Tuesday, April 25, 2017

On Miracles and keeping one's clothes on

Living in Sheffield, the song "I believe in miracles" by Hot Chocolate has a certain interpretation by which many of the male population suddenly find a desire to disrobe, usually fuelled by plenty of alcohol. I've not seen the film in question, but gather that this is due to "The Full Monty" which is set in Sheffield and seems to affect the university students there!

However, the fact is, I do believe in Miracles. My Faith tells me that I must, from the testimony of eye-witnesses, believe in the potential for my scientific understanding of the Universe to be challenged by the One Who Is beyond Creation.

I believe with my whole heart that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again in order to reconcile a fallen Humanity to God.

In some sense, I have just laid myself bare in that I have revealed the simple truth about my belief. Yet it is more than that. I believe that miracles can and still happen. I have prayed for a miracle many times now, and I always seem to get one, though never the one I was expecting. Indeed, these days I believe that my expectations will always be challenged as much as my science. God is the God of surprises, and it is actually very liberating.

I look round and I see Church numbers declining, heresies and abominations entering the Church, perversions of sacraments, and I am tempted to see the death of the Church. But that's not what I pray for.

I have prayed for the health of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of which I am a member and seek to serve, participating in the Priesthood of Christ. I believe that my prayers are going to be answered, not because of my holiness because I am not as holy as I should be, but solely through the Grace of God Himself. He hears my prayers because He is good, and I believe that.

People call me naive and idealistic, but are we not told to approach the Kingdom of God as a little child? So I dare to believe, and fully expect the Church to grow, to pass through this time of turbulence into yet another time of turbulence greater and holier than before. I do not believe that the Church is dying. This is a time of test and purification. If we hold fast to Christ and allow Him to purify us as individuals as well as a believing community, then we will see even greater things than these.

In being naked before God, we leave behind even our rationality and find only one of the Three That Remain - Hope! Let us pray and believe that our prayer will be answered - because it will! God has been so good to me and my lovely little family!

I do have hope for the Church-to-come even when I see Liberal Theology destroying people's faith. I will recognise the Church of the Future, but the miracle will not be what I am expecting - it will be even better than that and that's the naked truth! 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Checks and Balances of being Anglican

As I've said before,  I am not an Anglican. However, I am Anglican. Linguists will notice the difference immediately, but I hope everyone sees how I now regard myself after six years of being outside the CofE, and nearly six years of being in the Anglican Catholic Church.
The distinction is subtle and, perhaps, one of the causes as to why people-who-are-Anglican and Anglicans often talk past each other.
My detractors will say, "how on Earth can this fool dare to call himself Anglican?"
They have a point. I don't subscribe to the doctrine inherent in the Book of Common Prayer, I see the XXXIX Articles as something of an irrelevance, I hold to Transubstantiation, and see Archbishop Cranmer as just plain wrong. (Yes, I know that technically makes me regard Cranmer as heretical, but he is my very best favourite heretic!) In fact, I do not use the Book of Common Prayer at all. I say my Offices from the Monastic Breviary, and the Mass from the English Missal. Just how can I even use "Anglican" as an adjective, let alone a noun?
One of the big concessions that I made in moving from the CofE to the ACC was dropping Latin. While I was in the CofE, I was reacting, at first ignorantly, against the Liberal Agenda,  and bounced too far into Ultramontane Anglican Papalism. I used Latin more in my private devotions. I could still use Latin, like Fr Anthony in the Sarum Rite, but one of the things that I have found important for the sake of commonality is the use of English.
Further, my Breviary and Missal are conformed not only to English, but to the English translation in the BCP. Indeed, this consonance with the BCP is, in my view, the genius of what Cranmer really did in compiling the BCP, and what makes the idea of Anglican clear as an adjective and as a potentially unifying concept.
It may not seem it, but the ACC is actually a broad Church with the BCP at the heart of its liturgy, but with the Primitive Church as the Doctrinal Authority. This allows for checks and balances to be made and thus prevent priests from going too far and turning personal foibles into full blown heresies.
Even if it isn't used explicitly, there is a true Commonality in the BCP that does actually bind us. I am so heartened by the joint Synods of Continuing Anglican jurisdictions being held this Autumn. We can come together because the things we value can all be found within the BCP. We free ourselves from individual personalities and back onto an ideology which unites us. This was something that we lost when some Bishops in the ACC tried to expunge the whole notion of Anglicanism and left Continuing Anglicanism in the 1990s.
The Roman Catholic Church has its ideology and thus its notion of regularity bound up with the Holy Father and the Magisterium which has developed around him. The various Orthodox Churches have their ideology coloured by their indigenous culture. This is why the ACC, and indeed certain other Catholic bodies in the UK, have a good claim to be part of the English Orthodox Church. We have a history which shows how far we can go before losing our identity and ideology as Catholics and the BCP comes out of that history but does not wholly define it.
Our historical notion of Anglicanism as an adjective allows us to know where we are by looking at the presence of Christ in our history and seeing Him at work, preventing us from becoming Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox or Russia Orthodox, when we are not.
In our history,  we have the faith delivered in the first centuries by those using Roman trade routes. We were then reminded that, though we are an island, our faith is not at the Synod of Whitby and then with the Germanic and French conquests which brought us in line with the Western Patriarchy but never so much as to take the Papacy with the gravity of the Continent. At the Reformation, we not only finally shrugged off a Papacy which had accrued too much political power, but also refused to take on board fully the innovations of the Continental Reformers, while preserving a Catholic element from which would eventually spring the Caroline Divines, the High Churchmen, and the Tractarians.
At each stage, the history of Anglicanism prevents us from deviating from the first Millennium and the Catholic Faith therein while connecting with the people of the day.
The BCP is an expression of our ideology, but not the centre of Anglican Catholic ideology. This way we don't wake up Calvinist one morning and Glagolitic the next. There is liturgical stability built into the BCP which still allows some flexibility, but not enough to change things so radically as to be unrecognisable and thus inconsistent with our historic selves.
But is this identity important? Aren't we told to decrease so that Christ may increase? Of course we should. Our lives as individuals and as Churches are in full submission to His Authority. Yet our call is to reach out to those outside the Church and bring them God's grace in a way they can understand. The identity of an indigenous people is bound up in their history, and thus the way we preach the Gospel and dispense the grace God gives us all must be consonant with that history for their benefit.
You can be sure that if you step into any ACC parish, you will know where you are in the liturgy. You will hear the same prayers made and the same praises offered. You might hear the Te Deum sung at a BCP Mattins, or at a Benedictine recitation of the Office of Readings. Either way, it will still begin, "We praise Thee, O Lord." Thus you can be comforted that whatever liturgy is being used, it is being directed to the same God by Anglicans and people-who-are-Anglican around the world. Our liturgy does not chop and change every week, nor from parish to parish. That way Anglican Catholics are indeed visibly united in our Church lives,  and united with so many other Continuing Anglicans too. Long may this Commonality continue in the love of Christ and bring us together in Him. May God richly bless the Synods this October and all who are involved that we are all together one in Him. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

New Church? New Page!

I would just like to draw my readers' attention to a new page in which I make an attempt to say why I find Liberal Theology deeply problematic as a Christian Theology. Indeed, I cannot in my heart of hearts regard it as being a Christian Theology.

As I point out, I am not against Liberal Theologians just the Theology they hold which seems to be a mishmash of Gnosticism with some alarming tendencies towards Arianism. Sinners we all are: heretics we need not be!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Paschal Feast 2017


The trouble is that our eyes cannot see the true glory of the Resurrection. It is as if the Sun has risen, not just on one day, but on the whole of History. It is a Sunrise from Eternity that cuts across the ages casting a shadow of the Cross on all human activity. It is this aspect that allows us to consider each and every Mass as part of the same, one, perfect oblation for the remission of our sins. We are looking in a direction perpendicular to the passage of Time as we know it. This truly is the Dawn from on High that has broken upon us.

We must remember that Our Lord's life is indivisible. We can never separate Bethlehem, Galilee, Jerusalem, Calvary, and the Empty tomb. Each of these are part of the sunrise, dispelling darkness and allowing us to open sleepy eyes to behold the reality that lies beyond reality summed up in that tiny phrase "The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us."

This is the true Victory over darkness. All the subterfuge of the Devil and his minions is exposed in the light of God's Sunrise from Eternity. It has nowhere to hide, and though shadows are cast, the nature of what is casting those shadows becomes utterly obvious to those who use the sunrise to see the Eternal Truth. Let those who question the nature of this light disperse in their unbelief. If they cannot believe in Eternity with some conviction but remain with their eyes firmly fixed upon the secular, then they are the ones who will miss gazing upon things that transcend the pressing problems of a fleeting age.

As we stand gazing up at the sunrise and see the Risen Lord radiating the warmth for our souls from His person, we say "This is the Day that the Lord has made! We will rejoice and be glad in it!"

The Day of Resurrection 2017


Hasn't Mary every reason to be weeping? The events of Friday followed by a day of enforced isolation ruminating on those very events have left her emotionally exhausted, and now, she stares into an empty tomb. All she wants to do is to show that poor discarded body some little tenderness that it was denied. She has the spices ready, some oil and perfume, just little things to make an insignificant difference in the scheme of things. No one may care, but she cares - she will always care. Yet, even that has been denied her. She can't even do that as they have taken Him away. She has found Peter and John and told them the terrible news, but she comes back. Now there she sits in the half-light of dawn without any further purpose, completely redundant.

"Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?"

[PAUSE]

What can she say? The world is falling apart around her. Things just don't make sense. All she thought was true has proved false. All that she has ever loved has been taken away. All that she had ever hoped for has been crushed like a butterfly beneath the jackboot of the Establishment's hatred of being proved foolish. All her self-worth has gone. All her purpose has gone. All that she loved has gone. She has nothing. Was she better off when she was tormented by those seven devils? What fresh torment is this?

Is there hope left?

"Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away."

Yes, if it comes to it, she will pick up that body herself, carry it away herself, spend all that she has to buy a tomb herself, and bury Him herself. That's something, some way to take back control of the situation, some way to tell the world that there is love somewhere within its dark sphere. It may be silly and impossible, but it is something to give Him the honour that He deserved, and something on which she can build her life, or possibly end it.

So much love! All she wants to do is give it.

"Mary." Oh!

And suddenly, realisation! Love never went away. It's always here. He's always here.

"Rabboni!"





Saturday, April 15, 2017

Paschal Vigil 2017


It is as if the ringing in the ears has finally stopped, replaced by a strange silence as if after suffering some terrible delirium. The dark dreams still haunt the waking soul. There are still those images fixed in the mind, His body stripped naked, His hands gushing forth blood as the nails push through His flesh, the hoisting up in the air, and then those terrible, terrible cries that issue forth from His mouth - cries that seem to subvert the desolation of a condemned criminal, but rather command nature itself. Then, death and darkness - the Earth shudders as life is wrenched from God's body.

All this seems unreal, just a dream, and yet it happened. The crowds at the cross will testify to that. The following day has been spent trying to process it. In the stillness of the Sabbath, coming to terms with Jesus death is proving far from still. The images flash through the mind, yet cling to it as if trapped in amber. Every where the mind turns, it is met with the head crowned with thorns lolling lifelessly, eyes still staring out into the world. This cannot be forgotten. The body has been taken down hastily, a tomb provided by a good, kind man, but the body is not prepared for burial. It lies in the tomb as if it were unloved, unwanted - a bit of an inconvenience. Yet this is not the case for He is still loved with such a passion by weak and silly souls who could not cope with an end like this. In the cool of the morning, with sleep staying out of reach as if the soul repels it, it is time to address the wrong. It is time to show Him that He is loved.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday 2017: Forsaken?



High on the cross, the cry goes out: "Eli! Eli! Lama sabachthani!" which is "My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?"

Then, to look upon the one who cries out these words we see a man, naked, bruised, bloodied, in agony, struggling with every single breath. We see the crowd around this man, laughing, waggling their heads and uttering terrible insults. They cannot hear the cry of the man, all they hear is a possible cry to Elijah. The man has no friends, save possibly some distant onlookers. His crime written above on the cross says that this is "Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews". 

Just look at Him. Truly God has forsaken Him, hasn't He?

If we suspend the benefit of our hindsight, then we might be tempted to say that, yes, this Jesus is an utter failure and he has only just realised it. All those wonders, all that teaching, all that getting up the noses of the powers-that-be and showing them up for the hypocrites that they are, all has failed. And here the man, this most foolish man, dangles on the cross in his blasphemy realising that He has been forsaken by the very God whose Son He claimed to be.

God has forsaken Him, hasn't He?

What of His disciples, standing aloof, watching from their hiding places if they dare. What of St John and Our Lady, standing in the crowd of people jeering, trusting that their desolation would protect them from further repercussions from a crowd whipped up by the effrontery that the chief priests have suffered from this man?  What of the hopes that they had at the miracles? What of the strength of his words? What of the way to salvation that He promised? Where is it? Their hopes and strength are nailed to the cross with Him? Was He really a man of God?

God has forsaken Him, hasn't He?

And yet...

Let's reason this through. 

Suppose that this man is indeed God Incarnate. Let us suppose that He is what He says He is, that He is human and divine. If He is right, then He cannot be forsaken by God. That would be an impossibility. So let us go back a little further. 

Why was He baptised by John? He didn't need to be, yet He did so to identify Himself with us. 

Why did He perform miracles? He didn't need to, and indeed He hid away from them. He did them for our benefit. 

Why did He weep when Lazarus died? He didn't need to as He was about to raise the dead. He did so to identify Himself with our grief.

At every stage in His life with us, Jesus has stood with us and taken up our course. He takes things on our behalf, cries out on our behalf, and dies on our behalf. 

This cry of "Eli! Eli!" is not a statement of His being forsaken. It is His identification with that psalmist, and for all human beings who, in the pit of their most miserable agony, in the depths of their depravity, degradation and depersonalisation, look up for God and cannot see Him, and cry out with their own "Eli! Eli!" 

God has heard the prayer of a fallen humanity and, in repeating it loudly upon the Cross in the depths of His agony, answers it.

This is not the cry of the forsaken. This is a statement that we never need feel forsaken again.

This is God's "yes" to us in His tears at our own misery. After "Eli! Eli!" must come that great, that wonderful "Tetelestai!" before the agony is replaced by a numb silence.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

The beginning of the work of the people


Another little extract from my collection of reflections on the Antiphons in the Breviary.

Antiphon on Magnificat
As they were eating † Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to His disciples.

Reflection
From this moment on, the Body of Christ is broken for us, and there is no stopping the sequence of events that must follow. The sacrifice is truly made here at this table, and what follows is inextricably bound up with it. Every action now becomes a work of the people, a liturgy, as we respond to the Mystery that Our Lord has begun, and as we receive Him at His own hands.

Here begins the bending of the fabric of reality itself as we are commanded to make this memory more than an exercise of the mind but also an exercise of Creation. Only God can do this, for He alone can command what He has made with such complete dexterity and intent.

Here, the strange and unique interaction of paradoxes confounds earthly thought: the Invulnerable God and Vulnerable Man; the Eternal God and Mortal Man; the Transcendent God and Immanent Man. The more we ponder the tension between how these natures can be wrapped up within Jesus, the more the mind stares into a bewildering chasm of the Godhead and yet how completely the soul is enveloped in Love! Bread becomes Body; Wine becomes Blood; and Humanity can partake of the same Divinity which itself partakes of Humanity.

Our Salvation starts here, though “starts” is the wrong word for it, for it has started, starts and will start beyond our Time and Space. Nonetheless, if we fix our attention on the Mysterious Miracle being wrought here, this is where we will encounter our Salvation. Let us not forget the cost, though.

Collect
(As at the previous Vespers) Almighty God, we beseech Thee graciously to behold this Thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross: [Silently] Who with Thee… liveth.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Pascha versus Easter: The Lie of Modern Church

A quarter of Christians apparently do not believe in the Lord's Resurrection. Well, to be accurate, they apparently do not believe in the Biblical narrative. If true, this makes depressing reading and the Day of Resurrection less of a celebration of the redemption of Humanity, and more of an observation of a myth. It also makes egg hunting more important than looking up to see the Risen Lord.

Of course, it could be that the way that the questions were asked, but I do notice the influence, once again, of the pernicious philosophy of Modern Church

"I think [people answering the survey] are being asked to believe in the way they might have been asked to believe when they were at Sunday school. You're talking about adults here. And an adult faith requires that it be constantly questioned, constantly re-interpreted, which incidentally is very much what Modern Church is actually about." Dr Lorraine Cavanagh Acting Secretary of Modern Church
Perhaps, then, I am just naive as I believe that simple truth that I received at Sunday School. It's all very well criticising a "Sunday School faith" because it is not sophisticated as an "adult faith", but where is there a need to have this "adult faith? Aren't we supposed to approach Heaven as little children and receive that faith there? Ah, but then Modern Church would want me to criticise that statement and measure it against today's thinking.

The Day of Resurrection approaches and it seems that there is to be a distinction between celebrating a Myth and rejoicing in the Salvation effected for us by the Historical Incarnation of God Himself. Given that the word "Easter" is technically of pagan origin and thus perhaps more at home with the idea of a celebration of Myth and superstition, perhaps it's time for Christians of a Traditional Faith to reclaim the word "Pascha" to refer to this wonderful Feast.

I must confess that I do prefer "Pascha" to "Easter". A celebration of Pascha recognises the Historical testimony of the Gospels - a historicity recognised by professional historians of every religious persuasion. It focuses on a theological fact realised in empirical testimony that no longer are we bound for Eternal separation from God because of God's sacrifice as a human being on our behalf.

 A celebration of the Modern Church Easter is a recognition of a story a narrative that binds no one to belief. Such a faith is anaemic because it dares to believe nothing beyond a prevailing philosophy couched in the underlying Marxism of Critical Theory. This view of "Easter" is the worship of an idea and therefore as pagan as the spring festival known to the Pagans as "Easter".

As I watch this decline in the quality of Christian belief, I am more and more convinced that there is something diabolical within the Modern Church movement. In getting people to question for fear of being branded as childish and therefore not to be heard as an adult, they are convincing people to fall away from a Truth which is to be understood by little children so that all can experience the Salvation of Christ without exception. I am very close to shouting "Anathema" when it comes to any intellectual "theology" that comes out from Modern Church. Perhaps I should, as there is clearly something wrong somewhere. However, as only a priest, I cannot have the authority to make such a pronouncement and I must leave that to my superiors in the Faith to do so. There is still evil within me, and that needs to be addressed, too.

The Christian life is full of struggles to interpret the faith of our childhood with the reality that we see when we are grown up. We understand more and more the finer details, the emotional and intellectual nuances, and the gravity of what the story tells us. The fact that it is History and not just a story means that we have no choice to "re-interpret the facts" because to do so would mean that History can be whatever we want it to be and therefore lack any credibility as a mechanism for discovering the truth of the past.

The fact that Modern Church encourage this deceit shows that it is certainly in the thrall of agenda which seek to deconstruct the truth as an objective concept and thus rob the world of a sense of sin save that which comes from objecting to the morality of the age. These agenda are indeed diabolical in origin and, because of the presence of sin in our lives, we also succumb to their deceit. If Modern Church wish to be free from being pronounced anathema they must show how they are promoting the objective historical truth of the Faith and show the tenets of that Faith that cannot be questioned without departing from that Faith. If they cannot subscribe to any objective statement of Christian Faith, then their voice must not be heard in matters of faith.

Perhaps they would do well to remember in the words of John Greenleaf Whittier:
In simple trust like theirs who heard
Beside the Syrian sea
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow Thee.
I would urge my readers to avoid any teaching from Modern Church and to seek first the Kingdom of Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ so that those deceived into thinking that the Resurrection is not real may see the truth of that fact within God's Love and Charity that we display in our lives.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Palms of Glory

I am in the process of collating a few Lenten liturgical reflections of mine to put into a small book. To what end, I don't know, only that it might prove to help people get closer to God. I post a little extract from the Saturday before Palm Sunday in lieu of a sermon for Palm Sunday which usually gets set aside by the Long Gospel of the day. I hope this proves edifying.

Saturday before Palm Sunday

Antiphon on Benedictus
O Father, glorify Thou Me † with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world began.

Reflection
Glory is related to the idea of weight, solidity, and impact. Things that we find glorious have a substance which creates an impact in our lives. The effect of encountering the glorious is almost like being hit in the face. We are wakened from our sleep of ignorance and come face to face with that which delights, enthrals us, even terrifies us for a reason that we may not immediately see.
Our Lord Jesus possesses a glory from before the Universe. How can this be if there is nothing for Him to make an impact on?

His being does make an impact on the Father: the glory of the Trinity is something that is in an Eternal state of persons impacting on each other. This can only happen if Our Jesus is as substantial as the Father. Yet before Creation, there can only be one substance – that of God Himself. Thus in glorifying the Son, the Father demonstrates clearly to little human beings that the Son has the same substance as the Father, and the Holy Ghost.

Further, this glory, this impact of the Son is in reference to the World. It is a creating weight and shows that Our Jesus is not only present at the beginning of the World, but is instrumental in its Creation. In being glorified by the Father, Jesus is glorified beyond the Trinity into Creation itself!
We examine ourselves to see that glory of Jesus, for we believe in our hearts that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we can behold his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Collect
We beseech Thee, O Lord, let the people dedicated unto Thee advance in the spirit of godly devotion: that being disciplined by holy exercises, they may become the more pleasing unto Thy Majesty as they increase in more excellent gifts. Through.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Arguing for Salvation

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

How do you win an argument? By being the one with the last word? By having the loudest voice? By belittling your opponent? Or by convincing your opponent that they are wrong?

We live in a culture in which we debate everything. Universities and schools regularly hold debate competitions. Online forums are filled with debates, and often things get ugly and personal because everyone online has a cloak of anonymity. It seems that once a position is established by the popular vote, we are not allowed to disagree with it. To go against the position of Society is not politically correct. Even things that make common sense are debated. What happens if Fred wins a debating competition and convinces everyone that black is white. Does that mean that black really is now white?

[PAUSE]

There are things that are simply not open to debate, and yet people still try and, worst still, succeed in convincing others that the opposite is true. Black can become white in today’s culture. Why? It is because people want complete control over how they want to see the world. They want everything to be true to their point of view. When they are questioned, they will say, “your truth is not the same as my truth” and end the debate there.

[PAUSE]

Our Lord finds His words debated by the Scribes and Pharisees. He has just forgiven the woman caught in adultery and issued those wonderful words, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Then the Scribes and Pharisees come and try to find fault with His teaching and His saying about Who He is. They hold fast to their position as Abraham’s children and reject Jesus’ teaching loudly.

Jesus asks them either to show where He is wrong, or accept that He is telling the truth. If the Scribes and Pharisees claim to be followers of God, then they should recognise the voice of God when it speaks. Others have. Multitudes of the people have heard God speak to them.

Yet Jesus is not God just because people have been convinced by Him. People have been convinced by Him because they have recognised that He is God.

As far as the Authorities go, Jesus is a devil. They argue that black is white. They argue that the Man who has healed the sick, fed multitudes, forgiven sins, walked on water, preached love and righteousness from the very Old Testament that they believe in, this Man is evil.

Black is white, in their eyes.

[PAUSE]

So what will convince them? Will Our Lord’s Passion and Death show them that He is telling the truth? What of His Resurrection?

No.

So, Jesus leaves them. He hides from them. They will not see Him anymore.

[PAUSE]

Many people make big claims about Jesus that they can’t substantiate. They say that He is a social revolutionary come to overthrow the old order of injustice, intolerance, and inequality. Others say that He is a good teacher, come to tell people that being good puts you in God’s good books. They say that He has come to show that people who follow outdated traditions are wrong, and that following your heart is right.

They are wrong.

Jesus is not about Revolution. He is about Revelation and Salvation.

He doesn’t overthrow the old order but reveals the Kingdom of God. He doesn’t tell people that being good earns your way into Heaven, He reveals the way to Heaven through the Cross. He does not reject tradition, He reveals Himself through the very tradition that the Pharisees hold so dear, makes it clear in the Divine Light of His being, and then bids us carry the same tradition throughout the Millennia.

[PAUSE]

If we are truly Christian, then what God teaches us Himself is simply not up for question except to ask, “what does this mean for the Church? How can we respond to God’s Love in the light of this?” We cannot question whether Jesus is right to choose only male disciples – He does so, and that’s an end of it. We cannot question whether God says that fornication is a sin – He does so, and that’s an end of it. If we truly believe that Jesus is God, then we must act like it and trust Him even if the society around us votes against Him.

In the end, the debates about who Jesus is will cease to be. Those who believe Him, trust Him, love Him will walk through His Cross into Eternity.

Will we?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Protesting Holiness

It doesn't take much reading of my words to know that I can legitimately be described as a Conservative Christian. If I were in the CofE, I would be called a Traditionalist, though that seems to be a rather odd title given that all Christians have a tradition of some form. Protestants have the tradition enshrined in their understanding of Scripture Alone. Roman Catholics have the Papal Magisterium, and the Orthodox (and we Anglican Catholics and other non-Roman Catholics) have the Tradition of the Primitive Church. Even Liberals have a tradition, albeit enshrined in their "question everything" agenda.

However, it is quite clear that, because I cling to the Orthodox notion of Tradition which cannot be changed but only potentially clarified by an Oecumenical Council, to many people of the Liberal Agenda, I am persona non grata. That I follow Church teaching on the invalidity of the Ordination of Women, that I subscribe to life beginning at conception and seek the good of both mother and child, and that I reject any modern attitudes to sexuality and marriage, these are enough to get people hot under the collar with me.

I don't protest in Pro-Life events. I don't shout the consecrator down when he tries to make a woman a bishop. I don't troll LGBT websites, nor do I get aggressive with Muslims. Indeed, I find the whole idea of active protesting counter-productive. I was appalled by my own ACC when I saw a photograph of two little girls holding a banner saying "Abortion kills children" at some kind of protest. Why? Because it is precisely pushing away the people that need help - the people who need to be presented with the reality of God's grace - and further that it is indoctrinating our children to react rather than think, pray, and seek Godly, pro-active solutions.

But surely the point of protest is to make one's voice heard. Surely, walking together with like-minded people is an expression of the community that we share, showing Society that the number of people who share our concerns.

While that is a reasonable idea, it still doesn't do much. All it does is show numbers and strength, but doesn't actively address the problem. Indeed, in protesting, we make it difficult to engage with our opponents on a level of respect and generosity. If we see a problem, then we have to tackle the problem at its source, not just try and alleviate the symptoms, and we cannot alleviate symptoms by shouting at them, or by marching. The energy is better spent when we have set time aside to think about the problem in the cases which we actually encounter. We have to stop feeling, and start thinking.

Ah, perhaps I'm not a conservative, but actually a bleeding heart Liberal. Yet, have I not just said publicly that I believe Pro-Choice, Islam, the Liberal Agenda, and the LGBT Agenda to be objectively morally disordered? Well, in case I haven't:  I believe Pro-Choice, Islam, the Liberal Agenda, and the LGBT Agenda to be objectively morally disordered.

Notice that I'm stopping short of saying "morally wrong" because I cannot make such a sweeping statement about each situation as a whole. There are good things in Islam such as the call to Righteousness - "Do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are of kin, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and what your right hands possess." (Q'ran 4:36). There are good things in Pro-Choice movements such as the search for justice for women who have been raped, and the need to protect the vulnerable. The LGBT Agenda shows that no-one should be persecuted because they have a certain orientation. Even the Liberal Agenda has a philosophical worth, even if I severely doubt its Theological worth.

Of course, it is not enough to be a curate's egg - good in parts. God seeks perfection, nothing less, which means that all lies must be dealt with, and the little bits of good thought that I have quoted above are used to cloak ideas of a much darker and anti-Christian origin. This is why I use the participle "disordered" because I believe that the Human Fall from God's Grace has introduced this disorder into our human existence. Each of the issues I mention above has wheat among the tares.
Another parable put He forth unto them, saying,The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.(St Matthew xiii.24-30)
Our Lord reminds us that it is not the time to uproot the tares because, in doing so, we uproot the wheat. That is precisely what careless protesting, victimisation, and shunning does. No, we cannot have Islamic prayers in Church, and any priest who thinks that is a good idea is a syncretic heretic! That doesn't mean that we cannot engage peaceably with Muslims at a social level.

My own position is that of complete separation of Church and Society. While in Society, we must be obedient to Society's rules or receive Society's punishment when we have to disobey an unjust law because it is unjust in the eyes of Him Whose Word is Law. While in Church, we must seek God's Kingdom, remember that the Church is Holy, and devote ourselves to God in ways that will scandalise Society, because we are not of Society, we are of the Church. Society is a thing of flesh: the Church is a thing of God's Holy Spirit and thus inimical to the flesh. The more we live our lives and base our thinking in things earthly, the more we will miss the things that are heavenly.

It is the quest for Holiness that is being obscured by the way we live in Society. We become obsessed with politics and philosophy and economics, and try to build theologies around them. The trouble is that there is only one Theology: if our thinking does not match up with what God reveals then, for as long as we believe in God, it is our thinking that must change. I am surprised by the number of people who choose the other option and thus lose their very identity.

We can do no good whatsoever without God, no matter how passionate we get about social justice. The miracle of the loaves and fishes shows that Jesus didn't need to call people to dig deep in their pockets to find money to buy food for the multitude. In fostering a greater faith and trust in Our Lord, we also foster faith in His providence. Solutions do present themselves, but we need to ensure that we start and end with God.

This means that there can be no such thing a Christian Extremism in the same way as Islamic Extremism. As soon as we seek to destroy an ideology by destroying people, we cease to be an advocate for Christian reality. As soon as we take up physical weapons to fight a spiritual battle, then we have lost even what we had before. The Christian way is Holiness, a full rejection of the world's values (no matter how worthy) for the values that God proclaims. That is how we transform the World. We do the radical thing, namely to love our enemies, to do good to those who persecute us, to walk the extra mile, offer the other cheek, give the shirt off our back, and, in so doing, we cut Evil off at the source by refusing to spread it.

If we treat the Good News like a political weapon rather than allow ourselves to be transformed by it, then our protests are less than worthless.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

So what is the Provisional Mission of St Anselm and St Odile?


I am grateful to Bishop Damien Mead for putting a link to my potential new Mission in Sheffield on the Anglican Catholic Church website. It is very much in the planning stage as I am not yet even properly settled in the area. Yet, I do have plans, ideas, and thoughts for the Mission that are worth considering and airing, and, for once, I wouldn't mind this post being shared so that people who are interested in building the Anglican Catholic Church in Sheffield may know that there is something in the pipeline.

First thoughts:

  1. Following the patronage of St Anselm and St Odile, I would like the Mission Statement to be

    Oculos nostros ad Jesum firmando, intellectum quaeramus.


    which (I hope) means

    "By fixing our eyes upon Jesus, let us seek understanding".

    I hope that this will set the character of the Mission, but also clarify my own vocation of seeking the Truth and helping others in their search for it. The Truth is Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the full, Catholic revelation of this Truth can be found in Holy Scripture and the Doctrine of the Primitive Church.

  2. The picture above shows my ideal for an oratory for the Mission. It's a working ideal and liable to change as reality hits. If we can find a building for this purpose, it will need fixtures and fittings. It will take a while for this to happen, but it is worth having a goal to work towards. It would also be wonderful if, for once, I could walk to my own Church!

  3. The Liturgy will be The English Missal with any Offices from the Monastic Diurnal.

    If we can get music, then the hymn book will be the (old) English Hymnal. When we have the facilities, Benediction will occur monthly. Also, during the month we will have focussed prayer for healing, prayer for the Church, and prayer for the Nation.

  4. It would be an important goal to set up a weekly study session for studying the Bible and the Fathers and other aspects of the Catholic Faith.

  5. If we have a weekly collection, the proceeds of one Sunday collection in the month will be given to an appropriate charity. The remainder will go to the upkeep of the Mission.

  6. We resolutely intend to foster cordial and truly charitable relations with all Christians in the community and look to promote generosity and cheerful dialogue, but following firmly the Anglican Catholic Statement of Unity. We cannot compromise our Catholic Faith, nor can we be dismissive of the Christian intentions of others who do not share it. We hope to walk together as far as we can, but we cannot deny that our differences will mean that this walk will only go so far.

Of course, all this is conjecture, idea, and insubstantial. It is all pie in the sky! My own situation is rather restricted and I have my own family commitments which I am delightfully called to honour. Yet it is for the growth and intention of this Mission that I humbly and earnestly pray God will bring into fruition. God's will first, so I cheerfully expect that I will have to alter my thinking. It may be that all this comes to absolutely nothing. If so, let it be - come, Lord Jesus. I petition the prayers of St Anselm and St Odile that this Mission will happen for the sole purposes of God's glory and the distribution of His grace. I beg your prayers too, and comments. If it is worthy, any help promoting this venture would be welcome.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Enslaved Freemen

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Are you free, or are you a slave?

It’s a question that seems a bit ridiculous in our society. We have abolished slavery about two hundred years ago. It’s horrible to say that slavery is still going strong in some places of the world. It is a Christian’s duty to free the oppressed, so we must work and pray for an ending of all forms of slavery in this world.

Yet, it’s all very well freeing someone from one form of slavery, but do we release them into another? a slavery in which we, too, are slaves.

[PAUSE]

In the West, we bang on and on about freedom and having the right to do this and that. We are our own people: no-one owns us; no-one forces us to do what they want us to do; no-one stops us from doing what we want to do. Well, we are free, just as long as we don’t break the Law. And of course, we can’t just take a day off work when we feel like it, otherwise we lose our jobs. And we’ve got to pay taxes.

Do all these constraints make us slaves to the society around us? Are we owned by the country?

[PAUSE]

When St Paul talks of slave and free, he is referring to the Law of the Old Testament. Many Jewish Christians are going around the countries that St Paul is visiting, and telling the Christians in those countries that they still need to obey all of the old Jewish laws. St Paul is clear: those who obey the Jewish Law are like Agar, the slave of Abraham who bears him Ishmael. Those who accept that the Law is perfectly fulfilled in Our Lord Jesus are like Sarah, Abraham’s freeborn wife and mother of Isaac. Ishmael is a slave; Isaac is free. Their descendants are the same.

Thus, St Paul tells us that we are not meant to be slaves, but free people whose lives are not governed by laws, but by love. We are not bound by laws because we seek only the right things that come from God. But if He owns us, aren’t we His slaves?

[PAUSE]

No. We always have a choice to obey Him or not. We just have to take the consequences of our obedience or disobedience. We are His children, and He owns us in that sense, not in a legal sense of the word. We are always free in God.

We are, of course, bound by the laws of the land. We are also bound by the laws of physics, but they have no right over us. Look at how Our Lord bends the laws of physics as we know them. Five loaves and two fish fill twelve baskets after five-thousand have dined. God even frees us from the slavery of this world’s thinking.

We hear learned professors say, “men do not rise from the dead.” Our Lord Jesus just stands there with a smile on His face with the wounds on His body clearly visible. He has no need to say anything.

[PAUSE]

All we have to do is believe in God and learn to trust Him more in our lives. We need to free ourselves from a scientific way of thinking that denies God’s mastery over the Cosmos. We need to free ourselves from a society that demands that we must all think the same way. We need to help free others who are in so many forms of slavery.

This Lent, we need to identify the slavery that prevents us from being true children of God. Then, on the Day of Resurrection, we shall indeed glimpse our freedom afresh.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Annunciation : a Rose among the purple



As we try to continue our self examination and honour the discipline that we have taken on during Lent, into the midst of it comes crashing a Feast of immense proportion.

As Catholics, we believe wholeheartedly in the idea of life begins at conception. Thus, the Mystery of the Incarnation begins here. Why are we not engaged in the same feasting as we are at Christmas or on the Day of Resurrection? Should we not suspend the fast for this most glorious celebration?

There are those who could make a good argument that we should, and it is perhaps best to leave that to their consciences and those who accept their reasons. Eating and drinking to the Lord are always acceptable, and above custom, rule, and praxis. However, many instances of Christian piety would tell us to continue the fast in preparation for Paschaltide.

The Annunciation puts the Rose among the purple. In the time of our fast, we see that young virgin meekly accept the Archangel and his message, and agree to nine months of taking care of herself and thus the little one slumbering in her womb. From this moment, her body is not her own and she must live a life in respect of that. Likewise, we know that we are temples of the Holy Ghost and therefore not our own person. Indeed, it is that own person that we actively seek to crucify with Christ in order to rise with Him.

This is not an occasion for feasting. It is about a re-committing our very selves to bearing Christ in our hearts, striving to bring Him to birth in our lives. It is a time for purification, so that the focus of our lives is on the presence of the Holy Ghost within us and obedience to the Divine Will. Our Blessed Lady was indeed pure at this annunciation, and continued in that purity for her life, It is the same challenge that we must face in a world which seeks to rob us of that purity by distraction, and corruption.

Yet, while we still fast, we can rejoice! for joy is not a virtue that originates in the pleasures of this life, but bursts through the fleeting happiness caused by food, drink, and artificial merriment. In the midst of our purple, we can cultivate that Rose! We can still breathe in that glorious scent of sanctity that pours forth from all things holy. We can still look upon the face of our Lord and see that incarnation in its entirety from conception to death, resurrection, and ascension, and weep with joy that, in the midst of our purple, He planted the rose of Salvation.

We look at a world constantly falling to rack and ruin in the constant rejection of the beauty of Our Lady which gives unequivocal testimony to the fact that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us!

Let us continue in our fast until Resurrection Day so that we see the rose in the purple, and then bring it through the blackness into the golden light of Eternity. Then we shall enjoy God's creation in our feasting, for it will be transformed by that Life beyond life.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Benedictine Divinity versus Theology and Philosophy



Holy Father Benedict, pray to God for us!

On this, the Feast of the passing of St Benedict, I find that a topic that I touched on in my previous post is quite pertinent, and one that needs thinking about very seriously.

Having looked at the Liberal Agenda below, it seems clear that many people who claim religious roles in society are exercising their brains in Philosophy rather than true Theology. Indeed, Theology in modern UK universities tends to be more about Comparative Religion, and the Philosophy of Religion rather than what the Doctors of the Church would regard as true Theology.

St Benedict himself is not classed as a Doctor of the Church. He is an Abbot and Confessor in Liturgical parlance. He is no bishop, king, or prelate, and yet he establishes a Rule that puts people on course for the Divine. It is a rule that will give rise to hospitals, schools, and universities, and is thus at the heart of our lives, and yet people are tending to follow the course of the Liberal Agenda rather than put their trust in a system of work and prayer. His is a path that uses a Theology that's lived in rather than studied and put into practice through argumentation. For me, whether this is accurate or not, this represents the difference between Theology and Divinity.

Divinity seems to be dying out in the universities in the U.K. It was an academic discipline that combined theology with ministry: in short, it might be described as applied Theology.

This makes sense. We encounter God Himself when we engage in His service. First, we pray, and then we work. The whole point is that Theology is never separated from a way of living life. We are to spend our days in the Light of Tabor shining from the Divine Godhead and seeing our lives ahead by that great light. We learn to trust in our superior, and our superior is bowed under the weight of his office which can only be held up by our trust and community spirit. Divinity, then, is a superior discipline to Theology, and it is one that all Christians should study regardless of their academic capabilities.

Sadly, the ACC is too tiny for a seminary in this country. Yet a seminary education is of greater value  than divorcing ourselves from reality within a modern Theological College especially at a time when students think that it's okay to "experiment" with liturgy to the extent that it is willing to try out blasphemies rather than submit to the rule of the Liturgy. A seminary education that involves study intrinsically interwoven with prayer and work will therefore prove invaluable as it restores the sense of the sacred.

It is the sense of sanctity that we need to recover in our Society. The Liberal Agenda can only hold that nothing is sacred which is contrary to any understanding of the Holy Incarnation of Our Lord. The result of the Liberal Agenda is an incipient Arianism or, even worse, Ebionitism which focuses only on the humanity of Jesus and forgets about the Divine nature that comes inseparably with His Human Nature. Holiness, Love, and Worship are not feelings; they are activities wrapped up in realities in this strange synthesis between being and doing.

That there exist Christian Dogmata that cannot be genuinely questioned by Christians without calling one's own faith into question defies the Liberal Agenda. To question whether there is a god is fine in philosophical circles, or even in a study of comparative religion, but to call the existence of God into question before His face shows that there is a doubt within that Christian that needs to be addressed. For a Christian to call God's existence, or His commands, or His doctrine into question demonstrates a spiritual dis-ease that requires healing through prayer, work and study within a loving community. It is not to be accepted as a legitimate alternative to "the way we do things." It is certainly not "progress" unless by progress we mean proximity to Hell itself.

As I say, we in the ACC have no seminary. The best we can do is read for our orders under the guidance of the Bishop and then look to see how we can live our faith in a little community of people who do actually believe what they read in the Liturgy. It is not ideal, but we talk with each other and listen to each other. If the time comes when we finally have the resources for a seminary, I shall be most pleased to support it as best I can with what personal capacities I can. However, our size does not prevent us from striving to study Divinity rather than some useless academic discipline which seeks to tear the Church apart.

Until then, I continue to pray: Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum, et vivam,. et non confundas me ab expectatione mea.

Monday, March 20, 2017

In Praise of Forward in Faith

I rather feel that I need to right a perceived wrong that I may have done members of Forward in Faith in my recent postings. The fact of the matter is that I do have an enormous respect of this organisation within the CofE, and I wish to assure FiF readers of this blog that they have a cherished place in my thinking - a place that they don't have within the CofE. I know that Fr Chadwick and other members of the ACC in this country agree with me. For me, they represent the Church within a "Church" which is being predominantly swayed by the liberal agenda. It is this Liberal Agenda that FiF are battling, and it is worth seeing it for what it is.

Let us begin with a couple of quotations from Arch-Liberal Fr Jonathan Clatworthy:
Liberal theology, therefore, does accept that people should be free to believe whatever they judge true. However the freedom comes with two limitations.  
 1) It does not follow that they should be free to act on their beliefs.  
 2) They have no right to be left unmolested in their beliefs, as though they transcended all reason. If others find them incredible or harmful, the right to hold them comes with a duty to justify them.
And
To be liberal, inclusive and tolerant do not just mean that anything goes, or that we agree with everyone. They mean we care about truth enough to challenge dogmas; and we care enough about other people to stand up against exclusion and intolerance.
It is clear that the theology that Clatworthy is building up is a purely man-made academic exercise. I have already challenged his deeply concerning statements about "everything being up for discussion". The fundamental mistake he is making is that Theology is NOT Philosophy. It is not an intellectual-exercise along the lines of the Greek thinkers that St Paul encountered at the Areopagus who "spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing."

Theology begins and ends in God Himself. The Bible is the Testament of God's personal revelation of Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to His people the Church. Every word of Holy Scripture speaks of a theological truth - that is what the Church has always said. It is part of the Vincentian Canon, and thus of a true Catholic Dogma.

Of course, all dogmata are free to be discussed at an intellectual level, but the problem is that Theology is not just an intellectual discipline. It deals with matters of faith and especially matters of salvation. The Oecumenical Councils weren't concerned with an intellectual discussion as to the natures of Our Lord: they were concerned with Salvation, and that is the one thing that matters most, that people are brought to God to be saved. The truth about the doctrine of Our Lord is therefore NOT up for discussion in theological circles. Those arguments have been made and settled by those who have come before us.

I think I'm beginning to seem a bit like the Venerable Jorge in that it's all very well and good having Philosophical discussions about theological matters, but as soon as we bring things out from the theological sphere into the philosophical sphere, we are in danger of ascribing a philosophical position with greater worth than the truths revealed to His Church by God. It seems to me that Liberals who follow Fr Clatworthy's ideas above are in danger of philosophical hubris and intellectual pride rather than dealing with the beliefs of the Church which have been questioned but proven to be true by the Church.

And this is where Forward in Faith come in. What Forward in Faith have that Fr Clatworthy doesn't seem to have is a sense of the sacred. If God reveals a truth, then one can certainly engage in philosophical inquiry about it, but if that inquiry doubts that revealed truth, then that inquiry itself is disordered and demonstrating clearly its fallen nature and need for God. The Liberal Agenda says essentially that "nothing is sacred" and thereby attempts to rob God Himself of His Infallibility and the reliability of those whom He has chosen as His witnesses. What Forward in Faith is trying to do is to bring back to an ailing and struggling institution a sense of the sacred, that which is true because it is central to Christian belief to be true. The Christian Faith does "transcend all reason" because God Himself transcends all reason.

The Liberal Agenda may "care about truth enough to challenge dogmas" but it saws off the very branch on which it sits because it denies the integrity of the framework of truth that allows it to challenge "dogmas". Does it challenge its own "dogmas" one wonders.

It seems to me that the Liberal Agenda may "care enough about other people to stand up against exclusion and intolerance" but Forward in Faith seek to lead people to inclusion and acceptance not in the light of a philosophical mushiness, but rather by bringing people to the notion of what is truly Holy, Ineffable and Sublime.

So where do I stand on the position of Forward in Faith?

I stand with them, but cannot be in communion with them while they are in communion with people who deny the sacred. I'm afraid I cannot understand how they can be in such an impaired communion, but I do trust that their intentions for doing so are well meant and that they see that this is the way to try and guide the CofE back to sanctity. If that is what they perceive God's mission to be, then they have my prayers. Part of me still wishes that they would find the ability to separate from the schismatic CofE and perhaps help the ACC and other Catholic institutions in the UK form a body of communication and eventual communion.

But I stand with them, just as I stand with all Catholics and seekers after the Catholic Faith. They have my prayers especially on Wednesdays when I am bidden to pray for the CofE and its return to Orthodoxy. Again, I issue an invitation to any members of Forward in Faith to meet the ACC at our Synod Mass at 11AM on 29th April in Central Hall, Westminster. I do stress that there are no strings attached by this invitation. I would be grateful just to get to know people engaged in the same fight against this Liberal Agenda as I am.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Concerto in the Key of Christ

Sermon for the third Sunday of Lent

Do you ever listen to concertos?

A concerto is essentially an orchestral piece of music which features one or more instrumental soloists. You’ll have heard of violin concertos such those of Bruch or Bach. However, there’s an interesting feature of piano concertos that you might not hear, first go.

In a piano concerto, the strings will be busying themselves setting up all the themes that the piano is going to play, and the other instruments will be listening to them and ensuring that they play the same notes. And then the piano will come in. And the first few chords sound awful! Why’s that?

[PAUSE]

Violins can vary their tuning very carefully and adjust their tone so that the music can sound brighter or duller. Most of the other instruments can do the same. The piano can’t. It has fixed tuning – it can only play the notes that it’s been made to play. It can’t sharpen, nor flatten.

The result is called dissonance and it takes a few chords for the rest of the orchestra to adjust. Dissonance is not just something that orchestras have to deal with. We have to deal with it too.

[PAUSE]

Dissonance often occurs in our lives when what we believe does not match up with reality. The Pharisees know how to cast out demons. They see Our Lord Jesus casting out demons. Jesus is not a Pharisee, therefore He cannot be casting demons out by the power of God. Hence, Jesus must be a servant of the Devil. Perfect logic!

Except…

Except Jesus has much better logic than the Pharisees. If Satan casts out Satan, how can evil ever hope to succeed? Yes, it could be a ploy, a pretence to get people to believe, but look at what Jesus is doing. Does it look Satanic? All those healings. All those words that preach the love of all people, even enemies. How can any of that building up of the human race be diabolical in origin? The Pharisees are faced with the noise of their own dissonance. They have a choice, adjust their thinking, or stop the tune that Our Lord’s love plays.

[PAUSE]

Our Lord speaks the truth because He is the Truth. Those who accuse Christians of wishful thinking don’t see that Our Lord has stern words to say about the behaviour of Christians. He does not hesitate to call people up on sin. His note sounds a dissonance in our lives and we are faced with a choice.

[PAUSE]

You see, the dissonance doesn’t come from Jesus. It comes from our being out of tune with God’s reality. We are actually out of tune with ourselves. The more we listen to Jesus, the more we will hear how out of tune we are. Repentance involves a listening to our lives, and then an active step to retune our thinking, our speaking, our acting and our living to the perfect note that God sounds in creation like the ringing of a beautiful clear bell.

[PAUSE]

As we progress through Lent, we read and pray and listen ever more carefully, not just to God but to our own response to Him. We need to listen to ourselves as well because if we don’t then we will hear the dissonance and believe that it is coming from elsewhere. Lent is as much a listening to ourselves as it is to God.

Christian integrity means doing things in tune with God and with others. There are many gorgeous harmonies, but the rules of classical music state that every dissonance must end in harmony. Likewise, if we are part of the kingdom of God, then we will not try to divide it if we seek to be in tune with Him.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

29th April: a Jubilee for the ACC!

The Anglican Catholic Diocese of the United Kingdom was Twenty Five years old on 24th January this year. Our celebrations will centre around two events this year, namely our Synod High Mass at 11AM on April 29th at Central Hall Westminster, and hopefully with the visit to the UK by our Archbishop, Dr Mark Haverland later in the year.

All are very welcome to join us for the Synod High Mass. You will be able to meet us, see what we are about, and hopefully see that, even if you do not wish to join us or even disagree with us, that we are Christians nonetheless, praying for you and seeking to find some way of sharing God's grace with you.

The Diocese was founded in this country after the CofE made the decision to ordain women. Now, let me be perfectly clear. It was not the ordination of women, per se that created the need for the Diocese of the United Kingdom. As our statement of on Church unity makes clear:
It is popularly supposed that the matter which has brought the former Anglican Communion into such division and disarray is the ordination of women. That is not the case. The ordination of women has been merely the occasion, not the cause, of most of the splits within Anglicanism: the straw that broke the camel's back. The fundamental cause has been a crisis of authority within Anglicanism, having its origins in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century and the tensions of the Elizabethan “Church Settlement.” Formed a thousand years earlier, the Church of England emerged from the Protestant Reformation as a “Continuing Catholic” Church, not as a Protestant sect. However under the terms of the Elizabethan “Settlement” the Church of England, whilst maintaining all the essentials of Catholic Faith and Apostolic Order, was required by State Law to accommodate all the Queen’s subjects within it, whether Catholic or Protestant or both. From this tenuous arrangement, wrought in the religious and political crises of the time, was developed a “comprehensive” church polity. There are those who refer to this characteristic as “the glorious comprehensiveness of Anglicanism,” sometimes adding: “As long as you believe in God, we have room for you.”
Recent developments in the CofE demonstrate clearly that this is not true. Any form of comprehensiveness is now an illusion. It really does vindicate the decision that we made back in 1992 to leave the CofE to the consequences of its decision, leaving it to flourish as it would want to flourish without us battling the inevitable at every turn. While we wish Forward in Faith well in its attempt to keep this comprehensiveness alive, we are necessarily sceptical and feel that events have, very regrettably, proved us right. We hate passionately the hurt that is being cause to all parties here: the traditionalists and the progressives. male and female CofE clergy, the individuals and the whole corporation of the CofE. Honestly, we pray to God for a holy resolution to this whole situation.

In commenting on Bishop North's withdrawal from the See of Sheffield, I was accused of trying to recruit members of Forward in Faith to the ACC. I rather deny this, given that I was investigating several options that a Catholic member of the CofE might take. Yet I would be dishonest if I did not include the ACC as an option. We exist to be what the Church of England was and what we believe it should be. We are an alternative to the CofE in that every Catholic in the CofE can recognise what we are doing, and yet can rest assured that we do not believe that we can develop as an organisation apart from the Doctrine of the Primitive Church.

If you attend, you will find a motley crew of clergy and laity of all sorts. You will find our best attempt at the High Mass. You will meet our Bishop and be able to hear his charge to our Diocese. You will be able to ask us why we are here, and hear our stories and how we see our position in this tiny little Church.

This is why I bring to the attention of my readers the Synod Mass this year. Of course, it issues a big challenge to us in the ACC to examine ourselves, particularly this Lent, to see if we are ready to engage with new people, to discuss peacefully, respectfully, and lovingly with people with whom we might passionately disagree. We therefore beg your prayers that we may bring the love of Christ to you and to all who would meet us. Even if you don't want to join us, it will be good to become friends and establish good contacts.

11AM on 29th April at Central Hall, Westminster. Just come and see!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Church versus Society: pre-Constantinian idols?

In thinking about the plight of the CofE, the question arises about the relationship that the Church should have with Society in general. At the time when the English Church was wresting itself away from the jurisdiction of the Holy Father, it seems that Church and Society were virtually synonymous, and that the Church of England was supposed to be the moral lung of Society.

History tells a different story. The rise of Constantine effectively raised the possibility of Christianity being the Imperial religion following three centuries of persecution and marginalisation. There is a good historical precedent for Christianity not to be identical with Society, but rather an actor on Society's stage. Society is now regarded as being necessarily secular in order to provide a harmonious arena in which people of all faiths and none can function together. It was not always so and, indeed, Christian was seen in the third century as inimical to the "secular" age in which indigenous gods and cults were brought together in some form of syncretist literal pantheon in which everyone could perform the necessary societal customs of sacrificing to the right god but perhaps referring to that god by a socially acceptable name, especially if that god happened to be the Roman Emperor. Christians refused to recognise this because we have always believed that there is One God and that these other "gods" are nothing but empty anthropomorphisms of elements of Creation. We cannot, and will not, sacrifice to idols, even today.

Do we sacrifice to idols in today's society?

It does seem that we're going back to the pre-Constantinian idea of Church. When I joined the ACC six years ago, I attended Mass in the Dartford Mission of St Mary and St Eanswythe. It is little more than an upper room and attended by as few as two people, much the same number of congregation as the parish that I have left. The last supper was held in an upper room, so there is precedent for that as well. Yet, for me, that Mission represents something quite incredible and I remember those first breaths that I took as, for the first time for years, I opened my mouth to say the Liturgy that I had been prohibited from saying.

Why had I been so prohibited? Simply because that the State Church in my area did not feel that it could offer a Mass of such an older form on the grounds that it did not reach out to people in Society. The words of centuries were not being translated so much as being simplified at the cost of the true and deeper meaning so that more people might be persuaded to come through the door. It was necessary for the CofE to react to the changes in Society in order to continue serving that Society.

Much of the controversies in which the CofE has become embroiled are the result of injustices in Society. As an Anglican Catholic, I can understand how, in trying to address issues of injustice to women, the Church can be tempted to change doctrine. Likewise, in trying to deal with the injustice done to homosexuals and an institutionalised loneliness, it's clear how the Church is tempted to consider redefining marriage. Yet, what we have forgotten is that these problems did not arise in the Church, but arose from Society.

Often the Church has the issue of slavery thrown up when it is called to think about issues of social controversy. The charge is that the Church supported the whole idea of slavery. This is not true. For starters, one of my patrons St Anselm opposed the British Slave Trade for "in 1102, at a church council in St. Peter's church, Westminster, he obtained the passage of a resolution against the practice of selling men like cattle." ("Lives of Saints", Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.). In the Eighth Century, the wife of King Clovis II, St Bathilde actively campaigned against slavery.  Pope Paul III pronounced against slavery in 1537. Again, it is capitulation to Society that has found Churchmen associated with the slave trade, not in its doctrine.

The idols offered by Society now are found in its ideologies and political theories, especially the Critical Theory of Marx, and they are worshipped very literally by giving them a worth that they do not deserve. 

Let me be clear, there are many good things about the ideologies that are around today, but they can only be good when they are taken in accordance with what is truly good, i.e. God. Feminism has raised the issue that women have been relegated to a second class citizen status, they have been paid less, they have not been allowed to participate fully in society. It, quite rightly, has fought for the equality of women and men under law, and seeks to ensure that they have as much respect and recognition for what they do as their male counterparts. Yet to take Feminism too far raises issues of false equality - that of the complete interchangability of male and female or, in a more radical form, the dominance of women over men. This over-extension cannot true. Men and women are different. The driving force behind Feminism must not be an idolised goal, but the love of neighbour that comes from following Christ. This is where the Church parts company with secularity: no -ism can displace the Doctrine that the Church has received. Yet, where the Church parts company with a  popular "-ism", we hear the cry of "DISCRIMINATION!"

The Church has rightly been accused of discrimination in the past along with Society in this relegation and invalidation of the female sex, but in putting these injustices right, the Church cannot throw the baby out with the bath water. That's how the problems of the Reformation started and look at the result of that! 

We sacrifice to the idol of a Societal Ism when we change our Doctrine to suit that Ism. We say "Oh Jesus must have held our Ism" and then perform acts of eisegesis in order to support our view that Our Blessed Lord held our philosophical viewpoint.

Now that the Church is back to its pre-Constantinian position with Society placing demands on our philosophical understanding of what is, it is all the more important that we recognise our part as dissenters from the rule of the Secular. We do indeed need to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's - there's no point in being anti-social for the sake of it. However, everything we do, every action we perform must bear witness to Society that we are ruled not by its demands for everybody living peacefully together, but by a complete devotion to the Triune God who bids us seek to live peacefully with each other in a deeper, purer and more charitable sense. When Church and Society differ, we must stand up and refuse to sacrifice to idols, but to do so without forgetting the Divine Mandate and making our sacrifices to Him alone.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Changing your title for someone else's

Sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent

A brown envelope with a crown on it plops through your letter box. It looks terribly official. You have to fill out one of those important forms, and it looks like if you fill it out dishonestly, you might be breaking the law. What are you going to put for your title? Mr? Mrs? Dr? Dame? Or St?

Are you ready to put St as your title? Try it now. How does it sound?

[PAUSE]

The fact of the matter is that anyone who is a member of the Church is precisely that – a saint! Yet, none of us would dare put that as our title on official forms, would we? It makes us uneasy. It sounds presumptuous, over-confident, holier-than-thou. We also feel that if we possess the title of St, then we have a lot to live up to.

Well, we do have a lot to live up to!

As he writes to the Church in Thessalonika, St Paul is concerned with sanctification. The word literally means to become holy, to become a saint. St Paul says, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication; that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour”. God wants us to be saints!

For St Paul, sanctification and justification (being made right with God) are practically the same thing. In writing to the Corinthians (the first time, before they got stroppy with him), St Paul says,
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
We are washed through the waters of baptism where we are forgiven our sins. We receive the Holy Ghost who sanctifies us and gives us faith by which we can be justified. When we are washed, our eyes are cleansed too and we can see the extent of evil in our lives that we have been committing almost unknowingly. Yet as we receive the Holy Ghost through baptism, and have His influence in us fanned into flame by our confirmation, we are separated from these sins and thus, as our faith becomes ever stronger and stronger, so do we become ever more and more capable of being righteous in Jesus Christ. We become perfected through our co-operation with His grace.

St Paul is saying to us that we should be what we are – Saints! We should not act like evil doers because, if we are evil doers, then we can’t be saints!

[PAUSE]

Of course, we still do tend to sin, even after our baptism and confirmation, and the other sacraments. Neither baptism not confirmation can be repeated – you don’t get a second shot! They don’t need to be repeated. St John reminds us that, through these sacraments, we have been given within ourselves that stream of Living Water by Our Lord. Our duty, during Lent, is to reach into that Living Water, to drink deeply and wash ourselves anew. We need also to look and see the ways in which we can block that holy stream from welling up within us. Forgiveness is readily available to simply anyone who turns to Our Lord Jesus Christ – no exceptions!

[PAUSE]

However, we must remember. St is not a title – at least it does not belong to us and we certainly can never be worthy of it. St can only ever point to God. We are only truly sanctified if we live our lives responding willingly to the Holy Ghost. It is His work in us that can sanctify us. All we have to do is turn to Him and say, “yes!” to whatever He has in mind for us.

You are washed, you are sanctified and justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus. Do you still feel awkward in putting a St in front of your name? Why’s that?

Friday, March 10, 2017

People look North: mutual flourishing and focus for unity

Is it my business to comment on goings-on in a church that I'm not a member of? Most of the time, the answer is no. The internal wranglings of another ecclesial body are not my concern. As I said earlier, the Church of England has the distinction of being the Established Church in this country, second, I am trying to set up a Mission in the troubled Diocese of Sheffield, and third, my history, both personal and ecclesial, is bound up by the ties of Time to the CofE: I cannot ignore her.

Of course, what I have to do is to make sure that I do not attack her, or crow over any misfortunes that she should suffer. I do have a pastoral concern for her members, and I do not want them to suffer. Yet, the current problem that she is facing is essentially of her own legislative doing, in trying to hold together the impossible. I tried to be part of that, myself, when I was in the CofE. I hated what I saw as the lunatic changes to liturgy and service that I encountered both at University, and in my time in my home CofE parish. Yet, I loved the people, the warmth of being with those with whom I had grown up, and there are those whom I love who are still there. I loved the opportunities to sing some wonderful music indigenous to the Church of England which actually spurred my faith on. You must believe me that I truly bear the CofE not one bit of malice, and I could only ever return to her if she returned to Orthodoxy.

But I cannot return to her. She has burnt the bridge and I am content to have found the Anglican Catholic Church which keeps me part of the the Orthodox and Catholic Church. As far as I am concerned, the Anglican Catholic Church is the Church of England, because she is Orthodox and further because she has not changed the Faith. The CofE cannot be orthodox, and whether she can come back to being orthodox is not clear cut.

The latest news is that Bishop Philip North has declined the bishopric of Sheffield following many protests about his ability to be a focus for unity - an integral part of episcopal ministry. His supporters have used the CofE's five principles, especially that of "mutual flourishing" to affirm his appointment.

Neither of these things can happen in the CofE.

First of all, no bishop in the CofE can be the focus for sacramental unity since 1992. Those that ordain women as priests cannot have sacramental oversight of those who cannot receive women as priests. A woman bishop cannot be the focus for sacramental unity, because those who do not believe that she is a bishop cannot receive her ministry. And now, a traditionalist cannot be a bishop because they cannot be a focus of unity for those who believe that to refuse the priesthood of women are discriminating against women. There is now no bishop in the CofE who can truly be considered to be a focus of unity in his Diocese.

Of course, there is a solution: make two non-geographical Dioceses, one North, one South, and make two of the Bishops of the Society Diocesan Bishops with the view of looking after those parishes and priests who cannot accept the ordination of women. The problem there is that this goes against the traditional model of the Diocese. There are many ancient canons still in force which a non-geographical Diocese would breach. Yet it is a solution and a canon is law and not doctrine: laws can be changed when the need to change them arises; doctrines cannot. Geography is a canonical problem; the ordination of women is a doctrinal problem. It is a way forward for the CofE.

Of course, there will then be problems of a "church within a church" as these Traditionalist Churches would essentially lift right out of the CofE. It could be a schism in the making, but would it be a schism in the church, from the church or a return to the Church?

The second problem is that of "mutual flourishing". It's ambiguous. Is it the flourishing of individuals or of a theology? Are opponents of women priests going to be allowed to flourish as individuals, or are they going to be allowed to promote their theology. Supporters of women priests will say that it must be a flourishing of individuals because they believe that their opponents' theology is discrimination and should be stamped out. They will say that individual women priests cannot flourish under a bishop who does not recognise that they are priests. Yet, if a traditionalist cannot be a bishop because he is a traditionalist, then his flourishing as an individual is compromised, and he is discriminated against because he is seen as a "discriminator".

For the CofE, there simply cannot be mutual flourishing, nor can there be any bishops who are a true focus for full sacramental unity unless they start allowing for a peaceable separation. Perhaps priests should be in Dioceses with a bishop of the same sex who only ordains priests of that sex. Yet that is nonetheless separation and another form of apartheid. The ghosts of 1992 are really beginning to haunt the establishment.

There is one other option, and it is a brave and challenging option. All people in the CofE who oppose the ordination of women on Catholic principles are very welcome to join the ACC! We're here to be a fully orthodox and catholic Church of England and we welcome all those of a similar mindset. We're not big, but if more people join, we can get bigger and thus continue the work of God in this country rather than trying to legislate the unlegislatable.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Self-Definition and Souls

My confrere, Fr Anthony Chadwick has revealed that he has Asperger's syndrome. As a teacher, I have had to deal with a lot of students with learning difficulties which include students with Aspergers. As an examinations officer, I have had to make arrangements for many students who require some provision for their difficulties. In most cases, the cause was dyslexia of some kind. In a very few cases, I found out later, some of these diagnoses were acquired by paying an educational psychologist a sum of money - the psychological/medical version of simony. At the time, these folk could acquire extra time (as much as 40% extra time) in examinations.

The trouble is that Life doesn't give you 25% extra time after you leave school. You don't get 25% extra time to meet deadlines, nor do you get 25% extra time to cross a road. These days, the regulations have been tightened so that it is much more difficult to get extra time in an exam. That is a good thing in my opinion.

The fact of the matter is that Life is tough and unfair. I have much respect for Fr Anthony who has lived with Aspergers undiagnosed for nearly all his life. Clearly, the condition has given him some explanation, some answers for the way his life has gone. Yet also, he must have unique insights into a life where interactions with other people are difficult, trying to read their expressions, trying to deal with social cues which are almost invisible, and then dealing with the aftermath when he got these wrong.

Yet, Fr Anthony did not diagnose himself with Aspergers. He may have recognised aspects of the condition in himself, but needed the affirmation of modern science to make the confirmation. To often, people diagnose themselves with things and then expect the world to fit around them. This is another example of the self-definition of which we must beware.

I may seem to many to come across unsympathetically to the transsexual/transgender person. That I will not indulge the reality of their sensations is true. I do not believe that all truth is relative - how can it be? There are things that are objectively true otherwise there can be no truth at all.

1) All truth is subjective.
2) If all truth is subjective then the truth of the statement "all truth is subjective" is subjective.
3) The truth of "all truth is subjective" cannot be verified.
4) Statement (1) is possibly false.

So if "all truth is subjective" is true, then it is possibly false. On the occasion that it is false, then we have a contradiction. On the occasion it is true, then it becomes an objective statement contradicting itself. Certainly we have no justification in believing that all truth is subjective. We do have justification in believing that some truth is objective.

Ouch! Still with me? I'm not sure that I'm still with me!

My point is this: it is entirely possible that my feelings/impressions of reality/experiences although very genuine in their sensation are wrong. There is an objective reality there which exists utterly independently of our opinions. There will be things about our very selves which can be true even if we feel the opposite.

As a Christian, I believe in the existence of God and that He is responsible for the existence of all things that come into existence. It is He who defines what reality is, and our lives are lived trying to experience that reality. That reality is not necessarily what we experience it to be, and it takes our lifetime to reconcile ourselves with the harsh truth of reality.

We all have that terrible experience when we realise that we aren't who we want ourselves to be. We might think ourselves as more academic than we actually are. We might think of ourselves as being fitter, more capable than we actually are. We might think that we were born in the wrong time. We might think that we are the opposite sex to what we are.

This realisation of reality seems to cause two reactions - acceptance whereby we recognise reality and try to improve what we can and accept our limitations, or denial, whereby we cling to our perception of reality which is actually a fantasy and try to impose that fantasy on the world.

It seems to me that Christianity is an attempt to embrace reality with God. Humility is the acceptance of what God has ordained and co-operation with that ordination. The point of the Church is that all we, injured by the lies of the Devil, can find refuge in the company of others suffering the same horror of the fact of reality while embracing the truth of God's love for us in Our Lord Jesus Christ. As Christians, we must draw others to us even in their fantasies, but we cannot indulge their fantasies which will draw us away from what is truly real, namely God Himself.

The true response of the Christian to the self-defined is that of the recognition of the first reality, namely of a soul on whose behalf Our Lord made His sacrifice for redemption. That is where we must start. We must first see a person - that is objective. Then we must apply the Lord's directive - "love thy neighbour". No exceptions.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Fatally self-defined



I have been ruminating on the issue of self-definition that I began here, and following a few welcome discussions, it suddenly struck me how lethal self-definition can be. A Norwegian woman claims that she is really a cat. Whether or not the video is true, or some publicity stunt, or just a piece of performance art, I don't know, but it raises a question.

If it can become law that a man can declare himself legally a woman (and vice versa) then it is clear that the law can allow untruths to become legal. A man is not a woman because he feels like a woman: there is a big difference. In today's sports, women's events are being won by men claiming to be women despite the fact that they have the physical power of a man that women do not possess. A man cannot feel like a woman because he cannot know what it is to be a woman. You might as well ask the meaningless question, "what is it like to be a cat?" when a cat cannot experience the world in human terms.

Let us use a little bit of logic: an Aristotelian syllogism, perhaps

1) Some human beings are cats.
2) All cats are beings that can be legally euthanised.
3) Some humans beings are beings that can be legally euthanised.

Now we have euthanasia by the back door.

What of this?
1) Some human beings are horses.
2) All horses are beings that can be legally euthanised when they break their legs badly.
3) Some human beings are beings that can be legally euthanised when they break their legs badly.

Is that grounds for legalised murder?

1) Some cats are women.
2) All women are beings that can legally marry men.
3) Some cats are legally married to men.

Oh dear. Now it is legal for men to marry cats.

When we start legalising the blatantly untrue, then we end up with a legal system that will not be able to cope with the fall-out from defying common sense. We are seeing this now in the Diocese of Sheffield where the CofE's Five Principles are struggling to admit that a Bishop who does not recognise that a quarter of his clergy really are priests can be given pastoral oversight over this Diocese! It is a legal nightmare that, I tentatively predict, will prove to be the end of the settlement between SSWSH and the rest of the CofE.

We really have to learn humility and accept that we do not have the right to say completely what we are when we do not satisfy the criteria for it. I am an Anglican Catholic, and the Anglican Catholic Church recognises me as that, indeed, I believe that the majority of people will accept that I am who I say I am in respect of what the term "Anglican Catholic" means. Those who don't I must accept their rejection, and I pray that I may do so humbly.

I am not a Roman Catholic, and I do not pretend to be a Roman Catholic. I know of one dreadful body of men led by a "Cardinal" who actually contracted a civil partnership with a "Bishop" and has paraded himself around Rome claiming to be Roman Catholic. He is not and his whole outfit of bishops (which seems to change its name every so often) is not recognised by Rome. Nor is he Old Roman Catholic and would certainly not be recognised as such given his credentials. He lacks any credibility as a bishop, even less as a Cardinal, and, as such, damages the whole Catholic Church with his self-definition.

If there is any hope of Christian Unity, then it must be in humility and in discussing and agreeing upon definitions so that, in accepting those definitions, we see ourselves as we are in God.

If there is any hope of legal integrity in this country, then it must come about by realising that falsehood cannot be legalised into truth, Men cannot be women. Women cannot be men. Let us learn to accept the diagnosis we are given and work with the materials that God gives us. From this humility comes good order which frees us from stupid legal wranglings to focus on what our brothers and sisters are in real need of - Love.