Saturday, 7 June 2014


Christopher Howse writes for The Telegraph about The battle against church lavatories.

William Turvill of the Press Gazette has been talking to the BBC’s Edward Stourton: British media suffers from religious ‘blind spot’ leading to ‘skewed’ coverage.

Edward Dutton writes for the Church Times about Why atheists are brighter than Christians.

Chris Russell writes for the Church Times about Why evangelism is always non-negotiable.

Ruth Gledhill has interviewed Rachel Mann for Christian Today: Transgender priest Rachel Mann made minor canon at Manchester Cathedral: ‘God did not reject me,’ she says.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 7 June 2014 at 11:00am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Regarding evangelism,
If we have two major world religions whose adherents feel that it is their Godly duty to preach their "good news" to everyone they are in contact with, and to convert the unconverted, until everyone in the world is converted, we have a problem
I doubt one can be simultaneously Muslim and Christian.
I have heard of "missions" to Philadelphia and Seattle, where, last I checked, most of the population was Christian.
I think it is presumptuous to assume that, just because someone is happy with their religion or non-religion, and it is different from the evangelizer's, that someone is doomed to Hell.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Saturday, 7 June 2014 at 6:55pm BST

So, shorter Dutton: (*on average*) atheists are smart, conservative believers are nice, liberal believers somewhere in the middle?

["in 1999 at Durham University... At about that time, the Christian Union was effectively being persecuted, by those who might legitimately be called Marxists, for its views on homosexuality." Evidence, please.]

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 7 June 2014 at 9:49pm BST

Surely, in 2014, the practice of Christianity is not a popularity contest.

Surely, we no longer believe that the future of Christians is different from the future of others, as though a loving God did not have good things in store for all his creatures.

Surely, we know that if people know we are Christians because of how we love one another, that is the best "recruiting pitch" we can provide.

But perhaps not. Perhaps we still believe that people who are not card carrying Christians have a different future before them.

Perhaps we really believe that it matters to God that the formula of belief is correct, that we get it right, that we have the correct form of conversion experience or sacramental ritual of initiation.

But if we do, then God help our souls.

Posted by: jnwall on Saturday, 7 June 2014 at 10:16pm BST

It is the will of God that nothing should be lost!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 8 June 2014 at 1:32am BST

Fr Smith, indeed it is the will of God that nothing should be lost, and since its the will of God, then nothing will be lost.

Specific rites, verbal formulas, and various human behaviors will not stand in God's way.

Even though they may mean much, even everything, to you, or me, or our colleagues formed by the tradition of practices and beliefs I suspect we share as participants on this blog.

Posted by: JNWALL on Sunday, 8 June 2014 at 11:50am BST

Very heartening piece about Rachel Mann. Is there any chance of TA's publishing Norman Fowler's terrific piece on AIDS in today's 'Observer'?

Posted by: John on Sunday, 8 June 2014 at 12:41pm BST

Here's the link to Norman Fowler's article.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Sunday, 8 June 2014 at 4:46pm BST

Peter, many thanks. I think this is a really important article and it also shows how a politician of rather limited qualities can rise to a crisis (as he did in the late 80s) and in the course of time acquire liberal and compassionate attitudes.

Posted by: John on Sunday, 8 June 2014 at 5:07pm BST

I had the unexpected pleasure of sharing with Norman Fowler the very tiny urinal off the House of Lords Lobby during the first day of the Equal Marriage debate.
Being of a certain age these pit stops are much longer than they once were and so, having arrived together, we had quite a long chat on the events of the day and how far things had come since the days he was in government.
As John says, this article shows a keen mind that has moved far and it is good to have it flagged up here.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 8 June 2014 at 7:33pm BST

I wonder if that was the same urinal that was used by the great Winston Churchill? As Churchill stood there, Clement Attlee walked in and Churchill quickly buttoned himself up.
"What's the matter, Winston?" enquired Clem.
In reply Churchill drawled:-
"That's the trouble with you Socialists, whenever you see anything big, you want to Nationalise it!"

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 9 June 2014 at 4:02am BST

Thank you for sharing, Martin and Father David.

Posted by: John on Monday, 9 June 2014 at 8:18am BST

only problem with Fr David's story is that Churchill was never a member of the Lords, though Attlee was.

Posted by: iain mclean on Monday, 9 June 2014 at 11:26am BST

Iain, I have to report that I am not a member of the Lords either! A serious oversight, I agree.
Access to the room I mentioned was not limited to Peers.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Monday, 9 June 2014 at 12:27pm BST

Well, Iain McLean, you know as well as I do that if you are caught short it's any port in a storm and I did preface my comment with a question. Shall we compromise and say that the urinal utilised by both Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee was somewhere within the confines of the Palace of Westminster and the event most probably took place when they were both Members of the House of Commons? Problem solved!

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 9 June 2014 at 12:41pm BST

This Blog is in danger of becoming something of a sequel to Clochemerle! I do recall that when Prince Charles was visiting a Pit in County Durham the miners set up a high step ladder with a chamber pot at its base as the Pitmen had heard that Charles was the highest Peer in the realm.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 9 June 2014 at 5:11pm BST

I was aware that when I wrote of Norman Fowler 'rising' to a crisis, there were certain risks - abundantly realised in subsequent comments.

Posted by: John on Monday, 9 June 2014 at 5:21pm BST

Very enlightening to me this conversation. Although I grew up with two brothers and very 'modern' parents (they thought children should be allowed in or just be around when their parents dressed and undressed) I had no idea that men share urinals and chat while doing so. Never too old to learn.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Monday, 9 June 2014 at 6:03pm BST

Sara, like Lord Reith's BBC it seems that the T. A. Blog shares his aims to Educate, to Inform and to Entertain, even in a matter so base and so earthy as urinals.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 9 June 2014 at 7:19pm BST

Erm... guys, can we change the subject?

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Monday, 9 June 2014 at 8:34pm BST

Sara, your parents were not that 'modern' if you grew up not knowing that men share urinals. My mother taught me that going to the toilet was something we all did but need not be discussed in public. This thread seems to have lost its thread!

Posted by: Stephen Morgan on Monday, 9 June 2014 at 11:56pm BST

I agree, time to change the subject here.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 6:53am BST

Another theme, then, evangelism. I have long felt that there are ethical issues concerned with evangelism that are scarcely ever addressed and which lead us to justify things which are unjustifiable. Is it ethical to seek to impose our beliefs on other people? The current debacle over some Birmingham schools has raised once again this issue of faith schools and their promotion of religion. Are they ethical? Mark Russell justifies evangelism because it is ‘transformative’ and that the gospel, “captivates our lives and sets us free.” Sadly many people appear to have been narrowed rather than broadened by becoming adherents of a religion and there is plenty of evidence from history and today that religion can do as much harm as good. Russell says that, “evangelism is not a recruitment drive” to fill up our churches. Actually I see no disgrace in that. But it is too much to claim that, “to hear, respond, and follow Jesus Christ is the best thing that anyone can do with his or her life.” Some people are helped by being or becoming religious, but not all.

Posted by: Richard Franklin on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 10:08am BST

Regarding Evangelism ...

I am surprised that there is more interest in toileting (although I enjoyed the Churchill anecdote and the banter) than in the idea of Universalism -- is everyone in agreement with the comments made?

If universalism is true then we are truly to be pitied as orthodox Christianity must surely then be false and all our efforts wasted. Thank God we have every reason to believe orthodox Christianity is true. For over 2000 years Christians have successfully defended the faith and defeated every argument against it. If (as) Christianity is true universalism is false: They are mutually exclusive.

"Evangelism is not a recruitment drive. It is not done for fear that nobody will be in the Church in a generation's time, or as a solution to financing crumbling buildings or crumbling clergy. It is our response to what God has done." --Chris Russell

This is one of many things that sets Christianity apart from other religions -- it's not about us and what we've done. Nothing is required of us but yet we freely give ...

Posted by: Andrew F. Pierce on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 10:37am BST

Yes, time to move on ...... though a little levity, even toilet humour, can be helpful. These threads can become somewhat ponderous and we can appear very self important!
Though, I was half expecting a comment from someone saying he had bet himself a pint of Bishops' Spittle five years ago that those "Thinking" Anglicans (always the scare quotes) would end up in the lavatory.
Richard gives us a helpful direction and I have been reflecting deeply on this as I prepare a Moslem for baptism. We have been exploring the concept of surrender in both Christianity and Islam and acknowledge the paradox that to be utterly free you must surrender to the sovereignty of God. As John Donne writes
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

We were both of the opinion that this surrender for some was experienced as a profound incarceration while for others they felt the exhilaration of wind beneath their wings.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 11:47am BST

Good theme. I am personally against faith schools of all descriptions, including those of the C of E, which is why in Durham we sent our son not to St Margaret's (with which our own church is associated) but to Neville's Cross. The UK is too fractured with social and class divisions of all kinds to justify a fragmented education system. While the case against these Muslim schools is far from made out, wider considerations show how erroneous Gove's educational policies are. Even from a narrow C of E perspective, as has recently been pointed out on TA, C of E schools are conspicuously inefficient at creating church-goers. Other ways are better.

Posted by: John on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 1:35pm BST

"If (as) Christianity is true universalism is false: They are mutually exclusive."

Nonsense. Well, unless Jesus is a liar:

"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." John 12:32

ALL people: Christus Victor, Alleluia!

{Calvinist reactions in 3...2...1...}

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 8:24pm BST

If universalism is true then lots of people should be writing to Meriam Ibrahim telling her to calm down and take the path of least resistance, because it really doesn't matter whether or not you're a Christian.

Posted by: David Keen on Saturday, 14 June 2014 at 9:25am BST
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