ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF A PRIEST

Last Sunday was the third anniversary of the last occasion at which I presided at holy communion. I told the congregation afterwards that it was probably the last time I would ever lead worship. At the time I only half believed that. Now, after three years of experiencing the closing of episcopal ranks against me, being banned from officiating and the complete refusal of anybody in the Church of England to believe in me or even simply to believe me, I think it may have been a true prophesy. However, hoping against hope, I continue to dream that one day I will be allowed to continue the ministry to which I have dedicated my life and for which I was chosen. Unfortunately, the longer I am unemployed the more unlikely it is that I will ever be employed again. People are naturally suspicious of a priest without a job. Nobody believes that a bishop could be in the wrong. Everyone believes that there is no smoke without fire. Most people, if only secretly, believe with the Bishop of Newcastle that a person who has suffered from depression can never be trusted to be in any position of responsibility within the Church.

There's an article in THE TELEGRAPH today about the Archbishop of Canterbury's daughter, Katherine's battle with depression. Unlike me, she appears to have received help and compassion from the Archbishop. Unlike me, her employers have continued to employ and have helped her use her experience of depression to campaign for all disabled people shunned by the Church out of ignorance and bigotry. Unlike me, who has been blogging for eight years about the prejudice within the church against those who are suffering or have suffered from mental health problems, Katherine is being listened to and will receive praise for her campaign rather than being swept under the carpet and deliberately ignored. Like father, like daughter, being a member of the "upper class" in my country still comes with incredible privilege and an access to the media nobody else enjoys unless they murder someone or sleep with a "celebrity." Hopefully, because of who she is, Katherine will succeed where so many others have failed and get the important people in the Church of England to actually do something positive and truly beneficial for the mentally ill rather than limiting themselves to signing worthless pieces of paper in front of press photographers and then going back to excluding the different from their churches.


As for me, I just want a job. Even a house for duty post might do. The problem is that as I haven't got permission to officiate, I am regarded as not being in good standing with my present diocese, even though I have never been disciplined for any wrongdoing. If you are not in good standing in your diocese you are simply not considered for a post by any other diocesan body. It's a no win situation and one that was deliberately engineered by people in the Church who wanted rid of me without going through the proper procedures which they knew would not condemn me. All the time they protected themselves by hiding behind the ridiculous exemption the government has given the Church from the employment legislation that forbids discrimination in the secular world. All their cries about freedom of religious belief are bogus. What they really want is to remain above the law, like medieval monarchs, so that they can do unto others exactly what they please.


Katherine Welby talks of thoughts of suicide. I don't need to kill myself. For all intents and purposes I died on a Sunday morning in May, three years ago at the Church of Saint Francis, High Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne. No clergyperson was there when I died. Few have visited my grave since. None have the slightest desire to raise me from the dead. Yet still they celebrate Easter each year as if they actually cared. Infected with such gross hypocrisy no wonder the Church is also dying. The cause of its death will be suicide.


Comments

ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF A PRIEST — 14 Comments

  1. I know it is small comfort, Jonathan, but I consider you to be in a small and select group whom I consider “my” priests, regardless of the technicalities you suffer under. When the sacraments are celebrated, you are in my heart.

    • Thanks, mate. I do believe my internet sacraments are valid and I will continue them should I ever get a job locally. But I also crave presiding n a church again. I suppose it’s like the difference between a musician making a record and performing live.

  2. Fr. Jonathon,

    You are a whole lot more Christian than the ambitious bigot of Newcastle. At center *ok: centre ;;sigh;; ) I think the church’s problem is that the bishops do not understand the radical hospitality of the Gospels. Or if they do understand it, they do not practice it.

    We have a saying on this side of the pond that wanting more people just like us to join our congregations is NOT evangelism.

    I grieve for your loss. Some time before it, I was denied permission to continue as a postulant and seminarian. I haver recently learned some of the reasons for that denial, and some other things about how it was handled that make the loss feel even worse now.

    I have settled on forgiveness and facing forward as my only options. Am I angry that the rector knew I had a right to appeal the decision to the bishop’s committee and deliberately did not tell me? I was when I learned about it a few weeks back. I stayed angry for a couple of days.

    But while the grief is always there, I have to move on. I am trying, and reminding myself that we are called to forgive, not to seek either vengeance or confession. Ah, it is hard to carry a denied vocation.

    My story is about told, I am old, and I must walk different paths now. I can only weep and pray with you. You are and remain a priest forever, and no nitwit bishop can change that.

    FWIW
    jimB

    • Thanks, Jim. I agree that forgiveness and moving on is the correct path for you to travel and that forgiveness should be my path as well. However, moving on may not be the path that I should be travelling. It is the lot of some people to be the widow demanding justice from the corrupt judge. I honestly believe that I have to remain steadfast in my refusal to be anything other than either a priest or an unemployed priest. I have a personality that makes such stubbornness possible and I would rather die than give up when it comes to matters of justice. So, for the time being, at least, I will continue to kick at the pricks and I will continue to scream my complaint out until someone gets fed up of the noise and decides to the only way to shut me up is to rectify the situation.

    • my friend I shall be there with you, but not seeking justice for me. In a real sense, I care a lot more about justice for you. No this is not masochism, it is my understanding of what I must do.

      Peace and blessings Father.

  3. I don’t have any pithy thoughts. I just wanted to you to know I’m thinking about you today.

  4. I understand that it hurts. I don’t know what else to say except thanks for continuing to be here for this bunch.

  5. Having myself sick leave right now because of depression, I am so happy the situation in the ELCF is different from that of the CofE! My bishop has been nothing but supportive.
    If you ever come to Finland, I’d be happy to have you “make an appearance” in my church! My thoughts and prayers go with you, my brother.

    • Thanks, my friend. Finland is a possibility as I wouldn’t have to fly and you can catch the ferry to Scandinavia just down the road from where I live.

      The only advice I can pass on to you is be kind to yourself. People will tell you to fight it but I personally find that going with the flow works better for me.

  6. I’ve got it! MP, you need to petition the Most Rev Welby to adopt you. Then, as his own (his very own) flesh&blood, he might be @rsed about your treatment by the Church he leads.

    Prayers for you, {{{MP}}}

  7. “It’s a no win situation and one that was deliberately engineered by people in the Church who wanted rid of me without going through the proper procedures which they knew would not condemn me.”

    This ignores the fact that you have yourself admitted that your new diocese offered you a clear, easy, transparent path to PTO and you turned them down. The reason you don’t have a PTO is not because of any campaign against you but because you didn’t want to do what everyone else has to do to get PTO.