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Tony Grist

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Anglican Follies [Jun. 25th, 2008|10:13 am]
Tony Grist
I can't help but be sorry for the current embarrassments of the Anglican Church. I was raised in it, I used to work for it and it owns all those lovely, medieval buildings. It's a sheep-headed,  rackety, old institution but harmless- as churches go- and at its best promotes a spirituality that's reflective, tolerant and sweet-natured. It has or, rather,  had a genius for compromise. Eyebrows may have been raised over Fr Chasuble's young male lodger but nothing was ever done about it. Mischievous bishops could preach about the Death of God and no-one moved to unseat them.  Evangelicals, liberals, catholics and careerist worldlings all managed- with a little enjoyable feuding and sniping- to rub along together. Ah, well, nothing lasts forever.

And maybe this trouble is all for the best. The worldwide Anglican communion is a product of Empire. And why should the imperial church survive when the Empire itself has gone? Why should Africans conform to English norms of piety and virtue? What's happening now could be interpreted- with the church lagging behind the world by about 50 years (as usual)- as part of the process of decolonisation.

The latest news is that the conservative bishops gathered in Jerusalem are proposing to create a not quite schismatic church within a church- evangelical, fundamentalist, homophobe- and with its centre of authority somewhere other than Canterbury.  It sounds unworkable to me. Also essentially unEnglish.

Just let them go-  make a clean break of it- and take the Bishop of Rochester with them.

But nothing is ever that simple, is it? 

Messes like this take generations to clear up. Look at Zimbabwe.

England is a small country. How nice if the Anglican church could also be small again- based in England with a few Anglophile branches overseas- if it could return to being local:  unworldly-wise, slightly comic, charming.  

The sunlight sloping across vicarage lawns- as in Trollope, as in Agatha Christie, as in The Vicar of Dibley. 

Enough nostalgia!  Why should I worry?  I'm not an Anglican any more...

Or perhaps I am.  Is it possible to wash off the waters of baptism? Is it desirable?

I had a pagan friend once- he's on LJ; I tiptoe round him, hoping he won't spot me- who used to say he was going to write to the Pope asking to be excommunicated. He was a very pretentious, self-important young man. I may once have hated my religious upbringing as much as he hated his- but not any more.

From: bodhibird
2008-06-25 01:51 pm (UTC)
Akinola sez: "We want one thing and one thing only - to restore communion and fellowship. It has failed." Yes, but communion and fellowship on *their* terms--agree with us, or you are not of our fellowship.

*grinds teeth*

I wish I didn't care about the Anglican Church, but of course I do--it shaped my sensibilites and that will never go away. It is painful to think that this intolerant bastard is of the same heritage that gave us Tallis and Byrd, Donne and Herbert, Charles Williams and Dorothy Sayers.
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[User Picture]From: seraphimsigrist
2008-06-25 02:01 pm (UTC)
not intending to be provocative, and
I hope also not being so, but
a good many of those people were
Tories weren't they? Perhaps it is
their creativity which allows them
to 'get away' with it?

Edited at 2008-06-25 02:03 pm (UTC)
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From: bodhibird
2008-06-25 02:14 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure I get your point, Bishop. "Those people" meaning the Anglican luminaries I cited? Yes, they were all creative folks; for me the Anglican contributions to music and literature remain reasons to love Anglicanism. And yes, they were Royalists, not radicals. I'm not insensible to the political issues in the current controversies; I'm just not sure I care about them.
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[User Picture]From: seraphimsigrist
2008-06-25 02:37 pm (UTC)

various and on writing

fair enough... no I suppose my thought was
just that they could not be enlisted to a liberal
position really. But that as you say that was
not your intention.
I am sure you are right to avoid as you say
the politics and controversies
I think as surely they are hard to discuss without
becoming isolated from faith and that interiority
which is the ground where Truth beyond all of this
can be accessed or perhaps better can
have access(awkward phrasing
sorry trying to word with attention but that then
it becomes prolix).
well enough from me...
and good luck with writing!, responding much more
simply to your post of the other day about problematics
of writing

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From: bodhibird
2008-06-25 03:05 pm (UTC)

Re: various and on writing

It seems to me that Anglicans, both North and South, have lost the creative, poetic way of thinking which created the great music and literature of the Anglican past; have lost the historic Anglican tolerance for ambiguity, relativity, and disagreements in interpretation; have become as literal and fundamentalist as the Evangelical Protestants of American origin. That is what upsets me about the current controversies, and I usually try to avoid them because the news makes me sad, angry, and perhaps prone to being contentious.

And thanks for the good wishes!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-25 03:22 pm (UTC)

Re: various and on writing

Well said.

Poor Archbishop Williams- who is an Anglican of the old type- a careful theologian and published poet- is ill-equipped to handle this mess.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-25 03:14 pm (UTC)
I'm trying not to take sides (though of course I do have a side) but it seems such a secondary issue to fall out over.

There have always been gay clergy, gay bishops too. If they were all sacked tomorrow the Church would find itself with a manpower crisis. In the "good old days" there was a gentleman's agreement not to get het up about people's private lives.
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From: bodhibird
2008-06-25 03:19 pm (UTC)
In the "good old days" there was a gentleman's agreement not to get het up about people's private lives.

I suppose one could say there was also a gentleman's agreement to stay in the closet and not parade one's perversion in the streets. But I won't say that.

I will say that I am thoroughly disgusted with the Church's myopic fixation on sexual behavior as the be-all and end-all of theology, ethics, and religion as a whole. And by "the Church" here I mean pretty much the whole of Western Christianity today. Please excuse me if I sound bitchy--I know you and I are basically in agreement, but these bloody literalists infuriate me.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-25 03:44 pm (UTC)
They infuriate me too.

When I became a priest- back in the 70s- the C of E was a very different institution. Year by year it seems to have become shriller and sillier and more superficial.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-06-25 03:26 pm (UTC)
I would add T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden to your list. Also John Betjeman, Rose Macaulay and Stevie Smith- the last two being unbelievers steeped in Anglican sensibility.
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