Sunday, 15 March 2015

Bishops and Decline

It is obvious that I am not posting to this blog as I have done in the past. Rather than close it, however, I'm letting it continue in its rather sleepy condition.

I notice the Church of England is going to follow up its Conservative Evangelical Bishop of Maidstone with a Church Planting Bishop of Islington. These will join bishops for Anglo-Catholics. These all continue to be suffragan bishops so that the diocesan principle heads the pack, but then the suffragans are extra-geographical and tend to be suffragan to no one.

To have a Church Planting Bishop might mean having other speciality bishops. Perhaps there could be a suffragan bishopric revived for, say, university chaplains. If then the Church Planting Bishop is seen as evangelical-charismatic, a bishop for university chaplains might be a liberal and a scholar. There could be all sorts of speciality bishops.

I wonder why there needs to be one for church planting. I can think of two reasons.

The first is to get a grip over congregational empire builders, especially at a time when GAFCON or its successor may be busy with entryism and creating a Church within a Church that can become the Anglican Church of Northern Europe (say). These congregations, like good Puritans, will want to elect their bishops as no more than equal presbyters and from below. The institution instead will want to deliver from above.

The second reason will be the diverse nature of Fresh Expressions. Some are looking a bit Pagan and a bit secular. The involvement of occasional ordained types, committed to exclusive Anglican orders, isn't enough of a guarantee that these places aren't getting a little heretical in their absence of control. Given that a clergyperson usually comes from within or a nearby parish, the Fresh Expressions place is a form of plant. Also they can be a form of ecumenism, when another denominational is involved.

Of course diocesan bishops and their actual geographical suffragans (but even these suffragans upset the principle of the priest as the one bishop's hands in any location) should be overseeing these. Why does it take a specialist?

The Unitarian tradition has forebears that rejected bishops: the Presbyterians were chucked out as finally incompatible as they did not believe in three orders of ministry or the entire theology of the Prayer Book. The bishop principle will, however, have some logic in Yorkshire soon, when there is a minister for the Yorkshire Unitarian Union. Well, 50% Bradford and 50% the rest. But such a person will not be any more or less than the leaders of congregations: Leeds and Hull now have their own ministry leaders (Hull's becomes a full reverend in a year). And, in a sense, Hull's minister is doing a plant and Fresh Expression because he is attempting to use the small number in Hull to build it up again, via consulted planning and co-ordination.

It has to be grounded locally in order to last: sustainability is part of the deal, as he stops after five years. Church plants that are not local tend to die. Either that or they become the car park circuit of incomers by entertainment religion. A hardly Anglican Anglican church at Swanland is like that. Hull city churches that "turn on the evangelical tap" discover that it is not an instant recipe for success. And sustaining Hull Unitarians as a Unique Selling Point liberal church will be a tough act. Is there any reason why there can't be 60 to 80 members of the church in five years? Absolutely. The tide for religion out there is the toughest it has ever been and it will get worse. I'm convinced that institutional religion is dying, beyond extremities and community gatherings for ethnic minorities and groups feeling under the cosh. It might function as a definite gay inclusion church but I doubt there is even a constituency for that, beyond rites of passage (and we don't do them yet beyond the method by which I did my wedding). My own view also is Fresh Expressions will become manipulative, rather like the Forest Church project is trying to pick up Pagans and then slip in some Christianity and make it definitive. People know when they are being manipulated. When we attracted a dedicated Pagan or two, we did Paganism. But then we do a lot of the other as well. This connection never delivered either, because they continued to organise their own rituals, outings and gatherings, and still do, plus a lot of the New Age magick is irrational and stands with difficulty alongside modernist and post-modern minimalist ritual.

I'm a pessimist for all of this. Over the last four years our music has become technological and reaches out to broader tastes. It has had no effect whatsoever. We have had new people, but they tend to come infrequently and avoid committing themselves to the business of commitment to a group. At one time people would rather go to a pub, but even they are dying now. Cathedrals don't involve commitment by most members, so they tend to do reasonably well.

Oh and I retain my non-membership. I am Unitarian by denominational definition, but I am not a member of any Unitarian body and this is how it will stay - and I am one of the last of the Mohicans.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

New Website Content

The website continues to add new content. I don't mind copying things if they are sufficiently obscure and helpful.

There is a particularly well laid out argument and evidence regarding Max Weber's claim that Calvinism had a significant effect on the outbreak of capitalism - its Calvinist ethic for thrift, work and detecting one's election and the spirit behind the engine of capitalism, that of saving and investment. As shown, the original proposition is just not so simple as it can be made out to be. When I think of the Calvinist chap who kicked off the trust that houses me, he was too early for capitalism and instead set things up for a later capitalism. It was people like the Greggs, say, at Styal, Cheshire, who knew how to be capitalist - children placed under bondage, where even the punishments added to the factory's output. That came later, and they were Unitarian - where a better housed and fed workforce were under lifelong pressure to deliver results. Some youngsters even fled to go to the workhouse whilst adults feared they'd lose their accommodation, admittedly better than the Manchester slums. This is in Learning and Social Sciences.

A less sociological piece is incredibly silly, but it shows what happens when you take sociological outcomes and mistake them for natural characteristics. Because women started 1% of religions, even if they fill them with followers, they demonstrate they are less capable in yet another field of endeavour. This is pre Annie Bessant but the writing is useful for its naivity. This is in Learning and Religion and Faiths.

Meanwhile, I have been doing a project to test a device called an Oxypod. Although limited in isolation and operation comparison conditions, it was tested by its absence in December 2013 and its presence in December 2014. It was launched in Hull with a great fanfare, and with a projection to lose 30% from heating bills. Although I collected a lot of data, the essential data is gas used per hour and what I call 'the insulation effect' - the extent to which heat generated is not lost to the outside world. If the house had paper walls it would need a gas central heating system going like the clappers (a bit like a caravan) with rapid losses. In fact a system loses heat quickly at first and then retains it more as the temperature drops - it cannot go below the outside temperature. Equally, radiators come on and it takes some time to get the first effect of a switch on, but the last degree raised to the regulator is quite quick. The insulation effect matters then too - the starting level and some of the gradient of warming up. These are in the data. We should expect, then, a 30% reduction in gas bills. In fact the Oxypod used more but there was a greater insulation effect (overall its work was more efficient) in December 2014 - well more gas used but say, at least, that December 2014 was colder - and the overall impact is zero. There's a spreadsheet of data and arguments turned into formulas available and this is in the Localities area.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Anglican Latest Paperwork

In This Generation Or There Won't Be A Next” : A programme for reform and renewal

Many trees have been knocked down to produce the first papers for the February 2015 meeting of the General Synod. Look at the English Anglican website from Friday 16th January.

Due to the spruce, pine, fir, larch, hemlock, eucalyptus, aspen and birch trees felled for material being issued in relation to the various Task Group reports, there will be a daily release of key documents this week ahead of the general distribution of papers particularly good to hold.

The first paper below is from the Archbishops of Cant and Tork giving an overview of the white stuff on the way.

“In Each Generation” :  A BBC 4 inspired programme for Topsy Turvying  

1.    The historical Jesus did not intend to form a Church, but then there was a risen one going through walls and vanishing like who met his eleven disciples in a few mysterious circumstances and once apparently told them to go to the ends of the earth. We don't think anyone else was involved but we like to think we are also among the eleven and can get in on the act to be, well, loyal to the inheritance of faith of that these 11 and then others after have made, which we have received, and open to more Spirit descending to do the job a bit more.

2.       This means a lot of bureaucratic heave-ho but might involve the odd individual now and again, especially ones picked and trained according to the Green Line Report, running around London but no longer in a circle, thanks to the Bishop of Willesden. We asked lots of groups high up to ponder the implications of previous implications and then produce reports where, on the face of it, there appeared to be scope for significant papers.

3.     The work of four groups - we left it at four - were on the implications, the responsibility of implications, implying those in training and deployment, and simplification of implications. Their specific names are given below. They will be presented for the February meeting of the General Synod.

4.     Our Golden Globes go to the Rev. Green, Wilf Scarlet (the Bishop of Nottingham), Colonel Mustard and Captain Black for chairing each of the four groups, as well as the Bishop of Willesden for occupying the door to the toilets on each occasion. No one was murdered by the lead piping in the Library. Thanks also to a whole host of Institutions, none of which can be mentioned tonight in order not to hog the microphone.

5.     Renewing and reforming is a far from sufficient response to the challenges facing English Anglicanism, but what else we can do is a bit of a monkey puzzle tree. So the recommendations of these four groups, and the visits to the toilets, have to be seen in a much wider contextualism, and mumbled about at the Synod in the light of a trees destruction that explores what it means for all woodcutters, lay and ordained, to be lumberjacks by proxy.

6.    But let's be honest. It's about bums on seats. We're not referring to cathedrals, because they have more bums on seats already. It's the rest of it, and why people don't want to get involved, sneaking in and out of cathedrals as they do. We like to visit the odd success story and warms us like a good cup of tea. But no one likes joining things and getting their hands dirty like in intentional evangelism.

7.    On the other hand, people can't fail to notice the old building in the street and a few cars that park outside it on a Sunday. We have also been able to exploit the most vicious government in living memory and so provide food banks, credit unions and many other initiatives that ought to be unneeded through the welfare state. Thanks be to God for this nasty government and in the involvement of God’s people. 

8.     We've got to get on with it because, other than those cathedrals, we're going through the floor, and these old buildings could end up as ruins if we go through the floor. At least the people left are being deep-mined for the dosh in their pockets. This situation cannot, however, be expected to continue unless the decline in membership is reversed, or is it that this situation must continue unless the decline in membership is reversed.

9.      Plus the fact that, no matter who you look at, everyone is getting older. We tried to stop time with a magic stopwatch, but that doesn't work. People in employment tend to retire after a while, and although clergy go on and on, even they drop off at the end of the conveyor belt called life. So we can't stop that and meet diocesan ambitions at the same time.

10.    And we wish these buildings didn't need maintenance. The odd coat of paint helps but is no good on stone outside - well that would offend a few people. Dry rot is a constant problem during sermons. The Darlow Formula is too biased towards Scotland, which is nothing to do with us. One suggestion is scrapping the buildings and having a central investment in reaching out into the digital and social media world instead. If English Anglicanism is to discover growth, it ought to do something different.

11.    So the four task groups whose reports are now being published each identifies changes which are designed to enable Spiritual England as represented by us to be better equipped for meeting the challenges that it faces. We would have thought this was itself bleeding obvious from all the other paragraphs.

12.    The Report on the Discernment and Nurture and Responsive Responsibility of those whom the Church Identifies, as called to significant posts of wider broader responsive responsibility, has a number of aims we discern in basic outline suitability. It seeks to ensure proper domestic care for those involved (who else, after all?), a genuine various diversity in those available for employment and appointment, excellent theological and spiritual preparation in marketing speak, and a familiarity with the key elements necessary for day to day working (whatever that means).

13.    The Sourcing, Resourcing and Toasting Ministerial Educational Means Report explains why people should get on their knees in our approach to promoting vocations to full time ministry. Long gone was the time we said 'Get a life first' because now we say 'Let's get them young and get value for money'.

14.    Let's have another paragraph on this. The Report sets out proposals for manuring and digging to grow the number and quality of candidates some six inches apart, for improving their formation under light-restricting conditions - both before and after laying on of spades - and for sustaining them under God's watering can. We need more diverse plants to be identified and called. We recommend going about looking for infants like the Dalai Lama's people used to do, at least before he amazingly called it a 'human institution' that might end. Wither magic, eh? New investment in theological greenhousing is essential. And let's not forget horizontal lay development with some football players doing the gardening.

15.     There can be no single way to do this. We can stand on our heads or use our feet. The bishops and dioceses said so when consulted. So there will be 42 strategies, based on the answer to the meaning of life, each of which is entitled to national support. So get your scarves out on the terraces. Give the players what they need, and call upon good coaching. Get the transfer fees up, in how funds might be made available to further diocesan plans to achieve bums on seats.

16.    As the Resourcing the Future Report explains, church funds are wasted on overpaid players - but they still need to be used for critical impact, as the managerial books have it. Why is Charles Handy never handy when you need him? So, stuff the Darlow Formula, and Scotland, and let's pay players the amount they are due. Such funds never have a bias to the poor in a commitment to bums on seats.

17.    The giving birth in mutual love, giving mutual support, mutual accountability and a mutual building society is at the heart of the proposals. What else would they be? The digging into pockets to pay the players is linked to clear plans for their use and a clear eyed review of their impact, as judged and monitored by peer groups. We got this from another book like those written in management-speak, so we know what we are doing. While the Sheffield Formula no longer works, there will continue to be a need for players distributed in a stupendary of stipendiary curates.

18.    The Simplification Report already has underlined why these reports are full of managerial cliches and general tree-wasting initiative-identifying specifics involving, furthermore, legislative changes which are needed, like Ganesha, to remove hindrances to mission in relation to particular pastoral reorganisation and continuous clergy development and deployment, to streamline serial processes and to tackle the tremendous redundant paperwork being generated by this particular processive procedure. The righteous recommendations take account of an essential and willing widespread continuous consultation parameter and parimeter-bounded process.

19.    If all the above has left the reader dumbfounded, then we need to recall the previous archbishop's call to remove unclarity, to be done within the confines of unconcurrent given funding in a long period before its impact can be not virtual, not least given the crying need to support dioceses through the terrible transition from the parlous present way in which national funds are not undodgily distributed. We are, therefore, generously grateful to the Commissioners to dig up some charitable cash for the effort, in that they might be preciously not unprepared to mutually modify the way in which they do not unconcurrently seek to ensure inter-generational equity when definitely determining what local level of finite funding to make already available from their not permanent payment endowment.

20.    Of these four Task Group reports, the Report on Discipleship and the document from the Commissioners cover a wide range of issues. That much is bleeding obvious. So another Golden Globe to the Business Committee for turning up and for engagement with them. Let's chat some more!

21.    The decision making processes and timescales vary because who knows what actually will come from all the paperwork. There are more texts reflected in the texts of the motions before the Synod in the light of the supportive discussions at the Archbishops’ Council, the House of Bishops and the Board of Governors of the Church Commissioners and Uncle Tom Cobbley's house.

22.    At this stage the motions inside the gents and ladies monitored by the Bishop of Willesden focus primarily on the past, myopia, vision, principles and the staircase beyond. These must come out into the open. Further dynamic development is still needed on some of the particular proposals and continuous consultation required on many of the definite detailed outworkings before the ridiculously relevant bodies, so over to the Synod itself which can reach conclusions. But look, Synod members, don't clutter up our efforts with lots of confusing amendments on points of detail we think are irrelevant.

23.    In a few months’ time the life of this General Synod will come to an end and perhaps we ought to end it for good. We do need a new government, or perhaps this lot again even more vicious so we can do some more charity work. This is, therefore, a good moment for taking stock and adding in some spiritual Oxo. We obviously believe that these reports, to be discussed in February, provide no more than a basis (unless this is deliberate understatement) for developing and delivering a major programme of renewal and reform within English Anglicanism as a matter of urgency outside the toilets guarded by the Bishop of Willesden.

“Buddha said, ‘When the river is crossed you no longer need the raft.’ Amen.”

Justin Countuin          Sentamu Eborhandicap

January 2015

Friday, 9 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie

I picked up my copy of The Inquirer, the Unitarian publication, last Sunday. Its main article, written by Cliff Reed, is an apologetic article arguing for a 'real' Islam as opposed to a 'false' violent Islam. But other than recognising these Wahabis and others for their extremism, it was a phenomenological description and little else (phenomenological means a religion expressed by the description of its essentials that it gives of itself - e.g. in interaith meetings - in contrast to a critical theological approach and an anthropological approach of what people actually do). The came the Charlie Hebdo outrage and after some thought about it I did bash out a response and have sent it off. The webpage version contains formatting and a slight change of words after reference to Karbala to make the meaning of 'afterwards' clearer. I am saying that violence and Islam are bound up together, and there is a much more critical approach to be made of Islam and attitudes, much of it as a result of external forces as well as internal expression.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Thirty Year Rule

The British Government releases Cabinet Papers after thirty years. I thought I might do the same. So here are two impressions written the same day on the first and second times I attended a Unitarian service. Because the minister is public and obvious, I leave his name in. One bit might be taken as offensive, but that was what I wrote, and I got it wrong by at least 15 years. Diaries are not true - they are what you think at the time, and they reveal every bias.

Go to my website and Autobiographical and there are two more as well from 1984.

1984 was a sort of religion-mad year, and included many days spent investigating Queen's College in Birmingham (for Methodist and Anglican ordinands). I had been attending the Anglicans at Hull University (where I was confirmed) and then went 'ordinary' and would cycle away from evangelical and stuffy Sutton to rural Swine so that it became my parish. I only went to the Unitarians because my C of E views were in trouble and the Baha'is had used the church to meet, when I went to ask them some embarrassing questions about their concealed history and I read a notice on an inner wall about Jesus being human. I 'left' the Church of England before the service on 16th December; I didn't intend to when I started the six week intended 'trial'. In fact after the six weeks I went back to the Anglicans. Later on my Christian views collapsed and I was back at the Unitarians again.
Notice that I was chatting up a Baha'i lass at the time, and she had connections with users of the Unitarian building, but because I was a critic the Baha'i group gathered around this woman and effectively expelled me from their company. Baha'is are literalists of their scriptures and leaders' pens and the Universal House of Justice (the male only democratic-centralist parliament, also intended for secular rule) attempts to control access to its history. She was very quickly married to another Baha'i, and this rapidity was reflective of their policy (including not even a kiss before marriage). Incidentally, a hospital radio woman who thought she was in a relationship with a Baha'i man suddenly found he was marrying another Baha'i, because she would not join, and so after this I informed her of Baha'i beliefs and views he'd never mentioned.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Larkin About

Larking about for potential use in the Hull Unitarian Magazine, and from newly re-examined archives, these are new pages on my website:
Charles Beard's views - a progressive theologian and historian.
Speeches to welcome Rev. Perris to the Hull Unitarian Church in 1883 (same year as Beard's Reformation book).
Philip Henry Wicksteed's views.
I don't think Wicksteed did very well explaining Marginal Utility in economics.
The so-called Marcus Faithful seems to use a long tongue when impressed by Whitaker's preaching.
And the above with this shows Whitaker to be quite conservative (others had become more progressive than this - indeed, look at Charles Beard so much earlier).


For a bit of fun, these 'poems' were bashed out on Facebook after my friends and I went and ate at Larkins in Newland Avenue, Hull. It uses the poet's name but makes no reference to him at all. So I have been Larkin about, with a little revision to the first and second 'poems':

They fuck you up
Those meals you had
But not these eaten
From this pad.

Light rays darkly downly from the high
Custards of lights over filled up chairs
That face each other, coloured yellow same.
Through open vistas, the pubbing area shares
A larger fun doubting of knaves and folks
With noises given like chatting. See menus read
And devices viewed. Hours chalked,
And all the food ones have come from the dead.

I work part day, and get rat-arsed at night.
Waking at five to World Service bare.
In time the car runs, its beams give light,
And then I see what’s really working, there:
Unending death, a half day plus going,
Since they cut the hours down: but then
And now and here I do myself die
Amid warehousing: yet the dread
Of retail, and serve the dead,
Montages characters stale, to mortify.

This latter nonsense refers to a friend who works early hours but, like so many under this despicable government's economics policy, has had his hours cut.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Canadian Response Suggestion

All right. I'll do one.

The Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei Anglicano - oops there's no such thing, yes there is - it's the
Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO): Yes.

This body urges the Canadian Anglicans not to change its Canon 21 and allow approval of same sex marriages.

I know it's an old joke I've made before, but the Canadian response should be based on the initials of the CDFA. No, not CDFA. IASCUFO.

I ASC U FO - I ask you fuck off.

The point being there is no doctrinal body for Anglicanism as there is no Anglican worldwide Church. But we'll leave this to them. Nevertheless, time to catch up with reality, time to be pastoral even, make a difference.