Saturday, 25 August 2007

columns for the holiday weekend

In The Times Stephen Plant asks How can there can be forgiveness without remorse?

Glynn Cardy writes in the Guardian about the model of the church as a ship in Face to Faith.

The surprise of thatched churches is discussed in the Daily Telegraph by Christopher Howse.

A double dose of Giles Fraser:
The bishops really need to talk from last week’s Church Times and this week When the US Right was not so religious.

And another article from last week’s Church Times: Robin Gill writes about the state of the Anglican Communion: Keeping it in the family.

This week’s Tablet has an interview by Theo Hobson of Metropolitan John D. Zizioulas. Read An eye for the other.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 25 August 2007 at 10:16am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

A nice collection of articles.

Plant's was personally the most fascinating (although there were good points in others and if TA subscribers want to expand...).

There was a time where one difficult soul would add insult or injury to my family's wellbeing at every opportunity. Having failed all the normal dialogues and approaches, I sought advice from my local minister. His reply was "Jesus might have taught us to turn the other cheek, but that doesn't mean we have to wait for it to be hit. We have the right to walk away."

Part of being welcoming is being gracious, and Jesus’ advice is that you are not made welcome, then walk away and brush off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them Luke 9:5 & 10:11, Mark 6:11, Matthew 10:14.

There is a difference between forgiveness for past sins and tolerance for future sins. Where there is a risk of future sin, potential victims have the right to walk away and protect themselves.

Then there is the question of past sins. Some souls believe that healing of past sins means that the victim and perpetrator are both fully reconciled and fully healed. This can happen but it is the ideal outcome and thus not available to most souls.

It is like fighting lovers of violence. If you say that peace can happen only after the last blow or bomb has been issued, then peace will never happen because the aggressive just have to do one more move.

You then have to deal with the victims' past injuries. If this healing is dependent on the perpetrator's remorse, then the cruel can deprive victims of rest for eternity. Thus forgiveness for past actions is something that comes from the victim, irregardless of the perpetrators remorse or lack thereof.

In the darkest times, it has been the knowledge that I could laugh at a joke or enjoy a cloud formation that has given me the greatest joy. I could be content, even though souls took away all my money, abused my body, slandered my character or insulted my appearance; but I could still be genuinely content. There was a triumph in knowing that they could not take away that contentment, rejoiced doubly in knowing that I never had to stoop to their level of aggression or hypocrisy to be vindicated before God.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Saturday, 25 August 2007 at 1:09pm BST

Giles Fraser, in his article "The Bishops Really Need to Talk", is an unfortunate victim of what Anthony Weston, in his excellent "A Rulebook for Arguments", calls the fallacy of the false dilemma: "Reducing the options you consider to just two, often sharply opposed and unfair to the people the dilemma is posed against. For example, 'America: Love it or Leave it.'" (pp76-77).

In Giles's case, it is this: "those who refuse to turn up at the Lambeth Conference will be those who do not want peace. They want control."

The first statement may contain elements of truth, but there is of course a case for not crying "Peace, peace, where there is no peace," and the situation is in any case more complex than he allows.

His antithesis, however, that they "want control", is not only an even greater generalization, but actually undermines his thesis: that people who disagree should sit down and talk reasonably.

This is hardly likely to be achieved when the worst possible motives are attributed, as a starting point, to those with whom you anticipate that you might yet sit down! I hope Giles might revisit what he has written and think again.

Posted by: John Richardson on Saturday, 25 August 2007 at 4:44pm BST

Why should Nigerians conform, when everything in their theology and culture tells them that homosexuality (probably orientation, as well as practice) is deeply sinful and an abomination?
(Robin Gill, Church Times)

This is as disgraceful as it is muddled.
Does Robin Gill think that human rights, ethics and truth count for so little ? The days for this kind of anglican muddled thinking are surely over. What of those whose lives are wrecked or terminated in Nigeria ?

The 'family' concept is itself inapposite and unconvincing.

Peopel would be well advised to read and widely circulate

The Other Way
ed. Colin Coward

Forward by Rowan Williams

Posted by: L Roberts on Saturday, 25 August 2007 at 6:35pm BST

"His antithesis, however, that they "want control", is not only an even greater generalization, but actually undermines his thesis: that people who disagree should sit down and talk reasonably."

First of all, I don't think it's all that difficult to tell from their actions that they DO indeed want control. Actions speak louder than words. Second, what do you suggest people who disagree should do if not sit down and talk reasonably? Third, while both sioes may be guilty, it would seem that the charge of "(r)educing the options you consider to just two, often sharply opposed and unfair to the people the dilemma is posed against" is far more applicable to the conservatives in this mess, given the kind of sweeping generalizations about the faithlessness of their opponents, among numerous other such statements, that conservatives are wont to make.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 25 August 2007 at 8:29pm BST

Well now, I hate to point it out, but Ford Elms has committed another fallacy, sometimes known as the 'tu quoque' ('you also') argument: "it would seem that the charge of '(r)educing the options you consider to just two ...' is far more applicable to the conservatives in this mess".

The fallacy is the observation that since someone else does it, it is (more or less) Ok if we do it too. But if it is wrong when someone else does it, then of course it is wrong when we do it (and no less wrong because they are also doing it). There's a good little exegesis of it here:

Posted by: John Richardson on Saturday, 25 August 2007 at 10:26pm BST

Hi John

I think you've raised some interesting contemplations yet admit to liking Giles' article and contemplating the imagery and implications. reviews a publication by Stephen Law from the University of London, who suggests "...that what we are really seeing is a war between two ways of looking at the world. On the one hand are those who prefer a world that bows to Authority (with a capital A), where morality and rules are imposed on individuals by an (often divine) external authority. On the other side are those who remain faithful to the idea that individuals should be guided by their own internal consciences and be rather suspicious of all kinds of authority.

…Law convincingly argues that the values of liberalism — rationality, questioning, the secular, philosophical and scientific traditions — have nothing whatsoever to do with moral relativism (the idea that anything goes as long as it feels right to the individual). He argues this is an erroneous claim made by fundamentalists (the ultimate believers in Authority) to discredit liberals (small ‘l’, that is). The core value of liberalism is probably best expressed as the right of an individual to do what they like as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else."

Moving away from organizational politics to contemplate how souls think might help mend some bridges. For example, I tend to be integrative and chemical rather than compartmentalized or structured in my thinking. I am more of a ship than I am a house. (Although one of my nicknames is Chez, which means house in French, go figure!) I enjoy chemical or spiritual transformations more than planning which piece is to be moved. Thus I know that a drops of something added to a liquid will be absorbed by the contents over time. I accept that God can do new things and that souls can accept new paradigms, but I am not concerned where, when or how God's "ah ha" moment strikes any particular individual. affirms we are to inculcate ourselves with the word of God but it is not sufficient to created insulated havens, we are also called to “…serve as the seeds from which a new world, embracing the entirety of creation, will grow. Our mission in life is to create a world free of greed, jealousy and hate, a world suffused with the wisdom and goodness of its Creator."

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Sunday, 26 August 2007 at 12:33am BST

Stephen Plant looks at forgiveness as a something the victim does for the perpetrator. It requires remorse to be effective.
But that's only one side of the story. If victims can't forgive, how can they find peace in their own hearts?
Forgiveness without remorse is still in the victim's interest.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 26 August 2007 at 7:31am BST

Robin Gill's view of the Communion is similr to the Bishop of Southwark's 'spiritual commonwealth'. It means no more Covenant, no more centralising, retaining autonomy, retaining a pathwork of connections and having gatherings. Given the tension and differences, the intention to centralise is a disastrous policy that will only emphasise the differences. Better, when the machine is spinning, not to tighten the nuts making the breakage all the more violent. Keep it loose and free.

it is probaby too late, however.

Posted by: Pluralist on Sunday, 26 August 2007 at 2:01pm BST


Some are still in flight response to the change of the world order, they are still fleeing to the paradigms of military power and imposition of authority.

When things are well these models can work quite well, but sometimes the thinking brain is not the best thing to lead the body. Sometimes the primal flight response of you are about to be burnt to a cinder or experience violence and therefore it is appropriate to flee.

That can be a psychological or spiritual flight, where we recognise that the old way of doing things is simply going to continue manifesting the old way of seeing things. Namely ever worsening cycles of violence, accussations, greed and desecration.

In the Garden of Eden no animal dominated over another animal at the other animal's expense. That is why Cain's murdering of his own brother was so appalling.

What is really disgusting about some of these modern priests is that not only are they content to witness and approve of the deaths of the stranger or the neighbour, they condone the deaths and mistreatment of their own brothers and sisters, and are even more appalling in that they have colluded in an attempt to commit matricide.

Their mother was taken away to protect her from such transgressions and was only allowed to return once the technology existed where you could hear her small quiet voice without the cruel having the wherewithal to stone her physical manifestation before her mission was completed.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Sunday, 26 August 2007 at 11:50pm BST

"The fallacy is the observation that since someone else does it, it is (more or less) Ok if we do it too."

No, John, my purpose in making such statements is to point out the hypocrisy of accusing one's opponents of committing some great sin when one is at least as guilty one'sself. I have made this kind of statement repeatedly on this site, and it still fascinates me how consevos seem unable to recognize their own hypocrisy (I'm not claiming there ISN'T hypocrisy on the left, BTW) but instead take my statement as an attempt to justify a certain behaviour! This does not justify the behaviour, it is merely a suggestion that people who live in glass houses ought not throw stones.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 27 August 2007 at 1:50pm BST still think you make some great, powerful point when you point out that all sides are sinners / hypocrites etc. You know the saying about glass houses and stones is not from the bible, I am sure....

Some misquote "do not judge" to justify tolerating false teachers and sin......but if you read 1 Cor 5:12 and many other verses, the bible does not say "if you are perfect, you are qualified to make judgments" - does it? No, it talks about the necessity of making judgments in the church....yes, it is our duty to judge in certain circumstances, according to the bible......and the whole bible is littered with very strong judgments on false teachers and constand warnings to avoid them (not to make them bishops and stay in warm communion with them!)

So, everyone agrees with you, Ford- all sides are sinners but this does not mean we have no duty or right to deal with the current issues in the AC. It certainly does not make the issues disappear.

The presenting issue in the AC relates to TEC(USA) breaking certain agreed AC positions and a COLLECTIVE decision has to be made on whether their decision and behaviour is acceptable or really is no use to anyone pointing out that all are sinners because we all know this but the presenting issue has to be addressed (it is our duty, actually, if you read the bible) in order for the AC to gain any type of unity, order or health.

Posted by: NP on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 1:01pm BST

Can there be remorse without forgiveness ?

Posted by: L Roberts on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 4:24pm BST

"if you are perfect"

So you're perfect now? The Resurrection has been anticipated for you, as for the Virgin, and you, unlike the rest of Creation, are no longer groaning in travail awaiting the perfection that is to come, but have actually achieved theosis? Really? It takes orthodox(the real ones) monks years of asceticism to achieve this, and only a few ever do, yet you, in the middle of London in your workaday world, have been granted this gift! I am in awe.

As to the presenting issue, you really don't know what is going on, you just repeat the childishly simplistic myth fed to you. And it is so funny how you cannot see the ridiculousness of your constant use of Scripture to justify breaking a commandment direct from Jesus's mouth. Again, if that's what they teach at your place, I have to wonder what your bishop thinks.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 6:11pm BST

Oh, and NP, I know lots of people who deny their hypocrisy. Some of us acknowledge it in ourselves. None of us are ever fully aware of the extent of it. Most of us feel that it is a failing in us, I would think. You are the only person I have known who actually defends his right to be a hypocrite! Even funnier is the way you use Scripture to justify it.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 28 August 2007 at 6:36pm BST

I wonder, when these conservative evangelicals walk off, and assuming they have their own organisations, and there is a split, whether they will still busy their time talking about the tolerant in these ever rpessured negative tones. I hope they get on with whatever focus they have within their own walls. Meanwhile I'll take my cue from the prophet Jesus, judge not lest you be judged, rather than Paul trying to organise a Church who might have said this or that. Nor will I take my stance from bibliolatry.

Posted by: Pluralist on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 at 1:06am BST

Ford -you are sounding increasingly like the mad contributors round here! I expect serious points from you. I respect what you say even if we disagree.

I did not claim to be perfect....did I?
If you think I did, let me assure you that I am not and do not claim to be. I was making the point that 1 Cor 5:12 does not limit people who are perfect from making judgments in the church....addressing your repeated point that sinners are judging other sinners, showing you that St Paul taught that we sinners would have to make such judgments within the church.

AS to the presenting issue....well, maybe you are much cleverer than me, but I thought it was all about the challenge to the authority of scripture and Lambeth 1.10 from TEC in 2003 ........ maybe I am missing something but it seems to me (simple soul that I am) that Dromantine, TWR, Tanzania and the ABC going to see the TEC(USA) HOB in a few weeks time are all responses to TEC's 2003 actions. Conspiracy therories do not impress me unless you can explain how the dark right wing forces you see at work got TEC to take on Lambeth 1.10 in such an aggressive way, ignoring the pleas of all the Primates not to "tear the fabric of the Communion"..........the presenting issue was chosen by TEC in 2003 and it is does Lambeth 1.10 stand or not? TEC chose the issue......everyone else is responding to TEC's actions (which is why the liberal ABC has given us TWR and Tanzania....he is not able to back the aggressive pursuit of a single agenda at the cost of the unity of most of the AC)

Posted by: NP on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 at 4:43pm BST

Puritanical movements all lead to further and further splitting as one group's "orthodoxy" becomes insufficiently 'orthodox' for others. It'll start with the women. Then it'll be the turn of the Anglo-catholics. They might make common cause now, but when they've dealt with the fags and the uppity women, they'll get down to the real meat. I can't imagine someone who is opposed to the baptism of infants, for instance, being too tolerant of the conservative Anglo-catholics who have Benediction every Sunday after Evensong. I suspect they'll all end up like the mythical monk on Mount Athos whose Orthodoxy was so pure he was only in communion with twelve other people.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 29 August 2007 at 6:53pm BST

I agree Ford. Certainty over one matter of principle soon finds a disagreement over another matter of principle.

I think the only time a spliting off did not have this effect was with the Presbyterian Puritans in 1662 - when they had to assent and consent to the Book of Common Prayer, and so were forced to leave. The reason they did not split was because, despite the Puritanism, they kept a parish mentality, and secondly their belief in the Bible alone, without creeds, meant they were left without other defence, and being congregationalist in practice (due to repression) led to an impossibility of splitting!

I'm interested in comments from the United States about how Anglican Churches became "higher" in the Puritan areas of New England. That was a congregationalist equivalent of the English Presbyerians, and they too lost their Calvinism. Many were parish based. They did show resistance to liberalising due to demands for respectability, unlike going west. They too were biblical, and then of course a big change and growth was the impact of the biblical Joseph Priestley after he crossed the Atlantic.

One of the reasons I simply do not accept NP's bibliolatry is that it does not have the foundation he gives it, because it must be based on a whole set of interpreted rule books about how to create a rule book. When those rule books are not as he says, because of what can be called the broad Church (variations of churchship, plus all the impct of education and scholarship), the rule book he keeps quoting ends up simply no longer stating what he thinks it states.

Rules, guidelines, trends, movements, are matters that are understood, and part of an ongoing dialogue. There are multiple meanings and discernment.

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 30 August 2007 at 12:24am BST

Ford - you ignore my true and common-sense response to you but I would like to add this with regard to the "presenting issue" point - maybe we can take a lead from the Primates of the AC as to what are the presenting issues? Pls see what they wrote down and ALL agreed to....

Posted by: NP on Thursday, 30 August 2007 at 8:58am BST

Presenting issue seems to be your new buzz word. The thing is that your understanding of the "presenting issue" is a carefully crafted myth. No, all those statements you mention are not fictions. TEC may be gone after September, and maybe us with them. None of that changes the fact that this is most decidedly NOT about what you think it's about, never was, never will be. All it means is that certain people have been very effective in pushing their political agenda, largely because they have framed it so as to look like the Apocaplypse is upon us, and they have been well funded, justifying this funding by claiming persecution from TEC. It's all politics, NP. You have fallen for it, I suspect because of the glamour of martyrdom, however contrived and unlikely that might be. That's not a new phenomenon, NP, bishops were warning their flocks against that kind of vainglory in the catacombs. If it hadn't been the gays, it would have been something else. The Puritans we always have with us have been pushed to the edge, not solely by +VGR, but by everything in the Church that hasn't gone their way. They are frightened by what they think is a weakening of Biblical authority, which they believe was once absolute. They are incensed that some people aren't listening to them, since they speak with the voice of God, so to ignore them is to ignore God. This would have come anyway though, since the desire of the Puritans for outward purity over inward holiness and true living of the Gospel is strong, isn't it, NP?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 30 August 2007 at 1:50pm BST

ok Ford, so:

1) how did this "puritan" conspiracy get TEC to create this crisis with VGR?

2) are we in the AC supposed to accept VGR as a bishop? (thereby ignoring the interpretation of the bible common in most of the church today, found in Lambeth 1.10, reaffirmed in TWR)

Very clever "puritans" in your conspiracy theory, Ford! Maybe there is a mole in TEC, working for the "puritans"! Maybe it is VGR! Maybe he is an alcoholic being manipulated by the "puritans" to split the AC! should write the might be the new Dan Brown with this conspiracy theory!

Posted by: NP on Friday, 31 August 2007 at 10:38am BST
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