The latest of his sporadic sorties into the public realm finds Lord Carey issuing an apocalyptic judgment about the Church he led with such distinction. His Grace must always be heard with the respect due a former Archbishop of Canterbury, regardless of that stubbornly persistent rumour about the eccentric route by which he reached that holiest of sees.
It is believed by many that when Robert Runcie vacated the post, the entire Anglican hierarchy wanted John Habgood, the intellectual and left-leaning Archbishop of York, to succeed him. To ensure his smooth passage, they proposed the notably unintellectual and right-leaning George Carey as the other candidate, reasoning that no remotely sane Prime Minister could conceivably propose such a mediocrity to Her Majesty for rubber-stamping. Being unworldly types, however, they had overlooked the fact, in the whisky-sodden dog days of her premiership, Mrs Thatcher was not playing with a full deck. Barely able to muster a pair of deuces, she instantly plumped for Dr Carey.
Being a massive fan of an important thinker who claims that Christians are barely less persecuted today than those featured on leonine dinner menus in the Colosseum, I regard that as a spiteful canard and place utmost weight on his strictures. So when he stars on the Daily Mail’s front page warning that the Church of England is close to death, this is no moment for sardonic flippancy.
A primary reason for Anglicanism being “one generation away from extinction”, as Lord Carey posits, is the failure of church leaders to attract youngsters to services – and for this, he says, they should be ashamed. One might wonder if he feels guilt for the failure to boost attendances under his evangelical leadership. Yet an even mightier Lord than Carey moves in mysterious ways, and the lure of tambourine solos somehow failed to tempt adolescents from their beds on Sabbath mornings. So it is that today he glimpses with horror a fully heathen tomorrow.
But how to reverse the decline in attendance by the young (a relentless trend, as with all demographics, since the 1940s)? Hallelujah, hallelujah, hall-ey-yoooo-yah, I believe I have the answer. The next Archbishop of Canterbury – and very soon at that, assuming the incumbent Justin Welby sees the logic and resigns – must be the Reverend Paul Flowers.
This remarkable man of God has lately come to our attention not merely for a stint as chairman that propelled the Co-operative Bank close to destruction, but also for being secretly filmed allegedly purchasing a sparkling array of class A drugs preparatory to some spirited gay sex.
Before anyone harrumphs that as a Methodist he is ineligible to be Primate of All England, a crisis as grave as the one identified by Lord Carey precludes any such ecumenical pedantry. Whatever his denomination, Flowers is the ideal guy to make church services cool and relevant to the young, as his perfect grasp of drugs argot and the language of the text message establishes.
Shortly before being cross-examined by the Treasury Select Committee over the near-collapse of the Co-op Bank under his hilariously clueless stewardship, he rang his dealer in Leeds to order cocaine, ketamine and crystal meth. His taste for the latter will be of particular value in shepherding young folk into the pews, since so many of them have come to revere Breaking Bad’s Walter White as the chef of the finest methamphetamine. Ketamine, meanwhile, remains the horse tranquilliser of choice for post-pubescents.
“Have 2 bags of Charlie here and have ordered another 5. Enough? px”, Rev Flowers texted someone after snaffling his haul. In another text, he wrote “This ket is superb! Hot lots of it too – when do you want some?” In others he reported his intention to “get wasted”, and that his party plans were “turning into a two-day, drug-fuelled gay orgy”.
The reverend sir of 63 who fluently speaks the patois of troubled youth is uniquely well placed to draw them to the pews, though his appeal as a spiritual leader extends beyond being down with the kids. Jesus famously despised high finance, dismissing the money-lenders as “a den of thieves” when he chucked them out of the temple (Matthew 21: 12-13). By expertly steering the Co-op Bank to the brink of disaster, Rev Flowers was effectively trying to do the same, and proved himself the truest interpreter of Christ’s teachings alive today.
Heaven loveth a sinner that repenteth above all things, of course, and so should we all. His apology for the drugs and gay sex, which he blames on pressure of work and the death of his mother, may be seen as the final piece in the Canterbury jigsaw. No other dog collar-wearer in Christendom has a millionth of his ungodly gift for connecting with the young, and for preaching the message of suffering and redemption from personal experience. The sooner the Crystal Methodist (and his dealer) are installed in Lambeth Palace, as Lord Carey will be the first to agree, the sooner the Church’s resurrection as a mainstream destination will begin.