Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 13 April 2024

Helen King sharedconversations

Lee Coley Church Times State support is needed to keep churches open
“The Government is unlikely to release funds unless parishes show how vital buildings are to communities”

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Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
1 month ago

If this paragraph from the Church Times article is considered “controversial,” I am appalled. “This comes alongside increasing recognition of the potential for churches to meet a wide range of other community needs. Historically, churches have fulfilled a range of functions in communities, alongside their core purpose as spaces for worship. Although this has been restricted over the years, there is a growing movement to revive these multifunctional roles, recognising churches as community hubs where various activities and services can take place, fostering social cohesion and support networks.” In the US, it is common for churches (of all denominations, including… Read more »

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
1 month ago

I’ve been shocked about the deafening silence which seems to have surrounded the release of the video ‘Let there be light’ so I’m very pleased that Helen King has written Surviving Soul Survivor. I was loathe to comment first as a retired professional not a survivor , but if anything ever were to show that Church of England safeguarding is not fit for purpose, what more do you need? Mike Pilavachi was regarded as special because he bought young people into pews , so he was protected, hiding his abuse of them in plain sight. I had always assumed he… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susanna (no ‘h’)
1 month ago

Many years ago, as a very immature and nieve young Christian I got involved, via other students, with a radical Christian house church, one of those who, guided by the late Watchman Nee’s ‘Normal Christian Church Life’, sought to reinvent the wheel. Only the true, NT Biblical model, as per Nee’s interpetation was good enough. And of course, they preached radical submission to the elders…… Fine – so long as the elders could be trusted. One of them couldn’t. Having seen him fondling a girl’s breasts in front of his wife and others,I was thrown out for asking what the… Read more »

Helen King
Helen King
Reply to  John Davies
1 month ago

Thank you, John. Bugbrooke – that was the ‘Jesus army’? I have a very vague recollection of them from schooldays, in about 1974; I hadn’t realized they came out of the Baptist Church, though. I’m sure there was another group around at the time who handed out leaflets outside our school and sounded pretty iffy to me at the time…

Helen King
Helen King
Reply to  Helen King
1 month ago

Ah, I’ve remembered: the Children of God. A quick search reveals they were far weirder than I realised at the time, not least when it came to sexuality and celibacy. Wild times, the 1970s.

Last edited 1 month ago by Helen King
Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Helen King
1 month ago

I think the Children of God were a different group from Bugbrooke. At least, there was a California sect called Children of God who had branches elsewhere, and believed in free sex and seducing people into their sect. They Called it ‘flirty fishing’. When I lived in California they were legendary, and not in a good way. We then moved to Sussex, where a member of Bugbrooke was in my uni CU. Their salient feature was then, as far as I recall, conservatism and extreme discipline rather than sexual licence. And I think they were independent of other groups. I… Read more »

Baptist Trainfan
Baptist Trainfan
Reply to  Helen King
1 month ago

Yes, Bugbrooke morphed into the Jesus Army which was certainly still around 10 or 15 years ago, if not now. I remember a TV programme being made about Bugbrooke when it first became a “success story” – that would have been the early 1970s I think. The Jesus Army became controversial through the late-nights soup runs-cum-evangelistic city centre forays. They claimed that they were helping and rescuing people on the streets who had fallen to the bottom; they were accused of exploiting vulnerable individuals. I have no idea which claim is more accurate, but I am always wary of help… Read more »

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
Reply to  Helen King
1 month ago

Helen, when I was a student in the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham and at that time also a Vowed and Habited Anglican Franciscan Friar under Private Religious Vows, we were doing a Module on the Cults and Sects, in which the Lecturer was the Revd Dr Nigel Scotland an Anglican Priest, who has written much on new Religious Movements and in one Book published during my time in Cheltenham, he had a whole Chapter, given over to the Jesus Army. Dr Scotland asked each student on the Theology Course to write an essay on a Cult and movement of… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Jonathan Jamal
1 month ago

Thanks, Jonathan. When was it that you visited the commune?

It was 1974-77 when I knew a member, and he was at the original community.

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

Janet I visited this commune in the Spring of 2000, during my first year on course at the University of Gloucestershire and on my return from the Warwickshire Commune, in the company of two fellow students both ex-members of the Jesus Army, one of these the Husband of the other student as a result of this visit back was persuaded to re-join the Jesus Army, and with his Marriage breaking up as a result of this and then the Jesus Army being dissolved, it must be a decision he must now regret. I noticed on this visit that in their… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Jonathan Jamal
1 month ago

In the 80s and 90s there were several groups that controlled, or attempted to control, people’s relationships and marriages. Very unhealthy. I didn’t realise that had continued into the 2000s, but by then I was rather out of touch with that brand of Christianity.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Helen King
29 days ago

Just got back from a four day wander around the Thames Gap, hence my laggardly reply! Yes, Bugbrooke became the “Jesus Army” and were pretty controversial at the time. The Baptist (and possibly, EA) connection came through their acquiring a moribund village Baptist church and, if you like, ‘inheriting’ the association with the Union. If you were into radical charismatic Christianity, they were something special – a genuine attempt to get back to the ‘pure’ NT gospel of ‘community’ and, very importantly, working among drug addicts and other people at a time when not many churchs were doing so. And,… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Susanna (no ‘h’)
1 month ago

I may be misunderstanding you but this story broke, to very considerable public outrage, debate and action, a year ago. An independent safeguarding investigation followed. MP stepped back from ministry and has no license. Others involved have also stepped back. I do not know what ‘proportionate disciplinary ( or judicial) outcome’ means but I am not sure the CofE has any further legal sanctions available to it – and understand how frustrating that is for victims. The thing I notice from the video is that none of the contributors reveal any practical knowledge of how the CofE safeguarding actually works in… Read more »

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

David , I couldn’t agree more about the confusion over how COf E safeguarding works ( or doesn’t) demonstrated by those in the video. As I understand it MP was allowed to ‘step back’ and received a final written warning when a belated disciplinary process took place ? In other secular organisations working with young people it is hard to believe he would have kept a job to step back from, never mind just getting a written warning – and as Helen wrote he still has his MBE and his award for evangelism from the COf E… another ‘foot soldier… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Susanna (no ‘h’)
1 month ago

Just to clarify. I am not saying the CofE safeguarding is confusing. I do not think it is. I am saying those in the video express their faith in an untypical evangelical para-church tradition. Their language and reporting still reveals that – an observation not a criticism. In the diocese where I work and in other churches I am involved with the safeguarding processes are very clear, well publicised and training is regular and very thorough. Who to report to is very clear. That is what I feel is still missing. I also note MP has had his license to… Read more »

Rev Colin C Coward
1 month ago

It’s deja vu all over again: 02/05/2023 – https://www.churchofengland.org/media/press-releases/update-living-love-and-faith-implementation-working-groups A series of working groups taking forward proposals for the Church of England on identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage are up and running. At its February meeting in London, the Church of England’s General Synod, considered proposals from the bishops which would enable same-sex couples who have marked a significant stage of their relationship such as a civil marriage or civil partnership to come to church to give thanks, offer prayers of dedication to God and to receive God’s blessing.  As well as a landmark debate on a motion (below), Synod members also… Read more »

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
Reply to  Rev Colin C Coward
1 month ago

The answer to all these questions is to try to find a way to move forward from a potentially disastrous lose-lose situation towards a more consensual win-win situation for everyone concerned. Worth taking time to look carefully and prayerfully at all the potential options. Introducing the idea of proportionality to this process, I imagine, would include an analysis of potential outcomes balanced against the risks associated with each option.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Adrian Clarke
1 month ago

Never has so much time, effort and money been spent on a subject the vast majority of normal people couldn’t care less about.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

More sheet music being handed out to the band on the Titanic.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

There is a memorial to those eight brave men (which describes their sacrifice as “heroic”) at No 1 London Road, Southampton, incorporated into the wall of a solicitors’ office replacing one in the former Southampton Central Library which was destroyed in the intensive bombing of Southampton in WW II.

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Adrian Clarke
1 month ago

I’m sure I’m not the only gay Christian who doesn’t see any solution that’s ‘win-win’ when homophobes are catered to. We’ll end up in the same situation as women’s ordination in the church if they are – ordaining women, but also coddling those who don’t believe women can have a ministry, making any statements on combating misogyny in the church fall completely flat, because misogyny is institutionalised. There’s no point in talking about how loved gay people are by God, how cherished they are by God, and how gay people should be respected in God’s church if that church will… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Adrian Clarke
1 month ago

Nothing which means there are some churches which don’t welcome those in same sex relationships (which means celebrating their happiness) can be described as a “win”. The PLF is already a compromise too far and no further ground should be ceded to those who can’t welcome fellow Christians.

Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  Adrian Clarke
1 month ago

Adrian, conservatives have been determined to block every potential option that might provide justice and equality for LGBTQIA+ people. The result is a Church that is steadily poisoning itself. The institutional instruments have been balancing potential options and analysing outcomes for years, decades, while people like me wait, not only for justice and a genuine, open, fully inclusive welcome, but for the transformation of the Christian Church. Your suggestion that it’s worth taking time to look carefully and prayerfully at all the potential options is abusive and obscene. I’ve been waiting while for sixty-five years the Church has been weighing… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Rev Colin C Coward
1 month ago

I agree that the time for delay is over. It has gone on for over 50 years. Predictably, the step by step ‘blessings’ approach has resulted in further debate and delays, while the acceptance of gay sex and marriage – which at very least should be allowed for those churches/communities who affirm it – has been blocked, quite possibly for years to come. I have long believed that part of the problem is a reluctance by local affirming priests to defy authority. It is understandable but it sells out gay people. Local church communities should be empowered to marry gay… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
1 month ago

When a British tabloid presents the new “husband” of a male priest as normal, happy news it begs the question “Why do pious church people regard it as scandalous?”
https://www.thesun.co.uk/tvandshowbiz/2890624/rev-richard-coles-age-married-strictly/

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

I agree that it’s normal and happy (and, by the way, good for Richard Coles! I’m glad to hear he’s found someone to love again). But I’d be a bit shy at using a British tabloid as my guide for what’s normal and happy!

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Whilst I have the utmost respect for the Rev. Richard Coles, I am not sure that one can describe living within a celibate same-sex marriage due to church regulations as “normal”.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Richard Coles has admitted that he lied to the Church about having a celibate “marriage”. He has that in common with many other gay clergy .

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Without making any assumptions about Richard Cole’s personal behaviour, it seems that telling a falsehood to the bishop to get past the celibacy rules has become “normal”, and accepted as such by many bishops, DDO’s and ordinands.

Strangely, one man who it seems has taken this vow seriously, and is actually living a celibate partnered life, is Jeffrey John. Yet this is the man who is held to be unacceptable as a bishop.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Was that spelled out in the article? I didn’t see it. My apologies, in Canada I rarely hear anything about Richard Coles unless my friends repost it on Facebook.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

I agree. But I wouldn’t use the Church of England as a guide either.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

I would say it’s just one more piece of evidence that the “pious church people” are woefully out of step with the rest of society.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

I would hope that they would often be ‘out of step with the rest of society’. Just not on this issue.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

I wonder if the age profile of the Church of England is a factor. While there will be many exceptions to the generality, it’s often easier for sextuagenerians to see lifelong celibacy as reasonable than it is someone in their twenties who has just met the love of their life.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

I’m sure age has something to do with it, but I suspect it’s more that for people who grew up while homosexuality was still a crime punishable by prison time, it is much harder to accept a marriage between two people of the same gender.

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  Kate Keates
1 month ago

Unless of course you are all about power and control. In which case presumably the prospect of consigning someone in their teens or twenties to lifelong celibacy would be just what floats your boat.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Susanna (no ‘h’)
1 month ago

I think it’s about sincere belief, but a belief that is framed on quasi-fundamentalist claims for the Bible, and that vests its leaders with (as you say) power and control over those drawn into their spheres of operation. The final words of Kate’s comment at the start of this thread made me dreadfully sad: that young people, with relationships so full of emotional and physical prospect, should be urged to deny themselves the tender, caring, devoted expression of love in sexual intimacy. Of course, a minority of people (including monks and nuns) may feel a call to lifelong celibacy… but… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susannah Clark
29 days ago

Hullo, Susannah – and Kate, Pat and Susanna – please accept this conglomerated reply, as you all say things I agree with. You’re right about it being ‘oldies’ – people like me, who grew up when homosexuality was a crime, who struggle to deprogramme their mind set. And, as someone who worked for the civil service and military, in a culture which reinforced that outlook even after it was lawful in ‘civvie street’, it’s still an engrained problem. In both trades, gays were seen as potential, major security risks, open to blackmail – precisely because of the law. Its all… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  John Davies
28 days ago

PS It occurs to me that, in common fairness, almost certainly neither Noel Stanton or any of the people we’ve mentioned actually began with the intention of hurting or abusing anyone; indeed, the leader of the group I knew was once described as the most moral man you could ever meet; yet it all went wrong. Unfortunately charismatics seem to have refused to learn – the same mistakes keep cropping up, time and time again. Much of the problem stemmed from the charismatic experience frequently being coupled to a very uncritical, literal reading of the NT, and an underlying belief… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  John Davies
28 days ago

A lot in your post that I agree with – thank you John. I don’t believe you can ‘box up’ the Holy Spirit in an authority structure or rigid theological parameters. My experience of Scottish Renewal in the 1970s was a very light-touch unpredictable set of encounters in community: less loud, brash and muscular than some later expressions I have seen. So often it’s a case of ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Problems arise if dominant leaders and their paraphenalia and fanfare block out the ‘still, small voice’.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susannah Clark
27 days ago

Thatnk you, Susannah. There’s a lot of truth in tthe old Celtic image of the ‘Wild Goose’ for the Holy Spirit. She goes where she will, and no one can predict where she will go next – but you know where she’s been and is.

Light touch is right – the spirit of God doesn’t coerce or pressurise. She leads – very gently, those who are sensitive to hear and receive.

Incidentally, Rabbi Jonathan Sachs made the point that Shema Yisrael correctly translated means ‘Listen’. Perhaps Peterpi could confirm this?

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  John Davies
27 days ago

‘I don’t like organised charismatic structures, conferences and dogmas, particularly the kind which discourage honest questions, yet I rely very much on a daily active experience of Christ’s spirit to live the life he promised.’

I totally identify with that, John.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
27 days ago

Thanks, Tim. I’m an awkward type, who doesn’t like being pushed into anything – and God gave us active, inquiring minds which he expects us to use. Thankfully I seem to be in reasonably similar company on here.

And, what the ‘Ruach’ wants to do with you may not be the same as she wants to do with me, or anybody else. Its us who prefer mental conformity.

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