This picture is sideways, I am sorry about that, but you may be used to a sideways glance at things on this blog. The left side or the right side, whichever you may prefer, but the centre is always Christ and your team of scribes attempts to be 'honest to God' as has been said before by somebody with a bigger hat than I will ever get. The picture shows you the view from the eyes of this scribe as he said his morning office on Tuesday morning, in the sacristy before Mass, due to the cold of the Church. A kind person brought me tea and toast, which I enjoyed after the Mass. Anyone who went to my school will tell you that we have a taste for cold, rubbery toast. To get the full effect one has to toast an industrial size quantity of bread on Saturday night and then refrigerate it overnight before covering it in tinfoil and reheating it in a bain marie on Sunday morning. Served with eggs treated in the same way, but boiled rather than toasted, for obvious reasons, it is a nostalgic feast. At least it would be if the smell of boiled eggs to this day did not make me feel ill. The stench of five hundred boiled eggs gently reheating is a terrible one, I can assure you. 'The smoke of Satan has entered our refectory' one wag put it and as far as I am concerned, if hell is boiled eggs every day, that alone would be enough to instill in me the path of virtue!
There is something of the devil in this recent schism as well and I am not going to point the finger at anyone. This morning my newspaper brings news of mass murder and rape in the Congo, with soldiers raping one woman so she bled variously for three months afterwards, of a twelve year old boy forced to have intercourse with his mother before being murdered in front of her, slowly, by being skinned. Cholera has set into Zimbabwe, that cursed nation and there is little time left. In England another figure of hate has been found in Mrs Matthews, who has done some terrible things and Dianamania sets in again, this time over 'Baby P', who is mourned hysterically by those who had no connection with her because there is a greater force to blame, not the Royal Family and 'them' the secret service, this time, but social services, who like the rest of us have made mistakes which now need fixing.
Evil is all around us and it is difficult to speak it's name for fear that the tide of violence which is currently chained may be unleashed. Speaking the truth is sometimes difficult and it is always personal and subjective. I warmly commend Thom for bringing to our attention below truth which is hard to face up to, which is easier to ignore or bluster 'I don't think that applies to me' at. It is hard to speak the truth when it lays oneself open to attack. It is easy to say 'the problems of homosexuality and women's ordination' as though they share any characteristics at all other than that they have caused upset to groups of people who are enjoying their time at the microphone of ecclesiastical politics.
Anyone training to be a Priest in the Church of England now has to do so, or at least cannot choose to not do so, with men and women, Conservative and liberal, members of FinF and Reform, those who agree and those who disagree with each other. This may, just, have a positive effect down the line in making us more - not tolerant - but understanding of each other's calling and position. There is hope there and it lies in communication and mutual respect borne of the call to serve Christ. One of the intensely negative fallouts from the last synod was when my diocesan Bishop voted against us lot being considered loyal Anglicans. Overnight the atmosphere changed. Old hostilities were re-found and years of communication and shared ministry (within the bounds of our conscience) and prayer were torn apart. We need to rebuild that, in this small island, attitude of collegiality which, at least here, we had.
Speaking the truth also means that we admit when we have failed. We are failing the world in our internal warfare. Yes, it is necessary to be the body of Christ in as true a way as we can, but it will never be perfect, for it is built up of ourselves, who are imperfect. The truth also is that Anglo Catholicism has never had a strong line of anti-homosexuality. We would fall apart without the Priestly and lay ministries of countless men who have given their all for Christ and the Church and looking around me now, we have much to be thankful for in the ministry of gay Priests. Not ordaining homosexuals is, in truth, a lunacy, we ordain those who God sends and has, historically, sent. Men who have given their lives to God and their Parishes in truth and love, be they of whatever genetic sexuality. We do well to ordain those who practice the teachings of Christ and the Church, in marriage as well as in chastity. If we decide in a collective act of amnesia that the ministry of those who have gone before us has been in some way defective then we are going to get ourselves in a real pickle.
What sort of Church do we want to become? One which speaks the truth in love and is listened to? Then staying within the Anglican Communion is , I think, the only way forward. We may even see ourselves as missionaries, trying to bring the Church back to her ancient roots. I believe wholeheartedly that we are part of the One, Holy, Apostolic Church, if I did not, I should be in a state of great sin. Nobody takes the wandering Bishops seriously and nobody would hear our truth if we split (and split and split again) into the ether. We and our busy churches deserve more than that. A single soul deserves more than that. We deserve more than that.
We come from a peculiar place and we have made peculiarity one of our hallmarks, over the generations. The history of the Anglo-Catholic movement is characterised by a catholic understanding of humanity and an attempt to speak the truth as it pertains to us in the darkest places, at the hardest times. I am no activist for anybody or anything but scripture, but I have no intention of allowing the word catholic to change it's meaning and mean 'marginalised' or indeed 'marginalising' either and looking around me, I do not see much evidence of that in other people.
It is painful to watch our brothers and sisters in America tearing themselves apart. Number attending church drop year upon year. I pray that we will not join in the temptation - wherever it comes from - to do the same ourselves. Boiled eggs aside, the stench would be terrible.
I began this post hoping to write less about America and I hope that in a way I have purged my demons by getting everything else which worries me about the crisis out of the way as well. My confessor always says 'write it all down and let it go' and with the click of 'publish post', that is exactly what I will do. Happy eve of Saint Nicholas. At least the wandering bishops have one day when they can parade around in their mitres and gowns without attracting too much attention!