Sunday, 26 October 2014

The strange absence of Tolkien's Catholicism

Am I the only person to find it rather strange that BBC Radio 4's Sunday Worship broadcast this morning from Merton College, Oxford made no mention that Tolkien was a Catholic Christian? His [Roman] Catholic faith is the key, one would have thought, to any adequate understanding of anything he wrote.
How very strange ... or am I missing something?

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Clocks go back tonight

In Britain, tonight will mark the end of British Summer Time - the clocks go back an hour at 2 a.m..
So - we have the looming prospect of lighter mornings for a while, but darker evenings immediately. I have to confess, somewhat Margaret-like,  such is my dread at the fall of the leaf and the approach of the short and dark afternoons of winter I would gladly adopt what the europhobes seem now to refer to as 'Berlin time,' although 'Paris time' would do just as well ... and has somewhat different connotations ...
Roll on the 29th of March!

One can't help thinking, though, that the Welsh Bishops have missed a trick by not arguing that in the Principality clocks should never be turned back - only moved relentlessly forward - and, of course, that all timepieces should be resolutely progressive * (ideally having a facility to strike thirteen)  and be made in Wales .... no nasty, irregular, imported, chronometers here ...

“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

For 25th October

The Welsh folk song Suo Gân, sung by the Choir of King's College Cambridge directed by Stephen Cleobury, who made the arrangement.

Friday, 24 October 2014

How will they respond?

It will be interesting to see what response (if any) the Welsh Bench of Bishops will make to Credo Cymru's recent statement (October 8th) regarding the Code of Practice presented to the Governing Body in September. 
Rumours (or something more than rumours) that the bishops are divided on the issue are said to abound ....
The problem the bishops have, of course, is that the applied 'provisions' of the Code (if they can be said to be that) are completely at variance with their own assessment of the wider ecclesial context, both in the Anglican Communion  and the 'Church Catholic' itself:
"3. Since the Church in Wales continues to share the historic episcopate with other Churches, including other Churches of the Anglican Communion, the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches, which continue to ordain only men as priests or bishops, the Bench of Bishops acknowledges that this decision on ministry and gender is set within a broader process of discernment and reception within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God." 
[see the above link]
The Bench's unanimous decision (if that does remain the case - and there is significant reason to doubt that - the unanimity, at least) not to allow for episcopal oversight from a Bishop faithful to the Tradition - from within or outside the Province of Wales - negates all these fine sentiments and about a "broader process of discernment and reception within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God" and indeed makes them utterly meaningless. 
How can there be said to be, in any sense whatsoever,  an open process of 'discernment' in Wales when there is no provision - even after the first female episcopal consecration - for sacramental and episcopal care by bishops in the 'orthodox,' original, succession? 

One hopes, too, that our 'Fathers in God' will not be tempted to raise again in their defence, as they have in the past, both in public and private, any suggestion of that convenient and intentionally misleading canard of 'taint.' It is not a question of 'taint' (as has been repeated ad nauseam, but there's none so unteachable as those who don't wish to be taught) : the issue is one of faithfulness to the apostolic tradition - a complex matter both of the necessary sacramental / theological intention  and (to be somewhat irreverent) the essential 'mechanistic' process of hands on heads. 

We can stand on nothing else but the apostolic tradition...

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Response from Credo Cymru to Welsh bishops

For the moment, as we live in very interesting times, we post without comment this excellent response to the stone we were given by our fathers in God  instead of bread. 
It has, of course, been widely commented upon elsewhere....

Response from Credo Cymru to the Bishops' Code of Practice of September 2014

1. The Code enunciates principles, several of which are welcome to us and reflect some things we said in our submission. These state that the Bench wishes every member of the Church in Wales to feel valued and included in the life of the church, and for all legitimate varieties of churchmanship to flourish. Those who cannot accept that the ordination of women as bishops and priests are explicitly recognised as adhering to an acceptable interpretation of the Anglican heritage. However, the meagre nature of the concrete provision made comes then as an entire non sequitur; it simply does not achieve the apparently avowed end of enabling Traditionalists to flourish. There is a clear discontinuity between the initial principles and the actual provision.

2. We cannot accept that the Code as it stands is the last word on the matter. Fortunately the Code itself does not claim to be such. If it were, we would be unable to recommend that the members of Credo Cymru should continue their Christian life within the fellowship and structures of the Church in Wales. We would have sadly to express the conclusion that fully orthodox and catholic life could no longer be lived out under these circumstances, and that our members might well be advised to seek an alternative spiritual home within which to continue their Christian pilgrimage.

3. The Bench of Bishops of the Church in Wales should realise one fact, however unwelcome. If we are correct in believing that in the purpose of God the orders of bishop and priest ought not to be conferred on women (and, of course, we for our part recognise that that is a big 'if viewed from the bishops' perspective), then there is no bishop currently on the bench who is acting as an orthodox and catholic bishop should act. That is a large part of our problem. To offer any male bishop as a grudging sacramental stand-in for a female diocesan hardly meets our need to relate to a bishop whom we can recognise as being in the Great Tradition of the Church. It is not true to state, as the Presidential Address did, that we accept only bishops who happen to agree with our own views when, of course, it is the relationship to historic orthodoxy in which bishops stand, and not their 'views', which gives rise to the request for alternative episcopal oversight and care. It is quite improper to impute to a minority views which they do not hold and then to decline a request on the basis that those views are 'uncatholic'.

4. As presented, the Code of Practice is seriously inadequate for Traditionalists who, in conscience, are unable to accept the ministry of women as bishops. We can only conclude from this that the Bench of Bishops have a fundamental difficulty in understanding our theological position.

5. At the least, Traditionalist members of the Church in Wales are going to have to look to bishops outside the current bench as the true pastors of their souls and as their link with continuing apostolicity.

6. In view of the declining membership of the Church in Wales, perhaps we should all consider the real possibility that our Church currently stands under divine judgement, and that the unrelenting trend towards secular modernity in recent years has simply not benefitted us in any obvious way. These appear to us to have been years in which little serious attention has been given to the divine Word and the Tradition. To plunge on in the same unchecked direction might quite simply be disastrous.

8 October 2014

This rings a bell...

For various reasons, mainly personal, the blog has been silent for a while. For good or ill,  it is back in business from today ...

"...As usual, in the Cassandra zone of combined prophecy and powerlessness in which I live and move and have my being, I sometimes fall victim to the desire to pronounce on what should be done about current events, and set out manifestoes and prescriptions despite having no power or influence, and no means at all to insert my ideas into the sprockets, chains and cogwheels of power..." [here]

For different reasons and in different situations but ...nevertheless...

Monday, 8 September 2014

A reminder

on this Feast of Our Lady's Nativity, that, despite everything, there is truth and beauty in the world ...

Rachmaninov: Sonata for Cello and Piano 3rd Movement - played by Kathryn Price, cello, & Douglas Ashcraft, piano. Recorded at the Jacqueline du Pre Hall, Saint Hilda's College, Oxford.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

From out of chaos - a couple of good stories

Despite the general air of decline -  or even worse, numerical and doctrinal collapse (not unrelated) - here are a few encouraging contemporary Anglican developments:

Firstly, from the Church in Wales - where the future for orthodoxy looks particularly bleak - the setting up of the Benedictine- inspired Holywell Community in Abergavenny [here and here]
Kudos to Fr Mark Soady and his parish.

And secondly, the Archbishop of Canterbury is setting up the Community of St Anselm  specifically for young people to experience 'prayer, study, practical service and community life.'

All right, these communities have temporary vows and a somewhat looser interpretation of Benedictine community than is traditional (and in the case of the Lambeth experiment we need to be more than a little wary of the liberal jargon - "through these disciplines, they will also be immersed in the modern challenges of the global 21st century church...")  but - in very dark days indeed  - in these very small beginnings may there be a tiny glimmer of hope? The Lord moves in mysterious ways ...

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Catching up after the silly season

Although we could be tempted to think that, for us, the silly season is now a permanent and unseasonal reality ..


Fr John Hunwicke on the patrimony of Anglican Catholics, particularly as regards the questionable methods of 'modern' biblical scholarship and that elusive but immediately recognisable "Anglican, patristic, literary, Oxford tone." He should know ... [here

The recent Ashya King story has raised some disturbing questions as to the integrity of the family in the face of the suffocating  'benevolence' of the modern liberal State. Not a few news reports ran with the underlying theme that this particular family was 'religious,' so inevitably both dangerously weird and automatically in the wrong ...
This is their MEP Daniel Hannan's reaction.

Sadly, priest and fellow blogger, Fr Mervyn Jennings SSC has died. May he rest in peace. He will be very much missed.

Cranmer has had a long series of posts in the last few weeks about the nature of Islam and its own inherent difficulties in combating the contemporary attraction of fundamentalism.

Peter Hitchens makes another plea for restraint and for more of a historical sense from the leaders of the West as regards the escalating situation in Ukraine. After the acres of print used up this year in analysis of the causes of the Great War, it is astonishing how we fail to see parallels or draw conclusions. One wonders how literate our politicians really are .... 

And, a real silly season story - perhaps or perhaps not oblivious (when is self-deprecation ever really meant in the post-modern context?)  to the log in his own eye, the novelist and ubiquitous media presence, the aptly named Will Self attacks George Orwell on the BBC as a 'literary mediocrity.' [here]
You would think he would be able to recognise that when he reads it ... 
But one can't help feeling that Mr Self really hates Orwell, not for his prose style nor his disputable prescription for writing clearly and intelligibly, but for his very Englishness, in certain circles as desperately unfashionable in Orwell's day as it is now ....

Monday, 1 September 2014

"The first Anglican woman bishop to preside and preach in a Welsh Cathedral."

Details can be found on the Diocese of St Asaph website [here

There's an interesting piece of propaganda on the the same subject here
A 'threshold' has indeed been crossed ...

"Bishop Gayle was invited to the Cathedral by the Bishop of St Asaph, Dr Gregory Cameron, who will also attend the conference in Cardiff.
He says, “Women bishops have been a reality in the Anglican Communion, if not in Wales, for some time now.  It is good to be able to welcome Bishop Gayle into our midst to lead our worship in this time of transition.” 

And, on a related subject, rather than indulge in yet more pointless and wearying speculation, we will see exactly how many 'friends'  traditionalists have on the Welsh Bench 'in this time of transition' when the long awaited (and inexplicably delayed) Code of Practice is presented at the Church in Wales' Governing Body when it meets in Lampeter on 17th and 18th September.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Dominic Grieve: British Christians face "an aggressive form of secularism"

The former Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve, has warned in an interview with The Telegraph that an aggressive form of secularism is forcing Christians in Britain to hide their beliefs or be excluded from public life. 
Given his role at the heart of government in the United Kingdom and at the centre of the English legal establishment until only a few weeks ago, this is an astonishing and shocking admission, confirming our suspicions that the present coalition government, despite all protestations to the contrary, is not a natural friend to the practice of faith in the public square. 
Many have sought to downplay this growing problem (a situation which has been all too evident to certain of us for some time), claiming that complaints of discrimination against Christians and the Christian faith in modern Britain have been grossly exaggerated. 
However, if anyone should know the truth about this it is Mr Grieve himself.

This is the relevant section of the article which can be read in full here  
"..Dominic Grieve said he found it “quite extraordinary” that people were being sacked or disciplined for expressing their beliefs at work.He described Christianity as a “powerful force for good” in modern Britain and warned that Christians should not be “intimidated” and “excluded” for their beliefs.He said that politicians and public figures should not be afraid of “doing God” and that they have a duty to explain how their beliefs inform their decisions.The “appalling” scenes in Iraq, which have seen Islamic extremists behead and crucify religious minorities including Christians, showed that it was “more important than ever” for people to express their religious beliefs, he said. He told The Telegraph: “I worry that there are attempts to push faith out of the public space. Clearly it happens at a level of local power.“You can watch institutions or organisations do it or watch it happen at a local government level. In my view it’s very undesirable.“ Some of the cases which have come to light of employers being disciplined or sacked for simply trying to talk about their faith in the workplace I find quite extraordinary.“ The sanitisation will lead to people of faith excluding themselves from the public space and being excluded.“It is in nobody’s interest that groups should find themselves excluded from society.” Two years ago the Government changed the law to ensure that councils could not face legal challenges for holding prayers before town hall meetings after the High Court backed a controversial campaign to abolish such acts of worship.There have also been a series of high-profile cases in which people have been banned from wearing crosses at work or sacked for resisting tasks which went against their religious beliefs. Mr Grieve, a practising Anglican, said that Britain is “underpinned” by Christian ethics and principles..."

Friday, 22 August 2014

Jean Langlais: Messe Salve Regina

For the today's feast of the Queenship of Mary, Jean Langlais' Messe Salve Regina of 1954, with Maìtrises de Notre Dame de Paris, de Sainte-Marie d'Antony et de la Résurrection d'Asnières, L' Ensemble de Cuivres Roger Delmotte, Quatuor de Trombones de Paris, Georges Bessonnet, Orgue de Choeur and. Pierre Cochereau, Grand Orgue, under the direction of Patrick Giraud 

Thursday, 21 August 2014

James Foley - "It didn’t make sense, but faith did."

There is a report here which speaks of the Catholic Christian faith of the murdered American photojournalist, James Foley, a victim - it would seem to our shame - of a fanatical British adherent of the savage barbarism which is the 'Islamic State.' Perhaps his appalling death will at last alert the world to the monster we have allowed to grow unchecked, both in the Middle East and in our own backyards.

What follows is taken from a very moving letter written by Mr Foley to his alma mater, Marquette University in Milwaukee, following his earlier period of captivity in Libya, and now published on their website
"....Myself and two colleagues had been captured and were being held in a military detention center in Tripoli. Each day brought increasing worry that our moms would begin to panic. My colleague, Clare, was supposed to call her mom on her birthday, which was the day after we were captured. I had still not fully admitted to myself that my mom knew what had happened. But I kept telling Clare my mom had a strong faith.
I prayed she’d know I was OK. I prayed I could communicate through some cosmic reach of the universe to her.
I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed. 
I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused.
Clare and I prayed together out loud. It felt energizing to speak our weaknesses and hopes together, as if in a conversation with God, rather than silently and alone.....
Later we were taken to another prison where the regime kept hundreds of political prisoners. I was quickly welcomed by the other prisoners and treated well.
One night, 18 days into our captivity, some guards brought me out of the cell. In the hall I saw Manu, another colleague, for the first time in a week. We were haggard but overjoyed to see each other. Upstairs in the warden’s office, a distinguished man in a suit stood and said, “We felt you might want to call your families.”
I said a final prayer and dialed the number. My mom answered the phone. “Mom, Mom, it’s me, Jim.” “Jimmy, where are you?” “I’m still in Libya, Mom. I’m sorry about this. So sorry.”“Don’t be sorry, Jim,” she pleaded. “Oh, Daddy just left. Oh … He so wants to talk to you. How are you, Jim?” I told her I was being fed, that I was getting the best bed and being treated like a guest.“Are they making you say these things, Jim?”“No, the Libyans are beautiful people,” I told her. “I’ve been praying for you to know that I’m OK,” I said. “Haven’t you felt my prayers?”“Oh, Jimmy, so many people are praying for you. All your friends, Donnie, Michael Joyce, Dan Hanrahan, Suree, Tom Durkin, Sarah Fang have been calling. Your brother Michael loves you so much.” She started to cry. “The Turkish embassy is trying to see you and also Human Rights Watch. Did you see them?” I said I hadn’t. “They’re having a prayer vigil for you at Marquette. Don’t you feel our prayers?” she asked. “I do, Mom, I feel them,” and I thought about this for a second. Maybe it was others’ prayers strengthening me, keeping me afloat. The official made a motion. I started to say goodbye. Mom started to cry. “Mom, I’m strong. I’m OK. I should be home by Katie’s graduation,” which was a month away.“We love you, Jim!” she said. Then I hung up.I replayed that call hundreds of times in my head — my mother’s voice, the names of my friends, her knowledge of our situation, her absolute belief in the power of prayer. She told me my friends had gathered to do anything they could to help. I knew I wasn’t alone.My last night in Tripoli, I had my first Internet connection in 44 days and was able to listen to a speech Tom Durkin gave for me at the Marquette vigil. To a church full of friends, alums, priests, students and faculty, I watched the best speech a brother could give for another. It felt like a best man speech and a eulogy in one. It showed tremendous heart and was just a glimpse of the efforts and prayers people were pouring forth. If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. It didn’t make sense, but faith did."
May he rest in peace; our prayers are offered also for his family and friends.

another colleague, for t

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

"It is clearly the time for seeking and for calling" - Thomas Merton on Saint Bernard

St Bernard by Philippe de Champaigne

"...But now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation. It is clearly the time for seeking and for calling, for often his presence is sensed before he is called. Now hear his promise: `Before you call me,’ he says, `I will answer. See, I am here.' The psalmist, too, plainly describes the generosity of the Bridegroom, and the urgency: `The Lord hears the crying of the poor; his ear hears the movement of their hearts.' 
If God is to be sought through good works, then while we have time let us do good to all men, all the more because the Lord says clearly that the night is coming when no-one can work. Will you find any other time in ages to come to seek for God, or to do good, except that time which God has ordained, when he will remember you?  
Thus today is the day of salvation, because God our king before all ages has been working salvation in the midst of the earth ..."
St Bernard of Clairvaux: 
from On Seeking Him With the Whole Heart - Sermon 75 on The Song of Songs 

Here is a very interesting recording of a monastic conference where Thomas Merton OCSO speaks about St Bernard, 'the last of the Fathers,' and his view of the 'real humanism'...

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

"You are in danger" - updated

The blog Rorate Caeli has a translation of  this report from a correspondent writing for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera
"August 9, 2014. 
The young ask for guns. The elderly approve. "Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future," says Amel Nona, 47, Chaldean archbishop of Mosul exiled in Erbil. The message is unequivocal: the only way to end the Christian exodus from the places that witnessed its origins in the pre-Islamic age is to respond to violence with violence, to force with force. Nona is a wounded, pain-stricken man, but not resigned. "I lost my diocese. The physical setting of my apostolate has been occupied by Islamic radicals who want us converted or dead. But my community is still alive." He is very glad to meet Western media. "Please, try to understand us," he exclaims. "Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal," Archbishop Amel Nona continues, "but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home."
Without in the least wishing to impugn the motives and values of the vast majority of British Muslims, most of whom wish, like the rest of us, to live in peace with their neighbours and be free to practice their religion freely and  without fear of violence or discrimination, one has to admit that the Chaldean Archbishop, deeply scarred by the atrocities committed against his people by ISIS and others , may not simply be guilty of alarmism or scaremongering in order to promote the Iraqi Christian cause.

The dangers and tensions to a large extent inevitable in the welcoming into our country of millions of those with a different culture and faith (itself a legacy of the injustices, complexities and ambiguities of an imperial past, lest we forget) have certainly been exacerbated by the rise of  a fundamentalist form of Islam. We already know that the security services are deeply concerned by the numbers of young British Muslims seeking meaning and foreign adventure in allying themselves to the jihadist cause. * We should also be aware by now that the established policy of 'multiculturalism' (such is our recent transatlantic enthusiasm for the recognition of 'communities' of all kinds),  far from having encouraged a high degree of integration and harmony, has instead, very predictably given the natural desire of incomers and their families to live in a  familiar and friendly cultural environment, promoted the creation in many of our large towns and cities of parallel societies with sometimes rather tenuous links to British society as a whole. 
This, of course, has been a taboo and even toxic subject in the United Kingdom for a long time, our politicians, partly out of a fear of being accused of racism or Islamophobia - and, of course, either of inflaming the situation or of losing votes, until recently largely choosing to ignore rather than attempt to address and in some way ameliorate the social problems which have arisen.

But the major difficulty, of course, lies not so much with the British Muslim community as with contemporary western secular culture which, while in effect discouraging positive social integration,  has turned its back on our own faith, history and culture, preferring to pursue the philosophical dead-end of relativism whilst creating a rootless social climate of hedonistic consumerism. 
Moreover, the Church (that is Christians of all traditions and most particularly their leaders) can't be absolved from its own responsibility over the last half century or so for the virtual disappearance (save in a purely ceremonial, constitutional, or vestigially nostalgic sense) of the Christian faith from the lives of most British people. It is not so much an Islamic take-over which should concern us, but that, in culture as in nature, vacuums have a habit of being filled ... and as we know from recent European history, given the right conditions the most evil and fanatical ideologies can easily gain a foothold even in the most outwardly civilised of societies.

Liberal secularists, of course, place their hopes in the belief that immersion in the globalised 'culture' of the western world will gradually, within a few generations, result in the complete assimilation of those of other faiths; that, to put it crudely, the appeal of a combination of Harvey Nicks and the satisfaction of unbridled sexual appetite will prevail over that of the mosques as it has over the churches.
Time will tell. 
But it would, however, be a little premature to write off all religious faith as a thing of the past. The human spirit seems naturally to crave ideals which are nobler and more self-sacrificial than that offered up to us by the interests of international economics and the prevailing atomised narcissism of our elites. If so, given the present downward cultural trajectory of the West, the Archbishop of Mosul may prove more prescient than we think ...  
We have been warned.

* Update 20.08.2014 
See here for a very alarming insight into the problem we face now in Britain.
From The Telegraph:
"Islamic State jihadists have released a video in which a militant speaking English with a British accent beheads a man they claim to be an American journalist.The journalist, claimed by Islamic State to be James Foley, has been missing since he was seized by armed men in Syria in 2012.The terrorist group, formerly known as Isis, released the graphic video of the beheading, saying it was conducted in retaliation for US air strikes in northern Iraq.The killer then issued a threat to President Barack Obama that a second journalist would be killed unless air strikes are called off.White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said: "We have seen a video that purports to be the murder of US citizen James Foley... the intelligence community is working as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity..."

Monday, 18 August 2014

"Increasing silence about the plight of tens of thousands of Christians" - letter to the Prime Minister

Over the weekend the (Church of England) Bishop of Leeds, it would seem with the backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has written to the Prime Minister with a scathing critique of British Government policy towards the Middle East, and particularly with regard to Islamic extremism and the plight of the Christian minorities. 

Today comes the news in an interview (courtesy of the BBC Today programme - here beginning at about 2 hours, 50 minutes) that those Syrian rebels who were to have received the backing of Western Governments have, in effect, ceased to be a significant force in that country, and that organised resistance to the Assad regime now lies either with Al Qaeda affiliates or with groups who have an even more extreme Islamic ideology. The choice all round in Syria seems to be between different kinds of barbarism. Perhaps the West should have thought more carefully before destabilising the undoubtedly unpleasant Assad Government, a regime which had the one merit of  encouraging its minorities to live together peaceably. 

Foreign policy, we have always been led to believe in Britain, is best - and is at its least destructive - when conducted pragmatically, rather than idealistically and ideologically without thought for the wider consequences. Unfortunately, following the United States all too slavishly, we have adopted over the last decades, a naively almost Wilsonian attitude to foreign affairs (paradoxically revived in the U.S. by those calling themselves 'neo-conservatives') with uniformly disastrous results. At least it is now very clear indeed, for those with eyes to see, that 'democracy', without an established societal tradition of restraint and equality under the law, rapidly turns either into a persecuting tyranny of the majority or complete and bloody anarchy: in either scenario it is minorities (and in the Islamic world, it is usually Christian minorities) who bear the brunt of violence and oppression.

The full text of  Bishop Baines' letter is available here at the Guardian website, but these are 
its salient points: 
"1. It appears that, in common with the United States and other partners, the UK is responding to events in a reactive way, and it is difficult to discern the strategic intentions behind this approach.
Please can you tell me what is the overall strategy that holds together the UK government's response to both the humanitarian situation and what Islamic State is actually doing in Syria and Iraq? Behind this question is the serious concern that we do not seem to have a coherent or comprehensive approach to Islamist extremism as it is developing across the globe. Islamic State, Boko Haram and other groups represent particular manifestations of a global phenomenon, and it is not clear what our broader global strategy is – particularly insofar as the military, political, economic and humanitarian demands interconnect. 
The Church internationally must be a primary partner in addressing this complexity. 
2. The focus by both politicians and media on the plight of the Yazidis has been notable and admirable. However, there has been increasing silence about the plight of tens of thousands of Christians who have been displaced, driven from cities and homelands, and who face a bleak future. Despite appalling persecution, they seem to have fallen from consciousness, and I wonder why. Does your government have a coherent response to the plight of these huge numbers of Christians whose plight appears to be less regarded than that of others? Or are we simply reacting to the loudest media voice at any particular time?  
3. As yet, there appears to have been no response to pleas for asylum provision to be made for those Christians (and other minorities) needing sanctuary from Iraq in the UK. I recognise that we do not wish to encourage Christians or other displaced and suffering people to leave their homeland – the consequences for those cultures and nations would be extremely detrimental at every level – but for some of them this will be the only recourse. The French and German governments have already made provision, but there has so far been only silence from the UK government. Therefore, I ask for a response to the question of whether there is any intention to offer asylum to Iraqi migrants (as part of a holistic strategy
to addressing the challenges of Iraq)? 
4. Following on from this, I note that the bishop of Coventry tabled a series of questions to HM government in the House of Lords on Monday 28 July. All but two were answered on Monday 11 August. The outstanding questions included the following: "The lord bishop of Coventry to ask Her Majesty's government what consideration they have given to resettling here in the UK a fair proportion of those displaced from Isis controlled areas of northern Iraq." I would be grateful to know why this question has not so far been answered – something that causes me and colleagues some concern.
5. Underlying these concerns is the need for reassurance that a commitment to religious freedom will remain a priority for the government, given the departure of ministers who championed this. Will the foreign secretary's human rights advisory panel continue under the new foreign secretary? Is this not the time to appoint an ambassador at large for international religious freedom – which would demonstrate the government's serious commitment to developing an overarching strategy (backed by expertise) against Islamist extremism and violence?"
At The Spectator, however, Damian Thompson [here] - while broadly welcoming Bishop Baines' intervention-  adds this qualification. Reluctantly, one has to admit  he has a point: 
"...For decades, the Anglican and Catholic Churches have ignored the growth of the domestic Islamic extremism that has seen British Muslims travel to Syria and Iraq to fight for Isis. They have warned us (rightly) against Islamophobia without considering the possibility that many Muslims hate the Churches with unwavering intensity. Archbishop Rowan Williams supported the extension of Sharia in this country. His attitude was one factor in persuading the only C of E bishop who did draw attention to the Islamist threat, Michael Nazir-Ali, to resign the see of Rochester and work full-time to protect Christians abroad...." 

 to addressing the cha

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A cultural war against the Christian faith

When confronted with news stories from around the world of death and exile inflicted upon our brothers and sisters in the faith, it's difficult to justify over-blown allegations of 'persecution' against Christians in Britain.
What we do have to face, however, is a cultural war against Christianity - the removal of Gideon Bibles from rooms in the Travelodge budget hotel chain [here]  is just the latest episode in a long line of similar incidents. 

Of course, we're British; we don't like to make a fuss - God forbid, we might even  be thought to be taking religion too seriously - but the airbrushing from our culture of any visible manifestations of Christian faith seems now to be the aim of many in our political, legal, media and commercial elites, not to mention those who run our massive state bureaucracy. They should be resisted if the present cultural attrition is not in time to turn into active persecution.  At the very least we should think very carefully indeed before giving our custom to any commercial organisations which take this attitude, and we should certainly not invest in them.

The prevailing disparagement of anything which is even mildly suggestive of Christian faith may even go some way to explain the West's appallingly slow reaction to attacks on Christians in Iraq and elsewhere - Christians simply don't qualify for our sympathy or our support. Those who rule over us, often so maladroitly, and who influence our lives in so many ways, are simply embarrassed by our cultural and religious heritage - that is, if they are aware of it at all .... 

This is Tim Stanley on the latest Travelodge foolishness
"..... The white, middle-class, over-educated liberals who cry “diversity!” at every damn opportunity make the following specious arguments:
1. “Britain isn’t Christian anymore.”Yes, it is. We have thing called a state church and the Queen is the head of it. If you don't like it, go and live in France.
2. “Fewer and fewer people call themselves Christian.”But if we’re playing a numbers game then Britain is still far more Christian than anything else: 59 per cent are Jesus believers, 4.8 per cent are Muslims.
3. “People of other faiths will be offended.”Really? By a Bible hidden in a drawer?! And more disgusted by a religious book than by the hard core porn you can watch on the TV (for a small price)? The only people who are going to be actively offended by finding a Bible in there are Wahhabi terrorists. And you probably want to discourage that kind of clientele anyway.
4. “You’ve got to cater for everyone.”Yet surely that is an argument for increasing the amount of religious literature available in the hotel room? I suggest a small library: the Koran, a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, a Buddhist prayer wheel etc. Oh, and a Marilyn Manson LP for the Cthulhu lovers out there. (All hail Cthulhu, by the way. His day is coming.)
Given that there is no sound, logical reason for removing all the Gideons, we are at liberty to infer a motive. And it could be as simple as this: Travelodge succumbing to the anti-Christian mood of elements of the British political and commercial establishment. Maybe they’re afraid of being sued by a cranky atheist professor, maybe they’re run by the same liberal poindexters who gave us airport multi-faith prayer rooms and prayer-less assemblies (because who wants to expose children to things like morality and poetry?). Whatever the cause, they’re now contributing to the creeping crud of cultural disintegration......  "

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

"But if not ... "

An interesting post, for these dog days of summer, on the perils and difficulties of living in a disintegrating culture -  from Anthony Esolen [here
It's a particularly timely article for those Anglicans, myself among them, who wish to live in a tradition and culture which, in the opinion of many, now no longer exists ... 
"... During the early and dark days of World War II, when the British army at Dunkirk had the sea behind them and the Germans before them, they sent a message back home consisting of three words: But if not. 
It was a brilliant message, because even if the Germans managed to intercept it and decode it, it wouldn’t have done them any good. “But if not” … what?
But the army knew that their countrymen would understand. It was more than a message regarding strategy.  It captured the heart of the war itself, a battle for the survival of European culture and civilization against the diseased fantasies of the Third Reich. 
The reference comes from the story of the Hebrew youths Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in captivity in ancient Babylon, who refused to bow down in worship before the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar.  The king summoned them before him in a fury and demanded their submission, lest he cast them into the fiery furnace.  
Their reply was manly and direct:
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. BUT IF NOT be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. 
The British people then roused themselves to action—ordinary men, anyone with a boat and a heart that beat warmly for God and country.  They crossed the channel in defiance of the enemy and rescued more than three hundred thousand men.
The incident reveals more than a common language.  It reveals a common way of life, and a common view of life.  The sterling words of the old King James Bible, a work of the highest culture, had long come to inform and vivify the ways of ordinary people. 
That message could not now be sent, either to England or America. It would be incomprehensible.  That is not because the culture has changed.  It is because it has been destroyed, and the most energetic destroyers have been the very people whom we charge with its care: teachers, professors, statesmen, and artists.
Thomas Molnar had this to say about it:
Culture has come to mean … anything that happens to catch the fancy of a group: rock concerts, supposedly for the famished of the third world; the drug culture and other subcultures; sects and cults; sexual excess and aberration; blasphemy on stage and screen; frightening and obscene shapes; the plastic wrapping of Pont-Neuf or the California coast; to smashing of the family and other institutions; the display of the queer [that is, bizarre], abject, the sick.  These instant products, meant to provide instant gratification to a society itself unmoored from foundation and tradition, accordingly deny the work of mediation and maturation and favor the incoherent, the shapeless and the repulsive...." ...

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

'Ladies of the night' and other news

Baroness Warsi resigns over the British government''s stance towards the Gaza crisis and the disproportionate (if in some ways historically understandable) response of Israel towards Hamas aggression.
If Baroness Warsi, as a self-described 'moderate' Muslim, finds the policy of Mr Cameron's administration inexplicable, how sad it is that 'moderate' Christians in the same government find it impossible to press even for the resettlement here of Iraqi Christians who have been subjected to 'extremist' Muslim atrocities. Kudos (for once) to those C of E bishops who are campaigning for granting them asylum here.

In all kinds of ways over the last few decades our foreign policy has indeed been 'morally indefensible.'
Part of the legacy of the catastrophe of the Great War is, of course, our complete subservience to Washington - all part of the twentieth century 'deal' - brokered during two world wars - for struggling (at times alone) to save the liberal world order. We can (and do) talk about our shared values interminably, but history shows us that national interests and the realities of global power always take precedence over sentiment and even a common belief in freedom and the rule of law.

A new religion: this video has been doing the rounds on social media to the accompaniment of a certain amount of hilarity.
When, however, will we all wake up to the fact that, although words and rituals may appear (broadly) the same, the way that those words are used, and the manner in which rituals are being reoriented, clearly point to the fact that we have embarked upon C.S. Lewis's 'different religion,' or, as it is now claimed, 'the balancing of centuries of narrow assertions and faulty theology about the divine and its holy and creative work?' [here - the text of this quite extraordinary address from one of the leading heresiarchs Primates of the Anglican Communion will explain the heading to today's blog post]

The advocates of this different religion are with us, soon to be or already wearing mitres and poised to .... well, take over what remains of a once  glorious tradition ... the lamps are going out indeed .... will we see them lit again in our lifetime?

The Ordinariate in Wales is taking part in the 'Called to be One' national event with an afternoon presentation and discussion in Cardiff on September 6th,. The details can be found here - one wishes one could give a similar link to the Welsh Bishops' Code of Practice, a creature which has had an astonishingly long gestation period for something presumably intended to be so short-lived - or am I now giving way to cynicism? ....

When simply upholding the Church's theology and discipline is perceived as unjust discrimination - see here  - another indication of the state we're in ...