Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 7 February 2024

Janet Fife Surviving Church Putting My Name to My Story

The Guardian view on crumbling churches: a social vocation can save them for the nation

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Time to challenge toxic theology and poisoned prejudice in the Church

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Kate Keates
Kate Keates
23 days ago

@ Janet Fife

I am sure that took courage. I don’t really know what to say but I just wanted to say that I am thinking of you.

Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Susanna ( no ‘h’)
Reply to  Kate Keates
23 days ago

Janet your story is harrowing – I can only echo what Kate has just said. You must not carry guilt for not having spoken out sooner .The responsibility for the abused verger, Verity rests squarely with her abuser followed by the Church hierarchy who decided to cover it up. None are so deaf as those who will not hear – and there are a lot of them around in the hierarchy . I have been increasingly upset by what seems to be the nakedly tribal nature of the debate over LLF and both you and Colin in the final post… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Susanna ( no ‘h’)
23 days ago

Verity was not really an abuse survivor in the sense I think you mean it. She had a brief consensual affair with Brandon, and when it was over complained to the bishop about the way he had treated her. The bishop supported Verity and brought a prosecution against Brandon on a charge of ‘conduct unbecoming a clerk in holy orders’. So the bishop at that stage was not covering up, but attempting to exercise proper discipline. But Bp Bob was not supported by his fellow bishops (shame on them!), and in the end I think he just couldn’t continue to… Read more »

David Rees
David Rees
Reply to  Susanna ( no ‘h’)
23 days ago

Reply to all above and to thank Janet sharing here story[thank you so much}
If somehow all of you with others {you may have good ‘networks’ and other people’ to work with} come together and explore if these ‘whole Safeguarding Issues’ can come into the ‘public realm’ and ‘media’ from the example of Mr. Bates and the Post Office…..it won’t be easy but ‘justice’ and ‘honesty’ is something still in the nations DNA, thank you

Peter
Peter
23 days ago

Colin,

Can you expand on the term “universal divine energy” which is used in the publicity material for your conference ? How would you explain the term to a person who was curious as to its meaning ?

Also, do you believe in and encourage belief in the Personhood of God ?

Peter

Martin Henwood
Martin Henwood
Reply to  Peter
23 days ago

I really appreciate the phrase ‘universal divine energy’ which opens me up rather than closes me down.
I think Beatrice Bruteau “God’s Ecstasy” will help you appreciate what is being intimated.

Martin Henwood
Martin Henwood
Reply to  Peter
23 days ago

And yes I, believe in personhood, I was taught by John Zizoulas.

AH Ronald
AH Ronald
Reply to  Martin Henwood
22 days ago

I remember him from my time at New College, Edinburgh, over 50 years ago, part of a stimulating Theology Dept including Thomas and James Torrance, Fr Noel O’Donoghue OCD, Canon Roland Walls.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
Reply to  Peter
23 days ago

I don’t know if Mr. Coward will respond, but I will add my two cents (pence): “Personhood”? Yes I know that is traditional orthodox Christian theology, written in a far earlier time to try to grapple with the growing theology around the divinity and humanity of Jesus of Nazareth and how that squares with a belief in one God, and I bet meant as analogy or simile. But, The first chapter of Genesis makes clear that God created the Universe and everything in it through divine will. Later Jewish and Christian teaching expanded on that to state that God is… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
22 days ago

Thank you, Peterpi. I am delighted by how much you and I think alike on this subject – it is very encouraging. Anthropmorphism is helpful – to a degree. But too rigid a useage of it becomes unhelpful – making God too much in our image. Our minds are simply too small to comprehend God – and it’s blasphemy to try.

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
22 days ago

I think it’s also worth bearing in mind the complicated legacy of Aristotle here. In Metaphysics 12, the unmoved mover is much more force of nature than anything else. The unmoved mover doesn’t particularly care about the things it moves, nor does it have any strong feelings about anything but itself. To the early (and contemporary) Church, though, God is love, and so has some very strong feelings (so to speak) about creation. Hence, Boethius gives us his definition of personhood as naturae rationabilis individua substantia, something which remains popular through the Scholastic period (and which still does the rounds… Read more »

Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  FearandTremolo
22 days ago

Exactly. Thank you. One could see the attractiveness of ‘I am being’ to the Greek mind, hence the LXX translation of Exodus 3:16. The problem is that such a rendering misunderstands the entire narrative movement of Exodus (and the scriptures of Israel as a whole), where impersonal essence would be foreign to the Divine Name and Person and Purpose. “I will be as I will be in my personal life with my people.” The NT just doubles down on this, with the personal incarnation, and John’s having Jesus proclaim, “before Abraham I am.”

Last edited 22 days ago by Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Anglican Priest
Reply to  peterpi - Peter Gross
22 days ago

A brief comment. The Greek translation of Exodus 3:16 is where the idea of the divine name as “being” comes from. “I am he who is,” is what the Greek rendered. It over-determines the eyheh aser eyheh which in the context of the Exodus account (where the play on eyheh precedes the disclosure) the giving of the name is the promise of divine presence “I will be with you as I will be.” God passes by Moses in response to his request that he go with the people (and not just him) after the golden calf affair. He speaks his… Read more »

Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  Peter
22 days ago

Peter,

I appreciate your question and I appreciate as well Peter Gross’s comment below. He is more knowledgeable than me and has, I hope, expanded on the term “universal divine energy” better than I could hope to do. My response would be to refer you to the books that have inspired and opened my consciousness over the years.

I understand what the Personhood of God is much better now thanks to Peter Gross’s expansive comment. It’s not something I particularly believe in and therefore do not encourage particular belief in.

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Rev Colin C Coward
22 days ago

Colin,

Are you (or Peter G) affronted by the observation that you are speaking of a God other than the one found on the Bible ?

I think what you are saying is wrong and dangerous but I do respect your commitment to being open about your convictions. That is the reason for my question.

You have a refreshing willingness to just say what you actually think, which is all to unusual in the Church of England.

Last edited 22 days ago by Peter
Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  Peter
22 days ago

Peter, I speak of the God I find in the Bible. You speak of the God you find in the Bible. You speak as if your Bible God is utterly and 100% the unchallengeable true God – I do not agree with you. You think I am wrong and dangerous but you respect me for my openness. I appreciate that. You ask if I’m affronted. No. I think your dogmatic position is unhealthy and dangerous. I’m really glad that these distinctions are being rehearsed in a public forum here on Thinking Anglicans. This is a conversation the whole Church needs… Read more »

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Rev Colin C Coward
22 days ago

Colin, Thank you for reply. I think there is value in a conversation about differentiation, not of the structural kind, but rather of epistemology. It is frustrating that so many conversations with those seeking change seem to eventually default to the claim that “there is no difference between radicals and conservatives in regard to their theory of knowledge” when there quite clearly is one. I think your epistemology of God includes the Bible but also goes beyond it. I would only acknowledge the Bible in that regard. (I am not ignoring conscience or creation, but they are always ambiguous in… Read more »

Rev Colin C Coward
Reply to  Peter
21 days ago

Peter,

Your distinction is not fair. My theological, Biblical education, Christian upbringing and background tell me the Bible is subtle and ambiguous.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Rev Colin C Coward
22 days ago

The longer I live, and believe, Colin, the more I realise how limiting our human understanding of life, and of God, is bound to be. Everything seemed so simple way back when I started – you just accepted what you were told, and believed the enshrined dogmas, to repeat parrot fashion to prove you were a genuine believer. Pity real life isn’t like that. The reality is infinitely more complicated than the idealised, formularised principles of the holy men. As a Christian, some people would consider me a failure – I haven’t got the confidence, skill or downright chutzpah (brass… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  John Davies
22 days ago

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”. You are right about the Lord being beyond our understanding. He makes all matter and energy (and dark matter and dark energy which we can’t even detect directly) conform with physical laws: laws which He created. How can we truly comprehend that? But don’t berate yourself over not bringing people to Jesus. Firstly, you will never actually know whether you have or haven’t. More importantly I think we often misjudge the Lord’s priorities, too often assuming they mirror our understanding. You… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Kate Keates
20 days ago

Thank you, Kate – much appreciated, as I’m having a bad mental session at the moment – I have an odd variant of depression (yes, I admit to it) which is triggered by very low atmospheric pressure – Wednesday when the very heavy rains came in from the south was like an anteroom in hell. I’ve been that way since puberty and long struggled with a sense of failure and futility. Your reminder is greatly valued. This morning I had a glimpse of understanding in relation to the personhood of God, thinking over something Colin said. (No, Colin doesn’t affront… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
23 days ago

Janet Fife spent so many years fighting the organisation she was ordained to serve that it’s a testimony to her strength she survived. It’s appalling her life and ministry should have been blighted by a place she should have felt perfectly safe. I hope she has found peace and happiness – despite being in the Church of England.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
23 days ago

Thank you Janet. So hoping for some peace for you in this long harrowed journey.

Susan Hunt
Susan Hunt
Reply to  David Runcorn
22 days ago

Total support for Janet. I have written my detailed comments on Surviving Church as have many others.

I hope members of the AC and Synod read comments on both blogs and this case is the watershed needed to bring about justice for all suffering survivors; that at long last, after many years, Truth and Honesty emerge from a hitherto corrupt Church of England.

Tim Chesterton
23 days ago

Thank you for your courage, Janet. Peace to you.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
22 days ago

The biggest failure in safeguarding in the Church of England over the last generation or so has been the culture of protection of people who are known risks/known abusers. Rolling out industrial levels of training and compliance at parish level does not address that. It is those in positions of authority who need to take a lead in being transparent and open, taking responsibility, telling the truth, not ducking the inconvenient questions, not concealing evidence. So, for example, I have suggested before that the lead bishop for safeguarding ought to be an archbishop, and they ought to restructure their role… Read more »

Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
22 days ago

I find the behaviour of Bishop Roy in Janet’s account particularly shocking. It is a truth universally acknowledged that curacies sometimes (often?) do not work out. There may be a whole variety of reasons for this , but basic incompatibility between training incumbent and curate is often a factor. I suspect Bishop Roy did not move Janet because he was scared of Jackson. I know of one curate who rang his rural dean to say he had just had a blazing row with his TI and couldn’t work with him. The rural dean simply said he would tell the TI… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
22 days ago

Perhaps it comes from being on the “wrong” side of the pond, but I have difficulty understanding why Brandon Jackson–who seems to have never held any post higher than cathedral dean–should have wielded so much power and influence that bishops and archbishops were so protective of him.

What am I missing?

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Pat ONeill
22 days ago

Others with better information may wish to correct me, but there was a perception (perhaps a misplaced perception) that Jackson had ‘shaken up’ Bradford and could do the same to Lincoln. Unlike Bradford, where the authority of the provost (as the office was then called) was very great, it was much more limited at Lincoln, where the other residentiary clergy (precentor, chancellor, treasurer and sub-dean), who were tenacious of their ‘rights’, had considerable power and could overawe the dean. At Lincoln in 1989 the residentiaries were John Nurser (PhD from Peterhouse), David Rutter (former librarian at Hawarden), Christopher Lawrence (also… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Pat ONeill
22 days ago

Archbishop Carey did try to discipline Jackson, but he didn’t have the legal authority to sack him. All he could do was to ask him to resign and announce publicly that he had done so. I suppose if my written letter of complaint had gone to him, as it should have done, that might have constituted legal grounds. But I suspect it might have involved my pursuing a complaint through the secular courts, and at the time I felt too vulnerable to do so. If I had had support from the archbishop, and an assurance that it would not adversely… Read more »

Charles Read
Charles Read
Reply to  Pat ONeill
22 days ago

In part, the sheer power of his personality. And he could be impressive. I grew up watching him on TV and then met him (I think only once) – no suggestion that I picked up of his appalling behaviour (and my cousin was in his Bradford parish and her family – not regular churchgoers – liked him). I only heard of another side to him when I met Janet.

Francis James
Francis James
Reply to  Pat ONeill
22 days ago

Oh come on. This is a classic example of a bully who thrived on confrontation and was prepared to use every means at his disposal to get his way. Moreover as dean of Lincoln & provost of Bradford he was in the perfect position to learn about all the scandals (however small) that the cathedral chapter & bishop wanted to keep buried. The CofE runs shy of confrontation, so people generally folded for fear of scandal. In Lincoln it seems that he came up against a group of canons who proved equally stubborn, and could not be shamed into submission.

David Rowett
Reply to  Francis James
21 days ago

He did score one notable “victory” at Lincoln – an art exhibition across the city in ?1990? included, among other things, a life-size cast of a naked man (‘The Golden Man’ IIRC), which was on show in one of the transepts. Jackson demanded that, in order for it to remain on Holy Ground it must don a pair of Speedo’s. Understandably outraged, the artist removed it to another site altogether.

(Come to think of it, he also introduced the Notoriously Infallible Version to Cathedral worship, but I think that particular rash has cleared up nicely, thanks.)

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  David Rowett
19 days ago

Surely you mean the Nearly Indispensable Version? At least that’s what we came to call it at college. For whatever faults it probably has, it is a genuine translation, put together by, I trust, scholars with integrity. A brief encounter with the Living Libel (not on Carnforth Station, I hasten to add) was enough to make me forswear from paraphrases for life – no matter how much their ‘message’ reflects ‘the word on the street’!

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  John Davies
18 days ago

I found J.B. Phillips’ New Testament paraphrase enormously helpful when I was a teenager with a newfound enthusiasm for my faith. He really brought the NT alive.

I found the NIV less helpful because it has such a male bias – but possibly they’ve corrected that now. My edition is 1979 and I haven’t used it regularly for years, though I do refer to it from time to time.

Ian Hobbs
Ian Hobbs
Reply to  Janet Fife
17 days ago

Hi Janet… The NIV is available in a C21st version as is its underlying Greek text. Whether it suits your “bias” comment I can’t say. It’s my “standard” read but not my only one.

Phillips was reported as saying that translating his NT was like rewiring the house with the power still turned on. (or near enough those words).

Living Bible… Had a use but was ridiculous at times. Eg… Saul in the wilderness went to “the bathroom”. Yuk! TBF some youngsters read it that hadn’t touched anything previously.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Ian Hobbs
16 days ago

The Living Bible was an American paraphrase. ‘Going to the bathroom’ is standard usage in American English; ‘relieved himself’ would have sounded stilted to American ears, and ‘went to the toilet’ crude. But ‘bathroom’ does sound silly to Brits, given that the location of this critical event was a wilderness cave.

EagletP
EagletP
20 days ago

Janet, Thank you so much for sharing your story so courageously.

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