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I recently received a hate email, accusing me, among other things, of a lack of loyalty to either liberal or conservative parties in the Episcopal Church. I suppose the fact that I am telling you this only opens the way to more of the same. But as self-examination is good for the soul, I’m going to tell you two events in my life which formed the way I think.

In my early teens I was fortunate to have a History and English Literature teacher named F. J. O’Brien, MA (Cantab). “Toby” O Brien was a big, florid, beery, cigarette-smoking character, dressed in tweed and tattered gown. He could make a class see the battle he was describing. We almost ducked to avoid cannon balls.

I must have been thirteen when I first remember handing in a paper, only to receive it back with an F on it and a scribbled “Utter Twaddle.” Now I had relied heavily on the text book supplied, and notes I had taken from O’Brien himself.

O’ Brien was also Senior Master, who doled out punishments to sinners whose crimes did not warrant a visit to the Headmaster and subsequent caning.

In some fear and trepidation I went to Toby’s office and knocked. He bade me enter, glared at me and said, “what have you done”. I explained quickly that I wanted to discuss my F on the paper I had written.”

This is what he said: “Clavier, don’t believe me, and particularly don’t believe a text book. Research a subject, analyze it, trust your judgment if it is informed. Never let your emotions get involved. No one is unbiased, but at least one can attempt to be impartial. Never toe the party line out of mistaken allegiance. Never surrender your mind.”

(You see now why I dislike the Church Teaching Series.)

Toby O’ Brien’s advice has been my mantra. OK I gave my allegiance to him in this matter. I think learning to debate, to be obliged to adopt and fight for a position at odds with my own was also invaluable training.

The second story is brief. One cold wintry East Anglian day, with a wind blowing full force from Russia, I was discovered by the Games Master hiding in the library. I loathed and abominated “games”, or sports and I hated even more the team spirit and the fanaticism it engendered. To this day, if someone puts a sports events on TV, I’m just rude and leave the room.

Mr. Selby said: “Clavier, have you read HG Wells’s “The First Men on the Moon”? I replied that I had not. Selby said, “Well in it the moon men are all heads and no bodies, and that is what you will be like.” I later proved him wrong.

I endured peer and authority persecution for years until, in the 6th. form, I was permitted to take long cycle rides, which I had always enjoyed.

This does not mean that I am not loyal to my ordination oaths, or that my love for Anglicanism, warts and all, here, in England and elsewhere, has dimmed. Quite the reverse. I’ve been lucky to observe Anglicanism in Africa, India, the Caribbean, Mexico and elsewhere and at grass roots. But I do believe that an uncritical love is no love at all.

Watching the British Prime Minister and the American President today I wanted to grab them both and say, “Say you are sorry. Say you were wrong.” Fat chance. I want to say to our ruling minority in the Episcopal Church, “You have been in power now for decades and any movement, however right minded, that has absolute power becomes corrupt and careless of the people it claims to represent.” I want to say to the traditionalists, “You have lost every battle in General Convention for decades and you have become soured and embittered and rather nasty. Say you are sorry to those you disturb and hurt, those who are leaving us because they are in the middle of this brawl and see nothing Christian about a church which encourages such behavior.” I want to say to the majority of Episcopalians and particularly to moderate bishops: “For God sake get off your bottoms and take control of this church. Work towards getting Deputies elected who represent the Church and its people and not factions. And then, for God’s sake lead them.”