Sunday, 13 April 2014

Crossing the line ....

Once again we are indebted to Ancient Briton for giving us the heads up on a recent  statement from one of the senior staff (that's the term employed, I believe, in establishment circles these days) of the Diocese of Llandaff:

“It’s unbelievably important that discrimination against women in the Church is coming to an end. Anybody coming into the Church in Wales now is joining a Church that opens all its offices to women – we can’t have people joining this Church, with the expectation that it will continue to discriminate – that is absolutely unacceptable...."

The comments are unacceptable certainly, particularly as they are from a senior cleric in a public forum; they are also not only unacceptable but constitute an implicit rejection of Anglican history and theology, but such is the extreme 'Christian feminist' position, one which discriminates against the past and repudiates the continuity of the faith down the ages ...

Of course, it would be a rash person indeed who would make the assumption that these unbelievably oppressive views are shared by any member of the Welsh Bench, particularly after the recent successful and very welcome Code of Practice consultations. Yet until we see definite proposals on the table, a certain suspicion will inevitably remain ...  and, not to labour the point, no one is entitled to utter the slightest criticism or tiniest snarky comment about those who have to cross boundaries at this time of year in order to experience the generosity and hospitality at present denied to us in our own province. 

A recent photograph of Bristol Cathedral

Friday, 11 April 2014

It's that time of year (sigh)

when all kinds of people seem to find a strange pleasure in finding stories which purport to discredit historic Christianity....

This year it's "'Jesus's wife' fragment is not a fake, scientists claim" [here], with the findings of carbon dating (micro-Raman spectroscopy) that the papyrus fragment in question is not a modern or late medieval forgery.
Only two words from the findings seem to be significant - eighth century ...

But isn't it curious how some of those who loudly assert their belief that the fact that the Gospels were written a few short decades after Our Lord's death and Resurrection casts doubt upon their veracity should believe that this story has any major significance whatsoever, much less the importance the media and others are attributing to it?
One would almost think they have some kind of agenda .... 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

More on the global war against Christians

From The Catholic Herald, this is an excerpt from an address given on Tuesday by Lord Alton of Liverpool (the former M.P. David Alton) at a Vigil for Syria in London held at the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street.
Read it all here 
The speech should be sent to every member of Parliament in Britain ....  
'.....The imposition of Sharia Law in Syria and in vast tracts of the world represents a challenge to Western democracies and human rights.
So does the nature of Global Jihad and militant Islam. Our secular society in which we have in the last two centuries, enjoyed religious toleration and increasing religious co-existence is under significant threat but we seem to be sleepwalking into this danger.
While we overlook and fail to understand the religious dimension to these terrible atrocities, and the imperative of harnessing thoughtful and moderate religious leaders from all traditions, we will utterly fail to end the persecution and the unspeakable violence.
We in the West, who enjoy so many freedoms and liberties, need to ask ourselves some tough questions about the disproportionate nature of the causes which we so readily embrace whilst ignoring the systematic violent ideology of an Islamist “Final Solution” directed at the Christian minorities.
Hundreds of parliamentary hours can be spent asserting the rights of foxes or on discussing rights associated with our life- styles but when it comes to the killing of children and students, or the torching of their homes and places of worship, or the destruction of centuries old culture, our political classes have taken Trappist vows. This stems from a misplaced belief that their silence about radical Islamist groups represents “tolerance”. In reality it stems from fear and indifference.
Ultimately, parliamentarians are only as good as the people who elect them – so their electorates are also partly to blame for not organising themselves in the way in which pressure groups do. If political leaders have been indifferent, where here are the western churches?
Secular society has got its priorities wrong but so have western churches which too easily become intoxicated with their own introspective navel-gazing.
If I was sitting in the rubble of a Syrian or Egyptian church, or in a gulag in North Korea, or had just seen my home destroyed or, even worse, my loved ones killed, I would think that our endless self absorbed debates, which often mirror the rights-driven agenda of the secular world, are self indulgence of a high order.
If, in the face of evil deeds, secularists and Christians need to weigh up their silence and priorities, so do our Muslim brothers.
Muslims, who have often settled in our democracies, need to be much braver in breaking the conspiracy of silence and in identifying with those who suffer – among whom are many Muslim victims of visceral hatred motivated by persecution for being the wrong kind of Muslims.
Never forget that many of these families came to Europe to escape the intolerance of countries like Pakistan – where a young Muslim girl can be shot for wanting an education or its Catholic Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, can be assassinated for preaching co-existence.
Many of our European Muslims are good, law-abiding people, who want the same things for themselves and for their families as the rest of us. They are not, as some foolishly and wrongly caricature them, an enemy within. But if they remain silent it will increasingly be seen as acquiescence. It will, however, require real courage to speak out against forces which have no respect for difference or diversity, or for life itself.
As he began the slaughter of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, people with disabilities and many others, Adolph Hitler famously remarked “who now remembers the Armenians?”. Will our generation similarly ask the question “who now remembers the Christian minorities of the Middle East and North Africa?” Or will we ask the other famous question associated with the failure to speak out for the victims of the Reich “who will be left to speak for me?”.... '

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The shocking murder of a priest in rebel-held Syrian city

From The Catholic Herald:

"A Dutch Jesuit priest who chose to remain in the besieged city of Homs to care for its starving population has been shot dead, according to media reports.

Fr Frans van der Lugt, a 75-year-old psychologist, had remained in the rebel-controlled Old City throughout the siege, which is now over 600-days long, with government forces surrounding them. He had been offered the chance to leave, but chose to stay. His death was reported by the pro-government Al-Mayadeen TV, and the Jesuits have since told the Catholic News Service that Fr van der Lugt was beaten and then shot with two bullets in the head. The Washington Post reports that a masked gunman killed the priest inside a monastery in the Bustan al-Diwan area of the city, although the identity and motive of the killer remains unclear.

In February he had told the Daily Telegraph that the city had been abandoned by the international community. He came to Syria in 1966, and in the 1980s had set up an agricultural project outside the city to help young people with mental disabilities. He said that hunger was sending some people insane." [here]

Probably an unwise question to ask, but ....just who is prepared to sacrifice whom and what?

The Archbishop of Canterbury has come in for a great deal of flak over his LBC phone-in comment last week about the possible, even likely, consequences for Christians in some parts of the African continent of any acceptance by the Church of England of same-sex marriage [see here]
Andrew Goddard makes this measured defence from an evangelical perspective at Fulcrum

To play devil's advocate for a moment, who really  seems to be prepared to sacrifice whom here? It's an arguable point.

In contemporary Britain, acceptance of those who are gay in terms of their equal rights under the law is (quite rightly) not an issue; if we are to believe the polling data, neither is complete social acceptance for the rising generation. However, in contrast, what we are beginning to see throughout western culture are alarming signs of the gradual imposition of an absolutist definition of 'equality,' the proponents of which will tolerate no opposition and are prepared to destroy freedom of speech, employment rights and freedom of contract in order to achieve their goal.

Given that now to express any reservations, for whatever reasons, about society's validation of same-sex marriage, civil or ecclesial, carries the risk of being regarded by society's 'progressive' opinion- formers as ipso facto 'homophobic,' the future prospects for any kind of sane, constructive, theological and ethical consideration of this issue within our already highly-secularised Church are looking particularly bleak.

In terms of the global politics of the Anglican Communion (note: politics not theology - for political lobbying is where all the energy is expended these days), Archbishop Welby has been accused of sacrificing gay people on the altar of expediency, yet it would have been far more 'expedient' in the present media climate in Britain for him to keep silent. It is to his eternal credit that Archbishop Welby chose not to keep his mouth shut over this, despite those who are now so concerned , in their inimitable way, to question his integrity and his intelligence.

But, of course, what Archbishop Welby's critics are really saying is that, regardless of the facts, it was 'inappropriate' of him to mention the subject at all. He was guilty of a failure of self-censorship - in the present cultural atmosphere, the ultimate crime ....

Sunday, 6 April 2014

(Even) More bishops for Wales....?

Ancient Briton has this report on the forthcoming Governing Body Meeting of the Church in Wales, referencing particularly (sense of déjà vu, anyone?) "the Church in Wales response to the Proposals from the Gathering of the Covenanted Churches 2012." 

The 'long term recommendations' of the inevitable working group include these proposals for what we can only describe as Welsh pan-protestant unity (emphasis is mine) :
"That the Church will have nine jurisdictions – the six existing Anglican dioceses plus a Methodist jurisdiction, a Presbyterian jurisdiction and a URC/Covenanting Baptist jurisdiction, each of which will be invited to elect its own bishop
and that the elected bishops of the new jurisdictions (who would 'ordain all those who are to become ministers' within that jurisdiction) "will be a bishop in the Church Uniting in Wales and will share collegiality and full interchangeability with all the other bishops of that Church."

My understanding is that there will be no insistence that the new bishops will first have to be ordained to each of the three orders of ministry (and, no doubt, historical anomalies will be produced like rabbits out of a hat to justify that one...) 

One wonders how much support there will be for this bureaucratic masterpiece among the Free Churches themselves, all of which have resisted the introduction of episcopacy for so long, including some traditions whose ecclesial polity is historically defined by that rejection ....  
It's curious that the contemporary response to catastrophic decline appears to be the introduction of yet more cumbersome administrative structures.

I'm also told there is very little enthusiasm for this particular scheme from the Church in Wales itself, particularly from those who are deemed to be in the running to become Wales' first female bishops... after all what would be the point in striving for 'gender equality' in the episcopate, only to have the currency so fatally devalued? Having crashed through the glass ceiling of institutional misogyny they would have little to show for it except the headache....  

The proposals would, of course, if approved, lead to the astonishing spectacle of a 'united church' in Wales which had not only bishops who were (for several reasons) not bishops at all, but that some of them would also be 'bishops' who had no belief in episcopacy (of course, as distinct from episcope) much less in apostolic succession in any recognisably 'catholic' sense ...

And as someone said out to me this afternoon, "Nine bishops for a 'uniting church!' And the prospect of one bishop to care for traditionalists would kill them ..... ?"

Saturday, 5 April 2014

For the beginning of Passiontide

The hymn, Drop, Drop, Slow Tears, with words by Phineas Fletcher, set to Orlando Gibbons'  Song 46  - sung here by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, directed by Stephen Cleobury.

Friday, 4 April 2014

The mob and the decline of civility

It would seem that the new McCarthyism - this time of the left - is set to define western culture and politics for some time to come. In the U.S.A. the newly appointed CEO of the computer software company Mozilla, Brendan Eich, has been hounded from office by what one can only describe as a howling cyber-mob of the uber-correct liberal left. The reason: not that he was bad at his job or guilty of discriminating against minorities in the workplace but for a purely private opinion (and a voting record in what is, presumably, a representative democracy) on the subject, predictably, of same-sex marriage. 
It was sad, too, to seer Mr Eich, who by all objective standards is the 'victim' here, having to make the ritual genuflection to the new social totalitarianism by apologising for 'causing pain.'  In any free society this kind of 'pain' is simply the price which has to be paid by everyone for having to hear opinions which differ from their own. This is precisely what those who are obsessed with the ideology of equality cannot bear.
The future for freedom of religion, indeed, freedom of speech itself, is increasingly bleak.
A brief report from CBS 6 here and comment from Ryan Anderson here

And on the subject of the declining civility of our society, but this time from the other end of the political spectrum, let's not be too overcome by the fascination of certain sections of the mass media with Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP, whose forthright way of expressing himself is in sharp contrast to the perceived blandness of the mainstream political class and their employment of the dark arts of spin. 
However, we may have considerable reservations with its scandalous 'democratic deficit' and with the way the European Union has contemptuously turned its back on the foundational faith of the continent, without stooping to the kind of personal abuse we see in the video below. Among other things, it's  the civility of our discourse which separates us from the barbarism of the mob .... and those they would raise to power. The fact that someone is our enemy's enemy doesn't necessarily make him our friend.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Cinderella laws in an increasingly Grimm society

It was hard to believe that the 'Cinderella Law' under consideration by the British government was anything other than an early and  remarkably far-fetched and dystopian April Fool. Not so, it seems:
"The government is considering whether to introduce a new offence of emotional cruelty to children, it has been confirmed.
The proposed change to neglect laws in England and Wales would see parents who deny their children affection face prosecution for the first time.
It follows a campaign for a "Cinderella Law" from charity Action for Children.
The government said child cruelty was an abhorrent crime which should be punished.
Social workers have a definition of child cruelty that they work on but because it is not written into law, this makes it difficult for the police to gather evidence.
Currently social workers operate guidance in civil law that does recognise emotional abuse of children
But police are limited because criminal law only recognises physical harm
Action for Children's chief executive, Sir Tony Hawkhead, said the change would be a "monumental step forward for thousands of children".
Robert Buckland, a Conservative MP who has backed the charity's campaign, said the current law was outdated as it is based largely on legislation first introduced 150 years ago.
And he stressed that non-physical abuse could cause "significant harm" to children.
"You can look at a range of behaviours, from ignoring a child's presence, failing to stimulate a child, right through to acts of in fact terrorising a child where the child is frightened to disclose what is happening to them," Mr Buckland told BBC Radio 5 live. " [Report from the BBC here]
It is quite remarkable how our increasingly dysfunctional 'democracy' is concerned to increase the intrusion of the State into our lives and even to legislate on matters such as the denial of perceived 'rights' which themselves bear a highly subjective interpretation.  I'll leave any further comment to Lord Tebbit [here]:
"The idea of the state giving the Law Courts power and responsibility to decide whether parents have given sufficient love and kindness to children is beyond even anything Orwell conceived.
Coincidentally it comes just as psychologists and others are raising the alarm of the effects of the exposure of children through the internet to the depravity, violence and cruelty of computer games and programmes on mobile phones and over the internet. Scientists, behaviourists and psychotherapists, even sociologists, have concluded that what many of us have been saying for years is indeed true. Such exposure does normalise depravity and violence.
So what should a loving parent do? Should he or she deny their children access to such programmes? Or would that be emotional cruelty and an offence against the criminal law? We know that the agencies which are supposed to protect children all too often fail to do so. How would they, the police, prosecuting authorities and courts cope with pursing parents or guardians who might offend against a Cinderella law?
All we can be certain of is that the lawyers will do well out of it, as appeals grow in numbers and the ECHR sticks its obtrusive nose into our legal system. Mr Clegg has shown his illiberal side rather too often in blocking such things as the long-overdue reform of constituency boundaries. I hope that his Liberal instinct will now persuade him to block this spasm of illiberal and poorly thought through legislation."

There is nothing more sinister than the modern liberal state 
which is utterly convinced of its own infallible benevolence

 On a related theme, Spiked has this article from Brendan O'Neil, chronicling another example of the suffocating authoritarianism which lies beneath the 'compassionate' mask of contemporary liberalism:
"...So in a stunningly short period of time, not only has gay marriage been normalised, but opposition to it, traditionalism itself, has been denormalised. This reveals the extent of the corrosion of the old conservative values of long-term commitment and family life, whose one-time proponents in the church and elsewhere have effectively vacated the moral battlefield and stood back as marriage has been redefined. (‘The terms of our surrender’ was the fitting headline to a recent sad article by one such conservative.) And it also reveals the ability of newer cultural elites, especially the media classes, to impose new narratives on public life and to set political and social agendas. The media have been key to the gay-marriage crusade, playing a leading role in promoting it, defining it, and demonising those who question it. As a consequence of an historic emptying-out of political life in recent years, of the decline and fall of the classes and interests whose tussles were once the lifeblood of politics, the media have come to be an increasingly important political actor, their concerns and prejudices often taking centre stage in public life. The unstoppable rise of gay marriage really speaks to the replacement of older, conservative elites with a new elite, one that is, remarkably, less tolerant of dissent and more demanding of psychological affirmation of its every idea, whim and campaign than its predecessors were. 
So perhaps we should put all that champagne on ice. For the transformation of gay marriage from just an idea to a juggernaut in the blink of an eye actually has little to do with the expansion of tolerance, but rather speaks to the very opposite phenomenon: the emergence of new forms of intolerance that demand nothing less than moral obedience and mandatory celebration from everyone - or else."
And the most concerning issue for many of us is the response of the Church. Due to the creeping 'Scandinavianisation' *  of British Anglicanism, our leaders will not only acquiesce, but without doubt begin to act as the cheerleaders for the new social 'orthodoxies' .... 

* the by now tried and tested way of preparing the ground begins like this - see here

"Nothing must be lost"

Women bishops: "Nothing must be lost" was the heartening headline on the front page of the March edition of Pobl Dewi, the newspaper of the St David's Diocese,  The article itself consists of  a very fair report (remarkably so, given the tight editorial control exercised over other official Anglican publications these days) of the Women Bishops' Code of Practice consultation meetings in the diocese.
Following the meetings in the other Welsh dioceses which were very similar in terms of the opinions expressed, it will now be very hard indeed for the Welsh Bench to avoid their moral obligation (if the honouring of promises are to mean anything in this Christian community) to provide a traditionalist bishop to minister to the 'original integrity' within the Province.

The text of the report is printed below [link above]

Women bishops: “Nothing must be lost”

Meetings across the diocese have sent a clear message to the bishops as they draw up a Code of Practice to cater for those who, in conscience, cannot accept the principle of female headship

 THE Governing Body voted in September to allow the ordination of women as bishops one year on. And the present Bench was required to bring forward “without delay” a Code of Practice which would govern how opponents of the measure could be accommodated. 
The Vicar of Tregaron, Canon Philip Wyn Davies, set out his stall at the opening meeting in Aberaeron: “It must be acceptable to have reservations about women’s sacramental ministry, at least until the Anglican Communion as a whole has taken a position,” he
said. “There is no evidence that women [bishops] will bring anyone into the Church and we can’t afford to throw anyone out. Nothing must be lost.”
But how? The most frequent suggestion was the re-introduction of an assistant bishop, such
as the one appointed in 1996 when women were first ordained into the priesthood.
Elizabeth Arnold-Davies, a Reader in the United Parish of Lampeter, pointed to the Provincial Episcopal Visitor scheme in England, which seemed to work well. “We have to find acceptable provision for all,” she said. “We have no right to deny people access to Christian worship in church.” 
Another concern was the timescale. Would the Code be in place before the first consecration?
Fenella Strange (Cwmann) believed  this was essential. And to what degree would whatever the bishops come up with be open to debate? Others, though, did not believe gender was an issue. 
Carol Griffiths (St Tysilio’s, Llandysiliogogo) believed calling – “a gift from God” – was more important and feared creating a Church within a Church. “We are a family,” she
said. “We have to live together or we will die together.” 
Rhoda Healey said that if
priests were there to represent the Bishop at the Eucharist, there was no logical sense to opposing women bishops, when women already administered sacraments, as priests.
But Revd Stephen Edwards (Priest-in-Charge, Llanilar) had a stark message: “You either have to take your conscience and go,” he said, “or deny your conscience. If you want priests with no conscience, then pity the Church.”

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Cultural revolution and cultural dissonance in this week of Lent

A break from self-imposed Lenten silence to post a  few links to the news story and comment du jour:

Today sees the first same-sex civil marriage ceremonies in England and Wales. There has been a plethora of comment from all sides, including this, characteristically contra mundum, from the art critic Brian Sewell. 
One hopes that one day (though it will probably not be in my life-time) it may be possible to discuss these issues in a less politicised atmosphere where everyone who has reservations about the huge cultural shift this change in the law represents is not subject to a process of vilification and demonisation. It would be good, too, not to have to compete in the competition for victim status which all too often characterises our rights-obsessed society. 

Caroline Farrow reminds us here of the price to be paid when our society's elites and those who so slavishly follow them promote a definition of  'equality' without any respect for the freedom of speech which should accompany and, indeed, underpin any understanding of equality worthy of the name:
"...On the way back to the car, a group of young people spat at me. Marilyn then caught up with me, calling out “were you the lady at the front”, neither of us recognizing each other before the penny dropped. She is not an extrovert, doesn’t enjoy the spotlight and was shaking like a leaf. We saw each other to our respective cars safely.
I was expecting a Twitter hate-fest but have still been shocked by some of the vehemence and spite. I am not advocating penalising or punishing people on account of their sexuality and neither did I say that marriage was solely about children. The Twitterati were hearing what they wanted. What intrigues me as ever, is why no-one can see that not once have I judged individuals but instead made judgement calls on situations, which is what we are called to do as Christians. As ever ironically enough, it’s those who are accusing me of judgmentalism, who are in fact being the judgmental ones and claim to be able to gaze into my soul and confidently state that the position is based on hate.
But this is the kind of thing that faces those of us who will continue to stick to our guns and propound a traditional view of marriage. As the night has gone on, I am beginning to worry about my safety. Back in 2011 when David Cameron suddenly announced his intention to introduce gay marriage, I didn’t envisage things would get so nasty. Given my time again, I would still do the work I have done but definitely used the net under a pseudonym....."

The next episode of this staged 'battle' will be fought within the provinces of the British Isles, but, of course, we all know the Anglican theological 'war' itself (if there ever was one in reality) has already been lost....  
My prediction: in the short term, anarchy, as the rather half-hearted attempts (in conjunction with some subtle and less than subtle undermining  from within) by the Anglican bishops to exercise any form of discipline collapse in farce, followed in a few years by what will be the de facto proscription of the historic Christian tradition - an example of Neuhaus' law again, I very much fear. 

There's an interesting discussion here about what has become known as 'the Benedict option' - to put it positively, a closer following of the Rule of St Benedict by those not called to the traditional religious life in community, or described more negatively (or at least reactively) as “pioneering forms of dropping out of a barbaric mainstream culture that has grown hostile to our fundamental values.” 
For the Church, dangers and opportunities in equal measure ...

Oh, and .. presumably when the clocks strike thirteen, British Summer Time begins tonight - 
So remember, without a trace of irony, Spring forward, Fall back ....

Friday, 21 March 2014

News and comment round-up

A deliberately quiet and reflective Lent in this period of waiting and readjustment (in one way or another) to the new order of things. But outside the politicised bubble of the contemporary Church and the sloganising which now passes for theological thought, the world goes on its unheeding way ...

Russia again: what strikes this observer most forcefully is the sheer historical illiteracy of our leaders. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 (a while ago now) Russia has reverted to what she always was, both naturally defensive and potentially expansionist in equal measure. But before we rush headlong into a situation from which there is no way out (shades of the summer of 1914) we could do worse than remember Metternich's comment: "“Russia is never as strong as she appears, and never as weak as she appears.”
But Vladimir Putin, whoever he may be, is neither Hitler nor Stalin. The threat to peace comes not from Russia's reclamation of the Crimea, but from western over-reaction and our seemingly limitless propensity for cultural and political self-satisfaction. 
Peter Hitchens references this article from 1997 - well worth reading.  

Katherine Jefferts Schori of TEC faces charges of misconduct relating to her use of litigation during her period of office as Presiding Bishop  [here]  
It would be a mistake, I think, to believe that this is particularly significant.  Modern "liberals" after all are, if nothing else, masters of redefinition - the opportunities to practice the art of escapology which flow from that are boundless....
Given the internal politics of TEC, I would doubt if this will even impact on her chances of re-election. 

The predicted chaos in the Church of England over same-sex marriage is becoming more apparent by the day. Thinking Anglicans has this latest example. 
Although, if there is 'liberal disobedience' over that issue, there would seem to be little sanction which could be directed against possible orthodox Anglo-Catholic 'disobedience'  in other episcopally related matters,  should the need arise ... if there is still the stomach for it, that is  ....

The traditional (Roman) Catholic blogosphere is under increased scrutiny from its own Bishops [here], occasioning much comment ... some of it balanced and appropriate 
It's not my battle, but there must be in the life of the Church - of any ecclesial body - a way of steering a course between the Scylla of over-prescriptive centralisation and the Charybdis of contemporary 'anglicanised ' anarchy. It is, of course, another tactic of 'liberals' to use the weapons of authority far more ruthlessly than 'conservatives' would ever dare .... or wish to do ...

Baroness Hale, the deputy President of the Supreme Court (formerly - in more civilised times -  the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords) has urged Christians in Britain to make more use of human rights law. Christina Odone at The Telegraph has these comments. 
Very few are aware of the profound cultural revolution (like most revolutions unwelcome and unasked for) which has taken place in Britain over the space of a few short years. The commanding heights of politics and broadcasting - and even the judiciary- are now occupied by those who are in one sense or another embarrassed by their county's history and philosophical and religious heritage. Ironically,  the main beneficiaries of this cultural suicide have been those whose values make even the Inquisition (a favourite example used by the secularist lobby with which to beat Christians over the head)  seem a model of tolerance, fair-mindedness and due process.

Addled adolescence:
Many of us have thought for a very long time that the emerging liberal consensus of the 1960s and '70s was really a reversion to cultural adolescence. There is no better example than this  -  the commentator Sarah Dunant's contribution to BBC Radio 4's 'A Point of View' [here]  The (intended?) contrast with Roger Scruton's broadcast the previous week could not be more glaring .... O tempora, o mores ! .....
"... We are back to the impact of the '70s. Because it was that decade which saw the emergence of historians, academics and cultural thinkers who - having turned their back on the accepted canon of dead white male history - chose instead issues of gender and sexuality, going back into the archives and records to uncover a new past.
So where does this leave the '70s for those of us who lived through them? How far should we be applauding the achievements or doing penance for the faults? How about both at the same time? Agreeing that terrible sexual behaviour (hardly new to the 70s) took place, some possibly encouraged by a sense of freedom, but exactly that same freedom and openness changed society's attitudes, making us more tolerant of some things and less tolerant in others. Surely, something to be celebrated.
Wherever the line gets drawn, let's not forget the exuberance and mischief of the decade. Back to the Rocky Horror Show and that magnificently silly anthem. If sex is a live electric current running under the surface of history, maybe each time we plug in, it'll feel like the time warp again...." [here]
So very BBC - as someone who was at school in the '70s, I just feel the waves of tedium from that drab and depressing decade of tangible national decline coming straight at me ..... 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Catching up - two connected issues ...

The former Episcopal  diocese of South Carolina - driven out, we should remember, by the - let's be direct - heretics (they certainly have a phobia for doctrinal orthodoxy and display a perverse delight in persecuting it wherever it may be found - what else can one call them?) who now control TEC - is looking to the Global South for Primatial Oversight. [here

Being an Anglican is looking ever more complicated and qualified; when the hierarchy here (in Wales) speaks of 'being one family' they forget that some members of the family have already been forced to sleep rough outside the garden gate and that unless their actions catch up with their (I'm sure, well-intentioned) rhetoric, others will be made to follow ...

And a strangely related issue - also connected with the removal and destruction of one of the foundation stones of Christian civilisation: 

A journey of discovery: Lord Tebbit says what no senior (elected) British politician would now dare to say - as the Catholic tradition upholds, there is a connection between holding human life sacred before birth and after it; in practice it seems that human life is either regarded as inherently valuable and therefore worthy of protection - despite 'hard cases' - or it is held to be disposably cheap. 
A good article [in full here] - although I would hesitate before using the phrase 'slippery slope', however true the metaphor may be - it's all too easily dismissed with contempt by those who themselves fight with an emotional arsenal of slogans and sound bites: 
"... Those warnings have proved prescient. Not only has the Steel legislation been greatly widened in scope, but in practice abortion is now available on demand, well past the time when the child would be capable of survival and in practice up to full term. Nor is there any need of evidence of any congenital defects or disorders. All that is necessary is that the mother so wants to be rid of her child that she can find two doctors (who it appears do not actually have to see her) to say that her health might be adversley affected if the child was born. Indeed some doctors regard the mother's reluctance to bear a female child for social reasons as sufficient evidence to allow an abortion.
Now the former Labour Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer plans to bring in his Assisted Suicide Bill to allow doctors to provide lethal medication and asstance if needs be to patients they believe to have less than six months to live. 
At present it is a criminal offence to asist in a suicide, but a prosecution requires the consent of the Attorney General and that is rarely forthcoming as he would have to believe that improper pressure had been put on a person to take their own life.
I am sure that it is not the intention of Lord Falconer to set us on that slippery slope to involuntary euthanasia or even to the full legalisation of [assisted] suicide, but I have no doubt that if passed the Falconer Bill would prove to be the stalking horse for those who do...."
And an important empirical contribution to the debate -  the other side of the emotional argument - from Baroness Campbell [a report also from The Telegraph: here
"Baroness Campbell, who suffers spinal muscular atrophy, argued strongly against any steps allowing doctors or nurses to help people take their own lives.
She said she and others had successfully resisted a proposal to make the fact that someone suffers a progressive condition or disability a factor weighing against prosecution for assisted suicide.
But she added: “Terminally ill and disabled people are in a worse position today than was the case five years ago.
“National economic instability means that public support services are under more pressure than ever.
“That has hardened public attitudes towards progressive illnesses, old age and disability.
"Words such as ‘burden’, ‘scrounger’ and ‘demographic time bomb’ come to mind, and hate crime figures in relation to vulnerable people have increased dramatically.
“This is a dangerous time to consider facilitating assistance with suicide for those who most need our help and support.
“It is not only dangerous for those who may see suicide as their only option, but can be tempting for those who would benefit from their absence.”
The British Social Attitudes Survey, the biggest barometer of public opinion in the UK, recently showed how, in marked contrast to previous recessions, attitudes towards welfare have hardened noticeably during the past few years.
The peer added: “Belgium has recently extended its law on euthanasia to include terminally ill and disabled children.
“That is not a future I want for our children or the most vulnerable"
However, 'liberal' (in this case 'pro-death') campaigners have a tried and trusted  technique when dealing with legislators (and Anglican Synods, for that matter) - the war of attrition - bring the issue back to decision-making assemblies again and again and again until those bodies come up with the 'right' answer. The price of liberty (and orthodoxy, too) is eternal vigilance; the Enemy of mankind never sleeps ....

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A comment on warmongering - Putin, the Crimea and Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin is not by western standards any kind of  democrat. The heavy-handed authoritarianism and, indeed, oligarchic corruption, of his government are well documented.
However, I can't be alone in being both worried and appalled at some of the aggressive and militaristic rhetoric coming, not from the Kremlin, but from western sources at present. The irony that 2014 sees the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War seems lost on many politicians and commentators (on the 'liberal' left and 'neo-conservative' right alike)  in our historically insular culture. The prospect of a Europe once again sleepwalking into war is too horrific to contemplate.

Moreover, since the implosion of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc (something which was a true victory for western, democratic and Christian values, thanks to the leadership of such people as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II) the NATO allies and the EU seem to have adopted a policy of deliberate and dangerous humiliation of the former super-power even in its own backyard. 
As for Ukraine, the politics of the region are historically notoriously complex, and there are no easily identified contemporary heroes and villains anywhere to be found; as in Syria, western interference is in danger of turning a merely oppressive situation (if Ukraine could really be described as that) into a humanitarian catastrophe.

For whatever reason (and one shouldn't rule out the possibility that he actually believes it) Russia's President has championed both the revival of the Orthodox Church in his country and become an outspoken defender of traditional family values.

As for the West's increasingly shrill denunciations of Putin himself - stoked by a irresponsible media, frankly obsessed with spurious notions of  'equality', which seems to have little perspective or balance left where modern Russia is concerned - one can't help wondering whether this is entirely provoked by his intervention in Ukraine / Crimea or whether our real concern, having first 'encouraged' the toppling of Ukraine's elected, if highly flawed, pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, is not to export free and fair elections and the rule of law to the region, but to promote a far wider and less disinterested agenda altogether....

Apologies for the lack of posts recently - a combination of busy-ness, ongoing family illness and essential preparations for Lent...

Monday, 3 March 2014

Ukraine and historical perspective

A good post here from Cranmer. What those who are now advocating Western intervention in Ukraine ( as if we hadn't intervened enough already) are not saying is how many kids (British soldiers, that is) largely from deprived backgrounds in the 'sink estates' and back streets of our cities, they want to send off to die in order to defend their own elitist,  'liberal' values: the last Crimean war wasn't exactly a spectacular triumph for either side, even if we British have a long-established genius for backing the wrong horse.... having said that, Constantinople in Soviet hands would have been another story during the Cold War ... 

But it would be interesting to observe the Western reaction to a display of Chinese aggression in what it perceives as in its sphere of interest (the People's Republic of China - a regime which is no less antipathetic to 'western culture' than contemporary Russia ) - ah, but that's a matter of raw economic self-interest, isn't it?
"....While we view the current conflict through the distorted prism of secular European enlightenment and the primacy of economics, millions in the Ukraine are asserting their cultural and religious identities. On the one hand are the Western-inclined pro-EU reformists who are seeking liberation from oppression and corruption; on the other, the Eastern-facing pro-Russian conservatives are battling once again to preserve their way of life. And these are by no means the only hands: the region is fraught with complexities. But when priests sprinkle holy water over the troops, it is because they believe they are defending Christian orthodoxy and traditional morality against social liberal secularism and moral relativity. For many millions of ethnic Russians, this isn't simply a question of gay rights and wrongs, but of good versus evil. It is about the spiritual and moral foundation of civilisation itself.
So when we read the Daily Mail or listen to the BBC, we are understanding nothing of this crisis, for it is not a conflict of flesh and blood, but of principalities and powers. It is not about politics and opportunism, but morality and mission. Obama and Cameron can issue their warnings and demands that Putin respect 'equality' and ‘democratic values’, but when you believe you are called by God to do His holy work, a pesky liberal president and a devalued prime minister are of very little significance at all.
It was Russia which led the way to aid the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. It is Russia that defends 'family values' and confronts the secular zeitgeist of moral relativity with an appeal to conservatism. Putin is on a crusade. If millions of your anti-Western co-religionists appeal to you for spiritual liberty, you don't ignore their cries: their salvation is your vocation.
We may not like this Damascene conversion from KGB Communism to Christian conservatism: it may, indeed, be a dark spiritual cloak to effect a global political coup. We may feel very great sympathy for all those Ukrainians yearning for liberal values whose dissent is censored and suppressed. We may be horrified by news reports of beheaded protestors and stabbed policemen, and appalled by the spectre of wider bloodshed and another Crimean war. We are right to feel pain and share in the suffering.
But neither Brussels nor Washington can act beyond edicts of condemnation.
And London is mired in sound-bites and spin.
The US and EU are not going to war against Russia over the Ukraine, so, for God's sake, let's talk and pray and pray and talk while we spy and survey and tap and record. Either and both and all are preferable to invasion and war.
Especially if it turns out that God is on the other side...."

Sunday, 23 February 2014

And a 'Russian' intervention in the West...

"...Many people in their everyday life ignore those values which form the basis of our civilization. It has been said: ‘Thou shalt not kill’, and yet people kill and even justify killing; it has been said: ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’, and yet society has created an entire industry of promiscuity.
Today on the continent of Europe there is taking place a conscious and consistent deconstruction of the system of values upon which for centuries the lives of our ancestors was built. If we turn not to public opinion and not to the position of believers but to the official documents of the European Union then we can find clear confirmation of this...."
"... When Christians are forbidden from openly confessing their faith, when Christian symbols are removed from the public arena, when even wearing a cross around the neck may be interpreted as an infringement of public order, images of the recent past are revived in our memory. I remember well how in a Soviet atheist school the teacher tore the cross from around my neck as she had accidentally noticed the chain beneath my shirt collar. And today we can hear of how in democratic Europe an airline employee was forced to remove her cross, supposedly in the name of tolerance, peace and harmony in society..."
"...A brief examination of European values which are developing within the framework of a global world leads us to the following conclusion. These values have been violently torn, often against the wishes of many, from their moral context which for centuries was formed in a Christian civilization. Values are meant to help build up a just world, but it is impossible to build this world on the basis of an ideology that views the world without God and without faith. A world without God, without absolute moral values rooted in divine revelation, irrevocably turns into the realm of the rule of slavery and lawlessness.
The Russian Church, which has paid in millions of lives for the godless Soviet experiment, can and must testify before the adherents of militant secularism to the fact that a society torn from its spiritual roots and faith has no future...."
Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev speaking  at a conference in London yesterday - full text, report and comment here

More 'fashionable' intervention

In pursuit of their 'forward' foreign policy, the nations of the West (the E.U. & U.S.A. particularly)  have chosen to intervene in the murky and complex geo-politics of Ukraine - a dangerous strategy for all kinds of reasons. 
Now, at least, our media has a photogenic, blonde, female candidate to promote (and, yes, I do think our broadcasting stations are that spectacularly superficial) ....

It's also instructive to see how much more anti-Russian our liberal mass media has become since the end of the Soviet era and the advent of President Vladimir Putin. Now, why would that be?

Contrast all that with the near silence on the the subject of recent events in Venezuela - another failed authoritarian neo-Marxist state heading for full-scale - and very 'socialist' - repression.

We never learn.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The risks of silence

In the Common Law tradition, silence implies consent. That's obviously not the case for Pope Francis who, hailing from a Latin culture, is seeking, it would seem,  to ration his pronouncements in order both to give a more 'positive' image to the Church and, one hopes,  to make a greater impact when he does speak out. 

But that is always a high risk strategy; the problem, as Pope Benedict (greatly missed by all of us) found out, in the West the largely liberal (and, dare one say, 'pro-death') media has a neck-lock on the news agenda... 
Sandro Magister comments here on the risks involved in a low-profile papal response to U.N. attacks and to the recent child euthanasia legislation in Belgium  (h/t WJT)

It matters to everyone what the Pope (whose office is a gift to us all) says - or doesn't say - on the issues of the day.

Friday, 21 February 2014

All about 'bishops' largely: news & comment round-up

After a blog-free week ....

The Church of England House of Bishops Statement on - yes, the inevitable subject of same sex marriage - has caused consternation on all fronts. 
However, the really disturbing news is not the theological double-speak and general incoherence of the pastoral guidelines themselves (we've grown used to these exercises in trying to reconcile the irreconcilable) but the seeming readiness of some of the 'inclusivists' - in public and in private - to appeal to the secular State (on the pretext of the C of E's 'establishment) to intervene in the business of the Church. 
They may live to regret that; although the potential areas of difference between the worldview of Anglican revisionists and that of secular modernism are admittedly becoming fewer and fewer .... 
We should anticipate - and prepare for - complete chaos .....
As one would expect, both Thinking Anglicans  and Anglican Mainstream have a comprehensive and regularly updated selection of news and comment on the subject.

Back to the bishops, this time on the subject of welfare reform. Of course, the usual theologically and politically naive questions start doing the rounds - can a Christian vote Conservative etc etc
For some of us the more interesting question is whether conservatives with a small 'c' (those who both value tradition and continuity and believe in the duty to look after the the least fortunate) can either vote for today's Conservative Party or feel very much at home in modern Anglicanism ....

The Church in Wales has now completed its round of consultation meetings as part of the process for determining the Bench of Bishops' Code of Practice. 
Having attended the meeting in the Monmouth Diocese, I can witness to the constructive and generous spirit of most of the comments made, and to the fairly wide consensus emerging in the Province that there is need for the restoration of episcopal provision for traditionalists - although I came away once again feeling more than a little out of place in today's Church where wearing one's heart very conspicuously on one's sleeve is de rigeur .... 
And there was one delicious moment when a female cleric stood up and told us all it was time to stop playing the victim card. Of course, she was right: it is ... but the sentiment was perhaps, as they say, a bit rich coming from that quarter ..... and at this time ... ?

Now, of course,  it's up to the bishops....

KJS in the news again as, astonishingly, institutions fall over themselves to invite her [here and here]

Some may think this unfair, despite the lady's unfortunate habit of litigating the orthodox out of existence, but I was sent this ...

Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Western Wind

Appropriately, given the weather, the 'Western Wynde Mass' by John Taverner (c1490 - 1545)  - based on the early sixteenth century popular song 'The Westron Wynde' - sung here by Ars Nova of Copenhagen directed by Paul Hillier