Comments: Opinion - Holy Saturday: 26 March 2016

The "duel" on the separation of church and state shows the crisis of liberalism in the CoE: Winkett, probably the most famous "liberal" in the English priesthood, defends the establishment of religion; and worse, adduced the church's scaremongering over assisted suicide in its defense.

Even the tiny, marginalized rump of Modern Church is headed up by Woodhead, who doesn't appear to know what "secularism" means (she says she opposes it; then defends the separation of church and state!).

Still, Easter's the time for resurrection: boy, does liberalism need one.

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 26 March 2016 at 6:40pm GMT

A fairly critical problem for Modern Church is that it promotes liberalism, when no-one ever sets out to be liberal; it's something we are or become (or not). Without a positive alternative to conservative orthodoxy, remaining dogmatically open to some change or other that might or might not be round the corner is pointless.

The challenge for liberals is not to argue for being liberal (or open or inclusive) but to offer practical liberal alternatives. I doubt disestablishment will help with that.

Posted by David Marshall at Sunday, 27 March 2016 at 2:40pm GMT

Thanks so much for the link to the article by The Clerk of Oxford (This Doubtful Day of Feast or Fast). The article is jammed packed with erudition. The Christian art work referenced is very moving--simply excellent. As a perhaps pedestrian and programmatic aside, the last several years I was in parish ministry, I requested and received from the bishop permission to use the propers for The Annunciation (RCL) on Mothering Sunday. The transfer to that particular Sunday in Lent fit in very nicely with supporting the ministry of the parish chapter of Mothers Union. As The Clerk's article reminds, one can make a connection between Lady Day and the themes of lent.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 27 March 2016 at 3:20pm GMT

David, maybe it won't, but any liberal worth the name would demand disestablishment for its own sake. Liberalism's an Enlightenment project, a crucial component of which is opposition to the confessional state. Liberalism was born in opposition to the toxic mix of state and religious power, and if Winkett supports soft theocracy, she's against one of its core tenets.

That points to what you rightly say is liberal Christianity's great weakness: its lack of positive beliefs. Or rather, its failure to articulate the beliefs it has: namely, anti-authoritarianism, rooted in opposition to dogma and the obscurantism of priestcraft.

That Winkett admired the bishops' disgraceful scaremongering over assisted suicide, and supports denying people bodily autonomy and imposing her religious beliefs on others, shows that she's miles away from anything that could be called liberal. Scratch a CoE "liberal," and all too often, it seems, "radical orthodoxy" rears its head.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 27 March 2016 at 5:22pm GMT

James Byron, your phrase 'the toxic mix of state and religious power' is exactly why this evangelical is right with you in wanting to see disestablishment.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Sunday, 27 March 2016 at 8:54pm GMT

"Scratch a CoE "liberal," and all too often, it seems, "radical orthodoxy" rears its head."

Posted by: James Byron

Many 'liberals' in the Anglican Communion actually do embrace quite 'orthodox' beliefs. Especially when those beliefs concur with the liberality of the inclusivity of Jesus in the Gospels.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 27 March 2016 at 10:57pm GMT

I'm all for a fixed date for Easter and would opt for the Second Sunday in April. After an exhausting but highly spiritually fulfilling Holy Week and Easter Day I recall that earlier this year I hardly had time to draw breath after Christmas and Epiphany before Ash Wednesday and Lent were upon us.
A fixed date for Easter in April would avoid having a clash between the Annunciation and Good Friday as this year they both fell on March 25th, although I see that in the 2016 Lectionary Gabriel doesn't appear to the Blessed Virgin Mary until 4th April which means that nine months later we should be celebrating Christmas Day on 4th January 2017! So, yes, I'm all for Easter being celebrated on the Second Sunday in April each and every year.rather than having the Queen of Festivals at a ridiculously early date in March. If this ruling came into immediate effect (which, of course, it won't) then by having Easter later in April it would give more time to ensure that the diocese of Oxford would not be without a Diocesan Bishop for the Third Easter running. Also, while discussing Lectionary Calendar dates I am hoping that October 3rd will remain the f.d of Bishop George Bell and that it does not become a (re)movable feast.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 4:36am BST

Ron:

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_Orthodoxy

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 8:53am BST

I am sorry to read that the ever controversial Bishop of Salisbury is out of communion with the Primate of All England when it comes to a fixed date for Easter. Harry Hill in his programme TV Burp in his quest to resolve disputes used to say "There's only one way to sort this out - FIGHT!"
But perhaps a more rational and pacific way forward may be sought?
Apparently, according to the Biblical evidence there are only 5 possible dates on which the Crucifioxion could have taken place. These are:-
April 11 - AD 27
April 7 - AD 30
April. 3 - AD 33
April 11 - AD 27
April 23 - AD 34
Would it not be a good idea therefore to link our contemporary Good Friday and Easter with, as far as we can speculate, the probable dates on which the Crucifixion and Resurrection took place?
Add three days to the 5 dates above and you get April 14.10, 6,14 and 26.Add these numbers together and you arrive at 70, divide this number by 5 and you have 14 or APRIL 14th. So, let us all agree to celebrate Easter Day on the nearest Sunday to April 14th each year. Problem solved.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 12:30pm BST

Another shout out for the remarkable piece by the Clerk of Oxford.

Those captivated by the piece might like to think further in the symbolism of the lily. A quick Google after reading the Clerk's piece and it appears the lily was associated with death and womanhood for centuries before Christ. When Good Friday falls on the feast of the Annunciation we can see how the symbolism is combined to make the lily a symbol of resurrection. I now understand for the first time why lilies are associated with Easter and just beginning to understand why Christmas falls on the date it does.

And then, looking at the images of the lily crucifixion shared by the Clerk, the further visual connection with Eve, with Genesis 3, stands out.

If we fix the date of Easter we would lose this revelation.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 12:52pm BST

"That points to what you rightly say is liberal Christianity's great weakness: its lack of positive beliefs." - James Byron

If one sees in liberalism an opportunity for God to inspire new revelations, the PRESENT lack of focus in liberalism can be seen as something amazing rather than a weakness.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 1:08pm BST

Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy (like John Donne) wrote a poem about the coinciding of Good Friday and Lady Day. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer does not move the latter (nor do the Orthodox as far as I understand), March 25th, a "Quarter Day", being associated with the traditional equinox and, most notably, nine months before the festival of Christmas - associations lost by those who move it.

Posted by John Bunyan at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 2:02pm BST

I suspect that the proposal to fix the date of Easter may be a really cunning strategic move by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Christians have always been given to intense squabbles over matters of the calendar; we think of the Synod of Whitby, but it goes back much further, even to Polycarp and Anicetus in the second century. Might the ABC be thinking that, if he could get a really good calendar tiff going, it would divert attention from the gay marriage tiff? It might well, but the danger is schism: we could find ourselves with Old Calendar Anglicans out of communion with New Calendar Anglicans....

Posted by John Thorp at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 3:01pm BST

"Many 'liberals' in the Anglican Communion actually do embrace quite 'orthodox' beliefs. Especially when those beliefs concur with the liberality of the inclusivity of Jesus in the Gospels."

Amen, Father Ron.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 3:37pm BST

"That points to what you rightly say is liberal Christianity's great weakness: its lack of positive beliefs." - James Byron

I find this incomprehensible: the liberal Christians I know are in constant self-examination how to be more inclusive of all who come to the table, and search for ways to talk to and respect those who don't. They, in short, labor to do the hard work of loving all God's children. If that is not positive, I do not know what is.

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 6:59pm BST

@ Father Ron, Classicists have provided a withering critique of so called "Radical Orthodoxy". (See, Deconstructing Radical Orthodoxy:Post Modern Theology, Rhetoric, and Truth. Edited by Wayne Hankey and Douglas Hedley. Ashgate. 2005.)


Theologians continuing the legacy of Bernard Lonergan also provide a powerful critique of Radical Orthodoxy. In fact, I think, "down under" you could check out Australian Catholic University.

"Radical Orthodoxy" enjoys a lot of unmerited hype but does not really fit in the liberal column.

What is meant by liberalism? It is important to develop a convivial theology, one that continues to be characterized by aggiornamento, interested in ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue, one that takes both science and history seriously. It is possible for such a theological enterprise to be more catholic (including Anglo-catholic) than liberal.

Such a systematic theology contrasts with evangelical theology which is naive and poorly equipped to address the kinds of projects I've mentioned here.

Other theological paradigms such as "post-liberalism" with its disdain of systematic theology don't offer much of interest.



Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 7:01pm BST

Agreed, father Ron, which is why I've always said that inclusivity has to be expanded beyond social issues to theology.

The last thing I want to see is a church in which all are welcome and equal regardless of gender or sexuality, but that demands adherence to supernatural thinking rooted in disproven ancient cosmology. This is exactly the kind of church I can see emerging from an "accepting evangelical" and "radical orthodox" alliance.

Anyone who believes that the church should exclude the theology of Richard Holloway and John Shelby Spong (rooted in the work of Paul Tillich, Rudolf Bultmann and Don Cupitt, among others) embraces discrimination as unjustified as the other kinds routinely opposed here.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 8:04pm BST

Amen, James, as we have no like button here.

Posted by David Marshall at Monday, 28 March 2016 at 11:42pm BST

Father David:

Does your analysis include the many changes to the calendar since the first century? Are those dates according to the Julian or Gregorian calendar?

Posted by p at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 12:36am BST

So Ron and James - the 'Liberal Tradition' (which still needs more careful defining here) is characterised by a convivial inclusivity of any and all viewpoints - except of course when considering evangelicals and their 'theology' (cough). At which point this welcoming, non-anxious tradition invariably starts to sound very anxious and dismissively intolerant.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 8:16am BST

Establishment and Disestablishment.

When the children of Israel were led out of Egypt, it was not just a select few, but the whole nation... the young, the old, the good, the bad.

True, not all completed the journey.

But God's initiative was for all the people, not on the basis of individual faith, but an open door (through the Red Sea) for all the people.

In short, God's faithfulness, not other people's faith or righteousness, was what mattered at the point of deliverance.

Now, these may or may not be historical facts, but the myth, symbolism and archetype speak strongly of a divine provision (and shelter) for all of a nation.

Yes, they continued to complain and quarrel. Yes, they got lost along the way. But God was there for them all.

This narrative (of course) is a baptismal archetype... indeed, the justification for infant baptism... that what counts is God's prior initiative and faith.

I believe in a Church for the whole nation, whatever states of faith that nation may be in, and whatever state the church may be in.

I believe the Church of England should be there for *all* the nation, like an open door. Many people may avoid church for years, and yet the Church is in a way "their" church, not the church of the pious few.

And God works in mysterious ways.

The Church of England should aspire to be more than just another sect.

There is something numinous in all this, beyond our cerebral understanding. And something to be lost, if we become a 'membership' club, based on adult professions and baptism. Like the nation exiting Egypt in a shambles, the concept of 'church' is primarily a divine act and provision... pre-figuring the divine act and deliverance of Jesus's own baptism by way of the Cross. A divine intervention 'for all nations'.

A church for all the people, not just the qualifying ones. To me, the deliverance through the Red Sea - though not the end of the story - is indicative of how God deals in whole families, whole nations.

I believe in the established church, and its breadth, and diversity, and tensions. A church that is there in village after village, town after town, as a presence, and a sign of God's mysterious call to everyone, pregnant with grace and potential.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 9:01am BST

Nathaniel, I meant "positive" in the sense of assertion, rather than goodness, and was referring to underlying theology.

Liberals are good at questioning; but, on average, less good at clarity and assertion. Likely 'cause stating their beliefs plainly draws furious condemnation from more conservative believers. How many say, for example, "I don't believe in miracles, including the virgin birth and physical resurrection, and here's why ..."? Not nearly enough.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 9:35am BST

Dear p, I'll have to pass on that one as to whether they used the Julian or the Gregorian calendar to calculate the April date of the Crucifixion, the Paper I gleaned the information from didn't state which calendar was used, but I rather gather the given April dates coincide with our contemporary calendar.
However, I think it may well be a more reliable guide than the contrived calculation which fixes the date of Christ's Crucifixion to coincide with the date of the Lord's Conception. The explanation given by the Clerk of Oxford is quite brilliant but highly dubious.
Anyway, I did once read an article in the Daily Mail (and I'm sure there can be no more reliable a source than that!) which stated that the date of Christmas should actually be celebrated on June 17th, which is my own date of nativity and so I heartily approve of sharing a birthday with Our blessed Lord. Besides I've always thought it rather silly celebrating Christmas in December when the shops are busy, much better to have it in June, which would, of course, place His conception in late September.

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 10:46am BST

James
" "I don't believe in miracles, including the virgin birth and physical resurrection, and here's why ..."? Not nearly enough."

I think the problem is that it is very easy to formulate core beliefs but virtually impossible to come up with unified belief statements once individuals diverge from that small core into a thousand different directions.

Also, the word "liberal" has come to mean "politically liberal" and "theologically liberal", and the two are not the same.
Conservative believers can approve of women priests and gay marriage without shifting any of their core beliefs about anything in the creeds.

People who are ostensibly conservative in their belief can have a lot of doubt about individual credal claims.

It's really only possible to say what individuals believe, not what all liberals adhere to.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 11:57am BST

David Runcorn, I've never argued for a "convivial inclusivity of any and all viewpoints." Who on earth does? That would oblige us to be convivial about racism, fascism, and people who think it's okay to talk in the theater. (Who, as we all know, are going to the special hell. ;-)

As you're aware, I disagree with much of evangelicalism: at the same time, I'm not shy about praising its good points, such as its love for the Bible and its breadth and depth of biblical study, its distrust of ecclesiastical power, and its talents for organization and accessibility. I often find myself agreeing with evangelical criticism of other traditions, including my own; evangelicals tend to have a talent for frankness and getting to the point that I appreciate.

Despite disagreeing profoundly with much of their theology, I would never seek to deny evangelicals a place in any church: that, surely, is the essence of tolerance.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 12:13pm BST

The real question is why liberals want to be linked to views they totally reject as harmful....?

Posted by S Cooper at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 1:27pm BST

I agree with Erika, that labels can't always be taken too seriously.

In the case of 'liberal' I prefer to apply it to a way of reading religious text in the context of those who wrote it - not as fundamental and infallible truth, but as the product of their own understandings, culture, limits, and encounters... fallible attempts to 'make sense' of things... subject to challenge.

But it's possible to talk, too, of liberal social values, liberal politics, liberal generosity, or even using liberal in the sense of 'setting free' in a revolutionary way.

Most of us are more complex than a one-word label. For example, I regard myself as 'liberal' in the sense I mentioned concerning religious text. I'm also fairly liberal on social values such as those around gender and sexuality. On the other hand, the heart of my spirituality is closest to 16th Century Counter-Reformation Spain. And then again, I believe in miracles, the ecstatic and the supernatural. At times I love to raise hands and dance, or speak in tongues, but at other times I wait on God in silence and contemplation. The numinous matters to me. Love and kindness are fundamentals to me at a personal level, but I am politically inclined to communism and liberation theology. Although I am uncomfortable with fundamentalism, and some kinds of evangelicalism, I believe in 'being born again' and 'baptism through the Holy Spirit’. I view Godde as powerfully female, yet I am sceptical of much that identifies as 'feminist'. I value sexual purity, but I also believe Godde can be deeply sexual, can desire us with sexual intimacy, and want to take us. I don't believe in Hell, yet I strongly believe in judgment.

So I don't think we can always simply limit a person to a label like 'liberal' and expect to capture the whole of who a person is.

Same with someone who is 'evangelical' - humans tend to be far more complex than simple labels. We slip into using labels as blanket terms (I do it myself) and then we are only one step away from 'othering'.

Because of this human complexity, I eschew schism and sectarianism. There is so much diversity, even within ourselves, that I find the real test is grace to try to love someone as a unique person, and (as a church) to try to co-exist.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 1:56pm BST

"let us all agree to celebrate Easter Day on the nearest Sunday to April 14th each year. Problem solved." I am afraid, Father David, it is not!
Because the anniversary date of when the crucifixion/resurrection is not the only consideration. More important is the link between Good Friday/Easter and Passover. Christ's death and resurrection are linked in the Gospels with the events of Passover/Exodus. The account of Jesus Transfiguration speaks of Christ's coming Exodus. Just as the Jewish nation looked to the Exodus as their liberation from slavery, so the Christian community looks to the cross/empty tomb as the world's liberation from Sin. To lose any connection between Easter and Passover would be a real loss of understanding of the roots of our faith. By all means let us work towards a COMMON date for Christians to celebrate Easter, but please not a date fixed for the convenience of society, or hard pressed clergy, or fixed calendar commemorations.

Posted by Paul Richardson at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 1:57pm BST

I think we all have different meanings of the terms liberal and conservative. My own personal usage is that a conservative values tradition over Scripture and a liberal values our present, best and evolving understanding of Scripture (including acceptance of the miraculous) more than tradition and traditional interpretation.


Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 3:55pm BST

Well, after the controversial debate over the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopacy it looks like we now have yet another disagreement to sort out - the dating of Easter. Dear knows how this one is going to be solved but unlike the women's ordination debate which was unilaterally decided upon - surely something as important as the annual celebration of the Lord's resurrection must be multilaterally agreed upon by all branches of Christ's Body - the Church. But where do we start? Perhaps we could call a C of E Synod with the Bishop of Salisbury and Canon Paul on one side and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Father David on the other side? Looking forward to seeing you at Whitby, Paul. In the meantime - Easter Blessings to all.

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 6:28pm BST

I totally agree with Paul Richardson. Easter and Passover are irrevocably linked and should not be dislocated from one another.

Both are divinely-initiated acts of deliverance, communicating the spiritual reality of baptism - of going down into the jaws of death and rising to new life.

Both refer to exodus. It is hard not to see the archetype, and (from a Christian perspective) the one pre-figuring the other. The texts were clearly written with this in mind.

"I have a baptism to undergo" Jesus is reported as saying - "he was talking about his death."

In the language of archetype and divine intervention, Passover and Easter are indivisible. I would be astonished if someone tried to dislocate them on secular grounds.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 7:01pm BST

"let us all agree to celebrate Easter Day on the nearest Sunday to April 14th each year. Problem solved."

Once it is accepted that the date of Easter is changeable as you suggest, then it is no longer a choice between a fixed date (which won't always be a Sunday) and a moveable date but between two ways of determining the moveable date.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 7:44pm BST

Father David:

Thanks for your further thoughts on the fixed date thing. (Yes, I'm "P"...I hit the enter button too quickly last time and didn't notice it until too late.)

As someone else noted, the real issue is connecting Easter to Passover in my mind...which, granted, our current system quite often misses by quite a bit (as it does this year).

Perhaps we should change Easter to the Sunday during Passover? IOW, the Sunday after the 15th day of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 7:50pm BST

"the 'Liberal Tradition'... is characterised by a convivial inclusivity of any and all viewpoints - except of course when considering evangelicals and their 'theology' (cough). At which point this welcoming, non-anxious tradition invariably starts to sound very anxious and dismissively intolerant."

Well, I can't speak for all traditions. But here in TEC we actually do have a big tent that includes conservative parishes and evangelical (though the movement isn't as big here as in England, and it means different things). For example, while our General Convention passed SSM, no parish or priest is required to marry anyone they don't want to marry. That is inclusion.

TEC includes conservatives, but by an overwhelming majority, have chosen inclusion as the national policy. I.e., the conservatives are welcome to worship as they like, exclude at their parish level as they like, but they are not free to FORCE the rest of the church to practice exclusion.

While it may not be intended, when I hear about how liberals are intolerant, what I actually hear is that conservatives are unhappy that their intolerance can't be the dominant policy anymore in TEC, and is losing ground in the CoE and elsewhere.

With my Orthodox and Anglo-Catholic background, I don't really "get" the evangelical perspective, but most people I know would not exclude others for that belief or worship style. We simply move on to another parish and wish them well. Why is that so hard?

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 8:04pm BST

it is interesting to read the comments of those who keep writing about the vital connection which must be kept between the Christian Easter and the Jewish Passover. We celebrated Easter this year as early as March 27th and if I am not mistaken the Jews will this year celebrate the first day of Passover on April 23rd - St. George's Day when I shall be remembering not only England Patron Saint but also celebrating my Mother-in-law's 98th birthday. Call me old fashioned but I don't observe much of a vital connection between two dates virtually a whole month apart!
I further note these dates of the first Day of Passover all of which happen in the month of April
2014 - April 15th
2015 - April 4th
2016 - April 23rd
2017 - April. 11th
Add these numbers together and you arrive at 53 - divide that number by 4 and that equals 13.25. Round that figure up, as we used to when Decimal coinage was introduced, and you get 14. 14th April - or the nearest Sunday to that date - the ideal time to celebrate Easter.

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 10:59pm BST

More numerology nonsense from Clerk of OXford. 27th March is not all that rare a date for Easter; last happened only 11 years ago. And with 35 dates to choose from any particular date will only ever occur a handful of times each century.

Now do any of you know the most common date for Easter?

Posted by Chris A at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 11:31pm BST

In any event the fixed date of Easter will not be the second Sunday in April but is fixed by the Easter Act 1928 as the day after the second Saturday in April.

Posted by Chris A at Tuesday, 29 March 2016 at 11:36pm BST

Cynthia, if you take a look back at comments on this site and others like Episcopal Cafe, you will see lots of comments from "liberals" saying anyone who doesn't agree with them about gay marriage, or women priests, or several other controversies, cannot possibly be a Christian, or are barely human at times. It's not just conservatives "not getting their way".

Posted by Chris H. at Wednesday, 30 March 2016 at 2:33am BST

Isn't it nice to remember that the date of Easter, and any changes, are almost entirely outside the remit of the Church of England. I say almost only because when the Church of Rame takes a lead and convinces the Lutherans, the reformed churches and all the pentecostal groups to follow it, the Church of England will be one small part of an Anglican communion which will be invited to go along as well.

John

Posted by John Holding at Wednesday, 30 March 2016 at 3:54am BST

Speaking as an NHS accountant, the one date when I don't want Easter to fall is 31 March!

Posted by Stephen King at Wednesday, 30 March 2016 at 5:23am BST

A good Catholic/Evangelical Sermon by + Salisbury.
Christ is Risen, Alleluia!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 30 March 2016 at 7:19am BST

The most common date for Easter - April 19th - which is near as damn it to Justin Welby's preferred date for a fixed Easter - i.e. - the Second Sunday In April or, if we follow the Easter Act of 1928, as highlighted by Chris - the day after the Second Saturday in April which would be fine by me. However, let us never forget that every Sunday is, in fact, "A little Easter"

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 30 March 2016 at 11:32am BST

"More numerology nonsense from Clerk of OXford"

It is terribly unfashionable to admit it, but numerology is rather prominent in the Bible.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 30 March 2016 at 5:16pm BST

It might be fruitful to ask why Passover is celebrated when it is, since no one can know when the Israelites escaped from Egypt. My understanding is that it was originally an agricultural feast, an early spring festival, onto which a religious meaning was grafted, just as Shavuot was the feast of the first fruits which later had the celebration of the giving of the law at Sinai added. In other words it followed the pattern of celebration determined by the natural calendar people already followed. It was a good time to celebrate, both because celebration was in the air - spring had come - and, presumably because people could take time off from their work in order to celebrate - some crucial tasks had been done. In the same way, it seems that early Christians simply added their meanings to the celebrations of pre-Christian people - adapting Saturnalia/Yule/Spring celebrations etc. If I rightly recall Augustine was told by Pope Gregory to Christianise the festivals he found in England when he reintroduced Christian faith in 597. In other words we have always paid attention to when the world around us needed to celebrate and adapted to that. It seems to me there is no difference between adopting an agricultural feast when agriculture set the calendar and adapting to the needs of a society which is ruled by the need for a fixed date to plan business and school around. If we don't respond to this, the UK will eventually just fix an early spring break, just as it did a late May one, and Easter will fade from the popular consciousness jut as Whitsun/Pentecost has.

Posted by Anne at Wednesday, 30 March 2016 at 5:32pm BST

At present, many people, especially children, are away for the secular Easter break and end up not observing Easter at all. If we want to encourage and facilitate church attendance at Easter we should arrange for a fixed secular Spring holiday but keep Easter as at present. That way, most years, the two won't coincide...

Posted by Turbulent Priest at Wednesday, 30 March 2016 at 8:02pm BST

"Cynthia, if you take a look back at comments on this site and others like Episcopal Cafe, you will see lots of comments from "liberals" saying anyone who doesn't agree with them about gay marriage, or women priests, or several other controversies, cannot possibly be a Christian, or are barely human at times. It's not just conservatives "not getting their way"."

Chris, I've been reading Episcopal Cafe for quite awhile and I've not seen that sort of rhetoric. In it's "about" section, they make it clear that it is a progressive blog. What I see are conservatives bashing the very being of LGBTQI people in really strong, unaffirming terms, as if we aren't fully human and fully children of God. This always baffles me, because TEC is not forcing anyone to perform or support SSM. All we do is allow it to happen in places where folks believe in full inclusion. It just so happens that 85 percent of so of Episcopalians support it. We have not excluded the 15 percent, but those 15 percent are angry and hateful that me and my wife get to be happy. Why those 15 percent should have power over my life just baffles me (and it did when the percentage was higher).

TEC has struggled with how to "include the excluders without including their excluding agenda." Conservatives are angry that they have lost the power to impose their will on the rest of us and they "act out" on a progressive blog. In their home parishes, they can exclude to their hearts content.

I think that conservatives do not realize how hurtful their exclusive words are, and the damage that it does to real people. And in the US and UK, I see people who feel absolutely entitled to judge others.

The "liberals" are not monolithic, but a lot of great theology has been done. Some of it is liberation theology, some comes from different angles. There's a lot of great writing out there. Pretending otherwise is also a part of the denial. We live in the post modern age, we all know what we need to know about Scripture and writings and movements that have flowed from it. Now we have data. What lifts people up? What knocks people down? Choose which one seems consistent with the radical love of Jesus. "Doctrine" and "orthodoxy" are important, but they were created by flawed people and they can be misused just as the Pharisees misused the Law to exclude and demean people - and they got called out by Jesus.

Hint: if a belief is knocking people down in massive numbers, be it women, LGBTQI people, refugees, the poor, et al., then there's a good chance that we've lost our way on the Way of the Cross of Jesus who asked us to love all our neighbors.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 30 March 2016 at 8:04pm BST

Yes, Father Ron, it is a good sermon by the Bishop of Salisbury. I might have missed reading it but for your comment.

Posted by Pam at Wednesday, 30 March 2016 at 9:44pm BST

Anne makes a good point when she reminds us of the Christianisation of Anglo-Saxon Britain in the 7th century. Bede tells us that the early Chrustian missionaries were encouraged not to disparage the pagan practices and images but to build upon them with Christian practices and images, that is why on many Celtic crosses a Biblical scene surmounts a pagan symbol.
However, this Easter I am wondering if that process has been reversed? It is reported that there has been a great increase in the number of Easter cards being sent, Easter trees are gaining in popularity and the Easter Bunny reigns supreme.
In rural Warwickshire my daughter asked my five year old grandson if he knew the Easter story as well as he knew the Christmas story? His reply was something like this:-
"There was this bunny called Jesus who died on a cross but he had a brother called God who brought him back to life again!"
Looks like Granddad will have to correct him on one or two of the details when next we meet.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 31 March 2016 at 5:07am BST

"I think that conservatives do not realize how hurtful their exclusive words are, and the damage that it does to real people."

Some, maybe Cynthia, but any conservative who's discussed it with an LGBT person must know: on multiple occasions, it's been explained to them in excruciating detail. They simply believe that God's commanded them to oppose all sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage, whatever the cost.

That's not, in itself, wrong. We all support policies that damage people, whether it's prisons, or mass automobile ownership, so although I disagree strongly with conservatives, I don't believe they're bad people. Just horribly mistaken. (That doesn't extend to homophobes who use religion as a cover.)

Like any of us, however, sexual conservatives are under an obligation to minimise the harm they do: and if they expect tolerance to be extended to themselves, they gotta extend it to others, and stop trying to impose their personal beliefs on the entire church.

Posted by James Byron at Thursday, 31 March 2016 at 6:18am BST

One might also turn things around and say that "conservatives" respect and value sticking to your values and standing by your words . . . except when it comes to giving way to them, then they want inclusivity and relativism.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 31 March 2016 at 6:38am BST

Cynthia I'm with Chris. There is a capacity for intolerance on all sides. Some 'liberals' are very intolerant of views they don't agree with. So when you claim 'in the US and UK, I see people who feel absolutely entitled to judge others,' I wonder who you are including in this statement? And on a recent TA discussion on another thread I challenged you for standing in judgment over the CofE as 'a heartless, hierarchical machine that answers to no one, not even the Jesus of the gospels.'

Posted by David Runcorn at Thursday, 31 March 2016 at 9:16am BST

I'm confused by this conversation about tolerance.
It strikes me that tolerance has two different aspects, one is a mental one, and one a practical one.

There are hugely mentally intolerant people on all sides in this debate, no question.
But in practical terms, I don't see any liberal person actively discriminating against conservatives. In the CoE, they're not even in a position to do so because the current system is entirely by conservatives for conservatives and liberals are still fighting for actual equality.

Only once we have that can we become intolerant in a real sense. Until then, our mental attitudes cannot possibly affect the standing of conservatives in the church.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 31 March 2016 at 11:37am BST

Erika Thank you for thoughtful comments intolerance. But the word 'conservative' needs using as carefully as 'liberal'. And I struggled with 'I don't see any liberal person actively discriminating against conservatives'. Hard to know what you accept as evidence. For example in my work over the years I know of a number of dioceses where a liberal/liberal catholic senior staff are plainly suspicious of evangelicals and very reluctant to work with them.
You are perhaps not aware that Conservative evangelicals in the CofE feel they are the ones being discriminated against as they watch, for example, the growing acceptance of same-sex relationships (not least among those calling themselves evangelicals). They are actively planning for the day when they may have to leave the CofE and its 'liberal agenda'. But I am genuinely baffled your claim that 'the current system is entirely by conservatives for conservatives and liberals are still fighting for actual equality.' Unless you are calling 'conservative' people who are actually occupying much more open middle ground? Certainly the Evangelical wing in the CofE is in enormous transition - and not in a conservative direction. I for one want a vibrant engagement across all the traditions of the CofE. tough in practice one or other tends to be to the fore in any one era. The evangelicals were a disposed minority for the first 60+ years of the last century. In this respect I found Guy Elmore's article rather thin and hope his next two will be more challenging of his own tradition, in theology and mission.

Posted by David Runcorn at Thursday, 31 March 2016 at 2:33pm BST

Erika, it's very much geographic though. In large parts of TEC it is the liberals who control everything. Our bishop will not hire any priest who attended a conservative seminary, let alone is actually conservative. He was encouraged by the previous Presiding Bishop in this. She also told members of her staff to avoid going to such seminaries, even if they were the closest and most affordable. If conservatives are not allowed jobs, not allowed on the vestry, or not allowed to be Sunday School teachers, are they "tolerated"? They know they are not welcome, even if the priest says, "Of course we welcome everyone, including conservatives in our church." Welcome to put money in the plate and learn how evil they are, nothing else.

Posted by Chris H. at Thursday, 31 March 2016 at 2:54pm BST

"But I am genuinely baffled your claim that 'the current system is entirely by conservatives for conservatives and liberals are still fighting for actual equality.'"

Number of CofE bishops in a same sex marriage = 0
Number of CofE bishops openly in a same sex relationship = 0
Number of CofE bishops who have changed gender = 0
Number of CofE bishops known to be intersex = 0

Predicted increase over the next five years = 0

Number of conservative bishops = several, including protected status in the ordinariate
Number of evangelical bishops = several and growing in number

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 31 March 2016 at 3:44pm BST

David,
thank you for pulling me up on sloppy language!

I think I fundamentally struggle with your statement that conservative evangelicals feel discriminated against because of the growing acceptance of lgbt relationships.
They are not, in fact, discriminated against, as they can continue to believe that same sex relationships are wrong, no-one is forcing them to enter into one, to bless one, to conduct a same sex marriage etc. In fact, blessings and conducting marriages are still illegal in the CoE.

The ones who are discriminated against at present are gay people and their liberal priests who would like to bless them, marry them, and who might like to be married and blessed themselves.
"Growing acceptance" is not discrimination against anyone, unless you consider equal rights to constitute active discrimination against those who previously had sole rights.
But that would be a hard point to argue, I think, a little akin to men believing they’re discriminated against when women are given equal rights.

Once we have a church where all are equal in legal terms, and where affirming churches can genuinely treat lgbt people the same as everyone else, we will have equality - not discrimination.

Discrimination against conservatives would only arise if churches were forced to become accepting.

As for people being suspicious of conservatives and refusing the work with them - that works both ways and that's the kind of mental intolerance I deplore in both sides.
It is repeated against liberals when people have to sign up to Issues to be accepted for ordination, when more and more bishops are drawn from priests with an evangelical background, when churches make it clear that only those with conservative views on sexuality will be accepted in any church leadership roles.

I don't know any conservatives who had sleepless nights fearing the moment they come out to their church as opposing same sex relationships. I do know of a number of gay affirming people who are not even gay themselves and who had to step down from their involvement with church groups because they were no longer "orthodox".

It strikes me that, while our conversations are often wildly intolerant and aggressive on both sides, in actual terms, “conservatives” tend to feel that they are being discriminated against when they are asked not to discriminate any longer, or at least allow others not to discriminate any longer.
My sympathies in those cases are limited.


Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 31 March 2016 at 3:45pm BST

It is striking to me, David, that you seem to view the 'feeling' of discrimination by conservative evangelicals, absent any real evidence of any such thing aside from the fact that these days more Anglicans are being moderately nice to women and gay people, as being somehow equal to the actual, quantifiable ongoing discrimination against those of us 'liberals' who actually ARE female and/or LGBT.

These are not arguments between two groups over abstract, intellectual topics, like our precise theology of atonement or the correct way to drape one's maniple. These are matters that go deep into the core of peoples' lives and relationships with God.

I am a lesbian Anglican but these days I rarely go to church, because even praying and receiving the sacrament have become painful reminders that the church's official line is that I am considered inherently unfit to be on the other side of the altar, and that it is immoral and deviant for me to believe that I have a vocation to marriage. I live every day with a deep sense of spiritual dysphoria over the church's demand that I must choose between love and priesthood, that God created and called me to be a person who can never be whole.

I have several gay friends who have been ripped to shreds in the discernment process whilst exploring a priestly vocation- even those who honestly committed themselves to celibacy were considered inherently untrustworthy. I have seen wonderful and dedicated gay priests worn down either by the misery of unnaturally enforced loneliness or the stress of having to conceal the relationships that help them sustain their ministry. And every day I see women manipulated, spat on, and exploited by the church, their gifts and ministry undervalued or entirely ignored, especially the older women without whom the church would go under tomorrow.

This isn't about feelings, and arguments on the internet or at synods. This is about real matters of blood, bone and soul.

Posted by Junia at Thursday, 31 March 2016 at 4:54pm BST

A very wide ranging thread on(in)tolerance, some of it is a social media issue. Whether as an extension of our central nervous system or the e-version of primal scream therapy, most of us have likely had our lapses. I'm sure I have.

Is virtual debate between or among folks who do not share the most basic assumptions viable?

Much of it has to do with the great amount of time, patience, and collaboration it takes to do religious problem solving.

I'm reading the very interesting book, Foundational Theology: A New approach to Catholic Foundational Theology by Neil Ormerod and Christiaan Jacobs-Vandegeer (Fortress Press, 2015.) The co-authors are both Bernard Lonergan scholars. They are based in Australia.
Ormerod may be familiar to folks here who have been following the Radical Orthodoxy debate. Jacobs-Vandegeer is a younger generation scholar, American, who did post grad work at Regis College, University of Toronto.

The book may not resonate with all Anglicans; but it does have a very engaging "roots and wings" horizon. There is a consideration of theological disagreement, differences in starting points, and how individual theologians may contribute solutions that it will take teams of theologians to solve only over decades or even centuries.

As for threads, and tolerance levels, some days I can't decide between the advice of my more contemplative friends and the voices of my tenacious highland ancestors when it comes to staying in or leaving the fray.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 31 March 2016 at 6:44pm BST

"Despite disagreeing profoundly with much of their theology, I would never seek to deny evangelicals a place in any church: that, surely, is the essence of tolerance."
- Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday -

As an Anglo-Catholic 'liberal', I quite agree with James' description, here. of many of us who are doctrinally 'conservative', and yet welcoming of Women and LGBTQI people as full participants in the work of the Gospel.

And, as for those who 'worry' about the the dates of Easter, I find myself not clinging too much to the association with the date of the Passover, while yet agreeing to the historical/theological significance of their coinciding.

After all, the Sabbath (for Jews) is different from Sunday, for Christians, which declares the New Passover of the New Israel of God in its accent on the Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus.

I do, however, think it would be good for ALL Christians to celebrate Easter at the same time. It might bear a little more impressive witness in an to the world.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 12:04am BST

"on another thread I challenged you for standing in judgment over the CofE as 'a heartless, hierarchical machine that answers to no one, not even the Jesus of the gospels.' "

If I had seen that, David, I'm sure I would have responded.

1. Exhibit A on the heartlessness of CoE hierarchy is the three Jeremy's. Justin held them up on the first day of the January Primate's meeting as evidence of CoE's "orthodoxy," i.e. they will discriminate and crush the spirits of any clergy who exercise their legal right to marry (and as you get older, getting married becomes more significant, in case you didn't know). And that was used as fodder to gain cooperation from human rights abusers.

2. You might call my words intolerant. While I'm saying "if the shoe fits..."

3. It will not do to act as if harsh truths = intolerance. Morally speaking, the pain of losing an argument is hardly equal to the pain of being told that you are lesser in the eyes of God and stigmatized in the church with second class membership.

Moral math
Losing an argument = ouch
Discrimination, the indignity of being treated as a lesser human and Child of God = REAL suffering. Bullying, alienation, depression, suicidal ideation, actual suicide.

I'd really be rich if I recouped all the money I had to spend on therapy to ward off the demons summoned by exclusionary rhetoric. And I'm in and accepting church!!! And what about those who couldn't or wouldn't access the mental health care needed to find ones bearings in a sea of nastiness.

The suffering of evangelicals/conservatives on the wrong side of history hardly rates against the suffering that's been caused by exclusionary rhetoric. Sorry if you don't "agree" with the person God created me to be, and the fact that my church acknowledges and embraces us. But "agreement" by you or anyone is completely irrelevant. I'm here. We're here. God loves us as s/he has created us and MOST CERTAINLY does not want us to suffer the way we are made to.

It is an English trait to want to appease "both sides" as if they are morally equivalent. They aren't. And one side can't be appeased without hurting people. Even TEC is still hurting people as we're not forcing anyone to come around, we've only stopped allowing them to control other people's lives.

This is a difficult truth. But it isn't intolerance. It is merely making the moral argument, and when you look at the actual suffering, things get clearer.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 4:59am BST

"This isn't about feelings, and arguments on the internet or at synods. This is about real matters of blood, bone and soul."

Spot on, Junia. And for those of us who are happily lay people, with no calling to ordained ministry, the treatment you described radiates out and hurts us all.

Just know that in some places being LGBTQI is not an impediment to ordained ministry. Hopefully that can be somewhat affirming in this very, very difficult situation.

Blessings.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 5:06am BST

The fact *remains* that, if there is this "double standard" by liberals, there is a corresponding double standard by so-called conservatives, who want to stand their ground, while denigrating others for doing so, who lobby for "gracious restraint" while showing none, who want a special place that they denied and continue to deny others. Either there is one house divided against itself or two separate houses firm on their own bedrock.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 6:30am BST

Thank you to those who responded to me. Some brief comments.
I am fully committed to the full inclusion of LGBTQI in the life of the church. As Erika often points out there is enormous debate and rapid change happening within the Evangelical tradition. So I wince when this varied and fast moving tradition is labelled ‘conservative’. But I agree progress is terribly slow when measured against the experience of those still excluded. That is not acceptable. And as always if my words are clumsy here in the presence of much lived pain, I am sorry.
Junia ‘the “feeling” of discrimination … absent any real evidence’. This puzzled me as I made clear I was speaking from personal experience and Chris then gave examples from his own. I think you are discriminating here when you appear to deny this is really happening. On another point - I am a DDO. The kind of experience you are describing would not happen with me or my regional colleagues I can assure you. And perhaps you missed the ordination candidate who recently agonized on FB about whether to be honest regarding her sexuality and her non-call to celibacy at her selection conference. She was totally honest – and was accepted. I do not doubt there are still some ghastly stories around but it is not the whole picture.
Kate - the trouble with these 0 stats is that they can give no picture all that is actually going on – and could be taken to imply the opposite which is very tough on who are working painfully hard and effectively for change. It reveals nothing of the stories of rising public/social pressure on the church, the guided conversations and other initiatives within it, of evangelical churches now hosting people like me to speak on the bible from an including perspective for the first time ever. And these stats would have been identical for women as Bishops barely fifteen months ago of course – and I would have said the same then if you had posted them.
And yes – no one group has a monopoly of intolerance and bad behaviour. But we do tend to notice it more clearly in ‘them’ rather than ‘us’.
Cynthia - I have made my point as best I can.

Posted by David Runcorn at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 8:18am BST

"It is an English trait to want to appease 'both sides' as if they are morally equivalent. They aren't. And one side can't be appeased without hurting people."

Well said, Cynthia, although falling prey to the golden mean fallacy is a universal weakness: MLK famously railed against white moderates; and it can be seen in pop culture, with cable news treating most every issue as having two equally valid "sides" in a "debate," even if the "issue" is as one-sided as torture or evolutionary theory.

I couldn't agree more that some things, you just gotta get off the fence about, and to hell with false equivalence. "Neutrality" on injustice is taking the side of the wrongdoer.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 9:17am BST

To guard against negativity, let me praise the parish of All Hallows by the Tower in http://www.ahbtt.org.uk/

A Google search on "LGBT church" brings them up as one of my top links (searching from London). It's an ad so they must have paid for LGBT as a keyword. The website stresses an "inclusive community". That's active, positive mission to LGBT people by a CofE parish. It exudes welcome. Praise be.

So why can't all parishes by like that?

Posted by Kate at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 10:18am BST

" If conservatives are not allowed jobs, not allowed on the vestry, or not allowed to be Sunday School teachers, are they "tolerated"? They know they are not welcome, even if the priest says, "Of course we welcome everyone, including conservatives in our church." Welcome to put money in the plate and learn how evil they are, nothing else."

Posted by: Chris H. on Thursday,

This does sound remarkably like the situation that LGBTQI people have grown up with. So what's new?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 11:23am BST

Rod,
"Is virtual debate between or among folks who do not share the most basic assumptions viable?

Much of it has to do with the great amount of time, patience, and collaboration it takes to do religious problem solving."

Yes. Provided we take the same care in online fora we do in personal conversations, engage with the same respect and patience, it is very possible to have virtual debates.
The first step is to recognise that we do not share basic assumptions, to tease out where our differences are, whether they are largely to do with language or with genuine difference and how important those differences are.

TA used to be a brilliant forum for doing that. On the whole, though, it’s easier on places like Facebook where you get to know the whole person, not just their views and campaigns on one issue.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 12:34pm BST

I have followed this thread with interest, with its distributed issues: on establishment, on date of easter, on the terms 'liberal'/'conservative', and on tolerance.

Turning to that last issue, tolerance:

Far from seeking uniformity in the church, I seek variety.

Far from seeking 'top-down' control of the Church's doctrines and agenda, I seek local communities, responding to and interacting with the actual individuals and communities they live among.

And as I've said previously, that is a two-way street, as far as differences in belief are concerned. If I seek respect for my right to believe, then I must afford respect in turn for somebody else's right to believe.

That's the tolerance I believe in, albeit within that principle we should be willing to give and take strong views and critiques. But people's consciences deserve to be recognised and protected.

For me, the theological basis for this is to do with the nature of union and communion. The fabulous thing about our planet is its diversity of life forms. The fabulous thing about us as human beings loved by God, is our unique individuality, our unique calling to be who we are, and our variety and diversity.

In the face of such difference, either we opt for schism and sect (setting ourselves apart from others like holier, purer Christians) or...

We recognise the theological truth that we are ALL one in Christ, ALL one in communion with Christ, and ALL part of the communion that has existed in the Trinity in all eternity.

Once we recognise that our communion rests on God, not ourselves, then we open ourselves to grace to avoid domination, and to afford one another space and respect in co-existence and shared love of God. Like many families, we can have huge disagreements, but we are still a family if our union is in Christ.

(continued, briefly...)

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 12:59pm BST

(continuing...)

This is why I champion 'Unity in Diversity'.

If one local church wants to be gay-affirming, wants to celebrate or marry LGBT couples, right in the midst of their own local community and circumstances, then that is their diversity, who they are. And they should be allowed to. It's conscience.

And if another local church wants to affirm beliefs that marriage before God is for one woman and one man only, in their own service and engagement with community, who they are, then they too should be allowed to. It's conscience.

We should celebrate the God-given diversity of one another, and love one another, and open more to the grace to be able to do that.

We should stop trying to 'control' one another: and that's why The Covenant seemed wrong to me; and why the Bishop's Pastoral Letter seemed wrong to me; people's sincere conscience should be respected.

We are One Church in Jesus Christ. In our multiple and diverse expressions of conscience, we should open our hearts to love, to the initiatives of the Spirit, even if most of us are cracked pots of clay.

We only, ever, come to God that way (Isaiah 4).

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 1:01pm BST

Erika: "TA used to be a brilliant forum for doing that. On the whole, though, it’s easier on places like Facebook where you get to know the whole person, not just their views and campaigns on one issue."

Personally, I dislike Facebook, and avoid it except for checking out events.

I think online forums work well to the extent that moderators are facilitating, and at the same time firm in cutting out abusive behaviour.

The anomaly on many forums (not notably this one) is the random nature of how almost anyone can come online, with specious self-claims (note to self: try to hide your speciousness) and claim the platform, claim the authoritative position in discourse, get into fights, and generate the 'internet wank' that is so often associated with online communities.

With reference to 'getting to know more of a person'... I have a few times wondered if our conversations here would benefit from a profile page for those contributors who want one, ideally including a photo, list of interests, family, rough locality etc. I appreciate that may not appeal to all, and where people choose to post in stealth identity (gay bishops?) they should do so.

But nevertheless, I do sometimes wish the 20 or 30 most frequent contributors (and all welcome visitors) could personalise their presence here a little. There are several people here that I find fascinating, and not just those with whom I agree the most.

I think this forum serves a valuable role, as one hub and focus - beyond committees - for voicing issues and opinions and beliefs. The more we know each other a bit more individually (I won't say 'personally'), the less likely we may be to degenerate into rancour and insults.

All I all, I find TA a very useful news source and I like to try to forge my own views on the anvil of other people's.

Last of all, and randomly... I am so curious... who is Father David? I absolutely love your posts, FD. You are a delight and treasure, and I wish I knew more about you!!!

It applies to many people here: I wish I knew who I was talking to, because on the internet, anyone can be anyone, but it's not quite the same as actually having a beer or cup of coffee, across a table, or on a country walk.

Hence I avoid Facebook.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 1:43pm BST

Chris H
"" If conservatives are not allowed jobs, not allowed on the vestry, or not allowed to be Sunday School teachers, are they "tolerated"? They know they are not welcome, even if the priest says, "Of course we welcome everyone, including conservatives in our church." Welcome to put money in the plate and learn how evil they are, nothing else."

Without knowing any individual circumstances or finer details, and simply taking your statement at face value - no, you're right, this would be discrimination and it's wrong.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 3:26pm BST

David, when I said real evidence I meant real evidence, not anecdata. The real evidence is that the majority of English bishops are evangelical and of a fairly conservative bent. The real evidence is that great efforts are made to encourage conservative evangelical vocations. The real evidence is that conservative evangelicals who find women priests icky last year got to have their very own special bishop, because the special bishops for other dislikers of women weren't to their tastes. And there is more than enough actual quantifiable data about the horrendous negative impact on the health and wellbeing of LGBT people of institutional homophobia and discrimination, including specific research relating to the church context.

It's nice to hear that for one candidate, her totally justified terror of being honest at her BAP was not proved right. In my diocese, I would never get far enough in the process to even be considered by the bishop for sponsorship- anything less than enthusiastic assent to 'Issues in Human Sexuality' in early discernment gets you unceremoniously given the boot. It's a diocese in your region, by the way. I wonder if you've ever known any heterosexual candidates going to BAP who were petrified of mentioning that they'd like to get married one day?

It doesn't need to be the whole picture. The fact that some people can scrape past the homophobes, that some people win the diocesan lottery, that some bishops don't hound their gay clergy, doesn't make those of us who are not exceptions any better off. If you're surrounded by a group of people and half of them are kicking you in the head, it doesn't really make a lot of difference that the other half are standing there murmuring that it all seems a bit mean.

Posted by Junia at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 4:07pm BST

Susannah,
if Simon will allow me a completely off-topic post...

It's not possible to get to know everyone here personally. But it IS possible to get to know them well, nevertheless. I have been commenting here for over 10 years and I have made some genuine friends in the process, people with whom I subsequently connected with Facebook, and then later in person too. What started here eventually resulted in invitations to 2 weddings, 2 civil partnerships, 1 baptism, 2 confirmations and several ordinations.

Facebook works because it's the middle ground between more focused, issue-based places like TA and personal relationships.

Does the online world get aggressive, lecturing, hectoring, rude and partisan? It can do. I generally find that if I engage with people politely, really drilling down into what they say and why, all the posturing stops and we end up with a constructive conversation that moves us on a little.

Ultimately, it's not where we engage, it's how we do it.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 5:03pm BST

Father Ron, if it was evil for conservatives to do it, why is it wonderful for LGBT advocates to do it? If it's no big deal now, it shouldn't have been an issue then, should it?

Posted by Chris H. at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 5:59pm BST

"Cynthia - I have made my point as best I can."

David, your last post clarified much for me, and I greatly appreciate it.

The only thing I would add is that in talking about each others bad behavior or intolerance, I would just ask folks to remember who holds the power and what they are doing with it. Right now in CoE, the power is terribly unequal. Perhaps bad behaviour by the oppressed group is not be as bad as bad behaviour by those in power who are actively discriminating.

Moral math (in my book).
Bad behaviour by those in power is not morally equivalent to the bad behaviour of those railing about it.

There is a concept called "tone policing." It is used to control an argument. If you press your just case with a passionate tone, the people on the other side make "tone" the issue, rather than the actual issues. I have a Mediterranean temperament but live in a sea of Anglos. I see this "tone policing" all the time, and it doesn't help. When people hurt, they hurt. They need their hurt to be acknowledged and that opens doors.

So David, when you acknowledged the hurt in your last post, my ears for your words grew larger.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 6:05pm BST

" If conservatives are not allowed jobs, not allowed on the vestry, or not allowed to be Sunday School teachers, are they "tolerated"? They know they are not welcome, even if the priest says, "Of course we welcome everyone, including conservatives in our church." Welcome to put money in the plate and learn how evil they are, nothing else."

They are reaping what they have sown, and also being treated the way they have treated others. It's doubly biblical. They should be rejoicing.

Posted by john (not mccain) at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 6:17pm BST

@ Erika Baker, "...take the same care in online fora we do in personal conversations..." Part of me would like to agree. There was a time when I would have seconded that; but these days I'm not so sure.

For example: I support same sex marriage in the church. How I arrive there is traceable back to how I understand the phenomena of human sexuality i.e., I understand it first from a contemporary perspective with the insights I can grasp from specialists in psychology, sociology and anthropology. Theological reflection and response follows. I would move forward by looking to apply transcendent values from my religious tradition as a response to what is an empirical situation. Such values include justice, human dignity, love, and so forth.

Now, sitting across from me is a someone who has a different starting point, like the chap who taught me moral theology back in undergraduate days. S/he starts with a traditional notion of necessary revealed morality. The issues for the church, its pastoral polices and sacramental theologies move forward from there. The ground of the departure area is a propositional one taken from scripture and perhaps tradition. Insights from the human sciences may be helpful but are not radically definitive.

So,we would appear to be at an impasse even before the train leaves the station.

Now, do I believe we have the tools to work on this? Yes I do; but even that requires a testing of assumptions. It's like the Paris peace talks during the American war in Vietnam. Face to face talks collapse because we can't agree on physical arrangements for the room. We are reduced to shuttle diplomacy.

The Canadian house of bishops with about 40 or so mostly males of the same age and stage could not work this out with a facilitator in the room. There are irreconcilable differences. How do we have a viable conversation via social media?

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 7:07pm BST

Quick follow up. Just after completing my previous reply to Erika Baker, I paid a visit to The Anglican Journal which has the item below at the top of their line-up. Talk about good timing. lol!

http://www.anglicanjournal.com/articles/same-sex-marriage-advocates-form-facebook-group#Comments

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 7:21pm BST

Junia - while the only contributions you are prepared to accept as 'real evidence' are you own, discussion is going to be difficult isn't it. Much the same applies to your unsubstantiated claims as to the theological positioning of CofE bishops. Quite how you count bishops wth a 'fairly conservative bent' eludes me.

And thanks Erika - as always.

Posted by David Runcorn at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 8:36pm BST

Susannah, either same sex unions are pleasing to God or they are not. Scripture stresses God is constant so there is a right and a wrong answer. As a church I believe we have an absolute responsibility to God to determine that question in reliance on Scripture, to live it, and to witness it. That responsibility to God is for me more important than upsetting some conservatives or some liberals. In that, I am with the conservatives.

Put another way, for many people I think your idea of variation parish by parish is more radical than women priests or same sex marriage.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 1 April 2016 at 9:25pm BST

"Quite how you count bishops wth a 'fairly conservative bent' eludes me."

Evidence of conservative bishops in CoE:
Justin told the primates in January that CoE has the "most orthodox bench ever." We've seen guidelines for the CNC that essentially says that anyone who has made positive statements about gay people is disqualified from consideration. There are bishops yanking the licenses of beloved priests (and in one case, a lay reader) because they got legally married. TA hasn't posted an outcry from other bishops about this discrimination, did I miss something?

The silence on the discrimination is deafening. Really.

Further, Junia's personal experience is valid evidence, as is the anecdotal Witness of others. Their experience is valid. It is shockingly rude to tell someone that their experience isn't valid. Tone policing can go both ways...

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 12:00am BST

In 1985 the Anglican Church of Canada produced its current Book of Alternative Services. Its contemporary language Eucharist included six alternative Eucharistic prayers. Not one of them expressed a Eucharistic theology that was natural to evangelicals (most of us are quite happy with Cranmer's theology). For that we had to go to the Tudor language service. Apparently our Doctrine and worship Committee thought we were a dying breed.

A few years later the church recognized that something had been missed out, so it created a supplementary Eucharistic prayer expressing what it called 'Reformed Theological Conscience'. A member of the Faith Worship and Ministry committee told me privately that the prayer had been written by three Anglo-Catholics spending the weekend at the SSJD priory in Edmonton. Apparently it was not felt that any Canadian evangelicals might have anything worthwhile to contribute to their own prayer.

Not too many years ago a diocese in western Canada used to tell clergy applying for positions that priests in said diocese were required to be 'strong sacramentalists who interpreted the Bible in the light of modern higher critical studies'. In other words, low church evangelicals need not apply.

You have to laugh. Except sometimes you get tired of laughing. And over the years, more and more of my evangelical contemporaries have voted with their feet. There are more ways than one of being intolerant, and they don't all have to involve beatings.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 1:38am BST

"there is a right and a wrong answer..."

Kate, there may be a right and a wrong answer, but the Church does not know which is which.

At that face off, the challenge God presents us with may not be "who is right?" but "who will open up to grace?"

In God's plans for us as Christians, it may not just revolve around "who is right?" but the key question may be "yes, but in your differences, can you grow, can you open up to grace and graciousness enough, to love one another and co-exist in this very apparent diversity of conscience?"

And I suggest we absolutely can, if we see the priority as love and grace.

If we believe theologically that we are ONE in Christ, then "being right" may not be as urgent question as "can you love?"

The co-existence... the mirroring of the Trinity of God... may be the real open door... the chance to grow.

Why ever should we all agree? We can't. That is demonstrable.

So let each local community try to act in their own good conscience. That at least would reflect the reality on the ground, and respect conscience instead of trying to impose uniformity (that doesn't exist).

Why do we need to exclude other Christians because their consciences are different? If we demand uniformity we will end with schism. That does not reflect the nature of the Trinity.

Our union and communion does not hinge on who is right (none of us are), but on being ONE in Christ. On the great plain of contemplation, there is not 'them' and 'us'. There is rather, shared awareness, the great sharing of God, even of God's own consciousness.

That union is our starting place, I suggest. From there we need to open up to grace, love, forbearance, listening, patience... enough to handle unity in diversity. Because there will always be diversity in the church. Our lives are more like shattered, shimmering fragments of glass reflecting light, than some pure, complete and abstract 'right'.

Yet love can win, in location after location, in little community after little community, whether those communities are 'liberal' or 'evangelical' or 'traditional' or 'charismatic' or whatever. In whatever form, we can open up to grace and love.

(continued)

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 2:20am BST

And I think that's more the challenge than who is right. God works mysteriously through people with divergent consciences and views. The authenticity of local parishes, responding to the initiative of the Holy Spirit in diverse ways, interacting with their own local community... seems possible... if that's radical, then that's what God is. Speaking not solely through scriptural rectitude, but through the hearts and lives and shared communities, trying (like the biblical authors) to make sense of mysteries and deeper reality and the opening up to love.

We may approach God from many directions, we may be diverse, but we can come together (again and again) in union with God, because that union and communion is the radical reality, to which we are all beholden if we want truth... the eternal nature and household of God.

Demanding uniformity, or imposing it on other Christians, can only lead to schisms which belie the actual nature of God. This sectarianism has happened again and again through Christian history, and is usually a failure to find the grace to love those we disagree with, and to found our unity upon the (as you say, unchanging) God who made us each, unique and precious, and much loved.

I believe we need to accept diverse views and consciences on the issue of human sexuality. We cannot just say, 'it is this view'... or 'it is that view'.

We have to learn to open up to difference, and for that, we desperately need the grace and love of God. God wants us to share:

That is a fundamental lesson of contemplative experience.

It is the lesson of the Trinity from everlasting to everlasting.

There is not just 'them' and us' (based on who is "right"). There is not even 'God' and 'us'. There is the 'Yes' of love.

Our unity is not based on scriptural rectitude, but upon givenness to God in love, unity through opening (each in their own way) to God.

(continued...)

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 2:22am BST

(concluding...)

Therefore I believe in the call to co-exist. Honour one another for the different shards of faith we have. Respect divergent consciences. Protect other people's right to their conscience too. And see, right in the here and now of our own lived communities, where God leads us.

Bishops should not dictate faith. Bishops should pastor and facilitate local communities in their own journeyed exploration of faith.

As a nurse, frequently encountering death, I know that what a dying person needs most often is love, not doctrinal rectitude. Rather, love and compassion and presence and sharing in those moments. Being there.

Each local church community can 'be there' the way they are. Some will be evangelical, some will be catholic, some liberal (using labels loosely, they will overlap). And yes, some may consciously or unconsciously exclude by the nature of their views, and that will hurt (I know, having experienced that).

But we can only be there the way we are. The constant, the uniformity... is God... the unity is God... the communion is in God.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 2:25am BST

Following up on the comments on the claims that conservative evangelicals feel mistreated.

In this evening's L.A. Times, there's a story an L.A. father being charged with premeditated murder of his son because he was gay.

Has there been a recent incident anywhere of a father killing his son because he was a conservative evangelical?

Posted by dr.primrose at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 5:17am BST

Cynthia 'Tone policing can go both ways'. Yes - so my and Chris's and Tim's personal and professional experience/ evidence here is just as valid. Thank you.

Posted by David Runcorn at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 8:23am BST

Dr. Primrose, I am certainly not claiming that the things I talked about in my comment of Saturday at 1.38 a.m. BST are equivalent to being murdered.

But then again, the experience of Anglo-Catholics being largely passed over for bishoprics in the C of E recently in favour of evangelicals is not equivalent to that either. That hasn't stopped a lot of TA commenters from thinking it's okay to complain about it.

There are degrees of intolerance. The fact that the intolerance encountered by person A is not as lethal as that encountered by person B does not mean that what person A encountered is not intolerance.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 9:05am BST

Rod,
I think there's a difference between finding ways of agreeing and finding ways of respectful dialogue.
In your example you describe the underlying assumptions and processes people use to reach their conclusions, but you don't dismiss the person whose approach is different from yours. You therefore show genuine understanding of and respect for the other person. That's a good basis for continued conversation. If you can use some of their language and they can follow your assumptions and engage with them, there's every chance you both shift closer to deep understanding and therefore to a place where constructive tolerance becomes possible.

It's the 'my way or the highway' attitude combined with contempt for 'the other side' and a deep lack of genuine understanding of why they think what they think that makes much of our dialogue so frustrating,

It's possible to break through that. Maybe only ever on a painstaking one to one basis. But it can be done, online as in real life.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 9:13am BST

A break-through to respectful dialogue may be possible, but not on the basis of belief. Beliefs can be both absolutely sincere and a) completely wrong, or b) change in a minute. If a friend tells me something plausible that I didn't know I will probably believe it, because I trust them not to intentionally mislead me. If five minutes later I look it up on Wikipedia that belief may change. That's the nature of belief.

The problem is that Church has inherited the false idea that God cares about something as transitory as belief. There is no factual evidence for such a claim. What could have the potential to move beyond competing beliefs would be a shift of the focus of debate onto what grounds there are for beliefs. Of course, there's a teetering stack that are justified by other beliefs, that in turn rely on 'because someone says it's true'. But this incessant chorus of 'I believe this' followed by 'I believe that' will never get beyond mutual toleration.

Posted by David Marshall at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 1:52pm BST

Susannah, walking together in diversity is no Nirvana (if one may use that meme here) but just a consequence of being unwilling to listen to discern the Word of God because being wrong on the issue of same sex sexuality is too scary (on all sides) to contemplate.

St Paul had two challenges - mission and diversity. To a modern evangelical view, Paul should have invested most if his time in mission, it seems though that fighting against diversity was a bigger priority for him.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 2:29pm BST

Rod

When the church was tiny, it was sent spiritual giants like St Peter and St Paul.

By the Reformation when the church had spread across Europe we got a cadre of spiritual leaders about whom we today still feel a certain ambiguity - Luther, Cranmer, Fisher, Calvin, More, Henry VIII ...

Today, with a global church and the Internet maybe - just maybe - this time are we all supposed to play our own small, unremarkable and unrecognised, but still important part in addressing the spiritual dilemmas of our time?

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 2:42pm BST

David Marshall,
I'm not sure why we should have to get beyond mutual toleration. If we could genuinely do that, we'd be in a very good place.

We already "tolerate" people's differing views of Christology, of what fingers they may or may not have to cross when they say the creeds, of the literal truth of the virgin birth, the resurrection etc.

The real problem is not that people believe different things but that they sometimes want to impose their thinking on others, and that they want to discriminate against others based on their belief.
That is what has to be stopped, and that is where genuine respect and getting to know others plays a major role. It becomes impossible to stereotype people you know well, to doubt their motives, to rubbish their faith. Getting close to people is the approach most likely to result in toleration.

The Shared Conversations were a brilliant example of the sense of togeterness that can be created through being authentic and respectful with each other.

It's not our belief that has to change as much as how we treat those who don't share that belief.

Uniformity is never the goal. Unity is.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 7:03pm BST

@ Erika Baker, "It's possible to break through that. Maybe only ever on a painstaking one to one basis." Perhaps so, and like everything else I suppose there is a kairos moment.

The proposed change to our marriage Canon coming before General Synod is pretty open ended, in that, if it were to pass, no bishop, no diocese, nay no parish or congregation would be required to offer marriage to same sex couples. Yet, there are, one estimates, about a dozen Canadian bishops who remain adamantly opposed even to this proposal.

Ultimately, it is not just about reasonable differences. There are additional matters such as feelings, non-intentional states, culture, even politics. It looks less like a difficult ascent and more like the myth of Sisyphus.


@ Kate, "...just maybe - this time are we all supposed to play our own small ...but still important part in ...our time?" That is both a hopeful sentiment and a notion that pleads for humility. The latter, of course, is a required perspective for any kind of collaboration in any arena.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 8:18pm BST

It really confuses me that stating that anecdotes and actual quantifiable facts are not the same, and that in discussing sociological matters one rather outweighs the other, is apparently saying that such anecdotes and personal experiences are 'not valid'.

What I am trying to say is that the persecution of LGBT people, both in and outside the church, is a thing that can and has been quantifiably measured. We know for a fact that the current position and behaviour of the CofE is harming LGBT people. Conservative evangelicals do, I am sure, feel very deeply that they are being persecuted, but until they or anyone else can produce actual data to back this up beyond unsourced accusations and hurt feelings, I am not going to give their claims much particular weight.

Frankly, as someone who has had conservative evangelicals literally scream in my face that I am going to Hell, I think I am being more than generous in not simply dismissing them out of hand no matter what. Show me the evidence.

Posted by Junia at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 9:06pm BST

Rod,
maybe I'm the eternal optimist, but I look at how all social change happens, in society and in the church.
Once people seriously and passionately discussed slavery, race, women's equality, and it was by no means obvious that women would be given the vote, for example, or that they could ever be priests and bishops.
Years down the line most people don't even understand how that would ever have been a question. And what we once needed plenty of serious theology to change becomes so obvious that there mere thought of it being a theological question at all becomes almost incredible.

All this happens because people talk with each other, get to know each other, experience the reality of each other, allow prejudice to melt, allow different theological questions to arise and different answers to become possible.

All of us on both sides contribute to delaying the process by not engaging deeply with each other, dismissing those we disagree with, slandering their motives.
And we all contribute towards a solution by engaging constructively, trying to maintain or mend as many relationships on the way as we possibly can.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 2 April 2016 at 10:35pm BST

"Yes - so my and Chris's and Tim's personal and professional experience/ evidence here is just as valid. Thank you."

Are you saying that the suffering of evangelicals feeling underrepresented is somehow equal to the suffering of LGBTQI people who suffer discrimination, bullying, are told we are lesser Children of God, and have our very being attacked? Do you actually think those things are equal? Would it be equal if we were talking about race? Perhaps you don't mean it that way.

I thought we were talking about the rhetoric, and examining the issue of whether "both sides" are just as rude. I made the case that oppressor and oppressed are not equal, and acting as if they are is unjust. I also made the case that Junia's lived experience is "valid" after she was told it was not. Her experience is really excruciating, while the experiences mentioned by Tim is annoying, but does not attack his very being.

I don't understand why it is an issue to be an evangelical, but I come from a pluralistic church.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 3 April 2016 at 4:04am BST

Erika,

Mutual toleration may be the best we can hope for in some relationships, but it's no foundation for a worthwhile Church. A community of mutual toleration? It's almost the antithesis of authentic Christian identity, not least because it does not offer a foundation for mutual respect.

Truth must be somewhere at the heart of a breakthrough to respectful dialogue, and refusal to consider why we believe what we do effectively locks truth out of any relationship where beliefs conflict. Negotiated boundaries on what can be openly discussed may allow immediate hostilities to be put on hold, but they also avoid consideration of exactly the areas that may enable discovery of where we do (whole-heartedly) agree. Talk of unity, or being "one in Christ", is meaningless without that. Open source belief is the only foundation with the potential to inspire broad-based support for a worthwhile Church of the future.

Posted by David Marshall at Sunday, 3 April 2016 at 1:35pm BST

David,
I don't understand how "truth" works in practice if it is based on uniformity and not on toleration.

Isn't the problem that lgbt relationships are the one issue where there is supposedly only one truth that everyone has to subscribe to?

What other issue in the church, what other statement of faith, is so rigid that it only allows one interpretation?

Isn's all our living together based on toleration of difference within a certain range?

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 3 April 2016 at 3:45pm BST

"Truth must be somewhere at the heart of a breakthrough to respectful dialogue, and refusal to consider why we believe what we do effectively locks truth out of any relationship where beliefs conflict. Negotiated boundaries on what can be openly discussed may allow immediate hostilities to be put on hold, but they also avoid consideration of exactly the areas that may enable discovery of where we do (whole-heartedly) agree. Talk of unity, or being "one in Christ", is meaningless without that. Open source belief is the only foundation with the potential to inspire broad-based support for a worthwhile Church of the future."

David, that's the central point I have been wanting to make and so have expressed it so eloquently and succinctly, thank you.

Liberals need to express why same sex relationships are fully in accordance with Scripture rather than relying on the secular notions of discrimination and personal choice.

Conservatives need to grasp that if the Bible is read in the traditional way they espouse that there are then huge problems around slavery, the punishment for adultery, the nature of the Sabbath and the role of women.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 3 April 2016 at 3:59pm BST

@ David Marshall, "Negotiated boundaries ... allow immediate hostilities to be put on hold, but they also avoid consideration of ...where we do ... agree."

I'm not sure that is correct either practically or theoretically. Practically, it can be demonstrated that putting difficult questions aside and living with difference affords at least the possibility of avoiding a deepening alienation.

Theoretically, it tends to collapse several layers into one. Religious meaning, or what a religious tradition "means" is neither one dimensional or unilateral. Cross cultural communication or inter-faith dialogue or ecumenism are examples of how individuals or communities can agree on some things while not agreeing on others.

Churches have a process for discerning a way forward. What is in dispute at the moment is agreement on the prior process --before we even get to what an agreed to process may yield. Provincial autonomy has been a hallmark of our Communion; but increasingly the word "interdependence" is placed in juxtaposition to autonomy.


In Canada, for example, some aboriginal communities are arguing, at the very moment that our GS is faced with the same sex marriage issue, that the GS process itself is linked to colonialism. To further complicate matters, aboriginal "two spirit" voices, some of whom are young gay people living in urban areas, are contending that aversion to GLBTQ rights in traditional aboriginal communities is linked to colonialism and its Christian missionary legacy.

The notion that adherence to "cognitional truth" is a prerequisite for full communion is itself an idea with a cultural ground. The impasse question can be asked from different points of view. Does remaining in a tradition that allows same sex marriage make one complicit in apostasy? Does remaining in a tradition that marginalizes GLBTQ persons make me complicit with injustice?

In the end it seems that personal values are often the determining factor.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 3 April 2016 at 6:05pm BST

I had been intending to continue in this discussion but a family bereavement means I must drop out. My apologies.

Posted by David Runcorn at Sunday, 3 April 2016 at 7:29pm BST

Cynthia, I don't believe either David or I have used the word 'equal'. In fact, I specifically repudiated the idea a few comments back.

I would not presume to describe on anybody else's behalf (particularly a person I was debating with) the intensity of an experience they had gone through. My life has never been in danger, but I would like to say that 'annoying' felt rather trivializing to me.

In 1998 I sat at the back of a crowded room at a meeting of national committees of the Anglican Church of Canada and heard two bishops (one of them our primate) describe evangelicals in such scathing terms that you would have thought we all came equipped with horns and tails (they had just come from the Lambeth Conference, but they did not restrict their attacks to the bishops who had been present at that conference, but included the entire evangelical movement in North America in their remarks). The primate was well aware that there were a couple of evangelicals (both loyal members of national committees, one of them now a bishop too) in the room. It was suggested to him afterwards (not by me) that he might like to apologize to us, at least in private, but he did not do so.

Did I feel attacked by a person in power? Yes, I did; I felt like I was a member of a despised, evil minority group, and I was shaking when I left that room. I can assure you that 'annoying' does not come close to describing what I felt that day.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Sunday, 3 April 2016 at 8:23pm BST

"Has there been a recent incident anywhere of a father killing his son because he was a conservative evangelical?" - Dr. Primrose -

Maybe not, Dr.P., but, if there were, it would most likely be by a father of a 'different' conservative evangelical dogma from his son.

Naughty of me, I know; but you have high-lighted the fact that murder very rarely occurs in the Evangelical Christian world on matters of dogmatic theology. However, sadly, not so with our Muslim brethren.

Mind you, that was not always the case - as many 16th century English Martyrs owing their witness to such awful goins-on can still testify.

We are ALL sinners, for whom Christ died!
Christ is risen, Alleluia! He is risen indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 3 April 2016 at 10:25pm BST

I'm sorry, Tim, I really did not intend to trivialize your situation. I'm a bit dense on it because my church is pluralistic, so I wasn't "getting" the extent of the rudeness and exclusion that you've described.

What I don't believe is that it is equivalent to the attack on the very beings of LGBTQI people, as evidenced by the level of suffering.

David, I'm sorry about your family bereavement and I'll hold you in my prayers.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 4 April 2016 at 4:21am BST

Kate,
you say
"Liberals need to express ..."
"And Conservatives need to grasp..."

The question is what happens when Conservatives don't "grasp" because they don't frame the issue in the same terms, and when people do not accept what Liberals are expressing as adequate.

They are all still part of the church.
We can have a wish-list of what we would like people to do. That doesn't mean they will be doing them.

There is no alternative to toleration. History teaches us that where toleration fails, we don't end up with "truth", we end up with schism.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 4 April 2016 at 10:04am BST

Tim, that sounds like a really unpleasant experience and I'm sorry that happened to you. However, I would like you to reflect on what it would be like to be made to feel 'like [you were] a member of a despised, evil minority group' almost everywhere you go, every single day of your life. Feeling like you cannot trust anyone in the church not to make you feel that way- even people who are ostensibly on your side. Facing the stares, laughter, insults and physical attacks of people who believe that about you out in public, even in a supposedly progressive country. Knowing that there are many parts of the world where you cannot ever travel unless you are willing to risk your life- or living in such a place and being in terror for your life and those of your loved ones every day.

What for you was one stand-out nasty experience eighteen years ago is everyday life for me and other LGBT people everywhere in the world, even in countries where we have so far been more or less successful in our long fight for basic civil rights. I would really like you to look inside yourself and draw on the memory of that horrible experience to empathise with those of us who experience that kind of pain regularly, and on the basis of characteristics which we did not choose and cannot change.

Posted by Junia at Monday, 4 April 2016 at 10:47am BST

Erika,

I don't think of truth as something that "works". Truth (no quotes) is an accurate description of reality, where reality is how things are. As soon as an attempt is made to co-opt truth for some purpose it becomes a truth claim, "truth", essentially an attempt to mislead, however well-intentioned (or not). How that relates to a particular issue will depend on the context. For the Church and LGBTI equality, the root cause seems to be inherited but indefensible truth claims about the Bible and God. If that can't be addressed, it's hard to see a worthwhile future for the Church because it is unwilling to reject attempts to mislead.

Kate,

Not of course that "fully in accordance with Scripture" has much to do with truth. The Bible is truthfully the source for our Christian stories and most significantly what God means in Christian tradition. Beyond that it's easy to slip into unhelpful assumptions.

Rod Gillis,

From the perspective of managing a cultural or sociological phenomenon I'm sure you're right. My interest is more in the philosophical foundations. How could Church be better constituted to reflect the essence of a broad-based but still authentic Christian identity. Anything lasting would have to get beyond "cognitional truth" to a much smaller core description. I'm fairly sure it would need to be values based.

Posted by David Marshall at Monday, 4 April 2016 at 1:10pm BST

David,
there may well be an objective truth about most things but no human community is likely to be able to determine it easily.
And while we disagree about what that truth is, I simply see no practical alternative to toleration.

At present the official truth about same sex relationships in the CoE is that they fall short of what God wants for people, that same sex couples may be civil partnered but not married, and that the church cannot marry or bless same sex couples. This is not just a practical reality but it is based on truth claims.
These truth claims are now being tested in the church and will eventually be tested in General Synod in the form of a debate and of a vote.
What will emerge after that vote will be the new truth in the CoE.

Of course I personally have a very firm and passionate opinion about what the truth is. But in order to persuade as many other people as possible of that, I have to respect their current starting point and try to find the kind of language that might help them see things my way.
There simply is no alternative to that.

It’s easy on public discussion boards to state forcefully what truth is and what we cannot tolerate. In practice, we are constrained by the political system of the CoE. The only way for any one of us not to tolerate anything is by walking away and living our own truth in isolation from those who disagree with us.

That’s an option, of course. But it’s not one that will bring any change. It will just perpetuate divide, prejudice against those we label “other” and disunity. I don’t see the benefit of that at all.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 4 April 2016 at 1:32pm BST

@ David Marshall, "My interest is more in the philosophical foundations." Sounds like you may be interested in the book I referenced earlier in the thread.( Foundational Theology: A New approach to Catholic Foundational Theology by Neil Ormerod and Christiaan Jacobs-Vandegeer). Lonergan addressed aspects of this question as well.

On a very different siding, we once had a kind of "core", or at least it was a short hand for one, in the Chicago-Lambeth quadrilateral. Not suggesting that can address our current problem completely; but a discussion about how and why things have evolved since then may be illuminating.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 4 April 2016 at 2:00pm BST

Junia, you are making some assumptions about my lack of awareness of the situation of LGBTI people which are not valid. I don't like to go on and on about my family situation as I don't like using family members as ammunition for arguments, but would ask you to take it as read that I am as aware as a straight person can be of some of the realities you mention.

Cynthia, I have conceded the point about equivalency so I don't quite understand why you feel the need to keep making it.

As for pluralism in the church, my experience has been that people in the majority always feel the church is pluralistic. This is what I have learned from my interaction with people here at TA and in other situations - if you want to discover whether the church is truly pluralistic, ask the minorities. Have you asked evangelicals in TEC whether or not they feel that their theology/spirituality is fully accepted and honoured in the church?

David (Runcorn), I'll be keeping you and your family in prayer too. God bless you all and uphold you in your time of sadness.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 4 April 2016 at 5:04pm BST

"Have you asked evangelicals in TEC whether or not they feel that their theology/spirituality is fully accepted and honoured in the church?"

I haven't asked. I think that many of our evangelicals have typically been more conservative and schismatic. We really have a broad tent of worship styles and beliefs. For example, the official position is belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but I know that lots of Episcopalians have a more Protestant view. We have praise bands to Anglo-Catholic choirs that are more Anglo than many English choirs. I have visited churches where people lift their arms and say "praise the Lord" and whatnot. We have folks who take a more fundamental approach to Scripture and others more metaphorical, or academic... I've worshipped in Navajo, and in African American churches singing Black Gospel songs. It's a big tent here.

The only thing TEC has done is say that anti-marriage believers no longer have power to dictate their conscience over inclusive believers. That is all. No parish or priest is forced to do anything. The bishops are a different matter, because they have to make provisions. This whole brouhaha is because some people are not happy with having their own freedom to practice their beliefs, they feel entitled to force their belief on all others.

We've been talking about the difference between liberals and conservatives, and the difference is that conservatives feel entitled to use FORCE to impose their will. It's pretty hard to convince people of the Love of Christ through force. It has a real medieval "been there and done that" quality to it.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 5 April 2016 at 5:19am BST

Once again - conservatives want a special place, special protections, special dispensation, but will not allow it to others. They then claim they are victimized for standing firm in their convictions *while expecting liberals to depart from their convictions* and talk about a double standard of tolerance.

Frankly,I don't believe Chris H.'s over-the-top claims, yet, as others have pointed out, his side of the issues didn't find any difficulty whatsoever in applying the same standards to those who opposed them. None. Nada. They still don't. IF it is happening, it may be regarded as the bitter result of a bitter policy of their own. If you teach exclusion while you are on the top, others will learn that you must be excluded when you are no longer on top. Conservatives have set a standard in which opposing dialectics cannot peacefully share the same space by claiming, in their time, that even a speck of allowance was a slippery slope, a slow poison; can they truly complain to any but themselves if the lesson has become ingrained in those now in the ascendancy?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 5 April 2016 at 7:54am BST

Mark, I can't speak for David or Chris, but personally I don't accept the label 'conservative'.

The problem is 'conservative about what?' Earlier on this thread someone defined a conservative as a person who values tradition over scripture. Well, my personal view (although I do of course follow Anglican practice, as I have promised to do) is that lay-presidency at the Eucharist is fine. so I guess on that subject my views are 'liberal'. The issue is not mentioned in the NT; it's entirely an argument from tradition. On that subject, therefore, many 'liberals' in the Anglican church (valuing tradition over scripture) turn out to be 'conservative'.

I'm also a pacifist, which is often associated with liberal Christianity, although it appears to have been the majority position of the early church, so would to them have seemed 'conservative'!

When David Runcorn raised this issue on this thread the term he used was 'evangelical', not 'conservative'. I know some people (especially in the US) think the terms are synonymous, but they're not (ask Jim Wallis, or Ron Sider, or Tony Campolo).

OK - at this point I too am going to bow out of this thread, as I've got a frantically busy week ahead. Blessings to all!

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Tuesday, 5 April 2016 at 5:29pm BST

I don't believe I named you, Tim.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 6 April 2016 at 6:23am BST

"If you teach exclusion while you are on the top, others will learn that you must be excluded when you are no longer on top. Conservatives have set a standard in which opposing dialectics cannot peacefully share the same space by claiming, in their time, that even a speck of allowance was a slippery slope, a slow poison; can they truly complain to any but themselves if the lesson has become ingrained in those now in the ascendancy?"

In a Christian community I would hope they would treated well regardless.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 6 April 2016 at 7:13am BST

"In a Christian community I would hope they would treated well regardless."

Kate, I truly do wish I had your faith in humans.

Hope *may* be a virtue (though I question that translation), but it is an unreasonable response to the reality of human psychology and dynamics. My mother had a rather crude take on the idea of "hoping" for the best: "Hope in one hand and (a word that rhymes with 'spit')in the other and see which fills up first."

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 7 April 2016 at 7:17am BST

Tim, I hope you will forgive me for making the assumption that, since you seemed to feel an isolated experience many years ago demonstrated that evangelicals are persecuted, you did not actually understand what persecution is like.

Mark, it is my experience that conservatives tend to believe that the rest of us don't actually have any convictions- witness the use of the term 'morality' as a cipher for a particular kind of patriarchal and homophobic social beliefs. This is similar to the accusation that liberals 'reject biblical authority', rather than simply having different interpretations of biblical texts. The idea that people who disagree with you, but do you no palpable harm, are not just different but evil and dangerous is a common thread in all absolutist belief systems.

Posted by Junia at Thursday, 7 April 2016 at 11:52am BST

Junia, I think a lot of the fear and loathing is actually internal fear and dread projected on others to avoid confronting it in yourself... the hidden fear that if one - a single - bit of the bible gets contradicted, then where does it all stop? If one piece is wrong, then what about the next, and the next, until everything neat and tidy and ordered unravels?

In fundamentalist mindsets, there is a huge impulse to control... to control dogma, to control the agenda... in the face of secular society, of critical analysis, of science, and the way these forces seem to unravel old assumptions.

Fundamentalism (as is quite often asserted) is a modern *reaction* to perceived threat of a questioning and challenging secular world, and liberal thinkers, who create alarm because they seem to pose a threat to a supposedly watertight mantra... "the bible is right because the bible says it is right".

We see this 'bunker' mentality in other faiths too, where holy text - seemingly preserved in the aspic of their ancient societies - starts to get challenged by the 'relativism' of reading text contextually.

It is almost as important to a fundamentalist that the teaching on gay sex is RIGHT, and holds firm with the infallible bible as a whole, as it is to actually stop people sleeping together as a principle in itself.

Which is not to say there isn't embedded homophobia and transphobia as well. There patently is. But the desperation to control an ordered system... and avoid mayhem and chaos and unravelling... means that almost inevitably the proponents of fundamentalism and biblical infallibility will try to control what ALL Christians should do and believe, not just what they themselves believe. Fear of breakdown and collapse and loss of control can be almost a compulsive psychological defence mechanism, with personal fear of unfaith projected on the 'other'.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Thursday, 7 April 2016 at 8:54pm BST

Junia and Mark - I accept that evangelicals and 'conservatives' have significant blind spots and faults. I don't defend that for a minute. I would just observe that 'liberals' can and do make highly judgmental assumptions about evangelicals and 'conservatives' in return - often betraying a reciprocal lack of basic understanding of the faith expressed there. No church tradition has a monopoly on intolerance. Liberalism can be very 'absolute' too.

Posted by David Runcorn at Thursday, 7 April 2016 at 9:06pm BST

Hi Junia. I've actually never claimed that I or any other evangelical was being 'persecuted'. I was participating in a discussion going back to David Runcorn's comment of March 29th at 8.16, in which he talks about tolerance and intolerance.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Thursday, 7 April 2016 at 10:17pm BST

Junia,

I agree absolutely, but I will call them on the hypocrisy of that viewpoint when they begin crying about their "persecution."

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 8 April 2016 at 4:48am BST
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