Saturday, 11 June 2016

Opinion - 11 June 2016

Canon Simon Butler, Prolocutor of Canterbury, looks ahead to the shared conversation at next month’s General Synod — Having a Difficult Conversation.

Thinking Afresh About Welfare — A discussion paper by the Revd Canon Dr Malcolm Brown, Director of the Mission and Public Affairs Division of Archbishops’ Council, and endorsed by the House of Bishops
Church Times has a series of extracts from the paper, ‘Uprooting people severs support networks’, and Paul Handley writes Welfare paper for Bishops identifies ‘enemy Isolation’.

Jeremy Pemberton explains why he will not be taking a wedding service today — Wedding days.

Alex Walker talks to George Westhaver, the Principal of Pusey House, about students, fellowship and faith — Unheard Oxford: The Rev’d Dr George Westhaver.

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


I had no idea that you were being stopped from presiding at weddings, and I am saddened, shocked and appalled.

I am so sorry, that you, a decent and caring man, are being so marginalised and frankly bludgeoned by the crude sledgehammer of Anglican politics.

I hope that the wedding today, nonetheless, is a happy day for Laura and Richard, and may God bless then today and in their shared lives together all the years in the future.

May God bless you and Laurence too. I thank you for the witness of your lives, your decency, and your continuing fidelity in the face of a very particular cruelty and discrimination.


Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 11 June 2016 at 11:37am BST

Will someone explain to me what a "shared conversation" is, other than more dreary churchspeak? Surely if a conversation is not shared, it's not a conversation - it' a monologue.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Saturday, 11 June 2016 at 6:04pm BST

Quote: 'The paper criticises the 1985 report Faith in the City, produced by Archbishop Runcie’s Commission on Urban Priority Areas: “Just as Faith in the City failed to see the moral vision that informed Margaret Thatcher’s administrations, and therefore failed to engage coherently with that vision, so we must avoid the trap of seeing present policy direction as motivated solely by economic concerns.” Instead, it states, “recent welfare policies, whilst sometimes clumsily implemented or ill-communicated, are not without moral purpose.”'

Can somebody explain just what moral vision informed Thatcherism, or its current incarnation? I know they believe that poverty is a moral failing, but it doesn't have much to do with morality as I see it and even less with the Christian gospel.

Posted by: David Emmott on Saturday, 11 June 2016 at 10:40pm BST

It's the silly title the Church of England came up with when some Conservative Evangelicals objected to the phrase Facilitated Conversation. Your point was well-made at the time Nathaniel but to no avail!

Posted by: Simon Butler on Saturday, 11 June 2016 at 10:51pm BST

In "Thinking Afresh About Welfare", it is in my own experience of being dependent on the welfare of the state, albeit in a fairly short time frame, that I can appreciate the sense of alienation from true 'welfare' that recipients may encounter. Church agencies in Australia are at the forefront of much welfare delivery and it is a key part of churches' care for the community and a big part of their profile. Governments necessarily must look at the bottom line - finance - and churches look to their theology in implementing policy. Nevertheless, churches depend on government support too. An uneasy marriage?

Posted by: Pam on Saturday, 11 June 2016 at 11:27pm BST

@ Nathaniel Brown re 'shared conversation', I think you are on to something. Such is an example of how social worker argot has seeped into the dialect of churchland. The Canadian Oxford roots conversation in the Latin conversatio and in turn Cassell's defines conversatio as regular dealings with persons. So your point is well taken.

However, just as every parish priest knows that grave diggers run the world, so now church bureaucrats know that consultants run church world. Hence, 'shared' conversation.

Notwithstanding, the playing field is leveled to some degree when cranky pants patriarchs describe themselves as the voice of 'Anglican orthodoxy'-an argot equally difficult to discern.

It goes to attempts to control meaning. Secular consultants here in North america have pirated the aboriginal notion of the 'talking stick' but use it to manipulate 'shared conversations' that favor their clients i.e. the 'contract paying source.'

What is needed of course is a guy like Plato who keeps asking the poignant questions with a clear understanding that the well of controversy is bottomless. But you've got to be careful, speaking in non-argot will get you time in one or another re-education camp.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 12 June 2016 at 3:06am BST

Does the name really matter? More important was what it was trying to enable. But any suggestions as to what we should have called them?

Posted by: David Runcorn on Sunday, 12 June 2016 at 6:27pm BST

David, Good point - but I wonder to what extent calling them something bland and nice isn't just a way of convincing ourselves that something is being done?

We have "walked together," done "compassionate listening," and now we have the equally inane "shared conversations," and lull ourselves into more years for the locusts to eat, while equality and justice starve at the door outside the conference rooms where we break into yet more little discussion groups to report back to the whole, etc.

Jesus didn't have facilitated conversations. He made it pretty clear what he thought of the professionally religious, and he scandalized them by radically welcoming everyone. And then there was that very difficult New Commandment to love one another...

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Sunday, 12 June 2016 at 7:07pm BST

It's confusing when a number of different sources are linked to and yet you can't make comments on specific ones but only as a response to the day's posts. Is it possible to enable a separate comment thread for each item?

Posted by: David Emmott on Sunday, 12 June 2016 at 9:06pm BST

Nathaniel Those who took part in shared conversations here found them anything but inane - even those who struggled with them. 'Jesus didn't have facilitated conversations'. Well he wasn't an Anglican either. But it isn't to hard to describe him as facilitating conversations wherever he went - with any and all, including the 'professionally religious' (your phrase). And loving one another requires meeting and meeting involves conversation and when this is happening across real differences these may need er ... facilitating. I have no difficulty believing Jesus knew just how to do that.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Sunday, 12 June 2016 at 9:17pm BST

Jeremy,your blessing on the union, unremarked in the choir stalls, might be even more powerful than had you been stood at the altar rail. You might see it differently because of your training, but I think you did exercise your ministry. God saw you there as a Minister even if the congregation didn't.

The Church can take away earthly recognition from you; they cannot diminish God's recognition of your participation even if sometimes they try to pretend they can.


Posted by: Kate on Monday, 13 June 2016 at 2:05am BST


whilst there is undoubtedly a political aspect to your not being welcome to officiate at these weddings, if memory serves, for a priest to do so somewhere he is not licensed requires him to be "in good standing" with his bishop. So whilst I sympathize with your frustration (and the couples'), I think there is a legal basis for refusing you permission. Whether the law is supportable is another matter, of course.

Posted by: Bernard Randall on Monday, 13 June 2016 at 2:09pm BST


You are not correct. I am a priest holding a bishop's licence in another diocese, therefore in good standing. Under normal circumstances that would be quite sufficient for the incumbent or other authority in any Church of England church to allow me to preside at a wedding - as I often did when a parish priest, and couples had someone who was close to them who they wished to take their wedding service.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Wednesday, 15 June 2016 at 1:52am BST
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