Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Anglican Logic - Circling the Quadrilateral

The reported removal of the Permission to Officiate from Jeremy Timms, a Reader (ie Anglican equivalent of a Local Preacher) in Yorkshire has exercised many.

Not least as because the offence that Mr Timms is committing - marrying a member of the same genital grouping - is not one which has previously been advertised as resulting in the removal of PTO from Readers. This was previously believed to be, as a kind of Disbenefit of the Clergy, only for the ordained orders. But it now appears that Jeremy Timms can do Reading or Marrying, but not both. I don't know if there's a vibrant inclusive church scene in Yorkshire, but I believe the Methodists are slightly more relaxed in these matters.

Which has led some people to ask what is the matter with Anglican Logic - that a prohibition on one thing, turns out to be a prohibition on something (literally) of another order.

Well, we know not the fine details of Jeremy Timms' case. Always two sides etc. So let's leave that. But Anglican Logic is another matter.

Anglican Logic is not so much a series of inductive steps, a reasoning from A to Z or comparison of oranges with another fruit via whatever process makes sense. Rather it is more like a form of geometry.

Anglican Logic, since the day Cranmer wrote a Prayer Book for a bunch of pseudo-Catholics and wannabe Presbyterian Calvinists, is about finding the nearest point in a multi-dimensional grid to all other points. It is a bit like that demonstration of gravity where you roll a ball bearing around on a stretched piece of rubber to find the lowest-energy point. While all the time worrying that, this time, the rubber sheet might snap.

Anglican Logic is about finding the path of least resistance in an environment in which everything is full of friction.

That's why Anglican logic can defy the comprehension of people with more regular logic - atheists, fundamentalist Protestants, Catholics. Given a really thorny question of morality, one that asks really hard questions about our human nature - the fundie will ask what does the Bible say? The atheist will look for an evidenced, scientific basis to proceed. The Catholic, taking into account the scientific evidence, will ask what is God's will in this, given the Biblical revelation in the light of the Church's historical wisdom. While the Anglican will go off to work out how many pews can be removed without upsetting the people who like pews, and how many pews will have to be left to keep the Victorian Society happy. Anglican logic is more like a tightrope than a ladder.

So we can expect Anglican attitudes to sexuality to continue to walk a balance between people who want complete freedom and equality for all - and those who still have in the garage a supply of both tar, and feathers. It's the Anglican way. It's Anglican logic. Maybe it would be better to talk about the drain on the East wall? It's blocking up in wet weather. Should a few branches be lopped off that ash tree? Or do you think that would need a faculty?


  1. I recall, many years ago, reading a horror story - I can't remember the author, so I trust that s/he will forgive this summary of the plot.

    An unnamed man falls asleep, and when he wakes, finds that he is lying on the narrow rim at the top of a very high chimney, with no possible way down except by falling to his death. A mysterious voice speaks to him, telling him that he is the subject of an experiment. Gradually, a razor-sharp circle of metal will rise through the middle of the brickwork of the chimney rim; at first, it will be possible to stand by placing one foot on either side of the razor, but soon it will be necessary to choose one side or the other, and later still, the choice will be between falling or throwing oneself off the rim. The experiment is concerned with recording what proportion of victims choose to fall inside the chimney, and what proportion, outside.

    Sounds Grand Guignol, right? It gets worse. Our unnamed victim hesitates so long over disbelief in the situation, and then over his choosing, that he is trapped with the rising razor between his legs, too high for him to step over. The story tactfully ends at this point, leaving the dénouement to the reader's imagination.

    Once it might have been possible to take Mrs Patrick Campbell's course, and say that "It doesn't matter what they do, so long as they don't do it in the street and frighten the horses." No longer.

  2. As an expert in frightening cab horses in the street, I can only concur with Mrs PC.

    As a far-from-expert in Maths or Chemistry - I wondered if the Anglican logic bore less resemblance to tortuous squared circles, and more to that useful, mysterious and intriguing structure which packs together so efficiently - the buckyball.


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