Fighting FOCA in Word and Deed, or Talbot, Tatchell and Tactlessness

In the wake of the the Jerusalem conference held by conservative Anglicans, British evangelical Anglican leaders met Tuesday at All Souls Church, Langham Place in London. This is the parish where John Stott was the rector for many years and for even longer has been the rector emeritus. The clergy and lay leaders were in London to establish the British arm of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FOCA).

So a gathering of evangelical leaders at a leading evangelical church shouldn’t be controversial, should it? It wouldn’t have been, except for Peter Tatchell. Tatchell is the gay equivalent of Fred Phelps. You know, someone who has no sense of propriety in getting across his message about homosexuality. But while Phelps and his crew stand at a short distance, holding signs and shouting, Tatchell likes to be a little more hands-on.

Tatchell, the self-styled human rights campaigner, is not a big fan of the right to peaceably assemble. He claims he was “violently ejected” from All Soul’s after what the left-wing Christian think-tank Ekklesia refers to as “seeking to mount a protest against a hardline Anglican group”. In other word, after invading the meeting and attempting to disrupt it, he was removed – by force, since he refused to leave otherwise. This was not a public service to which there was an open invitation – like the time he disrupted the Easter service at Canterbury Cathedral when then archbishop was delivering his Easter message – but rather a private gathering that happened to be using the facilities of All Souls. This was just blatant trespassing.

And if Peter Tatchell is ridiculous with the spoken word, David Talbot was just as much so with the written word, in his open letter to the Rector.

It is a shame that the Anglican Church and, on this occasion, All Souls in particular, continues to deny the God-given reality of homosexuality and [God’s] blessing that gay Christians know in their daily lives. I have looked at the list of speakers at the conference and see no hope of a contrasting Biblical view being put forward.

First of all, the Anglican Church affirms Talbot’s view, hence the whole FOCA thing. All Souls has always been an evangelical church, so it is hardly on this occasion alone that it has made its view of the Bible very clear. And as far as I can tell, no one at All Souls has denied the reality of homosexuality or that gay Christians can know blessing in their daily lives. The only things it denies are that homosexuality is normative and that God can bless any sexual union outside of the marriage of a man and a woman. I wonder why Mr Talbot didn’t put it in those terms.

Of course the silliest bit is the last. He looked at the list of speakers at a conference of leaders opposed to his view of homosexuality and homosexual behaviour, meeting together for the specific purpose of breaking with the Anglican communion over just that issue, and he is disappointed that there is no contrasting view (Biblical or otherwise) being put forward? If he were serious about his argument, I would say he was clearly off the planet. Of course he’s not serious. He’s just manipulating words. He’s just trying to look wounded and persecuted.

After all, he has the whole rest of the Anglican Communion to cuddle up to, with meaningful “I’m OK, You’re OK” sermons to salve his wounds.

Enough is Enough

So while the Catholics are baptising the children of unrepentant, flagrant fornicators, the Anglicans have a whole other thing going on. At least this is in the news.

The Anglican Communion has been split in two like the veil in front of the Holy of Holies. I can’t believe it has taken so long to happen. There have been ruptures and breakaway groups and flying bishops, both across diocesan lines in England and across intercontinental lines in America. Now we are talking about at least half of the Communion saying enough is enough.

They are finally having the testicular fortitude and intellectual honesty to start referring to a false gospel.

Robert Pigott, religion correspondent for the BBC, gets it. The rift is not about homosexuality.

In reality, the dispute centres on how strictly Anglicans should interpret the Bible, and whether, for example, it should be read as ruling out active homosexuality as a sin.

Homosexuality is simply the presenting issue – the human behaviour that exposes radically different approaches to the Bible, and helps to make this such a fundamental dispute.

It is not coincidental that the same bishops who are promoting the normalisation of gay “marriage” are also the ones who don’t believe in the Resurrection or the exclusive claims of the Gospel. After all, the Presiding Bishopette of the Episcopal Church doesn’t believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation. She’s echoed by Bishop Marc Andrus of California, who told the BBC,

The only need is that which St Paul expressed, that each of us should be ready to give witness to the faith that is within us. St Paul saw no need to seek to convert, but simply to make clear the origins and the dimensions of one’s own faith. God leads each of us in the spiritual path that leads to communion with the Divine.

So Jesus, whoever he might be to you, is a way, a truth, and a life, but everyone comes to the Father (or Mother, or whatever God or Goddess is to you) using the path of their own choosing. The Bible does talk about taking a path of our own choosing.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

Women in Pointy Hats

The principal beneficiary will be the Roman Catholic Church, but Orthodoxy in Britian may also benefit from the decision made by the Church of England House of Bishops. The bishops have decided that it is time for the purported consecration of women to join their number. At the same time, they have left opponents out in the cold.

Heretofore, those in the C of E who have faithfully received the sacraments from men of God were cared for under the shepherding guidance of “flying bishops” – officially known as episcopal visitors – authorised to cross diocesan boundaries to care for parishes objecting to women priests. If the General Synod approves the legislation, flying bishops will be no more and all of the Church of England will be ruled by women. For many Anglicans, any pretense of valid orders and valid sacraments will be gone.

As far as I’m concerned the C of E can do what it wants to do. I’m not opposed to women priestesses or bishopettes. As far as I’m concerned, just like any other Protestants they don’t have valid sacraments, so it doesn’t matter what they do. Since this new development will push more people out of the C of E, perhaps I should even view it as a positive development.

Being rather ecumenical as I am toward Rome, I’m not bothered that most of them will swim the Tiber. I know that most western Christians find Orthodoxy a difficult fit – something that I think is probably as much to do with the non-essential cultural and liturgical aspects of Orthodoxy as anything – but Rome has valid sacraments despite some theological deficiencies. Some, due in part to lingering anti-papal attitudes, will cross the Bosphorus instead.

The huge number of clergy threatening to defect to Rome will boost the declining numbers in vocations there. Perhaps this will enlighten the Holy Father to the possibility of extending the Eastern Catholic practice of married priests to the West as a normality rather than a concession to certain converted clergy. Thus, if played right, the knock-on effect of the Anglican decision could be quite significant. I’d still call it a long shot, though.

Even if they are only Protestant clergy, I still can’t get over the cringe factor of seeing a woman pose as a priest in a black shirt and white collar. No doubt I will double cringe at a woman in a cope and mitre.

The Scandal of No Scandal

Peter Phillips is 11th in the line of succession to the British throne. He was on the verge of losing his place in less than three weeks. He was planning to marry a Roman Catholic. He could marry a Buddhist or a Muslim or even a Baptist and keep his place. It’s only Catholics that pose a problem.

He will now remain in the succession. He’s still getting married to the same person. His intended, Autumn Kelly, has conveniently converted to Anglicanism. She has been receiving instruction from the Dean of Windsor and was confirmed in the C of E. None of the news articles indicate which bishop confirmed her.

This has raised hackles on various sides of the argument. Reading the comments on the various online newspaper articles, some people are outraged that she would have to leave her faith for him to keep his place. Others ostracise her for giving in. Some think he is being selfish for making her leave the Catholic Church rather than giving up his place.

I really don’t see what all the kerfuffle is about. News articles all say they don’t know whether she was a practicing Catholic. If they would read their own articles they would realise that she wasn’t. She has been living with Peter for a long time without the benefit of marriage. They have a flat in London and a cottage in Gloucestershire.  They live in open fornication.

The question I have is why she was confimed in the Church of England in the midst of what should be scandal. Sadly, this says a lot about the C of E.

Happiest of Feasts

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
But when she saw
him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
And the angel answered and said to her, “
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Today is one of the greatest Feasts of the Church. So great, in fact, that I don’t understand why Lent isn’t completely suspended for a day. This is the feast of the Incarnation. Sure it comes to fruition in the Nativity, but this is the day we celebrate that God came to Earth. Today we grapple with the mystery of kenosis. Today the very God of very God, the eternal and incomprehensible chooses the Virgin’s womb for a Temple wherein to dwell.

The incorporeal become corporeal. The Word becomes flesh to dwell among us.

In the midst of all the Easter TV programmes challenging all of the orthodoxies of the Faith, cries of critics and doubters, it is a good thing to rejoice. I also feel sad, because they cannot share the joy. They spend their time trying to dig up ways to prove that Jesus wasn’t really the Jesus of the Gospels. He must be anyone other than who He was, His life told to us by eyewitnesses and faithful transmitted to us by the Holy Evangelists and from them by our Holy Fathers who have gone before us. There must be conspiracies and power plays, intrigue and underhanded dealings. And all of it must be because they knew the story wasn’t true. It was made up much later. Tiresome and sad.

So let us rejoice in the love of God shown to us in the Incarnation. Let us rejoice in so great a salvation.

My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy
is His name.
And His mercy
is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered
the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from
their thrones,
And exalted
the lowly.
He has filled
the hungry with good things,
And
the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of
His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.

Terrorism in the East End

I may get regular verbal abuse and heckling in my own classroom for being a Christian, but at least I’m not a vicar getting attacked on the grounds of my own church. There is a constant campaign of vandalism against St George-in-the-East in Wapping. The attitude is typified by shouts of “This should not be a church, this should be a mosque.”

In addition to being yet another example of teen yobbish behaviour – an epidemic throughout this country – it is also a low-grade example of Islamic terrorism. Besides being just downright nasty, these pustules of society are using their faith as an excuse for causing harm and destruction. They have also been fed on a diet of ideas (whether a home or at the mosque or both) that they should be able to settle in an area and Islamify it, driving out the Church.

Limp BBC Jesus

The BBC has re-written the Gospel for a four-part miniseries called “The Passion”. It is to be shown in western Holy Week.

The Jesus of the BBC is so squishy and limp that even the liberal philosopher/theologian/columnist/Anglican vicar Giles Fraser thinks He’s nice but dull. “Following his BBC makeover Jesus is transformed into a sympathetic male nurse preaching the gospel of equal opportunities.”

No, there’s nothing there to offend anyone. This is the Jesus of Religious Education classes in most schools. He’s has lots of nice platitudes, but there’s no “Take up your cross and follow Me.” There’s no “I’m the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” There’s no “Unless you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you have no part in Me.”

Judas in no longer a bad guy. Neither is Caiaphas. According to the series producer, “By such accounts as there are from the time, Caiaphas was reckoned to be a fair man and a good high priest. [He was] a man doing a very difficult job and doing it well.” So why would such a fair man plot to put such an inoffensive man to death?