Thursday, 27 November 2014

Oxford Faith Debate on Diversity

Debate 3 was reported here.

A press release was issued just prior to Debate 4. This was heavily criticised by Ian Paul in The state of the (Westminster) debate.

The debate took place on 20 November and the full audio recordings are now available here.

Several who were there have blogged about it:

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 27 November 2014 at 5:20pm GMT
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England

All sounds very "nice", very Anglican and polite. Very much a Vicarage Tea Party but Christianity ain't about niceness or being nice to one another. On many occasions recorded in the Gospels Jesus was far from nice or even polite. It would have been a much better and more entertaining debate had there been more blood on the carpet.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 28 November 2014 at 8:08am GMT

Cripes! I am entirely in agreement with Father David. When I tell my friends and family that the C of E have only just embarked upon having 'facilitated conversations' about whether it is all right to be gay or not, and that the Archbishop of Canterbury wants us to have 'good disagreements' about such matters, they laugh (nicely - because they like me) in my face!

Posted by: Stephen Morgan on Friday, 28 November 2014 at 2:19pm GMT

A few observations on the Oxford Faith debate last week which I attended. The panel members handled themselves well. It was 'nice'. But that surely is what 'disagreeing well' is all about. The pre-debate press announcement was disingenuous and I would want to challenge Linda Woodhead on that. Academic freedom is one thing, but using the media to try to engender support for a position that some would regard as partisan was unfortunate. Presumably the intention was to sell the debate. In the event the University Church was hardly packed, which was a shame. Andrew Symes was in the hot seat, given the balance of the audience, yet was quite low key. My background would instinctively agree with much of what he said. Yet he did not really challenge notions of adiaphora. His blog on Anglican Mainstream was more convincing than his performance at the debate. His reaction on his blogpost to the questioner who said 'he had a problem with the Bible' was absolutely not shared by the audience as widely as he thinks. There was little evidence of a 'chorus of support' for that questioner's position. What was lacking was a balanced view on how the Church deals with the pastoral implications of difference of this magnitude. The traditionalists are clear on their views from a biblical perspective but that just leaves the debate in a binary form. And if the debate is considered to raise salvation issues who are we to determine those?

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Friday, 28 November 2014 at 8:54pm GMT

you say "if the debate is considered to raise salvation issues who are we to determine those?"

It seems to me a conservative view that this debate raises salvation issues, not a general agreement.
But even if it does, surely those issues aren't determined by simply deciding to leave everything as it is?
If this is a salvation issue, is it not just as possible that salvation depends on inclusion?
What I'm saying is that we have no choice but to determine what we believe. Once a question has been posed it has to be answered either way. There is no going back, there is no place of safety. Not changing can be as detrimental to salvation as changing.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 28 November 2014 at 10:02pm GMT

Surely niceness doesn't really equate with disagreeing well!

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 28 November 2014 at 10:41pm GMT

"I’m here to represent a tradition which says that Scripture, as generally interpreted down the ages, rather than the opinion of the majority or the most powerful, is the guide for where we set boundaries on doctrine and ethics"

Translating Mr Symes: "MY opinion, not theirs!"

Don't get me wrong: we ALL do this. We probably also *essentially* think, like Mr Symes, "mine was one of only two or three genuinely orthodox voices in an overwhelmingly revisionist line up".

But when you actually read it, signed, on his own site, w/ NO self-awareness of how self-sanctifying it is . . . Oy Vey! }-p

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 29 November 2014 at 5:36am GMT

Andrew Symes sneering at others' hurt and anger is quite pathetic.

Posted by: AndrewT on Saturday, 29 November 2014 at 10:52am GMT

Because I can't see a way to comment on Andrew Symes' own blog, a small clarification here. I think that I was the person who told him after the debate that all that held the C of E together was its pension fund, not any confessional stance. (Someone else may have said the same thing, but I certainly did). The context, though, makes a difference, I think. I said that I had realised this when I was writing about the woman priest schism, and that the ordination of women seemed to me a far greater break with tradition than the ordination of openly gay men. It still does, actually. So what I meant was not "Why don't you lot all bugger off now?" but "You made your peace with the camel; why spit out the gnat?"

I also said that Reform/AM had obviously been angling and planning for schism for years, to which he said "Very reluctantly. Very reluctantly", which I think he believed. I mean, they don't seem unenthusiastic about separation to me but it may seem different from the inside.

Posted by: Andrew Brown on Saturday, 29 November 2014 at 11:44am GMT

Surely it is "the majority" and "the most powerful" who actually set "the tradition... as generally interpreted down the ages." And that majority sometimes changes its mind over time, or forms different majorities in different places. The fiction that there is a central corpus of faith that has always been accepted by all is just that. Doctrine changes. Whether it is a development (per Newman) or a devolution is a matter of opinion. Even the Creeds are subject to interpretation and varying opinions. Like it or not, the "interpretation of Scripture" has gone through extensive variation. Preferring a previous interpretation (even one long held) to a new interpretation is a choice anyone is free to make, but ultimately -- if the new interpretation gains support -- the boundaries of the landscape will shift. As indeed they have, time and time again, even on matters of sexual ethics. (We no longer forbid, for instance, the marriage of a Christian with one not baptized, which was the traditional interpretation of Scripture from the first century through the 19th, in most of Christendom.)

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 29 November 2014 at 3:24pm GMT

I hesitate to get into salvation issues, not being a theologian, hence my 'if'! However, I agree with you that we can't leave things as they are and therefore there must be change.

Father David:
I think 'nice' was the word Simon Sarmiento used in his provocateur piece. Of course niceness does not necessarily equate with disagreeing well, but the debate was marked by a good separation between issues and personalities.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Saturday, 29 November 2014 at 8:27pm GMT

Niceness does not equate with disagreeing well but I would say that it is a prerequisite. Rudeness solves nothing and does not contribute towards trust.
Niceness should not be confused with blandness and lacklustre debate. It's possible to have robust discussions while remaining nice and polite.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 29 November 2014 at 8:50pm GMT

When I attended the first of these debates, at the church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford, I got some helpful perspective from the rector's welcoming address.

He pointed out that Archbishop Cranmer had been tried for heresy in that very church (and had been sat about 2 yards from my position in the pews), and he had then been burnt at the stake a few hundred yards away. Many years later Newman triggered the Oxford movement with a sermon from the pulpit in that church. And that movement was to lead to clergy being imprisoned for their unauthorised acts.

If all we have to worry about now is whether or not we are being "nice" to each other in our debate, then the Anglican church is doing pretty well.


Posted by: Simon Dawson on Sunday, 30 November 2014 at 9:14pm GMT

Dear Simon, I think that it was J H Newman who pointed to John Keble's Assize sermon on National Apostasy as the spark which ignited the Oxford Movement; that being said, I fully agree with the thrust of your argument.
On a more down to earth level, those who watch the programme about that deeply religious woman - Agnes Brown, as in "Mrs. Brown's Boys" know that when she employs her catchphrase "That's nice!" she means exactly the opposite when she says it.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 1 December 2014 at 4:33am GMT

I wonder if Mr. Symes - if he had been part of the Establishment at the time of Jesus - would have considered J. to be a 'revisionist' - which he certainly turned out to be? Sometimes, revision of an unjust status quo could be considered to be Gospel!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 1 December 2014 at 11:41pm GMT
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