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."


  1. Joseph Golightly17 April 2013 at 12:51

    So Forward in Faith (sic) has a new mantra which is unity of the Church - I guess they mean the Church of England or is it the Anglican Communion (sic). This is a deeply divided organisation so just how are they going to achieve this aim having failed miserably to get any provision for those who have a theological objection to women bishops? Could we please be told or is this just another cul de sac to go up?

  2. Is the slogan "Better Together" still current in those purlieux? The slogan is inane, as it begs the questions of "who, why and under what conditiona," since it is surely neither possible nor tolerable that persons of opposed and contradictory, mutually exclusive, theologican commitments can be considered "better together."

    1. Yes, it always seems more than somewhat disingenuous. It's snappier, though than the (more accurate) alternative -'Better with a tolerable degree of separation,' which sums up what is our real ecclesiological objective in these parts - the 'togetherness' which dare not speak its name.
      But on a more serious point, the only kind of provision for traditionalists within Anglican structures which will ensure the survival of orthodoxy at all (even in its most etiolated form) is one which gives a measure of distinct identity and self government.
      As you say, it depends on what one means by 'together.'

    2. True enough. I suppose what can neve cease to surprise me is the seeming willingness of some "orthodox Anglicans" to go on a "better together" journey whose destination is the Church of Sweden, with its effective quarantining of its "orthodox integrity" in what are effectively euthanatizing "reserves." Consider the Church of Sweden; is there any sign that those of the "orthodox integrity" will be able to fare any better than its Swddish counterparts under the schemes that now seem to be on offer or in gestation? If not, will we see those who shouted so lustily not so long ago "A Code of Practice will now do!" shout out in its place, or mutter, "With a Code of Practice we must make do!"?

    3. Yes, it amazes me, too. I suppose 'Better Together' is an attempt to appeal to the better nature of those now setting the agenda by making reference to the historic 'three-party' make-up of Anglicanism. However, not only is it a far cry from the theology of the Oxford Fathers,recalling the Church to its Catholic heritage, it ignores the completely a-historical nature of theological liberalism - such appeals have no resonance. But you are entirely correct in your analysis: with the current proposals on the table in England, a 'Swedish' denouement is inevitable.

    4. I apologise for the typing errors in my most recent comment. As you know, I have written a fair amount on the Church of Sweden. Perhaps the thing that would sadden me most if I were a Swedish clergyman of the "orthodox integrity" would not be the contemplation of how we were deceived by the authorities into believing that we hand an honoured place in our church (and not just a temporary "euthanatizing" concession), nor even how we were exhorted by the leaders of our own integrity for two generations to "stay in and fight" (but not make too much trouble, or be too "confrontational") and at all costs to "avoid schism," but how many of my fellow-clergymen of the "orthodox integrity" who have "fought the good fight" have sons who have become clergymen, but who have no problems whatsoever with the pretended ordination of women or the purported sanctification of homosexual pseudogamy.

      Here in the States I had a number of telephone conversations in 1992/3 with a moderately prominent Anglo-Catholic priest, the friend of a friend, who told me that as soon as he was able to put his children through university, he would be "away to Rome." Shortly thereafter he was forced to resign as Rector of his "flagship" Anglo-Catholic parish for preaching too strongly and clearly on the Sixth Commandment (in Catholic reckoning) and on "lifestyles" incompatible with it. Shortly thereafter he became Rector of one of the best-known and
      wealthy Episcopalian parishes in the States, where he remains still. In due course his son was ordained in the Episcopal Church, and his first curacy was at a one-time Anglo-Catholic urban "shrine church" which was in the process of completing its transition from orthodox Anglo-Catholicism to its "Affirming" dark doppelganger, a transformation which he enthusiastically supported and promoted in the parish's monthly newsletter.

  3. Joseph Golightly18 April 2013 at 08:32

    What I should have added yesterday is that Forward in Faith's favourite food is shared with the rest of the Church of England. For those who cannot guess it is of course fudge!


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