“Do not go gentle into that good night,” Bishop Love

“Rage, raged against the dying of the light.” Dylan Thomas

I posted a blog in January 2019 with the title “I love curry . . .”  In it, I ranted on about the inadequacy of the  English word ‘love’.

I also explained why Bishop Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church in the USA didn’t love Bishop William Love of the Diocese of Albany in the USA.  The issue was Same Sex Marriages, which Bishop Love does not believe in.

William Love, Bishop of Albany

Bishop Love’s problem is that the General Convention (the TEC equivalent of General Synod) has moved the goalposts since he promised in his Ordination Vows to respect the Discipline and Worship of the Church. They have re-written the Prayer Book to include the marriage of a couple of the same sex. The crafty Convention, suspecting there might be some dissent, put in a get-out clause – Resolution B012.  This lets a progressive bishop move in and cope with SSMs in a diocese where the orthodox bishop disagrees. They clearly think they have bent over backwards to accommodate any bigoted bishops there may be. There were a few but they have either knuckled down or left.  Therefore, Bishop Curry has been intensely irritated by Bishop Love’s intransigence.

I hoped the final outcome would demonstrate that “good disagreement” was a genuine, honest concept and that it was possible for the ‘new ideas’ and the ‘traditional’ to continue to exist in the broad, Anglican Church. However, I didn’t hold out much hope.Now it has been made abundantly clear. ‘Good Disagreement’ means you don’t have to do something which you know is wrong but you have to stand by while someone does it in your place.

It’s taken TEC nearly two years to judge Bishop Love guilty as charged, and he now awaits the verdict. I expect they were hoping, maybe even praying, that he would go over to the ACNA. Better still, that he would give in after a token fight.  But Bishop Love is made of sterner stuff and lives up to his name. No Jayne Ozanne “Just Love” for him. He believes that “marriage” is between a man and woman — just like it says in the Bible; in the Gospels; in Lambeth 1.10; and in the American 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the equivalent of C of E Common Worship. All of which he believes in.

I don’t know what punishment Bishop Love will receive nor what he will do in the future, but I pray for him. He is a brave and honest man.

Does it matter to us, over here? Of course it does. The wily Archbishop Welby is a firm supporter of the Episcopal Church in the US. He was over there quite recently preaching in one of their great cathedrals, and he has no intention of having Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church of North America anywhere near the next Lambeth Conference.

I checked with a wise clerical friend: “Could Synod re-write the book of Common Worship over here?”

“Of course they could. They could abolish the Nicene Creed if they felt like it.”

You have been warned.

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

Screenshot 2017-05-09 21.42.46.png

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.

Screenshot 2017-05-09 20.53.31.png

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.

Screenshot 2017-05-09 20.51.00.png

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.

Screenshot 2017-05-09 20.54.29.png

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.

“Every nation gets the government it deserves.”

IMG_2956 (1).jpg

“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.

IMG_2837.jpg

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.

5CC2C7FA-1D58-42BB-B260-C3D0D5BFA0CA.jpg

…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

On Sunday morning I decided to give up blogging. The night before I had seen the former Bishop of Worcester using the word betrayed about people who are Gay or Lesbian Christians. He and 13 other retired bishops had responded to a report by current bishops to Synod on the subject of, of course, Same Sex Marriage.

Everything I read seems to point to a terrible lack of truth and honesty at the very core of the Anglican church. Why should I bother to blog? Who needs that amount of grief at my age?

Then several things happened.

First of all, I woke up to a church service on my husband’s ancient, distorted clock radio, droning out a hymn. At which point I burst into tears. It was a hymn I used to love, ‘I cannot tell,’ to the tune Danny Boy—a tear jerker at the best of times—and reminded me of how much I miss the hymns in church along with so much else.

So I found it on YouTube! And while I listened, these words, in particular, struck me. 

‘I cannot tell how he will win the nations, how he will claim his earthly heritage,                                 how satisfy the needs and aspirations of east and west, of sinner and of sage.’

But this I know, His will will be done.

So I dried my eyes, read the service of Matins and then I listened to a sermon. http://www.transformingminds.im

And what a sermon. Reverend Jules Gomes preaching, for 25 minutes, on, believe it not, Discipline and Punishment. Honestly! In the 21st century! No wonder his Bishop bullied him out of the church! He’s the bishop that cut the Devil out of baptismal services. If only the Devil could be got rid of so easily.

The next thing was an e mail from my son in Dubai sending me a link to the retired bishops’ letter.  He thought it bizarre and was looking forward to my blog on the subject. This was followed by another similar e mail from a clerical friend in Cardiff. He is always encouraging although he attends one of the churches which is sticking to Anglican truths—and thriving, needless-to-say—despite all that Llandaff has thrown at it.

Finally, the one and only husband spoke up. What he would really like is for all supporters of SSM to be totally ignored, on the grounds that the noise they make is out of all proportion to their size and importance.

Since his life’s work was involved with noise – anything from bumblebees and snoring to submarines and Concorde – he is very aware of the damage noise can do. His other complaint was that there is too much dodgy data around the subject. I may not be an academic scientist but even I can spot dodgy data when I see it. Take this, Oasis report, “In the Name of Love”, which claims to prove that churches cause Gays to commit suicide. It cites two bits of evidence but omits a third which proves the opposite.

The letter from the 14 ex-bishops doesn’t contain any data at all, or if it does I haven’t found it among all its verbiage. Take these sentences.

‘‘Our perception is that while the pain of LGBT people is spoken about in your report, we do not hear its authentic voice. Our experience would lead us to doubt whether there was an expectation around that canons and doctrinal statements would be changed within any reasonable timescale, and that focus seems to have taken far more time than it would have done if the authentic voices of lesbian and gay people had been allowed to express the major focus of their hopes, but you might not have had to spend as much time explaining why if those other voices had been allowed to come through more clearly.’

Authentic seems to be the important word here and although I thought I knew what it meant I looked it up to check. Genuine. Real. True. Honest. Faithful. Trustworthy.

So what exactly are the bishops saying? That the genuine, honest voices of lesbian and gay people have not been allowed to be heard? Does that mean that all we’ve heard so far is not true or faithful. Is all the evidence of gay power already in churches in some way not authentic?

Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 11.39.16.png

What exactly is this saying that the bishops haven’t heard?

In December, the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, attended the premiere of a film called All One in Christ. He said then, that the film was powerful because it was a film of personal testimony, with people bold enough to speak of their complicated, sometimes rejecting, experience of the Church. “It’s a film which demands attention,” he assured us. Well it’s certainly getting attention at the moment. It’s on the big screen at Cineworld, Llandudno Junction tomorrow night, Thursday 16 February 2017, at 8.00 pm. Tickets cost £6.50.

One of the original 14 signatories of that letter is The Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, formerly Bishop of Hulme, and now a local Mission Area Leader. He should certainly know whether the film is authentic or not, since he has a starring role in it, along with +Gregory’s Chaplain to LGBT people. Surely they can’t believe this film is unreal or dishonest or untrustworthy nor that their views are not being sufficiently broadcast. This is one of the cinemas that wouldn’t screen the Church’s Christmas message in 2015 because it involved people reciting the Lord’s Prayer, so showing All One in Christ is, presumably, a real breakthrough.

Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 11.39.54.png

ls this authentic enough to be clear?

As I write, the lunch time news is showing the scene outside Church House, where late this afternoon Synod will debate, yet again, Same Sex Marriage in church.  Protestors are gathered outside with placards, some of which show the word Hate. Christians, which is what Anglicans try to be, can’t hate. It’s against our religion.