Weasel Words and Nonsense

Once upon a time, long ago when I was young, Bishops were wise men of learning and Vicars and Rectors knew a fair bit of Theology. Even when they weren’t quite so clever nor so well educated they still had an abundance of common sense. If you went to them with a problem they could talk it through with you to a sensible solution.

Obviously times change, standards change, ideas change, but is it only my age that makes me think bishops these days have gone bonkers?

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“Celtic” bishops vainly hoping for Unity with the Vatican

Certainly, when I saw the above photo it seemed to me that the Welsh bishops—all six of them—had, collectively, lost their marbles. They had all toddled off to Rome with the excuse that they were there to aid Christian Unity. This jolly was despite the fact they all support—fairly agressively—women priests, women bishops, and same sex marriage. They must be stupidly naive if they thought there was any chance that Rome would adopt their views just like that.

Perhaps they got the idea from +Gregory, the bishop up here in St Asaph. He had a jolly to Ireland recently in the interest of Christian Unity with various Orthodox bishops, none of whom will have anything to do with women priests or same sex marriage. (These bishops should not be confused with the great Russian and Eastern Orthodox churches, which is presumably why the meeting was held in Dublin.)

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The Bishop of St Asaph is in Unity with them but not with me.

Of course, any initiative which can bring about Christian Unity must be a good thing but the so-called Celtic bishops had a fat chance of achieving anything with the Vatican. I can’t help feeling they could have spent their time much more effectively, though not so exotically, closer to home.

Where is all this “good disagreement” we hear so much about? Where are the forums where differing views can be discussed and debated quietly and intelligently? Not in Synod, I’m afraid. Where is the “diversity” the clergy are bending over backwards to embrace. I wouldn’t be welcome by the Vicar in my “parish” church because I can’t support SSM. Worse than that,  as an advocate for marriage between a man and a woman, preferably for life, the inference is that I must be homophobic. So far, the vaunted advantages and benefits of Mission Areas haven’t provided even one church in my Area which will give me a “safe, sacred space” where I can feel at home.

A year ago—was it really only 12 months ago? It seems like another age—the Bishop of St. Asaph appointed an LGBT chaplain. At the time, when asked what she would say to people who couldn’t support her, the Revd Hildreth-Osborn replied: “To those who aren’t supportive, I’d say, ‘If you’re judging people, you have no time to love them!”

If you take the time to think about those words you realise they’re a typical ‘soundbite.’ Sound good: mean nothing. What does she think Jesus meant when He said, to the woman taken in adultery, for example. (John:8) over, “Go, and sin no more”?He realised she had done something wrong, had told her so, but had not stopped loving her.

The ridiculous phrase, “Radical new Christian inclusion” used by Paul Baynes, Bishop of Liverpool, in his endorsement of the Jayne Ozanne Foundation, seems to mean kicking out the Gospel of Jesus while supporting “Just love for all”, whatever that means.

Jayne Ozane says she believes people can believe what they like.  Good, In introducing her new Foundation she also said that people like me have “A simplistic and ill-informed view of the Bible.” That’s exactly what she has.

Sadly, the Celtic Bishops would rather jaunt off to Rome than potter round their dioceses trying to establish any sort of unity with those of us who have been pushed out of our churches in the name of new radical LGBTQUIA+ inclusion.

 

 

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?

“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.

“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.

 

 

A Misfitting Anglican Alien Spinning in Space

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

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

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

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

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This is what I had some trouble with.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to the Waffling Moronarchy

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

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This is the Bishop Elect of St David’s

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This is her mission statement

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

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

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

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

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

These words proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Says it all, doesn’t it.

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

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

God bless (help) America!