Saturday, 20 September 2014


Church of England Newspaper editorial The battle for the soul of the Church

Isabel Hardman The Spectator Conservative Anglicans’ emergency plan to escape women bishops

Phoebe Thompson of Premier Youthwork spoke to Sally Hitchiner about Diverse Church.

Jules Evans has interviewed Richard Chartres: The Bishop of London on Christian contemplation.

Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian that If Justin Welby has doubts about God it’s no bad thing (with reference to this story).

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 20 September 2014 at 11:00am BST | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Opinion

"Behind the debates over sexuality and assisted dying lies a battle for the soul of Anglicanism between liberals like Woodhead and those who want to see a Church faithful to gospel and tradition and speaking with a distinctive voice."

Because we all know that liberals are not faithful to the gospel.
Is anyone else getting thoroughly fed up with these caricatures?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 20 September 2014 at 1:12pm BST

The constant moaning by the irrelevant anti-reform group "Reform" is becoming increasingly tiresome. Holding a conference ignored by the vast majority of Anglicans will hardly convert the world. I'm convinced that if they threaten to leave the Church of England, those people who have heard of these dinosaurs will echo the words in The Spectator - "Good riddance",

Posted by: FrDavidH on Saturday, 20 September 2014 at 4:51pm BST

"Is anyone else getting thoroughly fed up with these caricatures?"

Yes. Jesus broke taboos to teach, heal, and hang out with women. Women were the first witnesses to the Resurrection.

In ancient church doctrine, it was established that the character of the priest or bishop did not inhibit the Grace of the sacraments. So baptisms, weddings, ordinations, etc., by pedophile priests and bishops are valid. But not by a women? God is so stingy that the sacraments are valid as distributed by male criminals, adulterers, etc., but not holy women? Please!

Significant cherry picking is required to make these strong we're-selectively-Bible-centered statements.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 20 September 2014 at 5:36pm BST

There's more of the same in the "comments" section of Isabel Hardman's Spectator article. More and more, we are seeing "the other", not as a person with whom we disagree but share common values or a common religon, but as an enemy.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Saturday, 20 September 2014 at 5:47pm BST

I was thrilled when I saw the title of Isabel Hardman's article, Conservative Anglicans' Emergency Plan to Escape Women Bishops. However the title disappointed when I opened the article only to find that it was not, in fact, about an old sketch from either Monty Python or The Two Ronnies.

On the other matter, concerning Archbishop Welby's now widely reported comments about doubting God, if memory serves me, Paul Tillich once wrote that the opposite of faith is not doubt, the opposite of faith is despair. Let's hope the Archbishop with his comment, has revealed himself to be something of an anonymous Tillichian.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 20 September 2014 at 6:30pm BST

I think this is an article by someone who feels their own tradition is being caricatured.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Saturday, 20 September 2014 at 8:45pm BST

The churches that are represented by Reform in the Church of England are important. They are usually growing and their ministry in the communities that they serve is effective. My issue is that they have never seemed to be overly concerned with the ministry of bishops, unlike the traditional catholics. They need a bishop to confirm candidates but for what other purpose? They will be able to take advantage of the ministry of a bishop who is of their integrity and I can assure them that if they find themselves in a diocese where the diocesan bishop is a woman (shock horror) that bishop is hardly going to challenge them on grounds of canonical obedience. There are more challenging issues facing diocesan bishops. The future for Reform parishes should therefore be one of the status quo, albeit modified, when they need the ministry of a bishop. I would be pleased to elaborate on this at their conference, for which I wish them well. By the way, I think it is a working assumption that there will be provision made for a flying bishop to be appointed who is a conservative evangelical, whether to a new see dedicated for that purpose or to a vacant suffragan see in a existing diocese, and if that doesn't seem to be forthcoming I will campaign for it.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Saturday, 20 September 2014 at 10:06pm BST

David, are you saying the Church of England Newspaper article was written by someone who believes that Linda Woodhead's research caricatures their position?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 20 September 2014 at 10:24pm BST

More and more evangelical bishops to add to the archbishops. (Look at the string of recent announcements).

Oh yes, none of these are sufficiently extreme for REFORM ! Are they ?

Do REFORM 'effectively serve' the people living in their parishes ? All of them ? It hardly seems possible, to me. But perhaps Anthony Archer refers to the gathered community of the like-minded .

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Sunday, 21 September 2014 at 12:23am BST

The opposite of faith is not 'doubt' but 'certainty'.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Sunday, 21 September 2014 at 8:25am BST

I think the Church of England newspaper article raises interesting questions. As someone who was a child in the era when gay sex was a criminal offence which church leaders worked to decriminalise, and an adult LGBT rights activist at the time when central government brought in section 28, I think it would be unwise to put too much trust in any state! The challenge is for the church to be humble enough to learn from social changes which reflect greater compassion and desire for justice while being boldly counter-cultural when needed.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Sunday, 21 September 2014 at 9:08am BST

The language of the CoEN piece was certainly unhelpful, but I significantly agree with much of what it says. Moreover, I can well understand why conservatives might take exception to Linda Woodhead's somewhat dismissive labeling of deeply-committed Anglicans (including Rowan Williams!!) as "sectarians" and "God-fearers." I'm going to err on the side of generosity and assume that both the CoEN and Professor Woodhead are merely careless with their language rather than seeking deliberately to caricature or slur their opponents.

But let's not get distracted by factional point-scoring. The real issue that the editorial raises is a very serious one indeed: what should the proper relationship of church and the democratic secular state be? Or to put it in good Protestant terms, what is the relationship between Christ and (post-Christian) culture? Even those of us who might think that women bishops are fine and gay marriage is probably a good idea should think extremely carefully about which things are Caesar's and which God's. If you think marriage falls primarily into the latter category (as I do), you might have grave qualms about the way gay marriage has come about, even if you think that it's far from disastrous in itself.

Posted by: rjb on Sunday, 21 September 2014 at 10:20am BST

Erika Yes I suspect so.
Don't all traditions tend to caricature each other. Even a broad, fuzzy edged evangelical like me struggles to recognise this tradition when summarised by others on TA discussion threads ....
But I also think there are real questions to ask about Linda Woodhead's understand of local church whatever your tradition.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Sunday, 21 September 2014 at 12:39pm BST

"The opposite of faith is not 'doubt' but 'certainty'."

And the person who said this has described himself as an "after-religionist".....

Posted by: Fr Paul on Sunday, 21 September 2014 at 4:29pm BST

David and rjb,
what caricature of conservative positions do really grate for you in that article?

I always get really really cross when liberalism is automatically equated with abandoning the gospel.
And I mind not because it's a caricature but because it makes genuine conversation very difficult.
If you believe that the person you speak to is only motivated by selfish and un-Christian reasons, you don't really respect them as much as a constructive conversation requires.

As for Linda Woodhead’s understanding of local church, it might help to read the full article about this survey, which dates back to February 2013 and was covered in the Church Times.

And in the comments on Thinking Anglicans :
Bernard Silverman on Sunday, 28 April 2013 at 5:33pm BST

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 21 September 2014 at 5:14pm BST

'grave qualms about the way gay marriage has come about'

Yes, indeed the neglect of it by the C of E must give cause for concern.

And yet, wonderful to find the state doing God's work. God will always raise up those who will do God's work and bring in the basileia a little nearer. The Hebrew Bible makes this very clear.

I find the bleating of highly privileged christians distasteful.

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Sunday, 21 September 2014 at 5:51pm BST

"Behind the debates over sexuality and assisted dying lies a battle for the soul of Anglicanism between liberals like Woodhead and those who want to see a Church faithful to gospel and tradition and speaking with a distinctive voice."

Do nothing, allow nothing to happen. This has often been the greatest block to grace and growth in love and trust.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Sunday, 21 September 2014 at 8:14pm BST

Re, the opposite of faith is "certainty". I'm doubtful. For one thing, I think "faith" in its most pure form as trust, or ultimate concern to continue with Tillich's notion, and as distinct from belief, is never truly settled in a person's life. My God, my God why have abandoned me?

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 21 September 2014 at 10:07pm BST

Erika I thought rjb pointed up Prof Woodhead's tendency to 'dismissive labelling' quite clearly. I read the original material published and that is why I have questions.
Did you see the response by Ian Paul

Posted by: David Runcorn on Sunday, 21 September 2014 at 11:18pm BST

While the CEN's dismissive, sectarian, editorial has got most people excited, it's Sally Hitchiner’s interview, and its horrid tales of suicide attempts, that ought to give pause for thought.

We recently had an older man transfer into our parish from a Charismatic Evangelical one in the Deanery. He came out in mid-life, having fallen in love. In a polite way, his former parish vicar, knowing we are affirming, asked could we 'take him in'. As it stood, he was apparently undermining the Vicar of St Xs' 'teaching authority'.

We are very glad to have him. He is a delightful man, a model of Christian living and in love having given up hope this was possible. But he is having to make a new set of friends and to learn a new way of worship when much else is going on in his life. This should be a time when his friends and a comfortable way of worshipping God enable him to rest easy in Christ who is the ground of his being.

While we try to be inclusive at St Y’s, I am not sure our High Mass is 'quite him', nor would I pretend he doesn’t stand out in our rather stiff congregation when his hands go into the air during All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name. Then again, perhaps the Lord in His love sent this lovely man to us to disturb us: but I digress.

This is a relatively benign example of what happens: that it is still not actually benign should be a warning. There are many more extreme parishes, where younger and less confident LGBTs are told they are terrible.

One of the reasons why I use a pseudonym on TA is that I love my ministry and vocation: the dearest things in my life and those where I do best for others. I can be openly gay in my little ghetto in these parts but not TOO challenging about what happens nearby: that has been made clear to me.

But if I hear of anything like this happening to vulnerable young person at St X’s, or the more extreme parishes in these parts, I shall simply go straight to Social Services. I no longer have any confidence that teens at risk of suicide would be protected under our procedures if they worshipped in a wealthy and influential Evangelical parish.

Posted by: The Rev'd Mervyn Noote on Monday, 22 September 2014 at 12:43am BST

I find the so-called 'open evangelicals' here and elsewhere far from open, but in fact, militantly anti-gay while smiling nicely and using 'gracious' language. It quite often gives me a physical reaction. This helps me to be clear what I am up against - merely by reading them.

Some of us have suffered, in the course of our lives physical homophobia, as well as verbal, emotional or spiritual. This vulnerability lays us open to flash-backs, dizziness and other physical and emotional reactions.

I myself underwent NHS aversion 'therapy' / electric shock 'treatment' in my late teens; and I find some of their words dishonest, inauthentic and toxic in their effects.

I say this because, I think this goes largely unacknowledged, denied and free to harm.

True conversation, and sharing will be very demanding and costly for any who care truly to commit to 'listening' and ministering.

Posted by: Laurie R on Monday, 22 September 2014 at 3:31am BST

thank you for that link, I like how Ian Paul takes Linda's thinking as a basis for his own thoughts on church and society.

But I see him disagreeing with some of her conclusions, not with her basic research nor how she words it.
Where's the caricature that makes fruitful conversation almost impossible?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 22 September 2014 at 9:12am BST

Rev'd Mervyn,
one of the problems is that, as with any other form of child abuse, the abused don't want Social Services to take them away, they want to remain in their families and simply want the abuse to stop.
And the lgbt people Sally is talking about are over 18, so technically free to leave their churches and find more welcoming ones.
But that's not easy, when your whole childhood has been spent in a particular church, all your friendships are there, your whole sense of belonging and of faith is rooted there.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 22 September 2014 at 10:00am BST

Thank you very much for sharing that, Rev'd Mervyn.

It is so upsetting to read, but needs to be made known that this is what goes on (and on).

You are doing so much - yet clearly under restraint yourself -- to understate the matter.

Posted by: Laurie R on Monday, 22 September 2014 at 12:26pm BST

oops! mea culpa, at Sept. 21 , 10:07 "The opposite of faith is certainty",

that should read, the opposite of doubt is "certainty"...etc.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 22 September 2014 at 2:15pm BST

David (Runcorn)

The problem with Ian Paul's approach in the link you post lies here:
"This is the reason why I always refused to allow ordinands to use the word ‘church’. It is all too easy to confuse our contemporary idea of ‘institution’ with the New Testament vision of an eschatological, Spirit-filled, counter-cultural pilgrim people of God"
Ian is very keen to argue for what the 'institution' says when it comes to the issue of gay clergy. He will tell you what 'the church teaches' - meaning what the institution of the House of Bishops happens to say publicly about it.
The problem is that the HofB are not actually 'the church' as his quote above makes clear. The church is the whole people of God, and the whole people of God are in at least two minds when it comes to the issue we are now presented with. (And of course we suspect that the H of B are in at least two minds about it, although they can only begin to hint at that, as the bishop of Manchester did in his podcast with the bishop of Winchester last week. )

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Monday, 22 September 2014 at 4:20pm BST

Andrew Unless I have misunderstood you I have to say I think you completely misrepresent Ian Paul here. I don't always agree with him but I have worked with him and respect him as a rigorous, independently minded, evangelical NT theologian. He would never argue for 'the institution' line on anything unless he found it is taught in scripture and even then he would have his own take on it. (I have worked with him in an institution and he is not one to just follow the line!)
I agree with the second sentence of Ian you quote. And unless you think he actually believes the complete opposite of what he writes I do not see how you can claim he is just an 'institution' man teaching what the HofB's happens to be saying at any one time.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Monday, 22 September 2014 at 7:58pm BST

It became obvious to me in a previous thread that the David Runcorn/Ian Paul trajectory hardly offers a depth of catholicity when it comes to formulating a way to do theology, ecclesiology and ethics. Nonetheless, I want to hope that the Winchester/Manchester dichotomy may not be the cul-de-sac it appears to be initially. One of the lessons we have to learn in the light of the Northern Ireland situation is that sustainable peace was only possible when the two extremes were brought together and - eventually - found common ground. Paisley met the one-time commander of the IRA and discovered a human being (and vice-versa)who had a realisable vision for the future. If only we had a situation where the evangelical and 'liberal' bishops in question were of the calibre of, say, Oliver O'Donovan (or Alistair McGrath) and Graham Ward, we might get somewhere. But that is another story (and another project).

Posted by: Simon R on Monday, 22 September 2014 at 10:02pm BST

'..I always refused to allow ordinands to use the word 'church..' '

This gives cause for great concern.

A power imbalance here.

Posted by: Laurie R on Monday, 22 September 2014 at 10:06pm BST


The LGBT people in Sally's group are now over 18 but some of the treatment meted out to them happened when they were minors.

When it started to become obvious that there was a systemic problem with sex abuse in various institutions, it wasn't because children were reporting things happening at the time, but because adults were reporting things that had happened to them years before.

I think there are parallels between the two issues. When young adults start demanding answers for the treatment they endured as adolescents - and it is starting to happen - then we are going to find it difficult to explain why we turned a blind eye to some of things that happened under the cover of 'prayer' at some of our churches.

And the image the wider public will have of the Church won't be that of the overhwelming majority of parishes and congregations, which are de facto affirming even where it isn't explicity stated, but the noisy minority whose obsession with homosexuality is so deep that they will damage young people to pursue it.

Don't be too sure that some of what goes on couldn't quite legitimately be used as grounds for the state to have a good look at practice in our churches. Churches are already seen by many people as not especially safe places for children in the popular mind.

I'd also like to think that our bishops mainly don't want young people to endure "pray the gay away" therapy; or indeed being summoned for an interview with the Vicar and banned from helping with the Sunday School or worship group on coming out. That means the bishops need to be clearer about what is and isn't acceptable in a Church of England parish church. If they won't, then Synod does through a private member's motion.

Posted by: The Rev'd Mervyn Noote on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 at 12:29am BST

David: I have no wish to Mis represent Ian, or anyone else and I apologise if I do. My point is that we can't just claim 'the church teaches' when we happen to agree with what the House of Bishops says. The church is more than the House of Bishops. The pastoral statement they issued in Feb this year was most unhelpful and needs addressing urgently. It does not accurately represent what the Church teaches.

Posted by: Andrew Godsall on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 at 7:16am BST

Thanks Andrew I entirely agree with you - and I think Ian would too.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 at 8:28am BST
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