Thursday, 1 January 2009

Disciples of the Divine Word

My name is Chris Gidden. I am a Christian with experiences of various Christian 'paths'.

In the 50's I was confirmed by Mervyn Stockwood, Bishop of Southwark, a truly courageous person whose inspiration has set me on a trail of unknown consequences. I have believed in a Comedian who has landed me in, and taken me out of many situations.

In the 80s, through a good Irish parish priest, with whom I had many interesting conversations, I was received into the Catholic Church and confirmed by Bp Roger Michael Mahony. At the turn of the century I joined the Iona Community, and recently also became a member of the Metropolitan Community Church.

I am a Christian, the longer I live, the more I see myself as a Christian, the more I speak to others about faith the more I am aware most just have a rule book and follow it without thought, contemplation or personal discernment. From conversations with Catholics I have learned that many PP's operate a 'myway' or 'noway' approach: "you align with my way of thinking or go somewhere else". Some PP's are totally obedient to the hierarchy - the organisation.

On a recent visit to my local church, a leading member of the English Catholic Hierarchy was on a pastoral visit. His attempt at a sermon with a local bent was utterly miserable to say the least. I compared it to the off the cuff reflection by the Anglican Bishop at my confirmation. This was crisp and to the point, relevant and knowledgeable. I concede that the comparison may not be magnanimous to either as both have their good and weak points. The point I make is that the Church is the people living their lives in their local circumstances, not grand and glorious buildings or institutional edifices. The latter are there to serve the People of God not to be their masters.

We are slowly realising the truth that the history of the church was written by men for men, and, as such, deals with 'the other' in passing. Women were and still are second class members, secondary to the running and decision making by dominant males. The purpose of women is to produce children and nurture them. Sometimes they may be allowed to help the men who are on the front line.

I am fortunate to have been able to live on both sides, not by choice but by the way I have been put together as a human being. I hope I can bring to the table of the understanding of both sides and show the errors of the line of thought the previous paragraph outlines.

I would add too that the Roman Catholic Church is not the only route up the mountain, nor for that matter is any other faith, division, sect or whatever. Oh dear! What is? We each have to discern for ourselves how we love God, ourselves and each other. If we do not get to the stage of love for each other as we love ourselves there is no hope for us. All of us are the disciples of God through whatever means we are given. Apostles and disciples were not merely a first century phenomenon but are those who hear the call of God and embark on God's task throughout time.

Does your sex or gender really determine what you can do for God? From the pages of the Gospels one can see that both women and men were valid in the eyes of Jesus, but the customs of the time limited the expression of that equality before God. It was a women who pointed out the mission of Jesus was to the Gentiles. The parables were certainly put in a way to be construed throughout time, through change of culture and circumstance.

In this country the pressing problem of a lack of ordained priesthood, both in Catholic and other denominations is the lack of suitable single men in sufficient quantity. The problem is getting worse over time. The ban on the use of artificial means of contraception is steadily being reinforced. One wonders whether this is to try to increase the pool of candidates for the Priesthood. That the clergy are bound to celibacy is also a limiting factor as they are not supposed to produce offspring. What a situation! What a doctrine!

I cannot accept a view that gives more rules and regulations than the succinct ones in the Gospel: Matt 22:34-40 and again in Lk 10:25-28. The judgement for each one of us is whether what we do is in agreement or not with these two statements and that judgement alone.

I am called as others to be a witness for my Lord,
- to try and bring a joining and working together for the Kingdom to come,
- to bring healing through justice and for peace to follow.
- to question diligently those who have an "I am right, I have the only right view".
- to challenge those who say only people like themselves can do this or that.

We are called to be disciples of the Divine Word. We may not have at this time what it takes "to be" but be sure we will get that which is needed. The present time is surely a good time to reflect on what we actually need, discarding that we do not need: discard with discretion though - it maybe someone else's need.

Just a few thoughts as we struggle on for the Kingdom in 2009

Heartfelt blessings to you all

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Chris for setting out so succinctly what I believe.

    As to whether the Roman road is the only way, I was watching Around the World in 80 Faiths last night, and came accross the Cao Dai church, whose principle belief is that "There is only one God, but many religions", which is what I have been trying to say for a long time. If only our present leaders thought the same, we could get on with solving the real problems like war, starvation, poverty etc., and attracting active minds like Chris Webster (see earlier items re letter to Independent on The Church and Sexuality).

    When JP2 called his Assissi summit (I think in the days before the rise of Ratzinger) he met the leaders of most of the world's religions. I always remember the group photo, with a Native American leader in full head-dress. I thought then that we had started on the road marked "Father, let them be one, as you and I are one", but we seem to be parked in a lay-by for the time being.

    Obviously, the Church's present idea seems to be that of uniting the Roman and Anglican churches by attracting all the no-women-priests clergymen and ordaining them as Roman priests. (If they are already married, they are allowed to remain so, but bachelors and widowers cannot!). Being married means that they are allowed (probably encouraged) to breed new seminarians. In this way, we achieve a counter reformation, and fill the pulpits.



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