More God, Less Mess

I haven’t got a broken arm this time but even so there will now be an Intermission—until mid-September.

Why? Well, let’s face it, events in recent weeks have been pretty dire. When Psalm 88 seems appropriate day after day, it’s not just impossible to find adequate words, but it’s definitely time to step back and take stock.

This time last week, I was girding my loins, stiffening my upper lip, hunting out my bow of burning gold, but mainly concentrating on listening for the “still small voice” of God. I knew it must be here somewhere if only I could silence the horrifying or ludicrous cacophony of the media.

Last Monday I wanted to blog, briefly, about two things and I reckoned I just had time to write a rough draft before I drove my ‘one and only husband so far’ to hospital for an operation.

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The first thing on the list was an ordinand who was spending time sharing the Ramadam Fast with local Muslims, just a couple of weeks before her Ordination. Supporting close community relations is praise worthy in its place but surely preparing for Ordination should take precedence over everything else. Swatting up on the 39 Articles, for example, reading the Bible, and simply spending as much time as possible in prayer and meditation all seem more appropriate. More recently I saw a picture of that same ordinand in a pre-ordination photo with her Bishop. Why didn’t it surprise me that she was wearing a black t shirt emblazoned with the words “Refugees Welcome”.

My second worry was this thing on the Synod agenda about re-baptising transgendered people. What sort of God does Chris Newlands worship, I wonder? Is his god such a little chap that he has to be reminded that Bob is now Esmeralda and needs re-christening otherwise she won’t feel as though she belongs?

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Baptism in the Jordan

If he/she has been brought up in the Anglican Church, and properly instructed in the tenets of that religion, both Bob and Esmarelda should know that God is aware of exactly who and what they are. Try reading Isaiah 55 vv8&9 for a start. “For my  thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Surely we should aspire to God’s thoughts and ways, however inadequately, rather than let Synod drag us down the secular, ungodly pathway.

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14th century purbeck marble font in which I was baptised.

If transgendered people want a big party to celebrate their new “Me” that’s fine. But it needs to be a secular occasion because God has been with them every step of their journey, even if they aren’t aware of it. God is Faithfulness. He was there at their sacrament of Baptism and, whatever they’ve been up to since then, He has been right alongside them. A transgender man or woman might well feel that he or she doesn’t belong in the church without another baptism. However, the last thing the church needs is yet another sex vote in Synod. What is essential is that the doubtful, unsure, ill-informed sit down with a sound theologian to be taught the Truth.

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My son was christened in a college chapel without a font so the Chaplain used a punchbowl instead.

Perhaps they should just go away and read the service of baptism. Unlike the Bishop of Truro’s advert for a ‘Strategic Planning Manager – Transforming Mission’* it is written in simple English prose, so should be an absolute doddle to understand. Words like “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

However, to get back to last Monday. Instead of driving 30 minutes west to one hospital I had to drive 30 minutes east to the A & E department of another, after the ‘one and only’ had had a dizzy spell and fallen of a high stool. He’s fine, thank you, and the treatment we received was superb though he’s still waiting for an op.. Also, in the hospital, among sick, anxious, injured people, waiting quietly for the ministrations of a highly professional, caring, devoted, cheerfully smiling staff, it was suddenly not nearly so difficult to hear ‘the still small voice.’

Have a relaxing, refreshing summer!

*See last week’s blog “Truth is Funnier than Fiction”

 

 

 

Truth is funnier than fiction

The Right Reverend Tim Thornton, Bishop of Truro, with a seat in the Lords, is about to become the Bishop of Lambeth, to help Archbishop Justin Welby.
Help the Archbishop do what, I wonder. I wouldn’t want to describe Bishop Tim as yet another nail in the coffin of the Church of England, but I have to say he has some definitely dodgy ideas.

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Truro Cathedral now

The Bishop and his Diocese need a “Strategic Programme Manager—Transforming Mission.”
I’m not well up in modern Management Speak so I’m not sure exactly what the job is, but it carries a salary of £40,000 for a 35 hour week so it must be a position of influence and power. I have read the job description but it isn’t much help. Perhaps a reader, wiser in the ways of the world, could explain it to me.

 
“The Strategic Programme Manager will be responsible for leading and managing the Transforming Mission programme from initial set up through to successful delivery. This role requires an individual with exceptional project management skills including the ability to successfully manage stakeholders; implement change and balance multiple projects simultaneously.
“The scope of the role incorporates ……. the project management of key programme elements including the establishment of the Student Hub (café) and redevelopment of the Resource Church.”
I suppose that’s more or less what St Paul did, though on a rather grander scale. Would the Resource Church be the equivalent of the Church in Corinth, I wonder.

 
I looked up the word Mission to see if it still means what I thought it meant.
1) a group or committee of persons sent to a foreign country to conduct negotiations, establish relations, provide scientific and technical assistance, or the like.
Anywhere outside a church is foreign country these days so they won’t have far to travel.
2) an important goal of purpose that is accompanied by strong conviction; a calling or vocation.
Now, this is where it gets dodgy. The Bishop of Truro says his Missioner does not need to be a practising Christian. That’s right. He or she can be anything they like; any old faith or none. I could just about cope if the Bishop would be happy to accept a non-Anglican; a Presbyterian, say or a Baptist, a Brethren or a Jehovah’s Witness. But a non-Christian! This is a man who speaks on behalf of Christians in general and Anglicans in particular, in the House of Lords.

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Queue of prospective Strategic Programme Managers

Not surprisingly, the Truro website is full of secular phrases that I assume are supposed to appeal to “millennials” and “snowflakes” and make them feel comfortable. Words like “principle of equality” and “safer recruitment principles.”

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A church in Corinth or Truro Cathedral 2050 AD

Personally, when I want to do a bit of missioning, I let Jesus speak for Himself.
I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Letter to Archbishop Justin Welby

Letter to the Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Copies to:- the Diocesan Bishops of Swansea and Brecon, Bangor, St Asaph, Monmouth, St Davids and Bishop Designate of Llandaff.

Your Grace,
I see that you have written to the GAFCON Archbishops to tell them that you ‘do not consider the appointment of a “Missionary Bishop” to be necessary.’
Of course, it shouldn’t be necessary and it would be a great shame if the Church in England, where it all began, should be seen to be in need of support from outside. However, I think a Missionary Bishop here in Wales might actually ensure the survival of the Church in Wales for a few more years, or even in the long term.

May I tell you a little about myself, where I come from and where I am at the moment, because I think I speak for many in the Principality?
I was baptized into the Anglican church in September, 1937 and have been a lifelong Anglican. My mother read her Bible daily and encouraged me to be confirmed and to explore my faith by reading the Bible and attending Bible Study groups.
I am not a Traditionalist. I supported the ordination of women originally, and have been fortunate enough to know many of those first women priests. They wanted to serve their God and genuinely believed that they had been called to do so. They were not feminists and they had no hidden feminist agenda.

You make it plain what the situation is in the Church of England when you say, “I want to reiterate that there are no changes in the liturgy, the situation or in the rules regarding human sexuality in the Church of England.” Having listened on-line to Dr Jeffrey John preaching in Liverpool Cathedral I’m not sure that is absolutely true.

In any case I live in Wales. Here we do things differently.

You say in your letter: ‘I would like to remind you of the 1988 Lambeth Conference resolution number 72 on episcopal responsibilities and diocesan boundaries. This resolution reaffirms the historical position of respect for diocesan boundaries and the authority of bishops within these boundaries.’

There you have my problem in a nutshell. The bishop of my diocese encouraged the vicar of my village church to enter into a civil partnership and then made her his LGBTQI+ Chaplain. Since then they have pursued a policy to encourage and exult gay rights with lectures, films, and special services. I believe firmly and sincerely in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, preferably for life. That puts me out of the reach of the ‘patience, humility or gentleness’ you hope will be shown to people who believe different “truths.” The attitude towards me is “like it or lump it.”

Marriage: one man and one woman, devoting themselves to each other and to any children they may have. Close knit, stable families of three and even four generations, have a strength and breadth of wisdom and vision that enable the individuals in that family to withstand the inevitable troubles and tragedies of life. It also gives a family the courage to stand up for truth and honesty.
Obviously, same sex relationships are not the marriages described in the Bible. As far as I can see Shared Conversations have not worked and never can work. There has to be another way.

With the end of parishes and the establishment of Mission Areas there are now many ways of offering alternative church services to people of different persuasions. Surely one church among the nine or so in my Mission Area could be devoted to people like me. All we want is a simple service, which follows the prayer book, where there is no re-interpretation of the Bible for the sake of secular trends or political correctness, and where responding to the needs of the poor is more important than sex.

My current bishop is unlikely to let this happen but a missionary bishop might, and that would make my life incomparably richer.

I remain, Your Grace, most sincerely and faithfully, albeit unwillingly,
An Anglican Misfit.