Monday, 16 March 2009

Does the Future have a Church of England?

Updated Tuesday evening

The Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt, has expressed his opinions on this subject in a lecture, given recently at St Paul’s School of Theology in St Helier, Jersey.
(The Channel Islands are annexed to the Diocese of Winchester.)

You can read the full text of his lecture on the diocesan website, at Bishop Michael on the Future of the Church of England.

Here’s a teaser:

…I am now going to examine some of the specific questions, challenges, realities in the life of the Church of England today which, I think, may be causing people to ask the question that is the title of this Lecture – or at least to think that such a title is worth offering to me, and I to think it worth accepting! I could have arranged them in more than one order; the order that I have chosen is only sometimes that of the importance that I see them having, the level of threat that I see them posing!

Secularisation of politics and public life
Women and the Episcopate
Same-sex sexual behaviour,
Decline from orthodox teaching
Division of the Anglican Communion
Ecumenical developments
Financial Pressures
Absorption in, distraction by, these!

Tuesday update

Andrew Brown has commented on this lecture at Cif Belief in Secularism threatens British Christianity, says bishop.

… I remember debating this last question with him from one of the twin pulpits of St Mary le Bow, and how impressed I was by his utter imperviousness to arguments from educated secular opinion.

Now he has published a talk he gave recently on the threats to the continuation of the Church of England, and it’s clear that he thinks that educated secular opinion is one of the main hostile forces facing his church…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 16 March 2009 at 1:38pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

An interesting paper, certainly. If it convinces me of anything, it is that Winchester misunderstands, not so much the polity of the Episcopal Church, but the culture in which it ministers. That culture he clearly does not understand, and just as clearly fears.

I have heard the comments of the importance of the Church of England, and of its Establishment, for freedom of religious expression, including of religious minorities, in the UK. I wonder whether those in those religious minorities are quite so sanguine.

I find that, at the end, I agree with Winchester, if with differences in detail: there is indeed a future for the Church of England; but the coming future, and the road to reaching it, will be quite uncomfortable, not least for him.

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Monday, 16 March 2009 at 5:56pm GMT

"Same-sex sexual behaviour"

Ah, yes: the obsession continues.

Lord have mercy!

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 16 March 2009 at 6:39pm GMT

He forgot to mention the dreadfully low quality of the bishops when he made his list.

Posted by: toby forward on Monday, 16 March 2009 at 7:16pm GMT

Decent lecture from unexpected source. At the very least, although conservative ('reactionary', etc.), he doesn't have this unseemly yearning for approbation form the present pontiff.

Posted by: john on Monday, 16 March 2009 at 7:16pm GMT

Esgob fawr !

Same sex sex is as bad as --wait for it --- divided opinion, woman bishops, ecumenism and our cousin venerable religion Islam !

It's not all bad then !

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Monday, 16 March 2009 at 8:45pm GMT

But surely Winchester will be up for retirement soon, so it isn't only the future of the C of E that is at stake, perhaps !

Establishment effectively restrains the more conservative to nutty elements within the national church who would otherwise have been espousing the ill-fated 'convenant' and the condemnation of lesbian & gay relationships, insstead of which the Church Pensions Board caters for the civil partners of the church's ministers. (cf Pensions Board and Board of Finance literature).

If nothing else.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Monday, 16 March 2009 at 8:51pm GMT

He really does have to recognise that what has changed - whether he likes it or not - is that gay relationships have become legally acceptable , and are becoming much more socially mainstream. In this scenario the Church Established will have to learn to live with this reality.

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 at 12:50am GMT

Let's not forget that for all Scott-Joynt's talk of traditional sexual morality, he is an outspoken advocate for remarriage after divorce (

In other words, this fierce defender of morals is a prominent apologist for adultery.

Posted by: JPM on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 at 3:30am GMT

"I have noted how this prevailing 'non-faith' is among the 'drivers' of moves towards the disestablishment of the Church of England, because of the position and opportunities that we still hold in this society. It is also, of course, a cause of the saturation of our culture with sexual imagery and language, with the assumption that accompanies it that any kind of sexual behaviour, that is adult, consensual and not abusive, is owed approval, support and defence." The Bishop of Winchester -

Bishop Scott-Joynt, whose overal lecture seems to be consonant with his affinity, generally, to the Global South agenda of homophobia, speaks here of 'non-faith' elements in the surrounding culture - driven by a 'saturation with sexual imagery and language' - that he sees as 'a driver of moves towards the diestablishment of the Church of England'.

He makes no attempt to acknowledge that the main advocates of the acceptance of an inclusive Church attitude towards the LGBT community is coming from members of the Church itself. This is no beseiging of the Church by outsiders wanting to scuttle the Church. Rather, the disputes on sexuality ansd gender have become a matter of trying to bring justice to those GLBT members of the Church who happen to have been born with characteristics of sexual preference that has previously been subject to the anathema of the Church because of out-dated and questionable exegesis of certain Biblical passages.

"The position and opportunities (?)that we still hold in this society" referred to by His Lordship are subject to a defensible critique - from those of us Church members who believe that scientific evidence and social observation have provided the Church with sufficient reason to question its moratorium on same-sex relationships . Archbishop Akinola, in his support for legislation against the LGBT community in Nigeria (and whom Michael Scott-Joynt approves of in his lecture) serves as a signal to the Anglican Communion of prejudice based on out-dated social theory that could well be a factor in the demise of our Church in modern society. Love has been seen by modern exegetes to have superceded the burden of Law in the O.T.

The exclusiveness of Bishops Scott-Joynt and Nazir Ali, in their insistence on ritual purity in the Church reminds one of the story of the Pharisee and the Publican; where Jesus pronounced his verdict: "Who went away justified, the righteous person, or the one who knew his need of God?" There are far more problems in the world that are in need of religious intervention than the current climate of blame accorded the LGBT or the O.of W. constituency. It may be that on one or other of these areas, the refusal of the Church to prioritise its engagement with them (poverty, HIV-Aids, Terrorism, racism, power struggles) - that spoil the life of many people in the world - that may bring about the downfall of the Church, not sexuality or gender issues.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 at 10:04am GMT

I re-read it. Perhaps my initial reaction was superficial. And I certainly don't agree with the singling-out of same-sex etc, or the 'heroes' praised. Nevertheless, all told, I don't think it is such a bad effort. Surely, we should all be trying to build on what is shared and positive rather than constantly highlighting the negative? My own primary concern is the absolutely pathetic numbers attending our church - and many churches I know about. What we all need is to put in a bit more honest effort.

Posted by: john on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 at 8:34pm GMT

'What we all need is to put in a bit more honest effort.'

Would it were that simple.

I think times are changing, there's a shift in paradigm underway.

The Churches seem to be very very gradually dying out. Maybe Chrisitianity has had it too. And maybe the planet as we have known it. The dodo poor creature was unable to adapt, as cataclimic change befell it and time ran out.

We can still aim to be sueful oops that should be useful(!) and happy in the meantime though (istm).

I like the idea of sueful hwatever it may be...

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 at 9:51pm GMT

JPM: In other words, this fierce defender of morals is a prominent apologist for adultery.

Absolutely and let everyone go to the Fort Worth (seceders Iker ) website and see their article on the decline of TEC....not a mention of divorce, alongside women priests and homosexuality....


Because many of those in the "moral diocese" are re-married divorcees!

Motes and beams!

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 7:41am GMT

Just two points from Robert Ian Williams' last contribution.
First, I'm glad to see that despite his journey across the Tiber he still uses a Church of England Bible that talks of 'motes and beams'.
Second, that he should remember that the Roman Catholic Church runs divorce mills under the guise of tribunals which declare perfectly genuine marriages never to have happened. Annulment is a convenient fiction.

Posted by: toby forward on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 8:25am GMT

Since the Church has warmly embraced the present Prime Minister's wish to walk away from all involvement in hierarchical patronage it will have to suffer the consequences. How can we expect to be Eastablished whilst wanting freedom from Government involvement at that level? By letting this major constitutional change slip through, we have lost any hope of a hearing for 'reasons' why any of our bishops should be 'ex officio' members of the House of Lords.

Whatever one thinks of these things, surely no-one seriously believes that we should be allowed to have our cake and eat it.

Posted by: Lister Tonge on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 8:37am GMT

I like Andrew Brown's comment that the Bishop thinks that "educated secular opinion is one of the main hostile forces facing his church".

In other words - don't think, just do as you're told!

(And L Roberts - why did you call him 'esgob fawr', a 'great bishop'?)

Posted by: Richard on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 10:42am GMT

"By letting this major constitutional change slip through, we have lost any hope of a hearing for 'reasons' why any of our bishops should be 'ex officio' members of the House of Lords"

Sorry, but seen from this side of the Atlantic, this is kind of amusing. Why are there any reasons for bishops sitting in the House of Lords? No other part of the Commonwealth has bishops in its Upper House, and we seem to do fine. I think it would be a very good thing indeed to get the bishops out of government. The Anglican Church really needs to jettison, and repent of, its past Erastianism.

And, toby forward, I have used the phrase "motes and beams" several times lately in pointing out thAT RIW, having left the Church of England by God and Law Established for the more legally clear and thus comforting embrace of Rome, makes himself look bad when he points out the hypocrisy of Anglisanism while ignoring the, to me, far more blatant and embarrassing hypocrisy of Rome. I suspect that's where he got the term. I don't know if his now cast off brand of Evangelicalism was the "if it ain't King James, it ain't Bible" flavour, but I suspect it wasn't, in which case he may never have encountered the phrase in the original. but then, I don't know his age either.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 1:57pm GMT

I do, however, know how to spell and punctuate better than would be assumed from the last post.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 4:59pm GMT

The bishop's ignorance of 19th century ecclesiastical history is showing. The quote which he attributes to Bishop Blomfield of London viz.
"The Church of England as it now stands no human power can save."
comes in fact from Thomas Arnold, Headmaster of Rugby.

Perhaps there should be a Bad History page along the lines of

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 7:14pm GMT

My Decoding of Scott Joynt, channeling (among others) Carey, Akinola, Nazir-Ali, and ???:

1.Following Jesus of Nazareth simply is Christendom, period. One is the other. (Tell that to the early church?)

2.Secular best practices (inquiry, hypothesis testing) are innately toxic to Christendom. (Having lunch with Dawkins, any time soon, dear bishop? I think you two will get along famously, mutually dedicated to arm wrestling for the Great Prize of sole intellectual domination and control)

3.So far as global cultural variations go: There can be only One. Thus, do we not already know who the towering, dominating cultural One is? No doubt that One may be as generous as ..., towards its necessary cultural inferiors; but One must at times take firm grip on the reins, and we surmise plainly, police-punish as need be to demonstrate its Singular, Towering, Dominant cultural status as the Great One. (Is this why Islamic fundamentalist drives to dominance and control flow effortlessly off Scott Joynt like heavy rain off a duck?)

4.Christianity has traditionally been sex-negative, will always be sex-negative: so, sex policing-punishment is a handy marker of where we stand as believers. If you cannot police and punish people in sex, where can you police or punish them? (No, really, I am quite relaxed: Straights now get divorce and remarriage no matter what because God really, really loves them as modern straight citizens; queer folks get the same old nutter nothing we believers have always deigned to give them, out of the goodness of our hearts, swelled with God's lovely love for sinners and outsiders. Quite Cary-ite, then.)

5.Women (bless their hearts? What do they want? Tsk, tsk, tsk) - we can't live wittem, we can't live wittoutem. No sense rushing to indulge the little ladies while we bum out Anglocath and evangelical men in high, moneyed places, now is there?

6.No global Anglican big tent can long stand, aside from its male leaders having regular, effective access to state force, money, and a manner of conformity innately inimical to big tents spanning believer differences. Police and punishment will save us now, just as they saved us in the past, thanks be to God. Bravo, rush ahead with the new fangled Anglican Covenant, and rescue us all please, from those horrid bonds of global consultation and affection across our differences

Thus said the Lord.

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 7:52pm GMT

""The Church of England as it now stands no human power can save." (Bp. Blomfield? - cc Winchester)
comes in fact from Thomas Arnold, Headmaster of Rugby. - Simon -

Just one more case Simon of 'The wrong School of Theology'?

Perhaps Doctor Arnold was speaking in that very context - of the Old School Tie being no longer relevant to Anglican Church philosophy regarding preferential 'preferment'. - Just a thought!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 10:51pm GMT

drdanfee: great post, you've summed him up perfectly.

Fr Ron Smith: Yes, and they don't come much more Old School Tie than My Lord of Winchester - double-barrelled Old Wykehamist that he is.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 19 March 2009 at 7:45am GMT

(And L Roberts - why did you call him 'esgob fawr', a 'great bishop'?)

Posted by: Richard on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 10:42am GMT

Sorry all I meant really wsa the expletive 'Esgob!' and got carried away ( as in "esgob-with-knobs on")

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Thursday, 19 March 2009 at 4:48pm GMT

'What we all need is to put in a bit more honest effort.'

Would it were that simple.

I'm not claiming it's simple, merely suggesting that from one perspective 'we have more in common' etc. (I'm perfectly well aware that from another liberals have more in common with secularists). If we agree, as presumably we do, that going to church is on balance (allowing for all the horrible churches, etc) a good thing, then presumably also we should all be trying to promote this. As far as I can see, on almost all sides, 'honest effort' is in short supply.

Posted by: john on Thursday, 19 March 2009 at 7:39pm GMT

oh I'm not so sure john.

I find that the C of E is very poor at recognizing, let alone supporting, or celebrating 'the honest effort' of its members.

Very poor

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Sunday, 22 March 2009 at 5:52am GMT
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