Monday, September 27, 2010


Bishop Alan Wilson, who is Bishop of Buckingham in the Church of England, writes in his latest blog post titled, Why So Crypto?, about openness v. secrecy:

Before leaving the question of politics, I have been wondering why some of the English have such a fascination with secrecy, and such a horror of public discussion? What’s wrong with vigorous public discussion of points of difference?

Why so much crypto and secrecy?

The Bible is full of open disputation. In Galatians Peter and Paul have a technicolor public row. In the Acts various apostles fall out with each other and take their separate ways. In the gospels disciples vie with one another in front of all the others (or at any rate their mothers do) for hot spots in the Kingdom of Heaven.

All this is done without shame, or any particular feeling that it would have been very much better if the elite had stitched everything up behind closed doors. The only attempt to do this (the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15) was a brilliant day out, but its conclusions didn't last five minutes — soon enough Christians were eating non-kosher food anyway, and Peter and Paul arguing as forcibly as ever.

I strongly urge you to read the entire post. The post is instructive to all in positions of power who must make choices between openness and secrecy. Of course, privacy is sometimes necessary, but in cases where it is not, where the major reason for disallowing public discussion is so as not to be seen in dispute, then rethinking is in order.

Bishop Alan's post is as applicable to our own hierarchy in the Episcopal Church as it is to the leadership in the Church of England.

The kitschy gremlin gargoyle pictured at the head of the post is lifted from Bishop Alan's post.


  1. I believe the Chief Rabbi in England, Jonathan Sacks, said at one point that Judaism is really the history of the Jews arguing either with each other over the meaning of a particular text or arguing with God. Passionate disagreement is basically generally good, in and of itself.

  2. PS I love the gargoyle thingy BTW.

  3. Cathy, The Jewish people can teach us much about disputation as a good thing.

    And you're right. The creature is a gargoyle and not a gremlin. I shall make a correction, but I believe I'll do a strikeout, rather than a deletion. Editing after publication for the sake of making oneself look better, rather than to correct a factual error, should go only so far in destroying evidence. ;-)

  4. You're not wrong anyway Mimi in so far as a gremlin is only a modern version of a gargoyle anyway :-)

  5. My motto is, "Publish first; edit afterward".

  6. Pedant time: A gargoyle, strictly speaking, is a creature adorning a drain spout. Which gurgles. (Actually it's from a word for throat, from which we also get gargle.)(However, gargoyle and gargle are Romance, while gurgle is Teutonic.)(Do no let me get started on an OED search.)

    Things on roofs that aren't drains are properly called grotesques. What the thing coming out of the ground is, I don't know, but I like it.

    PS: The garage of a house a little way from here has an actual, working, draining gargoyle. Do I love this town or don't I?

    Oh, and BTW I also love the excerpt from the bishop's posting. Time to follow the link now that the pedant attack is over.

  7. Porlock, you've educated us all on the fine points of gargoyles. I'm not being sarcastic, either. I enjoy learning about the origin of words.

    The example pictured is neither a gargoyle nor a grotesque, then. It doesn't look like much like images of gremlins, either, but I believe I got the kitschy part right.

    I hope you enjoyed Bishop Alan's post.

  8. Porlock, according to my researches, the word "gargoyle" carries both the narrow meaning you have described and a broader definition that includes what you have referred to as "grotesques":

    But either way, gargoyles are fabulous, as you rightly point out.

  9. Gargoyles are fabulous, indeed, as are grotesques, as are the kitschy garden thingies, whatever they are called. How about kitchsy sewer trolls? Yes, I think I like that label.

  10. Mimi, I don't see how any pedant could argue with "kitschy sewer trolls" :-)

  11. Cahty, how could they? I coined the phrase. One day I'll be in the OED, or, at least, in Wikipedia.


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