Comments: Opinion - 29 July 2017

After looking at Henry Ratter's piece in "Church Times", I'd recommend reading Angela Tilby's column this week, also in "Church Times". It reads like a response, and I and many other clergy will warm to Tilby more than Ratter, I suspect.

Posted by Shamus at Saturday, 29 July 2017 at 12:05pm BST

As is often the case, Ian Paul nails it with this observation: "Trying to appease both ends of the debate actually ends up alienating everyone -- and fosters a deep sense of suspicion."

I disagree, however, that the archbishops committing unambiguously to church teaching would solve anything. Advocates of change would fight just as hard, if not harder. Evangelicals keep calling for a reaffirmation of orthodoxy, but even if they got their wish, it's simply impractical.

If there's truly no compromise that all parties can live with, schism's inevitable. If so, let's face it head-on, and work to make it as amicable as possible.

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 29 July 2017 at 1:58pm BST

Thanks for giving us the link to George Reeves Peter.

Posted by Perry Butler at Saturday, 29 July 2017 at 2:54pm BST

Predictably, Ian Paul wants everyone - including the archbishops - to think like him. Granted, that would make life neat and tidy. It would also be a travesty of truth, grace and justice. I would rather have the muddled nonsense of last Thursday (unacceptable as it was), because it provides an opportunity for debate, reflection and prayer; rather than the tribal certainties of Ian Paul, who naively believes his way of reading of Scripture provides an unambiguous revelation of the will of God.

Posted by Paul Swales at Saturday, 29 July 2017 at 7:29pm BST

Summer Reading: a very good list, but I would add Anita Mason's The Illusionist about the NT church and what must be the greatest Anglican novel of the 20th c, Rose Macaulay's The Towers of Trebizond - both profound and funny in their distinct ways.

Posted by Judith Maltby at Saturday, 29 July 2017 at 10:21pm BST

Ah yes, Judith Maltby - I was just about to chip in with The Towers of Trebizond: an Anglican cult-classic if ever there was one!

Posted by rjb at Sunday, 30 July 2017 at 11:41am BST

And since it is 2017, best ever novel about the early English reformation - and maybe best historical novel full stop - Man on a Donkey by HMF Prescott. This is so much more fun than church politics!

Posted by Judith Maltby at Sunday, 30 July 2017 at 5:23pm BST

The idea that in 2017 the Church of England could be _starting_ a "teaching document", due in 2020, and not look ridiculous would be amusing were it not so serious. By 2020, same-sex couples who took out civil partnerships will be celebrating their 15th anniversaries; those that waited for marriage will be deciding what to do for their sixth anniversary. It'll be a completely dead issue, like the Schleswig-Holstein Question. And every year that goes by, elderly homophobes are dying and young people are staying away from an organisation that holds their gay friends in open contempt. The CofE is going to turn into the BNP: a toxic organisation whose membership will be, perhaps unfairly but based on the pronouncements of its leadership reasonable, assumed to be bigots.

2020? How hard is it to just realise the time for debate is over?

Posted by Interested Observer at Sunday, 30 July 2017 at 6:43pm BST

Quite agree with Judith. Maltby about The Man on a Donkey. Essential reading.

Posted by +Jonathan at Sunday, 30 July 2017 at 10:01pm BST

My prognosis isn't as bleak as Interested Observer's, 'cause I don't believe that society's near as affirming as it appears (just this past week, the POTUS kicked trans people out the U.S. military with a tweet), and even if it were, most people appear wholly uninterested in the church. The Catholic Church continues to bar women from her priesthood with barely a murmur: if it weren't for the horror show of clerical abuse and cover-up, it would've ticked along as before.

Change must come from within.

That's why the CoE's on borrowed time, even if it's a few years longer than 2020. Internal opposition can't be silenced as easily as in the Catholic Church, and since the church isn't hermetically sealed, increased social affirmation's reflected within. If the church doesn't change, then it'll split.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 30 July 2017 at 11:16pm BST

It is many years since I read Rose Macaulay's classic novel of 1956 "The Towers of Trebizond" with its wonderful opening line
"'Take my camel, dear', said Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal after returning from High Mass." Beautifully written with superb characters like Dorothea ffoulkes-Corbett and Father Hugh Chantry-Pigg.
Currently Asia-Minor is very much in need of another Aunt Dot whose mission was to emancipate the women of Turkey by converting them to Anglicanism.
Alas the poor long-suffering camel isn't named in the novel but is described as an "unconcerned Moslem" it has one big hump so therefore a Dromedary.
The other day I came across the Bishop of Liverpool's Twitter and noticed with interest that his logo was of a porcine bishop, dressed in chasuble and mitre, giving a blessing and riding upon a camel! I can't be certain but the equestrian creature has tusks so it looks to me like a wild boar.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 31 July 2017 at 6:44am BST

May I put in a word for Robertson Davies' Salterton and Cornish trilogies?

Posted by Caelius Spinator at Monday, 31 July 2017 at 8:43am BST

Summer reading? Q, by 'Luther Blissett'. Sweeping novel of the reformation. The authors are an anonymous Italian anarchist collective who borrowed the name from a Watford footballer! The story told is amazing, centering on the conflict between a Protestant intriguer and a Papist spy and takes the reader from the battle fields of the German wars, through the siege of Munster to the heart of Rome and ends in exile in Turkey drinking coffee, the new social drink.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Monday, 31 July 2017 at 9:02am BST

"just this past week, the POTUS"

Once you start using Donald Trump as a litmus paper for the centre of gravity of British thinking, you are on pretty sketchy ground.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 31 July 2017 at 6:10pm BST

James Byron - for once we agree :-)

Posted by RevDave at Monday, 31 July 2017 at 6:26pm BST

Auberon Waugh's Consider the Lilies is great fun.

Posted by Perry Butler at Monday, 31 July 2017 at 8:48pm BST

Interested Observer: I'm using Trump's order as evidence that Western society's not near as enlightened on this matter as some may think. The President stripped away rights from trans people with a few taps of a smartphone, and it's already slid down the news cycle.

There was close to zero public pressure in Britain to introduce legal equality, let alone social acceptance: it came first 'cause the British government lost a series of court rulings in Europe, then 'cause it proved politically useful for Labour to brand the Conservative Party as bigots. Did a majority of British citizens suddenly develop empathy for LGBT people at the turn of the century? No. They just went with the flow. If equality were reversed tomorrow, most wouldn't even notice, let alone fight it.

Society won't save the church from itself, and if we ever forget that most people simply don't care, gains can be reversed in a heartbeat. Just ask those trans soldiers awaiting their discharge papers.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 31 July 2017 at 11:37pm BST

How about Iris Murdoch's "The Bell"?

Posted by rjb at Tuesday, 1 August 2017 at 9:47am BST

Re "Summer Reading", I'm up to Chapter two of Sarah Coakley's, The New Asceticism which I picked up thanks to TA. The book is formidable in its erudition and yet refreshing as a summer breeze. Hopefully before summer ends I will be able to tackle responses to Coakley's work in, Sarah Coakley and the Future of Systematic Theology.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 1 August 2017 at 1:50pm BST

I think there is a lot in what James Byron says.

Posted by Laurie Roberts at Tuesday, 1 August 2017 at 4:03pm BST

On comments by James Byron and Interested Observer, I think it's true to say that at least on trans people (which was the example James Byron gave) there is a lack of widespread concern or pressure.

Most of you will know that a few weeks ago the General Synod vote on conversion therapy was changed during the debate to focus only on therapies which sought to change sexual orientation, and not on therapies which pathologise those who identify as trans, intersex, or non-binary. The effect of this change was to exclude the well-being of trans people from the final motion.

I thought this was very disappointing (and wrote a couple of comments to this effect on this website). Prompted I think by Christina Beardsley, Thinking Anglicans subsequently posted a link to a very good article critiquing this omission by Karen Pollock, on 22nd July, much more eloquently than I could.

But it is striking that (as of today, 1st August) Karen Pollock's post has garnered no comments whatsoever on Thinking Anglicans. It was a good article on a real issue of social justice, which elicited no response. Does the lack of response mean that the typical reader and contributor to Thinking Anglicans (with noble exceptions who know who they are!) simply does not care very much about trans people??

I'm not trying to make an easy, facile, or self-righteous point. But when General Synod failed to pass a motion to protect trans people from abusive therapy, where was the outrage - other than from trans people themselves - from the rest of us ? (I include myself in that failure to speak and act.)

And if that is true for the (presumably) liberal and 'inclusive' minded readers of this website, what does that say about wider society?

Note to self going forward: must do better.

Posted by Revd Dr Charles Clapham at Tuesday, 1 August 2017 at 7:08pm BST

"The President stripped away rights from trans people with a few taps of a smartphone...Just ask those trans soldiers awaiting their discharge papers"

This is slightly besides the point, but no he didn't, and no they aren't. This is as much about the utter chaos of Trump as reality, and the military themselves are essentially ignoring it:

More detail here:

and as McCain is currently the most powerful man in American politics, having killed one of Trump's key policies stone dead to applause from both sides of the divide, his condemnation of this is pretty much a death blow for Trump's "bigotry by text" stuff.

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 1 August 2017 at 7:35pm BST

The pertinent thing, Interested Observer, was that Trump felt able to send the tweets, and the relatively muted reception they received. Society will accept it, however grudgingly.

Since the military obeys the chain of command, it'll await orders through the correct channels: they're not ignoring the commander in chief, who they've sworn to obey. If they don't discharge trans personnel (and I of course hope they don't), it'll be down to a change in policy or a court order.

Well said, Rev. Dr. Clapham: personally, I hadn't read the change in detail, and should've done so more closely. I certainly include myself in my comments about society. A few exceptional people aside, we're all prone to this, and must constantly guard against it. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 1 August 2017 at 10:33pm BST

'The pertinent thing, Interested Observer, was that Trump felt able to send the tweets'

Trump feels able to send all kinds of tweets that turn out to be manifest nonsense.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 2 August 2017 at 1:56am BST

Trump tweets should not be dismissed as mere nonsense. Trump openly practices the politics of scapegoating. Even if the ban on transgender people in the U.S. military does not eventually become policy and come down the chain of command, and there is no safe bet that it will not, serious damage has already been done. Anyone concerned about civil and human rights should be very concerned.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 2 August 2017 at 2:37pm BST

Exactly, Rod.

Complacency got Trump into 1600 Pennsylvania. It's not really about the Don. He's just the figurehead for millions thrown on the scrapheap by neoliberalism, who're being duped into scapegoating minorities for the crimes of robber barons. We underestimate regressive populism at our peril.

Britain, where millions voted to endanger the national economy out of hatred for immigrants, where millions voted for a party that drives disabled people to suicide, is as vulnerable to these forces as anywhere. To assume that the majority are too decent and empathetic to fall under these dark spells is dangerous beyond the telling of it.

The church isn't worse than the rest of society: it just picks different targets. Acknowledging our flaws is the first, crucial step to fighting them.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 2 August 2017 at 9:23pm BST

Re James Byron,"Britain, where millions voted to endanger the national economy...." etc.

Yep, chaos in the White house, and Chaos in the UK where Tories shot themselves and the country in both feet. Problem is, with dysfunction in two major democracies that appear to be in decline, leaves the rest of us with a real bad powder burn as well.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 3 August 2017 at 2:01am BST
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