Congratulations!

My hearty congratulations to the United Methodist Church in the United States. I congratulate them for their integrity, courage and sheer common sense. At least, I congratulate half of them, and only wish we in the Church in Wales could soon follow suit. 

There are around 13 million members of the United Methodist Church world-wide and half of those, living outside the States, maintain doctrinal clarity and honesty. The situation has been very different for the six to seven millions living in America.

I would prefer not to have to sit and face this

Those millions sound pretty much like the few hundred thousand Anglicans who cling to life in Britain. It has taken the American Methodists a long time to make the break because, like many of us, those who hold true to the gospel teaching on marriage, didn’t want to be the ones to divide the church. Like them we listen to our bishops who accuse us of bigotry and homophobia and lack of compassion. If the Archbishop of York designate knew my views on Same Sex Marriage he would consider me “immoral” and suggest I leave. 

I would, if there was anywhere else to go. 

I would like to go to a church which didn’t mix the Gospel with Star Wars and knew the difference between Jesus Christ and Darth Vader

Unlike the American Methodists we haven’t yet got the courage. We are still anxious to be oh, so nice. We don’t lack compassion, we are ever so polite and patient and we love our gentle Jesus, meek and mild. 

The other side are not like us and we don’t really understand what we are up against. The progressive modernists are aggressive, tough and determined never to give up. And they have managed to convince the moderates, who do politeness, compassion and niceness as a matter of course, that they must judge not, that they be not judged.

We’ve endured years of “good disagreement” which has got us nowhere. We already have same sex “married” bishops. How much more of this are the orthodox, conservative, traditionalists going to put up with, while still trying to be true Anglicans? We have no hope of beating them and I’m fed up being joined with them. 

What would happen if we left? If Bishop Gregory of St Asaph is right, the place for the modern church is in a shopping mall. Well, Debenhams are closing lots of stores over the next couple of years which the modern church could move in to. Which means there will be a lot of empty churches we could use. 

There is just one very big problem. Money. The Anglican church is quite indecently wealthy but would it be willing to give any to people who do not toe the line? Perhaps these words from the 2020 Vision Toolkit should give us encouragement.

“Although many parishes are feeling the strain of raising the parish share, money is not the real problem for the Church in Wales. 

It is not enough simply to cover the costs of ministry for one’s own church or area. Provision has to be made for those areas that at the moment, and for good reason, are not in a position to cover their ministry costs. Support for such areas should be ungrudging.” 

Yes, indeed. Surely ‘good disagreement’ should acknowledge this and support those of us disagreeing in the nicest possible way.

"Eccentric and Anarchic" again

After I had posted yesterday’s blog my brain was still buzzing with one particular word. Organogram. So I went searching for it and now I make no apologies for re-posting this slightly edited post from 2016.

I reason that if I could forget so completely, after studying Toolkit Two so assiduously, perhaps this repeat may help all the young, and not so young, clergy struggling with MAs and MALs and other horrors, which were created before they were even ordained. 

So here is some of what I posted under the title “Eccentric and Anarchic” on August 29th, 2016. But first I thought I’d add this selection of ‘Brand Images’. They will make the page look pretty and it seems a waste not to use them since they must have cost a lot to get designed.**

“I used to wonder how long it was going to be before Bishops worked out that ‘secular’ not only is not working but is actively putting people off. The answer isn’t going to be found in 2020 Vision – Unlocking Your Potential, Toolkit Part 2.

“For those who have been lucky enough to miss this blundering step forward in organising a church let me give a bit of history. This particular Vision applies to the Anglicans in Wales, but something like it could well be coming to a church near you soon. The Bishops decided to get three experts to review the situation, tell them why so many people were leaving the church and suggest what should be done about it. We all know what Experts are, don’t we? Ex-has-been; spurt-a drip under pressure. The experts they chose were a former bishop from the dreaming spires of Oxford, a former professor of the London Business School and a former Chair of the Scottish Episcopal Church Standing Committee.

“To get information for the Review they had a jolly around Wales, looking at various churches—I hope they took in a few castles as well; that might have given them food for thought—and talking to senior clergy, bishops’ advisers and staff from the Welsh theological college of St Michael’s, which was threatened with closure two years later. They also met 1,000 people in public meetings, which is the worst possible environment for voicing your deepest worries and fears. They then went away and produced a Review, published in September, 2012 which lead to 2020 Vision.

“When Toolkit Part 1 of this Vision landed in my lap in 2014 I was secretary to my Parochial Church Council so I had to struggle with it. The Bishop of St Asaph, when promoting this ‘Vision’ several times mentioned the word ‘radical’. Even then my over-riding thought was, ‘Radical is not enough. Revolution is what’s needed.’

“Now here is Toolkit 2 – still trying to unlock the potential of the remaining few.

“It is written in trivial ‘management speak’. Somewhere there are ‘Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ but if you are hoping for something worthy of St Paul you’ll be disappointed. This kit is definitely modern, secular, of this world—worldly.

“Here’s an example. ‘A SAMPLE Mission Area Decree with annotations attached explaining its purpose and effects.’ That’s eight pages (without the notes) of jargon. Skip it.

“However, “The Seven Steps to a Mission Area” has a bizarre fascination. The good news of Jesus Christ is mentioned, just in case we’ve forgotten that all this is happening in an attempt to revitalise His Church. I’ll reproduce Step Four to show what I mean.

“‘A strategic Mission Area Executive (MAE) is formed to look at recommendations and devise a development plan for the first five years. The MAE is accountable to the MA Conference (MAC) and led by a potential Mission Area Leader (MAL) or elected Lay Chair. The Shared Ministry Team (SMT) will represent those who offer a range of ministries. MAs need to be aware of existing training and how to access more specific and effective training to meet the needs of their MA.’

“The bit of the toolkit I found most fascinating is this Organogram. (The spell checker accepts it quite readily so it must be a real word.)” It takes up a lot of space but if I make it any smaller you won’t be able to read the bottom line which I think represents the individual church Treasurers. They are the people, apparently at the bottom of the heap, who undoubtedly have the hardest row to hoe.

[I’m sorry this image is cock-eyed but perhaps that’s appropriate.]

What isn’t clear to me is exactly to what or to whom the middle arrow on the left is pointing. Possibly no one knows, which would explain a lot.

“Here is another organogram.

“For a start I can’t work out what’s important here. With Flow Charts you start at the top and things flow down. And there are Venn diagrams and Pie charts, where size matters. With Mind Maps you put the most important thing, the reason for everything else that you want to say, very big and bright in the middle.

“I can see the circle for congregation but it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It looks as though they are to be told what to do by the Church Committee (CC) and the Mission Area Conference (MAC), which may or may not include any ordained clergy, while collections of multi coloured conferences, groups, boards and teams float around doing – what exactly?

“After I’d written the rough draft of this blog I started to wonder what would happen if the Bishops and the Deans and their Chapters (DCs), and the Archdeacons and the Area Deans (AADs) and the Chaplains and the Licensed Ministers (LCs) and the members of the Nurturing Steering Group (NSGs) and all the other people in those circles, were to put on their cassocks and robes, best suits and smartest clothes and go into town centres and up and down village streets telling people about the simple rules for a good life in that little book called the New Testament. Of course they would all be arrested. That’s the point! Can you imagine the headlines? The list of broken laws would be long, beginning with breaching the peace for preaching it.

That would be eccentric and anarchic and it might just work.”

**The Brand Images may have come free. Bishop Gregory designs coins and it has just struck me these are reminiscent of the ‘Thrupenny piece.’

20:20 VISION

Here we are at last. 

This is the year that the Vision for the great revitalisation of the Church in Wales finally comes to fruition.

We have climbed the steep slopes to the top of the mountain and now we can stand and admire the view.

Trouble is, when I think about standing on a mountain peak I remember my New Zealand sister-in-law. On one occasion, while visiting us, she took the train up Snowdon. It was beautifully sunny when she left us but by the time the train reached the summit the weather had closed in and she could see little through the mist and cloud. She wondered if she could get her money back. Apparently, if you go whale watching in New Zealand you get your money back if you don’t see any whales.

I think I would like my money back from the Church in Wales!

Way back in 2012 the bishops announced an in-depth review of the state of the church in Wales on the run up to its centenary in 2020 as an independent church. The Chairman of the Review was the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford, together with Professor Charles Handy, a former professor at the London Business School and Professor Patricia Peakes, a former Chair of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church in Scotland. (We all know what has happened there.)

At the time I remember thinking that the ivory tower of All Souls College, Oxford, home to Lord Harries, was not an obvious place to begin a review of churches in impoverished mining villages in the south of Wales or the dwindling rural communities in the north. Anyway, this threesome interviewed over 1000 people throughout the Principality and 2020 Vision was the result of their investigations, cogitations and, I hope, their prayers and meditations.

The Review reminded us that “the church is a great institution designed to carry the Gospel message through the ages.” No disagreement there.

It also challenged us on the need for “urgent” change, particularly in the way our churches were set up. The biggest change was the decision to ditch (the Review said “move beyond our system of”) parishes and deaneries and create Mission Areas. (I’m always on my guard when people use five words when one will do.) The fact that many of the clergy now refer to Misery Areas tells you all you need to know. This change would lead to a group of church communities no longer being “inward looking” but would go out into the communities they served. I hope this is true for big towns but it has had the reverse effect in the great, wide, magnificent countryside which makes up most of North Wales.

I only know what is happening in the Diocese of St Asaph, where we have been ‘Unlocking our Potential’ for the last eight years. In Wrexham, for example, Bishop Gregory has spent £2 million of the £10 million given to the Church in Wales, on buying the old Burtons/Dorothy Perkins store on, can you believe, Hope Street. It was clearly meant!

A “brand image” as recommended by the Bishop for use with 20:20 vision. A keyhole. Get it?

One of the things the Review pointed out was that people no longer have to go to church on a Sunday morning for a coffee and to meet people because shopping is the new leisure activity. So it makes every kind of sense to open a “Church/Shop” in the middle of a Mall. Also, an old department store will feel much more welcoming and normal than any of the eight churches in the Rectorial Benefice of Wrexham with their odours of sanctity, overtones of religion and sense of a sacred space.

In my Mission Area things haven’t worked out quite so well. The congregation has halved in number from 40 to 20 and three of those remaining members turn 80 this year! We don’t complain. We struggle on with amazing fund raising efforts and we still manage the occasional community event for the village. But we do it alone without the support of either the Vicar or the wider Mission Area, who, nevertheless, want us to hand over any money we make for the benefit of the wider community. I’m sorry if this sounds selfish. I am not alone in giving very happily to something tangible like more tiles for the church roof or dealing with the damp. Once my groat reaches the MAL who knows where it ends up! Administration? Support for a bishop’s jolly? Money for roof tiles for a church who has failed to fund raise adequately? 

I’m afraid the bishops are asking a lot and giving very little in return. The changes they identified to “re-energise and re-invigorate our life and ministry across the country” are not happening here — but the bishops are doing OK.

Lots more brand images the bishops would like you to use.

Twisted Truth

I saw this on the blog of Rebel Priest, also known as the Revd Dr Jules Gomes. He is a wise man, full of common sense and to be trusted.

A 15-year-old Polish boy is being hailed as a Catholic “hero” after daring to block an LGBT pride march with a raised crucifix and rosary in his hand.

After reading the whole story I was reminded of these lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”. 

“If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”

I expect it’s one of many poems that have been banned now, having been written by what must obviously be a “homophobic, racist, colonialist bigot.” Quoting Rudyard Kipling probably makes me an HRCB too.

This brave lad, Jakub Baryła, was inspired by “a similar gesture by Fr. Ignacy Skorupko during the Warsaw battle with the Bolsheviks in 1920. Father Skorupko was a Polish army chaplain who was killed on Aug. 14 1920, at the battle of Ossów during the Polish counter-attack. Standing with soldiers leading a charge on the front lines, the priest was holding a cross to encourage Polish soldiers.

Jakob was, of course, removed from the scene. He must have known that would happen and he says the police behaved “impeccably.” Since he describes himself as “Catholic, traditionalist, conservative and patriotic” on Twitter, the other side are out to get him. Here’s where the truth gets twisted. 

The Monitoring Center on Racist and Xenophobic Behaviour, Warsaw, has issued a statement calling Baryła’s action “another example of nationalists using children for political struggle.”“Irresponsible parents have jeopardised the life and health of their 15-year-old child by sending him to a riot to intentionally hinder the police. The lost boy stood in the middle of the road clutching the cross. The child was confused and completely deprived of care by adult caregivers,” the statement said, insisting that Baryła was a child and no one had the right to send him to fight the police. “It seems that the parents have been indoctrinating their child for a long time,” the statement added, accusing Baryła of being “seen at meetings with racists and homophobes.”

The Monitoring Center on Racist and Xenophobic Behaviour said it intends to notify the prosecutor’s office of a “crime committed by parents who sent a child against police officers,” and will provide the Family Court in Płock with information “about a boy who, unaccompanied, hindered police operations.”

I’ve looked at those two pictures again and again and I can see neither ‘a lost boy’ nor a ‘confused child’. On the contrary. There has been plenty of praise for him on social media where people have remarked on his courage and his quiet confidence in his faith.

Please don’t ignore this because it happened in Poland. Think about it and about why it couldn’t happen here in Britain.

Why couldn’t it happen here?
Because the Bishops have already gone over to the other side

We still live in interesting times.

I more or less gave up blogging last Autumn. I had a little flurry of activity in August when I posted four blogs in quick succession, and a re-post. Then nothing.

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The first of the August blogs recorded my difficulties in trying to spend some of the £10 million that the Church in Wales was giving to us for evangelism.

This is Allan Coote, a London bus driver, reading the Bible outside St Paul’s Cathedral last summer. But only for half an hour a week. The Dean and Chapter can’t cope with more than that.

 

In the second blog, among other things, I was expressing amused disbelief that the Freemasons had voted to include women—but only if they had first joined as men! The third blog, entitled ‘The Absurdity Goes On’ and posted on the same day, was inspired by a row over a wall plaque in York. It was to honour somebody called Anne Lister who was apparently the first famous English lesbian. The row erupted because the word lesbian did not appear on the plaque for fear of causing offence.

The fourth one, Storm in a Teacup appeared on August 11. It concerned the furore caused by Boris Johnson’s comment that a woman in a burqa looks like a letterbox. Actually he wasn’t completely correct. He meant the niqab – the burqa doesn’t have a slit in it.

Well, it was the silly season. So I decided to enjoy the summer and write again when I felt inspired. I re-posted one more blog – Tommy Tubby Again – on 28thSeptemeber as a tribute to my father. On September 28, 1918 he won the DSO. It was also his 25th birthday. After that nothing inspired me at all.

Three things have brought me back.

The first was checking my blog site for the first time in three months and discovering that people were still reading me. December 21st was the only day when I didn’t have a single visitor. Sometimes, someone obviously settled down to read many blogs one after the other. And when I counted I discovered I have readers far from the boundaries of Wales—in 28 different countries, in fact.

Well, I thought, perhaps I have still got something worth saying.

Secondly, serendipity. Several times in the last couple of weeks I have come across words and phrases, especially in the psalms, that seem to be nudging me to stand up and be counted.

And thirdly, the nudges and winks from my dear friends in Cardiff.

However, to be honest, I have nothing new to say. I still have just three things that I think are of fundamental importance.

The love of God as revealed in the Scriptures

The Anglican Church as it used to be but is no longer

Traditional marriage between a man and woman for the sake of family life which is the bedrock of a civilised society.

So while I’m wondering where to begin I am going to re-post my most read blog by far, from April 9th 2016. If I knew what there was about this particular blog that made it so popular I would do the same thing again and again. I suppose it must strike a chord with all the old Anglicans still sitting listening to meaningless words through empty services.

In any case, I suspect I shan’t be short of subject matter. Welby’s representative in Rome doesn’t believe in the Resurrection. Welby doesn’t want a lorry park in his Kent back yard. Curry is trying to silence Love. I’m sure I’ll find something to say.

Empty boxes, empty gestures, empty words

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“You Cubes” in a Welsh Cathedral-November 2014

When you leave something, whether it’s the Front Bench, a job, a marriage or a church, it may seem to onlookers that you have left after a row. When it becomes clear that it was a relatively small straw that broke the camel’s back, it may be thought that you left in a fit of pique, or on a whim, and that you’re too stubborn or too proud to apologise and return.

In fact, in almost every case, the small straw comes along after months, or years. In my case I came to the conclusion that I must sadly cut my ties to the Church of Wales after a couple of years of increasing frustration, irritation and hopelessness. After a Diocesan Conference in October 2014 which had left me feeling utterly disillusioned, the scales began to fall from my eyes the following month. That’s when I became convinced that the C in W was bumbling along a road I didn’t want to take, to a place I didn’t want to go.

Do you remember these boxes? The trendily labelled You Cubes.

For many years, in our village church, we used to fill old shoe boxes—at Christmas, or for Water Aid, or in response to a disaster like an earthquake. Some boxes were filled with baby clothes, others with small toys, games and crayons, and still others with toiletries—toothbrushes and toothpaste, scented soap, face cream and after shave. (In a crisis it’s important to restore self esteem and nothing does that better than a bit of luxury.)

The boxes in these photos are different. They are empty. Covered with shiny paper and all sorts of bits and bobs, they are supposed to tell the story of individual spiritual journeys. They seemed to me to be a perfect illustration of the saying “Fur coat and no knickers;” the complete antithesis of what our Lord Jesus Christ is all about. The more I looked at them the more I felt shock, puzzlement and finally outrage. Could no one, from Bishops, through Archdeacons, down to Area Deans, see the symbolism of the empty boxes, particularly just a few weeks before Christmas? Did no one in a lowly post in a Diocesan office dare say, what many must have thought, “this is a daft idea”?

Matthew 7:9-10 “Or which of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?”

These empty boxes summed up what I thought of the Church in Wales. Empty boxes, empty gestures, empty words.

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An altar of empty boxes. This says it all.

What am I Missing Here?

Please can someone tell me what is going on here.

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Darth Vader I know but who are the rest of the front row?

 

And who are these?

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I know I’m old but I am not senile. Yesterday I went to church. I have enough long term memory to say much of the service by heart and I have enough short term memory to remember the sermon. It was very good and with a fresh slant* on the gospel reading – Mark 5. (Two wonderful stories of the woman with the haemorrhage and the raising of Jairius’s daughter.)

I think, in this ordination photoshoot, the things that aren’t clergy are from Star Wars but I don’t understand why? There’s something in Star Wars about the Force being with you but if you’ve just been ordained shouldn’t a very different kind of Force have just been bestowed on you.

This sort of thing makes me feel that I’m mis-fitting more than usual. If anyone can explain the significance of all this I will be most grateful and will publish the comments to aid other old-timers who grew up believing ordination was a very serious, spiritual commitment.

*It was a bi-lingual service – English and Welsh – and the preacher brought in the fact that Jesus was probably tri-lingual and that Mark very deliberately used the Aramaic for Jesus’ command to the child.

Golly, what a lot of Jolly Lolly!

There’s a lot of lolly floating around the church in Wales these days. Of course, there’s been a lot of comment, too, about the spending sprees and the jaunts and about those who know the right pockets to pick. These comments have been going on for a long time. Too long. I  wish the Bench of Bishops had reacted sooner and also been a bit more effective in their support of the needy people in the pews.

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Back in March these six Welsh bishops went to Rome for the week of Christian Unity

Bishop Joanna of St Davids and Bishop June of Llandaff also flew to the United States, apparently, for some mentoring by Bishop Katharine Jefforts Schori.

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I presume +June and +Joanna were seeking instruction in how NOT to do things

+Katharine, you remember, was the Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church of America before +Michael Curry. She certainly knows all about spending money, having used up $30 million in legal fees suing any Bishop or church congregation that dared to challenge her definitely dodgy theology.

The senior clergy from Llandaff, pictured below, went to Devon for a retreat in May.  Later, +June announced her first Clergy School — a five day “pilgrimage” to Santiago de Compostela in May, 2019.  This will be for any clergy from the diocese who wish to take part (possibly 100) but, instead of walking, the pilgrims will be flown out on a chartered plane.

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Senior Llandaff clergy enjoying spiritual refreshment.

The Diocesan Secretary of St Asaph, the Youth Officer and one of the Archdeacons went to Helsinki recently. Helsinki, in Finland? Yes, indeed. It’s supposed to be a fascinating city in the midst of most beautiful scenery.

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Helsinki, capital of Finland

The Church of Finland isn’t actually Anglican; it’s Evangelical Lutheran, but it’s undeniably successful.  More than 80% of Finns, some 4.4 million people, are members of the Church of Finland. Those numbers must have made Bishop Gregory’s eyes water!

There’s also plenty of money sloshing around for new appointments, like several more Archdeacons and, most recently, an Education Director. Mrs Elizabeth Thomas, formerly head of Bassaleg School in Newport, will have 150 schools and 26,000 pupils, though it wasn’t clear from the notice of this appointment whether it was the schools, the children or the Bishops she was educating.

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Finally, and most wonderfully, the Bishops have announced an Evangelism Fund of £10 million for Mission. Ten million pounds to “grow” Christians across Wales “in vibrant and exciting ways”. +Andy was given the job of announcing the news at Pentecost. No wonder he is smiling.

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Andy John, Bishop of Bangor

Recently, a gentleman called John Pocket wrote a letter to the “Western Mail” complaining, as I have been doing, about all the jolly jaunts and other expenditure. It must have struck a raw nerve because a spokeswoman for the Church in Wales issued a statement. First she gives a short paraphrase of what she says are Mr Pocket’s views.

“Mr Pocket’s complaint seems to be: We shouldn’t be spending more on organisation. We shouldn’t invest in the resourcing and development of our leaders. We shouldn’t treat our people well. Failing to invest in our people and facilities would be an indication that we have no expectation for the Church in Wales.”

I’ve read the whole letter and I don’t think that’s quite the right tone; he certainly never suggested that long suffering clergy should be treated badly. And the “our people” she talks about are “them” not “us”, the pew sitters. She goes on to explain why the CiW is spending all this money.

“We believe in effective support for hard-working clergy. We believe that effective Christian leadership is resourced by times of spiritual refreshment — hence the retreats. We want to attract and retain exceptional staff, work efficiently and effectively and gain all the team-working benefits that an open-plan office brings. We are organising ourselves with an expectation of growth.”

The fund will provide grants of between £250,000 and £3 million, for diocesan projects that “will focus on people rather than buildings,” the Church in Wales said.

It’s time I confessed to something. I haven’t been blogging for over three months. It’s hard to blog positively when you are indulging the vices of envy and greed and the truth is I just hadn’t appreciated the worth of all these jollies and other initiatives.

I have been much more aware of how desperately the Faithful Few of pewsitters need money. I had equated the bishops and the senior clergy, who have been benefitting from all this largesse, with the Pharisees. There they were, I thought, self importantly going on retreats to learn how to do church better, seeking to appoint more and more people as directors of this and that while tiny congregations struggled on apparently disregarded.

The village church to which I have recently returned has 19 people on the electoral roll, only two of whom are in paid employment. Those 19 people have to fund a Parish  Mission Share of £15,000 per annum. That’s before we can begin any repairs or maintenance on our listed building.

Our Vicar is on indefinite leave. The Mission Area has the task of organising substitutes, but, for all their committees and organograms  that doesn’t always work out well.

Sometimes we have a Priest and Communion and sometimes we have a Lay Reader and Morning Prayer. Sometimes we prepare for Communion and only a Lay Reader turns up, and sometimes a Priest turns up unexpectedly and then we have to rush around preparing for a Eucharist. Sometimes we get a Priest and a Lay Reader, which is overkill, and sometimes no one turns up at all.

Actually, when that happens it’s fine. We organise an excellent Matins left to ourselves. In place of the sermon we have plenty to talk about; mainly how on earth are we going to raise enough money to pay our Share, let alone find anything extra for outreach, or attracting teenagers, or restarting something for children; to say nothing of funding a loo. The loo in the car park of the pub across the road is rather too far away.

So, it seems that all this effort and the £10 million is actually for us.

Or is it?

The announcement sounds more like management speak than Holy Spirit. Once again the bishops  are in danger of letting advisers and “experts” decide how the money should be spent — on expensive projects that will sound good and make great photos for the same old snouts. I hope I’m wrong.

Our village church doesn’t need anything like £250,000, let alone up to £3 million at one go. We need modest amounts of funding and some informed enthusiasm, advice and support.

Then we and the Holy Spirit can work miracles.

 

At Last. Common Sense from a Bishop!

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The Bishop of David’s celebrates St David’s Day

Every year on St David’s Day, the Bishop of St David’s sends a message to members of the Senedd. [For overseas readers: the Senedd is the Welsh Assembly of politicians who make decisions (frequently daft) about matters specific to Wales.] Here, in italics, is the text of the Bishop’s message.

“Like St David, we live in difficult times”.

Too right, particularly in the Church in Wales. As Bishop Joanne will know only too well, out of a population of 2.1 million fewer than 30,000 attend church regularly.

“In Wales, we are facing an uncertain future over which even our politicians in the Senedd and local government have a limited amount of control.”

Perhaps it’s no bad thing the Welsh politicians have limited control.  I’m worried about their interference in family life and education. Too often it seems politicians, not teachers, decide what children must learn. Even more worrying, parents find they have little say when they are unhappy about some adverse effect on an individual child. It seems impossible to ‘opt out’ any more. 

“As ever, it is the voices of suspicion and bigotry that shout the loudest.”

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At times like these, it is important that we hold onto our core Welsh values of community, common sense and honesty.”

 At last, a bishop calling for common sense—a value that I have elevated in frequent years almost into a virtue. Surely honesty should be a core value everywhere and always?  Community! That’s the best bit. I sincerely hope the Bishop intends to do everything in her power to rescue the whole community of the Church in Wales from further decline.

“On his death bed, St David called his community to a renewed commitment to “the little things”.

Those words remind me of the poem, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum.

Among those ‘little’ things he tells us: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. Be aware of wonder.

Very little things but what a difference if we all lived by them every single day.

“We may not be able to have much control over Westminster politics or the mainstream media but St David reminds us that the control we can exercise over our own words and actions are vital. Whether we are politicians, journalists or members of the public, it is our words and actions that form the Wales of today and tomorrow.”

Only ‘politicians, journalists or members of the public…’ ? What about the words and actions of Church of Wales clergy? Or has the bishop omitted the clergy because she knows so many of them don’t count for much these days.

 “On this St David’s day, let us renew our commitment to honesty, kindness and generosity and, at least on this side of Offa’s dyke, nurture communities of welcome and hope.”  

+ Joanna Tyddewi

Welcome and hope. Oh, yes, please. Do everything you can, Bishop Joanne, to persuade your fellow bishops, not only in Wales, but throughout the UK, to offer a welcome and give hope to all true Anglicans, even those who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Post Script

Only as I was previewing this blog before posting did I notice something that should have been staring me in the face. This message was to celebrate St David’s Day—St David, our Patron Saint, brought Christianity to Wales. Joanna Pemberthy is his 128th successor. But there is no mention of God, no mention of religion; I suppose I should be glad there is no mention of sex. This could have been written by a worthy social worker or a politician seeking re-election. Just out of interest I checked on the Bishop of Llandaff’s last Christmas message. In over 500 words this was her only sentence with a reference to Christianity. “As Christians recall how God gave His own son, born as a baby and sharing in human experience, we are invited to remember the power of gifts.” I wonder what they’ll find to talk about at Easter? Cadbury’s eggs, perhaps.

Weasel Words and Nonsense

Once upon a time, long ago when I was young, Bishops were wise men of learning and Vicars and Rectors knew a fair bit of Theology. Even when they weren’t quite so clever nor so well educated they still had an abundance of common sense. If you went to them with a problem they could talk it through with you to a sensible solution.

Obviously times change, standards change, ideas change, but is it only my age that makes me think bishops these days have gone bonkers?

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“Celtic” bishops vainly hoping for Unity with the Vatican

Certainly, when I saw the above photo it seemed to me that the Welsh bishops—all six of them—had, collectively, lost their marbles. They had all toddled off to Rome with the excuse that they were there to aid Christian Unity. This jolly was despite the fact they all support—fairly agressively—women priests, women bishops, and same sex marriage. They must be stupidly naive if they thought there was any chance that Rome would adopt their views just like that.

Perhaps they got the idea from +Gregory, the bishop up here in St Asaph. He had a jolly to Ireland recently in the interest of Christian Unity with various Orthodox bishops, none of whom will have anything to do with women priests or same sex marriage. (These bishops should not be confused with the great Russian and Eastern Orthodox churches, which is presumably why the meeting was held in Dublin.)

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The Bishop of St Asaph is in Unity with them but not with me.

Of course, any initiative which can bring about Christian Unity must be a good thing but the so-called Celtic bishops had a fat chance of achieving anything with the Vatican. I can’t help feeling they could have spent their time much more effectively, though not so exotically, closer to home.

Where is all this “good disagreement” we hear so much about? Where are the forums where differing views can be discussed and debated quietly and intelligently? Not in Synod, I’m afraid. Where is the “diversity” the clergy are bending over backwards to embrace. I wouldn’t be welcome by the Vicar in my “parish” church because I can’t support SSM. Worse than that,  as an advocate for marriage between a man and a woman, preferably for life, the inference is that I must be homophobic. So far, the vaunted advantages and benefits of Mission Areas haven’t provided even one church in my Area which will give me a “safe, sacred space” where I can feel at home.

A year ago—was it really only 12 months ago? It seems like another age—the Bishop of St. Asaph appointed an LGBT chaplain. At the time, when asked what she would say to people who couldn’t support her, the Revd Hildreth-Osborn replied: “To those who aren’t supportive, I’d say, ‘If you’re judging people, you have no time to love them!”

If you take the time to think about those words you realise they’re a typical ‘soundbite.’ Sound good: mean nothing. What does she think Jesus meant when He said, to the woman taken in adultery, for example. (John:8) over, “Go, and sin no more”?He realised she had done something wrong, had told her so, but had not stopped loving her.

The ridiculous phrase, “Radical new Christian inclusion” used by Paul Baynes, Bishop of Liverpool, in his endorsement of the Jayne Ozanne Foundation, seems to mean kicking out the Gospel of Jesus while supporting “Just love for all”, whatever that means.

Jayne Ozane says she believes people can believe what they like.  Good, In introducing her new Foundation she also said that people like me have “A simplistic and ill-informed view of the Bible.” That’s exactly what she has.

Sadly, the Celtic Bishops would rather jaunt off to Rome than potter round their dioceses trying to establish any sort of unity with those of us who have been pushed out of our churches in the name of new radical LGBTQUIA+ inclusion.

 

 

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.