The internet and blogging
While recent debates over privacy and ‘super-injunctions’ have again highlighted the growing importance of the internet,
Simon Cottondraws our attention to some particularly noteworthy blogs
AsI write this in late April 2011, the Prime Minister has weighed into the debate over the use of so-called ‘gagging orders’ and ‘super-injunctions’ to protect
celebrities from reporting on salacious details of their private lives. He appeared to suggest that the law could be changed if judges altered Britain’s privacy laws to gag freedom of speech, by applying Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to generate a privacy law that has not gone through Parliament. This attracted attention when Lib Dem MP John Hemming used Parliamentary privilege to name a certain former banker who had obtained an injunction which banned the media from giving information about him, even the fact that he was once a (useless) banker. Bloggers like Guido Fawkes did the rest, as bloggers did again when the Guardian was prevented in 2009 from reporting on aspects of the 2006 Ivory Coast toxic waste dump scandal. Of even more concern are reports that super-injunctions are preventing ordinary citizens from talking to their MPs and raising concerns that affect
their lives and liberties.
Knowledge freely available
So why am I talking about this? Is it just to fill space? Heaven forbid; it is to point out the role
that the internet has come to exert over the past decade and more. Among the implications is that knowledge of all sorts, including access to the facts once held within the four walls of a library, are more freely available. It makes secrecy hard to muzzle. As well as exploding secrecy, the blogsphere has become a weapon in circulating news and views, not least in religious circles. Within the last five years or so, it has been Catholics, in both the Anglican and Roman communions, who have led the way. We have enjoyed the full-on enthusiasm of Fr Ed Tomlinson, the slightly more understated enthusiasms of Fr Ivan, the wide-ranging blogs of Anglican Wanderings, and the more down-to-earth record of parish life from Fr Jones of St Peter’s, London Docks.
Casualties of the blogosphere
Ed Tomlinson now blogs at <http://www.tunbridgewells-ordinariate.com/blog/>
Ivan Aquilina now blogs at <http://sevenoaksordinariate.wordpress.com/>
Andrew Teather is now at <http://www.prestoncityparish.com/>
Lee Kenyon is now at <http://calgaryordinariate.weebly.com/blog.html>
St Peter’s, London Docks is <http://peterite.blogspot.com/>
John Hunwicke’s blog is <http://liturgicalnotes.blogspot.com/>
Michael Gollop’s blog is at <http://letnothingyoudismay.blogspot.com/>
Mark Zorab’s blog is at <http://allgassandgaiters.blogspot.com/>
English Catholic is at <http://catholicusanglicanus.wordpress.com/>
Cranmer’s Curate is at <http://cranmercurate.blogspot.com/>
Ugley Vicar is at <http://ugleyvicar.blogspot.com/>
Why do I single out these four? Well, the first three blogs are no longer with us in their original form, and Fr Jones has only recently returned to blogging. The period that I will date since General Synod in July 2008 has been marked by all sorts of casualties in the blogsphere (MassInformation, Llanda~chester Chronicles, etc.). Readers probably do not need reminding that July 2008 was the Synod where the Bishop of Winchester put a motion which included asking Synod to reaffirm Resolution III.2 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference ‘that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate are both loyal Anglicans’. Of 45 bishops voting, only 14 could support this motion; for many of the faithful, this was straws in the wind, if not the last straw. The momentous Apostolic
Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus was announced in November 2009, and in the early months of 2011 we have seen numerous clergy, together with chunks of their congregations, taking advantage of this to move to the Ordinariate or seek individual reconciliation with the Holy See. So now Ed Tomlinson and Ivan Aquilina are blogging on another shore, as well as being on the way to ordination; the two English progenitors of AW are separated by the Atlantic, as Fr Teather now blogs from his parish in Preston and Fr Kenyon in Calgary leads a parish looking to join the Ordinariate.
A powerful witness
St Peter’s, London Docks, is a very special church. One of the great names in the history of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England, it brought colour, ritual and salvation to what was a dark part of East London. It has been served by a succession of devoted and holy priests. In Fr Jones’ blog we see not just the liturgical life, but all the other things that make up the life of the parish and the day-to-day work of a parish priest, including what seems to be a quite splendid church school (a pause here for the Bishop of Oxford to take note of what the combination of school, headmistress and staff and parish priest can do to help raise children in the Christian life). St Peter’s, then, in many ways embodies the CofE at its best and the St Peter’s blog is a powerful witness in that.
I hope to write more about Catholic blogs in a future piece (if the Editor allows) but I must remind you about Fr Hunwicke’s erudite liturgical and historical postings. If you think things are bad in England, just visit the Let Nothing You Dismay blog of Fr Michael Gollop or All Gas and Gaiters blog from Fr Mark Zorab, Father Gollop’s deacon, who hail from a Province now without a PEV.
The Evangelical viewpoint
Now, what about the other end of the candle? I do not claim to be au fait with all the nuances of the Evangelical world, but I do read two Reform blogs in particular. Yes, that low-church papalist Dr C has great admiration for genuine Evangelicals, dating back to the time over 30 years ago when he was a very young churchwarden in the diocese of Norwich, in those days presided over by that great enthusiast Maurice Wood, a deep and sincere believer in the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith.
Julian Mann’s Cranmer’s Curate (‘A blog for the public discussion of the state of Christianity in the United Kingdom’) written by a busy parish priest in Oughtibridge, Sheffield, distinguishes itself particularly in my eyes by asking the honest and unfashionable questions from which many shy away. For example, just read the posts for Good Friday 2011 (22 March) ‘The message of the Cross in an Islamising UK’; 4 April 2011 ‘How much are police pursuing honour crimes against Muslim converts to Christ?’ or 12 April ‘Honest policeman raises spectre of UK closed to the Gospel’. As the great Father Z would say, Kudos, Father (if you don’t mind being called that).
John Richardson’s Ugley Vicar blog posts on issues affecting the Church of England from a Conservative Evangelical viewpoint. It is much more than that, though, for there is also some powerful devotional and expositional material; just read his posts in the latter part of Holy Week 2011. And he does have a sense of humour; see his post for 24 March 2011, ‘Who’s impersonating the Bishop of Chelmsford?’
I may miss something (senior moment) but I do not see interesting blogs emanating from the ‘non-party’ people who control the levers of power in the Church of England; maybe in my humble opinion that is because what they say would be indistinguishable from a Times leader.
Taking its toll
Blogging does not just take the time to write and the time to load pictures, it must also take its toll on the blogger, not least because of the trolls who inhabit the blogsphere. Many of the bloggers from the Catholic Movement have worn their colours on their sleeve and either made it clear that they are seriously considering the Ordinariate or that they are unhappy with the refusal of General Synod to offer an honoured place. It is one thing for commenters on blogs to raise fair points, but sadly there are wicked and abusive people too (just read the comment boxes on Damian Thompson’s blog for a flavour of this). Fr Chadwick, a TAC priest based in France, has just announced an end to his English Catholic blog, partly because of this.
A lot of people, both clergy and laity, are concerned, upset and worried about the state of the Church of England, and wonder if both it and they have a future together. When people are concerned, upset and worried, they sometimes say or write things which they would not do when in a more calm and reflective mood. It might be to the good of all if more of us thought twice before reaching for the pen, the word-processor, the ‘Send’ button on the e-mail, or the WordPress software for creating a blog.