Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Anglican Watch: (Guardian) Giles Fraser's Funny Comments about ABC

This is just plain funny.  This fellow is a C o E cleric too.  Where did he go to school again?  It's as bizarre as it is dismissible.


As the CofE's top man, Justin Welby must cope with our infantile projections

Freud was not wrong when he explained the need for God in terms of the child's need for a father figure
In this picture taken on Febriary 21, 20
The new archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Photograph: Keith Blundy/AFP/Getty
Please, Justin Welby. Please make me proud to be a member of the Church of England. I just want to feel it all matters again. Yes, I know it's not all about you. It's about God. But, strangely, I have never had any doubts in that direction – or at least, no doubts other than the ordinary doubts of faith that are actually a proper part of faith itself. My doubts have all been about the church. Does it live up to the greatness of its calling? Does it practice what it preaches? Or (as with the gay issue) does it preach what it practices?

Last week I had coffee with an old priest friend of mine who now helps select people for ordination. Would we do it all again, we asked ourselves? Neither of us were confident that we would.

I loved Rowan Williams. Still do, in fact. I know that might seem over the top. But intellectually, it was true. He could do no wrong. And perhaps that was part of the problem. I was one of that generation of students at Oxford who were taught by him. Looking back, it is now clear that many of us massively overinvested in his charisma and intelligence. And when he later objected that there was an almost childlike dependence that many Anglicans had on the archbishop of Canterbury, he was absolutely correct. As Justin Welby will soon discover to his cost, being the subject of projection is no fun at all. First they build you up. Then they knock you down.

Archbishops of Canterbury no longer have any real executive power. Even Rowan Williams's modest idea of creating a pan-Anglican legal body to deal with doctrinal dispute in the communion came to nothing. The CofE may be both Protestant and Catholic; but it is Protestant enough not to do popes or anything like them. But like many religious organisations, it still thinks in terms of "Papa" – to spell it out: both the pope's nickname and the child's word for father. Which is why no guide to surviving the church is complete without a serious study of Freud. All too easily, the church can be emotionally and spiritually infantilising. For some, that almost seems the point.

For example, there are many people in my parish who still insist on calling me Father Giles. I really wish they wouldn't – not least because the Black Country wags in my first parish soon cottoned that it sounded quite like Farmer Giles, which stuck. But my dignity aside, the real problem is that it references a strange and unhealthy sort of dependency. Freud was not wrong when he explained the need for God in terms of the child's need for a father figure. Not, I would argue, that God is simply a product of this need. But it's certainly the case that the whole knotted ambivalence of the Oedipal imagination bears down on the relationship between a priest and his parish – and even more so on that between the church and its top man. Man being the operative word.

What better reason can there be to have women bishops than this? And when it finally happens, it won't just be a blow for justice. It will mark another rite of passage in the church's centuries-long maturity. I apologise to my Catholic friends for saying this, but the Reformation has always seemed to me to be about theologically growing up. It was a necessary adolescent trauma in which the church breaks free of its unhealthy dependency upon Papa.

But as Mr Welby is now going to find out to his cost, this Reformation remains a work in progress. Progressives like me did it to Rowan Williams. And his own evangelical tribe will do it to him. We still project all sorts of needs and fantasies upon the man with the big mitre. And then we despise them for not giving us what we want. The church is where adults revert to children.

Twitter: @giles_fraser

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