Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 20 December 2017

Kelvin Holdsworth Advent and How Religion Works

Josiah Idowu-Fearon Anglican Communion News Service The ties that bind our Anglican Communion family
Phil Ashey American Anglican Who decides membership in the Anglican Communion? Not the Secretary General of the ACC!

Alan Bartlett The Telegraph As a vicar, I know better than anyone why so many clergy are close to the edge

Nancy Rockwell Patheos No More Lying About Mary

Linda Ryan Episcopal Café The Quiet Man

Revd Drayton Parslow The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley Only Purely Biblical Carols

David Baker Christian Today Why it’s time to put ‘We Three Kings’ (and some other carols) in the bin

Nick Cohen The Guardian In losing religion we lose touch with each other

Stephen Cherry The New Bishop of London – and the merits of being ordained later in life

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The new Bishop of London – some Concerns

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CRS
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CRS

No More Lying (note the categorical title of this essay)

“So let’s be clear: the focus is on her uterus. The state of her hymen is not at issue here.”

How in the world can we know that with such confidence? and why is there such a distinction between strong character, ‘grittiness’ and what has traditionally been taken as Mary’s virginity? The author seems to believe Mary’s sexual activity before marriage somehow makes her more heroic? Sounds like late-modern projection.

Daniel Berry, NYC
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Daniel Berry, NYC

Thanks you, Drayton Parslow, for bringing good sense and humor in the face of the alternate view represented in “Anglican minister” David Baker’s piece about “We Three Kings.” Honestly, is somebody really getting worked up about the extra-biblical mythological stories that have grown up around the highly mythological infancy narratives? BTW, Fr Parslow, you forgot to mention all that In the Deep MidWinter snow falling on snow stuff. Totally un-biblical.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Looks as though the Secretary General is finally saying the obvious. About time:

“We pray wholeheartedly for all churches and communities who are engaged in spreading the gospel, but it’s not correct to say that they are part of the Anglican Communion if they are not in communion with the See of Canterbury. This applies to Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), and other similar bodies.”

Fr Rob Hall
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Fr Rob Hall

Re ‘We Three Kings’ I was asked to sing the ‘myrrh is mine’ verse at a primary school in a midland town thirty-five years ago. I was a Tolkien-obsessed child and the language of the hymn – and of the verse I sang in particular – resonated with me and was instrumental in my asking my mom if we could start going to church. We did just that, then my brother joined us, and my late step-father when my mom remarried. So four practising Christians and one vocation to the priesthood linked to a hymn easily (it would seem) dismissed… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Regarding the Mary Rockwell article, both the title and content, I was reminded of the use of the word ‘lie’ in a Wilfred Owen poem, Dulce et Decorum Est:

“My friend you would not tell with such high zest
To Children ardent for some desperate glory,
the old lie: Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori”

Experience makes a lie of propaganda. So too with Rockwell’s piece, I suspect. The double experience of being a woman in a patriarchal environment, and the projection of a servile Mary on women in said environment, gives rise to an awareness of pious propaganda as a lie.

rjb
Guest
rjb

It wouldn’t be Xmas without some be-blogged busybody mounting his or her high-horse on the subject of Christmas carols and Magi and what-not, but David Baker’s seasonal contribution to this genre really stands out for its virtuoso display of plodding literalism and meanness of spirit. In previous years Ian Paul over at Psephizo has set a very high standard for such offerings, with his lengthy and endlessly-reiterated protestations that Jesus “wasn’t born in a stable,” so I intend no small praise when I say that David Baker manages to completely miss the point in ways that are both excitingly new… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

When I read Baker and Rockwell on Three Kings and Mary, I feel that they have missed the point. Our task is to bring people to Jesus, not to the Bible. Jesus is quite clear about this: he instructed us to follow Him not to follow the Bible. Does it matter what people think about Mary or the Wise Men? Jesus came to free us from the Law, not to enslave us to belief in a particular narrative.

That’s a realisation which has taken me years to reach.

crs
Guest
crs

Ho hum, another installment in the long-running intra-Nigerian battle between +Okoh and +Idowu-Fearon over ‘who is the Real Anglican.’ I suspect this aspect in the life of the Anglican Communion will become increasingly beside the point. The CofE is experiencing its ‘Suez moment’ vis-a-vis the Communion.

As for hymnody, thank you rjb for the sane riposte. Many are the ways Jesus Christ’s birth is remembered by the faithful through the ages.

James Byron
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James Byron

Couldn’t agree more, RJB; but, suspecting as I do that Mr. Baker wouldn’t exactly object to condemnation on Thinking Anglicans, I’ll let the article speak for itself.

T Pott
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T Pott

We three kings is focused firmly and very profoundly on Jesus. Verses 2 3 and 4 deal very simply with the meanings of gold, frankincense and myrrh summed up in the last verse where He is described as”King and God and Sacrifice”. This together with the chorus “Guide us to thy perfect Light” means this beautiful song, packs more Christological insight than most hymns many times its length, and in a way accessible to all. Given its depth and simplicity a few contrived rhymes can be forgiven, especially with the superbly evocative “field and fountain, moor and mountain”. Let’s not… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

The Canon Alan Bartlett article lifted up memories of years in various parishes living in the rectory on the glebe which in earlier days included living there with our children. Through the rectory front door, as through portal, stepped many people living difficult lives. Bartlett’s article puts a number of other more theoretical concerns often expressed here, including some of those that I pursue here myself from time to time, in perspective. During Advent and its clash with the commercial run up to a mercantile Christmas,one thinks about the many priests anchored in parish life trying to juggle liturgy and… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

“The CofE is experiencing its ‘Suez moment’ vis-a-vis the Communion.” *blank stare* no ill-will intended crs, but what does that even mean? There is one communion: our communion in Jesus Christ. We are one in Christ, end of. All the rest is bickering and turf wars between rival institutional power groups. So for my part, I am in communion with the Anglicans in Nigeria, the Orthodox in Greece and Russia, the Southern Baptists, the Vineyard churches, the Elim pentecostalists, the Roman catholics, the Quakers, the Plymouth Brethren, the Lutherans, the ‘Wee Frees’, TEC Christians and ACNA Chrstians, the Anglo-catholics, the… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

Incidentally crs, I did understand what you meant by Suez, and it’s a clever analogy given the post-colonial dimension of everyone needing to get Canterbury’s mandate. My point is that no-one has the mandate to make or break ‘communion’. ‘Communion’ is the pre-rogative of God. It’s a contract already forged in blood and sacrifice. Let the princelings clash and bicker over institutional status then. Meanwhile, the hungry need feeding, the sick need help and healing, the poor need justice, the prisoner needs visiting. And there, in the midst of the dust and thirst and obscurity and despair of humanity, is… Read more »

Fr Andrew
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Fr Andrew

“Our task is to bring people to Jesus, not to the Bible” Thank you Kate. If only I was able to be so succinct. The convenience of ‘having it all wrapped up in a book’ sometimes seems to be so attractive that the fact that the book is patently not suited to the task is willingly ignored. Or the faithful end up playing Procrustes’ beds with the Word in order to make it behave like the god they want it to be. I can remember at college our doctrine tutor (now Principal of one of the big evangelical theological colleges)… Read more »

crs
Guest
crs

“So for my part, I am in communion with the Anglicans in Nigeria, the Orthodox in Greece and Russia, the Southern Baptists, the Vineyard churches, the Elim pentecostalists, the Roman catholics, the Quakers, the Plymouth Brethren, the Lutherans, the ‘Wee Frees’, TEC Christians and ACNA Chrstians, the Anglo-catholics, the Copts, the Methodists, and probably lots of Christians I don’t even know about.” I know this is how you feel, as you say, ‘for my part.’ The SG of the AC has a different take, however. He is quite clear about the rules for Communion in the AC. My point was… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Re Susannah Clark “The CofE is experiencing its ‘Suez moment’ vis-a-vis the Communion.”

*blank stare*

“no ill-will intended crs, but what does that even mean?”

Perhaps it means he has been watching The Crown on netflix? ( :

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

Regarding “We Three Kings”, every time I hear it, I think of an elementary school version involving an exploding cigar. Or shepherds washing their socks by night. On the other hand, I fimd the third verse of “O Holy Night” to be profoundly revolutionary. Even though I’m Jewish, I love Christmas carols. Not necessarily for their Christology (if that’s a word), but for their sentiments of peace on Earth, memories of home, our higher aspirations, etc. But, to echo another comment, singing about bleak midwinters or snow piled on snow, must sound strange to people in the Southern Hemisphere celebrating… Read more »

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

@ T. Pott: THANKS. What you get from We Three Kings matches up wonderfully with my experience of a carol that was long my least favorite – until I began to realize that it’s a meditation. Once I realized that, the music, which I had always liked even less than the text, strangely took on new solemnity. I now look forward to singing it almost as much as I look forward to singing another former un-favorite: It came Upon a Midnight Clear, especially the line, “Until the whole world give back the song/ Which now the Angels sing. For years… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Just noticed I made a typo mistake earlier regarding Nancy Rockwell. (Her name is not Mary). I must have conflated the author’s name with her subject matter. My apologies to Ms. Rockwell.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

It’s a true Christmas miracle! rjb, crs, and I all agree on something! Hooray!

CRS
Guest
CRS

RG: the thimble-sized account of Suez you have seen in The Crown is massively dwarfed by the facts on the ground at the time. Read any account. British humiliation. International scorn. Amphetamine popping Eden crashes and burns. England roiled internally. French and British exit in a diplomatic nightmare, leaving ally Israel to grab what it could. US refuses to support the invasion. The dominions baffled by turns — with Australia strongly opposed. No, I’d say ‘Suez moment’ is no bad analogy. Except of course the AC is a more anodyne reality and the ABC has his hands presently filled with… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

“Now in my sixties, I often find myself weeping at words I’ve known and pretty much ignored all my life.” My father was an art teacher and taught children how to throw pots on a wheel. If he sat at the wheel himself, he would produce perfect pots but he could inspire children to produce some pots, albeit imperfect, which were still pleasing. God works through us ‘children’ to inspire us to write carols, hymns, even Gospels. They are never going to compare in beauty to what He could create if he sat at the wheel himself: they are of… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I am surprised Holdsworth did not quote Ecclesiastes 3 which is surely the Biblical justification for an ascetic advent. Certainly I am one of those who has historically railed against the commercialisation of Christmas and used to boycott any store which put up decorations before Christmas. But… But… But the birth of Jesus was one of the greatest things which ever happened. Does it matter if we celebrate it for more than 12 days? In fact, shouldn’t we celebrate it? The commercialisation of Christmas is the biggest free, mass marketing ever. Everyone, agnostic, atheist, Jew, Muslim, Hindu knows that Christmas… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I don’t mind carols like ‘See, amid the winter’s snow’ because they remind us that Christ was made flesh for all of us, whatever our climate or culture or time on earth. For the same reason I like icons and religious art where Jesus and other figures are black, or Asian, or Eskimo, or white. I was once profoundly impressed by a museum exhibit of Armenian icons. I think the Rublev ‘Visitation to Abraham’ icon is so popular partly because it appears to depict all 3 members of the Trinity as women. What I do mind, very much, is those… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

re crs, the “…thimble-sized account of Suez you have seen in The Crown is massively dwarfed by the facts on the ground at the time.” You perhaps did not notice the smile after my comment. I couldn’t resist the joke. The series The Crown is a lot like the bible, no? A myth ( or in this case soap opera) and verisimilitude stretched over a very thin frame of few historical facts. Every Canadian school child, at least of my generation, is familiar with the real Suez crisis. It got our then Prime Minister Lester Pearson a Nobel peace prize… Read more »

David Rowett
Guest
David Rowett

In the days when I ran the Diocese of Bolsover (mission statement ‘Not Dead But Sleeping’) I recall doing a page featuring ‘The Reductionist Hymnal’ and in due course its Christmas equivalent ‘Bells Over Bolsover’ – the idea being to avoid all metaphor, supernaturalism, unjustifiable faith-assertions, culturally inappropriate/anachronistic/meteorologically improbable references etc (hence ‘Some for Jesus, some for Jesus,’ ‘See Amid The Winter’s Mud,’ and the fine old Easter hymn, ‘Jesus Christ is feeling a little bit better today, thank you very much’). I never thought anyone would take the idea seriously…….

CRS
Guest
CRS

RG: Yes, Lester Pearson ended up being to the left of Australia, which ultimately in the UN Security Council voted against GB. Suez was a mess for GB and the colonial identity. (I say that without endorsing Eisenhower and his realpolitik). I have no particular end position on the AC. I simply note that the traditional role of the ABC will continue to be plagued by Suez-like internal English roiling and concomitant international Anglican looking elsewhere. I was in SE Asia a year ago and they mostly expressed sympathy for the now declining assumptions about Canterbury and its role. SE… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Mr Rowett, how marvellous. Is Bells over Bolsover still available? It promises from what you say to be a most worthy publication. As a sometime incumbent of Old Brampton and Barlow, my affection for north-east Derbyshire is very real. Bolsover still has its prophet in the House of Commons.

Realist
Guest
Realist

Well CRS, who do you endorse over Suez? Nasser? Kruschev?

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

David Rowett reminds me of a satirical piece the American author Joseph Bayly wrote in the 60s. It was called ‘An Honest Hymnbook’ and included: When morning gilds the skies/my heart awaking cries/’Oh no, another day’. Jesus, I am resting, resting/Resting, resting, resting, rest… I love to tell the story/Of things I see below The Church’s one foundation/Is tax-deductable Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?/I’ve locked the door, and I’ve a gun within Wodehouse also had a version of the latter: ‘With Great Aunt Agatha safely in London, Bertie at last knew what it was to have… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Re. Stephen Parsons’ piece: I note that Bp. Sarah Mullally singled out St. Helen’s Bishopsgate and Holy Trinity Brompton for positive comment in her statement about her new diocese. I wonder whether this was political – especially in view of SHB’s recent statement – or whether it reflects her real views? Or perhaps a bit of both?

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Re crs, “I have no particular end position on the AC.” ( : You don’t ever want to play poker.

Hopefully Canada will always be to the left of Australia.

Advent blessings indeed, Rorate coeli desuper

Peter S
Guest
Peter S

Here in Australia (where we might sadly be far to Canada’s right although still a day ahead) we tinker from time to time of necessity with the words of carols.

This year’s favourite, sung in 34 degree (celsius) heat: See, in yonder manger low …

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Re David Rowett, funny.

The Anglican Church of Canada revised our calendar in 1985. In an effort to remove the ‘clutter’ from the Christmas season, St. Stephen’s day was moved from December 26th to the preferred date of August 3rd.
(I kid you not). So, new words are needed for the St. Stephen’s day hymn, Wenceslas. Are you ready?

Good King Wenceslas looked out
on the feast of Stephen,
When the bodies lay about
tanning crisp and even.
Brightly shone the sun that day
but the surf was cruel,
when a surfer came in sight
man that dude was cool.

CRS
Guest
CRS

RG: I wouldn’t have thought ‘dissolution’ was an ‘end position’ but a natural outcome of a structure no longer viable.

What will come out of this I do not know.

Realist: this is one of the rare occasions when the UN had it more right than alternatives.

Churchill thought if Eden had decided to get in he ought to go all the way. Instead Nasser came out pretty well. But the seeds were sown for future Middle East tensions.

I don’t believe Britain ever really recovered.

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

It was only this year, after singing it for more years than I care to remember, that I realised what a dreadful piece of emotional and controlling blackmail is the line:

Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

stephen morgan
Guest
stephen morgan

I don’t mind any carol, except the excruciating verse in ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ that ends ‘Christian children all must be, mild, obedient, good as he.’ I do think we could be more adventurous with the toons – the American tune of ‘Away In A Manger is far less sickly than ours, and ‘While Shepherds Watched’ takes on a whole new life when sung to the tune of ‘On Ilkley Moor By Tat’ (Thanks Kate Rusby!)

David Rowett
Guest
David Rowett

I fear my director of music rolls out a new version of ‘While Shepherds Watched’ for every Christmas Eve carol service. We’ve had ‘The Lincolnshire Poacher’ and the theme to ‘Match of the Day’ (apols to non UK types, but it works – and also fits ‘There is a green hill’)among others. It also goes to ‘The House of the Rising Sun’ as it happens. He does have the decency to translate his spoof pieces into Latin on the order of service so as not to give it all away prematurely. And sadly the ‘Bells over Bolsover’ CD was a… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Re Peter S. in Australia tomorrow, this has nothing directly to do with carols, but it does pertain to Australia and music and church. In my vinyl collection I have a copy of, A Rock Mass for Love ( St. George’s Cathedral, Perth, recorded March 21st, 1971). There is a homily by a Dean of the day, John Hazlewood and a liturgical framework based on the old English Series II. Although the recording is a period piece, what is interesting is the music. Jazz! The group is The Bakery lead by Bruce Devenish. I cannot recall how I came by… Read more »

David Rowett
Guest
David Rowett

“By tat”? Oh have Messrs. Watts & Co agreed a sponsorship deal for that part of Romuald’s Moor known as ‘Ilkley Moor’?

I believe the word is rendered “baht” :-). Etymology unknown to me – Old Scandinavian, perhaps, plenty of it still around in that part of the world (which I can just see from my study desk here in Mercia)….

Flora Alexander
Guest
Flora Alexander

‘Baht’ is dialect for without. Think about the words: you go out on the moor without your hat, and you catch cold!

Stephenmorgan
Guest
Stephenmorgan

I knew I should have spell-checked ‘Ilkley Moor’ before posting it, but I should have known there would be at least two TA wordsmiths……Happy Christmas!!

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

David Rowett’s comments on his music director’s use of spoof pieces reminds me that “Amazing Grace” can be sung to the tune of the theme song to “Gilligan’s Island” (and vice versa)…and that virtually everything Emily Dickinson wrote can be sung to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas”.

Jo
Guest
Jo

And of course Guide me O thou great Redeemer fits wonderfully to My Darling Clementine.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

“Guide me O thou great Redeemer fits wonderfully to My Darling Clementine”. Rambling Syd Rumpo did something like that, did he not? Ah, great days.

Joan Rasch
Guest
Joan Rasch

I remember a choir director, after all the rigors of Holy Week, the Vigil, and Easter Day, demonstrating how Tantum Ergo went to Darling Clementine. Great days indeed!

Kennedy Fraser
Guest
Kennedy Fraser

..And of course Guide me O thou great Redeemer fits wonderfully to My Darling Clementine.

This is turning into a round from ‘I’m sorry I haven’t a clue’. For non-BBC Radio 4 listeners this is a show known as ‘the antidote to panel games’ and the round involves members of the panel being asked to sing the words of one song to the tune of another – much hilarity ensues.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnwb

Happy Christmas to you all.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

In my Free Church days my church had an organist who liked using popular tunes for hymns & choruses. We once sang ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ to ‘The Carnival is Over’. On another occasion we all wondered why he was playing ‘Just One Cornetto’ as a voluntary; after the service he explained he was actually playing a hymn to that tune. Only, as no hymn was announced, the words we were supposed to be singing were lost on us. The same organist, playing for a wedding, once had the bride process down the aisle to ‘Within the… Read more »

Jo
Guest
Jo

We once had the EastEnders theme tune as a voluntary. General consensus was that our elderly organist had found it in a book and liked it but was unaware of the soap in question.

Richard
Guest
Richard

Back in the 60’s we sang the nine-fold Kyrie Eleison to the pop tune L’Amour est Blue (Love is Blue). It worked well with the folk masses of the day (or so we thought). We sang Gloria in Excelsis to another pop tune, and it’s just as well that I do not remember what that tune was.