21 January 2018
Con-men and their tricks. How I was led up the Garden Path.
Autobiographically speaking, in my latter seventies, I now feel thay, as a callow youth, I was conned.
When I was an undergraduate in the early 1960s, this "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" was, in Oxford and elsewhere, one of the big events of the year. Prayer booklets were issued every year, giving intentions for each day of the Octave and liturgical formulae for use at the (many) prayer meetings that took place all over the University. Christian Unity was the imperative; the overwhelming need if the Church was to bear united witness to her Lord. It took precedence over anything, everything else. It was pointed out, over and over again, that John 17 means that the Unity of the Lord's people is rooted in and required by the inner life of the Trinity itself; we were to be One, so that our Oneness might be the same Oneness as that shared by Father and Son in the koinonia of the Spirit, "so that the World may believe". Anything that delayed or obstructed such a Unity was deeply wrong.
So there was much regret that 'the Roman Church' had, as people put it, 'placed a new obstacle' in the way of unity a decade earlier by defining the dogma of the Bodily Assumption of the Theotokos. And Anglo-Catholics like me were made to feel awkward because our views on the necessity of episcopacy were considered (and were) an obstacle to pan-Protestant unity. I was so far taken in by all this that, a little later, as a young priest, I voted in favour of the then current scheme for Anglican Methodist Unity, satisfied by the assurances of Dr Eric Kemp (one of its authors) that the Scheme had been carefully constructed to include a service adequate to confer conditional Priestly Ordination upon the Methodist clergy. (Apparently, the latest Anglo-Methodist Scheme does not bother with such ... however minimal ... nods in the direction of Catholic Sacramental doctrine.)
Now, more than half a century later, we are told that things really aren't as simple as that. Christian Unity is still, indeed, technically, a good thing ... Oh definitely ... technically. But, apparently, we were wrong to accept a simplistic notion that Unity was the one, the only one, the over-riding imperative of the Spirit. How terribly silly we were! We should, apparently, have realised (although I don't remember anyone explaining this at the time) that there were many other things which would easily trump the need for Unity: particularly the Spirit-filled Gospel Imperative, a matter of the purest Justice, to ordain women to priestly ministries. Just as Pius XII thought he was right in 1950, so people said, to create a new obstacle to unity just because it was true, so the liberals of the 1980s deemed themselves absolutely right to do precisely the same. Now, having moved on to the next stage, they are peremptorily demanding ex animo and de fide assent to their most newly defined divisive dogma, the Sanctity of Sodomy. Well I never. Who would ever have thought it1 How totally unpredictable!!
What gullible fools we were ... I mean, I was ... back in those 1960s, ever to take these crooks at their word.
Allow me to bestow upon you some advice arising from my own life-experience ... advice I have had to learn the hard way.
Never trust a Liberal. As the slippery b****r looks you straight in the eye, clasps your hand with warm manly sincerity, and gives you some copper-bottomed assurance, always remember that a few decades later (or sooner if it suits him) he'll sneer at you and say 'Did I really say that? I think you must have misunderstood me'. Or perhaps 'Ah, but things have moved on. The Holy Spirit, you see, ... ' etc.etc.. It's not that they're intentionally or consciously dishonest; it's simply that their own unstable fancies and fantasies slither around in such undisciplined and unpredictable ways that their Master the Enemy, 'Our Father Below', easily guides them into a duplicity which they are too self-obsessed even to notice.
And, before your friendly Liberal leaves your house, count the spoons, especially those silver ones you inherited. He will almost certainly have subtly nuanced views on such moral questions as those concerning the ownership of spoons.