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Well, Are You Your Brother’s Keeper?

Tomorrow, January 27th, has been held as Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK since 2001. This is a message recorded by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, to mark the day. You can read it in full, together with some background here. For once, I am in complete agreement with ++Rowan about the message, ‘Speak Up and Speak Out’, but we differ in our interpretations.

Although I am neither a woman priest who is called to be a Bishop, nor a member of the LGBT community seeking acceptance in an Inclusive Church, I will, in the words attributed to Voltaire, defend to the death the rights of women priests and the LGBT community to be fully accepted into a loving and inclusive Anglican Church.


In 1933, Martin Niemoeller, a leader of the Confessing Church, voted for the Nazi party. By 1938, he was in a concentration camp. After the war, he is believed to have said:

“In Germany, the Nazis came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak for me.”


A similar point is made by Maurice Ogden in his poem, “The Hangman.” Though it may be doggerel, this is a chilling poem, made all the more thought-provoking  by the memorable accompanying film. If you can spare it, this is well worth ten minutes of your time, though I do not guarantee you an unclouded night’s sleep afterwards.


Into our town the Hangman came, Smelling of gold and blood and flame–
And he paced our bricks with a diffident air And built his frame on the courthouse square.
The scaffold stood by the courthouse side, Only as wide as the door was wide;
A frame as tall, or little more,Than the capping sill of the courthouse door.
And we wondered, whenever we had the time, Who the criminal, what the crime,
That Hangman judged with the yellow twist of knotted hemp in his busy fist.
And innocent though we were, with dread We passed those eyes of buckshot lead;
Till one cried: “Hangman, who is he For whom you raise the gallows-tree?”
Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye, And he gave us a riddle instead of reply:
“He who serves me best,” said he,“Shall earn the rope on the gallows-tree.”
And he stepped down, and laid his hand On a man who came from another land.
And we breathed again, for another’s grief At the Hangman’s hand was our relief.
And the gallows-frame on the courthouse lawn By tomorrow’s sun would be struck and gone.
So we gave him way, and no one spoke,Out of respect for his hangman’s cloak.
The next day’s sun looked mildly down On roof and street in our quiet town
And, stark and black in the morning air,The gallows-tree on the courthouse square.
And the Hangman stood at his usual stand With the yellow hemp in his busy hand;
With his buckshot eye and his jaw like a pike And his air so knowing and businesslike.
And we cried: “Hangman, have you not done,Yesterday, with the alien one?”
Then we fell silent, and stood amazed:“Oh, not for him was the gallows raised…”
He laughed a laugh as he looked at us:“…Did you think I’d gone to all this fuss
To hang one man? That’s a thing I do To stretch the rope when the rope is new.”
Then one cried “Murderer!” One cried “Shame!”And into our midst the Hangman came
To that man’s place. “Do you hold,” said he,“With him that’s meant for the gallows-tree?”
And he laid his hand on that one’s arm,And we shrank back in quick alarm,
And we gave him way, and no one spoke Out of fear of his hangman’s cloak.
That night we saw with dread surprise The Hangman’s scaffold had grown in size.
Fed by the blood beneath the chute The gallows-tree had taken root;
Now as wide, or a little more,Than the steps that led to the courthouse door,
As tall as the writing, or nearly as tall,Halfway up on the courthouse wall.
The third he took – and we had all heard tell –Was a usurer and infidel, And:
“What,” said the Hangman, “have you to do With the gallows-bound, and he a Jew?”
And we cried out: “Is this one he Who has served you well and faithfully?”
The Hangman smiled: “It’s a clever scheme To try the strength of the gallows-beam.”
The fourth man’s dark, accusing song Had scratched out comfort hard and long;
And “What concern,“ he gave us back,“Have you for the doomed – the doomed and black?”
The fifth. The sixth. And we cried again:“Hangman, Hangman, is this the man?”
“It’s a trick,” he said, “that we hangmen know For easing the trap when the trap springs slow.”
And so we ceased and asked no more,As the Hangman tallied his bloody score;
And sun by sun, and night by night,The gallows grew to monstrous height.
The wings of the scaffold opened wide Till they covered the square from side to side;
And the monster cross-beam, looking down,Cast its shadow across the town.
Then through the town the Hangman came And called in the empty streets my name.
And I looked at the gallows soaring tall And thought: “There is no left at all
For hanging, and so he calls to me To help him pull down the gallows-tree.”
And I went out with right good hope To the Hangman’s tree and the Hangman’s rope.
He smiled at me as I came down To the courthouse square through the silent town,
And supple and stretched in his busy hand Was the yellow twist of them hempen strand.
And he whistled his tune as he tried the trap And it sprang down with a ready snap –
And then with a smile of awful command He laid his hand upon my hand.
“You tricked me, Hangman!” I shouted then,“That your scaffold was built for other men….
And I no henchman of yours,” I cried.“You lied to me, Hangman, foully lied!”
Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye:“Lied to you? Tricked you?” he said, “Not I
For I answered straight and I told you true:The scaffold was raised for none but you.
“For who has served me more faithfully Than you with your coward’s hope?” said he,
“And where are the others that might have stood Side by your side in the common good?”
“Dead,” I whispered; and amiably “Murdered,” the Hangman corrected me;
“First the alien, then the Jew…I did no more than you let me do.”
Beneath the beam that blocked the sky,None had stood so alone as I –
And the Hangman strapped me, and no voice there Cried “Stay!” for me in the empty square.



Do visit Emma Major’s blog of today called ‘Speak Up, Speak Out’ on Holocaust Memorial Day. You may also like to visit the Holocaust Memorial Day website, whose theme this year is ‘Speak Up, Speak Out.


‘Peace In Our Time’?

Lambeth Palace

Picture the scene. It is late summer 2012, the NACC have lost the battle and the General Synod of the Church of England has voted to sign up to the Anglican Covenant.

This news, as you can imagine, was greeted with jubilation by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. They celebrated by carousing  late into the night with the meister spinners of Lambeth as they downed shandy after shandy until the small hours, basking in a warm glow of mutual congratulation.  But now it was the cold grey dawn of the morning after. Nursing an only slightly sore head, Archbishop Rowan presented himself at the breakfast table.  What a relief it was going to be not to have to worry about that infernal (sorry, tiresome) document ever again! He tucked into his bacon and eggs before striding out to the red carpet and dais, which had been set out in front of Lambeth Palace so that he could announce this triumph to his assembled people and wave the Covenant at them.


An Anglican Subject Writes

At this point, dear reader, I invite you to explore with me a tangential thought. Recall, if you will, the two recent Gulf Wars, each with a President George Bush at the helm. The first had limited but defined aims; when these had been achieved the allied troops left Iraq. In 2003, however, GWB’s premature announcement of ‘victory’ was followed by a further eight years of military occupation. Do you share my suspicion that this was, at least in part, because no one had made any plans for what was to happen after the fall of Baghdad?  Do you go on to share my suspicion that no one at Lambeth Palace has made any plans for what is to happen as a result of the signing of the so-called Anglican Covenant, which is no gentlemen’s agreement sealed by a handshake as you might infer from the use of this word, but a legally binding international treaty? In the Church of England, Canon Law will have to be re-written to incorporate the provisions we have now committed ourselves to.


‘Those Who Do Not Remember History Are Condemned to Repeat It’

I apologise if you think the following parallel is melodramatic, not to say histrionic. But consider:

  • Belligerent forces apparently intent on world domination assert their demands
  • Attempts to deflect warfare by talks and international enquiries do not succeed in silencing the belligerents
  • Finally, in a last desperate attempt at appeasement, the leader offers a piece of paper giving in to almost all the demands in the hope that this will secure ‘peace in our time’.

Neville Chamberlain, announcing the Munich Agreement in 1938:

…the settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace. This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine (waves paper to the crowd – receiving loud cheers and “Hear Hears”). Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you …My good friends, for the second time in our history a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.”


Winston Churchill, denouncing the Agreement in the House of Commons:

“We have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat… you will find that in a period of time which may be measured by years, but may be measured by months, Czechoslovakia will be engulfed in the Nazi régime. We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude…we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road…we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting”. And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”


Personal Entreaty

Archbishop Rowan, I appeal to you on behalf of  the Anglican Communion as a whole: in the name of God, please reconsider. Today Chamberlain is remembered in disgrace, Churchill as a national hero. Let it not be said of you: ‘Thou wast weighed in the balance and found wanting’.

The Dowager Countess of Grantham Invites the Primate to Tea


The No Anglican Covenant Brigade, in an attempt to halt the Covenant juggernaut, has tried reasoned analysis, expostulation, satire and mockery.  This blog alone has invoked, inter alia, Cassandra, Elizabeth I, Trollope and inter-galactic law. Though some members have been tempted, the group has not yet resorted to sabotage or blackmail. Although the time may yet come for the dreadful final option of the Charge of the NAC Brigade, there remains another possibility.


It is time to send in a Great British Battleaxe. Surely even Archbishop Rowan would quake in his shoes if faced with one of these in full sail? Margaret Thatcher in her prime perhaps? But no real woman can truly match the great battleaxes of fiction: Mrs Proudie, Lady Bracknell, Lady Catherine de Bourgh or, her latest triumphant incarnation, Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, the real star of Julian Fellowes’ latest entertainment, Downton Abbey.


From this impressive list, let us choose the Dowager Countess for this important role. She is so clearly a woman of unshakeable self-confidence, at her prime in the Edwardian era when her class was at its most supremely confident.  After many years of practice in  bending the local clergy to her will, (as is apparent from this scene requiring her to persuade the vicar to perform what he regards a dubious marriage), she is surely as ready as anyone to take on the Archbishop.

[Spoiler warning for American viewers – this clip is ahead of you]


Let us imagine the meeting. Holding court at Highclere Castle, Lady Grantham invites the Archbishop to break his journey to the ancient diocese of Winchester, where he is visiting the new bishop. While perched on an uncomfortably spindly French antique chair, the Archbishop is obliged to balance his teacup, saucer, teaspoon, side plate, cucumber sandwich and starched organdie table napkin. (Gamesmanship was not the invention of Stephen Potter, he merely named an ancient social ruse for discomfiting one’s opponent).

Lady G: So do explain to me, Archbishop, what is this Covenant that one hears so much about in Church circles?

Archbishop: [embarks on long-winded explanation]

Lady G: [interrupting] So in future, we shall have to find our vicars from amongst those of whom you personally approve, not just those who have been ordained?

Archbishop: Well no, it won’t really work quite like that,…

Lady G: But you don’t know how it’s going to work out, do you? You produce pages and pages of small print, which you expect us all to sign up to, and you throw in everything but the kitchen sink without explaining how you can put two mutually exclusive provisions in the same document. Did you think we wouldn’t notice, just because the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral comes at the beginning and this unspeakably unChristian section four comes at the end? The Highclere Women’s Institute discussed the whole thing at our meeting here last week, and we are all agreed that it is the most appalling document. For goodness sake, Archbishop, you really must do something to extricate us from this quagmire you have dragged us all into!

Archbishop: [chastened] Well I don’t see how we can get out of it now. I keep asking ‘what is the alternative’!

Lady G: Really Archbishop! Yes, we hear you asking, but why aren’t you listening to the replies? There are plenty of alternatives. Gracious me, I can’t think why you don’t simply say God has told you to go back to the first principles of Hooker and the Quadrilateral. Everyone is free to interpret Anglicanism for their own time and place, using scripture, reason and tradition. What’s wrong with that? Nice, simple and clear.

Archbishop: Yes, but you see many of the Provinces will simply not accept the way other Provinces interpret Anglicanism.

Lady G: So?

Archbishop: So they are threatening to leave.

Lady G: Well, let them do so. What a fuss, all because you seem so determined to let the tail wag the dog. Extraordinary!

Archbishop: But the Anglican Communion will break up! And while I am the Archbishop of Canterbury!

Lady G: If they leave, they leave. At least what remains will still be a communion of Anglicans. And most will rejoin in time, you’ll see. For goodness sake, man, pull yourself together!


Trollope, Thou Shouldst Be Living At This Hour!

‘England hath need of thee,’ added Wordsworth in his plea, originally addressed to Milton. Oh, Anthony Trollope, if only we could turn to you now to champion the cause of the laity and common sense in the Church of England!


If youth is too valuable to be squandered by the young, perhaps the Church is too valuable to be entrusted to the priests as its sole guardians. Without seeking to go as far as the cartoon suggests in turning the priesthood into marionettes, operating only according to strings pulled by the laity, the present situation where the positions are reversed is not a happy solution either.  Keep the beard, but change the face into that of the present Archbishop of Canterbury. Forget the rest of the Anglican Communion for a moment, if the Church of England signs up to the Covenant, this will be the future governance of our Church, with the laity dancing to the Archbishop’s tune for eternity.


The present plan, according to information reaching me, is to tack discussion of the Covenant onto the end of the agenda for the General Synod in July, where it will be presented once again as a minor piece of ‘housekeeping’, almost an afterthought. What else comes before our lords and masters in July? Why, the issue of women bishops. Despite an overwhelming vote in favour throughout the country, approval of women bishops is by no means a foregone conclusion. Picture the scene. July may be hot and sticky. The delegates will doubtless drone on. Eventually (we hope) the appointment of women to the episcopate will be agreed. Tired, with falling blood sugar levels, and desperate to return to their hotels and a stiff gin, those present will sign almost any document put in front of them. However, before the meister spinners of Lambeth congratulate themselves too hard on the success of their prestidigitation, may I remind them of an earlier political genius from the other side of the Atlantic:

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

You do remember who said that, don’t you? Abraham Lincoln.


But, to return to our hero of the day. Why do I pick on Trollope rather than, say, Dickens? Well,  Trollope’s cast of characters comes from a much narrower range than does Dickens’. His body of work epitomises the relationship between the English people, their government, and their church. Of course, much has changed since Trollope’s day but the more things change, the more they stay the same. Trollope is said to have remarked:

The Church of England is the only church in the world that interferes neither with your politics nor your religion.

I have been unable so far to identify the source, but even if it is a case of se non è vero, è ben trovato, it does indeed capture the essence of Trollopianism.


The biographer of Anthony’s mother Fanny, Pamela Neville-Sington, wrote:

‘When he wrote his Barchester novels, Trollope did not look up at the sky but down at the earth.   He did not write about men’s spirituality but about their consciences.   He did not explore the clergy’s theological doctrines but their very human institutions.   This is why Trollope was so popular in his own day and why he remains so today.   His characters and their dilemmas are universal and still seem very real to us’.

 Trollopiana, Issue 75, 2006

But I have saved the best until last. I came across the following extract yesterday, which confirmed my thoughts about Trollope’s possible stand on the Covenant. It is one of those passages in which the author speaks as himself, the narrator makes his own position clear:

And yet it was from such a one that Mr Arabin in his extremest need received that aid which he so much required. It was from a poor curate of a small Cornish parish that he first learnt to know that the highest laws for the governance of a Christian’s duty must act from within and not from without; that no man can become a serviceable servant solely by obedience to written edicts;

Barchester Towers



The cartoon of Trollope dated 1872 is by Frederick Waddy (1848-1901), from made available under creative commons licence.

New Year Resolutions and (you guessed it) The Anglican Covenant

Boring but Important

Perhaps you read the magazine ‘The Week‘? There is an occasional column with this heading, and I am sincerely sorry to tell you that if you live in the United Kingdom, or are an Anglican or expatriate Briton elsewhere in the world, the Anglican Covenant comes into the category of ‘boring but important’. Why focus on the Church of England? Well, because it is likely to be discussed in General Synod in 2012, whereas most other Provinces will be making a final decision in later years.

Not even the proponents of the Covenant claim it is gripping reading material- we are a far cry here from Magna Carta or the Gettysburg Address. But please make no mistake. The Church that produced the King James Version of the bible, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and some of the finer parts of Common Worship is perfectly capable of producing a vivid and memorable text if it chose. Beatrix Potter told the world about the soporific effects of lettuce, but if your insomnia is acute, I know of no better remedy than the 5,123 words of the Covenant in its final form. This is their secret weapon, which we must fight (with caffeine if necessary!)

That said, I am going to ask you to make it your new year’s resolution to read the actual text in January. Mark it, certainly. Asking you to learn it would, I think, be unreasonable. And suggesting that you inwardly digest it would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Lay Anglicana’s Contribution to the Debate

So far, this blog has limited its actions to banging on about the threat from the Covenant. It has been suggested to me that what is now needed is a series of posts attempting a digest of the various elements of the Covenant so that what is proposed is better understood. I will be drawing shamelessly on other people’s blog posts to do so (Archeacon Alan Perry of Edmonton and Father Tobias Haller of the US in particular have already done some detailed analysis, as have: The No Anglican Covenant website and blog; the Revd Jonathan Clatworthy and the Revd Lesley Crawley amongst many others). Before the summer General Synod, our aim is to reach as many as possible ‘thinking Anglicans’ certainly, but also thinking people in general. Do you really want this document signed in your name?

A Little Light Relief

I don’t think I could stand it – and I’m perfectly sure you couldn’t – if I offered a diet of unrelieved Anglican Covenant between now and July. So I hope to review some more books, finally get up our magnum opus (at present 60 pages of A4) on intercessions, and react to ‘events, dear boy, events‘.


Sunlit Uplands?

I hope I am not the only person who thinks that, if we can only bury the Anglican Covenant, we can return to a degree of ‘live and let live’ in this Communion of ours and that Peace Time really does lie ‘Just Ahead’. Please join me in praying that this may be so.

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The Legend of King Canute


King Canute is not to be confused with the real King Cnut, the much-misunderstood 11th century Viking leader and King of England. Many attempts have been made to correct the legend which has grown up around him, for example here, here and here. But legends about historical figures (compare the unlikely story about King Alfred burning the woman’s cakes) are sometimes more interesting than the real thing. According to the version of the legend I need for this post,

“Canute is famous for the tale of the incoming tide. According to legend, Canute’s courtiers flattered him into believing that his word was so powerful that even the tide would recede at his command. Canute is said to have taken this compliment literally and had his throne placed by the shore and vainly attempted to command the waves to recede until he almost drowned.”

The reality in which King Canute lived, and the reality experienced by all others in his realm, bore little relation to each other. I expect you can see where I am going with this – I am inescapably reminded of the present Archbishop of Canterbury, about whom I have recently been accused  of being ‘waspish‘.  (I think this is fair comment, but can only plead that his plans to introduce central command and control into my beloved Church of England make me very cross indeed. His Ninja Nuns form such a tight circle around him that I would have no chance of punching him on the nose, and it is not really my style. Waspishness is the weapon of the weak and I have no other tools at my disposal).

The comparison to King Canute has been occasioned by Archbishop Rowan’s Advent letter to the other Primates of the Anglican Communion. Paragraph 7 reads as follows (the bolding is mine):

This of course relates also to the continuing discussion of the Anglican Covenant. How it is discussed, the timescale of discussion and the means by which decisions are reached will vary a lot from Province to Province. We hope to see a full report of progress at next year’s Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting. In spite of many assurances, some Anglicans evidently still think that the Covenant changes the structure of our Communion or that it gives some sort of absolute power of ‘excommunication’ to some undemocratic or unrepresentative body. With all respect to those who have raised these concerns, I must repeat that I do not see the Covenant in this light at all. It sets out an understanding of our common life and common faith and in the light of that proposes making a mutual promise to consult and attend to each other, freely undertaken. It recognizes that not doing this damages our relations profoundly. It outlines a procedure, such as we urgently need, for attempting reconciliation and for indicating the sorts of consequences that might result from a failure to be fully reconciled. It alters no Province’s constitution, as it has no canonical force independent of the life of the Provinces. It does not create some unaccountable and remote new authority but seeks to identify a representative group that might exercise a crucial advisory function. I continue to ask what alternatives there are if we want to agree on ways of limiting damage, managing conflict and facing with honesty the actual effects of greater disunity. In the absence of such alternatives, I must continue to commend the Covenant as strongly as I can to all who are considering its future.

I have highlighted the sentence which makes me think that Archbishop Rowan and I are living on different planets. Both Canon Alan Perry and the Revd Malcolm have already written in detail and with conviction about the oddities of this letter and I urge you to read their blog posts. But the sentence in bold type represents a view of reality which I find incomprehensible. How can 5,123 words possibly change the longstanding differences in the way we (each Province in the Communion) hold our forks, say tomayto or tomahto, elect or appoint our bishops and believe that there should be three or four orders of priesthood?  We should not even be trying to make ourselves all identical. We should instead be reminding each other that, while our Anglican neighbours may have motes in their eyes, we very probably have beams in our own.

Can it be that Archbishop Rowan is suffering from ‘courtier-itis’? It happened to Margaret Thatcher after she had been in office for a while, and it happened to Indira Gandhi. It has certainly happened to any number of tinpot dictators around the world. The version of reality that reaches rulers is sifted by courtiers and lacks the salty tang of the world encountered by the rest of us. Sometimes the ruler views life from another planet as a result, and at the very least he or she may develop astigmatism.

Don’t Shoot The Messenger


As one of many voices trying to bring the uncomfortable truth about the proposed Anglican Covenant to the people of the world, I know only too well that the bearer of bad news is unlikely to be popular.

For it has to be admitted that facing up to the truth and acting on it is likely to be awkward and uncomfortable. It would be much more pleasant for all concerned simply to go along with what the Archbishop of Canterbury is asking the Anglican Communion in general, and the Church of England in particular, to do.  After all, if you can’t trust the Archbishop of Canterbury to have the interests of his flock as his prime concern, whom can you trust?

It seems unlikely that Archbishop Rowan has ever sought the advice of an image consultant but he has nevertheless – by luck or good management – achieved a degree of cuddliness unimaginable in his predecessors. With his height, his shock of grey hair and, above all, his impressive eyebrows, he could have chosen to play the role of Elijah, thundering from the mountain-top. But instead (almost certainly quite unconsciously), he has used his attractively modulated voice and his obvious delight in the company of children to project a personality which has led to his being impersonated, not just by a knitted doll but also a woolly bear.

In these circumstances, it is difficult to persuade people that any nostrum advanced by ‘Uncle’ Rowan could be anything other than the panacea that he promises.

“Just a spoonful of medicine, come on now, just to please Uncle Rowan.”

He might as well add, ‘Coochy, coochy, coo!”

Or  “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”.

But where’s the sugar?

Well, I don’t want to shock those of you who have been gently reared, and cannot believe that the General Synod of the Church of England could possibly have anything to do with politics or politicking, but it is rumoured that there will indeed be some sugar on hand to help the medicine go down, and that is the admission of women to the episcopate. If the denizens of General Synod  swallow their Anglican Covenant medicine like good little boys and girls, then Uncle Rowan will let them have women bishops. See what a clever Uncle Rowan we have!

At this point in the story, the spoilsports who arrive to point out that the medicine may have fatal side effects are naturally likely to be hissed like pantomime villains. But their (our) role, which we hope does not turn out to be a tragic one, is to play the part of Cassandra. The daughter of Priam, the King of Troy, she was given the gift of prophecy by the god Apollo: she could see with perfect clarity into the future.  Unfortunately, because she rejected Apollo’s advances, Cassandra was then cursed that her visions, ever more tragic, would never be believed. But her visions were all to come true.





The main illustration is ‘A trumpeting of golden music’ by xtremer via Shutterstock.

The bear is by Madeley Bears; the doll is by Fiona Goble, ‘Knit your own royal wedding’

The painting of Cassandra is by Evelyn de Morgan, via wikipedia

‘Live Free Or Die’


Yesterday, Remembrance Sunday, we remembered them.

And on Friday 11 November, Armistice Day  itself, we remembered them.

We remembered those who died that we might live free.

We remembered those who died in the first World War, ‘the war to end all wars’.

And we remembered all those who have died in all the wars since.


We who remain have a debt of honour to repay. All that the fallen require of us to justify their sacrifice is to fight, fight and fight again to safeguard the liberty that we, and our allies in war, now enjoy.

The phrase ‘Live Free or Die‘ has a history dating back at least to the Enlightenment, but my favourite use of it is on the licence plates for the state of New Hampshire. Other states have innocuous-sounding phrases like ‘the sunshine state’, but you know you have reached New England when you see this admonition on the car in front of you on the motorway (sorry, expressway).

Where now comes the threat to our liberty? You need look no further than Lambeth Palace (see previous post on ‘Countdown to the Chains of the Anglican Covenant’). So what if the intention is not  the enslavement of Anglicans around the world to the ‘Instruments of Communion’? – do you not think that this phrase has chillingly Orwellian tones? – our enslavement is what will be the result. The post-Covenant character of Anglicanism will be a totalitarian régime which seeks, not episcopal oversight, but archiepiscopal and episcopal thought control. If you think I am exaggerating, I invite you to look at the documents produced by the lobby in favour of the Covenant and then re-read the Newspeak of 1984.

Anglicanism has always offered its adherents a faith less concerned with the minutiae of doctrine (holding such debate up to ridicule by characterising it as the discussion of how many angels could fit on the head of a pin) than how to lead a Christian life, informed by the creeds and 39 Articles and inspired by Hooker’s scripture, tradition and reason. The Covenant takes 5,123 words to describe future doctrine, which will be enforced by the Instruments of Communion,  rather than individual conscience which has sufficed in the past.

Now is the time for the silent majority to wake up to the tiger that is at the gates




I know that I have written two consecutive posts about the threat to Anglicanism which I believe is posed by the Anglican Covenant. I realise that I risk losing my readership, but this risk is the least that I am ready to do. For me, the cartoon’s punch-line ‘If you know of a better hole, then go to it’ is not an option – I have no wish to worship anywhere other than the Church of England, as currently constituted, that I love.

If you need to remind yourself of what we tend to call ‘the Dunkirk spirit’, referring to the second world war, I urge you to read, thanks to Project Gutenberg, Fragments From France, by Captain Bruce Bairnsfather, which describes the first world war.  The illustration is taken from its cover.

Countdown To The Chains Of The Anglican Covenant

If the (well-intentioned) Archbishop of Canterbury were to have his way, the Anglican Covenant would, over the next few years, encircle the globe in chains.

However, there are unmistakable signs of rebellion, and it is beginning to look as if the select – extremely  select  –  group of signatories to the Covenant would fit on the head of a pin, leaving the great majority of Anglican Communion Provinces outside the inner circle of ‘true believers’.

In these circumstances, you might think the obvious course is to tear up the Covenant, while admitting that any document of 5,123 words and eleven A4 pages is unworkable as a worldwide definition of Anglicanism, quite apart from several unpalatable clauses in the small print. But what may be obvious to you and me appears not to be obvious to the powers that be.


Drinking in the last chance saloon

A nightmare* scenario is unfolding in England, home of the Anglican Communion. Although Provinces are not being asked to decide on the issue until 2015, Lambeth Palace is trying to ensure that General Synod votes on it as soon as possible (probably in 2012). Arms are being twisted to see to it that the Church of England signs on the dotted line, in the forlorn hope that the rest of the Communion will then follow suit.

This means that ordinary members of the Church of England (like me and perhaps you?), who are opposed to the provisions of the Covenant, need to make our voices heard as swiftly and as loudly as possible. You can try doing this through deanery synods, diocesan synods and so on. Or you could look for your diocesan representatives at General Synod for 2010-2015. But there is also another possibility.


Rousing the people of England as a whole

Unlike in other Provinces, the Church of England is the established Church: the Queen is Supreme Governor, some bishops sit in the House of Lords, and marriage by the Church of England is itself valid so far as the state is concerned, with no further licence required. The Church is part of the warp and weft of the fabric of our nation.

The population of England is about 52 million. Of these about 1.7 million attend church services once a month. So about 50 million people are therefore ‘passive’ church members, members of other denominations or faiths, agnostics or atheists.

Our task is to persuade as many as possible of these people that, although the day to day running of the Church of England may be a matter of indifference to them, because of the Church’s unique position its constitution forms part of the constitution of our nation.


What is the ‘British way of life’?

The political commentator, Sir Robin Day, wrote in his memoirs:

“in this country…our reasoning is tempered with humanity, moderated by fairness, based on truth, imbued with the Christian ethic, applied with commonsense, and upheld by law…there can be no place for absolutes, no place for theories which must be rigidly adhered to, no place for dogmas which must be defended to the death…there should be no principle which is too important to be reconsidered for the sake of others, no interest which cannot make some sacrifice for the common good. Equanimity is preferred to hysteria. Experience is a wiser guide than doctrine. Absolutes are alien to us…Such a constitution… can only work with the accompaniment of the conventions, traditions, customs, compromises, voluntary restraints and the national sense of fair play, all of which go to make up the Reasonable Society.”

Whereas Elizabeth I sought ‘not to make windows into men’s souls’, setting a precedent for the last 400 years of Anglicanism, the Church of which Elizabeth II is now supreme governor is seeking to do just that. The Queen is being asked, while monarch of a nation which now bans discrimination against homosexuals, to become supreme governor of a state Church which for the first time codifies such discrimination: she would then embody this dichotomy at the heart of our body politic.

Now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of ‘the English way’

We are not asking for money but we do very much need your help to:

  • Write to as many people as possible to inform them of this threat, particularly
    • Journalists (newspapers, political weeklies)
    • Broadcasters (television and radio)
    • Academics (especially historians)
    • Members of both houses of parliament
    • Other members of ‘the chattering classes’.

    Will you

    • Tell everyone you meet – starting with your friends and relations
    • Give us ideas for campaigning, probably until July 2012
    • Offer IT/Social Media help: setting up and maintaining Facebook page? Twitter?

If you can help, please either respond in the comments section below or contact me at laurasykes{at}layanglicana{dot}org. Many thanks in advance!


Background on the Anglican Covenant

*There is no space here to explain why we describe the adoption of the Anglican Covenant as a nightmare scenario. You may like to explore further at these websites:

For those of you who prefer the visual approach, I strongly recommend the series of videos made by MrCatolick and available on YouTube. For example:

The Anglican Covenant 4 November 2010 2.54 minutes

Anglican Covenant tactics for General Synod 20 November 2010 1.54 minutes

Some thoughts on the Anglican Covenant 4 February 2011 7.08 minutes

He also provides a summary of his view of Anglican Covenant developments over the last year, seen from the point of view of someone who understands General Synod in and out.


Previous posts on this blog are here, here, here, here and here.



The photograph is ‘the earth chained and isolated’ by Andresr via Shutterstock.




Summoning Up The Ghost of Elizabeth I

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Inspired by MrCatolick’s parallel with Henry VIII (), I conclude that what the Anglican world needs now is intervention by his daughter, Elizabeth I. It did not take much to summon her ghost – she had been waiting impatiently for just such an invitation. All of what follows in quotation typeface is from the actual words of Good Queen Bess in her lifetime.

Princes have big ears which hear far and near, and word has reached me that all is not well in my realm. As the first Defender of the Faith who was a sincere Protestant, with no considerations of personal advantage,  I shall desire you all, my lords…to be assistant to me that I, with my ruling, and you with your service, may make a good account to Almighty God and leave some comfort to our posterity on earth...
There is one thing higher than Royalty: and that is religion, which causes us to leave the world, and seek God…There is nothing about which I am more anxious than my country,  and the Anglican Communion, and for its sake I am willing to die ten deaths, if that be possible.

The Anglican Covenant
There is only one Christ, Jesus, one faith. All else is a dispute over trifles… Where minds differ and opinions swerve there is scant a friend in that company…My mind was never to invade my neighbours… I do consider a multitude doth make rather discord and confusion than good counsel…You lawyers are so nice and precise in shifting and scanning every word and letter that many times you stand more upon form than matter, upon syllables than the sense of the law…

Moving from an Exclusive Church to an Inclusive Church
Know that I wish you from henceforth to follow the example of your monarch, and many monarchs before her, in knowing that each court must have its queanes as well as its Queen for, as ye should surely know, all are equally loved by God…I have no desire to make windows into mens souls, still less their nether regions. I am greatly displeased at the sanctimonious hypocrisy that has recently arisen in my Church in this land of England… Those who appear the most sanctified are the worstI would rather go to any extreme than suffer anything that is unworthy of my reputation, or of that of my crown..and I wish you to follow the example of the Americas, where… it is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes.. The past cannot be curedGod forgive you, but I never can.

Anglican Mission In England
The stone often recoils on the head of the thrower...You, who were fully strong enough to bear the suffering of our well-beloved American cousins, will shortly endure a similar stone-throwing yourself.
Do not tell secrets to those whose faith and silence you have not already tested…There is an Italian proverb which saith, From my enemy let me defend myself; but from a pretensed friend Lord deliver me.
We are of the nature of the lion, and cannot descend to the destruction of mice and such small beasts ourselves; we trust you have a plan?

The Elevation of Women to the Episcopate
I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England too
Is it that you fear to admit the distaff side to your ranks because you know many share my heart and stomach, as well as my learning and my devotion to God? It is a natural virtue incident to our sex to be pitiful of those that are afflicted,
and I am sure that my sisters in Christ will find it in their hearts to pity you for your pettiness, but mindful as I am of the need for gifted bishops, I cannot allow it to continue. Let this my discipline stand you in good stead of sorer strokes, never to tempt too far a Prince’s patience.

The Ministry of the Laity
I regret the unhappiness of princes who are slaves to forms and fettered by caution...
It is as clear as the day to even the meanest intelligence in the land that the hoi polloi are no longer of lesser education than the clerks in the pulpit. Knowing of the scant numbers of clerks, action is needed this day to allow the people to read Morning and Evening Prayer.
One man with a head on his shoulders is worth a dozen without Verily, I do fear that without such action, the churches themselves are in real danger:… A fool too late bewares when all the peril is past.

Though the sex to which I belong is considered weak you will nevertheless find me a rock that bends to no wind. ... It is true that the world was made in six days, but it was by God, to whose power the infirmity of men is not to be compared.
I will allow you fourteen days in which to accomplish all the tasks I have set you this day.
If thy heart fails thee, climb not at all….. Proud Prelate, you know what you were before I made you what you are. If you do not immediately comply with my request, I will unfrock you, by God!

The illustration is a portrait of Elizabeth I at the time of the Armada via wikimedia under CCL.

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