Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Could this be a better system?

The reports of a deadlock on the committee (the Crown Nominations Commission) given the unenviable task of recommending a candidate to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury is leading some commentators [here] to wonder whether the procedure for appointing a new Pope for the Coptic Orthodox Church, a ceremony involving a blindfolded child picking the name of one of the short-listed candidates, is not infinitely superior – and one which may even give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to make His wishes known.
It's also somewhat more apostolic (Acts 1. 26) than an extended managerial discussion about the choice of a new CEO...

Support for South Carolina

from Anglican Mainstream [here]

Letter of support to Bishop of South Carolina from the Panel of Bishops of FCA (UK and Ireland)

22 October 2012

Dear Bishop Mark,

I write on behalf of the Panel of Bishops of FCA (UK  & Ireland) to express our strong support for you and the Diocese of South Carolina as you face the actions of the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts Schori, and the Disciplinary Board of The Episcopal Church.   You are in our prayers as you plan for the Special Convention, November 17th 2012.
We want to assure you that for us you continue to give a moving and outstanding example of honourable, thoughtful and courageous leadership within the Anglican Communion. We would echo the confidence expressed by the Apostle Paul, that whatever happens, you will conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel and without being intimidated in any way by those who oppose you.

Sincerely in Christ,

Bishop John Ellison, Chair Anglican Mission in England Panel of Bishops

This follows letters of support from the GAFCON Primates [here] and the Global South Primates Steering Committee [here

This contrasts with the complete lack of a public response from the liberal leadership of 'western' Anglicanism for whom, it would seem by their silence, due process and natural justice are only intended for those who agree with them.

Fulham appointment announced

from the Archbishop of Canterbury's website: 

Archbishop welcomes appointment of new Bishop of Fulham
Bishop Jonathan Baker and Archbishop Rowan Williams
Wednesday 31st October 2012
This morning Number 10 Downing Street announced that Her Majesty The Queen has approved the nomination of the Rt Revd Dr Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Ebbsfleet, to be the Suffragan Bishop of Fulham in the Diocese of London. 

Welcoming the nomination Archbishop Rowan Williams said, ‘Bishop Jonathan Baker has served with great care and dedication as Bishop of Ebbsfleet, and I – along with all the priests and lay people he has ministered to in the last eighteen months – am very grateful to him for his work in this role and his service to the Church of England more widely. I wish him every blessing in his ministry among the parishes of the See of Fulham.’
A process of consultation to identify Bishop Baker's successor as Bishop of Ebbsfleet will begin within the next few weeks, which will be completed by the next Archbishop.

And from Forward in Faith [here]

Bishop Jonathan said, ‘I am delighted to be taking up this new post, though of course very sorry to be leaving the priests and people of the Ebbsfleet parishes after such a relatively short time as their bishop. I am looking forward enormously to leading the Fulham parishes and to playing my part in the mission of the church in London across the Diocese.
I am assured that the process of appointing a new Bishop of Ebbsfleet is already underway, and so in due course I am confident that my move will lead to a strengthening of the team of catholic bishops in the Church of England at this critical time.
After having spent the whole of my ministry thus far in the Diocese of Oxford, it will be very good to be living and working in the heart of London for, having grown up in the capital, it will represent something of a homecoming for me.
I will, of course, continue to serve as Chairman of Forward in Faith.’

FiF Secretary Fr Ross Northing, who also serves as Vice-Chairman of the Ebbsfleet Council of Priests, added:  ‘Whilst we are naturally sad to be losing Bishop Jonathan from the Ebbsfleet area so soon, we nevertheless rejoice that he has been given this wonderful opportunity to minister to our brothers and sisters in the Fulham area.  He will leave Oxford with our prayers and very best wishes.’

Only one comment: This is undoubtedly a positive move, particularly if there is a quick appointment to the Ebbsfleet post; it's now clear from recent episcopal appointments in the Church of England that, whatever happens in November, it has become possible for an orthodox Catholic remnant to survive at least for a limited period  and in certain parts of the country.  Beyond that I don't think we can venture at present...

This is a small protest

against the coarsening and sinister hijacking of a culture and the supplanting of sacred things (and it's the eclipse of All Saints and All Souls Days that I'm really complaining about) all for the benefit of those who sell tacky plastic artefacts and inedible pumpkins and insist the rest of us go along with it...

Today is All Hallows Eve,
the Eve of All Saints
If you really want to observe "Hallowe'en"
forget dressing up or trick-or-treating...

Just go and sacrifice a chicken...
[No - before the animal rights lobby contacts me - I'm really not encouraging it!]
This is a Hallowe'en-free zone

"Where Jesus is, there is the Communion of Saints; his life never lives, his action never acts, alone. He gives his saints everywhere a part in all of it. Jesus gathered his disciples round him in Gethsemane to pray with him, and they fell asleep. Unsleeping, his saints pray with him in glory, where their whole life becomes a prayer; a holy desire, strong and efficacious, for the fulfilment of Christ's redemption, and the accomplishment of his kingdom; a perfect union of heart and mind with the society of love, of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, three persons in one God."
Austin Farrer:  from the sermon  'A Share in the Family - for All Saints Day'

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A Lutheran Ordinariate?

Reports are circulating suggesting the Vatican is open to the creation of a Lutheran Ordinariate- or, more correctly, an Ordinariate for groups of former Lutherans:
From George Conger [here]
"The Vatican is open to creating an ecclesial jurisdiction for Lutherans who wish to join the Roman Catholic Church but preserve aspects of their liturgical and ecclesial patrimony, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has said. In an interview with Zenit published on 24 Oct 2012, Cardinal Kurt Koch said the Vatican would entertain creating a structure similar to the Anglican Ordinariate for Lutherans.
Such a structure was possible due to a convergence of beliefs on certain doctrinal issues, Cardinal Koch said, as progress had been made in the ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans in Germany."
More here from Anglican Ink and a more sceptical take from  Fr Z, a former Lutheran himself [here] and here is the ZENIT interview with the Cardinal himself which has given rise to the reports and comment.
One can see the potential theological and ecclesiological difficulties in a reconciliation of this kind - it could be thought that the various traditions and ecclesial groupings of Lutheranism tend to lack the Anglican tradition's (that should also probably read traditions') necessary affirmations or even ambiguities towards continuity with the medieval and patristic Church; but the atmosphere of ecumenism under the 'Pope of Christian unity' is certainly looking radically different.

"and sometimes a decent tie."

Further confirmation that British Conservatism (rather like nostalgia?) isn't what it used to be  [although we need to bear in mind that it was Labour leader Ed Miliband's 'one-nation' Tory hero, the supreme opportunist, Benjamin Disraeli, who was instrumental in the passing of the Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874] comes from this curiously scripturally ignorant and historically myopic article in the Church of England Newspaper written by Gary Streeter, M.P. for Devon South West.  
Entitled 'What would I do if I were Archbishop of Canterbury?', here's a flavour:
"On day one I would hold a press conference at a homeless shelter in Camberwell and announce that the Lambeth Palace site was to be sold for redevelopment. I would relocate Church HQ to a modern office unit south of the river and use the remainder of the proceeds of sale of the Palace site to fund a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts. I reckon this would cause quite a splash and I would accept every invitation to appear on the media for the following three months and simply talk about the fact that God is real and wants to redeem our broken world. I would do this because the greatest challenge facing the church is that we live in an age of unbelief and we need to show that God is real. I would smile a lot on TV and use modern, everyday language.
I would never wear clerical garb even for state occasions but would wear a suit and sometimes a decent tie. I think Her Majesty, whose faith is very real and whose grandchildren are leading the way in how to connect to people in the twenty-first century, would be quite comfortable with this. I would also restrict discussion on sexuality in the church to the same proportion of time as Jesus spent dealing with this topic in his three years of ministry, i.e. not at all..."
Many thanks to the blog  'catholicity and covenant' for this rebuttal. I'll quote from it at length: 
"What is attractive about Streeter's proposals is the core conviction: "that God is real and wants to redeem our broken lives and broken community".  But it is that very core conviction which should lead to us to question what Montgomerie describes as the "four-step plan to strip away the things that most prevent people from paying any attention" to the Church's proclamation.
                                                                                                                                            Step 1: announce that the Lambeth Palace site was to be sold for redevelopment ... and use the remainder of the proceeds of sale of the Palace site to fund a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts.
                                                                                                                                        That the Church can exist with Lambeth Palace is a given.  That a business park and fashionable apartments being built on the site would advance the Kingdom of God is not a given.  Nor should we forget that Lambeth Palace is used to host some of the very encounters that Streeter suggests - with political leaders, financiers, scientists, other faith leaders.   Yes, such meetings do not require Lambeth Palace.  But they do require somewhere.
                                                                                                                                              Step 2: I would never wear clerical garb even for state occasions but would wear a suit and sometimes a decent tie.
                                                                                                                                            And thus look like a politician.  Or a banker.  Or a journalist.
                                                                                                                                                 Step 3: I would also restrict discussion on sexuality in the church to the same proportion of time as Jesus spent dealing with this topic in his three years of ministry, i.e. not at all.
                                                                                                                                           This statement regarding Jesus' ministry and matters of sex is not, of course, strictly true: he did address porneia.  That Anglicans has badly mishandled theological reflection on same-sex relationships is obvious.  But to avoid talking about sexuality when so many of us in church and society experience sexual brokenness would not aid the Church's proclamation.  (As an example of how we can talk about sexuality, see Sarah Coakley's excellent, challenging essay on celibacy.)
                                                                                                                                         Step 4: I would meet regularly with Christians battling away in politics, business, science and the media and encourage them in their journey and I would never lambast them from the pulpit even though they might sometimes get things wrong.
Tim Montgomerie interprets this as follows:
The new Archbishop should believe that if you transform a person's inner outlook then their political manifesto, business behaviour or parenting will take care of itself ... [Jesus] taught forgiveness and personal reform, not violence or political revolution.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                         The problem, self-evidently, is that such matters do not take care of themselves.  The pervasive power of a culture to shape behaviour in ways distant from the Kingdom requires the Church's proclamation to challenge the powers and principalities in the public square, in evangelisation, in catechetics and in formation.  As Wright and Hauerwas so consistently reminds us, the confession Christos kyrios was and is a profoundly political statement, threatening the established political, social, economic and cultural orders.
Streeter's proposals, to some extent, represent a certain type of evangelicalism and a certain type of political Conservatism.  Put together, they result in what John Milbank terms "stale expressions" of Church:
Quite simply a new mutation of Protestantism in its mutually constitutive relationship with capitalism.....

                                                                                                                                        .......Here we see the true weakness of Streeter's proposals: they would result in a Church that, while loud, would be ironically tame.  Rather than eucharist, prayer, scripture, reconciliation, communion bringing about a new society and a radically different culture in the life of the Church, it would be the case that  addressing politics and economics was off-bounds - and, if we follow Streeter's Step 3, this would also apply to sexuality.  It would be Church, in a decent suit and tie, as chaplain rather than as counter-culture."  

Disturbing news - care for the dying

One of the marks of any civilised society (I won't say Christian society for fear of appearing hopelessly anachronistic) is surely the way we care for the dying. By contrast, the society in which we now live, with its rapidly ageing population and its perverse cult of youth and immaturity, is increasing characterised by a media-fuelled cultural indifference to the elderly which borders on contempt *, and an avoidance of the subject of death and dying, no doubt because for many it is the final catastrophe, beyond which lies only the darkness of oblivion.
The following report  about the possible abuse of of the NHS Liverpool Care Pathway should be of deep concern to all of us, and not only those who are counter-cultural enough to pray that we may be delivered from a sudden and unprepared death, and be able to spend our last hours in the company of friends and relations and fortified by the rites of Holy Church. 

See Here from The Telegraph and read the full report - excerpt below - from The Catholic Herald [here]
" The Department of Health has rejected a call by a senior Catholic archbishop for an official inquiry into the care of terminally ill patients on the Liverpool Care Pathway.
The Archbishop of Southwark wrote to the Secretary of State for Health last month, urging him to launch a “thorough and urgent investigation” into the controversial care pathway.
In a letter dated September 27, Archbishop Peter Smith expressed concern to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt about the growing controversy surrounding the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP).
He wrote: “It does seem to me that a thorough and urgent investigation needs to take place, examining the evidence on which the criticisms that have been made of the LCP rest, so that conclusions can be reached as to whether any corrective action is needed.”
Archbishop Smith added: “If the allegations that are being made can be substantiated, there is serious cause for concern either that the LCP is in some way structurally unsound and needs to be modified or that some doctors and nurses are failing to implement the guidelines as intended.
“Equally, if the allegations are without substance, dying patients and their loved ones are at risk of being caused needless anxiety as a result of which they may well seek to avoid treatment and care from which they would benefit.”
The LCP, which is used by hospitals as a framework to guide medical care of the dying, faced fresh criticism this week after it was reported that an 85-year-old woman had died alone at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital because medics allegedly did not consult her family before placing her on the pathway."

* Not helped, it has to be said, by the kind of signals given by the Church in Wales' Governing Body, which in a society where the retirement age is rising, and more and more people are living active and fitter lives into what used to be regarded as extreme old age, still insists on the age of 75 as a compulsory retirement age even for the province's lay volunteer leadership - so as to, supposedly,  encourage the growth of younger congregations [see here page 6]  Presumably we are 'ordaining' more and more grandmothers for the same reason...

Monday, 29 October 2012

For those in danger

For all in the path of Hurricane Sandy in the United States:
We beseech thee, O Lord, that all spiritual wickedness may be driven far from thy house: and that the malignity of the tempests of the air be likewise dispelled. Through Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the Unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen
[The English Missal: 'Collect: Against Storms']

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Hallowe'en: 2012-style

Over the last few years we've become - reluctantly -  accustomed to the garish and ever-expanding Halloween displays in the aisles of our food stores (where did all this suddenly come from?
Now things seem to have gone a step further. This weekend, queueing at our local supermarket's checkouts, I was presented with a choice of being served by a witch, a vampire or a ghoul, all adorned with (in)appropriate theatrical make-up. The thought that some customers might find this spectacle distasteful, ugly and unpleasant, or even downright offensive, obviously hadn't crossed anyone's mind.
Over the years in Britain we've taken this sort of thing on the chin, thinking that, on the whole, it's just a bit of harmless fun for the children; now I'm  finding the very realistic blood and gore hard to ignore and more than a little worrying.
See here for the reaction of some Orthodox Christians in Russia. It's difficult to argue with their view that all this seems part of  a 'cult of death.'

Anyway, not to worry - by the end of the week in the supermarkets the Christmas trees will be going up ...

Saturday, 27 October 2012

"O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark..."

With apologies to T.S. Eliot - only a roundabout way of saying these are the last few hours of British Summer Time; the clocks go back an hour at 2 a.m. tomorrow.

There's an elegiac post from Fr Anthony Chadwick on his always highly readable, intelligent and thoughtful blog  [here], writing about the end of the sailing year. Further west, my father-in-law, despite a heart transplant a decade or so ago, continues to be a keen yachtsman and will probably, he tells me, having given up on the Irish Sea for the winter, keep sailing around Milford Haven at least for a week or two until the weather finally closes in, and his boat will be lifted out of the water until the Spring.
I was reminded by this of an Edwardian essay by 'Q' (Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch) called 'Laying up the Boat'  Even confirmed land-lubbers (who haven't sailed or even been out in a boat much since their school-days, apart from a bit of mackerel fishing off the Dorset coast) can feel the romance of the sea...
"There arrives a day towards the end of October - or with luck we may tide over into November - when the wind in the mainsail suddenly takes a winter force, and we begin to talk of laying up the boat. Hitherto we have kept a silent compact and ignored all change in the season. We have watched the blue afternoons shortening, fading through lilac into grey, and let pass their scarcely perceptible warnings. One afternoon a few kittiwakes appeared. A week later the swallows fell to stringing themselves like beads along the coastguard's telephone- wire on the hill. They vanished, and we pretended not to miss them. When our hands grew chill with steering we rubbed them by stealth or stuck them nonchalantly in our pockets. But this vicious unmistakable winter gust breaks the spell. We take one look around the harbour, at the desolate buoys awash and tossing; we cast another seaward at the thick weather through which, in a week at latest, will come looming the earliest of the Baltic merchantmen, our November visitors bluff vessels with red-painted channels, green deckhouses, white top-strakes, wooden davits overhanging astern, and the Danish flag fluttering aloft in the haze. Then we find speech; and with us, as with the swallows, the move into winter quarters is not long delayed when once it comes into discussion. We have dis- sembled too long; and know, as we go through, the form of debating it, that our date must be the next spring-tides........."                                                                                ".........So, as we near the beach where she is to lie, a sense of proud exclusiveness mingles with our high regret. Astern the jetty-  men and stevedores are wrangling over their latest job; trains  are shunting, cranes working, trucks discharging their cargoes amid clouds of dust. We and we only assist at the passing of a  goddess. Euergetes rests on his oars, the tow-rope slackens,  she glides into the deep shadow of the shore, and with a soft  grating noise ah, the eloquence of it ! takes ground. Silently  we carry her chain out and noose it about a monster elm ; silently we slip the legs under her channels, lift and make fast her stern  moorings, lash the tiller for the last time, tie the coverings over  cabin top and well ; anxiously, with closed lips, praetermitting  no due rite. An hour, perhaps, passes, and November darkness  has settled on the river ere we push off our boat, in a last farewell  committing her our treasure 'locked up, not lost to a winter  over which Jove shall reign genially                                                             Et fratres Helenae, lucida sidera.                                                                                 As we thread our dim way homeward among the riding-lights  flickering on the black water, the last pale vision of her alone  and lightless follows and reminds me of the dull winter ahead,  the short days, the long nights. She is haunting me yet as I  land on the wet slip strewn with dead leaves to the tide's edge.  She follows me up the hill, and even to my library door.  I throw it open, and lo! a bright fire burning, and, smiling  over against the blaze of it, cheerful, companionable, my books have been awaiting me." 
'Q' - included in  From a Cornish Window (1906)

The first movement of the 4th Symphony of Arnold Bax, a work dominated by a vision of the sea and its moods - the opening always reminds me of the tide rapidly coming in to a particular cove on the North Cornish coast..

Friday, 26 October 2012

Aid to Syrian Christians

From Father Z - information about giving assistance to Christians in Syria, a minority our own craven western media studiously tries to ignore [here]
A further link [here] with news reports from the Barnabas Fund

Good news for the world?


"It is good news for the world we live in, which needs the unequivocal affirmation of a dignity given equally to all by God in creation and redemption – and can now, we hope, see more clearly that the Church is not speaking a language completely remote from its own most generous and just instincts."

The Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, writing in support of the ordination of women to the episcopate. 

Catholic Group in General Synod: "Legislation not fit for purpose"

From the Catholic Group in the Church of England's General Synod:

Women Bishops’ Legislation Not Fit for Purpose

The legislation is unfair, unstable and incoherent; it does not command consensus; there is a better way forward.


1. There is no legally-binding provision for minorities; instead a Code of Practice is proposed, to which bishops would “have regard”. The only form of appeal against a bishop’s decision would be judicial review, which few parishes could afford.

2. Bishops provided for traditionalists would not have proper oversight as bishops; they would just be allowed to conduct services. There would be no guaranteed future supply of bishops for traditionalists.

3. There is no legal prohibition on discrimination against traditionalist candidates for ordination.

4. Traditionalists would become 2nd. class Anglicans served by 2nd. class bishops.


5. The Code of Practice cannot be decided until the legislation has become law. Supporters of the legislation have already stated that they will oppose any further provision being made for traditionalists in the Code of Practice. There would be more years of in-fighting before the Code was agreed.

6. The Code could be changed at any time, meaning that any provision it made for traditionalists could be campaigned against and whittled away over time.

7. The application of the Code would vary from one diocese to another – a postcode lottery.


8. The draft legislation would oblige male bishops to delegate certain functions to male bishops - a pointless exercise! It needs to be more specific and to provide for religious conviction.

9. The House of Bishops amendment stating that the Code of Practice shall give guidance as to the selection of delegated male bishops is not enough: (a) the details should be in the legislation itself; (b) the word ‘respects’ has no legal definition – meaning that the amendment is not prescriptive of the contents of the Code; the Code is therefore an unstable instrument.


10. Major changes in Church order require a clear consensus; this is why legislation like this needs a two-thirds majority in each of the three Houses of the General Synod, in order to pass. At no stage in the process so far has this draft legislation achieved the required majorities in the Synod, meaning that there is no clear consensus. No real attempt has been made to reach consensus outside the formal synodical process.

11. Supporters of the legislation realise that there is not enough consensus, and are resorting to unprincipled attempts to pressurise those opposed to the legislation to abstain, rather than to vote against, as their consciences would dictate.


12. A better way would be to follow the example of the Church in Wales *, whose Governing Body rejected unsatisfactory legislation for women bishops, and is now looking at a new process with two linked pieces of legislation, one to provide for women to be made bishops, and the other to provide for traditionalists; the legislation for women bishops cannot come into force until the legislation providing for traditionalists has been passed. Such an approach would lead to the prayerful and reconciling dialogue the Church of England now needs in order to move forward.

 Canon Simon Killwick
(Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod)

* But please see the first comment (below), to which I would only add the caveat that there is widespread scepticism as to whether the Welsh 'two-tier' approach is anything more than a smokescreen to induce the Governing Body to vote in favour of the principle of women bishops. With regard to the second putative tier of legislation, that of provision for opponents, the first reality is that only the reappointment of a Provincial Assistant Bishop (himself of the 'original integrity') would even begin to tackle the ecclesial and theological needs of traditionalists here; the second is that the Bench of Bishops remains implacably opposed [see here]  to such an appointment and continues to justify its unjust and unilateral  - even dishonest, in the light of the assurances given in 1996 - suppression of the PAB following the 2008 retirement of Bishop David Thomas.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Galatians 3.28

Galatians 3.28 
There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, for you are all one person in Jesus Christ’.

According to the Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell - no retiring scholar he, concerned to give a accurate and balanced account of the context and meaning of St Paul's words - this is "one of those bits of scripture through which we interpret a lot of other bits. And I believe that that full humanity, which is ours in Jesus Christ, will be better revealed - much better for the world, much better for us - when men and women serve equally as bishops, priests and deacons within the Church of Jesus Christ."

It's wearying and vexatious to the spirit to have to repeat this yet again, but these verses have relevance to Paul's argument that in contrast to the old covenant's rite of circumcision, baptism incorporates the one who receives it , whether male or female, Jew or Gentile, free man or slave, into the paschal mystery of Christ and accordingly into the Body of Christ, the Church. Baptism is available to all without exception.
What it does not mean (and actually in the context of the Pauline epistles simply cannot mean) is the abolition of all natural distinctions between male and female - in modern parlance the interchangeability of the sexes - but that those distinctions do not exclude any one from salvation. St Paul has everything to say here about baptism, but absolutely nothing which can be applied to the matter of holy order, one way or the other, much as we might wish he had. 
Unfortunately for many in the Church today, wish is father to the thought - if that's not too patriarchal a comment. Perhaps I mean to say, as regards taking verses from Holy Scripture completely and deliberately out of context to win votes in General Synod, 'necessity is the mother of invention.'
In happier days, if a theology undergraduate had written that Galatians 3.28 was "one of those bits of scripture through which we interpret a lot of other bits," he would have been told to go away and try harder, and not only stylistically - but now? 


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The wedding ceremony as light entertainment?

When I first saw this report a few days ago I assumed (as one would) that it was a spoof. Apparently not entirely; following on from the widespread dumbing down of funeral services - more and more "personalised touches," (in other words becoming largely a celebration of the deceased's life)  and less and less about the hope of resurrection, much less about the need to pray for the departed soul - we have this - official sanction for the 'subjectivisation' of the wedding ceremony, with, presumably, the clergy as game show hosts ....
"The Church of England has set out radical plans to transform the way in which it conducts weddings.
A package of reforms will modernise the marriage service, offering couples the chance to replace traditional aspects with personalised touches.
It will give the go-ahead for glitzy "Posh and Becks"-style ceremonies in churches, with Mendelssohn's Wedding March being replaced by songs such as Girls by the Sugababes or the theme from Test Match Special.
Unusual twists will be welcomed, such as the use of trained owls to carry the rings to the best man.
The reforms follow a four-year review by senior clerics, which concluded that more couples would marry in church and continue as regular churchgoers if they were offered more control over their big day..."
Full report here from The Telegraph website

On second thoughts, I still think this is a parody - "the use of trained owls to carry the rings to the best man" - OMG as my daughter's generation might say - more world of Harry Potter than anything which could be dreamt up by even the most insane of modern liturgists.
Anyway, judge for yourselves here  and  if you can't do without a trained barn owl here

Monday, 22 October 2012

Signs of the times - hypocrisy but not 'democracy?'

News reports over the week end have cast doubt over the BBC 's role in the unfolding Jimmy Savile scandal. This comment seemed to ring more than a few alarm bells - "emails obtained by the programme appear to add further weight to suspicions that some of the BBC's most senior executives decided that the Savile investigation should be dropped to spare the corporation embarrassment." [here]
In view of the Corporation's at times extremely contentious reporting of an appalling scandal in another organisation, I can't suppress the thought that it probably deserves all that is coming to it.
The BBC is rightly considered a treasured national institution with an justly deserved international reputation for integrity and excellence. It seems determined to destroy that, first by its increasing disregard for cultural, intellectual and political balance and now this..


Inevitably, public or civic art in every civilisation is largely - probably entirely - determined by the cultural or religious establishment of the time. Despite our current predilection for talking a great deal about 'democracy,' our own society is proving true to historical type. In place of the symbols of Christian faith, statesmen, monarchs, or the heroes of foreign wars, we now have  imposed upon us the rather brutalist symbols of  the post-modern elite. 
Damien Hirst's huge figure of a pregnant woman, sword in hand and with her baby visible in the womb, which now dominates Ifracombe's harbour (below) may not be to everyone's taste (too reminiscent of some of the detail of Rembrandt's Anatomy Lesson, or even Ridley Scott's 'Alien' films for my liking) but what exactly is this piece of 'public art' meant to be celebrating? Does no-one see the ironies - and there are many - of the installation of this particular statue  in this particular culture?

Saturday, 20 October 2012

South Carolina: a question to our leaders

Given the fact that the present leadership of 'TEC' seems incapable of behaving in any other way than this  towards those who dare to be openly sceptical of the direction in which their Church is being taken, what signals does the 'inclusive' leadership of our own Province intend to send out by  its  increasingly close theological relationship with TEC and its Presiding Bishop
Silence does tend to imply a degree of complicity, or would it be their defence, and those of bishops throughout the Anglican Communion,  that it is considered an impolite and unwarranted interference in the affairs of another province for them to distance themselves in any way from such destructive, authoritarian bullying of a wholly orthodox Christian bishop * and his diocese? If so, enough said ... but doesn't it make you proud?

This is the recent statement by the Diocese of South Carolina:

Episcopal Church Takes Action Against the Bishop and Diocese of SC
On Monday, October 15, 2012, Bishop Mark J. Lawrence, the 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina was notified by the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, that on September 18, 2012 the Disciplinary Board for Bishops  had certified his abandonment of The Episcopal Church. This action by The Episcopal Church triggered two pre-existing corporate resolutions of the Diocese, which simultaneously disaffiliated the Diocese from The Episcopal Church and called a Special Convention. That Convention will be held at St. Philip’s Church, Charleston, on Saturday, November 17, 2012.
Bishop Lawrence was notified of these actions taken by the Episcopal Church between two meetings, one held on October 3 and one to be held on October 22, which Bishop Andrew Waldo of the Upper Diocese of South Carolina and Bishop Lawrence had set up with the Presiding Bishop to find a peaceful alternative to the growing issues between The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina. The meetings were to explore “creative solutions” for resolving these issues to avoid further turmoil in the Diocese and in The Episcopal Church. A timeline of these events and their associated documents may be found below.
Two of the three charges had previously been determined by a majority vote of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops in November 2011 not to constitute abandonment. The Diocese has not received a signed copy of the certification and also remains uninformed of the identity of those making these charges.
We feel a deep sense of sadness but a renewed sense of God’s providence that The Episcopal Church has chosen to act against this Diocese and its Bishop during a good faith attempt resolve our differences peacefully. These actions make it clear The Episcopal Church no longer desires to be affiliated with the Diocese of South Carolina. 

Further comment from the canon lawyer, A.S. Haley, on his blog Anglican Curmudgeon here  and here 

Under the circumstances, given the likelihood of retaliation,  a brave statement from the Episcopal Bishop of Springfield, the Rt Revd Daniel Martins can be read here 

Below is a long video discussion and interviews on this story from Anglican TV

The comments on the South Carolina report on the Thinking Anglicans site [here] are evidence - if we needed it - of  just how vast the gulf now is between traditional Anglicans (actually, of any tradition) and the acolytes of the new liberal ascendancy in the provinces of the 'developed' world. There really are 'two religions' here. 

* That's the whole point of course, Bishop Mark Lawrence is being attacked simply because of his credal orthodoxy. For TEC,   the very definition of 'abandonment of communion' has become a refusal to fall in line with its 'prophetic'  revisionist, heterodox agenda. And central control (in a kind of distorted image of the idea of the Magisterium) has become a vital part of that programme.

Five Variants of Dives & Lazarus: Ralph Vaughan Williams

The Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin

Friday, 19 October 2012

'Hamlet' no longer...?

The Archbishop of Canterbury, despite having argued repeatedly and unavailingly for greater provision for those opposed to the legislation, is now actively campaigning for a 'yes' vote on women bishops in the November Synod:

"...And in this context, it is important to be clear about what the wording of the legislation does and doesn’t say.  In a culture of instant comment, it’s all too easy for a version of what’s being said to gain ground and dominate the discussion even when it doesn’t represent what’s actually there.  We saw this in the widespread but mistaken assumption that the amendment proposed by the bishops in May gave parishes the right to choose their own bishop.  We are seeing it now in the equally mistaken assumption that the word ‘respect’ in the new amendment is little more than window-dressing.
The truth is that the word does have legal content.  If you’re required to show ‘respect’, you need to be able to demonstrate that what you do takes account in practice of someone’s conviction.  You will need to show that it has made a difference to how you act; it doesn’t just recommend an attitude or state of mind (‘with all due respect…’).  The word leaves enough flexibility for appropriate responses to different circumstances, but it isn’t so general as to be toothless.
The legislation isn’t perfect; all legislation for complex communities embodies compromise and unfinished business.  The tough question for those who are still undecided is whether delay would produce anything better.  For those who think the legislation has compromised too far, it may be important to note that conscientious opposition has not grown noticeably weaker; it can’t be taken for granted that any delay would guarantee a smoother passage. And those who think that the provision for dissent is inadequate have to reckon with the extreme unlikelihood, given the way things have gone in the last few years, that any future legislation will be able to find a more acceptable framework.  The chances are that there will in fact be greater pressure from some quarters for a ‘single clause’ measure..."
Read it all here  

On the one hand, Dr Williams doesn't sound entirely convinced by his own arguments, but, on the other hand, yes, 'enough waiting;' faced with a fog of doubt, hesitation and uncertainty as to the implications of what is being proposed, now is exactly the right time to put your foot hard on the accelerator - and drive the vehicle off the edge of the cliff... 

The Catholic Group on General Synod has voted unanimously to oppose the measure.

Cromwell, More & Mantel

Today's piece by Ed West in the Telegraph sums up some of the  reasons why, when I first read them, I so much disliked the first two books of what will become the Tudor trilogy by the novelist Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall & Bring up the Bodies, written so far) which has received so much critical adulation (double Man Booker prize winner etc).
Unfortunately, their success will probably mean that her novels' extremely partial, fictional,  view of Tudor history, written from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, will become (once again?) the popular received view in the English-speaking world: it is  interesting to read Prof Eamon Duffy on the subject:
"...Above all, she cares about Cromwell, so that his voice and hers are sometimes hard to separate. His indifference to all that was lost, religiously and aesthetically, when he destroyed monastic life in England, is attributed here to the real Cromwell’s evangelical leanings, but seems to shade at times into a suspiciously twenty-first-century brand of secularism. Mantel’s Cromwell despises the self-destructive “fanaticism” of Thomas More, “that blood-soaked hypocrite”, who is executed at the close of Wolf Hall, though by any rational measure More’s harrassment of heretics pales in comparison with the ferocity with which the real Cromwell destroyed his more numerous victims... " [here]
This is Ed West, taking things further by way of modern analogy:
".... Mantel portrays Cromwell as a decent family man who rose up from a humble background, even if a flawed one. In reality he was a ruthless politician filled with ideological fervour who could have fit into revolutionary France or Soviet Russia, with a hatred for “pilgrimages, feigned relics, or images, or any such superstitions”. Perhaps it’s this zealotry that has always made him unattractive to English people (even though his main crime – the destruction of the monasteries – is largely forgotten). Cromwell had that revolutionary urge to destroy the old, something shared by many of the 1960s generation to which Mantel belongs.                                                                                                           More was a far more pious man, considered becoming a monk and wore a hair shirt, but this sort of holiness (which even in Protestant England was admired) is now more associated with hypocrisy, weirdness or even sexual deviancy. In Mantel’s world More is an inflexible religious doctrinaire who tortures heretics, and a cruel and arrogant husband, even though it was widely recognised at the time that he was a devoted family man (his daughters spoke Greek and Latin and he was something of a pioneer of female education). But he was on the losing side of the culture war, in modern terms the sort of man who appears in dramatisations of the 60s still wearing a bowler hat and using “bugger” as a noun.                                                                                                   Raised a Catholic and of Irish extraction, Mantel once explained in an interview how she dropped her religion because of “real cliché, the sense of guilt. You grow up believing that you're wrong and bad. And for me, because I took what I was told really seriously, it bred a very intense habit of introspection and self-examination and a terrible severity with myself. So that nothing was ever good enough. It’s like installing a policeman, and one moreover who keeps changing the law.”                                                                                                                             That’s a common enough theme with many talented people of that generation, although the problem for subsequent generations is that people who don’t police themselves have to be policed externally. So instead of self-examination we have ubiquitous CCTV, troubled family programmes, Asbos, an enlarged prison system, 80,000 in care and hundreds of thousands of professional social and youth workers – and a hugely expanded state to deal with all of this. And just like in 16th-century England, the new regime has its intolerant fanatics too, and its idea about what constitutes blasphemy.                                                                    But that, I admit, is a rather More-ist loser-of-history analysis of our times."

Read it all here 

New Bishop of Whitby appointed

Amid all the doubt and uncertainty in the run-up to November's General Synod vote (will there be PEVs after legislation is passed?),  a little  good news for Catholics in the Church of England: 

from the website of the Prime Minister's Office:

"The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Philip John North, MA, Team Rector of Old Saint Pancras, in the Diocese of London, to the Suffragan See of Whitby, in the Diocese of York, in succession to the Right Reverend Martin Clive Warner, MA, PhD, on his translation to the See of Chichester on the 2 July 2012.

The Reverend Philip North (aged 45), was educated at York University, and trained for the ministry at Saint Stephen’s House, Oxford. He served his curacy at Sunderland Saint Mary and Saint Peter, in the Diocese of Durham from 1992 to 1996.  Since 1997 he has been involved with the Company of Mission Priests. From 1996 to 2002 he was Vicar of Hartlepool Holy Trinity in Durham Diocese and from 2000 to 2002 he was Area Dean of Hartlepool.  From 2002 to 2008 he was Priest Administrator at the Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham and from 2004 to 2007 he was also Priest-in-Charge of Hempton and Pudding Norton in the diocese of Norwich.  Since 2008 he has been Team Rector at Old Saint Pancras in the Diocese of London. His interests include cycling and walking."

from ITV news [here] this comment from Fr North:
"I am excited and humbled to have been appointed as Bishop of Whitby and will do my best to serve the people of the Cleveland Archdeaconry and the Diocese of York. The North East of England is very dear to my heart, having been a vicar there for many years, and it’s great to be coming back. I’m looking forward to meeting people and helping churches make the Gospel known in their communities."

But no news of an appointment to Canterbury yet... 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A New Song: James MacMillan

I caught a few bars of this anthem on Radio 3's Choral Evensong (Vespers, in fact, from Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral) in the jeep going around the parish this afternoon. I'm embarrassed to confess it's new to me; but I think it's definitely worth a second hearing!  

O sing unto the Lord a new song *
 sing unto the Lord, all the whole earth.
Sing unto the Lord, and praise his Name *
 be telling of his salvation from day to day.
For he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth *
 and with righteousness to judge the world, and the people with his truth.

from Miles Coverdale's translation of Psalm 96 (95)

Robert Frost: In Hardwood Groves

In Hardwood Groves

The same leaves over and over again!
They fall from giving shade above
To make one texture of faded brown
And fit the earth like a leather glove.

Before the leaves can mount again
To fill the trees with another shade
They must go down past things coming up.
They must go down into the dark decayed.

They must be pierced by flowers and put
Beneath the feet of dancing flowers
However it is in some other world
I know that this is the way in ours.

Robert Frost: from A Boy's Will, 1913

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The necessary independence of Anglican seminary education?

In the light of all the publicity being given to St Michael's College, Llandaff in the media (and isn't it somewhat symptomatic both of the decline of our self-confidence as a Church and of the all-conquering power of television that we take this in some way as a validation?  All sorts of people have been falling over themselves in the last few days to give the BBC Wales 'Vicar Academy' programme immense publicity) here is part of an essay written by the late Bishop John George Hughes, Warden of St Michael's from 1976 - 87; in the light of the contemporary college's falling into line with the hierarchy's liberal agenda and its clear repudiation of its own traditional ethos*, his words very much speak for themselves: 
" 1907 the outcome fell in favour of those who demanded a rightful independence. The intervening years would appear to have justified their stand and it is interesting to record that the most recent attempt to analyse authority in the Anglican Communion speaks of the strength of diffuse rather than concentrated authority. The ideals of the college founders, of loyalty to ancient Christian faith, prayer and practice, included also the individual characteristics of integrity, originality and independence of mind on the part of its members. In our own day there is still the need for men of radical and independent mind, who can see nevertheless that the bedrock of their work is the faith delivered to the Saints which alone transcends the shortcomings and betrayals of every and any particular age, our own included, which in the end beckons the allegiance of bishops, priests and people alike..."
quoted in Owain W. Jones' St Michael's, College Llandaff (1992)

* The statement on the college's website that it is a 'non- party College' does this implicitly, regardless of any other evidence such as the airbrushing out of its history (another indication that for 'the new order' history doesn't matter - one can see why.
St Michael's was, of course, originally founded very much as a Tractarian or even an Anglo-Catholic institution, although over the years welcoming those from a far broader spectrum of Anglican churchmanship, and that essential ethos was broadly maintained until the last decade or so. Besides, in the Anglican world those who decry the existence of ecclesiastical parties are always those with their own partisan agendas to promote.

Monday, 15 October 2012

A leaner, fitter Church?

Since more than a few hints in this direction from Pope Benedict, there has been much talk among [Roman] Catholics about the future of the Church as becoming a smaller but doctrinally more orthodox  body of believers - not because of a misguided (and heretical) search on earth for the 'pure' Church, but because only doctrinal and pastoral orthodoxy has a hope of engaging successfully in an authentic evangelisation and making converts from the world. In the western Anglican provinces, despite all our constant talk about 'mission'  we are only too aware of the results of an increasing accommodation with the spirit of the age.
But whatever might be true on the 'other side of the Tiber', the reverse I suspect is the case with regard to 'Anglicanism.' The more the ecclesiastical institution collapses onto its inner core, the more heterodox the result will be, as our theological minorities (once perhaps, even if only for a short time, the orthodox majority) are shunted from being honoured and respected to the intermediate situation of mere toleration and marginalisation in which we find ourselves now and, finally, not too long away I suspect, to being forced to leave altogether. 

Ancient Briton has this post on the revival of the pan-protestant idea  in Wales, something which last saw the light of day with the ill-fated and theologically misconceived 'Ministry in a Uniting Church' report in the 1980s and the equally doomed 'ecumenical bishop' project of 2002.  On both occasions  the Church in Wales' Governing Body had the sense to vote the measures down, but who would be willing to predict that outcome now, in the wake of serious numerical decline, the significant undermining and weakening of the catholic integrity within the province, and the recent inappropriately de haut en bas recommendations of the Harries Report?
Without doubt, the final result of any such 'united' protestant venture will be an ecclesial body which will be leaner, as it sheds those who dissent from it,  but by no means necessarily fitter; far from halting decline, one can only envisage that decline accelerating precipitately. If contemporary liberal theological trends continue both within Anglicanism and its only likely remaining ecumenical partners (and I can see absolutely no cause for optimism here as theological training in Wales , contrary to the intentions of the founders of St Michael's College, Llandaff*,  is now entirely under the control of the revisionist establishment) the subsumed remains of Anglicanism in Wales will simply waste away or at the very least become part of just another gathered sect, in thrall to a theologically discredited and irrelevant modernist agenda.

I have to admit to a fascination at present with the life and works of the German Lutheran theologian and 'martyr,' Dietrich Bonhoeffer. One should not dare to make glib comparisons with the struggles of those who strove to hold on to Christian orthodoxy in the face of totalitarianism, the cost of which many of whom, like Bonhoeffer, paid with their lives. 
We have it easy; we face indifference, marginalisation and at worst unemployment rather than hatred, violence and death. Yet we are undoubtedly engaged in a struggle for the future of the Church and its apostolic integrity - its difference, and its divine origin and destiny - in the face of an overwhelming desire on the part of the majority of those who are our ("western") Anglican brothers and sisters in the faith to conform the Church to the spirit of the present culture and transform it into something radically at odds with what has been revealed by God both in Holy Scripture and sacred tradition.
"..Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate..."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: 'The Cost of Discipleship'
 “Christian community is like the Christian's sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 'Life Together'

* St Michael's College which, interestingly, on its website gives no information either on its history or the Tractarian / Anglo-Catholic vision (in fact, it expressly repudiates both) of its principal founder and benefactress, Olivia Talbot, a good friend of Fr Arthur Stanton., whilst advertising - astonishingly given the Welsh Province's treatment of orthodox ordinands  - its  "generous inclusivity (extended ecumenically, in inter-faith dialogue and more widely)" - whatever that means...
now a  "Vicar Academy" indeed.

Sunday, 14 October 2012


This morning, the first frost of the autumn, followed by warm sunshine.
Here's something appropriate:

from the Old Testament reading from the prophet Amos at mass today (RCL lectionary)
"...  Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph." [Amos 5. 13 - 15 RSV] 
No names and no details, but your prayers, please, for those in Wales who are suffering misunderstanding and abuse for following their consciences in matters of faith and who, rumour has it today, are now falling foul of the wrath of an increasingly intolerant majority...

Following on from the present day actions of those who are perhaps the ideological (if not theological)  descendants * of those who were responsible for introducing to Wales such a suspicion of visual beauty and a concomitant love of whitewash, here [thanks to Father Anthony Chadwick for spotting this] is a post by Christian Campbell on the authentically restored mediaeval St Teilo's Church at the Welsh Folk Museum at St Fagans outside Cardiff.  

* In the sense of an intellectual dismantling of things of beauty - axes and hammers of a different kind - just as devastating in its consequences.