Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 5 August 2017

Kelvin Holdsworth thurible Should straight people be allowed to get married – a sermon preached on 30 July 2017

Stanley Hauerwas ABC Religion and Ethics Why Bonhoeffer Matters: The Challenge for Christian Ministry at the End of Christendom

Paul Bayes The Bishop of Liverpool’s speech to marchers at Liverpool Pride last Saturday [four minute video]

Philip North Hope for the Poor – the Bishop of Burnley’s talk to the New Wine ‘United’ Conference 2017
Reports of the talk include:
Madeleine Davies Church Times There’s a future for the Church if Evangelicals put the poor first, Bishop North tells New Wine
Anglican Communion News Service Bishop says that the Church has forgotten the poor.
Olivia Rudgard The Telegraph Bishop: Church ‘abandons’ the poor because clergy won’t leave middle-class areas with trendy coffee shops.

Rachel Marszalek Church Times Don’t jump off the mother ship — there’s work to do

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Froghole
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Froghole

Philip North makes some telling points. HTB have invested in some tough areas (Whitehawk – the plant of St Peter’s, itself HTB – is one of the roughest estates in England, despite its proximity to Roedean). Bishopsgate, by contrast, has not. However, I am not certain I agree with the assertion that the Church is failing demographically because it has not invested in the ‘working class’. He mentions Somers Town. Look at the history of the Church in Hackney, Islington, Paddington, etc. You will see enormous investments in church building in the nineteenth century when those settlements were tumbling into… Read more »

Froghole
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Froghole

Oh, and when things were done differently (and with imagination), as by the likes of the late Nick Stacey, they failed – as Stacey himself admitted. Go to his old church and see his handiwork (it is cheek by jowl with a large LCC estate) and then compare its attendance with the large African Pentecostal church meeting in a disused cinema only a feet feet away.

Charles Clapham
Guest

I entirely agree with Philip North’s observations, but can’t help noticing that he himself was a vicar in central London for many years, and one might hypothesise that it was only his stint there and his previous position at Walsingham that got him noticed and set him on the episcopal track. Had he himself remained a vicar in a poor parish in Hartlepool he would presumably have continued to languish in ecclesiastical obscurity. One might also observe that a commitment to social justice that does not also involve a commitment to gender justice is less than satisfactory. Sorry to be… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

I weep with sadness and frustration at the message of Philip North. exposing the institutional hypocrisy of the church and the self-serving posturing of those who think their opinions matter. I weep with gratitude that Philip North speaks the truth and is a bishop of the church of God. Other stories in today’s TA post tell of other things that concern church people. I know what matters in this town: it has nothing to do with what people do with their genitals.

Helen King
Guest
Helen King

I wonder which ‘traditional view’ of marriage Revd Rachel Marszalek wants to be championed? Without going into the history of a married man’s rights over his wife, and without going beyond very recent history, is it – for example – the one in which a divorced person with a former spouse still living can’t make their new marriage vows in a church? Because that’s what I grew up with and, thank God, when I fell in love with a divorced man, it was no longer being ‘championed’ by the C of E…

Graeme Buttery
Guest
Graeme Buttery

As priest in the parish next to Philip North’s old one in Hartlepool I would like to make two brief comments. One, whether in the secular or religious world, there has been too often a concept of “doing things to people”, rarely “doing things with people” and extremely rarely, helping them do it for themselves. There is too much of the culture of the mushroom farm about too much of what we do. Secondly, at a time when we can’t afford to lose clergy we are cutting numbers to the bone and beyond in this diocese. Even if clergy wanted… Read more »

Edmund Walters
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Edmund Walters

I hope the elected members of the central CNC are reading Philip North’s words very, very carefully. I hope they are comparing them to the aching silence we are hearing in this vein from the other episcopal ‘managers’ who tick the boxes and do as they are told.

Ian
Guest
Ian

Charles Clapham may apologise for being too grumpy, actually I found his comment distasteful. A fine example of attacking the man not the message.

Pluralist
Guest

Just to declare an interest: I did call in on Rachel (when in Belper) bizarrely on the way back from an overview regarding ministry in the Unitarians. She may not agree with me, but I’d say her piece in the Church Times is itself a factional piece. It refers to Evangelical Bishops, and really the doctrine of marriage is going to be whatever the evangelical says it is at any particular time. Her faction is of the ‘stayers’ and realises it is in some difficulty, but that there is no life outside. It’s no secret that Rachel herself from time… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Philip North’s excellent talk is prophetic, and I hope it is widely heeded. I have a fair amount of experience of working with the poor, having served in inner city Salford and Bradford (as cathedral chaplain, but the UPA parish was my brief) and a very troubled estate parish. I also served 5 years on Chester’s Urban Mission & Ministry Committee, where I learned a lot from others about work in a wide variety of settings. A few random observations: a) It’s more isolating to work in a needy parish in a mostly affluent area, than to be part of… Read more »

DBD
Guest

While North’s concern for social justice is admirable, it is unfortunate how selective it is. “All exclusion is the same exclusion.” Solidarity!

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“If Anglicanism is collapsing it is because the middle classes have quit.”

There aren’t many middle class dinner tables in and around Islington where homophobia is a good look. In Islington North, Jeremy Corbyn got more than 50% of the electorate voting for him (73% of the vote on a 73.3% turnout, so 53% of those aged over 18. I can’t help thinking they’re rather unlikely to want to discriminate against gay people, which is the official position of the CofE.

Revd Dr Charles Clapham
Guest

Sorry Ian. Distasteful perhaps. And I don’t disagree with Philip North. I myself moved to London last year (zone 2, with plenty of nice coffee shops) after 16 years ministry in Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent, and am still staggered by the wealth down here, the resources the churches have, and by the numbers of clergy knocking around. My last parish in Stoke was in interregnum for three of the previous four years before I was appointed, because there was simply no interest: no-one would apply. So in that sense, I fully endorse Philip North’s views. But I suppose what I want… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

So, + North has discovered that careerism, lack of clergy mobility and avoidance of the poor is endemic to the parochial system. I’m shocked.

I liked Holdsworth’s musings. Reminded me of the Rachael and Leah tribes debate from my under grad years.

Thanks so much for the Stanley Hauerwas piece on Bonhoeffer, long but worth the read.

Neil
Guest
Neil

I’m totally with Charles Clapham re Philip North. Of course what + Burnley says is true and needs to be heeded. In the old days it was a badge of honour to be sent as a curate to the toughest and poorest areas – although many an ambitious career orientated priest wouldn’t spend long in such parishes. I always find it inspiring when more mature clergy give up thriving parishes to move back to poorer and needy places late on in ministry. So the message is a good one – it is just slightly awkward when it comes from somebody… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

‘If this seen as ‘prophetic’ then perhaps it is only a sad indication of where we are now as a church.’ Exactly. When I used the term ‘prophetic’ I didn’t mean North had made an exciting new discovery, but that he was speaking a truth that badly needs to be heard. The Old Testament prophets also spoke on behalf of the poor to the comfortable and those in power. There is now an actual disincentive, built into the system, for clergy to work in poorer areas. The Church’s promotion system and many adverts for parishes stipulate ‘a track record of… Read more »

Neil
Guest
Neil

Correction: Camden’s Zone2!!

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Bishop Philip North is walking in the revered trajectory of John Keble; through whose energetic preaching and teaching much good was done amongst the poor and outcast of the East End of London and other dperived parishes of the Church of England. It is a great pity that his inclusivism in mission does not extend – at the moment – to women clergy.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

+Rowan gave the DuBose lectures at Sewanee on Bonhoeffer last year..so I suspect we can look forward to his thoughts in a book in the near future.

Froghole
Guest
Froghole

Lots of interesting comments on this thread – thank you. I had intended to go to Norfolk this morning in order to attend the re-opening of Brettenham (by Graham James) and then to go to the annual service at Holme St Benet where the bishop-abbot (him again) arrives by barge (it’s at 3:30). However, due to various complications I ended up attending seven services in the boroughs of Ealing, Hillingdon and Hounslow (before striking out to Friern Barnet). So, a very mixed area indeed, especially in demographic terms, but one in which south Asians are increasingly dominant. Allowing for the… Read more »

Froghole
Guest
Froghole

Also, I would endorse almost all of the excellent comments above. The bias towards the more affluent sections of southern England is a scandal, but it is not one that is likely to change until there is such a material alteration in the payment of stipends that the presumed ‘negative’ trade-off of living in industrial/post-industrial areas can be overcome – almost like a reverse of the London weighting used by the civil service. However, I suspect that no such weighting could be financed whilst pay and rations are devolved to the dioceses or the centre is unwilling to provide additional… Read more »

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

I’m amazed at what a skewed picture of Bp North’s speech the Olivia Rudgard’s article gives- basically just clergy bashing. Perhaps if I was a regular reader of the Torygraph I wouldn’t be. The full address is well worth a read with plenty of important points and much less sneering at clergy coffee habits (which is never going to help) than summaries would suggest. Having spent my previous incumbency in an estate parish in East London (Zone 4 for those who are counting and no coffee shops), the Diocese and the Deanery even more so were interested only in money.… Read more »

Froghole
Guest
Froghole

I wonder also whether time spent in a tough parish should also be a sine qua non for any form of preferment above incumbent, perhaps in lieu of the MBA classes proposed by Lord Green. There was a time, just over a century ago, when it almost became fashionable for the ablest clergy to spend a good period of time in a difficult patch. For instance, there is the celebrated case of St Mary’s, Portsea, which had two pre-1914 vicars who became archbishops (Lang and the martinet Garbett). Lang, his successor Bernard Wilson (who died in post in 1909) and… Read more »

Helen King
Guest
Helen King

Wondering why nobody on the +Philip thread has mentioned ‘Faith in the City? Full report on https://www.churchofengland.org/media/55076/faithinthecity.pdf

David Emmott
Guest
David Emmott

Many contributors to this thread and elsewhere on this site find it easy to identify inconsistencies and hypocrisy in anti-LGBTI Christians, as well as in those like +Philip North who cry for justice to the poor but seem oblivious to the injustice of sidelining women. It’s easy to get all self-righteous over these issues, but while they are real and need to be addressed don’t we need to avoid casting the first stone and being judgemental ourselves? Every Christian by definition is a hypocrite (who among us observes Jesus’s command to ‘be perfect’?) Can’t we just accept that our allies… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

There is certainly a financial disincentive to ‘go north’ here in Canada. I spent my first twenty-one years of parish ministry in the Council of the North (the eight or nine dioceses in northern Canada – I forget the exact number – that are not self-supporting). These dioceses have never been able to afford to pay the sort of stipends that clergy receive in the richer, self-supporting dioceses in the south. And since pensions are based on stipends, northern clergy continue to feel the impact when they retire.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“House to house visiting was considered essential in a hard parish of 40,000 and Garbett would be particularly harsh with those curates who trifled with that task”

But a century later, what percentage of the population would do other than politely (or perhaps less than politely) close the door in the unwanted visitor’s face?

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Can someone please explain what Zone 1, Zone 2, etc. are? I presume those are London terms/areas?

Interested Observer, good point. In my experience of several tough areas, an unexpected knock on the door is not welcome and is often greeted with suspicion. What did work was to find or create opportunities for community engagement – start a carers & toddlers group and attend it; start or join a community action group; walk the dog when people are out & about; use the local shops and talk to people there.

Charles Clapham
Guest

As Fr Andrew says, easier to point to the problems than provide solutions. The drift to wealthier areas and to the south can be driven not just by educational opportunities for kids but also better employment opportunities for spouses, given that clergy with families will be dependent on working spouses. It was striking when I was in Salford how many clergy in the roughest areas were single. But others like Janet Fife are correct to say that current preferment system does not help – there is little recognition for those who spend a life slogging away unnoticed in tough poor… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“Can someone please explain what Zone 1, Zone 2, etc. are?”

They’re the fare zones on the London underground. “Zone 1” is shorthand for “central London”, “Zone 2” is shorthand for “the residential areas immediately around the centre, often quite deprived” and so on.

http://content.tfl.gov.uk/london-rail-and-tube-services-map.pdf

Jonathan Clatworthy
Guest

Okay, so can we start thinking about potential solutions please? I did 10 years in inner city Manchester and absolutely agree that parish ministry in poor areas is a completely different job than elsewhere. Much more pressured and stressful. I think we’re far too focused on the superficial observables of the institutional church, like bums on pews. Stipendiary clergy, like stipendiary teachers and doctors, are tempted to settle into running the institution. We need to focus on the Kingdom of God. If that means closing down the churches, okay. So the institutional church has precious little interest in biblical scholarship,… Read more »

Froghole
Guest
Froghole

Interested Observer/Janet Fife: Visiting was presumably only one factor in the temporary success in Portsea many years ago. However, I do not necessarily agree with the suggestion that visiting not be tried at all. It is true that there will be parts of the country where it will either be maladroit/futile or where it might be physically impossible (those increasing parts of the country where people are barricaded behind automated gates). However, there may be areas where it would make some sense to knock on a door, say, once a year – not to proselytise, but to remind people that… Read more »

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

So right Janet Fife..residents groups too.An elderly priest in my title parish said “One word of advice..be seen “

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“As a sales manager once told me, if you cold-call 100 people, you can expect half to put the phone down immediately or never be contactable, and another 30 or so to put the phone down after a few seconds with varying degrees of hostility. You can often expect to make a sale to one or two people. And that will count as a good result” What he’s ignoring is the collateral damage: the people who might, in the future, have been prospective customers, but whose sole knowledge of your company is that you are pushy cold-callers. “There may be… Read more »

Lavinia Nelder
Guest
Lavinia Nelder

Spot on Janet. Opening the church building up to allow people to come in and have a look is one thing; going out and inviting them to come in is where it’s at. Being seen and collars on the ground is the one thing that the laity seem to recognize as needed and the one thing that isn’t happening.

David Emmott
Guest
David Emmott

Jonathan Clatworthy: ‘I’d favour retaining the parish system, more or less, in rural areas where it works, but it has long ceased to work in urban areas. We are in effect appointing lone individualists to be club managers running big buildings and urging people to turn up to its events.’ I’m not quite sure what you are getting at here. Maybe the parish system works in rural areas because villages are discrete communities and everybody can identify the church building in the middle of it. On the other hand, a vicar who lives two villages away and has half a… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

It strikes me that these descriptions of parish ministry are very clergy-centred. I think that’s problematic. Here in Canada we’re not the established church and there is no expectation that we will visit people who are not our members. However, our members are involved in the lives of many non-church people, and it seems to me that the way forward is to help them learn to be missional in their daily lives. I can love the people in my congregation, those who show up for special events etc.; the people in my congregation can love the people who are in… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

The person who springs to my mind was Geoff Shaw who ran the Gorbals Group in Glasgow for many years. Okay, he was a Church of Scotland minister, but he did some of the things that have been touched on in this thread. Although he was from a wealthy middle-class background and was therefore ‘posh’, a placement in Harlem convinced him of the need to live in, and among, working people – literally with an open door. I find his life example inspirational, because although communion in his tenement home was at the heart of the Christian mission, to Geoff… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

To me, Geoff Shaw showed one way to express Christian love – not by being ‘churchy’ but by simply living and sharing in the sorrows and happiness and troubles of a desperately deprived community. Many ministers would have thought it was a dead end place to try to work, and hard and thankless – but Geoff Shaw found treasure. As Albert Einstein once said, “Strive not to be a success, but to be of value.” For Geoff (whose wife was a climbing friend of mine) I think he found that treasure and reward came from what the community gave to… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘Adam Smallbone (Rev) might not have filled his pews but he was there when people wanted him. As was Fr Michael in Broken. Despite both of them being flawed and fallible human beings. They were both incarnated in their parish communities, whereas Darren of the white leather sofas and smoothies was simply a slick religious salesman.’

All of them, of course, are fictional characters.

NJ
Guest
NJ

Charles Clapham, why will clergy with families be dependent on working spouses? My wife is not employed and neither are most of my friends’ wives, or if they are they are in part-time jobs which allow them to be active in ministry with their husbands. As far as I know, none of us have significant private funds to draw on. While the stipend is relatively low, the overall package is very generous. I seem to remember some years ago the Church Commissioners worked out the whole package with house, pension, tax breaks, heating/lighting etc, was between £40-50K. Indeed, one might… Read more »

David Emmott
Guest
David Emmott

Tim Chesterton:>

So? Haven’t we all met their real life counterparts?

Father David
Guest
Father David

In his Transfiguration comment Froghole takes us back just over a century ago to a time when it was thought “fashionable” that the ablest clergy spent some of their time in “a difficult parish”
More recently it was “fashionable” for the ablest clergy to spend some time in a Northern parish in order to serve their titles – Runcie to Liverpool, Montefiore to Newcastle and Phipps to Huddersfield to give just three examples.

Father David
Guest
Father David

Correction – although coming from Liverpool – Runcie, like Montefiore, also served his title in Newcastle.

Charles Clapham
Guest

Just to say, NJ, my comment regarding working spouses was an observation, not a personal complaint! I’m posting this from my annual week abroad on holiday with my wife and two kids, a luxury made possible only because of my wife’s part-time work. I think it would certainly be difficult for a priest with children to contemplate purchasing even a modest property for retirement on a clergy income without a working partner. Of course these are generic issues which affect lots of families in the UK and I’m not arguing for an increase in stipend. But in so far as… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

‘This every-member ministry is much more true to the idea of the Church as the Body of Christ and of Christianity as essentially a movement rather than an institution. Much of what I’ve read about here seems far too institutional – the professional Christian representing the Church, rather than the ordinary Christian living Christ in their daily life.’ I agree, but… in the areas we’re talking about, the ‘ordinary Christian’ is far too often de-skilled and demoralised. In troubled areas they have often learned to keep their head down and themselves to themselves. I started with idealistic assumptions about shared… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Dear Tim Chesterton, in the modern world, much of which considers the stories of the New Testament to be ‘merely fiction’, should we not rejoice that some of our T.V. stories are, at least, believable fiction? The story of Fr.Michael in ‘Broken’ has much to say about the reality of real live ministry of a working priest. This, surely, is a good thing – if it makes ‘outsiders’ think more about biblical spirituality? Faith is more often caught than taught. Many a person has been converted to faith by believable fictional writing that illustrates encounters between us and God.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“I think it would certainly be difficult for a priest with children to contemplate purchasing even a modest property for retirement on a clergy income without a working partner.”

That’s the perennial problem of tied housing. The salary is reduced by the nominal value of the housing, which means that you can’t buy another property, for the same reason as most people can’t afford to buy two houses on mortgages at once.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Thank you, Charles Clapham, for noting that poverty is gendered. I’m glad that +North is interested in helping the poor, but is there something wrong when with the view of helping those poor people while not including them all as equals in the eyes of God? Inequality is part of the problem. It isn’t a personal attack, it is merely a fact discussed by social scientists that poverty and inequality are decidedly linked. And that the remedies are more equality.

David Rowett
Guest
David Rowett

Just picking up on Tim Chesterton’s observation, surely what’s significant in the ‘Rev’ and ‘Broken’ storylines is that they express what the script-writers believe to be distinctive and precious about the Church, and what they believe will resonate most with the (unchurched, sceptical) viewing public (which is also our ‘target audience, is it not). People like McGovern are affirming a vision where ‘success’ isn’t found in numbers but in pastoral care from imperfect people, even though it may well not result in fundaments on pews. Concepts like ‘integrity,’ ‘compassion,’ ‘struggle’ loom larger than ‘orthodoxy’ or ‘moral impeccability’. The stories people… Read more »