On Why I Should Have Been The Next Archbishop Of Canterbury


In choosing Justin Welby as the new Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church of England has made a grievous mistake. Mea culpa. I blame myself. I ought to have made it clear that I was available to take up the post. I don’t doubt that the appointments commission worked on the assumption that Hooting Yard kept me far too busy. Thus by hiding my light under a bushel, I kept myself out of the running. Welby it is, rather than Mr Key.

Some readers may be under the impression that I was, in any case, not qualified to take command of the see of Canterbury. It is true that I am not now, nor ever have been, a member of the Anglican church. Nor have I taken holy orders and served as a priest or vicar in any Christian denomination. Nor am I a regular churchgoer. But I would argue that these objections are mere fiddle-faddle. I was clearly the best candidate for the job. My fatal error was not to make clear that I actually was a candidate. In the circumstances, they can be forgiven for overlooking me. I shall not send thunderbolts crashing about their ears in vengeance. Not just yet, anyway.

The raining of righteous, holy thunderbolts upon the heads of the people would have been one of my chief activities as archbishop. I think I am correct in saying that appointment to the post confers upon the incumbent the ability to do so. That most, if not indeed all, recent archbishops have refrained from casting thunderbolts is a matter of sore regret. It is one of the reasons the Church of England is considered wishy-washy. Well, that would not have been a term anybody would have dared use had I been installed at Lambeth Palace!

After donning the pointy mitre and golden robes, my first act would have been to declaim my sermon on the plains of Gath. I would have had the congregation kneeling and trembling and terror-struck, which in my view is the only proper response. There would be none of that queasy smiling and shaking of hands and hugging. No pap from me about “gentle Jesus”. No, it would be fire and brimstone, fear and penitence. All the so-called “issues” which get the present church entangled in endless hand-wringing blather – women bishops, gay vicars, blah blah – would be forgotten, because the Anglican communion, worldwide, would be marching to a different drum, a drum pounded, relentlessly and violently, by Mr Key. I would call on sinners to repent, and if there was the merest whiff of shilly-shallying, I would boom that stuff about the plains of Gath into their ears, over and over again, until they damned well did repent. With knobs on.

Obviously, once a week I would take time off from my episcopal duties to pop into the Resonance studios to broadcast Hooting Yard On The Air. The staff would just have to get used to bowing their heads at my approach, no, not just bowing, prostrating themselves on their bellies upon my arrival, in fear and trembling. I would wave my sceptre threateningly, and cast holy thunderbolts crashing about the studio. I think we are going to have to wait a long time for Justin Welby to do likewise. I hear he has never even appeared on Resonance. And now he is the Archbishop of Canterbury! No wonder this country is going to hell in a handcart.

Under my rule – sadly now but a figment – all those handcarts would have been turned about and heading for heaven. The heaven in question would be a peculiarly Hooting Yard kind of heaven. I would sit there, enthroned, casting thunderbolts and sending forth bolts of lightning from my fingertips. Serried ranks of seraphim and cherubim and ophanim and dominions and virtues and powers and principalities and archangels and angels would surround me, chanting ethereal chants, strumming on harps, and engaging in a variety of other angelic activities. Meanwhile, the great mass of Anglicans, plus of course all those poor benighted peoples across the earth of other faiths and none, would be gathered together poring over the collected works of Dobson, miraculously back in print!, pointing out flocks of birds in the sky, and picnicking upon sausages and smokers’ poptarts and cans of special heavenly Squelcho!.

Unrepentant sinners, meanwhile, those who remained impervious to the power of my booming sermon on the plains of Gath, would be consigned to the fiery pit. It is a pit too awful to contemplate, fiery and sulphurous and pitch black, a pit surrounded by vast walls of iron and lead, so thick, so high, that the signal from the Resonance radio mast cannot pierce them. Next time you are tempted to sin, think of that. Think of an eternity of spiritual agony where you are condemned to a pit where you can never ever hope to listen to Hooting Yard On The Air, or indeed to any of the many enticing programmes on Resonance. You will tread the path of righteousness, will you not?, to avoid such a terrible fate.

Still, I would not wish it to be thought that I am munching sour grapes. I am even minded to wish Justin Welby well. And, as I say, I have only myself to blame. As soon as beardy Rowan Williams announced he was stepping down, I ought to have presented myself at Lambeth Palace, engarbed in golden robes and a pointy mitre, and simply taken over. I could have locked the beardy one in a janitor’s cupboard and proclaimed that I was now in charge. It was an opportunity missed, and one I shall regret for the rest of my life. But I will not regret it as much as the Anglican communion. Those teeming millions of worshippers have no idea what they’re missing.

Perhaps I should return instead to the faith of my fathers. The Pope is an aged fellow, and he will have to be replaced sooner or later. I should make myself ready to assume command of the Roman Catholic church instead. Watch this space.

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