I was reminded of this silly spoonerism of (attributed to Dr Spooner himself) when I read a long and trivial correspondence in the Anglican Ordinariate's site. 'What is the correect form of an address for a Bishop?' it asked. And every sort of answer was given. Apparently Catholic Bishops should be addresses as "Excellency", Anglican ones as "My Lord", and Anglican Archbishops as 'Your Grace'. Now you would suppose Americans would be rather more egalitarian, After all, they can address their Presidents simply as 'Mr President'. But the questioner and most of those joining in the conversation on the Ordinariate Site seem to be Americans. Why do you, dear American friends, get your knickers in such a twist over trivia?
|The Queen at her coronation flanked by the bishops of Durham and Bath&Wells.|
A friend of mine when a young Ordinand of Canterbury Diocese had to meet his Bishop. This was Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, who presided at the Queen's Coronation in 1953. He addressed Dr Fisher as 'Father'. Fisher exploded. 'I am not your father. I am old enough to be your grandfather'. So the lad tried once more - 'I am sorry, My Lord' Again Fisher exploded. 'Nor am I "My Lord". I am "Your Grace" or "Sir". Fisher had been a Headmaster, and that was how many of his clergy saw him.
|Archbishop Fisher and his wife arriving in America.|
Bishops in England get called 'My Lord' because they are reckoned equal in status to members of the peerage; and at one time all diocesan bishops sat in the House of Lords. Even the holder of a new suffragan see (say Richboroough) could be addressed as 'My Lord'. Archbishops, being highest in rank, are also put on a par with the highest ranking peers, and so like Dukes they are addressed as 'Your Grace'.
|A Duke's Coronet|
But what flummery and nonsense it all is. Fisher was the last Archbishop to insist on the wearing of gaiters, frock coats and hats with strings on. When I was given the title of "Monsignor" in the Catholic Church, the citation from the Vatican was accompanied by a letter telling me what Monsignori might no longer wear. no elaorate dressing up, no buckled shoes, no mozettas, feraiolas &c. Just a plain black cassock with coloured piping and buttons and a plain coloured cincture - no frills and furbelows, no fringes. For which we should all be grateful. Remember whose we are and whom we serve; the one who said "The kings of the Gentiles Lord it over them. It is not to be so with you". Bishops are not meant to be Lords over their flock, and they are seldom Excellent. But if they win the title "Father" from those they serve, they should rejoice.