Friday, 4 December 2009

Uganda: the Authorised Version (or who my neighbour isn't)

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said unto him, “What is written in the law? How readest thou?”

And he answering said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”

And he said unto him, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.”

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

And Jesus answering said, “A certain man went down from Kampala to Entebbe, and fell among the police and law makers, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and held him, pending the arrival of the hurry-up wagon so that they might cast him into prison, and hang him; for he had dared to love another man. And by chance there came down a certain Archbishop of Canterbury that way: and when he saw him, he said ‘attempts to publicly influence either the local church or political opinion in Uganda would be divisive and counter productive, yea it would be seen as white colonialism’ and he passed by on the other side.

“And likewise a Pastor named Rick Warren and his friends, who had counselled the law makers of that land against homosexuals, when they were at the place, came and looked on him. Pastor Rick was deeply moved and said, ‘It is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations’, and they passed by on the other side.

“And on the morrow when he was hanged, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Archbishop and the pastors, though they had known that this would come to pass.

“Which now of these two, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the police and the law makers?”

And the lawyer said, “Not one of them.”

Then said Jesus unto him, “Well done, even you can spot a hypocrite.”
Jesus wept.

Friday, 27 November 2009

On the Ordination of Women (part 2)

As I travel around the blogosphere, I keep seeing the name ‘Ed Tomlinson’ appear in comments, so I went to have a rummage around in his blog. Predictably, his piece ‘On the Ordination of Women’ left me with a few comments to make, so here they are, with quotes. Follow the link above for Ed’s original post in all its glory.

I realise this is all ‘old hat’ to many, but I fancied doing it anyway.

Quotes in italics, my comment isn’t.

Catholic theology advocates priesthood as vocation – concerned with ‘being’ not ‘doing’. It has little to do with ‘rights’ and everything to do with ‘role’. Priesthood is not akin to a secular job but to such things as motherhood, fatherhood, being a wife or husband. Something in which gender becomes a determining factor.

Please, please come up with an example not so ridiculously weighted. ‘Motherhood’ and ‘fatherhood’ are not things “in which gender becomes a determining factor” they are biological constraints. ‘Wife’ and ‘husband’ are limited by definition – though language changes so who knows! Maybe we will live to see the day when those words are no longer gender specific. Whether ordination is in that second category we will debate shortly, but the mother/father thing is nonsense in this debate. Unless gender is the starting point for what it means to be a priest. Surely not.

We must understand this basic fact before turning to the following reasons why this ‘priestly servile vocation’ has traditionally been understood as male in essence:

If masculinity is the essence of priesthood, we have bigger problems than I thought.

Supporters of women’s ordination [suggest] Jesus was limited by the wisdom of his age. But this seems dubious. After all Christ was ever willing to defy convention. He countered pharisaic teaching where necessary. Furthermore the pagan world of his day was awash with female priests. They were not an alien concept. Jesus could easily have followed such example if he willed. The evidence suggests he chose not to.

The twelve were indeed men, no denying it. When the eleven decided to replace Judas, they chose a man. No denying that either. So, the twelve were all men. I could ask whether, following the example of the apostles, all priests (though not laity) should be circumcised. After all, the thirteen apostles all were.

St Paul taught that women were equal to men (‘In Christ…there is no male or female, slave or free’) Yet also taught that their role was to be different (Forbidding women to have ‘liturgical authority’ in Church.)

I’m sorry, but where?

There were no women bishops or presbyters in the early Church. This indicates that St Paul’s take was not just his own (some even suggest sexist) opinion. But the consensus among all the Apostles- handed down to their successors.

I don’t know how to break this too you, but does the name Junia mean anything to you. It is often altered to Junias, a male form, but whereas there are many examples of Junia as a woman’s name, Junias would be unique as a man’s name. In Romans 16:7 she is described as an Apostle by... oh, that would be Paul then.

In the 3rd century, a group known as Montanists formed. Their teaching was rejected as dangerous because they questioned the reliability of Tradition. (Montanists wished to change things due to “new revelations of the Spirit”.- sound familiar?)

Yes – it sounds like the demand for priestly celibacy, or the rejection of slavery. It also reminds me of the canon of New Testament Scripture or, indeed, the creation of an ordained priesthood. Oh – and the ordination of women to said priesthood.

What ultimately condemned them was their desire to ordain women.

It really wasn’t.

The earliest Canon Law forbade women’s ordination. These canons were endorsed by the Council of Nicaea (who gave us ‘The Creed’ in 325.) To endorse women priests we must assume the council of Nicaea gave wrongful teaching on matters of holy orders. Yet they certainly got things right in the Creed. So is this tenable? Just as the Nicene creed is fundamental to Christian doctrine, so surely their opinions matter today?

It means they should not be lightly dismissed, but you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

One can only argue Scripture endorses women priests, by attributing St Paul’s teaching against them as;
a) wrongful personal opinion –or-
b) applicable only to his time and place.

Simply untrue.

However there’s a right and wrong way to interpret Scripture. The traditional way is to endorse scripture where clear – and mould our lives accordingly. Choosing our preferred interpretation, making scripture say what we wish to hear, is most definitely not right. Therefore S. Paul’s teaching is hard to dismiss.

Classic piece of rhetoric. Whilst most people would agree with the first sentence in the above paragraph, plenty of people would have an issue with the second. Yet the way they are presented here seeks to tie the ‘right’ to ‘traditional’ – which is a matter of opinion. It also places ‘wrong’ with a confused and not necessarily cogent set of attitudes (‘preferred interpretation’ is not the same thing as ‘making scripture say what we wish to hear’ – you have a preferred interpretation, are you just making scripture say what you wish to hear?)

As noted: Secularism promotes gender as interchangeable- the Church upholds a celebration of two different natures- leading to a belief in a difference of role and function within equality. We see this clearly in Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul.

The fact that you can cite the examples of a Pope and a nun doesn’t speak to others’ vocations – just theirs.

This difference in role leads to the Mass. At the Eucharist the priest stands ‘in persona Christi’. “The person of Christ”. (hence Orthodox priests have beards and long hair!) Christ cannot be ‘sacramentally’ represented by a woman because Christ’s ‘maleness’ is not incidental- its revelatory. (It tells us something about God) It would be silly on stage to cast a man in the role of Mary. It seems equally silly at Mass to ask a woman to stand in the place of Christ. He was a man- and there is not avoiding that fact.

You seem to be confusing the universal Christ with the Jesus of history. It is entirely possible for a woman to stand ‘in persona Christi’. Oh, and if there is to be in any genuine conversation about this issue, please don’t draw such parallels between celebrating Mass and staging a play. They’re two unconnected occasions and treats the priestly role as play-acting.

Jesus is bound to his role as Father not mother. This revelation of a ‘male God’ says something subtle yet profound. We see this in the following:
Pagan religion used priestesses to promote the ‘mother god’ who gives birth to creation. (Hence nature worship) But Judaism challenged this- making God life giver instead- revealing a separateness to created order. Nature created by him not of him.

Judaism did see God as the life giver – I know, we’re agreeing! – but not I would suggest in the way stated above. The source of life in the creation of new little people was seen to be entirely in the male ‘seed’. The woman was thought to simply be the carrier and deliverer. (Any women out there feel like a ploughed field?) Thus it was a sin to spill said seed on the ground – this was akin to abortion (and no, I’m not getting into that debate here.) If God was therefore the source of life – then God must be our Father.

The fact that we know this view of human reproduction is fundamentally flawed provides us with the chance - the obligation - to rethink. For a start, it means that the idea of God having a gender is based on nothing more than a scientific error, which has led to a cultural error. We can reclaim (as has been done for centuries) the idea that God transcends gender. It also helps us to make sense of the idea that “God created humans in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)

Scripture teaches that Christ’s relationship with his people is signified by the imagery of Christ as groom and His bride the Church... It follows that we- the bride of Christ must open ourselves to our groom in order to be impregnated by his Word. We then ‘give birth’ to fruits of the Spirit. At the Eucharist created order is echoed. Marriage and the Mass tell us about our relationship with God. Alas a female priest confuses this image of ‘Christ and bride’ at a subtle yet profound level.

This argument is totally nonsensical. If women cannot represent Christ at the altar because Christ is the groom, then by the same token only women can represent the ‘bride’, which means we need to have a female only laity and no priests at all.

Mother Church (feminine not masculine) [see above] has always taught that changes to belief and practice can only be accepted when backed by scripture, reason and tradition. All three -not just one. If something cannot be proved by all 3 then we lack authority to adopt it. So even if modern ‘reason’ suggests women’s ordination to be correct – it cannot be accepted- unless equally revealed by Scripture and tradition. (Which it is patently not).

Actually, it can be ‘proved’. Not only by reason, but also scripture (back to Junia again) and tradition (she does crop up a lot doesn’t she?)

Incidentally, if tradition were a pre-requisite, nothing could ever change and the church would be arguing for the re-introduction of slavery as a doctrinal issue – just a thought.

All arguments in favour of women priests return to the Secular argument for ‘inclusivity’...


Pro arguments appeal powerfully to the heart-but are entirely sociological and based on the secular concept...


God does not do U-turns. Why would the Holy Spirit teach that women’s ordination is wrong through scripture and the teachings of the early church – only to declare such practice valid in the 21st Century? God is surely the same yesterday, today and forever!

Why the change? Probably for the same reason that there was first the law, and then Christ. The same reason that both Old and New Testaments endorse slavery by laying down teaching about it, and yet the church now holds it to be abhorrent. As Jesus is recorded as saying: “It was because you were so hard-hearted...” It’s not a u-turn, it’s a movement toward God.

We should be wary when we consider that the cry to ordain women – a so-called ‘revelation of the Spirit’ has only really arisen alongside the rise of the liberal political opinion of the last Century.

Not entirely true – it’s just become harder to ignore.

If God wants women priests and bishops- he wants them for the whole Church. To ‘Anglo-Catholic’ Anglicans this is crucial! I cannot accept that the Church of England- which makes up only a tiny fraction of global Christianity- has authority to make such immense decisions alone. Only when Rome and Constantinople agree – can we possibly proclaim the ordination of women as a decision from God.

The unity of the Church is important, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But don’t worry, they’ll catch up with us eventually.

In 1992 we were promised that ‘women priests’ would restore the image of the Church. It was stated powerfully that people, especially the young, would flood back to our pews. The reality has been quite different!

Anyone who thought or genuinely believed that ordaining women would be the ‘silver bullet’ to halt a decline in numbers was seriously deluded. I’m not denying that it was said by some.

Though many women priests perform excellent work, the decision to ordain them has deeply damaged our Church.

The church was already deeply damaged by not ordaining them, and in the intervening years the ordination of women has become accepted more widely than was, I think, expected. If you don’t agree, feel free to get a private members motion passed up to GS to have it revoke the decision.

A schism was created and, for the first time in history, endorsed by the establishment who declared both proponents and opponents to be valid!

That may well have been daft, but there you go.

Hundreds of faithful priests were lost to Rome. People left in droves. Should current trends continue there will be no ‘C of E’ worshippers in 2040. Hardly the promised outcome.

I’ll make a date in my diary for 2040 to continue the discussion (God willing.)

...since the ordination of women there is not one diocese where [the] circle of unity has not been broken. Legislation allows people to deny the validity of women priests if they wish. Which necessarily means that dioceses can no longer unite at the altar. No one priest can stand in for another. Ordinary people are allowed to decide (quite legally) if someone’s ordination is valid or not. (What compromise but what utter nonsense!)

Couldn’t agree more.

When the first woman was ordained Canon A4 of the Church of England was abolished: It read ‘Those ordained should be seen as fully valid by all.’


The result is that we no longer have unity. The seriousness of this cannot be underestimated. It is growing increasingly evident. How can you have private judgment in orders? Collegiality is rendered dormant and the Church turned into an international conference of conflicting beliefs. There is no priestly authority as has been handed down since the time of the apostles.

Quite right – rescind the Act of Synod now.

Its easy to assume this is academic fluff or hysterical theory: but we only have to open our eyes to see it as fact. Cracks are now opening up all over the communion, widening and growing. Once scripture was ‘overlooked’ to ordain women...

Please stop repeating this insulting lie.

Think Vertically The ordination of women has shattered the historic line handed down through the apostles. A woman priest would not be recognised by those serving in living two hundred years ago. Which breaks the unity of past and future. Augustine could not be replaced at his altar by Patricia – a deep strain of Holy tradition is now fractured.

This is true - as is the idea of a married priest. How is the family by the way?

Our Ordinal makes it clear that this tradition is what provides validity. It is fact not opinion. We are a Church built on Apostolic succession. Sadly no more… we have become a Church that has performed a wilful act of disunity.

Actually, that would be the Act of Supremacy of 1559.

Our Church foolishly refused to wait for all her members to agree.

We weren’t all agreed on the status quo, and more were in favour of the change than against.

Instead it made silly and impossible legislation- i.e. allowing traditionalists to disbelieve in women’s orders. Little surprise that the Church is now in a frightful mess. We are a Church that has dismissed tradition and scripture in pursuit of sociological ideals.

Show me a church that’s not in a mess. And again, I haven’t dismissed tradition or scripture.

I pray that we can find a way to restore our Church to its true nature. A protestant part of the one Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I don’t think we’ve left the one Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Regardless let us remember that what unites us–is our love of the Lord Jesus. And even in disagreement we must draw together in working for his kingdom in this place.


Traditional Anglo-Catholics are seeking the creation of new ‘traditional Dioceses’ ... It is our way of allowing women priests to have what they desire – whilst granting space to those who, in conscience and sympathy with 90% of Christians worldwide – do not embrace the innovation.

That 90% - a throw-away figure that assumes unanimous support for the official position of the Roman and Eastern Churches amongst the laity. You can’t complain about being treated unfairly and ignored in your own church if you do the same to people in other churches who dissent from the official teaching of their church.

Here endeth the lesson.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Come to Papa!

Well it's finally out - and no great surprises.

There is much that can be said - much that is being said - on the publication of the Apostolic Constitution. What continues to puzzle this particular dull-witted priest is the following:

All of those who might take up Papa's kind offer are of the Anglo-Catholic persuasion - Yes?
These are people who for their entire life have espoused an ecclesiology that emphasises the sacramental and priestly ministry of the Church of England - Yes?
That being so, if they take up Papa's offer, exactly what are they saying about all they have recieved and (if ordained) done in their Christian life?

Is there a canon, footnote or nudge and wink that sets this all aside? A kind of Article 26 to excuse all that has gone before? It seems to me that in order to take up the offer of BXVI one has to accept that for all those years of faithful worship - in spirit and in truth - one has never actually been forgiven, never confirmed, never truly recieved, let alone never truly been a priest.

Writing from my own context as an ordained priest in the CofE, for me to leave and take up the offer (never a possibility in case you didn't know) would feel like I had turned to the congregations I minister to and, with the clown's drum and cymbal triplet, shouted "Fooled you!" as I left the church.

I realise that the above trivialises the pain that will undoubtedly be felt where a priest leaves a congregation to take up the offer, but if there are any (even possible) converts out there, please explain it to me.

I'm not expecting any responses. Not because I think they're not interested in answering but because I have a fairly realistic idea of how many people read this!

ADDITIONAL: With thanks to MadPriest's sidebar for the reminder, it is best expressed by the late, lamented ++Runcie - "According to Rome, I'm a layman. We have to talk about that first."

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

As I write this the church, or more accurately one priest, is embroiled in a media frenzy about a post on his blog. Fr Ed Tomlinson wrote about the increasing number of funerals he is asked to take in which Christianity is something of an add-on in a post entitled ‘The death of death’.

Now I ought, for the purposes of full disclosure, say now that I know Fr Ed a little – friend of a friend. As a taste of what caused all the fuss, here is an extract from the offending post:
“…it has become painfully obvious that many families I have conducted funerals for have absolutely no desire for any Christian content whatsoever. I have then stood at the Crem like a lemon, wondering why on earth I am present at the funeral of somebody led in by the tunes of Tina Turner, summed up in pithy platitudes of sentimental and secular poets and sent into the furnace with ‘I did it my way’ blaring out across the speakers! To be brutally honest I can think of a hundred better ways of spending my time as a priest…”

This is one of the quotes that you may have read in the national press, who picked it up from the local paper, and it is easy to see why this might cause a stir. Certainly The Times, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph felt it warranted a good few column inches.

It perhaps goes without saying that the content of the original post by Fr Ed was in no way as bad as the edited highlights in the papers suggested, or indeed the quote I have used above. It was however a piece that left me a little cold. There was a lack of warmth and compassion that spoke of a kind of Christianity that has, by and large, gone out of favour in the Church of England.

One of the privileges of being a priest in the C of E is that you tend to be the default choice for people who are not necessarily ‘church people’, but find themselves in need of religion. These times are not limited to funerals, but include weddings and baptisms as well as other times of joy and sorrow.

I have always seen the job of the priest on these occasions to speak something of God into the situation, to point to the hope and love that faith provides, regardless of the music that is requested and without any comment on taste. The service (be it baptism, wedding or funeral) is not about me, and the way I approach them is always with the model of a servant leader, something I promised I would strive to be at my ordination.

The ‘extreme’ example of an entirely secular funeral might feel a little odd for me to take, and I don’t honestly know what I would do if such a request were made – perhaps ask the family if they were sure a Christian priest was what they wanted if they required no religious input at all. That said, in just over ten years of ministry I have never been asked to lead such a service.
Suffice to say that I will still strive to offer myself to the community I serve, and to try and point to God’s presence in all life’s joys and woes.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

NOW we're off to the races...

Given some of what I said in my previous post ("... I was irritated to the nth degree by the now (in)famous reflections of ++Rowan... [and] comments on his reflections... [sent] me into even deeper depression and rage) you can imagine how delighted I was to read this MCU reply. (Thanks to Pluralist and MP for the 'heads up'.) It directly addresses ++Rowan's reflections and the puritan bile that +Wright spewed shortly after.

This is their own summary of the piece:
· Both papers blame the American church for rejecting a consensus that homosexuality is immoral. There is no such consensus; there is only their dogma.
· Even if there were a consensus, the institutions of the Anglican Communion have neither legal nor moral authority to impose it on provinces which dissent. Their claim to have this authority is an attempt to introduce a new authoritarianism.
· The controversy about homosexuality can only be resolved by open, free debate about the ethics of homosexuality. These papers, instead of engaging in that debate, seek to suppress it.
· A great deal of scholarly literature has recently argued for a revision of the traditional Christian disapproval of homosexuality. These papers deny knowledge of it, thus implying that their position is uninformed.
· Both papers appeal to an idealising theory of the church in order to argue that it cannot ordain homosexuals or perform same-sex blessings. These theories neither describe what is happening in practice nor express characteristically Anglican views of the church.
· Both papers deny that they seek to centralise power in international Anglican institutions, while at the same time proposing innovations designed to have exactly this effect.
· Both papers look forward to an Anglican Covenant which would create a two-tier Anglicanism, such that only those committed to condemning homosexuality would have representative functions or be consulted on Communion-wide matters.

I heartily recommend the reading in full of this reply - it gives me heart to see those with the mind I lack putting the case so well.

I don't suppose for one minute that Wright or Williams (or Cardinal Bellarmine and Pope Urban VIII as I will now be calling them) will read the piece with open heart or mind, but you never know.

As is always the case with a well written piece, the MCU save the best for last. This is from the conclusion:

"If there is to be a revival, the church must... return once again to that balance of scripture, reason and tradition in which there are no infallibilities but there are countless opportunities for new life and insight. The church must be less obsessed with itself, more concerned with the society in which it is set; less determined to defend everything it has inherited, more open to discoveries from elsewhere; less threatened by new challenges, more excited by new possibilities."

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The timidity of a blogging virgin

In a fit of irritation I created this blog, then got swamped by work and did nothing about it. At the time I was irritated to the nth degree by the now (in)famous reflections of ++Rowan (surely him reflecting other people's thought on the GC rather than a reflection of his own thoughts? Or is it a reflection of his own thoughts in that they appear back-to-front?) Little did I know that comments on his reflections would send me into even deeper depression and rage. (See here for an example.)

I've now calmed down a little and, grateful that I am not in the diocese of Durham, nor (any longer) in the episcopal area of Sherborne, the stated need for this blog seems a little less necessary. As you can tell, I'm a believer of an Anglican, C of E persuasion.

However... waste not, want not.

Exactly which addled minded, adjectival fool thought that the creation of a worldwide Anglican Church (which seems to be the direction we're going in) was a good idea? The genius of the AC has always been that we are diverse in geography and tradition (be that liturgically or theologically) whilst celebrating the fact that that which unites us is far greater than that which... you get the gist.

So, today's little rant is not as great as it might have been, had I got around to posting it when I meant to (about three weeks ago.)

Still, despite Graham Kings finest thoughts, the strength and benefits of the interdependency of the churches that make up the AC will not vanish overnight, if at all, regardless of the vision of TEC. If I was feeling paticularly awkward, I might go so far as to suggest that the demand for TEC to follow the party line being set by Akinola et al, in order that we might protect them from their own, smacks (more than a little) of the old Empire days in its patronising, dull headedness. But I wouldn't do that, would I?

But then again, I could be wrong about all of this.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

OK - here goes...

So as I get thouroughly wound up by the state of the church and the approach of some of my brothers and sisters in Christ to their faith and the world, I finally decided to create a blog. I'm not expecting a vast readership, but it might just be that there is some catharsis in writing one of these things.