The first thing that disappointed me about the Royal Wedding last weekend was the liturgy. A banal, updated, ecumenical translation of our beautiful, patrimonial marriage service that didn’t even update the “and also with you” the way the Catholic Church has in its 2011 revision of the Roman Missal. It even says “Your will be done” in the Lord’s prayer! The temerity! I never see that in Catholic Churches in Canada. That was the bad news. The good news, I thought, is the lofty, Anglican patrimonial marriage liturgy is alive and well in the Personal Ordinariates.
Mind you, I didn’t watch the wedding in its entirely, but watched social media reaction in bits and pieces. Then, when people started raving about Archbishop Michael Curry’s sermon, including many people I know as faithful Catholics or evangelicals, I thought I would take a closer look.
He certainly has a splendid delivery full of warmth and passion, but I recall thinking at the time, “I’d rather listen to Cardinal Sarah read from a text.” The sermon struck me as okay, but rather frothy and sweet like a milkshake. I told my priest after a meaty sermon on Sunday that he had given us steak rather than a milkshake.
But now, after listening to and reading Fr. Gavin Ashendon’s analysis of Archbishop Curry’s sermon, and the political implications for the Anglican Communion in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s inviting him to speak at the wedding, I am saddened for far more than liturgical reasons. (And don’t get me started on having that excellent gospel choir singing Stand by Me!—-There were so many far better illustrations of Black American culture that would have been far, far better than a Ben E. King pop song about romantic love!
If you can find the time, please do watch this edition of Anglican Unscripted with the former Chaplain to the Queen Fr Gavin Ashendon:
The world is rightly talking about Michael Curry’s wedding sermon. It was a ‘tour-de-force’. He is very good at preaching. But it also offers us all an insight into the dramatic difference between the two kinds of Christianity that are at odds with each other in the Anglican Communion.
We will call them for the moment, ‘Christianity-max’, and ‘Christianity-lite’.
Credit where it is due. ‘Christianity-lite’ can be very appealing. It reaches out to where people are hurting and it encourages them. It reaches out to where they are longing for good change, and it promises them that change can come.
It speaks continuously of love and hope. Everyone likes to hear of love and hope.
But it has three serious flaws. It doesn’t define love, and it never delivers on the hope. It isn’t what Jesus preached.
And over against Bishop Curry’s great sale pitch, only a few will hear and consent to be transformed. Only a few will follow and find the pearl of great price. The others will demand utopia on their own terms, and will tragically fall into a dystopia of distress, a world where their longings increase in addictive appetite and the become longings that are never and can never be satisfied.
But there was a hidden sting in the tail. There is a civil war raging at the moment in Anglicanism (and elsewhere) between progressive Christianity that takes its priorities from the zeitgeist, the present culture, and a faithful orthodox belief, that keeps faith with what Jesus taught in the Gospels.
This is quite a fight. Orthodox Christians believe that we are caught up in a very serious struggle between Good and evil, and evil tries to trick us and hide the good from us; usually by dressing up something corrupt which pretends to be goodness itself.
This ‘telling the difference’ between good and evil is as important as being able to tell the difference between medicine and poison. It may be the difference between life and death.
So when Justin Welby suggested Michael Curry as the preacher on this astonishing world-wide stage, he was also signing up one of the most effective street fighters for progressive, distorted Christianity who – with great charm and verve – presents his own preferred version of Jesus to the real one we find in the Gospels.
Lest we in the Catholic Church risk sounding a triumphalist note, we have our own problems with Christianity-lite, mercy without repentance, and a Gospel so inclusive the bottom falls out.