Sometimes the only way to get a point across is to satirise it.
Satire is always unfair, but that is why it gets under your skin and makes you think about issues in a different way.
Hopefully it can also sometimes be funny ... read on!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Durham Twelve Face Eviction

So the Church Commissioners' secret plan to evict the Durham Twelve has been leaked to the press.

The 12 sons of Jacob have been sitting tenants at Auckland Castle for the last 250 years, and in recent years they have claimed squatters rights despite an estimated cost to the Church Commissioners of £60,000 pa.

"It's absolutely disgusting" said a spokesperson for the Twelve. "We have been living here for longer than we can remember. We don't want to move at our time of life."

They have a powerful ally in a former Bishop, who has stepped back into the role of goal keeper for their 5-aside football team. "It must be remembered that the Twelve have given a great deal of pleasure to myself and my predecessors, living in this beautiful mansion for generations. It can be a lonely job, living in a castle, and the Durham Twelve make this hardship just a little easier to bear. They are worth their weight in gold."

But that, of course is the problem. Evicting the Durham Twelve could prove very lucrative for the Church Commissioners who have a proven track record in selling off housing to make a quick buck.

In 2001, the Commissioners had to admit to secret plans to raise rent levels in the Octavia Hill Estates in London. Built as early social housing estates, they had provided affordable housing to 1000's of the less well off in London for over 100 years. But the profits they produced were not enough to satisfy the remit of the Church Commissioners to make as much money as possible.

Tenants protested, marched, and petitioned all to no avail, and soon afterwards the Church Commissioners found a way to sell the estates and be rid of the problem once and for all.

Then more recently, the Commissioners invested heavily in the proposed re-development of social housing in New York, only to lose a tidy wad of cash (around £40m), when the American authorities had the audacity to rule that these estates should remain as housing for the less well off, rather than be revamped and rented to the rich.

There is a solution, of course, for the Durham Twelve. They could give up their rent free status and start paying market rents for their treasured place in the Bishop's Palace. Market rents for Auckland Castle, this fine listed building in a prime location, nestling in over 800 acres of parkland could easily reach 6 figures. The Commissioners could then turn an annual loss into a profit to be proud of. And if the tenants couldn't pay, that's ok - the eviction process for rent arrears would be much more straightforward, and the Commissioners could then find new tenants who could pay.

Not everyone has been critical of the Church Commissioners policies however. It is reported that successful landlord and entrepreneur, Peter Rachman has been full of praise for policy developments of recent years, and it is rumoured that his name is being considered as a financial consultant to the Church Commissioners. So considering the financial success of his version of social enterprise, the Commissioners are in for a bumper harvest in years to come.

As for the Durham Twelve, they could be out by next summer if the numbers stack up. "It's the end of an era" said one of the Twelve reluctantly "They'll be evicting the Bishop next!"

Now there's an idea ...

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Factory Farming at the Church of the Good Shepherd

In a decisive vote at the Church of England's General Synod, the Church of England has taken the first steps towards a new approach to ministry, replacing traditional shepherding  with a new policy of factory farming.
Box pews are to be re-introduced in churches up and down the country to ensure that Anglicans are confined to the very minimum of space for free thought.
"All this wasted energy on fruitless exploration is reducing the productivity of the typical Anglican" said a leading Bishop in Tuesday's  General Synod debate.  "Sheep ranging around the hillside is simply too much trouble"  he complained.
Dioceses will now be consulted (but not too much) on the proposals to provide a suitable framework (or pen) which will not allow too much movement.  Its main selling point is that Anglican sheep will be much easier to train, force-feed, and keep in line under the new 'Anglican Confinement'.
Under the new proposals, all churches previously designated "Church of the Good Shepherd"  will be renamed "Church of the Factory Farm" even though it is unclear how this new approach will succeed in  filling the new box pews.
In a disturbing development in Oxford, however, several Archbishops of the Anglican group NAFCON have indicated that although they support the new farming methods, they will not be joining because they believe that the boxes are not sufficiently small.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed relief at the vote in General Synod, which proved once and for all that turkeys can vote for Christmas.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

UFO Mission to Rescue the Archbishop

Only the Anglican Communion could possibly contemplate the appointment of a UFO Director*.

UFO's are notoriously difficult to predict. They have nasty habit of popping up just where you least expect them, appearing to the most unreliable people, and disappearing before their reality (or not) can be verified.

So the thought of actually being able to direct UFO's is quite a remarkable act of faith, perhaps even beyond that of the mustard seed.

The Anglican Communion's UFO Director is making a valiant effort however, with the ultimate Unidentified Flying Object - the Anglican Covenant. She is encouraging us to read it, and yet those of us who have, still find its true meaning illusive and implementation unpredictable. And whatever good the Covenant might do, it seems more likely that its very unpredictability will result in any benefit disappearing faster than the Roswell UFO or the keys to Area 51.

The Covenant also has its conspiracy theorists, it has to be admitted. People who are convinced that behind every clause, there are the dark suits of cover up and coercion. That would seem to be a little farfetched, but that doesn't mean the Covenant is harmless either.

The worst thing about the Covenant is that it will create a church of the lowest common denominator in which the only things we can embrace will be safe and uncontroversial. They will keep us locked into old established ways rather than allowing us to embrace the challenges of making Christ know in the ever changing culture in which we live.

And that in itself makes the Covenant a very dangerous UFO, not because it will lead to an alien invasion, but because slowly but surely, it will suck the life out of the Anglican Church.

The Anglican Communion's UFO Director does have a vital role to play however. According to the Bishop of New Hampshire, there are those who believe that the Archbishop of Canterbury has been abducted by aliens and replaced by something which looks the same, but acts very differently to the Rowan Williams they knew and loved.

Who better than the UFO Director to go and find him?

*Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan is the Director for Unity Faith and Order at The Anglican Communion