Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 17 February 2018

Rosie Harper ViaMedia.News Is Organised Religion Inherently Abusive?

Lisa Oakley Church Times Understanding spiritual abuse

Jeremy Morris ViaMedia.News Know Your Enemies

Michael Volland Ridley Hall Cambridge Why residential training is here to stay

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Daniel Berry, NYC
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Daniel Berry, NYC

Agree with Mish: to the degree that the church is “organized,” i.e., has a power structure, it will be abusive, because it’s in the nature of power structures to do whatever they have to do, including sacrifice whomever they have to, in order, at the very least, to maintain their status quo. Doesn’t matter what kind of organization it is either: an oil company, an international relief agency, a university or a small evangelical sect will all behave in exactly the same way to preserve themselves. So while it’s no longer permissible (thanks to the birth of the ethos of… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

I defer to no-one in my distrust of institutions (I’ve been accused of “cynicism” here several times, as if that were something to be ashamed of), but the above goes too far even for me. Power structures are, ultimately, driven by people, and their responses vary from the worst to the best of human behavior. I’ve experienced everything Daniel says from powerful people (or those who imagine themselves to be such); but have also had people in power admit mistakes, set them right without prompting, and go to bat for me far beyond the call of duty. What we need… Read more »

Daniel Berry, NYC
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Daniel Berry, NYC

Mr Byron, I want to believe everything you say just as you’ve said it. Of course power needn’t be abusive, but I think one of the reasons monks who were nominated to be bishops in the early church fled into hiding in the desert was because they knew too well how power or even fantasies of power acted on them and didn’t dare take the risk. And yes, people do go to bat sometimes for those mistreated; but (I’m sorry to say this) if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on saying that members of bureaucracies are… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Excellent article by Rosie Harper. Abuse can be exercised by neglect as well as positive activity.The Church’s neglect of the LGBTQ community could be considered abuse of a minority in the Church as well as outside of the Church.

Daniel Berry, NYC
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Daniel Berry, NYC

@ Fr Smith: The type of neglect you bring up is what led to the rise of Methodism: neglect of the poor and working poor by the Established Church led Wesley to take into his own hands the evangelizing of those neglected groups. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Stanley Monkhouse
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There’s a great deal of truth in Canon Harper’s piece. And of course it’s not just the churches. Now boarding schools are in the firing line with Alex Renton’s book and the forthcoming ITV documentary. Mark Stibbe has already raised awareness of this issue and, having had two sons at cathedral choir schools, I can’t help wondering how long it will be before the Church questions its association with them. As many have said, it’s all about power. As a former assistant DDO, albeit briefly, I wonder why we put ourselves forward as candidates for ordination. I wonder why the… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Yes, Daniel. And women in the Church have experienced this paternalistic nonsense for a long time now. No wonder they find the Church resistant to change – even when their talents are now being recognised. “How long, O Lord, how long?”

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

I am saddened to read that Fr Monkhouse is no longer to comment here. His views and his own blog are always stimulating and sensible and his words are an oasis of sanity in an increasingly insane Church. Please Father don’t leave us!

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Stanley Monkhouse,
I’m sorry to see you leave here.
I can understand it! It does get tedious to have the same conversations over and over again.
This will not change until the church changes.

But I can assure you that many of us here don’t just comment, but that we do what we can in real life to change matters. Each in our own sphere of small influence.

And together, bit by bit, we WILL change the church.

Graham Hardy
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Graham Hardy

Michael Volland’s piece is timely and necessary, because residential training has never been in a more dangerous position. As economic pressures crowd the horizon, and ill-informed commentators bang the drum of ‘practical experience’ ever loudly, you also have to reckon with the fact that you have two ‘partners in crime’ in Lambeth Palace who have negative things to say about their experience of residential training at Cranmner Hall and St Stephen’s House. That one of them now chairs the Development Advisory Group (i.e. is a goalkeeper for the preferment list), and the other is openly talking about what he will… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Re: Stanley Monkhouse, “Same old same old topics, same old same old people talking at each other.” But Stanley, you could be describing the church, any church, in general with those words. The news this morning is the usual horrific chronicle of events from war criminals running amok in Syria to the rise of the far right in Europe to the endless grinding down of the poor in western democracies by way of government austerity. Yet the conversation in churches of all types seems increasingly irrelevant and inane. For example, the latest is the tempest in Rome over replacing the… Read more »

Anne Lee
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Anne Lee

Thank you Erica. Just what I wanted to say to Stanley Monkhouse. We will miss you SM. I think/hope Erica is right that we are all, or almost all, involved in doing what we can to get change in the church. One day we will all meet when our circles of influence meet each other and we have achieved it!

James Byron
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James Byron

Oh I entirely agree that cover-ups are the rule, Daniel, not the exception. It takes a strong moral character to do otherwise, which most of us lack. That’s why processes need to be in place to compensate for our shortcomings.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Dear Fr. Stanley (Monkhouse). Many of us here on T.A., I am sure, will identify with your need to take time out from the constant battling on the web for the need of the Church to become open to the real world of today. Not by neglect of the glories of the past – with its accent on beautiful liturgy and music – but with a sense of mission open to and attendant on the poor, the lonely and the outcast of society. This was a work begun with the clergy of the Oxford Movement – people like those in… Read more »

Chris Wedge
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Chris Wedge

I wonder if Michael Volland thinks that those of us who were formed on courses rather than in residential colleges are in fact unformed and second rate priests, lacking in experience of grace and incapable of thinking, acting and living with theological insight?

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Re: Fr. Ron, “…the Oxford Movement …in London’s East End, whose ministry was to ALL people not just the great and the good.” Ron, there are lots of examples of past glories that have inspired us all I’m sure–although one has to evaluate their actual legacy and impact from the the critical vantage point of historical distance. Note What Chris Hedges says in this interview (link) about the fate of his clergy father: “He took very unpopular stances within the church around the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and the gay rights issue. His brother was gay. My uncle… Read more »

David Runcorn
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Chris Wedge This article was written on the Ridley website to commend residential training – and Ridley’s in particular. in that context it would be odd to find him doing anything else. But why assume he means training on courses is the opposite? Furthermore if any form of training is under threat in the present climate it is residential not courses. Hence his emphasis – which I support. Meanwhile I work with both in my job. Both have distinctives to offer and the wisdom is knowing which would benefit a candidate best all other factors (such as age) being equal.

Charles Read
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Charles Read

Michael Volland’s arguments for fully residential college based training also apply to part-residential course based training. Hence he does not make a case for the distinctiveness of college based training – though such a case can be made and I think I could make it!

Stephen Morgan
Guest
Stephen Morgan

I’m with Stanley Monkhouse in heading for the EXIT door. I’ve discovered Justin Welby is bad for my blood pressure and reading about his machinations week in/out on TA is addictive and depressing in about equal measure. I need to break out of the bubble. Listening to many TA posters is like listening to Brexiteers telling us how great Britain was/is/will be. To most people in society today the C of E is at best an irrelevance and at worst a joke. Some notes: There are only about thirty regular posters on TA! (echo chamber!) (IO is by far the… Read more »

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

Commenters leaving TA is not as significant as those leaving the Church itself. I fearthe majority of people consider that religion has had its day and holds no meaningful significance in everyday life. Alpha courses,Messy Church and other trite initiatives can’t counter a disillusionment with all religions. The majority of English people have simply decided Christianity is not true.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Stanley Monkhouse’s post of 19 February gave the thread a certain trajectory. Stanley began by referencing Canon Harper’s piece. So I went back and re-read it. Harper asks, ” …scary question: Is it right to stay within the institution of a church which treats its weakest with such disdain?” Her answer is in her penultimate paragraph i.e. think local; faith stories, and the values of kindness and love. Her question is a good one going beyond staying or leaving blog sites or what posse one hangs with at synod. Her answer is on the way to a solution. The problem… Read more »

christopher seitz
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christopher seitz

As one who has bid adieu for the Lenten season I second the commendation of the moderators here. Stellar work over the years. Godspeed to TA folk. The Preacher has understood seasons well.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Given the reflections here about staying or leaving, whether in terms of blog sites or in the terms raised by Canon Rosie Harper in her article, I thought this article from The Guardian from a few years back may be of interest. The article is titled, We Must Escape the Institution by Theo Hobson who writes:

“Maybe we should learn to see religion as a special sort of artistic tradition. And maybe this is the way in which a non-institutional Christian identity can gain traction.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2010/aug/13/religion-christianity