Saturday, 8 May 2010

Like riding a Bicycle

This is what Harold Macmillan might have called "an uncovenanted mercy" - the pleasure of being able to conduct a wedding. I thought I might have forgotten how it went, but, like riding a bike, once done you don't forget. The bride had been baptized in infancy by the recently retired parish priest of St Francis, and was probably more than a little disappointed that he was not still around to officiate at her wedding. It was a great happiness for me, though; and a good dress-rehearsal for another marriage of a god-daughter which I shall conduct later this summer.
I just love those little hobble skirts of the bridesmaids; very 1920's! Lianne and Douglas have been (as they say) together for six years; so I acknowledged that, and said that this day was sealing their commitment to one another - and a time for family to stand back. They took it very seriously, and although the congregation had been a little high-spirited before we started, once we we underway everyone, even the tiny flower-girl and almost equally tiny groomsmen, were immaculately behaved. It reminded me how much I missed parish ministry when I first moved to St Stephen's House.
The day was a first for the Churchwarden and others who assisted her; they carried it off very well, even to ensuring that there was Registrar's Ink for the pen. FOUR witnesses (at the bride's request) rather than the required two meant a long signing. The string quartet did bravely, and we even managed to get all twenty-eight signatures (bride, groom, witnesses and me on each of four documents) in the right places. My, but it was exhausting. Tomorrow will be a very light day; just an 8am BCP-ish celebration (called in this parish "the early communion") with a sermonette. Then packing cases and checking passport ready for a very early start on Monday for Heathrow and Fatima; still supposing the volcano and BA Aircrew allow us to get to Lisbon and back. Pray, brethren!

Friday, 7 May 2010

A Code of Practice Will Not Do

As was widely predicted, the Church of England has chosen the day after a General Election to bury its bad news. Tomorrow the various reports concerning women in the Episcopate are to be published.* Meanwhile we have to make do with Ruth Gledhill's blog, where she leaks as follows:

"As the Bishop of Manchester indicated to General Synod in February 2010, the draft legislation continues to provide special arrangements for those with conscientious difficulties by way of delegation from the diocesan bishop under a statutory Code of Practice.
The legislation has been amended in a number of detailed respects.
Provision for statutory declarations by bishops unable to take part in the consecration of women as bishops or their ordination as priests has been removed as has an obligation on the Archbishops to nominate particular suffragan sees to be occupied by those who do not consecrate or ordain women.
Added to the Measure are new provisions requiring each diocesan bishop to draw up a scheme in his or her diocese that takes account of the national Code of Practice and provides local arrangements for the performance of certain episcopal functions in relation to parishes with conscientious difficulties.
A further new provision allows such parishes to request, when there is a vacancy, that only a male incumbent or priest-in-charge be appointed. It is expected that much of the July group of sessions of the General Synod in York (9-13 July) will be devoted to debating the Revision Committee’s report and conducting the Revision Stage of the legislation. "

There will, alas, be some priests and parishes who are taken in by this. 'Oh, we shall still be able to have a male priest here, so that's all right!..' No, it is not. First, note that all bishops must participate in the consecration of women bishops. No conscience clause for them. And when a man is consecrated there will doubtless be women bishops joining in the consecration even before we have our first women Archbishop. And do you suppose any priest opposed to women's ordination could be instituted? And how could he swear allegiance to the Bishop of X and her successors...?
"But we will still have the PEVs to protect us!" Oh no you won't. The Archbishops will not have to retain the sees of Ebbsfleet, Richborough or Beverley for those opposed; and so any safeguard there is removed. How could a new PEV accept office in the first place, though? He would have to accept that he was part of a college of bishops which included women whom be believes are not bishops; but he would not be allowed to say that, and women bishops would participate in his consecration. Since at least three of those functioning as Episcopal Visitors are committed to joining the Ordinariate, there would just be the PEV of the Northern Province hanging on until forced to retire by reason of age just four years from now. This is not the provision we asked for, "for our children and grandchildren".
So what shreds of a fig-leaf are left? Any special arrangements are by way of delegation from the diocesan bishop. A woman bishop would have to draw up a code of practice in her diocese which would "take account of a National Code of Practice". As a PEV until nine years ago I had the 'protection' of something much stronger than a code of practice. Yet even those legal provisions of the Act of Synod were largely ignored by many bishops. Now at least two of the women straining at the leash to be consecrated have said that when they are bishops they will do all they can to ensure any such code would be a dead letter. And even if they do make provision for those benighted parishes which do not accept their ministry, how will it be achieved? Will they ask a neighbouring male suffragan bishop, who himself fully approves of women bishops and joins in their consecrations, to take confirmations in that parish? What is that but pure misogyny.

The fact is, we are not (as is falsely alleged) 'opposed to women'. Many of those most firmly against women in the episcopate are themselves women. What we assert is our belief that women may not and should not be bishops in the Church of God. It would be very much easier for us if we could accept them; but, as Archbishop Rowan has recognised, we cannot, and this is a matter of conscience.

What is to be done, then? Far better end the pretence, scrap the fig leaf, go ahead with consecrating women and tell us to go. After all, the fig leaf is not for us; we have told you, A Code of Practice Will Not Do. Its only purpose is to try to hide your own embarrassment.

And, dear Synod, while you are about it, remember that you are breaking all the promises you so solemnly gave us when women were first ordained. You are ignoring the conclusions of the Eames Commission, that the Anglican Communion by itself could not resolve the question of whether women might be ordained. You are setting aside the decisions of the last two Lambeth Conferences, that those opposed to women's ordination have an opinion of equal value to the opposite opinion. And as a new Parliament is elected, you seem to forget that the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament required you to make proper financial provision for those who were being driven out of their livings by a decision they could not, in conscience, accept. Until that was promised, the Measure could not pass into law.
Go ahead, but don't pretend your Codes of Practice hold any interest for us. It is only you who need them, to cover your naked ambition in striving for your own will and intention. Forget the Codes; let us part honestly, as fellow Christians. Don't patronise (or even matronise) us any longer.

*The reports are now published, Sat 8th, and dismal reading they make. You will find a link to them at Fr Ivan Aquilina's blog (listed alongside this posting: St John's Sevenoaks)

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Elect

"One lot of sinners out, another lot in" a wise priest used to say, and he was right. So will you be staying up all night to check the results as they come in? I really do not recommend it. Get your beauty sleep and let others worry about how soon we shall be told the news of drastic cuts all round. "We had no idea of the depth of the problem; now that we are elected we shall have to abandon all the promises we made during the campaign". As for our constituency here in Lymington, I am told that if the sitting candidate (Tory, how did you guess?) were unseated, the result across the country would be three Conservatives left in Parliament. It is, you might say, a safe seat. Which is why I'd be glad of some sort of PR, then at least there would be some point in voting here.

I've been trying to concoct a little blog for our American chums on the Anglo Catholic site, letting them know how I see the present state of the C of E locally. I certainly don't blame our local clergy; they are the product of the present system of training (Salisbury/Wells and Wycliffe Hall) which has the support of the current load of Bishops. But it's certainly not the Church of England as I knew her.

This was Fatima on May 13th last year; a moderate congregation.

There will be many more this year, since the Holy Father is to be present.

Now I am packing my bags for Fatima, and trying to get a few addresses together for that Pilgrimage. We are off on Monday, Volcano permitting; and due to return the following Monday, Volcano and BA staff permitting. I hear they are ballotting for another strike. Well, there are worse places to be stuck than Portugal; the Porto Branco is delightful. Orate pro nobis. +Edwin

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Spring is sprung

After a long wait, Spring has arrived with a great rush in Hampshire. Since I forgot my camera on our previous visit, here are a few photographs taken last week to give you a taste of Exbury.

The house at Exbury is a little unsettling; it replaces a smaller Georgian house, and dates from the 1930s. Perhaps its odd triangular shape is designed to get the best possible views of the park and the distant Isle of Wight - but I wonder if it contains triangular funiture to fit those very odd spaces. As you can see it is undergoing some refurbishment.

It is not the House though that people come to see, but the gardens. And if you are very grand you get to plant a tree. The late Queen Mother seems to have popped down frequently with her spade to visit her Rothschild chums. Charles and Diana were both here as were Her Majesty the Queen (two trees on separate occasions) and a Maharajah or two.

Jane and I have not yet been invited to plant a tree, though I did manage to preach to one of the family on the occasion of the centenary of the neighbouring estate, Beaulieu. Between them these two great properties cover much of this part of southern England.

Pink for a girl and blue for a boy, you understand.

With the resources of the Rothschilds, I guess you can indulge yourself occasionally. The last owner of Exbury was a great enthusiast for railways, so there is a narrow gauge track running round part of the gardens. Here is Naomi, one of the engines, sitting like patience on her turntable..

Which of course brings us seamlessly to the question of the Church of England, where she is going, and who is going with her. Even with the thrills of a General Election impending, the papers are getting very wound up about the Papal visit in September. It would be a pity, though, to spend time parrying the ludicrous article in today's Sunday Telegraph. They think that leaving the Church of England is 'defecting'. More properly, it is the C of E which has become defective, leaving many of us out in the cold. And if the Holy Father is ready to offer us what we asked of the C of E, and were refused, who is to blame us when we accept that offer? Well of course it will be the Sunday Telegraph and the rest of the hacks who blame us. I've said something about all this on 'The Anglo Catholic' site and will leave you here with another picture of Magnolias at Exbury; altogether more wholesome for your contemplation.

I think if you click on the smaller images you may get a full-size version.