Comments: Opinion - 17 September 2016

Richard Beck's memento mori made me feel strangely hopeful. What a strange book the Bible is.

Posted by Pam at Saturday, 17 September 2016 at 12:01pm BST

From the Colin Coward article (Open Conversation Fundamentals):


"Resolving Anglican differences over human sexuality requires us to attend to far more serious, fundamental differences over biblical authority and interpretation. This includes the inability to know (despite the dogmatic assertion of conservatives) what Jesus might have thought about homosexuality and equal marriage and behind that, what the elusive construct we call ‘God’ might intend in creation for the diversity of gender and sexual identities. The Bible and tradition and Christian orthodoxy do not and cannot ever resolve these differences. In the end, human beings and societies will resolve the differences. I might call that incarnational."

How interesting!

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 17 September 2016 at 1:56pm BST

Fantastic article by Lawrence Moore which clearly can be extrapolated to the obscenity of charging admission fees - or pressured donations - for visiting cathedrals.

I would also extend the same to the way the collection is organised in some churches. Instead of allowing private donations a plate is passed round, again pressuring people into donations. Envelopes with names on - or inside - are even worse. I know it's done that way for tax reasons but that's a poor excuse against the sort of objections Lawrence raises. The collection should be a dip bag only and envelopes, cheques, standing orders and the like outlawed.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 17 September 2016 at 7:40pm BST

Colin Coward is quite correct. Decisions about human sexuality can never be reached by referring to something outside ourselves. Whether it be God, or a holy book or Tradition, marriage is defined by human society, and who can marry whom is up to us.

Posted by FrDavidH at Sunday, 18 September 2016 at 8:26am BST

Kate Lawrence's article is quite specific in its focus. Bad coffee in church and donating towards the perils of drinking it. It does not extrapolate to church collections of Cathedral admission charges at all. The latter is part of a much more complex and continuous discussion about the cost of maintaining ancient places of worship that are part of the nation's public heritage. I am not at all sure from your brief comments where you think the money comes from for that.

Posted by David Runcorn at Sunday, 18 September 2016 at 11:05am BST

Bad coffee is the humour. To mix metaphors, bad coffee is the metaphorical sugar which makes the medicine go down. The key points are welcome / hospitality, and that welcome / hospitality is not really a welcome if it is charged for - and that pressured donations are a disguised charge in this context. The article absolutely extrapolates to charging admission rather than freely welcoming people to God's temple. It also speaks loudly to any pressure to donate during collection, including any removal of anonymity. In both cases, the tactics destroy the welcome, remove the sense of hospitality and that's devastating.

Without charges, everyone who visits a cathedral has an encounter with God, whether they intend to or not. They are enjoying His hospitality. Charge, and in their minds, they are visiting a tourist attraction. Any curiosity they had about God, is diverted.

I am surprised how many Christians cannot see it. I wonder if Lawrence is one of those who can see it - his article makes me suspect he is. And by see, I don't mean deduce or understand but something quite tangible.

As to where the money comes from, that is easy. Firstly if the church practices open hospitality, numbers will increase. A truly open welcome is the most fundamental part of mission.

I also believe that stipends should be withdrawn and used to support church buildings instead. If someone has a mission to minister, they will still be there next Sunday, and the Sunday after that. If any minister says they wouldn't be, says they are only there because they are paid, is s/he truly someone we want as a minister?

The church has become overly-concerned about money. As have the church's servants. They have also lost their trust in the Lord to provide. And the really sad thing is how few can see / discern the impact on the presence of the Spirit.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 18 September 2016 at 5:02pm BST

I dislike the secularism and pessimism in Colin Coward's piece on good disagreement. He assumes that because it is hard to decide what the Bible says, we cannot ever reach a consensus. That's a secular argument which entirely overlooks the guidance of the Spirit. It is pessimistic because he argues we shouldn't try to reach consensus but should learn to live in good disagreement.

He is in good company. That's clearly the view of the Archbishop of Canterbury and many other prominent Anglicans. But there's a risk that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy - we don't reach agreement on anything because we no longer believe we can and give up trying.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 18 September 2016 at 5:53pm BST

Truly great piece by Guy Elsmore, thank you.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 18 September 2016 at 6:20pm BST

In Australia where I use to live, church donations (unlike hospital, school, war memorial and other charities) are not tax deductible. I have not been comfortable with the situation in NZ where they are. I do not like the idea tax deductions for giving to some (in my opinion) extreme sects so why should they be allowed for my particular church. However these days, bank deductions are so much easier than remembering to have correct money with you on Sunday.
As with her comments about clergy stipends, I think Kate is living in a fantasy world about how priests and churches can be supported in our modern world.
However I do not like paying admission to cathedrals in England and note the cathedrals in France and other continental countries seem to receive State support for heritage buildings and have no charges for general admission.

Posted by Brian Ralph at Monday, 19 September 2016 at 12:44am BST

@Kate: I don't know about where you are, but here the envelopes are numbered, not named, and only the gift aid coordinator (not the treasurer and not the minister) know who has given what. This information is kept confidential because it's recognised that it could be unhelpful to know where money is or isn't coming from.

Posted by Jo at Monday, 19 September 2016 at 7:18am BST

Kate Well these claims are nothing if not sweeping. Two responses. 'Without charges, everyone who visits a cathedral has an encounter with God, whether they intend to or not.' We simply have no way of knowing this. There is also an argument that says that if people pay for something they may value it more and give greater attention to it. But as the financial burden upon those congregations is already crippling I think your approach is wildly idealistic.
As to withdrawing stipends from all in ministry, there have always been Christian ministers who pay their way by 'tent making' but the church has never made this a requirement. So where is your model for this? Even the earliest New Testament churches were encouraged to be generous in operating a form of wage/support for their ministers. 'The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”’ 1Tim 5.16-18.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 19 September 2016 at 10:13am BST

@ Kate, "[Colin Coward] assumes that because it is hard to decide what the Bible says, we cannot ever reach a consensus."

Leaving aside your reductionist reading of his article, the assumption you are decrying is pretty solid. Instance the myriad of Christian denominations, and their sub-groupings, each adverting to a reading of the bible and each adverting to the Holy Spirit. Bible reading and claims of Spirit filled inspiration decrease, rather than increase, the possibility of consensus.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 19 September 2016 at 2:30pm BST

David

On stipends, charity was at the heart of the very early church. But over the years, priests have started taking the first cut for themselves rather than seeing first to the most needy, then that grew to supporting a family too. Now, priests take the lion share of gifts given to the church with almost nothing left over for the sick, the disabled, the elderly and the homeless of the parish. How can you possibly justify a stipend in the face of the present levels of homelessness? That's the sort of OT Temple structure Jesus manifestly disliked rather than the practice in the very early Christian churches.

On encounters / charges etc, I am merely reporting what I SEE. The church, I have Learned, doesn't particularly value such gifts so I made the mistake of offering rationalisation after the fact. As you say, sweeping statementa which probably don't help. In future I shall merely report what I see and leave it at that.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 10:02am BST

"If someone has a mission to minister, they will still be there next Sunday, and the Sunday after that."

Kate, you seem to think all clergy do is services on a Sunday. Church of England stipendiary clergy ministry means working six days a week, full time. Unless you foresee a clergy entirely comprised of retirees or those rich enough to have independent means, where, one may ask, is the time /energy to come for that vital vineyard work if one is making tents? Who- to mention just a tiny bit of clergy work- takes the funeral at 1:30 pm on a Wednesday? Who does the school assemblies? Who visits the woman who is dying at 11 am? Who does the endless admin that churches (and especially church buildings) require? etc. etc. You may not think this is important ministry, but most do.

The stipend is not a reward: it is there to enable somebody in the parish to be that presence, to be that person, to do that work when it needs doing.

And if church buildings are of more value than ministry why not join English Heritage rather than the Church of England?

Posted by Fr Andrew at Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 2:23pm BST

"Kate, you seem to think all clergy do is services on a Sunday. Church of England stipendiary clergy ministry means working six days a week, full time."

In what way is that different to other Christians? Do you think we stop being Christians Monday to Saturday? Do you think we don't minister and witness full time, in whatever we are doing?

And as to English Heritage - the point is to keep churches out of the hands of English Heritage and Redundant Churches and remaining as temples. The temple in a place should never be closed unless a replacement temple is built nearby.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 4:23am BST

"In what way is that different to other Christians? Do you think we stop being Christians Monday to Saturday?"

I'm not suggesting this is different. What I'm suggesting is that the clergy work. Unless you think everybody should work unpaid, why do you think the clergy should be different? Do not the labourers deserve their wages? How do they feed themselves or their families? Do they need to work in some other employment, perhaps part time? If so, who is going to do the work they were doing when they were full time clergy?

You seem to be suggesting that clergy should work for nothing because they have a calling. But then laity have a calling. So should all people work for nothing?

And if people are witnessing and ministering full time, whatever they are doing, then when do they find the time to do secular work? The hours in a day are finite. If, as you suggest, they're doing one thing full time (ministering and witnessing), then there is no time at all left for any other thing: so when do they do whatever it is they're paid to do: serving customers or baking bread or cleaning hotel rooms or teaching or the million other jobs people do?

Posted by Fr Andrew at Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 12:17pm BST
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