Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pray for the Church of England

I'm feeling a bit sad this afternoon.

A fellow priest, close to me, and very important to me, dropped dead of a heart attack last Thursday. I discovered this a few minutes before taking a 9.30 Communion service this morning. In God's strange provision I had material on hand for offering up an intention for the mass, which I found tremendously helpful
Everlasting God, our maker and redeemer,
grant us, with all the faithful departed,
the sure beneļ¬ts of your Son’s saving passion and glorious resurrection,
that, in the last day, when you gather up all things in Christ,
we may with them enjoy the fullness of your promises;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Life is so short and so precious, and poised to end at any moment. It really is a frightening waste and blasphemy to spend our time on anything other than what God is calling us to do. And yet - doing just that is hardly straightforward.

I think it's called carrying our cross.

It's also called working for the church.

We are called to love the church, and I believe that completely - but it needs to be a clear-sighted love, for only such love might resource the cleansing of blemishes and the enabling of holy work. It is not 'my country right or wrong' - for if we are destined to judge the angels surely we can exercise some form of discrimination with regard to our own internal life?

At General Synod we hear that by 2020 the Church will be dead (good analysis of underlying trajectory here, the Synod story contains all sorts of assumptions). We have lots of schemes and ideas and we run around chasing our tails because we have lost sight of the one thing needful. We're in a complete funk about sexuality - whether it's homosexuality or the gender of the episcopate - a subject on which Jesus said very little. We forget this, because we're not sat at his feet. When we do respond to promptings of the Spirit we don't follow through on them. I believe that the Church of England is living through a period of chastisement - that we are being pruned in order that we might become more fruitful - but I am less and less confident that the established CofE is a part of the fruitful future (whereas I AM convinced that Anglican theology is part of that future).

It is the response to the pruning which is so dispiriting. We spill our blood keeping the show on the road, when God is more and more clearly asking us to change the show (not the content but the form). If we are to be the Church of England we need to recognise that England is not what it was, in so many diverse and mutually contradictory ways. I think there is a reason why I don't know many happy incumbents, for incumbency drives out priesthood - we are the shamanic cruise directors on the proverbial sinking ship. The church - this beloved institution - has become monstrously abusive and doesn't even realise it.

Father forgive her, for she knows not what she does.

We no longer know what we are here for. We don't know what we are doing or why we are doing it. We have become entangled in the worship of Mammon and are choking. With you is my contention O Priest!!!

What I want is to know the gladness and sadness of the gospel and to share the conversation of God with others and for others. Please pray for the Church of England, that she might be recalled to her vocation, that she might remember her beauty in the sight of God.

And pray for me, a sinner too.

In the meantime, I shall listen to Mr Mumford:



Because I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won't let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

5 comments:

  1. Chastisement? Seems a bit awkard to blame God for the decline of the CofE.

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  2. I think perhaps you should have quoted Arcade Fire's Intervention

    Been working for the church
    While your life falls apart
    Singing hallelujah with the fear in your heart
    Every spark of friendship and love
    Will die without a home

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  3. There is so many elements of the truth here, that I am nearly lost for words!

    'Incumbency drives out Priesthood" is quite profound and I read the linked post with interest.

    I'm in the discernment process as SSM, due to age and lack of formal academic qualification, the church has assessed my ministry to be as best, that of an associate priest.

    Having read your post, I can only thank God for that decision. I would never survive an incumbency post, after 43 years of work in the military, I have had enough of doing to much, with to few resources.

    I will be praying for you as you struggle.

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  4. I'm not ordained, haven no intention of ever being ordained, but I do a lot of 'ministerial' things anyway. My view is that God calls us all - not just priests and ministers - and leaves it to us to get together as a community and work out what were going to do with it. We need to spread the workload around, not just dump it all on one person and watch them work themselves to death. At the same time, we have to be extremely careful not to give responsible jobs to people who just want to build little empires for themselves!

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  5. I don't think that there is any need for religion; places that have lower levels of belief are generally better off than religious places.

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