Speaking about Jesus

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One of the excitements in my new Church is that we do not simply talk about love and then treat people as though we are deeply suspicious of them. If they have come here, our job is a simple one – to help them explore why they are here. Many are students who have heard good things about us from other students – which is great, because as anyone knows, word of mouth recommendations are the best. My experienced colleagues tell me that the vast majority of them have no background in faith of any sort at all, and what little they know makes us suspect to them – so simply coming through the door on a Sunday is a huge step. When asked why they stayed, those who do usually say it is for the fellowship in the first place. They are made to feel welcome. It’s easy to forget how isolating a big city can be to newcomers (as one, I can only say I am happy to have a flat-mate who knows it well, and a church where I have already made many friends). I know that where I went to university, I’d have felt very lonely had it not been for my church community. The journey from that to being members of our church is as varied as the people who take it.

Asking one of our priests, she told me that after a while, they usually ask what’s actually going on in terms of the service, and that’s a way in, as we invite them along to of weekly study groups which provide various levels of teaching; it also, of course, provides another form of fellowship. She told me that most of those who stay say that they did so because there was ‘something about us they can’t define’. Having been here nearly a month, I can’t define it either, but I know what they mean. We’re open all day, and if you just want to come in and say a prayer, you can. My office is just off the vestry and had an endless supply of tea and coffee in the kitchen next door – so I find myself quite often just talking to ‘drop ins’. People clearly find us an accessible place – my paperwork gets done, but when I apologised to my priest recently for not getting something finished on time because I’d spent the afternoon talking to some students who had ‘popped in’, she said she was pretty sure which activity was more pleasing to Jesus. Oddly enough, after that, I spent part of my evening finishing the paperwork. It was a matter of priorities. I am one of those people who needs to finish the task in hand, even if something else is more important, so it was a good lesson about priorities. The accounts from last week would keep, the church would not be harmed by them being done a few hours later, but some young women wanting to talk about God and themselves would not wait – so why did I imagine they would? Because I was prioritising as the world does. My priest knew better – and now I do too.

The Church exists to spread the Good News, it does not exist to support the Church; the Church is a means to an end, and it is towards that end that those of us in it should be bent. That’s not the way the secular world of work operates, so it was good to have the lesson about what my priorities should be. I have even overcome the difficulty created by the fact that talking about Jesus for an hour and a half with a couple of people getting to know him was a pleasure:)

Evangelising?

Jesus and the woman

Living in a university city – one of the most secular in the UK – and being part of a city centre church, is offering me whole new insights and experiences. I was recently talking with a young woman who comes every Sunday with four of five friends. They are all students, and not one of them went to church at home. I had nothing to do with them being here, they came, as it happens, as a result of one of our missioners talking to a group at the University. As a result, the young woman plucked up the courage to step into our church one Sunday morning.

We got to talking – gossiping probably – and I asked what had kept her out? She said she had no background in Christianity, and she didn’t like what she knew about it. I asked what it was that had made her dislike it. Her answer was: “it has, or I thought it had, no place for someone like me, and I had been told it hated people like me”. As we were getting on well I asked what she meant (though I had a good idea). She said: “I’m gay.” I could see she was watching me, and I said that that was no bar to being a Christian. She said that was what she’d found when she came into our church. She was amazed to be told by one of our female priests that God loved her. That intrigued her, so she started to attend, then she started to take classes, and then she was baptised and confirmed. Then some of her friends came with her, and went through the same process. That’s how, two years on, there are five or six who come, who help, and who have encouraged others to come. I asked if she’s been surprised by anything else. She said only by the fact that no one had asked her whether she was a sexually active lesbian. I asked why she thought anyone of us should. She said it would be sinful to receive communion in that state. I said that she’d clearly been well catechised, so why did she think no one had asked that question. She said she was puzzled. I suggested it was because if she knew that was the case we would be assuming she would not receive communion. She said that had never occurred to her.

I don’t know whether that was right, but I asked one of our priests and she said that was exactly their reasoning. Who, she said, know which of the many who communicate here every week was in the right place to receive? We trusted them, so what was wrong with extending that trust to those who were more conscious perhaps than others of the possible occasion of sin? That bowled me over. What mattered, she explained, was that we sinners stuck together and tried to help each other be the best Christian we could be. She was not, she said, making windows into anyone’s soul to inquire precisely in what way they believed in the Incarnation and Resurrection – she assumed that a real and lively faith would mean that one believed in the Lord Jesus – and did one’s best to live by his precepts.

She asked if that surprised me? I said no, but it delighted me. She said she’d asked because so many of those who come through our door were surprised we were not judging them but were trusting them. She said she’d found trusting people and teaching them right, and journeying with them were the best ways of bringing the unchurched or the lapsed to the Lord. She said that if we teach people and then treat them like adults, that’s a better and healthier way than thinking that if we kept monitoring them as though they were children. In the end we all come before God, who alone knows the state of our heart. It is our job as the Church to teach and to love and thus to bring people towards a relationship with God. The temptation to think we are God, to have some sort of power over people is to be resisted. In the beginning, as in the end, it is the Grace of God who moves us – and our job is to help as and where love prompts. I am excited to be a small part of such a church. Utterly unworthy as I am, I can do the welcoming and loving thing. God welcomed me and loves me, so I can try to spread that to others. God alone has the window into our hearts.

The Fruits of the Spirit

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A few thoughts on Galatians 5:16-25 in the light of some of our recent discussions.

As in Romans 8:5-8, Paul warns us of the war we know in our own heart, where our fallen nature inclines us towards the bad, and the Grace of God which is in us strives to do what is good. If we follow the ‘devices and desires of our own hearts’ we shall fall away from repentance and thus from salvation: the fruits of this, as listed by Paul, are visible to us all. Friendship with the world is ‘enmity with God’. St. John warns us of the fruits of this disordered love of this world: ‘If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.’ Does this entail a separation from the world and a retreat into a ‘remnant’ church? Such was not the practice of the early Church. But how, if we are in the world, do we avoid being lured into accepting its ways and its standards? I am assuming here that is what St John was driving at when he spoke about friendship and enmity.

The only answer can be that with the Spirit of God in us can we hope to prevail against the forces of this world and win the imperishable crown; but is it not easy, and self-discipline is of the essence. The ‘pride of life’ and the sins to which it leads will separate us from the Father. Amongst those sins which sever us from attachment to God are not simply the obvious ones Paul names, but also the one which is the main object of his anger in Galatians: ‘You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace’. We can so easily forget this as we concentrate on the graphic list of more obvious sins. We cannot be saved by ‘the Law’, but rather by Him who fulfilled it and told us its summation was ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’.

We can see whether the Holy Spirit in us by the fruits it draws forth. Just as the vine cannot bear fruit by itself, neither can we unless we are in Christ. We have to die to our former selves, the old Adam has to be buried. But unless we abide in the Spirit, we cannot hope to prevail. In his great letter to the Romans, St. Paul cries out: O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?’ and provides the answer: ‘I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!’

When we attack each other, when we loudly proclaim that it is through this or that part of the Law of our Church which salvation comes, we need to recall these words from Galatians:  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.’ In love did He save us, and through that love we can live in the Grace of the Spirit.

A sense of sin?

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sin

One of the disappointing things about the Michael Voris confession was the reaction of some people – one on-line journal (to which I refuse to link) even taking it so far as to talk about an opponent of LGBTI people who was gay himself – as though there were some level of hypocrisy involved. I doubt it would have taken that view had it been about gambling or alcoholism – so why this particular sin? If you see the reaction of some gay people to this, you will get a better understanding. Just about all of us can see why alcoholism or a gambling addiction is bad for you – but even to seem to put sexual preference in the same bracket – especially for those who feel it is not a ‘preference’ but the way they are born – as something so obviously harmful as alcoholism – can seem offensive. You get something of this is the common counter-argument, which is “if I am doing this with another consenting adult whom I love and who loves me, and am harming no one, what is wrong with that?” To those outside Christianity, Judaism or Islam, the answer to that question is far from clear; and, of course, in some churches and mosques and synagogues there are those who would take the same view, with the Christians explaining away the prohibitions as either culturally conditioned, or as applying to cultic ceremonies. On this issue those who take that view are usually as closed to argument as those who take the traditional view – precisely because our society finds even talking about sin a problem. It is easy enough – and so common – to talk about things which damage your health or which cause harm to others, and to see – and say- why they are bad for people – most of our public health campaigns pivot around this widely shared assumption; but when it comes to our private lives, the modern consensus is that – reality TV stars apart – they are just that – private.

I may be wrong here (I often am) but it seems to me that there is a set of things here which either hang together or which fall apart. So, if one takes the view that sexual activity should be confined to marriage and is for the creation of new life (where possible), then it is easy enough to understand why adultery is wrong and divorce something to be avoided and, if it happens, something which is bound to cause problems if you want to marry again; it equally explains why abortion is wrong. All of those taken together provides a context in which to explain why homosexual activity is contrary to God’s will. So, for Roman Catholics, where the Church takes all of that seriously, at least rhetorically, there is at least a coherent – if unpopular position. But what happens when you play pick and mix?

When I was dating the man whom I married, I don’t recall anyone saying anything about fornication (and most of my friends thought my insistence on not doing it was just odd), neither do I ever remember a sermon mentioning the subject. When he committed adultery, the reaction of my close friends was to be sorry for me, but neither his friends nor our acquaintances thought there was anything too awful in it – yes, he had ‘cheated’ but there was an attitude of ‘it happens’ mixed with some scarcely veiled comments wondering what I had done to provoke him to ‘look elsewhere’. So, from my own experience, there seems to be a gap between what the church teaches and how even Christians react to it. The Anglican Church, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, takes a permissive line on things like contraception and divorcees remarrying, although from my own experience, most of my Roman Catholic friends act as though they were Anglicans.

It is very far from clear to me that the language we use and even the concept of sin is much understood by even many Christians, let alone the wider society. If we are not getting our message across we can blame everyone else and carry on talking to ourselves, or we can rethink how we communicate. Successful companies do the latter, unsuccessful ones blame their (former) customers. The whole language of what one might call theological anthropology seems to me to need to be updated to engage properly with gender studies and medical science in these areas. Are there Christian scholars doing this? It would be interesting to know. My own sense is that if there aren’t, and we don’t find ways of speaking to people that they can understand, and that if we insist they understand things in our way as we currently express them, then the chasm between theory and practice in areas of human sexuality will continue to grow.

St Mark

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Mark

St Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the four Gospels, and perhaps for that reason, and because much of the material it contains is in the other Gospels, was the subject of fewer Patristic studies; as those of you kind enough to read and comment on my selections from the Fathers may recall, last year, when the Gospel for the lectionary was that of St Mark, it was sometimes hard going to find enough to make a decent post. But in some ways the neglect of Mark is odd.

If, as the Church holds, Mark was the follower of Peter, who is mentioned by St Peter, and is identical with the John mark of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, and his account is based on Peter’s teaching, then the form of the Gospel makes perfect sense. The short and sharp nature of the stories, with the punch line, work very well as homilies; we may, here, have some of St Peter’s own preaching. We cannot be sure of Mark’s exact role, but we can see from the final form of his Gospel that he has crafted a set of wonderful examples of what the Good News is and why it matters. If we envisage the Gospel as circulating, like Paul’s letters, throughout the churches of the Mediterranean world, we are probably not far from realising its original intention and context. It would certainly explain why, despite not being a first-person account, and being so short, it got such an immediate hearing from Christians.

It is difficult to be certain of Mark’s identity, but there is a clue in his account of the passion. In mentioning Simon the Cyrenian, he mentions his sons, ‘Alexander and Rufinus’ in a way which assumes his hearer knew who they were. The ‘John Mark’ in Acts is a friend of Barnabas, who was a wealthy merchant from Cyprus, who would have been part of that great network of trading settlements across the Mediterranean region, and it seems likely that in the mention of Alexander and Rufinus, we have members of a trading family who Mark’s readers would have known; it is difficult to account for their being mentioned otherwise. It would also make sense of Mark’s association with Alexandria (where he is said to have founded the Egyptian Church), which had a huge Jewish population involved in trade.

If we posit a Mark who had worked with Peter and Paul, who is writing in the aftermath of their deaths and the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in A.D> 70, we get some sense of why he wrote and why his message is so urgent. His portrait of Jesus draws us directly into a relationship with him; we understand why he changed Mark’s life and Peter’s life, and so many lives; we want him to change our life too. History has been changed, and the challenge for us is clear – if we are changed, then nothing will be the same again. God attests to His Son, the demons protest, the world is utterly changed by Jesus – and we will be too.

Mark’s Gospel calls us to repentance and to the knowledge that the kingdom of God is at hand, and on this, his feast day, we acknowledge his message remains as urgent now as it was when Peter first heard the Lord deliver it.

As I have loved you?

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woman taken

The text from St John 13:34 which stands at the masthead of this blog, and has done so since I created it, is the hardest one for Christians to keep. We can keep to the commandments (with difficulty), we can keep to the Law and what it says (with difficulty), we can repent (and sin again, and repent again), and we can, with the help of God do all manner of wonderful things through faith. But by far the most difficult is to love one another as he loved us.

I have just noted, with huge sadness, that Grandpa Zeke, whose comments are always loving and caring, has decided that the tone of the comments here about Michael Voris mean he can no longer be with us. Perhaps, as is sometimes the case, those whose tone he has found so unhelpful will wonder at his sensitivity – if so, then perhaps they cannot love as Christ loved us? Those who so often need to preface the word love with the word ‘tough’, may also be a way off loving others as he loved us. If so, they can join the club – because this is, as I say, by far and away the hardest things for us to do.

Let us consider. Christ loved us and we, that is mankind, crucified him. Christ loved his disciples, and many of them left him when they could not take his ‘hard saying’ about eating his body and drinking his blood; the rest of them ran off at Gethsemane – except for the one who had already accepted money to betray him. Even when he rose, some of them were slow to believe. He loved them throughout, and he prayed for forgiveness for those who crucified him, and he promised the repentant thief that he would be in paradise with him that same day. It is no accident that in old age, when St John was asked for advice, he would say ‘little children, love one another’ – just as it is equally unsurprising that the Fathers who tell us this tell us that those who heard it went away disappointed. They wanted, perhaps, some great insight, some profound truth which would renew their lives. Or perhaps they wanted some strict rule that would aid them in their Christian lives, something by which they could govern those impulses which come to all of us and which we call the temptation to sin. If so, their disappointment is understandable. Here was the last of the Apostles, one who had leant on Christ’s breast at the Last Supper, and all he could tell them was to ‘love one another’.

Christ says it is by that love for one another we shall be known as his. This is the acid test of Christianity. If that is the supreme piece of evidence and we were on trial for being a Christian, how many of us would actually be convicted? To love those who betray us, who desert us, who do bad things to us, as well as those whom it is easy to love – can we do that?

For me that’s a particularly live question as, for reasons I’m not going into. I have had a lot of disruption in my life and have been betrayed by quite a number of people whom I trusted, for whom I have worked hard, and from whom I had every reason to expect kindness and help and yet who, when it came to it, offered none of these things. I know one of them has repented and said he is sorry to me, and I had no trouble forgiving him; but can I love him as I am commanded? Yes, I think I am getting there, but it isn’t easy – but then is it meant to be? What about the others? They have not said sorry to me, indeed they have ignored me, even if one of them has, thanks to the efforts of the lawyers, settled out of court for unfair dismissal. Do I forgive him? Yes, I have done so in my heart; can I love him – I don’t know. I have no bitterness or bad feelings, but as yet, love is hard; but I pray and I am getting there. So, when I say it is the hardest thing, perhaps I am alone in finding it so?

Jesus loved us though we were sinners, and he died for us sinners. Some of us might screw up the courage to die to save someone else were we unfortunate enough to be in that position (though I pray never to be tested), but could we die for ‘a sinner’? Jesus did that. He did it for me and he did it for you. I can, and do love him for that, and I love my fellow Christians – but those who have hurt me deeply and who have not said anything like ‘sorry’ – I’m working on it. Forgiveness, which I have I think reached, is not enough if I am to obey Christ – I have to love them. But then I think, I am a sinner being redeemed, so as part of that, can I not find it in my heart to do more than forgive? Can I? I pray for that. It’s a work in progress, so, before anyone thinks I am preaching at them, I’m not, I’m writing a memo to myself.

Gospel 5th Sunday of Easter Year C

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John 13:31-35

The title message of this blog comes from this extract, and the Fathers have plenty to say on the theme.

This, Augustine says, is how it will be when the tares are separated from the wheat – ‘the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father’ (Matthew13:43). Foreseeing this, when Judas went out, Our Lord, left alone with the pure wheat, the Apostles, said he was glorified, as he will be on the last day when the wheat and tares will be separated forever.. In being so glorified, God, with whom he is one, is glorified also, for he came not to do his will but that of the Father. It is the Word of the Father, who is in the son of man, who is glorified – the Father is glorified because the Father and the Son are of one substance.

The passage speaks not only of the immediate glorification on the Cross which was to come, but also, Hilary of Poitiers tells us tells, to the future glory when our nature shall be transformed after the last judgment.

The reference by the Lord to his impending death elicits from his disciples an ever greater awareness of how much they love him. They seek him out in the sense that they seek the Word of God and the power that is in him, but he knows they cannot face what he is going to face soon (Chysostom, Origen and Theodoret). So Jesus gives them a new commandment which is very old – that we should love one another because we are all children of the one God. This loves goes further (St Cyril) than anything perviously commanded because it is not owed. In order to show we are His, we are called to love others more than we love ourselves. St John Chrysostom says that this kind of love is a greater sign to the world of what God is all about than any miracle or any preaching. As we show this love, the artistry of God who paints his portrait on all of us, shines through (Gregory of Nyssa).

A brand plucked from the burning

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Sin

Michael Voris’ video confession has elicited mixed reactions. Some have admired it, some questioned whether his apostolate could continue. Fearful that the diocese of New York was collecting information about his past, Michael Voris decided to go public with the nature of his sins. I think his initial comment that he saw no need to make a public confession of the details was actually correct; why should a repentant sinner have to specify them in public? In this instance it seems it was the fear he would be ‘outed’. I do hope no one was doing that in any official capacity, because if they were their sin is a very great one, and I suspect they will not have the courage to make as public a confession. Michael Voris is the Prodigal Son, and a proof that though your sins are scarlet, God can make them white as snow. Although his style is not to my taste, I admire his zeal, and I do hope that this episode will help him. I think anyone who wants to bash him over this really just needs to stop and ask themselves what it is they hope thereby to achieve? They might consider Mr Voris’ repentance and go imitate it.

We are all sinners, and what matter, indeed all that matters, is that we come to a realisation of it, that we seek forgiveness from God in sincere repentance. Beyond that point our job as fellow Christians is to rejoice, to give thanks to the witness to the power of God’s saving Grace, and to pray that we, too, shall have the Grace to continue to repent of our sins. God’s power is limited by nothing – except our ability to accept that we are forgiven our sins if we repent. How can that be, we ask? We ask especially if we are inclined to that same sin after repentance. But who are we to question God’s mercy?

It would be a terrible thing if someone in the New York diocese had been doing what is rumoured, and I would pray for the soul of anyone doing it, because they are putting it into mortal peril. I thank God we do not all have to do as Michael Voris has had to do. How hard would it be is, as sinners, we had to be on the alert constantly because someone who knew our sin was threatening to reveal it – blackmail is an ugly word for an ugly thing – and that is what Mr Voris feared he was being threatened with. Imagine had St Peter, St Paul, St Augustine or dozens of others had those around them threatening to reveal the details of their past sins. Well, St Peter was big enough not to mind that the Gospels bore eloquent witness to his sins – as they also bore witness to his forgiveness and the power of the saving Grace of Christ; the same was true of St Paul; and St Augustine’s sins would be remembered by none had he not put them down in his Confessions. In these, as in so many other cases, what mattered was that the sinner had come to repentance and tried to do better. It is not recorded that any of them did nothing more that was sinful in their lives, or that they lived Christ-like lives in being without sin. Were it so, what encouragement would that be for us poor sinners? My sins are confessed to my confessor, but I am surely glad I do not have make them public, and I can’t imagine the courage it took to do what Mr Voris did.

So, kudos to Mr Voris, and I hope this further empowers his apostolate. I was never quite sure how I felt about him before, as he can come across in ways which put me off – but I now know how I feel. I love him as a fellow brand plucked from the burning – and I pray for him and for all of us.

The Good life?

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lighting the candle

We try to stay away from politics here, mainly because as far as I am concerned, it appears to be a lost cause. The public cynicism about our political class, in the USA or in the UK or Europe, is immense, growing – and well-deserved. Politics is perceived to be about politicians – spin and vested interests; the idea of the public good is debased into the belief peddled by politicians that it is best served by their being on office – whoever you vote for, the government gets in. Disillusion with the long period of Conservative rule ended it in 1997, with Mr Blair promising hope and a better Britain; disillusion with President Bush on 2008 ended with the election of a new President promising hope and a brighter America; who do you go to when those promising so much deliver so little? In the UK we settled first for a coalition and then a Conservative Government which is neither loved nor admired, but is grudgingly assumed to be better than the alternative; the USA may well end up settling for its first woman President on much the same principle – or lack thereof. So, here, the disillusioned who can still be persuaded to have one last illusion imagine Mr Corbyn might ‘do something’, on the not entirely fatuous ground that he is at least a bit different; so different that in a long parliamentary career he has achieved nothing. In the US, the ‘feel the Bern’ movement is much the same phenomenon with a similar object. In fact, I suspect, these are cries of despair – but that feels better, for many, than silent despair.

Politics has become about spin, about winning elections, about economic policies designed to ‘help hard working families’ which, mysteriously, help the very rich even more. A politics of materialism and consumerism lacks any vision of what the ‘good life’ might be; it lacks a vision of what politics is for – at least for those of us who are not professional politicians. Where is a better vision – or at least some vision – going to come from? The faith groups in our society are the only organisations with any vision of what a good life might be. Secularists who imagined that the virtues preached by Christianity could be had in a moral society without being underpinned by Christ’s message, have had a good run for their money; but I see nothing which suggests they were correct. As what Benedict XVI called the ‘dictatorship of relativism’ grips us, our society appears less and less to have any common moral code – indeed it appears to have dwindled to nothing more than don’t harm others (unless they are babies in the womb) and enjoy yourself if you can whilst you can. It is not from such thin stuff that any form of good life could be constructed. There is, here, neither moral vision nor uplift, nor any sense of what life could be – beyond a consumerist one.

Perhaps when Christians have quite finished their own internal arguments, there may still be some way they can contribute to a debate on the good society – assuming that there is still a democratic politics to influence by that time?

 

The Queen and the Church

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Today is, as all of us in the UK are aware, the 90th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen, and apart from the professional miserablists in places like the Guardian (which, predictably, ran a story criticising the Queen – those who want such nonsense can find the link themselves) and parts of the (never did a day’s) Workers’ Revolutionary Party, it is one in which her subjects join in not only wishing her a happy birthday, but also in celebrating a life of service to the Kingdom of which she is the head. She was not born to be Queen, and had her uncle David (Edward VIII) not shown a deplorable lack of a sense of duty, she would probably have married a member of the aristocracy and lived the life of an English country lady, which would probably have suited her own tastes and interests better – and would certainly not have seen her still working at the age of 90. But fate, or for those of us who believe in Providence, God, decreed otherwise. The country got a King whose devotion to duty during the Second World War cemented the monarchy in the country’s affections, and then a beautiful young Queen who has now sat on the throne for longer than any other monarch in our history.

She promised that her life, however short or long, would be one of service to the Nation, and she has been faithful to that vow. That vow was one made before God, and Her Majesty is not simply Head of the Church of England, she is a practising and devout Anglican who, in carrying out her duties, does so because they are a charge from God. She cannot stand away from them just because she is old and gets tired – she made a solemn promise to God at her coronation, and she will keep it until the end. She is a shining example of Christian commitment. Her role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England is an important guarantee that the Church has a role in the public square, and the way in which she, and the Church, carry out that role has ensured that other churches – and faiths – get a voice in that square. The Church of England has been a benign hegemon – it has not (at least for many centuries now) sought to suppress other Christian churches, or to push to the margins non-Christian faiths. There will, no doubt (there always are) be those who say that as a Christian country, ‘we’ (whoever we are) should insist on Christianity dominating the public sphere, but in so far as any faith can do that nowadays in the UK, that is already the case, and the Queen, like the Church of England, is conscious of a woder role to represent all faiths against an increasingly aggressive secularism. As she, herself said in a speech during her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012 (and it is said she wrote this herself):

‘The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated. Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country. It certainly provides an identity and spiritual dimension for its own many adherents. But also, gently and assuredly, the Church of England has created an environment for other faith communities and indeed people of no faith to live freely. Woven into the fabric of this country the Church has helped to build a better society – more and more active co-operation for the common good with those of other faiths.’

That the Church of England has done that, is a tribute to it and to the Queen herself. Long Live the Queen – God save the Queen!

 

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