Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Demob happy

Stephen Bates has written an article with this title for New Humanist.

After seven years on the faith front lines, Guardian religious affairs correspondent Stephen Bates is glad to be back on civvy street.

Here’s a sample:

…The presenting issue, of course, for what has become a struggle for power and control not only of the Church of England but throughout the worldwide Anglican communion, is homosexuality and the church’s attitude towards gays. Outsiders may have accepted civil partnerships, but the established church is tearing itself apart on the issue with quite extraordinary bitterness and rancour. Only a week or so ago, a US blogger was remarking charitably that it wasn’t worth expending a bullet on the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, who is the first woman to lead a major Christian denomination. The blogger, incidentally, was herself a woman…

Read the whole article.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 8:26am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion
Comments

I don't believe Stephen has lost his faith, or he would have been inspired by no one at all. Rather, he has lost the desire to be in the political fray.

My prayers are with him and I believe he will, like Joseph, make the most of whatever circumstances he is placed and bring about whatever healing is possible in those circumstances.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 9:29am GMT

"O wad some Power the Giftie gie us,
Tae see oorsels as ithers see us ..."

Posted by: John Richardson on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 9:54am GMT

It is sad that Stephen Bates' personal faith has suffered, but not really surprising. I hope that, when he can stop looking at the church so closely as his job has recently required, he will find his faith restored. As Prof Marilyn McCord Adams of Oxford put it so memorably earlier this year: "...never make God guilty by association with the church..."!

We all owe Stephen a huge debt of gratitude for his reporting and writing. His diagnosis of a political movement was spot on, and has exposed, for an English audience, machinations that really needed to have light shone upon them. All the indications are that this exposure may yet limit the damage, because our decision-makers now know exactly what has been going on.

Posted by: badman on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 11:33am GMT

I hope and pray that Steven will find his faith again. Having seen through the charades and power plays religious people can play, he can safely cast them aside and focus on the deep truth behind all the posturing. Once you've done that your faith can be deeper and more real than before.

If you read this, Steven, good luck and thanks for all those wonderfully inspiring articles.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 12:58pm GMT

I will certainly miss Stephen's writing. He is one of the most knowledgable and perceptive journalists who writes about religious matters. He is far better informed and understanding of the inner workings of religious bodies than any journalist I can think of who writes for a secular paper or magazine. Above all, I'll miss his wit and insight. The regular writers on religiou for the Washington Post do a workmanlike job, but don't have the luxury of writing an essay column. I wish him all the best as he continues a distinguihsed career.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 1:02pm GMT

I shall also miss him. A lot. Who, out of curiosity, is the lady who would not waste a bullet on PB Jefferts Schori? Anyone know?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 2:30pm GMT

ah, so the non-blogger john richardson reveals his addiction to them yet again. of course, what he says doesn't make sense, but that's not news.

Posted by: poppy tupper on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 2:41pm GMT

In answer to Lapinbizarre's question - it was Frances Scott on "Stand Firm" - you can see the quote extracted and commented upon at http://www.tiny.cc/2v94H

Posted by: badman on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 3:16pm GMT

That's a bit hard on Prof John, Poppy. His comment makes perfect sense to the hordes of Scottish Episcopalians and Robert Burns fans who value this site!

The point is well made that Stephen Bates' insightful observations on the church often reveal us to ourselves as well as to others - and it's often not a pretty sight. Like other posters, I pray Stephen can see through his dislike of the beastly institution to the God beyond.

Posted by: David Bayne on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 3:18pm GMT

"It was time to go. What faith I had, I’ve lost, I am afraid – I’ve seen too much, too close."

C.S. Lewis's Wormwood comes to mind. A plethora of litmus tests in Anglicanism. Too bad the Evos have hijacked the Communion. Definitely, the love of Christ is not in them, no matter how many times they use Bible verses and slogans centering around "the faith once delivered to the saints."

Posted by: John Henry on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 3:27pm GMT

Stephen ; what an excellent article. As someone who now regards himself as essentially humanist, I share his sentiments.

The point he makes - that religion is essentially a political game and needs to be approached in that way - is absolutely the case.

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 3:32pm GMT

It is easy to lose faith when faith is tied up with church and religion, both manmade creations. Faith has little to do with either.

Posted by: pseudopiskie on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 4:29pm GMT

About an embarrassing bishop...

"but they are not his weirdest views. An earlier book he wrote on demonic possession shows he believes devils enter up the anus (something Freudian here perhaps) and the signs of possession include wearing black, inappropriate laughter, inexplicable knowledge, Scottish ancestry or relatives who have been miners."

I've noted these down, matched them to some people, and I've a few phone calls to make.

I don't hope Stephen Bates regains his faith - I just hope he leads a decent meaningful life.

Posted by: Pluralist on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 5:13pm GMT

Stephen Bates articles in the Guardian have been misinterpreted in the past and he has been a victim of selective quotations by others.
The same happened to Bishop Graham Dow, formerly a highly regarded Vicar in Coventry, in the Telegraph.
For those who could be interested in how he was quoted as saying things he did not say about the summer floods then try this link.
http://www.carlislediocese.org.uk/notices/viewnews/?subaction=showfull&id=1187084889&archive=&start_from=&ucat=10&

Posted by: Ken Sawyer on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 7:21pm GMT

`What faith I had, I’ve lost, I am afraid – I’ve seen too much, too close'

Who was it that said that Christ attracts but the church repels?

Anyway. Yeah, I'll be adding Stephen to my prayers too.

Posted by: Tim on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 7:34pm GMT

There are some priests who think if they “control” an organization that means they have God's mandate. Not always. The bible is harsh against priestly corruptions, more so than anyone else, because they taint God's name.

Souls might ask "But God let's them behave so badly, surely that means God has condoned their conduct?" God's answer is "No. That is called giving them enough rope to hang themselves."

They want to set snares and leave snares that entrap children for pedophiles; condone bishops orchestrating parishes to "quench" the fire in recalcitrant members; preach endorsement of violence, accusations or greed; use intimidation and threats to gain converts. Priests who hate wisdom, truth, peace and grace; preferring hate, deceit, violence and death.

Some of God's rebukes: Ezekiel 24 "Woe to the city of bloodshed" Nahum 3:1 "Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims!" Zephaniah 3:1 "Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled!" Jeremiah 23:1 “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” Ezekiel 34:2 "Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?" Zechariah 11:17 "Woe to the worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock!" Obadiah 1:10-18 e.g. "You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble." Ezekiel 13 e.g "Your prophets, O Israel, are like jackals among ruins. You have not gone up to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that it will stand firm... My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions... “‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace…”

Isaiah 30:1-3 “Woe to… those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin; who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge. But Pharaoh’s protection will be to your shame, Egypt’s shade will bring you disgrace."

Jeremiah 50:24 "I set a trap for you, O Babylon, and you were caught before you knew it; you were found and captured because you opposed the LORD."

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 7:43pm GMT

Thanks badman. I guessed the site correctly, also a couple of female regulars over there who I believed, correctly, would not have said that, but had no idea who the actual poster might have been.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 8:10pm GMT

Sad, isn't it? Decent, intelligent ethical people put off religion by the nutters currently trying to take control - they are just the people we should be attracting, drawing in. We clergy have to do better, and that obviously involves slapping down the nutters q good deal more firmly. They mustn't be allowed to appear to represent Christianity.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 8:46pm GMT

"signs of possession include wearing black, inappropriate laughter, inexplicable knowledge, Scottish ancestry or relatives who have been miners."

What's the standard colour of a clerical shirt if you're not a bishop? And particularly if you are a "conservative"?

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 9:55pm GMT

But you can see that "inappropriate laughter and inexplicable knowledge" might have them a bit flummoxed, Malcolm+

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 11:53pm GMT

I don't hope Stephen Bates regains his faith - I just hope he leads a decent meaningful life.

Posted by: Pluralist on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 5:13pm GMT

I'll second that.

Posted by: L Roberts on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 12:36am GMT

"wearing black, inappropriate laughter, inexplicable knowledge, Scottish ancestry or relatives who have been miners"

Let's see: I do wear black clerical shirts, I do have odd - maybe inexplicable - knowledge gleaned from reading murder mysteries, I do have Scots ancestors [clan Cameron] and, since I also have Welsh blood [Day family], then maybe miner ancesters. YIKES! Where are my demonic and supernatural powers?

How would he feel about one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple-people eaters?

Or itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka-dot bikinis?

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 2:37am GMT

Andrew Goddard's argument is not as vicious as some have managed - we expect and get better from him.

http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/page.cfm?ID=246

Nevertheless I think his reply to Giles Goddard's letter is as thin as it can get:

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2007/11/cultural-ricepaper.html

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 4:20am GMT

"I don't hope Stephen Bates regains his faith - I just hope he leads a decent meaningful life.

Posted by: Pluralist on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 5:13pm GMT

I'll second that."

Is the real thing not worth having?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 9:18am GMT

'...wondered whether we’re in danger of experiencing parallel universes...'
Andrew Goddard

"He's got it ! Good lord he's got it !"
(With apologies to My Fair Lady).

Yes the Evangelicals--rather like the rain in Spain-- stick to their lovely 'normal normative' plain. No risk of actually meeting gays on our own ground(s). We have have to live in yours all the time. And I think we do with a good grace, most of the time. Somehow. (This is open evangelicalism, right ? Yikes --what could the closed kind be like ?!)

You could day trip to us, you know Andrew !


Posted by: L Roberts on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 9:46am GMT

"They mustn't be allowed to appear to represent Christianity."

Fr. Mark,
When I was a boy, the Pentecostals called themselves "Christians" in a way that clearly didn't include us. This has extended to their coreligionists in other denominations. We have lost that battle. That word now means something ugly and hateful to most non-Christians. Can we call ourselves Followers of the Way? I wonder what those early Antiochian Christians would think.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 11:48am GMT

Erika wrote:
"I don't hope Stephen Bates regains his faith - I just hope he leads a decent meaningful life.

Posted by: Pluralist on Wednesday, 14 November 2007 at 5:13pm GMT

I'll second that."

Is the real thing not worth having?

I usually agree with Erika, but not this time. how about this?


Abu Ben Adam,may his tribe increase
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace
And saw, within the moonlight of his room
Making it rich, like a lily in bloom
An angel writing in a book of gold.
Exceeding peace had made Abu Ben Adam bold
And to the presence in his room he said
' What writest thou?'
The vision raised its head
And with a look of all sweet accord Answered:
'The names of those who love the Lord.
'And is mine one?' said Abu.
'Nay not so' Replied the Angel
Abu spoke more low
But cheerily still and said
'I pray thee then Write me as one that loves his fellow-men'
The angel wrote and vanished.
The next night it came again with awaking light
And showed the names of whom love of God had blessed.
And lo! Ben Adam's name led all the rest.

Posted by: poppy tupper on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 12:29pm GMT

But Poppy,
your beautiful poem describes the real thing.

Thank you for sharing it.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 3:07pm GMT

"Where are my demonic and supernatural powers?"

I hate to say this, but according to Stephen Bates's careful recording of this process - he states coming from one of the highest episcopal authorities, you now need to examine a certain part of your anatomy.

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 3:09pm GMT

That was my Dad's favourite poem.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 5:16pm GMT

Abu Ben Adam

Thanks for this poem, poppy tupper. I've been wanting this ! It was recited recently at a mmeting for worhsip, which renewed my interst in it and appreciation of it. I am glad to be able to ponder the words.

Posted by: L Roberts on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 6:46pm GMT

Ford Elms perhaps I was being unclear. I was not concurring with the view thatthe Bl. Sacrament is a superstition ! :-)

Posted by: L Roberts on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 6:49pm GMT


Followers of the Way

I know one Quaker who describes himself as an ardent follower of Jesus, but not a Christian. A lot to be said for it...

Any other suggestions ?

Posted by: L Roberts on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 6:54pm GMT

It's a pity he didn't stick around long enough to write a post-Lambeth third edition of A Church At War, though some will be quietly relieved I suspect.

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Thursday, 15 November 2007 at 10:34pm GMT

"who is the first woman to lead a major Christian denomination."

Tony Benn always told me his mum was the first woman to do this.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Friday, 16 November 2007 at 11:20pm GMT
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