Shades of Sir Humphrey

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 16.04.12.pngThat popular diocesan magazine Teulu Asaph is at it again. In the last issue the editors explained Mission Areas to their readers. This time they have called in the Venerable Peter Pike, Archdeacon of Montgomery to explain the tortured terms more fully. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to understand them either.

The first question he is asked is “What is a church committee?”  The first part of the answer is easy. Each church may elect its own Church Committee (CC) to be responsible for running itself. [That word ‘may’ is interesting. Does it mean that a church may choose not to accept this responsibility? If not, who will?] This CC will do all those things which PCCs currently do, except for matters now given to the Mission Area Conference (MAC).   At this point the Archdeacon is reduced to quoting from The Decree (whatever that is) to explain what bits MAC will now take over.

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“The Mission Area shall appoint a Mission Area Conference which shall have the powers and responsibility of both the Parochial Church Council and the Deanery Conference as set
out in the Constitution (sections 4b and 4c) including, but not limited to, promoting the whole mission of the Church and assessing the needs of the Mission Area in respect of finance, personnel, and buildings and property.” This is Sir Humphrey speak with a vengeance.

 

 

Do you know anything about the Fog Index of readability or the Flesch reading ease score? Or the one I really like which is the Smog score. [Simple Measure of Gobbledygook] You really need to if you want people to read what you have written, and, more importantly, understand it.

If your sentence is 8 words long everyone will understand it. 9-14 words and your readers will absorb 90% of what you’ve written on first reading. 20 words is a good modern day average. Clever writers like Dickens could have sentences of 30 words but not too often. Increase the sentence length to 43 words and only 10% will make sense of it without effort. You would need a reading level capable of absorbing a legal document.

The sentence which forms the third paragraph above is 65 words long!  I fed it into one of the readability test websites for their analysis.

They gave it a score of 0.3 and added the comment, “That’s really hard going. This is at the same reading level as the Harvard Law Review. Chances are, you could do a few things to simplify it.”

I then put this bit of the Gospel according to St Mark, chapter 1 40-44, through the same readability test.

“40 And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.”

They gave Mark a score  of 79.4 and commented, “Nice. That’s the same reading level as Harry Potter.”

 

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Female Father gives birth to Male Wife’s child.

 

The title spells is out. That is the true fact.

The media told us a different story.

The transgender family where the father gave birth

Man who used to be a woman gives birth to a baby by woman who used to be a man

No, the man didn’t give birth. Men can’t have babies. That is the simple truth and anything else is a thumping lie.

Fernando Machado, while living as a man, has had no transitioning surgery, so the baby grew in ‘her’ womb and was delivered by caesarean section. (There’s a photo of the scar on one website but I thought I’d spare you that detail.) Diane Rodriguez, the mother, still has ‘his’ necessary bits so was able to father the child, but, being wombless, couldn’t do the actual carrying.

 

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Diane and Fernando 

I have absolutely nothing against this transgender couple. This child was conceived in a completely normal way with a male and a female. They will probably be lovely parents and, since they are planning to have more children, the siblings will be able to support each other if they find the situation a little confusing later on.

My complaint is with the media headlines that announce that a father has had a baby. This may be a ridiculous lie but one which I think matters.

We live in a world with too much virtual reality, too much Humpty Dumpty speak, too much total irrationality. How can we teach our children the truth when scientific facts—facts as simple as anatomy and chromosomes that anyone can grasp—are deliberately ignored.

I’ll state the true fact one more time.

A male body cannot produce a baby. Fact.

George or Georgina?

 

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Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

Some inadequate producer for BBC Radio 4 thought it would be a good idea to devote 23.46 minutes to a 10 year old girl who believes she is a non-binary individual who would prefer to be more of a boy. He or she was wrong. Ten minutes of the interview was interesting; one had to admire the child’s vocabulary, self-confidence and loquacity, but then it became boring and repetitive.

Girls wanting to be boys  is nothing new. Many girls have always wanted to be boys. Enid Blyton knew this, which is why George was the most popular character in The Famous Five books. Malcolm Saville created Peter, short for Petronella. The wonderful thing about all those children’s books of the 40s and 50s was that they allowed girls to be and do things which seemed  impossible in real life. Those were the days! There was no preaching in those books, no messages, no secret agenda—just page-turning story telling. Parents were always absent for some good reason, giving the children freedom and independence, but looking back I realise that parental influence and school discipline were always there in the background, which stopped these stories turning into The Lord of the Flies.

I was lucky enough to go to a single sex school so we all got to play the drums and the trumpet and take as many boys parts in plays as we wished. My daughter, in a mixed school, was once Cinderella but I got to be Peter Pan. We also had crushes on staff or other girls—and finally grew up.

There were two comments that worried me in the interview with Leo and his mother (and his younger brother who kept saying ‘she’ and having to apologise) . There was a reference to a transgender cousin and Mother mentioned the possibility of hormone treatment. Am I alone in thinking hormone treatment for pre-puberty children is akin to child abuse?

 

 

Dumb!

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Dr Barry Morgan is due to retire at the beginning of January 2017.

He has been Archbishop of Wales for 14 years.

In that time the churches have lost 30% of their congregation—around 15,000 people.

On September 14th the Archbishop gave his last speech to the Governing Body of the Church in Wales.

In that speech he might have attempted to explain or analyse the reasons for that loss and have included a vision for the future.

He might have congratulated the faithful few on their loyalty, thanked them for their support and examined what had enabled them to keep the Faith when so many had fallen away.

He might have spoken of Joy and Hope and the Glory of God.

Instead he spoke about same sex relationships, same sex sex and the need to reinterpret the bits of the Bible we don’t like. He wrapped up his message with a lot of rigmarole, including biblical quotes about incest and slavery, but Same Sex is what the media have picked up and it’s what people will remember.

There’s a beautiful word in Welsh—’digalon’. In dictionaries it’s translated literally as ‘disheartened’ but it means something much more deep and profound—more the feeling of having your heart torn out of you.

That’s what I feel has happened to the Anglican church in Wales.

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Disclaimer!

GENESIS 1:27

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female he created them

 

Screen Shot 2016-09-11 at 09.37.18.pngI think I should make it clear that I did not tamper with the text of this bit of the advert for tomorrow’s service in any way. It is just as it left the printer.

However, in our Humpty Dumpty world it is sometimes difficult to work out which word to use in any given situation. If you are likely to be travelling around in New York any time soon I would advise you to keep your mouth firmly shut. Sit next to a bearded man on the metro and refer to him as ‘he’ and you risk a hefty fine because he thinks of himself as ‘she.’

However, for those of you who get confused beyond L and G let me explain.

B is Bi-sexual, but can also stand for Bi-gender.  (Not to be confused with Defoe’s Big enders in Gulliver’s Travels)

T, here, is transgender, but it can also stand for trans sexual and Two Spirited. Two spirited is used by some indigenous North Americans to describe people who seem to have both male and female spirits within them. Perhaps the Bishop of Grantham could be one of those.

Q here means Questioning. It’s a personal description and seems to mean puzzled; it doesn’t apply to people who can’t work out if they are sitting next to a man or a woman. Q can also mean Queer and is now an OK word. For people of my generation it was a pejorative description for homosexuals, and  it fell out of use many years ago, to be replaced by “gay.” Apparently, it is a rude word no longer.

I’m not sure if Intersex is a medical term but it describes those relatively few individuals who are born without clearly defined genitalia.

Asexual means you couldn’t give a damn one way or the other. You are thus spared an awful lot of angst and frustration suffered by those who are either/or or both/and.  What I don’t understand is why, if you are well out of all this confusion, you would want to label yourself among them.

There are more categories that probably you should be aware of lest, through ignorance, you give offence. Pansexual is the exact opposite of Asexual. Then we come to Agender.  (This word is not to be confused with Agenda, though many of the LGBT brigade certainly have one of those.)  They also call themselves genderless, genderfree, non-gendered or un-gendered. The OK2BME website, which provided me with this information, explains that “This category includes a very broad range of indentities which do not conform to traditional gender norms,” so I’m not surprised I’m having difficulty getting my head round it. There is also Gender Queer which is another ‘umbrella’ term for “those who are thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity.”

At this point in my research I ran out of steam, rather as I did when faced with all the explanations about unlocking my potential through 2020 Vision. There again you need a codebook to enable you to make sense of all this Humpty Dumpty speak. For those who still have the energy, you have the website and there are three more categories—Bigender, Gender Variant and Pangender—to wrestle with. There is also a School Colouring Contest, whatever that means.

 

 

 

If it ain’t broke . . .

After Brexit—Grammar Schools.

The papers are full of it! Grammar School Revolution intones The Times; May’s School Revolution yells the Daily Mail; May Opens Floodgates on Grammars says The Guardian, always striving to be different.

All of which seems to mean that every school will have the opportunity to select their pupils and become Grammar Schools. Heaven help us all, in that case. The last time all schools were Grammar Schools most children didn’t go to school.

The original Grammar Schools took boys from the middle and working classes and taught them Latin and Greek so that they could become lawyers, teachers, administrators and civil servants. Useful to the ruling and upper classes, who couldn’t or wouldn’t do those jobs themselves. The pupils could be poor but they had to be bright and it could certainly lead to social mobility. Think Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell. Many of those Grammar schools are still going strong five hundred years later, having adapted and modernised and evolved.

In the main, those are not the Grammar Schools we are talking about now. The ones in the news at the moment are the schools created under the Education Act of 1944 as free schools, for any child able to pass the Eleven Plus. Any engineer will tell you if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. How ironic that it was those schools, which did so well, which were scrapped. The Secondary Modern schools did much less well, because they had never been properly designed and quickly developed a reputation of being for losers and yet they developed into the  Comprehensives we have today.

I went to a Grammar school in September 1948 because my father couldn’t have afforded private school fees and fortunately I was bright enough to pass the exam. I think I had as good an education as I could have had anywhere at any time. Highly qualified and dedicated staff instilled in us great expectations and those British values about which we seem to have such hazy ideas these days.

For all the enthusiasm and hype of their supporters now, and despite the excellence of a Grammar school education in the past, most of those Grammars lasted only for around 20 years.

What went wrong? Right from the start the Secondary Modern schools were seen as second best, rather than as a genuine alternative. The teaching they provided should have been as good as that in the Grammars, as enterprising, as exciting and as rewarding, so that children had a real choice of where to go. The educationalists were preparing for a post war future  that would be challenging and often tough but it should have been hopeful. Instead, those schools were allowed to become uninspiring, a place for duffers.

I taught in a Secondary Modern School and I know that the pupils there were far from being losers. I had mainly D streamers so we took things more slowly, concentrated more on reading and writing accurately, and had plenty of scope to spend time doing things which seemed important to us at the time.

By all means create new Grammar schools for pupils who will benefit from that sort of education—the academic, the bookish and the nerdy—at the same time as we create new schools with a new name for all the rest of our children who have important, though different, skills, qualities, and needs, like the D streamers who taught me so much.

Time for Worms to Turn

 

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The Wren Chapel of Emmanuel College, Cambridge

Anglicans are hopeless.

We have inspiring cathedrals, glorious churches, magnificent colleges, schools that the world want their children to attend, a sound criminal justice system, an admirable lack of corruption coupled with a laudable attitude of tolerance and decency, all inspired by the good old CofE and what are we doing with it now? Zilch.

Letting ourselves be battered and buffeted by every stupid fad or fancy that comes along; so wishy-washy liberal that we stand up for nothing; we read ridiculous newspaper headlines such as Four year olds to choose their gender or Three men in Britain expecting babies and we nod sagely and say ‘oh really’ instead of jumping up and down and yelling ‘That is bloody rubbish.’

Now for the latest pathetic, shame making report. Somewhere, in the UK, a diocese has told its Vicars not to wear their dog collars for fear of assault. It may be Mirror speak and more rubbish, but it might be true. If it is true why hasn’t the relevant Bishop come out fighting or at least issued a grovelling apology for craven panic? Why aren’t the local congregations screaming – Enough!

What next. Well, for a start people like me will have to give up wearing a small gold cross, (I’ve had mine since confirmation more than 60 years ago), for fear of giving offence or asking for trouble. At the start of the football season those players who habitually cross themselves as they run onto the pitch will have to be kept on the bench for their own safety. Oh, no. They’ll be all right because they must be Roman Catholics and it’s mainly Anglicans who have turned into a lily livered bunch who wouldn’t say boo to a goose.

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In my last blog I pictured the scene if we all (the precious few pew sitters left) took to the streets to talk about the good news in the New Testament. I’ve fantasised still further since I wrote that. The clergy in their best robes – a ‘uniform’ they should be proud to wear; choirs, servers, sacristans in white robes looking like angels; the congregations dressed as though for a wedding or the races with ridiculous heels and fascinators galore.

By preaching the peace we will have massively breached the peace. So then what. Anyone prepared to join me on the barricades?