Thursday, 29 October 2009

Losing my Religion......

...."That's me in the corner"

If its not already obvious, this blog is written by someone who knows more about balance sheets and football than they do about religion. I do take an interest but I do so without any particular training beyond reading the odd book aimed at a wider readership: Abbot Christopher Jamison or Karen Armstrong, for example; New Directions from cover to cover, obviously; and blogs like Damian Thompson or Ruth Gledhill. I make study of the scriptures a daily habit and they still have the habit of beating the rest hands down.

...."Trying to keep up with you"

But I am no theological heavyweight (or for that matter, featherweight). I am probably much the same as the average church-goer: not ignorant by any means but certainly lacking the
knowledge of someone who feels they have much to offer the debate about the Holy Father's recent announcement of full Communion for disaffected Anglicans. So like the rest of us in the pews, I will listen closely to the debate, to the guidance of our bishops and priests; and above all hope to be guided by the Holy Spirit. But.........

...."Consider this..."

Wikipedia says that "Anglo Catholics believe is fiercely debated, even among Anglo Catholics themselves. " Perhaps that explains the mind-boggling number of Anglo-Catholic "traditions" in the world today. And nowhere is Wikipedia's observation more evident than on the blogs, websites and forums where the future of Anglo-Catholicism is discussed. It isn't just Roman Catholics and Liberal Anglicans expressing scepticism about the nature of these proposals or dismissing this as a move that will change very little. Quite often the controversy is between Anglo Catholics.

For what its worth, this may be the time when the luxury of internal dissent is one that should be put aside; for all Anglo-Catholics to ask themselves the question: what are we for, if anything. Having done so we can at least begin to consider future, not as a loose alliance of Christians but as a group with far more in common than what divides us. Because far from thinking that very little will change I think Anglo-Catholicism could be squeezed out of existence, caught between the pull of Anglicanism on the one hand and the Roman Catholic church on the other. I believe the future is far healthier if Anglo-Catholics consider our response to the Holy Father and to our longer term future as a corporate group.

Because what really is the future otherwise? Some will stay put, others will move to Rome. But overall we may end up even more fragmented than we are now. Whatever critical mass there is now will be lost, probably for good. That really would be tragic

The Holy Father's has offered a way ahead for Anglo Catholicism. Whatever our response, I pray that its a single response.

"....I've said too much"

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


Ours is a mixed house in more ways than one. For the purpose of this posting its about faith and in particular the challenges of being an Anglican married to a Roman Catholic and reconciling what appears to be the irreconcilable. Our children were baptised Roman Catholics, attended a Roman Catholic school, took their first holy communion at the local Roman Catholic church and in time were confirmed there too. To say that their attendance since has been a tad more erratic would be an understatement. But I have never thought ours was anything but the right decision.
And as a couple in spite of a good deal of mutual accommodation the fact of the matter is that we have always sensed that barriers existed. Some of them we might have put there in our minds but it is no more than reality that an Anglican like myself does not take holy communion in a Roman Catholic church. So whilst the church and its people in both churches have always been very welcoming there is always a slight sense of one of us standing outside the community.
On Tuesday the Holy Father's generous offer of full Communion for disaffected Anglicans may have opened the door for a coming together that I could scarcely have dreamed of even a few months ago. As an Anglo-Catholic I think the advice that we make this a time of quiet reflection and prayer to be the right one. But right now the positives seem to be safely outweighing the negatives.
And by the happiest of coincidences last night we were visited by Fr.Ivan as part of a Programme of Parish Visits with the theme of A Wave of Prayer. Fr.Ivan brought with him an icon of Our Lady which remains with us until it is passed on, like a relay baton to the next visit, creating a wave of prayer across the parish. So it was for a wonderful couple of hours Roman Catholic and Anglican were in the same place, our home blessed both by prayer and a sense that a divide may be coming down. Think globally, act locally is maxim used a lot in the business world. For a while last night the two came together.

Sunday, 18 October 2009


A funny old weekend. I managed to attend the first part of a very uplifting and successful Walsingham Day at Saint John's on Saturday; was cheered by Charlton's return to the top of League 1 on Saturday afternoon -  before writing off my computer keyboard when I emptied the contents of a glass of beer on it in the evening. Heigh ho.

I seem to have spent a lot of time at the keyboard not least because I have a huge amount of various business and volunteering-related  stuff  to do, most of it involving tax returns and Excel spreadsheets. At such times I need distractions and the internet comes up trumps. I got drawn in to a various interesting discussion piece on Father Ed's blog about his appearance on the front page of the Tunbridge Wells Courier.
The origin of the piece was an earlier posting on his blog about the increasingly secular content of funeral services ("My Way" by Frank Sinatra, etc, etc) and Fr.Ed's piece lamented the passing of yet another area of Christianity from people's everyday lives. The tone of the offending blog item was characteristically unambiguous and it was perhaps the absence of the "on the one hand...........but on the other...." that is expected of our clergy that it came in for a bit of a hatchet job from the local paper. The suggestion was that it was rather insensitive to say such things in a time of family grief.  Needless to say the local Humanist rep felt it necessary to put the boot in.  I would reflect that a priest expressing views about  the Christian faith ought not be seen as worthy of  front page news and I hope that this incident does nothing to dilute future content of Fr.Ed's blog.  
From time to time I pitch in with a Christian perspective to an atheist forum. I do so secure in the knowledge that such interventions are likely to attract a  bit of flack. However tonight I received a response to an earlier contribution to a debate on science and religion  that was quite unequivocal about my mental health (Christian = Deluded/Mad/Crazed etc, etc). By any standards of civilised debate, it was not measured. It was a hate and anger filled rant that made me wonder who the real "Fundamentalists" are. 
 It will hardly be headline news but I am increasingly begging to  recognise that my faith is under real attack. Unless something happens and soon the triumph of liberal secularism/atheism/Dawkinsism  is not a question of if but when. That is a real threat to the church. In particular I see real dangers for the Church of England as it attempts to tackle its many internal divisions. Time to put away the Vicar of Dibley, Derek Nimmo and the eccentric/harmless stereotypes with which it is associated in the popular mind. It is really time to recognise that the church's very survival is at stake.  

Friday, 2 October 2009

Being a Parent

This past week I have been trying earnestly to ensure that daily life is better underpinned by prayer and the scriptures. Its part of trying to live my faith a bit more fully. Not always a success but I'll keep persevering. 
Whilst without a bit of expert help I find the scriptures anything but easy to work out,  part of today's reading from St Mark was anything but.    “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” That  struck a chord coming as it did at the end of the week when we have faced some difficult challenges about our relationships with children and the way they are raised today.
Yesterday the horrific details of a convicted paedophile ring came out in court. A couple of days earlier the  suicides of Fiona Pilkington and her daughter Francecca were equally shocking reading, primarily because the culprits were teenage kids allowed full licence to roam and create mayhem by their parents and the local community. Today the conviction of five youths for the murder of a 65 year old man who confronted a gang who happened to be destroying his garden fence continues the run of shocking stories. How can the parents of children who are paedophiles, members of feral gangs or just simply sociopathic live with themselves. Equally are they now  asking themselves where it all went wrong?
As a parent I know how challenging raising children can be. It is a constant series of judgements aimed at striking the right balance between letting your child take decisions for themselves whilst protecting them the worst the world can throw at  them; giving them space to develop relationships among their peer group whilst keeping them rooted in preparing them for the rigours of the adult world; setting boundaries for them without attempting to put them into a straitjacket. Its not just children either that need help. Being a parent is also an educative process. 
The stories of the past week are grotesque and not typical of the everyday story of raising children as experienced in most households. But I see little evidence that these stories will never be repeated again.   Child abuse is shocking but abusive children are surely no more acceptable. I see a case for taking a long hard look at our values as a society in raising children. Jesus has set the bar impossibly high but we now live in a  secular society. So those who believe they have more to offer in terms of moral leadership need to engage in  some serious rethinking around where we are now. And to kick off, parenting and childcare in particular needs to be seen for what it really is - stewardship of the most precious assets of our world. If that basic proposition can be accepted then it is starter for creating a culture where we value the value of parents and genuinely support them in getting on top of a really tough job.