Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 4 August 2018

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The post IICSA Church of England – in Praise of Integrity

Paul Vallely Church Times Action matters more than words

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Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

The Church Times article by Paul Vallely would be more instructive if the three related Church Times letters were included – but I’m a little biased as one of those letters was written by someone who I’ve known all my life;)

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

And a rather fine letter it is too.

Kate
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Kate

Stephen Parsons says as a child he thought bishops were special but has now come to realise that they aren’t.I don’t disagree with the rest of what Stephen writes but, maybe the problems of episcopal self-importance is a symptom, not a case. Because I think bishops SHOULD be special. If they aren’t, if they seem unduly self+important, then I think we are probably elevating people who don’t have sufficient distinction, aren’t sufficiently special, to be a bishop. That damages the overall impression of bishops and it happens because we have a certain set of offices which we expect to be… Read more »

Victoriana
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Victoriana

A very courageous notion.

The question is what criteria would be used to discern who should be a bishop, and how such people of distinction would be found.

And bishops as we know them certainly don’t figure in the Bible. Yes, there are episcopoi, but it’s far from clear whether they picked up the flaming business from the apostles.

And national churches most certainly don’t figure in the Bible. Which sort of begs the question of why we need churches or bishops at all, given what we’ve seen at IICSA.

Kate
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Kate

Aren’t the Church of the Corinthians and the Church of the Romans, national churches? I agree there is no Gospel support for national churches but there is support in the Epistles, albeit self-referential.

But it is striking that those Epistles are addressed to the churches and not to named archbishops or bishops, not even to a Bishop of Rome. And in Philemon, Paul shows he can write to an individual if there is one, but still fails to suggest Paul recognised him as a bishop.

Victoriana
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Victoriana

Kate, I think you answered your own question. The notion of a church identified with a nation cannot be read back into Paul — he didn’t live to see the Treaty of Westphalia, after all. Corinth and Rome were civic republics, not nations. And at that, Paul is writing only to a particular group of Christians in each of those cities as the Corinthian letters makes abundantly clear. And no, Paul isn’t writing to bishops in the authentic letters. And even that passage in 1 Timothy is about episcopoi as elders, not as an order of the church as we… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

What follows is not a contribution about the quality of current episcopal appointments, but addresses the question “Do we need bishops?” Every day Anglicans recite in The Apostles’ Creed “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church”, and, even more explicitly in the Nicene Creed, “in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”, and that, surely, is a statement of faith in the position of the C of E as a reformed catholic branch of the universal Church. Notwithstanding denial by Pope Leo XIII, continued Apostolic Succession is claimed by the C of E. Succession by laying on of hands is handed… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

There are difficulties with this argument. Firstly, ‘catholic’ here means ‘universal’ or ‘broad’, not specifically Roman Catholic. Secondly, the universal Church contains a number of denominations which do not have bishops; Presbyterians, Baptists, Salvationists, Quakers, most Pentecostals, ‘community’ churches, Evangelical Free, and (currently) Methodists are just some of them. So it isn’t essential for a Church to have bishops in order to be faithfully Christian. Nor can it be argued from the New Testament that bishops are essential, since bishops and elders seem to be interchangeable. On the other hand, I would agree that bishops are essential to the Anglican… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

When I posed the question “Do we need bishops?” that was wholly in an Anglican context and the claim of the C of E to be a church of Apostolic succession handed down through its bishops. I didn’t intend or feel that my comment could be read in any other way. The use of lower case ‘c’ in ‘catholic’ – meaning universal – was intentional. I believe that other denominations use variants of the Creeds substituting other terms for Catholic.

Michael Skliroz
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Michael Skliroz

Disillusionment with bishops is no new thing, Kate. It was not long after the time Stephen Parsons talks about that Ted Wickham, Bp of Middleton, described bishops as being “role-encapsulated” – that is, striving at all times to do, think or say bishoplike things. Not everyone was shocked by this observation.

John Wallace
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John Wallace

As Michael says, disillusionment is nothing new:

See these 2 comments from well over 100 years ago:

Canon H P Liddon in his biography of Pusey: ‘Episcopi in Anglia semper pavidissimi’

and on 15 Feb 1902, a couple of months before he died, Fr Dolling wrote in an article:

‘I wonder if it is true that there is a bedroom in Lambeth that each prelate sleeps in on his first visit; that in that room there is a bed which has the power of elongating or compressing each occupant to a certain unform stature’

Nigel LLoyd
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The pool of people from whom bishops can be chosen are the clergy. The great Victorian Bishop of Lincoln described his clergy as being of three types: ‘There are those going out of their minds; there are those who have gone out of their minds; and there are those who have no minds to go out of’. From which group could the next generation of bishops be chosen?

Father David
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Father David

Dear saintly Bishop Edward King of Lincoln – where is his equivalent on the 21st century Bench of Bishops? Like Bishop George Bell (October 3rd) Bishop King is given a feast day in our Anglican calendar of saints (March 8th). Thinks, isn’t it about time that Blessed Michael Ramsey was given the same honour and privilege? I remember attending a service in Lincoln Minster on Sunday, 19th May, 1985 to mark the centenary of the enthronement of Edward King as Bishop of Lincoln. The preacher on that occasion was Canon David Wilcox who was at the time Principal of Ripon… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

The general rule in the CofE is that someone must have died at least 50 years ago before they can be considered for inclusion in the Calendar. The theory is that this allows time for a reasonable historical perspective. (An exception has been made for martyrs, hence the inclusion of Janani Luwum, who was killed in 1977, and the recent addition of those martyred in the Solomon Islands since Thinking Anglicans began.) Michael Ramsey died in 1988, so would not be eligible until 2038.

Father David
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Father David

By then I shall be 86 so I do hope that I shall live long enough to see Blessed Michael Ramsey’s inclusion in the calendar. Do you happen to know when Bishop George Bell’s name was included in the calendar? By your reckoning it must have been in 2008 at the earliest, as we commemorate the 60th anniversary of his death this coming October. By then I further hope that the “significant cloud” which the current ABC states is still attached to his name will have been lifted!

Jeremy Pemberton
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Jeremy Pemberton

I thought that was Henley Henson describing the clergy of Durham Diocese. 20C

Nigel LLoyd
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Nigel LLoyd

Probably, but there is evidence that before him Edward King used those words in Lincoln.

Father David
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Father David

No, I rather think that Nigel Lloyd is correct in associating this trinity of clergy with Bishop Edward King; although it seems that King had far too sweet a nature to have actually made the ascription himself. According to John Newton in his book “Search for a Saint: Edward King” the new bishop was warned before he entered the diocese about the quality of the Lincolnshire clergy – “that they were exhaustively divisible into three categories”. Although Newton goes on to state on page 79 – “When we set that generalisation beside the scholar-parsons of Lincolnshire of the eighteen-eighties it… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

“role-encapsulated” is exceedingly apt in many cases.

The more I think about it, the more I think Stephen Parson made an important and helpful observation about the ordinariness of most of our bishops. Bishops should surely be the voice of the church. Isn’t mission through prominence part of the episcopal esse? So why are most mute?

Michael Mulhern
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Michael Mulhern

I fear, Kate. the bishops are mute because of the culture of control from the top. Many of us look back ruefully to the days of Robert Runcie as ABC (a true Anglican) when the bishops of the Church of England were at the cutting edge of cultural, political and social debate (David Sheppard, David Jenkins, Mark Santer, John Habgood), and spoke with intelligence and incisiveness. No longer. It’s all about the Church’s self-preservation: not upsetting the government, not upsetting the Brexit voters in the pews, not upsetting anyone who might stop putting their money on the collection plate. ‘Faithfulness… Read more »

Revd Father John Harris-White
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Revd Father John Harris-White

Michael’s comments are very valid, and true my own experience over many years of ministry. The fault lies at the top with the present ABC, who is purely a manager, controlling the House of Bishops, and their actions. In the past we have had great spiritual, articulate Archbishops, who have lead the ‘family’ of the House of Bishops. Encouraging their varied gifts to be expressed in words and action.. In so doing bringing great depths of thought and action to the life of our church, and the whole nation. They were true shepherds of the church and nation. Fr John… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

It would be hard for anyone to deny the contrast between the present generation of bishops and those you name, but those you name are themselves just shadows compared to earlier generations. So, while there’s no doubt that Justin Welby has presided over a further erosion, the malaise in church leadership is a long-term trend and issue.

CRS
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CRS

Perhaps the intervening reality is a more significant Anglican Communion, over which the ABC exercises a significant role. If this were changed, and that role differently distributed, the CofE could expect the kind of local cultural influence you would prefer and which has obtained previously. The recent ARCIC papers candidly noted that heading an established church and purporting to have an international role are conflicting roles, or impossible to adminstrate, or otherwise unrealistic.

Bill Broadhead
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Bill Broadhead

The IICSA process has been welcome, excruciating, and robust in the way it has held senior figures in the Church to account. Only a fool would say that it has been no more than the tip of the iceberg of sexual power abuses in the Church. But it has given some survivors some confidence that their voices have been heard; and that those who ignored them or colluded with their abusers have had to acknowledge their failures. But where do we go from here, beyond more risk assessments and assurances? There has be to be redemption for survivors of abuse.… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

There is a distinction between those who make mistakes, however serious, and those who deliberately prey on the vulnerable. Even with deliberate sins – such as, for instance adultery or theft – there can be redemption and restoration. Ball’s crimes – and those of Gordon Rideout, among others – are of a different order altogether. They used their status as priests and the sacred things of God intentionally, to do serious and lasting harm to children and young people. Ball exploited the desire of young men to be holy and serve God. Rideout told young children to kiss his genitalia,… Read more »

David Harvey
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David Harvey

I didn’t read in Bill Broadhead’s comments any suggestion that the victims’ needs should not be put first, Janet. Far from it. But he is feeling for something that I think we have lost sight of as the terrible stories of abuse have been told. Nor do I read in the Gospels as a whole (in contrast to isolated and uncontextualised texts) that some sins are beyond redemption. Interestingly, Justin Welby tweeted a day or two ago “When you follow Jesus you’ve got to include everyone.” As I read it, I knew that he didn’t really mean that; more like… Read more »

Alan Davies
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Alan Davies

I think the ‘Why?’ question that David Harvey raises takes us very close to the issue, and to the Gospel. This is precisely what Desmond Tutu’s remarkable truth and Reconciliation Commission sought to ask, alongside ‘what?’ and ‘when?’ I work in the criminal justice sector, and am deeply ashamed of how full our prisons are – and how they are no longer a deterrent, let alone places of rehabilitation. They are full precisely because no-one (especially those handing-down sentences) asks ‘Why?’ Instead, it is all about meeting the British preference for punishment, vengeance and anger. Little do we realise the… Read more »

Stephen
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Stephen

Yesterday morning, I pronounced the absolution at the Eucharist, as I always do. “Almighty God who forgives *all* who truly repent, have mercy upon you… and keep you in life eternal.” I know that in that congregation is someone convicted of sex offences, who has served a prison sentence, who (so far as I can assess) has acknowledged his crimes, co-operated with the authorities in every way, and is showing true remorse – not least by being completely candid about how he might still pose a risk. Should I have said “Almighty God, who forgives all who truly repent, with… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

Stephen, thank you for your sane and kind post. Sex offenders are human beings too. If we follow the tabloid mentality of reducing all sex offenders to ‘beasts’ then I fear we sometimes run the risk of offloading our own moral shortcomings in life, by projecting condemnation onto a ‘sub-species’, an ‘other’ group. Instead of facing up to our own shortcomings of love, day to day, it is far easier to project moral pressure away from ourselves and on to a ‘scape goat’ figure or group. In a facile psychological way, it makes us feel better. I worked as an… Read more »