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Something is very wrong with the Catholic Church.
Something has been very wrong with it for decades, but only with the current pope is the rot becoming clear.
The spotlight is shining not only on him but also on renegade clergy. Yes, the Catholics have always had renegade clergy. (So have many Protestant denominations.) However, more and more are coming out of the woodwork, perhaps feeling ‘liberated’ in some sense by Pope Francis.
The following example comes from a former (?) Catholic, Daren Jonescu, who writes for The American Thinker. I commend his ‘Catholics and Communists’ article to everyone. He cites a Catholic priest from South Korea (emphases mine):
South Korea recently observed the third anniversary of the North Korean artillery attack against Yeonpyeong, an inhabited island which was the staging ground for a South Korean military exercise. The attack killed four South Koreans, including two civilians, and wounded many others. The Sunday before this anniversary, a senior Catholic priest, Park Chang-shin, gave a sermon in which he went all-out Jeremiah Wright [in damning his homeland, Wright being Obama’s former pastor]:
What should North Korea do if South Korea-U.S. military exercises are being carried out near the problematic NLL [Northern Limit Line, a UN-drawn maritime border]? North Korea needs to open fire. That was the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.
“North Korea needs to open fire”? This statement was part of a general campaign by the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice (which comprises roughly half of Korea’s priesthood) against President Park Geun-hye’s ruling Saenuri Party. The CPAJ, active since South Korea’s pro-democracy movement picked up steam in the 1970s, is essentially a leftist anti-war group promoting Korean reunification through appeasement of the communists, as evidenced by its two main platform items: opposition to sanctions against the North, and opposition to the South’s “National Security Law,” which in theory outlaws communism and Marxist activism, and is therefore vehemently opposed by all organizations sympathetic to the North.
In response, a member of the Saenuri Party enjoined the Catholic Church to discipline its pro-North Korean priests. Needless to say, the Church will do no such thing.
Jonescu says that the Catholic Church is wrapped up in social justice aspects of Marxism and Communism. While the Church must reject the atheism of both, they have latched on not only to social justice but also to economic redistribution and the condemnation of financial security on moral grounds. Those dubious moral grounds are quickly becoming part of Catholic theology.
The Catholic Church is turning ever leftwards and this is overshadowing the Gospel message. Jonescu says most of the hierarchy — wherever they are in the world — are socialist and some clearly Marxist.
The pope has railed about:
The “new tyranny,” that of the pursuit of wealth, is “invisible and virtual”; and its only remedy is “state control,” i.e., visible and real tyranny. Pope Francis promotes the standard false dichotomy that has propelled progressivism forward for more than a century: the “uncontrolled free market” (a Marxist straw man if ever there was one) allegedly consolidates wealth among the few, while state controls (which are supposedly lacking) would allow the disadvantaged majority to rise. This dichotomy is, and always has been, a ruse to hide the truth: progressives regulate and distort the economy to protect their power, wealth, and privilege and to limit opportunity for potential challengers, and then they seize on the stagnation they have caused to launch populist appeals for even more restrictive and redistributive economic regulations, to further entrench their untouchable pre-eminence. (Take a good look at who supported, funded, and led the fight for the creation of compulsory schools, central banks, progressive taxation, socialized healthcare, and all the rest of the mechanisms of benevolent “control” throughout the prosperous West. Hint: it wasn’t the poor.)
Any decent Catholic clergy who disagree with the Left are marginalised, Jonescu says. He concludes:
The Catholic Church is no more defensible than any other institution that continues, against all historical evidence, reason, and decency, to embrace and defend — whether tacitly or openly — the politics of mass envy, of collectivist authoritarianism, of coercive redistribution of the fruits of men’s labor, and of the practical denial of the basic right of self-determination that ought to be at the core of a Catholic teaching that upholds the dignity of every living soul.
As the pope’s Year of Mercy draws to a close, notice that he spoke a lot about welcoming uninvited and illegal migrants. Europe is paying a deadly price for the tidal wave of millions coming in over the past few years.
It is unfortunate that his Year of Mercy did not extend to persecuted Christians. Maybe they were not on message enough with Marxism.
Tuesday’s excerpted his commentary and advice on Matthew 7:6 — casting pearls before swine.
Today’s post provides more information about the ministry of this pioneer of Anglican ‘evangelicalism’, often criticised by his congregation and Cambridge University students, among whom he ministered.
In 1979, to mark the bicentenary of Simeon’s conversion at King’s College, Cambridge, the Revd Max Warren — formerly General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society and then a Residentiary Canon of Westminster Abbey — wrote a considered essay of this clergyman. Unfortunately, Warren died before he could read it to a group of Anglicans who were to draw conclusions about the lessons of Simeon’s ministry.
Warren’s great-grandfather knew Simeon. This ancestor wrote a memoir which included two letters Simeon had written to him. Warren’s great-grandmother, the man’s wife, kept a diary. She died in 1836, the same year Simeon left this mortal coil. Therefore, Simeon’s life and times no doubt touched him more personally than most.
The PDF of Warren’s paper is available here. A summary follows with page numbers cited.
We can learn much from the way Simeon ministered to people, not only in Cambridge but also around England.
Charles Simeon’s worldview was shaped in part by the French Revolution. He was ordained by the time it took place between 1789 and 1795. He was concerned about possible similar threats to Britain, namely the establishment, including the established Church of England.
He was also a lifelong conservative in his thinking.
He would have been aware that, when he was converted in 1779, that 7,358 out of 11,194 Anglican parishes in England had no clergyman (p. 1).
The nature of conversion
For Simeon, conversion was connected with commitment.
He insisted that that commitment increase over time, particularly for himself but also for others.
He deeply believed that no one could truly be regemerated unless he were experiencing ‘brokenness of heart’ brought about by the profound realisation — ‘self-loathing and abhorrence’ — of one’s own wretched sinful nature.
Only then could the sorrowful — and repentant — convert begin to appreciate the work of sanctifying grace from the most holy God (p. 9).
As I wrote on Monday, Simeon never married.
As he was ostracised for his enthusiastic, evangelical views and preaching, he was a lonely man for many years.
However, this solitude also made him more aware of what clergy faced when they were opposed. This is why he held ‘conversation parties’ with Cambridge students studying for ordination. He wanted them to know what and how to preach when. He also impressed upon these young men that the Bible was both an ‘establishing’ and a ‘converting’ book. Furthermore, they had to practise what they preached. They also had to understand that they were not doing the regenerative work upon their congregation, it was the Holy Spirit. (p. 5)
Even those who ended up not being ordained and who were assigned to far reaches of the British Empire benefited from Simeon’s advice on how to communicate with people. (p. 8)
Solitude also gave him the idea of including clergy wives in lectures for their husbands. (p. 6) The more they knew and understood their husbands’ work, the better they could discuss it with them and support them emotionally.
Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge
Simeon was the vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge for 54 years. That was his one and only assignment.
His outlook on ministry was to maintain a balance between being a pastor and an evangelist. He also held to Martin Luther’s dictum of knowing nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (p. 3)
Holy Trinity — then and now — was a congregation of students but also townspeople who will speak their minds about church. It was also — even in Warren’s time as its vicar — the largest in the Diocese of Ely. (p. 3)
Holy Trinity might not have liked Simeon’s sermons and, when they weren’t angry with him, tune them out but they could not easily tune out the way he delivered the liturgy. He actually prayed — not read — the prayers from the Book of Common Prayer. This was new. Most clergy muttered the prayers.
Warren wrote that it was the actual praying of the liturgy which eventually won over his cantankerous and, sometimes violent, congregation. (p. 3)
Outside of church
Simeon also started informal groups, hosting them outside of church. He sometimes hired a room in another parish to accommodate them.
He did this so he could get to know his congregation and also so that they would not see him as being ‘ten feet above contradiction’.
He was also careful to assemble a group of 12 stewards who would manage the parish’s finances and assess the need for charity and relief.
He was a pioneer in involving laity. His Visiting Society volunteers paid visits on poorer townspeople, giving them spiritual instruction as well as food to eat.
He, too, was known for his visits to ill and dying parishoners.
He took the food donation idea further during the bread famine of 1788 and 1789, when he contributed a subscription so that bread could be fairly distributed to the poor in villages around Cambridge. He was known for making his rounds on horseback and stopping in at village bakeries. (p. 4)
Travel in England
Simeon made it his mission to travel to towns and cities around England to spread the Gospel.
If he was rejected by his own congregation, the rest of the country received him warmly. Remember that he had to get around by horse and carriage on long, bumpy rides. There was no railway network in place.
In 1798, he recorded that he gave 75 addresses between May 18 and August 19. He spoke to a total of 87,310 people.
The only other evangelist likely to have spoken to more on a tour was Dwight L Moody — 75 years later. (p. 11)
Simeon was very concerned about the growth of the Anglican church in the Empire.
His missionary initiatives helped to expand the Church in India, New Zealand and Australia.
Charles Simeon was a man who bucked the trend in style and substance. Although discouraged and lonely, he pressed on with the Lord’s work. He encouraged seminarians and young clergymen to do so, too.
He pioneered the way for an evangelical strand in the Anglican Church. It still exists, but less so.
Perhaps it is time for Anglican clergy and seminaries to stop worrying about social justice and put more effort into winning souls for Christ and the life beyond.
Yesterday’s post concerned separating the sacred from the secular in light of Matthew 7:6, casting pearls before swine.
Tomorrow’s post will look at Charles Simeon’s exposition of that verse.
(Image credit: Wikipedia)
However, it will have more meaning if we find out who this English clergyman was.
Simeon was born in 1759 into an aristocratic family in Reading, Berkshire, in the Home Counties. At that time, London was probably several hours away by carriage. Today, it takes under an hour to reach Reading by train.
The Simeons were Anglicans but of the modernised Church of England in the decades that followed the non-violent Glorious Revolution of 1688. Clergy were no longer firebrands, perhaps necessary to avoid the impression that they wanted to continue religious persecution that had reigned in previous centuries. Moderation was the order of the day in pulpit preaching and spiritual guidance.
Simeon went to Eton, not far from Reading. In his spare time, he absorbed himself in sport, horses and fashion, typical for a young man of means.
In 1779, he went up to Cambridge to study at King’s College. As was the rule in nearly all the established denominations, receiving Communion was mandatory on Easter Day in order for churchgoers to remain in good standing. Cambridge and Oxford stipulated that students — all men at that time — had to receive Communion at least three times before they were able to graduate. Easter Sunday was likewise mandatory. We can see that Communion was still an infrequent practice, not as it is today.
When Simeon arrived at King’s College in January, he was told he would have to receive Communion within three weeks’ time. Most students of that era did not care. They went and received the Sacrament as if it were fulfilling a requirement, not as a means of grace.
Simeon, on the other hand, felt he had to prepare for receiving the Sacrament. He considered himself unfit:
Satan himself was as fit to attend [the sacrament] as I.
Without a moment’s loss of time, I bought the old Whole Duty of Man, (the only religious book that I had ever heard of) and began to read it with great diligence; at the same time calling my ways to remembrance, and crying to God for mercy; and so earnest was I in these exercises, that within the three weeks I made myself quite ill with reading, fasting, and prayer…
After that Communion service, Simeon still felt unfit to receive the Sacrament and set about preparing for Easter Sunday. He read more books in tandem with studying the Bible. By the middle of Holy Week, divine grace and the Holy Spirit enabled him to understand Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice and the need for repentance. An insatiable hope welled up in him. He devoted four hours daily to prayer, rising at 4 a.m. to meet this commitment.
This was highly unusual in Anglicans of the time. Members and clergy of the Church of England were suspicious of the enthusiasm of the Wesley brothers’ missions, which led to the subsequent formation of the Methodist Church, and the Great Awakening which peaked in 1740. Even before Simeon went up to Cambridge, one professor complained of:
certain Enthusiasts in that Society, who talked of regeneration, inspiration, and drawing nigh unto God.
Simeon decided to read Theology at King’s College. He was made a fellow of College and was ordained in 1782, aged 23. Meanwhile, his brothers, John and Edward, entered law (later politics) and finance, respectively.
Charles Simeon was an early ‘evangelical’ low church Anglican clergyman. It is important to be aware of the fact that he was not an independent Evangelical in the way we understand the term today. He was still part of the Church of England. In our time, N T Wright is another clergyman who fits the same description. He is not an independent Evangelical but an Anglican.
Simeon was assigned to Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge. His enthusiasm soon put him at odds with his churchwardens and church members. They had wanted another priest — their assistant curate Mr Hammond — and made that abundantly clear from the moment he arrived.
The congregation bristled at Simeon’s evangelical preaching. Some stopped attending Holy Trinity, leaving the church half empty on Sundays, alarming at the time. Simeon tendered his resignation to the Bishop of Peterborough, but he refused it.
The churchwardens tried desperately to stop Simeon. Simeon’s struggle continued for 12 years. The churchwardens and trustees locked the church to which he had no key. Once he had a key, they locked the box pews, so that anyone attending had to stand. Simeon rented chairs, but they were removed. Other men were brought in to give Sunday afternoon lectures, without Simeon’s permission. College students attended services only to attack him verbally when he was preaching. Some threw bricks through the church windows when he was preaching. On the streets of Cambridge, they harassed him with false rumours about his reputation.
The Simeon Trust site explains the situation:
like most church congregations at the time, they wanted a preacher who would entertain, instead of one who issued serious exhortations to repent and believe, as Simeon did.
Church at this time was a little different than today: the job of priest/curate/rector was often a patronage position, given as a political or social favor, and the churchwardens or vestry really controlled the church.
One day, a student from Clare College walked with Simeon for a quarter of an hour, which surprised him such that he recorded it in his journal.
Simeon carved a Gospel verse into the pulpit. It was visible only to him and subsequent preachers:
the words a group of Greeks spoke to Philip when he and the other disciples were with Christ in Jerusalem before His death:”Sir, we would see Jesus.” (John 12:21)
Amazingly, even though his time at Holy Trinity was dogged by trials, he stayed on for over 50 years.
Eventually, he began to gather his flock by persevering in his work. Those attending his services were not only members of his congregation but also students. He also introduced a Sunday evening service, unheard of at the time.
He also attracted Theology students, future pastors, by giving classes in constructing good sermons. He felt encouraged to do this once he read An Essay on the Composition of a Sermon by the French Reformed minister Jean Claude. His methods were the same as Claude’s.
Through those classes — ‘conversation parties’ — which he held at his home on Friday and Sunday evenings, a group of evangelical young men began to grow. They were known as ‘Simeonites’, or ‘Sims’.
By the time Simeon died, one-third of Anglican clergy active at the time, had studied under him.
Even then, Simeon still faced opposition. When he was 71 and someone asked how he persevered, he said:
My dear brother, we must not mind a little suffering for Christ’s sake. When I am getting through a hedge, if my head and shoulders are safely through, I can bear the pricking of my legs. Let us rejoice in the remembrance that our holy Head has surmounted all His suffering and triumphed over death. Let us follow Him patiently; we shall soon be partakers of His victory.
He preached his last sermon two weeks before his death on November 1836, aged 77. He never married. He had a brief, final conversation with friends at his bedside:
… he said, “Do you know the text that greatly comforts me just now?” Friends asked him which. He replied, “I find infinite consolation in the fact that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth!” That surprised them until he explained, “Why, if, out of nothing God can bring all the wonder of the world, He may yet make something out of me!”
After he died, half of Cambridge University paid their respects to him.
Simeon left a considerable spiritual legacy. Would that we had one today in the Church of England.
He published the lessons from his ‘conversation parties’ and sermon outlines as Horae Homileticae to help future pastors with their preaching.
In 1827, a devout ‘Sim’, William Leeke, and his fellow students from Queen’s College established a Sunday School in Jesus Lane for the children living in the vicinity. On its first Sunday, 220 children showed up.
Another Sim, Henry Martyn, became a well known missionary and Bible translator.
Simeon helped to appoint evangelical chaplains to India, even when the East India Company forbade them.
In 1817, he received an inheritance with which he immediately created the Simeon Trust — which still exists today — which helps to purchase the right to appoint the priest-in-charge of certain Anglican parishes. St Peter’s in Colchester, Essex, is one of them. This was to do away with the patronage system:
Simeon realized that, while there was no shortage of solid Evangelical priests, the patronage system of parish appointments not only made it difficult for Evangelicals to secure parish appointments, but meant that continuity was not guaranteed: a congregation with a good preacher that left would not necessarily receive a good replacement.
Simeon helped to found the Church Missionary Society in 1799 and the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews (now known as the Church’s Ministry Among Jewish People or CMJ) in 1809.
Today, despite the opposition to Simeon when he was vicar there, Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge continues to be a beacon for Anglican evangelicalism.
The Simeon Trust no longer appears to be active in Britain. It is mainly in the United States these days with different locations overseas. It offers workshops throughout the year, which are hosted by Protestant churches of various denominations.
Tomorrow: Charles Simeon’s exposition of Matthew 7:6
One of my readers, Boetie, a Catholic living in Germany, sent in a thoughtful comment by way of response. He has kindly given me permission to use it as a guest post on the differences between Catholic and Anglican worship.
What he says closely parallels my own experience in the early 1980s and caused me to convert to the Episcopal Church and continue worshipping in the UK as an Anglican. I should emphasise that my conversion came through low church, which also had quite a lot of ritual, rather than high church. That said, I have occasionally enjoyed the freedom and the opportunity to revisit ancient traditions and vestments.
Without further ado, Boetie discusses his results and his own worship journey:
I came out “top of the flame” – not that I was in the least surprised, though. But this liturgical and at the same time humorous approach is what first attracted me to the Anglican Church in her High Church / Anglo-Catholic tradition ever since I was an 11 or 12 year old lad from Germany coming to Britain for the first time in the very early 1970s. Quite visibly the Anglican Church had not been through the devastations Vatican II had brought about in my own church (I’m a “Roman”). Sadly, the Anglican Church has more than made up leeway since.
But for the first time in my life I saw priests who looked like priests with their dog collars and their cassocks/soutanes, who spoke like priests and who acted like priests. Our own RC priests at the time had opted for the “social worker” chic, loathed to be addressed as “Father” and were delighted when you told them: “I would never have guessed you were a priest”.
And, of course, in England I gained an insight into what “liturgy” meant – while in Germany they had already come up with that brilliant idea of happy-clappy services with do-gooder homilies. I had never heard e.g. an “Angelus” prayer in my home parish – the first in my life was in an Anglican church in Hertfordshire.
So, for many years in my youth, the Anglican Church shaped my own Catholic faith.
I noticed differences though, even at an early age.
Right from day one I was impressed by the style of hearty hymn singing – as opposed to many RC churches where people often can’t be bothered and where the singing is lacklustre. Also, I found traditional Anglican services solemn but ultimately more serene than traditional RC Masses. And the difference of the quality of style and language was stunning: introducing the vernacular after Vatican II into RC services didn’t work well: e.g. in Germany it was modern day German while in the Anglican Church the wonderful traditional English had been retained. (Doing away with Prayer Book English I regard as a a major flaw in today’s Anglican worship.) Not least of all, to this day I appreciate the humour that is never far from the surface with High Church priests – which makes it a pleasure to listen to their sermons and homilies.
The demise of the Anglican Church (namely the CofE) I find deeply saddening and I wonder whether the Catholic faith in her Anglican tradition will have a future within the Anglican Communion or whether in the long run it will be just “catholic” in name and maybe ritual but no longer in essence – with lesbians and feminists in fiddleback chasubles and birettas swinging the thurible – during a same sex marriage.
But I do not want to end on a sombre note. If you appreciate the type of humour of the quiz I am sure you will also like the cartoon figure of “Father Jolly” created years ago by the American Anglican priest Fr. Tom Janikowski during his formative years in the seminary. He is now Rector of Trinity Anglican Church in Rock Island, Illinois (an ACNA parish). Unfortunately there are only few of his cartoons on the net: the first 4 pictures here:
Here is another one: http://www.thescp.org/documents/jollylovejoy.jpg
Should you come across more in the vein of that quiz – please let us know in your blog. I am sure I’d be not the only one to appreciate this.
You can bet I will, brother!
Thank you very much, Boetie, for your excellent contribution and for the witty (and realistic) Father Jolly cartoons.
It would be edifying if others sharing the same experience as Boetie’s and mine would kindly comment below.
People are leaving the Church for a variety of reasons.
I am weary of going face-to-face and having others think there is something wrong just because I look down or am not smiling. Could it be possible that in my despair or quietness, I am closer to God than ever before?
Yet, it seems that going to church now has to be a psychoanalytical, therapeutic exercise with the pastor or vicar silently summing up a newcomer or the occasional attendee after the service. Everyone is assumed to be an emotional cripple, and the clergyman is the guy (or gal) who will make that decision.
Why can’t we go back to the old days when we went to church to worship God? Why do we have to join at least one group or committee in order to be considered proper church members? Yes, I know there are verses from St Paul’s letters which encourage that, but his converts were also establishing fledgling Church communities. The Church grew into huge national and international denominational organisations.
Therefore, not everyone has to be ‘active’ in order to be a church member in good standing. Priests and ministers will disagree, but this is yet another reason why people shy away from either church worship or attending too often. They don’t want to be too well acquainted with clergy or other members. It could lead to further involvement.
Clergy and elders should really leave people alone and let them decide whether to get involved in groups and committees, most of which are surrogate forms of therapy.
Church is primarily for worship — spending structured time with God and Christ Jesus.
For many churchgoers, true worship is all that they want. Please let them be.
Although writing about a secular subject, author John M Barry wrote the following in his book The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History. His words could also be applied to the church congregations of yesteryear:
They are simply a loose confederation of individuals, each of whom remains largely a free agent whose achievements are independent of the institution but who also shares and benefits from association with others. In these cases the institution simply provides an infrastructure that supports the individual, allowing him or her to flourish so that the whole often exceeds the sum of the parts.
Many would like to see a return to that kind of outlook.
In the early 21st the worldwide migration situation has produced Church-related anomalies in Europe, including the UK.
One of these has been the marriage of convenience, as a Workpermit.com post from 2006 describes. In 2005, a set of rules was introduced in the UK to put an end to this practice designed:
to get around immigration controls and require immigrants to obtain a special certificate of approval, or COA before they can wed in the UK.
However, Mr Justice Silber overturned these laws in 2006 because they violated the European Convention on Human Rights. Consequently:
The overturning of the marriage laws due to unfair discrimination against immigrants on religious grounds leaves the door open for hundreds of people from overseas getting married in the UK.
The test case involved in overturning by Mr Justice Silber, involved a foreign national from Algeria and an EEA national who was legally living in the UK. Once Mahmaud Baiai and Izabella Trzanska from Poland were refused permission to marry, they launched the challenge.
Mr Justice Silber said the case raised issues under Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to marry and found a family.
“The rules were incompatible because they discriminated against immigrants rights subject to immigration control on grounds of religion and nationality,” he declared.
Oddly, the rules overturned did not apply to Church of England members:
even if they are illegally in the UK.
This meant that the Anglican Church could conduct marriages of convenience. By 2008, as The Telegraph reported (emphases mine):
the number of bogus weddings performed by Anglican priests has risen by as much as 400 per cent in some dioceses over the last four years.
Foreign nationals have turned to the Church because it is exempt from rules that require all foreign nationals from outside the European Union to obtain a Home Office certificate of approval to marry in a register office.
That year, Church of England bishops warned their clergy to be vigilant when evaluating immigrants wishing to marry in an Anglican ceremony:
the Rt Rev Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark, urged priests to be wary of migrants looking to get married who have obtained a common licence – a preliminary for church weddings involving foreign nationls.
“The new regime does not apply to marriages by banns, common licence or special licence, which probably explains the substantial increase in demand for bishops’ common licenses,” he writes.
“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that there is significant abuse of the availability of Church of England marriage in order to try to gain some immigration advantage.”
The Rt Rev Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, has also written to churches in his diocese with guidance on how to tighten measures.
The diocese of Southwark, which covers Greater London south of the Thames, has seen the number of applications for common licences rise from 90 in 2004 to 493 last year.
In 2013 the Coalition government (Conservative/Liberal Democrat) produced new rules to end marriages of convenience. From page 4 of the PDF:
Notices of marriage following civil preliminaries or civil partnership in England and Wales involving a non-EEA national who could benefit from it in immigration terms will be referred to the Home Office for a decision as to whether to investigate whether the marriage or civil partnership is a sham. Non-EEA nationals will only be able to marry in the Church of England or the Church in Wales following civil preliminaries, except in limited circumstances.
Perhaps something similar should be done in the case of conversions by refugees to Christianity.
On June 5, The Guardian reported that the Catholic bishops in Austria are suspicious of the number of sudden converts to Christianity among refugees from war-torn countries. The paper reported in 2014 that the same phenomenon is going on in the Lutheran Church in Germany.
Clergy with a rosy view of the world will say that this is a tremendous opportunity to revive the Church in Europe.
The Austrian bishops view the situation differently. In 2015:
the Austrian bishops’ conference published new guidelines for priests, warning that some refugees may seek baptism in the hope of improving their chances of obtaining asylum.
“Admitting persons for baptism who are during the official procedure classified as ‘not credible’ leads to a loss in the church’s credibility across the whole of Austria,” the new guidelines say.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Vienna explained:
There has to be a noticeable interest in the faith that extends beyond merely the wish to obtain a piece of paper.
Austrian priests now informally evaluate potential refugee converts during their one-year ‘preparation period’. The Archdiocese of Vienna has recorded that 5% to 10% of potential converts drop out of the process prior to baptism.
In England, however, Anglican clergy are eager to not only ask no questions but to combine the conversion process with helping to ease the refugee application process.
The Guardian interviewed the Revd Mohammad Eghtedarian, an Iranian refugee and convert who was later ordained. He is a curate at Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral. Eghtedarian says that refugee status and religious affiliation are intertwined.
Liverpool Cathedral has a process which involves registering refugee attendance, which helps their asylum applications. A candidate for Baptism must attend the five preparatory classes. A baptised refugee seeking Confirmation must attend a dozen courses.
Hmm. It sounds very minimal.
The Guardian asked Eghtedarian about the sincerity of those candidates. Even he acknowledged that ‘plenty of people’ were converting for convenience!
In large part, only a cursory examination exists. The Cathedral will also provide a ‘letter of attendance’ to immigration authorities, if requested.
The article said that the Church of England does not record conversions, regardless of background, because it could be a ‘sensitive’ issue.
It seems the Austrian Catholic bishops have approached the conversions of convenience issue more sensibly than the German Lutherans, who resent that immigration court judges ask refugees to discuss their newly-found beliefs in detail in order to assess their sincerity.
It is the responsibility of clergy to do a thorough examination of heart and mind during the conversion process rather than let false converts through the doors for Baptism and Confirmation.
Church of England clergy should pray for divine guidance on the matter rather than deceive fellow Christians, other citizens of our country and our government.
Admittedly, some of these converts are sincere. However, if ‘plenty of people’ are not, then the whole thing is a sham.
If marriages of convenience rightly rang Anglican bishops’ alarm bells, then conversions of convenience should, too.
Because there was such a long wait between the first and second series of Grantchester, we watched the finale this week.
This was too good a show to watch weekly as it aired. Viewing pleasure must be rationed.
The tension in a few of the episodes was palpable, especially when Sidney and a half-cut (inebriated) Geordie were on the roof of King’s College Chapel.
It was a relief to hear during the credits that the series is being renewed for 2017. It will air on both ITV1 and PBS. Series 2 was broadcast in the US and the UK at around the same time.
If anyone wants to discuss Grantchester, please feel free to do so in the comments below. This has to be one of the most intelligent and content-rich shows on television today.
(Photo credit: Stephen Tunstall via Twitter)
Both of us wondered if the UK had reached peak beard, which, according to hirsute columnist Christopher Howse, should have happened in 2014.
The Bishop of London, the Right Rev Richard Chartres, who has a well-trimmed beard, singled out two priests in the capital’s East End for praise. Both Reverends — , and Adam Atkinson, Vicar of St Peter’s church in Bethnal Green — sport hipster beards which help them connect with Muslim men and boys.
One neighbourhood man told Rogers:
I can respect you because you have got a beard.
“It is an icebreaker – St Paul said ‘I become all things to all men that by all possible means I might save some’
“In our area there are three main groups, the poor, the ‘cool’ and the Muslims and beards cover at least two groups reasonably well.
“A Muslim friend said ‘I will lend you a hat and you can join me on Friday [prayers]. It was done in a jokey way but it was quite affirming.”
He added: “I have got Jewish heritage from a few generations ago and I am conscious around here that there is something about the ‘holy man’.”
One wonders, among the ‘cool’, how that translates to getting more hipsters into church.
Because, one month later — on February 17, 2016 — The Telegraph reported the Church of England is panicking about the slump in church attendance. Churchgoing is unlikely to revive for another three decades. To that, I would add ‘if ever’:
Even if it sees an influx of young people to services, the sheer numbers of older worshippers dying in the next few decades mean it is unlikely to see any overall growth in attendances until the middle of this century, officials now believe.
The stark calculations were revealed during discussions at the Church’s decision-making General Synod, which has been meeting in London, about ambitious plans to tackle declining numbers.
It is preparing to pump £72 million into a “reform and renewal” drive which includes plans to ordain 6,000 more clergy in the 2020s to build a younger priesthood which is less male dominated and less white.
As usual, the conclusion is that the CofE is institutionally hideously white and male.
The Synod is barking up the wrong tree.
No man wants feminised religion. And if a man does not attend church, his children won’t, either. Those who don’t believe me can read the following posts (see my Christianity/Apologetics page under ‘Church attendance — why it is in decline’):
The real problem with the CofE is that there is a clear lack of traditional liturgy on offer and a deplorable lack of biblical preaching.
In October 2015, a British study showed that 38% of people in the UK doubt Jesus ever existed, more than half doubt He rose from the dead and 25% of those under 35 believe He is a fictional character.
I was appalled to arrive here nearly 30 years ago only to find Sunday services with free-form, spontaneous prayers from the priest and little to nothing in the sermons that taught about the Scripture readings we had heard.
Granted, perhaps I was unlucky in my first London parish church.
The next one was better, but the liturgy was Roman Catholic. Why? It was not a High Church parish. Even those churches use Anglican liturgies.
My current one, outside the capital, is fine. The church has had three vicars since I began attending. The first was excellent. The second was a borderline atheist who spoke about secular poetry on Ash Wednesday, adding that, if we wanted ashes, we could impose them ourselves! Thankfully, he retired. The present one is good. He actually preaches on the readings and explains them, which is a blessing when it comes to the more obscure books from the Old Testament.
The CofE has also said that many clergy will be retiring in the coming years:
The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev Steven Croft, revealed that, in addition to the losses in the pews, around 70 per cent of the current body of clergy will have retired by 2030.
The Synod is implementing a programme called Renewal and Reform. According to The Telegraph, some call it Search and Rescue. A call for vocations, especially among the young, is part of the new scheme.
For now, the paper reports that the CofE’s biggest concern is that many of their members are forced to rely on food banks because their benefits have been stopped unfairly. The Synod is committed to lobbying Parliament for an independent review of why this is and what can be done about it.
As important as that is, one wonders about the greater issue of a country that has less and less knowledge of Christ Jesus because our established Church is engaged in socio-political mission rather than the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20):
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Some Catholic priests in France are having serious problems.
Yesterday’s post discussed the priest who broke a church statue.
Today’s tells the story of the priest in the Diocese of Lyon who likened the Bataclan victims to the terrorists.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks on November 13, the Revd Hervé Benoît wrote an article for the traditionalist Catholic site, Riposte catholique (‘Catholic response’). Father Benoît entitled it (translation mine) ‘The (bald) Eagles of Death Metal love the devil!’
It’s quite a piece and I haven’t even read all of it. Nor do I intend to do so. However, I have read the first third of it, where Benoît warns against courting the devil. Here is an excerpt:
Are you invoking the devil even in jest [possibly referring to the tongue-in-cheek name for the band]? He will take you seriously. An extraordinary exorcist told me on the same day the attacks took place, ‘If you open the door, he will be only to happy to enter’. We don’t play with icons. They convey the sacred …
I will go even further. Too bad about sensitive readers. Look at the photos of the spectators taken seconds before the drama unfolded. These poor children of the bobo [bourgeois bohemian] generation, in an ecstatic trance, ‘young, festive, open, cosmopolitan …’ as a ‘revered daily’ puts it. But they’re the living dead. Their assassins, these haschishin zombies, are their Siamese twins. How can one not see it? It’s so obvious.
On November 27, the Most Reverend Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, relieved Benoît of his duties of chaplain at the basilica in Fourvière.
At the conclusion of the funeral for Caroline Prénat, a young woman from Lyon who died at the Bataclan, I mentioned how distressing and hurtful Father Benoît’s text was.
Benoît is — or will soon be — in an abbey for a period of prayer and reflection. Barbarin has already made arrangements for him to transfer dioceses. He will be assigned to his home diocese of Bourges where the bishop, the Most Reverend Armand Maillard, will decide the priest’s future.
He was assigned to the Church of Saint Efflam in Plestin-les-Grèves (pop. 3,600) three years ago. Since then, not only has the workload been challenging him, the statues have also got on his nerves.
Early in November 2015, Father Le Roy, 55, could take it no longer. He pushed a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the floor. He shouted:
The regional newspaper, Ouest-France, has a photo of the broken statue.
Ironically, this happened at the end of a visit from the sacred art commission of the Diocese of Saint-Brieuc.
Le Roy made no secret of his dislike for sacred art in the 19th century Saint-Sulpician style. Many Catholics will recognise the style, which was used through the 1930s and is still popular today. (These examples of stained glass and a prayer card image give an idea of what it looks like.) The name comes from the style of religious images sold in shops near Saint-Sulpice Church in Paris.
Ouest-France says that, in 2014, whilst Le Roy was preparing a couple for their marriage ceremony, he took time out to rant about the ugliness of a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Le Roy’s breaking the statue last month upset his parishoners. Several wrote letters of complaint to the Diocese of Saint-Brieuc.
The Reverend Gérard Nicole, Vicar General of the diocese, told Ouest-France that, whether Le Roy liked traditional statuary or not, that was no reason to destroy it. He added:
It’s understandable that people are shocked.
Nicole scheduled a meeting between Le Roy and the bishop, the Most Reverend Denis Moutel, to discuss the vandalism.
Or was it an accident?
Le Roy said later that he had only wanted to see if the statue was resting against the wall on its pedestal and happened to push it with too much force. Hmm.
He added that stress was a mitigating factor:
In a ministry like ours, we’re always being called upon. There aren’t many priests. We have a lot of fatigue, nervousness, stress. It all came together at that moment.
Nevertheless, the diocese and local council must determine which of them owns the statue. This arrangement dates back to France’s 1905 law separating church and state. Asset lists specify the ownership of important art and buildings.
If it turns out that the commune owns the statue, the diocese will have to reimburse it for the loss.