“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.”
Part 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.