Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Persecuted or marginalised?

There is considerable discussion at the moment  as to whether Christians in modern Britain (or in the West generally) are being subjected to what amounts to persecution because of their faith. Words, of course, can mean different things to different people and to an extent depend upon the context in which they are being used. Very clearly, we are not undergoing the kind of violent (but in the west, still largely under-reported) persecution our brothers and sisters in the faith have been experiencing at the hands of Muslim extremists in those countries where militant political Islam is in the ascendant.So far at least, our prisons are not crowded with those whose conscience compels them to resist the overweening ambition of the modern liberal State.
Yet equally clearly, an attempt is being made (aided and abetted both by public indifference to things religious and the Church's own doctrinal and ethical confusion) to push the Christian faith to the margins of national life, religious institutions are being badly squeezed by the equality and inclusion agenda and the industry it has spawned and to which it seems all mainstream political parties - even those calling themselves 'Conservative' - have now signed up, and the climate is such that in mainstream academic or political circles a strong Christian belief (as opposed to a vague championing of Christian 'values') is something which is best kept under wraps by anyone harbouring personal ambition. Persecution or marginalisation, the effect is similar in terms of the gradual disappearance of the presence of the Christian faith in the public square.

There was a very revealing discussion on the subject of  faith and doubt  [here] on the radio at the beginning of the week. Among others, it featured Karen Armstrong, the former Roman Catholic nun, and Richard Holloway, the former Anglican Bishop of Edinburgh, both of whom have for a while now taken leave of any kind of recognisable religious belief. It was important, Richard Holloway stated, to general approval, that religion should be enabled to change in "appropriate" ways. There being no one there to represent religious orthodoxy (portrayed for the purposes of the programme as an extreme position, the opposite side of the coin to militant atheism) the phrase was left unchallenged. But by what a priori standard is it possible to define what is 'appropriate' change? Again we are back to that dangerous but all-pervasive contemporary myth that secular rationalist philosophy is an wholly independent and unbiased arbiter somehow raised above the conflict.

Which leads me to another question, one related to the final playing out of the tragedy which has befallen modern Anglicanism. Despite the political noises off at present, we know very well that the marginalisation of the Christian faith in western society is likely to continue. What resistance, if any, to that can we expect from the radicals who already control the agenda of the Anglican provinces of the British Isles and will soon be in positions of undisputed authority? I only raise the question because their own a priori philosophical assumptions (clearly already on display in the relentlessly wooden-headed advocacy of women's ordination and now in the 'repositioning' obviously going on relating to the proposed radical change in the nature of marriage in order to accommodate society's very small but highly vocal and media-visible homosexual minority) are those which are essentially shared with the agnostics, atheists and secularists who are so intent on a further massive reduction in the public influence of the Christian religion.
Actually, it won't much matter, as the public face of faith will already have been changed in 'appropriate' ways from the inside due to the trahison des clercs of the soixante-huitardists, the 'Woodstock generation', and their ecclesial protégés. But even if there were a will to resist any further encroachments of liberal statist secularism (and undoubtedly issues surrounding the sanctity of human life - euthanasia and now even infanticide - will be to the fore), the new Anglican church order will lack the theological, philosophical and historical tools to do the job; they have already sold the pass.

Yes, I know, it's another doom-laden prediction, but let's revisit this in twenty years - if, as they used to say in my first parish, we are spared - and see who is right.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Absurd but sinister - modern British values

The creator of the Fireman Sam children's series was detained by officials at Gatwick airport after a remark he made questioning why a woman wearing a hijab was allowed through a high security gate without having to show her face. Accused of racism, he was forced to explain his remark before being repeatedly asked to make an apology to a Muslim security official for the perceived insult [full story here]
The only problem, of course, is that the remark wasn't a racial slur at all and was unwise only in the sense that it is foolish to make any unnecessary comments whatsoever to representatives of an increasingly humourless and sanctimoniously censorious Anglo-Saxon officialdom.
One would be tempted to question whether a similar comment about a Christian nun would have resulted in the same absurd but deeply sinister over-reaction and forced apology - except we already know the answer to that.
But regardless of the self-hating double standards in operation in our culture, the real problem is that incidents like these contribute to an atmosphere in which hard-won individual freedoms are slowly suffocated in a miasma of corporate hypersensitivity. If a remark is perceived as an insult, regardless of the context and the actual words used, then the insult is judged to be real.
Ironically, contemporary western "liberalism" has seen to it that freedom of speech (the bedrock of all our freedoms) is now judged, at least by petty officials in our society, to be far less important than a mere subjective perception of offence given to cultures which (to put it mildly) do not exactly share our respect for individual liberty.
How did we get here?
And another reason to love Sundays - Fr George Rutler's letter [here]

"...At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I have been struck lately by the superficiality of our society’s understanding of itself. I have never been polled by those agencies that supply lists of favorite this-and-thats, so I did not figure in a recent report of Public Policy Polling, which claims that 91 percent of Americans consider Abraham Lincoln the greatest person who ever lived, followed by Jesus at 90 percent and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at 89 percent. George Washington got 86 percent, Mother Teresa got 83 percent, and Gandhi was three points lower than Santa Claus, who was the favorite of some 67 percent, who seem to think he was real. (I doubt they had in mind St. Nicholas of Myra.) These people vote in general elections..."

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Something that needed to be said

in our therapy-obsessed, increasingly insane, culture - from Brendan O'Neill in the The Telegraph:

"...As if five-year-olds are capable of undergoing serious mental anguish about anything, least of all that issue which even most adults who are not teachers at a Polytechnic never talk about: "gender". Yet according to yesterday's Sun, five-year-old Zach believed he was "trapped in the wrong body" – doctors agreed with him and now his teachers refer to him as a girl and his school uniform includes "black boots with a pink trim", allowing him to "express his femininity". This is bizarre. I spent a significant part of my childhood wanting to be E.T, sometimes even waddling like that Spielbergian creation. Thankfully, though, no one diagnosed me as suffering from EID (Extraterrestrial Identity Disorder) or set up toilets-for-aliens at school so that I could relieve myself in a non-human, non-judgemental environ. That's probably because I was just a child and didn't have a clue what the hell I really wanted or needed.

The elevation of childhood confusion and immature desires into a mental disorder reveals far more about adult society than it does about children. It is the adults – the doctors, the schools, the social workers – who are really screwed up in the GID debate, not the kids. It is normal for kids to want to be all kinds of things – girls, boys, robots, dogs – but it is not normal for the adults around them to scratch their chins and say: "Yes, you clearly have psychological issues. I propose reorienting your whole school and home life around your desire to be a [insert crazy childhood dream here]." What is really motoring the GID bandwagon is modern adult society's weird combination of not wanting to tell children what to do anymore (it's too judgemental) and its inability simply to chill out about what children get up to....
Read it all here

Miserere mei, Deus

Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness :
according to the multitude of thy mercies do away mine offences.
Wash me throughly from my wickedness :
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my faults :
and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight :
that thou mightest be justified in thy saying, and clear when thou art judged.
Behold, I was shapen in wickedness :
and in sin hath my mother conceived me.
But lo, thou requirest truth in the inward parts:
and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.
Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean :
thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness :
that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
Turn thy face from my sins :
and put out all my misdeeds.
Make me a clean heart, O God :
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence :
and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
O give me the comfort of thy help again :
and stablish me with thy free Spirit.
Then shall I teach thy ways unto the wicked :
and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God,
thou that art the God of my health :
and my tongue shall sing of thy righteousness.
Thou shalt open my lips, O Lord :
and my mouth shall shew thy praise.
For thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it thee :
but thou delightest not in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit :
a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt thou not despise.
O be favourable and gracious unto Sion :
build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness,
with the burnt-offerings and oblations :
then shall they offer young bullocks upon thine altar.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

'What is this gift of Charity?'

Lent begins tomorrow.
Perhaps part of our Lenten discipline should be to try to get behind the sheer 'wordiness' of our modern Christianity and abstain from some of the polemic which swirls around us (and, admittedly, for which some of us are responsible!) and make a resolution to pray in silence, each day, before the Blessed Sacrament.
Our words can only take us so far......

"What is this gift of charity? I stand before the altar today, I spread out my hands as though to call something from the skies, and I ask for charity. In asking I say that unless I receive it, i may seem to myself to be alive, but God will see that I am dead. Am I dead, then, or am I alive in his eyes? Have I this gift? Will God give it to me? What is it, to begin with? Not only doing the decent and helpful thing, for, says Christ's apostle, I might go to the extreme of visible generosity, I might give all my goods to feed the poor, and yet lack charity. Still less is it mere tolerance and a show of amiability. It means that a caring for God and my neighbour becomes the stuff of my being, the mainspring of my will, not something joined on from outside. God does not have love, he is love, and to have love we also must become it. Why then, if to be alive I must have love thus, it is plain enough that I am dead. Let me be dead; I come to this sacrament to take part in the resurrection. I throw myself into the hands of God, and God is known to be God by this token: he raises the dead."
           Austin Farrer: 'Quinquagesima' from The Crown of the Year.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The State giveth and the State taketh away

On the one hand, Baroness Warsi makes a speech at the Vatican bemoaning the attack on the Christian traditions which have formed British cultural and political life; on the other hand, we are confronted almost on a daily basis by examples of the state-funded diversity and equality industry speading its totalitarian tentacles further and further into our lives, and now we are told that the National Health Service  is planning major cuts to chaplaincies which minister to the spiritual needs of  both patients and hospital staff  [here and here]

We are quite used to the almost complete absence of 'joined-up thinking' by our political masters, but there is a word used to describe those who say one thing and do another......

Cranmer predicts the death of the Anglican Covenant.
Certainly, its principal architects are now remarkably quiet on the subject...

Riding the tiger
On a related topic, we should spare a prayer or two (if not that much sympathy) for those Anglicans who, while remaining 'credally orthodox' themselves, at least in their own eyes, are busy promoting the ordination of women to the episcopate and priesthood. They have no idea (one hopes) of the forces they are setting free...

Friday, 17 February 2012

More bizarre stuff from the culture wars

The dangers of arguing from social pathology:  
Boys should be allowed to wear skirts to school to avoid "serious distress" caused by gender-specific uniforms, Tam Baillie, Scotland's commissioner for children and young people, has argued. He suggested forcing children to wear such skirts or trousers depending on their gender could contravene laws set out by the UN Convention on children's rights. [Here]

From Canada: coming to a church near you? [here]
The problem of signing up to a radical agenda is that you don't get to decide which items get left out.
Ultimately, modern liberalism, like the orthodoxy it despises, prescribes what you eat from le menu du jour rather than à la carte.

The latest outburst from the historically and culturally blinkered Trevor Phillips. From Cranmer
Perhaps in this time of economic austerity Britain needs to train fewer social engineers and more real ones.

Embarrassment or very necessary irritant?
Lord Carey ruffles some feathers - Martin Beckford from The Church of England Newspaper:

"....I’m afraid that the sneering at Lord Carey is just another example of the Church being unwilling or incapable of seeing how it looks to the outside world. He has been one of the few clerics to speak about the “persecution” employment tribunal cases, was among the first to comment on the debacle at St Paul’s, he dared to contradict the Lords Spiritual on welfare reform and just last weekend was, as far as I could tell, the most senior person in the Church to weigh in on the council prayers judgement.

And what has been the reaction from his Christian brethren?
One bishop writes on Twitter that he was “ashamed” of the former Archbishop for having “disgracefully bought Tory dogma”.
One of the best-known clerics in the Church pens an entire magazine article about this “Thatcherite yesterday’s man” and orders him - despite being a golfer himself - to retire from public pronouncements and take up golf instead.
Another bishop writes an entire article for my paper about being “disappointed” that Lord Carey didn’t attend a Parliamentary debate that he later wrote about. (I did actually ask why he missed it, but haven’t yet received an answer.)
Others seem to view him as an embarrassment, rather like a drunken uncle at a party, and cringe whenever he opens his mouth.
Now he has committed the great sin of having written a book and done a few interviews to promote it, prompting fresh outrage.
Of course it’s fine if people want to disagree with his views on any given subject. His plan for specially selected religious judges in certain cases, likened to something out of a theocracy by Lord Justice Laws, stands out as a particularly odd one.
But I just cannot see why someone with all his experience of the highest levels of the Church, and the determination to express his strongly held convictions no matter how unpopular they may be, should not be allowed to have his say...
So, remember, don't rock the boat or upset the Club, as St Athanasius wouldn't have said.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Paavo Berglund R.I.P.

Paavo Berglund, one of the great interpreters of the music of Jean Sibelius, died at his home in Helsinki on the 25th January this year, His obituary is here

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

T.S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land': despair and conversion

From Ignatius Insight comes this link to an article in the always readable St Austin Review by Paula A. Gallagher, giving a different interpretation to the usual critical treatment of 'The Waste Land.'  Her thesis is that far from being just the apogee of modernist despair, the poem also significantly prefigures his conversion to Anglo-Catholicism:

"A few famous poems of the modern age critique the state of modernity—its sterility, its emptiness, its rejection of culture and tradition. One of the most influential of these poems is T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” which was first published in England in 1922, about six years before Eliot’s conversion to Anglo-Catholicism. Despite the distance between these two events, “The Waste Land” does contain imagery, allusions and ideas that prefigure his conversion.
The beginning of Eliot’s conversion, as prefigured in the poem, begins with his recognition of the emptiness of modernity. The fact that Eliot is writing this poem
about the barrenness of modernity and imaging it as a Waste Land shows that Eliot sees through modernity to the reality of its sterility. The image of the Waste Land represents the aridity of modernity, its lack of culture and tradition, and indeed its inability to allow culture and tradition to grow and flourish..."
Read the whole article and judge for yourselves.... What seems beyond doubt is that far from simply stating that human existence is meaningless and we have to live with that, he was already beginning to explore the possibility of meaning in the Christian tradition of faith.

Two cheers only for Baroness Warsi

Despite the recent robust intervention of Mr Eric Pickles on the subject of local authority prayers and the undoubted good intentions behind Baroness Warsi's supportive words during her visit to the Vatican yesterday [see here], the attitude towards religion - and the Christian religion in particular - of the Government they represent is fundamentally schizophrenic.

As he so often does, Cranmer ('What kind of idiot does Baroness Warsi take the Pope for?') says it all about the Prime Minister's publicly expressed approach to faith, which itself illustrates quite clearly that if there is anything more foolish than the forays of churchmen into politics, it is the incursions of modern secularised politicians into matters of theology:

"But the inference is, in any case, quite clear: if you disagree with him, you are intolerant, unwelcoming and narrow-minded, which amounts to the same as being unloving, inhospitable and bigoted. To be a clanging cymbal with no love is not to be a Christian of any kind. Cameron and Warsi are themselves part of the ‘well-intentioned liberal elite’. They want us to ‘do God’ more assertively, but not the Pope’s kind of God. For if you believe the inclination toward homosexuality to be an ‘intrinsic disorder’, and if you believe marriage to be heterosexual, you are a homophobe. If you believe women should be neither priests nor bishops, you are a misogynist. If you oppose abortion and contraception, you are anti-liberty and anti-women’s rights..."
So essentially, it seems, according to our 'Conservative'- led Government, we are allowed any religion just so long as it accords with the diluted or etiolated version promoted to the exclusion of all others by such people as Christina Rees and her friends in what Baroness Warsi has herself denounced with unconscious irony as the "liberal elite."

So, as Cranmer himself says, given the present British Government's continuation of its New Labour predecessor's oppressively one-size fits-all policies of 'equality' and 'inclusion,' it's highly unlikely that  Pope Benedict will be taken in by expressions of good will which seem to fly in the face of what is actually happening on the ground.

The full text of Baroness Warsi's speech is here

Monday, 13 February 2012

Journalistic freedom

On the one hand...

The BBC is now (at long last) prepared to describe the Muslim preacher Abu Qatada as an 'Islamic extremist' [here]
It's good to know that the Corporation can listen to public criticism.

And on the other...

The Sun newspaper has done much in its inimitable and sometimes entertaining way to lower the tone of modern British life, and no one would disagree with the premise that those who illegally hack into others' telephone and email messages should pay the appropriate penalty in the courts, but today's reports of massive dawn raids by the police on the homes and families of journalists point to a worrying trend in a free society [here] In today's economic and political climate who would benefit from a fearful and state-regulated press?

But in what has become a tabloid culture, overreaction is clearly the name of the game.

Entertainment or just intrusion

The distinguished actress Meryl Streep has won a best actress award at the BAFTAs [here]  for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in the film, 'The Iron Lady'; its success at the Oscars seems guaranteed.
But whatever the merits of the film, I'm not sure it should have been made...
I had similar misgivings a few years ago about the 'The Queen,' despite Helen Mirren's convincing performance in the title role.
How far ought we to go in the name of entertainment and box office takings (this is not history or serious political biography, after all) in the cinema or on stage in our depictions of living people with real feelings and hurts and vulnerabilities? They are not fictional characters, even if we are willing to accept that their lives are to some degree, because of their prominence, public property.
It may be common knowledge that Lady Thatcher has been suffering for some time from a form of dementia, but however sensitive the treatment of that may be in the film (in some ways that is beside the point), it would be a kinder and more compassionate culture which postponed, in the name of good taste and decency, this kind of intrusive biopic while its subject matter is still alive.
In many ways a culture can be judged, not so much by the values it proclaims from the rooftops but by the things about which it is prepared to be reticent.

A reminder here from a Jewish commentator that in British public life no-one is being forced to pray.

"I can well understand that for someone who is not religious, prayer is pointless. If you don't believe in who your call is directed to, what's the point in taking the time to do it.

But there is a difference between personally rejecting faith and preventing others from enjoying the benefits of it. Take a stand and leave the room, if you must. There’s nothing to stop Mr Bone – and I’m sure many others who feel the same – from sitting through prayer sessions engaging in an under-the-breath chorus of “nah nah nah, I can't hear you”, in the manner of a child being disciplined for his sibling's misdemeanours.
You don't have to listen. You can sit and doodle "God is a doofus" on your council notes if you like. But what gives Mr Bone the right to decide that prayer has no role for the bloke next to him as he prepares to make decisions about planning permissions and pot hole repairs?"

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Traditional liberty v modern equality

Catching up with wider, non-ecclesiastical news:

In the wake of the ruling forbidding local council prayers, Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, described the High Court decision as "surprising and disappointing".

He said: "While welcoming and respecting fellow British citizens who belong to other faiths, we are a Christian country, with an established Church in England, governed by the Queen.
"Christianity plays an important part in the culture, heritage and fabric of our nation.
"Public authorities - be it Parliament or a parish council - should have the right to say prayers before meetings if they wish.
"The right to worship is a fundamental and hard-fought British liberty.
"The Localism Act now gives councils a general power of competence - which allows them to undertake any general action that an individual could do unless it is specifically prohibited by law. Logically, this includes prayers before meetings."
Full report [here]

The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish, has suggested councils use a legal loophole whereby prayers could be said before the start of official business [here] and [a video here]
It could be argued that now is not the time for bishops, however helpful their intention, to try in this way to evade the fundamental constitutional and cultural issues at stake, and that the more combative approach of Mr Pickles is to be preferred.

The owners of a guesthouse in Marazion in Cornwall have lost their appeal against paying damages to a gay couple who they turned away from their hotel. They had denied discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, insisting that they did not believe that any unmarried couple should share a bed, considering it contrary to their Christian beliefs.
At appeal Lady Justice Rafferty stated that a homosexual couple "cannot comply with the restriction because each party is of the same sex and therefore cannot marry". The Appeal Court decided in favour of the original ruling. The appeal was funded by the Christian Institute.
Report from the BBC here

Sir Elton John and civil partner David Furnish are 'undergoing counselling' because of worries that their son will be "stigmatised" and fall victim to prejudice because "one of his parents is extremely famous and because he comes from two dads." [here]
It's perhaps a little late in the day for that realisation, one might have thought, but all that money must be some kind of compensation for the problems of celebrity à la mode.

And another indication of a decidedly off-centre culture, more and more pet owners are having their dead companions freeze-dried and on display in their homes. [here]
No, no, no - for all kinds of reasons!
What will be next?
That question reminds me of this Thurber cartoon:

Friday, 10 February 2012

Music to end the day

Some music to end the day and an interesting (shall we say?) week:

Gabriel Fauré - Après un Rêve - beautifully played by Kathyn Price, 'cello
& Douglas Ashcraft, piano


We awoke this morning to a world covered in ice - freezing rain and a sprinkling of snow had fallen during the night.
The cue for something suitably Northern:
Sibelius' hauntingly beautiful 'Luonnotar' a setting of the Finnish creation myth in the Kalevala

And a secular piece of writing which (with its echoes for us of G.K. Chesterton) sums up much of our present predicament in a culture, secular and ecclesial,  dominated by 'unscrupulous optimists':

"The 'we' attitude, by contrast, is circumspect. It sees human decisions as situated, constrained by place, time and continuity, by custom, faith and law. It urges us not to throw ourselves always into the swim of things, but to stand aside and reflect. It emphasises constraints and boundaries, and reminds us of human imperfection and of the fragility of real communities. Its decisions take account of other people and other times.In its deliberations the dead and the living and the unborn have an equal voice with the living. And its attitude to those who say 'press on' and 'ever onward' is 'sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof'. It does not endorse a comprehensive pessimism, but only the occasional dose of pessimism, with which to temper hopes that otherwise might ruin us. It is the voice of wisdom in a world of noise. And for that very reason, no one hears it."
Roger Scruton: The Uses of Pessimism'  
And to confirm us in our pessimism about the future, another calamitous decision by a culturally subservient judiciary intent on dismantling the traditions which have formed us - see here from Cranmer

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Archbishop of Canterbury's intervention yesterday

Someone gets it:  
"The difficulty many feel is that to leave the phrase ‘male bishop’ in the draft Measure insufficiently recognises where that particular point comes in the argument people are trying to make. It doesn’t go to the root of it. In other words the theological conviction is not about male bishops as such: it arises from certain other convictions. And one of my questions about the draft Measure is whether anything can be done there, and / or in the Code of Practice, to overcome the resistance that is felt to that phrase, and to do better justice to what it rests upon. If I’m right about the two fundamental principles, that’s not a substantial change in the Measure. But it does of course then raise the question of how, whether in Measure or in Code, we do proper justice to this second point about theological integrity and pastoral continuity and ecclesial integrity; how we do that without over-legislating, over-prescribing in way that creates parallel church identities by default. And that I suppose is what a couple of years ago the Archbishop of York and myself were feeling our way for in the now notorious ‘archbishops’ amendment’. If you look at some of the background literature that was provided at the time with that amendment, precisely the two principles with which I began were enunciated as the principles on which that amendment was based. Whether we were right or not to cast it in that form, I’m not at all sure. But looking forward to the debate later today, I would quite like Synod—no, I’d very much like Synod—to consider whether leaving a door open for the bishops to revisit some of those questions in the light of where we have got to might not a good idea at this juncture.

I think, you see, that we have a very high degree of clarity about the basic principles here. I think we have the possibility of some bits of fine-tuning that will take us a little bit further. To use the analogy I’ve used in this chamber before: it’s a little bit like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with God’s finger and Adam’s just about within touching distance!
If there is a way of clarifying these last couple of points then maybe we can find something we can all more-or-less gratefully live with. And one of the things I shall be listening for this afternoon in the debate on the Manchester motion, is perhaps a little bit of clarity as to whether it means a recommendation to the House of Bishops to bring back the archbishops’ amendment in its pristine form; or whether that phrase [in the Manchester amendment] ‘in the manner of’ the archbishops’ amendment gives us some scope to think again about whether there are ways of getting to that point by another route. So that’s what I’ll be listening for.
But not to detain you further, I hope that the two principles that we have, I think, enunciated as basic in this debate—clarity about a single structure of episcopal ministry, and clarity about respect and adequate provision for a minority—are for all members of Synod clear enough to feel grateful for. Because I think it’s rather remarkable that in spite of the depth of division and the sharpness of theological disagreement that has been around in Synod, we have nonetheless come to a point where we can say, ‘This is the kind of church we could, with celebration, with affirmation, live in’. I hope we won’t lose sight of that today."

[Text - ACNS)
Unfortunately, the majority of those on the Church of England's General Synod, including a large number of the Archbishop's brothers in the episcopate,  has proved beyond doubt, not so much that they have lost sight of that kind of church, but that they have no interest in living in it whatsoever.

More press reports of General Synod decision

From Reuters

"The Church of England moved closer to the consecration of women bishops Wednesday when it voted against giving strengthened legal protection to traditionalists who favour an all-male clergy, a decision that could lead more to switch to Rome.

The vote was the last chance for the church's parliament, or synod, to influence the draft legislation in its long legislative process before it heads to the House of Bishops for consideration in May.
The draft will return to synod in July for a final vote - 20 years after it voted in favour of women priests.
That women will get to wear the mitre is in little doubt. What the synod had to consider was how much extra provision traditionalist Anglo-Catholics and conservative evangelicals would get and how much more authority liberals should cede.
The consecration of women, along with homosexual bishops and same-sex marriages, is among the most divisive issues facing the 77 million members of the Anglican Church round the world.
Other Anglican provinces already have women bishops, including the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Traditionalists and evangelicals, who say they represent 1,000 of the 13,000 parishes in England and Wales, wanted to strengthen the legal position of male bishops ministering in dioceses where parishes objected to women bishops.
They backed a motion which in effect resurrected a proposal put forward by the two most senior Church of England clerics, the archbishops of Canterbury and York, in July 2010, but which was rejected by the synod at the time.


It would have provided for a so-called nominated bishop, working alongside the female bishop under a system of a co-ordinated, or shared, jurisdiction, drawing his authority from the church rather than diocesan bishop.
Traditionalists argue that as Jesus Christ's apostles were all men, there is nothing in the Bible or church history to support women bishops.
Had the synod voted for their proposal, it could have held up the legislative process by a year. As it is, traditionalists have asked the House of Bishops to "provide properly for those unable in conscience to accept the oversight of women bishops."
Liberals argued they had made enough concessions already, and any further compromise would create "second-tier" women bishops.
"We want to honour the efforts of all those who have gone before and allow the current measure to go forward to final approval and see what happens at that stage," the Reverend Rosemarie Mallett told synod.
The synod voted largely in favour of the liberals' stance, with one amendment to allow the bishops to tweak the legislation - but not substantially. This was in response to a call by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for the door to be left open for fine-tuning.

The vote could see more traditionalists move over to Rome if they do not get further concessions. About 60 Anglo-Catholic priests and 1,000 parishioners have already taken up an offer by Pope Benedict to convert and form an "ordinariate" within the Roman Catholic Church while keeping some of their Anglican traditions. Nearly a third of the Church of England's working priests are female.
The synod vote is not binding and the House of Bishops can choose to accept it or ignore it.
The draft legislation will need a two-thirds majority in each house of synod - bishops, clergy and laity - before it can go before the British parliament, with the first woman bishop unlikely before 2014. If it is voted down, it could be years before it goes before a vote again."

And from The Times (thanks to TitusOneNine)

Women bishops to be in sole charge of their diocese

"The Archbishops of Canterbury and York suffered a humiliating defeat yesterday when the Church of England’s governing body rejected moves to create male “co-bishops” to work alongside female bishops in an effort to placate traditionalists.
Women bishops will now be given total authority in their dioceses when they begin to be consecrated from 2014, against the wishes of the Archbishops who had wanted traditionalist male bishops to rule alongside them with equal authority.
The vote increases the chances of further defections by dozens of Anglo-Catholic clergy and laity to the Ordinariate, the branch of the Roman Catholic Church created for defecting Anglicans who wish to retain both their Catholic and Anglican identities in the face of the growing liberalisation of the established Church..."

Propaganda for the day

Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4 this morning consisted of the most blatant 'political' propaganda on the part of the pro-women bishops lobby.
Given by a prominent female cleric of the Diocese of London, this supposed 'spiritual' couple of minutes of broadcasting intended for general public 'edification' (presumably) was used today for the purpose of promoting the measure at present negotiating its way rather tortuously through the Church of England's synodical  process.
The most striking illustration she used was the recent removal of the pink carpet in the erstwhile girls' floor of Hamley's toy store, (perhaps we should perhaps rephrase the old fallacious synodical statement and say "there are no observable theological arguments in favour of the ordination of women")  but ended by hoping we could all move forward living together 'in trust and with difference.'
The abuse of the 'pulpit' in this way is just one of the many reasons there will never be trust between us, among the others is that solemn promises are regarded now as only temporary tactical diversions. The reason we cannot live with difference is that we are being shown the door by the very people who make these hypocritical and sanctimonious appeals. Traditionalists are being denied that very theological space which is necessary in order that 'difference' may survive.
To add insult to injury, as one of the greatest forces for good in our national life is being changed out of all recognition by liberal political correctness and (waiting in the wings) radical feminism, those of a traditional Catholic theology are being asked - from all quarters it would seem -  to close the door quietly and not make too much of a noise on the way out.
May God help us and his Church if this is to be the future.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

No value judgements

It is an indication as to how far the West has come in its culturally suicidal refusal to make value judgements that the BBC, once renowned throughout the world for the integrity and excellence of its broadcasting, is reluctant to call the Jordanian islamist terrorist Abu Qatada an "extremist." See here
Instead, he is being described, as I post this, as "radical" and even "controversial."
It is presumably the same reluctance which led a BBC news report earlier this week to categorise the bloodstained authoritarians who currently rule (the Islamic Republic of) Iran, "conservatives." You know, like Harold Macmillan and R.A. Butler....

General Synod - more media coverage

From the Daily Telegraph [here] and the BBC [here] and a live blog of the day's proceedings from The Guardian [here]

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

A strange measure of agreement?

A blog post of one of the Ordinariate groups has these comments on the attitude of the most vocal of those now striving to introduce women bishops to the Church of England without provision for traditionalists:

"..However, if one scrapes away the veneer of the tone and looks at the underlying message, is the Revd Hudson-Wilkin really saying anything that unreasonable or unrealistic? All she is saying is that the Church of England has made up its mind about ordaining women to its episcopate, and that those who don't like it will just have to accept it and act accordingly. There is no magic solution that will be acceptable to everyone. As to the tone, well, after 37 years of debate, surely we can all (including the Revd Hudson-Wilkin) be excused a little frustration."

"....The messages sound strikingly similar, and in fact are rather simple : this is what is happening, this is what the Church of England has decided, and if that's not you, then you need to look elsewhere for something that is...."

"...The reality is, and there is no point in debating the rights and wrongs of how we got here, that the Church of England has made certain decisions.  People can either live with them or they can't.  The levels of frustration, and sadly animosity, increase on both sides when there is an inability or an unwillingness to see the new reality. As Mark Twain never said, Denial Ain't Just a River in Egypt..."

I understand what is being said here and why. Much of me agrees with it.

On the other hand, I can't help thinking that the argument from personal choice and the overriding need to be where one is 'spiritually comfortable' is ultimately individualistic and, well, in a way, 'protestant.' Is the Church ours to do with as we like and to change as each generation sees fit? The Oxford Movement itself was founded on a forceful denial of that proposition.
Now, of course, if you have arrived after bitter experience and much soul-searching, like Bl John Henry Newman in 1845, at the clear position that the Anglican provinces are not a Catholic part of the Church, nor have ever been, then the above arguments constitute a wholly consistent point of view.
Those who still (even if only instinctively) feel the unfolding situation is historically just a little more nuanced than that, may have difficulties in coming to this degree of acceptance of their lot.

That time may come, theological and historical questions abound, but any process of conversion (and no one has been left in any doubt as to the necessity for that) has to be in line with the putative converts' consciences.
Until such a point is reached, given the intolerable pressures now being faced by traditionalist clergy and their families, the continued patience and understanding of those who were, until what seems like yesterday, our brothers-in-arms, will be very helpful indeed, not only psychologically, but evangelistically too.

The Great Ejectment

It's curious that just as the Church of England is regretting the effects of the Great Ejectment after 1662 it should be in the process of organising another.
Perhaps the Anglican Church's Catholic tradition will have to wait 350 years for the truth to dawn on the descendents (if there are any) of those who are now actively seeking to throw us out...

This excerpt from the announcement of the joint C of E / URC commemoration does, however, give further cause for concern. Another example of modern ecumenism trying to hold two incompatible versions of history at the same time? Which gets us where ... exactly?

"Events such as the execution of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, and of King Charles I, whom the Church of England honours as a martyr, and the sufferings both of Anglican clergy during the Interregnum and of nonconforming ministers after 1662, will be acknowledged with sadness."

I'm nor sure which is worse in the above statement - its bathos or its dishonesty.

More on the left / right spectrum

The predicted (and all-too-predictably) euphoric reaction to the recent study on the relationship between intelligence and political beliefs has occurred among commentators of the left - who, if they had any historical or cultural perspective, should have known better. It is Toby Young who neatly suggests in his blog column [here] that if they take these published statistics at face value they should also favour educational selection at 11.
However, the study has also been described as "competition for the worst use of statistics in an original paper." for the following reasons - see here

And from the BBC yesterday the Start the Week programme had this discussion on the future of the right.
What the conservative right generally and historic Christianity have in common is an intense distrust of utopianism and any belief in the perfectibility of fallen human nature. It isn't a coincidence that those who are now so well-advanced in radically changing the doctrinal and ethical face of the (Anglican part of the) Church are those who have bought most heavily into the left's 'culturally marxist' nostrums (aka the contemporary status quo) as we can see from their frequent incursions into the political debate.


The Revd Dr Peter Mullen on those who wish to re-make the Church of England in their own image. The 1980s political analogy he uses is both completely apposite and, of course, in the context of God's holy Church, utterly tragic.
The difference, as I suspect we shall see, is that those who led the British Labour Party in the 1980s realised that the extreme left - an alien tradition which had pursued  a policy of infiltration and subversion of the 'host' culture- would destroy their movement and make it forever unelectable. They stood up to them and won.
Sadly, I think that's exactly where this analogy will break down.....

"Those who favour the ordination of women and the consecration of women bishops generally cite the example of the other professions. We have women doctors, women judges, women astronauts – why not women priests and bishops? The question simply misses the point by substituting secular standards of judgment for legitimate church order based on the authority of the Bible and the Church Fathers. The facts are as follows. The Gospels and Epistles in the New Testament nowhere authorise the ordination of women as priests, let alone their promotion to the rank of bishop. The 2,000-year-old Catholic Church, of which the Church of England in its Creed said every day claims to be a part, has never ordained women as priests or bishops.

If the church has been in the wrong all those centuries, on the basis of what authority is it now proposed that it should be put right? The innovators waffle all the time about “the guidance of the Holy Spirit leading us into new truths”. There are no such new truths. The truth is that the policy of ordaining women is a consequence only of fashionable and secular notions of feminism and imaginary “rights”........

Campaigners for women bishops call themselves “liberal” and “inclusive”. But their liberality and inclusiveness extends only as far as those who agree with them. This is not liberalism at all, of course. Those bigots are like Trotskyists who work within an institution to subvert it and to turn it into its opposite. They are the Church Militant Tendency. I have seen (and worse, heard) their raucous and savage triumphalism, sneering and gloating at the discomfiture of traditionalists. These people who began their feminising movement by pleading for tolerance are themselves intolerable.

Is it too much to hope that, even so late in the day, there may yet be space made for those conscientiously opposed to the consecration of women bishops? It is just possible that there are enough members of the Synod who will hold in revulsion the palpable injustice involved in the utter denial of integrity to those with whom they disagree..."
The full article is here

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Marching orders?

The voice of authoritarian 'inclusivity': the comments in The Telegraph this morning of the Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin. Tipped by some as a leading candidate to be a bishop in the Church of England, she is clearly unaware of the difference between apartheid and apostolicity, and appears to view the Christian faith as a kind of religious supermarket: if you don't like the new management's make-over, then go and shop somewhere else. There will be casualties as a result of these broken promises - truth being the first.

“It is like apartheid,” says Hudson-Wilkin, who was born in Jamaica. “A lot of these guys are saying, 'Oh, we accept that women have got to be made bishops, it’s just that we don’t really want them to minister to us.’ It’s not that dissimilar from those who said, 'OK, we accept that apartheid needs to be abolished but can we just have one bus which is white only, so we can ride in it?’ ”

So would she be prepared to serve as a bishop on those terms? “No,” she says flatly. She would turn the job down? “Absolutely.”
Other leading candidates such as Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James’s, Piccadilly, are thought to agree, but would some women be willing to accept the conditions? “I hope there won’t be. It will be very sad if there are......”
“The Church is desperately trying to hold everybody together, and we haven’t understood that this is not going to be possible. To try to do that is to put on a sticking plaster that is going to curl at the edge and fall apart. It cannot be sustainable. The whole thing is a mess. We need to say, as a Church, 'We ordain men and women.’ Full stop. All the way to the top. For those who feel that they can’t live with it? They’re adults. By all means, go to Rome. Join the Ordinariate. Don’t stay and make demands of the Church. It’s wrong.” 

Saturday, 4 February 2012

They say these things come in threes...

I post the following link from the Daily Telegraph without further comment except to repeat the no doubt contentious point that (for the male population at least) one shouldn't overemphasise  the evangelistic impact of seeing one's grandmother in a chasuble - a problem for the future which, as it will be ideologically improper to raise, will therefore not be addresssed.

"More new women priests than men for first time
More female priests are joining the Church of England than male ones for the first time ever, it can be disclosed as it takes another step towards the introduction of women bishops. ...."
Read it all here 

Meanwhile it keeps snowing....

Debussy Preludes, Book 1 No. 6 " Des pas sur la neige" played by Michelangeli 

Winter at last

It has been bitterly cold here for several days and today, for the first time this winter, it's snowing.
An appropriate piece of music from Frederick Delius (in an anniversary year -150 years since his birth)

Friday, 3 February 2012

There's intelligence for you....

Confirming our intuition that bishops of the Church of England are furiously back-peddling on the Church's opposition to gay marriage, the Bishop of Salisbury, 'Nick' Holtam has now declared himself in favour [here]
'He said: “We are living in a different society. If there’s a gay couple in The Archers, if there’s that form of public recognition in popular soaps, we are dealing with something which has got common currency.'
As someone has remarked to me, this is the elevation of sociology above theology. Actually, if this is the reasoning of those whom some of us fondly believe(d)  to be (at least 'mechanically') the successors of the apostles, this is the death of theology, certainly the death of Anglican theology.

He continued: “I think same-sex couples that I know who have formed a partnership have in many respects a relationship which is similar to a marriage and which I now think of as marriage.

“And of course now you can’t really say that a marriage is defined by the possibility of having children. Contraception created a barrier in that line of argument. Would you say that an infertile couple who were knowingly infertile when they got married, weren’t in a proper marriage? No you wouldn’t.”
It shouldn't really be necessary to point out to the Bishop of  Borchester - sorry, Salisbury - or anyone with a little knowledge of moral theology that the traditional view of marriage has never been defined by the mere "possibility" of having children. It is the unique complementarity of male and female, (openness to new life is an expression of that, but doesn't of itself define it) which is at the heart of the conjugal bond in the sacramental Christian understanding of marriage.

Ironically, in the wake of all that comes this curious (and pseudo-scientific) report saying that those who support political parties of the right were markedly "less intelligent" than those who vote for the left. [here]
That should help with the liberals' perennial smug, self-righteousness problem, shouldn't it? Re-education camps for the cognitive underclass and the resolutely politically incorrect? It would be for our own good, you know...

Sore throats & troubled minds

On the subject of yesterday's last post, here is the somewhat equivocal statement of the Bishop of London in response to the letter some of his clergy have written to The Times:
"Their request to General Synod is based on very proper pastoral concern and it is right that this matter continues to be discussed openly."

The problem for all of us, as the bishop must be clearly aware, is how clergy can continue to minister effectively and honestly to the people in their care when as a Church we have become so uncertain about the nature of the truths we are meant to proclaim and of the life of holiness we are meant to commend, when the Church itself has been reduced, as has been said, to the level of an ethical debating society in permanent session, and when our bishops have become ecclesial politicians whose paramount goal seems to be keeping the show on the road at all costs and are content to play off one faction against another in order to achieve that.

Here is a post about St Blaise whose feast is today.
Having been suffering from a bug this week which began on Monday with an extremely painful throat, I particularly appreciate his prayers.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Giles & George

Canon Giles Fraser, at the moment the left's favourite liberal clergyman, has attacked former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, for defending some of the Coalition Government's welfare reforms. [Read the report here]
Now, Anglo-Catholics have no cause to think particularly warmly of Lord Carey
[I wish 'retired' Anglican bishops wouldn't assume secular titles; it gives a false sense of their priorities] after his disastrous role in actively supporting the ordination of women and contributing massively to the state in which the Church of England now finds itself, even perhaps indirectly to the current prominence of latitudinarian ideologues such as Canon Fraser. Let's put that on one side for a moment.
One might think this highly personal attack is both intemperate and somewhat foolishly cavalier with the facts. But the reason behind the vicious torrent of invective is that there is, of course, only one permissible way, according to the political left and their fellow-travellers in the ecclesiastical establishment, for society to care for the economically and socially disadvantaged, and that is through an unreformed, inefficient, bureaucratically top-heavy state benefits system which helps perpetuate the very poverty and cultural deprivation they claim to hate so much.

Merely to scream 'superannuated Thatcherite!' at someone who disagrees with you may pass for argument at The Guardian (or Church House, for all I know) but it's merely childish, cheap and vulgar abuse. If the clergy venture into politics (as from time to time they must), they should at least try to be grown-ups and engage with the issues. One may legitimately disagree with him, but that is at least what Lord Carey is trying to do.

Redressing the balance a little

The Daily Telegraph's obituary of the Very Revd Jeremy Winston [here] - redressing the balance (in print - one or two addresses & homilies have already done so verbally*) in an important way.

And, from Anglican Patrimony a significant point about Catholic ecclesiology, a truth which sometimes tends to be lost amid the "four legs good, two legs bad" polemics of the blogosphere:

"...Regarding the second question addressed, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith speaks quite plainly regarding churches and ecclesial communities not in communion with the Catholic Church, when it says:

"...It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them...."
Read it all here

* Update: including the homily now published by his friend, Fr Mark Zorab, on his blog

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The future....

The prevailing winds are from the West - you've been warned!
[thanks to TitusOneNine for this]

Of course it's a spoof,
 but our difficulty begins when we try to differentiate it from the reality

""Everybody understands that women bishops are coming into the Church of England"

From The Daily Telegraph today:

Bishop Hind said: "I think the issue facing the Church of England at the moment isn't whether there will be women bishops or not – which I think everyone accepts is the will of most of the dioceses – the issue is whether the Church of England wants to retain its historic comprehensiveness and generosity and space for dissent.

"Everybody understands that women bishops are coming into the Church of England, the only question is is there going to be a space in the Church of England for those who on theological grounds and ecumenical grounds cannot accept that development."
The bishop added that if the current legislation is not finally approved in July it will simply be voted through at a later stage.
He said: "Some people may be in favour of women bishops but disapprove of the provisions that are made for dissent so it's perfectly possible it won't go through in July.
"But if it doesn't go through in July it will come back and go through at some point in the future."
Full report [here]

O God, who care for your people with gentleness and rule them with love, endow with a spirit of wisdom the members of the General Synod charged with making serious decisions concerning your Church. May they be led to know the truth more fully and make such decisions that will help all your people to grow in holiness, unity and peace according to your will. Amen

Forward in Faith Novena of Prayer in Preparation for General Synod

Today's intention:
The Preservation of the Catholic and Apostolic faith in the Church of England

Thursday 2nd February: The House of Bishops
Friday, 3rd February: The House of Clergy
Saturday, 4th February: The House of Laity
Sunday, 5th February: The Catholic Group
Monday, 6th February: Proper provision
Tuesday, 7th February: Those involved in the debate
Wednesday, 8th February: The success of the Following Motion
Thursday, 9th February: The future of the Church of England