Today, the American government released the list of documents found during the raid on the Pakistani compound in which Osama bin Laden was found and shot. Much of it is predictable: Islamic theology, terrorist manuals, conspiracy theory books and so on. One document is, however, remarkable. It is no less than something entitled "Profiles of Bishops in the Church of England." At this point I could understand you checking the date to make sure that this is not a delayed 1 April blog -- but it isn't.
It's a bit unfortunate really, isn't it? Of all the Christian books and literature that he could have had to read, he ends up with this. But why did the man, who was for so long global Public Enemy Number One, keep this document on his bookshelves? The possibility that one of our bishops is in fact already in the employment of Al Qaeda is, I think, unlikely. All Anglican bishops are specifically chosen on the basis that they will strike terror into no one!
There are, however, some other possibilities as to why Bin Laden had this document. Let me suggest a few.
· He was considering infiltrating a meeting of the General Synod.
· He was thinking of being ordained as an Anglican.
· He was hoping for some guidance on robes or beards.
· He was concerned that his closely guarded compound was going to be secretly infiltrated by secret agents disguised as bishops or, far more threatening, by bishops themselves.
Whatever the reason, one slightly worrying implication of this is that intelligence agencies across the world will now treat ordained Anglicans with even more suspicion than usual. I always seem to get more than my fair share of security checks at airports -- I probably shouldn't keep introducing myself with the words 'I'm a Canon' -- and now I expect it's going to be even worse.
Still, the whole thing is vaguely gratifying in its way. Lots of people say that no one takes the Church of England seriously. Well as from today we have an answer: Bin Laden did!