Storming out of St Paul’s Cathedral
I walked out of St Paul's Cathedral yesterday during the most disgraceful sermon which I have ever heard in my life. In 44 years of churchmanship, I have never done this before, despite sitting through sermons which have raised an eyebrow in the past. I usually seek to see the good in people, especially if they are our clergy, and if the rest of what the preacher is saying is biblical and good.
The sermon yesterday was an extreme left-wing diatribe delivered by a South African, one Fr Michael Lapsley, on the theme of ‘remembrance. It might as well have been written by Michael Moore.
Lapsley was the so-called ‘Chaplain’ to the ANC in exile.
Within 5 minutes of his sermon, Fr Lapsley proclaimed: ‘Let the British people apologise to the Iraqi nation for this totally illegal, immoral and unjust war against their people’.
He then went on to insult the integrity of our Coalition servicemen by saying (I paraphrase):
‘When they are being brutalised by their participation in an unjust and unpopular war, US Servicemen come back, not as heroes, but bringing their violent memories and stress with them, and this is leading to an upsurge in domestic violence, drug addiction and alcoholism’.
The implication was that US forces (and not just some undisciplined elements of the sort you get in any Army, war bringing out the best in most and the worst in a few) are inflicting the ‘brutality’ they allegedly inflicted on the Iraqis on their families and neighbourhoods.
So US troops (AND, it was hinted, our own) were effectively insulted as wife-beaters, drug addicts and alcoholics, whose only hope of redemption, it seemed, was to confess their role to Fr Lapsley as aggressors in an ‘unjust’ and ‘totally illegal’ war.
Lapsley proceeded to attack Lady Thatcher, whom he could not bring himself to name and simply described as ‘a certain political leader’ for wanting to hold a service at St Paul's to celebrate ‘what she saw as victory in the Falklands-Malvinas war’.
He implied that the war to liberate the Falklands (or, as he seemed to prefer, ‘Las Malvinas’) should not have been fought, ‘for those on both sides who lost their lives should be commemorated in this Cathedral’.
Lapsley then went on to insult the victims of terrorism on 9/11 and 7/7 (which terrorism I never heard him define as Islamicist terrorism) by saying: ‘The West needs to examine and accept its own share of responsibility for the problem of terrorism’. He depicted Umkhonto we Sizwe as ‘heroic freedom fighters’ , whose only fault seemed to be that they were ‘more complex’ than their ‘heroic stereotypes’ (my own personal view is that neither the National Party Government nor the ANC had anything to be proud of, and the armed wing of the ANC probably had as much blood on their hands). So, not a cheep about necklacing, car bombs, such as that at Amanzimtoti or Church Street, forcing black shoppers to drink bleach for not complying with the boycott, managing to kill even more black innocent citizens than the SA security forces.
O no. His only ‘criticism’ of a leading ‘Freedom Fighting hero’ was one that came from said ‘hero’ himself: ‘I am more complex than the hero you portray me as’.
The final straw for me was when he said:
‘This year, the British people have been commemorating the end of the Slave Trade. Let us hope that in 200 years time the Church will apologise for refusing to honour same-gender marriages’. He went on to portray the Church's opposition to gay wedding ceremonies as reactionary and narrow-minded.
Now, I can honestly say that I am not remotely bigoted on this, having good gay friends, but to depict opposition to gay marriage as unchristian and motivated by irrationality and hatred and on a shameful moral par with support for slavery was the last straw. As he continued in this vitriolic vein in which he attacked (the fairly gentle and courteously explained) Anglican doctrine opposing the blessing of same-sex relationships, I got up and stalked out of St Paul's, absolutely seething and without staying for Communion.
It was an absolutely disgraceful diatribe and a desecration of the House of the Lord. I cannot imagine that the last Dean, V Rev. Dr John Moses, would have allowed such a ‘sermon’ in our National Cathedral.
I therefore can no longer commend St. Paul's Cathedral as a place to worship.
Cranmer has quite a few places of worship he could not recommend, but would exhort Communicants who may be appalled by this highly politicised ‘sermon’ to complain directly to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
And then Cranmer shall apologise for wasting his Communicants’ very valuable time, which, he has recently re-learned, is a very precious commodity indeed.