Saturday, 24 March 2007

columnar thoughts

The Times Many roads lead to the One in southern India by Guy Liardet

Guardian Stephen Tomkins writes about the abolition of slavery campaign.

Telegraph Christopher Howse The lost language of worship

Church Times Giles Fraser Capitalism can have a warm heart

Tablet Dangers, toils and snares by Michael Fitzgerald

Church of England Newspaper via Fulcrum The Church of England: More than Evangelical but not Less by Graham Kings

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 24 March 2007 at 12:07pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Just to say that I kicked off the discussion on this topic: I go there as a self-confessed outsider to this particular party grouping. So far I have resisted doing the same at Anglican Mainstream, on the principle of not going down dark alleys at night.

Also Rowan Williams has an edited extract at the Church Times.

I want to challenge his conclusion. He says the time frame on the prayer reflection on Jesus is between now and war, even less at thirty years, and ideas took longer to catch up. He argues against ideas being foreign, ie Greek.

Well no one says that Jesus was not a mover and shaker, indeed not, but the ideas and response were captured in the shifts around Son of Man and Messiah language. It was a highly charismatic and expectant period, and thirty years is quite a long time in such a setting - and ideas do matter. The primitive Jewish ideas - acknowledging the shifts there - became something else because of the Pauline impact, the introduction of international culture into the local scene. I think Rowan Williams overstates the case.

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 24 March 2007 at 2:58pm GMT

"Second, to be 'less than evangelical' would be to put Scripture, Reason and Tradition, to follow Hooker's usual order, on a level with each other, which he never did. This would lead to the unhelpful analogy of the three-legged stool. Some would even add 'experience', with a capital 'E', to these three, to form a four-legged chair. However, this would reduce the supremacy of God's authority through his holy Word. Reason includes, amongst other things, biblical scholarship, philosophical hermeneutics and God's revelation through the natural order, which we attempt to discern through scientific enquiry. Tradition has been called 'the democracy of the dead', by G K Chesterton. Both are indeed important aids in interpreting Scripture, and experience (small 'e') does give us our context in which we study, but Scripture should be on a level above them, not with them." (Graham Kings)

Practically-speaking, this is nonsense. Scripture does not EXIST without Tradition, Reason (and Experience), due to the simple fact that *writing does not exist without the reader*. [Otherwise, you're burning the Nag Hammadi texts to heat your Egyptian hut, as happened to a bunch of them]

(Capital 'E') Evangelical notions of "the supremacy of Scripture" are really so much pointless *Bibliolatry*, when you unpack them...

The Word of God is ***Christ*** (enthroned on a "four-legged chair"! ;-D)

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 24 March 2007 at 6:42pm GMT

Alas I find the sayings of Rowan Williams' are 'not remotely plausible.'

He has gone back on his Michael Harding Memorial Address and on the letter he and others signed after the last Lambeth Conference.

And he hasn't even deigned to explain -- let alone apologise -- for this behaviour.

Rowan I just can't trust you again.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Saturday, 24 March 2007 at 9:14pm GMT

re the lost language of worship

I don't think the mass in Latin will bring a revival -- not even the old Tridentine one. Not while sermons remain in the vernacular -- that really is the language many would like to get lost !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Saturday, 24 March 2007 at 10:01pm GMT


I agree with you. At the end of 2005, someone commented that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come (I would modify that to an idea whose time God has decreed has come).

Powerful paradigms punch through into humanity's history at crucial junction points. We are in one such time now. The greenhouse gases, AIDS pandemic, out of control tribal and power wars, the extreme poverty of whole continents can not wait thirty years so that some well padded ivory tower scholars can become comfortable.

Scribes, like accountants, record and describe what has happened.

History is unfolding, the scribes will look back, reflect and document. When God moves, you can either be part of the solution or describe the event from the sidelines. God does not wait for the self-assured and complacent. Those who seek to preserve the status quo are those who are comfortable with the status quo. They are the selfish who have ignored the needs of the less fortunate and squandered their own descendants' resources to satiate their own greed.

To find peace, we must accept inadequacy and cohabititation with the less than perfect.

In a discussion with a friend last night, I asked whether God would seek out and enter into a covenant with an intelligent life form on another planet in another galaxy. They said they thought God would. I then asked if that covenant with that lifeform meant that God's covenant with humanity no longer stands? They could see that God could have two independent covenants that could concurrently apply. Humanity needs to get used to this idea. Otherwise, if God is only capable of one covenant, there is an angelic order that would demand that their covenant supercedes those with humanity.

God has promised a new heaven and a new earth. That requires accepting that there will be covenants with both heaven and earth. It also requires accepting that God has covenants with all peoples of all nations. Jesus is meant to fairly arbitrate all the covenants, not just one.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Saturday, 24 March 2007 at 10:51pm GMT

Cheryl, if I understand you, you are saying that God is capable of working with more than one covenant. God is capable of pretty much everything, so this naturally follows. It does not follow, however, to imply that because God can do it, He therefore will do it.

I think coming at this from a more evangelical perspective I would say that we cannot simply assume all these covenants just because God 'could' do it. Rather, I would seek to see what God has actually done. You are right, Jesus arbitrates any and all covenants, but not as a general principle, rather, Jesus historically mediates God's covenant with Israel, a specific and elected people; this covenant is fulfilled historically in Christ and instantiated anew in the Church, the body of Christ, and consummated in Christ in the new creation (not two separate covenants for heaven and earth, not quite sure what you are talking about there). God 'could' do all sorts of things. The business of Christians, I would think, is to witness to what God has done historically, and what He has promised to do, not to speculate as to what God 'could' do and by doing so to annul in our witness the importance of Christ as the one true and historical saviour.

Posted by: JamesCrocker on Sunday, 25 March 2007 at 2:49am BST

On the lost language of worship.

Most people prefer a U2 concert to a Mozart Symphony. If the Church is serious about evangelism, it wouldn't be bothering about an ancient language that very few people speak or understand. It would be seeking new ways to communicate worship to the U2 generation.

Jesus never left us with precise instructions on how to conduct mass (these are man made). The important thing is for us to "worship in Spirit and in truth". For us to worship in Spirit and in truth we must be able to express ourselves in worship. We should be able to come to God as we are, and speak to Him in our own contemporary language.

The "operatic stiffness" of the Latin Mass is not going to work for most people around the world. (It is not working in Africa or South America for that matter).Lets get real, the aim of the Church is to act as the light to the world and not to make a few old men nostalgic.

John Paul II got it right.

Posted by: Maduka on Sunday, 25 March 2007 at 3:09pm BST

Cardinal Arinze would appear to take a different view from you on the subject of U2 vs Mozart. Roman Catholicism seems quite strong in Nigeria, nevertheless.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 25 March 2007 at 5:11pm BST


I've been to Mass in Nigeria, I can assure you that the music and the flavour is very Nigerian.

I am simply saying that there is no use playing Mozart for a generation more in tune with U2. The Church does not exist for the nostalgia of the "fuddy duddies", it exists for the wider world.

(Just to add, the Pentecostals outnumber the Catholics and the Anglicans COMBINED in Nigeria. So even though the Catholic Church is strong it is losing membership rapidly. You can do a simple survey - how many Nigerians in London attend Catholic/Anglican Churches, compare that with the number that attend Pentecostal Churches).

Posted by: Maduka on Sunday, 25 March 2007 at 9:42pm BST


Thank you for acknowledging that God can juggle more than humans can.

Thank you for also noting the possibility that Jesus could arbitrate across all the covenants.

There is an interesting dialogue to be had on whether Jesus would. I think he would, Jesus did not seek to overthrow world orders e.g. give unto Caeser what is Caeser's and until God what is God's. Nor did Jesus talk about ending the Law and prophets, rather he talked about fulfilling all the law and prophets. e.g. Luke 11:46-54, 13:28, 16:16-17, 18:31-33, 24:25-27, which includes Jesus' words after his resurrection"“How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!"

Then if we look at Luke 24:44-47 where Jesus says "...repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."

Jesus was given authority to heal all the nationS and all the peopleS of all the nationS. That did not mean making them into one nation. Further, Jesus was clear that he was here not to replace the prophets but to fulfill them. Further, Jesus acknowledged there would be prophets after him.

Mohammad sits with Jesus in the heavenly throne room. They might not agree on everything, but Mohammad did what was required for his times and within the capacity of understanding that was possible at those times. The lessons the Muslims are learning are the same lessons every other faith also needs to be learning. When the father dies and there is more than one successor, then the squabbling will start unless there is some basic ettiquettes and boundaries put firmly in place. The rule of Law is what stops everything degenerating into brutal mass murder and desecration.

Similarly, if any theology ascribes to a position that only the most perfect and correct theology should be allowed to survive, then humanity is doomed, as there is an angelic order that rightly has a more perfect and correct theology.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Sunday, 25 March 2007 at 11:35pm BST

If you go back and reread the bible, you will realise that one of the great scandals of history is God again and again intervening to protect the inadequate and fallible.

If we want God to help humanity survive, then we must help each other survive. That means both the pure and the inadequate, male and female, young and old, friend and enemy.

If cultural genocide is acceptable, then the extinction of humanity is inevitable. If God can not honor the existing covenants, then no new covenant can be everlasting either. God again and again offers everlasting covenants. When we breach them, God takes the opportunity to rebuke and refine. But God restores the gentle covenants after incorporating the new aspects.

This is what Jeremiah 33:20-26 is all about. 33:20-21, if you break God's covenant, then the Lord reserves to break His covenants, including with DAVID (aka Jesus). There might be a multitude, but souls are fearful as God has rejected two kingdoms He chose. In 33:25-26, God says that he will reject the traditional descendants and choose another, yet God will restore the fortunes of his traditional loved ones in conjunction to the new ones.

This same pattern occurs in Isaiah 56:3-10. God adds the eunuchs and foreigners and still others as God again regathers the exiles of Israel.

In Zephaniah 3:14-20, God promises to restore Zion's honor and at the same time rescue the lame and thoe that have been scattered. God promises this to be witnessed by all the peoples of the earth, not just the "elect".

We see similar imagery Zechariah 8:9-23. Where God calls upon us to "Speak the truth to each other, and and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,”

We see also the vision of hospitality and neighbourliness in Zechariah 3:10

What the bible also tells us is that whenever a theology decides that it is the best and has the right to oppress, God rises up against it. For example, Ezekiel 6 & 16:10-63; which interestingly again follows the pattern of rebuking and redemption, but with the covenant redefined and more inclusive.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Sunday, 25 March 2007 at 11:36pm BST

Maduka: Yes, many would want to attend a U2 concert, that is if it all that they know. But many of us were raised with with a good classical and musical background that appreciates moreso.

I partied, smoked (and inhaled) and listened to the Eagles/Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young/Rolling Stones, etc., but it was a trip to Cambridge/St. John's and an evensong with G. Guest's best that had me in the full fetal position silently crying my heart out.

The girl soloist at tonight's evensong (Stanford in G) is a REAL big fan of Brittany Spears (and does great imitations thereof), and yes, I suspect she prefers one of her concerts as a form of recreation, but I know where her heart is in worship. We need to be aware and discern the difference. And failing to lead children in the traditions of the past is showing the result in
gen X'ers" attendance. Why would a few "fuddy-duddies" be interested in music that wasn't composed in their generation as well?

Cheryl: I agree wholeheartedly with an idea of a second covenant. I quietly drop the word "only" in saying the creeds. Jesus was on this earth when communication wasn't good, so how could we ignore the peoples isolated from His message. Our native Americans had some pretty powerful meanings in their ways.

Let's not trash beauty in glorifying Whatever it is that we believe in.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Monday, 26 March 2007 at 12:30am BST

Maduka, I've not been to church in Nigeria, but I've heard from other Nigerians who say the same kinds of things you do about the need for a contemporary worship service, not a "fuddy-duddy" one.

I've also been to a number of evangelical worship services in the Episcopal Church which omitted some of the appointed Scripture readings and large parts of the liturgy, and reduced other parts to what could fit on PowerPoint slides, in favor of spontaneous prayer, "healing" services, and the like. The general outline of these evangelical services was roughly that used in the Book of Common Prayer, but that was all.

So my question for you is: How do Nigerians and/or other evangelicals square their worship practice with their demand that the Anglican Communion base itself on the very formal, very hierarchical, very ordered worship services in the 1662 (and no later!) Book of Common Prayer?

I'm not trying to be snarky --in fact, I really don't get it. So if you can enlighten me, I'll be glad.

Posted by: Charlotte on Monday, 26 March 2007 at 12:46am BST

Numbers games agains :-(

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 26 March 2007 at 12:01pm BST

Choirboy, you raised the idea of " could we ignore the peoples isolated from His message..."

That is where an intelligent lifeform on another planet on another galaxy fits in. We all agree that we do not yet have the capacity to communicate with this lifeform. But that does not mean that life form does not exist nor that God could communicate with it.

This if God could and would communicate with this lifeform that we do not yet know exists, there is no reason that God could not communicate with branches of history that were not yet effectively communicating within humanity.

It resolves the problem that God would ignore and deny people who had not yet heard the Christian gospel (an unconsciencable position for the God who created both space and time within this universe). It also resolves the problem of linear time, in that God redeems souls in ancipation of what their descendants will achieve, before they have actualised the manifestation. Which overcomes the problem of incorporating ancestors who were not personally introduced to the paradigms. (Not that important in self-oriented cultures, but profoundly important in cultures that acknowledge ancestors).

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Monday, 26 March 2007 at 12:18pm BST

I'm with choirboy, who put into words something important, IMO. I was converted by Gregorian Chant, the Asperges, and the Easter Vigil; there is plenty of other great music around, of course, but these are some time-tested methods of getting into the human heart. Why would we throw out what we already know works? Chant is sung to evoke and give praise to the mystery and ineffable beauty of God; the rise in chant's popularity recently would go to confirm this, I thnk. People are looking for something that can't be found elsewhere.

I'm not against U2, either; if that works for some people, I'm all for it. But the monastics knew what they were doing, believe me, and so have many of the Church's best musicians throughout history.

And let's not forget, either, that we can listen to U2 anytime; a solemn Te Deum is a special and rare occasion, so it gets associate with worship alone.

Posted by: bls on Monday, 26 March 2007 at 2:38pm BST

"Mohammad sits with Jesus in the heavenly throne room. They might not agree on everything, but Mohammad did what was required for his times and within the capacity of understanding that was possible at those times...."

Is that why the TEC has focused on Millenium development goals then? Muslims are following their prophet and the Mormons are following theirs and everyone has their own covenants so the church doesn't need to evangelize or convert others to Christ and therefore needs something else to do?

That explains the priest from India who's Anglican in Britain and Hindu in India. Different covenants for different countries. So good to know that there are Christians who know I don't need to change. So many where I live try to get me to go to church etc.

Posted by: nonanglican on Tuesday, 27 March 2007 at 2:29am BST


I can empathise with your sentiments. But they repeat the error of Sodom and Gomorrah. "Everything is in God's plan, we are comfortable, so others' suffering is acceptable".

Mohammad sits with Jesus, not with a vision of only attending to the Muslims, nor of Jesus only attending to the Christians. They are working to find a way to attend to the reasonable needs of all the peoples of all the nations. A God who sets everlasting covenants does not turn their back on one group because they are not "fashionable".

Cheva is an phonetically consistant with Shiva, the manifestation from Brahman "the ultimate Creator", who makes karmic debt irrelevant. Cheryl Valerie can be shortened to Cheva. God attempts not to only solve the problems within Christianity, but within all the faiths, and thus all humanity.

When you have the affirmations that I have had e.g. Wilma forming to the lowest barometric reading ever recorded in histoy and then hitting Florida, which no one else could have predicted. Then you can dispute my interpretations. God has bent over backwards to prove that both God exists and that God intends for all of humanity to survive; along with its inadequate, diverse and messy theologies. None of the theologies that have attempted to "wipe out" their competitors can match the affirmations. Remember, Jesus never competed with the other theologies and allowed the other theologies to acknowledge him in exchange for coexistence.

I am not replacing Jesus' intepretations, I am affirming them.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 27 March 2007 at 1:00pm BST
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