Saturday, 23 January 2016

Opinion - 23 January 2016

Ian Paul The Primates and Public Relations

Bosco Peters 11 Ways To Stop Church Growth

Simon Hunter Law & Religion UK What is a “church” in English law?

Jonathan Chaplin Law & Religion UK ‘Living with Difference’: Time for a constructive Christian engagement

Martin Saunders Christian Today ‘When a knight won his spurs’: the lost genius of the 1980s school hymn

Andrew Brown The Guardian No religion is the new religion

Mark Woods Christian Today Church decline: Is evangelicalism to blame?

Stephen Altrogge The Blazing Center Early Warning Signs of Adult Onset Calvinism

Richard Chartres Church Times And Esau was an hairy man

Gabrielle Higgins, Chichester Diocesan Secretary, Bishop George Bell - points on a complex case

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 23 January 2016 at 11:00am GMT | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Opinion
Comments

Here's me thinking that we were entering a new era of openness when it came to the wickedness of alleged child abuse and that cover ups were a thing of the past to be shunned. However the Chichester Diocesan Secretary's article on the destroyed reputation of Bishop George Bell reeks of secrecy and is in itself surely a cover up?

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 23 January 2016 at 11:29am GMT

Several very interesting pieces:

Bosco Peters' article is not just witty, but very important; I have attended services at a large number of churches in southern, midland and eastern England; between about a third and a half of parishes fall foul of the 'steps' he has traced. The Commissioners invested in achurchnearyou some time ago; they did so for a purpose - so can incumbents and churchwardens please use it to provide up to date service times! And how many churches do I still encounter which have absolutely no information about forthcoming service times – not even in porches or notice boards.

Andrew Brown's/Linda Woodhead's book will make a fascinating read; however, it is worth noting his comments in association with those of Jonathan Chaplin. English Anglicanism is, to a degree, the soft politics of racial, local and class identities. Economic changes (i.e., house prices) have dissolved many local communities, but large tracts of the country have undergone radical demographic transformations; it is simply impossible for an Anglican sense of identity to appropriate these demographic changes, or to withstand them (hence, in part, the rise of modern evangelicalism and the collapse of churchgoing amongst those whose formative experiences followed the 1970s). The great majority of indigenous Britons born after about 1965 have been comprehensively re-educated in order to accommodate new cultures; thus, religion/Anglicanism has been removed from the public sphere, which now has to remain strictly neutral, and belief in Christianity has declined accordingly.

Mark Woods is onto something, but the point of much modern evangelicalism is to entwine a conventional understanding of Christian with the forms of contemporary popular culture; the mix is a heady one for the minority who have drunk deep in the shallow pools of modern culture, but who fear the moral disorientation that 'difference' and its helpmate, relativism, bring. When attending some evangelical churches I am usually conscious of having entered a private club; they are places where you must invest, both emotionally, organisationally and - perhaps - financially in order to receive a return. That is one of the reasons why I sometimes find them alienating.

Gabrielle Higgins tells us nothing about the Bell case, save that we will 'never know' why his reputation will now be forever buried in quicklime. This should not be a surprise, but it is not correct for her to state that he remained at Chichester until his death.

Posted by: Froghole on Saturday, 23 January 2016 at 12:09pm GMT

Regarding Ian Paul and Primatial P.R., Canadian Primate Fred Hiltz told the Anglican Journal, in a piece published January 20th, "...while he considers the meeting to have been, on the whole, a success, Hiltz said Anglican Communion Office personnel could have brought much-needed clarity to the proceedings."

In a subsequent Anglican Journal piece, Hiltz talks about the Primates' conversations on climate change and violence.


http://www.anglicanjournal.com/articles/hiltz-primates-meeting-saw-increased-participation-on-climate-change-religious-violence

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 23 January 2016 at 3:41pm GMT

Quite so, Froghole, Bishop Bell retired to Canterbury where he had previously served as Dean and died there. One of his final acts was to go and perform the opening ceremony at Bishop Bell School at Eastbourne, named in his honour but alas, soon to be renamed. The school possesses a very fine full length portrait of Bishop Bell and has his framed mitre on display in the school hall which he kindly bequeathed to them as a most generous gift.

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 23 January 2016 at 5:11pm GMT

Re Andrew Brown...it was J N Figgis the political theorist and Anglican monk who in his work on political pluralism over a hundred yrs ago...see also the late ( and much lamented) David Nichols who made the point that in an increasingly pluralist state the C of E would become less inclusive and more exclusive.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Saturday, 23 January 2016 at 6:34pm GMT

In treating the presumption of innocence as a narrow technicality relevant only in criminal cases, for a lawyer, Gabrielle Higgins shows a shocking lack of understanding of the spirit of the law. She needs to familiarize herself with Learned Hand: "Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it."

The presumption of innocence isn't a procedural hurdle to leapfrog on the way to a conviction: it's a fundamental principle of justice, applicable everywhere, including civil cases (where, as Higgins surely knows, the burden usually rests on the plaintiff).

She also demonstrates why I'm so ambivalent about the concept of privacy, and why I don't believe that it should be a right. "Privacy" is, ultimately, just secrecy: yes, it can shield people's most intimate thoughts and beliefs; but as here, it can be used to destroy people without having to offer evidence. It's disappointing in the extreme that a lawyer as senior as Higgins says nothing about the underlying principles of open justice, nor questions whatever law is keeping this allegation and the complainant secret (she doesn't even identify it: secrecy's clearly a running theme here!).

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 23 January 2016 at 6:45pm GMT

Gabrielle Higgins explained clearly the points of law on which the George Bell case was decided. Pointing out an error in her account about Bishop Bell's tenure at Chichester is beside the point. The injustices faced by survivors of sexual abuse in the Church perhaps needs greater reflection. This is a very sad, and clearly, very complex case.

Posted by: Pam on Saturday, 23 January 2016 at 9:01pm GMT

"Whether a Church that embraced same-sex marriage would do any better at the numbers game is a different question. Judging by the experience of the Episcopal Church in the US, the answer is no; it is declining rapidly."

Dollars to donuts says that Mr Wood is ascribing the decline rate of DECADES to just the past couple of years.

In my experience, those in the secular world who express antipathy towards the Episcopal Church do so because they don't understand the (sadly) exceptional WELCOME of TEC towards LGBT people (inc marriage equality), not because they reject TEC's stance.

"As a Baptist, my own spiritual ancestors left the established Church of England because they couldn't accept that it included so many people who were part of it by virtue of their baptism but showed no evidence of faith in their lives."

I'm just including Wood's statement because to me, as an Episcopalian (though now dubitably Anglican), it's so gobsmacking. "Left...because they couldn't accept it included...": it's difficult for me to imagine a more unChrist-like attitude.

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 24 January 2016 at 4:15am GMT

James, you and I have agreed before on the Bell case, and I support all you say here. An allegation is not to be regarded a statement of fact, and surely the law must concern itself not with what is alleged but with what can be proved? In the Bell case we are being denied the details of the allegation which ONE person (I believe) has made and by means of which Bishop Bell's reputation is being sullied. I do not ask for special protection for George Bell, but I do ask for common fairness toward him. If he is considered guilty, then let us know the basis for that judgement. Just what is making it impossible for this to be revealed? Until we are told, the suspicion of a cover up to protect others must inevitably grow.

The question of granting anonymity to an accuser but not to the accused is becoming acute, given the hysteria now surrounding abuse cases. It is indeed worrying that Higgins does not question it. Of course it is painful for those who voice legitimate claims of having been abused, but evidence is not lacking of the scope given by the present law to false accusation by malicious or delusional persons. As I have said before, we have come effectively to a situation of Guilt by Accusation.

Until some compelling evidence of Bishop Bell's guilt is presented, I (and I suspect many others) will continue to give no credit to an allegation whose nature we have not been told. And Pam, an error about Bell's tenure at Chichester is not "beside the point". It revealed failure to check an easily ascertainable fact. If an official statement does not concern itself with such a fact, why should we put trust in its other claims? This is a matter of simple professionalism. At present, the Diocese of Chichester is not emerging with enhanced reputation from this wretched affair.

Posted by: Barry on Sunday, 24 January 2016 at 2:37pm GMT

@ Pam,"The injustices faced by survivors of sexual abuse in the Church perhaps needs greater reflection." They do. However, at present,in the Bishop Bell case who really knows if there is a victim? James Byron has said what needs to be said.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 24 January 2016 at 3:07pm GMT

Is the Bishop of Londin exhorting all his priests to grow beards then? But what about the women?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Sunday, 24 January 2016 at 3:13pm GMT

"I do not ask for special protection for George Bell, but I do ask for common fairness toward him."

Well said, Barry; this is the other thing that disturbed me about Higgins' piece. No one is asking for special treatment for Bell: just fundamental principles of justice that apply to us all, and which Higgins' statement casually disregards.

The good character of *anyone* is relevant to determining guilt, which is why courts allow character witnesses, something that, again, Higgins must surely know.

Yes, as the diocese's counsel, she's obliged to zealously represent the interests of her client, but she could do that without casting aside core principles of justice, and without resorting to straw men.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 24 January 2016 at 4:41pm GMT

Can I just note that a Diocesan Secretary is not "the diocese's counsel" but the chief administrative officer of a diocese.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 24 January 2016 at 5:30pm GMT

'When attending some evangelical churches I am usually conscious of having entered a private club'. Only evangelical churches Froghole? No tradition has a monopoly on that kind of behaviour. It would presumably be no less in need of redeeming if you or I did feel we belonged on those terms.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Sunday, 24 January 2016 at 5:41pm GMT

Thanks for the correction, Simon. :-)

If she's not zealously representing a client, Higgins' position is even less justifiable!

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 24 January 2016 at 6:27pm GMT

"Whether a Church that embraced same-sex marriage would do any better at the numbers game is a different question. Judging by the experience of the Episcopal Church in the US, the answer is no; it is declining rapidly."

Let me just add that my Episcopal church is growing slowly but steadily. Our Matthew Shepard sermon brings in strangers some of whom then come again. We run ads in the Seattle gay times, who also publish some of our sermons, and we walk in the Pride parade. We are growing because we are accepting and open, because LGBT people feel welcome, because 30-somethings want their children to come to a church were all are welcome and part of the community, because we welcome refugees from faith communities who exclude or ask you to leave your brain at the door (and because we have a beautiful, tradtional liturgy.)

In short, we are growing because we are Open and Affirming, and "do" worship well.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Sunday, 24 January 2016 at 6:49pm GMT

Re the Bell controversy, unless documents have been destroyed, is it not likely that one day historians will have access and offer an opinion?

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 24 January 2016 at 7:38pm GMT

I'm underwhelmed by the arguments presented here questioning the Diocese of Chichester's handling of the Bishop Bell case. I can understand that it can be painful to accept findings in such cases and would again urge greater reflection towards those whose lives have been adversely impacted by sexual abuse within the church.

Posted by: Pam on Sunday, 24 January 2016 at 8:15pm GMT

Pam, for me, it has nothing to do with it being "painful," but a basic question of evidence.

If there were detailed testimony from a named person, I might well believe the accusation. Right now, I know nothing about the complainant (not even their gender), nor about the details of Bell's alleged crime. Nor have there been multiple accusations. As I'm sure you know, child molesters tend to be repeat offenders.

Regardless, the accusation may well be true; I've never said otherwise. I'm also fully aware of the importance of being willing to believe complainants. But that doesn't mean we should accept accusations without evidence: it means we must assess them with an open mind. Here, there's nothing to assess. Since I have nothing but the diocese's assertion, I don't believe that Bell was guilty, and won't without evidence.

If we're now in a position where we're supposed to believe every accusation of abuse by default, we've moved from one extreme to another, and have replaced one injustice with another.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 24 January 2016 at 10:45pm GMT

In TEC, many of the liberal parishes are growing. Gay friendly = young families that can't deal with last generation's bigotries (not that that is a feature of ALL people in the older generation).

All religion is in decline but TEC is declining less fast that the other mainline religions.

Stop using TEC's position on gay marriage to point to a cause for decline. It isn't true, in fact, it is quite the opposite.

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 24 January 2016 at 11:49pm GMT

@ Pam, "I can understand that it can be painful to accept findings in such cases ..."

Your statement assigns motivation to those critical of the way the Bell case has been handled. No one who is interested in proper process is going to be deterred from asking questions based on this kind of quasi therapeutic babble about "pain".

Bishop Bell was an important voice on church social issues in the 20th C. His reputation with consequent credibility matters.

Never the less, in asking questions about the process used ( abused?) by a self-interested diocese I'm quite prepared for an answer I may not like. Are you?

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 12:15am GMT

"Since I have nothing but the diocese's assertion, I don't believe that Bell was guilty, and won't without evidence."
Quite so, James Byron, I agree with what you have written and will have no truck with the Diocese of Chichester's cover up until proven otherwise - common decency and fair justice can demand no other conclusion.
The appalling accusations against the British soldier Lord Bramall come to mind - after a season in Hell all allegations against him have been dropped and yet we still await an apology for the turmoil and deep distress caused to this nonagenarian soldier and his family from the Police Force who seemed very quick to act upon false allegations made by an anonymous accuser with malice aforethought.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 7:28am GMT

James, we have very obviously read Gabrielle Higgins, Diocesan Secretary (not counsel), in different ways. I would ask you to reread, carefully, paragraphs five and six of her statement. Confidentiality means deeply personal, private information is protected. Stating there is "no evidence" is making a very big statement indeed. Do you have proof there is "no evidence" or is it "no evidence" that you can see. I would also venture that this is a very unusual case and I repeat my sadness for both complainant and Bishop Bell.

Posted by: Pam on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 7:55am GMT

"Here, there's nothing to assess. Since I have nothing but the diocese's assertion, I don't believe that Bell was guilty, and won't without evidence."

There is nothing to assess "for us", but the diocese's "assertion" is presumably a little more than "just something we thought was remotely possible".

Maybe we're a little too used to trial by media where we end up making up our own minds as if we were qualified to assess that "evidence".

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 9:04am GMT

Surely Church* cover-ups of abuse are invariably for the purpose of claiming that clergy were innocent when they weren't, not the other way around? I don't understand why the diocese is unable to release even the most heavily-redacted and anonymised summary of what the allegations were and how it is they appear to have been found to be true.

*of any denomination.

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 10:15am GMT

Though not directly related to the question of TEC's numbers, does anyone know how many LGBTQ couples have come forward to be married since Advent 2015 released the approved services for use in TEC?

Are we talking 15? 50? 100? 250? more?

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 10:20am GMT

Gabrielle Higgins summary of the posthumous treatment of Bishop George Bell is a Master Class in Bureaucratic obfuscation which has been soundly demolished in the Press by both Charles Moore and Peter Hitchens. Thank goodness that we have a Free Press in this country which is in marked contrast to the secrecy of the Church surrounding this whole sorry affair. As part of its ministry I am quite aware that the Church supports and upholds the secrecy of the Confessional but anyone can see that her response will satisfy nobody.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 12:35pm GMT

Pam, no one here's claimed that there's no evidence: simply that the diocese hasn't released any. It's not for us to disprove a negative; it's for the diocese to make its case. Claimant bears the burden.

Erika, why should we take on trust the word of a highly interested party? It's not just about qualifications, but impartiality. We know next to nothing about how the claim was assessed, who assessed it, and whether or how throughly they investigated it. Did they look for inconsistency in the accusation? Was there corroboration? Did they interview witnesses, or see if Bell had an alibi? And so on.

This isn't demanding trial by media: it's refusing to abrogate our judgment and condemn a man without just cause.

Learned Hand again, from his attack on McCarthyism:-

" 'Produce what you have. I will judge it fairly, and if he is [guilty], he shall pay the penalties; but I will not take it on rumor. I will not take it on hearsay. I will remember that what has brought us up from savagery is a loyalty to truth, and truth cannot emerge unless it is subjected to the utmost scrutiny.' Will you not agree that a society which has lost sight of that, cannot survive?"

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 2:24pm GMT

While I understand Pam's concern for the victims of abuse, in this case I feel that the Diocese has acted precipitately and inappropriately, no doubt out of a concern not to be seen as protecting the abusers. I write to support what posters such as James Byron have written. After all, Bishop Bell died a long time ago, in 1958 to be precise. How sure can anyone be of the reliability of the evidence for something which happened nearly sixty years ago? I note that accusations were made against the former Prime Minister, Edward Heath, also deceased and nothing further has been heard from the police. Similarly, Bishop Michael Perham was accused of an offence and after further inquiries the Police found no case to answer. Given that a number of people have been accused of child abuse or similar offences and have been cleared by the police, there is every possibility of this being the case with Bishop Bell. I would like to know what process the Diocese of Chichester took in accepting and assessing the evidence of the person making the complaint. Did they,given the delicacy of the case, have the evidence and the course of action they proposed to take reviewed by a senior lawyer experienced in such cases? The Diocese can be open with us about the details of the process they followed without breach of confidentiality. The Diocesan Secretary's post obfuscates rather than clarifies.

Posted by: Daniel Lamont on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 4:20pm GMT

"Though not directly related to the question of TEC's numbers, does anyone know how many LGBTQ couples have come forward to be married since Advent 2015 released the approved services for use in TEC?

Are we talking 15? 50? 100? 250? more?" (Christopher Seitz)

Why does it matter? One is precious enough. And it's heart-breaking when you can't marry the person you love, before your loving God, in the church of your faith.

I am waiting. I can't marry my love because some bishops say it's wrong.

I think it's wonderful that in The Episcopal Church people can marry each other in the community of their faith, whatever their gender, and whether that's one couple or a million.

Every single couple matters.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 4:35pm GMT

The varied comments above on the case of Bishop Bell reveal how much we are all working in the dark, which must inevitably fuel speculation of something underhand going on. If I understand correctly, the scenario reads something like this:

An unidentified person has made an allegation (details concealed) of abuse against George Bell, a man of previously unblemished reputation who died almost sixty years ago. This allegation has been examined in private by people who have suggested that there might be substance to it, but refuse to reveal the evidence for their verdict. As a result, Bishop Bell's name is being blackened and he is apparently to be made a "non-person" in the diocese where he was bishop.

If this is correct, and I will gladly accept correction on matters of fact, it seems more like a "trial" in a police state than the open presentation of evidence which we expect in this country. Furthermore, this is a man whose life and work make him still a figure for admiration, even among those of us who never knew him. For that reason this case is attracting the anger, incredulity and suspicion which are evident on this site. Like others, I will accept Bishop Bell's guilt when I am presented with compelling evidence for it, and not otherwise. This is not about protecting the guilty but about an open process for deciding innocence or guilt.

Posted by: Barry on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 5:45pm GMT

"does anyone know how many LGBTQ couples have come forward to be married since Advent 2015 released the approved services for use in TEC?"

The 2012 Liturgy (and 2015 is supposed to be mostly the same), with modifications for marriage by the local bishop (under the pastoral discretion allowed in 2012), has been used in my parish 3 times since my spouse and I were married a year ago Sunday. Several more are being planned. I know that there have been several others in my diocese. That's anecdotal, but if I already know of 6...

They are recorded in the Parish Register simply as marriages, no different from any other. I'm not sure that there is any official count being made of gay sacraments vs non gay sacraments.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 6:43pm GMT

@Pam seems to be saying 'think of victims' of sexual abuse in general rather than this particular person with allegations.

Also, were any relatives of George Bell allowed to speak up for him in the process and were they allowed in on the evidence? The Diocese of Chichester, because of huge failures in these matters, clearly are now biased towards complainants and I wonder if they even thought of standing up for Bell.

Posted by: Neil on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 8:15pm GMT

I struggle to see why Gabrielle Higgins is facing so much criticism. There is no reason to believe the diocese has been anything other than objective. This is one occasion when we should trust church authorities. If anything, the diocese were likely to be somewhat protective of Bishop Bell and were undoubtedly reluctant to,pay compensation unless themselves convinced. That should be enough.

But, in truth, what does it matter? Our earthly reputations are a vanity, particularly once we have passed.

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 8:49pm GMT

The parallel with Lord Bramall was made above. That is an instance where an accusation of abuse against a respected figure was apparently not substantiated. On the other hand, with Hall/Harris/etc/etc, we have accusations which apparently are substantiated. The Bramall case no more justifies a presumption that allegations are likely to be unfounded than the other cases justify certainty that allegations are likely to be well founded.

It would, however, be interesting to know the ratio of (victims of powerful, respected people not being listened to) to (powerful, respected people being unfairly impugned). That might give us a clue as to the better presumption, even if our Christianity did not give us a pretty strong clue.

I don't see why Bramall deserves an apology from the police merely because they investigated an allegation against him.

Posted by: John Swanson on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 9:06pm GMT

@ Kate "But, in truth, what does it matter? Our earthly reputations are a vanity, particularly once we have passed."

This seems a superficially pious sentiment that would appear to place little inspirational and cultural value on such things as courage, innovation, creativity, sacrifice, and so on.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 11:10pm GMT

"Also, were any relatives of George Bell allowed to speak up for him in the process and were they allowed in on the evidence?"

Why should they? There's no particular reason to believe that relatives are any more knowledgeable about the activities of individuals than anyone else, especially when the alleged activities took place "at work".

In this particular case, given that his wife is long dead and they didn't have children, just what relatives were you thinking could have even the beginnings of any knowledge of his private life? "My parents told me that my great-great uncle George was a nice man?"

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 25 January 2016 at 11:56pm GMT

It would be good to know if the much vaunted idea of TEC growth due to its embrace of New Vision LGBTQ marriage could be correlated with genuine figures showing an influx.

So knowing how many LGBTQ marriages are taking place would be valuable information.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 6:59am GMT

'It would be good to know if the much vaunted idea of TEC growth due to its embrace of New Vision LGBTQ marriage could be correlated with genuine figures showing an influx.'

I'd have thought even if figures existed after 1-2 months, it's way too early to be meaningful. And as you say, such figures could only ever then be correlated, which proves nothing.

However, I'm sure you attendance at TEC churches suddenly increased exponentially during Advent 2015. That would almost certainly be down to all those Carol services and midnight masses: thus demonstrating the fallacy of this sort of correlating.

Seriously, there's a whole lot of very bad stats/science around with church attendance / decline figures (see C of E 'Anecdote to Evidence, all those conservative charts of TEC decline &c) because, almost always, all that can be done is correlation, which any 1st year student would tell you, is next to useless.

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 7:34am GMT

cseitz's desire for statistics on the correlation between TEC's decline/fall on the basis of how many S/S couples have sought to benefit from marriage rites in that Church seems a little simplistic.

One might as well ask how many Anglicans have been recruited to the A.C. of Nigeria/Kenya/Uganda, on account of their disdain for the LGBTQI community.

What do numbers matter when the Gospel offers what Jesus was talking about when he read from the Scroll of the Book of Isaiah: release of captives, recovery of sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free. These virtues are what is needed in Church ministry, but not everyone wants to abide by them, they are too costly - as Jesus found out in his struggles with the Pharisees.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 9:34am GMT

Interested observer. Not that family would know the facts - simply they would be motivated to see fair and unbiased process. Nobody else was motivated to be on Bell's side in this.

Posted by: Neil on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 10:57am GMT

"It would be good to know if the much vaunted idea of TEC growth due to its embrace of New Vision LGBTQ marriage could be correlated with genuine figures showing an influx.

So knowing how many LGBTQ marriages are taking place would be valuable information. "

In my experience the growth has not been because the same-sex marriages are taking place, but because they CAN take place, as people in my sons' generation (both born in the 1980s) realize there is a mainline US denomination that is not discriminatory on this issue.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 11:58am GMT

"So knowing how many LGBTQ marriages are taking place would be valuable information."

I don't think that that's going to be possible. Equal is equal and in the parish registers we go in as married and there's no askerisk for gay vs straight sacraments, just like there isn't for baptisms, funerals, and communicants. The process of separating and counting gays separately would violate the conscience.

That information is only useful for those looking to attack us for our conscience in living out the Gospel.

I know the conservatives value being in the majority, so from that view, numbers are important. But I think the rest of us are figuring out that Giles Frasier has spoken the truth when he said that there was no central communion until conservatives in the West started losing the culture wars, and so they invented the larger communion to regain the majority.

The truth is that there are a lot of marriages happening. For older and middle aged couples, it was a long wait and life is short. Also, getting married is important for economic well being and insuring that our spouses can make decisions for us when we're incapacitated. there has been a flurry of marriages and will be until the normal rhythm sets in.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 2:08pm GMT

My parish in New York has performed several same sex marriages in my 14 years there both before and after such things became official. I would say at least a dozen.

The parish is undergoing changes among who sits in the pews, but it has less to do with any policies of the Episcopal Church and more to do with the rapid and dramatic gentrification of the surrounding neighborhood. Our pew sitters are getting younger, more affluent, and more heterosexual, though our parish still retains a large LGBTQ population. Our overall attendance remains the same.

Anecdotal evidence to be sure, but these younger families do like the Church's gay friendly policies for the very reasons Cynthia pointed out in her post.

My immediate neighborhood in Brooklyn is also rapidly and dramatically gentrifying. All of the churches in the neighborhood are dying, both liberal and conservative. Their deaths have less to do with controversy and more to do with demographic change; from aging immigrant populations to younger more cosmopolitan and secularist populations.
That any church can hold its own in such an environment is a cause for celebration.

My travels back to Dallas, Texas to visit family lead me to conclude that this phenomenon is not unique to New York. The huge Dallas megachurches may be drawing in crowds at the front door, but they are losing bigger crowds out the back.

Posted by: F. D. Blanchard on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 2:10pm GMT

@ cseitz 26/16/6:59.

I am not numbered, since we are talking numbers, among those who are inclined to view same sex marriage as member multiplier. The question you ask is not an unfair one to ask those who do see it that way.

For decades churches have claimed that marrying non-church goers, or baptizing their children, ought to be seen as a form of "evangelism". Actual outcomes caution the claim. There is no reason to expect same sex marriage to result in a different outcome.

It is worth remembering that policy change by an institution does not alter the scars of past stigmatization over night.

The pastoral offices of the church are a form of ministry for those seeking the same.

Many of the hundreds of couples I prepared for marriage over the years did not become stellar church goers; but I took it on good faith that in requesting marriage in the church that they found the Christian perspective meaningful.

Interestingly, some who were church goers at the time of marriage would one day fade. Others of them, not active at the time, became such later. Any priest who has spent their vocation as a life long parish priest will tell you the same.

Interesting,that while we still offer the Dominical sacrament of baptism indiscriminately in the main, and are doing much the same with admission to Holy Communion, we make the blessing of same sex relationships an obstacle course.

Marriage over all is in decline in Canada, and I gather the same is true in The States.

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/09/24/record-share-of-americans-have-never-married/

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 3:55pm GMT

So, the arguments for accepting Bell's guilt amount either to blind trust in an organization that recently covered up the crimes of undoubtedly-guilty child abusers; or, in the alternative, disregarding truth altogether.

Not compelling, are they?

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 4:08pm GMT

Marriage equality has nothing to do with 'church growth' - whatever that may be- it sounds very unChristian to me.

As for the so-named 'much vaunted idea', I for one know nothing of it.

I have heard of Jesus' big idea though --

the one that got him in trouble with both the mob and the law, and killed - much like so many of his sisters and brothers who are lgbt & more....


Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 4:10pm GMT

@cseitz your premise seems faulty. Why would the number LGBT marriages represent an "influx"? They may well be current members. And in many dioceses, marriages were already occurring, so there wasn't necessarily a pent up demand. the influx OUR parish has seen isn't LGBT people (who were already here), but families with young children. Over and over again these young parents have said they want to raise their children in a welcoming inclusive church. Indeed we have to hire a second manager of Children's programs.

Posted by: IT on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 4:53pm GMT

Oh, I'm just a very simplistic guy! Who heard the New Vision of TEC tell us of unexpected turnarounds in growth.

No one in the GS said anything by analogy, so your point is moot.

I wonder if it transpires that, for all the theological hauteur and general excitement of being out in front of others, TEC records minimal LGBT marriages in 2016.

What would that mean? I genuinely don't know.

Posted by: christopher seitz on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 5:54pm GMT

Once again, I agree with James Byron. The days when one could look at the actions of diocesan authorities and assume "mummy knows best" are gone, due to institutional coverings-up which have come to light. I take no pleasure in saying this. I would like to trust those in authority, especially in the Church.

" If anything, the diocese were (sic.) likely to be somewhat protective of Bishop Bell and were undoubtedly reluctant to, pay compensation unless themselves convinced." If this is true, then it becomes even more urgent that they reveal what convinced them that they should pay out money to an un-named person who had made an unspecified allegation. For that use of diocesan money alone they are accountable to the faithful.

The Diocese of Chichester has had a difficult time. I wish it nothing but good and keep it in my prayers. But the issue will not go away. WHY is a curtain of secrecy being drawn over the Bell case at every questioning of what has been done? WHY is a man previously revered being treated in this way by the authorities of his own diocese?

Posted by: Barry on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 7:51pm GMT

Christopher: "I wonder if it transpires that, for all the theological hauteur and general excitement of being out in front of others, TEC records minimal LGBT marriages in 2016.

What would that mean? I genuinely don't know."

It would mean a lot to the people who got married. It would mean so much to me, here in England.

This is about people's lives, not church recruitment, isn't it?

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 10:04pm GMT

Alone in a cavernous empty church about to be rebuilt into luxury apartments, Dr. Seitz exults in triumph over the corpse of the Episcopal Church in an increasingly secular USA where no one is paying attention and no one cares.

How many years has it been now that he's been pronouncing the Episcopal Church to be dead?

Posted by: F. D. Blanchard on Tuesday, 26 January 2016 at 10:44pm GMT

Christopher Seitz, can you cite the source for the supposedly "much vaunted" claims or predictions of "unexpected turnarounds in growth" due to the new possibility of treating all couples equally? As a member of the Episcopal Church I haven't encountered such claims.

It may be that "nobody in GS said anything by analogy" -- who is GS? General Synod, or the Global South? -- but I've noticed some pretty blatant numbers-trolling lately, predicting that TEC's being "punished" by a vote of the Primates at their recent non-Meeting is going to drive people away. If TEC doesn't repent and obey the will of the Primates, the argument goes, "People will walk, churches will close." Perhaps that's what you are anticipating will happen. You write, "I wonder if it transpires that, for all the theological hauteur and general excitement of being out in front of others, TEC records minimal LGBT marriages in 2016. What would that mean? I genuinely don't know."

What would "minimal" mean in this context? What would be the minimum number of same-sex marriages, taken on a national or diocesan or local scale, that could be considered significant? And what would that significance consist of?

Of course you don't know. Nobody knows, because the question is meaningless. This is not a situation involving market calculations, where an organization has developed a new product or service, namely same-sex marriage, and now has to see whether it will sell. The change in the marriage canon was not a marketing decision, but a decision about what was right. There will be results: people who agree with the decision will come and join us; those who don't will go elsewhere. The actual number of weddings performed in a given time period will tell us little or nothing about the validity of the change.

The question is silly -- no shame in that, we've all asked a silly question now and then -- but its silliness is not innocent.

Posted by: Mary Clara on Wednesday, 27 January 2016 at 12:09am GMT

Christopher, you are so hung up on numbers! As several people have said, the fact that I could get married is a source of joy for many straight people and young families. I know of dozens of gay couples who have either gotten married or are planning to get married in the next year. I'm not so connected that I know everybody, it's an enormous country, as you know.

But whether we were the only couple or one of thousands is not really the relevant point.

Now what about the New Anglican Communion that is an invention of conservatives who lost the culture wars and created this larger central body out of nothing to regain the majority? Gaining the world but losing ones soul? As if numbers bring Salvation?

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 27 January 2016 at 7:23am GMT

Both sides do numbers to argue their rightness and missionary effectiveness - come on!

Posted by: David Runcorn on Wednesday, 27 January 2016 at 10:29am GMT

I hear all the time that TEC's New Vision for the LGBT cause via marriage will arrest declines and show a face of Christianity that will generate lots of new members.

Seems like a very simple question to ask: how is the new marriage for LGBT folk going?

A considerable amount of time and money has gone into resourcing, arguing, assembling committees, defending and rearranging new rites for this, and for some in consequence, removal to a new church outside of TEC.

What if LGBT couples really end up, in large measure, not being all that interested in marriage in TEC after all? What would that mean?

I think these are all preeminently reasonable questions for a Thinking Anglican to ponder. I know that TEC itself monitors its numbers very closely. I think that is wise. Times are calling for a reconsideration of small dioceses, and the effect of an aging church population. The New Vision TEC is embracing is supposed to bring in new members from a younger demographic we are told would be interested if LGBT marriage and allied agendas were more visible.

I thought this was all fairly obvious.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 27 January 2016 at 10:57am GMT

I do not live in the USA but I have not been conscious of claims being made that TEC growth will follow from the adoption of liberal policies on LGBT issues.

A citation would be really helpful.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 27 January 2016 at 1:34pm GMT

Simon--here is a representative one from your own blog. And Mr Gillis above refers to it being a held view (that he does not agree with).

"At any rate English young people, indeed young people all over, are staying away from religion in general. It is seen - usually rightly - as exclusive, sex-obsessed, and reactionary. My ECUSA church is growing steadily among 30-somethings and people starting families who want their children to be part of an open and accepting community."

I see this kind of comment all the time.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 27 January 2016 at 2:01pm GMT

Ah, that isn't the kind of claim I thought you we're talking about. I thought you meant someone making a claim when advocating for legislative change in TEC that growth would result from adoption of that change.

But in any case it's not really about growth but rather about slowing the rate of decline isn't it?

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 27 January 2016 at 2:27pm GMT

"What if LGBT couples really end up, in large measure, not being all that interested in marriage in TEC after all? What would that mean?"

"The New Vision TEC is embracing is supposed to bring in new members from a younger demographic we are told would be interested if LGBT marriage and allied agendas were more visible."

The new vision is not "supposed to bring in members," it is supposed to be the right thing to do.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Wednesday, 27 January 2016 at 5:40pm GMT

Quite right. Slowing the rate of decline.

45% of TEC dioceses have under 3000 ASA.

One can say numbers don't matter, but this is the threshold for paying a bishop and 1 staff person part-time.

I believe the most recent TEC statistic is 60% of all parishes have a median age of 60.

'Doing the right thing' is just dandy, but a church of 1.8 going downhill must wonder whether 'doing the right thing' is already a niche market competently serviced by UCC, Unitarians, Metropolitan Church, and other increasingly liberal churches (PCUSA, ELCA).

Of course if the main issue is now LGBTQI rights and acceptance, then the New TEC can join others on this grid and see how the ASA fares.

The CofE is the 'best boat to fish from' arguably, given UK religious demographics. TEC is a very small denomination overshadowed by a supermarket of Christian church options.

This experiment in New Vision could evacuate a legitimate claim the catholic Christianity through time. Lacking that, TEC will be absorbed into New World new truth religions.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 27 January 2016 at 6:51pm GMT

@ cseitz "And Mr Gillis above refers to it being a held view (that he does not agree with)."


Note the following from the Canadian House of Bishops in 2011: "At the April House of Bishops meeting in Niagara Falls, 'There was not much appetite for the discontinuation of the solemnization of marriage. Bishop after bishop spoke of marriage discussions as solid opportunities for evangelism and pastoral care and opportunities that led to the growing of the parish family.' " ( full article via the link).

http://www.anglicanjournal.com/articles/should-clergy-stop-performing-marriage-ceremonies-9697

This is an example of the held view to which I was referring. Based on my experience as a parish priest over 35 years I would contest the claim that "opportunity for evangelism" has translated into much growth. (Similar claims have been made for the relative easy access to baptism).Therefore, opportunities that have not been realized with opposite sex marriages are unlikely to be realized with same sex marriages.

However, that is not to say that there is no anecdotal evidence that marriage preparation (or baptism preparation) resulted by times in people becoming more active and committed to their church. Perhaps the Canadian bishops are thinking in parable terms i.e. if ninety nine weddings result in just one couple joining the parish then its a success. So perhaps its a very marginally successful evangelism and not measurable church growth that the bishops are advocating here.

In sum, I support extending marriage to same sex couples for pastoral and justice reasons, if we are to stay in the marriage business; but I don't believe it is likely to make any measurable impact on church growth, if, in fact, church officials are arguing that as the reason for proceeding.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Wednesday, 27 January 2016 at 8:28pm GMT

"The new vision is not "supposed to bring in members," it is supposed to be the right thing to do."

Now that's the truth, thank you Nathaniel!

It is true that there's growth in about a third of liberal parishes, like mine. They are attracting many more families with young children than non accepting parishes. But no one believes that this fact overcomes the overall decline of religion in the West.

Meanwhile, for those using Global South numbers to bolster their arguments, recent studies have shown that those numbers are greatly inflated.

There's no substitute for simply doing the right thing.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 27 January 2016 at 9:49pm GMT

"What if LGBT couples really end up, in large measure, not being all that interested in marriage in TEC after all?”

In my experience that isn’t the case. I can off-hand think of about 18 gay or lesbian Episcopal couples that I know in my city who have gotten married. This is a big city and there are a lot of Episcopal churches with a lot of gay and lesbian folk, the vast majority of which I don't know. I suspect my personal knowledge of gay and lesbian Episcopalians getting married in this city is just the tip of the iceberg.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 5:13am GMT

Simon--what I think is being said is that individual parishes which make it clear through ss marriages etc that they are LGBTQI advocates will in consequence experience growth.

If your qualification is to do with *overall* growth vs slowing a rate of decline, I heartily agree.

It also bears remembering that to speak of declining populations in major Christian bodies (RC and Baptist) is one thing, and speaking of decline and aging populations in bodies the size of TEC is quite another.

TEC leadership gets this. Once a diocese has under 3000 ASA, it ceases to be viable on former terms. Once 40% of the diocese are in this shape, it is a problem to be faced and somehow dealt with. This isn't easy because dioceses are the ones which determine their own fate (do they agree to join another diocese and merge affairs?). Look for a time in the future when the authority over this is sought by a central agency.

So under these conditions wanting to know how LGBT marriage affects the future viability of TEC is a logical question and one I suspect that leadership will track. Not to dismantle what TEC has done, of course! That is not going to happen. But to evaluate what kind of hopefulness one ought to invest in arresting a decline or even producing growth as 'the younger population sees how inclusive TEC is' (or insert your own phrase here).

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 6:38am GMT

"'Doing the right thing' is just dandy, but a church of 1.8 going downhill must wonder whether 'doing the right thing' is already a niche market competently serviced by UCC, Unitarians, Metropolitan Church, and other increasingly liberal churches (PCUSA, ELCA)."

That's a very strange way of looking at what it mean to discern God's will for people.

"Having worked out that God wants blacks to be freed is just dandy, but if it doesn't bring us growth, we're not going to do it" ....

I don't think so! Not if we take our discernment of God's will seriously.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 11:32am GMT

"I thought this was all fairly obvious."

I think that it's become fairly obvious, that what is "fairly obvious" to you, Christopher, is not necessarily so to many of the rest of us here.

After all, some of us (I believe) view "church growth" as just as much a QUALITATIVE, as quantitative, thing! [Unless, Dr Seitz, you've figured out a way to COUNT "the fruits of the Holy Spirit"? O_o]

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 11:50am GMT

There are several different kinds of growth, and all of them are important. Numerical growth is obvious, and if it is evidence of genuine conversions and not just what is often referred to dismissively as 'bums on pews', then it's important. There's also maturational growth, as Christians grow in their discipleship and learn to be more faithful as followers of Jesus. There's growth in community, as church members develop quality relationships and grow in their practical love for each other. There's incarnational growth, as we grow in our ability to incarnate the love of Christ to the world around us, and so grow in our influence, through words and deeds.

All of these kinds of growth are important, and I think we should be in favour of all of them. And I don't think we should be dismissive of numerical growth. The Book of Acts is definitely interested it it; the author counts converts. If each of those numbers represents a human being loved by God, who was looking for a relationship with God and is finding it in the fellowship of Jesus in my church, then that's a wonderful thing. Yes, it helps to pay the bills, too, but that's incidental.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 4:37pm GMT

"to many of the rest of us here."

And of course leaving out all the others who don't agree!

God bless.

Posted by: christopher seitz on Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 4:42pm GMT

'What if LGBT couples really end up, in large measure, not being all that interested in marriage in TEC after all? What would that mean?'

Could it possibly mean that you failed to make them welcome ?

Failed to make them feel safe enough.

Failed with Jesus' big idea ?

Do you fail to take responsibility ?

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 5:01pm GMT

I did not even know, that equal marriage is widely, reliably and safely available to lgbt and other within TEC.


I thought

Am I wrong ?

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 9:00pm GMT

Christopher Seitz, I think it’s important to differentiate the actual reasons for the Episcopal Church’s decision to change the marriage canons from the anecdotal reports of individuals here and elsewhere about how that decision has resonated in their local situations. You say you “hear all the time that TEC’s New Vision for the LGBT cause via marriage will arrest declines and show a face of Christianity that will generate lots of new members” (Jan. 27, 10:57 am GMT). When I queried you regarding the source for this “New Vision” assertion, it turned out that you were not referring to an official statement from TEC but apparently to remarks by blog commenters. The term “New Vision” is by the way not familiar to me as part of the conversation about inclusiveness. Your repetitive use of it suggests that you think it represents a theological and policy position of TEC which involves approving same-sex marriage as a way of growing overall numbers. As so many on this thread have been at pains to tell you, our primary concern has been to do the right thing; and it is gratifying on a local level to experience positive results now that the change has taken effect. Most of us do not, however, imagine that this action, in and of itself, will halt or reverse the long-term decline in church numbers at a diocesan or TEC-wide level.

You persist with the cost-benefit argument, citing the “considerable amount of time and money [that] has gone into resourcing, arguing, assembling committees, defending and rearranging new rites for this, and for some in consequence, removal to a new church outside of TEC.” And you wonder, “What if LGBT couples really end up, in large measure, not being all that interested in marriage in TEC after all? What would that mean?” In other words, will it have been worth the cost? In further posts you continue harping on the so-called “New Vision” programme and its supposed aims or claims of reversing decline through inclusiveness, shifting the focus to national statistics indicating that the pie is shrinking and some dioceses are approaching non-viability due to low numbers, a fact which of course has to be of concern to TEC as a whole. The point is, though, that the approval of same-sex marriage was never a marketing strategy and should not be assessed as such after the fact.

Posted by: Mary Clara on Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 9:24pm GMT

A further word to Christopher Seitz: I can’t help but wonder whether your preoccupation with numbers reflects your local situation. I note that earlier this month your own Cranmer Institute (www.cranmerinstitute.org) closed its doors. Perhaps this puts you very concretely in touch with the reality of the shrinking pool of (religiously inclined) people and resources in the United States. From the Institute’s website I gather that this was a well thought out and creative undertaking, rooted in faith, scholarship, and deep theological conviction, and situated in what I should have thought was a hospitable locality and diocese (Dallas). One senses that there must have been real intellectual joy and spiritual fellowship involved in the Institute’s gatherings, rewarding the hard work and dedication you and your colleagues invested. The reasons for the closure are not stated, but suppose (hypothetically) that fundraising and/or enrollment were not sufficient to keep it going after a few years, would you consider that fact as invalidating the original vision? Would you question whether it was worth the considerable time, effort and expense that went into building it and keeping it going? I hope not.

Posted by: Mary Clara on Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 9:49pm GMT

@ Tim Chesterton, 'The Book of Acts is definitely interested ...the author counts converts.'

I wouldn't be counting on the Book of Acts, as it were.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 10:35pm GMT

Some very good and very apt questions asked by Mary Clara- of cseitz, when she asks whether the demise of the Cranmer Institute in the U.S. was in any way connected with a lack of support by its would-be evangelical constituency. And, if so, how this relates to his own question about the 'lack of support' for TEC and its openness to LGBT people.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 11:40pm GMT

"The CofE is the 'best boat to fish from' arguably, given UK religious demographics. TEC is a very small denomination overshadowed by a supermarket of Christian church options."

In 2014 TEC claimed 1,817,004 baptized members and an ASA of 600,411.

The number of baptized members of the CofE is surprising difficult to determine, but the numbers thrown about appear to range from about 24-27 million. But in 2014, the CofE claimed only an electoral roll of 1,044,800, a "worshiping community" of 1,121,700, an ASA of 980,000 based on four Sundays in October but only 764,700 attending "on a usual Sunday."

TEC may be a "very small denomination" but, in reality, the CofE is not that much bigger.

The purpose of this statistical comparison is not to bash the CofE. It is simply to note that TEC's salvation is not blindly fishing from the CofE boat. There has been a lot of concern expressed here and elsewhere that the CofE's leadership seems determined to turn the CofE into one large Holy Trinity, Brompton. If so, that strategy doesn't appear to be working very well for the CofE. That strategy would certainly not work at all well for TEC.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 11:58pm GMT

Ms Mary Clara

This probably isn't the place to discuss the issues related to Cranmer's decision to close. New Bishop. My work at ACI and in Toronto and my publishing (Joel Commentary just out from Bloomsbury) and PhD supervision work. The state of affairs in TEC after GC 2015. The shrinking witness of Communion Partner bishops, after a decade and the new challenges a smaller group now face. The difficulty a younger generation of conservative clergy now experience, many of whom will leave for Rome or ACNA.

This backs into your other question. I have been a Priest in TEC for 35 years. I have an older brother and younger brother in parish ministry, and my father and grandfather were priests in this church. So watching the decline with this longer backdrop makes the decline show itself more precipitously, one supposes, than for others more recently involved. This isn't an obsession with numbers--the new TEC expert charged with that job does impeccable work, precisely because TEC leadership understands it is facing a real challenge of survival.

More could be said, but for now that should suffice. Thank you for asking. God bless.


Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 29 January 2016 at 6:48am GMT

I should also add. My wife runs a business in France and it is doing very well. Shuttling between France and Dallas and Toronto for 6 years has been a challenge, so we have moved south of Paris. I lived in the UK for nine years previously so this is a bit of return to familiar European territory, and very welcome. TEC is less and less familiar to me, in any event, though it has been my home for several generations. Kind regards.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 29 January 2016 at 7:35am GMT

If one counts noses in evangelical services, that is only part of the picture. Evangelicals in my experience also tend to push a fair number of people who have yet to make up their minds about Christianity into rejecting it. Indeed, I have come across a surprising number of people who reject "Christianity" but who retain a respect for the teaching of Christ.

We see that to in the number of people who are baptised into the Church of England, may get married and buried within the church, but otherwise want as little as possible to do with it. Again, that's a rejection of organised Christianity, but a welcoming of Christ.

Evangelicalism is definitely not reaching those people. The stay always don't want to be told what to think and believe. In that, I'm not even sure present forms of liberalism work.

I think we need to stop thinking that any of the present major styles of worship are effective and recognise that for many, quite probably the silent majority, they are not. We need a new way. We also need to rethink the focus on Sunday worship. In my experience, families with children find fitting everything in to a Sunday difficult.

The rest of the world country has gone virtual. Maybe it is time for the church to do so too?

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 29 January 2016 at 9:18am GMT

The numerical decline of the Church of England goes back nearly 100 years. We now know membership peaked in the 1920s. Since the 1900s the Liberal, Catholic and Evangelical traditions have all had their periods of dominance and influence. The present context needs more careful reading than it often gets.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Friday, 29 January 2016 at 12:34pm GMT

"is not blindly fishing from the CofE boat" -- you misunderstand the general use of the phrase, which has to do with the CofE not existing in a vast supermarket of denominations, overshadowing them, as is true of TEC in the US context. It is a 'good boat to fish from' in the sense that it is a vehicle for lost of various fishermen/women. In the US, people fish from Methodist, Lutheran, Christian Reformed, UCC, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, Disciples of Christ, Mennonite, American Baptist, Pentecostal, RCC boats.

Posted by: christopher seitz on Friday, 29 January 2016 at 2:01pm GMT

Hi Ms Mary Clara--can you tell me a bit about yourself please, as I have accommodated your kind queries on my side? Because I have a public persona--which you have accessed in some form--it is helpful to have a better sense of who is asking questions. Bien cordialement!

Posted by: christopher seitz on Friday, 29 January 2016 at 6:30pm GMT

'I wouldn't be counting on the Book of Acts, as it were.'

I would be surprised if you did, Rod.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Friday, 29 January 2016 at 6:50pm GMT

I share, with many, acute distress that the reputation of Bishop George Bell has been so overwhelmingly harmed. Surely the most important question is whether or not the evidence was properly weighed in the civil case, rather than the views of the Diocese of Chichester?

Posted by: Andrew on Saturday, 30 January 2016 at 4:48pm GMT

@ Tim Chesterton, see the article (#44) Acts of the Apostles, by Richard J. Dillon in The New Jerome Biblical commentary.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 30 January 2016 at 10:51pm GMT

Tim Chesterton, I so much appreciate your differentiation of the different kinds of “growth” we might hope to achieve in our religious life – all of them important, and no doubt in the big picture all interrelated, but in practical terms we aren’t focusing on all of them equally at the same time. It seems to me that we can have painful misunderstandings and feel alienated if we are working hard at one kind of growth and someone tries to measure it with a yardstick that we feel belongs to another kind.

Posted by: Mary Clara on Sunday, 31 January 2016 at 7:26am GMT

I did not even know, that equal marriage is widely, reliably and safely available to lgbt and other within TEC.
I thought
Am I wrong ?
Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 9:00pm GMT

Laurence, yes! Marriage was passed by our General Convention last July. The rite was supposed to be available no later than Advent 2015. The rite is a tweaked version of one passed in 2012, and used in dioceses where the bishops allowed inclusive marriage. The bishops received the authority to exercise "generous pastoral oversight" to allow marriage where it was legal in 2012. That is how I got married. GC 2015 gave bishops an "opt out," so in 7 dioceses, the couples have to travel to another diocese to get married. The bishop "opt outs" are unfortunate. At the parish level, priests have total discretion in who they will and won't marry. Chances are that a gay couple will want to get married in a gay friendly parish. But it does illustrate that it isn't safely available every where, but it is available almost every where.

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 31 January 2016 at 7:39am GMT

Christopher Seitz, I can appreciate your wish to know with whom you are conversing. Since I work as a psychotherapist, I try to maintain a degree of online anonymity (especially in the religious blogosphere) so that my clients can speak to me freely about their spiritual struggles. Here are a few details which I hope will be helpful. I was baptized in 1943, have been a churchgoer pretty much ever since and an Episcopalian for half a century, most of that time in the Diocese of Maryland. I am long married, a mother and a grandmother.

My feeling for the unique cultural landscape of Dallas goes back to my college years at Southern Methodist University where I had fine foundation courses in OT, NT and theology and was active in the desegregation struggle which was gathering steam at that time. Did my undergraduate degree in literature, and later graduate work in religious studies, depth psychology and comparative healing traditions. I have lived and worked in Asia, studied Asian religions, and observed up close the long-term effects of Christian missionary activities there.

I am also an ardent organization person who has served on church vestries and nonprofit boards and who knows what it takes to start up an institute and keep it running! – hence my empathy for your efforts with the Cranmer Institute. Even though I would probably disagree with a lot of the Institute’s premises and goals, I appreciate the faithfulness and hard work that must have gone into it, and I hope you can look back on it with a sense of accomplishment. We are all experimenting and exploring on our faith journeys. Whether our projects turn out to be successful or not, durable or not, grace can arrive through them and bring unexpected blessing and transformation.

Posted by: Mary Clara on Sunday, 31 January 2016 at 7:41am GMT

Thank you, Mary Clara.

I am the President of ACI and we have been active for almost twenty years now. TCI was a bit of an experiment in trying to support the younger conservative clergy and lay leaders in TEC, many of them graduates of Yale, Duke, Nashotah, and Wycliffe, and of course those coming in from evangelical backgrounds.

The ability to create a space for vocations in this mode will turn in many ways on the way TEC now handles its conservative presence, especially as diocesan entities with bishop leaders. We are no longer optimistic this space will exist.

So it was decided to pull back to our ACI remit and focus on larger communion affairs. Radner will be posting his evaluation of the Canterbury gathering shortly as we have all reviewed it.

And I have moved to France.

You have clearly had a very long and exciting career.

Posted by: Christopher Seitz on Sunday, 31 January 2016 at 1:25pm GMT

Cynthia,

I know Laurence will correct me, if I'm wrong, and understand that I am trying only to help in clarifying:

I think he is referring to the fact that, despite that adoption, the simple fact is the "local option" which is the hallmark of TEC's courtesy to those who wish to do it harm from within has made many places "no fly" zones for same-sex marriages. Indeed, there are still places in which it is still unsafe, even for an Episcopalian, to say the he or she is differently-sexed.

On +Mark Harris' blog, you can find examples of those within TEC who still insist that "reparative therapy" is real and that the continual assault on the humanity and God-image of GLBTI individuals is both valid and loving. If one has the stomach to investigate the places in which they speak to one another, you'll find the loving language drops and begins to sound a good deal more like the Greek bishop of Kalavryta, or Vladimir Putin.

One of the ongoing problems in TEC is that those of you in a position to really be heard are truly decent, kind, honorable people, so that's what you expect others to be. Those of us with greater darkness within us keep trying to tell you what these opponents are like, because we recognize the darkness in them which you simply can't comprehend.

The adoption of the Marriage Rite is a bit like the declarations of racism's death; we've made federal anti-discrimination laws, we talk about how wrong racism is, but we have states with their own laws and cultures and respect the individual's right to ignorance and hate so, despite our non-racist nation, it's still dangerous to be the wrong race in the wrong place.

Goodwill needs those who recognize ill-will in order to be effective.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 3 February 2016 at 8:09am GMT

Brunson's candor is refreshing and helps clarify the new TEC. I believe he is absolutely right to question the anodyne account being set forth by Cynthia. The new marriage rite will settle finally where TEC is and who it will no longer tolerate as within its New Vision embrace.

Thank you for your direct remark as I believe it is genuinely where TEC now is.

Posted by: Christopher Seitz on Wednesday, 3 February 2016 at 5:29pm GMT

I did not even know, that equal marriage is widely, reliably and safely available to lgbt and other within TEC.
I thought
Am I wrong ?
Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 28 January 2016 at 9:00pm GMT

Laurence, yes! Marriage was passed by our General Convention last July. The rite was supposed to be available no later than Advent 2015. The rite is a tweaked version of one passed in 2012, and used in dioceses where the bishops allowed inclusive marriage. The bishops received the authority to exercise "generous pastoral oversight" to allow marriage where it was legal in 2012. That is how I got married. GC 2015 gave bishops an "opt out," so in 7 dioceses, the couples have to travel to another diocese to get married. The bishop "opt outs" are unfortunate. At the parish level, priests have total discretion in who they will and won't marry. Chances are that a gay couple will want to get married in a gay friendly parish. But it does illustrate that it isn't safely available every where, but it is available almost every where.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 5 February 2016 at 5:34am GMT

Cynthia,

The point is that - in some sections of the country - there are no gay friendly parishes, at least none easily accessed.

This "generous pastoral oversight" has been generous only to those who've had the past 1000 years of privilege in the ecclesiastical structures. The best generosity would be to see them firmly on their way, if they simply cannot bear to share oxygen with gays. Or, alternatively, to tell GLBTI's that they are entirely secondary to keeping that privileged group happy and can like it or lump it.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 11 February 2016 at 10:25am 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.