December 2003 Editorial
Readers of New Directions and the entire orthodox constituency will want to congratulate and support the Revd Joanna Jepson.
For nearly forty years orthodox Christians, Catholic and Evangelical alike, have battled against the wickedness of the 1967 Abortion Act and the disaster it has unleashed on our society. Parliament has consistently refused to rein in the pagan practice it has enshrined in law. The vast majority of the church’s leadership has effectively collaborated by its silence. The medical profession has been deeply compromised by its deliberate disregard of the Hippocratic Oath. The Police and the Courts have understood that any attempt to impose even the minute remaining safeguards for the unborn would be seen as unacceptable interference. The media has effectively ruled abortion as the only subject that cannot be examined, investigated and discussed objectively , thereby operating an unique censorship.
Enter Miss Jepson, a bright, attractive Evangelical curate. The newspapers have been awash with articles and photographs of Joanna and her campaign. She has challenged the Police Force for failing to prosecute a hospital for an allegedly illegal late abortion. The serious deformity for which the child’s life was sacrificed turned out to be a cleft palate.
Miss Jepson’s objection is both legal and personal. Such a minor and reparable deformity, she argues, cannot be grounds for a termination under the Act. And she knows what she is talking about. Miss Jepson was, herself, born an ‘ugly duckling’ with a major genetic jaw deformity which took three operations to correct. No-one looking at this beautiful young woman now could imagine the years she endured as society judged her solely by her looks. More than that, she has a much loved younger brother who is Down’s Syndrome. She knows first hand the value of a life our superficial society judges ‘imperfect’ and therefore expendable.
New Directions congratulates the Revd Joanna Jepson on her defence of the unborn and stands in solidarity with her and them.
For years now Chris Idle has been educating and entertaining us with his regular column on hymns and church music (Idle Curiosity). With over thirty-five years experience as a parish priest and a considerable track record as a hymnwriter himself, Chris’ contributions have been enormously valued by our readers. Now, at his own request, he is putting the column to bed for the last time. But fear not. While the Editorial board is content to let Chris have a brief sabbatical we are hoping it will be just that. We are asking him to come back next year and give us the benefit of his vast experience as an elder statesman of the Evangelical constituency on a wide range of subjects. In the meantime thanks for the insights, wisdom, grace and humour you have brought, Chris, to a much neglected area of study and worship.
The fall-out from the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop Co-adjutor of New Hampshire continues. Much of this, within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican
Communion, is muted – awaiting the report of the Eames Commission. But ecumenical reaction has been swift and startling.
Rome responded even before the event by the unprecedented greetings sent to the meeting called by the American Anglican Council in Plano, Texas by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Now the Moscow Patriarchate and the Oriental orthodox Churches have both responded robustly.
The Oriental Churches have chosen to suspend meetings of the Anglican Oriental Orthodox International Commission for the duration:
‘It was felt by the Heads of the Oriental Churches…’ reported the Anglican Communion News Service, ‘that the on-going dialogue between the Anglicans and the family of Oriental Churches would better be served by waiting, at present, for the Anglican Communion to have time to take proper account of, and reflect upon, the consecration which has taken place/ it is very much hoped by all participants that the work of the Commission will be resumed at a time convenient to all.’
Moscow, in a long and forceful statement, was more definitive:
‘…the "consecration" of a gay priest has made any communications with him and those who consecrated him impossible. We shall not be able to cooperate with these people not only in the theological dialogue, but also in the humanitarian and public spheres. We have no right to allow even a partial of agreement with their position, which we consider to be profoundly anti-Christian and blasphemous.’
The Russian Orthodox statement is clearly intended to challenge those in the Episcopal Church who remain orthodox on the matter to similar uncompromising action:
‘We want to maintain contacts and cooperation with those members of the Episcopal Church in the USA who clearly declared their loyalty to the moral teaching of the Holy Gospel and the Ancient Undivided Church. We pray to God, the God of love and reconciliation, to put sense in to the members of the Episcopal Church and help them to return to the way of Truth, which is Our Lord Jesus Christ (John 14.6).’
These two Orthodox responses to New Hampshire and New Westminster are based on two quite different principles. The Oriental Churches intend to continue (or not as the case may be!) a dialogue with the Anglican Communion as a whole. The Russians have clearly given up the pretence that Anglicans form a world-wide (or even a nation-wide church). They envisage future contacts with parts of the constitutional whole. Cardinal Ratzinger’s cordial message to a ‘dissident’ group of Anglicans suggests a similar change of attitude on the part of Rome.
The question must then be: what is required of Anglican traditionalists, in order for them to take up the ecumenical baton which the Episcopal Church has thrown down? What structures need to be created and what assurances given?
American traditionalists, united by opposition to the Robinson consecration, are nevertheless at variance with the ‘Ancient Undivided Church’ on other important matters (the ordination of women as priests and bishops not least among them). Would the prize of separate and independent ecumenical contacts with Moscow, Cairo and Rome be a sufficient incentive to unite them? Is the AAC up to the challenge? And can the informal linkage of parishes which is already underway in the United States be expanded to become the ecclesiola in ecclesia of which Bob Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburg, is beginning to talk?
For those who want to see something salvaged from the wreck of Griswoldian post-Christianity these are exciting but nail-biting times.
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Let us not pretend you have not thought how delightful it would be to spend from Dec 20 – Dec 29 on a Christmas-free island in the South Pacific, where reindeer, cranberry sauce and plum pudding are unknown!
But that is not an option. As the Church of England (according to reliable statistics) increasingly abandons the doctrines of the Lord’s virginal conception and of the Incarnation, Old Believers have a duty to affirm them robustly and with good cheer. It is in that spirit that we wish all our readers a very happy Christmas.
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