Comments: Opinion - 22 October 2016

Fantastic article by Paul Bayes:

"...please, for all our sakes, exercise your courage, the virtue by which your aggression becomes reasonable. And bring your courage to bear on the councils of the church. And share facts and logic and truth and history and perspective, and (yes, of course!) argument. But never lose your anger, even after you’ve let it blow through you as the sun goes down, and refused to allow it to consume you. Bring your next-morning anger, your tempered anger, your reasonable passion, the truth of how you feel, and contribute it to the whole community, which desperately needs to listen to it...

And thank you for bearing with us still, and for enriching our half-awake lives, and for waking us up further. And thank you most of all for the passionate word of Christ that you have received and that you – and only you – can speak forward into our church’s symphony today, a word of the heart, the word of love and anger."

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 22 October 2016 at 11:56am BST

How many times I have been chided (particularly, I'm afraid by some close, evangelical friends) for too much *feeling*, when actually, feeling is a huge part of what it is to be truly human (look at Jesus himself). Passionate, crying out for justice, opening up the heart... and not just the cold, chill rationality of the mind (though as Paul makes clear, our reason should not be jettisoned, but harnessed, and fuelled by the burning desire for justice and love that includes anger, and is not afraid to be angry.

Courage does require us to be passionate, and it's sometimes not a matter of 'calming down' but of releasing anger into the discourse... and if we do manage to harness that anger, to be (as Yeats put it) "as cold and passionate as the dawn".

Belittling anger is a classic device of the person who wants to subject an opponent, to maintain the status quo ('their' status quo). "You need to be more rational about what the Word of God says" they chide. It's not about feelings, it is all objectively written down there."

But it IS about feelings. Feelings are huge. They fuel the quest and longing for justice. We are made to have feelings. I thought Paul Bayes' article captured that fact with finesse and grace. It also seemed to indicate where he stands on the issue of sexual orientation, and I hope he finds the courage to deliver the anger, the loving anger, of LGBT people to the House of Bishops, and to act as a voice and an ally... for the sake, as he concludes, of the *whole* Church, and its 'symphony' of diverse people, its fellowship of grace, its heart and givenness to God, and full humanity... passionate, reasoned, tender, feeling, brave.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 22 October 2016 at 11:57am BST

As to Madeleine Davies' article, I cannot help but note that the proposed amendments to Canon B14 coincide with the reconstitution of the Darlow formula. Is this happenstance or policy?

The conclusion to be drawn by many churches might prove to be thus: (i) your parish share will go up still further even as your numbers decline; (ii) central support will be redistributed (leading, in many places, to a greater pressure on the parish share); and (iii) it will be easier to discontinue regular worship, and thus to proceed to closure. This is a problem since a very large proportion of the stock and cover across the country is in rural areas, which are likely to be affected adversely by these changes (as might the good number of urban churches in otherwise affluent areas which have weak attendance). The central authorities might do well to be straight with rural churches in particular, and perhaps provide funding that allows them to explore alternative/parallel uses along the lines envisaged by the Pastoral (Amendment) Measure 2006, and to build up endowments before they are shunted into festival use or closure.

The emphasis upon 'poor areas' will necessitate some rather uncomfortable value judgements being made about the socio-economic profile of particular communities. Whilst I have some sympathy with this approach, it might prove invidious in certain circumstances, especially since the Church is overwhelmingly middle class and, despite considerable investment in the past, has generally had a very limited impact upon the patterns of [non-]attendance, hostility and indifference on the part of 'working class' communities and/or those from 'les bas-fonds' - a problem which is most unlikely to be resolved by the application of central funds on the scale proposed.

Posted by Froghole at Saturday, 22 October 2016 at 12:20pm BST

Andrew Brown (he's an atheist, isn't he?) continues to play word games to defend faith. With a hoary appeal to consequences tossed in for good measure. As usual with his writing, it's inoffensive enough, but what's the point?

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 22 October 2016 at 9:55pm BST

Google images of the "Archbishop of Canterbury" and "Pope Francis". Compare and contrast.

Most front page images of the Pope show him simply dressed in white; most images of Archbishop Justin show him in lavish, EXPENSIVE episcopal regalia. Is it any wonder that the Church of England struggles in poorer areas?

The Church of England often does very well on the ground at local level. Most ministers are hard-working and committed. But the impression from the House of Bishops is too often that they are, as Bishop Paul says unrepresentative in terms of demographic, out of touch with social trends and portrayed in sumptuous vestments. Stories like the mistreatment of the York bell ringers only add to that - and there's no doubt the minister has lost the PR battle regardless of the rights and wrongs of the matter. So rather than spending more in poor areas, the answer might be to spend less on bishops.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 22 October 2016 at 10:20pm BST

I read Paul Bayes' and Ryan Cook's words with interest. Anger is a legitimate emotion, especially in the face of assumed superiority. People read scripture, and interact with the world and learn. And then church doesn't always practice what it preaches. Then anger gives way to cynicism. But, even at the worst of times, we have a God who loves and keeps on loving. So, that's what we have to do too. But not at the expense of authenticity and truth.

Posted by Pam at Saturday, 22 October 2016 at 10:48pm BST

I listened to the talks given by both Bishop Paul and Jayne Ozanne and have been wondering just how many anti-Gay Evangelicals will have heard what they each have to say about the issue of LGBTI people who actually belong to the Church. I think that careful listening has to be undertaken seriously by Leaders - especially those in the House of bishops - in the Church of England before any progress can be made on the issue of how the Church is to deal with Same-Sex partnered people actually in the pews - before they depart our of sheer frustration?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 23 October 2016 at 1:45am BST

I don't know if I agree with Andrew Brown. Human rights and liberal values do not exist independent of human beings. Whether one believes that they are God-given or arrived at by humans through moral reasoning - they are not abstract truths, but ideas that have a purpose - to be the yardstick against which human actions are measured, with the aim of improving human lives and interaction in a very tangible way.

Faith, on the other hand, is different in that it refers to something outside human reference. It is a belief in a reality that simply IS. And whether anyone believes in it or not makes no difference to the existence - or non-existence - of this reality.

So how should reconcile the knowledge that religions are constantly changing with the need to believe that they put us in touch with eternal truths? What is changing is our understanding of that eternal truth, not the truth itself. That’s why Appiah rightly and repeatedly called for humility when speaking of that truth.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 23 October 2016 at 2:43pm BST

Kate Thank you for continuing to unveil your strategies for the radical reform of the Church of England. But the thought of the poor forming their opinion of the CofE by googling images of the Archbishop and Pope to compare what they are wearing is a bit of a stretch. But Google search will also tell you what he has never kept secret, that the Archbishop buys most of his clothes from Oxfam and charity shops. .Not sure where the Pope buys his.

Posted by David Runcorn at Sunday, 23 October 2016 at 5:25pm BST

.Ryan Cook's gently liberal blog,seems to assume there are two equally balanced parties in the gay 'debate'.

However, one party faces having its life, love and personal essence put on the line and constantly 'debated', while the other party holds a world-view or view-point firmly.

One party has in living memory in Britain been condemned by the criminal law and suffered imprisonment etc., and been called sick by the medical profession, perverted by scientists and sinful by clergy. This is the truth. All in my life-time.

There is no parity here.

Ryan can put as his by-line 'Husband.Dad...'

How many gay clergy or church members feel free to within church contexts ?

What is lacking is a sense of gay past and present and most of all the passion and urgency of 'God's option for the poor.

Btw much of the above still applies throughout the 'British Commonwealth' and in many Muslim and other countries throughout the world.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Sunday, 23 October 2016 at 6:42pm BST

Kate, oddly enough, if you Google 'Justin Welby' rather than 'Archbishop of Canterbury', most of the pictures show him in simple clerical garb. However there is a genuine concern that the established church often tends to be seen as a church primarily of the middle and upper classes, even if concerned for the poor.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Sunday, 23 October 2016 at 7:26pm BST

On the matter of episcopal dress: I have sympathy with Kate and appreciate very much David Runcorn's reminder. What I think is important here is a distinction between what a person who is a bishop wears, etc. and what the "office" provides.

We are blessed with many bishops who live simply and quietly set an example that our wider society would do well to follow.

We are also blessed with the provision of art works in the form of vestments that have been lovingly and generously provided, not for the glorification of the individual or the office, but in to inspire humans to give glory to God in worship. While there is a limit to how much of our resources should be spent here (I'm thinking of Hebrews and those who wear extravagant clothes instead of feeding the poor), there is also the food of inspiration to consider.

The trick is to get the balance right; and this balance, frankly, is much easier to achieve when we continue a tradition of beauty focussed on the office, not the office-holder.

Posted by Peter S at Sunday, 23 October 2016 at 8:32pm BST

Since you picked the Daily Mail try "Daily Mail Archbishop of Canterbury", "Daily Mail Archbishop of York" and "Daily Mail the Pope" which will get you a representative sample of the images showing how they are portrayed. Which give the impression of being establishment (suits, purple shirts, dog collars, mitres, crooks, lavish robes etc) and which gives the impression of modesty (white robe, skull cap)? If you were struggling to feed your children, who would you consider taking spiritual advice from?

(If you start looking at Catholic bishops and cardinals, they don't fare so well. Work for Pope Francis to do.)

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 23 October 2016 at 9:03pm BST

Bishop of London in the official representation of his office:

Bishop of Stepney in private capacity as football enthusiast:

Bishops are human, and what matters is mainly what love they have in their hearts. That is the acid test.

Personally I have no preference, either for reformist ministers who wear ordinary clothes in services, or those who wear vestments as part of the spectacle and solemnity of the worship and love of God.

I really don't mind.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 24 October 2016 at 1:39am BST

"Andrew Brown (he's an atheist, isn't he?) continues to play word games to defend faith."

I believe he's speaking of faith in the Alcoholics Anonymous (et al 12 Step groups) sense. As the 12 Traditions will tell you, one need not be a theist to work the Steps w/ a "Higher Power": even the group itself ("Group Of Drunks", if you see the abbreviation) will do. It's having faith (trust) enough to ACT---not what the content of the faith is.

Posted by JCF at Monday, 24 October 2016 at 7:37am BST

Savi, well spotted! Which suggests to me that Archbishop Justin himself understands the issue but his Press Office hasn't climbed onboard. In a 21st Century church, the press offices of Lambeth Palace and the various dioceses are critical.


That's the standard marketing maxim. Each matters. It is down to local initiatives to impart the message to build Desire for Jesus and Action but if Interest has been quenched because of how senior bishops are portrayed in the media, local teams will have to work that much harder.

I think my essential point remains. Indeed, this is a point Bishop Paul made in his piece. Liz Clutterbuck's article is a disaster in many ways (my comment got lost) but she too talks of the importance of role models. I don't believe the House of Bishops in what it says, its demographic and how it allows itself to be portrayed in the media is beneficial for mission. Addressing that should be the priority ahead of spending capital on local initiatives.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 24 October 2016 at 11:00am BST

Kate If I was struggling to feed my children I doubt I would be a Daily Mail reader at all.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 24 October 2016 at 2:00pm BST

JCF - that's a very interesting comment.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 24 October 2016 at 4:13pm BST

Which, given AA's less-than-stellar success rate, isn't the strongest of arguments!

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 24 October 2016 at 7:01pm BST

James Byron, AA's less than stellar success rate may be due to the fact that alcoholism is an illness. And a number of complex factors need to be in play for control of it, including medical treatment.

Posted by Pam at Tuesday, 25 October 2016 at 9:18pm BST

Couldn't agree more Pam, which nixes any magical role for faith.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 25 October 2016 at 11:29pm BST

Of course not, David Runcorn. Everyone knows that starving families read the Guardian.

Posted by realist at Wednesday, 26 October 2016 at 11:38am BST

"Of course not, David Runcorn. Everyone knows that starving families read the Guardian." - 'realist'

Maybe, but only if they can afford the fish and chips in which the Guardian is wrapped - By far its most significant use for the poor.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 26 October 2016 at 9:08pm BST
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