'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me'; except that they do, sometimes they hurt more than physical wounds. Religious words are constantly taken over and given negative meanings in the secular world. We don't like being told off; so we say we don't want to be preached at; or we find an argument too hard to follow, and we call it theological - the media are especially good at this, when the word they want is theoretical.
There is one word which seems to be used by everyone when writing about the Bishops who are leaving the Anglican Communion. That word is 'defecting'. Now you might expect those who dislike the Catholic Church - the BBC, much of the Press - to delight in such a pejorative term. It is a little surprising, though, to see it in more friendly reporting - the Telegraph uses it, and so does "America; the National Catholic Weekly" and other Catholic journals.
The meaning of the word itself is bad enough; "to fail, fall short, become deficient or wanting, to fall off from (a standard &c)". So the Oxford English Dictionary. The associations of the word, though (like theological and thoretical) are worse. They connect with 'defective' (maybe mentally or morally defective) or having a defect, being faulty.
It may be this is what some people think of those who, for reasons of conscience, can no longer stay in the Church of England, and who are persuaded that the Catholic Church is the home which they seek. It surely is not the way our friends think of us, though? If they need a word to describe our action, I would suggest one which is at least neutral. A good word might be CONVERT. It is neutral, inasmuch as it is used to describe, for instance, changing from one sort of electrical supply to another - from Alternating to Direct Current, maybe, or from 240 to 110 volt supply, or from FM to DAB radio.
It has, too, happier subconscious connections; Conviction , Constant, Conscientious.
In feeling compelled to leave the Church in which I have served for more than fifty years, I am doing so not out of pique. It is with great sadness that I perceive that once-great church to have fallen away from its standards of belief and of morality, and to be taking ever easier options. For instance, once it was not possible for those remarried after divorce to be ordained. Now, that has been changed; and soon (perhaps already, I am not up to speed with the legislation) it will be possible for such people to become bishops in the Church of England.
So I am converting, moving from a church which has to my mind abandoned its catholic principles into one which stands firm. I hope that this action might yet persuade the Church of England to look once more at its foundation documents, and decide that, for example, St Paul's first letter to Timothy, Chapter 3, gives better moral advice to its clergy than decisions of a General Synod. If there has been a "falling off from a standard", that may apply more to the Church of England than to those who, with great sadness, are leaving it.
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