Sunday, 19 March 2017

Disturbing church times

I walked to St St John's in the drizzle this morning to celebrate the eight o'clock Eucharist, rather than walk first to retrieve the car, parked in Greenfield Avenue where I'd been obliged to leave it overnight. On the journey, I collected a eleven pieces of litter, mostly cans and bottles, many of them discarded in the past couple of days. 

Meadow street was unusually full of cars over the weekend, with little movement in or out. This may have been a product of bad weather, and people watching the rugby internationals on TV at home rather than driving to a favourite pub. There was just one space free when I returned by car from St Germans some six hours later, after celebrating the Solemn Mass, followed by a baptism. By ten o'clock Monday morning eighty percent of the cars will have gone. Many working people live in our street and commute to work by car.

News that the episcopal election candidate Jeffrey John has not been included in the short-list drawn up for interview by the Bench of Bishops charged with making the appointment. He was two votes short of the necessary two thirds majority in the Electoral College vote, and the unanimous choice of Llandaff electors. I find this most disturbing. He seems to be feared by the Bishops as a potentially controversial candidate. He started ministry as a Llandaff ordinand, and the work he has done over the years marks him as an outstanding candidate. The fact that he is a celibate gay man in a committed stable civil partnership doesn't seem to have been a stumbling block for local electors, even though it seems to have been the reason for him being forced to withdraw from an appointment as Bishop of Reading, and passed over for Bishop of Southwark. 

The concern that he may not be acceptable as a bishop to a minority of traditionalist church leaders and faithful in Wales is one that can only be dispelled by making an appointment that challenges the reality behind the fear. In the past, traditionalist bishops outside of the UK have strongly objected to other gay appointments, and their threats to split the Anglican Communion over this issue, have been the cause of prolonged efforts at avoiding schism through dialogue. There is no formal schism so far, but many traditionalists continue loudly to denounce others who think differently from themselves, effectively admitting that living with differences of conviction is not their priority.

Jeffery is an outspoken liberal, and I wonder if he is quietly regarded by as being not 'orthodox' enough to be a mainstream bishop, as he's at risk of attracting allegations of heresy. It seems likely to me his views are no more un-traditional than positions held by many episcopal leaders, but it depends on who notices views expressed, whether in praise or condemnation. I wonder if fear of adding to polarisation between traditionalist and liberal tendencies is intoxicating the decision making of the Bench of Bishops at this time? How should the clergy and laity of the diocese respond if they think they have been disregarded? How can charitable behaviour prevail when the world, if not church members are sensing conflict in the air?


  1. Alas... in many ways, the time of the broad church Anglican is long past. For as much as the secular world has shifted from central tendencies to polar positions, so too it seems, our Communion. The idea of the via media is gone. Worrying is the idea that everything is secondary to the fact we kneel at the same altar: for now, people are seeking to exclude, rather than include. Sigh.