Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Beware of the SJWs!

Looking at my gamut of Facebook friends, I have noticed a growing antipathy to SJWs. It took me a while to realise that SJW did not stand for "Serious Jehovah's Witness" but rather for "Social Justice Warrior".

Now what is this beast and how does it attract such vilification?

First of all, it must be realised that the term is a pejorative, and therefore not a term that one should use in a debate with those who get described as SJWs. Essentially, it is a derogatory term for all those who subscribe to "progressive" social views which include feminism, civil rights, multiculturalism, identity politics, LGBTI values, et c. These are difficult issues in our society, and the tension that we have lies in trying to live together despite some radically different ideas on how Society is to be run. The Church is in the World and therefore in Society, but it is not of the World, and therefore not of Society. It therefore lives in tension between this "in" and "of", a tension which seems to be causing a schism as groups from either extreme pull away from each other.

I have tried to argue that the Church needs to recover its creative capacities that it derives from Her Head. We do seem to be reacting to social changes that are happening, but this is because fewer and fewer people see the Church as an authority on social issues. There is a disjunct between the Church's Orthodoxy and her role in the world as a champion for Our Lord's radical ideas on how Society should be run. The Church needs to be preaching the realities of Eternal Life and the Kingdom of God that is here and now and always has been here and now. Does this Eternity exclude Feminism, Civil Rights, Multiculturalism, Identity Politics, and LGBTI values? Well that depends what you mean. Each of these terms has slightly changed its meaning and its impetus over the decades, and this change is largely a result of secularisation and, dare I say, Marxism.

Marxism has decried Religion as the opiate of the people. This is probably the greatest category error in all of political thought. There is no such thing as Religion save as a catch-all term for the different systems of belief - a term that Marxism defines carefully so that it doesn't fall into the same trap. Religions are not the same, and only superficially comparable. Of course, Marx had Christianity in his sights when he made his statement. He saw Christianity as the reason why the oppressed workers did not rise up and take control. This Marxism has brought about the notion of revolution as an acceptable way for the oppressed to turn the tables and govern. It is pernicious and infects all political systems, even those that predate Marx. I wonder, then, whether Marxism should be given an older name, for it preaches the first sin in Creation: that of Lucifer in rebelling against God.

Each of the "progressive elements" described under the banner of SJW is born from God's desire that mankind should love each other with the same type of love with which they love Him. What is the social justice that God demands? Isaiah says:
Is not this the fast that I have chosen ? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. (Isaiah lviii,6-8)
Is this Marxist? With its talk of freeing those oppressed, and breaking every yoke, making sure that everyone is fed, clothed, visited, it may appear so. Yet notice that there is no notion of "equality" here. There is no discussion of rights, but still there is the urge to protect the vulnerable.

Feminism is godly when it seeks to ensure the protection of women from rape and abuse, when it seeks to ensure that all people are recognised to be human beings, and that if someone does a job then they should be paid as much as another person doing the same job. Feminism is godly when it recognises that men and women are different but share the common humanity and the dignity wherewith God has bestowed it. It ceases to be godly when it attempts to destroy masculinity, when it seeks revenge for the abuses of the past in the name of justice, when it attempts to claim superiority in the same way as men have done so. The Church is naturally a patriarchy in the spiritual sense because God is always described as a Father, by His Son no less. That God chooses clergy to be male should not be an affront against the dignity of the female. Indeed, though Society may find it hard to accept, the virtue of obedience to God's will is one that may mean swallowing the unpalatable for now, but trusting in God's Justice which will come when His Kingdom is made manifest once more.

This is the key thing. Christians submit to the will of God, no matter how arbitrary it may appear. To succumb to the will of society which does change in Time is disobedience against the Eternal Changelessness of God. Whatever is Sin at one point in Time is Sin in all points of Time, because God is Eternal and Sin is separation from God.

The key to the Church's reaction to social issues must be one with its Gospel and its conclusion which is Heaven. Its duty is to transcend earthly issues by drawing humanity towards Heavenly thinking, but we need to be, as Our Lord warned us, innocent as doves and shrewd as vipers. This reflects our straddling of our earthly predicament and our heavenly destiny. Marxism simplifies things by bidding us forget about our heavenly destiny. In that sense, it is not "Religion" that is the opiate of the people; it is Marxism. It is Marxism that forms the procrustean bed whereby people are made to fit by Law.

If the Church truly wants to be a warrior for social justice, then it must promote the system whereby "justice" makes sense. The procrustean justice of Marxism is not, cannot, be a sensible justice.

If I ask, "how many legs does the average human being have?" a Marxist will say "1.985" or something similar because it takes the mean number of legs: i.e. it counts the total number of human legs and divides that by the total number of humans to get the mean number of legs per human. Those above the mean are "privileged" and thus must succumb to those who are "disadvantaged" who lie below the mean.

Yet that makes no sense. We know that the majority of human beings have two legs - this is the average known as the mode. We're not expected to saw off bits of leg to make it fair for other people. We are expected to ensure that people who require wheelchair access receive that access. We are expected to help create better prosthetics for those whose lives would be better for them. God bids us address the actual need, not penalise those who are not in need. The one who looks down on the white middle-class man just because he is a white middle-class man is just as discriminatory as the one who looks down on the black working-class lesbian because of who she is.

What do we do? The Church can lead the way by ensuring that they uphold God's justice rather than the world's expectations. God decrees that marriage is between a male and a female - that's why He created male and female in the first place. To say that there is no such thing as male and female now flies in the face of thousands of years of male and female. Yet, the justice of God (which is an expensive justice) means that homosexual people don't get to have sex with a partner of the same sex. This flies in the face of social justice for the reason that sex is not a right, nor a privilege. For a Christian to want sex with someone of the same sex flies in the face of God's will. It sounds harsh, but there is a perfect opportunity for that Christian to refrain from what he might perceive as good for what he believes to be truly better - namely a relationship with God. Sexual intercourse is a distraction, an idol which takes the place of loving the One True God.

The Church's Gospel is to demonstrate that the relationship with God is better than anything that anyone could wish for. While each one of us is separated from God, we are all in need: we are all poor, naked, blind, in prison, oppressed, and there is no cure save Eternal union with God. This is something we have to learn. While the Church must meet the corporal needs of every human being, it must not subscribe to their earthly wants, nor to a Marxist agenda that, far from celebrating diversity, smudges it into a bland, language-free pottage of meaninglessness. The more that the Church looks upwards rather than downwards, the more it will encourage others to do so.

Should the Christian be an SJW? Only if the J truly comes from Jesus.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Really real? Really?


Sermon for the Sunday in the Octave of Corpus Christi

In this day and age, we have to have everything verified by Science. The activity of praying has been found by Science to be beneficial to one's mental well-being, so the secular society has invented Mindfulness which is essentially a form of meditation without God.

Given this scientific mentality at the back of your mind, do you think it is easy to see why people doubt that Our Lord Jesus Christ is truly present under the form of bread and wine at Mass?

We hear Our Lord say, "I am the bread of Life," and from this we believe that Our Lord is as present in the Mass as we are, only more so, and that we do eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. Yet, Our Lord says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" and, "I am the door," and "I am the vine." If Our Lord is speaking literally when He says "I am the bread of life," mustn't He also be speaking literally when He says, "I am the vine"? But Jesus isn't literally a vine - He's human and divine. Surely He must be speaking as an analogy here, not literally. If He's only the vine by analogy and not literally, why should we not think the same when He says that He is the bread of life? Perhaps Jesus only meant the bread and wine to stand symbolically for His body and blood. Perhaps He isn't really here! Why are we staring at that circle of unleavened bread so intently?

[PAUSE]

It looks like we have a lot of explaining to do. Why aren't things as they seem? How can we honestly believe in Our Lord's substantial presence when all the evidence points to the contrary?

Jesus says that He is the vine and we are the branches. He is clearly saying something deeper than our knowledge will allow. Yet, we understand Him that our life with Him comes from being united with Him in a way that is deeper than our understanding will allow. We not only find our Creation from God, but we gain our very selves from God. If He is the vine and we draw our lives from Him, how do we do that? He must be giving of Himself to us to sustain us - that's what vines do for branches.

Not only this, but Jesus does use this little word indeed. Every time Jesus uses this word indeed which literally means "in truth", He is talking about a fact. Look up every time Jesus says, "indeed," and you will see that He is talking about truth. And then He says, "My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed." This is true. It's what He says, and this word "indeed" shows that He really means it.

But why bread? Why wine?

In several places in the Bible, God presents eating the flesh of human beings as a curse. Cannibalism is savagery and close to the behaviour of wild animals. Jesus wants to protect us from that curse lest people are scandalised. People leave Jesus when He says that His flesh is meat indeed, and His blood is drink indeed. They know such language to be horrible: cannibalism is a curse. Yet, Peter and the other disciples stay with Him trusting in His word, that He will never be a curse to them. And He isn't!

This is why He gives us Himself in the form of bread and wine, so that we are not accused of falling under the curse of eating human flesh and blood. We are eating the Body and Blood of Christ which stands beyond our physical understanding. We draw from Christ the very substance of His being so that we might be nourished as the branches of a vine. He does not diminish when we consume Him but He grows, just like the bread at the feeding of the four thousand and five thousand. There is more than enough of Him for ever single human being who is, was or will be, in all of existence.

[PAUSE]

When next you gaze upon the host, you will see a wafer and that's as it should be. You are seeing the Bread of Heaven, But the Bread of Heaven is Our Lord Jesus Christ. There gaze upon this little white disc and know that you are seeing not only the fulfilment of a promise, but of the Truth that Our Lord Jesus Christ wants to feed you with His very self so that you can become like Him. Don't try to discern His flesh with your eyes, do so with your soul, and pray that God will open the eyes of your soul to behold Him face to face.

He is very willing to let you see Him. He is very willing for you to become like Him.

Are you willing? Are you willing, indeed?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Moving forward by staying still

"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."
"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" (from Though the Looking Glass and what Alice found there, by Lewis Carroll)

One of the the problems that the Church has to address is how it relates to the findings of Science. We live in an age where the tenets of Christianity are thought to be challenged by scientific findings. The big challenge has been the Evolution of the Species versus the account of the Creation of the World in Genesis. There have been three approaches:

1) deny the truth of Science and accept the Biblical account;
2) deny the truth of the Bible and accept the findings of Science;
3) realise the truths that the Bible reveals and that Science discerns are different in nature.

As a matter of fact, many of the Church Fathers did not think that the account of the Creation in Genesis needed to be literal such as St Cyprian, St Justin Martyr, St Clement of Alexandria and Origen. Yet there are many who thought that Genesis was true to the exclusion of Science such as St Basil, St John Damascene, and St Ambrose. This does mark a trend in the Church that has existed from its beginning. there are those who believe that philosophy has a place in Christian thought such as St Justin Martyr and St Anselm, and there are those who do not such as Lactantius, Tertullian, and (to an extent) St Bernard of Clairvaux.

This is the key idea that the Church wrestles with - the nature of human reason within Christian Doctrine. Fr Richard Hooker speaks of the union of Scripture, Tradition and a Right Reason, i.e. a Reason that is has its roots in Scripture and Tradition. Notice, please, nowhere does Fr Hooker ever mention the three-legged stool. That is a myth. He likes it more to a rope of three cords. Still better is the analogy of three rocks, one on top of another: Scripture first, Church Fathers next, then Right Reason on top and thus based solely on both.

It is good that there are these tow positions represented in the Church as each serves as checks and balances on the other. The path to God is a mixture of apophatic and kataphatic spiritualities in tension whereby what we perceive with our senses is both affirmed and denied in order to spur us onward. There is a time for both.

The problem is whether the Church is now merely reactive to human development or part of the creative process whereby humanity participates in its Creation with God. We participate in our salvation effectively by becoming the person that Our Lord Jesus can save in love. Love requires consent, and thus we have to agree to our growth and transformation in Christ that we may indeed become like Him. We are shaped by our deeds and experiences: the more we allow Our Lord to influence those deeds and experiences, the more we approach the real us. This is a process which is given to us by the gift of faith and aided actively at every step by the Triune Godhead. This is why we pray "may the Divine assistance be with us always."

To those who stand outside Christianity, they will see the Church as being largely reactive to the events of Science. What is the Church's response to the Higgs boson whose existence may be responsible for the Big Bang? What is the Church's response to stem cell research which is responsible for many of the drugs such as Warfarin? What about organ donation et c?

It is clear in a traditional church, such as the ACC, that a pro-life stance has massive implications upon what the Church can accept as being an ethics within Science. We have a rigid pro-life stance: life begins at conception and must be preserved as far as possible until death is clear. Essentially, we have to err on the side that a human being is alive until incontrovertible evidence shows otherwise. In this line of thinking, the death of the brain stem is not enough to establish death to the extent that organs can be harvested for transplant. Likewise, T-cells extracted from human embryos is viewed in the same way as vivisection on other human beings. This is problematic because organ donation and stem cell research are preserving people's lives. We in the ACC would say that the means does not justify the ends.

The runaway train problem does demonstrate this well.


In the situation of organ donation: this is very similar to the pushing of the fat man off a bridge. Although Science defines a person as being dead if the brain stem is dead, the Church says that we cannot be sure and that our duty is to follow the morally safer path. We work from different parameters. Many interesting discussions can be found in this edition of Touchstone Magazine. It is also interesting to note that the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church do support organ donation. Most Anglican Catholics would agree in principle if it could be demonstrated that the donor really is dead. On the other hand does the one holding a donor card act in a way that demonstrates a desire for self-sacrifice to allow another to live? This is a big debate and it is difficult to find clear answers.

Again, what we see here is the Church reacting to the world, scurrying to the Bible and the Fathers to discern the moral position. Modernists scurry to Church Authority in order to find an interpretation that matches their morality, and that's a problem.

An end-of-life issue such as organ donation, abortion or euthanasia usually contains an emotive weight. Both sides of the arguments will use the phrase "How would you feel if...?" The question is, are feelings relevant? In cold, brute force philosophy, no. Organ donation benefits the greater good in an unemotional Utilitarian philosophy. In an unemotional pro-life philosophy, the argument would be: one's own danger of impending death is no reason to cause certainly the death of the donor who is potentially dead.

That's what happens when we take the emotion out of the equation. That doesn't mean we take Love out of the equation, as Love is not an emotion.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that like modern politics (Trump or Clinton, anyone?) we are given the choice between two wrong answers and either choice stirs a sense of injustice being done and thus a sense of indignation which is perceived to be righteous by one party and rebellious by another. Perhaps, the Church can do with being creative rather than reactive in these situations.

If the Church is to keep its mind on things that are Heavenly then it needs to bring the joy of Heaven into matters of life and death. Cold hard logic and philosophy will only cause arguments which are unconvincing to the other party precisely because we are arguing in the sphere of earthly human reason. Perhaps, the Church must recognises that, actually, there is no blanket piece of reasoning that will cover every eventuality. If the Church recognises anything, it will be that life on earth is grossly unfair. If there is no God, then there is no reason why life shouldn't be anything other than filled with pain, injustice, intolerance and death. Indeed, without God, getting terminal cancer is not evil - it is just how things are. It is because we react at a visceral level to our loved ones getting terminal cancer that perhaps there is a deeper sense of worth within us that the world can ever give, and if that worth is beyond the world's capacity perhaps it is of God.

It is the presence of the Church in matters of life and death to present that worth of humanity to those who find themselves conflicted. People will often make the wrong choice, indeed the morally wrong choice. The Church will proclaim, "No Abortion! No Euthanasia." A child will get aborted. A man will go to Switzerland and be euthanised. And the Church will scream "NO!" in tears and rage, crying out to God for the innocent life that has been ended immorally. And what will God do?

Well, that's what we have to leave in the hands of God. We have to. It has always been the Church's role to care for the souls of all human beings. We have to stand in the moral mess suffering with the innocent in order that the suffering of the innocent finds sanctification through the means that the Church possesses to sanctify. We have that authority to sanctify given from God. What we don't do is batter sinners and the innocent alike with earthly reasoning even if it is Right Reason. We see that this does indeed drive people away from Christ.

The Church does need to re-develop its creative capacity not only to react to developments in Science and other forms of human progress, but also to present what is Heavenly to beings of earthly mind. It is the role of the Church to suffer for that bringing Heaven to Earth just as Our Lord suffers for the same thing and accomplishes it through His death.

Moral dilemmas produce dichotomies, but morality is Earthly thought if we do not learn to approach it from above for that's where the Church's creative capacities lie. The fundamental worth of every human being comes from God. If we wish to convince the world that abortion denies the worth of both mother and child, then we have to make sure that we ourselves are capable of discerning the worth of people in particular and not in a theoretical text.

The Church does not need to change doctrine by one iota to embrace hard moral issues. She has the capacity to move humanity forward towards God without making the changes that modernists demand under the false assumption that the prevailing morality is where you start: they assume the thing they try to prove. The Church needs to be what God intends the Church to be: standing with the woman caught in adultery, giving her hope of true and glorious life and then telling her to go and sin no more so that she continue towards that true and glorious life.

If Christ joins Heaven and Earth for us sinners in the Mass, then surely the Church can draw strength from that for all others who dwell in sin and the shadow of Death. Let us never, ever despair of the mercy of God. Let us never, ever make anyone else despair of the mercy of God.

Corpus Christ 2017: Videte Miraculum


Recently, a photograph from the Synod of a Continuing Anglican jurisdiction has been published. It shows the moment of the consecration in which a strange disc of light appears above the Chalice as the sacred ministers genuflect.

The priest who published the photograph maintains that it is not a reflection. There are, of course, other potential explanations for this effect. Is it an "orb" - a strange photographic effect that some people attribute to spiritual activity and others a preternatural phenomenon associated with digital photography? Is it a camera defect? Or is it the reflection off of someone's watch?

Indeed, there could be a perfectly "rational" explanation, i.e. one that comes about from empirical reasoning usually under the assumption that there is nothing that cannot be explained by Science.

That's not the point though.

As a result of that photograph, the faith of many faithful Christians has been strengthened. They now find their belief in Our Lord's promises strengthened. They are able to open their hearts further to the presence of God. They have received a visible impression of God's Grace in their lives and a ratification for what they do. That is indeed the purpose of a miracle: it has turned people to God by reinforcing His teaching with a sign and wonder.

Of course, there have been a lot of hoax miracles over the years. People have become rich from the devotion of the gullible. The Mediaeval period was renowned for bleeding hosts, weeping statues and the like, all clever illusions and parlour tricks. It must make faithful Christians look like imbeciles when they see St Theresa of Calcutta in a bath bun or Our Lord in the foam of a cup of coffee.

As Christians, we don't need miracles save the miracle of the Incarnation. Blessed are those who have not seen but have believed. If we are truly sincere in our faith, we will be looking beyond this world and striving to see into the deeper reality behind it. Our minds must be in Heaven - we must "ponder nothing eartlhy minded" as Moultrie's translation of part of the Liturgy of St James says - especially at the consecration of the Eucharistic Elements. At that moment, although it is imperceptible to our senses, we are in Heaven with God. A photograph like this is, in itself, an ikon of this fact.

Whether there is, or is not, a rational explanation for this photograph is irrelevant. The photograph itself opens a window into Heaven where we may gaze upon God.

As we celebrate this most glorious of mysteries, we remember that the whole Mass is a miracle but hidden to those whose only intention is to reject God and deny His presence among us. We Christians should strive hard to believe that God can act in earthly things and transform the meanest sanctuary into Heaven itself, a tin pot into a golden chalice of the Blood of Christ, a pair of tiny candles into roaring flames of God's own light, and the smallest morsel of bread into Christ's very body.

Our destiny lies in the Mass itself, and when all earthly Masses cease, then we shall see the veil of the temple of this skin of reality rent in twain, and the majesty of God thunder through. Then we shall see our place in Heaven bowing before the Throne of God, re-created and made perfect through Him, with Him and in Him.

Blessed and praised be Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament!
Hosanna in excelsis!

Monday, June 12, 2017

The "Archbishop of Canterbury", GAFCON, and the ACC's T-shirt

If the Daily Mail is to be believed (and there is always a very good reason why it should always be taken with a Dead Sea's worth of salt - this is why I've used the quote marks in the title), in a confidential letter from Archbishop Welby to Anglican leaders (which somehow includes the Daily Mail), the Primate of the Anglican Communion has cited Canons 15 and 16 from the First Council of Nicaea in 325AD.

These state:
XV.
On account of the great disturbance and discords that occur, it is decreed that the custom prevailing in certain places contrary to the Canon, must wholly be done away; so that neither bishop, presbyter, nor deacon shall pass from city to city. And if any one, after this decree of the holy and great Synod, shall attempt any such thing, or continue in any such course, his proceedings shall be utterly void, and he shall be restored to the Church for which he was ordained bishop or presbyter.

XVI.
Neither presbyters, nor deacons, nor any others enrolled among the clergy, who, not having the fear of God before their eyes, nor regarding the ecclesiastical Canon, shall recklessly remove from their own church, ought by any means to be received by another church; but every constraint should be applied to restore them to their own parishes; and, if they will not go, they must be excommunicated. And if anyone shall dare surreptitiously to carry off and in his own Church ordain a man belonging to another, without the consent of his own proper bishop, from whom although he was enrolled in the clergy list he has seceded, let the ordination be void
He cites this in regard to GAFCON's decision to ordain a "Missionary Bishop" in Scotland following the vote by the Scottish Episcopal Church to change Canon Law and attempt the sacrament of marriage on same-sex couples. GAFCON would certainly be breaching Diocesan boundaries as well as Provcial Boundaries.

The ACC has, so the saying goes, been there, done that and bought the T-Shirt. In 1977, at the formation of the first ACNA from which the ACC sprung, we declared in the Affirmation of St Louis that communion with the Catholic Church had been abandoned by the Episcopal Church and that we had to continue that communion. We also demonstrated that a schism had actually happened in the alterations to the Catholic Faith attempted by the government of ECUSA and thus we were able to invoke a Canon from the Oecumenical Councils, namely the third from the Council of Ephesus in 431AD.
If any of the city or country clergy have been inhibited by Nestorius or his followers from the exercise of the priesthood, on account of their orthodoxy, we have declared it just that these should be restored to their proper rank. And in general we forbid all the clergy who adhere to the Orthodox and Ecumenical Synod in any way to submit to the bishops who have already apostatized or shall hereafter apostatize.
That seems a strange canon to invoke, what does it say?

Nestorius was the Patriarch of Constantinople who held his eponymous heretical notion that Our Lord's two natures are completely separate and that Jesus was in fact two persons stapled together. The Council condemned this heresy and declared Nestorius a heretic and thus a schismatic. He was the head of a province who required all those in his cure to hold his heresy. In this canon, we find an example that, when an Archbishop "goes bad", all those in his cure must adhere to Orthodoxy and thus submit themselves to the nearest Catholic authority.

This gave the first ACNA (and thus the ACC) the precedent to know that it was free from the authority of ECUSA since ECUSA was in schism from the Catholic Church by way of its heresy. Its pronouncements and declarations against us were declared null and void.

However, for this to work, we had to demonstrate that the ECUSA was in schism, and therefore had broken communion with us. As far as the Affirmation went, we tried to be loyal to Canterbury before that fell, too, into heresy and thus schism from the Catholic Faith. We could not continue in communion with heretical bodies, but made the separation clear.

That's the ACC's story, and we wear our T-shirt proudly, but under our cassocks.

GAFCON have all this to come. The Ephesian Canon will certainly counter the Nicene Canons if used correctly, but GAFCON must demonstrate that the Scottish Episcopal Church are in schism. So must Bishop Pryke in Jesmond demonstrate that the Diocese of Newcastle is in schism. We cannot be in communion with schismatics and so GAFCON must make this intention quite clear and stop thinking of itself as part of the Canterbury Communion, otherwise it is indeed in breach of Catholic authority. The trouble is that GAFCON did not declare schism when we did and thus is perpetuating the same confused nature of the sacraments that are still part of ECUSA. In trying to extricate itself from the mess, it finds itself being pulled back into the hole because it refuses to recognise that it is holding onto the same things that will pull it back in!

GAFCON must make up its mind where its direction lies. If it both holds to the ordination of women and rejects gay marriage then, not only is it being hypocritical in holding to the idea that sex in sacraments is interchangeable, but it is also being homophobic by negatively discriminating against the LGBTI community. The reason for their actions is therefore one of negative discrimination and not of theological discernment. In the ACC, we believe that sacraments cannot be altered, and that this stems from the equal in worth but non-identical nature of male and female. However, we in the ACC too must be careful that our theology does not result in misogyny nor homophobia. We would do well to ensure that we do not allow GAFCON's error to be ours.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trusting in not understanding

Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Where is Heaven?

The other day, we saw Jesus ascend to the Father in Glory, and we stood and looked as He was taken up before the clouds hid Him from view. Now we know that He sits with the Father in Heaven. It follows that Heaven must be up there somewhere. So why can’t we get there in a rocket?

Does it really make sense to say that Jesus is “up there somewhere”? Is Heaven on another planet? Or are we missing the point? Jesus says to Nicodemus, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not; how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?”

God is with us as we are formed in the womb. He knows us all intimately, each one of us in every time and place. If God is everywhere, then how can He be confined to another planet? If we’re saying things like “Heaven is up there, somewhere” then we’re usually just being figurative and not literal in saying where Heaven is. Do we know where Heaven is?

No. Not really. The trouble with asking questions about God is that we often lose our understanding of how things work. But that’s okay. We don’t have to understand; we just have to believe!

[PAUSE]

There will be those who accuse us of being like Alice who was asked to believe six impossible things before breakfast. They will say that if we don’t understand what we believe, then we might just as well believe anything such as God being a flying spaghetti monster. If we don’t understand what we believe, then we must be the most gullible people in the world.

How do we answer this?

[PAUSE]

We may not understand God, but there are things that we do know about Him. We know that He is not a spaghetti monster because how could such a god exist before spaghetti was created. Such a god would go against the findings of modern Science which says that there was a time when there was no spaghetti. In fact there was a time when there was nothing.

We know that God is the Father: the Old Testament speaks of that, as does Jesus. How does the Lord’s Prayer start? We know that Jesus is the Son of God and that He is to be worshipped. We know that the Holy Ghost speaks to us, inspires us, and is also to be worshipped. We know that they are different, and yet we know that there is only one God. Do we understand how this can be? No? Do we believe it? Yes!

A god that is completely understandable is no god at all, much less one that could create the Universe. The fact that we believe in God Who is bigger than we can know should be the greatest comfort to us. This is a God who can bring us into Heaven in the Spirit, just as He does St John where we can see confusing, wild, extraordinary, even frightening glimpses into His reality. He shows us little peeps behind the veil of our existence into His. He knows that we have trouble understanding Him. That’s okay. He just wants us to believe Him, and trust Him so that eventually we know Him and thus know even as we are known. We don’t prove the existence of a new friend by mathematics before we shake her hand. We shake her hand first, and that’s enough!

[PAUSE]

God doesn’t want to know Him as a thing. He wants us to know Him as He really is, and that means seeking Him out in our lives. Even our little attempts will be rewarded as He blesses us richly, Father Son, and Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Multiplication by division

In mathematics, we say that two quantities are in inverse proportion if, when you double the first, you halve the other; triple the first and you get a third of the other, and so on. You can tell that two quantities are in inverse proportion if their product does not change.

For example, you have £5 to spend on sweets. If the sweets cost 5p each, you can buy a hundred but, if they cost 10p each, you can only buy fifty. Likewise if they cost 25p each you can only buy a fifth of one hundred, namely twenty sweets. The cost of each sweet and the number you can buy are in inverse proportion. Multiply the cost of each sweet by the number you can buy and you will always get the same number - in this case £5.

What's this got to do with anything outside the classroom?

I got involved in a discussion on a facebook page in which a new ecclesial group presented itself. My friend, Ed Patch and I asked a fairly simple, but actually very serious question: given that there is a multiplicity of churches and ecclesial bodies which believe effectively the same thing, what is the need for another such body?

The more we multiply ecclesial bodies, the fewer members can each have. That's simple mathematics. Yet, if we're doing Divinity (as opposed to Theology) the more we multiply ecclesial bodies, the more that we do damage to the reputation of the Church and thus bring the Body of Christ into disrepute.

"Ah!" some will say, "but you're a member of the Anglican Catholic Church. Why did your lot split away rather than seeking to work together with ECUSA of the CofE? Why did you up sticks and leave, rather than accept the Dual Integrities approach that the CofE has set up?"

Of course, the fact of the matter is that the whoever changes nothing is not the one who splits. Those who change the Catholic Faith walk away from the Catholic Faith, and that is the truth. Thus, ECUSA and the CofE have departed from the Catholic Faith and, at the level of institutions, preach another Christ, a hermaphrodite Christ which defies the definition of human nature. If we stay with the same Christ that ECUSA and the CofE used to proclaim at the level of institutions, then we are not responsible for the split. That's simple logic.

We don't accept Dual Integrities because to do so would mean the acceptance that Christ and the hermaphrodite pseudo-Christ are both valid expressions of Christianity. To worship anyone or anything other than the Real God - Father, Son, and Holy Ghost - is idolatry, and thus to remain in communion with idolaters is dangerous to the soul. In the CofE, it is also a point of some affirmation of this principle when we see those faithful to the Real Christ prevented from flourishing by those who cry out for the mutual flourishing of those who embrace the alterations to the Catholic Faith.

That's the justification for why the Churches which subscribed to the Affirmation of St Louis exist. There was a good reason that involved only the Catholic Faith which resulted in the separation. The trouble is that there have been subsequent bodies which have separated which have precisely the same principles as the Continuing Churches. Why do they exist, and why have they not sought union with other bodies with the same principles rather than start their own?

That question has been asked, and it is a great joy that this October four Continuing jurisdictions will be closer together than ever in a reversal of our tendency to go our own way. Now that the smoke of the Lambeth Communion's heresy is clearing, we are able to recognise each other clearly.

Many new bodies come into existence ignorant of the Continuing Church's existence. That's okay. Yet we hope, when they discover who we are and whether they share the same Catholic principles as we do, they will enter into discussion with us so that we may find common ground in which to embrace a new relationship and build the Body of Christ.

Yet schisms don't just happen for doctrinal reasons, but rather from the cult of personality. There is an unfortunate "purple fever" where some who desire the office of Bishop too eagerly will change and jump through jurisdictions to get their mitre. As I preached on Whitunday, it is the Church who will recognise the man to become bishop, priest or deacon. There have been too many instances of simony and backscratching which have produced bishops who are in it for the pretty vestments and the ring-kissing. There are whole groups which consist of nothing other than bishops whose only desire is to be recognised, have their own way and do nothing for the furtherance of Christ's Gospel.

There are also those who create schism by a lack of charity or, speaking in the pretence of Charity, insult, mock, or demonise others. Why do they do this? Why use sarcasm when all it will achieve is to perpetuate the divisions between Christians? Indeed, there are many folk who will never return to the Catholic Church because they are so set in their ways, but if they have embarked upon their path because we have mocked them, or shown some cruelty to them, are we not in some substantial way responsible for their distance from the Catholic Faith? Why crack a joke at someone else's expense? What does it achieve save further enmity? We will all have to give an account of our stewardship of the Gospel before the Throne of God. Our self-righteousness will be seen through immediately.

Of course, inverse proportion works the other way too. If the sweets cost 1p, then we can buy five hundred. If the sweets cost a tenth of a penny, we can buy five thousand. If they cost a hundredth of a penny, we can buy fifty thousand, and so on! What if they cost nothing?

The same is true for Christianity. The more united that we are in the Catholic Faith, the more that our ancient, historic, and true faith bears faithful witness to the infinite Godhead. No, we do not unite for the sake of unity. We unite by accepting that great Catholic Faith, pursue it vigorously and, in the commandment to love our neighbour, recognise it in our fellows and see Christ's communion with them as, we believe, it is in us. If they are in communion with Christ, and we are in communion with Christ, then we are in communion with each other, whether we like it or not. If we don't like it, then perhaps we're not ready for communion in Christ. Perhaps we have more growing up to do.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Whitsun 2017: Recognising the one we know

Sermon for Whitsunday

How many times have you said to yourself, “the Holy Spirit wants me to do this?”

We often hear Christians today say, “I feel that the Holy Spirit wants me to do this,” where “this” can mean anything from founding a new religious order, to picking up snakes, and to protesting outside the funerals of servicemen and women claiming that God hates gay people.

A lot is done in the Christian world quoting the inspiration of the Holy Ghost as the reason. You know very well that there is something very suspect about that attitude.

St John tells us clearly, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” How do we try the spirits that we receive?

How do we know that the spirit we hear is the Holy Ghost?

[PAUSE]

Today – White Sunday, the Feast of Pentecost – we see the Holy Ghost in operation and we know that it really is the Holy Ghost. How?

St Jude asks Jesus the same question as we do. “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” How do we know it’s the Holy Spirit talking and not a spirit of the world?

Jesus says clearly, “If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

The Holy Ghost will support, in perfect unison, the voice of Our Lord Jesus.

We know that Jesus promises His disciples to send the Holy Ghost to them. If they love Him, they will keep His commandments and He will give them another Comforter, even the Spirit of Truth. We know that Jesus is the Truth and thus that this Spirit will be recognisable in those that love Him. This is why we see the Disciples aflame with the Holy Ghost. This is how they become Apostles, preaching good news to “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians” and indeed all over the world!

This means that, if what we hear is the Holy Ghost, then it will be the same Holy Ghost as speaks through the Apostles. The Holy Ghost is always the same because He is God and therefore Eternal. The Good News is always the same, because the same salvation is available to all who love Christ Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever.

Now we know how to try the spirits that we hear. What that spirit says must agree with what Jesus says and does, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. The Holy Spirit bears witness to Jesus, to His life, His death, and His resurrection.

Also, the spirit that we hear must be preaching the same good news as the Apostles. This means first, that the Holy Spirit will not contradict the Holy Scriptures that He has given us through the prophets and the Apostles. Second, it means that the spirit will be recognised by the Apostles and their successors, and indeed all Christian people because they are engaged in prayer, that is the ongoing development of a relationship with God and each other.

We are baptised with the Holy Ghost at our baptism. That baptism is fanned into flame at our Confirmation. Every Bishop receives the same Holy Ghost at his consecration and, if they truly strive to live a holy life, they will recognise the Holy Ghost. In short, if you believe the Holy Ghost is speaking to you, then it will become obvious to the praying Church. The Holy Ghost will shine through you and into the world.

[PAUSE]

The Holy Ghost speaks to all Christians. When you hear His voice you will recognise it, but not every voice you recognise will be Him. Be faithful to God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and immerse your entire life in His Love, and you shall truly hear Him.