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Sunday, 30 December 2012

If only...

If only Rowan had not sided with the women's lib movement he may have stepped down as Archbishop of Canterbury having made significant steps towards unity with the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Instead he leaves office with utter disappointment etched on his face. He has had a difficult task in difficult times exacerbated by the ravaging of The Episcopal Church of the United States where the Presiding Bishop has thumbed her nose to Rowan as she pursues her campaign to turn the church into a secular-orientated institution with reverberations in the UK and commensurate falls in attendance. If, on reflection, he has a change of heart putting unity before politics there is still much for him to do building on his relations with church leaders. That must be our prayer while wishing him well as he continues on life's pilgrimage.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Another politician in clerical clothing

 In the latest helping of the views of the Archbishop of Wales in WalesOnline we have Organ Donations, Devolution, Gay Marriage, Homosexuality, Women's Rights, Demographics and the Welsh language. Unlike Her Majesty the Queen who broadcast a simple Christian message in her Christmas Day broadcast [see previous entry], here is another cleric who finds it much easier to preach politics from the privilege of the pulpit than to offer himself for election. The closest Dr Morgan gets to God is when he talks of the decline of the church, again abdicating any sense of responsibility with the words: “At the end of the day, the church is not the clergy and the church is certainly not bishops. The church is the whole people of God.” - If that is the case, why does he insist on ploughing his own furrow contrary to the direction of the universal Apostolic church to which he professes allegiance every time he recites the Creed?

Apart from the dwindling few he has gathered around him, the 'whole people of God' as he sees them couldn't care less for the views of the Archbishop according to the results of the 2011 census which showed his diocese of Llandaff as home to areas in the UK with the highest rates reporting no religion. Caerphilly takes the lead on his patch: Some local authorities in Wales also reported some of the highest levels of no religion. Caerphilly had the largest percentage point increase since 2001 of 16.7 to 41.0 per cent . Blaenau Gwent, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Torfaen also saw large increases of no religion with 16.0, 15.5 and 15.4 percentage points respectively.

I hear on the grapevine that managing the decline of the Church in Wales has already run into trouble with problems implementing the 'Harries' Review. Despite a great deal of time and effort looking at clustering parishes this is now regarded as a non-starter. Also, as if to kick a man when he is down, Dr Morgan's cherished plan of making the Diocese of Llandaff the Archiepiscopal see will not take place in the foreseeable future. Added to which parsonages will not be sold off as recommended and the Archbishop has admitted that he has no power to close buildings so churches will continue to be used until they fall into disrepair for lack of funds and, presumably, become unusable on grounds of safety. None of this really matters to the bishops because all seven of them keep their jobs (I use the term advisedly) regardless of further decline below the 1% of the 'whole people of God' they care for in Wales, allegedly. This strategy also keeps all the bums on the bench so that when women bishops take over they will have somewhere to sit while wondering where all the people have gone. As senior appointments now go to outsiders, they could of course spend their time learning Welsh so they can talk among themselves in their 'home' language since a vast amount of money has been spent on translations for Welsh speakers, now down to 19% of the population and a tiny fraction of churchgoers practically all of whom no doubt would be bilingual.

Dr Morgan is very keen on supporting (some) minorities. He was particularly miffed at not being consulted over plans to exempt the Church in Wales from David Cameron's same-sex marriage proposals claiming that it would make the Church in Wales appear homophobic. What an appalling claim for an educated man to make, even worse by a cleric and more so by a bishop. It is not homophobic to believe that marriage is a life-long union between one man and one woman. But this is just another smokescreen. It is an attempt to conceal Dr Morgan's main aim which is to enhance his liberal credentials at any cost in the same way that he proposes a sleight of hand to allow the admission of women to the episcopate by making supposed provision for those opposed when he has already indicated that there will be no provision other than on his terms. If he were to offer himself for election, who would vote for such duplicity?

Thursday, 27 December 2012

God Save the Queen!

Before I set off with my wife to spend Christmas with family I read an advance report of what the retiring Archbishop of Canterbury would say in his final Christmas sermon as Archbishop. My heart sank. I comforted myself with the thought that the headline remark may have been taken out of context. But no, in his sermon there was indeed another dig at those accused of damaging the credibility of the church in the vote over women bishops. The Archbishop added: "Faith is not about what public opinion decides, and it is not about how we happen to be feeling about ourselves. It is the response people make to what presents itself as a reality – a reality which makes claims on you". You can listen to his remarks here and make of them what you will but this part of his sermon is clear enough: In the deeply painful aftermath of the Synod’s vote last month, what was startling was how many people who certainly wouldn’t have said yes to the census question [referred to at the beginning of his sermon] turned out to have a sort of investment in the Church, a desire to see the Church looking credible and a real sense of loss when—as they saw it—the Church failed to sort its business out.

I interpreted Rowan's contorted departing message as meaning that while "Faith is not about what public opinion decides" people outside the church have some sort of investment in the church which they desire to see looking credible. In other words, they have no real interest in the church and support her even less but public opinion in its ignorance is a useful tool which conveniently 'supports' the view that Rowan and his entourage are correct on the question of women bishops while the rest of us, including the much larger universal church of East and West, are wrong and simply don't understand Jesus properly.

In the 'women bishops at any cost' campaign, the Queen's position as 'Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England' has been tossed into the debate to justify the call for women bishops with remarks such as: "The queen is the head of the Church of England; if the Queen can head the Church of England why can't we have female bishops". This shows either a lamentable ignorance of the Church of England and of the priesthood itself or it is an attempt to influence those outside the church who feel that they have some sort of an investment in the church which entitles them to an opinion on the faith of people who are being unfairly criticised by their own clergy.

It was most heartening therefore to watch the Queen's traditional Christmas Day broadcast. Her Majesty delivered a simple Christian message that could be readily understood by all with the words: "This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son 'to serve, not to be served'. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer this Christmas Day that his example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others. The carol, 'In the Bleak Midwinter', ends by asking a question of all of us who know the Christmas story, of how God gave himself to us in humble service: 'What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man, I would do my part'. The carol gives the answer, 'Yet what I can I give him – give my heart'.

A clear simple message to live by Christ's example, not from a priest but from one who clearly understands the meaning of 'to serve, not to be served'. Something that the laity recognises but which has been largely forgotten by the clergy in their quest to see the Church of England relegated to the status of a Protestant sect.

Monday, 24 December 2012

It's Christmas!

Amongst all the tinsel illustrating a 'Google' Christmas (above) is 
a picture of a nativity scene explained here.

For seasonal readings with beautiful music visit Marianne Dorman here.

Wishing everyone a Very Happy, Peaceful and
Blessed Christmas!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Abusive, racist or trendy?

For some women the Church of England is trendy. For others it is abusive. For another it is   racist.

It didn't used to be like this. What has changed?

Friday, 21 December 2012

Faith, hope and charity?

"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity". Perhaps some of the most familiar words in the Bible and it seems, the most readily forgotten. Compare these words with those used in the statement by the House of Bishops: The House recognised and felt the profound and widespread sense of anger, grief and disappointment experienced by so many in the Church of England and beyond. 'Beyond' could well refer to the Episcopal Church of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori who shows a complete lack of charity towards those who disagree with her here, here, here and here. I could go on but for the latest read Anglican Ink here

If ever there were a need to heed warning signs! But the fractured liberal wings of the Anglican Communion are so obsessed with (some) women in the church and sexual equality that they flap around ignoring the wider spiritual direction of the universal church and risk ending up in a protestant Cul-de-sac completely separated from the Catholic church of East and West of our creed.

Unrepresentative liberal bishops constantly use selective figures to justify their actions while ignoring the reality of the position in which they find themselves having become slaves of WATCH. I was particularly interested to read the statement put out by Reform in response to the announcement about the working group on women bishops: Prebendary Rod Thomas said he was ‘nonplussed' as to why the membership of the working group does not contain anybody who shares our convictions about male headship – despite the fact that this was a key concern underlying the vote on 20th November. 

This comes hot on the heels of an excellent article here about the Church failing to respect its minority voices. But I would add a note of caution to a suggestion repeated in the article: One of the ways forward might be to look at what the Church in Wales is trying to achieve in having separate arrangements for both matters and not having one without the other. Read the reality of the position in Wales here.

The working group must recognise that the 'majority' view regarding the ordination of women is a minority view in the wider church beyond the Church of England. Within the C of E a significant minority opposed to the ordination of women on theological grounds are also loyal members of the Church of England and in all charity deserve the right to test their resolve in arrangements designed to suit their needs. Anything else is not only unethical, it is unscriptural.   

Typical of the double standards employed by liberal bishops, the Archbishop of Wales says he does not want a ban on gay marriages in the Church in Wales. He said: "I am not sure we want that kind of protection which makes us out to be very unwelcoming and homophobic". It is not homophobic to believe that marriage is between one man and one woman but his attitude to the 'traditionalist' minority within his own church is already very unwelcoming. Dr Morgan added: "It is not that I am advocating that the Church in Wales is right to perform gay marriages but that decision needs to be made by the Church in Wales, it’s not for the State to decide for us." As with his proposals for woman bishops, my guess based on previous form is that he wants to make same-sex marriage legal and sweep up the opposition afterwards.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

4th from bottom in the churchgoing league

"If the Church in England was the national football team we would have sacked the manager long ago. A European social study (published in 2002) put the UK at the 4th lowest rate of Church attendance in Europe." 

Ten years later the national census has painted another picture of decline in the face of a vigorous denial from the Archdeacon of Norwich, named as the most godless city in England. There was something in her delivery which left me less than convinced that the census data were in error but it is undeniable that the Christian religion in this country is on the wane with what is left being increasingly feminised, removing the male influence from yet another institution and leaving a vacuum to be filled by a less tolerant religion.

WhyChurch presents some alarming statistics on churchgoing here and worrying figures on the widening gender gap here. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have now announced the membership of the new working group established by the House of Bishops following the defeat of the women bishops' legislation. The group's task is to assist the House when it meets in February and again in May to come to a decision on the new package of proposals which it intends to bring to the Synod in July. Based on the tone  of an earlier statement a stitch-up is on the cards unless members open their eyes and look around them, not only at the state of Anglicanism in this country but around the world where the ordination of women has led from one crisis to another culminating in calls for same-sex marriage in church. 

Open their eyes, Lord, they need to see Jesus, to reach out and touch Him and say that they love Him, not question His sexuality for personal ambition and dilute the church even more than they have done already. But if that has to be their way, please God they still have an element of charity left in them to make adequate provision for those of us who still want to follow the way of the universal church.

A rose by any other name...

 What's in a name? that which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet;

An elephant is an elephant;

An ass is an ass;

Don't be a silly ass Dave;


Marriage is marriage,
the union of one man and one women.

Monday, 17 December 2012


Back in January I wrote about the late Fr Jeremy Winston, Dean of Monmouth, whose tragic death just over a year ago robbed the Church in Wales of one of her brightest stars yet he had been told: "there is no place for you in this church". Today comes news of another tragic story, the loss of what promised to be an outstanding ministry in the episcopate, the withdrawal of Fr Philip North from the post of Bishop of Whitby. The reason? Because of an all consuming desire to see women in purple at any cost. So insidious has this desire become that even the Archbishop of Canterbury, long thought of as a friend of the faithful, appears to have succumbed to this lust for woman power which, sadly, is how they now see the episcopate.

In a November entry I suggested that the Church of England seemed destined to follow the path of the Church in Wales if promises of a secure place in the church for traditionalists were not honoured. They were not; the vote was lost. The latest episode in the shameful treatment of Fr North should act as a salutary warning that lust, like greed and anger is another deadly sin committed in the name of so-called equality and without a great deal of contrition is likely to see another defeat. 

If women insist on being robed in purple they first need to understand the basics of what they have entered into, as do their supporters.  

Stuck for a Christmas present?

Are you really stuck wondering what to buy someone for Christmas when they say they have everything they need? 

Naturally we want to do the best we can for our children and for our grandchildren but when it comes to adults, particularly the elderly, if they say they want for nothing and need something even less, why not give someone else a present on their behalf and completely change the lives of people without even the basics of clean water and proper toilet facilities?

There are many charities running Christmas gift schemes but there is nothing more basic than the need of a toilet and clean water. Water Aid can do something about it. Here is their Christmas Appeal which dropped in my in tray with a request to share it with friends:

WaterAid's Christmas Appeal
Dear Mr Briton,

"All day we walk for water, morning and afternoon. It makes us so tired. But today was a wonderful day..."

This is how Ayelach's story from Lahyte, Ethiopia, begins. She recently gave birth to her second child Oytiba. Like every parent, she wants a happy and healthy future for her children.

But the reality is that without safe water nearby, baby Oytiba may not even survive his first year.

It doesn't have to be this way. Your Christmas gift of £50 could help to bring safe water from a borehole to the community. You can change Oytiba's life forever.

The people of Lahyte have suffered because of their community's remote location. The water here is incredibly deep down. We are able to use our knowledge and experience from working in other communities to bring safe water to Lahyte.

But we need to move quickly. The dry season starts in January, and then even the unsafe water sources will disappear.

Please give Ayelach's story the happy ending she so desperately needs by giving £50 this Christmas. You'll be helping to bring safe water to Lahyte, so children like Oytiba have the best chance of survival.

Thank you so much for all of your support this year, it really does mean the world to people like Ayelach. I'd like to wish you a happy Christmas and a healthy new year.

With warm regards,

Angharad McKenzie

Angharad McKenzie
Head of Supporter Development
Ayelach hopes the new year will bring safe, clean water for her and her baby Oytiba.
Credit: WaterAid/Anna Kari
Donate now
What your gift can buy in Ethiopia

WaterAid - water charity
Copyright WaterAid - All rights reserved.
WaterAid, 47-49 Durham Street,
London, SE11 5JD, UK.


Saturday, 15 December 2012

Homophopic, bigoted and racist - that's me, allegedly!

I like to think of myself as a tolerant sort of chap who will listen to an argument and come to a conclusion, just as I would expect others to do, based not on propaganda but on relevant facts. I must be showing my age because different criteria are demanded today, basically just following the crowd by deferring to political correctness. Sorry but that's not for me.

The discussion on the last session of Question Time (QT) in 2012 left me in no doubt that tolerance can back-fire badly. In times past the sexual orientation of people was not important, you liked them or you didn't. People did not go around shouting I am gay, I am a lesbian, etc. They were more important as people, as human beings. Now it seems that sexuality is all. A comment was made on QT that the number of same sex couples living in partnership was a small fraction of one per cent of the population. I read another report which placed Newport in Gwent with the highest percentage of same sex partnerships at just 0.4%. So why all the fuss?  I welcomed the legislation on civil partnerships and believe that what consenting adults do in private (hetero and homo) is between them and God if they are believers, but our failure not only to recognise but to applaud different life-styles is now portrayed as unforgivable for not supporting so-called equality.

One of the QT panel, the Shadow Home Office Minister, while admitting to being an Anglican strenuously claimed that love was all important so people who love one another must be allowed to marry each other. On that basis if we are obedient to Christ's command to love one another, we should all be able to marry each other! Taking things out of context typifies the problem with the Church of England in its obsession with sex and secular notions of equality which, applied in the context of faith, have torn Anglicanism apart, first in demanding that a woman's place is at the Altar but now that they have to be bishops as if they are unable to perform their ministry in any other way, contrary to the example of the vast majority of women in the church.

So, because I believe that marriage is a holy estate between a man and a woman I am labelled homophobic not only by panel members but enthusiastically endorsed by the audience when it was clear that all but a couple of speakers from the floor showed an abysmal ignorance of the subject they were discussing. Likewise I am labeled a bigot for believing that the priesthood whose orders flow from the Holy Catholic Church is not something to be changed unilaterally by gathering votes from non-believers to influence Synod. On immigration, any consideration of the impact on housing, schools, transport, education, health, etc, without any preconceived idea let alone the impact on social cohesion is regarded as racism so there can be no discussion without a charge of being racist.

I tried Googling on this phenomenon. It produced the rainbow flag, above. Read what inspired it here. What a sad nation we have become, aided and abetted by the Church of England. I sometimes wonder if God wills her demise. Anyone for the Queen James Bible? And there's more.

Thank God then for the Bishop of Portsmouth who demolished any idea of a case for same sex marriage with all the relevant facts in a letter to the Prime Minister. Read it HERE.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Liars or in denial?

There have been some interesting responses to the publication of the 2011 census data relating to religion in this country, particularly regarding the drop in the number of people claiming to be Christians. My favourite is this from the Ven Jan McFarlane, Archdeacon of Norwich, in response to the revelation that Norwich is the most godless city in England.  Her description of religious life in Norwich as she sees it suggests that either she is wilfully blind or the good people of Norwich are liars when it comes to filling in census forms. Although the 'religion' question is voluntary it is an offence to supply false information. I have seen no evidence to suggest that citizens of Norwich are less trustworthy than others in the United Kingdom but according to the Archdeacon they are "doing their churchgoing differently" whatever that means.  

In her interview she reminded me of Geraldine Granger trying to convince me that despite the evidence to the contrary everything was rosy. All became clear after a little investigatory work which revealed that, like the Prime Minister, the Archdeacon is a communications person, the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Norwich no less. All the more surprising then that I missed her contribution to Archbishop Rowan's notorious Enough Waiting campaign in what must rank as the most disingenuous performance of the many broadcast especially with the benefit of hindsight.

Next in line and always keen to grab a headline even if it undermines the position of the Church of England is the Archbishop of Wales. Based in Llandaff in deepest penitential purple - but only on the map - Dr Morgan's response to Wales coming second to Norwich in godlessness showed the same sense of denial in comparing the declining membership of the church with the decline of the TUC. There is no surprise that TUC membership has declined after the decimation of Welsh industry which has left many young people on his patch with no hope of work but the Archbishop has only himself to blame for the decline in church membershipenthusiastically aided by a single-minded bench of bishops which leaves no room for an alternative strategy. Dr Morgan claims that 'relatively speaking' the church is still 'quite strong' and believes that further decline is 'by no means inevitable'. Strange then that he had to set up a Review to manage the decline of the Church in Wales while safeguarding the cosy position of all seven bishops in a Province only the size of the Diocese of Oxford.

But there is worse to come for the Archbishop and other senior management staff in the 'modern institution' the Anglican Church is being converted into. Commenting on the decline in Christianity, Professor Richard Dawkins congratulated the people of Wales for coming out ahead of the rest of the United Kingdom, apparently giving little if any thought for those who have nothing as he encourages them to consider 'why they are here'! As bad as the figures are on face value, they are even worse based on what Professor Dawkins had to say about a Mori poll his Foundation commissioned in the census week. When asked why people ticked the 'Christian' box, they said that it was because they think of themselves as 'a good person' so the decline in Christianity is even worse than it appears. I wonder if that is what the Ven Jan McFarlane had in mind when she said that the people of Norwich were doing their churchgoing differently? I can think of many Christians in that category, going to church regularly once a year to sing a few carols. No wonder churches are closing for lack of support.

Had the position been reversed with census figures showing a dramatic increase in churchgoing, advocates of change would be shouting from the rooftops that it was all due to the ordination of women but with the figures as they are and put in an even worse light by Professor Dawkins' poll, they are simply met with denial using one excuse after another. Before the figures were published the Archbishop of Canterbury dismissed the expected fall saying that it was 'a common “cliché” that religion is in decline' drawing attention to a recent study showing a dramatic rise in the number of people visiting cathedrals for prayer or reflection as much as the architecture. With cathedral sightseeing fees of up to £15 per head I am not in the least surprised that people opt to go in free for prayer and reflection during one of the services.

All the evidence suggests that the Church of England and the Church in Wales are heading for disaster while other religions continue to grow but they refuse to provide a life boat for those who can see what is coming. Judging from the response by the House of Bishops to the lost Synod vote nothing is about to change. Their agenda is summed up in this paragraph: "The House expressed its ongoing gratitude and appreciation for the ministry of ordained women in the Church of England, and its sadness that recent events should have left so many feeling undermined and undervalued. Effective response to this situation is a priority on which all are strongly agreed." Having acknowledged the deadly sin of 'profound and widespread sense of anger' ...felt by so many in the Church of England and beyond, and agreed that the present situation was unsustainable for all, whatever their convictions, the House of Bishops will have an additional meeting in February and expects to settle at its May meeting the elements of a new legislative package to come to Synod in July. Note the absence of regret for the beleaguered minority left feeling undermined and undervalued after daring to vote according to conscience as instructed by Archbishop Rowan before the vote was taken.

The statement continues: For any such proposals to command assent, the House believes that they will need (i) greater simplicity, (ii) a clear embodiment of the principle articulated by the 1998 Lambeth Conference "that those who dissent from as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans", (iii) a broadly-based measure of agreement about the shape of the legislation in advance of the beginning of the actual legislative process. These concerns will be the focus of the working group in the months ahead. Forgive me if I am wrong but listening to the Venerable Jan 
McFarlane after the hysteria that followed the lost vote, I venture to suggest this may be interpreted as (i) a single clause, (ii) 'loyal Anglicans' can go to hell, and (iii) anything they can get away with since WATCH are in the driving seat. As indicated in my previous post there is only one safe way forward to counter this. Orthodox Anglicans must insist that provision is first made for traditionalists in any legislation. The House of Bishops, WATCH and their supporters imply that intention but without any guarantee and we know what to make of past promises. If they are sincere, what have they to fear? 

The statements referred to above indicate that the Anglican Church is in denial and doomed to failure without a period of deep reflection. This is the response of the Church in Wales to the state of Christianity in Wales: The figures show that Christianity "is no longer the default setting it once was for many people in Wales...Today we find people go to church because they want to, not because they feel they have to or because it's the place to see and be seen...It should also be borne in mind that statistics can't show the whole picture in matters of faith...The past few months, for example, have seen people in different parts of Wales turn to churches in their thousands following various tragic events: in Machynlleth, in Ely, in St Asaph...People find God when life gets tough and it is the Church's privilege to be there for them whenever and wherever we may be needed."

We are rapidly reaching a situation that when life gets tough there will be no churches for people to go to. After they have been converted to mosques not even Jedi Knights will be able to help them. Britain will miss Christianity when its gone

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The test of faith

Upon this rock I will build my church

'But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God'. In my book you either believe that or you don't. If you believe it, talk about Jesus being a man of His time is just rubbish churned out to persuade the gullible that the ordination of women is something to be decided by popular vote, including the votes of unbelievers. 

Ten years ago between a quarter and a half of Church of England clergy surveyed did not believe in the virgin birth and a third doubted or disbelieved in the physical Resurrection. Given those figures it not surprising that many clergy regard Jesus simply as a man of his time. So what are they doing in the church? The answer appears to be that they are carving out careers for themselves at the expense of those who believe that the Son of the living God must be the man of all time.

The revisionists are doing such a good job at pushing their secular values that in the first test of public opinion after the synod vote on the measure for women bishops, 76% of adults said that the Church is out of touch with society. Today's Telegraph has some uncomfortable reading in showing that the number of Christians has fallen by 4 million in the ten years 2001 to 2011 while the number of Muslims has risen significantly from 1.5m to 2.7m.

After the women bishops measure was lost all manner of statistics were bandied about to illustrate that a minority had defied the mind of Synod. Less comfortable reading will be the statistics which show that "the overwhelming majority, 82.3%, believe that those opposed to the ordination of women are faithful Anglicans who should not be forced out of the Church of England". A similar situation exists in the Church in Wales.

There have been suggestions that the Church of England follows the example of the Church in Wales with a twin approach to solving the problem, see here, here and hereSo here is the challenge. If the movers of the ordination of women are sincere in their belief and are genuine in their desire to make concessions to achieve their objective, why not show their sincerity by adopting the Church in Wales initiative but reversing the two clauses to ensure that faithful Anglicans are not forced out of the church but are enabled to prosper in common with the overwhelming majority of the wider church? 

As it stands, "The second Bill would refer to the Canon enabling women to be ordained as bishops. We have purposely suggested that the scheme of pastoral provision be included – presumably as a schedule – in a second Bill in order to give as much confidence as possible to those for whom it provides that their genuinely held views are being taken seriously and that the church is being faithful to its declared intent in 1996". Currently that is meaningless to those for whom it is intended because it has been made plain that provision will be determined by the Bench of Bishops, a situation that has existed since the first (and only) Provincial Assistant Bishop retired in 2008. 

If the bishops are serious in their promise 'to give as much confidence as possible' to faithful Anglicans opposed to the ordination of women, such a strategy will test their sincerity. Failure to meet the challenge will lead not only to a weakening of the position of the Anglican Church but to another massive drop in the number of Christians in the 2021 census. 

Monday, 10 December 2012

Alien marriage

Every time I read the press I become more convinced that many national figures have been possessed by alien spirits. What possible excuse can there be for redefining marriage to accommodate a minority, many of whom see no point in it, other than that they are being driven by alien forces?

David Cameron's assertion that marriage is such 'a great institution' that all should have the opportunity to marry is absurd when the institution of marriage is increasingly ignored by heterosexual couples who prefer to cohabit in a less privileged position than same sex couples benefiting from 'civil partnerships' which are already widely regarded as 'marriage' in all but name

Boris Johnson's change of heart is of mega proportions while Tory strategist George Osborne has placed same-sex marriage at the centre of the the Party's bid to win the next General Election!  Also joining the clamour is Sir John Major, former Tory Prime Minister and acknowledged adulterer who would have been better advised to keep his head down as would have his co-adventurer, also a fan of gay marriage.

Hoist with his own petard is former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey who called on church leaders to “rip up its rule book” and speed through the introduction of women bishops when he disapproved of a NO vote over women bishops without proper provision for those opposed to the measure. Given his "highly controversial" remarks at a rally of anti-equality campaigners, that "opponents of gay marriage are being treated in a similar way to the Jews at start of Nazi rule in Germany", the Archbishop should at least have some feeling for the way orthodox Anglicans have been treated.

Always keen to support a minority other than orthodox Christians in his own Church of Wales is their Archbishop Barry Morgan who displayed similar double standards when he warned: “Gays and lesbians claim they are still treated as second-class citizens, tolerated at best and vilified at worst. Very often homosexuality is talked about as if real people were not involved and gays and lesbians complain of being talked about rather than talked to in Church.” If he believes that the Archbishop needs to get out more or change his advisers. 

Heterosexual Christians no more want to see gays and lesbians treated as second-class citizens any more than heterosexual Christians want to be branded as bigots for holding their genuinely held belief that marriage can take place only between a man and a woman. If same-sex couples want to be 'united', 'pledged' or otherwise 'associated' that is up to them but to be 'married' is totally alien to the meaning of the word. If that is not obvious to our political and religious leaders then they must be possessed of an alien spirit. 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Two faced

Who would have thought it? The Prime Minister, David Cameron has been accused of a 'broken promise' as gay couples told they can marry in church". Tut tut; the Archbishops, guardians of our moral values are not at all pleased. But to be fair to them, they are experts in their field. The broken promises over the ordination of women, calls to fix voting procedures when they don't like the result, vilifying the opposition has all become part of New Anglicanism. Too bad they cannot rig Parliament so the bishops will have to live with the consequences of their actions.

My wife and I were reflecting earlier today on the changes we have experienced in a generation. Gone is the calm assurance that the church is just there, standing firm against the whiles of the devil, looking to the moral fibre of the nation and providing  comfort in time of need. Instead we have angst, betrayal and exclusion, often by people 'new to faith' who have no understanding of the word let alone of the theology of the minority they like to criticise as misogynistic bigots, a term now used by enthusiasts for same sex marriage. After every disaster covered by television church doors are opened, nightlight candles appear everywhere, hymns are sung and 'the minister' has some trite comments to make before everyone trots back home forgetting about church until the next rite of passage.

That rite of passage increasingly looks as if it will be same sex couples exercising their right to be 'married' in the Parish Church despite Mr Cameron's protestations. Once the European Court of Human Rights has been visited by activists that will be the end of the matter. One of those shouting loudest to complain from the sidelines is Mrs Thatcher's placement, Abp George Carey. Constantly screaming 'foul', it is he who bears much of the responsibility for the mess we are in. Whatever your views on the ordination of women, it is inescapable that church attendance is dropping at a quickening rate, the authority of the church has diminished and teaching, such as it is, has in many churches more to do with civil rights and relating to society today than with teaching the faith as it has been handed down over the centuries. Instead of guiding the church along the path to unity, the Archbishops and bishops have set the Anglican church apart from the Apostolic church to which we belong. 

Creeping changes in the church represented as small steps at the time have left us mired in controversy. Tolerance has been repaid with vindictiveness in the process of allowing deaconess to become deacon, deacon to be ordained priest and now, priest to bishop. This process has been mirrored in society. Tolerance of minorities in the interests of so-called equal rights has become a hammer to bludgeon anyone who dares to speak their mind. The bishops are reaping what they have sown in their objections to the abhorrent proposal to redefine marriage. They are correct in their objection but they have lost their moral authority. Even if the Government had a mandate, which it does not, it would be contrary to natural law which binds a man and a woman together in the act of procreation without which neither same sex nor complementary sex couples would exist. 

The problems we are experiencing in society first manifested themselves when we turned away from the teaching of the universal church. Consequently we have lost not only the moral authority but the sympathy of those who identify themselves as Anglican for census purposes but who, in the main, have lost any sense of its meaning. This could not be more stark than in The Episcopal Church of the United States (TEC) where the Presiding Bishop is disregarding Canon Law as she punishes bishops and priests for remaining true to the Gospel. The American Anglican Council (AAC) reported 'illegal acts' to the Church of England in February 2010 after the Holy Orders of 152 priests and deacons and 9 bishops had been renounced by TEC but to no avail. The ACC is now appealing to leaders of the Anglican Communion for help but the Church of England is impotent because she is heading in the same direction as TEC.

The House of Bishops meets next week. They MUST apply the brake and take stock of what is happening in the Anglican church and in the society they strive to emulate rather than set an example. They cannot face both ways being liberal on the one hand and conservative on the other. They must face the truth.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Wilful blindness

PA Photos

This must be one of the saddest images in the history of the Church. A man who is loved by many, admired for his spirituality and respected for his intellect: 'a scholar, a historian, a theologian, a linguist fluent in ancient and modern Greek, and even Syriac, and a poet and a translator' but also a man apparently held captive by a political movement in a kind of Stockholm Syndrome situation. From an earlier blog entry in March this year: "In 'Rowan's Rule' [page 95] his 'change of heart' over women priests is recorded as: 'I had to change after looking around at my own side, and seeing the company I was keeping.' If only he had kept different company! He may have led us to unity but, with the benefit of hindsight, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that ++Rowan has simply been used by many of those he has supported. Clearly he had the best of intentions but failed to realize that his integrity is not necessarily shared by others, even at the highest levels. He was ignored when he sought an honourable compromise for those who do not support the ordination of women and he has seen his authority rejected on the controversial issue of the Anglican Covenant."

The great mystery is in Abp Rowan's reaction to the vote that was intended to clear the way for women bishops and his subsequent reference to wilful blindness after its failure. He correctly identified the problem but missed the target. Those most guilty of wilful blindness are the bishops who ignore the example of the Good Shepherd and hold their office in the church because of their willingness to marginalise swathes of cradle Anglicans for a political correctness which has allowed secularism to override faith. Are the bishops so blind that they cannot see what their actions are doing to the Church of England? In his valedictory Advent letter to Anglican Primates, Abp Rowan wrote: "Our Communion has endured much suffering and confusion, and still lives with this in many ways; yet we are still privileged to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in different ways within our common life, and so are reminded by God’s grace that it is still Christ who lives secretly at the heart of our fellowship, and renews it day by day."

It should be blindingly obvious to the House of Bishops that the suffering and confusion to which Abp Rowan refers comes as a direct result of liberal bishops implementing their secular values in many parts of the Anglican Communion in defiance of warnings from other parts of the Communion and from other members of the Holy Catholic Church about the consequences for unity. Their slavish obedience to the demands of Women and the Church (WATCH) now has the prospect of leaving many Anglicans without the pastoral care and sacramental assurance they were promised and in so doing, denying them what Abp Rowan claimed in his Advent letter: "yet we are still privileged to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in different ways within our common life". If WATCH are allowed to have their own way, there is to be no common life in the Church of England for the beleaguered minority, only suffering and confusion.

If ever there were a need for a Damascus moment it is now.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Is this really what we want for the Church of England?

"The way Finns feel about the Church is changing faster than ever, as is the Church’s position in the community. A generation ago, 90 percent of the Finnish population held membership in the Evangelical Lutheran Church, whereas now the number has shrunk to about 78 percent and is falling by about one percentage point annually. Ties between Church and State have also decreased....While the role of the Church as an institution has weakened, its social role has grown. This becomes apparent in the reinforcement and expansion of diaconical work. For instance, the Church represents one of the most important providers of family counselling, and plays a central role in professional crisis work." - The 'down-to-earth' Finnish Church.

 It may be Finnish but is it British? Their 'diaconical work' is most laudable but it is neither necessary nor desirable to turn the Holy Priesthood into an organisation for social workers in vestments. Surely the highest calling of every woman is superior to that of man in motherhood and the nurture of our children but in the women's movement Mary's role in the incarnation is made to appear insignificant compared to the weight given to the example of  Mary Magdalene who is constantly extolled as 'the Apostle to the Apostles' because of her messengerial role having witnessed the Resurrection before conveying the message to the Apostles who were specifically appointed by Christ rather than inferred to bolster a case for lack of evidence.

There is nothing motherly about the campaign for women bishops. The vindictive statement by WATCH in their call for a single clause measure for women bishops totally misrepresents the position of orthodox Anglicans: "Women clergy and supporters of their ministry have had enough of the wasteful wrangling over women bishops. Years have been spent in trying to make legal provision that would satisfy those opposed...." I would be the first to apologise if I misinterpret their allegations but it is difficult to see how the oppressed could be satisfied with the terms of the oppressor simply on the oppressors' say so. I wasn't present at any of the discussions but the Bishop of Ebbsfleet was. His more credible account of 'The General Synod Vote on Women Bishops' is given on the See of Ebbsfleet web site here.  

Orthodox Anglicans have endured many false charges of misogyny, even when the vote in the House of Laity was lost with a large tally of women's votes. As an example of the many women in the church who simply suffer in silencemy wife was deeply hurt and bitterly disappointed on being abandoned by Abp Rowan when he gave his response to the vote. It is difficult to understand why he recognised hurt only in the strident women of WATCH. On reading Bp Jonathan Baker's account Mrs Briton's comment was, "Why couldn't Rowan have said that?" before adding "+Jonathan has been far too charitable to the women of WATCH." - Apparently one has to be a woman to understand women.

Theoretically there is a danger in the strategy of WATCH but no doubt they have either made the necessary calculations or are confident in their ability to manipulate the authority of the church. If the current injustice to a significant minority is made worse, more people may be encouraged to vote against the new measure but like a second-rate trade union, having failed to stuff Synod with sufficient support to assure victory, the call now is to change the rules to give them that assurance. There has already been a no confidence vote in the Diocese of Bristol and a hypocritical call by the Chair of the House of Clergy to oust the Chair of the House of Laity. 

The final absurdity in this process is the claim that we have to be responsive to the priorities of secular society. As if he had become WATCH's trumpet Abp Rowan commented after the vote: The Church of England has "a lot of explaining to do" to the church and to wider society after its rejection of legislation ... In a strongly worded speech to the General Synod [he] warned that the failure of the vote in the house of laity on Tuesday had made the church's governing body appear "wilfully blind" to the priorities of secular society. "We have – to put it very bluntly – a lot of explaining to do," he said. "Whatever the motivations for voting yesterday … the fact remains that a great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society. Worse than that, it seems as if we are wilfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of that wider society."

It would have been understandable if these comments had come from WATCH but coming from a world-renowned theologian they are incredible. If the early church had been guided by the trends and priorities of wider society at the time there would be no church for them to meddle with.