Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Church Schools?

Reports that the Church of England's new guidelines on church schools would insist that children of regular worshippers no longer get automatic priority over less regular congregation members for classroom places, seem to have been exaggerated. Yet its critics have accused it of having watered down its initial recommendations.
The new guidelines published by the Church of England are  [here]

"...The message from history and theology is that there is a mission imperative that underpins the Church’s provision of schools. Schools therefore hold in balance the nurture and service roles, mirroring the Church’s own purposes in both building up those of the faith and of serving and reaching out to those not of the faith. All Church of England schools have a vocation to be distinctive and inclusive, whether or not their admissions policy specify a particular proportion of open and foundation places.
 35. In individual schools the balance between nurture and service will depend on ethos, history and tradition, local circumstances, including whether there are other Church of England schools in the area and the current governors’ commitment to the purposes of the school. When a governing body reviews its Admissions Policy, it should have regard to the responsibility of all Church schools to be living Christian communities strongly related to the local community. In recognition of the vocation of the Church to transform the world, Church schools should also seek to be inclusive of the wider community. There are a number of ways by which inclusiveness can be interpreted, but all Church schools should ensure that their policies do make that provision. In some cases policies based solely on the immediate, local neighbourhood may not in fact create a diverse community reflective of the wider area and that too needs to be taken into account.
 36. Church of England schools should be able to show how their Admissions Policy and practice demonstrates the school’s commitment both to distinctiveness and inclusivity, to church families and the wider community.
 37. The Church of England stands ready to give support to the small number of schools that currently only admit children from Christian families to enable them to provide some open places available to the local community... "
The Bishop of Oxford, however, had been cited in the Daily Telegraph  and other newspapers over the weekend to the effect that proposals would end the "points systems" under which classroom places are offered to children whose families are most involved in the church, and that church schools would also be told to give priority to "inclusiveness" if they serve communities which are not "reflective of the wider area".
But it seems that the new guidelines may not be, depending upon their interpretation, quite so prescriptive.

"The new guidance will say that Anglican schools have a duty of "mission" which means "a bias in favour of the disadvantaged", and say they have a "vocation to the poor".
Introducing the document, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, the Bishop of Oxford, who is chairman of the church's board of education, is expected to say the advice is "a reminder of what Church schools are for in this sea of change".
The bishop will say the new guidelines will help to demonstrate the Church is "committed to both distinctiveness and inclusivity".
Currently around a million children are being educated in the Church's 4,841 schools - many of which have excellent academic records and are heavily oversubscribed.
The admissions advice will apply to any school where demand for places exceeds supply."
[Report from the Daily Telegraph]

So is this a very limited and  long overdue clarification of some of the issues surrounding the admissions policies of Church schools, or can it be portrayed as just another stage in the long saga of the death-wish of the Church of England?
We all know that State education in the United Kingdom, ruined by generations of politicians from across the political spectrum, has long ceased in practice to be primarily about the process of educating our children and is now far more concerned with utopian social engineering.
It would be a great pity if the Church were to jump on this particular band-wagon because it is by no means clear that the educational success of one person is paid for by the failure of another. To provide distinctiveness and inclusivity is a very difficult balance to achieve.
But what is very clear from the confusing stories which preceded the publication of the document is that many of those responsible for Anglican schools are worried above all by (statistically far from fair) accusations from some in the educational establishment - and from secularist politicians who are opposed in principle to the very existence of faith schools - that church schools merely create havens of middle class social exclusivity. Such critics will never be satisfied with anything less than the complete abolition of church schools, so it was good to read in the report both a history and a theological defence of the Church's continuing role in education.
Of course, many Church schools are over-subscribed and the main reason for that is both the quality of the education they provide and the Christian ethos of the schools themselves.
It is difficult to see how the eradication of centres of excellence, diversity and civility, or the dilution of the 'religious' element in the community life of church schools, would be in the interests of anyone, most particularly those from backgrounds of multiple deprivation who already attend them and for whom education can provide a way of escape into a wider, better and more fulfilling life (and I'm fully aware of the hackles such language will raise among some.)
Surely, given the nature of the society in which we live, that should be at least among the aims of a Christian education.
So, rather than destroy something which is working, however imperfectly, perhaps the church should concentrate on what it already does so well in order to demonstrate that its vocation for the poor and its bias in favour of the disadvantaged isn't just the conventional rhetoric of a generation ago (the Church sometimes does have a genius for advocating today yesterday's discredited nostrums), and continue to set up inner city academies and even, dare I say it, 'free schools' to provide a faith-based education to those most in need of them.
But concern for the poor should not preclude a ministry to the affluent and those with influence; the mission to inculcate the Christian values of self-sacrifice, genuine love of one's neighbour, compassion and social responsibility among the children of the opinion formers of our society is a worthwhile venture, too, and can only help those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.
Or so one would have thought...

Sunday, 26 June 2011

A rigged 'Commission'

Controversy now rages around Lord (Charlie) Falconer's 'Commission on Assisted Dying,' [here]  funded by the science fiction writer Terry Pratchett, himself tragically suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease, and also backed by the campaign group "Dignity in Dying." [see here]
But there is only one question which needs to be asked to be able to determine this committee's legitimacy and its claim to impartiality. Can anyone conceive of a situation in which the "Commission's" final report could recommend that the law remain unchanged?
I thought not.
End of story.


I'm not that keen on demonstrations, coming from the generation after, which reacted against those who delighted in hurling cobblestones at the police in Paris or organising sit-ins at the L.S.E..
But here is a demonstration really worth supporting, if you find yourself in the vicinity: a march on July 2nd against Pakistan's murderously discriminatory blasphemy laws. There's also a petition [here] organised by Aid to the Church in Need

But please don't feel the need to dress up to fit in. Unlike the bizarrely retro advice from the obviously non-working class agit-prop organisation, U.K. Uncut, which has urged its members taking part in the latest 'anti-cuts' demo to dress "as a worker." [here]
What does that mean, I wonder? No Boden? A Mao suit? A whippet as an accessory?
How George Orwell would have relished the irony.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Corpus Christi

And in addition to the hauntingly beautiful Ave Verum of the dispossessed Catholic, William Byrd, some much later and Anglo-Catholic hymnody for tomorrow's Solemnity of Corpus Christi - no music available unfortunately:

We pray thee, heavenly Father,
To hear us in thy love,
And pour upon thy children
The unction from above;
That so in love abiding,
From all defilement free,
We may in pureness offer
Our Eucharist to thee.

All that we have we offer,
For it is all thine own;
All gifts by thy appointment
In bread and cup are shown;
One thing alone we bring not,
The wilfulness of sin;
And all we bring is nothing,
Save that which is within.

Within the pure oblation,
Beneath the outward sign,
By that his operation,—
The Holy Ghost divine, —
Lies hid the sacred Body,
Lies hid the precious Blood
Once slain, now ever glorious,
Of Christ our Lord and God.

Wherefore though all unworthy
To offer sacrifice,
We pray that this our duty
Be pleasing in thine eyes;
For praise, and thanks and worship,
For mercy and for aid,
The Catholic oblation
Of Jesus Christ is made.

V.S.S. Coles 1845 - 1929 [a biography here]
Lastly, timeless music from the twentieth century by Ralph Vaughan Williams: the communion anthem, O Taste and See, a setting of verses from Psalm 34 in the Coverdale translation in the 1662 Prayer Book:

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

St Thomas More, lawyer, statesman, martyr

"I recall the figure of Saint Thomas More, the great English scholar and statesman, who is admired by believers and nonbelievers alike for the integrity with which he followed his conscience.

“The fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More’s trial continue to present themselves in ever changing terms as new social conditions emerge.
“Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved?”
     Pope Benedict XVI, speaking at Westminster Hall in September 2010

Today is an uncomfortable feast (actually a memoria in Wales) for all of us from the Anglican tradition, wherever we find ourselves at the moment.
But any re-telling of the history of division and disunity is meant to be an uncomfortable experience, and one from which we can learn many lessons. So the observance of today's feast of Ss John Fisher and Thomas More by Anglo-Papalists has been neither inconsistent nor particularly ironic; it is a conscious act of rebellion: a gesture of defiance and a pointed criticism both of the history of the reformation itself and of the modern Church's all too bland acceptance of  our disunity and schism. More positively, it was an unambiguous affirmation of the divine 'ownership' of the Church regardless of the worst the civil power may do to disfigure it. 

As we know, the modern Common Worship calendar of the Church of England (and the modern calendars of many other Anglican provinces, too) essentially seeeks to evade the issues at stake by attempting to celebrate and validate those on both sides of the sixteenth century conflict; disturbingly, we then end up merely praising human conscience but not the divine truth which is meant to inform it. Relativism rules.

 More and Fisher have many things to say to us both about the nature of conscience and the nature of the Church herself. Sadly, these are lessons we still seem to prefer not to learn. I have a sneaking suspicion that our preference for evasion and 'inclusion' (of which the modern Anglican calendars are just symptomatic) may prevent us from drawing the necessary present day conclusions about the on-going clash between religious freedom and the increasing tendency of the modern 'democratic' state (somewhat like its despotic Tudor predecessor) to try to impose the prevailing values of the culture upon all its citizens.

"...Yea, and though I should feel my fear even at point to overthrow me too, yet shall I remember how Saint Peter with a blast of a wind began to sink for his faint faith, and shall do as he did, call upon Christ and pray Him to help. And then I trust He shall set His holy hand upon me, and in the stormy seas, hold me up from drowning. Yea, and if He suffer me to play Saint Peter further and to fall full to the ground and swear and forswear too, which our Lord for His tender passion keep me from, and let me lose if it is so befall and never win thereby. Yet after shall I trust that His goodness will cast upon me his tender piteous eye, as He did upon Saint Peter and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and abide the shame and the harm here of my own fault...."
from a letter written by St Thomas More to his daughter, Margaret. 

Two scenes from the film, A Man for All Seasons:

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

What's at the bottom of your garden?

Fr Tim Finigan at the Hermeneutic of Continuity has a piece today [here] about an American family building a small shrine in their back garden.
Many of us have these in one form or another; I have to say that when we are here I like to light the lamp each evening at the side of the small statue of Our Lady in the Vicarage garden. It's good to be reminded of the reality and rootedness of our faith in the Incarnation, particularly in a culture where, thanks to the upheavals of the sixteenth century, there are no public wayside shrines or village calvaries.
Of course, iconoclastic Protestants aside, there are some who regard such things as the epitome of bad taste, the religious equivalent of garden gnomes; although I've always had a sneaking suspicion that a certain element of kitsch, and even glaringly bad taste, is one of the marks of a 'real' religion.

Yet I'm more than a little perplexed as to the attitude of mind which seems to permit a garden statue of the Buddha (with optional stone Japanese lamp) in the most incongruous of settings - covered in verdigris in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons, to take one example I saw recently -  but which looks with embarrassment or even scorn at anything overtly Christian. Ornament is fine so long as it doesn't mean anything? Of course it's precisely the same approach (an oddly puritan secularism) which attempts to justify a ban on the Christian wearing of crosses at work because, of course, we don't need these things do we?

Monday, 20 June 2011

Really sorry about that, Trevor!

The Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, has said that "an old time religion incompatible with modern society” is driving the revival in the Anglican and Catholic Churches and clashing with 'mainstream' views.

“I think there’s an awful lot of noise about the Church being persecuted but there is a more real issue that the conventional churches face that the people who are really driving their revival and success believe in an old time religion which in my view is incompatible with a modern, multi-ethnic, multicultural society,”
From the Daily Telegraph's report [here]:

"Phillips said that the Commission is committed to protecting people of faith against discrimination and also defended the right of religious institutions to be free from Government interference.

The Church of England is under pressure to allow openly gay clergy to be made bishops, while the Catholic Church only permits men to be priests, but the head of the Government-funded equalities watchdog said they are entitled to rule on their own affairs.
"The law doesn't dictate their organisation internally, in the way they appoint their ministers and bishops for example," he said.
"It's perfectly fair that you can't be a Roman Catholic priest unless you're a man. It seems right that the reach of anti-discriminatory law should stop at the door of the church or mosque.
"I'm not keen on the idea of a church run by the state.
"I don't think the law should run to telling churches how they should conduct their own affairs."
I'll certainly sleep easier for knowing that...

Sunday, 19 June 2011

"Some great shards of the precious vase which is English Catholicism..."

An excerpt only from Taverner's Gloria tibi Trinitas sung by The Taverner Choir, directed by Andrew Parrott.

There are also two interesting new links on the often unfairly derided subject of Anglican Patrimony:
The first is by Professor Tracey Rowland [here] at the Ordinariate Portal and the passage is reproduced in full at the English Catholic blog [here]
The second is the homily given by Mgr Andrew Burnham at the historic (an over-used term, but accurate in this instance) Solemn Evensong & Benediction at Blackfriars last Wednesday [here] There are some good photos at the NLM blog [here]

"...We bring along to the Catholic Church some great shards of the precious vase which is English Catholicism.  One such shard, undoubtedly, is the public celebration of Evensong, which, whatever the bloggers may say, is the mediæval name for Vespers, albeit combined by Cranmer with the office of Compline, giving us the twin climaxes of two Gospel canticles, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis.  .It is possible to claim too much for the Anglican inheritance but the public reading, day by day, of the Bible in the tongue of the people is now recognised, almost universally, to be what 1066 and all that would call ‘a good thing’.  In that sense the kingdom of priests is equipped for its work.  Another shard is the musical tradition which, rather like a worm cut in two – I hope I am getting my zoology right – results in two independent worms.  Anglicanism lost, at least for a few centuries, the glory of Taverner, Tye, and much of Tallis.  But the newly growing organism, enriching the English soil immeasurably, gave us Gibbons and Purcell, Wesley and Stanford..."
[from Mgr Andrew Burnham's sermon  - see above]
And, on the "Canterbury" bank of the Tiber, a river which, of course, now runs through the Anglican tradition, a report [here] of the consecration of the new bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Dodging the storms

It's been a weather- dominated few days - an excellent and well-attended parish fete topped and tailed with heavy showers, but not wet enough to dampen the spirits of all those who came. Yesterday saw a coffee morning in a lovely setting with appropriately glorious weather. Today we are back to (much needed) steady rain.
The conversation yesterday was dominated by what seems to be the BBC's latest foray into assisted suicide propaganda; interestingly the general reaction was one of shock and dismay, particularly from those with direct experience of nursing loved ones through terminal illness. Francis Phillips hits the nail on the head in this piece from the Catholic Herald [Here]

Having been somewhat critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury a few days ago, let's give praise where praise is due: the Archbishop speaks out about anti-Christian violence and persecution in the Middle East [here]

Monday, 13 June 2011

We must not forget the Christians of the Middle East

There are disturbing reports emerging from the Middle East which suggest that violence by Islamist militants against Christians is increasing daily. Tragically, the "Arab Spring," which has been seized upon somewhat naively in parts of the west, could just be another nail in the coffin of the beleaguered and persecuted Christian communities of the region. It would be nothing short of miraculous if from the the ruins of middle-eastern dictatorships (largely secular, by the way, if brutally repressive) anything like representative, western-style democratic institutions were to emerge, develop and take root. History teaches us that from the chaos of revolutions the best organised groups tend to emerge as the victors. And whatever happens, 'democracy' in itself, without further constitutional safeguards, is no guarantor of minority rights.
However, the really worrying aspect of this situation is that none of these ancient Christian communities can rely on the support of western governments, or a largely uninformed western public opinion, to protect their interests, their legitimate rights and, indeed, their lives.
Our politicians are far too frightened of the economic realities of a threat to our oil supply, and unnecessarily afraid of causing offence to the very vocal Muslim minorities in our midst to lift a finger. Our mass media (brave only when they know they are on the side of the zeitgeist) are too much in the grip of fashionable notions about whose human rights predicaments are, or are not, deemed to be newsworthy (see this story if you had any doubts about that) to offer anything other than a footnote by way of an epitaph for communities which have been in existence since the very early days of the Church.
Here is a  report on the situation in Egypt from The Voice of the Copts, and here, on the worldwide situation,  from Aid to the Church in Need

Update: BBC R4's 'Analysis' programme today reports on Egypt post-January 2011. [here]
Over-optimistic in its assessment - Islamism forced to moderate its position by "the logic of democracy?" Time will tell. 

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Friday, 10 June 2011

Something for the Week-End, Sir?

Absolutely not - nothing like that, thank you!

No, I'm referring to a present bought me by my wife which arrived in the post this morning: 'The Week-End Book,' published by the Nonesuch Press - it's been recently reprinted, but this is the 1928 edition.

A typical anthology of the period, I thought, but not so. It includes a wide selection of poems - 'I sing of a maiden,' verses from the Song of Songs in the Authorised Version, works by George Herbert and Henry Vaughan - songs, with music,  including 'Summer is Icumen in' and 'Greensleeves.'
Amusingly, it goes on to give advice for 'Camping-out in the British Isles,' giving tips for forecasting the weather, illustrations of useful knots and, for emergencies,  a description, with a drawing, of how to make an improvised cup out of a sheet of paper.

There's also a section on British birds, their habitats, and how to identify them, and detailed drawings of the night sky throughout the year. It ends with 'The Law and how you break it',  including:
"But there remains one type of landlord for whose injured proprietary instincts no balm can be found..................In fact he should never be spoken to except from the other side of a five-barred gate. A slow but dignified retreat to the highway is the best course to pursue."
and followed by simple cookery tips and advice on first aid, with, at the end of the paragraph on 'To Remedy the Toothache:'
'But if there be a Dentist or a Doctor, shun this like poison (which it is) and go at once to the one or the other; for only in them is Salvation.".

In short, it contains everything you might need for the great British weekend outdoors.........in the 1920s. Yes, it's a product of its age, but it's none the worse for that.
I can see exactly what Virgina Woolf meant when she made the remark about the Nonesuch Press that ‘The Hogarth Press may not make any money – but at least we did not publish the Week-End Book.’ but, then, she would, wouldn't she?

I'm finding it to be a healthy antidote to "Green Spirituality - joining the cry of the earth,"  received from the Church in Wales a few days ago.
I can take only so much of liberal theology's bandwagon-jumping and its intense dislike of religion. Give me a purely secular work every time  - even ephemera like 'The Week-End Book,' which at least has the grace to acknowledge its debt to faith and the heritage of the ages.

"But Noah he sinned, and we have sinned; on tipsy feet we trod,
Till a great big black teetotaller was sent to us for a rod,
And you can't get wine at a P.S.A., or chapel, or Eisteddfod.
for the Curse of Water has come again because of the wrath of God,
And water is on the Bishop's board and the Higher Thinker's shrine,
But I don't care where the water goes if it doesn't get into the wine."

G.K. Chesterton; 'Wine and Water' - from the Week-End Book

A destructive contribution

Having obtained a copy of the pamphlet from the Anglican Association, "Is the Ordinariate for you?" a few months ago, I expected to find in it a full and fair discussion of the tangled historical context, the complex theological issues and the practical dilemmas which now face Anglicans who are being drawn to a consideration of the Personal Ordinariate.

Instead, I was soon perplexed by both the booklet's  polemical, dismissive and minimising tone and by its failure to put forward any alternative strategy to the approach to unity outlined by Pope Benedict in Anglicanorum Coetibus - in short by its air of general destructiveness. If this booklet is a defence of anything (and I'm not really sure it is), it is a defence of an Anglicanism which would not only be  unrecognisable and unacceptable to most Anglo-Catholics, but which also clearly no longer exists and which cannot  be revived.
It is subtitled "Some considerations for thoughtful Anglicans....." but conspicuously fails to give either a balanced or a thoughtful analysis itself in a situation which cries out for a more eirenic and prayerful response. Thoughtful? It calls to mind Bl John Henry Newman's comment to Dr Pusey, "'you discharge your olive-branch as if from a catapult." The Church Union's Tufton Tract, 'The Catholic Church and England' (2010) by the then Bishop Edwin Barnes, though written for a different audience, is a far more realistic and fairer popular discussion of the real situation facing 'catholic' traditionalists.

I kept quiet about this publication at the time because it didn't seem a particularly good moment either to draw attention to the divisions among 'orthodox' Anglicans on the subject of the Ordinariate or to the grim prospects for those who seem to have make a conscious and final decision to remain within the (alas) increasingly insecure fold of the Church of England.
But I'm glad I wasn't the only one to be disturbed, saddened and even shocked by the publication (Shocked? Well, perhaps I should get out more).

Thanks to the Ordinariate Portal [here] for this piece by Fr Geoffrey Kirk, who, as usual, asks the necessary questions:

Geoffrey Kirk on the Anglican Association pamphlet

The Revd Dr Geoffrey Kirk, sometime Secretary of Forward in Faith, reviews the pamphlet Is the Ordinariate for you? Some considerations for thoughtful Anglicans, produced by the Anglican Association in this month’s New Directions.

"This well-produced pamphlet sets out, in its own words ‘to ensure that, if you are in the process of deciding whether you should accept the Roman Catholic faith, you should fully understand what such a decision will entail’. It is not a defence of Anglicanism (with which most of its authors are more or less radically disgruntled) but a dissuasive against Catholicism, which the same authors view with a detached and patrician disdain. They simply cannot credit that so many people buy such tosh.

‘Thoughtful Anglicans’ will be surprised less by the contents of this paper – with most of which they will be familiar from books and articles dating from the middle of the last century – than by its omissions. They will, perhaps, find this caricature of Catholic Faith not only dated but unrecognizable.

This is an account which majors on the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council and nowhere mentions the second. It quotes in full the Professio Fidei Tridentina of 1565 (the so-called Creed of Pope Paul IV), and does not even acknowledge the existence of the Catechism of the Catholic Church of 1994.

This might be thought to be slovenly were it not for the nagging suspicion that it is deliberate. Rome, for the authors of this pamphlet, is not the Scarlet Woman (who might at least be challenging or interesting), but a comfortable old Aunt Sally at whom can be shied all the old reliable brickbats.

It is hard to see how any of this will be helpful to ‘thoughtful Anglicans’, for it signally fails to address the very questions they might be asking: questions which are as much about the Churches of the Reformation as they are about the Church of the Counter-Reformation.

Papal infallibility is no greater issue for many than Synodical infallibility (and perhaps less so, since the one is defined and limited, the other still untrammelled and expansionist). Appeals to the authority of the undivided Church sound hollow indeed when unilateral changes are made to the orders of that Church – changes which the Roman Pontiff asserts to be beyond his competence and authority.

In short this is a sad little book, which reeks of past controversies and offers little if anything to the crisis of the times. If Victor Meldrew were a churchman, this is the pamphlet he would write."

Fr Kirk is right. The arguments contained in the booklet are arguments not merely against joining the Ordinariate, but probably against western Catholicism as such, and can serve only to confirm many of us in our long-held belief that there is no future for Anglo-Catholics apart from in full communion with the Apostolic See of Peter, a designation, we should note, which the booklet itself seeks to deny.

The booklet itself is available from the Anglican Association [here]

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Fr Hunwicke

I'm just catching up with today's news.
No comment, only prayers for John Hunwicke, who has in his blog Liturgical Notes consistently made a serious, erudite and considerable contribution to the cause of understanding and unity between Rome and traditional Anglo-Catholicism. We hope and pray for a happy outcome to this situation.
Here is the report in the Catholic Herald


I'm not going to comment directly on the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments on the effects of the policies of the governing coalition, only to say that it is in the nature of coalition politics that no one does get exactly what they voted for.
Obviously the Archbishop has a right, and clearly believes he has a duty, to make his views known and to attempt to subject the current direction of government policy to the scrutiny of the insights and values of the Gospels and the Christian tradition.
But therein lies the problem; how, in fact, do we distinguish between the vital insights of the faith and the easy assumptions of our upbringing and our social and 'professional' background?  We each have our political views and preferences, and they are largely bolstered by the friends and colleagues we gather around us, our reading material, the media comment to which we naturally gravitate, not to mention the everyday human interactions of the social milieux in which we operate. In these circumstances it's not always easy to bring "the clear light of the Gospel" to bear upon the issues which face both us and the society in which we live.
Ironically as fewer and fewer seem interested enough to become involved in it, our political life seems increasingly tribal, and nowhere is that more true than in the leanings of the senior clergy (I can only speak about Anglicans here,) which are, by and large on the liberal, left spectrum, in keeping with the general assumptions of the 'great and the good,' the universities and the broadcast media. The New Statesman, to take a topical example, would be a much more congenial read for most senior clerics than, say, the Spectator. I can remember the general outrage in establishment circles when, in the 1980s, Graham Leonard, then Bishop of London, dared to challenge some of these assumptions, particularly on the subject of nuclear deterrence; he found himself, by no means fairly, branded as an apologist for the then Tory Government.
I, too, was brought up in the South Wales valleys. One of the nearby mining villages was referred to either as the 'Kremlin' or 'Little Moscow,' because it consistently returned Communist councillors to the local authority. One way or another - we either accept them or react fiercely against them -  one cannot help but be influenced by the visceral loyalties of the society in which one grows up; that's probably shining through every word I've written now.
Yet.....it should be possible for us not to be entirely determined by our backgound or our present circumstances. The Gospel's concern for truth and justice should cut through the influences and inherited prejudices of our background or of our particular 'tribe's' reading of history. The Church herself, whilst concerning herself and involving herself on the ground with every aspect of the welfare of society, should try at all costs to stand above and beyond the narrow party political fight, so as to be able to be heard more clearly and more respectfully when it does become necessary to speak out. As Cardinal Hume demonstrated, less is more when it comes to 'political' pronouncements on the part of spiritual leaders.
It does help, of course, if the Church is able to draw on a wider experience than that afforded by the urbane, liberal assumptions of the "North- Atlantic" intelligensia. Perhaps being more tied to its immediate surroundings and culture, a national church cannot help but be more influenced by the tribalism of its society's politics, and its ability to communicate universal truths that much more restricted.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Guidelines for bloggers and social networking

The Church in Wales has published guidelines in using "social media" for its clergy and office holders [here]
It offers some very sane, sensible and welcome advice for those navigating what can sometimes be, as we know, rather dangerous and murky waters.
Charity, discretion and courtesy, even in the midst of the robust argument and profound disagreement which goes with the territory of the contemporary Anglican predicament, are what we all aim towards, if sometimes we fall short of the ideal.
However, one line did cause me to raise an eyebrow; it is included under the heading of  "additional hazards associated with using social media channels of communication:"
"d) Decisions made by the GB, RB or DBF’s are undermined or disrespected through continued argument online."
Heaven forbid we might seek to undermine or show disrespect for a decision of the Province's Governing Body!
I hope we are not being encouraged to hold the view that once a 'final' vote has been taken (and we know from recent experience that 'final' votes are only those which go the way of the advocates of 'liberal' change) even on the most controversial of doctrinal and ethical matters facing us, all debate, discussion and opposition should be ended. How very un-Anglican and even illiberal a suggestion.
I don't make a habit of quoting the Thirty Nine Articles (although E.J. Bicknell's analysis is orthodox enough, even if personally I incline more and more to the evaluation of them in Tract XC) but this seems dangerously close to undermining the spirit of Article XXI, however one interprets it. Perhaps General Councils "may err," but provincial synods cannot?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Yes, doors must be kept open

It was very heartening in a rapidly changing situation to see that the Council-General of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament has agreed to keep membership of the CBS open to members of both the Church of England (etc.) and the Personal Ordinariate.
It is vital as events move on that there be such organisations and places where we can meet and pray together. Walsingham should be another example.
There are two main reasons for this: one is a deep and continuing friendship even across the new ecclesial divide and our shared hopes and prayers for a "catholic" future.
The second is more complicated and more controversial: it concerns the nature of the changes now taking place in  Anglicanism here and worldwide.
It's very clear, if recent history can teach us anything, that there will be no permanent or lasting "settlement" for traditionalists in the Anglican provinces in these islands. If you doubt that, look at the situation in the Province of Wales - there are those who would deny it, but where is their evidence?  That much was made clear by the arbitrary withdrawal in Wales of additional episcopal provision and the continuing refusal to reconsider that decision.

There may be the occasional, even well-intentioned, crumb dropped from the table  in terms of preferment, but these things (such as some recent appointments in the Church of England - I don't mean the new PEVs) are only window-dressing rather than providing firm evidence of a shift back in favour of some kind of orthodoxy, much as we would rejoice to see that. They will only satisfy the easily impressed, those desperate for acceptance, and those of a resolutely non-catholic ecclesiology. Sacramentally and ecclesially, for 'catholics' the game is up.
The revisionist agenda simply does not and cannot permit of anything other than a total ecclesiological victory for its cause; those who are seen to be standing in the way of that can expect to face a continuation, and eventually an escalation, of the war of attrition we have experienced over the last couple of decades. We are entering into just another stage in the long defeat of the hopes of the Oxford Movement. This will be the case regardless of the outcome of the present synodical process in England. Pope Benedict's prophetic gathering up of the fragments so that none may be lost will have its brutal corollary in the new Anglican establishment's mopping up of what remains of the ideological enemy.

That being the case, it's even more important to keep the boundaries between "Anglican" Anglo-Catholics and the Ordinariate as porous as possible, to keep talking to one another, to keep praying for one another and to keep our doors permanently open and our friendships - and our bridges - well maintained. Three cheers for the C.B.S.!

Monday, 6 June 2011

I'm not sure about this

Today's news [here] of the setting up of a new, privately funded university college of the humanities based in London (Bloomsbury seems somehow appropriate,) headed by Professor A.C. Grayling , and backed by, among others, fellow atheist poster boy, Prof. Richard Dawkins, fills me with a certain amount of apprehension. I can't imagine why......  Although if you take a look at the proposed curricula, or rather what has been omitted, you may see my point. Strangely, there is a class of academic - mainly Anglo-American or 'North Atlantic' -  which likes to pretend western thought took a long vacation between Aristotle and  David Hume.
The new venture also received a certain amount of backing from London Mayor, Boris Johnson (Balliol, 1983,) in a piece for the Daily Telegraph, but as his article seems to describe the project as "Rejects College, Oxford," perhaps he's not wholly on side after all.