Comments: opinion

re: Ian Paul's interesting article -

Many pathways, many moments of access to Divine grace.

The deepest reality of baptism is an ongoing, lifelong event.

Daily dying to self, and devotion to God.

As even Jesus said, "I have a baptism to undergo."

The scriptures are littered with examples and signposts expressing the baptismal archetype.

Baptism is probably the heart of the whole Christian gospel, and extends (and reverberates) far beyond our baptismal reception as infants, which is itself one route of many, by which the grace of God may break into our lives.

I say that, notwithstanding my strong belief in the desirability of infant baptism.

The sacrament is both a medium of grace, and a signpost to the layers and layers of the deeper meaning and reality of baptism.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 31 May 2014 at 12:23pm BST

re: Laurie's article -

I share some of her frustration with aspects of church that seem too self-enclosed.

The things that tend to 'irk' me are the comfortable middle-classness and safeness of too many churches I visit. The way those churches (not *all* churches) seem to serve their own members, providing a social network that may be comfortable but doesn't seem to demand revolutionary challenge.

I am quite possibly being judgmental, being wrong about this. But I'm telling it how I feel and find it.

Church just doesn't seem as 'real' and earthed and raw, or as precious, as the day to day world I find beyond the church.

I work on a hectic hospital ward in the east end of London. Huge deprivation. Human life at points of need.

I'm sorry, but it just seems like a different world from what I find in church.

I feel like some parts of the Church are cut off, in their own society and meetings, from the places where I most vividly (notwithstanding my own selfishness) encounter God in other human beings.

I'm not saying there isn't a whole lot of wonderful love and grace going on in the Church, but I would agree with Laurie that there is also a cultural complacency and often privilege that can lead to people not finding Church as authentic as some of their other life experiences.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 31 May 2014 at 12:43pm BST

At the risk of doing a +1. Everything Susannah said is how I also feel.

On the other hand I attend a wide variety of churches from time to time and some are definitely more earthy than others.

I was at a music festival today and life is so vivid and glorious in its diversity at such events. I fear that tomorrow at church it may feel all rather middle class, soporific and bland. Does that matter? I'm too middle class and middle aged to say anything.

Posted by Tess at Saturday, 31 May 2014 at 7:43pm BST

I realize that one sentence was pulled out, for the header, but still. "You cannot make women bishops just to have women bishops": could that line be any more insulting?

Posted by JCF at Saturday, 31 May 2014 at 7:51pm BST

Congratulations Bishop Herbert by far the best sermon of the four quartets, head and shoulders above the other three retired bishops offerings. Thank you for a most beautifully constructed and beautiful sermon.

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 31 May 2014 at 9:05pm BST

I was at a music festival today and life is so vivid and glorious in its diversity at such events. I fear that tomorrow at church it may feel all rather middle class, soporific and bland.

I work on a hectic hospital ward in the east end of London. Huge deprivation. Human life at points of need.I'm sorry, but it just seems like a different world from what I find in church.
Pity the poor liturgist!
I think I am with Bishop Herbert on this: Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
At the church I attend, where I bring all the rawness and reality of my day to day life, the music is superb, the ceremonial impressive, the congregation thoroughly mixed, ethnically and socially ( even a few toffs are allowed in ) and there are times as I kneel down that it seems to me the very gates of heaven are flung wide open.

Posted by ian at Sunday, 1 June 2014 at 11:27am BST

""You cannot make women bishops just to have women bishops": could that line be any more insulting?" JCF

I understood the headline to mean that, once women are allowed to be Bishops, they should be chosen on ability rather than on the basis of tokenism - which would be patronising. Perhaps I have misunderstood what he said in too favourable a way.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Sunday, 1 June 2014 at 11:45am BST

What a wonderful, thoughtful and meaningful Sermon by Bishop Christopher Herbert - acting as the final Preacher among the chosen four retired Bishops of the Church of England at Saint Paul's Cathedral!

Each of the Bishops has had something good to contribute to the debate on the Church's trajectory, but Bishop Tom - from a background of experience in the African Anglican context - was able best to explain why the Anglican Covenant was always a bad idea.

No doubt with the very best of intention, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams saw trouble looming on the subject of how Communion Churches were severally, and differently, dealing with the subject of homosexuality - under the mistaken impression that the conservative Churches of the Communion might hold back from secession is only the more progressive provinces would halt their ordination of homosexual clergy and bishops.

Th opposite situation in fact became operative, when conservative provinces formed their own ecclesial confessional movement with the formation of the GAFCON and its subsequent declaration of the iconic 'Jerusalem Statement' of faith which declared homosexuality as sinful and non-biblical.

The resultant confusion - when, not only the progressive provinces but even the Gafcon Churches refused to sign up to the Anglican Covenant - saw even the Church of England General Synod reject the Covenant outright. This would seem to have marked the death of the Covenant movement, which Bishop Christopher has now so rightly proclaimed!

I wonder what would happen if all the bishops of the C. of E. were to be asked to give their frank and honest opinion on this vexed subject of unity at the expense of justice and truth? Would things move more swiftly to a proper conclusion?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 1 June 2014 at 12:30pm BST

Can't agree, Father David. (1) All this talk about beauty fails to give concrete pointers to what we should actually DO about various contentious issues; (2) anyone who can write of 'the common ground that we share with others' needs an elementary course in English (here allegedly being celebrated) and logic.

Posted by John at Sunday, 1 June 2014 at 7:14pm BST

I agree with John.
A disappointing rather joyless message that seemed to miss the real beauty of our churches was to be found in the people, our brother and sisters, not just the things they made ......

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 2 June 2014 at 1:39am BST

I notice that Jonathan Brown says that Nick Baines, the bishop of West Yorkshire and the Dales, is responsible for 2.3 million souls. However the diocese themselves say they have 45,000 regular churchgoers. Then I realised, 2.3 million is the entire population of that whole area!

Posted by Tim Milburn at Monday, 2 June 2014 at 11:14am BST

Nick Baines does not quite say what I hoped the headline indicated he said!

I'd hoped he said that ordaining women as bishops is not to be taken as the CofE being 'OK about gender equality' in the sense of 'job done'. There is a bigger agenda to address here.

Posted by Charles Read at Monday, 2 June 2014 at 12:29pm BST

"I notice that Jonathan Brown says that Nick Baines, the bishop of West Yorkshire and the Dales, is responsible for 2.3 million souls. However the diocese themselves say they have 45,000 regular churchgoers. Then I realised, 2.3 million is the entire population of that whole area!" Tim Milburn

Wow! - that's almost 2% of the population! #EstablishedChurch

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Monday, 2 June 2014 at 1:09pm BST

"I notice that Jonathan Brown says that Nick Baines, the bishop of West Yorkshire and the Dales, is responsible for 2.3 million souls. However the diocese themselves say they have 45,000 regular churchgoers. Then I realised, 2.3 million is the entire population of that whole area!"

And all 2.3 million have legal rights to certain ministrations of the Church. The Church exists for the whole of society, even if it consists of a minority.

Posted by Alan T Perry at Monday, 2 June 2014 at 2:09pm BST

"And all 2.3 million have legal rights to certain ministrations of the Church. The Church exists for the whole of society, even if it consists of a minority." Alan T Perry

So gay people can be married in a CofE church in West Yorkshire and the Dales diocese, can they?

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Monday, 2 June 2014 at 2:58pm BST

Thank you, Martin. I am sure you know that despite occasional asperities and despite my very serious commitment to Anglican pluralism, I am totally with you,

John.

Posted by John at Monday, 2 June 2014 at 6:57pm BST

LC at 2.58

Of course not. No-one in England has such a right, as such a rite is specifically not legal.

Posted by John Roch at Monday, 2 June 2014 at 9:23pm BST

Isn't it presumptuous for A to be announced as responsible for B's soul, without B's consent? And if B doesn't appear to even have an interest, isn't it also absurd? The legal point made by Alan T Perry is good as far as it goes, but doesn't address this.

Posted by Tim Milburn at Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 1:02am BST

Of course A can have a responsibility for B's soul, whether or not B chooses to ask for any care - the point is that B has a legal right to that care if he or she chooses to ask for it. It is no different, in a sense, from the staff in an NHS A & E having a responsibility to treat for free everyone who comes into the department. It doesn't mean that they have the right to go out and insist that everyone who has cut themselves has to come in to be treated.

It is a very important principle of C of E ministry that we are not, as clergy, entitled to say of anyone that they are nothing to do with us, simply because they have never darkened the door of the church. (It should be a principle of every Christian, in fact, if we take seriously the command to love our neighbours as ourselves.) If clergy and congregations actually took this responsibility more seriously we wouldn't have the situation I regularly encounter where people have found themselves given the cold shoulder when asking for baptism for their children because they aren't regulars, and we wouldn't hear church regulars complaining that "they only want the baptism/marriage in church for the photos afterwards...". If we took this responsibility seriously we wouldn't need all the "Mission-shaped..." and "Fresh Expressions..." stuff, because people in our communities would know that we were there for them and were delighted to help when and where they needed us.

I entirely agree that there can be presumptuousness in feeling that we are responsible for other people who haven't chosen to join us, but only if we take that as meaning we have the right to make proclamations about what they should be doing, or insist on a special place in "the public square" (ghastly phrase), but that's not how it is supposed to be. The right to presume is supposed to work the other way around, with B being able to presume that A will be just waiting to say "welcome", and "yes" to the chance to serve them.

Posted by Anne2 at Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 8:23am BST

Isn't it presumptuous for A to be announced as responsible for B's soul, without B's consent? And if B doesn't appear to even have an interest, isn't it also absurd?
I rather agree.
Many years ago, whilst at theological college in a seminar group, the pastoral theology lecturer (later a distinguished archdeacon) posed the question as to whether the Vicar of St. John's Waterloo had any pastoral responsibility for the millions who pass through Waterloo Station. As earnest ordinands we wrestled long and hard with the issue and eventually and with regret decided that the answer was no. Perhaps the new super bishop will sadly reflect that that is probably true of the vast majority of the 2.3 million, some of whom, heaven forfend might even call themselves atheist, or even Roman Catholics.

Posted by ian at Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 9:38am BST

Re: the safeness and cosiness of church... yes, at its worst this can reflect a social club for the privileged determined to keep outsiders as outsiders. It's important to recognise, however, that it sometimes resembles that because for many people it IS a refuge from other parts of their lives which are every bit as much a battlefield as the East End A&E department Ian talks about.

As I get older, sometimes this attitude is starting to sit a lot less well with me (along with annoyance at people who 'only do church for an hour on Sunday morning') .

The safe, peaceful and pretty little hour on a Sunday morning is for many people an oasis in a life which is otherwise very different.

The man looking after a wife whose Alzheimer's has now resulted in serious personality changes.

The woman whose husband left many years ago and has to look after three kids with behaviour problems on her own.

The couple who are struggling with a start up business or running an understaffed charity, working long hours while trying to bring up a family.

Etc. etc.

I sometimes detect a view that the only real Christians are dedicated revolutionaries prepared to wander round a modern day Galilee and Judaea like the apostles. Well, by that estimation, Joseph of Arimathea wasn't a real Christian.

Most Christian live out their vocations, often extraordinarily challenging ones, in entirely secular contexts; the Parish Church is important as the place where people spiritually recharge and reconnect to go out into the world, even when it is not in and of itself an agent of revolutionary change.

Oh, and I wasn't surprised at Christopher Herbert's sermon. He is one of the best preachers I've ever heard. God often speaks in beauty. We forget that at our peril.

Posted by Gerry Lynch at Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 3:31pm BST

I like to think that everyone in the nation has a 'right of welcome' in the National Church.

Quite a lot of people only activate that right at times of great crisis, or to celebrate a wedding or gather for a funeral.

But I really like the concept that the National Church is everyone's, to the extent that they want it.

Rather than operating as a sect of diminishing numbers, where membership depends on some born again experience etc, I prefer the baptismal model of the Israelites who were delivered through the Red Sea.

The good, the bad, the religious, the robbers, the wise, the foolish, the disabled, the demented, the babies...

All passed through the waters.

God saved the whole people.

Similarly, I believe a National Church may (by mysterious grace) operate for the whole people, to take or to leave, but offering a welcome and an inclusion.

Our souls, perhaps, are only understood by Godde.

But I believe the initiative, and the first act of saving grace, is carried out by Godde, stretching out welcoming arms to all people.

Our responses - in our lives, our deeds, our love, our beliefs - may vary.

I think many people who don't actually go to Church very much, still have some degree of openness and identification with national churches.

I hear it again and again with my patients: "I am C of E."

And I think there is grace in that.

Jesus came to save us all,

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 11:22pm BST

Oh, Susannah! How right you are!!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 4 June 2014 at 11:16am BST

re Ian Paul's article on Baptism.

Surely, Baptism is the gateway to full membership of the Body of Christ. At least that seems to have been recognised of late, with the admission of the Baptised to Holy Communion.

There seems to have been no rite of Confirmation in the Scriptures – unless you like to cite the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Disciples at Pentecost. But, where were the Bishops – unless……

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 6 June 2014 at 1:17am BST
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