Friday, 23 November 2012

Get a Grip, People

This week has been, in many ways a difficult week for the Church of England. I will state again that I am saddened by the vote in Synod concerning the consecration of women as bishops because I had hoped for the opposite result. 

And then the other stuff started happening. 

It seems that self-publicists and those with audiences have now started to toll the bell on my Church. They have pronounced my Church dead, or else as a lesser sect. They speak of the Church of my children, my family and many loved ones like some leprous spectre in the Christian existence. They have been like the football player who, having missed the penalty, complained that the goal was in the wrong place and that their kick was spot-on.

That woman will not yet be consecrated as bishops is an unpalatable truth which is causing much pain. That it is now the issue to eclipse all issues in the Church is also unpalatable to some of my parishioners. I think it is time for those who have audiences to get a grip. You, the self-publicists, are building a shoddy case for a church as dead upon the foundations created out of the real and visceral pain of those who truly believe that their gender is a sort of disease that blocks the Holy Spirit. Oddly, and with one less than surprising exception, I have read nothing from a woman as doom-laden as that which I have read by male self-proclaimed supporters of the cause. 

The thing is, while we entertain ourselves with public whispering campaigns regarding the terminal condition of the Church of England, we forget that many more people are still keeping the faith. I do not expect one single person less this Sunday as a result of the vote. I am still booking funerals. I am still planning for the same optimistic future. I still expect to welcome all the kids back this week. My buildings have developed no subsidence and frankly, the idea that my beloved Church is dead is as offensive as it is wrong as it is damaging. 

Will the vote kill the church? No. Will the self-publicists? Maybe. I am frustrated, I confess. I am frustrated because we seem to have publicly rolled-over. We have proclaimed not just a Church as dead but of a God who is seemingly impotent to win our case for us. We seem hell-bent to sell our words replete with sensational views that a human debate is bigger than God's purpose. How inward-looking we have suddenly become. 

Do we not still have a job to do? I think we do, and so do the millions of faithful and still-optimistic Church of England Christians who are wondering why we are waging a suicide bid, media style!


  1. I think one of the less edifying aspects of the last few weeks has been the number of Christians from all sides of the debate who seem to be in some kind of unofficial competition to see who could get the most personal publicity out of the situation.

    But this is human nature - and also the way that the media work. They go for the dramatic human interest story. I remember when the News of the World (RIP) was best known for its 'naughty vicar' stories, if you'd taken it on face value you'd have thought that little else went on in parishes apart from sexual encounters between clergy and parishioners.

    The witness of the church to Christ's presence among us has always been personal. I met with another female clergy person this morning and we agreed we would keep on doing what we were doing, as we always have, because we are convinced of our own calling and the church has ordained us to fulfil it.

    Don't get me wrong, I think this is a mess, which needs looking at by those who are in a position to learn from it and move us forward. But to everyone else, it's a one week wonder.

    And look on the bright side - thanks to a combination of health and safety rules and new technology, the story won't even be kept going by people getting their chips wrapped in it!


    Pam x

  2. Too true, too true VC, and Pam's point is a valid one as well (because we all know that the cause of reforming the ecclesiastical polity of the CofE is added by being photographed in short skirt and stilettos). One refinement:

    "They have been like the football player who, having missed the penalty, complained that the goal was in the wrong place and that their kick was spot-on."

    More like being like the football player who missed the penalty and then complained that this means the game can never be played again, and anyone who want to play by the rules is in a morally bankrupt conspiracy with the forces of reaction / apostasy....

  3. I'm getting increasingly frustrated that the level of vitriol seems to be rising rathe than calming down. It's time to calm down and really listen to each other, not crow and posture. Sad.

    On the other hand I am encouraged that normal parish life continues unabated!

  4. Sensible words on a painful subject, David.

    On a another matter, you had very kindly added me to your blogroll. My blog, Dreaming Beneath the Spires has moved to wordpress If you could make the change on your blogroll please, I would be really grateful.

    Thanks so much,

  5. Hi,

    I have a quick question about your blog, do you think you could e-mail me?


  6. I've read this piece a couple of times since you posted it, Fr. David. I am sad when people make pronouncements as those you describe here; and it pains me to agree that "We seem hell-bent to sell our words replete with sensational views that a human debate is bigger than God's purpose."

    Thank God the tail does not wag the dog, though many would have us believe that to be true. Much that is good & godly here in the U.S. is marginalized; while much that is not so good is given free reign.

    Keep on keeping on, brother. If ever God's people needed noble shepherds, today is that day.

    Blessings upon you & yours,
    Kathleen Flanagan



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