Tag Archive | Anglican

Primates 2016

primates

Archbishop Justin Welby invited all the Primates of all the international branches of the Anglican communion to attend the congress in Canterbury this month to discuss the deep divisions within the communion being caused by the differences in opinion (and practice) on the nature of marriage.

The decision of the council was leaked yesterday and was characterised, on social media at least, to be a decision to expel the Episcopal Church of American, ECUSA, from the Anglican Communion.

This does not in fact appear to be the case as far as I can work out. According to the official statement, it is rather a decision to put the ECUSA on a kind of probation period of three years, during which time they may not officially represent Anglicanism at ecumenical events, while the issue is properly investigated. They still remain part of the Communion, but in ‘disgrace’ (like a naughty child being sent to the corner). There is, understandably, outrage about the decision.

I am very surprised by this decision, although from what I can gather it has more to do with the fact that ECUSA has flouted and disobeyed Anglican canon law for several years (and am I right in thinking that there was also a scandal to do with church assets when there was a split within the American church?) than that it has to do with a difference of opinion and belief.

As a person with a rather conservative and evangelical background and a Messianic within the Anglican communion, I would tend to hold with an orthodox position on marriage personally. (I have written about this previously here and here, and would not force my opinion on anyone else.)

However, one of the things that attracts people to Anglicanism is the freedom of conscience – although we have conservative creeds and liturgies, nobody is forced to think or believe anything they’re not comfortable with, and so there is room for a large spectrum of belief within Anglicanism – we are, after all, a ‘broad church’ – the third way of ‘Scripture, Tradition and Reason’ covering the breach between ‘low church’ and ‘high church’ Anglo-Catholicism as well as between liberals and conservatives. Within those two extremes, that middle way of Anglicanism would seem to be the one place where LGBT+ folk can feel safe and accepted and welcomed.

I would be very interested to hear from Jewish/Messianic believers who are also LGBT+ since a great deal of what I have seen of Messianic Judaism has tended to be uber-conservative and ‘Torah-observant’ to the point of very strict exclusivity (i.e., repent, or out you go). I can hardly imagine what it must be to be LGBT+ in that sort of setting, and it would be a horrible choice between accepting their ruling and being celibate, keeping quiet about your sexual orientation, or finding another LGBT+ accepting church that lacks that Jewish flavour. If your experience of MJ as LGBT+ has been different, I would be interested too.

(As an afterthought, I have to say that the Messianic fellowship I attended IRL, it was much more laid-back and the topic never came up – I very much doubt that the leader would have made it an issue, and he was himself an Anglican, so I’m talking really more here about my experience of the MJ community online.)

I am deeply saddened that this decision, which seems somewhat out of step with the nature of Anglicanism overall, has caused so much hurt and pain to an already wounded, marginalised group of society.

I do not believe that the decision is characterised by hate and bigotry, as many people are suggesting. However, that must be the way it is perceived by members of the ECUSA, the LGBT+ community and those Anglicans who hold more liberal views elsewhere. It seems ill-advised, but I expect that the ‘probation’ was considered to be more wise than outright expulsion. But from the reaction so far, it seems likely to force the rift that they were seeking to avoid. I hope I’m wrong in that.

Can the position of Orthodoxy be defended while still maintaining the freedom of conscience and belief that characterises Anglicanism? And cannot Orthodoxy be communicated in a spirit of love and forgiveness? (Actually, if you read the document, I think this is what they were trying to do, but they appear to have failed miserably.)

Or is an ultimate rift between liberals and conservatives inevitable now? How very, very sad if that is the case.

Grumbles

Just a quick (ok less quick as it turns out) grumble. I’m still clearing out our old house and trying to clean the darn thing.

We have had the de-humidifier going non-stop for three weeks, and some of the more disgusting black mold has disappeared, but I just feel incensed that we have had to live in these awful places, and that our scumbag landlord would add insult to repeated injury by turfing us out on our ear for profit.

I sat in the garden yesterday, looking at the beautiful view of fields and the sea, and just wept thinking about the place we are moving to, with a sorry excuse for a tiny garden with 6 foot high fences and a view of a shed. Ok, we’re escaping the mold, and our tenancy should be safer now as it’s no longer private renting, but it’s not a clear improvement by any means.

My mum keeps calling to say first one day that she’s desperately unhappy and can’t cope with living alone and wants to come and live with us (so can we get the ‘spare’ room ready for her), and then the next day that she doesn’t want to leave London and would rather live near my brother. I’m sure she can’t help it, but it’s relentless and feels like emotional torture.

Also, about three weeks ago I wrote to the Church hierarchy with an update confirming that, after my year of waiting, I was still interested in ordination. I still have yet to receive any kind of acknowledgement at all despite specifically requesting one. In the meantime, I sent details of an online course to the same person that I thought might be interesting. Bearing in mind that I wasn’t asking for the church to pay for the course, the fact that I received a very terse response “NO” within five minutes felt like a big slap in the face with a wet fish.

Frankly, I’m no longer sure that I want to be connected with an organisation that treats people so rudely.

And then finally, and no doubt due to the amount of stress I’ve been under, I’m experiencing what feels like the beginning of another relapse – all my lymph nodes are swollen, my throat is sore, my head, back, neck and spine are tender and my arms and legs are achy and weak, so I am having to take it easy and move slowly to hopefully ward it off. Last night I went to bed around 9pm, slept round the clock, and woke up with a migraine. The washing, and washing up are piling up around me and I can’t do anything about it.

Rounding Up the Year – 2014 – It’s been a weird one.

2014 has not been the greatest year, but it certainly hasn’t been the worst year by a very long mile.

We had only just moved into this house (in November 2013) with mixed feelings – not the home I had hoped for, we’re still renting with no end in sight, but relieved to be out of the hell that was the previous rental. But on the home front I have spent most of the year battling the agents over a long list of problems, not least of which the intermittent hot water, which thankfully was finally fixed in time for Christmas.

At the beginning of the year, I set out meaning to read one book a week for #Read52 but I doubt I have even read one a month. I can’t remember another year when I have read so little in fact. I started off the year with lots of energy and did several courses – an OU course, DD101, an introduction to Social Science, as well as several MOOCS, and I also volunteered with Scouts and Guides AND Boys / Girls Brigade. By the beginning of the summer holidays I had totally overdone it and had a relapse which kept me almost housebound over the entire summer and well into September. I have been getting better since then but I have had to pace myself and I haven’t resumed any of my volunteering again so far.

In the Spring – also when I was feeling healthy and strong and on top of the world – I put myself forward for Ordination. I had two interviews and was informed that, although it was considered that I had a ‘call’, I wasn’t quite Anglican enough yet and needed to do several things before coming back to them. Although I know it was the right decision, I did experience that as a kind of rejection that has made me feel quite miserable and frustrated since. This Spring I will need to decide whether or not I want to pursue it. I have a feeling that it may be an uphill struggle, and it’s a funny kind of mirror of the struggle one has to go through in order to convert to Judaism – you can expect to be sent away and persist several times before your wish to convert is taken seriously.

And then the other big issue of 2014 was the beginning of a possible adoption journey which so far has consisted of a lot of reading (mainly of blogs – see the blog roll to the right for recommendations) and attending information meetings with the Council and an agency, but not much else so far. I have been lucky enough to discover the amazing adoption community on twitter which, since mostly anonymous, is able to be very open and honest about the reality of adoption and they have been kind enough to answer my questions.

Oh and finally, I did successfully complete my second ‘novel’ for NaNoWriMo in November. I haven’t started editing yet…

Overall, 2014 has been something of a weird and unusual year – not good, not bad, but a lot of new stuff and big stuff being contemplated which could possibly lead to big changes.

There seems to be a lot of pressure to make resolutions and have a ‘new start’ for the new year. But ‘New Year’ is an invented non-entity. The winter solstice has already passed and there isn’t even a new or a full moon – there is no astronomical reason to say that the year turns on this day or night and yet somehow we imbue this date with significance that give it a kind of magic. Whatever. Every day can be a new start. I would love to resist it, but I find myself – as I often seem to do – in the position of being very unhappy with where my life is and feel the need to make some decisions about the direction it is taking. In that sense I would like to avail myself of the opportunity to make a new start. but on the other hand, I feel as though there is very little within my control that I can change.

I have realised that I perceive myself as a victim in many areas while often seeing everything as being ‘all my fault’ – all of which results inevitably in misery. in other words, my thinking has become rather negative and unhelpful.

I have made some painful realisations recently, the details of which I won’t go into in any depth but they revolve around needing to rely on myself for what I need. This is nothing new really – when I did the 12 Steps back in 2010 in working through grief and did a ‘life evaluation’, it became clear that my life was very strongly characterised by disappointment. What has taken me a little longer to take on board is the fact that it hasn’t just been ‘bad luck’ or that I just need to wait for hope to be realised around the corner. No, it is that my expectations (of God, of marriage, of family, of friends, of church, of community, of neighbours) were wildly outside what they were prepared to give or be to me. (The book ‘Disappointment with God’ by Philip Yancey, that I read many years ago springs to mind. Worth reading, although it doesn’t resolve anything, and I seem to remember wanting to throw it across the room! But it very eloquently explores the theme and I do recommend it.)

So the crux of the matter, I think, is that I need to change my thinking. I don’t mean that I need to ‘think positively’ – I have had an earful this year about ‘the Secret’ / Law of Attraction from people who have a ridiculously easy life because they’re selfishly and thoughtlessly living at others’ expense but believe they have ‘attracted’ their good fortune by thinking positively while all the dreadful things that have happened to other people were also somehow ‘attracted’ by them. NO, NO, NO! Although that philosophy may be ‘attractive’ (pun intended) it really is the most offensive claptrap when you think about it in any depth. So as my Dad (of blessed memory) used to say, “Take the meat and leave the bones” – if it helps you to think positively, that’s great! Please just don’t let it be a weapon to bash yourself or others when disappointment, failure and disaster happen. It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault. And if you’re successful while others aren’t, it’s not their fault. Really, people, as a philosophy LoA is severely lacking. It’s not that simple. Life is (and people are) complex, multi-faceted, inter-connected and unpredictable.

What I do mean is that I need to start thinking of myself as capable – capable of providing for my own needs without relying on anybody else to make me happy, capable of making my own decisions, capable of making the life that I want for myself without relying on anybody else to do it for me.

So, 2015…

My main goals are always along the same lines – get healthier, enjoy life more, be a better person, be more disciplined. This year though, I would also like to learn better how to look after myself (knowing now that nobody else is going to do it). That means, in the first instance, forcing myself to go to the hairdresser’s. Its such a small thing but I have developed something of a hairdresserphobia. I have probably only been perhaps three times in the last 15 years or more. I know that, if I manage to get there, I will feel better for it, but I really do have to force myself to do it.

I am intending to sign up for some new courses. My OU account is still apparently having funding problems, so I’m still not sure whether or not I’ll be able to do the course I had intended (I wasn’t able to sign up for anything in September but I was assured it had been sorted in time for the spring term, but it seems not…), but I have signed up for a Ministry Course with the deanery and a free Archaeology MOOC, and I may do some other things, depending on finances.

I have been extremely frustrated with my de-cluttering efforts over the holidays so far. I was hoping to be able to have the house spic and span with a view to finally registering for Stage 1 of the adoption process. (It has been around 8 months now since we first enquired with the Council about adoption). So now I’m not sure whether untidy house is an insurmountable obstacle. I have got rid of nearly 50 books along with old furniture and lots of other junk including 20 years of magazines! But the place seems ten times more untidy that when I started so it’s obviously going to be an ongoing project.

I do know that, for the purpose of adoption, I need to do some work on building up a bigger and better support network, since any that I had before we moved down here is now completely non-existent, and developing a new one down here has not come easily.

I may come back with some more specific goals linked to specific times and dates because I think the deadline aspect is a crucial layer of accountability that causes resolutions to fail when they’re not included.

So finally, wishing all (any?) readers a happy new year and, as ever, I hope to be more consistent 🙂

It’s Complicated…

torah1

I met with a lady yesterday, Alison, a newly ordained Deacon in the Church of England. One of the things that were on my list of things to do was to find myself a ‘Spiritual Director’ or mentor.  We had an amazing couple of things in common, one of which was home education – she had home educated her children (what are the chances?!).

She was very encouraging, and talked about how long and hard she had needed to fight in order to get to ordination.

“Don’t let them discourage you”, she said.

When she asked me about my vocation, and why the Church of England, I was able to say immediately how and why I felt I had been called, and why I am in the CofE. She said that I articulated that very well, which rather tickled me, as I did rather make it up on the spot.

But when she asked me why the Priesthood, as opposed to any other kind of Christian ministry, I was a little bit stumped. I tend to believe quite strongly in the Priesthood of all believers, which we discussed, and we agreed that this is a good argument in favour of women leaders / ministers / Priests.

But I realised that I do need to have a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Priest.

And I also realised that I am fudging things a bit. I am still Messianic, I am still evangelical. In fact, in many ways, I am still conservative, and as much as I embrace the traditionally liberal qualities of love, tolerance and social justice, I don’t think that will change. I don’t think those ‘liberal’ qualities are at all inconsistent with a conservative view of scripture.

But can I be consistent as a conservative, Messianic Jewish, evangelical, (Salvationist?!) not-really-feminist, woman Priest in the Church of England?

I don’t know. I hear the call, but I don’t know where it’s leading me. No decisions need to be made at this point; I am on a journey, so I will just keep taking small steps forward, and trust that I am following the right path.

I didn’t discuss all of these things with Alison. I think that, although I am keen to meet with her again, I really need to find somebody else to be a real ‘mentor’, even if she is willing to fulfill the official role of ‘Spiritual Director’. But I really need somebody who is familiar with, or has grappled with the same issues as I have to deal with.

So if you know any other conservative, Messianic Jewish, evangelical, not-really-feminist, women Priests in the Church of England, do please send them my way! (The Salvationist element is optional) 🙂

 

 

 

 

On Hold

The same day that I applied to the Diocese to become a priest, I also enquired about the possibility of exploring adoption. The two things are essentially unrelated, except that the thing that prompted me to look into adoption again at this time was a little advert in the Diocesan newspaper that the adoption service had placed, saying that they were particularly in need of adopters at this time.

On the priestly side of things, I have had a couple of interviews with the assistant DDO (that’s the Diocesan Director of Ordinands to non-Anglicans), and submitted my Journey of Faith document to the DDO’s office.

On the adoption side, we had been to our initial meeting, and agreed that we are keen to go ahead.

But now both endeavours are on hold.

After consideration, the DDO has said that he agrees that I have a ‘call’, but that the call needs to be tested, and I should come back to them in a year. And within that year, there are a number of things that I should do, and a number of things that I could do if I wish.

The requirements are:

– To keep a prayer journal
– To develop my spirituality (along Anglican lines)
– To learn more about Anglicanism, more about women in leadership
– To find a spiritual mentor / spiritual advisor

So although it wasn’t said so in so many words, it is clear that I am not quite Anglican enough, which was to be expected. It was intimated that I need to prove my commitment to the Anglican church. (I think that with my twisty-turny history, they suspect I might be a flight risk!) 🙂

But within that year, I would be free to for example, pursue my interest in starting a children’s work at my local church, and to pursue the beginning of a ‘Fresh Expression’ locally, although they would be loathe to allowing me to ‘lead’ or ‘teach’ in anything that I start, but that I could also pursue a local Worship Leader’s course which would enable me to do those things in a limited way.

So I think  that on reflection that, although I feel a little bit disappointed (because I am raring to go!), that is a good outcome, with some useful aims and goals which will be a step towards what I want to achieve ultimately.

Funnily enough most of my good friends here have, by coincidence, connections with the priesthood: one is the wife of an ordinand, another is a reader and her husband is a deacon. So I have lots of useful contacts for help, advice and encouragement.

On the adoption side, after conversations with the adoptions liaison, we have agreed to put it on hold for a while until we can manage to get the house in a bit more order after moving. They want us to be as settled as we can be before we start the process.

I am also very conscious as well about the state of my health. We heard through friends of friends the awfully sad and tragic story of Jenny Groothuis, a mom and adopter or 15 children in total (7 birth children) who was killed in a car crash on Sunday. My heart goes out to her husband and the whole family. She sounded like an amazing, beautiful, wonderful person, but now she’s gone. It made me think seriously about the responsibility of thinking about all the ‘what if’s’.

I would not want to ‘not’ do things because of the risks, but you have to consider actually, well what would happen to all these children if something happened to me? You can’t prevent tragedies necessarily, but you can work to create a buffer against disaster – a support network, Godparents, church, friends, family. We’ve been here for 3 years now, but we’re barely getting our foot in the door. We need to do some more work on building up a support network.

In both cases, then, it isn’t a ‘no’, it’s just ‘wait’.

So it shouldn’t feel like a disappointment, but it is frustrating.

But ultimately, I think I just need to do what I can, where I can, when the opportunities present themselves, and trust that God does have a plan, and a purpose, even when awful things happen. Jenny’s death seems so senseless, so cruel, so unnecessary; the questions ‘Why did God take her, why did God do this’ are inevitable, but even if we believe that it wasn’t God’s idea, it was just something that happened, why didn’t God prevent it? She was so needed, so irreplaceable, so loved.

But God does have a way of bringing good out of the most unthinkably dreadful  circumstances.

This amazing charity organisation, Take Them a Meal, has organised for well-wishers to do something practical for the bereaved family. Scroll down and take a look at the number of people who have committed to provide food for this family. The road ahead for this family is going to be long and hard and full of grief, but this practical action is a start, it’s a help, what an amazing support network they have.

If you would be interested to support them, either financially or through prayer, take a look at this page which tells their story.

 

Vocation

I have always, for as long as I can remember, had a sense of ‘calling’. I thought for years that I was destined to be a missionary, and I was convinced I would be a minister’s wife but I ended up divorced and re-married to a non-Christian so that was the end of that.

But that sense of ‘calling’, that little voice calling me into ministry has become more insistent as I have got older. While I was in the Messianic fellowship, I heard the call more loudly than ever, but there was simply no clear path to pursue.

In most of the denominations I have had dealings with, women preachers have been an absolute no-no, but more recently of course again, I have been involved with Pentecostal churches, The Salvation Army and the Church of England, all of whom welcome female candidates.

I’m sure I have mentioned before that I considered Salvation Army officership as far back as my teens, but then when I got married, my then Officer’s Kid husband was dead against it; he had been totally put off churches, Christianity in general and The Salvation Army in particular due to his experience as an ‘OK’.

More recently, although I have felt the call, The Salvation Army has presented just too many obstacles – you have to be willing to move to London for training, and then be willing to be sent anywhere in the UK (or even, potentially the World as I speak other languages and have connections in various places).

I’m not free to do either of those things. And I’m also so far away from a Corps that the whole thing has just been impractical from the get-go. As much as I love the Army, I can’t see a way round the obstacles.

For the last 6 months, I have been attending my local Anglican, and over the last few weeks I have been exploring the possibility of Ordination.

Yesterday, I met with the Vocations Officer for an initial interview, and went through my journey of faith with him.

I’ve actually been having a little bit of a love affair with the Anglican church – despite all its faults and foibles, I have been surprised by how much I love the liturgy, the set prayers, the music, and even, despite myself, the gravitas of the Eucharist.

We talked about all the options for ministry and service within the Church of England, and were I to get that far, training for Ordination would be much more local and not full time, all of which makes it more manageable for my limitations.

The vocations officer told me that my age was no barrier, but he did make it clear that the chances of actually becoming a paid Priest (as opposed to a self-supporting one) are extremely slim, and could take a lot more years to achieve.

I didn’t realise until he told me this that it would be an issue for me, but I realise now that it is. There’s just no way I could afford to do it as a hobby, and I find that my ‘tentmaking’ skills are limited, at least in terms of being able to bring in the money.

Of course nobody goes into the ministry for financial reasons, but we do have to eat, and I have a lot of mouths to feed.

One thing that was encouraging though was that the vocations officer did confirm to me that he recognised that I do have a calling.

So it’s now in my hands, whether I want to pursue it or not.

So I’m back to square one, I hear the call, but I can’t determine from which direction it’s calling me.