Saturday, 23 March 2013


Nicola Hulks writes for She Loves magazine about When The Church Said No.

Kirk Smith writes for the Episcopal Café that Ancient manuscript will influence new archbishop.

Iain McLean writes for Politics in Spires about The utility function of Celestine V and the election of Pope Francis.

Christopher Howse writes for The Telegraph about St Francis as the Pope’s patron.

Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian that I bang my head against the wall when evangelicals turn Jesus into Cheesus.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 23 March 2013 at 11:00am GMT | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Opinion

Ouch. I'm a bit embarrassed for the Bishop of Arizona, believing that Christianity only came to the UK via Augustine. For the record, plenty of us Yanks do know about the presence of Celtic Christianity before Augustine...

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 23 March 2013 at 5:16pm GMT

Consider too the martyrs of Roman Britain, Saint Alban among them.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 23 March 2013 at 5:54pm GMT

As someone who holds a doctorate in English Church history, Bishop Smith is surely familiar with the Celtic Church. I don't think he meant to imply that it never existed!

Posted by: Old Father William on Saturday, 23 March 2013 at 6:10pm GMT

Professor McLean's paper is so thoughtful, scholarly and godly it both informed and touched me. The historical research, the theoretical basis (which I but dimly understood),the theology of Holy Spirit guidance; and hearing of Pope Celestine V's wisdom and holiness were deeply affecting, and increased (almost paradoxically) a sense of greater reverence for the holy see, as somehow, 'an instrument of Thy peace', or something.

Perhaps, I am letting myself be carried away. I don't know.

But to be lost in God would be everything.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Saturday, 23 March 2013 at 6:37pm GMT

Bishop Smith does not mention the UK which did not exist in Anglo Saxon times. He mentioned only England, as is historically correct. Augustine brought Christianity to the Anglo Saxon kingdoms which practised Germanic heathenism, not the Celtic nations which already had Christian churches

Posted by: sjh on Saturday, 23 March 2013 at 10:43pm GMT

OK, sjh. Cornwall wasn't Celtic or part of England? Just asking, because I saw a lot of Celtic crosses there...

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 24 March 2013 at 12:43am GMT

Giles Fraser's article remnds me of one of Robert Farrar Capon's books (read them!) where he compares us to someone who has driven off the road into a ditch during a blizzard. Jesus comes along in his enormous tow-truck, but, instead of towing us out of the ditch, he gets out of his truck, enters our car, embraces us, and dies with us in the cold. This is Jesus, not Cheesus.

Posted by: Old Father William on Sunday, 24 March 2013 at 2:49am GMT


Cornwall *isn't* (except in the most trivial sense) part of England even now.

Posted by: american piskie on Sunday, 24 March 2013 at 9:11am GMT

Cornwall is even today regarded as one of the Celtic nations, has its own Celtic language, now being revived, and was not originally part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in the sixth century. Wessex only went up to Devon.

Posted by: sjh on Sunday, 24 March 2013 at 9:36am GMT

Bishop Kirk Smith knows Saint Alban well - he has preached at St Albans Cathedral on several occasions. He is well aware that there was a Christian presence in England before Augustine - I think he's talking more about the "institutional" church.

Posted by: Stephen De Silva on Sunday, 24 March 2013 at 11:37am GMT

"Celtic Christianity" - like the "Celts" themselves - has a bigger presence in popular culture than it does in modern historical scholarship. As the medievalist Edward James has complained "the 'Celtic Church' [...] has often carried associations that are foreign to the historical reality. In the nineteenth century it could be imagined that the Irish, Welsh, and Pictish resistance to Christianity as it was taught by Rome was a heroic resistance to centralisation imposed from Rome, a proto-Protestant desire to live an apostolic life without interference from a self-styled head of the Church. [....] This is clearly an anachronistic way of looking at the past." James elaborates this at some length in his book "Britain in the First Millennium" (pp.164-170). Wendy Davies, in her essay 'The Myth of the Celtic Church,' affirms that "there was no such thing as the Celtic church: the idea is unhelpful, if not positively harmful" (The Early Church in Wales and the West, pp. 12-21).

Of course, that doesn't diminish the very real presence of Irish and "Scottish" Christians before the end of the sixth century, but it does problematise the idea that what they were doing, or thought they were doing, was somehow far removed from what St Augustine was attempting to achieve at Canterbury. It certainly suggests that we should be cautious about using "Celtic Christians" as a polemical weapon, or seeing them as ancestral Anglicans.

Posted by: rjb on Sunday, 24 March 2013 at 11:51am GMT

"Celtic Christianity" - What about St Aidan who came, at the invitation of King (St) Oswald to evangelise Northumbria - and under whose name (after his death) there were those who rallied at the Synod of Whitby to retain the "Celtic" method of dating Easter, in preference to the Roman method? - I am not an expert in these matters, but am just asking the question.

Posted by: davigoss on Sunday, 24 March 2013 at 3:33pm GMT

rjb - paid *anghofio Cymru / please don't *forget Wales !

* however fashionable.

Wales has been more successful in retaining the language than the other parts of the British Isles.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Sunday, 24 March 2013 at 3:52pm GMT

Up here in Norhumberland we are quite convinced that Celtic Christianity was a reality- and actually still is important today Those Norhern Saints like Aidan,Oswald, Cutherbert and Hilda are very much alive.

I invite you to go to Heavenfield where Oswald set up the cross , defeated the pagan king and re-established Christianity The little Church there is never ever locked and the atmosphere of prayer is very powerful.

Posted by: Jean Mayland on Sunday, 24 March 2013 at 5:30pm GMT

Old Father William - I dont see much hope in that Jesus you describe - that cannot actually deliver you from the pit - Jesus did deliver me from the pit, not die in the pit with me - I am certain he also shed tears for me that I should be in the far far country that had so many pits. In life, he often sends the tow-truck man to get you out.

The resurrection is the sign of Hope - death has been defeated; the work of the devil ultimately destroyed.

To extend your analogy, if Jesus got in the car and He died with me, we will both still stand together on the Great Day of the Lord in His glory.

Posted by: david on Monday, 25 March 2013 at 5:56pm GMT

Well said, Jean! And there's a character about Christianity in the North which is highly resistant still to anything being imposed from outside. David Jenkins articulated this so well ...

Posted by: Jonathan Jennings on Tuesday, 26 March 2013 at 5:36pm GMT

Good response to Giles Frasers piece at I see a fair few evangelicals and not many of them fit his description, so it's either a London thing, or a straw man.

Posted by: David Keen on Tuesday, 26 March 2013 at 6:09pm GMT

"...see a fair few evangelicals and not many of them fit his description, so it's either a London thing, or a straw man."

I was born and raised in Texas and lived for many years in the Midwest part of the USA. I spent much of my life in regions dominated by Evangelicals. I think Giles is spot on.

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 at 11:51am GMT

I think there is a regrettable tendency for some British evangelicals to go the same way as their American counterparts, but that is not really what evangelicalism is about in this country.

I don't know if people across the pond can get BBC iplayer but there was a very good radio program on Radio 4 only a couple of days ago: Beyond Belief - what is evangelical.

Within all forms of churchmanship, there are highly intelligent and mindnumbingly unintelligent expressions. To dismiss a whole sector as shallow is no more helpful than Richard Dawkins representing all religious people as stupidly believing in unicorns.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 at 1:16pm GMT
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.