For many years now my family and some of my friends have accused me of hiding behind a beard in order to avoid revealing the true nature of Robert [but I have to assure you I am not a war criminal in hiding , basically I’m not old enough and I have never been involved in a real war like those brave boys of ours putting their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan]. But I did for a few years shave off my beard after the chairman of the company I worked for did his annual tour of the offices and whispered in my ear in a husky voice – "beards are bad for business !!" – to my everlasting shame I did exactly that, the main reason being that in those days it was quite possible to lose your job for such a trivial offense. I put family, fame and fortune before my appearance . Later, I grew the beard again [or in actual fact I made a decision to stop shaving since I calculated that ten minutes spent shaving every morning amounted to an astonishing 2.53472 days per year standing in front of a mirror scraping my face – something that nobody in their right mind would even contemplate having carried out the calculation ]. The reappearance of my beard revealed that it is indeed an effective method of disguise even if trimmed to a respectable size . More recently I was walking my dog when I met a friend who was jogging around the playing field . I asked him how he was getting on with playing his mandolin in a local band to which I also used to belong. He looked at me with amazement wondering how I knew so much about his life – I mentioned one or two other facts about him but it took him almost five minutes to realize that he knew me from the past, but only without a beard .
The recent re-emergence of Radovan Karadzic and the effectiveness of his identity change made me wonder who else out there might be hiding behind a beard. It may not have escaped the notice some of you more observant Grantham journal readers [who I assume also read the national press ] that the Church of England , one of the most stable institutions in our country having existed since 1662 , is presently in the process of dividing up into warring factions . As a diehard Anglican (or ‘C of E’ as you say in hospital when they ask your religion ) am saddened, exasperated and stupefied by the spectacle that has just come to an end – the Lambeth Conference of about 800 Anglican Bishops held every ten years in Canterbury [is Lambeth in Canterbury?]. This year only about 600 Bishops attended since the other 200 have formed an alternative conference called GAFCON [if you want to know what GAFCON stands for then I suggest that you googe it!]. The whole thing is not so much about beards [which incidentally are strongly recommended for men in the old testament ] but about the ordination of gay or lesbian people to the office of priest or Bishop . Across the Bishops roughly half are opposed to this but some are more opposed to it than others.
I have to stop at this point and make the important announcement that it is not gay clergy which is the problem for the Anglican church – the problem in fact revolves around the ordination of openly gay clergy . In other words you can be a gay clergyman without causing any difficulty whatsoever so long as you don’t tell anybody . This is just as well since it is estimated that about a third of all clergy are in fact gay or lesbian, a profession which has proved attractive to them second only to the theatre [to which the Church is closely related if you think about what happens around the altar (for ‘altar’ read ‘stage’) on a Sunday morning!!]. However, if you transfer this principle to other activities which the church is opposed to , such as stealing , adultery and murder , then it would appear that any of these activities are completely acceptable so long as they are not carried out openly ! ! This of course would not just be hypocrisy run riot but would also be a complete nonsense in the eyes of any rational person , church going or not.
Back to the main point which has something to do with beards. Who is Rowan Williams ? Is he really the Archbishop of Canterbury who is able to count how many angels can dance on a pinhead, or is there something more sinister behind that lovely straggly gray beard that the church is not prepared to admit (openly ) ?
Please send your answers to Robert (the bearded one ) either electronically, preferably in disguise !!!, or written neatly on a pinhead .