Saturday, 11 November 2006

opinions for Saturday

Jonathan Sacks writes about Remembrance Sunday in The Times: As guardians of our children’s future we must keep faith with the past. And Andrew Lloyd writes about it from Basra: Two minutes of silence under Abraham’s sky.

But other events also happen at this time of year. Christopher Howse explains in the Telegraph while debunking claims about Halloween being pagan, in Fenny Poppers and paganism.

A Church Times leader comments on the US elections: US voters turn against Bush.

A Guardian leader comments on religion: God’s squads:

… Individual faith is politically sensitised, to be called in aid by the Christian right trying to prevent Turkey joining the EU, as much as by those who genuinely see describing it as a problem as the first step to solving it. In this context, there is a heavy burden on Britain’s Christian tradition. To pretend there is no history of hatred between Islam and Christendom, nor any fundamental conflict in their theologies, is both absurd and dangerous. It has to be acknowledged. But it is a problem to overcome, not a legacy to be savoured. The assertion by the Anglican Bishop of Rochester, the evangelical Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, that Christianity is superior to other religions and that Britain must preserve its Christian heritage, is highly damaging. So was Frank Field’s claim at the launch of a new religious thinktank, Theos, this week, that Islam could not be English until it had been here for 1,000 years. Of course, Anglicanism is wrestling with its own internal difficulties. The evangelicals and liberals grow strident; hardliners may be reassured by Bishop Nazir-Ali’s remarks. But most Britons, whose Christianity is notional at most, are more likely to be repelled. A rising profile in the media is no guarantee of more parishioners in the pews. Church attendance, already below 10%, is predicted to fall to 2% by 2040…

Meanwhile on the Guardian’s blogsite, Comment is free Andrew Brown published two pieces:
The eternal turbulent priest which is about Lord Carey and also Rowan Williams. And Why God needs heretics.

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times about When the mask of Pastor Ted slipped off.

In connection with that, hat tip to Ruth Gledhill for digging out this excellent sermon of Sam Wells. Please note however there is a factual error in the first paragraph of the sermon, see comment below by Sarah Dylan Breuer for details.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 11 November 2006 at 9:31am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

The Guardian leader makes me ashamed.

Posted by: laurence on Saturday, 11 November 2006 at 11:09am GMT

I usually enjoy reading Giles Fraser, but this piece moved me to tears, somehow. The plight of pastor Ted? the plight of gays? of christians? of poor humanity in our crazy struggles and moments of beauty, kindness or being surprised by joy or a fallen leaf with its tender colours....

Andrew Brown on George Carey is both hilarious, wicked and insightful -- I enjoyed the humour most ! I knowits wicked but I do feel Carey has asked for it ! Also, I do not think it lacked affection. Also the comments from the public beneath Brown's piece are also hilarious and insightful --christianity & penises, war & peace....

I'm glad God needs heretics.....

Posted by: laurence on Saturday, 11 November 2006 at 11:26am GMT

Those who count themselves as “generous orthodox” may not welcome the self-declared arrival of Ruth Gledhill amongst their number.
This journalist has been looking for a spiritual home/label to describe the twists and turns of her mind for some time, apparently confused by the visceral hatred she feels towards TEC and what she believed were her “liberal” credentials – she now seems to have settled for Sam Wells’ rather good critique of the various positions in the sexuality debate as something approaching her own view, though I can’t help thinking she will turn his balanced perspective into something approaching a “plague on all your houses”.
Why should I think this? Well, take her recent blog entry describing my Archbishop (Wales) as the “arch liberal”(my translation) when in fact he has led our Province to adopt a position very close to the one she now claims to espouse, this tells me that she has yet to clear her head of a considerable amount of baggage.
Though I am sure she is capable of clear and consistent thinking, I do wonder if such a development will enhance her chances of getting her stories noticed and published, such even-handedness may not sell newspapers! I will watch with renewed interest.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 11 November 2006 at 12:56pm GMT

Giles Fraser is right, though: hell is being in the closet. I'd add that hell is especially nasty when you are doing so much in public to help to bung other people into the closet while you are in it yourself, and the door is flung open.

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 11 November 2006 at 2:21pm GMT

I appreciated the sermon to which you linked, except on one point that I find not at all minor: It repeats the lie that +Gene Robinson was "a man that had recently left his wife and family to live with a male partner" when he was elected and consecrated as bishop. +Gene and his wife, 'Boo,' separated in May of 1986, and the divorce was final in August of 1987 -- a full 16 years before +Gene's consecration. That's hardly "recently." Furthermore, and more importantly, +Gene and Boo parted by mutual consent, and neither was seeing anyone else. +Gene did not meet his partner until after the divorce was final, and they did not live together until two years after that. And +Gene never "left his wife and family"; they remained and still remain in close contact, they raised their children working closely together, and they remain close. His entire family (including Boo) strongly supported his election and consecration.

The lie that Wells repeats in his sermon (even embellishing it with the "recently" -- something I hadn't seen elsewhere) is a damaging one, and I hope you'll correct it.

Here's the correct chronology of events:

August, 1972 - V. Gene Robinson and Isabella 'Boo' Martin are married, All Saints Church, Peterborough, New Hampshire, USA.

May, 1986 - Gene and Boo separate; Gene moves to Wilton, New Hampshire (five miles away), sharing joint custody of daughters Jamee and Ella.

March, 1987 - Boo meets Robert McDaniel, by May they are engaged to be married; Gene moves to Concord, NH, where he is now employed as Canon to the Ordinary.

August, 1987 - Boo and Gene's divorce is final; the Rector of Grace Church, Manchester, accompanies them to the judge's chambers for the final decree, and then they return to Grace Church, where they mark the ending of their marriage, the mutual release from their wedding vows (symbolized by the return of their wedding rings), and the pledging of themselves to the joint nurture and care of their children — all within the context of the eucharist.

October, 1987 - Boo and Robert are married (within a couple of years, they have two sons).

November, 1987 - Gene meets Mark Andrew while on vacation.

February, 1989 - Mark leaves his career with the Peace Corps and moves to New Hampshire to be with Gene, Jamee, and Ella.

July, 1989 - Gene, Mark, Jamee and Ella host a 'Celebration of a Home' from the Book of Occasional Services.

Posted by: Sarah Dylan Breuer on Saturday, 11 November 2006 at 3:43pm GMT

The Church Times article noted that the shift in the US might not be healthy if it comes back to being focussed on self-interest.

Self-interest is not necessarily the concern. It is selfish interest. There is self-interest in acknowledging interdependency with others and accountabilty to God for attending to the needs of the environment and the vulnerable. Many of the bibles most beautiful prophetic visions are those that invoke an understanding that our wellbeing both as individuals, communities, and nations comes from providing true justice, compassion and hospitality.

It is selfish in that as we aspire for this vision we have dreams that their will be descendants more numerous than the stars. We embrace a vision where we can have children safely and dream that they will grow up safe and well to have children in their turn.

But we can not find peace within if we hinder peace for those around us. For if our neighbour is starving and without dignity; their resentment and need will lead to their assailing our blessings to either garnish resources for themselves or to impose upon us what they experience within themselves.

In that sense; war, conflict and desecration are manifestations of failure. A failure to develop just systems that provide for the needs not just of our own but also our neighbour and the marginalised. We love the children who die in war (whether they be three or thirty), but we do not want our children to die in war.

That is why I agree with Sentamu that we need to engage with the broader community. But we should take care not to throw stones at "the other", often that which we obsess about is the thing in ourselves that most needs healing. God has a way of bringing to their knees those that incite hatred and hostility.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Saturday, 11 November 2006 at 5:17pm GMT

This article was only posted a couple of days ago.

It also had me thinking about why does God hide his face? There are the obvious reasons that we have displeased God e.g. Isaiah 1:15-17 & 64:7.

But then it could be argued that God did not have to allow us to sin or suffer. So why would God allow that to happen?

In the last few days I contemplated that in a few short years my daughter will be learning to drive a car. I thought about how she will have matured enough to be able to undertake such an activity. I thought about how she would be introduced to driving. First of all having things explained. Then allowing her to practice in a flat empty car park where there would be little risk of hitting others. Steadily moving up until she had her license.

I then contemplated what kind of car do parents give their newly licensed children to drive. Unless you are stupidly rich, they are given the family car under controlled circumstances, but most parents prefer to have an older car that they will be less concerned if it gets damaged in the bumps and dents of early driving experience. Eventually they would get a job and earn enough money and mature enough to acquire a car with a risk exposure that they deem is suitable. Insurance companies give pretty clear feedback on who is and is not a good risk, and good drivers are rewarded accordingly.

I then thought that God's development of humanity follows the same path. He has given us an instruction manual (the bible and other holy texts). He puts up role models for us to respect and internalise their blessed traits, and others to warn us of the dangers of excessivism. But God does not deny us our old jalopies. He allows us to learn to drive and steer, often getting bumps and bruises along the way.

But as we mature, we mature with greater wisdom and compassion, more self aware and more aware of God. In allowing us to fail, God allows us to learn, in learning through our failures, we become closer to God. God is merely being a good parent, walking a tightrope between mollycoddling and discipline.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Saturday, 11 November 2006 at 5:38pm GMT

The Bishop of Rochester's opinion that Christianity is superior to Islam may not be one that the Guardian or muslims or a lot of other people believe. But should they be surprised that a Christian admits that they are a Christian because they believe it to be the best option? The Bishop after all is someone who has had more expose to both options than many.

Plenty of muslims will after all believe that their religion is superior. The issue is whether the Bishop can articulate effectively as to why Christianity is the better option and why people should convert. In that respect he will be following in the missionary tradition of Carey, Hudson Taylor, Augustine...

And perhaps there is part of our problem. We don't want to admit that the situation here is that we are increasingly relying on missionaries such as Nazir-Ali and Sentamu because that iswhat they are!

Posted by: Dave Williams on Saturday, 11 November 2006 at 5:55pm GMT

I cannot help but agree: Hell, pure hell, is being thought nothing but straight and being in the closet. (My own personal sentence served was about 26 long and difficult years.) Nothing bad that happened afterwards, and surely some bad things did still happen, was nearly so double-difficult as going through life's inevitable ups and downs and still being invisible and living a whole additional layer of institutionalized church/world lie on top of whatever was else happening. It does some sort of extra damage, perhaps, really, to have one's constant daily personal interpersonal lying sanctioned and rooted in those larger institutional urgencies that foster and support and threaten and soothe all the lying that is ever so deeply welcome.

Add to this a descant saying from the folklore of twelve step recovery programs: Religion is for people afraid of going to hell, and spirituality is for people in recovery who have already been to this or that vivid neighborhood in hell and dearly wish not to go back.

Sam Wells may stand back calmly from the often bloody fray of daily life while he critiques a single queer human life built on honesty and working out one's own salvation with discipline, growth, and praise - but that does not in the least diminish the value of still keeping on as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth.

Lord have mercy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Saturday, 11 November 2006 at 10:04pm GMT

Converts always defend their conversion. But "Stay where you are - especially if malcontent" is the official counsel (not always followed) agreed upon by the churches.

The result is a lot of perennial malcontents in the wrong places.

And no, I don't think that should be encouraged.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 12 November 2006 at 7:20am GMT

Interesting comments on Sam Wells. Just one clarification from me in reference to Martin Reynolds' comment. I do not feel "visceral hatred" towards anyone or anything, never mind TEC. OK, I concede I don't feel the passion for TEC that I feel for my husband, or the love for it that I feel for my own (liberal catholic) church in the Southwark diocese. Indeed, sometimes TEC annoys me intensely, but it is a great relief to know now that I can now let go of those feelings, as the individuals who I found a little, well, difficult have now retired and I am looking forward immensely to the new era and am greatly encouraged by Bishop Schori's latest pronouncements. But surely, just not loving someone or being annoyed by them, even if sometimes one feels called to express this in print sometimes, doesn't mean you viscerally hate them? Does it Martin? The only person I should hate, were I to ever feel such an emotion, would be myself.

Posted by: Ruth Gledhill on Sunday, 12 November 2006 at 3:31pm GMT

The dilemma of whether this or that way of following Jesus is best - among all the global varieties of life we lead as Jesus believers; and its corollary - how shall that best Jesus way worship, bear witness, and do service among all the rest of the planet - is not well served by the narrowest and most objectified and most closed minded and least willing to be a good global nieghbor - of the many competing One Way theologies.

Institutional force, subtle or gross, applied to conform individual conscience and applied in the Public Square seems among the least likely means of going forward to many believers I know.

I cannot hear the iterations of these One Way disputes without remembering how the disciples come to Jesus in the New Testament, arguing among themselves as to who is the greatest. And therefore, who will be sitting at Jesus' right hand (the ancient near eastern place of honor at feasts and the like), come the fullness of the arrival of the kingdom.

Let she who has ears hear what the New Testament Jesus is saying to us, then.

Posted by: drdanfee on Sunday, 12 November 2006 at 4:12pm GMT

Perhaps these words of Elton John are relevant to the repeated defamation of Gene Robinson , which Sarah Dylan Breuer refutes (above). And indeed, germaine to so much of reported church anti-gay, anti-something life and actions :--

Organized religion fuels anti-gay discrimination and other forms of bias, pop star Elton John said in an interview published Saturday.

'I think religion has always tried to turn hatred toward gay people,' John said in the Observer newspaper's Music Monthly Magazine. 'Religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays.'

'But there are so many people I know who are gay and love their religion,' he said. 'From my point of view, I would ban religion completely. Organized religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate.'

John also criticized religious leaders for failing to do anything about conflicts around the world.

'Why aren't they having a conclave? Why aren't they coming together?'

Posted by: laurence on Sunday, 12 November 2006 at 5:36pm GMT


The religious leaders are having conclaves and they are coming together. There was an excellent Religious World Assembly for Peace in Kyoto only the other month. There have been some excellent developments in Iraq (and you know they mattered because the trouble makers went on a blood bath rampage to try and discredit the peace makers).

Here are some articles with links to other articles

There have been more developments, that don't always hit the mainstream press. I haven't been keeping my own site up to date for the last few weeks as my previous husband had a heart attack two Mondays ago, and I have been keeping an eye on him and keeping his business going whilst he convalesces. God willing, I should be back to maintaining my site and putting this less fashionable news up in another week or so.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Monday, 13 November 2006 at 10:04am GMT

"OK, I concede I don't feel the passion for TEC that I feel for my husband"

I find it highly telling that someone who has expressed so much "annoyance" w/ homosexual Anglicans (support for whom is the basis for similar annoyance w/ TEC I dare say?) should feel NO SHAME whatsoever in *flaunting* an analogy of her heterosexual "passion". Spare us, Ruth! >:-/

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Monday, 13 November 2006 at 7:44pm GMT

Oh! Sorry Ruth! But ever since you told the story of Frank Griswold ignoring you and his aide sweeping you aside, I thought your published attitude towards TEC bilious at least – sometimes even Virtuesque!
But as you say, things can move on now.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 14 November 2006 at 11:10am GMT


The United Nations Alliance Of Civilisations report was released last Monday (just started trawling news again this morning). Their website is here

Kofi Annan's comments as reported by Australia's Catholic News include:

"We should start by reaffirming and demonstrating that the problem is not the Koran nor the Torah or the Bible," Mr Annan said after receiving a report by an international group of scholars that proposes ways to overcome the rift. "The problem is never the faith; it is the faithful and how they behave toward each other.""

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 14 November 2006 at 7:25pm GMT
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