on Friday, 8 December 2023 at 1.40 pm by Simon Sarmiento
categorised as Church of England, General Synod
We reported previously on the November General Synod – electronic voting results
Andrew Goddard has published an analysis of these voting results here: Prayers of Love and Faith: a divided vote–a divided Church?
Dr Goddard’s analysis of the makeup and voting patterns of General Synod do highlight how in some dioceses the clerical and lay members are so unrepresentative of the people they’re supposed to serve. London must be a hugely diverse place and yet by all accounts their GS representatives are very conservative. I suppose the bishops for all their many faults tend to mix with a cross section of society. The ultra conservatives seem to spend their time only with likeminded people. It’s a depressing place the liberal progressives find themselves in.
“in some dioceses the clerical and lay members are so unrepresentative of the people they’re supposed to serve.” I think that this is to fundamentally misunderstand the synodical structures of the Church of England. The responsibility flows in the other direction. GS members become ex officio diocesan synod members (and so on) so that they can convey the decisions of the higher body to the lower. This is deliberately in contrast to the presbyterian system of eg the Church of Scotland, and was intended to preserve episcopal control. Or so it was explained to me in the late sixties by… Read more »
London is a very diverse city, and that is part of why it is the most conservative diocese on questions of sexual morality – those two things correlate.
I don’t think that’s so.
Conservative churches in London tend to be large so aspiring Synod reps have a large home base who know them and vote for them. In contrast, there are a large number of ordinary churches, most of which have a more modest congregation making it harder for members to get elected to Synod.
I think it’s fairly well established that BAME Christians are more conservative on matters of sexual morality.
That is absolutely my experience. The problem for progressives is that the more ethnically diverse the Church of England becomes, the more conservative it will be in terms of sexual morality. It’s a difficult one for white, middle class liberal Anglicans.
That assumes that ethnic minority Christians will remain conservative over time, which is by no means a given. People of any colour or background are capable of escaping the straitjacket of conservative cultural norms.
That seems like rather a patronising attitude to me. The idea that given time, ethnic minorities will come round to your more enlightened point of view.
Not patronising at all, simply recognising that we’re all human and have the capacity to grow beyond the prejudices instilled in us as children. Compare to the alternative, saying that those people will always be homophobic.
A very sweeping statement there Paul and it would be good to share your sources. One might wish to distinguish between churches (as in denominations, leaders etc;) and Christians (as in worshippers) here: not the same thing. Obviously not a representative sample but personally I’ve found no difference in BAME and white worshippers with regard to LGBT inclusion in any London Diocese I’ve ministered in (London, Chelmsford and Southwark). Synod representatives are everywhere very unrepresentative of people in pews and more a reflection of how well locally organised (and fanatical- the two things tend to go hand in hand) various… Read more »
Maybe it’s a sweeping statement, but it’s the view of Jide Macaulay and Jarel Robinson Brown who repeatedly lament being outliers in the Christian BAME community. I assume they know what they are talking about.
It’s also the view of Adrian Clarke as expressed at synod: https://www.youtube.com/live/1a7X8cDSaUo?si=y2tvMgEj65pCYljO&t=5043
Is the CofE in London as diverse as the boroughs that constitute the capital?
I doubt it.
It seems so sad that so many good people seem to choose the topic that Jesus never even mentioned to take their stand on orthodoxy, while appearing to ignore all that Jesus did say about riches, power, the rejection of the poor and unworthy, and the outcasts, and love and peace. That seems to have happened during Jesus’ ministry, with the upright religious people finding his inclusiveness offensive. It sometimes feels as if religious, (or orthodox) people find selected passages from the Word of the Bible more acceptable than the Spirit of Jesus, exclusion safer than the alongsidedness of the… Read more »
I think that Jesus wouldn’t believe GS to be a good use of his time. All those dreary presentations and then the procedural motions and the standing orders I think he’d find it all rather irksome. He’d be in the working men’s club or at the shelter for refugees.
I don’t even think the analysis is a good use of Andrew Goddard’s time. ‘Straining to produce a gnat’ comes to mind. I can’t say it leaves me feeling edified.
Their assuming that our Lord would have condemned homosexual activity because he was a Torah-observant Jew is far-fetched: he was condemned to death for breaking the first commandment, he was constantly harassed for breaking the sabbath, which he did! He had little time for honouring father and mother by giving descendants to Israel. That’s breaking some of the ten most fundamental mitzvoth in my book. And in most rabbis’. As is his claim that he has come to fulfil, that is to say perfect, the Torah, which was definitely not seen as in need of perfecting. A Jewish rabbi he… Read more »
I recall someone (?James Barr?) observing that there’s a strand in Christianity which wants to make Jesus an entirely orthodox Teacher within the stricter rabbinical tradition (as witness his take on divorce), with the added trump card that, being God, His opinions were axiomatically authoritative. In doing so, it was pointed out, it diminished by minimising his ability to innovate, turn preconceptions upside down and generally upset the apple cart. The sage comment has been made that if Jesus really was that sort of teacher, no-one would have seen any need to crucify him. I’ve been wary of ‘Jesus the… Read more »
I enjoyed Rabbi Harvey Falk’s Jesus the Pharisee for taking somewhat the opposite reading: that Jesus was of the more expansive school of Hillel, rather than the stricter Shammai; and that he was caught up in the conflict between the two schools, the latter of which was in control of the Sanhedrin at the time.
Not convinced, take the Sabbath for instance in John 5 where he orders the man to take his mat and walk through the gate, vs. the Torah as exposed by the prophets themselves, e.g. Jeremiah 17 21 Thus saith the Lord; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; 22 Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. 23 But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their… Read more »
Rabbi Falk addresses this passage, as well as others purporting to show Jesus violating the Sabbath. The school of Hillel understood the prohibition on carrying something as carrying something you intended to use. In this case, the man is finished with the bed and is putting it away, since he has been healed. The authorities who question him are of the school of Shammai, which hold to an absolute prohibition on carrying anything. When it comes to fine points of rabbinic law, I will always defer to a rabbi.
Indeed, Tobias, but many rabbis disagree with Falk.
Surely the fact that many Rabbis disagreed with Falk does not make Falk wrong or outside Jewish teachings. Similarly the fact that many Jewish leaders at the time disagreed with Jesus does not make Jesus wrong or outside Jewish teachings. Disagreement and debate is hard-wired into many religious traditions, including Judaism at it’s best. The Talmud is evidence for this. Being a disciple means one has the freedom to choose one’s teacher. Where it goes wrong is when one side in the debate argues that only one interpretation is acceptable, and then allies themselves with the secular powers and seeks… Read more »
Exactly so, Simon. The blessing of rabbinic Judaism in the form it eventually took was that rabbis could argue and debate without the fear that any of them had the secular power at their disposal to coerce agreement or enforce their interpretation. Would that Christians had been blessed with such a liberty. As one wise Jewish friend put it, “If you don’t like your rabbi’s interpretation, you can always find another rabbi.”
Thanks Tobias. I was fascinated by your research area – Social Anthropology.
If I had my time over again I would love to study the early church to explore what it was about its history which caused the bishops to develop from simple servants of the people, to tyrants who felt justified working with secular leaders to forcefully impose their own faith interpretation on others, whether Pagan, Jew or “heretical” Christian. It’s a study that needs to incorporate more than just theology, and your field might be appropriate.
Sadly at age 67 it’s probably a bit too late to start.
If it’s something you’re interested in then it is far from too late. Barring known life-limiting conditions you may have 30 years or more of this life remaining. Go to it – an understanding of this phenomenon that goes beyond the Anabaptist jerk of the knee decrying Constantine (however justified that may be) would be an aid to understanding the present church and perhaps how to extricate it from the wreckage of Christendom.
I think the careful research of Alan Kreider over many decades (‘The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom‘, ‘The Patient Ferment of the Early Church‘) deserves a lot more respect than the phrase ‘Anabaptist Jerk of the Knee’.
A useful alternative is “A Chronicle of the Last Pagans” by Pierre Chuvin, which tells the same story from the Pagan perspective.
It’s a good thing I wasn’t in any way referring to Mr Kreider or his research, then.
Well, until his recent death he was the leading Anabaptist scholar in the field you referred to.
I can understand why you thought I was referring to him, then, but no, I had in mind a particular individual I’ve encountered online who is an Anabaptist who in any conversation about problems in the church will find a way to bring it round to blaming Constantine. I was not intending to besmirch Anabaptists in general nor Mr Kreider in particular.
I think the relevant moment was when the bishops acquiesced to the emperor making Christianity the state religion, thus adding political power to their ecclesiastical power. One would have thought that–having seen what that combination did to Jesus–they would have refused it.