Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 21 August 2019

Archbishop Cranmer Clergy sexual abuse: why can’t the Church cleanse its own temple?

Gilo Surviving Church Safeguarding the Secrets part 1 – Nobody’s Friends

Anne Inman The Tablet Should we be calling priests ‘Father’?
“It is perhaps time for the dangers inherent in the use of ‘father’ as a form of address to be taken seriously”

Greg Sheridan The Spectator The West cannot survive without a re-energised belief in Christianity
“Most British people seem to take it on faith that to have faith is stupid”

Ian Ellis The Irish Times Serious dialogue: How different churches can enrich one another
“Rite&Reason: Receptive ecumenism seeks to learn from features of other denominations”

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James Byron
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James Byron

Who’s Sheridan’s ‘Spectator’ apologetic aimed at? Its laughably weak case — nah, atheism’s faith too! See, I can cherry pick a few Christian bugshots who said vaguely liberal things, checkmate! — won’t convince any even vaguely confirmed nonbeliever, and it offers little to anyone else. Preaching to the converted?

Sure, better conservative apologetics may convince those with an emotional need for certainty and order; but liberal theology that takes atheist critiques seriously has a vast potential market. They called Tillich apologetics for the intelligentsia for good reason.

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

Fantastic reply.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

Whisper it, not that the Spectactor’s readership are particularly bashful about this: he doesn’t mean “The West”. He means “The White, Gentile West”. He wants to position “The West” as innately Christian in order to differentiate it from Jewish, Muslim and other non-Christian influences. His argument collapses like a pack of cards if you consider what “The West” looks like without Jewish and Muslim culture, both today and more importantly in all of the golden ages he invokes. I don’t think it’s that he’s anti-Semitic consciously, but that is certainly the effect of his argument. That he conflates Islam and… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

I’m afraid I found Greg Sheridan’s article simplistic and unpersuasive. “Atheism is a faith like any other, only less reasonable” was the kind of comment that typified his rather glib style and approach. Sorry, but atheism is perfectly reasonable. I’m not an atheist myself, but Greg’s statement seems to me to be whistling in the wind, along with his whole article. He clearly champions conservative Christian ‘moral’ values, bemoans the PC brigade, takes a shot at the EU, and sees liberalism as unrelentingly harmful and bad. He can’t understand why people over here tell him ‘You can’t say things like… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Snap! 😀

I wouldn’t mind if Sheridan had girded his keyboard and produced a fiery jeremiad against modernity — I love me a good paleoconservative commination — but that apologetic was weak sauce, even invoking the patron saint of ’90s Sloaney evangelicalism. 1995 is paging, Mr. Sheridan — it wants Nicky back.

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Sheridan completely mischaracterizes American progressive thought. It’s not atheist, it’s secular.

Paul Waddington
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Paul Waddington

What a lot of trash Dr Anne Inman wrote in the Tablet! I was relieved to see that she has retired from her position as a lecturer in theology.

Simon Dawson
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Simon Dawson

Paul. Would it be more constructive and helpful if you were to give us your opinions, and explain to us why you thought Anne Inman had git it wrong, rather than simply posting gratuitous insults. Personaly I thought she had made some good points, so am keen to learn, and to hear the details of your opposing point of view.

Paul Waddington
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Paul Waddington

I regard the the following passage which occurs early in the article as total trash.

the use of ‘father’ as a term of respect for all ordained priests has served as one of the main planks of clericalism. At the same time as encouraging priestly self-importance, it has served to infantilise the laity, thus providing a perfect setting for certain depraved priests to molest children with impunity.

Since the rest of the article is a development of this theme, it follows that the trash continues to the end.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

Can you explain why you think it’s ‘trash’? And, perhaps, why you have acted so strongly to ideas which are fairly common?

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

In two churches (out of three) some people call me Father or Father Stanley. I’m neutral. There’s a lovely sense of affection about it. It’s certainly less offensive than Rev Stanley, which is what I was called in previous incarnations where anything even mildly papistical was seen as satanic. I haven’t asked people to use Fr, and certainly wouldn’t ask them to change a fairly trivial habit of a lifetime. Others call me Stanley or Vicar – both fine. I understand the arguments against Fr, but I don’t think any of them carries much weight, except that I can see… Read more »

Simon Dawson
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Simon Dawson

Stanley. Please don’t interpret my comments as an attack on you personally, because you represent a very common viewpoint. But I am fascinated by your comment “I understand the arguments against Fr, but I don’t think any of them carries much weight,” Surely the strongest argument against the use of the word father in this context is Matthew 23-9 “And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven”. I am curious as to why certain bible passages are treated as mandatory, and others, such as this direct command from Jesus, can… Read more »

Stanley Monkhousesf
Guest

It’s not often that anyone responds to one of my TA comments so I’m rather chuffed. I take nothing personally these days on the grounds that comments usually say more about those who make them than about the targets. And yes, I’m a hypocrite in all sorts of ways. The question of why some Dominical instructions are regarded as being of less weight than others is not easily dealt with in a TA gobbet, so I won’t bother to try. The example that puzzles me most is the acceptance of the remarriage of divorced persons. Himself was pretty clear about… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

Hot weather is returning and the gloves seem to be coming off in some of these posts. But what utter nonsense about ‘Father’ – or ‘Brother’ for that matter. As others here say from time to time, with real crises of all kinds in the country and the C of E, this discussion seems fatuous and puerile – really, how more childish can we get?

Your response was the model of courtesy and politeness. As you say, mine says more about me. Definitely time for a further sabbatical from TA posting.

David Emmott
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David Emmott

Ideally in a Christian community Christian names would be sufficient. However, just as I feel uneasy when call centre operatives address me by my first name without permission, there are occasions when a title is helpful. ‘Father’ or ‘Mother’ with Christian name seems to me a good compromise. All Christians, all fellow- humans, deserve respect and reverence for being children of God; priests have a distinctive role within the Christian family. Whereas ‘Reverend’ on the implies that a priest is more worthy of respect, not because of role but because of status. Which he or she isn’t.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

I would avoid ‘Father’ and ‘Mother’ both because they imply superiority over the congregation and parishioners, and because they carry such negative associations to so many people from dysfunctional homes. I don’t think most people nowadays are aware that ‘Reverend’ means ‘to be revered (respected, worshipped). All the same, I have always asked people to call me ‘Janet’, and am uncomfortable with anything else, except when being introduced in formal settings.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

I dislike Reverend – because I’m not. I go out of my way to be “Irreverend” for I’m sick of clergy who cloak their humanity with so much piety that they become a parody. I’m struck how soon after ordination this often happens. The C of E’s potty notions of “formation” (= brainwashing and institutionalisation) and “growing in Christlikeness” seem conveniently to ignore the Jesus of the last two weeks’ gospels. Jesus has been castrated and faith emasculated such that its focus is no more than a cross between cuddly toy and sky pixie. Why are we surprised when people,… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

Or ‘irreverend’? At St. Michael-le-Belfrey we had a Reader (now ordained) who began a sermon with, “gentle Jesus, meek and mild, picking pansies like a child.’ We forget the Jesus who took a whip and drove a herd of cattle through the Temple, insulted Herod, and defied the religious leaders of his day along with some of the religious observances they required.

I knew a female priest named Gisela who said, ‘Gisela means “gazelle” or “wild goat’. I’d rather be a wild goat.’ Amen to that.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

Sorry, ‘reacted’.

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

I found Mr. Sheridan’s column on how The West has to have Christianity laughably simplistic in its approaches to other belief systems, its approach to history, to ethical behavior, etc. The religion whose name for God is Allah, and for whom Mohammed is Allah’s prophet, is not “Islamism”, it’s called “Islam”. That blatant error right there told me plenty about Mr. Sheridan’s beliefs. And because some Christian scholar in the 300s CE said we should be tolerant of other people does not mean that the next 1700 years were rosy, all peace and love and harmony. This Jew, son of… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

In the last paragraph, I meant to write “modern secular nation-state”

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

Gilo: “A culture of ‘say nothing unless asked’ is a culture still reluctant to move on from subtle complicity and subterfuge. This mindset has already led to the current existential crisis of the bishops and senior ‘management’ of the Church. The time for keeping of secrets Luca Brasi-style to protect the reputation of a Lambeth Palace eliterie should long be over. The Church should no longer entertain disposition to this kind of omerta. A church with secrecy riven in its bones is not a church with a healthy and redemptive future. It is hardly worth the candle” Gilo’s critique raises… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

Gilo: “It’s a poor senior culture. And at a time when their Church is devoid of genuine leadership, with both Archbishops having taken up lodgings up cul-de-sacs of denial….It’s a powerful picture of a Westminster elite working to cover up a major scandal in which many lives were shattered”

Indeed.

John Swanson
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John Swanson

I apologise for saying essentially the same thing for what feels like the umpteenth time. But, Richard, you have again used a hook that is primarily about the sexual abuse of vulnerable people to suggest some sort of parallelism with the unfair and unjust treatment of Bishop Bell. Every time something like that gets said in a public forum, I am acutely conscious of the risk of it being read by a survivor of abuse, who would probably thereby be reinforced in their sense that the church still doesn’t understand the seriousness of abuse. So, just for the record, let’s… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

So Mr Swanson, just for the record, let’s state the following: the unfair destruction of the reputation of a dead man (eg Bishop Bell) – with its destructive affect/abuse on the living relatives (eg Barbara Whitley – Bell’s niece) – can equate to the physical abuse of living people, and it may well also raise some of the same issues about power and cover-up.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

I deplore the unjust way in which the Bishop Bell case was conducted, and the way in which bishops and archbishops still refuse to acknowledge the this name has been cleared. However, it’s clear from your remark above that you don’t understand the terrible effects of sexual abuse on its victims. It damages, and often destroys, the victim’s sense of self and identity; the psychological boundaries which would have protected them from further harm; and their capacity to trust and relate intimately to other people. Where et he abuse has occurred in a church context it can also destroy the… Read more »

FrDavid H
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FrDavid H

The supposed denigration of Bishop Bell’s reputation may be dreadful but does it have to be raised on every thread?

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

“The supposed denigration of Bishop Bell’s reputation…”

“Supposed”?!

Janet Fife (above) has a more intuitive, less flippant, grasp of the seriousness of the issue:

“I deplore the unjust way in which the Bishop Bell case was conducted, and the way in which bishops and archbishops still refuse to acknowledge that his name has been cleared”

Linda Woodhead
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Linda Woodhead

It’s not a competition.

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

“This is not a competition, who has been hurt the most”

Paul Gambaccini

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

There are two ‘abuse’ scandals going on here. One is the abuse of children and young people within the Church which has been systematically covered-up, ignored, and/or incompetently dealt with, by those at the top of the Church hierarchy. The other is the abuse of those falsely accused and ‘thrown under the bus’ within the Church which has been systematically covered-up, ignored, and/or incompetently dealt with, by those at the top of the Church hierarchy. Both forms of abuse cause enormous and incalculable pain and suffering to its victims. Both forms of abuse originate from the very top of the… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

I am clearly not suited for episcopal office because I could not reconcile such solemn office with being part of an elite dining club. But then I can no longer reconcile membership of elite dining clubs with my Christian faith. It therefore stands to reason that those bishops and clerics who do join such clubs are likely to reach very different moral decisions than me on many matters, especially, I would have thought, where care for victims and potential victims has to be weighed against the reputation of establishment institutions and people. While Gilo talks about the national level estaishment,… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
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Richard W. Symonds

“TA and/or its ilk in 20 years time is likely, I fear, to still be discussing articles like those from Gilo and Cranmer. And that is depressing”

I fear, in 20 years time, the institution of the Church of England will be dead and gone unless we heed the warnings of the likes of Bishop Bell, who said in 1941: “We have got to make a revolution in our thinking”.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“You can read the gospels, or St Augustine in the 4th century, or Thomas Aquinas in the 13th, or John Wesley or William Wilberforce in the 18th, or Nicky Gumbel today,” I’d like to make a prediction. Call me Mystic Interested Observer. My prediction is that in 21, 17, 8 or 3 centuries’ time, no one will have the slightest idea who Nicky Gumbel is or was, where today, most educated people have at least heard of the other four named writers and have a passing acquaintance with the gospels, what with them (particularly in their KJV form) being one… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

First, to be fair on Nicky, the promotion of those alpha meals-and-message is in itself fine. Meals express welcome and friendship, and they can be great platform for talking about life and faith. Whether the ‘product’ delivered through Alpha is 100% fine is less certain: I’d argue that some conservative frameworks were ‘bolt on’ to the gospel, and neither essential nor always helpful. Then there are the consequences of the old conservatism: the views Nicky held on homosexuality – but again, to be fair, he says his views have evolved since then. Nevertheless, Alpha publications like “Searching Issues” did create… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

Susannah, I assumed it was common ground on TA that Gumbel’s homophobia was obvious and its effect harmful. His arrival as man of the ages likely to be read in a thousand years’ time is a new development, pointing to delusion on the part of his hagiographers. I am irresistibly reminded of Clive James’ demolition of both Malcolm Muggeridge and one of his rather more gullible fans: https://web.archive.org/web/20160914174619/http://www.clivejames.com/books/shadows/malcolm

John Wallace
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John Wallace

What worries me about the whole Alpha thing besides its conservative ethical position is its pneumatology. The package consists of a charismatic theology of the Holy Spirit, with its zenith in the ‘Holy Spirit weekend’. It saddens me that many otherwise sane clergy and church leaders jump willy nilly on to the Alpha bandwagon as a quick fix for church growth, without thinking it through. In my reckoning, the Alpha theology of the Holy Spirit is as erroneous as is some of the RC teaching concerning Mary. I know this might seem contentious but church growth comes from faithful ministry… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Well I kind of agree and disagree, John. I strongly agree that if we want fundamental and enduring spiritual renewal in the Church, we need to be living outside the church a lot of the time, living alongside people, sharing and joining with them in building community. I’ve seen how that works, and how Christianity starts to make sense to people. Having said that, I believe in (so called) charismatic renewal as well, and I do believe God works through the Holy Spirit in ways I don’t pretend to understand, building up faith, and opening the heart. As with all… Read more »

Nick
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Nick

The daily Bible in One Year with commentary by Nicky Gumbel has nearly 3 million subscribers via various channels. There are a great many in the US and Asia, and I suspect not that many in the UK. I therefore think that the notion that only “middle-aged Anglicans” having heard of him is somewhat inaccurate, after all I doubt he is generally appealing to Anglicans in the US! Having said all of that, I don’t think Nicky Gumbel particularly wants to be remembered. Your comment about “Eton, Trinity and the bar” and the resulting likely ego, could not be further… Read more »

FrDavid H
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FrDavid H

There are many American tele-evangelists I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole despite some having many followers. Being popular doesn’t make erroneous teaching true. For many, the slick and simplistic religion of Gumbel is laughable.
.

Nick
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Nick

That was not the point I was responding to – I was responding to the notion that he is only known to middle aged Anglicans. Whether you like his theology or not, that statement is untrue.

dr.primrose
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dr.primrose

When I was growing up (in the American South), the preferred honorific for Episcopal clergymen (they were all men then) was “Mr.” Episcopalians there were (perhaps overly) proud that their clergy were neither “Rev.” nor (because this was a relatively low-church area) “Fr.” My knowledge of past Church of England practice is limited, I’m afraid, to Trollope. Unless the clergyman was an archdeacon or bishop, he was always just “Mr.” The bottom line, it would seem, is that clergy are to be referred to in the same way as everyone else. I live in an area (like much of the… Read more »