Thinking Anglicans

David Edwards defends Europe

Last week the Church Times carried an open letter to the bishops of the Global South from David Edwards. It is now on the web at Europe is not a barren desert.

…the example of insensitivity or ignorance that I find most offensive is your description of Europe as a “spiritual desert”.

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dancingphil
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dancingphil

Does anyone else think this statement rather misses the point? It seems to highlight the differences between the worldviews of David Edwards and those of the Global South. It is a characteristically progressive Anglican piece of reasoning, focusing largely on moral activity as an indicator of spirituality rather than the specifics of professed faith.

Merseymike
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I largely agree with that, although I think he is far too lenient on Rowan Williams, who seems unable to lead, only follow.

The point is that conservative theology tends to be a better fit with pre-modern cultures – I think the death of traditional/conservative Christianity in Europe is something to celebrate, as that must effectively die before something else can emerge to replace it.

There is plenty of interest in spirituality in Europe, and some people manage to find a Christian outlet for that.

Counterlight
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Counterlight

In this age of blood and piety as my country makes a transition from being the world’s first constitutional democracy to being the world’s last (God willing) imperial oligarchy, I can only read this letter with melancholy.

RMF
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RMF

I appreciate the Very Rev.’s letter and sentiment. I hope the Spirit continues to work for good in the Communion and to temper inflamed passions.

I wonder though at the description of Europe as a “laboratory.”
:0

Nitpicky, but hey, what else do I have to do? 🙂

Kurt Hill
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Kurt Hill

Right on, David Edwards!

Columba Gilliss
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Columba Gilliss

Thank you for printing David Edwards article. It is really beautiful and strong.

Ian Montgomery
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Ian Montgomery

Quote: – “The big difference is not that Europeans have ceased to have consciences or souls. It is that they have a more sophisticated awareness of their bodies, with their instincts to explore and compete (look at any sport), and also to express love and to build co-operation in some way that involves sexuality. So Europe is embarked on the discovery of a new morality, as well as a new unity. For example, in Europe, marriage has become a union of equals, attracted and held together by love.” Sounds hyper condescending to me. Spong made remarks at Lambeth 98 with… Read more »

RMF
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RMF

I don’t think some who call themselves “South” can offer a compelling claim to being listened to if they call the “North” (the West, really) decadent, a desert, even evil! What is there to talk about after that? The degree of wickedness? How long we have been wicked? Yikes. That isn’t an offer to converse, that’s a rant. It is sometimes explained away as a “necessary” way of talking and as something worth listening quietly to. WHY? For what do they propose to replace our wickedness with? What institutions, theology, history, polity, laws, traditions, etc? Our histories are wrapped up… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
Guest

I think that much of Europe resembles what +Spong calls the “Church Alumni Association.”

I believe that IF the Church can throw a *festive enough* graduate reunion, many of the alums may well decide to give the Old School another go! 🙂

. . . to do that, it goes without saying, the Church needs to teach (as well as preach) *genuinely* GOOD NEWS (the days of “Believe/profess this, heart&soul, or Go To Hell” are LONG GONE in Europe, and are *never* coming back—Praise Christ!)

Such Good News *is* Anglicanism’s charism . . . if the so-called majority haven’t forgotten it. ;-/

Derek
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Derek

I kind of like the picture of the delegates myself. Let’s see…Global South…those must be the ones from Australia, right…?

Marshall
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Marshall

It’s an interesting article. I don’t think anyone will be swayed to change an opinion, either pro or con. It does, however, highlight two corollary issues that don’t seem to get much attention. The first is the difference between “spirituality” and “religion.” It’s a distinction we focus on and cherish in the industrialized world (I’m tired of West vs. South, since some North and East folks have to be in there somewhere)and especially the parts with roots in English Common Law, and may not be a common discussion in other parts of the world. By the same token, we cherish… Read more »

steven
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steven

Dancingphil is right. This is just more of the same ol’ same ol’–and not particularly creative at that. Europe is being criticized for a lack of real spirituality, i.e., Christian spirituality. The fact that other “spiritualities” abound in Europe (as they did prior to the Christian era) is no indication of a garden any more than a profusion of weeds is an indication of a garden. At present Europe is partly barren ground (atheism, secularism), partly weeds (false spiritualities), and partly flowers and tended ground. The latter are the remnant of its once great Christian religious institutions, devotion and faith.… Read more »

Dave
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Dave

David Edwards’ article is a elequent rendition of some of the liberal arguements extended by some TA contributors.. and fails at the usual hurdles. For instance he writes: “You say that such partnerships illustrate “the severing of the grace of Christ from his moral commandments”, but you cannot quote a single reference to this issue in the Gospels.” As if the rest of the New Testament is irrelevant to Christian morality. He parallels human rights (of women etc) with his perceived rights for people to have same-sex sex. He rejects morality based on God’s perceptions of right and wrong, and… Read more »

Neil
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Neil

the example of insensitivity or ignorance that I find most offensive is your description of Europe as a “spiritual desert”

Today we clutch at straws and wrap up superstition as some virtuous expression of spirituality – yet the sort of stuff at the end of Isaiah 8 leads to the diagnosis that the people are walking in darkness in 9:2.

I wonder if Israel thought that was offensive?

Christopher Calderhead
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Christopher Calderhead

Hey, I *like* 60s architecture.

RMF
Guest
RMF

I don’t blame Edwards for some word choices that may not be as effective as they could be, but I do commend him for showing a sensitivity to his neighbors and their situations, for trying to conceptualize the challenges his church faces in proclaiming the Good News. We must do a better job of proclaiming the Good News and helping others come to the transformative grace and love of the Lord, no question. This is a challenge that is renewed and engaged by every generation. Will “Repent you fools!” do the job? Will the hearer discern the Lord through this?… Read more »

Counterlight
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Counterlight

I agree with JC Fisher above.
God does not run a protection racket. “Believe this, this, and that, and THIS won’t happen to you,” is a sales pitch for the Gambino family “business”, not a proclamation of the Good News of the Cross.
After more than 2 centuries of ferocious religious warfare, nationalist, ideological, and tribal movements that shed rivers of blood, and attempting suicide twice in 2 world wars, is it any wonder that Europe today would give both dogmatic religion and ideological politics the heave ho out the door?

Merseymike
Guest

We must live in a different world, Dave. I would rather live today that at any other time in the past. I think your idea of ‘something better’ would be very different to mine.

J. C. Fisher
Guest

“He parallels human rights (of women etc) with his perceived rights…”

Dave, *every* consensus “human right” was once poo-poo’d as merely a “perceived right” (at first perceived only by the class being denied the rights).

However, as humanity (led by God’s grace) has come to more expansive definitions of “human rights”, the poo-poo got flushed. May it ever be—-and “Repent!” back atcha ;-p

Dave
Guest
Dave

JCF wote; “*every* consensus “human right” was once poo-poo’d as merely a “perceived right” (at first perceived only by the class being denied the rights). Dear JCF, I disagree with your thinking… “human rights” are meant to be universal – not class specific ! I think you have the US’s womens’s lib and racial equality struggles in mind. But in the list of human rights from the United Nations General Assembly’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights we are all included in the term “Everyone” – the US just took a while to play catch-up ! 1. All human beings are… Read more »

Marshall
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Marshall

Dave wrote: “human rights” are meant to be universal – not class specific ! My experience, though, and observation of history is that bias and discrimination are class specific: indeed, it is those who choose to discriminate who establish the class by choosing those characteristics against which they discriminate. So, the argument for civil rights for people of color and for the rights of women were never about special rights. They were about allowing those classes to participate in rights that were supposed to be universal. Society often fails to respect human rights, and usually because the person disciminated against… Read more »

Merseymike
Guest

No, Dave, morality has precisely nothing to do with what you or anyone else claims God to have supposedly said.

Morality should not be confused with religious dogma, and as Richard Holloway realised, should indeed be godless in terms of the law.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Merseymike
What is it that makes you think that premodern is intrinsically worse than modern? (Something called chronological snobbery by CS Lewis.) This is something that should (don’t you think?) be decided on a case-by-case basis. Unless you think that we are evolving towards utopia?
Something fully confirmed by the direction/trajectory of the crime, divorce, abortion etc figures in the past 40 years. Utopia: here we come.

Merseymike
Guest

Ah well, CS Lewis was wrong on that, as on just about everything else.

Yes, I do believe that humanity is evolving and that modernity is equivalent to progress.

Of course, you could instead opt for a society with few choices or possibilities, hence less risks and no development. It is that sort of society in which your sort of Christianity can advance most readily ; those who have advanced further regard it as irrelevant at best, simply wrong more frequently.

steven
Guest
steven

Well, Merseymike, we can only hope (from both sides) that us “less advanced” thinkers will soon be free to be ourselves, leaving you “more advanced” thinkers free to be yourselves. That is something that I would count as REAL progress in the current situation. As for the ultimate questions, I trust in God’s judgment when it comes to determining who is actually “advanced” and who is not. And, I must assume that you will do the same.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Merseymike-
‘CS Lewis was wrong on that,as on just about everything else’:

Granted that you are in a position to stand above him and judge him, how do your credentials compare with his?

steven
Guest
steven

Christopher:

Good point.

Merseymike:

“Ah well, CS Lewis was wrong on that, as on just about everything else.”

C’mon–you’ve got nothing to gain and everything to lose with both liberals and conservatives by taking on one of the icons of Anglicanism across the board. You should’ve restricted your criticism to particular points of disagreement–you’d be on safer grounds with your own allies (and traditionalists wouldn’t expect anything else from you anyhow). But–“wrong on just about everything”?–sheeesh! Bad move.

Steven

Merseymike
Guest

That comment was meant to be slightly tongue-in-cheek (its called irony).

Must say, can’t bear Lewis’ writing, though.

Merseymike
Guest

Steven ; I think I’d rather use my brain – this passive view of let big-daddy-God decide is so very medieval!

steven
Guest
steven

Merseymike:

Re: “Passive View”–hmm. As far as I’m concerned, I was merely stating a fact. We do our thing down here, but God is the ultimate arbiter and judge of whether we did the right thing. There is nothing Medieval about that. Seems like Christianity 101 to me.

Steven