I listened very carefully to Bishop John Broadhurst this morning on Sunday on Radio 4. I wish him well on his journey, and applaud his determination to carry through his intention of joining the Roman Catholic Church at the end of the year. I know someone who, not quite as prominently (but in a feature article in the national press) said he would do the same six years ago, and is still in the C of E. So good for Bishop John in declaring that, when you have said you are going todo this, you have to do it.
I love the sound of his voice, and, as ever, when he is being positive about the gospel, about the necessity of unity in the Church and about faith in Jesus Christ, then I can stand up and cheer with the rest. And I can understand that the highly charged atmosphere of a Forward in Faith gathering can allow some things to be said which would sound inappropriate in other settings – so I was prepared to put his “fascist” comments in context.
In the interview he did indeed qualify them. But his explanation made it all the more personal for me. It wasn’t the whole of Synod which acted in a “fascist” way, he said, but the House of Clergy. Presumably this did not include the 85 clergy who voted for the legislation he wanted, but only those who voted it down. That is me and 89 others. I blogged about my reasons for voting against here and none of them were “fascist” as far as I can tell. In fact I reckoned that a church such as ours needs grace rather than law to make it work at this level, so my intentions were about not imposing will but rather offering the opportunity for generosity. I do understand that this is not how it feels to those who feel discriminated against, but those who would have a legal solution imposed on them against their will can equally say they are being treated in a dictatorial way.
Bishop John then compounded it for me by saying that the General Synod has been going downhill for 15 years. Guess when I joined?
There is, of course, serious stuff here. I deeply hope that we can get to a solution which preserves the C of E in its breadth and depth, and which facilitates further ecumenical dialogue with the Roman Catholics (and many others).
I don’t think we’ll do that when people like Reform and the Catholic Group can confidently predict exactly how people will vote in two years time. That’s more like North Korea, isn’t it? You can state a firm intention, and your policy and opinion on something, and then find that what is proposed has actually moved on and requires you to think in a different way. People change their minds.Except when they are instructed not to.
So: I don’t think I’m a fascist, Bishop John. And I don’t want Reform and F in F and the Catholic Group to determine how people vote as if they were in a dictatorship either.
I hope that the Roman Catholic Church in its ordinariate form is a lovely home for Bishop John (who will be a Bishop no more, and he was very good on that in the interview). And I hope that those of us who are left can sort out something which shapes the church to do what we are really about.