Sunday 17th October 2021: Trinity 20

Sunday 17th October 2021

Trinity 20

Do not Lord it over one another – Mark 10:35-45

 

Jesus words are that the disciples should not Lord it over one another or boss each other about, but should serve and love one another.

History of the church – is that whilst it has sought to proclaim the gospel of Christ, it has also been very prescriptive at the same time about telling people what to do and how they should live including how they should dress, what they should eat.  Has this been OTT?

I am a convert if you like to the church of England.  I didn’t come to faith through the CoE, but decided in my early 20s that I wanted to be in a church that allowed me to think for myself and I did not have to leave my brain at the door of the church when I went it.  I came to faith in a Fundamentalist/Pentecostal type church where things were laid out in very black and white terms by the Pastor – based on his understanding of selected texts in the bible.

I came to the CoE and I love the Church of England because I felt that I could think for myself and came to value and love of its breadth and diversity and ways of seeking to include anyone. I personally could not be in any other church. 

 

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali

I was prompted to preach this seron this morning by my previous boss – the ex Bishop of Rochester and his decision to convert to become a Roman Catholic.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali’s Criticisms of the CoE. “a lack of teaching authority in Anglicanism, a lack of a sense of belonging to a worldwide church where everyone has to do things in step, rather than everyone doing whatever they want to do”.

 

What is happening in Roman Catholic church.

Pope Francis has launched what some describe as the most ambitious attempt at Catholic reform for 60 years.

A two-year process to consult every Catholic parish around the world on the future direction of the Church began at the Vatican this weekend.

Some Catholics hope it will lead to change on issues such as women's ordination, and married priests.  In the "listening phase", people in parishes and dioceses will be able to discuss a wide range of issues. Pope Francis said it was important to hear from those who were often on the fringes of local Church life such as women, pastoral workers and members of consultative bodies

 

Very Brief History of the CoE

Up until the Reformation and Henry 8th – CoE was “the” Roman Catholic Church in England.  Walk into St Paulinus – was the RC of Crayford.

Henry was no protestant reformer.  He wanted his divorce but he wanted the church to remain truly Catholic in every sense of the word.

Important to understand the two very different traditions that grew up within the church – the Catholic and the Protestant.  The Catholic understanding of the church emphasises the traditions of the church – what it has always believed and done – and has an emphasis on the sacraments of the church especially the Eucharist or Mass which is adminstered by the Priests of the church.

The more Evangelical emphasises the supremacy of scripture – sola scriptura – scripture only – was the cry of the European reformers such as Martin Luther. In Evangelical churches the high point is the preaching of Holy Scripure and sermons might go on for 40 minutes or an hour.  The Eucharist/Holy Communion has far less prominence and might only be celebrated monthly.

The Catholic and Evangelical/Protestant division of churches is still very much in evidence today.  For example there St Paulinus Crayford is quite Catholic and St Augustine’s Belvedere is ‘very’ Catholic – more Catholic than the Catholics – lol.

In other words as a good Anglican you can either be Catholic or Protestant and yet we still remain within the one church.  It is the only church on the planet where Catholics and Protestants are in the one church. And of course I does create huge tensions.

These two main variants of Anglicanism – the evangelical variety and the more Catholic variety were spread around the world wherever the British empire went, and came to be known as the Anglican church in those places.  The Anglican church of Nigeria for example.  There were two main mission societies of the CoE – known as CMS and USPG today. If the country was evangelised by CMS it was Evangelical and if evangelised by USPG it as more Catholic.  So around the world we have churches of both Catholic and Evangelical traditions. 

 

Ethical Differences.

However, the differences in the church of England go far beyond just being Catholic or Protestant.  There is a divide in the church and lack of agreement over most significant ethical issues.

 

To go to War or Not

Arguably this is “the” most important ethical issue of - whether there are circumstances where it is right to kill another person.  Early Christians were pacifists and did not believe in taking up arms against others in any circumstance.

You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matt. 5:38–39). Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Matt. 5:43–48, Luke 6:27–28).

On the other side the argument are those who believe that there are some circumstances that justify the taking up of arms and this called the “just war theory”.  The just war theory postulates the belief that war, while it is terrible but less so with the right conduct, is not always the worst option. Important responsibilities, undesirable outcomes, or preventable atrocities may justify war. This ‘just war’ theory was started by Augustine in the 4th century and was developed by Thomas Aquinas the great Catholic theologian of the middle ages and became the default position of the church, but many including those in the church of England remain pacifists.

 

Contraception

Humanae vitae (Latin: Of Human Life) is an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI and dated 1968 concerns the rejection of artificial contraception.  Every action specifically intended to prevent procreation is forbidden.  In Roman Catholic thought we should not interfere with what is natural - nature - and if we do so we are going against the laws, the natural laws that God has built into the world.  “Roman Catholics are to observe the natural laws of the Most High God. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed."

However, Anglicans were the first church to issue a statement in favour of contraception, which they did at the Lambeth Conference in 1930 by a majority of 193 to 67.  However you can see that whilst there was an overwhelming majority in favour there was still a sizeable minority against.

 

Abortion

There are a variety of positions taken by contemporary Christian denominations on the topic. There is no explicit statement about abortion in either the Old Testament or the New Testamentbooks of the Christian Bible; however, certain passages in the Bible have been interpreted by anti-abortion Christians to mean that abortion is not morally acceptable.

The Roman Catholic Church is wholly opposed to Abortion as it takes the view that life begins at conception and it goes against the commandment, Thou shalt not kill(Exodus 20:13) and goes against natural law, which is an act that goes against what nature intended. The Church takes an absolutist stance on this and believes that abortion is wrong in all situations.

The Church of England combines principled opposition to abortion but with a recognition that there are limited conditions under which it may be morally preferable to any available alternative.  For example a risk to the life of pregnant woman, termination is necessary to prevent permanent injury to physical or mental health of pregnant woman, save life of pregnant woman, prevent grave permanent injury to physical or mental health of pregnant woman, or substantial risk child will suffer physical or mental abnormalities

 

Divorce and Remarriage is another moral issue within the Church of England where different views prevail. In 1998 remarriage was allowed in the Church of England however clergy have a right to Exercises conscience and not undertake remarriage of divorced people.  Locally within the Erith Deanery some clergy will not remarry divorced people.  I do here as all of you know.

The Role of Women

The church continues to be divided over the role of women and whether they can be Pastors/Priests.  In the RC church it is not allowed at all.

Parish churches in the CoE are allowed to vote that they will not have a women as a Pastor/Priest.  In the Erith deanery locally there are churches that have voted so that they will not have a woman priest or even a woman preacher.

Summary

There is no getting away form the fact that we are church with many different views and understandings of Christian faith and especially on ethical issues.

In my view we need to be generous and respect oner another with our difference of views concerning these things.  We need to focus instead on the things that unite us – and our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour as we will say together in the words of the creeds.

I close with the words of Queen Elizabeth first, who at the time of the Elizabethan settlement and the adoption of the Book of Common Prayer said that “she did not peer into the souls of men”.  It was up to each person to decide whether they were protestant or catholic, and she did not want to arbitrate who was right or wrong.  Each person is left to have their own conscience regarding these matters.


Do not Lord it over one another – Mark 10:35-45:
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