Thinking Anglicans

Covenant for a Confused Church

I mentioned previously that the Church of England Newspaper would be carrying a defence of the so-called Covenant for the Church of England (CCE). It appears in this week’s edition and can be read at Anglican Mainstream.

The title given to the article there is A Covenant for a Confused Church. The author is Chris Sugden.

The list of signatories and the Questions about it can be found here. The full text of the document is here.


  • Underlying assumptions.

    Conservative evangelicals are right and everyone else is going to die in their sins.

    All evangelicals are conservative.

    Apologies are required all around. Some parties have never apologised and gone on to engineer international revolt, avoiding electronic communication lest their plans fall into the wrong hands. Other parties have apologised but then been told that their apologies are not enough, repentance is required. Thus the demand for apologies is not a demand for an apology it is an ultimatum of capitulate or perish. Our way or the wastelands.

    Hi ho hi ho. Off to the wastelands I go.

  • laurence says:

    Does the author of this confused apologia for a ‘Confused Covenant’ ‘for a Confused Church’ really hold a doctorate ? Cetainly not in English prose; Logic or theology, that’s for sure.

    Ah ! I get it — it’s in obscurantism and liberal-bshing !

  • Simon Morden says:

    Chris Sugden says: “The framework of this debate is war for the soul of our national culture. Its Christian basis is being undermined at every turn – Winterval not Christmas, no public display of crosses, partners rather than husbands and wives and particularly the undermining of Christian marriage.”

    Chris, really. There is *no* war on Christmas, it’s an invention of the Telegraph and the Daily Mail. The row over the public display of crosses, if you recall (it was only a month or two ago), was *won*. My Christian marriage is *not* undermined by civil partnerships of homo or hetrosexual flavours – I’m just as married as I was before.

    If this is your framework, the rest of your argument falls flat.

    And I also not I haven’t received a reply from Anglican Mainstream regarding your insistance that you speak for me. You still don’t. Stop it.

  • Raspberry Rabbit says:

    My favourite comment thus far:

    “Third CCE is designed to help the Archbishops from the Global South realise the size and strength of the orthodox in England. They do not want to come into England as they have done in USA. They have asked us to work with Bishops to provide an English solution to an English problem.”

    So it looks like a threat and it sounds like a threat. The logic is that if it *cannot* be demonstrated that support for the CEEC Covenant is broad and wide ranging then the Africans will come? If the result of this cheeky and badly organized attempt to subvert the Church of England is exposed as being cheeky, badly organized and alien to Anglican ecclesiology, then the only alternative is what, exactly? The advent of Global South oversight? You bishops had your opportunity but you did not realize the day of your visitation! Now the searchlights start fanning the skies and we fear the spectre of parachuting African primates and those expats who serve as bishops in South America start raining down among us?

  • Pluralist says:

    ..I did ask Bishop Wright (NTW) … not to rush into print. But maybe the train (driven by others?) had already left the station.

    Who rushed into print? This Reform and others Covenant did.

    ..CCE shows that large numbers of evangelical Anglicans have had enough of dodgy bishops and their own evangelical tendency

    They mean that dodgy bishops have evangelical dodgy ones? Or the actual evangelical identity. Let’s see…

    ..NTW’s article, into which documentary evidence exists that Fulcrum claims significant input

    Fulcrum is clearly an evangelical tendency, so they are split whichever side of the fence this one bishop jumps.

    ..If NTW’s project to transform the CofE and the Communion was succeeding…

    So they are opposed to N T Wright’s method too.

    ..NTW wants to downplay the difficulties of the present situation, and claims it was worse a generation ago. But his argument is from the position of hegemony

    Ah, it is anti-establishment, and evanglicals in the establishment have no chance…

    ..In the Civil Partnership Guidelines from the House of Bishops, evangelical bishops did not speak up for orthodox causes.

    So all of them are no good? Do they have to be replaced? Or disciplined perhaps?

    ..NTW suspects the substance because he does not trust the people and networks linked with it.

    He might just be right. So they really do regard N T Wright and other evangelicals as suspicious as well. This is important in order to know where the dividing line has been placed.

    ..This style of argument belongs [by NTW] to the more tendentious end of sceptical biblical scholarship of the last century which NTW has done much to discredit. We cannot move forward under a continuous hermeneutic of suspicion.

    Unfortunately, that biblical scholarship has not gone away; and there are several hermeneutics still quite active.

    ..[Reform and company was] afraid of potential leaks if we consulted more widely. We have circumstantial evidence about how the leaks happened.

    Conspiracies! Enemies!

    …CCE is designed to help the Archbishops from the Global South realise the size and strength of the orthodox in England.

    So they are involved, like a cavalry (not calvary) waiting behind a green hill far away.

    ..whether the CofE will belong to the monocultural and revisionist Episcopal Communion, or an orthodox Anglican Communion in which the Africans and Asians play a full part.

    Well, it will belong to both, either together or apart. Rather like the next statement admits:

    ..NTW’s project will not deliver the goods. It is not possible to solve these problems by getting agreement on the substance, on one agreed theologically orthodox correct statement.

    Then this:

    ..The common ground for Anglicans can no longer be the liberal consensus. The Global South has made sure of that. That is why TEC is pushing for The Episcopal Communion which at least 12 English Bishops and most of the Scottish ones want to join.

    Name them! Anyhow, the Global South has little impact on European Christianity. It exists in its own cultural framework. The Anglican communion is a disparate body of occasional gatherings. The mistake is to try and make more of it than exists. The Church of England has its own development, and is closer to the Scots, Welsh and Americans in its theological arguments, and to those in several other denominations in the Global North, and just a few in the Global South too.

    ..The corporate world has mechanisms to deal with non performing leaders and more particularly leaders who have become a liability.

    It is a pity, perhaps, that the “dodgy bishops” have been held back and been unable to present some of the insights of modern theology, that for too long preaching has been made to sound orthodox while having other meanings for those who can read between the lines. It is time for more clarity all around.

    ..The moral and spiritual revisionists have declared war on the orthodox. Unless we stand up for the truth

    Rather, what has happened is that the Broad Church holding operation has failed given structural changes, and evangelicals are declaring war against liberals and some of their own.

    ..London’s significance for the future of the church

    The point about London, as a world city, and with a large growing black set of congregations (some highly supernaturalist and even displaying what a sociologist would identify as magic), is that London is relatively different. It is almost American in that churches provide ethnic and communal focus. European culture evangelicalism is not the success story claimed, nor is it any evidence of divine favour compared with those who minister support, service and healing in a moe closely shared language.

    ..We believe the best way of keeping the CofE together is if proper provision is made for the Episcopal leadership of the orthodox. If not, the church will begin to disintegrate as in the USA.

    It won’t because all those that they call dodgy bishops, and liberal priests and, let’s not forget them (they seem to assume we do not exist, or are paternalist about us) liberal laity are still around. Who is going to follow Reform’s and Anglican Mainstream’s agenda? Even some evangelicals are not going to follow their agenda. They say it can’t stay together anyway:

    ..But is there even a common ground of doctrine in the CofE to change? No.

    No, and therefore, no matter what these Reform and others want to do, the result will be the same – they will cause the split.

  • mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) says:

    I have to say this is a jolly entertaining article. Breathtakingly arrogant, as well.

    Of course they ‘consulted’ by briefing (is this the same as ‘consult’? not in my lexicon) a handful of bishops and, of course, Wallace Benn and Michael N-A and the Global South. Not a particularly wide ‘consultation’ then.

    As a non-evangelical Anglican, I feel desperately sorry for mainstream (as opposed to Mainstream) evangelicals who are being pilloried by this rather vicious and self-serving nonsense. Practically everything the author says adds grist to +Durham’s mill.

    Alas, Anglican evangelicalism. What chance do you have against this?

  • Cheryl, Laurence, Simon and RR have all commented gently and thoughtfully echoing many of my own thoughts.
    The obvious disturbance in the author is itself deeply disturbing. The passionate invective seems to be touched by hysteria. Is there some phenomenon, the antithesis of the laughter from Toronto, sweeping through these people who spend so much time in each others (Virtual) company?

    My concern for the valuable and essential evangelical presence in the Church grows with each revelation. Just how vulnerable are this significant group to this type of desperate leadership?

    My evangelical friends say that this “Covenant” has sounded the death knell for this group and they will not be able to survive with any credibility. My fear is that the obvious humiliation they have suffered will spur them to new excess and all of us into deeper division. This essay would seem to support my fears.

  • Raspberry Rabbit says:


    I was probably the most shocked in the first section of this diatribe – referred to as the ‘framework’ – by the presentation of the world surrounding us as a place of stygian darkness and unrelenting hostility. This is the world into which Jesus sends us not to present a common front against our enemies but to offer help and hope to those in need. I had a great Christmas! We made all sorts of friends. We had people in our small town church who hadn’t attended in years. What sort of Christmas did Mr Sugden have? We made friends. He made enemies. He and a small group of people spoke in single syllables on behalf of large groups of people with mixed opinions on the subjects at hand. It’s all this sensitivity to the dangers of the Church in its errors and of the secular world with its myriad dangers. Nobody can bubble wrap themselves adequately in such a dangerous world. It takes broad shoulders and a merry heart – attributes sorely lacking these days.

  • Prior Aelred says:

    I confess that it is all very confusing & perplexing to me — I was reared Baptist & it was precisely the desire to escape that sort of mindset that lead me to Anglicanism.

    We have seen in the USA that politically “the right” seems incapable of being able ever to admit to any mistake whatsoever — maybe the same applies in religion.

  • Pluralist says:

    What happened to my post? It’s all been crunched up from its paragraphs and made hardly readable.

    SS replies:

    I would like to tell you that it was because your post was twice the normal word limit, and the software was reacting to my failure to reject the post entirely.

    But in fact it was due to your use of angle brackets which I have now removed from the text.

    And given that I had already made the mistake of letting it get published I have chosen to leave it here now.

    However, this should not be regarded as a precedent…

  • drdanfee says:

    Sussing Out Some Central Sugden Touch Stones

    Anglican Care = Confessional Conformity

    Modern Inquiry = skepticism = hermeneutic of suspicion = nihilistic modernity, chaos, annihilation

    (Implicit) Faith = Truth = Obedience, submission, conformity

    Non-conservative = liberal = confused

    Modern = sinful

    (Connoted) Non-conservative = sinful

    Conservative gospel = penal atonement = Only way to understand Jesus

    One right way to follow Jesus = you guessed it = conservative Anglican conformity

    Faith = Conservative believers = power over others/against others, especially inside church institutions

    After these nuggets, I sort of lost track. Are his remarks getting as circular and closed as my dizzy vertigo suggests to me might be the case?

    How does he close us down and trump us, then?

    Via the most favored, new orthodox hermeneutic strategies?

    Definitional truth = only truth that matters?

    Presuppositional hermeneutics = only possible true or accurate hermeneutics?

    Okay then.

    As a nihilistic modern
    -lost in chaos and annihilation and sin
    -confused and unable to think my way out of a paper bag (let alone to read critical scholarship or science intelligibly)
    -persistant questioner
    -devotee of inquiry and critical conversation
    -lover of open-endedness that allows me, requires me to look for my errors

    I am now surely meant to roll over, and play dead while this sort of conservative believer lays claim to all the planet’s oxygen, and all the oxygen possible in every church room, everywhere?
    Ah, no thanks, Dr. Sugden.

    If you have something else to offer the rest of us, besides these silly definitional and presuppositional ploys, and besides the increasingly troubled penal atonement approach to everything that could possibly be involved in following Jesus of Nazareth – get in touch. I suspect we might have a lot to talk about. But until then, there is no really good way to respond to this sort of triumphant definitional claim jumping – unless you can turn over a new leaf and start speaking intelligently to educated and questioning people, believers and unbelievers alike.

    You rights of belief and conscience simply do not include your having the sole definitional or presuppositional keys to the kingdom.

    And you wonder why your confession rubbed even some evangelical believers the wrong way?

    Gee, get a clue. At the very, very, very least – modernity merits our informed application of just about the same best practice tool kit of plural discernment practices that our scriptures and our tradition also deserve.

  • Pluralist says:

    Thanks very much: I did wonder about word limit and also the effect of angle brackets to show the other’s writing.

    There was a lot to comment about, and I re-ordered what Chris Sugden put, especially in his continued distance from N T Wright and “establishment” evangelicals, for comment.

    His piece of writing, which was intended to clarify, has simply dug the hold even deeper. My mistake was perhaps to give another rather shambolic piece of diatribe more credibility than it is worth. They don’t want to save the Church of England, only themselves by their own strained logic, that best way of keeping the CofE together is to split it.

  • Christopher Shell says:

    I think Chris Sugden is right in the worrying tendencies he highlights:
    (1) The tendency to present faits accomplis. This is the very antithesis of proper debate. When people won’t debate, one asks what they have to hide. Alas, we live in a world where those in power will exert their power if they can, never mind any need to win the debate first. We have seen this with civil partnerships, and now we will be seeing it with the sexual orientation regulations.
    (2) A second tendency: Make it seem as though the Christians agree with the establishment. In fact there is only one denomination where this is the case (the anglicans), and the fact that a minority of them agree with the establishment has not a little to do with the fact that they *are* the establishment. (Just as the Chief Priests were in Jesus’s time.) You won’t catch Catholics or nonconformists agreeing; those minor denominations that do agree (Methodists, Quakers, some URC) are shrinking annually precisely because they compromising themselves out of existence.
    Sentamu and Wright, at any rate,are men of principle, and we expect and often get proper leadership from them. But why is the situation tolerated -even, to too high a degree, by these men of honour – where Christian leaders (yes, leaders) are allowed to perform the double whammy of homosexual relations and lying (which is equally bad)?
    All it takes is the drip drip drip effect and anything at all can be tolerated. Just give it time.

  • laurence says:

    Drip away Christopher !….

  • Dennis says:

    Absolutely Christopher.
    In fact, given enough time we could learn to tolerate self righteous bigotry and Phariseeism. Thats why it is important that we confront it now before the seeds of homophobia and bias start growing again in the church. No, best to give no slack to the self-defined orthodox or we will come to accept their claims to speak for the faith.
    On the other hand, if we accept gays and lesbians in the church that could have consequences, too. Who knows who we could learn to tolerate? Tax collectors and harlots and even eating with gentiles, even. What would Jesus say about that?
    No, best not to go that route.
    It is that drip, drip, drip effect, like you say.

  • Dave says:

    Rev Dr Sugden wrote: “At this time in the life of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, faced with a faulty view of revelation, false teaching and indiscipline, we believe that it is necessary to set out where we as orthodox Anglicans stand, and to invite others to join us.

    Spot on! I would add that I wonder whether some sections of the Anglican Communion will actually want to be identified as Christians for much longer!

    I’m also not too surprise that many Bishops and liberal commentators have reacted with alarm – this appears to be an attempt to establish an alternative heirarchical structure.. as the current one is percieved as largely incapable, or unwilling, to take the actions that the CCE folk see as imperative to defend and grow the Church.

    Heard that somewhere before ? I was just reading about another renegade who was opposed by the then establishment, and had to decide to preach outside the church, ordain ministers himself and established his own churches! The name of this “cheeky” “disturbed” leader of a “revolt” against episcopal order ? … The Revd. John Wesley:

  • Merseymike says:

    The point is, Christopher, that outside conservative religious circles, there really is no great controversy. There has been no mass outrage as to the existence of civil partnerships, and there won’t be with the goods and services regulations either. Most people really aren’t that bothered and do not actively support discrimination.

    So, why should you be so surprised where your wish to discriminate is not reflected in the civil law?

  • Simon Morden says:

    Dave, I’m ocncerned: first the comment that Liberals need to decide whether they’re Christian or not, now that some sections of Anglicanism need to decide whether to identify as Christian.

    The Rev Dr Sugden (I can claim a doctorate too… titles mean little when your thinking is as muddled as his) claims to be the arbiter of Anglican orthodoxy. He invites us to stand with him.

    This is, however, not in his gift. He can set out his stall and ask us to agree with him or not, but he cannot complain we are disloyal and splitters when we disagree with him.

  • C.B. says:

    Dave – John Wesley formed his own denomination. Splitting and going your separate ways is not the issue here. This group has tried to characterize TEC as the splinter group -pushing TEC out, not splitting off themselves. There is a big difference. In the first you acknowledge your differences and respectfully part. The other is done by bulgeoning the Church with vindictives like saying it is not Christian and it therefore must leave the AC and if it doesn’t leave quietly, it will be shunned, and if shunning doesn’t do the trick, it will be locked out.

    There actions are drawing a lot of attention to what the TEC believes, and oddly – TEC’s witness is stronger for it.

  • laurence says:

    Sugden et al do not appear to believe in freedom of religion — let alone the other civil liberties and human rights.

    Unless ….. — why are their knickers really in such a twist ?

  • Dave

    “Heard that somewhere before ? I was just reading about another renegade who was opposed by the then establishment, and had to decide to preach outside the church, ordain ministers himself and established his own churches! The name of this “cheeky” “disturbed” leader of a “revolt” against episcopal order ?”…

    Hmm, I can think of a few others too. Moses, Jesus, Mohammad

  • Dave says:

    Cheryl Clough wrote: “Hmm, I can think of a few others too. Moses, Jesus, Mohammad”

    Dear Cheryl, I don’t think that Moses or Mohammed lead revolts against religious authorities. Moses was challenging the Egyptian civil authorities, and Mohammed lead a religious movement and civil war. However, they still illustrate that being accused of “revolt” by the establishment has a long and respectable history – and doesn’t always mean that you are wrong!

    Didn’t Jesus say that they (the jewish authorities of the time) always persecuted the (jewish) prophets ?

  • Dave says:

    “first the comment that Liberals need to decide whether they’re Christian or not, now that some sections of Anglicanism need to decide whether to identify as Christian”.

    Dear Simon, to me this is a crucial point because the real arguement is about beliefs, morality and the authority of New Testament / traditional teachings. The rest of the conflicts are really just the outworking of those assumptions.

    Unfortunately, in my view, liberals often have a very flimsy grasp of what the bible’s writers meant, and tend to assume that their thinking is Christian, when in fact it is primarily based on current cultural assumptions dressed up in religious language. So, every time they actually get round to engaging with an aspect of what “received” Christianity was (and still is actually), liberal christians seem to dump it (eg eternal condemnation, the second coming, Christ being the only way to God, the resurrection, Christ’s death paying the punishment for our sins, the divinity of Christ etc etc). This is sleep-walking out of the door!

    If you want to retain liberals within the Church you need to give them reasons to believe enough to actually remain Christians.

    ps Recently some liberal folk seem to have started actively seeking areas of the Faith that should be rejected (for breaching human rights for instance) – hence I wonder whether they actually want to be Christian!

  • Pluralist says:

    John Wesley is an interesting example as he did not want to leave and Methodism left after his death. He had a Puritan grandad (ejected by the Church by not consenting and assenting to every dot and comma of the Book of Common Prayer along with 2000 other ministers – I know my once Unitarian history) and his dad decided Oxford was lovely enough to ditch dissent for Anglicanism and ended up in Lincolnshire with his also once dissenting wife. John got a bit high but kept the family inheritance giving some additional method in spirituality.

    Puritan English Presbyterianism and Methodism are not about groups that left, but about the inability of the Church of England to be quite as comprehensive as it thinks. Here we are again.

    This time, though, the Reform and company will cause a split not because the Church of England could not accept them, but because they cannot accept the rest of the Church of England.

  • Simon Morden says:

    Dave – I appreciate that this is a crucial point, and rejecting creedal statements does put a faith in Christ Jesus into question.

    This, however, is not the problem I’m calling you on. You seem to equate ‘non-ConEvo’ with ‘liberal’. This is simply not the case. Chris Sugden is making the same mistake, along with many others who signed the CCE – just because I’m not a card-carrying Reform member doesn’t mean I’m liberal hell-bent on introducing heretical practices to the church.

    It profits you to say so: it bolsters a group identity based on exclusivity, and allows you to demonise your opponents.

    But it’s not true. Your readiness to paint other Anglicans as non-Christians says far more about you than it does about them.

  • mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) says:

    Dave, I think you could do to read Keith Ward’s ‘What the Bible Really Teaches’ before coming out with such ludicrous statements. You might find that those positions which you pillory as ‘liberal’ and therefore not compatible with Christianity are actually closer to Scripture than many fundamentalist and quasi-fundamentalist positions. ‘Sublation’ is a word worthy of study.

    Mind, I do understand why ConsEvs want to get non-fundamentalists out of the church — it wouldn’t half make things simpler and more comfortable for the remnant (until they found something else sufficiently ‘de fide’ for another purge).

  • laurence says:

    That’s very helpful Pluralist. Thank you. I think your analysis is right.

  • Ford Elms says:

    “eg eternal condemnation, the second coming, Christ being the only way to God, the resurrection, Christ’s death paying the punishment for our sins, the divinity of Christ”

    I agree with Simon Morden on this. You have lumped a bunch of things together as what the “liberals” believe, as though one is either a ConsEvo(Christian) or a Liberal(maybe Christian, though doubtful). This isn’t true. Granted it’s what you’ll find in things like Equipping the Saints, which it sounds to me like you’ve read. Thing is, it isn’t true. Eternal condemnation is something that has been debated for a number of centuries. I have also never understood why Evos are so attracted to the idea that God wants to torture people for all eternity. “Christ being the only way to God” is understood by many in a much more nuanced fashion than “If you ain’t one of us, you’ll burn forever”, as I hope you know. Just because I won’t say Muslims are all going to Hell doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the uniqueness of Christ. The “punishment for our sins” argument is just Penal Substitutionary atonement, a doctrine that dates back to the Reformation, with roots in the Middle Ages. Many traditional Christians (numbering in their millions) have either never believed it or look at it askance. It is certainly not the only way to understand Atonement. The other things might have been said by a few kooks, but are hardly things that most “liberals” would accept. Indeed, to quote one “liberal” friend of mine when he was arguing against the idea that Jesus was just a good guy with a nice message: until I can be convinced that Christ was not God incarnate, I refuse to selll my Incarnational birthright for a pot of message. Hardly denial of Christ’s divinity.

  • Tom Allen says:

    ‘Pluralist’ has done well to scotch one the prevalent Anglican myths about the history of Wesley and Methodism – the contemporary irony is of course is that it is still the Church of England which is reluctant to receive back our Methodist brothers and sisters the overwhelming majority of whom are more evidently mainstream “Anglican” than Chris Sugden and his colleagues – who have a higher theology of authorised leadership ” episcope” even if they balk at the use of the title Bishop.

    As some-one who is what ‘Dave-on-Sunday’ would probably define a ‘liberal’ Anglican can I assure him that I have not “dumped” any of the doctrinal tenets of the faith that he lists – its just that I understand them in different way from what I would guess he must if he believes that most Anglicans have dumped them.

    So for example the elevation of “penal substitution” to the principal/dominant place within Christology is a ‘modern’ predominately Victorian phenomenon – at other times within the history of the Church (including biblical times for not even Paul affords it that exclusive status)it takes its place with other understandings and insights into the role of the Cross.

    In the end however the real question is not a doctrinal one but one of leadership.

    I may agree with Chris Sugden’s defence 100% of the so-called Covenant (which I don’t!), but would still have to ask whether those who have sponsored at this time (when we have perhaps the most orthodox bench bishops for 50 or 60 years)are the people who I would want me to lead them into somekind of “real” Anglican Church.

    I cannot help thinking that they are exploiting the surge of recent members of the Church of England in certain churches who are ‘convenience’ rather than commitment Anglicans. The very claim of the phrase “Mainstream” in one of the sponsoring organisations surely illustrates how utterly out of touch he and others are with the Church outside London and the South-east.Among the clergy are folk who have been Anglicans who have in the denomination for a few years longer than their selection and training – surely not sufficient time to appreaciate the breadth of what it means to be Anglican.

  • Chuckles.

    Jesus stood against both complacent butt-licking Jewish establishment as well a the Roman order.

    Both Jesus and Moses took fundamental stands that had to do with the underpinning world paradigms.

    Is the world dog-eat-dog, or is there a better way? Does the world require sacrifice and slavery in order for some to be safe whilst the others live miserable insecure existences? Is God indifferent and remote and merely hands out consolation prizes when we die, or is God interventionist? Is God harsh and punitive and demanding of cruelty, or does God genuinely love us unconditionally and move mountains and oceans to affirm God’s love for humanity and Creation?

    Jesus, Mohammad and Moses were taking on the “world order” in terms of taking on the prevailing internalised assumptions of the mainstream cultures of their time.

    All three had to fight not just “the other” bullies, but take a stand within their own communinities. All three have had to say, you are either with us or against us. If you are with us, then you trust in this God, who does genuinely love you and will intervene for the greater good. All three were leading to a vision where all were included in God’s vision, and not just an elitist caste.

    Their methods might have varied and some might have been more effective than others, but their hearts were all coming from the same space. I will not condemn any of these men for doing their best with what God gave them at their time.

    All three and their descendents can be respected by taking the best from all of their works and honoring that. There are common threads.

    Humanity would do well to recognise the sociopathic edomite or babylonian thinking that all three eschewed and looking how we can mitigate that in our own generation. In looking at the legacy and lessons from these three prophets, we will find common ground and similar lessons in other traditions too. We bring honor to God when we acknowledge God preparing the way and bringing out the best in both ourselves and others.

    That is the core difference, I would bring out the best in all humanity – including babylonians, edomites and sodomites. You would prostitute yourselves to some and exclude yourselves from others, thus improving neither them nor yourself.

  • Dave says:

    Dear Simon, Ford et al, I wasn’t suggesting that everyone who isn’t a conservative evangelical is a “liberal”, or in danger of being eternally lost. I’m not that conservative myself – but I do subscribe to the Faith once delivered, and the souvereign authority of the Bible for matters of faith and conduct – when properly interpreted (ie based on exegesis rather than isogesis – as someone recently categorised it).

    What I was criticising was the unfortunate tendency liberal people have of *assuming* that their thinking is Christian, when in fact it is primarily based on current cultural assumptions. This leads to the tendency to isogesis (among the more sophisticated) and the consequent “revision of our understanding” (as some of you alluded to)- which many a time effectively just comes down to *explaining away* a doctrine rather than explaining it!

    Where the liberal world has recently gone, many liberal Christians are sure to follow.. I think that a large section of the more liberal “end” will one day soon realise that they don’t believe, and don’t want to believe, and will drop the label “Christian” altogether (some prominent liberal (ex)Christian leaders have done this already of course).

    If you want to keep people in you need to start giving them reasons to believe.. not just new methodologies to reject every belief or moral that doesn’t fit with early 21st century humanism.

  • Simon Morden says:

    Dave – that’s fine as it stands. But a question: who are these liberals? Where are they? Why do they go to church?

    Even Greenbelt – a place where you’d suspect that self-identifying liberal Christians were likely to gather, I’ve not come across a single seminar advocating the denial of the uniqueness of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the atonement of sins won on the cross, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the Second Coming, the judgement of all.

    Perhaps I go to all the wrong talks… but Ron Sider, John Bell, Jim Wallis, Graham Cray, Elaine Storkey (and so on). They all believe passionately.

    Even – even! – the Safe Space crowd, lgbt and their friends and supporters – even they believe! How dare they!

    My only conclusion is that your liberal Christian is more of a straw man than a vast horde of heretics and unbelievers. You moderate yourself by saying “of course, you’re not like *them*”, when in fact there are so few of ‘them’ as to make me wonder why you get so het up about it?

    So, in the end, we have liberals who reject beliefs and morals which don’t fit in with 21st Century humanism, and ConEvos who reject beliefs and morals which don’t fit in with 19th C neo-romanticism. Perhaps the truth is that there are only a few of both, and we need to just get on being followers of Christ.

  • Pluralist says:

    No, if you want to keep people in you give them space to think and reflect. There is a lot of surface appearance in churches, where the preacher looks ever so orthodox on all the headlines and the people listening either say nothing or appear to go along with the role performance in that place. When given space, then it becomes right to investigate and find out and it can be a journey together and, pastorally, at different paces. There is a world of experiences and learning out there, and people who put up a front might like to drop it for a bit of self-honesty and discussion.

    There is an argument that newness to a religion requires a fast, simple presentation – and I don’t subscribe to that myself either because people are searching when they turn up too and there is plenty to fascinate an enquirer. But clearly after some time of even of taking in headlines and the basics, there is the need for beginning depth and internal challenge.

    If you don’t develop the interesting stuff then a believer will come across programmes on TV or a theology book by accident and could crash when what they cherish seems undermined, or they react defensively; better then to develop slowly and well.

  • ruidh says:

    “Moses was challenging the Egyptian civil authorities, and Mohammed lead a religious movement and civil war.”

    In Egypt, the Pharoah *was* the high priest. Civil government and civil religion were indistinguishable. A revolt against the civil authorities was a revolt against the civil religion. I’m less familiar with Mohammed, but there must have been some indigenous religion in the Arabian peninsula at the time he was fighting there.

  • Dave’s comment “…If you want to keep people in you need to start giving them reasons to believe.. not just new methodologies…” is spot on.

    For those who want to get off their liberal pedestal and think about where they went wrong, go buy Rabbi Lerner’s book “The Left Hand of God”. The important thing about this book is it talks about how the left end of God’s people capitulated to intellectualism, leaving the only moral messages coming from the right.

    There are moral messages at both the left and right end of the spectrums. Masculine and feminine forms of God’s love.

    A healthy theology and a healthy planet will come when we recognise the interdependencies and grasp that we all need to walk a middle way being aware of the tensions at either end and choosing a path that maximises the benefits from both ends whilst mitigating the problems from either end.

    Until the liberal end realise they had abidicated this important arena, the other end is unbalanced. They need us to help them rediscover the elements they have forgotten as much as we need them to rebuke us to remember core principles that should not have been negotiated away.

  • Christopher Shell says:

    The minimising of the forthcoming Act is surprising. I cannot remember a single Act which would at a stroke condemn so many people (in fact, all the major and old international communities) to having to disobey their own consciences or face a fine.

    If anyone can remember such an Act, then please remind me, as I am not that clued up on legal history.

    Of course we don’t yet know what the exemptions will be. But unless they are many, there will be many fines and many imprisonments.

    There seems to be a view around that anyone who views ‘the world’ [world system] negatively (as in John’s Gospel) is a sectarian. However, John’s gospel is virtually the sole source of several major Christian doctrines.
    This is (correct me if I am wrong) a crazy point of view. Why? Because anyone can see it depends entirely on what world system one is part of. There are some that are worth affirming, others worth affirming cautiously, others worth rejecting. It’s all done on a case by case basis.

    Is it really possible to affirm *whatever* world system one is part of, simply because familiarity breeds complacency? I would have thought that logically, given that there are so many possible world/national systems, the chances of one’s own properly-thought-out views coinciding with the ethos of one’s country were almost zero.

  • Ford Elms says:

    Simon Morden,
    This concept of the monolithic “Liberals” who all believe the same heretical nonsense is well formulated here:{0124EFED-8D9A-4067-9C7C-969A768F1648}/ETS_2nded_Final.pdf

    One striking thing about it is that, when it gives “evidence” for these things that all the Godless liberals supposedly believe, and going through the list I cannot find much I believe, nor most of the “Liberals” I have had communication with, it gives two quotes from John Spong, one from an English bishop, and these are frankly off the wall. The rest seems to be at most debatable, but it is all cast as examples of the so-called Liberal abandonment of traditional Christianity. In my angry times, I can only consider it to be false witness for the purpose of inflaming emotions. Whether this is a source for ConsEvos on this list, I do not know.

  • Christopher Shell says:

    Re Cheryl’s point:

    When the christians, muslims and jews gather tomorrow outside the palace of westminster, then it will be in the cause and in the tradition of Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. They are the ones that Cheryl correctly says stood up against the bullies, and we will also be standing up against the bullies. The kind of parliamentary bullies who:
    (1) give lipservice to democracy and then present us with faits accomplis.
    (2) change nothing when record numbers complain to the BBC.
    (3) Base their policies on the Zeitgeist rather than on logical or statistical argument.

  • Merseymike says:


    Why should Government bend to the whims of a small number of conservative religionists and allow discrimination against others who have the right to be equal citizens.

    We are not a theocracy. Your religion is fine for you to practice, but not enforce as rule over others. Government is secular.

  • Simon Morden says:

    Ford – thanks for that link. It was enlightening – McCarthyism seems to be alive and well, living under a different guise.

    But how can good Anglicans have any sort of conversation with ‘Revisionist Christians’? They are the Devil himself. They must be cast out of our congregations, our pulpits, our bishops’ palaces. Assuming they exist outside of Spong, that is…

  • mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) says:

    Re: statistics and public opinion. Always remember that God is only on the side of a minority when I’m the minority in question.

  • Ford Elms says:

    “Assuming they exist outside of Spong, that is…”
    LOL. But Spong can only be understood as existing in terms of his creation, there is no independent Spong, he exists within all of us, we must all strive to awaken the Spong within, and thus achieve true Spongnosis! Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

  • laurence says:

    He lives within my heart.

    When I first met Jack in 1980 at Elizabeth Canham’s priesting, he was quite conservative. He has improved over the years –especially on women and gays. He has had the courage to face the truth faithfully and to speak of it and to it.

    His integrity is to be admired.

  • Ford ELms says:

    Can’t say that I know all that much about him, actually. His “12 Theses” left me cold, though. They seemed to show a lack of connection with mysticism and an almost fundamentalist approach to science that I cannot relate to in a person of faith. I was being flippant above, but his attitude that we must abandon mystical understandings of things like miracles in our “post-Newtonian” world would require me to abandon much of what brought me back to faith in the first place. I really can’t see the need for it. It’s like the patrons of an art gallery running onto a baseball field demanding everybody give up going to baseball games because they aren’t art. They aren’t meant to be, and religion isn’t meant to be science either. It disturbs me that a bishop wouldn’t understand that.

  • laurence says:

    No Ford I guess Jack isnt a hot mystic. But he has a rather rational approach and a desire to communicate his sense of things ,his non-mystical vision of religion. There are people for whom his witness and teching has been and is important — useful. We are all different. Different writers, witnesses move or appeal to you. And so on. Isn’t that why we need the diversity we find in the church and the world ?

    I am moved by his sincerity and his conscientious-ness in doing his duty.

    I may be biased -never mind. A whole party of us flew to New Jersey from Southwark diocese (south London,UK) for the Priesting of a deacon from our diocese (Southwark), Liz Canham at Jack’s — and our hands. The party was led by Mervyn Stockwood the then bishop of Southwark. We were put up in the parish of Kennelon, NJ. I was upset by Jack Sppng’s (then)social conservatism at the time. We were starry-eyed young anglo-catholics back then !

  • Merseymike says:

    Remember that Jack Spong is from a firmly evangelical,low-church background – and he still has a preference for that low-church style, which is far from mystical in itself.

  • Ford ELms says:

    But that’s the point. Any talk of God must be mystical. We’ve argued here before about the unknowability of God, but the very concept of God requires us to be mystical. Otherwise we are just positing a supremely powerful “us” who is bound by the frameworks we are bound by. That’s why the school to which I understand Spong belongs leaves me just as unfulfilled as Evangelicalism, both seem incapable of conceiving of anything that is bigger than our human perceptions. God must be a Lawgiver who punishes those who disobey the way we think they should be punished. God is the source of social justice as we understand it to be, and forgives in the way we think a God should forgive. Well, no. God is God. He is knowable to us in Christ but says to us “My ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts”. There’s lots to contemplate in His sayings to Job. Where were you when I made the Horse? Where were you when I made the lightening? Frankly, any understanding of God that seeks to put Him in our terms seems to me to be making Him in our own image. Spong, as far as I can see, is guilty of having too little awe and wonder at the awesomeness of God, just like the Evangelicals, again as far as I can see. I’m more comfortable with the Cloud of Unknowing than I am with the certainty of either camp, actually, and I really can’t have much use for religion that seems to want to put either fear or reason in the place of awe.

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