IN WHICH MADPRIEST GOES AGAINST HISBETTER JUDGEMENT AND TRUSTS IN GOD

As most of you know, at the end of August 2010, my bishop removed me from my post as an assistant priest at the Church of St. Francis, where I had worked for over eight years, leaving me without a salary and, at the end of February this year, a home to live in. The only reason I was given for this was that the diocese could no longer afford to pay for the post. I have never been the subject of disciplinary action.

In an attempt to get a new post in the Church, as well as applying for positions all over the country, I initiated legal proceedings against the bishop. I claimed for some sort of redundancy payment to get me on my feet and I accused the bishop of disability discrimination against me because his failure to provide me with a permanent position, my right under English disability legislation, led to me being in a post that could be terminated for purely financial reasons.

On Friday I received the reply from the bishop's solicitor. In it they stated that they would not be restricting their defence to the matters on which I was claiming but that they would try and prove that I deserved dismissal because of my behaviour and that I have a history of not getting on with the offices of the Church.

There are highly regarded witnesses who have offered to provide statements to the tribunal on my behalf which will repudiate such claims by the bishop and both myself and my solicitors believe the facts regarding the way I have been employed and the conditions applied to my employment speak for themselves However, any defence I put up to counteract an attack on my work record and character would, most likely, cause incredible harm to lots of people, some of whom I love dearly.

There is the family that came to me near the beginning of my ministry to complain about the inappropriate behaviour of their parish priest towards a teenage boy. When I reported the incident it was covered up (not by a bishop, I hasten to add, no bishop was even informed). There are officers of the church who I would accuse of not doing their duty in respect of my welfare who, in two posts I have held, were aware that I was under unfair attack but did nothing about it, or, at least, did nothing quick enough, even though it was in their power to do so. There are the officers of the church who have offered to help me even though they must realise, from viewing my experience, that this will effect their careers in the church adversely. Also, although I have often spoken up about controversial issues, I have never broken the rules of the Church of England through my actions. I can prove that those who accuse me of spoken indiscretion have themselves acted in ways contrary to the agreed position of the Church on certain matters and the revelation of their actions would harm people I love.

Also, I do have my health to consider. I have kept my mental illness in check for over ten years now. That I have got through all the stress of the last two years without sinking back into depression is one of my most proud achievements. But, a nasty court case and the subsequent national publicity might well be the straw to break the camel's back. I cannot risk going back to the hell it took me so long to crawl out of.

Anyway, all I would achieve, and I would achieve it whether I won the case or not, would be revenge and I am not much in need of that. This post and the knowledge of the guilt, excused and deflected and now buried deep inside them but always there, of the good people who did nothing, will suffice as enough revenge for me.

I have carefully considered all this over the weekend and discussed it with my wife and a clergy friend. I have come to the conclusion that, although from a practical point of view I am turning my back on the possibility of financial compensation that would save my wife and myself from destitution, the harm that I would be causing to other people if I continue with my claim is too much for my conscience to bear. In any case, it would not be the Christian thing to do and I can hardly accuse the bishop of acting in an unchristian manner towards me if I then act in an unchristian manner towards him and other parties, some guilty and some not. Therefore, this morning I instructed my solicitor not to proceed. I would point out here that the legal action would have cost me nothing as it is covered by an insurance policy.

So that's it. I am now a priest in name only which is as useful as a computer that is never switched on. I have come to the conclusion, based on countless rejections over the last two years, that, for whatever reason, I will never be employed by the Church again. As the priesthood was my vocation in life I will now  be treading water until the day I die. I expect I will do some useful, maybe even interesting stuff, but it will be purely mechanical. My understanding of the priesthood is so tied up with parish ministry that, try as I might, I am just unable to see anything else as true priesthood.

But, although it is personally subjective, I believe that I will retain my integrity and I think I have proved that integrity is more important to me than any earthly reward or comfort. I have noticed that most people think such a standpoint is plain silly and that it does not take into account the reality of life. But they have not experienced the freedom, albeit, at times, an uncomfortable, even painful, freedom, that living life as close to the moral principles you profess brings.

The big question I now face is how will my new status effect my blogs? I have always spoken as a priest and now I am something different.  I think that such issues will take a while to resolve. Things will change. Mrs MP believes the changes will be for the better. I wish I had her faith that stuff always turns out all right in the end.

Comments

IN WHICH MADPRIEST GOES AGAINST HISBETTER JUDGEMENT AND TRUSTS IN GOD — 118 Comments

  1. My understanding of the priesthood is so tied up with parish ministry that, try as I might, I am just unable to see anything else as true priesthood.

    I hope this can change. Otherwise if you can’t see/find anything else as true priesthood then neither will the rest of us. Are we fated to just see our own local-Joe-priest as the only form of priest in this age?

  2. As far as I can see the only thing a priest does that nobody else can do (in the catholic churches) is to preside at the altar during the Eucharist. Take that away and the person is just a Christian like everyone else. Being just a Christian is in no way a bad thing – unless you believe your vocation in life is to preside at the altar, in which case remove the altar and you remove that person’s life.

  3. Jonathan, if you’ve decided this then you’ve decided it. However, you have a lot more to achieve from a court case than revenge. It may be that you might have been able to force them to give you a parish post, or compensation, both of which would be immensely valuable. There is also the salutary effect it would have had on the CofE itself. Such a case would be in however large or small a way a reminder that mistreatment of employees is unacceptable, and so it might save other priests similar trouble somewhere down the line.

    It sounds though as if for you and Jane both it’s already a done deal. So, I’ll say no more.

  4. Also, I haven’t said this before but the national publicity you refer to might not in fact have eventuated. It’s actually fairly rare for discrimination cases to be reported in the press till they reach a result. In addition, what gets reported in newspapers on any given day depends heavily on what else is happening out there. Something that would be news one day slips further back in the priorities the next because something much bigger has taken place. In my opinion there would be no point worrying about this factor because it was always an unknown – a gamble.

  5. It’s a possibility. I people worried more about possibilities then there might be a nine year old girl in Tucson on her way to school this morning rather than lying in a morgue.

  6. I am really sorry to hear this, but you have made your decision not to continue for the best of reasons, not wishing to hurt others or to cause yourself any further harm.

    I am sad that you for the time being are not able to function in Parish Ministry – which is where you feel called and in my view, belong.

    It is also sad that the Church cannot find a job for you, perhaps due to prejudice because of your openness and frankness – surely transparency in all matters is what the Church should be seeking.

    I will pray for you and your spouse, as I am sure, many others will be – trusting in God to find a way forward to use the undoubted gifts for ministry that you possess.

  7. There’s no way they could have foreseen that attack, as far as I can tell. It was out of the blue. These things cannot be guarded against. And I am not sure it is a very helpful comparison with what I was saying. Publicity would have helped you rather than otherwise, however stressful it might potentially have been (and it would have been equally as stressful for your opponents, if not more so).

    Anyway, this is by the by, because it isn’t going to happen. Of course you and Jane have always got my prayers and support in whatever you decide to do.

  8. Since I am still at home ill I have not been following the news reports on it as closely as I would otherwise do, so you may be right that it could have been 🙂 But my point was that it is impossible in life to guard against all possibilities. It cannot be done.

  9. MP,
    I can understand where you’re coming from. There is only so much fight any individual person has in them, and you are doing well recognising your own limits. You should be hugely proud of you for that.

    As regards your question about blogging when you’re no longer a priest, though, I think you should realise that for us, you have never been a parish priest. We have never received Communion from you, we have never been a parish in which you have ministered in the conventional way.

    What we are is a virtual parish in which you have been our virtual priest, effectively, carinly and giving your customary 110%.
    From our perspective, nothing has changed and nothing will change.
    Your new status will not affect your ministry among us in the slightest.

    I hope I speak for many here when I say that your virtual parish welcomes its fulltime virtual priest.

  10. “Thou art a priest forever.”

    You know this old Anglo-catholic was going to say that.

    Regarding the other matters, however, you know that (of all people) I understand the point of reaching one’s limit.

  11. In any case, my dear friend, I’m certainly not going to argue with you today, on this rather sad day. (Or not about that, anyway.)

    I would like to add that what Erika has said sums it up perfectly.

  12. I don’t understand – sorry for my stupidity – can you not do H4D?

    I think the Church of England will face discrimination tribunals increasingly.. I don’t think this is unchristian – I think it is about justice and until the Church is behaving ethically and responsibly with respect to equality then it gets what it deserves.

    I also believe that equality will not occur in the CofE until some very heavy pay-outs hurt enough to cause things to change – I think that is the same in all institutions and the reason ours is behind the others is because we do wish to be loving and to turn the other cheek.

    However, many of us, myself included, have been discriminated against and we have to choose the best path at that time. I respect your decisions.. I hope you find peace in it all.

    MP I think you are a priest partly because you are prepared to be yourself.. you are undefended on the whole, whether you think you are or not, that is how I perceive you, and how I perceive the heart of priestly ministry.

  13. Oh, I’ve tried to get a house for duty but was told that there weren’t any available. This is contrary information to that stated in the diocesan newspaper.

  14. Oh, I’ve tried to get a house for duty but was told that there weren’t any available. This is contrary information to that stated in the diocesan newspaper.

  15. I am so very sorry it has come to this, wish there was something I could offer. Sadly, can only say how much I enjoy your uninhibited outlook and perspective.
    I know what you said, but please don’t deck me – anyway, don’t know what my prayers are worth.
    We’ll see!
    God bless you.

  16. Be good to yourself and Mrs. MP — you made the best decision for yourself at this time. Your status on the blog is still priest – even if you can’t personally do the sacramental work via cyber space. de Chardin said make Eucharist on the world – this you do.

  17. I have a couple of buildings that need to be mucked out. I will even provide the pitchfork…

    On a serious note though, I understand why you have stopped the proceedings. It has to be hard on both of you, but, I have a feeling that your collective resourcefulness will come out in the end.

    wv: drakeris {the name of a vampire-bishop}

  18.      I’m so sorry you’re in a wilderness period of your life. Like others, I don’t believe you are suddenly no longer a priest – just as getting a job didn’t make you a priest, losing a job doesn’t unmake you. You and I both know that being a true priest is much more complicated. God is clearly doing something new, but watching and waiting for it can be simply miserable. I hold you in prayer, Jonathan.

  19. When a Doctor retires he/she is still called a ‘Dr’ and retains the skills acquired while working. Why should you not be a Priest anymore? Our Priest retired two years ago but we still view him as being one.
    I commend your reasons for not going ahead with the dispute but I do think that organisations ought to account for the mistreatment of employees, even if it is the CoE.

  20. I’m afraid I can’t except that, Rick. One of the reasons my blog is popular is because I simplify things and answer difficult questions. The only way I can reconcile the ordained priesthood with the existence of the priesthood of all believers is to identify that which the ordained priest does that others do not. As far as I can see that is presiding at the eucharist. Like the computer in my previous example, I could be switched on again. But at the moment I am as useful as a condom in a nunnery.

  21. Your priest can preside at the eucharist, Chelliah. As far as I am aware I do not have that permission.

    When a priest retires he becomes a non-person as far as the church is concerned. They cannot vote in synod elections or at parish AGMs, either as clergy or laity.

    I guess that in his heart your retired priest feels as discarded as I do. I suggest you ask him.

  22. at the moment I am as useful as a condom in a nunnery

    I’m afraid that just makes it sound as if you’re having too much fun (which you clearly are not).

  23. What Ellie and Ann said.

    I have had to make a similar decision recently, so I understand completely. It is so important to know and work within one’s own limits. Also vital is to understand how large institutions function. They are created to preserve and pass on something of value, but inevitably much of that conserving energy gets turned toward preserving the institution itself and safeguarding people’s individual positions in the hierarchy. Going up against that, a person on the bottom of the hierarchy is at a huge disadvantage, even with good legal representation. However strong your case, it’s in the nature of things that the cost to you would likely be out of proportion to the justice you could hope to receive. Although reform is needed, you can’t take on the burden of having to reform the Church of England or even your own diocese. You have gone as far as you can with that.

    Lesley commented on how undefended you are. That is another way to fight the good fight. You show up here as yourself and allow the rest of us to do the same, undefended against the world no doubt, but also against God’s redeeming Love. The sacrament of our brokenness unites us in and with Christ.

    Love to you both.

  24. I have always felt that I am a priest – before I was ordained, after ordination, even when I was kicked out of church. The community (like this one at OCIBW) and God (or so I understood) affirmed it even when I could not preside at the Eucharist. There is more to it than doing the “magic hands and words” IMO — it is a ministry of gathering- of being willing to stand in the gap – anyone can do it but some are called to embody it. But if you need a church to be a priest – that is another thing. I just don’t believe that.

  25. What Mary Clara says. — being undefended is what Jesus chose when he stepped into the waters of our baptism.

  26. anyone can do it but some are called to embody it

    Agreed. But I know visitors to this blog who are not ordained who embody just that. You appear to believe that you embodied it before you were ordained. I think it is a charism that belongs within the priesthood of all believers, although not to every one of them, and I have known ordained priests who are not called to that particular office.

    You could add that an ordained priest has the confidence of the church and can use that to validate his or her ministry, especially outside of the church. But as I do not have that confidence it would be just another reason why I am not now a priest.

  27. I have no confidence in the church — I have been burned too often by the institution – it is just another principality and power. Sometimes it lives into its call – but often does not. I stick to my mantra – Romans 8:38-39

  28. 1. I totally understand the priest thing.
    2. The Church eats its young.
    3. You have been blackmailed.
    4. I hate it when the bad guys win.
    5. Hey God, I’m sick of this. Wake up! Take care of your own! (and that includes lots of people on this blog and elsewhere.)
    6. wv=shmedl – which I will not do. You chose mental health and I’m with you there. You hear that, God? Wake up!

  29. being undefended is what Jesus chose when he stepped into the waters of our baptism

    Yes. But if the gospel record is to be believed Jesus believed that God would raise him up. At this precise moment in time I neither believe that or disbelieve it. It may happen, it may not. In the meantime I am homeless in six weeks time. From my experience God never works that quickly.

  30. I fully understand your decision to turn away from the legal proceedings. The law so seldom has anything to do with justice.

    But my Catholic upbringing taught me, as Ellie says, that once a priest, you are a priest forever. Some marks cannot be erased.

    You are going to have to be creative about your ministry. It will be your discipline, that you, so driven by parish ministry, will minister a virtual parish. Like the stories of RC priests in prison, you will have to celebrate the physicality of the EUcharist largely alone. Yet in doing so, you will offer it for your virtual flock. Creative as you’ve been, I think that you will find a way to do so.

    REmember the Yeats….bred to a harder thing than triumph….be secret and exult….

  31. you will have to celebrate the physicality of the Eucharist largely alone

    Officially, as an Anglican, I am not allowed to do that. But then if I’m not an Anglican priest, what the heck, I suppose. But it would feel incredibly uncomfortable to begin with. You think RCs have guilt problems. Their’s are nothing when compared to Anglo-Catholic guilt.

  32. I’m with Ellie on this one – you remain a priest, albeit one outside of the church’s liturgical practice. The altar does not make the priest. Priesthood is more than 20 minutes standing behind a table and praying over some bread and wine. It is about embodiment and recognition, and recognition by the Christian community not any one church.

    If the CofE doesn’t want your gifts then look elsewhere. It’s not the only church. But if you feel the need to be out of the organised sphere then (Platitude warning!) God will still use you in whatever you do and wherever you are.

  33. Excuse me, but isn’t Mrs. MadPriest a Christian? Would she not be willing to hear Mass?

    Also, are there not other folks you could invite for a house Eucharist?

    And, yes, (don’t I know it) there’s nothing like Anglo-Catholic guilt!

  34. Priesthood is more than 20 minutes standing behind a table and praying over some bread and wine.

    I have affirmed that throughout this post. However, I believe that everything, excluding the presidency at the eucharist and, possibly, the underwriting by the Church, can equally be found within the priesthood of all believers.

    But, this is me. I obviously need more definition in my life than most of my readers (friends). I cannot repudiate this need as it is what pushes me into seeking answers and then passing them on.

  35. Mrs MP’s faith in the institutions and practices of the Church has been far more damaged than mine. She is, a very down to earth person but also a person who can bear a grudge for a lifetime. She does not believe that she will “ever darken the doors of a church” ever again. But I could imagine her, sometime in the distant future, breaking bread with me.

  36. “I have noticed that most people think such a standpoint is plain silly and that it does not take into account the reality of life. But they have not experienced the freedom, albeit, at times, an uncomfortable, even painful, freedom, that living life as close to the moral principles you profess brings.”

    Amen and amen!

  37. Two things here.

    First of all, you not only, as a priest, can preside at the Eucharist; you also can absolve and bless. Neither of those requires anything material and can certainly be done long distance. (I’ve received absolution over the phone a number of times and once by mail.)

    Secondly, I would beg you to remember that your state of life is more about being than doing. It’s ontological. I, for example, am solemnly professed. There is nothing sarcedotal that this entitles me to do beyond any other baptized Christian and, yet, an ontological change DID take place and I will never not be a nun. It is one of my great consolations that no matter what the church as an institution does or doesn’t do with regard to me, no one can ever take my profession from me. Ha, not even me. I could break every vow six ways to Sunday over and over and I would still be a nun – a very BAD nun, mind you, but a nun all the same.

    I do recommend framing it all this way.

  38. I accept the absolution bit, Ellie. I had forgotten that (confessing is not the sort of thing English people do that much outside of the mechanical, communal confession of the mass). But I don’t buy the blessing bit, unless you mean bless with the underwriting of the church (which I don’t think I have at the moment). I accept blessings off anybody and I know darn well that the blessings of quite a few lay people I know would be far more efficacious than the blessings of many a priest, including myself.

    And yes, I remain a priest in the same way you would remain a nun if you stopped doing the things nuns do. But I promise you that if you ever lost the opportunity to do those things, whilst you are still capable of doing them, then that fact would be small recompense. In fact, it will make you hurt even more.

  39. I do get the hurt, MP, really I do as I have actually lost my licenses to preach, to read, and to administer communion. Those were hard losses indeed.

    I’m simply encouraging you to see your priesthood as something you ARE rather than something you DO.

    And with regard to the blessing bit: Sure, a lay person can bless but not give a priestly blessing. You can also bless “stuff” — you know: houses and ships and HOUNDS for goodness’ sake. (Not to mention holy water.)

  40. I appreciate and respect your decision and know that there’s at least one yank who’s pulling for you, no matter which way you had decided.

    That said…and with all due respect…I must strongly disagree with you on a particular point.

    You’re a priest. You have been, you are you and shall be. The bishop can’t change that.

    Twas not Canterbury who made you a priest, but it was the Almighty who put His mark upon you. I believe the ontological change is part of answering the Call, rather than confined to a ceremony.

    Just as it was the journey in answering the Call which brought you to the point where God put his seal upon you and ordained you, it is only by you turning away from Him that could endanger that ordination. In short, Only God can ordain and only God can ‘un-ordain’.

    My point is, if the CoE wishes to turn away a good pastor, that is their loss (and, IMO, their mistake). That doesn’t mean that He has forgotten or forsaken His servant, though.

    Keep the faith and hold on. That’s no glib phrase, for I know all too well that it isn’t easy, but we were never promised easy…that’s for them folks with the broad way and the wide gate.

    Regarding administering of the sacraments (specifically Eucharist), I’ll point out that the first person to celebrate Eucharist wasn’t a priest, just a teacher.

  41. I’m warming to the blessing bit. I could become a freelance blesser (flash blessings? No, not flasher blessings, Ellie). I’m not being 100% flippant here.

  42. the first person to celebrate Eucharist wasn’t a priest, just a teacher.

    Someone hasn’t read Hebrews recently.

    But, even so, thank you, Tim.

  43. I was thinking of doing it unbidden, Ellie. I’ve unblessed cars in the past that have carved me up at junctions. But I’ve never just blessed something for the sake of it and I think there may be opportunities there.Heck, if someone can write a book about arrow prayers I could write a book about flash blessings.

  44. Someone hasn’t read Hebrews recently.

    Paul, a converted Sanhedrin, uses the trappings of priesthood to describe Christ when writing to the ‘Hebrews’?

    Shocking, simply shocking!

    Next you’ll tell me Christ used pastoral metaphors to explain complex philosophical concepts to an agricultural community.

    🙂

    You’re most welcome.

  45. I don’t doubt that it hurts to lose the externals of your profession, MP, but I completely understand your having reached your personal limits. I also admire you very much for deciding that the pain it might bring to others is not worth the fight. Well done.

    And everything that Erika Baker said.

  46. You have clearly thought long and hard and it is not an easy decision, but I trust it is the right one for you.

    I am sorry for all the hurt, pain and feelings of betrayal. When things go wrong for those in ministry it is particularly agonising because it is not just a “job”, it is a vocation, and those involved are not just employers, superiors and colleagues but brothers and sisters in Christ.

    I suspect the emotional cost of going through a grievance procedure would have taken an immense toll on you.

  47. Oh I love it – flash blessings! Like a friend of mine who goes about shrining places and things – leaving little flower and candle offerings for no reason at all, anonymously. You have just given me new life for today, MP, with just those few words – flash blessings. I’m going to try it right now.

    wv=wriffeiv – sort of like a high five, but not to be confused with one.

  48. I always need my flashings blessed, or erm…Well…Blessings are good!

    This decision can’t have been easy friend, and now that its made, may some bit of burden be removed from you.

    The church is a manmade thing – God has had to hang his head in shame from it on many an occasion. You are as much a priest to me as my own rector. You have heard my confession, offered me guidance, and provoked good theological thought and discussion within me.

    The church may not want to pay you for your priesthood, but, once bestowed and lived into, it isn’t really theirs to give or take away.

    I AM praying for you (go ahead, deck me!), and I have to say, in Jane’s place I’d feel exactly the same way about the church that has so badly used and abused you. But, even with that being so, there’s no way I wouldn’t celebrate the eucharist with you, and get five times more out of it than going to the church to do so, especially in light of the way it’s treated you.

    Fluffykins

  49. Paul wrote Hebrews?

    That is what I was taught back in the early 1980’s at the protestant school I attended. Then again, we were taught that Moses wrote the Pentateuch and that the scriptures are the literal word of God.**

    The point remains that in the gospels, Christ isn’t a priest and Hebrews is pretty obviously using metaphor and analogy.

    As a complete aside…flash blessings = brilliant idea! 🙂

    ** (no interpretation required, batteries sold separately, some assembly required, see stores for details)

  50. This is unbelievably sad. My first thought was that you just just gather a group of believers, be their priest, and have an altar in one of their houses. But then that wouldn’t pay the bills.

  51. Dear Rev. Jonathan
    my brother, I know your suffering. It was 13 years ago that I too decided to walk away rather than sue the church. It was a painful thing; done for the same reasons that you relate. It is the Way of the cross and there is no glory in it, merely necessity and the hope and prayer for an empty tomb.

    I know the feeling of ontological reality being riped away…who am I and what world do I inhabit?

    I could share more of my journey concerning this, but it is not for public consumption

    there will be a time to remind that God is about Easter morning, but for now; strength to you in your time of suffering…there are those who have suffered this sort of thing, and so suffer with you in this
    Danieljtb at hotmail dot com

  52. I went round the corner earlier to get some chips for dinner and, on the way, I blessed the bus shelter and all who wait in it. I found the experience a lot less embarrassing than I was expecting. Mind you, there was nobody in it at the time.

  53. To be honest, Ormonde, if I lived in the US I would probably do exactly what you suggest. But the English are extremely suspicious of individuals setting up churches. I think this is due to a mixture of fear of being like Americans and that boring habit that the English have respecting authority.

  54. Do you have a spiritual director? Someone who knows when you need a shoulder to cry on and when you need a swift kick in the behind? Someone who will help you discern the difference between normal healthy grieving and self-pity? I don’t know whether you’ve crossed the line, but it’s so easy to do if you’re not careful. You shouldn’t try to figure it out on your own. Take advantage of whatever guidance is available.

  55. My sister lost her job because of lymphoma. The company kept her on while she had her surgery and received chemotherapy, during which time she missed only a few weeks of work, but when she was done with her treatments, they fired her. Gayle sued with the help of the EEOC. Negotiations failed, and the case went to trial. Although she had done nothing wrong, the company trumped up charges of failure to perform against her. She’d been commended for her performance at work just before she was diagnosed, so the company’s charges didn’t hold water. She won her case and received compensation, but, after it was all over, she said the ordeal had not been worth it.

    No consolation, but litigation is tough and takes its toll even if you win.

  56. St. Paul wrote Hebrews????
    At my seminary the grand old correspondence teachers taught it was written by King James – the ideas these liberal young people come up with today!

    At least there is no such doubt regarding the question of your Priesthood. Remember that when it comes to the Ministry of the Word God has called you to be many thousands of hits a week ahead of your critics. The current Sacramental shift will be for but short season – just you wait and see…

  57. How about relocating? Canada, Australian, New Zealand, the U.S.?

    We have multi-parish posts in England but that would be ridiculous 🙂

  58. Yes, Paul. I’ve got Grandmère Mimi.

    Hang on, MadPriest, you told me you don’t want my advice.

    Moving on, do you mean to say that if an informal gathering of people asked you to preside at a Eucharist, you would refuse?

  59. Bishop Gulick said that, when the phone call from TEC’s Presiding Bishop, asking him to go to Ft. Worth, came in, he was writing a sermon called, “Go to Nineveh.”

  60. The “Nineveh” story has a happy ending. He loved the continuing Diocese of Ft. Worth, and the people loved him. He retired in order to be closer (the Maryland/Virginia area) to his aging parents.

    We’re praying for a happy ending for you., too. It might not happen as soon as we’d like, but I believe that, eventually, there will be one.

  61. Oh Fr. Jonathan << blokey Australian hug :-) >>

    When it comes to music and art the most exciting developments have always taken place outside of those who claim a monopoly on creativity and joy: how much of any of the stuff we both love would have seen the light of day if major record company executives where the only ones allowed to determine what people can hear? Faith and church – the real church, the one “not made with hands” – aren’t so different, and the Spirit has always blown where the Spirit wishes, with a wonderful disrespect for the powerful and pompous.

    Remember also that those excluding you are the same who would hold that a person should be excluded on the basis of their sexuality, or their gender. They would force a survivor of rape to bear her attacker’s child, they are directly responsible for the misery and suicide of innumerable GLBT adolescents, and they actively exclude millions from the Grace and Love of God. Since they’re so wrong about that, why should they suddenly be right about you and your vocation? Seems to me you’re far more of a Priest than they can ever be.

    What happens next for you is frightening, but there are a tremendous number of people alongside you, praying for you, and determined to support you. More importantly you can be sure that mysterious, wonderful, anarchically loving Spirit of God will be with you. For you are a Priest to those with no one else to bless them.

  62. You are a better man than the institution deserves. But that has to be cold comfort this evening.

    Like Ellie and some others here I have walked at least a part of the road. My postulancy ended abruptly because I ran into someone whose issues included overweight people. It is a painful time to be bereft of an expression of your vocation.

    It is perhaps time to ask yourself what else you can do. I know zip of the British job market, so I have no idea what that would be in terms of employment.

    You and Mrs. MP remain in our prayers.

    FWIW
    jimB

  63. Yes, Paul. I’ve got Grandmère Mimi.

    Hang on, MadPriest, you told me you don’t want my advice.

    I don’t see how those two statements are mutually exclusive.

  64. Pond.

    Cross Pond!!!

    [SRSLY, MP, if you still believe you have a calling to the priesthood, you really MUST at least consider serving in an Anglican—perhaps other denomination?—priesthood OUTSIDE of the UK (in the English-speaking church—-which for Anglicans, is spread pretty far around the world!)]

    Beyond that—prayers. Always, prayers…

  65. “at the moment I am as useful as a condom in a nunnery”

    I’m afraid that just makes it sound as if you’re having too much fun (which you clearly are not).

    I SO want to make a lewd rejoinder to this Cathy. Only sensitivity makes me refrain from posting it . . . to *this* thread. ;-p

  66. My postulancy ended abruptly because I ran into someone whose issues included overweight people.

    I have been certain for over ten years now that my former bishop has a real problem concerning people who have suffered from mental health problems. This is not just based on my experience of his dealings with me. If I was a psychologist I would probably conclude that something in his own past has resulted in a prejudice that overrides his obvious intelligence.

    The thing is I can see prejudices in myself. I expect a great many priests also have the weak spots with certain types in their congregations. A parish priest can cause considerable distress to a person he doesn’t like. But a bishop who is unable to rise above their natural prejudices can ruin the lives of his priests and deacons.

  67. MadPriest, you did not answer my question.

    Surprising as this might sound, considering my readiness to say whatever I feel like saying, I have never knowingly broken any rules of the Church (other than perhaps a few petty ones that nobody cares about anymore).

    I am not saying that I wouldn’t do it, Mimi. But, I would be making a real break from my church at that point and so there would be much soul searching on my part prior to saying yes or no.

    I have always believed that if my job is to change things through my words then I should not anticipate the changes in my actions. This is me. I do not criticise those who go for direct action.

  68. I SO want to make a lewd rejoinder to this Cathy. Only sensitivity makes me refrain from posting it.

    Would that I had your sensitivity, JCF.

  69. I am not saying that I wouldn’t do it, Mimi. But, I would be making a real break from my church at that point and so there would be much soul searching on my part prior to saying yes or no.

    I thought the break was a fait accompli, but I guess not. Of course, that you can’t preside, for whatever reason, is a man-made rule, but if you feel bound, then you must do what you think is right.

  70. I thought the break was a fait accompli

    It probably is. But I am from the Anglo-Catholic tradition (the non-Romanist wing). Many of our priests in the 19th. Century spent most of their ordained lives banned from presiding at the sacraments and they accepted it rather than leave the church that they knew was in error. At the moment I still have the courage to follow their example. I doubt that I can maintain such resolution as long as John Mason Neale for example, but you never know.

  71. When did you lose your license?

    Do you mean that you don’t have an altar at the moment or that if, for example, someone asked to to do supply work some Sunday you would not be able to accept because you really were across-the-board unlicensed?

  72. We either have to be licensed to a specific church or given permission to officiate by the bishop to officiate in the diocese. I have not been inhibited, defrocked or even disciplined.

    It would probably be easier for me to officiate in another diocese rather than my own. A priest in another diocese could invite me to preside as a one off.

  73. It would probably be easier for me to officiate in another diocese rather than my own. A priest in another diocese could invite me to preside as a one off.

    I really, really, really wish you would do some one-off presiding, Mad Priest. I think it would be brilliant. Is it impossible for you to put out feelers? Do you know anyone who could invite you to do this who would? …

  74. Something about this feels kinda like a “breakup”, sort of.

    And when that happens, one’s friends come round and take you out to a pub and get you really drunk. Catharsis, I suppose. Something like that.

    Wish I could at least buy you a stout, Jonathan, darlin’.

  75. Two hundred miles is a long way to go but it would be a start and I bet it would be fabulous for you. I wish you would.

  76. Sam already has. But 200+ miles each way is a long way to go, even with the lure of going down the pub with the lads afterwards.

    Make a weekend of it with Mrs MP and the dogs in the caravan.

  77. All this talk of lewd sheilas: are y’all TRYING to torture me?! ;-p

    Still waiting to hear of your travel plans, Mad One [C’mon, I’m not insisting you come to the (over-armed/under-healthcared) USA. But couldn’t you see yourself as a nice Canadian parson? (Well, just a Canadian parson!) Don’t know Canada’s dog laws, but once y’all got in, I’m sure the collies would love the Frozen North! (And there’s even a part of Canada SOUTH of where I used to live in Michigan—and I miss Michigan. Good times!)]

    Visit Canada for (snow-B-gone!) Whitsuntide: think about it!

  78. I so wish I could say something useful and rather fear I cannot.

    I’ll start with “bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger!” Vocal exercises, as was said in *Four Weddings and a funeral.*

    With Ellie I would stress that we speak of “being a priest” not “doing a priest.” Recall that when Jesus appointed the twelve it was, according to Mark, “to be with him, and to be sent out to preach, and have authority to cast out demons.” (Mk 3.14-15) Maybe it would help to recast your vocation in terms of being an apostle more than a priest. The time you spend, in person and online, with people is time spent with Christ. You consistently proclaim God’s Good News. You help us all name and cast out the demons of our age. Just saying that God is using you, and not in a generic way that applies to all of us baptized.

    Now I’m going back to swearing.

  79. I can barely speak much less read through all these comments. I don’t know what’s been said or not said, so I’ll just say this: Jonathan, I’m so very sorry. I do hope you are able to unhook yourself from the idea that a priesthood is meaningless without a congregation. There’s so much more to it than that.

    I’ll continue to keep you in my prayers.

    Word Verification: Beated. (Yeah, no crap!)

  80. Oy! Ellie is spot on, priesthood is something you are, it can’t be undone
    and priests teach, write. administrate, counsel, do social work. start businesses and so on. (Priests historically have the power of Blessing and Cursing)
    A group of men who might help with ideas and shared experiences is the group of men who have left the RC priesthood for one reason or another. I know that they sometimes do weddings, possibly funerals and counseling and home Eucharists.
    Does anyone know the name of the group?
    as official churches stray further and further from doing really necessary pastoral work, there is an area of need that u need to tap into in order to continue to do pastoral work. I know this personally as I had to get a friendly retired TEC priest to do a funeral service at the graveside, under a tree, for my brother as the powers that be in the Anglo Catholic Church that I had attended and volunteered for several years never “got back to me” re: doing the funeral at the church.
    Please get some testing for skills and talents. Get some vocational testing for a second string career.
    Look for a spiritual director or counselor. Unless u have a legal contract with a church abroad, stay were u love to be and where Mrs MP can work and in traveling distance from/to your family. Face the truth that in churches,especially those of hierarchical structure, every person has to play the game, at least somewhat, and that’s the cost of being able to play.
    Do u want to be so constricted in order to be a Vicar? You will have to dig to get yourself out of this hole, and u need some professional help and testing to hint direction.
    A spiritual director might help u to collect your whereabouts faith-wise. You might get some help and support from contacting Spiritus Christe (sp?) in Rochester NY. A breakaway RC parish that has been hugely successful. They might give u courage and encouragement. They r Catholic even tho the RC church has disowned them.
    As Fr. Jim at Spiritus always says at the end of his bulletin notes..
    “This comes with love”
    Nij

  81. Saintly Ramblings, I’ve already told MadPriest re Sam’s offer to let him preside that if he’s too broke to make the journey I would be very happy to chip in and help with petrol costs, and the same goes here.

    Mad One, I think you should – I think it would make all the difference to you, especially at this point in time.

  82. Paul Powers’ comment makes eminent good sense to me. And no, I am in no way, shape, or form your spiritual director, MadPriest, and you well know that.

    If you want to be a priest, which to you means presiding, then you have offers, and perhaps if you let the word out, you may have other offers.

  83. Paul Powers is a concern troll, Mimi. I have come across this particular pseudonym of his before.

    I am sure he will be heartened by your endorsement.

    And, as you well know, I was being sarcastic about all the helpful advice you offer me.

  84. I can’t think of a single thing to say about this that a) doesn’t contain vast amounts of swear words or b) sounds trite.
    I’ve been slow to catch up with things; I was hospitalised again at New Year.
    A big thank you for the chocolate angels; I hope our small gift got to you.
    Tell MrsMP to give me a call some time; we need to catch up.

  85. Jonathan, you have gotten much good counsel from your friends and “parishioners” on this blog — Mimi, Cathy, Ellie, Lois, Ann, and hey, even some guys! I’m sending you a note off-blog (too long for here), and if it’s of any help, good. (And if not, well, heck….)

    Prayers.

    wv: hoessins. Now, THAT’s spooky!

  86. I learned early in my priestly training, from some old codger, that the most important “duty” as a priest was to be present as a priest. Mad Priest, you are a priest because you offer your priestly presence to people all over the world. People rely upon you to do your duty as a priest over the internet. So, be our priest.

  87. Beloved friend,

    (My brain tried to type “Belobed” there, but my fingers were smart enough to backspace over it. However, your lobes up in your brainular area are indeed fine, and you should be proud of them.)

    Jesus weeps at this. So do I.

    I don’t want to pile onto the “You’re a priest forever” pile. I know that you are discouraged and frustrated. I know that you are grieving, and I think that retiring from the active clergy may well be the best decision. In the US, retiring from parish ministry means you’re on the supply list until you die, and you’re probably doing interim ministry, too. In some ways, this can seem brutal. In other ways, it confirms that you are indeed a priest forever.

    Of course, we are all the priesthood of believers. And you have become the rector of the OCICBW parish, which includes clergy, lay, religious, and non-Christian.

    I cannot know how badly you are hurting with you. I may not comment here as frequently as I want to. But I’m sitting next to you, dear friend, ready to listen, hold your hand, offer a hug, or turn out the patented terrycloth lining on my shoulder in case something gets into your eye.

    And yes. I’m praying for you. You gonna try to stop me?

    Love,
    Undercover Nun

  88. Thanks, Undercover Nun.

    To be fair and exact, it’s those people who could do something practical to help you, like saying something to the right person, but all they are prepared to do, because of their own self interest, is to tell you that they will pray for you, who get on my wick.