jQuery Slider

You are here

UK: Church 'regret' as trainees hold service in gay slang

UK: Church 'regret' as trainees hold service in gay slang

4 February 2017

A Church of England theological college has expressed regret after trainee priests held a service in the antiquated gay slang language Polari.

The service at the chapel of Westcott House in Cambridge was to commemorate LGBT history month.

The congregation was told the use of the lexicon was an attempt to "queer the liturgy of evening prayer".

But officials said it had not been authorised and was at variance with the doctrine and teaching of the church.

Polari is thought to have originated in Victorian London but fell out of use as homosexuality began to be decriminalised in England in the 1960s.

Its words, however, were brought to wider public attention in the same decade by comedian Kenneth Williams in the BBC radio series Round the Horne.

'Fantabulosa Fairy'

One person present at the service told BBC News it was led by an ordinand - a trainee priest - rather than a licensed minister.

The congregation was also made up of trainees.

While they had been given permission to hold a service to commemorate LGBT history month, a Church of England source said the college chaplain had not seen the wording of the service.

The translation was based on the Polari bible, a work compiled as a project in 2003 by the self-styled Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

The scripture and liturgy were printed on to an order of service.

An Old Testament reading from the Prophet Joel which says "rend your heart and not your garments, return to the Lord your God" was printed in Polari as "rend your thumping chest and not your frocks - and turn unto the Duchess your Gloria: for she is bona and merciful".

Instead of the traditional "Glory be to the father, and to the son, and the Holy Spirit" the prayer offered was: "Fabeness be to the Auntie, and to the Homie Chavvie, and to the Fantabulosa Fairy".

'Hugely regrettable'

Services in the Church of England are legally required to be conducted using the church's approved liturgy.

The principal of Westcott House, the Rev Canon Chris Chivers, said the liturgy of the service had not been authorised for use.

He said: "I fully recognise that the contents of the service are at variance with the doctrine and teaching of the Church of England and that is hugely regrettable.

"Inevitably for some members of the house this caused considerable upset and disquiet and I have spoken at length to those involved in organising the service.

"I will be reviewing and tightening the internal mechanisms of the house to ensure this never happens again."


Leading Cambridge University theological college apologises for 'subverting the teaching of Christ' in church service

By Robert Mendick, chief reporter and Abigail Frymann Rouch
3 February 2017

A leading theological college at Cambridge Univeristy has apologised for "subverting the teaching of Christ" by staging a church service that referred to Jesus as 'Josie' and the Lord as the 'Duchess'.

Trainee priests delivered the liturgy at Westcott House using gay slang to mark LGBT history month.

But the service, held in the college's chapel, backfired spectacularly amid complaints it had brought the Church of England into disrepute.

The theological students held the evensong service on Tuesday with a programme explaining their version was a "queering [of] the liturgy of Evening Prayer".

The trainees used Polari, the language championed in the 1950s and 1960s by the comedians Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick in BBC radio's Round the Horne.

The popular show used gay innuendo at a time when homosexuality was still illegal.

A note produced along with the order of service explained that the service was "a liturgical experiment" and an "attempt at queering the liturgy of Evening Prayer, locating the queer within the compass of faith".

A gay activist group called the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, has produced a version of the Bible in Polari, in which God is 'Gloria'; the Lord is turned into "the Duchess"; the Holy Spirit becomes "Fantabulosa Fairy"; and Jesus is feminised to "Josie" and referred to as she. Psalm 19 was reworded to refer to "O Duchess, my butchness".

At Tuesday's service, much to the horror of many of the devout worshippers, they were invited to respond to the line: "O Gloria make speed to save us," with the words "O Duchess make haste to help us."

The Principal of Westcott House, Revd Canon Chris Chivers, told The Telegraph that the service had not been vetted beforehand; was not an authorised act of worship; and was "hugely regrettable".

He added: "The service that was produced was completely at variance with the doctrine and teaching of the Church of England."

Canon Chivers said that worshippers -- who included staff and ordinands -- had not been warned of the unorthodox content in advance and only discovered it when they picked up their orders of service.

"People found themselves in a situation they hadn't expected," he said. He was forced the next day "to deliver an admonishment" in front of the whole of Westcott House.

He said: "Theological colleges are a place where experiments are important and mistakes can be made, because hopefully that means they won't be made in public ministry. But it can't be a place where we subvert the doctrine and teaching of the Church.

"We'll be reviewing the process by which these things are authorised so it never happens again." One former student at the college expressed his disgust.

"This is horrific. As a former Westcott ordinand, I'm appalled," said The Reverend Tom Lilley on Twitter. The Reverend Andrew Symes, executive secretary of the conservative group Anglican Mainstream, said that the service "brings the Church into disrepute".

He demanded that Westcott House issue a public apology. But Canon Simon Butler, an openly gay member of the Archbishops' Council, said that while the Polari service was ill advised it could prove a useful "source of learning".

He suggested the choice of liturgy may have been "an inappropriate way of letting off some steam".

Ordinands, he added, "often do foolish things, but if it leads to a deeper engagement with things -- I'm not saying it's the right thing to do, [but theological college] is a relatively safe place to make foolish errors."

Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top