By their Deeds and their Dress ye shall know them

To be perfectly honest I have virtually given up. What is the point of saying anything at all about the Church in Wales. Let it sink into its swamp.

Not much more point in trying to say anything meaningful about the Church of England, which is no longer recognisable as truly Anglican by people like Gavin Ashenden. Once a Chaplain to the Queen and now, though still devoutly Anglican, left high and dry by the Church. Which makes me wonder how the Queen must feel. What can she say, or do, about the Church of which she is Head but about which she cannot comment. I hope she kicks up a fair old rumpus behind the scenes.

Father Hunwicke in his blog, ‘Mutual Enrichment,’ today—Saturday, 25 March 2017—the day before Mothering Sunday—comments on a priest he knew in Oxford many years ago.

“Many Anglican womenpriests … really prefer a form of event known as Messy Church. I would love to give you a description of this style of activity, did anautopsia not prevent me. But there is a very different type of woman priest, of which there are several examples in Oxford … sharp and academically considerable, who never wanted to be foolish folksy creatures like their ‘messy’ sisters.’ What they wanted to be was … Priests. Such is the lady of whom I speak. In her newspaper Interview, she gives a very sound explanation of the rationale of wearing cassocks (all the time) and vestments and refers always to ‘saying Mass’. (My emphasis AM)

Earlier this week I read, on the ‘Catholicism Pure and Simple’ website, about

The Priest in Cassock is a Living Sermon

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Fr Carney

 “Walk the streets of St. Joseph, Missouri, and you may have a memorable encounter with a tall young priest wearing a black cassock and Saturno clergy hat, a rosary in one hand and large crucifix in the other. The priest is Father Lawrence Carney, ordained for the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, who for the past three years has devoted much of his time to street evangelism: strolling down inner city streets, praying the Rosary and sharing the Gospel with those who approach him.

“Father Carney says that the idea of donning the cassock and making himself a visible witness to the Gospel came to him while walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain several years back. Along the “Way” Fr. Carney opted to wear his cassock. He estimates that he spoke with over 1,000 fellow travellers during his 32 day pilgrimage. The attraction of people to a priest in a cassock, both for Catholics as well as non-Catholics, is explained by Fr. Carney this way: “There’s something mysterious about the cassock; it acts like a magnet, drawing people to you…It is a sacramental that has a special blessing that the suit does not have.”

The following day, on the same website, I read about:

Fr. Michel-Marie, a Cassock in Deep Marseille

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Fr. Michel-Marie

 “A pastor whose Masses are crowded with people. Who hears confessions every evening until late at night. Who has baptized many converts. Who always wears the cassock so that everyone may recognize him as a priest even from far away. Why the cassock? “For me” – he smiles – “It is a work uniform. It is intended to be a sign for those who meet me, and above all for those who do not believe. In this way I am recognizable as a priest, always. In this way on the streets I take advantage of every opportunity to make friends. Father, someone asks me, where is the post office? Come on, I’ll go with you, I reply, and meanwhile we talk, and I discover that the children of that man are not baptized. Bring them to me, I say in the end; and I often baptize them later.”

I’m not a Roman Catholic, nor a member of the Ordinariate, not even an Anglo-Catholic, just a simple Anglican, but I do recognize common sense when I see it.

How much is the Swamp that is the Church in Wales today the fault of these casual men?

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Barry Morgan (robed) with his band of bishops a few years ago.

“Every nation gets the government it deserves.”

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“Every nation gets the government it deserves.” (Joseph de Maistre, 1811)

At the moment we have an unelected Prime Minister, who wanted to remain in the EU, doing her best to leave. She has plenty of opposition and a rebellious House of Lords. The official Opposition seems more interested in tearing itself to pieces than offering any checks and balances in thoughtful debate. Those outside the Palace of Westminster can only look on perplexed.

I voted to Remain, partly because I prefer to deal with the devil I know, but also because I like being a European. Also, I hate Referendums. They may work in Switzerland but it’s not the British Way. They seem to bring out the worst in us; too many lies, too much libel and slander. Moreover, if the last two are anything to go by, they don’t give the perpetrators the answer they want. The result is a right bugger’s muddle, which is what we have in the UK at the moment.

Do nations also get the Church they deserve? That’s a sobering thought.

However, in the case of the Church of England and even more the Church in Wales, there is one big difference; we don’t have a vote.

Not even on the church’s attitude to an absolutely fundamental subject—Christian marriage—which is between a man and a woman. That is so glaringly obvious and clear-cut that no one could make a mistake. You need no deep theological knowledge to work this out, just plain common sense.

No need for detailed anatomy, either. Stand a man and a woman up facing each other and they fit. Once fitted together they are able to do the one and only truly creative thing human beings can do, alone and unaided. They can create another human being. That’s what marriage is all about. Everything else is window dressing. Companionship, nurturing, sharing, memories, physical joy and satisfaction—lovely, but extras.

Which brings me to something else Joseph de Maistre said.

“False opinions are like false money, struck first by guilty men, and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetrate the crime without knowing what they are doing.”

IMG_2839.jpgPart of the problem is because the people in the pews who recognise false opinions don’t have a vote. Take the General Synod last month when the clergy voted to reject the Bishops’ report which recommended the church’s continued opposition to same-sex marriage.  The voting system was so structured and manipulated that a Yes resulted in a No. And once you let that happen you’ve only yourselves to blame when you get the unedifying farce going on in Llandaff at the moment. If I’m disgusted what are non-Anglicans to make of it. Would you join a group who behaves like that?

All we can do is walk away. When I walked away two years ago no one seemed to notice. But now someone more significant, the Reverend Gavin Ashenden, has come to recognise that the church in which he was ordained 35 years ago no long exists. He has had to walk away. Gavin’s departure from the CofE comes on top of the wounding debacle surrounding Philip North’s appointment to the Bishopric of Sheffield.

I have read a lot about Philip North, especially his Christian work amongst the poor and needy. He worked amongst them, in the name of Jesus Christ, not just for them. Yet these are the very people we need; priests of learning and wisdom and integrity, who may just, possibly, be able to prevent the Church of England turning into a spineless, corrupted travesty, which is what the Church in Wales has become.


I have spent the last few days grieving for and with Gavin Ashenden. I know what I suffered when I left the church. No, I am not playing the victim card, but I hadn’t realised what a terrible effect it would have on me. For Gavin Ashenden, coming from where he has been in the church, the situation will be devastating. When I left I did wonder if I were a rat leaving a sinking ship but since the beginning of this year the things happening in the Anglican community have convinced me that the ship has already capsized. It can’t be long before the Welsh bit sinks below the waves.

Surely, now, people high enough up in the CofE will take notice. The Archbishops and Bishops must see that this cannot possibly go on.

Suppose the worshippers in the pews on Easter morning were given a simple, single ballot. One communicant, one vote. Not much hope of that, which is a pity because they need us more than we need them.

It’s the Spring season of hope. It’s nearly Easter, (which I shall celebrate in England!) This should encourage us to take the truly Christian view. “God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.” If enough Philips and Gavins and the many other Anglican Misfits all leave, there will soon be more outside than inside, but Life will go on. After all it began in a stable and ended on a bleak hillside, after a lot of time spent in the wilderness.


“And the Queen said to Gavin . . .?


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Reverend Gavin Ashenden

Thank God that They, whoever they were, tried to muzzle the Reverend Gavin Ashenden, forcing him to resign as one of the Queen’s Chaplains.

On the other hand I think it is entirely possible that it happened the other way round. Perhaps the Queen said, “Gavin, your words of wisdom need a wider audience. Being one of my Chaplains is making it difficult for you to tell the truth without sounding controversial. Why don’t you resign and go and tell it like it is.”

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Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Please read Gavin Ashenden telling it like it really is on Archbishop Cranmer’s blog this morning. An elegant riposte to Martyn Percy.

Weeping, not wranting.

A truly horrible thing has happened and I feel more like weeping than ranting or wranting. How can Christians, Anglicans from the church in which I had spent my life until two years ago, behave as they have been behaving to Bishop Philip North, who has withdrawn from his nomination as Bishop of Sheffield? He doesn’t support the ordination of women, though many women clergy with whom he has worked as Bishop of Burnley, speak, not only highly but also very warmly, of him. He is a rarity, simply an old fashioned bishop, a shepherd of his sheep, and not to be tolerated in this modern world.

When I left the Church in Wales I felt a bit like a rat leaving a sinking ship. Now I realise, not just the C in W but the entire Anglican church throughout the British Isles has already sunk without trace. Is there is anything left of the broad Anglican church I grew up in? If so it has been bullied out of sight.

I was planning to wrant about the Welsh bishops’ decision to scrap Confirmation—just like that, on a nod.

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No more confirmations thanks to the nod of these two.

After Philip North’s decision I thought I would write about that instead. But I have had an interesting thought—well, interesting to me, and perhaps to other people. The two things are clearly connected.

Let me reminisce. Fifty years ago children were prepared for confirmation aged about 15 or 16. I was studying for my ‘O’ levels at the time and, in those days, many in my class would leave school that same summer. It was a great opportunity. We were in the habit of studying, we had reached a sensible age and it was a possible last chance to instil some knowledge of Anglican theology into our minds.

In a 6 to 8 week course with the local Rector, no mean scholar, we learned the fundamentals of our religion, and studied the different services in detail, and how they were constructed and why. We also studied the catechism and the 39 articles. For ‘Homework’ we had various books to read, including ‘Blue Lagoon’ by H. de Vere Stacpoole, which initially appalled my father, because of the sex in it. Since it was first published in 1908 you can imagine how racy it was. At our confirmation service the girls all wore white dresses and veils.

I don’t think there were white dresses, and certainly no veils when my daughter was confirmed thirty years later but she did have some proper training and my elder son was at  a boarding school,  which took care of everything.

Ten years on and, with hindsight, I can see the writing was already on the wall.  My youngest son was a choir boy in our local church so he was well schooled in the discipline of the services and was absorbing quite a lot of the theory as well. I remember listening to a conversation as I drove a carload of choir boys to church one evening around Easter time.

First boy: Well, of course the tomb was empty.

Second boy: Had to be, didn’t it. He’d risen.

That’s OK I thought.

But then several other Mums in the church we attended demanded confirmation classes for their daughters, five of them, aged between 7 and 10. I didn’t recognise what was happening at the time, but I do now. Their girls felt ‘victimised’. They were being treated like babies. They were being deprived. A mere blessing at the altar was demeaning. My son was encouraged to join them and, to my shame, I didn’t have the guts to say no.

However, a few days before the actual Confirmation service, he came home from the rehearsal and announced that he couldn’t go through with it.  His stumbling block was the command to turn the other cheek. In his opinion that was a gift to the bullies, many of whom he’d already encountered. I was overjoyed. He was confirmed as an adult.

What has this to do with today?  I think we have seen a terrible dumbing down, year after year, in the fundamental knowledge of what it means to be an Anglican. Virtually no Christian teaching in schools. Here in Wales not confirmation classes to impart even a minimal of Anglican truth. Now, in the 21st century, not only the laity but also many of the clergy are woefully ignorant.

And those who recognise the fact of their ignorance and limitations react like most weak people—they bully.

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Consider the hounding of Philip North. Isn’t it striking that the very people who have complained the loudest about persecution and victimisation in the past are in the forefront of the noisy attack on an educated and deeply spiritual man? As Christians, surely they should have been able to put their bitterness and resentment behind them and show us, and Philip North, understanding examples of generosity, tolerance and patience. No, not really. There is a gaping hole in the soul of the Church in England and a lot of it has to do with ignorance.

Last year the Bishop of St Asaph authorized a podcast by some of his team to explain the Church’s teaching on the Trinity.

Speaker One, a cleric, and the Director of Ministry.

“God is three persons – Holy Spirit, Father and Son. God is three and one. I don’t know how that can be but God is a mystery. I know that’s a bit of a cop out.”

Speaker Two, the Diocesan Training Officer “I think we over complicate it a bit. I used to think that God came first, then Jesus and then the Holy Spirit because that’s the way it’s kind of taught in church.” She went on to explain that her Vicar at the time that she thought that, pointed out that at the creation the Holy Spirit was already there in Genesis. ‘And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.’ Her comment on this sounds more like a child in a Sunday school than a member of the bishop’s team. “This is a bit of a freaky thing for me, that the spirit had been around because I thought it had only arrived at Pentecost.”

What sort of bishop thinks that is proper teaching? Almost certainly a modern bishop, totally outclassed by someone of the stature, integrity and learning of Bishop Philip North.



Just a bit of a Wrant.


River Dwyfor below Lloyd George’s Grave, Llanstumdwy, Gwynedd*

I intended to bring you all sorts of truths distilled from Tom Wright’s book, ‘Surprised by Hope’ in Lent and so far I’ve only described the Preface.

The truth is I like reading even more that I love writing. So Chapter 1 of ‘Surprised by Hope’ was a delight to the reading me and useless to the writing me. Chapter 1 re-introduced me to so many poems and poets of my youth, including Kipling and Tennyson and ‘In Memoriam’, that was last week taken care of.

In any case, the nonsense in the world continues. No, I don’t mean that. I cannot treat subjects as nonsense when they strike at the very heart of most of the things most of us hold as givens.

There are two things that have got me writing and wranting (that is a subtle spelling mistake) this week. Transgenders and Confirmation.

Today I’ll wrant about transgenders.

“Woman’s Hour presenter Dame Jenni Murray has sparked controversy after suggesting that men who undergo sex change operations are not “real women”.

The Radio 4 host, 66, questioned whether someone who has enjoyed the privileges of growing up as a man could really be a woman.”

Shock! Horror! How dare she? ‘Stonewall’, the LGBT+ charity, had plenty to say.

But Dame Jenni said that she “firmly” believes that transsexuals and transvestites… “should be treated with respect and protected from the bullying and violence”.

Of course, she does. So do I. I hope we all abhor bullying and violence.

What Jenni Murray says echoes things I’ve been thinking for some years.

This, for me, is the clincher. If a man really believes he is a woman, she will think like a woman, and therefore she will understand why women, particularly very young women and those with small girls, are uncomfortable having men suddenly popping up in women’s toilets, restrooms, changing rooms, locker rooms or whatever names such places go under these days. Looking like a woman doesn’t make you a woman. Ask Barry Humphries. To be a woman you have to think and feel and sympathize and empathize like a woman and then behave accordingly. It isn’t difficult. Most high street cafes have gender neutral loos. Prove you are a sensitive woman and use one of those, rather than trying to prove you are a woman by demanding the right to use a Ladies Only.

Like Jenni Murray I am not condemning; I am simply trying to apply a little common sense to a highly charged and often acrimonious debate. So I will try and explain to transgender members of Stonewall where I stand.

I know it’s going to be tough for you because having been born a male you have been treated differently from your first breath in ways you aren’t aware of.

You’ve also never been forced to wear high heels that cripple you throughout a long day, or put on heavy make up when you want to cultivate the ‘natural’ look. You’ve certainly never been told to look like the sort of stereo-typical woman some male numbskull in a global office or a swish hotel thinks a ‘woman’ should look like. You may be experiencing those things now and you may even welcome them because you think that makes you a woman. You’re wrong. It doesn’t. The picture of Caitlin Jenner on the cover of Vogue didn’t make her a woman. It made her look like the sort of woman that some women and a lot of men think women want to look like. Most of us don’t. We’re far too busy being, rather than just looking like, women.

You haven’t had to cope with the irrational behaviour that can accompany PMT every four weeks and you’ve certainly never spent days writhing in agony with period pains. Holding your stomach while talking to your daughter about ‘bloating’ doesn’t count.

I’m not being ‘anti’ anything. I don’t have a phobia about trans anyone. I’m just trying to point out certain obstacles that need to be acknowledged.

OK That’s Rant One. Rant two will follow in a day or two.

*Just because it is such an idyllic peaceful place to think about things.

Surprised by Hope

Every year I used to read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book. After a while I sometimes found they were a bit fluffy, and then one year the recommended book was definitely ‘Happy Clappy.’ I don’t know how he or she managed it but I was definitely distracted by the noise. After that I chose my own book and several times returned to Esther de Waal’s book ‘Seeking God,’ which is still a wonderful help for a mother trying to raise a Christian family.

I don’t know what the Archbishop’s recommendation is this year. Possibly ‘Batting Both Ways: a clerical manual’ or perhaps ‘Sex in the City (of God)’.

This year I’m going to read ‘Surprised by Hope’ by Tom Wright which I bought after seeing him interviewed on television. Its sub-title is ‘Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church’ and although I’ve only read the Preface so far I’ve already found plenty to make me pause. So much so that I thought I would share with you some of Bishop Wright’s thoughts. The beginning is brilliant.

“What are we waiting for? And what are we going to do about it in the meantime?”

If you ever read the Ancient Briton’s blog you will find one recent post, about the election (failed) of a new Bishop of Llandaff, which has at least 104 comments! Basically, what all the writers are asking are those same two questions. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of us have left the Church in Wales because it has been taken over by feminists and the LGBT+ brigade and has tried to justify its stance by reinterpreting the Bible anyway you like. We don’t like, so we’ve left. With luck Tom Wright will suggest something I can do about that situation.

At one level this book is about death “and about what can be said, from a Christian perspective, about what lies beyond it.” At a second level it is a “Christian reflection on the nature of the task we face as we seek to bring God’s kingdom to bear on the real and painful world in which we live.”

A bit later on he makes a comment that definitely needs pondering upon. “All our language about future states of the world, and of ourselves, consists of complex pictures which may or may not correspond very well to the ultimate reality. But that doesn’t mean it’s anybody’s guess, or that every opinion is as good as every other one.” (My emphasis)

How refreshing! I shall enjoy reading on.

A Happy St David’s Day . . .

…to Welsh men and women everywhere throughout the world. Gwyl Dewi Sant Hapus!

Also a blessed Ash Wednesday to Welsh Anglicans wherever you are.

I’ve said before that Wales is not for wimps. These photos illustrate how to keep a hospital appointment in the midst of Storm Doris.IMG_2749 (2).jpg

Our next-door neighbour/cousin drove down the lane on his quad bike. My one and only sat on an upturned bucket in the trailer usually used to carry dead sheep and I hung on for grim death.

IMG_2754.jpgAfter clambering under the tree we were met by another cousin who drove us to the hospital. (In case you’re interested all was well.) By the time we returned three hours later the tree had been sort of dealt with, although it was another couple of days before the lane was passable.


It is/was an oak tree, probably between 300 and 400 years old but it didn’t belong to us so our first task was to find whose tree it was. The tenant farmer is John Clwyd. Of course, his surname is not Clwyd—and in fact I still don’t know what his real surname is. This is Wales where we have few surnames so he’s called John Clwyd because he once lived in Clwyd Cottage. For years now he’s lived somewhere completely different but so what? Everyone knows who you mean so no problem—until you need to look him up in the phone book.

I think, during Lent, one of my disciplines will be to walk down to that tree and spend time meditating on the chances, changes and challenges that mighty giant must have witnessed.