Comments: Opinion - 10 December 2016

Philip North articulates persuasively where the church needs to focus during these unsettling times. Brexit and Trump happened because of dissatisfaction with the prevailing narrative and, instead of expressing derision, the church needs to listen and as North suggests "allowing the agenda to be set by the voices of the poor and dispossessed and forgotten". No one in the church should be about "power" but about "connection". Family no longer means only what it traditionally did but, whatever configuration, it is where we learn about love and life.

Posted by Pam at Saturday, 10 December 2016 at 8:58pm GMT

As ever, Philip North is interesting and thoughtful. And I like much of what he has to say, including his suggestion that the church needs to concentrate its resources and its best leaders on the disenfranchised. I'm less enchanted by the idea that doing so means embracing patriotism and militarism, and I find it interesting that Bishop Philip thinks that flag-waving and military chaplaincy are part of what it means to be an Established Church. What, I wonder, does it then mean to be a Catholic Church? What role is there for nationalism and militarism in a church that perceives itself as a local manifestation of a universal body? And to what extent is it desirable for the Church to give its imprimatur to the institutions of the secular state (including that arm of the state whose business, to put it bluntly, is killing people)? Philip North wants the Church of England to identify itself much more closely with the values and beliefs of 'ordinary people'. I would prefer the Church to identify itself more closely with the experiences and lifestyles of 'ordinary people' precisely to engage with and critique those values more effectively.

Posted by rjb at Sunday, 11 December 2016 at 1:33am GMT

I'm not sure that North is implying militarism as such, rjb. Certainly, patriotism i.e. vigorous support for one's country, doesn't necessarily mean armed combat. I don't think there's any room for militarism in a church. Church is about showing the abundance of life. Also, when the church engages with 'ordinary people' (which is everyone) critiquing their values shouldn't be on the agenda so much as being role models and true friends.

Posted by Pam at Sunday, 11 December 2016 at 8:32pm GMT

Many people from impoverished working class communities have found security, confidence and solidarity through joining the armed forces. The fact that governments have used them as pawns in futile and tragic wars doesn't destroy this, and in fact makes them more defensive of their role. The church has got to be sympathetic to this while not colluding with warmongers and imperialists. Not something we've ever got right in the past and we need a good dose of wisdom and humility to preach the gospel in such communities. It's like when generations of missionaries instilled homophobic attitudes among African (and other) Christians and now Western church leaders (or some of them) have turned patronisingly self-righteous on the issue.

Posted by David Emmott at Monday, 12 December 2016 at 1:00pm GMT
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