Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 3 August 2022

Jarel Robinson-Brown ViaMedia.News Embodying Lambeth: Homophobia, Hope and Honesty

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Can Christianity overcome dualism?

Allison Harmon Earth & Altar The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Disability and the Experience of God

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Different ways to read the Bible: Lambeth 2022

Steven Shakespeare Which Marriage? Whose Tradition?

Andrew Brown The slow deep hover Alpha the transformation of establishment Christianity

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Fr Dean
Fr Dean
7 days ago

Brilliant article by Steven Shakespeare!

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
7 days ago

Andrew Brown’s review of a book about Alpha is fascinating.

But I would be very interested to learn more about the noted American evangelists Lonnie Frisbee and Rufus Womble. They sound like fun.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Interested Observer
6 days ago

Lonnie Frisbee, the ‘Hippie Preacher,’ was a leading light in the Jesus Movement of the late 60s and early 70s, in the USA. He went on to become an I influential figure in the early Vineyard Movement; the concept of power healing and power evangelism which John Wimber espoused is said to have originated with him.

The delightfully named Rufus Womble was an American Episcopalian priest noted for his healing ministry and his sense of humour. HIs wife rejoiced in the name Jacquelyn Dodge Womble; his daughter, Carol Lou Flowers; and his son, Rufus Rockwell Womble.

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
Reply to  Janet Fife
5 days ago

I confess, I had assumed (and wrote in that spirit) that they were Andrew Brown’s little joke. That they are real is a surprise.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Interested Observer
5 days ago

I hadn’t heard of Rufus Womble, but Lonnie Frisbee was very well known in charismatic circles both in the US and here. What I really want to know is whether he (or perhaps one of his family) invented the toy.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Interested Observer
6 days ago

Incidentally, I’m puzzled that Andrew Brown attributes the advent of small groups/home groups in churches to Alpha; they in fact became common (at least in evangelical and charismatic churches) from the late 60s onwards. Alpha dates only from the late 80s.

Ronnie Smith
Reply to  Janet Fife
6 days ago

This was true in New Zealand, too. Alpha was a later-comer into the evangelisation process.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Janet Fife
5 days ago

Agreed, Janet. They began in our church in the 1970s. Of course, they have been a feature of many renewal movements down the centuries, including 18th century Methodism.

John Scrivener
John Scrivener
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
5 days ago

E W Southcott describes various forms of what he calls ‘house church’ in his The Parish Comes Alive (1956) – describing his work as Vicar of Halton, Leeds.

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
7 days ago

The article by Jarel Robinson-Brown is well worth reading, even if some of the jargon is initially off putting. It sets out clearly why we should not essentialise African Christians as homophobic.

For those who, like me, normally browse with a “family” DNS service note that viemedia.news is listed as being family unfriendly (I don’t know why) and you will need to do whatever you do to access such things.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Interested Observer
7 days ago

I agree. The diversity of views around sex and sexuality within Africa Christianity is as great as the diversity within Europe. But so much of the progressive discourse is not visible to us in Europe, and so we can focus only on the conservative view. One way of exploring that diversity is this youtube recording of the 2021 inaugural lecture by Adriaan van Klinken, Professor of Religion and African Studies at the University of Leeds, and Extraordinary Professor at the University of the Western Cape (South Africa), in the Desmond Tutu Centre for Religion and Social Justice. The lecture is… Read more »

Interested Observer
Interested Observer
Reply to  Simon Dawson
6 days ago

That’s a very interesting lecture: the link to the transcript is actually this, by the way. It is very damaging when the public’s perception of the range of orthodoxy is shifted by giving excessive prominence to extremists. The BBC did it over the past twenty years with Islam. They tended to conflate dangerous extremist ranting with “authenticity”, and gave a wildly excessive presence to Anjem Choudary’s flying circus. Both in the eyes of the non-Muslims (who saw someone who was quite clearly calling for violence) and many Muslims (who were given an entirely inaccurate vision of what normative Islam looked… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
7 days ago

It was good to see the Statement made by many of the Bishops at Lambeth who made a point of affirming LGBTQ+ people. Good, also, to watch and listen to a video by Bishop Michael Curry of T.E.C., after the Meeting on Human Dignity (available for down-load on EPISCOPALNEWSSERVICE), in which he expresses his hope for the establishment of an essential unity of the bishops on matters of gender and sexuality – (which, however, may not be convenient for some of the bishops whose jurisdictions are in countries where civil laws still persecute gays and their families). Perhaps the only… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
7 days ago

I’ve just noticed, in the text of the GSAF Statement condemning S/S Marriage, the following codicil: “To prevent any fraud in the ‘sign in’ process, the GSFA has asked bishops to take a photo of their official Lambeth Conference pass (which contains an up-to-date picture, full name, the province/diocese they serve in and a unique ID number). They are then asked to email it to a dedicated email address, and in the subject line, include their name and importantly, the number of worshippers under their direct episcopal care.“ One cannot but speculate, is this an attempt to play a ‘Numbers… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
6 days ago

What a lovely piece by Allison Harmon. Thank you for sharing it here. One comment I’d want to make is that disability is experienced differently by those who were born with an impairment, than by those who acquired it later in life. Melanie Reid, who became a tetraplegic in a riding accident, wrote on that in the Times once when commenting on the Paralympics. I was born neuro-untypical (dyslexia and mild synaesthesia) but didn’t realise until I was in my middle years that most people don’t see the world the way I do. I consider that now as a gift;… Read more »

James Byron
James Byron
6 days ago

Fine work by Andrew Brown.

While I disagree with Alpha on most everything (although credit to ’em for at least deemphasizing homosexuality in their teaching: while not the affirmation I wholeheartedly support, I recognize that it’s a big step from their theological perspective), I’ll say this for them: they’re making a serious effort to address nosediving attendance, and as shown in London’s figures, it’s working.

Why’s there no liberal alternative? If there were, we’d have at least a leg to stand on in criticizing HTB.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  James Byron
6 days ago

I suspect it’s because Alpha’s whole approach is based in certainty, the belief that what you believe is God’s plan, His will, and that your understanding of those things is correct. Liberal theology is much more based in the idea that God’s will and plan are, at core, unknowable to the human mind and at best guessed at in our reading of Scripture, beyond the very basic idea that God’s love is given to all freely.

James Byron
James Byron
Reply to  Pat ONeill
6 days ago

To a point, Pat, although I’ll do HTB the credit of assuming they’d also emphasize the mystery of the divine (it’s certainly appeared in their sermons).

But liberal theology also has tenets (notably, that the Bible should be treated like any other text and the laws of nature apply also to religion) that could make a liberal version of Alpha appealing. Not to the same people perhaps, but takes all sorts.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Pat ONeill
6 days ago

Interesting chat between you and James Byron. As a reader here at TA I like it. With regard to ‘liberal’ would you (both) not recognize a spectrum that may exceed the parameters of what you describe here? I realize you may be generalizing. Was Krister Stendahl a liberal? Is there a difference between say, a populist like John Spong and a scholar like Walter Brueggemann. What about a Catholic scholar like Raymond Brown who is considered ‘liberal’ by conservatives but ‘conservative’ by many of his ecumenical peers? Where would someone like Xavier Leon-Dufour fit in? What about the differences among… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Rod Gillis
6 days ago

Same Rod, though not at your level of theological expertise. Liberal: I believe the scriptures can be wrong, and are the attempts of fallible humans to try to make sense of unfathomable encounter with the Divine. Liberal: I consequently believe some but not all biblical narratives are provisional, or in need of digestion as myth, and that revelation in scripture is written from inside the cultures and scientific frontiers of the authors, and therefore sometimes needing revision. Liberal: I believe revelation of truth (and the Word) continues in the present, with the Spirit of God speaking anew to our minds… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Susannah Clark
5 days ago

Can I recommended another fascinating Andrew Brown article, linked at the bottom of the one cited above, titled “How to write about Religion” https://andrewbrown.substack.com/p/how-to-write-about-religion Andrew argues that much modern writing about religion treats it as made up of belief systems, but actually religion is also a set of practises where one participates in religion, either as a member of a community, or through some mystical sense of connection with the divine. “The tendency for religious professionals is to define it much as the RE syllabus approaches the subject – as a collection of different belief systems, which can be abstracted… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
5 days ago

Good comment. Reference looks interesting.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
5 days ago

The Andrew Brown article you reference is engaging and contextual oriented. As I read it, I thought back to the work of Wilfred Cantwell Smith who contested understandings of the notion of ‘religion’, distinguished faith from belief which flows from it, and the faith of an individual from that of the individual’s cumulative tradition. (The Meaning and End of Religion). Note Brown on Dawkins, “The nadir was the early part of this century when Richard Dawkins was taken seriously as an authority on religion.” Dawkins is certainly an influencer on the subject of religion. However he is more of a… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Rod Gillis
5 days ago

Thanks Rod, I am not a trained theologian, so I find it reassuring that your Cantwell Smith and Lonergan comments resonated with me, and seem to describe where I have arrived at myself after a few decades of fairly random and self-guided reading and struggle.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
5 days ago

I have always found reading out of interest, and in the interest of problem solving, the most rewarding reads. Because of the favorites on my reading list, occasionally I am accused of living in the 1980s. It’s true. I go to the nearest mall parking lot, get my Corolla up to exactly 88 miles per hour, and bam, here I am back to the future in 2022. Thanks again for the link to Brown piece.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Rod Gillis
5 days ago

Your observations about media coverage of religion apply equally in the United States. The Roman Catholics get a lot of coverage, most of it not flattering, although the appointment of a new bishop in a major diocese (Boston, NY, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles) can get some mention. The Episcopal Church stopped being a source of news, it seems, when we largely settled our disputes over sexuality–that controversy seems to have shifted to our Methodist brothers and sisters.

Even the non-denominational “mega-churches” get little play in the news, unless some pastor gets caught in a financial, sexual, or political scandal.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Pat ONeill
5 days ago

Sure enough. We can consume a lot of news from State side here. I know what you mean. The one thing that is missing in Canada are decent domestic Religious platforms like America Magazine (Jesuits), National Catholic Reporter, Commonweal Magazine, Church Anew blog with Brueggemann, or The Tablet from the UK. Of course some of the blog articles linked here at TA are very interesting. We had a decent platform in Anglican Journal. However, the Canadian Church removed its editorial independence. The writing is still decent; but it is now basically a house organ for the National Church.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Rod Gillis
5 days ago

My initial reply to James was, indeed, quite general, and Susannah’s list of the tenets of liberal Christian belief largely align with my own. But all those things fit in, I think, with my generalization about the “certainty” of conservative Christian thought and the greater “uncertainty” of liberal Christian thought.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Pat ONeill
5 days ago

Good way to put it.

James Byron
James Byron
Reply to  Rod Gillis
5 days ago

That’s a broad spectrum indeed Rod! Like Susannah, by “liberal” I mean “religion should be judged by the same standards as everything else”, so the Bible may be as flawed as any other text, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It’s in the ‘Essays and Reviews’ tradition, popularized by Spong, yes, but probably encapsulated most succinctly in Bultmann’s “New Testament and Mythology”. The idea that we *can’t* think as the ancients did (if we like, we must bolt-on supernatural extras to our post-Newtonian understanding) but can demythologize religion and in so doing seek its essence is surely a proposition that… Read more »

Unreliable Narrator
Unreliable Narrator
Reply to  James Byron
4 days ago

What exactly is this “post-Newtonian understanding”, I wonder? We hear a lot about our modern scientific understanding, but what it amounts to is that we have a better idea about how the natural world works, and a better idea of how to make it do what we want, than in the past. How does that modern scientific understanding even begin to address such questions as what the good life is, how we ought to treat other people, what the point of life is, whether we ought to do those things that we are now able to do, and so forth?… Read more »

James Byron
James Byron
Reply to  Unreliable Narrator
4 days ago

Science is of course different in kind to philosophy. What we can’t do is believe in the cosmology of antiquity, nor (thanks to observations of predicable natural processes) do we require constant intervention by a watchmaker.

We can of course add a supernatural realm to the natural, and many do, but the split itself is a product of our post-Newtonian paradigm. Most couldn’t believe in the cosmology underpinning the scriptures even if they wanted to.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  James Byron
4 days ago

I agree that the possibility of a ‘liberal’ Alpha is doable. There is lots of room among both the faithful and ‘seekers’ to consider modern engagement. Ben Meyer has an good critical evaluation of Bultmann. It’s in, The Aims of Jesus, his chapter dealing with, A Review of the Quest, section 3, From Bultmann to the Present. It too is an older book, published first in 1979, and so would need to be ‘updated’ by other more recent appraisals of Bultmann.

Andrew McKinnon
Andrew McKinnon
Reply to  James Byron
5 days ago

Is it working? I don’t think we know, though someone tell me if there is better evidence than I’m aware of. The diocese’s numbers are stronger than most. The HTB network has stronger numbers than most, but we don’t know that the diocese’s attendance comes from HTB network churches. (Immigration is another strong possibility, if I were guessing). Any straightforward equation is complicated by what Bibby and Brinkerhoff called ‘the circulation of the saints’ (evangelicals move around a lot, and I’d say the more enthusiastic, the more they seem likely to move, following the Spirit). I do think it is… Read more »

Fr Andrew
Fr Andrew
Reply to  Andrew McKinnon
5 days ago

‘Is it working?’ is a good question that rarely seems to be asked. Without HTB would London attendance drop as badly as other Dioceses? It’s impossible to tell. Can you trust the evidence of your own eyes? No. What’s causation, what’s correlation? How much is being in the right place? London after all is a massive importer of people in the country and is substantially younger in population than the rest of the UK. Demographics is probably way more important than we credit. There’s always the assumption that church attendance/ growth or its decline is because something a church is… Read more »

James Byron
James Byron
Reply to  Andrew McKinnon
5 days ago

Good question Andrew: I’m working off the attendance figures combined with necessary inferences to paper over the gaps so would welcome more detailed research. “The circulation of saints” is a great phrase, and yes, there’s a fair amount of church-hopping (alongside rekindling the fire in lukewarm believers). That does appear to be accompanied by genuine conversions, although of course, there’s much turnover and people do leave. Great point about the terror among liberals and progressives about being mistaken for evangelicals. The emerging church (that’s been emerging for what seems like decades, but these things take time) combines modern worship styles… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  James Byron
4 days ago

I agree with your observation, James, that some of the emerging churches have more open theology, and sometimes clearly liberal views. Yes, some of these emerging churches (or fellowships) will replicate conservative models and offer certainties, but many young people today simply aren’t receptive to socially conservative views, and are concerned about inclusion, environment, justice etc. My other daughter (not the one who is a Christian co-worker in Uganda) belongs to an emerging church in East London which is a liberal, free-thinking community, sharing lives, sharing preaching, and very much engaged with affirmation of sexual and gender diversities, and concern… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
6 days ago

Note Today – a report from Mr David Virtue (GAFCON/ACNA – ‘ORTHODOX ANGLICAN‘ supporter on Virtue-on-line) on the situation of the Episcopal Church in South Sudan, whose GSA Bishop Badi is still headlining the call for Lambeth Bishops to affirm the homophobic doctrine of LAMBETH 1:10. Describing the atrocious conditions in South Sudan – with warring tribes and factions preventing the democratic process from regaining stability in that country; Virtue says the Episcopal (Anglican) bishops there have consistently refused the economic aid offered by the U.S. Episcopal Church – on account of its support for LGBTQI+ people! One might have… Read more »

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