>It is easy to believe we are ‘cursed’ – naturally, not supernaturally, I mean.

The media messages pick on our personal, social and institutional points of vulnerability. All these voices leave us with a deep sense of unease.

If we feel cursed ourselves the likelihood is that we will curse others.
However, if we know we are blessed the likelihood is that we will bless others. I know how much I curse others, and I know how much I bless others – and can draw my own conclusion that I haven’t been doing enough listening to the voices that call me blessed. I know I am not alone in finding it hard to accept blessing and to treasure the blessings people give.

Blessing comes from the Latin word “benediction” meaning “speaking well”. Jesus has a warning for us when too many speak well of us (Luke 6:26) that means we might have become too powerful, boastful and corruptible – but all of us need to be affirmed.

Nouwen points out that this is the way to “a sense of well-being and true belonging” and was moved by the blessing given to a 13 year old at his bar-mitzvah by his parents: “Son, whatever will happen to you in your life, whether you will have success or not, become important or not, will be healthy or not, always remember how much your mother and I love you.”

For Nouwen, prayer is about listening to that voice of blessing – to hear with the “ear of faith” the persistent voice of love saying “You are my beloved child – on you my favour rests.”

The blessings are there for us to receive.

“the blessings of the poor who stop us on the road, the blessings of the blossoming trees and fresh flowers that tell us about new life, the blessings of music, painting sculpture, and architecture – all of that – but most of all the blessings that come to us through words of gratitude, encouragement, affection and love. These many blessings do not have to be invented. They are there, surrounding us on all sides. But we have to be present to them and receive them. They don’t force themselves on us. They are gentle reminders of that beautiful, strong, but hidden voice of the one who calls us by name and speaks good things about us.”

>Lambeth Walk

>What is “holiness”?

Is it the ability to “grasp the intense suffering of the human condition without fear or flinching, and to be able to live with that knowledge and find within it hope and a great compassion”? Madeleine Bunting describes holiness in this way as she recalls the recent meeting between, what she describes (and I agree) two of the world’s holiest men.

Madeleine Bunting’s article in today’s Guardian is very much on the ball about Anglicanism, Lambeth and the Archbishop.

This is what the men share, and strikingly it is not in what they say that one senses it, but in their presence and how they relate to people: the warmth and humour, the lack of egotism to neither perform for listeners nor manipulate them, the humility and the capacity to pay attention. The holiness is not to be found in slick communication skills – both men are complex thinkers whose ideas are very hard to compress into soundbites – but you sense the holiness in the face-to-face encounter. A world that increasingly speaks to itself through media of mass communications increasingly cannot recognise this, the most inspiring of human experiences.

Williams may be one of the most holy men to lead the Church of England, but shame on us and our age for proving the old adage true: a prophet is never recognised in his own land.

Madeleine Bunting recognises that global communications are disrupting all religious traditions, traumatising identity and fuelling a literalist fundamentalism; the result is a gross simplifying of the complexity and paradox that is part of human experience.

The presenting issue is “gay clergy” and ++Rowan is told to get a grip. What is the point of that when people have adopte such extreme positions? He would only have to “get a grip” on the next issue and the next. The presenting issue is “gay clergy” (or to others “women bishops”) The real issue is how we deal with difference. That is the issue of our post-modern world. In Archbishop Rowan we perhaps have someone who is wise enough, holy enough and strong enough to lead us on that.


>So the Bishop of Rochester has declined Archbishop Rowan’s invitation to the Lambeth Conference and has decided to join the alternative conference oddly called Gafcon (sounds to me like a hot air company). To me it seems rather a strange gesture coming a week after widespread demands for the priest who conducted the “wedding” of two gay priests to be disciplined have been heard. Surely, if we are to be called to be obedient to the church’s teaching – one of the leading advocates of which is the Bishop oif Rochester – then the Bishop of Rochester should be seen not to be undermining the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Homosexuality is supposedly at the root of the divisions of the Church of England and the Gafcons are apparently united around that one issue – that it should not be tolerated. I think I see it rather differently. I see it as a power struggle – and how shocking that the followers of the one – “who emptied himself taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbbled himself and became obedient to the point of death” (Philippian 2) – should be involved in power struggles. The issue of homosexuality is their rallying call and the point of vulnerability – the chink in the armour – of those they oppose. The way I see it is as a struggle between the old command and control mentality referred to by Dee Hock, founder of Visa and the chaordic type of organisation emerging as part of our information age. Lambeth represents the self-organising – this time there’s no resolutions, just bishops coming together in the hope that by so doing they will be better bishops. The Gafcons will plot and scheme, pass resolutions, flex their muscle, spit fire, trying to “command and control” which is a temptation Jesus steadfastly refused to submit to – and so make a story for the world’s media. The message will not be “God so loved the world …” but “see how these Christians love (is this where a “sic” should go?) one another” – hardly a compelling message.
And those people who are gay get squeezed out. They are the real victims. They are victims of prejudice – cast out into the realms of darkness – the the alleys where, it just so happens, Jesus walked (or should I say “walks”).
I have to say that two of the people I love most dearly are gay. They are both in loving, stable long-term relationships which have enriched them and both relationships shed love and blessing to others. One of them is a civil partnership which rang with as much holiness as any wedding I have ever attended – even though it could not be contracted on “holy ground”. When I think about it, I could be deeply hurt and offended. The offence is to the head – the hurt is to the heart. What those who are gay make of it I shudder to think – I am very sorry to be in an institution that so offends them – but will work to promote a community where people matter and where rules and regulations are seen as “sheer hell”. Dee Hock again:”Heaven is purpose, principle and people. Purgatory is paper and procedure. Hell is rules and regulations.” Pray that Lambeth prepares for heaven, and that the Gafcons realise there’s no future in hell.
Friend Katherine sent me this article from Newsweek on the devil incarnate – Gene Robinson – a different perspective.