Changing Attitude goes for the Jugular

My, my, we are getting excited.

The Revd Peter Ould, curate of Christ Church, Ware, has published an item on his blog entitled “Will Gene perform Hocus Pocus?” The article insinuates that Bishop Gene Robinson is going to preside at a Eucharist on Sunday 20th July in Canterbury organised by Changing Attitude and Integrity. The Eucharist begins at 2.30pm and is preceded by a picnic at 1.30. Peter further implies that the picnic is the Eucharist. He says he is sincere in wanting to know who will say ‘the magic words’ and yet he describes the service as ‘hocus pocus’. Readers will draw their own conclusions and judge Peter accordingly.

It’s so refreshing that despite the fact that only last week someone called me “inconsequential” to my face, I discover that actually I’m not.

We need to begin this Fisk (for that’s what this blog post is my friends) with a little lesson in linguistic development. To describe a Communion Service as Hocus Pocus is not to denigrate it or those leading it. In fact, the words Hocus Pocus come from the Roman Mass:

The origins of the term remain obscure. Some believe it originates from a parody of the Roman Catholic liturgy of the eucharist, which contains the phrase “Hoc est enim corpus meum”. This explanation goes back to speculations by the Anglican prelate John Tillotson, who wrote in 1694:

In all probability those common juggling words of hocus pocus are nothing else but a corruption of hoc est corpus, by way of ridiculous imitation of the priests of the Church of Rome in their trick of Transubstantiation.

So I hope the only judgement that people will make so far is that I actually know a bit of my liturgical history. Shall we carry on (because Colin does).

Peter writes: “I have it on the highest authority that the Changing Attitudes team have had it spelt out to them in no uncertain detail what the implications are if Mr Robinson as much as waves a finger towards anything vaguely resembling the elements.” Changing Attitude, not Attitudes, Peter; and which highest authority would that be?

Well Mr Coward, when I write as a journalist I don’t reveal my sources. Ever. Would be a bad thing.

And you’ll notice that in the rest of this piece Colin doesn’t actually deny that conversations have been had with those further up the chain about what the implications of various people take part in the Eucharist might actually mean, but he does take the opportunity to use even those conversations to cast me in a bad light.

The story has been given further publicity on the Anglican Mainstream website. It is based on a series of emails exchanged privately between himself and Brenda Harrison, honorary administrator for Changing Attitude England.

Actually, when Stand Firm published the story *that* was the catylyst for the huge interest (Gotta love that Greg Griffith). The reason why it took off on that site and here is because we both allow comments. Anglican Mainstream (when I looked at the site) doesn’t allow comments, so you can’t really have the vigorous discussion there that has happened here.

But of course, the reason why Colin names Anglican Mainstream is because he doesn’t like Chris Sugden.

Why do Peter Ould and Anglican Mainstream report in such a malicious and un-Christian way? This has troubled me all through the Anglican debate about homosexuality, which is in truth a debate about the presence of loving, faithful LGBT people in our Communion – in every Province of the Communion and every parish in England. Peter and Canon Chris Sugden claim the moral high ground, maintaining that they are ‘true’ Christians. They are indeed Christians, but not in the way supporters of Changing Attitude identify as Christian. We are followers of Jesus Christ for whom telling the truth and not bearing false witness against our neighbour are cardinal virtues. Not so Peter Ould and Chris Sugden.

Woah!!! Where did this attack on Chris Sugden come from? How did he get involved? Has Colin actually read how much commentary the Canon has actually made on this issue. Let me tell him. Not one jot or tittle. I can’t find a single whisper from Chris on the subject of whether Gene Robinson is presiding at the Eucharist on Sunday (which is the issue at hand).

But that doesn’t stop Colin having a go at him.

Who is presiding isn’t the most important detail of the service for us. What is important is that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual Christians, both those who support the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Anglican Communion and, we suspect, some who are opposed, will meet to break bread together and pray for the bishops gathered at the Lambeth Conference.

Here’s the deal though. The Changing Attitude website proudly proclaims that Susan Russell of Integrity is preaching at the same service, so obviously personalities are important sometimes for Colin. The problem is of course that one particular personality, that quiet country bishop from New Hampshire who just wants to get on with the job and not be “the gay bishop”, is controversial and has been refused a licence to officiate in England.

The motive of Peter Ould and Anglican Mainstream is malicious and implies that Changing Attitude is secretive and deliberately hiding something. It should be of no surprise to Peter that we decline to give him information when he has attacked Changing Attitude on his web site in the past. He has shown himself to be un-Christian in motive and attitude, and we, wise as serpents, doubt that he asks questions of us from a kindly perspective.

My motive isn’t malicious, My motive is truth. The truth about who’s going to be presiding at the Eucharist. Frankly, the continual refusal to give any indication of who will be officiating is what is making this such an important item. Frankly, just the publishing of a simple statement like “Gene Robinson will not be involved in celebrating or con-celebrating at the Eucharist on the 20th” would be enough to kill this story dead. But here we are 48 hours later and all we have from Changing Attitude is the very same secrecy and deliberate hiding of the facts of which they say they are not guilty.

Changing Attitude is an organisation whose supporters are mainstream, faithful, committed, prayerful Anglicans. Whatever Peter’s attitude towards lesbian and gay people (and he brings considerable personal experience from his past life), he is acting in an un-Christian way by trying to denigrate other Christians. This is the strategy of those associated with Anglican Mainstream – bear false witness, spread rumours, undermine the ministry of other Anglican organisations. Their opening strategy for Lambeth doesn’t bode well for the future of the Communion.

I’m not trying to denigrate Colin, or Brenda or Gene or Susan or anybody else. All I’m asking for is a little bit of honesty. There has been no false witness because I haven’t said “Gene Robinson will be presiding”. All I’ve done is ask a reasonable question to which I’ve received no reply. I’m not spreading any rumours because so far there is no rumour to spread. Any speculation over who is presiding at the Eucharist has been caused by the refusal to simply say who it will be.

So here we are. We’re now almost 48 hours since I first approached Changing Attitude to ask a simple question. It is their refusal to answer that question that has made this story run and run. I honestly believe that this latest missive from Changing Attitude has made it worse, because it is simple a long piece of ad hominem that doesn’t vaguely address the issue at hand.

Shall we have one more go my friends?

Changing Attitude, tell us who will be presiding at the Eucharist on the 20th. We’re not interested in personalities, we just want the truth…

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