Saturday, 20 August 2005

views from the papers

The Tablet has an appreciation of Brother Roger by Alain Woodrow A man of peace cut down.

In the Telegraph Charles Moore thinks that Westminster Abbey was right to reject Hollywood’s 30 pieces of silver, while Christopher Howse discusses government attitudes to religion in A game that the Romans played, and a leader column discusses The Pope’s duty.

Dwight Longenecker writes in The Times about Roman Catholics in the USA: Roman road leads South to a brighter future.

More interesting than today’s godslot on Bible translation was the Guardian’s report yesterday Call to end state’s link with church. More about this is at the Fabian Society’s website, and the full article is Religion and the British state: a new settlement. Earlier in the week, Giles Fraser had written The idolatry of holy books which explores the parallels between Islam and the Christian reformers. He concludes:

For there can be few more chilling examples of theocratic fascism than Calvin’s Geneva. In toppling the authority of the clergy, he made it the responsibility of the civil magistrates to enforce the word of God. Spon, in his History of Geneva, writes: “In the year 1560, a citizen [of Geneva], having been condemned to the lash by the small council, for the crime of adultery, appealed from its sentence to the Two Hundred. His case was reconsidered, and the council, knowing that he had before committed the offence, and been against caught therein, condemned him to death, to the great astonishment of the criminal.” Elsewhere, Picot observes, “There were children publicly scourged, and hung, for having called their mother she-devil and thief. When the child had not attained the age of reason, they hung him by the armpits, to manifest that he deserved death.” Quite clearly, the fear that western liberals have of sharia law can hardly be appeased with reference to a reformed polity.

Rushdie’s suggestion that a reformed Islam might find a way beyond the besetting sins of anti-semitism, sexism and homophobia is also, alas, unlikely. Luther himself was famously and virulently anti-semitic. The Reformation did little for women, and the place to find the most neanderthal religious homophobia in Britain today is in an organisation called Reform. Until the Reformation finishes its work and trains its powerful commitment to iconoclasm on the sources of its own prejudice it will hardly be a model to hold up for other religious traditions to follow.

One of the most interesting articles this week is in the Church of England Newspaper: The hidden Bible - Mark Ireland asks why evangelists are neglecting the Bible. This reveals that:

One of the strange rules of thumb I’ve discovered, visiting many churches in my role as a diocesan missioner, is that the more evangelical the church is, the fewer verses of the Bible you are likely to hear read in worship. When I go to a church in the central or liberal tradition, I will always encounter two Bible readings. When I go to one of the catholic parishes in the diocese, I will usually hear four pieces of Scripture read - Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament and Gospel - with the words printed out on the service sheet for the people to follow. However, when I visit an evangelical parish, I will usually hear only one passage of the Bible.

And finally, the Financial Times reports on what happened when Jonathan Miller visited St Mary’s Primrose Hill: True disbeliever.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 7:52am BST
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Opinion

re Mark Irelands piece. I have been rather saddened to discover that in a no of evangelical churches when there is a Gospel reading people no longer stand to hear it.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 8:39am BST

A host of very interesting pieces gathered together for us, thanks Simon.
The Giles Fraser offering I found to be one of his best.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 10:15am BST

" the place to find the most neanderthal religious homophobia in Britain today is in an organisation called Reform"

Hmm, I may be too liberal for Reform, but I do not think they are either neanderthal or homophobic - unless Giles Fraser just mean them as terms of abuse for anyone who is not a supporter of "gay lib".

I saw a debate on Channel 4 a while ago with, as I remember it, David Holloway and folk from Reform one one side and Richard Kirker of LGCM on the other. Reform's supporters (well Jesmond Parish Church I think) included a (now) celibate homosexual man who, while saying that he would not do same-sex sex anymore because of his christian convictions, was quite frank about his continuing sexual preference for men. He was not hated, feared or beaten by anyone that I noticed!

Anyone else see it? Maybe Reform should be asked to make a reply to this sort of "neanderthal" assertion ?

Posted by: Dave on Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 12:09pm BST

Odd rule of thumb, that. My experience is the opposite! At our (evangelical) church we have regular readings of the Scriptures, we have songs which are based on the scriptures, and the sermon is always very much based on the scriptures. When I have been to churches in the centre or liberal tradition, whilst quite often there is a scripture reading, there are occasions when there has been none, and sermons often come over as a homily with Christ left out entirely - a mish-mash of sociological or political statements that may often be thought provoking, but might as well have been uttered in an entirely secular environment!

Posted by: Robert on Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 12:22pm BST

On the matter of Bible reading, the Anglican tradition of Bible reading owes much to the tradition of lectio divina.
Perhaps the churches the author of this article has been visiting would espouse the following remark I found in a book review recently:
"Of course, there were a handful of things I didn’t care for. One is Dan’s emphasis on lectio divina, silence, and listening prayer- all of which I believe to be dangerous practices not supported by Scripture."
Interesting ..... ?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 1:45pm BST

Giles Fraser's take on the Reformation is difficult to credit. The Reformers objected to pictorial and statuary representations of God as a violation of the Second Commandment. It was a replay of the great crisis of the eighth century (and significantly, to this day the Orthodox, for all their icons, will not abide religious statues). Of course the Reformers had no problem at all with the idea that God reveals Himself (= speaks) in the Scriptures; in fact all of Christianity agreed with that. A word is not an icon, though sacraments may be verba visibilia. If you reject the Bible, how can you say anything at all about God that is remotely more interesting than Aristotle's Unmoved Mover? Or how would you judge that one opinion was better than another? The end result is agnosticism, which is really where Jack Spong has ended up.
Yes, Luther was anti-Jewish, especially in his latter years - though scarcely more than had been common, off and on, in Catholic Europe for centuries before. A different state of affairs arose in Holland and Cromwell's England. Islam will not be able to overcome its constitutional anti-Jewishness (not 'anti-semitism' since Arabs are Semites too) because of the foundational disputes between Muhammad and the Jews of the Hejaz, and the fact that the Jews now occupy formerly Muslim-held territory. This violates the irredentist doctrine of Dar ul-Islam.
Finally, Calvin's Geneva (like Inquisition Spain) is really a very dated whipping boy. Isn't the real issue of politically and (sometimes) religiously sanctioned violence in the West today the practice of *abortion ? I would love to hear Mr Fraser say something about this - a subject a lot of liberal Christians are silent or very defensive about.

Posted by: Mark Beaton on Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 3:36pm BST

We may not stand up for the reading of the Gospel in every evangelical church, but we do believe it!

Posted by: Dave on Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 4:53pm BST

Having been a life-long Episcopalian (43 years), in several different parts of the U.S. (East, West, Midwest), I can testify that one of the things which so move me about my church is the intentionality with which I observe Episcopalians "hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" the Scriptures. (Collect for Proper 28, BCP p. 236)

Of course, talent for preaching varies widely. But the vast majority of Episcopal churches of my acquaintance print the Sunday lessons in the bulletin, so even IF there is a substandard homily (few is the time I can recall utter clunkers, though I may have blocked out the memory of a couple *g*), at least there is the written Word to take home with you!

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 8:01pm BST

Systematic liturgical reading of scripture in the Anglican tradition indeed provides lots of food for thought and personal reflection, irrespective of the quality of preaching. In fact, it balances out the tendency for the sermon to be more of a showcase for preaching egos, than a vehicle for the Spirit. Public scripture reading allows individuals to let the Word form in their imagination and understanding.
Sometimes, I think there we are reading too many words to chew on all in one go. However, reducing scripture content to a few select sentences and/or a lot of musical doggerel is editorial licence gone mad - Marcion and Arius live on in new guises.
Think of Taizé, where nearly everything read or sung is scriptural, simply presented, revisited frequently, and most importantly clothed at every turn in silence. A full and digestible diet to nourish prayer and communion with Christ. Everyone could do with taking a leaf out of that book!
May Brother Roger rest in peace - he did a great job to show us a middle way that works for today.

Posted by: Keith Kimber on Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 10:40pm BST

About this business of never having multiple scripture readings at main Sunday services, here's someone, well David McCarthy in fact, who defends the practice at his church:

I wonder what the canons of the SEC have to say on this topic?

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 21 August 2005 at 6:57pm BST

And here is another eyewitness report about no less than All Souls Langham Place, where amazingly NO lessons at all were read prior to the sermon.

"In early June, during an Anglican Heritage tour, my wife and I attended All Souls Church, Langham Place, in London, a famous Church of England evangelical congregation where John Stott is rector emeritus. We found no evidence of the Prayer Book tradition or of Anglican liturgy. It was a general evangelical service, with only eight verses of Scripture read (the sermon text) and many hymns and choruses (praise songs) sung. I later learned that evangelicals in the Church of England typically conduct nonliturgical services."

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 27 August 2005 at 11:33am BST

I'm somewhat concerning if the Bible gets sidelined or subordinated to experience as the CEN's writer seems to be suggesting... Christians who don't know their Bibles well are inevitably weak in the faith, and vulnerable to being led astray ! However you may find that many people attending these evangelical CofE churches also study the Bible during daily personal "Quiet Times" and in small groups that meet during the week.

Instead of criticising "form" of liturgy, it would be more interesting to check the time spent per week on Bible reading, the bible knowledge of church members, and their level of belief and trust in what the Bible teaches. I seem to remember that on such measures, liberal clergy did much worse than evangelicals (and traditionalists?) in recent studies!

And lets not get into raising form above substance.... the named churches do believe and obey the teachings of the Bible! (and attract very large numbers of members, make converts etc) Some other churches make a huge show of Bible Readings and them promptly relegate the bits they don't like to "history" .... A rather more dangerous example of subordinating the Bible to experience..

Posted by: Dave on Saturday, 27 August 2005 at 5:32pm BST
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