Weasel Words and Nonsense

Once upon a time, long ago when I was young, Bishops were wise men of learning and Vicars and Rectors knew a fair bit of Theology. Even when they weren’t quite so clever nor so well educated they still had an abundance of common sense. If you went to them with a problem they could talk it through with you to a sensible solution.

Obviously times change, standards change, ideas change, but is it only my age that makes me think bishops these days have gone bonkers?

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“Celtic” bishops vainly hoping for Unity with the Vatican

Certainly, when I saw the above photo it seemed to me that the Welsh bishops—all six of them—had, collectively, lost their marbles. They had all toddled off to Rome with the excuse that they were there to aid Christian Unity. This jolly was despite the fact they all support—fairly agressively—women priests, women bishops, and same sex marriage. They must be stupidly naive if they thought there was any chance that Rome would adopt their views just like that.

Perhaps they got the idea from +Gregory, the bishop up here in St Asaph. He had a jolly to Ireland recently in the interest of Christian Unity with various Orthodox bishops, none of whom will have anything to do with women priests or same sex marriage. (These bishops should not be confused with the great Russian and Eastern Orthodox churches, which is presumably why the meeting was held in Dublin.)

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The Bishop of St Asaph is in Unity with them but not with me.

Of course, any initiative which can bring about Christian Unity must be a good thing but the so-called Celtic bishops had a fat chance of achieving anything with the Vatican. I can’t help feeling they could have spent their time much more effectively, though not so exotically, closer to home.

Where is all this “good disagreement” we hear so much about? Where are the forums where differing views can be discussed and debated quietly and intelligently? Not in Synod, I’m afraid. Where is the “diversity” the clergy are bending over backwards to embrace. I wouldn’t be welcome by the Vicar in my “parish” church because I can’t support SSM. Worse than that,  as an advocate for marriage between a man and a woman, preferably for life, the inference is that I must be homophobic. So far, the vaunted advantages and benefits of Mission Areas haven’t provided even one church in my Area which will give me a “safe, sacred space” where I can feel at home.

A year ago—was it really only 12 months ago? It seems like another age—the Bishop of St. Asaph appointed an LGBT chaplain. At the time, when asked what she would say to people who couldn’t support her, the Revd Hildreth-Osborn replied: “To those who aren’t supportive, I’d say, ‘If you’re judging people, you have no time to love them!”

If you take the time to think about those words you realise they’re a typical ‘soundbite.’ Sound good: mean nothing. What does she think Jesus meant when He said, to the woman taken in adultery, for example. (John:8) over, “Go, and sin no more”?He realised she had done something wrong, had told her so, but had not stopped loving her.

The ridiculous phrase, “Radical new Christian inclusion” used by Paul Baynes, Bishop of Liverpool, in his endorsement of the Jayne Ozanne Foundation, seems to mean kicking out the Gospel of Jesus while supporting “Just love for all”, whatever that means.

Jayne Ozane says she believes people can believe what they like.  Good, In introducing her new Foundation she also said that people like me have “A simplistic and ill-informed view of the Bible.” That’s exactly what she has.

Sadly, the Celtic Bishops would rather jaunt off to Rome than potter round their dioceses trying to establish any sort of unity with those of us who have been pushed out of our churches in the name of new radical LGBTQUIA+ inclusion.

 

 

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“Create a wilderness and call it peace.” Tacitus (adapted)

I was very sad to learn of the death of Bishop David Thomas. I felt I had a true friend in him. I never had the privilege of meeting him but I knew he read this blog and enjoyed it. He gave me great encouragement to carry on even when things seem hopeless. Thanks to his support I believe my battle for Christian marriage is not yet over.

In his paper ‘A Noble Task‘ Bishop David Thomas reflected on his experience of ministry as Provincial Assistant Bishop and how this might change if the episcopate in Wales were opened to women.

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Bishop David Thomas

“People sometimes ask me how I imagine my ministry as PAB might change in the event of women being admitted to the episcopate in the Church in Wales. The only honest answer I can give is that it would not change; it would be over.”

The Anglican Communion, which includes the Church in Wales, still officially believes that Marriage is between one man (a male human being with XY chromosomes) and one woman (a female human being with XX chromosomes.) I’m sorry to go into so much detail but these days it is all too easy to give quite the wrong impression.

However, some interesting comments were made about my last blog. I thought I was describing a simple solution for Mission Area Leaders to provide a church where people with distinct views could be accommodated, even those who believe that Same Sex unions can not be truly a “Marriage”. But it has been pointed out to me that Anglican Bishops are all powerful. What a Bishop wants, (no matter how it’s wrapped up in weasel words) is what their people get.

It is all too clear what the Bishops here in Wales want. It’s what we’ve been getting for the last 17 years. It’s the bishops’ fault that, when Bishop David Thomas retired from his noble task, he was not replaced. It’s the bishops who decide what we are going to go on getting in the church in Wales as long as it lasts.

Anglicans in Cardiff have been pleading for years to have what they call ‘the swamp’ drained. It isn’t just Cardiff; it’s all of Wales. We have six big frogs in very little ponds and the power of a bishopric has gone to their heads. They are going to lead the entire Anglican Community into a world where the Bible has been reinterpreted and Jesus is regarded as a bumbling social worker of doubtful gender.

Look at the figures.

There are an estimated 84 million Anglicans in the world, most of whom, give or take a couple of million, believe marriage is between a man and a woman.

There were 53 million people in England at the last count, of whom around one million are Anglicans. Wales has a population of 3 million, few of whom are Anglicans. England has 43 Diocesan bishops of whom two are women. Here in Wales we have six diocesan bishops of whom 2 are women. We also have 2 chaplains specifically for LGBT+ people.

Throughout Britain 1.7% of people consider themselves Lesbian, Gay. Bi-sexual or Transgender. Assuming those proportions are true for Wales, just under 500 people come into that category.

I have no idea how many  of that 500 are Anglicans but there must be far fewer than those who believe marriage to be between a man and a woman. Do you think the bishops would appoint a Chaplain just for us?

I fear not. Tolerant liberals usually brand people like me as bigoted and homophobic. Since heterosexual marriage is still the official doctrine of the Anglican Communion, at least we’re not hypocrites.

There’s no need for Jonathan Pryke. MALs have the answers.

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A Church with everything one needs. An altar, pews and an atmosphere of sacred stillness

We don’t need Bishops parachuted in from Africa to sort out the Anglican Church in Britain. We don’t even need Jonathan Pryke. We already have MALs!

As the Archbishops told us after ‘that’ vote in Synod,

“The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ – all of us, without exception, without exclusion.”

Who could possibly object to that? As one of the excluded I certainly wouldn’t.

“We need to work together” the Archbishops said “ – not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone – to move forward with confidence.”

We can. We really can. The Mission Area Leaders are already in place and primed to do the job. I have been studying their qualifications and the Area structures. (see my blog of October 18th, last year.) To be an MAL you have to be exceptionally able with just the right qualities to bring

“about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity” and “a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church.”

One of the things the Re-organisation—20:20 Vision or whatever it’s called—has done is abolish Parishes. I haven’t yet met a single churchgoer who thinks that is actually a good idea but the Early Christians weren’t organised into parishes and look what they started. Mission Area Leaders now have a unique opportunity to re-organise their areas in such a way that all the different needs of the present Anglican Church here in Britain can live together in Godly Love and give up all this nonsense about good disagreement. That is clearly not working and is never going to work, given it involves people who insist on not just thinking but believing and feeling and yelling as well.

A better world could be achieved very simply. The structures are already in place.

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Blueprint for ending disagreement

All you need to make this initiative work are a minimum of four churches in a Mission Area to serve four different congregations. If you look closely on the left of the above diagram you will see that they are already in place. The first group, (Church St A) are obviously those who are still worshipping in their local ‘parish’ church, either because they love it the way it is, or through tradition and loyalty. And, of course, they will be the most difficult for the MALs to cope with because they have been Faithful and they will NOT want to be moved.

That leaves three other main groups, who have already left the church. These people will be much more accommodating because, after years in the wilderness, they will be only too thankful to have a church to go to that believes what they believe. So Church St B will become St AC (to accommodate Anglo-Catholics) and church St C will become Church St E for the Evangelicals.

Finally, there is the last group, Church of St D, to which I belong. We are the easiest of all to provide for. We accept women priests. We can even cope with women bishops if they’re not too stridently feminist. Our sticking point, the red line that is being crossed over and over again, is our simple belief that Christian Marriage is between one man and one woman.

That is really all we want, although the list of things we do not want is quite lengthy. We want a bog standard Anglican service, lead with respect and dignity, and—when it’s a Eucharist—with solemnity.

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Not necessary in Church St D

We don’t want fancy dressed vegetables, rainbow flags, dancing round paper fires, walls of cardboard bricks, altars made of tatty boxes, or arts and crafts with yogurt pots and sticky paper, all of which have featured in modern churches recently. And positively no Imans and no Koran readings.

The clergy allotted to this sort of church will be overjoyed. Just a prayer book and a bible will be all they will need. They will be able to devote the time saved to preparing a thoughtful, theologically based sermon.

It will make life so much simpler for the Mission Area Leaders, too. This bit of re-organisation should be a doddle since they’ve already got a blue print. All they will have to do is find four different sorts of clergy, for the different strands of Anglicanism required. There may have to be a bit of juggling once the system has been in place for a while. Some churches may be more popular than others and may need a bigger building, for example.

Here in Wales, Welsh language Anglican churches would probably also be most welcome. In the St Asaph Diocese, and possibly in others, the LGBTQ+ Chaplain may well choose to serve a predominantly Gay congregation. Of course, it does mean that the Bishops have got to play fair, too. Much as they may want SSM despite Lambeth 1:10 (1998) they will have to recognise that those congregations that can’t believe in SSM are neither homophobic nor bigoted.

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Empty boxes looking for a home

The great benefit of this arrangement is that it would do away with disagreement—good or bad—in the churches themselves. We could stop wasting time listening to people with whom we cannot possibly agree. Instead we could go to church knowing exactly what to expect and then, when we returned to our villages, or communities, Christians, of whatever shape and form could get on happily with doing God’s work at the local level.

Of course, since all congregations are made up of human beings of the fallen, finite variety there will always be some who will complain that their specific needs aren’t met. Well, that’s something the MALs will have to wrestle with, because, once these new, belief-specific churches are up and running, there won’t be much else for them to do.

Go for it, MALs.

What Were They Thinking Of?

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Asparagus Fest in Worcester Cathedral

I sent this picture to my son who used to live in Worcester. When he first moved there he’d been trawling local churches and not finding what he wanted. He complained that they were too happy-clappy, with little substance or so “high” he found them more alien than his wife’s Roman Catholic church. I used to try and persuade him to attend the Cathedral as being a ‘safe’ place, where you knew what you would get, service wise. Not any more.

His reaction to the picture—“Mum! What on earth were they thinking of?”—made me realise that there is very little thought in the Anglican church these days, or anywhere else come to that. It is all about feelings.

What a terrifying road to be on.

Who, in that great and ancient cathedral, felt that dressing up a man to look like a stick of asparagus would tell anyone in the congregation anything at all about God? You know—the God of the Bible. The Creator. The Almighty. Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. That God!

Did the Treasurer feel it would be money well spent producing that daft charade? Did the Dean not pause to wonder, just for a moment, whether some of the less well informed people in the congregation might be confused about the relevance of a stick of asparagus to the Death and Resurrection. Perhaps his sermon “explained” the connection but I bet that what people remembered afterwards was the daft charade and not the message.

There can be only one answer. No one was thinking clearly or intelligently. It was all froth and bubble and superficial nonsense put on by people who have lost the plot.

When people in positions of apparent power and authority begin to stop thinking and rely on “feelings” it can only get worse. Much worse.

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The above photo is not the one I thought I would post here but presumably this child, too, will be the subject of mutilation sooner or later. The photo I was originally going to post I saw on the blog “Catholicism Pure and Simple.”

It was a photo of a sixteen year old girl, sitting, naked to the waist, showing the scars left when her breasts were removed to make her a boy. He was trying to look defiant but there was a sad, lost look in his eyes. I have hesitated for several weeks, because I found it so distressing, and when I went searching for it this morning I couldn’t find it. Possibly it has been taken down for ‘data protection’ reasons and I think on the whole I’m glad.

Don’t bother to ask what on earth were the people thinking who allowed this to happen. They had the feeling it was a good thing to mutilate a 16 year old girl. Presumably her parents felt it was a good idea. Did she not have grandparents? Surely a wiser generation would have had the sense and courage to say ‘Hang on a minute. Let’s not rush into this? At least, wait until she’s 18 and can make such a drastic decision for herself.’

Sadly, in this day and age, sensible thought is too often shouted down as homophobia or a hate crime. If you feel it in your head it must be right.

And what about the doctor who carried out the abominable surgery? Or what was going on in the head of the psychiatrist who assured the surgeon that this teenager was of sound mind and knew exactly what she was about? They too must have been caught up and whirled around in the great Transgender FeelFest.

We are hearing a lot about FGM these days. Female Genital Mutilation. Quite right, too. Such practises have no place in our civilized society. However, I can’t honestly see much difference between the two mutilations. Both are bound to lead to dreadful problems, both physical and psychological, yet one is treated with the horror it deserves and the other seems to be lauded as a great advance in human awareness.

Surprising? Not really. Not in a world where one week a great cathedral uses the symbol of Christ on the Cross and a couple of weeks later parades a man dressed up as a stick of asparagus.

 

…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

On Sunday morning I decided to give up blogging. The night before I had seen the former Bishop of Worcester using the word betrayed about people who are Gay or Lesbian Christians. He and 13 other retired bishops had responded to a report by current bishops to Synod on the subject of, of course, Same Sex Marriage.

Everything I read seems to point to a terrible lack of truth and honesty at the very core of the Anglican church. Why should I bother to blog? Who needs that amount of grief at my age?

Then several things happened.

First of all, I woke up to a church service on my husband’s ancient, distorted clock radio, droning out a hymn. At which point I burst into tears. It was a hymn I used to love, ‘I cannot tell,’ to the tune Danny Boy—a tear jerker at the best of times—and reminded me of how much I miss the hymns in church along with so much else.

So I found it on YouTube! And while I listened, these words, in particular, struck me. 

‘I cannot tell how he will win the nations, how he will claim his earthly heritage,                                 how satisfy the needs and aspirations of east and west, of sinner and of sage.’

But this I know, His will will be done.

So I dried my eyes, read the service of Matins and then I listened to a sermon. http://www.transformingminds.im

And what a sermon. Reverend Jules Gomes preaching, for 25 minutes, on, believe it not, Discipline and Punishment. Honestly! In the 21st century! No wonder his Bishop bullied him out of the church! He’s the bishop that cut the Devil out of baptismal services. If only the Devil could be got rid of so easily.

The next thing was an e mail from my son in Dubai sending me a link to the retired bishops’ letter.  He thought it bizarre and was looking forward to my blog on the subject. This was followed by another similar e mail from a clerical friend in Cardiff. He is always encouraging although he attends one of the churches which is sticking to Anglican truths—and thriving, needless-to-say—despite all that Llandaff has thrown at it.

Finally, the one and only husband spoke up. What he would really like is for all supporters of SSM to be totally ignored, on the grounds that the noise they make is out of all proportion to their size and importance.

Since his life’s work was involved with noise – anything from bumblebees and snoring to submarines and Concorde – he is very aware of the damage noise can do. His other complaint was that there is too much dodgy data around the subject. I may not be an academic scientist but even I can spot dodgy data when I see it. Take this, Oasis report, “In the Name of Love”, which claims to prove that churches cause Gays to commit suicide. It cites two bits of evidence but omits a third which proves the opposite.

The letter from the 14 ex-bishops doesn’t contain any data at all, or if it does I haven’t found it among all its verbiage. Take these sentences.

‘‘Our perception is that while the pain of LGBT people is spoken about in your report, we do not hear its authentic voice. Our experience would lead us to doubt whether there was an expectation around that canons and doctrinal statements would be changed within any reasonable timescale, and that focus seems to have taken far more time than it would have done if the authentic voices of lesbian and gay people had been allowed to express the major focus of their hopes, but you might not have had to spend as much time explaining why if those other voices had been allowed to come through more clearly.’

Authentic seems to be the important word here and although I thought I knew what it meant I looked it up to check. Genuine. Real. True. Honest. Faithful. Trustworthy.

So what exactly are the bishops saying? That the genuine, honest voices of lesbian and gay people have not been allowed to be heard? Does that mean that all we’ve heard so far is not true or faithful. Is all the evidence of gay power already in churches in some way not authentic?

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What exactly is this saying that the bishops haven’t heard?

In December, the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, attended the premiere of a film called All One in Christ. He said then, that the film was powerful because it was a film of personal testimony, with people bold enough to speak of their complicated, sometimes rejecting, experience of the Church. “It’s a film which demands attention,” he assured us. Well it’s certainly getting attention at the moment. It’s on the big screen at Cineworld, Llandudno Junction tomorrow night, Thursday 16 February 2017, at 8.00 pm. Tickets cost £6.50.

One of the original 14 signatories of that letter is The Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, formerly Bishop of Hulme, and now a local Mission Area Leader. He should certainly know whether the film is authentic or not, since he has a starring role in it, along with +Gregory’s Chaplain to LGBT people. Surely they can’t believe this film is unreal or dishonest or untrustworthy nor that their views are not being sufficiently broadcast. This is one of the cinemas that wouldn’t screen the Church’s Christmas message in 2015 because it involved people reciting the Lord’s Prayer, so showing All One in Christ is, presumably, a real breakthrough.

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ls this authentic enough to be clear?

As I write, the lunch time news is showing the scene outside Church House, where late this afternoon Synod will debate, yet again, Same Sex Marriage in church.  Protestors are gathered outside with placards, some of which show the word Hate. Christians, which is what Anglicans try to be, can’t hate. It’s against our religion.

A Queer Business

On my December 1st blog “Hollywood comes to St Asaph” I advertised a film festival to be held in the Cathedral here in North Wales, entitled “All One in Christ”. As it was endorsed by the Bishop of St Asaph, had a starring part for his LGBT Chaplain and was made by a LGBT supporting film company it wasn’t hard to guess the subject—almost certainly ‘embracing diversity.’

The last film I saw was ‘The BFG’, a film very big on good and evil and diversity. Film can be immensely powerful—even animations can reduce you to tears. This film could have made a tremendous statement. It didn’t.

I watched it twice but was left with virtually nothing to say. So I went away and wrote about two fathers who choose the mothers of their children on a cat walk in California. Today I decided to bite the bullet and review ‘All One in Christ’. Guess what? I can’t. Go to the Diocese website, click on the video and look what you get.

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I also get this quaint little icon.I think it’s expressing disappointment but I’m not disappointed, just puzzled. Why, after all the hype, has it been withdrawn.

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“All One in Christ” was described in various media as “a short film that is deeply critical of the church’s attitude to homosexuality”. Mark Williams, of something called ‘Iris in the Community’, said, “It’s a simple film with a powerful message and I can’t wait to see how the public respond.” Since it’s gone “Private” the public won’t be able to respond.

Mike Jones of ‘Changing Attidtudes’ said, “By sharing the personal stories of those who have suffered and been hurt I hope this powerful film will bring home to all the scale of the damage done and ultimately help change attitudes within the church. We are all one in Christ. This means, for example, that everyone should be able to celebrate their marriages or civil partnerships in churches and receive God’s blessing.”

In all of this there was only one dissenting voice. Dr William Strange, vice-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship in the Church in Wales, told Christian Today it was “regrettable” the Church had made this “public demonstration after our governing body decided not to give the green light to change teaching on sexuality”.

Of course, the Archbishop of Wales called it “powerful”. (The word “powerful” is massively over used and mendacity and deceit abound.)  Dr Morgan also warned that “This film will not be easy watching for church members.”

With respect, Archbishop, you are wrong on both counts.

It is not a powerful film and it should surely be you and your clergy, not the church members, who will find it difficult viewing.

The film has no plot or story line. It’s a sequence of talking heads, interspersed with typical Welsh scenes, and the words spoken have all been said before, over and over again. In the film, the Revd Sarah Hildreth-Osborn says, “Over the last two or three years I have begun to discover what it means not to have to live a frightened life, hidden away, terrified of what other people might think of me if they find out I’m gay.” Poppycock. She’s an ordained priest, she’s the Bishop’s LGBT Chaplain, she says her congregations support her and she’s in a civil partnership. Where’s the terror in that?

Whoever briefed the Guardian and Christian News seriously mislead them about the content of the film.

Take this headline in the Guardian.

“Film about nuns who fall in love to be shown in Welsh cathedral” 

Christian News made similar claims. “All One in Christ is a 12-minute documentary about two ex-nuns who fall in love before being rejected by their community and tells the story of Ann and Marika Jane Savage-Lewis.”

That brilliant film, “Black Narcissus” came to mind. Something along those lines would certainly deliver a potent message. Unfortunately, saying it “tells the story” is
misrepresenting the film with a vengeance. The film doesn’t tell any story.

The former nuns are just two talking heads—their poodle is more entertaining. Marika merely describes the outrage of their local bishop after they were outed by a Sunday newspaper about 40 years ago. Their local vicar physically blocked their entrance to the church. However, the members of their church, apparently, accepted them quite happily. Bishop Stephen Lowe at least seems to accept the clergy’s role in this. He says, in the film “The way in which gay and lesbian people have been persecuted is something that the church needs to feel a deep repentance about.” Quite right, too. The church has no business persecuting anyone.

“That was us out,” Marika told the Guardian. She said the archbishop (of St Asaph) was “very brave” for allowing the screening – “particularly in view of the hoo-ha that’s going on”. What hoo-ha? Those who simply believe that marriage is between a man and a woman aren’t making a hoo-ha. Perhaps all the “persecution” suffered by Gays and Lesbians will make them more compassionate towards those who still can’t support Same Sex Marriage.

The film is actually flabby, rather than powerful. A film about victims and martyrs facing persecution should pack a hefty punch but instead this is just more of the pathetic same. This quote from the beginning of this blog says it all, though not in the way the speaker had in mind. “I hope this powerful film will bring home to all the scale of the damage done”. Amen to that.

 

 

More from the Waffling Moronarchy

 

 

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The Bishop-Elect of St David’s receives communion from the Bishop’s Chaplain to the LGBT community 

 

If these two women ever got to read this blog—which I’m sure they’d only do once—they might well think they had been responsible for driving me out of the Church in Wales. Perhaps they’d pray that I would one day see the light or perhaps they’d deem me a homophobic bigot beyond redemption. They’d be wrong on both counts. I am not a homophobic bigot and it was the Light of Christ that lead me away from the church in Wales.
They’d probably be amazed if they knew the amount of time I spend reading, studying, thinking and praying about the whole LGBT issue and trying to make sense of it all. One problem I have is trying to get across complex thoughts and feelings in a concise, approachable way in this blog, especially if I’ve been made to feel very angry.
Take the “Gay Cake” case in Northern Ireland, for example. My reaction had nothing to do with the fact that Gareth Lee is gay. What upset me was that he deliberately went out of his way to stir up trouble against a Christian couple in order to pursue his own activist agenda. Unlike the Archers, the owners of the bakery, who were genuinely sorry that they weren’t able to oblige him, though they were willing to bake an un-iced cake, Mr Lee showed no compassion or sympathy.

It seemed to me like a dirty tricks campaign. Am I a homophobic bigot because I think that sort of thing is despicable?