Thinking Anglicans


Jemima Thackray The Telegraph Women bishops first anniversary: Why the Church needs ‘gobby’ women more than ever

Ruth Gledhill and Carey Lodge Christian Today Women Bishops one year on: The women who have broken the stained glass ceiling

St Hilda’s Church, Marden with Preston Grange Eight impossible things the C of E will never do

Mark Greaves The Spectator God’s management consultants: the Church of England turns to bankers for salvation

The Archbishop of Canterbury has written this article for The Times Archbishop of Canterbury on religious freedom.
[The article on The Times website is titled “Faith must be strong enough to take offence”.]

Barnabas Piper Christianity Today 10 Social Media Posts Only the Best Pastors Send

Andrew Brown The Guardian Does the Bible really say that global warming will make the Earth ‘vomit us out’?


  • Our religious beliefs (the Archbishop says) are “a core part of what it is to be human” – and the freedom to practice them must be protected here and abroad… “we must never compel or manipulate people”… “the church’s record of compelling obedience… is a cause for humility and shame.”

    “To take away a person’s freedom of belief or non-belief is to violate the core of their humanity.”

    So when a local Anglican church, and its members, and its PCC, and its priest, collectively have a strong belief in affirming gay and lesbian relationships and marriages in their own local community… and it is a matter of conscience to them… of deep religious belief…

    Is a church leadership that stops them, and threatens sanctions, “violating the core of their humanity”?

    Indeed, isn’t human sexuality part of the core of many people’s humanity?

    If Justin believes in religious freedom, shouldn’t that include the religious freedom of priests to get married to gay and lesbian partners, and the religious freedom of local church communities to bless, celebrate, and affirm couples, as a matter of vital human conscience?

  • Simon says:

    I wouldn’t go as far as that Susannah. To me it means that they have the right to worship at and belong to a church (or other religious group) that shares those belief. That to me is religious freedom. The internal battles within a group are something different.

  • Susannah makes some very pertinent points here – about the ABC’s statement on the need for religious freedom.

    Each of us is an individually created Image of the Divine, with special gifts and personality traits, one of which is our God-given capacity to love. If our natural pre-disposition is to set up house with a person of the same gender, then our religion needs to take proper and responsible account of this important factor in the lives of so many people who have a legitimate belief in the God of Love, exemplified in our religious faith system. After all, was not Jesus, par excellence, the advocate of the freedom to love?

  • JCF says:

    “a debate on religious freedom and belief in the House of Lords today. … urges the UK and international community to give greater priority to upholding this hard-won freedom.”

    The ABC was talking about believers of God BrandX murdering believers of God BrandY, yet why do I have the feeling that the above “debate” will boil down to believers of God [any brand] not having to *rent a room* (take pictures, create flower arrangements, etc) to same-sex couples?

  • JCF and Simon, greetings and good will to you in Jesus Christ!

    Religious freedom encompasses internal religious freedom of conscience within a faith, as well as external religious freedom to be a Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Agnostic etc.

    I don’t accept that there is a hierarchy of freedoms, or that Christians and Muslims murdering each other means that religious freedom should not relate, as well, to the diminution of people’s lives because of prejudice and discrimination.

    That is more than a ‘flower arranging’ problem.

    Of course the Archbishop was referring primarily to inter-faith tolerance, but when he talks about the evils of “compelling obedience” it jars with initiatives like ‘The Covenant’ (RIP), or the Bishops’ Letter threatening sanctions over sexual orientation matters.

    Freedom of belief, and exercise of conscience, needs to be protected ‘inside’ the Church of England… we’ve seen this over the women bishops controversy… yet when it comes to gay and lesbian sex, the conscience of local churches and individual priests can be over-ruled, and priests can be sanctioned (or lose their jobs) for the vast crime of loving someone faithfully.

    If the Church does not champion issues of justice… if it is reactionary or repressive in a society that has greater generosity… then yes, to use the Archbishop’s words, it risks ‘violating the core of people’s humanity’. And it also risks being despised and sidelined and regarded as irrelevant in a society that has matured views on human sexuality.

    Religious freedom is inevitably tied up with individual conscience, and it is contradictory to call for religious freedom and conscience between faiths, while suppressing those same principles within a church’s own power structure.

  • James Byron says:

    Susannah, I couldn’t agree more, but Welby is driven not by consistency, but by realpolitik. Like Williams before him, he’s terrified of schism. That being so, only an argument framed in realpolitik terms is likely to shift his position.

  • Rod Gillis says:

    Regarding the Andrew Brown article, Brown asks a good question; but provides a less than adequate answer. “It turns out that the disconnection of theology from the real world is not a bug, but the feature from which it derives all its power to change the world around us.”

    Obviously, the bible knows nothing of climate change. Brown writes, “Yet by the rules of theological debate, it seemed quite approved to twist [God’s] disapproval through 180 degrees …The speech left me wondering … whether there is substance at all to theology, or why it is that highly intelligent and well-educated people of unquestioned benevolence talk as if there is.”

    The use of scripture in moral and social debates is more nuanced than Brown appears to grasp. It’s not a matter of proof texting for policy. Scripture is best used to provide a vision, a wide sweep of values that make conversation with the wider world less, not more, difficult and arcane. Direct appeals to the bible on climate change or any number of other issues that were not on the horizon for biblical writers are largely useless.

    However there is the possibility of a more open ended and visionary exegesis. Note the early 2nd paragraph from Laudato Si, “This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ‘groans in travail’ (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” (Laudato Si, #2) Here we have two references to scripture that avoid the trap of proof texting, don’t require familiarity with or dependence upon specific context, that provide a poetic and fluid application of Scripture; one that appeals to the faithful while at the same time opening up at least the possibility of dialogue with those outside the church. Far from being disconnected from the real world, here we have an application of scripture that grounds us solidly in the present crisis while adding momentum to the incentive to resolve the same.

  • JCF says:

    Susannah, I confess I have trouble following you (I am an Ignorant Yank: this may be a large source of the problem).

    “I don’t accept that there is a hierarchy of freedoms, or that Christians and Muslims murdering each other means that religious freedom should not relate, as well, to the diminution of people’s lives because of prejudice and discrimination. That is more than a ‘flower arranging’ problem.”

    I honestly can’t tell if you’re agreeing or disagreeing (somewhere in-between) w/ me here.

    “when it comes to gay and lesbian sex, the conscience of local churches and individual priests can be over-ruled, and priests can be sanctioned (or lose their jobs) for the vast crime of loving someone faithfully.”

    To the extent I can follow your line of thinking (freedom to not make flower arrangements equals freedom to marry/officiate a marriage of the same sex), I would say that the former is for PROFIT (flowers, photos, rooms), and hence is not subject to the same freedom-of-conscience that the latter is. If the church ladies decline to put out flowers for a marrying same-sex couple, that’s their choice (and the same if they DO choose to do so!). But for the commercial florist, they MUST serve everyone who can pay. That’s the price of a business license in civil (secular) society.

  • Hi JCF,

    I admit that after I posted my reply to you, I re-read your comment and wondered if I had completely misunderstood you!

    So I guess we may both be misunderstanding each other, and to compound that, I don’t understand your last post either.

    Communication problems!

    Anyway, my bottom line is that I believe local church communities should be given the freedom of conscience to welcome, bless, and celebrate gay and lesbian relationships if – for those churches – it is a justice and conscience issue.

    Sorry if I have been rubbish at understanding your position, but please trust my goodwill.


  • John says:

    I agree entirely with Susannah’s position on individual church freedom nor do I remotely accept the propositions that such freedom destroys ‘the faith once delivered’ (etc.) and the Church (in the first instance the C of E, but then all Christian churches) as a unified body.

  • Rod Gillis says:

    Re Climate change, evolving theology, and possibly an evolving church, there is an interesting article in today’s New York Times. New York mayor Bill de Blasio is described as warming up to The Catholic Church as a result of Francis and his policies, including climate change. de Blasio, ” …is experiencing a new warmth toward the Catholic Church itself, saying the institution was ‘caught its own contradictions’ by electing a leader who, he said, has been intent on an ‘egalitarian, grounded approach to faith.'”

  • Sam Roberts says:

    Very interesting piece by St Hilda’s Church Marsden with Preston Grange. Bravo for putting the idea of the C of E downsizing and leaving the buildings to the government ‘out there’ and working out the details of how it could be done.

    I know it won’t happen – just yet – but who knows what the future may bring…?

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