Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 30 November 2019

Emma Ineson Church Times Good leaders know the art of successful failure
“Christians can find freedom from performance anxiety by embracing vulnerability and weakness”

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Speaking of faith in troubling times

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church What is a Safeguarding Review?

LGBTQ Faith UK Faithfully wrong – The problem of evil in the church.

David Ison ViaMedia.News Nationalism, Patriotism and Glory…

Sara Gillingham Modern Church ‘On the margins, still looking in’
“It is now over six months since I made the decision to leave the Church of England, and I feel far better for doing so.”

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Cynthia KatsarelisDavid Runcornpeter kettleEmma InesonJanet Fife Recent comment authors
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Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

With regard to Sara Gillingham’s piece, allow me to repeat: The gonads of the early embryo can develop into either testes or ovaries. It seems that the ovary develops unless hormonal conditions at a certain stage of development ‘switch’ on the testis, as it were. That is, the female is the default setting. Very rarely (1 in over 80,000 births), an individual may have an ovary on one side and a testis on the other, or a gonad may contain both ovarian and testicular tissue. The ovary stays more or less where it started, but the testis descends into the… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

… continued Psychological sex – ‘what do I feel or experience?’ We know very little. It seems that a part of the brain may be switched on to ‘I think I’m a male’ at a certain stage of development. It seems, again, that the female is the default state. There are reports of an area of the human brain that in homosexual men is more like that of heterosexual women than that of heterosexual men: male body, female brain perhaps. If a man admires, or even envies, the muscularity of a male athlete, does that mean he is an homosexual?… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Thank you, Stanley. At last, we have some clarity on the amazing phenomenon of human sexual origins and possible orientations. One hopes this is taken very seriously by the bishops whose task it is to teach on matters of gender and sexuality. That there are infinite possibilities of determining one’s gender/sexual identity and preference is surely a clear indication of the variety of God’s will for creation.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Jephthah’s daughter is one of the most savage and terrible episodes in the whole bible. She’s not even given a name. The bible is written by fallible human beings, and their cultures and attitudes can’t just be accepted as values for ourselves. We’re told in the lead up to the zealous vow, that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah. Jephthah’s daughter is just one illustration of narrative that deserves challenge and critique. It’s the same with the ethnic cleansing of Canaan in the days of Joshua when, we’re told, “he totally destroyed all who breathe, just as the… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I once read in a commentary – I think by a Jewish scholar – that Jephthah’s daughter may have been devoted to the service of God rather than killed. He/she argued that the same Hebrew word can be translated either ‘devoted’ or sacrificed’. It would make sense of Jephthah’s daughter gong off with her friends for 3 months to ‘bewail her virginity’, since if she was devoted to God’s service she wouldn’t have been allowed to marry.

Can any of the Hebrew scholars here comment on this theory?

Helen King
Guest
Helen King

Plenty of online resources on this theory, e.g. https://www.thetorah.com/article/did-jephthah-actually-kill-his-daughter

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Thank you. I think it was Magonet that I read some years ago. He is an interesting commentator on the Hebrew Bible.

Simon Dawson
Guest
Simon Dawson

One can note that a common theme in Middle Eastern mythology is the tragic story of a father bargaining with the Gods and ending up sacrificing his daughter. There is King Midas who turned his daughter to gold, and Agamemnon sacrificing Iphigenia to get a fair wind for Troy.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I obviously can’t rule that explanation out, Janet, but frankly I don’t buy it. To me it is an example of trying to defend the bible narrative and avoid critique of its hateful or indoctrinated parts. If Jephthah was going to ‘devote his daughter to the service of God’, as a man of faith why would he tear his clothes and lament? I recognise that the concept of devotion is a kind of death to self, and a giving/sacrifice of yourself, or an animal offering, to God. So the term ‘could’ be used in that way here to side-step the… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Have you read Magonet’s comments? He argues that Jephthah tore his clothes and lamented because his only daughter would now be childless, and his line would be extinguished. It’s a carefully reasoned argument.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Good morning Janet. Yes, it’s a carefully reasoned argument, but it can also be seen as a creative exercise in wish fulfilment, trying to avoid the hatefulness of the biblical narrative. None of us can really say for sure whether Magonet’s version is correct, but personally I don’t buy it. The impact of the story, and the implication of sacrifice, is far greater when it becomes a fable of a rash man who, because of a promise to God, is prepared to murder his own daughter. It would be very beautiful, and very human, if the Magonet version was true.… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

The wider view is that Judges is a record of what happens when there is no leadership, and ‘everyone does what is right in his own eyes’. It’s a record of barbarities.

And as Simon Dawson pointed out, human sacrifice was common in ancient Eastern Middle mythologies. It was also a feature of many other ancient cultures, and in some until recently. But the Bible discourages it and views it as an outrage, which was enlightened for its time.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

This interpretation has more traction for me, Janet – that if the young woman was murdered, it went to demonstrate the moral shortfall in the days of the judges, which if one pre-supposes these texts were consolidated in the time of the monarchy might make sense as a motive for the general purpose of ‘Judges’ and the insertion of this barbarity in particular. It is worth noting too, that in no Jewish or Christian commentary on this passage up to the 11th or 12th Century was any other understanding of the text raised, except that Jephthah had murdered his daughter.… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

The term ‘murdered’ imposes a 21st century judgement on an ancient text. If the daughter was killed, it was in the context of ritual. I am undecided whether she died or was simply (simply?) condemned to a solitary life or religious service. Either way, the text is meant to shock and to point out the folly of making rash vows. I think you are right about the parallel with Rebekah. The technique of echo with variation is used in other Bible stories too.

William Fisher
Guest
William Fisher

It is ironic that this thoroughly unedifying story inspired one the most beautiful tenor arias that Handel ever wrote.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0YJBvAMBnQ

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

It’s difficult to find the words that express my feelings about the determination of ignorant and blinkered church people to ignore zoology. I am disheartened, despondent, despairing – all this and more. Their obtuseness and wilful obstinacy render them ridiculous. But still they persist. No wonder zoologists – more than other scientists (I’m preparing a blog about this) – scorn Christianity if this is the “Christian” type they, the zoologists, encounter. Sara Gillingham hits several nails on heads. I’m not sure why I haven’t abandoned Christianity yet.

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

Let me hazard a guess Stanley; the CofE did not invite you as a priest and also a retired professor of anatomy to inform its discussions of ‘intersex’ issues? I think most of us who are members of the LGBTIQ community know that the latest ruminations of the CofE about sex, sexuality and sexual identity are just about kicking an awkward, challenging can further down the road. Someone like Stanley would get in the way of that primary purpose. I think most LGBTQI Christians recognise that we are to some degree complicit with our abuser (the Church). I’m full of… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Just as well it didn’t, for I would have needed the entire stock of a pharmacy to prevent self destruction. My experience of committees in all walks of life is that they exist principally to prevent issues being clouded by facts.

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

The CofE is often hopeless at using the gifts and wider knowledge of some of its clergy with non-theological qualifications. None of what Fr Stanley has written above can be verified by biblical proof texts. This is the litmus test in today’s CofE, which harks back to ancient scrolls to provide us with definitive teaching about everything new under the sun. There can be no progress on issues concerning sexuality as long as the CofE is in thrall to fundamentalism.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

As Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) almost said in A Few Good Men: “they can’t handle the truth”. Better to leave the poor saps in their la-la land that has similarities to The Very Reverend Jonathan Swift’s Laputa where the inhabitants are devoted to intellectual pursuits but are unable to apply them to real life. (Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” is quite wonderful – a model perhaps for dealing with troublesome clerics.)

Kate
Guest
Kate

“There can be no progress on issues concerning sexuality as long as the CofE is in thrall to fundamentalism.”

Why? Sarah is a woman. What is complicated about that?

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

‘Sarah is a woman. What is complicated about that?’

I hope this remark was ironic? Sarah is intersex – which, tragically, appears to be too ‘complicated’ for some of the people she has encountered in the Church to grasp.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Sara is a person. Beyond that, we listen to Sara. She can define herself further if she chooses. How she loves animals, how she enjoys music, what she dreams of doing. I’m trans. It doesn’t define me. There’s so much more to a person. The issue for the Church is why cannot everyone be fully accepted, as people, as those loved by God? And then value and enjoy people for the whole of who they are. And listen to them, to their experiences, because they are the experts of their own lives. It is essential in Church consultations that people… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

No. It isn’t ironic. It is very simple. Sarah is a woman. The fact that she is intersex doesn’t – or at least shouldn’t – change that basic truth in terms of how the Church relates to her. The problem comes when people do try to see her as some sort of exception. Equally I am a woman, irrespective of my personal history. I am certain that the Lord accepts me as a woman so why shouldn’t his church? This stuff isn’t complicated. It is only made complicated by people who have narrow views of man and woman, male and… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I’m afraid my comment wasn’t clear and I apologise. What I was trying to say is that Sara has identified herself as a person with intersex traits, not simply as a woman. Her truth – and the truth of the ongoing creation of male and female – is more complicated than that. We shouldn’t impose binary categories on her, but respect her for what she is.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“Sarah is a woman”

No wonder people want to leave a church which denies not only their lived experience of gender but can’t even be bothered to spell their name correctly.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Yes, I apologise for the misspelling in my response as well. When I went back to correct it, I found I was no longer able to edit and make the correction.

Anyway, most of all I hope Sara finds community where she is valued and loved and able to flourish.

I apologise, Sara, for misspelling your name.

[Ed: Susannah, we have edited your earlier post to correct the spelling for you.]

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

David you’re so right about how prevalent fundamentalism is within the church. Since I retired two months ago I’ve attended different churches most weeks, some of the sermons I’ve listened to could be politely described as startling. However, the holy deacon at Beverley Minster, a professor of computer science, preached an excellent sermon about identity and recognition on Christ the King so there is hope.

Keith
Guest
Keith

I am seriously, acutely disappointed and indeed shocked that none of these Comments seem to respond to Sara’s post by engaging with *Sara*, but rather, go off into discussions about intersex features where the biology (which I am unqualified to comment on) completely overshadows the *person*. Oh, am I failing to notice that everyone is taking for granted that Sara should never have been subjected to these experiences, so it doesn’t need to be said? But it *does* need to be said. Sara, the Church of England is poorer without you, and I hope that you might one day feel… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

I read Sara Gillingham’s article, but did not feel that I had any basis to comment publicly. I don’t think it is appropriate to criticise others who may have strong feelings and hold beliefs about a very sensitive topic, but don’t choose to state them on a public website. I have previously suggested that TA posts should be segregated to their subject matter. This thread is only one day old and it has potentially six separate topics. Thus far, two topics have been addressed. The posts about Jeptha’s daughter – so far seven of them – are not responses to… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Thank you for posting Emma Ineson’s piece on failure and leadership. It is helpful, perceptive and timely. She rightly points to the tendency of church reports to speak ‘in rather hyperbolic terms about the need for success and the encouragement of “talent” in the Church’. I think her book may also help ‘followers’ to consider their expectations of their leaders too. Expectations are unrealistically very high on all sides.

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

I agree. My problem is that, these days, I am instantly turned off by anything with ‘leadership’ or ‘leader’ in the title. Since the massive increase in emphasis on leadership (no one wants to go into management these days, for instance) there has been little or no rise in the aggregate stock of leadership. I think we need less focus on leadership and far more on basic functionality and management.

Emma Ineson
Guest
Emma Ineson

The book doesn’t have leadership in the title. And you might find yourself quoted in it ….

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

Emma – that’s interesting. I really enjoyed your article; thank you. I just think that leadership is a subject that we need to handle carefully and graciously these days. I look forward to reading the book and thank you for all your work.

Emma Ineson
Guest
Emma Ineson

I agree! (hope you enjoy the book …)

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Sara Gillingham’s piece is brilliant. It also points to a wider problem. In the eyes of the (white, male, heterosexual, privately educated, hereafter WMHPE) CofE hierarchy, everyone outside is a “problem” to be “solved”. If you’re WMHPE you are encouraged to “understand” (ie, patronise) everyone outside that charmed circle, but you don’t have to actually see them as your equals. It’s OK for WMHPE Anglicans to deny the legitimacy of the orders of non-WMHPE priests and bishops, and the most important thing is that the poor oppressed WMHPE are given “alternative oversight”. They can write about “the estates” in a… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Very good IO. I like WMPHE. Wimpy. My views might not count though since I’m white and male with wife and children. However, I’m not claiming heterosexuality since I think we’re all on a spectrum, and though I’m entirely state educated, secondary school was an 11plus grammar school, so perhaps that condemns me.

For the record, my comments about Sara’s article dripped sympathy (“hits several nails on heads”) but it’s always good to have prefects to keep us in order.

Marise Hargreaves
Guest
Marise Hargreaves

Sara’s account of her experience of the ironically named Living in Love and Faith process is a terrible judgement of its intention and credibility. To behave towards someone like this is beyond appalling. There is a binary, heterosexual arrogance in all of this and an inability to embrace the diversity of God’s good creation which is tragic for all involved. The report which is coming in 2020 will lead nowhere and will not challenge the church to be inclusive and respectful and anything other than what it presently is – exclusive, binary and arrogant. Yet more words to be ignored.… Read more »

Colin Coward
Guest

I was fortunate to have been introduced to Sara Gillingham at the beginning of the Living in Love and Faith process and to have been part of her journey, a journey that ended abruptly as far as her involvement in the LLF process was concerned. What Sara has written about her experience of the Church is what hits me most strongly. This has generally been ignored by those who have commented so far. I’m not surprised. Sara decided to leave the Church of England and feels far better for doing so. The same is true for me. That Sara and… Read more »

FrDavid H
Guest
FrDavid H

Countless people in the Irish Republic only found freedom from the yoke of the RC Church after they saw through its oppressive hypocrisy. They voted for same-sex marriage, divorce and legal abortion after they left. The English have never experienced such ecclesiastical oppression and are far happier for it. I hope Sara finds her own way to personal freedom. Despite its meaningless slogans – ” new ways of doing church”, “fresh expressions” “planting churches” – the CofE has become an oppressive biblical sect with silly rules and life-denying regulations. Who on earth would want to join?

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Guys, these are huge sweeping statements. I don’t doubt at all the harm that is done to LGBTI people, but I think it’s good when people join our local church, and the community they can be part of, and there is grace within the Church of England as well as very real problems. To generalise the whole institution as an ‘oppressive biblical sect’ is in my view kind of dismissive of the wide range of theologies and service and communities – and so much faithful sacrifice and givenness and practical participation in community – that constitutes the life and work… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Susannah. Thank you once again for your contribution to difficult discussions here – gracious, informed and responding from personal experience. I too think it is worth the fight and that courageous and creative initiatives are being taken. We have not been here before so attempts at understanding and responding can be/and are appallingly clumsy at times. But I believe the desire to change is there. I pray for those charged with seeking to enable something new. And I pray for those most harrowed and hurt as we go – some are friends. That for me is at the heart of… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Sara and Colin Coward – thank you. I want to comment not on sexuality (my views are clear from what I’ve written elsewhere), but on your assertion that you’re better off having left the CofE. In a sense, I’ve left too, through retirement. Though in orders only since 2006, I’ve been associated with it since the 1960s. I feel as if I’m working through PTSD. What stands out for me, looking back, is the way in which we are expected – required – to ignore reality in order to pretend that recovery is just around the corner, and that half-baked… Read more »

Cynthia Katsarelis
Guest

Sometimes the only answer to an abusive situation is to leave, whether it is a hiatus or a permanent leave. I recall that Colin got lots of significant push back on stating his experience is that of a church that has normalized abuse. I found that push back quite revealing, and so I can’t be surprised that Sara and Colin are flourishing outside the church. Even in TEC, when a church begins a process called Believe Outloud, the greatest response comes from people saying “I don’t mind gay people, but do we have to talk about it?” Obviously, this misses… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Well I have always described myself as an ‘inside of the edge of the institution’ kind of person as regards the church – though for nothing like the harrowed reasons of Sara Gillingham and all too many others. There is much in what I have seen of LLF that I respect actually. But what is as frustrating as it is unacceptable, is that the very places where genuine attempts are being made (and I think they are genuine) to grow in understanding and enable ways forward are inflicting such pain on those at the centre of it all. ‘The last… Read more »

peter kettle
Guest
peter kettle

‘The last thing we realise about ourselves is our effect’. – where does that quotation come from?

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Peter – I read it years ago in William Boyd’s brilliant novel Brazzaville Beach.

Cynthia Katsarelis
Guest

It’s a very good quote. A first step, of course, is to understand that it’s about people and not positions. That it is flesh and blood, heart and soul, and not abstract. It seems to me that I’ve seen this positive evolution by many on TA. But it can’t be emphasized enough. That is the space where LGBTQ+ allies can be a healing force.