Monday 30 August 2010

My Last Presentation

On Tuesday I make my last presentation to the In Depth Group. There was a consensus that, in the words of one, "we've done it all to death," and that's the point in which to leave what was still to do undone.

So my last session is my own theological outlook as a kind of completion statement, regarding some of the implications of the theology we have discussed down the months.

Some of you will identify that it is not particularly Christian. There might be a reason for this. I came to the conclusion that a particular Christian theology cannot be upheld any longer. There is no mystery about this: it just does not receive surrounding support, and has become sectarian and institutional. Now just because I think this does not mean others in the group think this - but it is up to them, if individuals want, to counter the presentation.

Clearly, issues raised within Christian theologies can be starting points, but I conclude that all Christian theologies are institutional theologies that talk to insiders. It seems to me you have to have a gnosis of Christian belief, a gut-certainty that this is true, before there is any theology. Either that, or you can opt for a Church telling you what are the boundaries of theology - which is fine but then please leave the universities. You might have some people jumping up and down that the Bible is a magic book, but they are the least interesting of people.

In the end, Christianity is a cult of a personality, and I find that uninteresting. I'm interested in what anyone has to say, how they live, and what others make of them, but there is no league table approach to any of this or a hand-me-down preset position that I have to keep maintaining. What I am more interested in is, well, us and the rest that surrounds us, and theology should be about the awe and wonder as to how it all works and how we end up drawing ethical behaviours. Why do people become over attached to things that will pass away, how can we helpfully self-sacrifice for the better of all, how can we be more creative, how can we by sympathetic and add to compassion and reduce pain?

Friday 27 August 2010

Archbishop of Anglicanism Entebbe Sermon

My dear brothers, sisters, and indetermined, first let me say a hearty word of felt thanks for the invitation to be here to be part of this wonderful occasion to share fellowship with you, to learn from you. I'm all ears. And now listen to me. Archbishop Ian thank you, and thanks to me for going CAPA in hand for the invitation; Archbishop Henry Orombombibi, thank you for all you have done to welcome us to this jewel of the crown in Africa. Thank you to Bob Duncan and those fantastic eyebrows in comeptition with my beard. Thank you mum and dad for supporting me as I went up the ecclesiastical greasy pole. And thank you to my literary agent. And let me take the authority upon myself to bring the greetings and the prayers of some of your brothers and sisters of the Church in England, some of whom may be praying alongside us in our days ahead and will wonder if God will do anything regarding this assembly or indeed anything else.

You know that I am obsessed with bishops: bishops and then me in our new worldwide Anglican Church. So I don't really apologise to those seated here who are not bishops because I want to speak this morning about the ministry of the bishop because this is a conference for, after all, those who are in leadership of the Church and they are bishops. Our readings this could have been written just for bishops.

Bishops, bishops, bishops, bishops, bishops.

When we are made bishops, we put on Roman purple, and first strut our stuff. We pray that we may be given the grace, even if we are not, to follow the one Good Shepherd, Our Saviour Iesu Grist, because apparently we have to follow someone in order to be free and help bring about in his world the changes that he desires rather than what we desire. By Iesu Grist I mean the one in Palestine a little while ago, rather than the son of the Welshman William Price a little less while ago who, like me, was also an Archdruid and, let us remember, the pioneer of cremation. What changes Iesu Grist wanted I leave to your reading, but Saint Peter wrote a letter that being the Shepherd means having a good working relationship with a dog and being, at least a bit, free, loving and sustaining life. Now here in Africa you don't have so many sheepdogs, but you do have some sheep, and our focus must be on the lambs of new life and of those changes that God desires, our responsibility as sheepdogs to bring healing, justice, judgement, and hope where there is none, although I'm not quite sure how we can do this from our various gigantic kennel palaces by pontificating. Our responsibility is to show the society we live in that it might get on a little better, with a more fulfilled life both now and after the brain has rotted once the oxygen stops and has been cremated or, in our case, after the dog has been to the vet.

Although people make peace, peace really lies with God alone, just like that Irish priest did when he helped arrange a bit of terrorism. At least he wasn't Anglican. And it does say, after all, that 'Each nation worships and obeys its own god, but we will worship and obey the LORD our God for ever and ever' (Micah 4.5). But do we, in the West, for ever and ever? Perhaps the old dogs are conked out. And although I have never seen God or a dog at a peace conference, the prophet earlier said, 'He will settle disputes among the nations, among the great powers near and far'. The issue is, was the Micah switched on or off at that point? But look, whether audible or not, we are to be as equally loved and treasured by this invisble God announced by an inaudible prophet, and look at each other loved and treasured, whether we are the good, the bad, the ugly or Clint Eastwood. There are no exceptions.

We sheepdog bishops have to say: how precious we all are – including those who are hated or neglected by others, by society at large or by African bishops in their pronouncements. You know better than I do about those you help and those you hinder. The Church here has bravely refused to turn its back on those living with this and other kinds of stigma, so to keep it going, as to say, 'All are not precious in God's sight'. And so it stigmatises the unmentionables who do the naughty things.

There are children living with HIV and AIDS, partly thanks to Roman Catholicism and its influence in stopping governments and people handing out those little rubber things. As our new Sunday cathedral builder Tesco says, 'Every Little Helps'. Too much stigma there, and I've put this heartwarming story about proselytising Christianity to little children on a postcard and sent it off to Archbishop John Sendmehome saying, "Wish you were here" and boy can he crack a joke or two.

It's about what it is that Jesus Christ has done for us. Let's face it - he has given us sheepdogs a secure pay packet in the midst of economic turmoil for everyone else, and we can always tell the faithful that giving reaps rewards when it comes to our own pay.'Whoever comes in by me will be saved', says the Divine Bank Manager in today's gospel (John 10.9-10); 'they will come in and go out and find pasture...I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness'. One can imagine the farmer going into the bank, that his holy money is saved, and he borrows from him who gave, and off he goes to get a field of sheep, and we can be the shepherd's dogs. All this is possible because the Divine Bank Manager died and then was back behind the desk dealing with loans and deposits all over again. The bank manager's door is a door that no one can shut, but the safe door - now that needs securely locking.

See how the Bank Manager loves you! See what you might become! You became a bishop. So have gratitude about this and the transformation. But is it enough? No? Are you reading between the lines at all? Am I mentioning the unmentionable, the actually embarrassing? So we must go a step further, to give our energies to these great goals of justice and healing that we ought to be discussing in the days to come. Yes, I know some of you have little energy left after all your homophobic ranting. Oops did I mention the unmentionable? Is the Divine Bank Manager investing in the grace to draw you into what he is doing? He is the Good Shepherd because he is prepared to give his life for the flock, rather than imprison some of the flock like you would.

I could go on and on, and so does my script. But if you haven't read between the lines by now and got the point you must be really thick. hang on, it's not exaclty between the lines. But don't forget that the institution comes first, that Body in apparent unity and love. The summons to walk in Christ's way should even frighten us like you frighten some of your populations with your nasty religious rhetoric. I never wrote this! Who's had my script? Well, so, when I ordain a new bishop, it moves me that, after he has said he will obey, then I tell him to keep the Church together but he can't do it alone. He'll need the congregation to get into mass action. That'll frighten the minorities all right.

I can keep this going but I won't. Well, actually I will.

Iesu speaks about the sheep following him because they know his voice. Come by, he says, and that means go left a bit. Hah, if you asked John Senmdmehome he'd say that at the sheep dog trials they were all found guilty. And in a way, he is right. We are guilty in assuming that only some of our people can have fullness of life. So the challenge to us who are pastors is, 'Do the people hear what we are really saying?' Perhaps they do. Sometimes it is said that Christian pastors spend their time constructing perfect answers to questions that nobody is asking! Given that I've never given a perfect answer in my life, that doesn't affect me. But clearly there is an elephant in the room. No no at the back. Turn around, eyes on me please. It's a metaphor. No it is not actually an elephant: I suspect that may not be more of a problem in the European churches than it is here. Am I making myself clear?

Jesus speaks their language, the marginalised. Perhaps he doesn't speak ours. Of course he challenges them - like he might say, let's play online chess. But he begins by speaking in such a way that we know he understands us from the inside and so he will win any check mate going. But what if we listen to him? Ah we can then know his moves. So perhaps we ought to first learn to listen to Jesus ourselves, to recognise how he speaks to our own sin and sometimes confusion, and then we might win the odd game. Bishops cannot be allowed to forget, although they do, that they are human and so in need of repentance and renewal - the sheepdogs are like the sheep in that sense. Less of the woof woof and more waiting for the shepherd's whistle perhaps, or his come by.

We must love and attend to their humanity in all its diversity. Did you hear me? Is that elephant still there? No no, not literally. You don't have to be literalistic. What, you are literalistic? Maybe that's the problem. We cannot assume we always know better, that we always have the right answer to any specific question. I know you want to use the Jesus trump card – but this doesn't mean that we are always going to be right on this or that question just because we are pastors or bishops! We need to learn the language of those we serve. For example, "Hiya Peter love you," and, "Hiya Mark love you," so, "We love each other." The best and greatest of the missionaries who carried the Christian faith to new territories made a priority of leaning the language. So how about the language of Betty loves Mabel? But this is never just a matter of learning the words, it is also about learning to listen and respect. So stop screaming at your own people, and frightening them, and encouraging violence and causing people who may need help to hide. So much of our work this week is going to be about this respectful listening to see if we really understand the needs of our people. I could go on, and I will.

The Divine Bank Manager does not abandon his money when he makes a loan: he shares in the danger. This is my second point. It is only the hired man who will run away, but the employer - he's alright. In theological terms, the Good Banker can never abandon his own money, not amongst his own people, purchased with their blood, so his life and theirs are utterly bound up together. He does indeed need to understand them from the inside and so he exposes himself to the full weight of human sin, to violence and rejection, to the cost and the effect of all that is done wrong in the world. But he can always say, "That's it, I want the money back," but the Divine Bank Manager doesn't. He sees that the savings are building the Kingdom, or is it a Republic?

So for us who have got a steady wage with our Christian leadership, who are hired, the message is between the lines. Stop your persecuting. Stop having the arrogance that you think you can tell the West how to behave. Sort your own places out first. Fuck off. Fuck off?

Otherwise what we have is sanctimonious and pointless leadership, and we who are called to lead in the Christian community should stop imaginging that we make the great political decisions like we once did; but how damaging is that influence when for institutional advantage like I and others seek. The clarity of Christian and especially Anglican witness against corruption in political leadership in so many contexts in this continent has been an identifier for what is wrong here, and I bet you all have your fingers in the pie, just as elsewhere another Church's clergy have been molesting children and planning the occasional bomb outrage. The Good Shepherd is one who stands with his flock and never seeks safety or ease at their expense, unlike how I have called for gay and lesbian people to again set themselves aside so that I can build the worldwide Anglican Church. God knows, all our churches throughout the world need this witness, and we are all – myself included – painfully aware of how often we can and do step aside from the risks that our responsibilities bring.

So as we begin this yet another incredibly pointless meeting, where we can all wallow while others ignore us, let us not act as would be sufficient, for a purely humanitarian reason, but do so full of sanctimonious gloss, with the elephant in the room - no, honestly, please turn around - and try and at least stop fightening the horses. No there are no horses either.

If the churches of Africa are going to be for this time a city set on a hill, then stop shouting, and the people in the valley can get on with their lives in peace. I'm sure I didn't write this. Bob Duncan, this didn't come through that website Anglican Average, did it? Anyway, here we are, and to contradict myself, I hope we will be able to speak a word not only for this continent but for all God's people about the fullness of life, but don't hold your breath.


Wednesday 25 August 2010

Chadderbox Across the Estuary

Lara Crofter: So this is Lara Crofter in Grimfish on Radio Chadderbox soon to talk to some guests in Wykkyfish over the river about this coming week's religious affairs. But first, what's on your show in not too long Peter Levite?

Peter Levite: I'll be talking to the man who is so fed up with being confused with a Chesterfield supporter, called Rowan Chesterfield would you believe, that he has CHANGED HIS NAME [shouting] to Rowan Scunny so we now know he is a Scunny supporter.

Rowanov Treetri [in usual deep voice]: Ah, can someone remind me to telephone my wife after this programme? She is lecturing at the moment.

Lara Crofter: Can I hear one of my guests over there in Wykkyfish?

Peter Levite: The very next studio. Someone's put the mics on already! One of the hospital radio trainees. Ha ha! Bye!

Lara Crofter: Introduce yourselves then. Thanks Peter. One of you has changed your name too.

Rowanov Treetri: I don't normally apologise for speaking, though some say I ought to apologise for everything else I do, but I do on this occasion for, well, just speaking before I should have. Yes, I changed my name, from Rowan Tree and I am now Rowanov Treetri, the Archbishop of Anglicanism.

Lara Crofter: No less, and welcome to our esturial corner as you might say Arky bishop! Just to say, as regular listeners know, I can't actually see my guests over there. Before I introduce them all, and our other very important guest among them, why did you change your name then?

Rowanov Treetri: Well I thought it would be in honour of the honour I myself had received from the Russian Presidency after I wrote a book on Dostoevsky, one on the works by Dostoevsky.

Lara Crofter: Who's she? I've heard of Dusty Springfield, like. Is she Russian then?

Rowanov Treetri: She is, I have to say, a he, a man, a Russian man, and a writer and profoundly revealing of the human condition.

Lara Crofter: Not a singer then. Right well some might remember we did an outside broadcast at Dick, a very special place in the Ukray, UK if I can say it properly, and our producer thought, like, a day after Sunday, why not invite some of them people in to do like a sort of religious comment, and with anyone else like available, so not doing an outside broadcast they've all assembled in Wykkyfish. So yes the Arky bishop of Anglicanism, and the Arky bishop of Pokey Pokoh. Where's that?

Nicky Okoh: I am the Archbishop of Anglicanism, Nigeria. I am Nicky Okoh and I come from Pokey Pokoh.

Lara Crofter: Archbishop. And we have John Sackme, not Arch but Bishop of Imp, also gone over the river, and then a visiting Reverend Barrie Brokeback...

Barrie Brokeback: With my friend MacDavis, who travels around a lot these days.

Lara Crofter: And then some lovely locals. There is the Priest in Charge who is Reverend Father it says here Eric Crapton...

Eric Clapton: Clapton.

Lara Crofter: ...And his curate the Reverend Lynn Shea-Doyle, Reverend Len Sableur, Reverend Al Therys, and a Reverend Beacon Carrie Rabbit.

Carrie Rabbit: Deacon.

Lara Crofter: What a lot of Reverends, all for Dick! Around the table it says here is also a Reader Jurgen Havamass... What do you do then, read things?

Jurgen Havemass: I speak. I preach.

Lara Crofter: Says Reader here, and Kevin Slowburn to train to be a Reader. When did you decide that?

Kevin Slowburn: About thirty years ago.

Lara Crofter: So it's teaching you to speak, not to read.

Kevin Slowburn: Something like that.

Lara Crofter: A lot of chiefs, aren't there, for the indians? Er, Hugh Jorgan Rabbit, Paul Theo Chain, Flora Faunamor - that's a nice name, I bet you changed it.

Flora Faunamor: Why?

Lara Crofter: You didn't pay the phone bill?

Flora Faunamor: You do talk such utter drivel.

John Sendmehome: Why didn't the skeleton need a telephone? Because he had no body to talk with!

Lara Crofter: Harry Tickpaper and Dennis Menace. Gosh. I bet you're all crowded in there.

Dennis Menace: He's flapping himself, him you just mentioned.

John Sendmehome: How does a barber make phone calls? He cuts them short.

Lara Crofter: Anything happening then? In religion like?

John Sendmehome: You forgot me, John Sendmehome, Archbishop of the North.

Lara Crofter: You're not on my list here.

John Sendmehome: I come along, you said I can come along any time I want. Give the Church, and me, some publicity. I ran over a dwarf coming here. I asked him if he was OK. He said "I'm not happy", so I said, "Which one are you then?"

Rowan Treetri: I and my colleague from Nigeria are going to Uganda very shortly.

Lara Crofter: So apparently some of you are going to Uganda very soon.

Rowanov Treetri: Indeed, this is the approximate timetable of our appointments for both the Most Reverend Nick Okoh here and myself, as I have just indicated.

Unknown voice: Drinks everyone? Just check - that was three teas, the rest coffees?

Nicky Okoh: I'm Nicky Okoh and I asked for cocoa.

Unknown voice: Can only do chocolate or Mocka Coffee perhaps.

Nicky Okoh: You make a mocka out of me and you pay for it.

Unknown voice: OK. Well we pay for it. Licence payers anyway.

Lara Crofter: What's going on? I thought you hospital radio types were told to keep quiet so you don't show up us professionals. This is Lara Crofter in Grimfish and my guests are in Wikkyfish, over the river.

Rowanov Treetri: That is most indeed very good thank you. Well, from memory, amongst the importance of sharing the Eucharist, we will have sessions on nurturing family life and building healthy populations, community health, healthy family relations, maternal health, HIV and AIDS, harmonious and dignified communities, about diversity and mechanisms for conflict management, on protecting and empowering the vulnerable - so that will be quite theological I think, the economic future in Africa and about the environment and food security, and indeed we have theological education with technology and the young, but also the disconnect between faith and practice, urban challenges, about what stops visionary, compassionate leadership, and there's church and politics, church being accountable, building partnerships, more on the global economy and leadership, and lots on campaigns, lots on an African Church voice, we'll do some visiting so I fancy seeing a Christian University, and we hear from the Archbishop of Uganda who is Henry Ree Oromombibi. Have I forgotten anything?

Lara Crofter [heard yawning]: Cause these holiday firms keep closing down, don't they, and your money's not secure.

Nicky Okoh: No you haven't and what she on about?

Lara Crofter: "You tourist," you said.

Carrie Rabbit: U2charist would be better. They are what the people want and they're not a fad, well not just a fad, doesn't entirely suit me but then who am I?

Hugh Jorgan Rabbit: Difficult to do without amplification. Loud and large is best for that sort of thing.

Paul Theo Chain: I don't see the Church recovering through these gimmicks, not if it doesn't tackle the fundamental questions.

Lara Crofter: You said "you tourist" and then they're going to gass away at this and that in Nigeria.

Nicky Okoh: It's Uganda! You Westerners have lost faith, lost belief; no wonder you have men sleeping with men and women with women and men marrying their horses.

Flora Faunamor: What? Don't bring horses into it.

John Sendmehome: I've heard of a new sport for residential homes where the residents can have a bet. Care horsing.

Nicky Okoh: It was on Anglican Average, a very reliable website that speaks the true faith. My predecessor, a powerful saintly man, of humble beginnings and towering achievements, the Most ever Reverend Aki Nolo: he said, if you want to read one Anglican website from UK, then read Anglican Average, because they also supplied his fantastic absolutely true speeches. And the website reported about the demand for three or four people all wanting to marry each other, and the man who wants to marry his horse. Where will it all end?

John Sackme: I think we have to be sensitive to the religion of the people and we are where we are, and have to explain as best we can what it is we have in a very challenging but rewarding missionary situation here at home.

Hugh Jorgan Rabbit: I could possibly record the different pitches of barks, the different speeds of the barking, and work out the theme through, and I'll do you a wedding march.

Carrie Rabbit: Woof woof! Keep that growl going.

Dennis Menace: But he's right though. Dogs in churches next.

Lynn Shea-Doyle: We do have dogs in churches, at times, for blessings, Dennis.

Nicky Okoh: So it is true. You have blessings for gays, lesbians, and now dogs!

Lynn Shea-Doyle: Not that sort of blessing. We don't have Hooker and Rover exactly coming up the aisle.

Flora Faunamor: Hey that's a good idea; can we do that?

Lynn Shea-Doyle: Well we could put out a flyer and see if there is any interest.

Al Therys: I was reading a sermon on the Internet about animal blessings. I might use it.

Paul Theo Chain: I can't see a future with any of this. We need intellectual credibility.

Harry Tickpaper: What is it exactly that you want, Paul, and will you ever get it?

Flora Faunamor: Does any of it matter?

Barrie Brokeback: I'm now regretting my decision not to fly to Entebbe. These Ugandan bishops have met in advance, and affirmed their anti-gay side. Yet an African High Court Judge calls for justice with love.

Nicky Okoh: You are all in doing a different Anglicanism, one that we do not know or understand.

Paul Theo Chain: We won't get it from you.

Nicky Okoh: We in Africa are indeed a voice crying in the wilderness, our huge numbers and your declining numbers, and yes Anglican Church is very broken. Torn it is; down. We have to stop this coming to Africa. But we are the future. There is no homosexuality in the natural world God made...

Flora Faunamor: What?

Kevin Slowburn: What have I let myself in for?

Nicky Okoh:
And you Westerners are saying we must have homosexuality and the money, or have no money for development. Well, we will have to go poor and rely on that other money we get that allows me to get on all these aeroplanes and fly around the world. We'll talk about this in Entebbe.

John Sackme: I do think you are being unduly pessimistic. We have lots of small, faithful, dogged even, rural communities, with lots of ancient assets that we try to use in new ways, and cutting the numbers of clergy - yes - is essential but I can see a new future, and I think we are proud to be able to look ahead. But I am retiring.

Barrie Brokeback: Yes I respectfully suggest that you are one of those well intentioned bishops who yet does nothing, all in the quiet and in the background. It isn't good enough. You might not want to know about my lack of sex life or otherwise, but you stand by a regime that has bishops who want me to declare, and I won't.

Paul Theo Chain: No future like this.

Kevin Slowburn: I'm just coming into all this.

Lara Crofter: Ah Barrie Brokeback: now you're the one who's marrying that nice looking lad from Africa like was in the paper we looked at on the Breakfast Show. Is he with you now?

Barrie Brokeback: No, that's MacDavis. No, it is not a marriage; and both of them is at least some proof that there is homosexuality in Africa.

MacDavis: There's plenty in Nigeria, whatever they say.

Nicky Okoh: We don't want your money.

Barrie Brokeback: I'm not offering you any money. The only people offering you any money are those American right wingers you already rely on. Do you think China, India, the Far East, are growing because they accepted Western money for some sort of trade off with homosexuality? You're all paranoid.

Jurgen Havemass: Of course it all depends on the missionary inheritance of the different Anglican colonies, as they used to be. Some were more militant, some were less so, and South Africa had the Colenso controversy where, curiously, the breakaway is now an Evangelical Anglican Church and still separate from the Communion, and early example of division. Colonialisation, and history, runs deep.

Rowanov Treetri: The question is surely, what do we not have to do that would take us in directions we do not want to travel in, and how is it we can find some basis of convenental agreement by which, not that we force each other to one position, nor move to exclude, nor have a basis for exclusion, but produce a basis by which we understand a core definition of, perhaps, what it is to be Anglican and a process by which we can work through our differences over time without, necessarily, coming to a divisive resolution or maybe not quite any resolution after all, but to use such means as available, such as Indaba for example, to continue the process of seeing cultural difference and sensitively that and yet the faith that unites us.

Eric Clapton: We at Saint Chad's pray for good governance in Africa. It's almost always on our prayer list. Money goes there from governments and donations; it seems to vanish. If this sort of religion takes over, Calvinism, then I'm off.

Lara Crofter: Was that the Vicar of Dick? Didn't you have a name issue like Rowan Scunny, and Rowanov Treetri?

Eric Clapton: No.

Lara Crofter: Local gossip and the wolf?

Eric Clapton: That was when I was a curate in Wales. Just like they have Jones the Dole, Jones the Unemployed, Jones the Jobless, Jones the Do-Nothing, you know, to tell one Jones from another: I had my local name.

Lara Crofter: Crapton?

Eric Clapton: Clapton. Whatever I feel like it's still not my name. When I was there, people wanted me to play guitar, which I can't, so some called me Wolf instead so I wasn't like the other Clapton. In fact they called me Boyo Wolf.

Lara Crofter: Have you seen the film The Company of Wolves? Neil Jordan, yes. Hey, something I know about!

John Sendmehome: A wolfman comes home for work, is moody and doesn't want his tea. His wife says, "It's the time of the month."

Harry Tickpaper: I went to see that with a Bahai woman. She found it scary, but it was just so contrived. Wolves and nudity and a very obvious studio for a woodland.

John Sendmehome: Why are people naked in laundrettes? Because it says on automatic washing machines: Please remove all your clothes when the light goes out.

Rowanov Treetri: You are the funniest Archbishop of the North that we have ever known, but please don't come to Uganda. Humm. On second thoughts, perhaps you should.

Lara Crofter: Anyway, someone told me this morning that you have a patrolling festival coming up at Saint Chad's in Dick. Let's talk about that, down at the religion coalface so to speak. What is it then, lots of traffic wardens, security people, all having a get together? Perhaps people we don't actually like and them getting a nice church party?

Flora Faunamor: More drivel.

Lynn Shea-Doyle: 'Patronal' actually; it means for the Patron Saint, who is Chad, and I'm preaching and haven't a clue what to say yet with all this Saints stuff.

Lara Crofter: You're an interesting lady, I think it's fair to say, and I've been reading all about you, where you've been and where you've worked all over the years. Began, as always, a Methodist?

Al Therys: You need a thorough Anglican upbringing to appreciate the liturgy. Being a Methodist is like being in half a Church.

John Sendmehome: A Spiritualist church has a notice on the door: 'To avoid confusion, ring the bell.'

Lynn Shea-Doyle: There's a lot of overlap, you know, familiar things shared between Methodists and Anglicans. You can start with biblical texts and the difficulty with the Bible is we can't read it as a rule book because we agree it is very difficult to take it literally...

Dennis Menace: I don't agree.

Al Therys: Can I write this down?

Lynn Shea-Doyle: And it's not wise to take literally so you unpick the text like you are taught when at university, and you can prove anything really.

Al Therys: I thought the idea was that we are supposed to believe it.

Eric Clapton: No idea.

Paul Theo Chain: How can we communicate with the sceptics out there if we think that? How can we combine sensible thought today and the most traditional numinous liturgy unless people stop thinking we believe in so many silly things like in the liturgy?

John Sendmehome: Do you know the significance of 668 in the Bible? It's the neighbour of the beast. I love being an Anglican!

Lynn Shea-Doyle: I supposed I'd say, haven't we changed since what we call Old Testament times and since New Testament times? Well I have, and I moved to Lincolnshire in the late 1970s - no it wasn't, the 1990s, into the region of Chad and that's when I became Anglican see.

Lara Crofter: Chad? Tell us about Chad. All I know is that he looks over walls and has a long nose. So you could preach about curiosity or eye sight. Trying to be helpful, like.

Jurgen Havemass: The standard of education today.

John Sendmehome: A parishioner got very excited when he finished his jigsaw in three months. It said on the box, 'For two to four years'.

Carrie Rabbit: I think what we need is more postgraduates.

Len Sableur: Chad became Bishop of York in 666, which might be unfortunate for the superstitious now, and his consecration was eventually declared irregular, so he quietly retired, being humble and saying that he had never been worthy of the office. Anyway, still, in 669 he was made Bishop of Mercia or the Midlands and he died at Lichfield in 672.

Eric Clapton: Good Anglo-Saxon stuff, but you can't rely on Bede. Too simple, straightforward, perhaps too much in the way of magical associations for the modern reader.

Harry Tickpaper: If you read it, its obvious he is giving bishops and the like supernatural powers. You can see that people thought differently then. Culturally Bede and the gospels have a lot in common, but have we with either? Yet you get a different attitude when it comes to the gospels, as if things were different then.

Paul Theo Chain: And how can we pass this on to the man and woman in the pew?

Harry Tickpaper: They do, that's my point.

Nicky Okoh: Proves my point. Proves it, proves it! Let me get over there and give you a blessing, to remove all the demons, and let me get to that Barrie Brokeback too... Lord, Lord we need you! Oh the power, the power of the Holy...

Harry Tickpaper: Sit down you twat. You are a stupid, premodern, magic-ridden, homophobic, tosser, a complete and utter knobhead.

Kevin Slowburn: Can't you be more theological?

John Sackme: The sentiment is maybe understandable but should not be usually statable between what we think privately and do publically.

Rowanov Treetri: Ugh.

Lara Crofter: Actually this is family radio and perhaps whoever you are using that language leave the studio.

[The door is heard swinging]

John Sendmehome: Adam and Abel walk past the Garden of Eden. "We used to live there, Abel," says Adam, "before your mother ate us out of house and home."

Len Sableur: Well let's try and edify further.

Jurgen Havemass: Good idea.

Len Sableur: Bede, who wrote the Ecclesiastical History of the English - and I have several copies - says Chad was a holy man, modest, learned in the Scriptures, and one who was careful to practise all he found in them. We should thank God for St.Chad who received a monastery at Dick, probably, from the King of Mercia. There is Chad and there is Higbald and there is Gilbert. And there are other big names of the area, like William of Gossle. It's just a pity that they didn't have photography at the time to show what they looked like, like we can display the PCC. It's all about these people who gave local Christianity character. Lara mentioned Chad and a wall. There's the Rector of Dick who once called his wife a wall. The plaque says, 'Such walles doe build God´s house, true living stones.' Thus he said the people like his wife are the church. Not that every woman in a church has their man in their church, or every man has their woman in the church. Let's not forget Bishop Tozer, in much more modern times, because he went to Central Africa, and rebuilt a local church in 1888 that I used to be in alone before I joined this team.

Eric Clapton: Team?

Bishop Sackme: What team?

Rowanov Treetri: It always revives me to hear about a local church situation or to read or indeed write a book. Most interesting and quite, I dare say, exhilarating.

Eric Clapton: Absolutely. And the point is perhaps this. We do admittedly think differently from the Anglo-Saxon times, but it was those times that formed us, whatever the Celts may have claimed about those roots (as culture supersedes DNA, I would suggest), including what the Welsh said to me in my then walk of faith; and the Church cannot be based simply on the past, but the tradition that blesses the hallowed ground on which, I think, we walk, as laid by such as the Anglo-Saxons and from whom we take what, each of us, can draw upon as we one and another go along on our own particular pilgrimages. Chad is a grounded figure, and so different from the Victorian period as illustrated in so many church windows: that 'bought-out-of-a-catalogue' stuff which commemorates countless nineteenth-century parish worthies up and down the land. The red glass is the colour of cheap raspberry jam, the yellows remind you of sherbert lemons, and the blue is that particular shade of blue which they used to make glass Domestos bottles out of. And the pictures are a bit like an ecclesiastical photofit or a Mr Potato Head kit.

Len Sableur: Stick to talking about what you know.

Eric Clapton: I am not a Quaker.

John Sendmehome: A man became a Quaker. Beats sitting around and doing nothing.

Len Sableur: I mean, I'll do the windows.

Eric Clapton: You did Chad. Anyway, alright, I'll give you a cloth.

Len Sableur: I know I did Chad.

Rowanov Treetri: Such local saintly knowledge and activity, the people on the ground: inspiring, and I cry for Wales.

Lara Crofter: George Hudson, are you going to rescue me?

George Hudson [on Scunny Station]: You'll find it's quite dry when it doesn't rain Lara. Is Peter Levite on next? I'm looking forward to that man who changed his name to Rowan Scunny.

Lara Crofter: I'm glad you said that. Can I say thank you to my guests... Hang on, who are you?

[The studio door swings in the Grimfish studio]

Barry Wappentake: I am Barry Wappentake, the Bishop of Grimfish, and I should have been here.

Lara Crofter: You're too slow. We've finished. And they're over there.

Barry Wappentake: Well, I shall have words.

John Sackme: I shall have words.

John Sendmehome: Is there another word for synonym? Why is there no other word for thesaurus? Only asking.

Lara Crofter: We've all had words and we'll no doubt hear from some of you all again, here on Radio Chadderbox. Tomorrow I talk about the skydivers who sleep when up in the air: apparently they switch off half their brains while they are doing it.

Flora Faunamor: I know about this.

Lara Crofter: They'd better wake up or its omelettes for everyone! Baggy Trousers, from Madness.

Jurgen Havemass: The standard of education today.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Beatify Francis!

My article and some interesting comments on F. W. Newman, brother of the one to be beatified, appeared at the Daily Episcopalian of Episcopal Café.

Something utterly different, and not involving Episcopalians, Church of England or Unitarians, but does involve the British Government and Roman Catholicism. It seems that, not just content to cover up its child molesters, the Roman Catholic Church and the then Conservative government covered up a priest who was moved by the Church to the Irish Republic and so was not investigated further into his alleged part in arranging murder. This is shocking beyond belief even for those of us who tend to think that Roman Catholicism and morality are two different entities.

Friday 20 August 2010

Visiting a Cathedral

You know how it is. These days you have to spend money to get into a Cathedral, but in some you can visit the shop for free when there is a door to the outside. At least you get a sneeky peeky look at the building and can get something to take home for your money.

I went into such a Cathedral shop yesterday. It now sells underwear. I thought, I could get something for my faithful girlfriend, so first I asked about the different bra varieties. I started having a look and wondered about all the references to churches.
The assistant asked me, "What sort of bra would you like? We sell them by the denomination."
I said, "Don't know. What have you got that would suit a faithful, believing woman?"
"The Anglican Catholic raises them up; the broad Anglican is elasticated; the low Anglican half-cup exposes much above; the Roman Catholic upholds the mass; the Salvation Army lifts up the fallen; the United Reformed brings together two of different shapes and sizes; all the Congregationalist ones are different and the Methodist bras come in various classes; the Muslim moves the mountains; the Jewish have extensive mother choices; the Baptist makes mountains out of molehills; the Unitarian is for the flat chested, so some might not bother; the fundamentalist comes in strict sizes; the Buddhist is disposable; the Jain are very loose fitting..."
"The Hindu?" I asked.
"Very relaxing. Makes her karma and better."
"Could be the Hindu then but what about..."
"We have a denominations' choice of knickers as well."
"Go on," I said.
"The Catholic come in very tight for virgins and very loose for married women - no other varieties. If you want varieties, then you can't describe the Congregationalist and I wouldn't trust the quality control either."
"No good then."
"The Jewish are strongly made: for big strong women; the Muslim are huge and floppy, almost like cottony trousers."
"More delicate than either of those."
"Well, the United Reformed are rather broad and open ended."
"Could be."
"Sexy versions then? The Baptist is an adult version but covers the essentials to save embarrassment; the Salvation Army brand suits ex-prostitutes but has more coverage; the Unitarian is, well, rather see-through and skimpy at best."
"Not really. Well, she might not like any of those."
"Humm. The need the right rhythm to get the Methodists' ones on and off; the Anglican Catholic comes up to the belly button, very high, tight and can incense a woman; low Anglicans' are worn around the hip but no waxing available; the broad Anglicans' are baggy with several ways to get out; the fundamentalist is made of harsh sacking material; the Buddhist, oh they are disposable after a day; the Jain only just stay in contact and wouldn't hurt a fly."
"And the Hindu?"
"Apparently they are non-personal - should suit anyone - and are designed to be recycled as cloths."
"Oh dear, I wouldn't want to suggest housework. What about the humanist?" I asked.
"I'm sorry but we only have the plans for them. Very good plans but they haven't got the materials yet."
"I'll give her some money," I said, "and she can choose."

Which she did - and chose Quaker ones. The shop keeps quiet about them, she only told me what she bought afterwards and I've never even seen them.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Mary Contrary

Sunday involved a visiting Unitarian minister preaching on six ways to be miserable, and obvious reverse method about not being miserable. The problem with sermons, like lectures, and then with lists, is they are rapidly forgotten. I did manage to remember two for some Anglicans in the evening, when it was all about Mary. Or rather, it was all about a construction of Mary. To add to my non-participation in the creed and Lord's Prayer and other occasional bits, I added silence during a hymn that seemed to heavily orientated to Mary. The Lay Reader led sermon was very generous to Roman Catholicism about Mary, preferring to quote the most recent Pope Paul about Mary as an ecumenical instrument, ignoring the effects of the two most recent popes. Further it used the gospels to suggest that mother Mary was the first Christian believer, and biased to the poor, which seems to me to just be another construction, this one of the early Christian communities.

Someone will preach about Mary soon. I asked the direct question, "Are you a Protestant?" I asked that because when I encounter this Mary stuff I usually discover I'm not quite so 'post-Protestant' as I'd like to think. The hymn where I fell silent was a 'yuck' response. It's as if I have an extra-genetic implant from a recent ancestor who must have been the coldest Protestant going. Actually, my mother's mother, as an Anglican, gravitated to a high church; my mother, like my father, showed no preference or involvement regarding any organised church, though she followed me into the Unitarians and rather liked them, within which she framed her own naturalistic approach to religion.

I just freeze up with this Mary material; I don't need a goddess substitute and sense this is what is being provided. Mary as virgin mother is just a nonsense impossible ideal, and (as an ideal) makes the position of women ridiculous. You cannot be a virgin and a mother. Unlike the preacher, I'm not convinced the Middle Ages superstition regarding Mary has been overcome. So much of it is Greek (as we call it) New Testament culture about a mother that was open to form and status escalation, rather as Jesus himself was rapidly escalated in framing and status after his death within changing communities.

So if I had to preach on Mary, what would I say? I'd say that there is some ambiguity about Mary within the accounts that we have and we are forced to imagine, but we ought to imagine them as active Jews. She seems to be a supporter, but there is some distancing too, probably from her and also from her son. Joseph, his dad (and I detest all the virgin nonsense), seems to have much less of a look in. Perhaps he was busy. The notion that they were 'engaged', that is never married, freezes events simply because a marriage is not recorded. But the gospels are not history: only history-like and biography-like.

More interesting is after Jesus is executed. If we suppose that his brother James was less interested during the Jesus ministry, but became interested later, then clearly the family firm is becoming involved in the sense of Jesus or Yeshua and the last days - the return of a messianic figure that is him or his death set up as a servant figure according to the beliefs at the time and as selected.

With a last days perspective, then there must be levels of excitement among those of that perspective. They could have been like later Chassidic Jews in terms of excitement. Plus the religious observances will have gone on, with a place left for Elijah at the meal starting to become a place left for Jesus or (initially) the messianic figure Jesus had facilitated in his sacrificial service. In the context of charisma and bereavement, I'd be surprised if there weren't dreams and visions about Jesus that would become material to set into a rapidly forming tradition, especially one cultivated by Paul's death and transformation salvation-religion, also in a last days perspective. The family firm will have bought in, or been brought in, by those who had been under Yeshua's dominance.

So Mary or Miriam then isn't so much a first Christian believer is the matriarch of a family firm in a primitive Yeshua-Jewish community, taking centre stage among the few Jews that would have been convinced. Maybe some of those knew his earthly ministry, and a few joined after. I suspect there were far more last days Jews who did not focus on Yeshua, never mind the Jews who thought life wasn't about to become transformed, despite the cruelty of the Romans and the continuing yoke of the Jews.

Perhaps Mary, as involved, was a linchpin for James to become involved, but James's perspective never really gets the full treatment in a Gospels and New Testament so influenced by Paul. There are just hints and allegations, so to speak.

In the end, Mary Magdalene is a far more interesting figure, as a close friend, as possibly a moneyed supporter, as a possible domestic to the group, the female with special access.

Friday 13 August 2010

New Australian Liturgy

Despite a tribunal holding that Deacon's and Lay People can't do the Eucharist, the Diocese of Sydney still went ahead with its new Eucharist Liturgy:

President [a layperson will do]: Anywan seen my knife? Got some bread to cut up.

People: It is here.

President: Good an yeah. Right, well here we go and thanks God and all that. Just remember this ain't Jesus or anything like it. But when he was around towards the end, he shared some of this stuff out, if not quite this we get from the supermarket like.

People: We get it at home but thanks all the same.

President: There you go. Grab your own and down your gobs.

People: Thanks again.

President: Now we get to the really bladdy good stuff. Anywan seen my bottle opener?

People: It is here.

President: Good an yeah 'gin. Right, well here we go on this one and thanks God again and all that. It might be the real stuff but it ain't the real presence: just remember this ain't Jesus or anything like it. But after they'd had a chew and swallow, he said wash it down with some of this plonk, if not quite this we get from the supermarket like. And he said, sorry, I meant to get more crockery so we'll just have to share this cup.

People: We can get this at home too, and we have more pots, but here we shall share it around, and thanks again.

President: There you go. Wait for the cup and dawn your gobs with just a little bit of the plonk. Once your done, back to your seat.

[The choir may sing a ditty, depending on how many are hungry and thirsty.]

President: Well, there you go. Just as Jesus and his merry men needed to eat and drink, so did we, and so there we are, all done, and what more can we say?

People: What more can we say?

President: I guess that the Lord is with you, unless you've been really naughty.

People: Also with you, on the same terms and conditions. Do sweep up the bits and find a sink.

[Everyone may sing a hymn, unless rushed.]

President: We keep saying thank you God. So let's do it all again, but not too soon! And as for the rest of us, blessings and all that.

People: Amen. Time to go.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Politics Evolving

Where's it going politically? Prime Minister David Cameron keeps doing his meet the (invited) people, who bowl a range of questions, and some overarm. He is clearly skilled at answering and presenting. He must be worried that when the cuts start to bite he starts to lose popularity, a popularity actually raised since the election.

The problem with his 'people sould work' agenda is simple. Over the last decade and more a public economy has been privatised by Labour so that these days the State is a major purchaser. The State does add value: it buys things that are for the public good. As the State purchases less, the private sector shrinks and people are unemployed. We could indeed be entering a period of mass unemployment, and that does not sit with a 'get back to work' approach that depends on having jobs to get into. All these middle class people who would slash benefits may themselves join the dole queue. It does not follow that supply led measures, such as tax breaks, leads to new private firms taking up the slack. There is also inadequate potential for an export led recovery.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats are already in severe poll trouble. The Conservatives have not simply been the dominant partner, but they are regarded as the overwhelming partner. It's as if the Liberal Democrats have thrown in the left wing progressive reputation they had built since Paddy Ashdown.

The Liberal Democrats need to rapidly build a narrative of their contribution to this government. They need to explain and export the ideology of civic and social liberalism before people think they have simply handed over any principles. Failure to achieve the Alternative Vote could be devastating, because it is the one big test, and people may vote pervasively in a referendum just to give one in the eye to the Liberal Democrats.

People forget that the government from 1931 to 1940 was a coalition government. King George V then took an active role so that on 24 August 1931 Ramsey MacDonald formed a National Government in the wake of that economic crisis. A few called National Labour joined him and there were some National Liberals under Sir John Simon who were somewhat prepared to accept an emergency trade protection policy against their economic liberalism. In 1932-33 the Samuelite Liberals left government and rejoined the few opposing Independent Liberals (Lloyd George), merging in 1935, and left the National Liberals as a distinct and separate group in government who were prepared to ditch free trade. This government then became one led by Stanley Baldwin, and he brought that coalition to victory in 1935. Baldwin didn't last long, and with George VI came Neville Chamberlain (of the Unitarian dynasty) and his National Government. The Conservatives did not need coalition partners, but it served them to have them, rather as it does now.

The Norway debate of May 1940 brought other Labour and Liberal MPs into government, and this coalition was different. The non-appeaser and outsider Winston Churchill ran the government, with a General Election missed, when National Liberals had some who went Conservative, and some who went back to the independents, and a kind of Labour opposition functioning with Manny Shinwell and Aneurin Bevan, yet with others of Labour understandably in government. So this time when there was Victory in Europe, the opposition parties got out quick. This was thus a very different coalition from the 1930s. In fact only one Liberal National was in that government.

Both Liberal parties continued on in a much weakened condition after 1945. In effect Liberal Nationals were absorbed by the Conservatives, first in a semi-independent existence, the last traces gone as late as 1968 into the Conservatives and the Liberals getting their room back in parliament in 1974. The Liberals were building themselves up again from a very weak condition.

Now the argument goes that there was weak leadership in all those decades, and this time it could be different. This time there is time - a proper agreement and a five year stint - and there is so far a Liberal Democrat Party that is staying united while feeding what is the discontent through Simon Hughes. But many members on the left have gone, perhaps those who misunderstood Liberalism across its breadth. There is the sense that Labour is waiting simply to pick up government again once the election comes: at five years or earlier.

Even I received a mailing weeks ago telling me Labour is the only progressive party now in existence. It's as if I have a short memory of a month or so and cannot see the progressive input of the Liberal Democrats. But it is getting harder to see that progressive input, and the danger is that the dog and the owner start to look like each other. The danger is that the 'Orange' Liberal Democrats won't carry the rest, and the 1930s on could just repeat themselves.

The Liberal Democrats need a narrative and achievement, and the party conference will be the time to begin to display both. There has been a need to restore liberties, to simplify taxes, benefits, government, and to diversify power. At least now it is a serious party again with hands dirty in government, and that it did what it said it would do. Labour was too divided about its future and had conked out regarding staying in government, with either Brown there or no one was sure who would take over, and they approached the Liberal Democrats with the arrogance of office and the methodology of cliques. At least now government is run formally, as it must with a coalition.

But if the coming future is all about removing benefits, not instituting an anti-poverty trap welfare system but saving money, and attacking the weakest, then the progressive nature of the Liberal Democrats will be shot through. Then Labour will stand ready, but it is a Labour Party that once missed its chance to build the 'progressive left' - a libertarian element it badly missed - because it was then too bloated for its own good.

What the World Cup Did For Me

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Monday 9 August 2010

Building the Brand

Down at the coalface on Sunday our small band of gatherers were joined by a couple who were self-declared Methodists from Ireland, just passing through. It is good to have such visitors, if disappointing that they are not going to be able to come again if this is what they wanted. Nevertheless, these two said afterwards that such is just the sort of service they would like to attend back at home. The service taker had his informal style, but he was well prepared, and my job was to construct the CD that produced all the music and in order and do the button pushing (the actual effort is beforehand, but the rocker switch needs pressing!). Thus all he chose, including the hymn tunes, some with choir support, were all delivered on the moment. The result is as 'professional' a service delivery as possible, and I think attempting that standard is important - especially for the visitor. Who knows the effect of the visit and the encounter - possibly a number of visits to the very successful Unitarian church in Dublin, for example, a church that connects so well with the new spirit of Ireland.

I think we know how to build churches: it is just doing it. It does take some resources and effort, and it is not speedy. Much of it is to identify barriers and remove them, often cherished too which makes their removal difficult.

Then I notice the continued controversy of Marriage and Civil Partnerships. These are not equality based. Basically, in my view, marriage should be open to all couples and Partnerships open to all couples. Some heterosexuals might prefer Partnership. Possibly immigration relationships would have to demand marriage. Many might want to upgrade their civil partnership to marriage. The Church of England wants a denomination first position, but actually that is a denial of the fundamental congregationalist basis of say Unitarians. As it happens, the General Assembly has a non-discriminatory policy regarding rites and ministry, but it is an advisor and resource supporter: congregations decide and do so on the basis of individualist faith positions. The Church of England should not interfere in the polity of other Churches, and if that is a privilege of establishment then it should be disestablished. Unitarians, Quakers and Liberal Jews, and others according to their polities, should be able to provide marriages and partnerships on their premises with whatever religious texts they wish. Unitarians have here a great potential, as rites of passage are often produced with the people concerned. Given the individualist basis of faith, the people themselves do engage in the construction of the rites: the ministers or lay people conducting them are, like the General Assembly, resources to draw upon, and will then conduct the service or facilitate the service.

One way of building the brand is to have ministers and competent lay people contact funeral services and get the message out about rites of passage and this ability to construct the service that is appropriate for the user of the rite. I don't know of any other Church that quite offers this, and it is surely a unique selling point for the Unitarians. And when these take place, you find that from time to time someone in the attending parties thinks this is a place for them, and start to investigate, and will start to contribute to the Sunday and other activities.

Saturday 7 August 2010

Fantasy Island

The theologian with whom I have most in common, Don Cupitt (differences too, but the fundamentals are the same), dealt with John Milbank in his book Kingdom Come in Everyday Speech on page 49 (SCM Press, 2000). Postmodernist and conservative at the same time, Cupitt says Milbank echoed C. S. Lewis in his inaugural Cambridge lecture as if single-handedly trying to keep going a tradition that has died out in practice, a Church that ought to exist rather than one that does exist. It is a sort of a literary afterlife to make a space in which that once actual Christianity might repeat itself.

Cupitt overstates it, but only just: the tradition is still dying rather than dead, a minority in decline within a minority. In effect he classifies it as part of British fantasy-theology.

How out of touch John Milbank is regarding actual Christianity is shown in recent comments about Pope Benedict XVI coming to the UK in a report for (a Vatican based website) by Giulia Mazza.

The fact that John Milbank thinks that the Pope can be received positively in Britain because his "thinking about society, economics and human relationships is often far more insightful than that of the general run of secular culture" shows a staggering naivity about British religious culture.

The first point is that the British, especially the English, care little for the Pope, this one or any. There is some recognition that the last one connected with his Eastern European society and suported social movements to overturn communism. But this one shows a 'rationality' that has turned into arrogance, and he is part of an unfolding of a deeply unethical Church from inequality through to abuse.

Milbank is fantasising again if he thinks the opportunities are there for a great coming together of Anglicans and Roman Catholics. Being generally pro-gay and socially progressive, he seems to think that there is the coming together of Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism on this basis!

The debates about the role of women, married clergy and the norms for homosexuals are discussions that are now common to all the episcopally-ordered churches and in a globalised era it will prove anachronistic to think that they can be confined within any one single communion.

Yet the Roman Catholic Church has just announced that the attempted ordination of women is equivalent to child abuse. Thus the Roman Catholic foot goes in its mouth yet again, but the intention is clear. Milbank is fantasising again. So he does when it comes to these intended ordinariates:

I still think that the AC (Anglicanorum Coetibus) will be of great importance in the future. First because it involves a new recognition by the Papacy of the validity of the Anglican tradition, beginning to equate it more with Eastern Orthodoxy; secondly because it can create a fluidity between the two communions that will help to lead to full intercommunion in the future.

Surely Anglicanorum Coetibus is to arrive at a position in the Vatican where Anglican Churches have, for it, gone beyond the point of no return, that what Rome is doing is picking up some surface crumbs of Anglican style to be fitted into Roman dogma, and practically to set up a means by which it can poach some right wing clergy for its own shortfall.

There might be a Vatican recognition of the skills of Rowan Williams, but they would like him to be another John Henry Newman, and thus, in Milbank's own words regarding Newman:

Anglicans by no means feel that Newman 'betrayed' them by becoming a Catholic. On the contrary, they are very proud of Newman's double contribution to both modern Anglicanism and to modern Catholicism. Newman is a sign of unity: he belongs to both Churches.

Milbank suggests further our prayers to God through John Henry Newman.

I'd rather send my prayers to such a God through Francis William Newman, but then he would come out of his grave and jump on me that this is not legitimate. The transcendent, if it exists, is to be approached directly. The concerns of the transcendent, as I'd put it, can be approached looking at how others have tackled the issues, but in the end it is up to us to make our own journeys. If others point we also point, but we communicate directly and travel on our own feet.

John Milbank's attitude of ridiculous optimism even extends to the recent General Synod meeting. Regarding the Archbishops' amendment "intended to safeguard the interests of those who cannot accept the advent of women bishops", he states:

Although this was defeated, most people involved agree that these interests will be in any case adequately safeguarded under the arrangements now agreed upon.

So he completely misreads the very people for whom the Archbishops made their move. They are not satisfied with a code of practice. They have ever fewer options, but the most obvious being taking up the Pope's - if they are prepared to undergo a bit of self-sacrifice. Otherwise they can stay, sulk and continue to draw pay and pensions.

I doubt Milbank has much connection either with the liberals or close in Anglo-Catholic dress, who are really quite subjective and secular, and he clearly has little connection with the 'nutters' likely off to Rome, if he thinks that

Anglican liturgy, involving ordained women, is in many ways far more conservative and numinous in character than much modern Catholic liturgy, in which the lay involvement of both men and women seems rather random and ill thought-through.

Then he thinks the Latin Mass has its place, and Anglicans must preserve its best worship.

The man is an island to himself, if with a very small bunch of followers who with him seem to think that postmodernism gives a licence to fantasy.