If someone cut me in half, ‘CofE’ would run through me like a stick of rock. In December 1992,1 felt I would be better off dead than leaving the church of my Baptism. Thank God for the Act of Synod, flying bishops and their ministry.
Now, old uncertainties wake me up in the night. What will become of me and my kind? My whole being is Anglican. As a chorister I came to know Matins, Evensong, Holy Communion and many psalms by heart by the age of eleven. It shaped my experience of God and my understanding of it. I have always thought of God to the sound of church bells.
I do actually believe, in the depths of my heart, that being Anglican is my best chance of living an orthodox faith as an Englishman. Even amid the present confusions I can live a life of prayer, worship and service, rooted in apostolic faith and order, richly expressed in my native culture. This is the tap root of my soul.
Despite extensive exposure to Rome and Byzantium at home and abroad, both options are non-runners for me. They are altogether foreign in look and accent. Part of the problem is being English. I don’t suppose the Welsh, Ugandans or Canadians feel the same.
To leave the church would be to divorce me from community. As a country parson, my ministry is to everyone everywhere from cottage to castle. I am indigenous, deeply rooted; it would be a miracle to transplant me. What of my family, nuclear and extended? I would dread a spiritual divorce with my wife (who would never move) or my children and brother.
Then there is my life as a priest. I did make promises (the Lord being my helper) and I did say that I understood that the people I served were ‘bought with the price of Christ’s own blood’. Is my conscience too high a price to place on my priestly ministry? Could I deny all that has gone before?
Those who expect me to swallow the single clause or move on do not begin to understand how deep the challenge of conscience goes. I am afraid I will have no choice but to stay and fight (in a very CofE kind of way). Those who would rejoice at my going (and I can think of a few) do not understand either the nature of conscience and its conviction or what it means to be CofE.