Monday 22 May 2017

Investing in the Church's Growth

 'How is the Ordinariate managing financially?' I was asked the other day. 'Surviving', said I. But then today I read the Church Commissioners' results in their annual report subtitled "Investing in the Church's Growth".[H.T. to 'Thinking Anglicans'] They made returns of 17.1% last year. The Church Commissioners manage, the report tells us, investable assets of some £7.9 billion - yes, billion. If you prefer to see the figures written out, that is £7,900,000,000. Well done the Commissioners. In my little way I helped contribute to that fund, by getting a local Agent to handle the sale of our Parsonage (for about £2.6k more than the Diocese was quite ready to accept) and then getting the same Agent to act for us, rather than the Diocese's man, when we sold off some other small parcel of land. Eventually the diocese profitted from that parish by about half a million pounds - which the diocese persisted in referring to as our 'windfall'. All the clergy who joined the Catholic Church after 'Anglicanorum Coetibus' had done similarly, if not through land deals then by running numerous Planned Giving campaigns.

Now I am very glad still to be in communion with the C of E Pension Fund, if not with the rest of Anglicanism. But I do wonder if the Commissioners might not do some little thing towards assisting at least with life insurance for younger members of the Ordinariate - and perhaps even encouraging the Anglican hierarchy to share some of its church buildings.  Had a clergyman died while still an Anglican his widow and family would have been greatly assisted from the Commissioners' investments. If one of these same former Anglican clergy, now a Catholic priest,  should die (absit omen )  the Ordinariate will have to bear the entire responsibility for those they leave behind. Yet the fund which the Commissioners manage, formerly Queen Anne's Bounty, derives very largely from the Catholic sources which were nationalised at the time of the 'reformation'. Even those little plots of land which I sold when a Vicar had come ultimately from the Religious House which provided a Vicar and Church for that parish. Queen Anne graciously endowed the Church of England with a little of the money which had come to the Crown from such pre-reformation Catholic sources.

I suppose it is too much to expect there will be any such generosity. After all, the Ordinariate seems not to be seen by Anglicans as a generous Catholic gesture towards those Anglicans who really believed what the C of E consistently said, and still says, that the it is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Instead we Ordinarians seem to be thought of as somehow renegades, denying our birthright. Yet many of us found it increasingly impossible to remain in an Ecclesial Community which allowed itself to be blown about by every new wind of doctrine - or of fashion. Surely Christian Mission might very properly be funded from the ancient endowments set up in large part by our Catholic forebears? How good it would be if we separated Anglicans could be drawn into conversation and fellowship with the rest of the Anglican Communion - or at least with the Church of England - while there is a recognisable part of that Church of England yet surviving. For as a commentator in "Thinking Anglicans" has said, in response to the Commissioners' Report, 'many congregations advance towards extinction' and 'we will soon have the paradoxical situation of an impregnably flush fund providing periodic subventions to the tattered remnants of a Church'. Together we could make a future, genuinely 'investing in the Church's growth'. Kept apart our situation in England becomes ever more like that in Ireland - where one church hangs on to ancient buildings, with everyone at least called 'Very Reverend', while Christianity can mostly be found in a quite different part of the vineyard.  

Thursday 11 May 2017

The tongue holier than the hand?

The Bishop in Wisconsin in the USA has apparently claimed  'The practice of Communion in the hand grew out of a disobedience that can be traced back to Holland. Because of the widespread abuse of receiving in the hand, Pope Paul VI granted an indult for the practice in a 1969 letter from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship.' He also asserts that  'Communion on the tongue is more reverent'. Reverence is a cornerstone of Anglican worship, as it was once generally practised by Anglo-Catholics, and still is by a few. It may be though an uphill task, in view of Cardinal Sarah's support for receiving on the tongue, but at least a case should be made for reverent receiving of Commuion in the hand .

The Dutch might have used reception in the hand as an act of disobedience. In the Church of England, the very reverse was true. Long before Dutch disobedience, many young confirmation candidates were taught that the correct way to receive was on the palm of the hand, one hand placed on the other, for we understood St Augustine had said that in this way we made "a throne for God". Then we were taught to bow our heads to receive the Host from the palm of the hand. We were also taught to sign ourselves with the cross just before receiving the Host or the Precious Blood. It may be that it is the taking of the Host between finger and thumb that looks irreverent to the Bishop of Madison and other upholders of, as they would claim, 'the tradition'. Well, there are many different traditional ways of receiving Communion - for instance it is administered on a spoon in the Eastern Churches, and that can probably claim at least as long a history as reception on the tongue.

What appears particularly irreverent to many former Anglicans is the way so many Catholics studiously avoid receiving from the Chalice, seemingly deliberately avoiding reception of the Precious Blood when it is offered to them. We are well aware of the assertion that 'the Lord is the same in either kind', but we still find it strange that if that is so He chose to initiate the Communion with both bread and wine. It has come as a great encoragement to us to be able to use again the words (taken by Cranmer originally from a Spanish Cardinal) 'that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood'. What is more the words accompanying Communion are terribly brief, whereas in the Ordinariate when we say AMEN we say it at the end of a prayer with which the Sacrament is given to us - that the Body, the Blood, of Our Lord Jesus Christ might preserve us, body and soul, to everlasting life.  Brevity, haste even, seems to be the prerequisite for some Catholics.  I fancy too that our Anglo-Catholic forefathers would have told communicants that they should not attempt to receive on the tongue; it was rude to poke out your tongue, and the priest did not want to be slobbered over from so many open mouths.

In all this, though, what matters is the interior disposition of the Communicant. If he or she intends to be reverent, then how that reverence is expressed is a matter for them and the Lord, not for any onlooker. The non-conformist who receives Communion from the hands of his neighbour, seated, is not doing so from irreverence, but because that is how he believes he might get nearest to the way it was for the first disciples in the Upper Room.  I seem to recall Our Lord telling us not to judge, least of all to judge another's servant. And certainly the tongue is no holier than the hand.