It’s that time of the year, looking back in reflective mood, wondering if we could have done things better, and hoping against hope that the New Year will be different for all the right reasons.
In the law, we have seen the appointment of Sir Ian Burnett as the new Lord Chief Justice, and in the fullness of time, he will no doubt take a barony befitting his status as the most senior judge in the land. I hope he takes as his title one we can all pronounce, unlike his predecessor Baron Thomas of Cwmgiedd. For those of us whose feet are not planted in the green green grass of Boyoland, it is complete gibberish, and take it from me, I am one of the few Anglo-Saxon interlopers who have appeared in the Court of Appeal sitting in Cardiff, and I was hugely underwhelmed. I mean, talk about a fish out of water, look you Boyo!
The second big change was the appointment of Baroness Hale as President of the Supreme Court, the first woman ever, so many congratulations. Her appointment coincides with a difficult time for the Supreme Court, whose reputation has recently suffered following a number of controversial judgments. One in particular stands out, the Brexit judgment delivered in February after a lively debate about the judiciary and the body politic, and which persuaded me to write a blog about the independence of the judiciary. You will remember it well. The Supreme Court got it wrong, and some of the Justices got very defensive when criticised for an error of judgment.
Otherwise, the legal profession bumbles along, with more and more mice chasing the same piece of cheese and very little to show for it except a large overdraft and an increasingly disillusioned client base, and now, perhaps too late for regrets, many of them have read the writing on the wall and wished they’d qualified as a plumber.
Finally, and something completely different, it may not have escaped your notice that we have been celebrating the birth of the Son of God to the accompaniment of Noddy Holder, the frontman of the pop group Slade back in the 70’s, whose hit song “It’s Christmas” is played ad nauseam in every shopping arcade up and down the country. Notwithstanding, it is a Heaven sent opportunity for the Church of England to sell itself as well as the message of the Angels, but sadly, it comes up woefully short, yet again.
The present incumbent of the See of Canterbury, and the most senior archbishop, is Justin Welby, and by all accounts, he is a monumental disappointment even by his own modest standards. He is completely irrelevant, and gives no guidance whatsoever to his ‘flock’ on a whole range of ecumenical issues. He simple wafts around with a rictus grin, says little and does even less, so is it any wonder that our established Church is in free fall.
Don’t get me wrong. The clergy in my parish work incredibly hard, all year round, with precious little thanks, and even less temporal reward, but where’s the backup from on high? No, no, not that on high, I mean the Archbishop and his fellow travellers. In our diocese, we broke new ground in 2015 with the appointment of a woman bishop, controversial at the best of times, but since her appointment, we have seen neither hide nor hair of her. Perhaps she is frightened to show her face, but that’s no excuse. Jesus Christ said: “When two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.” Be bold, Madam, or at least be seen!
To survive beyond Noddy Holder, the Church must reinvent itself, not by changing the Christian message, but by changing the way it’s delivered.