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A late 19c. Bishop of London
Gaiters on a Bishop of London

Hallo again to all.

Cyangugu, Gippsland, Kentucky: all are new diocesan web sites gracing our roster in New This Week. New sites are plentiful, from a splendid tour of Winchester Cathedral to sites devoted to helping churches make better web pages. And happily, as usual, there are all manner of parish sites to visit. We publish also this week the latest essay from Anglicans Online columnist Pierre Whalon. 'Flying Bishops Revisited' looks at the issues of the episcopal jurisdiction, Anglican history, and tolerance—and how all this bears on the thorny question of the Anglican Mission in America and the Episcopal Church in the USA.

A correspondent enquires whether it's possible to determine (roughly) the last time an Anglican bishop wore gaiters. The writer wrote that he saw the famous Red Dean of Canterbury in such in 1947; we wonder whether this may have been close to the end of their public appearance. If you have anecdotes or information, please let us know. We note that we're not alone in our interest in ecclesiastical fashion: see Christopher Howse's piece in the Daily Telegraph. Has anyone ever glimpsed a member of the clergy in white cravat? We live in hope, but rather doubt it.

The Flying Nun, with a Christmas tree on her back.
Christmas tree on the Flying Nun

When we studied history and the history of the Christian church, we were taught that the Christian missionaries in England adapted the calendar and rituals of the church to meet, perhaps halfway, the expectations of the converts. For example, we were taught that the custom of celebrating Christmas on December 25 may well have been an adaptation to a Druid celebration of Midwinter at the solstice. Whether this is entirely true, entirely legend, or something in between, we will leave for the historians to argue about. It is unlikely that there will ever be proof, as everyone who could testify has been dead for 1700 years. But we've never heard any argument that this basic technique—of adjusting the earthly nature of God's message to match the vocabulary of the listener—has served our church well since the beginning. Last week we answered our doorbell to find two missionaries from a Christian-like religion telling us eagerly that scholars had proven that there was never a cross, there was a pointed stick, and that the institution of the cross was the work of the Devil and of Popery.

There are three themes in the Anglican news this week that mix to fuel our thinking about tradition and its relation to the Good News of Jesus Christ. The first is an article saying that children are attracted by spirituality, but that increasingly they find none of it in the Church of England. The second is that yet another church, this time the US Baptist church, is facing schism over issues surrounding traditionalism. Former US President Jimmy Carter, a lifelong Southern Baptist, announced this week that he found its current doctrinal statements unacceptable. The third is the raft of news stories from all over the Anglican communion detailing the state of struggle between camps that can be loosely categorised as 'traditionalist' and 'revisionist'.

A church without children will not exist in another generation. As all of these people who are as old as we are, with hair as white as ours, fight about what the church is and isn't, and what it does and does not believe, we wonder whether, when all of us are dead, anyone will even care. There is a famous quote from the Vietnam war that 'we had to destroy the village in order to save it.' Please let's not destroy our church in the process of saving it, regardless of what evil we think we are saving it from.

See you next week.

Cynthia McFarland's signature
  Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
  Brian Reid

Last updated: 29 October 2000