Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 23 October 2021

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Are Clergy Teams the future? Some reflections

Miranda Threfall-Holmes Women and the Church How feminists can be nourished by the Bible
[53 minute video]

Madeleine Davies and Pat Ashworth Church Times High turnover in General Synod elections

Theos Room for the Soul
Pete Whitehead examines the importance of last rites and access to clergy for those close to death.

James Mustard ViaMedia.News Fr Alan Griffin – Unconscious Homophobia?

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Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
1 month ago

I found Stephen Parsons’ article very interesting. I do wonder if the concept of serving your title has changed with the increased likelihood that the assistant curate has had substantial experience of secular employment before ordination.

Time was when most assistant curates were freshly minted graduates in their twenties. Now they may have run their own businesses for ten years, or practised successfully as solicitors, accountants, architects or dentists. Perhaps this adds to the insecurities of some training incumbents.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Simon Bravery
1 month ago

A narcissistic personality disorder often comes with psychopathic traits. In those circumstances it’s best to use the ejector seat. The bishop, archdeacon and DDO won’t be happy with you because the narcissistic training incumbent will be apoplectic and blaming them for lumbering him/her with this dead leg (you); but you’ll have avoided crashing into the mountainside of their ego.

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

This is very much an aside, and I am very much NOT a shrink, but it’s as well to remember that there is no generally accepted definition of psychopath. Some use it interchangeably with sociopath. In the past what might have been called psychopathy is these days given a more specific label such as, and most often I think, narcissistic personality disorder. There are plenty of NPDs in the church – recent news stories have displayed them in their finery. My curacy and TI were great. The TI was not fazed one bit but by having a curate who was… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

Sorry about this – another thought strikes.

It is well known that the CofE synodal view of democracy is that of Leninism and the Soviet Union
https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/1919-11-07/debates/b557391b-6134-4e76-8454-d19efecdbe75/NationalAssemblyOfTheChurchOfEngland(Powers)BillLords
and it occurs to me that the church’s view of dissenting clergy might be also be compared to that of the Soviet Union in which troublemakers are labelled as schizophrenics and cast into outer darkness.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

You can’t leave your training parish without the bishop’s permission – at least, not unless you’re willing to leave the ministry altogether. You have to serve your title before you can go anywhere.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

I thought most dioceses had done away with designating some parishes as “training parishes” irrespective of the suitability of the incumbent. Instead stipendiary curates are sent wherever it is felt they will flourish. If this is the case, it should mean narcisstic incumbents do not get curates. An exception would be self-supporting curates who live in their own houses and minister in their local parishes.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Allan Sheath
1 month ago

Blackburn Diocese is advertising a post for “an individual with demonstrable project management experience.” Twitter has cut off the text to read: “an individual with demons…” The story is in today’s Times, so it has to be true.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
1 month ago

When everything in the church seems to be about bums on seats, Pete Whitehead in the most apposite way reminds us that priests are far more than recruiting sergeants. A good priest is there at the liminal moments. Diocesan spreadsheets don’t recognise the value of sitting with someone as they die having anointed them and commended them to the Almighty. A friend of mine’s Vicar doesn’t visit under any circumstances, she sees herself as a leader and strategist apparently; she’s missing the point methinks but she’s also missing the best bits of ministry too. People often say that they can’t… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

Being there alongside relatives when someone is dying – that’s a sacred privilege. I think it can be very much a liminal time when God draws close. The love and presence matters and brings dignity and expresses worth. It can also be real support for the relatives, both at the time and sometimes in the aftermath. Thank you for your priestly service, Father Dean, though of course you don’t do it looking for thanks. But it is precious, and in a strange way a gifting: both given to you and given by you: an offering and alongsideness, expressed more in… Read more »

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

The English thing to do would be to wave away your exceedingly kind compliment and I’m sort of going to do that Susannah, but what I’d like you to do is to always compliment your overworked vicar, the rookie curate and the elderly retired priest who changes out of their gardening gear to go and minister to the dying because there’s no one else available. It’s not always heavenly choirs singing: often I felt guilty that I hadn’t visited more whilst the person was alive. The current trend is to write out all of those particular messy time consuming diaconal… Read more »

John Caperon
John Caperon
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Can there really be a priest who ‘doesn’t visit under any circumstances’? How far have we come, then, from – say – Chaucer’s poor priest, and from the model of ministry he embodied! Fr Dean is surely right, as Pete Whitehead is, to write of the privilege and profundity of the death-bed visit. At all costs let us keep traditional ministry alive, and also the right of people to have their priest alongside at the point of death.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

A priest who sees him or herself as only a “leader and strategist” is clearly in the wrong role in life.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

You can’t be a leader and strategist if you never visit couples wanting to get married or have their baby christened; the sick; the dying; the bereaved; or people wanting their house blessed. Those are the ways you get to know them and what their lives are like. And if you haven’t bothered to do that, they’re not going to follow.

Fr John Harris-White
Fr John Harris-White
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

A priest called by God to be alongside a dying person is a great privilege, and a very humbling one.. For many years of my ministry I was a hospital chaplain, first at a county psychiatric hospital, then a well known London teaching hospital Whatever the hour , day or night it was a holy time with a dying person.. Sometimes the relatives, other times with the consultant.
When I returned to parochial life, the administration of the holy Sacraments was a humbling privilege.

Fr John Emlyn

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Fr Dean
1 month ago

‘Recruiting sergeant’ is an unfortunate metaphor, and no doubt you chose it because it is unattractive. But in the gospels Jesus announces the good news of the kingdom of God, calls people to follow him, “and I will make you fish for people.” This isn’t an optional extra; it’s the natural result of the discipleship process as Jesus articulates it. So I won’t accept that the call to spread the gospel and make new disciples is somehow inferior to the call to care for the dying and the bereaved. Apparently that’s not how Jesus sees it.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

I don’t make a distinction between good pastoral care, which of course includes caring for the dying and bereaved, and mission. Good pastoral care is the love of God in action, and it’s love that draws people to God.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

Neither do I, Janet, but it seemed to me that others were doing so, casting aspersions on the evangelist as a ‘recruiting sergeant’ and contrasting that ministry unfavourably with the pastoral care of the sick and dying.

I’m also struck, when I read the New Testament, by how much of what we call pastoral care was a community activity, not a one-person show. It’s often been pointed out how frequently Paul uses the phrase ‘one another.’ ‘Love one another,’ ‘bear one another’s burdens,’ ‘welcome one another,’ and so on.

Simon Kershaw
Simon Kershaw(@simon-kershaw)
Admin
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

In the kingdom, its citizens care for each other. That they should do so is the import of Jesus’s teachings, after all.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

Yes, and a lot of that care is not complicated. It just asks us to be there for each other, so that we’re not alone, to be a listening ear and a helping hand. I think if more members of our congregations were encouraged to embrace this calling, clergy would be set free to give better care to those in need of more specialized help, as well as making and mentoring new disciples.

dr.primrose
dr.primrose
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Several years ago some several lay people in my parish decided that much of the pastoral care could be done by lay people and organized a Pastoral Care Team to do it. They keep track of parishioners that need basic pastoral care, including transportation to church or medical appointments and home or hospital visitations. Some of this was limited due to Covid. But Covid also added keeping track of people who needed food assistance and in some cases rent assistance. In those cases the clergy would be informed and certain well-off parishioners would make donations to the church to cover… Read more »

Bob
Bob
Reply to  dr.primrose
1 month ago

Thank you for your encouraging report of pastoral care. In my parish church we have a similar system. Home groups looking out for one another, pastoral care teams visiting, providing meals, bereavement support etc, individuals caring for others in the church family plus clergy visiting and caring. We don’t get everything right but do try to be a caring, loving fellowship.

Shamus
Shamus
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
1 month ago

I agree Simon. It would just be lovely to see parishes looking for a new priest, to include something along the lines of “values pastoral work”. Instead it tends to be a case of trotting out all the usual overused words like “mission” and “flourishing”. The vocabulary of Churchspeak adverts has become so spare and repetitive and jargon-ridden that meaning and any force these terms might have once had, has been bled out of them.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Shamus
1 month ago

When we began our search for a new rector (things work a bit differently on our side of the pond), “values pastoral work”–or words to that effect–were at the top of our list. And we found a wonderful priest who fit all our desires and requirements, including that one. So it can be done.

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

The accuracy and value of the words used in ads, Job Descriptions and Person Specs have become so doubtful and unreliable …I wonder if there is research which shows which, if any, words are most likely to lead to the most ‘successful’ appointments (however ‘measured’). Lessons to be learned?
One can see the temptations on one hand to paint a rosy picture to attract candidates, and on the other to feel wanted (aka ‘called’?). Perhaps spouses should be selected similarly- cv and interview 😉

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  God 'elp us all
1 month ago

How long before a newly appointed cleric sues a PCC/Bishop for a profile that was misleadingly bright and cheery? Could it be said that a profile is part of the job description and therefore of legal interest? Having said that, on the odd occasion I feel the need for hollow laughter, the job adverts plug the gap.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Tim once again you have misread my post; I said ‘far more than recruiting sergeants’. The desperation this side of the Atlantic about decline of the church, meant that I felt I was expected to almost pressgang people into church. Often this came from bishops who’ve never been a parish priest themselves. I was determined not to forget my sacramental role and I saw a steady stream of new people coming to faith and to church as a result.

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
1 month ago

“Unconscious” is doing an awful lot of the heavy lifting in James Mustard’s otherwise excellent piece. Why excuse homophobia as “unconscious” when it looks completely conscious?

Father Ron Smith
1 month ago

With the Anglican Province of Ghana now siding with their national government on the issue of imprisoning LGBT+ people – coupled with the latest global South TRUMPET No.8, which outlaws homo-sexuality as ‘unnatural’ and ‘un-Christian’ – it may be time for the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to challenge this abiding homophobia and sexism which is still rampant in certain parts of the Anglican Communion. The only thing that separates the homophobia of the ‘Global South’ Provinces from that of the GAFCON/ACNA/FOCA axis is the readiness of the G.S. Primates to actually stay in the family of the A.C.C. –… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Father Ron Smith
Susannah Clark
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
1 month ago

Hmmm… Ron, I take the view that the Bible DOES regard homosexuality as ‘unnatural’ and ‘un-Christian’. So the real question, if that is a conscientious view of many Christians of good faith, is what do we all do about that? I don’t regard that view as ‘homophobic’ in itself. It is a position of faith and obedience to what many Christians believe is the will of God. For many faithful Christians it is sincerity. Until we recognise that opposite views can be held in conscience and faith, and respect that fact, I’m not sure we’re talking and praying with each… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Susannah, surely the Bible is not a monolithic text which says the same thing throughout the entire document. It is a compiled collection arising from disparate sources at different times over about 1000 years. Rather than giving one message or one moral instruction surely it says different things in different places, and often often contradicts itself. So for me, I take the view that PARTS of the Bible can be read as regarding homosexuality as unnatural and un-Christian. But other parts of the same document can be read as supporting same-sex sexuality equally strongly. The question is how doe we… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Hi Simon, Personally I just don’t agree with your claim: “But other parts of the same document can be read as supporting same-sex sexuality equally strongly.” I’ve explained below to Father David why I favour the conservative understanding of what the authors believed. There is no way that any of the Bible authors thought it was okay for men to marry men, and they knew Jesus said that sex outside marriage was wrong. Where men having sex is anywhere touched upon in the Bible the view is morally negative. That was just the cultural view of the religious communities the… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Susannah, we will have to disagree in friendship, we obviously read the same book differently. For example, where you say “where men having sex is anywhere touched upon in the Bible the view is morally negative”, Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch writes “The Bible can be very strange, and nowhere is it stranger than on the subject of sex. Inevitably this makes it a tricky exercise to construct a coherent or consistent message that modern Christians can use. One remarkable use or abuse of the biblical text in LLF concerns a passage very relevant to the book’s extended nervous concern with same-sex relations: the farewell of… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

I think it’s pretty clear from the narrative that David and Jonathan’s love for each other was in part of a sexual nature. For David it surpassed the love of women, and their relationship is not spoken of with disapproval. On the contrary, it’s quite a tender account.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

And yet Jesus describes sex as two becoming one, a man and a woman, and frames sex within marriage. There is nothing to suggest that because David loved Jonathan, the religious communities believed it was okay for men to have sex with men. The love bit of David’s love for Jonathan may be precious, but I just don’t believe that meant the Bible was affirming man-man sex. I mean, do you believe that Paul and the religious community of Christians at the time the New Testament was being written thought that man-man sex outside of marriage was alright? I don’t… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Susannah, I don’t think the Bible writers were all of the same view on the subject. The author/s of Samuel present David and Jonathan’s relationship in a more sympathetic light than they do David’s many relationships with women, including his wives. I’m not convinced that Paul’s apparent condemnation of homosexuality is what it seems at first sight either – it reads a little differently if you ignore the (much later) chapter break. As for Jesus, he never spoke about homosexuality at all. I don’t think we can infer his attitude to LGBT issues from his teaching on divorce, which he… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

Janet, thank you for your response and helpful, reasoned argument. I agree with your helpful reminder that the Bible is comprised of multiple and diverse sources. We may disagree on the overall ‘take’ from the Bible on this subject, but I have read enough of your posts here and elsewhere to trust you and respect your strong pastoral instincts. Like you, I believe in the sanctity of *all* human relationships built on caring mutual covenant, commitment, and givenness to each other. I think where our views may diverge is that I take a more conservative view of the ‘collective narrative’… Read more »

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

With respect, you are being self-contradictory. You say it is a mistake for liberals to find a justification in scripture for gay relationships. And yet you claim it is “reasonable” for conservatives to use scripture to argue against them. Surely it is wrong for anyone to create a morality based upon ancient writings. Also, God doesn’t have a “view” about anything. Projecting my own opinions onto a deity, and claiming they are His opinions, is simple anthropomorphism. What are God’s “views” on Brexit? It is obvious to me He’s a Remainer. But I don’t use Scripture to prove it.

Father Ron Smith
Reply to  Janet Fife
1 month ago

Yes, Janet. and then there is the statement of Jesus contained in Matthew: 19:12 where he mentions eunuchs who are so ‘from their mother’s womb’. Reliable theologians today are not excluding the possibility here that Jesus is speaking of S/S-attracted persons, both M. & F. Another category he mentioned was those who are ‘eunuchs for the sake of The Kingdom’. Was Jesus here speaking of those who practise celibacy – like Himelf?

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

People’s religious sensibilities have to be respected. If girls are conscientiously banned from an education by the Taliban because of their interpretation of ancient Scriptures, so be it. Similarly the Dutch Reformed Church used Scripture to show the inferiority of black people. Consciences have to be respected when people say a woman should stay silent in Church, as St Paul said in Scripture. And we have to accept gay people are wicked because of conscience. If Scripture is the basis of our morality, we can hate girls, blacks, women, gays and whoever else we don’t like. Or we can give… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

I agree with you final sentence, Father David. I just believe, on the evidence, that the Bible authors do not endorse sex between men. To me the problem lies in regarding scripture as the actual words and views of God. On that basis, I would impugn God of ethnic cleansing for the instructions attributed to God for the wiping out of the Canaanites. If people (here or elsewhere) are going to use the Bible to justify sex between men, as if the Bible is the ultimate authority on this subject, then I’m afraid I’m on the side of the social… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

I can’t understand how Anglicans (apart from its evangelical constituency) regard the bible as the final authority on any subject. A conservative reading of scripture is not just not more credible, it is utterly preposterous.

Last edited 1 month ago by FrDavid H
Father Ron Smith
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Susannah then do you believe that the Bible does/not endorse sex between women If so, on what evidence?

Surely the present Christian arguments about gender and sexuality come from the modern realisation that the Scripture Writers had no understanding of the discoveries of modern scientific evidence of gender/sexuality variants in the natural world. We need to use a proper discernment of which of the Scriptures are pertinent for biological references in today’s world.

Last edited 1 month ago by Father Ron Smith
Susannah Clark
Reply to  Father Ron Smith
1 month ago

I agree with you, Father Ron. We need to use our own God-given minds and consciences to determine which parts of the Bible to draw from as pertinent to the world we live in now, its scientific knowledge, its social evolution. On women-women sex, I don’t find evidence in the Bible texts that it is proscribed, but I believe the traditional view on sex was that it was for reproductive purposes and, in terms of marriage, for social purposes. Jesus seems to have framed sex as belonging inside marriage. I don’t think the religious communities of the early Christians saw… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Susannah, I wonder if part of our disagreement is that we are reading different Bibles, Or rather different translations of the same Bible.   I would argue that if you look back to the original Hebrew and Greek it is entirely possible to find LGBTQ+ stories in the text. Unfortunately, unless we can speak those languages ourselves, we are reliant on translators. But until very recently all mainstream translators would have had a firm belief in the unacceptability of LGBTQ+ narratives, and so any text that alluded to such an issue would be translated in a way that excluded any… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Simon Dawson
1 month ago

Dear Simon, Thank you so much for taking the time to set out so many examples and for the references. I won’t go on and on. It’s true I take a different view on what the original religious communities thought about sex between men. But I’m sure we, at least, share the view that in our own lives and times we celebrate and affirm the precious and potentially sacred nature of devoted love expressed in intimate (sexual) ways. I don’t think the Bible argument will be won, one way or the other, in the Church of England. Like the two… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Susannah, Thanks again for your thoughtful response, and I agree with you. I think it is very rare that anybody “wins” any argument.

All one can hope to do is to put some information into the public domain, and then perhaps a few people will read it and think “that’s interesting, I didn’t know that”, and perhaps a few more might do a bit more reading around the subject, and hopefully the argument might possibly be moved forward by a few incremental steps year on year.

We can only live in hope and do what we can.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

To read Scripture–especially in regard to the Epistles–as having been written directly by God with no human intervention or influence (as the strict fundamentalists do) is absolutely ridiculous. The Bible was written by human beings, in an attempt to understand and transmit that understanding to others. Sometimes–quite often, actually–they got it wrong. Does anyone truly believe God wants us to think that the sun revolves around the Earth? Or that humanity began in an instant somewhere in West Asia? Or that the sound of trumpets and shouting shattered a stone wall? These are myths and metaphors and legends. And the… Read more »

John Barton
John Barton
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

You have told us what you don’t believe about the Bible, Pat, but you haven’t said what you do believe. I wonder what you make of today’s C of E Collect, which begins, “Almighty God, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning . . .”

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  John Barton
1 month ago

To cause something to be written is not the same as writing it oneself. A teacher giving an assignment for essays causes those essays to be written, but she cannot be credited with the actual thoughts expressed therein.

David Exham
David Exham
Reply to  John Barton
1 month ago

You are unfair to Pat. “The Bible was written by human beings…” states his beliefs, surely?

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  David Exham
1 month ago

It seems obvious to me the bible was written by human beings. I find the alternative – that it was composed by chimpanzees, kangaroos or giraffes – very unconvincing.

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

I agree about kangaroos and giraffes, Father. The former wouldn’t be still long enough to do proper joined up writing and the latter wouldn’t be able to focus on what the pen in the hoof-slit was scribbling since the eyes are so far away. Chimps, though, could do the job if one can judge from the recorded success with Gerald the Gorilla: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2po1p2
So, given that some biblical commentators seem to lack Gerald’s primatial intelligence, let’s not be hasty in our conclusions. I think the jury is out with respect to chimps.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
1 month ago

I bow to your superior anatomical knowledge, Prof Stanley, regarding the lack of concentration in marsupials, although I think kangaroos have a better understanding of Scripture than their fundamentalist fellow-countrymen in Sydney Diocese. Obviously Gerald the Gorilla would make an inspiring Primate of All England. I find an understanding of Divine Inspiration difficult among non-humans. I once took my young labrador to mass where she was inspired to gnaw a Churchwarden’s wand. I’ve always thought “divine inspiration” to mean what humans want it to mean.

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
1 month ago

Picturing a collective of P/primates- a shrewdness of apes, a band of gorillas, a barrel, carload, troop, or tribe of monkeys, a harem or whoop of chimpanzees …?

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  God 'elp us all
1 month ago

Sounds like the General Synod.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Well, some corners of the church certainly treat the bible as a work of infallible, divine dictation. Here on TA the stress tends to be on the bible as a human work – ‘written by human beings’ – fallible and even simply wrong. If one side lacks a necessary humanity in the mix the other lacks the doctrine of divine revelation. The Anglican tradition holds these two in tension. ‘Anglicans affirm the sovereign authority of the Holy Scriptures as the medium through which God by the Spirit communicates his word in the Church. The Scriptures are the “uniquely inspired witness… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

The Scriptures are the “uniquely inspired witness to divine revelation,…”

And any lawyer will tell you that witnesses (divinely inspired or not) can be unreliable, as they bring their own beliefs and biases into their telling of what they have witnessed.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Pat ONeill You continue to stress the human (and therefore) fallible voices in scripture. I have not denied this. But I suggested the Anglican tradition holds this in tension with the belief that scripture is also a divine revelation. So I am wondering how you understand scripture as ‘inspired’.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

I can be inspired to create something–writing, art, whatever–by many things–trees,water, even someone else’s previous work– and one among them is undoubtedly God. But *I* created them–not the trees, not the water, not the previous person and not God (except in the sense of being the ultimate creator of all things). Inspiration provides us the impetus to create, and in the case of divine inspiration, the knowledge and understanding for insight to the divine. But that knowledge and understanding is always filtered through our own beliefs and biases, most of which we are generally not even aware of, having been… Read more »

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Presumably human literary creativity must extend to the Koran, the Upanishads, Aboriginal myths, Science Fiction, Shakespeare etc. The idea that a supernatural entity inspires literature sounds extremely parochial. Why doesn’t God reveal to humans a cure for cancer and other horrible diseases? The claim that He inspired a Religious Book instead of a Medical Dictionary seems a bit remiss.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

Whatever else such a view may be, it is plainly not Anglican. If you stand in the mainstream Anglican tradition, you have to accept that in some sense the scriptures are a divine revelation. Our Book of Common Prayer (not some rabid evangelical document) says that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the word of God containing all things necessary to salvation.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tim Chesterton
FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

I agree with what you say. However, for practical purposes, Anglicans don’t all agree with what the bible is, how it should be used, whether or not it is “God’s Word Written” or a human record of religious development.

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

I think that often the BCP is a ‘rabid evangelical document’, especially if it contains the 39 Articles, which are certainly frothing at the mouth in places. The BCP after all, was compiled when the Church of England was, briefly, at its most rabidly evangelical (until the twenty-first century that is). ‘Containing all things necessary to salvation’ is presumably not the same as ‘everything it contains is necessary to salvation’ or indeed ‘something I’ve picked out to clobber someone else with is necessary to salvation’. But then perhaps citing the BCP in defence of a particular view of the Scriptures… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Fr Andrew
Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Fr Andrew
1 month ago

I was ordained as a deacon in 1990 and priest in 1992. In both cases, the service used was from our 1985 Book of Alternative Services, not the (supposedly rabidly evangelical) BCP. In both cases, I was asked to make a solemn declaration that “I do believe the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation.” I believe the 1979 TEC BCP ordinal contains a similar provision. I’n not appealing to the authority of one book to establish the authority of another book. I’m simply saying… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Tim: The problem, I think, is that some people interpret the phrase “the word of God” as if it means something like the burning bush before Moses. First of all, I sincerely doubt that God speaks in any human language…and therefore his word as recorded in the Bible is a human attempt to translate the ineffable into something understandable…and, in many cases, into something understandable by a pre-scientific audience. Second, much of the Bible is either poetry or legend presented as factual history; some of it is simply human correspondence (and we only have one half of that correspondence at… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

‘I sincerely doubt that God speaks in any human language’

You think that’s beyond God’s ability?

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

It was very inconsiderate that the Incarnate Son didn’t speak proper English. It would have saved the need for theological students to learn NT Greek. Or Hebrew. Or Aramaic. You’d think God would make up His mind what nationality He is.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavidH
1 month ago

I’m not quite sure how this sarcastic comment is related to the discussion that Pat and I are having. The question of what language the incarnate Son spoke has never been raised. At issue is whether God communicates to people in human language. As far as I understand him, Pat is inclined to doubt this. I am not.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
1 month ago

Not beyond his ability, but I suspect he doesn’t “speak” in any human sense of the word.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

My former (very Anglo-Catholic) Bishop Victoria Matthews was a very angry and rebellious teenager at boarding school. She had gone through school confirmation classes, decided she wasn’t ready to be confirmed, and then one night lying awake in her bed she heard a voice that said, “You belong to me and I will never let you go.” And then the voice went oin to say, “and you will be my priest” (there were no women priests in the ACoC at the time). That experience changed her life.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Pat ONeill
1 month ago

Pat, and two Davids, I refer you to my more detailed answer to Father Ron (above) on how I believe the Bible is inspired. In short: The way I believe the Bible is ‘inspired’ is that what happens is that an original author experiences an opening of their hearts to God, and their attempts to (fallibly) express that opening up to God can then resonate with us as we, centuries later, read the words of encounter. The ‘inspiration’ implicit in the Bible is its power to resonate with a reader in such a way that it helps trigger and open… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Thank you Susannah. What you describe is a universal experience in which human beings find inspiration in music, nature, art, literature etc. One does not have to be a believer to be moved by Handel’s Messiah, for instance. It is not essential to ascribe any special ‘divine’ attributes to biblical writings for it to resonate with human experience. Giving Scripture a special divine authority is dangerous since it can lead to bigotry and abuse of others. You are using the word ‘God’ when many people would find an encounter with ‘love’ to be sufficient.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

Father David, I agree with you. I believe that the flow of God’s love is precious (or if someone rules out God then call it the flow of love), and I believe that this flow of God’s love works through Christians and non-Christians, through agnostics and atheists, through music, through art, through givenness in community, and of course in all the sacrifices and care of relationships. Love is so powerful it can resonate through many things and many people. That doesn’t render the Bible without resonance itself. It is part of the ways we can open our hearts to love,… Read more »

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

If only the Church of England put into practice your profound sentiments, Susannah, there’d be no need for such fatuous exercises like the LLF talking shop discussing which members are equal with whom. The Scottish , Welsh and American Anglicans must be reading from a different book. “You can’t lock up love in a particular confinement” you say. Sadly you can if you belong to the Church of England. Some people have read “God’s Word” and discovered some people are more equal than others. And they think such a view is Divinely inspired!

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  FrDavid H
1 month ago

One of my favorite authors, the late Stephen Jay Gould, an atheist from a Jewish background and a renowned paleontologist, often wrote of his experiences of singing in choirs and experiencing an existential joy at helping to create such music–that was often of Christian origin.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Susannah Clark
1 month ago

Susannah, you have very well expressed what I was trying to get across. God gives an author insight to the divine and the author struggles (often in vain, I think) to put that insight into human-comprehensible terms.

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

When it is held (Virginia Report Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission) that ‘Anglicans affirm …’, does that mean ALL anglicans or some … Just wondering, esp if every word is inspired, or translated, read and understood and their meaning grasped … in the light …

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  God 'elp us all
1 month ago

I would argue this affirmation plainly allows a very broad range of understanding – not one fixed verbal meaning demanding conformity, which remains a particular concern on these threads.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

The Virginia Report, like most of these ecclesiastical documents, creates a broad narrative, a story the church tells itself about itself. The Report’s use of historical data is naïve in terms of both church history and ancient near eastern history as filtered via biblical texts. VR Chapter 3 [I](3.5), (3.6) references Lambeth 1998. I suggest that the so called four ‘instruments of communion’ now function problematically for the Anglican Communion much as Rome, the papacy, and Vatican congregations for this and that function problematically for progressive Catholicism. They have become instruments of centralization and control. Such has even accentuated tensions… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Rod Gillis
1 month ago

Rod. I see what you are saying about the VR in general and why. But its summary of the place of Scripture I think it remains as clear and helpful as any. it is dynamic, not fixed – a ‘continuing process of reading and interpreting’ – and so does not steer towards any centralising tendency.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  David Runcorn
1 month ago

Re: centralizing trends, you may find early criticism by ACC of the VR (link) moderates your conclusion. Sadly, subsequent developments have also meant that ACC itself became something of a captured house. Fast forward, Justin Welby, in expressing concerns about the Ghana legislation, predictably referenced Lambeth 98, resolution 1:10, thus continuing the false narrative that the resolution with its failed theology, and the body that produced it, both have Communion wide authority. On the issue at hand, my view is that Scripture is at least as much response to revelation as it is revelation itself.

https://www.anglicannews.org/news/1999/09/acc-critiques-the-virginia-report.aspx

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