Saturday 24 April 2010

Pusey Conference

Fr Baker prepares to introduce the speakers, [l-r] Fr Ackerman, Fr Baker, Fr Ward, Fr North and Professor Duffy.

A full house at Pusey today to hear papers on Anglican Patrimony. For me, it was pure delight seeing and hearing Professor Eamonn Duffy in the flesh. He took us on from his recent account of the reign of Mary and began to put us right about the Elizabethan bishops. But for Elizabeth, there might have been no choral tradition, no cathedral choirs, no chapels royal. The bishops were iconoclasts and protestants, seeing the Church of England as simply a local part of the European reformation. It was the Queen's conservatism that ensured a few catholic elements survived in the Church of England which would enable later generations to claim them as integral to Anglicanism.
I have to admit to a certain paternal pride in attending a conference where the Principal of Pusey House, the Fr Librarian who organised the Conference, and two of the four keynote speakers had all been "my" students. Which is to say I learned the job of being Principal of Saint Stephen's House under their tutelage.

Canon Dr Robin Ward spoke of the Anglican Tradition of Moral Theology. He reminded us that in the Ordinariate we would not have the licence to disagree with the magisterium. We should, though, seek to make a contribution in the WAY in which we approach Moral Theology, for instance treating it as an apsect of ascetic theology. Our approach to the Confessional too should be distinctive - for not having been overburdened by great numbers of penitents, we have had time and space to develop skills in giving spiritual counsel.

After a very generous buffet lunch and much conviviality in the Freddy Hood room and in the Cloister, we returned to hear the second of "my" former students. Fr Philip North, with his wide experience from pastoral ministry in the Northeast, at Walsingham, and now in Camden Town, sounded a note of warning. Unless the Ordinariate enabled us to continue and develop our pastoral and parochial ministry, it would not he for him. Better in that case simply convert in the old manner. Fr Stephen Bould from Folkestone made for me a most telling riposte, saying that if the Holy Father had invited us to attempt the Ordinariate, because of pleas from Groups of Anglicans, it would be churlish not to give it a go.

Fr David Ackerman from deepest rural Gloucestershire showed that the tradition of the scholarly country parson has not quite died out in the Church of England. He compared the systems of Canon Law in England and in Rome, and then gave what was for me one of the great insights of the day. He reminded us that Anglicanorum Ceotibus was only possible because of the Role of the Pope. He compared it with the exercise of his personal authority by a former Pope in giving permission to Francis to begin his Order of Friars. Who could have forseen what the Franciscans would become? Equally, no one can tell where the Ordinariate might develop. But this promising parallel gave me great hope.
The Staff of Pusey House leave the Chapel at the end of Evensong.

We concluded the day with another element of the Patrimony, Sung Evensong. Altogether, a wonderful day. Much more is to be posted about it on 'The Anglo Catholic' site; I have put a few pictures here to show you what you missed if you were not present.

Friday 23 April 2010

In the Meantime...

A very good couple of days spent in Devon. Old friends Robin and Anne Ellis in Exmouth (seen here in a windowseat where we enjoyed coffee) put me up overnight. The purpose of my visit was to attend the Southwest Synod of SSC (the Society of the Holy Cross), held at Heavitree parish church. That is a place with a great history, and for me is especially dear because it is where my first fellow PEV, Bishop John Richards, had been parish priest. Robin was eventually to join him a an Archdeacon, John of Exeter, Robin of Plymouth. Then John took up the Provincial Bishop task as first Bishop of Ebbsfleet.

The Master of SSC, Fr Kit Dunkley, had asked me to speak about the work of priests in the present climate. Because so many of us seem to be anxious and not a little confused I talked about living in an 'interim' - in the meantime. I hope I may find space to publish what I said on the Anglo Catholic website; here I will just summarize.

"What is this 'little while' he speaks of?" the disciples asked: "we cannot tell what he says."

They were living in the meantime between Resurrection and Ascension; truth to tell, we are all of us in the meantime; waiting for the Parousia at the end of time. "It is not yet apparent what we shall be; but when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is".

So this time of waiting until all becomes clear about the Ordinariate is unsettling; but necessary. Our task, as priests of SSC, is to continue to support one another, and respect whatever any individual may decide. Some for domestic reasons will feel constrained to stay. Others, for the sake of their people, might make the same decision. Others yet again may decide they have to give a lead to their people, and for that reason must go. Whatever decision anyone makes, we must respect it and believe that, like our own , it has been made prayerfully and in conscience.

I ended with a little snatch of song, recalled from my youth:

There’s nothing surer - The rich get rich and the poor get poorer;
In the meantime, inbetween time, ain’t we got fun!

One of the neglected gifts of the Catholic movement is just that; the ability to have fun as Christians. Perhaps it is an important part of our Patrimony as we live through the mean-time.

Sunday 18 April 2010

A Bishop's job is not an 'appy one

Two sermons today, one at our local parish church, the other at St Francis Bournemouth. I had not noticed before how the Ordinal takes the Low Sunday Gospel for the ordination of priests, and the reading for the second after Easter, today, for a bishop's ordination. So last week I said something about the authority to forgive sin, and today about the impossible task of a Bishop - to be merciful, but not to err on the side of leniency, and to administer discipline, but always with mercy. After the trip to Bournemouth and a snack lunch we went to Exbury, the great Rothschild estate, to view the Magnolias and the first of the Azaleas. Later there will be many more, together with a great flush of Rhododendrons. I forgot to take my camera, so you will perhaps be content with a little Magnolia Stellata from my own garden, to sweeten the pill of my sermon.

Ye were as sheep going astray; but now are returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls

When a Bishop is Ordained, the Archbishop hands him a Bible with these words; 'Be to the flock of Christ a shepherd not a wolf, be so merciful that you be not too remiss; so minister discipline that you forget not mercy'. If that is required of a bishop, how much more of the leader of an entire communion, an Archbishop of Canterbury, or a Pope?

It is possible that Archbishop Rowan has been breathing sighs of relief lately, with the attentions of the media turned from him to the Pope. I doubt it, though. Our Archbishop will know very well that if the press and television have left him in peace for a while they will return to him with renewed malice once this spell of baiting the Pope had run its course.

Our journalists seem always to delight in building someone up in order to knock him down again. Nick Clegg should be feeling very worried just now. After the televised debate on Thursday, the pundits were saying how well he had come out of it, how much better than the two other party leaders – so not doubt by the time of the election they will be merrily trampling on his reputation and saying what a disappointment he is.

Anyone who cares to look at the facts, and they are readily available on the internet and in some of the more careful press reports, will know that the recent frenzy about Pope Benedict is ridiculous. Far from covering up incidents of child abuse among the clergy, he has done more that anyone to discipline such priests, remove them from office, and instruct his fellow bishops to report any such matters to the police. But the truth is not often what interests the media, or those who hate Christianity.

‘Be so merciful that you be not too remiss; so minister discipline that you forget not mercy’: it is a hard line for anyone to follow, this balancing of justice and mercy. The courts try to do it, and often fail. Our bishops and others in authority try, too. Sometimes they fail – but they need our support in what they are attempting, rather than our ridicule when, in our view, they do not get things perfectly right.