The Bishop of St Davids, the Rt Rev’d Joanna Penberthy, was the first woman to be elected a bishop in the Church in Wales, and into an archbishopric which can be traced all the way back to St Dyfrig and St David in the sixth century. And she likes to tweet. Indeed, judging by the 221,400 she has sent, she likes to tweet a lot (and since she only joined in June 2016, that’s a tweet rate of 44,280 a year, or an astonishing 121 a day). She has an interesting model of Christian mission and evangelistic strategy. Recently she tweeted this:
It would be a surprising thing for any Anglican priest to say (at least in public), but for a bishop it is truly breathtaking. One wonders how many Conservatives there are among her flock who now know how truly despised they are (not to mention Tory-inclined priests/ordinands who fear for their progression in ministry). She might smile as she baptises your Tory babies or presides at your Tory weddings, but really she can’t wait to attend your miserable lying funerals: the fewer Tories there are in Wales, the nearer the apocalypse of the New Jerusalem, #GTTO (Get the Tories Out); #FBPE (Follow Back Pro-EU).
She was politely challenged about her slight partisanship, and responded rather tersely with this:
Apologies for using ‘astonishing’ and ‘breathtaking’ again, but this, from an Anglican bishop, is truly astonishing and breathtaking, and literally quite incredible.
She seems to think, as a leader in the Church of Jesus Christ, that she may be or say one thing on her ‘personal’ home page, and be or say something quite different in her official public role; that she can tweet her divisive ‘personal’ views to the world, but preach unifying pleasantries from the pulpit. What theological college or priestly formation teaches or inculcates dissociative ministerial identity? Where has she learned that her ‘professional’ life may be holy while her ‘private’ life is profane? Isn’t it a fundamental (really, really basic) exhortation of Jesus to eschew hypocrisy and seeming in favour of integrity and consistency; to be that in private which one is in public? Does she have any understanding of what it means to hold public office, or even church office?
Now, you may think she made a careless mistake, perhaps after a double G&T and a large glass of Pinot. But consider:
The contempt and condescension are palpable: it even spreads to former Conservative supporters for whom there is no forgiveness or redemption. But then she does seem to agree with Nye Bevan that Conservatives are “lower than vermin“:
It will come as no surprise that she wanted St Jeremy to become Prime Minister:
And so she is ashamed of “each and every one” who votes or has ever voted Conservative, for whom she obviously reserves a special circle of hell:
Perhaps she just doesn’t understand the philosophy of conservatism. Perhaps her political views are refracted myopically through the lenses of ‘Spitting Image’ and ‘Billy Elliot’:
She seems to think all Tories are rich bastards who hate miners and despise all that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. These things manifestly belong to St Jeremy (and the EU), who alone is excellent and praiseworthy.
And then there is her dissemination of anti-English sentiment (which some might call Anglophobia or nationalistic xenophobia):
This is really quite odd from someone who once ministered in the Church of England, and whose husband is still an Anglican priest. What on earth happened to loving your neighbour? Or are Bishop Joanna’s neighbours restricted to Welsh socialists? What happened to loving your enemy (which Tories appear to be)? What happened to patience, kindness and compassion? What happened to bearing with those who are weak of mind or ignorant in learning (which she obviously believes Tories to be)? What the hell happened to “the greatest of these is love”?
And what happened to grace, generosity of spirit, or simple courtesy and good manners?
Can’t she at least be happy for Carrie? Or does she genuinely believe that Boris Johnson and his wife are leading us on the path to Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria:
There is more (so very much more) of this hate and bile, so a few people on Twitter (quite a few, actually) have objected, and some have come to a harsh conclusion:
Perhaps it ought not to surprise her that people are offended:
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged:
and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye,
but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
When she saw the kerfuffle her tweet had caused, she tweeted this:
It is worth observing that the offence was caused by her Twitter account, not by the person typing on the keypad. ‘I apologise for the death caused by this gun and am now putting it in the bin.’ If you follow the link to her public ‘professional’ page, you may read this:
This falls woefully short of what is required: there is no such thing as a “private tweet”; Twitter is a public forum. And the Bishop of St Davids has tweeted and retweeted hundreds upon hundreds of manifestly ignorant, offensive, crude and abusive tweets which incite hate, cause division, and perpetuate lies and caricatures. It might even be thousands upon thousands of the 221,400 she has sent, but trawling the archive is tedious and there are only so many hours in the day.
But here’s the thing: Bishop Joanna has apologised on her ‘public professional’ page for something she tweeted on her ‘private personal’ page. How do we know she means it, since the professional episcopal façade of grace conceals merciless private loathing, and the two personae are apparently distinct and separate? Her understanding of the ‘Imitation of Christ’ seems to be some kind of literal mimicry, rather than becoming a sort of Christ for others.
Incidentally, there’s no point complaining to the Archbishop of Wales: he retired on 2nd May, and his successor is yet to be chosen. So the Bishop of St Davids is presently accountable only to God, who no doubt also favours Welsh socialists over English Tories.