Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 25 May 2024

Ian Paul Psephizo Once more: whither the Church of England?

Gavin Drake Church Abuse

Penelope Doe ViaMedia.News Queering the Church: The Theological and Ecclesial Potential of Failure

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David Hawkins
David Hawkins
18 days ago

The Archbishops’ Council do understand the definition of “independent”. They resist “independence” because they want to keep control. I think you could more accurately say that The Archbishops’ Council still do not understand the concept of Christian Love. Abuse is to be “processed” not healed and victims are to be paid off and the forgotten.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
18 days ago

Ian Paul cites the third of churches in Durham diocese with fewer than 20 regular worshippers, and the hope the next bishop will improve the situation. The last bishop devised the evangelical Waymark course to make his diocese more attractive. Obviously it failed. Hopefully the next bishop will learn from their predecessor’s mistakes which led to further decline. The idea that an evangelical revival will save the CofE is nonsense. So is Paul’s implied suggestion that remaining strictly homophobic will result in more people coming to church. The CofE has become largely an evangelical, homophobic institution. That is a definite… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
18 days ago

And, we await with enthusiasm, something other than dyspepsia. How do you move from 2 people per 100 attending the “Church of England” instead of 1? Otherwise, all this bavardage is just music as the ship disappears below the waves, you confidently dismissing any music you do not approve of. Bubbles arising in the wake…

Evan McWilliams
Evan McWilliams
Reply to  Anglican Priest
17 days ago

In a poor diocese like Durham, SDF funds could be deployed in paying people to come to church for a period, perhaps 1 year, in the knowledge that some of them will find they appreciate it and stick around. I’d be willing to bet (and I’m not the betting type) that the number of disciples produced under this method would be greater than under a typical SDF bid and that the cost/benefit analysis would show the per capita cost per disciple to be less.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Evan McWilliams
17 days ago

What a brilliant idea! If other religions joined in poor, unemployed men could be paid to become Jews, Muslims or Hindus. There’s nothing like money to produce devout followers of any old religion as long as people are off benefits.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
Reply to  FrDavid H
17 days ago

Maybe if the Bishop of Durham had adopted the evangelical Alpha course he may have had more success?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Adrian Clarke
17 days ago

People in Durham diocese don’t usually like middle class public school nonsense where salads are eaten, bibles read and Range Rovers parked outside.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  FrDavid H
16 days ago

Times have changed, Father. Whatever happened to the ‘simple lifestyle – live simply so others can simply live’ ideology of the early charismatics? It seemed to drop out of fashion some time around the late 1980s.

Anyway, take heart. I see the ‘Crystal Cathedral’ in California was up for sale recently, having gone flop financially. Is this God’s judgement, and a warning to others tempted to follow the ‘megachurch’ movement?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  John Davies
16 days ago

I attended the Crystal Cathedral one Sunday morning listening to the “prosperity gospel” preacher assuring us of God’s abundant riches about to be poured upon us. It has since become part of the LA RC archdiocese where Catholics can flaunt their Californian wealth. I found worshipping there both fascinating and sickening.

Last edited 16 days ago by FrDavid H
dr.primrose
dr.primrose
Reply to  FrDavid H
16 days ago

For what it’s worth, the Crystal Cathedral was sold to the RC Diocese of Orange (not the RC Archdiocese of Los Angeles) in 2011. The then-diocesan cathedral was too small and the diocese decided it was more cost-efficient to buy and remodel the Crystal Cathedral building instead of building a new cathedral from scratch. The former congregation worshipped there for a few years while an RC parish moved into another building on the campus. The church building was then remodeled as appropriate for RC liturgies. The remodeled building — now known as Christ Cathedral — was dedicated in 2019. I… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  dr.primrose
16 days ago

Thank you for your more knowledgeable comment.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
16 days ago

You were actually in attendance?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
15 days ago

Yes. I attended the Hour of Power conducted by Robert Schuller.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  FrDavid H
16 days ago

Amazing! People in Durham diocese don’t like bibles read. Could that be a reason why there are so many small churches.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Bob
16 days ago

It’s not the Bible people in Durham dislike. But the middle class public school nonsense some evangelicals think it contains.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  FrDavid H
16 days ago

So if the vicar of a church isn’t “middle class” (whatever that means!) and didn’t go to a public school, they don’t serve salads and there are no range rovers in the car park, the church is acceptable to you? Ps: no clapping too. Ps: no smiling too!

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
16 days ago

OK, I have made a vow. God likes these. I promise to pray every morning for you and your immortal soul. The relentless merry-go-round of dismissal and ridicule cannot be good for anyone’s soul. God bless you my friend.

William
William
Reply to  FrDavid H
15 days ago

And yet the Church of England is a middle class church – always has been.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  FrDavid H
15 days ago

But you clearly said that “ People in Durham diocese don’t usually like bibles read“.

David James
David James
Reply to  FrDavid H
14 days ago

Absolutely. When we were in a Partnership with other churches we joined in an Alpha course held at a church where the Vicar was trying to steer the whole thing in an Evangelical direction. The one non church family lasted a week. By the end it was virtually the clergy, a couple of ‘predictables’ from each church and a couple of different stragglers each week. More effort was put into providing the food for people who had already ‘had their tea’. It was a complete waste of time in spite of all the pretence of how good it had been… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  David James
14 days ago

If you see a smiling minister approaching the Church carrying an Alpha Course, lock the door!

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
14 days ago

Of course. Why on earth would we want people to be happy? Let’s add misery to their lives instead!

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
14 days ago

The Christian Faith is not about happiness. The smiling minister is a symptom of the smug sense of self-satisfaction that many evangelicals display knowing they’ve been ‘saved’. Grinning about it throughout their ‘meetings; only puts off we lesser mortals who struggle with the challenges which a demanding faith requires.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
12 days ago

I quite agree with you, FrDavidH, that there’s a lot of insincere happiness in churchland, and that people who are struggling often feel they can’t be honest about that in their own congregations. As a person who’s going through some health issues right now, I’m grateful to have fellow-Christians I can share that with, and be supported in it when I’m discouraged because signs of improvement seem slow. But I still feel there’s a lot in our scriptures about joy, even joy in the context of suffering, and I don’t think we can just pour cold water on all of… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  David James
14 days ago

Alpha by itself will not add anyone to the church. No bolt-on program can do that.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
14 days ago

Absolutely right. Acts 2.47 “and the Lord added daily to their number those who were saved”.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Bob
12 days ago

What I meant was that it’s fairly easy to add a bolt-on program, but such programs only succeed if they’re part of a wider plan for evangelism in the community, and if the congregation as a whole aren’t on board with that plan, the bolt-on program won’t achieve much. For example, if a church already has a culture of invitation, then it will be easier for them to run an inquirers’ course that attracts non-church people, because its members will already be having faith conversations with their friends, and an invitation to an inquirers’ course is much easier in that… Read more »

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
12 days ago

Totally agree Tim. Wise words indeed. This has been my experience too.

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Adrian Clarke
14 days ago

It seems that your typical youthful lively growing HTB-style church has two distinctive characteristics, (1) its conservative evangelical theology and (2) its informal style- music style, clergy dress and manner, lack of liturgy and ceremony, etc. I’m sure I read somewhere that Nicky Gumbel realised in the early days that informality was key. It seems obvious that the appeal of such churches to newcomers is mostly due to #2. But such churches like to argue that their success is due to #1. In reality newcomers are generally unaware of #1 until they’ve settled in.

A not so humble parishioner
A not so humble parishioner
Reply to  Nigel Jones
13 days ago

And in doing so fail to acknowledge that this informality may not be universally appealling. Churches in the north would have better success if they focussed on those in later middle age and entering the third age (empty nesters). I know it is not ‘trendy’ to do that, but expecting a rural or suburban church in Durham to be filled up by students and young professionals like at HTB is utter nonsense. What I have found seems to attract and retain people coming to Christ later in life is a church with a good sense of its liturgical roots, regular… Read more »

Bob
Bob
Reply to  A not so humble parishioner
12 days ago

I certainly agree with you about students and young professionals in rural and suburban churches in non-university towns/cities. However, any liturgy used needs to be explained first as most people have little idea about liturgy. The use of worship bands in addition to choirs and organ music i think is essential if a church intends to reach the unchurched and those under 50. Similarly communion services exclude the non-Christians in the service as it is a meal for believers. A range of services I believe is essential if the church wants to attract people.

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  FrDavid H
17 days ago

At a quick first glance I misread Ian Paul’s title and thought he was suggesting that the Church of England should ‘wither’ rather than theatrically asking where it is going. Reading Rev David H’s comments above my first glance may not have been be so wide of the mark. In addition, withering will undoubtedly be helped by the AC and their treatment of survivors of abuse . David Hawkins sums that up very well in his first comment . Sadly there doesn’t even seem to be any hurry to pay anyone off, unless of course they are the Church’s lawyers… Read more »

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  FrDavid H
17 days ago

It can hardly be a surprise that young people are discouraged from offering themselves for stipendiary ministry. What is attractive about running ten parishes for a stipend that has not kept pace with inflation and with a pension scheme that is much less generous than previously. The CofE is reaping what it has sown.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Fr Dean
17 days ago

You have put your finger on a reality that must be faced. The numerically unrealistic fact of so many parishes under 20 that must each be served both discourages otherwise potential aspirants for Orders, and is unlikely to last very long at even that minimal number anyway.

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Fr Dean
17 days ago

Absolutely Father. I would never advise anyone to become a stipendiary priest now. If I had my time again, I would have gone down the SSM route. There’s a lot about SSM that is as exploitative as stipendiary ministry, if not more so. But in my case, it would have been a far better choice. Here I am, with quite a few years left until retirement, as committed to serving God as on the day I was ordained, but so disillusioned with the C of E I frequently think I shouldn’t still be taking the money. But when I seriously… Read more »

Katy Adams
Katy Adams
Reply to  Realist
16 days ago

I returned to a previous career when I left the ministry, I work for a disability charity now.

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Katy Adams
15 days ago

Thanks for responding Katy. I’m pleased to hear you found something. Please don’t feel you have to answer this if you don’t want the information to be in the public domain. It’s just for my interest. How long were you in stipendiary ministry, and did you have to retrain before applying to return to your previous career?

Unfortunately, my former career isn’t an option. My knowledge is way out of date, and it would be a full time job in itself to update. My personal circumstances mean I also wouldn’t pass the practical competency screening, however much I tried!

Katy Adams
Katy Adams
Reply to  Realist
15 days ago

I was a stipendary minister for twenty years (2003-2023). My employer helped me update my rusty skills, for which I was most grateful.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Fr Dean
16 days ago

The same is true of many other careers. In general the psychological contract has been broken and staying in any career or vocation for decades is no longer really a feature.

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Kate Keates
16 days ago

You’re absolutely right Kate, but without wanting to minimise the challenges people face in the job market these days, as I see it (and indeed live it) there’s one big difference about stipendiary ministry. In most professions (and yes I did have one before ordination in which I achieved a senior position by the time I left) the training you undertake and the experience base you build up equip you to work in more than one context for more than one employer. I know that’s not always the case – the terrible position the miners found themselves in when the… Read more »

Oliver Miller
Oliver Miller
Reply to  Realist
15 days ago

Clergy get an above average remuneration package, and many of us resent it. I look at what clergy get, and what I get and it looks excessive to me.

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Oliver Miller
15 days ago

I’ve risen to your bait before and attempted to present reasoned arguments. I’ll decline this time, as it feels somewhat like banging my head against a brick wall, and I do way too much of that already. You’re entitled to your view. One thing I will say is when I was ordained, I took a 73% pay cut, ended up working more than 25 hours per week more than I had in my previous career, and ended up living (as I do now) in the kind of house I would never have bought in a million years, that is energy… Read more »

Last edited 15 days ago by Realist
Oliver Miller
Oliver Miller
Reply to  Realist
15 days ago

In the Diocese where I live, to take a 73% pay cut you would have had to be earning almost £200,000. If true, this would put you in the highest 1% income group in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Expecting the church to match that is unrealistic.

Simon Kershaw
Reply to  Oliver Miller
15 days ago

Clergy in your diocese are on a stipend of £54,000? That seems rather high given that even in 2024 the recommended minimum is £28,670.

Oliver Miller
Oliver Miller
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
15 days ago
Simon Kershaw
Reply to  Oliver Miller
14 days ago

Not sure it’s fair to include the cost of housing like that, nor pension contributions. Many secular employers will contribute to their employees’ pensions (indeed, isn’t this almost a requirement now?), but one typically does not include employer contributions when quoting a salary. As for housing that’s a little trickier. Clergy have little or no choice but to live in the house provided for them, which will often also serve partly as working space. An employee would perhaps choose to live in a much smaller house at a much lower cost – and when they were earning most, at the… Read more »

Oliver Miller
Oliver Miller
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
14 days ago

Of course clergy want to keep their perks, and and at the same time play down the value of them. That’s human nature. If clergy genuinely don’t value what we’re providing for them then maybe we need to find a better system, but a pay rise in lieu isn’t the answer. I look at clergy lifestyle and I see that it’s much better than most of the congregation experience. It’s voted on by General Synod which is two thirds clergy, and one third lay people, many of whom seem to be either married to clergy or hoping to become ordained… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
14 days ago

“An employee would perhaps choose to live in a much smaller house at a much lower cost – and when they were earning most, at the latter stage of their career – would likely own the property outright so the costs would be minimal (council tax, insurance).”

Not only that, but the employee would have equity in the house, which would increase in value. Upon retirement, he/she could sell the home for far more than was paid for it. A cleric living in a parish-owned house cannot do that.

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Simon Kershaw
14 days ago

Absolutely, Simon!! I certainly wasn’t earning £200k in my former career, but then again nor was I earning £54k all those years ago as a curate. Thanks for chipping in! Mr Miller, I was earning a lot of money in my former career, and no, I didn’t expect the Church to match it. But neither did I expect exploitation, or to be working for a corrupt organisation that abuses people at every level from criminal acts through to routinely destroying careers and individuals’ health and wellbeing, and then does everything it can to avoid changing or taking responsibility. My maths… Read more »

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Realist
15 days ago

It is impertinent of me to offer advice but nevertheless I will – when you feel disheartened do some diaconal work. When I’d had a belly full of the CofE’s nonsense I used to go and visit old ladies drink tea and look at pictures of their grandchildren for the umpteenth time. They genuinely appreciated my time and it put the diocesan hoopla into perspective. I always felt called to be a priest but for me being a deacon was the fun part and the most rewarding bit of ministry. Most people don’t really listen to others any more, actively… Read more »

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Fr Dean
15 days ago

Thank you, Father, that’s exactly what I do – that and go into the local schools where I’m greeted warmly by all, my presence is valued and I learn as much from the children as I offer to them, if not more. If it weren’t for those wonderful things about ministry, and being based in wonderful churches with some godly, faithful, kind people, I would have gone years ago.

James Harris
James Harris
Reply to  Realist
14 days ago

This is so true.Thanks for reminding me why I was so happy to take early retirement from stipendiary ministry after 35 years and leave the burden behind.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  FrDavid H
17 days ago

I suspect that proportion of small churches is true in most dioceses. I wonder if the data exists.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Bob
16 days ago

For a time mum lived in the heart of Durham diocese. There are a lot of small mining villages (the mines are long gone of course) and I suspect it does have more small churches than many other dioceses.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Kate Keates
16 days ago

I have a relative who lives in just such a village. However, there is also a lot of new housing. Small churches are found not just in villages though. There a fair few in the city where I live.

Susannah Clark
18 days ago

I very much appreciated the article by Penelope Doe. I’ve previously loved her disruptive (and decent) interventions on Psephizo (sometimes in defence of me) laced with a mixture of belligerence and mischief… and joyful hilarity. I hope it’s not rude of me to suggest she is rather subversive! With queer theory, well as she might agree, it’s a bit hard to stick a pin on it like a lepidopterist and say ‘Ah! I’ve got it!” But perhaps that’s the point: not what it is, but its dislocation from the normal status quo and its agency as a disruptor. I think… Read more »

Penelope Cowell Doe
Penelope Cowell Doe
Reply to  Susannah Clark
17 days ago

Susanna

Thank you for this. Yes, it’s not an attempt to put liminality at the centre but to que(e)ry those institutional norms which are often portrayed as natural, but are full of artifice. Cisheternormativity has been baptised by the Church and it is quite difficult to interrogate this. Especially on certain forums as you know!
The presenting issue in this book is sexuality (because it starts with Pilling) but the same methodology could be used to interrogate systemic ableism, misogyny, or racism in the Church.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Penelope Cowell Doe
17 days ago

I think it’s fair to say your que(e)rying of the normative view of what sex is for has caused occasional alarm when you’ve trespassed into forbidden topics like clitoral joy. In certain places (mainly inhabited by men) it seems to arouse outrage when you dare to suggest that sex is not only for reproduction. But it simply isn’t. I think transgressive methodology is really useful for (to use your word) interrogating top-down structures of imposed orthodoxy. Especially if it’s done with glee when you’re expected to be contrite and guilty. It’s useful for challenging sexual rules imposed by the Church… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Susannah Clark
17 days ago

Thanks for this Susannah. It’s excellent.

It epitomises what is for me a fundamental aspect of being queer – a rejection of shame, and a rejection of the idea that there are certain things that cannot be expressed or said.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susannah Clark
16 days ago

Thank you again – see my earlier post about explanations. As for your comments on male perceptions, you’re pretty accurate in your observations. If you take Jesus’ words about looking and desiring literally, (as I was once told, the first glance is natural, the second glance is sin) then the more pharasaically moral of men have got serious problems. Indeed, some charismatically renewed churches in the 1980s actually banned women’s worship dancing groups, accusing them of ‘flaunting’ their sexuality in front of the men. The worship dancers I knew did no such thing! It said more about the mens’ attitudes… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susannah Clark
16 days ago

I’m not sure if the system lost my comment in response – it seems not to be saving things at present. However, you’re dead to rights about male reactions etc – most of us lean very easily to pharasaical attitudes out of self protection, because we’re afraid of our own instincts. After all, there’s that comment Jesus made about looking lustfully being equal to adulterous sin – a major no-no with conservative fundamentalists. The grounding I received as a young Christian reinforced a very repressive upbringing, and I’ve never been able to be comfortable with that side of my life.… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susannah Clark
16 days ago

You’re quite right in your comments, Susanna – a lot of the more pharasaic male response to physically confident women is really to do with protecting their imagined ‘sanctity’ and an avoidance of Jesus’ remarks about the look being equal to the act. Indeed, as I was taught, the first look is acceptable, the second is sin. Not much leeway there, for appreciating either God’s creation of another person, or indeed the naturalness of your own humanity. Rightly or wrongly, that’s the way I was brought up, both before and after conversion. Christian men weren’t supposed to have a sexuality,… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  John Davies
16 days ago

PS – sorry, Susanna. I said I was having problems with the system last night. It seemed to lose, rather than save my first two postings. Now it’s saved all three versions of the message! If only this thing worked as reliably as Meccano…… (then I might understand it.)

Susannah Clark
Reply to  John Davies
16 days ago

Thank you for your own honesty, John. I have respected it for a long time. Personally speaking, as I said above, I feel hugely compassionate about people’s need for self-pleasure sometimes to relieve tension and set free their own sexuality. I don’t judge it at all or I’d be judging myself. I don’t believe God has a problem with people enjoying their sexuality and connecting with themselves. Of course, even good things can be corrupted, and self-pleasure can tend towards the habitual, and the temptation to feed it with destructive pornography. But my point, as I’m sure you understand, was… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Susannah Clark
16 days ago

I don’t judge it at all or I’d be judging myself. 

Indeed.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susannah Clark
15 days ago

Thank you, Susannah. I have to be honest – I’d say straight, save it can have another meaning! – with God, who requests it of us – and, obviously therefore, with myself and those around me. Being a Christian, as was hinted in the clip from my story, requires us to be honest about our failures – modesty and humility are essential. (And its one reason why I’ve never wanted to have a major leadership role – too much temptation.) Black and white theology is little help – we live in a blended, watercolour world, where reality gets in the… Read more »

David Runcorn
Reply to  Susannah Clark
16 days ago

Thank you to you both. As you both know all too well trying to discuss all this within the conservative evangelical tradition is to enter a world populated and controlled by men, for men and about men. It is a place that quickly gets anxious and angry. The renewal of the evangelical tradition – which is coming – needs to explore why this is so and will include a critical reflection on traditional understandings of male identity and power – and point towards something altogether more inclusive, healed, undefended and in joyful and grateful partnership with women. I so long… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  David Runcorn
16 days ago

David, one thing I really like about Inclusive Evangelicals is the pretty much equal presence and ‘voice’ of women and men, and the mutual respect at work. I came to conscious faith in the charismatic movement in the late 1970s in a housechurch in the Scottish Highlands. There was no heavy masculinity, but an ease and grace, and an experience of ‘lightness’. However, my experience of other groups later on in the 1980s and 1990s was almost like authoritative guys ‘bolting on’ their very conservative evangelical agenda. Unsurprisingly women were framed as subordinate in many of these set ups. A… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susannah Clark
15 days ago

Snap, Susannah – very loudly so. Absolutely bang on the mark. Like you, I saw it all happen, frequently linked to a very rigid literal insistance on certain ‘headship’ and sovereignty doctrines.

I’ve said this before – I identify far more with Jesus, the journeyman carpenter than I ever can as an exalted monarch. He came down to our level after all, before we could be raised up to his.

Penelope Cowell Doe
Penelope Cowell Doe
Reply to  Susannah Clark
16 days ago

Dear Susannah I think the telos of the clitoris is an important theological question (especially for natural theologians) and, of course, Rowan Williams has preempted my question there. There is also a great fear of the feminine, of female emancipation, of non reproductive sexuality, of the fluidity of gender, in the secular world as well as in churches, synagogues and mosques. I see this in, for example, the US Right’s desire to ban contraception and female higher education etc. How much certain Christian blogs are representative of conservative Christianity in England I have no idea, but there are, on social… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Susannah Clark
16 days ago

To Susanna;thank you for enlarging on Penelope’s article. Its very technical in its language, beyond my understanding, so I value your expansion. Somewhere down the years, like you, I’ve realised that absolute certainties and conformities can be a hindrance rather than a help. Its modern human nature to want everything wrapped up in neat, tidy parcels, and neither life nor the divine are like that. God is a God of surprises, and the only certainty (apart from an appointment with Lady Death) is that the divine loves us. As for failure – Christ is for all of us failures who… Read more »

Penelope Cowell Doe
Penelope Cowell Doe
Reply to  John Davies
16 days ago

Dear John
I’m sorry about my technical langauge. I realised when I was proof reading the book that, for all its criticism of gatekeeping and sympayhy for the marginalised, my writing is rather obscure for non academics. When I blog on this in the future, I will try to be more engaging and transparent.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Penelope Cowell Doe
16 days ago

Penelope, Thanks for this comment – and its honesty. But it is a widespread problem. I spend part of my time teaching non-academics about various LGBTQ+ issues, and I am always on the search for books/articles/blogs etc to recommend for further/follow-up reading. But when it comes to queer theory and queer history, so much seems to be written for academics by academics, and the language is so dense and technical that it becomes almost inaccessible for all but the most determined non-specialist. Which is a great pity because there is a lot in that theory which needs to be much… Read more »

Penelope Cowell Doe
Penelope Cowell Doe
Reply to  Simon Dawson
16 days ago

I shouldn’t say this! But Charlie Bell’s Queer Redemption is much more accessible to the non academic.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Simon Dawson
15 days ago

See my reply to Penelope – it says exactly what we were discussing!

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Penelope Cowell Doe
15 days ago

Thank you, Penelope. I’ve never spoken directly to you before, so had better introduce myself; essentially I’m an ordinary joe in the pew, with little or no formal theological training – I can no more easily come to grips with specialist theological terms than I would expect you neccessarily to understand the terminology of a steam engine or a motor car. But given the tensions of all of this debate, I need to learn about it – which is why I started reading this web in the first place – and the best way to learn is to ask. Certainly… Read more »

Nicholas Henshall
Nicholas Henshall
17 days ago

First of all, can we take a step back and recognise that the kind of decline we see in the Church of England is not an English or Anglican issue but pan-european and beyond. Second, a book recommendation: for my money Thomáš Halík’s ‘The Afternoon of Christianity’ is a fantastic breath of fresh air which fully recognises that a whole way of being the church in Europe – and indeed beyond – is passing away. He writes from a Czech Roman Catholic background and is a huge fan (as I am) of Pope Francis). Its the kind of honesty and… Read more »

Aljbri
Aljbri
Reply to  Nicholas Henshall
17 days ago

Thank you so much for this. I’ve mentioned Halik in another thread on this blog and am pressing his ideas on anyone who passes within reach. I was going to cite him again in response to Rod Gillis too. But as a 75 year old cathedral going SEC member I’m not quite sure which wheel to put my shoulder to. The cathedral offers space of various varieties which parish life may not, but stepping outside our emotional, intellectual and spiritual confines is still a big ask.

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  Aljbri
16 days ago

I took note of your tip in your reply to my comment on the earlier thread. Others, who like me are unfamiliar and would like to know more, can find good info on the book at the U of Notre Dame Press site (link), including an interview with Tomáš Halík and an excerpt from the book. Interesting. Many thanks.

https://undpress.nd.edu/9780268207472/the-afternoon-of-christianity/

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Nicholas Henshall
16 days ago

Ooh, I saw an advertisement for that book last week and thought, that looks interesting! I’ll have to put it on my wish list. Thank you, Nicholas!

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  Nicholas Henshall
16 days ago

“…a huge fan (as I am) of Pope Francis..).” Pace fandom, I’m kind of polite applause kind of guy myself. At the end of the day Francis and the system for which he is the front man is a patriarchy ( like much of most of Anglicanism btw). ” ‘For a little girl growing up Catholic today, will she ever have the opportunity to be a deacon and participate as a clergy member in the church?’ O’Donnell asked the pontiff. ‘No,’ he bluntly replied.” (Link). Yet the R.C. church relies upon women, including women religious, for the very demanding and… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Rod (Rory) Gillis
16 days ago

I am with you on this Rod. I don’t know whether the glass is half full or half empty.

On ecclesiology, clericalism and his synodical ideas I cannot fault him. But when it comes to gender and LGBTQ+ inclusion he seems to go up to a certain line, and then stops dead and refuses to go further. And I can’t work out whether that refusal is his own personal theology, or the caution of a careful leader trying to keep the church together.

I had hoped it was the latter, but as time goes on, sadly, I suspect the former.

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
15 days ago

There is the old punchline, “is the pope catholic?”. The office of the bishop of Rome has a particular central authoritative role in Roman Catholic ecclesiology. The personality and priorities of the person who occupies the office inhabits a kind of religious Goldilocks zone. Hence the differences, for example, between Francis and JPII. I suppose one may push the envelope; but there are clearly limits. At the end of the day the pope is, in fact, Roman Catholic and the issues move up ( or is it down?) the vertical from the personal to the systemic. That is how I… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Simon Dawson
15 days ago
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
15 days ago

Sadly, you are. That is, btw, the official gist of Fiducia Supplicans.
( See the December 20, 2023 thread of TA.) Linked is Fiducia Supplicans. See: III. Blessings of Couples in Irregular Situations and of Couples of the Same Sex: paras. 31 ff.

https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_ddf_doc_20231218_fiducia-supplicans_en.htm

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Rod (Rory) Gillis
13 days ago

Thanks Rod, I note your link to the “official position”. But despite that I do have a bit of sympathy for the Pope, for one reason. There is a fascinating book, “In the Closet of the Vatican” by Frédéric Martel. One of his key theses is that for many decades in Europe, many young homosexual men in their teens would choose to become Catholic priests due to an unconscious or conscious desire to escape marriage and family life, much more than any sense of a true spiritual vocation. It was seen as a way out of an intractable problem. Whilst… Read more »

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
13 days ago

Simon, your comment, and especially the final paragraph is most interesting. I think there are parallels with the decline in R.C. religious vocations. As a grade schooler I was taught by the last wave of large numbers of Catholic nuns in parochial schools. Many of these came from large and often poor Catholic families in places like New England. Later in life, as an Anglican priest serving in the community, I met the few good sisters who remained. However, these were very well educated women, as mentioned above, doing social work, Christian education and so forth, and very committed to… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Andrew Godsall
Reply to  Nicholas Henshall
15 days ago

Thanks for the book recommendation Nicholas. Looks fascinating.
For a more worrying reflection on some of what is going on across the pond may I recommend Jim Wallis’ The false white Gospel.

https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/9781250291899?gC=5a105e8b&gad_source=1&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI9u-n7-ivhgMVyYFQBh3OuARYEAQYASABEgIvkfD_BwE

Realist
Realist
Reply to  Andrew Godsall
15 days ago

Thank you, Andrew and Nicholas. The recommendations of good books to read are one of the high points of TA for me.

Aljbri
Aljbri
Reply to  Realist
14 days ago

To Andrew,Tim and Realist. And indeed Nicholas, Just to say that once you have digested Halik I’d love to see some thoughts on this blog on how to react, or indeed respond. It might move us on from our ‘oh dear’ mode. I’ve deployed some names here, so here’s mine, Alison.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Aljbri
13 days ago

I would love that, but I won’t be digesting him just yet, because there are several books ahead of him in the pile (the metaphorical pile – I mainly read on Kindle).

Ian Paul
Reply to  Nicholas Henshall
13 days ago

Nicholas, church decline is not even a feature of England. Church attendance is actually holding steady, possibly even growing, in England at the moment. Where the C of E is in decline, other churches are growing, some quite fast. Just go and visit the churches in any town or city in England. It is historic churches that are declining—most rapidly where they conform to contemporary ethics.

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Ian Paul
13 days ago

Churches are declining “most rapidly where they conform to contemporary ethics”. This may be true- but is it the cause? Churches with conservative ethics are often also distinctive in their informality. I think this is more likely to be the cause of their success. (People who’ve left my church for the evangelical church further away have not done so for the ethics but because the teenagers prefer the music and because the vicar there doesn’t wear robes.) Evangelical churches have often embraced the idea of being modern, even “cool” (superficially). Just look at HTB’s livestream or even such churches’ websites.… Read more »

Ian Paul
Reply to  Nigel Jones
13 days ago

First, thanks for noting it is true. No-one else commenting here appears to realise that! Secondly, yes, whether there is a causal link needs exploration. But several things support it: the growth of less formal orthodox churches; the research of David Goodhew; and the fact that, though the worship might seem ‘informal’, you cannot experience that without also hearing a 30-minute exposition of Scripture. Thirdly, these churches don’t ‘keep quiet’ about what they believe. What people, including young people, find refreshing is the message: ‘You don’t have to accept the gender ideology that is pushed on you at every turn… Read more »

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Nigel Jones
13 days ago

I would be interested to hear about the changes your church has made to the music and to the wearing of robes in order to be more inclusive.

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Nigel Jones
13 days ago

I can’t speak for Ian, but whilst I don’t think that belief in the immorality of gay sex is the cause of church growth, I also don’t think think the correlation is any accident. Belief in the immorality of gay sex is not the headline that is getting people into growing churches, but it generally correlates with belief in genuine guilt for sin and real forgiveness from an almighty God who you can call Father, because the Son loved you enough to die for you. Combine that with the belief that Jesus is risen from the dead and coming back… Read more »

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Paul
11 days ago

I think a lot of this is correct, except that you repeatedly refer to ‘the message of the cross’ when in fact you mean the dominant, evangelical, but not the only, interpretation of the cross. Perhaps it seems ‘intuitively ridiculous’ to so many people because it is. The fact that there are enough people who are receptive to the simplistic message to fill these churches masks the fact that this version of Christianity does seem childish to the majority of the population. And I don’t disagree that abandoning this narrative makes the need to attend church services less important. If… Read more »

David Runcorn
Reply to  Nigel Jones
12 days ago

Ian Paul has been making this claim for some time – and the converse – that liberal/including churches are declining. he has yet to provide any actual evidence at all to back it up. Until he does I see no point in engaging at all on views based on one-sided speculation.

T Pott
T Pott
Reply to  Nicholas Henshall
13 days ago

In some ways. In Scandinavia which, like England and Scotland have national Protestant churches, most babies are christened in the national church and three quarters are confirmed as teenagers after a course. High baptism rates also apply in Orthodox lands.

So, yes, the decline in the C of E is peculiar to it.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  T Pott
13 days ago

But do those babies and teenagers continue to attend when they are adults and no longer living with their parents?

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  T Pott
13 days ago

But the Scandinavian Churches never had nonconformity on any scale. They have always been national churches in the way the C of E hasn’t since the early 19c..that has made a big difference.

Ian Paul
Reply to  T Pott
12 days ago

Almost none of those who are baptised then attend weekly and grow as disciples. It is national nominalism.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Ian Paul
12 days ago

We should celebrate that people boycott the Church of England given the rampant discrimination within the Church of England against women, LGBT people and indeed class, rather than become complicit in it by attending since the Church of England seems so focused on numbers. I think the same can be said about safeguarding.

Last edited 12 days ago by Kate Keates
Andrew Godsall
Andrew Godsall
16 days ago

I have had the privilege of reading Penny Doe’s thesis. Her exploration of the liminal space, and the consideration of that in the context of Holy Saturday is inspirational. Penny isn’t simply arguing for change in the CofE, but is raising fascinating questions about how we interrogate power within the Church. And what it means to be a human being trying to negotiate where that power lies. These are questions that we have failed to grasp for far too long.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Andrew Godsall
16 days ago

The Holy Saturday insight is really brilliant. The hiatus. The betweenness (which taps in well to liminality). The uncertain, the unknowing. The failure of our own self-assured ideas. The nowhere-land. I guess the disciples, variously, asked ‘What, actually, has this all been about?’ or ‘Is there nothing, after all?’ and yet… and yet… the shimmering, compassionate witness of years with Jesus. Holy Saturday prompts questioning and what Penny calls interrogation. Interrogation of ‘boxed up’ narratives about God. Interrogation of ourselves as we fail, and dreams threaten to collapse around us. Interrogation, even, of God. Because as a disciple you would.… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Susannah Clark
16 days ago

Susannah, For me there are great similarities between queer experience and mysticism. Both are more like experiences, or “ways of being”, which are often difficult to describe in words, but which are more understandable once one has personal experience of the phenomenon. And both challenge the certainties of structure and stability. Both require a letting go. But there is nothing new here. I would argue that Dionysus taught and represented all of this, as evidenced in Euripides play “the Bacchae” over 2000 years ago. There is a queer element to many mainstream world religions, with gender transgression amongst both the… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Simon Dawson
15 days ago

I think the letting go point is important. Some of us – myself included – find it hard to let go. Being forced to do so by gender reassignment in my case, was a blessing. A blessing bought at considerable cost, but a true blessing.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
14 days ago

With the advances we are making in all manner of things, should there not be a St Clitoris Day in the Calendar of the CofE? Or perhaps (more inclusive!) a St Orgasm/Self-Pleasure Day. They had things like this in the Fetile Crescent of yore. The gods themselves were thus engaged/placated (though, in fairness, not a lot of same-sexuality; usually tuned to fertility). This could be an advance on them as well!

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Anglican Priest
14 days ago

I’m beginning to think TA will soon need a trigger warning, or at least be marked unsuitable for younger readers.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
14 days ago

Quite. I’m quite flustered and wasn’t prepared for this site to make me blush.

Susanna (no ‘h’)
Susanna (no ‘h’)
Reply to  FrDavid H
13 days ago

I’m at Hartlepool (Hereteu) today, where St Hild was abbess prior to setting up Whitby. According to Bede, King Oswiu gave his one year old daughter Ælflæd into her care to be dedicated to ‘God and perpetual virginity’. I’m planning to visit Jarrow Hall and the site of St Bedes’s monastery which I haven’t visited since spending three summers digging there as a student.
What a different world view then!

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Susanna (no ‘h’)
13 days ago

Nice of Oswiu to decide his daughter’s virginity for her.

I hope you have a lovely visit, namesake.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Susannah Clark
13 days ago

Agreed. There is pretty good biblical precedent in the Hebrew scriptures for women taking charge of their own sexuality, and it rarely included virginity.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Simon Dawson
12 days ago

“Taking charge of their own sexuality” — I think that may be a very good way to speak about someone like Joan of Arc, or the saints who chose a life devoted to service and love of God. Therese of Lisieux comes to mind, most prominently. If you’ve never been to the Basilica in Lisieux, I heartily recommend it. Given the more recent time in which she lived, there are stunning black-and-white photos of her, grand in size, in the nave, high up the walls, encircling the entire space. They show her life from a little girl, to her devotion… Read more »

Last edited 12 days ago by Anglican Priest
Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Anglican Priest
11 days ago

Anglican Priest, I agree with you about Joan of Arc taking charge of their own sexuality, but sadly she tried that in Christian times so it did not go well for them, unlike in the Hebrew stories where such things were accepted within the culture. This is one view of Joan’s life which questions whether they saw themself in a Christian or Pagan context. Although the academic consensus might hold that Joan was in some way transgendered or transvestite, others note that Joan was reported to have no pubic hair when stripped naked, which might point to an intersex condition.… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Simon Dawson
11 days ago

There is a brilliant rebuttal of this recent trend to re-invent Joan of Arc in modernity’s image, at First Things.

With best wishes.

(And thank God this trend has, for now, left untouched other devoted women who took charge of their own sexuality).

I’m done here. The entire business is self-serving and self-pleasuring, in its own idiom.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Anglican Priest
11 days ago

Thanks for your link. It is always more constructive to have two different and sometimes competing narratives to reflect on, rather a single point of view. I will leave the TA readers to read both, and reflect, and make their own minds up about what they think. But in that reflection it is worth asking a few questions. Like in which narrative do we hear Joan’s own voice, rather than the voices of men talking about Joan? And which narrative relies on contemporary sources from the actual trial in 1431, and which narrative seems to be based on a compendium… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Simon Dawson
10 days ago

I will leave the TA readers to read both, and reflect, and make their own minds up about what they think.

Good.

Transvestism is a neologism that no one in her day would have understood. I am an historian and detest anachronisms — going both directions in time.

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
9 days ago

Simon, I read the Dan Hitchens piece. Upon reflection, I have made up my mind. The article is essentially a journalism piece, an editorial, something of a culture clash screed. The article contains some historical information; but does not meet the bar of historicity for or against the question of Joan D’Arc in terms their being transvestite. Was Joan non-binary? Who knows. Certainly not Dan Hitchens. Given that in terms of critical history the issue is not resolved /probably unresolvable, I think trans folks have a good case for including Joan in their hagiography. It is similar to environmentalists legitimately… Read more »

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
11 days ago

Totally agree. On the other hand there is lots of evidence for conventional Christianity with a deeply rooted aversion to people not only controlling their sexuality but even being permitted to name it or talk about it. Instance ACNA, the “don’t say gay” Anglican entity. I’ve attached a link, but ‘trigger alert’, it is written by a bright woman. lol. Conventional Christianity is not about allowing people to take control. It is about attempting to assert control. “If anything, all the drama in the past week over ‘Dear Gay Anglicans’ getting banned from the ACNA has made one thing clear:… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Rod (Rory) Gillis
11 days ago

Thanks Rod,

And as always, the context of these traditional takes on same-sex attraction is always about the sex, and never about the love, or even the spirituality, of what is going on in such relationships.

It is a very impoverished and inaccurate view.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Susanna (no ‘h’)
13 days ago

Yes, very hard to believe given our cultural concern with “self-pleasure.” One thinks of Elizabeth of Hungary, Therese of Lisieux, Blandina of Lyons, Bernard of Clairvaux (I am just back from Beaune) and hosts of others. Great saints and devoted to the poor. St Hild among them.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Anglican Priest
13 days ago

I’m puzzled how the subject of “self-pleasure” has arisen on this thread. No one has written about it, mentioned it, or deemed it worthwhile for a “thinking” Anglican to discuss.

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FrDavid H
12 days ago

“No one has written about it, mentioned it, or deemed it worthwhile for a “thinking” Anglican to discuss.”

Not mentioned, deemed worthwhile to discuss? Not what “thinking” Anglicans do?

See above:

“self-pleasure in solitary acts”  

“I feel hugely compassionate about people’s need for self-pleasure sometimes to relieve tension and set free their own sexuality”

Etc.

Last edited 12 days ago by Anglican Priest
Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Anglican Priest
12 days ago

It is, indeed, very much a matter in hand.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
12 days ago

And that’s absolutely fine (and delightful), as long as fundamentalists accept that sex can be for pleasure and there is no necessity to make any babies. And that is my point, and the purpose of the phrases quoted by the Professor out of context: the hypocrisy of ‘conservative’ straight men (or women) selectively portraying gay sex as wrong ‘because it can’t be reproductive’ while at the same time many of them – and billions around the world – allow themselves sex just for pleasure. I don’t judge them. They shouldn’t judge me. Besides, sexual pleasure to orgasm is something healthy,… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Susannah Clark
12 days ago

I quoted what was necessary since someone on TA said no one had said anything about “self-pleasure.” I wasn’t being selective or quoting out of context but was responding to “I’m puzzled how the subject of “self-pleasure” has arisen on this thread. No one has written about it, mentioned it, or deemed it worthwhile for a “thinking” Anglican to discuss.” You had written about it. Ergo, my response. Perhaps you can take it up with him? You may find this odd, but most people don’t need to write about “clitoral joy.” Men or women. It is a self-evidence, and is… Read more »

Last edited 12 days ago by Anglican Priest
Andrew Godsall
Andrew Godsall
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
12 days ago

Mr Seitz is an expert in so many things it seems and has experience in so many areas. I hadn’t imagined this to be one of those particular areas. Maybe I was wrong!

James
James
Reply to  Andrew Godsall
11 days ago

I am glad you don’t resort to schoolboy ‘humour’, Andrew.

Penelope Cowell Doe
Penelope Cowell Doe
Reply to  FrDavid H
12 days ago

Perhaps Rowan Williams should carry a CW

Helen King
Helen King
Reply to  Anglican Priest
12 days ago

Considering the history of the C of E promoting clitoridectomy in the 19th c, I think some of the jokes here are in pretty poor taste, Real women’s lives were affected by this. https://mistakinghistories.wordpress.com/2022/03/10/the-church-and-the-clitoris/

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Helen King
11 days ago

A really great article – thank you Helen, and for the references. We all know the saying ‘History is written by the victors’. In a similar way, when reviewing the Church’s studies on human sexuality over the centuries, the erasure of the female source of joy – which seems to have been created specifically for delight – may suggest that Church representation of sexuality has been written much of the time from a dominating male perspective. The vile work of Isaac Baker Brown is a good example of a man deciding what is best for women, and I suspect there… Read more »

Andrew Godsall
Andrew Godsall
Reply to  Helen King
11 days ago

Thank you Helen for this clear, helpful and expert survey, and reminder of yet another part of our shameful history. Shameful too that the LLF groups did not pay more attention to this research.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Helen King
11 days ago

Thanks for this Helen. There is so much in the history of sexuality and the church which is forgotten and needs to be uncovered.

I started writing a comment based on my own areas of interest but it grew too large for a TA post, so it is now a PDF document on-line if anybody is interested.

It covers the link between the sexual and erotic and transcendence/enlightenment/spiritual development in human history. Strangely the spiritual aspects of the sexual has been absent from this TA discussion, apart from occasional mentions of celibacy.

https://www.switchingview.com/TAdebatesex.pdf

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Simon Dawson
11 days ago

I see sexual joy (and love) as a kind of ‘shadow’ version of that deep spiritual reality experienced in ecstasy by some Christians over the centuries. Like orgasm and experience of intimate love, only far more powerful (and real). We should not discount the idea that we are created in the image of God, and our desire and sexuality and joy are reflections of an aspect of who God is. Personally I have previously described God as a ‘jealous lover’ because I do believe that God’s love for us is so ardent that God could be said to desire us,… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Helen King
11 days ago

Perhaps one lesson from this is the the Church should not be too quick to endorse novel and untested medical theories. TA readers might, possibly, be able to think of a contemporary question where such a lesson might be helpful.

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