Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Evangelicals to blame for Bishop Butler's embarrassment

Ed: I am increasingly reminded of Tertullian's comment, "If the Tiber reaches the walls, if the Nile does not rise to the fields, if the sky doesn’t move or the earth does, if there is famine, if there is plague, the cry is at once: 'The Christians to the lion!'" or, as it increasingly seems to be "The Evangelicals to the lion". (In the original instance, Tertullian added, tartly, "What, all of them, to one lion?")

For the Rt Rev Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark, this is one hangover that won’t go away. The bishop woke up this morning to find a photograph of his black eye on the front page of the Times, under the heading “The Bishop of Southwark was drunk, Church says".

Actually, the Church investigation into Butler’s mysterious doings last December – when he was found throwing children’s toys out of the back of a car after a party at the Irish embassy – didn’t conclude that he was drunk. It said that he might have been. The bishop complained to the Press Complaints Commission about today’s headline and the Times had to take the story down from its website.

The Times report itself, by Ruth Gledhill, was accurate enough but a bit of a non-story: the news that Tom Butler could have faced prosecution hardly justifies a front-page photo and a whole page inside. So I started ringing round my contacts to find out what was going on.

I think the answer is that Butler is a man with some very serious enemies: hard-line evangelicals who have clashed with him bitterly over illicit ordinations and were beside themselves with glee when he made an abject fool of himself in December. Read more

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