by Will Baynes
from Signs of the Times No. 60 - Jan 2016

I was talking to an associate the other day about the humility of the Church of England. I had to overcome some barriers to understanding because my associate labours under certain disadvantages (I believe it is unfashionable to call them handicaps.)

First is youth; he is in his 30s. Then he only has a doctorate in something religious and obscure from Dunelm, and finally he is from Italy.

And so I began with something easy and Latinate: interregnum - the space or interval between the departure of a Church office holder and the arrival of a successor. Not to be explained (as some bad-mouthers would have it) as the arbitrary expanse of time when a diocese receives a commercial rental on the parsonage house, but the prolonged period where the passage of time allows the inadequacies of the former office holder to sink humbly into oblivion before the next appointee arrives.

He looked at me with amazement; ‘interregnum -between kings?’ he asked. ‘More between rulers’, I countered.

Alas, I was being invited to think.

Could it really be that in England in the 21st century we were still using imperial concepts?

More thoughts came.

The Ordinal has only three ‘office and work’ descriptions: bishop, priest, and deacon.

Surely, since everyone is content to say 'Bishop Jones', we could abandon the honorifics: 'the Reverend', 'the Very Reverend', 'the Right Reverend’, 'the Most Reverend' and say directly and simply: 'Bishop Jones', 'Priest Jones' or 'Deacon Jones', and possibly 'Archbishop Jones'? Even 'Archdeacon Jones' at a pinch, but I reflect how different the dynamics of the Church of England would be today had archdeacons been selected exclusively from the diaconate.

The continued mimicking of secular hierarchy, particularly political hierarchy, with their vacuous honorifics, calls for rejection.  Let salutations proclaim content not cant.

Sending bright, questioning, young foreigners home may, however, prove easier.