“The peace of a bucolic East Anglian village has been shattered by a fierce campaign by residents to oust their female vicar,” reports Jonathan Wynne-Jones, a religious affairs correspondent for the Telegraph, a British daily newspaper.
To the outside world, the part-time assignment of Rev. Lorna Smith as Anglican priest at the 12th century St. Nicholas Church in Trillingham, would appear idyllic, observes Wynne-Jones:
But she has found herself at the center of a row which could be taken straight from the Vicar of Dibley, and which has divided a community where the only comparable drama was the filming of a “Doctor Who” episode nearby in 1972.
In one camp are the more than 300 locals who have signed a petition to have her removed over a string of grievances.
On the other side are her supporters in the congregation — not to mention the local bishop, who last week turned down the petitioners flat and said Mrs. Smith was staying put.
The final straw in the increasingly bitter divide between Mrs. Smith’s backers and her critics was her decision to remove the Victorian pews from the church and replace them with plastic chairs.
The plan led to clash between the residents who are traditional in their thinking and Mrs. Smith, who is from an evangelical background.