I was invited, or was it summonsed, to lunch at the Bishop’s house in Twickenham on Monday afternoon. Always strange affairs – who will be there? What does the Bishop want? It was redeemed by the appearance of Fr Kevin Morris and Fr Andrew Downes. There was one slightly hysterical moment, made so by the fact that, those of us in the know, could show no sign of recognition or amusement at what the deliverer was announcing. I’m sure you have all been there, when something is said in a meeting which has you laughing internally, but you dare not show the fact to the group. To end the lunch the Bishop asked us all a question. How can the Church make disciples? It’s a question close to my heart, so I took a deep breath and said, “Authenticity – only when the Church is seen to practice what it preaches will people respond positively”. Many local churches have been doing this for years, the national church needs to get with the programme. Of course there was a great elephant in the room – homosexuality, more specifically the Church, allowing us the clergy, to offer prayers and thanksgiving for those who have engaged in Civil Partnerships or secular marriages. I praised the Bishop and Diocese of Hereford for planning to introduce a motion at the next General Synod proposing such a motion. There is no point telling people that they are loved and then not extending to them the same opportunities to celebrate their love and commitment, before God, their family and friends. For so many people nowadays this is such a non-debate. For the Church, it is just too complicated and difficult, for our credibility among the younger generation a decision is essential. The response from the boss to this discussion – silence.
On Tuesday this week, October 31st, Protestants commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, the event that eventually fractured the Roman Catholic church. It’s the day on which Martin Luther sent his 95 Theses, also known as the ‘Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences’ to the Archbishop of Mainz. He is also alleged to have nailed a copy to the door of Wittenberg Castle church. Luther’s basic teaching, that the Bible is the central source of religious authority, and that salvation is achieved through faith alone, not deeds, shaped the core of what became known as Protestantism. The development of the printing press at this time enabled Luther to publicise his works widely, and his translation of the Bible into German enabled his countrymen to read it for themselves and not rely on explanations by the clergy. I shall be visiting Germany next week with a group of clergy for some further study of the Reformation, so beware future sermons! Sadly I shall probably not be able to buy a Playmobil figure of Martin Luther as it’s their most successful figure ever made – over a million have been sold so far!
With every blessing