Thursday, February 26, 2015

Anglo-Protestantism and me

Over the past few months, I have been trying to put to bed old controversies in which I have found myself constantly inveigled, and it is my intention to say my piece and move on to whatever faces me in the future without any further need to keep defending myself against those who "urge" me to accept their theology. I hope that the following explains my relationship with Protestantism: why I accept myself to be Protestant in one sense of the word, but not in another sense.
There are many who would say that the term Anglo-Protestantism is utterly tautological: to be an Anglican is to be a Protestant and that is that.

In an obvious sense this must be true. If, by "Protestant", one means "not Roman Catholic", then Anglicans are indeed Protestants and that is indeed that. However, does "Protestant" mean "not Roman Catholic"?

Rev Alister McGrath suggests from his article "Anglicanism and Protestantism" that this is precisely what "Protestant" means, and thus any attempt to paint Anglicanism as a non-Protestant movement is futile, unhistorical and just a little bit ridiculous.

As Fr. McGrath points out, Henry VIII did not want to identify the Church of England with the continental reformers - after all, he'd just got rid of one foreign potentate muscling in on his territory so there was no way he was going to give way to any other. Thus there was a political reason for distancing Anglicanism from the Continental Reform. In Edward VI, we see that, in order to strengthen the political situation, it becomes expedient for a closer identification of Anglicanism with the original German Protestants against Papal Supremacy. Archbishop Cranmer is clearly influenced by Melancthon and Bucer and this shows up most obviously in the 1552 Book of Common Prayer and in the subsequent Thirty-Nine Articles.

Fr. McGrath then demonstrates that, although there were members of the Anglican Church in the first three generations following the Reformation who emphasized the old Sacramental system of effective grace, they still regarded themselves as Protestant. Thus, argues Fr. McGrath, it is pure revisionism on the part of the Tractarians to suggest that the Church of England has never seen itself as anything other than Protestant.

That's fair if, by Protestant, we mean "not Roman Catholic". The question as to whether Anglicanism is doctrinally Protestant is another and much more difficult matter.

It is clear that belief that Roman Catholicism actually defines Catholicism is disputed in history and theologically. Popes did not always call Oecumenical Councils, but at least one was called by a Roman Emperor! The place of the Pope as Bishop of Bishops cannot be supported conclusively by the Vincentian Canon, nor by the Councils which do see the Bishop of Rome having a primacy, but not a supremacy. I have not yet seen a good argument based on patristic texts which states that the Pope rules the Church, defines doctrine, defines catholicity, or speaks infallibly. All seem to be based on eisegesis of Patristic texts and Holy Scripture. Thus, rejecting the political supremacy of one privileged Bishop is a perfectly Anglican and Catholic doctrine. Catholicism is not about politics, it is about Salvation. There is only one Monarch of the Church of Christ and it's blindingly obvious Who that is; any other political system is earthly and will vanish away.

In his book The Protestant's Dilemma, Devin Rose seems to see the umbrella of Protestantism as one doctrinal system and seems to believe that refuting one particular doctrine of Protestantism at a time will refute the lot. I found no trouble reading the book as an Anglican Catholic and found absolutely no refutation of Anglican Catholicism largely because Anglican Catholicism has its roots in the pre-schismatic Church on which Devin Rose's church also stands. You cannot refute Protestantism by saying, "because they are not all one, they must all be in error." Seeing that there seem to be two "One True Churches" which are not one, the same argument would show that both the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches must also be in error! One cannot prove the error of other Churches by assuming the lack of error of one's own. It is, after all, in Christ that we are all truly united and indeed, when it comes down to it, there is always the possibility that we might ALL be in error - though I don't for one minute believe that this is true. The burden for the Roman Catholic is to show that EVERY member under the Protestant umbrella is in error.

One might say that the whole of Protestant doctrine is embodied in the Five Sola statements -  knock these down and you've killed all of Protestantism - and yet each of these Sola statements have nuances in each Protestant Church some of which can be justly held by Roman Catholics, so Roman Catholic apologists are going to have to do a LOT better than they have hitherto. I'm sure that sola scriptura can be interpreted in a Roman Catholic sense - indeed, I believe St Thomas Aquinas did before Luther was even a twinkle of a twinkle of a twinkle...

Thus, in that Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism are in schism and certainly in that sense of the word, Anglicanism is indeed Protestant and there needs to be no apology for that. In that sense of the word, I will admit to being a Protestant and quite content with that particular understanding. I feel confident that other members of the ACC will feel the same way.

However, there is a well-defined sense in which Anglicanism is not Protestant, and this is really why I dislike the term due to its ambiguity and that it leads people to the conclusion that because it is not Roman Catholic, it is an innovation rather than a continuation of Christ's doctrine. It is this sense of Protestantism that the Tractarians would properly be battling while still preserving their distance from Rome. The beliefs of the early, pre-schismatic Church are surely not Protestant because they predate the whole ideas of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. As I said earlier, the doctrine of the Early Church is held by Anglican Catholics. However, all Protestants would surely say that they do the same, after all the Holy Scripture is pre-schismatic par excellence. Yet, in Protestantism, we have that diversity of belief ranging from acceptance of Bishops to almost anarchic (in the literal sense) structures. As an Anglican Catholic, I do not identify with Protestants but with Catholics. I pray for the dead, and say my rosary, Angelus and Marian Antiphons; I believe in the sacramental priesthood, Transubstantiation, the visibility of the Church, the apostolic succession of Bishops, the primacy and patriarchy of the Pope, et c.

Yet, what people take to be most doctrinal of Protestantism are those famous Solas designed principally to provide discrimination between what is Roman and what is Protestant. I have reservations with the Five Sola statements. I believe that Holy Scripture is indeed the supreme revelation but only when it is interpreted correctly through the faith of the Christians living before the Biblical Canon, expanded through the Fathers seeking to preserve that teaching, and with the use of reasoning to draw the correct analogies and arrive at the correct conclusions to answer the questions being asked. I presume that many Protestants would agree with that. I also suspect that many do not.

I do believe that I am justified by faith as that is spelled out unequivocally in Holy Scripture, but I see nowhere in scripture or tradition where this justification occurs explicitly by faith alone. Indeed, from what I understand of I Cor xiii, faith is never alone! Some will throw biblical verses at me to show that sola fide is true, but yet there are biblical verses which show that it is not. One can also throw patristic texts at me to show that it is true, and yet there are patristic texts which counter that. Seeing that I am incompetent of myself to make the decision, I trust what the pre-schismatic Church taught and this seems very much not to be sola fide. Seeing that one can indeed argue both ways about the requirement of sola fide, it really cannot be a sound requirement for belief. One can indeed define it as an article for belief, but if Anglicanism does seek to be patristic and if patristic texts are at best inconclusive, then an article that specifically requires it acts against that patristic inconclusiveness. The same, of course, goes for articles that actively dismiss it. Here perhaps, we can begin to see truly Elizabethan Settlement in its generosity by allowing both understandings. Here also you might begin to appreciate why I do not subscribe to the XXXIX Articles - their patristic statements are disputed. Yet, perhaps you may also begin to see why I also identify with being Anglican. I have Anglican Orders, use an Anglican prayer book in public, a breviary which is conformed with that prayer book in private, the English Missal, and the English Ritual; I see my leadership under a synod of bishops each with Anglican Orders, and am guided by a constitution and canons which are derived from the Oecumenical Councils through those inherited from the Anglican Church when the latter could be said to be orthodox.

Perhaps, one might be appalled at my lack of conviction when it comes to the question of justification - it is an important issue. As I say, faith is never alone and any true faith coming from the heart needs to be expressed naturally by action and tried by how we endure the suffering which Our Lord warned would happen to us - that to me is obvious in real life and it is obvious to me in the Holy Scriptures. I am also convinced that justification itself is a process, not a once and for all event distinct from sanctification and glorification.

I am quite convinced that sola fide is wrong, but I don't require brother and sister Anglicans to repudiate it. I am Anglican and, like my erstwhile political monarch, I am not going to make windows on men's souls.  However, I am an Anglican Catholic and that means I look to the Early Church rather than to Articles for definition. Where they agree, there is no problem. Where they do not agree, I take the Early Church first. I do not identify with Calvinist, nor Lutheran, nor Roman, but I firmly believe myself to be Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican. As a priest, I am responsible primarily for dispensing the grace of God and any judgments that I may have to make, I am required to make them for the maximizing of that dispensing, not for the condemnation of people, but rather for the excision of sin and evil, and the assistance of every single person in their process of justification, sanctification and glorification. If other Christians wish to judge me on this, then let them do so. I know God will, and it is His judgment that matters to me and will have much more important ramifications. Should my Bishop tell me that I am wrong, it is my duty to listen and be taught. Those who believe that I'm preaching the wrong Gospel, I will gladly discuss it with them quietly, but I intend to leave the screaming bloggers to their own devices.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Collects for the first Sunday in Lent

Prayer Book

O LORD, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights; Give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness, and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Breviary (Sarum)

O God, who purifiest thy church by the annual observation of Lent, grant unto thy family that what they endeavour to obtain of thee by fasting they may follow up by good works. Through etc.


Our Lord set us a pattern of fasting and abstinence with good reason. He needed no purifying, but He did need to keep His body well and fit for living. His Body, of course is the vehicle by which humanity can be reconciled to God, and so we see here the need for that body to be maintained well. Our Lord shows us that fasting and abstinence have a cleansing effect. Our Lord, of course, was sinless, but this does not mean that His body did not need to be washed when it got dirty.

If we are to be members of the Body of Christ, to gain resurrection with this Body and find true life with this Body, then we need to keep this Body in good nick even as the Head has taught us. Our fast is that of a purification of our intentions, a cutting out of the seeds of selfishness and lack of charity. Our fast is to be practical, for the good of humanity and the spreading of God's grace of which the Body has been given charge.

Obedience comes from the intention to obey. Good works come from the intention to do good works. Holiness is given by God only to those with the honest intention and desire to be Holy for the love of God. It is through this love.that we must face the discomfort of fasting so that we may intend to be with God for the love of Him.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Collects for Ash Wednesday

Prayer book

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Breviary (Sarum)
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, unto thy faithful people, that they may both enter upon the holy solemnities of the fast with befitting piety, and pass through them with undisturbed devotion. Through etc.

On Ash Wednesday, we find ourselves marked with the symbol of our finitude, remembering that we are but dust and unto dust we shall return. Archbishop Cranmer's famous collect said every day in Lent is a plea for absolution and for restoration. Ezekiel reminds us with Cranmer that we must possess hearts of flesh, not of stone. It is only when our hearts are broken into contrition that we benefit from the exercise of piety and fasting.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Collects for Quinquagesima

Prayer book

O LORD, who hast taught us that all our doings without charity are nothing worth; Send thy Holy Ghost and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee. Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.

Breviary (Sarum)
O Lord, we beseech thee, mercifully hear our prayers, and loose us from the chains of our sins, and keep us from all adversity. Through etc.


The Sarum collect for Quinquagesima is quite stark in simplicity as we move into Lent. Our sins cry out against us, holding us back from the work of love that the image of God in us would bid us do.

Archbishop Cranmer focuses on the love that we need to have in our hearts as we begin our self-examination and ascetic discipline of Lent. It is Love that will indeed loose the chains of our sins, yet also fetter us with the bond of peace and all virtues.

As human beings, we must expect to be limited in some way. It is better to be limited by love than by sin, for the limitation due to Love gives us life.

Through a rose-tinted darkly

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on Quinquagesima Sunday 2015

There was a bit of a fashion in the late 1960s and early 1970s of wearing rose-tinted spectacles. This was the time of “flower power”, “tie dye” and lots and lots of hair. The whole effect of wearing rose-tinted glasses was that it gave everything a warm glow and made everyone feel positive and relaxed. Of course the 1980s happened and everyone started to get more materialistic, and the rose-tinted spectacles had to make way for the shoulder pads and hard-noses of big business which had no time for being so laid back.

The colour of the glasses really does have an effect on how we see things. We wear sunglasses to keep out the glare of the sun. This is a bit awkward if we leave the bright sunny garden and go back into the house! Everything goes dark very quickly! The glasses that we wear affect our vision drastically. We wear them for a better view, but even with a better set of glasses, there are things that become less clear to us.


St Paul speaks of love, and reminds us that we see everything through a glass darkly. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we’ve done, everything we see is a shadow of what is really true. There are no binoculars that allow us to see the bigger picture. We can only see that when we see God face to face. We can only understand what is real when we see it with the eyes of one who is perfect.

One of the more common miracles of Our Lord is to heal the blind man. He does that on numerous occasions, even to people born blind. He opens their eyes so they can see, but this is only a symbol of what He is trying to do. Our Lord is trying to show us that there is more to the world that we can see with our defective eyes.

We cannot see into the hearts of other people to understand why they act the way that they do. Are they rude because they are really selfish, or are they rude because they are stressed at work and can’t see beyond the worry of what to do next? Is that boy a bully because he just likes to make other boys miserable, or is it because he feels so powerless and insecure that bullying other children makes him feel better? We do not understand the complexity of living, and so how do we cope with this?

The answer, says Our Lord, is love. We have to learn to love one another by seeing that they are even as we are. We all know that human beings are frail and sinful beings which are capable of the most horrific acts but also of the most beautiful acts of kindness. The challenge that Love gives us is to look beyond the confines of our limited vision and appreciate that there is something there even if we cannot see it. In trying to be patient, kind, generous, humble, modest, selfless and positive, we can develop ways to live with everyone whose lives we cannot see now in truth.

We do not yet have the option of seeing without the eyes we already have. When we have the eyes of God, what will we really see? What will we really see about ourselves?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

...these three...

The Problem of Evil is certainly one of the biggest questions that challenge for many the existence of God. For Stephen Fry, it's a stumbling block that reveals God to be a capricious monster in his eyes; for former Archbishop Rowan Williams it reveals a profound mystery.

Stephen Fry finds much common ground with the late Christopher Hitchens in believing that there can't be a God, or further that if God exists then He does not deserve to be worshipped owing to the suffering of so many people. Their point comes from a point of reality, not from the hallowed halls of abstract theology and that is what makes their case more powerful. Suffering is visible, God is not. It stands to this sort of thinking that if God exists then He does not see it, does not care about it, He cannot do anything about it, or potentially all three.

it is clear that both Fry and Hitchens have a deep concern about the sufferings that happen in the world. Why should children get bone cancer? Why is it fair that so many people starve to death each day while a tiny, tiny few wrestle with the problem of not being able to afford the latest variant of the Playstation? Both Fry and Hitchens show something that lies deeply within their humanity, within the humanity that we all share. They care. The suffering of others means much to them. They find it intolerable. Why should they care? Why not just let the whole problem go and get back to living their own lives? As Archbishop Williams points out, that's as much a mystery as why suffering happens in the first place. It is the fact that human beings care about others that often brings us face to face with our Creator seething with passion and anger about His apparent inscrutability and indifference to the plight of others.

The trouble is, without God, what can ever be the answer to this question? At least, with the possibility of God existing, there is the possibility of an answer. We have to remember that the above trichotomy that apparently disproves the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God is false in that it does not allow for other possibilities, namely the possibility that it may be necessary for suffering to exist for hitherto unknown, or even unknowable, morally justifiable reasons: God being all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving transcends humanity and the smallness yet beloved nature of human thought.

Again, we still come back to the fact that we are also having to wrestle between emotional and intellectual responses here: both are valid and both inform the other. Yet, all the best that any of us can do is to face the darkness that reality possesses in sheer ignorance. Truth be told, if we see a person suffering horribly, truly horribly, we suffer too because of our inability to relieve that suffering. Yet these are different sufferings. We cannot  know what the little girl with bone cancer is going through. We can only extrapolate her suffering in the arena of our own experience, and think what it would be like for us to suffer in this way. It is from that basis that we wish to stop the suffering of this little girl simply by following that Golden Rule "do unto others what you would have them do unto you".  And so we share in that suffering, just as Christ would have us do. Yet still we do not know the suffering of that little girl - it is her suffering; these are her scars being etched upon her being. The temptation is for us to lose hope and faith.

As C.S Lewis points out, the true existence of faith is seen most when whatever rational principles we hold dear come under the hardest scrutiny: faith will bear that scrutiny. To hold true to the rational principles that we have received - no matter what - is the true test of faith, and it will be this faith that saves us. In this sense, faith and works cannot be understood without each other. Faith is received when we understand the impact of the revelation that God gives us, then must come the testing and refining, the acceptance or the rejection of one's faith.

In suffering, we also have the issue of hope which can be strengthened or lost. To see another suffer horribly raises the question of "WHY??????" loudly in our minds. Either we believe that nothing can justify the little girl's suffering whatsoever, or we realize that the transcendent existence God promises the faithful will make this suffering worthwhile. We struggle with this because our human thought cannot possibly imagine what could make such misery worthwhile. The after-life is not apparent, the suffering is. Dostoevsky wrestled with this in the Brothers Karamazov. Can Heaven ever be worth the torture of one innocent little child?

To whom is this question addressed? If it is to the academic theoretician, then there can only be abstract theoretical answers - none that can give hope and none that can alleviate suffering, just perpetual debates in public theatres to the entertainment of the intellectual. Is the question addressed to the child? If so, then we cannot answer for her. This is a question between her and her Creator. Is this a question addressed to those around her as she suffers? If there is no Heaven then there is no hope that this horror can ever be transformed and no way that the works of the Devil can ever come to nought. Is this a question for God? If so, then let us ask the poor, innocent man tortured and dying upon the cross. Clearly He knows the answer by personal experience.

Finally, what answer could ever be given? Explain colic to a newborn baby and yet she still screams in pain. Faith, hope and love go beyond argument and  discussion, and strike only at the root of what it means to be real and alive. They provide comfort because they present no intelligible answer and yet hold fast to the suffering as it is. They lie at the heart of our being and the only one we will find there will be God.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Collects for Sexagesima

Prayer book

O LORD God, who seest that we put not our trust in any thing that we do; Mercifully grant that by thy power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Breviary (Sarum)
O God, who seest that we put not our trust in any thing that we do; Mercifully grant that by the protection of the Teacher of the Gentiles, we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This collect again shows the tension between pre- and post-Reformation Anglicanism. Just whose protection should we prefer, St Paul's or God's?

There is a false dichotomy here. We learn of God's protection through the words of St Paul. It is St Paul acting as a clay vessel of the Love of God that we can receive protection from God. St Paul's protection is one that we read:

"Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;  And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:  Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." (Ephesians vi.14-18)

This is the protection that God gives us. It is the protection that the Teacher of the Gentiles reveals to us through his obedience to God. It will defend us if we use it.

Straw men and empty vessels

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on Sexagesima 2015

Have you ever wondered why there are two letters to the Corinthians from St Paul?

You’ll remember that in the first letter, St Paul writes about the divisions within the Church in Corinth. He writes telling them about why it is good to recognise the different gifts that God has given each of us to us and express, but that these gifts can only ever be used in love. We’ll hear that famous extract from his letter next week. What is missing from history is the reply that St Paul receives from Corinth to the first letter. It seems that it went along the lines of:

“Dear Paul, Please don’t lecture us on what we ought to do. We’re suffering a lot for Our Lord, all kinds of persecutions. See how we are oppressed by the Romans! We are noble Hebrews, born of the seed of Abraham, ministers of Christ. We know what we are doing and we’re not going to be told what to do by you. Yours sincerely. Church in Corinth.”

It’s a bit like someone going to the doctor and saying, “I’ve got a heavy cold, please prescribe me some antibiotics.” The doctor will say, “but antibiotics don’t work on viruses.” “I think I know what I’m talking about. I do have three doctorates and a knighthood. Prescribe me some antibiotics!”

You see the problem.

Doctorates and knighthoods are only pieces of paper which say that you have successfully undertaken work in particular areas. They are nothing in themselves and they don’t really possess any authority.

This is why St Paul replies in the way he does. It’s as if he thinks, “right, if that’s the game you want to play, I can play it too AND I’ll show you how silly it is.”

And so we get from St Paul:

“Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?”

But, says St Paul, “I speak as a fool!” This is how silly people speak trying to evade the issue by pretending to be too big or clever for it. Yet these big and clever people miss the very vital message that they need to hear in order to know God.

The fact of the matter is, when our lives end, our credentials, our education, our work will lose any relevance or meaning.

On the Day of Judgment, we will stand quite naked before God. We will be able to hide behind nothing. The only thing that we will rely on then is how much love there is in us. How much love we have for Our Lord and God and can boast honestly in what He has done in our lives. To God and God alone belongs the glory, but we are allowed to bask in it.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

My last word on the matter?

Okay, so I've broken a promise to myself not to get back into the ordination of women arena. I've stated my case, and have little more to say. I do note that people have tried to suggest that the frescoes of the catacombs of Priscilla show the female celebrant of a Eucharist. Yet, there is a counter suggestion that it is a funeral feast. There is also Episcopa Theodora claimed by some to be a bishop in her own right, and yet this is also argued to be the honorary title of a particularly pious wife of a bishop! The evidence is certainly not conclusive and a case for women's ordination cannot really be built from this.

In an attempt to be more charitable, I am trying to be as attentive as I can to people who support the ordination of women with such passion. I know that I am as guilty as many other bloggers who raise their voices in debate and forget the human element and really I do need to address this. If I have made mistakes, and if this post makes mistakes, then I offer my humble apologies and hope that the reader will look upon it charitably. The question I am trying to understand is: what are proponents of the cause trying to do?

Well, clearly in the 20th century, we have had great upheavals in society and many of those upheavals have had consequences that have freed human beings from shackles of true oppression. We now have racial equality, an abhorrence of slavery and the movement for the equality of women. These have had very far-reaching consequences, great challenges, and the opportunities for people to become who God intends them to be.

It's not hard to see that in this context, the ordination of women appears intrinsically linked with women's liberation. Liberation from what? Well, this is where there has been a fundamental link between all three of those issues: racial equality, sexual equality and slavery.

It is true to say that women and those of African heritage have suffered the indignity of being owned by the white man. They have been the possessions of another, and such possession is a diminution of one's humanity. We see spiritual possession when some demonic force takes control of the body of an unfortunate from the inside, likewise we have possession of an unfortunate from the outside.

It is quite clear that the Church should indeed oppose slavery even if it has not been clear on this point in its history. That so many people are so passionate to stop all forms of slavery and to fight for the rights of each human being to live a life free from being owned by another is to be encouraged. It is easy to see why racial and sexual inequality are so interlinked.

It does stand to reason why the matter of the ordination of women has arisen. It is right and fair that race is not an obstacle to the vocation to be a priest. We have here the equality of ethnicity. No longer should anyone of African descent be barred from sharing the priesthood of Christ just because they are indeed of Afican descent. People with African heritage are as equally human as those of Norse, Celt, Angle, Frankish, Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew, Asian, et c. heritage. One's genealogy is not a bar!

Of course, with this, the women's rights movement has grown. Praise God that no longer can a wife be legally raped by her husband: she has the right to say, "No!" even to the one she has married. No longer is she chattel. She can lead a country, she can lead a company, she can do anything that she puts her mind to! Women can now become the people under God whom He created them to be.

Thus, it is clear how, when seeing the priest of African descent, that a woman sees this as another barrier between her equality with man. It doesn't matter what the argument is, this great passion, this weight of historical oppression is bigger. Any government worth its weight will throw that weight behind projects which maximise the freedom of its subjects. Thus, any established church with its government tied intrinsically with the state must also be under that pressure to break down that final barrier. It stands to reason that there is no way that a state church can deny its priesthood to women. The CofE has to have women priests and bishops: that is the only logical consequence of its existence. It's one reason why perhaps now is the time for the Catholic and Continuing Anglican Churches to let the issue lie.

For us Continuing Anglicans, the issue is also clear. Two wrongs cannot make a right. We cannot change rules about respecting one's intrinsic being in order to undo centuries of oppression. A woman can be anything she wants to be, except she cannot be a man. Even after surgical augmentation she is still genetically a woman and God intended her to be such. The Catholic Faith is quite clear that to be a priest, one must be male in order to be an ikon of Christ the Bridegroom of the Church, and to continue the priesthood that God set up ab initio.

It is my firmest wish that there should be something new in the Church to discern God's true vocation for women. One cannot change that which is established by God, but the Church has the ability to consecrate that which already exists for the purposes of preaching the Gospel. I believe that there is room for something new in the Church that works alongside that which is built on firm foundations. Choirs sprang out of the Church's Divine Office and thus the Anglican Choral tradition was once something new that worked alongside the ancient duty of the Church.

It would be a good idea for traditional Catholics (me included) to put our thinking caps on and remember that we can pull out of our resources that which is old and new. Perhaps then we can go some way to righting the wrongs done against good Christian women. May Our Father in Heaven be our guide to better and greater levels of Charity.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Collect for Septuagesima

Prayer book
O LORD, we beseech thee favourably to hear the prayers of thy people; that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Breviary (Sarum)
O Lord, we beseech thee favourably to hear the prayers of thy people, that we who are justly punished for our offences may be mercifully delivered for the glory of thy name. Through etc.

In this universe of cause and effect, we have no choice but to accept the consequences for our choices, both bad and good. We often suffer for both of them, regardless and oft, like Job, we sit puzzled in our sadness trying to work out what we could have possibly done to deserve the punishment we receive.

We cry out to God and ask, "for what reason am I being punished?" and God's silence comes back to us. If we are wise, we listen in that silence, examining our own conscience to see where we are presently falling short in our actions, desires, intentions and words since in each sin we distance ourselves from God.

Yet, we know that our own scrutiny of our conscience is also flawed. We could fall into despair at the rottenness of our own being, but there is a better way. With God we can be good, for God defines goodness through His own self. Our Creation is Good. We are not totally depraved, but bear the goodness of God's creation by being part of God's creation. We turn to God and see in ourselves where we lack Him by His benevolence.

Septuagesima calls attention that soon Lent is coming and we must prepare ourselves for that self-scrutiny. With God holding our hand we will see the truth and survive it!

Labourers of Love?

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on Septuagesima Sunday 2015

So the Kingdom of heaven is like this householder who pays everyone the same amount regardless of when he calls them. That seems straightforward. It looks like Our Lord is telling us that we should look at what we’ve been given, rather than what other people have been given. But He ends this parable with rather a surprising line: “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.”

We can see when people get called to the work, but where in this parable do people get chosen? Surely, the only people who are being chosen are the people who answer the call and yet everyone seems to be called! Does that mean we are all chosen to be the kingdom of Heaven?

If this is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, then what are we really being told?


What is the work that God wants us to do? We know that it is hard work otherwise it would not be described as labour. We know that we can receive a fair reward for our labours and we know that everyone gets the same reward for this labour no matter when they take it up. There can only be one labour that is appropriate for God and that is the labour of Love.

We know that love is hard work, especially when people sometimes go out of their way to make themselves unloveable, yet we still have to work at loving our neighbours as ourselves. Now we can do things for appearances, or we can do things for real.


Those that start early in the day believe that they are entitled to more because they have worked more than the others, but we know that this is not how Love works. St Paul tells us quite clearly that “Charity suffereth long , and is kind ; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself , is not puffed up.” It is not the work of love to quibble about receiving an agreed wage. The people come first are actively envying the pay of those who come last.

There are those who make a show of appearing to love, but do not really do so in their hearts. St Paul reminds us,” though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned , and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

This is the key thing. The ones who grumble at the fair wage of the other do not understand the reward of their labours. They miss the point. They have no love and so all their labour means absolutely nothing. Clearly God will only choose those who really do the work of love in their hearts for the Kingdom of God. Those who only feign love rule themselves out of the Kingdom of Heaven, because they have no real love.

God is love, and the reward of the labour of love is God Himself. You can’t expect more than God. Yet some people do, and that is why they will never know Who He is and will never see His Kingdom.