Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Augustinian Ark

Sermon preached at the Patronal Festival of St Augustine in Canterbury 2014

 It is good to know that our insurance brokers are on the case. Our previous insurance firm put up our premiums out of fear that St Augustine would suffer when the Great Stour floods. Fortunately, we’ve now got the insurance sorted at a reasonable price so this, our lovely little cathedral, is insured against flood and fire. This means that if the Bishop should overfill the Baptismal font or the Deacon knock over the Paschal Candle at the Easter vigil, the Church is covered. We do not need to fear attacks by an over-excited thurible or a shark-infested water-stoup – at least not financially!

However, in recent times, we have certainly felt the extremes that the weather has thrown at us. The wind has dislodged slates and blown down fences. Sodden earth has slipped down railway embankments. The elements seem to be out to get us. Sometimes, the outside world does not seem as stable as we had hoped. Sometimes we cry out with the Psalmist, “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.”


At the mention of the word “flood”, our minds immediately spring to Noah and the seven other human beings aboard the ark. Should the Great Stour finally burst its banks, could it be that this little cathedral of ours become a haven in which people can hide from the floods which might otherwise sweep them away? Not only could our Church be an ark, it must be an ark!


We have this idea of the ark as being a vessel on which we can ride safely on the flood water. St Augustine himself, in coming to England, must travel by sea, and we know that he makes it safely across because we are here! Yet, this is not something on which we focus in our Patronal Festival. We don’t celebrate St Augustine’s actual crossing of the sea, but rather that he brings back to us an organised Catholic Christianity. He does not face the flood of the English Channel (assuming that heis coming from France): the flood he faces is the enormity of the task in front of him. As far as he is concerned, St Augustine fears more about being either carried off by violent men, or carried away with the temptation of rejecting his calling than about a troublesome strip of water. The losses of either his faith or his life are the big concerns for him. So if the boat which carries him to these shores is not his ark, what is?


The fact of the matter is that Pope Gregory does not just send St Augustine here without support. He has written to the kings in France and to Aethelbehrt, the nearly Christian King of Kent, whose wife Bertha is very much a Christian. It is their support that gives St Augustine the insurance to fulfil his mission and, in turn, build the ark. For St Augustine, Christ is as present in his mission as He is on the ship that brings them both here.

Indeed, just as God delivers Noah safely in His ark, so does Our Lord deliver His disciples safely in the fishing boat in the storm. Further, we see Our Lord Himself guard His disciples through the stormy times in His ministry. They may desert Him when Jesus is arrested, but they still bear Jesus in their hearts and that is what delivers them safely. We can see that, in fact, a true ark is that which bears the Word of God. Noah’s ark bears those who believe God with all their heart.

The Ark of the Covenant bears the tablets of God’s commandment as well as manna, both being symbolic of Christ. Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin is described as an Ark too because she carries Christ with her. This presence of Christ is precisely what allows these arks to give us safe passage through the flood waters. The Psalmist says,

“GOD is our hope and strength : a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be moved : and though the hills be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof rage and swell : and though the mountains shake at the tempest of the same… God is in the midst of her, therefore shall she not be removed : God shall help her, and that right early.”


So here we are – the ark of Canterbury. Every day we are faced with turbulent waters that threaten our existence. We are buffeted by the winds of unkindness, inequality, unbelief and rocked by the currents of those who want us to change our teaching to suit the Doctrine of the world. Somehow we have “to take up arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them!” A little Church-ful? How? The Bride says in the Song of Songs,

“Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.”

Nothing can drown true love. The Church is the bride and the Ark in which we are carried to salvation. We can only be that Ark if we harbour true, equal, indifferent, undiscriminating love in our hearts.

Just how we do that is up to us, isn’t it?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Entropy, Law and Theosis

The Second Law of thermodynamics states that entropy increases in time. Essentially, the longer things go on, the more disordered they become. The state of matter in the universe is, by and large, in an increasing transition from organised objects to random states. Ice melts, water evaporates, each state losing structure with time. Only at Absolute Zero can we guarantee no change.

Everything that we claim to have or possess rots or decays in some way. This goes for everyday things such as food reaching its “Best Before” date, or the wearing out of our shoes, to our lives as our bodies themselves follow the second law and age and wither. “For all flesh is as grass and all the glories of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth and the flower thereof falleth away.”

The information age is not immune to this increasing disorder. In the teaching profession, it is now the case where micromanagement designed to make things simpler is having the opposite effect. Many of my colleagues are required to hold so much information, yet more and more is being given to them. Many professions now suffer from information overload and the concomitant stresses. Yet the information they need to know may very well be important. Forgetting is both inevitable and damaging. It shouldn’t happen, but human frailty guarantees that it will happen.

Modern life is slowly getting more complicated by what it takes to live our lives. Sometimes the way we live life can actually get in the way of our living of life. Institutional Entropy is creeping into every aspect. Notice that more and more legislation is required to keep things from falling apart. Why legislation? Because the human will is corrupted: people find loopholes to make life easy for themselves and end up subverting the system to the detriment of others. In the United Kingdom, we can see this clearly at work in the Benefits system in which it has been possible for some to earn a living by not actually working for it, whereas those whom the system is supposed to help find themselves excluded! Likewise, the demands that Society recognise sex changes have major implications on the privacy and protection of the interests of those who were born female. Feminism and Transgenderism are about to come into direct conflict, and the result is not likely to be very pretty. Issues in family planning arise because of the dissonance between the sanctity of human life and the needs of women to be protected from sexual exploitation.

Many folk, particularly modernists, fail to appreciate the majesty of the Mosaic Law because they look at it with the reductionist eye of a micromanager. There seems to be a point of view that all the “Thou shalt”s and “Thou shalt not”s are arbitrary and without any compassion. This is not true. The Law of Moses was designed by God from His goodness to show the Hebrews that they were God’s people, to separate them out from cultures that were not of God and to help them to see the character of God and what He intends for them. The book of Deuteronomy is full of blessings that God’s law promises.

As St Paul reminds us, it is also that Law that reminds us that we are fallen and very far from the righteousness of God. God shows us what it takes, and also that our fallen will cannot match up to it. This is why Pelagius was so very, very wrong. Our free-will cannot save us – only the reconciling sacrifice of Christ can redeem us and the grace of God to keep His divine call going throughout our lives can draw us to working out our salvation in fear and trembling before Him. It is the perversity of mankind that complicates legal systems. We may all have the right intentions, but they simply are not enough to keep us in the Law of God. The Law shows us what is God and what is not-God. The destiny of mankind is theosis – to become like God, as St John tells us very clearly: to be like God we need God and we need His constant grace in order to choose the right path for ourselves.

We need our will to be plugged in and subordinated to God for it to work out that salvation. As the Deuteronomical curses show, we can still pull the plug out through our sins which is why the activity of repentance is so necessary. Sin increases the turbulence of our lives and tears us away from the divine likeness. However, we need to know that we have sinned in order to repent. That is where the Law comes in, and it is the sacrifice of Christ that ensures that we can still plug ourselves into Him. He keeps His wounds open for us, so that we may always find our way back to Life, our way back to seeing Him as He really is, and our way to becoming like Him.

Mankind cannot transgress the second law of thermodynamics, but for God all things are possible. We are not saved by our good works, that much is true, but if we are justified by faith as St Paul tells us, then that faith can only ever be an active faith and never passive as St James tells us. All good works have their source from God: all evil works have their source in the Nothing. The more good there is in the world, the more people will benefit, and the more order there will be. Remember that the Law becomes irrelevant if people naturally keep it of their own free will. There will be no need to legislate against theft because people won’t want to steal. Thus the Law of God becomes a law like physical laws such as Ohm’s Law, Hook’s Law and even The Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Physical Laws are merely descriptors of how things work; they do not dictate that this is how things must work. The Law of God in a perfect society will be just the same – a descriptor of how things are. Thus the more good that each human being does, the more order does that one bring into the world and the more closely is the Law of God seen to be fulfilled. We remember that Christ Himself has fulfilled the Law on our behalf, and it is our journey to becoming like Him that we too will be freed from the Law. The more good that a person does brings that one into a better likeness of Christ because doing that good comes from a will affected by God’s goodness.

Of course, we do worry about the laws being passed in the world today, such as the laws that will kill a person for not being a Moslem as practised in Syria to the laws of Nigeria which will criminalise homosexuality. The only way that we can truly oppose such laws is by prayer and fidelity to the laws of God Who is the only One who can say from His own nature what is truly good.

Mind where you're going!

“No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke ix.62
I suspect that many of my friends will regard some of my recent posts about the CofE as being rather hostile and inimical. It’s true that I’ve suggested that the CofE is not holy because of its established status, and is heretical due to its attempt to change the Catholic Faith. I am being technical here in my assessment of the status quo. In the light of Our Lord’s words quoted above, it may seem that, in my criticism of the CofE, I am failing to guard my own furrow and keep it straight. That is something that is on my mind.

It is often the case that recent converts turn to utter hostility on their former jurisdiction. This is usually of psychological origin. The recent convert emphasises the theological reasons behind his departure to the extent that the former jurisdiction becomes an utterly null, invalid, Hell-bound barque riddled with holes and sinking fast. Many Roman Catholics who entered that fold through the Ordinariate or personal conversion become so anti-Anglican that it’s hard to imagine that they ever were Anglican. That’s probably the point. They wish to expunge utterly that relationship from their memory. Priests who have joined the Ordinariate are re-ordained and so must have found some way to denounce their “former” orders as “utterly null and totally void” in keeping with Holy Father Leo XIII’s misunderstanding in the nature of priesthood.

Yet, we must remember it is said that Pope Leo was trying to be pastorally minded. “Utterly null and totally void” orders cannot be charged with the same gravity of sin afforded to a rebellious priest in full orders. This wasn’t a look back in anger at the English Reformations or a dismissal of the Anglican Church as irrelevant: it was an early attempt to help the Ordinariate come into being. Unfortunately, Apostolicae Curae fails in its attempts to deny form and intention to Anglican Orders and so, to the Anglican mind, it becomes a wedge and a scandal. Indeed, the effect that it has is to harden within the hearts of modern Romans the erroneous idea that the Anglican Church is not a proper Church. Whether Pope Leo wanted that to happen is not really obvious. To plough a furrow, we must walk straight. Looking behind us all the time will produce furrows that are useless for bearing the fruit of God. Digging up seeds to see if they are growing has the same effect.

I do not see my criticism of the CofE as a looking back. I am certainly not looking back in order to return, nor am I looking back in order to demonise and cast stones. As a matter of fact, I do not regret my time in the CofE. I have happy memories and met some truly inspirational people, priests and laity alike – true Christians – who are still in the CofE. I also met some less-than-inspirational people who wanted their way in contradiction to the Faith and who were determined to throw out every obstacle in order to get that way. I saw parishes in interregnum remove their commitment to the resolutions because they were told that they would “put off” applicants.

However, in this day and age, these self-interested folk crop up everywhere. They do not diminish my growth in the Faith that I got during the days of the CofE’s orthodoxy and even in the time of its heresy before it finally threw me out. There is wheat in the CofE, though it does seem to be increasingly overcome with tares. It’s not my job to weed –I’ll leave that to the angels, and they’ll do that when they’re told!

The main problem is trying to plough a straight furrow over a decidedly warped ground. Each one of us at the level of the individual apart from the Church is a heretic in the sense that, given our own personal viewpoint and philosophical development, we will depart from the straight-and-narrow at some juncture through simple human fallibility. Yet, each one of us, when plugged into the Catholic Church ceases to be heretic and becomes orthodox. The government of the CofE is heretical since it is not Catholic, that’s just semantics not polemics: the opposite of Catholic is heretic. That doesn’t mean that everyone in the CofE is heretical, but it does mean that their visibility as members of the Catholic Church is compromised and legitimately doubted. The visibility of the Catholic Church is something that does and should concern all Anglicans who claim to believe in the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. That individualism is rife in the CofE does actually allow for the potential of Catholic members under the radar, but if they are there, then they need to make themselves visible.

The Catholic Faith has been given direction by Christ, and we are not to look back at where we were. St Augustine in his commentary on the twenty-first chapter of St John’s gospel remarks that St Peter went back to being a fisherman but St Matthew did not go back to being a tax collector. He reasons that St Peter does not violate Luke ix.62 since there is no sin in fishing, but had St Matthew returned to collecting taxes, he would have violated Luke ix.62 by looking back to his sin “like a dog returning to its vomit” as the Proverbs say!

The context of this verse is the devotion of the disciple to Christ. To look backward is to desire the former life of not being a disciple of Christ, to look forward is to see Christ leading and to follow accordingly. It is the desire to be back in the state before discipleship, the not-letting-go of the unchristian life that is costly to the work of the plough. As I say, I do have fond and happy memories in the CofE, singing in choirs, making the friends I have made and whom I still count as my Christian friends, but Christ Himself bids me never to desire to return thither to that state in which I was before I was jettisoned, but to continue my Faith in a Continuing Church along the same furrow that I have been trying to plough.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Authorising authority.

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis, Rochester, and at St Augustine’s Canterbury on the second and third Sundays after Easter 2014, respectively . 

 You’re probably very well aware of controversial ideas in the Bible.

St Paul says that Man is the head of a Woman; Moses says that you mustn’t wear clothes made of different materials, and gentle Jesus, meek and mild, throws the money changers out of the temple in frenzy wild.

There are lots of things we find difficult about understanding what God is really saying to us.

Do we Christians really have to live by rules that defy common sense or that seem to contradict each other?


St Peter makes a rather controversial statement:

“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.”

So we are to submit to Kings and Governors and the police and so on and so forth.

That sounds fine and potentially makes for an ordered and peaceful society, but you have to admit that this seems to be a rather irresponsible attitude if the Government is behaving in an unpleasant or even evil manner.

We know that the phrase “I am just following orders” is exactly the attitude of the soldiers that crucified Our Lord Jesus and is the same attitude that has and will kill other innocent people.

Unless orders are questioned, they will result in the same atrocities as we saw in the last centuries.

In recent years, the fight for society to remain free has been the focus of our attention. Isaiah bids us “Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”

Can we really seek to end oppression and submit to authority at the same time?


Questioning authority is not the same as deciding not to submit to it.

In this country, we are free to question the Government’s actions and policies.

In other countries, this is not true and, to those who do seek to question authority and suffer for it, St Peter says, “This is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.”

If we speak out against an unjust law because it is truly unjust, and are punished for speaking out, then, though we suffer and perhaps suffer horribly, God will reward us to the extent that our sufferings become glorious badges of honour!

But, if we steal a car, then we get punished for it because stealing is a crime.

We can hardly accuse the Law of oppressing us if we’re simply not going to obey the rules of what is just and fair.

But then, who says what’s just and fair?

Who says that stealing is a crime?

Perhaps it isn’t.

Perhaps it’s only the Government saying that stealing is a crime.

Why should we believe that?

Does stealing really have to be a crime?


For some people, stealing really is a way of life and they do it brazenly and at every opportunity. For the Moslem, the Jew and the Christian, stealing is forbidden by the Ten Commandments, and most, if not all, other religions, too, see stealing as being out of order.

For us Christians, it is the authority of God that says stealing is wrong.

The word “authority” has, at the heart of its meaning, the right to make the rules, to be the author of the rule book.

In our society, that authority for the social order rests with the Government and the Queen.

Yet, that authority arises by the consensus of the society they govern.

If we don’t abide by Society’s rules, we are punished.

Yet, that authority still must originate somewhere.

Government and the Queen are also under authority.

The centurion with the sick servant recognises this when he sends his servants to the Lord Jesus.

He explicitly recognises Jesus’ authority, for this centurion says, “I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go , and he goeth; and to another, Come , and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.”

The Lord also reminds Pontius Pilate, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.”

We do see Jesus question the authority of Roman soldier, king, scribe and Pharisee and he is very scathing in his criticism.

However, notice how Our Lord submits to the social authority.

He does nothing wrong but accepts the consequences, no matter how unfair.

St Peter again reminds us that “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”


The fact of the matter is that Society is never going to be perfect, and indeed is often going to be hostile to the way that Christians should live.

Many of the issues that worry us now are going to stay and are not going to get better, if we’re honest about things.

Whatever is wrong in our society, and there are some things which are very definitely wrong, unfair and unGodly, we have to take up our cross and follow Christ, taking it patiently.

We can and should speak out against each and every wickedness in the world, and if society punishes us for that, then we must meekly accept that punishment, just as Our Lord did.

However, we do need to live as Our Lord lived.

He says to us “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's.”

He gave an unfair society the justice that its corrupt rulers sought. They got what they wanted.

Yet they don't get what we have - Hope.

Not the wishy-washy hope that it isn't going to rain because we've got the washing out.

He bids us live in the hope that, one day, we will live under the undiluted authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ as King and God.

"In a little while and ye shall not see me, and yet a little while and ye shall see me."

The Society of Man will not get any bettwe. It will always be against God and His Church.

The Society that Christ promises will be perfect, and He is coming back for us in His own time.
We will be part of this kingdom of God, even here and now!

Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if we could realise that great Kingdom here and now?

Friday, May 09, 2014

Synod 2014: Crunching the Numbers

It’s been a long time since I was, in my regard, a proper mathematician doing research into things gauge theoretic, geometrical and topological. I never really used to deal much with those things that everyone understands to be numbers: they didn’t matter to me. While accountants, actuaries and statisticians deal with numeric quantities (and probably with greater expertise than any mathematician), I was adding together surfaces, holes and orbifolds. It really wasn’t an impressive thing to do: it was more arcane than practical, but it was very interesting.

There are some brilliant numbers out there (which I won’t list for obvious reasons) from the ubiquitous π to the enormity of Graham’s number which can never be written down. It seems though, that institutions have an obsession with numbers – the bigger the better.

At our recent synod, Bishop Damien related a tale in which our Diocese was dismissed because of its size. The word used was “pathetic” and came from a collared female in the CofE who seemed to take issue with our existence. I guess it’s up to her to live by the criteria with which she’s bound herself to measure success. Her comments are sad because they have completely missed the point about what it is to be Christian.

The Church is bound by the commission given to it by God. That includes making disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, caring for the orphan, the widow, the stranger, healing the sick, relieving oppression, clothing the naked, and making the Love of God visible in the world. God has committed the salvation of the world to His Son and it is through the presence of Christ in His Church that this commission will be realised.

It’s fair to say that we fail personally at this commission every day. I know myself to be completely unworthy of the collar that I now wear about my neck, and the mistakes I make in my life make me out to be a hypocrite because of my failure to decrease so that Christ may increase in me. I have failed at being compassionate; I have failed in my duty of care; I have failed to love my neighbour as myself. I can do only one thing and that is pick myself up and start again knowing that, despite my failure, God does not fail. As Ed Pacht always reminds me, Romans viii.28 always holds true for every single Christian who, like me, spends much of their time flat on their face in the mud.

Let us, therefore, look at Our Lord’s approach to numbers. Searching the Gospels, it seems that there is no point where our Lord says, “Verily, verily I say unto you, that it is necessary to grow fifty new disciples a year for the Church to grow.” On the contrary, we have “many are called, but few are chosen”. We have Our Lord’s comments on the widow’s mite: “this poor widow hath cast more in , than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance ; but she of her want did cast in all that she had , even all her living.” (Mark xii.43-44) We have his parable of the talents in St Matthew xxv.

In each of these cases, Our Lord presents us with commitment and not accumulation. The numbers don’t matter, the depth of the intention does – quality over quantity. To berate any congregation over its size is misses the point completely. It’s an attitude of materialism that the more matter there is, the more things exist, the greater value it possesses. Our Lord says the opposite. Faith the size of a grain of mustard seed can move mountains. It’s not the quantity of faith we actually possess, it’s that we’re doing something about it, we’re trying to grow it rather than leaving it buried in the sand. I rather think that this is more the point of the Parable of the Talents than the rather vaguer lesson that I was taught at Sunday School that I must use my talents to please God. I don’t really see life as an enormous version of “Britain’s Got Talent”. God is not Simon Cowell.

Our Lord always uses gardening metaphors in his parables. Sowing the seed is a metaphor for preaching the word. But what does the actual growing? Who is responsible for the actual growth? One can assume that, while it is ultimately the creative power and rule of God, the growth follows natural processes. We have the rule: plant the seed in good soil, water it and it may grow. That’s not to say it will necessarily grow, but that the farmer cannot be blamed if, having done everything that he can to get the seed to grow, the seed fails to germinate or does so in an unhealthy way. The point is that we do what we can. We follow the doctrine that we have been given and remember that we are but unprofitable servants, remembering that growth is utterly in the hands of God.

That doesn’t get the Church off the hook though. “To whom much has been given, much will be required.” As long as the Church is feeding the faithful good and wholesome things, all of which must contain the love of God, growth is bound to happen. It is a false assumption that this growth will be numerical. If the Church grows saints then something is being done.

At the level of the individual, as long as faith, hope and love have not been buried but are put to God’s work, growth will happen, both within the individual and flowing from that individual. Of course, the Church should be concerned with declining numbers, but if the Church is doing everything it can to show forth the love of God, it cannot be held responsible for the people leaving.

A small church has nothing to fear if she is trying to do the will of God and meet His commission to her. “Thou shalt not be afraid for any terror by night: nor for the arrow that flieth by day. For the pestilence that walketh in darkness: nor for the sickness that destroyeth in the noon-day. A thousand shall fall beside thee, and ten thousand at thy right hand: but it shall not come nigh thee.” (Psalm xci, 5-7)

Bishop Damien’s charge to the Diocese always contains the urge to remain faithful. This is not passive – it is supremely active and to be taken on at all levels from the Diocese up to each individual member. A life of increasingly fervent prayer, of deeper and more searching study, and of the hard labour of love in the Lord’s vineyard awaits us all. It’s difficult, but it’s good work. Like the widow, if we’re going to give, we have to give from our very selves, not counting the cost but remember that it is sacrifice and true sacrifices always sanctify. I do beg your prayers that I may indeed hold fast to Our Lord’s Commission to me. You certainly have my prayers.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Post-Christian Britain and “Wishy-washy” Christianity

Debate has been raging as to whether or not Britain is a Christian Country. Prime Minister David Cameron says it is, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and other atheists say it isn’t. Archbishop Welby says it is; former Archbishop Williams says it is a “post-Christian” country.

Of course, one does need to be careful about what makes a country specifically a Christian country. One is moved to ask parallel questions of the form “Is this an X country?” where X is, in this context, an adjective particular to a religion. It is clear that this cannot mean that every person in the country is a follower of X since immigration, particularly within the EU, would always mean that there is a minority of other religions present and functioning as citizens in the country. There would also be a number of dissenters from X, even if they felt coerced to say that they did adhere to X. We cannot make windows on men’s souls, thank God!

However, it seems fair to say that we can certainly identify, for example, Islamic countries very quickly: Iran, Dubai, the Maldives are all clearly Islamic countries. Their laws are based on the Islamic laws; they expect tourists to follow manners and customs which we wouldn’t think of in the West. They might not insist that foreigners say prayers with them, but they will insist that women are correctly covered and, in the case of the Maldives, the constitution of the island does not allow citizenship of those who are not Muslims, and those found with non-Islamic religious materials can be subject to arrest.

We therefore have the question: What might a Christian country be like if we adopted a similar system? Well, one would not be allowed to have citizenship unless one professed to be Christian. There would be no mosques, gurudwaras, temples or such. Each citizen would need to demonstrate some Christian practice – but which? Anglican? Roman? Methodist? Baptist? Calvinist? Lutheran? Eastern Orthodox?

In the U.K., there is a state religion – the Church of England – which is fully established and has rights to representatives in the House of Lords and the Privy Council. Until 1858, MPs were required to take the oath of allegiance "on the true faith of a Christian", necessitating at least nominal conversion. The laws that we inherit have come from people who have Christianity at the very heart of their understanding and who have decided to enshrine those laws within the uncodified constitution of the U.K. In this sense, the constitution of the United Kingdom is a Christian Monarchy, and, in that sense, it is a Christian country. That does nothing to say much about the state of Christian belief. Indeed, it would probably be fair to say that we do not have a Christian Society.

What do I mean by “Society” here? In this sense, I am talking about the general will and expectations given by the “vox populi” from citizens of this country that finds itself reported in the various media or from data collated from the most recent Census. Since a Census takes place every decade, this does mean that one relies heavily on the accuracy of the media to get some view of the current beliefs of the Society. That is not something to be taken at face value, and the question needs to be asked as to how far the media really understands the concerns of the people or whether it is controlling the expression of the collective understanding of vox populi via memes, soundbites and neologisms on its own agenda authored by different powers. I, for one, am sceptical about the veracity of the media and its accuracy in displaying the real problems that face real people in their real lives.

It would be quite fair to say, given the recent Census information, that Society is neither religious, nor atheist but rather apatheist – the majority of citizens simply do not care about whether there is a God or not. They seek only, and genuinely, to live good lives, being decent to others and being scandalised by all things that are unjust, unfair and unkind. Their search is by no means a bad thing and, for me, evidence that human beings are not totally depraved. Indeed, for me, the search for good is evidence that there is an in-built desire for God. The CofE is rather set on upholding this moral view and incorporating it into its structures. Society sees the plight of those who are burdened by debt and that motivates the CofE to oppose the unfairness and exploitation perceived in payday loans.

The problems come when Society is scandalised by the Church itself, or by “religious fundamentalism”. What does Society mean by “religious fundamentalism”? The main idea here is that Society opposes oppression of all sorts. There is, at least in the British mind, an horror of anything that would inhibit a person’s free choice. A religion which tries to “force” itself on others is to be seen as destructively fundamentalist and inimical to Society’s dogma of free-will. A “fundamentalist” in the eyes of Society is an inhibitor to finding happiness, freedom and fulfilment within that Society.

This is where the CofE comes in and, in doing so, begins to put a strain on its own identity. I’ve heard it said that the CofE is to meet the needs of all people of faith and none. Indeed, as a Catholic, I fully agree that it is an integral part of the general priestly office of the Church to bring the whole world in communion with God. Yet, the CofE, in meeting the needs of all people of faith and none, seeks to make that inclusivity part of its identity.

Of course, this depends precisely on what is meant by inclusive. If, by “inclusive”, one means welcoming anyone into the Church, looking after them, listening to them and giving them any aid and assistance that the Church can give them, then this is fine and every Parish should seek this form of inclusivity. However, the problem comes either when the Church believes that it has the power to assist that person in any capacity, or Society demands that the Church assists that person in any capacity.

For example, from the mouth of Our Lord Himself, the Church possesses the keys to Heaven, and in the Sacrament of Confession can, lawfully and actually, pronounce God’s absolution upon any Christian who is repentant and contrite and sorry for their sin. What it cannot do is pronounce absolution on anyone who is not repentant, nor can it prevent human law from being met when crime has been committed. The act of contrition here that would make the absolution effective would be to accept the penal consequences of that sin. The power of the Church is limited to that which God has given it – He has made the Church human and called it to serve humanity for its Eternal Salvation, not to be an omnipotent ruling power.

The CofE is in a quandary here. If it has an Established Status, then Society has a claim on how it is to operate. Yet the sovereignty of God is also at the heart of the Established Church too and, it is blindingly obvious that God and Man are not always in agreement. Society’s “god” says marriage is between two people who love each other and wish to commit to each other. The Established Church, however, has received from God that marriage “is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men's carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.”

For Society, Sex is equivalent to Gender and further that men and women are utterly and completely interchangeable in every respect. That is how Society perceives sexual egalitarianism even if it will not accept that even it would accept complete interchangeability. The misconception is that equality means the same as interchangeability. As a mathematician, this is indeed true and absolutely so in the framework of mathematical and logical thought. Modus pones ponendo is the perfectly logical ability of substituting into expressions terms which are equal. The trouble is that men and women are not equal in a mathematical sense. They are not equal in an ontological sense otherwise there would be no such thing as male and female. The difference just would not exist at all. The biological difference must dispel any notion of the interchangeability of sexes.

Likewise, without the Christian element at its heart, Society believes that the priesthood is a role to play in the functioning of Society. Yet in the Church, the priesthood is not a role but a character of Christ imprinted upon the being of those who God has called to be a re-presentation of the Celestial Bridegroom in His reality, not in His function. Gender has no prescribed roles merely modes of how roles are to be performed, and so it represents the nature of function: Gender has the character of an adverb. Sex is qualitative, biological and established beyond human intervention and therefore not a functional quality: Sex has the character of an adjective. These days, adverbs and adjectives are readily confused in everyday language ( c.f. “I’m doing well” with “I’m doing good” which often mean the same thing in the vernacular of Society ). Confuse Gender and Sex, and human beings are seen to be materialist functionaries defined by what they do rather than by who they actually are.

We see then, that Society wants the Church to be “wishy-washy” – to believe, but not really believe. It wants the Church to play a function for it, to be an adverb, to “do Church” without actually being Church for fear of encroaching on the freedom of someone to be what they want to be. One remembers that God is the source of being. He is Who He is, was Who He is and will be Who He is. He may make Himself known by His deeds, but ultimately, the mark of God is being and not doing. Thus the Holiness of the Church is Eternal and unchanging, because she is set apart for God.

What we are left with is confusion, something which Old Testament and New Testament folk fear alike. The Psalmist frets “In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion.” (Psalm xxli.1) and St Ambrose (or his ghost writer) prays with us in the Te Deum ”Let me never be confounded”. However, the Lord God has been clear with us from the beginning that we are to be separated clearly from those who are not of His ways. The Laws of the Pentateuch and the testimony of the History of Israel show that God has brought together a code of practice designed to distinguish (even discriminate!) His followers from the rest of the world. This separation is at the heart of our sanctification. We cannot be sanctified if we are not separate from the world. To be Holy is to be set apart, reserved for God Himself. The life, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ opens the possibility of sanctification for everyone regardless of who they are, provided that they are willing to be sanctified and to be apart from Society as long as Society itself is not sanctified.

A church that cannot be distinguished from Society is not a holy church, but a place where atheists and apatheists can find a salve for their rejection of humanity’s purpose and the fear of the meaninglessness of life. It is set apart from God, and that is the opposite of holy. The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of the creed must stand apart from Society in order to be Holy, and this necessitates scandalising Society. If Society calls the Church “misogynist” or “homophobic”, then it should not matter because Society cannot understand the difference between form and function.

This shows us very clearly that, to be true to its very being, the Church cannot ever really be Established except within a Christian Society and that effectively means that this Society itself is the Church! While Society has a right to interfere with Church doctrine, then there is an oppression which Christians must bear, but not accept. The Church is not called to be “wishy-washy” but to believe, hold fast to and promote the teaching of God, even if Society says “yuck that’s horrid!” or worse. It would seem then, that Nick Clegg is actually right, if the CofE wants to be the Church of England, then it must be disestablished. It certainly does not represent me, or stand for me, and I do declare that I am in no way part of the CofE, but rather pray, begging God with every fibre of my being, that I may be a member of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in England.