Thursday 21 March 2013

A look at two Church Leaders

Last week we witnessed a new Pope being elected with crowds of 100,000+ waiting in the rain for him to be chosen, and then appear. This was followed by a crowd of more than 200,000 at his enthronement, with many millions around the world watching on television. Sky News, much to their credit, broadcast the entire ceremony.

In the real world it was revealed that Christianity is still a force to be considered in people’s lives. To-day will see the enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury, which will be a much less grand affair. We must all wish him well.

I have to say I am not as hopeful about the Anglican Church future as I am for the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis comes across as a firm traditionalist, who whilst being able to relate generally to people, still maintains a full Christian and Scriptural commitment. The massive crowd response shows the appeal it has, especially to the uncommitted. There is also more discipline within the Church.

I am not as confident for the Anglican Church’s future. The Archbishop I believe showed immense, regrettable, and totally unacceptable action in failing to attend the Pope’s inauguration. As head of the second largest Church in the world it was his primary duty to be there, and it can only be seen as insulting for him not to have gone. We had the pathetic excuse that he was on a prayer walk. It would have been the simplest of things to have broken off and hopped on a plane for a quick flight to Rome.

I noticed in one discussion regarding what was the most important things for Church’s future, what seemed to be of most concern was the question of women bishops being approved. I would have thought the most vital thing would be to stop the decline in attendances.

The other question troubling the Church is of course homosexuality, on which we appear to have given up on. The Bishop of Liverpool, (said to be an evangelical—really?) never one to shy away from headlines, has suggested the Church should agree to bless civil unions in services. Can anyone see that being a popular suggestion in the quest for Church unity? Taken together with the proposal of women bishops, should set us back a few years with the Roman Catholics.

During his enthronement the Archbishop stated he has optimism for the future of the Church, and I indeed believe there is cause to hope in view of the public interest shown in both enthronements, provided we can make the usual liberal suspects keep quiet. The Pope has already indicated he does not have the deep aversion to Anglicans that his predecessors have shown, and most Anglicans are ready to show their willingness to engage with Roman Catholics. There will inevitably have to be Christian charity displayed by both Churches, and the Archbishop has shown he is sympathetic to sharing in worship by joining in a Catholic meeting in France.

Writing in the Telegraph newspaper, Charles Moore stated,

What this vast change shows is that the scandalous divisions of Christianity that have existed for 500 years are ending. You might say that Catholics have become more Protestant (in attitudes to the Bible, for instance), and that Protestants have become more Catholic (eg in attitudes to the eucharist). You could certainly say that both have become more Christian in their attitude to the other.

The benefits are only beginning to become apparent. It is hard to exaggerate how much the divisions of Christendom distracted and discredited Christians for so long. For centuries, we measured our virtue by how well we were able to smite the other lot, sometimes with words, sometimes with actual weapons. At last, there is a re-energising of Christian life.

Once one understands that this new unity is emerging, it makes the conventional split between liberals and conservatives in the Church seem very out of date. The liberals have lost, because their acceptance of so many non-religious ideas has debilitated their faith and therefore prevented their renewal. The people who are winning are those who share the desire to bring the story of Jesus to what Pope Francis, in his first speech from the balcony of St Peter’s, called “the end of the earth”. He knows a bit about that, because it is where he comes from."

I think he was spot on in stating the liberals have lost out, but unfortunately the delay in losing out has also turned many off.

I hope all Christians will pray for both leaders and for there being a closer unity.

Whilst it may make for good press headlines, and appeal to the emotions of some people, I think many others will feel a Pope’s reputation is not really enhanced by him travelling on a bus, going to pay his own hotel bill and saying ‘I’m with you guys’. I believe people generally more impressed by men of such authority behaving in a way which brings dignity to high Office.

Now it is reported that following another typical outburst from Peter Tatchell, the homosexual agitator, the Archbishop wishes to have a personal meeting to discuss things after Tatchell has accused him of being homophobic because he opposes (tenuously it seems) same sex marriage. To suggest someone is homophobic for such reason just discloses bigotry and stupidity for many homosexuals oppose same sex marriage. It has also been suggested that such a meeting will antagonise African Bishops. I cannot see anything to be gained by such a meeting, it will annoy many people and the Archbishop is highly unlikely to say anything that Peter Tatchell would find acceptable to him, that would also be acceptable to Christians.

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