Comments: more Easter columns

There is no virtue in having yourself torn apart as the cost of trying to stop another tearing itself apart, especially as the communion is still likely to do it.

For all a person's considerable intellectual skills and sensitivities, they can still lack some skills. I have strengths and have had a number of weaknesses exposed (I can get on top of a subject, and teach, but I can't control diverse classrooms and therefore be a good schoolteacher). He knows now a hundred times more about Anglicanism than I ever will, but sometimes seeing the wood for the trees is about seeing less.

On receiving his role, Rowan Williams has sacrificed all else for what was one view of his, and unity has become everything. This is very dangerous: the personality can become obsessional.

If you want to push something like unity, you might slow some other personal priorities, but Rowan Williams seems to have gone into reverse. The trick, usually, is to know where the centre line is regarding key issues, and be close but on your own side of it (it may make little difference, when the boundaries are so far apart). And sacrificing those on your own side to placate the hunger of others just generates more of their saliva.

Mikhail Gorbachev stayed on his side of the line, then he announced crossing over (for preserving the Soviet Union). That side then ate him up in the coup, so the liberal side rescued the situation, restored him and then he was gone - and so was that unity.

People do respect those who reject soundbite culture (even if a skill is to have both ways of talking, especially for management purposes). It is that no one knows who he is any more. An Archbishop is not an automaton as behaved once in front of that keen African reporter: "Yes, but what is your opinion?" "I am an Archbishop and this is what I teach."

Having climbed upon the horse of unity so firmly, the decision of the American Church means that this horse has fallen. His three months break means a lot of rethinking on personal lines never mind the wreckage of his unity policy. There seems little to do now than watch the communion forces carve out their own futures.

Posted by Pluralist at Monday, 9 April 2007 at 3:19pm BST

+Harries piece is interesting and sad. The comments are all over the place, but interesting.

Pilate said "What is truth?"

Posted by Davis d'Ambly at Monday, 9 April 2007 at 3:29pm BST

The Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, praised Iran for its obvious adherence to its religious values, and for releasing the UK sailors in accordance with those values. “Faith in a forgiving God has been exemplified in action by their good deeds,” he said. “The Iranians offered to release the sailors and marines not just as the result of diplomacy but also as an act of mercy in accordance with their religion.”

I find these comments a little odd. Iran chose a peculiar moment to enforce disputed borders (from what I understand, the sailors were inside territory which is claimed by Iran, but which most nations recognize as Iraqi). As far as the news reports go, they chose to capture the sailors, rather than warning them off - the latter would have been more of an act of mercy. They got the sailors to confess to entering Iranian territorial waters in an act of aggression - entering territorial waters maybe, but it's clear that they had no aggressive intent.

I, like everyone else, thank God the servicepeople were actually released without physical harm or further brinkmanship on either side. I also condemn the past aggressive acts of the US on Iran: supporting an unpopular dictator, supporting Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war.

However, I'm not entirely sure that Michael Nazir-Ali knows what he is talking about. This was more likely an act of brinkmanship by Ahmedinejad than an act of mercy. Now, the US' belligerence towards Iran has certainly harmed the situation, but that does not excuse Ahmedinejad's actions.

Posted by Weiwen Ng at Monday, 9 April 2007 at 4:15pm BST

I second Weiwen's comments above, and I'm certainly no fan of the current regime in the USA, or of its Mideast policies.

I'm very surprised at the Bishop of Rochester's comments. It reminds me of a famous comment by the great golfer Bobby Jones after he passed up a perfect opportunity to cheat and move the ball, and was lavishly praised for his honesty; "You might as well congratulate me for not robbing a bank!" he replied with a tone of disgust.
I suppose we should be grateful to Ahmedinejad for not killing and eating those 15 sailors, according to the bishop's logic.

As for praising the Iranian regime for cleaving to "religious values," there's no depravity like religious depravity, as we in New York learned the hard way in a decidedly direct and forceful assault on "liberal secularism" that happened in our city over 5 years ago.

Posted by counterlight at Monday, 9 April 2007 at 6:06pm BST

The bulk of the articles refer to the beauty of realisation that Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection meant an end to slavery and to a promise of renewal made manifest. I loved Katherine's imagery of the wildflowers, there is a similar reverence in Tutu's book "God Has a Dream" where he looks across a parched field knowing it will come to life in the spring.

It is important to remember that big changes do not necessarily happen overnight. There might be a profound revelation on a personal level and you see others having the same insights. It is exciting. But like Exodus, it can take 40 or so years to bring a new consciousness to maturity. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Actually, it's more of a triatholon as we will have to be doing a number of different strategies and techniques to get to the finishing line.

I liked Harries article, but I think he overestimates the importance of intellect and sophisticated writings. Do not discount bloggers' intellects, we are often limited to word counts e.g. 400 here. For example, I've had to halve at least four original postings in the last week alone, so that all the nuance and clarifications were removed and only the key points remained without apology or explanation.

There is also an art form in being able to make an important point to reach peoples' consciousness in the short attention spans that our society fosters. That is another important form of mission that many of us accept when working within certain media.

Finally, God does not require us to be rocket scientists and will scandalize by choosing inadequate or immature vessels e.g. Isaiah 44:25-26, Jeremiah 1:6-10, Hosea 11:1, the unborn John and Jesus. When God wants to teach basic principles, God does not worry about complicated debates in synagogues and libraries. Those discussions can happen after the core principles have been clearly expounded and accepted. Rowan will do an excellent job of describing how this all evolved and has been in a unique position to observe the dynamics. If he is honest, his reflections and lessons will be profoundly useful for any religious caste looking to understand how feral elements can distort a culture and how God can intervene to create a counterweight to bring the communion back into balance.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 9 April 2007 at 10:21pm BST

Bishop's Michael Nazir-Ali affirmation of the religious principles behind the Iranian's actions is going to lead to a lot of discussion.

I actually agree with him that their actions were religiously motivated. I have been watching the Iranian president with interest for some time now and it is clear that he has been prophetically touched.

That can be both a bad and a good thing. It can be charismatic and inspiring, it can draw together a people facing a major challenge and difficult times. It can also become a ravenous beast that seeks out and destroys scapegoats e.g. women, Jews, the arts, pets.

One thing that the complacent might not yet realize is that there is a groundswell of "enough" of ravenous oppression, greed, violence and desecration.

Souls know some nations are more ravenous and cruel than others. Movies such as 300 where Xerxes expansion was stalled, the romanticisation of Scotland’s celts’ fierceness finally stopping the Roman expansion are inspiration for the souls of Iran and others.

Denying the prophetic visions of Mullah Omar or the Iranian president does not change that they have happened. The real challenge is helping them positively manifest the best of their vision and helping them heal the distortions from excessive zealotry.

One mistake that many souls have made is thinking that there will be only one prophet, one messiah, one winner. Humanity stands on the brink of extinction, risking taking a whole biosphere with it. God's call has been to all and any soul who has any shred of compassion or concern to come and help this planet. There is not one moshiach, patriach, matriarch, angel or bodshivitta: there are a multitude, some more open than others. Help has come, often from the most unexpected corners. You will find male and female, high and low, left and right, pure and afflicted, young and old. The hands are being held out to help, we can bring you to the water, but we can't make you drink, that is a choice of your own free will.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 9 April 2007 at 10:41pm BST

I find ++Harries' piece a bit strange:

"But the pivotal point was his refusal to go ahead with the consecration of Jeffrey John, whom I had nominated as Bishop of Reading. In retrospect, the archbishop and I could have handled things differently, but there were two things against us. One was the fact that the Anglican Communion was ***already*** dividing on the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson in the United States, and opponents, quite wrongly in my view, put Jeffrey John in the same category (because Jeffrey had been celibate for a considerable period of time)." [Emphasis added]

Harries seems to be suggesting that the appointment, and then withdrawal, of Jeffrey John to the episcopate happened AFTER the election, confirmation and consecration of +Gene Robinson: in point of fact, the JJ fiasco (i.e., *betrayal of*) came first. [Moreover, I would argue that the strength of the vote to confirm +GR was, in some measure, a repudiation of the back-stabbing that JJ had already suffered (and which had been attempted, in a last-minute whisper campaign, against +GR as well)]

Then there's this:

"Rowan was trained at Mirfield, the most Catholic of the Church of England's theological colleges. Like most Anglo-Catholics, he will have been tempted on occasion to become either a Roman Catholic or Orthodox, with their much stronger doctrine of the church."

Say Wha??? Join either of the Disasters of Patriarchy which are Rome or Constantinople? *This* Anglo-Catholic has never been "tempted" in the slightest! ;-/

"As much as anyone, [Rowan Cantuar] deserves the joy which Easter offers"

Um, not nearly as much as Davis Mac-Iyalla does, IMHO.

[Finally, re the Times Leader condemning +Nazir-Ali (praising Ahmadinejad), by way of defending the War on Iraq: a pox on ALL their houses! >:-/]

Nevermind: He is risen, Alleluia! :-D

Posted by JCF at Monday, 9 April 2007 at 11:24pm BST

I suppose our fallback position now is to pray that Rowan William's sabbatical will refresh him, and give him some new tack to take in leading the communion through stormy waters besides burning the rubber on all wheels to drive towards the most conservative thinking in order to reassure us that nothing in particular is changing. If I am reading correctly between the lines, Scotland, Canada, Wales, and other communion sectors will soon emerge more strongly to stand up for something besides the New Anglican Puritanisms.

Meanwhile, the rest of us just have to keep on keeping on, and the joy of Easter resurrection is just that, a triumph over business as usual. My own personal lessons this season have involved vividly recalling that the whole redeeming message of God to us goes together - including the sweep from Easter Day to Pentecost. Look, then, for tongues of fire to shortly alight upon the least predictable and lauded heads. And the strongly denied light - the scripturally denied light per a certain grasp of law and tradition and covenant - that struck Saul from his steed and turned him in a completely new and unprecedented direction.

This insight tantalizes, and one cannot help but wonder at what the Spirit will do next to open new doors and convert those who once read their scriptures to deny that God could be at work among the Gentiles as easily as among the Jews.

We live in a season of troubles, no doubt, and a season of wonders as well. Why else follow Jesus as Risen Lord? I think I had rather live now than at any previous era in our recorded history.

Posted by drdanfee at Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 2:01am BST

But hasn't this Passion gone on long enough? I hope he'll step out of that role -- his mini-sabbatical helping -- since it has ceased to be edifying. Let the primates worry about the mess their own fractiousness has created, and let the ABC enjoy and encourage the liturgical vitality of his own church. If delicate calculations forbid Pauline parrhesia on a certain range of topics, let him practise it on the many others on which Christians agree, avoiding if necessary the "passion" topics that exert such a baleful fascination in Anglican debates. The acme of distorted perspective was the Tanzania meeting: a week of discussion on American gays, with not a word to the agonies of Africa (including the muted agonies of Africa's persecuted gays). The "passion" the primates staged there was more like the agony of the Sanhedrin than like that of Jesus.

Posted by Fr Joseph O'Leary at Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 2:43am BST

Gene Robinson was elected on June 7th 2003.
Jeffrey John “withdrew” on July 7th 2003.

The stories were in fact running side by side for a considerable time before these dates.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 8:53am BST

Fr Joseph wrote "The "passion" the primates staged there was more like the agony of the Sanhedrin than like that of Jesus."

While empathisising, it was more like the agonising of why the Sanhedrin was defunct and thus unable to agonise.

The difference between the Sanhedrin and now was that at least the minority position was recorded; now it is expunged as soon as all politically inconvenient witnesses are neutralized.

e.g. witness liberation theology, we take on and co-opt the palatable parts, whilst expunging the more uncomfortable parts and hope that no one notices...

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 9:54am BST

Any guesses on the identity of the "tough-minded bishop, of a rather different mind from that of the archbishop", who was "reduced to tears" in Harries' article?

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 10:27am BST

+Rochester approves of the moral and spiritual values of Iran compared to our own. Presumably he endorsed the Passiontide enactment of the 15 sailors held to atone for our sins, only to be released in the manner of Abraham sparing Isaac, to make way for the Paschal Lamb!

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 12:40pm BST

Things have come to a state of rottenness if a bishop can praise someone like Ahmedinejad for acting according to faith. So Ahmedinejad presents a whole load of guff, lies and fantasises about a group that, if they had strayed over the line, should just have been sent back. The whole presentation was about how well they were looked after, and how civilised Iran was being compared with the West, when he knew perfectly well how they had been really treated. Ahmedinejad was engaged in a game of media deception.

If this is an example of sticking to and using religious faith, then we really do need to see the separation of religion and politics here.

Perhaps some of the bishops are showing signs of stress these days, because they see enemies to the left of them and enemies to the right of them, and making all manner of sour comments about their relative unimportance in normal life.

Posted by Pluralist at Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 2:43pm BST

Personally, I find it appalling that a bishop can actually claim that someone who was once an assassin for an oppressive regime is actually acting from any kind of moral ground. What moral ground was Ahmedinajad standing on in the days when he happily put bullets into the brains of dissidents?

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 2:49pm BST

Yikes - anyone read what +Rochester said?

More fun to put words in his mouth or (maybe deliberately) misunderstand him, I guess.

Clue: he was making a fairly obvious point about societies and their principles or lack of principles in decision-making.....but if you enjoy it, do carry on missing the point, distorting and blowing out of proportion what he said.

Posted by NP at Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 3:16pm BST

The point about principle is an important one. Ahmedinajad may well speak a good line, but what is his actual practice? He is known among Iranian dissidents as an enforcer, and is widely believed to have been actively involved in the violent suppression of dissidents. We're talking torture and a bullet behind the ear here. I can't say whether he was directly involved in such acts, but there are allusions to it on the internet, and Iranians I have talked to certainly believe he took an active role. To say such a man is leading his country on some kind of moral ground is a disgusting statement for a bishop to make. The point is that, while I understand what the bishop is trying to say about a society being guided by some sort of moral principle, he is choosing the wrong example. Frankly, he is not so much a whited sepulchre himself, as he is choosing to admire a whited sepulchre. Do you not see how his ignorance as to Ahmedinajad's background now casts doubt on the moral credibility of his other statements? What other moral issues can he not sort out, if he is so easily led astray by pious talk?

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 3:46pm BST


You accuse us of misunderstanding Nazir-Ali's words. If this is the case, he should have made himself clearer in the first place.

Mind you, I'm not accusing him of being an Iran sympathizer. However, that's the way many Britons are going to take him. His own fault for putting his foot in his mouth - unless the reporter took his quotes out of context.

Secondly, his assumption that Britain lacks principles in decision-making is not well-founded? Britain is a multicultural society, and it would be inappropriate to ground decisions in the words of one religious tradition. Also, if he's assuming that pluralism is weakness - and his words strongly imply that - then he is mistaken.

Is Nazir-Ali saying that if Britian turns back to Christianity, then they will make better decisions? Are you saying that? Perhaps you would like to clarify.

Posted by Weiwen at Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 4:09pm BST

I strongly recommend you read Libby Purves article (link above). It summarises perfectly just what is wrong with Nazir Ali's comments.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 4:23pm BST


I hear your concerns about why someone should be affirmed. There are many difficulties, the region is still tribal in many of its ways of handling economics and power distribution and culture. There is respect for an "alpha" leader who can keep all the other tribes in some kind of grudging cooperation. Souls might not like everything about the leader, but at least they keep the ship together.

This is a little quirky article I found today The author gives a series of small examples and then comments "The United States needs to take a lesson from the history of superpowers come and gone. That lesson is that no threat is too small and no enemy too insignificant to sit with at the table of peace. Now before my Republican friends accuse me of comparing Islamic terrorists with George Washington and Gandhi, that's not what I'm saying at all. What I am saying is that, historically speaking, when empires and superpowers refuse to bargain with opposing forces, it has not boded well for the more powerful country."

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Tuesday, 10 April 2007 at 10:54pm BST

Those who are interested in thinking about ways to moderate aggressive fundamentalism both within and outside of the Anglican Communion might find these two articles interesting:

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Wednesday, 11 April 2007 at 9:43pm BST

I agree with Ford - the principle stands but + Nazir Ali chose a very bad example


Posted by NP at Thursday, 12 April 2007 at 12:16pm BST

Thanks, NP, it was a good Lent. I read the postings every day, and, me having to have the last word, comments from various people, yourself very much included, tempted me to forsake the discipline:-) But I persevered! Here's hoping it taught me a bit of restraint!

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 12 April 2007 at 9:52pm BST

"Here's hoping it taught me a bit of restraint!"

Oh, I sincerely hope not! It's very good to have your voice back here, it was very much missed!

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 13 April 2007 at 10:12am BST

Thanks, Erica, but I've actually noticed in myself in the past few days a tendency to rudeness that I don't like, so maybe my Lenten discipline wasn't as spiritually benefiial as I had hoped! I'm sure the good livyers here will slap me down if I get too uppity!

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 13 April 2007 at 12:50pm BST

Ford - you have no idea to what extent I can identify with your comment!!

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 16 April 2007 at 10:30pm BST
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