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Stebbing, Great Dunmow, Essex, United Kingdom
The occasional blog of an Anglican priest in rural Essex

Monday, 24 January 2011

What have I said Now?

This Sunday we were hearing in church about the calling of the first disciples from Matthew's Gospel. I'd never really paused to think much before about what Zebedee [no giggling at the back] thought when his sons James and John got up from their nets and followed Jesus. In terms of the theology of vocation, it may be (as in this case) that the effects of that calling, that conviction, are positive for those who are called, those who come to that conviction, but less so for others around them, family, colleagues etc.
On Sunday morning I preached about calling from this story (Matthew 4, 12-23). In the sermon I uttered words I never expected to say again after I said them last when I was about 7:

I am Zebedee
 (we were playing on a pogo stick ...)

You see I suspect that even if James and John and their father had already heard of or about or even from Jesus before this lakeside encounter, with the best will in the world, there must have been a little bit of a sarcastic "oh, well so long and thanks for all the fish then" from Zebedee. Perhaps he did have an appreciation of the validity of his sons' calling, perhaps not, but the stark fact is he was 2 crew members down. That can't have been easy to swallow.

I am Zebedee

 because the diocese of Chelmsford lost 300 or more people over the weekend. They followed their own convictions, their own calling (the clergy among them would probably go with the latter) into the Ordinariate [?sp] - Pope Benedict's accommodation for Anglicans departing to Roman Catholicism. I am Zebedee even though I don't personally know any of these people, but we are a fair few crew members down as a result of their expression of their calling or conviction. My opinion on it is not relevant to the decision, but it has an effect on me because the family that has been torn apart is my family, the Anglican diocese of Chelmsford. Oh yeah, great timing too - a happy "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" to you too Holy Father ! [rant over]

They would say I'm sure (as James and John would say) "We have to go". They don't have to go, the Church wants them to stay and the diocese of Chelmsford is working hard to support them and others like them, but they want to go - it is their conviction, based on their opinion of the matter in hand (namely the making of women Bishops among other alleged 'departures from tradition'). I happen to disapgree with them enormously but I think it is a mistake to go.

Which brings me to the whole concept of the power of personal opinion. This weekend on Sky Sports Richard Keys and Andy Grey expressed personal opinons, which were broadcast unknown to them. The opinions (which I wont repeat here but if you live in a vacuum click the link) were widely condemned as unacceptable. Grey and Keys clearly hold convictions about women in sport which are a little old fashioned to put it politely. Had they been savvy enough to realised their mics were live I'm fairly sure they'd have been more discreet, but now we all know what they think, even though they have apologised.

I don't think those opinions are God-given. When it comes to the Ordinariate, that is a harder thing to say, as I do believe, even if I disagree, that many of those 300 or so souls genuinely did seek God's input on their decision to cross the Tiber. whether they found God's answer for anyone beyond their own selves is another question.

In all of this one thing we should remember (as Yoda might put it); forgiveness is not the same as saying it doesn't matter.

And finally, to bring two great films together in one pastiche, since I am married to a woman priest I can say ...

I am Zebedee and so's my wife


  1. Nice post, and good use of of anchor text too! I'm going to make sure I go through the rest of your blog. I love the perspective on Zebedee and have often wondered what the effect on friends and family must have been when people went off to follow the calling..

  2. Thank you - you identify the reality of being called, So often the focus is on those that are called. The Curate and I have had long discussions on the effects on Zebedee and his business.

  3. I really appreciate your blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It matters.

    I have a blog called It's All About Love at latoshalove.blogspot.com. I post my own personal thoughts, inspirations, rants and ravings


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