Thursday, 20 December 2007

Merry, merry etc

I will be away from Dec 21 through Dec 25 - visiting friends in Pensacola FL.

Look for the next posting on December 26th

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

My Dad's family

My Dad, Henry John Povey was an only child, the son of Henry George Povey and Sarah (Sally) Bennett.

Grandfather H.G. Povey, whom I never knew had a number of siblings, Dad’s aunts and my great-aunts.

Grandfather’s family had grown up in some style on Ashley Hill, Bristol in a mid-Victorian housing area where up and coming business people could buy fine houses.
I visited that house many times - more later.

Great Grandfather was a plumber, as was his son and grandson. Three generations of plumbers. My four brothers and I did not follow in those footsteps. We don’t do shit!

I think that my great grandfather was named Samuel George, or maybe George Henry Povey, but of that I cannot be sure. Family lore has it that he was an experimenter and dabbler in new ways of plumbing, and was known in a moment of frustration to have thrown a pot of hot lead across his workshop. We had in our family papers his contract with Bristol Corporation to do all the plumbing at the new Sefton Park School - circa 1870. Ninety or so years later my Dad was doing maintenance on that very same plumbing - lead pipes and all.

Dad had a Uncle Frank who committed suicide. Years later it was spoken of in hushed tones. He went into Leigh Woods and slit his wrists. His son, Gordon Povey (Dad’s first cousin) lived not far from us on Bannerman Road, and we would take occasional trips to visit him and his family.

Meanwhile, in that house on Ashley Hill lived Great Aunt Bess, in all her glory. She, in my mind was a mixture of good Queen Bess and Miss Haversham. Great Aunt Bess was badly crippled with arthritis, and spent most of her time in bed. I remember her long bony and knarled fingers reaching into her hand-bag to give me ten shillings.

She liked me as I went to the same High School as she had, and she liked my twin Elizabeth as they shared the same name.

Bess “let it be known” that she had some wealth, and that she would “pay for my education”. Truth was that she lived on a meagre old age pension.

She was waited on by a sister, my Great Aunt Lil (I am almost sure that was her name). She was a little simple minded, but provided amiable and helpful companionship for his sister. Bess dispatched her downstairs one day to get me some “junket” - the first and last time that I have eaten it!

There were two other Great Aunts. Minnie lived in a very lovely home in Weston-Super-Mare. She had married well. I’d make a visit to her when we had Sunday School Outings to Weston. I remember her sense of style, her grace, and her constant warm welcome.

Great Aunt Kate lived not far away in Uphill, near Weston-Super-Mare. I met her two or three times She too had married well. Minnie and Kate had children (other first cousins of my Dad) but they were of his generation, and I cannot remember meeting them.

Dad was often a loner, and he did not stay in touch with his cousins. But he was a good plumber!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

My letter to Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire

Dear Gene

I am so pissed off at the way you and Mark are being treated in the Episcopal
Church, and in the Anglican Communion.

It offends me that the Bishop of South West Florida (where I am licensed to
serve, but happily am not canonically resident) has nixed the plan for your
visit to St. Boniface Church in Sarasota.

I am angry and appalled by his cowardice. He has surrendered to conservative bullies.

He has not, as far as I know, had the courtesy to reply to those who have written him (including
me) to protest his decision.

It offends me that the Archbishop of Canterbury will not invite you to the 2008
Lambeth Conference of Bishops. Does he not understand that your election and
consecration was canonically proper in the Episcopal Church, unlike the
consecrations of Bishop Minns and other conservatives.

A nixing of Bishop Minns as a quid pro quo of a nixing of you does not make for
Gospel math. He was chosen and consecrated without reference to any canonical
law! You were elected, confirmed and consecrated in full compliance with our Episcopal Church canonical

It makes me sick that + Rowan has single you out, but has invited some corrupt
Bishops from Africa and South East Asia.

Is it not a "sin" when African Bishops have multiple wives, and/or visit
prostitutes? But they are invited to Lambeth!

Is it not a "sin" when Bishops in South East Asia and in parts of Africa are "in
bed" with corrupt and un-democratic regimes? But they are invited to Lambeth!

Is it not a sin of omission that the Archbishop singles you out as
"unacceptable" when he knows full well of other Bishops who have secret gay

And why does the Archbishop not recognise your fidelity to Jesus Christ, our
Lord and Saviour; to Bobbie, your former wife; to your daughters; and to Mark?

I am so angry that you will not be here or at Lambeth b next year. You are a
man of God with a Gospel voice. That voice has been silenced in South West
Florida. Shame upon shame.


Michael Povey

Sunday, 16 December 2007


“Of course I am a liberal” “Yes, I’d figured that out”. The first statement was mine. The reply came from a lovely older man at St. David’s in Englewood.

We were chatting this morning over coffee at the 8:00 a.m. service. He is from Newton, MA. His wife is from New Bedford, MA. They lived in Holliston, MA, and were founder members of the Episcopal Church there. But there hearts were, and are, at the Church of the Advent in Boston, a bastion of Anglo-Catholic worship and practice, “smells, bells and all”.

I preached there on Ascension Day a couple of years ago, and I was happy to tell them that the parish is flourishing and healthy. They told me of their hay-days at Advent when Whitney Hale was Rector. I never knew Whitney, but I met his matrician wife “Bootsy” in her later years, and I knew Whitney and Bootsy’s son Sam and daughter Margee. This couple were shocked when I told them that both Sam and Margee had passed from this life. They remembered Sam and Margee as young people.

As I drove home I pondered “but what did I mean when I said that I am a liberal?” The contest was the Church and not politics, though in many ways there is a seamless robe.

The word which came to me is “suspicion”.
My understandings of Christianity are filtered through the spectacles of suspicion. I always ask the question “what is going on here?” And I ask this question about scripture, dogma and the Church.

What is going on here?

Take, for example, the two stories of Creation in Genesis. Yes, there are two, each coming from a different source. I ask: “Why are the stories there? What gave rise to them? How have they been viewed through the Centuries? What do the two stories have in common, and where do they differ?”

The recognition that they are wonderfully evocative stories which feature a wonderful Creator and rather stupid human beings leads me to understand that they are not to be understood literally, but rather poetically and mythically. This understanding is congruent with the wisdom of the scientific approach which posits an old earth. It flies in the face of Christian conservatives who insist on a young earth, created in a literal six days.

They are there to help us encounter the Universe with awe (which scientists do!), and to ponder the mystery of our humanity (which psychologists do!).

And I believe that the bible is filled with similar stories, myths, dubious histories and tales which are to be viewed with suspicion, but from which we may hear (at a distance) the Word of God.

(And I worry about a Presidential candidate who believes in a literal six day creation. How will his religious views influence his funding of science?)

Dogma I have a deep suspicion about any dogma which is deemed essential. I ask “who insisted on this dogma, and why?”

Soon, in Church we shall hear tales from the Gospels of the Virgin Birth (more correctly “Virginal conception“) of Jesus. Matthew and Luke have concerns about this, but is does not seem to have been that important to St. Paul.

Matthew, quoting Isaiah, says “behold a virgin shall conceive”. But the Hebrew of Isaiah merely says “a young woman shall conceive”. And Luke seems to be more concerned with Mary’s chastity than her virginity.

So my suspicious mind asks “why did the Virgin birth become a dogma?”

Was it because of an odd idea that original sin was transmitted in semen?

And I ask: “or was it because the early Church valued virginity in the face of the belief that Jesus would soon return to earth?”.

And my political mind asks “how many human lives have been destroyed because of a suspicious dogma of Virgin birth” “Has this dogma skewed our understanding of human sexuality?” “Are our public policies rooted in a somewhat suspect dogma?”

My religious mind tells me that Jesus could be the Incarnate Word of God without the insistence on this dogma.

I have a similar suspicion about the Nicene Creed. I always ask “how did it develop?”; “why did it develop?”; “under what circumstances was it adopted?”

And having delved into those questions there are two others.

First “Is the Nicene Creed a statement of the winners in a religio-political battle, and if so: how and why did they ‘win’?”

Second “what is the cash value of the Nicene Creed?” Is it a weapon against heretics, or a dim but lovely insight into the mind and reality of God?

The Church

Thank God for the Church, it pays my pension.

But I have long since rejected the Roman Catholic claim to be the “true Church” as a legacy of Roman Imperialism.

And I have rejected the Fundamentalists’ claims to be “the true Church” on the grounds of “which one?” (Should I toss many coins?)

And I have rejected those claims on political grounds because of my fear of autocratic rule in the world ( I am an heir to the glorious English tradition of Parliamentary Rule),

On religious grounds, I do not believe that an autocratic Pope, or an autocratic Pastor is likely to understand the Jesus who claimed to be no more than a servant.

Now, having rejected Papist and Puritan claims, I find myself in conflict with that which I loved: The Anglican Communion.

We are being led in the direction of rules and regulations which would lead us to becoming “papists with an English accent” , or “fundamentalists with a good liturgy”.

Our good Archbishop of Canterbury has issued an Advent letter which is gracious, well written, finely nuanced, and ecclesiastically profound.

But it is very “theological” and very “English”. It does not speak to “Tillie” in Topeka, or “Nathaniel” in Nairobi. And although ++Rowan Williams is a good and holy man, it implies a centralization of power and authority which most Anglicans have never known.

I am very suspicious of even benign rule. It inevitably leads to autocratic rule.

So there are my suspicions. Do you share them? Have you thought about them or others?

I told the good couple in Englewood that I was a “liberal”. Truth to tell, I am an agnostic in the Christian tradition.