Thursday 22 January 2009

One (Traditionalist) Road to Ruin

Catholic?” Part of the mystical body of Christ. You become one by baptism. That’s Christian tradition. Since the 1860’s, however, some extreme Anglo-Catholics have gotten into the questionable habit of using the word “Catholic” almost exclusively as a kind of style descriptor or brand name. The “Catholic Church” in this exclusive sense = “no prots, just me and my chums, the Romans and most of the Orthodox”. And, like the Urban Spaceman, the best thing about this idealized narrowband “Church” is that it doesn’t actually exist; so holding it to be the supreme authority can be a neat way out of accountability to anyone real.

Taken to extremes, this ecclesiology comes over as snotty, gusting towards dotty and even potty. But what lies beyond?

I was reading Ruth Gledhill’s blog yesterday, and came across a clip from Swedish TV of Bishop Richard Williamson. I am grateful to her for carrying this stuff, because however distasteful it is, we mustn’t forget it is out there, and utterly pernicious.

Richard Williamson started out as an ultra traditonalist Anglo-Catholic which he seems to have taken for a flamboyant mix of fantasy, reactionary whining, sarcasm, misogyny, and trivial Father Teddery. This led him into the Roman Catholic Church, but that wasn’t really him, and he ended up in the Lefebvrist schism. Now he’s arrived at... Holocaust denial. No gas chambers, no nothing. Well, 300K dead all right, but... but what?

In the mid-nineties a friend, a canny old cradle Catholic Irish priest, told me over a whiskey he thought one or two of the Anglo-Catholics joining his denomination were “the most dangerous form of convert.” “Dangerous?” I said. “Surely not.” “Oh yes,” he said. “Dangerous. They’ve made a complete Horlicks of living within their own tradition, no obedience, and now they think they’re bl**dy experts and entitled to come and play merry hell in the Church. Kids taking over the school. Dangerous.”

With all forms of crazy fundamentalism, if people choose to apply their often considerable intelligence to going round and round the circle line, they end up in la-la land. They need to get off the train, consider the possibility that they might not have everything sewn up, grow up and join the rest of the human race up on the surface.

But my Irish friend was correct. This stuff is Dangerous. Beyond all the Restricted Views, Snotty, Dotty and Potty, the outlook is Obscene.

Great analysus of this interview’s rather steamy origins and political context, from Andrew Brown here.

One (Traditionalist) Road to Recovery is not about this particular narrow issue, but may be of interest.


Huw Richardson said...

Speaking as a (former) convert to the Orthodox Church (who returned to Anglicanism) your friend is very right about converts. You should see what American converts are doing to the various Orthodox jurisdictions! (I know some in the UK have had experience of American Convertitis via the SPCK bookshops.)

Steve Hayes said...

Ah yes, I recognise the type. The sarcasm, the reactionary whining, the mysogyny... did I mention the sarcasm?

The sarcasm gave the game away, of course. They would never say why they didn't like something, and give a theological analysis to say why they thought it was wrong. It was all oblique references, sly innuendo, and, of source, sarcasm. If you needed an explanation, you simply weren't part of the club, and weren't worth talking to And this exposed their attitudes as based on nothing more than prejudice. But it is also what makes them not dangerous. Because they despise anyone who doesn't see their point of view as too obvious to need any explanation, theological or otherwise, they are diminishing in number.

And fortunately they are not generally attracted to the Orthodox Church, because they know nothing about it, other than that they have read in books of more balanced and sensible Anglo-Catholics of an earlier generation that the Orthodox Church is one "branch" of the Catholic Church.

If they do enter an Orthodox Church, culture shock overwhelms them. We don't genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament on the altar! Shock! Horror!

One such visitor I spoke to was absolutely scandalised that in the Orthodox Church "Glory to God in the highest" was not part of the Divine Liturgy (the Maas), but part of Matins. That made us complete heretics in his eyes, and he said so, in no uncer4tain terms. And then he went on to expound all sorts of gnostic theories without batting an eyelid. I suggested that he might feel more at home in the Liberal Catholic Church, which is generally gnostic as they come, but it doesn't really matter what you believe, as long as you do it with incense and get the ceremonial right.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Under a thick larding of pious fighting talk, SPCK/SSG is a ruddy nightmare. The staff are abused, fired by email (a bizarre thing to do in Europe). The stock is run down, lies are told; whilst people's national insurance isn't paid, the bosses help themselves to thousands out of the business, covenants are broken... None of us have ever associated Orthodox believers in the UK with this kind of behaviour. We have so much in common within the whole body of Christ, and the historic patristic grounding of the way we (used to) do theology in the C of E. And of course the problem isn't The Orthodox, convert or cradle. It's a couple of, er Cowboy "Orthodox." It's a crying shame.

Steve, the Lord spoke of straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. True obedience brings us into relationship, with each other and the Lord. What I've admired about Orthodoxy, from talking to a priest in the village square in Greece to the heights of Vladimir Lossky, is gthe Incarnational capacity of Orthodox Christians. Discarnate snobbery has been the curse of some strands of Anglo-Catholicism — such a beautiful, straightforward, truthful vision, subverted by ego and folly, driven by fantasy. The only corrective is true faith in the Incarnation, and to discover what that is about, we need our Orthodox Fathers...

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

PS, I gather Mr Williamson is now hawking lies from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, one of the nastiest, most pernicious forgeries ever uttered, in the twentieth century the source of not only Holocaust denial, but holocaust commission... I can't believe a supposed man of the cloth can do this stuff. It's so shameful.

bob said...

Converting to Orthodox Christianity from Anglicanism is simply finding Christianity. Turning away from where there *is none*. It was true around 30 years ago for people like Katherine Schori's mother, true for lots of others. Leaving a place where they can't figure out whether the Creed is true or not, what two of anything can get married, where the Trinity is "Excess baggage"...Leaving darkness for light. Period. Any questions?

Gregory of Langres said...

Are you really suggesting that traditionalist Anglicans are realistically potential holocaust deniers?

Huw Richardson said...

As for the SPCK, I was referring to the time before the layoffs: when they purged the shelves of all but "pure" Orthodox books, warned staff not to talk about anything other than Orthodox stuff, etc: very American Convert.

Re: your PS. THe Protocols? Wow! Those things keep coming up. One seriously wants to imagine that B16 will put a stop to that silliness if he welcomes them home.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Bob — glad you're so much at home in your spiritual skin. That's one difference between what someone above called Convertitis and real obedience expressed authentically in a faith tradition. I have to say, though I've heard people say similarly bullish things about their coming home to various things, including the Church of England, the RC Church, and even Baptist. That's how it felt to them anyway, and you have to respect people where they are.

Bishop Gregory — good to hear from you. I once helped with a wedding at S. Michel in Dijon, where they know all about you. I think my answer is a bit of a no and yes. No, of course there's no automatic connection between being Anglo-Catholic and holocaust denial; people have all kinds of routes to their hearts of darkness. But yes, this clown managed it, didn't he. It's a warning to all. As someone who did a doctoral thesis on late Victorian Anglican Catholic theology, I am sad at the way in which so much good that people I was studying struggled for was blown in the second half of the 20th century, once they won, by self-indulgence and fantasy. The more you can keep it real, the highier your incarnational capacity, the more Anglo-Catholicism blesses everyone.

Huw — I'd forgotten the big ideological purge that preceded the slimeball business praxis... How silly, to reduce something as broad, rich and deep as Holy Orthodoxy into a denominational crusade...

Steve Hayes said...

"Discarnate snobbery has been the curse of some strands of Anglo-Catholicism".

Indeed, but not the strand I first encountered, mainly in the CR in their priory in Rosettenville, Johannesburg. And they were of the kind that in England too went to work in slum parishes. It was only when I got to England that I really encountered the other kind, described in a recnet post on my blog. That was a bit of a culture shock.

But nowadays the discarnate snobs seem to be the only ones left.

Ecgbert said...

I can't stand many (especially online) Orthodox converts and neo-Cath RCs either: the US Republican Party at prayer or let's forget the Prince of Peace; the Protestant religious right with the episcopate and the Mass.

BTW I'm straight, not an anti-Semite (and am especially pro-Palestinian Semitic), was born Anglican and am rooted in traditional Anglo-Catholicism (and know its faults).

Anonymous said...

From Ruth Gledhill, posting as anon cos of the difficulty of logging on to blogger:
Bps Alan and Gregory, see my latest blog. SSPX has not actually been welcomed back by BXVI but for years have been given a happy hope in our own Church of England diocese in Europe, known for being traditionalist. See my latest blog:

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Ruth, thank you for a useful tip, which' I'll follow up properly later when I can.

I need to clarify that I have not said, and never would, that these outrageous views are either those of Anglo-Catholics, the vast majority of whom in my experience (a la Trevor Huddleston) have been of an entirely different stamp, nor of the RC Church, of course, nor of the SSPX, I hope and believe. They are one man's crazy, but dangerous views. We all, however, need close vigilance to the sad story of how he got there. That is why I drew attention to the attitudes I did, not because I am trying to suggest ayone else is following him where he went. I pray they aren't for all our sakes.

Anonymous said...

Surely it is meant to be a disappoinment that the urban spaceman doesn't exist, rather than 'the best thing'? Does that also transfer to Anglo-Catholicism as you see it?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Could be; people react to the non-existence in various ways, no doubt. I don't think any of this necessarily transfers to Anglo-Catholicism. It's just a terrible fact that it did for this man. He could have got to the same place from other theological convictions, though ’appen he didn’t.

What I would say of Anglo-Catholics is that there has always and certainly since the 1860's been a variety of response to ecclesiological questions among them; between Western Use and Sarum, for example at the beginning of the century.

The common theme, though, 1880-1914 was a tendency for the majority to work within the constraints and disciplines of the Church, whilst a small minority went off on various flights of fancym which caused great distress and annoyance to the more grounded leaders of the movement. There are some very famous comments by Canon Liddon about the mourners at Pusey’s funeral, discerning this trend, and abominating the new, young, bearded men who were not, in his view, loyal to the Church.

Anonymous said...

Hitler was baptised and raised as a Roman Catholic, but that doesn't mean the RC Church can be blamed, as some seek to do, for all that follows.

Your use of Williamson to smear traditional Anglicans is equally absurd and offensive.

Lapinbizarre said...

A mistyped Google search "Gregory of Langrea", elicited the inquiry "Did you mean "Gregory of Lingerie"?"

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Dear Anonymous; please feel free to use your name. I said harsh words in this piece about people who, if you think about it, by definition are not Anglo-Catholics — Mr Williamson, and one or two former Anglo-Catholics known to Father O'B who is now dead (RIP) and cannot therefore tell me who he had in mind. Why would an Anglo-Catholic think it was all about him?

The most extraordinary comment on Mass Information was the person who smeared me with having said Anglo-Catholics were racist. I have now checked the blog and the only conceivable piece he could be referring to. I have good news for him:

(1) Father Ted was in fact not a racist. That was the humour of the scene.

(2) Father Ted was in fact an RC not AC

(3) Father Ted is a humorous character

(4) Father TEd does not, in fact, exist.

We have to take it then, that the smear was in the mind of the beholder.

As to Hitler, it is a matter of profound shame for all Christians to reflect on that a baptised Christian should have gone the way he did. It doesn't, of course, mean all Christians are fascists, but it should make us all more concerned about formation. I would see this, rather than touchiness, as an appropriate response.

L/B Many Thanks for the great news about Bishop Gregory, upon which I shall dine out (but not much or for long, I fear).

Andrew Teather said...

Dear Alan,

I get the feeling that you have not seen an integrated, fully functioning Anglo Catholic Parish. My experience of your area is slim and I am not keen to comment on what I know nothing about, but could I respectfully offer Manchester (a city in the North of England)as an example of what I feel you have missed.

Forward in Faith represents itself well in the Diocese, with a number of our priests being honorary canons of the Cathedral and holding office in the diocese and Church House. The Cathedral regularly has Mass celebrated by our clergy and is used for major events. The Bishop of the Diocese is a regular visitor to our Churches, preaching and giving Benediction. Us spikeys do not attempt to poison his canonically ordained wife, in fact some of us are even on speaking terms with her. The Bishop occasionally meets our Parishes in Walsingham and has shown considertion to appointments.

In this little Deanery, there are four Churches. One FinF, one liberal Catholic (to which a female friend of mine is to be licensed as Curate soon), one with a female vicar and one evangelical Church. We are all members of Churches Together and have joint walks of witness with the RC Church and the Methodists. This last week we have attended services in each others Churches as guests from five different traditions, the Monsignor as well as the Methodist Minister.

We are sure of our stance, generous in our hospitality and resolutely Mancunian in our commitment to live in harmony, in this town which was built by Victorian immigrants, including my family, and has an understanding (not tolerent, who wants to be tolerated when they can be understood) nature.

I am sure that this situation is replicated around the country, in areas where the Bishops are genuinely committed to understanding their diverse flocks and fostering a spirit of hope and faith in all their Parishes. What te future may hold worries me, of course, as I embark into the Church as an ordained personage, but I hope that something of the hope I see around me will permeate all the houses of the synod and allow each of us to live with our consciences, our faith, where it is shared and where it parts, and our congregations of committed, generous, Christian people.

I have never heard a racist word uttered in our multicultural Church (goodness me, our Muslim friends down the road asked us to bless their refurbished restaurant, and I do not use 'friends' in the patronising new way, but plainly) and I believe that you can tell our congregation by their actions and commitment to the local area, which is where the vast majority come from. As I said, I am sure this is the same up and down the country. You are very welcome to visit us, we will not, I promise you, judge you by the slings and arrows that some people throw at us without ever having met us.


Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Dear Fr Andrew,

Thank you for bringing this whole discussion back to a genuine reality checkpoint — your experience of living the gospel where you are in the fulness of faith.

(1) Though the vast majority tradition of Bucks, from the sixteenth century on, has been puritan, you are right. There are one or two good examples of traditionalist poarishes — It's invidious to name names, but Stony Stratford and Hanslope and Castlethorpe stand out spectacularly.

(2) I have had various experiences of Catholic parishes around Reading and elsewhere, including those I knew as a research student, but all before the current turmoils.

(3) If you would like, I would be more than delighted to come up to Manchester and spend a day with you midweek (incognito — just as a visiting friend in orders), meeting the people who make your parish what it is, and getting a real feel for how your faith in the incarnation works on the ground. I would love to have such an educational opportunity, if you were able to accommodate me (

Thank you again, for your helpful response.

Andrew Teather said...

Thanks for your comments, you will indeed be welcome to come and have a look around, but if you would like me to walk around with you it will have to be in the next few months, for then I will be going to be ordained Deacon in Blackburn (so not Fr. yet, forgive me if I sound parochial about Saint Hilda's, I love it and the community and have worked hard for it).

Gregory of Langres said...

If there was no intention to slur Anglican Catholics - and I am happy to take you at your word that there wasn't - why did you even refer to Williamson's past?

It seems most remarkable to even mention it if you have no wish to link his deplorable behaviour with Anglo-Catholics in any way.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Dear Bp Gregory,

Williamson's past is part of Williamson's journey. If he were one of those guards in the camps who sang pietistic choruses as they went to work, his very different (Evangelical) past would be significant to the story.

Andrew, thanks for putting me right. I didn't know. Please thus interpret wall-to-wall on Facebook accordingly! I'm quite serious, though I would very mcuh value a chance to get 24-36 hours working acquantance of an unashamedly traditonalist working parish, prefeably out my patch. I studied how some worked 100 eyars ago. I had some acquaintaince of one or two 30 years ago. You'd be right to think it's not sopmething on the Bishops' CME programme, though perhaps it should be, and certainly for me.

How would we move forward on this? Anyone I could set things up with? Perhaps I could contact the appropriate bishop or PP and do it that way... Ideas, please on a postcard.

Lapinbizarre said...

Williamson also preaches that the 9/11 attacks were an inside "demolition" and missile-attack job by the US government, not the result of crashed, hijacked planes. Williamson - 9/11

Jeffrey Steel said...

Dear Bishop Alan,

Would you be so kind as to explain to me what "particularly" is so important about the connection of Bishop Williamson's past journey through Anglo-Catholicism and his recent rantings?

You keep saying that his journey through AC is so important to where he is now,I am assuming you mean his views; can you make the clear connection for me who is simply not getting it?

Please be specific.

Kind regards,

Father Jeffrey

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

L/B I think I had come across the 9/11 thing somewhere. I wonder whether he has views on the Moon Landing...

Fr Jeffrey,

Thank you for your question. I'm thinking out loud as I write, because I wouldn't normally regard myself as a hot-button issue person, but this plainly was for me. I have Central European family, and therefore feel extremely sensitized about the Holocaust and its implications; but why this, and what's the connection?

The simple fact is, I think, that I feel really deeply ashamed and disturbed, as an Anglican, that one of our community should have taken this path; that and anxious to know what the connectors were, on the level of attitudes. What pointed him in this direction? It would be comforting to think the exclusivist attitude that has driven him throughout were nothing to do with anything otherwise known among us, but I donfear not.

When I was going round London Anglo-Catholic parishes as a research student, I would have said the social outlook of the people I met was extremely Incarnationally based, generous, and unikely to give birth to absurd sectarianism. However, I do know many people, both within and outside the Catholic movement in 1880-1914 did begin to detect attitudes they identified as sectarian growing among some of their number. Look, for example, at some of the comments at Liddon's funeral in 1890 about young bearded men. I have also been made aware, on occasion, of isolated instances of distubringly overbearing behaviours more recently among Anglo Catholics.

Why do these connections matter to me? When I was at Wycliffe, we had a Barthian tutor, with strong German connections, who was accustomed to challenge pious young Evangelicals over how death camp guards could sometimes be so personally pietistic. His questioning wasn't comfortable, but it was salutary. Unless we acknowledge that within us can lie that which is vulnerable to evil, we put ourselves in a very dangerous place.

The roots of sectarian attitudes which have reached full bloom in what I saw on Ruth's blog disturb and anger me very deeply. That's all I think I can say.

Thank you for inviting me to comment further. I don't know if this helps you at all, but hope it clarifies things a bit...

Kind regards,


Jeffrey Steel said...

Dear Bishop Alan

Thank you for your comments. I am an Anglo-Catholic and my aunt by marriage was chosen by her parents as the child who would leave with her uncle to escape Germany during this terrible time in humanity's history and go to America to live safely. Shortly after she left, her mother, father, and two sisters were killed in the camps. Horrific choice for a parent to have to make and for a child to have to live with that choice! I remember how painful this was for her. One of the benefits of her move to America was that she became a Christian.

So, I too have 'sensitive connections' with this sort of wickedness but I do not find your article's 'appeal to emotion', 'guilt by association', or 'questionable cause' or flying red herrings useful when trying to make points about your opinion of this Bishop's views.

I have yet to see the evidence for the case you seek to make. There have been all sorts of terrible paths Christians have taken in history that might make you ashamed to be a Christian but that too would be illogical based upon our belief in the logos made flesh, not what errant 'believers' do.

My humble opinion is that you could have had your strong 'emotional response' to his views in a more objective way that would not have brought about such an offensive response from those you seem to want to understand and see prosper. It seems to me to be nothing more than a misplaced opportunity to make a very unnecessary jab.

To be honest, this is popular political rhetoric but not very helpful in building bridges. As a priest in the same church as you, I am offended that you associate my 'tradition' as "ultra traditonalist Anglo-Catholic as a flamboyant mix of fantasy, reactionary whining, sarcasm, misogyny, and trivial Father Teddery."

Do you really think this is helpful? I certainly do not find it academically challenging.



Anonymous said...

It seems to me that tarring Anglo-Catholics with the same brush as this revolting man is distinctly unfair. I gather by your replies that this was not your intention.

I feel it especially sad that the pope has not spoken to his disgusting (indeed lunatic) statements and condemned them outright. One can only hope this will be speedily remedied.

As an Anglo-Catholic of admittedly "progressive" tendencies, I can report that I know countless members of our "wing" of the Church, both conservative and progressive (if you will) who devote their lives to the simple work of Christ.

I welcome your willingness to explore this with

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Dear Fr Jeffrey,

Thank you for filling in something of your personal background. My response was certainly strongly emotional, but not entirely irrational. I don't quite understand what you mean by flying red herrings. I don't accept I was saying anything about anyone except who I was talking about. Being realistic about Evangelical war criminals is a comment on them, not Evangelicals in general; but one to which Evangelicals in general would be wise to pay heed.

I've not met you, and have no idea why you would think this was all about you. It wasn't. It was about Bishop Williamson, including how he got to where he did.

Davis, Thank you for your thought. I am, as I was, deeply revolted by right wing holocaust denial. I am no expert about today's news; but in fairness to the Pope would want to say that he has an official duty to try and heal a schism in his Church, which is about more than just personalities. I noticed in the Andrew Brown piece that the interview was carefully timed to try and embarrass this process. That makes me wonder who and why. That said, as much as I understand what the Pope was trying to do, and how important it is to wait and see the detail work out, I am pretty sick about the whole business, really, and think little good can come out of giving this man credibility.

I am very much looking forward to having the opportunity to engage with and explore Tradtionalist faith and praxis in positive terms with Andrew and others — a more important learning opportunity than many that come my way. Thank you for your description of the task as "devoting their lives to the simple work of Christ."

Anonymous said...

Your protestations grow more and more feeble, Bishop.

You have blatantly taken an opportunity to rubbish the Catholic movement by association with Bp Williamson, who even if he was an "Anglo-Catholic" a generation ago, rejected it in order to join another Church.

Your recent admission that you know virtually nothing about contemporary Anglican Catholics simply holds up your earlier statements to ridicule.

You bring the Church of England and the Diocese of Oxford into disrepute.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Dear Anonymous (and why not take responsibility for what you say, by using your name?),

I think we've reached a kind of vanishing point here. You point out yourself exactly the same thing I did at the outset; the fact that my critical words, which I admit were sharp and angry, were about someone who hasn't been an Anglo-Catholic for years. You seem to think they are about you... I don't think I can help you much more.

This conversation has reminded me of my thesis. I must have an electronic copy at home somewhere. If any insomniac is interested in "The Theology of Church and Party of London Anglo-Catholics 1880-1914, with special reference to the Church Crisis of 1898-1906." (20 years out of date, thus slightly foxed, but basically historical in approach), email me. I'm not sure about formats from 20 years ago, but it was done in Word.

Finally, I was very much helped to come to terms with this subject by Last Night’s very cogent and moving reflection on Mass Information about it:

Anonymous said...

Why do you persist with the psychobabble - "you seem to think they are about you"?

You have made a disgusting connection between Anglican Catholics and the views of a holocaust denier, which has no basis in fact.

Is this how you treat your clergy?

Erp said...

Speaking as someone outside the Christian traditions, I think the key thing to remember is that any tradition whether it be Anglo-Catholic, Puritan, non-theistic humanist, may produce a few tares. How the rest of us in those traditions handle the tares is more significant. "All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing."

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Erp, many thanks for underlining the basic point I was makingclearly. The other element in the piece, added by my RC priest friend, was that the danger signal for him about these tares was the willingness they demonstrated to live within the community of their own tradition and hold themselves accountable to it. In justice to him, for he is now dead and unable to speak for himself, he was of course delighted by the vast majority of Angican converts to his Church. To suggest that either he, or I, were referring to all Anglo-Catholics is just plain stupid.

Huw Richardson said...

If I might, the post clearly refers to "some" and not "all":

"Since the 1860’s, however, some extreme Anglo-Catholics have gotten into the questionable habit of using the word “Catholic” as a kind of style descriptor or brand name."

Then Williamson comes off as a sort of extreme version of even that extremity, a fringe on the fringe, as it were.

This is connected to the comment by the Irish priest that "one or two of the Anglo-Catholics joining his denomination" were dangerous. Not all, only one or two.

This form of extremism is seen as dangerous (and on the Circle line) from which the blog post invites the crazies to come up for air and meet the rest of us.

Jacob Hicks said...

Bishop, I'm very glad that you didn't mean to smear all Anglo-Catholics. I fear, though, the fact that everyone who has seen fit to comment, as well as a many, many others has seen it as the appalling implication of your post (and no, not simply an unfortunate inferrence) means that your taking up Fr Hunwicke's call for an apology ( ) would be more than appropriate.

As far as I can see, it was either your intention or a very, very badly worded post. Either way, an apology would be appreciated.

Erp said...

I think non-theistic humanists are usually happy also with those who swim into our pool. Some like John Mortimer range into the Anglican pool for a bit of exercise (I like a nice Christmas eve service myself though I haven't tussled with an archbishop over theology yet) even if their home is in the Humanist pool. There are a few who it would be nice to throw back.

The real danger is when the tares become shepherds and judges of the community (a terrible mixing of metaphors, I know).

Anonymous said...

"Richard Williamson started out as an ultra traditonalist Anglo-Catholic in the early seventies — a flamboyant mix of fantasy, reactionary whining, sarcasm, misogyny, and trivial Father Teddery."

Note words "ultra traditionalist" in the phrase: "started out as an ultra traditonalist". The whole sentence is pointing out that this individual has a personal history of taking things to off extremes. In contrast to A-C in general, it is specifically Williamson's absurd extreme version of A-C that is a wacky premonition of his extreme and wacky views now.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Jacob, thank you for telling me of your hurt feelings, and those of your friends. I appreciate your graciousness in making your point. I am more than happy to make plain what the piece said.

Please, however read the comments in this list. Huw, Erp, Jonathan, for example, just to look at the nearest three to yours, quite emphatically read it in the way that was clearly intended. There was one person who wouldn't give his name, from whom I published several comments out of a sense of fairness, and three others who felt the way you did. All this in, er 37 comments. I don't want, however, to hurt ayone's feelings, and I will visit the site you quote this evening, and find out how I can help.

Erp, thank you for extending the point I was making in an interesting way; I'm sure the unaccountability/fantasy thing is a universal bad side to human nature, and if the few who indulge it and develop it gain positions of power, the whole problem is compounded terribly.

Jonathan, thank you for amplifying exactly the core point of my piece.

Jacob Hicks said...

Bishop, thank you for your response. You are, of course, correct that there were those who somehow (through prejudice or sharpness) managed to read your post in the way you, apparently, intended. Given that you, perhaps wisely, moderate comments, though, none of the three you cite were up when I wrote my comment. I look forward to seeing the apology on Fr Hunwicke's blog - and, indeed, here.

Erp said...

Let those who can read, read.

I suspect one of the trigger words here is 'misogyny'. Because the Church of England ordains women as priests and will soon join other Anglican churches such as the Episcopal Church in the USA in ordaining female bishops and because current Roman Catholic theology decrees this is impossible, a small group is drawing the conclusion that you think (no matter what you wrote) this is misogynistic and therefore you think all Anglo-Catholics/Roman Catholics are misogynistic.

My guess is that Williamson went well beyond this in his views on women.

It is anyway my understanding (I am only speaking for myself not Bishop Alan, and, I'm not Anglican or even Christian) that not all Anglo-Catholics oppose ordination of women and that some Roman Catholics are open to the idea even though official church dogma opposes it. Churches have managed to change dogma to remove support of slavery so I expect one day most (as some have already done so) will change dogma to allow women to be ordained. Admittedly I'm only a lowly woman and infidel so my opinion probably isn't worth much.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Dear Jacob,

Not prejudice or sharpness - simply reading what it says. About 30 people have contacted me, publicly and privately, mostly about aspects of the SSG/SPCK thing, and other matters nothing to do with your complaint, 23 did not take the piece the way you and Fr Hunwicke did. 7 did take offence, some dialoguing to a point they understood my original purpose, 3 not. I am grateful to everyone who objected for expressing their point of view clearly. I appreciate their having contacted me directly. They gave me, and various other people who by yesterday were beginning to find their obtuseness exasperating enough to suggest other wording, an opportunity to see if there was some way of making my meaning plainer.

Please read the piece above. It simply does not say that all Anglo-Catholics are fantasists, sarcastic, misogynistic, unaccountable to the whole Church, etc. You must know that perfectly well. Those words are plainly and obviously about Mr Williamson and Fr O’s "one or two" others, by definition people who are not now Anglo-Catholics. To suggest otherwise is an offensive lie. The root cause is diagnosed as loyalty to a notional Church, but refusal to hold oneself accountable to the whole real Church — a concept which I’d expect any well instructed Catholic Christian to champion vociferously, actually. It's a core purpose, I would have thought, of the Catholic movement in the C of E to recall it to a sense of accountability to the whole Church.

The simple fact is I cannot unsay what I never said. However, for the avoidance of doubt, I have modified the text of the piece by inserting the words “which he seems to have taken for...” which perhaps makes the point more blatantly.

The point being? If I tell a story about an encounter with a drunken Scotsman on a train, that is emphatically, and to most people obviously, *not* the same thing as saying that all Scotsmen are either drunk or drunks, or on a train.

I want to thank you also, in closing, for at least having the decency to use your real name. There are good technical reasons (as Ruth Gledhill explained above) why some people have to post as "anonymous." The use of monikers (as some others do) is well established in newspaper correspondence, and causes me no grief. At least you know when you're talking to the same person twice over and can thus dialogue, even if it is a bit like a masked ball.

However in the non-cyber world I always treat anonymous letters as the kind it were better not to have sent, although I hope people have got it out of their system by writing them. You can't answer them, and views to which people will not put their names can scarce command much respect. Sending me an anonymous note in the post is the short route to the wastepaper basket by way of the shredder.

I much appreciate your showing more character and decency.

with kind regards,


Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Erp, many thanks for your wisdom and sage advice. I believe you have laser beamed through to the heart of one strand of misperception that has been operating really clearly. If you look at Bishop Williamson's website it contains bizarre stuff about the Vatican being entirely controlled by women, an improbable notion.

Thanks for your contribution. In the days I used to do a lot of work consultancy, I sometimes was involved in training execrises where two would observe a consultancy conversation, one from within the pair, one from over near the door. Strangely, but very often, the person near the door would see and understand what was really going on best; perhaps by seeing the whole picture rather than just the details.

all best


Anonymous said...

Dear Bishop,

I myself was aghast reading this. Why? Firstly because it does not demonstrate either love or understanding - qualities which a Bishop ought to have...even towards +Williamson.

Secondly because you qualify who these 'dangerous and extreme' Catholics are 'as those who use the word Catholic as a style descriptor or brand name'.

That sound to me like anyone who calls themsleves 'Catholic' - which is me! I call myself Catholic and I was offended and outraged. I wonder how those poor seminarians at Massinformation felt? Surely as a Bishop you should be encouraging Anglo-Catholic vocations and not ripping into all and any who define themselves in that way?

I also ask how a Bishop can hold office whilst being so deeply ignorant of true Anglo-Catholicism, as becomes clear within these comments. Little wonder Synod serves us so poorly.

I am also saddened that your comments demonstrate an inability to say sorry. It smacks of all the self assurance one sees in that very dangerous cleric +Williamson- and I suggest it is his love of self - rather than his preference of tradition- which leads to his utter shame and downfall.

You may have had many offers already- but feel free to visit me in Tunbridge Wells- where our Eastwood facing, biretta wearing, Forward in Faith parish- has more than doubled its congregation in under 5 years- grown a Sunday School of close to 30- and is catering to a rich and diverse people. We even have men in their forties- almost unheard of in the C of E I am told! We have rcently worked with the Diocese and local community to oen a preschool in recent months and are raising substantial funds to build a community centre in this very poor area of town.

Do email me to arrange a visit if you find the time you would be made most welcome. And please remember that most Anglo-Catholics work in some of the most deprived parishes in this land. They are already low in spirits surviving in a church which clearly holds them in very little regard... were you my own Bishop, making comments like these, I would feel utterly betrayed. Something for reflection perhaps?

I say this as a fellow sinner who is oft guilty of speaking too quickly and without thought.

Fr. Ed Tomlinson SSC

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Dear Fr Ed,

Thank you very much for helping the discussion forward. I had not considered, and should have, the use of the word Catholic in the first para. I understand myself to be self-identifying as Catholic every time I say the creed. But not everybody uses the word that way.

I am very sorry to have missed that dimension in my anger about holocaust denial, and to have said something so plainly wounding to you and the othrs you mentioned. I am most grateful to you for pointing this out.

Please be assured I'm not on synod! I would like to take you up on your kind offer, because the present partition arrangements in the C of E hardly promote the kind of ordinary praying together and being together that might be a sounder basis for working out our differences than simply discussing them in the abstract, and/or politically.

There are a few petitioning parishes in Bucks, and, although it would be invidious to single any out, some are greatly flourishing. I would, however value spending time with you, in order to learn about the grassroots of a gathered traditionalist parish (ours are rural and market town, and I am in a different relationship to people I meet around them than simply an enquiring guest). Show me around, perhaps, during a day incognito, as you might a prospective curate?

I was touched by Andrew Teather's offer above, but didn't know he wasn't already ordained when I took him up on it. It instantly seemed like a good idea, and certainly as valuable as some of the more abstract CME that goes on. I think it would be better and more tactful all round not to go to Manchester.
I'll contact you directly.

Kind regards,


Anonymous said...

Dear +Alan,

As someone pursuing vocation to the priesthood from within your own diocese, and coming from the catholic tradition (admittedly the affirming catholic stream), I have to admit that you seem to be spot on about those who get a bit self-righteous about their own particular tradition. This attitude does seem to be particularly prevalent among those of us from the 'smells and bells' background, perhaps because we approach our faith through a sacramental path, and can often get sniffy with those who do not hold the Sacraments in such high regard, and assume that we are better than 'them' just because they don't 'do it right'. On this note, it was pointed out in a sermon I heard a few weeks ago that 'there is no High Mass in Heaven', and I think we must all remember that our own traditions, important as they are, are only pathways to God: as the hymn-writer says 'So, Lord, at length when sacraments shall cease,
may we be one with all thy Church above'.

Right from the earliest days, the AC movement has been closely involved in social work, and alleviating the suffering of the poor, the homeless and the deprived. In the words of Bp. Frank Weston: 'You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the Tabernacle, if you do not pity Jesus in the slums'. Some from within our tradition would do well to remember this, rather than spending their time getting all fluffed with others, and excluding them, because of their differences in view or liturgical practice. The log first, then the speck...

Kyrie Eleison...

berenike said...

I thought this was a perceptive and hilarious post, and was even more amused by the fact that massinformation, or their readers, seemed to think it was directed at them.

Unknown said...

Dear Bishop Alan,

I think that you may have wandered into a particularly difficult minefield here.

Until my mid 20's I was an New Church Charismatic Evangelical. Through a process of events (including the death of my mother) I ended up in a Modern Catholic parish. The decision was to start going to a parish church (a real conversion to Anglicanism!) rather than to become an Anglo-Catholic.

As an 'Evangelical' I had always been rather outspoken about issues within the movement. A Wesleyan Methodist upbringing had left me rather Arminian, Sacramental, open to views on the Atonement that were not PSA, and very much in favor of women's ministry. It is not surprising that I found a home in a Modern Catholic tradition. Indeed I never felt a very warm welcome from Anglican Evangelicals, probably because of my Wesleyan approach.

Although my theological shift was minor compared to my ecclesiological movement I quickly found that I could no longer be so outspoken about my views on certain issues in the Evangelical movement. Because I was no longer identified as 'Evangelical'.

Conversations with colleagues from Ridley when I was in formation at Westcott were even more difficult!

Even now as a Priest I have to be careful what I say. Frequently my Evangelical colleagues outside the Church of England are more open than those inside. Because the CofE seems to be so bogged down in tribalism.

I can't even comment on Anglo-Catholics really as my own tradition is inspired by Cranmer, Wesley and Dearmer which is all profoundly unfashionable these days. After all they were all Anglicans first (whatever happened with Methodism). And no tribal movement in the CofE seems to want to be an Anglican first. It is always something else first.

The most obvious expressions of Anglican first would be Reformed Catholic and Sacramental Evangelical. I am happy to be called either but prefer Anglican.

But I do believe we all have the right to comment on other Anglicans, and movements within Anglicanism. St. Paul never minced words about the Jerusalem parties shortcomings. So a Bishop has a particular right to do so.

What you say about Anglo-Catholicism is correct. It is sadly very broken in places. Obsessed with snotty elitism - as demonstrated by certain responses to the Catholic Fresh Expressions day in Conventry in the Church Times.

As is Evangelicalism in places. If I meet another memorialist Anglican I will have to set John Calvin on them. And if PSA is a touchstone of Evangelical orthodoxy then people really ought to read some historic Evangelical theology (Finney is fun).

As for Liberalism, how something as radically exciting and spiritual as Tillich got subverted into such a mess of lack of identity is beyond me.

And I can think of people who have come from all three backgrounds and completely gone off the rails. Indeed I can think of one example that flirted with all three and made the papers many years ago in Sheffield.

So maybe the real issue is our Anglicanism?

Or as I suspect, the lack of it.


Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Berenike, thanks. I was more startled than amused, but am getting used to it.

Edward, thank you for logging your journey so clearly and wisely. I notice how we all pretty much carry different strands of theological DNA these days. That fact in itself can be perceived as a threat by some groups but I think, as long as the strands remain clear, it's a blessing and enrichment.

Cranmer/ Wesley/ Dearmer. Sounds OK to me! I have been in contexts where I burnt with shame for the way some Anglicans don't understand Wesley, or his spiritual children. Arminian/ Sacramental/ passionate/ outward looking. What's wrong with that?

You're right, any of us can go off the rails; and that's all I said. What's really off the rails is thinking (more likely feeling) my lot can't. Being able to discuss and critique each other's notions openly is one of the mechanisms that may help us mediate truth and bring out the best in each other. Ad hominem arguments are always slightly barmy.

I'm with you. The issue is our Anglicanism, a strange cocktail, and working out how it can resource us. I meet every day people who live decent, holy, prayerful lives, that are transformative in their contexts. For me, as I suspect you, that's the touchstone, not conformity to a particular ideal. The essential pluriformity of the C of E is an extraordinary grace, if only we open our eyes to the possibilities it offers; as many do most of the time...

I want to thank so many people for a fair, honest and helpful discussion in this thread — I am sorry not to have acknoweldged properly the anonymous contribution (45) above, which gave me tremendous hope for its rootedness in the best of the Catholic tradition, but its holy pragmatism.

I'd also like to commend for anyone wanting to follow that angle a great post this morning on anger from a holy Orthodox perspective, by Father Stephen ( ).

Malleus Modernistorum said...

The writer comes across as a snide, false liberal and as so biased towards liberal protestant Modernism that all he or she can do is to trivialise and pompously criticise what he/she does not know and therefore cannot possibly understand. Whoever wrote this this little piece of Newchurch knocking copy is either ignorant of the true facts or a deliberately untruthful perverter of the truth. One of the marks or notes of this Newchurch is it's utter hypocrisy in that it preaches love and inclusion while it neccessarily discards Catholic doctrine in favour of a mess of emotive neo-Modernist potage. It cannot abide the truth and it castigates those who tell it. Simply put, there are those in charge of of this new church who are near-apostates from the Christian religion and who persecute those who refuse to genuflect toward this man-centred cult that feeds the faithful stones instead of the Bread of Heaven. Were they Directors of a Company within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom they would be prosecuted for false representation. The souls they have defrauded will be cast into the balance against them and they will join those whose skulls pave the very floors of Hell, itself. Kyrie eleison.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

May I just say that I know some greatly valued contributors to this blog have technical and professional reasons that compel them to post anynmously, but I much prefer it when people use their proper names. Someone pointed out to me recently that nobody sensible would open the door to a poinsoned dwarf in a balaclava, nor would they respond to an anonymous letter. Indeed anonymous letters are the short route to the wastepaper basket around here. To be lectured on misrepresentation by someone who isn't grown up enough to use their real name is richly ironic.

Malleus Modernistorum said...

I have just such an 'identity problem', which would prove very onerous were I to publish my name. Believe me when I say that in this new church there is no leper more leprous than he who rebukes Peter to his face - by this I mean that the coterie of Modernist false liberals who govern the newchurch ecclesial body and who are presently in power at Rome - including Rome's placemen in the dioceses, here - will only react with the spleeny fury of Old Nick, himself, to anyone who tells them they are wrong or unfaithful to established Catholic doctrine. I give not so much as a fig for their fury and I give not half a damn for their pretended authority when they not only fail to teach the Catholic and Apostolic Faith but also teach Modernism and false-liberalism dressed up as Catholicism. We are bound to refuse obedience to illicit orders from those who deviate from the Faith and I will cheerfully and openly stand with all the Saints in Heaven, my forebears and my predecessors and fully against heterodox clergy, be they never so exalted. I may not, however, expose those who stand with or behind me to the malice and cruelty of those who, demanding for themselves the false right to give rights to error, oppress and seek cruelly and unjustly to dominate those who seek only to be good Catholics, faithful to Scripture, Doctrine and Tradition.
Formy part, I will kneel to the Pope and promise him and the Bishops proper obedience but if that means being a neo-protestant all bets are off.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bishop Alan

Having reviewed your postings I wonder why you refer to Bishop Williamson as plain Mister. He is a validly consecrated Bishop so is your intention to belittle him by calling into question the validity of his Orders - very much a double edged sword and not a weapon very safe to use, I think, given the immemorial sacramental theology of the Roman Catholic Church, to say nothing of Apostolicae Curae

Anonymous said...

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that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength. See the link below for more info.

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