Avicar in Worcestershire has got himself into a bit of a mess (one is tempted to call it an unholy one) after being told he cannot claim unfair dismissal – because he is ‘employed by God.’
The Rev Mark Sharpe insists he had no choice but to resign after a campaign of abuse by parishioners, who, according to him, indulged in some distinctly unchristian-like activities.
However, solicitors representing the Diocese of Worcester quoted ecclesiastical laws which state clergy are not employees, but office holders in the service of the Almighty.
This means disaffected vicars are not eligible to claim unfair dismissal, on the grounds that God cannot be sued – which really is a neat trick if you can get away with it.
Perhaps it’s just as well though, because if He were subject to litigation it would have cost Him a bob or two by now.
After all, He created the world and some parts are so dangerous because of shoddy design faults that claims would have been submitted by the lorry-load.
It’s the reason insurance companies invented the phrase ‘an act of God.’
‘Nothing to do with me guv’nor. Better take it up with God.
‘He designed the place and the special effects.’
It’s not surprising, therefore, that some people and organisations like to use their Maker as a commercial convenience; a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card.
After all, they’re fairly confident He will forgive them when it comes to the final reckoning.
But it ill-behoves the Christian church to adopt such a callous attitude when one of its priests is in such desperate straits.
The Rev Sharpe claims his dog was poisoned, animal excrement was smeared on his car and the tyres were slashed by a vengeful congregation he compared to characters from The League of Gentlemen.
His appeals for help to some saintly bishops were ignored and the Diocese of Worcester has now launched eviction proceedings against the Sharpe family.
But these are the functionaries and supporters of organised religion we are talking about, not necessarily Christians.
In my experience, there is often a big difference.