on Saturday, 2 September 2023 at 11.05 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Theo Hobson The Spectator The time is ripe for a liberal revival of the Church of England
Giles Fraser UnHerd Has the Church stopped working?
Kelvin Holdsworth What’s in Kelvin’s Head The Friends of St Eucalyptus
Dr Fraser notes: “The latest, and most ridiculous of these corporate reinventions of the Church is the idea that the clergy no longer has to work on Sundays – because other people are busy on that day.” Given that, in my experience, there are now a number of multiple parish benefices that have only one service per Sunday, often for as little as 30-45 minutes (and no other worship provision during the rest of the week), that principle would already appear to be far advanced across much of the Church. Unfortunately, the comments in the thread below Dr Fraser’s piece… Read more »
I know of an archdeacon who doesn’t drive during the hours of darkness and has the brief in her largely rural diocese of being the archdeacon of rural affairs. Quite how she installs clergy into their new benefices in the winter months I’m not entirely sure. A cleric not taking Sunday services is in a similar league. Hobson and Fraser seem to be telling disenchanted clergy to buck themselves up; it must seem a bit glib to diligent clergy ministering amidst such nonsense.
Unless a priest or minister teaches at a religious or secular college or university, the notion of a priest or minister not working on Sundays is like a farmer who won’t plant crops or a miner who won’t go into a mine.
I have thought about Froghole’s last sentence long and hard. It correlates very much with a number of the comments about the appointment of the new x of Birmingham and even more so with Rev. Dr Anne Read’s description in relation to the Times survey that the church has embraced the qualities of a secular organisation but has become a shabby one exempt from equality laws and still subject to the Old Boys Network . It isn’t a hopeful picture
At this point I can only look at St Eucalyptus with longing.
Sorry- I meant Rev Dr Anne Read
Hobson thinks the church is in ‘rough’ agreement on LGBT issues and so liberalism is about to catch the church in its tide; Fraser looks at the situation via the long-term reality of ebbing and flowing. He has some memorable lines from Pascal and Root. His essay is important reading in my view. Re surveys on whether something is ‘sinful.’ I suspect we learn more about squeamishness over the term ‘sinful’ than anything else. Lacking the ability to use the term with any substantial complexion, it is a more like a leaden bollard. Burning fossil fuels is ‘sinful’ inside this… Read more »
Giles Fraser is correct in comparing the governance of the CofE with Wilko and Pizza Hut. I remember the days when bishops thought the role of the Church was to explain the Faith. Andrew Brown once described how in the mid to late 1980s the bishop of Durham (David Jenkins} was a public figure in the way no church figure has quite managed since. The nation began discussing religion. When Bishop Jenkins retired he was replaced by a hard line evangelical who assured everyone that it was back to normal, and the Resurrection was an event which could have been captured… Read more »
I seem to recall that the reason David Jenkins was so well known by the general public was the sheer hypocrisy of claiming not to believe what the church taught, but still claiming his salary and perks. I think this put a huge number of people off.
If the resurrection wasn’t a real event, what are we all wasting our time for on Sunday mornings? We’d be better off on the golf course.
I’ve no recollection of Dr Jenkins saying the Resurrection wasn’t real. Rather, it was “more than a conjuring trick with bones”, as reported correctly by Andrew Brown.
Exactly so. David Jenkins was a very sincere believer in what the Church taught. He simply preferred to explore the depths rather than splashing about in what I think Robert Runcie once described as the noise of the shallow end.
I once heard Dr Jenkins explaining his faith: the palpable sincerity of his belief was very moving. He was very much a “ believer” and explained himself in terms accessible to modern minds.
I heard a sermon from Bishop David in my former Church after he’d just returned from a visit to New York. One day, on the street, he noticed the ugliest couple he had ever seen. They looked like two fat frogs. But they were jumping up and down with excitement simply to be in one another’s presence. He likened this to we ugly, sinful people being acceptable to a loving God who doesn’t care what we look like. His sermons were always entertaining and memorable -always with an emphasis on God’s Love..
I remember hearing a friend, a Scripture Union evangelist, denouncing David Jenkins ‘conjuring tricks with bones’ and apparent apostacy with great vehemence in a sermon. Unfortunately there was someone in the congregation who knew Jenkins personally, rather than by what was quoted in some parts of th media…. and words were said afterwards.
It was an unfortunate turn of phrase but I suspect he was countering the common view of many outside the church that the resurrection was simply about a resuscitated corpse. On the Trinity and Incarnation he was quite orthodox. When he visited my theo college in 1979 he summed up Xtianity as ” God is. He is, as in Jesus. So there is hope.” Adding puckishly, “you can see from the comma I am quite sound on the Chalcedonian definition.”
That sounds like a Daily Mail rendition of David Jenkins’ theology. So many people castigate Jenkins without reading a word he ever wrote nor listening to what he actually said.
I interviewed Jenkins for my theological college newspaper. Having heard that he was good pastorally, I asked how he ministered to the dying. He replied that he hadn’t visited a dying person since his days as a college chaplain(!). On that occasion, he visited the college porter on the man’s deathbed. ‘We don’t know, do we?’, asked the dying man. ‘No, we don’t know,’ replied chaplain Jenkins. The porter died a few hours later. I find it difficult to believe that in all the years since Jenkins’ chaplaincy days he hadn’t known anyone who was dying. I’m surprised that he… Read more »
At least he was being honest. None of us “knows”.
We know that there is life after death, and that it will be better than our present life. We don’t know whether there is an interlude between our death and that new life, or whether we are in heaven as soon as we die. Jesus did say to the dying thief, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise,’ – but what did he mean by that, since he didn’t immediately ascend to heaven?
At any rate, we can say that when we die we are safe in God’s love, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
That is our hope.
‘Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’
Thank you, Janet. I’d rather not be dogmatic about what happens in the next world too. We simply cannot know – the Bible gives hints, usually in picture language which simply cannot come anywhere near the reality. I’d far rather walk on in trust – our hope is based on nothing less.
Yes. But when ministering to the dying, I hope you have something more positive to say than, ‘We don’t know.’ We can always talk about our hope, and the love of God.
I can’t remember the identity of the person who was interviewing David Jenkins on the subject of the resurrection. He repeated his well-known ‘more than a conjuring trick with bones’ quote, and the interviewer’s response was, ‘Maybe so, Dr. Jenkins, but all the writers of the New Testament seem to assume that it involved a body.’
“Childish gibberish.” Frankly, your constant obsession with ridiculing Christians you do not like comes across just that way. Ditto, “fatuous nonsense” (add “repetitious”). Can you find another key and register? Good for you, good for us.
But Fr David makes a good point and his points need to be answered.
Not so much ridiculing as pointing out that which is absurd.
Do you really expect to have worthwhile exchange with someone who just repeatedly disparages your beliefs as ‘child gibberish’ or ‘fatuous nonsense’ and is unable to show the slightest respect for your viewpoint? I don’t think so either. So yes, another key and register is needed. And some of us have been genuinely pleading for this for some time here.
I think I’m having a respectful exchange throughout this thread.
“childish gibberish,…Evangelical platitudes had to be promoted by management-speak and entrepreneurship. Despite having video screens, happy songs and smiling ministers… fatuous nonsense.”
I’m no English evangelical, but you could be a tire salesman and recognize this as anything but respectful.
And this is just the latest installment. What did Jesus say about calling someone far, far less?
If you think this is respectful exchange we have a different problem to just dismissive intemperate language.
If one is of another point of view, the flak from those of a different integrity can be pungent and at times arrogant .
Glass houses and stones methinks!
Feelings run high but I believe we would all say that courtesy matters.
I have been unpleasantly patronised in these columns only very recently by a person who seemed determined to attribute to me attitudes which I singularly disavow.
We just have to be pleased that ‘De Haeretico Comburendo’ has not been invoked for a long while.
Thank you for this helpful reminder of a rather more thoughtful time in the Church of England Fr David H. At the time of the fire at York Minster I was a junior Producer in the BBC World Service Religious Programmes Dept and recall visiting the Minster to make a programme about the building. It occurred to me that if God wanted to prevent the kind of teaching from David Jenkins that was pretty normal in most university theology departments across Western Europe, then striking York Minster with lightning wasn’t an especially effective tactic. I don’t recall meeting anyone at… Read more »
The fatuousness does not reside in the creed but in the way it is applied today. For example, the idea that the resurrection could have been recorded on a video camera is nonsensical not because it did not happen but because video cameras did not exist at the time; if they had I doubt that the resurrection would have happened in such a way that it could have been recorded, because if God wanted to prove his existence forensically then God would obviously do so. But the fatuous ones act as if there is no real mystery to faith. They… Read more »
It may seem odd that the Incarnation occurred during a period before the mass media had been invented. Today, Jesus’ miracles, Resurrection, Ascension etc would have been immediately uploaded to YouTube. Except it’s a nonsense to claim that such matters of faith could be captured on a mobile phone , rather than by a believer’s heart. Faith can’t be an item on Channel 4 News. The Good News is not recordable .
I think, when it comes to the Resurrection, you and Mark Andiam are in agreement: However it happened, it was not a physically literal act in such a way that Jesus of Nazareth rose through the air like a human helicopter or vertical-takeoff jet. If God can be proven through science, faith becomes unnecessary. One reason I disagree with the so-called Thomistic proofs. As they have been explained to me, they use circular logic and if one requires proof of God’s existence, one lacks faith. God — or the mysteries of Jesus of Nazareth’s’ Incarnation and Resurrection — cannot be… Read more »
Are we confusing the resurrection with the ascension here? In any case I’m not saying I know how these events/processes did or didn’t happen at the time (although I believe they did, as I have experienced their power in my own life, and the telling of their stories in the gospels and thus elsewhere have enabled me to see this) I’m saying that God is obviously not willing to become an object of forensic examination https://bible.oremus.org/?ql=560726930
Thanks for the correction. I did indeed conflate the two.
Your last sentence is spot on.
Agnosticism is a grey area, but one either believes in God’s existence and the Christian claims made of Jesus of Nazareth or one doesn’t. Both are beyond the scope of science.
I consider myself to be in a subset of agnosticism. I believe in God, but have no knowledge (a gnosis) of God’s nature, although I see God as a force or a field, not in any way anthropomorphic.
Hullo, Peter. We’ve spoken before, quite recently, and it’s good to see how much we’re in agreement with one another. As I said elsewhere, science and faith are two different, but not mutually exclusive disciplines. One deals with material things, the other the divine which, by definition, is intangible. Personally, I wish I could have been present at these events (which I believe are historic and actually happened) simply to see what happened with my own eyes. How did Jesus ascend into heaven, for example? With no disrespect to those who use pictorial imagery, I just don’t find the typical… Read more »
The underlying events could have been captured and posted on YouTube, but the chances of them being believed would be small. Cries of “hoax”, “scam”, “trick”, “deepfake” would flood the comments within moments, along with posts saying the video confirmed whatever bonkers conspiracy theory they already believed.
What, in your view, is the Good News?
1 Corinthians 15 vv 1-4
That’s a good evangelical answer.
Theological truth is not the sole purlieu of those of evangelical disposition.
Fr D’s answer is not ‘evangelical’ ; it is simply basic Christianity which was of course shared by Bp David Jenkins whether his experience at deathbeds was rare or not.
Surely this is not a game of Christian oneupmanship.
Please note….no humour this time.
Actually I thought this was humour! I laughed out loud. Not unkind. A bit of tease. To find someone so outspokenly anti evangelical responding exactly like an evangelical would! Just shows how difficult it is to recognise tone and register or spot a grin on social media.
Perhaps I am being dense but I am not sure who the outspoken anti-evangelical is.
I would admit to being unhappy about the increasing unbalance in the Church of England and disheartened by what I hear of the party political shenanigans in the General Synod which sound too much like the worst of the House of Commons.
However I am certainly not anti evangelical.
Indeed as you do say that this is a limited form of communication.
‘Perhaps I am being dense but I am not sure who the outspoken anti-evangelical is.’
Hint: it’s not you.
I give in. Who is it?
I am truly puzzled at this response.
‘I laughed out loud’…what does this mean?
Is this mockery or what?
What is the tease?
Actually and in truth I am becoming pissed off with all this church politics nonsense.
David R. and I have been protesting against FrDavidH’s anti-evangelical rants for a long time now. ‘childish gibberish”, “Evangelical platitudes” “fatuous nonsense.” and so it goes on…
Sorry if you were confused about this. I thought it was quite obvious who we were talking about, which is why I was joking about it. My apologies. No slight to you was intended.
David R spotted the intentional humour in my comment and laughed out loud. He was also right in thinking that I was gently teasing David H, who is consistently rude about evangelicals. Behind the humour and the teasing there are some serious points: we may dislike or distrust people of a different churchmanship to ours, and yet find that we have a lot in common. David H’s response to the question, ‘What is the Good News?’ was one many evangelicals would have given. On a memorable occasion many years ago, my Roman Catholic neighbour and I sat down over a… Read more »
Funny isn’t it? While I, an evangelical, would have replied by pointing you to Mark 1.14-17!
Bravo, Father! That is right on the nail.
If the Resurrection happened today, I suspect the tomb would have been covered by cctv cameras – but, Tony Hancock like, someone forgot to put a film in the recorder! M R James once said that it is best not to probe too deeply into the mechanics of a miracle, lest you destroy the sense of awe and wonder. No, none of us can explain the Resurrection – it was and continues to be a miracle of divine power. As such it is beyond mortal understanding. And at some point we have to let go of that understanding, and walk… Read more »
I may want to visit the church of St. Eucalyptus (the patron saint of koala bears, perhaps?) on the Rocks, but I didn’t see a front entrance in Kelvin Holdsworth’s “photograph” of it. That AI-generated “photograph” and accompanying description makes me think The End is Near(er) than I would hope. Anyone who believes in the literal Rapture had better make sure they are ready for their ride on the Great Escalator to the Clouds. The “photograph” and description are a little too real. Once again, our technology is proceeding faster than our legal, ethical, and moral ability to rein it… Read more »
The thing I am most alarmed about in my church and diocese is the ever increasing number of parishes in vacancy for long periods and seeming lack of urgency or support the diocese gives to these parishes. We don’t even get “innovative” ministry – we get nothing. My church has been in vacancy since October 2022. The diocese only just managed to get a job ad out a month or so ago and had done nothing to promote it and do we have had no applicants. It is hard not to feel like we are being set up to fail… Read more »
In those circumstances I would hold a regular Communion service in the church hall, with lay presidency. Surely it is better to have regular Communion with lay presidency than no Communion?
Then it would be outside the Church of England which defeats the object.
I disagree. If a congregation act in accord it is acting as a Church of England congregation. The Bible is clear: the unit is the congregation not any minister.
But the canons of the CofE are absolutely clear. Canon B12 “Of the Ministry of the Holy Communion” provides that “No person shall consecrate and administer the holy sacrament of the Lord’s Supper unless he shall have been ordained priest by episcopal ordination in accordance with the provisions of Canon C 1.” Disobeying this canon puts the service outside the law of the English Church.
Do not the bishops have power to create non-stipendiary ministers? Or to authorise layworkers under Canon E7? Or to authorise elements, consecrated “centrally” by clergy, to be taken and distributed “locally”? Where there’s a will, there’s way. The truth is, that the bishops fear, and will not empower, layfolk who have had theological training and life experience. Much of the “manpower” shortage is artificially generated and maintained.
Bishops can only authorise people who are willing to take on responsibility. There is a curious idea that does the rounds that those in authority can magically create ministers who will work for free. A few years ago many dioceses thought that house-for-duty posts would solve problems in lots of areas, but then discovered that offering a house but no stipend wasn’t an attractive prospect for very many people.
They may not be able to create fully trained ministers but they could certainly ordain more priests. In the past many priests have been ignoramuses and the same could be in the future.
Is a return to the pre-reformation ‘Mass priest’ desirable?
No, but the question should be is it better than nothing?
Whatever the Canons say, one of a bishops’ most important responsibilities is to ensure regular Communion is available to every community. There are many ways they could do it. The fact that they choose not to ought to be considered scandalous.
Unfortunately your solution is for the Church to cease to be Anglican.
I agree. There could be some sort of service in every parish church if more effort was put in to achieving up. In rural areas a few people in a side chapel, but at least it would ” keep the rumour of God alive”. Church services are the shop window and the front door.
Exactly. It is outside of Canon Law so the Church can’t stop it but it is inside Scriptural Law so far as the congregation is concerned. It’s a perfect solution to being ignored by the Church of England.
It is outside canon law, so the church can stop it — in its churches at least.
Although it would not be a communion service or eucharist, it is perfectly possible to put together a lay-led ‘agape’ service in which thanks are given for God’s provision to us through Christ, and bread and wine shared together in remembrance of the Last Supper through the reading of relevant scripture passages. This is probably what the early Church did anyway. The elements are not consecrated, it is not a communion or eucharist in the recognised sense, and what sense or significance is made of it is up to each individual. It can be a very flexible and inclusive service,… Read more »
Which ‘scriptural law’ do you mean?
Where is this ‘clear’ in the Bible?
But only a priest can celebrate the eucharist,
Only a surgeon is allowed to do open heart surgery. There is a shortage of surgeons but we do not ask the local carer to step in to fill the breach.
“But only a priest can celebrate the eucharist,”
Isn’t it the other way around? Someone who celebrates the Eucharist IS a priest? God is at the centre of things, not the church.
I think the view of the Church of England, as expressed by the bishops in various teaching documents is that it is the whole congregation, the people of God, who together celebrate the eucharist. The president of that eucharistic assembly must have been ordained a presbyter / priest by a bishop in the historic succession. The priest does not celebrate alone (though it is true that that is the historic meaning of the word). Whether one takes a high view or a low view of the priesthood (or anything in between), the Church of England insists that one of its… Read more »
As a matter of Anglican teaching agreed. But it is precisely the dearth of ordained ministers that is at issue. The bishops have the power, which they refuse to exercise [we know this], to ordain suitable individuals WHO ALREADY EXIST. Again I would say : the”manpower” shortage is artificially manufactured and maintained; and I personally view it as a fifth column enterprise.
The concept of a “local priest” is not new. As you say, a suitable individual, nominated by a local congregation in need of the sacraments, could be ordained by the bishop to serve in that congregation only. This person would be recognized by the congregation as a respected leader who could provide some priestly duties. Certainly not a confessor or theologian: all would recognize the restrictions.
In this Diocese such a person is described as a focal minister.
Is your diocese Sheffield? Is that person an ordained priest? Or is that person authorized as a lay minister and so recognized by the community?
A lay person, authorised or commissioned so not able to take a communion. To be fair, it’s a scheme in development here but I think some other Dioceses are up and running.
Yes, but isn’t that based on the understanding between congregation and the Church of England that the Church of England will provide a minister for regular Eucharist. If the Church doesn’t step up, surely a congregation isn’t to be expected to just stop taking Communion?
No, it’s based on a theology of eucharistic presidency, in which that presidency is primarily rooted in the precidency of the community that comes together t celebrate. And it allows for different understandings of the nature of the eucharist, the nature of consecration and reception (as Colin Buchanan memorably put it: what consecration effects; and what effects consecration — Grove booklets W217), and the nature of the ordained ministry, as well as the nature of the assembly. The Church of England is a broad church and holding the different groups together requires understanding from the each, even where we are… Read more »
Actually, upon reflection, I think you are wrong.
Article XXVI sets out that no deficiency in the celebration of a sacrament undermines it’s efficacy, which must surely be right because it is God who sanctifies the Host and no procedural defect can affect that. So, a lay-led Eucharist might be against Canon Law but it remains valid according to the teaching of the Church of England.
Article 26 is concerned with ‘the unworthiness of the ministers’ not because they are not ordained but because they are ‘evil men’.
All ministers are unworthy. It’s perhaps hyperbolic to say that we are all ‘evil men’ but we are all sinners. What Article 26 is saying is that the background of the minister doesn’t matter because the minister is just a cipher for Jesus. Moreover Jesus confirmed Article 26 when he said that if two or more believers are gathered together that He will be there. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them”. It’s the very essence of intercessory prayer and depends on the congregation not any minister. So if two or three (or… Read more »
Relying on the 39 Articles sounds a bit like quoting the Treaty of Versailles. Ancient polemical history albeit part of our journey but perhaps not the bit to be proud of?
In other words, jobs for the boys (and some girls) by making themselves indispensable. There is nothing in the New Testament to say that the celebrant must be an ordinand. I’ve said elsewhere here that the early charismatics happily dispensed with that in informal gatherings – although it didn’t last very long, once the ‘leadership’ system took over.
It’s rather the other way round perhaps. Does the local community wish to be part of the wider church? If so then its leaders need to have the wider church’s blessing to be the local leader. There is nothing in the NT that lays down “rules” about eucharistic presidency. But we do have a number of examples of local leaders being chosen and being blessed for their role. Without arguing that there is continuity of laying-on of hands back to the apostles, it does seem clear, I think, that the Church very early on adopted this practice in conformity with… Read more »
No. For Anglicans ONLY a bishop or a priest can preside as the people of God celebrate together,
To be honest, even after decades of priestly ministry I’ve never been persuaded by these arguments. From time to time, when my wife and I are on holiday, we find ourselves at a communion service at a nearby Mennonite church. At that church, the pastor (who is ordained, but not by a bishop) takes the elements, prays, and distributes them to the people. Do those people partake in the body and blood of Christ as set out in 1 Corinthians 11? Or are they participating in a lie? I get that it’s not an Anglican Eucharist. I’m asking, is it… Read more »
The same argument can be applied to any religion, Do you think any Hindu washing in the Ganges is not cleansed from sin? Or any faithful Muslim not absolved by attendance at Mecca? Why would God not answer the prayer prayed to God in faith by the gathered community? It doesn’t matter to God if you are a Mennonite, Methodist, Muslim or Jedi. Man-made rules can be broken .Even the one about needing to be a Christian to “saved”.
Having spent the last decade worshipping primarily with the Kirk, I have had plenty of cause and opportunity to chew on these matters. Some well-known phrases (some Biblical, some not) that spring to mind: “all must be done decently and in good order” – I tend to think that this means done in accordance with the rules of the Christian community in question; and that there should be rules of some kind, even if it is that the community has agreed that anyone may consecrate the elements, but it cannot be an ad hoc free for all “we know where… Read more »
All very good points, Jo, but if the benefit of central support is reviewing the suitability of candidates and providing things like safeguarding training, wouldn’t it be sensible to be open and honest about that?
‘“all must be done decently and in good order”’ – in the context in 1 Corinthians, this refers to guidelines about the use of speaking in tongues, interpretation, and prophecy, and the purpose is to enable every-member ministry in an orderly fashion, not to restrict ministry to a few authorized people. I don;t see any reference in the passage to the particular rules of the Christian community in question. I find it revealing that the NT shows no interest in the question of who presides at the Lord’s Supper. I find it reasonable to suppose it would be one of… Read more »
This was my point Tim, I have been struck by the clericalism in this debate on TA, and in the wider actions of the CofE as an institution. I think we need to ask what is most important. Prioritising the needs of the congregation, or using canon law to prioritise the privilege of the priest as, apparently, the only person who can preside at a Eucharist. In a setting where the Church of England can no longer provide for the needs of the congregation, how relevant is CofE canon law? The congregation might need to go back to first principles… Read more »
You know the situation on the ground. It is this situation that is dire and so is, in your estimation, no longer connected to the logic of CofE canon law. I guess the question is, in a region where 1 ordained Priest has charge of 12 congregations, some/most of them with a handful of people, would lay presidency (or other schemes outwith CofE canon law as written) actually change much? Is it a wet bandaid? Church bodies that have models of leadership different than the CofE are founded/based upon this difference, with a logic attending it. They didn’t adopt it… Read more »
Ah, but are they just Anglicans or Christians? Which comes first? I’m playing devil’s advocate here, I know, but whose authority is the greater, canon law or the living word of the Holy Spirit?
Bravo, Kate. I’ve just posted, at rather more length on precisely that theme.
I am not theologically trained (unlike many other contributors) so I put a question that has troubled me for some time. Roman Catholics deny that Anglican priests are “real priests” so what do they think happens when an Anglican Priest celebrates Mass ? Do they imagine Christ would defer to the Pope and refuse to turn up ? A similar question arises from Kate’s point. It’s clear that Anglican Canon law insists that only a priest can preside at the Eucharist but what do Anglican theologians think happens if a lay person does preside ? Would Christ refuse to attend… Read more »
I can’t answer for Roman Catholics re the presence of Christ at an Anglican Eucharist, and your second question is of a different order, because Anglican lay presidency doesn’t exist. That is not the same as saying that Christ would not not be present, however. I once heard an Anglican bishop point out that Jesus did not say that the only way to God is through him, but rather that the only way to the Father is through the Son. One could say this is semantics, but I think it is something more: a recognition that any answer that we… Read more »
Thank you for your informative reply Mark. I didn’t express myself clearly. You are right to say a “Eucharist” with a lay president wouldn’t be an Anglican Eucharist but my question was would Christ refuse to be present because the “Eucharist” didn’t conform to Canon law ? I hope/think I am raising a fundamental point because we often seem to behave as if humans set the rules for God to abide by. I wonder what Roman Catholics mean when they say Anglican orders are invalid. Are they saying Christ won’t turn up because the Pope says so ? I don’t… Read more »
If it is any consolation, I recently attended a service at a benefice which has been in interregnum for more than 20 years, with no prospect of any new incumbent, perhaps ever. This is part of that particular diocese’s strategy of managed extinction. However, have encountered interregna of 5, 6 or 7 years in many places – indeed, in so many places and in so many dioceses, that it is almost routine. In general these vacancies are not filled, save by amalgamating the benefice which has a vacancy with another which does not. Given the trajectory of diocesan revenues across… Read more »
I have been through three “interregnums” in my life as an Episcopalian, one in my former parish in the Diocese of New York, and now beginning my second one in my current parish in Pennsylvania. The longer one was about six months (bearable because the associate rector, who was approaching retirement, agreed to stay on as “priest-in-charge” until a new rector was found). IMO, any time a diocese allows such a situation to drag on for a year or more (never mind 20 years), it is a dereliction of duty and represents an abandonment of the parish. Isn’t the diocese… Read more »
Under Section 67 of the Pastoral Measure 1983 (as amended) a right of presentation to a benefice can be suspended for consecutive periods of 5 years by the bishop and pastoral committee following ‘consultations’. What this means in reality is that if a diocese lacks adequate revenues, or is concerned about reducing headcount, or considers that the benefice in question is not going to cover the costs of an incumbent, then the right of presentation will likely be suspended. This has been so common for so long, especially in the rural church, that it scarcely provokes comment. It is often… Read more »
Thank you, Froghole, for this masterly summary. In practice suspension of presentation is routine for small (mainly rural) churches in my Diocese – although the PCC can challenge it (not that it will usually succeed). However, it doesn’t mean that a stipendary priest can’t be appointed during the suspension. The difference is that an appointee is ‘priest in charge’ and not ‘vicar/rector’. It used to be hard to remove a vicar/rector if the Diocese wanted to reorganise parishes into different groupings. It’s easier to do now following amendments to pastoral regulations or law but priest in charge is still a… Read more »
Many thanks for this. Yes, old-style ‘incumbents’ have become as rare as hens’ teeth outside urban or suburban areas. However, in some places the concept of pastoral provision by a priest in charge has become so amorphous and/or remote as to be almost meaningless. There are some parts of the country where benefices are now de facto deaneries (as they contain so many parishes) and the priest in charge or team rector (there may be no team vicars) is a de facto area dean. Some dioceses do seem to be putting more resource into training up laypeople to take services… Read more »
I agree with what you write, Froghole. My old Deanery has 16 parishes with 11 currently under one stipendary. There are three other stipendary clergy, plus a curate. One reads of larger groupings than 11 under one priest in this and other rural Dioceses. And that seems to be the direction of movement. But I think a key point you make is about the provisional of pastoral ministry. ‘Sunday services’ are not that difficult to sort out, if people want them. Pastoral care is a much bigger issue in my opinion. I spent as much, and probably more, of my… Read more »
Is there no patron?
Patrons rights are now very limited, especially if the bishop has suspended the right of presentation.
Or a diocese could train suitable lay people to lead worship and preach, exercise pastoral care and lead in evangelism. Many churches could have a minister that way and it would not cost much money. I wonder why no-one has thought of doing this?
Oh but wait – we have! (in 1866…) It’s called Licenced Lay Ministry (aka Readers) – a ministry much undervalued and overlooked in some dioceses….
Indeed. I have been staggered by the lack of worship provision in many places. The idea seems to be that, if there is no ordained person available, then there can be no worship. As people like Dr Butler have been stating time and again on this blog, something is better than nothing, but (little or) nothing is all there is to be had. Of course, as many will know, it is not just readers who are discounted, but various forms of SSMs. Yet, I actually think that this excuse is all too pat. My suspicion is that something worse is… Read more »
I agree. Perhaps a certain sort of clergy person fear losing control orecen being “upstaged” by a well educated. layperson( e.g. an RE teacher) There must be some reason for this. Or is there a feeling of ” after me the deluge” about? Such is the mood I hear that the no’s entering training this autumn àre a 15O down on last year and one residential college has 15 students
LLM numbers seem to be rising but from a low base. Ordinand numbers – to which you refer- are lower than expected for the second year running. Here are the Norwich LLM figures as an example: (my diocese, where I am Director of LLM training but not involved in selection and recruiting of LLMs) – this year we have 8 starters, last year it was 2, the year before it was 5. As for ordinands – TEIs suspect the new BAP system is not working and that this accounts for low numbers; Ministry Division staff blame DDOs for not sending… Read more »
“In a case where the cure is vacant and no priest-in-charge is appointed” the Rural Dean ‘may’ exercise their powers of applying to the bishop to appoint lay workers to distribute Holy Communion in the Parish. ‘May’, of course, implies that the powers are discretionary (a moot point whether there should be a duty to exercise such powers, especially in the extreme circumstances you describe). This is a very simplified summary: for the substance see regulations 2, 3, 7 and 8 of the (GS) Administration of Holy Communion Regulations 2015. But, unsurprisingly, several difficulties remain. Both the bishop’s and the… Read more »
I think a lot of bishops, rural deans and others (including some priests) forget that some day they are going to stand before Jesus to explain why they prevented congregations from celebrating the Eucharist. Somehow I suspect that saying “under Canon Law I didn’t have a duty” is unlikely to be well received.
Nor, I suspect, is I wanted to prepare the parents likely to be an excuse for leaving the parish children unchristened.
Well this is indeed right. However, in my response to Charles Read above, I noted at least one diocese which I consider is exploiting relatively new legislation in order to resolve its financial difficulties at the expense of its own parishes. In one of the deaneries of that same diocese (a deanery which covers one of the more deprived areas of the diocese), the area dean (who has either just finished or is about to) told me that he wants “all” of the churches in his deanery to be closed, and he would prefer it if congregations moved into halls… Read more »
Froghole. I read your postings with amazement. What you say seems to me scandalous. in 20 tears ( even 10) how much will be left?
I believe the bishops are right (dangerously counter-cultural to say this on TA!), right to be cautious about allowing Communion by extension to become a regular part of parish church life as it turns something we do – offering Eucharist – into something we get: receiving Communion. Eucharist is fundamentally an action – a verb, not a noun – in which we gather, hear the word of God, join ourselves to Christ’s one perfect sacrifice, receive Communion, and then are sent out to try to live what we have received. No solution to the shortage of priests is without problems,… Read more »
To be clear, I was not for one moment advocating ‘communion by extension’.
The book which has most influenced my thinking on this is a novel, one of the Deryni books by Katherine Kurtz, probably Camber of Culdi. Camber practised ritual magic. It was effective if the trifecta of celebrant, ritual words and ritual objects were all in place. If one looks at how some view the Eucharist it’s clear they are treating it as ritual magic: the celebrant must be ordained; it must use an authorised liturgy, and the bread and wine have to conform to certain restrictions. I am certain that the Eucharist isn’t meant to be ritual magic. There is… Read more »
There are lots of ways of considering the Eucharist, some of them traditional in the Church, some of them re-interpretations or understandings, more or less idiosyncratic, or bordering on the heterodox. And historical research tells us that there is no single tradition, despite Gregory Dix’s romantic prose. My own view these days is slightly different from that I expressed in my book “Come to the Feast”, which focused on the understanding of “anamnesis” inherent at the Passover and also in the Eucharist. Influenced by more recent scholarship by Paul Bradshaw and some others, I see the Eucharist as the continuation… Read more »
Tom O ‘Loughlin starts with the proposition that the Eucharist is any shared meal in which thanks is given to God. The feeding of the multitude is the paradigm rather than the last supper narratives, which he suggests are an aetiological additions in the synoptic gospels, there to give credence to the mystery rite which had evolved in Corinth involving bread and wine.
O’Loughlin’s book must be good (assuming you mean his Eucharist Origins and Contemporary Understandings) — cos I’m in the bibliography!!
Ooh yes, so you are!
The Eucharist celebrates the values and the demands the kingdom of God while also anticipating the great banquet of heaven in which these find their final consummation. Thus it challenges us not only to live in anticipation of that future but also to respond as its agents. Hence its description as a “hungry feast”, and why the only condition for admission, other than baptism, should be our hunger for a world of justice and mercy, of love and peace. It is this eschatological nature of the Eucharist which has become more real for me over the years; maybe something to… Read more »
Thanks Allan, yes, partially-realized eschatology comes to mind.
I link this too, to the words of the Lord’s Prayer: “give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have wronged us”. The eucharist is both a meal at which the hungry are fed, and it is also simultaneously a place of reconciliation and forgiveness with one another. True that these have both for a long time been symbolic actions, but if we take seriously our discipleship then they must also be accompanied, individually and corporately, with corresponding real actions.
“accompanied with corresponding real actions.” Yes, this may be why the eucharist’s eschatological nature has felt more real in my 70s: I’m nearer the day of judgement! OK, the timeline is theologically dodgy, but awareness of the books being opened – did I feed the hungry – does seem more palpable.
you are right to quote Church of England legislation. But the question remains of when is it acceptable to step outside the the boundary of such legislation? It has long been accepted, in practise if not in statute, that in extremis it may be appropriate to step outside the law. Drivers of emergency vehicles on a “blue light” task come to mind, or in a religious setting a lay person may baptise a mortally sick infant. Are we now at that in extremis point? At what stage of church collapse could a congregation decide that the extreme necessity of providing… Read more »
I’m afraid people are confusing my comment with what others have said here. Incidentally, neither the ‘blue light’ emergency driving nor the emergency infant baptism is in any way unlawful. Both situations are legally provided for if there is genuine emergency.
There is nothing unlawful about a lay person baptising an infant under any circumstances. Nor, under any circumstances is it deemed invalid.
Nor is it unlawful for any private individual to purport to consecrate bread and wine. It is deemed, by some, to be invalid.
It is, as far as I know, unlawful to do either in a parish church except for emergency baptism (nature of emergency unspecified). It is ironic that the bishops seem to be encouraging a situation where people can access the sacraments anywhere, except in their parish churches.
Your first paragraph agreed so long as the correct form is followed: “I baptise thee in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (or equivalent words) being equally acceptable to e.g., Anglicans, RCs and Methodists.
I lumped the baptism point too readily with the ‘motoring’ one, replying to the misapprehension about ‘blue lights’ careless/ inconsiderate driving and emergency services exceeding speed limits for which there are statutory exemptions. I can quote the details, if needed, but take my word that they exist.
Although today we think of baptism as being an exception to needing priestly input, I suspect historically it was the model for the Eucharist too. I would be interested in the history because I suspect marriage was the first to become formalised as societies wanted to control who could marry and the easiest way to do that was to control the service itself.
Marriage only became churchified after the fall of the Roman Empire and the disappearance of its authority. In Roman times, if I remember my history correctly, marriage took place before the civil authority and the couple would then repair to a nearby temple to make a sacrifice and invoke the blessing of the pagan god. Christians then replaced the sacrifice and blessing with a celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice, so the Church became involved in the marriage celebrations. Then presumably took over the legalities when the Roman state disintegrated. The traditional English marriage vows date from the Middle Ages, and… Read more »
Lay baptism was not uncommon at a time when infant mortality was high and the belief widespread (based on a misunderstanding of St Augustine) that the child needed to be saved from the jaws of hell. At a talk on initiation the speaker closed with: “If a Muslim midwife baptizes a baby in extremis it is valid as long she does what the Church does. Discuss.” Cue a fit of the vapours.
My elder brother was stillborn. I understand he was badly deformed and probably unable to breathe unaided. I hope and pray he makes it safely to the Kingdom of Heaven although he never got a (human) name, let alone a baptism.
Or the ordination of leaders of the local community?
I agree that would be a good solution, Simon, which would stay inside the legal framework of the Church of England. But it seems that in many areas the bishops are not doing that, but are instead abandoning their duty to provide eucharistic ministers for many parishes.
My question is, if that is the case, at what stage is it then appropriate for one of those congregations to abandon the need to stay inside church of England procedures and, in effect, declare UDI?
this was, of course, one of the ideas in the Tiller Report of the late 70’s/early 80’s. One of the recommendations was to separate the roles of priest and teacher where appropriate. I recall him saying, ruefully, that there had been opposition from those who felt that, were (eg) the local farmhand put forward as the one who presided over the Sacraments, it would somehow betray a divinely sanctioned social order. I also recall John Rogerson observing in the early 70’s that holiness was the primary requisite of a priest, and that grace of orders would suffice for everything else-… Read more »
In other words, we go back to ‘as it was in the begining’, every member ministry and the true ‘priesthood of all believers’, in which the ordained – perhaps I should say trained professional has a role, but is not indispensable. Speaking as a lay person (with my charismatic, non-conformist and possibly radical hat on) this is very much what I believe the church should be. My church is just starting on the book “Fruitfulness on the Frontline’ from LICC as a sermon series, and that takes the idea very strongly – the book does, of course assume that the… Read more »
“People are just going to have to get used to this sort of thing”. Why Froghole ? Isn’t an ordained Lay Reader better than no priest at all ? Is the extensive Middle Management in every diocese more important than parish ministry ? I feel over and over again that the Church of England has lost sight of why it is there. Is it an oil company or a church ? With diminished resources it is surely doubly important how those resources are used. I hope this doesn’t sound unkind but a parish that puts up with “this sort of… Read more »
Not strictly related to any of the OP, but I’m sure our dear friend Stanley Monkhouse would have had something insightful (and amusing!) to say about all of these articles.
Apologies if this has already been discussed on another thread, but which TA posters/lurkers will likely be in Burton this Thursday? I’ll be heading up from SW London.
Sadly, personally unable, but would be delighted to read a report and to have details of the order of service.
Stanley was a man of many talents, not least as a musician: a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, one of the stiffest of professional diplomas requiring musical knowledge and skills extending far beyond the organ. I posted a tribute to him on an organists’ website which logs the number of ‘visitors’, now exceeding 1,200 views, and there have been generous and affectionate responses. Clearly he was held in very high regard.
Like Stanley I’m both a clergyperson and an organ fanatic (although nowhere near as accomplished a player!). Stanley was a fan of Reubke’s 94th, and I wonder if that will feature in the service. We’ll see if anyone brave enough to play it has been found.
Will gladly report on the service. Would love to read your tribute if you could share the link?
Thank you! Here is the link, including contributions by others who knew and corresponded with Stanley:
Thank you for the link. His sermon is spendid and echoes many of the points he often made on TA. I used to love his contributions here. He is sorely missed.
I look forward to the report. One of my retireds was intending to make the funeral, and Stanley has been in the prayers for the departed up here as well. Greatly missed.
For a while I helped lead a RC scout troop, and recall Dave Chowan, the scoutmaster, telling the boys that in a dire emergency every believer had the duty to baptise an infant, even simply by moistening their thumb with their tongue, and making the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead. Certainly not ‘in extremis’, but I’ve quietly done that for several of my grandchildren, simply as a gesture of God’s love for them. As regards communion, in the happier days of the charismatic movement lay people, including myself, would hold impromptu communion services during a housegroup gathering… Read more »
It might be at right-angles to the present discussion about lay presidency, and even theologically troglodytic (though up here in the extreme north of Lincolnshire we’ve just heard there’s been another one of them there Council things at Ephesus), but going back to Ignatius of Antioch (Smyrnaeans 8.1-2), the tradition is that the presence of the bishop at the Eucharist and the Agape or at least that of someone to whom that role has been delegated, is non-negotiable (it’s not clear what the significance of Ig’s distinction between the two might be, and his use of the word Εὐχαριστίας at 7.1… Read more »
From my limited experience of such gatherings, they were always quite well ordered, spontaneously, because the people present were committed to reverencing Christ as Lord. As to theology, well, usually they were drawn from the same denomination or people of like minded ideas, so they generally shared a common theology. I’ll admit I was the odd man out, for having a semi-sacramental outlook as opposed to a purely ‘memento mori’ one – but that didn’t make any difference. As for traditions – the denomination involved didn’t give much truck to ‘tradition’, other than their own of course; they didn’t use… Read more »
‘if I can just have a Communion service round the kitchen table with my friends’ It’s always easy to contrast the best of one world with the worst of the other. Sadly, I’ve experienced a number of church services which could be characterised as ‘if I can just have a Communion service round the (altar) with my friends.’ But given that the early church seemed to manage house churches with weekly communions quite well—and apparently grew by at least 10% per year for a couple of centuries—there’s no intrinsic reason why house churches should be any more inward focussed than… Read more »
The subject of the music at the funeral of Stanley Monkhouse was raised at the bottom of this thread. I now have these details (from another source) as provided there by Stanley’s son Ed: Organ music before the service: J S Bach: Prelude and Fugue in E minor (“The Wedge”) Jesper Madsen (1957-1999): Choral Prelude ‘Op, alle, som på Jorden bor’ (“Rise up, all ye that live upon the earth”) C Hubert Parry: Choral Prelude ‘St Cross’ Thomas Tomkins: ‘A Voluntary’ During the entry of the Cortège: A piano arrangement of the Siciliano from Bach’s 2nd Sonata for Flute and Piano Hymns: He who would valiant be (Monk’s Gate) Teach… Read more »