"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...."
Wonderful stuff, the 23rd psalm, pure poetry. But, here in Britain, the Church of England may be about to get rid of it. The latest official version is in a new book of prayers, and reads like this: "Even if a full scale violent confrontation breaks out, then I won't be afraid." So much for the Lord is my Shepherd.
Anyway, shepherds have to be called "ovine agricultural operatives" in the new translation. The Church of England is going down the pan. The people who run it – the bishops and archbishops - are bitterly divided. Every day they're slagging each other off. The Archbishop of York launched a fierce attack on his colleagues, accusing them of losing the awesome mystery of religion. He was immediately counter-attacked by other bishops and accused of losing his marbles.
There are bishops who want women bishops, no women bishops, gay bishops and no gay bishops. There are Ostriches, who would much rather nothing ever changed. And Modernisers, who can't be trusted not to tamper with the prayer book.
But the effect of all this is emptying churches up and down the country – and since what people put in the collection plate helps to pay the clergy, it now means a total rethink on salaries. The Church is contemplating a fifty per cent pay cut. That would put a bishop on slightly under 27,000 dollars a year. And an ordinary vicar on less than 18,000 dollars.
And it might explain the latest, almost blasphemous, translation in that controversial new prayer book I mentioned. Because they've even had a go at the Lords Prayer. No longer "give us this day our daily bread"….. oh no, now it sounds like a trade union rant : "give us a fair wage packet, O Lord."
O Lord indeed.
By Ed Boyle
Copyright 2004 CBS. All rights reserved.