Martin Lewes considers the nature of Anglican loyalty and tries to express why so many feel hurt at this time
Along with its Blackpool counterpart, Brighton Rock has the name written all the way through, and I suspect that this is true of many people at this time of crisis in the Church of England.
However much we see the consequences of being divided from the universal church as we take an inevitably Protestant lurch in ‘doing what is right under our own fig tree’, there will be many people who, for different reasons, do not want to leave the church where they were baptized, confirmed and ordained. They are through and through Church of England.
Quite apart from the clergy whose family commitments make it hard for them to think in terms of relocating, there are many godly laity who literally grew up in the shadow of a church, were baptised, confirmed, married, had their children baptised, buried their parents, and so on.
Many have borne office in that church and, like their ancestors at the Reformation, seen it change round their feet during their lifetimes. This can lead to the caricature where one argues ‘I will go to St Agatha-by-the-Gasworks when rape and pillage is what is meant by a family service.’
There is more to our Anglican loyalty than this. Unlike other denominations, the Church of England has always seen itself as the church of the nation, not in the way one MP put it the other week, that the established church has at long last come into line with the mind of the English people, but that we are there to serve all the English people. We are not chaplains to nor members of our own particular sect alone.
True, the diversity of the Church of England makes us such a broad church that it is sometimes difficult to define what we really do stand for, so that people cry to us ‘Let us stand for something, lest we fall for everything.’
But it begins to look as though we are, in fact, going to see the end of this concept. In the name of becoming servants of the English nation, we will adopt the nation’s attitude and mores.
Our pastoral targets will be set by the latest whim of the bishop and his/ her staff. Simply getting on with the job, being involved with the community around, will be despised, for this must follow if the current political correctness is to be taken to its logical conclusion.
It is for this reason that so many of us feel hurt at this time. The idea that years of faithful service can be just dismissed as irrelevant has shocked many loyal Anglicans to the core.
It is hoped a realization of what they propose doing will gradually dawn on the members of the Synod for, in this earnest striving after political correctness, the pastoral care, the dignity and beauty of worship, which the current Pope so wishes to see restored to the universal church, will be marginalized and driven out ‘in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer’.