Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Some posts I've missed over the last few days:

Fr Z rightly takes exception to retired Bishop of New Hampshire, Vicky Gene Robinson's  "ecumenical" views in the latter's latest tour of the television studios [here]

From The Sun in its Orb a surprising and alarming rumour about Archbishop Piero Marini [here]

Bishop David Chislett shares a memorable passage from C.S. Lewis [here]

Catholicity and Covenant [here] reports on 'ARCIC III' and the somewhat ambiguous concept of 'receptive ecumenism.'  
Of course, any authentic expression of collegiality implies a high degree of theological agreement. Surely the whole purpose of the Petrine ministry, as 'a gift to be shared,' is one of constant encouragement in the building up the people of God to full maturity, and in the Pope's strengthening of his brethren in the episcopate to proclaim the faith freed from doctrinal and disciplinary error.  
Rome's ecumenical raison d'être (theologically and historically) is to be apostolically orthodox and conservative in its exercise of the gift of authority...

And from The Spectator [here] an interesting but not wholly convincing analysis of the social and political crisis in France following the Socialist administration's decision to press ahead with gay marriage legislation. Revolution? I may be wrong, but French institutions have had a habit of proving surprisingly resilient (even through the turmoil of '68) since de Gaulle's refashioning of the Republic's constitution in 1958...





Abdicating monarchs?

In Holland [here] Queen Beatrix hands over to her son.
That's what they do in the Netherlands.


















We can only hope that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth will not even consider the idea.
As a general rule, those who are so fond of demystifying and demythologising ancient institutions [a Guardian poll here] are not among their most ardent defenders...

Where sheep may not safely graze!

Let's end April as we began it: with a silly story - alas, not made up 

From today's newspaper of record, The Sun [here]: 

"AN ENGLISH holidaymaker has admitted racism after calling Welsh people “sheep-shaggers”.
Anthony Taaffe was accused of shouting and swearing while drunk at a holiday park near Prestatyn – where kids were also present.
But the 47-year-old from Bolton told a court: “Calling someone a ‘sheep-shagger’ is a term for people living in the countryside.”
Prosecutor Gareth Parry said security staff and an off-duty policeman intervened but the benefit-claimant called them a “bunch of sheep-shaggers”.
He also pleaded guilty to a second similar offence when he called a cop at a police custody unit a “Welsh sheep-shagger”.
Phillip Lloyd Jones, defending, said Taaffe had been restrained on the ground and sat upon by the security staff and an off-duty officer.
Taaffe admitted racially-aggravated disorder for his foul outburst at Llandudno Magistrates court.
He accepted he was insulting and apologised before being fined £150
As someone, then, on the above evidence, who could well become a victim of  this kind of alleged 'racism,'  I'd like to ask a simple question: in what way does the addition of the (dubiously accurate) description, 'racially-aggravated,' add to the seriousness of the kind of foolish anti-social behaviour being described? Again, I imagine, because of the category of the offence, there would have to be yet another set of complicated, time-consuming forms for the arresting police officer to have to complete, not to mention the inclusion of this rather doubtful statistic among those recorded for racially aggravated crime. 
Is there no end to this kind of absurdity? The possibilities for outraged complaint are endless, from calling Somerset people 'moonrakers' to polite enquiries as to what Scotsmen wear under their kilts ...  after all, as the law admits, it is a matter of perception...

In a more civilised age, being drunk and disorderly by itself would have been enough to earn both universal social disapprobation and the swift intervention of the constabulary. 
Now, when at night at weekends the streets of even the most decorous of country towns resemble scenes of bacchanalian orgies, clearly we need to qualify both the drunkenness and the disorder in order to justify any kind of intervention. 


A British country town at night

And, (Spring is late this year) continuing the first of April theme with -  astonishingly - one of the leading stories on national BBC radio this morning. A casual observer of the contemporary scene might be forgiven for thinking that for a major sportsman or any potential public 'role model' in the U.S. A. (or beyond) to 'come out' as a social conservative could now be be far more detrimental to his (or her) career or business prospects than any possible declaration about the nature of his sexuality; it certainly wouldn't lead to congratulatory 'phone calls from present and former incumbents of the White House. 

As radical feminism demanded, the personal has truly become the political - 'the world turned upside down' indeed...



Sunday, 28 April 2013

What is the scandal here?

Is it that some bishops of the Anglican Communion are daring to maintain the Church's traditional stance on sexuality [here] or could it be that governments in North America and Europe are basically using foreign aid to blackmail (no, the word is not too strong, given the financial / ethical tie-in) smaller, independent nations into toeing the new western ideological party line? 
After all, despite all the deceptive liberal rhetoric,  the (former - hmm) colonial powers always know best... 
The 'secular left' does hypocritical cultural imperialism so much better than anyone else. 

A very late Spring

Over the last couple of decades, every year on  this last Sunday in April when I've driven through a particular wood above the Wye Valley on the way to say mass in one of the churches I look after,  the beech trees have been more or less in full leaf, with that particular fresh shade of green which is one of the loveliest sights of this time of year.
Not today; apart from a few lower branches on trees in the most sheltered spots, there's nothing to be seen; from a distance the trees look much as they did in the depths of the winter. Things were, as they say,  'backward'  last year (see here) but not to this extent.
Having said that, the woodland flowers, including wood anemones and wild daffodils are now in full bloom (but where are the bluebells? Hardly in bud. ) Spring is on its way, certainly, but so very late; today - yet again - the wind has swung round to the north.

Of course, in Britain we're used to these seasonal fluctuations, but over the last few years we have come to expect evidence of all those alarming reports telling us that, in a few decades or so, we will be experiencing a mediterranean climate in southern Britain. 
Let's see what the Summer brings; in any case, I'm going to hold off on the planting of the olive groves for a while yet.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

From Rome: words of wisdom about the Sacred Ministry


From Pope Francis' homily at a priestly ordination a few days ago: 
"...In this way, let what you teach be nourishment for the people of God. Let the holiness of your lives be a delightful fragrance to Christ's faithful, so that by word and example you may build up the house which is God's Church.
Likewise you will exercise in Christ the office of sanctifying. For by your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful will be made perfect, being united to the sacrifice of Christ, which will be offered through your hands in an unbloody way on the altar, in union with the faithful, in the celebration of the sacraments. Understand, therefore, what you do and imitate what you celebrate. As celebrants of the mystery of the Lord's death and resurrection, strive to put to death whatever in your members is sinful and to walk in newness of life.
You will gather others into the people of God through Baptism, and you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church in the sacrament of Penance. Today I ask you in the name of Christ and the Church, never tire of being merciful. You will comfort the sick and the elderly with holy oil: do not hesitate to show tenderness towards the elderly. 
When you celebrate the sacred rites, when you offer prayers of praise and thanks to God throughout the hours of the day, not only for the people of God but for the world-remember then that you are taken from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God. Therefore, carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to your own concerns but to those of Jesus Christ. You are pastors, not functionaries. Be mediators, not intermediaries...."(In full here]
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, speaking to the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales during their recent ad limina visit to Rome: 
"...My brother bishops, you face many challenges In your apostolic ministry in England and Wales. Perhaps you can identify with Peter and John as they are dragged before the Sanhedrin to be pressured, threatened and even beaten to stop proclaiming the saving Truth of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps you can sense viscerally the pressure to obey men rather than God, to see yourself-as a mere manager or functionary rather than a disciple and an apostle. It is good, then, that you will have this important week to encounter the Lord together. Just as the Risen Lord called the Apostles from the boat to the shore, He has also called all of you to the shore of this place for a time of renewal. The Risen Lord is calling you to this shore because He knows that authentic interior renewal can only happen in the personal encounter with Him, not as an abstract deity, but in His risen flesh on the shore. And so He calls you.
When you return home refreshed by prayer and rest in the Lord, let the joyful presence of the Risen Christ in your heart become an open space for your sheep or even a shore where He can meet them and give them love and hope. Amen." [In full here]






Friday, 26 April 2013

Controversial? British £5 note to feature Winston Churchill


Winston Churchill will be featured on the new generation of British £5 notes which will come into circulation in 2016 [here]
So... who could possibly have a problem with that?
Well, he may have been out greatest wartime leader, but, let's face it,  he wasn't a woman, gay, a social reformer (actually he was a leading member of the 1906 radical Liberal government) or a member of any deserving minority group (aristocrats with American mothers don't qualify) and, implies the BBC's Newsnight programme, he's really no Elizabeth Fry.
Contemporary British attitudes ... there are no words......

Fr Anthony Prescott R.I.P.

From the Additional.Curates.Society. website [here]:

We regret to announce that Father Anthony Prescott, former General Secretary of ACS, has died in Hospital in France. May he rest in peace.
"Further to my sad announcement early on today I have spoken to Father Stephen Bond who has informed me that a requiem will be said for Father Prescott in France on Wednesday 24th April at 10am local time.  He will then be cremated and his ashes are to be sent to the UK for internment at a later date in the grounds of the Catholic Church in Bicester by Father Paul Martin former Assistant General Secretary with Father Bond. "
I will advise people of further details as and when I receive them.  I would encourage everybody to pray for Father Prescott’s soul and for Father Stephen Bond, who has been a close companion, colleague and friend for over 40 years."
Father Darren Smith, General Secretary, ACS

Who - in fact - is an Anglican?

I'm indebted to Fr Anthony Chadwick (who is now a priest of the A.C.C.) for including on his blog an address given in 1987 (that is, some five years before the ordination of women in the Church of England) by Bishop (now Mgr) Robert Mercer C.R..  
Mgr Mercer is now, of course,  a priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and, clearly, his view of ecclesiology and the realities of ecumenism have changed in some vital respects (who couldn't say the same after the events of the last twenty five years?) , but the questions he asked in 1987 are still very relevant - indeed now of far wider application given the current incorporation of some elements of Anglican patrimony into the Latin Church.

But perhaps the question should now be directed not to Canterbury or to the 'official' Anglican Communion but more to those of us who regard ourselves as theologically and ecclesiologically / apostolically 'orthodox' and who remain - precariously and on sufferance - within those 'official'  structures, but are nevertheless (in many ways rightly in view of their past divisions, rival claims and bitter infighting) somewhat suspicious of the indigestible 'alphabet soup' of  the continuing Anglican world.
Yet we are all, however partially and imperfectly, endeavouring to be faithful to a common tradition - something which, whatever the outcome of the current battle for adequate provision for traditionalists in England and in Wales, could be of ever greater significance in the years ahead, given the likely direction and even possible disintegration of the Anglican Communion itself...
Please note: I'm repeating a question, not advocating any particular strategy.

Here are are few snippets, but read the article in full here:
What is an Anglican?
"Nobody quite knows. But it would seem that communion with Canterbury is not THE deciding factor, and there is nothing new about this. You will know. When William and Mary came to the throne, several good Anglicans, not being disciples of the Vicar of Bray, believed that their oaths to the ousted King James had to hold fast. They could not in conscience accept their new rulers. They were therefore driven out of their bishoprics and out of their parishes. They were called ‘Non Jurors”.
"They continued to wear the same rochets and chimeres, or the same surplices, that they had always worn, and they continued to worship according to the same Book of Common Prayer, though being Anglicans they could never resist the temptation to improve upon it, and so some of them had a go at producing their own Improvements.Where the “Non Jurors” Anglicans or not? Were they in communion with Canterbury if they were not in communion with Canterbury’s King? At least two of these “NonJurors” are now regarded widely as saints Bishop Thomas Ken and William Law. They are regarded as representative of all that is best in our own tradition. Can any of us dare say that because they were not then in communion with that particular Archbishop of Canterbury, they are not Anglicans? .....
Now things in other parts of the Anglican Communion may be different, but here at home In England you know your own custom. The people lead, and when its safe, the bishops will follow....."
"....The best things in the Church of England happen in spite of the official church, not because of it the Evangelical revival, the classical revival, the institution of theological colleges, the recovery of the religious life, the great missions overseas, the slum mission at home. All these things happened sometimes largely, sometimes entirely because of priests and people, not because of bishops..."
" ..... Those people who in recent years have left the official Anglican provinces of Canada and the U.S.A. think themselves as continuing Anglicans, though by the official provinces in those parts and by the Archbishop of Canterbury they are called schismatics, though continuing to practice the faith as our church has received it:
1. They worship according to the Book of Common Prayer, to their own edition of it.
2. They accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as containing all things necessary to salvation.
3. They accept the Apostles’, Athanasian and Nicene Creeds as summarising and interpreting those scriptures for us and as protecting us from other American vagaries such as those of Mary Baker Eddy and Joseph Smith (the Mormons).
4. They accept the three fold ministry of bishops priests and deacons and like our Lord and the twelve apostles and nearly 2000 years of Christian history they confine this ministry to persons of the male sex.
5. They practice the seven sacraments in all their fullness.
Dare we say that these continuing Anglicans are not Anglicans because they are not in communion with His Grace of Canterbury? Were the Non Jurors of the 18th Century not Anglicans? It is known that Bishop Ken and William Law are now recognized by Canterbury in communion with America and Scotland. In some respects Canterbury has caught up with reality, and may do so again!
These new extra mural Anglicans are people we must go out and embrace. ..."

Fr Chadwick has a new blog, The Anglican Catholic [here], specifically concerned with ACC matters but likely also to touch on matters concerning a common 'Anglican catholic' patrimony...




Thursday, 25 April 2013

More disturbing news from the Middle East

A very welcome joint statement [here] by the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster on the kidnapping of the two bishops in Syria :
"Since the very first days of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, we have prayed as we watched in horror and sorrow the escalating violence that has rent this country apart. We have grieved with all Syrians - with the families of each and every human life lost and with all communities whose neighbourhoods and livelihoods have suffered from escalating and pervasive violence.
And today, our prayers also go with the ancient communities of our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria. The kidnapping this week of two Metropolitan bishops of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, and the killing of their driver while they were carrying out a humanitarian mission, is another telling sign of the terrible circumstances that continue to engulf all Syrians..
We unreservedly support these Christian communities, rooted in and attached to the biblical lands, despite the many hardships. We respond to the call from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, and the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, urging churches worldwide to remain steadfast in the face of challenging realities and to bear witness to their faith in the power of love in this world.
We both continue to pray for a political solution to this tragic conflict that would stem the terrible violence and also empower all Syrians with their fundamental and inalienable freedoms. We also call for urgent humanitarian aid to reach all who are suffering. We pray that Syria can recapture its tradition of tolerance, rooted in faith and respect for faiths living side by side."
And from George Conger [here]: Bishop Mouneer Anis warns that tension between Copts and Muslims could plunge Egypt into civil war.
"...The Christian community in Egypt right now is mourning and feels challenged in their own country, as some of them have said, “we have been here since the time of the Pharaohs, this is our country! We will not leave whatever happens. ” On the other hand, there are many educated young people who are immigrating out of the country and this is the saddest thing for me as one of the leaders of the church in Egypt, because I believe that the Christian presence is very much liked with the Christian witness." [also here]

How much blame for this instability and persecution should be laid at the door of the naivety of the West's new-found enthusiasm for 'democracy' in the middle east and our governments' somewhat uncritical  support for any groups opposed to repressive regimes in the region is open to debate. Once again, as in Iraq, there seems to be no clear policy as to whom to back when such regimes are toppled. 
One thing is very clear: for various reasons (not all of them self-serving) western governments have repeatedly shown very little or no public concern for Christian minorities in majority Muslim countries, something which only encourages the mad delusion of the extremists and the jihadists that the liberal west is incurably weak and corrupt and even ripe for an Islamic takeover. 
But, regardless of the seeming indifference of our politicians,  Christians in the West, as the archbishops rightly point out,  must support our brothers and sisters in the faith and bear witness to the love of Christ.



Wednesday, 24 April 2013

It's abuse, certainly...

Professor Richard Dawkins, clearly with either a book to sell or afraid we will all forget him, has repeated his  ridiculous comparison between the handing on of religious traditions  to children and child abuse. Speaking at the Chipping Norton Literary Festival [here] Dr Dawkins, local boy made good gone bad, asserted:

“...What a child should be taught is that religion exists; that some people believe this and some people believe that. What a child should never be taught is that you are a Catholic or Muslim child, therefore this is what you believe. That’s child abuse...”

No, but it's certainly an abuse of a literary festival.


Francis Phillips comments [here] on the abuse of a distinguished scientific reputation.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Does the State determine our ethics and our morality?

For many of us, the crux of the 'gay marriage' debate has little to do with the rights of homosexuals, but concerns the much more interesting and significant philosophical (and theological) question of the legitimacy of the attempted imposition on its citizens of a State ideology of equality, something which will be taught to children in government- funded (i.e. taxpayer- funded) state schools, regardless of parental wishes or religious tradition.  It's curious how secular thought  in the 'democratic' West has come to demand similar control over the minds and actions of children as did the totalitarian regimes of left and right of the last century.

Read this article: it's very instructive:
...the [French] Minister of Education, Vincent Peillon, has specified that “the goal of the secular morality is to remove all family, ethnic, social and intellectual determinisms from the pupil” to “allow each pupil to be liberated,” because “the goal of the Republican education system has always been to produce a free individual”.  In the same way, the Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira has declared to the Assembly that “in our values, education aims to relieve pupils of social and religious determinisms and make them free citizens”....
'free,' that is to think and do what the State considers appropriate...

To be nostalgic for a moment, if only there were (as someone reportedly once said'no such thing as society,' individuals and families would be free to follow the voice of conscience untrammelled by the diktats of a state-sponsored post-modernism which, while denying the very concept of truth, paradoxically and risibly tries to impose its own version of it.

St George's Day

Where I live is border country; the motto of the County of Monmouthshire is utrique fidelis; many of us here have dual allegiances because of parental genes as well as geography and are in the happy position of being able to celebrate two national patron saints.
"Dear brothers, our joy in today’s feast is heightened by our joy in the glory of Easter, just as the splendour of a precious jewel enhances the beauty of its gold setting.

"Saint George was a man who abandoned one army for another: he gave up the rank of tribune to enlist as a soldier for Christ.  Eager to encounter the enemy, he first stripped away his worldly wealth by giving all he had to the poor.  Then, free and unencumbered, bearing the shield of faith, he plunged into the thick of the battle, an ardent soldier for Christ.

Clearly what he did serves to teach us a valuable lesson: if we are afraid to strip ourselves of our worldly possessions, then we are unfit to make a strong defence of the faith.

As for Saint George, he was consumed with the fire of the Holy Spirit.  Armed with the invincible standard of the cross, he did battle with an evil king and acquitted himself so well that, in vanquishing the king, he overcame the prince of all wicked spirits, and encouraged other soldiers of Christ to perform brave deeds in his cause.
 Of course, the supreme invisible arbiter was there, who sometimes permits evil men to prevail so that his will may be accomplished.  And although he surrendered the body of his martyr into the hands of murderers, yet he continued to take care of his soul, which was supported by the unshakable defence of its faith.

Dear brothers, let us not only admire the courage of this fighter in heaven’s army but follow his example.  Let us be inspired to strive for the reward of heavenly glory, keeping in mind his example, so that we will not be swayed from our path, though the world seduce us with its smiles or try to terrify us with naked threats of its trials and tribulations.

We must now cleanse ourselves, as Saint Paul tells us, from all defilement of body and spirit, so that one day we too may deserve to enter that temple of blessedness to which we now aspire.

Anyone who wishes to offer himself to God in the tent of Christ, which is the Church, must first bathe in the spring of holy baptism; then he must put on the various garments of the virtues.  As it says in the Scriptures, Let your priests be clothed in justice.  He who is reborn in baptism is a new man.  He may no longer wear the things that signify mortality.  He has discarded the old self and must put on the new.  He must live continually renewed in his commitment to a holy sojourn in this world.

Truly we must be cleansed of the stains of our past sins and be resplendent in the virtue of our new way of life.  Then we can be confident of celebrating Easter worthily and of truly following the example of the blessed martyrs."
St Peter Damian 


For St George's Day some English music with a twist: the prelude and scherzo Hammersmith op 52 written in 1930 by Gustav Holst, played here by the Scottish National Orchestra conducted by David Lloyd Jones - a hybrid mixture if ever there was one:




Monday, 22 April 2013

What's going on in France?

This report from Tim Stanley on his blog at The Telegraph is disturbing - as is the video to which he refers:
"...A video surfaced yesterday of a confrontation between police and Catholic protestors that began when the latter refused to vacate the space they were using for their demonstration. Around 4 minutes in a young man is thrown to the ground. A priest appears to come to his aid and refuses to let go of him. The cops drag the couple apart and pull the priest towards their vans. Around 4.41 you can clearly see one of the policemen kick the cleric in the head. Blink and you’ll miss it, but I’m sure he felt it all the same. Sadly, this scene has not been unique. This newspaper has reported the use of tear gas on crowds and I’ve received anecdotal reports of children maced and protesters beaten. Much of it can only be found on Catholic blogs and ultra conservative websites –but it’s there in blood red for all to see...."
Read it all here 
The video link is also  here

Can any French readers shed more light on this?

"A study in polyphony"

- the description Michael Tippett gave to his Concerto for Double String Orchestra written in 1938-39.
This is an early-ish (1952) recording of Walter Goehr conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra.

It's one of the first pieces of music I heard as a child, my father having this same recording in his collection; by the time I remember hearing the records, their format was already obsolete, being 78s  and having to be played with a special needle. Things have moved on just a little...

The three movements are  allegro con brio, adagio cantabile and allegro molto



Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Lord is my Shepherd

A setting of Psalm 23 (Coverdale)  by Charles Hylton Stewart (1884 - 1932),  
sung  on this video by the Choir of St Paul's Cathedral, directed by John Scott 

Friday, 19 April 2013

When violence and persecution are ignored...

This is not to try and downplay in any way whatsoever the dreadful sufferings of those caught up in the murderous bomb outrage in Boston, Massachusetts,  but it seems not all victims of jihadist violence are deemed so worthy of sympathy by our western media. Christians in Egypt, Syria and Iraq are a case in point.
This is the end of a report from Mercator.Net by Lars Brownworth:
"...Most Protestants or Catholics have never heard of a Chaldean or Melkite Christian, and there appears to be a certain intellectual laziness in the press which doesn’t seem able to process the idea of Christians as a persecuted minority. So for the most part they are simply ignored, and the eradication of 2,000 year-old Christian communities passes without comment in the information age.
“To be ignorant of our past,” Cicero warned, is to “forever remain a child”. This is an apt description of our continued silence in the face of the deteriorating situation of the minority populations of the Middle East."
Read it all here 

As a correspondent indicated to me earlier, we could do worse than give some financial, material or prayerful support to Aid to the Church in Need and similar charities.

Sir Colin Davis R.I.P.

The Introit and Kyrie from the Mozart Requiem: the Bavarian State Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. with soprano soloist Edith Mathis, conducted by the great Sir Colin Davis, who died last week:



And conducting the first movement (Allegro moderato) of the Sibelius Third Symphony: his interpretations of Sibelius are among the most impressive and authoritative.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Alarm bells in Wales

The latest edition of Highlights is now online [here], reporting officially on the last meeting of the Church in Wales' Governing Body. 

Read it VERY carefully, particularly the response made on page 5 under the heading 'Question Time' by one of the Welsh archdeacons on the subject of proposed amendments to the current (two-tier) women in the episcopate legislation. It may ring alarm bells, particularly in view of some rather optimistic comments about constructive dialogue left previously on this blog:
"Three proposed amendments are
under consideration: dropping the
reference in the Bill to Civil Law; that
the provision for those who cannot
accept a female bishop should be
extended to those who cannot accept a
male bishop; and that all references to
the second Bill should be removed."
The vexed question of trust becomes ever more complicated and even more significant... 

"At such a time the parson should not aspire to the judgments which are proper to the politician..."

The Bishop of London's sermon at the funeral of Baroness Thatcher: well worth reading or watching - and listening to . This is its beginning:

"After the storm of a life lived in the heat of political controversy, there is a great calm.
The storm of conflicting opinions centres on the Mrs Thatcher who became a symbolic figure – even an “ism”. Today the remains of the real Margaret Hilda Thatcher are here at her funeral service. Lying here, she is one of us, subject to the common destiny of all human beings.
There is an important place for debating policies and legacy; for assessing the impact of political decisions on the everyday lives of individuals and communities. Parliament held a frank debate last week – but here and today is neither the time nor the place. This, at Lady Thatcher’s personal request, is a funeral service, not a Memorial Service with the customary eulogies. At such a time, the parson should not aspire to the judgments which are proper to the politician; instead, this is a place for ordinary human compassion of the kind that is reconciling. It is also the place for the simple truths which transcend political debate. Above all it is the place for hope...."  
[Read it all here]


from The Telegraph

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

"the Marmite among ecclesiastical organisations"

Bishop Jonathan Baker, preaching yesterday at the mass for the commissioning of Dr Colin Podmore as Director of Forward in Faith. [Read it all : the full text is here]
"...It necessarily inhabits a space which is paradoxical, even contradictory; the paradox is not hard to spot. The officers of Forward in Faith, the Council, clerical and lay, and, I trust, every single member share the vision – dare I say it – which we have found in Epistle and Gospel tonight: the unity of the Church, the transmission of the Lord’s own teaching by means of the apostolic ministry, the absolute inescapability of the importance of communion, with the Lord and with one another, in the Christian life. So why Marmite, rather than apple pie? Who could disagree with any of this? Well, of course, because alongside these spiritual and ecclesiological ambitions, Forward in Faith is perceived to be a pressure group, and, in the eyes of many, a pressure group with a negative and backward-looking agenda. It is surely a tragedy, and an astonishing one at that, given a moment’s thought, that we – and here I mean all of us in the Church of England – should have come to this: that faithful Anglicans who are inspired by convictions which the whole of our Church still affirms in her title deeds and carries in her DNA should be perceived by some as disloyal, a fifth column perhaps. No doubt blame – like gifts – can be distributed across the whole Body...
.....I spoke a moment ago of the paradox of where Forward in Faith sits in the life of the Church: deeply committed to the widest, most inclusive vision of unity and catholicity, that the world may believe and all come to Christ; yet having to defend what is – on ‘home territory’ at least – a minority position and even perceived as sectarian. It is then a huge challenge to Colin and to all of us to keep going, to keep going joyfully, and to keep on in love. The path is rocky, the stones are sharp. Toes are stubbed and feet bleed. Yet in the Scriptures we have heard tonight, there is the promise that all for which we long, hope and pray, has already come to pass: there is one body, one Spirit, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all. The apostle does not use the conditional but the indicative. God grant each one of us, and the whole Church, grace to work to uncover and reveal, and never to distort and obscure, that glorious truth which God Himself has given us in Christ. Amen."

Just because ...



Michael Tippett's  Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli: 
Richard Hickox conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Victoria: Iesu, Nostra Redemptio

A setting of the hymn Iesu, Nostra Redemptio by Tomas Luis de Victoria -  
La Grande Chapelle, Albert Recasens

Gosnell etc. - double standards prevail

Elizabeth Scalia at First Things [here] writing about the self-imposed silence of much of the western media about the Gosnell trial:
"...Do a quick run-through of the search engines. Beyond some perfunctory coverage on the day the Gosnell story broke, there has been little attention paid, no follow-up by the mainstream media. This is an ugly story; it touches too many social shibboleths and indicts too many philosophies. The press wants Kermit Gosnell and his scissors to go away, and to that end they are simply not talking about him..."
And, in terms of the U.K. media,  it's not a British story (at least as yet) but that's not usually sufficient reason to ignore something of this magnitude of horror...

There's a less than  convincing counter-argument here, although the final assertion that the media shy away from anything which makes their audience feel too uncomfortable contains a kernel of truth - if not the whole truth...
Even a' free press,' then, can be an illusory concept when (liberal-left)  ideological self-censorship prevails across the newsrooms.

Tim Stanley at The Telegraph on the dispute between the BBC and the LSE [here] over undercover journalistic participation in  a recent student visit to North Korea:
"...So the LSE is seriously saying that Sweeney’s crime was to imperil future visits by the LSE to tyrannical regimes on the pretext of academic research. Yet, the research benefits of remaining on good terms with foreign dictatorships are not at all obvious. As Sweeney astutely argues, North Korea is a “Nazi state”. Any tour of it is highly stage-managed and offers no access to ordinary people, no visits to archives and no obvious research potential. Going there would be about as academically enriching as attending a Nuremberg rally in 1935. “Legitimate study” is virtually impossible. So why is the LSE so keen to retain access to North Korea?..."
And a report from the BBC itself here
Nothing new here really: modern academia consistently takes a view, say, towards the (democratic) State of Israel which it conspicuously fails to follow when dealing with tyrannies.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

What is a funeral for?

There's a good article here at The Catholic Herald prompted by Lady Thatcher's forthcoming obsequies. The author,  Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith, is surely right in his view that funerals have become in recent years  tributes to the life of the deceased person to the greater or lesser exclusion of the proclamation of faith in the Resurrection.
Obviously, in some Anglican circles one runs very quickly into the ongoing reformation disputes over the efficacy and the validity of prayers for the dead; we won't resolve that issue, yet whatever one's tradition, the increasing absence of a 'God-centred' funeral liturgy is surely another sign of the Christian faith's fading influence on the lives of many, not only just 'occasional' worshippers but including some of  those who would number themselves as committed Christian believers. The work of catechesis is never ended, and some direct teaching on this subject from the pulpit is absolutely essential. Do we as clergy do enough to encourage the saying of funeral masses, for example? Do we promote in the parishes the work of  the Guild of All Souls?
It is possible, of course, to combine in a sensitive way both the need (from the perspective of bereaved families) for some kind of  public recognition of the lives of  those who have died with a clear proclamation of the hope that looks beyond death and judgement to eternal life. What worries me, is that all too often, we tend now to err on the side of  a mere recitation of the significant events of a past life rather than to offer needed prayers for the departed soul.  - Not only, then, 'what is a funeral for,' but for whom is it really meant?
"...The usual answer given is that a funeral is a ceremony (and this can cover non-religious funerals too) for the dignified disposal of the body of the deceased. It goes further: a funeral is an occasion to mark the end of a life, allowing for reflection and thought. After all, death is a major event in all our lives, or ought to be. For a Christian, a funeral would be a moment for prayer, and for a Catholic, a moment of prayer for the repose of the deceased’s soul.
What bewilders me about modern funerals is the concept of “paying one’s respects”. I know what this means, but I simply do not understand it. Allied to this is the idea of making a funeral into “the celebration of the life of X”. Again, I am at a loss to understand this. When I die, as die I must, I do not want my life celebrated, and I want no eulogies; I just want prayer, and more prayer. Neither do I want people to pay their respects – at least not to me; I would like them to show respect for God, however, by behaving properly in church.
In fact a funeral should be, horrid phrase, God-centred, just like any other act of worship. A non-religious funeral can hardly be that, but if it is to be existentially meaningful it should, to my mind, involve a deep long look into the abyss of nothingness that is death: it should honestly face up to the reality of personal extinction, if that is what the non-religious believe. It should not resemble an episode of ‘This is Your Life”..."

Regina Coeli: Tomas Luis de Victoria

Sung by The Sixteen directed by Harry Christophers

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A re-branding exercise?

Among the  objectives of the new organisation to be launched this month, Anglican Catholic Future, is the - on the surface-  laudable aim of "returning to the fundamentals of the apostolic faith."  
But evidently what is not envisaged is a return to the fundamental maleness of apostolic order if the new network's programme of events and speakers [here] is anything to go by.

Why, one wonders, is another organisation of this nature needed in the Church of England? Has Affirming Catholicism become too 'Affirming' and insufficiently 'Catholic?' We all have our opinions on that one, but there does seem to be an element of desperation creeping into its analysis of the current state of the Church when Anglican Catholic Future's 'mission statement' includes these words:
"..The Catholic identity of the Church of England has suffered a crisis stemming from a preoccupation with divisive issues. As a result the Catholic tradition in Anglicanism has become fragmented and nerveless. Many who hold this tradition dear feel that the time is right to rediscover our Catholic roots and values for the sake of the church’s witness in our land.

Following the imperatives that guided our Catholic forebears in the Church of England we will focus on theology, spirituality and the life of prayer, liturgy and worship, vocation and priesthood, ecumenism and social justice. We will seek to model a style of discipleship faithful to the riches of our tradition, which encourages us to be creative and credible, imaginative and generous...."
Isn't all this somewhat late, having undermined, if not destroyed, both our claims to apostolicity (how do they imagine our Oxford Movement forebears would view that?)  and any realistic hopes for unity? We can understand why the bed on which they are now lying is so uncomfortable, at least viewed from the perspective of the authentic Anglican Catholic tradition, but they - more than most- have helped to make it that way with precisely their "preoccupation with divisive issues" and their determination to use them to further the liberal (and secular) agenda within the Church at the expense both of its internal cohesion and of the larger ecumenical imperatives. Having done their worst in this regard, does anything of Catholicity, except the inessential and incidental trappings, now remain?

I'm sorry, but all these fundamentally theologically liberal and revisionist organisations now laying claim to the word 'Catholic' in contemporary Anglicanism remind us of nothing more than those countries which tended to employ the words 'Democratic Republic' as a means of self-description. One knew that democracy was the very last thing on their minds...   



A vision for the future? Up to a point, always up to a point....

From the latest presidential address of the Archbishop of Wales at its Governing Body [full text here]
It takes a certain admirable theological chutzpah to quote in a single paragraph both Pope John Paul II and Martin Luther ( in a context in which I'm far from sure either of them would feel particularly at home) and the second passage quoted below also shows us what damage we do to the English language when we attempt to tinker with divinely ordained institutions; but the major problem is what is being left out .... 

We can all heartily applaud these words - depending, of course, on how we define them:
...And that is what all of us who are disciples of Jesus are meant to be and to do. Our manner of life and our relationships should be shaped by the Gospel, in terms of love, fellowship, compassion and a concern for others. Being in Christ means living out this pattern of the Gospel and when that is evident, others will see its authenticity and be drawn into the life of faith. That is how new Christians are made.... 
But in the particular liberal protestant, faux-primitive vision of the Church's future and of its ministry which is now being sold to us on the back of economic and numerical exigency, the vital question is not where is the theology of ministerial priesthood (because, unfortunately, those of us who are enduring the current revolution - as radical as anything thrown up by the unfortunate events of the sixteenth century -  know the answer to that already) but where is the Eucharist?
."...Churches with ordained clergy have been tempted to assume that all ministry is vested in an omnicompetent, all-singing, all-dancing professional minister and that the task of ministry belongs to him or her and then when he/she is a bit hard pressed, he or she may delegate some of the tasks to other people but really essentially it is her/her ministry. That is to start in the wrong place. “It takes a community to manifest the grace present in Jesus” says one theologian and if that is so, ministering and the task of ministry is entrusted to the whole Church and, from within that Church, some are called to exercise particular ministries. The State of the Church in Wales’ Report of 1993 sadly says that “the laity still think of themselves as servants, not of God, but of the Vicar, whose job it is to be the Church for them.” I am not convinced much has changed and all of us must shoulder the blame for that. This also shows very clearly that we fail to act on reports we ourselves, have commissioned. I hope this report does not go the same way.
Nor are lay people there to carry out the administrative tasks leaving spiritual tasks, such as baptism, marriage and confirmation preparation, bereavement counselling and sick- visiting and involvement in the community, to the clergy. Rather, these tasks are to be carried out by a team of people, clerical and lay, according to their gifts, on behalf of the church, led by a stipendiary priest..."
Below are some words of the Archbishop's predecessor, speaking as Archbishop of Canterbury, in a lecture given in 2004 [here]. The contrast is, shall we say, interesting...
"... The Church is never left to reimagine itself or reshape itself according to its own priorities of the moment; for it to be itself, it has received those gifts that express and determine its essential self as a place where the eternal self-giving of Christ is happening in such a way as to heal and change lives. The Bible and the ministry constitute the Church as literally a 'responsible' community, answering to what is there before it. And as the understanding of ordained ministry has developed, what this has come to mean is that this ministry is one of the things that renders every local community in its witness and worship responsible to the creative source of the Church's life.
What does this begin to mean for the priest today? If this account of the inextricable involvement of apostolic ministry with the very identity of the Church is right, the person exercising that ministry has one fundamental task which breaks down into a number of different responsibilities. The fundamental task is that of announcing in word and action in the middle of the community what the community is and where it is; it is telling the Church that it is the created universe insofar as that universe has been taken up into the activity of the eternal Word and transfigured by this fact, and that it is in consequence the place where Christ's self-offering continues to be most freely real and effective. The priest is therefore in the business of – as we could put it – immersing in Christ's action the gifts and prayers and love of human beings. These things, of themselves, are too weak and compromised to make peace, to sustain the loving relation of God with creation; so they are borne along by the one action that truly and eternally makes peace, the self-giving of the Word. In all this, we can perhaps see why and how the Eucharist is the central identifying act of the Church, simply because it is where our action towards God is taken up in God's action towards God; where the making our own of Christ's prayer at his table opens us up to receive Christ's life so that our own self-offering may be anchored afresh in his. 'Although we be unworthy... to offer unto thee any sacrifice, yet we beseech thee to accept this our bounden duty and service'...."

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

How liberals discern the 'mind of the Church'

So here it is - the liberal version of modern Anglican polity...

From the comments posted on this report at Thinking Anglicans:
Just one question, please. What if the opponents of woman bishops win at the next synodal selections, "win" in the sense of increasing their numbers, and hence strength, in the House of Laity?
Posted by: William Tighe on Tuesday, 9 April 2013 at 2:27pm BST
William Tighe, thank you for your salutary warning. It will be relatively easy for hardline opponents in the House of Laity to muster enough votes to block the process again, although not now in the other two Houses.
You ask what will the consequences be if that happens?
There'll be a lot of anger but the matter will just keep coming back again and again until it is resolved in favour of women bishops as that is clearly and permanently the mind of the Church.
Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Tuesday, 9 April 2013 at 4:46pm BST
Help me, please. We are told that in contemporary Anglicanism one of the ways in which we discern the 'mind of the Church' is as a result of the synodical process which, we are told (at least by our lex orandi - try to suppress your hollow laughter)  is guided by the Holy Spirit.
Yet if the synodical process fails to come up with the goods to the satisfaction of the liberals pressing for each and every change, measures must be brought back again and again until the 'right answer' is given. This isn't merely the opinion of one person who comments pseudo-anonymously on a website; bishops and archbishops have said the same.
Clearly, then, the synodical process can form no essential part of the process of discernment, as not only the reference point for any acceptable result clearly lies 'permanently' elsewhere, but also that the result of any vote can safely be ignored if it fails to express what has already - somehow- been defined as the Anglican consensus fidelium. 
If anyone can tell tell me where that point of reference lies,  outside, that is, of the fashionable imperatives of the post-modern secular 'elite' (it is clearly not Scripture and Tradition, and reason as mediated by the foregoing: the correct interpretation of the so-called 'three-legged stool' of classical Anglican polity) - I would be very grateful, as no doubt will the Holy Spirit Himself who must be somewhat wearied by now by our repeated and fruitless invocations before the taking of each synodical vote.
No religious body deserves to survive the desperate incoherence and dishonesty of this kind of Mickey Mouse ecclesiology... not to mention the insane circularity of the arguments used to justify it.



Dietrich Bonhoeffer d. 9th April 1945

Today, 9th April, is the anniversary of the death in 1945 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer at Flossenbürg concentration camp. 
This is the account of Bonhoeffer's execution given in Eberhard Bethge's still definitive (1967) biography of his friend:
“In  Flossenbürg the execution took place in the grey dawn of the Monday The camp doctor saw Bonhoeffer without knowing at the time who he was . Ten years later he wrote:  'In the morning of that day between five and six o'clock the prisoners......were taken from their cells, and the verdict of the court martial read out to them. Through the half-open door in one room of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.'..."
His final message to George Bell, the Bishop of Chichester, entrusted to a fellow prisoner were these:  “This is the end - for me, the beginning of life.”



“To be called to a life of extraordinary quality, to live up to it, and yet to be unconscious of it is indeed a narrow way. To confess and testify to the truth as it is in Jesus, and at the same time to love the enemies of that truth, his enemies and ours, and to love them with the infinite love of Jesus Christ, is indeed a narrow way. To believe the promise of Jesus that his followers shall possess the earth, and at the same time to face our enemies unarmed and defenceless, preferring to incur injustice rather than to do wrong ourselves, is indeed a narrow way. To see the weakness and wrong in others, and at the same time refrain from judging them; to deliver the gospel message without casting pearls before swine, is indeed a narrow way. The way is unutterably hard, and at every moment we are in danger of straying from it. If we regard this way as one we follow in obedience to an external command, if we are afraid of ourselves all the time, it is indeed an impossible way. But if we behold Jesus Christ going on before step by step, we shall not go astray.” 
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship 







Monday, 8 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher R.I.P.

Today has seen the death of the last British politician of any real stature. We can be immensely grateful for Baroness Thatcher's successful battles with stagnant and complacent leftist collectivism at home and with the tyrannical monster of Soviet communism abroad, whilst retaining a certain degree of uncertainty and scepticism about the long-term effects of her policies on the viability of the British economy and, indeed, on the creation of a type of political conservatism which paradoxically, and unintentionally, undermines much of what is traditionally considered to be of value in our culture. The necessary 'reassertion' of the rights of the individual against those of the collective, despite its undoubted economic benefits, cost us a certain gentleness, mutual respect, and Christian concern for others which had nothing at all to do with the left-wing ideology which often sheltered behind it.

Of course, many still accuse Margaret Thatcher of being almost singlehandedly responsible for the deep divisions of British society in the 1980s; however, anyone growing up in the previous decade will know that those divisions were already not only in existence but worsening, heading towards an explosion, exacerbated by catastrophic economic and social decline and the seeming ungovernability of Britain and the contempt demonstrated by many on the left for our system of representative democracy.
Margaret Thatcher's political weaknesses were also her strengths; one either loved her or loathed her, she had the ability to polarise opinion like no one else in our lifetime. Those who are now expressing great delight at her death (yes, really) should reflect that such sentiments say far more about them than about her.

Like most great politicians, she was 'lucky' - both in the timing of events and the self-regarding  stupidity of opponents such as Arthur Scargill and General Galtieri.
But we should remember her, as no doubt posterity will, as a political giant and a passionate defender of freedom -  someone who believed in the possibility of  national recovery and who changed the direction of our history. 

And when Mrs Thatcher uttered that much criticised phrase, 'there is no such thing as society,' she prefaced it with the words, 'There are individuals and there are families...'  It puts things into context, just a little...

Pray for her soul. May she rest in peace.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Wanted: only the ' right kind' of young people

Here's one for 'Divine Mercy Sunday.' 
The British airwaves and newspapers are full of the story of the 'young person' appointed to be the first youth police crime commissioner who has been forced into making a tearful public apology (that is, serious self-abasement in a media interview) for a series of 'thoughtless and offensive remarks' made - this is the twenty-first century - on the vapid stream-of-consciousness platform known appropriately as Twitter [here].  And, wait for it, these were comments made before her appointment and unrelated to it.
Be careful, those of you growing up who want a career in public life: everything you've ever written is out there for good.
This is an example of the kind of pompous denunciation her remarks have generated:
".... Keith Vaz, [my link] the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee said she should be removed from the post immediately.
He said: “I am deeply shocked by these disclosures. This individual must be removed from their post immediately. Public money should never be given to anyone who refers to violence, sex drunkenness and other anti-social behaviour in this offensive manner...”
Paris Brown seems to have behaved - and written - much as many typical seventeen-year-olds in our society tend to do. [But see the comment below - the comments were it seems made three years ago]  The 'opinions' (angry adolescent reactions, really)  she 'twittered,' while  stupidly vulgar and rather unpleasant to those of us not  'down with da yoof,'  were actually rather mild in comparison to some of the comments our celebrity darlings routinely post about those who dare to be out of step with them on matters of politics, (mandatory lack of) religion, and sexual behaviour.

We may have wondered whether we needed the post of a 'youth police crime commissioner ' in the first place, but we were assured that, in our atomised and tribalised society (it wasn't explained quite like that) only the young can relate to the young and are capable of relaying their needs and their fears to the rest of us. Judging from her reported remarks, Miss Brown seems well-attuned to her target demographic, surely a qualification for the job, if the job be necessary.

Well, up to point; as she is now finding out, to her cost, nice middle class liberals only want 'young people' who will mouth back to them the anodyne platitudes with which they constantly regale the rest of us. 
She has discovered - the hard way - that this is a culture which now prides itself on its 'tolerance' and its elevation of equality as the supreme good. Basic human mercy and understanding - the Divine version having been written out of the script some time ago - is not one of its attributes.


Saturday, 6 April 2013

Rise heart, thy Lord is Risen

Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams (from his Five Mystical Songs),  words, of course, by George Herbert.
Thomas Allen,  baritone, with the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin

Friday, 5 April 2013

Affirming - and questioning - the Resurrection ...

There's an excellent post [here - 'The Matter of Butterflies'] at Catholicity and Covenant which neatly juxtaposes the Bishop of Chichester's orthodox and patristic take on the Resurrection (Christ the keeper of the garden who restores our primal innocence and inheritance) with that of the TEC Bishop of Washington's flat denial of the bodily resurrection of the Lord:
"The truth is that we don’t know what happened to Jesus after his death, anymore than we can know what will happen to us."

And this is surely the only conclusion to draw from a theologically orthodox perspective:
"...The matter of butterflies ceases to matter because the matter assumed by the Word in the Incarnation does not matter - we are told that, at least potentially, his flesh has decomposed in a 1st century AD Palestinian tomb.  Dust is no longer bound for glory. What is particularly striking is that the authentic challenge to the consumerism and materialism of postmodernity - and its impact on the environment - comes not from a presentation of the Resurrection which flees from and appears to be embarrassed by physicality, but from a proclamation of this very physicality.  It is this physicality which proclaims that matter matters...."
He ends with a nice comment by Archbishop Rowan Williams which completely sums up the problem:
"...I have never managed to see how to put together such a theology without belief in the empty tomb. If a corpse clearly marked ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ turned up, I should save myself a lot of trouble and become a Quaker..."
But I have to say it, the real trouble is that (sincere but theologically misguided) people like Mariann Edgar Budde, the Bishop of Washington  are not Quakers; despite their theology, or even because of it,  they have been allowed to function in an episcopal role, and they have destroyed our Communion ...  or at least the project is now very far advanced.
There is a link in the previous post to research highlighting the extreme liberal theological stance of many women in ordained ministry - also see here for the (largely ignored) Cost of Conscience survey: I'm afraid it's the elephant in the room for those who claim theological orthodoxy and yet persist in championing the ordination of women... 
Of course women in orders are by no means the only offenders, but they have proved apt pupils of the whole list of those responsible for the fashionable theological teaching of the dark days of the '60s, 70s and 80s, including the likes of Spong and Holloway and the other boys in the band, many of whom have taken leave of God (not to mention Alexandria) for some time now...
W.O. is  only a symptom of Anglicanism's malaise, but it's the presenting symptom.


Christus Vincit: The Choir of Westminster Cathedral, directed by Martin Baker, sing the setting by James MacMillan.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Moves towards 'women bishops' in Wales

The following press release has been issued by the Church in Wales [here] :
Governing Body of the Church in Wales – April 10-11 2013
The ordination of women as bishops will be discussed by clergy and lay people from all over Wales at a key Church meeting next week.
Theological arguments for and against women bishops will be presented to members of the Church in Wales’ Governing Body during its two-day meeting at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, in Lampeter, on April 10-11.
The 144 members will be put into seven groups, each facilitated by a bishop, to consider two papers – one outlining the case for the ordination of women and one setting out the case against.
The discussions are being held ahead of the introduction of a two-stage Bill to the Governing Body in September to ordain women as bishops. That legislation, however, will not be addressed by the groups next week.
The Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, says, “It is now five years since the last time that Governing Body considered the question of the ordination of women to the episcopate, and many of its members will have changed.  The bishops feel it is important that Governing Body has the opportunity to explore the theological questions behind these issues, and understand the conscientious reasons why those opposed to the ordination of women to the episcopate would not be able to accept the sacramental ministry of a woman bishop as well as the theological reasons why those in favour believe that the time is right for such as a step.”
The discussions will take place on Thursday morning from 9.30am.
So the great theological debating society which is contemporary Anglicanism begins another session. If the issues did not have such serious personal implications, it would be difficult to stifle a yawn. The issues have been already thoroughly rehearsed - at nauseam, in fact- and 'explored,' if not exactly understood, both in Wales and in numerous other places and on numerous occasions over recent years. We understand why a formal debate has to take place, given the rejection of the legislation in 2008; it is, however, hard to see how much light will be generated by yet another set-piece debate in which emotionalism and arguments from secular notions of equality will go head to head with theology. On such occasions, theology always seems to be the loser. 
But as for understanding the crucial issue - "the conscientious reasons why those opposed to the ordination of women to the episcopate would not be able to accept the sacramental ministry of a woman bishop," the arguments have also been out there for some considerable time. It will be interesting to see the papers, both for and against, which are to be presented to the groups next Thursday and judge how balanced they are. 
Perhaps we should also send the bishops and others responsible for making the fateful decision a comprehensive reading list, including the stated views of our 'ecumenical partners' worldwide of the implications of a 'yes' vote and the 'internal' implications for the theological direction of the Province... 

Whether the members of the Governing Body will be willing to grasp the arguments in favour of authentic and traditional apostolic order is another matter. Whether they will be prepared to act to ensure its survival in the Church in Wales is open to even more doubt. The only really interesting question in all this is whether  the bishops and the G.B. will be prepared, in the face of the inevitable radical feminist lobbying, to countenance adequate pastoral and sacramental provision for those who, come what may, holding true to the catholic tradition, will remain opposed to female ordination. Any 'adequate provision' must by definition include alternative episcopal oversight by a bishop, himself 'orthodox' both in theology and practice.. That's not where negotiation begins: for traditionalists that's the bare minimum necessary. It was the sticking point last time (and the reason for the failure of the legislation) and could well be again. It is on this subject that the serious talking - and listening - needs to be done before the legislative process kicks off in earnest in September.
Please pray for all those involved.