Let’s leave behind some of the questions when he first mocked the forthcoming royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Was his language intemperate? Yes. But most of us – me included – are guilty of that at times. Did it stink that his boss, the Bishop of London, allegedly a ‘close personal friend’ of the Royal Family, suspended him, despite his fulsome apology? Oh yes, indeedy: blood must be spilled.
But it’s this question that puzzles me: is there really an incompatibility between Anglican clergy and bishops taking the oath of allegiance to the Queen and holding republican views? If it is, then it seems that the Church of England makes this her defining doctrinal stance. Other church leaders have publicly set forth views far from orthodoxy, but have not been disciplined. But the moment someone lampoons our apparently untouchable royal family, then it’s off with his head, despite his orthodox theology.
Furthermore, the clerical oath of allegiance is just about word for word the same as the oath of allegiance that Members of Parliament have to take. We all know that for decades there have been openly republican MPs. Maybe they cross their fingers behind their backs when they take the oath. Maybe the Sinn Fein MPs had more integrity by not taking their seats. But it seems to me it’s perfectly OK to work within a system as it is, while campaigning for change. To my mind, that’s what the bish has done, and is doing. There are certain things I don’t like within Methodism. However, every year at the ministerial synod, I renew my promise to accept and administer the church’s discipline, and I work for change within the denomination for change. I’m not convinced Pete has done anything different.