Comments: views from the papers

re Mark Irelands piece. I have been rather saddened to discover that in a no of evangelical churches when there is a Gospel reading people no longer stand to hear it.

Posted by Perry Butler at Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 8:39am BST

A host of very interesting pieces gathered together for us, thanks Simon.
The Giles Fraser offering I found to be one of his best.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 10:15am BST

" the place to find the most neanderthal religious homophobia in Britain today is in an organisation called Reform"

Hmm, I may be too liberal for Reform, but I do not think they are either neanderthal or homophobic - unless Giles Fraser just mean them as terms of abuse for anyone who is not a supporter of "gay lib".

I saw a debate on Channel 4 a while ago with, as I remember it, David Holloway and folk from Reform one one side and Richard Kirker of LGCM on the other. Reform's supporters (well Jesmond Parish Church I think) included a (now) celibate homosexual man who, while saying that he would not do same-sex sex anymore because of his christian convictions, was quite frank about his continuing sexual preference for men. He was not hated, feared or beaten by anyone that I noticed!

Anyone else see it? Maybe Reform should be asked to make a reply to this sort of "neanderthal" assertion ?

Posted by Dave at Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 12:09pm BST

Odd rule of thumb, that. My experience is the opposite! At our (evangelical) church we have regular readings of the Scriptures, we have songs which are based on the scriptures, and the sermon is always very much based on the scriptures. When I have been to churches in the centre or liberal tradition, whilst quite often there is a scripture reading, there are occasions when there has been none, and sermons often come over as a homily with Christ left out entirely - a mish-mash of sociological or political statements that may often be thought provoking, but might as well have been uttered in an entirely secular environment!

Posted by Robert at Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 12:22pm BST

On the matter of Bible reading, the Anglican tradition of Bible reading owes much to the tradition of lectio divina.
Perhaps the churches the author of this article has been visiting would espouse the following remark I found in a book review recently:
"Of course, there were a handful of things I didn’t care for. One is Dan’s emphasis on lectio divina, silence, and listening prayer- all of which I believe to be dangerous practices not supported by Scripture."
Interesting ..... ?

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 1:45pm BST

Giles Fraser's take on the Reformation is difficult to credit. The Reformers objected to pictorial and statuary representations of God as a violation of the Second Commandment. It was a replay of the great crisis of the eighth century (and significantly, to this day the Orthodox, for all their icons, will not abide religious statues). Of course the Reformers had no problem at all with the idea that God reveals Himself (= speaks) in the Scriptures; in fact all of Christianity agreed with that. A word is not an icon, though sacraments may be verba visibilia. If you reject the Bible, how can you say anything at all about God that is remotely more interesting than Aristotle's Unmoved Mover? Or how would you judge that one opinion was better than another? The end result is agnosticism, which is really where Jack Spong has ended up.
Yes, Luther was anti-Jewish, especially in his latter years - though scarcely more than had been common, off and on, in Catholic Europe for centuries before. A different state of affairs arose in Holland and Cromwell's England. Islam will not be able to overcome its constitutional anti-Jewishness (not 'anti-semitism' since Arabs are Semites too) because of the foundational disputes between Muhammad and the Jews of the Hejaz, and the fact that the Jews now occupy formerly Muslim-held territory. This violates the irredentist doctrine of Dar ul-Islam.
Finally, Calvin's Geneva (like Inquisition Spain) is really a very dated whipping boy. Isn't the real issue of politically and (sometimes) religiously sanctioned violence in the West today the practice of *abortion ? I would love to hear Mr Fraser say something about this - a subject a lot of liberal Christians are silent or very defensive about.

Posted by Mark Beaton at Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 3:36pm BST

We may not stand up for the reading of the Gospel in every evangelical church, but we do believe it!

Posted by Dave at Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 4:53pm BST

Having been a life-long Episcopalian (43 years), in several different parts of the U.S. (East, West, Midwest), I can testify that one of the things which so move me about my church is the intentionality with which I observe Episcopalians "hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" the Scriptures. (Collect for Proper 28, BCP p. 236)

Of course, talent for preaching varies widely. But the vast majority of Episcopal churches of my acquaintance print the Sunday lessons in the bulletin, so even IF there is a substandard homily (few is the time I can recall utter clunkers, though I may have blocked out the memory of a couple *g*), at least there is the written Word to take home with you!

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 8:01pm BST

Systematic liturgical reading of scripture in the Anglican tradition indeed provides lots of food for thought and personal reflection, irrespective of the quality of preaching. In fact, it balances out the tendency for the sermon to be more of a showcase for preaching egos, than a vehicle for the Spirit. Public scripture reading allows individuals to let the Word form in their imagination and understanding.
Sometimes, I think there we are reading too many words to chew on all in one go. However, reducing scripture content to a few select sentences and/or a lot of musical doggerel is editorial licence gone mad - Marcion and Arius live on in new guises.
Think of Taizé, where nearly everything read or sung is scriptural, simply presented, revisited frequently, and most importantly clothed at every turn in silence. A full and digestible diet to nourish prayer and communion with Christ. Everyone could do with taking a leaf out of that book!
May Brother Roger rest in peace - he did a great job to show us a middle way that works for today.

Posted by Keith Kimber at Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 10:40pm BST

About this business of never having multiple scripture readings at main Sunday services, here's someone, well David McCarthy in fact, who defends the practice at his church:

I wonder what the canons of the SEC have to say on this topic?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 21 August 2005 at 6:57pm BST

And here is another eyewitness report about no less than All Souls Langham Place, where amazingly NO lessons at all were read prior to the sermon.

"In early June, during an Anglican Heritage tour, my wife and I attended All Souls Church, Langham Place, in London, a famous Church of England evangelical congregation where John Stott is rector emeritus. We found no evidence of the Prayer Book tradition or of Anglican liturgy. It was a general evangelical service, with only eight verses of Scripture read (the sermon text) and many hymns and choruses (praise songs) sung. I later learned that evangelicals in the Church of England typically conduct nonliturgical services."

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 27 August 2005 at 11:33am BST

I'm somewhat concerning if the Bible gets sidelined or subordinated to experience as the CEN's writer seems to be suggesting... Christians who don't know their Bibles well are inevitably weak in the faith, and vulnerable to being led astray ! However you may find that many people attending these evangelical CofE churches also study the Bible during daily personal "Quiet Times" and in small groups that meet during the week.

Instead of criticising "form" of liturgy, it would be more interesting to check the time spent per week on Bible reading, the bible knowledge of church members, and their level of belief and trust in what the Bible teaches. I seem to remember that on such measures, liberal clergy did much worse than evangelicals (and traditionalists?) in recent studies!

And lets not get into raising form above substance.... the named churches do believe and obey the teachings of the Bible! (and attract very large numbers of members, make converts etc) Some other churches make a huge show of Bible Readings and them promptly relegate the bits they don't like to "history" .... A rather more dangerous example of subordinating the Bible to experience..

Posted by Dave at Saturday, 27 August 2005 at 5:32pm BST
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