Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 25 September 2021

Martyn Percy Modern Church “Nuts and Bolts” (I): Reflecting on the Governance Review Group Report
“Nuts and Bolts” (II): Reflecting on the Governance Review Group Report

Church Times What the C of E can learn from the police
“Withdrawing resources from local communities results in loss of trust and confidence, argues Alan Billings

Andrew Lightbown Theoro0 Speaking of character, culture, mixed economies / ecologies & parishes
written in response to the article by Alan Billings

Sam Norton Elizaphanian Synod: The dying of a church is not a management problem

Ian Paul Psephizo Why we should all be using printed Bibles

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God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
23 days ago

Extending excellent Martyn Percy’s textual analysis as some measure of a document, I see within the Governance Review Group Report dated July 2021 the following occurrences: bishop x138 board x 119 committee x 73 diocese/an x 26 clergy x 19 staff x 17 parish x 13 priest x 3 rector x 2 (both within director) vicar x 0 incumbent x 0 pastoral care x 4 preaching x 1 pension x 31 child/ren x 2 (one in relation to IICSA) govern x 331 lead x 55 manage x 48 investment x 42 strategy/ic x 36 vision x 35 (incl one division)… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  God 'elp us all
21 days ago

As has been pointed out elsewhere, this word list is exactly what you would expect given that this is a discussion paper on church governance.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
Reply to  David Runcorn
18 days ago

I simply note that this analysis doesn’t address the use of “accountability” and cognates. The problematic issue of the accountability of Bishops is not really addressed [where are the “Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of Bishops” to be found, for example?] even though the concept of accountability is mentioned as a significant one. To me the whole issue is inadequately addressed in the document. [The accountability of the proposed appointments board is not addressed either]. Without proper accountability of key decision-makers, the chain of accountability loses its foundations. There is a question, of course, as to whether this is the… Read more »

Father David
23 days ago

How refreshing to hear the voice of Evelyn Underhill mentioned in Sam Norton’s article. In another letter to L.K. dated Epiphany,1935 she wrote “Try to arrange things so that you can have a reasonable bit of quiet every day and do not be scrupulous and think it selfish to make a decided struggle for this. You are obeying God’s call and giving Him the opportunity to teach you what He wants you to know, and so make you more useful to Him and other souls.” Evelyn, would that you were with us at this hour.

Richard
Richard
23 days ago

This is not the first time that Ian Paul has published his screed on why we all “should” or “need” to use printed Bibles. I wondered how he knew what was best for the rest of us the first time around, and I wonder still.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Richard
23 days ago

It is possible for devout Christians like Ian Paul to acquire a Rosary Bead app instead of carrying around the usual string of beads. I think he should tell us all what to do. Am I allowed to recite the Glorious Mysteries from my smart phone?

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
23 days ago

I can’t read Alan Billings’ article since I don’t have a Church Times subscription. However, I wish all archbishops and bishops would read Andrew Lightbown’s on the Church’s ecology.

I demur on one point – the parish system has co-existed with chaplaincies for a very long time (how long, exactly?) to the mutual support of both. Perhaps that’s because they’re not in competition, whereas church plants, house churches etc so often are in conception with parish churches?

Shamus
Shamus
Reply to  Janet Fife
22 days ago

If you can borrow a copy, it is well worth reading, as the parallels with what the Police tried, and found didn’t work well, are relevant to what is being tried by the CofE, and also to a large extent isn’t working. I was convinced by the argument in the article.

Andrew Lightbown
Andrew Lightbown
Reply to  Janet Fife
22 days ago

Thanks Janet and that’s a really valid point re chaplains and chaplaincies. When I was training for ordination I did a placement in a hospice and it was a life changing experience. Thank you.

David Rowett
David Rowett
Reply to  Andrew Lightbown
21 days ago

Ditto and likewise, my placement in the Nuffield (orthopædic) and at Michael Sobell House in the early 80’s taught me much. Similarly, those police/church parallels were striking, and chimed in with my own train of thought that in an age where mistrust of institutions is all-pervasive and widespread – sometimes justifiably – to walk away from the relational, wherein trust and so on are generated, seems to be deeply unhelpful. I’ve acquired a deep affection for the word ‘parson’ these last few months, – often, at least in this neck of the woods, the be-dog-collared are about the only personæ… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  David Rowett
21 days ago

I also did a year’s placement at the Nuffield Orthopaedic while training in Oxford. It was a good learning experience. Was Michael Sobell House the hostel for homeless men? I did a placement there too. I’ve also been an FE/HE chaplain and a hospice chaplain, and I think those are good models for ministry and mission. I’d like to see a chaplain in every courthouse: when I spent 3 weeks supporting the victim’s family through a murder trial, I found that quite a few people wanted to speak to me. There’s so much time spent hanging around, while people have… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Janet Fife
22 days ago

‘Competition’, not ‘conception’!

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
23 days ago

Reading these the latest of Martyn Percy’s excellent articles I was struck by his integrity and authenticity and how he is apparently unbowed by the ungodly behaviour he has had to endure. It’s not difficult to see why Nobody’s Friends want rid of him when he so coherently keeps pointing out that he can see the emperor and the empire’s private parts.

John Wallace
John Wallace
Reply to  Fr Dean
22 days ago

So agree with you, Dean. Martyn’s staying power is amazing and a tribute to the prayers of himself and his many friends. He is a true prophet for these times – which like the OT prophets, has made his position perilous, especially amongst the privileged of Christ Church.
If the C of E had any sense, he would become a bishop in one of the major dioceses like Winchester. Then he could really fulfil a prophetic ministry and leave the management stuff to archdeacons where it really belongs.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  John Wallace
20 days ago

‘If the C of E had any sense, he would become a bishop in one of the major dioceses like Winchester.’ I don’t know anything about Martyn Percy and whether or not he would be a good bishop. But I would like to register a dissenting voice against this common belief on TA that if we see a parish priest doing a good job – even a prominent good job – we should take them out of it and make them a bishop. I like to think I do a half-decent job as a parish priest. But the last thing… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
20 days ago

But Martyn Percy isn’t a parish priest. Setting aside for the moment the very unfortunate circumstances in which he currently finds himself, he is the Dean and head of the Chapter of Oxford Cathedral with a previous background which is both pastoral and academic, that also being true in his present role. Deans sometimes become bishops, although the roles are different. Two prominent examples are Justin Welby, formerly Dean of Liverpool and Vivienne Faull, now Bishop of Bristol, previously Dean of York. Occasionally a Bishop becomes a Dean: two currently in office are the Deans of Windsor and York. So,… Read more »

David Jones
David Jones
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
20 days ago

But you are missing Tim Chesterton’s point: just because someone is doing a good job in one type of position does not in and of itself mean they have the skills and will do a good job at another position. And one should recognize the good job they are doing where they are.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
Reply to  David Jones
19 days ago

I’m afraid I think it is you who are missing the point. This turned on the specific case of Martyn Percy. Frankly, after the enormous amount of material about him which has regularly appeared on TA it was pretty surprising to read Tim Chesterton saying “I don’t know anything about Martyn Percy” although, in fairness, he added “and whether or not he would be a good bishop”.

In that context I consider my response was wholly appropriate – and helpful!

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Rowland Wateridge
19 days ago

Rowland, in commenting on TA I am sometimes accused of knowing nothing about the Church of England (or words to that effects), by virtue of being a Canadian and all that. It seems I am now being criticized for the opposite! What I keep forgetting is that although this website is called ‘Thinking Anglicans’, it is actually about the Church of England, not Anglicanism. I apologize if my original post was unclear; as you admitted, what I meant when I stated my ignorance was that I don’t know Martyn personally, and have no idea whether or not he’d make a… Read more »

peter kettle
peter kettle
Reply to  Fr Dean
22 days ago

What is the source of ‘Nobody’s Friends want rid of him’ please?

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
22 days ago

Sam Norton is right to point back to the Tiller Report. So much of what we are now facing was anticipated there and offered at a time when there were far more resources to respond to the challenges he so clearly saw before us. So why didn’t we? Teaching contemporary church history a few years back I sought out some Synod members from that time. It seems that the rejection of the report needs understanding in a particular context. There was anxiety and change in the air. The Anglo Catholic wing of the church was just beginning to fragment, in… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  David Runcorn
22 days ago

John Tiller was just one of the many prophets we have ignored. He was secretary at my ACCM conference soon after the Tiller Report was published. A decade or so later he spoke at a Manchester Diocesan Evangelical Union meeting, and repeated the warnings he had given in his report. He added that clergy breakdowns take many forms – physical, emotional, psychological, moral (usually money or sex) and were increasing. He predicted such breakdowns would continue to increase as the pressure on parish clergy continued to grow, unless something was done to address the structures and situation. Most of the… Read more »

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  David Runcorn
22 days ago

As a Hereford ordinand in the late 80’s Canon Tiller was part of my diocesan selection panel. Although not a subject I was called to comment on I didn’t agree with his report then and if I’d been on General Synod I too would probably have voted for it to be shelved. I don’t attribute the decline of the church to the parish system. I believe that the rate of decline will pick up speed as parishes continue to be amalgamated and as the clergy are increasingly expected to function in the manner of a taxi dispatcher sending lay people… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Fr Dean
21 days ago

Fr Dean. You are responding to someone who has been regarded as ‘unsound’ for years. I am very familiar with being told by some I am not real evangelical. Tiller was ‘unsound’ too actually. So I am not quite sure what point you are making, or why, with this aside? Nor was I criticising the A-C tradition or commending the Evos from that era. But I am curious to know if you are you ‘sound’ within you own tradition? Or do you, like me, tend to abide on the ‘inside of the edge’?

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  David Runcorn
18 days ago

As a liberal being ‘sound’ is almost a contradiction in terms. There are some things I’m quite conservative about but mostly I question things. On Sunday I listened to an evangelical bishop completely ignoring the day’s readings about chopping off offending limbs and the plucking out of eyes in favour of a rallying cry for mission. He was holding a Bible in his hand but he never once referred to Scripture. I felt cheated. I knew how I would have approached the difficult texts but I was keen to hear an evangelical bishop’s take on it. Answer came there none.… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Fr Dean
18 days ago

You’re right about the need to tackle difficult texts, Fr Dean. Did you have Psalm 124 in your lectionary last Sunday in the C o E? ‘If the Lord had not been on our side…’ I felt as a preacher I just couldn’t avoid addressing that one. Our lectionaries are definitely not for the faint of heart. But in defence of evangelicals, in the past they often preached sermon series working through biblical books, difficult passages included. That’s not for the faint of heart either. When I was a student in Toronto in the 1970s I sometimes attended evening services… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
21 days ago

Several comments have been made about resources. However, it seems to me that some of the existing tendencies evident within the Church are liable to be accelerated as a function of changes within the wider economy, some of which have been demonstrated with brutal clarity over the last few days. Clergy are essentially on fixed incomes if in work. Those incomes will now be falling in real terms as a result of burgeoning inflation. It was the inflation of the 1960s and 1970s that led to a renewed, and increasingly unaffordable, settlement between clergy and Commissioners, which ultimately forced the… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Froghole
21 days ago

Froghole has once again infused the discussion with stark reality by confusing the issue with facts. It’s the worst kind of sin. Money matters. Unless there is very soon the kind of redistribution of funds from Commissioners to parishes that Froghole has advocated time and again, the game is up for stipends and pensions of all but senior clerics. I don’t think people realise that stipends and pensions for most clergy come from the parishes, not the Commissioners. That young people are still being recruited into stipendiary ministry is to my mind grossly immoral. Let’s hope that they are in… Read more »

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
21 days ago

I am firmly of the opinion that if you can’t find a Spinal Tap quote for a situation, there’s a West Wing quote instead. In answer to San Norton’s excellent column, I am reminded of CJ, prior to becoming the president’s press secretary, getting sacked from her job doing PR for Hollywood. She is speaking truth to power, in this case to a studio exec who has slipped down the power rankings and failed to get the nominations he felt he deserved: The movies were bad, Roger, all of them. Even the little kid was bad, but he was a… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Interested Observer
21 days ago

I’m not sure if updating the ‘product’ being sold by the CofE into a gay-friendly article would make much difference. “The general public don’t have a CofE shaped hole in their lives” because most people aren’t religious, not because they are pro-gay. A recent survey publicised by the BBC showed that young people are more likely to pray than their elders. But those interviewed were Muslims – because of the UK’s changing demographic. Islam is not renowned for its tolerance towards LGBTQ people, but younger Muslims are more devout than their elders. No amount of management by the CofE is… Read more »

Last edited 21 days ago by FrDavid H
Bernard Silverman
Reply to  FrDavid H
21 days ago

The evidence (as far as it goes) is that initiatives and changes of doctrinal emphasis really don’t make an overall difference to the long term pattern of decline in affiliation and attendance. It’s understandable that we all go in for wishful thinking, believing that if the church generally was “more like us” it would be numerically more successful. It may be that young Muslims are more likely to pray than their elders, but it will be interesting to see in coming decades to what extent they will remain actually affiiliated to any religion, or whether they too will join the… Read more »

Kate
Kate
Reply to  FrDavid H
20 days ago

Actually I think the ‘product’ is too complicated. Jesus taught us to pray; the church thinks it knows better and has added dozens of other prayers and complex liturgy. When the church humbles itself and strips out the liturgy it has made up, maybe things will improve.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Kate
20 days ago

I don’t think the Church has “made up” the Holy Eucharist. Without the liturgy there’s no Church. It’s what we do.

Kate
Kate
Reply to  FrDavidH
19 days ago

Jesus broke bread and blessed it. There is no indication that the entire “liturgy” lasted longer than a minute or two. He taught us to pray – the Lord’s prayer Everything else in a Eucharist liturgy is a creation of man.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
Reply to  Kate
19 days ago

It seems hardly worth opening a Church – let alone building any – for the minute it takes to say the Lord’s Prayer. I suppose we could have a quick drive-thru administration of Communion like a McDonald’s burger to save time. Obviously it was pointless of Bach to compose his Mass in B Minor. It is man-made and takes ages to sit through.

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  FrDavidH
19 days ago

Splendid FrDavidH. Perhaps to reduce further the need for limiting factors, the communion could be self-service from a money-in-the-slot-machine like coke (I mean cola not powder, but there’s a thought) and kitkats. The “burgers” made of bread duly consecrated earlier would have no need of meaty filling for of course they would have become meat at their consecration some time before – or, if you’re of a more Protestant persuasion, would become meat as enzymes and gastric acid acted upon them. They’d be terrible dry so maybe they could be soaked in (pre)consecrated wine/blood to aid mastication. I suppose since… Read more »

Michael H.
Michael H.
Reply to  Stanley Monkhouse
18 days ago

Stanley, you may be joking (I think!) about slot machine self service communion, but can it be any worse than vicarage communion live streamed on Facebook or Zoom, where the celebrant deliberately ignores history and tradition and deliberately withholds the Sacrament from all but him/herself. The latest report on the Church of England’s (mis)handling of the pandemic (illustrated inevitably with a photo of an archbishop celebrating communion in a kitchen) highlights in particular a “deep seated dissatisfaction” with online worship during the pandemic ” “by almost every metric, the experience of pandemic rituals have been worse than those that came before them.… Read more »

Picky
Picky
Reply to  Interested Observer
21 days ago

Of course coming across as homophobic doesn’t help gain converts, but I would suggest it is more than that: on the whole people don’t find God necessary in their lives, even if God exists.

I would add, though, that while the general public doesn’t have a CofE shaped hole in their lives, if the CofE vanishes many communities will experience that hole, and will wish it were filled.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Picky
21 days ago

Could you say what they will miss? My sentimental side likes to think that you’re right, but I’m not sure that it’s not just sentiment at play for me, alongside justifying 25 years of my working life in active ministry. I wept as I watched the BBC’s Songs of Praise on Sunday as they marked 60 years of the programme. Emotions are complex and not easily explained but my tears stemmed from a grief that the church I felt called to and then subsequently called to be ordained in to no longer really exists. I’ll readily concede that this is… Read more »

Picky
Picky
Reply to  Fr Dean
21 days ago

I live in rural England, and I see the parish church as a key centre of village life (and I am not Christian). As a building, as a community of good, concerned people, as the place where the priest is based who plays an important role in bringing people to action and heading missions of care.

(By the way, in the 19th Century legislation permitted perpetual curates to be called vicars. Could we not have the same arrangement for priests-in-charge? Such a mouthful, and designed to confuse the link between parson and parish.)

Last edited 21 days ago by Picky
Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Picky
21 days ago

If you look at the human condition as described by archaeologists, anthropologists and such like, it would seem that the vast mass of humankind do have a real need to engage with God, or religion, or ritual, or spirituality, or the numinous, however it is described in any particular culture. Against the timescale of such evidence (which some archaeologists trace back 300,000 years) the 100 year long decline of the CofE is just a minor blip, and some new form of religion will emerge to fill the gap in due course. Rather than say “on the whole people don’t find… Read more »

Picky
Picky
Reply to  Simon Dawson
20 days ago

You are quite right. I, of course, was referring to people now in England, since it was the decline in the CofE I was discussing. And indeed that might just a minor blip in the longue durée. Mind you, if the blip blips for long enough the CofE will be gone.

Last edited 20 days ago by Picky
Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Simon Dawson
20 days ago

Or “a God”: teams. corporate sports, hobby groups. Something to give a glimpse of beauty and otherness, lifting our minds from the mundane, the kitchen sink.

Dan Jaynes
Dan Jaynes
19 days ago

Sam Norton: “What we really need is a way of handing over all ‘incumbency’ rights and responsibilities to local laity – to revive lay incumbencies no less (which is not the same as lay presidency!) – and to only have ‘mission priests’ – people whose responsibility it is to feed the faithful by word and sacrament – and nothing else.” This risks the 1990s Tower Hamlets approach of creating a Chief Executive in every neighbourhood. This will lead to the laity becoming the CEO of the parish, the priest becoming accountable to the CEO, then the CEO being paid a… Read more »

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
17 days ago

Maybe the most important task of the new General Synod will be thinking up and agreeing a new strap line for the C of E, currently ‘A Christian presence in every community’. Having an historic building isn’t the only way for the C of E to have a presence in a community, but in many communities it is the only realistic way of maintaining a present and future foothold. Without that foothold I’m not sure the C of E can claim it is living out its calling. So perhaps GS should consider ‘A Christian presence: in most communities/in the majority… Read more »

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