James Hacker: Humphrey, what's a Modernist in the Church of England?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Ah, well, the word "Modernist" is code for non-believer.
James Hacker: You mean an atheist?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: No, Prime Minister. An atheist clergyman couldn't continue to draw his stipend. So, when they stop believing in God, they call themselves "Modernists".
James Hacker: How could the Church of England suggest an atheist as Bishop of Bury St Edmunds?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well, very easily. The Church of England is primarily a social organization, not a religious one.
James Hacker: Is it?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Oh yes. It's part of the rich social fabric of this country. So bishops need to be the sorts of chaps who speak properly and know which knife and fork to use. The sort of people one can look up to.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: You see, The PM has stated that he wants a devout Christian
[appointed as bishop]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: . Now The Dean only believes in Islam, steam engines, and the MCC
[Marylebone Cricket Club, the governing body of English cricket]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: . In fact, some smart-aleck once asked him on television if he knew what The Bible was.
Peter Harding: And did he?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Yes. He said it was some Christian version of The Koran.
Jim Hacker: How come you know so much about the Dean of Bai... Weren't you at Bailey yourself?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: I was, yes.
Jim Hacker: Jobs for the boys, eh?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: On the contrary, Prime Minister, I hardly know him. In fact I happen to know that he dislikes me. You can ask him yourself this evening if you like. I don't like him very much either
Jim Hacker: Honestly?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: On my word of honour.
Jim Hacker: You have nothing to gain from this preferment?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: How could I have?
Jim Hacker: In that case, well done. Helpful, impartial advice. The best traditions of the civil service.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Yes, Prime Minister.
Sir Richard Wharton: People have said a lot of unpleasant things about the Foreign Office, but we've never been accused of patriotism.
Sir Richard Wharton: I know what we'll do. We'll tell the press that it was the Prime Minister's initiative to send the dean.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Oh, good idea. He'll enjoy taking the credit.
Sir Richard Wharton: But you don't think there's any danger that the PM's denying it just because it isn't true, is there?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Not at all.
Sir Richard Wharton: And then for the Sundays' we leak the idea that the Foreign Office suggested it to HIM when we found all the diplomatic channels blocked.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Perfect. That way nobody gets the blame and everybody gets the credit.
Sir Richard Wharton: Except the person who really thought it up.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Oh, well. I don't mind.