GOD MOVES IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS HIS WONDERS TO PERFORM
So often thought to be a Biblical quotation it is in fact from William Cowper, famous for the Olney Poems although born in the rectory of my home town of Great Berkhamsted, in 1731. It was the last poem he wrote following his latest unsuccessful attempt at suicide.
Therein lies an extraordinary contradiction: a suicidal, periodically insane man due to bouts of depression, writing successfully and well renowned beautiful poetry that foreran the era of the Romantic Poets.
Saint John's Gospel, 13:7, quotes Jesus as saying to his disciples; "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” A good response for those impatient to move on, wanting to know everything now.
Now, I empathise with that mood. The Church of England has at last decided to be meaningful to the world of today and tomorrow, rather than obscure itself in a past, largely irrelevant to all but social or church historians. Yesterday, the General Synod voted to accept women to the bishopric, making a female archbishop possible. We have sanity and rationality once more, in a world created by a rational God in whose image we are made: rational beings working and living rationally. Now let’s get on with it!
As usual, they are all still pissing around with archaic bureaucratic twaddle and reality won’t fully appear until 2015. For heaven’s sake!
It is from Taoism we gain the concept that the journey is more than the goal sought. On journeys, we adapt according to the ground; the weather; time of day; season of the year. A lifetime’s journey is intended to take a lifetime. The ageing of the traveller is not just in the wearing out of limbs, the insidious falling away of physical and then mental powers; it should also be the growing stamina and confidence derived from life’s gained experience along the path. Confidence that while the path may have at times been rocky, unclear, even hazardous it is a path, however detailed and narrowly defined, that traverses a wider world, whose horizons are glimpsed at in brief moments along the way, when the traveller is ready to receive them.
I look out on ‘my’ world as I sit in front of my laptop. I have a view four miles across the town to the hills of Bovingdon, seeing down the valley only the treetops in the gardens, hiding the buildings of no particular attraction. Now I view a sea of changing autumnal colours bowing to the winds. Soon there will be nothing but bleak black skeletons, perhaps occasionally adorned with glittering snow or heavy air frost. The equinox will pass and once more the mind perceives before the eye, the lengthening of the evenings; the trees will attract the attention in their new adornments of brilliant greens and once more the world will blossom. England will blossom. Next year, this year now we are nearly in Advent, the Church of England will blossom, once again being meaningful. Once more, England can look the world in the eye and reaffirm, we English really do know what we are doing! It feels like reliving the Renaissance. We have woken up to accepting God’s Creation as it really is, not how for so many centuries we have perceived it as being, even though we knew full well that it wasn't that way at all! We live openly and honestly the vibrancy of Creation as it actually is: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 NIV. That the body is merely a containment of biochemistry is very obvious to anyone with cancer. It is the soul that continues the journey it was already on, before side-tracking to encompass a body.
Along the way we have discovered Steve Evans, simply being a spirit currently encompassed by a failing body but the ‘he’ that is ‘him’ remains stoically defiant: he still is, even if his body isn’t!
We have the news that scientists have declared animals have consciousness. Those of us not distracted by the perverseness of religionists have always known this. You can talk to animals, who often respond with a greater sense of intelligence and love than many humans. You can talk to the trees as if they could hear… and they do, if you listen. Stop and listen as I do when walking Ashridge just above my home. Feel the gentle rush of a summer’s breeze upon your cheek and be glad for the eyes that can see and the awareness of scent of the mystery around you.
So, I come back to St John’s quotation, "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.” We were intended to journey; we are still journeying, gaining glimpses of the wider and deeper world of which we are a part but as yet have too little knowledge. That knowledge is available to the quester, the one who sees that Christianity is not about religion or theology but about a man. In that Christ refers to history, then an awareness of what once was is perhaps helpful and that Christ was born a Jew bears a relevance but so what? He decried allegiance to that which was established just because it was and welcomed new thoughts. Christianity is about Christ, his message and from whom he gained his insights, explained in the context of his time and his hearers’ intellect. He taught not by wrote but by leading the way along the path. A particular path but, as with Rome, all paths lead to God. The Christian path does not have to be a narrow defile, it can be as broad as the company travelling along it. This is the beauty of the Church of England, it is so quintessentially English: it was the English who self-examined and realised slavery was unacceptable; it was English women who created the suffragette movement; it was the English who railed against despotism and corruption. Remember the Reformation was as much to do with creating a fair and lawful society against the Roman Church’s corruption as any concern for stable governance upon Henry VIII’s death.
There is an excellent pamphlet Turning Points on 'The Historical Roots of a Liberal Church' by Martin Camroux in the “Free to Believe” library, listed in the web addresses in the right hand panel of this site. He asks, “What are the implications for Jesus’s words ‘May they all be one’ for church unity?” “Is Unity essential for Mission and if so, what kind?” To my way of thinking, diversity of opinion is a strength, for all paths must lead to God, ultimately. What is without equivocation is moral value. In another pamphlet in the same series, Donald Hilton in Where Reason Fails raises the question of religionist’s response to Darwin’s knowledge and religion’s determination to rebuff feminine opinions.
Only secular western society holds an olive branch to equality across the genders, those few religions accepting it likewise are too small in number to be meaningful. Unfortunately, the EU, as disastrous as always, denied the law’s application to religion, the very place where moral values are expected to be upheld and palpably are not. Now that the Church of England can step forward and look the world in the eye, it should pick up the moral ascendency it achieved with Elizabeth I and once more lead from the front, forcing Rome to follow. At least with the prime western version of Christianity upholding moral values we can perhaps persuade, through example, the way Islam must mend its ways, accepting God’s Creation as it actually is, not how they perceived it to be a few centuries back and still persist in trying to maintain those views today.
With a Church of England one can clearly support to the full, we can address more rationally and with an authoritative confidence the issues with which the world is faced. We are now faced with questioning the views of Sir James Munby, that the law had to take account of nonChristian values. The law of England is based on Christian precepts. Now the Church of England is itself addressing the moral values of general equality it is once more in the driving seat of moral accountability. The issue needs to be seen from established religious opinion. This is addressed in the Free to Believe range of pamphlets [I think it is one of Martin Camroux’s], regarding plurality of worship and approach.
Consideration for other interpretations is clearly valid the moment the Church of England chose to deviate from gender equality and lose the value of moral integrity. However, while the law is for parliament and no longer specifically a matter for moral values, that the Church of England has climbed back onto the driver’s seat, its opinion must be taken seriously and other religions need to pay due heed.
This applies to the pronouncement by John Larkin, attorney general for Northern Ireland. Two opposing churches are involved, entrenched in the history of the Reformation, yet both are Christian churches and both have to address their perception of the realities of the spirit world. In my limited experience of consultation with the spirit world, I have found spirits as deeply entrenched in their perceptions as when on earth what ever was their time frame. There is also the question of plurality of lives. To experience this directly requires deep regression, which I have never allowed but I have learned indirectly that I have experienced at least two past lives. This is something on which I simply keep an open mind and have not had the time to further explore.
The issue of forgiveness is complex. I have been astounded by the people who have been of news interest and who have freely and openly declared they forgive their transgressors. The concept that this should be instituted by the state, regardless of the persons involved I find astounding and question whether the moment was not engineered, out of fear for the present investigation, to be broadcast tonight, into potentially unlawful killings of civilians by agents of the Crown
Yet, we have to look at the entrenched naturally felt, as well as specifically whipped up, of Islamic traditions; seeing Islam in the culture in which the Church of England has been entrenched for too long, this damned absurd attitude towards (or against) women priests and bishops. As leader of the Reformation, the Church of England has at last got itself sorted out but Rome persists in lagging behind, just like the Islamists.
On a slightly side issue, we have the sorry story of the ex-chairman of the Co-op bank, who is gay, admitted an offence of gross indecency committed in June 1981 and was fined £75 with £35 costs by Fareham magistrates in Hampshire. But the Methodists forgave Flowers, now 63, whose solicitor claimed he had been tempted to commit the offence “at the other man’s instigation”. A Methodist Ministry spokesman said yesterday: “It was decided he could continue as a minister. It did not preclude him from his activities in the church. He was very contrite, and he continued his work.”
This is what a church is about. This is what forgiveness and compassion is about, not something to be imposed by an abstract definition of law. The fact that as a banker he appears to have been wholly incompetent as a banker does not defame the excellent example of a religious man dealing with the real world on its terms, however questionably his actual faith. Rome’s finances are reported to be completely corrupt, regardless of any competence at banking.
This, the Church of England superbly exemplifies with Justin Welby’s soundly proven business and Christian track record. Now, the Church of England can at last look the secular world in the eye and we can perhaps get going again. The sooner we have a woman bishop in the Lords and preferably two or three the better. What lies ahead of us all is mutual co-operation and an understanding of how we work more with one another, accepting our differences with a quiet dignity.
This applies not just to the reality of this physical plane but the where after of all of us, when individually we give up our bodies to the wear and tear of having lived our bodies out and moved on. That is the question religion must not duck with preoccupations with past prejudices: it must accept, as mostly it does now, the revelations of Darwin, by greeting openly the modern revelations of spirit contact and encourage that natural opening up of the mind and soul, simply and unfettered to the reality that Creation is... and telling us clearly about itself, if we will but stop and listen with an open mind to the collective whole.