Thinking Anglicans

Binding the church…

Ekklesia has published a paper written by Savitri Hensman and titled Binding the church and constraining God. Here is the abstract:

In a paper carefully analysing the popular use and misuse of biblical and doctrinal language about God and Church, Savitri Hensman shows that inflexible, one-sided, naïve or ideological conceptions of God in sections of the Christian tradition can reinforce domineering models and practices in the Church – which is in fact supposed to be a creative vehicle of Jesus’ broken body in the world, not a defensive fortress. God is not confined by rules set by humans and our institutions, she argues, however powerful they may be by earthly standards. In the biblical tradition, God is at work outside as well as within institutions, including those that claim to be about God’s business. Liberation, reformation and healing will continue to happen even if, at first, they are not acknowledged by the authorities (ecclesial and otherwise); and in time truth will break through our illusions. This paper is highly relevant to issues being discussed in and beyond Anglicanism, concerning its disputed future, and in other sections of the worldwide Church. It makes specific reference to the debate about an Anglican Covenant in the run-up to the Lambeth Conference 2008. It may also give those outside the Church a better understanding of how language and tradition is being applied and misapplied within very diverse Christian communities during a time of considerable upheaval and anxiety, both inside and outside the Church.

Read the whole paper here.


  • Prior Aelred says:

    OK — I was ready to be more critical than I am — seems “fair and balanced” to me (really) — I do think that one of the problems with a “Covenant” is that attitudes change more quickly than institutions do (imagine if Lambeth conferences had been able to legislate — practically every conference of the 20th century altered the position on sexuality issues of the previous meeting).

  • drdanfee says:

    Thanks Savi H. Great read. And a great angle on what realignment power and domination might really be all about, Trojan Horse Style.

  • Savitri has written another excellent piece, I love the way she wove biblical examples to underpin her propositions (a wonderful rebuke to those who state that liberal theology is “unbiblical”).

    At one point she wrote “How can churches ‘market’ themselves amidst strong competition from other denominations, religions and organisations? What kind of ‘brand’ is it they offer if their members worship a nameless, formless God who has been, and continues to be, experienced and followed in a myriad ways? How on earth can product recognition be achieved? And what chance is there of viable business strategies, let alone the prospect of mergers and acquisitions, if the chief executives or boards of directors cannot exercise international control over local branches?”

    In transition from working for my ex-husband to working full-time, I tried a stint at network marketing. It didn’t work out, partly a temperament thing, I prefer to be a behind-the-scenes defense player than an upfront marketeer.

    But I was blessed to be recruited by a well-organised network team, with good scripts and practices. I learnt a lot that will help me in many other aspects of my life. I also brought several books to try and get my head around how such systems worked.

    One thing that struck me at the time is how much of some conservative theological camps is run along very similar lines. It’s a great technique for converting prospects into clients. The problem is the ethics of it all, I couldn’t keep doing it because I couldn’t cope with the cost to those who didn’t “make it” in the system. I am not comfortable with a church model where the “discards” are irrelevant casualties who were not “suitable” for a church.

    Nor am I comfortable with a retail model of Christianity. One joke I have about retail Christians who support the apocalypse. God to little g, “So why do you want me to end this world”. Little g, “My wife keeps nagging me. There’s problems getting good products to the stores with the end-of-the-oil-age. Prices are exhorbitant, and she really doesn’t like the current fashions that rely on making do with what resources remain. So, I thought, if I gave her a new planet with lots of new resources and less non-Christian riff-raff, she’d stop nagging me and it would take longer before we had to change planets”.

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