I’m not an Anglican and — as some people seem to make this distinction — I don’t attend a CofE church either. For this reason I’ve kept out of the recent debate over the Pope’s offer to bring Anglicans disaffected by the women priests “issue” into the Roman Catholic Church. As someone who has not been part of a recognised denomination for most of his Christian (nay actual) life, I personally find the objections to the ordination of women — well — objectionable. Not that my choice of denomination (or not) should make any difference to that view or that my view is really worthy of much attention.
Anyway, following the Pope’s offer (is this the ecumenical equivalent of head-hunting?), some Anglican priests, churches and groups have seriously considered crossing the house, shall we say. This includes one in Walthamstow where it seems the parishioners have taken umbrage to the idea as you can see from the photo to the right. As my friend the Church Mouse says: what a bunch of morons! Incidentally, I’m again grateful to the Mouse for highlighting something which tends to get missed or by mainstream news outlets.
Upon seeing that photo the first thought that sprung to my mind was “why bother with the graffiti? Why not just — oh I don’t know — go to another church?” The answer is possibly, in this case at least, that the vandals were not members of that church. But who knows? Maybe we have vigilante Anglicans on the loose. I’m reminded of the “vigilante’s for God” storyline from Drop the Dead Donkey years ago. I jest but some of the more unsavoury and shameful parts of Church history have been borne out of such self-important emotions. Why this is so important to the “artists” that they feel the need to perform such a childish act is way beyond me? Maybe it’s because I’m the kind of person who is angered but just shrugs when “Marathon” becomes “Snickers” and “Coco Pops” try to become “Choco Krispies”. But I am also the kind of person who choose his supermarket based on the number and availability of own-brand fair trade goods within the store. I’m also somebody who will (normally) refuse a free Kit-Kat because I find the ethics of the company behind it objectionable. If the supermarket you usually use stops selling the products you like: don’t go there in future! The same should apply to your church as well but it doesn’t, does it?
For some reason when certain issues raise their heads we Christians are very much “in and of the world”, throwing not only the toys but the bedding out of the pram as well. Yet for other situations — when we should be more vocal — the noise-level from the Church can be very low indeed. Millions of people are exploited beyond reason to fuel our “civilised” lives and yet churches are still serving unfairly-traded tea & coffee. Hundreds of thousands of Christians are ostracised, beaten up, imprisoned and sometimes killed just for saying “Jesus is Lord” and the silence from large parts of the Church is deafening. A group of people decide that it’s about time women were treated somewhat fairly in their denomination and there’s a — way too vocal — threat of an exodus. Some people find that pondering in and of itself objectionable and decide to daub the church sign board with graffiti. There are things we should march in the streets about. The ordination of women bishops and the fact that somebody else doesn’t like that idea and might leave the denomination should not be in that list.
I am aware that what I am saying could be taken as an advocacy of church-hopping where people dislike the what the teaching at a particular church says about their lifestyle so they move on. Usually with a vocal dissent to the rest of the congregation as they leave. I’m not advocating that practice at all and always feel that if God is pulling you away from your current church it’s unlikely to be because the teaching is shining a light on the parts of your life that you’d rather not speak about. Also the issue with women priests is complicated by the fact that the disatisfied clergy are also contemplating about leaving their employer as well. But if you are considering leaving your denomination and/or church because there is a growing clash in the core beliefs between you, then do so without fuss, without fanfare and with dignity. If you feel the need to shout, protest and generally make a nuisance of yourself before or as you leave then chances are you are leaving for the wrong reason. Discuss the matter with those above you and if required find some mutual way to notify everyone else. To do anything else is like a child slamming every door when being sent to their room and is reminiscent of somebody who is more interested that people know they are leaving than actually leaving.
As for the morons who wrote such lovely words on the church sign: grow up. If you don’t like the fact that St Saviour’s is considering moving to Rome, choose another church but again do it with dignity and peace. Stomping around, spray painting slogans and generally sulking reminds me of my four year old in a tantrum (well except the spray painting).