A heady mix

A new series of ‘Bake Off’ is fast approaching and I have to make the decision of whether I remain ‘Mr Bake Off Shocked of Southwark’ at its move from the BBC or bite the bullet and watch it.  No doubt I’ll watch it! I have, after all, loved the way in which the contestants take such imaginative ingredients and combine them into something fantastic. It’s something I just don’t have the imagination or the confidence to do.  Will these flavours work together?  Will this be edible?

the_vicar_of_dibley_cropley

The Queen of Cordon Bleurgh

 

The most memorable fictional character for this kind of approach to food must be Letitia Cropley in ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ played by the late great Liz Smith.  She was famous for being “the queen of Cordon Bleurgh”,  famous for her idiosyncratic recipes such as parsnip brownies and lard and fish paste pancakes.

The first day at Synod is normally made up of the same ingredients:  a welcome to someone who is visiting – well, we had that when we had a Finnish bishop from the Lutheran Church of the country, Bishop Matti Repo; the report of the Business Committee – of course; a bit of tidying up legislative business – yes, the Amending Canon about Vesture of Ministers; Questions – definitely and with yours truly chairing (48 out of 85 questions in an hour was not bad going, though I say it myself who shouldn’t); and something else.

The something else was rather larger and more significant than is usual.  The Presidents had decided to include a debate on the situation in the nation after the General Election.  The title of the Motion, in the name of the Archbishop of York, was ‘After the General Election, a still small voice of calm.’ As I said earlier, the quote is from the wonderful hymn.  The Motion itself encompassed voter apathy, those elected to Parliament; courage for political leaders; calling on Christians to maintain pressure on politicians; commending the work of the church on behalf of the poor and vulnerable and committing the CofE to strong and generous international relations.  Wow! That is some list, a real heady mix of church and politics, religion and politics.

Five amendments were on the Order Paper and, as if that were not enough, the Archbishop of York even had a sixth one up his sleeve.  Some wanted the Bible mentioned, others were in favour of STV voting and 16 year olds getting the vote, others wanted a referendum for the Scottish people, another a whole raft of stuff about abortion, family life, biblical based speech and another about making it clear that Jesus is ‘King of Kings, the Prince of Peace and the Hope of every nation.’ The Archbishop wanted us to vote to voluntarily pay more tax to the Exchequer for schools, medicine and social care. None of those were accepted, all were rejected however worthy and the unamended Motion, after two hours of debate, was passed.

Commons

Parliament – a place to engage with

 

But all of this was in the context and shadow of Tim Farron resigning as Leader of the Liberal Democrats after the General Election.  In his resignation statement he is reported as having said

“The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader….To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.”

I found that very sad and very unsettling.  As a Christian who believes in the incarnation I have to see my faith as being lived out in the world in all its messiness and within all its compromises.  That is one of the things I love about Southwark and its Cathedral – we can talk honestly about politics because we know that we encounter God, the Gospel, Jesus Christ, our faith in that wonderful messy mix.  I have to believe that otherwise faith becomes a private, privatised world and I don’t think that is why ‘the Word was made flesh’ (John 1.14).

Archbishop William Temple, looking at the place of the Church of England in British society, famously said

The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.

That means being involved in life beyond the walls of the church and mixing in with society and that is why Christians have to be involved in politics and even party politics at every level.  It isn’t an option, it’s what our vocation is.

The debate this afternoon, even though it was too broad, too anodyne, too much ‘motherhood and apple pie’, at least acknowledged that we have a place in our society, values about how life should be lived, opinions about the role of politics and a commitment to the common good.  In the mess we are currently in it was much better than nothing.

God, you entered the mess of world,
guide us as we engage in that messiness.
Amen.

Advertisements

‘We’re all going …

.. on a summer holiday’ sang Cliff Richard, boarding his red London bus and heading off to the continent with his mates. The days were that when I was coming to Yorkshire (long before I trained as a priest here and then worked here in a parish) I was off on holiday.  Mum and Dad had their honeymoon in Scarborough and I remember getting hopelessly lost on the ‘zig-zag’ path heading down the cliff there when I was about seven.  According to my mother, I zigged whilst they zagged!

summerholiday-1

Well, heading to Yorkshire in July now means coming to the summer Group of Sessions of the General Synod of the Church of England. Apart from the fact that it is Synod, I don’t really mind – a nice environment, lots of people I know, a chance to worship in the Minster (will there be bells?) are all side benefits.  The downside is that you have to sit for hours in the stifling heat of the Synod chamber, which is the Central Hall on this campus, whilst the Church of England does its version of zigging and zagging!

You will remember that in February we left Synod after the Bishops had lost the take-note debate on same-sex relationships. This is the first time we have met after that momentous vote.  The Archbishops had to come up with something of a way forward and they spoke then about a ‘radical Christian inclusion’ and the need for study and a pastoral response. We will have the opportunity to debate the proposals that are being brought forward for the latter of those promises.  On the face of it the proposals look good.  But as we know, there’s always plenty of opportunity for zigging and zagging in the Church of England.

It is remarkable that since we met the Scottish Episcopal Church has grasped the nettle with both hands and has voted in favour of equal marriage.  So has the presbyterian Church of Scotland. Who would have thought that this was possible? We have also seen two very irregular consecrations, one of a bishop in Newcastle, the other of a GAFCON missionary bishop. We are in a mess and I am afraid it is of our own making.

Whilst we are in York, London will see the annual Gay Pride Parade. For the first time Southwark Cathedral will take part in that march.  50 members of the congregation will march behind our new banner affirming our solidarity with the LGBT+ community.  I’m sorry I won’t be there to march with them. Those marching are by no means all members of the LGBT+ community, but as with our wonderful Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, they are people who are determined to stand with people regardless of their sexuality, simply taking pride in people taking pride in themselves.

Ironically on the same day as pride is being displayed in London we will be in York debating a Private Members Motion highlighting the dangers of ‘Conversion Therapy’. This is the practice advocated by some churches which is aimed at ‘curing’ LGBT+ people of their ‘unwanted’ same-sex attraction. It is a dangerous practice because it can result in deep psychological damage and add to some people’s feelings of self-hate and the idea that if they are homosexual there is something ‘wrong with them’.

Members of General Synod have, of course, been inundated with ‘evidence’ from both sides of the argument about whether such therapy works, whether such prayer works, and whether the negative effects spoken of by some are grounded in any kind of reality. So once again the Church of England does double-speak and is in danger of looking vicious, nasty and uncaring.  On the one hand we are talking about radical inclusion and a pastoral response and then we will have people standing up advocating not inclusion but elimination, not pastoral care but pastoral abuse.

rainbow_flag_insert_by_torbakhopper_via_Flickr

Taking proper pride in one another

 

There was an encounter between Jesus and a rich young man. It turned out that the man wasn’t yet ready to walk with Jesus.  But there is the most beautiful line in that story that I keep going back to

‘Jesus, looking at him, loved him.’ (Mark 10.21)

Those six words tell me something beautiful about the God who created me, and created you, and created every person, whoever they are. Jesus looks at us and simply loves us, God looks at us and simply loves us. But some look at others and see a problem to be solved, an illness to be cured. God has pride in the richness of creation, we fail to have pride in each other and so people fail to have pride in who they are – and that is destructive. Defining other groups in society as ‘sick’ and in need of healing or elimination can lead, in some situations, to the very worst of crimes against our brothers and sisters. In the last 100 years in Europe we have seen where that can lead, where ‘cures’ for homosexuals was but one aspect of the horrors unleashed on a variety of ethnic and religious groups.

This Group of Sessions, however, will begin with a debate on a motion being led by the Archbishop of York in response to the recent General Election. The debate is called ‘After the General Election – a still small voice of calm.’ The latter part of that is drawn from the hymn we all love singing ‘Dear Lord and Father of mankind’ by John Whittier. The final verse says

Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

It is a beautiful verse, from a beautiful hymn, the inspiration coming from Elijah’s encounter with God on the mountain in 1 Kings 19.11-12. God was experienced not in the wind and the fire and the earthquake but in that still, small voice, the voice that brings calm.

What this debate will produce no one knows – I hear that there many amendments to the motion have been received already. But we need to listen to the voice of calm, in the nation and in the church. Knowing that you are praying for us always helps me to put everything into a proper perspective.  This is God’s church and not ours, not the bishops’, not the clergies’ not the laity’s, not for the now but for eternity – and thank God for that.

Lord of the Church,
bless this meeting of Synod
that we may look on each other with the eyes of love,
your love,
as you look with love on us.
Amen.

In the Steps of Martin Luther

A Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage 2017

sabbaticalthoughtsblog.wordpress.com/

Canda, Jerusalem, Mucknall

Southwark Diocesan Pilgrimage 2016

Hearts on Fire - Pilgrims in the Holy Land

A good city for all

A good city for all

In the Steps of St Paul

Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage June 2015

LIVING GOD

Reflections from the Dean of Southwark

Passion in real time - a retreat for Holy Week

Led by the Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn

Andrew Nunn's reflections from General Synod

the personal views of the Dean of Southwark