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Stranger in the Wings – R. Holloway

November 3, 2015

SITWThe book is dedicated to fellow Affirming Catholicism member Fr. David Hutt and was written before Holloway changed his views about belief and their object. He believed that Anglo-Catholicism would die out within a generation and his prediction is, sadly in my opinion, coming true because of its ghetto mentality. Its Protestantism is one of its contradictions. The psalm talks about ‘being set in a large room’ and Holloway wants the wideness of the Anglican Communion because it challenges us out of narrow beliefs. He also talks about the cost of prophetic speaking truth to power as witnessed in the life of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Quotations:

The intriguing thing about all this is that it is the New Testament itself that is most subversive of the image of God that has stood at the back of much Western theology. If we look briefly at three great texts from the New Testament, we discover that the God made known in Christ, what John Taylor would call the ‘Christ-like God’, is completely different to the official definitions of God that have prevailed for centuries. According to Philippians chapter 2, the God made known in Christ is not a con­trolling authoritarian reality, but a self-emptying being whose generosity leads it to assume the form of the slave, not the form of the ruler. Further, in Mark’s Gospel chap­ter 10, in the famous Zebedee encounter, Jesus goes out of his way to say quite explicitly to his apostles that the way the world orders things, in hierarchies, power structures, and models of control, is precisely not the nature of God. He advises the apostles not to let these seductive worldly models invade the way they order their lives: ‘It shall not be so among you’, he tells them. Littleness, not greatness, is to be the Christian paradigm; service, not authority and control. We see the character of such a God disclosed in Matthew chapter 5 in the beatitudes, the great reversals, where everything desirable or sought after and fought over in worldly experience is reversed and called blessed: poverty, grief, meekness, justice, mercy, persecutions and revilings are the estates blessed by God.

We constantly fall into the same trap, the trap that the children of Israel fell into in the wilderness. They were not content with the elusive reality of the invisible, intangible God Moses revealed to them, so they ordered Aaron to make them a God they could really get their mind round, could really get in touch with, a portable god, an idol. This idolatrizing dynamic is still powerfully active in the human imagination. Idolatry, not atheism, is the biggest enemy of the true God. Idolatry is to make something that is relative and contingent into something absolute and undiscardable, so that it becomes as God for us. Anything can be an idol—an aesthetic tradition, includ­ing a particular prayer book, a text of Scripture, a liturgical practice, an architectural arrangement, a fixed method of relating the genders to each other, all of these and many other things can be made into fixed immutable realities—idols. Anything can become an idol. The interesting thing to note about an idol is that it is usually something that has at some time genuinely mediated something of the divine. It becomes an idol when we cling to it long past its ‘sell by’ date. The thing that once conveyed something of the divine to us becomes a substitute for the divine, some­thing we would rather have than God, because it has become important to us for its own sake, not because it was a vehicle that once conveyed significance to us. However, only God is God; everything else is relative. If it is God we seek, and not an idol to command and comfort us, then we must constantly be abandoning places and sys­tems through which God once spoke in order to keep up with God, who will not be trapped or entombed in any system or category.

God comes to us from our future, but we are tempted to dwell on where God has been in our past. The Israelites did it in the wilderness: they looked back with nostalgia to the days of their captivity in Egypt. We find the same note of elegy and regret in the resurrection narratives. ‘Why look for the living among the dead?’ we read in Luke. ‘He is not back there, He is risen’, Matthew reminds us. Think, too, of the mood of plangent regret in the conversation of the two who trudged to Emmaus: ‘We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel’ (Luke 24.21).

We find the same mood in the post-resurrection com­munity, when they were coming to terms with the meaning of the resurrection. One strong impulse in the young community was to turn the memory of Jesus into a cult, to develop a kind of Elvis theology, that would freeze the memory of Jesus and sanctify everything associated with him. There is even a hint that the more conservative of our Lord’s followers, particularly his brother James, wanted to confine the cult to Jerusalem. Jesus would live there in their memories. This is where he had been crucified. It was good for them to stay there, caught up forever in those glorious memories, but the Holy Spirit was not having that and provoked the first of many disputes in the Christian community. The fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles is a delicately edited account of that dispute. It guaranteed the universal mission of the Church and the opening of the faith to the gentiles, though compromises were made with the conservatives in Jerusalem, to whom concessions were offered in the form of submission to a moderated observance of the Jewish ritual code, excluding circumcision but including some of the dietary laws.

According to the classic definition of God, God is impassible. God, according to the Thirty-Nine Articles, has neither body, parts nor passion. God is impassible. Impassibility, from which comes the more useful word impassive, suggests remoteness, detachment and distance—categories that exactly express the character of the ruler in authoritarian societies and absolute monarchies. We are back where we started, asking which came first? Surely, though, there can be little doubt now that our theories of God reflect cultural conditions, so it is theologically fatal to fix our description of God for all time, because human categories shift and lose their usefulness as indicators of the divine reality. So committed was the Church to the notion that God could not suffer, the impassibility of God, that Patripassianism, the conviction that God could suffer, was categorized as a heresy in the early Church. God the Son suffered in the flesh of Jesus Christ, but God the Father was impassible and could not suffer. It has been an unsympathetic doctrine to many down the ages. Abelard among others can be interpreted as opposing it in the Middle Ages, but it is in our own day that it has been overthrown as an adequate way of expressing our experience of the nature of God

For centuries we have begun our prayers almost unthinkingly with the phrase ‘Almighty God’. It is a phrase that gathers up our memories of apparently settled and ordered days, when God was in heaven and all was well with the world. Even so, the term ‘almighty° is itself problematic. It clearly does not and cannot mean that God can do anything. Can God make two plus two equal seven, for instance? No, we would say. It means that God is true to God’s own nature. Nevertheless, the word ‘almighty’ has to be identified as a military metaphor, as a probable translation of Yahweh Sabaoth, the Lord God of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel. I suspect that for most of us this way of speaking about God is unsympa­thetic and does not reflect contemporary sensibilities. Neither, I believe, does it reflect the self-emptying nature of God that we have already reflected upon in those sub­versive passages at the heart of the New Testament. Today we prefer categories that suggest the mercifulness and vul­nerability of God. Speaking personally, I prefer the ver­sion of the Sanctus that goes, ‘Holy, holy, holy, vulnerable God’, to the military snap to attention of the contempo­rary Sanctus in modern liturgies, ‘Holy, holy, holy, God of power and might’.

Churchill on the Home Front, 1900-55 (Pimlico 1993). His book is full of examples of Churchill’s ability to look back as he moved forward. It is not generally known, for instance, that, as early as 1911, he put forward a plan for a radical devolution of powers throughout Britain. He pro­posed that the United Kingdom should be divided into ten areas, having regard to geographical, racial and histori­cal considerations. If Churchill’s plan had been adopted, it would have turned the United Kingdom into a federal state with some resemblance to the United States, Canada or Australia. Addison points out that it was too imagina­tive and enlightened a plan to match the political realities. Churchill was equally daring and imaginative in his attitude towards Europe. In another fascinating historical study, Never Again: Britain 1945-51, Peter Hennessy describes a great rally at the Albert Hall in 1947 to launch the move­ment for a united Europe. In a characteristic speech, Churchill said this: We shall only save ourselves . . . by rejoicing together in that glorious treasure of literature, of remembrance, of ethics, of thought and toleration belonging to all, which is the true inheritance of Europe . . . It is said with truth that this involves some sacrifice or merger of national sovereignty. But it is also possible and not less agreeable to regard it as a gradual assumption by all the nations concerned of that larger sovereignty that can also protect the diverse and distinct customs and char­acteristics and the national traditions, all of which under totalitarian systems . . . would certainly be blotted out for ever.

Visionary politicians capture the imagination of their people because they see the future and lay hold of it,

We have already seen that another metaphor for God, associated with the patriarchal one, is to describe God as ‘almighty’. For centuries we have begun our prayers almost unthinkingly with the phrase ‘Almighty God’. It is a phrase that gathers up our memories of apparently settled and ordered days, when God was in heaven and all was well with the world. Even so, the term ‘almighty° is itself problematic. It clearly does not and cannot mean that God can do anything. Can God make two plus two equal seven, for instance? No, we would say. It means that God is true to God’s own nature. Nevertheless, the word ‘almighty’ has to be identified as a military metaphor, as a probable translation of Yahweh Sabaoth, the Lord God of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel. I suspect that for most of us this way of speaking about God is unsympa­thetic and does not reflect contemporary sensibilities. Neither, I believe, does it reflect the self-emptying nature of God that we have already reflected upon in those sub­versive passages at the heart of the New Testament. Today we prefer categories that suggest the mercifulness and vul­nerability of God. Speaking personally, I prefer the ver­sion of the Sanctus that goes, ‘Holy, holy, holy, vulnerable God’, to the military snap to attention of the contempo­rary Sanctus in modern liturgies, ‘Holy, holy, holy, God of power and might’.

The challenge in using appropriate language for God is to find categories that will express our own experience of the divine nature, but which, at the same time, seek to protect the Godness of God, the otherness of God.

It is notoriously difficult to enter our Lord’s consciousness through the stories in Scripture. I used to interpret this unattractive encounter in a way that put Jesus in a more flattering light than a bare reading of the narrative allows. Without hearing his tone of voice, it is difficult to capture the mind of our Lord. On the face of it, Jesus, intent only on a ministry to the children of Israel, is challenged by a pagan woman, a gentile, to heal her daughter and he ignores her plea. His silence does not tell us much. Was it a contemptuous, a racist silence? Was it the silence of uncertainty or was our Lord playing a game with her? That is what I used to think. This narrative, I thought, was evi­dence of our Lord’s gift for irony. Calling her a dog and refusing her the bread that belonged to the children of Israel was a joke that she caught and threw back at him. Now I am not so sure. I think this woman changed our Lord’s mind about something fundamental, was the means whereby he made a new discovery.

There are three elements in the story. The first is the woman’s need, through which God speaks a new word to Jesus. The second element is the resistance the new idea provokes. The apostles tell Jesus to send her away because she is shouting after them. Their ideas about God’s way with the world were complete, closed and impenetrable; they already knew God’s will, nothing new was needed, nothing fresh could enter. The third element in the event is our Lord himself. Formed as he was by the traditions of his people and deep in his reverence for them, he is also radically committed to the will of God as a present reality, so he is able to hear God say a new thing through this woman from the margins, this woman on the periphery of his consciousness. He hears her and responds to her request and a new thing happens. The first step in the uni­versalizing of the gospel is taken. The Church universal is here today because a new thing was heard and responded to then.

We find a related event in our second piece of Scrip­ture, from the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 10, verses 9-16,

God comes to us from our future, but we are tempted to dwell on where God has been in our past. The Israelites did it in the wilderness: they looked back with nostalgia to the days of their captivity in Egypt. We find the same note of elegy and regret in the resurrection narratives. ‘Why look for the living among the dead?’ we read in Luke. ‘He is not back there, He is risen’, Matthew reminds us. Think, too, of the mood of plangent regret in the conversation of the two who trudged to Emmaus: ‘We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel’ (Luke 24.21).

We find the same mood in the post-resurrection com­munity, when they were coming to terms with the meaning of the resurrection. One strong impulse in the young community was to turn the memory of Jesus into a cult, to develop a kind of Elvis theology, that would freeze the memory of Jesus and sanctify everything associated with him. There is even a hint that the more conservative of our Lord’s followers, particularly his brother James, wanted to confine the cult to Jerusalem. Jesus would live there in their memories. This is where he had been crucified. It was good for them to stay there, caught up forever in those glorious memories, but the Holy Spirit was not having that and provoked the first of many disputes in the Christian community. The fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles is a delicately edited account of that dispute. It guaranteed the universal mission of the Church and the opening of the faith to the gentiles, though compromises were made with the conservatives in Jerusalem, to whom concessions were offered in the form of submission to a moderated observance of the Jewish ritual code, excluding circumcision but including some of the dietary laws.

One of the things that Archbishop Oscar Romero dis­covered in El Salvador was that he had no gospel for the poor, but that they had a gospel for him. He struggled to find a message for the poor, when all the time God was trying to say something to him through them. Finally, they evangelized him. He heard God speak through them, he responded and gave his life for the gospel. There are other examples of the same paradoxical evangelism.

fundamentalism was probably more to do with theological insecurity than anything else, but it was gradually eroded by two factors. George Bernard Shaw once said that every profession is a conspiracy against the laity. When I was ordained I began to realize that, almost inevitably, a pro­fessional ministerial caste is bound to develop protectionist structures and theologies to support them. The effect of this has been to demarcate the Church and, as official Roman Catholic Canon Law still does, identify it essen­tially with the clerical caste, which is the part of the Church that guarantees the validity and soundness of the rest.

A part of me has always acknowledged the need for structure and organization for reasons of human efficiency, decency, and order. Another part of me responded excitedly to the drama and solemnity of high theories of order; but the deepest part of me found it hard to believe that this was the way God had precisely ordered things. It seemed unlike the God made known in Christ, whose main pas­sion seemed to be to remove unnecessary burdens from the shoulders of God’s little ones. I was, in fact, experien­cing the potent and fruitful tension between what Paul Tillich called ‘the Catholic substance and the Protestant principle’. I knew myself to be increasingly Catholic, but a Reformed or Protestant Catholic: Catholic in my love for the beauty of the tradition, its use of sight, sound, colour, its celebration of the senses, of history, and of human cul­ture; Protestant in my awareness that any or all of this could become a substitute for God instead of the means whereby spiritual realities are conveyed to us. It is the problem of idolatry all over again. The temptation is always to turn the means into an end, to make the provisional into the ultimate, the relative into the absolute, but only God is God—everything else is provisional, in the wonderfully hallowed mechanisms that but evolved to explain and convey something of 1 mystery to one another.

though Article twenty-eight explicitly rejects transub­stantiation. Bishop Guest, who drew up the paragraph in Article twenty-eight that denounces transubstantiation, expressly stated that it was drawn up not to ‘exclude the presence of Christ’s body from the Sacrament, but only the grossness and sensibleness in the receiving thereof.

Richard Hooker, the main creator of Anglican theological method, was not rigid regarding theories of succession. In Book III of his Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (ed. W. S. Hill, Harvard University Press 1977), he refuted the Puritan contention that, ‘in Scripture there must be of necessitie contained a forme of Church politie the lawes whereof may in no wise be altered’. This is why Anglicans ought to have little diffi­culty with the ordination of women. It is a matter that comes firmly within that area of the Church’s organization where both variety and change are permitted. It was Hooker’s contention that forms of polity were matters of discipline, not of faith, and that considerable local differ. ences could be allowed. Even so, in Hooker, as in Anglican thought generally, there is enormous reverence for the enduring fact of traditional ministerial order…. the tension between essentialist and functional­ist arguments. This sees ordination as the entry into a new relationship with the Church. We join ourselves to an order at ordination, just as we enter a new and ordered relationship when we marry. There may not be the impart­ing of an indelible substance, but a profound change in relationship is effected and we are no longer what we were before.

These models of ordination have one thing in common: they emphasize the disciplined side of ministry. They affirm the wisdom of the tradition that has guarded ordination against individualism and theological privatiza­tion. People cannot take the ministry on themselves, nor can they simply ordain the ministers they want. There is an ‘otherness’ about the ministry, an apartness, that is also clearly within the Church. This safeguards the people of God against the dangers of appointing spiritual mascots or private chaplains.

It is liberating to belong to a body of faith that recognizes the complexity of truth-seeking and does not insist that everyone should march in step to the same tune.

Anglicans love freedom and space. As the Coverdale Psalter reminds us, ‘Thou has set our feet in a large room’. Anglicans believe that this allows the many-sidedness of truth to be expressed. We have already acknowledged that this freedom, this spaciousness, brings with it an acute sense of discomfort, because no position, no point of view, goes unchallenged for long. This makes us slow to judge because we believe that people should not rush to judge­ment and because we find it difficult to get our act together sufficiently to make judgements that stick. However, we do not endure this discomfort simply out of weakness, but because we have accepted as fundamental the necessity and purifying value of conflict as an inescapable part of the theological and spiritual enterprise. To the outsider this can appear baffling; it can look as though anything goes, that we can believe what we like. That, of course, is far from being the case; we have our common convictions. Nevertheless, we have always preferred to express our beliefs in worship and in liturgy rather than in iron-clad, bolted and padlocked confessional statements and credal formularies. As we worship, so we believe. We are only together on our knees.

Christian paradoxes are based, not upon theory, but upon observation, and the doctrine of original sin is the most empirical of the Christian doctrines, if we can forget the Augustinian glosses and the mythic embroidery of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. A clinical observation of human nature soon informs us that there is a bias or tendency in human nature that distorts and vitiates all our relation­ships and institutions. Original sin is the theological equivalent of Murphy’s Law, which is that if a thing can go wrong it will. In human experience, things invariably go wrong. Even the most loving relationships have their moments of strife, anger and pettiness. Magnified on the collective scale, this tendency accounts for the violence and strife of our history. However we account for it, there is something in us that is resistant to the self-effacement and unselfishness that living in community calls for…. I am the centre of my universe in a quite inescapable way. I cannot get out of my own skin. I cannot, except imaginatively, get into anyone else’s. I see things from behind my own eyes. This physi­cal fact brings with it psychic and spiritual correlatives, so that I become the centre and the maker of value, the judge and tester of what is right and what is wrong. Equally, everyone else in the universe is doing the same; you are the centre of your own universe. I am a walk-on part in your little soap opera, whereas I am the star in my own. Many complicated results flow from this originating self-centredness, but human conflict is the most intractable consequence. The New Testament paradigm for original sin is the crucifixion. The crucifixion of the just man is a parable of the terrible consequences of this mysterious flaw in our nature.

A Jewish theologian pointed out that when God made the animals and inanimate nature he said they were good, but when he made humanity he did not say it was good. This was because humanity was not complete, it was in process, it was still being created, it was on the way. This is why human history is punctuated with surprises, as well as sor­rows, with new and exciting developments, as well as with ancient miseries.

have already alluded. Was Christianity a sect within Judaism, built round a particular cult of Jesus of Nazareth, or was it a universal message that was to be taken to the ends of the earth? The debate, like all Church disputes, had its conser­vatives, its compromisers and its radicals. James, the Lord’s brother, was the conservative. Paul, the upstart, was the radical. Peter was the compromiser, the very model of an Anglican bishop caught uncomfortably in the cross­fire. In chapter 10 of Acts, two stories are going on at the same time, expertly woven together. The precipitating fac­tors are the spiritual yearning of Cornelius and Peter’s anxiety about the great dispute that is tearing the young Church apart.

In the previous story we saw God using an outsider to speak a new word to our Lord. The same tactic is used here: God speaks to Peter through a dream. Today we would probably say that Peter’s unconscious doubts were clam­ouring for attention and forced themselves into his mind in the dream. God speaks a new word to Peter in the dream, but he resists it. His theological system is complete and impenetrable; nothing new can enter it. We must notice a particular irony here. We know that the voice Peter hears is the voice of God telling him to kill and eat these unclean creatures, but Peter quotes God back at God. He reminds God that he is the author of the very code he is inviting Peter to abrogate. We could meditate long on this mysterious ambiguity, but it does seem to suggest not that God changes his mind, but that things that were once appropriate to our spiritual development may one day no longer be appropriate and we must learn to abandon them. Though Peter resisted, part of him was open to God and was genuinely struggling with the issues that confronted him. Finally he listened to the word, and in his subse­quent encounter with Cornelius he acts upon the new insight and Cornelius and his household are baptized. It does not end there, of course. We know that Peter, having made the decision intellectually, had a bit of emotional

catching up to do. He continued to slither round the issue for a number of years, much to the disgust of Paul, who had the radical’s contempt for the sloppy anxieties of the liberal intellect.

In both of these passages we watch the struggle with a new idea; they show us something of the dynamics of revelation. There is the insider for whom everything is sewn up and there is the outsider on the margin, looking in, calling for entry. Note that God speaks to the insider through the agency of the person on the edge, on the mar­gins. The first reaction is resistance to the notion that we should listen at all to these strident people on the edge of things: ‘Send them away, they come shouting after us’, is our first, uncomfortable reaction. If there is any openness at all to the work of the Spirit, however, any chink in our armour through which God’s disturbing word can pene­trate, then a new word is heard, a change is made and we move on to the next uncomfortable challenge. This is the pattern of holy Scripture, but it is also the pattern of the ‘scripture’ of our own lives. We must learn to read the ‘scripture’ of our own lives, using the written Scripture as the key of interpretation.

In my own experience, I have found that this three-fold pattern of challenge, resistance and acceptance has defined many of the moments in my own moral, spiritual and theological development. interest in inclusive language in both the Church society. It seemed to me that the old system worked well, people knew where they were with it, and exclusive language, gender-specific usage, was a convenient way in which to handle complicated issues.

The situation that I have described, whereby the power­ful accrue more and more power to themselves and pay less and less attention to the powerless, has led to two major responses from those who try to follow God’s way, rather than the way of the world. The first response is prophecy. The prophet is the great accuser of the world, who points to its manifest injustices. Prophecy expresses God’s anguish at the way the powerful abuse the power­less. Perhaps the archetypal act of prophecy in the Old Testament is the story of Nathan and King David. King David, the charming, charismatic darling of Israel, stole Bath-sheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, for himself. To hide his own shame, he had Uriah put in the front line of battle so that he might be slain. Nathan goes to David and tells him a story of the cruel depredations of a rich man upon a poor man. The story ignites David’s wrath and he demands to know the name of such a monster. ‘Thou art the man’, says Nathan.

This is one of the inalienable duties of the Church. It is never a comfortable one and, in some societies, it can even be dangerous, as we have seen in South Africa and Central America, but it is the duty of the Church to become, in Desmond Tutu’s words, the voice of the voiceless poor and the voice of the voiceless God. Prophecy, by definition, is rarely moderate in tone. In older to attract attention, it shocks. It is a kind of spiritual terrorism, designed to make people hear the voices of those they never meet, see people they never encounter, endlessly calling society to repentance and renewal.

It could be argued that prophecy is the sole task of the Church, that it should call the world to bring inside those on the outside and to bind the wounds of those it has cruelly injured. As a matter of record, the Church has never confined itself to prophecy; it has also sought to provide for those whom society has neglected. If prophecy is the first and most important response of the Church, then provision is the second and almost equally important response. Indeed, we could argue that the Church’s provi­sion of help for the helpless is itself prophetic. History, anyway, teaches us that the Church responded to God’s identification with the poor by building hospitals, schools and homes for them, by what were known as works of mercy. Indeed, the Church down the centuries has always been closely identified with the practical provision of help for those society has thrust to the margins.

Some of the most effective and magnificent carers in history have been people like this. They burn with an intense white flame and consume themselves in the process. The problems presented by white-hot carers to the managers of the insti­tutions in which they operate are complicated, but I will note only two aspects in passing: their tendency to make a !universal standard out of their own psychological intensity (everyone has to do it like them); and, second, what is to be done with them in their middle age when they are, in “fact, totally burned out? Middle-aged emotional veterans fare a problem for any organization that is not able to pen­sion them off handsomely, but it is not one I want to spend any time on, though it is a crucially important I topic. These are the unmanageable carers, either through holiness or pathology. They streak like meteors and are gone, leaving the rest of us to handle the impossible expec­tations they have aroused

the military permitted these episodes of openness in order to get a better idea of the state of the organizations it perceived as being dangerously opposed to its own control. When the close-up came, the people who had taken advantage of the new space were quickly rounded up and imprisoned; they disappeared or they were shot. It was because of this continuing experience of failure in the evolution from authoritarianism to democracy—indeed, it was because of the perceived reversal of that process, with the movement going from authoritarianism to something more closely resembling totalitarianism—that the armed struggle had been resumed. We did not meet anyone who thought that the solution to the country’s difficulties lay in the armed struggle, or that the armed struggle could be won by either side (though it was frequently noted that the FMLN would have won the war long ago if the US had not been behind the military regime in El Salvador). Nevertheless, many of the people, if not most of the people, we spoke to undoubtedly understood the frustration that had led to the uprising; and while they did not necessarily believe that force was the answer, they were realistic enough to observe that it had at least won the attention of the govern­ment and was undoubtedly influencing both the regime in El Salvador and US public opinion…. Father Francisco Estrada, the University Rector, took us to the Centre and showed us the offices that had been torched by flame-throwers, with mangled and incinerated typewriters and copying machines. He made a special point of showing us a photograph of Archbishop Romero, in whose honour the Centre was built, with a single bullet hole fired through the heart, cleanly puncturing the glass. Murdered ten years before, they still could not stop shooting at him.

If we look briefly at three great texts from the New Testament, we discover that the God made known in Christ, what John Taylor would call the ‘Christ-like God’, is completely different to the official definitions of God that have prevailed for centuries. According to Philippians chapter 2, the God made known in Christ is not a controlling authoritarian reality, but a self-emptying being whose generosity leads it to assume the form of the slave, not the form of the ruler. Further, in Mark’s Gospel chapter 10, in the famous Zebedee encounter, Jesus goes out of his way to say quite explicitly to his apostles that the way the world orders things, in hierarchies, power structures, and models of control, is precisely not the nature of God. He advises the apostles not to let these seductive worldly models invade the way they order their lives: ‘It shall not be so among you’, he tells them. Littleness, not greatness, is to be the Christian paradigm; service, not authority and control. We see the character of such a God disclosed in Matthew chapter 5 in the beatitudes, the great reversals, where everything desirable or sought after and fought over in worldly experience is reversed and called blessed: poverty, grief, meekness, justice, mercy, persecutions and revilings are the estates blessed by God.

 The supreme irony is that, of all the traditions in Anglicanism, the Catholic tradition ought to have learned this lesson best, having won its case against the persecution mounted against it by the Church Association at the close of the nineteenth century. This great movement that changed world Anglicanism for ever and revolutionized its liturgy is now acting like the Church Association in lace cottas. It is the great negative movement today, opposing developments in the Church’s ministry that would make it inclusive of the whole human race rather than the male half of it.

The final paradox is the deeply Protestant nature of Anglo-Catholicism. The word ‘Protestant’ can be used in many ways. I am using it here in its sense of protest against the abuses of authority. The Anglo-Catholic fathers were deeply Protestant in their refusal to conform to the authority set over them, both in the Church and the State. They always appealed, in a very Protestant way, to a higher authority, that of primitive Catholic Christianity. This was the appeal made by the great Protestant reformers as well. It was the very Protestantism of the Anglican Church that gave Catholics the space and the freedom to make their protests and to win their cause. The intellectual tragedy of Anglo-Catholicism is that it has never acknowledged that it was the very element in Anglicanism it most passionately repudiated that guaran­teed its own right to protest. It is the critical, evolving, prophetic element in Christianity that makes it a living faith for today.

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