Wednesday, 26 November 2008

What's the Alternative?

Whilst drinking a bottle of Old Crafty Hen last night and reading the latest edition of The Chap (a magazine which has become dull and hastily thrown together recently) I became bored of the magazine and read the Guardian online. One of those days, I grew quickly tired of the Guardian as well and a premature bottle of Shepherd Neame Christmas Ale seemed the obvious solution. The fault lay in myself, of course, if it be fault to not be in the mood for reading occasionally, I found writers whom I generally enjoy dull and articles about things I generally find of interest boring. Even taking into consideration the maxim that I hold in my head when writing, that anyone who writes every day is going to produce a certain amount of utter rubbish over the course of the year, a certain amount of good stuff and a certain amount of average wordage. This coupled with the slide rule of diversity of opinion, which filters through readers individual tastes, will see some people finding nearly all of the writings rubbish, some finding nearly all of the writings good. This is why newspapers have such a broad team of writers and why nobody reads a newspaper cover to cover.

So therefore it is good that we have a diverse team of people writing for this blog and we have a diverse readership. It is a continual delight to me that you take the time to respond in the message boxes and I get a feel of the general demographic of the people who read this blog through your comments. Thank you. Even to the handful of people who read the blog to find out new ways of disagreeing with me. Oh, and to the smaller handful who have written to me with very diverse offers. I am flattered, but disinterested, even by the accompanying photographs, generally you would all look better with more clothes on, particularly at this time of year when it is colder.

If there is one good thing about blogs and websites generally, it is that they are open to all. Of course, I could block IP addresses from commenting, or even looking at the blog at all, but I veer away from that course of action. I have worked for long enough managing a facility for people with mental health problems to recognise any method of communication as valid and expressive for the person communicating and I will not filter out comments from people who do not fit my standard idea of good manners. I may not take you out for dinner, but I appreciate your comments.

So why this post, Gunga Din? Primarily because I care very much about the state of the Church, because I want the word of God to be, as I said yesterday, broken open afresh for each new generation. As a RC Priest friend of mine says whenever there is conversation about orders, doctrine, split and schism, 'all I care about is passing on the Gospel to each new generation', something he has done tirelessly for longer than I care to think about, with no interest in passing liturgical fashions, or indeed the wishes of the Papacy.

I also care very much about the Church of England, which I love, and he worldwide Anglican Communion, to a lesser extent, because I know little about it save what my friends out there tell me, which is another reason that I value your comments so much, sometimes they make me change my mind, sometimes spur me on to look further for answers.

I began a talk a few weeks ago on the present state of the Church by stressing that this is not a gender issue. 'Women Priests' are not the issue, the Bishop of Nigeria's fear of the modern world breaking upon his nation and casting light into the dark corners of torture, intimidation, the biggest online fraud operations in the world, indeed the biggest organised crime syndicate in history as well as his own hatred of Islam, which sees all this and makes converts because that is what the oppressed always do, is not the issue. GAFCON is not the issue and you would have a fruitless search if you wanted to find me condemning the many men and women who serve faithfully in the ordained ministry of the Church of England who do not agree with me. I do not expect them to and nor should they expect me to agree with them on anything other than the need to deliver the Good News. And there is the issue.

How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? We are watching our brothers and sisters in America tearing themselves apart, each walking to a strange land without each other's dissenting voices, followed by a litter trail of allegations and counter allegations which look to me very much like the sort of threats of legal action which people issue when they are either incoherent with rage or hurt. We generally calm down though and say we are sorry, particularly if we are Christians, for that is what is expected of us, no less. The Southern Cone or GAFCON are not going to heal those wounds or reconcile their differences and for that I am sad. They will draw them apart further, to the point that when, in the future, world events pull either side to their senses, they will be irreconcilable, which is no place for a Christian to be. The world was reconciled to God by one man and the cross, once and for all peoples. In certain lights, we are behaving terribly as children of that dark night and bright morn.

There would have to be incredibly detailed negotiations over a third province, to make sure that we can function effectively, that we could grow in mission and outreach and welcome people into it, as the wider Church would be allowing us to do. We would still be recognisably part of the Church of England, which is vital, we would still have people in neighbouring Parishes who would not necessarily agree with us, but I cannot see this as a bad thing in itself. As I said before, what may seem right for American Dioceses is not always right for us.

I am sad, not jubilant, that it has come to this in the USA and I pray that reconciliation may come sooner rather than later that all the world may know of the wonder of the Risen Lord, for all people are called to Him and we have to make Him available to all, in the full diversity of the world and her inhabitants as God made it. We can, of course, sing the Lord's song in a strange land, as refugees do to this day in the most intolerable situations, but the Lord's song is one of joy, for us all, at all times. It would be difficult to sing it in a land which had no intention of hearing what we had to say, of receiving the Good News, due to an alienation between us and they.