Comments: Opinion - 26 November 2016

I tried to leave this comment under David Ison's interesting article on ViaMedia but couldn't tell whether it was to be moderated or whether I was just defeated by the commenting system which didn't seem to want to let me log in.

Anyway...

Most people in the Church of Scotland would argue that it isn’t established.

Many of us who are not in the C of E or C of S might be just a little puzzled at the idea that established (or indeed national) churches bear any more witness of the Christian faith to the world than other denominations do.

Those of us who believe that secularism is the best place for a modern religious faith to thrive might also be puzzled as to why it is a good thing for parliament to have prayers. For the record, Holyrood emphatically doesn’t and certainly doesn’t acknowledge that the power it has stems from some kind of a divine origin. It has a Time for Reflection ever week and sees its legitimacy as stemming from the will of the people.

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Saturday, 26 November 2016 at 2:20pm GMT

"For followers of Jesus the King, there can be no unqualified and absolute obedience to political or religious rulers. That’s why humility, dialogue, and the willingness to truly entertain the possibility that we might be wrong, are essential in tackling difficult issues."

This statement by David Ison points to the unresolved tension in his very interesting article. The tension resides in the juxtaposition of the metaphor of Christ as King with the call to remember fallibility and the importance of dialogue.

The Kingship metaphor makes one's opening comments in any dialogue process somewhat problematic. The metaphor is a handicap in coming to terms with the legacy of proselytism and colonialism including recent tedious attempts to parse out "evangelism" from proselytism.

Is it not time to disavow traditional notions of evangelism, to let go of the view that people of others faiths, or those of none, must be somehow be "saved", to contest the notion that our task is to get other people to "accept Jesus as saviour and lord"? Is it not time for a recognition of the tragic irony that a call to "repent" so often leads to the sins of Christian chauvinism and exceptionalism? In my private devotions I have returned to the collect for the Sunday next before advent while setting aside the collect for Christ the King which has supplanted it.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 26 November 2016 at 3:13pm GMT

Jonathan Robinson's article is powerful, and deserves a wide circulation in the church. What is success and failure? How do we measure such things? Is it even a helpful metaphor in the first place?

Posted by Jeremy Fagan at Saturday, 26 November 2016 at 3:53pm GMT

James Jones' lecture has a compelling rejoinder to the Evangelical Council's recent 'Guarding the Deposit - Apostolic Truth for an Apostolic Church' discussion document, which focusses exclusively on Lambeth 1:10 and the conservative arguments from Scripture against SSM, marking clear boundaries between what they see as the 'apostolic legacy' as opposed to the 'godless' and 'immoral' LGBT flock and their allies. Yet, by relying entirely on the so-called terror texts, the document fails anywhere to mention justice or make reference to other parts of Scripture that might allow for an alternative perspective on an extremely rigid orthodoxy. Jones takes what seems to me to be a more imaginative and holistic approach to the biblical corpus. He writes:

'The only reason society might be deemed post-Christian by the church is because the church becomes sub-Christian when it fails to address the dreams and dreads of the human family in the light of God’s requirement for justice and mercy by preferring its own internal agenda. I served in the House of Bishops for nearly twenty years and there was not a meeting that did not have on its agenda either the ordination of women or gay relationships or both... '[T]he framework for these debates was seldom set according to the moral principles of justice. Rather, they were textual exchanges in search of a biblical anthropology. It seems in retrospect indicative of a church that had lost sight of the imperative to act justly.'

Indeed, when Bishop Jones quoted the Parable of the Unjust Judge in the Anfield stadium, he observed how it resonated with a crowd of 20,000 people. David Ison's article notes the appeal to a higher authority when Parliament sits. And I do think the workings of the Holy Spirit were in operation when arguments made by the Bishop of Salisbury cited in the debate on same sex marriage carried the day, leaving the Lords Spiritual appearing as unjust judges on that occasion!

Posted by Andrew at Saturday, 26 November 2016 at 9:01pm GMT

Jonathan Robinson may take heart from this quote by the American novelist Edith Wharton: "The success of a ghost story may be judged by its thermometrical quality; if it sends a cold shiver down one's spine, it has done its job and done it well."

Posted by Pam at Saturday, 26 November 2016 at 9:06pm GMT

In response to the Bishop's choice of funeral hymns I can report that at a Memorial Service last week, in addition to some very fine fairly nationalistic Christian hymns, we also sang (with great gusto) "Who do you think you are kidding Mr. Hitler, if you think old England's done". The deceased was delighted with the outcome of the Referendum on June 23rd. Although I myself was far from pleased with the referendum result and look forward to a rematch, I also heartily joined in with the singing of the theme tune to Dad's Army.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 27 November 2016 at 5:53am GMT

What a wonderful synopsis of the Gospel imperative towards the implementation of Justice in Bishop James Jones' seminal Lecture at York Minster!

This single statement caught my eye, that seems to encapsulate much of what the Good bishop is saying about the Church's need to understand that human justice really is at the heart of Jesus' ministry:

"I served in the House of Bishops for nearly twenty years and there was not a meeting that did not have on its agenda either the ordination of women or gay relationships or both. These are vitally important issues but the emotional energy consumed by these debates has been enormous.

But unless my memory is failing me the framework for these debates was seldom set according to the moral principles of justice. Rather, they were textual exchanges in search of a biblical anthropology. It seems in retrospect indicative of a church that had lost sight of the imperative to act justly."

The whole of the Lecture's content would make a wonderful Lenten Study for Parish use.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 27 November 2016 at 11:16pm GMT

The Church cannot afford to be - even indirectly - to be complicit in the loss of young lives, due to the Church's outdated understanding of gender and sexuality issues.

The heartache of the Lowe Family, their Vicar, Nick Bundock, and the Parish Family of Saint James & Emmanuel, Didsbury, is mute testimony to the gap between a defective theology and the reality of the Gospel of Jesus, who came to set us free from prejudice towards those we do not understand, who are different from ourselves and yet part of the family of all God's children - loved by God beyond all human understanding. May Lizzie's death not be in vain. May Lizzie Rest in Peace and Rise with Christ in glory!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 28 November 2016 at 6:19am GMT

"We believe in an Inclusive Church — church which does not discriminate on any level, including: economic power, gender, mental health, mental ability, physical ability, race or sexuality."

Fine words but somewhat hypocritical for a PCC that pays a parish share to a national church which institutionally discriminates against LGBT people.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 28 November 2016 at 2:58pm GMT

Thank you for pointing to the funeral hymns of bishops posting. I found it interesting and, oddly, a little 'light' relief in a stressful church. I found it encouraging to see what hymns speak to bishops for funerals!
The choice of Gerald O'Collins is an interesting contrast with its more populist choices. (https://stchrysostoms.wordpress.com/2016/11/27/one-priests-choice-of-funeral-hymns/)

Posted by Simon Chalder at Monday, 28 November 2016 at 4:17pm GMT

"Fine words but somewhat hypocritical for a PCC that pays a parish share to a national church which institutionally discriminates against LGBT people." - Kate -

Dear Kate, are you quite sure that you attributing the sin of hypocrisy to the right party here? There is no lack of love on the part of the parish. Rather it may devolve on the Church to which the parish belongs, constitutionally.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 28 November 2016 at 11:21pm GMT

Kate can you really not find anything to commend and be moved by in that searingly honest account of a community journey from passive exclusive to celebrating inclusion. Or do you really mean they should have left the Church of England over this? Please, let's celebrate journeys to inclusion where we find them happening.

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 29 November 2016 at 9:52am GMT

Been there. Two years of hell. An accepting local congregation would have been little help against a national policy that made me feel that God could not love me. Never knowing what Christian site would tell you that you are less than others. Never knowing when you would read some churchman saying you are an abomination. And a desire to honour God, no matter the cost.

I know firsthand how people like Lizzie feel (I won't presume to say that is how Lizzie felt) and I am very unimpressed by what I read. She deserves recognition of her immense bravery in giving up everything rather than risk disappointing God. Yes, she was mistaken in that belief and we must make sure others aren't too, but she gave EVERYTHING and I am in awe of her sacrifice and bravery. I am really sad and offended the PCC and ministers cannot be too.

But equally her sacrifice demands more than a statement. It demands refusing to fund a national policy which could leave others feeling like that, helping to ensure others don't wrongly believe that God cannot love them, helping to ensure others are not forced into an avoidable sacrifice.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 29 November 2016 at 2:05pm GMT

I shed tears when I first read about Lizzie's death. I have to say, the tears are pretty close on reading about it a second time. Lord have mercy.

May the God of grace accompany and comfort everyone involved, as they continue on their journeys, somehow deprived of a young woman who should have been sharing and shining in their lives: a catastrophic loss.

For the rest of us, outside this small circle, this family and community... these words from Nick's article stood out:

"Like many sim­ilar churches, however, we have largely avoided the topic of homo­sexuality, to preserve the peace."

What was it the prophet said: "Peace, peace, when there is no peace.

Ignoring, erasing and hiding the topic of people's intimate and precious lives... pretending all the marginalisation and implicit discrimination is not there... just saying nothing... well it leaves young gay, lesbian, trans, queer people in limbo. Where do they turn for help, when churches try to keep the issue under cover, to avoid controversy?

An analysis of diocesan websites highlights and epitomises this problem. With a very few laudable exceptions, they avoid LGBT presence and topics like the plague... for fear of disturbing 'the peace'.

Where are the links to help groups for young gay, lesbian and trans Christians? Where is the acknowledgment of gay lives? Erasure is rife in so many of these websites. It's as if LGBT people don't exist: support and inclusion refers to race, to disability, to poverty. Those often get reported. But on most diocesan websites there is no acknowledgement of gay lives, and no help offered when - as so often happens - young gay Christians feel isolated and misunderstood.

It's like the Basil Fawlty sketch: "Don't mention the War."

Only this is people's lives, and heteronormative people sometimes just can't know first-hand, how alone, how complex, how rejected it can feel... to be growing up in families, in schools, in communities... and in churches... where you feel like it's best to hide who you really are, or worse, are made to feel bad.

I've known that journey - several of us here have. You can end up feeling very very desperate and alone.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 30 November 2016 at 3:59pm GMT

"But equally her sacrifice demands more than a statement. It demands refusing to fund a national policy which could leave others feeling like that, helping to ensure others don't wrongly believe that God cannot love them, helping to ensure others are not forced into an avoidable sacrifice".

Posted by: Kate on Tuesday, 29 November 2016 at 2:05pm GMT

Dear Kate, there is a huge difference between standing up for justice in the Church and refusing to finance its Gospel ministry, That's what happens in the Anti-Gay Churches. Surely you don't want to imitate their prejudice?
Two wrongs just don't make a right.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 30 November 2016 at 8:37pm GMT

Well said, Susannah and other commenters on this very tragic death. To be notionally part of a community can bring feelings of utter hopelessness, as in Lizzie's case. Scripture teaches us that God is so close to us, the everlasting presence and power of God. Our faith communities need to live out that truth first and foremost. If the only thing worshippers sense is that truth then the church has done its work.

Posted by Pam at Wednesday, 30 November 2016 at 8:40pm GMT

@Ron Smith

I am sure that the local parish can use the funds to forward God's ministry.

@Susannah

"An analysis of diocesan websites highlights and epitomises this problem. With a very few laudable exceptions, they avoid LGBT presence and topics like the plague... for fear of disturbing 'the peace'."

Spot on observation. And most parishes too.

And those that do include a statement of inclusion which they do not really mean because they know they will deny marriage.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 1 December 2016 at 2:44pm GMT
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