now, and the Conservatives. Conservative voters stereotypically don't care how much the palace makes tourists but want to preserve the old ways merry England God save the Queen what ho!

So it's a way for the Lib Dem MP to try to get Conservatives to vote for her - or at least to stop Conservative-leaning voters from voting Conservative.

6 February 2014 at 15:55  
Blogger Jonathan said...

@Tom - at least that's what she's trying to do. I suspect most voters couldn't give a stuff where a candidate stood on this issue. I for one would find it rather off-putting to know that my MP's idea of a major issue is residential address of a bishop.

6 February 2014 at 16:23  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Jonathan @ 16.23

I agree. Our MPs are much reduced in stature, it seems to me. The relatively insignificant things that they allow themselves to be drawn into nowadays never ceases to amaze me. Few have a vision much above getting reelected, and certainly less than few possess any global vision or any real depth of understanding on anything much. That's what you get with career politicians I suppose.

6 February 2014 at 16:30  
Blogger Uncle Brian said...

Mrs Proudie

How nice of you to say so, dear dear Mrs Proudie. I always knew your heart was in the right place. (Beneath all those layers of bombazine, of course.)

6 February 2014 at 17:00  
Blogger Integrity said...

Your Grace,
When I first heard about this issue I thought perhaps that the CofE wanted to evict the Bishop so that they sell the Palace to some oligarch for an outrageous fortune. However having read their reasoned arguments, I think they might have been practical over the issue.
As to a Liberal Democrat with a small majority, I would sooner see any one take the seat.

6 February 2014 at 17:41  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

David Keen 13:47
I don't really see how someone who has 61,000 people passing through his front garden every year, and whose work triangle consists of a Palace, the House of Lords and the House of Bishops, is supposed to
a) Get the rest and reflection he needs
b) Remain sufficiently grounded to lead the diocese in mission and ministry.

It's a great achievement and honour to be a Bishop and in the House of Lords. Bishop Hancock is still relatively young only 58 and if he's in good health could surely cope with living in a busy Palace. Anyway a resident Bishop adds to the thrill of it for visitors.

a) His position wont be forever so if I were him I'd want to make the absolute most of the experience and live in the Palace. He can get enough rest when he's dead. Look at the Prime Minister, he lives on the job with his family and a cat.

b) I would think he would be more in control to lead the diocese and ministry, he wont have to commute.

I wonder why they want the flat? Rental value? Sell off the Palace?

6 February 2014 at 18:02  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

With the addition of the insight I have gained from the various comments on this thread, I have re-read the post, and now have a few additional comments.

1. I suspect the 'Blackadder' reference was intended to convey disrespect for the question, and not disresepct for the CoE.

2. I thought this statement was 'laugh out loud' funny.

We listened carefully to their concerns. The fact that they do not agree with the decision that was ultimately made is not evidence of a lack of consultation.

Sure. If you define 'consultation' as 'We will listen to your opinions, and we might even feign taking some notes while doing so. But we have to be done by 3:00 pm because we are closing on the land purchase this afternoon.' Someone is a little sensitive, it seems. Or perhaps I am a cynic.

3. Why would a bishop need a wall and a moat?


6 February 2014 at 18:35  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...



There are a number of funny quotes that have gone into circulation

e.g. my favorite is when Blackadder is alone with his servant Baldrick who tried to cheer him up after a bad day

"Leave me alone, Baldrick. If I wanted to talk to a vegetable, I would have bought one at the market"

I admit I have used it occasionally if someone had peen a particular pain or idiot.

(Not to any Americans yet)


6 February 2014 at 18:51  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

One is still open mouthed that a Lib-Dem MP is involving themselves in ANYTHING concerning the church…

What was that ?

‘Slender’ what ?

I still can’t hear you.

Ah, ‘Slender Majority’ !

{AHEM} The Inspector withdraws his astonishment, as it is no more. His Grace really is bang on the money…

6 February 2014 at 18:58  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

Blackmailing the Bishop of Bath and Wells

6 February 2014 at 19:00  
Blogger James said...

Gareth et al: Bath and Wells didn't make me think of Blackadder. Hot Fuzz (filmed in the town) is quite another matter...

6 February 2014 at 19:22  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

I can see many reasons why a Bishop might benefit from a moat, particularly if it has a drawbridge. Perhaps it has no drawbridge, and needs one. The idea is to say "It is now time for supper. Everyone has knackered themselves and today is a day with no evening meetings. Turf the gawping tourists out, pull up the drawbridge, watch the swans and reflect to self how modern Bishops need to be like swans, too often, serene on the surface, and peddling furiously underneath." The drawbridge might also be handy against local M.P s who were of a gatecrashing nature...

Then a moat might be very handy for clergy discipline matters. A ducking stool could be brought in for those suspected of awkward stuff but no one can prove it. If they survive they are guilty, if not they are innocent and can be buried with full honours.

It is hard, I would think to imagine very many less like the Blackadder Bishop, and my suggestions were not related to that reprobate!

6 February 2014 at 19:30  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

I've deployed the "you twist and turn like a twisty turny thing" once or twice here in the past. From Blackadder too, of course.

6 February 2014 at 19:32  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear dear DanJ0, I am mortified. You never speak to me, despite my offer of a hobnob, which you can nibble any time you like.

6 February 2014 at 19:42  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Your Grace, it pains me that your Prime Minister turned out to be a shallow, arrogant punk by temperament. We, in Canada are threatened by the possible election of a punk as well in our government; Justin Trudeau, the son of another punk who back in the70s did a little mocking pirouette behind Her Majesty's back when on a visit here. But at least is a Liberal punk I wouldn't feel I have to vote for while grinding down my molars. How yours managed to get elected by Conservatives is a mystery to me.

6 February 2014 at 20:33  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear Avi, amazing how there are so many hereditary politicians, isn't it?

6 February 2014 at 20:57  
Blogger Mike Stallard said...

One of the main reasons I left the Church, where I was a very happy country Rector, was the growing power of the Diocesans. Humourless, nit picking, mean, and bossy they were beginning to make my life hell with their intrusions and greed.
I notice now that the appointments to the clergy are getting thinner and thinner and also that they are nearly all in thrall to the Diocesans with very few freeholds left.

It's the way you treat the staff, see...

6 February 2014 at 20:57  
Blogger Nick said...

"It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister should find himself incapable of referring to the Bishop of Bath and Wells without referencing satire"

True, but I believe it will God Himself who has the last laugh when this arrogant and foolish man meets his maker and has to face his life of sin.

The charge sheet will be extensive, including perverting the sacred institution of marriage, betraying and alienating believers, glorifying homosexuality, failing to oppose Islamic extemism, handing the nations sovereignty to the EU, to mention but a few. It does not bode well for him.

As to where the Bishop of Bath and Wells resides, that is far less important than the soundness of his Christian witness and teaching.

6 February 2014 at 21:01  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear Mr Stallard, the curacy of St Ebbe's is coming up when Mr Harding retires. My Lord the Bishop does not interfere (though I do...a bit) and Earl Grey and hobnobs are always on offer at The Palace. My salon always attracts the most interesting of the Barchester glitterati, so I am sure you would fit in.

6 February 2014 at 21:20  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Happy Jack says if all the tourists and these "events" get in the way of the Bishop's ministry - ditch them and leave his residency alone.

As for this Lib-Dem MP, Jack would prefer not to express his opinions.

6 February 2014 at 21:26  
Blogger Uncle Brian said...

Dave-hating communicants will have noticed with a sigh of relief that the latest
Ipsos-Mori poll of voting intentions gives Labour 38 percent against the Tories’ 31 percent. Just fifteen months to go now!

6 February 2014 at 21:45  
Blogger The Explorer said...

Uncle Brian @ 21:45

That's like being rescued from the sea by the Titanic.

6 February 2014 at 22:21  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Mrs Proudie: "Dear dear DanJ0, I am mortified. You never speak to me, despite my offer of a hobnob, which you can nibble any time you like."

Mrs P, I akready have enough of a reputation here, wholly undeserved I might add, without associating with a Trollope too.

6 February 2014 at 22:54  
Blogger Happy Jack said...

Danjo, Happy Jack says you have a good sense of humour and polite exchanges between you and Mrs Proudie, a favourite of us all, will enhance your reputation, not damage it.

6 February 2014 at 23:22  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

Mrs Proudie, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...

How many times must it be brought to your attention. Mr Danj0 CANNOT be tempted by your feminine goodies. Hobnobs or otherwise....

6 February 2014 at 23:25  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear Inspector, I feel it my duty to embrace all those who are lost and need the milk of human kindness...and if my amble bosom cannot provide succour, why, there is always Mr Slope and his Thursday evening antimacassar liniment rub-down in the vestry to sooth away the stresses of modern life. I'm told it is extremely popular with the crew of HMS Pinafore when they are in town.
Trollope, dear DanJ0? You are confusing me with Signora Neroni methinks. Do not venture there, dear boy...

6 February 2014 at 23:37  
Blogger non mouse said...

Glad you're hereabouts, Mrs. Proudie - After a hectic few days, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank you for your recent response about THA.

Had much wanted to make it home to Harrogate and The Old Swan at that time, but 'twas not to be. I'm sorry to have missed it all!

Re the project: Dr. North clearly has a powerful mind, and he knows how to use it along with an extraordinary capacity for hard work. I wish you all well, indeed.

7 February 2014 at 00:56  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ Mike Stallard

Sorry to hear of your problems. Sounds like you had a bean counter in charge (Myers Briggs ISTJ- subset of!!). They like to tick the boxes and interfere a lot, and are always "right". Not sure where your area was but from the little I have seen of him this guy Bp. Peter is one of the much better types- and nothing like the satirical Blackadder one!!

Gosh he must get really really really tired of those jokes. Maybe the first 20 were quite funny but I'm guessing he must have encountered it many more times, like s.o with a surname that leads easily to jokes (nope, don't have one of those but I know some who do). The P.M. should have desisted not only because he was not speaking as a private individual but as P.M., but also out of charity towards s.o. who must be bored silly with the joke after a few weeks in office!

7 February 2014 at 01:16  
Blogger Francis Arabin said...

Dear Mrs Proudie,
You will find, I am sorry to say, that the living of St. Ebbe's is not in the gift of the Bishop, but of the Archdeacon... The post of Sub-precentor, on the other hand, is free and in the chapter's gift. Could you ask Mr Stallard whether, besides a perfect command of music, he has a good voice? Anyway, I will ask Slipper to bring me his file tomorrow. Eleanor, the Yeats, and the McCarthy-Knoxes send their greetings.

7 February 2014 at 01:56  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear Mr Arabin, My Lord the Bishop (and I agree with him) thinks the perpetual curacy of Coltsfoot Canonicorum might do instead: it is in the gift of Bishop Fontwater of Littlehampton and is one of those Peculiars - speaking of which, Mr Slope sends his benediction.

7 February 2014 at 08:06  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear Lucy Mullen, I do so much enjoy your thoughtful and encouraging postings. Have you thought of becoming a bishopess?

7 February 2014 at 08:08  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Dear non mouse, yes, the THA meeting was most stimulating and the Agenda has much to commend it. Alas, the Jupiter has yet to take up the cause, but we hope...oh yes we hope.

7 February 2014 at 08:10  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ Mrs Proudie

Thanks for the question but one would tremble to follow in your august virtual footsteps and knows one's lay place.

As I think of the colour and variety of our fictional Bishops I could not possibly place myself amongst them. Have you come across the Rt. Rev Bp of Hereford as per Phil Rickman? Or any of that Susan Howatch lot. Or do you inhabit a timeframe in which they are yet to be?

Ah the onerous life of a Bishop. You must have special insight as the Bishop's own prop forward and first amongst his lay women!

7 February 2014 at 10:04  
Blogger Tom said...


Wot are that lot up there on about? Never mind.

The answer to your third point is that Ralph of Shrewsbury, bishop of Bath and Wells in the 14th century, knew he was such a wealthy and important figure that someone was certain to attack him sooner or later, in which case the moat, gatehouse and wall might come in jolly useful.

Of course he was wrong and the palace was never attacked, though the moat and large sections of the wall are still in a usable condition, or could be made so with little work, if the bishop ever is attacked using 14th century weapons.

7 February 2014 at 10:44  
Blogger Len said...

The Church of England is of little interest to our Secular Government.

So perhaps they intend putting a gold foil dome on the top of the Bishop’s Palace and giving it as an appeasement offering to Muslims?.
Meanwhile the Bishop of Bath and Wells
will have to make do with a Porta- cabin?.
Anyway Pope Francis(please note spelling) is being very humble and not swanning about in the Vatican so perhaps humility is coming back?.

7 February 2014 at 10:49  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Len @ 10.49

I think you are right, this secular government has little interest in any Churches, including the nominally established one, for nominal it is now I believe. In fact I think that it regards it as an embarrassment, a relic from the past, useful only for providing a bit of pageantry for Coronations, Royal weddings and similar.

7 February 2014 at 11:25  
Blogger Ivan said...

Explorer @22:21, that's good. The Titanic analogy works further down. At the present there is nothing Labour can do, that is not a variation of what has already been tried; akin to rearranging chairs on the Titanic.

7 February 2014 at 12:08  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Mrs Proudie said, Dear Avi, amazing how there are so many hereditary politicians, isn't it?

It's remarkable, indeed, Mrs P. Unusual for Canada and the U.S., but it's happening more and more. Once they latch onto the reigns, they clutch them even from the grave.

7 February 2014 at 12:30  
Blogger Charles Read said...

Actually she will be able to get into General Synod if there is room in the visitors' gallery and the security people don't think she is a subversive troublemaker.

However, she will not be able to intervene or speak. If she so much as twitches in an unsynodical manner, she will be unceremoniously evicted onto Great Smith Street.

7 February 2014 at 12:31  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Charles Reid

It would be far wiser for the powers that be of General Synod to co-opt her before the fact rather than confront her. Unceremonious eviction would be the worst possible outcome. It would risk giving insult to the institution of Parliament. I would be shocked if some way was not found to accommodate her. She is a sitting MP who simply wants to present a petition in the interests of her constituents. It's not worth going to war.


7 February 2014 at 12:56  
Blogger Uncle Brian said...

carl jacobs, Charles Reid

Unless, of course, she has decided in advance that unceremonious eviction is just what she needs as a publicity stunt to swing those undecided voters in her direction.

7 February 2014 at 13:40  
Blogger Ariadne said...

Poor Wells! It is absolutely beautiful but far too close to Glastonbury.

8 February 2014 at 11:15  
Blogger Rev Daniel French said...

Considering that the Bishop of Rome has not taken up his residence in the apostolic palace maybe "palaces" send the wrong message? A poor Church for the poor does not need these trappings. Can we imagine our Lord during his ministry residing in a palace? Why not turn these palaces to something more focused on the ministry of those on the edge of society? A residential centre for the homeless for example. Bishops like their priests would do well to live in more heroic settings. The Pope appears to have found that by moving away from "diocesan HQ" that a lot of the busyness of episcopal life (Endless draining meetings rather than ministry) ebbed away. I think there would be great merit in Anglican bishops following suite.

9 February 2014 at 19:27  
Blogger non mouse said...

Rev. French - Of course, you're right about Christ, the carpenter's step-son (and rabbi). And, too, the Church could dumb everything down to the pathetic postmodern level - and minister patronisingly to the 'lower classes' at their own perceived level: in our decultured, debased, 5th-world country.

However, closer to your suggestion, we might also remember that these palaces were built for the Princes (Principes) of the Church. That was back when princes were leaders: took first place (L. Princeps = primus + capere*) in administering the pastoral duties of the Church. I don't see why they could not continue to use the buildings for those purposes while living there? It's their heritage and that of the flock. And a little beauty in the context does wonders for the spirit.

I admit, though - the incumbents of the Palace of Westminster misuse both heritage and beauty. If anyone's to be turfed out and set to work in the community, they should be first on the list!


10 February 2014 at 03:48  
Blogger Simon said...

The Commissioers' response to Your Grace is exquisite. "We listened carefully to their concerns. The fact that they do not agree with the decision that was ultimately made is not evidence of a lack of consultation."

Consultation, eh? Don't you just love it !

10 February 2014 at 23:06  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

(I have received this letter to add to the discussion. LBS)

The Church Commissioners' decision to spend a lot of money on a house that the Church has already sold off, when the Bishop of Bath and Wells already has appropriate accommodation in a palace built precisely for that purpose, is obviously absurd, but there are other aspects of this sorry tale which are absolutely typical, in our experience (Save Our Parsonages). The statement by Sir Tony Baldry, MP, that these decisions were made on grounds of 'suitability' gives the game away.
Save Our Parsonages campaigns to stop the Church from selling off its fine historic buildings for dubious short term gain, long term loss. We are very familiar with the term 'unsuitable'. This is the term the dioceses always use to justify selling off fine and valuable rectories and vicarages, as though a building can suddenly become unsuitable when it has been suitable for hundreds of years, or what has been eminently suitable for one incumbent can suddenly be unsuitable for an incoming one, who is usually not even given any choice in the matter.
Admittedly, repurchasing a house which has already been sold off on grounds of unsuitability certainly adds a new layer of laughable absurdity. Sir Tony then tries to justify repurchasing this house, which is apparently both suitable and unsuitable, as an 'investment decision with little financial risk'. This, when it has already been sold off (was that an 'investment decision' too?) and the Church has already incurred the financial loss of the difference between the sale and repurchase price, together with costs and all additional work done, which cannot be less than £200,000.
In another extraordinary statement, the Commissioners say: 'the property was formerly owned by the Diocese'. How many times do we have to point out that the dioceses do not, and never have owned the rectories and vicarages; they are, and have always been, owned by the incumbent. The dioceses have power to sell them off in an interregnum, but that is different.
But the Diocese should not be allowed to emerge from this sorry affair unscathed either. It says: 'despite ample time and opportunity, the Church Commissioners have failed to undertake effective consultation at a local level.' This is precisely how diocesan officials treat their own parishes, selling off their rectory or vicarage deliberately without consultation themselves. Let us perhaps hope this particular diocese now understands how parishioners and churchwardens (the people who actually do the work of the Church in the parishes) feel.

Anthony Jennings,
Director Save Our Parsonages

17 February 2014 at 17:21  

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