Saturday, 18 November 2017

Opinion - 18 November 2017

Simon Butler ViaMedia.News My Confusion Regarding Claims of Sexual Harassment

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Speaking of teaching

Bosco Peters Liturgy Submission on Blessing Same-Sex Couples

Jonathan Draper Afterthoughts Purity Cults: death by a thousand cuts

Jeremy Morris via Media.News How Do Churches Die?

Ian Paul Psephizo Jesus was not born in a stable (honest!)

Martyn Percy Archbishop Cranmer How Bishop George Bell became a victim of Church of England ‘spin’ and a narrative of ‘decisive leadership’

Rachel Mann Celebrating Rainbow Lives: Can the C of E be more like the NHS?

Madeleine Davies “hears how choirs are drawing children, and their families, into the life of the Church of England” Church Times From the choir stalls to the altar

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 18 November 2017 at 11:00am GMT | TrackBack
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BRILLIANT, incicisive article by Martin Percy -PLEASE READ IT. The sort of careful thought-through leadership we are so short of.

Posted by: Christopher on Saturday, 18 November 2017 at 2:07pm GMT

If Ian Paul is not careful he is risking becoming as unpopular as the vicar who each year tells the children in the School Assembly that Santa Claus doesn't exist.
However, Mrs. C. F. Alexander got there before him in her carol "Once in Royal David's city" as the last verse begins -
"Not in that poor lowly stable"

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 18 November 2017 at 3:48pm GMT

Simon Butler's piece does a disservice to women who have been abused and are reluctant to come forward. I'm sure false accusations happen, but to focus on that is to put the cart before the horse. Victims need to be taken seriously and treated respectfully.

Butler is confused about the nature of sexual harassment. In a nutshell, it ranges from verbal harassment (hostile workplace sort of stuff), to inappropriate and/or nonconsensual touching (groping), to attempted rape or actual rape. The fundamental dynamic is a power imbalance, be it physical or rank at work or school.

With power a main driver, we understand that sexual behaviour between an adult and a "consenting" child is wrong. Similarly, relationships between professors and their students are HIGHLY problematic, as are bosses with employees or clergy with their congregants.

It is likely more common that women suffer retaliation for rejecting superiors than men suffer false accusations (even though I'm sure it happens occasionally).

Hopefully, that takes away some of the confusion about what sexual harassment is. The #MeToo movement was very revealing. I don't know any women who haven't suffered. I have, and I'm pretty fierce. And some of my gay men friends and colleagues have also come forward on #MeToo, typically in ways that prove that power is the dynamic in play. I'm in the arts, the "casting couch" is real.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 18 November 2017 at 6:19pm GMT

"Put bluntly, is the Church of England an inefficient, tangled and complex body that needs to be re-shaped organisationally? Or is it an institution in which its tangled and complex structures are, in fact, part of its very identity and value?"

One learns a lot when the précis being put forward looks like this.

I'd say, "Neither."

It is a church facing enormous practical, financial and existential challenges.

It will not face into them with this kind of simplistic either-or, with an obvious thumb on the scale in favor of blessing "tangled and complex structures."

That goes nowhere.

Posted by: CRS on Saturday, 18 November 2017 at 8:56pm GMT

My status as a Martyn Percy fanboi is on record. It's still a great article.

The comments are a cesspit, as usual for Cranmer.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Saturday, 18 November 2017 at 9:40pm GMT

Cynthia, I'm afraid "power imbalance" is not the only thing called harassment any longer and, unfortunately, it's getting ridiculous in places. It's not just the occasional guy and if women want real punishments (firing, losing licenses or career, prison, etc.) then you have to let them defend themselves. Destroying someone's, anyone's, job, marriage, career, automatically without listening to the other side is morally wrong.
I don't know what side of the pond you're on, but perhaps you've heard of advice columnists "Dear Abby" or "Miss Manners"? Miss Manners had to deal with a self described "feminist" who wanted to report a coworker for sexual harassment because he held the door for her while she was climbing stairs with an injured leg!

Posted by: Chris H. on Sunday, 19 November 2017 at 4:06am GMT

I wasn't convinced by Percy's attempt to hitch the Bell fiasco to evangelism efforts. The nebulous meander through business culture verged on TL;DR, and I didn't see anything specific to tie it to the Bell process. We can of course infer various motives, but at present, it's guesswork.

Getting down to brass tacks, whatever the motives in play, I'd hope the Bell debacle has persuaded at least some of the importance of the presumption of innocence, open justice, and not treating accusations as proof, let alone anonymous hearsay. It's disturbing that I'm now obliged at this point to say that none of this is an attack on the complainant. At present, we simply have insufficient evidence to say one way or the other.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 19 November 2017 at 8:45am GMT

Yes, Dean Percy might well have been advised to stick to one topic or the other rather than try to conflate both George Bell and the current emphasis on managerial style diocesan bishops. It is now 44 days since Lambeth Palace received Lord Carlile's Report and its findings and conclusions still haven't been made public. Why?

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 19 November 2017 at 2:20pm GMT

I've read Simon Butler's piece three times now and I still don't understand what he is confused about. Why people tell their friends about abuse but don't formally report it? Why it's not always effectively dealt with when reported? Why some people are being falsely accused?
What is the question?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 19 November 2017 at 5:06pm GMT

Erika, he's confused about why uppity women are saying that they don't have complete faith in a process run by powerful white men being completely fair and transparent in its investigations of the behaviour of powerful white men, and it's all a bit impertinent of them. If only they stopped worrying their pretty little heads about stuff they don't understand, they'd be so much happier, and anyway, they should have been flattered by the attention. He tries to be down with the kids by using the word "mansplaining", but the whole piece goes beyond mansplaining into a world in which the only reason someone wouldn't report something is because they're a liar anyway. Grim.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Sunday, 19 November 2017 at 7:29pm GMT

"It is now 44 days since Lambeth Palace received Lord Carlile's Report and its findings and conclusions still haven't been made public. Why?"

Perhaps because the George Bell matter might not be the only safeguarding case in which the CofE has falsely maligned people's reputations?

To do so once is an unfortunate mistake. To do so twice begins to look like carelessness.

And there's a legal term for that....

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 19 November 2017 at 8:18pm GMT

Interested Observer, if that’s the question, then I would suggest that one reason why victims struggle with the process in the CoE is that, if I understand it correctly, a victim who wishes to make a formal complaint after the permitted timeframe is up has to write the allegations down in detail, including names and addresses of people who know about it. This evidence will then be sent to the accused and they will be asked whether they permit an extension to the timeframe so that the complaint can be heard.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 19 November 2017 at 10:22pm GMT

"It is likely more common that women suffer retaliation for rejecting superiors than men suffer false accusations (even though I'm sure it happens occasionally)." - Cynthia -

Cynthia, while this is undoubtedly true, and greatly regrettable - in every circumstance, I must say a word in support of Simon Butler’s argument:

There was a recent case I know of that came before a mediator where a woman accused a priest of serial harassment - of kissing her on the lips for 19 years! Apart from the fact that the priest in question had not even resided in the parish for that long, it turned out that he may have once, inadvisedly, offered her a kiss on the cheek at the 'Kiss of Peace'.

It turned out that the complainant had a grudge against the priest in question and was, in fact, under personal psychological supervision at the time - all of which became the source of concern in the parish with subsequent embarrassment for the priest involved. This is offered only to show that there are cases of unjust accusations.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 12:11am GMT

Folks interested in the Rachel Mann article may also be interested in the formal apology that is scheduled in the House of Commons from PM Trudeau.

This development, together with the referendum result down under, may cause the church(es) to reflect on the lyrics of an old Neil Young song "Ambulance Blues".

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 12:28am GMT

I have two reasons for being very interested in Martyn Percy's discussion.
(i) I was baptised by George Bell in 1949 in New Zealand, on one of the trips that took him out of the country during some of the periods when "Carol" was abused. I can therefore claim a personal interest in his reputation.
(ii) I have a PhD from a Business School, probably a somewhat rare distinction among TA readers.

I am therefore interested in both topics Martyn raises, but, like others, I struggle to see how they are connected. so i will separate my comments into different postings.

On the Bell matter, the delay in releasing the Carlile report is most unfortunate, and clearly invites the sort of conjecture that we see here and on the Cranmer site. a speedy release, or at least an adequate explanation for the delay is surely called for.

Posted by: Dr Edward Prebble on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 12:58am GMT

In 2000, well before either of them became bishops, Ian Cundy and Justin Welby published an article called "Taking the Cat for a walk: can a bishop order a Diocese". Their article was a chapter in a book called Managing the Church?, edited by G R Evans and (interestingly enough) Martyn Percy. In the book, Cundy and Welby describe,and deplore, a tendency whereby what is seen as appropriate in business seems to be
imitated in churches, usually 20 years later, as it goes out of fashion in the business context.

Anyone who studies Management at a higher academic level is likely to find themselves at least perusing Gareth Morgan's now classic Images of Organisation, published originally in 1986, and revised in 2006. Morgan describes as "Classical Management Theory" the metaphor whereby an organisation can be compared to the workings of a machine, so that if the right organisational principles are put into place then improved outputs are virtually guaranteed.

Morgan argues (p27 of the 2006 version) that not only does life not work in such simplistic ways, but that these sorts of management principles often lie at the basis of modern organisational

If that is what secular Management theorists realised 30 years ago, then church leaders should be very careful indeed about uncritically emulating business models.

Perhaps, when the Archbishop of Canterbury has finished working out what to do with the Carlile Report, he might spend a little time re-reading his own writing on Management theory.

Posted by: Dr Edward Prebble on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 1:32am GMT

I found Simon Butler's piece a very depressing read. (I've also read it a few times to make sure I'm reading it as it was intended to be understood.) The subtext is an attitude that most allegations are false and/or the 'fault' of the person who experienced sexual harassment. This is one of the reasons why, I'd imagine, people are reluctant to make a formal complaint - especially in the case of a power differential between parties. Another observation is that, while I'd know exactly what to do in my secular workplace if I had a complaint and would have a reasonable confidence it would be dealt with professionally and fairly, I am unclear how formal complaints are dealt with in the Church. There is a lack of transparency and trust in the process - and the opinion expressed by Simon doesn't help here.

Posted by: Anon on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 8:18am GMT

Jeremy Morris speaks prophetic wisdom. His call to replace top down with bottom up strikes a whole symphony of chords with me, and I guess will resonate with anyone who feels they’re not listened to and/or are powerless. Is it too fanciful to see forces building up that are similar to those playing out now in Harare, or years ago in Bucharest, indeed everywhere since humans began to play with hierarchies? I'm struck by the way in which letters from diocesan finance directors to volunteer parish treasurers can read like a tetchy CEO barking at hired underlings. Similarly with the (voluntary) parish share "demands". What do they expect a parish in a deprived area, with a church bigger than several cathedrals, can do, other than rob banks? Being repeatedly punched in the face by impossible share “requests” doesn’t engender goodwill, that’s for sure. Setting the diocesan budget first and then divvying up demands wouldn’t work for my household finances. There's a word, much bandied about at present, for a situation in which one party has all the power and the other has none: abuse. There may even be another: bullying. And when these circumstances are backed by the will of a God who communicates with greater clarity and force to diocesan officials than to parishioners, an antecedent adjective can be used: manipulative.

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 8:39am GMT

"This is offered only to show that there are cases of unjust accusations."

There are plenty of cases of people lying about thefts in order to fiddle the insurance. But we don't by and large make "you're a liar" the first port of call when someone reports a burglary. It's only in the case of sexual abuse, and more to the point abuse of women, where the first stop is "they're probably lying". To take a point rather close to home, in the recent accounts of abuse against young male undergraduates in evangelical summer camps, no-one suggested the men were lying, the accusations were in bad faith, etc: men wouldn't do that, would they? But women levelling accusations of sexual assault? The system often starts from a position of disbelief, and tell anecdotes about it being a misunderstanding. And then wonder why people don't trust their "investigations".

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 9:02am GMT

Interested Observer; how true, and how beautifully observed. It is a tragedy for the church that this sexism and is still so widespread. The presumption that women should not be believed and that they are worth less than the men is still pretty endemic in the CofE.

Posted by: not flourishinghighchuchwoman on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 9:38am GMT

It's undoubtedly true that prejudice has caused many complaints of harassment and sexual assault to be unjustly dismissed out-of-hand.

There's however a world of difference between accusing complainants of perjury, and saying that all accusations should be assessed with an open mind.

Not only is the current demand that we should junk individualized assessment of a civil or criminal complaint, and regardless of its particular merits, "listen and believe" as a matter of policy a recipe for injustice, it's guaranteed to backfire against the majority of sincere complainants. One injustice can't remedy another.

All complainants are entitled to be taken seriously, and to have their accusations fairly and thoroughly investigated. Doing so is entirely compatible with the presumption of innocence.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 12:29pm GMT

"There's however a world of difference between accusing complainants of perjury, and saying that all accusations should be assessed with an open mind."

Would you say that the history of investigation of sexual abuse cases in churches over the past twenty years shows evidence of "an open mind?" Which part of the Peter Ball case makes you believe the Church of England has operated a fair, transparent and honest system of dealing with such complaints? Do you think George Carey had "an open mind" in this case, or just wanted to silence complaints about one of his mates?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 1:05pm GMT

On a more cheerful note, as well as Martyn Percy's article being v. good, Jonathan Draper's is as well. His formulation of purity cults ("expression[s] of religious faith which, in fact, worship their understanding of the faith rather than the God who inspires it") is rather excellent.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 1:24pm GMT

Interesting that no-one is commenting on Madeleine Davies's piece about choirs in the Church Times? This, coupled to recent statistics about cathedrals, should be held up as a significant challenge to the growth wallahs, management gurus, yoof wafflers, and all those of philistine inclination who have decided that music, liturgy and aesthetic beauty can never be foundational to Anglican mission. It was once suggested that if the C of E sacked all its youth leaders and, with the money it saved, paid organists and musical directors a proper living wage, not only would there be more people in church, but the average age would come down significantly. It has always baffled me as to why churches never question the professional going rate for architects, stonemasons, auditors and members of diocesan youth teams. But musicians? There is actually no shortage of organists: only a shortage of people willing to commit themselves to the ministry of music in parish churches!

More to the point, the terrain described in Madeleine's piece is a perfect practical example of the paradigm Jeremy Morris is arguing for in his piece.

Posted by: Simon R on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 1:27pm GMT

I was defending a principle, Interested Observer, not the Church of England.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 1:36pm GMT

I have never commented on this highly informative and (at times) entertaining site before, but Madeleine Davies's piece (and Simon R's response) has given me the confidence to do so, as a 'jobbing organist' in a typical suburban parish church.

Two things grieve me.

First, that I (and thousands like me) have been fundamentally undermined by the Archbishop of Canterbury, when he declined to become a president of the Royal College of Organists on his appointment to Canterbury. His reason? Because he wanted to concentrate on more mission-focused initiatives. I wonder what he thinks I and my fellow organists are doing when, every single year, I attract over thirty youngsters, along with their families and siblings, to church where the average weekly attendance is just over 100. I did a head-count at Evensong yesterday evening. Out of a congregation of 47, 21 were under the age of 50. Is that not mission - especially as most of the 21 would not have been there if their children did not sing in the choir?

Second, that the Royal School of Church Music has been less than robust in its affirmation of traditional church choirs and the vital work they do in attracting youngsters to parish churches. For the past decade and more, there has been a culture of embarrassment at RSCM HQ as they have 'followed the money' by cozying-up with the pop groups and folk singers. Meanwhile, the rest of us have been faithfully and persistently making contact with families who would otherwise never come near church, and introducing children to some of the most sublime music ever written. It is a matter of great pride to me that in the past five years alone, six former choristers are now training for ordination.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Leeds should be a model for all Anglican dioceses, where the bishop has recognised the importance of church music, and encouraged church schools to budget for singing and building links with church choirs. How many C of E bishops would have the courage and conviction to do that - and put hard money where mission is most effective?

Posted by: Douglas James on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 2:39pm GMT

Bravo Mr James, and well done. Simon R is spot on. Beauty and music drew me in and led me to ordination in 2006. In one of my churches the appointment of a competent and cooperative musician has paid dividends in a matter of months. In another, unfortunately, the attitude of the PCC is that we should not have to pay musicians, we should be able to produce our own. I see the murder of decent church music and choirs not as being a matter of churchmanship, but of how controlling and prescriptive clergy feel they must be in dictating to the Lord the manner in which he is permitted to make known his presence. Unfortunately, some cathedrals do themselves no favours when for a big diocesan function they put on music that is tuneless and unattractive. A cathedral full of people who like a good sing and a good tune is neither time nor place to show off with a look-at-us display.

Can I suggest a concerted effort to educate ordinands on training courses? Mr James is right about the RSCM, now self-castrated, and the RCO is pretty useless. Local organist’s associations are doing some good work, but it’s important to get the right people involved. The RC Diocese of Leeds is indeed a beacon. Look around CoE bishops and ask: which of them would be supportive? Good luck with that. I would LOVE to have decent choirs, but we can’t afford to pay much. It’s a problem for a cathedralesque church with a regular congregation of less than 30 in an increasingly non-Christian urban setting where there are too many CoE churches, Maybe a resurgence is round the corner—in some places. I very much hope so.

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 4:31pm GMT

How refreshing to read Douglas James's comments. His experience reflects my own as a church organist with 30 years experience. The C of E wants music on the cheap - and that's why there are so few musicians willing to commit to doing this vital work week-by-week. I don't do it for the money. But when I tot-up the number of hours I put in, not just services and choir rehearsals, but organ practice, preparing for rehearsals, meeting with couples planning their wedding, attending training events, and generally keeping myself up to speed, I reckon I am paid £3.20 per hour. No architect, solicitor, electrician or accountant would put up with that. No wonder organists don't want church jobs - especially when they are being diminished by philistine clergy who are so convinced that people are attracted to church by sub-standard tosh. I keep going because I love what I do, and I am thrilled to see so many young people being given a stake in the Church's worship through the discipline and sheer enjoyment of music-making.

I can only echo what Mr James says about the RSCM. Many of us feel abandoned by an organisation that has capitulated, rather than challenged the mediocrity that is often the hallmark of Anglican worship. As for educating ordinands (Stanley Monkhouse) the RSCM has compounded that, too. By appointing a so-called Director of Clergy Training, it has let the Church of England off the hook, and allowed it to ignore liturgical formation as a key element of ordination training.

Manifestly church choirs are doing a vital job of mission. Now it's about time the bishops stopped dabbling in mini MBAs and encouraged us to return to the foundations of Christian mission, which is surely the worship of Almighty God.

Posted by: Stephen Greenwood on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 8:25pm GMT

Hurrah for the comments of the two Stanleys!

Worship ought to be first and foremost in the agenda of both clergy and parishioners. It ought to attract the very best each parish can afford to maintain. It needs to be mindful of the parish tradition - as well a being open to liturgical renewal and openness to its effect on newcomers.

Our organists should, if possible, be offered a stipend - together with provision for purchasing music that is suitable for the accompaniment of worship. Also, organists and choir members should retain sufficient fees for Weddings and Funerals - sufficient to maintain a standard of music appropriate for the services rendered.

While recognising that many parishes are small in numbers; one of the problems may be that the music offered in worship is substandard and unable to attract new and younger people.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 10:32pm GMT

"This is offered only to show that there are cases of unjust accusations."

I don't deny that that happens. And I would never want to deny anyone due process. However, it is clear that the overwhelming problem is that of vast women suffering harassment and abuse who either don't feel safe to come forward or suffer retribution when we do. In public school a very big boy grabbed me inappropriately, I hit him with my violin case (the violin was OK). I didn't report it because another time I reported abuse nothing happened and I was belittled. At conservatory, I was attacked by a guy on the street and if a football player friend of my hadn't seen it and run to my assistance, I would have been toast. It didn't occur to me to call the police, it didn't seem helpful, and I think I was too much in shock to have good judgment in that moment. Not to mention come-ons from professors and retribution for not submitting, significant discrimination in employment, and the way women in leadership have to watch misunderstandings ways that guys don't, and still have perception issues.... And that's the experience of a very fierce lesbian! My pretty and straight sisters fare much worse. Sure, pursue due process, but right now, abused women are not getting justice, in vast numbers.

It's important to put things in perspective, as I'm sure you know. The justice systems and institutions, even in liberal Western democracies, have been failing women for a long time. It isn't a matter of denying women justice because a few men are falsely accused, it's a matter of finding a way to get our institutions to work for women who have been violated, which is by far the bigger problem. I am not saying that there shouldn't be due process, I'm just saying that it should work for female victims.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 11:01pm GMT

I hope that the PCC and incumbent at St Sepulchre's Holborn read the comments of Douglas and others above. I hope also that someone with a connection to St John's College, Oxford, might write to the President asking that more attention to these considerations is paid in future appointments where they hold patronage.

But then I'm biased. My son (a more regular attender than I, his ordained father) was a boy chorister for whom it all "took" and his wife is a church organist. And I often officiate at a church in Oxford where, on the days the choir is around, the congregation has something approximating the demography of the normal population. (Rather than me, at nearly 66, being one of the youngest present.) I know that people will start drawing distinctions about whether all these under-retirement-age attendees are "nominal" Christians, whatever that means, but didn't someone once say you shouldn't open windows into men's souls?

Posted by: Bernard Silverman on Monday, 20 November 2017 at 11:29pm GMT

I sang in a choir for years and I love organ music and church anthems and the discipline and musicality involved in working together to create environments of worship and thanksgiving.

Having said that, we should also be open to other expressions of praise and worship, and I wouldn't say those alternatives are all necessarily "sub-standard tosh." Far from it. With inspired worship leaders, possibly also incorporating an organist where appropriate, some less traditional expressions of worship can draw congregations into the presence of God and the praise and worship can be absolutely riveting, used by God to touch the heart and open it up and heal.

I like both kinds of music.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Tuesday, 21 November 2017 at 7:24am GMT

Another organist here, who would like to hope I am making a small difference to lowering the average attendance age at the church where I play. I agree with all that has been said here about choirs and mission. Simon R's comment draws a connection between music in churches and cathedral attendance statistics, and I would like to, too.

I notice that there has been a top-down (back to Jeremy Morris's piece) attempt to whip cathedrals into line with a conference next year: What is really interesting is that the organisers (and I doubt it is really the Dean of Lichfield who is 'fronting' this as the acceptable face of the cathedral world) have spared no time in signing-up Jimmy Dale, the C of E's national youth spokesman as a keynote speaker. The two archbishops are there, of course, in order to "voice their vision for the Church, and to help Cathedrals develop their important roles as places of gathering, inspiration, delight, education, challenge and debate" (make of that what you will). So is a professor of Islamic studies, Will Hutton, Andy Burnham, Caroline Spelman, a couple of monks, a professor of theology from the USA who spent a brief period as a canon of Durham, and one or two CEOs from the business world and the charitable sector.

Where are the musicians? No-one who is contributing to the worshipping life of cathedrals and, presumably, what makes them such attractive and engaging contributors to the overall mission of the C of E is there. Why? Yet again, musicians are seen as having nothing distinctive to offer, yet it is often our work that is making all the difference. What are the organisers of this conference afraid of? Did they ask a leading composer like James MacMillan or Judith Weir or Will Todd? Did they ask a British theologian working in the area of the arts like Ben Quash or George Pattison or David Ford? Where is the input from a thoughtful and theologically incisive priest with decanal experience, like Michael Sadgrove or John Hall or Robert Willis? And what about a precentor, those imaginative and overworked priests who oversee cathedral worship, and who have been written-off in recent years by the C of E's senior appointments process?

Cathedrals are doing very well, almost in the teeth of the archbishops' ill-conceived and myopic strategy, and their music offers an inspirational model for those of us who want children in our local parishes to receive the gift of music and flourish in their faith. Isn't it about time we were given some stake in all this when you consider how much we are doing (despite the abysmal and morally questionable pay we receive)?

Posted by: Richard Carter on Tuesday, 21 November 2017 at 8:36am GMT

Last week Martyn Percy put the blame for clergy stress at the door of the new CofE leadership culture encouraging church growth, this week its the Bishop Bell enquiry.

As a parish priest, I had clergy stress before the CofE learned how to count, and worked out that constantly declining congregations would eventually mean zero. And anyone who imagines that the CofE was a model of clarity and good process before 2010 is living in a parallel universe. Never put down to conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence.

I look forward to next weeks piece arguing that Justin Welby is responsible for Brexit.

Posted by: David Keen on Tuesday, 21 November 2017 at 9:03am GMT

Magnificent Mr Carter. Well done. How can your points be made known more widely?

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse on Tuesday, 21 November 2017 at 5:56pm GMT

Father David,,,,
"However, Mrs. C. F. Alexander got there before him in her carol "Once in Royal David's city" as the last verse begins -
"Not in that poor lowly stable"....

No.... Her context is the future not Bethlehem. 'We shall see heaven"

Ian Paul will be punished alone ;-)

Posted by: IH on Monday, 27 November 2017 at 10:38pm GMT

Oh IH I rather think Father David's tongue was firmly in his cheek. However when I was in Primary School in the early sixties I was taught that Jesus was found when busy mothers did lay babies, in a corner of the work room. It is the staggering ordinariness of birth which is part of the miracle. So I had better join Ian Paul on the naughty step for this - at least. And Ken Bailey and ... yes this is widely known. But the myth remains more powerful.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Thursday, 30 November 2017 at 2:37pm GMT
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