Bishop John Broadhurst explains himself

At the meeting of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans I said I now believe in Satan and suggested he lived in Church House Westminster. My oh my what a fuss it made! One of my friends suggested I was a little casual with my language. Nothing of the kind. I do understand a good sound bite. Before ordination I worked in advertising and studied advertising and language. What did I mean by my assertion?

Pointless bureaucracy

I received one anguished letter from a member of the Archbishops Council suggesting I apologize immediately. Much more amusing was the response from a bishop on his blog who wanted to know if Satan was one person or many and asking that I name them. It is not aperson. I have known many of the staff at Church House and consider some friends. It is a system we have created: a costly destructive and pointless bureaucracy.

I spent twenty-five years of my life on General Synod and chaired working parties and revision committees. When I first joined it, it used to have substantial theological debates and genuinely appeared to be working for the good of the Church. As a bishop I now receive the mountains of paper produced before each meeting of the Synod. I would like anyone to tell me what most of it has to do with the Gospel, the Church or Jesus Christ. It seems to me to be mountains of irrelevantpaper. Occasionally, the Synodproduces volumes written by staff or committees. Most of that appears to be little more than subsidized vanity publishing -1 would not include Colin Podmore’s recent excellent analysis of Anglicanism in that criticism. It seems to me that the Synod is little more now than a self-obsessed bureaucracy which distracts the Church from its task. If that is not a good example of Satan’s work, I would like to know what is!

Devaluing the sacraments

Another recent sound bite was about the proposal to have services of marriage which incorporated the baptisms of the children conceived in that relationship. My joke was ‘Why not include Granny’s funeral as well!’ Match, hatch and dispatch, all in one day! Having spent most of my ministry as an urban parish priest I am more than aware of the problem of children out of wedlock. That said, seeking to formalize the amalgam of two sacraments surely devalues both and appears to assert that the Church does not trust its own clergy to be pastoral. The very fact that journalists were phoning around asking for comments suggests that the world understands quite clearly how foolish the Church can make itself appear to be.

The other lunacy doing the rounds is the endless directives about swine flu. No one need underestimate the seriousness of this virus but national directions about the chalice, communion in one kind and the peace seem lunatic. This is the world where people travel on public transport to go to work, queue in shops and meet in all sorts of places. Who could possibly imagine that the chalice is going to be a significant part in the spread of flu? More than that it is reminiscent of the serious year-long discussion about AIDS and the chalice. In the end this was shown to be totally without foundation.

Undermining the spiritual

Not only does this pile of silly directives panic people but it also trivializes Christians’ approach to the sacraments. The Eucharist is the centre of Christians’ devotional life and the gift from the Lord. To turn it into a question of mechanics and hygiene is to seriously undermine Christians’ spiritual life. I am particularly amazed that some functionary has issued a directive, and nearly all the bishops of the Church of England have felt duty bound to pass it on without question. I care for priests in three different dioceses and many of them phoned on receiving the directive to ask my view. The only reply I could give was that the fact they asked answered the question and they should follow their own conscience.

One Evangelical bishop has gone so far as to instruct that holy water stoops are emptied and not used. I wonder if he is going to give an instruction for the much more dangerous house groups, study groups and prayer groups meeting in his diocese. Perhaps he would like to consider whether he should wear a face mask when confirming candidates.

To return to the original sound bite, I did use another at the same conference. I said I had been asked if I thought the New Anglican Province was authentically Anglican. My reply was that the real question was surely, Is it authentically Christian?’ and I went on to say that if that were asked of TEC my answer would have to be no. The American Church has once again kicked the Anglican Communion and rejected the Covenant.

Is it really sensible to continue talking to those who are so intransigent that their conversation is little more than abuse? The state of this church’ is such that they have drastically cut their budget for virtually everything constructive but, of course, have substantially increased the budget for the Presiding Bishop and the cost of litigation. Christian? I don’t think so.