Saturday, 18 February 2017

Opinion - 18 February 2017

Kelvin Holdsworth What is really going on in the Church of England

Giles Fraser The Guardian The clergy has moved on. It’s the bishops who are out of touch

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Double amber - proceed with extreme caution – unconditional love ahead

Erasmus The Economist As church and society diverge, so do Christianity’s liberals and hardliners

Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon The Living Church England and the Anglican Communion: Outward Moving Mission
[This is the full text of the Archbishop’s address to the General Synod on 16 February.]

Richard Peers Quodcumque Just do it! Grace before meals

Scott Gunn Seven whole days Thirteen Commandments for your website (church websites, part 1)

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 18 February 2017 at 11:00am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

I have just finished reading v. 1 of The Oxford History of Anglicanism, which came out earlier this month:, which I purchased at the OUP bookshop last week (v. 3 is out already and v. 4 is imminent). It contains a handy essay by Andrew Foster (ch. 5, pp. 84-102) on the evolving status of bishops from the Reformation to the Restoration. Much of his summary is familiar from previous reading, but it describes the development of the office in an extensive timespan. It is also worth reading with John McCafferty’s essay on Ireland and Scotland (ch. 13, pp. 243-65), which underscores how differently things might have gone. Essentially the ‘national’ church was, for long, at sixes and sevens about bishops: should they be magnates, pastors, civil servants, administrators, theological directors, scholars or mere superintendents (or combinations of these attributes)? Well, they were most of these things at varying times, whilst their power and prestige oscillated, sometimes wildly, according to their perceived utility. The ideological predicates of the early Stuarts enhanced episcopal authority, which led to over-reach – so much so that by October 1646 they were abolished, and if anyone was making a case for them in the 1640s it was on the basis of the ‘reduced episcopacy’ advanced by James Ussher.

What I find interesting about Kelvin Holdsworth’s excellent essay is that he is saying that the problem is not only about the issues as the deteriorating moral authority of the bishops. In my view this is as dangerous now for the future of the Church as it was in the Bishops’ Wars, although of course far less is now at stake. This has led me to wonder why such a premium is now placed on episcopal authority and what might be the consequences of its collapse.

Posted by: Froghole on Saturday, 18 February 2017 at 12:42pm GMT


In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the political and economic pressures placed on the Church created a movement for improved efficiency; a tangle of disparate corporations and interests had to be woven into something more coherent. Bishops, the Commissioners and (from 1919) the Church Assembly, were the necessary instruments of this policy. The long shadow of the Oxford Movement (and its antagonists), societal pressures and, from the 1950s, ‘culture wars’ placed the XXXIX Articles, Canons and received doctrines under increasing strain; as doctrinal uniformity gradually disintegrated only the central structures (bishops, Commissioners, Synod) remained, which has only served to enhance their relative importance. However, these structures have, over time, come under pressure as the supporting doctrinal tissue/ballast has disappeared.

The bishops have now engaged in over-reach perhaps because they have felt they had to do so: as 'unifiers'. Absent the Commissioners they are the only meaningful focus for unity, but now their utility is chiefly a corollary of their administrative function and not of their moral authority (as often noted the current bench is conspicuously devoid of bishops with theological heft). Yet their role as unifiers will decline over time if they are reduced to mere administrators.

The bishops are, in short, almost the last prop keeping the whole rickety structure from its final (and inevitable?) collapse. That is presumably why they felt they had to stand together, even at the price of their own consciences. However, if a critical mass of clergy and laity have lost confidence in them (partly because in a few instances they are not even especially good at being administrators, still less pastors) then all we have left to prevent many parishes from quitting the Church are the tangle of property rights and obligations, and the legal claims that may be made with respect to them. My fear is that we will not end up with an adequate compromise or settlement between the various factions (that has long seemed impossible) but that the endgame will result in an unsavoury mass of litigation.

Posted by: Froghole on Saturday, 18 February 2017 at 12:44pm GMT

Froghole, there *has* to be a compromise and settlement between the factions, because people are embedded in their doctrinal positions, and not willing to move from them, so the crisis can't be resolved by one side 'winning'.

Bearing in mind that church members are generally less ideological than the loud voices at the poles of the debate, and bearing in mind that parish life binds people to locality and their local churches, I simply don't believe that the majority of people will walk out on long-term community and friendship, if a compromise is imposed on the vociferous wings of the Church of England.

Unity in diversity - and allowing priests and people to follow sincere (and already existing) conscience on the sexuality issue - may result in some people throwing toys out of the pram, but would most likely leave the Church intact in parishes where diverse people already live and serve together, without sex being the only or even the most motivational raison d'etre of most people's Christian commitment.

And apart from compromise, like the compromises over female ordination and episcopy (so there are precedents), what better solution can anyone offer?

Whether the bishops have the political will or ability to impose a compromise via synod, or whether priests and parishes ultimately have to take matters into their own hands, remains to be seen. However, the standoff cannot continue indefinitely, and compromise is the bishops' (and the Church of England's) escape route.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 18 February 2017 at 5:45pm GMT

Richard Peers' words about grace before meals doesn't take into account those households where thankfulness for enough crockery may hold sway. I grew up in such a household where one person at table was prone to pulling the tablecloth away abruptly and dislodging everything onto the floor.
I am most thankful these days for peace at the table.

Posted by: Pam on Saturday, 18 February 2017 at 8:34pm GMT

Bravura analysis, Froghole!

To me, this boils down to the distinction that former SEC Primus Richard Holloway (incidentally, forced out of post by "open evangelicals" who weren't that open to liberal theology) drew between "intrinsic" and "extrinsic" authority: intrinsic authority, like charisma, comes from within a person; extrinsic is imposed by an external source, such as office.

English diocesans clearly rest on extrinsic authority: as a motley collection of episcopal bureaucrats appointed by their own tribe for their ability to play the game, what else could they do? Intrinsic authority inspires instead of compels. Extrinsic authority's a burden, and people chafe against it.

Susannah, I agree that unity in diversity's the only way to keep the CoE together. Question is, can a majority of evangelicals (and crucially, the leaders of the evangelical flock) be persuaded to go with it, or is England about to mirror TEC's messy divorce?

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 19 February 2017 at 9:46am GMT

Part of the problem surely is the disconnect between Synod and the parishes ( and probably the Archbishops Council too).The majority of the C of E are what Alec Vidler called "un hyphenated anglicans"yet synod is pretty tribal.It is elected by the keenies..clergy and deanery reps...yet only about half of the electorate bother to vote.It has become Leviathan.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Sunday, 19 February 2017 at 4:29pm GMT

James, and further to my note to you, Froghole - I have set out my case for Unity in Diversity here:

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 19 February 2017 at 5:30pm GMT

Yes - I have probably been too forceful. I think that a good majority will stay put, and the power of inertia at the parish level should probably not be underestimated. Susannah is, as usual, quite right: it would be highly invidious to think of this as a fight in which one party has to win and another must therefore lose: we will all be losers were a schism to occur. The question for me is whether prolonged low level warfare between parties within the Church might cause greater damage over time than a more abrupt denouement. I also agree that the nature of Synod is such that it tends to amplify the views of partisans, and that this is very unhealthy for the Church as a whole (in some of my darker moments I wish there might be a figure who could do to Synod what Stanhope did to Convocation in the heat of the Bangorian controversy).

Today, I attended services at a number of churches in the Dorchester area of the Oxford diocese (specifically the bit that used to be in Berkshire before 1974). Unusually, however, I noted that latest Synodical shenanigans had actually generated sincere interest and concern, expressed quite forcefully in intercessions as well as sermons. Others might have experienced the same in their own parishes. This suggests that some people have been getting genuinely agitated at a local level.

I suspect that many fewer conservative evangelicals will desert than their leaders will predict, but the losses might still be rather more considerable than the numbers of those Anglo-Catholics who swam the Tiber after 1993 or following the establishment of the Ordinariate. There is little room for complacency. My anxiety is that diocesan finances are often so parlous that it might only take a loss of critical mass within a few parishes to have a disproportionately adverse impact upon the ability of any given diocese to meet its obligations. So, whilst I would not expect something on the scale of the splits of the ACNA or South Carolina from the TEC (say) there might still be some significant unpleasantness is certain places and a larger financial hit.

Posted by: Froghole on Monday, 20 February 2017 at 12:13am GMT


Thank you for linking to your piece.

At present my own suggestion is for Synod to pass a Canon like this:

"Any minister of the Church of England may perform any form of rite or sacrament authorised to be performed in the English language by any province within the Anglican Communion with the written permission of a bishop of that province and shall for the purposes of such rites and sacraments fall entirely under the authority of the authorising bishop."

It broadens episcopal authority. It doesn't refer directly to same sex marriages - I suspect Anglo Catholics would find rites and sacraments from other provinces they wished to adopt too which may secure a few extra votes. And no CofE bishop is responsible for any such rites or sacraments. Conservatives are satisfied because there is zero change to CofE doctrine and officially the Church still would not recognise sane sex marriages yet LGBTI members of the Church of England and those members of the clergy who support us regain freedom of conscience.

It would also offer a blueprint to provinces like Australia which are equally divided and which could consider adopting a similar measure.

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 20 February 2017 at 7:19am GMT

My take on this, like that of Fr.Giles Fraser; is that the House of Bishops is dead scared of what the GAFCON Provinces will do if the Church of England celebrates the fact that LGBTI people are really a valued minority in the Church, deserving due respect and treatment by the Church.

The question is: Is this Unity based on a false premise - that of uniformity rather than justice?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 20 February 2017 at 7:21am GMT

A valued minority? That sounds perjorative.

The challenge of the Bishops isn't Gafcon but the GS, if one is thinking along these lines.

But more pressing is likely the question of conservative parishes in the CofE.

The liberals did not vote in favour of the report but neither did many conservatives.

Since many conservatives are not in favor of Gafcon UK the question they are likely weighing is what are their alternatives to that?

Focusing on Gafcon as a troublemaker simplifies things but also glosses over the true nature of the challenge. +Welby's final remarks likely worried conservatives more than liberals.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 20 February 2017 at 10:49am GMT

Extraordinary piece of writing, Susannah: brave, reasonable and generous in equal measure. Your point about your Gender Recognition Certificate closing off marriage in a second encapsulates the absurdity of gender rigidity.

If at all possible, I hope unity in diversity can be followed in all provinces, alongside changing marriage canons to be gender-neutral. Rectors with the backing of their congregations should have the right to conscientiously object, and refuse to marry same-sex couples, as they can currently refuse to remarry divorcees. Tolerating this is itself hard and painful, but tolerance worth the name always is, and it would retain the broad church from which much other good flows.

In time, I hope more and more of those holding a traditional position can be persuaded. But unless they are, they shouldn't be coerced, anymore than those arguing for change should be.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 20 February 2017 at 11:23am GMT

Kate -- I don't think a motion like that would get up in the English General Synod. For one thing, the bishops have a pretty maximising view of episcopacy right now and the need for written authorisation might well reinforce an attitude that is being exposed as a basic problem. I also think the evangelical wing would baulk so badly the whole thing wouldn't proceed to a vote. There may well be other issues at canon law where this sort of motion would create more conflict than it solves.

The essential problem is that the Church of England has a group of bishops who have decided that they don't have to listen to anyone living the reality they struggle to describe. No amount of tinkering with authorisation for rites and ceremonies will solve that problem.

Posted by: Victoriana on Monday, 20 February 2017 at 11:27am GMT

Kate, whatever its merits this sort of proposal would not be legal, and passing a canon in those words would not be legal and would not legalize anything. Under the Worship and Doctrine Measure 1974 any forms of service which are alternative to a service in the 1662 BCP need to be authorized by a 2/3 majority in each of the three Houses of the General Synod.

The most flexible authorized service is A Service of the Word, which in the words of Bishop Colin Buchanan must have a beginning, a middle and an end -- and they must be in that order. It would perhaps be legal to have such a service as a service of blessing. But it would definitely not be legal to use that as a marriage service.

Changing that Measure would also be possible, of course. That would require the full synodical process of an amending measure, possibly including a reference to the diocesan synods, possibly itself requiring 2/3 majority in the the three Synodical Houses, and certainly requiring parliamentary approval. And that's without venturing into the territory of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which would perhaps need an Act of Parliament to amend, or at the very least another Synodical Measure.

Caveat: I am not a lawyer; but the law is pretty explicit on this point. It's not going to happen any time soon.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Monday, 20 February 2017 at 12:31pm GMT


But could it not be achieved with a 2/3 majority in Synod - leaving aside for one moment the difficulty of that? At the worst, Synod could pass a motion asking Parliament to pass a Statute in the desired form. Whether it is a canon or measure - or both - Eefectively it just expands the list of authorised forms of service. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 is an elephant I agree, but suppose the text of the measure/canon included the following sort of provision:

"When performing any service, rite or sacrament authorised under this canon/measure, a minister shall be regarded as pro tem for the duration of the service as being a minister within the authorising provincial church and not as a Minister of the Church of England."

I think that side-steps the final piece in the quadruple lock.

I agree it is a highly novel suggestion. But none of Susannah's options stand a chance. Her unity in diversity option is totally dead. Traditionalists cannot allow the doctrine of marriage to change - for them that is the issue of conscience - nor allow blessings. For the ordination of women, we needed flying bishops to cater for the minority view. This does the same but places those bishops outside the Church of England, but on the basis of apostolic succession we recognise their episcopacy.

Everyone knows we need a solution. Most people now recognise a solution within the existing structure of the Church of England is impossible. That leaves either schism, decades more of infighting, or something inventive.

The two other additions needed to my suggestion are:

"In preparing for any service authorised under this canon / measure, the celebrant and participants will follow the doctrine, guidance and traditions of the authorising province."


"Where a minister has performed a service authorised under this canon / measure, his or her diocesan bishop shall do nothing which might be seen to prejudice the authenticity of the service. In particular, no minister shall be subjected to censure, reprimand or discipline for participation in any such service. "

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 20 February 2017 at 2:42pm GMT

Kate: the General Synod standing orders lay out how the authorization of liturgical material happens. Such material must be introduced by the House of Bishops, there is a revision process, at which stage anyone (yes, anyone) may submit proposed amendments and any synod member may require a personal hearing for their amendment; then it goes back to the HoB, who may further amend it if they see fit, and then it comes back to the Synod for 2/3 majorities in each of the three Houses.

So, even if this were a good idea (and it's been floated and rejected before in other contexts) it would need the HoB's agreement upfront and at the end; and it would potentially tie the Synod up in a never-ending revision stage.

And at the revision stage the revision committee or the HoB or 100 members of the Synod may call for a report on any doctrinal issue arising from the proposal, and when that doctrinal report is produced the Synod must formally take note of it.

Additionally, any proposal to change the services of Baptism or Holy Communion, or the Ordinal, is "Article 8 business" which means it must be referred to the dioceses, and requires a majority of diocesan synods to agree.

I suggest that your proposal is likely to be subject to all of these procedures. And since it means passing liturgical and therefore doctrinal control out of the hands of the Bishops and the Synod, then I think it is quite unlikely to pass.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Monday, 20 February 2017 at 5:22pm GMT

Kate (20 Feb. 7.19am) suggests that 'It would also offer a blueprint to provinces like Australia which are equally divided and which could consider adopting a similar measure.' It is the Parliament of Australia which is having difficulty arriving at allowing parliamentarians to be given a conscience vote on same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is still illegal in Australia. It will take a change of government, I believe, to even arrive at a conscience vote in Parliament. The churches seem more concerned about this than changes in their own structures.

Posted by: Pam on Monday, 20 February 2017 at 8:53pm GMT

One has to wonder what will happen if the SEC proceeds as expected with the removal of the definition of marriage from the canon. Will we have a situation where gay Anglican clergy can head for All Saints, Gretna, get married according to the rites of the Scottish Episcopal Church and return home to face discipline? What are the rules for CofE clergy visiting Scotland and, with permission of the local bishop, performing a same-sex wedding or blessing?

Posted by: Jo on Monday, 20 February 2017 at 9:06pm GMT

I am most impressed by Susannah’s superbly eloquent and thoughtful piece ‘A time for Grace’, and by Kate’s ingenious proposal for a local option. My regretful view is that they are both calling for a unity in diversity which at least one party in the Church would unlikely to concede, and that their proposals might give credence to those critics of the Church who argue that it is scarcely a church at all but merely an agglomeration of disparate tendencies sharing little but the same inherited structures.

Here I wonder whether it is time that will be the healer. Conservatives have had to cede ground in so many areas as the weight of the zeitgeist bears upon them. They would once have held the deceased wife’s sister legislation or the liberalisation of divorce, etc., to be abominations but they have gradually given way after the initial heat of the battle. I think that they will retreat on SSM as it becomes normalised in society; the problem is how to get the Church through the intervening period during which conservatives feel constrained to fight their customarily futile rear-guard action.

Here I am warming to Dr Butler’s suggestion that it is Synod which is the problem, and am tempted to argue with James I and VI who, in 1613, wrote to the Dutch states-general that:

‘experience has taught us that…differences are rarely to be decided by conferences of divines, but that it is much more proper to put an end to them by public authority, forbidding your clergy to touch upon such subjects in the pulpit…and strictly requiring them to preserve peace by a mutual toleration of the differing opinions which each side has embraced concerning those points’ (from John Platt, ‘Eirenical Anglicans at the Synod of Dort’, Studies in Church History, Subsidia 2: Reform and Reformation: England and the Continent, c.1550-c.1750, 1979, at 229).

Now I am not suggesting the authoritarian suppression of free speech, but that a period of quiet would perhaps be of benefit to all in lieu of schism. However, the issue is whether the time for reflection has long passed, the debate has generated an unstoppable momentum and silence would sanction the continued repression of the LGBTI community. If this is admitted, a more dramatic outcome becomes likely, and the embedded nature of synodical government in the modern Church makes disruption that much more probable.

Posted by: Froghole on Tuesday, 21 February 2017 at 12:47am GMT

The local bishop in Scotland will not be able to give permission to most travelling C of E clerics to perform the marriages of a same-sex couples.

If the canon proposed in June passes, local dioceses will be able to nominate clergy who will perform such marriages. It won't apply to all SEC priests, only those who are nominated.

The only situation where it might be an issue for C of E clergy would be for the few C of E clergy who also have a connection with a diocese in Scotland. If someone had permission to officiate in an English Diocese and a Warrant or License from a Scottish Diocese too then it is conceivable that they might be nominated to perform weddings for same-sex couples and the C of E bishop who give them PTO would have to decide whether to take action if they did.

Blessings of couples in Civil Partnership happen in Scotland already and it is certainly the case that clergy from the C of E have been involved in such liturgical events.

Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Tuesday, 21 February 2017 at 8:21am GMT


I think most LGBTI people see the Shared Conversations as that period of quiet reflection you call for and are of an option that the Bishops Reflection Group was highly disrespectful of the sacrifice many made both in terms of the stories shared but also the patience shown by many more. Quiet is the one thing that is definitely not on the agenda. There is no authority figure who could agree such a period and any who tried would be ignored.

The LGBTI minority has learned over the years to distrust promises of jam tomorrow. That distrust clearly now extends to the bishops. The LGBTI community wins most battles by very noisy, very public campaigns. That I suspect is what will happen. I do not think liberals will walk out. I think they will fight very noisily and the Church is going to have to live with that

"[Susannah and Kate] are both calling for a unity in diversity which at least one party in the Church would unlikely to concede, and that their proposals might give credence to those critics of the Church who argue that it is scarcely a church at all but merely an agglomeration of disparate tendencies sharing little but the same inherited structures."

Actually, I am arguing against unity in diversity within CofE. My suggestion is that unity in diversity is accepted as part of the Anglican Communion and I am proposing to leverage that acceptance precisely to avoid the CofE becoming "an agglomeration of disparate tendencies sharing little but the same inherited structures."

Posted by: Kate on Tuesday, 21 February 2017 at 9:56am GMT

Froghole's quote from James I is a gem.

Posted by: badman on Tuesday, 21 February 2017 at 10:59am GMT

I'm enjoying your historical perspective Froghole. Henry Chadwick once said in Synod the C of E was suffering from historical amnesia.When I mentioned to Revd Dr Judith Maltby recently that I had strayed into her territory and was involved in an MA at Kent on 17c religion she told me that might be good preparation for the future!

Posted by: Perry Butler on Tuesday, 21 February 2017 at 1:09pm GMT

"Froghole's quote from James I is a gem."

And pretty chilling.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 21 February 2017 at 1:54pm GMT

Kate: I must apologise to you and LGBTI brethren for giving the impression of being disrespectful, and for having completely misunderstood both your objectives and your excellent proposal. What I was trying to say (incompetently) is that: (i) a period of calm would be necessary in order to get conservatives to acclimatise themselves to the reality of SSM in society (and, therefore, within the Church); but (ii) the LGBTI community has waited and suffered long enough, and the momentum for change is unstoppable. The timetables of each party are therefore completely misaligned.

It therefore seems to me that a schism is the most likely outcome of this misalignment: conservatives will not change their views without a considerable effluxion of time, and progressives (whom, as you suggest, have already waited far too long) consider that it is already late enough.

Query whether it is useful for the Church to continue expending valuable energy and resource in the possibly futile quest for an accommodation that is unlikely to be achieved, even allowing for the fabled ‘comprehensiveness’/elasticity of English Anglicanism. Indeed, the Church is perhaps a victim of its own flexibility: it is sacrificing its reputation amongst progressives and in wider society because it is perhaps being too accommodative of the views of a minority who see compromise as a political game which violates their world view. This pliability is a palliative for something malign creeping across the ecclesiastical body politic, where perhaps only the excision afforded by a split will assure the continuing health of the Church (though there is a risk of an excision/schism killing the patient...). Here the history of the Church of Scotland between 1843 and 1929 might be helpful: reunion occurred after a temporary, if bitter, separation.

I am not sure whether, if there is to be a parting of ‘friends’, the progressives or the reactionaries will bolt first. Indeed, uncertainty about this might underpin the strategy of ‘masterful’ equivocation (‘jam tomorrow’) which seems to afflict the current bench. Perhaps this uncertainty is itself a recipe for continued stasis: everyone has had enough with each other but cannot even agree the timing or terms on which they would split, thus ensuring that the malignancy spreads still further and deeper.

I hope I am completely wrong about all this, but thank you for your suggestions, which have got me thinking, even if incorrectly!

Posted by: Froghole on Tuesday, 21 February 2017 at 2:07pm GMT

"mutual toleration" is chilling?

Interesting point of view.

Posted by: badman on Tuesday, 21 February 2017 at 6:05pm GMT

Froghole, I am in a cinema waiting for a movie so I may reply more later but I wanted to say immediately I saw no disrespect whatsoever in what you wrote. God bless you Froghole.

Posted by: Kate on Tuesday, 21 February 2017 at 7:11pm GMT

Nice. Edicts from monarchs and civil authorities "forbidding your clergy to touch upon such subjects."

You can be sure they'd shut down this blog in a second. Too parlous.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 22 February 2017 at 7:23am GMT

Who knows? The Crown in Parliament may yet rear its head.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Wednesday, 22 February 2017 at 5:18pm GMT

Re: Froghole.

Sounds like what the sovereigns of the era, esp. James VI/I would advise. He wrote nice tracts on the Divine right of Kings, viz, Kings above all other human beings, by divine design. Famously anti-Parliament. Political absolutism.

So, no thank you for his form of “enforced toleration.”

Perry: Crown wouldn't "rear its head" under James I.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 22 February 2017 at 5:41pm GMT

But the 29 members of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament might yet have something to say.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Wednesday, 22 February 2017 at 10:02pm GMT

Prof. Seitz: Apologies - I was being a bit flippant by referring to James I, and was making a clumsy point about Synod sometimes tending to aggravate partisan antagonisms (although it's possible that I am being unfair about that august institution). I quite understand both your animosity towards James, and why independent-minded 'godly' Englishmen should have wanted to desert early Stuart England for the New World: the remarks I quoted probably reflected his memories of the Hampton Court conference of 1604, and his bitter childhood experiences of presbyterians like Knox, Melville, Gowrie (who kidnapped him) and Buchanan (who thrashed him).

However, he was probably not a complete shower. The late Jenny Wormald has this assessment of him (from the ODNB):

"Recent scholarship has done much to overturn [his bad reputation]; even literary critics have become less hostile, and modern historians see far greater ability in James. He was not a success in every area. He was a financial disaster. His dreams of closer union were not realized, and his efforts to keep his kingdoms out of war in Europe failed. But he was a remarkable man, with a high theoretic sense of his kingship, yet also an adept practical politician, casual, friendly, intellectual, and scholarly."

A man who encouraged the likes of Andrewes and Cosin, who gave shelter to the elder Casaubon and Vossius - and even the renegade de Dominis - cannot have been all bad. Let's say he was highly intolerant of some forms of religious intolerance (with overwrought ideas about kingship), and that he is of relatively marginal relevance to today's problems.

Dr Butler: I imagine your course is excellent. May I mention how much I enjoyed your book about Gladstone? You and Prof. Bebbington are my first ports of call when thinking about the GOM's intellectual/theological development.

Posted by: Froghole on Wednesday, 22 February 2017 at 11:16pm GMT

This is an interesting and erudite thread. I am grateful to Susannah for her well argued and Frank statement. I would like to see a response from the Bishops which considers unity in diversity but this is going to be difficult to achieve since we are at an impasse. I regularly read Ian Paul's blog, Psephizo, which offers a very different theology from many on this blog. It is clear that the bulk of Evangelicals are deeply hostile not only to any change in the church's teaching enforced by the Bishops but also to any attempt to accommodate any alternative views on this matter. They also read the science as supporting their position. As James Byron puts it, Ian Paul is one of the more nuanced Evangelicals. Given this and the depth of the gulf between the two standpoints, I cannot see anything for the near future other than an uneasy truce. This is bad for the health of the CofE and for mission but I can't see any acceptance of diverse views just yet.

Posted by: Daniel Lamont on Thursday, 23 February 2017 at 8:14am GMT

Monsieur Trou de Grenouille

No apologies necessary.

Yes his upbringing was a study in the era's complexities and unpleasantries.

Monarchs unilaterally muzzling views by divine right also inhered in the era, as did Gunpowder Plots and wry commentary to Dutch copains. This would not be a peace keeping in the name of "mutual toleration" I should have thought anyone in our present age would lift up as a model. I assumed you were being arch.

My forebears are not godly minded Englishmen but Germans fleeing the Franco-Prussian conscription. A lovely era of non stop conflict. Makes ours look like a parlour game.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 23 February 2017 at 8:18am GMT

"The Crown in Parliament may yet rear its head."
Here are some modest proposals.

It would not be unreasonable for our representatives to re-assert the rights of parishioners (if legally free to marry) to marry in their parish churches according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England; perhaps adding a provision that minor alterations in the wording to meet any particular case should not be deemed to affect the legal status of such a marriage.

Nor would it be unreasonable for our representatives to clarify the law, so that harassment of employees, office holders, volunteers was deemed to be misconduct in public office.

It would be good, too, for our representatives to scrutinise the net public benefit provided by the various charitable bodies which comprise the Church of England -- a vast amount of public money is being conveyed to bodies engaged in causing positive harm.

Being the Established Church is not cost-free.

Posted by: american piskie on Thursday, 23 February 2017 at 9:07am GMT
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