Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Humour a saving grace

My Tuesday night meeting is something I really look forward to. The camaraderie, the support, the honesty - and the laughter. Yes, the humour (of a somewhat gallows nature often) is a real joy. Try these two beauties from last night.

"You got sectioned in Tokyo? I only got as far far as Newcastle before I got sectioned."

"First time I came, I thought I'd joined a cult. Some f**in cult! You don't pay for your cup of tea and nobody's interested in your second name! "

Looking back, Christmas wasn't really a problem for me. But back at Emmaus afterwards, it was the unexpected that tested me. Open whisky bottles from the night before calling to me when I was tidying up after breakfast. And I nearly got felled by brandy butter! (Well, I thought it was brandy flavoured, not loaded and the taste kinda gave me the inclination) Sneaky, devious and powerful? Totally! "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance". I seem to have survived. Laus deo!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Wur back!

It was good to demolish a big pile of turkey and all the trimmings with ra biological family. A pity tho about the Siberian snow and temperatures which meant that my festive religious observance was limited to listening to Lessons and Carols from King's Cambridge and tuning into the Midnight Mass from Leeds Cathedral on Radio 4. Well, I did the Office of Readings on the day itself as the patristic passage was well worth it. Today has been simply vegetation with much slurping of hot chocolate. Hope it was a peaceful nativity for youse all. And here's a thought on the secular nature of the Festival.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A Parable for this time.

A rather brilliant re-rendering of the Parable of the Good Samaritan pointed at Uganda:

Uganda: the Authorised Version (or who my neighbour isn't)

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said unto him, “What is written in the law? How readest thou?”

And he answering said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”

And he said unto him, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.”

But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

And Jesus answering said, “A certain man went down from Kampala to Entebbe, and fell among the police and law makers, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and held him, pending the arrival of the hurry-up wagon so that they might cast him into prison, and hang him; for he had dared to love another man. And by chance there came down a certain Archbishop of Canterbury that way: and when he saw him, he said ‘attempts to publicly influence either the local church or political opinion in Uganda would be divisive and counter productive, yea it would be seen as white colonialism’ and he passed by on the other side.

“And likewise a Pastor named Rick Warren and his friends, who had counselled the law makers of that land against homosexuals, when they were at the place, came and looked on him. Pastor Rick was deeply moved and said, ‘It is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations’, and they passed by on the other side.

“And on the morrow when he was hanged, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Archbishop and the pastors, though they had known that this would come to pass.

“Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the police and the law makers?”

And the lawyer said, “Not one of them.”

Then said Jesus unto him, “Well done, even you can spot a hypocrite.”
Jesus wept.

(Thanks to God knows I believe)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Let's just see if I can do this!

Venerating Relics?

And a surprise news snippet on my favourite artist Caravaggio:

I really dislike/find distasteful the exhibiting of human relics, be they religious or not. When I went on holiday to Rome, I really did not take to the forearm of St Francis Xavier over his altar in the Gesu (no probs with St Ignatius being under and altar in the same Church). Perhaps it's a matter of cultural temperament, but I honestly fail to see any benefit to anyone by this sort of exhibition.

Christmas cheer!

We all need a wee laugh now and then to take our minds off the nutty and nasty world in which we live. This did it for me: the Anglican Communion Snowball Fight!

With special guest, Benny Ratzinger!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Anglican Covenant - at least we know what we're going to be voting on.

No comment from me on the actual text at this time, but it is worth reading what Rowan Williams said in his video message that came with it. My own comments are in bold!

"The covenant text sets out the basis on which the Anglican family works and prays and lives and hopes. The bulk of the text identifies what we hold in common, the ground on which we stand as Anglicans. It’s about the gift we’ve been given as a Church and the gift we’ve been given specifically as the Anglican Communion. All those things we give thanks for, we affirm together, and we resolve together to safeguard and to honour. (it's bland and unexceptionable, so no problems with sections 1-3)

The last bit of the Covenant text is the one that's perhaps been the most controversial, because that’s where we spell out what happens if relationships fail or break down. It doesn’t set out, as I’ve already said, a procedure for punishments and sanctions. (Really?) It does try and sort out how we will discern the nature of our disagreement, how important is it? How divisive does it have to be? Is it a Communion breaking issue that’s in question - or is it something we can learn to live with? And so in these sections of the covenant what we’re trying to do is simply to give a practical, sensible and Christian way of dealing with our conflicts, recognising that they’re always going to be there. (If it doesn't actually DO anything, WTF have we been wasting the last few years drafting? And why bother signing up to it?)

So what happens next? This Covenant is being sent to all the member Churches of the Anglican Communion. Each church will, within its own processes, decide how to handle it, and by the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in three years time (ANOTHER 3 YEARS OF ANGST! NOOOOO!!) we hope that many provinces will already have said yes to this and adopted it into their own understanding and identity. Clearly the process won’t all be over by then, but we’re hoping to see some enthusiasm, (dream on!) some general adoption of the principles. We hope to see a new kind of relationship emerging. (Oh, it already is!!) We hope to see people agreeing to these ways of resolving our conflicts .(I rather doubt it mush!)

Beyond that, what’s going to happen? It’s hard to say as yet, but the Covenant text itself does make it clear that at some point it’ll be open to other bodies, other Ecclesial bodies as they’re called, other Churches and communities to adopt this Covenant, and be considered for incorporation into the Anglican Communion. (So we can reabsorb all those Conservative Yanks and their pals who legged it in Continuing Anglicanism over women in Orders, the Prayer Book and gays - why am I ever so slightly underwhelmed by this idea?) Meanwhile, it’s open to anybody that wishes to affirm the principles of the Covenant - to say that this is what they wish to live with.

So in the next few years we expect to see quite a bit of activity around this. (No s**t Sherlock?) We hope, as I’ve said, that many provinces will feel able to adopt this. We hope that many other bodies will affirm the vision that’s set out here, and that in the long run this will actually help us to become more of a communion - more responsible for each other, presenting to the world a face of mutual understanding, patience, charity and gratitude for one another. In other words, we hope and pray that the Covenant for the Anglican Communion will be a truly effective tool for witness and mission in our world."

I really wonder if anyone with half a brain is actually going to vote for this. Of course some will, especially if they're told it's the only show in town for keeping in Communion with the Global South (liberal guilt is a serious motivator). I'm not impressed. The SEC had strong and historic links with the US, India and South Africa before the 1st Lambeth Conference. Those can and will be maintained. I suspect it won't fly in Scotland because we let a wider proportion of the laity discuss and debate these issues than in the C of E. The threat of an effect on our relationship with the English Church might sway some. But the question is this: if we don't sign ,will the free traffic of clergy between Scotland and England be affected? If not, then it has zero practical impact and ought to be ignored. If it does, then we face a tricky problem about recruiting clergy to staff charges and that might be a factor to consider. But personally I suspect we 'll find plenty of Yanks and Cannucks to replace the English, so we could live with that in an age of global communication.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Brazilians ain't impressed!

This statement from the Anglican Church in Brazil on the Ugandan Legislation is, to my mind, exemplary.

“Clarity of mind means clarity of passion, too; this is why a great and clear mind loves ardently and sees distinctly what it loves.” (Blaise Pascal)

International society has, throughout its long history, adopted new levels of conscience and freedom and gradually overcome several ways of excluding human beings because of their race, economic status, culture, beliefs and sexuality. We understand this process as a consequence of God’s love for humankind. The Church, as part of this process, has the responsibility of courageously defending the advancement of respect for all peoples, based in the law of love.

The Church itself accepted discrimination in the past, and in many cases helped promote people’s exclusion, revealing its incapacity of responding to its own time’s demands. God’s spirit, however, has challenged the Church to understand that nobody has the right to act, or consent to actions, against any innocent person. This process of gradual spiritual enlightenment has allowed the Church to integrate those who, until very recently, were discriminated because of their ethnicity, opinion, gender and sexuality.

We express, in the light of the Gospel, our deep opposition to legal measures currently being studied in Uganda in order to implement an unacceptable persecution to homosexual people. First of all, such measures take us back to a time of ignorance and barbarity. They are gravely against human rights, and an unacceptable measure in our times. Also, no Christian is allowed to persecute or even threaten other human beings because of the way they live their sexuality. It is acceptable not to agree with someone, but it is an abomination to exert prejudice towards anybody.

An eventual approval of such measures demands a clear and eloquent witness against the imposition of a de facto police state, and for the defense that every person is able to live fully (including their sexual orientation) within the principles of love, mutual respect and commitment to life. In a world where poverty and hunger kill more than wars, governments should be more concerned about fostering a society where there are no excluded people for any reason. Laws that end up promoting discrimination and exclusion, despite being abominable and contrary to human rights, end up masking unsolved problems that Uganda needs to face.

As a final word, we remember that God’s main wish is that we live in love. Our faith tells us that “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gl 3:28). The Law was already fulfilled by Jesus and we are entitled to manifest the Divine Grace in the world by ardently and compassionately loving all human beings.

“He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.” (Psalm 33:5)

The Most Rev. Maura­cio Andrade

Primate of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil

Meditations on a Brussels Sprout.

Christmas is a-coming! Wet snow is falling (and even lying) and yes, I caught myself tra-la-laaing "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" at the sink after breakfast (and wondering if it was the Spanish Inquisition's favourite Christmas ditty?). Tonight is the Emmaus House "feed the Benedictine groupies" night and turkey and stuff are on the menu. Due to one of the gang of 3 being yukky with some foul lurgie gained whilst visiting the sick in hospital, I am senior veg peeler and shopper for the day and found myself peeling a pile of fiddly little green things (sprouts) just after 9am.

Look at a Brussels sprout sometime: it's wonderfully intricate, even if you don't understand all the marvellous biological workings and stuff about chlorophyll (I am no scientist). Why biblical literalists want to believe that God made the world in 6 days rather than through the wonderful mechanism of evolution I have not a clue. Surely God is more honoured by acknowledging the process of divine creativity than simply having the Almighty plonk down the Creation in a "Here's one I made earlier" fashion?

I also thought about the nature of the Community in which I am living: "inspired by the rule of St Benedict" is the official line. But actually in practice, it's rather more of the "Arminian nunnery" of Little Gidding and Nicholas Ferrar. Thoroughly Anglican in it's Office but without the clutter of habits et al. Actually thoroughly domesticated, in that homely way that is the hallmark of classical Anglican Prayer Book spirituality. It's far from incompatible with a Benedictine inspiration: read Martin Thornton's "English Spirituality" and see what I mean.

Now back to inspect the plum puddings! How Dickensian!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Lambeth gets back to us!

This little nugget tickled my fancy when I saw it on an American Episcopal priest's blog site:

V - "I hear that the ++ABofC will speak on Human Rights at the Tutu center in NYC Jan 26th."

R - "I would as soon listen to Tiger Woods speaking on Family Values."

Oh dear, one fears the ABC's voice on matters of human rights might be rather ignored across the Communion for the rest of his tenure. The email sent in reply to those of us who contacted Lambeth Palace is so-so.

Thank you for your message and for taking the trouble to write about this deeply painful issue.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is very clear that the Private Member’s Bill being discussed in Uganda as drafted is entirely unacceptable from a pastoral, moral and legal point of view. It is a cause of deep concern, fear and, to many, outrage. The Archbishop has publicly stated that “the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it can be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades”.

For its part the Church of Uganda has clearly restated its opposition to the death penalty. As the Ugandan Church continues to formulate its position on the bill as a whole, the Archbishop has been working intensively behind the scenes (over the past weeks) to ensure that there is clarity on how the proposed bill is contrary to Anglican teaching.

Comments I think are due: "this deeply painful issue" - actually, there were two - did my email get read by anyone?

Para 1: He is indeed very clear- but it took him weeks to say anything and when he did, it wasn't a statement, it was an indirect comment via a favoured journalist. It's not the lack of clarity that was the problem, it was the delay.

Para 2: "continues to formulate it's position" This Bill has been extant for 3 months. Just exactly how long does it take the CoU to work out its position? Their official spokesman spoke out in favour of the bill if the death penalty was withdrawn. It's position is pretty clear - or was until they back pedalled to a "still studying" position (which quite possibly came about due to pressure from the ABC). And that position, my dear Archbishop, was never jumped on within 12 hours as the American election was. This e-mail is a politicians reply - answering half the question and ignoring the bit that bites. Not really satisfactory.

It looks to me as if the Covenant is kaput because the very Instruments that will decide who is good and who is bad (Lambeth Conference, Primates, ACC and ABC) are inherently skewed to favour the Global South and its Bishops over anything that smacks of liberalism. And that I do not think should rule the SEC. As far as the Covenant goes, Include Me Out.

Grub n' stuff

Dougalthinkists will be aware that I rather enjoy my grub. Mercifully, I am blessed with a metabolism that burns calories faster than an Olympic sprinter on amphetamines, so I can do so with impunity. Today was a case in point. I was taken for lunch to Bar Roma and indulged my inner fat Opera singer with a plate of delightful Onion soup (lashings of Parmesan) followed by a really rather tasty artichoke risotto. Last week I discovered the local Thai place had changed hands and had seriously improved. Nice sea bass starter. Ah, the joys of good food! And tonight's sausage and Murphy's casserole was just as yummy. And the poached pears!! (Dougal tip: poaching in apple juice, with a mulled wine spice sachet and a good slug of Drambuie works very well!)

I also treated myself a little by nipping into the Edinburgh University Library to have a shuftie at their current exhibition: a very fine 11th century Psalter (probably illustrated on Iona) which is the old book produced in Scotland still in the country, a wonderfully preserved copy of our 1st printed book Bp Elphinstone's Aberdeen Breviary of 1509. A 1599 text of Romeo and Juliet in splendid nick, a copy of the the 1st printed book in Gaelic (Knox's Book of Common Order). But the prettiest of them all was a lovely book of designs of the medallions in the Choir School of St Mary's Cathedral by Phoebe Ann Traquair. Just gorgeous! Do pop in if you get the chance.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Cast down? No, actually

Well, my wish came true and there was resolution of the result of my interview for the care home job. "Nope". Actually, I don't feel too bad about it, as I rather thought my lack of experience might count against me. Not that I had any time to feel grim about it. The letter arrived at 12.30pm and I was out the door en route to the analyst for my appointment, followed by another job interview at 4.15. Which again I felt went OK. It's for a support worker post working with people with Autism. This I hope comes off as I really enjoyed being interviewed by the 2 team leaders. That and the high totty quotient of the interviewees!! (And no, there wasn't a mirror in the waiting area!).

So we keep on smiling (yes, really) and looking forward. Tomorrow, the medics assess!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Notes on the week ending

Worthy and heavy posts, a little humour - all rather masking a pervasive sense of anxiety about job interviews, responses to them et al. I've been trying to keep balanced, rather than out and out positive (forcing a smiley mask would be dangerous I suspect). I hope there is some resolution in the next day or two, as my sleep patterns have slid a wee bit out of kilter which is a bit of a warning to me. Ora pro nobis.

That said, Saturday had me participating in a quiet day led by one of the most prolific and influential spiritual writers of the latter quarter of the 20th century - Gerard W Hughes SJ. A genuinely delightful man who left me with handful of spiritual nuggets I can go back and chew at leisure.

"Where your heart is, let your brain be also" - Baron Von Hugel

"At the final judgement, God will ask you one question and one question only: did you enjoy my creation?"

"Nothing so masks the face of God as religion" Martin Buber

"The centre of me is always and forever a pain, a curious, wild pain" Bertrand Russell.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Light Entertainment

It's all been very heavy and worthy of late, so here's a little light entertainment.

The Muppet's do Bohemian Rhapsody! Bliss!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Ugandan bill is being toned down

There is news that the Ugandan bill is being toned down. This is from Andrew Sullivan in "The Atlantic"

"the death penalty and life imprisonment may be stripped from the Ugandan bill in favor of forcing gays into "counseling." Jim Burroway keeps in mind the other sections of the bill. It would:

* Criminalize all speech and peaceful assembly for those who advocate on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda with fines and imprisonment of between five and seven years.

* Criminalize the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment. This penalty may be reduced in the new version, but the act still appears to be criminalized to some extent.

* Add a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24-hours of learning about that individual’s homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment of up to three years.

* Add an extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.

* Void all international treaties, agreements and human rights obligations which conflict with this bill.

One of his readers asks:

I wonder if they didn’t initially include the death penalty in this bill as a ploy, knowing they would bargain it away so that once it was gone the rest of the bill wouldn’t seem so extreme."

So, the death penalty and life imprisonment are off the agenda - good. This may be the result of ++Rowan's "quiet diplomacy" (at least in part). What is still highly disturbing is the current role of Ugandan religious leaders (including the Anglican bishops) in supporting what's left.

A sort of very limited victory - but still the pressure needs to be applied.

A late addition: the Media office attached to the Office of the President seems to be suggesting that this bill ought to be dropped!!! Check out

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

An e-mail to Rowan Williams

Dear Archbishop

I am contacting you to express my deep dismay and disappointment with regard to your public position on the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 currently under consideration in the Ugandan Parliament and the election of the Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles.

The former, one of the most vile and inhumane pieces of legislation to see the light of day since the happy demise of Adolf Hitler, has been in the public domain for several weeks if not months, was initially offered very slightly qualified support by the Anglican Church in Uganda and has been the subject only of an indirect comment by your office through the medium of Ruth Gledhill's column in the Times. The latter, an action which threatens no lives with judicial termination, was condemned with 12 hours by a Press release from Lambeth Palace. A combination of rectitude and alacrity that leaves me stunned and angry.

This, Your Grace, to me smacks either of the most remarkably twisted logic in establishing moral priorities or of ecclesiastical politics at their most craven and venal. Neither reflects well on either your person or your office. I wish to urge you to make some public statement condemning unequivocally the Ugandan legislation and pointing out to the Ugandan Church that their collusion with this murderous act is a far more serious threat to the Unity of the Communion than the offer of a mitre to a middle aged women in California, no matter who she lives with.

Prior to leaving parish ministry, I had close links with a parish in Uganda and value that relationship of Communion highly. However, no ecclesiatical unity is worth the sacrifice of thousands to a life lived under the shadow of terror and even death. I cannot in all conscience see how anyone would believe differently.

Archbishop, I am currently a serving member of the General Synod of the Scotish Episcopal Church. These events have changed my mind with regard to the proposed Anglican Covenant. No unity is worth the terrible cost that silent collusion with Uganda would require. You may take it that I will vote against the Covenant as a direct result of your action and inaction.

Yours is an uneviable and indeed impossible task Your Grace, so whilst I must express my views with regard to your position, I also assure you of my continuing prayers for God's guidance and wisdom. We are all human and all need that daily.

Yours sincerely,

John Penman
(Priest of the Diocese of Edinburgh)

Here's what Rowan Should have said

A friend has suggested that this is what the ABC ought to be asked to say to Uganda, rather than the suggested draft from the irate of LA diocese on Facebook:

"Unless the Metropolitan Archbishop and House of Bishops (this may, of course, be the wrong form of address) of the Church of Uganda openly repudiate the proposed bill, in terms both of its condemnation of homosexuality and the extreme and un-Christian penalties sought, as well as in its interference with the obligations to their congregation of ordained and lay ministers, I will immediately call a special meeting of the Lambeth Conference to suspend the Church of Uganda, and its affiliated bishops and parishes from membership of the Anglican Communion."

Quite right! Just goes to prove that, in his case, Military Intelligence is not an oxymoron!

Monday, 7 December 2009

A case of misplaced priorities

From Ruth Gledhill's blog, commenting on the Archbishop's response to the episcopal election in Los Angeles.

"Critics are understandably questioning why speak out on this so forcefully, while showing such restraint on Uganda. It is probably in vain to point out that one concerns a matter of national governance, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury has no authority to speak, and the other a matter of Anglican ecclesial polity, in which he is perfectly justified in taking a stand.

The fact is, whatever the ecclesiological jurisprudence, it looks bad. Very bad indeed. Changing Attitude does a good job of explaining why.

I wish I could do something, write something, to help the Archbishop get out of this mess.

But it feels impossible. His difficulties I fear are truly manifold. "

RG is one of Britain's best and most highly regarded Religious Affairs correspondents and is pretty friendly towards Rowan Williams on the whole. She is trying (gamely) to offer some sort of defence of his Sunday morning Press statement. Her use of the words"in vain" reveal her understanding that this is a pretty feeble defence, but it's the best she can do with the scanty material she has. The idea that the ABC cannot comment on issues of National Governance is simply not credible. The "Faith in the City" report made clear comment on such issues many years ago.

No, Rowan has erred hugely in reacting so swiftly and clearly: the horrid contrast with with his silence towards the Bahati Bill and the Church of Uganda's early support of it is dreadful. Nothing in the American actions threatens hundreds, thousands of lives, yet it is promptly condemned. When even your friends, who are happy to pop friendly articles into the public domain reassuring everyone that you really are appalled (courtesy of a good but unattributable source), feel that you have put yourself publicly into a position that looks utterly compromised, then truly you are in deep doo-doo. The current occupant of Lambeth Palace has, I fear fatally, lost all moral credibility in Anglican Communion matters. The Covenant is dead in the water. If one of the key instruments of Communion (the ABC) cannot be trusted to be impartial, but will always been seen as siding with one grouping even when it is manifestly utterly morally wrong, then no Province from the other side of the debate will sensibly submit themselves to a issue resolution process that is intrinsically skewed against their freedom and viewpoint.

In trying to save the Communion, Rowan has lost it. Which is tragic, given that he is, without doubt, a good and holy man.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Somebody should have told Dubya!

I came across this fascinating snippet of info about the Treaty of Tripoli:
Passed by the U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797 and signed by President John Adams on June 10, 1797.

Article 11 reads:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity ... against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

If only we'd known sooner...

I don't BELIEEVE it!

The Diocese of Los Angeles elect a lesbian suffragan Bishop and the ABC has a press statement out in time for the Sunday papers. And still thunderous silence on the Ugandan Bill.

I will not swear; I will not curse. I will state candidly that, in my personal opinion, Rowan Williams is morally bankrupt and repugnant and I would neither give nor receive communion to him or from him. I am no longer in Communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. I am a Scottish Episcopalian and remain in Communion with God, as our predecessors were before the Synod of Laurencekirk.

(Which in real terms, makes hee-haw difference to anything, but makes me feel better).

B****r it, I'm off to the pictures.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Oh, come ON Rowan!

Here we have the normally excellent Ruth Gledhill (and a work experience lassie on placement at the Times) acting as an apologist for Rowan "I think Cosmo Gordon Lang's way of handling the Nazi's was quite sensible" Williams. Mercifully, there is a decent bit of sanity in a comment from a Bishop Alan Wilson. Uganda has been independent since 1962: us telling them the Bahati bill is immoral, inhumane, fascist and vile is not colonialism (neo or otherwise). The claim that we ought not to intervene critically in human rights issues in sub-Saharan Africa is an arrogant nonsense. Is fascist and genocidal behaviour OK if you are black and live in Africa, but only wrong if you are, say, Serbian? No, rubbish of the 1st order. It is high time the furry holy one got off the fence and laid into the Ugandan Church. Michael Ramsey hammered the Rhodesians for UDI and it was below the Sahara. Oh, hang on - Ian Smith was a pale ex-Spitfire pilot, not a vicious demagogue who has a lot of melatonin in his skin! Come on Rowan, you're supposed to be left wing!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Quote of the day.

"Homosexuality does not need the "approval"
of the state: nor does photosynthesis, gravity
or the speed of light." Anon.

Wouldn't it be marvellous if the hyper-pious realised that quote was true and then ceased to do what the cartoon shows them doing? Then they might stop campaigning against legal rights for GLBT people!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Changing your hat.


Well, I think the job interview went well this morning. I think I came over as enthuiastic, with relevant experience. I think I managed to sidestep the pitfall of seeming to appear a know it all by responding to the training question by pointing out that I had previously organised and participated in training for those visiting old folks because I knew my skills needed refreshing. And I hope I gave a clear impression that my focus was on respecting and valuing the person and giving them dignity and ownership of their care plan even when they were disempowered by physical frailty. So I feel rather hopeful that in a day or two a letter will appear saying "come and join us". Only hope the other candidates get cold feet or blank out mentally!!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

A busy day.

I started early by celebrating the Holy mysteries at our neighbourhood Anglo-Catholic shrine at 0800, then it was some house duties before popping out to view an art gallery and gaze at some beautiful altar pieces from the late medieval period. A haircut in preparation for the job interview tomorrow and trying to phone the agency that does my health assessment for the work and pensions dept (see call centres!!). Tonight I am down to service my Tuesday night meeting by chairing it which is a 1st for me, so it's been a busy but enjoyable day. I feel much more mentally alert and my old self, so I must have climbed some distance up the walls of the pit of despair I was in earlier in the year. Which feels good.

Remembering those who suffer isn't something exclusively for World AIDS Day: rather ,it's what we do as Christians whenever we celebrate or participate in the Eucharist. We remember the suffering Christ and those whose suffering he shares today. But we also see the Resurrection in that sacramental mystery and feel its power at work within us. I pray for those who suffer from HIV today with the hope that they will experience deeply Christ's healing love wherever and whoever and whatever they may be.

Monday, 30 November 2009

The Anglican Covenant critiqued.

Check this article out:

Who says only nuts come from Brazil? This is an excellent analysis of the Covenant and its deficiencies. The 1st 3 sections are so unexceptionable that they are pointless and section 4 is a new and not very Anglican kind of Church. Well done the Brazzies! You are not just footballing geniuses!

St Andrew's Day

St Andrew the Apostle

The Apostle Andrew (left) in Calling of Apostles Peter and Andrew by Caravaggio

Our patron Saint here in the land of the Happy Haggis. May his prayers be with us and for us today. And here's a wee sermon from another John who preached:

A sermon of St John Chrysostom on St John's gospel

After Andrew had stayed with Jesus and had learned much from him, he did not keep this treasure to himself, but hastened to share it with his brother. Notice what Andrew said to him: We have found the Messiah, that is to say, the Christ. Notice how his words reveal what he has learned in so short a time. They show the power of the master who has convinced them of this truth. They reveal the zeal and concern of men preoccupied with this question from the very beginning. Andrew’s words reveal a soul waiting with the utmost longing for the coming of the Messiah, looking forward to his appearing from heaven, rejoicing when he does appear, and hastening to announce so great an event to others. To support one another in the things of the spirit is the true sign of good will between brothers, of loving kinship and sincere affection.

Notice, too, how, even from the beginning, Peter is docile and receptive in spirit. He hastens to Jesus without delay. He brought him to Jesus, says the evangelist. But Peter must not be condemned for his readiness to accept Andrew’s word without much weighing of it. It is probable that his brother had given him, and many others, a careful account of the event; the evangelists, in the interest of brevity, regularly summarise a lengthy narrative. Saint John does not say that Peter believed immediately, but that he brought him to Jesus. Andrew was to hand him over to Jesus, to learn everything for himself. There was also another disciple present, and he hastened with them for the same purpose.

When John the Baptist said: This is the Lamb, and he baptizes in the Spirit, he left the deeper understanding of these things to be received from Christ. All the more so would Andrew act in the same way, since he did not think himself able to give a complete explanation. He brought his brother to the very source of light, and Peter was so joyful and eager that he would not delay even for a moment.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Newman on the Coming of Christ

We too are looking out for Christ's coming,—we are bid look out,—we are bid pray for it; and yet it is to be a time of judgment. It is to be the deliverance of all Saints from sin and sorrow for ever; yet they, every one of them, must undergo an awful trial. How then can any look forward to it with joy, not knowing (for no one knows) the certainty of his own salvation? And the difficulty is increased when we come to pray for it,—to pray for its coming soon: how can we pray that Christ would come, that the day of judgment would hasten, that His kingdom would come, that His kingdom may be at once,—may come on us this day or tomorrow,—when by so coming He would be shortening the time of our present life, and cut off those precious years given us for conversion, amendment, repentance and sanctification? Is there not an inconsistency in professing to wish our Judge already come, when we do not feel ourselves ready for Him? In what sense can we really and heartily pray that He would cut short the time, when our conscience tells us that, even were our life longest, we should have much to do in a few years?

These opposite duties of fearing yet praying to have the sight of Christ are not necessarily inconsistent with each other. Why we should fear it, is not strange. Surely when a man gets himself steadily to contemplate a state of things beyond this life, he is in the way to be overpowered by the thoughts which throng upon him. How dreadful to the imagination is every scene of that unknown hereafter!

When we pray for the coming of Christ, we do but pray in the Church's words, that He would "accomplish the number of his elect and would hasten His kingdom." That is, we do not pray that He would simply cut short the world, but... that He would make time go quicker, and the wheels of His chariot speed on. Before He comes, a certain space must be gone over; all the Saints must be gathered in; and each Saint must be matured. Not a grain must fall to the ground; not an ear of corn must lose its due rain and sunshine. All we pray is, that He would please to crowd all this into a short space of time; that He would "finish the work and cut it short in righteousness," and "make a short work upon the earth;" that He would accomplish,—not curtail, but fulfil,—the circle of His Saints, and hasten the age to come without disordering this.

I have spoken of coming to God in prayer generally; but if this is awful, much more is coming to Him in the Sacrament of Holy Communion; for this is in very form an anticipation of His coming, a near presence of Him in earnest of it. And a number of men feel it to be so; for, for one reason or another, they never come before Him in that most Holy Ordinance, and so deprive themselves of the highest of blessings here below. Thus their feeling is much the same as theirs would be, who from fear of His coming, did not dare look out for it. They indeed who are in the religious practice of communicating, understand well enough how it is possible to feel afraid and yet to come. Surely it is possible, and the case is the same as regards the future day of Christ. You must tremble, and yet pray for it. We have all of us experienced enough even of this life, to know that the same seasons are often most joyful and also most painful. The joy does not change the grief, nor the grief the joy, into some third feeling; they are incommunicable with each other, both remain, both affect us.

Or consider the mingled feelings with which a son obtains forgiveness of a father,—the soothing thought that all displeasure is at an end, the veneration, the love, and all the undescribable emotions, most pleasurable, which cannot be put into words,—yet his bitterness against himself. Such is the temper in which we desire to come to the Lord's table; such in which we must pray for His coming; such in which His elect will stand before Him when He comes.

A slab of Cardinal Newman! Preached in his Anglican days. Advent is both a joy and a mystery. Waiting yet also trembling. Properly observed, there is a solemnity to this season, which while it lacks the austerity and even rigour of Lent, also calls us to a reflectiveness which is quite different in feel from the Lenten season. The reflectiveness springs in part from the thought of the last things and in part from the closing of the calendar year. We muse and consider both endings and beginings, hopes for the future and sorrow for that which is past. And we reflect (hopefully) with a sense of thankfullness and anticipation. Newman knew well that sense of mixed feelings: his parting from the old security of life as an Anglican Oxford Don into the new adventure of life as a Roman Catholic Oratorian. The pain of leaving friends like Keble and Pusey as he followed God's call and his destiny. He is a good and honest companion on the journey and his words still ring true.

A guid new year in the Church?

Well, here's an interesting start to the new Church year:

The Diocese of Massachusetts (I think that's how it's spelled) have given permission for their clergy to go ahead with conducting same sex marriages. Yowls of fury will without a doubt be heard from the Global South of the Anglican Communion " They are ignoring the Covenant". Yes, indeed they are, and you've only yourselves to blame. Bishops ordained to minister to conservative congregations, crossing Provincial boundaries and that damnable Ugandan Bill. The sense I have is that ECUSA (the TEC) are finally sickened by it all and, now that the courts have begun to throw out conservative claims for the property and assets, they are going to proceed to do what they believe to be right and not what ++Rowan and the Africans want. Good.

I have to say that the Ugandan situation has absolutely changed my mind on what we do with regard to the Covenant. If the COU and their pals are really going to support legislation the like of which has never been seen since the Nazi era, then I regard them as abhorrent as the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa during Apartheid and we should deal with them in the same way we did with the Afrikaaner Churches who provided theological justification for their evil regime of choice. They are in a state of impaired communion with God and we as the Church must show them that. We do not have communion with them. They have sundered themselves from the fellowship of Christ by their wicked and wilful actions and until such time as they abjure them (and I don't think that saying the death penalty is bad, so just put gays in jail for years counts as abjuration), we ignore and shun them - financially, as well as spiritually. You cannot dialogue with evil and those who support this bill are evil or utterly deluded.

"Oh, but we must maintain dialogue" I hear you say. No, one of my heroes, +Hensley Henson, Bishop of Durham, had no truck with that or the Church that sided with Hitler in Germany in the 30's. He had no hatred for the German people (his beloved step mother was German) but he had nothing but contempt for Nazism and its apologists both at home and abroad. Like Jonathan Swift, he had a "savage indignation" in his heart when faced with injustice and he denounced it uncompromisingly. So should we. The Archbishop of Canterbury was less than impressive against Hitler (Lang, a Glaswegian), so Rowan Williams is in reasonably salubrious company. Then, as now, the case was made that to be openly critical would inflame the situation and quiet , behind the scenes diplomacy would bear fruit. Henson thought that was rot and only shaming the bigotry and inhumanity with the glare of unfriendly publicity would stop it - or at any rate spare the Church from the taint of collaboration. It was a matter of conscience and principle, not of politics, secular or ecclesiastical.

Happy Advent!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Bandits at 4 o clock, Biggles.

It started out as a pretty good sort of day really. My little bit of library organising in the Diocesan office, then an enjoyable lunch with a pal (Cullen skink, followed by croque madam - b***er the colesterol!) and thence to the therapist. And then the trouble started.

Nobody's fault, but we suddenly hit some buried c**p. Which had been buried for years precisely because it made me feel scared and awful and c**p. I got out of the session and stood on the top of the steps at the front door, breathing the cold, sharp 4 o' clock air of Leith and swearing quietly. Time for a walk, as my head was in a heck of a mess, with emotions roaring away. It won't be a total surprise to hear that I also lit up, needing something chemical to steady the nerves. Fair enough. Then in came the bandits. Specifically, my brain started a very disturbing debate about needing a drink. Not needing it physically, but needing it because I know that it would change my mood and alter my feelings and get me the hell out of the bad place in my emotions. Needing it in a very cold, sober, analysed sort of way. And that was scary - 1st time in 8 months I've felt that desire to blot it out. Rather like a waking conscious nightmare.

Leith Walk is a long road and has plenty of pubs on it. Very inviting looking places. I kept walking. Not a stroll, but a yomp. Left, right, left, right My boots are heavy, my belt is tight...thank God I was once one of Baden-Powell's infant paramilitaries and learnt to keep going on a hike. Even when you're tired and it bloody hurts. By the time I got to the West End of Princes Street, my mad alky head was retreating, sane Dougal returned. You know you're stressing when you're chain smoking Hamlet cigars. (I did 2 en route).

A modicum of calm set in back at base. I was able to say to people "I've just had a s**t bit". Getting dinner ready was a good distraction, as was conversation over the dinner table. Normal stuff. And at Compline the lesson hit me like a bloody brick:

For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. (2 Cor 4:6-10)

The lesson? Clay, c'est moi. Afflicted - oh God, yeah BUT NOT crushed. Perplexed - indeed we are, but not (quite) driven to despair. Struck down - it certainly felt that way - but again, NOT destroyed. Still here, still alive, still sober. Rattled, shaken but actually victorious. On the receiving end of just enough grace to make it. They told me this urge would hit at some point and by God they were right. But it went and got beaten. God only knows how. Time methinks to kip and rest and be thankful. Roger. Over and out.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Uganda update

Interestlingly, there seem to be cracks appearing in the Ugandan fundie front - have a shuftie at this article:

Good news!

I have a job interview!! Face to face, not over the phone and working with people. Right, you lot, start rattling rosaries, lighting candles and invoking saints like billy-0! 2nd December in the morning:-)!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

About time too!

At long last, a UK church has come out and criticised the Ugandans for their new bill - the link is self-explanatory

Monday, 23 November 2009


From Psalm 139

I will thank you because I am marvellously made;
your works are wonderful, and I know it well.
My body was not hidden from you,
while I was being made in secret
and woven in the depths of the earth.
How deep I find your thoughts, O God!
how great is the sum of them!
If I were to count them,
they would be more in number than the sand;
to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

Mercifully, the bad head days are further apart and this opening peice of psalmody from Evening prayer tonight just caught my current mood. I am wonderfully made, not fearfully. I know deep down that I am made in God's image and loved, even when I can't find it in me to love me or to believe that I am loveable. And I am loved body and soul by God, who hates nothing that he has made. I need to keep that thought there day by day - to reprogramme my brain to reflect what I truly believe and to accept that this is true of me and for me, as well as for others.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Soccer and sanity.

I rarely attend the Blue Brazil's away games, but given that today's match was a clash between the league leaders (Cowden and Stirling Albion) who were only seperated by goal difference, I made the effort to head off to Stirling. Let me compliment the Bino's first: friendly welcome, lovely pies (crisp pastry, well seasoned meat and just the right touch of light grease!) and a very nice stand. And your No 9 is a cheating **** who deserved the red card he got! We scored early, dominatedthe game until the last 15 minutes and, with the opposition down to 10 men, seemed set for an extension to our top of the table lead. Then we conceded a STUPID penalty to let the Binos equalise. To make matters worse, they actually scored (a jammy fluke of) a goal and suddenly we were in big trouble. Mercifully, we bashed another one in and I came away happy with a 2-2 draw.

However, what I really did not expect to discover on the train home was a very good and well written wee article on depression and suicide. Not in the paper, but in the Stirling Albion matchday programme. It was a piece on the recent tragic suicide of the German national goalkeeper, Robert Enke. I'm going to quote quite a bit of it.

"Robert Enke didn't want to cause anyone any trouble. In the darkest hours of his mental illness his thoughts were only for Leila his adopted daughter and Teresa his wife. The swooping cycle of depression, illogical yet making perfect sense, allowed him to believe that Leila would be taken away: that the authorities would deem a loving father unfit. Having seen Teresa attempt to come to terms with the death of their biological child, he felt that it was better he disappeared than Leila.

Tony Adams knew emotional torment and its ability to destroy. His crutch was alcohol....The former Arsenal defender recognises that depression and dependency are not mutually exclusive.

Paul Gascoigne...knows alcohol abuse inside out. He struggles with depression and obsessive compulsive he is a lonely, semi-tragic specimen.

But Robert Enke was not an alcoholic, he was not an under-educated attention seeker. Neither is Dame Kelly Holmes. Her fighting spirit was confounded by injury. She locked herself in her bathroom and passed a steel blade through her flesh. One cut for every day's training missed.

Sport brings with it many pressures. The ultra-macho culture, the pressure to win at all costs, the blame that is always - always - meted out in defeat. It is a wonder that there are not more high profile sportspeople who struggle to cope."

A very powerful and sensitive article in a quite unexpected place. Goes to show not all footie fans are brainless knuckle draggers or utterly insensitive.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

St Hilda of Whitby.

Right, a wee blast of devotion for youse!

Hilda was born in 614 of the royal house of Northumbria. Baptised in York at the age of twelve by the Roman missionary Paulinus, she was later an influential lay leader of the Church. She was encouraged by Aidan of Lindisfarne to become a Religious, and subsequently established a monastery at Streanaeshalch (Whitby). This house became a great centre of learning and was the meeting-place for the important Synod of Whitby in the year 664 at which Hilda's role was that of a reconciler between the Roman and the Celtic traditions. She is remembered as a great educator, exemplified in her nurturing of Caedmon's gift of vernacular song. She died on 17 November in the year 680.


Eternal God,
who made the abbess Hilda to shine like a jewel in our land
and through her holiness and leadership
blessed your Church with new life and unity:
help us, like her, to yearn for the gospel of Christ
and to reconcile those who are divided;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

It seems mindful to point out that Hilda was one of the great reconcilers of the Romanising and Celtic strains of English Christianity. She (probably rightly) saw that the great Celtic tradition had had its day of being the driving force of English Christianity and that the new energy of Augustine's Roman mission was what was needed to take things forward. And it did, gradually melding into the potent English school of spirituality of the Middle Ages (Dame Julian, Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton, Margery Kempe et al). There is a case that can be made that the waning power of English Establishment Anglicanism means that the new drive of more popular and acceptable RC-ism is what England needs just now (thanks to Basil Hume in no small part). That said it is also probably true that what the Church of England needs to rediscover its impact is freedom from the internal strife of trying to hold Anglo-Papalist, Evangelical and Liberal streams together at all costs. If FiF go to Rome, then the C of E can square the circle more easily between Evangelical and liberal (perhaps saying Ta Ta to the Puritans) and recover its nerve and strength. Perhaps the Scottish Church can help best by genuinely being itself and giving an example of good, generous and principled liberality of spirit to keep the Church of Englandshire alert to best practice!

Where I've been.

Busy bee time! Some progress with the state who are now paying me some money! Another form in for a job, 2 invites to celebrate the Eucharist on weekdays and a nice day out in Weegie City eating lunch with old friends who are back on hols and looking happy with their move to Engerlandshire. Plus some progress with getting the diagnosis for Aspergers. Things are not static and I haven't fallen down a dark hole in the last 6 days:-).

Friday, 13 November 2009

The Roman Option.

From the Tablet editorial today:

"Perhaps because of lack of consultation with both Catholic and Anglican authorities in England, the CDF seems to have failed to grasp what Anglo-Catholicism is really all about. Its fundamental aim was to reassert the Catholic credentials of the Church of England as the “ancient Catholic Church of these lands” identical in essence to the medieval English Church. It is from this foundation that derive all those characteristics of its style that the CDF is keen to preserve – the interiors of its churches almost indistinguishable from Catholic churches, the use of “Father” as the title for its clergy, and devotion to a Catholic type of spirituality including honouring the Virgin Mary. But unless one counts use of the Roman missal in some of their churches, there is no distinctive Anglo-Catholic liturgy.

Anglo-Catholicism is going through a profound crisis precisely because it is losing faith in its central principle. Anglicanorum Coetibus is offering to let incoming Anglo-Catholics hang on to the incidental symbols of that principle, while relinquishing what lies behind it. Does that make sense? Would they not be better off just becoming Roman Catholics in the normal way, and joining an existing Catholic community they can enrich and be enriched by?"

Not every RC is chuffed with Pope Benny's kind offer. I can understand it. No RC's who have gone to Canterbury and married can sneak into the clerical estate. But Anglo-Catholicism's profound crisis stemming from a loss of confidence in the idea that it was the continuing Catholic Church of these islands? No, it's a longer term issue than that IMHO. Vatican II blew away many old certainties and the ongoing success of liturgical reform in both camps blurred the boundaries worship wise. The differences becomes less easy to discern between a Catholic Anglican and a New Order RC. The essential element in undermining the Anglo-Catholic confidence was, however, personal identity. Suddenly "celibate" (in the sense of not sleeping with a woman) was shown to be simply a euphemism for a sizable chunk of the clergy. And that has been a principal fault line ever since the 60's. As some realised that integrity requires not living a lie and hiding behind the celibate myth, others sought to maintain the fiction (Father's "lodger" in the Vicarage). Re-examining your identity and integrity led to some seeing that the exclusion of women from the ordained ministry was no longer feasible or sustainable - and others to refuse to acknowledge that this was the case. Of course, there are many honourable men who are gay and who freely and consciously choose to embrace a genuinely celibate lifestyle in the clergy and they deserve every respect.

It strikes me that the Anglo-Catholic identity is defined less by a distinctive liturgical rite than by an aesthetic: a sense that liturgy ought to be done well and with dignity, not mangled with guitars and servers in scruffy trainers. That preaching should be intelligent and reasoned. "The Pope says" isn't an argument, it's a statement. It would benefit contemporary Roman Catholicism to have the injection of Anglo-Catholic aesthetic and intellect to counterbalance it's vigorous social ethic and genius for "redemptive vulgarity". But in return, we could use the vigour of progressive Roman Catholics in the Anglican tent to stiffen us against the rampaging Puritans and stop such guff as the lay celebrant affirming Bishop of Peterborough and the un- Anglican theology of Sydney.

By his Cross and Passion.

Psalm 55

Open your ears, O God, to my prayer,
and do not hide when I call on you:
turn to me and answer me.

My thoughts are distracted and I am disturbed
by the voice of my enemy and the oppression of the wicked.
They let loose their wickedness on me,
they persecute me in their anger.

My heart is tied in a knot
and the terrors of death lie upon me;
fear and trembling cover me;
terror holds me tight.

The Psalm appointed for the Office of Readings this morning strikes me as an apposite one for the LGBT community in Uganda today. Friday is traditionally the day on which catholic Christendom recalls the Cross, Passion and suffering of Jesus. The sense of fearful waiting for the axe to fall must be truly horrible if you are gay and Ugandan just at the moment. But Jesus Christ (if the Gospel accounts are in any way reliable ) knew that horrid feeling only too well. He knew it in the Upper Room, he knew it in Gethsemane, he knew it before the Court and he knew it before Pilate.

Perhaps my strongly incarnational theology and my sense that My Lord stands always in the darkest place alongside those who feel crushed and burdened leads me to offer my prayers today for my gay and lesbian sisters and brothers in Uganda. If I do nothing else today, I will find a church and light a candle for those who feel they are dwelling in the valley of the shadow of death just now. I may be weak and powerless myself and on the road to I know not where, but I can pray and for others who are worse off than myself. That little bit I can offer.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Wisdom from the Monastery which made me smile.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light"

A nifty one-liner from one of the monks at Worth Abbey. I'm sure Newman would have smiled too! For we all have cracks and at our best that is how we let in the light which is God and which transforms and redeems and sanctifies.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A thought for the self reliant.

"The great tragedy of the Fall lay not so much in that they disobeyed; God could handle that. The tragedy of Adam and Eve was that they hid. Far from thinking of themselves as like God, they thought of God as like themselves and thinking God could not bear their failure, they hid."
(Columba Stewart OSB)

I came across that quote in an article on "Radical Honesty and the Self: the practice of the Desert Fathers". It strikes as very applicable to many of us who are/have been involved in pastoral concerns. Trained to help, we have huge difficulty in being helped. Sometimes that presents itself as aloofness or clericalism. Its root lies in making our God too small and too human.

Our God is a God beyond our full comprehension. Infinite and inexhaustible, God's love cannot be "burnt out" or used up. And our frailty and failings can never exhaust his patience.

A good thought, just sloppy execution.

The 3rd Leader in this morning's London Times was a thoughtful one (see: Our Glorious Leader, Comrade Doktor Irn Broon, has got some stick for his note of condolence to the mother of a soldier who died in Afghanistan. He misspelled the surname and the lady took violent umbrage, contacting the Currant Bun (the UK's leading tabloid propaganda sheet). On this occasion, my sympathy is rather with the PM.

Anyone who has ever found themselves in the tricky situation of having pastoral contact with the bereaved knows full well that it is very easy for the slightest mistake, however unintentional and malice free, to trigger an adverse reaction. And sometimes the boob isn't entirely your fault: I recall an annoyed lady at Kirkcaldy Crem once, when I had said the deceased and his widow had met whilst nursing their 1st spouses at the local hospice. No one bothered to tell me that the wife in the hospice was no 2, not no 1 from whom he was divorced (amicably, as it happened). No 1 came up to me and said "By the way Son, Ah'm no deid yit!". GB's staff obviously didn't get the exact info to him and failed to correct the error before the letter went in the post. His handwriting is notoriously bad: he lost one eye playing rugby as a teenager and he has been reported as having retina problems with his good eye recently. He meant well and his human failings caused another in a state of emotional vulnerability distress. As a son of the Manse, he will probably be feeling deeply embarrassed and upset by this. At least the Thunderer took a tolerant and compassionate line towards him in its leader. I wish more of the Press displayed such a reasoned attitude to public figures.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Healing..that'll be a no then.

The Church of Uganda's statement mentioned healing for homosexuals and their "disorientation". I found this little illustration which might help indicate what many an LGBT person would like to say to that:


Friday, 6 November 2009

Not in my name

Well, one bit of the Anglican Communion has finally said something about the Ugandan Bill. The Church of Uganda. Have a look at this: my comments are in italics

For Immediate Release 6th November 2009 Contact: Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye, Provincial Secretary +256 772 455 129

The Church of Uganda and the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill”

The Church of Uganda is studying the proposed “Anti-homosexuality bill” and, therefore, does not yet have an official position on the bill (so, it's not, like, urgent?). In the meantime, we can restate our position on a number of related issues.

1. Our deepest conviction as the Church of Uganda is that, in Christ, people and their sexual desires are redeemed, and restored to God’s original intent. Repentance and obedience to Scripture are the gateway to the redemption of marriage and family and the transformation of society. (Position Paper on Scripture, Authority, and Human Sexuality, May 2005)

2. The House of Bishops resolved in August 2008 that “The Church of Uganda is committed at all levels to offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, (how offensive is that!!!) especially in our schools and other institutions of learning. The Church is a safe place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing.” (AYE RIGHT!!)

3. The Church of Uganda upholds the sanctity of life and cannot support the death penalty. (GOOD)

4. In April 2009, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi said, “I am appalled to learn that the rumours we have heard for a long time about homosexual recruiting in our schools and amongst our youth are true. I am even more concerned that the practice is more widespread than we originally thought. It is the duty of the church and the government to be watchmen on the wall and to warn and protect our people from harmful and deceitful agendas.” (How did this ignorant idiot ever become an Archbishop?)

5. “Homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture.” (Resolution of the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Bishops.) Homosexual behaviour is immoral and should not be promoted, supported, or condoned in any way as an “alternative lifestyle.” This position has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the House of Bishops and the Provincial Assembly of the Church of Uganda. (And the bits about dialogue and listening are...not mentioned)

6. We cannot support the blessing of same-sex unions or the ordination of homosexuals (Resolution of the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Bishops), and we will oppose efforts to import such practices into Uganda. Again, this position has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the House of Bishops and the Provincial Assembly of the Church of Uganda.

I have to say I am rapidly going right off the idea of regarding myself as in Communion with this Province. Words simply fail me.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

"I will go unto the altar of God"

A busy few days doing what needs to be done. But standing in for a Rector at a midweek yesterday meant for the 1st time in 7 1/2 months I presided over a celebration of the Eucharist. Turned up, wondering if Id get through it. Then the sacristan arrived to open up and show me the local drill. And I'd known her since I was a student back in Fife when we both attended Holy Trinity Dunfermline's Thursday morning Eucharist. I got a big hug and "how are you"? It made a great difference. Only thing was I'd forgotten just how wordy the 1929 Prayer Book liturgy is!! There was the odd verbal trip, but I got there and it was OK. Again God ("whosoever, whatsoever" as Lionel Blue refers to him/her/it) gave me just enough to make it on.

Monday, 2 November 2009

A simple guide to religious affiliation

A little lesson in Church History

Says it all!

A hidden agenda in Uganda?

This article made me pause for thought:

If this is what's up then this really is a nasty game with definite overtones of Germany in 1933.

But on the plus side, Exodus International (one of the biggest of the "ex Gay ministries") have called on their partner organisations in Uganda to campaign against this "nightmare bill" see:

I certainly disagree with their fundamental premises, but am pleased to see that they at least have followed the logic of their theology with some consistency. If God loves you enough to heal you of homosexuality, it scarcely seems to be consistent with his will and love to execute those who God loves enough to heal

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The divine absence.

It will seem odd for me to post a link to a You Tube video, particularly to a Country and Western one. But hey, it is the Man in Black himself - Johnny Cash. It's the opening song to his last album, written and recorded when he knew he was dying. I loved Johnny's music since I was a kid-Mum and Dad used to haul us off every Sunday to hotel in Kinghorn for a bar lunch and live C&W music (which meant that I knew the lyrics to "Stand by your Man" off by heart by the time I was 13!!) and as a birthday treat one year, Mum and I went to hear Johnny Cash live in the Edinburgh Playhouse. He has a raw emotion in his singing that is unique in such a powerfully and uncompromising masculine way that it fair moves you. And this song expressed prayer for me today in way that nothing else could. Somebody who's tried to make it under his own steam but realises he can't and turns to God (whoever the hell he is) for help.

I blame the sermon this morning: the message was "You are not alone". When the preacher opined that sometimes we only recognise what love is by its absence in our lives, I went to myself: "S**t. That's put into words what I've felt for years". Which sent me off on a panicky muse, half listening to the sermon and half running after my own thoughts and feelings. I'm aware of the abscence of love or feeling loved often, yet I spent 16 years preaching about God being love, Love Incarnate and personified and made real and solid and concrete in human flesh and loving us. Suddenly I realised that that was what I believed and hoped for and trusted in, but didn't actually KNOW for myself. I suddenly wasn't sure if I'd been telling the truth for years: "Of course I believe in the God of Love and the Love of God." But always, always wondering if it was really true. I had faith, I had hope, but not certainty: was that what was wrong?

I actually went through most of the rest of the service in a real quandry: "Can I say the Creed? I believe..? Do I really believe God is here with me and for me in the Eucharist? I want to, I need to, but is it true? Can I take the sacrament?" Well I did, because I can spot a spiritual panic attack when I see one, because I see the Sacrament as efficacious medicine for the soul in times of trouble independent of my subjective feelings and, I might be in a quandry of doubt, but there is nothing sacriligious in coming to God and saying: "I'm not sure I can see or feel your presence in my life just now but I'm here and I'm holding out my hand. Heal me and feed me. Please." And I didn't feel anything much at all.

Afterwards, I chatted to my neighbour (a priest who left parish ministry several years ago). Apropos of nothing, he remarked that it was X years since he'd said Mass. He'd preached, married and buried but not that. I paused and said: "Do you miss it?" "I never let myself think about that." was the reply. Then I said: "I haven't celebrated for 7 1/2 months, but I'm covering for someone on Wednesday. I'm not sure I'll be able to. What if I only know the absence when I stand there?" We looked at each other, sharing in a moment of communion. We were both suddenly in a place where our sense of God and certainty about God was fuzzy, but where we weren't alone. As I walked back, I realised that I had been unable to see or sense or feel the presence but that God had put me next to someone in a very similar boat and opened us up enough to share a bit of that feeling. If that wasn't a sign of God actually being with us, even when we could only sense the absence, then what on earth was. "See, John, I AM with you always. Even until the end of time. Trust me" The preacher was right. We are not alone.

I sometimes think this is what we look like to seekers...


Saturday, 31 October 2009

Corrupt religion.

"A people's religion is ever a corrupt religion, in spite of the provisions of Holy Church. If she is to be Catholic, you must admit within her net fish of every kind, guests good and bad, vessels of gold, vessels of earth. You may beat religion out of men, if you will, and then their excesses will take a different direction; but if you make use of religion to improve them, they will make use of religion to corrupt it. And then you will have effected that compromise of which our countrymen report so unfavourably from abroad:—a high grand faith and worship which compels their admiration, and puerile absurdities among the people which excite their contempt."

JH Newman "Letter to EB Pusey"

Good old JH! This helps to balance the sense of despair at the attitude of Ugandan Bishops and the Anglican heirachy: "guests good and bad, vessels of gold, vessels of earth". The Church as she has ever been really. Or Walsingham: "a high grand faith and worship which compels admiration, and puerile absurdities among the people which excite contempt" if you think of the situatiion there regarding women priests. Yes, John Henry gives balance and perspective. And this prayer makes sense just now:

For the Church

Most gracious Father,
we pray for your holy catholic Church:
fill it with all truth
and in all truth with all peace;
where it is corrupt, purge it;
where it is in error, direct it;
where anything is amiss, reform it;
where it is right, strengthen and confirm it;
where it is in want, furnish it;
where it is divided, heal it
and unite it in your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

William Laud

Thanks for nothing guys.

Read this and weep:

Frankly, I wonder if God is in communion with these guys, never mind Rowan Williams.

We are more than bodies.

‘So it was that when, by my providence, I created man, I looked into myself and fell in love with the beauty of the creature I had made – for it had pleased me, in my providence, to create man in my own image and likeness.

‘Moreover, I gave man memory, to be able to remember the good things I had done for him and to be able to share in my own power, the power of the eternal Father.

‘Moreover, I gave man intellect, so that, seeing the wisdom of my Son, he could recognise and understand my own will; for I am the giver of all graces and I give them with a burning fatherly love.

‘Moreover, I gave man the desire to love, sharing in the tenderness of the Holy Spirit, so that he might love the things that his intellect had understood and seen.

‘But my kind providence did all this solely that man might be able to understand me and enjoy me, rejoicing in my vision for all eternity.

St Catherine of Siena "On Divine Providence"

She says it so simply and so beautifully. Intellect, desire and memory - all gifts of God, given that we might be fully human, a little short of the angels. Why is it we misuse them so badly? The mind used to develop weapons that will destroy millions, desire to harm the innocent, memory to torture ourselves over our failings. The redemption of humanity needs the conversion of the whole person, not just the handing over of bits to our God. We cannot be partially baptised or partially dedicated. All for you, my God is the only credible response to this. Either that or try to walk away. But then comes that hound of heaven who seeks us out and pursues us in love. God will not let us go, because God loves us too much. Reassuring, isn't it?