on Saturday, 16 September 2023 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Theo Hobson The Spectator In praise of Justin Welby’s ‘less bossy’ Church of England
Helen King sharedconversations Two meetings down, one to go: Living with Difference
I’m not sure how an Archbishop of Canterbury detached from Theology is a good thing, as Theo Hobson suggests. Rowan Williams knew a lot. But Hobson prefers someone who doesn’t know much about religion. Personally, I prefer my doctor to know about medicine, and my car mechanic to be skilled with engines . Ignorance is not bliss.
Knowing nothing has resulted in Hobson’s initial fear being realised. The CofE is soaked in “cheesy banality”.
From the service for the ordination of a bishop “Bishops are ordained to be shepherds of Christ’s flock”. Yes, they are also Guardians of the Faith but there are plenty of theologians to advise them on that. Primarily they are pastors. Rowan Williams combined that with being a first-rate theologian but what the Church needs is bishops who care for Christ’s flock, to meet people where they are just as Jesus did.
I suppose being the Treasurer of Enterprise Oil plc may equip someone like Mr Welby to be a manager, but it’s stretching the Ordinal that the exploration of fossil fuels makes one a pastor.
Rowan Williams does know a lot, but he did not know he needed to stand his ground over the nomination of Jeffrey John as a bishop in 2003. One is never more powerful than when when one first assumes high office. He gave that authority away by forcing John to step down from that appointment. Williams’ tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury went downhill from there. Fundamentalists in the Church of England exercise vastly more power than they are due. They need to be stood up to.
I totally agree.
Hay! – He was elected (… selected) not to be Christlike (that would be extremly dangerous), but a Church Officer. And so he was.
“Some balance. In theology” ?
Not a balance I’m comfortable with.
When reading the parables of Jesus, my eyes get wet.
Reading a theology book – even a good one, they rest dry.
That’s the difference between poetry and reasoning.
I do love reasoning: I’m a mathematician. But, in religion, reason is secondary.
After all. a religious person is someone who feals at ease to say what is not grounded neither on reason nor on experience.
Thank you to Helen King for another excellent article with a really encouraging description of the breadth of Anglicanism at the end.
Less bossy? Maybe for those outside it…
Hobson’s article just shows how Justin Welby has presided over making the Cof E even more irrelevant to the general population whilst doing everything he can to enforce an evangelical managerial vision of the church on those who are within it.
That is hardly surprising. In this video Mr Welby says “I love the worship . I love the music. It’s my tradition. It’s how I grew up as a Christian”. Unfortunately he’s talking about Soul Survivor, Watford which has been revealed as a cult. Encouraging this sort of tradition to be ‘planted’ throughout the CofE simply alienates the majority of English people both within, and outside, the Church.
Not all Anglicans are members of the Church of England. I feel totally alienated by Welby’s Top Down Managerial approach. There is an alternative I have started to worship via YouTube at Newport Cathedral. A very different approach to music but one that inspires me every Sunday.
Young Anglicans. And not a happy-clappy in sight!
In positive response to John Wall, I am pleased that some of those describing themselves as Evangelicals are actually now owning up to being fundamentalists.
As an Anglo Catholic Biblical Scholar, I would suggest that such a position which embraces Biblical Inerrancy and literally truth is, to put it mildly, very hard to justify.
I also have suffered several times by Fundamentalists suggesting I was on the way to hell because my view of Scripture was different from theirs. I am so glad that the final Judgement does not include any such folk!
Rev’d Canon Dr. Foster,
If I may be so bold as to amend your last sentence: I am glad that the final Judgment does not include any such folk as Judges.
Regardless of one’s faith, I refuse to believe an all-merciful, all-knowing, all-wise God would save millions of souls and damn billions.
I’m an anti-Ruth when it comes to conservative Christians (I include fundamentalist and charismatic Christian as well): Their god is not my God and their ways are not my ways.
Well it depends what you mean by conservative. Many (most?) conservatives do not believe in a God who condemns billions to damnation but do believe (as I do) that God offers salvation to all but does not compel anyone to accept the offer – so if people are damned, they damn themselves.
Can you explain what “damnation” is like? Does God create some people who can’t intellectually accept an evangelical offer to become a Christian and is then destined to suffer for all eternity? Sounds horrible!
I think the difference is what you think is required to accept salvation. If you think it requires believing in a particular iteration of Christianity, I’m not with you. I don’t think it requires being any kind of a Christian, as that would, for example, exclude millions of faithful Jews–of all stripes–from salvation. I also fail to see why a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or (for that matter) an atheist who lives a good life, loves his neighbors as himself, holds no animus for anyone, would be denied salvation by a just and loving God.
‘who lives a good life…’
Um – so salvation is something we earn, is it?
Different faiths have different views on salvation. Judaism, at this time of year in its religious cycle, states God wants sinners to repent and return, but requires a change of behavior. For example, trying to make amends and making someone whole if I have sinned against them. humbly asking God for forgiveness and changing my behavior if I have sinned against God. I would like to think that in Protestant Christianity, even with “salvation by faith”, saying “I believe! Thank you, Jesus!” on one day of the week and not changing how one behaves the rest of the week doesn’t… Read more »
Yes, I give you James 2:26….
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Men discussing salvation, who is saved, who is not, is nonsensical.
In Physics, the same reality, observed by two guys, is represented by two different records of observables. One needs Lorentz Transformations, to “translate” from one observer to the other. The objective reality is untainable if one ignores such transformations.
Concerning Salvation, what every Christian must observe is “Everyone is saved, except possibly myself. But, with God’s help, I will too”.
This seems leading to contradictions, right? That’s because only God knows the transformations that get objectivity.
‘Men discussing salvation’. Yes it is too often just men. It is not good to be alone – and that includes doing theology.
Why would it make more sense if it weren’t just men? Can’t women also talk nonsense?
As they say in General Synod, I will reply to both these questions together. Salvation is not about intellectual assent to anything and certainly not to a particular iteration of Christian belief. It centres on a relationship with God in Christ – and you can conceive of that relationship in various ways and express it in various ways too. Double predestination is a monstrous doctrine with no scriptural support. All those created by God are capable of responding to God’s love and the offer of salvation. I am troubled to see double predestination re-emerging in some evangelical circles. (My theology… Read more »
Salvation may be God’s free gift. But many evangelicals are sure they are the ones He’s giving it to. And are even more certain who is getting nothing!
I’m not sure why “double predestination” is the problem. Single predestination of some is no different, just rather less intellectually honest. Doing away with predestination altogether, though popular, is Pelagian and “evangelical” only in a rather (modern) lazy way. The problem doesn’t lie with predestination but with foresight and responsibility. If God foresaw (or ought to have foreseen) consequences, I can’t really see why it’s critical that He “predestined” them. The problem lies with the doctrine of hell (on which annihilation is at least some improvement). Schleiermacher had an attractive answer, viewing “double predestination” in historical terms but under the… Read more »
Yes, it’s not assenting to a set of doctrines that saves us but the mercy of God encountered in Christ. How else could people receive salvation/healing/soteria through Jesus before the cross and resurrection, before the apostles preaching and before the Pauline epistles? But Rahner’s idea of Anonymous Christians hasn’t worn very well in my view – it can appear rather patronising to those of other faiths as if they’re being told that in spite of appearances and identity they’re really hidden Christians. I rather like the Jewish idea of Righteous Gentiles or the Righteous Among the Nations whose lives display… Read more »
Assenting to a set of doctrines might not “save” us. But not adhering to an assumed biblical condemnation of same-sex marriage has become a yardstick of evangelical fidelity. It’s good to know Mr Read doesn’t believe in “eternal torment”, but rather how a relationship with God is developed. Sadly those who are not in such a relationship will be “annihilated”. That’s all very loving. Mr Putin thinks that’s what should happen to Ukrainians. Is the threat of eternal annihilation part of the Church’s loving mission? If so, leave me out.
Thank you, Pat O’Neill and I say “Amen!”
I have, in the past, told fundamentalist or evangelical Christians a version of your last sentence, and then walked away when they disagreed. They’re in for a surprise when their judgement comes.
In order to distance oneself from fundamentalism we really shouldn’t be saying “This is the Word of the Lord” after public Bible readings. None of the attempts I’ve heard to modify this (“For the Word of the Lord-” etc) would indicate to most listeners that we do not believe that the Bible is magically reliable, which as far as i can see is superstition. Where I am we reverted to “Here ends the nth reading” which one can say with confidence even after the weirdest reading.
You could always try “Is *this* the word of the Lord??” and see if anyone is paying attention, Nigel
A wise old man at my former parish used to say that the only honest response to “This is the word of the Lord” after some readings is “I sincerely hope not”!
Jeffrey John tells a wonderful story of an elderly and very well-to-do lady at one of his churches being given the ‘wives obey your husbands’ passage from Ephesians to read one Sunday. This she did without a flicker. At the end she said “I am supposed to say, ‘This is the word of the Lord’. But it is not. It is merely St Paul being silly.”
I asked ChatGPT: “The concept of biblical inerrancy, the belief that the Bible is without error or fault in all its teachings, is a relatively modern theological development that gained prominence in the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly within certain conservative and evangelical Christian circles. The historical process of canonization, however, was primarily concerned with establishing the authority, inspiration, and authenticity of the texts rather than emphasizing a specific doctrine of inerrancy ” It’s an important point. Inerrancy wasn’t a criterion used to decide whether an epistle should be included in the New Testament so a claim after the event… Read more »
Re: inerrancy, I’m not sure whether to be amused or baffled by the fig-leaf of ‘as originally given’. If someone from that tradition could answer me how that’s supposed to enhance the reliability/authority of Scripture I’d (genuinely) be grateful, since all it seems to amount to is, ‘Well, the original autographs were without error, but we don’t seem to have them any more.’ As such it seems as flawed as the apostolic tradition’s stretching back to Peter – that is, there’s a fundamental link missing very early on. I suspect it’s a pastoral catch-phrase designed to reassure folk, but it… Read more »
In the Old Days of reader training, with monotonous consistency and considerable malice aforethought, I would ask those unfortunates to whom I had been assigned as tutor to start their studies by considering the implications of announcing ‘TITWOTL’ (a lovely acronym, sounds like a South American lizard, perhaps a close relative of the axolotl, but with a fondness for peanuts – but I digress) after the ASB Lenten reading about putting to death those Israelites found gathering sticks on the Sabbath. Happy Days……
I remember Bernard Pawley in the early 1970’s, sniffing at the prospect of the Old Testament reading at Evensong in Canterbury Cathedral, declaiming: Here beginneth the 31st AND LAST chapter of the Book of Proverbs.
Lots of entertaining anecdotes… but do we have the courage of our convictions? Or maybe there are other churches that don’t use the response but I’ve just not come across them. I think only one person left the church when I suggested that we stop saying TITWOTL (or was that when I said that you can still be a Christian even if you don’t believe in a Virgin Birth?) Another objected to my having said that fundamentalists were not welcome, which I had to correct: I had said that fundamentalism was not going to be promoted, which is not the… Read more »
It’s left to the discretion of the individual here, which means that after particularly egregious readings it’s possible to inject a little distance. On the other hand, that does rather open the floodgates to a little too much just-beneath-the-radar personal commentary on Scripture. I’d prefer ‘Here ends the reading’ (not even ‘lesson’ since sometimes what we learn is that a particular writer seems to have been out a-gathering mushrooms), since I’m not sure that any playing with ‘Verbum Domini’ really answers the question. Do we need to say anything – one of my folk, now promoted to glory, felt that… Read more »
Gracious and helpful article as always from Helen King. I’ve just read the Church of England Evangelical Council letter to its members about the Living with difference group. Clearly they are not approaching the three days of conversations with anything like an open mind. “Those participating in this group from a CEEC perspective will be advocating the concept of ‘settlement’ as the only way to avoid the otherwise crisis if the Bishops pursue their current direction of travel. This ‘settlement’ will have to be without theological compromise and involve structural differentiation.” Is it really possible to work in a group… Read more »
A more generous reading is to recognise that the CofE is on a path to recognising same-sex marriage (which is bound to be the next step at the 5 year review of PLF), and that the adoption of the prayers themselves will constitute a departure from historic doctrine and practice for some. If ‘Living with Difference’ is to live up to its name, it does have to consider how the CofE will live with difference, and nobody else seems to be exploring what this will look like in practice. If the CofE wants to remain a home for people who… Read more »
“If ‘Living with Difference’ is to live up to its name, it does have to consider how the CofE will live with difference, and nobody else seems to be exploring what this will look like in practice.”
I absolutely agree with you David. I’m just not sure how effectively it will be able to undertake that task if the conservative evangelicals attending the group are, by their own admission, restricting the options before the group has begun.
‘nobody else seems to be exploring what this will look like in practice’. I am not sure where you get that impression. LwD is only one of a number of consultative meetings – I am involved in one next month. I am not wholly persuaded that adding another rounds of such meetings at this late stage will add greatly to what the bishops already know though I will be glad of chance to represent ‘Inclusive Evangelicals’ there – among others. But there is no one that is not trying to work out a way forward at this point.