Monday, 30 August 2010

Bloggage blockage

No, I haven't really run out of thoughts, ideas, things to share. Simply have run out of words to use to say what I want to say.
Mum received her diagnosis last week.
Some things you just 'know'. I 'knew' but thought/hoped/prayed we would have more time and maybe some hope. Months of waiting, to discover there is so little time left.
So for now, other things take priority.
Blessings to you all.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Bishop John Broadhurst - Bishop of Fulham

Oh dear, oh dear... If the Radio 4 profile programme on John Broadhurst, the leader of Forward in Faith, was meant to elicit sympathy for the concerns of the Catholic wing of the church (following the vote last week to take the next step along the road that leads to women being ordained as Bishops) it failed.

Bishop John Broadhurst was described variously as talented, someone with a grass-roots connection, a parish priest at heart, and in the mould of an Old Testament Prophet, an affable pipe smoker who likes a drink and is politically astute - among many other plaudits.

Various women were interviewed about him, with Ruth Gledhill and Anne Williams giving particularly enthusastic references telling us that he is not a misogynist, that 'you feel he loves women, that he loves and respects you as a woman' and 'enjoys the company of women'.

A balancing view was put by Christina Rees who spoke of disconnection, and a man who can be patronising, and whose behaviour sometimes crosses the lines of common courtesy and can be 'deeply, deeply offensive' - although never to her.

Pleas were made that we 'seek to understand', which is what I tried to do as I listened. I think I do understand the FiF theological position even though I disagree with it, and I have some sympathy for people who interpret the history of the church in a different way to me. Yes, there are deeply held feelings. On both sides. If I believed what they do, I would be hurting right now. But there is always more than one angle to slice an orange, and more than one conclusion to draw from evidence especially when we seek to discern the will of God. There was no acknowledgement of other positions in the programme.

The problem for me, listening to this programme, was that, actually, I don't much care whether John Broadhurst is a prophet or a patronising misogynist. It is unlikely that we will ever meet, so his likeability is irrelevant to me. The bible is full of stories of deeply flawed individuals who are used to further God's will, and the more I see of my fellow clergy, the more flawed I think we all are. The problem for me, likewise, is not whether his wife and friends are concerned about being labelled misogynist.

The problem is that this man leads a group of people with an agenda that is very easily misunderstood (or is it?) as being predominantly misogynist, when they seek to argue based on theology.

One supporter of Bishop Broadhurst scored an 'own goal' when he said that the House of Clergy was supposed to represent 'working priests', but had been 'swamped' with part-time women clergy who represented 'ladies with time on their hands'. In other words, his views had become a minority and he does not respect the elected representatives of the clergy.

At that point, by descending into the very patronising, belittling and dismissive insults that the previous participants had been at pains to refute, the people putting forward those arguments lost my respect, my sympathy and my interest.

I don't know how this will all work through, but I do know that it is difficult to convince people of your right to be heard and to be treated with respect for your views if you are unwilling to offer that in return. When one is in a minority it would seem to make sense to be more rather than less careful about the way one expresses oneself so as to retain credibility. I wonder what they say when the microphone is turned off?

Maybe the church has suffered from a 'harvest of plagues'. Personally, I don't think it has. I think the church has moved to a position where we now find it easier to look at people as individuals, as building blocks in the body that is the church of Christ, rather than to pigeonhole them into specific roles based on our own preconceived ideas, whether that is based on gender, sexuality, or a particular reading of scripture or history.

Sadly I think this programme has served to reinforce all the sterotypes that it sought to disperse. It was a lost opportunity.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

You can't fight violence with violence

H/t Angela Shier-Jones at the Kneeler for this one, and for pointing out that some science is at last catching up with God's teaching.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Women Bishops - one step forwards

Where were you on the day that Kennedy was shot? Or John Lennon? Or that Eagle landed on the moon? Or 9/11 or 7/7? We like to speak of 'the day the world changed', after which nothing could ever be the same again. That day, for me, was in November 1992.

Driving home from (of all things prophetic) a church leader's conference at St Andrews Chorleywood I switched on the car radio. There, in the middle lane of the M25 the newsreader's voice announced that General Synod had voted in favour of ordaining women as priests, and my involuntary shout of  'Yes, God, thank you' was not triumphant; it came from the sudden and unexpected relief of a weight being taken from me; a weight of oppression and pain at almost 2000 years of 'Church' diminution of women that I hadn't even been aware of carrying. To my surprise, (for I had no personal interest then in being ordained and had not been involved in any campaigning) I found myself crying with thankfulness that God could break through in my lifetime to address such a fundamental injustice. For me, the debate about the role of women in the church has always been an issue of justice. And so it continues.

After the tension of the last few days, the news of the vote yesterday to press ahead with the measure that will allow women to be consecrated as Bishops seemed low-key and almost an anti-climax. Simply put, it was the 'right' decision. Another barrier that should not have been there has been removed. It is less about creating something new than about righting a wrong.

My mind drifted back to 1992. What is the difference? Maybe because it was so obvious to so many that the ministry of women has been proved by experience? Maybe because, as we seek to proclaim the gospel afresh to each generation, it was the only decision that those outside the church could understand?

In my final interview with the Diocesan Bishop before he agreed to send me to a Bishops Advisory Panel (to test my calling to ordained ministry) I said that I thought it was still easier for white, middle-class, privately-educated, heterosexual men to be priests in the Church of England than for anyone else, and that this needed to change if the people of the country were to see the church as relevant to their lives. While I spoke the truth, I also thought that saying this to a white, middle-class... Bishop would probably be the end of the ordination journey for me. However, he agreed with me, and I bless him for his tolerance of my railing against the institution I was being called to join. Did he too, at that moment, imagine he could hear Jesus laughing in the background? I hope so.

Yesterday was not about triumphalism, but it was about joy - the joy of seeing more of God's people being given the opportunity to move one step closer to the full expression of humanity that God has called them to, and which we are all called to share.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

By their fruits shall you know them, 'He held on to God for me'

With thanks to several people who have picked this up from Church Times- scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Let justice roll like a river...

General Synod is meeting this week to take some difficult decisions that will cause pain to whichever group loses the vote. To many people both in and out of the church, the media coverage of this legislative body portrays an organisation that is hopelessly out of touch with daily life for millions of people. Yet we know, that 'on the ground' we, the people who are the church, are made up of the ordinary people who live daily life alongside those who do not worship in our buildings, and that we are involved in everyday life at some of the messiest and most important points.

We are not a race apart in that we live in the same world as everyone else, but we are people who take seriously the demands of walking with Christ in the details of our lives. That can, and often does, mean being counter-cultural - worshipping God, and not the gods of materialism, individualism, selfishness; valuing our lives as created beings in communion with each other and God, not an accident of nature living in isolation, and much, so much more.  It means we ask questions about our values and we try to discern the answers based on God's word revealed in Scripture, God's word revealed in the history and traditions of the church, and God's word revealed today, afresh in each generation by the Holy Spirit.  I won't repeat the arguments of the Second Report of the House of Bishops in 1988 about the ordination of women to the priesthood, but their conclusions apply equally to the debates today,

It is not easy to explore an issue about which people hold such firm views and which touches things at the centre of our faith. Moreover, it involves not only what we think but what we feel... ... Whatever the outcome, the effect on the life of the Church will be profound.

This morning I find myself wanting to shout from the rooftops that justice must be done- not only about gender but about sexuality, and silently assenting to Janet Street Porter's article, that puts a view from the edge of the church. She writes,

I want a church that reconnects with our population and offers support to the needy. A church that's open to all. A church that cares for the elderly and blesses all unions, including same-sex civil partnerships. I don't want a church that's run like a private members' club, with special rules and regulations and exclusions.

I would moderate her statement slightly (!) by saying that I personally want the kind of church that God wants, this is of course the crux of the issue; we all want the kind of church that God wants, and we all think it is something different - grant us discernment please Lord.

This whole issue of who we welcome and how is less of an issue 'on the ground' than in the media, but the press image of an exclusive church as challenged by Janet Street Porter is one that I find profoundly sad, and at the level of the two local congregations that I know best, largely unrecognisable.

With thanks to glorious things, for this pen-picture of people giggling as they worship.

How can we embolden people to step inside the door and experience the loving welcome and acceptance when our image in society is so damaged? Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Better friends than me

Two years ago this week I was counting down to ordination as a deacon. Many people were due to attend, and Carolyn,who was very ill with pancreatic cancer had said she would try to be there, but it might be in a wheelchair. There was no wheelchair. Carolyn died before the weekend, and I attended her funeral just a few days after the ordination service. Apart from the funeral it was a strange grieving, away from others who knew her, and in a new role where people didn't know me, so it was all done silently and at a distance. I am reminded of the anniversary today.
Sadly last weekend, another friend from past times died. Anne had been ill for many years but managed to remain positive. She was the first person to welcome me when I stepped inside St Lukes, and I valued her kindness. .
Both were better friends to me than I was to them, and I will miss them.
My 'base' Chrsitian family is departing - a housegroup that can no longer reconvene and reminisce. RIP Sally, Carolyn, Anne