Thinking Anglicans

Faith in Conflict conference

The Faith in Conflict conference “Finding Better Ways to Handle Conflict in the Church” was held in Coventry Cathedral this week.

The Archbishop of Canterbury gave this address at the closing Eucharist.

The cathedral website has links to some of the other addresses. At present these are available.

The Exasperating Patience of God Sam Wells audio | text
Bill Marsh interviews the Revd Tory Baucum and Bishop Shannon Johnston audio
The Habits of Conflict Resilience Jo Bailey Wells audio | text

Advance publicity included the conference website and this page on the cathedral website.


Women Bishops Consultation – response by Jonathan Clatworthy

Another excellent response to the consultation (which has a deadline of today “if possible”) comes from Jonathan Clatworthy.

See How we argue about women bishops.

This is a personal statement but the main points aim to express the theological tradition of Modern Church, which has supported the ordination of women since the 1920s. I support a simple measure which removes the obstacles to the consecration of women on exactly the same terms as men.

The focus is on how to handle the theological disagreements.

No legislation will last long unless it is both self-consistent and theologically coherent. Legislation containing contradictions will fail the test of time, however strong the short-term pressure for fudge.

Currently there is no genuine theological debate between the two sides. This is partly because of the polarisation of views, but also largely because there is no agreement on how to do our theological disagreeing. It is an epistemological issue rather than a theological one…


Archbishop of Canterbury announces new Chaplain

Press release from Lambeth Palace
Thursday 28th February 2013

Archbishop of Canterbury announces new Chaplain

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is delighted to announce the appointment of the Reverend Dr Jo Bailey Wells as his new Chaplain, based at Lambeth Palace. Her primary focus will be for the spiritual life at Lambeth Palace and for supporting the Archbishop’s pastoral and liturgical ministry.

Speaking about her new position, Dr Jo Bailey Wells said:

“I am honoured and delighted to be joining Archbishop Justin’s team at Lambeth as he takes on a heavy but exciting mantle. I look forward to supporting him personally and pastorally – above all by praying for his flourishing in that role – and so to facilitating the wider flourishing of God’s people in God’s church.”

The Reverend Dr Jo Bailey Wells was ordained in 1995. Her ministry thus far has focused on nurturing faith, mentoring vocations teaching Old Testament and training leadership – in Cambridge, in the United States and in South Sudan. Previous positions include Dean of Clare College Cambridge and most recently Director of the Anglican Episcopal House of Studies at Duke Divinity School in North Carolina. She holds degrees from Cambridge, Minnesota and Durham and has written two books, God’s Holy People (Sheffield: 2000) and Isaiah: A Devotional Commentary for Study and Preaching (BRF: 2006).

Speaking about her appointment, the Archbishop said:

“Jo is an outstanding speaker, scholar and pastor, with a very wide experience of the Anglican world. I am delighted that she has been agreed to come and work with me at Lambeth.”


Committee scrutinises Marriage bill clause by clause

Updated to include links to Thursday debates

On Tuesday the Public Bill Committee resumed its examination of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. It also met on Thursday of this week.

A large number of amendments have now been filed, see the list as of Tuesday morning starting here, or there is a convenient PDF file of them.

Additional amendments were filed during Tuesday, see here, or PDF over here.

Update Amendment list as of Thursday morning, or as a PDF document.

On Tuesday the committee concluded its deliberations on Clause 1, without agreeing any amendments to it. There was however a lot of discussion about the exact position of the Church of England.

To read the full record of the Tuesday debate:

Links for Thursday:

Clause 2 amendments were debated but none were adopted.

A large number of written submissions to the committee have now been published. This page contains links to all of them. Some of them have been linked previously.

Several of the new ones are from names familiar to readers of this website:
Erika Baker
Bishop Alan Wilson
Canon Rosie Harper

And there several other contributions from Church of England clergy but only one other from a bishop: Bishop Frank White.

This one is from the Mothers’ Union.

There is also a submission from the Quakers and another from the Unitarians.

The submission from the Roman Catholic bishops has been linked here earlier, but is now also available on the parliamentary website.

And then there is Professor Julian Rivers.


Bishop Alan Wilson's Marriage Equality Postbag

The Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, reported a couple of weeks ago on the reactions to his recent public statements.

See My Marriage Equality Postbag.

Read it all but I particularly liked this bit:

One lay comment sticks in my mind. The gentleman pointed out that a positive sense about homosexuality has been building in British society since the 1920’s. The resulting tsunami arrived in the 1990’s in the fields of education, culture media and sport, public life, the law, the military (in which he had been a senior officer), the police. In each of these areas of national life the overwhelming, when it came, was sudden and, surprisingly, almost entirely benign. The Church had parked itself in a siding in the 1990’s, and everyone else, as he put it, was somewhere round Birmingham by now.

The bishops, I was told, had simply taken the easiest way out — try to agree with everyone as much as possible, make generally safe noises about change, be nice to individual gay people whilst constructing fences against their full acceptance, humour reactionaries under a banner of inclusivity, generally treating past certainties as though they still applied as much as possible. As a military man he could say you cannot run any institution, least of all a Church, on niceness, evasion, pusillanimity, cowardice and hypocrisy. That’s one military view, anyway.


Bishop of Sheffield writes about the Kenyan ordination

The Diocese of Sheffield has issued this press release: A statement from the Bishop of Sheffield on the Ordination in Kenya of Pete Jackson.

The Bishop of Sheffield today issued the following statement on the Ordination in Kenya of Pete Jackson:

“On Sunday 10th February I received a short note informing me that Pete Jackson had been ordained in Kenya the previous day to serve the Church plant in Walkley in Sheffield. This news was a complete surprise.

“In 2003, Christ Church Fulwood planted a new church, Christ Church Central, in the centre of the city led by the Revd. Tim Davies. Despite extensive discussions, the plant could not be contained within the legal structures of the Church of England.

“The Diocese of Sheffield has a strong commitment to mission, to evangelism and to church planting of all kinds. Shortly after I became Bishop in 2009, I invited the community of Christ Church Central to explore with me the possibility of making a Bishop’s Mission Order to regularize their life once again within the Diocese of Sheffield and the Church of England. After careful consideration, this offer was declined by Christ Church Central because of alleged wider differences between Christ Church Central and the Church of England.

“In 2012, Christ Church Central established a new church plant, Christ Church Walkley, with the support of Christ Church, Fulwood. This new plant was established with no consultation with the Diocese or with St. Mary’s Walkley, the local parish. Although there has been some local contact between St. Mary’s Walkley and the new plant, no-one in the Diocese was given any notification of the plans to ordain Pete Jackson in Kenya on 9th February.

“I will be entering into correspondence in the next few weeks with the various parties involved in the decision to ordain Pete Jackson in this way to explore their motives and reasons for acting in the way that they have. I will also be making contact with the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd. Eliud Wabukala and with Pete himself.

“As a diocese we are particularly concerned to offer our support and prayers to the parish of St. Mary’s Walkley who quite understandably have found these developments unsettling. Bishop Peter will be present with them on Sunday 3rd March. We also hold the Revd. Pete Jackson and Christ Church Walkley in our prayers. We know that neither community will be helped by being the focus of an ongoing wider controversy.

“As a diocese we continue in our commitment to mission, to the making of disciples and to joyful and creative church planting within the order and polity of the Church of England.”

+Steven Sheffield
26th February, 2013.


Women Bishops Consultation – response by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes

Miranda Threlfall-Holmes has written this excellent response to the Consultation document on women bishops legislation.

Schrodinger’s Cat Theology? Response to Women Bishops Consultation


Love’s Dart to the Heart

Luke’s story of the Pharisees warning Jesus about Herod depicts Jesus as being particularly tenacious and heartbreakingly poignant.

To repaint the scene, some Pharisees warn Jesus to leave the area because Herod is out to get him. This seems to be out of genuine concern (we’re not told otherwise, and there are no parallels in the other gospels). In any event, Jesus had no plans to remain, though this had nothing to do with Herod. To make that point clear, he urges them to go to Herod (even if only rhetorically), to tell him that he’s not going to stop doing what he’s doing. Jesus will continue his journey to Jerusalem because he must, because it is impossible to think that a prophet would die elsewhere. This determination to make his way to Jerusalem reinforces Luke’s overarching journey theme, which began when Jesus ‘set his jaw for Jerusalem’ (9.51).

There is a justifiable tendency to read ‘necessity’ in such texts. It is easy to think that Jesus was fated to die, that his death was somehow preordained, that the blood sacrifice had to be made for our salvation. For better or worse, that is one way of reading the whole story from Candlemas (with Simeon’s prophecy of Mary’s sufferings) to the cross. However, the descriptions of Jesus’s resoluteness ought to undermine such thoughts of fatalistic inevitability. The more obvious narrative explanation is that Jesus’s death owes more to his decisions, to the logic of what he said and did, than to any pre-written script. There is undoubtedly a strange rightness to his ending up in Jerusalem, but that rightness is appreciated not by a glimpse into fate, but by the realisation that any other choice would have been the end of it all — instead of the culmination of it all.

It is sometimes helpful to wonder what might have happened had Jesus kept his head down, had he stopped preaching and healing. What if he’d refused to go to Jerusalem, what if he’d stayed on the periphery and not gone to the holy city itself, not proclaimed his message there, where it really mattered? What if his fear of death had been stronger than his belief in the coming Kingdom? Safe to say, it would have been all over. The dream would have fizzled; his disciples would have scattered. Seen in this light, Jesus’s death has nothing to do with fate, and everything to do with faithful choices. Indeed, the Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan suggested that Jesus’ sacrifice is best understood first in terms of Jesus’s choice to put his life on the line, and only secondarily in terms of his actual dying — the former is something he did (it was his sacrifice), the latter was something done to him. (Lonergan’s view of the Eucharist is similar: we are invited to share in Jesus’s attitude rather than in his physical death — the former is something actual, the latter is something we do symbolically, as a way ‘to put on the mind of Jesus’.)

But there is still more to this passage. Jesus’s decision to go to Jerusalem is not a political or dramatic calculation, even though the text suggests finality or even fulfilment. Neither is it a provocation or a grand geste. Though Jerusalem may well stone and kill the prophets, Jesus nonetheless longs for something else: he has longed to gather the people safely together, as a hen might gather her brood under her wings — to protect them from themselves. Later, in the nineteenth chapter (v. 41), Jesus actually weeps over Jerusalem for much the same reasons.

Jesus’s willingness to die, to put his life on the line for those who could hear his message — this was not a test of obedience to a divine decree (‘I must go on my way’), but was rather the out-flowing of his compassionate love. There is a strange rightness here, but there is no line of inevitability apart from the trajectory of love’s ‘dart to the heart’. Though we are smitten, we must still choose.

Joe Cassidy is Principal of St Chad’s College, Durham.



Neil Ormerod writes for ABC Religion and Ethics about The metaphysical muddle of Lawrence Krauss: Why science can’t get rid of God.

Frank Cranmer writes for Law & Religion UK about Doctrine and law – servants or masters?

Andrew Brown writes for The Guardian that I go to church not for God but for humanity.

Clarissa Tan writes in The Spectator that The west doesn’t need Feng Shui. “If you doubt that a building can affect your spirit, try going to church.”

Giles Fraser writes for The Guardian that The pope’s resignation has finally revealed that the papacy is simply a job.

Christopher Howse explains in The Telegraph Why we won’t get a bearded pope.


Roman Catholic memo on Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

The Tablet has published correspondence between the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference and the Government, see Catholic schools will be forced to teach about gay marriage.

The documents are:

Letter from Maria Miller dated 1 February

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales: MEMORANDUM Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill: House of Commons Committee Stage dated 11 February

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Memorandum Explanatory Note

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales was in correspondence with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller, prior to second reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. Following a meeting on the 16th January, Maria Miller sent Archbishop Peter Smith a letter dated the 2nd February 2013. This letter was submitted to the Public Bill Committee, along with a memorandum in response, on Monday 11th February. The memorandum and letter constituted the written evidence of CBCEW and have been attached with this document.

The memorandum sets out the possible adverse effects that the Bill will have on the religious freedom of the Catholic Church, Church-related institutions and bodies, and individuals…


United Reformed Church memo on Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

Dr Augur Pearce appeared before the scrutiny committee last week, and his written memorandum on behalf of the United Reformed Church has now been published.

Memorandum submitted by the United Reformed Church (MB 05) MARRIAGE (SAME-SEX COUPLES) BILL

His remarks concerning Clause 2 of the bill are particularly interesting.

The transcript of his oral evidence is back here (scroll down, he was one of the last two witnesses in that session).


EHRC analysis of Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

Updated Wednesday afternoon

From the EHRC website:

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has analysed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2012/13 in light of the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998. This analysis concludes that the Bill, which will apply in England and Wales, would be in accordance with provisions within the legislation and would further the rights of individuals to equality before the law, in so far as it will:

  • enable same sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies;
  • ensure those religious organisations that wish to do so can opt in to conduct marriage ceremonies for same sex couples;
  • provide protection under equality law for ministers of religion who do not wish to marry same sex couples;
  • enable civil partners to convert their partnership to a marriage; and
  • enable married individuals wishing to change their legal gender to do so without having to end their marriage.

The briefing is available here as a .doc file.

Or see the version filed with the Public Bill Committee.


The following additional memorandum from the EHRC has been published by the Public Bill Committee: Memorandum submitted by The Equality and Human Rights Commission (MB 24)

…The Commission is issuing this supplementary briefing to assist MPs at committee stage. It draws on a legal opinion obtained from Robin Allen QC, Cloisters, and Jason Coppel, 11 King’s Bench Walk. The full opinion is annexed to this briefing…


EHRC publishes guidance on Religion or Belief

From the EHRC website:

[The] Equality and Human Rights Commission has published new guidance today to help employers and employees deal with the expression of religion or belief at work and avoid conflict and costly court cases.

The guidance has been issued on the same day that the Commission has provided a briefing to MPs on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill as it is scrutinised in Parliament. Both publications will help to clarify two complex areas of law that will have a direct impact on people’s lives.

The guidance follows the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment in four cases about religious rights in the workplace, one of which found that an employee suffered a breach of her right to religious freedom for being told not to wear a cross at work.

However, the fact that this judgment could be overturned on appeal and it could take time for domestic courts to re-interpret existing domestic law, has the potential to cause confusion for employers on how to deal with employees who wish to express their beliefs at work.

The Commission has therefore produced straightforward, expert guidance to clarify the law and how employers can use it to manage and protect religion and belief rights in the workplace.

It includes good practice advice for employers such as how to tell if a religion or belief is genuine, the kinds of religion and belief requests employers will need to consider and how to deal with them…

The guidance document, together with a legal explanation, can be found here.


Women in the episcopate consultation

David Pocklington has published two articles at Law & Religion UK about the Consultation document on women bishops legislation.

Women in the episcopate consultation: the basics
Women in the episcopate consultation: an analysis

The second includes this comment.

The above analysis suggests that whilst the four propositions developed by the Working Group provide a broad framework within which to proceed, these need to be finessed further to maximize the benefit of the progress achieved to date. This would include.

  • more formal declaration of the objectives a) to provide a clearer focus for the group’s work, and b) to give a signal to those outside the group of the expected outcome;
  • minimization of “soft law” instruments within the “package” which is developed, which would rely [on] a combination of primary and secondary legislation coming into force at the same time;
  • a statement on the expected time-scale, identifying key milestones and reviews of progress.

But do read all of them both.

1 Comment

Overseas ordination for a church in Sheffield

Updated Tuesday

Anglican Mainstream has published the following press release: Ordination in Kenya of Minister in Anglican Church Plant in Sheffield

In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, statistics show that only 3% of the population regularly attend church. Back in 2002 the leadership team at Christ Church Fulwood were invited by senior diocesan staff to investigate the possibility of church planting, with the aim of sharing the Gospel with people who had moved into the new residential developments in the city centre. Despite extensive discussions, diocesan support for this initiative was withdrawn, but with mission our priority Christ Church Central was “born” in October 2003 as “a church for people who don’t go to church” outside the formal structures of the Church of England.

Nearly 10 years later both parent and daughter churches have continued to grow numerically and partnered one another in mission to the city. An expression of this partnership was the planting of Christ Church Walkley last year, with the initial members drawn from both congregations living in the area. Pete Jackson, who has been one of the associate ministers at Christ Church Central, is the founding minister.

Although recommended by the Reform Panel of Reference and trained at Oakhill Theological College, Pete had not been ordained since Christ Church Central was not part of Sheffield Diocese. Concern that his ministry and that of the new church should be appropriately recognised led us to consult the leadership of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE), who subsequently wrote to the GAFCON Primates’ Council with a request that they should facilitate Pete’s ordination.

We are immensely grateful for the leadership of the Archbishop of Kenya, Eliud Wabukala, as chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council, and to the Bishop of Kitui, Josephat Mule, who ordained Pete as a deacon in the Anglican Church of Kenya on Saturday 9th February. We see this event as the latest expression of Gospel partnership between the churches in Sheffield and Kenya. Tim Davies’ father was Provost of Nairobi cathedral in the 1970s, Tim was born in Kenya and is himself an honorary canon of All Saints Cathedral Nairobi. Christ Church Central already supports mission partners in Nairobi…

The statement is signed by:

Tim Davies, Senior Minister, and Jane Patterson, Trustee, Christ Church Central

Jane Patterson is a General Synod member from the Diocese of Sheffield and a member of the Crown Nominations Commission.


The Diocese of Sheffield has issued this:


Reports are now circulating in the public domain of an ordination in Kenya in recent days. The Communications Office was inundated with calls wanting clarification and comment.

+Peter has issued the following statement today:

“The Diocese of Sheffield was made aware last week that Pete Jackson from Christ Church Walkley had been ordained in Kenya on Saturday 9 February 2013. This came as a total surprise as we had no prior knowledge or communication regarding this. We continue to seek further clarification and dialogue with those involved in the ordination at various levels and are taking advice so that we have a comprehensive picture of what took place. This will enable us to reflect further on the developments and their implications.”

(+Peter is the Bishop of Doncaster)


Archbishop's new Director of Reconciliation

Press release from Lambeth Palace

Monday 18th February 2011

Archbishop’s new Director of Reconciliation

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is delighted to announce the appointment of Canon David Porter as Director for Reconciliation at Lambeth Palace. Canon David will work part time on the Archbishop’s personal staff, seconded by Coventry Cathedral where he remains Canon Director for Reconciliation Ministry – bringing first-hand knowledge of the Cathedral’s eminent and longstanding reconciliation work to Lambeth Palace and the wider Church.

The focus of Canon David’s role will be to enable the Church to make a powerful contribution to transforming the often violent conflicts which overshadow the lives of so many people in the world. His initial focus will be on supporting creative ways for renewing conversations and relationships around deeply held differences within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

Canon David brings extensive front-line experience in the area of reconciliation having served on the Northern Ireland Civic Forum, chairing its working group on peacebuilding and reconciliation, as well serving as a member of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council. Since September 2008 David has been the Canon Director for Reconciliation Ministry at Coventry Cathedral, England. An experienced community relations activist, peacebuilding practitioner and community theologian he has thirty years experience in regional, national and international faith based organisations.

Speaking about his new position, Canon David Porter said:

“How we live with our deepest differences both within the Church and our increasingly fractured world, is one of the major challenges to the credibility of Christianity as good news.”

“It is a privilege to be asked to take on this responsibility for Archbishop Justin and I look forward to working with him in serving the Church in making reconciliation and peacebuilding a theological and practical priority in its life and witness.”

Speaking about the appointment, Archbishop Justin said:

“I am delighted to welcome Canon David Porter, Canon for Reconciliation at Coventry, who will join my personal staff part time as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Director for Reconciliation. David brings a wealth of experience in reconciliation and peacebuilding from his work in Northern Ireland and through the Community of the Cross of Nails in Coventry. Conflict is an ever present reality both in the Church and wider society. Christians have been at the centre of reconciliation throughout history. We may not have always handled our own conflicts wisely, but it is essential that we work towards demonstrating ways of reducing destructive conflict in our world – and also to setting an example of how to manage conflict within the Church.”

Information about Canon Porter and the Coventry Cathedral Ministry of Reconciliation is below the fold.



Bishop Wallace Benn cleared of misconduct charges

On Thursday, a retired priest, who had pleaded guilty last December to various sexual offences, was sentenced to prison, see these news reports:

Chichester Observer BREAKING NEWS: Former priest sentenced for child sex offences

Evening Standard Paedophile priest jailed for 1970s child abuse

BBC Retired priest Robert Coles jailed for sexually abusing boys

This prompted the following official statements:

Statements from the Diocese & Bishop of Chichester

Archbishop of Canterbury: Statement on the sentencing of Robert Coles

Yesterday, the following news report appeared:

BBC Retired Bishop of Lewes denies abuse cover-up

Today Anglican Mainstream has published Press Statement by Bishop Wallace Benn: “No ineptitude on my part and no cover up” originally issued on Friday.

This statement discloses that:

“the Complaint made against me personally under the Clergy Discipline Measure concerning Mr Coles has been dismissed on its merits…”

and the statement gives details of the process by which this happened:

…In March 2012, the Chairman of the Safeguarding Advisory Group, Mr Keith Akerman, and the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor, Mr Colin Perkins, sought to make a complaint against me under the Clergy Discipline Measure, on the basis that it was misconduct for me (1) not to inform the Police directly of what Robert Coles had said, or to direct Mr Reade to do so; and (2) not to inform the Police directly of what I had been told about Robert Coles by the clergyman in another Diocese.

On 18 October 2012, the Archbishop of York concluded, at the preliminary scrutiny stage, that both complaints against me in respect of Robert Coles should be dismissed on the ground that they lacked sufficient substance to proceed.

In reaching that decision in relation to the first complaint, the Archbishop of York emphasised:

The Diocesan Child Protection policy of 1997, which required “any allegation of abuse against a church worker, clerical or lay, or any relevant incident in any way to do with the life of the parish or church organisation, should immediately be referred to the Diocesan Child Protection Advisor.”

The absence of any evidence to show whether Mrs Janet Hind had considered whether the matter should be reported to the Police and, if so, by whom.

The absence of any evidence that I had disregarded advice from Mrs Janet Hind in this matter.

The Diocesan Child Protection policy of 1997 also stated that: “The Diocesan Advisor, if appropriate, will make sure that a referral has been made to the local social services office and will liaise with that department and the police during any child protection investigation.”

I understand that a similar complaint by the same complainants was made against the Right Reverend Nicholas Reade, the recently retired Bishop of Blackburn. I understand that it has also been dismissed.

In reaching his decision in relation to the second complaint, the Archbishop of York concluded that he was satisfied that I “had passed or discussed or shared” the letter from the clergyman in another Diocese with the Child Protection Advisor when I received it. He further concluded that there was no evidence that the Child Protection Advisor advised me to report the letter myself to the Police. The Archbishop of York dismissed the complaint against me on the ground that it lacked sufficient substance to proceed.

On 29 January 2013, the Right Honourable Lord Justice Mummery, sitting as President of Tribunals, dismissed an appeal by Mr Akerman and Mr Perkins against the dismissal of these complaints against me by the Archbishop of York…


Temptation 101

The attitude we take to things says much about our attitude to God. That’s why temptation is a spiritual issue. Ken Dodd used to say there were only three basic jokes. There are probably only three basic temptations, that go back to Adam and Eve.

Number One. Let your appetites lead. Hungry? Curious? Go on! Eve saw that the fruit looked good, smelt lush. So she took the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Ever since, says the story, the rest of us have had hell to pay. We know so much, but much outruns our moral capacity. We know how to destroy the world. We know how to poison ourselves and trash everything. Some knowledge defiles. The fruit of the tree was good to look at and very tasty; but it pitched our primal ancestors in way beyond their depth.

Of course we all have needs and appetites. Jesus told his followers that their heavenly father knows they need things, food, clothing, friends, homes. But when the attainment of these things becomes our prime objective, we lose the script. Make God’s Kingdom of justice and truth the prime concern, and everything else will follow.

Temptation Number two. Adam and Eve took, and ate, and hid. Cover up. Pretend. Put on a good show. ‘Hypocrite’ was the word Jesus used for people whose whole lives were no more than frontage. Adam and Eve hid in the bushes. “What on earth are you doing there?” said God. “You were made for something better!” Adam and Eve held their figleaves tight and prayed he would go away.

We are much more civilised. We have all sorts of ways of covering up our truth. The masks we wear often take other people in. The fixed Christian smile, carefully applied with theatrical gum, can be rather tiresome. But it’s the face to give the world, when we’re too afraid to be ourselves. God’s Spirit helps people be themselves and be real.

Temptation Number three. Knowledge is Power. Adam and Eve grasped knowledge that would make the whole world theirs. They thought that when their eyes were opened they would be able to control everything. In fact, like Greek tragedy, the exact opposite happened. Their knowledge didn’t give them power or set them free. It made slaves out of them both, condemned to scratch the dust on their own, banged up in their own hall of mirrors.

In the desert Jesus confronts the whole corrupting reality of temptation. “Go on! Do the obvious!” No, said Jesus, for we cannot live on bread alone. God’s word alone can truly nourish us. “Oh, Go on,” said the enemy. ‘It is written…’ God gives the word, so that we need not finally be deceived. Next stop, the Temple, and whole world of religion.

“Go on!” said the enemy. “Jump! That’ll show them. Their longing for a bit of real proof to justify their faith. They’ll love you for it!” “No,” said Jesus. Outer Show is nothing. God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, looks on the heart. Hypocrisy is never enough. We look from the outside, then try to guess what is going on inside. God looks from the inside out, and until we aim to share his priorities, his way of looking at ourselves from the inside out, we are still probably lost in our sins.

Finally, the Big One. “Go on!” said the enemy. “It’s all yours; the world and everything in it. Time for the sack of firm government.” “No,” said Jesus. “It’s not.” When we play God we corrupt and destroy everything we touch. When we play control games, or allow our relationships to become self-serving, we wound the people who love us most, and make fools of ourselves. When we receive everything as we receive the bread of the Eucharist, with thanksgiving, we are blessed by everything we have been given. It’s as simple as that.

Alan Wilson is Bishop of Buckingham in the diocese of Oxford.


Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill: media reports of committee hearings

There have not been many accounts of the hearings in the media this week, but here are a few:

Ed Thornton Church Times Fittall: gay marriage ‘not on horizon’

John Bingham Telegraph Gay marriage: no opt-out for Christian registrars

David Williamson Wales Online Gay Welsh cleric Jeffrey John gives fierce defence of same-sex marriage

Joseph Patrick McCormick Pink News Dr Jeffrey John: Allowing individual parishes to decide on equal marriage ‘more Christian’

BBC Minister clashes with MP over ‘gold standard’ marriage claim

Mark D’Arcy BBC Trench Warfare (and scroll to the bottom for link to his podcast report)

Isabel Hardman Spectator Exclusive: Tory MPs push government for French-style ‘civil union’ weddings



Elizabeth Oldfield for ABC Religion and Ethics asks Does the Anglican Church really need a new Theologian-in-Chief?

Angela Tilby starts a regular column in the Church Times with Private and public: heal the rift.
Also in the Church Times is this feature article by Anna Drew: Anyone fancy a bevvy?

In the comment is free section of The Guardian
Joy Bennett writes that Many churches don’t talk about sex beyond virginity, virginity, virginity,
Mark Vernon asks Is love more real when grounded in faith?, and
Giles Fraser writes that Prayer is not pious. Like art, it simply needs attention to that which is other.

Two writers in The Huffington Post offer advice for Lent.
Mark Sandlin Don’t Get Caught In The Lent Trap.
Megan Cottrell Why Do We Give Up Things For Lent?