Hypocrisy and Humbug

When I took a break from blogging in the summer, I hoped, over the holidays, to be able to update my blog page. I wanted to add all sorts of whistles and bells and links and side bars and . . . . Well, as you know (“May You Live in Interesting Times” —blog Oct 2nd)  things didn’t work out quite like that. I haven’t even been producing my more pedestrian blog very often, either, but please don’t think I have succumbed to the sin of sloth. It’s just that life has become different and, at times, rather more complex, with some very odd problems.

Apart from visually brightening up my blog I had also intended to widen its scope and broaden its horizon. since I was thoroughly fed up with the mediocre shower making up so much of the Moronarchy which is the Church in Wales.

Now, a whole avalanche of news has proved a spur. Much of it makes me think surely this can’t be true? I don’t know how much is ‘fake’ news, but I do believe quite a lot is sensationalised into ‘news’ by the media, especially if it involves Sex, or the C of E, or both—which it so often does.

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Danny La Rue

Archbishop Welby says boys should be allowed to wear tiaras to help stop bullying. (No, sorry. I must have misread that! Since when was cross dressing news worthy!)

In Shakespeare’s day all the girls parts were played by boys. One of the best Lady Macbeth’s I ever saw was a strapping six-foot lad who made no effort to feminise himself. No high voice. No mincing walk. No pretty gestures. He was just so completely in the part that he was totally convincing. I don’t know what has happened to him but I doubt he’s on hormones to give him boobs.

 

 

I was fortunate enough to go to an all girls’ school so when we did Shakespeare we got to play all the male parts. My best friend Judy was a particularly convincing Shylock although I don’t remember any mention of sex or gender.

 

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Glenda Jackson as Lear

Another subject I’ve found jaw-dropping concerns Church maintained schools. Why do they still exist? What on earth is the point of them? One in Birmingham has 80% Muslim children—surely that makes it more of a Madrassa—so why is the C of E maintaining it? They are, of course, exceptionally good schools, which is why so many parents lie and cheat to get their children into them. Presumably Muslim parents and children are deemed ‘Christian’ enough to qualify because they acknowledge Jesus as a prophet. What seems to me ironic and pathetic is that those parents who attend a church in order to “prove” their children are suitable for admission to a C of E school are rarely converted to Christianity by their church-going experiences! I suspect that once they get their child safely “in” no church will hear of them again. But, if a Christian Group is found to be teaching shocking subjects like sin and forgiveness, then the bullying starts, the headmaster sacks the Christian group and the Bishop nods her/his mitre in agreement.

There is always something going on in the Church in Wales to depress one’s spirits still further. It’s gone quiet in the church down south in Llandaff and St David’s but there are things going on up here in St Asaph that reveal how deeply unpleasant “church” people—both clerical and lay—can be. The sheer nastiness occurring in some of the Mission Areas beggars belief. They display all the most notable aspects of the Pharisees. Perhaps that’s why the Bishop of St Asaph has been finding forums away from home.

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Members of the Anglican Oriental–Orthodox International Commission with local Fathers and the Egyptian Ambassador to Ireland in St Maximus and St Domatius Coptic Church in Drumcondra.

The man in red is the Rt Revd Bishop Gregory. The other men include representatives from the following churches: the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church,  the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

+Gregory was Chairman of this Commission which met in Dublin last month. It has been struggling for years to reach agreement on some obscure bit of deep theology. What puzzles me is what is Gregory doing there. The other men all belong to churches which do not admit women as priests. Yet the St Asaph bishop has spent the last few years supporting women bishops, homosexuals, priests in civil partnerships, “proud to be gay” films, innumerable lectures and meetings with speakers like Jayne Osanne and “open tables” dedicated to LGBT+ activities and people. Talk about hypocrisy and humbug!  At least, I hope he left his LGBTQUIA+ chaplain at home.

This month, further demonstrating the breadth of his ecumenism, +Gregory attended a service in the Roman Catholic cathedral in Cardiff to commemorate Luther and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Here he was observed turning to face the altar so that he could take a Selfie with the congregation.

Most of the people I meet now on an almost daily basis—medics and paramedics—display the Christian virtues of sympathy, tolerance, generosity and a quite amazing compassion. They laugh at me when I comment on this. “You couldn’t do this job if you didn’t care about people,” they say.

That attitude contrasts starkly with many of the clergy in the Anglican Church, all the way up to the Bishops, who seem perfectly happy to collect their stipends, wear the robes and strut the strut, without giving a second thought to all those of us who still believe in the Bible. We are totally ignored, if we’re lucky; labelled and excoriated if we speak out.

 

 

 

 

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“Create a wilderness and call it peace.” Tacitus (adapted)

I was very sad to learn of the death of Bishop David Thomas. I felt I had a true friend in him. I never had the privilege of meeting him but I knew he read this blog and enjoyed it. He gave me great encouragement to carry on even when things seem hopeless. Thanks to his support I believe my battle for Christian marriage is not yet over.

In his paper ‘A Noble Task‘ Bishop David Thomas reflected on his experience of ministry as Provincial Assistant Bishop and how this might change if the episcopate in Wales were opened to women.

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Bishop David Thomas

“People sometimes ask me how I imagine my ministry as PAB might change in the event of women being admitted to the episcopate in the Church in Wales. The only honest answer I can give is that it would not change; it would be over.”

The Anglican Communion, which includes the Church in Wales, still officially believes that Marriage is between one man (a male human being with XY chromosomes) and one woman (a female human being with XX chromosomes.) I’m sorry to go into so much detail but these days it is all too easy to give quite the wrong impression.

However, some interesting comments were made about my last blog. I thought I was describing a simple solution for Mission Area Leaders to provide a church where people with distinct views could be accommodated, even those who believe that Same Sex unions can not be truly a “Marriage”. But it has been pointed out to me that Anglican Bishops are all powerful. What a Bishop wants, (no matter how it’s wrapped up in weasel words) is what their people get.

It is all too clear what the Bishops here in Wales want. It’s what we’ve been getting for the last 17 years. It’s the bishops’ fault that, when Bishop David Thomas retired from his noble task, he was not replaced. It’s the bishops who decide what we are going to go on getting in the church in Wales as long as it lasts.

Anglicans in Cardiff have been pleading for years to have what they call ‘the swamp’ drained. It isn’t just Cardiff; it’s all of Wales. We have six big frogs in very little ponds and the power of a bishopric has gone to their heads. They are going to lead the entire Anglican Community into a world where the Bible has been reinterpreted and Jesus is regarded as a bumbling social worker of doubtful gender.

Look at the figures.

There are an estimated 84 million Anglicans in the world, most of whom, give or take a couple of million, believe marriage is between a man and a woman.

There were 53 million people in England at the last count, of whom around one million are Anglicans. Wales has a population of 3 million, few of whom are Anglicans. England has 43 Diocesan bishops of whom two are women. Here in Wales we have six diocesan bishops of whom 2 are women. We also have 2 chaplains specifically for LGBT+ people.

Throughout Britain 1.7% of people consider themselves Lesbian, Gay. Bi-sexual or Transgender. Assuming those proportions are true for Wales, just under 500 people come into that category.

I have no idea how many  of that 500 are Anglicans but there must be far fewer than those who believe marriage to be between a man and a woman. Do you think the bishops would appoint a Chaplain just for us?

I fear not. Tolerant liberals usually brand people like me as bigoted and homophobic. Since heterosexual marriage is still the official doctrine of the Anglican Communion, at least we’re not hypocrites.

SHAME

This is an unhappy follow up on my last post.

In Glasgow’s St Mary’s Cathedral a woman recites from the Quran denying the divinity of Christ during an Epiphany Eucharist.

I’ll pause while you think about that.

In Gloucester Cathedral there is a Multi Faith event in which all religions are welcome to take part, including Witches, Druids and Pagans.

Stop again and have another think about the incomprehensibility of that.

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Reverend Kelvin Holdsworth 

After the Glasgow gaffe, by Kelvin Holdsworth, the Provost, several theologians, beginning with Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who knows a bit of which he speaks, commented on the inappropriateness (to put it mildly) of this. In particular, Revd Canon Gavin Ashenden, wrote about this and spoke in a video interview with an American cleric. (YouTube Anglican Unscripted #262)  It’s well worth watching. He spoke clearly, thoughtfully and with authority, using words that were simple and direct. No theological jargon; no modern media-speak. He just explained why it was wrong.

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Revd Ruth Fitter 

Meanwhile, down in Gloucester, one of the facilitators of the multi-faith shenanigans, Revd Ruth Fitter, was interviewed by Gloucester Live. She talked a lot of muddled mindlessness but included one statement that horrified me. An event like this encourages “Christians to embrace all religions rather than spread the gospel in any way.”

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Revd Dr Gavin Ashenden

To the Church’s shame it is Gavin Ashenden who has been muzzled. Forced to resign as a Chaplain to the Queen, Defender of the Faith, for speaking the truth.

What is it with empty boxes?

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These are empty boxes

I’ve looked at them from every angle and I still don’t get it. Why does the Church love empty boxes? What is it about empty boxes and the church that I don’t understand? I’ve blogged about them several times  (April 9th and Nov 8th ) because they seem to me to symbolise the emptiness at the heart of Anglicanism at the moment. All “fur coat and no knickers” as I have rudely said before.

I thought no one else saw these boxes in the way I do but now, oh joy, I have an ally. And no less an ally than the redoubtable and deeply learned Father John Hunwicke.

In his blog “Father Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment” today, under the title ‘Shoe box games for adults’ he draws our attention to the new rituals designed for services during the Week of Christian Unity which begins on Wednesday, 18th January. I’ll give a flavour of what he has to say.

“This year the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity in collaboration with some Ecumenical Partners, has set out quasi-liturgical formulae for use. These forms constitute successful attempts to scale heights of risibilty which have not to my knowledge previously been attempted. This is your real hard-core Guinness-book-of-records rubbish.

“The central ritual involves the moving of stones. But, because carrying real stones might be a bit like hard work for the aged biddies of each sex who are likely to be symbolising their second childhoods by taking part in these events, the “stones” will in fact be shoe boxes covered with packing paper. No, I’m not making this up. Twelve of them. With labels. Labels naming ‘things that divide’. The ‘stones’ will be built up to make a ‘Wall of Division’ which will then be dismantled and formed into a Cross. (What happens if the officiants disagree about the neatest way in which twelve empty shoe-boxes can be arranged into a Cross, and end up in a melee of fisticuffs, is a rubrical detail which these curial nut-cases have not catered for.)”

Isn’t that lovely? And isn’t he right? Surely it’s not our bishops or theologians who believe that moving empty shoeboxes around could possibly do anything for Christian unity. However, I have to admit it was our bishops here in Wales that actually worshipped at an altar made of tatty tinsel boxes. Perhaps the Very Revd Prof Martyn Percy could add a note to his 95th Thesis. Forget empty boxes. Reintroduce the practice of filling boxes for the poor and needy. I think most people would find that a much more unifying gesture.

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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.

 

 

Welcome to the Waffling Moronarchy

What does ‘waffle’ mean? The first meaning is a noun and describes a batter honeycomb pancake—crisp and sweet. The second is a verb meaning to speak or write equivocally. Nothing crisp or sweet about that, but something that happens far too often in the Church in Wales.

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This is the Bishop Elect of St David’s

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This is her mission statement

The above picture and quote are from Ancient Briton’s most recent blog. As so often he has been my inspiration, although I don’t think “inspire” is quite the right word. In this blog, he also mentioned “The Time is Now” conference in Llandudno in November 2014. It was things to do with that conference, particularly the YouCubes, that were the straw that broke this Anglican camel’s back. Sadly, everything the Church in Wales has said and done since has convinced me I was right to leave.

Take that phrase The Time is Now. When Archbishop Barry Morgan thought it up he probably believed he was being, modern, with-it, appealing and above all original. Actually, it’s a daft phrase. Of course the time is now. Good Catholics acknowledge this fact every time they recite Hail Mary. “Pray for us sinners, now and in the time of our death.”

Type the “time is now” into Google and you will discover that the time is now for practically everyone. Cybersecurity; sustainability reporting; time banking; LGBTQ youth (natch). It’s even the now time for the “global elimination of Dog-mediated Human Rabies.”

What’s more, most of these websites use many of the same words and phrases as the CinW. Seek to empower; drive to implement; revitalise energy; share resources, skills and good practices; meet the challenges. You’ve heard or read all those words before, many times, by senior clergy bragging about their visions for potential or by CEOs boasting at their AGMs, but have you ever read anything remotely like that in the gospels?

Remember these words from Isaac Watt’s hymn—Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my God.

These words proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Would it be a good idea to hear them much more often, alone and unadulterated, outside church, in press releases, for example, rather than this constant banging on about exciting and fresh ways of doing what, exactly? I much prefer a prayer that begins ‘Our Father,’ to one that limits me to ‘God of renewal and transformation’. (That last is the God invoked by the MAL of the Aled MA)

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Absolutely nothing has changed for the better since I published this blog in April, 2016

Here is what the Archbishop said before The Time is Now Conference.

“We want to do ‘church’ differently so that the great resources we have can be used much more effectively than at present.  Hopefully, this conference will be a chance for people from all over the Province to share what they are doing, learn from one another, be enthused and inspired and take away a clear vision for the future of the Church in Wales.”

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Here’s a picture taken a few days before that conference. It looks like a warehouse preparing to send supplies to earthquake victims or refugees. In fact, it is a cathedral and the boxes are empty.

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Here is the Arch Waffler celebrating the Eucharist on an altar made of empty boxes.

Says it all, doesn’t it.

I look forward, in hope, to a time when the Bible is read straight, without cutting out all the nasty bits about Satan and sin, and the clergy admit that only the Truth, not wishy washy weasel words, will set us free.

Today is Election Day in America and we all know how ghastly the run up to that event has been. So why am I writing about something so parochial on such a day. This is a small province on the edge of a small island with only 1% of the population involved in this Moronachy. Why bother? Because Great Britain doesn’t look too Great at the moment, the United Kingdom is anything but and it is often easier to see a universal problem by concentrating on one small aspect of it.

God bless (help) America!