Thinking Anglicans


Bishop John Packer writes about Cathedrals, Bishops and Committees – What is a Diocese?
Although prompted by the proposals to amalgamate three Yorkshire dioceses including his own, most of what the bishop writes is applicable to dioceses in general.

In a Church Times article now available to non-subscribers Alan Billings writes They belong, but don’t believe. “Many in church at Christmas need their tentative beliefs to be nurtured.”

Deirdre Good and Julian Sheffield at the Daily Episcopalian ask Is the Kingdom of Heaven a Ponzi Scheme?


  • John says:

    Excellent piece by Alan Billings. Interesting comments from Tim Lott, whom one would not have expected to be a regular church-goer. Contrast this reality – not the only reality but a very important one – with the dismal standard of church missioning material – Alpha, Emmaus and the rest. Our church has a house group at the moment, of which my partner and I are members, and we’ve been given a shockingly low-grade American book to use as a guide. Last meeting it fell to me to lead the discussion on Jesus’ baptism and temptation. The roof practically fell in when two members of the group (not me – I was trying to keep the show on the road) announced that they did not believe in the devil. Evangelicals present were horrified and insisted the difference of belief was a major issue. Getting people into churches is terribly difficult; negotiating huge differences of belief and attitude likewise. What is clear is that most clergy are very bad at this particular aspect of their job.

  • JCF says:

    From Billings, in CT: “[journalist Tim Lott] does not believe in any con­ventional sense, though he does “take communion”. It was, however, a cer­tain type of church — open in its theology and rooted in its commun­ity — that made it possible for him to find a place there.”

    “believe in any conventional sense”?

    Is that ala a “4 Spiritual Laws”-type tract? “Confess your sins, and accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior”

    I’ve long thought that was a WAAAAAAAY too *narrow* definition of “believing”.

    Many aspects of faith are essentially ineffable: I think that’s fine. *Something* keeps bring Mr Lott back to the parish . . . and up to the altar rail to partake of what he’s heard named as the Body of the Lord.

    I agree w/ Canon Billings, about the nurture of this kind of ineffable faith, which should never be looked down upon, by those who would try to {ahem} “eff” it up. ;-/

  • peterpi - Peter Gross says:

    I read the reader’s comments to the “Ponzi scheme” article, and at the end I thought “Wow! someone looks at this like I do!”
    First off it’s all well and cute to equate “talents” with talent, but that’s an accident of English.
    Second, two different servants make a 100% return, presumably with different investments, of which they got not a dime, they’re servants, after all. I bet that since at least the early 1900s, if anyone made a 100% return on their investment in a brief time, the authorities would come knocking on the master’s door to find out whom the servants shafted.
    And the servant who returned the master’s investment? The master got his investment back, intact. He didn’t lose anything. His principal was untouched. And the master goes nuts.
    Or, maybe my mind is too darned practical.
    For example, why on Earth does Jesus condemn a poor, harmless fig tree for not having figs, when it wasn’t the proper season? Nerves strung a little tight? That story never made sense to me … Unless you like Bishop John Shelby Spong’s approach (The actual Passion occurred in the fall, when figs should have been on the tree, and harvest festival pilgrims would have been waving palm branches (Sukkot lulav)

  • Robert Ellis says:

    “belief is work in progress” So why do we pretend otherwise? You don’t hear many sermons on that do you? Perhaps we clergy ought to be more honest and open. Remember Harry Williams CR and the True Wilderness…perhaps we need to do the same. Thanks Alan…on the ball as always. Robert Ellis

  • I cannot imagine any advocate of ‘Inclusive Church’ finding themselves in disagreement with the thrust of Alan Billings’ article “They belong but don’t believe”.

    People’s faith is often subjective – ‘floating’ as it were with the circumstances of their lives. But is that not consistent with the catholic idea of the occasional ‘dark night of the soul’, where one’s personal belief in God seems to abandon them? After all, even Jesus – because of his taking our sins upon himself – was the victim of seeming dereliction (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) – so why should we expect the faith of the vast majority to be more consistent?

    To my simple mind (as a priest of the Church) our best hope is that the welcome we give to ALL people – irrespective of what we might judge as their ‘faithfulness’ (or, certainly, their ‘righteousness’), may just determine their openness to God at crisis points in their lives.

    The instance quoted – of the man who ‘takes Communion’ – demonstrates his willingness to ‘take a punt’ on God being present in that meeting. The question might be: ‘How do we reckon on the power of God to influence that person – despite his seeming lack of understanding of the process?’

    It is said that ‘there are more things wrought by prayer….’. Could this not apply to the action of presenting one’s self at the Communion rail?

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