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Yesterday’s post was my first instalment about King Charles III’s coronation, which can be viewed in full at GB News.

This video begins at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 6, and continues through the flypast, ending around 2:30 p.m.:

Order of Service (cont’d)

Using The Telegraph‘s Order of Service, I left off just after the anointing of the King.

As we will see, he paid homage to his parents with certain aspects of the ceremony:

Before I proceed — and ignore the caption — here is a splendid picture of the King and Queen before being crowned:

The King’s Investiture and the Crowning

The next part involved King Charles being presented with various symbols of office.

In memory of the late Prince Philip, who was brought up in the Orthodox Church, the Byzantine Chant Ensemble sang to the King:

Give the king your judgements, O God, and your righteousness to the son of a king. Then shall he judge your people righteously and your poor with justice. Alleluia. 

May he defend the poor among the people, deliver the children of the needy and crush the oppressor. Alleluia. 

May he live as long as the sun and moon endure, from one generation to another. Alleluia. 

In his time shall righteousness flourish, and abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more. Alleluia. 

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be for ever. Amen. 

O Lord, save the king and answer us when we call upon you. 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Glory to you, our God, glory to you. 

As the Lord President of the Privy Council, Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt exchanged the heavy Sword of State for the Jewelled Sword of Offering, and placed it in the King’s right hand:

The Archbishop of Canterbury said (emphases mine):

HEAR our prayers, O Lord, we beseech thee, and so direct and support thy servant King Charles, that he may not bear the Sword in vain; but may use it as the minister of God to resist evil and defend the good, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

RECEIVE this kingly Sword: may it be to you and to all who witness these things, a sign and symbol not of judgement, but of justice; not of might, but of mercy.

The King rose, the sword was fastened around his girdle (belt), and he sat down while the Archbishop said:

WITH this sword do justice, stop the growth of iniquity, protect the holy Church of God and all people of goodwill, help and defend widows and orphans, restore the things that are gone to decay, maintain the things that are restored, punish and reform what is amiss, and confirm what is in good order: that doing these things you may be glorious in all virtue; and so faithfully serve our Lord Jesus Christ in this life, that you may reign for ever with him in the life which is to come. Amen.

The King stood. The sword was lifted towards the altar, where the Dean received it. The King returned to the ancient Coronation Chair, which has been in use for centuries. Penny Mordaunt ‘redeemed’ the sword with a blue velvet bag holding a gold coin. The sword was duly returned to her.

Note how Mordaunt stands legs apart in the video. She has to, because those swords are heavy.

Such is the state of our society today — we are fast approaching Idiocracy — that people now think she should be Prime Minister. Even The Guardian reported:

The images of a solemn-faced Mordaunt carrying the 3.6kg jewelled sword for 51 minutes, while dressed in a spectacular teal dress and cape, generated interest in everything from her training regime to the designer who made her outfit. It also prompted a sudden drop in the odds for her to become the next leader of her party.

Even her opponents expressed admiration, with Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, tweeting: “Got to say it, Penny Mordaunt looks damn fine! The sword-bearer steals the show.”

The Guardian had another article about her physical prowess, with a reporter trying out carrying a full water jug — ‘the jug of state’ — by way of comparison:

When I struggled to lift the full jug out from under the tap, I realised this was going to be harder than I thought.

Mordaunt said she had been “doing some press-ups” and training with a weighted replica as preparation for carrying the sword …

Less than 30 seconds in, it became clear how wrong I was. My arm tremors were already rippling the surface of the jug, making it look like the cups in Jurassic Park when the T rex was incoming …

At 8 minutes and 42 seconds in, as the arm judders reached their peak, I succumbed to the inevitable and let go of my jug of state, soaking my feet in the process. The jug did not survive the experiment, making me grateful it was not a priceless artefact handmade for Charles II.

Mordaunt was given the role of lord president of the privy council as a demotion by Liz Truss after losing out in the leadership race, but in less than an hour of sword-wielding, she has used it to pull off a PR coup.

Enough weight lifting. Back to the coronation now.

Life peers presented the following items. Why the King did not choose hereditary peers for this, I do not understand.

Lord Kamall (Conservative) brought the Armills — two ancient gold bracelets. The King touched them and the Archbishop said:

RECEIVE the Bracelets of sincerity and wisdom, tokens of the Lord’s protection embracing you on every side.

Baroness Merron (Labour) brought the King the Robe Royal, in which he had to be invested in order to be crowned. The Telegraph‘s article on the coronation garments and says of this particular one, also known as Imperial Mantle or the Pallium Regale:

Made for the coronation of George IV in 1821, the robe royal’s design was based on a priestly robe.

The gold mantle, woven in coloured threads, features a pattern of foliage, crowns, fleurs-de-lis and eagles, with coloured roses, thistles and shamrock. The gold clasp is cast in the form of an eagle.

It is the oldest robe among these garments.

The King would already have been wearing the Colobium Sindonis, which is a white tunic for the anointing. It is white to symbolise purity before God.

Over that went the Supertunica made of gold silk and brocade, which is magnificent to behold. It is on display at the Tower of London:

The full-length, sleeved coat of gold silk was made for the coronation of King George V in 1911 and was worn by King George VI in May 1937 and the late Queen in 1953.

It is placed over the Colobium sindonis for the investiture.

Both garments are removed before the procession out of the Abbey.

The Supertunica is inspired by the vestments of the early Church and the Byzantine Empire and is adorned with the national symbols of the home nations.

The Supertunica is worn under the Imperial Mantle. Both garments are in the Royal Collection and are on public display at the Tower of London.

The belt that goes with the Supertunica is called the Girdle.

The Prince of Wales then presented the Stole Royal, which is a thin strip of gold and embroidered fabric that goes over the Supertunica.

Those garments were put on the King, Stole Royal then the Robe Royal.

The Archbishop said:

RECEIVE this Robe: may the Lord clothe you with the robe of righteousness, and with the garments of salvation.

The Anglican Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland and Metropolitan presented the Orb, which was banded with a cross on top, signifying Christ’s reign over the world. The Archbishop said:

RECEIVE this Orb, set under the Cross, and remember always that the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our God, and of his Christ.

The King touched the Orb, then it was returned to the altar.

Lord Patel brought the Ring to the King, who touched it. Normally, the monarch would wear it at least for the duration of the ceremony.

The Arbishop said:

RECEIVE this Ring, symbol of kingly dignity and a sign of the covenant sworn this day, between God and King, King and people.

It seems Charles has felt self-conscious about the size of his fingers, which has led to speculation about his health:

According to research that GB News compiled, even the Royal Family noticed his fingers:

Prince William reportedly said he wished his “sausage fingers” father would stop writing so many letters so he could spend more time with his grandchildren.

Queen Elizabeth II also commented on her eldest son’s hands.

The late monarch supposedly wrote a letter to her music teacher after his birth in 1948.

It said: “They are rather large, but with fine long fingers quite unlike mine and certainly unlike his father’s.

“It will be interesting to see what they become.”

Howard Hodgson’s book The Man Who Will Be King claimed King Charles even said: “He [Prince William] really does look surprisingly appetising and has sausage fingers just like mine.”

The monarch also used the phrase himself when he was the Prince of Wales after a long haul flight to Australia in 2012

Temporary fluid retention, a sudden change in temperature, high blood pressure and arthritis could all explain his puffier hands.

It is not known what causes Charles’ “sausage fingers” but the symptom is also linked to the secondary disease of Dactylitis.

Dactylitis can be caused by a number of conditions and infections, including psoriatic arthritis.

Dactylitis is the medical term for severe swelling that affects your fingers or toes.

The word derives from the Greek word dactylos meaning finger.

It is an inflammatory disease. But I digress.

Lord Singh of Wimbledon brought the Glove, which the King put on his right hand.

The Archbishop said:

RECEIVE this Glove, that you may hold authority with gentleness and grace; trusting not in your own power but in the mercy of God.

Then came the two sceptres, the Sceptre with Cross and the Sceptre with Dove, presented by the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Archbishop of Wales.

The Archbishop placed one sceptre in the King’s right hand and the other in his left, saying:

RECEIVE the Royal Sceptre, the ensign of kingly power and justice; and the Rod of equity and mercy, a symbol of covenant and peace. May the Spirit of the Lord who anointed Jesus at his baptism, so anoint you this day, that you might exercise authority with wisdom, and direct your counsels with grace; that by your service and ministry to all your people, justice and mercy may be seen in all the earth.

Then came the literal crowning moment.

Everyone stood but the King remained seated so that the Archbishop could place the crown on his head. Before doing so, the Archbishop prayed:

KING of kings and Lord of lords, bless, we beseech thee, this Crown, and so sanctify thy servant Charles, upon whose head this day thou dost place it for a sign of royal majesty, that he may be crowned with thy gracious favour and filled with abundant grace and all princely virtues; through him who liveth and reigneth supreme over all things, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Archbishop placed the crown on the King’s head. It looked as if he were screwing it on. I felt sorry for both of them:

After doing so, he said:

God save The King.

The congregation responded likewise with the same proclamation.

While the Coronation Brass Ensemble played a fanfare, bells rang from the Abbey, the signal for the military gun salutes in Horseguards Parade and at the Tower of London. The signal was duly relayed to other parts of the United Kingdom as well as Gibraltar, Bermuda and ships at sea, where gun salutes also took place:

At this point, the other Christian clergy offered their individual blessings to the King. This was a new insertion, as non-Anglican and non-Presbyterian Christian clergy were not allowed to participate in previous coronations since the establishment of the Church of England.

The choir sang during thist ime.

The Enthroning and the Homage

In this part, the Archbishop and the Prince of Wales pledged their loyalty to the King.

Normally, the hereditary peers would have joined the Prince of Wales, but Charles chose to leave them out. It probably would have been awkward if he had included them, because the obvious question would have been why Princes Harry and Andrew did not pledge their liege to him.

It began with the Archbishop who initially stood to say:

STAND firm, and hold fast from henceforth this seat of royal dignity, which is yours by the authority of Almighty God. May that same God, whose throne endures for ever, establish your throne in righteousness, that it may stand fast for evermore.

He then knelt before the King:

I, Justin, Archbishop of Canterbury, will be faithful and true, and faith and truth I will bear unto you, our Sovereign Lord, Defender of the Faith; and unto your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.

The Prince of Wales followed the Archbishop, kneeling:

I, William, Prince of Wales, pledge my loyalty to you, and faith and truth I will bear unto you, as your liege man of life and limb. So help me God.

That was a really moving part of the service, seeing father and son look into each other’s eyes afterwards:

Then the Archbishop, in yet another first, opened the oath up to audience participation, as it were:

I now invite those who wish to offer their support to do so, with a moment of private reflection, by joining in saying ‘God save King Charles’ at the end, or, for those with the words before them, to recite them in full.

Anyone present — or at home or wherever they were watching — could say:

I swear that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.

That part was rather controversial. Some people thought it was a great move, while others thought it presumptuous:

Historian Dr David Starkey, commentating for GB News, was deeply unhappy:

The act itself was not met with a “roar”, according to royal historian Dr David Starkey, who says the muted reaction exposes a sign of poor judgment from the monarchy.

Speaking on GB News, Starkey told royal correspondent Cameron Walker that King Charles did not receive the adulation he would have wanted during the act …

“In England, ordinary people don’t do pledges of allegiance. The old aristocracy would have been totally happy, because that is what they did.

“It is the problem when you decide to put tradition in a waste paper basket”

Lambeth Palace confirmed it had been mutually agreed with Buckingham Palace that the introductory words would be changed.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was to say: “I call upon all persons of goodwill in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of the other realms and the territories to make their homage, in heart and voice, to their undoubted King, defender of all.”

All those who wished the pledge their allegiance were invited to reply: “I swear that I will pay true allegiance to your majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.”

That said:

Starkey went on to praise the ceremony, describing it as an “absolutely traditional” occasion, and the late Queen Elizabeth II’s fingerprints were all over it.

“We had extraordinary references to the late Queen”, he said. “Her words framed everything. The notion of service and what she said about the function of the Church of England.

“She even framed the Coronation oath and its Protestantism.”

Another fanfare sounded and the Archbishop said:

God save The King.

The congregation responded:

God save King Charles. Long live King Charles. May The King live for ever.

That part concluded. It represented the unwritten contract between the King and his people.

The Coronation of the Queen

Although it was not broadcast on television, the Queen Consort was anointed in the open with the same holy oil used for the King.

This was another first.

On April 29, The Telegraph reported:

It is thought to be the first time a consort has been anointed in public view.

By contrast, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was anointed under a canopy in 1937.

When the Archbishop anointed Camilla, he said:

Be your head anointed with holy oil.

ALMIGHTY God, the fountain of all goodness; hear our prayer this day for thy servant Camilla, whom in thy name, and with all devotion, we consecrate our Queen; make her strong in faith and love, defend her on every side, and guide her in truth and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

The Keeper of the Jewel House brought forth the Queen’s Ring. For whatever reason, Camilla touched only the velvet mount on which it was sitting.

The Archbishop said:

RECEIVE this Ring, a symbol of royal dignity and a sign of the covenant sworn this day.

The Crown was brought from the altar. The Archbishop placed it on her head, again having a bit of a time with the heavy crown, which was Queen Mary’s, George V’s wife. Camilla said something about adjusting it, so he did:

He said:

MAY thy servant Camilla, who wears this crown, be filled by thine abundant grace and with all princely virtues; reign in her heart, O King of love, that, being certain of thy protection, she may be crowned with thy gracious favour; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Afterwards, the new Queen adjusted her fringe underneath the crown which proved a bit trying.

She received the Sceptre and Rod from the former Bishop of London, the Right Revd Richard Chartres, and the Bishop of Dover, the Right Revd Rose Wilkin, formerly the Chaplain to the House of Commons:

The Archbishop said:

RECEIVE the Royal Sceptre. Receive the Rod of equity and mercy. May the Spirit guide you in wisdom and grace, that, by your service and ministry, justice and mercy may be seen in all the earth.

With that, the Queen was enthroned. In accordance with the King’s wishes, she is no longer officially known as the Queen Consort but the Queen:

A new piece of music played. It sounded dignified but had shades of a show tune here and there. It turns out that the King had commissioned Andrew Lloyd Webber, present in the congregation, to write a song for the coronation.

The lyrics are based on Psalm 98:

MAKE a joyful noise unto the Lord for he hath done marvellous things. And his holy arm hath gotten him the victory. He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. O make a joyful noise unto the Lord all the earth. Make a loud noise; rejoice and sing his praise. Let the sea roar, the world and they that dwell within. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all the earth. Rejoice and sing his praise. For he cometh to judge the earth. And with righteousness shall he judge the world and the people with equity. O make a joyful noise unto the Lord all the earth. Sing unto the Lord with the harp and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord the King.

Holy Communion

During the Andrew Lloyd Webber melody, the King and Queen went to the vestry or another private room to divest themselves of their outer coronation garments and crowns then returned to the area near the altar.

Using the 1662 liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer, the Archbishop then consecrated bread and wine for the King and Queen. Holy Communion must be given to the monarch and his spouse during a coronation ceremony.

While they received Communion, the choir sang a new arrangement for the Agnus Dei. This was also specially commissioned for the coronation and was written by Tarik O’Regan, born in 1978.


After Communion came the final blessing, the benediction.

The congregation sang Praise my soul, the King of heaven:

PRAISE, my soul, the King of heaven; to his feet thy tribute bring. Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, who like me his praise should sing? Praise him! Praise him! Praise the everlasting King.

Praise him for his grace and favour to our fathers in distress; praise him still the same for ever, slow to chide, and swift to bless. Praise him! Praise him! glorious in his faithfulness.

Father-like, he tends and spares us; well our feeble frame he knows; in his hands he gently bears us, rescues us from all our foes. Praise him! Praise him! widely as his mercy flows.

Angels, help us to adore him; ye behold him face to face; sun and moon, bow down before him; dwellers all in time and space. Praise him! Praise him! Praise with us the God of grace.

The King and Queen returned to whatever private rooms they were in to put on their ceremonial Robes of Estate, neither of which is new.

The Telegraph tells us:

In keeping with tradition, Charles and Camilla will each wear two different robes – a crimson Robe of State on arrival and a purple Robe of Estate at the end of the service.

The King will wear his grandfather George VI’s Robes of State and Estate from the 1937 Coronation, which are almost 90 years old and have been conserved and prepared for the occasion.

Embroiderers from the Royal School of Needlework have been working on the crimson velvet, with robemakers Ede & Ravenscroft working on the lining and gold lace.

The Queen will wear her late mother-in-law’s crimson Robe of State, which was made for her 1953 Coronation. The robe has been conserved with adjustments and has a train of 5.5m. The original brief was for a “hand-made velvet robe, trimmed with best-quality Canadian ermine and gold lace”.

The robe is also known as the Parliament Robe as it is worn for the State Opening of Parliament.

It took a long time for the King and Queen to re-emerge for their lengthy procession from the Abbey back to Buckingham Palace. As such, more music played.

Finally, a fanfare sounded and they appeared. Everyone sang the National Anthem. Penny Mordaunt was in front, carrying the sword. Prince George is the last page in the back on our left, on the King’s right hand side:

Procession of the King and Queen

A long recessional procession took place, which included members of the Royal Family who had been sitting in the pews.

When the King reached the entrance to the Abbey, he paused to receive greetings from the leaders of non-Christian faiths. They said in unison:

YOUR Majesty, as neighbours in faith, we acknowledge the value of public service. We unite with people of all faiths and beliefs in thanksgiving, and in service with you for the common good.

The King then paused for greetings from Governors-General of the Commonwealth.

It was 1 p.m.

The Abbey’s bells pealed beautifully and continued for at least another hour, possibly longer.

Ready to climb into the Gold State Coach, the King handed his sceptre to an aide and got ready for the procession back to Buckingham Palace. The aide carefully mounted the orb in the coach between him and Queen Camilla once they were seated.

The newly crowned couple were on their way to a new phase of their lives together:

More tomorrow soon on the après-coronation, including what happened outside the Abbey, the procession back to Buckingham Palace, the balcony appearance and the flypast.


Thankfully, I was wrong.

King Charles III’s coronation on Saturday, May 6, 2023, was much better than I had anticipated last Friday.

The state of the UK today

It is important to note the backdrop against which the coronation took place.

We have a Hindu Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak), a Muslim Mayor of London (Sadiq Khan), a Muslim First Minister of Scotland (Humza Yousaf), a Buddhist Home Secretary (Suella Braverman) and a Chancellor (Jeremy Hunt) with a Chinese wife.

This was not the Britain of June 4, 1953, the date of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

The coronation emblem

The coronation emblem recognised the plant symbols of the four nations: England, Wales, Scotland — which comprise Great Britain — and Northern Ireland:

Coronation video

Here is GB News’s video of the day’s events, from 10:00 a.m. to the flypast mid-afternoon:

Religious ceremony

Most Britons were not alive when the last coronation took place and might have been unaware how religious it is.

As historian Dr David Starkey explained on GB News on April 15, the ceremony is a Christian one:

It involves a covenant between God and the monarch, which is why the King and those before him, are anointed outside of public view.

The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury presides over the service and, in accordance with tradition, the Presbyterian Moderator of the Church of Scotland presented the monarch with a new Bible. Charles received a gilt-edged edition of the King James Version bound in red leather.

In a first, after his anointing by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the King received blessings from other Christian prelates, as The Telegraph reported on April 30:

They will have their own ecumenical procession and then, after the King is crowned, there will be a series of blessings, bookended by the two Anglican primates, the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Four others – the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Thyateira & Great Britain, Nikitas Loulias, plus the Moderator of the Free Churches and the General Secretary of Churches Together in England will between them utter about 90 words amid the thousands upon thousands uttered by Anglican clerics.

In a nod to other world faiths, the King received greetings from their leaders in Britain as he exited Westminster Abbey at the end of the ceremony:

Canon law of the Church of England, which prohibits other faiths saying prayers, has been adhered to.

Rishi Sunak read the Epistle very well, looking at the text only occasionally (emphases mine below):

The most notable involvement of a non-Christian is the Hindu Rishi Sunak, reading the Epistle, but he takes his place by reason of his office: it has become traditional for the Prime Minister to read a lesson at a Church-meets-state-meets-Crown occasion, as Liz Truss did at the late Queen’s funeral.

Here’s the video:

The Times said that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Right Revd Justin Welby, chose the reading from St Paul to the Colossians for its emphasis on the rule of Christ and the joy we find in it:

Selected by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Epistle to the Colossians proclaims the loving rule of Christ over all people and all things and takes its name from the Christian community in Colossae (now a part of Turkey).

Colossae was one of the first churches to be established after the resurrection of Jesus. Sunak was asked to read to reflect modern customs of leaders of countries speaking at state events.

… “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.”

The reading tied in well with the King’s specially composed prayer that preceded it:

God of compassion and mercy

whose Son was sent not to be served but to serve,

give grace that I may find in thy service perfect freedom and in that freedom knowledge of thy truth.

Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and conviction, that together we may discover the ways of gentleness

and be led into the paths of peace.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.


The theme of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon focused on service, acknowleging the 400 charity workers who were watching on livestream in the Church of St Margaret next to Westminster Abbey.

I will return to the service itself later in the post.

Another rainy Coronation Day

The weather was only slightly warmer than it was when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned.

However, it was rainy on both days:

In fact, rain has been a feature of the last several coronations.

My late mother believed that rain meant good luck. It rained on my wedding day. Here I am over 30 years later, still married. The rain was a blessing. May it be so for Charles III as it was for his mother.

High security

Security was at its highest on Coronation Day.

Only days before, the House of Commons passed new laws enabling police with greater powers of arrest. To their credit, London’s Metropolitan Police used them in pre-empting possible violence.

On Tuesday evening, May 2, GB News broadcast some programmes in a small studio adjacent to Buckingham Palace. Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg’s programme was interrupted by a small controlled explosion that evening while he was talking with the former BBC Royal reporter Michael Cole:

Guido Fawkes explained (red emphasis his):

… the entire crew were forced to evacuate their perch outside Buckingham Palace while police used controlled explosives on suspicious objects – now thought to be shotgun cartridges – thrown over the Palace gates. The detonation can be heard live on-air as Mogg speaks. “I think that was probably a controlled explosion in the background…”

Rees-Mogg and Cole were remarkably composed throughout.

Dan Wootton, who had arrived at the channel’s Paddington studios early, took over from there.

The procession to Westminster Abbey

Charles and Camilla’s procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey was shorter than his mother’s was. The Government, who largely directed the coronation as the taxpayer footed the bill, decided that a shorter route would cost less money with regard to security:

The Duke of Norfolk as Earl Marshal planned the sequence of events, working with the military and clergy as required.

His ancestor, who presided over the late Queen’s coronation, did a flawless job. The Dukes of Norfolk, whilst Catholic, have planned Royal state events for generations.

Two glitches

However, there are some things even the current Duke could not control.

Charles and Camilla, riding in the Diamond Jubilee Coach — designed by Rolls Royce, incidentally — arrived at the Abbey five minutes early.

The King had one of his moments, visible in this video:

The carriage doors remained closed for several minutes.

We later discovered that the Prince and Princess of Wales and their two children — Prince George was already at the Abbey as a page — were running late. Somehow, they seamlessly appeared inside the Abbey. This is the magic of planning and part of the genius of the Dukes of Norfolk who have planned these events for generations.

That said, as the King and Queen Consort had arrived early, their carriage doors remained closed until the appointed moment.

Then Camilla’s attendants and pages had some difficulty holding up her robe and the train on her dress, something that did not happen at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation:

Guests’ arrival

The doors to Westminster Abbey opened early, as is customary for Royal occasions.

The Royal couple expected 2200 guests. The Duke of Norfolk would have assigned arrival times to each group. The first group had to arrive at 7:30 a.m. All guests were expected to stay seated as the other groups continued to arrive.

For the first time, the King invited Royal families from around the world. This did not happen previously because other monarchs considered the coronation to be a pact not only with God but also with the British people. Therefore, no outsiders.

Generally speaking, the guests arrive in order of station, with lesser folk arriving first and the greatest — the King and Queen — arriving last.

Jill Biden and her step-granddaughter Finnegan Biden arrived at 9:39. They were seated in a back row of pews. It looks as if Mrs Zelenskyy might be sitting to her left, but I’m not sure:

Prince Andrew got booed as his car was driven down The Mall to the Abbey:

Former Prime Ministers arrived next, around 10:20. John Major and Tony Blair are wearing their Order of the Garter chains and brooches:

Rishi Sunak and his wife followed them:

Royals from around the world arrived afterwards.

Prince Harry, Prince Andrew and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, who arrived with their husbands, reached the Abbey around 10:45, just ahead of the King and Queen. If they had been on time, the Wales family would have arrived in between.

One of the husbands — Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi? — spoke to Harry and the two shared a short but pleasant conversation before Mapelli Mozzi joined his wife to walk down the aisle:

So, Harry was not completely ‘all alone’, as some media outlets reported, although he was as he walked to his seat. Admittedly, it was an awkward moment for him:

Princess Anne, who probably arrived after Harry, Andrew, Eugenie and Beatrice, wore the cloak of Scotland’s Order of the Thistle, which is a deep green velvet. She wore a tall red plume in her ceremonial hat and was seated in front of Harry, obliterating him from view. A coincidence or not? We might never know.

Music played from 7:30 a.m. until the end of the ceremony, so it ended some time after 1 p.m.:

Order of Service

The ceremony began at 11:00 a.m.

Excerpts from The Telegraph‘s Order of Service follow.


The music came from several ensembles:

The service is sung by the Choirs of Westminster Abbey and His Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace (Director of Music: Joseph McHardy), with choristers from Methodist College, Belfast (Director of Music: Ruth McCartney), and Truro Cathedral Choir (Director of Music until April 2023: Christopher Gray), and an octet from the Monteverdi Choir.

The music during the service is directed by Andrew Nethsingha, Organist and Master of the Choristers, Westminster Abbey.

The organ is played by Peter Holder, Sub-Organist, Westminster Abbey. 

The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists are conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner CBE.

The Coronation Orchestra is conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano.

The State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry are led by Trumpet Major Julian Sandford.

The Fanfare Trumpeters of the Royal Air Force are conducted by Wing Commander Piers Morrell OBE MVO, Principal Director of Music, Royal Air Force.

The fanfares at The Recognition and The Homage were composed for this service by Dr Christopher Robinson CVO CBE.

The King’s Scholars of Westminster School are directed by Tim Garrard, Director of Music.

The Ascension Choir is directed by Abimbola Amoako-Gyampah.

The Byzantine Chant Ensemble is directed by Dr Alexander Lingas.

The Coronation Brass Ensemble is conducted by Paul Wynne Griffiths.

The Order of Service provides more detail with regard to what was played and by which group.

Procession of faith leaders and representatives and Commonwealth countries

Just before 11:00 a.m., the Abbey’s verger led the procession of faith leaders and representatives, beginning with the non-Christian faiths.

Christian leaders then followed, beginning with the group from Wales, followed by Scotland and Northern Ireland and ending with clergy from England.

They were followed by representatives from the 15 countries over which King Charles is sovereign, i.e. the realms. The Order of Service has the complete list.

The King’s Procession

At 11:00, a fanfare sounded, signalling the arrival of Charles and Camilla.

They were led down the aisle by Anglican clergy, followed by the various Pursuivants of Arms, then the Orders of Chivalry and Gallantry Award Holders.

After them came the Heralds of Arms, some of whom bore the items of regalia presented to the King later on.

The Queen Consort and her entourage followed.

The King and those attending him were the last in the procession.

Penny Mordaunt

Among the Heralds of Arms was the Conservative Leader of the House, Penny Mordaunt MP, who is also Lord President of the Privy Council. In her position as Lord President of the Council, she carried the Sword of State, which is large and heavy.

Some years earlier, she had appeared in a reality television series, Splash!, hence the aquatic references in this tweet:

Penny Mordaunt, a Royal Navy reservist, was certainly one of the stars of the show. Even Labour MPs tweeted their admiration for her handling of the sword.

The Telegraph has another photo of her carrying it and this report:

Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt has emerged as the quiet star of the Coronation ceremony – one that nobody saw coming …

For the ceremony, Mordaunt was required to carry the 17th-Century Sword of State into the Abbey in the King’s Procession, and continue to hold it aloft for much of the service – specifically at right angles to her body. The sword, decorated with royal symbols including the lion and union and fleur de lis, is also used during the state opening of Parliament.

Given its 4ft length and 8lb weight, this is no mean feat, as evidenced by her shaking arms, when she handed the historic weapon to King Charles. She had prepared for the moment though: “It’s drawing on all of my military drill experience,” she told Politico, prior to the event. The preparation paid off: Mordaunt performed the ceremonial role with such aplomb that her name was trending on Twitter. Labour MP Emily Thornberry tweeted: “Got to say it, @PennyMordaunt looks damn fine! The sword bearer steals the show.”

Mordaunt was the first woman to carry out this high profile role in a Coronation ceremony

Her wardrobe represented a break from tradition too. Instead of the black and gold attire worn by the Marquess of Salisbury at the late Queen’s Coronation in 1953, she commissioned a new garment for the occasion that was rich with meaning.

It was an inspired decision. Mordaunt’s cape dress was by London-based label Safiyaa; a bespoke piece in a deep teal hue described as “Poseidon”, in honour of her Portsmouth constituency.

The look was completed by a bandeau-style hat by milliner Jane Taylor, who is a go-to for the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Edinburgh [Prince Edward’s wife Sophie], and black ballet-style flat pumps, later switched to beige court shoes for her part in the ceremony.

The gold embroidery on Mordaunt’s cape and headpiece is by 250-year-old embroidery house Hand and Lock, which also embroiders the Royal cyphers. The fern design is a nod to the Privy Council uniform motif, adapted and “feminised” for the garment.

The look was modern and elegant, with just the right degree of traditional craftsmanship. Evidently, symbolic dressing is not a skill unique to the Royal family.

Mordaunt told Politico last week that she “felt it wasn’t right” to wear the same attire as Salisbury. Instead, she said that she wanted “to come up with something that is modern and will give a firm nod to the heritage” of the occasion.

Saturday’s well judged look follows her historic role in September, as the first woman to lead the accession council ceremony of the King at St James’s Palace.

The ceremony

When the processions were nearing their end and as the Queen Consort and King approached their chairs, the choir sang the now-traditional I Was Glad, which Hubert Parry composed for the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902. It is based on Psalm 122:1-3, 6-7:

I WAS glad when they said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand in thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city, that is at unity in itself. Vivat Regina Camilla! Vivat! Vivat Rex Carolus! Vivat! O pray for the peace of Jerusalem, They shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and plenteousness within thy palaces.

Having reached their places and still standing, Samuel Strachan, Child of His Majesty’s Chapel Royal, addressed The King:

YOUR Majesty, as children of the kingdom of God we welcome you in the name of the King of kings.

The King replied:

In his name and after his example I come not to be served but to serve.

The Archbishop of Canterbury then opened the service:

DEARLY beloved, we are gathered to offer worship and praise to Almighty God; to celebrate the life of our nations; to pray for Charles, our King; to recognise and to give thanks for his life of service to this Nation, the Realms, and the Commonwealth; and to witness with joy his anointing and crowning, his being set apart and consecrated for the service of his people. Let us dedicate ourselves alike, in body, mind, and spirit, to a renewed faith, a joyful hope, and a commitment to serve one another in love.

The Kyrie eleison came next, sung by Wales’s Sir Bryn Terfel CBE to an arrangement for the coronation written by Paul Mealor, born in 1975:

ARGLWYDD, trugarhâ, Crist, trugarhâ. Arglwydd, trugarhâ. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

The Recognition followed, which involved the King standing to the four directions of the Abbey — north, south, east and west — with a presentation acclamation for each, to which the congregation responded, ‘God save King Charles’. Fanfares sounded throughout.

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, The Right Reverend Dr Iain Greenshields, presented the King with the aforementioned Bible and said:

SIR, to keep you ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes, receive this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; this is the royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God.

The Archbishop of Canterbury asked whether the King was willing to take his oaths, read out one by one with an affirmative response.

The first two are as follows:

YOUR Majesty, the Church established by law, whose settlement you will swear to maintain, is committed to the true profession of the Gospel, and, in so doing, will seek to foster an environment in which people of all faiths and beliefs may live freely. The Coronation Oath has stood for centuries and is enshrined in law.

WILL you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, your other Realms and the Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?

This is the third:

WILL you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England?

After affirming that he agreed to the oaths, the King placed his hand on the Bible, saying:

The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me God.

He kissed the Bible.

Then came the statutory Accession Declaration Oath, which the King took:

I CHARLES do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law.

He then signed copies of the oaths — no problems with the pen unlike at his Accession ceremony — and the choir sang William Byrd’s 16th composition to these words from the Book of Common Prayer:

PREVENT us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy name, and finally by thy mercy obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Afterwards, the King knelt and said:

GOD of compassion and mercy whose Son was sent not to be served but to serve, give grace that I may find in thy service perfect freedom and in that freedom knowledge of thy truth. Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and belief, that together we may discover the ways of gentleness and be led into the paths of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The choir sang the Gloria to another William Byrd arrangement, this one from the Mass for Four Voices.

Rishi Sunak read Colossians 1:9-17:

FOR this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

The Right Revd Sarah Mullally DBE, the Bishop of London and the Dean of His Majesty’s Chapels Royal read the Gospel, Luke 4:16-21:

JESUS came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, ‘this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.’

A gospel choir, the Ascension Choir, sang an Alleluia based on Psalm 47:6-7a. The arrangement was composed for the coronation:

ALLELUIA, Alleluia! O sing praises, sing praises unto our God; O sing praises, sing praises unto our King. For God is the King of all the earth. Alleluia, alleluia!

The Anointing followed, with the choir singing in English, Welsh, Gaelic, and Irish.

A three-part Anointing Screen appeared in order for the King to be hidden from the public. Several Army officers in dress uniform from the Household Division held the three parts in place.

The King was divested of his Robe of State in order that he make the sacred covenant between God and himself. He sat in the ancient Coronation Chair, under which was the Stone of Scone (pron. ‘Scoon’), on loan from Scotland.

The choir sang Handel’s Zadok the Priest, originally composed for George II’s coronation in 1727. The work became very popular in a short space of time. Handel made it part of another opus of his as a result. It is based on 1 Kings 1:39-40:

ZADOK the priest, and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king; and all the people rejoiced, and said: God save the king. Long live the king. May the king live for ever. Hallelujah. Amen

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury made the Sign of the Cross in holy oil from Jerusalem on the palms of the King’s hands:

Be your hands anointed with holy oil.

He did the same on the King’s breast and on the crown of his head, using similar wording.

He finished as follows:

And as Solomon was anointed king by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, so may you be anointed, blessed, and consecrated King over the peoples, whom the Lord your God has given you to rule and govern; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When the Anointing Screen was removed, the Archbishop prayed:

OUR Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who by his Father was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, by his holy anointing pour down upon your head and heart the blessing of the Holy Spirit, and prosper the works of your hands: that by the assistance of his heavenly grace you may govern and preserve the peoples committed to your charge in wealth, peace, and godliness; and after a long and glorious course of ruling a temporal kingdom wisely, justly, and religiously, you may at last be made partaker of an eternal kingdom; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The King rose to be vested in special coronation clothes — the Colobium Sindonis, Supertunica, and Girdlefor his investiture and crowning.

At this point, he was presented by separate participants with his symbols of office while the Byzantine Chant Ensemble sang. Their hymn was a nod to Prince Philip, who had been brought up in the Orthodox Church.

To be continued tomorrow.

Traditionalist doubts about the wisdom of King Charles’s plans for his coronation on May 6 are increasing.

Religious aspect

As I remember, in his accession oath last year, the King pledged to be the Defender of the Faith, instead of Defender of Faiths, as he had wished to say so many years ago.

However, on April 8, 2023, The Mail reported that the King was at loggerheads with senior Anglican clergy over the role that other faith leaders could play in his coronation (emphases mine):

It is already expected that the Coronation will be more religiously and culturally diverse than the late Queen’s 1953 service.

But The Mail on Sunday has been told that Church leaders are resisting a more active role for other faith leaders, given that it is an Anglican ceremony, as well as a constitutional event.

A compromise option could be for the King to hold a separate ceremony at which other faith leaders would play an active role.

In a joint message last month, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who will officiate at the ceremony, and Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell said the Coronation ‘at its centre is a Christian service… rooted in long-standing tradition and Christian symbolism’.

According to a source, a meeting held at Lambeth Palace last month heard that the drafting of the order of service was led by Archbishop Welby and ‘conducted with scrupulous regard for the range of opinion among Anglican clergy’ …

The Archbishop is also understood to be giving the King ‘religious guidance’ on the significance of his oath, the commitments he will make to his subjects and the Christian symbolism of the regalia

The King, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, is required by the Bill of Rights Act 1688, modified by the Accession Declaration Act of 1910, to declare at either his Coronation or at the first State Opening of Parliament that he is a ‘faithful Protestant’ and will ‘secure the Protestant succession’. 

In addition, the Coronation Oath Act of 1688 requires the King to declare he will maintain the established Anglican Protestant Church.

One source said Church laws meant that the participation of non-Christian faith leaders should be restricted to them just being present in Westminster Abbey and taking part in the procession.

On April 19, UnHerd posted an article urging the King to proceed with the traditional ceremony, ‘We non-Christians don’t need a “multi-faith” coronation’:

The coronation is, in formal terms, a solely religious ceremony. No legal power depends on being anointed. Despite concerns over the erosion of the religiosity of the coronation, the fact remains that placing oil blessed in Jerusalem on a monarch in imitation of the anointing of David, Solomon, and Christ is about as Christian as a ritual as can be. Indeed, just today it has been reported that the coronation procession will be headed by a cross made out of supposed relics from the cross on which Christ was crucified …

… Those of us who are not Christians are perfectly capable of appreciating the coronation on its own terms, without modification. While the meaning of the coronation is undoubtedly different for those of us who lack a relationship with Jesus, it is meaningful nonetheless. 

… Much of its significance comes from the fact that the King, obviously an Anglican, takes it seriously. By elevating the obligation to govern according to law into a perceived divine commandment, the coronation oath impresses upon the head of state the seriousness of their duty.

On December 24, 2022, The Express summarised the anointing ceremony, which is traditionally done under a golden canopy away from public view. The monarch removes his garb to don a simple white linen shirt to receive the oil from Jerusalem:

King Charles will be anointed with holy oil, receive the orb, coronation ring and sceptre, and be crowned with St Edward’s Crown, which was made for Charles II in 1661.

Afterwards, the canopy is lifted and the monarch reappears in full regalia.

Alleged invitation snubs

The aforementioned Mail article reported on likely snubs to nobles on Coronation Day:

Only about 2,000 guests and dignitaries are set to be invited – including more than 850 community and charity heroes – compared with the 8,000-plus peers and commoners who witnessed the 1953 ceremony …

However, disappointed MPs and peers can apply for up to 400 ‘pavement tickets’ to watch from outside the Commons as the procession passes to and from Westminster Abbey.

Lady Pamela Hicks

One of those snubbed, according to her daughter India, is Lady Pamela Hicks, herself related to the Royal Family and one of the late Queen’s ladies-in-waiting of long standing.

On April 19, The Mail reported:

She may have been in the shadow of Queen Elizabeth as her lady-in-waiting, but Lady Pamela Hicks has had a glittering life of her own as a relative of the royals.

The 94-year-old has experienced adventure, immense privilege but also tragedy, including the assassination of her father Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Moving in the Queen’s inner circles, she shared intimate moments with the Princess before she became monarch – being there to comfort her when she was informed of her father’s death and acting as a bridesmaid at her glamorous wedding.

Since the Queen’s death, Lady Pamela has become the oldest living descendant of Queen Victoria, but it was revealed today has failed to receive an invitation to the Coronation of King Charles next month due to a guestlist based on ‘meritocracy not aristocracy’.

Lady Pamela was born five weeks early while her parents were on holiday in Morocco and Spain:

Born Lady Pamela Mountbatten, her unexpected and exciting arrival in 1929 was the start of her whirlwind life.

Her parents, Edwina Ashley and Lord Louis Mountbatten, had been on holiday in Algeciras and Morocco where Edwina had ridden a donkey while heavily pregnant.

Pamela was then born five weeks early at The Ritz Hotel in Barcelona which King Alfonso XIII had surrounded by the Royal Guard who arrested a doctor entering the hotel with equipment to help deliver the baby.

In her podcast, Pamela revealed that her parents ‘lost their minds for a moment’ and considered calling her Ritzy because of her place of birth.

Her father Lord Mountbatten was Prince Philip’s uncle – the younger brother of his mother Princess Alice of Battenburg – and Pamela became his first cousin. 

She was the younger of two children, with her older sister Patricia Knatchbull later inheriting the title of 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma. 

Pamela and Patricia also spent much of their young lives with sisters the Queen and Princess Margaret

After the abdication of Edward VIII and the crowning of their father as King, Pamela wrote in her diary: ‘Poor Lilibet and Margaret. They’ve got to go and live in Buckingham Palace.’

The article details Hicks’s life, which was interwoven with the Queen’s. Hicks was the widow of the famous British interior designer David Hicks, who died in 1998. They had three daughters.

India is her mother’s spokeswoman and announced that the Coronation Day invitation would not be forthcoming. Apparently, there are no hard feelings:

After the Queen’s funeral last year, India said her mother hoped to be one of the few people to have attended three coronations by attending the Coronation of King Charles III.

But she was informed on her 94th birthday that she had failed to receive an invitation to the ceremony which was to have a much smaller guestlist than that of the Queen’s in 1953.

‘One of the King’s personal secretaries was passing on a message from the King,’ her daughter India shared on social media.

‘The King was sending his great love and apologies, he was offending many family and friends with the reduced [guest] list.’

The palace official ‘explained that this Coronation was to be very different to the Queen’s’ in 1953, when thousands more squeezed into the Abbey.

‘Eight thousand guests would be whittled down to 1,000, alleviating the burden on the state.’

India, who is a goddaughter of King Charles and was a bridesmaid when he married Lady Diana Spencer, insists: ‘My mother was not offended at all.

”How very, very sensible,’ she said. Invitations based on meritocracy not aristocracy. ‘I am going to follow with great interest the events of this new reign’.’

Non-royal dukes also snubbed

Allegedly, some hereditary dukes have also been left off the Coronation Day invitation list.

The Express gives us the rank of nobility titles:

The ‘duke’ title stands as the highest-ranking hereditary title out of the five peerages.

In order, it is followed by marquess, earl, viscount and baron.

The article, dated April 15, states:

The King has snubbed a number of dukes by not extending an invite to them for his Coronation, taking place in three weeks’ time. In line with King Charles’s long-expected plan to slim down the monarchy, not all members of nobility have been invited.

the Duke of Rutland and Duke of Somerset have not even received an invite, according to reports.

One Duke who will be attending is the Duke of Norfolk, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, who is also known as the Earl Marshal.

The Earl Marshal title means he is the highest ranking duke in the country – and is in charge of overseeing planning of the Coronation.

Richard Eden, of The Mail‘s Eden Confidential column, had more the day before, writing about the King’s:

… exclusion from the service in Westminster Abbey of most of the grandest aristocrats in the land, along with almost all their fellow hereditary peers. Even most of the 24 non-royal dukes – the most senior rank in the peerage – are not exempt from the cull …

Before going into more detail from the article, over 20 years ago The Spectator ran an informal series on how friendly and affable non-Royal dukes are. They are true gentlemen in every sense of the word, gracious to all, no matter whom.

It takes some doing to make them cross.

Now back to Eden Confidential and the dismay of the Duke of Rutland, head of the Manners family:

The Duke of Rutland, who lives in one wing of his 365-room family seat, Belvoir [pron. ‘Beaver’] Castle in Leicestershire, while his wife, Emma, lives in another, is one of the many dismayed and bewildered by their exclusion. ‘I have not been asked,’ he tells me, saying that he does ‘not really understand’ why. ‘It has been families like mine that have supported the Royal Family over 1,000 years or thereabouts,’ adds the Duke, who has two sons and three lively daughters, Lady Violet, Lady Alice and Lady Eliza Manners.

His own father, Charles, the 10th Duke, attended two coronations – Queen Elizabeth’s, at which, irked by a remark by Lord Mowbray about ‘upstart dukes’, he hid Mowbray’s coronet, and her father, George VI‘s, when the Manners family seemed to be everywhere. Charles and his younger brother, Lord John Manners, were Page of Honour to the Duke of Gloucester and Lord Ancaster, the Lord Great Chamberlain, respectively, while their mother was a canopy bearer for the Queen. Their father, John, the 9th Duke, ‘carried the orb in the procession into Westminster Abbey’, as Charles’s sister, Lady Ursula, later recalled.

This is what normally happens at a coronation after the anointing of the monarch — and what happened in 1953:

… not only did peers attend coronations, they were required to ‘give the kiss of homage and touch the Crown’ – a vestige of feudal allegiance to the monarch, for whom, it was implied, they would fight and, if necessary, die on the field of battle.

At Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, a royal duke, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, took off his coronet, ascended the steps of the throne, knelt before the Queen, placed his hands between hers and ‘pronounced his words of homage’. He was followed by two more royal dukes, the Dukes of Gloucester and Kent.

Then it was the turn of the senior peer of each ‘degree’ – the duke, marquess, earl, viscount and baron with the oldest titles. As they ‘paid homage in like manner’, their fellow peers of the respective ‘degree’, knelt in their places in the Abbey, removed their coronets, and also said their words of homage.

The Duke of Somerset was also ready to attend:

Perhaps the disappointment will be even more acute for the Duke of Somerset. ‘He was sprucing up the family state coach,’ a chum tells me, adding that the Duke had entertained the idea of arriving in the Abbey in it. ‘He thought he might be invited, even if not all the dukes were, because his is the second oldest dukedom after Norfolk’s.’

Alas, it appears that the Duke of Somerset, whose title was created in 1547, is among those who have been discarded. After explaining to me a few weeks ago that he didn’t want to comment at ‘this stage’, he now declines to say anything at all.

Viscount Hereford is another model of discretion:

Robin Devereux, 19th Viscount Hereford … as premier viscount, might have expected to ‘pay homage’ on behalf of his fellow viscounts. He, too, declines to comment, but has, apparently, taken his exclusion in good heart. ‘He says he’s still waiting for his invitation,’ I’m told. ‘But he’s not upset about it. He knows that this is a new era.’

What a mistake for the King to make.

Eden Confidential contacted Buckingham Palace, to no avail:

A Buckingham Palace spokesman declines to comment, but a royal source insists that ‘a good representation of non-royal dukes will be in attendance’.

OK! says that anyone snubbed might be invited to attend a reception on Friday, the day before the coronation:

… for those not in attendance at Westminster Abbey, it has been claimed that Buckingham Palace has added a special Friday “reception” to King Charles III’s Coronation weekend plans for a select group of individuals.

The Friday event is said to cater for a group of VIPs, some of which won’t have received an official invitation to the main event the following day.

It will be interesting to see who shows up.

Late April Royal anniversaries

The Mail enumerates the number of Royal anniversaries that occurred this week, complete with historic photos and news clippings.

Princess Grace of Monaco

The non-British event was the marriage of Grace Kelly to Prince Ranier in Monaco on April 18 (civil ceremony) and April 19 (wedding Mass) in 1956. She was 26 and he was 32. They spent the evening of April 18 apart as they were considered officially married only after Mass in St Devote Cathedral.

The Mail carried adverts for the home cook from Green’s: boxed Sponge Mixture and Carmelle custard powder.

Queen Elizabeth II’s birth

Our late Queen was born on April 21, 1926, in Bruton Street, Mayfair. She came into the world at 2:40 a.m. that day:

Then, her father, the future King George VI, was three years in to his marriage to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, and the pair were looking forward to a life largely out of the public spotlight. 

But the course of the tiny princess’s life would be changed forever a little over a decade later, when her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated in December 1936 so he could marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson … 

She was born at at 17 Bruton Street in London’s Mayfair in what was the year of the General Strike.

A bulletin was issued to the Press the following day. It read: ‘The Duchess of York has had some rest since this arrival of her daughter. 

‘Her Royal Highness and the infant Princess are making very satisfactory progress’ …

The Bruton Street home belonged to Elizabeth’s Scottish grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore.

Her mother and father had moved into the house only weeks before her birth.

The property and its surrounding homes were demolished in the late 1930s and replaced with an office complex. 

Today, a Chinese restaurant stands near where 17 Bruton Street once stood.

The Mail of April 22, 1926, carried a front page splash of photos of mother and baby.

Adverts run along the right-hand column. Hyreco Dog Soap promised to ‘give your dog a treat!’ As Whitsun (Pentecost) was approaching, Blakey Morris & Co. advertised ‘WALLPAPERS FOR WHITSUN DECORATION’.

Queen’s 21st birthday speech

In 1947, Princess Elizabeth delivered her 21st birthday speech on the wireless (radio) during a tour of South Africa with her parents and Princess Margaret. The BBC also filmed the message to the British Empire and Commonwealth nations:

I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

She certainly did fulfil that pledge.

She ended with this:

‘Let us say with Rupert Brooke: “Now God be thanked who has matched us with this hour”.

Seven months after the speech, the Princess married Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey.  

As Queen, Her Late Majesty would undertake more than 200 visits to Commonwealth countries, demonstrating her devotion to royal service.

Launch of the Royal Yacht Britannia

On April 16, 1953, just under two months before her coronation, the Queen launched the Royal Yacht Britannia in Clydebank, Dunbartonshire, with Prince Philip by her side:

The launch took place at the shipyard of John Brown & Co. Ltd …

… she told a huge crowd: ‘I name this ship Britannia. I wish success to her and to all who sail in her.’

Amid loud cheers, she then released a bottle of Empire Wine, which smashed on the side of the vessel.

A rendition of Rule Britannia then played as the ship entered open water. 

For the next 44 years, until the ship was retired by Tony Blair’s Labour government in 1997, the Queen would use the yacht both as a beloved refuge and for official overseas tours.

At 412ft long and weighing nearly 6,000 tons, at the time of her launch the Britannia was the largest yacht in the world.

During the summer, the ship would travel to the Cowes Week regatta of the Isle of Wight, and then for the Royal Family’s annual holiday at Balmoral in Scotland.

She also carried out 968 official voyages, sailing more than a million miles. 

An advert at the bottom of the Mail’s page with photos of the launch says, ‘I shave like a Prince with Personna Precision Blades’. Another advert is for Palmolive Brushless Shaving Cream: ‘NEW AFTER-SHAVE COMFORT FOR YOU OR YOUR MONEY BACK’.

Those were much happier days, in retrospect.

Will we look back 70 years from now and say that these were, too?

Since the coronavirus pandemic abated, being able to attend church every Sunday is a joy to millions of Christians who were locked out of their churches during the second quarter of 2020.

Three years on, and the memory of not being able to observe Easter, the greatest feast of the Church year, in our houses of worship, still evokes sharp and sad memories, as can be seen in one of the The Conservative Woman‘s Easter 2023 posts, ‘The Easter message of “Say no to lockdown”‘ and its many comments.

Here is but one exchange from the comments (emphases mine below).

The initial comment reads:

There can be no real healing in the church until the hierarchy admit closing their doors was an awful thing to do. A Light in the darkness? Not in March 2020 they weren’t. They were a particularly bad darkness because they should have offered Christians solace but instead they were a part of the machine.

They must publicly repent, promise it will never happen again and that like Pastor Artur Pawlowski [in Canada] they will all go to prison sooner than obey such unjust laws.

Of course they will do no such thing, any more than the Cabinet ministers of the time will admit to being wrong, because God is not their real master.

The reply reads:

Worse than that, they kept those doors closed tight at Easter. That was the biggest sin. It wasnt just one denomination either, it was all the churches. That put all congregations into isolation. There was nowhere to meet as the strict house arrest policy of the time ensured it ( no one could meet up with another – remember that?). Together with the police arresting people for trying to buy Easter Eggs or lipstick or even just wearing a skirt to go for a walk. (Edit, only if you were a woman though).

The worst was, of course that Bozo Bojo didn’t even order churches to close. They put themselves amongst the “Non-essential services”. The fat controller had, at the time, excluded them.

When I look around, it seems to me that it was that which killed Christianity. The locking of people out of the House of God and the isolating of people so that “Church” in any guise (defined as where two or more gather together, in my name, there will I be also) could not operate.
Jesus may have risen but from 2020 onwards, the church was well and truly crucified and buried. They no longer even seem to hold true to the faith.

(I note that mo ques did not close. They carried on it seems. Quietly and no one said anything).

In late May 2020, the Church Times published a survey questionnaire to assess British Anglicans’ views of locked churches. I wrote about it on June 8 that year.

In 2021, the results were posted online. On October 8 that year, Cambridge University Press published Ursula McKenna’s ‘Assessing the Church of England’s Leadership Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic: Listening to the Voice of Rural Lay People’ in the Journal of Anglican Studies.

Excerpts follow, beginning with this section from the abstract:

Of the 1460 rural lay people in England who took part in the Coronavirus, Church & You survey, 501 wrote further (sometimes detailed) comments on the back page (34 per cent participation rate). This study analyses the comments made by a subsection of these 501 rural lay people, specifically the 52 participants who voiced their views on how the Church of England’s leadership responded during the first four months of the Covid-19 pandemic … Overall, rural lay people were disappointed with the response of church leadership to the first national lockdown. If these churchgoers are to be fruitfully reconnected with their churches after the pandemic, then leadership of the Church of England may need to hear and to take seriously their concerns.

The introduction gives us the directive from the Church of England the day after Boris Johnson imposed lockdown on Monday, March 23, 2020. However, as the comment above states, Boris did nothing about churches.

The Church of England did on Tuesday, March 24. This was part of the C of E’s statement:

The archbishops and bishops of the Church of England have written collectively to clergy through their dioceses, urging them now to close all church buildings – other than when they are needed to keep a food bank running, but even then under strict limits. There will be no church weddings until further notice, funerals will not take place inside church buildings and the only baptisms will be emergency baptisms in a hospital or home.Footnote 2

The introduction continues:

Private prayer, including by priests, was no longer permitted in church buildings (churches were subsequently allowed to open for private prayer from 13 June 2020 and for congregational worship from 4 July 2020) …

A report published by the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture (CSCC), Churches, Covid-19 and Communities: Experiences, Needs and Supporting the Recovery, Footnote 6 lists a range of surveys and studies carried out by Christian organizations, other faith groups and non-faith organizations in just the first 12 months of the pandemic, all expressing a number of common concerns and difficulties.Footnote 7 Research carried out by CSCC,Footnote 8 which included surveys at three different points in time alongside qualitative interviewing, looked at three areas related to the closure of churches: the effects on the provision of social care, the exacerbation of the impact of Covid on individual and community well-being, and the impact of closure on the experience of grief and loss. Data from over 5500 respondents (mostly over the age of 60 and from rural villages or towns) who self-identified as ‘church leaders’, ‘church members’, and ‘general public’ provide evidence of responses reflecting ‘deep frustration and anger about closure of churches’,Footnote 9 with many church leaders and members expressing ‘frustration at the limitations on their ability to serve communities’.Footnote 10

Another survey undertaken during the first national lockdown and from which the present study draws its data, the Coronavirus, Church & You survey, was designed to address a range of discrete but interrelated issues arising from the pandemic, from the national lockdown, and from the Church’s national lock-up of churches. This survey has already been prolific in publishing its quantitative data

Both the CSCC reportFootnote 22 and an earlier report by Nye and LobleyFootnote 23 draw attention to the perceptions of churchgoers in respect of national church leadership during the pandemic. The study by Nye and LobleyFootnote 24 draws on data from 288 Christians, the majority of whom were over 55 years of age, 57.5 per cent were Anglican and half resided in villages …

older churchgoers aged 70 or over held a less positive attitude toward the national leadership. While 42 per cent of those under 60 considered that their denomination at the national level had responded well to the crisis, the proportion fell to 36 per cent of those aged 70 or over. While 43 per cent of the younger group considered that their denomination at the national level had done a good job of leading us in prayer, the proportion fell to 36 per cent in the older group.Footnote 28

The research aims section says:

It is against this background that the present study will draw on data collected as part of the Coronavirus, Church & You surveyFootnote 29 focusing on the views and experiences of lay people either living in rural areas or worshipping in rural churches, and exploring their perceptions of national church leadership during the first four months of the Covid-19 pandemic. While existing surveysFootnote 30 have highlighted national church leadership as an issue of concern, the current study will add detail to that concern by focusing more fully on identifying those aspects of national church leadership that rural lay people perceived to be most salient

The Coronavirus, Church and You survey offered space for additional comments:

If you would like to write about your experiences in your own words, you can do so here, or include anything that we had not asked that you think we should have included.

The Cambridge assessment is based on those replies.

Most of those responses were negative:

Analysis of these data identified ten themes, including: lacking quality leadership, comparing with other Churches, becoming irrelevant, centralizing action, closing rural churches, neglecting rural people, neglecting rural clergy, marginalizing rural communities, using the kitchen table [in worship videos], and looking to the future.

Nearly everyone responding was over 50. I reckon that is because only older people bother to read carefully anymore, i.e. to discover there was more to the survey.

Excerpts follow:

I just think there should have been regular national encouragement and care from the Bishops of York and Canterbury. They appear to have been very quiet in the crisis rather than leading. (Male 50s)

Embarrassing lack of leadership from the Archbishops. Unsurprising, but embarrassing, nonetheless. (Female 50s)

Nationally the Church of England has seemed to be wholly absent at a time when the voice of the Church should have been transmitted loud and clear…. From my perspective there seems to have been a wholesale failure of leadership. The previous very high regard that I had for Archbishop Welby has evaporated. Where has he been? (Male 60s)

The opportunity should have been taken to take space within national newspapers to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. That this has not been done is a disgrace. The C of E does not deserve to survive and probably won’t. (Male 70s)

I feel quite angry that our archbishops, our diocesan bishop and local clergy have just meekly acquiesced to churches being closed … and aren’t agitating to have them re-opened. (Female 70s)

Some respondents made comparisons with other denominations:

When making these comparisons, the visibility and response of the Roman Catholic Church, in particular, was frequently singled out as a contrast to the leadership actions of the Church of England which was viewed as timid and as showing a lack of courage or determination.

Responses follow:

The Roman Catholic Church seem to have done a better job and it is interesting that media seem to have mainly been interested in what the Roman Catholic Church, or humanists, have to say, rather than the Church of England, since it has closed churches and ‘retreated’. (Male 50s)

The leadership provided at the top of the C of E during the pandemic has been pusillanimous. I am giving serious thought to joining our local URC [United Reformed Church, i.e. Methodists and Congregationalists]. (Male 70s)

Above all, the C of E had a golden opportunity to give prayerful leadership and was found lacking: the most inspirational, heartfelt and genuine words of spiritual comfort and belief have come from The Queen, not her churchmen. (Female 60s)

Some people said the C of E was becoming irrelevant as a result:

In the pandemic, the majority of the hierarchy of the C of E have yet again demonstrated their inability to understand the needs of humanity in pastoral as well as spiritual aspects. Closing churches … playing with online liturgies and generally avoiding most of the social and economic issues facing humankind (now highlighted by the pandemic). It is no surprise the C of E continues to decline/become irrelevant as it retreats to its ivory towers! (Male 60s)

The church, both nationally and locally, has become increasingly irrelevant during lockdown. It has failed to inspire, lead, nurture and care. Others, such as Captain Tom and Joe Wickes have captured the nation’s hearts. The church has done nothing worthy of note apart from complain about lost income. (Male 50s)

Others were unhappy about the top-down approach:

Clergy and congregations should have been trusted to act sensibly, given their local circumstances, within the broad national guidelines, ‘One size fits all’ was neither necessary nor appropriate. (Male 70s)

As a church warden and regular churchgoer I did not feel that the church hierarchy gave us good spiritual support during the lockdown. Also, too many Bishops who don’t appear to care for the grass roots of the Church. (Female 70s)

I am very disappointed with the leadership of the National Church, and I feel they have lacked courage, vision and faith in their incredibly slow reactions to the virus situation. At parish level we have done well, but no thanks to the diocese upwards! (Female 30s)

I have been deeply frustrated by the communications from central church (mostly nationally but also regionally) which have had a lot of ‘can’t do’, often presented in an unhelpful way rather than allowing for each parish to make decisions based on their local practicalities and local needs. (Female 60s)

 There was a distinct impression that the C of E was more about social care than worship:

Disappointing church leaders didn’t debate whether churches were an essential service, when bike shops, garages, hardware stores etc were regarded as ‘essential’. (Male 70s)

I am outraged that the church authorities seem to have made no defence of the importance of worship. Popping to the shop for milk or a trip to the garden centre seem to have been deemed a higher priority than religious practice, and I have seen no evidence that the bishops disagree with that assessment. It has been disgraceful. (Male 30s)

Anglican Church overreacted by closing church buildings completely. This reinforced a sense that the church is now behaving as not much more than an extension of social care. (Male 60s)

Some pressed the need for individuals, even non-believers, to enter a church at a crucial time:

People in rural villages who are not churchgoers often perceive the parish church as ‘their’ church and may well not appreciate being locked out of it, particularly when they may feel a need for private devotion or prayer. (Male 70s)

I feel let down by the Church. Church leaders have at no time shown any interest in finding ways to open churches…. There is dismay within the non-church going community that the focal point of our village is closed at a time when it might have attracted more interest in communal worship. (Male 70s)

As churchwardens many of us could have supervised a couple of hours a day in our churches or more in some cases to allow people in, to light candles and pray while cathedrals are staffed and could have continued to open for individual prayer. To be allowed to go to off licences and supermarkets but not to church has been wrong. (Female 60s)

I am furious that the buildings have actually been locked. The shops are open so why did the C of E feel it necessary to lock churches? The Church has turned its back on the needs of those who mourn, the ill, and the dying at the very time when the Church was most needed. I have a terminal condition and am unable to go to the place where I find peace – I feel utterly abandoned. (Female 70s)

I feel so sad … and that the Church hierarchy seemed to step back from its flock, a missed opportunity to be a Presence in a time of great need. Feel let down. (Female 60s)

As an organist, I am particularly annoyed about the closure of our church buildings …. Early on in the lockdown, the Prime Minister said that you could travel to work if you absolutely cannot work from home, which, I believe, means that if I need to use the organ to practise a piece of music I am learning for a future event, I should be allowed to do so. However, the Church of England went one step further than the Government’s advice and prohibited this possibility for me. I am also subsequently disappointed that, rather than appearing to lead the Church and wider community in spirituality and prayer through Holy Week and Easter, the Archbishop of Canterbury instead chose to spend time defending these actions at what is the most important season of the Church’s year. (Male 30s)

The decision to ban priests from their own churches was simply wrong. It was understood as a firm directive and the Archbishop’s attempt to finesse it later by saying that it was simply ‘guidance’ was unworthy. (Male 60s)

Some found Justin Welby’s use of his kitchen table in an Easter worship video unsettling. I fully agree:

Why on earth did the Archbishop of Canterbury celebrate Easter in his kitchen, when there is a chapel in Lambeth Palace? Did he think he was being matey and ‘down to earth’? No sense of spirituality. The Last Supper took place in an Upper Room, not Martha and Mary’s kitchen! (Female 70s)

And as for the Easter service from Archbishop Welby’s kitchen, I thought it trivialised one of the most important festivals in the church’s calendar – why couldn’t he alone have conducted that ‘service’ from a church? (Female 70s)

The Church of England has also not covered itself with any glory here either – hiding away in their kitchens trying to avoid any kind of blame as their major assets, their focal points around which their communities coalesce – the churches remain closed. Their priests barred from entering!!! (Male 60s)

Despite their scorn for the C of E leadership, respondents separated the C of E from their personal Christian faith:

My faith in Almighty God, our Creator, remains strong and firm, no thanks to the Church of England letting us down very badly, acting in an unnecessarily fearful and cautious manner – no trust in God that all will be well. In other words, when put to the test they failed. (Female 60s)

The assessment concludes:

Three conclusions emerge from these data analyses.

The first conclusion is that the rural lay people themselves took seriously the invitation and the opportunity offered by the back page of the quantitative survey. One third of the rural lay people (34 per cent) who participated in the survey took additional time to respond to the invitation …

The second conclusion is that the comments afforded rich additional insights into the theme of national church leadership among a sample of rural lay people. The themes identified by the analyses suggest that for this group of rural lay people these issues are important both for them personally and for the church. It is clear that these rural lay people were disappointed and frustrated with decisions taken at this time. In particular, they voiced concern about both the lack of any visible leadership, together with leadership that merely acquiesced to government policy as opposed to publicly challenging or asserting alternatives to that policy. The closure of churches was particularly hard to accept. This was seen as a managerial rather than a spiritual response

… These data suggest that some churchgoers are becoming increasingly exasperated with the way in which they are being treated.

The third conclusion is that systematic attention given to the qualitative comments on the back page of quantitative surveys may be of proper benefit in shaping future research among churchgoers. The proper blend of qualitative and quantitative methods clearly enriches the science of congregation studies.

This was a useful study, particularly if, heaven forfend, this ever happens again. Will the C of E learn? I wonder.

Bible croppedThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK) with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (as indicated below).

1 Timothy 3:1-7

Qualifications for Overseers

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.


There is much to write about this passage, as seen in Parts 1 and 2.

This final part concludes, covering verses 5 through 7.

If a man cannot run his own household, Paul asks, then how can he care for God’s church (verse 5)?

Paul said that a good overseer must manage his household and family well (verse 4).

John MacArthur explains that caring for God’s church requires a strong commitment to help and an ability to lead as well as manage. He says that the Good Samaritan is a good illustration of the character needed for a lead pastor, or overseer (emphases mine):

Now, there is a man who is fitted to lead the church, and that’s exactly what verse 5 says from a negative viewpoint. “If a man doesn’t know how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of” – and it’s an anarthrous construction here – “a church of God?” How can he rule a local assembly if he can’t rule his own house?

Now, notice it says at the end of verse 5, “How shall he take care of the church?” That’s a beautiful word. That word is used in a very familiar parable of our Lord in Luke 10, the parable of the Good Samaritan …

… It starts with compassion, extends to giving time, extends to binding up wounds, to pouring in oil, to sacrificing your means of transportation to carry him, to take him to an inn and paying his bill. And then, in general, just taking care of him. And that’s wonderful because that’s what it’s all about in leading the church. It’s taking care of the church.

And what does it mean to take care of the church? Well, it encompasses a lot of things. It encompasses stopping what you’re doing sometimes and being diverted to a guy lying in the road. It involves pouring oil and wine in his wounds; it involves binding him up; it involves self-sacrifices – you put him on our own animal, as you pay his way at the inn, and as you generally take care of and meet his needs. And I’ll tell you, there is no better place to see whether a man has a life committed to meeting needs than to take a look at what he does with the people in his household. Right? Does he care about them? Is his life committed to them? Does he work hard to meet [their] needs? If he doesn’t, and he doesn’t have the leadership manifest, then how could he ever take care of the needs of the church?

Paul goes on to say that the overseer must not be a recent convert, lest he become puffed up with pride and fall into the condemnation of the devil (verse 6).

There were times when an overseer was a recent convert. That is because everyone else in the congregation was also a recent convert.

Matthew Henry’s commentary explains why, in other circumstances, Paul’s letter does not recommend this:

He must not be a novice, not one newly brought to the Christian religion, or not one who is but meanly instructed in it, who knows no more of religion than the surface of it, for such a one is apt to be lifted up with pride: the more ignorant men are the more proud they are: Lest, being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil. The devils fell through pride, which is a good reason why we should take heed of pride, because it is a sin that turned angels into devils.

MacArthur explains that pride is a well-known temptation in ministry, as is seeking approval for the wrong reasons, e.g. compromising the truth:

… all of us, I think, would like to have approval; we would like to have people applaud us. And so, the temptation is there to sort of back off, and maybe restrain the truth, and limit the message a little bit so that you gain some acceptance and sort of put yourself in a position to be better liked in the community.

Another temptation that I think comes to those in leadership is the temptation to pride, especially where God is gracious and blesses the ministry. It can create very proud feelings, “Look what I have done; look what I’ve accomplished,” and you’re always getting that temptation coming at you, a constant self-gratification.

Also, when you have successful ministry, and you’ve born a lot of the burden of that, there’s another way in which pride comes to you, and that’s sort of in – I guess you could call it an air of royalty. You get to the place where you think you’re the king that created the kingdom, and so you have a right to call all the shots

The problem with that is it breeds unaccountability, and pretty soon you’re not answerable to anybody, and you’re calling all the shots. And, frankly, you got to live with your successes and live with your failures, too, and you’ll never develop any leadership in that kind of a system.

But there’s always the temptation first to self-defense, self-justification, and then an abuse of authority, and then unaccountability. And pride pushes you in those directions. And we have that temptation coming at us in leadership.

I believe that we have to keep the armor of the Lord on because the enemy’s after us as much as anybody and probably more. Satan would do everything he could within his power to try to trip up a servant of God in a place of prominence, leading the people of God. I know that.

… it says in Scripture, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is within the world,” is a reality because I know if they’re attacking people, I must be one of them somewhere down the line they’re after, and they’re not successful. And in fact, I see myself growing spiritually, and I see our church gaining victory and God blessing, and so, I’m confident that I have nothing to fear as long as I walk in obedience to God’s will in the energy of his spirit. That’s a very hopeful thing.

But nonetheless, those kinds of onslaughts and temptations do come. And in all honesty, you know, when you’ve got all this coming at you – discouragement, indifference, laziness, compromise, pride, general temptation – be honest – and I’ll be honest, too, I mean who is going to be the person who never falls? Well, nobody.

I mean somewhere along the line, in those battles, we’re going to feel like giving up; we’re going to become indifferent; we’re going to be prideful sometime. We’re going to fall in temptation and maybe speak a word we should never have spoken to someone, an unkindness, or whatever it is. I mean that’s going to happen. We are far from perfect, and we do fall in stumbling with our lips. Only a perfect man would not do that.

And so, I want you to understand that though we’ve put the qualifications high, they’re not so high that everybody would be disqualified in God’s grace. He, by His Spirit, can make us what He wants us to be, as close to these standards as possible.

MacArthur addresses the importance of maturity in faith, rather than age, when leading a church:

Now, that brings us to the third and the fourth, and we’ll look at them and bring this passage to a conclusion. The third category in which the blameless qualification has to be applied is in the matter of maturity. The matter of maturity. There is missing, in verses 2 and 3, a very important spiritual characteristic, and that’s the characteristic of humility. And if you’ve wondered where humility was, here it is, coming up in verse 6 as we shall see.

Now, when you think about someone to be appointed as pastor/elder/overseer, verse 6 says, “He should not be a neophutos,” a neophyte. And neo means new, and the other word means planted. He should not be newly planted. That means a new convert, newly baptized. That word “newly planted” is used only here in the New Testament. It’s used outside the New Testament to speak of planting trees, the actual planting of trees in the ground. It refers, then, to a recent convert. Paul says to Timothy, “Don’t put a man in spiritual oversight as a pastor, an elder, who is a new convert, recently baptized.” That’s very basic. Now why? And I want you to watch this, because this is perhaps a big unexpected. Why? “Lest being lifted up with pride” – stop there. The issue here is not that he might not be a good teacher of the Bible. It’s not that he might prove to be less than a strong leader. It is not that he might not be well-versed in the Old Testament Scripture. The issue here is if you lift up a new convert in the church and give him a position with other mature, godly men, he’s going to have a battle with – what? – with pride. That’s the issue.

It doesn’t mean that he’s not qualified. In fact, he may be qualified, according to verses 2 and 3. He may live an absolutely impeccable life and blameless. He may have a marvelous family life. But if he’s a new Christian, if he’s relatively new in the faith, the tendency is going to be for him to feel proud about having been elevated to that level of leadership occupied by older, more mature, godly men who’ve been in the church for many years.

MacArthur contrasts what was going on in Ephesus with what was going on in Titus’s church in Crete:

the Ephesian church has been around for several years, and it has grown elders. In fact, the first batch of elders Paul himself discipled – didn’t he? – over a three-year period and set them in place. And now, several more years have passed, and so there is a maturity level, and the role of pastor or elder or overseer is seen as one attained to by very mature men.

Now, admittedly, some of the pastors, in Ephesus, needed to be put out. You look back at chapter 1, verse 20, Hymenaeus and Alexander were delivered to Satan to learn not to blaspheme. I’m sure they were two of the leading pastors in that church. But the place of pastor belonged to those – apart from those unqualified who had attained to it, those who needed to be rebuked, as it says later in this epistle, and put down. It still was a position for those who’d been in the faith for a period of time in which they’d proven their maturity. And to lift up a new Christian to that level would have caused him to say, “Boy, I’ve arrived. Look at me; I’m a brand new Christian, and I’m right in there with these guys.” And it would have put him open to pride.

Now, in contrast to that, look at Titus chapter 1 for a moment. I want to show you something comparatively to help you understand a little better this point. In Titus chapter 1, you have a whole different situation. Paul, writing to Titus, is writing to a man ministering on the island of Crete.

Now, the island of Crete was different than Ephesus. The Ephesian church had been around for many years. The church at Crete was very, very new, very young. And, frankly, there weren’t very many Christians who had been Christians for a long period of time. Therefore, when he starts out, in verse 6, discussing elders, the same as bishops in 1 Timothy 3, the same as pastors, he says about them, “They are to be blameless,” and then he goes basically through the same qualifications. But it is curious to note that it nowhere says “not a novice, not a new convert.” And the reason that’s not an issue in Crete is because in Crete everybody was a relatively new convert. And so, putting up a man to an eldership that was a new convert would not have tended to puff him up because everybody else, at that point, was also a new convert. See the point? Whereas in Ephesus, to lift up a new convert would have given him the idea that he had instantly attained to a level of spiritual maturity that took most men many years. But in Crete, since the church was relatively new altogether, there is no instruction in that regard, since putting a man in that position of leadership would not necessarily have puffed him up since the others who were there would have been relatively new Christians also.

Now, what that tells us then, beloved, is this. The issue here is not that an elder has to be so long a Christian, or an elder has to be so old in terms of age – the word “elder” means spiritual maturity used in reference to the church. It’s not talking about his age particularly physically, although there’s a certain amount of years implied in spiritual maturity, but an elder in the church is one who is mature spiritually.

Well, maturity in any church is relative to the age of that church, isn’t it? Here we are in a church like Grace Community Church. We are a mature church by standards of comparison with other parts of the world. We, perhaps, are third, fourth – some of us fifth, sixth generation Christians. The church has been here in this place 30 years. We have been teaching the Word of God here for 30 years. Men have grown up. There’s a tremendous amount of maturity here. You think of the elders here as mature men who really know the Word and teach the Word and have spent years preparing for that kind of leadership …

There are young men who graduate from seminary here who are not elders at Grace Church because they, relative to where this church is, still need more seasoning.

MacArthur looks at the second half of verse 6, involving being ‘puffed up’ or ‘lifted up’ with pride and falling into the condemnation of the devil:

“Not a neophyte or a novice, lest being lifted up with pride – that verb is a very interesting verb tuphoō. It means to puff up like smoke. We don’t want them to get puffed up like a big – like a big cloud, a false sense of spirituality, all puffed up, getting their head up in smoke and thinking they’re up in the air where they’re not, getting their head in the clouds. You don’t want that. You don’t want them proud. Why? Look at this; what a statement, “Lest being lifted up with pride” – puffed up – “he fall into the condemnation of the Devil.”

Boy, that is serious. You’d think it would say, “Lest being lifted up with pride he loses effectiveness,” or, “Lest being lifted up with pride he fail to fulfill his task,” or, “Lest being lifted up in pride he fall into sin.” No, very serious, “Lifted up by pride, he falls into the condemnation of the Devil.” Now, what does that mean? Some people think it means that he’ll be condemned by the Devil, but nowhere in Scripture is the Devil ever seen as the condemner or the judge. God is always presented in Scripture as the judge. He is the one who condemns. Therefore, this is best seen as what we would call an objective genitive. He falls into the judgment God pronounced on the Devil. It is the judgment that God brought on the Devil. He falls into the same condemnation the Devil fell into. Since God is always presented as the judge and not the devil, that seems to be the best approach.

MacArthur discusses Satan’s fall from grace as recalled in Ezekiel 28:

The Bible talks about the existence of different angels. I’m sure you remember these terms, but they’re all different ranks and kinds of angels. There are cherubim, seraphim, archangels, principalities, powers, and rulers. And they all refer to differing functions that angels have.

Some angels are higher, and some angels are lower; they’re different. Just as God created men with different capacities, so angels the same. The highest ranking angels are cherubim, and they appear always around the throne of God, always in the midst of His presence. Exodus 25; Ezekiel 1; Ezekiel 10; Revelation 4, verses 6 to 8, they’re always right around the presence of God, the cherubim. Now, we know three cherubim. They are surpassing in beauty. They are surpassing in power. And they are highest in rank of all the angels. So, above all the angelic hosts rank the cherubim.

At the top of the cherubim list, there are three leading cherubim. One we know very well: Gabriel. Gabriel’s task is to reveal and interpret God’s purpose and program for His kingdom. He is a revelation kind of angel – cherub.

The second one that we know so very well is Michael. And Michael is [the] super angel. He’s the commander-in-chief of the heavenly armies.

So, you have Gabriel and Michael, two lovely names and wonderful names that we use to name our sons. But the third cherub, and the most beautiful, and the most powerful, and the most glorious of all of them was a cherub by the name of Lucifer. And I might suggest to you, believe it or not, that maybe the most lovely name of all three is the name Lucifer; it means Son of the Dawn, Son of the Morning, Morning Star. Beautiful name. But because of what he became, it is so despised that no one would ever name his child Lucifer – hopefully.

Now, let’s find out what happened to Lucifer … In the first 10 verses of Ezekiel 28, the prophet speaks against the prince of Tyre, or the king of the city of Tyre. God is bringing a judgment on Tyre and the ruler of Tyre is going to be judged with the city. The judgment of Tyre comes in verse – chapter 27. And then the ruler, in the first ten verses of chapter 28, he talks about this man who claimed to be a God. “He says, ‘I am a God; I sit in the seat of God.’” In verse 9, “I am a god” and so forth. He really had a god complex. He thought he was a god. He was a very proud, boastful man, a very evil, evil ruler. In fact, verse 10, His judgment comes, “‘You will die the death of the uncircumcised by the hand of a foreigner, for I have spoken!’ it says the Lord God!” So, God pronounces death on the king of Tyre because he’s such a proud and godless individual.

Then in verse 11, the Lord goes behind the pride of the king of Tyre to speak of the source of that kind of pride. “The Word of the Lord came unto me saying, ‘Son of man,’” – son of man refers to Ezekiel – “‘take up a lamentation on the king of Tyre,’” – only this time He isn’t talking to the king of Tyre; He goes behind the king to the one who was the source of that ugly pride – Satan himself

So, here He’s talking to the king, but the source of the king’s sin behind the king. And he describes, beginning in verse 12, Satan or Lucifer, who was energizing this proud, evil king. He says of him, “Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” What does it mean “thou sealest up the sum”? You’re the living end. You are it. You are the summation of all that I created of beauty and wonder and glory and wisdom and perfection; the epitome of angelic creation; the most beautiful, spectacular angel God made. His preexistence is discussed in verse 13. “You have been in Eden” – now that couldn’t have been true of the king of Tyre – “You have been in Eden, the garden of God.” That may well be the earthly Eden, because Lucifer was there. Genesis 3 says he was tempting there. But it may well also be the paradise of heaven, the Eden of eternity, the Eden of heaven. He was there, too. And the description seems to fit the Eden of heaven better than the Eden of earth. He appeared in the Eden of earth, but when he appeared there, he appeared as a snake.

“But you have been in Eden, the garden of God” – the glory of the paradise of heaven. And then He describes the incredible beauty. “Every precious stone was our covering” – and He lists a whole lot of precious stones, and He talks about, “the workmanship of timbrels and your flutes was prepared in you in the day were created.”

I believe Lucifer was not only the most beautiful angel, not only the most psychedelically glorious angel, with all the sparkling jewels and everything else used to describe his eminence and his personality, but I believe also he was the supreme musician of heaven. If the angels were designed by God to give Him praise, they needed to have a leader, and I believe that he was heaven’s choir director, the consummate musician. And music around the world today, my friends, is what you are seeing Lucifer produce in his fallen state. In his fallen state.

That’s why, in Ephesians, when the apostle Paul says, “Now that you’re filled with the Spirit, speak to yourselves in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Only in Christ, through the Spirit, can the curse on music be reversed. And that’s why our music can again give glory to God as the music of Lucifer once did. His profession, then, he must have been the musician of heaven. The heavenly choir director.

Verse 14 further says about him, “You are the anointed cherub that covers, and I have set you so.” In other words, you have a place in My presence, around My throne. You are near Me; you cover Me in some sense. “And you were in the holy mountain of God.” That’s the throne, the high and lifted up throne that Isaiah saw. “And you walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.” Probably the glorious, flaming Shekinah of God. And right in the Shekinah of God, and right in His throne, and right on His high and holy mountain, there is Lucifer, leading the angelic choirs in praise to God, this incredibly beautiful creature.

Verse 15 says, “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created” – perfect, flawless, no sin – “until iniquity was found in you. And not only were you sinful” – verse 16 – “but you merchandised your sin.”

“He drew a third of the angels with him in his rebellion,” says Revelation 12:9. “And because of this” – catch the middle of verse 16 – “I will cast you as profane out of the mountain of God. And I will destroy you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.”

Now, when Lucifer sinned, his sin was the sin of pride. The result was God threw him out. God cut him down. What was his sin specifically? Look at Isaiah 14 just briefly. Isaiah 14 gives us that. Starting in verse 12 it says, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer?” Why did you fall? Why were you cut down? “Son of the morning, why? Why are you cut down to the ground?” he says. Here’s why, “For you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of the congregation in the congregation in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.’In other words, “I’ll take over for God.” Five “I wills”. There’s his problem. His problem is pride.

Five times he said, “I will,” and once God said, “No, you won’t.” Verse 15, “You’ll be brought down to Sheol, to the sides of the pit. And you’ll become a spectacle, and people will see you, and they’ll say, ‘Is this the one who made the earth to tremble?’ You’re going to be humiliated.”

Now, do you understand what I’m driving at? Listen carefully, “Don’t lift up a novice, lest being lifted up he becomes proud and fall into the same condemnation that the Devil fell into.” The parallel is perfect. Satan was lifted up. He fell into pride and God cut him down. And that’s exactly the parallel that the apostle Paul wants Timothy to understand

MacArthur says the overseer needs humility:

Beloved, leadership must involve humility. And so, the church must protect itself and its good men from being lifted up too soon into vulnerability and thus being devastated. The sign of spiritual maturity, Jesus said, “If anyone would be chief among you, let him be your” – what? – “your servant.” Your servant. That’s what the Lord is after.

The test of maturity or the standard of maturity can be also called the standard of humility. Humility. And here must be great caution so that you don’t lift someone up that the Lord has to cut down. This is a great responsibility.

Paul concludes his qualifications for an overseer by saying that outsiders must think well of him, so that he might not fall into disgrace, a snare of the devil (verse 7).

This is how the verse reads in older translations:

Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Henry says:

He must be of good reputation among his neighbours, and under no reproach from former conversation; for the devil will make use of that to ensnare others, and work in them an aversion to the doctrine of Christ preached by those who have not had a good report.

MacArthur points out that the Greek ‘kalos’ is in this verse, meaning externally pleasing in addition to internally pleasing:

… we’ll close with just a brief look at verse 7, “The man set apart to pastor or lead the church as an elder or an overseer must also be tested as to reputation” – verse 7. “Moreover” – or in addition to it means – “he must” – that is to say – “it is necessary for him to have a good report.” That little phrase “good report” – kalos is good. It means not only good inwardly but good outwardly. It not only means that he’s got character, but it means he has a reputation that is good; there’s an excellency on the outside as well.

MacArthur explains the Greek word for ‘report’ and its importance in ministry:

He is to have an excellent testimony. The word “report” means testimony. In fact, it speaks marturia – we get the word “martyr” from it – but it basically speaks of a certifying testimony. He is to be certified by the testimony of people as to his character. And what people? Look at this; “He must have a good report of them who are” – where? – “outside” – outside what? – “outside the church.” What is his reputation in the community? A man chosen to be an elder, a man chosen to be a pastor in the church must have a reputation for righteousness, for moral character, for love and kindness and generosity and goodness among everybody in the community that knows him.

Now, I’m not saying they’re all going to agree with his theology, because that’s not the case. I’m not going to say that there won’t be antagonism out there, but the people who know him know that he is a man of moral character. Why? Because how can you raise a man to leadership, expect him to impact that community if the community has no regard for his character? A man can’t reach people who have no respect for him; he can’t bring anything but reproach on Christ, and that’s what it says; look at it. “Moreover, he must have a good certifying testimony from those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach.” The word means disgrace.

Beloved, it’s so sad to know how many men have disgraced the church, isn’t it? And the Lord. What a thought. The sin of a man will be a disgrace. This is why he has to be blameless. And I’m not just talking about the sin that he commits while he’s in the ministry. It could be some sins in the past for which he has gained an evil reputation. So, a man must be evaluated as to his ongoing reputation in the community, lest he bring disgrace upon the church.

… there’s a real visibility. Now, your world may be not as big as mine in terms of people who know you, but those who do know you need to see a blameless life. And if you’re to be in spiritual leadership, it’s so wonderful if the people out there can say, “I don’t agree with what they teach, but I’ll tell you one thing, that man has character.” And that’s what the Bible’s really after.

Satan is ever ready and waiting to trap the man of God:

Boy, there’s nothing the Devil would want more than to set a trap to discredit the man in spiritual service. Right? Sure. Sure. I mean that would be his full-time occupation, I think, to trap those who serve the Lord. He wants spiritual leaders to fall easy prey into some skillfully laid snare. And that Devil who goes around as the hunter of souls, as the roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, his aim is to destroy the credibility and integrity of the leaders of the church and to trap them. And again, I believe this should be interpreted that way because God doesn’t set traps. This would be a subjective genitive. This is a trap set by Satan to catch us.

And that’s why we have to be so cautious. And that takes us right back, doesn’t it, to that first thing we said when we started … that we are going to be tempted, and we are weak, and we have those areas where Satan works on us. And we are going to stumble. The one who doesn’t offend with his tongue is a perfect man, and we will stumble, so we have to be so very cautious. We don’t want to fall into Satan’s trap. We want to be a leader that leads others out of his traps.

All of us have read about and some of us have known clergy who have fallen from a great height into a scandal involving sex (including child molestation), strong drink — or money, what Paul calls ‘filthy lucre’ (verse 3, older translations).

We are aghast. We are disgusted. True believers are also sad at seeing or hearing these reports.

Yet, there we see the power of evil, the power of Satan’s snares.

Now we can understand why Paul insisted on strict standards for overseers.

MacArthur concludes:

And so, God identifies these men. Their moral character, their family life, their maturity, and their reputation. And, beloved, the future of the church, I believe with all my heart, is predicated on the fact that these are the kind of people that must be in leadership. And that is a constant and ongoing process. Why? What have we been saying all along? Why? Why does God want these kind of men in leadership?

You say, “Because they’re holy vessels, and Christ can mediate his rule through them.”

That’s right, but there’s a second reason, and it is this, because they are the models. And the point is all these qualifications are not just for them. They are for them to model so they can become true of all of us. And that’s why we say there’s no double standard here. Do you think the Lord wants anything less of the rest of us than to be blameless? Anything less than a one-woman man, a temperate man, a man with a disciplined mine and a woman with a disciplined mind? Does he want any less than good behavior? Than hospitality? Than skillful teaching? Does he want any less than good families? Does he want any less than spiritual maturity? Does he want any less than a good reputation? Of course not. But that’s not going to happen at the grassroots level if it isn’t being modeled at the leadership level.

Ephesus needed to examine its leaders, and so do we. So does the Church today.

I hope this series helps to clarify why a pastor needs so many excellent and godly qualities.

Paul goes on to discuss the qualifications for deacons.

Next time — 1 Timothy 3:8-13

Bible croppedThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK) with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (as indicated below).

1 Timothy 3:1-7

Qualifications for Overseers

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.


Part 1 covered verses 1 and the first part of verse 2, up to ‘the husband of one wife’. I presented Matthew Henry’s summation of the second verse, but will cover aspects of it more thoroughly here.

This is another long post as John MacArthur looks at these qualifications in detail. In 1986, he preached seven sermons on these verses alone.

Continuing with verse 2, Paul says that the overseer must be sober-minded.

MacArthur is teetotal, so he has a bias against strong drink. Nonetheless, he tells us what the Bible says and provides insight as to why sobriety is so important in the priesthood:

… the word “temperate.” Interesting word. Not until this study began for me did I really understand this word. I had never really dealt with it before. But I looked it up, and it’s the word nēphalios. It means wineless. Kind of interesting. It means unmixed with wine.

Yes, Judges 9:13 says, “Wine cheers the heart.” Sure it was a pleasurable thing to drink the sweet juice of the grape. But it was also a potential for great harm. That’s why they always mixed it with water. You see, it’s a hot and dry land – Bible lands – and you would drink a lot just to replenish the fluids that your body lost in the heat. And the more you drank, the more potential for drunkenness. And so, wine was always mixed with high amounts of water so that you could drink it without having drunkenness result.

But even so, it was potentially dangerous because of the lack of refrigeration and the degenerative properties of wine that made it ferment and gain an alcoholic content which could be intoxicating. And that is why, though it can cheer the heart, and though it can be good, as Paul says to Timothy, for the stomach’s sake in some matters, and though it could be given to someone who’s near death for the sake of relieving their pain, still it’s goodness is not the whole story. It is offset greatly by statements like this in Proverbs 20, verse 1, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Or Proverbs 23, “Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine, they that go and seek even mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it gives its color in the cup, when it moves itself aright.” In other words, full bodied wine. “At the last, it bites like a serpent; it stings like an adder. And thine eyes shall behold strange things.” That’s the DTs. “Thine heart shall utter perverse things. You’ll be like somebody lying in the middle of the sea or lying on the top of a mast.” All kinds of illusions. You’ll be saying, “They’ve stricken me,” and you’ll say, “I wasn’t sick; and they’ve beaten me, and I felt it not.” And then you’ll say, “When will I awake? And I’ll see it again.” The wine that mocks.

I think of Noah in Genesis chapter 9. He decided to plant a vineyard. He was a farmer, it says, and he was going to plant a vineyard. So he did. And then he drank of his vineyard, and he became drunken, and he went in his tent. And it says, “He appeared in his nakedness.” And that doesn’t just mean he didn’t have his clothes on; there is some kind of evil sexual allusion in those words. And his son came in and came out and mocked him. And his other sons went in backwards with something to cover him up because they were so ashamed of his nakedness; his evil, vile, sinfulness because of his intoxication.

And you read of Amnon in 2 Samuel chapter 13, verses 28 and 29. Read throughout Scripture the evil of drink, and read Leviticus 10:9, where it says that the priest is never to enter into the house of God, to function in his priestly duty, having consumed wine. It was forbidden to them forever it says. The Nazarite vow, the highest vow of spiritual commitment in the Old Testament, Numbers 6:3, forbid a person to drink it. It was forbidden to kings; it was forbidden to princes and all leaders in Proverbs 31:4.

The potential of that is so devastating because of the judgments that have to be made, because of the model that has to be set, because of the example. And so, he says, first of all, “This overseer must be a one-woman man, and a man who doesn’t participate in drinking.” Those are the two cultural evils of the time, as well as the two evils of the heart. Drunken orgies were part of Ephesian culture. You read the story of Diana of the Ephesians and what went on at the temple, and the kind of lifestyle. Josephus says, “The word was commonly used for abstaining from wine entirely.” That’s Josephus.

The primary idea here may not even be this, although this is certainly an inherent idea. And the reason the word is translated temperate rather than having something to do with wine specifically is because in a metaphorical usage, it means to be – what can I say? – alert, watchful, vigilant, clearheaded. You never allow yourself to get intoxicated. You’re always thinking clearly. It is that inner strength that denies any excess.

Food can also be problematic:

Any excess, really, we could apply here. There’s a certain moderation of life in this. And there are so many things in which we can be excessive, not just drink, but for some food and often gluttony and drinking are linked. It seems to be that in the past that overeating has been known as the preacher’s sin. And often that’s a just criticism. But we are to be balanced; we are to be without excess who leads spiritually. Why? Because God expects us to have a higher standard than the people? No, because God expects the people to have that high standard. But in order to have that high standard, they have to have a model to follow. Okay? That’s very important to understand. We’re not to live this in isolation from the people. We’re not to elevate ourselves to some priestly stratosphere where everybody bows down and says, “Oh, aren’t they supernatural?” We’re to be the pattern to which everyone arises

that is also another mark of moral character.

The overseer is to be hospitable, i.e. towards strangers.

MacArthur explains how hospitality worked in the ancient world. I hope you find this as fascinating as I did:

Persecution, poverty, orphans, widows, traveling Christians – it made it necessary, in ancient days, to open the home. There weren’t any hotels like we have; motels. They didn’t pamper people like they do today. And the inns, for the most part, were brothels. They marked the ancient world with a black mark. There people were robbed and beaten, solicited to evil.

William Barclay writes of the picture of the ancient world with these words, “In the ancient world, inns were notoriously bad. In one of Aristophanes’ plays, Heracles asks his companion where they will lodge for the night, and the answer is, “Wherever the fleas are the fewest.” Plato speaks of the innkeeper being like a pirate who holds his guests to ransom. Inns tended to be dirty and expensive and, above all, immoral.

The ancient world, therefore, had developed a system of what were called guest friendships. Over generations, families had arrangements with other families to give each other accommodation and hospitality if they were in the area. And often the members of the families came, in the end, to be unknown by each other by sight, as the generations went on. They would then identify themselves by means of what were called tallies. A stranger coming into a town would seek accommodation and produce one-half of an object. That was called a tally. And if the house owner had the other half, he would know that this was someone from a family that had a guest friendship with his family in generations past, and the stranger was indeed the friend and could be admitted to the home.

In the Christian church, there were wandering teachers and preachers; they needed hospitality. There were many slaves who had no homes of their own. It was a great privilege to have them come into a Christian home, maybe for the only time in their life. You see, the whole church was kind of like a little island of Christianity in a sea of paganism and Christian homes would be the safest, most enriching and wonderful place of all.

And I still think we live in a world like that. Many are far from home, many are strangers, and many need a place to stay, and a Christian home would be the best place of all, and the door of the Christian home, as well as the heart of the Christian family ought to be open to all who come.

You see, what it’s saying here is that the pastor is not somebody who’s elevated to a place where he’s unapproachable. He’s not remote; he’s available. This is not the place for seclusion; this is not the place for isolation. His life and his home are open so that the true character of his life is manifest to all who come there. I mean if I want to know the most about you, I can go to your house and watch you for a few days or weeks. The pastorate is not a place where you ascend beyond the people and become untouchable; it’s a place where you become touchable and you hold our home as a stewardship to be used as God sees fit. And I’m always reminded, when I think about this, that received those of us who were strangers and alien from the covenant – those Gentiles. He received us as strangers into his family, and how can we who have been so welcomed not welcome other strangers into our own.

MacArthur also explains more about what it means to be able to teach:

teaching effectively is predicated on the character of the teacher. You cannot divorce what a teacher is from what he says, when the whole content of his teaching is moral. So, this in itself is a moral qualification. That is he is to be able to teach, and he will only be able to teach effectively if he lives up to what it is he teaches. Right? So, it is a moral qualification as well as a note about his function. He is to be a skilled teacher.

In 1 Timothy 5:17, the note is that he is one who labors – kopiaō – who works to exhaustion in the Word and doctrine. And I am always amazed at how many people are concerned about leisure, and how many people want time off, and yet in the Word of God, there is the constraint that one labors to the point of exhaustion in the Word and in the teaching. This is the primary task.

… The Lord’s servant must be didaktikos, skilled in teaching, able to teach because his life is of such moral constitution, so impeccable virtue that he is believable. Not only does he have skill in the communicating end of it, but he has the ability to make it believable because he lives it.

Now, not everybody is a teacher, and not everybody is called to be a teacher. And it isn’t wrong not to be a teacher of the church as a pastor or evangelist or leader. It isn’t wrong. It’s a question of the calling of God.

Paul says that the overseer must not be a drunkard; he must be gentle rather than violent, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money (verse 3).

Henry offers the best example, that of the supreme overseer:

Christ, the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, is so.

MacArthur reminds us that the overseer’s role is to bring the sinner to salvation and to build up the saints, a heavy responsibility:

So, mark it; when you are called to church leadership, you are called to the task of bringing unconverted sinners to Christ. And even though you may emphasize the edification ministry, and even though you may emphasize some kind of design of church program, even though you may have oversight into some area of administration, the ultimate end of everything you do and I do is to bring the unconverted to Christ.

Secondly, it is a supporting priority for the church leader to build up the saved to maturity in Christ. We are called to build up the saved. This includes “Warning them that are unruly, encouraging the fainthearted, supporting the weak, and being patient to all men,” Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:14. We are called to perfect the saints for the work of the ministry to the building of the body of Christ.

So, the priority then of perfecting and polishing the saints for useful service, for strong service for Christ, is a top priority. This means we must provide care for those who fall into sin, for those who lose their zeal, for those who disobey the Word, for those who lose their first love. The responsibility of strengthening, restoring those who are overtaken in a sin, feeding, challenging the strong to greater perseverance and even greater strength.

The third thing – and we could spend a lot of time on each, but just to touch them – the third thing that we are called to do by way of objective in the ministry is to feed the flock the Word of God regularly. To feed the flock the Word of God regularly. A strong and steady diet of divine truth and exhortation is the core of the church’s life.

There should be, in the heart of the pastor or elder a certain amount of anxiety, a certain amount of pain. Paul calls it travail or birth pains until the people have Christ formed in them. This means that we are involved also in the ministry of intercession on behalf of those to whom we speak the Word of God.

So, we are called then for the work of seeing the unconverted come to salvation. We are called also to build up the saved to maturity in Christ, and we are called to feed the flock of God regularly, to feed them the Word which equips them for service.

Then there is the aspect of counselling or advising in some respect:

Another of our priorities is to give special attention to the spiritual order and devotion of families – to give special attention to the spiritual order and devotion of families. This involves leading families I think into proper roles, men into proper roles for men, women into proper roles for women. This involves teaching families how to love each other, how to serve each other, how to combat treacherous, destructive things that are happening in the world around them, influences that tend to tear the family apart. This involves teaching the family how to devote themselves to one another, how to devote themselves to God, how to devote themselves to the Word, how to devote themselves to the church, how to devote themselves to the ministry, and how to have Christ at the center of everything they do. It is a high priority of ministry in the church to give special attention to the spiritual order and devotion of families.

Another one that helps crystallize what it is that the pastor or elder does, we are to minister to those people who are in special distress. We are to minister to those people who are in special distress. One of the great traditions in ministry, and as it ought to be, as the Savior gives us the example, is to reach out to those people who have unusual problems, whether they are ill, whether they are facing death, whether they have disease or divorce or disappointment, whether they’ve gone through a disaster, whether they are in need of comfort. This becomes a very important matter of commitment on the part of those who serve in the church, to minister to people who are in special distress.

I read an article at the weekend by an Anglican priest in his mid-thirties who says that priesthood involves the whole of the human life cycle every day, from birth to death and everything in between. Even a party can be a mission field. I didn’t bookmark the article, but he said that he once attended a friend’s party in civvies (no dog collar) and went outdoors for a breath of fresh air. He was followed by another guest going out for a cigarette break. The man asked the priest what he did for a living. When the priest said what he did, the man broke down in tears and poured his heart out to him. Therefore, a priest has to be prepared for every eventuality at any moment.

Update — Friday, March 24, 2023: The priest appeared on Mark Dolan’s GB News show. Although the Revd Fergus Butler-Gallie does not relate that particular incident, this short interview is still interesting:

MacArthur says:

… we recognize, then, that this is a high and holy and sacred calling to which men are called when they are called into the leadership of the church. It involves several things. It involves discipline. Anyone who is going to be successful in fulfilling this divine calling is going to maintain in his own life discipline. There’s going to be, in his own life, self-denial, because your life is not your own. You talk about a person who is called into a task beyond himself, this is it. You are not the master of your own fate; you are not the captain of your own soul; you are not the determiner of your own destiny. You move at the bidding of the Spirit of God, and the work that is done well will be done well, then, by those who are disciplined and by those who understand self-denial.

He says that teaching is an important part of being a priest in order to convey strong doctrine, which will help in any situation:

Two things, basically: one, do you have a strong and consuming desire to teach; Two, do the people you teach think you have the gift? Very important. There are people running around saying, “I have the gift; I have the gift,” and their class is coming after them saying, “No, he doesn’t; no, he doesn’t.” You don’t want to be under some illusion. You don’t want to seek some place of preeminence. You don’t want to rise in your own ego to a place where you are revered and esteemed a teacher if you do not have the gift. The gift of teaching is a Holy Spirit endowment that is given by God specially to those called to teach.

You know, sometimes people say to me – in fact, this is quite common – “How do you get that out of the Scripture? I read that verse so many times; I don’t see that.”

Other people will say, “How is it that you can do – convey Scripture and other people can’t?”

And the answer to that is very simple: it is a gift given by the Spirit of God. It is different, maybe, than your gift. You have a gift to do things with a facility spiritually that I don’t have, and that’s the way the Lord has structured His body.

So, skill in teaching involves exemplary life and the gift of teaching. Thirdly, a skilled teacher will have a reservoir of doctrinal understanding. A skilled teacher will have a reservoir of doctrinal understanding. In 1 Timothy 4, again, verse 6, he says, “A good minister of Jesus Christ” – 1 Timothy 4:6 – “is one nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine.” And he says, “Timothy, you’ve attained to that.”

Do you know what set Timothy apart as such a skilled teacher was the tremendous reservoir of biblical knowledge that he had. In 1 Timothy 6:20, “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to your trust.” What did he mean? He meant doctrine – sound doctrine

Timothy was beginning to be equipped for the role of teaching, when he was just a child, because he learned the Scriptures. And there came into his life a deep reservoir of truth out of which one teaches.

That was thanks to his mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois, respectively. My message to parents is to bring your children up well informed about prayer and the Bible at home from an early age. Don’t wait for Sunday School or a faith school to do it, because the results could be disappointing.

Verse 3 in older translations reads:

Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

MacArthur explains the importance of patience and not getting involved in violent quarrels:

I remember the pastor who told me about the fight he had with his deacon. The deacon punched him, and away they went. I’m sure he wasn’t the only one. But you don’t want people who deal with difficulty through violent, physical reactions. No place for that. This leadership demands a man who can deal with things with a cool mind, with gentleness, who doesn’t fight. Remember what I said that Paul said to Timothy in chapter 2 of 2 Timothy? “The servant of the Lord must not fight; he must not strive.” He doesn’t deal with things like that. He doesn’t resort to violence.

And it’s not only physical violence. I think we could imply also that it’s verbal violence. His tongue is not to be a lashing tongue which reaches out in strife. First Timothy 6 talks about using the tongue to bring about strife and railings. The tongue can be an instrument of violence. It can, as James 3 says – and we’ll get into that in some weeks – it can set on fire all of nature. The tongue can be such a violent, violent instrument. So, the man, then, who leads the church, is not to deal with difficulty through violent physical or verbal means.

Notice, then – and we skipped one in the Authorized Version; it’s not in the better manuscripts, and it’s covered by the last one – so, we go to the one that says patient. Patient – epieikēs. It means to be considerate, and genial, and forbearing, and gracious, and gentle. Aristotle said, “It has the idea of a person who easily pardons human failure.” It’s a beautiful virtue, a person who easily pardons human failure. And it’s used in 2 Timothy 2:23. He says, “The servant of the Lord” – 2:24 rather; 2:23 says, “Don’t start fights,” 2:24 says – “be gentle and patient.” Patient. What does it mean? You remember; Good not evil. You don’t build up a chronologue of everything everybody ever did against you. Listen, that messes up people’s ministry. I have known people in the ministry who get out of the ministry, who leave churches because they cannot get over the fact that somebody criticized them. Somebody said something against him. Somebody did something that upset them, and they carry around a list of grievances that eventually makes it impossible for them to serve anybody. That’s all they can see.

All that does is cloud your mind with things to anger you. Patience is the ease of pardoning human failure, focusing on the good done by others rather than injury and retaliation, all of that. And that’s the kind of person you want. You don’t want a person who holds grudges.

And then, “Not a brawler” – amachos. Again, this is a quarrelsome thing. It’s very much like the other term we looked at, which talks about coming to blows, but it doesn’t so much mean using physical violence; it means a quarrelsome person. Nothing is more difficult in a plurality of leadership, leading a church, than to have somebody who just likes to quarrel about everything.

MacArthur discusses covetousness, another danger to an overseer:

“Not covetous” – aphilarguros. That two-part word – three-part word, really, with an alpha privative makes it a negative, but the two main parts mean to love silver – not be a lover of silver. What a corruption that is in the ministry, to love money. And you see people as means to getting money. Everybody you look at becomes simply an avenue for you to get rich. That is such a temptation. And that’s why in 1 Timothy 6, Paul says, in verse 6, to Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain, Timothy. We brought nothing into the world. It’s certain we’re going to do what? – take nothing out.

This brings us to Paul’s stipulation that the overseer must manage his own household well, with all dignity, keeping his children submissive (verse 4).

Henry’s version of the Bible puts the verse as follows:

One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

‘Gravity’ means ‘gravitas’ there: seriousness.

If a man cannot run his own household, Paul says, then how can he care for God’s church (verse 5)?

This, too, is another indicator of morality and good example. Henry says:

He must be one who keeps his family in good order: That rules well his own house, that he may set a good example to other masters of families to do so too, and that he may thereby give a proof of his ability to take care of the church of God: For, if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God. Observe, The families of ministers ought to be examples of good to all others families. Ministers must have their children in subjection; then it is the duty of ministers’ children to submit to the instructions that are given them.—With all gravity. The best way to keep inferiors in subjection, is to be grave with them. Not having his children in subjection with all austerity, but with all gravity.

MacArthur says that a bad example at home will last through succeeding generations, not as a judgement but as the only example children know to follow:

It is not enough in the church to teach the truth. The truth must be modeled. That’s integrity. Integrity is living and teaching the same thing. That’s why the standards for church leadership here all relate to moral character – the power of influence.

You recall – do you not? – in the Old Testament that the Scripture tells us that evil is visited – the evil of the fathers is visited upon the third and fourth generation. Now please, don’t misunderstand that. That does not mean that an evil man has his children cursed by God for three or four generations. That does not mean that you shouldn’t adopt children because they might be under some curse because they had an evil grandfather or great-grandfather. That is a ludicrous thought. What it means is that influence is so powerful that once you have an evil generation, it takes you three or four generations to root out that evil and turn it around. It is not a statement about God cursing children’ it is a statement about the power of an evil influence

… all of this is to say that in terms of leadership, the crucial aspect is the matter of influence. And influence flows primarily out of example.

MacArthur discusses ruling well in verse 4:

Notice it says that as he rules at home, he is to rule well. It is not just that he rules. There are a lot of men who rule in the home, but they don’t rule very well. They don’t get the desired effect. This one rules well, and the word here is a very rich word. It is the word kalōs in the Greek, and basically we could translate it excellently, but that wouldn’t give us the full understanding.

In order to grasp what it means, we need to compare two Greek words: agathos and kalōs. Agathos is a common word in the New Testament that means inherently good or morally good or practically good. Kalōs takes it a step further, not instead of that, but in addition to that, it is aesthetically good. It is appealingly good. It is beautiful; it is lovely; it is appealing to the eye. Agathos, inherently good; kalōs inherently good and also appealing to the eye. And so, the idea is that here is a man who is to be leading his family in such a way that his leadership is inherently good and it is manifestly good to all those who perceive and see his leadership there

He is a leader in the family, and his leadership, I believe, involves three things. I want to share these with you as we draw to a conclusion: number one, firmness; number two, wisdom; and number three, love – or number one could be authority. Authority, wisdom, and love.

In the family, I believe it is essential that the father exercise authority that makes it – listen to this – advisable for his children to obey. Did you get that? He must exercise authority that makes it advisable for his children to obey

And so, I suggest to you an authority that makes it advisable to obey, and a wisdom that makes it natural and reasonable to obey.

Thirdly, a love that makes it delightful to obey. A love that makes it delightful to obey. Your children ought to long to obey you because they enjoy so much the intimacy of an unhindered, an uninterrupted love relationship with you. And that love has to be there. That love has to be there.

Now, there is a man who is fitted to lead the church, and that’s exactly what verse 5 says from a negative viewpoint. “If a man doesn’t know how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of” – and it’s an anarthrous construction here – “a church of God?” How can he rule a local assembly if he can’t rule his own house?

I will have more on verse 5 tomorrow, along with verses 6 and 7.

Bible croppedThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK) with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (as indicated below).

1 Timothy 3:1-7

Qualifications for Overseers

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.


Last week’s post discussed Paul’s instructions to Timothy about the role of women in church.

This is a long post about overseers in the church.

False teachers had arisen in the churches in Ephesus and surrounding areas. Timothy’s command from Paul was to replace them with good, faithful men. Recall that, at the end of 1 Timothy 1, the Apostle told his protégé that already had to turn Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan.

Matthew Henry’s commentary reminds us of Paul’s departure from Ephesus after three years of establishing the church there (emphases mine):

It seems they were very loth to part with Paul, especially because he told them they should see his face no more (Acts 20 38); for their church was but newly planted, they were afraid of undertaking the care of it, and therefore Paul left Timothy with them to set them in order.

John MacArthur picks up the story:

In Acts 20, he said to the Ephesian elders – he said, “I know that when I leave, perverse men will come in, evil men will rise up on the inside, and both from the inside and the outside will come false leaders to lead this church astray.” He knew the enemy, Satan. He knew the plan and the plot to work against the Kingdom of God, and he knew the inevitability of such an attack. And his prophecy was fulfilled.

By the time he gets out of prison and goes to Ephesus to meet Timothy there, he discovers that the church is filled with false pastors, and false overseers, and false elders, and those who teach lies and heresies. And so, leaving Timothy there to set things in order, he goes on to Macedonia. But isn’t gone long before he pens this letter, writes back to Timothy, and says, “Now, I want you to get this settled in that church.” There are issues that have to be dealt with. And a major issue that sits right in the middle of this epistle is the matter of confronting the church about the qualifications for church leaders.

Paul then lays out the characteristics of men in church leadership roles in 1 Timothy 3.

The Apostle begins with overseers, or ‘bishops’ in some translations. Paul means head pastors.

Verse 1 in Henry’s translation reads as follows:

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

Right away Paul stamps the authority of truth on the desire to do good when one wants to become a pastor (verse 1).

Henry explains what Paul is conveying to Timothy and contrasts it with how it evolved over the centuries, and not always in the best way. The Church of England had long been established by the time Henry wrote his commentary:

I. The ministry is a work. However the office of a bishop may be now thought a good preferment, then it was thought a good work. 1. The office of a scripture-bishop is an office of divine appointment, and not of human invention. The ministry is not a creature of the state, and it is a pity that the minister should be at any time the tool of the state. The office of the ministry was in the church before the magistrate countenanced Christianity, for this office is one of the great gifts Christ has bestowed on the church, Eph 4 8-11. 2. This office of a Christian bishop is a work, which requires diligence and application: the apostle represents it under the notion and character of a work; not of great honour and advantage, for ministers should always look more to their work than to the honour and advantage of their office. 3. It is a good work, a work of the greatest importance, and designed for the greatest good: the ministry is conversant about no lower concerns than the life and happiness of immortal souls; it is a good work, because designed to illustrate the divine perfections in bringing many sons to glory; the ministry is appointed to open men’s eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, etc., Acts 26 18. 4. There ought to be an earnest desire of the office in those who would be put into it; if a man desire, he should earnestly desire it for the prospect he has of bringing greater glory to God, and of doing the greatest good to the souls of men by this means.

Henry gives us one of the questions those who thought they had a calling to the priesthood in the Church of England were to answer:

This is the question proposed to those who offer themselves to the ministry of the church of England: “Do you think you are moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this office?”

MacArthur would agree with that question:

… the statement that you need to know there is, “if a man desire.” That’s the key. You need to understand that all we know about in the New Testament in relation to call springs from desire. It’s a question of, what are you compelled to do? I believe that, where the call in the Old Testament might have been verbally from God out of heaven, the call in the New Testament might have been directly from Jesus Christ, the call in this age is the work of the Spirit of God.

God the Father called in the Old Testament. God the Son called in the New Testament. God the Holy Spirit is calling today. And the call of the Spirit of God today comes through the compulsion of the heart; the strong desire. And if you desire that, that’s a good thing to desire.

MacArthur discusses the words ‘a true saying’:

Notice the phrase: “This is a true saying” – or – “This is a faithful saying.” That little formula introduces something that is of great importance; of great importance. It is attached to something of monumental importance.

Paul uses that phrase five times. He uses it in 1 Timothy 1:15, he uses it here in 3:1, he uses it again in chapter 4, verse 9, he uses it in 2 Timothy 2:11 and he uses it in Titus 3:8. Five times it is used. Now, what that means is, “it is a trustworthy statement,” or to put it simply, “this is the truth, and everybody knows it.” This is axiomatic. This doesn’t need proof. This is obvious. This is patently clear to everyone. Here is a believable fact. Here is a trustworthy statement. Now, that is only a formula used in the pastoral epistles, which means that it didn’t come into use until late in the ministry of Paul.

As for ‘a good work’ or ‘a noble task’, MacArthur says:

Unquestionably, then, this gives to us a sense that the early church put a high value on a call to church leadership. It is a very sacred trust. It was essential in the life of the church.

… in that particular day and time, when the early church developed this saying, you can be sure that people didn’t go rushing into the ministry for the wrong reasons, because there was high risk connected with that; the church was persecuted. There was not a lot of prominence and prestige in the community for someone in that position. Great danger, great risk, problems, difficulty, hard work, great toil, low compensation, no security, very little future, no guarantees about anything.

So, the church, wanting to exalt that role, and encourage the hearts of young people, no doubt developed this saying, that it is a worthy thing to desire that, to impel those who were called to think seriously about that as a life career.

MacArthur points out that a Greek word used in the original manuscript is a masculine one:

You will notice further, verse 1 says, “If a man desires the office of overseer, he desires a good work.” It is limited to men. The use of the Greek tis, T-I-S in English, in the masculine form, indicates that men are in reference here. It means any man, but it is masculine; “if any man desires.”

… The limitations on this calling to men are also fortified by verses 2 through 6. And in verses 2 through 6, there is a listing of all kinds of descriptive qualifications; they’re adjectives. Every one of them in verse 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are in the masculine form.

MacArthur looks at the Greek word for ‘desire’, used twice in that verse:

You will notice that two times, in the Authorized version, the word desire appears in verse 1. “If someone desires the office of an overseer” – or, actually, “desires the overseer’s work” – “he desires a good work.” There are two words for desire, though they’re translated as if they were one in English. The first one is oregō. What that means is, to reach out after, or to stretch out some – oneself, to grasp something. It doesn’t say anything about the inside; it just says what you’re doing on the outside.

It’s the idea of going after something. If someone goes after the function of an overseer; that’s the idea. If he pursues that; and the idea is, he gets in that track. Maybe he goes to school, he reads about that, he studies about that, he learns to do that, he gets under some people that are doing that. If he sort of tracks that track, then it says, if he does that, “he is desiring a good work.” But the second word for desire is completely different. The first word – oregō – is only used three times.

It’s used also, in chapter 6, verse 10, in a negative way; that’s reaching after something bad. It’s used in Hebrew – Hebrews 11:16, I believe it is, reaching for something good. It doesn’t say what you’re reaching for. Here, obviously, it’s reaching out for that pastorate, that leadership in the church. If a person does that, then it says, “he desires,” and he uses a totally different word – epithumeō – used many times in the New Testament, also for bad and good. But this word means a passionate compulsion.

Whereas the first word is something you do outwardly, the second word is something you feel inwardly. And it’s the two of those things that come together in this verse that give us the embodiment of the full understanding of that desire. What you have here, then, is someone who desires to lead in the church, and pursues it on the outside because he’s driven on the inside; he is compelled on the inside

But it ought to be a compulsion. If it’s from God, it will be a compulsion. Now, the compulsion may be stronger in some than others, but nonetheless, it is a compulsion.

Paul was compelled. We have read many times over the past couple of years in these posts of his compulsion. MacArthur gives us one example. Students of Paul’s epistles will remember more verses:

Paul says, “Look, don’t commend me for my ministry” – 1 Corinthians 9“woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” I am a driven man. I am compelled. I am compelled.

MacArthur gave a long citation of a book by the English Reformer, Hugh Latimer (1487-1555), who was one of the three Oxford Martyrs that Mary I — ‘Bloody Mary’ — ordered to be burnt at the stake. The three men — Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer — were Church of England bishops in the Anglican sense, rather than the Pauline sense here, who resisted giving up the Protestant faith for Mary’s Catholicism.

MacArthur cites Latimer’s ‘Sermon of the Plough’, which reveals the depth and gravitas of Christian ministry. Latimer’s intended audience were clergymen who were relaxed about their vocations:

And now I would ask you a strange question: who is the most diligent bishop and prelate in all England, that passes all the rest in doing his office? I can tell, for I know who he is; I know him well. But now I think you listening and harkening that I should name him. There is one that passes all the others, and is the most diligent prelate and preacher in all of England. And will you know who it is? I will tell you: it is the devil.

He is the most diligent preacher of all; he is never out of his diocese; he is never from his cure [curacy]; you shall find – never find him unoccupied; he is ever in his parish; he keeps residence at all times; you shall never find him out of the way, call for him when you will, he is ever at home; he is the most diligent preacher in all the realm; he is ever at his plough: no lording or loitering can hinder him; he is ever applying his business, you will never find him idle, I warrant you.

When the devil is resident, and has his plough going, there away with books, and up with candles; away with Bibles, and up with beads; away with the light of the gospel, and up with the light of the candles, yea, even at noon-day…up with man’s traditions and his laws, down with God’s traditions and His most holy Word. Oh that our prelates [pastors] would be as diligent to sow the corn of good doctrine, as Satan is to sow cockle and darnel! There was never such a preacher in England as he is.

Latimer concluded his sermon with this:

The prelates are lords, and not laborers: but the devil is diligent at his plough. He is no unpreaching prelate: he is no lordly loiterer from his cure, he is a busy ploughman… Therefore, you unpreaching prelates, learn from the devil: be diligent in doing your office. If you will not learn from God, nor good men, to be diligent in your office, then learn from the devil.

MacArthur explains the Greek word for ‘bishop’ or ‘overseer’:

… the word is episkopos, the word for bishop or overseer …

It really could be used, the word – we could use the word leader or ruler, because that’s the idea. If you’re given responsibility to lead the church, to oversee the church, you are given a great responsibility. It is a very, very responsible calling. In fact, in Hebrews 13:17, it says you have to give an account to God for how you handled your leadership. James 3:1 says, “Don’t be in a hurry to be a teacher, because you’ll have a greater condemnation.” The responsibility is so great for one in a position of leadership.

Now, the word episkopos, or episkopē, comes out of Greek culture. There is a use of that word in the Greek culture. They use it to refer to an inspector, a sort of a city administrator, a finance manager; and some people believe that that word came out of Greek culture into the church. But it’s been discovered, too, that among a group of Jews called Essenes – they were monastic Jews; they were sort of heterodox Jews; they lived out in the wilderness by the Dead Sea – they also had episkopē.

They used the Hebrew term, mebaqqer and they – they had these men who would be called by them, in the Greek, episkopē, and in the Essene culture – the Qumran community, we call it – these men preached, taught, presided, exercised care, exercised authority, and did church discipline. It wouldn’t be called church discipline, but it was community discipline. They had the duty of commanding the people, instructing the people, receiving alms from the people. They had the duty of accusing the people, examining them, dealing with their sins, and generally shepherding.

So, it’s probably likely that the episkopē really gets its definition out of the Qumran community, rather than out of the Greek culture, because the Greek culture is such a narrow definition of administration, whereas the Qumran people saw this as a wide range of spiritual responsibility. So, the overseer – imagine – had that kind of responsibility; to command the people, lead the people, instruct the people, receive the giving from the people, receive accusations against the people and find out if they were true, examine the people, deal with their sins, shepherd the flock.

The range of responsibility, really, that belongs to every pastor and elder. The overseer is the same as a pastor and an elder. As I said earlier, elder – which is the word presbuteros – simply speaks of spiritual maturity; it means an older person. Shepherd is the word pastor – it is one who feeds – and overseer is the word episkopos – the one who leads, administrates, and coordinates, and supervises. They all refer to the same person. They are all used of the same people in Acts 20:28. They are all used of the same people in Titus 1:6 to 9 – in 1:5 to 9. They’re used of the same people in 1 Peter 5:1 and 2

So, they refer to the same person. I am an elder, spiritually mature. I am a pastor, I feed you. I am an overseer, I have responsibility of oversight, it’s all one and the same, just looking at it from different facets. And what is the responsibility of the elders at this church, the shepherds and pastors of this church; what is their responsibility? We are to rule. 1 Timothy 5:17 says we rule. That is proistēmi, to be ranked first or to stand first. We have the authority, given us by Christ, to rule in His behalf using His Word.

Finally, MacArthur looks at what Paul means by ‘a good work’:

The word good is kalos, a noble, excellent, honorable, high-quality work. This is the high estimate of the pastorate. It is of great, great value …

Then lastly … it is a demanding calling. And that is implied in the word work. It is a demanding calling. If you’re looking for leisure, if you’re looking for an easy time, you will not find it in the true exercise of the ministry.

You can find it by sort of getting in and just kind of laying low, but you’ll not fulfill the ministry. It is a demanding calling. The word work implies that. It implies energy, and expending of energy, and effort, and zeal, and commitment. And the word here has the idea, not of a one-time task or a one-time deed, but of a life work. It is a demanding occupation, I would like to translate it. It is a demanding life-long task. When Paul uses the same word, in 2 Timothy 4:5, and says to Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist,” he’s not saying, “Do it today and tomorrow,” he’s saying, “Do that life-long work of an evangelist. You are one; do that work.”

And we are “to esteem” – 1 Thessalonians 5:12 – “those over us in the Lord for their work,” for their occupation, for the thing they do. The work of the ministry is a demanding thing. The work is never done. It’s – you don’t turn it off at five o’clock, let me tell you, folks. It never goes away – never, ever goes away. And there’s no assembly line that stops, and you can walk away. It just never, ever, ever goes away. It is a demanding calling. And when you look at your own heart and ask yourself if you’re called, realize that.

You’re talking about a life-long occupation. And Paul knew that; he suffered so greatly for that work. Well, these are the kind of people the church needs, who are called, because they understand that this is the kind of thing that it is: a demanding calling. And yet a worthy one, a lofty one, a compelling one. A calling that is rising from deep within the heart of a person, who understands its importance, understands that God is driving them to that. This is where church leadership has to begin. It starts with a calling.

Paul then gives Timothy six characteristics of an overseer, or pastor: being above reproach (blameless), a one-woman husband, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable and able to teach (verse 2).

We can see the heavy responsibility of being a pastor. It is a tall order.

In his next sermon on today’s verses, MacArthur cites Richard Baxter (1615-1691), another English clergyman. The Church of England expelled him during the English Civil War. Baxter continued as what is known as a Nonconformist clergyman, one not affiliated with the state church. He embraced Calvinism and became one of the leaders of the Nonconformist movement. Even today, pastors who are not affiliated with the Anglican church are referred to in England as Noncons.

Baxter wrote a book, The Reformed Pastor, first published in 1656, and MacArthur read it. A citation follows which fully expresses the solemn responsibility of a clergyman:

Take heed to yourselves, lest you live in those sins which you preach against in others, and lest you be guilty of that which daily you condemn. Will you make it your work to magnify God, and, when you have done that, dishonor Him as much as others? Will you proclaim Christ’s governing power, and yet condemn it, and rebel yourselves? Will you preach His laws, and willfully break them?

If sin be evil, why do you live in it? If it be not evil, why do you dissuade men from it? If it be dangerous, how dare you venture on it? If it be not dangerous, why do you tell men it is? If God’s threatenings are true, why do you not fear them? If they are false, why do you needlessly trouble men with them, and put them into such frights without a cause? Do you know the judgment of God, that they who commit such things are worthy of death, and yet will you do them? Thou that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?

Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, or be drunk, or covetous, art thou such thyself? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonorest thou God? What! Shall the same tongue speak evil that speaks against evil? Shall those lips censure, and slander, and backbite your neighbor, that cry down these and the like things in others? Take heed to yourselves, lest you cry down sin, and yet do not overcome it; lest, while you seek to bring it down in others, you bow to it, and become its slave yourselves.

For of whom a man is overcome, the same he is brought into bondage. To whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, His servants you are whom you obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness. O brethren! It is easier to chide at sin, than it is to overcome it.

Henry explains the importance of each of the characteristics Paul gives Timothy in verse 2:

In order to the discharge of this office, the doing of this work, the workman must be qualified. 1. A minister must be blameless, he must not lie under any scandal; he must give as little occasion for blame as can be, because this would be a prejudice to his ministry and would reflect reproach upon his office. 2. He must be the husband of one wife; not having given a bill of divorce to one, and then taken another, or not having many wives at once, as at that time was too common both among Jews and Gentiles, especially among the Gentiles. 3. He must be vigilant and watchful against Satan, that subtle enemy; he must watch over himself, and the souls of those who are committed to his charge, of whom having taken the oversight, he must improve all opportunities of doing them good. A minister ought to be vigilant, because our adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, 1 Pet 5 8. 4. He must be sober, temperate, moderate in all his actions, and in the use of all creature-comforts. Sobriety and watchfulness are often in scripture put together, because they mutually befriend one another: Be sober, be vigilant. 5. He must be of good behaviour, composed and solid, and not light, vain, and frothy. 6. He must be given to hospitality, open-handed to strangers, and ready to entertain them according to his ability, as one who does not set his heart upon the wealth of the world and who is a true lover of his brethren. 7. Apt to teach. Therefore this is a preaching bishop whom Paul describes, one who is both able and willing to communicate to others the knowledge which God has given him, one who is fit to teach and ready to take all opportunities of giving instructions, who is himself well instructed in the things of the kingdom of heaven, and is communicative of what he knows to others.

MacArthur looks at these qualifications in more detail in his next sermon. He preached seven sermons on today’s verses.

He surmises that Paul mentioned being a one-woman man because avoiding sexual sin is hard, especially for men:

Now, I realize that the Old English, the King James, the Authorized Version says, “The husband of one wife.” That is not an accurate rendering of the Greek text. It uses the word gynaikos which is woman. It uses the word anēr, which is man, and it simply says, “A one-woman man.” The emphatic is the word “one.” “A one-woman man.” Here Paul is not stressing marital status. There is no definite article “the” husband of one wife. It is with without the article “a” one-woman man. And the absence of the article stresses not circumstances and not marital status, but character. It stresses character.

He begins to discuss the blamelessness of this man by a statement about his moral, sexual behavior. His character starts right here.

Somebody says, “Well, why is this first in the list?”

I’ll tell you; in my humble experience through the years, I have found this area of a man’s life to be that which most often puts men out of the ministry – more than any other matter, the inability to be a one-woman man. And that is why it is listed first, because it is such an obvious matter of grave concern, and such a mark of moral character.

He goes on to explain more about what Paul meant:

He’s not talking about polygamy here. Polygamy would disqualify you from even being in the church. They’d discipline you out before you got in. Sexual promiscuity was rampant. Vice was rampant. Prostitutes and deviant sexual priestesses and all of that was rampant in Ephesus, but not polygamy. The issue here is not that you can’t be a polygamist.

Somebody else says, “No, the husband of one wife means you could never have a second wife. You could never be married to more than one person.”

Well, I find that to be difficult in interpretation, because in the first place, that is not what the text originally says; it says “a one-woman man,” and it’s speaking about character, not marital status. But let’s assume even that we translate it the husband of one wife, are we saying that someone who had married a second wife could never be an elder in the church? Not hardly, because there are some terms in Scripture by which God not only permits but honors a second marriage. Is that not right? …

So, the point of this passage, a one-woman man, is not some kind of blanket forbidding that anyone married a second time could ever serve in a ministry. But there have been people who have interpreted it that way, and some who have been widowed, and then remarried men – a man losing his wife, marrying another woman, and some feeling they could no longer serve in the church. That’s not the intent of this text, for God honors that. God allows that.

Then the question comes, “Well, maybe it means divorced people.” Well, if it was intended to say that, it would have been very simple; all he would have had to say was, “This is to be a man who has never been divorced.” But it doesn’t say that either. It doesn’t say a man who has never been divorced. Because that would be such a broad, blanket statement, that that would pose problems as well

So, the point is this, people: a remarriage, in and of itself is not a sin. If a person was widowed and remarried, if a person was the innocent party in a divorce, where the other person was an unrepentant adulterer, a remarriage is not a sin. If an unbeliever departed, a remarriage is not a sin. So, we cannot blight someone’s life with a second marriage as if that in itself were sinful.

Now, having said all of that, I would confess to you that the majority of second marriages in our particular day and age are sinful. Obviously. Because they do not fit within that narrow definition of tolerable divorce given in the Word of God. But the point now, going back to 1 Timothy 3 – if you’re not there, turn to it, will you please – the point going back here is not that he is saying no one can ever be in church leadership who’s ever been previously married. That’s ridiculous, because there are tolerances within that. That isn’t even the issue here. If he wanted to be explicit about that, he would have said it another way …

The issue here, beloved, is a one-woman man. What that means is man devoted to one woman in his heart and mind. In his heart and mind. Keep in your mind that sexual evil was rampant in Ephesus.

… And what he is saying, you see, to Timothy is, “Hey, Timothy, one thing you’re going to have to do at the very beginning, when you put these men in a position of leadership, it will be made very clear that they are one-woman men, because that’s the only standard that God tolerates in His Church in terms of godly living. This is a man who loves only one woman, who desires only one woman, who thinks of only one woman, whose heart is for only one woman, and that woman is the wife that God has given to him. This is a man who would never do treacherously against the wife of his youth, as the prophet put it, not in a legal sense of divorcing nor in the spiritual sense of violating that commitment to her in his own mind, in his own heart.

The series continues with the rest of verse 2 in part 2.

Before June 2022, the last time an ordination was shown on British television was when the first female Anglican priests were ordained in 1994.

I did not cover this at the time, as Boris stood down as Conservative Party leader. The news onslaught surrounding the contest for his successor, Liz Truss, lasted for the rest of the summer. Then the Queen died, sadly. It was not long after that when Truss had to stand down to make way for Rishi Sunak.

Having been refused ordination by the Church of England, Calvin Robinson was ordained a deacon on Saturday, June 25, 2022, at Christ Church Harlesden, a Free Church of England parish in north west London which is part of GAFCON:

The Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans — GAFCON — is a global network of conservative Anglican churches that formed in 2008 in response to an ongoing theological crisis in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Thankfully, they took in their brother Calvin and recognised his calling:

GB News was on hand to film the ceremony and broadcast it that weekend:

Calvin’s GB News colleagues offered their heartfelt congratulations, such as the Conservative life peer Baroness Foster:

Some of his colleagues attended the ceremony …

… and stayed for lunch afterwards:

Those who were unable to attend also sent their best wishes. Every one of them recognised the CofE’s rejection of a godly man called to Holy Orders:

Always evangelising, whether indirectly or, as is the case here, directly, Calvin never misses out an opportunity to exhort people to experience the truth and light of Christ Jesus, as he did with GB News contributor Dominique Samuels:

Other conservative media personalities who are Calvin’s friends also offered their congratulations for his ministry, such as the Reform Party leader Richard Tice …

… and Margaret Thatcher’s former aide Nile Gardiner:

Calvin’s friends from his radio days also wished him well:

Politicians also chimed in, from former London Assembly member and Conservative candidate for Mayor of London (2021) Shaun Bailey …

… and Conservative MP Steve Baker, who has not hesitated to mention his own faith in House of Commons debates:

I’ll leave the closing word to the head of the conservative think tank The Bow Group. Ben Harris-Quinney discusses choosing principle over power and achieving both:

As Calvin replied:

For the greater glory of God!


The Revd Calvin Robinson has his own GB News show every Sunday at 2 p.m.

He also appears as a contributor on several other of the channel’s programmes throughout the day and evening.

May God’s grace and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit continue to guide Calvin in his ministry for Jesus Christ, our only mediator and advocate:

Deo gratias! Thanks be to God!

December 26 in the UK and parts of the Commonwealth is Boxing Day.

The day, however, is the feast day of St Stephen, our first martyr, whose story is told in Acts 6 and 7:

St Stephen, the first martyr

The next posts have more about St Stephen’s Day and Boxing Day:

Boxing Day – a history

December 26 — St Stephen’s Day, Boxing Day and more (the money box, details on St Stephen and Good King Wenceslas (2017)

Here is a reminder that the Christmas season is not one day, but 12, as celebrated in the Church:

The Christmas season is 12 days long (2021, GB News)

GB News has done a spectacular job in discussing Christmas on its programmes, especially the Revd Calvin Robinson’s hour-long special, A Message of Hope, filmed at the Brompton Oratory this year. For the second year running, Robinson has explored the Christian faith in light of the Christ Child. This video includes excellent carol renditions:

Highlights follow.

This is part of the Anglican deacon’s introduction on the meaning of Christmas, which is one of hope and the greatest story ever told:

In these days, especially when Christianity is on a downward trend in the West, it is more important than ever that those of us who live in the developed world spread the Good News so that people really understand what Jesus came to earth to accomplish. Doctor Gavin Ashenden, now a Catholic, but formerly an Anglican priest and one of the late Queen’s chaplains, explains more:

Ashenden told Neil Oliver on Christmas Eve that it is regrettable that Christianity, based on non-violence, is seen as such an easy touch for secularists:

Nonetheless, the message of Christianity’s forgiveness and redemption still gets through. The Most Revd Robert Barron, a Catholic bishop from the United States, told Calvin Robinson how actor Shia LaBoeuf converted to Christianity. For him, knowing that God forgave his sins was a huge factor. The bishop gives a great summary of the effectual call. He says that God pursues and pursues those whom He has chosen, regardless of how awful our past trespasses were:

Religious Studies professor Dr John Milbank gave a lovely apologetic for Father Christmas, inspired by St Nicholas of Myra, a bishop, who gave anonymous gifts that saved people’s lives. By giving gifts of gold to three young women’s families, St Nicholas saved them from a life of prostitution. Milbank says it is good for young children to believe in Father Christmas and anonymous gifts. As they get older, he says, the belief in God’s gifts of grace from heaven is an easier concept to appreciate and makes more sense to them:

One of the fascinating things about GB News’s programmes over the past few days is the universality of Christmas celebrations in the UK. We are living proof that one does not need to be Christian in order to enjoy Christmas. I’m not talking about secularists but those of other faiths.

I have heard a Sikh, a Hindu — and now a Muslim — discuss how they celebrate Christmas. This imam, whose wife is from a non-Muslim background, says that their sons go to his in-laws’ house on December 25. On Eid, his parents invite them over to celebrate that feast. This interview took place on the Christmas Day morning show. He said that, afterwards, he would be going to his in-laws for the day:

Neil Oliver also had a good editorial on his show about the meaning of Christmas. He began by discussing the Penlee Disaster, a 1981 shipwreck that took place near Mousehole, Cornwall. He described the selflessness of the men from Mousehole who rushed to the ship to rescue those on board. He then explored this selflessness in light of the Nativity story. He ended with a socio-political commentary:

An excerpt from his editorial follows (emphases mine):

I think about the Penlee lifeboatmen every year at this time. They say Greater love hath no man than this, but that he lay down his life for his friends. I say there is a greater love, and that it was revealed in the willingness of those eight Mousehole men who were ready to lay down their lives for people they had never met and would never know.

I often remind myself of the Penlee lifeboatmen, in fact, throughout the year – and I think about selfless acts of courage that declare in the strongest possible terms what it truly means to be human and alive. I think about what people are capable of, how much they have to give … and how much some of them WILL give. The Penlee lifeboatmen gave everything they had.

At Christmas we think about the birth of a child – Jesus Christ. He is God’s gift to the world. Every child is a gift precious beyond description. It is also an act of immeasurable bravery by every woman who bears a child – because every child is, she knows, at the mercy of the world and every mother must understand, without needing to think about it, that her child is ultimately surrendered to life itself.

Mary gave birth to Jesus – the son of God – and even she would not be spared the ultimate loss. All our lives are forfeit – a debt that must be repaid, willingly or unwillingly.

Christmas is the time to think about all this – to think about what it means to give – and to acknowledge the meaning of the gift of the child … of every child.

The selfless courage of the Penlee lifeboatmen and the message of the Christmas story can be the antidote to much of the madness that is all around us now. It is a time to remember what we have, to value our loved ones and be thankful they are with us.

Rather than our hollow, spineless leaders, it is the courage and sacrifice of our fellow citizens that should capture and hold our attention, and not just now but all through the year.

It often feels like we are supposed to be focus all our attention on those who are not worthy. Those whose faces we see every day, the politicians in parliament, the leaders around the world, their preferred experts … whose names we hear over and over – they have nothing to give that is of any use to us now, that much as been made painfully obvious in recent years. I have long since stopped paying them any attention at all. Instead I look for heroes elsewhere.

We are supposed to believe our leaders mean to rescue us – from whatever Covid was, from the warmongers, from climate change, from the cost of lockdown crisis – but they had, and have, no such intentions as far as I can see. If they have plans to make anything better, it is certainly not our lives, or the lives of our children.

There is no cavalry coming to rescue us. If we are to be saved – and we surely will be – then we must look to one another for the necessary effort. We are more than capable of the task. We must save ourselves and each other by setting aside old broken ways, and finding new.

We should turn away from those who have failed us, lied to us, deceived us and left us to our fates and see that it is time to take the initiative, to shape and build something new, something untouched by those who have betrayed us and let us down.

Just because the help and leadership we need is not yet clearly in view … the seeds of it are there among us already, nonetheless. We must come to our own rescue in the year and years ahead because there’s no one else.

The Christmas story tells us that 2000 and more years ago, a baby boy was born into poverty and into obscurity. During the 33 years of the life of the man he became, he was recognised for what he really was, his true value, by relatively few. He died as he had lived, in obscurity. He was executed for standing up to, and challenging, the establishment, but by his actions the world was changed for ever, for the better.

Sometimes the most obvious people change the world. At other times, it’s the people the world does not notice, that the world thinks nothing of and so ignores, who end up making all the difference.

I hope and also trust that this is one of those times. I have no faith in the obvious, loud people with their hands on the levers of power. We will be saved by our own actions in defiance of those who care for us not a jot and who prioritise only those they serve – which is to say the already rich and the already powerful, the banks, the markets and the global corporations. I say we should ignore the whole lot of them.

Heres’s the thing: together, right now, we already have everything we will ever need, which is to say each other. We can share food and warmth and light.

We are free people. It’s Christmas and the Christmas message is that hope is here. Light in the dark.

Merry Christmas.

Incidentally, in 2022, December 25 is the seventh and final day of Hanukkah, which GB News also explored. It isn’t often when these two religious feasts coincide:

Moving away from GB News, the Revd Giles Fraser, the vicar of St Anne’s in Kew, west London, wrote an excellent editorial for The Telegraph. The paper has also included a list of religious belief in every county of England and Wales. Find out if yours is still Christian.

Of Christianity’s influence on Western society, Fraser says:

So what, people may ask? Christianity has had its day. But, actually, Judeo-Christian assumptions have underpinned every aspect of life in the West for roughly the past thousand years, shaping the way we think about everything – from art to law, morality to freedom. Our constitution makes no sense without it; our intellectual traditions are incomprehensible without it; even the very idea of the secular is a Christian idea. 

It doesn’t matter if you are a fully paid-up believer or not; it doesn’t even matter if you dislike religion and consider yourself an atheist – if you are European, you probably still have a broadly Christian imagination. 

But, just like the fish who ask “What is water?” in David Foster Wallace’s famous commencement address at his old college in 2005, some things can be so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible. We think in a Christian way even if we have abandoned any sort of specific belief. The very idea of human rights, for instance, is a classic example of a Christian perspective that has been secularised … 

Indeed, the very act of cultural self-criticism that drives secularism is itself a Christian speciality. There is no more robustly self-critical book than the New Testament. The pious and priestly class are subjected to constant critique for their lack of understanding. The parable of the Good Samaritan is not just an encouragement to look after the vulnerable and stranded, it is a subversive dig at the failure of those who should have been first to help. The Samaritan is the New Testament’s representative “other”, disliked for being culturally and theologically different. To make a Samaritan the hero of the story is a withering critique of the established religious order. 

The Reformation was a perfect example of this permanent revolution from below – a religious self-critique that, to its proponents, attacked abuses of heteronomous power and relocated learning and authority to the people in the pews, spreading literacy to the ploughboy and fiery encouragement to the dispossessed.

Within education, family life, capitalism, pop music, the welfare state, no area of our common life has been untouched by these cycles of Christian renewal. Christian influence on Western culture cannot be simply measured by the number of virgins on display in the National Gallery, or the fact that you can’t even begin to understand European literature without having first read the Bible.  

Nowhere will this be more evident than when King Charles is crowned next year. The Coronation is an inherently Christian ceremony. He will be anointed with oil in the same way that King David from Bethlehem was a thousand years before the first Christmas. Monarchy remains a religious business or it is nothing. The birth of the new king of Bethlehem, the king of kings, redefines monarchy as stripped of its power and glamour. Born in a shed with cattle as courtiers, this is authority without the armies. 

As the historian Tom Holland has argued in his brilliant exploration, Dominion, the story of the Christian engagement with the Roman empire is one of a clash of diametrically opposed systems. What attracted the young Holland to the Romans was all their glamour and cruelty. With Christianity, the weak triumph over the strong. The cross that was used by the Romans as an instrument of public humiliation turned into a universal symbol of human liberation. Which is why it will be the king who was crowned with thorns that will preside over the Coronation, not the history book king of the Roman eagle.

… I can only reflect that the story of God divesting himself of his celestial authority and coming amongst us as a vulnerable child has proved remarkably resilient, despite being banned, dismissed and ignored

And as the church places a small plaster representation of the baby into a pile of straw, hope is renewed. It is not hope as optimism, but hope as defiance: at the darkest time of the year, the light comes into the dark and the dark does not overcome it. No, we are not done yet. 

Christmas is not about our love for Him but His love for us. And for that, Alleluia. Glory to the new born king. Happy Christmas.

Even though the UK is now a non-Christian country, according to the latest census, Christmas 2022 brought much considered thought from those who do acknowledge and believe that Jesus Christ is our Saviour and Redeemer.

Forbidden Bible Verses will appear tomorrow.

It’s hard to know where to begin with this year’s Christmas news, much of which is disappointing, to say the least.

That said, there is a bright Christmas message here, so please read on.

Scotland legislation latest

On Thursday, December 22, the Scottish Parliament — or Assembly, as I still call it — passed legislation for Gender Recognition Reform, specifically to grant Gender Recognition Certificates (GRCs).

The bill passed in the SNP-controlled government 86-39 with no abstentions. Only two Conservative MSPs voted for it. The rest were SNP (Scottish National Party), Scottish Greens (SNP coalition partners), Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberal Democrat MSPs.

The final contributions were largely made on the basis of feelings. Wednesday’s transcript shows that every Conservative motion proposing greater controls over who can apply for a GRC and under what conditions was defeated. Debate had also taken place on Tuesday in an attempt to rush this through before Christmas break.

The Scottish Parliament thought this so important that it even cancelled their annual Christmas carol service, which, this year, was to feature Ukrainian refugees living just outside of Edinburgh.

A pro-independence — though not a pro-SNP — Scot who lives in England, the Revd Stuart Campbell, summed up the legislation in one of his Wings Over Scotland posts, ‘On the hush-hush’ (emphases mine):

The last few days have been perhaps the most turbulent in the entire history of the modern Scottish Parliament. Proceedings have been suspended repeatedly, members of the public thrown out and threatened with arrest, filibusters attempted, carol services cancelled, tempers frayed and sittings going on until the wee small hours.

All of this has happened in the service of the policy that the SNP has made its flagship priority for the last two years and more – the destruction not only of women’s rights, but of the very CONCEPT of a woman

So you’d imagine the party would have been tweeting about it constantly, keeping its supporters informed about all the dramatic events and the progress of the bill, if only to reassure them that they were determined to get it passed before the Christmas break come what may …

But there wasn’t one solitary word about the thing it just spent three solid days forcing into law. And since it was a thing that most of its own voters, and indeed a huge majority of all Scots, were opposed to, readers might be forgiven for thinking that they just wanted it all kept as quiet as possible, as if they were ashamed.

We suspect, and very much hope, that their wish may not be granted.

The Revd Mr Campbell means that the Secretary of State for Scotland in Westminster might refuse to present the Bill for King’s Assent. Let’s hope so.

Another Wings over Scotland post explains what the Bill actually does:

… one of the most regressive, dangerous and frankly absurd pieces of legislation the modern world has ever seen. Last week, [First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s] government successfully managed to get the word ‘woman’ redefined from an adult human female to anyone to who has a piece of paper that says they are one.

Should obtaining this piece of paper involve a rigorous, measured process that takes psychological and criminal history into serious consideration and prioritises the safety of women and children, this would be permissible to the socially liberal. Alas though, the new GRA has shamelessly scrapped all safeguarding measures. For a man to legally become a woman now – and be entitled to access all female-only facilities, be it changing rooms or prisons, all he has to do is ‘live as’ a woman (whatever the hell that means) for three months followed by a three-month ‘reflection period’.

TRA-adjacent politicians have nowhere to hide with this now. They can no longer deny that sex-based rights will be grievously compromised and that predators and fetishists now have ease of access to women (and children’s) spaces, from bathrooms to sports teams.

In another post, Campbell linked to Tuesday’s proceedings where a Conservative MSP tried to raise an amendment calling for greater scrutiny of sex offenders wishing to change gender. Unfortunately, 64 SNP/Green/Lib Dem MSPs voted it down. In ‘The Disgraces of Scotland’, Campbell wrote:

The events marked simply and unquestionably the most shameful and contemptible moment in the history of the Scottish Parliament since 1707.

1707 was the year when the Act of Union was established between England and Scotland.

He also pointed out that voting down the amendment resulted in:

ceding the moral high ground to the Scottish Conservatives

Anyone who knows the Scots knows that anything Conservative is unpopular there. That said, the Scottish Conservatives are the official opposition party in Edinburgh.

It should be noted that anyone aged 16 1/2 and over can apply for a GRC. It would appear that no formal medical diagnosis will be required with this new legislation.

Campbell’s readers have much to say on the matter. Some say this is a deleterious influence from American pressure groups. Others say that women will be in great danger.

Both are likely possibilities.

None of the MSPs supporting the Bill thinks that women will have any problem with sex offenders or deviants. However, a British substack begs to differ. ‘This Never Happens’ is a lengthy catalogue of gender-changers around the world who have committed horrific crimes, many of a sexual nature. Another site with a similar catalogue can be found here.

It is ironic that a woman is in charge of Scotland and she has overseen this legislation. In fact, she has supported it from beginning to end.

Scotland, like Canada, was such a beautiful country once upon a time. When I say ‘beautiful’, I’m referring to people. Another spirit — the devil — is moving through both nations.

One positive outcome is that the Scottish Conservatives can use this legislation to their advantage during the next election cycle. Unlike the SNP, Scottish Labour and Scottish Lib Dems, they alone voted en masse against it, showing that they are the true defenders of women and girls.

An UnHerd columnist, Joan Smith, says that this will come soon to England, should Labour win the next general election:

The man sitting next to you on a tram in Edinburgh, or turning up for a women-only swimming session, may self-identify as a woman — and the law will support him every step of the way. Centuries-old assumptions about what is real, about what people see in front of them, are being overturned. And it’s coming to Westminster as well, if Sir Keir Starmer follows through on his proposal to ‘update’ the 2004 Gender Recognition Act.

We have less than two years before a Labour government comes to power, weighed down by promises to import the idiocy (I’m being polite here) of self-ID to the rest of the UK. Two years, in other words, to watch what happens when politicians reject biology, common sense and the imperative to protect women against male violence. 

In the meantime, prisons, hospitals and refuges outside Scotland will face the headache of what to do when a man with a Scottish Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) — obtained with far fewer safeguards than elsewhere in the UK — demands access to women-only spaces. The prospect of expensive litigation is terrifying, but women’s organisations on both sides of the border are already preparing for the fight of their lives.

So crazed are MSPs by this ideology that on Tuesday evening they voted down an amendment that would have placed barriers in the way of convicted sex offenders who seek to apply for a GRC, complete with a new female name. They even rejected an amendment — proposed by Michelle Thomson, an SNP MSP who has waived anonymity to reveal her own experience of being raped when she was fourteen years old — that would have paused the process of acquiring a certificate for men charged with sexual offences.

This is an extremely troubling development. Let’s not forget that the SNP-Green government has pressed ahead with the legislation even after Lady Haldane’s judgment established last week that a GRC changes someone’s legal sex for the purposes of the 2010 Equality Act. Scottish women are now expected to accept that any man standing in front of them, waving a piece of paper, is a woman — even if they’re in court and the man is accused of raping them. 

It’s clear that a bill that was supposedly purely administrative has hugely expanded the number of individuals who can apply for a GRC, with catastrophic effects on women’s rights.

The rest of the UK is about to find out what it’s like living alongside a country in which observable sex no longer has any meaning. Welcome to Scotland, where the word ‘woman’ will now soon include any man who fancies it.

Conservatives in England and Wales can take heart from this for the general election in two years’ time, pointing to their colleagues north of the border. Who are the great defenders of women and girls? It certainly won’t be Labour.

Woman arrested for silent prayer

On December 6, a pro-life supporter from Worcestershire was arrested for praying silently in Birmingham in an exclusion zone around an abortion clinic.

Here is the video of her arrest:

A fundraiser is open for her:

BirminghamLive filed their report on Tuesday, December 20:

A woman has been charged with breaching an exclusion zone outside a Birmingham abortion clinic. Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, aged 45, from Malvern in Worcestershire, was arrested near the BPAS Robert Clinic in Kings Norton on December 6.

She was later charged with breaking a Public Space Protection Order, said by Birmingham City Council to have been introduced to ensure “people visiting and working there have clear access without fear of confrontation”. Vaughan-Spruce will appear at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on February 2 next year.

A West Midlands Police spokesperson said: “Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, aged 45 from Geraldine Road, Malvern, was arrested on December 6 and subsequently charged on December 15 with four counts of failing to comply with a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). She was bailed to appear at Birmingham Magistrates Court on February 2 2023.”

The police must feel threatened by prayer, especially that of the silent sort.

On Friday, December 23, UnHerd ‘s Mary Harrington gave her thoughts on the arrest:

It’s customary in these situations to decry the breach of liberal norms involved in arresting someone not for doing something wrong but merely thinking. But if, as I’ve suggested elsewhere, all politics is now post-liberal, that means it’s once again explicitly the case that state power is aligned with a widely-shared moral order

This is a drum I’ve been banging for a little while, for contra the fond imaginings of some liberals we never really stopped ordering power to sacred values. After all, it’s not really possible to have a functioning polity otherwise. This, I argued shortly before the pandemic, is why hate crime laws appeared a scant few years after the abolition of blasphemy laws: they are blasphemy laws. We’ve just updated what we considered blasphemous

…  Vaughan-Spruce’s arrest makes it clear that the zone surrounding an abortion centre is treated as sacred in a way that’s evidently no longer meaningfully the case (at least as far as the European court is concerned) of a church. She is an activist and director of March for Life UK, and has been previously arrested for protesting against abortion. But this in no way diminishes the growing sense that the activity being protected is also increasingly treated as sacred …

We have sacralised autonomy to such an extent that laws uphold women’s right to it, even at the cost of another radically dependent life. And the issue is growing ever more moralised, as evidenced by the fact that even thinking disapproving thoughts about this radical commitment to individual autonomy is now treated as blasphemous, in zones where its most extreme sacrifices are made

Wherever you stand on the practical issues surrounding abortion, this is indisputably a profound statement on the relative values we accord to freedom, care and dependency — one with profound ramifications for how we see the weak and helpless in any context. That the practice is taking on sacramental colouring, for a religion of atomisation, should give us all pause.


House of Lords Archbishop of Canterbury debate on asylum

On December 9, the House of Lords gave the Archbishop of Canterbury his annual debate. This year, the subject was the UK’s asylum and refugee policy.

I hope that readers will understand if I do not excerpt his speech here. They are free to read it for themselves.

We have taken in a record annual number of illegal migrants crossing the Channel this year, expected to be over 50,000.

We have also taken in large numbers of legitimate refugees and asylum seekers. We have also given visas to many thousands of legal migrants this year, particularly from Africa and Asia, namely India and Hong Kong.

UnHerd had a good analysis of what Welby said and our current predicament:

The Archbishop says he aims to support action that would “prevent small boats from crossing the channel”, but he also stresses that the UK is not taking many refugees and should take many more. 

Astonishingly, he dismisses the provision our country has made to welcome Hong Kong residents — well over 100,000 to date and many more to come — by saying “and that, by the way, is not asylum but financial visas”. It may not involve an application for asylum as such, but it clearly involves flight from oppression. Welby also draws the wrong conclusion from the fact that developing countries host many more refugees than developed countries. This is much cheaper than settlement in the West and makes return more likely. Developed countries should help pay the costs, and the UK leads the way in this regard.

The control Welby claims to support does not presently exist. The small boats cannot safely be turned around in the Channel and France will not accept their immediate return. The Rwanda plan is a rational (if imperfect) attempt to address the problem, removing asylum-seekers to a safe third country, where they will be protected, yet the Archbishop decries the plan on the grounds that it outsources our responsibilities. This makes no sense, for the UK not only accepts that Rwanda must comply with international standards, but also commits to funding the protection of those who prove to be refugees. Welby asserts that the plan has failed to deter. Indeed, because it has not yet been tried at all. 

The UK has good reason to resettle in safe third countries those who enter unlawfully on small boats, which would discourage others from (dangerous) unlawful entry and restore control of our borders. The historic tradition on which the Archbishop relies is alive and well in the provision our government has made, with wide public support, for temporary protection for Ukrainians escaping Russian aggression and for resettlement of the new Huguenots, the Hong Kong residents seeking to escape the oppressive reach of the Chinese Communist state

Lord Lilley — former Conservative MP Peter Lilley — posed the conundrum of loving one’s neighbour and not being able to accommodate everyone, especially those who arrive under false pretences:

This issue raises very difficult dilemmas for Christians. Being a very inadequate Christian myself, I take up the challenge from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop with trepidation: to try to formulate principles for governing our policy on asylum and migration. Not having direct access to the mind of God like the most reverend Primate the Archbishop, I seek those principles in the Bible.

I recall that our Lord said that the essence of Christianity is to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves. When asked who our neighbour is, he gave the parable of the good Samaritan, when a Samaritan helps a Jew—from which I deduce that our neighbour is not just the person next door to us and not necessarily a member of our own nation; it can be anyone. The first principle I therefore deduce is that, although charity begins at home, as a lot of my constituents used to tell me, it does not necessarily end at home. I am at one with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop on that.

Secondly, the Samaritan did what he practically could. We may be called on to help anyone we practically can, but we cannot help everyone. Again, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop recognised that and it is important that we recognise that our responsibilities are finite, in this respect.

Thirdly, when the Levite and the Jewish priest reached their destination, I have no doubt that they deplored how, owing to years of austerity, there had been insufficient spending on police and the health service to prevent the problem arising in the first place or to treat the person, instead of leaving it to the passing Samaritan. Therefore, my third principle is that, to be a good Samaritan, you have to give care, help and so on at your expense. We, as politicians, may have to take decisions on behalf of others but, in doing so, we should have consideration for the impact we are having on others and not imagine we are being virtuous when we do good at their expense.

The first principle is that charity begins at home, in how we treat people who have come to settle here. When I was a child, mass immigration into this country was just beginning. The parish in which I lived asked each family to link up with a migrant family, many of whom were lonely, isolated and, at worst, facing hostility. My family was linked up to a delightful Mauritian couple, whom we would invite to supper every few weeks. We became good friends. That was done by parishes across south London. I would love to hear from Bishops who have not yet spoken about what the churches are doing today to help integrate those who are here in our society and to be the good Samaritans to our neighbours from abroad.

But charity does not end at home. I pay tribute to those tens of thousands of people who opened their homes to families fleeing the bombing in Ukraine, while their menfolk remained to fight for their country. We should not imagine we are sharing in being good Samaritans if we throw open the doors of our country to everybody because, if we do that, we are doing good at others’ expense. We are, in effect, saying that migrants, be they legal or illegal, asylum seekers or otherwise, through housing benefit and social housing, will have access to rented and social homes. We all have our own homes, so we will not be affected. Therefore, more young people will have to wait at home or live in cramp bed-sitters for longer, because of what we, as legislators, think we are doing generously, without taking the impact on others into account.

The second principle is that our neighbour can be anyone, but it cannot be everyone. Millions of people want to come here. Look at the impact of the green card system the Americans operate, when they make 30,000 visas to the US available to certain countries and say, “Anyone can apply; there is a ballot.” Some 9% of the population of Albania applied when they heard about that being offered to them, as did 11% of the Armenian and 14% of the Liberian populations. These were only the people who heard about it and responded. The potential number who would like to come to America or Europe, if we open these so-called direct routes, would be enormous. Will we say to those who apply, at an embassy or some place abroad, that they would have the same legal rights, and opportunities to appeal or for judicial review if things are turned down? If so, potentially millions of people would join the queue. It would not shorten but lengthen it, so we have to restrict and to prioritise.

I submit to noble Lords that the priority should not be the boat people. They are not coming by boat from Basra, Somalia or Eritrea; they are coming from France, Belgium and Germany. Why are they coming here rather than staying in those safe countries? They are three or four times as likely to be rejected there. France, in the last year before the pandemic, forcibly repatriated 34,000 people. I find some strange double standards being applied here. There are no criticisms of France for being much stricter than us or of us for being much laxer than them, but one or the other must be the case.

I am coming to an end. If it is morally and legally right for the French to try to prevent people leaving their shores, and for us to pay and support the French in so doing, it should be morally and legally right for us to return them. If they cannot be returned, it is reasonable to try to deter them by saying, “If you come here, you will go to Rwanda. You always have the opportunity to stay in France.” I submit that we do not always consider these opportunities.

Later on, the Archbishop of York, the Right Revd Stephen Cottrell, spoke, an excerpt of which follows. The transcript hardly does his indignation justice. He ripped right into Lord Lilley:

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, that everyone is our neighbour. Of course, we cannot take everybody, but that makes it even more important that we have a fair system for everyone.

Dehumanising language promotes fear. Threat of destitution is used as a deterrent. Children are treated as if they are adults. Yet in our own country, among our own people, in our churches, other faith groups and communities, some things have gone well, such as the Homes for Ukraine scheme, where many people have found a home, other family members have joined them, and people have been able to get work. This is really good.

But why has our response to people fleeing other conflicts been different? Currently, the definition of family in our asylum system would not allow someone to join their sibling even if they were the last remaining relative, and being able to work and contribute is a long way off. The tragedy of our system lies in its exceptionalism, meaning that people receive differential treatment usually because of their country of origin. That underpins the Nationality and Borders Act, and I fear that further legislative action will be the same.

But we could learn from what is happening in our communities. The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, asked us directly about integration. I do not know where to begin. In hundreds of parishes and schools, and in other faith communities up and down our country, that is what we are doing—in English language classes, in befriending and in teaching people. I would be the first to admit that there are lots of things about the Church of England that could be better, but that is something that we are doing, alongside others, and it shows the best of British.

We need a system that will simply provide safe and legal routes for everyone to have equal opportunities to apply for asylum. All I am saying is that I think that would be good for us, as well as for the people who are fleeing unimaginable conflict and evil.

Finally, when it comes to being able to work, the Church of England, alongside the Refugee Council and the Government’s own Migration Advisory Committee, is a long-standing supporter of the Lift the Ban campaign.

I say all this—like many of us, I would wish to say more, but the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said most of it—as winter arrives, and it is cold, and a cost of living crisis will inevitably affect the British people’s capacity to be hospitable. I say simply that a functioning asylum system is not a threat to our social cohesion as some fear or predict, but a dysfunctional, unfair one is.

As every small child knows at this time of the year, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, mentioned, Mary and Joseph came looking for somewhere to stay, but there was no room at the inn. Saying no, accusing those who are being hospitable of being naive, or passing the buck are easy, but saying yes, with a fair and equal system for everyone, opens up blessings for everyone.

A week later, Cottrell featured in an article in The Telegraph: ‘Forgive my “predictable leftie rant” on asylum, says Archbishop of York’.

It seems he knew he was out of order with Lord Lilley, who deserved the same courtesy as the peers agreeing with the Archbishop. It was good for Lord Lilley to speak politely on behalf of the British public.

Britons are paying upwards of £7 million a day just to house those crossing the Channel.

GB News’s Mark Steyn and his guest hosts have been covering the topic nearly every night:

Taxpayers are deeply upset, especially during our cost of living crisis, which is causing many to choose between food and fuel.

Combine that with taxpayers’ personal expenses for Net Zero, and we are heading for disaster:

Red Wall Conservative MP Jonathan Gullis tried unsuccessfully to raise a Private Member’s Bill to get illegal migrants to Rwanda sooner rather than later:

Hotels across England are being taken over by companies working for the Home Office to house the Channel-crossers:

Hospitality workers in those hotels are losing their jobs as the aforementioned companies install their own staff to manage them:

The December 22 show also featured the seemingly intractable problem:

Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie then swung by to weigh in on how much migrants are costing Britons.

The Home Office — read ‘civil servants’ — must do something now.

It’s obvious people are watching GB News, because they beat BBC News for the first time ever on December 14:

Onwards and upwards!

House of Commons recess debate

On Tuesday, December 20, the House of Commons held its Christmas recess debate.

Normally, these are rather jolly affairs where MPs air wish lists for their constituencies for the New Year. However, this year’s contributions were rather grim, including those from Conservative MPs.

Once again, providentially, I tuned in at the right time to hear the member for Don Valley, Conservative MP Nick Fletcher. He closed his speech saying the following, the first part of which came as news to me:

Finally, Christian friends across the House tried to secure a Backbench debate on Christmas and Christianity, but by all accounts we were not successful. While I have this moment, I want to remind those in this place, and anyone who cares to watch, that although Christmas is celebrated in many ways across the world, the real reason is the birth of our saviour, Jesus Christ. He was sent as a saviour, and with the promise that whoever believes in him will have eternal life. I do not want anyone ever to forget that. Merry Christmas everybody.

Jim Shannon, a Democratic Unionist Party MP (i.e. from Northern Ireland), was one of the last MPs to speak. A devout Anglican — yes, they still exist — he gave a beautiful speech on the meaning of the season, most of which follows:

It is no secret that I love this time of year—I may have mentioned that a time or three in this House. There are so many things to love about Christmas: time with family; good food; fellowship; and, for me, the singing of an old Christmas carol as we gather in church. But the most wonderful thing about Christmas for me is the hope that it holds. I wish to speak this year about the Christ in Christmas, because, too often, we miss that. It would be good this year to focus on what Christmas is really all about. I ask Members to stick with me on this one.

The message of Christmas is not simply the nativity scene that is so beautifully portrayed in schools and churches throughout this country, but rather the hope that lies in the fact that the baby was born to provide a better future for each one of us in this House and across the world. What a message of hope that is; it is a message that each one of us needs. No matter who we are in the UK, life is tough. The past three years have been really, really tough—for those who wonder how to heat their homes; for those who have received bad news from their doctor; for those whose children have not caught up from the covid school closures; for those who mourn the loss of a loved one; for those who mourn the breakdown of a family unit; and for those who are alone and isolated. This life is not easy, and yet there is hope. That is because of the Christmas story. It is because Christ came to this world and took on the form of man so that redemption’s plan could be fulfilled. There is hope for each one of us to have that personal relationship with Christ that enables us to read the scriptures in the Bible and understand that the creator, God, stands by his promises.

I want to quote, if I may, from four Bible texts. To know that

“my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

That is from Philippians 4:19.

To trust that

“I am the Lord that heals you.”

To believe that

“all things are possible.”

That is Matthew 17:20.

We can be comforted by Psalm 147:3:

“He heals the brokenhearted, And binds up their wounds.”

Isaiah 41:10 says:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

The strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow come only when we understand who Christ is. One of my favourite Christmas passages is actually not the account of his birth, but the promise of who he is. We all know this:

“For to us a Child shall be born, to us a Son shall be given; And the government shall be upon His shoulder, And His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

In a world where our very foundation seems to be shifting, how awesome it is to know that this our God is only a prayer away. A group of people come to the House of Commons two or three times a week, and pray for Parliament. I have to say how important it is to have those prayers.

As we think of this passing year—something that many of us do—we think about what has happened and perhaps look forward to 2023 with renewed hope for the future. I think we should look forward with hope; we have to do that. We should always try to be positive. In this passing year, my mind goes to the loss of Her Majesty the Queen. Many of us felt that so deeply, and yet her passing also carried the message of hope, because of Christ. I quoted this when we had the tributes to Her Majesty. It is important, I think, to put it on the record again.

The wonderful message that the Queen gave in one of her cherished Christmas messages—this one was in 2014—was crystal clear:

“For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.”

That was Her Majesty talking.

“A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”

It is my firm belief that this true message of Christmas is what can bring hope and healing to a nation that can seem so fractured. When I look at the headlines, I sometimes despair, but that is also when I most enjoy my constituency work, and getting to see glimpses of community spirit and goodness that are done daily and yet are rarely reported. Her Majesty’s speech in 2016 reflected that, when she said:

“Billions of people now follow Christ’s teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me to see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.”

At that point, Conservative MP John Hayes intervened:

It is heart-warming and refreshing to hear the hon. Gentleman’s plain and confident affirmation of his faith, and our faith too. By the way he speaks, he encourages all of us to reflect on the Judeo-Christian foundations on which our society and our civilisation are built, and I just wanted to thank him for that.

Jim Shannon thanked John Hayes before continuing:

The right hon. Gentleman is most kind. I am giving just a slight reminder of what Christmas is about. I think we all realise that, but sometimes it is good to remind ourselves of it. The example of Christ is one of humility, coming to the earth as a vulnerable baby, and of purpose, as we see the gold given that symbolises royalty, the frankincense to highlight his deity and myrrh to symbolise his purposeful death to redeem us all.

I am a strong advocate in this House for freedom of religion or belief, as the Leader of the House knows. She is always very kind; every week, when I suggest something that should be highlighted, she always takes those things back to the Ministers responsible. I appreciate that very much, as do others in this House. I am proud to be associated with that wonderful cause, and as long as God spares me I will speak for the downtrodden of my own faith and others. I speak for all faiths, because that is who I am, and so do others in this House with the same belief.

At the same time, however, like Her late Majesty, I am proud to be a follower of Christ. At this time of year I simply want the House to know the hope that can be found in Christ, not simply at Christmas, but for a lifetime. The babe of Bethlehem was Christ on the cross and our redeemer at the resurrection, and that gives me hope and offers hope for those who accept him and it.

From the bottom of my heart, Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you in particular, since you have presided over this speech and the past few hours. I thank Mr Speaker and all the other Deputy Speakers, with all the things that are happening to them, the Clerks and every staff member in this place for the tremendous job they do and the graceful spirit in which everything has been carried out in the last year. I thank right hon. and hon. Members, who are friends all—I say that honestly to everyone.

I thank my long-suffering wife, who is definitely long-suffering, and my mum—

At that point, Shannon broke down in tears.

Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt stepped in quickly and graciously while Shannon composed himself:

The hon. Gentleman has often summed up how people feel, particularly at this time of year. I know he has had losses over the past few years, and he always manages to sum up the feeling of this House. Many Members in this debate have spoken about constituents or family they have lost, and we appreciate his bringing up these issues, as I appreciate all Members’ doing so. There will be some people thinking about spending Christmas apart from family they are not able to see, or having suffered those losses. I thank him and we are all willing him strength as he continues his speech.

After a pause, Shannon resumed and concluded:

I thank the Leader of the House for that. I mentioned my long-suffering wife; we have been married 34 years, so she is very long-suffering, and that is probably a good thing, because we are still together. My mum is 91 years old and I suspect she is sitting watching the Parliament channel right now to see what her eldest son is up to and what he is saying, so again that is something.

I also thank my staff members. I told one of my Opposition colleagues last week that I live in a woman’s world, because I have six girls in my office who look after me and make sure I am right …

Lastly, I thank my Strangford constituents, who have stuck by me as a councillor, as a Member of the Legislative Assembly and as a Member of Parliament in this House. This is my 30th year of service in local government and elsewhere. They have been tremendously kind to me and I appreciate them. I want to put on record what a privilege it is to serve them in this House and to do my best for them.

I wish everyone a happy Christmas, and may everyone have a prosperous, peaceful and blessed new year, as we take the example of Christ and act with humility and purpose in this place to effect the change that we all want and that is so needed in our nation—this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, always better together.

Mr Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans said:

Your mother and wife will be as proud of you as we all are, Jim. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!] As a person of faith, I thank you very much for putting the Christ back into Christmas in your speech. We come now to the wind-ups.

When acknowledging MPs’ contributions in the debate, Penny Mordaunt said:

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) should never have to apologise for mentioning Christ in this place—especially at Christmas. We are in a place where the architecture is designed to turn our faces to God. I thank him for his Christmas message.

And, finally — best Christmas wishes to Mark Steyn

In closing, hearty Christmas wishes to Mark Steyn who is recovering from two successive heart attacks:

He is recovering in France but told viewers more on December 19. Incredibly, the first heart attack happened before he presented one of his nightly shows on the self-styled People’s Channel. He presented it anyway. Wow:

The GB News host suffered the first one “without recognising” the symptoms, before hosting his show on The People’s Channel.

Speaking on his current absence from GB News, Steyn said: “I’m too medicated to manage artful evasions.

“I had two heart attacks. Because I didn’t recognise the first one, as such, the second one was rather more severe.”

The experienced broadcaster spoke about the shocking ordeal, saying he “doesn’t look right”, looking back at images of himself presenting the Mark Steyn show during the first heart attack.

Speaking on SteynOnline, he said: “The good news is that the first one occurred when I was in London. If you get a chance to see that day’s Mark Steyn Show, with hindsight, I don’t look quite right in close-ups.

“By not recognising it as a heart attack, I deftly avoided being one of those stories we feature on the show every couple of nights about people in the UK calling emergency and being left in the street for 15 hours before an ambulance shows up.

“I had a second heart attack in France. With Audrey [his wife?] helping me in the ambulance, she told me I was 15 minutes from death.”

The presenter also revealed he would remain in France over Christmas and New Year as he is unable to leave medical care and return to New Hampshire.

GB News viewers will be sending Mark every best wish for a speedy recovery — and a healthy, happy New Year! We look forward to seeing him on the airwaves soon!

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