Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Modest Proposal: Episcopal Satire

I have often noticed over the last thirty years that as the Episcopal Church has been slowly becoming "more compact" in numbers that the dress of bishops has increased evolving into more elaborate, colorful and dramatic styles. Perhaps it might be something like certain fowl whose mating rituals require similar florid looks and jiggling movements, but I digress. When I was first confirmed in 1961, even our Anglo-catholic Bishop of Oklahoma never wore purple shirts, copes, miters and such. He looked stately in noticeable but comparatively modest ceremonial and street attire. As the years have passed, bishops have taken on all these ecclesiastical fashion elaborations and do look quite dandy indeed. Such decorative forms of symbolic changes got me thinking. . .

Then I also noticed that while we have embraced a wide authority for the selection of adult humans for the episcopacy, we have remained undiscerning about the potential call of a certain minority of person. We have not ordained to the episcopacy any "little people." I mean there are many very talented, intelligent, creative people whose stature is really small and even now have television reality shows. Why not the episcopacy?

Imagine. . . in procession at your parish church or diocesan convention, seeing a miter processing, gliding up and up the isle, three or so feet high of erect, splendid, gleaming gold pointed hat as tall as its occupant. . How fascinating to see the garb of episcopal office so revered that the humility of the human would not take away from the glory of the regalia! Small people are the next evolution of the episcopacy, I submit, where form fully supersedes function. Really little people are on the march, I believe, called to give proper perspective to our church, maturing, evolving smaller and looking more splendid all the time.

Besides, is there not a simple justice issue involved? While we can claim to represent all people, is it not fair and just, as we have with other gender, race, sexual orientation and ethnic folk to let our little people establish their place, however, modest on the seat of the episcopal throne whilst clutching fast a great large bulbous staff and topped off with miter? This is my diminutive proposal. Little people for bishop.


  1. Being Palm Sunday, Ugandan Bishop Festo Kivengere once told of a Tanzanian priest about to be consecrated bishop. This priest said: "Tomorrow I am going to be consecrated bishop in the cathedral, and some of you are going to see the other bishops put robes on me: the robes of an Anglican bishop. You are going to say, 'Well, our brother looks quite different now. He has those red robes all over him, and he looks almost like a king, or some sort of seraph in the sky.'
    "Then he turned and said to us, with a wonderful New Testament fullness of the Spirit, 'The day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem in triumph, the people put their clothes on a donkey, and Jesus sat on the donkey and it carried him downtown to Jerusalem. Well, when you see them put those beautiful robes on me, remember that underneath the bishop's robes is a donkey.' He said, 'You pray for me, that when I put on the robes of an Anglican bishop I will carry my Lord downtown!'"
    Thanks, Ron for your parody of bishops as little people adorned with the outsized trappings of institutional power. Give me a donkey any day. - Cliff Cutler

  2. We were most blessed to have him among us. Thanks for the memory.