Monday, 4 March 2013

Pastoral ... and not so pastoral

There's a very thoughtful post [here] by the Vicar of Purgstall on the essential relationship between preaching and liturgy, and on the hidden and most often quite unforeseeable dangers that go with the territory.  Sometimes, by its nature, preaching to a congregation leads us into unwitting insensitivity towards individuals. We've all at some point crossed that particular line and later agonised over it.
"...The liturgy must speak for itself; the sermon is most at risk when it becomes a pause where we say what we really mean. It should build and grow the perception, of the whole people of God, of the renewal of their relationship with Him each time they gather for prayer and sacramental celebration. Amid that must be a recognition of the sufficiency of prayer, of the sacraments, and especially of scripture. At a guess I would say that when I've had a badly received sermon, it has had much to do with trying to exceed the sufficiency of those things in some way or another. Of course, there are times when I've needed to reflect carefully on the insufficiency of my delivery!
The greatest risk I face as a preacher is this: in the midst of the liturgy, of the people of God at prayer, there is an openness to make explicit the effects and joy of the New Covenant. This is to be accepted by each, individually, so that we can be formed into a new body. Where we are imperilled is when the sermon becomes a way to force, into that openness, a concreteness which exists for the preacher but which is inaccessible in some way to the whole people of God. That does not mean preaching should not be challenging or prophetic, but equally it should not exceed the fundamental commission to preach the gospel..."
Sadly, not so sensitive and not so thoughtful was Canon Giles Fraser's piece of broadcast gratuitous advice to the Roman Catholic Church on how better to organise its life [reproduced on the Thinking Anglicans site] Yes, the BBC's 'Thought for the Day' has once again been misused by the all-knowing practitioners of liberal theology - theirs is the only kind of infallibilty of which they approve: 
"This morning the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland is waking up to one of the biggest crises in its modern history. A few weeks ago, Cardinal Keith O’Brien was expecting to be in Rome electing the next Pope. Now he’s in disgrace, vowing that he’ll never again take part in public life..."
"....The election of a new Pope provides an opportunity for real change. The culture of secrecy that fearfully hides this bad behaviour - and not least the clerical abuse of children - needs dismantling from its very foundations. Inappropriate sexual relationships, relationships that trade on unequal power and enforced silence, are the product of an unwillingness to speak honestly, openly and compassionately about sex in general and homosexuality in particular. The importance of marriage as being available to both gay and straight people – and indeed to priests - is that it allows sexual desire to be rightly located in loving and stable relationships. I know there are people who see things differently, but I’m sorry: the churches condemnation of homosexuality has forced gay sex into the shadows, thus again reinforcing a sense of shame that, for me, is the real source of abuse..."
One would have thought a certain innate reticence and courtesy would lead to clergy and members of other traditions (particularly those with a track record of quite virulent anti-Catholicism - also step forward Professor MacCulloch )  being a little careful not to trespass so cloddishly on private grief and very public hand-wringing . 'Physician heal thyself' is the scriptural verse which springs to mind when fellow Anglicans do this kind of thing in order to score (unavailingly - sorry, but that's the way it is) personal  brownie points with their liberal, secularist audience...

1 comment:

  1. Having watched the Prof MacCulloch video clip, I would have to agree that the anti-Catholic lobby are laying it on with a trowel ... same kind of stuff in an editorial in today's Irish Times


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