Monday, 30 June 2008

SS Peter and Paul, and a Little Side Dish of GAFCON.

High Mass at St Hilda's for SS Peter and Paul.

Taking a constitutional in the afternoon before the Ordination Service.

The Bishop of Burnley's Crozier showing the crest of St Hilda.

Sunday dawned dark and murky and as I sat at the magic lantern finishing off my sermon and eating my toasted muffin I was idly looking at the main news sites when it became clear that GAFCON have formed a schism in all but name from the main part of the Anglican Communion. I worked a little of this into my sermon and went to Church to say morning prayer, for things may change, but the daily round of prayer never does.

We had a busy Mass with a few new people, which was cheering. We made it abundantly clear that we have looked at GAFCON and the new Church, the Society of Confessing Anglicans, and found it wanting. We are Catholics and they are Protestant Evangelicals, we are Sacramental and they are not, we also have no intention of returning to the BCP for all our liturgy and, to be honest, I know of no evangelicals who are keen on doing so either. Things have moved on, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to deny so is to question the mission of the Church in our times and to question the presence of the Holy Ghost in the same and if you do so, then, with my blessing, go. Now.

So what next for GAFCON/Soca? For the vast majority, it will be business as usual in the African Churches. For the Western World, Australia will doubtless become more evangelical and align itself more and more with this novelty, apart with our blessed friends in Ballarat (yet another Bishop who, during lunch, impressed me with his exquisite manners and arguments, lest you think I only dine with schismatics!), who will be even more sidelined. In the USA, our Anglo Catholic friends have a hard choice to make, whether to stay as they are in an untenable position of enforced extremist modernity or to make their bed with Soca, who have really nothing in common with them sacramentally.

Here in the UK there is to be a meeting at All Souls, Langham Place, centre of Evangelicalness in these Isles, soon, which will, I think, provide a King Lear moment of map-tearing, deciding who will go to whom and during which Bishop Nazir Ali will see where he stands both nationally and in his own Diocese. We and America and Australia will, presumably, provide most of the money for this new venture and a couple of conservative evangelical colleges in the UK are being earmarked as places for the training of ministers within this new not-a-schism schism. Presumably the leaders will take it upon themselves to select and train these ministers as well.

So what for us? Well, business as usual, really. We can have nothing to do with people so diametrically opposed to our sacramentality, without which, we Anglo Catholics would truly wither and die. We must wait for the Synod wherein I think, from the way it is going and from the whispers which have reached the Anglican Wanderings newsdesk, we are in for a great amount of good news. We must keep the faith, be joyful and, my friends, why would we let the opinions of three hundred African Bishops bother us? We never have before!

This has been a long time coming, this new not-a-new-church and we would be foolish to be surprised by it. What we would be more foolish to do is to court it's attention by some surface issues that we may feel we share. This is not for us, this is not the Mass, this is not the Real Presence, this is not the Faith delivered once to the Saints. This is political and post colonial angst and our part in it is to pray for our separated brethren, that one day, all may be one. The literalistic reading of scripture which is proposed by Soca is not Catholic. Pray for the intervention of the Holy Ghost at Synod and prepare ourselves for Mass. Some things never change and the incarnation of Christ Himself and the foundation of the Church of Christ cry out against this development.