A Misfitting Anglican Alien Spinning in Space

Just as I start to think I’m beginning to get a grasp on the situation someone or something puts a shot across my bows and I am sent spinning into space, a misfitting Anglican alien, wondering where the hell I’m ever going to find somewhere safe to land.

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Storm Angus washed away our lane, the boiler died, the pump in the well packed up and then the Aga decided to join them, possibly in solidarity, and is now sitting in the kitchen exuding frozen disapproval of the whole situation. There’s also a fair bit of sheep rustling going on up here, but it’s the downright weirdness going on in the Anglican Church that undoes me and leaves me feeling bereft.

Saint David’s Cathedral in the south-west of Wales is the oldest and most sacred Christian site in the principality. In January it will have a new bishop. The fact that the Bishop is a woman would be fine as far as I am concerned were it not that she is a supporter of same-sex marriage and for some reason is also studying for a PhD in quantum theory.

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What is it with these clerics who, as well as their more than full-time day job, feel the need to study for PhDs in exotic subjects. The new chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury no less has almost completed a PhD in a subject so obscure that after reading all about it with the aid of a dictionary I’m still not that much wiser. Needless to say it is something to do with sex, in this case feminism. (Relational identity, Otherness and Victimisation: An Irigarayan Reading of Judges 19-21).

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This is what I had some trouble with.

I would think these three chapters from Judges certainly need a lot of interpretation if someone like me is going to make sense of them. It’s also one of the less edifying chunks of the Bible-if it were on the BBC it would come with a health warning, and then get made into a late night series. But are just three chapters, mainly concerned with eating and drinking and warring, enough for a Doctorate of Philosophy these days.

The latest shot across my bows is a film to be screened in St Asaph Cathedral on December 6th. It’s title “All One in Christ” would, in the olden days, have given the impression it was a film about Christian life. Nowadays we know enough to be suspicious, even before we see it is an IRIS Prize Outreach project. This film company specialises in films for and about the LGBTQI community and the interesting point is it was the good old Bench of Bishops who requested it be made. Bishop Gregory of St Asaph will be talking about the film at its premiere. I wonder if his LGBT chaplain has a starring role in it.

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The Bishop of Gloucester, whose maiden speech in the Lords was all about the empowerment of women, is to preside at an LGBT Eucharist in January to “offer a safe space” to gay worshippers. What does she think that makes me feel like. Just because I believe that Christian marriage must be between a man and a woman does she think I am automatically horrible to every gay or lesbian I meet. Does she assume that most of her own church congregations are homophobic.

Remember Canon Jeffrey John, in the pulpit of Liverpool Cathedral, telling the congregation, and anyone who read that sermon, that those of us who could not support Same Sex Marriage  were “inhumane”.

If all this pressure on behalf of those in favour of same sex partnerships were just one aspect of the work of the church it would be welcome. As Christians we believe we are all one in Christ. For heaven’s sakes! During a long life of Sundays how often have I heard the words of St Paul in Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Also, in that life of Sundays I have heard a lot about love, almost nothing about sex.
Do you remember this quote from “Animal Farm”? “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

It seems to me, a lifetime Anglican, as I whirl through space, a mis-fitting alien, looking for truth and honesty and discipline, that anyone in the LGBTQI community and all feminists are a lot more equal than I am in the eyes of the senior clergy.

Joy and Sadness

 

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Joy and gladness with the colours of Autumn

This week there was one of the saddest of stories splashed all over the front pages of the newspapers and the lead story on many news channels. And one note of sanity and hope which may have found a brief mention somewhere in one of the papers.

Let’s get the sadness out of the way first.

Terminally ill teen won historic ruling to preserve body

A 14-year-old girl who wanted her body to be preserved, in case she could be cured in the future, won a historic legal fight shortly before her death.

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At the present moment this is how you will wait for up to two centuries or so

The girl, who was terminally ill with a rare cancer, was supported by her mother in her wish to be cryogenically preserved – but not by her father. I’m not sure if I felt more sadness or despair when I read that. I wondered how on earth such a negative, hopeless situation could develop. I suppose it’s easy, really, if you grow up in a world that is lacking in many of the fundamentals of life, awash with virtual reality and with no faith or belief in any sort of hope apart from a fairly speculative science.

For almost half her life this poor child had had no father. I don’t know if he wanted to be involved with his daughter during the six years when he didn’t see her, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t a healthy, loving relationship between father and child. Initially, the father opposed his child’s wish to be preserved which is why the case came to court. In the end he relented, though, apparently, he wasn’t allowed to see her body after she died. Which makes me think the atmosphere around that death bed was as cold and sterile as the ice in which the girl is now preserved.

This reminded me of that earlier court battle over a mother’s right to have a child with her dead daughter’s egg. I feel genuine horror at the thought that there are people around who must see life only through those strange visual reality glasses. We only hear about the ones with enough money—tens of thousands of pounds—to indulge these strange desires but there must be many others.

I feel anger at the whole Establishment that have let this happen. I feel a particularly fierce and righteous indignation at those Anglican clergy who have aided and abetted this. I’m not suggesting that a stable family life and the support and prayers of a church community would have prevented this girl dying of cancer but her end could and should have been much warmer and more loving.

Now for some joy!

I’m an optimist by nature so, despite all my moans and groans and nit-picking, I don’t go out of my way to find misery. On the contrary I am always on the look out for signs of hope and evidence of common sense. Here is one sign that the worms who have been advocating turning are finally being heard.

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*“This requires a move away from the argument that has become increasingly popular, which is to say that ISIS is ‘nothing to do with Islam’,**or that Christian militia in the Central African Republic are nothing to do with Christianity, or Hindu nationalist persecution of Christians in South India is nothing to do with Hinduism. Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution.

… finally, I want to speak to you about why I believe it is absolutely necessary for us to reclaim religious language for the common good of Europe.

Rather than simply seeking to prevent ‘bad’ religion, however, we have to offer an alternative vision of the role of faith in our societies that is more convincing. That is more profound. That is more satisfying to the human spirit. And where to do we find a better vision than in the gospel of Jesus Christ, in the good news of Christ?”**

We’ve heard enough about re-interpreting the Bible for the benefit of the LGBTI community’s sexual convenience. Please can we now get back to more fundamental and universal needs. Putting the gospel of Christ first and the sanctity of marriage a close second would be an excellent start.

*This is copied from the Archbishop’s website. **My italics

 

Go for it, Jo! A letter of encouragement.

Thursday is Welsh class night. In September we (eight of us, ranging in age from mid twenties to mid eighties) reached the start of a GCSE course. Up here in the north it’s still the first language of many of my friends and neighbours, and all my husband’s family.
I applaud the new Bishop-Elect’s intention of brushing up her rusty Welsh.

We used to have many bi-lingual services in our local village which were moaned about, inevitably, by one or two English only speakers, but were much appreciated by most people who enjoy the privilege of living in two cultures. For one thing, the singing is better in Welsh!
The Cathedral and diocese of St David’s are the very heart of Welsh Christianity. The Bishop Elect will need her Welsh if she is to feel totally at home there and at one with her people.

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She’s also going to need a lot of help and support; a PhD in Quantum Physics will be a doddle in comparison. In my experience, she will certainly get that from her Welsh speaking congregations, and much more in the way of interest and sheer fun. For the sake of non Welsh speakers I think I should try and give you a little information about just what Jo Pemberthy is taking on.

On Thursday night we were doing Possession.
My cat (cath in Welsh), your cat, his cat, her cat.
However, (what a lovely, loaded word that is!) Welsh is a musical language so it must always sound beautiful with no jarring combinations. Which is why my class mates and I spent three hours wrestling with the ‘mutations’ which help to make the language flow so smoothly.
My cat becomes “fy nghath i” but your cat is “dy gath di” and her cat is “ei chath hi.”
Still with me?
There are three different types of mutation, soft, nasal and aspirate, but they only happen in certain circumstances, and only for some letters. My doctor becomes fy noctor, for example, and, depending on I’m not entirely sure what, the city of Bangor can become either Fangor or Mangor.

Paid a phoeni, Jo. The mistakes don’t matter. I’ve never got over the embarrassment of asking for ‘cottage cheese’* in the village shop, before I had learned the Welsh word for cottage—bwthyn. So I asked for ‘caws ty bach’. (Ty bach—’little house’— is the euphemism for toilet) Back came the straight faced response—‘Would that be the bog-standard cheddar?’

If the Bishop Elect is in a class anything like the one I go to she will have a wonderful time. It’s amazing how much a knowledge of the language deepened my understanding of the history and the culture, as well as the people, of this beautiful country and made me feel utterly at home here.

Anyone dithering about joining a Welsh class – just go for it.

*caws colfran, if you ever need to buy some.

In case anyone is looking for a holiday spot for next year have a look at this.

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Welcome to the Waffling Moronarchy

What does ‘waffle’ mean? The first meaning is a noun and describes a batter honeycomb pancake—crisp and sweet. The second is a verb meaning to speak or write equivocally. Nothing crisp or sweet about that, but something that happens far too often in the Church in Wales.

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This is the Bishop Elect of St David’s

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This is her mission statement

The above picture and quote are from Ancient Briton’s most recent blog. As so often he has been my inspiration, although I don’t think “inspire” is quite the right word. In this blog, he also mentioned “The Time is Now” conference in Llandudno in November 2014. It was things to do with that conference, particularly the YouCubes, that were the straw that broke this Anglican camel’s back. Sadly, everything the Church in Wales has said and done since has convinced me I was right to leave.

Take that phrase The Time is Now. When Archbishop Barry Morgan thought it up he probably believed he was being, modern, with-it, appealing and above all original. Actually, it’s a daft phrase. Of course the time is now. Good Catholics acknowledge this fact every time they recite Hail Mary. “Pray for us sinners, now and in the time of our death.”

Type the “time is now” into Google and you will discover that the time is now for practically everyone. Cybersecurity; sustainability reporting; time banking; LGBTQ youth (natch). It’s even the now time for the “global elimination of Dog-mediated Human Rabies.”

What’s more, most of these websites use many of the same words and phrases as the CinW. Seek to empower; drive to implement; revitalise energy; share resources, skills and good practices; meet the challenges. You’ve heard or read all those words before, many times, by senior clergy bragging about their visions for potential or by CEOs boasting at their AGMs, but have you ever read anything remotely like that in the gospels?

Remember these words from Isaac Watt’s hymn—Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God.

These words proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Would it be a good idea to hear them much more often, alone and unadulterated, outside church, in press releases, for example, rather than this constant banging on about exciting and fresh ways of doing what, exactly? I much prefer a prayer that begins ‘Our Father,’ to one that limits me to ‘God of renewal and transformation’. (That last is the God invoked by the MAL of the Aled MA)

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Absolutely nothing has changed for the better since I published this blog in April, 2016

Here is what the Archbishop said before The Time is Now Conference.

“We want to do ‘church’ differently so that the great resources we have can be used much more effectively than at present.  Hopefully, this conference will be a chance for people from all over the Province to share what they are doing, learn from one another, be enthused and inspired and take away a clear vision for the future of the Church in Wales.”

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Here’s a picture taken a few days before that conference. It looks like a warehouse preparing to send supplies to earthquake victims or refugees. In fact, it is a cathedral and the boxes are empty.

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Here is the Arch Waffler celebrating the Eucharist on an altar made of empty boxes.

Says it all, doesn’t it.

I look forward, in hope, to a time when the Bible is read straight, without cutting out all the nasty bits about Satan and sin, and the clergy admit that only the Truth, not wishy washy weasel words, will set us free.

Today is Election Day in America and we all know how ghastly the run up to that event has been. So why am I writing about something so parochial on such a day. This is a small province on the edge of a small island with only 1% of the population involved in this Moronachy. Why bother? Because Great Britain doesn’t look too Great at the moment, the United Kingdom is anything but and it is often easier to see a universal problem by concentrating on one small aspect of it.

God bless (help) America!

Binary Bishop for St David’s?

Any bets on the soon-to-retire Archbishop of Wales achieving a final glory?

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As so often I am indebted to Ancient Briton, this time for his latest blog, Deception. This has both informed and inspired me and also given me some small seeds of hope.

Screen Shot 2016-11-01 at 10.25.00.pngHow encouraging to find the Governing Body of the Church in Wales at last confessing to “a heavy heart.” It’s a pity they’ve taken so long to appreciate what the rest of us, both in and out of the church, have been suffering for years. I do wonder, though, whether the Standing Committee will take note “as a matter of urgency”. There might have been some hope if they had stuck their collective fingers in the holes in the dyke when they first appeared. Instead of which they stuck their fingers up at those who advised caution on the subject of SSM and the whole mad 2020 Vision fiasco. Now, I’m afraid, all they can do is man the lifeboats. Secularism, the LGBT brigade and the “read the Bible anyway you like” theology have inundated the Church in Wales.

If Jayne Ozanne has her way it will wash away the Church of England as well. (We talk a lot about washing away sins—we just never thought it meant our churches.) By following the links in Ancient Briton’s blog I now know much more about her and have watched the video of her interview with Ruth Gledhill. Well, she’s certainly a name dropper! She seems to number as her mates most of the great and good among the most senior clergy. When she ‘came out’ she had lovely letters from them, reassuring her that she was a child of God. What did she expect? I was taught that in Sunday School. What’s more it was at a time when Hitler was still alive. I realise now that my two Sunday school teachers must have had an extraordinarily firm faith to take that on the chin and explain it to five year olds, to remember and hang on to more than 70 years later.

There are two things that immediately worry me about Ms Ozanne. First her YouGov poll which, she claimed, showed 45% of the 1500+ Anglicans surveyed supported same sex marriage. Unfortunately, a goodly number of those same Anglicans also think pornography and adultery are all right.

My other worry is this. She says she came out when she “fell madly in love” and entered into a relationship with another woman which lasted six years.

In my book, if she had been heterosexual, she would either have been living in sin, as we so quaintly used to put it, or she would now be divorced. Either way, I don’t think that’s anything to boast about.