Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 28 May 2016

Stuart Haynes Built by the people for the people

Lindsey Fitzharris The Guardian The enduring fascination of relics, from Becket’s elbow to Elvis’s Graceland

Giles Fraser The Guardian The world is getting more religious, because the poor go for God

Editorial in The Guardian The Guardian view on disappearing Christianity: suppose it’s gone for ever?

Diarmaid MacCulloch The Conversation It’s Remain not Leave that captures the independent spirit of the Reformation

Judy Woodruff interviews Presiding Bishop Michael Curry for PBS Six months in, new Episcopal church leader reflects on church challenges

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Susannah Clark
Guest

How many of us keep mementos from our family past? I have family possessions that have been passed down to me… the Gordon Highlanders cap badge of my uncle who fell in Burma… photos of my great-great grandfather… There is also the sense of ‘thin’ places (as they say) where the awareness of deeper reality feels somehow closer to the surface. So while I don’t feel relics should be venerated, they may nevertheless offer feelings of connection for some people. The week I first found out about Therese de Lisieux, I had the strangest co-incidence. I went round for a… Read more »

Froghole
Guest
Froghole

A propos the Guardian editorial, the very rapid recent statistical decline of Christianity really warrants much more attention than it has received so far, especially within Christian fora. Of course, everyone knows that religious observance has been fading for a long time, but it is becoming increasingly evident that the ‘orderly management of decline’ is turning into a rout. This is more especially a threat [an existential threat?] to the Church of England, which has often attempted to justify its established status (with ever less credibility) on the basis that England is at least a nominally Christian country, and that… Read more »

Peter K+
Guest
Peter K+

Interesting interview with +Michael Curry- clearly a man with a great and inspiring vision for reconciliation in a very divided country. My main concern I have is about his view of Jesus Christ. He talks a lot about ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, but there’s a certain stripe of liberal theology that puts a sharp divide between the ‘Jesus of history’ – essentially a human teacher about we supposedly know little – and the ‘Christ of faith’, as the church has received and proclaimed Him. From the way he phrases things I rather wonder if that’s +Michael’s viewpoint too. That’s important on… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

“In 1900, the year that Nietzsche died, there were 8 million Christians in Africa. Now there are 335 million. And the growth rate continues to accelerate.” Oh, dear, I see Giles Fraser is so enamored of numbers, he doesn’t want to look below the surface. There’s a reason for the surge in African Christians. The collapse of the original African religions, aided and abetted by colonial governments and missionaries. Most people seem to have a need for a belief in a higher power. Remove the higher power they were believing in, and they will find another one. So, Africans flocked… Read more »

Pam
Guest
Pam

I just have a few minor points to raise with Giles Fraser. Yes, I agree the poor are more likely to seek the Kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean they are more loved by God than rich people. As third-world nations are lifted out of poverty (rich people come in handy here) God will still find a way into peoples’ hearts. Rich or poor. There is a crisis around ‘belonging’ and ‘believing’. There are many people who belong to secular organisations and show admirable solidarity but don’t belong to a church.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

+Michael is a believer in the divinity of Christ. He stated that when he recites the Nicene Creed, he’s not crossing his fingers, he’s a believer. The Jesus Movement and the Jesus Work is not limited to following a moral teacher, it is the work we do to turn the nightmare of the current world into God’s Dream. It’s a dream that Jesus expressed when he asked us to have compassion and love one another. It is extremely liberal. In fact it is utterly radical. But it is firmly planted in the belief that our loving God calls us to… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Those who are pessimistic about numbers attending church might want to read Stuart Haynes for a counterpoint. Liverpool Anglican Cathedral succeeds by making itself part of the community. Southwark Cathedral is similar. Next to Borough Market, there are often dozens of people say in its small yard eating. I suspect the marketing maxim of AIDA works equally well for mission. Attention. Interest. Desire. Action. Liverpool Cathedral is working on the Attention piece. So much mission I have seen over the years instead expects people to jump straight to Interest or even Desire. There is little work put into Attention. No… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

For me the very best of Christian expression has always been an amazing simplicity which talks of love. As Cynthia says, it is truly radical. I think TEC are blessed to be led by +Michael. If only ABC could put politics aside and speak as +Michael does.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ Simon Sarmiento re: amusing beaker-view , That’s funny!

William (Bill) Paul
Guest
William (Bill) Paul

Dream? ‘Boy, I just wish…” seems like a pale substitute for “Truly, I say unto you…’. And while it echoes MLK, it is attached not to human yearning, but to Jesus! bow my head and look away when this mantra gets repeated, as it does, at almost every diocesan or national gathering. It’s sooooooo Episcopalian.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

From The Guardian editorial: “Over the last 50 years ‘religion’ has come to stand for the opposite of freedom and fairness. This is partly an outcome of the sexual revolution and of the long and ultimately futile resistance to it mounted by mainstream denominations. ‘The religious’ now appear to young people as obscurantist bigots whose main purpose is to police sexuality, especially female sexuality, in the service of incomprehensible doctrines. Institutional resistance to the rights of women and of gay people was an exceptionally stupid strategy for institutions that depends on the labour of both.” How astute of The Guardian… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ Pam, “That doesn’t mean they are more loved by God than rich people. As third-world nations are lifted out of poverty (rich people come in handy here)…”

Yikes! Let’s not forget the preferential option for the poor from Catholic social teaching, nor the fact that wealthy companies (and individuals) are sitting on mountains of cash, thanks to governments’ policies, rather than investing in the economy. Hard to square with building up of a just common good for which the kingdom of God is a NT mythological symbol.

Father David
Guest
Father David

“the poor go for God”. If that be the case then, thank God, they will always be with us in order to keep the rumour of God alive and kicking! Certainly in the glory days of the Anglo-Catholic Revival the poor were given glimpses of Heaven and eternity as faithful priests provided bells and smells worship in many a slum parish. In contrast today it is the rich in England who keep the C of E afloat and financially viable in chic HTB style churches with all those numerously planted offshoots in such places as Brighton and Lincoln. But let… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Dear William (Bill), What exactly do you think we’re praying when we say “on earth as it is in heaven?” That’s the New Jerusalem, the Promised Land, or God’s Dream, and likely a number of other metaphors. If you don’t like metaphors, fine. But don’t claim that they aren’t connected to Jesus, who taught us that prayer, and asked us to live into a more compassionate life. Jesus spoke in parables, stories that weren’t literally true but are indeed spiritually true. I’m sorry if you have a limited imagination, but I’m here to tell you that that metaphor is solidly… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Another view of “disappearing Christianity” is in this article by Stephen Cherry
https://stephencherry.wordpress.com/2016/05/28/no-religion/

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

“The Jesus Movement and the Jesus Work is not limited to following a moral teacher, it is the work we do to turn the nightmare of the current world into God’s Dream.”

Leaving aside the dubious ‘God’s Dream’ thing, can you clarify what you are saying? Is it:

That which keeps Jesus’ work from being ‘limited’ is that we pick up from where he left off?

Pam
Guest
Pam

@ Rod, you’re right, of course. Catholic social teaching is about preferential option for the poor. And there are a lot of poor people in the world. Rich people, which includes anyone with a (waterproof) roof over their head, gainful employment and more than enough food on their table, need God’s love just as much. We’d have a much more equitable world if the rich group helped the poor group more, stating the obvious. But God’s love is for everybody.

Susannah Clark
Guest

From The Guardian editorial, as quoted by Rod Gillis above: “Over the last 50 years ‘religion’ has come to stand for the opposite of freedom and fairness. This is partly an outcome of the sexual revolution and of the long and ultimately futile resistance to it mounted by mainstream denominations. ‘The religious’ now appear to young people as obscurantist bigots whose main purpose is to police sexuality, especially female sexuality, in the service of incomprehensible doctrines.” This. I honestly think that many people abandoned a loose association and identification with the Church because of the seeming bigotry and policing of… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Susannah, I disagree. The common explanations for why reduced numbers are bad are that it threatens church viability and reduces the social influence of the church. What you don’t hear is that it matters if fewer people are praising God. The church has become preoccupied with itself and forgotten the Lord. The church is self-important rather than humble. The church teaches charity but the homeless are on the streets rather than in priests’ houses, church halls and diocesan offices. Immigrants are drowning in boats without the church clamouring for them to be allowed unrestricted access to our countries of abundance.… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

I don’t often agree with Fraser, but he’s bang on about religion flourishing among the poor. That’s why the West, if it continues along its neoliberal path, is likely to see a resurgence of Christianity, as people look for both practical support, and the hope of an afterlife to mitigate the pain of their wasted potential. I doubt it’s any coincidence that America, with the least-developed welfare system among developed countries, is also among the most religious; or that, within its borders, religiosity’s highest in the poorest states of the union. Since the English people are also strangely devoted to… Read more »

William (Bill) Paul
Guest
William (Bill) Paul

FWIW, Cynthia, I have no problem w/the deployment of metaphors, but some deployments are better than others, some more apt, some more consonant w/ the NT witness than others. I can also appreciate that people in the pews may make corrections, enhancements, translations of weak or infelicitous metaphors that those of entrusted w/the teaching office of the church use from time to time. For me, “God’s dream” is weak, misleading, and not a commendable use of language for what we are talking about.In fact, when S Hauerwas warns that “sentimentality is the greatest danger facing the church” it is this… Read more »

Froghole
Guest
Froghole

James Byron is onto something (as he usually is). We live in a society where people can now expect to live at least three or four or more decades after they are forced into retirement. A large proportion (indeed, the overwhelming majority) of those born in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and thereafter will ‘enjoy’ defined contribution pensions (never mind those self-employed or casual workers on zero hours or other serf-like contracts who may not have access to any employer-sponsored scheme). One of my DC pensions has £40,000, which might (on current projections) net me as much £1,000 p/a upon… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“God’s Dream” as a metaphor is used a lot by Desmond Tutu. It was born of the long and difficult road from aparteid to the end of aparteid. It doesn’t seem sentimental to me. And when you’re standing in the devastation of Port-au-Prince after the earthquake, the work and yearning for transformation doesn’t seem the least bit sentimental. As for this “therefore we move ahead both confidently but repentant, chastened, under loving/sanctifying judgment,” sure. We most certainly need to repent of the way we treat one another, especially the way the powerful and rich treat the poor and vulnerable. But… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

How sad that some who want to excuse clergy who support criminal penalties for sexual orientation stoop to parsing PB Curry’s words to find a reason to condemn them, using such tiresome rhetorical gyrations!

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

“How sad that some who want to excuse clergy who support criminal penalties for sexual orientation” — is this just Trumpian exaggeration or did you have someone in mind?

BTW, I didn’t hear anyone engaging the text of +MC but rather the curious summary of a blogger.

But let’s not let the facts bother us!

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Regarding the poor, poverty, and the church(es), Christianity has been critiqued, with some justification, for being more in love with poverty than with the poor.

If there is any lingering value in the kingdom of God motif from the NT it is as a metaphor for economic justice v. economic exploitation. As a priest-economist and Louvian scholar once told us, Christ entered history as a community maker. We co-operate in building up community via economic justice and economic development.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

oops. typo, that should read, “As a priest-economist and Louvain scholar once told us…” etc.

William (Bill) Paul III
Guest
William (Bill) Paul III

Cynthia, to expound, as I see things, I didn’t mean you or me or anyone judging others, but that the kingdom of God, an unshakeable eschatological reality per Hebrews 12 (and for me,therefore, more real than a dream) stands over-against us (as a ‘critical-comparative’) in ‘loving judgement’ (which judgment can include affirmation)of any worldly state of affairs. For me, the more rooted we are in the whole of the NT, the better.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ Bill Paul, not sure the Kingdom of God is only an undifferentiated eschatological reality. One may draw distinctions i.e. present, future, and ‘en prolepsis’ eschatology. I wonder as well, if the notion of ‘loving judgement’ is something of a code phrase grounded in an attempt at so called ‘biblical’ ethics? See for contrast, clarification, and comparison the distinction between notions of retributive and distributive justice à la Crossan et al. Quite helpful perhaps.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

All this talk about dreams – obviously commenting on the reflections of the TEC Primate. No doubt, like Martin Luther King, Bishop Curry is called by God to enunciate what he sees to be the Way Forward for the Episcopal Church in North America. To downgrade dreams as wishful thinking is to call into question the Scriptural reference to dreams as God’s revelation to faithful servants of the Kingdom (e.g. Joseph’s dream revealing to him the purpose of Mary’s pregnancy) One can presume that Bishop Curry has been called to lead TEC in a time of receptivity to the wisdom… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

An important point from Father Ron. Dreams are sometimes portals to astonishing deeper reality. They are not less real, but more real, than the shadow-like flimsier world people return to when they wake up. Not always, but sometimes. The Sovereign Country of God… the beautiful country… is eternal and substantial. And sometimes that deeper reality may come crashing in on a person, informing their mission and lives here on earth, strengthening their faith, offering vision for how, truly, God’s sovereign reign and good estate may be built in our waking lives (if you want to call them that). Though, really,… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

How did human dreaming become God dreaming?

“We were like those who dream” isn’t God’s dream.

Joseph had dreams and so did Nebuchadnezzar and Carl Jung and so do you and I. But none of this is God’s dream, “who neither slumbers nor sleeps.”

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Regarding the idea of dreaming, one can hearken back to Martin Luther King’s, ‘I have a dream…’ speech. We are familiar with the media clip, but if one studies the text of that speech in full, one finds King integrating hope, justice, racial equality and biblical turns of phrase with regard to the transformation of present social realities. It is not merely dreamy eyed but dream as a powerful and solid visionary challenge. King’s speech gives substance to the notion of dream as social vision so much so that it can be seen to be on the same level as… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

The link below is to Day 1 and a sermon preached by The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, now the PB of TEC, in 2013. The sermon is titled, God’s Dream.

Curry’s Text is Luke 13: 10-17. He talks about the ‘God’s dream’ notion at length, noting that the woman healed by Jesus according to Luke was enabled to live out the fulfillment of God’s dream for her– a very engaging and pastoral exegesis.

http://day1.org/5105-god_has_a_dream

Kate
Guest
Kate

Thank you Rod

jnwall
Guest
jnwall

On the word “dream”: I think our conversation about PB Michael Curry’s use of the noun “dream,” as in “God’s dream,” may be encountering the phenomenon of the UK and the USA being linked by the Atlantic Ocean but divided by our common language. I think the culture of the USA is perhaps more rhetorically idealistic, which we may inherit from the Puritan wing of the English Reformation, folks who were profoundly influential on our culture with their aspirations to create in the colonies a “city on a hill,” an ideal society that could serve as a model for all.… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@jnwall, interesting post. Thanks. God rested on the original Sabbath. One imagines an extension of the anthropomorphism, God resting under a tree in the garden, dozing off in the heat of the day, dreaming of a future for the creation She/He had made. One wonders as well what Jesus may have been dreaming about while he slept in the back of the boat while the storm raged …the kingdom perhaps?

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

You are surely correct that much of this is the DNA of New World thinking. It reaches from ‘Make America Great Again’ to Mormonism to ‘Gaining back the Garden of Eden one inch at a time.’ I would not have made the connection with puritanism so much as romanticism: the glories of wide open spaces and finding the New World water that reverses aging. Puritanism was not caught up, for the most past, in belief that we could outdistance ourselves from sinful selves, or that time moved forward inevitably progressively (whatever that might mean). There were appropriately dark notes in… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

“God rested on the original Sabbath.”

So the commandment to rest on the Sabbath means to sleep?

So God slept and dreamed “on the original Sabbath.” —

What a curious literalism…

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ cseitz, re ‘curious literalism” , just having some fun with imagination. nothing literal about it. By contrast, your rejoinder tends to evidence its own kind of ‘curious literalism’. “+Curry is a product of the sixties …” Every boomer in western democracies is a product of the sixties. It is just a matter of locating one’s self on the continuum that maps out the poles between accepting of or reacting to, as it were. The “sixties” covers a lot of ground from music and the arts to the sexual revolution, from science and technology to human and civil rights and… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

I think I get it!

These people parsing and hacking at Curry are angry and jealous because, though they talk, talk, talk, people actually *listen* to PB Curry.

Bill Ghrist
Guest
Bill Ghrist

Regarding Bp. Curry’s frequent mention of ‘Jesus of Nazareth’–this can be a way of countering the frequent tendency (vaguely Gnostic?) of denying Jesus’ full humanity. That denial diminishes the power of the Incarnation and its unique importance in reconciling humanity with God. Insisting on His full humanity in no way denies His divine nature. One of the positive things that has come out of modern science is that it has taught us to acknowlege the simultaneous truth of seemingly contradictory facts. This ability to embrace paradox is essential in our religious/spiritual life as well. Richard Rohr goes so far as… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“+Curry is a product of the sixties and his ‘Jesus movement’ is partly an effort to change the subject from litigation and sex, honestly acknowledging that without growth of some kind TEC–given its size–will have to deal with a decade of mergers, downsizing, and an average age of 60 in the pews. Will ‘Jesus Movement’ and ‘Dream’ oratory help? It is certainly more hopeful than David Booth Beers and 60M for lawsuits.”

Wow, that’s a new level of cynicism you’ve achieved there, Dr Seitz.