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.

Screen Shot 2016-12-11 at 13.13.45.png

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 Why, after all the hype, has it been withdrawn.

Screen Shot 2016-12-11 at 13.14.00.png

“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.

 

 

Advertisements

More from the Waffling Moronarchy

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-12-04 at 11.00.12.png

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?

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.

Screen Shot 2016-11-29 at 17.24.11.png
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.

Screen Shot 2016-11-07 at 14.49.54.jpg
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).

Screen Shot 2016-11-29 at 17.46.03.png

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.

Screen Shot 2016-11-29 at 10.51.07.png

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.

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.

Screen Shot 2016-11-07 at 14.49.54 (1).jpg

This is the Bishop Elect of St David’s

Screen Shot 2016-11-08 at 11.21.34.png

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)

Screen Shot 2016-11-08 at 10.24.25.png

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.”

Screen Shot 2016-11-07 at 15.18.14.png

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.

Screen Shot 2016-11-07 at 15.16.32.png

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!

I am a Stranger

 

Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 16.04.12.png

More thoughts after reading Teulu Asaph.

Thanks to my East End Cockney mother, I grew up knowing all about welcoming strangers. The East End of London has always been a melting pot for migrants, immigrants and refugees. In May 1939 my father’s office moved out of London to a safe area and once the bombing started our house became a haven for evacuees as well. We always had at least one person officially billeted with us but we also welcomed family and friends and friends of friends, who found a camp bed or a sofa a wonderful couch after nights spent in a shelter or on a tube station platform.

When the war ended nothing changed in the way we welcomed strangers. My mother, a devout Anglican, always unconsciously behaved as if, as Bishop Gregory says in Teulu Asaph, we might be ‘entertaining angels unaware.’

I’m lucky enough to have a Polish daughter-in-law so we always begin Christmas with a traditional Polish meal on Christmas Eve. (My son always tries to get out of eating the carp which he describes as cottonwood stuffed with needles, but that’s his problem.) We begin the meal by sharing a special wafer and we always lay an extra place at the table.

Later in the magazine Mark Yaconelli, former Missioner, writes about his time in the Diocese and his experience of being a stranger. A rather privileged stranger, I would have thought, invited by the Bishop and with a house found for him and his family. And a job to come to; a job moreover that involved meeting people at all levels. Ironically, in his farewell article he says: “What I can tell you is that the people who I found to be most alive, most awake to the life of God, are the people who are working at the margins of our society, with the homeless, the poor, addicts, refugees, immigrants, young people and other marginalized groups. God has always been found along the edges, among the powerless. He is still there today.”

What are we to make of that?

Far from being homeless I have a comfortable house in which I love to welcome people. I am not poor, nor am I an addict, though I love a glass of wine; I am most certainly not young. On the other hand, I feel a bit of an immigrant, since I am English and, as an old fashioned Anglican I am definitely one of a marginalised group.  God is indeed “found along the edges, among the powerless.” And amongst those often in the depths of despair. And all because I still believe marriage is between one man and one woman.

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-10-42-39

All Welcome? I don’t think so

Fortunately, I have found alternatives—on the Internet, for which I truly thank God. I can listen to brilliant sermons from people who do not think of themselves as alternative social workers; nor are they afraid to point out that judgement accompanies mercy. Some will even tell us that the God of the Old Testament is a loving God and Jesus in the New Testament can be stern and demanding. How often does He tell someone, for example, after lovingly healing them, ‘Go and sin no more.’

I can also listen to the hymns of my choice, from Westminster Abbey to Gospel Choirs. That is how I was reminded of these two verses yesterday, which seem to say it all.

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 13.35.56.png

Shades of Sir Humphrey

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 16.04.12.pngThat popular diocesan magazine Teulu Asaph is at it again. In the last issue the editors explained Mission Areas to their readers. This time they have called in the Venerable Peter Pike, Archdeacon of Montgomery to explain the tortured terms more fully. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to understand them either.

The first question he is asked is “What is a church committee?”  The first part of the answer is easy. Each church may elect its own Church Committee (CC) to be responsible for running itself. [That word ‘may’ is interesting. Does it mean that a church may choose not to accept this responsibility? If not, who will?] This CC will do all those things which PCCs currently do, except for matters now given to the Mission Area Conference (MAC).   At this point the Archdeacon is reduced to quoting from The Decree (whatever that is) to explain what bits MAC will now take over.

Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 17.37.43.png

 

“The Mission Area shall appoint a Mission Area Conference which shall have the powers and responsibility of both the Parochial Church Council and the Deanery Conference as set
out in the Constitution (sections 4b and 4c) including, but not limited to, promoting the whole mission of the Church and assessing the needs of the Mission Area in respect of finance, personnel, and buildings and property.” This is Sir Humphrey speak with a vengeance.

 

 

Do you know anything about the Fog Index of readability or the Flesch reading ease score? Or the one I really like which is the Smog score. [Simple Measure of Gobbledygook] You really need to if you want people to read what you have written, and, more importantly, understand it.

If your sentence is 8 words long everyone will understand it. 9-14 words and your readers will absorb 90% of what you’ve written on first reading. 20 words is a good modern day average. Clever writers like Dickens could have sentences of 30 words but not too often. Increase the sentence length to 43 words and only 10% will make sense of it without effort. You would need a reading level capable of absorbing a legal document.

The sentence which forms the third paragraph above is 65 words long!  I fed it into one of the readability test websites for their analysis.

They gave it a score of 0.3 and added the comment, “That’s really hard going. This is at the same reading level as the Harvard Law Review. Chances are, you could do a few things to simplify it.”

I then put this bit of the Gospel according to St Mark, chapter 1 40-44, through the same readability test.

“40 And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.”

They gave Mark a score  of 79.4 and commented, “Nice. That’s the same reading level as Harry Potter.”

 

Disclaimer!

GENESIS 1:27

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female he created them

 

Screen Shot 2016-09-11 at 09.37.18.pngI think I should make it clear that I did not tamper with the text of this bit of the advert for tomorrow’s service in any way. It is just as it left the printer.

However, in our Humpty Dumpty world it is sometimes difficult to work out which word to use in any given situation. If you are likely to be travelling around in New York any time soon I would advise you to keep your mouth firmly shut. Sit next to a bearded man on the metro and refer to him as ‘he’ and you risk a hefty fine because he thinks of himself as ‘she.’

However, for those of you who get confused beyond L and G let me explain.

B is Bi-sexual, but can also stand for Bi-gender.  (Not to be confused with Defoe’s Big enders in Gulliver’s Travels)

T, here, is transgender, but it can also stand for trans sexual and Two Spirited. Two spirited is used by some indigenous North Americans to describe people who seem to have both male and female spirits within them. Perhaps the Bishop of Grantham could be one of those.

Q here means Questioning. It’s a personal description and seems to mean puzzled; it doesn’t apply to people who can’t work out if they are sitting next to a man or a woman. Q can also mean Queer and is now an OK word. For people of my generation it was a pejorative description for homosexuals, and  it fell out of use many years ago, to be replaced by “gay.” Apparently, it is a rude word no longer.

I’m not sure if Intersex is a medical term but it describes those relatively few individuals who are born without clearly defined genitalia.

Asexual means you couldn’t give a damn one way or the other. You are thus spared an awful lot of angst and frustration suffered by those who are either/or or both/and.  What I don’t understand is why, if you are well out of all this confusion, you would want to label yourself among them.

There are more categories that probably you should be aware of lest, through ignorance, you give offence. Pansexual is the exact opposite of Asexual. Then we come to Agender.  (This word is not to be confused with Agenda, though many of the LGBT brigade certainly have one of those.)  They also call themselves genderless, genderfree, non-gendered or un-gendered. The OK2BME website, which provided me with this information, explains that “This category includes a very broad range of indentities which do not conform to traditional gender norms,” so I’m not surprised I’m having difficulty getting my head round it. There is also Gender Queer which is another ‘umbrella’ term for “those who are thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity.”

At this point in my research I ran out of steam, rather as I did when faced with all the explanations about unlocking my potential through 2020 Vision. There again you need a codebook to enable you to make sense of all this Humpty Dumpty speak. For those who still have the energy, you have the website and there are three more categories—Bigender, Gender Variant and Pangender—to wrestle with. There is also a School Colouring Contest, whatever that means.

 

 

 

Eccentric and Anarchic

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 16.16.34.png

How to save the Church in Wales

 

If I had been in a certain Cardiff church yesterday morning I would have heard the preacher say: “If God’s measures are eccentric and anarchic in the extreme, how can we be sure of our invitation?” My feeling is we can’t be sure of anything until we become eccentric and anarchic ourselves.

Many years ago I read a book called, ‘Weird, because normal isn’t working,’ by Craig Groeschel. I seem to remember it got very weird and I gave up, but since then I’ve often thought of the words of the title.

How long have our clergy been doing normal? By normal I mean the stupid tinkering little changes intended to make church increasingly friendly by becoming increasingly secular. This includes:-

  1. Pastors in chapel being sacked for quoting Corinthians and upsetting the prisoners.
  2. Embracing the latest fad and jumping on the newest bandwagon, such as introducing Zen Buddhism to York Minster, as though Christian meditation is too old fashioned.
  3. Abandoning clerical clothes and dressing down, presumably in the hope more people will flock to church if the vicar wears jeans and the bishops wear sweaters and anoraks.
  4. Swapping prayer books for bits of paper and re-writing the liturgy so that even the long serving congregation don’t know what’s going on.
  5. Dumbing down by using the Apostles’ Creed in place of the Nicene Creed and skipping confession because the word sin puts people off.

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

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

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

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

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

Toolkit 2 is written in trivial management speak. Somewhere there are ‘Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ but if you are hoping for something worthy of St Paul you’ll be disappointed. This kit is definitely modern, secular, of this world worldly.

Here’s an example. “A SAMPLE Mission Area Decree with annotations attached explaining its purpose and effects.”  That’s eight pages (without the notes) of jargon. Skip it. The Seven Steps to a Mission Area has a bizarre fascination. The good news of Jesus Christ is mentioned, just in case we’ve forgotten that all this is happening in an attempt to revitalise His Church. I’ll reproduce Step Four to show what I mean.

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

The bit of the toolkit I found most fascinating is this Organogram. (The spell checker accepts it quite readily so it must be a real word).

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 12.16.55.png

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

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

Toolkit Part 1 had plenty of photos to jolly things up. However, most of the people sitting around tables consulting about their unlocked potential looked a lot like me. My age, my shape, my look of bewilderment. At my time of life I can’t cope with organograms, or MACs, or EMAs or modern toolkits that don’t even include a spanner to throw into the works.

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

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

Anniversary Thoughts

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 14.52.06.png

It’s a year ago this month that an article in the St Asaph Diocesan magazine, ‘Teulu Asaph’, caused me so much grief and fury that instead of ranting at my one-and-only husband I began blogging. Since then the decisions that started me raving and raging have become worse and the diocese of St Asaph has become a clique I’m glad to have left.

In May this year Reverend Sarah Hildreth Osborn, Rector of the Benefice of Eglwysbach, Llanrwst and Llansanffraid Glan Conwy, was appointed as Bishop Gregory’s Chaplain to the LGBT community in the Diocese. The latest edition of Teulu Asaph includes an interview with her about her new role. Bishop Gregory has the reputation of being a micro manager and I therefore assume he has vetted and approved the views of his new Chaplain, though I admit I find some of her words and ideas definitely dodgy.

The interviewer’s first question asks what an LGBT chaplaincy is and it turns out to be ‘a safe sacred space where LGBT people can gather to explore their spirituality and be affirmed as created in the image of God.’ Leave out the word safe and that’s a pretty good description of a church. That little word “safe” is another matter; an un-safe word. Attach the word safe to the word space and it means a place for totally mindless, banal, inconsequential chit chat, where free speech is muzzled and any disagreement is promptly labelled hurtful, offensive, racist, homophobic, et cetera.

Clergy colleagues will be able to refer people to her, especially those seeking information about marriage and blessings. I wonder what she’ll tell them. The Church of England is prevented by law from conducting weddings for people of the same sex and the English Bishops have asked clergy to respect their agreed position of not offering a service of blessing in church to same sex couples.

Asked what support and services she will provide Sarah said she will hold a Eucharist specifically for the LGBT community at least once a month. I’ve done some rough sums and estimate there are about 80 people in the diocese who may be LGBT Anglicans. Given the three line whips used by the organizers of Gay Pride marches that should ensure a massive congregation in St Grwst’s Church, Llanrwst at the first service on Monday, September 12th, 2016. I’m surprised that’s what LGBT Anglicans want, since it might be seen to further victimize them by emphasizing the fact they are different.

The advert for this service says all will be welcome. I’m not convinced about that, given Sarah’s reply to the question ‘What do you say to those who will struggle to support this?’ She answers, ‘To those who aren’t supportive, I’d say, “If you’re judging people, you have no time to love them! We need to stop using scripture to hurt people.”’ Does that sound warm and welcoming to you? In any case, it’s rubbish. In the confessional the priest sits as judge of sins committed, while exercising love to the penitent. If that’s too technical read any Gospel story where Jesus heals someone with love and then tells them to go and sin no more.

To the question will she be working alone Sarah replies that it’s just her at the moment because ‘In these early stages, I think it’s important that those leading services are themselves members of the LGBT community.’ Presumably modern clergy no longer subscribe to the Thirty Nine Articles. If she were to read the following she would realise that one’s sexual orientation is totally irrelevant, as is skin colour or even the state of one’s soul.

26 The sacraments are not rendered ineffectual by the unworthiness of the minister
Although in the visible church the evil are always mingled with the good and sometimes evil people possess the highest rank in the ministry of the Word and sacraments, nevertheless since they do not do these things in their own name but in Christ’s and minister by his commission and authority, we may use their ministry both in hearing God’s Word and in receiving the sacraments. The effect of Christ’s institution is not taken away by the wickedness of these people, nor is the grace of God’s gifts diminished, so long as the sacraments are received by faith and rightly. The sacraments are effectual because of Christ’s institution and promise, even though they may be administered by evil men.

Finally, we are told that Sarah has now learnt ‘that God is so much bigger, wiser and kinder than the church.’ Which brings me back to my very first blog where I complained that a story on the front of ‘Teulu Asaph’ made it sound as if God were a sort of Father Christmas figure in a toy shop dolling out whatever a child demands. Bigger? Wiser? Kinder? Is this the message the Bishop wants to spread? These are our ordained clergy, for heaven’s sake. It makes me wonder if they ever bother to listen to the words they say daily?Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 14.57.37.png

“For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth and the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it and his hands have moulded the dry land. Come let us worship and bow down and kneel before the Lord our Maker.”