SHAME

This is an unhappy follow up on my last post.

In Glasgow’s St Mary’s Cathedral a woman recites from the Quran denying the divinity of Christ during an Epiphany Eucharist.

I’ll pause while you think about that.

In Gloucester Cathedral there is a Multi Faith event in which all religions are welcome to take part, including Witches, Druids and Pagans.

Stop again and have another think about the incomprehensibility of that.

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Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth 

After the Glasgow gaffe, by Kelvin Holdsworth, the Provost, several theologians, beginning with Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who knows a bit of which he speaks, commented on the inappropriateness (to put it mildly) of this. In particular, Revd Canon Gavin Ashenden, wrote about this and spoke in a video interview with an American cleric. (YouTube Anglican Unscripted #262)  It’s well worth watching. He spoke clearly, thoughtfully and with authority, using words that were simple and direct. No theological jargon; no modern media-speak. He just explained why it was wrong.

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Revd Ruth Fitter 

Meanwhile, down in Gloucester, one of the facilitators of the multi-faith shenanigans, Revd Ruth Fitter, was interviewed by Gloucester Live. She talked a lot of muddled mindlessness but included one statement that horrified me. An event like this encourages “Christians to embrace all religions rather than spread the gospel in any way.”

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Revd Dr Gavin Ashenden

To the Church’s shame it is Gavin Ashenden who has been muzzled. Forced to resign as a Chaplain to the Queen, Defender of the Faith, for speaking the truth.

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First Glasgow. Now Gloucester.

 

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St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow where a major restoration on 2002 seems a great example of hope over experience

Glasgow seemed not to know, or didn’t think it mattered, that verses from the Quran, which specifically deny the divinity of Christ, were recited during an Epiphany Eucharist.

Now, an Imam has opened an Exhibition in Gloucester Cathedral with an Islamic call to prayer.

This interfaith event included Buddhist chanting, Rasta drumming, and a Pagan rock band, as well as input from Zoroastrians, Druids, Witches, Pagans, and Baha’i. Fine, on neutral ground, but not in a cathedral which has been dedicated to Christianity since the 11th century. The Reverend Ruth Fitter, vicar of St. Paul and Stephen Church, who helped to arrange the event, thought the call to prayer was “absolutely beautiful.”

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Gloucester Cathedral – Christian since the 11th century, but for how much longer?

I long ago reached the stage when, if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry and it’s certainly easy to laugh.  One blogger mentioned Ruth Fitter’s pink hair. The incomparable Mrs Proudie, on Archbishop Cramner’s blog had her Archdeacon describe Ms Fitter as a “muddle-headed yoghurt-knitting kumbaya-merchant” hosting “a multi-kulti-fest, where all other faiths are exalted and our own is side-lined.”

Actually, it’s even worse than that. Ms Fitter says she thinks an event like this encourages “Christians to embrace all religions rather than spread the gospel in any way.” That’s not side-lining Christians; it’s putting us right in there with Druids and Pagans and, of course, Witches. In an interview with Gloucestershire Live she tries to explain her own faith.

“I happen to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who came to dwell with me and save me from my sins. That doesn’t mean I expect others to change their faith or believe wholeheartedly.” That seems a bit wishy-washy woolly to me, and is followed by a gloriously naïve statement. “It does mean, however, that I hope they will offer me the same respect as I seek to offer them.” Given the well documented evidence of the hideous persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East and in many parts of Africa I don’t think her expectations are going to be met any time soon.

As for her final comment—I don’t know what to make of it.

“At the end of the day, we really make God very small if we think he cares about us fighting the corner for Him. Don’t you think He can do that for himself?”

In fact it makes me wonder what on earth ordinands* are taught these days. I’m told that a group of ordinands were recently visiting a church in Cardiff, just to look around, when one woman asked the Vicar, ‘What is this Evensong they keep going on about?”

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York Minster, where the bells almost fell silent this Christmas after 650 years

*My spell-checker doesn’t recognise the word ‘ordinand’ although it knows organogram. Why doesn’t that surprise me?

 

 

How to get your knickers in a twist!

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Witch hazel — a sure sign of hope

The Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow seems to have got his knickers in a twist and his bloomers in a bundle with a vengeance. I am appalled to learn of the abuse that has been thrown at him (by Christians?). I’m glad to know that the police were completely supportive — such hatred and intolerance have no place in Scotland, nor anywhere else. The protests continue to rumble on, however, including many thoughtful articles by leading theologians, who give very cogent reasons for their dismay and doubt. Never-the-less, I’m still left puzzled.

After a lot of ‘mulling’ I have come to the conclusion that what probably happened was that the Muslim reader automatically added the last three verses of Surah 19, the verses denying the divinity of Christ, although they did not appear on the printed order of service, because that’s the way she’d learned it and she was not thoroughly aware of the significance. That seems to me the most obvious explanation. In which case, the most common-sense thing would have been for Kelvin Holdsworth to issue an immediate apology. End of story for most people.

Mind you, I still think it was not a good idea to have a reading of the Quran on that occasion. I have been to many services where there have been representatives of several other faiths, some of whom have done readings or have said prayers. But never during a Eucharist service on a special day like Epiphany.

I have now read what Kelvin himself said on his blog, and I have also read all the comments and responses, though that particular page is now closed.

In this blog the Provost tried to justify himself. That’s rarely a good idea. There were also other remarks that I found a bit strange. For one thing he said he is gay. I didn’t know that and I can’t see why I should need to know it; how can that fact be relevant? Another odd thing he said in his comments was that he recites the Nicene Creed without crossing his fingers. Could someone, please, explain what on earth that has to do with anything? And a third thing that worried me—comments about choosing the ‘wrong’ tune for “Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning” caused almost as much angst and discussion as the reading from the Quran. Perhaps it’s not just the Provost that’s got his bloomers bundled.

And now for something to raise a smile.

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This is a bag which contained a child’s fleecy jacket

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This is the tag that came attached to it!

 

 

2017 Re-Thunk

I thought I would rethink the scope of my blog for this year and I was also determined not to whinge about current ecclesiastical and other stupidities. But it’s impossible to avoid them. Universities colluding with the Snowflake generation, inadequate bishops and empty boxes, for a start. Not what I had intended but difficult to ignore. At least the empty boxes blog was inspired by a most respected blogger, Father Hunwicke, who has my own low opinion of ridiculous nonsense inserted into the liturgy.
I spent some time mulling over bishops – I do do a lot of mulling – and had just come to the conclusion that perhaps Martyn Percy had been a bit hard on them with his 95 Theses, when that act of crass stupidity took place in St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow. Not only did a Muslim get to recite a bit of the Quran but some of the verses chosen denied the divinity of Christ. All right, he was a Provost, not a Bishop, but he was in too senior a position to allow something either asinine or worse.  If you get the chance, read Revd Dr Gavin Ashenden on the subject, or better still watch him on the video on Ancient Briton’s blog.

And then just as I think it can’t get any worse, and I’m trying very hard to be positive, I read the weekly-on-line information sheet from the diocese of St Asaph.

Screen Shot 2017-01-14 at 17.52.15.png St Asaph Round-up:  Dydd Iau, 12 Ionawr 2017

There were four main items of news  and the second one, a notice of a visit of Bishop Matthew Mhagama, of South West Tanganyika,  was the sort of thing we have been reading in Church notices any time in the last hundred years. An appeal for help and support for a part of the world still suffering poverty and need. The sort of place we used to send filled boxes to.

However, of the other three notices, two were pretty much what we’ve got to expect up here — sex and sexuality — and the third is incomprehensible.

“Exploring our Boundaries” Not any old boundaries but, you’ve guessed it, our human sexuality ones. Even with the retirement of the Archbishop of Wales in a few days, SSM is still more important than any other aspect of Christianity in St Asaph. Does that mean +Gregory is hoping to step into ++Barry’s shoes? The “Boundaries Day” will include worship – of what isn’t specified — and will have “input from well-known” [and in my opinion, somewhat confused] speaker, Jayne Ozanne.
The next notice naturally continues the theme. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere in this diocese beyond the reach of the LGBTQIA+ chaplaincy. Last month is was film premieres. This month it’s Open Tables. These offer “safe spaces”, natch, “worship and shared stories ………” and whatever other fun and frolic is involved.
The third notice left me utterly mystified.
Enneagram Workshop with Gordon Melvin in Llangollen Friday 13th January at 6pm until lunchtime Sunday 15th.
Price: £150, excluding a variety of accommodation options.

I had to google Enneagram (not to be confused with Organagrams, which relate to Mission areas) to find out what it was, and what it had to do with religion or theology or church. The answer is nothing. It’s a kind of personality test, supposedly to tell you your strengths and weaknesses. In other words all about Moi. You’d do better to save your £150 or give it to Bishop Matthew, or stay home and read the Bible or watch a wild life programme, preferably about penguins.
I do hope Bishop Matthew Mhagama doesn’t see this information or he may decide not to come.

What is it with empty boxes?

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These are empty boxes

I’ve looked at them from every angle and I still don’t get it. Why does the Church love empty boxes? What is it about empty boxes and the church that I don’t understand? I’ve blogged about them several times  (April 9th and Nov 8th ) because they seem to me to symbolise the emptiness at the heart of Anglicanism at the moment. All “fur coat and no knickers” as I have rudely said before.

I thought no one else saw these boxes in the way I do but now, oh joy, I have an ally. And no less an ally than the redoubtable and deeply learned Father John Hunwicke.

In his blog “Father Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment” today, under the title ‘Shoe box games for adults’ he draws our attention to the new rituals designed for services during the Week of Christian Unity which begins on Wednesday, 18th January. I’ll give a flavour of what he has to say.

“This year the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity in collaboration with some Ecumenical Partners, has set out quasi-liturgical formulae for use. These forms constitute successful attempts to scale heights of risibilty which have not to my knowledge previously been attempted. This is your real hard-core Guinness-book-of-records rubbish.

“The central ritual involves the moving of stones. But, because carrying real stones might be a bit like hard work for the aged biddies of each sex who are likely to be symbolising their second childhoods by taking part in these events, the “stones” will in fact be shoe boxes covered with packing paper. No, I’m not making this up. Twelve of them. With labels. Labels naming ‘things that divide’. The ‘stones’ will be built up to make a ‘Wall of Division’ which will then be dismantled and formed into a Cross. (What happens if the officiants disagree about the neatest way in which twelve empty shoe-boxes can be arranged into a Cross, and end up in a melee of fisticuffs, is a rubrical detail which these curial nut-cases have not catered for.)”

Isn’t that lovely? And isn’t he right? Surely it’s not our bishops or theologians who believe that moving empty shoeboxes around could possibly do anything for Christian unity. However, I have to admit it was our bishops here in Wales that actually worshipped at an altar made of tatty tinsel boxes. Perhaps the Very Revd Prof Martyn Percy could add a note to his 95th Thesis. Forget empty boxes. Reintroduce the practice of filling boxes for the poor and needy. I think most people would find that a much more unifying gesture.

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Does this explain it all?

Here is a headline from Thursday’s Daily Telegraph.

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Honestly. I’m not making it up. But they can skip the classes if it’s all too upsetting!
Glasgow University has also issued warnings to its veterinary students that they may have to work with dead animals.  Those studying ‘Contemporary Society’, who will be discussing illness and violence, are also dutifully warned.

Stirling University has told its gender studies students: “We cannot anticipate or exclude the possibility that you may encounter material which is triggering [ie, which can trigger a negative reaction] and we urge that you take all necessary precautions to look after yourself in and around the programme.”
Oh, little diddums. The university explains that this in an effort to protect pupils’ mental health. Frankly, I’d be more worried about the mental health of the tutors.
But to get back to the crucifixtion. As a cradle Anglican this is what I learned in Sunday school, aged six. First, every Sunday, I had to recite however many verses of the Psalms I had been set to learn by heart as homework. The psalms were used as an introduction to the Old Testament. That way the Superintendent avoided the difficult bits and the unsavoury subjects. Then we moved on to the New Testament. That’s where I learned the following.
1. God, the one true God, created the world and absolutely everything in it. (We were still at war at this time, so this included bombs and Hitler.)
2. He came to earth (though still God) as a man. He was crucified, which was a truly terrible death, and rose from the dead. (That was called the Resurrection, which I couldn’t say, but I did know it was the most important thing of all.)
3. He sent the Holy Ghost, which was also the one true God, to stay with us on earth.
As a child I don’t remember having any trouble with that.(1)
It seems to me it’s our bishops who are the true Snowflake generation. They seem incapable of facing the reality of the Bible – which is tough and tends to thunder out the truth. They prefer to pussyfoot along, patting heads and making soothing noises about how to re-interpret the bits of the Bible that might be upsetting. Rather like cornered animals, senior clergy tend to snap and snarl when provoked by dissent, so those of us who disagree back off or leave.
As a New Year gesture the Very Revd Prof Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, posted a new 95 Theses, 500 years after Martin Luther’s. Ninety five might have been a good number way back then but for people today, (most of the world it seems) who Twitter and Text, 95 is far too many. Prof Percy also frequently repeats himself, especially when he finds an example he likes, such as “2. The church is in danger of exchanging its birthright for a mess of secular pottage” and “11 The office of bishop has been exchanged for a bowl of lentil stew”.
However, there were certainly several statements concerning the failings and misconceptions of present day bishops which I recognise as true.

For example,
Thesis 1. “The most important role for our bishops is to mediate the wisdom and compassion of God: to be teachers and pastors, after the example of Christ himself, no less.”
Hear hear! I think, for example, that a wise and compassionate Bishop should at least acknowledge a letter or an e mail from a concerned parishioner, even if his well-staffed office is too busy micro-managing Mission Areas to actually send a reply. Sadly, I have noticed that all this managing leaves little time for simple courtesy.
Thesis 2. “The church needs bishops who can be theologians, and contextualize the Word of God, so congregations can begin to reflect theologically on their lives and work today.”

Yep. I think a bit of theological reflection would do congregations a world of good. Sermons in the church I left told me little beyond the fact that God loved me, and that I was a Pharisee if I didn’t support Same Sex Marriage.(2)

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A Holy Organogram

Certainly, Thesis 7 resonated with me.
“Not everything that counts can be counted. Not everything that can be counted, counts (Einstein). Parish churches are named (often after saints). They are not numbers (on a pie-chart set within a ‘dashboard’). Naming implies identity and a personality for each church.  Numbers reduce congregations to anonymous units.” Percy also condemns bishops who put value on “management skills, strategic plans, ‘leadership’ courses, therapeutic techniques, motivational talks, strap-lines and glib mottos” above the Word of God and points out that congregations don’t expect their bishops to have MBA’s. (3)

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Better than a pie chart

I recognise the truth of Thesis 48 as well.

“Stated simply, the calling of the bishop is to help congregations and communities become what they are called to be. It is not to impose a blueprint from ‘mission control’ or to issue command-and-control directives from diocesan central office.”
Here in Wales we have definitely suffered from blueprints issued from ‘mission control’. Few congregations here, even those with Gay clergy, had the remotest interest in or wish for Same Sex Marriage. They had never been horrible to gays or caused terror or grief to lesbians—that seems to have been the fault of the clergy. It was the Bishop, aided and abetted by Diocesan Central Office, who imposed an LGBT Chaplain on this Diocese and filled the Diocesan magazine with SSM propoganda and it is the Bench of Bishops who have made SSM and re-interpretation of the Bible their life’s work.

Thesis 78

“It is hard to imagine a Michael Ramsey, William Temple or Edward King (4) receiving preferment in the current climate. The managers would say they don’t tick the right boxes.” (5) This is because “managers mostly make safe choices; they are inherently risk-aversive. So interesting, creative, ‘wild card’ bishops are not easily imaginable as long as the ecclesiastical managers continue to rule the church.”

Thesis 83
“For the first time since the Reformation, we now have no bishops who have held a university post in theology. This is no small scandal.”
After thirty years in Cambridge I’m not sure about this one. I can think of several notable theologians who would have made hopeless bishops. On the other hand I do think a degree in theology is a better preparation for bishophood than one in Quantum Theory, or Speech and Language or Oceanography.

Finally, here is part of Martin Percy’s last Thesis, 95.
“Bishops are to be occupied with God (for which they need theology and spirituality); and then to be occupied with what they think might preoccupy God’s heart and mind – the cares and concerns Christ has for our broken world and its needy people (and so engage in pastoral care).”
Lots of ideas there for New Year’s Resolutions for Bishops but I think I won’t hold my breath. What a fascinating year this is likely to be.

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Notes (1) See Blog ‘Learn more about the Trinity’from May 21st, 2016 (2) More blogs on SSM than I care to number.

(3)Blog ‘Eccentric and Anarchic ‘- August 29th,2016  (4) Google Edward King on Wikipedia. Martyn Percy is quite right. These days he’d never get a look-in.

(5)’Saints need not apply’ – Oct 18th 2016