Saturday, 23 April 2016

Opinion - 23 April 2016

Michael Ainsworth Law & Religion UK Thoughts on railways, clergy, religion and the law

Jim Grover The Guardian How my camera helped me re-focus on my faith

Darrell Hannah Church Times Robust approach to fossil fuels required

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 23 April 2016 at 11:00am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Michael Ainsworth's post is a refreshing expedition into the world of railways, trivial pursuit questions, and general miscellaneous anecdotes. (I always feel sorry for poor Huskisson - getting killed on what should have been such a joyful day was a bit of a bummer.)

On the subject of information overload, I couldn't agree more. I've settled into my train seat. I've opened my book. And then it begins: some hapless announcer who seems to love her/his own voice, droning on about stuff from tickets, to refreshments, to upgrading to first, to short platforms, to connections, to luggage etc.

A bit like the book of Numbers. I always felt that the book of Numbers suffers from information overload. Whenever I've tried to read my way through the bible, you have the beauty of Genesis, the drama of Exodus, the slightly pedantic eccentricity of Leviticus, but when you get to Numbers, you face days and days of the most dreary, unedifying minutiae. It's like some kind of ascetic trial.

"OT trains welcomes you aboard. Thank you for travelling with OT trains. Please make sure you have your salvation ready for inspection. We will be stopping at Hanoch, Pallu, Hezron, Carmi, Eliab, Nemuel, Dathan, Abiram, Nemuel, Jamin, Jakin, Zerah, Shaul, Zephon, Haggi, Shuni, Ozni, Eri, Arodi, Areli, Shelah, Perez, Zerah, Hamul, Tola, Puah, Jashub, Shimron, Sered, Elon, Jahleel, Makir, Iezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Shemida, Hether, (we will not be stopping at Zelophehad as he had no sons), Shuthelah, Beker, Tahan, Eran, Bela, Ashbel, Ahiram, Shupham, Hupham, Imnah, Ishvi, Beriah, Heber, Malkiel, Jahzeel, Guni (please alight here for the Emirates Stadium), Jezer, and Shillem, arriving at Bethlehem at approximately midnight."

(And that is just one chapter...)

At times like that, I long for the High-Speed Train non-stop to Galilee.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 23 April 2016 at 12:28pm BST

Two days before the Church Times published Darrell Hannah's interesting and important article on robust engagement with the fossil fuel companies (15 April), the largest coal mining company in the world, Peabody Coal, went bankrupt. At least five other large coal companies have have also filed for bankruptcy in the last couple of years. It is surely only a matter of time before the oil companies go the same way. We now all understand that we must dramatically reduce our consumption of oil or suffer such climate change that the world economy will collapse anyhow. There is thus a compelling financial argument for the Church Commissioners and others to sell their shares in oil companies now, regardless of the clear moral argument.

Posted by: Anne Mellanby on Sunday, 24 April 2016 at 1:51am BST

@ Anne Mellanby, "There is thus a compelling financial argument for the Church Commissioners and others to sell their shares in oil companies now, regardless of the clear moral argument."

Not being an economist I can't really comment on how compelling or not the financial argument for disinvestment is. However, the lack of clarity, at present, with regard to the moral arguments (plural) is a point worth pondering.

There is major discussion here in Canada, as there is elsewhere, by institutions such as churches and universities about the social benefit, or not, involved in a tight focus on disinvestment. Note this comment from Archdeacon Terry Leer who suggests we “examine and confront the fundamental failure of the policy of divestment to address fossil fuel consumption as the driver of climate change, ...offer alternatives that actually meet the needs ...encourage the development of workable alternatives to fossil fuels and hydrocarbons.”

I have attached a link to the Anglican journal article on this so as to provide context.

Also attached is a recent Journal article on the call of Anglicans and Lutherans with regard to climate change.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 24 April 2016 at 4:32pm BST

Interesting article on Clergy and railways. Many Anglican clerics do indeed seem to prefer the smell of Steam trains to that of heavenly incense. It also seems to me that some years ago we imposed upon ourselves a kind of Beeching style wound when we encouraged younger potential ordinands to go away and get experience of "the real world". After nearly 40 years in the ordained ministry, having been ordained at 25 years of age, I have had plenty of experience of the so called real world within the parochial ministry. Now that the signals are down and those reaching the terminus are greater than those setting off on the Magical Mystery Tour which is the ordained ministry we are realising, perhaps too late in the day, the errors of our ways having left undone those things which we ought to have done by recruiting younger ordinands, or thinner Controllers to replace the fatter Controllers. Renewal and Reform has as one of its main aims to increase the number of (younger?) ordinands by 50%. That's a tall order which ought to be given a specific timetable. I wish them every success in this vital quest. Toot Toot!

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 25 April 2016 at 4:40am BST

The transcendent difficulty with making a case for moral investment by a church is that it is morally dubious whether a church should retain sufficient liquid assets for investment in shares to arise in the first place.

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 25 April 2016 at 8:52am BST

Two thoughts:
On church and steam, no discussion is complete without a nod to The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953).
On investments, St. Ambrose was right: “It is a better thing to save souls for the Lord than to save treasures. The Church possesses gold, not to hoard, but to scatter abroad to aid the unfortunate.”

Posted by: Steve Lusk on Monday, 25 April 2016 at 2:29pm BST

Jim Grover's piece in the Guardian is a fascinating account of how observation can lead to engagement and eventually to involvement and commitment.

Plus, the photographs are compelling.

How wonderful to learn of a congregation that an outsider would find "full of faith, kindness, generosity of spirit, care and consideration for each other," a congregation that demonstrates "the positive differences that the church can make in a local community, and the value of community that the church can offer to those who seek it."

Thanks to Jim Grover, and best wishes for his career in photography!

Posted by: John Wall on Monday, 25 April 2016 at 5:56pm BST

Rod, as an Albertan (albeit a left-leaning one!) I thank you for your nuanced approach to the issue of fossil fuels. Terry Leer's article was very good too (he was the rector of All Saints', Fort McMurray for many years, so he knows what he's talking about in terms of the effect on faithful Anglican Christians who work in the oil patch).

I shake my head at the delegates to ACC in Lusaka passing motions about fossil fuels. How did they get to Lusaka, for crying out loud? By sailboat? I fully agree that we need to focus our efforts on developing alternatives to fossil fuels. But in the meantime, the economics are simple: as long as there's a demand for oil, oil companies will produce it. So how about we all agree to reduce our consumption? Wait, you mean no flights to England for me to see my family? Sorry - that's more important to me than reducing my carbon footprint! And I don't know about you, but my laptop right now is being powered by carbon-fired electricity. So yes, I appear to be part of the problem. And unless we're all prepared to admit our complicity in this problem and do something about it (something costly, that will impact our lifestlye), all the divestment in the world isn't going to change things.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Wednesday, 27 April 2016 at 10:43pm BST

«“Robust engagement” that is worthy of the name should include challenging oil and gas multinationals to make real reductions in carbon emissions now;» says Darrell Hannah

Maybe. But does such an argument belong in Church Times? I think not when stated as an imperative rather than a discussion. Essentially green arguments like this are issues of intergenerational responsibility. There is a strong moral case for interhenerational responsibility but the Biblical case is not straightforward if doing so might cause disadvantage to impoverished people today. There is also at least a degree of tension about planning for the next generation if we are living as though Jesus might return tomorrow.

I am not saying that a Christian cannot believe what Darrell is espousing but I think presenting such an argument as a foregone conclusion is a mistake.

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 28 April 2016 at 9:17am BST

@ Tim Chesterton, "...unless we're all prepared to admit our complicity in this problem and do something about it (something costly, that will impact our lifestlye), all the divestment in the world isn't going to change things." Agreed, and that is where the social ethic worm turns, so to speak. The church is well advised to look for strategies that require all of us to share in the responsibilities required by transition. As the old saying goes, it is always easy to exercise stewardship with someone else's money.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 30 April 2016 at 1:49am BST
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