Saturday, 28 May 2011

C of E in a pickle!

In the Guardian on 25th May, there was an article Church of England tied in knots over allowing gay men to become bishops.

Apparently, the archbishop of York's office refused to comment, saying the whole process was entirely confidential.

I think it would make little difference whether the Archbishop of York commented or not, as on the basis of his performance on Radio 4  on 14th January 2010  I can only assume that we would be left wondering what on earth he was talking about on the topic of gay bishops too.

I refer to the 'clarity' brought to the subject during John Humphrys’ interview of the archbishop of York, John Sentamu on the Today programme last year. The subject was the Haiti earthquake. This transcription is as close to the spoken words as I can make it.

H: Why did God allow this to happen?

S: He created a world which is so beautiful, full of power, full of possibilities that at times . . . water for example, a fantastic reality, can at one time be a devastating thing. Is God got a slot machine in which we put in things and good things come out and bad things come out, no. I actually believe that God is fully engaged, and I have nothing actually to say that that makes sense of this horror. All I know is that the message of Christmas, the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus is that he is with us. Rabbi Hugo Green I think said something more beautiful when he was asked “where was God when Jews were being gassed”. And he said “God was being blasphemed and violated” and what makes it more difficult because if you believe that everybody is made in the image and likeness of god, disaster like this actually make it appalling and very difficult because what we are seeing is the face of God being disfigured and that is quite pretty pretty pretty appalling.

H: But we are told two things aren’t we? We are told that God is merciful and all powerful.

S: Yes.

H: How can those be reconciled with happens to a country like Haiti at a time like this?

S: Well . . . for the Christian you have got to see the god who is very much like Christ like and in him there is no un-Christ likeness. You know, St Augustine of Hippo said “He lies in a manger but contains the world. He feeds at the breast but also feeds the angels. He is wrapped in swaddling clothes but vests us with immortality.”

H: Hmm . . . I’m not sure I understand that answer to be perfectly frank with you. I don’t quite see what it has to do with the question.

S: The question is that the god we are dealing with who is merciful and powerful has shown his face to us in the person of Jesus. And if you believe that God is very much like Jesus of Nazareth, questions of power, questions of mercy, ultimately find their answer not in a sort of a slot machine type god but actually in a god who is with us alongside us, and his power is made more stronger not in dictatorship but in terms of mercifulness, in humility and coming alongside us.

H: But what you seem to be arguing for here is precisely the slot-machine type god. Because slot machines are random. The suffering that is imposed, that has been imposed on these people of Haiti, clearly entirely innocent people, many many children amongst them, that is random, just like a slot machine.

S: No no no no no. Jesus was asked a question when there was a Tower of Siloam which killed a lot of people. People were assuming that those who died because they were wicked. Jesus said “No not at all, don’t be complacent, don’t think you can comfort yourself by saying that bad things only happen to bad people. Everyone needs to be aware of their fragility and vulnerability and of their need for one another and for God. You see we are a family, when one weeps we all weep, and I’m afraid the world as it is has got tremendous beauty, tremendous power within it, earthquakes, fire, this can be devastating, and it depends on where you live and you think, well, why did they live in that place? Now with science now for example we know, that the early warning system for the tsunami can actually warn people when this is happening because our world is a world which we are not masters of.

H: So what do you have to say to someone like Pat Robertson the American evangelical preacher, candidate for President of the United States indeed at one point, who seemed to be blaming Haitians themselves, the country he said swore a pact to the devil at its creation. So in other words they deserved it.

S: No. I think anybody who talks like this needs to sit at the foot of the cross of Jesus, where what actually you do is don’t throw stones. I think he is absolutely wrong, Haiti is very close to America, and you would have thought that for these generations when the government nearly collapsed, and the United Nations that giving any sense of it (??) that America would have come to their aid, and I am very grateful that, and thankful that President Obama is taking a more proactive ... erm ... help on their doorstep. So Pat Robertson, I am sorry, he is totally wrong, he should re-read his bible properly and realise that what my mother said, never point a finger because when you do three other fingers are pointing back at you.

H: Archbishop, many thanks.

So now we should have it clear in our heads, direct from the lips of the 'vice-president' of the Anglican Communion. At the time I showed this to a number of people. The Christians say that it makes perfect sense but they cannot explain how. The others seem as confused as me. Perhaps we should offer up 'thanks to the FSM' for sending us an Archbishop who has his feet firmly planted in the air.


Dobbin said...

So it's not just politicians that talk codswallop on the Today Programme!

Frankus said...

How is it that any thinking person take him seriously in any way at all?

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