“I am overjoyed and humbled to be entrusted with this opportunity for learning and service. Canterbury Cathedral has played a vital part in our Christian story in England but it is also much loved by so many communities across the Anglican Communion. So I already can see there is much to steward and much to imagine anew as our context reshapes. I have been a priest for many years but I also bring my experience of growing up in the Church of Ireland during the Northern Irish ‘Troubles’.
“I’m looking forward to working with Archbishop Justin, Bishop Rose, the Cathedral Chapter and her communities to ensure our worship inspires, our prayer undergirds, our outreach transforms us and others, and our witness reveals more of God’s expansive Kingdom of love, mercy and peace. I hope hospitality in the name of Jesus Christ and profound openness to the entire wider community will mark all we offer especially as we face this challenging time of rising costs and human hardship.
“My partner, David, and I have had a place in Whitstable for over 20 years and so we already know Kent well. We are both looking forward to getting to know further the varied communities of the county as well as getting to the seaside more often.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, as expected, is delighted:
“This is a time of hardship, suffering and anxiety for many in this country and worldwide. For over 1,400 years Canterbury Cathedral has been a house of prayer where God is worshipped, the good news of Jesus Christ is proclaimed, and the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with love that overflows to the world around us. I am sure that David will build on the extraordinary ministry of Dean Robert, and continue to develop this in new ways for our twenty-first century world.
“We will benefit greatly from David’s experience and perspective, not least from his work in helping diverse faiths and cultural communities to live well together. I share his vision of a Canterbury Cathedral that blesses and serves the people of Canterbury, the Church of England and the global Anglican Communion. I look forward to working with David and I join many in praying for him over the coming months.”
My favorite Twitter follow often tweets clever things like this:
For some reason, during the last several decades, Christians decided it was embarrassing to talk about the consequences of ideas. It makes a person look hidebound and stuck in the mud to object to things like the redefinition of marriage or no-fault divorce. I myself have sometimes been accused of employing the slippery slope fallacy. By way of defending myself, I’ve tried to explain that it’s not so much of a slope as a cliff. You go racing along, blowing past all the yellow tape and the person shouting at you that danger lies just ahead, and then, surprisingly, there you’ve gone, right over the cliff.
But Jesus himself referred to that gentle slope that leads you to a place you didn’t intend to go when you first started out. He described the slope. He said it was broad and wide. That is, easy and not too much trouble to find it and then wander along it. The slope is gradual. It pulls you along and you find yourself chatting with friends and searching for interesting things to eat. After a while, you have gone so far you can’t even see over the rise at your back. You’ve become accustomed to the heat and dust and the excitement. You’re depressed sometimes, but you can’t remember what it was like up there on the hill. You only dimly recollect the vista, the being able to look out over all the other hills, whence cometh help, and so on.
Oh no, says the internet. That doesn’t happen. One thing doesn’t necessarily lead to another. You can, for example, decide that no-fault divorce is fine and it will never erode away the foundations of marriage. Or, you can have clergy who don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus, and it won’t ever wreck things for the little woman at the back with her string shopping bag and her old hat and her anxious diagnosis. Or, you can have a partnered same-sex-oriented man and you will still totally have a church. You won’t have something hollowed out, the mere skeletal remains of whatever there was before, however grand, however fancied up by robes and beautiful music.
It is a great and terrible tragedy for such an ancient See to slide into apostasy, but I am comforted on three points. The first is that—and bear with me here, I will probably sound mean but I don’t mean to—those Anglicans who have walked away from their beautiful buildings and carried on in storefronts and sometimes dismal spaces were right to do it. The ACNA, I’m saying, was right to go away from the Episcopal church. Being able to worship faithfully, even at the bottom of a well, is better than sitting in the glory of Canterbury Cathedral and having to endure the lies—not just about sexuality—but about scripture, the person of Jesus, indeed everything. Not to keep harping about it, but the people who think we, as a church, should move passed our founding experience, would do well to consider that the road to hell is broad and wide and easy and comfortable. Better poverty and truth than beauty and apostasy. Better the bracing air of truth and the bible than any number of relationships with those the world says won’t lead you into a place you didn’t intend to go.
Second, I am comforted that the order of things persists no matter who tries to pretend that it doesn’t. Go woke, go broke. We can’t organize ourselves without obedience to God at the core of our lives and think we will still have a culture and a church. The Word is the foundation of the cosmos. If you want to be able to think clearly, you have to love Jesus before everything else. If you don’t do that, eventually everything will become awful and bad. That is the way things are. I am always encouraged when the truth becomes obvious.
Third, the Lord is King, though no one desires to bow before his throne. Yet he is a merciful King, and so he calls on us to pray to him. We should, because he listens to those who trust in him. Enjoin yourself to pray for the people leading that once great English Church. Pray for their repentance. Pray for them to hear the Gospel for the first time and believe. Pray that the liturgy itself—so grounded in the scriptures—will strike them each to the heart as they read it out. Pray for God to rebuild and restore his church. And then be grateful for the living stones of true believers who are being, this moment, built into a strong and beautiful household of faith, not a cathedral, perhaps, but the very place where God makes himself known to the world.