Trainspotting, Spice Girls and Gucci pants: Bishops reveal their worldly wisdom

Nineties bishops know their Spice. Far from living in the Dark Ages, Britain's clergy are up to speed on popular culture, with a working knowledge of the Spice Girls, Trainspotting and Georgio Armani.

Shedding their image of spiritual detachment, all 32 bishops responding to a survey by The Church of England Newspaper, had heard of the Spice Girls. Although this might say as much about the omnipresence of the all-girl band as their own worldliness,, the bishops went further.

Unlike John Major and Tony Blair, who can name two and three of the Spice Girls respectively, one bishop, the Pakistani-born Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, could name all five and another, the Rt Rev Lindsay Urwin, the Bishop of Horsham,could name four. Eighty-four per cent could put a name to at least one - despite the fact that only 93 per cent owned a television set - and some had gleaned that the Spice Girls (allegedly) can't sing.

One unnamed bishop, evidently a fan of Indian food, let the side down. He invented a completely new band member known as "Hot Spice". Another said: "Those are the girls who don't wear very much.''

Totting up their contemporary culture cred, 81 per cent knew that The English Patient had won nine Oscars, 43 per cent that Irvine Welsh wrote Trainspotting, and 45 per cent that Phil de Glanville was the current England rugby union captain.

The survey, which is published tomorrow, also revealed that the bishops are au fait with fashion, with 68 per cent able to name a brand of designer clothing. Thirty-two per cent said they enjoyed wearing the same brands as their flock, such as Calvin Klein and Ben Sherman, as well as watching the same programmes, such as Friends, Casualty, EastEnders and Neighbours.

Some bishops admitted to using their street wisdom to get on to their congregation's wavelength. The Bishop of Bedford boasted that he had managed to slip Gucci underwear into one of his sermons, while the Bishop of Horsham chose to jazz up his sermons with references to songs such as "Search for the Hero" by M People.

But despite its efforts to appear more Top of the Pops than Songs of Praise, the Church of England still has some way to go. A press release on the survey revealed that Bishop Nazir-Ali could "name all three" Spice Girls.

How the Bishops fared in the survey

How many:

Owned a TV set: 93 per cent (30 bishops)

Knew Mulder and Scully starred in the X-Files: 34 per cent (11)

Knew The English Patient won nine Oscars: 81 per cent (26)

Had heard of the Spice Girls: 100 per cent (32)

Knew that there were five in the band: 84 per cent (27). One bishop named all five, one got four of the names and two others got two.

Knew the book and film by Irvine Welsh on drugs was Trainspotting: 43 per cent (14).

Knew that Phil de Glanville was the current England rugby captain: 45 per cent (15)

Named a brand of designer clothing: 68 per cent (22) - including Levi's (8), Gucci (5), Armani (3), Calvin Klein (2), Versace, Boss, Next, Dior, Lacoste.

(Total bishops surveyed: 32)