Monday, 22 September 2014
Farewell to Welfare!?
Here’s a press release from The National Estate Churches Network:
Farewell to Welfare!?
National Estate Churches Network Annual Conference 2014
1st October St James Church Thurland Rd, Bermondsey, London SE16 4AA
15th October St Michael in the City Upper Pitt St, Liverpool L1 5DB
The National Estate Churches Network has sent us news of their forthcoming conference:
This year’s annual conference explores the effect that the Cuts are having on the people of our poorer housing estates. We are really excited that our keynote speaker at both venues is John Battle the brilliant long-time campaigner and advocate for those who are marginalised. As well as high quality input, there will be time to share and reflect together. What does our Christian Faith demand of us who live and work with those who really feel the impact of benefit reform? Can we make the system better or is it really ‘Farewell to Welfare’?
Book online or you can phone or text 07933 438304 for a booking form.
A whole day conference at just £20 including lunch.
1st October or 15th October 2014 10am-3.30pm
Sunday, 21 September 2014
Reminder: conference on theology of marriage
Way back in June, we announced that the LGBTI Anglican Coalition would host a conference on the theology of of marriage in the light of equal marriage, at St John’s Church, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8TY on Saturday 27th September, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. That is this coming Saturday.
The conference is titled To Have and To Hold. Here is the flyer.
If you have not already booked to attend, there is still time to do so.
Saturday, 20 September 2014
Church of England Newspaper editorial The battle for the soul of the Church
Isabel Hardman The Spectator Conservative Anglicans’ emergency plan to escape women bishops
Phoebe Thompson of Premier Youthwork spoke to Sally Hitchiner about Diverse Church.
Jules Evans has interviewed Richard Chartres: The Bishop of London on Christian contemplation.
Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian that If Justin Welby has doubts about God it’s no bad thing (with reference to this story).
Wednesday, 17 September 2014
College of Bishops - shared conversations
The Church of England started its series of “shared conversations” on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission this week in the College of Bishops. The College has just finished its meeting and published this press release.
College of Bishops Meeting
17 September 2014
The College of Bishops of the Church of England has met for three days. Two of the days were devoted to the first of a series of shared conversations in the Church of England on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission.
The context and process for the conversations were set out in a paper to General Synod by the Bishop of Sheffield on 26 June 2014 available here which also identified two outcomes for the process.
The first is to enable the Church of England to reflect, in light of scripture, on the implications of the immense cultural change that has been taking place in society on issues of sexuality. How can the Church “proclaim the gospel afresh in every generation” as a missionary church in a changing culture ?
The second objective is to create space and an environment for the Church of England to live together as a family who disagree with one another. Recognising that this was the experience of the first disciples and apostles who went on to proclaim the Gospel across the world, how can the Church ensure that those with differing views on sexuality continue to share together a place of common baptism and faith ?
As part of the conversations the college shared the different responses being expressed in the life of the church and the deeply held convictions and experiences that inform them. In this the college reflected the diversity of experience and view held by the country as a whole. The college also acknowledged that at this stage it was not seeking to achieve consensus nor to make any decisions but rather the purpose was being open to see Jesus Christ in those who took an opposing view to their own position.
The resource materials and process prepared for the college will be further developed in the light of the experience there before they are rolled out in regional conversations early next year.
In addition to participating in the shared conversation process the college received presentations on a wide range of issues including Iraq and the Middle East, Science and Religion, Discipleship, Resourcing Ministerial Education and other matters.
A podcast interview with the Bishop of Winchester and the Bishop of Manchester reflecting on the shared conversation process is available here.
Welsh Code for Women Bishops published
The Church in Wales has published its Code of Practice in relation to the Ministry of Bishops following the Canon to enable the Ordination of Women as Bishops. Drawn up by the Church’s seven bishops, it was presented to the Governing Body, which is meeting in Lampeter, this afternoon. The Church issued this press release.
Code for Women Bishops aims to keep all included – Archbishop
Guidelines for new legislation to ordain women as bishops aim to make everyone feel valued in the Church, regardless of their views on the issue, the Archbishop of Wales said today (September 17).
Drawn up by the Church’s seven bishops at the request of its Governing Body, the “Code of Practice” accompanies the women bishops’ legislation which came into effect on September 12, exactly a year after the Church’s historic vote.
Publishing the Code at the Church’s Governing Body meeting today, the Archbishop, Dr Barry Morgan, said it was designed to be as inclusive as possible as the bishops saw God’s call in people on both sides of the debate.. He urged the Church to unite in proclaiming the Gospel.
He said, “The Code of Practice we have produced has not been produced for the benefit of one side or the other in the debate but for the whole church. That is what you asked us to do. The Bill explicitly says that the Code should be drawn up in such a way that every member of the Church in Wales might feel secure. In other words, this Code is not just for those who in conscience dissent but is a code for every member of the Church in Wales.”
He added, “Bishops have a particular responsibility for matters of faith and order and we want to be as inclusive as possible which is why we are able to affirm wholeheartedly the ordination of women to the episcopate and can also accept that provision should be made for those who cannot accept their sacramental ministry. By making such a provision, our hope is that no-one will feel the need to leave the Church in Wales…
“In the Church in Wales, we, as your bishops, quite frankly see Christ at work in our members, married or single, gay or straight, we perceive the call of God in women to all three orders, and we are respectful of the faith of those who cannot in conscience receive such ministry. In these issues, as in others, we invite the Church to unite in the greater task of proclaiming the Gospel.”
The bishops wrote the Code after consulting widely across the Province. Its guiding principles were:
- Any woman Diocesan Bishop becomes such on exactly the same terms, and with the same jurisdiction, as any other Diocesan Bishop in the Province;
- Provision for those who object to the ministry of women bishops has to be pastoral, not structural;
- Those who in conscience cannot receive the sacramental ministry of women should not be excluded from being considered for ordination;
- No specific alternative bishop should be provided for those who are unable in conscience to accept the ministry of a woman bishop, but there should be a means to request and receive alternative sacramental provision.
The Code of Practice itself, and the Archbishop’s address to the Governing Body are also online.
The Code is short, and is copied in full below the fold.Continue reading "Welsh Code for Women Bishops published"
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
30 African Theologians & Scholars Back Gay Equality
From Mamba Online:
30 African Theologians & Scholars Back Gay Equality
More than 30 African scholars, theologians, faith leaders, activists and students have issued a powerful declaration in support of LGBT equality on the continent.
The leaders from nine African countries gathered in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, between 28 to 31 August.
They met for an “historic consultation on human sexuality, religion and equality,” wrote Dr Michael Adee, Director of the Global Faith & Justice Project.
The event was organised by Adee, who is also an elder in the US Presbyterian Church, and Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian Anglican priest, from Political Research Associates.
The countries represented included Cameroon, Lesotho, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe…
The full text of the KwaZulu Natal Statement is copied below the fold.Continue reading "30 African Theologians & Scholars Back Gay Equality "
Monday, 15 September 2014
Malcolm Brown and David Porter talk about the Shared Conversations
Church of England press release: Reflections on shared conversations process ahead of College of Bishops
15 September 2014
In a podcast interview Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director of Reconciliation, and the Revd Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs, talk about the process of shared conversations that has flowed [from] the Pilling report as the College of Bishops of the Church of England gathers for its annual residential meeting in Leicestershire.
The College will conduct shared conversations for the next two days in small groups with the discussions remaining confidential, mirroring the wider proposed process.
In an interview recorded ahead of the meeting of the College David Porter and Malcolm Brown recognised that whilst a uniform view on the issues was highly unlikely, the potential for the Church to model a different and more Christ like way of disagreement would be crucial.
Malcolm Brown said: “There’s a lot of anxiety around about what may lie behind these conversations about hidden agendas. I hope that we’ve unpacked that sufficiently in the light of Pilling indeed to show that that isn’t the case. There’s a lot of reassurance that says this is what it says on the tin and it’s not something hidden.”
David Porter added: “For me the ideal outcome will be that people will be able to articulate with a measure of empathy the views of others that they don’t agree with.….And that we develop that rapport, that capacity to disagree well, that means that when we get to the process which is beyond the shared conversations when decision will have to be made, the way we approach the making of those decisions is done in a way that honours the fact that we are brothers and sisters of Christ. And that even though we disagree, we are going to do that in a way that reflects that reality as much as the reality of our convictions on these issues.” He adds that he hopes people will see the way the conversations are being held and say: “Look at how these Christians love one another because of the way they disagree well.”
Listen to the interview here:
The interview is 11 minutes long.
The Pilling report is here:
The Church Times has a report of this by Madeleine Davies headlined ‘No hidden agenda’ behind sexuality conversations
THERE is no “hidden agenda” behind the shared conversations on sexuality that begin this week, the Church of England’s Director of Mission and Public Affairs said on Monday.
In a recording published on the Church of England website, Dr Malcolm Brown spoke of a desire to ensure that “some of the fears that are not certainly intended to be substantiated are dispelled. There’s a lot of anxiety around about what may lie behind these conversations, about hidden agendas and things like that. I hope we have unpacked that sufficiently . . . to show that isn’t the case.”
Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director for Reconciliation, charged with overseeing the conversations, said: “It is what it says on the tin. It’s a process of shared conversation. It’s about creating space that they can feel a certain amount of confidence because someone is there helping hold the ring, so that all voices will be heard; that people will be able to engage with each other in a respectful way, to come and talk about the change that we see in the culture around us in relation to questions of human sexuality, and the diversity that exists within the Church, about how we should respond as people of faith to that…
This article also repeats the remarks from the Bishop of Willesden that we reported on earlier here.
Saturday, 13 September 2014
Richard Beck blogs about Search Term Friday: Type 1 and Type 2 Errors and Deciding Who Is Going to Hell.
Christopher Howse writes in his Sacred Mysteries column in The Telegraph: The full glory of Miss La La.
Friday, 12 September 2014
Church Times reports on Pemberton tribunal claim
Today’s Church Times contains two items relating to the legal action taken by Jeremy Pemberton.
News report: Madeleine Davies Pemberton mounts a legal challenge over lost NHS job
and (same link, scroll down) Rob Clucas The Bishop’s ruling: a legal opinion.
From the news report:
…On Tuesday, a spokesman for the diocese of Southwell & Nottingham said: “We have received notification of legal action by Canon Jeremy Pemberton, and at this stage we have no further comment to make.” No comment has been received from the Archbishop of York.
Once an employment-tribunal claim is received by an employer, he or she is usually required to respond within 28 days. One of the uncertainties of this case is whether or not the Bishops can be defined as employers.
On Tuesday, Dr Russell Sandberg, senior lecturer in law at Cardiff University, said: “It depends upon the facts of the case - there is now no presumption that ministers of religion are not employees.
“Furthermore, the definition of employee for discrimination-law purposes is wider than [it is] for unfair dismissal.”
Dr Sandberg also suggested that bishops of the established Church could be considered as holding a public office.
The case, if it is accepted by a tribunal, will also test the interpretation of the Equality Act (2010). Dr Sandberg said: “Organised religions can rely upon an exception from the normal rules forbidding discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, either in order to comply with the doctrines of the religion, or to avoid conflicting with the strongly held convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers.”
He warned, however, that the scope and extent of these exceptions was “largely unknown, given the lack of case law, and uncertainty which arose in parliamentary debates”.
From the opinion article:
…But there are complicating factors. First, I understand that the post would be paid for by the NHS. In this situation, is the Church the employer, or the NHS Trust? The NHS Trust, as a public body, has specific positive duties in relation to the Equality Act and sexual orientation (and other protected characteristics), and it is not clear how these would be reconciled with the permitted discrimination under Schedule 9(2). Also, could the Church be a public body? This is at present unclear.
Second, there is a question mark about how adequately the Equality Act 2010 gives effect to the European directive that it was aiming to implement (transpose). Is the implementation of the European legislation defective in failing to require proportionality in the compliance and non-conflict principles of Schedule 9(2) of the Act? This was the view of the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its second report on the Equality Bill, concerning the amendments to the Bill that were made at committee stage in the House of Lords.
Where domestic legislation attempting to transpose the directive fails, and a case comes to court, there is a general obligation in EU law on the domestic court or tribunal to interpret the national law in a way that gives effect to European law. If the Act cannot be reinterpreted to comply with the directive, there may be a claim of direct effect, if the case is against a public body.
Whether a remedy is available to an individual will depend on the possibility of the direct effectiveness of the framework directive in the case of the Church’s (or the NHS Trust’s) being a public body in refusing to employ clergy in a same-sex marriages.
Canon Pemberton’s decision to take legal action against the Archbishop of York and the acting Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham is interesting. The law here is complex and unclear…
Thursday, 11 September 2014
Reflections on the Shared Conversations
Updated again Monday evening
Last month Rachel Mann wrote on her blog about Shared Conversations’ and the place of LGBTI people in the C of E.
‘When are the shared conversations starting and who’s going to be involved?’
…I’ve been thinking an awful lot about this (by church standards!) imminent process in the past couple of weeks. While this fact is no doubt a symptom of my need to get out more, my rumination is also unsurprising. Like pretty much every LGBT person who has chosen to stick around within the church I am profoundly conscious of the extent to which ‘we’ have been treated as something to be talked about, as an issue. So there’s a part of me that’s intrigued by the possibility that we might be talked to. Really talked to.
And, yet, the Pilling Report was also, supposedly, part of a process of being talked to and with. As someone who conversed at length with members of the Pilling Committee I’m not especially convinced I was listened to. It would not be beyond the possibility that I might be the kind of person who was asked to participate in the upcoming conversations. (And I suspect there will be a goodly number of people who – as much out of a desire to know what this process will involve – will be keen to participate.) And yet that previous experience has made me suspicious of the whole process.
In some respects it feels like the world is changing fast. The number of ‘coming outs’ recently, including Vicky Beeching, has hopefully left some church people thinking, ‘are there actually any straight people in the church?’ (;-D). However, the treatment of Jeremy Pemberton and the patchy nature of support for LGBT people in the C of E should give pause. As someone said to me recently, ‘We live in a bubble in Manchester diocese.’ It is a place where – more or less – LGBT lay and ordained can thrive and feel supported. You don’t have to travel too far outside the bounds of the city to experience a quite different reality.
Why am I suspicious about the ‘shared conversation’ process? Partly because ‘conversations’ have been going on in one form or another since at least the Consultations of the ‘70s. And yet it’s not clear that the C of E institution qua institution has shifted that much.
However, I am more concerned about whether the conversations will truly be conversations. The notion of ‘conversation’ includes the meanings of a ‘turning together’ or a ‘changing together’ as well as a living amongst or dwelling together. It is a mesmerizing possibility, but given things like the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement (aka The Valentine’s Day Massacre) it’s difficult for those of us who have been traditionally excluded from welcome in the church to trust that those with power, privilege and authority will genuinely place their privilege at risk of conversion, of conversation.
I believe that, in conversation, a mutual conversion to one other is certainly possible and I guess many of us would still be willing to give it a go. But we’d better hope God is around to give all participants a reality check, a regular kick in the shins.
This week Accepting Evangelicals has published A Woman’s Courage and the House of Bishops…. This discusses the case of Vicky Beeching who is a Patron of AE. But it then goes on to discuss the meeting next week of the College of Bishops:
…Next week, the Church of England’s College of Bishops meet to talk about sexuality. They will spend 2 days together with facilitators trying to find a way to have open conversations on the issue.
According to the CofE briefing paper, “Under the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director for Reconciliation, Canon David Porter, a team of around 20 trained facilitators will support a process of conversations across the Church of England. They will bring the skills necessary to ensure that the process provides a safe place for all viewpoints to be expressed and to keep the conversations to the objective of seeking understanding rather than having any predetermined trajectory. The process will begin at the meeting of the College of Bishops in September where the bishops will spend two days working in small groups with facilitators.”
These shared conversations are essential for the Church of England, but they will only work if the conversations are truly open and honest. That will take courage.
There are many Bishops who support same-sex relationships but have been too afraid to say what they really think. As one diocesan Bishop said to me at General Synod, “Benny, you know what I think, but I’m chicken – I am too afraid to say it!”
There is also a sizeable minority of the Bishops who are gay themselves. For many of them it is an open secret – one which is only protected by the loyalty and compassion of others which will not ‘out them’ to the world. How stressful must it be for them to continually keep quiet or deflect the conversation or sign up to statements which strike at the very heart of their being.
If the shared conversations next week are to move the Church forward, there must be a greater honesty, greater courage, and greater grace at work than ever before.
Women are renowned for their moral courage, and although there are no women Bishops in post yet, perhaps the courage of people like Vicky Beeching can inspire and challenge our Bishops to have a more open and honest conversation next week. It is certainly long overdue.
The Church Times carries a news report on the forthcoming meeting, see Bishop ‘not optimistic’ on eve of shared conversations by Madeleine Davies.
This article has now been replaced by a new one reporting on the recorded interview published on 15 September, but it still contains the remarks quoted below.
…On Tuesday, the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, said: “It won’t be an easy conversation - more difficult than that on women bishops - but we are absolutely going with this. . . It is clear that the facilitated conversations over women bishops did make a difference in terms of helping people understand each other better.”
He was, however, “not optimistic about the outcomes. Archbishop Justin has broached the concept of ‘good disagreement’. I don’t think we know what that might look like. There is a huge polarity between those who want the C of E to hold to its historic understanding of marriage - and not to change its canonical and liturgical formulae - and those who want the C of E to embrace total equal treatment, expressed in a change in relation to doctrine, marriage, and pastoral practice. Some are looking for a ‘two integrities’ approach - personally, I can’t see the Church holding together on that kind of basis.”
Wednesday, 10 September 2014
LGBTI Anglican Coalition supports Shared Conversations
LGBTI Anglican Coalition supports Church of England’s Shared Conversations
From 15 to 17 September, the College of Bishops of the Church of England will be meeting for two days to start the process of Shared Conversations on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission.
The LGBTI Anglican Coalition welcomes this first step and our members will be praying for a successful outcome to the meeting. Although we have reservations about the context in which this is taking place – articulated very clearly in the recent letter sent from the Trustees of Changing Attitude to all those attending the meeting – nevertheless we welcome the initiative, and hope it bears fruit.
We believe that there are two specific ways in which the College can and should signal that the meeting has been successful.
* The first is to affirm in public that some of their members are themselves gay or bisexual.
* The second is to affirm that within the College there exists a diversity of opinion about the policy issues surrounding sexuality, including both the recognition of civil partnerships and the acceptability of same-sex marriage as a legal right.
These two small steps would do much to enhance the credibility of the bishops, and to encourage LGBTI clergy and laity to participate in subsequent stages of the conversations process.
Monday, 8 September 2014
Jeremy Pemberton files employment tribunal claim
The following statement has been issued by the lawyers acting for Canon Jeremy Pemberton:
STATEMENT REGARDING LEGAL ACTION TAKEN BY JEREMY PEMBERTON
“Canon Jeremy Pemberton, the first British clergyman to enter a same sex marriage, has confirmed that he has filed an Equality Act claim in the Employment Tribunal against the Archbishop of York and the acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham. The action is being brought because of the sanctions imposed upon him as a result of his marriage. Canon Pemberton married his long term partner Laurence Cunnington in April of this year. Shortly thereafter his permission to officiate was revoked and a licence for chaplaincy work was refused. This led to the withdrawal of a job offer from Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Commenting on his decision to issue proceedings in respect of the alleged discrimination that he has suffered, Canon Pemberton said “I am deeply saddened that I have had to take this step against church authorities. However, I feel I have been left with little choice, having found myself being punished and discriminated against simply for exercising my right to marry. I will be making no further comment until these matters have been resolved through the court process.”
Among those assisting Canon Pemberton in his claim are Helen Trotter, a specialist employment and discrimination barrister from Kings Chambers and leading ecclesiastical lawyer, the Revd Justin Gau, from Pump Court Chambers.”
8th September 2014
Changing Attitude England writes to the College of Bishops
A week ago the Trustees of Changing Attitude England wrote to every bishop and elected senior woman in advance of the meeting of the College of Bishops from September 15-17 when they will start the process of Shared Conversations on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission.
The change in attitude and practice which the shared conversations are designed to explore has already taken place. The change is not universally acknowledged and has not been formally approved by the House of Bishops or the General Synod. Lesbian and gay clergy have married and are intending to marry. Many lesbian and gay lay couples have already married. Their families and friends and congregations welcome them and celebrate their marriages.
The attitude and practice of many bishops has already changed. Many already affirm that the Church of England is a Church which should include LGBTI people equally in ministry and relationship. Some bishops give their blessing and approval to civil partnered lesbian and gay couples without asking whether the relationship is sexually intimate.
The Reverend Colin Coward MBE, Director of Changing Attitude England, said:
“The internal divisions in the House of Bishops over the Pastoral Guidance and the policy about same-sex marriage are all too obvious. The Pastoral Guidance issued in February never had sufficient support from the whole House and was unworkable from the start.
“The change is not sudden or superficial. It has been evolving for decades as the secular movements for justice for LGBTI people and the Christian campaigns for equality have developed and matured.
“There is a noticeable increase in despair and depression among LGBTI clergy. Partnered clergy are unwilling to marry and those in civil partnership are reluctant to convert their CP to marriage fearing hostile action from their bishop. LGBTI clergy conclude that they will never be able to move to a new post if they marry and that there is effectively no future for them in the Church of England. Potential ordinands are dissuaded from pursuing a vocation.
“People are angry at what they perceive to be the hypocrisy in the incoherent practice of the House of Bishops and the failure to honour lesbian and gay clergy who marry, are in a civil partnership, known to be living with a partner or in a relationship. The teaching of the House of Bishops is now effectively that lesbian and gay clergy couples should live in an unmarried state rather than committing themselves publicly to one another in fidelity and love. Men and women in ministry no longer want to work in an environment which is deceitful and dishonest.”
Changing Attitude England urges a change of policy and practice on the House of Bishops in response to the high levels of anxiety and insecurity being felt LGBTI clergy, licensed lay ministers, and ordinands and the anger and frustration being felt by gay and straight Anglicans.
We urge the House of Bishops to review the Pastoral Guidance document:
- There are strong theological arguments for accepting and celebrating same-sex partnerships, including marriage.
- Clergy and congregations should be free to conduct services of thanksgiving and blessing for married same-sex couples.
- The threat of sanctions against clergy who marry should be removed to enable LGBTI clergy and lay ministers to participate in the mutual conversations.
The full text of the letter is copied below the fold.Continue reading "Changing Attitude England writes to the College of Bishops"
Saturday, 6 September 2014
Laurie Brock who blogs at Dirty Sexy Ministry discusses dating and the single priest: Eat, Priest, Love.
Ian Paul asks What kind of leader is Justin Welby?
Eric Pickles The Telegraph The fight against intolerance begins at home
Friday, 5 September 2014
Anglican Social Theology
|Anglican Social Theology: Renewing the Vision Today London: Church House Publishing, 2014 ISBN 978-0-715-14440-4. pp.240. £19.99 pbk.|
Anglican Social Theology gives an overview of the theological traditions and ideas underlying the Church of England’s involvement in the public affairs of the nation since the late 1930s. Interesting essays on the legacy associated with Archbishop William Temple, and on more recent “post-liberal” ideas, are joined by helpful insights and reflections from evangelical and Roman Catholic perspectives.
It is “offered as a resource for parishes and church members who are responding in numerous practical ways to widening social divisions and other problems in contemporary society.” It “looks to develop strong theological foundations for social action initiatives by churches”.
I myself badly need the book and I’m very grateful for it, though I cannot pretend to understand all of it. I need the book because I need to discover and develop “strong theological foundations for social action”.
Any new Bishop of Liverpool stands on giants’ shoulders and from that perspective sees the horizon slipping and sliding. I see David Sheppard who spoke courageously for the urban poor in his own speeches and books and through “Faith in the City” which he inspired. I see James Jones who was asked by the Government to chair the Hillsborough Independent Panel because he was seen as a leader in and beyond the community of faith, and to have the wisdom and credibility to do the job well.
But the horizon is slipping and sliding. “Faith in the City” was addressed by the Church to the nation, in the secure belief that the two had a language in common and a platform of mutual respect on which to stand. It assumed an unruffled process by which groups of clever, (mostly) middle-aged (mostly) men would meet together in a room and by thinking carefully about things would come to agreement, and would make progress together for everyone’s benefit. That way of working is described in this book as the “Royal Commission” approach.
But “Faith in the City” was not received with agreement. It offended many in power. It was contentious and controversial and it made and continues to make an enormous difference to the Church’s self-understanding, and on the ground to help people through CUF and its offshoots, and through other practical initiatives. For many in the Thatcher years the Church was seen as a credible voice of opposition, sometimes perhaps the only voice of opposition. However that road was ending and “Faith in the City” was its terminus.
The only Church of England report to have sold as many copies as “Faith in the City” is “Mission-Shaped Church” on which I worked with Bishop James Jones. I believe the report is vital to the future of a Church that can make a difference; but it was addressed by the Church to the Church as a means of getting to grips with a changing England. Like “Faith in the City” it was contended and controversial, but only within the Church. And when Bishop James made his own enormous contribution to the Liverpool region, it was not as the patron of a church report. The Hillsborough Panel was, inevitably and rightly, far more specific and far more emotional than a Royal Commission. It was, and is, a matter of public justice in public view. Years of denial and evasion have been exposed, and the patience and perseverance of the families of the 96 who died has been vindicated. This has been a harrowing process and the Church has been at the heart of it; but it was not a Church initiative and if it had been, it would not have done what it has.
And now the horizon is slipping and sliding more and more wildly. The gyroscope of our public theology has badly slipped. The Church’s public credibility is deeply contended within and outside the Christian community. We don’t have to look far for the evidence. The Pilling report sought to stand in that old tradition of calm, magisterial reflection on difficult issues, as the Church more widely tried to do in the national debate over same-sex marriage. Readers of “Thinking Anglicans” will remember the result.
What will be next for the Church? A disaster, or a genuinely engaged conversation with surprising outcomes? Avoiding the disaster will need a rare and a key resource — good public theology, ordinary theology, designed for and understandable by ordinary Christians.
Anglican Social Theology offers a toolbox with which to make that resource. But it does not offer the resource itself. Its tone is set too high. It is introverted, academic and erudite, sometimes eye-wateringly so.
But to make such a resource; there’s a task for the Church’s theologians. Because polemic and shouting may be necessary but they are not sufficient. It is thinking together about God — corporate theology — that gives the mind a place to stand, and from that place to reflect wisely on what’s happening around. Otherwise the Church has nothing to say outside its own circle, and our internal culture wars become exchanges of insult, or clashes of popular prejudice between Daily Mail people who happen to be Christians and Guardian people who happen to be Christians.
Among the martyrs of the Hitler years were the sophisticated Bonhöffer and the simple church worker Franz Jägerstätter. Whether it was high-modern Lutheran theology or a penny Catholic catechism, both had resources to use, a place for their mind to stand. I hope that Anglican Social Theology will help us develop similar resources for our generation. On its own it is not enough and does not pretend to be. But even so I need it, and maybe you do too.
One final word. For me the most helpful chapter is that exploring “post-liberal” social thought and written by John Hughes, a wonderful young thinker and priest whose tragic death a few months ago has robbed the Church of a future leader of real stature. He will be deeply and greatly missed. I hope that any future edition of this book will be dedicated to him.