SEATED over the Paschal Lamb (marinated, Moroccan-style, with yoghurt, mint, garlic, lemon zest and green ginger; served with red-rooted spinach dressed with oil and lemon) the conversation turned to the moral dilemmas of the present government.
How strange, said one, that a Parliamentary party which was, until recently, devoted to the defence of foxes should now be given over, as a matter of priority, to the slaughtering of lambs. And how odd, exclaimed another, that those who have spent so much energy persuading the rest of us that Aids should carry no moral stigma, are now eager to blame farmers for every epidemic that comes their way.
But it was not all politics on Easter Day.
The subject of the Lottery Charities Board was raised. Now that its Community Fund has given £120,000 to Changing Attitude (a group ‘campaigning and working for gay and lesbian affirmation within the Anglican Church’), why not, someone asked, put in an application for Forward in Faith?
The idea, I have to say, struck a chord.
A spokesman for the National Lotteries Board Community Fund was quite explicit about the terms on which the grant was given. It was emphatically not given ‘in support of a particular moral or theological position’. It was given out of a sense of the need ‘to protect people who feel themselves to be discriminated against’.
How deliciously post-modern, and how eminently applicable to Forward in Faith! In a world where feelings are all and opinions count for nothing, FiF, I suspect, could muster enough ‘feelings of discrimination’ to justify double the amount. We could list belligerent archdeacons and cite blustering bishops, give detailed accounts of acrimonious visits to PCCs and name rejected ordinands.
But you are way ahead of me! You see the problem and know the hope to be illusory. It would be hard (and probably illegal) to say why we know that a group of gay activists would get the ‘windfall’ and Forward in Faith would not. But we do know, and there is an end of the matter.
Post-modern morality is a fascinating subject – high on indignation, low on consistent principles. The situation in the Episcopal Church of the United States is a case in point. Under the limp-wristed guidance of its Presiding Bishop, the American Church has adopted a policy which might be called ‘inclusivity for the elect’.
‘Gay marriages’ are to be included, theological objections to women’s ordination are to be run out of town. Meanwhile Griswold continues as Co-Chairman of ARCIC, negotiating for full communion with a Church which rejects homosexual practice, and believes women’s ordination to be beyond its competence – a Church, moreover, in which, without permission, Frankie until recently received Holy Communion regardless. But we are not allowed to laugh.
It is not so much the absurdity as the high moral tone of these people that one objects to. A Griswold sound-bite injudiciously combines the prose styles of Bill Clinton and Theresa of Lisieux. No wonder Jack Spong (a man of high and wholly misguided principles) hates him so much.
But it would give you a false impression of our Easter joy in Lewisham if I did not also record a toast, fulsome and deep-draughted, to Fr Samuel Edwards and the people of Christ Church, Accokeek, Maryland. This quaint colonial country church, with its quaint Amerindian name, is set to become a beacon of freedom in a wilderness of the politically correct. Whether Bishop Jane Dixon [see The Shape of things to Come, and Letter from America] succeeds or fails, the struggle will have been one of immense significance for the future of American Anglicanism.
In a recent letter to the Bishop of Pennsylvania, the vestry of The Good Shepherd, Rosemont wrote:
Furthermore, the Diocesan Convention has specifically rejected the authority of Holy Scripture, and the uniqueness of Christ, thereby rejecting two of the four parts of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. The diocese does not meet the Anglican Communion’s definition of the minimum requirement to be a part of the Christian Church.
Precisely so. What is at issue in the United States is whether a constituent part of the Anglican Communion can reject the worldwide Communion’s criteria for ecumenical convergence and still remain a Province in good standing. If men of the scholarship, integrity and courageous opinions of Sam Edwards can no longer be licensed to American parishes, then ECUSA has ceased to be an Anglican Church.
So raise your glasses to the intrepid Patriots in the American War of Independence!
Geoffrey Kirk is Vicar of St Stephen’s Lewisham in the diocese of Southwark