I said last week that I was offering the final instalment of Whitehall Wisdom. Well, I subsequently realised that I had omitted perhaps the most pertinent of the lot – the tangled web that has been weaved in the name of Church and State relations. This is primarily the result of that perfect CofE primer, the episode entitled The Bishop’s Gambit.

The Prime Minister has the unique opportunity to solve all kinds of problems with his appointment of a new bishop. Due to the significant lack of personal piety, he requires coaching as to the true state of the church. The result is this string of painfully true pearls. In the light of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent foray into political journalism and comment, you can see that little has changed since the late 70s and early 80s.

We don’t do God

It is interesting that nowadays politicians want to talk about morals and bishops want to talk about politics.

An atheist clergyman couldn’t continue to draw his stipend. So when they stop believing in God they call themselves modernists.

The Church is looking for a candidate to maintain the balance – between those who believe in God and those who don’t.

Nowadays, bishops only wear gaiters at significant religious events like the royal garden party.

The Queen is inseparable from the Church of England. God is what is called an optional extra.

Bishops tend to have long lives – apparently the Lord isn’t all that keen for them to join him.

Theology is a device for helping agnostics to stay within the Church of England.

Getting the PM to choose the right bishop is like a conjurer getting a member of the audience to choose a card. With the Church of England, the choice is usually between a knave and a queen.

Bishops need to be someone to look up to: the sort of chaps who speak properly and know which knife and fork to use.

Taken from The Yes Minister Miscellany pp57-8

To get the idea, pick it up at around 7’30”

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