LEADING ARTICLE: Here endeth the lesson - they hope

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The Independent Online
IT HAS lately been difficult not to feel a little sorry for the Church of England. The experiences of Job should always serve as a warning, but, really, it never rains but it pours.

No sooner has the furore over the gay proclivities of the Anglican episcopacy subsided than we are slap bang in the middle of an alarming tale of Essex girl jokes and sexual innuendo among the vergers of St Paul's. Marilyn Ivory, the complaining verger, who is alleging unfair dismissal and sex discrimination, claims that attitudes among her male colleagues towards her changed after the ordination of women priests, thus reminding us of yet another dissension.

So much for sex; on Thursday came money: a report from the House of Commons Social Security Committee denouncing the Church's "reckless" and "foolish" £800m losses inflicted by unsuccessful property speculation between the mid-1980s and 1992, which, apparently, only came to the attention of the Archbishop of Canterbury when he read a newspaper report about it. In one deal, the Church Commissioners spent £80m on a development without obtaining planning permission for the new town they hoped to build near Ashford, which seems to be pushing faith a little far.

And then, as if Tatchell, Ivory and Ashford were not enough, there is Joanna Trollope, bent on following the family tradition of entertaining us with the Church's frailties. Unheeding weakness is succeeded by narrow blindness as The Choir follows the The Rector's Wife across the screen. "Oh, Calamity!" as Robertson Hare used frequently to exclaim in gentler times and All Gas and Gaiters. Nobody said the religious way was supposed to be easy; but surely we might hope for the succour of a break, if only from Ms Trollope.