Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 17 December 2016

Simon Jenkins Reform Magazine Jumble sales of the apocalypse

Paul Bayes ViaMedia.News Couldn’t We Just “Dissolve the People”??

Richard Peers Snoring, belching and farting: the stuff of koinonia – Retreat 2016: Glenstal Abbey

Rachel Pugh The Guardian Meet the vicar who’s swapping the sacristy for the surgery

Andrew Brown Church Times The Corbynista path to irrelevance

Jeremy Worthen Church Times The theology behind Renewal and Reform

Kenwyn Pierce Renewal and Reform Peer review – why bother?

Gary Waddington The Busy Priest Estates, the Poor and Culture War Stereotypes

David Goodhew The Living Church Is Anglicanism Growing or Dying? Statistics, the C of E, and the Anglican Communion

Andrew Goddard Church of England Newspaper Why 2017 will be a crunch year for the Church of England

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James Byron
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James Byron

The reasons behind the routing of liberalism can be understood in two articles: while Andrew Brown aims to manage decline, the other Andrew, Goddard, stands firm behind his beliefs, and vows to do all he can to uphold them.

Evangelicalism’s as confident as liberalism’s hesitant. It’s united behind a position that’s radically at-odds with society, and will bind England to the traditional position through sheer force of will. Disagree as I do with its authoritarian logic, I can’t fault its zeal. Would that liberalism fought as hard for its own convictions.

Pam
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Pam

Rachel Pugh’s story on the vicar helping people at the doctors’ surgery raises some important questions. Small towns can be places where neighbours can get to know each other more easily than in a city. There is the flip side of course – everybody may want to know your “business” (aka Doc Martin). There’s also the problem of a busy vicar who may find there’s plenty to do tending his/her own flock to find the time to be a listening ear to the whole township. Trust/empathy is not something that comes with an occupation, or vocation, but something that is… Read more »

Andrew Lightbown
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Andrew Lightbown

Yes,’liberalism’ needs to find its own evangelistic voice and fast, but Andrew Goddard’s article promotes Lambeth 1.10 as having some form of constitutional authority; it doesn’t as he either does, or should, know. Secondly, yes evangelical zeal attracts some, maybe even many, but it also repels many, and not because in the face of ‘truth’ they flee. So called liberals frequently find themselves ministering to ‘evangelicals in recovery,’ who are put off by the authoritarian, low church, excesses of priestly behavior.

Michael Skliros
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Michael Skliros

Maybe so, but liberalism will not find its evangelistic voice by winning the argument over Lambeth 1.10, or any other scriptural gridlock issue. Liberals’ strength (and weakness) comes from taking seriously the rapidly changing world in which we must “be” the Church. This means admitting, without any reservations whatsoever, that certain approaches and statements no longer work. It’s much more than saying that a literal exposition of the water-into-wine miracle makes any schoolchild with a Chemistry O level and a rational mind curl up with embarrassment. No, whole categories of Christian imagery are now totally unusable, either because they have… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
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‘It’s much more than saying that a literal exposition of the water-into-wine miracle makes any schoolchild with a Chemistry O level and a rational mind curl up with embarrassment’. I suspect that the author of that story was well aware that it was scientifically impossible. You don’t need a Chemistry O level to know that. The question is whether a God such as Christians believe in is able and willing to work miracles. If so, then impossible things become possibilities. I think C.S. Lewis argued the case for that pretty well a long time ago, in ‘Miracles’. And if removing… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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I do agree with Tim (Chesterton) here. The Gospel implies the need for a lively faith in the God and Lord of All Creation. One doesn’t need to actually experience a miracle to believe in them, but it does help. I guess The Archangel Gabriel’s word to Mary at the time of her Conception of Jesus; that “Nothing is impossible for God”, ought to become the watchword of Christians. But then, of course, faith is a gift. Not every one is content to ask for it – especially the agnostics among us.
Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!

Kate
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Kate

Actually, water turning into wine is not scientifically impossible, just extremely unlikely. That’s what quantum mechanics teaches us.

A God who could not make the improbable happen would not be much of a god, would He?

Michael Skliros
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Michael Skliros

Tim, of course (if one dare say that) the water-into-wine story pointed to a spiritual truth, rather than describe a magical transformation of H2O into C2H5OH (where did the carbon atoms come from?). Mt already ‘covered’ evidently growing objections to nature miracles in the equally fictional story of the Temptations: “no stones into bread” (= don’t understand these stories literally, as if they described magic). But this thread is about evangelism, i.e. not just the correct understanding of biblical truths but making them come alive to a now very sceptical public. The commonest complaint in the Graun and Indie comment… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

No, Michael Skliros, you’re talking to me too!
Where I would disagree is that the images grate with the public and therefore must be replaced.
It shouldn’t be beyond our imagination to explain what they mean and why they were used without falling into the same trap of dismissing them because they’re unscientific.

Michael Skliros
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Michael Skliros

That’s OK, Erika, I don’t mind being disagreed with – I’m a liberal, remember? One thing that is obvious is that I obviously mix with a much rougher lot than you! Explain the Cana story to me, though, in a way that makes sense to my excellent, disbelieving friends in the public bar of The George up the road. Apart from the mysterious appearance of carbon atoms (and, btw, “God can do anything” is really, really, really bad theology!) surely supplying 19 glasses per man, woman and child (I once calculated), after they had “already well drunken” is surely an… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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“But then I’m a liberal evangelical – theologically a woolly mammoth – so I suspect I’m talking to myself!”

Posted by: Michael Skliros

Well, Michael. That might just explain the difference between us. I happen to be a believing liberal Anglo-Catholic – not superior to liberal evangelicals, but perhaps with a more open mind to the underlying messages of the scriptures. Faith is not ‘seeing’ and yet ‘believing’ the wonderful works of God.

Father Ron Smith
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I noted, on the CEEC document provided by the link of Andrew Goddard, this banner headline:

“God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’
​Romans 5v8​”

It seems obvious from the content of this paper that some con/evos (including Andrew Goddard)
need to take note of their own advice. If God’s love is available for ALL sinners, then that must, per se, be as true for LGBTI people as anyone else. We are all sinners!

Tim Chesterton
Guest

I have a friend who has a high level scientific position at NASA – I can’t even begin to understand the stuff he deals with every day – but who has recently converted to catholicism and embraces all of it – the miracles, the saints, Mary, the whole nine yards – not to mention the traditional view of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I think it’s a mistake to make blanket statements about what scientific minds can and cannot accept. Check out Francis Collins, for instance: former head of the human genome project and devout evangelical Christian… Read more »

stephen morgan
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stephen morgan

‘the imagery of the bible is now unusable, either through overuse or ridicule’ No, not at all, not if you retell the stories, treating them as stories rather than religious tracts, and try and look at them from the point of view of the characters. The Feeding of the Five Thousand: ‘Can I Go Now?’ Told from the point of view of a truculent twelve year-old boy who has been sent out to buy some loaves and fishes and is trying to explain the two baskets of scraps to his sceptical parents. Jonah: Told as series of ‘Talking Heads,’ including… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Michael, your rougher lot are still people who look up in the sky and wistfully believe that their Dad is up there looking down on them and that their Mum will meet him when she goes; that dogs don’t die but hop over the rainbow bridge chasing bunnies in the sky. People haven’t discarded their seeking for transcendence, they’ve just stopped believing that our churches have the answers. If you tap into that sense of “something more than we can see”, that “spiritual but not religious” sentiment that’s all around us, you can talk to people about the stories. Just… Read more »

David Keen
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David Keen

“all Bible stories were deliberately painted in picture language” – in the spirit of liberal enquiry, where is the evidence that the Bible writers invented stories which would make good metaphors, rather than describing things they actually witnessed/thought had happened?

After watching ‘Source Code’ with my teenage kids last night I tried to explain quantum physics to them. It makes the wedding at Cana look like GCSE chemistry by comparison

Michael Skliros
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Michael Skliros

I liked your illustrations, Stephen, but the giveaway was here: “I told them as stories when I was a vicar”. In church, to a captive congregation, dare one assume? ‘Preaching to the choir’ is one thing, even if you disavowed that actual word; changing the hearts and minds of those outside churches, which is evangelism and what this thread is all about, is quite another. My ‘guy in the pub’ is not a good example of the target audience either, to be fair. The likes of him was surely the point of the story of the centurion in Mt 8,… Read more »

Peter K+
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Peter K+

Before the charismatic movement blossomed Michael’s hermeneutic may have been quite widespread, but surely it doesn’t stand up to examination nowadays. A teenager (studying Chemistry or not) who goes to Soul Survivor or New Wine will be seeing a good number of people experiencing physical healing. Perhaps they will have prayed for someone who got better, or even experienced physical healing themselves. Experiencing a physical healing is a good way to take miracles seriously, and obviously has an impact on how one reads Scripture! In a related note, I’ve recently been reading a biography of Bonhoeffer and one startling nugget… Read more »

Stephen Morgan
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Stephen Morgan

Thank you, Michael, but I don’t think I ever said I ‘preached’ the stories – they were all read / acted out / broadcast to ‘non-captive’ audiences entirely away from churches.
And I never thought of myself as ‘engaged in changing people’s hearts and minds,’ or in ‘a struggle against unbelief’ (!) And purely prosaically, our burden is not to be ‘trustworthy,’ but to keep the audience/congregation awake and interested.
And finally, surely it’s up to the contributors to decide what this thread is about?

Susannah Clark
Guest

Personally I believe in the supernatural. I believe God inhabits supernatural realms (after all, we’re talking about God), and I believe God acts supernaturally in the physical world we live in. As Peter says, encounter with charismatic worship and life may open people’s minds to the actuality of the supernatural. This does not, in my opinion, mean abandoning scientific rationality for understanding the operation of our world. And yes, I do think some things in the Bible were written within cultural and scientific contexts, which may be contradicted by science and reason. In other words, part of the bible may… Read more »

stephen Morgan
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stephen Morgan

Erica Baker, Trevor Dennis was my OT tutor at Theological College, and first introduced me (albeit unintentionally) to the idea that Bible stories could be funny. Trevor was trying to get us to act out the story of Abraham and Isaac, and we students spent most of the time trying to non-verbally re-direct
Abraham’s attention to the (imaginary) struggling ram caught up in a nearby thicket.

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Looking at this only as liberalism (both political and theological) works on the left side of the pond, the reason liberals don’t have the “zeal” of conservatives is that we are, generally, tolerant of beliefs other than our own…so long as those beliefs do not interfere with the lives of others. Therefore, we don’t feel the need to stand our ground on the secularization of Christmas, as an example. Who is it hurting? Believing Christians? How? They are still free to believe and worship and celebrate the birth of Christ however they wish. There was an internet meme that circulated… Read more »

Jo
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Jo

I have to say that the idea that those of us who have a scientific background and a fairly orthodox Christian faith are applying our critical faculties to one and not the other is both condescending and insulting.

Kate
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Kate

@Pat O’Neil

But those things do affect God and I will always fight for Him.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘I have to say that the idea that those of us who have a scientific background and a fairly orthodox Christian faith are applying our critical faculties to one and not the other is both condescending and insulting.’

Hear, hear! John Polkinghorne would definitely agree.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Kate: I refuse to believe God supports forcing others to act against their own conscience.