Divided church seeks divine intervention

Jonathan Foster visits Lincoln Cathedral as it strives to heal wounds after dean's acquittal

A divine rapid reaction force was implored yesterday to intervene in the bitterly-divided Anglican enclave around Lincoln Cathedral as the dean, acquitted of adultery, returned jauntily to clerical duties.

The Very Rev Brandon Jackson, 60, presided over communion for the first time since ending 17 months in the wilderness over allegations that he twice fondled a verger, 32-year-old Verity Freestone.

A church court last week decided the alleged fondling had not taken place, but desperate groping for power continues between the populist dean's supporters and their critics around the episcopal throne.

The Bishop of Lincoln, The Rt Rev Robert Hardy, was preaching 200 miles away in Kent when Dean Jackson told the congregation: "I am very glad to be back in harness to continue our shared mission."

But several members of the chapter, the "cabinet" government which is supposed to share administration of the diocese, were absent, understood to be skulking in the cloisters.

God's powers of love and forgiveness could remedy all Lincoln's troubles, the dean said. "The dark cloud which has settled over this cathedral is still here, but I still dare to believe in God's power."

The dean had earlier blamed the bishop for "disgracefully" allowing Ms Freestone's allegations to be detailed in public before the consistory court. He suspects a conspiracy, with roots deep in diocesan politics, had been hatched to get rid of him. But yesterday he spoke of love and forgiveness.

So did Canon John Bayley, in whose parish the cathedral stands. Preaching the sermon, Canon Bayley also summoned God to intervene, although he warned that the "gift of love is not going to flow out of us" without first allowing God to guide earthly actions.

"We all prostrate ourselves in penitence before God our judge and try to measure our behaviour. Is there honesty or love or forgiveness in our hearts, or should we confess to God that we don't know how to love, how to forgive the way that Jesus teaches us?"

The service ended with Stainer's hymn of boundless redemption: "There's a wideness in God's mercy like the wideness of the sea."

The Lincoln laity have been "confused and distressed" by the rifts, to such an extent that a Chapter letter yesterday offered them counselling. Most were pleased to welcome back their dean, but the clerical quarrels are too esoteric and irritating to involve the average worshipper.

If the Church of England is still the Tory party at prayer, the cabinet crisis of the Lincoln chapter is more likely to alienate than polarise. Dean Jackson, dubbed "Thatcher's vicar" after his appointment to bring fiscal discipline to the Chapter, is held privately in contempt by cloister intellectuals. But clerics were yesterday circulating a makeshift ecclesiastical lobby like Sir Marcus Fox in a dog collar, claiming implausibly that the trouble was more to do with presentation than policy.

Dean Jackson mixed with worshippers over coffee in the chapter house. The women seemed pleased to have him back in circulation, and the men praised him for the virtue middle England laity admire most in their priests.

"He's very approachable, and you can understand his sermons, which is more than you can say for that lot who want him out," one man said. And then the congregation united against the media, expelling reporters from the coffee morning after one asked if Dean Jackson favoured Gold Blend.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most