You know the song, The Vicar of Bray:

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You know the song, The Vicar of Bray:
« on: October 29, 2016, 06:46:15 PM »
Peter Mullen’s Church of England Newspaper column filed 29th October 2016
 
You know the song, The Vicar of Bray:
 
“And this is law, I will aver
 Until my Dying Day, Sir.
 That whatsoever King may reign,
 I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!”
 
It’s a satirical song designed to mock the self-serving, latitudinarian Anglican parsons in the 18th century. These were the churchmen who changed their principles – what principles? – in order to gain favour from the rulers of the day. In those days, of course, the chief authority was the monarch; whereas today democracy rules and politicians will do anything they calculate popular opinion will let them get away with. And this is how the Church of England – now bossed by the latitudinarian, “liberal” hierarchy – runs itself too. You might say that today the whole church espouses the policy of the Vicar of Bray.
 
Not only is this the case, but our bishops say it is exactly how things ought to be. Rowan Williams, for example, famously said, “The church has a lot of catching up to do with secular mores” – ie what secular fashions demand. Heiliger Geist has been replaced by Zeitgeist. The Holy Spirit has had to make way for the spirit of the age. This is very evident in the church’s adoption of all the reforms in social policy since the 1960s. It is why we have women priests and women bishops – because democracy would regard as intolerable anything other than equality of the sexes. It is why the church authorities have set up these “facilitated conversations” about human sexuality, by which it is slowly edging towards allowing practising homosexuals to be appointed bishops. “And why ever not?” would be the question on the lips of every modern, enlightened follower of society’s secular values. The church authorities are only doing what Archbishop Williams told them to do and “catch up with secular mores.”
 
Ecclesiastical “liberals” make a case for this by arguing that a national church – which, in name at least, is what the C. of E. still is – must carry the people with it by adjusting its teachings to the popular will as democratically expressed in the opinion polls. Faith Hope and Charity have thus been discarded and replaced by Equality, Diversity and Social Inclusion. The “liberals” argue that this makes for a more tolerant, easy-going society, one in which all can thrive. If only this were true! Actually, the strict rules have not been relaxed; they have merely been thrown out and replaced by other rules which are just as strict. You will find this out quickly and painfully if you should venture to transgress any of the new Secular Commandments – as the Christians of Ashers’ Bakery did by their refusal to decorate a cake with a slogan in favour of homosexual marriage.
 
This is how things are now and the strictness with which the new Secular Commandments are enforced will become ever more unyielding with the passage of time. What that judgement in the case of the Christian bakers – and a thousand other judgements like it – demonstrates emphatically is that when Christian teaching clashes with those secular mores, the secular mores will win every time. This is the new normal, say the “liberal” secularists – get used to it. And they add, we don’t mean like it or lump it: we mean accept it and welcome it. The revolution has come and gone and the old order has changed. When once there was the Vicar of Bray – and quite a few more like him – now we inhabit a whole Church of Bray.
 
Of only one thing can we be certain: this process will continue. Secular mores will demand ever more “progressive” changes and, sure as eggs is eggs, the church will accommodate them. These might involve permitting polygamy, lowering the age of consent or running alongside British law some of the provisions of Sharia. Again, what we can be sure of is that there will never come a stage at which the church will take a stand and say: “No! Enough is enough. This far and no further.” How do I know this? On the evidence of fifty years’ experience of social and moral innovations. It is what always happens. Of course, it won’t all happen of a sudden: on any proposed “progressive” social or moral innovation, there will be endless discussion, palaver and facilitated conversations. Slowly, slowly, catchee monkey: it is the “liberal” way. We’ll keep on voting until we get the result we want.
 
The “liberals’” rationale for this is an unspoken and certainly an unproven assumption that “progress” is continuous and inevitable. They never allow themselves the suspicion that things just might be going the wrong way. For, as The Beatles used to sing, we are “getting better all the time.” But what if “progress” is a delusion and even a heresy? What if there really is such a fact as Original Sin? What if there really are Christian moral teachings which are not susceptible to infinite tinkering? What if, as a traditional Christian philosopher might put it, “Our teachings are not Utilitarian and infinitely malleable; they are Deontological and binding”? Or, as used to be said in the days when the church still considered there were such things as holy books, our teachings are biblical – they are the word of God. And, when God chose to speak, he also chose to say something definite.
 
There is one thing more I need to add. Talk to any of the “liberal” Christians and, when they are not most illiberally forcing through their own agenda, some of them can be pleasant and engaging to talk to. You will discover that they do not at all imagine that they have replaced Christian teaching with secular mores. They unconsciously assume that progressive secular mores are Christian teaching in its most enlightened form.
 
They are wrong. When we come across a case like the Ashers’ Bakery, we see most decidedly that they are not.
 
 
 
 


 
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