Twice a year, around 500 adult Anglicans come together to play adult Anglican games. Games played by the General Synod of the Church of England include Blind Bishops’ Buff, Bible Bingo, Fudging the Faith, Blowing Hot Air Balloons, Let’s Pretend We’re Parliament, Covering your Backside and Tailing Balaam’s Ass. This year, in the interests of ethnic diversity and radical inclusion, Synod decided to play the Indian game of Kabaddi.
The game is simple. Two teams occupy two territories. Each sends a “raider” into the other’s territory. The raider takes a breath, runs into the rival team’s space, tags members of the rival team, then returns to his team’s space. The raider must keep chanting Kabaddi, Kabaddi… or will be declared out.
The rival team tries to catch the raider and wrestle him or her to the ground to prevent them escaping. Different parts of India permit players to chant different words. In Eastern India players chant hu tu tu tu tu…. Because Kabaddi has no English equivalent, General Synod passed a motion agreeing to rename the game Slippery Eels and allowing synod players to use any word they chose to chant, providing it was not sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic or bigoted (GS 301, A 35 [b]).
As an expression of goodwill and to practise radical inclusion, Synod agreed to play the first round of Kabaddi between the House of Bishops and the Media. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, would be the first player. Taking a deep breath, Welby entered his rival team’s territory and began chanting Brexit, Brexit, Brexit…fascist, populist, nationalist…Brexit, fascist, populist, nationalist….
Deftly darting in the direction of Harriet Sherwood from the Guardian he tagged her and zoomed towards Church Times’ Madeleine Davis. But just as Justin was repeating Brexit, fascist, populist, nationalist, and adding Trump, Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen… James Delingpole from The Spectator crept up from behind and wrestled him to the ground. The Media gallery erupted in applause.
Delingpole’s wild tackle took the breath out of wheezing Welby. ‘Thank you, Your Grace! It’s always nice when someone of such eminent ecclesiastical authority confirms from on high something which many of us long suspected: that the Establishment really just does not have a f*****g clue and that that’s why we were so right to vote for Trump and Brexit…. Justin Welby, you are part of the problem, not the solution,’ he wrote in a kick-archbishop-ass Breitbart op-ed.
The media echo chamber from Miami to Melbourne exploded by flinging pig’s poo at Welby. Welby swiftly played his Trump card and tweeted a Peter-in-Gethsemane-I-do-not-know-the-man denial. ‘I was not calling those who voted fascists, which would be ridiculous.’ Later, Welby’s Chaplain informed him that he’d gotKabbadi confused with the game of Let’s Pretend We’re Parliament.
As the din subsided, the bell rang for Kabbadi Round Two—this time between the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy. Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool, took a deep breath and made his entry muttering sotto voce: Take note, take note, take note…Bishop’s Report…have it both ways…marriage still between one man one woman…gays get maximum freedom…take note, take note, take note. Bayes managed to tag a few clergy and slipped away with little effort from the clutches of four stodgy clerics who had pounced on him.
Now it was the turn of Revd Sam Allberry from the House of Clergy. Bullied in school for being gay…bullied at Synod for being gay and celibate…the Bible says, the Bible says, the Bible says…he confidently chanted, trying to tag a bishop. But he was no match for the elusive footwork in the House of Bishops. Rather, as he was running out of breath, Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, tripped him and as Allberry fell he felt the combined weight of five fat men in purple pummelling him to terra firma cheered from the sidelines by their ‘wimmin’ counterparts.
As Round Two went on it seemed as if God was on the side of the bishops. They kept scoring point after point. They kept pounding clergy after clergy to the ground. And not a single clergy could remotely tag even one bishop. The House of Clergy was running even lower on morale because whenever a bishop entered their space, and they tried to wrestle him or her to the ground, every single bishop slipped away with the ease of an eel.
Then, without warning, the secret of the bishops’ sporting success was exposed. As John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, was chanting Take note, take note, take note…Bishop’s Report…have it both ways…a plastic bottle tumbled out of his pocket. The referee blew the whistle, uncorked the bottle and proceeded to examine the contents. It was cod liver oil—the world’s most slippery oil. The bishops had secretly decided to anoint themselves and apply the oil to their bodies as they entered the rival team’s territory.
The rules of Kabaddi strictly forbid the use of oil. Because the House of Bishops had not played by the rules and had cheated, the judges decided to award the prize to the House of Clergy. It wasn’t God, but the devil who was on the side of the House of Bishops! The motion by the House of Bishops to ‘take note’ of their Report on Sexuality was defeated in the House of Clergy.
The next day a spin doctor from Lambeth Palace told the media: ‘This is what happens when you import a game from Asia or Africa. You have to play by their weird rules—even on sex and marriage! Firstly, the Archbishop of Canterbury would like to apologise because he confused the rules of grammar he’d studied at Eton with the rules of Kabaddi. He did not realise that the media would misinterpret him when he uttered Brexit and fascist in the same sentence with only a comma separating the two words.’
‘Secondly, the House of Bishops would like to apologise because they muddled the rules of the Bible on marriage with the norms of 21st century Western society on sex. They are sorry for mixing up Holy Scripture with Hollywood.’
‘Thirdly, the Bishop of Coventry, Christopher Cock-up, I mean, Cocksworth would like to apologise for pressing the wrong button and giving the impression ‘that there was not complete agreement in the House of Bishops.’ He forgot to wipe his hands after applying cod liver oil to the Archbishop of Canterbury.’
‘General Synod games will resume soon at a diocesan level. The bishops will think very hard and come up with new rules. Then we can have new Anglican games. We promise to play with “maximum freedom” and “radical inclusion.” In the meantime, as we play games, we would like other churches to get on with the real task of preaching of the gospel.’