Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 28 December 2019

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Who wants to be an English Bishop?

Simon Jenkins The Guardian To survive, Britain’s churches need to learn from our cathedrals

Diarmaid MacCulloch The Guardian Why Christianity has been struggling with sex ever since the Nativity

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Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

What I appreciate about Stephen’s thoughtful article is the way it recognises and acknowledges the very challenging pressures and responsibilities that bishops face in their lives of service. Bishops are often criticised, and I accept that specific complaint backed up with reliable evidence has its place. That is rational, even benevolent, critique. But I do feel that sometimes we cast generalised opprobrium on the bishops, which may sometimes be less benevolent, and in a way de-humanising. Bishops are predominantly human, fallible, well-meaning, and as Stephen helpfully points out, subject to pressures and tragedies and serious problems (financing, safeguarding, theological, marital,… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I totally disagree, Susannah. Abive all else, Jesus was outspoken. He ministered with such zeal and fire that within no more than about 3 years the authorities condemned him to death, not because he broke any laws but simply because he was too radical. Many of the next generation of Christian leaders were martyred too because of the fire of their ministry and mission. Where is that in our bishops? Do any of them behave as though Christ might return tomorrow? Their is no passion. No willingness to take risks. So the response to a country in which food banks… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

On this, I agree, although I’m generally more critical of diocesans than their subordinates (some of whom do speak out). Bishops have chosen to pursue positions of power, and accepted the responsibilities that come with it. When they fall short, they must be held to account.

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

I know the answer to this question, but why isn’t Sir Diarmuid McCulloch not the new Archbishop of York? We desperately need people of his intellectual calibre and scholarship as bishops.

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Apart from anything else, he has declined to be ordained as a priest, and would presumably decline to be consecrated a bishop. (And note that he is not styled “Sir Diarmaid”.)

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

Yes he’s a highly principled man and that is why I consciously chose to emphasise his Knighthood even though Debrett’s would advise otherwise. His contribution from the diaconate surpasses that of most if not all of the current episcopate.

Shamus
Guest
Shamus

Some years ago when in the Oxford pub “The Eagle and Child” (affectionately known as “The Bird and the Baby”, I noticed Diarmuid McCulloch sitting in the area where The Inklings used to meet. I thought a worthy successor to be sat there. What he writes is always worth reading. An even more impossible appointee as archbishop for me would be the liberal rabbi Jonathan Romain.

Kate
Guest
Kate

If the Church of England wasn’t so hidebound by rules, the office could be filled as a job-share with an ordained minister fulfilling that part of the role.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I’m not really clear what is being suggested here. The Archbishop has been appointed. Of course in the modern church there are suffragan, assistant and area bishops and deans, archdeacons etc., supporting the diocesan. I share Stephen Parsons’ reservations about the word ‘job’ (even more so, job-applications) in relation to bishops, but I suppose it reflects today’s ‘dumbing down’ of the former perception of a sacred office and calling, now using employment terms from the business world.

Kate
Guest
Kate

I am pointing out that a lay archbishop should be possible by sharing the role with an ordained minister but the CofE is too hidebound by rules to consider such things. Accordingly the pool of potential archbishops is unnecessarily narrowed.

Richard
Guest
Richard

What, then, is the purpose of the three-fold ordained ministry of bishop, priest and deacon? The “pool” of potential vicars, archdeacons, and bishops is strengthened, not narrowed, by the requirement of holy orders.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Hardly. Many Christians don’t believe in ordination in the Anglican / Catholic sense. Appointing some of those as bishop or archbishop would be a big step in dealing with the corrupting clericalism within the Church of England.

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

I think being agnostic and being happily (not guiltily) homosexual might be two issues that could prevent elevation to the archbishopric.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Why would a scholar want to accept a bishopric? S/he would spend all their time in meetings and doing confirmations, stymied by the collegiality of the House of Bishops from expressing their own views, and be unable to pursue their scholarly interests. Tom Wright went back to academe.

As for York diocese (where I live and have served), we need a pastor and a healer. In fact the Church as a whole desperately needs pastoral bishops; ones who can see abuse survivors and LGBT people as human beings and not problems to be managed.

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

Michael Ramsey, John Habgood and David Jenkins managed scholarship and being a diocesan bishop. Suffragan bishops and assistant bishops can do the district manager stuff; leaving the diocesan to inspire the clergy and in the case of York the wider church. David Jenkins was a towering intellect but he was happy in the miners’ social club chatting to Durham miners about theology. This trope that you can either be pastoral OR clever needs busting.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Kate. Do you have any idea what bishops actually do and what what the job demands? It doesn’t look much like it at the moment.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

The problem with the office of Bishop is that it combines flatly incompatible roles: being a “pastor to the pastors”; and being the boss of a diocese with disciplinary functions. What meaningful pastoral relationship can a minister have with person with the power to end the fulfilment of their vocation? Separating the two would be an excellent idea, turning managerial and disciplinary responsibilities over to new offices, and leaving bishops responsible for spiritual matters and the welfare of their priests.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I understand that the CDM, which arguably is largely the cause of these problems, is under review. The separate disciplinary authority already exists: ultimately in the persons of the President of Tribunals and the Vicar-General’s Court. But it is a tortuous and painful route there both for clergy and indeed for bishops (some also now facing CDMs). I think we must wait to see how the proposed changes to the CDM develop and, particularly, who should initiate CDM proceedings.

Simon Kershaw
Admin

The legal process could be delegated in each diocese to the chancellor (and specific officers under the chancellor). This might ensure proper legal process and still be 3xervised in the name of the diocesan bishop, but the bishop would not be involved and could exercise proper pastoral and spiritual care. This could be done voluntarily, or a Measure could legally delegate in all dioceses.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Very well put. Ministers are expected to do far too broad a range of things. We cannot do much about that. But there are far fewer bishops and we could reorganise things so that at y95% of their time is ministry – and I don’t mean internal meetings. . A Dean could run the administrative side of the diocese. Indeed, why can’t cathedrals run dioceses? If we are picking bishops based on their pastoral, theological and evangelical abilities (I hope we are) it is a waste – stupid even – for our bishops to spend their time dealing with administration.

Pete Broadbent
Guest
Pete Broadbent

They aren’t really adverts in the technical sense. There’s a set process for suffragan sees, which can be found here: https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-11/Nomination%20Process%20for%20Suffragan%20Bishops.pdf Although there are interviews, the Diocesan gets the final call (subject to the consent of the relevant Archbishop and the monarch). The most recent role (not job) we did was that of Stepney. A raft of considerations had to be included in the mix, including defined portfolio responsibilities (safeguarding oversight and social policy), understanding and being able to engage with the East End and its glorious mix, compatibility and complementarity with the diocesan team, as well as the evident… Read more »

John swanson
Guest
John swanson

“A reduction in the number of dioceses”. Amen to that. I nominate my own diocese, Guildford, for redistribution between Winchester and Southwark. Though it would have been better done before spending umpteen millions on our not especially attractive cathedral. Dioceses multiplied as churches grew, but there’s a ratchet effect, and they never get dropped as churches shrink.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

some more: Derby & Southwell 4 bishops (different provinces would need to be sorted too – scrap them?), Leicester & P’boro 4 bishops, Bristol diocese is small – merge with Gloucester?, Durham & Newcastle 4 bishops, Carlisle & Blackburn 5 bishops, Canterbury & Rochester 4 bishops + flying, West Midlands need sorting too – Lichfield, Coventry, B’ham, Worcester, Hereford 12 bishops. Dream on.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

The West Midlands certainly seems ripe for some re- organisation. Isnt there a Commission working on re-organisation? It seems to have gone quiet.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Guildford was carved out of Winchester in 1927, and the new cathedral was started before WW II but inevitably work halted during wartime. Winchester also ‘lost’ Portsmouth at the same time. There was talk on an earlier TA thread of Portsmouth re-uniting with Winchester but I don’t know whether this has any basis. If both were to happen, the result could be (like Leeds) having three cathedrals in a single diocese.

Michael Mulhern
Guest
Michael Mulhern

Has anyone spoken to folk in Leeds about the impact of Diocesan re-distribution, not least the human cost, and how it may never actually achieve what was hoped for? In certain respects, you can look at parts of this uberdiocese and conclude that it has merely served to prolong the inertia where nothing (and no-one) has changed for well over a decade. Having three cathedrals is the very least of the challenges that still remain. As the Archbishop of Dublin said in his Christmas sermon this year (not talking specifically about diocesan re-organisation but not entirely irrelevant to it either):… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Curious about all this enthusiasm for merging dioceses. Can I ask why, what for? What is supposed to be achieved by it? In fact the Church of England has only recently managed one such merger in 2014, creating the huge diocese of Leeds. It might be a good idea to start this discussion by asking how that is going? Can anyone tell us? Why was it thought to be good idea? What was the merger meant to achieve? Is there evidence this is actually happening? What can we learn from that experience?

Tim Chesterton
Guest

In the Anglican Church of Canada our dioceses tend to be much smaller numerically, if not geographically. My diocese of Edmonton has about 55 parishes (but it does take seven hours to drive from west to east!). Of course, we have very few diocesan staff compared to English dioceses. But the personal contact between bishop and clergy, and bishop and parishes, is way better. Also I know all my clergy colleagues (some of them very well). I would not want to serve in a massive diocese with 200+ parishes.

Simon W
Guest
Simon W

I agree with Tim. I’ve been part of two electoral synods in our diocese in ACANZP this past decade. On each occasion representatives of every parish in our diverse diocese were able to take a weekend to hear from each candidate, discuss, debate, question their nominators and vote, all within the context of prayer and worship. I believe we discerned well on each occasion who was the right candidate to
lead us in the particular challenges the diocese needed to address. I wonder how things might look in the C of E if each diocese elected their own diocesan and suffragans?

John swanson
Guest
John swanson

“Curious about all this enthusiasm for merging dioceses. Can I ask why, what for? What is supposed to be achieved by it? ” In my mind, it’s simply about husbanding resources. As the number of worshippers reduces, we should reduce the cost of the organisation they have to support. That means reducing the number of bishops, archdeacons, diocesan administrators, chancellors, DDOs, physical offices, etc, and possibly deans and chapters, cathedrals, etc. Of course, it will never happen. Organisations don’t work that way (see Parkinson’s Law), and the church is far too culturally remote from the radicalism of Jesus to be radical… Read more »

John swanson
Guest
John swanson

Postscript: apologies, Stanley, I realise that all I have done is regurgitate what you have already said…

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

No need for apologies, John. As many other mammals know, regurgitation is necessary for proper digestion. Anyway. I’ve never said anything original in my life, and as a former academic, I came to understand that research is a euphemism for plagiarism. Happy new year to you all.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

John S wrote: “Or have every single clerical diocesan post … shared with a part-time incumbency.” IM(notso)HO a good plan. Back to the future. I really enjoyed being an ADDO when also an incumbent. At that time (a decade ago) the DDO was also an incumbent. The joint roles were mutually enriching, providing relief and release from the stresses of both, and enabling enlarged vision. Soon after, the role of DDO became a diocesan non-parochial post. This is now common and whatever benefits it may bring (I can’t think of any) there is an increasing void between filling in forms… Read more »

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

In the early 20c and perhaps later, Archdeacons were often parish priests ( though there was a plentiful supply of curates then) and the Bishop of Kensington was funded by holding a city living.

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

We already have more bishops and archdeacons than at any point in the CofE’s history and yet we cannot attract sufficient ordinands and the numbers worshipping in the parishes are in relentless decline. Who will these senior clergy manage in the end? I think I’m right in saying that the Diocese of Leeds now has more senior clergy than before the three dioceses were merged. So if the answer to the West Midlands ‘problem’ is another super diocese then won’t we just have everyone moving up several notches on the salary scale and asking to have ‘Executive’ added to whatever… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

The best reason for mergers is to reduce the number of bishops. But that’ll only work if the number of apparatchiks (suffragans, archdeacons, CEOs, diocesan advisors, chaplains, PAs) were also reduced. PPs might then suffer less interference from up the food chain. You see, I still don’t know what bishops are actually for, and nobody has ever told me (I know what the ordinal SAYS they’re for). Why don’t they publish their diaries if they want us to know? I suppose they see a lot of smiling faces and smell a lot of fresh paint and are bored rigid on… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

”many of us give/gave the sacrament to all who present/ed themselves, no questions”

Bless you.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Stanley, I hope by ‘chaplains’ you mean ‘bishops’ chaplains’. Merging diocese wouldn’t result in needing fewer chaplains for hospitals, hospices, prisons, universities etc.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Yes. Sorry for lack of clarity.

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

Bishops and Archdeacons are not managers – certainly not managers of the parish clergy – they don’t have the powers to operate in this way. Before I was ordained, in the early 1990s, I first commented that a thinner front line would need more support rather than less. I rather suspect that most parish clergy don’t know how much their senior colleagues are protecting them from. Diminishing numbers of clergy change the pressures and the ecology of the church – in some ways for the better: the hazards of well-connected senior clergy of modest competence are now better known –… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

I read Dairmaid MacCulloch’s article when it appeared in The Guardian. Good article. Makes a valid point. However, there is more to the picture than meets the eye. What Christianity has been struggling with ‘since’ ( if we can use that historical descriptor for the mythological sections of the gospels) the nativity is the notion of God become human. Sex is something of a sidebar. As Bernard Lonergan notes, for example, “There is an incipiently metaphysical [distinct from sexual] context. Byzantine theologians discovered that if Christ is one person with two natures then one of the natures must be personless.… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

The discussion following Stephen Parsons’ piece is first rate, especially contributions from “Froghole”.

Janet Bunker
Guest
Janet Bunker

Indeed they are, especially like the comment ‘the two imperatives (solvency and salvation) are perhaps mutually exclusive.’ Definitely sermon worthy!

peterpi -- Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi -- Peter Gross

“On that slight shift in translation, Christianity built a great deal.” Yes, siree! What a masterpiece of understatement. Although, … I’d probably be stoned if I said Mr. MacCulloch should have used the word “error” instead of “shift”. Hebrew has a definite word for “virgin”, and the author of that passage in Isaiah didn’t use it. This whole notion of tying sex to sinfulness has created, and continues to create, a mess. Most men and women cannot lie down with each other and do the deed, while thinking only of Mother Church and England. This isn’t biblical, per se, and… Read more »

David Rowett
Guest
David Rowett

One of my folk gave me a flow-chart (based on mediæval church teaching) of when ‘it’ was permissible. Perusing it, I concluded that it was said teaching rather than the Black Death which caused such catastrophic depopulation in the middle ages.

I have so far resisted the temptation to present a copy to couples on their wedding day.

Kate
Guest
Kate

The Gospel clearly states a virgin birth and Isaiah implies one even if it doesn’t use the precise word but I think that is all a distraction. The whole point is that the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib set up a movement which saw women as secondary to men. The birth of Jesus instead of appearance as an adult was intended to refute that error: woman was created from man but the Son of Man was created from woman. The virgin birth merely emphasises that – no man was involved. The Jesus birth story should be seen as proclaiming… Read more »

David Rowett
Guest
David Rowett

‘The Jesus birth story’? In Luke it might put the spotlight on Mary, but Matthew doesn’t let her get a word in edgeways! It’s all Joseph! And I don’t think you can dismiss the clear disparity between Matthew and Isaiah 7 as ‘a distraction’. Isaiah of Jerusalem, had he wished to ‘imply’ parthenogenesis would hardly have used a word which does no such thing, as has already been observed – ‘almah’ I believe means ‘a woman of marriageable age’ and part of the point is that the threat to Judah will have passed by the time said young woman’s pregnancy… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

As I understand it almah, used in Isaia, means an unmarried woman of marriageable age. While it doesn’t precisely specify virginity there is a clear presumption of it since unmarried girls were expected to remain virgins.

John U.K.
Guest
John U.K.

In support of Kate. ‘almah’ is the word used in the Masoretic Text (7th century onwards). παρθένος – parthenos – is the word used in the Septuagint (3rd-2nd cent. B.C.), I have heard ( and am fully open to correction) that the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible was standardized after the rise of Christianity and the establishment of the Christian canon, and may have some ‘amendments’ to the Hebrew text which make it harder to see Jesus as the promised Messiah. Are there Hebrew texts of Isaiah which are contemporaneous with Christ or pre-date Him? Alternatively it has been… Read more »

John Wall
Guest
John Wall

it seems to me that the Gospel writers approached their accounts of Jesus’ birth familiar with the moments in the Hebrew Bible in which God is claimed to have gotten involved in women’s reproductive systems. The motif of the unexpected late-life pregnancy as a sign of God’s favor begins at least as early as Sarah’s delivery of Isaac, repeats itself in the stories of Rachel and others, and persists at least as late as the stories about the birth of Samuel to Hannah. The point of the late-life pregnancy seems to be about making the case about God’s power over… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

By way of New Year thoughts (and grateful greetings) I find myself reflecting on how often debates over the past year on these threads have returned to issues of Leadership in the church. Expectations are always extremely high. Judgments are therefore predictably fierce and unforgiving. The impression is easily given that everyone else knows how this job could be done so much better. The problem is ‘them’. Reflecting on his preparations to take on the role of Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks observed, “Jews love leadership, but not followership, and as a result we are a fractious people” (Faith in the… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Thank you. I pray for blessings and grace for the coming year, for you David, and Jackie, and readers here. And I need that grace as well, without doubt. So let’s all try to encourage one another. In 25 years working in education (before I switched to nursing) I saw repeatedly how Head Teachers were subject to (often unfair) negativity and subversion behind their backs, and as a Deputy I came to realise what a wide range of problems, challenges and interfaces they had to handle, coming at them from governors, from teachers, from support staff, from students, from parents,… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

If a school was failing, it would be placed in special measures and the head teacher replaced.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

There is a case to be made on this basis for every diocesan bishop and CEO to resign.

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

But this is not comparing like with like. A church or diocese is not a business or school. And even within the highly policitized world of education the measure of ‘failing’ is very contested – and rightly so. And I rather doubt that Stanley Monkhouse would want the urban churches he often describes with such love on these threads to be measured as ‘failing’ on these terms, which they would be.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

We seem to be drifting into the realms of fantasy… It’s not serious discourse to suggest that the Archbishop or the entire diocesan episcopacy should resign. That’s simply not going to happen. We need to build community up, and I think it’s complex, and full of tensions, but in the end the challenge comes not only to those we choose to castigate, but to each one of us. I don’t think there’s any short cut or easy solution to that: just prayer, givenness, and trying to open our hearts to grace, trust, and the flow of God’s love. That includes… Read more »

Jayne Ozanne
Guest
Jayne Ozanne

I think the broader point is that “if a school was failing….the leadership would be held to account”. The issue as I see it is that there is lots of responsibility with very little accountability, or indeed even open (and encouraged) scrutiny. Yes we have Bishop’s Councils, but I wonder how many are truly functional…or are they merely “rubber stamping” bodies (as someone who has sat on one for many years)?

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I agree. I think there is insufficient transparency and intercourse. General Synod gets stage managed. Uncomfortable or inconvenient issues can get side-lined. Collective unity among leaders lends itself to a wall of silence on issues where there ought to be vigorous and open discourse, reflecting divergent but privately held views even in the episcopacy. I feel there is too much ‘attempt to control the agenda’ from the top down. For this reason, Via Media and this forum here are valuable in the life of the Church for offering much-needed alternative platforms, but if we look at this website at Thinking… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

If the Church of England wants Fellowship it has to abandon the distinctions between lay, deacon, minister and bishop.

David Exham
Guest
David Exham

Why, Kate? Incidentally, it should be priest rather minister. Deacons are ministers.

Kate
Guest
Kate

No. It should not be priest.Anglicans don’t have priests.

And, in answer, the belief that some people are more special than others and can perform certain rites which others cannot perform is entirely inimical to fellowship. Fellowship requires equal peers.

Simon Kershaw
Admin

It’s hard to argue that the Church of England “does not have priests”. The Ordinal attached to the Book of Common Prayer is entitled “The Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining and Consecrating of Bishops, Priests and Deacons” https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/worship-texts-and-resources/book-common-prayer/form-and-manner-making-ordaining, and the Preface and services refer to “priests”. “Priest” is simply a contraction of the word “presbyter”, meaning “elder”. The confusion arises because the word “priest” is then used to translate Greek and Latin words which refer to the Sadducees and Levites in Jerusalem. “Ministers”, on the other hand refers to all sorts of folk, both ordained and lay. Bishops, priests… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I am a registered nurse. I have been profoundly grateful for hard-working ward cleaners, who are every bit as special as me. Likewise grateful to junior doctors and surgeons who have skills I don’t possess. Just because people carry our different roles does not make any of them less special, nor does it mean that ‘fellowship’ (or in the case of the critical care unit, ‘teamwork’) is diminished by different people with their different roles. It is clear from the experiences of early Christians that ‘the body’ is not all made up of eyes (in which case it could not… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

I think Kate is right to quibble over the word “priest”. It is a word with more baggage than most because we use it in two distinct senses, and then talk at cross-purposes with each other. Is a priest in the Church of England a “presbyteros” or a “hieros”? Etymologically and historically it is surely the former: a priest is a presbyter or “elder”, i.e. a senior member of the Church, senior not necesssarily in terms of age, but because they have been ordained to that seniority by those whose role is to oversee the life of the Church. A… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Guest
Allan Sheath

I note that those Protestant churches which rejected historic threefold orders have, de facto, adopted a polity that looks pretty much the same. I also see those Christian Fellowships in which “every man is his own pope” have a seemingly inbuilt tendency towards that uncritical fundamentalism which is inimical to a website styled “Thinking Anglicans”.

Richard
Guest
Richard

The threefold ministry of bishop, priest and deacon is a defining feature of Anglicanism. One is not more “special” than the other, but each has different roles to play. There are theologians, preachers, confessors, teachers: it’s the variety of roles that make for true fellowship. There are ushers, flower arrangers, cleaners, sacristy workers. The roles complement each other. All of society hums along because different people perform different roles. I wouldn’t let my accountant remove my child’s tonsils.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

As usual, the poor old organist doesn’t get a look in, but the flower arrangers do!

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

I suppose soldiers have always grumbled about the officers; nurses about the matron; teachers about the headteacher; doctors about health service managers; shop workers about the supervisor; the electorate about the politicians. Trying not to be defensive, my conscience will not allow me to follow the bishops into (what would be for me as a gay man) a closet of self-loathing homophobia. Similarly the bishops’ safeguarding failures are way more than administrative slip ups and reveal a culture of neglect of the weak and vulnerable; principally children and young people. At IICSA we heard that evidence had been withheld from… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Archdeacon Grantly, in the BBC dramatisation of Barchester (but not the book I think) said to Parson Harding “Jesus has nothing to do with it”. This has resonances.

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Are you sure that wasn’t the same actor but playing a different character in a different series? Wasn’t it Sir Humphrey Appleby describing to Jim Hacker the process for episcopal nomination?

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

I’m sure. See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=214_kLiOM3I
20:40 tp 21:10.
It’s one of several exchanges that I couldn’t find in the book – that’s why I remember it. Another was Harding, after Slope’s Cathedral sermon, saying “if there is no music, there is no mystery; and if there is no mystery, there is no god”. With which I agree wholeheartedly.

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Thanks. The corresponding quote from Yes Prime Minister is “Religion has nothing to do with it.”

https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=yes-prime-minister-1986&episode=s01e07

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

There is another obvious link. Archdeacon Grantly in “Barchester” and Sir Humphrey in “Yes, Prime Minister” were both played by the same actor, Nigel Hawthorne.

Incidentally, I seem to remember a much earlier BBC TV production of “The Warden” in black and white days.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I agree with you, but my concern is that while thinking critically and challenging critically is absolutely appropriate when carried out in a measured and evidence-based manner, with a quiet, calm voice of determination (‘as cold and passionate as the dawn’ as Yeats put it)… because we are fallible humans, I think we are susceptible to all those instances of grumbling which you list, in varying walks of life… and what I dislike is castigation born of wound, untempered anger, hyperbole and dehumanisation of opponents. In some of the things you have mentioned, Father, there is every reason to understand… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Fr Dean. I share all your concerns here. But my understanding of followership (and, I suspect. Jonathan Sacks’) has nothing to do with uncritical compliance or submission. I am suggesting we need models of what a faithful, critical and flourishing relationship between leadership and followership might look like. We have been investing vast amounts in ‘leadership’ training but that is only one side of a ministry partnership. It is not only leaders who need challenging. I am looking for the language of mutual respect, critical friendship and respectful obedience together in the way of Christ. Thank you to Susannah for… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

David you use the word ‘respect’ several times, and yet it feels to me that you mean ‘deference’ instead. Susannah as a nurse you must have encountered many wounded people and yet you seem to be saying to the LGBTQ+ community and the survivors of clerical abuse that we ought not to cry out in pain. In the Channel 4 piece the survivors of John Smyth’s abuse described how they were beaten so badly that it took the skin off their buttocks. These were real wounds Susannah which led to enduring psychological wounds such as PTSD. It’s unreasonable to expect… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Fr Dean. My dictionary defines deference as ‘polite submission and respect’. So at one level you are right. I think it is an appropriate response in the presence of those in authority over me. But I do not how to make clearer that I do not think this means subservient, uncritical submission or lack of necessary protest when such is needed. And I think Susannah made this point even more clearly than me. In fact I spoke of ‘mutual’ respect. Leaders don’t generally improve by being insulted or mocked. And nor do followers.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Fr Dean, These issues are far too grave for me to want to dismiss what you say (and I wouldn’t want to anyway). Equally, because they are deadly serious, they especially merit cold, clear, ruthless reason, evidence, and at the same time the moral high ground of grace in the face of abuse. That is not me trying to ‘police’ out anger, but I simply say this: suffering abuse does not give a person a ‘free pass’ to hit out indiscriminately with language that de-humanises other people. I truly believe that wrongdoing is best challenged with facts, with evidence, and… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

This thread has provoked forthright views, robustly expressed. There have been searching questions asked. And now there are calls for restraint and grace, as if the people calling for them were the arbiters of what is restrained and graceful. I’m not sure what grace is. In my experience the word is used by some to quell dissent and manipulate discussion – passive aggressive – not unlike Nurse Ratched in “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest”. Christians are urged to grow in Christ-likeness: I detect in the Master a robust punchiness, even offensiveness, from time to time, but I see no… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Stanley Monkhouse, firstly, perhaps I can thank you here for your very moving reflection on another thread reflection on the agonising loss of your son and your connection with the lament of King David. Lament is a language that is missing in the worship and liturgy of today’s church and we need it. Like you on this discussion thread, as elsewhere, I have valued the expression of forthright, robust views, as I always do. So I genuinely need your help to identity whose words can be read here as a ‘passive aggressive’ attempts to ‘quell dissent’ and ‘manipulate discussion’, and… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I felt, after the event, that some of my comments could have been taken as efforts to police how people should express themselves. I apologise for that. It’s a first principle that people have a right to express their pain, their anger at violation, their distress, their anger, in the words they choose or need to express. This has, indeed, been a raw thread. I went to bed last night wishing I could just meet or talk to some contributors face to face, or over the phone, Father Dean in particular. We come at things from various angles. We express… Read more »

Charles Clapham
Guest

Surely the trope of a virgin birth (or some other miraculous conception) is found fairly widely in antiquity or comparative religion, to indicate unusual or supernatural origin – that is human mother and divine father, or some variation thereof – rather than antagonism to sex? And isn’t this what it signifies in this context?

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Yes. For instance Virgil’s 4th Eclogue: ‘[5] Now is come the last age of Cumaean song; the great line of the centuries begins anew. Now the Virgin returns, the reign of Saturn returns; now a new generation descends from heaven on high. Only do you, pure Lucina, smile on the birth of the child, under whom the iron brood shall at last cease and a golden race spring up throughout the world! Your own Apollo now is king! [11] And in your consulship, Pollio, yes, yours, shall this glorious age begin, and the mighty months commence their march; under your… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Yes CC. I came to that view from my own theological studies. Look at contemporary Babylonian, Greek, Roman myths, folk tales of every culture, and the birth stories of the modern North Korean Kim dynasty. Haggadic midrash to the early Jewish Christians. I was astonished – dismayed – after ordination to find that many (most?) clergy take them literally. Or perhaps they don’t want to frighten the horses in the pews. No wonder people laugh at us. I was blunt about this from the pulpit – people were interested not repelled.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Resurrection is an out-and-out miracle.

In contrast, so far as virgin birth is concerned, consider the case of FD https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.newscientist.com/article/mg14819982-300-the-boy-whose-blood-has-no-father/amp/ and ponder whether parthenogenesis is truly impossible?

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Did you read the article in the New Scientist carefully? (‘New Scientist’, got to love that title). From my perusal it clearly works against jumping to your conclusion. It’s like those perennial Xmas news articles about whether the star of Bethlehem was a planetary conjunction or some such thing. Total category spotlight mistakes, which take awe and wonder out of perfectly good mythology.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Do any of us really know? I prefer simply to believe, even within a mythological narrative framework. Good mythology, like actual miracle, inspires wonder, extends imagination, and opens the mind to intuitive truth in a way that the merely rational cannot. Personally – and whether as narrative history or as myth – I believe Mary was a virgin. Consciousness and understanding operate both through logical reasoning and also through feeling and imagination. Beyond that, as a person of faith, I also believe there are supernatural dimensions and deeper reality, which we may experience in this world we live in, through… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

“Do any of us really know?” Yes. It is possible, studying the literature i.e. genre, form, context, comparisons, and so forth to develop a hypothesis which makes best use of the data. Additionally one must develop an appreciation and respect for mythic consciousness. Did the authors of the birth narratives believe what British and American fundamentalists believe, or what the populist enthusiasts of the doctrine of the immaculate conception assert? No. I see no conflict between the main insight handed own in Matthean and Lukan birth mythologies and the position ( which I support) that Jesus of Nazareth was undeniably… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s own conception by her parents Joachim and Anne (a relatively recent doctrine of the RC church which I don’t think the Anglican Church embraces). But its intention was to affirm that Mary was always free from, and incapable of, sin. The subject of sin, or rather the absence of sin, does seem to be the overriding factor in thinking about the virgin birth, but maybe there is another dimension to it. Doesn’t it mean that Jesus was to be the Son of God – with Joseph as an earthly surrogate father.… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Interesting discussion (and thanks for the link to the Arcic document). Speaking to my wife about the Virgin Mary this afternoon (she has two degrees in Philosophy, and tends towards Gnosticism) we reflected on 4 to 5 approaches to the narrative about Mary: 1. Mary had a son following sexual intercourse, and the idea of the Virgin Birth is scientifically non-viable, so maybe look for alternative translations, or dismiss the whole narrative as myth. 2. Everything happened exactly as the bible says, and Mary was a virgin. The Bible is authoritative and true, and we should believe the literal facts.… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Your point one hits on part of the problem i.e. “dismiss the whole narrative as myth”. Why would one ‘dismiss’ myth? It is almost as if one must either accept the virginal conception as historical or just ‘dismiss’ it. Better to engage what the story wishes to convey and why it is contained in the gospel in the first place. The myth qua myth has a lot to offer from a christology perspective. It elevates what probably began as a later legend into a Christological reflection. The ARCIC document ( #18) hits on something: ” The virginal conception may appear… Read more »

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

The Immaculate Conception of the BVM was discussed by the “Schoolmen” of the Middle Ages and provoked considerable debate not least as the Franciscans were pro and the Dominicans anti. It remained at the level of devotion/spirituality til the 19c when in the 1850s it was promulged as a dogma by Pio Nono no doubt because Marian devotion( and apparitions) were an important part of the RC fight back after the French Revolution. No doubt some Anglicans hold/celebrate it like the Assumption but its not officially sanctioned. I dont think Anglicans would be unhappy with the idea God prepared Mary… Read more »

Richard
Guest
Richard

Tangential to this discussion, but germane to the wedding at Cana: I read a comment on a self-styled “orthodox” website that the water-to-wine miracle is an example of God warping time. Water was changed not only into wine, but into very good wine; such wine would require many months to ferment, and therefore God must have warped time to allow the wine to mature while the wedding celebration was underway.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

lol. Did Jesus say, ” make it so”

peter kettle
Guest
peter kettle

Further to the discussion about what Bishops are for, here are a couple of quotes from today’s obituary, in the Daily Telegraph, of Ronald Bowlby, sometime Bishop of Newcastle and then Southwark: ‘His gifts were primarily pastoral and administrative, though he had a special interest in social questions which he addressed from a position somewhat to the Left of the political centre. Although a cautious, pragmatic reformer of both society and the church, he could be bold – standing up to government ministers in the House of Lords …….. [As Bishop of Newcastle] he was a good listener, a man… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Regarding several comments above( some as replies), and perhaps hopefully contextualizing the main point raised by Diarmaid MacCulloch, I’d like to suggest two resources I have found ‘must reads’ regarding the broader conversation about St. Mary and Christian faith: (1) Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ. (ARCIC Agreed Statement). The study address all relevant issues from scripture to the highly controversial 1854 doctrine of the immaculate conception ( see link); (2) Mary For All Christians by Anglican Theologian the late John (Ian) Macquarrie. (Eerdmans, 1990). The book contains the devotional , An Ecumenical Office of Mary the Mother of Jesus.… Read more »