Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bringing you all the news, not just the headlines

I guess it's a mark of catholicity to bring together disparate pieces of ecclesial news and views. Two things catch my eye in the post FCA, 6th July meeting reportage.

One, is this comment on Ruth Gledhill's first FCA post, about an event in Exeter, held the day before at which ++Rowan preached and presided:

"I was at the Exeter gathering, and would gladly pass on a brief report, if you should so wish. The final numbers were apparently 7,000 for the morning Eucharist, 5,000 for the evening 'Songs of Praise', 1,000 turned up for the Archbishop's theology seminar and the previous evening 1,000 teenagers had attended another event which promised the enticing combination of Rowan Williams and sumo wrestling. Perhaps that may provide the way forward for the Church of England ;)

The Eucharist was a deeply moving and involving occasion - at the end I found I'd been standing for 2 1/2 hours, I hadn't noticed - and the Archbishop preached brilliantly, with no notes. I noticed passers by with shopping bags stopping to listen.

It's not so newsworthy, of course - which is meant genuinely, not in sarcasm. But it was an amazing public evocation of the Christian faith.


Secondly, is the review of the FCA meeting given by John Richardson. Please read the whole as many good points are made in respect of the future of the mission of the C of E in England. Here is a flavour:

"This is somewhat how I think we might imagine the Church of England. There are those who really cannot cope with copes. (Trust me, they are very heavy but they don’t turn you into a Catholic.) There are those who believe that society is ‘just waiting to hear about Jesus’ —it isn’t, or rather it is, provided you don’t mean the man God has appointed to judge the world in righteousness. There are others who believe the collective body doesn’t matter, provided their own bit is working (what might be called, in the light of the above, the ‘Dad’s Army’ approach —provided we can defend Walmington-on-Sea, that’s what matters.)

The trouble is, all of these approaches are understandable and none is adequate. What is really needed is to equip the Church as a Church to address the real problems. We need a Churchill. Sadly, what we have more resembles the 1939 government of France, weak and demoralized in the face of an obvious threat, but simultaneously convinced of their ultimate security.

Will the FCA fill the gap? Frankly, at present, I doubt it. But to complete my analogy, it perhaps represents the current ‘General de Gaulle’ —aware of the problem, yet powerless truly to address it. Still, I would rather go down fighting than be overwhelmed whilst insisting ‘Peace, peace’, where there really is no peace."

Well, down here in the underbelly of the world we remember Churchill, our admiration for his efforts in WW2 knowing no bounds, and our anguish at losing so many young men in Churchill's ineptly planned Gallipoli campaign in WW1 never fading. But Churchill's finest hour came through the advent of the aggression of the most evil opponent of European civilisation - so evil that he united Britain, France, and, eventually, Russia, in common cause against him.

Does the Church of England (indeed, the whole Anglican Communion) have such an opponent both to unite it, and to bring forth it's Churchill? What we face, in fact, is spiritual warfare on many fronts, not all of which are overt, and none of which are commanded by a Hitler. We need a strong leadership team, with good leaders on each of the fronts. Changing metaphors slightly, from war to rugby, we need our bishops to be working together in the scrum, energies combined together in common cause. The Exeter story above reminds us that ++Rowan is as much a mighty forward in the Lord's work as ++Peter Jensen and ++Peter Akinola. Do they ever sit down for a beer together and talk about how binding together better might vanquish the spiritual opposition?

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