“Every nation gets the government it deserves.”

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“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.

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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.

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A Queer Business

On my December 1st blog “Hollywood comes to St Asaph” I advertised a film festival to be held in the Cathedral here in North Wales, entitled “All One in Christ”. As it was endorsed by the Bishop of St Asaph, had a starring part for his LGBT Chaplain and was made by a LGBT supporting film company it wasn’t hard to guess the subject—almost certainly ‘embracing diversity.’

The last film I saw was ‘The BFG’, a film very big on good and evil and diversity. Film can be immensely powerful—even animations can reduce you to tears. This film could have made a tremendous statement. It didn’t.

I watched it twice but was left with virtually nothing to say. So I went away and wrote about two fathers who choose the mothers of their children on a cat walk in California. Today I decided to bite the bullet and review ‘All One in Christ’. Guess what? I can’t. Go to the Diocese website, click on the video and look what you get.

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I also get this quaint little icon.I think it’s expressing disappointment but I’m not disappointed, just puzzled. Why, after all the hype, has it been withdrawn.

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“All One in Christ” was described in various media as “a short film that is deeply critical of the church’s attitude to homosexuality”. Mark Williams, of something called ‘Iris in the Community’, said, “It’s a simple film with a powerful message and I can’t wait to see how the public respond.” Since it’s gone “Private” the public won’t be able to respond.

Mike Jones of ‘Changing Attidtudes’ said, “By sharing the personal stories of those who have suffered and been hurt I hope this powerful film will bring home to all the scale of the damage done and ultimately help change attitudes within the church. We are all one in Christ. This means, for example, that everyone should be able to celebrate their marriages or civil partnerships in churches and receive God’s blessing.”

In all of this there was only one dissenting voice. Dr William Strange, vice-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship in the Church in Wales, told Christian Today it was “regrettable” the Church had made this “public demonstration after our governing body decided not to give the green light to change teaching on sexuality”.

Of course, the Archbishop of Wales called it “powerful”. (The word “powerful” is massively over used and mendacity and deceit abound.)  Dr Morgan also warned that “This film will not be easy watching for church members.”

With respect, Archbishop, you are wrong on both counts.

It is not a powerful film and it should surely be you and your clergy, not the church members, who will find it difficult viewing.

The film has no plot or story line. It’s a sequence of talking heads, interspersed with typical Welsh scenes, and the words spoken have all been said before, over and over again. In the film, the Revd Sarah Hildreth-Osborn says, “Over the last two or three years I have begun to discover what it means not to have to live a frightened life, hidden away, terrified of what other people might think of me if they find out I’m gay.” Poppycock. She’s an ordained priest, she’s the Bishop’s LGBT Chaplain, she says her congregations support her and she’s in a civil partnership. Where’s the terror in that?

Whoever briefed the Guardian and Christian News seriously mislead them about the content of the film.

Take this headline in the Guardian.

“Film about nuns who fall in love to be shown in Welsh cathedral” 

Christian News made similar claims. “All One in Christ is a 12-minute documentary about two ex-nuns who fall in love before being rejected by their community and tells the story of Ann and Marika Jane Savage-Lewis.”

That brilliant film, “Black Narcissus” came to mind. Something along those lines would certainly deliver a potent message. Unfortunately, saying it “tells the story” is
misrepresenting the film with a vengeance. The film doesn’t tell any story.

The former nuns are just two talking heads—their poodle is more entertaining. Marika merely describes the outrage of their local bishop after they were outed by a Sunday newspaper about 40 years ago. Their local vicar physically blocked their entrance to the church. However, the members of their church, apparently, accepted them quite happily. Bishop Stephen Lowe at least seems to accept the clergy’s role in this. He says, in the film “The way in which gay and lesbian people have been persecuted is something that the church needs to feel a deep repentance about.” Quite right, too. The church has no business persecuting anyone.

“That was us out,” Marika told the Guardian. She said the archbishop (of St Asaph) was “very brave” for allowing the screening – “particularly in view of the hoo-ha that’s going on”. What hoo-ha? Those who simply believe that marriage is between a man and a woman aren’t making a hoo-ha. Perhaps all the “persecution” suffered by Gays and Lesbians will make them more compassionate towards those who still can’t support Same Sex Marriage.

The film is actually flabby, rather than powerful. A film about victims and martyrs facing persecution should pack a hefty punch but instead this is just more of the pathetic same. This quote from the beginning of this blog says it all, though not in the way the speaker had in mind. “I hope this powerful film will bring home to all the scale of the damage done”. Amen to that.

 

 

A Misfitting Anglican Alien Spinning in Space

Just as I start to think I’m beginning to get a grasp on the situation someone or something puts a shot across my bows and I am sent spinning into space, a misfitting Anglican alien, wondering where the hell I’m ever going to find somewhere safe to land.

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Storm Angus washed away our lane, the boiler died, the pump in the well packed up and then the Aga decided to join them, possibly in solidarity, and is now sitting in the kitchen exuding frozen disapproval of the whole situation. There’s also a fair bit of sheep rustling going on up here, but it’s the downright weirdness going on in the Anglican Church that undoes me and leaves me feeling bereft.

Saint David’s Cathedral in the south-west of Wales is the oldest and most sacred Christian site in the principality. In January it will have a new bishop. The fact that the Bishop is a woman would be fine as far as I am concerned were it not that she is a supporter of same-sex marriage and for some reason is also studying for a PhD in quantum theory.

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What is it with these clerics who, as well as their more than full-time day job, feel the need to study for PhDs in exotic subjects. The new chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury no less has almost completed a PhD in a subject so obscure that after reading all about it with the aid of a dictionary I’m still not that much wiser. Needless to say it is something to do with sex, in this case feminism. (Relational identity, Otherness and Victimisation: An Irigarayan Reading of Judges 19-21).

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This is what I had some trouble with.

I would think these three chapters from Judges certainly need a lot of interpretation if someone like me is going to make sense of them. It’s also one of the less edifying chunks of the Bible-if it were on the BBC it would come with a health warning, and then get made into a late night series. But are just three chapters, mainly concerned with eating and drinking and warring, enough for a Doctorate of Philosophy these days.

The latest shot across my bows is a film to be screened in St Asaph Cathedral on December 6th. It’s title “All One in Christ” would, in the olden days, have given the impression it was a film about Christian life. Nowadays we know enough to be suspicious, even before we see it is an IRIS Prize Outreach project. This film company specialises in films for and about the LGBTQI community and the interesting point is it was the good old Bench of Bishops who requested it be made. Bishop Gregory of St Asaph will be talking about the film at its premiere. I wonder if his LGBT chaplain has a starring role in it.

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The Bishop of Gloucester, whose maiden speech in the Lords was all about the empowerment of women, is to preside at an LGBT Eucharist in January to “offer a safe space” to gay worshippers. What does she think that makes me feel like. Just because I believe that Christian marriage must be between a man and a woman does she think I am automatically horrible to every gay or lesbian I meet. Does she assume that most of her own church congregations are homophobic.

Remember Canon Jeffrey John, in the pulpit of Liverpool Cathedral, telling the congregation, and anyone who read that sermon, that those of us who could not support Same Sex Marriage  were “inhumane”.

If all this pressure on behalf of those in favour of same sex partnerships were just one aspect of the work of the church it would be welcome. As Christians we believe we are all one in Christ. For heaven’s sakes! During a long life of Sundays how often have I heard the words of St Paul in Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Also, in that life of Sundays I have heard a lot about love, almost nothing about sex.
Do you remember this quote from “Animal Farm”? “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

It seems to me, a lifetime Anglican, as I whirl through space, a mis-fitting alien, looking for truth and honesty and discipline, that anyone in the LGBTQI community and all feminists are a lot more equal than I am in the eyes of the senior clergy.

Joy and Sadness

 

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Joy and gladness with the colours of Autumn

This week there was one of the saddest of stories splashed all over the front pages of the newspapers and the lead story on many news channels. And one note of sanity and hope which may have found a brief mention somewhere in one of the papers.

Let’s get the sadness out of the way first.

Terminally ill teen won historic ruling to preserve body

A 14-year-old girl who wanted her body to be preserved, in case she could be cured in the future, won a historic legal fight shortly before her death.

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At the present moment this is how you will wait for up to two centuries or so

The girl, who was terminally ill with a rare cancer, was supported by her mother in her wish to be cryogenically preserved – but not by her father. I’m not sure if I felt more sadness or despair when I read that. I wondered how on earth such a negative, hopeless situation could develop. I suppose it’s easy, really, if you grow up in a world that is lacking in many of the fundamentals of life, awash with virtual reality and with no faith or belief in any sort of hope apart from a fairly speculative science.

For almost half her life this poor child had had no father. I don’t know if he wanted to be involved with his daughter during the six years when he didn’t see her, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t a healthy, loving relationship between father and child. Initially, the father opposed his child’s wish to be preserved which is why the case came to court. In the end he relented, though, apparently, he wasn’t allowed to see her body after she died. Which makes me think the atmosphere around that death bed was as cold and sterile as the ice in which the girl is now preserved.

This reminded me of that earlier court battle over a mother’s right to have a child with her dead daughter’s egg. I feel genuine horror at the thought that there are people around who must see life only through those strange visual reality glasses. We only hear about the ones with enough money—tens of thousands of pounds—to indulge these strange desires but there must be many others.

I feel anger at the whole Establishment that have let this happen. I feel a particularly fierce and righteous indignation at those Anglican clergy who have aided and abetted this. I’m not suggesting that a stable family life and the support and prayers of a church community would have prevented this girl dying of cancer but her end could and should have been much warmer and more loving.

Now for some joy!

I’m an optimist by nature so, despite all my moans and groans and nit-picking, I don’t go out of my way to find misery. On the contrary I am always on the look out for signs of hope and evidence of common sense. Here is one sign that the worms who have been advocating turning are finally being heard.

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*“This requires a move away from the argument that has become increasingly popular, which is to say that ISIS is ‘nothing to do with Islam’,**or that Christian militia in the Central African Republic are nothing to do with Christianity, or Hindu nationalist persecution of Christians in South India is nothing to do with Hinduism. Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution.

… finally, I want to speak to you about why I believe it is absolutely necessary for us to reclaim religious language for the common good of Europe.

Rather than simply seeking to prevent ‘bad’ religion, however, we have to offer an alternative vision of the role of faith in our societies that is more convincing. That is more profound. That is more satisfying to the human spirit. And where to do we find a better vision than in the gospel of Jesus Christ, in the good news of Christ?”**

We’ve heard enough about re-interpreting the Bible for the benefit of the LGBTI community’s sexual convenience. Please can we now get back to more fundamental and universal needs. Putting the gospel of Christ first and the sanctity of marriage a close second would be an excellent start.

*This is copied from the Archbishop’s website. **My italics