Saturday, July 19, 2008

Colours to the Mast

Interesting times for the former Bishop of Monmouth, pictured here on the December night he priested the former curate of Glyncorrwg.

You know, for me the Anglican church is a big house. Lots of us live here. Like any community, we have opinions and disagreements. Regularly I find that I am right and many of my housemates are wrong.

But the moment I think that this means I can push them out of the door, or force them into my room in order to stay in the house - that moment I have just exiled myself, because I have forgotten what being an Anglican is about.

Important note to self - Total number of church members who agree with me on everything: One. Me. Apart, of course, from those issues where I disagree with myself. And then I am in real trouble, because if I can only worship with those with whom I am in complete agreement, I don't know where to turn.

(Though as a church by definition needs more than one person, I guess that doesn't matter anyway. I'm still stuck in a corner jabbering pointlessly whichever way I look at it.)

It's a BIG house! And sometimes those housemates - the ones who are wrong, because they are different to me - surprise me because God loves them and they have a life with God and I learn things from them. And I am enlarged by being allowed to be part of the same family. This is part of an ancient and venerable doctrine that Jesus had a thing for; it's technical name is "humility". It's not so popular these days. I'm not so good at it, myself, though I note with dismay that I may have caught this from my betters.

For of the 880 bishops invited to the Lambeth Conference, the ten-yearly gathering of Bishops across the Anglican church world-wide, 230 have something better to do and have said, "No thanks".

Women Bishops is the issue for a very few. Homosexuality for more.

Tosh. It's selfishness and pride and self-advancement and arrogance. It's a lack of godliness and a frankly amazing rudeness that beggars belief.

Here am I trying to teach my folk about living in Righteousness - living in right relationship with God - and those who would present themselves as leaders in Biblical teaching and authority (over those they say would question the Bible) choose to flout page after page after page of grace and authority and humility and other clear Biblical virtues over tiny secondary issues that amass all of two or three lines of script in the whole of the Bible text. Matthew 23.23-24 was written for these men, good men, kind men, misguided and now misleading men.

My Archbishop here says stupid things. So do I. We disagree with each other. We are both wrong - him usually on a bigger stage and with bigger consequences. Do you know what? He's my archbishop and I love him dearly, and pray for him, and like him, and as an Anglican if he asked me to do something for him I would do it if I possibly could. We might have a ding-dong row in private (it's happened!) but then life goes on. I might continue to oppose his views on certain issues (including the headline, terribly non-essential stuff that's flying around now: for the record, Jesus matters, bishops don't, and that's that) but I won't live my life in that place.

This is the Church of God!

Hello LOVE! Hello GRACE! Hello GENEROSITY! Hello TRUTH! Hello FRIENDSHIP! Hello PEACE! Hello the wonders the Spirit pours upon us all -


I just thought I'd nail my colours to the mast. And though no-one has ever invited me to Lambeth, and never will, as a Christian my calling is to be an Anglican. So I would never dream of saying no.


Anonymous said...

Well, there's quite a breeze, demonstrated by the right angle at which your mast-nailed colours are flying!
It is hard to believe that leaders in the Church refuse to be civil with one another. Some may say that they don't believe some of the bishops are Christians, which would mean they are unwilling to be civil with non-Christians. Good-o! I like the cartoon here:
Of course, the humility challenge that faces us includes being loving and gracious towards those Bishops who, by not going, are behaving like nincompoops.
May I also be cheeky and ask a question? Thank you.
What, for you, would be an action by a Bishop which would cause you to request to leave their Diocese? If you'd rather email a reply in case Barry uncovers an easy way of getting rid of you then please do!

Marcus G said...

Richard - thanks! I enjoyed your cartoon.

I think that I belong to that stream of evangelicalism that finds in bishops a necessary office rather than a sanctified reality; so "apostolic succession" isn't a great worry, and can't really be spoiled for me (but this is a great concern to Anglo-Catholics, obviously, and why they kick up such a fuss; by-the-bye evangelicals who start to want bishops start to sound like A-Cs to me). I wouldn't want to be in a diocese with a "gay bishop" to use the current shibboleth, but if I was, I expect if I waited long enough another bishop would be around sooner or later.

And in the meantime, it would be my duty to try to maintain the ministry of Jesus in my parish and find a local retired bishop for confirmations to whom the diocesan would be hard pressed to object. I don't think I'd need to find a bishop from another continent, we seem to have enough to go around.

Pastoral oversight? I'm sorry, you mentioned pastoral oversight?

Goodness, that's the sound of me chuckling. I wasn't aware that came with the package. It's been a while since I availed myself of that in a bishop.

I am trying to be amusing, rather than offensive. My point is simple: I'll leave the church when Jesus turns the lights off. Till then, I'll take great comfort that I am not the only imperfect person here, and try to show a bit of humilty, love and generosity. Some of it may come back to me. That would be lovely and rather godly, and might do the world some good.

Ricky Carvel said...

Its amazing that the church can get so caught up fighting over an issue that is so central that Jesus never even mentions it. The Son of God walked the earth for three or so years and said a lot of stuff, you would have thought that he would have managed to squeeze most of the important stuff in there, but apparently not.

But he did go on about loving each other, serving each other, not seeking to be first, etc. etc.

"By this shall all men know that you are my disciples - if you have love one for another" (John 13v35 - old sunday school chorus translation). I wonder if 'all men' can see it amongst the current crop of Bishops?


Marcus G said...

I'd hate to be a bishop. It must be a terrible job. Every time you have a bad mood at Tesco, that mitre slips a bit further; and every bad judgement call you make is really huge.

Of course, one would hope that those elevated to such a position were so holy that their bad calls were few and far between. History suggests that this is a vain hope! Bishops, it turns out, are human too.

As for your first paragraph, Ricky, let me add something really controversial, for I entirely agree with you.

In Mark 10.1-10 Jesus astounds his followers with a radically hard-line stance on divorce. Some Evangelicals ignore this completely, apparently regarding both divorce and remarriage as simple facts of modern life despite Jesus' strong words. So I want to know - why is the homosexuality issue a church-breaker, when Jesus says nothing about it, and divorce and remarriage perfectly acceptable to some of the same people when Jesus expressly forbids it?

And why have I become suspect as an evangelical for asking that question?

Warning: I will not publish comments that begin "it's more complex than that". Ethical issues are complicated, and that is part of my point. Yet at the same time, there is a double standard going in here which ought to be called.

The problem with moral purity is - where do you stop? Who gets to draw that line? What is so beyond the pale that everything will fall apart if we let it go - and how is that something an issue that Jesus never addresses, when we have ignored so many things about which he is so clear? Can moral issues ever be primary issues?

They can be major issues, for sure.

But primary?

God is the primary issue. Today's Times reports that yesterday's service in Canterbury included "Buddhist chants and grass-skirted Melanesian dancers in Canterbury Cathedral". I've no objection to grass skirts, but I am hoping those Buddhist chants are a mis-reporting, because that kind of thing for me is a church breaker.

Ricky Carvel said...

I blogged about the whole homosexuality in the clergy debate three years ago. The events of recent weeks have clearly shown that nothing at all has changed in that time. Then again, my opinions on the issue haven't changed in that time either. :o/

Marcus G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marcus G said...

Oops! I deleted myself by mistake! And it was such a wise comment that would have helped everyone. But now I am too busy to repeat it...


MMP said...

I thought the "buddist chant" was merely the Tune...and not the Words?

Isn't that only a little like oh I don't know...some of the hymns in this country that we have set to 'secular' music?

I have found myself sounding like my ( sadly departed) father as I read this post: "Amen!" s are sounding up the road........
Oh well, at least the neighbours will know we're back.