Madeleine Davies Christian Today Women In Leadership: Is 2017 The Year HTB Will Practise What It Preaches?
Ruth Gledhill Christian Today Should We Work On Christmas Day? After All, Vicars Have To
David Walker ViaMedia.News Bursting the Bubble
Geoff Bayliss Church Times Speaking more of the language of the people
and in response
Doug Chaplin Liturgy: words for speaking, not for reading
Gary Waddington Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi
Justice, Peace, Joy If necessary, use liturgy
[Note: There was a subbing error in the Church Times article, now corrected online. A heading “Complex words that it could be difficult to avoid using” was originally “Complex words that might be avoided”.]
Updated 28 December
You are not expected to read/view/listen to these at one sitting!
Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
Most Revd John Sentamu, Archbishop of York
Rt Revd James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle
Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford
Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, and Rt Revd Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow
Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester
Rt Revd Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool [subtitled version]
Rt Revd Richard Chartres, Bishop of London
Rt Revd Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle
Rt Revd Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford
Rt Revd Tim Thornton, Bishop of Truro
Rt Revd John Inge, Bishop of Worcester
Most Revd Ian Ernest, Primate of the Anglican Province of the Indian Ocean, and Cardinal Maurice E Piat, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Port-Louis
[in French with a link to a computerised translation into English]
Archbishops of Armagh, The Most Revd Richard Clarke & The Most Revd Eamon Martin
Rt Revd John McDowell, Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher, and Mgr Joseph McGuinness, Diocesan Administrator of Clogher
Rt Revd Ken Good, Bishop of Derry and Raphoe
Patriarchs and Heads of local churches in Jerusalem (including the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Most Revd Suheil Dawani)57 Comments
Linda Woodhead Journal of the British Academy The rise of ‘no religion’ in Britain: The emergence of a new cultural majority
[the text of a lecture delivered in January 2016]
Brian Zahnd Missio Alliance My Problem With the Bible
Alex Taylor, Children’s Ministry Trainer for the Diocese of London The worst Christmas song
Andrew Lightbown Mary & Elizabeth: Renewal & Reform
Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Christmas highlights pressures on C of E’s stretched rural clergy
Andrew Dunning British Library Medieval manuscripts blog The Medieval Origins of the Christmas Carol
Ian Paul Psephizo Should clergy have Christmas day off?7 Comments
We have come to the end of Advent: the time of waiting is over. Tomorrow is Christmas. The night Jesus was born, the world seemed like an unsafe place for a baby, especially a baby born to a couple far away from the security of their own home and unable to find suitable lodging, vulnerable to the elements and to the rough characters living on the margins of society.
Today, with images of Aleppo and refugees dancing in our heads, how can we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace? At the end of a year of so much tragedy, evil and violence, further shaken by the uncertainty of Brexit and of a President Trump, who can feel safe, who can feel joyful? Even on a more intimate level, many people I know have been bereaved or have been battling illness or, at the very least, dealing with upset and disappointment. Is it worth celebrating Christmas at all?
It all depends on what we believe about God and our world, and about ourselves and other people. If our God is impotent or distant or disdainful or angry, then we are in trouble. But if our God is as present with us as a new-born baby gasping for air, as compassionate as a mother cradling a terrified child or as faithful as a rescue worker, digging resolutely through piles of rubble, then there is hope.
In the opening passage of the Gospel of John comes the pronouncement, “In him was life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” Further on in the same Gospel, Jesus tells his followers, “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
The baby who became the man who took on all that life could throw at him — all the evil, sin, hurt, hopelessness, grief and fear of the world — tells his friends not to be frightened, that even though he will soon be leaving them, not to be troubled. He tells them to be at peace, that in him they have peace, that his peace is present in the midst of all the challenges of life.
Do we believe the light is still shining in the darkness? Do we believe there is no darkness that can ever extinguish the light of Christ? Do we believe we have a peace that has been given to us as part of the gift of the Holy Spirit? Do we believe in the ultimate triumph of the Prince of Peace?
If we believe these things, then we can wake up tomorrow and dare to open ourselves to the joy of Christmas. For some, even though they believe, this year joy may elude them, but for those of us who can embrace the day, we must celebrate, not forgetting those who are suffering, but standing in solidarity with them by proclaiming the truth and reality and presence of Christ. Whether taking a service, serving a meal or visiting those in prison, in hospital or out on the streets — or simply safely curled up in a cosy room with our loved ones — we must let our hearts shout out — Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
Christina Rees CBE was a member of General Synod for 25 years, and a founder member of Archbishops’ Council. She is a writer, broadcaster, communications consultant, and advocate for gender justice.
We invite you to make a contribution to the Church Urban Fund, which helps local groups work among the homeless and destitute, and tries, through local projects, to help them turn their lives around. You can support their work via this secure page www.cuf.org.uk/donate/advent-appeal/24/credit-card. Thank you.0 Comments
The think tank Theos has marked its tenth anniversary with a new report called Doing Good: a future for Christianity in the 21st century, a title that echoes its first report in 2006, Doing God.
A press release from Theos can be read here. In the foreword, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the RC Archbishop of Westminster write:
Nick Spencer charts a view of the future for Christianity in the UK, drawing on the wealth of data and evidence that Theos has accumulated in its years of research.
That view is one in which service is central, but it is service-as-witness, service that is firmly rooted in, shaped by and unashamed of its faith in Jesus Christ.
The report’s idea of “Christian social liturgy” expresses how Christians can combine their fidelity to the two greatest commandments — loving God and loving neighbour — in a way that is simultaneously distinctive and inclusive.”
So goes an old and rarely sung carol.
In the ten days before Christmas, a group of very elderly, frail, forgetful people, sitting in a conservatory, are taking time every morning to sing about a baby. Arriving to take our monthly ‘service’ in a local care home, I was greeted by the activities co-ordinator (church input is an ‘activity’), proudly waving copies of ‘Away in a manger’ and announcing that it had become part of the day’s routine. So, we sang it again, before we did anything else. Fred had already been singing along to ‘Hark the herald’ on a CD playing gently beside him: he was a boy chorister, now too blind to see the words on a sheet, and today more focussed on his military service in North Africa than past carol services. Iris reminded me, as she always does, that she is in the Baptist church every Sunday: it has been so much part of her life that she keeps it there, even if doesn’t really happen. Liz joined in with prayers and carols with great enthusiasm, just one beat behind all the time, because somehow her deafness is creating a delay in receiving sound. Maggie was cross: she used to delight in our visits but now resents them, says pointedly that she doesn’t believe any of it, and loudly that we should shut up. She’s placated by Mary, the saintly Reader Emeritus, who has lived in the care home for five years since her stroke and maintains an extraordinary calm and patience.
Every month a service, prayers and the old familiar hymns; every month some, at least, of the residents tell us how grateful they are for our presence, every month staff are relieved to see them engaged and involved: and every month I leave with a sense of guilt and inadequacy. It’s a good care home, small, privately run, many of the staff are long-serving. But it feels as though there is little honour here for those whose lives will be lived out within its walls; for their contemporaries, still in their own homes and dependent on visiting carers, rushing from appointment to appointment, there is even less.
In a few days time we will celebrate the birth of that baby, marvelling at the God among us as child, utterly dependent on those around him for all that sustains life. Month by month, among the home’s residents, I see faculties, both physical and mental, diminished; dependence and need increased. These are no longer productive members of society, and all too often the debate about their care speaks of a burden. Even in church circles, I have heard care for the elderly disparaged, because they will not add to our numbers or contribute to the parish share. But if we are to tell a story of God coming among us, helpless, vulnerable, needing to be fed, cleaned, nursed, sheltered, loved, then surely these are among those of our neighbours who most vividly bear his image.
Canon Jane Freeman is Team Rector of Wickford and Runwell in the diocese of Chelmsford
We invite you to make a contribution to the Church Urban Fund, which helps local groups work among the homeless and destitute, and tries, through local projects, to help them turn their lives around. You can support their work via this secure page www.cuf.org.uk/donate/advent-appeal/24/credit-card. Thank you.14 Comments
Updated to add press reports
Press release from Number 10
Suffragan Bishop of Woolwich: Dr Dorgu
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
First published: 20 December 2016
The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Prebendary Dr Woyin Karowei Dorgu, MBBS. BA, MA, to the Suffragan See of Woolwich.
The Queen has approved the nomination of the Reverend Prebendary Dr Woyin Karowei Dorgu, MBBS. BA, MA, Vicar of St John the Evangelist Upper Holloway, in the Diocese of London, to the Suffragan See of Woolwich, in the Diocese of Southwark in succession to the Right Reverend Michael Geoffrey Ipgrave, OBE, MA, on his translation to the See of Lichfield 10 June 2016.
Reverend Prebendary Dr Dorgu is aged 58. He was a GP. He studied at the London Bible College for his BA, and studied for his ordination at Oak Hill Theological College from 1993 to 1995 and also holds an MA in missiology. He was Curate at St Mark’s Tollington in London Diocese from 1995 to 1998, before moving to be Curate at Upper Holloway in the same diocese until 2000. From 2000 to 2012 he was Team Vicar at Upper Holloway before becoming Vicar in 2012 and from 2016 he has been Prebendary at St Paul’s Cathedral.
He is married to Mosun, a doctor. She is a consultant child psychiatrist who works for the NHS and they have 2 grown-up children.
His interests include reading, cycling, travelling, cooking for guests and he is a keen Arsenal FC supporter.
Dr Dorgu will be consecrated in Southwark Cathedral on St Patrick’s Day 17 March 2017.
Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Church of England appoints first black bishop in 20 years
Ruth Gledhill Christian Today First Nigerian Bishop In Church of England Counters Islamist Terror With Message Of Love In Jesus Christ32 Comments
Update 15 January 2017 — A slightly revised timetable has been issued. The table below has been amended; changes are in red.
The outline timetable for the February General Synod of the Church of England has been published today, and is copied below. Further papers will be published on Friday 20 January 2017.
[The published timetable does not explain the asterisks against certain items, but these clearly indicate timed business, eg Questions on the Monday will start not later than 5.30 pm.]
GENERAL SYNOD FEBRUARY 2017 GROUP OF SESSIONS
|Monday 13 February|
|House of Clergy will meet from 1.30 pm – 2.30 pm|
|3.00 pm – 7.00 pm|
|3.15 pm||Introductions and welcomes|
|3.25 pm||Report by the Business Committee|
|3.50 pm||Motion on General Synod February 2018 dates|
|4.00 pm||Motion on General Synod dates 2019-2020|
|4.15 pm||Debate on a Motion on the Anniversary of the Reformation|
|5.00 pm||Presidential Address by the Archbishop of Canterbury|
|7.00 – 7.15 pm||Evening worship|
|Tuesday 14 February|
|9.15 am – 1.00 pm|
|9.15 am||Holy Communion|
|10.30 am||Farewell to the First Church Estates Commissioner and Response|
|10.55 am||Private Members Motion on “Preliminaries to Marriage”|
|*12.00 pm||Mission and Pastoral etc. (Amendment) Measure – Final Drafting / Final Approval|
|12.35 pm||Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure – Final Drafting / Final Approval|
|2.30 pm – 7.00 pm|
|Legislative Business (ctd…)|
|2.30 pm||Legislative Reform Measure – Revision Stage|
|4.00 pm||Statute Law (Repeals) Measure – Revision and Final Drafting / Final Approval|
|4.30 pm||Pensions (Pre-consolidation) Measure – Revision and Final Drafting / Final Approval|
|4.55 pm||Phase II Simplification Measure – First Consideration|
|5.55 pm||Draft Amending Canon No.38 – First Consideration|
|6.25 pm||Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Amendment Regulations 2017|
|7.00 – 7.15 pm||Evening worship|
|Wednesday 15 February|
|9.15 am – 12.30 pm|
|9.30 am||Motion from the Bishop of Leicester for a proposal for a Petition to Her Majesty in Council for the creation of a suffragan see for the Diocese of Leicester|
|10.00 am||Appointment to the Archbishops’ Council|
|10.15 am||Diocesan Synod Motion on “Fixed Odds Betting Terminals”|
|(Legislative Business ctd…)|
|11.30 am||The Church of England Pensions (Amendment) Regulations 2017|
|*12.00 pm||Introduction to the work of the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Sexuality|
|2.00 – 4.30 pm|
|2.00 – 4.30 pm||Group work|
|5.30 pm – 7.00 pm|
|5.30 pm||Take Note Debate on a Report from the House of Bishops|
|7.00 – 7.15 pm||Evening worship|
|Thursday 16 February|
|9.15 am – 1.00 pm|
|9.30 am||Farewell to the Bishop of London|
|9.45 am||Speech by The Most Revd Dr Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon – Secretary General of the Anglican Communion|
|10.15 am||“Setting God’s People Free”: Debate on a Motion from the Archbishops’ Council|
|Legislative Business (ctd…)|
|12.15 pm||The Safeguarding (Clergy Risk Assessment) Regulations 2016|
|2.30 pm – 5.00 pm|
|Legislative Business (ctd…)|
|2.30 pm||Amending Canon No. 36 – Canons B 8 – Revision Stage|
|3.20 pm||Amending Canon No. 37 – Canon B 38 – Revision Stage|
Legal Officers (Annual Fees) Order 2016
Private Members’ Motion on “Mission and Administration”
Simon Jenkins Reform Magazine Jumble sales of the apocalypse
Paul Bayes ViaMedia.News Couldn’t We Just “Dissolve the People”??
Rachel Pugh The Guardian Meet the vicar who’s swapping the sacristy for the surgery
Andrew Brown Church Times The Corbynista path to irrelevance
Jeremy Worthen Church Times The theology behind Renewal and Reform
Kenwyn Pierce Renewal and Reform Peer review – why bother?
Gary Waddington The Busy Priest Estates, the Poor and Culture War Stereotypes
David Goodhew The Living Church Is Anglicanism Growing or Dying? Statistics, the C of E, and the Anglican Communion
Andrew Goddard Church of England Newspaper Why 2017 will be a crunch year for the Church of England26 Comments
Updated Saturday evening and Sunday evening
We reported in October that York Minster’s team of bell-ringers had been disbanded.
The Minster has today issued a statement giving more details of their decision to disband the bell-ringers, as reported here by Minster FM: Minster claims there’s been “intimidation” over Bellringer row.
York Minster says bellringers who’ve offered to step in to help the cathedral have suffered intimidation on social media and in the local media.
In a statement from The Chapter of York they also claim at least one member has been threatened with legal action.
They say despite this, they’re still exploring options for the ringing at Christmas and hope those wanting to volunteer will be able to approach them without the fear of intimidation.
The Minster statement in full also goes over the details of why this situation happened which were reported in the media back in September [sic] …
The article goes on to quote the Minster statement in full.
John Bingham also reports on this story for The Telegraph: York Minster bell-ringers sacked over stance on ‘ongoing’ abuse risk to children.
York Minster’s team of bell-ringers were disbanded because they refused to accept that a leading member of their group had been assessed as presenting an “ongoing risk” of child abuse, the minster’s governing body has said…
In what amounts to the most detailed explanation of the saga to date, they made clear that the apparently sudden decision to disband the 30-strong ringing team in October was just the “culmination” of weeks of discussion about the issue…
Updates (Saturday evening)
The York ringers have issued a statement in response to that of the Dean and Chapter, denying any suggestion of intimidation. They continue to put their side of the story and again ask the Dean and Chapter to discuss the matter with them so that it can be resolved. Their statement can be read here.
Archbishop Cranmer Peace on earth and good will to all men – except the sacked bell-ringers of York Minster
Because of the nature of this story we ask all commenters to be especially careful in what they write. Comments containing ad hominem remarks will not be published.4 Comments
Ian Ellis, editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, recently interviewed Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary General at the Anglican Communion Office. The full interview lasts 45 minutes, and the recordings can be found here.
There is a report in the Church Times today: Idowu-Fearon: US conservatives manipulating African Anglicans.
THE importance that African church leaders attach to the question of same-sex relationships is the result of interference by conservatives in the United States, the secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has said.
In an interview with The Church of Ireland Gazette, published last week, Dr Idowu-Fearon said that Anglican leaders in Africa seemed “to be so much taken in” by the issue, not because of concerns about the impact on relations with Muslims, but as a result of “very strong minority conservatives” in the US.
“The very strong minority conservatives, not in the UK but in America, they have found a footing amongst some of the leaders in Africa,” he said. “They are the ones that sort of pumped this thing into the leaders, and the leaders decided to make it an African thing. It is not an African thing. There are homosexuals everywhere — even in my diocese.”
He denied that African leaders were anxious about relationships with Muslims: “It’s not true. It has not stopped church growth in my part of Nigeria. . . Nobody talks about it.”
Another report of the interview has been published here: Are the Leaders of Africa’s Anglican Churches “Despotic”?32 Comments
‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ (Matthew 1:23)
To speak of God being with us might be good news, or bad news, depending on what we believe God’s character is like.
When Nazi troops marched into Paris in 1940, their regulation belt buckle bore the legend ‘Gott mit Uns’, God with us, and I wonder how the French felt about what that God was visiting on them? The badge of the English Defence League bears a cross, below which the Latin inscriptions translates: ‘In this sign you will conquer‘ invoking the militant power of an Anglo-Saxon warrior God.
Even people who do not espouse a political or military cause find themselves readily imagining a vengeful God. When someone encounters personal tragedy or misfortune, I find them looking for what they might have done wrong, for which this devastation is punishment, a retribution for a past sin. Or they may simply see their pain as a sign that God has brutally inflicted a tragedy or, at the very least, been asleep on the job allowing catastrophe to befall them.
The ‘Son of God’ in the world of the Christmas stories is a title for Caesar, presiding over the brutal imperial army occupying Jesus’s homeland. The Roman God-with-us means domination by brute force — a fearful God-with-us.
The stories of Christmas were written to challenge and subvert this dark idea of God’s character. Matthew’s God-with-us is hunted by a king, one who has to leave his country. Luke’s God-with-us is visited by the poorest in the neighbourhood. This is not a brutal God, this is a God alongside people who are powerless, people who have been done to, people who feel forgotten. This is the character of the God of the Christian Gospels.
Andrew Spurr is Vicar of Evesham with Norton and Lenchwick in the diocese of Worcester.
We invite you to make a contribution to the Church Urban Fund, which helps local groups work among the homeless and destitute, and tries, through local projects, to help them turn their lives around. You can support their work via this secure page www.cuf.org.uk/donate/advent-appeal/24/credit-card. Thank you.8 Comments
Press release from the Church of England
Statement from the College & House of Bishops
13 December 2016
The College of Bishops of the Church of England met at Lambeth Palace on Monday 12th December.
The meeting began with a service of Holy Communion and reflections from the Archbishop of York. Discussions on issues of sexuality took place as part of a process of episcopal discernment which began in September and continued at the meeting of the House of Bishops in November.
The college discussed the reflections of the House from their November meeting and also received an update from the Chair of the Bishops Reflection Group on Sexuality.
As with the meeting of the College of Bishops in September and the meeting of the House of Bishops in November the discussions took place in private and participants have agreed not to comment on the contents of the meetings beyond their own views.
The Bishops agreed to consult the General Synod in February as well as updating Synod as to where their discussions had reached. More information will be available when those consultative materials have been prepared in January 2017.
The meeting closed with evening prayer and reflections from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The House of Bishops met at Lambeth Palace on Tuesday 13th December. A full and diverse agenda included substantial discussions on safeguarding, discussions on Renewal and Reform activity – including lay discipleship, simplification legislation and resourcing – and ecumenical issues as well as considerations of work with student groups.8 Comments
Updated 13 Dec 2016
The rules are available online, but it should be noted that the changes made in July 2014 are not yet included there. These changes are contained in The Church Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolution 2014 (SI 2014 No. 2113).
So far as I am aware these are the only changes since 2011. See second comment below for other changes.
Nearly all the changes made in 2014 related to elections to General Synod. There were also some amendments to the forms in Appendix I to make it explicit in each case that only lay persons are entitled to be entered on the church electoral roll.27 Comments
Andrew Lightbown Renewal, Reform and the ‘resource church’
Sarah Schofield What matters most is how I read my own parish
Philip North Church Times Heeding the voices of the popular revolution4 Comments
Isaiah says ‘the desert shall rejoice and blossom’. The new series of ‘Planet Earth’ programmes makes us keenly aware of how close desert and fertile land can be. Through time-lapse photography we have seen the transformation of dry land by rainfall, shortening the time taken for the flourishing of greenery into a few seconds. Grasses grow on flooded plains and can produce seeds in days.
But the biblical miracle can fail. We observe that deserts are advancing everywhere. Last year’s water hole has dried up. The spring that was once fresh is now brackish. The programmes have also featured numerous scenes where the carnivorous hunter misses its prey, and might eventually be just one meal away from dying of starvation. ‘Planet Earth’ illustrates the fragility and precarious nature of life.
The biblical prophets, living on the margins of fertile Lebanon with its celebrated Cedar trees, and the treeless Negev Desert, were well placed to appreciate how unreliable the fertile lands can be. In a broadcast this week about endangered giraffes the researcher mentioned that the biblical pattern of lean years and good years never goes away.
December brings a lean time of year close to us with the re-opening of the Cambridge Churches (and Synagogue) homelessness project, where a hearty supper, and a warm bed for the night in a place of safety are provided for men who would otherwise be sleeping rough. As we share a meal together we become aware of how similar our lives are. Perhaps only a single misfortune has pushed someone over the edge to the point where he loses everything. It is as though the seasonal rain failed to materialise. The lean year proved too much to bear. All there harshness of the desert and the fragility of lives on the edge are set before us.
Once everything is lost, rebuilding is a lengthy business, and it can be difficult to maintain the long term support which is needed if homeless people are to regain the stability and support which a home would provide. The routine of having a place to stay every night instead of sleeping rough helps to break the cycle. And the regular contact through having accommodation provided every night in the winter months can provide the basis for rebuilding lives and moving towards a safer and more stable future.
Paradoxically, it may be in the harshest time of year that the most effective support can be given. Isaiah’s vision may be realised and lives can blossom once more.
Tom Ambrose is a priest in the diocese of Ely.
Updated with diocesan press release
The Employment Appeal Tribunal has today issued its judgement in the case of The Revd Canon Jeremy Pemberton versus the Acting Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, The Rt Revd Richard Inwood.
There is a summary included in the full text which is reproduced below the fold. Note that the cross-appeals from the Church of England were also rejected by the court.
Here is a press release from Jeremy Pemberton:
I would like to thank HHJ Eady QC for the obvious care that she took to consider properly the novel and complex issues of law raised by my appeal. The result is, obviously, not the one my husband and I had hoped for. I appreciate that this case was a source of hope for many people and I am grateful that the judge has recognised its significance and indicated that its importance warrants permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
I am now going to take some time to consider the lengthy judgment with my husband, and we will decide on the best way forward, having taken advice from my lawyers. I would like to thank Laurence for his unwavering love and support throughout this process, my legal team of Sean Jones QC, Helen Trotter, the Worshipful Justin Gau, and Susanna Rynehart of Thomson Snell & Passmore – all of whom have been acting pro bono since 2015 – my family, friends and all those who have supported me thus far. I will not be making any further comment at present.
Here is a press release from the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham:
For the second time, a tribunal has found in favour of the former Acting Diocesan Bishop, the Rt Revd Richard Inwood, on all the claims made against him by Jeremy Pemberton.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal in London upheld the decisions made by the Employment Tribunal held in Nottingham last year.
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham said: “Churches across the diocese continue to offer a generous welcome to people from all backgrounds and we remain fully engaged in the Church’s exploration of questions relating to human sexuality.
“The Church of England supports gay men and women who serve as clergy in its parishes, dioceses and institutions. It has no truck with homophobia and supports clergy who are in civil partnerships, as set out in the House of Bishops guidelines in 2006.
“We recognise that it has been a long and difficult process for all those concerned, and we hold them in our thoughts and prayers.”
And there she was, in my face again. I was having a quiet chat with Jim, and she was there shouting at me again. It was a dispute over a house, and frankly she was not being realistic. That of course is the trouble with these people. They don’t accept reality. Which was that Jud needed a bigger plot to make the development he had on worthwhile, and her house got in the way. That is how it is. I was the judge and she needed to accept that.
But she didn’t accept it, and there she was, in my face at every turn. I was furious. Jim was laughing of course. ‘It’s not like she can DO anything, is it?’ he said. The trouble was that to ignore her was one thing, but to take action against her would cause the wrong kind of talk.
First, she caught me at the gates, where I sat with the other elders. She stood there crying out about the Law – and what it said about widows and justice. And I made a joke of it. I turned to Jim and said: ‘She got a right good education, didn’t she?’ and that turned it off.
Then I was in the market place and it was the prophets. I got Amos, and his comments on selling the needy for a pair of shoes. I got Micah, and the Lord requiring justice and mercy. I raged inside. But I said: ‘I’ll prophesy then, that you will lose your voice shouting.’ And that again made a joke, and John thought it quite funny.
I mean, I wasn’t selling her into slavery was I? Or beating her up? All I was doing was ensuring that a much-needed development went through, and that those who ought to benefit from enterprise did.
And then in an alley way, I was alone, except for the nonentities around me. Her eyes held mine and I saw the anger, and time and place swung away. Her face, the sexless ageless face of a woman past child bearing, was now crowned with gold, and light and fire played in the gold. She grew, and now she was three, four times my size, and she moved back, and I saw robes flowing around her, embroidered, coloured. I was no longer sure if she was man or woman. This regal figure stood on the warm fiery backs of two immense creatures, like female sphinxes, whose wings bore the monarch aloft. Around the figure were others. Those who looked like angels. Then there were wheels on fire, dragons, a monstrous bull, an eagle. There were dark figures which filled me with fear, and bright ones even more terrible.
Then I saw the figures of men and women. They were dressed in rags, and robes, and clothes I cannot describe. They all turned to the throne, which now filled the whole of the sky and they cried out, ‘How long, O Lord, how long? We hunger and thirst to see right prevail. Fill the hungry with good things!’ I could not count them, and I could never describe the longing and the anger of their voices.
The figure on the throne turned to me, and still with the face and the voice of the widow thundered: ‘Grant me justice!’
I wet myself.
I was suddenly standing in a dark alley, and I stumbled home and the slaves got me to bed.
The next morning, I went to the gate. Jud was there. I sat down. The widow came forward. She did not say anything. She looked at me. I gave her justice. I heard the disgusted comments of Jud, Jim, John. I cared. Oh, yes, I still cared. But caring or not, well … it is an easy thing to say you do not care for God or humankind, isn’t it? It is different when you meet them.
Luke 18: 1-8
Rosemary Hannah is a historian and author of The Grand Designer a biography of the third Marquess of Bute.
For a long while they sat opposite each other, gently holding hands. She with her head bent, her body racked with sobs; the Angel calm, still, waiting for the word that would have to be spoken. At last the woman lifted her head, pushed her hair away from tear stained cheeks, and said, simply, “I can’t”. Silence followed. She was gathering her energies to offer a reason, a rationale for why her courage had failed her; why she, who had always been obedient to God’s will and law, was now withholding her consent. “Don’t be afraid”, said the Angel. He’d used those words before, at the very beginning of the meeting, when his sudden presence, and the light that quietly emanated from him, had so clearly scared her. Now half-formed sentences began to tumble from her: about her place within this close knit community; the shame that the inevitable gossip and accusations would bring both on her and her family; the loneliness of a life as a tainted woman, one no man would take as wife; the pull towards prostitution, in the struggle to sustain herself and the child she would bear. It was too much. Please let this cup pass from her.
The Angel still held on to her as tightly as ever. Only when she had emptied herself of both her words and her tears did he respond. “Fear not”, he said, for a third time. “God loves you. He loves you as deeply as ever. This was never a command, always an invitation to come on a particular journey with him. Go in peace. Marry. Have children, and bring them up in that same love of The Lord which you yourself know. And teach them this; that God, in their generation, will do this great thing. Tell them to be alert, to watch for the signs that the Promised One is coming among them. Live long, do not regret your decision today; but of your mercy, when you hear of Him, pray for His mother.”
He stood up, passed out of the house, walked perhaps a stone’s throw away from the building, then stopped to wipe a hand across his eyes. He gazed back at the woman’s home for some minutes. Silently, he held her and all that she was before the One who had sent him. From somewhere within his robes he pulled out a scroll and unfurled it. It was a list of names, women’s names. Many had already been crossed through, and now there was another to strike out. He looked at the details for his next assignment. Another unpromising village, another pious but conventional upbringing. Another dispiritingly traditional name. Mary.
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