“Create a wilderness and call it peace.” Tacitus (adapted)

I was very sad to learn of the death of Bishop David Thomas. I felt I had a true friend in him. I never had the privilege of meeting him but I knew he read this blog and enjoyed it. He gave me great encouragement to carry on even when things seem hopeless. Thanks to his support I believe my battle for Christian marriage is not yet over.

In his paper ‘A Noble Task‘ Bishop David Thomas reflected on his experience of ministry as Provincial Assistant Bishop and how this might change if the episcopate in Wales were opened to women.

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Bishop David Thomas

“People sometimes ask me how I imagine my ministry as PAB might change in the event of women being admitted to the episcopate in the Church in Wales. The only honest answer I can give is that it would not change; it would be over.”

The Anglican Communion, which includes the Church in Wales, still officially believes that Marriage is between one man (a male human being with XY chromosomes) and one woman (a female human being with XX chromosomes.) I’m sorry to go into so much detail but these days it is all too easy to give quite the wrong impression.

However, some interesting comments were made about my last blog. I thought I was describing a simple solution for Mission Area Leaders to provide a church where people with distinct views could be accommodated, even those who believe that Same Sex unions can not be truly a “Marriage”. But it has been pointed out to me that Anglican Bishops are all powerful. What a Bishop wants, (no matter how it’s wrapped up in weasel words) is what their people get.

It is all too clear what the Bishops here in Wales want. It’s what we’ve been getting for the last 17 years. It’s the bishops’ fault that, when Bishop David Thomas retired from his noble task, he was not replaced. It’s the bishops who decide what we are going to go on getting in the church in Wales as long as it lasts.

Anglicans in Cardiff have been pleading for years to have what they call ‘the swamp’ drained. It isn’t just Cardiff; it’s all of Wales. We have six big frogs in very little ponds and the power of a bishopric has gone to their heads. They are going to lead the entire Anglican Community into a world where the Bible has been reinterpreted and Jesus is regarded as a bumbling social worker of doubtful gender.

Look at the figures.

There are an estimated 84 million Anglicans in the world, most of whom, give or take a couple of million, believe marriage is between a man and a woman.

There were 53 million people in England at the last count, of whom around one million are Anglicans. Wales has a population of 3 million, few of whom are Anglicans. England has 43 Diocesan bishops of whom two are women. Here in Wales we have six diocesan bishops of whom 2 are women. We also have 2 chaplains specifically for LGBT+ people.

Throughout Britain 1.7% of people consider themselves Lesbian, Gay. Bi-sexual or Transgender. Assuming those proportions are true for Wales, just under 500 people come into that category.

I have no idea how many  of that 500 are Anglicans but there must be far fewer than those who believe marriage to be between a man and a woman. Do you think the bishops would appoint a Chaplain just for us?

I fear not. Tolerant liberals usually brand people like me as bigoted and homophobic. Since heterosexual marriage is still the official doctrine of the Anglican Communion, at least we’re not hypocrites.

There’s no need for Jonathan Pryke. MALs have the answers.

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A Church with everything one needs. An altar, pews and an atmosphere of sacred stillness

We don’t need Bishops parachuted in from Africa to sort out the Anglican Church in Britain. We don’t even need Jonathan Pryke. We already have MALs!

As the Archbishops told us after ‘that’ vote in Synod,

“The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ – all of us, without exception, without exclusion.”

Who could possibly object to that? As one of the excluded I certainly wouldn’t.

“We need to work together” the Archbishops said “ – not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone – to move forward with confidence.”

We can. We really can. The Mission Area Leaders are already in place and primed to do the job. I have been studying their qualifications and the Area structures. (see my blog of October 18th, last year.) To be an MAL you have to be exceptionally able with just the right qualities to bring

“about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity” and “a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church.”

One of the things the Re-organisation—20:20 Vision or whatever it’s called—has done is abolish Parishes. I haven’t yet met a single churchgoer who thinks that is actually a good idea but the Early Christians weren’t organised into parishes and look what they started. Mission Area Leaders now have a unique opportunity to re-organise their areas in such a way that all the different needs of the present Anglican Church here in Britain can live together in Godly Love and give up all this nonsense about good disagreement. That is clearly not working and is never going to work, given it involves people who insist on not just thinking but believing and feeling and yelling as well.

A better world could be achieved very simply. The structures are already in place.

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Blueprint for ending disagreement

All you need to make this initiative work are a minimum of four churches in a Mission Area to serve four different congregations. If you look closely on the left of the above diagram you will see that they are already in place. The first group, (Church St A) are obviously those who are still worshipping in their local ‘parish’ church, either because they love it the way it is, or through tradition and loyalty. And, of course, they will be the most difficult for the MALs to cope with because they have been Faithful and they will NOT want to be moved.

That leaves three other main groups, who have already left the church. These people will be much more accommodating because, after years in the wilderness, they will be only too thankful to have a church to go to that believes what they believe. So Church St B will become St AC (to accommodate Anglo-Catholics) and church St C will become Church St E for the Evangelicals.

Finally, there is the last group, Church of St D, to which I belong. We are the easiest of all to provide for. We accept women priests. We can even cope with women bishops if they’re not too stridently feminist. Our sticking point, the red line that is being crossed over and over again, is our simple belief that Christian Marriage is between one man and one woman.

That is really all we want, although the list of things we do not want is quite lengthy. We want a bog standard Anglican service, lead with respect and dignity, and—when it’s a Eucharist—with solemnity.

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Not necessary in Church St D

We don’t want fancy dressed vegetables, rainbow flags, dancing round paper fires, walls of cardboard bricks, altars made of tatty boxes, or arts and crafts with yogurt pots and sticky paper, all of which have featured in modern churches recently. And positively no Imans and no Koran readings.

The clergy allotted to this sort of church will be overjoyed. Just a prayer book and a bible will be all they will need. They will be able to devote the time saved to preparing a thoughtful, theologically based sermon.

It will make life so much simpler for the Mission Area Leaders, too. This bit of re-organisation should be a doddle since they’ve already got a blue print. All they will have to do is find four different sorts of clergy, for the different strands of Anglicanism required. There may have to be a bit of juggling once the system has been in place for a while. Some churches may be more popular than others and may need a bigger building, for example.

Here in Wales, Welsh language Anglican churches would probably also be most welcome. In the St Asaph Diocese, and possibly in others, the LGBTQ+ Chaplain may well choose to serve a predominantly Gay congregation. Of course, it does mean that the Bishops have got to play fair, too. Much as they may want SSM despite Lambeth 1:10 (1998) they will have to recognise that those congregations that can’t believe in SSM are neither homophobic nor bigoted.

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Empty boxes looking for a home

The great benefit of this arrangement is that it would do away with disagreement—good or bad—in the churches themselves. We could stop wasting time listening to people with whom we cannot possibly agree. Instead we could go to church knowing exactly what to expect and then, when we returned to our villages, or communities, Christians, of whatever shape and form could get on happily with doing God’s work at the local level.

Of course, since all congregations are made up of human beings of the fallen, finite variety there will always be some who will complain that their specific needs aren’t met. Well, that’s something the MALs will have to wrestle with, because, once these new, belief-specific churches are up and running, there won’t be much else for them to do.

Go for it, MALs.

What Were They Thinking Of?

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Asparagus Fest in Worcester Cathedral

I sent this picture to my son who used to live in Worcester. When he first moved there he’d been trawling local churches and not finding what he wanted. He complained that they were too happy-clappy, with little substance or so “high” he found them more alien than his wife’s Roman Catholic church. I used to try and persuade him to attend the Cathedral as being a ‘safe’ place, where you knew what you would get, service wise. Not any more.

His reaction to the picture—“Mum! What on earth were they thinking of?”—made me realise that there is very little thought in the Anglican church these days, or anywhere else come to that. It is all about feelings.

What a terrifying road to be on.

Who, in that great and ancient cathedral, felt that dressing up a man to look like a stick of asparagus would tell anyone in the congregation anything at all about God? You know—the God of the Bible. The Creator. The Almighty. Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. That God!

Did the Treasurer feel it would be money well spent producing that daft charade? Did the Dean not pause to wonder, just for a moment, whether some of the less well informed people in the congregation might be confused about the relevance of a stick of asparagus to the Death and Resurrection. Perhaps his sermon “explained” the connection but I bet that what people remembered afterwards was the daft charade and not the message.

There can be only one answer. No one was thinking clearly or intelligently. It was all froth and bubble and superficial nonsense put on by people who have lost the plot.

When people in positions of apparent power and authority begin to stop thinking and rely on “feelings” it can only get worse. Much worse.

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The above photo is not the one I thought I would post here but presumably this child, too, will be the subject of mutilation sooner or later. The photo I was originally going to post I saw on the blog “Catholicism Pure and Simple.”

It was a photo of a sixteen year old girl, sitting, naked to the waist, showing the scars left when her breasts were removed to make her a boy. He was trying to look defiant but there was a sad, lost look in his eyes. I have hesitated for several weeks, because I found it so distressing, and when I went searching for it this morning I couldn’t find it. Possibly it has been taken down for ‘data protection’ reasons and I think on the whole I’m glad.

Don’t bother to ask what on earth were the people thinking who allowed this to happen. They had the feeling it was a good thing to mutilate a 16 year old girl. Presumably her parents felt it was a good idea. Did she not have grandparents? Surely a wiser generation would have had the sense and courage to say ‘Hang on a minute. Let’s not rush into this? At least, wait until she’s 18 and can make such a drastic decision for herself.’

Sadly, in this day and age, sensible thought is too often shouted down as homophobia or a hate crime. If you feel it in your head it must be right.

And what about the doctor who carried out the abominable surgery? Or what was going on in the head of the psychiatrist who assured the surgeon that this teenager was of sound mind and knew exactly what she was about? They too must have been caught up and whirled around in the great Transgender FeelFest.

We are hearing a lot about FGM these days. Female Genital Mutilation. Quite right, too. Such practises have no place in our civilized society. However, I can’t honestly see much difference between the two mutilations. Both are bound to lead to dreadful problems, both physical and psychological, yet one is treated with the horror it deserves and the other seems to be lauded as a great advance in human awareness.

Surprising? Not really. Not in a world where one week a great cathedral uses the symbol of Christ on the Cross and a couple of weeks later parades a man dressed up as a stick of asparagus.