Comments: Opinion - New Year's Eve 2016

I am delighted by Madeleine Davies piece in Christian Today about HTB and women in leadership. However a quick look at HTB's 2017 conference website lists 1 woman speaker out of 6 main speakers and 1 woman speaker out of 10 seminar speakers. Nicky and Pippa, you are saying all the right things and you are admitiing that HTB has a long way to go. Please try to do better at next year's May conference, which is really disappointing. I look forward to seeing real, positive action!

Posted by Anne Lee at Saturday, 31 December 2016 at 4:16pm GMT

The Justice, Peace, Joy "If necessary, use liturgy" article's definition of "complex" words was interesting. I thought of this quote by Abraham Joshua Heschel "Preach in order to pray. Preach in order to inspire others to pray. The test of a true sermon is that it can be converted to prayer." I've also read that "sometimes 'understandings' can stand in the way of 'standing under'." Wise words by Gerard Moore. Surely, mystery is important?

Posted by Pam at Sunday, 1 January 2017 at 1:14am GMT

Doug Chaplin makes a very valid point about making the Liturgy intelligible. This is where imaginative catholic ceremonial can be a wonderful teaching instrument for the building up of faith. I have often wondered why a little more effort is not put into the visible 'bringing down of the Holy Spirit' upon the elements of the Eucharist in an outward gesture of invitation by the presiding priest.

I remember, in earlier days, being invited to share a close view of the Celebrant at a Greek Orthodox Eucharist. At the Epiclesis, the priest waved the pall over the eucharistic elements to indicate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the gifts. This was a dramatic motion SPEAKING LOUDER THAN WORDS!

Augustine said that singing a prayer is like 'saying it twice' After all the whole essence of the Eucharist is our human invitation to the Real Presence of The Word-made-flesh: Liturgy as Drama

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 1 January 2017 at 4:49am GMT

"Actions speak louder than words". However, with HTB's tradition of conservative gender enabling; this latest step is, at least, a movement in the right direction. This is only to be encouraged at the present time. Maybe there will be further enlightenment on other important issues presently plaguing the Church of England. "God works in a mysterious way (God's) wonders to perform!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 1 January 2017 at 5:28am GMT

Ages ago, at Lincoln Theological College my Tutor in Liturgy was Rev. Robert Gribben who remains one of the foremost Liturgists of his generation. I can imagine what he would say in response to Canon Bayliss: he would not endorse his ideas at all but would, in his dry, cultured and wry Australian way, rebut everything Canon Bayliss sets out. Not possessing Robert’s encyclopaedic knowledge and skill, what follows here is my summary attempt at a rebuttal of Canon Bayliss’ proposals.

One of the reasons why the Book of Common Prayer remains ‘common tender’ for a surprisingly high number of people of all ages is that although many of the words used therein are not greatly in common usage, nevertheless it is their poetry, and deep resonance within our hearts and minds which stay with us well after a service has ended: they embed themselves deep within us. Sadly, I cannot imagine many of the prayers and phrases from Common Worship liturgies resounding in our hearts and minds for years to come, so that we are able to recall them and pray them, and let them pray through us. For Canon Bayliss to set out a further simplification, and thus also a thinning out of the language of Common Worship, would suggest that the words themselves are the sum total of the theatre of good liturgy, which they are not.

I’m sure that no-one would wish to apply Canon Bayliss’s theory to Shakespeare, yet people the world over continue to be drawn to and into his plays, not because they understand all the words and phrases used, but because the entire edifice of the play, and particularly when it is performed in its natural context - a theatre - it communicates far more than words alone. Surely this is what good liturgy does? This principle may apply also to good poetry ancient and modern: we do not need to understand every word and phrase within a poem for it to communicate to us and for us to be able to respond deeply to it.

Good liturgy has the capacity and potential to carry us further into the heart of the mystery of God, even when the language (and the Liturgical president who utters it) leaves something to be desired in terms of phrasing, imagery, poetry, metaphor and capacity to resonate within our inner echo chambers. While Canon Bayliss acknowledges that worship is more than the language employed, nevertheless his proposals, if ever adopted, would take us perilously close to such a narrowing of liturgical language as to risk the loss of this important capacity altogether.

Canon Bayliss seems to imply that liturgical language would benefit worshippers by being reduced to being far more akin to the instructions to cook Fish Fingers than that which mortals may use to enter the mystery of God. Reductionism can be taken too far!

Posted by Susan Hollins at Sunday, 1 January 2017 at 6:21pm GMT

The discussion on the liturgy is merely a meta-argument for the question of whether worship is common or presidential/presbyterian or priestly. The history of Anglicanism is a fight between Anglo-catholics wanting to place the "priest" at the heart of worship and the protestant reformers who want the people to lead worship. If is an argument re-fought in every generation because of the drift of language, a broadening of what common worship means as we become less socially elitist in attitude, and in the present generation because of the increasing number of parishioners for whom English is not their first language.

The various articles both ignore this underlying question and fail to take it further to consider the full participation of children in worship.

The Church of England is founded on a compromise. It has always relied upon a presbyter to lead worship rather than embracing true common worship, while at the same time eschewing priestly agency so perhaps the question for the Church of England is not about true common worship but instead asking what point, in terms of the complexity of language, is cuspal between presbyterian and priestly? Whether right or wrong in absolute terms, I believe that is the point on the common-presidential-priestly spectrum which Anglicanism was founded to take.

Anglicanism, I suggest, therefore does not require all of the congregation to understand all of the liturgy so long as it is broadly accessible. So I have no trouble with the complexity of language in contemporary liturgy, in fact I think the language is already overly simplistic. On the flip, I think things like ringing bells at certain points during communion or using censers to distribute incense are mummery the meaning of which passes any common understanding and are therefore un-Anglican priesting which ought to be prohibited. I am not saying that incense is wrong - personally I like it in liturgy - but I do think it is un-Anglican.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 1 January 2017 at 8:04pm GMT

Church leadership consistently claims to rely upon discernment to determine who is called to ordination or leadership and whether the Bishops Reflection Group should promote same sex marriage. Yet when one looks at outcomes, as Madeleine Davies describes, there is often a very substantial gender imbalance. That is evidence that leaders do not have the wisdom of discernment. The solution is obvious: replace the leadership group with other people who are able to offer true discernment. Unsurprisingly, whether at HTB or in the House of Bishops or in the Primacies of the Anglican Communion, incumbent leaders seem to dislike that option.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 1 January 2017 at 8:20pm GMT

I've just watched the video link showing HTB's Nicky Gumbel proclaiming the B.V.M as the Leader of Women's Liberation (which, of course, she is - but not hitherto recognised as such by con/evos).

Do click on this link, which defies expectations:

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 2 January 2017 at 6:05am GMT

'I often think of the set pieces of liturgy as certain words which people have successfully addressed to God without their getting killed. In the high churches they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a strand of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it any minute. This is the beginning of wisdom.' Annie Dillard Holy Firm

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 2 January 2017 at 7:38pm GMT

Great quote, David Runcorn. I think of Jeremiah's call in Jeremiah 1.

Posted by Pam at Monday, 2 January 2017 at 8:45pm GMT

David, I wasn't aware that we worshiped Zeus!

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 3 January 2017 at 7:53am GMT

Weren't you James?

Posted by David Runcorn at Tuesday, 3 January 2017 at 1:51pm GMT

Kate, Anglicanism is - I hope - founded on tolerant co-existence rather than 'compromise.' This means that Anglo-Catholics and low-Church Evangelicals can cordially detest each other and privately deem each other heretics while still recognising each other as members of a common communion without anyone getting burned or dismembered in the process. The point is not simply to water down everyone's convictions to a sort of tepid middle-ground that everyone objects to equally. I am deeply suspicious of people who want to lay down the law about what is and is not "Anglican" - this is the one thing that seems horrendously un-Anglican to me. Uneasy tolerance and strained good manners are at the heart of the Anglican tradition; authoritarian precepts designed to enforce unhappy conformity are not.

Posted by rjb at Tuesday, 3 January 2017 at 2:08pm GMT

rjb. That's very helpful.

Posted by Malcolm Halliday at Tuesday, 3 January 2017 at 9:30pm GMT

I don't think 'cordially detesting' our fellow-Christians is what Jesus had in mind...!

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 4 January 2017 at 12:25am GMT

"Uneasy tolerance and strained good manners are at the heart of the Anglican tradition; authoritarian precepts designed to enforce unhappy conformity are not."

For outsiders, however, the difference between tolerating the presence of homophobic bigots and being a homophobic bigot may be a little hard to discern. If someone spends their evenings drinking with BNP members, gives money to the BNP and occasionally publishes BNP tracts on their own website, your first and safest assumption would be that they were themselves a violent racist. And if they aren't, why take the risk; after all, it's their choice to associate with, give money to and publish the work of racists.

Similarly, the line between defending the rights of holocaust deniers to be holocaust deniers, and actually being a holocaust denier, is nothing like as clear as some think; Noam Chomsky's reputation has never really recovered from his - in his eyes innocent - association with holocaust denial (in Noam's case, to associate with deniers of one genocide could be considered a misfortune, but two starts to look like carelessness, but let that pass).

If the Anglican community is tolerant of homophobia, the onus is on it to show that (a) it is not itself homophobic and (b) the tolerance comes at less of a cost than behaving more firmly. I'd suggest neither case has been made, and the obvious interpretation of the Anglican communion's tolerance of homophobia is that it is homophobic.

Posted by Interested Observer at Wednesday, 4 January 2017 at 8:38am GMT

The CoE is treated as homophobic not because it tolerates people who take a homophobic position -- TEC does that -- but because its official teaching is homophobic.

Likewise, the ACLU routinely defends the First Amendent rights of Holocaust deniers, but no one in their right mind would say that the organization condones Holocaust denial. If Chomsky hadn't rambled, and had instead been clear that he was standing up for free speech, the controversy would never have ignited.

Moral of the tale: if you're tolerating a detestable position, make it plain that you detest it.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 4 January 2017 at 3:20pm GMT

rjb - taking just the nature of the Eucharist as an example, Catholics believe in transubstantiation which is rejected by Anglicans - that is in the 39 Articles. Anglicans believe in a real presence of Christ that is (generally) rejected in the Reformed Tradition. Anglicanism is not the blurred set of beliefs you claim, but liturgically occupies a relatively narrow position which is clearly differentiated from Catholicism and the Reformed Tradition.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 4 January 2017 at 6:06pm GMT

I believe in transubstantiation, Kate, and I have been Anglican all my life.

There's space for all kinds of beliefs in Anglicanism.

None of us is omniscient.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 4 January 2017 at 11:12pm GMT

Further to what Susannah has posted, Kate, you need to remember that the 39 articles were once normative for doctrine in the CofE, but I believe are not so any longer. For example, clergy no longer swear to uphold them. In practice they ceased to be normative in any meaningful way over a century ago -- they meant so little in the mid 19th century that Benjamin Jowett notoriously felt that signing them was a meaningless act in the eyes of the law.

They were never normative in Scotland and the US.

They are certainly not normative today in many parts of the Anglican church throughout the world.

I trust you are not writing us all off.

Posted by John Holding at Thursday, 5 January 2017 at 12:47am GMT

With regard to liturgy surely what is done and seen has far more impact than what is written down and said? The visual impact of what happens at a baptism or a wedding and the four Eucharistic actions is far greater than the text. Liturgy is an experience far more than it is a lesson to be taught, Isn't the old adage "Actions speak louder than words" of relevance in a liturgical context? In a drama on stage the actions of the actors remain in the memory long after the script has been forgotten.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 5 January 2017 at 4:09am GMT

Religious Walmart. Aisle 12 Transubstatiation. Aisle 31 incense free presbyters. Aisle 7 moral outrage sale. Aisle 4 HTB hats.

Posted by Cseitz at Thursday, 5 January 2017 at 7:07am GMT

When I was at Lincoln we had a resident Roman Catholic lecturer for one term of each year. I remember well the lectures given by Fr. Jean-Marie Tillard OP, a very eminent Dominican Theologian. His subject was The Eucharist and he taught us about transubstantiation in terms of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Perhaps his view does not match popular ideas found within many Roman Catholic congregations, but here was a leading Roman Catholic liturgist/theologian presenting a view of the real presence of Christ in terms that we could all accept. I remember well the comment of our Methodist Lecturer (Neil Richardson), as the series of lectures came to an end. He said, if that is what it means, I believe in that.

Posted by Nigel LLoyd at Thursday, 5 January 2017 at 8:19am GMT

Father David - 'surely what is done and seen has far more impact than what is written down and said'. Of course the liturgy at its best is a lived, visual drama - but what is done and seen usually follows what is written down doesn't it? Unless you are suggesting extemporary. I don't have you down as an evangelical.

Posted by David Runcorn at Thursday, 5 January 2017 at 1:50pm GMT

Susannah, just because you believe in transubstantiation and are Anglican does not make transubstantiation an Anglican belief. That is a fallacy in logic. Rather your personal beliefs straddle Anglicanism and Catholicism - as do mine.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 6 January 2017 at 2:20am GMT

Over the last 50 years Anglicans have produced a number of important Agreed Statements on the Eucharist (and other issues) with Lutherans, the Reformed, the Orthodox and notably with the Roman Catholic Church These have attempted to overcome Reformation controversy with an ecumenical convergence. Sadly their results do not seem to have penetrated the Anglican psyche very much ...having been hauled out of retirement to help with post ordination training for three years I alas know that to be a fact.

Posted by Perry Butler at Friday, 6 January 2017 at 8:01am GMT

"Father David - 'surely what is done and seen has far more impact than what is written down and said'. Of course the liturgy at its best is a lived, visual drama - but what is done and seen usually follows what is written down doesn't it? Unless you are suggesting extemporary."

The Anglo-Catholics do extemporise - a bell to indicate the Real Presence is one example.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 6 January 2017 at 10:25am GMT

Perry, I respect your experience and comments about convergence over the various meaning of the Eucharist in the 1980s(?) meaning nothing to today’s clergy, and would like to hear more.

Is this a sign of postmodern distaste for any definitions or “correct views”, or – as I suspect – simply a desire to retreat to the various heavily defended trenches of yesteryear?

Posted by Michael Skliros at Friday, 6 January 2017 at 10:54am GMT

Strictly speaking, transubstantiation is a technical term which refers to a *theory* about how Christ is present in the sacrament. It was not embraced by many not because they did not believe Christ was present--they did--but because they judged it a "theological" commitment based wrongly on a philosophical basis, indebted to Aristotle (accidents of bread; substance of Christ).

One can believe they need a theory about the sacrament but Anglicans have judged it scripturally unwarranted and unnecessary. Elizabeth's little ditty is often quoted.

The catholic parish where I live does not use the term, preferring real presence. Not all Catholics lean toward scholasticism....

Posted by cseitz at Friday, 6 January 2017 at 1:54pm GMT

Of course not all Anglican clergy are ignorant of the convergences on issues like the eucharist, ministry,justification etc since the 1970s but I am surprised how little is known about these dialogues or even that they have taken place, and wonder what part these Agreed Statements play in theological also me how newer clergy are often pretty vague about the history of the Church they are being ordained into. These agreements seem to me to have had as a by product an important role in healing divisions within Anglicanism not only between Anglicans and others.
Yes there has been retrenchment since the heady days of ecumenism in the 70s and 80s..paradoxically the Popes visit in the early 80s probably marked the high point.Since then there has been something of a retreat to the confessional trenches of yesteryear. Much is due to simple ignorance and the lack of history and historical theology in training (there is clearly less than there was even when I was teaching on a non residential course in the 80s)t..and perhaps the view that clergy don't need much to be "effective" or at best they should be simply "reflective practitioners". To take the example of transubstantiation which has surfaced here. I am constantly surprised to hear many people ( evangelicals in my group for example) who think it means Christs presence is physical,material and local...despite the fact St Thomas Aq formulated the theory specifically to counter such views.
The significant issue for the C of E I think,divided as it is doctrinally,is whether the study of doctrine in formation is to equip you with bits and pieces of doctrine to help you on your spiritual journey or is it to answer the question the Bishop at ordination asks "Do you believe the doctrine of the Christian faith as the C of E has received it,and....will you expound it and teach it?"

Posted by Perry Butler at Friday, 6 January 2017 at 2:21pm GMT

@ c seitz - that's true enough: I believe I recall correctly (though so often I'm wrong) that when Aquinas first enunciated the "transubstantiation" argument, it was condemned as heresy at Rome. And, of course, the Orthodox still do, preferring to allow the Mysteries to remain, well, mysteries.

Myself, I believe that the way transubstantiation had come to be understood by the late Middle Ages was correctly criticized in our catechism because it "overthroweth the nature of a sacrament."

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Friday, 6 January 2017 at 8:58pm GMT

Of all of the theories of the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Mysteries, Consubstantiation makes the most sense to me.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Posted by Kurt Hill at Friday, 6 January 2017 at 9:34pm GMT

I think Luther's view -- he was of course an Augustianian monk and disliked scholasticism -- was, Let us rely on what Christ said and not theories about how what he said could be translated into explanations. Elizabeth's poem took the same tack. 'By his word he spake it/He took the bread and brake it, etc.' Even Trent tried to redeem Thomas and extricate him over-reliance on substance/accidents thinking. Most would agree on Real Presence as indicating most closely what Christ intended to say, after the dust settled over reformation era debates.

I agree that amnesia over important historical facts dooms us to repeat mis-steps and to underestimate some hard won consensus.

Posted by cseitz at Saturday, 7 January 2017 at 12:44am GMT

Kate "Extempore - spoken or done without preparation:
synonyms: impromptu · spontaneous · unscripted · ad lib."
I am struggling to see the sanctuary bell in catholic sacramental worship as an example of this. The place and frequency in the liturgy is very precisely prescribed. But if you go to an anglo catholic church where the sanctuary bell ringer goes off on spirit inspired riffs at odd, unscheduled moments in the service please tell me where it is - I would love to worship there.

Posted by David Runcorn at Saturday, 7 January 2017 at 9:37am GMT

In Anglicanism it IS extemporisation.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 7 January 2017 at 2:09pm GMT

Kate -- in what conceivable way is the ringing of a Sanctus Bell, following very strict rubrics, "extemporisation" in Anglicanism or anywhere else. Something done according to rules cannot, by definition, be extemporized. Or do you disagree with the commonly accepted meaning of "extemporize" cited by David RUncorn.

Two other things: the Sanctus bell is not rung to "indicate the Real Presence", as you have said, but to draw the attention of the faithful to the moment at which bread and wine are transformed.

And: you continually use "Anglican" to mean something many people simply don't understand. It seems to me you have a highly idiosyncratic version of "anglicanism" based in an imaginary evangelical, low-church past that no-one today except yourself recognizes. You can, of course, like the character in Alice in Wonderland, continue to use it the way you do, recognizing that no-one else uses it that way or understands by it what you mean. Or you might consider using words with a common meaning, that everyone can understand. Your choice, of course.

Posted by John Holding at Saturday, 7 January 2017 at 8:51pm GMT

Perhaps she means "externalise"?

Posted by Michael Skliros at Sunday, 8 January 2017 at 4:38pm GMT
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