Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 16 November 2019

Giles Fraser UnHerd The battle to believe in God
“Don’t kid yourself that atheism is a modern invention — it’s as old as religion”

Meg Munn Chair of the National Safeguarding Panel Complaints

Giles Goddard ViaMedia.News Inside, Outside – XR, Church & Change

The following two articles follow on from the Church Times article by Philip North that I linked to last week.
Ian Paul Psephizo Do we need to take Jesus to our urban areas?
Philip North Psephizo On taking Jesus to our urban areas: a response

45
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
10 Comment threads
35 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
23 Comment authors
Stanley MonkhouseJames ByronSusannah ClarkKurt HillIan Hobbs Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Wonderful thoughts by Philip North. ‘When the church ministers to an estate, we are not carrying Jesus there—because he is there already.’ That is so congruent with what Jesus said. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me… For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you did not invite me in. I needed clothes and you did not clothe me. I was sick and in prison and you did not look after… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

That passage from Matthew is my favorite passage of the Bible, either the Jewish Scriptures (OT) or Christian Scriptures (NT) Jesus of Nazareth succinctly and lovingly sums up the entire social justice message of the Jewish Scripture prophets. And, considering that I doubt people convicted of crimes were treated any better by the citizens of Jesus’ day than they are today, I’m always struck by “I was sick ‘or in prison’ and you visited me.” I first heard that passage from Mark at a weekday service where I was welcomed to stay by a group of Episcopal monks at a… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Thank you, Peter, for this record of your reception of the deeper message of the gospel. Perseverance brings a truer and more helpful understanding of what life is all about – especially when there are people who really want to help, with practicality rather than mere sympathy. Thank God for those Episcopal Brothers!

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Father Ron: “with practicality rather than mere sympathy…” Thank you for that. I think the practicality thing is crucial, and there is a danger that any of us can narrow Christian faith down to abstracts, academics, even whole classes of ‘leaders’ whose focus can sometimes be on the dogma, and a sort of containment of the faith within their own religious cultural settings (and ‘territory’). Jesus was far more than theoretical. He showed God works through practical application, and the shambles and dirt of living alongside other people, and for us as Christians, and he demonstrated practical love. We may… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“Who was it who said ‘Use words if you have to’ but as an addition to what we do for others?”

It’s usually attributed to Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel always, use words if necessary”

Ian Hobbs
Guest
Ian Hobbs

He wasn’t right though, was he, if that’s all he said. ? “Go into… Make disciples, baptise..” rather presupposes words. I think Jesus trumps

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

There is much good sense in Meg Munn’s piece about complaints, and the Panel’s recommendations are positive and generally reassuring. Although some might be reluctant about more centralisation, on the other hand, this should mean greater expertise being available nationally. I understood that the CDM was under review. It should be restricted to dealing only with serious offences.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

There are some helpful recommendations, particularly having a person who’s job it is to support the complainant through the process.But I’m struck that Meg Munn’s report doesn’t indicate that any survivors were present at the meeting; nor does she say that any have been asked for their views and experience. She doesn’t even seem to be aware of the lack of survivor input. This ought to be shocking, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from the Church. And it isn’t good enough.

Sarah
Guest

The recommendation to make the definitions of processes sharper and to have a staged approach for different levels of complaint sounds good. However the article only mentions the two extremes: serious issues such as safeguarding etc requiring the CDM and the trivial – flowers and choice of hymns which can be resolved informally. How would issues such as bullying and minimum work be addressed? (Anecdotally it seems little can be done about these at present.)

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

I suspect the first of the two links at the end of the post (to Ian Paul’s article) should be https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/do-we-need-to-take-jesus-to-our-urban-areas/ — both links are currently to the same article, which is Philip North’s response to Ian Paul’s response. In Philip North’s response, he makes the excellent point that the line between evangelism and colonialism is fine: we now rightly recoil from the excesses of overseas missionaries, but the behaviour of what amounts to missionaries within one country can be as bad. However, he needs to listen more to his own language: the constant drumbeat of “estates” (a dozen references… Read more »

Fred
Guest
Fred

I entirely agree with this. Nothing betrays the middle-class and (dare I say it) public-school-educated, nature of the hierarchy of the CofE more than this ‘othering’ of the working classes or those who live on ‘estates’.

Graeme Buttery
Guest
Graeme Buttery

While I can see why you would say that, I must put a slightly different view. The bishop does not just talk about estates, but has lived there and ministered there, not once, but twice. One of these parishes was next door to mine, in a tough part of Hartlepool; itself one of the most deprived towns in the country. It is precisely because he does not believe in “othering” that he speaks out. I suspect one of the other reasons he speaks out is because it needs doing and he is well paved to do so. In my thirty… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I think, Graeme, it is very hard to defend Bishop Philip on this occasion. One of the standard Church of England weaknesses is talking about people who aren’t fully represented in the House of Bishops. If Philip and HOB were truly serious about this ministry then it would send a significant proportion of bishops to live in these deprived urban areas instead of creating an Estates Evangelism Task Group to talk about them instead of living among them. Inevitably those not represented in the House of Bishops are seen as a problem (LGBT+ people) or hard to reach (those living… Read more »

Graeme Buttery
Guest
Graeme Buttery

I agree Kate that to have bishops et al living elsewhere would be good: but how do you choose? Urban versus rural for example when both have issues? Or when it comes to representation in the HOB, why just LGBT etc? Many groups and parts of our society are not represented in the HOB or the college. My point about +Philip is that he can not be accused of otherness as he has actually lived and ministered on these estates. Of course, you may be suggesting that all this matters not and as soon as he became a bishop all… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I heartily agree that it’s more than LGBT people excluded from the House of Bishops. Where are the former tradesmen, bar staff, ex-convicts? The list is long and just makes the point more forcefully. But the present discussion is different. Most concern a complete failure of the appointment process. But there is nothing now stopping the bishops from giving up most of their stipend and going and living in deprived areas. They don’t. It is hard to believe that any of them – Philip North included – really care about mission. Rather than the Estates Evangelism Task Force they could… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Kate: C of E clergy (at all levels, from Deacon to Archbishop) convicted of an offence which results in imprisonment (even a suspended sentence) are liable to removal from office or prohibition (whether for life or limited) or both – CDM 30(1). I simply can’t see how such people could be eligible to be in the House of Bishops. I imagine you might say that should change, but it’s difficult, at least for me, to envisage its ever happening. As for bishops giving up stipend to go and live in deprived areas, what happens to their duties in their diocese… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I am not saying that they need to swap diocese. it also need not be all bishops.

But when no bishops do it, we sort of have an answer don’t we? You can argue that bishop A or bishop B is an exception but the overall position shows the truth. Bishops en masse believe they are better, deserve better, than the people who live in deprived areas on meagre incomes. Bishops and clergy have felt that way for centuries. This is not a new problem. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a massive problem.

Kate
Guest
Kate

”I imagine you might say that should change, but it’s difficult, at least for me, to envisage its ever happening.”

Bishops are the Pharisees of today. How we react to that is up to each of us. Maybe some bishops are exceptions but to close our eyes to that comparison or say nothing because we can’t envisage it changing – well, personally, that’s not something I could do.

Priscilla White
Guest
Priscilla White

But the Estates Evangelism Taskforce is made up by and large of those that are there and doing the mission and the living and the sharing.

Kate
Guest
Kate

So why involve a bishop who isn’t?

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“ hat he can not be accused of otherness as he has actually lived and ministered on these estates.”

So by that logic, nineteenth century colonial missionaries cannot be accused of othering people in Africa: after all, they lived and ministered in the colonies. That’s quite a position, and I suspect few would agree.

Richard
Guest
Richard

Both links (Ian Paul and Philip North) lead to the same web page. There’s a link to “my previous post” which takes us to the original Ian Paul article.

I agree with Philip North, but I’m not sufficiently articulate to explain why. I know that others here on TA will do that for me.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

I agree with Bishop Philip North when he says this – of Ian Paul’s response to his (the bishop’s) Church Times article:- “Ian’s response is based on our fundamentally different understandings of the Incarnation. That may sound a bit technical. However, the way we understand Christ to be present in his world has a huge impact on how we go about the work of evangelism.” This is the difference between the ‘Catholic’ understanding of the Gospel – as compared with the conservative ‘Evangelical’ (bums on seats) approach to mission. The Gospel references to Jesus ‘eating with publicans, prostitutes and (other)… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Ron, I don’t want to disagree with what you say but I think you might have misunderstood the distinction Bishop Philip makes between evangelical and Catholic understanding. I believe he is contrasting hospitality to strangers who are believers (ie within the church only) and to all strangers.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Yes, Kate, ‘hospitality’ is involved. The question is; to whom? ” is it to members of the club, or to ‘Outsiders’?

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Fraser’s piece is merely a spin on “radical orthodoxy’s” solution to modernity: if the facts are against you, discard them; we don’t have to justify ourselves to rationality, ’cause theology’s the queen of sciences. Our framework rules! *You* better justify yourselves to *us*, and fast, heretic. It’s no coincidence that Fraser — a Christian socialist who scorns liberalism, denounces science for turning people into things, and prioritizes the collective over the individual — embraces this authoritarian outlook as I, an unabashed liberal, reject it. He’d doubtless win the argument if it were had, as he’s won every Twitter spat of… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Giles Fraser’s perspective seems grounded in a bifurcation of the interior life of the human person i.e. a thinking side and an emotional side, with the latter usually winning out. An insight from one genre of catholic anthropology is the dialectic of thinking and feeling in the interior life–a dialectic that leads to an integrated person–in the case of the person of faith one whose love for God and belief in God are integrated. The integrated person, whether atheist or theist or agnostic, strives to dialogue without resentment—which is what I think Fraser is on about with ‘angry atheists’ —… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Fraser frequently prioritized emotion over reason. As he said in the piece, “The real battle is always emotional,” repeating the pattern seen in his furious denunciation of the English courts in the Charlie Gard case (“love” must overcome all, even medical opinion) and his scorn for euthanasia (people have no right to refuse a caregiver’s love — indeed, in the Fraser-verse, the very concept of rights tends to be scorned as so much “liberal” choice, which is a Very Bad Thing). Nothing personal against Fraser. Indeed, he’s so terrifyingly good at debate that anyone who cares the slightest jot about… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

James, Fraser frequently prioritizes emotion over reason you say? Be not afraid, if that is one of his assumptions, you should be able to drive a truck through the argument. There is a massive amount of philosophical and theological material on the controversy over the roles of thinking and feeling in ethics (note Fraser’s references to ethics in his article). No one has locked that argument down with a decisive win. I doubt Fraser would have any more success–especially if he is using the undifferentiated and loaded term “emotional” (and referencing David Hume for God’s sake). Fraser’s articles are ultimately… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

You’re absolutely right to say that no real debates are won on Twitter. Unfortunately, as seen on both sides of the Atlantic, you can lose the debate (in a rigorous sense) and win the race, and it’s here that Fraser excels. It’s no coincidence that he’s quoted approvingly the infamous injunction that we’ve had enough of experts. To win tangible — as opposed to moral or intellectual — victories, liberals and moderates have gotta learn to put our case in these terms, to engage heart as well as head. I disagree that the real battle is always emotional, but it’s… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

The medium is the message. Two cabbies yelling at each other at a traffic stop is not a debate. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, you can’t catch me, I’m Muhammad Ali”. Ali’s pre-fight media jabs were a kind of twitter forerunner; but they only mattered because he was an expert in the ring. Fraser and others are not wrong about being attentive to emotion (but see below), the mistake is prioritizing one over the other. He makes an offhand reference to Hume, a ground breaking philosopher; but Hume’s insights have been superseded by those who came after.… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

I suspect that Giles Fraser’s piece needs to be taken in the context of the book he commends: Francis Spufford’s ‘Unapologetic’, which is subtitled ‘Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense’. Instead of starting his ‘apologetic’ with classical intellectual proofs for the existence of God, Spufford starts with what he calls our ‘Human Propensity to F___ Things Up’ (he even calls it the ‘HPtFTU’), and our apparent inability to fix this by ourselves. He goes from there to an experiential account of the relevance of Christianity to this universal human dilemma. I think his point is that… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Can anyone help me? How do I read the Fraser article? When I open it a huge pop up opens in front of it and I can’t see any way to dismiss it.

Simon Kershaw
Admin

It disappeared for me by reloading the page.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

In my case it resolved down a narrow column about 8 letters wide, so I ended up right-clicking and then left clicking ‘view source’ and scrolled down to read the article in the source-code.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

I heartily agree with Giles Fraser’s commendation of Francis Spufford’s ‘Unapologetic’ – one of the finest Christian books I’ve ever read, and it starts in exactly the right place, as Fraser says.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

My feelings on Spufford’s take are summarized well in this review* (from a more conservative POV than mine). In short: great and accessible writer, and certainly agree about emotional engagement; but without solid theology behind it, it melts away. Spufford’s a pretty orthodox Christian, so he certainty has such an underpinning, but bridging “emotional” to “intellectual” faith is tough, let alone binding the two together.

* https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/9617809/Unapologetic-by-Francis-Spufford-review.html

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Canon Giles Fraser is always interesting to read. Through T.A.’s link to his article about ‘Happy-Clappy Atheists’ in the article presented above, I found this wonderful statement: ” Belief is not really about being good and celebrating life and wonder. More importantly, it is about being saved. That is, it is a way of addressing some inherent brokenness about human beings, a brokenness that we are unable to fix by ourselves. The traditionally Christian way of describing all this is original sin – a term that has been overly associated with sex, but is better understood as a meditation on… Read more »

Kurt Hill
Guest
Kurt Hill

Concerning “Original Sin,” we humans may be inherently flawed but I would agree far more with the Eastern Churches that we all live with the consequences of it, (i.e., physical death) but we do not bear the guilt of it.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I believe that all of us ‘sin’ – by which I mean, act selfishly at times when we shouldn’t, either by action or inaction. That much seems pretty plain to me. Whether that selfishness is attributable to something prior to our births – like Eve eating the fruit (which is obviously myth) – or something genetic and inherent in the human condition is harder to pin down. My take on humanity is that we are a mixture of selfishness and goodness. Where people seem selfish, that may be the wound of hurts done to them, or a hardening of heart… Read more »

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

I view “original sin” as a pre-scientific culture describing, as best they could, our evolutionary heritage, the tension between our instincts and our rationality. I used to loathe it, but when reframed thus, now find it incredibly powerful and insightful. Far from looking down on its authors, I’m humbled by how close they came with so little information.

That’s the liberal theology Fraser loathes so much in action. If only he could get past his Pavlovian response to anything featuring the word “liberal,” he’d find it isn’t so very far from his own concerns.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

James, “tension between our instincts and our rationality”. I like that. The limbic system of the brain (limbic because it’s on the margin of the forebrain) deals with taste, smell, short term memory, emotion, aggression, and much more – all stuff to do with species preservation (eg bad smell, don’t eat, might die; or nasty creature, might attack me, kill it before it kills me). It is in many ways the interface between instincts (below, earlier in an evolutionary sense0 and rationality (above, later … ) in the sense that “if I act instinctively, there may be undesirable consequences”. I… Read more »