Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 4 November 2023

Ruth Harley ViaMedia.News Collateral Damage: How Unjust Treatment of LGBTQIA+ People Harms the Church

Susan Hunt Surviving Church Searching for Truth. How ‘Kenneth’ has been failed by the Justice System of the Church of England

Neil Elliot NumbersMatters SMART or Organic?

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David Hawkins
David Hawkins
6 months ago

Equality can only happen with love and love can only happen with welcome.
Please watch this profoundly important statement from Bishop Cherry Vann.
https://youtu.be/0Hs02oFQGB8?si=P74KD5BrDbNsRzCs

Baptist Trainfan
Baptist Trainfan
Reply to  David Hawkins
6 months ago

I’m not an Anglican but I do live in Monmouth Diocese and, having heard +Cherry on a couple of occasions, like her. I think that she has been pushing the message of “Radical Welcome” quite a lot; certainly it’s been much in evidence in my local East Cardiff Ministry Area.

Shamus
Shamus
6 months ago

Was SMART thinking used in Wigan?

Oliver Miller
Oliver Miller
Reply to  Shamus
6 months ago

Was SMART thinking used in Wigan?

Yes, that’s how we know it’s failed.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Oliver Miller
6 months ago

As civil servants we were hammered into ‘SMART’ thinking under Tony Blair’s obsession with ‘Investors in People’. It only lasted as long as it took to get the nerdy plastic trophy, and was then completely forgotten!

Tobias Haller
Tobias Haller
6 months ago

SMART doesn’t appear to differ all that much from many other managerial programmatic acronyms of days gone by. It has a common sense aspect that doesn’t seem to me to be enhanced by dressing it as “science.” Having clear goals one is capable of reaching, with all the tools one needs — even Jesus spoke of generals with insufficient armies and builders without the capacity to finish a tower. It seems to me that the real issue isn’t the SMART modality, but the data that goes into the machine, as it were. I’ve been around long enough to have seen… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Tobias Haller
6 months ago

Or just maybe it has an empirical component that tests ‘common sense’ perspectives. Not a bad idea to utilize SMART to move one’s goals from the merely aspirational to the realistically obtainable.–especially in an institution where human and monetary resources are becoming more precious and demand great accountability. I’m living in what has become one of the fastest growing cities in Canada. About a decade ago three new parish churches were constructed in development growth areas near me, all three within reasonable proximity of established parishes. I currently attend one of them. The mantra at the time was, “If you… Read more »

David J Goss
David J Goss
6 months ago

Neil Elliot draws a parallel between SMART planning and planting a garden. Well, I only have a small garden, really just borders around a paved yard, at the house we moved to in 2021. And my modest plans for this year involved growing some new flowers alongside those already in place, planting some runner beans and harvesting rhubarb from the crown which had now had a year to establish itself. But a neighbour gave me some tomato plants, so space was found for these alongside the runner beans. Then I noticed some rogue plants growing – which I could have… Read more »

Shamus
Shamus
Reply to  David J Goss
6 months ago

Lovely description which reads like a parable: thank you. All that veg made me feel hungry. Let’s ditch forever the soulless rigidity of these SMART formulas from I suspect American business practitioners. If people find them helpful, fair enough. I prefer the glorious liberty of the children of God.

David Chillman
David Chillman
Reply to  David J Goss
6 months ago

I agree completely. The most significant developments to have happened in my 30 odd years of ordained ministry have been things which no-one planned for – they were occasions where doors opened unexpectedly and led to surprising growth.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  David Chillman
6 months ago

Spontaneous exceptions, which are are likely explainable with retrospective analysis as to context, do not address the issue of the measurable relentless decline. Neil Elliot has done very good work as a statistician measuring the decline in the Canadian church, for example, where current trends indicate the last Anglican will disappear in 2040. The latest empirical soundings since the pandemic have now advanced that time line. The C of E by all measures appears to headed in the same direction. Given current trends it is likely only a few scattered ecclesiastical rumps may remain, probably in very large cities. What… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Rod Gillis
6 months ago

Personally I think the key issue it all comes down to is *relevance*. Jesus was an outlier in the religious life of his day, but there’s no doubt that he connected on the ground with crowds of people who saw him as relevant to their lives. I believe that people who want to engage with the Christian message have been and are declining because the whole paradigm – which worked in societies that had not yet been overtaken by modernity and science (for example in the 16th Century at the Reformation) – has failed to evolve in real and relevant… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Rod Gillis
6 months ago

I’ll try to summarise what I mean about a ‘fallible’ Bible. Just to be clear, I regard the Bible as deeply precious and deeply profound. Time and time again, as I read the authors’ attempts to make sense of their encounters with God, and their insights as they opened their hearts, verses help me open my own heart to the presence, the compassion, and the flow of God’s Love. And I think that’s how the Bible can work as a kind of portal or conduit through which we ourselves may encounter God and open to God. So I regard the… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Susannah Clark
6 months ago

Susannah, thanks for the replies. They convey a wrestling with the scripture that is both intricate and palpable. If I may lift out two related statements from your comments (1) the notion of a “fallible bible” and (2) “the paradigm that the Bible is always right and the last (and authoritative) word on everything it says.” I find it helpful to keep the notion of ‘sacred scripture’ in tension with a notion of ‘sinful scripture’. I find this juxtaposition helpful because it broadens the issue from ‘true or false’ to the arenas of application and behaviour–individual but more importantly corporate.… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Rod Gillis
6 months ago

Thank you Rod. Very thought-provoking.

I see at least three key ‘inputs’ when trying to discern how I should act as a Christian:

  1. The Biblical Narratives.
  2. The Holy Spirit interacting with Our Consciences *today*.
  3. Lived experience, encounters with people, factual knowledge and understanding of the world.
  4. Prayer and Relationship with God.
  5. Community.

On your final point, yes, it is sad to see Christianity and the Bible being ‘weaponised’ for political purposes, with the Biblical Narratives being mined and exploited for nationalistic or power-seeking purposes (often seeking scapegoats to re-direct criticism and project it on other people).

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Susannah Clark
6 months ago

Excellent points. Looking at them, I would highlight in numbers 2, 4, and 5 the sacramental life. I think the sacramental could also be drawn out of number 3 as well in terms of the sacredness nature, the created order, a place for encounter with the Divine. First Nations spirituality in this part of the world has a window on that, and it accords very well with Celtic spirituality as well.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Rod Gillis
6 months ago

Rod, I believe connection with nature (and our own nature) is very important to learn balance. I spent my formative years in the Highlands, and much of that time in the mountains, and you get close to nature, not only physically, but psychically, and instinctively. My religious life came to a head after a write-off car accident in the Kilmartin valley (where my aunt lives)… about a mile from Dunadd, the ancient crowning place of the Celts in Dal Riata. The next day, after tears of bitter repentance, I was in my aunt’s house and for the first time in… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Susannah Clark
6 months ago

Susannah, thank you for a very inspiring biographical piece. Also, re: First Nations creation stories, by listening to them alongside the biblical stories one can get an enhanced sense of the poetic and imaginative nature of all creation stories as foundational myths. I’ve attached a link to a short summary of the Mi’kmaq creation story. I recently heard Chief Stephen Augustine an hereditary chief tell the story in great detail–including how the story informs traditional Mi’kmaq spiritual practice. . I am fortunate enough to have visited the Scottish highlands on a wild rainy day. The highlands, like many places here… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Rod Gillis
6 months ago

Dear Rod, Wow, I found that article very moving in several ways. Thank you for sharing it. I love that expression that Creation is “within everything”. That rings true to me. Not just ‘out there’ but immanent within. Draws me back to my mention of “haecceitas”, and the idea that life/creation teams within things, within us, as we continue to be created from within. It makes me mindful to of Gerard Manley Hopkins and “inscape”. The association of drumbeat with the Earth Mother really resonates for me. In a neo-platonic kind of way I have all my adult life believed… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Susannah Clark
6 months ago

Susannah, your comments require careful reading; but they do invite an equally lengthy reply. I’ll reply to the bodily resurrection subject below; but first a perspective on the richness of various creation stories. It is not unusual now for ecclesiastical or public gatherings country wide here to open with a land acknowledgement and to include First Nations cultural practices like drumming and burning sweet grass. Last night my wife and I attended a performance of the Nova Scotia Symphony. The event began, as always, with the acknowledgement that we are on the traditional and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people.… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Reply to  Rod Gillis
6 months ago

What’s also lovely is how the myth is grounded in the gathering of community, and the gifts different people bring – the young, the elderly, the mother. They need to stay in connection with their creation and origins, and “the teachings on how to rely on each other and to respect and care for one another. In this way, they live a good life.” We don’t have to literalise these myths, and they don’t have to negate Christian pathways, but rather they draw us back towards principles like those concluding ones, and as myth we receive them without over-insistence on… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Rod Gillis
6 months ago

This is fascinating. A full admission/recognition that anglicanism will disappear — totally in Canada; partially in England. In the case of the latter, religious kooks.of various description (How in the world did trailers in Florida come into the discussion?) holed up in enclaves. It is such a weird combination of stark realism coupled with disdainful caricatures of the ‘last survivors’ — as if the harshness of the death decree is offset by confident ridiculing of the ignorant who have weathered on. The nice thing about God’s world is that new generations arise and see things their forebears couldn’t see any… Read more »

Last edited 6 months ago by Anglican Priest
Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Anglican Priest
6 months ago

Thanks for your thought for the day. I consider my being acerbic a gift–something you can no doubt appreciate. My comment contained two pieces. The first, the “full admission” as you term it, is an advertance to trends. I’ve referenced the work done by Neil Elliot here before. It is well grounded and looks solid. It can be read conjointly with Pew Research on similar trends in the U.S. and Europe. Trends are not prophecies; but one must consider that attempts to reverse them have so far appeared futile. The second piece is a thinking outload about what church world… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  Rod Gillis
6 months ago

I agree with your first part and have said as much elsewhere.

The very personal–I believe almost indulgent–caricaturing to which I refer in the second part, isn’t acerbic. It’s gratuitous, even puerile stuff, which isn’t your metier. ‘Bible believing’, ‘enclaves,’ ‘archaic biblicism.’ Trailers in Florida…

Just as you are on the line, you may be the only person I have met worried about modernity and our catching up to it. It’s well in the rear-view mirror now. Descartes and Locke look like over-wrought thinkers who need to get a Starbucks and chill out.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Anglican Priest
6 months ago

‘…you may be the only person I have met worried about modernity and our catching up to it…’

Totally agree, Even post-modernity is looking a little creaky now.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
6 months ago

What looks more than creaky are notions of eschatology in the light of physics, bodily resurrection in the light of biology. We live in a post enlightenment world. But don’t take my word for it. There are lots of theologians who are opining at length and in detail about what I’m suggesting here on the back of a postage stamp–as I’m sure you know. You are a bright lad, a former mathematician, how do you make the connection between biblical mythology and the phenomenal world? Tell me, do you think given the state of the world today and the role… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Anglican Priest
6 months ago

I tend to think of it as political sardonicism. If you knew me you would know it is very much my métier. Religion provides lots of material. Archaism, hardly a caricature, is a critique of a certain type of conservative theology. In any event, your rejoinders eventually tend to devolve into a kind of moralism as instanced here. To quote one of my favorite characters from historical fiction, “ Quod scripsi, scripsi“.

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