BOOK REVIEWS APRIL 1997
GLORIOUS BATTLE: The Cultural Politics of Victorian Anglo-Catholicism, John Shelton Reed, Vanderbilt University Press, 1996, xxiv + 357 pp., ISBN 0-8265-1274-7
‘THE HISTORY of the Anglo-Catholic movement in the nineteenth century Church of England comes in two parts, one relatively well known, the other largely forgotten.... In serious histories of Victorian Britain, even in most serious histories of Victorian religion, the heroes and mock-heroes of the second, “Ritualist” phase of the Anglo-Catholic revival are usually relegated to a becoming obscurity.’ It is Professor Reed’s aim in this wide-ranging, carefully researched, and very readable book, to bring the keen eye of a sociologist, and (despite his disclaimers) an historian, to that less frequently told story. In so doing he has given us a wide perspective on the development of the Catholic Movement in the Church of England which all will benefit from reading. It is to be hoped that a similarly sensitive analysis may follow tracing the story through the twentieth century.
The historian of the writing of church history knows that it is always written with an edge and a view, whether it be Eusebius seeing the providence of God in Constantine’s recognition of Christianity, or Bede tracing the coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England and the shaping of the identity of the English people, or the rival Protestant and Catholic Church histories of the Reformation period represented by Cesare Baronius and the Magdeburg Centuriators. The telling of stories is concerned with the expression of identity, so it is not surprising that Anglo-Catholics were all too ready to present the old High Churchmen as dull and cautious, and the eighteenth-century as a time when liberal latitudinarianism triumphed. Evangelicals had their own historiography, tracing the history of the converted, and the rolling back of superstition and the distortions and tyranny of ‘Popery’. Anti-Catholicism, linking ‘Catholic’ with foreign domination, what was ‘un-English’, and, for many Victorians, ‘unmanly’, fuelled the prejudices of many nineteenth century opponents of the “Ritualists”. Professor Reed is perceptive in inviting us to see Victorian Anglo-Catholicism as, in many ways (though not all), a counter-cultural movement.
Anglo-Catholicism has historically made much of its slum-priest heroes, and there is indeed much to venerate in their pastoral labours in difficult social situations. Reed does well to remind us that the picture is more complex and that the idea that the working-class was won by and to ritualism needs qualification. The social agenda of the Catholic movement included an attack on the social stratification of congregations publicly marked in church by rented pews. That social stratification was replaced by a church which in its worship and architecture proclaimed a hierarchy and exalted priesthood. Bishops were given theoretical allegiance, but found it difficult to assert authority over priests who were prepared to go to prison rather than fall into line with the judgements of the Privy Council. The 1874 Public Worship Regulation Act, the attempt to ‘put down ritualism’, failed in its objects. That failure boosted Anglo-Catholic ecclesiology - with its appeal to the universal church rather than to the specifics of the Church of England, and contributed to the complex legal and theological questions of authority in Anglicanism which are still with us.
The Catholic revival has often been characterised as being ‘a clerical movement’, but, as Professor Reed makes clear, although it goes without saying that clergy played a major part in it, it could not have been successful as it was without its lay supporters. The wealthy middle-class and some of the aristocracy paid for the new churches, Gothic expressions of a church continuous with the Catholic church of the Middle Ages, erected in slums and burgeoning suburbs. We still need a well-researched history of the lay patrons of the Catholic revival, and Professor Reed could have made more of the way in which Anglo-Catholics followed in the footsteps of the Evangelicals in acquiring patronage, enabling them to protect their understanding of Anglicanism against the homogenising pressures of the Church of England, though he rightly draws attention to the importance of the networking provided by guilds and societies, and, indeed, Oxbridge Colleges influenced by Tractarianism. Likewise we need more studies of the missionary impetus of the Catholic movement, both in England and overseas.
Professor Reed follows his fellow-sociologist, Michael Hill, in seeing the revival of women’s religious orders as a small but significant move in the emancipation of women in a society in which there was an imbalance of men and women, and few opportunities for women’s work. He deals sensitively and unsensationally with the issue of Anglo-Catholicism and homosexuality, stressing that ‘the idea of homosexuality as a condition’ was unknown until later, and ‘anything like a homosexual sensibility had currency only in some very rarefied circles’. If sexual mores are in part a social construct, then the dominant construct of Victorian England was patriarchal and familial - muscular Christianity and the ideal of Christian manliness was a dominant ethos which made the ideal of celibacy counter-cultural. It is not surprising that Victorian convents, both Roman and Anglican, became the subject of the kind of scurrilous pamphlets that provided titillation for readers of the utmost Protestant probity. The story of any religious movement is complex and multi-faceted. Professor Reed rightly reminds us that there are no hard and fist boundaries to be drawn around who is included and who is excluded in Anglo-Catholicism, as indeed in any ‘party’ in the Church of England, now as then. The very use of the term ‘party’ is an interesting one, and that could have been a little more explored. Perhaps new ‘tradition’ or ‘integrity’ is but old ‘party’ writ large.
If ‘ritualism’ seemed a matter of externals and legal battles over rubrics, it was because at its heart, as its most significant opponents realised, lay deep matters of faith and theology, particularly eucharistic and sacramental theology. Father Mackonochie’s lapidary phrase in defence of his liturgical practice was that ‘it was the barest alphabet of reverence for so divine a mystery’. When all has been written about the Romantic Movement, and the Gothic revival, and the congruity of ritualism with Victorian fashions, at the heart this was a religious movement, and like Christianity itself it was subversive and counter-cultural. The outward and visible signs were more than mere aestheticism, and the posings and posturings of the wearers of MB (“Mark of the Beast”) waistcoats need always to be set in the context of the spiritual revolution which recovered sacramental, eucharistic worship as the heart of Christian life.
Professor Reed’s fine study helps us all to disentangle what is and was Victorian cultural context from the deeper spiritual realities and motivations. To this reviewer at least it also raised the question of the parallels between the counter-cultural aspects of Victorian Anglo-Catholicism in the context of establishment Anglicanism, and the more recent experience of movements of charismatic renewal within the Church of England This is a book to be warmly commended, to be read with profit, and, not least, to be enjoyed for the colourful characters, incidents and quotations that enliven its pages, for the Catholic movement has never been without its eccentrics, nor on the whole afraid of them.
Geoffrey Rowell is Bishop of Basingstoke.
THOMAS CRANMER: A Life, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1996, 692pp, ISBN 0-300-06688-0, £29.95.
THOMAS CRANMER played a crucial role in English history, and particularly in English church history, so it is no wonder that he has had many biographers. Nor is it any wonder that the opinions that they have expressed have varied. The man who supervised the separation of the Church of England from the papacy and established the conditions for its separate existence as a stable religious entity could not be favourably judged by Roman Catholic biographers, and they have usually exploited every weakness of character that he showed and every political compromise in which he was inevitably involved to show that his motives were as bad as his aims. Protestant biographers have taken a different view on both points, and have interpreted his actions much more sympathetically, while academic historians (like Jasper Ridley, the author of the most recent major biography before the present one) have often tried to steer a middle course.
MacCulloch’s biography is by an academic historian, and incorporates a great deal of original research, leading to its massive size. At the same time, it is readable. There is no prospect of an early answer or replacement, and it may well hold the field for years to come. It is not without significance, therefore, that the conclusions it reaches are favourable both to Cranmer’s ecclesiastical programme and to his character, and that he interprets Cranmer’s views and aims as unambiguously ‘evangelical’. He, of course, uses this word in the sixteenth-century sense, but it means that Cranmer was definitely on the side of the continental Reformers, and that his work (including his Book of Common Prayer and his 42 Articles) is to be interpreted in that light. MacCulloch does not pretend to be a theologian or a liturgiologist, and could be faulted in detail on both matters, but he is nothing if not well-informed, and his general conclusions would be hard to dispute.
To Anglo-Catholics, Cranmer has always been a problem. Were they to admit his Protestantism and to disown him, or to deny his Protestantism and claim him as a forerunner? Both expedients have repeatedly been tried. For many years this century, particularly under the influence of the great liturgiologist Frere, a compromise originally proposed by Pusey was favoured, which distinguished between the earlier Catholic Cranmer and the later Protestant Cranmer. His earlier stage was represented by the traditional 1549 Prayer Book and his later stage by the Protestant 1552 Prayer Book. The earlier book represented his true mind, whereas the latter book reflected malign influence from the Continent. However, the small changes made to the 1552 Book in 1559, 1603 and 1662 were all in the Catholic direction, it was argued, and a more thorough-going change back to the 1549 pattern, as in many Anglican revisions abroad, was all that was required to bring out the Prayer Book’s true Catholic character.
This Prayer Book Catholicism, once so prevalent, received a shattering blow at the end of the War, with the publication of Dix’s Shape of the Liturgy. According to Dix, the Prayer Book is not subtly Catholic but incurably Protestant. Cranmer’s theology, which it still expresses, was a negative Zwinglianism, and the only consistent course for Anglo-Catholics is to set the Prayer Book on one side and to begin again from Hippolytus and the liturgies of the early Church. The Church of South India, which was then looking around for a non-Anglican pattern of worship for the united church, adopted Dix’s proposal, thus freeing it from its partisan overtones. Not long afterwards, Dix’s disciples Ratcliff and Couratin were appointed founder-members of the Church of England Liturgical Commission, which produced a report expressive of the new wisdom, Prayer Book Revision in the Church of England (1957), and this was circulated to all bishops attending the 1958 Lambeth Conference, who embodied its conclusions in their own report. It thus set a pattern for the Anglican Communion. To put the Prayer Book on one side (rather than adapting it, as hitherto) became the accepted policy, and liturgies following the patterns of the early Church, but embodying the agnostic theology of the 1960s, went into mass production. The American Prayer Book is a prime example, but the ASB is a liturgy of much the same kind.
In the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council met, and endorsed the aims of the Roman Catholic Liturgical Movement. Roman liturgy, as a result, began to be revised to make it more corporate, through the use of the vernacular language, a simpler ceremonial and communion in both kinds. It is not always noticed, however, that the overriding aim of the Liturgical Movement was to take Roman liturgy back from the Middle Ages to the period of the Fathers. No church engaged in liturgical revision could, from then on, ignore what was happening in the Church of Rome, and this further confirmed Dix’s policy.
Of course, to throw over the Prayer Book as hopeless, in Dix’s manner, is really to renounce any claim to be Anglican. What wonder, then, that the modern Anglo-Catholic (now further alienated by the ordination of women) looks with increasingly wistful eyes to Rome? But before he finally hitches his waggon to that star, there are two points that he might be wise to ponder:
(i) Dix’s claim that Cranmer’s theology was a negative Zwinglianism was subsequently disproved. After a prolonged discussion, Peter Brooks’s book Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of the Eucharist (1965) proved, to most people’s satisfaction, that Cranmer’s teaching was much closer to a positive Calvinism than to a negative Zwinglianism. It was therefore on the positive side of the great divide in eucharistic theology laid out by Hooker (Ecclesiastical Polity 5:67), and the indications of this in the text of the Prayer Book are not illusory.
(ii) The original problem which Anglo-Catholics proposed to themselves, what attitude to Cranmer would best distance them from Protestantism, was perhaps misconceived. Protestantism as an unthinking iconoclasm, and Protestantism as a sober reformed Catholicism, are two very different things. The latter was the Protestantism of Hooker, the Caroline divines and the early Nonjurors. Were the Tractarians really wise to discard it? Could this not be a way forward today, on which Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics, and biblical Christians from other traditional churches as well, might learn to agree?
Roger Beckwith is Librarian of Latimer House, Oxford.
‘A BROTHER KNOCKING AT THE DOOR’: The Malines Conversations 1921 - 1925, Bernard Barlow OSM, The Canterbury Press, Norwich 1996, xii+ 267 pp, ISBN l-85311-l35-X, £25.00.
THE STORY Dr Bernard Barlow, a priest of the Servite Order, has to tell is a moving and dramatic one and he tells it well. But catholic Anglicans may wonder whether there is much profit in reading it now. It tells the story of conversations between French and Belgian Roman Catholic theologians and Anglicans from England, and its principal dramatis personae are the intrepid trio of Viscount Halifax, the Abbe Portal and Cardinal Mercier, Archbishop of Malines (Mechelen) and Primate of Belgium, the host. Malines was the sequence (after a fallow period of a quarter of a century) to a previous initiative of Halifax and Portal which ended in the bitter blow of Apostolicae Curae, the condemnation of Anglican Orders by Leo XIII in 1896. Malines also ended in disappointment, and Pius Xl’s encyclical of 1928, Mortalium Animos, though it did not mention Malines, was generally perceived as a blanket condemnation of the ecumenical movement. After another even longer fallow period the Second Vatican Council made a radical re-evaluation of the Roman Catholic Church’s attitude to ecumenism and this led, inter alia, to the setting up of ARCIC (The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission), a theological dialogue which suffered from none of the ambiguities of private initiatives like Malines and to which both the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury had formally and solemnly committed the two Communions. This time, as it has seemed to so many Catholic-Anglicans who had followed the ARCIC process with hope and excitement, the initiative was blighted not by a Roman condemnation (though, admittedly, the official Roman Response to The Final Report of ARCIC-I hardly helped) but rather by the irresponsible refusal of the Churches of the Anglican Communion to take with proper theological seriousness the warnings from Rome about a new and grave obstacle to unity from the Anglican side.
For those who are not familiar with the details of the story, Malines - if it is known about at all - is known for two things. The first is the gesture of Cardinal Mercier on his deathbed giving his episcopal ring to Lord Halifax, a ring which is now enshrined in a chalice in York Minster. It is difficult to imagine that Pope Paul VI was unaware of this when he made his own dramatic gesture of presenting his own episcopal ring to Archbishop Michael Ramsay after the two of them had signed a Common Declaration in Rome in 1966. The second is the fact that a particularly daring memorandum was commissioned by Cardinal Mercier from an unnamed ‘Roman canonist’ and read by him at a session of the fourth round of Conversations in May 1925; L’Eglise anglicane unie non absorbee. To many who have never read the text of the memorandum (and Dr Barlow prints it in full in English translation) the very title encapsulates an ideal and dictates an agenda. It proclaims that the restoration of visible unity is not about the ‘conversion’ of individuals or even of minority groupings from within the existing Churches but about a ‘corporate reunion’ that embodies the fundamental principle of unity-in-diversity. Dom Lambert Beauduin, its author, was perhaps the most influential Benedictine of the twentieth century, for he had already launched the Liturgical Movement in Belgium before the First World War and numbered among the friends whom he influenced the future Pope John XXIII. His memorandum was one of the contributory factors in the disgrace and exile imposed upon him some years later by Rome, but he was to be dramatically, if posthumously, vindicated in 1977 when Pope Paul VI, no less, cited his name and quoted with approval the title of his memoire in his formal address of welcome to Rome of Archbishop Donald Coggan.
But how are the present-day disciples of Halifax and his fellow-workers to react to Beauduin’s vision of ‘the Anglican Church united not absorbed’ in the circumstances of today? The inescapable fact is that they are divided. Many of the spiritual heirs of Lord Halifax have chosen precisely to be ‘absorbed’ into the Roman Catholic Church. Their spiritual pilgrimage raises very seriously the question of whether the future, not perhaps of that entity imprecisely described by Beauduin as ‘L’Eglise Anglicane’, but of the best of the theological, spiritual and liturgical components of classical Anglicanism lies in being ‘taken into the system’ of Roman Catholicism. Some of those who have left were perhaps never really Anglican except in name, but others have taken with them, among other things, the experience of clerical marriage and a profound knowledge and appreciation of classical Anglican divinity. What effect will all this have on the Church which they have now joined? To be ‘absorbed’ falls short of being ‘united’ but is it quite as negative as has often been assumed? We can be profoundly changed by what we absorb. Others, however, of the heirs of Lord Halifax, inspired perhaps by his unquenchable hope and courage, will struggle on with the original vision of an Anglican Church to be united rather than absorbed. Those who have left and those who have stayed (and those who still hesitate) have come to a parting of the ways but they still retain a deeply-felt concern in common. All of them need to ponder the lessons of Malines and will profit from Fr Barlow’s study. If, as I sincerely hope, it attracts a wide readership and a reprinting is called for, there are a number of misprints (in French and in English) and some other inaccuracies which will need to be addressed.
Roger Greenacre is a Canon Residentiary of Chichester and has been involved in Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue in Belgium, France and England.
HE LITURGY DISK, A Resource for Planning Liturgy and Printing Orders of Service, advisers: Fr Eddie Matthews and John Ainslie, Geoffrey Chapman, 1996, ISBN 0-225-66780-0 (Windows), 0-225-66778-9 (CD-Rom) £165.
MANY PARISH PRIESTS are finding, as I myself found, that the distribution of books to worshippers at the church door doesn’t work. The small library presented in some churches is cumbersome and confusing - a traditional hymn book (600 pages), a junk hymn supplement (50 pages), a bible (1500 pages), a mass booklet or an ASB (1289 pages), a notice sheet. The standard package of a pewsheet, a mass booklet and a hymn book is too restrictive and, I found, hardly less likely to bamboozle the newcomer. It’s surprising how many adults can’t work out which resource at any one time they should be looking at.
Increasingly parish priests are producing orders of service for each Sunday mass. I myself did this for several years. It was costly and time-consuming - I had to type up most of my own material - but the returns were considerable. It was hard to assess the educational value of the weekly order of service - it included bible texts in full for personal prayer and study later in the week - but the feed-back was very encouraging. Several people - notably educated males - confessed that, for the first time in their lives, they had been able to follow a church service and join in fully.
Incense and genuflexion may unnerve the English, as is commonly said. What is less commonly said is that nothing unnerves otherwise capable people more than the requirement that they should participate in something they can neither follow nor understand. Some helpful churches deal with that problem by yelling out page and paragraph numbers. Can you imagine what Hamlet at Stratford would be like if, every three minutes, someone in jeans yelled out what Act, Scene and page number in the Complete Works we’d got to? If you can’t imagine it, call at one of the helpful churches and find out.
It is becoming easier to produce these orders of service and, for Catholics (including such Anglo-Catholics as are not deterred by the present tendency of the House of Bishops to try to discourage them from using Roman liturgy), the Liturgy Disk will be invaluable. I asked for the Windows version (thereby losing the facility for printed-out melody lines available with the CD-Rom). As well as a menu for planning a Mass order, there is a menu for baptisms, funerals and - er... - ordinations. (Why ordinations?). I expect marriage material will be one of the future up-dates.
Incorporated is the latest version of Celebration Hymnal together with suggestions of appropriate hymns for the season, the day and the place in the rite. A novel feature is that every year you can print out an invoice, which the computer will have calculated for you, to pay royalties on the hymns you have used. This works both for copyright licence holders (CCL and CALAMUS) and for those who do not belong to such a scheme. As can be expected there are one or two bloody-minded copyright holders around, (and, our solicitors warn us to say, some very nice ones) who, for one reason or another, cannot make copyright arrangements easily available, but this is as near as we have got so far in the hymn business to copyright without tears.
Installing the programme caused me a headache or two. I have a 486 computer and a deskjet printer - and you need hardware at least that good - and I have Windows 3.1 software - and you need at least that. Finding 15 MB of hard disk free was a bit harder. I had to clear off all the children’s games on to floppies to prepare the way. (Lemmings took three disks...) Once my computer let me instal the Liturgy Disk I was able to prepare and print off next Sunday’s liturgy in five minutes - an academic exercise, let me assure you, since we use Anglican rites at St Stephen’s House. The result would fit into the four-page A5 format I used as a parish priest.
There are plenty of easy choices to make - rubrics or not, colour or not, headings in large print or not - but once I was into the programme it was so easy that I didn’t need to use the slim users’ manual. It is quite possible to edit the material, refashion it using desktop publishing, and, presumably, add in the bible passages from a bible programme. (I was disappointed that the readings were represented by reference and heading only: I think it is vital for congregations to be able to follow the text).
No doubt all this is but the beginning. I shall look forward to receiving up-dates. Presumably, the biggest up-dates will be the new Sacramentary in two or three years’ time, and, following my suggestion, the full text of the readings, perhaps from the NRSV.
When I get up-dates I shall tell you what’s in them. In the meantime, if you’re to some extent a Roman liturgy user, this could save you a morning’s work every week and help you every Sunday to hook the fish that swim near your net. They tell me that somebody is bringing out another version of the current Anglican material soon. If they send me a copy, I’ll tell you about it.
Andrew Burnham teaches Liturgy at St Stephen’s House and is a member of the Church of England Liturgical Commission.
Whose Church is it Anyway? Restoring power to your parish Hugh Balfour (Ed) St Matthias Press for Reform ISBN 1-873166-31-1
THERE USED TO be a fashion in some clerical circles for moving parish every five years, or even more frequently, as part of developing a breadth of career experience to put in one’s curriculum vitae. Thankfully, such nomadic behaviour is no longer so prevalent, and there is now time in most ministries for the biblical principle to bear fruit, that of the shepherd knowing his sheep and being known by them.
But what happens when it comes to an end, as it inevitably does by death, retirement or preferment? The parish concerned is suddenly left in a state resembling bereavement, unprotected by the stability which freehold confers both on priest and parish, and seemingly at the mercy of the church authorities, who must take decisions affecting the vacant benefice. It is not only a matter of securing the right appointment, but whether there will be a new incumbent at all, and where he will live.
When the parish finally has to deal with an impending vacancy, the chances are that few, if any, of the parish officers will have any experience of the sometimes Byzantine procedures which can be put in train, to suspend or reorganise the benefice, let alone appoint the new incumbent. By contrast, diocesan officials deal with such matters on a daily basis, and therefore have a considerable advantage in promoting diocesan policy, which may not exactly accord with the desires of the parish concerned. This little book is therefore an essential purchase for every parish which wants to have its fair share in the discussions and decision making which take place during an interregnum, and affect most intimately their own future, rather than that of any wider organisation. It offers a blueprint for the kind of minister which parishes from the Reform tradition will want to appoint as their incumbent, and helpful advice about interviewing candidates.
A detailed chapter written by a lawyer reprints useful selections from canon law and recent legislation and explains the procedures of the 1986 Patronage (Benefices) Measure, and the way in which the major Evangelical patronage societies work. There is a useful section on Resolutions A and B, and the procedure to be followed in petitioning for the ministry of a Provincial Episcopal Visitor. In addition to the wealth of practical advice there is realism: “We all want to employ someone who, besides being a superb preacher, is also an outstanding evangelist, a super sensitive pastor, a brilliant administrator, a computer whiz and a diocesan diplomat, all rolled into one. He does not exist. Identify your priorities, and be prepared to settle for someone other than the Archangel Gabriel.” Sometimes parishes need to accept that what they are offering is not going to attract a flood of applicants of the highest calibre, but that the grace of God also works through ordinary mortals, even the clergy.
The wider issue, which is raised in the foreword by the book’s editor, Hugh Balfour, and considered in detail in the first chapter, is that contained in the book’s title. To whom does the local church belong? Balfour’s view is that “during the last thirty years...a dual process of centralisation and a vast expansion of the Church’s bureaucracy have gone on apace.” The Turnbull proposals for an Archbishops’ Council “might indeed streamline the Church administratively, but would concentrate huge power in the hands of fifteen or twenty people.” Balfour puts precise numbers on this process, evidenced in the decline in the number of parish clergy, from 12,886 in 1961 to 9,671 in 1991, while the number of church “dignitaries” (bishops, archdeacons etc) has risen from 231 to 385. A reduction of 25% in the parish clergy and an increase of 66% in dignitaries.
Accompanying this process of centralisation has been the ascendancy of liberalism in theology, which Balfour blames squarely for the loss of influence of basic Christian doctrines as the “glue” binding the Church together, and its replacement by demands for loyalty to the bureaucracy. “The Church has moved from being a spiritual organisation to being a bureaucratic one”.
The first chapter considers the trend in the modern Church of England to define the church as “the diocese gathered around its chief pastor and sacramental minister, the diocesan bishop”. By contrast the biblical terms qahal and ekklesia are shown to refer to the local assembly of Christians, not in a narrow Congregational sense, but as the very context in which the Church exists. Where there is an assembly of Christians gathered in the Lord’s name, there is the Church, which is both local and universal. Without naming Article XIX, the author places the emphasis firmly on the local worshipping community as the true focal point for Christians as members of the Body of Christ. There is a struggle here for power, between those who run the diocese and operate the various bits of legislation, and the wishes and needs of the local church. “Individual Christians and churches have constantly to face the tension between the demands of the denomination and the application of biblical principles.” The answer lies in the hands of the local church, however. “Lay people need to remember, and the Anglican hierarchy needs to learn, that Anglicanism is a voluntary association....a study of the past shows that lay people have the power to alter church history.”
One of the best ways of ensuring change modelled firmly on biblical principles is for each local church to ensure that its minister (the book rejects the term priest) is always someone who will be faithful to biblical teaching and expound it in his own life and ministry. The book assumes that the incumbent will be a male minister, a genuine Evangelical rather than someone who simply accepts the term as a label, whose ministry is founded on his ability to teach the Christian faith. “Aptitude in teaching is fundamental. This is how pastoring is done....the strong emphasis on the ministry of the Word being the key task for the leader of the local church may surprise some, but it is consequent of a very high view of the Word of God and what this ministry of the Word produces.”
The book is explicitly written from the perspective of Reform, and so there are sections of it (such as that on priesthood) with which other orthodox readers will disagree. Not every parish will want to insist that its incumbent should, as a first principle, hold fast to a Gospel at the heart of which “is the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus satisfying the holy righteousness of God”.
But the practical advice provided is applicable for every parish, and the principle of the argument, that the local Church should plan with the utmost care and seriousness for the appointment of its next incumbent, is one which holds good for the whole orthodox constituency.
Stephen Trott Rector of Pitsford with Boughton in the diocese of Peterborough.
...AND STILL THEY WEEP. Personal stories of abortion. Melanie Symonds. The SPUC Educational Research Trust ISBN 1 898864 10 2) £8.99
ABORTION IS NOW one of the most common operations in hospitals.
This was something certainly not envisaged by David Steel and the other designers of the 1966 Act which made abortion legal, though it was widely predicted at the time that such would be the case.
In a culture which has attached particular significance to victimhood – to people who are the “victims” of handicap, misfortune, discrimination, rape, sexual abuse, or even their own folly – it is curious that so little value appears to be attributed to the prime victims of abortion. These of course are the four-million-plus babies who have been destroyed, usually for no other reason than that their birth and nurture would have been an inconvenience to someone (by no means always the pregnant woman but just as often her boyfriend, husband, employer or parent).
However, this timely book serves to highlight the fact that unborn children are not the only victims of abortion. It records the personal experiences of twenty women who deliberately had their babies aborted – or exercised their much-vaunted “right-to-choose” which despite the fact that the Act makes no such provision has nevertheless been the way it has been widely understood
One and all of them regretted the decision sooner or later. There are a number of tragically similar threnodies running through their stories.
Most prominent is the word deceit, which has a curiously old-fashioned ring to it. The less morally censorious of our Victorian forebears used it of girls who conceived babies outside marriage, saying that they had “been deceived” or “deceived themselves”, whilst referring to their predicament as “the old vulgar tragedy”.
These stories suggest that deceit, or self-deceit, is as prevalent as ever today: professions of love and faithfulness, the prospect of romance, excitement, fulfilment or wealth are still sure-fire ways of getting many a girl into bed – and trouble.
The tissue of deceit, once conceived, grows as inexorably as an unborn child. “It’s only a blob of jelly”, “It’s no worse than having a tooth out” are two of the favourite lines of reassurance. All twenty victims who have written this book would testify the deceitfulness of both statements.
In a significant number of cases the authors of this book admit to perpetuating this deceit as self-deceit after they have had the abortion – a knowledge that a wrong has been done, against the baby or against themselves or against their creator, but accompanied by an inability or unwillingness to acknowledge that wrong or accept forgiveness, not least from themselves.
Post-Abortion Syndrome, which the book serves to highlight, is a deeply traumatic, emotionally devastating experience. The fact that it may not rear its head for months, or perhaps several years, and when it does appear may not be recognized for what it is, means that there are in our midst three million or more women (allowing that some of them have had several abortions) who are secretly and perhaps unknown to themselves, carrying around an emotional virus which may become manifest at any time in their life with shattering results.
What are we to do?
Well, read this book for a start. The stories in it are unsensational, but refreshingly direct and even naïf. If a girl is trying to make up her mind whether to have an abortion or not, then this book may just make the difference. But there is another readership who should be persuaded to consider its message carefully.
It is the vast, soft, underbelly of well-meaning, liberal-minded camp-followers who occupy so many church pews on a Sunday morning. These people are not the deceivers, but the deceived. Every misguided novelty of the past 40 years has been foisted upon them with the same collection of tatty half-truths to justify them. “It’s just”; “it’s necessary”, “it’s your right”, “it’s going to happen anyway”, “It’s not really an issue worth making too much of a fuss about” “It’s not part of the core doctrine of the Church”. How often have these or similar phrases been trotted out by those who have really given the implications of what they are saying very little thought.
This book shows up the hollowness of their arguments by pointing to the consequences of pursuing them to their logical conclusion. Consequences which result not just in division, heresy and schism, but in human lives being destroyed (the babies) and emotional stability wrecked (the mothers). All in all these are high prices to pay for giving people the “right to choose”!
Francis Gardom is Assistant Curate of St. Stephen's Lewisham and a member of the national executive of SPUC.
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