Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Look at my Muscles -or- Doing the Lambeth Walk.

Our Lady of Walsingham's smaller processional statue is not very heavy and it does not need much muscle power to lift, but of course regular wanderers, used to my oblique references to things, will be unsurprised that this is yet another one. For it is not my muscles at which I want you to look, indeed so long has it been since I looked I should be surprised to find any there at all, it is the gallery of posturing muscles which are vying for your attention in the Church which I want you to look at, so bear with me and sit back reassured.
First contestant (and these are in no particular order) on the Charles Atlas Memorial Sanctuary is the Conservative African Lobby (yes, it's about the Anglican Communion, well done Mrs. McO'Flaherty). This lobby has muscles of great size, look at those huge Churches full of people, look at the seemingly orthodox teaching! Look at the attractive size of their membership! Indeed a force to be reckoned with and they are not afraid to roar. Next up is the American ECUSA lobby. They have intellectual muscle, for sure and they are convinced that they are forging a brave new future for the Church, no matter what it takes and look at the size of their wallet! And can you see the looks they are getting from the African lobby now! Goodness me, time for the next lobby, and what a very well dressed lot they are. You can smell the incense before you see them. This is the Traditional Catholic lobby and they have a big muscle to flex in the Church and they were founded to serve the Church and Christ, but they threaten to leave the show whenever anything goes wrong and take their muscle elsewhere. Next up is a reformed lobby, flexing muscles of fundamental Biblical reading, see them shaking the judges hands in a very firm way! And now nearly at the end is the gay bodybuilders, who have just put on such a very controversial show in London, but hang on, look at all those .....my goodness, him! and him! Well I never. Finally, and this is a sorry bunch, a never ending stream of bedraggled people of every shape and size, ah, it's the laity, never mind.
So, back in the world, what's that all about then? Well, it seems to me that there is a huge amount of posturing before this Summer brings the Synod and the Lambeth Conference. Every lobby in the Church is shouting and banging it's drum. Look! There's the Rector of Putney waving Gene Robinson's plane in and the Rector of Holy Trinity Brompton trying to shoot it down! Who's sick of this before it has already begun? From where I can see things, which is not such a bad position, to be honest, we all need to learn a little humility and judge a little less. I am sick and tired of people in my camp and other camps jumping up and down foaming at the mouth because of some perceived sleight on their position. We are ordained in the same way as any other Priest in the Church, to serve the same people of God. I will not, now or ever, affect superiority over any other human being, nor will I judge them for their differences to me. If there are those who cannot be content with working, in what I admit is a very difficult field, in difficult times, to the Glory of God and the salvation of souls then take heart from Newman, who laboured forth for the Oxford Movement saying Mass at the north End of the Holy Table until he finished in our communion, ridiculed and mocked.
The honest state of our position is that we have accepted Ordination, or training, or sacraments in a Church which is currently unstable, but we are the ones destabilising it! Not alone, for sure, but threatening to leave every five minutes to a Church which, to be frank, does not really want us, and to abandon our flocks is not only narcissistic, but sinful and judgemental. We have always been a very mixed bag of people in the Church of England and we have always gloried in this fact, for we are universal in our appeal. Now before Synod debates this very difficult issue, is not the time to be pretending to be Roman Catholic clergy, or affecting surprise that there are people not like us in the ranks. The people of this country do not want a fractured Church, the people of God deserve better of their Church and therefore of us. It is also not the time to be shouting louder than any other lobby, but the time for prayer and for asking God for forgiveness for our actions which sometimes cause division and upset. Of course, my friends, we are doing the work of God, but we must be able to see that other men and women of goodwill are doing so as well, in equally difficult places. Let's not join the destroyers, let's not attempt to turn the Church into something which it never was, but let us pray, remain faithful and trust in God. And stop whinging every time something happens that we do not like.
Right, you can get back to watching Doctor Who now, or whatever you were doing. I realise that many of you will not agree with this, or say 'yes. but they are wrong....', and that's fine, you're welcome to your opinion, just as I am to mine. But keep your eyes focused on the people of God, not your own nose! God is at work, I believe, in the coming months as He is in the last eternity of time. We may feel disheartened, we may lose the way in the dark, but we must keep walking. God who is present in war and fear as much as He is in peace and harmony is capable of meriting our trust and full faith. God who created the world and foresaw plague and famine also foresaw this strife and is worthy of our faith and demands our reflected love, for all His creation, not just the bits we like today.