THINKING ANGLICANS

The View from Salisbury

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, preached at the diocesan Maundy Thursday Chrism Mass.

The press release about this: A Maundy Message in the World’s Eye

The full text of his sermon is available here.

Another quote from the sermon:

…As a parish priest I always used to find that people with the most intractable problems would appear after the Sunday evening service when nowhere was open and there was no-one to whom I could refer them. For bishops the equivalent is receiving a letter late on Friday afternoon from the Archbishops about the Church of England and the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) which they wanted read out or distributed at the start of Holy Week.

Please will you pray this Holy Week especially for all those involved, and for all affected by safeguarding issues.

Thank you for responding so promptly.

Janet Fife wrote a sharp but insightful Survivor’s reply to the Archbishops which is online.

I thought you might want to know,

she wrote,

how I, as a survivor, feel about your letter. And I know you’ll pay careful attention, because you’ve said you want to listen to survivors.

Since Archbishop Justin has called for an end to clericalism and deference, I’m going to call you Justin and John.

If you’re going to address us all as ‘Sisters and Brothers in Christ’, don’t finish with ‘The Most Revd and Rt Hon’. It’s just not brotherly. It looks like showing off. It certainly doesn’t look like the shame Justin said he felt.

If you want to send out something called a pastoral letter, make it pastoral…What practical steps have you taken to help survivors, for instance?

And so on.

It’s a good letter and a tough one and it’s received quite a lot of comment. She got me thinking about what we would be doing today gathered together and all dressed up at the start of the great three days that lead to Easter through betrayal, denial and the disciples running for it…

At the weekend, the Revd Canon Prof James Woodward, Principal of Sarum College, Salisbury, wrote this article: Salisbury Under Siege – What Does it Mean to be an Easter People?. An excerpt:

… In the gospel accounts of the resurrection, there is both fear and joy. Following Jesus is not a protection from the difficulties and challenges that face us in life. Being an Easter people does not mean that any of us will not require handkerchief to mop up our tears. All of us will know deep in our hearts what our lives, our world is like, and how much of a struggle it is. As human beings we have to deal with our fears and the reality of how little control we are able to exercise over circumstances and experiences.

It is into this condition of who we are and where we are that God can touch us with Easter life and hope. Easter peace is not the obliteration of our past or present, but the re-drawing of our lives into a new way of seeing. Faith can give us the opportunity for direction, redirection, meaning and depth.

As we live with complexity and uncertainty in Salisbury we have an opportunity to take this opportunity to work together in live for what is good. However partial limited our faith may be that always lies the possibility of transformation. We can be confident but we must safeguard against a triumphalism which does not listen carefully to human experience and its sensitivities. We can nurture faith that embraces doubt and in doing so can grows through openness and honesty.

Remember Salisbury in your prayers. Consider the longer view, the enduring truth that goodness is always stronger than evil. Love will conquer. Justice will prevail.

That will mean a change for us. It will also require a much stronger sense of the relational and our readiness to move on and beyond our internal dialogues and contestations to listen more carefully to human experience. We need space and time to share our story…

19
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
19 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
13 Comment authors
CynthiaIan HJames ByronAndrew GodsallNicholas Holtam Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

NIcholas Holtam writes: When I became a bishop I hated the shorthand by which I was sometimes referred to as +Nicholas (“plus” Nicholas), as if a super-charged cut above my former self, signified by the plus sign which in fact is the only suitable character on a keyboard to signify the cross of Christ before my Christian name identifying me as a bishop. We note and we have to live with how being at the back of the liturgical procession has become the place of power and taking a towel and washing feet can be about exercising control.” I don’t… Read more »

peter kettle
Guest
peter kettle

I remember Norman Pittenger opining that bishops are not so much consecrated as castrated.

It’s interesting how most episcopal appointments are greeted on this website with ‘very good appointment’ or similar but other threads subsequently bemoan the spinelessness of them all ….

Father Ron Smith
Guest

There are two words used in diverse theological conversation: exclaustration & castration.

Perhaps some bishops are urged to become eunuchs when they assume their holy office. It may not be their fault, but I would scream if it was me.

Kate
Guest
Kate

I don’t believe someone sits down with new bishops and tells them that they can no longer say certain things. Rather I think peer pressure is so powerful that the conditioning happens naturally and most candidates with personal convictions strong enough to resist homogenisation are weeded out during the selection process. And I don’t just mean the final process to select bishops – I think it starts earlier than that so that those who might rock the boat get fewer advancement opportunities at every level. That is how it works in most organisations, and the effect seems particularly strong in… Read more »

John Peet
Guest
John Peet

It’s ironic that this is precisely the same charge levelled by many evangelicals against the (relatively few) evangelical bishops in the 70’s and 80’s, of not holding strongly enough to their evangelical beliefs and practices once they put on the mitre. I suppose it’s partly because they were forced to move outside their party echo chambers and deal with people whose Christian faith was expressed and lived differently. As I realised when I was a Vicar, when you are the public voice of an institution it inevitably means you can’t just speak simply as an individual. I suppose it’s the… Read more »

Jane Charman
Guest
Jane Charman

There’s a long-standing perception that may or may not be true, that when men and women become bishops they also become less outspoken about things they were previously known to care about. Whether this is because they are older, wiser, less courageous, more risk aware, in greater thrall to the establishment or for some other reason we are not sure, but it makes us feel uncomfortable. On the other hand, when we hear calls, as we sometimes do, for a bishop to be consecrated to represent a particular stance or opinion within the life of the Church, we feel uncomfortable… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Wow, and I thought I’d been harsh on Ol’ Saint Nick! Holtam’s certainly toed the party line, but the awkward truth’s that conformity and compliance doesn’t extend to all bishops — conservative evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics have no compunction in speaking out to defend their own interests, and since open evangelicals decide church policy, they’ve no need to. No, this wretched passivity, to the point of betraying all you say you believe in, lands at the door of liberals and moderates, I suspect ’cause we’re far too agreeable for our own good. The same traits that make us liberal also make… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Nick Holtam did criticise the archbishops’ pastoral letter, which for a bishop is quite remarkable.

I found Jane Charman’s comments above helpful and thought-provoking.

Chris H.
Guest
Chris H.

Thank you for that Jane. How too do we pick bishops who do or don’t speak up on a topic when doing so will cause a backlash a la Phillip North to remove said appointment. Should every controversial bishop be removed?

Kate
Guest
Kate

With respect, the Philip North situation became as serious as it was not because he was outspoken but because he refused to speak at all to set out his position.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Jane’s remarks are thought-provoking. I would submit, however, that the question of speaking or not is a deeply moral one. Shepherding people who have straight male supremacist views by excluding LGBTQI people and women is morally and theologically problematic. It is actively harmful to the well being of the minority. The default of silence is actively harmful, as was certainly the case with child abuse. Silence is always on the side of the oppressor, always. Whether it is about child abuse, the exclusion of women and LGBTQI people, the human rights violations at the hands of oil companies, etc, silence… Read more »

Bill Broadhead
Guest
Bill Broadhead

I get Andrew Godsall’s point entirely, and agree with what he is saying. But neither I – nor Andrew – know, precisely, from within what the pressures are in the House of Bishops at the moment. If I were in Nick Holtam’s shoes (which I’m not), I wonder if I might have been tempted to be cautious in the face of the Pongyan culture of control and bad tempered invectives. I would also be wary of the threatening culture at the Church Commissioners (witness the treatment of Charles Taylor when Dean of Peterborough) which is where a lot of bullying… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Given that Bonhoeffer’s life was at stake, it’s not a comparison I’d make.

Nor do I see how it’d even be possible to “bully” a diocesan bishop, a person with job security that’d be the envy of a Supreme Court justice.

Holtam’s not a vulnerable or marginalized person: he’s a person of extreme privilege whose precious church adjoined Trafalgar Sq. and the National Gallery. He chose to take a position of power and responsibility. It’s not unreasonable to ask him to use it to do justice.

Nicholas Holtam
Guest
Nicholas Holtam

I’ll own up to being a bit fed up with this thread. I wanted my Maundy Thursday sermon posted here because I quoted Janet Fife whose letter I read on TA. Thanks to her for her comment. I also thought it might be interesting and helpful to share what we have been thinking and praying about in Salisbury, given the unfolding international implications. I was glad James Woodward’s excellent contribution was posted with mine but no-one seems concerned with the implications of the Skripal story here. I am surprised by those who think I have said nothing about inclusion and… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Guest
Andrew Godsall

Nicholas: I’ll own up to being a bit fed up by your response on this thread for the simple reason that it smacks of the power and control that you seem to lament in your Maundy Thursday sermon. i apologise if I misrepresent you but I clearly noted what you said to Diarmaid publicly back in 2009. There are those of us who regret the ‘miserable experience’ (his words) that he suffered from the church because of its double speak on the question of homosexuality – different things were said privately and publicly. Is it too much to hope that… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

My thanks to Nicholas Holtam for his response. For my part, my disagreement lies in two specific actions: to my knowledge, you’ve not said plainly that current English church teaching on homosexuality is wrong, inherently homophobic, and should be changed and repented of; nor have you suspended discipline against clergy in same-sex relationships in Sailsbury diocese. I accept that the second can be explained by a belief in the rule of law (I also believe in the rule of law, but interpret it differently); but find it much harder to understand your refusal to vigorously challenge homophobic teaching in public,… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

+Nicholas, a great deal of the “problem” with which you are fed up is that LGBTQI people have modest opportunities to speak for themselves (ourselves) in CoE, and don’t have the power and privilege. Meanwhile, the homophobes have all the platform they want and suffer no loss of power and privilege for it. CoE leadership does a lot of “speaking about us, without us.” Some would find that you haven’t spoken enough about equality. Can one speak enough about justice when there’s injustice? Can one speak the Good News to the oppressed while going along with the Bad News of… Read more »

Ian H
Guest
Ian H

+Nick…. I think the ‘outrage’ against him is unfair. I don’t share his views but to suggest he’s been quiet or hypocritical is a poor understanding of his record and if the role of a bishop, Not everything said or done is public in any case.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“I agree that the Skripal case may have far-reaching implications.”

UPDATE. We (US, UK, and France) are now bombing Syria in what seems to be a proxy war against Russia. Three countries that are least likely to care enough to accept Syrian refugees.