Tuesday, 29 September 2009

thinking about establishment

Alan Wilson has a post today about Church Establishment and Freedom, which considers the situation in Denmark.

It’s interesting to see Denmark extolled by a thoughtful commentator as the freest country in Europe, most open to humane debate, with the world’s most atheist-friendly culture. Many believe you can’t pass go in becoming a free society until you have separated church and state. So how do they handle religion in Denmark?

The Oxford Centre for Ecclesiology and Practical Theology in conjunction with Affirming Catholicism and the Theology Faculty of Oxford University is holding a day conference on The Established Church: Past, Present, Future.

A Day Conference at St John’s College, Oxford 24th October 2009

Day Chair: Canon Prof Sarah Foot (Christ Church, Oxford)

  • Session 1: Theology and Establishment Canon Prof Nigel Biggar (Christ Church, Oxford): ‘Why the Establishment of the Church of England is Good for a Liberal Society
  • Session 2: Case Studies Dr Matthew Grimley (Merton College, Oxford): ‘The dog that didn’t bark: the Prayer Book Crisis and the failure of disestablishment’
    Rev’d Dr Mark Chapman (Ripon College, Cuddesdon): ‘“A Free Church in a Free State”: Anglo-catholicism and Establishment’
  • Session 3: Contemporary Issues Canon Dr Judith Maltby (Corpus Christi College, Oxford): ‘Gender and Establishment’
    Prof Elaine Graham (University of Manchester): ‘Establishment, multiculturalism and social cohesion’
  • Session 4: Comment and Roundtable Comment: Revd Prof David Martin (Emeritus Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics)
    Roundtable responses, opening to a Q&A/Discussion session.

Full details and the application form are available here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 at 11:18am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

Alan Wilson seems to have rather a narrow view of Christianity in America. Yes, we do have Phred Phelps and other crazies, but we also have robust and intellectually challenging leadership and theologians in the mainstream denominations of both Christianity and Judaism [I don't know enough about American Muslims to comment - I'm sure they do also - note to self, do some research].

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 at 2:20pm BST

Two points that come to my mind when reading Bp Alan's interesting post are:

First, while Sunday attendance is very low here in Denmark (as also in Sweden and among the indigenous community in England), there is in Denmark a very much higher sense of broad attachment to the Church from the wider community than in the UK. This is seen in the very high proportion of children baptised and confirmed, and in the very high levels of Christmas, wedding and funeral attendance. This strong residual attachment to the Church means that the people running it are much less social weirdos than their equivalents in England, and small extreme groups (they do have one or two homophobic hard Conservative Evangelicals in Jutland - there's a Con Evo priest, Jesper Langballe, sitting in Parliament for the Dansk Folkeparti, the equivalent of the BNP, and he mouths off hatred of both gays and immigrants in equal measure) are laughed at as the nut-jobs they are by sane majority. In other words, there is a proper sense of the Church's rootedness in the whole society and of duty towards the whole of society. That's why the gay issue hasn't been a big deal for the Church of Denmark: if a certain number of Danes are in same-sex partnerships, then of course the Church is seen as rightly there for them as much as any other Danes. This logic has, clearly, yet to be applied in the C of E.

The second salient point is that bishops are seen quite differently here. They are elected by the people, and they come clearly under the Minister of Religion. Therefore they do not see themselves as big beasts in the manner of C of E bishops, and as such are without the disastrous pyschological and people management problems so common on the English bench. Bishops in Denmark are much more the servants of the community (and are indeed civil servants) than its lords and masters manqués, as some in England appear to be. It seems a much healthier model altogether, as far as I can see.

The downside of the Danish Church, however, has to be its turgid approach to liturgy!

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 at 7:49pm BST

One point in all this talk of the benefits and downside of Establishment of the C.of E. is:
"How will the fact of current Establishment affect the proposal to recruit the Church of England into a Communion Covenant relationship, which could require the C.of E. to 'toe-the-line' on edicts issued by the joint Primates of the Communion?"

For instance, unless the new Covenant agrees to accept the Archbishop of Canterbury as truly the "Primus Inter Pares" with special powers of discipline and doctrinal enforcement on the rest of the Communion Partners; this might mean that the legal Establishment of the Church of England could have to defer to other (perhaps foreign Primates, like Nigeria) in matters of discipline and doctrinal compliance. Would this suit the Queen as Head of the C.of E. and her Government, I wonder?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 at 11:46pm BST

"This strong residual attachment to the Church means that the people running it are much less social weirdos than their equivalents in England, and...are laughed at as the nut-jobs they are by the sane majority."

Pretty good characterization of how Kierkegaard was regarded.

Posted by: rick allen on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 at 12:19am BST

"Pretty good characterization of how Kierkegaard was regarded."

But an even better characterization of how most nut-jobs are regarded.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 at 7:53am BST

Rick: Generalising from how Kierkegård was regarded in his lifetime in Denmark would be like doing so from how Newman was seen in his lifetime in England!

Gruntvig perhaps set the tone in the Danish Church more than Kierkegård?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 at 8:27am BST

"we do have Phred Phelps and other crazies, but we also have robust and intellectually challenging leadership"

Can I suggest that this "robust, challenging leadership" has done next to nothing to inform the American people or the wider world of its presence, particularly those leadewrs who are Episcopalian? The only Anglicans who have made themselves even marginally known outside religious circles are those who are perpetuating the idea that Christians and their God hate gay people. The average American knows very well who Jerry Falwell is. I doubt many of them could name an Episcopal bishop outside of Gene Robinson and perhaps Iker or Duncan, and even the last two are a stretch. And for most Westerners, Christianity is a understood as some sort of crude fundamentalism. Sorry, but the "robust, challenging leadership" is not even on most people's radar. Perhaps they need to realize that talking high academia and walking in the ocasional, and very selective, labour protest during General Convention when the cameras are running is not likely to be seen as sincere.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 at 1:37pm BST

"The average American knows very well who Jerry Falwell is. .... Sorry, but the "robust, challenging leadership" is not even on most people's radar."

I hope the average American knows also that Falwell is dead, and has been for several years.

People like Falwell and the Purpose Driven Life guy and, to a lesser extent these days, Pat Robertson, have been excellent and persistant self-promoters to the press, and have indeed a high name recognition among Americans. I wish it were otherwise.

That said, I think the writer who made reference to Phelps might have been better informed than the average American.
C

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 at 7:06pm BST

Going back to the theme of this post - the Establishment status of the Church of England; it has still not been clarified how, and when this might affect the institution of an Anglican Covenant, which might seek to discipline various members - including the Church of England? What if, for instance, the Province of Nigeria (which has already distanced itself from Canterbury in its official constitution) should want to stop the C.of E. from using the Indaba process in its internal theological discussions?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 at 10:44pm BST

Disestablishment is forever ending. For all generations. The Anglican Covenant is a flimsy sheet of notebook paper written in pencil.

Posted by: Josh L. on Thursday, 1 October 2009 at 6:27am BST

Fr Mark
Spelling is Kierkegaard - see his grave.
http://www.copenhagenpictures.dk/assistens-kirkegaard-soeren-kierkegaard.html

Posted by: Fr Paul on Thursday, 1 October 2009 at 8:55am BST

Father Ron asks how the Establishment (sic) status of the Church of England might affect an Anglican covenant.

I may be wrong, but I'm sure I remember that at a meeting of the General Synod (can't remember which one) a legal officer advised that for as long as the Church of England remained the established church in this country, it would not be legal for it to subscribe and, by inference, to submit, to any agreement which would permit any external control or direction be it theological, doctrinal, administrative or anything else.

If that's true, long live establishment!

Posted by: RPNewark on Thursday, 1 October 2009 at 9:58am BST

Fr Paul: Jeg tale lidt Dansk, tak!

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 1 October 2009 at 7:52pm BST

"Fr Paul: Jeg tale lidt Dansk, tak!" - Fr. Mark

Dear Fr. Mark, could we have this translated into the language 'understanded of the people' please. We had a big enough struggle with Rome to get the translation of the Latin Liturgy into 'the local lingo. Clarity makes for a much better under-standing of what is actually going on.

"Though I speak with the tongues of angels..."

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 1 October 2009 at 11:10pm BST

Fr Ron, I'm sure Fr Paul will translate it for you, as it's evidently his area of expertise...

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 2 October 2009 at 7:45am BST

Fr Ron can find out what it means from here:
http://translate.google.co.uk/translate_t?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&text=Jeg+tale+lidt+Dansk%2C+tak%21&sl=da&tl=en#

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 2 October 2009 at 8:15am BST

"I speak a little Danish, thanks"

Posted by: Fr Igginhell on Friday, 2 October 2009 at 8:16am BST

Thank you, Simon. The translation was most enlightening. And it does give us a much clearer picture of the prodigious extent of Fr. Mark's mastery of the Danish language - a big help.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 2 October 2009 at 10:08am BST

Fr Ron.... the minimal extent, I think you mean!

P.S. but the weird extra Scandiwegian letters are so much fun, don't you think? One's just bursting to use them all the time.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Friday, 2 October 2009 at 1:52pm BST

Fr. Mark, as a Cockney friend of mine often says: "If yer carn' av a laff, wos it all abahrt?
Now, translate that, if you can.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 4 October 2009 at 11:15am BST

Fr Ron: "If yer carn' av a laff, wos it all abahrt?"

"Si no se puede reir, ¿para qué sirve la vida?"

I never could appreciate Kierkegaard/Kierkegård. "It's impossible to say anything about faith - and to prove it, I'm going to write umpteen books about faith."

Posted by: BillyD on Monday, 5 October 2009 at 1:36pm BST

"England is going nowhere spiritually. The nation has lost its way. Its inhabitants are stirring out their lives with coffee spoons; they are dying for lack of spiritual bread and they are sending themselves to hell. In the end, the church will be held accountable for its failure and lack of nerve, bearing in mind St. Peter's words, "judgment begins first with the household of God".
- David Virtue (V.o.L.) on England's Future -

This quasi-Baptist/Anglican defender of "Orthodox Anglicanism in the USA and World-Wide", has recently enjoyed a 'sojourn' in England, where he has observed the spiritual trials of evangelical churches there. His ill-judged commentary of the state of religious activity in Britain serves to cover his obvious panic over the anti-ACNA legal judgements in his own adopted country - the USA.

While Mr Virtue is investigating the temperature of British churchmanship, he is acknowledging at the same time, on his private V.o.L. site in the USA, the failure of his own protestant colleagues to alienate the property and identity of TEC as the true Anglican Church in North America. His vitriol against TEC's Presiding Bishop and the loyal bishops, clergy and people of TEC will not cease with the present losses in the Courts, but they will perhaps become less strident as Mr Virtue suffers a lack of credibility with those who have hitherto supported his sad campaign of Vitriol-on-Line.

Concerning his biblical quotation about judgement beginning first with the household of God, his prophecy seems to have become factual in the recent judgements against the devotees of ACNA in the USA. Schism is not the way to go, David!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 10:01am BST

"quasi-Baptist/Anglican"

This is the point. The man comes from a tradition within Christianity for which the term "Spiritual Warfare" refers not to the doing of good, but in fortifying themselves for the very concrete fight that is to come against the very real, very armed, forces of evil. The sense of impending attack is at the core of their world view. They're kind of like a religious version of North Korea. Left Behind is not, for them, poorly written science fiction, but a prediction of God is going to do, and of their role in it. These are people for whom having large families (the program is called Quiverfull) is a Christian duty to raise up good Christian soldiers for this righteous fight. This isn't a slur, it isn't fringe, this is a widespread worldview in fundamentalist/Evangelical circles. You can see it also in some strains of Evangelical Anglicanism. It's all very romantic. But it's also all very toxic and not at all consistent with the Gospel as we would traditionally understand it. I say traditionally because, with the rise of the influence of Evangelicalism in the Anglican Communion, I am very much afraid it will become our worldview as well. It seems to have already had a very good start.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 9 October 2009 at 5:51pm BST
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