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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

We will all be changed

A further drop in Church of England attendance has been reportedAverage Sunday attendance fell from 944,400 in 2009 to 923,700 the following year, continuing the long-term downward trend. Hardly the result one might have expected after the church decided to make itself more relevant to society by becoming ever more secular.

In an unhelpful Blog article for the Guardian on the prospect of women bishops in the CofE, Andrew Brown writes: "The Church of England's fudge on female bishops is breathtaking". He  concludes with the comment: "It may be possible to fudge questions about the nature of a communion wafer in this way. But I don't think it will do for a matter of employment law." So the Body of Christ can be fudged but Its administration by the sacred ministry is something that should be determined by employment law! No wonder so many churches are for sale with plenty more to come as attendance dwindles.

The theme of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is 'We will be changed'. From the Churches Together site:

"Change is at the heart of our Christian faith. Saint Paul said that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation, and we are called to live as children in the light. 

The theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2012 comes to us from the churches in Poland, who have reflected upon their own experience as a nation, and in particular how, as a nation, they have been changed and transformed by the many upheavals of their history, and sustained by their faith.

Change is also at the heart of the ecumenical movement. When we pray for the unity of the church we are praying that the churches that we know and which are so familiar to us will change as they conform more closely to Christ. This is an exciting vision, but also a challenging one. Furthermore, when we pray for this transforming unity we are also praying for change in the world."

The upheavals in the Anglican church may have brought joy to some but for the church it has been a disaster with litigation and arguments about the nature of the priesthood, gay and lesbian ordination and same sex marriage which no doubt is now regarded as acceptable on the grounds that there is 'no theological objection', the Anglican justification for female ordination. These changes have had a wholly negative impact on the church when our aim should be unity with the Roman Catholic church from which we have become separated and the Orthodox Church.

If women in England and Wales are to be ordained bishops because of secular employment laws, then 'we will all be changed'. We will be changed but in the wrong direction, choosing Protestantism rather than the ancient churches of Rome and Orthodoxy, the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of our baptism, driving us further than ever from church unity. As Synod members prepare to vote, they should not be influenced by secular employment laws but follow Christ's example and listen to His prayer that we all may be one.


  1. I always find it difficult to strike the right balance between on the one hand showing sympathy for my friends still in the C of E who are struggling with the current developments, and on the other hand what I feel is a responsibility to point out that trying to preserve the last vestiges of apostolic faith in the C of E is like rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic. The reality is that the iceberg struck a very long time ago and there are bigger problems to face.

    In a church which, for centuries, has accepted the condemned heresy of the double-procession of the Holy Spirit, has allowed for open anti-sacramentalists to be ordained and for the heresy of iconoclasm to be taught and practised without repercussion, which has invented various ecclesiologies - none of them consonant with the Church fathers - in order to justify its separation from the Church, questions of whether to reinvent the nature of priesthood or matrimony cannot be considered any sort of hinge on which its orthodoxy rests.

    Too easily we subjectify these things. So younger Anglicans, who have grown up knowing little other than their parish church with its lovely female vicar, will be at a loss to understand the criticism of those who know a little more about traditional practice through having studied or lived it. In the same way, those who have grown up knowing nothing but the branch theory and reciting "who proceeds from the Father and the Son" week by week may simply take for granted that these things are ok, and may be perturbed to hear that their position is no more traditionally Christian than those who want to see women ordained. I am sure that there are many other examples, and there is genuine fear, worry, unsettledness, and pain when we see what we know eroding about us as the hands of others. Those feelings are real and only the most cold-hearted of people would not recognise that and sympathise.

    At the same time, there needs to be a moving away from the idea that orthodoxy rests on what we are accustomed to, and instead apply the apostolic and patristic standard. That means a real, sacramental, mystical communion of common faith and worship (the early disciples were united in "the apostles' teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers") and not the Anglican fudge of "unity in diversity"; the confession of the Father alone as the generative principle of the Holy Trinity; the recognition and affirmation, both in the taught word and in iconographic and sacramental practice of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, and its effect upon the created, material world, making it a means of grace, and the condemnation of opposition to this as the denial of the Incarnation that it is (which overturns the salvation of mankind). Without these things, making sure that bishops are male is an exercise in futility.

    Please forgive me if I offend.

  2. Certainly no offence Michael and good to see you are back blogging again.

    I am on dangerous ground here. As one taught to belive that there is one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I am more content that the Spirit is with us so I do not have difficulty in accepting either position. The few Orthodox churches I have been privileged to visit, almost exclusively in the Holy Land, have had a profound influence on me but for most of us in Britain there is little opportunity to experience the Orthodox Church other than through the internet. My study of Orthodoxy indicates a spiritual home without all the complications associated with accepting some aspects of Roman Catholicism. It is probably a home that I would be comfortable with but, sadly, as for most in this country, there is no opportunity to find out. Every blessing.

  3. Thank you for your understanding and kind words. There were some personal matters which, combined with busyness, kept me away from blogging for a while but I'm back now. :-)

    I'm not sure I agree with the claim of little opportunity for most people to explore Orthodoxy. Certainly there are challenges and, for people outside of urban centres, expecting to be able to worship communally on a weekly basis may be removed somewhat from the reality but the opportunity is certainly not absent for those willing to to pursue it. My parish has people who are only able to come fortnightly, some monthly and, in one case, annually (for a few days in Holy Week, when he stays in a B&B). The thing important to these people, and many others like them, is not the convenience of weekly church with almost guaranteed clergy, and a permanent building where everything is all set up. These things may be the ideal but to these people's minds they may - nay, must - be abandoned if having them means sacrificing the ancient Apostolic Faith. It's simply a matter of priorities.

    That aside, I suppose the reason that these doctrines are imprtant to me, leaving aside what is apostolic and patristic, and what is incompatible innovation, is that these things are not simply academic theories but rather revelations of the God Whom we are to know intimately and the growth into whose likeness is the purpose of our Christian life. What the teaching of the double-procession does is it introduces a new god: one that is not the one true God revealed to us in Holy Scripture and the life of the Church, but a distortion with implications for us in developing our relationship with and growth into the life of that God.

    I simply cannot be part of that or knowingly support it in any way.

    May Christ bless us.

  4. Thank you Michael for your very helpful comments. I have much to ponder. God bless.