none of us know where, or in what form, the Anglican Communion, or the Church of
England, will be in a decades time. It is not the quantity of events which is
lacking; it is the quality of them which is uncertain. Are they important and
decisive, or are they mere frivolous details?
It is not enough simply to
wait to see what will happen, to discover which party will win the battle, and
what will be the fate of the defeated. Even when decisions are being made
elsewhere and by other people, over whom we have no influence, let alone
control, it remains crucial that we seek to understand what is happening and
Historical inevitablism, once
favoured by Marxists (who failed to foresee their own demise), is now highly
favoured by the liberal ascendancy. And if their cause were indeed one of
justice alone, it might simply prevail, only given time. But the issues involved
are more complicated than that, and they are wrong in their analysis.
If we cannot be certain
whither we are going, it is all the more important to seek to know whence we
have come. Our grasp of the history in which we are now involved matters as part
of our witness to the faith.
People sometimes ask us, 'Why
do you bother?' It is simple: we seek to be faithful witnesses to the struggle
for the Gospel, in the midst of which we believe God has placed us. The casual
rewriting of history, the careless but studied forgetting of what happened only
recently, the cynical ignorance of promises made and resolutions passed, these
are all wrong and unbecoming. The fact that they are so common only makes the
The solid pages of analysis
from John Shepley [pp. 14-15] on events of forty years ago are a clear example
of the work that needs to be done. The search for a true record and
understanding of our present chaos is not an indulgence but a duty. It is part
of our witness to the truth received.
The common judgement that
history is written by the victors is, in the context of the Christian Church,
wrong. It is more often the other way around. It is the defeated, marginalized
and disregarded who write the history, not for their own
It is a duty, in a time of
confusion, to write for history.
If history, as Edward Gibbon
sagely remarked, is little more than the register of the crimes, follies and
misfortunes of mankind'there will obviously be an immense scope for the sort of
apology which the General Convention of The Episcopal Church has recently
demanded of Her Majesty the Queen. [See From elsewhere pp. 26-27.] But what purpose is served by such
demands? Who benefits? Whose life is in any way enhanced?
The benefit, it would seem,
accrues not to those to whom the apology is made, but to those who demand it on
their behalf. It establishes their credentials as liberal, compassionate,
inclusive and generally right-on. But more than that: it establishes the
effortless superiority of the Left over the Right, and the Present over the
The strong suit of the modern
liberal, whether secular or ecclesiastical, is a passionate and unquestioning
belief in modernity. They genuinely see themselves as riding the tide of
history. Their views and values have self-evident inevitability. The best of all
possible worlds (which Leibniz attributed to God) is being confected, they
believe, by contemporary endeavour.
The demand for apology from
those with less virtue and less insight than themselves serves the very useful
purpose of reinforcing this self-image. And, co-incidentally, it exonerates them
from any complicity in the alleged offence.
All this, of course, is what a
more enlightened age would have called humbug. What history (and moral theology)
teaches is that actions have consequences and that with those consequences we
must live. We can meaningfully apologize for actions for which we bear sole or
shared responsibility. And we can, in some cases at least, make reparation.
To apologize for action for
which we bear no direct responsibility, and the consequences of which over long
periods of history we can do nothing to mitigate, is simply to concede to a
political and social agenda which should be deplored rather than encouraged.
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