Archive for the ‘Anglicanism’ Category

Reimagining God, as I have been trying to do for some time is all very well, but has consequences.  Some are not welcome, especially where they involve increasing tension between ‘non-realistic’ depictions of the divine on the one hand and familiar, well-loved traditional language and imagery on the other. (more…)

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A local retired priest lets me see copies of the Catholic Herald when he has finished with them (I get the Church Times from another source).  As a liberal member of the Church of England I find the experience both fascinating and appalling.

The news items and factual articles are interesting enough but the tone of much of the theological explanations and contributors’ pieces, and especially the letters page, seems to lose no opportunity to denigrate Anglicanism with frequent well-chosen sneers.

The overall impression is one of beleagurement, a siege mentality shaded with vindictiveness; altogether disheartening.  Why is this?  “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” taken all too much to heart? Why is Rome so strident?

‘Twas ever thus.  I am reminded of the Trotskyite I met in the Horn of Africa who claimed that cradle Catholics grow up to make the best communists, whilst Church of England babies eventually adhere to nothing better than woolly liberalism.  In Hilary Mantel’s novel Fludd the parish priest reports that his village community has no Christians, only Catholics and heathen.  Or, as Oscar Wilde remarked, “The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners alone. For respectable people, the Anglican Church will do.”

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Thirty or forty years ago, I recall, there was much anguished talk in the Church of England about Christian unity – or lack of it – and the perceived need for determined ecumenicalism to tackle the problem with ‘solutions’; much more so than nowadays. Thank God. (more…)

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As an institution, the Church of England can sometimes seem rather like retail banking: as soon as you get to cultivate a good relationship with the local rep, they get moved on.  No doubt it is all for the best.  There must be quite a few parish priests who would make good bishops. Better that the institution should benefit from their qualities across a slew of parishes than restricting them to just one or two.  So it is with distinctly mixed feelings that the congregation ‘losing’ a beloved pastor knows that the diocese to which he (or she) is being transferred is thereby receiving a singular stroke of fortune.

So it was in the 1990s, when the parish of St George’s Parktown, Johannesburg came to realise that their ‘man of God’, and the very model of a vicar,Gerard Sharp, was being considered for the succession to Duncan Buchanan, Bishop of Johannesburg.  In the event, it didn’t happen.  There came a Sunday when Gerard addressed us on the matter, disclosing the fact that he was against his name going forward; he would rather stay with us.  God, how we stood and clapped.  Tha applause went on and on, and he was clearly moved by it.

Now, some 20 years later, there is a rumour in Hanslope that our outstanding vicar, Fr Gary Ecclestone SSC, is ‘coming under pressure’ to accept some important benefice elsewhere.  He has said that he has no plans to move on; we know he loves the two parishes in his cure and we love him.  He wants to stay.

But I can’t help feeling that as soon as the idea is made known, it generates a momentum of its own.  It is a proposal which sotto voce  persists and is not going to go away soon.  It will happen.  The best get moved on so that others may be blessed as we have been blessed.  Please God, not yet.

And Gerard Sharp?  Well he’s now Dean of Johannesburg.  We miss him.


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Popes Francis and Benedict welbyThis week gone, two men have been raised, with vivid ceremonial, to the leadership of their respective branches of the
Christian faith.   In Rome, an investiture; in Canterbury an enthronement. In both cases, traditional procedures,
stirring imagery, heads of state present, and media frenzy. There are resemblances here.  In some interesting and revealing ways, I suggest, the two men thus honoured are rather like each other.


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As the media have noticed, this is the last chance we have to speculate who will be the next Archbishop of Canterbury.  The chances of each candidate rise and fall each day this week the appointments committee meets, in secret.

You can’t favour one or other potential primate without having a view on what essential qualities the postholder should have, let alone any identification with this or that party in the Church of England.  Let me get right to it then.  There is one criterion which trumps all the others.

Bearing in mind that the job is not really suitable for a ‘man of God’ (see my previous blog on this), I believe that the next +Cantuar should be a mensch, that’s all.  This Yiddish word is variously defined all over the web but I reckon that a ‘good, strong man you can rely on to lead’ just about does it.

So I nominate Nick Baines, Bishop of Bradford, to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

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Rowan Williams, via The Telegraph

Thinking about the next Archbishop of Canterbury, whoever it is, I recall the enthronement of the retiring one.  Rowan Williams underwent a triad of consecration, as bishop of the see of Canterbury, as Primate of All England and as some kind of primus inter paresfor worldwide Anglicanism.  Let’s stick with the first two of these functions and interrogate the third.

One has to ask: isn’t it past the time that the primates and bishops of global Anglicanism should be regarding +Cantuar as their leader by default?  Dr Williams’ time in the post has made this only too clear.  There are limits to the extent to which we can consider the Anglican faith as espoused by the Primate of Nigeria, for example, being concordant with, say, the church in Canada; or in Bath & Wells, come to that.  It’s a serious gap.  However much he has tried to bridge it, and however good a priest he is, Rowan has been on a hiding to nothing.  Let him be the last in this inter-communal role.

The cultural context is so different, and the underlying assumptions so various, that it’s becoming ever more evident that Canterbury cannot realistically be expected to bridge the painful diversity that Anglicanism has become.  So let him stay here, and if the church splits along obvious fault-lines as a result, so be it.

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