The Church's grey men are out of touch

 

Share

Repent isn't a word we use much. It's not as fashionable as "sorry", that devalued bit of emotional sticking plaster trotted out by everyone from Tony Blair to David Cameron when they want to win a few electoral brownie points. Repentance suggests that a sin has been committed in the first place, not an act of aggression like a war waged on a lie that can be tidied away with an elaborate apology. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, is a verbose fellow who likes to air his thoughts on a daily basis. He's not a neat and tidy spiritual leader, more an unfocused work in progress. Should a beleaguered church with a declining membership in the UK be led by a chap who publicly says he's thinking through divisive issues like same-sex marriage? Or should he man up, be brave, and offer unequivocal spiritual guidance even though it risks losing traditional members?

Last week, Dr Welby (who belonged to the evangelical wing of the Church) told an audience of born-again Christians that they must "repent" over the way the church has treated gay people. He declared that most people under 35 viewed such attitudes as offensive, on a par with racism: "The Church has not been good at dealing with homophobia... and we have to be really, really repentant about that because it is utterly and totally wrong." Welby voted against same-sex marriage in the Lords, and when younger, opposed homosexuals being allowed to adopt children. He says his mind is "not yet clear" on the issue of gay marriage, and he struggles with conflicting thoughts.

Ben Summerskill of Stonewall thinks the Archbishop is hypocritical: the Church holds services for pets, but still refuses to bless the long-term partnerships of same-sex couples. What the Church of England needs is a clear direction, not a load of woolly waffle about "repentance". By the way, those under 35 aren't "a younger generation", but a huge section of the population, people with children, partners, homes, jobs and responsibilities.

The Church is run by a bunch of grey men in fancy costumes: look at any picture of the Synod and weep. They fail to represent modern Britain in any meaningful way. Welby says he wants Christians to focus less on what they are against, but sometimes in life I find that really useful. I am profoundly against inequality in any shape or form – so I find a Christian leader's refusal to accept gay marriage repugnant.

The Church must adapt to a changing society. This is not a sign of weakness, but of strength, otherwise it is shrinking its horizons, focusing on a literal interpretation of the Bible and refusing access to men and women because of their sexual orientation. Jesus would have been appalled.

Big babies

I am not that interested in the state of Michael Douglas's marriage to Catherine Zeta-Jones, but it was exciting to see a real star dining in the same restaurant as me in Nice on Tuesday. His portrayal of Liberace in Steven Soderbergh's Behind the Candelabra was riveting – easily one of my cinematic highlights of the year, and it's depressing that American studios are so cowardly this film didn't get a cinematic release there, so denying him the Oscar he deserves.

He was wearing a white linen suit, dining with five young ladies he didn't appear to know, a beacon of elegance, unlike most of the men encountered on the Croisette. Holidays and warm weather turn men into giant babies, in oversized T-shirts, baggy shorts and clompy trainers, the kind of kit chosen by a boy of 10. Cameron was the perfect example: thank goodness he ditched the Mickey Mouse towel and put a suit on when he returned to London to lead the debate on Syria. Sadly, most men can't do leisurewear. They've been infantilised in the name of fashion.

Hot dinners

Against all the odds, the woman who refused to mould her mash and stack her veg in a pyramid (me) has made it through to the MasterChef finals! Thanks for all your supportive texts, tweets and emails. From Wednesday on BBC1, I face some demanding culinary challenges from John Torode and Gregg Wallace, designed to test my short temper to the max. If you thought the 150 tuile baskets I baked for a dinner in Cambridge were difficult, wait for the complicated cuisine some top London chefs foist on me in the coming days. Ever tried to coat frozen mousse on sticks with hot chocolate? A recipe for disaster.

Moving up

Rundown estates of bungalows surround our shabbier seaside towns, unloved and hard to sell. With names like Zephyr Avenue and Zodiac Close, they sum up the aspirations of working-class 1950s Britain. In 1986, more than 27,000 bungalows were built, but by 2008 only 300 were constructed. The planning minister, Nick Boles, has come up with another of his big "ideas" (ie, a feeble attempt to garner some headlines during the summer recess), claiming that bungalows make perfect housing for an ageing population, and Eric Pickles's department has published new rules ordering councils to build homes that are suitable for pensioners with limited mobility.

Bungalows are the worst answer to our changing demographics. These colonial imports take up a lot of land, with gardens front and back and garages to the side, and the traditional design is more suited to small families if they are properly converted, with a new bedroom in the roof space. Councils should be snapping up existing bungalows, as they are undervalued, and modernising them – a cheap way of cutting housing lists. We can't afford to commission more of this kind of housing in the future; land is too precious. Older people seek community and friendship, not a little detached house that increases their isolation. They could live on the ground floors of new, low-rise garden developments, with accommodation for single people and essential workers upstairs. Integrate young and old, and give them communal spaces such as laundry rooms, gyms, village halls, green spaces and allotments to share. But don't build colonial bungalows!

Dressing down

New mum goes to Waitrose, buys two pizzas and a couple of bottles of wine. Hold the front page. I wear something with pockets for my keys, cards and list (usually lost by the fruit section) for a trip to a supermarket, but the fashion police have decided that Kate was wearing an expensive Ralph Lauren striped top, popping to Waitrose in Anglesey. That Breton look is standard high street attire, but our future queen is doomed to have a swanky label attached to any T-shirt she grabs for a quick shopping trip. Last Friday, she made an unannounced visit to the start of an ultra-marathon on Anglesey, and once again every aspect of her wardrobe came under the microscope. Have we learnt nothing from the Diana disaster?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Michael Crabtreeof the San Francisco 49ers misses a catch during 2013's Super Bowl XLVII  

Super Bowl 2015: It's the most ridiculous sporting event of the year, but I absolutely love it

John Rentoul
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would halt the charitable status enjoyed by private schools

Rosie Millard
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links