As we prepare for our Harvest Festival Services, we see that what's left of the English Church is indistinguishable from a lunatic asylum. Everywhere you peer inside this once refined and educated, lovely and lovable national institution, there is only a mania for self-destruction. How else can you account for church services that compete with pantomime for dramatized idiocy? For example, I recently attended a conference for clergy at a beautiful medieval church in Oxford. It was supposed to be a choral Eucharist but there was no organ music--only some plinky-plonky stuff on an out-of-tune piano and mindless choruses in the Jesus Goes to Toytown fashion: interminable glum repetition of what was not worth singing once.
Then the Bishop came on and told us that at the laughably misnamed riot called "The Peace" he didn't want us merely to shake hands but to "hug one another"--and not just to hug one another, but to put our arms on our neighbor's shoulders and say three times, "You are everlastingly loved." When, with varying degrees of squeamishness, grown men fawned on one another in this way, the Bishop came on again in full pantomime mode and said, "Not loud enough! Again--louder!" Not one word from the Book of Common Prayer throughout the three-day conference or indeed from any source that might be identified as religious in the traditional sense. And that Bishop is now Archbishop of York.
They have thrown out the Book of Common Prayer and The Authorized Version of the Bible and substituted dumbed-down, politically correct prayers which sound as if they were written by a committee made up of Tony Blair, Karl Marx, and Noddy. I was at a synod for all the London clergy in All Souls, Langham Place. When it was time for the prayers, a female crooner came on the stage. Stage? Stage? But you thought this was supposed to be the church? Don't ask! She warbled syrupy phrases about "race relations" and "those who seek to bring signs of enrichment." Between each peti- tion was the soporific chorus, "Remember, remember." That excruciating service was no anomaly. This is how it is almost everywhere you go in today's Church of England. But are we supposed to turn to these fools for spiritual guidance? And don't look to the next generation either: the giggling theological colleges are run like children's television.
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