Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Expanding the good news

Today is one of the first days I have been properly back at the office, despite a visit to the dentist in the middle of the afternoon.

There's a huge backlog to get through after the various problems visiting hospitals, and doing everything at home.

So how do I begin to catch up with myself?

One idea is to be more regular about this blog and the possibility of dialogue with others it creates. We want to expand the "Medjugorje family" which is around us. Now that Benedict XVI has followed John Paul II with direct support for the positive effects so many pilgrims find in Medjugorje, it is time to spread the word even further.

Because I am non-Catholic in the Roman sense, I have freedom of expression rather more than those directly subject to Rome. I try hard not to abuse it but to remain objective. I'm not sure that the Medjugorje hardliners would agree with me, but the present Bishop - Ratko Peric - has made some very good comments about what should and should not be done there. Nevertheless I strongly support the idea of pilgrimage to Medjugorje. I know of too many lives changed for the good by making a pilgrimage to there!

I'm also a "Priest-Associate of the Holy House" at Walsingham in Norfolk(in the East Anglia region of England for those reading from abroad). The Church of England is still very unaware of the great goodness in that place, and its expansion. Lots and lots of good things going on there. It is place of pilgrimage for just about all - an Anglican Shrine, a Roman Catholic Shrine, two peaceful Orthodox churches with a huge sense of the holy about them. There is also a chapel where John Wesley preached. Quite a place to visit. If you are planning a holiday in England - go to Walsingham and enjoy the holy places, the glorious countryside and coast, and the beautiful market towns and villages. If you like racing, there's usually something on at Fakenham as well!

Women Bishops - any hope?

In September this year the "Radio Times" had a neat little note by a trendy clergyman from Sussex who had done a programme on religious history for the BBC. He was reported as having said a very nasty remark or two about those opposed to gay priests, women priests or women bishops.
I began a blog about this but pulled it off the web very quickly because I had reacted very strongly to the ageism implicit in his reported remarks. However now that the matter of women bishops is back on the Church of England agenda, and almost certainly bound to happen, it is right to visit this example of bigotry again.
We can do without this sort of thing!
The truth is that, whatever happens, there will be those fanatically in favour of women as bishops, those just as fanatically opposed, and lots of us in between.
Anglicans have a prayer, provided to be used daily, for "All Sorts and Conditions ... " which asks God to help us live in "the bond of peace." To allow God to achieve this we have to be - as the new Archbishop of York has pointed out - not just tolerant but magnanimous towards those with whom we disagree. We are one church (just about!) after all.
The main problem lies with those who have never really thought about the matter, which is the vast majority, I suspect. Even our General Synod disdained to recommend the serious thought behind the Bishop of Rochester's Report.
If we don't think deeply about the consequences of this action, the Church of England may well sink itself, or at least "hole itself below the waterline." It is very easy living beside parishes who differ from each other over women priests. There is no need to do anything except accept the fact, and avoid any potential clashes! However it would be quite a different matter for any one opposed to women as bishops who lived in the middle of a diocese with a women bishop. There would be no escape, except to another diocese, or another denomination, or as some would have it, a Third (Anglican) Province with a presence in the diocese.
The real problem is that many many evangelicals - a hugely numerous, vocative, often rich and generous sector in the church - will have great difficulty in accepting a woman being "in authority over" them in church affairs. Many Catholic minded Anglicans will simply say that a women bishop is a contradiction in terms, a sacramental impossibility.
Is there a way forward? There has to be if we are not to be rent apart as a church even more than at present. What cannot be a way forward is the kind of bigotry, cant, and refusal to understand any opponent at all, an attitude all too common today.

So all of us must think deeply, search our hearts, and remember to the magnanimity towards others which our new Archbishop recommends. We don't have to agree with everyone about everything, or force everyone to agree with us. The main hope in preventing us following apart must surely be the recognition that others follow Christ too, but not exactly as we do ourselves!