The Chutzpah of the Purple Blob
“We have a system of government with the engine of a lawn-mower and the brakes of a Rolls-Royce.” This was the observation of the writers of that excellent comedy Yes, Prime Minister.
In more recent times these bureaucrats with their apparent resistance to (what they consider) unpopular proposals have received another moniker: the Blob. Current events in the Church of England would suggest the existence of their ecclesiastical cousins – a Purple Blob.
Last week we learned that the review into abuse by the late Revd Trevor Devamanikkam was met with road block after road block, some of them hopelessly inept in relation to the independence of the process. Over the last few months, the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) has highlighted how its ability to function independently has been hampered by the Church authorities. To cap it all, its new chair has been announced, a member of the National Safeguarding Team, the very body the ISB is supposed to monitor. This would have the makings of a Whitehall farce, were it not for the seriousness of the matters considered by these bodies.
That doyen of Civil Service Machiavellianism, Sir Humphrey Appleby, would surely approve. After all, did he not advise that one ought to get rid of an awkward word (like “independence”) in the title, so that one does not have deal with it elsewhere?
By contrast, should there be a matter of which the Purple Blob approves (eg. Net Zero, Funds for the Legacy of Slavery), the transformation is marked. When there is scope to introduce something close to their heart, a different Blob emerges. All barriers are swiftly bulldozed, funds are allocated, and everything must proceed without delay.
Consider how the Purple Blob has responded to the LLF (‘Living in Love and Faith’; some have more accurately suggested ‘Living in Lust and Fornication’) vote at the General Synod in February. These proposals, to allow Church of England clergy to bless same-sex marriages, and indeed other sexual relationships outside marriage, have not received final approval. We await the outcome of the vote in July.
What if some members change their minds? What if the Bishops consult their post-it notes more carefully and decide to pull the Church back from the brink? These are days of uncertainty.
That would not be apparent from the Purple Blob’s reaction. No sooner had the February vote been counted than a slick video was released, announcing the dawn of this brave new world in the Church of England. The glossiness of the production would indicate it had been ready and waiting for that very moment; it certainly wasn’t shot that afternoon in the synod car park on a bishop’s iPhone. The triumphant tone of the video suggested that this was a day to put the flags out. And indeed someone connected to Church House did just that – remember the sudden on-screen appearance of the rainbow flag as the vital Synod debate was being streamed? “Nothing to do with us, guv. Just a tech guy pressing the wrong button,” insists the Blob. And so we move on.
The LLF proposals came at the end of a six-year listening process, and have not been formally adopted by synod. Yet the Implementation Groups have been announced already by the Purple Blob. Implementation before Adoption, cart before the horse. Six years of listening, yet the process can be delivered in a couple of months. My, what new skills the Blob has gained, pressing on the accelerator rather than the brake.
There is a perfect word to describe the brazen arrogance of seeking to implement proposals that have not been approved, or acting as if all has already been decided – Chutzpah. This import from Yiddish captures perfectly the supreme self-confidence of those who believe they can get away with it.
One other aspect of such chutzpah can be seen in how campaigns for the Purple Blob’s favoured causes keep emerging. Their pet topics are brought before General Synod time and again, with reports, discussions and votes. When a vote goes against a favoured cause, never mind, the Blob get it back there another way. Synod must keep voting until the approved outcome is reached. Then there can never be any further vote to revisit it, ever. On this subject, the Church has spoken, as inviolate as the Law of the Medes and Persians.
Chutzpah: arrogance met with audacity. Good Lord, deliver us.