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Friday, 30 December 2011

Bazzer's world

Ed Thornton for the Church Times has produced a summary of what our Archbishops and a few bishops had to say in their Christmas messages about social division but it was this reference that had me digging deeper: The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, preaching in Llandaff Cathedral, said that the Occupy protesters had “reminded us that in Jesus, the view of God as a holy, set-apart God has been shattered for ever”.

Dr Morgan started his Christmas day sermon with a reference to the Occupy protesters. Clearly disappointed that they didn't give him another publicity opportunity by choosing his cathedral for their protest he had some harsh words for St Paul's cathedral clergy when he seemed to be likening them to the Pharisees. Not cleanliness next to Godliness but, rather, filth is more holy appears to be the new message. I can see what he is trying to say but he misses the point that in removing the 'otherness' of God everything is removed with it as witnessed by people voting with their feet and emptying churches. 

The Archbishop's true agenda appears in a follow-up interview for the Western Mail when he said that he was 'holding on to the hope that the church will accept women bishops before he steps down'. This is to be his legacy regardless of the divisions caused and the example of his US counterpart. He said: “The thing about Wales is we haven’t got extreme views and it’s quite a small church and you know one another individually and therefore you are able to talk to one another. Certainly, I haven’t felt any rancour from those who hold a different position.” [Apparently he ignores them - Ed.]

It might be 'quite a small church' to him but for others it is part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in which the overwhelming majority of Christians hold true to the faith, dwarfing the three-vote margin that so disappoints the Archbishop. If he is so interested in the wishes of the majority, why does he not look to the whole church rather than just his own little world becoming a symbol of dis-unity in the process? His Christmas day sermon is full of references to Jesus breaking down barriers and the prominence He gave to women but sadly for Bazzer, not as apostles. Christ set us a different example, an example the wider church is content to follow without putting a personal spin on it. The leader of the Church in Wales would be better served doing the same instead of looking to Christ only if it suits his argument.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Highs and Lows of Christmas 2011

Three cheers for Her Majesty! While many of her subjects, both sacred and secular, feel the need to apologise for celebrating the Christian festival for what it is, the Queen had no qualms about delivering her Christmas message full on ending with: "It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord".

We are a Christian country. It is 'through Christ our Lord' that we really do have something to celebrate, not crass ideas like Winterval. If our leaders followed the Queen's example, stopped making excuses and stood up for what we believe as Christians, we would be the better for it. As the appalling Christmas time tragedy in Nigeria escalates with yet more examples of Muslims persecuting Christians, it is not good enough to dismiss these acts as the work of extremists and ignore the ideology that is responsible for the atrocities. Cries of Islamophobia are used too readily to suppress legitimate criticism, frightening people into submission while the rights of minorities to do just as they please are upheld to the detriment of the majority. The British way of life has become a continual round of apology for being British and doing things our way.

In Israel the majority is being urged by President Shimon Peres "to save the majority from the hands of a small minority" and to "save the soul of the nation". Why can't we be more like that? Too many Christians are already a persecuted minority in their own country. Our leaders, both sacred and secular, should follow the Queen's example and deliver the Christian message without any qualms.

1. The price of converting to Christianity: Bishop Umar Mulinde is blinded with acid to cries of ‘Allahu akbar [God is greater]’ after his family drove him away with clubs and machetes for converting from Islam to Christianity. There are many other reports of persecution of Christians around the world in this link.
2. More concerns expressed here. FO response here. All talk. No change, no hope, no use.
3. An excellent analysis of the problems face by non-Muslims here.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Spare a thought for our persecuted fellow Christians this Christmas

Many of us are now looking forward to a cosy celebration of Midnight Mass followed by a hearty Christmas dinner so spare a thought for other Christians who are being persecuted throughout the world. Some will be thankful that their lives have been spared after their place of worship has been destroyed while others have paid the ultimate price for their faith. But Christianity is still the dominant world religion. Pray that our leaders will strive harder to keep it that Way this Christmas, in the new year and in years to come.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

A step too far

"Margaret Thatcher deserves every honour – apart from a state funeral" runs the headline in Peter Oborne's piece for the Telegraph. As David Cameron says, 'let me be absolutely clear', I have no problem with the second part of that headline. Where are the unifying acts that warrant the distinction of a state funeral? Despite some lingering resentment of his use of troops against miners in 1910/11, that Churchill deserved the honour is beyond dispute in reward for a nation's gratitude for leading us to victory in what was our greatest time of need .

Oborne perpetuates the myth implied in Thatcher's triumphant pose with the union flag with his asserti
on: "our former prime minister remains magnificent: brave, impervious, indomitable, the giantess of our time". 

Police cavalry charge at OrgreaveThe reality for others in the myth-making process is different. Her dead heroes lie far from home in the cold, distant Falkland Islands while others feel the shiver here. We may no longer be held to ransom by devastated industrial muscle but that has been replaced by the tyranny of bankers. Our manufacturing base has been replaced by an over praised service sector with its financial muscle. The result? Pauper's funerals increasing at an alarming rate, millions unemployed including over a million young people with little if any hope of a job, home ownership beyond the reach of increasing numbers of young people while out of control bankers ruin the lives of our people, something Herr Hitler failed to do, thanks to Churchill.

The unity that a state funeral would imply is absent. Many whose lives were ruined by Mrs Thatcher would happily picket a state funeral. Common sense should prevail but that is something else in short supply these days. A state funeral is not something to be devalued. Value for money was one of Mrs Thatcher's main tests even if often flawed, but a legacy admirably expressed in this e-petition. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

"We are all in this together." (20)

 Source: realsociology

By his own admission Danny Alexander has confirmed that Government attacks on tax-paying public servants (average pension £5,600 compared with his £26,403 if he leaves at the next election before picking up lucrative directorships in the financial sector) has been all about saving billions of pounds for the exchequer rather than affordable pensions. That should help pay for the tax dodging activities of companies who get fat on the rest of us.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

New Anglicanism

My wife never tires of telling me that men simply do not understand women and have no idea what the church is letting itself in for as feminism invades the church. A startling example of this and what has happened to the Anglican Church in the US  appears in VirtueOnline with: 

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori's Aggression Against Anglican Leaders 

Jefferts Schori attacks Archbishop Rowan Williams with the Charge of Double-Mindedness  

 We have been warned.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

NHS dementia

Photograph: Wpa Pool/Getty Images

All smiles but the reality is different. The latest depressing report illustrates the plight of patients in NHS hospitals with dementia. Can anyone be surprised? There have been endless reports of problems in the NHS and care homes where nurses don't care as they should followed by promises to do something about it but the chances are, unless you are one of the privileged few, you have a high chance of dying in misery in a care home or hospital, disorientated, dirty, dehydrated and thoroughly depressed. Yes, there are pockets of excellence which politicians and the fortunate praise as shining example of the modern NHS but they are far outweighed by reports of poor care by people who seem to regard patients as fodder simply to keep them employed with the minimum of effort. Read about it here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here.... . The reports are endless. In January 2010 Michael Parkinson in his role as the government's dignity ambassador condemned standards in care homes and hospitals as "downright unacceptable". In January 1999 a two-year campaign to improve "shocking levels of ill treatment" for elderly people in hospital began but we are still reading about it more than twelve years later.

This from a former dedicated nurse: "What has happened to basic nursing care, to observation, to humanity? Excuses citing undermanned wards, overworked staff simply will not do. If we were short staffed we worked twice as hard to ensure patient comfort. Nursing has never been an "easy job", working long hours without overtime pay, sacrificing a social life are just a few examples encountered but the rewards were so good, seeing patients get well and return home, which was surely why nursing was chosen by many, when vocation was an easily understood word."

There is nothing to smile about. The system has failed. Government ministers should stop talking it up and get back to basics. The old system worked so get nurses out of college and back on the wards to learn patient care, hands on.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Water Aid update

Some welcome cheer from Water Aid. International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell this week announced that he plans to attend the High Level Meeting of the Sanitation and Water for All partnership in Washington in April. In an email message Water Aid said "this came as a result of your actions, after your MPs asked questions in Parliament and many more wrote to Mr Mitchell to urge him to attend. It's fantastic to see the UK leading the way in committing to address the water and sanitation crisis. In the meantime, you can help us spread the word by sharing our short animated film with your friends and family. It's a simple and inspiring way to explain why water and sanitation are so fundamental not only to saving lives, but to health, education and livelihoods too.

To watch the 2 min film click here. So little can mean so much to others, life or death in fact.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Boarding for Pickledom?

Unusual for Mr Pickles he got himself in a right pickle when he failed to get Eamonn Holmes on board for his latest brainwave of spending £448million scrounged from other budgets to avoid 'squandering £9billion' on problem families. Now why didn't someone else think of that?

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

UK Gay Men Want Church Weddings

An interesting statistic from care2 crossed my desk this morning: "A survey of gay men in the UK has found two fifths want a church wedding". Looking at the results, the study also reveals that "almost two thirds (60%) of gay men feel the Government should enforce the lifting of the ban with the Church who, despite the change in legislation, is refusing to bless gay couples wishing to marry in church".

These are remarkable statistics given that research in 2007 suggests that only 15% go to a church 'once a month' - now the measure of 'regular'! So are gays more spiritual than non-gays? Apparently yes but the feeling that the Government should enforce the lifting of the ban on gay couples wishing to marry in church has nothing to do with religion; it has more to do with human rights without regard to the sensitivities of religion. 

As ever some of the comments in response to the care2 article are as interesting as the subject matter with complaints of anti-gay sentiments levelled at anyone daring to disagree. Homosexuality is a fact of life which, in my experience, is accepted without prejudice. In Christian terms marriage is also a fact of life with the joining together of a man and and a woman for the procreation of children. A partnership is what it says, simply a legal joining together free of sexual connotation. The Church of England web site sets out its position clearly: 

"You’re welcome to marry in the Church of England whatever your beliefs, whether or not you are christened and regardless of whether you go to church or not. It’s your church, and we welcome you!

That welcome is to be married on the church's terms. It is not something to be imposed from outside. The LGBT community does itself a disservice in wishing to see religious freedom restricted in the church while demanding every freedom for themselves. 

Monday, 12 December 2011

Words, words, words

The words that resonated with me most in the first ordinations I attended many years ago were from Isaiah 6:8

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Profound words but time has moved on. Some of the men I witnessed answering God's call now find themselves in the episcopate in a radically different church. Damien Thompson's recent piece for the Telegraph reminded me that different words resonated in consecrations I have attended. In the Church of England, before the Prayers of Penitence, the Archbishop introduces the service for 'The Ordination and Consecration of a Bishop' with the words:

God calls his people to follow Christ, and forms us into a royal priesthood, a holy nation, to declare the wonderful deeds of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light.

The Church is the Body of Christ, the people of God and the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. In baptism the whole Church is summoned to witness to God's love and to work for the coming of his kingdom.

To serve this royal priesthood, God has given particular ministries. Bishops are ordained to be shepherds of Christ's flock and guardians of the faith of the apostles, proclaiming the gospel of God's kingdom and leading his people in mission. Obedient to the call of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, they are to gather God's people and celebrate with them the sacraments of the new covenant. Thus formed into a single communion of faith and love, the Church in each place and time is united with the Church in every place and time.

Much of this sounds rather hollow in a new liberal church which often seems divorced from spirituality, especially the words: "Bishops are ordained to be ..... guardians of the faith of the apostles... . In the Preface to the Declaration of Assent the Archbishop reads:

"The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. In the declaration you are about to make, will you affirm your loyalty to this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to those in your care?"

To my mind, after the decision of the Church of England to depart from the orthodoxy of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the ordinand somewhat hypocritically responds:
"I, AB, do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness; and in public prayer and administration of the sacraments, I will use only the forms of service which are authorized or allowed by Canon."

Coming to the Liturgy of Ordination, among the declarations the ordinand is required to make, I find two particularly irksome as a traditionalist:

"Will you teach the doctrine of Christ as the Church of England has received it, will you refute error, and will you hand on entire the faith that is entrusted to you?" I suppose under its own rules the Church of England now receives only what it wants to receive but when it comes to:

Will you promote peace and reconciliation in the Church and in the world; and will you strive for the visible unity of Christ�s Church?", the ordinand Answers "By the help of God, I will" when clearly he should say 'No'!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Lords debate: Situation of Christians in the Middle East

An interesting debate took place in the House of Lords yesterday. Opened by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, he drew this tribute from Lord Mackay of Clashfern: "My Lords, I would like very warmly to thank the most reverend Primate for the opportunity of having this debate in your Lordships' House, and for the scholarly and profound speech with which the debate has been opened." Well deserved praise echoed by subsequent speakers, often in short supply outside the House.

Speaking in the debate (at 12.23) Lord Sacks' contribution was also praised by many speakers. He felt as a Jew in Christian Britain that he could not be silent. He quoted Martin Luther King saying, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends". Lord Touhig quoted his late old friend Leo Abse who, on his retirement as an MP, gave only one piece of advice to his successor. He said, "Tolerate everyone, tolerate everything but never tolerate the intolerant". 

Replying, Lord Howell of Guildford said, "This has been a hugely enlightening debate, unlocking the vast stores of wisdom that are to be found in your Lordships' House on the issues that we are addressing, on the history behind them-the hinterland of knowledge-and on the prospects for the present and the future in a very turbulent world. We have had some excellent speeches." The speeches clear up many misunderstandings about Christians in the Middle East and are well worth the time reading or listening to them. I particularly liked this aside from the Archbishop of Canterbury: "A Palestinian Christian friend of mine was wont to say when asked by westerners, 'When did your family become Christians?'  'About 2,000 years ago' was the reply." 

In his contribution to the debate, Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon quoted his mother saying: "The Abrahamic faiths are that Judaism lays the foundations, Christianity builds the walls and Islam is the roof. We all have the same origin and the same destination. Together we build a single house of worship". The reality is different. Mosques are demanded while other places of worship are destroyed. The plight of Coptic Christians is well documented. One of their priests gives a clear insight into their problems here. Translating their situation to Great Britain, the "silence of our friends" is contributing to the demise of Christianity while Islam is in the ascendency. The suggestion that Islam is the roof is used to claim that Muhammad was the last in a line of Jewish prophets of which Jesus was just another,
 raising the prophet above the Son of God. That is unacceptable to Christians. Leo Abse's advice "never tolerate the intolerant" is particularly apt.

There is a video link to the debate here. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

"Alice in Wonderland" - Wales Edition

Journeying into what has become for me one of the most fertile areas in the blogshere, I have heard of two more harebrained ideas in support of what is now the main aim of the Church in Wales, to be relevant to society.  

The first was in a letter to clergy of the Archbishop's diocese urging them to keep their churches open during December and January to provide food and shelter for 'vetted' homeless people. This came in the wake of the Occupy Cardiff protesters rejection of his suggestion to camp around his cathedral.  Lucky for him. That spared him and the protesters the indignity of Dean 'Napoleon' telling them to ****** off! It must have come as some surprise to the Archbishop to be told that many individuals as well as church congregations were already donating food and financially supporting experts in the field to do the job properly.

Experts rarely grab the headlines. They press on with their jobs while funding is squeezed. But fear not. Early next year at a cost of just £10 per person, the Church in Wales and the Institute of Rural Health will be holding a series of one-day training events for clergy and lay people with the aim of helping people with mental health issues. In a statement the Church in Wales announced, "We hope this course will raise people's awareness of mental health issues and provide a basic introduction in how to care for people in need." 

As one highly qualified health professional put it to me: "Splendid - it takes health care professionals years (plus the same again in front line experience) to learn how to deal with patients with all sorts of conditions, and yet the CinW fly-by-night do gooders can learn it all for £10 and a quick PowerPoint presentation".

Well intentioned no doubt but a dangerous path while, perversely, the spiritual needs of those who keep the faith continue to be neglected. Are they irrelevant to society?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Prepare the way before the people of the Lord.

The Church as the body of Christ.

Reflection in this season of Advent has led to hope, trust and despair. Despair that the Anglican church many of us have known and loved is departing from the Universal Church, trust in the unity offered through the Ordinariate, and hope that if that journey is made, it is steered in accordance with Christ's example alone.

I came across the above icon in a Blog while reflecting on the 'One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church'. At first I was encouraged by what I found in the opening statement:

  "Our Lord Jesus Christ, before his crucifixion, prayed to His heavenly Father asking that His disciples be one, just as He and His Father are one (John 17:20-23). This is the prayer of all true Christians. It is for this reason that we confess in our Creed that we believe “in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” in which we are saved."

Reading on led to despair. What followed was another story of division, the same division that disgraces the rest of the Universal Church furthering the cause of secularism by giving ammunition to detractors. 

In the past week I have found myself in discussions with people of various persuasions; atheist, Catholic and Anglican. In response to an atheist's question about the Holy Grail, a Catholic present explained about transubstantiation and appeared surprised by my agreement as if transubstantiation meant nothing to an Anglican. Then a traditionalist Anglo Catholic told me how he had been sidelined by the new wave of Anglicans in his church, showing no understanding of the catholic faith or reverence for the Sacrament. All this came in the wake of the controversy started by the Bishop of London about the new Roman Missal, commented on in the Catholic Herald by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith and followed up by him with "Catholics are being deceived into attending non-Catholic services" when he wrote:

"If a Roman Catholic from France or Italy visits this unidentified church and sees that the Roman rite is seemingly in progress, they would not unnaturally assume that the church was a Roman Catholic Church, in communion with the Holy Father, wouldn’t they? But they would be mistaken. Such a church uses the Roman Missal, but is not a Roman Catholic church, and is not authorised to use the Roman Missal by the Bishop of the diocese (the Catholic bishop, I mean; the Anglican bishop has also forbidden it). Moreover the persons attempting to celebrate Mass are not recognised as priests by the Roman Catholic Church. In short, the visitor from France or Italy may see what looks like the Mass, but what is in fact not the Mass."

"Moreover the persons attempting to celebrate Mass are not recognised as priests by the Roman Catholic Church". Really? So what are non-Roman Catholics doing at the altar? 'Catholic' is not a trade mark belonging exclusively to the Roman Catholic Church. Like it or not, members of the Anglican church profess the same belief in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Also, the Orthodox Church claims to be the true church so who is to say that we are not partakers of the one bread? Priests who converted to Roman Catholicism have been know to comment that their former Anglican congregations often had more knowledge and understanding of the faith than many of the cradle Catholics in their new congregations who simply pop in to Mass and out again as quickly as possible, often on a Saturday evening thus avoiding any lengthy period of worship. I know many 'Catholics' who think nothing of going to an Anglican church to receive* the sacrament and I have seen Roman Catholic priests who, although they do not receive, cross themselves at the elevation.

As Christians united in baptism we all 'look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come'. Here and now in our own way, 'the people of the Lord' do as Jesus bade us unconstrained by earthly dogmas. Anglo Catholics do not kneel at the altar in vain. None of us knows the day or the hour but when the hour comes we can all say in good conscience, we received the Body and Blood of Christ by faith with thanksgiving. 

* Read an Anglican priest's experience on Fr Mervyn's Blog here.