Comments: Opinion - 1 April 2017

Although Colin is perhaps a little tough on the priest who starts their service by encouraging people to 'come into the presence of God', it is nonetheless an interesting article.

For a start, I'm reminded of Augustine's point: that God always resides in the innermost place of our souls, but too often, we don't. God is within, but very often, we are without.

Secondly, I believe that God draws people into awareness and Presence in a multiplicity of ways. These may vary, depending on temperament and tradition (and, of course, the will of God). But very often, the initiative is less about what we 'do', any special technique, and more about God's own initiative and ardour for us, choosing to break through quite often unexpectedly.

I don’t think we just get God "on demand". It's not like subscribing to a TV channel. Though it's fair to believe that the desire to please God, pleases God, and therefore the true yearning and desire of the heart may help our own receptivity to God's coming.

As a nurse, I've found that some of the strongest experiences of God's presence have been at times of deep human vulnerability and brokenness... in pitiable times of need, and at people's impending time of passing on. There, in helplessness, the individual human, the relatives, the serving nurse, may sometimes experience an acute sense of presence, of something numinous and beyond words, that is deep privilege. At other times I rage.

In contemplation, though we wait and wait and wait, God may not choose to come that day, or draw us into Presence. And anyway, contemplation may not just be a "religious experience" in the chapel, but rather, may invade the life we lead, practically.

And then - in God's multiplicity of expression - others may find God in nature; or in a charismatic experience of worship; in the Sacraments; with the guy you speak to on the street; or in simple, blessed, family life. God also comes, sometimes, at our times of greatest need, to comfort, to hold like a mother. Or does not come.

The inclination of our hearts, the practice of the presence of God (as Brother Lawrence taught), the liturgical framing of lives... all contribute to receptivity. But as in salvation, it is God's faithfulness and God's initiative, that intervenes at the Xaipos time, when by grace... the Spirit comes.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 1 April 2017 at 12:15pm BST

Whilst I have some sympathy with Sam Charles Norton’s suggestion that ‘unity’ has become a shibboleth that is preventing us from addressing questions that are arguably more pressing (and perhaps rather less tedious) than that of ecclesial order, I am somewhat apprehensive about his suggestion that, if FiF and conservative evangelical parishes are allowed (indeed encouraged) to secede, they should be granted title to the property they currently occupy, almost as if this were a routine matrimonial matter. In many instances that property was created/endowed by the community of the past for use by the future community as a whole, and not for a sectarian element within it: an argument which I appreciate is weakened by the social and religious pluralism of large parts of the country. If such property were to be divested to secessionist groups it would cease to held by an entity which declares (in however flawed a manner) to be ‘for all’ and, in some districts, it would mean that the Church of England would cease to have any presence, which would militate against its self-proclaimed (albeit impaired) mission to ‘every community’. Perhaps it would be better for the Church to retain title to, and limited use of, the assets and for the secessionists to rent them on a time-share basis, although I appreciate that is a solution fraught with potential conflict.

His statement that “this process of divestment is how the Church of England should come to an end – setting out many different lifeboats and leaving behind a sinking shell for the state to continue to manage” might well be true, but it is surely a counsel of despair. In addition, it is perhaps improbable that the state will have the means to assure the survival of most of the ‘built heritage’ (this is a state, remember, that might drown in its liabilities over the next generation even as its tax base shrivels). Moreover the ‘lifeboats’ to which Mr Norton alludes may not have the critical mass or financial clout to survive over time, thus ensuring that their churches end up in private commercial or residential use. Since I know Mr Norton's benefice in the Winstree division of Essex, I suggest that the future he proposes might look rather more like Great/Little Birch, Langenhoe or Virley (i.e., one of ruin) than he might care to admit.

Posted by Froghole at Saturday, 1 April 2017 at 1:13pm BST

Sam Charles Norton's suggestion that FIF and conservative evangelical parishes might be allowed to go and take their property with them is superficially very attractive. For many of us it would mean that we could put the divisions behind us and get on with building the kingdom here without the hindrance of those whose vision is more exclusive and excluding than ours.

The problem is that it would also mean abandoning a great many people who do not want to go. Allowing a PCC resolution or some other process to effect the process fixes at a moment in time what is and continues to be a very different fluid situation. Parishes do and will change their minds and the reasons why a parish might want to go are not by any means always related to theological issues of gender and sexuality.

In my own experience the resolutions A and B and the request for alternative episcopal oversight were related much more to the love and concern for the incumbent felt by the PCC and the congregation, even though both always contained significant majorities for the ordination of women and were very inclusive. A change of incumbent and then an interregnum and the passage of time gave a breathing space in which the whole subject could be aired without the former emotional and personal baggage. As a result the resolutions were rescinded, not without some hurt and distress, but few people eventually left and the church and congregation set out on a new path with renewed confidence.

It is important that we recognise that the influence and advice of the incumbent, current or immediately past, are much more likely to affect the wishes and decisions of the parish than the theological considerations of the laity, Indeed, I am sure that on issues of both sexuality and priestly or ministerial gender, many if not most members of conservative congregations will be much more hospitable to change that might otherwise seem apparent. The current public silence of HTB on issues of same sex relationships indicates that they cannot take their current and future congregations with them on the issue of sexuality, I doubt, too, whether many congregations have really swallowed whole the doctrine of male headship. On both issues I am sure that ministerial conservative attitudes are at so great a variance with the attitudes of both the laity and the populace at large that their influence on the life of the church far outweighs their numbers.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 1 April 2017 at 6:46pm BST

Rhian Taylor's observation about the Sheffield fiasco i.e. the level of empathy for one man’s situation is so much stronger than the level of empathy for the many women is certainly correct.

Taylor is correct about silencing women when she writes: "The narrative that we should be more tolerant is a very effective tool for reducing dissent, particularly when used with women."

What could change things? Ordaining women as priests and deacons is vital, but not nearly enough. There needs to be greater liturgical expression of the fruits of recent feminist and non-sexist scholarship. What may help is overcoming the historically naive notion that the transmission of the faith from one generation to the next is the result of an almost genetic understanding of history i.e. transmission from male apostles to men of subsequent generations. The truth is that the faith is handed over to succeeding generations comprised of women and men both.

Yet, the the title of Taylor's article, It's A Man's Church, is something of a paradox given that the pews usually contain more female than male worshippers. Interestingly,women continue to participate in the life of the church to a greater degree than men; but remain disempowered politically as they do so.

A churchland version of the "day without Women march" could prove very sobering for what is at present a hopelessly patriarchal institution. The notion of male apostolic succession might look very different on a such day, me boys. Indeed all religious traditions might need reappraisal if women were to step outside for a day or two.

http://www.pewforum.org/2016/03/22/the-gender-gap-in-religion-around-the-world/

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 1 April 2017 at 8:13pm BST

It's worth pointing out that the possession of a large number of churches, many of them listed, is killing the CofE. So if the price of getting rid of some conservative outliers who make the church look mad is that they also take on the responsibility for buildings the CofE cannot afford to maintain, one could say "what's not to like?"

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 1 April 2017 at 9:05pm BST

A very, very interesting piece from Michael Collett, and - I fear - a rather inadequate response from Michael Jensen, who starts off by getting Nietzsche wrong (a particular bugbear of mine!) and goes steadily downhill from there. I think Collett's points - which are in essence similar to what philosophers of religion know as the argument from reasonable non-belief - strike me as very serious and worthy of serious consideration. They need a more thoughtful theological (and perhaps philosophical, and certainly pastoral) answer than I think Michael Jensen is willing to give.

Posted by rjb at Sunday, 2 April 2017 at 10:04am BST

I had not intended to respond to Rhian Taylor's piece, but Michael Jensen's throwaway remark about Nietzsche has got me thinking. Pace Jensen, Nietzsche is not completely hostile to the emotional state of sympathy or compassion. As Michael Frazer has observed, Nietzsche's attitude to compassion is much more complex than is often believed - Nietzsche thinks it is essential for imaginative creativity, but rejects its elevation in Christianity to a sole and supreme virtue that must be celebrated above all other human faculties.

I thought of this again while reading Rhian Taylor's empathetic tennis match with the partisans of Bishop Philip North. On the one side, those whose compassion for Bishop Philip overflows, on the other those who are full of lachrymose pity for the situation of women in the church. Obviously I don't think empathy is in any way a bad thing - and I think Nietzsche was quite right to see it as a defining virtue of Christianity. Nor do I want to minimise the real anguish either of Anglican women or of Catholic Anglicans. But on its own empathy isn't enough, because it leads us into a compassionate gridlock: everyone thinks their own chosen object of pity is more deserving and has very little compassion to share with their opponents. When it becomes a weapon to be wielded against its enemies, empathy can be really ugly.

Nor are accusations of sexism very helpful, because the supporters of Bishop Philip do not see themselves as sexist (and, although I disagree with them, I think they are quite right in this). Rhian Taylor can of course "name" FIF's views as sexist if she wants, but she should not be surprised that this "naming" advances nothing (and indeed FIF might have some names to bestow on her in turn). Nor are appeals to tolerance useful, because - while compassion, like unity, is a Christian virtue - tolerance most certainly is not. While I don't agree with much that Rhian says, she is right to reject tolerance out of hand as a normative standard for Christians.

Ultimately we're going to need good and careful ecclesial theology to lead us out of this maze. It's going to require hard work and generous spirits. And it's going to require a rejection of competing claims to the purer suffering, the bitterer persecution or the superior compassion.

Posted by rjb at Sunday, 2 April 2017 at 2:45pm BST

Re; rjb, "...Nor are accusations of sexism very helpful, because the supporters of Bishop Philip do not see themselves as sexist..." Denial works well, no?

"When it becomes a weapon to be wielded against its enemies, empathy can be really ugly." Except, now you would be referring not to empathy, but to a lack of empathy. Unlike piety, genuine empathy cannot, be definition, be weaponized; but it can lead to solidarity, something very much lacking in the institutional church with regard to people it oppresses and marginalizes--which seems to be an accurate take away from Taylor's article.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 2 April 2017 at 4:11pm BST

'Denial works well, no?'

Pigeonholing appears to work well too. I'm grateful to RJB for not indulging in it.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Sunday, 2 April 2017 at 9:15pm BST

rjb writes:
"Nor are accusations of sexism very helpful, because the supporters of Bishop Philip do not see themselves as sexist".

Well, of course they aren't helpful. No one wants to be accused of being sexist. But the accusation may be true. I think it is. And I'm not full of lachrymose pity for the women - I just want them to be treated equally. I'm angry that we still make excuses for sexism, and seem happy to perpetuate injustice and inequality.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Sunday, 2 April 2017 at 10:51pm BST

I find Interested Observer's uncharitable comment very distressing. I was told by General Synod that my Catholic view of priestly orders is acceptable in our broad church - and by the way like most Catholics I accept the decisions of General Synod. Now I am told that I am "a conservative outlier who makes the Church look mad". Well thanks for this - is it time to pack my bags? I did think I was welcome in the C of E - now I am not so sure.

Posted by Fr Frank Nichols at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 9:56am BST

'is it time to pack my bags? I did think I was welcome in the C of E - now I am not so sure.'

Fr. Frank Nichols, I'm not sure which of the several 'Catholic views on priestly orders' you hold. But I'm guessing that Interested Observer is not actually a member of the CofE, so don't let him/her make you feel unwanted.

The views of outsiders are valuable, because they help us see ourselves as other outsiders do. We are a national rather than a gathered church so that is essential to our mission. The prophets were outsiders because detachment is necessary in order to see clearly.

But outsiders, however prophetic, are not the people to decide who belongs and who doesn't.

Posted by Janet Fife at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 11:25am BST

@ Tim Chesterton, "Pigeonholing appears to work well too." Except that the assessment that the church is sexist and patriarchal is not assigned arbitrarily nor is it simply "name calling". Rather it is an outcome of thoughtful and detailed analysis, an analysis that is the result of rigorous theological reflection and historical investigation.

The problem is not simply that conservatives are unconvinced that the church is patriarchal. The problem is that the institutional church does not see itself as sexist and patriarchal. Instead it develops politcal bafflegab like "mutual flourishing" as policy.

Anyone who is an Anglican, like I am for instance, at some point must reckon with the fact that our church is homophobic and patriarchal. Truth telling is important. It is the first step in remaining a member with any degree of integrity.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 12:30pm BST

Please stop squabbling.

We are a Church with diverse views.

There is nothing wrong with desiring mutual flourishing.

It upsets and disappoints me when a fellow Christian is called 'sexist' because they conscientiously believe in male priesthood.

That is an accepted and welcomed position in the Church of England.

Personally I believe in female priesthood as much as male priesthood. But that doesn't absolve me from loving my kindred in Christ and respecting their path and their faith.

We are all 'outsiders' except for the grace of God but, in union with Christ, we belong to the household and family of God.

There are countless ways in which people experience the unfathomable God. There's a multiplicity of paths of faith that people walk.

If - for example - you ask the female colleagues of Philip North whether they thought he was 'sexist', I'm pretty much sure that most of them would say, 'Definitely not'.

We can *all* fail one another if we don't rise to the challenge of grace and love and kindness. We could have theological purity and still lack the grace that might accompany it.

And rather than labelling people 'sexist' for sincere positions of conscience, or trying to dominate them with some imagined theological purity and uniformity... we need to talk, and share, and serve together.

The Church of England belongs to the whole nation. Yes, it's brilliant that many people champion the interests and dignity of women in our Church. I believe the Holy Spirit is at work revealing God in that process. But I also believe the Holy Spirit comes, in the Presence and the Sacrament, in the catholic tradition which is a welcomed part of our Church, and includes many who actually *do* believe in male priesthood (women as well as men).

I can see the endless arguments and counter-arguments. What I also see, sadly, is a deficit in grace in the way we treat one another. And all parties can be guilty of that, not just the purportedly 'sexist' parties.

Like it or not, we are One. One family. One household. The household of Christ. We don't get to pick and choose who belongs. But there is always grace waiting, and the whispered love of God, to draw us into kinship, love and yes, the heartfelt desire for mutual flourishing. The 'via media' was never more needed in our broad and national Church.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 1:27pm BST

@ Susannah Clark, "Please stop squabbling.There is nothing wrong with desiring mutual flourishing. It upsets and disappoints me when a fellow Christian is called 'sexist' because they conscientiously believe in male priesthood."

On these points I could not disagree with you more. Activism and social change it seeks are inherently upsetting; but it is always so when vested interests are challenged.

The members of organizations like "The Society" hold what is an increasingly marginal minority view in the Church. However, that does not make them a persecuted minority. Their increasingly eccentric social views are simply a subset of what is otherwise a form of male clericalism. They require challenge, especially when beliefs impact corporate behaviour.

I certainly intend to continue with vigour offering the view that the institutional church suffers from several related systemic injustices.
I'm not settling for a church the mantra for which is, "can't we all just get along."

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 3:19pm BST

Rod, I wasn't trying to specifically critique you or any other individual here. We're all capable of sinking to polemic and attritional discourse, and I can be as guilty of that as anyone else. There are posts I've submitted to Thinking Anglicans over the years that I regret in retrospect because they drifted towards impersonal politics rather than trying to see a rival-in-argument as a human being trying to explore faith in a different way to my own.

I'm fearful that confrontational faction in the Church, amplified by the culture of the internet, risks driving the Church of England towards schism and division.

Well that's just not how I see the exhortations to unity and love in passages like Psalm 133 and 1 John 4: 16-21, not to mention the primary edicts in 1 Corinthians 13 and Matthew 22: 36-40. I believe we need grace and love to bind us together, as we serve our communities in our various ways.

Some faithful Christians among us (and in these threads) believe in a male priesthood along traditional catholic lines. That is, for them, a way of faith. Nevertheless, the Church recognises and welcomes female priests. Both subsets of Christians are recognised and welcomed as holding positions of faith within the Church of England.

Personally, I find it impossible and almost unthinkable to conceive of one group being attacked and pressurised to leave and go elsewhere. This is their Church as well as my Church. Personally, my Christian identity in the Church of England is traditional, catholic, contemplative, evangelical, charismatic, and liberal. Which part of me should be sent away from a Church that schisms?

To me, there is wide diversity, but there is also integrity in our differences. And theological 'correctness' is less important than the means we use, the grace we exercise, to actually live out our lives. Lives which we're commanded to live, with love for one another, however radically we challenge entrenched privilege.

I have several times radically challenged authority here: although I believe that a theological feminist critique is valuable and needed, what I don't agree with is 'alienating' (othering) opponents. Change comes through encounter more than any other way. Change has to happen through grace, upon a platform of love. One can actively promote women's status or gay status, without demonising the often sincere and faithful conscience of others.

None of this is easy.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 5:41pm BST

«@ Susannah Clark, "Please stop squabbling.There is nothing wrong with desiring mutual flourishing. It upsets and disappoints me when a fellow Christian is called 'sexist' because they conscientiously believe in male priesthood."

«On these points I could not disagree with you more. Activism and social change it seeks are inherently upsetting; but it is always so when vested interests are challenged. » - Rod Gillis

I am in full agreement with Rod.

I disagree with the Society on many points, but I respect them for fighting for what they believe in. The Church isn't for any of us: it is God's Church and our absolute priority must be to organise ourselves to best serve and praise Him. Our interests - even equality - are second to that. The Society and conservatives understand that and we liberals have much to learn from them, but, taking that learning to heart, our duty is to refuse to allow them to exclude women.

Mutual flourishing is utterly contrary to my understanding of our duty to God.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 6:24pm BST

Re Susannah Clark, "...amplified by the culture of the internet..." I agree with your concern, although I think "compression" rather than amplification is the more accurate analogy. Messaging is virtually instant, risks being an unfiltered extension of one's nervous system, and the problems with interpretation of any message can be confounding.


"Some faithful Christians among us (and in these threads) believe in a male priesthood along traditional catholic lines." It is not simply a matter of one's faith, or of personal sincerity, or altruism. In fact, casting it in those terms may actually increase the problems you may wish to avoid.

At some point one has to come to grips with the structural historical failings of the Christian church, i.e. just some examples, the grounding of antisemitism and patriarchy in patristic theology, the whole sale alienation of the poor and working class from churches, collusion with colonialism and militarism, the inability to contend with science. This is by no means an exhaustive or detailed catalogue. Structural analysis requires recognizing that there are serious limits to a reliance upon scripture in attempting to resolve problems. In fact, a lack of regard for the limits of scriptural insight is part of the difficulty.

It is my preference to concentrate on how we may make corporate change, knowing that structural analysis inevitably leads to a critical appraisal of individual views.

As for the question of leaving and going elsewhere, many people including the poor, have left churches of all types and gone nowhere. Others, and I would be one, (it's how I came to Anglicanism) have after serious reflection and with some pain, left and joined another community of faith.

No one should be pressured to leave. However,neither leaving nor staying is an absolute value; but one's integrity certainly is.

So, I would tend to side with advancing critical assessment of the church, knowing that it is more than capable of a fortress mentality, and leave it to individuals to work out where they see themselves as a result.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 7:04pm BST

Rod, I entirely agree with you that truth telling is important. I'm just not confident that my grasp of the truth is always correct.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 7:23pm BST

I can't think of a justice or inclusion movement that didn't upset the status quo. Rhian Taylor gets it right, as does Rod Gillis.

CoE may be trying to do the impossible with the "mutual flourishing" bit. As it is, the principles that the all-male bishops engineered over weighted the flourishing of the traditionalists and under weighted the flourishing of women and girls. Girls, in particular, actually need to be protected from the traditionalists. They are vulnerable and not yet equipped to make the kinds of choices that Susannah proposes, and those that rbj champions. There may be ways to do it, but the policies and principles have to take into account the nasty effects of discrimination and exclusivity on women and girls. We're a church that values Tradition, Scripture, and Reason. The social science has to matter. And the traditions require close scrutiny. Re-reading Elaine Pagels and the discoveries from Nag Hammidi clarifies for me how the church was formed, who formed it, why it was formed in that way (to support empire), and what was excluded and why.

There is much healing that needs to happen as we endeavor to throw off the yoke of a patriarchy that is oppressive, self-serving, and ever so selective in justifying it.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 3 April 2017 at 7:34pm BST

Susannah --
Your focus on the CofE is understandable, especially on this board which is basically for English Anglicans. But many of us Anglicans post from other countries, where some of your issues and concerns are no longer even discussed.

Your response to Rod, for example, doesn't take account of the fact that he is in Canada, where -- for good or ill -- your issues were settled decades ago.

(not now to Susannah) It's rather like all the posters on this and other threads who happily treat "the Anglican Communion" as if Canada, New Zealand, the US Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church in Scotland, the Church in South Africa and others are not really part of the Communion. That +++Welby constantly does this has ceased being annoying, we are so used to being ignored and discounted. But really, people,,, it's not all just about GAFCON,

Posted by John Holding at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 1:32am BST

Several thoughtful rejoinders (Susannah's included), noting, directly or indirectly, the part one's context, cultural and geographic, plays in terms of one's perspective, one's horizon.

On the matter of the five principles, for example, I read about them from afar, follow the controversy via articles and comments; but I'm not in the C of E. I do try and remember that I don't have access to the on the ground nuances that come from interpersonal interaction; I don't have colleagues working in the parishes/dioceses impacted, don't have an ear to the gossip (in the good sense), don't have a direct investment in the politcal fall out as one worshipping and/or working there.


Just one quick reply to Tim Chesterton i.e. "I'm just not confident that my grasp of the truth is always correct." Something we all need to keep in mind of course; but it is important to try. One strives, without always being successful, with the Lonerganian mantra, be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, be responsible. Besides, grasping the truth is more often than not a communal process.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 1:43pm BST

The Elizabethan Settlement on issues such as the nature of Christ's presence in the Eucharist, comprehending mutually contradictory positions, was possible because no windows into personal belief were needed, and the language of the liturgy was adequately ambiguous so as to cover diversity of opinion and belief.

The problem with Order is that it is external and visible. Societies and factions are formed. Comprehension can no longer be sustained because the diversity of opinion has taken on flesh, and one has to be more or less public in response to the question of whether Jane Doe is a priest or bishop, or not.

It is, of course, still possible to allow for that diversity, within a national church structure, but it takes a much greater effort to sustain since it is now part of the structure itself that is in question. If as some believe women cannot sustain Order, the whole edifice risks becoming like those housing blocks Monty Python's Mistico and Janet sustained by hypnosis.

Someone once noted the fragility of a house divided against itself.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 3:54pm BST

Thank you, John Holding, for lifting up those of us from other provinces who settled this issue decades ago.

My favorite is when traditionalists argue that WO and WB is an innovation because Rome and the Orthodox don't do it, as if the many women supporting Anglican provinces don't exist. Also as if Protestantism is irrelevant to Anglicanism. And the ABC acting as if we don't exist... except when we cause him problems.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 4 April 2017 at 7:03pm BST

> The members of organizations like "The Society" hold what is an increasingly marginal minority view in the Church.

Surely not. There are around 2.4 billion Christians in the world, of whom 1.6 billion are either RC, Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox. Therefore only a third of the world's Christians, at most, accept women as priests and bishops. Life would be easier for liberal Anglicans like me if it were otherwise, but those are the facts.

Posted by Puzzled at Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 10:56am BST

Re: Puzzled, when I wrote that, "members of organizations like 'The Society' hold what is an increasingly marginal minority view in the Church", I was thinking specifically and solely about about the debate under way here re the Church of England, women's ordination, identity cards for true male believers, together with the issue in the wider sense as it pertains to other parts of the Communion like Canada where women priests and bishops are well established.

However, since you mention the fact that,"...1.6 billion are either RC, Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox. Therefore only a third of the world's Christians, at most, accept women as priests and bishops", one should note that you are talking about churches that are firmly in the grip of male patriarchal leadership, and contiguous in many cases with a patriarchal and sexist cultural context.

Therefore, the view of rank and file members of R.C. and Orthodox Communions is something of a non sequitur, even in those countries where, for example, Roman Catholic laity are open to at least consideration of women in ministry.

Your acceptance of the idea that what the male hierarchy hold for is coterminous with the view of members of the church is indicative of the problem of patriarchy.

So, the views of an entrenched sexism in Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches does not make the views of The Society at any less eccentric and bizarre with respect to Anglicans in tandem with the wider social perspective in Canada, The States, England. My point stands.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 2:44pm BST

> My point stands.

It depends on what "the Church" means to you. To me, it means the entire body of Christians throughout the world, and in that context it's the liberal provinces of the Anglican Communion, together with other liberal Protestant churches, which look eccentric and bizarre!

I wish it were not so. It would be wonderful if Rome and Orthodoxy were to embrace equal ministry. But Orthodoxy won't, and Rome can't. When my own province of the Anglican Communion chose to ordain women as priests and bishops I was therefore faced with the choice of remaining as a mainstream Catholic Christian (which is how I had previously seen myself) or accepting that I would from henceforth be a member of a minority Protestant Church cut off from the majority of Christians throughout the world. I chose the latter, and for all sorts of reasons I'm glad I did. But it wasn't easy.

Posted by Puzzled at Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 3:16pm BST

I find it really quite difficult to accept the terms 'bizarre' and 'eccentric' to describe sincere and faithful fellow Christians, serving God, and giving their lives in service to Christ and their communities.

I don't regard the belief in male priesthood as 'bizarre'. As Puzzled has said, it's actually pretty normal in much of Christendom. I'd simply call it traditional.

Like Puzzled, I regard myself as catholic in many ways in my personal spirituality. But also like Puzzled, I long for reform within the Catholic Church, and specifically for full recognition of women's priesthood and ministry.

However, I also value Catholic elements of my life within the Church of England - it's part of my identity. And I totally don't want to 'alienate' (other) fellow Christians and catholics, as if they are somehow eccentric and bizarre to believe in good conscience what they do (and all the sacrifice and service that follows on from that).

When we set ourselves in camps and turn from legitimate discourse and critique to caricature and mockery (in a way) of other Christian's faith, we are in a way driving the engines of separation and schism.

I have valued many of your posts over the years, Rod, and will continue to do so. However, the words 'bizarre' and 'eccentric' sit awkwardly with me.

The whole unwillingness of many to respect different consciences to their own places me in an uncomfortable position. I deeply treasure the diversity within the Church of England. As I say, I am deeply catholic in terms of sacramental Presence and Carmelite tradition. At the same time though, I am also charismatic and speak in tongues etc. I'm very liberal in the way I read the Bible and in my views on sex and gender. I'm evangelical in my belief in the power of the Word to convert, and my own 'born again' background and church involvement. I'm contemplative. I love to dance and raise my hands. I also believe in radical social change. I'm a whole mixture of things, just like the Church.

What part of me should leave the Church and how? Am I eccentric too? Maybe we all are.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 5:07pm BST

Re: Puzzled, "It depends on what "the Church" means to you." No I don't think it does. I think the issue is the relationship between a particular form of the institutional church and the particular culture within which that institution is set--both of which are phenomena available to objective analysis.

As far as I can see views like those advanced by The Society appear marginal within the mainstream of Anglicanism in Canada, England, and so forth.

Additionally, One can draw a distinction between what is predominant globally and what is normative. Patriarchy is dominant in all religions, Christianity included. However, it is not normative in all cultures nor in all societies, certainly not to the same degree. So globalizing, as arguments like yours tend to want to do, does not really undermine the observation I'm making about local culture.

"...the choice of remaining as a mainstream Catholic Christian ...or accepting that I would from henceforth be a member of a minority Protestant Church cut off from the majority of Christians throughout the world."

What an interesting telegraphing of sympathies(:

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 5:16pm BST

Re: Susannah Clark, "I have valued many of your posts over the years, Rod, and will continue to do so. However, the words 'bizarre' and 'eccentric' sit awkwardly with me."

Notwithstanding, I hold to them.

There are many facets of churchland that appear bizarre and eccentric to those on the outside, those who have dropped out, and even to some of of us who continue to hang in. When we start issuing "identity cards" to male clergy to prove that they have not been tainted by the laying on of female hands, bizarre and eccentric seems a perfectly good way to describe the situation.

Of course, belonging to the church can over time, I think, give one the impression that the bizarro world is quite normal.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 6:57pm BST

I spend a lot of time in the folk music community in the city of Edmonton. I'm thankful for this for many reasons, one of which is that I have a very realistic view of how the Christian church is seen amongst the non-Christian population. Please note, (a) my particular branch of that church is led by a bishop whose name is Jane, and in which (b) the predominant feeling is gay-friendly. also (c) Bishop Jane has a high profile on social justice causes in our city and co-chairs the mayor's council for ending poverty.

However, despite these supposedly mitigating factors, I think 'bizarre and eccentric' would be mild terms for what most of my non-Christian folkie friends feel about my church. If you want to avoid being thought of as 'bizarre and eccentric', for heaven's sake don't follow Jesus of Nazareth!

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 5 April 2017 at 11:29pm BST

> As far as I can see views like those advanced by The Society appear marginal within the mainstream of Anglicanism in Canada, England, and so forth.

Agreed. But the mainstream of Anglicanism in Canada, England and so forth appears marginal within the mainstream of world Christianity! This isn't to say it's wrong - it's just a simple statement of fact.

> What an interesting telegraphing of sympathies(:

One can't choose one's sympathies. They are usually instinctive. One can, however, choose one's actions, and I've chosen to align myself with "the mainstream of Anglicanism in Canada, England and so forth". That doesn't, however, prevent me from sometimes feeling that I'm out of step with the greater part of the Church throughout the world, and worrying if I'm right to be so.

Posted by Puzzled at Thursday, 6 April 2017 at 11:36am BST

Re: Tim Chesterton, "If you want to avoid being thought of as 'bizarre and eccentric'...don't follow Jesus..." Tim, with a little editing you could fit that on a bumper sticker. ( :

Of course, the world may find us less bizarre if we quit obsessing people's sexuality and put more energy into the Gospel's emphasis on the dispossessed.

Re: puzzled, with reference to "Agreed", you seem to have reluctantly accepted my initial point.

"...mainstream Anglicanism in Canada ...and so forth appears marginal within the mainstream of world Christianity..." I'm unpersuaded it is that one dimensional. One needs to take into account that Christianity in any form is a subculture in many places in the world.

Also continuing with a distinction between what is dominant and what is normative, the child sex abuse scandal is dramatically illustrative. Child sexual abuse was a dominant feature, systemic, historic, and international in scope in the R.C. church, and to some degree remains a stubborn problem to overcome. However it has been soundly and angrily rejected as normative by rank and file Catholics with people leaving the church or otherwise being radically alienated.

A less dramatic example is the role of women in the R.C. Church. Many of my R.C. Catholic family or friends, some practicing, some drop outs for good, refer to attitudes by conservatives as something from "the dark ages". So notions of what is mainstream regarding the church are somewhat precarious.

Besides, Anglicans have been "cut off" from other branches of catholicity long before the ordination of women. I'm thinking, just forget about it.

As for "The Society" it's, identity cards please, which must be carried at all times, and shown to your episcopal overlord when demanded, or it's "no soup for you!". ( My apologies to Seinfeld).

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 6 April 2017 at 7:11pm BST

I can assure "Puzzled" that those of us women who grew up in the Greek Orthodox Church are thoroughly disgusted with the patriarchy. The patriarchy is primitive, chauvinistic, and often ignorant, and Greek women do not line up in support of it. Going to funerals and whatnot, watch the women as we look at each other and roll our eyes together.

As a convert to Anglicanism, I find it bizarre that some Anglicans would rather be in communion with oppressors than half the members of their own church.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 3:04am BST

At Cynthia, "As a convert to Anglicanism, I find it bizarre that some Anglicans would rather be in communion with oppressors than half the members of their own church." Exactly!

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 12:28pm BST
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