As a widely travelled man of the Word I can say with absolute certainty that there is but one adjective which truly describes the English: they are polite. Not the warmly effusive politeness of, for example, California, where complete strangers will enquire after the health of your relatives and pets before sharing their own intimate medical history and telling you to “Have a nice day!”, but a reserved and measured civility which is never rude, but which should neither ever be mistaken for friendship.
This is, of course, the secret of Britain’s greatness, and how the English have managed to give birth to both the extremes of überRoman Tractarianism and psycho-Genevan non-conformism, without being overwhelmed by either. Accidentally obstruct a New Yorker and he’ll shower you with invective beginning with something like “GEDOUDDAMAHWAYSCHMUCK”, irrespective of how expensive his suit may be. On the other hand, unwittingly stand in the way of the class of Englishman holding a seat at General Synod and he’ll respond with an apologetic “Oh please excuse me Sir, I do beg your pardon.” Yet a month later you’ll find yourself no longer able to reserve a table at your favourite restaurant, the library will have cancelled your membership (without letting you know), and the postman will have suddenly started returning all your mail after stamping it “Undeliverable”. And they’ll all still be excruciatingly polite.
Never has this trait been more evident than the response to Lorna Ashworth’s motion requesting the Church of England recognize little Bobby Duncan’s sect. Rather than reject her motion as an attention seeking ploy by a poorly-hinged evangelical, it was amended. Rejecting it wouldn’t be polite. Which means everything after “That this Synod” was replaced with something in effect saying “We know you’d like to join our club, so please outside go and quietly wait in line until and we get back to you.” And then the motion was passed. Politely.
Little David Virtue wasn’t able to understand this, but understanding things has never been his strong point. Consequently it’s simply unfair for anyone to expect him to comprehend British subtlety – one might as well ask him to tie his shoelaces, or to know what day of the week it is.
In contrast I’d expected more from another little Anglophile, although given her self-proclaimed fondness for Robert Dylan’s nasally peregrinations I should have realised she’d be a less than accomplished Anglophone. Her key point – that because Dobby Ould’s marginally less sexually frustrated twin sees the Synod’s vote as an indication of support for ACNA the Church of England must favor America’s latest Protestant schism – only proves how far removed from reality Viagraville’s leading citizens really are.
One only has to look at the dear boy to realise he’s got about as much in common with the good folk of Synod as bovver-boys ogling the Sunday Sport have with purchasers of ++Cantaur’s latest treatise on Dostoevsky. Curates who blog on the pleasures of the prostate and style their beards to resemble female pubic hair may indeed be what Country Life describes as “colourful village characters”, but unless they manage to accomplish something heroic, such as rescuing public-school children from a burning convoy of Range-Rovers, you’d better believe there’s no chance of them ever being invited to share cucumber sandwiches with Her Majesty. Which is a privilege the Church of England’s true power-brokers have enjoyed since birth – and probably before. Even Peter Ould’s rector appears to draw the line at including a picture of his curate on the parish web site, and let’s face it, as Evangelicals the pair enjoy the same degree of popular respect within English society as independent polygamous Mormons do in Boston country clubs. And that’s without them trying to look like garden gnomes.
No my dear sinners, much as I’d like to view this epic decision as an iconic milestone on the road to triumph, the sad reality is far more prosaic. Think of it as ACNA having been told to take a number and wait for service in an extremely busy drug-store. Where the staff have no intention of ever getting around to attending you.
I’m Father Christian and I teach the Bible.