Tuesday, 10 February 2009

'wass 'appnin dude?

Forgive the lapse into contextual theology speak, evident in the title today, but with the Synod now meeting in London, a number of people have expressed disquiet as to what is going on. THIS LINK takes you directly to the agenda of business for the week, and those of us who look through for one thing alone will find that Wednesday morning brings the women bishops slot. The best precis of the situation I can recommend is that written by Father Paul Benfield in New Directions, which will have hit many of your doormats yesterday. Father Benfield is a barrister, who addressed us in Blackburn Diocese after the last Synod, explaining what will happen next, and he stressed heavily the need to "keep calm and carry on" and to work for the future, particularly in lobbying good, open-minded folk in Synod who would not vote - in five years - for a measure which would see us being forced out. Whatever is done over the next five years still requires a two-thirds majority vote and there is every indication that things will be as tight as they were sixteen years ago. Wales voted the issue out precisely because the traditionalists did not have the legislation necessary to remain in the Church which, by Her changes voted in by Synod, had rejected its age old standpoint: the doctrine insisted on by the Saints and Martyrs and with roots in the actions of Christ Himself. The same Christ and Saints who seem comfortably far away enough for the reformers to start ignoring. I am reminded of the old adage 'if Christ seems far away, guess who's moved'.

Anyway, this week, all Synod can do with the Women Bishops Measure is to approve or reject the details put forward so that they can be considered at the next session. Nothing else. We may gather something of the mood of the Synod, whether it is seeking greater generosity or if it is becoming infected with the venom of the tongues of WATCH - who are still incapable of giving reasons for this move based on scripture, tradition or reason, preferring to indulge in the Diana-speak of postmodern angst and the pulling of heart-strings and otherwise to confuse the Kingdom of Heaven and the salvation of souls with a plot line from Mills and Boon: 'Christina so, so wanted to be a bishop, but the horrible, horrible old and ugly men, who nobody loved, stood in her way time and time again, so she resorted to the only weapon left to her, she bravely went behind their backs and told everyone what horrible, horrible people they were'.

But back to reality. I am convinced that whatever the reformers may say to do us down - and there is a lot of that - for they dislike our quiet insistence on maintaining the same faith as the vast, vast majority of Christianity, traced back to the Apostles and all those silly, silly Councils which can, of course, now be ignored, for who wants Arius when they can have a cafe Church. Damn, there I go again. I am, as I was saying, convinced that whatever the reformers do, in the future, when this country wakes up to its great spiritual potential again and tires of being told it can do whatever it wishes with no repercussions, when social capital is traced, finally, to the redemptive power of the glorious Cross and the gate of Heaven is put above the gate of individualism, then it is to the people who have maintained and unceasingly taught the ancient faith that people will turn. The new quickly looks old.

Finally, I was happy to see an article by Father Ed Tomlinson of Saint Barnabas, Tunbridge Wells (the church and the blog!), in New Directions yesterday, celebrating the Anglo-Catholic blogosphere. One thing he rightly points out is the mutual support generally evident between the different blogs, all proclaiming, through different contexts and examples, the same faith. Blogs are easily dismissed as being virtual community only, but I disagree. Most of our blogs are based in a tangible faith group - or a church, as they used to be called. Many of our bloggers know each other and meet each other and, wonder of wonders, many of our readers meet up or exchange emails as well, outside of the blog. That people feel connected virtually and physically to a group is wonderful. For once I shall sink into a comfortable chair, pour myself a virtual calvados and say 'well done us'. And well done you, as well, for reading and taking part in the community and the debate. It's you I write for. Keep calm, carry on and pray, pray, pray. This is the Kingdom of God we attempt to build, and when that work clashes with contemporary mores, we find, at that interface, pain and upset which needs diplomatic skill, our Lord's healing and a firm faith. Nobody likes making other people feel they cannot do what they wish to, but we cannot deny the teachings and example of Christ, who lived and died that we may have life in Him to the full.