Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Get away from it Croydon!

I've just got back from the ordination of two bishops for our Diocese - Woolwich and Croydon. These services are a curious mixture of ancient and modern, legal and liturgical, state and church. The Royal Mandate was read by the Provincial Registrar, resplendent in robes and wig, instructing 'our loyal and trusty friend Rowan Douglas' to ordain Jonathan Clark and Michael Ipgrave bishops. Andrew Nunn, the Dean of Southwark Cathedral, made us laugh by reminiding us, on this day when we commemorate Thomas Cranmer, that Archbishop Cranmer and his wife used to get out of London for a break in peaceful Croydon where he had his summer palace. More seriously, he reminded us that the church must be 'inclusive' and 'affirming' - both words loaded with extra meaning in the Church of England these days.

We discovered that the Archbishop of Canterbury, who presided, has a pleasant light baritone voice as he intoned the prayers. This will probably be his last visit to Southwark before he moves to his next job in Cambridge. I'm sure he will be breathing a large sigh of relief to leave behind the problems and divisions that have beset the C of E and the wider Anglican communion during the last decade. Who would want his job?

Our two new bishops are appointed to be shepherds of God's flock, the church. We promised to pray for them and I will try to keep that promise. It's too easy to criticize those in authority over us, whether in the secular or the religious sphere. To be a bishop in the church is a noble calling and one that is only possible if God has called you. I may question what our bishops say and do, but I hope it is with respect and in a spirit of charity. May God bless Bishop Jonathan and Bishop Michael.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

"The Holy Spirit is saying..." Is he really?

I was just about to put digit to keyboard (it would have been pen to paper years ago) to reflect on the modern propensity for claiming to be prophetic and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through our own personal agendas, when I read Gary Jenkins' excellent blog on the same subject. We were both at the Southwark Diocesan Synod last week, and both spoke in favour of adopting the Anglican Covenant, and both found ourselves on the losing side. We both heard a number of people claiming that the Covenant would 'limit the prophetic voice of the church'.

Reflecting on the number of times I have heard that or a similar phrase it seems to me that the word 'prophetic' is used nowadays to give authority to any innovation that flies in the face of tradition, reason or scripture. Whereas at one time it was charismatic evangelicals that would speak about prophecy more easily, now it is liberals who claim to be speaking prophetically when they speak in favour of, for instance, same-sex marriage.

Likewise, the voice of Holy Spirit is claimed to give weight to similar innovations. Reading the Acts of the Apostles it is clear that the Holy Spirit did move the church in a radically new direction when it was agreed that the Gentiles were also included in God's covenant along with the Jews, and that full church membership should be accorded Gentiles without them having to be circumcised. But today's claims that the Holy Spirit may be speaking through the church to embrace the personal agendas of our liberal brothers and sisters seems to be verging on a breaking of the 3rd Commandment: 'You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.'

We must all be careful not to claim the Holy Spirit's authority for our own agendas, and not to treat prophecy lightly. It seems to me, reading acts, that the Holy Spirit spoke to the church when Christians were together in prayer, and often in fasting. he seemed to speak more about mission than anything else. Let's listen and learn.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Just 10 - Just 2 more to go

Today we came to the 3rd Commandment (8th in our series): 'Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain'. Most people hardly think twice about using the name of our awesome God, Creator and Saviour, as an exclamation or swear word. But I still feel uncomfortable when people do because they are showing disrespect to my loving loving heavenly Father. Our curate Linda was preaching and she encouraged us to think about sensitive ways to say to people that we would rather they did not misuse God's name in our presence. It's hard sometimes, but our Muslim friends get much more upset if the name and reputation of their prophet Mohammed is called into question.

Here's a practical idea given by one of our Readers who preached at our earlier service: if you strike your thumb, for example, while hammering in a nail and find yourself saying, "Jesus," then complete the sentence with "...Christ is Lord."

Somehow, The Daily Telegraph has got hold of the story behind the Just 10 series, though the paper has tried to present it as a 'revision' of the Commandments.
Even more of a mystery - the paper quotes me on the series. I've even had an email from Texas about it. God moves in mysterious ways!