Saturday, 19 April 2014

opinion

Andrew Brown profiles Justin Welby: the hard-nosed realist holding together the Church of England for The Guardian.

Giles Fraser writes for the Mail Online: Bless you, Dave, for ‘doing God’. But there’s more to faith than your do-gooding religion-lite: A combative Easter message from the former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s.
Tim Stanley responds in The Telegraph with Sorry, Rev, but Christianity isn’t just about being nice to people.

David Cameron writes for the Church Times about My faith in the Church of England.

Some Easter Messages:
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
Dean Jeffrey John
Archbishop of Wales
Archbishop of Dublin
Archbishop of Sydney
Archbishop of Melbourne
GAFCON

N T Wright writes for ABC Religion and Ethics: Only Love Believes: The Resurrection of Jesus and the Constraints of History.

Jonathan Clatworthy blogs for Modern Church about Resurrection and kingdom.

Holly Baxter writes for The Guardian about The importance of Easter to this atheist.

Also in The Guardian Giles Fraser writes about The one day when Christians and atheists sing from the same hymn sheet.

A N Wilson writes for The Telegraph about Good Friday: the day we forget to remember.

John Dickson has Top 10 tips for atheists this Easter.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 19 April 2014 at 11:00am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion
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I posted my own comment on the Guardian article by Andrew Brown. Basically re-iterating the points I've made here.

Justin says bishops can't tell priests how to behave. Yet the episcopal letter does just that.

The other interesting aspect of Andrew Brown's sort of hagiography was his account of Justin's faith journey - where he's come from. My hope is that his journey isn't over, and that he will continue to grow, and open up his faith.

I know some of his background stages so well. Like him, I was an ardent and rather intense evangelical Christian of the HTB type. I used to go on the posh summer house parties like he did. It was a sort of upper middle class / upper class network of Christian friends with a real belief that we could be part of a church renewal, involving charismatic gifts and biblical authority. It was a sincere and moving time.

But life experience challenges one to face up to tensions between actual life today, and the dogma of an inerrant (almost literal) bible, set in the first century and an entirely different culture.

What I can't discern is whether (and to what extent) Justin has offloaded the totem of the inerrant bible, and the conservative moral principles that we used to deduce from this approach.

The article says he is a hard-nosed realist. If he is going to be realistic, he needs to rescind the episcopal letter, and make sure the facilitated discussions are truly not pre-empted. He needs to re-boot the episcopal role so that the bishops act as supporters and facilitators for a diverse set of consciences, and various local church approaches to LGBT, in a very Anglican 'unity in diversity'.

Because asserting a Covenant-style uniformity, where there is no uniform conscience whatsoever, is a denial and an escape from reality. It simply isn't going to work.

I believe he is a person of good intent. I wish him well. And I also send everyone here at Thinking Anglicans Easter Greetings as we wait, in this inbetween, between Good Friday and the joyful resurrection.

As we await a new springtime, too, in the life of our precious Church.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 19 April 2014 at 11:45am BST

Beautiful piece by Jeffrey John. In a class of his own in the current crop.

Posted by: John on Saturday, 19 April 2014 at 2:58pm BST

Andrew Brown tells us that "there is no longer any pretence that [the Anglican Communion] is a coherent body with discipline and doctrines of its own."

But in Canada recently the Archbishop of Canterbury said that the Anglican Communion is a "global church."

So either he himself has not abandoned the pretence, or he finds the "global church" rhetoric useful.

Either way, he should stop saying this.

Among other reasons, the notion that the Anglican Communion is a "global church" generates expectations that cannot be fulfilled.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 19 April 2014 at 3:57pm BST

Did Jesus really delay his coming to Lazarus so he could show his power over death (Archbishop of Sydney's message)? That strikes me as a very odd interpretation. I don't believe that the miracles, what ever they were, were done as mere display. Is there a rather better explanation?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 19 April 2014 at 5:41pm BST

Regarding John Dickson's 10 tips for atheists, I have a tip of my own for Mr. Dickson:
Stop using simplistic pap like the self-serving #9!
As a Jew (with ties to the Episcopal Church (USA)), I have come regard with distaste the argument of too many Christians that "The God of the Old Testament is a God of judgment and punishment,while the God of the New Testament is a God of love."
Does it ever occur to people like Mr. Dickson that the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament) is more than just Leviticus or Numbers or Joshua? That people's conception of God evolves if one studies the books of the Jewish Scriptures in chronological order? (One religious author makes the startling claim that it is God who evolves.)
Take a look at the story of Jonah: After much delay, Jonah finally delivers God's message to Ninevah. Lo and behold, the people of Ninevah reform, and God spares them. Jonah is mightily upset, but God rebukes him.
There are other examples as well.
The Jewish Scriptures, like the Christian Scriptures (New Testament), is a series of books written by different people at different times. It is a vast simplification to say that "The Old Testament God is one of judgment".
And, if we look at the period around Jesus of Nazareth’s life and death, I bet we can find examples of Jewish scholars and philosophers teaching that “God is love”.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Saturday, 19 April 2014 at 7:15pm BST

Re the Tim Stanley piece: oh brother. If he's TRYING to turn me into an atheist, he should keep it up.

[No, it is NOT a "fact that Jesus was the son of God who lived, died and rose again": that is an article of FAITH. If Stanley can't tell the difference between Faith and Fact, then WHO is Christian-Lite? O_o]

Blessings of Easter to everyone at TA: Alleluia, He is Risen!

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 19 April 2014 at 8:20pm BST

The Guardian has another article less favorable to Welby, focusing on his attempt to maintain the Anglican Communion at the expense of his leadership of the Church of England: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/apr/19/justin-welby-church-same-sex-marriage-blessing

Now that same-sex couples are taking their place in the social order, the church is going to have to accommodate their reality. Tradition and doctrine cannot hold against widespread positive experience. Sexual orientation is absent from the tradition, not contemplated or recognized. It has been treated as an individual aberration, and dealt with in private. This approach is going the way of the flat earth.

There may be no way to be positively gay in parts of Africa, and so experience of gayness doesn't illuminate recalcitrant African church-people -- but each of us experiences sexual-affectionate attraction and all are healthier when able to pursue natural desires that don't harm others. Assigning everyone as heterosexual (or even male or female) has resulted in a seriously conflicted society.

Welby seems to feel responsible for Africa -- his parents were colonial administrators -- but Cantuar is only a symbol of unity amongst national provinces; he is actual Primate of England, which responsibility needs the sort of attention he gave his previous cures.

Posted by: Murdoch on Saturday, 19 April 2014 at 8:32pm BST

@ peterpi-peter Gross, thanks for your comment on John Dickson's ninth of his ten cute debating tips.

Dickson's ninth point is unfortunate at any time, but doubly unfortunate in a year like this one when Passover and Easter coincide.

Christians should try and and get beyond the law v. gospel shtick and affirm with Judaism that the Torah is life giving all on its own.

Why not instead challenge the streak of violence and vendetta in our Christian tradition by focusing, for example, on the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) who are struck dead for trying to reduce down their net income by exempting their capital gains. I'll bet that story does not get used very often when hitting up "prominent Anglicans" during a capital campaign.

The lack of regard for Hebrew Scripture in Christian circles continues to be disappointing.

Happy Easter everyone, and, 'next year in Jerusalem".

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 12:35am BST

Too much would be required here but it is strange to note N T Wright's own revisions to have revisions accepted (this is new understanding and thus credible) and revisions rejected (they would never have believed this as it was a new understanding) in his apologetic for something that, actually, isn't scientific and isn't historical.

History needs to have the documentary source and a principle of potential regular - Troeltsch established that principle that makes miracles historically unlikely on those terms. Bart Ehrman's recent approach is far cleaner and credible as history than N T Wright's twists to get him in with the biblical texts. The fact is it needs language of resurrection to get a resurrection interpretation on whatever those initial experiences were - subjective, hallucinatory or otherwise - otherwise none of it would have been called resurrection in a different cultural setting, and no one would be discussing a 'spiritual body' (and the simplest explanation of that is that Paul's disturbance wasn't by a body but his rabbinical language of expectation was of a body).

And if Jesus was following a suffering servant tradition it doesn't follow that the messianic passes to James if there is a transformation expected - transformation can happen if resurrection is believed to be underway. James just has to hold the Jewish interpretation - much of which is lost, however much N T Wright claims it centre stage again: the gospels etc. are too anti-semitic to be Jewish centred on the messianic; the faith is becoming of a Gentile salvation figure with another of those boundary-crossing shifts.

Posted by: Pluralist on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 1:42am BST

Speaking of Welby, has this interview been posted here before? http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/04/19/archbishop-of-canterbury-it-is-almost-impossible-for-some-christians-to-accept-same-sex-marriage/

[I note that it's credited to the Telegraph]

If some find marriage equality an "issue an almost impossible one to deal with" in terms of responding to a wedding invitation w/ a nice gift and joyful attendence, that's one thing.

However, if "impossible...to deal with" means denying the human rights (even life itself!) of those doing the (same-sex) marrying, that's quite another. The latter---discrimination and violence---is IMPOSSIBLE TO ACCEPT: I hope Welby understands and conveys this. Stay away from our weddings if you wish---that's your loss---but we will NEVER back down from our ***human rights*** to marry.

***

On a brighter note: very much enjoyed Jonathan Chatworthy's piece. Expresses an *openness* to interpreting the resurrection, in a way I resonate with. Yes, let's celebrate! Alleluia!

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 5:44am BST

The Telegraph has another story on Welby's conflicted views on Africa:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10775722/Justin-Welby-the-anguish-I-face-over-gay-marriage.html

“I may be wrong, but I also believe that to take a step that means that people who desperately need our help — and who we can help — can’t take it, feel in their own culture that it is impossible to be helped by us, is something that we can’t easily do.”

I guess that the people he can't help in England -- the gays, Lesbians, families and friends -- are only denied the esthetic experience of church. It's more life and death in homophobic Africa. Does that excuse the moral compromize?

[sent earlier but not posted.]

Posted by: Murdoch on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 2:13pm BST

"Tradition and doctrine cannot hold against widespread positive experience."

That! Thank you Murdoch.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 4:08pm BST

There are several articles in The Telegraph based on their interview with Justin Welby. I have linked to them all here:

http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/006544.html

Posted by: Peter Owen on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 6:47pm BST

Richard Ashby, one might read John 2:11 in that way: "What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him."

There is a sense in John's Gospel that miracles were first and foremost a 'showing forth' of Christ's power. Of course, the other gospels have different emphases, but it is a valid Christian interpretation from the Archbishop of Sydney.

Posted by: Barrie on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 6:57pm BST

I agree with Ehrman's approach, Pluralist. Simply put, historiography isn't equipped to assess miracle claims, since probability judgments become meaningless without a stable frame of reference.

I'm surprised that Wright could type, "The empty tomb and the meetings with Jesus are, in combination, the only possible explanation for the stories and beliefs that grew up so quickly among his followers," with a straight face. "Only possible explanation"? It's "possible" that the resurrection was staged by a time traveler fulfilling a predestination paradox. As such a trippy scenario is possible within a naturalistic framework, it's more likely than Wright's supernatural explanation.

Wright's been given far too easy a ride on this nonsense.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 9:11pm BST

Much as it distresses me to ever agree with the Archbishop of Sydney on anything, Jesus deliberately delaying his visit to Lazarus in order to display his power over death is the clear implication of John 11:5 and 11:14-15. If one accepts that reading, that gives an interesting twist to Jesus' weeping.

Like others, I found John Dickson's simplistic reduction of both the 'Old Testament' and 'New Testament' view of God to Sunday school stereotypes extremely frustrating.

Posted by: The Rev'd Mervyn Noote on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 12:06pm BST

Jeffrey John reminds us of why he is so very 'papabile'. His carefully constructed reasoning - quite scriptural - that the essential self of every human being is already eternal, potentially forever in the heart of God; is the Good News of this Easter Season. Christ IS Risen, Alleluia!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 12:31pm BST

Rod Gillis on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 12:35am BST,

Thank you, sir!
Also, I doubt Acts 2:44 - 45 is a hit among certain financial circles. "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need", anyone?

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 8:01pm BST

I couldn't agree more with Father Ron, Jeffrey John would make a great addition to the Psalter of bishops. This theological and scriptural essay shews once again just what a fine brain he possesses. I'm wracking my own brain in order to think if we have any scholar bishops on the current Bench and I'm afraid I cannot identify a single one. Maybe that is one reason why the House of Bishops is presently coming in for such a bashing following the publication of their recent infamous Pastoral Letter. If they had the Dean of St. Albans among their number then I doubt the missive would have been drafted in the same far from pastoral way and the authority of the bishops wouldn't be subject to such criticism as currently is the case.

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 2:55pm BST

Very generous (unrealistically though) towards Justin Welby from Andrew Brown I think, and the headline is a fantasy...'holding together'??!

Posted by: Neil on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 at 2:08pm BST

A post yesterday seems to have disappeared, so I'll try again.

"I'm wracking my own brain in order to think if we have any scholar bishops on the current Bench and I'm afraid I cannot identify a single one."Fr David
You are quite correct, Father. In fact, TA included in early March a Church Times Piece from Martyn Percy, noting inter alia that this is the first time since the Reformation that the C of E bench of bishops does not include a single member with experience as a university lecturer in Theology.
http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2014/28-february/features/features/it%E2%80%99s-not-just-about-the-numbers

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 at 10:26pm BST

'In fact, TA included in early March a Church Times Piece from Martyn Percy, noting inter alia that this is the first time since the Reformation that the C of E bench of bishops does not include a single member with experience as a university lecturer in Theology.'

The pendulum has swung a long way. It's not so very long ago that you'd have been hard pressed to find a bishop in the C of E who had more than three or four years of parish experience before they went off to the rarified world of academia. When Donald Coggan became ABC his total parish experience was three years as a curate. Robert Runcie had two, George Carey had about fifteen I think, Rowan Williams three years as a curate.

Ordinary parish priests like my dad often wondered what these men who had spent their entire lives in academia really knew about the lives and ministries of the clergy they were supposed to be supporting. Maybe you're right and the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, but change was definitely needed.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Thursday, 24 April 2014 at 5:24pm BST

A good observation, Tim. On this ANZAC Day - Down Under; one might contemplate the fact that Leadership in the Church is a wee bit like the role of Leadership in War: The tropps who have to take to life in the trenches are not those who give the orders, but those who have to carry them out. They actually Live or Die by them. God Bless 'em!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 24 April 2014 at 10:24pm BST
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