Letter to Archbishop Justin Welby

Letter to the Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Copies to:- the Diocesan Bishops of Swansea and Brecon, Bangor, St Asaph, Monmouth, St Davids and Bishop Designate of Llandaff.

Your Grace,
I see that you have written to the GAFCON Archbishops to tell them that you ‘do not consider the appointment of a “Missionary Bishop” to be necessary.’
Of course, it shouldn’t be necessary and it would be a great shame if the Church in England, where it all began, should be seen to be in need of support from outside. However, I think a Missionary Bishop here in Wales might actually ensure the survival of the Church in Wales for a few more years, or even in the long term.

May I tell you a little about myself, where I come from and where I am at the moment, because I think I speak for many in the Principality?
I was baptized into the Anglican church in September, 1937 and have been a lifelong Anglican. My mother read her Bible daily and encouraged me to be confirmed and to explore my faith by reading the Bible and attending Bible Study groups.
I am not a Traditionalist. I supported the ordination of women originally, and have been fortunate enough to know many of those first women priests. They wanted to serve their God and genuinely believed that they had been called to do so. They were not feminists and they had no hidden feminist agenda.

You make it plain what the situation is in the Church of England when you say, “I want to reiterate that there are no changes in the liturgy, the situation or in the rules regarding human sexuality in the Church of England.” Having listened on-line to Dr Jeffrey John preaching in Liverpool Cathedral I’m not sure that is absolutely true.

In any case I live in Wales. Here we do things differently.

You say in your letter: ‘I would like to remind you of the 1988 Lambeth Conference resolution number 72 on episcopal responsibilities and diocesan boundaries. This resolution reaffirms the historical position of respect for diocesan boundaries and the authority of bishops within these boundaries.’

There you have my problem in a nutshell. The bishop of my diocese encouraged the vicar of my village church to enter into a civil partnership and then made her his LGBTQI+ Chaplain. Since then they have pursued a policy to encourage and exult gay rights with lectures, films, and special services. I believe firmly and sincerely in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, preferably for life. That puts me out of the reach of the ‘patience, humility or gentleness’ you hope will be shown to people who believe different “truths.” The attitude towards me is “like it or lump it.”

Marriage: one man and one woman, devoting themselves to each other and to any children they may have. Close knit, stable families of three and even four generations, have a strength and breadth of wisdom and vision that enable the individuals in that family to withstand the inevitable troubles and tragedies of life. It also gives a family the courage to stand up for truth and honesty.
Obviously, same sex relationships are not the marriages described in the Bible. As far as I can see Shared Conversations have not worked and never can work. There has to be another way.

With the end of parishes and the establishment of Mission Areas there are now many ways of offering alternative church services to people of different persuasions. Surely one church among the nine or so in my Mission Area could be devoted to people like me. All we want is a simple service, which follows the prayer book, where there is no re-interpretation of the Bible for the sake of secular trends or political correctness, and where responding to the needs of the poor is more important than sex.

My current bishop is unlikely to let this happen but a missionary bishop might, and that would make my life incomparably richer.

I remain, Your Grace, most sincerely and faithfully, albeit unwillingly,
An Anglican Misfit.

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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.

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

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A Church with everything one needs. An altar, pews and an atmosphere of sacred stillness

We don’t need Bishops parachuted in from Africa to sort out the Anglican Church in Britain. We don’t even need Jonathan Pryke. We already have MALs!

As the Archbishops told us after ‘that’ vote in Synod,

“The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ – all of us, without exception, without exclusion.”

Who could possibly object to that? As one of the excluded I certainly wouldn’t.

“We need to work together” the Archbishops said “ – not just the bishops but the whole Church, not excluding anyone – to move forward with confidence.”

We can. We really can. The Mission Area Leaders are already in place and primed to do the job. I have been studying their qualifications and the Area structures. (see my blog of October 18th, last year.) To be an MAL you have to be exceptionally able with just the right qualities to bring

“about love, joy and celebration of our common humanity” and “a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church.”

One of the things the Re-organisation—20:20 Vision or whatever it’s called—has done is abolish Parishes. I haven’t yet met a single churchgoer who thinks that is actually a good idea but the Early Christians weren’t organised into parishes and look what they started. Mission Area Leaders now have a unique opportunity to re-organise their areas in such a way that all the different needs of the present Anglican Church here in Britain can live together in Godly Love and give up all this nonsense about good disagreement. That is clearly not working and is never going to work, given it involves people who insist on not just thinking but believing and feeling and yelling as well.

A better world could be achieved very simply. The structures are already in place.

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Blueprint for ending disagreement

All you need to make this initiative work are a minimum of four churches in a Mission Area to serve four different congregations. If you look closely on the left of the above diagram you will see that they are already in place. The first group, (Church St A) are obviously those who are still worshipping in their local ‘parish’ church, either because they love it the way it is, or through tradition and loyalty. And, of course, they will be the most difficult for the MALs to cope with because they have been Faithful and they will NOT want to be moved.

That leaves three other main groups, who have already left the church. These people will be much more accommodating because, after years in the wilderness, they will be only too thankful to have a church to go to that believes what they believe. So Church St B will become St AC (to accommodate Anglo-Catholics) and church St C will become Church St E for the Evangelicals.

Finally, there is the last group, Church of St D, to which I belong. We are the easiest of all to provide for. We accept women priests. We can even cope with women bishops if they’re not too stridently feminist. Our sticking point, the red line that is being crossed over and over again, is our simple belief that Christian Marriage is between one man and one woman.

That is really all we want, although the list of things we do not want is quite lengthy. We want a bog standard Anglican service, lead with respect and dignity, and—when it’s a Eucharist—with solemnity.

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Not necessary in Church St D

We don’t want fancy dressed vegetables, rainbow flags, dancing round paper fires, walls of cardboard bricks, altars made of tatty boxes, or arts and crafts with yogurt pots and sticky paper, all of which have featured in modern churches recently. And positively no Imans and no Koran readings.

The clergy allotted to this sort of church will be overjoyed. Just a prayer book and a bible will be all they will need. They will be able to devote the time saved to preparing a thoughtful, theologically based sermon.

It will make life so much simpler for the Mission Area Leaders, too. This bit of re-organisation should be a doddle since they’ve already got a blue print. All they will have to do is find four different sorts of clergy, for the different strands of Anglicanism required. There may have to be a bit of juggling once the system has been in place for a while. Some churches may be more popular than others and may need a bigger building, for example.

Here in Wales, Welsh language Anglican churches would probably also be most welcome. In the St Asaph Diocese, and possibly in others, the LGBTQ+ Chaplain may well choose to serve a predominantly Gay congregation. Of course, it does mean that the Bishops have got to play fair, too. Much as they may want SSM despite Lambeth 1:10 (1998) they will have to recognise that those congregations that can’t believe in SSM are neither homophobic nor bigoted.

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Empty boxes looking for a home

The great benefit of this arrangement is that it would do away with disagreement—good or bad—in the churches themselves. We could stop wasting time listening to people with whom we cannot possibly agree. Instead we could go to church knowing exactly what to expect and then, when we returned to our villages, or communities, Christians, of whatever shape and form could get on happily with doing God’s work at the local level.

Of course, since all congregations are made up of human beings of the fallen, finite variety there will always be some who will complain that their specific needs aren’t met. Well, that’s something the MALs will have to wrestle with, because, once these new, belief-specific churches are up and running, there won’t be much else for them to do.

Go for it, MALs.

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.

 

The purl of inner peace.

 

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 Photo by the owner.

I have a bachelor, clerical friend who will only drink tea made in a proper teapot. He believes that adding water to a teabag in a mug produces an inferior beverage. He also likes the tea to brew for a few minutes before pouring, by which time, he complains, it is no longer hot enough. So last year I knitted the above tea cosy for him, to fit his one cup teapot.

(When I blogged about knitting a few weeks ago he had the cheek to tell me I couldn’t spell “pearl”!)

When he complains that his breakfast egg gets cold and he needs an egg cosy I shall show him this headline from the Daily Telegraph of April 22nd.

“Come on men . . . knit one, purl one and find some inner peace”

Apparently mindfulness and yoga don’t work for men. Only women can meditate successfully. The affect on a man is the reverse of the tranquillity and calm those practices are supposed to induce.

“Since this is only making matters worse, there is no point making the poor sods sit cross-legged a minute longer,” the writer of the article explains and she goes on to make helpful suggestions for alternative activities, such as bubble baths, cleaning the toilet and knitting.

Knitting is an excellent suggestion. In fact, I would recommend it to all clergy and given the state of the Anglican Church in the UK at the moment it could well be the most constructive thing they could do. The results could well be astonishing.

Knitting and the church have a long history. Although the beginning of knitting is lost in the mists of time, possibly having its origin in Egypt, the church has always known a good thing when it saw one. Artists soon had the Madonna knitting.

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The Buxtehude Madonna by Master Bertram of Minden 1345-1415

Where artists went it didn’t take Bishops long to follow. Bishops were wearing liturgical gloves—Greek “chirotheca” handcases—made of white silk as early as the seventh century, by the ninth century they were the “in” thing and by the 12th century instructions for their use were given in the Service Books of the time.

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Devotional gloves found in the grave of Bishop Nicholaus Shimer 1510

Who knows whether Nicholaus knitted his own gloves. He could well have done if he were anything like Richard Rutt, one time Bishop of Leicester. Rutt was a formidable linguist, acting as a Japanese naval translator during the War, and becoming a noted Korean scholar as a result of his years in Korea where he also became a bishop. On becoming Bishop of St German’s, in the diocese of Truro, he not only learned Cornish but translated the ASB into that language. In 1987 he published “A History of Hand Knitting”, one of the all time great books on the subject.

He was also a memorably good bishop.

In his Times obituary we were told: Dr Ronald Williams, (Rutt’s predecessor as bishop) “was conscious of the status of a bishop of the Established Church; Rutt taught the diocese the function of a bishop….  he had a strong pastoral sense, a serene personality, cared greatly for his clergy and sought to devise a modern missionary strategy.”

As a fellow knitter, though with nowhere near his technical ability, I am quite sure he drew much of his strength from the time he spent quietly knitting. Using the hands with a fairly repetitive task is perfect for encouraging the mind to roam and, at the end, you have a decorative work of art or a useful object. In Rutt’s case both.

I couldn’t find a photo of this mitre in colour but I have been told, by the tea cosy friend, that Rutt had knitted it in gold thread and when the light shone on it it looked as though it had been made of beaten gold.

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I wonder if we would have better bishops if they all took up knitting—an art, a craft and an excellent meditation technique.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

By their Deeds and their Dress ye shall know them

To be perfectly honest I have virtually given up. What is the point of saying anything at all about the Church in Wales. Let it sink into its swamp.

Not much more point in trying to say anything meaningful about the Church of England, which is no longer recognisable as truly Anglican by people like Gavin Ashenden. Once a Chaplain to the Queen and now, though still devoutly Anglican, left high and dry by the Church. Which makes me wonder how the Queen must feel. What can she say, or do, about the Church of which she is Head but about which she cannot comment. I hope she kicks up a fair old rumpus behind the scenes.

Father Hunwicke in his blog, ‘Mutual Enrichment,’ today—Saturday, 25 March 2017—the day before Mothering Sunday—comments on a priest he knew in Oxford many years ago.

“Many Anglican womenpriests … really prefer a form of event known as Messy Church. I would love to give you a description of this style of activity, did anautopsia not prevent me. But there is a very different type of woman priest, of which there are several examples in Oxford … sharp and academically considerable, who never wanted to be foolish folksy creatures like their ‘messy’ sisters.’ What they wanted to be was … Priests. Such is the lady of whom I speak. In her newspaper Interview, she gives a very sound explanation of the rationale of wearing cassocks (all the time) and vestments and refers always to ‘saying Mass’. (My emphasis AM)

Earlier this week I read, on the ‘Catholicism Pure and Simple’ website, about

The Priest in Cassock is a Living Sermon

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Fr Carney

 “Walk the streets of St. Joseph, Missouri, and you may have a memorable encounter with a tall young priest wearing a black cassock and Saturno clergy hat, a rosary in one hand and large crucifix in the other. The priest is Father Lawrence Carney, ordained for the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, who for the past three years has devoted much of his time to street evangelism: strolling down inner city streets, praying the Rosary and sharing the Gospel with those who approach him.

“Father Carney says that the idea of donning the cassock and making himself a visible witness to the Gospel came to him while walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain several years back. Along the “Way” Fr. Carney opted to wear his cassock. He estimates that he spoke with over 1,000 fellow travellers during his 32 day pilgrimage. The attraction of people to a priest in a cassock, both for Catholics as well as non-Catholics, is explained by Fr. Carney this way: “There’s something mysterious about the cassock; it acts like a magnet, drawing people to you…It is a sacramental that has a special blessing that the suit does not have.”

The following day, on the same website, I read about:

Fr. Michel-Marie, a Cassock in Deep Marseille

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Fr. Michel-Marie

 “A pastor whose Masses are crowded with people. Who hears confessions every evening until late at night. Who has baptized many converts. Who always wears the cassock so that everyone may recognize him as a priest even from far away. Why the cassock? “For me” – he smiles – “It is a work uniform. It is intended to be a sign for those who meet me, and above all for those who do not believe. In this way I am recognizable as a priest, always. In this way on the streets I take advantage of every opportunity to make friends. Father, someone asks me, where is the post office? Come on, I’ll go with you, I reply, and meanwhile we talk, and I discover that the children of that man are not baptized. Bring them to me, I say in the end; and I often baptize them later.”

I’m not a Roman Catholic, nor a member of the Ordinariate, not even an Anglo-Catholic, just a simple Anglican, but I do recognize common sense when I see it.

How much is the Swamp that is the Church in Wales today the fault of these casual men?

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Barry Morgan (robed) with his band of bishops a few years ago.

“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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“And the Queen said to Gavin . . .?

 

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Reverend Gavin Ashenden

Thank God that They, whoever they were, tried to muzzle the Reverend Gavin Ashenden, forcing him to resign as one of the Queen’s Chaplains.

On the other hand I think it is entirely possible that it happened the other way round. Perhaps the Queen said, “Gavin, your words of wisdom need a wider audience. Being one of my Chaplains is making it difficult for you to tell the truth without sounding controversial. Why don’t you resign and go and tell it like it is.”

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Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Please read Gavin Ashenden telling it like it really is on Archbishop Cranmer’s blog this morning. An elegant riposte to Martyn Percy.

Weeping, not wranting.

A truly horrible thing has happened and I feel more like weeping than ranting or wranting. How can Christians, Anglicans from the church in which I had spent my life until two years ago, behave as they have been behaving to Bishop Philip North, who has withdrawn from his nomination as Bishop of Sheffield? He doesn’t support the ordination of women, though many women clergy with whom he has worked as Bishop of Burnley, speak, not only highly but also very warmly, of him. He is a rarity, simply an old fashioned bishop, a shepherd of his sheep, and not to be tolerated in this modern world.

When I left the Church in Wales I felt a bit like a rat leaving a sinking ship. Now I realise, not just the C in W but the entire Anglican church throughout the British Isles has already sunk without trace. Is there is anything left of the broad Anglican church I grew up in? If so it has been bullied out of sight.

I was planning to wrant about the Welsh bishops’ decision to scrap Confirmation—just like that, on a nod.

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No more confirmations thanks to the nod of these two.

After Philip North’s decision I thought I would write about that instead. But I have had an interesting thought—well, interesting to me, and perhaps to other people. The two things are clearly connected.

Let me reminisce. Fifty years ago children were prepared for confirmation aged about 15 or 16. I was studying for my ‘O’ levels at the time and, in those days, many in my class would leave school that same summer. It was a great opportunity. We were in the habit of studying, we had reached a sensible age and it was a possible last chance to instil some knowledge of Anglican theology into our minds.

In a 6 to 8 week course with the local Rector, no mean scholar, we learned the fundamentals of our religion, and studied the different services in detail, and how they were constructed and why. We also studied the catechism and the 39 articles. For ‘Homework’ we had various books to read, including ‘Blue Lagoon’ by H. de Vere Stacpoole, which initially appalled my father, because of the sex in it. Since it was first published in 1908 you can imagine how racy it was. At our confirmation service the girls all wore white dresses and veils.

I don’t think there were white dresses, and certainly no veils when my daughter was confirmed thirty years later but she did have some proper training and my elder son was at  a boarding school,  which took care of everything.

Ten years on and, with hindsight, I can see the writing was already on the wall.  My youngest son was a choir boy in our local church so he was well schooled in the discipline of the services and was absorbing quite a lot of the theory as well. I remember listening to a conversation as I drove a carload of choir boys to church one evening around Easter time.

First boy: Well, of course the tomb was empty.

Second boy: Had to be, didn’t it. He’d risen.

That’s OK I thought.

But then several other Mums in the church we attended demanded confirmation classes for their daughters, five of them, aged between 7 and 10. I didn’t recognise what was happening at the time, but I do now. Their girls felt ‘victimised’. They were being treated like babies. They were being deprived. A mere blessing at the altar was demeaning. My son was encouraged to join them and, to my shame, I didn’t have the guts to say no.

However, a few days before the actual Confirmation service, he came home from the rehearsal and announced that he couldn’t go through with it.  His stumbling block was the command to turn the other cheek. In his opinion that was a gift to the bullies, many of whom he’d already encountered. I was overjoyed. He was confirmed as an adult.

What has this to do with today?  I think we have seen a terrible dumbing down, year after year, in the fundamental knowledge of what it means to be an Anglican. Virtually no Christian teaching in schools. Here in Wales not confirmation classes to impart even a minimal of Anglican truth. Now, in the 21st century, not only the laity but also many of the clergy are woefully ignorant.

And those who recognise the fact of their ignorance and limitations react like most weak people—they bully.

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Consider the hounding of Philip North. Isn’t it striking that the very people who have complained the loudest about persecution and victimisation in the past are in the forefront of the noisy attack on an educated and deeply spiritual man? As Christians, surely they should have been able to put their bitterness and resentment behind them and show us, and Philip North, understanding examples of generosity, tolerance and patience. No, not really. There is a gaping hole in the soul of the Church in England and a lot of it has to do with ignorance.

Last year the Bishop of St Asaph authorized a podcast by some of his team to explain the Church’s teaching on the Trinity.

Speaker One, a cleric, and the Director of Ministry.

“God is three persons – Holy Spirit, Father and Son. God is three and one. I don’t know how that can be but God is a mystery. I know that’s a bit of a cop out.”

Speaker Two, the Diocesan Training Officer “I think we over complicate it a bit. I used to think that God came first, then Jesus and then the Holy Spirit because that’s the way it’s kind of taught in church.” She went on to explain that her Vicar at the time that she thought that, pointed out that at the creation the Holy Spirit was already there in Genesis. ‘And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.’ Her comment on this sounds more like a child in a Sunday school than a member of the bishop’s team. “This is a bit of a freaky thing for me, that the spirit had been around because I thought it had only arrived at Pentecost.”

What sort of bishop thinks that is proper teaching? Almost certainly a modern bishop, totally outclassed by someone of the stature, integrity and learning of Bishop Philip North.