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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Black or white?




Soon all eyes will be on the Sistine Chapel roof waiting for the puff of smoke which will tell the world that there is a new pope or, more likely, commentators will be trying to discern whether it is black or white while waiting to hear the bells to confirm their hopes or if there is to be another anxious wait.

Speculation has been rife ever since Pope Benedict XVI announced that he was to retire with much talk of an African pope. Watching Pope Benedict's final audience I was intrigued by a question put by a BBC commentator to a black African in the crowd. Did he think it was time for an African pope? Back came the answer that it was not where he came from but that the right man would be elected. Not to be thwarted the commentator tried again asking a black African nun a similar question. Looking rather astonished at the question, her answer was the same. How refreshing that the response of these two pilgrims had no political motivation, just trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, so different to the claims and counter claims we have become accustomed to in the Anglican church dominated by a liberal agenda that demands re-writing the rules if the Holy Spirit is thought not to be moving in the direction indicated.

I was particularly interested in another question about the desirability of electing a pope of African or South American origin because congregations there are growing so strongly. - The fact that these countries are growing so strongly suggests that what the Catholic church really needs is a man to reverse the decline elsewhere, particularly in Europe. Pray that whoever is elected is for the good of all the church. 

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A thought for Lent - and beyond.




Re-posted from 14 March, 2011:

"The common practice today is to measure the Bible against the so-called modern worldview, whose fundamental dogma is that God cannot act in history - that everything to do with God is to be relegated to the domain of subjectivity. And so the Bible no longer speaks of God, the living God; no, we alone speak and decide what God can do and what we will and should do. And the Antichrist, with an air of scholarly excellence, tells us that any exegesis that reads the Bible from the perspective of faith in the living God, in order to listen to what God has to say, is fundamentalism; he wants to convince us that only his kind of exegesis, the supposedly purely scientific kind, in which God says nothing and has nothing to say, is able to keep abreast of the times."
Pope Benedict XVI
'JESUS of NAZARETH'


Monday, 25 February 2013

Jeremy Hunt’s new privatisation plot


From Becky Jarvis of 38 Degrees
A new fight over NHS privatisation has just begun. Jeremy Hunt is trying to use new powers, hidden within last year’s controversial NHS laws, to force local GPs to privatise more health services. This is one of the things we were afraid might happen – and now our worst fears are being confirmed. We need to do all we can to stop it.

Jeremy Hunt’s new privatisation plot is contained within “NHS competition regulations”. Usually these kinds of rules get quickly rubber-stamped by Parliament. This time, we need to get MPs and Lords to stand up to Hunt and block his plans.

It’s a long shot, but we have a chance of stopping these changes because Hunt is breaking promises made to MPs when NHS laws were voted through last year. If we generate a huge, public outcry to put pressure on the politicians who clung on to those promises last time the government attacked our NHS, we can convince them to stop these new laws.

Sign the petition against Jeremy Hunt’s new NHS privatisation plan here – we’ve got just a couple of days before we’ll need to deliver it.

Read here.

Update [27/02/2013]

The Telegraph is reporting that “an outcry from medical groups, MPs and campaigners against privatisation in the NHS has forced a re-think”. In just 24 hours 130,000 people signed the petition against the changes. Over the next few hours, Hunt will be deciding whether or not he can hold out in the face of the public outcry. There is still time to sign the petition.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Bishops encourage sin



As a child I was taught that Anger, or Wrath (Latin, ira), also known as "rage", was one of the seven deadly sins. It is described in Wikipedia as "inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. Wrath, in its purest form, presents with self-destructiveness, violence, and hate that may provoke feuds that can go on for centuries. Wrath may persist long after the person who did another a grievous wrong is dead. Feelings of anger can manifest in different ways, including impatience, revenge, and vigilantism.
Wrath is the only sin not necessarily associated with selfishness or self-interest, although one can of course be wrathful for selfish reasons, such as jealousy (closely related to the sin of envy). Dante described vengeance as "love of justice perverted to revenge and spite". In its original form, the sin of anger also encompassed anger pointed internally as well as externally. Thus suicide was deemed as the ultimate, albeit tragic, expression of hatred directed inwardly, a final rejection of God's gifts."

I see that the Diocese of Lichfield is to hold an open Women Bishops meeting, announced here, at the express wish of the four bishops of the diocese in the wake of the defeated legislation at General Synod last November. Standing orders will be suspended so that non-members can "speak and express their own views about two key issues:
1) What we can do in this diocese to help General Synod pass legislation that enables women to be consecrated as bishops – as has already been agreed in principle – while acknowledging and respecting those who oppose the change.
2) What steps we need to take to recover the credibility of synodical governance."

Widespread anger has already been reported by the House of Bishops without rebuke so it is no surprise that the Synod will also consider this motion:
 “Hodnet Deanery:
1) is shocked and angry about the General Synod vote which prevented the consecration of Women Bishops.
2) Reaffirms our strong conviction that it is God’s will that women be ordained as bishops in the Church of England.
3) Calls on the House of Bishops to explore, as a matter of great urgency, every possible avenue to effect the will of the Church on this issue.” 

What is it about this current generation that after two thousand years of apparent ignorance they think they know God's will above all who have gone before including the Apostles and even Christ Himself? They don't. The Anglican church here and in the US is being taken over by self-promoting clerics who have no interest other than self advancement. If any have a right to anger it is those who remain true to the faith but vengeance is mine saith the Lord!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Fretting


In his piece for Pink News the Bishop of Buckingham said that having come out for gay marriage most letters received by him as a Church of England bishop are in favour of gay marriage and non-Christian people in society have moved on from fretting about the subject because 'gay people are just people like them'. Well I have been fretting, not on the subject referred to but on the attitude displayed by the bishop and others with remarks that appear calculated to imply that there is something seriously lacking with people not of their persuasion in this area. 

In evidence to the Commons Committee on the Marriage (Same Sex) Bill there were similar claims that a lack of mail received against the proposal implied acceptance of the Bill, for example, "I have received two e-mails from people in my own diocese asking me if I would “clarify my position”. I received one e-mail from someone who takes a rather more conservative view... The sense I get from that is that the opposition might not be as widespread as some might think it." On the contrary, over 641,000 people have already made their views abundantly clear only to be ignored by the government! It should be obvious to members of the episcopate that unless all views are canvassed their mail will be weighted in favour of the course they advance as the bishop has discovered.

There may be some 'church people' whose attitude to homosexuality is less than charitable but that is no different to society in general. In my experience church people are far more tolerant than + Wilson suggests but his comments appear to be designed to tell his audience what they want to hear. Also some of the MPs on the Commons Committee have been using their membership not as an opportunity to gather evidence but as a platform for their particular lifestyles. Homosexuality is a fact but it does not mean that gay marriage should follow any more than those opposed to gay marriage because it is contrary to an established principle are against equality. What leaves me fretting is political and religious leaders playing to the gallery with outrageous accusations of homophobia and bigotry instead of engaging in reasoned debate.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The priesthood of Aaron


Adoration of the Golden Calf - Nicolas Poussin, 1629

Women want to be priests and bishops, men want to be wives, women want to be husbands, same sex couples want to be married and have children. I want, I want, I want, I want. And our priests say, if that is what you want, have it. 

Will they ever remember that this is not in accord with the Order of Melchizedek?

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Ancient and Modern



As we go into Lent arguments continue to rage in the Church of England about bringing the church into the 21st century. I know where I would rather be in this video but the Gospel message remains the same. It is a pity that liberal minded Anglicans cannot see the difference between updating the liturgy and reinterpreting the Gospel to their own advantage.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Jeremy Hunt drops another clanger



People who have struggled with the cost of care in old age will continue to struggle. That is the real message of Jeremy Hunt to couples who are facing old age worrying what fate has in store for them. Many have been through the experience once or twice before with parents and relatives. Under the new plan they continue to face the same nightmare yet a cheery Mr Hunt has the cheek to announce: "as a government we want to back people who have worked hard all their lives, who have saved and done the right thing. The worst thing that can happen to those people is that by a cruel twist of fate they have to do the one thing they want to do least of all to lose their own home".

The average house price in England and Wales in December was £162,080. A cap of £75,000 per person is £150,000 for a couple with no time left to "plan, save or consider insurance" as suggested.  Mr Hunt said capping the overall costs would allow insurance firms to start offering affordable social care plans for millions of people for the first time but insurers have expressed doubt about the viability of the scheme which is to be funded by a freeze on Inheritance Tax, another broken pledge. People living in Wales face a double whammy finding that the extra taxes raised will go to fund a scheme in England for which they are not eligible without the introduction in Wales of a similar scheme or a redistribution of funds.

Elderly people belong to a generation when it was common for wives to devote themselves to motherhood, nurturing the family on a tight budget before having to devote themselves to caring for elderly parents. There was no second income or easy credit available and no second pension to cushion their old age. Home ownership was seen as their reward for thrift, a nest egg for the family but many have already seen their inheritance disappear after struggling with the enormous costs of care. Those same people remain in the trap because the new scheme, such as it is, will take time to come into effect. So what we have from Mr Hunt is more political posturing allowing ministers to claim that people will not have to sell their homes to pay for care when the opposite is true for the elderly today because the scheme is directed towards the future when the expectation is that people will have had time to fund their care. As usual, those with no inclination for thrift or planning will be paid for by the rest of us so it would be more sensible if we all paid into a care fund so that those who need it are cared for while those who don't can count themselves fortunate.

Such a scheme has been proposed by the National Pensioners Convention (NPC). Listen to their spokesperson here and complain to your MP about this continued injustice. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Pope Benedict XVI




True to his word, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has announced his retirement for the good of the church because the burden of office demands more than his failing strength can muster. Appointed at an age when he was looking forward to retirement his early vigour has visibly waned before our eyes, suffering the indignity of being wheeled around on a trolley and in danger of becoming a figurehead manipulated by others, something  he was determined to avoid. His visit to Britain was a momentous occasion saddened only by the separation of the church. Who could not have been impressed with the grandeur of the occasion when James MacMillan's music announced the Pope's Westminster Cathedral entrance in contrast to the frail figure bestowing his blessing on all. God grant him a long and happy retirement.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Women in the episcopate: a new way forward!



This is the nature of the challenge from "Women in the episcopate: a new way forward" (GS MISC 1042): 

"There are various ways of interpreting what happened on 20 November. But one 
thing on which there is a very wide measure of consensus is that the outcome of 
that day has left the Church of England in a profoundly unsatisfactory and 
unsustainable position. There are several reasons for this: 

    It is apparent that opening all three orders of ministry equally to men 
      and women has a very wide measure of support across the Church of 
      England; 
  
    For those women already serving in the ordained ministry, the Church 
      of England’s continued indecision is undermining and harmful to 
      morale; 
   
   Even for those with theological difficulties over the ministry of women 
      as priests and bishops there is little appeal in a further prolonged period 
      of debate and uncertainty;  
   
   Wider society – including its representatives in Parliament - cannot 
      comprehend why the Church of England has failed to resolve the issue
      and expects it now to do so as a matter of urgency."

This is the new Church of England, now hardly distinguishable from a trade union for women in the church. To be 'called' to the priesthood is one thing, to presume preferment is quite another and peculiar to the ordination of woman, contrary to what one would expect from those sent to serve. How can the Church of England’s 'continued indecision' be undermining and harmful to morale for those women already serving in the ordained ministry unless they are in the ordained ministry for the wrong reasons?

But they have already been handed the key:

"...while not involving the majority in any new element of compromise on matters of principle" in providing... a greater sense of security for the minority as having an accepted and valued place in the Church of England. - Isn't that the same way forward?

A member of the working group, the Chair of the women's union has already set out her stall here suggesting a new mission statement for the Church of England: A female episcopacy at any cost. The search for simplicity in the General Synod paper shifts the emphasis away from 'respect' to 'trust' (Paras 14, 15, 39 and 40). Now call me a cynic but  all experience so far indicates that revisionists cannot be trusted. If they could be we would not be where we are. The latest example arose in the debate on same sex marriage [Hansard 5 Feb 2013 : Column 160]

"Mr Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): We should indeed treat one another with tolerance and treat everybody’s sexuality with understanding, but the fundamental question we are deciding today is whether English law should declare for the first time that two people of the same sex can marry.
Parliament is sovereign—we can vote for what we want—but we must be very careful that law and reality do not conflict. In 1648, the Earl of Pembroke, in seeking to make the point that Parliament is sovereign, said that Parliament can do anything but make a man a woman or a woman a man. Of course, in 2004, we did exactly that with the Gender Recognition Act. We are now proposing to make equally stark changes to the essence of marriage. During the civil partnership debates, I was given solemn assurances on the Floor of the House, including by some sitting on the Opposition Benches now, that the Civil Partnership Act would not lead to full same-sex marriage.
Chris Bryant rose
Mr Leigh: I am happy to give way to the hon. Gentleman who gave those assurances to me.
Chris Bryant: Assurances from me do not necessarily determine what happens in Parliament in future. Several hon. Members have raised what I said in that debate. At that time, I believed that civil partnership was the be-all and end-all of the story. I have since entered a civil partnership and believe that the world has moved on. Many Conservative Members who voted against civil partnerships know that Britain’s mind has changed and want to reflect that in a change of the law."
Trust?

Thursday, 7 February 2013

NHS: Here we go again


Photograph: Wpa Pool/Getty Images

[From an entry in December 2011. Further reading: Death by Care]

"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 herehereherehereherehereherehere.... . 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."


~

The Francis Report makes grim reading, and so it should. Patients in British hospitals have died of hunger, thirst and bedsores while the Government worries about miscreant prisoners dining unwittingly on halal food in which traces of pig DNA were discovered. Many of the patients in the Mid Staffs Hospital would have been treated better in one of HM Prisons than in the care of the NHS. In response the Prime Minister wants to target nurses' pay so that it is 'tied to how well they look after patients', a sure recipe for disaster. All nurses should look after all patients well. That is their job. If they do not see it that way they should not be employed in a caring profession. 

After joining the Mid Staffordshire Hospitals NHS Trust as its Chairman in an effort to turn it around Sir Stephen Mosswho has over forty years experience in nursing, said that there is something "fundamentally wrong" with the nursing profession and the way it is focused at the moment. He added, "the crisis facing nursing was not caused by a shortage of staff on wards. There needed to be changes in the way nurses were trained to make sure they "are prepared for the real world of the NHS rather than a classroom." All the more surprising then were the conclusions of the Willis Commission on Nursing Education which gathered evidence on "the best methods of delivering pre-registration nursing education in the UK and how efficient the current education system is; in particular, looking at the balance between workplace and classroom learning". However, it was the RCN, the nurses trade union which commissioned the independent review!

In their conclusions and recommendations the Commission remarked: "There is a tendency to view the past as a golden age for health care (often around the 1950s), reinforced by popular nurse memoirs and television dramas. Yet there is much evidence to the contrary – overall health and life expectancy are better than ever..." - Not for the deceased who were left in the 'care' of the Mid Staffs Hospital, nor for my mother who suffered the same fate in a different NHS hospital. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Out of touch...



... and out of town?           Photo: AP/EDDIE MULHOLLAND/GETTY

One of the themes running through yesterday's debate on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was that older people are out of touch with current opinion. Many MPs referred to correspondence they had received from their constituents which, allegedly, showed that younger voters were in favour of so-called equal marriage implying that senior citizens had no regard for equality. It is not unusual for younger generations to believe that they are blessed with wisdom that has evaded the elderly when in fact the elderly have a greater depth of experience bearing witness to changes over time, many of them step changes, each one presented as a small step but leading to the giant leap intended although not admitted at the time. Those familiar with this strategy who express opposition are frequently referred to as homophobes and bigots giving the accuser the satisfaction of feeling enlightened while wallowing in their own ignorance.

 Noted for his absence from the debate was the prime mover, the Prime Minister, along with the authors (above) of a letter to the Telegraph claiming that “attitudes to gay people have changed”. Of course they have changed but so have the attitudes towards people who do not bend the knee to the Zeitgeist, recognising self-interest masquerading as progress. The Prime Sinister Minister would have us believe that last night's vote is 'an important step forward' towards equality, 'making our country stronger' - see the video in this link - but not according to half his MPs who voted against the measure suggesting that Cameron is out of touch with his own party.

Deception is key to this Bill. It has nothing to do with equality, the implied primary motive of the Government when they launched their 'equal civil marriage' consultation in March 2012 because the Civil Partnership Act 2004 provides equality under the law; hence there is no reference to equality in the Bill other than a cross reference to the Equality Act 2010. Deception was used during the passage of the Civil Partnership Act with denials that it had anything to do with same-sex marriage. This question was put directly in the debate but the priest turned MP and member for Rhondda, himself in a civil partnership, excused himself by saying that things had moved on and he had changed his mind, a situation not dissimilar in the campaign for women bishops emphasising that assurances offered by revisionists are completely worthless.

Had the older generation not advanced the cause of genuine equality, MPs would not have been engaged in the current debate but we are where we are. What I find most irksome are the distortions employed to make a case. There were many worthwhile contributions to the debate but often the arguments advanced in support of the Bill had nothing whatsoever to do with equality or prejudice as claimed. For example the sad case of Alan Turing's death was used to justify same-sex marriage but the unjust persecution of homosexuals in the past cannot be used to justify the re-definition of marriage. It was also suggested by a number of members that marriage has evolved over the years citing as examples the treatment of women  involved in property transfers and wives being raped by their husbands but such examples have nothing to do with redefining marriage, they are examples of women's rights in a union between a man  and a woman.

These are not a unfamiliar tactics. In the other big debate on women bishops, what is the relevance this statement if it is not a deliberate attempt to smear the opposition by association?
"On 16 December 2012 a young woman was beaten and gang raped in the suburbs of Delhi. She died 13 days later from the brain and gastrointestinal injuries she suffered as a result of the assault." According to the Chair of WATCH, everything. She writes: "Many of us will have studied, at school or university, some of the great freedom movements of history such as the abolition of the slave trade or the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, movements which have revolutionised, restored and redeemed the relationships between human beings." 

Similar comparisons were made in the debate. We are all appalled by such events but to use such examples to taint opponents serves no good purpose and shows the accusers to be out of touch with reality.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Clowning around with marriage


David Cameron: "I'm a massive supporter of marriage and
 I don't want gay people to be excluded from a great institution.”


Many grassroots Tories are bewildered by what they see as David Cameron's betrayal over the government's plans to push through a redefinition of marriage but Tory warring against Tory is not a new phenomenon. In the Thatcher years the war was against the 'wets' and the question asked was "Is he one of us? Now it is, "Is he one of them?" There are suggestions that gay MPs secretly risk being outed for publicly opposing same-sex weddings and further suggestions that Tory waverers are being press-ganged to back Cameron on the gay marriage vote or their careers will be damaged. Today there is a warning that teachers and the Church of England could be sued if they don't accept the change.

It is a mystery why the government is so intent on this change when nobody has been given the opportunity to vote on such a fundamental issue. There are enough examples of the absurdity of this agenda when a man refers to another man as his wife and a woman refers to another woman as her husband. At least that is a matter of choice but the whole process turns to farce when children are involved and a child's 'mother' or 'father' who, for biological reasons, evidently cannot be the wife or the husband in the relationship since the biological mother will be a surrogate and the father a donor, unless of course the father, or mother, in a same-sex relationship is the biological father, etc, etc. The proposed solution of substituting 'parent' for mother and for father in same-sex relationships is far from convincing if one imagines a child crying 'Parent' during the night or trying to get his or her head around the situation and asking 'parent' ('mummy' or 'daddy') for an explanation.

The explanations given for the redefinition of marriage are based on false notions of love and equality. Some groups of people who love each other are rightly barred from marriage  for the well-being of society but as with all change, one step leads to another. Marriage as it stands has clear benefits for society. Couples in civil partnerships already have equality with the same rights as married couples. At the grassroots people of all persuasions are content with the status quo and simply do not understand why anyone would want to clown around with what has been regarded for centuries as a sacred institution. Clowns frequently make fools of themselves often falling flat on their face. Let's hope this is no exception.

Postscript
Three ministers holding the three great offices of state, have written a letter to The Telegraph saying that “attitudes to gay people have changed”. This has absolutely nothing to do with attitudes to gay people. It is the simple belief that marriage is the life-long union of one man and one woman. To suggest otherwise is pure deception. They claim that 'marriage has evolved over time and believe that opening it up to same-sex couples will strengthen, not weaken, the institution'. In fact marriage as an institution is declining with married couples now making up less than half the population, a position the Government were expected to address but instead of honouring their manifesto commitment on tax supporting marriage, they propose to give tax breaks to gay married couples! It is ministers' attitudes to heterosexual people that have changed.