If you happened to visit my church on a Sunday, here is what you would find: a group of people of all ages – we don't do age segregation – participating in a worship service in the historic Anglican tradition. After the service you would enjoy coffee and tea, along with plenty of fellowship and laughter. If you happened to turn up on the first Sunday of the month, we would ask you to join us for lunch – an invitation that is open to all in our community. We would also invite you to come to our all-age games night on a Friday, where we muck around playing table tennis and various other amusements.
But we also have a dark side. Our two big secrets you might say. One is that we are, as a congregation, committed to the idea of what is generally known as "traditional marriage". The other is that in the courtyard at the back, we perform executions of those whom we regard as heretics, using such methods as chopping their heads off, burning them alive and tying them to pillars and blowing them up. You may have even seen the videos uploaded to YouTube.
Okay so I made some of that up. Did you spot which bits? Yes, we really do have a service with a liturgy based on Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer together with lots of psalms. We really do play a lot of table tennis. And – along with the entire Anglican Church until just a few years back – we really do believe that marriage is an institution designed to be between one man and woman for life.
It's the executions that we don't do. We do baptisms, I'll admit to that, but so far no killings. In fact, I can assure readers that we have never executed anyone who disagrees with us, nor do we have any plans to do so. Not even those who disagree with us on the marriage issue.
All that might come as something of a surprise to the "Conservative" MP for Lichfield, Michael Fabricant (I surround the word Conservative with speech marks only because there is currently no emoticon that encapsulates the idea of a person who claims to be something, but is in reality the exact opposite). In a recent article for the Daily Telegraph, he wrote this about the current battles over same-sex "marriage" going on in the Church of England:
“Perhaps the Church should take a tough line on its less progressive elements: get with the times or get out... Simply opting for more of the same for the sake of unity amongst a diverse Communion – some of whose views differ little from ISIL – is a choice of quantity over quality.”
You see? As a church that holds to the definition of marriage that most people – Anglicans and otherwise – have held for millennia, we are apparently on a par with that most notorious flavour of Islamic Jihadism, ISIS/ISIL. And what do we most associate them with? Why sexual slavery, blowing up monuments and of course videoed executions.
Since Mr Fabricant decided to make the connection, I assume that he would fully expect to find our church -- alongside the worship of God, the community lunches and games nights etc of course -- practising its very own system of executing heretics in the most grotesque ways imaginable. Or have I misunderstood him? Perhaps I've got this the wrong way around and what he really means in making the comparison is that he would fully expect to find ISIS/ISIL Wahhabi goonthugs holding lunches for the community and playing table tennis – when they're not busy terrorising communities that is.
If he happens to be reading this, I'd encourage him to put it to the test. Mr Fabricant, I'd like to extend a personal invitation to you to come and visit us on a Sunday. I have a feeling you'll rather enjoy yourself. The worship might not be your cup of tea, being a self-professed agnostic, but I promise we'll feed you and supply you with copious amounts of tea or coffee, offer you lots of stimulating conversation, and above all I promise that we won't kidnap you and execute you. I'll even allow you to examine the courtyard at the back, so you can be reassured that no executions have taken place there of late.
All in all, I can guarantee that you'll leave the building with your head still firmly on your shoulders, though whether it will be screwed on right is not for me to say. The church is Christ Church Salisbury, and if you want to take me up on the offer, just get in touch with TCW and I’m sure they’ll put us in touch.
If you do decide to visit us, what I then suggest is a trip to Deir ez-Zor. Or Raqqa if you prefer. You could spend some time with those chaps who are apparently much the same as traditional Anglicans, although it is my understanding that they don't tend to use Cranmer's liturgy very much. On second thoughts, maybe you'll have more in common than you might think, as they don't much like Christianity either. When you get back – if they let you out that is – you could write another piece in the Telegraph confirming the similarities between the two groups, such as the desire of both groups to spread their beliefs, the one by inviting unbelievers to share lunch, and the other by killing unbelievers.
What is really funny about what Mr Fabricant says is this: he undoubtedly held exactly the same views as the traditional Anglican up until a few days before yesterday. He's now 66 years old and I'll bet the thought of two men marrying each other never even occurred to him until ... oh let's give him the benefit of the doubt … sometime after his 50th birthday. About the same as a bunch of other people discovered the idea for the first time in their lives.
Which means that until sometime after the year 2,000, Mr Fabricant probably thought – along with everyone else – that marriage was something that involved one man and one woman. Not one man and many women, as a Wahhabi goonthug might believe, nor one man and one man, as we are now invited to believe. But one man and one woman. Which in turn means that by his own estimation, his views also would have differed little from ISIL, as indeed would millions of Britons down through the centuries. Indeed, it’s actually amazing how we aren’t now living in an Anglican Caliphate.
Finally, I should point out that my church, although Anglican, is not within the CofE. We have indeed taken the advice Mr Fabricant gives and have forged a path outside the decaying CofE. And what do you know, it’s these kinds of churches that are growing, and not the groovy “progressive” types who insist on moving with the zeitgeist rather than the Spirit, and who are emptying day by day. Mr Fabricant really should come along. You never know, we might even remove the black Anglican jihadi flag that flies over the top of the building, especially for him.
(Image: Lorna Mitchell)