voice of the church

Blogging and the voice of the Church

Someone recently tweeted that this blog should close down because people mistake it for a legitimate voice of the Church, and so it conveys a spiritual falsehood by sustaining a theological-ecclesial deception of authority which is actually representative of nothing and no-one. It’s best not to link to (or feature) the tweet because to do so would identify the person and lead to all manner of accusations of ‘bullying’, ‘trolling’ and spreading poison and bile, for which, apparently, this blog is well known (according to another tweet, which also shall not be linked).

It is curious that those who believe this blog should close down are invariably supporters of the Labour or Liberal Democrat parties, and also seem to be unanimously opposed to Brexit. If there are any Conservative-inclined Brexiteers who believe this blog should close down, they have yet to make themselves known (and they are very welcome to do so).

The curious thing about this tweet is that it was expressed by a clergy member of the Church of England, who (you’d think) should have a more nuanced understanding of the sources and expressions of authority. It isn’t clear who made this vicar ‘pope’ in respect of determining or discerning what is a voice of the Church and what is not, but presumably his/her voice is a legitimate voice of the Church by virtue of being ordained, which makes it holier or more in touch with God or more loving, or something.

St Paul didn’t agree:

Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:
Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart (2Cor 3:1-3).

If we are all letters of Christ, then so is the Archbishop Cranmer blog. If even the unruly, squabbling and immature Christians in Corinth are letters of Christ, written not with ink but by the Holy Spirit, they have something to say that’s worth hearing. St Paul doesn’t say, “Shut up, close down, and stop spreading poison and bile and perpetuating a graceless falsehood when you are supposed to be a letter from Christ.’ He says , “You are a letter from Christ”, and this letter should be known and read by all.

The voice of the Church is a much disputed thing, not least of which is the definite article. There have been so many disputes and schisms over intertextual conversations over the centuries that it is no longer credible to assert that the Church speaks with one voice on so very many matters of theology, soteriology and morality. The Church of England is itself an ecclesial embodiment of such disputes. But the vicar who wrote this tweet doesn’t even entertain that an Anglican blog (or this particular blog) even expresses a voice of the Church (or even of the church): everything it says about community, cross and the new creation is void because it spreads or incites poison and bile. It has no ethical witness because its moral basis is corrupted by conservatism. It has no place in the Church because it bears false witness and grapples with artificial apologetics of ‘hate’ which cause ‘hurt’.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how some people’s moral vision permits no critical voice to be raised against their social policies and notions of social justice, which are (of course) pure and righteous. Even funnier, isn’t it, that they are blind to their own censorious bullying and power politics, which ought to have no place in the Church. The corporate identity and life of the Christian community are not confined to or defined by one pontificating Labour or Liberal Democrat vicar, and it is a curious iteration of Christendom which believes it to be so.

Blogging is an utterly thankless and spiritually desiccated task at the best of times: there is little (or no) reward – not even in heaven, according to this vicar (at least for this blog). But in the interminable wrangling between realistic politics and pragmatic theology of which the Archbishop Cranmer blog attempts to make some sense, is there not a peculiar voice to be heard above the hubbub of lowest-common-denominator values and the popular politics of love?