In the tares

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Thinking about the parable of the wheat and the tares, it occurred to me that as a society and civilzation we are all in the tares.

Our search for that right to happiness which lies underneath and above the various ‘liberations’ we have had, seems to have led to the discovery of more chains upon us. As a woman I am liberated from patriarchy, but if I object to being described as a “menstuator” or as a “person who bleeds” I am trangressing against the rights of transgender people. As “rights” multiply according to our identity, we face the question of what binds us together as a society? Here in the UK, since Brexit, that has shown that what unites one part of us also digs a gulf between that part and another part. Yes, 52% was a majority, but when 48% feels desolate, saying, in effect, “tough” does not help, any more than the 48% banging on about it helps. There seems to be no health in us.

And then, on cue, comes Covid19, so there is, literally “no health in us”. The idea of “following the science” was a good sound-bite, but since “science” is no more capable of deciding how a government should proceed than it is of telling us what the purpose of life is, we simply end up more divided. In the public square it’s the most clamant voices we seem to hear.

Some, me among them, have adopted the tactic of cutting ourselves off from the public square; I don’t actually want to know. That’s not because I really do not want to know, it’s because I despair of knowing. The bias, this way and that, of the media seems so obvious that even I can spot it. I’ll do what Voltaire recommends in Candide and literally cultivate my own garden.

But no woman is an island. My other half does not have my luxury. I can stay at home and dig for victory and fill the house with the smell of freshly baked bread. My skills as a seamstress are sufficient to literally make do and mend, and I was never much of a one for shopping – except for books. But my other half does not have this luxury – there’s an important job to be done, Zoom meetings to attend, and trips to London when necessary. In that sense, I am not an island.

But even the community to which I have been closest since recovering from my breakdown – the local church – has changed. For months none of us could attend. For those, such as myself, who know that receiving the blessed sacrament is a critical part of our spiritual growth, even offering it up was not sufficient; the want of it hurt, and there were times I longed to receive communion so much that I would stand outside the church near to where the blessed scrament is reserved and pray. On reflection, that probably didn’t help my neighbours think I’d got better; but I didn’t care.

Now we are back, but separated out and masked. I can’t give or receive the kiss of peace (I know some of you are no doubt relieved, but I love it, so there), and I can’t linger for coffee, biscuits and a chat afterwards. I don’t know about you, but wearing a mask for an hour or so is wearing; but them’s the rules and I obey. I object more than I thought I would to receiving on one kind only – it’s the residual Protestant in me – but am so grateful that I just accept it with gratitude – it’s so much better than lockdown.

Yet, even in my seclusion, I hear if not wars and rumours of war, I get rumours of an escalation in numbers of cases of Covid. In the spring the weather was bright and even if I did not feel like walking, I am fortunate enough to have a garden in which I could sit and sip tea and say my Rosary. I felt then, for those who lacked such luxuries. I feel even more for them now.

Maybe it’s attrition? But with the weather wet and dreary, my spirits go in empathy – the poet’s pathetic fallacy no doubt, but more than that.

Individualism is not enough. It never was and never could be. The very word church comes from the Greek word for an assembly. However much our salvation is personal, its working out is communal. Here we work with the local foodbanks, and as it is school holidays, we work on getting free school meals to those who need them. Some complain that we should not have to do this, that the State should. I have no problem with the criticism of the State, the Government seems a disgrace to me, and not just on this. But as a gathered community, we work where the Lord has placed us, and I, like others, find some relief from the depression settling on us by being able to work as Christ wants us to, with others to bring relief to those who need it.

I am conscious, however, that this is material relief, and I don’t in any way downplay the importance of it. We are fortunate to be among the “haves” and it is our duty as Christians to gove freely. But part of me wants more. As I see hopelessness descend on so many, I wish I could do more to share the faith that, along with my other half, gets me through all of this.

I have found great comfort in this set of prayers from my Church and highly recommend them; the pattern for daily prayer is one I follow and it brings me comfort when I need it. The other prayer I find helpful, apart from my daily rosary, is the old eastern orthodox prayer which C451 taught me years ago and to which I return before bedtime:

Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of the living God,
have mercy on me, a sinner.

May the Lord bless us and keep us all.

Wheat and tares

As part of a course I am on, we have been looking at some of the parables. Matthew 13: 23-30, 36-43, on the wheat and the tares is particularly rich, and the Rev. Paula Gooder’s new book on The Parables, throws a particularly interesting light on a parable which has long intrigued me. I didn’t know that there was a Roman law against the sowing of darnel (which is the weed at issue) in a wheat field as an act of sabotage; it suggests that the scenario Jesus was outlining was not uncommon. Darnel looks just like wheat at forst, but as it gorws it produces a black seed and a fungus which is toxic to us; those who heard the parable would have known this, which would have made its message even more telling. The contrast between the good seed and the black seed, the one giving life, the other bringing disease and even death is striking.

The focus in this parable is on our experience of the kingdom in the present, although of course there are lessons for the future. It directs our attention to how we deal with the presence of evil and wrong-doing in our world, not just in the church. I have always taken the ‘enemy’ to be Satan, who deliberately sets out to sabotage the kingdom, and was relieved and pleased to see that Dr Gooder suggests this is a reasonable interpretation. This invites the question of what we are to do in the face of deliberate evil, and here, Jesus surprises us (as he so often does). He does not advise that we go out and root up the tares because we might damage the good wheat in the process. His advice is to let God judge.

That’s a good reminder to all those of us who are apt to think we can help God out by judging who is and who is not in his kingdom; we can’t, and we shouldn’t. C451 is fond of saying that God is the only just judge, and that being the case, we should back off. But it invites us to think about what we should do, because the outcome for the tares is not going to be a good one when the harvest is gathered in.

The two main images used by Matthew are interesting. One, used in Matthew 8:12; 22:13 and 25:30 is ‘outer darkness, but here it is more graphic – and fiery. The suggestion is clear – that there will be a judgement and those who are toxic will be subject to it. How we align that with ‘outer darkness’ is another issue.

What can we do? The kingdom is coming, it is here, it is growing. It grows in us, and criticial here is the water of life and the body and blood of Christ. The one garden we can cultivate us our own, and we should concentrate on that rather than on passing judgment on others.

Godly Sorrow: a sermon

2 Corinthians 7

Sorrow is an emotion that exists because of suffering, and suffering is the result of the existence of sin in the world. But there is such a thing as godly sorrow over sin. What is it, and what does it look like?

This morning’s sermon by Pastor Charmley, Bethel Evangelical Free Church, Hanley.

sermonaudio.com/sermon/102520121157656

Bible Sunday

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Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The collect for today, Bible Sunday, says it all. The Bible is there for us to learn from, to study and receive illumination but also for our comfort. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and in reading and inwardly digesting, we receive the fruits of the Spirit inwardly. What more could one want?

Today’s Morning Prayer in my parish church was special. We not only had the readings from the King James Bible, we also had the service from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. It took me back to my childhood in Wales.

My father, a confirmed and even militant atheist, sent me to church because it had been one of the requests made of him by my mother on her death-bed. It was hugely to his credit that in spite of his own views, he made sure I went. He would often drive me himself – and wait outside until what he called the “God bothering” was over; that was the only negative comment he ever made.

It so happened that our vicar was an older man who, in spite of the pressures to go with “Series 3” nonethless used the Book of Common Prayer for Communion at least once a month, as well as for Morning Prayer. I loved the language. I did not always understand it, but that was okay, that was what Bible study was for. What I did understand was that I was hearing something which appealed to the love I had (and have) for Shakespeare and for poetry. It took me out of myself in wonder. It still does.

The King James, For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known, is far better poetry than the NSRV’s For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

That is not to say that I always prefer the KJV or that it is somehow “better”, just that there are moods in which it suits me better. Equally there are times when the RSV I was given at my Christening suits me better, especially when I am studying the Bible. I feel the same about the Prayer Book. I adore the BCP, but have found in Common Worship equally acceptable forms of prayer.

It all depends on how I feel and what I am wanting to do with my Bible. Sometimes, when praying alone, just letting the readings from the KJV roll off my lips is an almost sensual pleasure; the language so majestic, almost, I feel, how I should be talking to God. But sometimes it’s better to use the Common Worship texts and my RSV – that seems to be how God speaks to me. For my Compline it has to be the ‘traditional language’ version in Common Worship which speaks to me and sends me ready for sleep to my bed. I like that it is unchanging.

Yet, for morning and evening prayer (except on Sundays when I tend to prefer the BCP and use it privately) I find the Common Worship texts work precisely because they change. All of this bothered me once upon a time as I sought to find “the form” which suited me best. Then I realised the wonders of God’s Grace. There were versions that suited whatever mood I was in and where I was, and sometimes it is better just to accept what is on offer.

The final point which truck me on Bible Sunday, is the wisdom of the lectionary. In following it (in whatever version of the Bible) I am taken through Scripture across time in linked readings, and with the help of commentaries and prayer, I can digest and inwardly learn to the profit of my soul.

How wonderful it is that God’s word is so freely available to us. What matters is that we do as the Collect for this Sunday says. Have a wonderful Sunday!

Saturday Jess: inclusivity?

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I see that Pope Francis is in hot water again: first they didn’t like his encyclical on our common home, the earth; then they did not like his encyclical on us all being brothers (and sisters); and now, depending on which mistranslation (or not) you choose to believe, they don’t like his comments on civil unions, or is it civil coexistence? The “they” in question are the super-Catholics on social media who can, literally answer the rhetorical question: ‘Is the Pope a Catholic?’ with the answer ‘no’!

Now, I ought to admit I have what the English call ‘form’ on this. A few years back when I admitted that, after some thinking about it, I had decided to attend the wedding of a lesbian friend, there were some here who thought that was a bad thing to have done. For me it was an expression of friendship. It may be a generational thing. I don’t know how many people in their sixties and over have friends who are gay or lesbian, but for people my age (“thirty erm something …”) it’s not uncommon, and Abi happened to have been a friend since childhood. I think this was the sort of thing the Pope may have been talking about. It’s not necessarily about his approving gay marriage, I am sure he doesn’t because Roman Catholic doctrine forbids it, it’s probably more about how we react to our gay and lesbian friends in what the Pope calls ‘civil society.’

It’s a good question, and it’s good that he is raising it. Certainly where I used to work, and where my other half works, there are plenty of people who are gay, and it would be invidious, as the Catholic Church acknowledges, to subject them to any form of discrimination in everyday life. That’s separate from the fraught issue of gay marriage, and whilst gay people may feel offended by the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, they know what that teaching is, and just as with other sexual acts which are not ‘open to life’ they make a choice. I suspect if every man who had ever masturbated, fancied a woman not his wife and had sex without benefit of marriage, or without the intention of being “open to life” ceased going to Church, attendance would fall dramatically, and maybe it’s worth remembering that. The media goes on, as gay people tend to, about homosexuality as though the Church taught only about that, it’s teaching on the theology of the body goes much further and covers much more – but we hear little of that. But I lost sight of the last press report banging on about sex outside marriage or contraception. Motes and beams come to mind for some reason.

If the Pope was talking about how we treat each other in civil society, then his words are surely in line with Roman Catholic teaching? If they were what some hold them to have been, then that’s a matter for those in his Church. We Anglicans, after all, have our own problems on this one.

I totally “get” why some get het up on this theme, but gay people are not going to get back in the closet any time soon, nor are they going away, and nor are they all atheists or agnostic. In the long history of Christianity the length of time that gay and lesbian people have been able to be open about their sexuality without legal consequences is a short one, and the Church tends to have time scales rather more lengthy.

There have always been Christians who have been homosexual, the problem seems to be that some Christians were more comfortable when they were in the closet and are uncomfortable now they are out of it. But for Christians who are homosexual, there is a cross to be carried, and they want to be in the Church for who they are, not what their sexual preference is, and indeed, for many, their sexuality is very much a secondary issue, however much it seems to preoccupy some others.

After all, what are we really going to do in the modern world? Are we going to excluded all remarried and divorced people from the eucharist? Are we going to ostracise the money-lenders? Should we think again about stoning? Those lacking in sin, can, of course, be first to begin to lessen the pile of stones. For the rest of us, well we might just want to think about what Pope Francis is really saying, which seems to be that we are all human, all sinners, and that in terms of civil society, let’s not discriminate against people who want to have sex with people of their own gender. Naturally, since there would be zero clickbait headlines in any of that, the MSM prefer to big it up. I do wish they’d stop … but that, as they say, is another story. Enjoy your Saturday!

“Real Presence”

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It is said that fools step in where Angels fear to tread, and for me writing on this theme smacks of that. I am so grateful to C451 for his help here, both in helping focus my reading, and also in marshalling my thoughts. It seemed to me a model of supervision, and I envy his research students. What follows is entirely mine, and I know he has his reservations as a Roman Catholic, which means I am even more grateful for his generosity in not pressing me down the path he follows. Now to plunge in!

I believe in the ‘Real Presence.’ What do I mean? I mean that in ways not to be described, or even understood by sinful men and women, Jesus is present in the consecrated bread and wine. This agrees, up to a point, with what the Roman Catholic Church believes, but only up to a point. The Catechism states:

1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”

If I have understood correctly (and if not please correct me) this is based in part on Aquinas’ idea of “accidents”, that is that although the bread and wine look the same, they have been changed into the actual blood and flesh of Christ. In this view, the natural elements have been abolished and replaced by the body and blood of Christ. Why does this cause me, and other Anglicans, a difficulty?

Across the first five centuries of the Christian faith’s history there is one golden thread which runs, and that was to do with how to understand the Incarnation. First there were arguments about docetism. Was Christ’s human body real, or did it just seem to be real. Was he not, in fact, Spirit, and the flesh merely an image for our eyes? No, the Church decided that was not the case. Christ was fully human and fully divine. That also put an end to the debate about whether he had a real human mind and soul. But if he was fully human, what about original sin? He was like us in all things save sin. Aquinas put it best (thank you C451): ‘grace does not abolish nature, but perfects it.’ That being so, why are we to hold that the bread and wine cease to be bread and win but become something else?

Hooker (again, thank you C451) pointed out that the eucharist was ‘the sacrament of continuing santification,’ a key part of what the Eastern Orthodox call theosis – God became man so that man could become God, as St Athansius put it. The purpose of the Eucharist isn’t to change the bread and wine, it is to change us, again, to quote Hooker: ‘we are not to doubt but that they really give what they promise and are what they signify’. The change effected in us is ‘a true change both of soul and body, an alteration from death to life.’ This, thankfully, takes us away from old controversies over the manner in which Christ is present in the eucharist, which, frankly, we cannot and do not need to know (oh how our pride in our own ingenuity can lead us into controversy), and it restores to us the idea that the eucharist is a dynamic action of Grace leading us to fuller participation in the life of Christ.

I am with Hooker here. The ultimate location of Christ’s body and blood is not to be sought in the sacraments but ‘in the worthy receiver … only in the heart and soul of him which receives him’. I know from what I experience when I receive the eucharist (which is I twice a month) that Christ is there, the manner in which he is there is a mystery beyond me, neither do I seek to know what is not knowable – except what I know – that he is in me, and I am in him, and the whole world is thereby set to rights.

In the beginning was the word …

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One of our best historians, Tom Holland, whose book on the influence of Christianity, Dominion, is well-worth reading (and would make an excellent Christmas present), has written a moving account of his return to the Church of England here. It speaks for itself, and I hope that readers here who have not come across it will be edified by it.

One of the things which struck me was something which has been nagging at the back of my mind for a while, one of those things which, until you suddenly realise what it was, baffles you and can be vaguely irritating, and that is the power of a good sermon. It made me stop and think about the last time I heard a good sermon, and unless one counts (which I am inclined to) listening to Rowan Williams in a church, then I can’t remember. That’s not to say I have not heard interesting sermons which made some good points, but it is to say that what I would call a “good” sermon does more than that.

I usually read sermons after Morning Prayer, and have recently finished those by Austin Farrer, which I would highly recommend; he knew how to pitch a sermon. My usual standby is, of course, Newman’s Sermons Parochial and Plain which can all be found on the internet here. There is a vigour and a charism about them which makes them as compelling now as when they were delivered. In the past here I have included some of by Pusey, which can be a little hard going and, much more than Newman’s, are of their time. For those, like me, who like a good meaty sermon, these, by Gervase Charmley of Bethel, Hanley, I recommend, and they bear hearing more than once, which is usually the sign of a good sermon. My latest reading is Preaching, Radical & Orthodox, which I have recently begun, and which I also heartily recommend.

One question, put to me by a friend, was whether sermons were the same as homilies? I tend to think not, but that may simply be because I find an eight to ten minute talk a little like an hors d’ouvre without a main course.

It is tempting to say that it is the style of the preacher which creates the impact, but by common testimony neither Newman nor Farrer were great showmen. However, there can be no doubt that a great presentation can enhance a good sermon, and here one of those mentioned by Tom Holland stands out for me, and that is Fr Marcus Walker, the Rector of Great St Bartholemew’s in London, whose sermons, though on the short side, do indeed raise one’s thoughts – and mood. Some of them can be found here, and will, I hope, edify others as they have myself and Tom Holland.

In the beginning was the Word, and it is good to be reminded by Tom Holland of the part the spoken word can play in bringing us to Christ.

  • And if you enjoyed Fr Marcus’ sermons, or would like to help maintain Great St Bart’s, there’s a link here towards restoration.

Rendering under Caesar

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One of the few things of which Bishops and Archbishops can be sure in this fleeting and fitful world is that if they comment on its affairs they will be criticised, and if they don’t, they will also be criticised. Thus, when the Archbishop of Canterbury intervened in the ongoing Brexit saga to protest against the idea that the Government was willing to abrogate international law, there were the usual cries for the Church to stay out of politics, intermingled with the usual “whabouttery” to the effect that how could a church where a recent investigation into child abuse had revealed real failures, comment on politics. The latter reaction, which we get in the Catholic Church too, would puzzle me if it were not so obviously the product of an inability to think. People who engage in that line of casuistry are best left to wallow in their own vomit.

The first cry, “stay out of politics” is odd in a country with an Established Church where the Archbishops and some Bishops have seats in the House of Lord. The Archbishop has responded with robustness: “Christians and people of all faiths take part in the national debate. This is democracy and freedom. I have seen the opposite. Treasure what we have.” He spoke a truth of which we stand in sore need of hearing on both sides of the Atlantic:

Politics, if it is to draw out the best of us, must be more than just the exercise of binaries, of raw majority power unleashed. It exists to seek truth, to bring diverse peoples together in healthy relationships.

If anyone is authorised to speak about morality in politics it is an Archbishop. The binary approach to politics which we have seen growing across the past decade is destructive of the body politic itself. If we cannot disagree civilly with those who have views different from our own then democracy is going to die. In this country at the last general election we had a choice between a communist and a clown, whilst the USA has one between an egotistical braggart and a man slipping into dementia, and neither of their financial affairs bears close scrutiny. Where a system offers people this sort of “choice” whilst failing to deliver on the first duty of government – public safety – then that system is on borrowed time.

We have already seen, with the growth of populist movements, where this could lead, and it is to be hoped that one of the few positives of the current debacle in the UK is that it will provide an object lesson in the consequences of entrusting government to those who make promises which they knew they cannot not keep. The Archbishop is right, if a government admits that it is willing to break international agreements in order to get its way, that needs calling out and condemning, and if it takes a Church to do it, so be it. Sometimes what Caesar needs is reminding that morality plays a part in his world too.

We have created an economic system which lacks any sense of an objective moral order – what Aquinas called natural law. We are stewards of this earth, not its owners. Our leaders are stewards, not absolute monarchs. When they, or we, put power, technology or money above the health and welfare of people, we makes them idols, and we frustrate God’s purpose for mankind. We cannot serve God and Mammon, and it is the duty of Church leaders to call our leaders to account.

*And to help those who wonder why the ABC does not talk about other things, he does, as with this about the situation in Nigeria.

Underground

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As persecution has increased around the world, and the countries of the West are in dire threat of socialism, I’ve worried for some time about “what if?” I’ve just finished reading Rod Dreher’s Live Not by Lies, which is very good, but I’ve also read books about life under Communism and Socialism. We are told repeatedly in the Bible, “Fear not”. Ok; I’ll try, but I’m not having a whole lot of success with that, quite honestly. They say ‘you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone’ but I beg to differ. I know right now what I’ve got and what it will be like when it’s gone and I’m not happy.

The subtitle to Dreher’s book is A Manual for Christian Dissidents. He has a lot of great information for families but it seemed scant information for the rest of us. I am reminded of the fish symbol – half the image in the sand and a knowing person finishing the image and then scuffing away the sign. Maybe we should begin buying fish statues for the front yard. Perhaps fish flags under the American flag. Should we replace our Cross necklaces with fish tattoos? This all sounds fairly funny and light hearted but there’s nothing in the least light hearted behind it.

What will we do when we can no longer take our religious freedom for granted? We’re on the cusp and if you’re not aware of that, you’ve been blinding yourself to it. What will we do when governmental constraints become so strict as to choke off – and finally, kill – the Church? I read this article this morning and it follows a thought that’s been in my mind for some years now. https://www.smallgroupchurches.com/preparing-the-american-underground-church/

It’s one thing to see an event coming, it’s quite another to prepare for it. I see that every hurricane season here in Florida. Two things happen when a hurricane is threatening – the availability of plywood in the anticipated hit zone goes to zero and the beer coolers in the supermarkets are emptied. People make choices and not always intelligent ones. How one prepares in large part determines the outcome. So. How do we prepare for what may not be so far off in the distant future?

It’s time for us to address this issue with our church families. How will we continue to worship? How will we continue Bible study? Who can ‘say a few words’ at a funeral? We, the baptised, are able (thank God and His mercy) to baptise at need, so that’s covered. How will a house church in neighborhood A stay in contact with the house church in F neighborhood?

Even as I write these words, it sounds ludicrous even to me. But the shot heard round the world was Senator Feinstein’s remark, “The dogma lives large … ” It does, indeed, and not just in the life of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. I believe in Christ exactly the same way I believe I have blue eyes. I believe the tenents of the Church the same way I believe in the pulse in my wrist. I believe the loss of community in Christianity is as deadly as gangrene.

These questions I pose are not rhetorical. If you have had thoughts along these lines, I suggest that right now, here on this site, we should open some dialog and make some plans, hash out ideas, give voice to the concern. Cliches become cliches exactly because of their underlying truths; in this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Catholic?

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I was moved by one of the comments on my last post, the link from Scoop to a friend’s blog wherein the latter, a recent convert to Rome, lamented both the state of the current Pope and the Church, but expressed his joy at being in the right Church, the one founded by Jesus. I felt his pain, as I feel that of Scoop. It can’t be easy to be an orthodox Catholic at the moment. It’s a feeling which I know drove some Anglicans out of the Church of England into Rome, some via the Ordinariate.

I have a sense from those I know that those in the Ordinariate are happier than those who converted and joined their local Catholic congregation, though would be delighted to be wrong on this, as I know, from personal experience, how bitterly awful it can be when you and your church seem constantly at odds, and I can well understand why people change church. But I have also observed how often it does not bring what the person converting hoped it would bring.

At the centre of much of this is the question of the Pope. If you sincerely come to believe that the only Catholic Church is the one headed by the Pope, then the Tiber must be crossed, though quite what you do if you conclude Pope Francis isn’t the Pope, I am not sure. I guess wait out the storm and hope for better days. But, outside the Roman tradition, no one else believes that the one infallible mark of being the Catholic Church is recognising the Bishop of Rome as the supreme authority. It was not so in the Church of the Fathers, and not all the selective cherry-picking of quotations will ever make it so. It would be hard to convict the Eastern or non-Chalcedonian Orthodox of a love of novelty, and neither of them holds the Bishop of Rome in that role. My own Church takes the same view.

I am a Catholic in so far as the Church to which I belong recognises the historic Creeds and the Councils of the undivided Church, and it adheres to the ancient orders of the Church – deacon, priest and bishop. For those who feel that these orders can never be held by women then the Orthodox Church or the Roman Church is the place to be. For those, such as myself, who are unconvinced that such a view is based on more than a patriachal insistence on reading Scripture in that way, the Anglican Communion is the place to be.

Is it perfect? No more than any other Church. But the idea that unless you are communion with the Bishop of Rome you are bound to hell is a confection of late origin, designed by Rome to strengthen its hand against Constantinople. This insistence by Rome helped shatter the unity of the early Church, just as Rome’s insistence on having its own way shattered the unity of the Western Church. This, naturally, is not how Rome reads it, but it is how all the other Catholic Churches read it. It may, of course, be that Rome alone is correct, but its own openness to ecumenism since the Seconf Vativan Council suggests a willingness to move beyond old disputes, which many of us welcome. No-one is happy to see the Bishop of Rome separated out from the other Apostolic Churches, though I doubt anyone much thinks that the way to union is easy, or near.

I can do no more by way of concluding with what that great Christian, Bishop Lancelot Andrewes wrote about the Church of England’s fundational beliefs:

One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period – the centuries that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith.

Andrewes introduced two other related features which became characteristic of Anglicanism and which differentiated it from both Rome and Geneva – a reserve about points of doctrine which are not central, and a freedom of private judgement outside these central articles of faith. If you want to make windows into men’s souls, fine, but I have to say that I prefer the Anglican way.