Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 1 May 2021

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Towards Healthier Power Dynamics in the Church

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Speaking of culture; speaking of church

ViaMedia.News Revd Adams’ Story – Is It Wrong for Me to Tell the Truth?
by the Reverend Adams, a gay Methodist Minister

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Susannah Clark
4 months ago

In response to Andrew’s thought-provoking article, I should like to suggest that a ‘first order’ principle which the Church should aspire to, and enforce, is Respect for Conscience. . As Andrew recognises, the Church of England comprises of several different expressions and traditions of faith – each exercised and practised in sincerity of belief and desire to please God. . Therefore, there is diversity running through the Church of England, as it has in various ways, more or less since its inception in the 1530s. . When it comes to culture of the Church, we are inevitably faced with the… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Susannah Clark
peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

Wonderfully written comment. But a hierarchical organization with roots in a founding hierarchical organization (the Roman Catholic Church) that preaches its sole leader’s word is law (and centuries after the break codified the principle that its leader’s word is infallible when speaking officially) will have a hard time adapting to a hybrid hierarchical/congregational approach. And, people (I include myself, mea culpa) have a hard time with reciprocity. Of course, I want synagogue B to recognize my congregation’s belief, … but recognizing their beliefs is a lot harder. I don’t know whether, in the CofE, there are organizational or legal or… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
4 months ago

The hierarchical organisation does indeed have problems with devolving decisions to the local level. And that includes Synod as well as bishops. And yet, all around the country, there are hundreds and hundreds of church communities who believe in gay and lesbian sexuality, and want to affirm and celebrate it, and the question I would ask is: how long can the hierarchy continue to delay and put off the change that is already a de facto reality in grassroots parishes? . And in asking that question, I don’t absolve the priests and church communities at grassroots either. Believing in conscience… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

Freedom of conscience in worship is an important principle, but surely there must be limits, and how do you manage those limits in practice? A good example is given in another of Saturday’s posts – Revd Adams’ appalling experiences told in Via Media. Do we accept that the leaders of his church have the right to follow their conscience as they see it, and act to save Revd Adams’ soul by repeated forcible exorcism. If such a thing was to happen in the Church of England, do we just say well it’s their choice to follow their own conscience, and… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Simon Dawson
4 months ago

“Do we accept that the leaders of his church have the right to follow their conscience as they see it, and act to save Revd Adams’ soul by repeated forcible exorcism?” . Absolutely not. For a start, their actions were assault. I think it is possible for the Church of England to set out certain limits, while respecting the consciences of church communities to teach what they believe to be biblically correct. . So in the case cited, I’d couple the practice of trying to exorcise a spirit of homosexuality with a blanket ban on conversion therapy. However, I would… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Susannah Clark
Kate
Kate
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

So if someone is affluent enough to own a car, and well enough to drive, they can drive to a church which accepts them, but the poor who can’t afford a car, and the disabled and elderly who can’t drive, are just out of luck if their local church doesn’t accept them as LGBTI Christians. That cannot be acceptable. Disciples of Jesus fight for everyone, not just the fortunate ones.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

Well I hope even socially conservative church communities will welcome an LGBT+ Christian if they attend their church, but they are going to hear sermons that assert that the Bible repudiates gay sex. . It’s a legitimate interpretation of the Bible. . What are you proposing? Hounding out these Christian communities? Sacking their ministers? Forcing through schism in the Church? . I just don’t hear a methodology for resolving the crisis in the Church of England around diverse views on sexuality. What do you propose, and how would it be brought into reality? . I am proposing a way forward:… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

‘Carnage and mayhem’? Jesus teaches us that the remarriage of divorcees is adulterous and yet this inconvenient teaching is happily overlooked by a range of Christian traditions, without either carnage or mayhem. I don’t think that your rebarbative comment is helpful and it perpetuates the trope that LGBTQI people are being jolly unreasonable in asking for equality. The conservative evangelical crowd don’t get exercised about coveting another’s possessions as they focus their attentions on the wealthy and influential in society. Some of their most revered disciples Smyth and Fletcher have been engaged in homoerotic abuse. Smyth beating men and boys… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Fr. Dean Henley
4 months ago

Carnage and mayhem. “it perpetuates the trope that LGBTQI people are being jolly unreasonable in asking for equality.” . Dean, it really doesn’t. I made no such suggestion. I was making an objective observation that if affirmation and celebration of gay sexuality was made compulsory in the Church of England, that would result in a mass evacuation of many churches and their congregations, because it would force their hands. . I am in no way denying that LGBT+ people have been reasonable and patient in asking for equality. Where I think we possibly differ is that you appear to believe… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

Susannah’s writing of the CofE’s “inception in the 1530s” is revealing (I thought we’d been “loving Jesus with an air of superiority since 597”). The English Reformation was a time of both rupture and continuity; in recovering the priesthood of all believers it didn’t mandate “every man his own pope”. And while I can’t think anyone would want to argue against respecting conscience (“I will drink to the Pope, but first to conscience,” Newman), what price catholicity? Every parish church is shaped by the character and tastes of priest and people. Yet we also stand within a line of continuity,… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Allan Sheath
4 months ago

Allan, the best thing that could happen, I suggest, is that a decision is taken by the whole of the Church of England, that the issue of human sexuality cannot be agreed upon along any one line (some believing ardently that the Bible condemns sex between men – and indeed any sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman; while others believe ardently that sex between men (and between two women) should be both affirmed and celebrated. . For many years I have argued for the Church of England – through its structures including bishops and Synod –… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

So what happens if we get a gay Archbishop of Canterbury or even an openly gay diocesan? Or do you believe there should be a ceiling for gay ministry?

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

I don’t think a person’s sexual orientation has anything to do with the ‘respect for conscience’ structure I’m proposing, Kate. By moving to respect and accommodate contrasting consciences and integrities on this issue, a bishop’s orientation becomes their own private business, because my approach seeks to facilitate the ministries of the parish churches at grassroots levels, and I couldn’t care less whether a bishop is gay or straight. I just want all parish church communities to get on with their huge pastoral tasks, in good conscience and fidelity. . There’s no reason, within my structure, for their to be any… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

I think it would be highly desirable if the CofE broke in two with a new anti-gay denomination proudly declaring their hatred. That would leave the rest of us to preach the love of Jesus in the other.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

But there is no way that the conservatives would accept an openly gay Archbishop of Canterbury and therefore the only option would be to impose a ceiling for gay ministry which liberals won’t accept. Resolving things at parish level by ignoring the problem doesn’t, in fact, solve the problem.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

Susannah, thank you for your thoughtful reply. I too believe the CofE should always be cognisant of what Lumen Gentium called “the genius of peoples”. While I delight in seeing same sex marriages flourishing in mutual fidelity and self-giving, I cannot see conservative Evangelical churches accepting a situation where each parish is allowed to do its own thing. Already ConEvo churches resent subsidising, as they see it, parishes which have departed from orthodoxy. This could be the last straw for them, leading to formal schism. Opinions will vary on whether this is or is not a good thing. But I… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Allan Sheath
4 months ago

Thanks Allan, I appreciate your realism. . My personal view (and maybe it is no more than wishful thinking, but I hope not) is that if affirmation and celebration of gay sexual relations is made mandatory for each local church community, then I think that would indeed risk a massive exodus. However, if each local church is guaranteed its right of conscience to teach about sexuality as they believe it, then I think that more churches would choose to stay. Yes, I think there would be at least one bishop who might leave (Rod at Maidstone perhaps, possibly a small… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

Suisannah, there is already existing a Church that follows your philosophy of the supremacy of ‘individual’ conscience – allowing each congregation to determine its own philosophical approach to theological consonance. It is called the Congregational Church – where each local Church determines its own approach to theological diversity. I suspect, though, that each congregation might be pretty set on its own local interpretation of what is important to the life of that congregation. What we need in our Anglican context is the ability to “Love one another as Christ has loved us”. I guess that requires an outstanding gift of… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
4 months ago

If Changing the Culture of the Church is dependent upon redefining its beliefs and liturgical expression, who is to decide what these beliefs are? The CofE is an example of how religion is simply a matter of personal opinion. Evangelicals and Catholics can’t both be right. It seems that the culture of today’s Church is that of an evangelical sect, with a dollop of management-speak and a simplistic religion which ordinary folks find unbelievable, amusing and irrelevant. The CofE has lost any claim to represent the culture of the English.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

‘The CofE has lost any claim to represent the culture of the English.’ A fascinating sentence, Father David. Leaving aside the question of whether it’s the job of a Christian church to ‘represent’ a culture (I can’t discover that it’s one of the things Jesus asked us to do), we’re still left with the thorny issue of what exactly ‘English culture’ is. Do the English just have one culture? Which is it – Handel, Holst and Vaughan Williams, or Billy Bragg, Coldplay, and Mumford and Sons? Guardian or Daily Mail? I can’t help thinking that for many in the C… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

An interesting response. I’m sure that English culture is extremely broad, multicultural and multi racial. The monochrome., middle class, evangelical model of respectable religion has nothing to say to the majority of the English who find the CofE has passed its sell-by date. Coldplay or Mumford and Sons? No. More like Cliff Richard.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

Given that the percentage of English people who actually attend C of E churches is in the low single digits, it would seem that most English people feel that NO brand of Anglicanism has anything to say to them!

I’m actually rather surprised that you think evangelicalism is seen as ‘respectable’. It’s almost universally vilified in popular culture.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

I think Justin Welby, Nicky Gumbel and their public school co-religionists are very respectable, Tim. They promote a very wholesome view of smiling Christianity . I agree that Anglicanism in England appeals to practically no one.

C R SEITZ
C R SEITZ
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

It is a bit odd, I agree. Something on the order of 1% attend the CofE, mostly elderly, and we are supposed to believe that an evangelical distortion needs to be eliminated. That would give us .3% of the population. Maybe…

John Wallace
John Wallace
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

Sadly, my impression is that English culture is currently represented by Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory!

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

‘Evangelicals and Catholics can’t both be right.’ Why not? How could the Infinite Divine be comprehended in any one set of beliefs? Why should there only be one ‘right’ way to worship a God who, by all we see in the world around us, revels in variety? To put it from another angle, with all the varieties of human culture and temperament and psychological make-up, why should we expect one style of worship or brand of theology to suit everyone? Many of us adopt different ones at different phases of our lives. Evangelicals and Catholics are indeed both ‘right’. And… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Westboro Baptists must also be ‘right’ according to your argument, Janet. If everything is both ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ at the same time, why on earth should anyone take any notice of such contradictory, useless nonsense? The majority of people in the UK now believe that nothing is ‘right’ about religion. Theology is just about temperament and psychological make-up. Nothing is true. We’re all ‘right’. And ‘wrong’.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

Reductio ad absurdem is not a serious answer. In working extensively over many years with people of different brands of Christianity and different faiths, I have found something to respect and admire in almost all of them. Conversely, there are potentially harmful elements in all faiths and forms of Christianity, too. That’s because humans are fallible and so is every structure and institution we create. Clearly some things are just false – like those who believe in a flat earth, or worship the Jedi. It’s more relevant to my argument, however, that all our thought systems put together are not… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

To take an obvious example. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is denied by many Christians who show a sacrilegious disregard to the Sacrament. This is a scandal to Catholic Christians . But it doesn’t matter because everyone is right.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

But some of those Christians who show a ‘sacrilegious disregard for the sacrament’ make the effort to honour it by putting right all disagreements and misunderstandings before they take part. My free church did that, before I was an Anglican, but I’ve never know a C of E church practise reconciliation before communion. That’s what I mean by there being good points in most expressions of faith.

We can’t assume that because some Anglicans have different usages to ours, they don’t have the same devotion.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

I remember C. S. Lewis somewhere saying that when he was an atheist he came to recognize the ‘smell’ of Christianity in the literature he was reading. He found it in the Catholic Dante and in the Puritan Milton, and to him as an outsider the scent was almost exactly the same. In the 1990s my kids went to Catholic schools. I was asked several times why I, as an Anglican minister, was sending my kids to Catholic schools, and I always replied that the 95% of the Christian faith that we agreed on was more important to me than… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

One further note. I train lay evangelists in the Diocese of Edmonton. Three out of the four I am currently training attend our cathedral, which is moderately Anglo-Catholic. Differences between Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals and moderate Anglicans and all have not made the slightest difference in our work together learning to be effective evangelists. Honestly, the subject has rarely come up.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
4 months ago

I’m sure that is true, Tim. Whatever you do, don’t mention sex. It will ruin everything.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

The five of us are all agreed on that issue. We’re all affirming.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

Great comment, Janet. From a Carmelite and contemplative standpoint, there is so much of our amazing God that we just don’t know and cannot understand. The cloud of unknowing – of reaching the end of trying to pin everything down – may sometimes be the beginning of understanding. I absolutely believe there are many pathways, within Christianity and some would say outside of Christianity, along which people journey with tentative and trembling hope: journeys of faith, journeys motivated by longing for God and some kind of sincerity within, and it can be very challenging for the tribal instincts of human… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

“It seems that the culture of today’s Church is that of an evangelical sect… a simplistic religion which ordinary folks find unbelievable, amusing and irrelevant. The CofE has lost any claim to represent the culture of the English.” Although I don’t agree with this entirely, I do think you’re touching on significant and worrying issues, that relate back to Andrew’s articles and thoughts on Church culture. It does indeed seem to me that the ‘culture’ of the Church of England fails to engage with the majority of people in England. This is true on race, and also on the social/class… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

If there any any in the CofE who hold to the risible literal view of Noah’s Ark and the Fall they should be sent to Sunday School and told not to be such silly children. Such views have no part in Anglicanism. A Church “that accommodates more diversity of views, of people, of religious interpretations than simply one dominant position” can lead to a preposterous religion. Comprehensiveness doesn’t mean utter inanity.

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

I’ve long held the view that it’s all better sung in Latin. Music automatically brings a poetry to the table so that the meaning of words, even if we understand them, can be flexible. And when we sing it feels as if we don’t have to agree what each word means – which if in Latin we can’t anyway. “Simples” as Aleksandr Orlov might say. Furthermore, if the priest stands either at the north end or “ad orientem”, both of which I did as much as possible (I had churches of differing traditions), the congregations didn’t see my eyes rolling… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Stanley Monkhouse
Kate
Kate
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

You have been reading the wrong books, David. Any number of disasters could have given rise to the Noah story, which is present in the mythology of many different cultures. The destruction of Thera (Santorini) in the late bronze age is one possibility, but I think a global flood associated with the Younger Dryas impact event is the more likely candidate.

C R SEITZ
C R SEITZ
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

Noah’s Ark — that is likely the problem. Get rid of it, and voila, make room for a sweeping New Day of health and happiness.

Listening to this tilting at windmills is funny, if it were not so sad.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

You commented above about ‘leaving the rest of us to preach the love of Jesus’. I’m not seeing much love in some of your remarks.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Janet Fife
4 months ago

Please explain

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

If there any any in the CofE who hold to the risible literal view of Noah’s Ark and the Fall they should be sent to Sunday School and told not to be such silly children. Such views have no part in Anglicanism.’

There’s not much love in this barb.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

You asked earlier for a solution. My suggestion would be that teaching should be based entirely on the Gospels and Acts. No flood. No mystical creation. Also 95% of the arguments fall away because they aren’t, in fact, Gospel based.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Kate
4 months ago

Teaching based solely upon the Gospel and Acts has caused division for many centuries. One of the greatest causes of human arguments is religion.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  Susannah Clark
4 months ago

I think the problem is that the Church of England models a top-down secular class structure which no longer exists.

Colin Coward
4 months ago

Andrew Lightbown says, in ‘Speaking of culture; speaking of church’ that culture is the consequence of and not the catalyst for change, and that “changing the culture will necessitate a change in beliefs, assumptions, structure, and language: doctrine, ecclesiology, and liturgy in other words. A change in culture, he says, cannot take place in isolation to prior doctrinal, ecclesiological, and liturgical changes. He asks whether we are we up for it and answers that he is not really sure. I’m really sure the Church of England as an institution is not up for it. The whole Living in Love and… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
4 months ago

All I can say about these conversations is that, in my nineties, I have come to the conclusion that God has made each one of us to express something of the ‘Image and Likeness’ of God’s-Self in the diversity of the creation we have been born into. God has also given each one of us the potential to either love or to hate, but it is ours alone to decide how we are going to exercise that capacity – guided by the circumstances of our local environment, the law of the land we live in, and our own individual conscience.… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
4 months ago

I don’t suppose I will reach my nineties. Were I to do so, I’d love to write the kind of lucid common sense shown by Fr Ron.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  FrDavid H
4 months ago

Got to agree with you there!

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
4 months ago

Excellent, thank you. You’ve said it much better than I did.

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