Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 7 December 2019

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Speaking of Renewal and Reform; money, numbers, and growth

Laudable Practice The Advent of High Church populism

Kate Surviving Church Conservative Evangelical Bullying: A case study.

David Walker Via.Media.News Pondering “the Bump” of Posada

Peter Sherlock theproseclerk The New Anglican Century: One Hundred Female Bishops

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Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Andrew’s thoughtful article, and reflections on renewal. I am reminded of a shimmering moment in time, when John Paul II was preaching to huge crowds in Ireland, and he spoke the words of the psalmist: ‘You send Your Spirit to renew the face of the Earth.’ In my opinion, renewal is what happens when we open our hearts and our lives to the flow of God’s love, both in devotion to God, and in devotion to community. If renewal is to come deep in our Church, then I believe it will come through service and living alongside communities beyond our… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Peter Sherlock’s article is a joy to read. It made me think how this is something historic and deeply lived, and everything female ordination and episcopacy brings to the Church. And it also made me reflect on the continuing journey, with its hopes, its hurts, its sacrifices.

Kate
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Kate

Just to clarify,I (the TA regular) am not the author of the Surviving Church piece

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

I for one thought it couldn’t be you, Kate: your views are not conevo. Burton on Trent is split by the river between Lichfield and Derby dioceses. About 1.5 miles away from me, over the river and therefore in Derby diocese, is a conevo church under +Maidstone where the vicar bas been suspended, or some such term, for well over a year – maybe three. He has old fashioned freehold. Some elements of “Kate’s” story are the same, inc Church Society patronage. My wife and I know some of the congregation, and they tell of the vicar bullying them. Whether… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

My guess looks right – the Archdeacon of Derby is mentioned in the letter. I hold him in high regard.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

I understand that Kate’s husband is on pastoral leave, rather than having been suspended. Appended to the blog is a link to a 9-page letter detailing circumstances which do seem to be a breach of good procedure – such as the bishop attending a PCC meeting in the vicar’s absence, and without his permission.

It’s a sad tale. The Church does not handle these things well.

David Lamming
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David Lamming

Stanley: If you read the letter to the Derby Bible Conference referred to at the end of the piece (click on the link), you will find that the church concerned is St Peter’s Stapenhill (in Burton-on-Trent). Whatever the rights and wrongs (as you say, there are two sides every story), it is a very sad tale and reflects badly on the church people involved.

Kate
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Kate

There is very obviously another side to the story. I think Surviving Church made a mistake publishing the piece.

Simon Dawson
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Simon Dawson

Stanley, lots of people held Peter Ball in high regard. That did not make it impossible that he could be guilty of abuse. Although the alleged abuse in this case is abuse of due process, not sexual abuse. Surely we have learnt one thing from Peter Ball and Jimmy Saville and so many others. It is the assumption by onlookers of the view that “he’s a nice guy, so I will assume he can’t be dong anything wrong” that has protected so many abusers, and prevented so many abused from being heard. And Kate, I once knew a very wise… Read more »

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

And why was Jonathan Fletcher involved, when he’d lost his PTO and admitted dubious conduct?

Simon Dawson
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Simon Dawson

I love the way that on TA themes can reflect across from thread to thread. Last week we had Jeptha’s daughter, a woman who was a major actor in the story but we are never told her own name. She is only described in relationship to her father. And then this week we have Jonathan Fletcher’s sister. She seems to be a major player in the story (on the PCC of the church involved) but again we are never told her name. Is it that being a woman in those circles her only status or importance is derived from her… Read more »

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

I can’t see how ‘Kate’ can complain when she belongs to a constituency which believes women are inferior beings and that men have charge over them. No other organisation in contemporary Britain would hold to such a preposterous concept. Is it surprising that a bishop who believes in male headship is accused of bullying? Kate should think herself lucky and escape from this ludicrous sect immediately.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

I am “sick to the stomach”, not only because I know some of the people on both sides, not only because it reflects terribly on the institutional church, but also because I can imagine some of the agony suffered by the vicar (whom I don’t know) and his family, no matter what the “rights” and “wrongs” are. In my own pastoral ministry I’ve had sleepless nights, upset bellies, feelings of doom, needing antidepressants (now addicted I suspect – SSRIs are vicious despite what evil drug companies claim) for various reasons, none of my provocation. There is something deeply wrong with… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Don’t forget that “Father knows best” is a view held by many at the other end of the churchmanship spectrum. That can be just as dangerous. Abusive relationships are not confined to one group within the Church.

FrDavid H
Guest
FrDavid H

That is not the same as having a bible-based belief that women are ‘lower’ than men in God’s plan. This is inherently abusive. The idea that ‘Father knows best” died out years ago.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

Some AngloCatholics believe that women can ‘taint’ men. That doesn’t mean that all ACs of this persuasion have forfeited their right to complain if subject to unfair treatment and a lack of due process.

Kate of SC article
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Kate of SC article

Dear Stanley, We would be very happy to show you the letter from the former Bishop of Derby that granted my husband pastoral leave to give us respite from the bullying towards us. I think if my husband were suspended then we would know about it. I am not surprised to hear that the group who drove us out are still being untruthful. We have been investigated both by the Bishop of Maidstone who could not find that we had done anything wrong, and by a vexatious complaint under the CDM which was dismissed. But nobody has investigated the group… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Kate of SC article, I wrote “where the vicar bas been suspended, or some such term”. I’m glad to be put right. Thank you for your this, and I hope you will accept my sincere apology. At that stage, I didn’t know for sure that the events concerned Stapenhill, for I hadn’t read the letter attached to the post. It’s desperately sad. I’m not known as a supporter of hierarchies or their apparatchiks, and nothing I witnessed in Derby diocese where I worked 2006-2011 gave me confidence in efficiency or process. Gilo’s remarks should be heeded by the whole church.… Read more »

Kate of SC article
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Kate of SC article

Stanley, of course – and thank you. God bless. Kate

RosalindR
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RosalindR

I hope you have been able to take part in Sheldon’s current research into CDM s and how the process is experienced.

Marian Birch
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Marian Birch

Clearly it is difficult to know at a distance the rights and wrongs relating to this particular church in Stapenhill. But I have come to believe over the years that certain forms of conservative evangelicalism are intrinsically abusive – and the Church of England needs to deal with them as such. I still remember how quite a few years ago, working for an evangelical mission agency – when I queried the incredible – and probably illegal – discrimination to which I as a married woman working for the organisation was subjected to – I was told in response and justification… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

Paul has a lot to answer for. As a Gentile he fought for the equality of Gentiles. Shame that as a man he was however happy to promote the inferiority of women.

Henrietta
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Henrietta

If you mean Paul of Tarsus, he was a Jew. He mentions it frequently all throughout his letters! That aside, there are debates as to his attitude to women. The ‘worst’ bits about women are either in letters that may well be deutro-Pauline such as the Pastoral epistles and (to a lesser extent) Ephesians, or may well be later interpolations into the text (1Cor 14:34, which seems to contradict the previous chapter and is in a strange style). Paul himself spoke of female ‘deacons’ or ministers, and even possibly a female apostle, Junia. Paula Gooder’s novel Phoebe is good on… Read more »

RosalindR
Guest
RosalindR

Or the use that a male dominated church has made of what Paul left behind . Paul worked with women who were leaders of the early Christian churches.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

Paul did not promote the inferiority of women. On the contrary, he promoted their ministry, worked alongside them, and commended them and their work (see especially Rom 16). Paul has been misunderstood partly because of poor translations, often influenced by misogynist assumptions on the part of translators. For instance, many versions call Phoebe a ‘servant’ of the church at Cenchreae, but he Greek ‘diakonos’ can be translated ‘deacon’ (and usually is when it refers to a man). ‘Women should cover their heads when they pray as a sign of authority’ became ‘as a sign that they are under authority’. (In… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Janet, I suspect Paul was at odds with himself. As he opened his heart and mind to the Spirit of God, he could teach that ‘in Christ there is no male and female’ and indeed there are sublime passages of insight and inspiration in his writings – Romans 8 – wow! But at the same time, he was fallible, not a perfect saint. He did not know everything. He came from a conservative religious culture, and he assumes certain social and cultural views, which are products of his upbringing and worldview and prejudices. The texts in the Bible speak of… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

To be honest, I think it all comes down to how we believe the Bible should be viewed. Is it the actual and precisely-intended ‘Words of God’? Or should we stop elevating the Bible to that level of surface text authority, and instead view the bible as culturally-influenced attempts by fallible humans to make sense of their religious experience and lives? Obviously I believe the second. I have seen a number of replies to you that seem to rationalise away what appear pretty blatant instructions about women. 1 Timothy 2: 11-15 is a pretty blatant example of the subordinate status… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Apologies for typo:

‘…the mythical sin committed BY a mythical first woman…’
not
‘… the mythical sin committed TO a mythical first woman…’

The problem remains. The sin was never actually committed. But on the basis of this non-existent sin by a woman who was entirely mythical, all subsequent women should submit.

I beg to differ.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Claiming that biblical scholarship ‘rationalises away’ a text’s meaning (or is ‘special pleading’, as I think you have said elsewhere) is rather like claiming a medical consultant’s diagnostic skills are guesswork. There may be an element of doubt or conjecture, but they are based on considerable study and expertise. Of course St. Paul was a fallible human being and culturally influenced – as are all of us. His letters also show evidence of changes in viewpoint and attitude over the years in which he wrote them. But unlike most of us, he had made a study of the various cultures… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Biblical scholarship comes in all shapes and sizes. Apologetics get no free pass from me just because the ‘experts’ have strings of degrees after their names. The issue for me is what lies behind the specifics: are these ‘biblical scholars’ writing from a starting point that elevates the Bible to an authority that exaggerates the extent of its correctness? Are they undertaking apologetics that seek to uphold (for example) the theological concept of the Bible being the ‘Word of God’ and in what sense? I don’t in the least object to the critical use of biblical scholarship, if I find… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

“To be honest, I think it all comes down to how we believe the Bible should be viewed. Is it the actual and precisely-intended ‘Words of God’? ” Each book is different. The Epistles, for instance,say that they are letters from one Christian to other Christians and are clearly not the literal words of God. Likewise the Book of Revelation is very clear that it describes visions sent by God but how they were described was very much down to the human author. On the other hand, the oral tradition that YHWH wrote Genesis is ancient and fits with God… Read more »

Richard
Guest
Richard

What you say is supportive of the fundamentalists who insist that God dictated every word of the Bible. If God “wrote” some of the Bible, it is not a stretch to say that God wrote all of the Bible. Even if some books were letters from one Christian to other Christians, there are those who insist that God was actually the author of those letters. How did YHWH “write” Genesis (as you say) without some human being involved who added his or her own ideas, flourishes, side stories? I agree with Susannah that the Bible is a collection of mythical… Read more »

David Exham
Guest
David Exham

Richard, I reject entirely the suggestion of the fundamentalists that God dictated every word of the Bible. Any reasonably objective study of the texts indicates how absurd this is. But I have to take issue with the idea that “the Bible is a collection of mythical stories written by devout people who were influenced by their own culture and education (or lack of it).” That final comment, ‘or lack of it’, does seem improperly dismissive of many great thinkers whose lives and writing are present in the Tanach. The Bible, even the Old Testament, contains many texts that cannot be… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Hi David, In the context of this thread, I was making the point that Paul uses those passages that you agree are myth to justify universal comments about women: they should submit, he says, because Eve sinned first. If Eve is mythical – and I hardly believe you think she wasn’t – then to use the mythical actions of a make believe woman as justification for women submitting is surely worth challenging as an argument. And if he’s saying, generally, that women have this quality of being deceived in them, and of tempting others into sin (and that’s the strap… Read more »

David Exham
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David Exham

There is considerable doubt about whether Paul is the author of 1 Timothy.

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

It does challenge the more literal ways of reading the Bible though, doesn’t it, David. Let’s say 1 Timothy wasn’t written by Paul. Then these assertions in that text do become extraordinary: “Paul an apostle… to Timothy my true son in faith.” “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia…” “The glorious gospel of the blessed God, which He entrusted to me.” “I thank Christ Jesus… that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.” “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man.” “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners… Read more »

David Exham
Guest
David Exham

Dear Susannah Thank you for your responses, and for reading my post with such attention. You seem to think that I am supporting a position which I do not. I reject any fundamentalist, literalist interpretation of the Bible. But equally I think that it is much more than a series of human-generated texts with no God-inspired input. I think this ties in closely with your final paragraph which I would certainly agree with. I do not in any way believe that the texts are ‘the dictated words of God’. Having said that, and in explanation of what I mean by… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Thank you David. That is such a helpful and deeply thought-provoking post. The final sentence is particularly challenging.

No, I did not think you supported any kind of fundamentalist or literalist approach to the Bible. In some senses my own rather literal critique of the text could be accused of being more literalist.

Lots to think about.

I have very much appreciated the conversation and again, thank you for your thoughtfulness and time.

Gilo
Guest
Gilo

I’ve read the article and attached letter from Kate (on Surviving Church) several times to try and dig into questions they raise. To those of us unfamiliar with this world and its tribal lines, some obvious questions nevertheless emerge without too much spade work. The letter depicts one man above all who seems to operate as a latter-day Pope; wielding acolytes, family members, and bishops in the exercise of influence. All points seem to converge on the deliberations of this one figure to whom others defer. This raises many questions about the course of power in the Church. There’s a… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

Kate and husband are in a situation that is sadly all too common in church life – toxic parishes and impotent senior clergy. Unlike the importunate widow I don’t think you’ll get justice from the men you’ve been petitioning. If you’re not prepared to walk away; withdraw from the fray, engage a good lawyer if you haven’t already, and only speak and correspond with people who love you until mother church sorts out an acceptable resolution for you both.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Middle class “vocations” are the HR wild west. I spent most of my career in large corporations, and when I moved back to work for a university I was absolutely horrified by some of what went on: a casual attitude towards bullying matched with an expectation that people would walk into the blizzard like Titus Oates (or, perhaps a “futile gesture” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5YW4qKOAVM) rather than embarrass the institution. So bullies are able to flourish because (a) no-one is willing to confront them (b) no-one knows how to get rid of them and (c) their victims are encouraged to leave. Employment law… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

When I was a union rep I found that many people would prefer to walk away even though I believed they had a rock solid case. That was hard for me, as I hate injustice and for bullies to win, but I learned early on that it was their case and not mine. There’s a good biblical precedent for walking away and shaking the dust of that town (parish) as you do so. Someone close to me had a miserable, toxic parish and he struggled nobly on. When the time came for him to leave on his own terms; as… Read more »

Bob Edmonds
Guest
Bob Edmonds

A very thoughtful article by Andrew. Both numerical and spiritual growth in the church takes time and effort. It may take many years. The church to which I belong has supported several small churches in areas of social deprivation for many years, as well as planting new churches and grafting onto existing churches, along with starting a new ministry amongst Chinese students. Praise God that all are experiencing growth, even if at times it is slow. However, it’s not through our efforts but only through the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people and by the grace… Read more »