Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Newman and the Church.

John Henry Newman has long been one of my favourite figures in Church History. His wisdom seems both timeless and yet contemporary. Like this:

"Have we any right to take it strange, if, in this English land, the spring-time of the Church should turn out to be an English spring, an uncertain, anxious time of hope and fear, of joy and suffering,—of bright promise and budding hopes, yet withal, of keen blasts, and cold showers, and sudden storms?"

From the sermon ‘The Second Spring’ (1852)

This certainly seems to apply to that most quintessentially "English" collection of churches, the Anglican Communion. The hope of growth in Africa and Asia, the fear of LGBT people, in so many Provinces, the joy of local parish life for most, the suffering of Christians in the Sudan. Yet what realistically do we expect? There has never been an age in Church History when quiet well ordered bliss has prevailed: "Keen blasts, cold showers and sudden storms" are the order of the day and always have been.

His sermon was a reflection on the furore caused by the Restoration of the RC heirachy in England and Wales. The internal affairs of the Church had caused a huge explosion of comment and criticism and buried prejudice had been exposed. And Newman's response?

"One thing alone I know,—that according to our need, so will be our strength. One thing I am sure of, that the more the enemy rages against us, so much the more will the Saints in Heaven plead for us; the more fearful are our trials from the world, the more present to us will be our Mother Mary, and our good Patrons and Angel Guardians; the more malicious are the devices of men against us, the louder cry of supplication will ascend from the bosom of the whole Church to God for us. We shall not be left orphans; we shall have within us the strength of the Paraclete, promised to the Church and to every member of it."

Our current travails in public over sexuality and women bishops in England ought not to dismay us. The Church is being talked about and its attitudes examined. The truth of God's liberality and grace will, in the end, prevail. And the grace we are given to endure the tempests of publicity will triumph in the end.

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