on Saturday, 5 June 2021 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Philip Jones Ecclesiastical Law Celebrating the Lord’s Day: The Ecclesiastical Regulation of Sunday
Laudable Practice Credo in unum Deum: how contemporary Trinity Sunday Proper Prefaces obscure monotheism
Nick Bundock ViaMedia.News “Another Way is Possible….”
Bundock: magnificent. Tomorrow’s gospel, Jesus the disturber bringing the sanctimonious exiles to the kingdom. No milksop he, settling for appeasement dressed up as peacemaking, but battling for justice. “Is he insane?” “Is he possessed?”
Stanley – I agree Bundock: magnificent. In my 20s I attended a church just like that. All inclusive, rainbow of nations and languages, several residents from the nearby care home for ‘down’s syndrome’. The vicar was a tour de force. Sadly when he retired the church lost its way. The next vicar only lasted a year. I think it takes a very special kind of pastoral ability to achieve such a brilliant worshipping environment. As a side comment, yesterday the church which I left last March, had a congregation at 8 am and 10.30 am, but there was no communion.… Read more »
That’s grim, Michael. Disciplinary I would have thought. Is it just my gloominess, or it is truly the case that churches such as we seek were more common 30, 40 years ago than now? Not enough sensual beauty now – too much emphasis on words and concepts, the new puritanism? You are right about the importance of the incumbent’s personality: is s/he a radiator or a drain – that’s what it boils down to – and you can’t teach drains to be radiators no matter how many leadership courses they attend.
I too can look back wistfully to times of richness and fulfilment in the life of the church. But 30-40 years ago the church was needing to face the fact it was already in steady decline. And did we? In 1983, for example, John Tiller, Chief Secretary to ACCM, brought a report to Synod calling for a longer-term strategic view to take into account the serious decline in numbers of stipendiary clergy available and what other resources might be developed to sustain the Church’s nationwide mission. It was rejected by Synod. The reasons were varied. Church party politics was part of… Read more »
Many thanks. Unfortunately, there is a vast bibliography on the history of the Church up to the last decades of the nineteenth century, but comparatively little thereafter which is not polemical, and which gets ‘under the bonnet’. This is, of course, because the Church was highly relevant to wider society until the late nineteenth century, but is now of marginal importance. So much of the time I am having to rely upon fragments of information, or contemporary reportage, to fill – very imperfectly – large gaps in our knowledge of the modern Church. Unfortunately, I feel that the late twentieth… Read more »
Froghole I agree with your summary of how the Church of England got into the current mess. The bishops have become a lightning rod. But that is no surprise when you read their monthly press release, full of meaningless jargon. At the stroke of a pen they erase (but refuse to restore) communion in both kinds to the laity. Some of them continue to sign off cancellation of public worship. I think the Church of England in national terms is on the fast track to self inflicted oblivion for the reasons which you stated. Churches with imaginative creative pastors such… Read more »
Many thanks. I have resumed my peripatetic church attendance, and have spent the last eight or so weeks concentrating on three dioceses, but for how long? If the ‘Indian’ variant continues to spread, current restrictions may continue well into the future and further controls may be imposed. Based on my attendance, reconnoitres and research, I would suggest – albeit roughly and tentatively – that about a third or two fifths of churches are ‘laggards’ in one respect or other, chiefly in communicating effectively when their services are now being held, and a good many of these were unhelpfully uninformative prior… Read more »
I don’t kid myself that say 40 yrs ago was a golden age. I know well enough it was nothing of the sort – the church had already started to wither after the postwar boom, as it were. But in truth the decline has been going on much longer. Some say since WWI. In all seriousness I say since the invention of the printing press, and doubtless historians of the years 0-1400 might identify seeds of the decline of western Christianity well before that. As has been rehearsed many times on this blog, the abandonment of a standard liturgy from… Read more »
Clergy who have no interest in Anglican polity history and doctrine was,. perhaps, the intention of the watering down of the Declaration of Assent to the 39 Artyicles. While watering down their own commitment the introduction of promises for parents at baptism, supposedly as an optional alternative, has resulted in fewer and fewer baptisms.
Quite so – though I’m not sure it’s cause and effect. The dreadful promises are those of a sect and I always “found” strong pastoral reason to use the other ones. In truth promises are unnecessary: all it takes is for someone – anyone – to pour water on the head and say “I baptize you … “
So encouraging to read Nick Bundock’s piece and to be able to celebrate some good news.
That was my concern about the recent ViaMedia series of articles. Whist it is important to detail the bad news, we need to acknowledge that is not the only story in town. There are many parts of the church where same-sex couple are welcomed and accepted with no reservations. It is important to tell those stories too.
I went on to Nick’s parish website and found the two videos of conversation between him and John Bell. Very moving.
It is encouraging to read Nick Bundock’s success in creating a welcoming Church open to everyone. Obviously he’d make a marvellous bishop, except his views and practises would soon be absorbed by a monolithic blandness and he’d be told to keep quiet. Dr Bundock’s parish shows the pointlessness of the LLF discussions. Bishops want us just to keep talking for the next few decades. Nick Bundock has left such nonsense behind as he gets on with the Good News.
FrDavidH is there any evidence that Nick Bundock is being told to keep quiet by any bishops? Rather his church story is a marvellous encouragement to churches seeking ways forward. His story predates LLF actually and he supports it. It is also a strange idea that LLF is the bishops’ cunning way of trying keep control and delay things indefinitely. Firstly, LLF has a clear, limited time line on it. Secondly, in LLF Bishops have devolved leadership and debate to the most local contexts of the national church. Tell me when they have done that before? But please, let’s just… Read more »
I didn’t say Nick Bundock is being kept quiet by any bishops. Rather that he’d have to conform more if he became one of them. I still think LLF is a pointless exercise. The world has moved on. No one is interested. How is discussing the sex lives of gay people Good News? The fact that you have pointed out the positive aspects of Nick’s article is very telling. We are not used to good news in the CofE. Most of the population has decided there isn’t any.
David. I am very sympathetic to your request that we celebrate good news, and not just criticise, especially where criticism may be unjust. My own comment on this same thread made the same point. But I must disagree with you where you say that in LLF “Bishops have devolved leadership and debate to the most local contexts of the national church”. I agree that the Bishops have devolved debate to the most local context, and they have devolved to local leaders how to lead and manage that debate. But when it comes to important leadership – deciding where the church… Read more »
Simon. Whilst I agree that the bishops are key and central in the final decision making – and I actually think they should be – how they will express this remains to be seen. I think in LLF a very different way of exercising leadership has been initiated and I doubt it will be possible to simply revert to more centralised authority on the other side of it. But I don’t expect to convince many on TA!
David, perhaps the disagreement is over whether it is nowadays appropriate for the bishops to reserve final decision making for themselves, or whether this should be shared with the wider Church. I note that even in the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis is pushing his bishops into a synodical process over the next few years in which bishops will be required to consult more widely with the RC laity. Looking at the membership of the Next Steps group, even if they mean well, do the bishops, by themselves, have such competence and experience in these matters that we can be… Read more »
You do have a real talent for pointing out the cloud behind every silver lining, don’t you? For once, can’t we just rejoice that something good is happening, rather than feeling the need to temper it with the negativity and complaint that make up 90% of the comments section on TA?
Interesting,though, Tim, that this new Good News is emanating from a parish priest whose own life has been thoroughly turned upside-down by a conversion towards the justice-seeking empathy of the Gospel. The Church of England Bishops – as a group – have not yet sought to take the lead on Fr. Nick’s point; that the Church needs to take urgent responsibility for its past homophobia and sexism. As Simon says; even Pope Francis is moving away from the idea that ‘wisdom is limitied to the papal enclave – by his encouragement towards more responsibility being taken by the local people,… Read more »
Hear, hear Fr Ron. Rather than taking responsibility for homophobia and sexism, the bishops have decided we should talk about it! This has been debated since Tony Higton’s motion at General Synod in 1987 about the sinfulness of gay clergy. LLF is an utter waste of time and money. If the CofE bishops had been in charge of the Church in South Africa, they’d still be debating whether apartheid is an acceptable biblical way of living.
Very much so, Father Ron. It seems to me that the transformation in Nick’s church was moving away from concentrating on sin, to a focus on truly non-judgemental welcome.
On that I disagree with Tim Chesterton and think Fr David is right: LLF isn’t going to unlock a transformation because its foundation is still trying to decide what is right/wrong (sinful) rather than asking how we become a non-judgemental inclusive church. It is a process which embeds the harmful status quo. It is also right to identify that the problem lies with the episcopate who have set the process.
Kate. If LLF is sin-centred and therefore still embedded in traditional thinking, as you claim, I wonder why conservative evangelicals are so opposed to it?
Obviously Con Evos don’t debate something whose conclusions have already been revealed in God’s Word Written. God has already decided the sinfulness of same-sex relationships. So what is there to talk about?
Even changing what is or isn’t considered a sin is a problem to Evangelicals, David, because they have deified sin and sinlessness. It has become an idol to them – X is a sin, but X’ isn’t a sin. A lot a traditional Catholics are the same which is why we have a debate as to whether a divorced couple can remarry in Westminster Cathedral. It’s drawing a line somewhere between sin and not sin, or more importantly between sinner and innocent. Very Old Testament. The Law with multiple shades of meaning. Can one drive on the Sabbath for example?… Read more »
Kate. I completely agree with you that the Jew/Gentile divide in the NT church is analogous to our present context. I also note that it remained an unresolved tension thoughout the NT era. St Paul, at the end of Romans, offers pastoral guidelines for a church living together in love and faith while containing both groups (see Roms 14). I do not recognise your summary of LLF on sin at all. If it was so emphasising sin in this way why are Conservatives not backing it? But the sheer range of voices, beliefs and stories found in LLF also makes… Read more »
Kate, I’d be really interested if you would point out to me where I mentioned LLF in my comment. To be clear: many folks on TA will know that I’m a person who has had the sort of ‘conversion’ Fr. Ron describes a bit further down here: I used to be very conservative on this issue, but am not any more and am doing my best to be a good ally. But I’m also still very much at home as an evangelical, and when I read Nick’s story (and even more after I watched the video conversations with him and… Read more »
The benefice of Saint James and Emanuel Didsbury is an interesting one and place where I used to worship on a Sunday evening occasionally when I was a curate in a parish not far away. Saint James & Emmanuel entered into an experience of charismatic renewal in the 1970s at about the same time as they were exploring uniting the two parishes into one benefice. I don’t want to read too much into this, but I wonder whether that openness to the spirit is a factor in their move to becoming overtly inclusive on matters such as sexuality? At its best,… Read more »
It’s not whether or not you – or anyone else – thinks same sex relationships are sinful – it is believing that it is a topic for discussion. As you say, that is the evangelical way. It is a mindset that judges people for what they do – and worse still, for who they are. That is what LLF is – a framework to discuss what is good or not good, and to judge those who fall short of the line wherever it is drawn. Maybe same sex relationships are OK so long as the couple doesn’t marry? Maybe if… Read more »
I pushed back on FrDavid because he was unable to simply celebrate some good news without adding a ‘yes, but’. I’m not a member of the UK, so LLF isn’t my business.
Father Ron I would argue that LLF is precisely such move away from ‘enclave’ leadership to something more local and collaborative. It is modelling a very different way of coming to a common mind. And is happening precisely because the Bishops are taking a lead on this. Once again I know many here will not agree …
David, I accept the sincerity of your comments, and I am prepared to accept the sincerity of many of the Bishops in trying to move in the direction you describe. But what I am seeing now is what I saw in the shared conversation process: clergy and laity in one set of rooms taking part in one set of conversations, and bishops in a totally different location going through the same process, but safely separated from us lower mortals. I would argue that “something more local and collaborative” in LLF would require the bishops and archdeacons to be in the… Read more »
Simon, we have had enough reports from meetings of the House of Bishops to know that’s the current modus operandi – break out groups (parishes), feeding back to the centre (bishops) who then decide how to proceed. It gives the illusion of involvement. Of course you are right about LLF.
Thanks Simon. I think Benedict offers a very good working model for leadership and note the mutual responsibilities entailed in it. “As often as any important business has to be done in the monastery, let the abbot summon the whole community. Having heard the advice of the community, he should then take counsel with himself and do what seems expedient. An abbot should never act without consulting his community first is because God often reveals the best course of action to the youngest. Let people give their advice honestly and humbly and never defend their opinions obstinately. Let the final… Read more »
David, thank you for this. It is an interesting comment which has something to say to the current discussion but not, I think, in the way that you intend. When it comes to ancient texts, whether Holy Scripture, or spiritual classics such as the rule of Benedict, the difficult task is to judge which precepts and teachings are timeless and still helpful, and which have become outdated and need to be modified or set aside. With the Bible, for example, over time the Church has had to find ways of changing its understanding of Biblical teachings on the movement of… Read more »
This is a very thought-provoking comment, Simon. Thank you. . On the one hand, as anyone who has explored vocation will know, that exploration involves the whole community, and not only the individual: because we explore vocation within community, as that is the nature of God’s purposes for us: living in community. . That said, the Church evolved in hierarchical societies where rule was ‘top down’, and arguably, even our sense of God is influenced by that concept of ‘rule’. . In the context of the Bible, I agree very much that if you view the way its texts have… Read more »
Susannah, thank you also for your thoughtful comment which rings a bell with me. Sadly I have never yet been rostered to preach on the feast of Christ the King. Because I have a sermon ready and waiting. About how we need to let go of the image of the Kingdom of God, an image which is now unhelpful and damaging to the church’s message. We need instead to develop the image of the Community of God.
In the Synoptics. the kingdom of God is the community of God. Newton Flew nailed this a few years ago in Jesus and his Church.
A very sensible comment.
“let the abbot know that to the fault of the shepherd is accounted whatever the father of the family shall have found amiss in the sheep.”
You forgot the bit about the abbot being judged responsible for the actions of the whole community, leavened only by his whole-hearted diligence. With leadership comes responsibility.
(Actually maybe that’s how Jesus takes away our sins. If we follow our Shepherd to the best of our ability, in leading us He has accepted responsibility.)
Thanks Kate. I didn’t forget this. I was quoting from another part of the rule and only an extract at that. But yes, the responsibility is tough and holy. And so are the responsibilities of the community he/she leads. All stand equally before God with their particular callings. I think Benedict’s approach is a helpful model but it needs an informed and nuanced understanding of the language he uses – and what you quote underlines that. His understanding of obedience, for example, needs carefully setting in the context and culture of the community he describes. It is not coercive in… Read more »
I have corresponded previously with Nick Bundock, and although I hesitate to politicise the circumstances of Lizzie Lowe’s tragic death, I did post thoughts online 18 months ago, which can be viewed here by anybody interested. . I took the accompanying websites – radicalinclusion.co.uk and radicalinclusion.uk – offline last year because, with the terrible pressures on the Church during the pandemic, it just seemed the wrong time to be pressing for radical changes in a political way. . I agree with others that the ‘good news’ that Nick’s church has embraced is worth celebrating and giving thanks for, and I… Read more »