Comments: Opinion - 3 January 2018

Martin's reference to 'retrospective re-attribution' is thought-provoking in another context, as one of the comments below the article touches upon:

If we believe people can suffer from 'retrospective re-attribution' then what about the Scriptures themselves? Are the Gospel writers retrospectively re-interpreting events that occurred long ago? Are the quotes of OT scriptures in the Christian narrative a retrospective re-attribution of the original texts of 100's of years ago, themselves the accounts of believed events 100's of years before even those OT texts?

What are the limits of unconscious fabrication in the development (over the years) of religious narrative?

Did Noah really exist and save a mass extinction with his ark? Are the foundation myths of Israel reliable fact?

Was the enigma who was Jesus fully understood, verbatim, by his followers?

'Retrospective re-attribution’ may not only relate to abuse survivors.

For example, as a trans woman, I'm well aware of a tendency that exists among some trans people to try to make sense of life events by 'recalling' the past and providing childhood narratives that may or may not include unconscious fabrication.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 3 January 2018 at 12:24pm GMT

Martin Sewell fillets the Church of England’s response to the Carlile Report.

His summation is acute: “If I were a member of clergy I would be looking at this case and asking myself a simple question. Do I trust these people to get it right if I am unjustly accused?”

This question is more dire for members of the laity. The Church of England says that it will accord to its clergy a presumption of innocence. The Church accords no such presumption to lay people.

Posted by Jeremy at Wednesday, 3 January 2018 at 1:06pm GMT

Re Martin Sewell, "I don’t imagine there are many members of the House of Bishops who are aficionados of American sports, but some might relate to the words of ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky...."

Hockey is a Canadian Sport. Number 99 Wayne Gretzky is one of Canada's greatest hockey players. Mr. Sewell is in the penalty box, 2 minutes for misinformation.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 3 January 2018 at 4:14pm GMT

I hope the Powers That Be are taking notice of Martin Sewell's contributions. If so, they will be re-thinking their response to the Carlile Report, and organising extensive further training for the National Safeguarding Team. That's a big IF, though,

Posted by Janet Fife at Wednesday, 3 January 2018 at 5:14pm GMT

This further, informed and penetrating analysis by Martin Sewell (retired child protection lawyer and lay member of General Synod) on the Archbishop Cranmer blog, provides yet another reason why a substantial debate on the Carlile Report, its ramifications for the Church of England and its National Safeguarding Team, and the public episcopal statements made in response to Carlile, should be added to the agenda at General Synod in February.

Posted by David Lamming at Wednesday, 3 January 2018 at 5:54pm GMT

Thank you, James Cameron for sense about old buildings and their contribution to heritage as well as the sense of place. So agree with your comments re DUP funding and aimless Brexit expenditure!

Posted by John Wallace at Wednesday, 3 January 2018 at 7:50pm GMT

Rod Gillis, ice hockey originated in Canada, but Americans have played it in college and professionally for around a century.

Susannah Clark, I always find your comments full of insight. Your comments and questions about the Bible and "retrospective re-attribution" (I think George Orwell would have loved that phrase) are spot on.
Regarding Noah, it's quite possible a local flood became part of a tribe's folk memory, and when that tribe became part of a larger group, that flood memory entered into the group's origin stories. I see a lot of both the Jewish and Christian Scriptures (Old and New Testaments) as containing allegory and uses of the divine to explain natural events. Genesis chapter one is a masterful attempt by a pre-scientific people to explain Earth’s origins.
As another example, any number of historians have noted that"ms(s)" is a quite common suffix in ancient Egyptian names, and that the Biblical explanation of Moses' name is a stretch. So, was Moses a disgruntled Egyptian prince who saw a chance to help slaves escape and become their leader?
If memory can become clouded over years or decades, what about hundreds of years?
I firmly believe Jesus of Nazareth existed. I doubt the miracles, but the miracles could have been meant allegorically, to show Jesus was greater than anyone the Gospel writers had ever met. There’s a passage in Acts where a member pf the Sanhedrin explains to his fellow members that if this new sect is of God, it will survive, if it is not of God, it will not. I refuse to believe a religion that’s been around for almost 2,000 years was founded on a total myth. Something major happened in that locked room after Jesus' execution that galvanized his followers. But, in my opinion, there was a revolution in thought around Jesus between the time of the writing of St. Paul’s letters and St. John’s gospel.
I just wish that certain Christians would apply that Sanhedrin member’s test to the Jews -- and leave us alone.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Wednesday, 3 January 2018 at 10:26pm GMT

Re Peterpi, "ice hockey originated in Canada, but Americans have played it in college and professionally for around a century."

I know all about it. If Mr. Sewell had simply left out the adjective 'American' I would have let it go. But describing hockey as an 'American' sport to an English audience and using the 'Great One' as an example is just not cricket.

Besides, it leaves his opening argument vulnerable. He hands some quick witted C of E bishop (I understand there are several) the chance to pick up a rebound. ( :

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 4 January 2018 at 12:18am GMT

Susannah, on your last point, s9 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 explicitly enshrines retrospective-reattribution into the law. It expressly doesn't change what happened but tells us how we are to remember what happened.

As to the Gospels, would Jesus be willing to suffer the agony of the cross but not leave us reliable Scripture to understand his teaching? If Our Lord had reservations about the written record which would become the Gospels, surely he would have called a scribe to be one of the Disciples? As with s9 of the Gender Recognition Act, I suggest that the Gospels are the record the Lord wants us to have, and that the question of historical accuracy is irrelevant.

Similarly, while Jesus taught alternative interpretations of the Law, he didn't challenge the stories of the prophets and patriarchs which are the bedrock on which the Law rests. Again, if the Old Testament (as it existed around 30AD) is not substantially the record the Lord wants us to have (whether or not it includes retrospective-reattribution), why didn't Jesus address that in His teaching?

So, an historian, can definitely ask whether the Bible contains retrospect-reattribution but I suggest for a Christian that's not a meaningful question.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 4 January 2018 at 2:07am GMT

Rod Gillis, peterpi at the risk of being shot down in flames. Canada is part of the continent of North America but is its own country. America is not synonymous with the USA.

Posted by Priscila White at Thursday, 4 January 2018 at 11:27am GMT

Re: Priscilla White, Canadians are not Americans. I think it was Mountbatten who once said that he thought of Canadian soldiers as Americans in British uniforms. My sonny man!

While Hockey is a world wide (and Olympic) sport, it is Canada's national sport. We call it 'the game' here. Mr. Gretsky is a Canadian born and raised hockey icon and member of the Order of Canada.

Mr. Sewell uses the American turn of phrase 'ice hockey'. In Canada its just 'hockey'. Where else would you play it except on ice? Well, perhaps off season one plays 'road hockey' i.e. hockey played on your street using a ball instead of a puck.

If Mr. Sewell can't get his sports trivia correct, how can we trust the more weighty research in the balance of his article? You know, in the spirit of Luke 10:16. ( :

No need to shoot anyone down in flames. (Calgary Flames --a great team!). Only Americans would call a hockey team 'The Ducks'.

I'm a die hard Montreal Canadiens fan;but when the Habs are not on the ice, I cheer for the Boston Bruins. Some of the best Canadian stars have been in their line up.

Despite his opening cultural faux pas, I appreciated Martin Sewell's article on The Bell business. Alas, I suspect the C of E spin machine will simply stick handle around it.


Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 4 January 2018 at 2:30pm GMT

If we might leave ice-based sports and their provenance for a moment...

I think the Martin Sewell article is very good. The problem is that there is a pendulum effect, in which the attitudes of the 1980s (that institutions are honourable, office-holders honest and qualified professionals free from malice, and therefore all complaints can be dismissed out of hand) have resulted in a general suspicion of institutions and a self-flagellation within those institutions. George Carey may be right in his defence of the memory of Bell; George Carey was utterly wrong in his defence of Peter Ball, and his recent Christmas round-robin shows he doesn't even understand why. It is because Peter Ball was defended by his mates in the CofE that there will be scepticism of those same people defending someone else. Yes, that's unfair. It is, however, understandable.

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 4 January 2018 at 3:09pm GMT

And on the history of hockey: The Great One played professionally more seasons in the United States than in Canada (minor league in Indianapolis, and then in Los Angeles and St. Louis). I still would think first of his best days with the Oilers.

The roots of hockey, like so many other sports, seem to precede significant colonization of North America. That said, there is no place it is treasured, as near as I can tell, more than in Canada.

That said, having lived in Michigan, where hockey is much more important as a youth sport than football, hockey seems to be appreciated anywhere that the weather would provide enough ice. (And this from a fan of curling. Yes, I'm proud of the American team; but let's face it, watching the Canadians play is a lot more exciting.)

Posted by Marshall Scott at Thursday, 4 January 2018 at 3:09pm GMT

Re:Interested Observer, "The problem is that there is a pendulum effect...."

Gillis in nets here ...I think the problem is that grave diggers used to run the world. Currently, the world is run by insurance vendors.

In the Canadian Church, for example, insurance vendors are able to get clergy and parishes to expend huge resources and conform to policy in a way that bishops in the past could only dream about.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 4 January 2018 at 5:21pm GMT

"a general suspicion of institutions and a self-flagellation within those institutions"

Interested Observer, I'm not sure you've correctly captured what Lord Carlile has described.

I don't think the Church of England's press release about Bishop Bell was self-flagellation. I think it was an affirmative use of someone else--conveniently dead--as a scapegoat, in order to preserve the Church's reputation. This would be the very opposite of institutional self-flagellation.

(By the way, Kant would have much to say about the ethics of using people, alive or dead, in this manner.)

We can have our different understandings of the strength or weakness of the specific allegations against Bishop Bell.

But in general, if the Church baselessly besmirches someone else, then an outcry should result.

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 4 January 2018 at 6:09pm GMT

TA sometimes gets up itself a bit, so it's a joy to read the hockey stuff. My contribution to this weighty matter is to remind readers of Homer Simpson's advice to Lisa when trying to dissuade her from playing hockey: "Lisa, if the Bible has taught us nothing else, and it hasn't, it's that girls should stick to girls' sports, such as hot-oil wrestling, foxy boxing, and such-and-such." Spot on, I think.

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse at Thursday, 4 January 2018 at 7:56pm GMT

Yes, Jeremy, you are right: in this case, it's scapegoating rather than self-flagellation, because to the people making the accusation Bell wasn't "the institution" he was "the past". I stand corrected.

I think my general point holds, however. The response of large institutions a generation ago to criticism, all criticism, was denial and chest-puffing outrage. How can priests be abusers? How can teachers be sadists? How can doctors be incompetent? How many scandals of the past twenty years have at their root an assumption that the right sort of chaps know best, and that the reputation of the institution or the profession is more important than a few bad eggs? Whether it's schools run by sadists, congregations beset by abusers or doctors who don't know their limits (Bristol paediatric heart surgery, for younger readers), institutions refused to be self-reflective.

Now they jump at shadows, and refuse to defend even the utterly blameless. Yes, you're right to say that Bell is perhaps a bad example for this in action, but I think my general point stands: the institutions are now gunshy, and unwilling to assert their bona fides. Twenty years ago no-one was guilty. Now everyone is. Both are bad positions.

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 4 January 2018 at 8:45pm GMT

Re: Stanley Monkhouse, I think your post is clearly the overtime shootout winner. lol!

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 5 January 2018 at 3:41am GMT

Thank you Colin, for your New Year reflection about letting ourselves open more to God, and to love, and to our wholeness - a wholeness that can be scary. I found your whole article inspiring.

"New Year Resolutions express some hope that we will move in some way more deeply into ourselves." Yes. Not introspectively, but in the lives we live. In the reaching out as well as the reaching in. And yet God *does* dwell within, and knocks on the many locked doors of our hearts and minds and souls. And too often, we dwell without. We dwell outside our true best selves, and our lives that could be lived with the God who dwells within us, waiting patiently for us, inviting us to open up and share company and share journey.

This is my last post here at Thinking Anglicans until at least January 2020. It is time for me to go on retreat. I share fellowship with the Sisters at Fairacres - and commend them to you all - and I'm going there to prepare for retreat.

After that I'll be in 'radio silence' I suppose you could call it. It's time to just be available.

At the heart of contemplation, is not a clever technique, but a life lived in sharing, and waiting, and availability. It's about God's choice, not our own 'cunning plans' to access spiritual experiences. Nor is it all about sitting in a chapel and meditating. Contemplation invades. It invades our daily mundane lives. Our part is to be available, whatever we believe we are called to do.

At its heart is sharing - the sharing of God's consciousness, awareness, love, with ourselves - and sharing it with others. Sometimes we need to go deep in that journey. A kind of burial in the love of God.

Otherwise, it is so easy for our batteries to run down: to be so busy and doing, that we lose touch in some ways with God and with ourselves... to find ourselves outside ourselves again.

May the grace and blessing of God - our amazing, wonderful, loving God - be with you all, and those you love. Sometimes we see openings on our journeys, and as Colin writes, the 'what lies beyond' (and within) beckons.

And people cry out for comfort.

And Love never ends.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 5 January 2018 at 9:54am GMT

Re: Susannah Clark, may you have a restorative and Spirit filled contemplative journey.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 5 January 2018 at 3:24pm GMT

You will be missed greatly, Susannah, as will your consistently graceful and incisive contributions: I can but wish you the best of retreats, and hope that it's all it can be for you.

All my best, in friendship, James.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 5 January 2018 at 10:40pm GMT

May I also thank Susannah Clark for her posts, with the hope that you will be called to post again in the future.

Posted by Joan Rasch at Monday, 8 January 2018 at 2:58am GMT
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