Comments: Opinion - 18 March 2017

I share Charlotte's admiration for Bishop Stephen and I'd re-iterate that the Bishop's address to his diocesan synod is one of the most realistic, most LGBT+ affirming messages from any of our bishops.

It is absolutely clear that Bishop Stephen believes in the positive goodness of lesbian and gay relationships, and wishes the Church could move forward towards institutional affirmation. He is also realistic in recognising that his position sets him at odds with those in the Church who hold a 'conservative' position on human sexuality.

With regard to Bishop Philip and the Sheffield debacle, Bishop Stephen was partially instrumental in that appointment, and to me that shows consistency in that - in both cases, sexuality and debate about bishops and priests - he wants a Church that is able to embrace difference, and overcome tensions and uncomfortableness through prayer, love and grace. In short, he seeks unity in diversity, and accommodation of diverse consciences.

In a Church of many (and divergent) consciences, our primary need is for grace and love, and finding ways of respecting one another, and the flourishing of *all* parts of our shared lives together.

What we don't need is dominant factions, trying to impose uniformity of opinion on the structures of our national church life.

There IS no uniformity of opinion in the Church of England, and the grace needed to navigate that and co-exist, is one of its glories.

God calls us as unique individuals, to become part of household and communion. Our consciences are differing too, and may follow the diverse paths God sets before us, to live and serve and open to Her.

He calls us to an eternal household, a household of grace, which our lived out lives here on earth may prefigure. Indeed, to the extent that we exercise grace and gentleness to each other, and respect for difference, we are engaging in the eternal household here and now.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 18 March 2017 at 11:32am GMT

"Are liberals illiberal about women priests"
This item has made me think about a quote from an essay that wise old owl - John Habgood wrote in his book "Confessions of a Conservative Liberal" referring long ago to "The Crockford Preface" rumpus.
He wrote "in the long-term the future lies with Catholicism. It must, because only Catholic tradition is rich enough and stable enough to be able to offer something distinctive to the world without being captured by the world."
Alas, the tumult stirred up by the Sheffield debacle makes this prophecy less likely to come true within the Church of England.

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 18 March 2017 at 12:14pm GMT

I was much moved and disconcerted by Ryan Cook’s Kafkaesque experience. Why do the authorities have to make things so very difficult? What is the point?

Very interesting piece by Marcia Pally, and just the sort of thing that should be preoccupying contemporary Christians. She notes that whilst ‘trespass’ comes from Old French (and, therefore, Latin) via Middle English (see the OED entry) the conflation of iniquity and indebtedness might have something to do with Germanic influences on our custom and law (which, as Pollock & Maitland, Adams, Wormald, etc., have observed, is profound). Others have recently noted the identity of debt with evil in the context of the ongoing financial crisis in Greece, and a glance at DWDS (one of the best German etymological dictionaries, along with the DWB and that of Kroonen, 2013) might tend to confirm that assumption:

Schuld f. ‘Zahlungsverpflichtung, Vergehen, Unrecht, Ursache (von etw. Bösem), Verantwortung (für etw.)’, ahd. sculd ‘(Zahlungs)verpflichtung, Vergehen, Missetat, Buße, Verdienst, Ursache’ (8. Jh.)….

In other words, debt is a synonym for fault and has an intimate association with evil, wrongdoing, crime, etc. Even if the word trespass is Latinate the legal and psychological understandings we have of it might originate on the other side of the Rhine.

However, I am not certain about her elision of the use of ‘trespass’ in Tyndale, the KJV, etc., with the moral and economic impact of the enclosure movement. Whilst there had been some enclosures during the late middle ages and under the Tudors, it had not really taken off at the time those translations were made, and was essentially a phenomenon of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (see the works of Tate, Turner, McCloskey, etc., somewhat divergent, with a useful summary by J. R. Wordie ‘The Chronology of English Enclosure, 1500-1914’ Economic History Review, v. XXXVI, no. 4, Nov. 1983, 483-505).

Now massively indebted, we do need to think more coherently about the nature of financial liabilities in our own society, and to resurrect an Anglican economics, but one that goes somewhat beyond the liberalism of the noetics and Catholic social thought (essentially Anglican economics stagnated in the early twentieth century with the protectionist/historicist Cunningham almost the last of his line). We need at good second look at the texts (Exodus 22:24, Deut. 23:20, Lev. 25:35-8, but perhaps not 2 Kings 4:1-2 or Neh. 5:1-5…) and their patristic and scholastic expositors.

Posted by Froghole at Saturday, 18 March 2017 at 12:22pm GMT

Andrew Lightbown is continuing to demonstrate a grasp of the issues around the Sheffield fiasco. He said:

"In governance terms I can’t think of a single example where the act of delegation is used so that an executive can avoid doing something for which they have responsibility."

I would go further. It is actively wrong in terms of both governance and morality to delegate something which one would not do oneself.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 18 March 2017 at 1:41pm GMT

The Marcia Pally article is certainly intriguing a technical level. The new book certainly looks like a timely contribution for sure.

During the interview circuit for her earlier book, New Evangelicals: Expanding the Vision of the Common Good, Pally noted that Catholic social teaching was something of an influence on new evangelicals. Her observation is interesting given that a number of Roman Catholic scholars point out how Catholic social teaching, grounded in natural law, has taken a "biblical turn" beginning with the acceptance of biblical criticism in the twentieth century. However, as writers like Charles Clark point out, an understanding of the human person is something of a starting point with regard to theological reflection on the economy. Additionally, a legitimate role for the social sciences is a given for Catholic social teaching.

But back to the specifics of Pally's article linked here, it would be interesting to explore notions of debt and forgiveness in relation to the preferential option for the poor and what is owed to the poor by the wealthy. What of the debt owed to the poor, one capable of being paid yet not paid, i.e. social services deprived of funding under the banner of austerity and distorted taxation policies that favor wealth?

Clearly biblical insights have to be contextualized within a critical appraisal of socio-economic arrangements--something which is normative in Catholic social teaching.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 18 March 2017 at 7:05pm GMT

Kate - thanks. You are of course correct. In governance terms it is a 'moral hazard' to delegate in order to avoid. I just wish the 'senior leaders' would address the real issues.

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Saturday, 18 March 2017 at 8:01pm GMT

I very much appreciated Kelvin Holdsworth's discourse and questions. It crystallised for me that there is an essential sacramental component to the Eucharist which is binary: valid or invalid. Additionally there is a separate analogue question of effectiveness in areas like fellowship and personal revelation.

I won't repeat here what I posted on Kelvin's site. But it got me wondering whether there might be two aspects to other sacraments - digital validity and analogue effectiveness. For instance, might the theological answer to the Gordion Knot (Lightbown) Synod has tied be resolved by accepting as our teaching the premise that the validity of the sacrament of ordination is incontrovertible and applies to both men and women, as is the validity of any sacrament administered by a woman; however, some individuals may personally experience a greater sense of effectiveness from male ministers and, in order to maximise their personal experience, some members of the Church may elect to receive ministry only from men?

(Sorry. I can normally manage better sentence structure than that last one but I didn't sleep well.)

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 19 March 2017 at 2:40pm GMT

Perhaps the most important paragraph in Andrew Lightbown's thoughtful essay is this one:

"Delegation is an act of moral agency where the sponsor, holder or guarantor of an action positively affirms that action through the agency of another person. Delegation, in the moral sense, is seldom, if ever, used to avoid performing an action that an individual would ordinarily undertake. We delegate that which we believe in, will and wish to affirm. Delegation does not depersonalize decisions."

Even if a Diocesan Bishop chooses to 'delegate' responsibility to another bishop to perform ordinations (of women priests) on the diocesan's behalf; the mere fact of delegation does not nullify the actual responsibility of the diocesan for those ordinations.

Thus how, logically, could Bishop North ever 'delegate' his responsibility for an ordination he did not believe to be valid?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 20 March 2017 at 9:18am GMT

Kate, technically the C of E does not believe that ordination is a sacrament. According to Article XXV there are only 2 sacraments, 'Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.' It further avers that 'Those five commonly called Sacraments...Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel...'.

Article XXVI tells us that the validity of a sacrament is not determined by the 'wickedness' of the minister; it is 'effectual' for those who 'by faith and rightly do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them...because of Christ's institution and promise'.

The Articles are not much regarded nowadays and are seen by many as an embarrassment or an irrelevance. Still, all clergy (and bishops) have to affirm them when they are ordained, and every time they take up a new post. This presents a problem of integrity right at the outset.

I like Andrew Lightbown's suggestion of having a task force of bishop-theologians. I wonder if this is an issue they would like to look at...? I suspect not!

Posted by Janet at Monday, 20 March 2017 at 4:52pm GMT
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