Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Women Bishops & Catholicism

                                       Painting by Cosimo Rosselli
                               Saint Catherine of Siena as Spiritual Mother of the Second and Third Orders of Saint Dominic
The greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven are not the ministers but the saints.
Inter Insigniores

Normally this blog avoids current controversies. Partly this is because controversy gives rise to partisan spirit. People moved by an ardent enthusiasm for their party, faction or group are too prone to fall into the trap of thinking that it is more important to be right than it is to be kind. Any truth which relies upon unkindness to advance its cause is no truth at all. Partly also it is because being controversial is a great way of alienating people. The readership of this blog is perfectly formed in the sense that each person reading this is a uniquely wise and gentle individual. It is also, however, small and I have no great desire to make it smaller by leaping into a here-today-gone-tomorrow argument when the main purpose of this blog is about the deep love to be found in a close relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Nevertheless because I live in England the almost universal applause which greeted the recent decision by the local Anglican ecclesial community (the CofE) to 'ordain' women to the role of 'bishop' reminded me how little known and understood are the Catholic reasons for not applauding. I feel moved then to do my little bit to redress the balance. If it so happens that you in your turn feel moved to stop reading my blog because you fundamentally disagree with me then let me take this opportunity to thank you for your patience thus far and prayerfully wish you all the best for your future journey.

Many arguments cannot be characterised as debates in any meaningful sense of the word. The participants talk past each other because they are really talking about different things. In this case the advocates of women's ordination tend to advance their case on the grounds of equality and justice, the Catholic opponents advance theirs on the basis of authority and its limitations. I will come to equality later but will begin with the limits of authority because I suspect it is the least known and least understood category in the whole dispute.

In his Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacredotalis Pope St John Paul II made this definitive statement  I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women.  You might think 'he's the Pope, he has the authority to do whatever he likes.' but you would be wrong. The Catholic Church is the steward of a gift which she has received, she is not the author and mistress of a philosophy of her own devising. In the Nicene Creed she proclaims her belief that the Church is, among other things, Apostolic. This means that what the Church believes to be true about the revelation of God to man in the person of Jesus Christ are those things, and only those things which she received from the Apostles who were the companions of Jesus on His mission. Many of the doctrines which the Church proclaims and teaches to be true, such as the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity or devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary are only implicit in the deposit of faith. Centuries of reflection upon and debate about this deposit has led to the implications being drawn out ever more fully and expressed ever more clearly. Blessed John Henry Newman in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine compares this process to a seed which grows into a tree, all the elements of the tree are present in the seed but many lifetimes may pass before the tree reaches the fullest extent of its development. Part of the stewardship role of the Church then consists in cultivating the Apostolic faith because it is a living thing rather than in preserving it unchanged as if it was a mere museum piece. But what the Church cannot, must not, do is introduce new doctrines which do not have their origin in that initial deposit of faith.

You might think 'why not? The world changes and the Church should change with it.' To which the answer is, and not for the first time on this blog, Yes and No. The world does change and since Christians have an obligation to evangelise the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ then they must always so far adapt themselves so as to make it possible for each new generation to hear, understand and accept that Gospel. God, however, does not change. The final word which He spoke in universal revelation to all humankind was contained in the person of Jesus. Nothing exists to be added to or taken away from that word, nothing can be more true, more sublime or more relevant. The Church, therefore, while always seeking to present that word as effectively as possible must be absolutely, unequivocally and unwaveringly faithful to it whatever the cost may be. The fullness of that revelation was summarised in the faith of the Apostles which the Catholic Church holds in the form of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Moreover our Lord gave this promise to the Apostles and implicitly to their successors the Bishops, behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. (Matthew 28:20) Which is understood to mean that the Saviour did not simply leave a set of teachings and a stellar example to His followers before disappearing off to heaven, His promise includes the continued presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit in the counsels of the Church. That is to say, whenever the Church is definitive about a subject concerning the faith which she has received, whether that be through an Ecumenical Council, an ex cathedra statement by the Pope or through the universal, unanimous,  unbroken and continuous teaching of the Church (the Magisterium,)  then the protection of the Spirit has the effect of ensuring that that teaching is infallibly a true and accurate understanding of the faith.

So what has this got to do with the ordination of women? Well, we know that Jesus only chose men to be Apostles but this is not crucial to the argument, His mission was very specifically to the Jewish community. However, the Apostles appointed successors to themselves, bishops, wherever they established Christian communities and their successors appointed successors and so on. There is no evidence that in the century or so after the first Pentecost that any of these bishops were women. And it is certainly the case that it has never been the universal practice of the church to appoint women as either bishops or priests. Given the wide geographic spread of Christianity even in its early days and the accompanying wide variety of cultures in which it operated there is no argument that in every case the idea of women priests was locally unacceptable as it would have been in Judea. In places where inhabitants were familiar with the idea of priestesses because the indigenous pagan cults had them Christians could have ordained their own women priests but did not do so. Despite the best efforts of advocates for women's ordination to prove otherwise there are no grounds for supposing that the Church at any point in its history would have countenanced such a practice had it been considered by an Ecumenical Council, a Pope or the Magisterium. Which brings us back to the limits of authority. If the deposit of faith had included an implicit notion that the priesthood and episcopate was open to both men and women then the Holy Spirit which guides the Church in such matters would have facilitated an expression of that notion somewhere within the practice of the Church at some point prior to the 20th century. That He has not done so leads us to conclude that the notion is not present and that therefore the Church does not have the authority to introduce it as if it had been.

Before looking at the question of equality and the idea that ordaining women is A Good Thing regardless of obscure theological quibbling I will touch on what all this has to do with the CofE. It is popularly supposed that at the time of the 'Reformation' a new religion was established in England which ousted the old religion of Catholicism and replaced it with a new body called the CofE. Anglicans however do not, at least officially, see it that way. They define their faith as Catholic and Reformed and affirm that they believe essentially the same things that the Church believed prior to the 'Reformation,' they are not a new body but a continuation of the old one purged of irrelevant accretions, superstitions and distortions. Their website says this-

"The religious settlement that eventually emerged in the reign of Elizabeth I gave the Church of England the distinctive identity that it has retained to this day. It resulted in a Church that consciously retained a large amount of continuity with the Church of the Patristic and Medieval periods in terms of its use of the catholic creeds, its pattern of ministry, its buildings and aspects of its liturgy, but which also embodied Protestant insights in its theology and in the overall shape of its liturgical practice"            
Anglicans claim to hold to the faith of the undivided Catholic Church as it existed prior to the schism between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, it proclaims that the CofE is part of the Catholic and Apostolic Church. Which means, among other things, that part of its mission is to establish unity between the sundered members of the Christian family. And also, crucially, that the formulae of faith (the creeds) which emerged from the Ecumenical Councils were accurate because the Councils were guided by the Holy Spirit. Now, it is clear that part of the deposit of faith which the CofE received was that priestly ordination was reserved to men. In its own practices it upheld this up until the late 20th century. Now it does not and by extending the concept of women's ordination to include the office which they call bishop, successor to the Apostles, then they are either innovating, introducing a new doctrine not included in the original deposit of faith, or asserting that this doctrine was always present but only implicit. In the first instance they would be immediately departing from the catholic faith by any reasonable definition of the concept. In the second then they are using a provincial council to change the doctrines of a universal Church, something which only an Ecumenical Council can do. That is, despairing of the prospect of persuading the Catholic and Orthodox Churches they have unilaterally established a new position. In both cases the CofE has decisively moved itself from the position it claimed as a member of the Catholic body and into a new role as just another Protestant sect.

And so, equality. Let me make my personal position clear; if the Church had the authority to ordain women few people would welcome that more than I would. I have spent most of my working life in overwhelmingly female workplaces and am well aware of the talent, abilities, strengths and enthusiasm that women can bring to the many roles which they fill. It is not here a question of competence to fulfil certain defined tasks. For reasons about which we can only speculate God has appointed that the role of sacerdotal priest is reserved to men. Why that might be so we do not know for certain that it is so we can be sure or else He would have included it in the Apostolic faith which He revealed to the world. In the New Testament there are a number of statements by Jesus known as 'hard sayings,' like for example he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, shall never have forgiveness, but shall be guilty of an everlasting sin. (Mark 3:29) which Christians may not fully understand but do fully accept because they have the authority of our Lord behind them. The Church is, in a manner of speaking, a continuation of Jesus by other means and this doctrine about women's ordination is one of her hard sayings and Christians should accept it in the same spirit and for the same reasons.

It is argued that on this issue, and on a number of others, the Church is making herself increasingly look outdated, out of touch, old fashioned and misogynistic (misogyny means having at least an ingrained prejudice against women.)  That may indeed be how she is perceived by many people especially in the West and especially among the young. Well, let it be so. The Church always has to pay a price for her fidelity to the faith, in the past it paid other prices in the future it will pay still other ones. It is not the job of Christianity to conform itself to popular taste. She has no choice in this matter, she cannot ordain women whatever else may happen. What she can do, must do and to a certain extent has been doing is to proclaim by both word and deed her absolute commitment to the fact that not only are women and men equally beloved by God but that neither sex is superior to the other on the grounds of intelligence, ability, talent, commitment or any other good quality you care to name including, crucially, leadership ability.

We can, I think, deduce from the New Testament and the entire history of the Church including the Apostolic era that the correct Christian approach to what are now called gender issues is to be found in the ideas of balance and harmony. In the context of people 'equal' does not mean 'identical.' Women and men are different from each other and these differences, hard to pin down precisely as they may be, should not be ignored. They do not provide any valid excuse for the exercise of oppressive power. What they provide are fields of opportunity. It should not be the function of the Church to demand that women behave like men or that men behave like women. There is a considerable overlap, areas where both men and women can operate alongside each other in identical roles each producing equally satisfactory outcomes. But there remains a residue of areas where persons are better qualified to function by virtue of their sex than other equally talented persons of the opposite sex. In the context of the Church for mysterious reasons God appears to uniquely qualify some men, but only men, for the role of priest however He also seems to exercise a preferential option for women when it comes to the handing out of charismatic gifts (something I touched on in my earlier Girl Power post.)

We can see some evidence for this in the category known as Doctors of the Church. These are people whom the Church recognises as having made particularly important contributions to developing ever more fully our understanding of the faith. Much has been made of the fact that the list of Doctors is overwhelmingly male. But this is exactly what you would expect in a 2000 year old institution. It is in the nature of such things that those most qualified to teach would first of all have learnt and until relatively recently higher education, within and without the Christian world, was almost exclusively reserved to men and so men would have the greatest opportunity to explore the intellectual realm. It is to be hoped and indeed can be confidently expected that future Doctors of the Church will be as likely to be female as male so long as higher education remains equally accessible to both sexes. For our purposes, however, it is interesting to note that 3 out of the 4 women Doctors had little education. That is St Teresa of Avila, St Catherine of Siena and St Therese of Lisieux, indeed St Catherine may well have been illiterate until quite late on in her mission. What they possessed was the authority of charisma, a technical word in this context which means a particular gift of the Holy Spirit. This gift enabled each of them in very different ways to instruct the Church and indeed to act as leaders to groups of disciples often including priests and bishops. St Catherine of Siena, like her near contemporary St Bridget of Sweden, practically bullied several Popes. And what these women did in their way many hundreds of others like St Margaret Mary Alacoque, St Bernadette of Lourdes, St Faustina Kowalska and Chiara Lubich did as they had been guided to by the Spirit guiding in their turn many others both male and female.

The model for the balance and harmony I suggested earlier can be glimpsed in the relationship between Mary and Jesus. Our Lady is the mother of all charismatics, she was and is the spouse of the Holy Spirit, through their fruitful collaboration salvation came into the world. Whatever power Jesus had by virtue of His role as priest, prophet and king He voluntarily submitted to the authority of Mary, her requests are never unanswered. He performed His first public miracle in response to her prayers. She in her turn voluntarily submitted to Him because of the roles He filled. Mutual submission and a complementarity of functions in those instances where they do not overlap is a rule with them and so also with the Church, yesterday, today and forever.


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23 comments:

  1. It is OK, we are not really going to slay you with a stiletto hit squad (or indeed stop reading your blog). And actually most of the arguments you make here were rather well rehearsed at Synod the other day - although interestingly the people most keen to go on about this wasn't the Anglo Catholic men, but rather the conservative evangelical women, people most firmly entrenched in the Protestant end of Anglicanism.

    I'm sure you absolutely sincerely believe that things can only have developed in this way, because it's what God wants, rather than because that's what was likely to happen in deeply patriarchal societies. But I become an awful lot more sceptical when it comes to the motives of Popes. JPII's argument boils down to: 'well, poor disempowered old me - God says that I have to give me, and blokes like me, all the power - oh, and you definitely can't every change that'. A child of six might laugh hollowly at that one (well, the young rationalists of my tribe would be inclined to do so).

    On the relationship of Anglicanism and Catholicism - yes, there clearly is a relationship, but if you were running a company, and 500 odd years ago, one branch pinched all the outlets, burned half the stock, laid off a good number the staff and said that from now on things were going to be done a bit differently, then it's a fairly good bet that their relationship with circulars from head office (if they even regarded it as head office) was going to be a patchy one at best. I think Anglicans started ignoring 'regional councils aren't allowed to decide stuff'' long, long before women bishops.

    I suppose my one question is why women bishops would seem like a big, regrettable step change from a Catholic perspective, when we've already had women priests for 22 years. The principle that women can't be priests has long since been breached - and isn't breached more by the appearance of some bishops - unless, of course, it's all about power, who has it, who can tell other people what to do.

    Finally, I've just caught up with the latest bout of child abuse allegations, this time in the 1980s government of Margaret Thatcher. I remember in that decade as a schoolchild reading around the hair raising things that went on in the court of Tiberius - endless debauchery laced with deadly politics - and assumed of course that none of that stuff had gone on for centuries. Now we learn that in pretty much every institution you can think of, the court of Tiberius was alive and well - that you could pretty much abuse anyone if they were vulnerable enough, and you were powerful, and male enough. A vital part of that mix is what credible looks like - if you're only used to seeing one type of human believed and respected, then even relatively decent people will subconsciously, self-protectively ignore those bits of narrative - from the disempowered, the 'hysterical', the young and poor that tell a different story. That's why for someone like me, who has no desire to be a bishop, (and who would be really bad at it too) it matters that the Church of England has slightly widened what credible, talented and acknowledged looks like. I believe that these sorts of shifts are what will start to dismantle the idea of a class that are above suspicion. I often hear Catholics talking up the merit of women on their team, but ultimately all the subliminal cues about who is running the show in any church or Cathedral is giving quite a different message. So I'm glad the Anglicans will soon be conveying something different (and, by all accounts, stop scraping the barrel of some pretty untalented men, and allow a whole new set of inspiring people into its leadership).

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    1. Slightly stilettoed, thank you for your moderation. This response probably won't be as good as the one that the machine chewed up last night but here goes.

      The abuse allegations surrounding 1980's British politicians mostly seem to relate to vulnerable boys as victims. People will infer from that whatever their pre-existing prejudice leads them to infer. It does seem though that patriarchy so far as it relates to men and women is not deeply implicated in it. There seems to be an almost irresistible tendency for institutions to cover-up scandals almost without regard for what the initial cause of scandal might be whether abuse, gross errors of judgement or poor clinical practice. It is easier to get away with if the victim is 'low status' because they are less likely to know how to complain effectively and less likely to be believed when they complain ineffectively. This probably has more to do with class than gender.

      As far as your idea that a male only priesthood can be explained by sociological reasons alone goes it is certainly a viable theory. Indeed, if you are an atheist it is the only possible theory. But I assume, perhaps charitably, that most Anglican vicars, 'bishops' and lay activists are not atheists. They would expect to see God involved in the life of the Church in one way or another. So they must argue either that He changed His mind about women's ordination in the late 20th century or He was absent from duty for a couple of millennia. Remember too that in the first few centuries Christianity was incredibly subversive of received ideas and institutions. And this included enhancing the status of women in quite significant ways. If anytime was going to be a good time to get the universal Church on board with the idea of female ordination then that was it. Now, as the Anglicans and others have demonstrated, the ordination of women can only be embraced by sects and grouplets not by the visible Christian Church as a whole which leads one to suppose that the Holy Spirit does not wish to bring about this innovation.

      As for Pope St John Paul II. It is significant that he and the then Cardinal Ratzinger made the crucial point in their case that of limits to their authority. It is the most difficult to argue, the least understood and the least likely to gain approval from wider society of all the arguments available to them. That they took their stand upon it suggests that it is actually the reason behind the definitive ruling which they made.

      Catholics have never really viewed Anglicans as anything other than a new religion built up by despoiling the old one. It is Anglicans themselves who have insisted upon their catholicity and their membership of the same Church that St Augustine first established at Canterbury. Their latest decision makes this position untenable. Certainly it was foreshadowed 22 years ago when it first started 'ordaining' women to the ministry but it is uniquely in the line of bishops that we see Apostolic succession and having women in the episcopate would be a decisive break with that.

      I take your point that a more feminised face for the Church would have a positive knock on effect of encouraging all sorts of hitherto excluded groups of people to value their abilities and potential more and to be valued and believed by others. Also having women in significant positions would, notwithstanding the institutional imperative to cover-up, probably make sexual abuse of children within the Church much less likely. Clearly this is work in progress for the Church. If such roles, accessible to women, do not exist they need to be created even if that means shunting clerics to one side. However that works out though women will not be ordained to the priesthood or the episcopate in the Catholic Church. Rome has spoken, the case is closed.


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    2. I may have actually attained a higher spiritual plane in attempting to post here, in that I'm beginning to lose interest in my own opinions. But here we go:

      i. You say that JPII was advancing the weakest possible argument for being anti-women's priesthood, but it's hard to see what a stronger one would look like: surely the only other route to take would be along the lines of women being too weak or incapable, or busy with housewifely things to be priests. I'm pretty sure this would have made the whole thing even less popular.

      ii. We can both agree that Anglicanism is talking out of its bottom if it thinks it can embrace the great variety of opinions that it does, and still be basically Catholic. (Obviously, I like the eclecticism of Anglicanism).

      iii. I also agree that institutions tend to cover up scandals and judge people on status etc. But if a group of people with a particular characteristic are always - or frequently - excluded from senior positions, then that almost begins to define their class. There are all sorts of complications and caveats to that - loads of people are intersectional (like, say, Lord Browne, hiding in a power closet to be head of BP, or Mary Archer winning a court case by being fragrant). But the aggregate effect in a power battle is that you're more likely to lose, if you're already in a section of the population that gets walked on with impunity. I can think of plenty of discrimination that will still thrive - and may even take the place of prejudice against women - I suspect prejudice may be a hydra that needs re-slaying in every generation - but this is still a massive step forward. I'm glad you think Catholics should promote women in other ways - but I'm sceptical about whether the 'different but equal' thing really convinces anybody - and if in 20 years there will be really any sign of significant giving of power to Catholic women in any way. Ten quid says not, because I don't think it'll ever be quite enough of a priority and fiery prophetesses don't seem to get much access to the Pope these days.

      iv. I think you should hang out with more archaeologists. After what period should God intervene in something if it's wrong: 300 years, 500? - a millennia? If I unkindly appeared numinously to some poor group of Ghanaians on an Indies slaver in 1600, then I might be in a position to say "Hello there! People will eventually realise that what's happening to you is very, very wrong. But not until you, and ten generations of your families to come have lived as captives in brutal and degrading conditions. And then there'll be at least a couple of centuries after that dealing with the aftermath. And in the meantime everyone will say it must be fine because it's always been like that, time immemorial." I'm pretty certain that the Indies slave trade was infinitely worse than not having women priests, and yet we have to conclude that God pretty much sat on his hands all that time. If the world lasts even another 100,000 years and (to my surprise) Christianity does too, then what appears to you now to be a really long time will be a mere blip at the beginning of the history of the faith. Christians orbiting Sirius tens of thousands of years hence will be going "Ah yes! - the ancient mystic blogger, stevhep. Of him, we have heard many good things. He was wrong about women bishops though."

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  2. Testing, testing:
    {As if by magic, Christopher Plummer appears:}
    Edelweiss, edelweiss, every morning you greet me
    Small and white, clean and bright, you look happy to meet me.
    Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever
    Edelweiss, edelweiss, bless my homeland forever....

    I've worked out what the problem is. I wasn't signed into my Google account. On Wordpress it simply asks you to sign in, and then posts your comment, blogger more punitively signs you in, but at the cost of deleting your whole post. This sort of ferocious insistence on applying the rules no matter what suggests to me that blogger may have fallen into the hands of some sort of large, famously adamantine religious association.

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  3. A few points:

    1. Controversy does not give rise to a partisan spirit. The divide naturally exists between moral and immoral positions. We know what is moral and immoral from antiquity. Our parents taught us and our own conscience confirmed it as did the Holy Spirit who governs the Church and the Scriptures. All these things agreed. So we knew what was moral. When someone stands up and states that such and such is moral, and we know from all these things: parents, conscience, Holy Spirit, Church Teaching, Scriptures, that it is not moral, we have an obligation to oppose this person and what they are saying. It is called "truth' and "lies" and this leads to argument and tension as it should. The Catholic Apologists of our 2,000 year history did this routinely with St. Athanasius opposing the Arians and other pagan/heretics, St. Augustine of Hippo opposing the Donatists and St. Clement and Polycarp opposing Gnosticism. No one accused them of being unkind though they argued vehemently. At the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. St. Nicholas was so incensed at what a heretic said about Jesus he punched him in the nose. That's right. St. Nicholas started a fist fight at an ecumenical council. What do we have today? The Church of "nice" where everything is a-okay. Nobody get riled. It's just falling apart from rot within. Just make sure there are enough biscuits, tea and little finger sandwiches after service.

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    1. Controversy does give rise to a partisan spirit. Which is not to say that every person involved in a controversy is infected by it. There is an obligation to speak the truth but partisanship can lead one to denigrate an opponent simply because they are an opponent. The partisan spirit leads one into factionalism, backbiting and manoeuvring as a substitute for clearly stating or refuting a case on the grounds that if you manoeuvre with sufficient skill you can win control of a situation. And simply close the argument down. Controversy can be necessary, that after all is why I have written a blog opposed to women's ordination but how you controvert can be as important as what you are controvert in about. It is never morally licit to do evil that good may come from it.

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    2. This is why it is important not to call people "angry women" when they disagree passionately. Or other names. But to stick to the argument for which there is sound evidence and facts. That we have factions speaks to a side of morality and immorality. We have moral positions from antiquity which are being opposed on no grounds at all. Therefore it is impossible to have a conversation at Lambeth anymore because if you base your position on solid moral ground from Antiquity, then you are rebutted in favor or some insidious reply such as "well, these are modern times" or any number of rebuttals. Therein you have factions and schisms because right now certain sectors of the Anglican Church of England and ECUSA do not want to hold to orthodoxy. They want everything rewritten to satisfy their carnal lusts and desires. They don't care. They just want power. For decades they discussed "homosexuality" at Lambeth. On and on it went. Until 1/3rd of the American bishops left and created ACNA. Now 50% of the Anglican Communion in Africa is going to leave and take 35 million Anglicans with them. Because Justin Welby will not do his duty. Will not discipline Canon Jeremy Pemberton. Will not uphold Church Law and the Bible. Will not "put out" those who are engaged in 'pornea" and other sexual sins (I Corinthians 5). They were supposed to mourn such activity, grieve over it, but rather, they are "puffed up" about it, proud of it, even boastful. So the fall cannot come soon enough. It is deserved.

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  4. 2. Truth that relies on unkindness is no truth at all. I would disagree. Truth is truth. In any tone. In any delivery. That some people are inept at delivery or tone deaf or any number of imperfections does not belie the fact that truth is being spoken. We find many Scriptures that say, "in the last days they will not put up with sound doctrine (truth) but having itching ears will heap up teachers unto themselves to satisfy their carnal lusts.' So there you have it. You can call someone "angry" and dismiss the truth they are speaking. Because once again it doesn't fit into the "church of nice" (Michael Voris). You can shut down and silence the dialogue because you are getting uncomfortable with the truth that someone is speaking. Truth makes people squirm who have guilty consciences. It makes people squirm who are trying to get out of addressing something within themselves or the conversation they need to address. So they reject it off hand. And they discredit the person giving the truth. In essence they try to discredit the messenger of truth by saying, "she is angry" and then they can safely retreat back into their comfortable conscience of guilt and quiet. The prophets of old were stoned for telling truth. They were discredited. They were hunted and killed for saying what was true. Yet they were men of God. It is diabolical and disgusting to shame people for being zealous for God and passionate for God and for vehemently disagreeing in conversations when something completely immoral and odious is spoken of by others. It is routinely done in Christian and Catholic circles to the nth degree because many would rather be living in the "church of nice" than the "church of truth" which jesus promised would set us free.

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    1. You miss the significance of 'relies upon' If something relies upon morally illicit methods to succeed then it cannot be the truth. If people serving the cause are sometimes carried away by the partisan spirit, like St Nicholas clearly was, then that is not the same as relying upon the systematic use of violence to make the Gospel of Jesus better understood

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    2. "relies upon" is no basis to discount truth. for instance, in what circumstance would someone "speak truth" using a morally illicit method? Truth is truth. It will get through. The idea that "unkindness" is the same as "morally illicit method" is preposterous. One can be "rude" and still speak truth and get truth through. Once can stutter. One can have a severe tone if the situation merits severity. "Remember both the kindness and the severity of the Lord." The Catholic Apologists of old were power houses. They opposed "men to their faces" as St. Paul did to Peter in Galatians 2:11- "I Paul, opposed Peter to his face" for being a hypocrite. Does that sound 'nice' to you? No. Paul wasn't nice. We are infected with the church of nice. It's ridiculous. We are sacrificing truth, holiness, purity, unity, and many other virtues because of it. Seriously can you really stand all the phony people who are "nice" to your face but trash talk you behind your back? Faithful are the wounds of a friend. I would rather have someone tell me to my face than backstab me in church. I was in various churches for 25 years doing ministry and on the mission field. No one can back stab you like Church people. Very duplicitous. Nice smiles. Sharp teeth. You hear what they really think of you in the ladies room. Or on the sidewalk after committee meeting. I have often heard Church people tell me they left the Church to find some honest friends. Ouch. That ones hurts. But it is true. Sometimes the truth hurts you, ya know?

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  5. 3. Equality is not a Christian term. It is part of a cabal of secular, humanistic, ungodly and worldly values or morals spawned in "The Enlightenment" era of late 17th century in salons or parlors in France and all across Europe. Within 90 years of these "enlightened" conversations the Catholic clergy in France was slaughtered and anyone who supported them. For ten years from 1789-1799 the French slaughtered anyone in their way. The middle class or merchant class was rising to prominence and they would brook no dissension with "the new society" they had created. Equality does not have a Biblical basis. WE look to the Scriptures for the "rule of faith" and "rule of our lives and behavior." to all Christian practice which the Scriptures, The Church, Faith of our Fathers and Mothers, The witness of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in the World and our own faith community from antiquity tells us and our Christian/Catholic parents and grand parents. Therefore, according to I Timothy 3:2- "A bishop may be the husband of one wife" is absolutely clear. There is no wiggle room here.

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  6. 4. I would argue against the C of E retaining what it started out with in 1534 AD and the evidence for that would be a pattern of ministry that now includes: ordination of openly gay bishops (Gene Robinson) and his marriage to his partner. The known living together in the North London diocese of "partnered" yet "celibate" gay clergy. Honestly, how naive do you think people are Church of England to believe that two men who claim "love" for each other are living in the same house and retaining their celibacy? Is there a celibacy police check up of any routine going on? No. So how do you know? You don't. And it is completely naive and far worse to believe that nothing sexual is going on between these men who "claim" to be celibate. The North London Diocese is over run with these types of "clergy" who are living this way and I would say that "even the appearance of evil is evil" according to the Scriptures. It is known as of a few months ago that Canon Jeremy Pemberton defied his Bishop in North London and went out and married is live in partner of some time named Lawrence Cunnington. And that after this marriage of which he was warned not to do that nothing has happened. No disciplinary measures. No defrocking. And the C of E in Africa in Uganda, Sudan and Nigeria have threatened to take 50% or 35 million Anglicans and move them to ACNA (Anglican Church North America) if Pemberton is not defrocked. So the Archbishop of Canterbury will split the union by protecting one gay man and losing 35 million Anglicans. How is this retaining what the Anglican Church started out with?

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    1. Canon Pemberton lives in Nottinghamshire and works in Lincolnshire. By what possible geographical definition is that "North London Diocese"? (There is no such diocese).

      "And that after this marriage of which he was warned not to do that nothing has happened. No disciplinary measures." - not true. He has had his permission to officiate in Nottingham and Southwell diocese revoked by the Bishop there. He has also been refused a licence by the same Bishop to take up the post of running the NHS chaplaincy services in Nottinghamshire.

      "How is this retaining what the Anglican Church started out with?" - rather fitting though, don't you think, given the church of England was effectively founded over a marriage dispute?

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    2. It was reported in news reports as 'North London" over here in North America. Permission to officiate revoked? Is that the same as being 'defrocked?"

      The Church of England was founded by Henry VIII who wanted to have his sexual lusts satisfied upon one woman after another, even going to the point of having one wife beheaded in order to do so. Not a good way to start a church, eh?

      Listen all you Anglican. I'm Roman Catholic. Whenever anyone says anything about the Roman Catholic Church I agree with them. Want to talk about pedophile priests? Have at it. I will agree with you. Want to talk about this or that thing wrong with the Roman Catholic Church? No problem. I will agree with you. Want to talk about the Spanish Conquest Gold that lines the VAticum Museum that could be removed and feed the poor? NO problem. I will agree with you. Want to talk about corruption in the Vatican? How they move RC priests around and don't prosecute them for child abuse? Want to discuss or even rant or rail on that? NO problem. I will agree with you.

      But criticize the Anglican Church of England? Oh no. Don't do that. That is just plain unkind. More tea and biscuits.

      For your information. Many of US are sick of the "church of nice" okay? The CHURCH needs reform in every age. Your church and my church.

      Try not to be so thin skinned okay? We have a rough road up ahead in these years. There is no need to be easily offended. There is nothing you could say in any way shape or form about the RC Church in the way of criticism I would not agree with. THAT is probably the difference between you and me.

      I bid you good day.

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    3. I can assure you this has nothing to do with being thin skinned. The trouble is, when you start ranting and raving about such and such person in such and such country and half the things you say are wrong...well, I mean, why should anyone listen?

      There are plenty of things that are wrong with the Church: with the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church. I'm just not convinced that people living in faithful, monogamous relationships (celibate or otherwise) with people of the same sex is one of them.

      Let's start with "pedophile priests"; then we'll move on to "the Spanish Conquest Gold that lines the VAticum Museum that could be removed and feed the poor"; and then to "corruption in the Vatican" and how they "move RC priests around and don't prosecute them for child abuse". You know, when we've dealt with all of those problems where crimes have been committed, people abused against their will, peoples lives ruined; then let's talk about what people do with their genitals in the privacy of their own homes.

      Yeah, the church is too *nice*, yours and mine both, but scare stories of "an "all call" for women to take over the Church of England" have nothing to do with stopping the church of *nice*. It's just right wing propaganda, pure and simple.

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    4. This post will be in two parts. Too long for one.

      We cannot in all honesty and integrity just dismiss the truth about what someone is saying by using words like "rant" and "rave." To dismiss the TRUTH about what someone is saying by diverting the attention to their delivery is dishonest. Truth is true no matter the delivery.

      Now. Let us look at Jeremy Pemberton okay? Because as I understand he was not defrocked. Which he should have been. He cannot "officiate" in the diocese he was in. Does that mean he can officiate elsewhere? In England or anywhere? Can someone else license him? If so, then he can just move hither and thither and while it is inconvenient he has to move out of the particular diocese in North London he can still perform priestly duties. Which he should (moral imperative) not be allowed to.

      We can at least put some onus on the bishops who allowed men like Pemberton to live "celibately" with their partners. wink. wink. Who bought that farse, eh? Well having had that step "allowed" by the bishops the next logical step would be "Unions" since England passed into law "gay marriage" and had the Bishops in England been more strict and not allowed "even the appearance of evil" such as two gay men living together then I think Pemberton would have curtailed his disobedience. Or just left. If you don't want to follow Church teaching why not just leave? Plenty have. Why hurt your conscience? why not tell someone you have stopped believing in Church teaching? Why pretend to take in the Eucharist and so do it unworthily while you don't even believe anymore? Why do the harm to yourself? It seems self destructive.

      I told several in my family years ago, "Why are you pretending to believe in Christ and the Church? It is so obvious you don't believe anymore. Just be honest. You don't believe. Tell us. Stop pretending." And they did. They told us they no longer believed and that they had stopped going to services years ago. This was refreshing. We got it all out in the open air. Then we knew how to behave toward one another. Which was to not expect anyone to pray at meals. Or be religious. No assumptions. They didn't want to hear the Bible or preaching or anything. And, so we didn't preach around them. Eventually they stopped coming to family gatherings and joined the Jehovah's Witness Group or New Age associations. Frankly, it was a relief. All that pretense was eating away at them. And it was confusing us who still believed.

      But, enough about my family. Back to Pemberton. Seeing as Pemberton did defy his Bishops orders he must face consequences. And who are Bishops? The authority of the Church in any given district. The very authority that Christ established through his Apostles. Bishops are mini apostles. They carry as much weight as Peter and Paul. Do you have a problem with Pemberton having someone in authority over him? Because he didn't seem to have a problem until just recently. When his Bishop met with him. And told him there would be consequences if he "married" Mr. Cunnington. So what did Jeremy Pemberton do? He went ahead and defied the Bishop. Defied his ordination vows. And his baptismal vows. Just flat out broke them. And what were the consequences? They were stated beforehand to him. Yet he defied them. Don't you believe in consequences for actions? And yet when the consequences arrived his "husband" Lawrence Cunnington said, "I can't believe they tampered with his livelihood." or something akin to that. As if to say, "I can't believe that when Jeremy Pemberton defied his bishop he actually brought some consequences."

      Cunnington's incredulity is incredible in itself. Did he or anyone else think there would be no reaction to such an action? Did these people not study cause and effect in school?

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    5. Part Two:

      Now to answer a few things you stated in your email which are of great concern in the Church today. For the issue of homosexuality and sexual sin at large in the Church is tearing it asunder as we speak.

      You said, " I don't think that people in faithful and monogamous relationships is the something that is wrong with the church" and "what people do with their genitals in the privacy of their homes is not the churches or anybodies business."

      The words "faithful" and "monogamous" have always been relegated to the relationship of men and women in holy matrimony. But the homosexuals in the church hijacked these terms as they did the word "gay" which we used to feel comfortable singing in "deck the halls" every Christmas. Now people laugh uncontrollably when they sing "don we now our gay apparel" because it creates images of effeminate gay men prancing around in leotards. That is quite a shame.

      We live as Christians in intimate community as "brothers and sisters" together. That is non sexual. A man is to approach another man as "brother" and a woman another woman as "sister" in the Lord. That is our directive. Within marriage we have Jesus himself telling us that "the two shall become one flesh." Matthew19:5 and Mark 10:8 which are bringing forth Torah Law from Genesis 2:24. St.Paul substantiates the same in Ephesians 5:31. We cannot escape the Biblical directive even if we wanted to and St. Paul says "put away falsehood, speak the truth with your neighbor, and all fornication (pornea) and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you" (Ephesians 4:35;5:3). This is how we are to live. Celibate outside of marriage as brother and sister. One flesh within the bonds of holy matrimony defined as a man and woman by God.

      There is no "sexual privacy" in Christianity. We are accountable to each other as "bride of Christ' and He is coming back for a holy and spotless bride which believes and obeys His directives and definitions of what constitute belief, holiness and self sacrificial love. That means giving up our ways and our sexual lusts for Christ. Who lived in celibacy and virginity himself. St. Paul states that the single life is to be preferred because you can serve the Lord unencumbered. Married life is supposed to reflect Christ and His Church. Both sides of the Church. Both genders represented as in Genesis 1:26- "Let us make humans in Our image. And they made them both male and female." These are all God's ideas. His directives to His people. Are WE the faithful people He expects us to be? Are we worthy right now in the Church of being redeemed as Bride of Christ? I say we are not ready. We have a long way to go.

      I bid you have good day. Liz+

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  7. 5. Finally, the signal to ordain women bishops is an "all call" for women to take over the Church of England much as they have taken over ECUSA and that means one thing: Lesbians. Women living together in "committed relationships" at the highest level of the Church. What a farse. And all this to make sure that men are not "misogynists." When will the men in the Church of England understand that this is hostage taking and bullying? Words like "fair treatment of women" have no place in the Church because women are already sisters to men who are supposed to be their brothers. And they are to look upon other women as sisters not lovers. It's just disgusting what is happening. It's sinful. It's twisted. It mars and twists the witness of Christ in the world who lived in virginity and holy celibacy. Who told us that LOVE equals "agape' or friendship. It is non-sexual. That is how we are to view each other and live our lives. Men to men. Women to women. In Friendship and non sexual contact. Marriage is God's idea that the human race should go on. He invented it. He warned us not to"rent it asunder" by all these twisted deviations. Of which the Church of England and ECUSA are so blatantly guilty of. They care not for Christ or they would remain sexually and physically pure and holy. They only care to give into their own sexual lusts. And use the Scriptures nilly willy to justify it. They can't even get the word "love" right because if they did they would come up with its usage, "no greater love has a man for his friend than to lay down his life" and that means that the predominant teaching and definition of LOVE in the New Testament is "self sacrifice." It is giving up your carnal nature. It is giving up what you want. It is not feeding your flesh but feeding the Spirit. For the Godly man or woman can never please God if they feed their flesh. All who feed their flesh die a spiritual death. This is all known. Has been understood from antiquity. You cannot change this without dire consequences. Of which we are seeing in the Church of England. Which soon will lose 50% of its membership. And perhaps go the way of the dodo bird? Extinction?

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  8. The first British clergyman to enter a gay marriage has been blocked by the Church of England from taking up a new post. Canon Jeremy Pemberton tied the knot with long-term partner Laurence Cunnington in April. The Right Reverend Richard Inwood responded by revoking his permission to operate as a priest in the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham where he lives, but this did not affect his work as a hospital chaplain in Lincolnshire.

    Mr Pemberton successfully applied for the role of chaplaincy and bereavement manager at the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, but he cannot take the promotion because Mr Inwood is refusing to issue the required licence. Mr Pemberton told the Guardian: "I don't think it's clear that what they've done is legal. I certainly don't think it's fair. There's been no process. The bishop is effectively threatening my ability to be in employment. It's clear that the only reason my taking that (post) up is threatened is about nothing to do with my ability as a chaplain but it entirely about the fact that I got married."

    Mr Inwood said his decision was made "for reasons of consistency". He said: "In its pastoral guidance on same sex marriage, the House of Bishops said that getting married to someone of the same sex was clearly at variance with the teaching of the Church of England. The statement said it would not be appropriate conduct for someone in holy orders to enter into a same sex marriage, given the need for clergy to model the Church's teaching in their lives.

    "In view of this, and having spoken to Canon Jeremy Pemberton, his permission to officiate in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham was revoked. In light of the pastoral guidance and for reasons of consistency, I am unable to issue a licence to Jeremy Pemberton for the post of chaplaincy and bereavement manager, in the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust."

    In a statement published on the Changing Attitude website, Mr Cunnington said he was appalled by the decision. "I realise that, as Jeremy's husband, I am far from impartial but those of you who know him well will recognise my description of him as a fine man of integrity and exceptional abilities and whose ministry in this diocese would be a tremendous asset to those he serves. I am appalled, to put it mildly, that he is to be denied this opportunity solely because of his marital status," he said. (from Huffington Post.co.uk)

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  9. Surely if Our Lord had wanted to ordain women He would just have gone ahead and done so? He was a radical in other ways and made no bones about insulting "the Establishment" - Pharisees, Sadducees, moneychangers in the Temple - in the course of His mission. And also He was no misogynist, far from it, and against the grain of His contemporary society, unlike St Paul who could not free himself from his Greek heritage and whose interventions, I suggest, in what was evidently a debate on the role of women in the 1st century Church, have not since proved helpful.

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