No. No. No! She did not abandon him.

I am an old-fashioned, elderly Anglican who struggles with a lot that is going on in the modern Anglican Communion.

I am not a theologian, nor an academic, nor a scholar. However, in an effort to retain my marbles, and my faith, I do try to keep up with modern Anglican thought. Which is how I came to be reading an essay, or possibly a polemic, in the latest instalment of the ViaMedia.News series ‘Does the Bible Really Say…?’ 

In this particular blog the topic is ‘Does the Bible Really…Advocate the “Nuclear” Family?’ and it was written by the Very Reverend Professor Martyn Percy(BA, MA, M.Ed, PhD). He is the 45th Dean of Christ Church, Oxford and he presides over both the College and the Cathedral. So I assumed he knows what he is writing about.

Professor Martyn Percy

Professor Percy gives five reasons for rejecting the idea that Christianity is “right behind the nuclear family.”

The first reason: “Jesus advocated leaving one’s parents for the sake of the Kingdom.”

Yes. Right. There’s plenty of evidence for that, but at what age? I don’t think there is any indication that Jesus suggested that children should be snatched away from their parents although there is plenty of evidence that that is what happened in the later church. Was it the Jesuits who said: “give me a child until he is seven”? And monasteries certainly took children into their care from the age of seven. Boys, anyway. 

On the other hand Jesus had something to say about widows (who, inevitably were often also single mothers) and orphans. He clearly thought they needed special care, rather than being treated as an equally satisfactory alternative to a proper household, which Archbishop Justin Welby seems to believe.

Secondly, Prof Percy argues that the Bible “contains many patterns of family life” and that the Old Testament in particular “offers us dozens – literally – of family patterns”, which “should not necessarily be honoured today.” 

That’s absolutely true. We don’t have polygamy any more, and I imagine few wives would offer the nanny or the au pair or the ‘Help’ to their husbands while they pursue their careers. Extended families have disappeared. By and large, we don’t even look after our elderly, and working ‘children’ who still live at home seem to be a bone of contention. There is also no mention in the Bible, as far as I remember, of families with two fathers, families with two mothers, of even, most recently, of a mother-cum-father family. [See my last blog – A Very Tangled Web – if you think you can cope with the intricacies of the situation.]

Now we come to the third reason.  Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, and Jesus – the founders of the worlds four great religions – were all adopted, Prof Percy tells us. If you want to learn the significance of this fact you’ll have to read the whole piece for yourself because, after reading his next statement, I gave up.

The Reverend Professor wrote:

‘Moses was abandoned by his birth mother and left to float in a small coracle in the River Nile, and had the good fortune to be picked up by the daughter of one of the Pharaohs, and nurtured as one of her own.’

I gave up because he lost my trust. He was just so wrong, on a simple, fundamental matter, that I felt I could no longer rely on him to tell the truth. 

No. No. No! Moses wasn’t abandoned. He wasn’t ‘left’. It wasn’t mere good luck. It was a carefully orchestrated plan, by a desperate mother, to try and save the life of her precious baby son. She’d already hidden him for three months from Pharaoh’s assassins. She knew exactly what she was doing. She chose the place and the time because she knew where the Princess walked, and she knew when the Princess walked. Moreover, she had contingency plans in place. The baby’s sister, Miriam, well primed with what to say, was there to make sure all went well or come to the rescue if something went wrong.

Read it for yourself — Exodus, Chapter Two, vv 1-10.

The writer spells the story out very clearly for those who have eyes to see. 

Much of the Bible is not easy to interpret which is good for theologians. I just hope Prof Percy isn’t often as careless or misguided with his real theology as he appears to be with this simple bit of exegesis for the masses.

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A Wolf Whistle a Day . . .

Keeps a girl bright and gay*

*Gay meaning “merry and lively” as it did when I was young. At college I had a friend who had been christened Gay. I wonder what happened to her.

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That was today’s front page of the Daily Star. I’ve never really trusted them since they told me that knitters and bird watchers were ashamed to admit to their hobbies. I do both avidly and don’t care who knows it. But after ‘up-skirting’ I’m afraid what The Star says may be true. 

I am not ashamed to admit that I was always delighted to get a wolf whistle as I walked passed a building site, nor did I get offended or feel degraded by the sight of a “builder’s bum”.

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Offensive? Degrading?  Not really.

I suppose I’m lucky. I’m too old or too stupid or too much of a mis-fit in modern society to recognise most hate crimes. That’s why I thought making ‘up-skirting’ a crime was equally bonkers. Well, I did, once I’d found out what the word meant. Should it come into law it could carry a two year jail sentence and life on the sex offenders’ register.

I would have thought taking photos up women’s skirts was already an offence under existing sexual harassment laws.

Where I live, if I’d been burgled two years ago, the criminal had only a 16% chance of being caught. With so many extra hate crimes being added to the statute book the police will now have even less time to investigate minor annoyances such as robbery, burglary, larceny, theft, motor vehicle theft or arson. That worries me much more and would cause me infinitely more distress.

The reason I’m not very sympathetic is because it seems so incredibly infantile. I can remember male people looking up female people’s skirts but that was in the school playground when I was seven. It was the sort of stupid thing boys did. There were various responses. You could burst into tears and tell teacher. You could be outraged and tell teacher. You could push him over and get your mates to stand around and laugh. On the whole the third option worked best.

Will de-bagging become the next hate crime, I wonder.

I used to live next to a big teaching hospital. At wild parties the female nurses took great delight in de-bagging innocent young male doctors. One night, a naked junior registrar escaped into his car but on a sharp corner lost control, shot through a fence and landed up in our garden. It was on a private road so the police couldn’t charge him with any motoring offence so they arrested him for indecent exposure. I assume that is still a crime but is it a hate crime?

 

 

 

 

The Time is Now

 

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The Holy Family by Murillo

Just before Christmas my son and his family moved in to live with us, so, instead of making New Year resolutions I’ve been meditating on the world in which my two granddaughters, aged four and six, will be growing up. They were not entirely happy thoughts; there is too much in the media that I find confusing and alien.

Curled up in an ancient armchair reading Beatrix Potter to the granddaughters is a timeless experience although I’m surprised Potter’s books haven’t been banned yet. “The Tale of Two Bad Mice” involves a story of theft and vandalism and there is surely too much cruelty to animals in the “Tale of Peter Rabbit” to be tolerated by the snowflake generation. Sitting on the floor playing with Elsa and Anna from “Frozen” isn’t quite so nostalgic; these “dolls” are more like dolly birds, with their sexy outlines and enormous Disney eyes. Fortunately, the elder one actually prefers Lego, the younger is animal mad and both seem healthily ignorant of sex and gender.

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Elsa from Frozen

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Peter Rabbit and his family

In such an idyllic family scene what can there be to worry me?

I am worried because the two pillars of my world are the two things that are now so under threat that they could well disappear before the girls reach adulthood. Those two fundamental ‘pillars’ are the Anglican church and the Family which have formed the bedrock on which I have built my life.

Way back in November, 2014 the Welsh bishops held a conference in Llandudno, called ‘The Time is Now’ to announce the great reformation that would result in 2020 Vision. (2020 Vision is intended to celebrate the 100 years since the Church in Wales broke away from the Church of England.) It was designed to ‘revitalise churches’ and provide ‘a place where ministry and mission would be done in new and creative ways.’

We can all see what these ‘new and creative ways’ are doing to our revitalised churches, can’t we?  Parishes have been abolished (though I doubt many parishioners know that) and the newly created Mission Areas are driving to depression and despair the few valiant souls who are trying desperately to keep open their moribund churches.

At the time of the conference three years ago I already had grave doubts about it. Why Llandudno? Nearby St Asaph and Bangor both have cathedrals on sites dedicated to Christianity since the sixth century. However, this conference was to be held in a theatre. Not just any theatre but an aggressively secular concrete box with nothing remotely spiritual about it. And in keeping with the surroundings an altar was built out of empty cardboard boxes. Honestly! I couldn’t make it up.

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Altar of Empty Boxes

However, the time is truly Now if we want to save the two fundamental institutions of church and family. There are many strands woven together that have caused this disaster but at its heart are hubris, hypocrisy, LGBT+ and the fuss made about Same Sex Marriage.

Christian Marriage has to be between a man and a woman.

I believe marriage serves a purpose—nothing less than the continuation of the human race. Creating and nurturing a new human being is not only the most important thing we do but is the only completely, utterly creative thing we do.

Very early on, homo sapiens discovered that the best way to care for the next generation was within a close knit family unit, with a mother and a father who were prepared to commit to each other and their children until death—not divorce—divided them.

That is what marriage is. That is what it is for. That is its purpose.

Since we are fallen, finite human beings we make a mess of it over and over again, but that is no reason to abandon the ideal. I could list endless studies that prove that children brought up by a father and a mother who are married and who stay married to each other are given the best possible start in life. Nothing else does the job as well.

Unfortunately, even the Archbishop of Canterbury seems happy to accept second best.

During a visit to Christian leaders in Moscow he warned that churches must learn to live with a world in which families are no longer led only by married couples.

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Archbishop Welby meets His Holiness Kirill in Moscow on  21st November 2017

He went on to say, ‘in the last 40 years there has been a great shift in the understanding and the reality of family life’.

There has certainly been a great shift in the reality of family life and a universal acceptance of what my generation quaintly called ‘living in sin.’ Which wouldn’t matter except for the fact that only one in three children born to co-habitating parents remains in a stable family until the age of 12, compared to three out of four children born to married parents. That’s quite a significant difference, no matter how good a job single mums and assorted step parents are doing.

            He ended up by saying ‘The family, however it is experienced, is the place where we can be at our strongest and most secure.’ True, but why tag it on the end of his speech, without emphasising its crucial importance. I think he was cowardly not to  make it crystal clear that Christian marriage is the best option.

If the Archbishop won’t stand up for marriage and all the benefits that accrue from it, including to the state, then we, us, you and me, will have to.

The Time is is NOW.

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How to entertain two small girls on a cold wet Saturday afternoon. Nor are these boxes empty. They have been beautified in order to keep special treasures in them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“May you live in interesting times.”

 

I first heard the Chinese greeting ‘May you live in interesting times,’ many years ago but it wasn’t till I read a lecture by Rabbi Lord Sachs recently that I learned it is actually a curse.
When I signed off from this blog for the summer at the beginning of July I was expecting things to jog along through July and August pretty much as usual. They didn’t. I have certainly lived through some very “interesting times” over the last three months – nerve wracking, exhausting, frightening – but, thank God, I haven’t had the feeling that I’d actually been cursed. I am both sadder and wiser than I was; wiser because of the things that happened to me and my family and sadder because of the bizarre things that continue to happen in the world.

 
Briefly, my one and only husband went into hospital for minor surgery and ended up spending seven weeks there, including two bouts in Intensive Care, and has come out needing dialysis. A few weeks into this trauma son, daughter-in-law and granddaughters came home and announced that next year they were planning to live with us full time. (Clearly they no longer trust us to live on our own.) So builders have moved in to turn an old people’s house into a multi generation home.

 

The builders will be with us until November and at the moment the only rooms habitable are the kitchen, the sitting room and our bedroom. Sometimes we have no water and sometimes we have no electricity but Nigel and Mark have been well trained. When they make tea for themselves they also make tea for whoever else is around at the time. Oh, yes, and, during one of the Intensive Care episodes, I took delivery of an eight week old puppy, encouraged and cheered on by my husband’s nurses. Nigel and Mark are also good at puppy-sitting and mopping up after her.
For much of my time, during those long weeks, I sat beside the bed, lost in admiration for the skill, devotion and dedication of the staff from consultants to porters. Professor Ted Baker, chief inspector of hospitals in England has just announced that the NHS is no longer fit for purpose. Whoever that statement applies to it’s not Welsh health care staff.

Here’s one of the things that has made me sad.

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The Archbishop of Canterbury faced with a difficult question during a radio interview

Have  you ever seen anyone more dejected and despairing. The funny thing is, I don’t think I ever felt that hopeless and helpless even when I was sitting in ITU with my husband drifting between life and death.

Perhaps there was a good reason for that. I was surrounded by people who were dedicated to their jobs, devoted to their patients and prepared to work long, unsocial hours (including Sundays). I bet Justin Welby wishes he could rely on such loyal, single minded support.

And what had caused the Archbishop’s angst and misery? A question in his LBC radio interview about a 6 year old boy in a dress!

For a start shouldn’t he have expected that question or something similar? Shouldn’t he have prepared a sound theological answer? After all, he is still the titular head of the whole Anglican Communion.

He says he doesn’t have a problem with a boy wearing a dress. Of course not. A little 6 year old can wear anything he likes; batman, superman, fairy twinkle toes.

Unfortunately, he didn’t make it clear that the boy in the dress isn’t the problem. The problem is transgenderism, which has taken off as the latest weapon of the “let’s smash the family” brigade.

A class of five and six years olds shouldn’t be made uncomfortable, puzzled and concerned by the selfish actions of a befuddled child, his parents and his teachers.

My sympathy is with all those parents who chose to send their children to a Church of England school in the hopes they would be taught the basic tenets of the Anglican faith. They have been let down, not least by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

 

 

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.

 

Easter Eggs? Cadburys Eggs? Curates Eggs?

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A new day dawns

I have been knitting. It’s what I do when I need to sit quietly and ponder on things.

There have been plenty of things that have plunged me into a period of despondency, puzzlement and confusion that required a lot of contemplation and hours of knit one, purl one.

Bishop Philip North is a traditional Anglo Catholic, who is not to be Bishop of Sheffield. The Revd Gavin Ashenden is a traditional Anglican and once a Chaplain to the Queen, who no longer recognises the Church of England as the church into which he was ordained. The Revd Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, is less traditional, is not to be the Bishop of Llandaff but nevertheless embroiled himself in the shenanigans despoiling that diocese.

Then there is the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, BA M.Ed PhD, 45th Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, professor of Theological Education at King’s College London, Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College London and an Honorary Canon of Salisbury Cathedral. (You’d be forgiven for thinking you can’t get much more traditional and establishment than that.) He wrote 5,000 words and then another 5,000 words from his privileged position telling us—sorry, I’ve forgotten what exactly he said—but it wasn’t entirely traditional.

Lastly, to come down from those lofty heights, there was the case of the misnamed eggs involving Cadburys and the National Trust.

All this in the run up to Holy Week and Easter. No wonder I found it too much.

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

Obviously not. We were all far too busy getting our knickers in a twist. About sex, naturally—it’s what the church talks about these days—also lies, including the BBC’s wilful misinterpretation of the ComRes poll that claimed that 25% of Christians don’t believe in the Resurrection. There were arguments about who said what to whom and when, and the true meaning of contentious words like agreement, disagreement, discernment, discrimination. And always, of course, how to be a victim in three easy lessons. Nothing new there then. No let up for Lent.

I don’t remember it was ever this complicated when my children were growing up. Easter and eggs are a potent symbol—so simple a child can understand.

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New Life

An egg cracks open and a chick emerges. The tomb has been broken open and Jesus has risen from the dead.

Far from being a symbol of New Life a Cadbury’s Creme Egg is a dead egg.

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A Cadbury’s Creme Egg

The inside of a Creme egg is full of a sickly gloop. Not much chance of new life there.

I suppose the closest it gets to a Christian egg is as a Curate’s egg—good in parts. A bit like the Anglican church in the UK.

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The original Punch cartoon

A very happy and blessed Easter to everyone, especially my friends in Llandaft.

Binary Bishop for St David’s?

Any bets on the soon-to-retire Archbishop of Wales achieving a final glory?

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As so often I am indebted to Ancient Briton, this time for his latest blog, Deception. This has both informed and inspired me and also given me some small seeds of hope.

Screen Shot 2016-11-01 at 10.25.00.pngHow encouraging to find the Governing Body of the Church in Wales at last confessing to “a heavy heart.” It’s a pity they’ve taken so long to appreciate what the rest of us, both in and out of the church, have been suffering for years. I do wonder, though, whether the Standing Committee will take note “as a matter of urgency”. There might have been some hope if they had stuck their collective fingers in the holes in the dyke when they first appeared. Instead of which they stuck their fingers up at those who advised caution on the subject of SSM and the whole mad 2020 Vision fiasco. Now, I’m afraid, all they can do is man the lifeboats. Secularism, the LGBT brigade and the “read the Bible anyway you like” theology have inundated the Church in Wales.

If Jayne Ozanne has her way it will wash away the Church of England as well. (We talk a lot about washing away sins—we just never thought it meant our churches.) By following the links in Ancient Briton’s blog I now know much more about her and have watched the video of her interview with Ruth Gledhill. Well, she’s certainly a name dropper! She seems to number as her mates most of the great and good among the most senior clergy. When she ‘came out’ she had lovely letters from them, reassuring her that she was a child of God. What did she expect? I was taught that in Sunday School. What’s more it was at a time when Hitler was still alive. I realise now that my two Sunday school teachers must have had an extraordinarily firm faith to take that on the chin and explain it to five year olds, to remember and hang on to more than 70 years later.

There are two things that immediately worry me about Ms Ozanne. First her YouGov poll which, she claimed, showed 45% of the 1500+ Anglicans surveyed supported same sex marriage. Unfortunately, a goodly number of those same Anglicans also think pornography and adultery are all right.

My other worry is this. She says she came out when she “fell madly in love” and entered into a relationship with another woman which lasted six years.

In my book, if she had been heterosexual, she would either have been living in sin, as we so quaintly used to put it, or she would now be divorced. Either way, I don’t think that’s anything to boast about.

George or Georgina?

 

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Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

Some inadequate producer for BBC Radio 4 thought it would be a good idea to devote 23.46 minutes to a 10 year old girl who believes she is a non-binary individual who would prefer to be more of a boy. He or she was wrong. Ten minutes of the interview was interesting; one had to admire the child’s vocabulary, self-confidence and loquacity, but then it became boring and repetitive.

Girls wanting to be boys  is nothing new. Many girls have always wanted to be boys. Enid Blyton knew this, which is why George was the most popular character in The Famous Five books. Malcolm Saville created Peter, short for Petronella. The wonderful thing about all those children’s books of the 40s and 50s was that they allowed girls to be and do things which seemed  impossible in real life. Those were the days! There was no preaching in those books, no messages, no secret agenda—just page-turning story telling. Parents were always absent for some good reason, giving the children freedom and independence, but looking back I realise that parental influence and school discipline were always there in the background, which stopped these stories turning into The Lord of the Flies.

I was lucky enough to go to a single sex school so we all got to play the drums and the trumpet and take as many boys parts in plays as we wished. My daughter, in a mixed school, was once Cinderella but I got to be Peter Pan. We also had crushes on staff or other girls—and finally grew up.

There were two comments that worried me in the interview with Leo and his mother (and his younger brother who kept saying ‘she’ and having to apologise) . There was a reference to a transgender cousin and Mother mentioned the possibility of hormone treatment. Am I alone in thinking hormone treatment for pre-puberty children is akin to child abuse?