Another nail in the coffin of Common Sense

 

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You’re probably safe with this cake from Mary Berry

Today the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal has given its judgment in the Gary Lee vs Ashers Bakery “gay cake” case. Gary Lee won. There are countless losers.

In case you’ve thought this was a lot of nonsense about a bit of sugar icing let me put you in the picture.

A gay man called Gary Lee asked the McArthur family, owners of the bakery, to make him a cake, which they were happy to do. However, they felt unable to decorate it with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” because of their deeply held religious beliefs. (Please note, Asher’s is not the only bakery in Belfast.)

I would have thought that, given the ‘persecution’ Mr Lee has presumably suffered in the past as a gay man, he would have had a fellow feeling for another persecuted minority. Not so. Instead he went to the Equality Commission who supported his claim of discrimination. The County Court agreed and ruled against the McArthurs, who then appealed. I watched a video of one of the McArthur sons explaining why this was so important to the family. He spoke eloquently, politely and movingly.

I find today’s judgment alarming and deeply distressing. First, as a Christian, albeit a misfitting Anglican, I wonder how long it will be before I upset someone simply by voicing my belief in God. Do you think that idea is a little extreme? Look at the power the LGBT lobby is already wielding. They are only a small fraction of the population but they punch much above their weight. Then there are the transgender people who cause great trouble to those who refer to a bearded man as ‘he’ because they can’t see inside ‘her’ mind.

However, there is something here even more worrying about this judgment. Frightening, even. It should be the concern of all thinking human beings who rely, in the conduct of their daily lives,  on simple Common Sense. I suspect this case was brought originally for political, selfish and spiteful reasons and supported by similarly minded people.

Goodbye compassion, tolerance and generosity of spirit. Goodbye Common Sense.

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Better not put your Christmas crib in a front window facing the street.

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Re-defining sanity will be next

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No, I’m not making it up. That is a headline on the front page of today’s Daily Telegraph. Nor is it just a case of the Editor putting a ‘shock-horror’ story on the front to attract the attention of readers. We’ve got used to hearing about single women, even old women, even women with 16 or 17 children already, producing babies whenever they want.

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A mother, at 62, already old enough to be a great grandmother

The above headline relates to men.

The World Health Organization is about to change its guide lines to redefine the word ‘infertility.’ I’ll pause there while you think about that statement. I expect your wits are much quicker than mine. Even so I think it may take awhile for you to get your head round that.

Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 10.29.01.pngSo says Dr David Anderson, one of the authors of the new standards for the World Health Organisation.

Infertility used to mean that a medical condition of some kind, either with the man or the woman, prevented conception. Now it’s going to mean that anyone, a single man as well as a single woman, who doesn’t want to have sex with anyone, (love no longer comes into it) will be termed to be suffering from a health problem rather than merely making a life style choice and will therefore be able to demand the right to have a child. But since he can’t—male bodies have nowhere to grow babies—I presume this means a surrogate mother. Are there women around who would be prepared to spend nine months of their lives carrying a baby for a man who has just decided a baby boy would fit nicely in his bachelor pad and his new car, as a rather exotic accessory. Or possibly a man, a bit of a loner, who fancies a loving companion, but is allergic to dogs.

I was disappointed by what Archbishop Justin Welby had to say recently about suffering. In  an interview with Jeremy Vine he said he wasn’t a good enough theologian to explain how a loving God can allow so much suffering. That’s something we all wrestle with, on a personal level, for eample, when a close relative gets cancer or a child is born disabled. We watch, with sympathy and compassion, the aftermath of hurricanes and earthquakes, and wonder why. For Christians it’s certainly one of the most difficult problems to come to terms with.

However, there is also an awful lot of suffering that is entirely man made.

In today’s Frankenstein world  I can’t help thinking that re-defining infertility as a legitimate life-style choice, utterly ignoring the interests and needs of the child, to say nothing of its rights, is suffering waiting to happen.

 

Saints need not apply

 

Yesterday, the Reverend Ian Paul began his admirable blog “Psephizo” with an advert for the Principal ofScreen Shot 2016-10-18 at 18.39.04.png a Theological College. Ian Paul thought it asked a bit much. Up here in North Wales we’re used to obscurity and obfuscation when it comes to anything of a remotely theological nature. Here are some bits of the sample advert for a Mission Area Leader in the St Asaph Diocesan 2020 Vision Toolkit. Part 2.

 

 

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I was very relieved to see that this was the first priority because much prayer, worship and discipleship can be done on one’s knees and that is definitely where the prospective MAL will be by the time he or she has worked his or her way through the rest of what’s expected.

The list of verbs—the doing words— that are expected of the MA  are what impressed me most. How many of these could you do? Develop, implement, enable, provide, encourage, discern, manage, seek, co-operate, support, encompass, access, ensure, evaluate, action, convey, consult, work, discharge.

That’s what the MA has to do. Then we come to what the MA has to be. A person of faith (faith in what not specified), a leader, an enabler, a challenger, articulate, empathetic, compassionate, an effective administrator, an empowerer, have a deep and resilient spirituality, commitment, demonstrate reflectiveness and be willing to be challenged.

 

There are also some arresting phrases among all this verbiage of what is required. I’ll share some examples with you: ‘catalyst for mission’, ‘recognising seeds of mission’, ‘encompassing a vision’, ‘dynamic structure for strategy’, ‘accountability and action’, ‘concerns and initiatives are received, evaluated and actioned’, ‘the necessary balance of skills, gender and expertise’, ‘a servant approach to leadership’—and so on and so forth! I’m sure you get the picture.

Two bullet points call for special mention.

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Personally, I think there has been far too much experimentation in the Church in Wales over the last decade, from constantly tinkering with the liturgy to the pressure for SSM. It’s obvious that the Welsh Bishops have no fear of failure, even when it’s staring them in the face.

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And that sentence tells you plainly that if you believe that marriage is between one man and one woman don’t bother to apply.

Let me remind you that this is a suggested advert, not for the next Archbishop of Wales, not even for the Principal of a Theological College, just for a Mission Area Leader in one Mission Area in one North Wales diocese.

 

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Would either of these tick enough boxes?

 

Fellow Feeling

 

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This is a picture of a common toad. You may think he or she (no need to worry about the 20 or possibly 30 or even 40 variables of gender in the toad world) is not a thing of much beauty but to gardeners toads are much more welcome than any strangers.

They choose to dine on slugs, worms, insects and spiders. As far as I’m concerned they’re welcome to the lot—the more the better. As for habitat they prefer ponds, rock piles, log piles, meadows and woodland and fairly roughish gardens. If you see any in your garden please nurture them tenderly. You can tell them from frogs by their rather warty skins and their beautiful golden eyes. They are much drier than frogs and don’t spend much time in water. They crawl rather than hop, which makes them easier to catch, and less alarming.

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Pond and rock pile-toads for the use of

Apart from all these advantages the main reason I, as a misfitting Anglican, have such a fellow feeling for toads is because their numbers have fallen by two thirds in 30 years. We threatened species have to stick together.

 

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Mr Toad from Wind in the Willows. Still going strong after 108 years.

Good News!

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I am NOT a homophobe!

What’s more I have it on the authority of no less a person than the Archbishop of Cairo, Mouneer Anis. He spoke yesterday of the challenges facing the church, including the false teachings which undermine the authority of Scripture. (I would add that here in Wales it appears these false teachings could be putting off the formerly Faithful, if the 5% drop in church attendance between 2014 and 2015 is anything to go by; 30% in the last 12 years. Not that our wobbly Welsh Bishops will take any notice because Archbishop Anis was speaking at the opening of the Gafcon Conference in Egypt.)

An example of these challenges is “the redefining of marriage by either permitting same-sex marriage or by indirect approval of it through prayers of blessing,” he said. He continued:

“The Primates at their meeting in Canterbury last January said this was ‘a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our Provinces on the doctrine of marriage.’ Lambeth Conference resolution 1:10 represents this standard teaching that is held by the majority of the Provinces of the Anglican Church, which recognizes marriage only between man and woman.”

The archbishop went on to explain this did not mean we are homophobic when we reject the unbiblical views on human sexuality.

“We should love, embrace, and pastorally care for everyone but without compromising the teaching which is accepted by the majority in the Church.”

Of course we should. Thank you, Archbishop.

I am a Stranger

 

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More thoughts after reading Teulu Asaph.

Thanks to my East End Cockney mother, I grew up knowing all about welcoming strangers. The East End of London has always been a melting pot for migrants, immigrants and refugees. In May 1939 my father’s office moved out of London to a safe area and once the bombing started our house became a haven for evacuees as well. We always had at least one person officially billeted with us but we also welcomed family and friends and friends of friends, who found a camp bed or a sofa a wonderful couch after nights spent in a shelter or on a tube station platform.

When the war ended nothing changed in the way we welcomed strangers. My mother, a devout Anglican, always unconsciously behaved as if, as Bishop Gregory says in Teulu Asaph, we might be ‘entertaining angels unaware.’

I’m lucky enough to have a Polish daughter-in-law so we always begin Christmas with a traditional Polish meal on Christmas Eve. (My son always tries to get out of eating the carp which he describes as cottonwood stuffed with needles, but that’s his problem.) We begin the meal by sharing a special wafer and we always lay an extra place at the table.

Later in the magazine Mark Yaconelli, former Missioner, writes about his time in the Diocese and his experience of being a stranger. A rather privileged stranger, I would have thought, invited by the Bishop and with a house found for him and his family. And a job to come to; a job moreover that involved meeting people at all levels. Ironically, in his farewell article he says: “What I can tell you is that the people who I found to be most alive, most awake to the life of God, are the people who are working at the margins of our society, with the homeless, the poor, addicts, refugees, immigrants, young people and other marginalized groups. God has always been found along the edges, among the powerless. He is still there today.”

What are we to make of that?

Far from being homeless I have a comfortable house in which I love to welcome people. I am not poor, nor am I an addict, though I love a glass of wine; I am most certainly not young. On the other hand, I feel a bit of an immigrant, since I am English and, as an old fashioned Anglican I am definitely one of a marginalised group.  God is indeed “found along the edges, among the powerless.” And amongst those often in the depths of despair. And all because I still believe marriage is between one man and one woman.

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All Welcome? I don’t think so

Fortunately, I have found alternatives—on the Internet, for which I truly thank God. I can listen to brilliant sermons from people who do not think of themselves as alternative social workers; nor are they afraid to point out that judgement accompanies mercy. Some will even tell us that the God of the Old Testament is a loving God and Jesus in the New Testament can be stern and demanding. How often does He tell someone, for example, after lovingly healing them, ‘Go and sin no more.’

I can also listen to the hymns of my choice, from Westminster Abbey to Gospel Choirs. That is how I was reminded of these two verses yesterday, which seem to say it all.

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