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The place where you were born in is usually given a special place in your heart. In fact this can lead to a lifelong mission to promote that place. The nationalism of many Yorkshire folk stands as a testament to that premise and indeed the love that you may have for your birthplace might reaffirm my thought.
This geographical alliance grows ever deeply as you become aware that your family love haggis or falafel or ‘pig’s trotters’, or indeed ‘high tea’. The revelation of local and regional culture can reinforce the allegiance a child gives to their area of progeny and, if not corrupted by jingoism and blinkers, then it sees to me to be ‘not a bad thing’.
The ever deepening and ever complexing of our origins can carry on into all sorts of things and not least our faith, or more specifically for my purposes, our Church allegiances.
The place you come from in your understanding of church, its ritual, its theology, its organisation, its legitimacy, are often things you learn and accept at an early age, just like you came to like ‘pig’s trotters’ or ‘high tea’. In fact there may be things that are ‘wrong’ in our culture, accepted attitudes towards women perhaps or feelings towards animals and so on. These can be changed and have been and are changing. the question we face in society is , ‘on what basis do we decide?’ In the Scandal in our society that is unfolding concerning Politicians Police and Newspapers this question is fundamental and you who buy that newspaper and enjoy ist destruction of others have something to answer for. For some, thier social construct, so cherished from the hearth, is now radically challenged.
The difficulty, for me, is whether or not we also make it our business to ‘check’ our origins, our nationalism, our culture, our ‘complexing’ to make sure it is okay, or more significantly, not against God’s will.
There is a circular problem here insofar as we may believe that God is okay with ‘pigs trotter’ because we learnt at an early age that God is okay with ‘pigs trotters’. We need to agree set tests by which we can ‘measure’ the will of God. This is very problematic and the history of our church is strewn with disagreements over this essential bit. St Paul saw things one way, and I suspect Jesus saw many things another way. (It is at this point that you may discover a difference between us). I will avoid the temptation to offer a litany of Christian divisions, they are all written about in Church History of course. Anyhow back to my point.
The divisions at General Synod and in Church life generally, are difficult to draw a line under because we have a plurality of tests as to how we understand the will of God, in just about everything. On earth, between ourselves, this cannot ever be resolved. It is not only about women Bishops or Gay clergy, it is about what we invest our money in or whether we be involved in ‘investment like this’ at all. It is also about how our leaders should conduct themselves and whether it is right that we run the selections of Bishops secretly and suffer the fear and machinations that accompany this approach.
It is about whether we should accept the authority of the Bishops and trust what they do and say. It is about your allegiance and what you learnt as a child; ‘pig’s trotters’ or ‘high tea’ but now the outcomes touch people in very real ways, and we harm peoples lives terribly when we get it wrong.
We are getting it wrong today in our church, and we got it wrong yesterday, and we will get it wrong tomorrow. Unfortunately you and I hear little or nothing because of the Church of England’s reliance on secrecy and the reliance on blind loyalty. Money is misused, people are sent wretched letters ruining their lives, bullying is the order of the day in too many diocese and so it goes. It is about more than an intellectual difference a theological spat or an ecclesiological rift. It is real, it hurts and it can be wicked.
In the end, here on earth for you and me, there is death and then we will discover the rights and wrongs of Lancashire v Yorkshire, North v South, Republican v Democrat… It is then that we will be clear about the will of God. For me, I believe God will ask me what fruits I bore, what I did with the talents He gave me and whether I had learnt to love His people, each one of them. Then we will go and have a nice cup of tea together, with perhaps a buttered pikelett and talk about why He ‘allows’ evil in His world; an answer I think I might understand. Mr C