Two Weasel Words — Clarification and Obfuscation

 

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This is Milly. Full name Milly Molly Mandy – a long name for a long dog. She is a sausage dog but she is NOT for slicing.

Since the beginning of July, when my one and only husband almost popped his clogs, my life has changed drastically, and by no means for the worse. In some ways it’s been definitely for the better. I no longer listen to the Today programme, for example.

Therefore, I didn’t hear the Reverend Richard Frith, Bishop of Hereford, explaining that his Diocesan Synod had been merely seeking clarification, with their motion regarding same sex marriage blessings.

Here is that motion in full.

“That this Synod request the House of Bishops to commend an Order of Prayer and Dedication after the registration of a civil partnership or a same sex marriage for use by ministers in exercise of their discretion under Canon B4, being a form of service neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter, together with guidance that no parish should be obliged to host, nor minister conduct, such a service.”

Following the Equal Marriage Act of 2013 the Church of England issued the following statement in February 2014. I suppose it took them a long time because the words had to be very carefully chosen.

“The 2005 pastoral statement said that it would not be right to produce an authorized public liturgy in connection with the registering of civil partnerships and that clergy should not provide services of blessing for those who registered civil partnerships……….The College made clear on 27 January that, just as the Church of England’s doctrine of marriage remains the same, so its pastoral and liturgical practice also remains unchanged.” (My emphasis.)

I read that and was immediately transported back twenty or thirty years. In those days I frequently found myself asking one or other of my children, “Exactly what part of the word NO do you not understand?”

But this is the Church of England and Sex that we’re talking about so, of course, there are weasel words. This is the sentence missing from the pastoral statement above:

“The House did not wish, however, to interfere with the clergy’s pastoral discretion about when more informal kind of prayer, at the request of the couple, might be appropriate in the light of the circumstances.”

Is it the word ‘informal’ that’s causing the bishop’s confusion?

Informal: not according to the prescribed, official or customary manner; irregular; casual; relaxed; easy going. The Church of England and the Church in Wales are certainly irregular these days, but not very relaxed or easy going if you can’t follow them down their road.

It’s interesting that +Richard is seeking “clarification” because he’s quite good at obfuscation himself. I suspect, from the clever wording about his marital status that there might be a divorce in there somewhere. I thought, when I first read about the synod motion that this was yet another attempt to push the boundaries, then I read Psephizo’s blog of October 24th about salami slicing and growing a beard. Brilliant confirmation! And it’s happening everywhere you look.

Can Hereford change the Church on sexuality?

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“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.

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.

 

 

More from the Waffling Moronarchy

 

 

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The Bishop-Elect of St David’s receives communion from the Bishop’s Chaplain to the LGBT community 

 

If these two women ever got to read this blog—which I’m sure they’d only do once—they might well think they had been responsible for driving me out of the Church in Wales. Perhaps they’d pray that I would one day see the light or perhaps they’d deem me a homophobic bigot beyond redemption. They’d be wrong on both counts. I am not a homophobic bigot and it was the Light of Christ that lead me away from the church in Wales.
They’d probably be amazed if they knew the amount of time I spend reading, studying, thinking and praying about the whole LGBT issue and trying to make sense of it all. One problem I have is trying to get across complex thoughts and feelings in a concise, approachable way in this blog, especially if I’ve been made to feel very angry.
Take the “Gay Cake” case in Northern Ireland, for example. My reaction had nothing to do with the fact that Gareth Lee is gay. What upset me was that he deliberately went out of his way to stir up trouble against a Christian couple in order to pursue his own activist agenda. Unlike the Archers, the owners of the bakery, who were genuinely sorry that they weren’t able to oblige him, though they were willing to bake an un-iced cake, Mr Lee showed no compassion or sympathy.

It seemed to me like a dirty tricks campaign. Am I a homophobic bigot because I think that sort of thing is despicable?