Thursday, 13 September 2012

Make your own fudge!

Some readers will remember that in a previous blog I described one of the  earlier attempts to resolve the Women Bishops legislation in terms of a classic Church of England fudge. If I were to describe this new clause in those terms, it would roughly translate as "make your own fudge" and it would go like this:

Make your own  fudge kit (respect flavour)
Can be made by both sides

Your opponents' theological convictions.
Your own anger and bitterness.
As much respect  as you can muster
Season with love, grace, tact

1. Try to put your own anger and bitterness to one side.
2. Place your opponents' theological convictions, whether for or against women bishops, in the bowl
3. Add as much respect as you can muster.
4. Season with love, grace, tact and pray for more if you don't have enough.
5. By this stage you should be seeing your "opponent" as your brother and sister in Christ. If not, the fudge might have a bitter taste and cause indigestion.
6. Pray that your brother and sister in Christ responds in kind -  but remember you have to set the example.

Remember the fudge is yours and theirs, you share joint responsibility for whether it is bitter or sweet.

The notion of respect

I've just got home from work and have read the Archbishop's statement on the new draft legislation on women bishops. To summarise briefly, it proposes replacing the controversial Clause 5. 1(c) with the following wording, which was suggested by the Rev Janet Appleby:

"the selection of male bishops and male priests in a manner which respects the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request under section 3"

It is worth reading the Archbishop's words in full; his focus is not upon what the legal understanding of the word "respect" might be (more on that later) but upon the idea of respect as a moral and spiritual concept and a quality which will be essential if the Church is to move forward on this issue:

"The bishops were deeply impressed by the moral and spiritual and relational content of this word ‘respect’, and they were eager to go for a form of words that had the advantage of simplicity and directness about it.  They believed it was also very important that this had come not from themselves, but from the process of consulting the wider Church."

Well, it is simple and direct, it also has the advantage of the moral high ground - no-one on either side can really argue against the notion of respect. It also has the advantage that it cannot really be said to be enshrining in law the notion that discrimination against women is permissible or acceptable.

It disadvantage, it seems to me, is that it is vague. It is hard to know what constitutes, "respect(ing) the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request" in actual legal and practical terms. It is for this reason that the opponents of women bishops will argue against it. We may see bitter disputes over what is meant by "respect" - oh, the irony!

I sense a certain weariness though about the whole matter. We need to move on and to find ways forward. This wording is by no  means ideal, but there is no ideal solution and I have an inkling that this will pass.

And perhaps we should pray long and hard for the ability to truly exercise respect for each other - more so when we differ than when we agree.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Alive and doing

The Daily Meditation (by Richard Rohr) that arrived in my inbox yesterday was worth sharing as having some relevance to today's reading and to the reminders in James that good works should arise out of faith and that faith without works is a dead faith. Rohr writes:

 It seems to me that it is a minority that ever gets the true and full Gospel. We just keep worshiping Jesus and arguing over the exact right way to do it. The amazing thing is that Jesus never once says, “worship me!”, but he often says, “follow me” (e.g., Matthew 4:19).

Christianity is a lifestyle—a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, inclusive, and loving. We made it, however, into a formal established religion, in order to avoid the demanding lifestyle itself. One could then be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain at the highest levels of the church, and still easily believe that Jesus is “my personal Lord and Savior.” The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.

Adapted from the CAC Foundation Set: Gospel Call to Compassionate action

I do see so many churches involved in good within their communities, I think this is something which the church at the grassroots often excels in. I know that there is some amazing involvement in the community in the area I live in, and this work arises out of faith and love- the royal commandment- as today's reading put it. I was interested, however, in the idea that we actually create formal, established religion in order to avoid the genuine call of Christ. That challenging idea is worth pondering. It made me think of some of the Quaker ideas about avoiding hierarchy, systems and power as far as possible in faith structures, meanwhile emphasising the need for simplicity in our own lives and practical service to the world.
Dead faith is that religiosity that is wedded to power and prestige and all that the world values - hence the reminder not to favour the wealthy within church circles. Living faith looks at life through a different lens and wants to serve others, not to further its own power base.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Truths and half truths

The Archbishop of Canterbury has given an interview - or maybe several if the amount of coverage on the Internet is anything to go by. Headlines report various things, from a quote that he has "not cracked it" when it comes to unifying the Church during his office, to reports that the Archbishop of Canterbury's role will in future be divided among more than one person (this report has now been corrected as an inaccurate distortion of the ABC's words by the Anglican Communion office.)
One of the things Rowan Williams does seem to have said is that the Church got it wrong in the past on homosexuality. Presumably this means that the Church only got it wrong in the past but is bang spot on in the present? Hmmmm. Don't think so. Isn't it strange how it is much easier to be wrong in the past but never, ever wrong in the present? And we have to remember that when we were wrong in the past, we thought we were right - and no doubt said as much. You'd think someone of William's intellectual calibre would have reflected on that? Maybe he did - but just didn't mention it? Is that dishonest? Well, I dunno. I'll leave you to think about it.
On the subject of honesty and dishonesty, there's Jeffrey John's latest contribution in the Church Times - published in Thinking Anglicans with permission (Friday 8th Sept). He tells us about how a great many of the bishops  and the church hierarchy are actually gay and gay accepting but how they don't admit it in public.The article is called, "Time to tell the truth", which would be great, except that we've heard this before! We've heard it ad nauseum. We know it. Why are you telling us - again? Jeffrey John also says that he nearly resigned twice but stayed in spite of all the hypocrisy. Apparently those who persuaded him to stay said it was because they needed people who were honest. Well, maybe, but I can't help wondering if it  there is much point telling the truth in an institution which has stopped its ears while the outside world shrugs its shoulders in disbelief and gets on with life?
Perhaps I'm being harsh. I'm not really displaying much long-suffering, which, my friends, is one of the fruits of the spirit. I've had a hard week and I just think I might be fresh out of long suffering this morning.

I suppose it's good that Jeffrey John still has his, even if it is a little frayed round the edges, but I have to say that when it comes to all the worn out conflicts, lies, hypocrisy and well worn argument and counter argument you hear on this topic from the Church, he's welcome to it.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Nobody's fool

A fantastic mystery worshipper review from the Ship of Fools website. Anyone who has at some point in their lives been involved in, or coerced into, attending this type of church will find it strikes a chord. Stuart, whose blog I've shamelessly nicked it from, was particularly taken with: "What part of the service was like heaven?" Answer: The five minutes smoking outside.
My personal favourite was this:
"Toward the end of the sermon, Ian Andrews asked who in the congregation, when speaking in tongues, favoured the letter S or K. A few people raised their hands. He then asked one lady who had raised her hand to stand up and speak in tongues, but to favour the letter L. The poor lady look horrified but obliged."

This reminded me of someone who told me that his tongues strategy consisted of repeating the phrase, "Monica's got an anemone" very rapidly, just occasionally throwing in the name of the group "Chaka Khan" to add a little variation. (...I'm not sure he was joking...)

Read. Enjoy. I bet the congregation are lovely, lovely people - but just get down on your knees NOW and thank God now for all those with common sense, a dry sense of humour and a little cynicism!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Journeys of transformation

Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, who died on Friday, aged 85 years, apparently "lashed out" at the Roman Catholic Church prior to his death saying it is "200 years behind" the times. I had a read through the Cardinal's remarks and it seemed to me that, rather than being an excoriating attack, suggested by the rather salacious sounding headline "Cardinal lashes the Church", Carlo Maria Martini's words were spoken more in sadness than in anger.

He suggested that Roman Catholicism needed to be less ritualistic and pompous, and that the changes should begin with "the Pope and his bishops."
"Our culture has grown old, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our religious rites and the vestments we wear are pompous."

 He also asked that the Church adopt a more generous attitude to divorced persons and should not focus on excluding the divorced from communion but on helping in complex family situations. He also commented on the child sex scandals which have particularly rocked Catholicism but which are not entirely unknown in other churches - witness the current condemnation of the "dysfunctional" attitudes and practice in Chichester dioces. Cardinal Martini said:
                   "The child sex scandals oblige us to undertake a journey of transformation."
Sometimes people are given a message to speak to others (we used to call them prophets) and I can see nothing in the Cardinal's message that is not  wise,deeply Godly and Christian. This is why I was particularly saddened to read that the Pope is now, "faced with a difficult choice of whether or not to attend the Cardinal's funeral on Monday." Difficult choice??!!! I would suggest that if the Pope does not attend it would be a tangible proof of the truth and veracity of Cardinal Martini's remarks , whereas if he does we would see a  more Christ like humility and grace in evidence and perhaps the funeral procession could mark the beginning of a journey of transformation.