Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 4 July 2020

Francesco Aresco Medium Racism and the meaning of Christian Art

Giles Fraser UnHerd The Church shouldn’t hide its sordid past
“If you pretend everything is perfect, there will be no grounds for redemption”

John Perumbalath Church Times Racism should not be explained away
“The Church needs to address the roots of its ideologies and its understanding of history”

David Walker ViaMedia.News We Can’t Go Back…Even When We Do!

Clare Williams All Things Lawful And Honest Seen and not heard?
“What we can learn from the pandemic about ministry with children and young people.”

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Why the Church needs to understand Spiritual Abuse better

Harriet Sherwood; photography by David Levene The Guardian picture essay Keeping the faith: religion in the UK amid coronavirus

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Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
29 days ago

I am not sure I agree with Bishop David about the value of a vacancy. Often congregations decline during a vacancy and do not recover.

Of course it depends on local circumstances. A church with a curate, NSM or Reader(s) will be better able to manage. However a vacancy much longer than six months can be very hard for a parish.

David Rowett
David Rowett
29 days ago
Reply to  Simon Bravery

Six months! Do I detect the experiences of a south-eastern correspondent? 😉

John Wallace
John Wallace
29 days ago
Reply to  Simon Bravery

As a former Deanery Lay Chair for over 25 years (and a churchwarden twice in 2 vacancies) I have helped to oversee vacancies in every one of the Deanery parishes, most more than once. I never saw, even in the smallest benefice the decline that you mention, Simon. In many cases it was the opposite – new gifts came to the fore as laity were energised and allowed to exercise ministry. The problem came in a couple of instances when the new incumbent ignored this and so caused significant problems which could easily have been avoided by listening to the… Read more »

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
28 days ago
Reply to  John Wallace

From the description of your experience, John, I am tempted to ask: in which Diocese have you been a Warden and Lay Chair? Guildford? Southwark? London? St Albans? Oxford? Or somewhere else South of the line between the Wash and the Bristol Channel? Your experience might be rather different in some Northern (and Midlands) dioceses, especially in inner-city and outer estate parishes, as well as geographically widespread multi-benefice rural contexts.
 
Before you all pile in, note that I said ‘some’!

John Wallace
John Wallace
28 days ago
Reply to  Bill Broadhead

You’re right, Bill, about the Geography. it’s St Albans and my Deanery was centred in Dunstable in South Bedfordshire.

Richard
Richard
29 days ago
Reply to  Simon Bravery

Vacancies will always occur; how could we avoid them? We can use a vacancy as an opportunity to refresh our customs and start anew.

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
28 days ago
Reply to  Richard

Start the recruitment process earlier – as soon as the incumbent announces their departure.
 
Consider appointing curates to parishes/team ministries where the incumbent will retire in 3-4 years with a view to the curate becoming vicar so they can hit the ground running.

Michael
Michael
28 days ago
Reply to  Sam Jones

Sam Jones – your suggestions are eminently sensible so are unlikely to be considered! I know of a group of four rural churches in a prosperous leafy county which are about to enter the third year of interregnum despite an initial advert in the Church Times and three readvertisements since. Under the previous two incumbents Sunday services were drastically cut back because of low attendance ie one or two plus the vicar. They did not think it was worth the time and effort if only one or two turned up. Two of the churches went from a service every Sunday… Read more »

Kate
Kate
29 days ago
Reply to  Simon Bravery

I think David is suggesting that it is easier for the incoming. He pretty much suggests that the parish gets so desperate they will lump anyone they are sent – it seems to me an exercise in controlling the parish. When Stephen Parsons is writing about the need to stop spiritual abuse, manipulating a parish like that sits uneasily.

Simon Cowling
Simon Cowling
29 days ago
Reply to  Kate

Edwina Sandys’s bronze figure of a female Christ hung briefly in the Cathedral of St John the Divine, New York in 1984. A (then) suffragan bishop of the diocese, Walter Dennis, described the sculpture as ‘theologically and historically indefensible’ and it was removed soon afterwards. (Not long ago I preached a sermon on the importance of this representation for our theology of the incarnation. It enjoyed, shall we say, a mixed reception.)

Simon Cowling
Simon Cowling
28 days ago
Reply to  Simon Cowling

Apologies – this post should have followed Kate’s next remark on this thread about representations of Jesus as female.

David Rowett
David Rowett
28 days ago
Reply to  Kate

Sorry, Kate, but no, I didn’t mean that – it was a Rural Dean’s wry observation that in the remoter parts of the CofE, managing a mere six month vacancy is something about which we would fantasise. As a colleague said at a RD’S meeting some years ago, ‘It’s amazing how God calls so many people to ministry in the Thames Valley.’ I doubt that any diocese would still go with the ‘anyone is better than no-one’ policy – as was observed up here once, ‘if you’re committing half a million to a ten -year incumbency you want to be… Read more »

Kate
Kate
28 days ago
Reply to  David Rowett

I meant David Walker. Sorry for the confusion

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
26 days ago
Reply to  Simon Bravery

Surely the CofE Stats dept has figures to support one view or the other. How about some evidence-based ‘policy’?

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
29 days ago

I think Francesco Aresco’s article misses the point of some concerns. I love some Western Christian art and recently wrote a piece for the Church of England Newspaper largely inspired by El Greco’s painting ‘The Holy Trinity’ (while also mentioning a modern Pieta by Stacey Torres). However it is a problem if some Christians from Africa, Asia and Latin America and minority ethnic Christians in the West have seldom, if ever, seen depictions of Jesus who look anything like them and if many white Christians have seldom, if ever, seen a Christ, Madonna or other biblical hero who looks like… Read more »

Kate
Kate
29 days ago
Reply to  Savi Hensman

Doesn’t that equally apply to women? Where is our representation of a female Jesus?

But if that is a step too far, then maybe we should accept that Jesus should simply be depicted with as much historical authenticity as possible.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
28 days ago
Reply to  Kate

A female Jesus may be a step too far. However, … The Dan Brown novel The DaVinci Code has serious literary, theological, and historical flaws, but something in it sure appealed to tens of millions of readers, including me, from an author who had previously sold books only in the tens of thousands. And while Dan Brown has said, in his defense against a plagiarism suit, that he wrote the book only for entertainment and to make money, part of what appealed to me is his exploration of what he calls the “sacred feminine”, which is almost completely lacking in… Read more »

Last edited 28 days ago by peterpi - Peter Gross
Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
28 days ago

Peter, your reflection on the Genesis 2 story with its questions about Adam’s gender resonated with me. I have often wondered whether the standard Christian interpretations of these texts is adequate.   I find great value in putting these Biblical texts alongside other ancient myths which seem to be exploring similar questions. For example the “Origin of Love” story narrated by Aristophanes in Plato’s symposium talks about a primaeval human who is both male and female. The gods split him her/in half to create a separate male and female. And this action is the origin of love. We are each… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
27 days ago
Reply to  Simon Dawson

Amen to your last paragraph.   “Adam” is derived from the Hebrew word “adamah”, the Hebrew word for “earth or dirt”. I don’t know if in Hebrew “Adam” is a gender-neutral term. Your “splitting” story reminded me that I had read that some Middle Ages rabbis, looking at Genesis 1:27 in Hebrew, noted singular nouns in the first two phrases, and plural (“male and female God created them”) in the last phrase, and questioned whether God split a proto-human in two to create Adam and Eve.   Gilgamesh isn’t the only Babylonian saga that the Bible shares. Decades ago, I… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
27 days ago

Thanks Peter, for me the problem with the Hebrew Pentateuch is that the text handed down to us is very late (9th Century CE I think). We can never be certain what changes have been made in the text handed down to us. When it comes to something like the gender of a noun it is so easy for copyist to make conscious or unconscious changes. What we take to be the canonical text may differ from what was written many millennia before. In my view there is always a need to be cautious about basing major theological arguments on… Read more »

Last edited 27 days ago by Simon Dawson
ACI
ACI
26 days ago
Reply to  Simon Dawson

You have entered something of a minefield. The mediaeval date of the MT does not mean that pre-Christian Hebrew witnesses don’t confirm it in a great many places (see Qumran), including Genesis 1.The situation is extremely complicated as any textbook on text-criticism will help you to appreciate.

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
26 days ago

Of course, Judaism was influenced by the Babylonian exile. The Torah and the Prophets were not set down in their current form until after the exile.

Francesco Aresco
28 days ago
Reply to  Savi Hensman

Thank you for your comment. I agree, and as I said I am all for the depiction of Jesus as black or East Asian despite being historically inaccurate as much as Danish looking Jesuses. These depictions make theological points with art. However I do not agree, as Shaun King for example, who argued that depictions of Jesus as white are racist. As I said 1. Most Jesuses look Mediterranean 2. When they do not, it is because of theological representation. I am all for depicting Jesus in many different ways, but not for “ take down white Jesus, it’s racist”… Read more »

Evan McWilliams
Evan McWilliams
28 days ago

I’ve been very grateful for articles and blog posts like yours which attempt to inject some sense into this impossibly muddled public row. My academic background is in history of art, Christian art in particular, and we know that ‘representation’ is far more complex than literal depiction. Unfortunately, the mob seem to think their perceptions take precedence over realities. I’ve become very selective in regard to engagement on this issue. ‘He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot.’

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
27 days ago

I too think that Shaun King is wrong. However, while you and I are familiar with many culturally different depictions of Jesus and his followers, many Christians are not: I believe churches can have a role to play in enabling that wider sharing and that this is particularly important because so many people in racist societies may struggle fully to believe that everyone really is made in God’s image. Otherwise a kind of idolatry can arise in which being white is seen as a step closer to being godly, whereas the universal Christ is different from the historical Jesus and… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
29 days ago

In the past 2,000 years, especially in the first 500 years or so, western Europe underwent waves of migration from people elsewhere into western Europe, so that the people of Europe today possibly look differently than what western Europeans looked like at the height of the Roman Empire. Likewise, I often wonder whether the area now referred to as the Gaza Strip, the State of Israel, and the Palestinian Authority underwent similar migrations. If so, it may not be possible to know how the historical man Jesus of Nazareth looked. If there was little significant in-migration, then I’ve always assumed… Read more »

Last edited 29 days ago by peterpi - Peter Gross
Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
28 days ago

As always, an interesting and perceptive observation.   Very many years ago I had lessons in faltering French with an elderly lady who travelled a difficult journey to attend Anglo-Catholic services instead of the ‘middle of the road’ C of E parish church almost on her doorstep. On the wall of her living room was a small portrait of the Virgin Mary which she said she believed to be an ‘authentic’ representation. The artist had chosen as a model a young Samarian woman. That was probably painted in the 19th (or very early 20th) century, and, of course, I have… Read more »

David Rowett
David Rowett
28 days ago

Apologies, Kate – wrong David! Put it down to excitement at seeing people once more!

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
28 days ago

The article by The Rt. Rev. Dr. John Perumbalath speaks to a core aspect of injustice i.e. the inability to truly comprehend the experience of others who face discrimination because of who they are. Bishop Perumbalath shines a light on the depth of the problem with his recounting of the profoundly clueless conversations initiated by people who, as members of a majority, can simply take not needing to explain one’s self for granted.   I have a more ‘yes’ and ‘no’ response to the Canon Giles Fraser piece. “The worldwide Anglican Communion was the religious by-product of British imperial expansion.”… Read more »

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