My previous experience of Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willesden, was pretty positive. I heard him at Spring Harvest about 10 years ago. He was engaging, challenging and also clearly had a passion for social justice.
So it was with some surprise that I read of his offensive comments made in an exchange on facebook relating to the forthcoming royal wedding. The press were quick to report it, and the wrath of the Daily Mail descended. They soon came up with "loony Pete". It's worth noting that in the midst of a royal photo-fest, the very same Daily Mail described the Royal family as "one of the most famous – and notoriously dysfunctional – families in the world". [just search for "dysf"; it's there]
Thanks to the Church Mouse, those of us who don't have access to Bp Pete's facebook profile can now see the actual text from the exchanges he made. They were obviously made in a more off-guard moment, and Mouse gives us a very balanced analysis of what went wrong and the difference between comments that he was fully entitled to make and ones which were out of order. He also clarifies what was said and the context, so it's worth reading.
I have no problem with +Pete being a republican - to me it's always been hard to see how heredity can be justified as a means of choosing a head of state. As someone whose political tendencies have always been left of centre, I don't have problem with that either. Furthermore, when Charles and Diana got married I went walking in county Durham to avoid having to watch endless coverage of it, so I also quite liked the idea of a party in France to keep out of the way this time around. There are also legitimate questions about cost, although the VAT take on associated memorabilia will probably cover that nicely. It would even have been fair to signal concern about the pressure the future marriage will be under.
However "I managed to avoid the last disaster in slow motion between Big Ears and the Porcelain Doll, and hope to avoid this one too." was just plain nasty. And no clergyperson, should be making negative predictions about a forthcoming marriage, let alone one under such scrutiny between people he admits he doesn't know. It's a very bad error of judgement and fundamentally undermined the perfectly fair questions he sought to raise.
I'm very pleased and relieved to see that the Bishop has apologised unreservedly on the Diocese of London website. It was the right thing to do, and hopefully that will bring things to a close.
I suspect the media will be less forthcoming with an apology for any of its actions. In the meantime, I recommend you read what Church Mouse says and the very considered first comment from Bishop Alan Wilson.