Ed Tomlinson on a parish and its future

One of the unexpected gifts of fatherhood is the opportunity presented to recapture lost treasures. What a hoot to re-read the Mr Men series after all these years. Just how many infantile minds have delighted in these short and silly stories? Last night was the turn of Mr Forgetful, a most unreliable sort due to his dunderheaded inability to retain information. How like the modern Anglican as this article will demonstrate…

For who can deny the collective amnesia that now sweeps the ancient institution of Canterbury? First and foremost is the chronic memory loss regarding essential aspects of faith itself. So much of what Anglicanism once taught as concrete is now viewed from on high as optional extra. Successive synodical voters having moved the church in an ever secularised direction. The Virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, heaven and hell no longer are deemed mandatory. It would seem the creed enters one modernist ear only to fly from the other and the less said about divorce, abortion, family and holy orders the better! But a word of warning to those imagining anarchy now reigns. Steer clear of dissing Royal Weddings as that unhealthy allegiance to the state is the one thing never forgotten! Just ask any Anglican bishop currently on study leave in Calais…

We might next consider the amnesia of synod itself. In 1992, having forgotten everything the wider church advised and the revealed teaching of scripture and tradition, sincere promises were made to traditionalists when the innovation of women priests was introduced. Anglo-Catholics were promised a permanent and honoured place at the table. How lovely and how gracious! Meaningful space would be found for those with a memory stretching back to the Apostles. But it is dangerous to place trust in those with no memory and what happened next was hardly surprising. Synod struggled to uphold the promises it made!

Within months of passing its amnesiac legislation bishops were bullying resolution parishes, preferment was blocked for pesky traditionalists and the Catholic movement of the Church of England pushed to margins of life. Matters came to a head in synods of 2009 and 2010 as hazily remembered promises were forgotten altogether. Every opportunity for workable provision was turned down and the hapless Code of Practice placed before us. Had we not patiently explained that A‘ Code of Practice Will Not Do?’ Yes repeatedly but it seems they forgot. And so instead of being marginalised and mistreated the Catholic movement was now effectively placed in terminal care. Its central vision of unity choked and exhausted.

With a true father’s love the Holy Father showed more courage, charity and generosity than our own synod has ever shown us. Anglicanorum Coetibus was launched that the Catholic Movement might be moved from its amnesiac house of shifting sand to be set firmly on Petrine Rock.

What possible assurance can now be given to Anglo-Catholics when those in authority utter promises that vanish in thin air? How can one possibly commit a future to an institution in which everything is up for grabs in a pseudo political system? That is the real challenge for the Society of Ss. Hilda and Wilfred. How does on navigate a schizophrenic community which presents an ever changing reality? Those embarking on this synodical quest are either brave or foolish. Only time will tell.

The convenient memory loss of modern Anglicanism was certainly in evidence when the suffragan bishop, archdeacon and bishop’s chaplain descending on my parish to pour cold water on the Ordinariate venture. Realising the great majority are enthused by the Ordinariate an attempt was made to define the parish as a branch of Rochester Diocese PLC. Apparently Saint Barnabas has always been very ‘Church of England’. And apparently it exists not for those who worship in it and pay for it but for those who never darken its doors.

How strange to hear the bishop claim our church ‘belongs’ to the diocese! It would seem he has forgotten that it was the same Diocese who twice tried to shut Saint Barnabas due to its intolerable ‘Popish extravagance!’ It would seem he also forgot how local clergy were banned from the consecration by a bishop of Rochester who also refused to be present. Rather it was dear Bishop Edward King who arrived from Lincoln to do the dirty deed. All rather strange for such an inclusive Diocesan venture don’t you think?

Equally puzzling is the conundrum of our bills. Because the parish very definitely owned the church when the heating broke down and when the roof was leaking. Nor did the people who do not worship here dip their hands in their pockets for fuel bills last winter. I wonder if the Diocesan authorities will now remember that they and not the parish own this building should I request the £15,000 needed for re-wiring and £100,000 for restoration of the organ? Or will the handful of people happy to embrace modern Anglicanism be handed the bills as before?

I am sad to report matters got worse. The hierarchy claimed we were abandoning ship clearly forgetting synods persistent refusals. It led a congregation fed up of being marginalised to turn on the troubled trio and they did not hold back. Questions flew which demanded an answer! Why did Synod renege on its promises? How could the Pope offer the very third province that synod repeatedly refuses? Why were they seeking to remove us from our building when we suggested working for unity under a shared arrangement? But when the time for answered arrived they had forgotten every question. Instead of being enlightened we therefore had to endure further waffle and a rather unpleasant game of divide and conquer.

Afterwards I complained to the Diocesan. Could I have an apology for the shoddy manner in which this meeting had been handled? I have not heard back to date. Oh well I guess they have forgotten! ND