Thinking Anglicans

opinion on Holy Saturday

Daniel Burke in The Huffington Post asks What Did Jesus Do On Holy Saturday?

Paul Handley writes in The Guardian that Holy Saturday is a good time for Christians to reflect on worldy failure.

Benny Hazlehurst has this Soundtrack for Holy Week – Peter.

Tina Beattie writes in The Tablet about Towards the shining city: Rural and urban in the Easter story.

Sam Charles Norton writes about The stupid and ungodly culture of the Church of England.

Alan Wilson writes for The Guardian that The Church of England needs a reboot, not a rebrand.
And, starting with some references to Bishop Wilson’s article, Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian that The Church of England needs its own rebirth.

John Milbank writes for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about After Rowan: The Coherence and Future of Anglicanism.

Giles Fraser writes for the Church Times about going Back to the heart of the C of E.


  • Richard Ashby says:

    Giles’ new appointment gives the lie to those who cynically expected that he would accept some cosy liberal bishopric or deanery. We should wish him every blessing and success in his difficult new post in south London.

  • Huffington Post’s article on the subject of where Jesus got to on Holy Saturday provides us with at least one believable explanation: That the place of departed spirits was, in fact, Paradise – rather than the more fiery vision of Hell that inspires so much of the fundamentalist rhetoric against those who fail to meet the puritanical ethos of the ‘damned’. The Orthodox have a much more sympathetic understanding, for instance of the eternal fate of the ‘traitor’ Judas,

    Could it be that Paradise – with the implication of a garden setting – might be the place of further growth in spiritual awareness – for those whose ‘spiritual formation’ was incomplete at the time of death (most of us!)? This place could possibly house all the departed who have not consciously rejected evidence of the existence of God in their earthly lifetime.

    This, then would make more sense of St.Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 4, verses 13 to 17.

  • rjb says:

    A really sublime piece of writing from John Milbank, and a fascinating contrast with Alan Wilson’s (also very good) piece. Bishop Alan calls for the Church of England to focus on the local: to be “the ultimate locally delivered life-changing non-profit organisation.” John Milbank, by contrast, argues that we need also to be radically universal in our outlook: the Anglican Communion must be “radically biblical yet hyper-Catholic; sturdily incarnated in land, parish and work, yet sublimely aspiring in its verbal, musical and visual performances.”

    I think both of them are right. There is an irreducible dialectic between engaging with local communities and recognising that the church is itself a single global community. Where I think I side with Milbank, however, is in his insistence on the need for theological and liturgical seriousness. Unless we are confident in who we are and what we are doing, we are not equipped to address the social issues Alan Wilson alludes to. When I side with Alan Wilson, I think, is in his willingness to tolerate greater diversity of belief and practice within the Anglican Church (and indeed the universal church) than Milbank seems able to countenance.

  • Laurence Cunnington says:

    “On the home front, the proposal of the coalition government to legalise gay marriage makes it imperative for the Church of England to take a stand against the intended measure, while distinguishing such a stance from any mode of prejudice against gay people.” John Milbank

    So, discriminating against gay people whilst giving the appearance of not discriminating against gay people.

    This sort of nonsense makes me sick.

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    Much to reflect upon in several of the articles here. I am grateful for rjb’s post, I share nearly all these reactions.

    I wish Giles very well. It will be interesting to share his journey in the Guardian.

    I think my serious disappointment with Rowan came at the last. How much better if he had come home to work as a parish priest (a job he has never done) in the Welsh valley he came from, rather than desperately hawking his body around Cambridge begging for any Mastership going. All that perceived holiness and learning would have somehow made more sense to me in that context. I don’t know how Dr Williams would have managed – but Jane would have made the BEST Vicar’s missus!

  • rjb says:

    I cannot agree with you, Fr Ron. Unless Christ decended into Hell, I cannot see why we would have any need for such a Saviour. The harrowing of Hell represents Christ’s radical solidarity even with those who have excluded themselves from the love of God. It is the greatest extreme that God goes to to reconcile mankind to Himself, by making himself present even where – paradoxically – God is utterly absent. The Harrowing of Hell is not just an extra-biblical appendix tacked on to our theology. It is absolutely central to what we believe about God and what God achieved for us in Christ.

  • Gene O'Grady says:

    I’m afraid that I find Professor Milbank’s assertion that the Anglican church needs something like the Catholic Cardinalate incomprehensible. Maybe something like the Vatican II bishops’ synods, but they never got off the ground.

    From experience, I know that for lay American Catholics “He’s aiming to become a cardinal” is the worst thing that can be said about a bishop.

  • JeremyP says:

    “On the home front, the proposal of the coalition government to legalise gay marriage makes it imperative for the Church of England to take a stand against the intended measure, while distinguishing such a stance from any mode of prejudice against gay people.” John Milbank

    I guess the question I want to ask John Milbank is this: Just how do you intend to convince gay people that your position is not indistinguishable from all those other positions on this subject (like that of C4M and its Religious Right proponents)that are fuelled by undisguised homophobia? You have a big task with the LGBT population – how do you think you should go about it?

    I think he is simply engaging in doublethink. The “incompetence and theological incoherence” he castigates is evident in his own rather lazy assumption that traditional theologies of marriage and “consummation”, which he uses to create a kind of affective apartheid into which to put everything but heterosexual marriage, will continue to serve us. It is quick, it is easy, it boxes the people who are not like us. It pretends to say that we think your relationships are as good or as valid as ours, but of course it thinks exactly the opposite. It reserves to its own a “specialness” that others can’t aspire to by definition. It is just like all discriminations – protective of territory, and demeaning of others.

    No, thank you, John Milbank. Civil marriage for all will do us just fine. I hope that the prejudices masked by religion will one day come to an end – but however fine the masking, they remain just that – prejudices.

  • The problem with Giles’ piece is that it only points at the symptoms of economic impoverishment imposed on the class expansion of new Rome at the expense of the poor. The propensity for brutish self-aggrandizement among his own left-wing cadre will never be a target of his careful scrutiny.

    The Jesus who healed the Roman soldier’s servant is hardly visible, since it wasn’t economic poverty that led the Centurion to call on Christ.

    With the focus on temporal public justice, why shouldn’t we release Jesus Barabbas to the crowd instead? After all, insurrectionists like him would say, they never killed anyone that didn’t have it coming. And these new Romans that comprise our financial elite definitely have it coming!

  • Thanks for your response, rjb. Since the descent of Jesus into Hades, when the powers of Hell were overcome (see the ‘Exultet – or better, hear it), could the very presence of Christ not have changed the horrors of Hell for the Peace of Paradise – where the departed progress further in sanctity, until Christ comes again to gather the sanctified?

    I’m all for a progressive understanding of the thought that Hell is potentially here – where God’s presence is not recognised. And eternal Hell may just be the eternal absence of God.

  • Craig Nelson says:

    “it imperative for the Church of England to take a stand against the intended measure” John Milbank on civil marriage equality proposals.


  • Daniel Lamont says:

    I regret Martin Reynolds’ ungenerous comment. I wasn’t aware that Rowan Williams was ‘hawking his body’ anywhere – and surely if he was hawking anything it would be his brain. Mr Reynolds’ undoubted implication of prostitution is sad in this context and on this site. I should have thought the best use of RW’s talents was in an academic job where he will do much good. Moreover, his suggestion that Jane Williams would make a good parish priest’s wife harks back to the bad old days when the parson’s wife was an honorary unpaid curate and parish secretary. My mother was trapped in this role and it is not necessarily a fulfilling one.

  • RPNewark says:

    John Milbank and others (some on this site) need to understand that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS *THE* ANGLICAN CHURCH! There are only Anglican churches.

    Write it out 100 times.

  • john says:

    I’d like to agree with rjb (with whom I do agree about the need for ‘pluralism’ within the C of E) about the merits of Professor Milbank’s manifesto. But of course I do agree with Gene O’Grady above, the call to resist gay marriage seems almost insane (because not only is it wrong but it will be beaten, with bad consequences for the rest of us), the style is hopelessly portentous and out of touch, and there is a hectoring tone which I associate particularly with … Tom Wright. Meawhile in the real world, life goes on – or it doesn’t, but it’s the real world we are living in – and should be living in.

  • Craig Nelson says:

    John Milbank wants the Church of England to “distinguish such a stance from any mode of prejudie against gay people”.

    Quite apart from the near impossibility of acheiving such a feat it is quite remarkable that he is calling on a church entity to (in some way, presumably meaningfully or if not he’s merely advocating a PR scam) eschew prejudice against gay people.

    I am presuming this would apply to other churches as well because not many are following it at the moment.

    Any way perhaps the C of E can lead the way in this exciting new enterprise and then tell everyone else what it’s like.

    If such an eschewing of “prejudice against gay people” is consistent with not ordaining gay ministers, celebrating gay partnerships and promoting equality and social inclusion for gay people in society and church then I’m afraid I’ll need to read further erudite articles as to what exactly this “distinguishing such a stance from any mode of prejudice against gay people” really amounts to. But I do await with interest.

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    If “the implications” piled on my comment by Daniel Lamont were in any way accurate – or a true reflection of anything – then I too would be full of regret to see it here at TA.

    I am sorry to hear of his mother’s plight. Mrs Williams however seems to have managed to raise a family, be the most loving and welcoming hostess and have a professional life. She lectured at Trinity while at Newport and at Holy Trinity Brompton while at Lambeth and has written a thoughtful book or two at the same time.

    It seems somewhat odd to presume that having moved with her husband and flourished at Bishopstow and Lambeth Palace she would fail to thrive in Ystradgynlais – while presumably following her spouse to a Masters House in Cambridge is OK?

    As to Dr Williams – my long held view is that he would benefit from appreciating (at close hand) the sacrificial life of saintly churchwarden Mrs Polly Capel in the same way he esteems Polycarp or Perpetua.

  • john says:

    Without endorsing some of Martin’s other comments, I do absolutely agree that too many of our bishops and bigwigs have never had parishes. It is often adduced by wise old-timers as an explanation for spectacular misjudgements and uncharitableness (heard it many times said of Tom Wright), and it bears on the topic of another thread – the relationship between cathedrals and parish churches. Of course, RW has had a terrible time, but the smaller struggles of many parish churches are just as heroic and – dare I say it – just as worthwhile.

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