Monday, 31 March 2008

Unitarian GA

I do look at what has been going on. The Unitarian General Assembly has been going on and student and minister to be at Bank Street, Bolton (a traditional Unitarian congregation) has been there and blogged on its three days. Liberal Christian Stephen Lingwood's blog is called ReIgnite: he claims to deliver a Radical Emergent Unitarian Blog. Humm. First of all I don't know him. From just reading I find it all rather restrained, and I have to say that no matter how he dresses for services his theology is rather mainstream related. This theology in a typical chapel won't make much difference whether he wears suits or jeans. It is hardly relevant. On the other hand he sees the issues and would try some solutions (but it all depends on the committee and the trustees - where power resides).

Anyway, he likes the new hymn book (Unitarians do do good hymn books - the words tend to be more sensible with the pluralistic hymns); the Hibbert Trust has paid to create a 'liberal alternative to the Alpha course' called A Course in Practical Spirituality which would seem not to be specifically Unitarian and have wider appeal (he regrets it is not specifically Unitarian); most business resolutions were dull; Art Lester preached that Unitarianism had lost its soul and there should be more prayer; Stephen Lingwood thinks that if Unitarians knew how to grow they would be and found sessions on growth limited; and a Transylvanian had a hypnotic way of preaching.

The NUF (National Unitarian Fellowship) Forum has more responses to the GA.

Earlier on Stephen summarises his attempt at a Unitarian theology of the cross, which again is too locked in to the mainstream to be anything particularly distinctive - it rather falls between two stools. I seem to ignore such stuff now and move on from what he is still considering. When I did this within the Unitarians I received short shrift in his part of the world, and it is why I am with the broader Anglican community where there is a stronger spirituality across a whole range of theologies, and my kind of theology I push to and probably beyond the Anglican limit.


I appreciate the comment here and mine in response has a quick summary of my theological outlook.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Material, Spiritual, Eschatological

I was interested in Revd. Eckhart Christopher's posting on a Triune Reflection on Meaning in his blog Reflexion. It is an esoteric approach to a triune understanding of the doctrine of Christ, so it will strike many as unusual. In essence it has three aspects: the material and historical, the spiritual and the eschatologial, and in the eschatological he locates the esoteric because he sees this as where the ultimate resides. Thus there is here a kind of gnosticism of layers: a plain literal meaning in history, thus what Jesus did and what happened to him, then a kind of divine involvement and spiritual truth given into these otherwise plain events, and then a layer where these are unified, which is the eschatological.

So, to summarize the trinity of meaning, we have a historical or hylic layer that deals with the concrete, the spatial and temporal, the material. This is followed by the spiritual or psychic layer that transforms the material or the historical into signs and symbols, truths that reflect to us and teach us about God and the Cosmos; about ourselves. And, the final layer is the esoteric layer; the eschatological or pneumatic. Here, the truths we encounter at the former levels focus our attention on The Truth, in its universality and its eternality.

Well I like the labels, but not the application. I don't particularly care for layers and mysteries: for me mysteries are mysterious and perhaps the less said on them the better. So, using these labels, I would have it as something like this:

First of all there is the material, which is this transient coming and going of energy and matter. The scientists can tell us all about this. We also have the uncertainty of events, and the limitations of historiography. You somehow just cannot pin these down. Our whole world is a series of paradigms and paradigm shifts when we have meaning attached to these, and indeed meaning is what matters even when considering the material. A model for this might be Shiva: the destroyer and recreator; Vishnu too is important as a sustainer.

Now the spiritual I do not consider to be a separate realm, but rather what is thrown up by transience and the meaning we give to the stuff of stuff: derived from our biology, our talking, and the pain and pleasure of out living and that indeed of a succession of animal types including ourselves. Consciousness, and indeed knowing our consciousness, raises matters of sympathy and empathy, not doing to others that you would not do to yourself. So the spiritual is a set of values attached. How it is all understood is culture.

Our bodies are talking bodies, and we extend ourselves into collectives through talk and meaning, and we build institutions which can be considered as extensions of bodies. So the material and spiritual are wrapped up in each other, and impossible to separate.

The eschatological, however, is the dramatic, the necessary; it is about as if you are facing your greatest challenge. What are you to do, and what would you do if you had to do it quickly? It is the need to decide, and the ethical jump to be made - even though is the most difficult thing to do. This is what makes the spiritual important, then. Why is the eschatological upon us? Because reality is transient, and yet it is to be valued spiritually.

Valuing something means having to decide for or against. The eschatological does expose a kind of binary drive in living. You cannot value without deciding, and these are bound together.

These three are integrated. They are Christian in that they affirm the material, and call in a like Kingdom of God decision.

The Christology is this: that Jesus, a real human being, valued the ordinariness of life including at its lowest, but he called for preparation and decision for the religious life, the highest, a life in a new reality.

Whilst he was certainly supernatural, and even strange, this approach here is not. No powers are called upon, nor are any expected. Ritual is simply a means of passing through towards making some sort of decision, even a decision to be a little more integrated and unified with others. Music and art are cultural and so their use in ritual therefore frames, upholds and supports the cultural valuing of the transient material. So we pass material tokens one to another and receive a spiritual gift one to another that is a sign of valuing who and where we are, and what is important about where we are going. There is the demand to act in service, to go for the Yes that challenges even when we might cry no.

I'm not particularly interested in worshipping Christ as an end, but as a means: he offers important, decision taking, ethical reversals as a kind of programme. All these doctrinal and cultural constructions into the religion of Christianity are but parts of and developments from the original inter-Testament Judaism and late Hebrew Bible traditions that Jesus took up and gave his syncretistic twist. Paul's mistake was to focus on God's sole worker too much at the expense of the work of God's worker.

The triune element is not itself important, but we like triangles because they are robust and balanced, just as we like unity, just as we like diversity. You end up getting a lot of tradition, that is an encrusted reflection. Fine. But my translation is a transience that is valued that then calls on the individual and group to decide for the Yes of making well.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Liturgy, Culture and Transcendence

My words (reflecting on a Barton church event) are on the Daily Episcopalian at Episcopal Café.

More Resurrection

An interesting viewpoint article in The Guardian on the Resurrection theme. Here is one view that I rather agree with, and a particular interest in this passage:

Disillusioned, confused and frightened, the disciples seem to have returned north to Galilee to resume their fishing. As they reminisced, possibly over many months, recalling their extraordinary experiences with Jesus, links began to form between their mental images of him and then-current messianic expectations. Possibly a part of that imagining was the idea, wholly feasible in their minds, that God had raised Jesus into his presence.

This needs some fleshing out. The key is the expectation still pregnant, and the closeness of the Kingdom of God. So death is not final, especially if the general resurrection is believed to be close. There are two points to make. First of all, the did not just go back fishing: they continued with Jewish festivals and the intense world view they had. Related to this, then, is not just an idea and imagining, but a reality given by that narrative world: stories that become real.

My mother is visiting. She has multi-infarct dementia, that is caused by a succession of transient ischaemic attacks, otherwise called mini-strokes. In my mother's case, it has affected sequencing and space, not (yet) short or long term memory, and after nearly two days of reasonable conversation (she knew about Joyce Grenfell and Tony Hancock) she had a nap and last evening and through to today she was convinced she was in another house, and not the one she owns. No matter that I mentioned the computers here, the paintings on the wall, and even my sister on the telephone telling her that she was in New Holland. The porch, though, was hers, and she recognised the car. Yesterday she wanted to go in the car to go to New Holland. This morning she was sure she was in New Holland, but after an odd half-awake night and looking around the house, and thinking she could not go downstairs, a trip out in the car has led to her laughing off ideas that this is not her house.

Now, don't get this wrong: I am not saying the disciples had dementia! What I am saying is that within a world view we are solidly anchored, and my mother spoke perfectly logically too. She had a kind of world view. We are very fixed to reality, and it comes to us like a solid brick. The disciples lived in that world - and we would find it crazy. The idea that liberation was coming, brought in by God, that the three decker universe was having its upper deck coming ever lower, would be nonsense to us, and so would the reality that flows out of words and is represented in food, rituals and the history of the Jewish world. Nor do we die because of demons transmitting sin and its presence and their reality felt in rotten, short lives - lives which a certain Jesus, also part of this world view, went around healing.

These days post-Enlightenment people turn resurrection into a kind of isolated miracle, a sort of good thing, and theologise it into something that happened at the crucifixion. They cannot possibly inhabit some basic assumptions of Jesus, the disciples and even Paul the more cosmopolitan organiser with his crucifixion-resurrection salvation scheme, able to use language of the body even though he claimed what for all intents and purposes was a spiritual encounter of some sort - and that was linked to his continued intense rejection of having Law and Messiah, except that he switched sides.

I am postmodernist but reality bites us and claims us, wherever we are. It does to us, because reality as we have it works. We know truth is transient, with paradigms and plausibility structures that can shift. But the truth we have works, and it grips. It did to the homo-sapiens of that earlier Middle East culture too.

Friday, 28 March 2008

The Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church

Anyone who reads this blog and indeed listens to how I say what I say knows that I have a lot of time for the approaches and traditions of what has been called The Liberal Rite. It was only as recently as the communal breakfast after the Easter Day 6 am service that there was a round-the-table chat about Old Catholics and Liberal Catholics, some folks there being introduced to the subject for the very first time, and others having further conversation (including a Dutch speaking knowledgable chap about Old Catholic origins and subsequent episcopal consecrations, and a retired priest who is well up on Brandreth and Anson). There was the usual Anglican culture on display of course and a reworking by one of the Monty Python Life of Brian sketch:

Reg: Judean People's Front! We're the People's Front of Judea! Judean People's Front! Cuh!


Reg: Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front.
Stan: Yeah, the Judean People's Front.
Reg: Yeah. Splitters.
Stan: And the Popular Front of Judea.
Reg: Yeah. Splitters.
Stan: And the People's Front of Judea.
Reg: Yea... what?
Stan: The People's Front of Judea. Splitters.
Reg: We're the People's Front of Judea!
Stan: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.
Reg: People's Front!
Francis: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
Reg: He's over there. [points to a lone man]

What's wrong with this sketch as an illustration of Liberal Catholicism is that people don't hate one another at all; what is right about it is the myriad of small groups and variations and a history of wanderings.

The fact that these groups are small means that they change quickly. People leave and people join. The characteristics of the groups then should be understood according to the histories of them as they have evolved.

Back in January 2008 the Revd. Deaconess Pam Schroder, in charge of the Ancient Catholic Church, died. Coming then under the wing of the leadership of The Liberal Rite, it and the Ancient Catholic Church ran in parallel. The Ancient Catholic Church was pretty much the creation of H. P. Nicholson, who, from the 1950s, developed a Liberal Catholic Church of (at its peak) a number of congregations that had Catholic, spiritualist and animal ministry characteristics. Its last actual church building, the Cathedral Church of the Good Shepherd, always for the use of the Deaconess, ceased its tenancy and role with her death.

What I liked about the Liberal Rite was not so much its apostolic succession and that side, though obviously that gave it its Catholic characteristic, but its identification with various origins, both Trinitarian in Liberal Catholicism (with Theosophy) and Unitarian, and, with the Ancient Catholic Church, I also warmed to the outreach I could read about with H. P. Nicholson, though I am less interested in the spiritualist side (but talking to a spiritualist recently, so there you go).

The Ancient Catholic Church and the Liberal Rite have both attracted some interest even within one year and have grown: both have, along with the Independent Liberal Catholic Fellowship. It is clearly well organised, along with associated educational functions and the semi-attached humanistic side - The Society for Humanistic Potential (a reflection of some Unitarian origins and personality there too).

Well the People's Front of Judea and the Popular Front of Judea have merged. The Liberal Rite and the Ancient Catholic Church are no more. Now we have The Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church instead, combining both inheritances.

From the Ancient Catholic Church side comes the Bishop Nicholson Creed:

We believe in God; the Father the Source of life, the Son the Revelator of love, the Holy Spirit the best Owner of power; we believe in the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of Man, in the gifts of the Spirit, in the immortality of the soul, and in everlasting life. Amen.

It is a minimalist creed and alongside an anti-doctrinal approach, but it also consists of continuations with, now, Gnosticism, Theosophy and Christian Spiritualism.

I suppose, to be honest, and perhaps because I am an associate of the Judean People's Front, that my more rational side has some difficulties here. Nevertheless I am pleased to see that, via this route, Alistair Bate comes on board, that there is a church in Portland, the United States, and it has the various associated organised bodies - a sort of integration.

In mid-February 2008 there were no plans to merge, so it shows how speedily these bodies can change. The decision to merge is given here. Reflections from Portland are here and here. There is also the Independent Liberal Catholic Fellowship that gathers clergy and communities across the Liberal Catholic tradition.


I have produced three formats of an experience and transferable skills CV put on my website (in the CV Area on the left end of the top menu). It is unlikely to be the final version, so updates will replace these: the .HTML version, the .RTF version and the .PDF version.

Also read my account now - as a webpage (in the Autobiography area - on the right end of the top menu) - of being stung by a private parking company (I did blog on it); a friend tells me that, apparently, one of these firms is being taken to one of the European Courts. To see this via the website go to Autobiographical and scroll down the left menu to underneath a rather happier outcome regarding a speeding ticket (and where, ahem, documentation has to be complete and accurate).

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Ranting in Durham

My view of N. T. Wright starts with a simple thought: why is he regarded as an academic biblical theologian? I take very two examples. His Easter sermon at the Sung Eucharist in Durham Cathedral on 23 March was little more than an undersupported rant against secularism. I was not going to bother with it, but David Aaronovitch was right to take him to task for his "wicked untruths" (headline).

I'll start with the biblical bits. He argues that:

the continued puzzlement of the disciples is a mark of the story's authenticity. If someone had been making it all up a generation later, as many have suggested, they would hardly have had such a muddle going on. More particularly, nobody would have made up the remarkable detail of the cloth around Jesus' head, folded up in a place by itself, or the even more extraordinary fact that Jesus is not immediately recognised, either here, or in the evening on the road to Emmaus, or the later time, cooking breakfast by the shore.

The issue is not "someone... making it all up" but that there are four gospels and more texts in the New Testament, each history-like and biography-like, which, usually consistent (but not always) within themselves, represents the ongoing oral traditions of what Jesus did and said as understood within communities. They are different because they developed came via different routes, and they cannot be conflated together. It is like a set of beliefs and expectations looking to the future, drawing on existing scriptures, pulling on some of what Jesus did and said as such was mangled through the story-making and telling processes, but much more presented for the messianic hope. It has been said that, other than the forty days in the wilderness, the events of Jesus add up to about three weeks worth of activity. That extraction would be rather selective, then. The reason Jesus is not recognised in some resurrection appearances is not because some historian is being authentic, but because a theological point is being made: Jesus is "recognised" when they get the point, or when it is presented in the text, and it is all to demonstrate that his mission is with the leaders and they have legitimacy and authority. In other words, it is not some form of history going on here, but a process of faith-writing into the community, that pulls on the various strands of the questioning, story-telling that is still looking for that day of liberation.

It is Wright's grotesque use of aunt sallies that makes him more like a fundy than any sort of scholar. He then attacks someone who regards the Easter message as showing good can come out of suffering.

'The Easter message draws the devout together' (presumably the devout of all religions). 'From suffering, goodness can triumph. Death is not final.' And then, a grand and woefully misleading last sentence: 'That is what all faiths in Britain can proclaim and where they can come together this weekend.'

He adds: don't achieve anything by downgrading the unique message of Easter.

And that other believers in other faiths:

...would rightly expect us to be talking about something unique that happened as a one-off.

Why would they? When I have conversations with people of other beliefs, we talk about overlaps. Of course there is not some sameness into which everything drops, but we will discuss what is similar. We should be interested in what we have in common.

He makes this blunder:

Easter is what it is because, together with Jesus' crucifixion, it is the central event of world history, the moment towards which everything was rushing and from which everything emerges new.

I want to know what, in history, this mechanism is: that one man's crucifixion is anything other than events for him and his followers at that time. Crucifixion turned into a faith event with a thousand and one implications for believers is a matter of theology, a different language game than is history. History is, when it is empirical, about documenting and the only issue is: did it happen, what primary documents have we got about it, and what are the document's witting and unwitting testimonies? We have no primary documents of the crucifixion. We think it took place, and there are other secondary references to it outside Christianity, but what people make of it stands outside history. Of course there are other approaches to history, but the most sympathetic to much theology - narrative history - is precisely that: story and culture that rolls one understanding on to another. Hardening history up even on this basis, it has to be said that the lack of primary documents means that we do not know what people thought of it at the time; we do know what some came to think of it, in what is called the proto-orthodox stream, where secondary documents about the crucifixion are actually primary documents about the proto-orthodox faith communities. They have no privilege into history: history does not include faith and belief as evidence of anything other than the existence of faith and believers.

As for agreement with others, it might be useful if he got his understanding right.

The second leader [in The Times] on Good Friday was rightly complaining about Tibet. What good does it do to say there that 'from suffering goodness can triumph'? Isn't that just a further encouragement to the bullying Chinese government? And what would a Buddhist say, for whom suffering is an illusion? And would mouthing these platitudes do one tiny thing to encourage our government, or even our athletes, to put pressure on China?

Buddhists do not think suffering is an illusion. They think it is experienced, sticky, horrid and of samsara - due to attachment. It is as real as the rest of life. But it is an attempt at binary opposition to Christianity to put it down by labelling it swiftly as "illusion". The Buddhists of Tibet want rid of such suffering as much as any other believer or non-believer: it is a huge burden and limitation. To try to achieve non-attachment in such a setting is made into an immense even overbearing effort. They want their culture and religion restored in order to make such non-attachment more achievable, in order to have liberation here and now to achieve that deeper liberation that practice achieves. Plus, and according to Tibetan belief (and that of other Mahayana views), how can a Bodhissatva return and do good among others in such a repressive setting?

He has all these enemies, does Tom Wright, and one of them is the Enlightenment:
It is, I grant you, better to say that from suffering goodness can triumph than to lose hope altogether. For some people who would say that, the glass of faith is perhaps half full. But what the article has done, in a typically patronizing example of late-Enlightenment rhetoric, is to offer a glass that's half empty and getting emptier.

But in fact he is his own huge displayer of late-Enlightenment rhetoric. To speak of one truth, as he does, and to misunderstand history and theology, is such a display of Enlightenment objectivism. He also gets muddled between the pluralistic and relativistic and the Enlightenment task and method of aiming for objectivity.

Real Christianity, the full-glass version, is both the truth that makes sense of all other truth and the truth that offers itself as the framework within which those other truths will find their meaning. The one thing it doesn't do, uncomfortably for today's pluralistic world, is offer itself as one truth among many, or one version of a single truth common to all.

Well it may just have to be so, because this is how the world is so composed; what he is seeking is privilege for his version of the truth: not only for Christianity as a whole but his rather narrow theological version of it, and one that rides roughshod over historiography. But it all gets much worse when he shows his ranting side about secularism:

First, the current controversy about embryo cloning. Our present government has been pushing through, hard and fast, legislation that comes from a militantly atheist and secularist lobby.

What utter rubbish. This is the logic of the football supporters club, chanting and making a noise. He wants to join in with his pals on this side of a line he draws:

The media sometimes imply that it's only Roman Catholics who care about such things, but that is of course wrong. All Christians are now facing, and must resist, the long outworking of various secularist philosophies, which imagine that we can attain the Christian vision of future hope without the Christian God. In this 1984-style world, we create our own utopia by our own efforts, particularly our science and technology.

No thank you. I am not joining your circus of baracking and shouting. Scientists have made considerable progress in medical health and progress is welcome. Does he have no need of progress in medical health? I have an interest in improving the lives of those with dementia and reducing its occurence; I also have kept an interest in Tuberous Sclerosis. Both of these require advanced work that may upset people who cannot tell the difference between clusters of cells and sentient and self-conscious people. This that follows is utterly disgraceful:

The irony is that this secular utopianism is based on a belief in an unstoppable human ability to make a better world, while at the same time it believes that we (it's interesting to ask who 'we' might be at this point) have the right to kill unborn children and surplus old people, and to play games with the humanity of those in between. Gender-bending was so last century; we now do species-bending. Look how clever we are! Utopia must be just round the corner.

These are not the words of someone who would like to be considered serious. They would be comic if they were not so fascistic in their attacks on those who actually live, and think, and work. Plus the attack on "gender-bending" as some sort of past fashion just shows how little he regards the pain of those who have one sex in their head and one sex on their bodies. No doubt he combines 1 Corinthians 5 and Romans 1 as well for that other trodden-on minority. That's why this rings so hollow, coming from his ranting:

It grows directly out of the central facts of our faith, because on Easter day God reaffirmed the goodness and image-bearingness of the human race in the man Jesus Christ, giving the lie simultaneously to the idea that utopia could be had by our own efforts and to the idea that humans are just miscellaneous evolutionary by-products, to be managed and manipulated at will.

What does? What grows directly out of his faith seems to be a nasty ability to spout tripe, to attack, to treat minorities with dismissal, to make assumptions when not ranting, and indeed (as regards the Enlightenment) to be a pot calling a rather more thoughtful kettle black.

But we who celebrate our risen Lord today must bear witness to Easter, God's great act of putting-right, as the yardstick for all human justice.

But he puts nothing right by this interpretation. He should be ashamed. In this article on 24 March 2008 in Christianity Today, he writes:

The enormous shifts during my lifetime, from the whole town observing Good Friday and Easter, to those great days being simply more occasions for football matches and yet more televised reruns of old movies, are indices of what happens when a society loses its roots and drifts with prevailing social currents.

Is there any wonder, when he comes out with the rubbish that he did at Durham Cathedral? If he is anything like typical then it seems that ordinary people just might have their priorities right, wicked secularists that they are.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Archbishops Disagree on Basic Beliefs...

So The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Sydney [see comment] clash on the meaning of Easter. Their messages are rather different in emphasis.

This is what Peter Jensen has told everyone:

The words "death is so permanent" are actually not true. After Jesus was put to death, he came out of his grave [my italics] - not as a ghost, but as a whole person. He did not merely survive death - he conquered death and he did it for us. When you trust in Jesus Christ, you are trusting the one person who can take you through the greatest calamity of life and bring you safe to the other side.

I think that is pretty clear. Here are the words of Rowan Williams (which are not, which is why there are more of them):

Easter is not about denying death, and the resurrection doesn't make the nightmare death on the cross unreal. Death is exactly what the artists and scientists and psychoanalysts say: it is a full stop to human growth and response, it is night falling on everything we value or understand or hope for...

When we look at death, we look at something that can destroy anything in our universe - but not God, its maker and redeemer. And if we accept that we shall die and all our hopes and schemes fall into the dark, we do so knowing that God is unchanged. So to die is to fall into the hands of the living God...

The Easter story is not about how Jesus survived death or how the spirit of Jesus outlasted his mortal frame or whatever [my italics]; it is about a person going down into darkness and the dissolving of all things and being called again out of that nothingness. Easter Day, as so many have said, is the first day of creation all over again - or, as some have put it, the eighth day of the week, the unimaginable extra that is assured by the fact that God's creative word is never stifled or silenced...

The vital significance of the Church in this society, in any human society, is its twofold challenge - first, challenging human reluctance to accept death, and then challenging any human acceptance of death without hope, of death as the end of all meaning. Death is real; death is overcome. We are mortal, and that is basic to who and what we are as humans. But equally we are creatures made so as to hear the call of God, a call that no power in heaven or earth can silence.

There is a lot in between all of that, and around these selections, but Rowan Williams is saying we do die, completely, and should face it, and Peter Jensen is saying Christians do not die completely and don't have to face it as we come out on the other side. Williams is saying there is hope in God (presumably for the mortal Jesus too), and Jensen says Jesus came out of the grave and Christians too will beat death (which is why they shouldn't bother with ghosts).

So, to make the myth work, Jensen says it is simple, and Williams says it is not as people do die. For Williams there is:

...the sense of a glory embodied in our mortality because it has been touched by God. Death is real; death is overcome.

Yes - but is it?

For me, neither of these work. Jensen is talking claptrap and Williams makes no case at all. Death, he says, is not the end of meaning. Meaning interests him, as does narrative; but if meaning comes with biological, talking people, as it does, then death is the end of meaning, except for those still alive.

Five Meet Down in London

Just five primates of the Global South want the Anglican Communion to become a Church of a Church. They met in London (the cost of all those air fares!). They want:

to move the global Anglican Communion substantially and effectively forward, to be living and witnessing as a worthy and exemplary expression of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. The pastoral and missional needs for focused leadership and development, the deepening of collegial foundation and framework for the transformation and renewal of covenantal Anglicanism will be the focus of the 4th Global South Encounter, which by then should have a broadened representation.

The statement of a meeting between March 13 and 15 (even between Akinola, Venables, Kolini, Anis and Chewis) in part is a dance around that fact that some will go to Jordan with Israel and some will go to Lambeth and some will go to both. They go on again about the torn fabric of the communion and that consecrating Gene Robinson is a theological and ethical innovation and that boundary busting interventions are not to be treated equally with that.

So they want to centralise the Anglican Communion - but it is not one expression: it consists of many Churches, each of which is bound to show variation from another. The so called collegial framework beyond has been one of friendliness (well, we hope) and consultation. There is no such thing as "covenantal Anglicanism" and presumably the 4th Global South Encounter will consist of more than five primates. They seem to think that the St Andrews Draft will do the job:

The Global South remains committed and encourage all Provinces to actively participate in the study and requested feedback on the St Andrew’s Draft of the Anglican Covenant, its substance and spirit to be in line with our common classical Anglican heritage of biblical, historical and reformed formularies of faith and ecclesiology. In particular, we strongly urge the presentation of a definitive text to the Provinces by ACC 14th (May 2009) to begin the urgent and timely process of official adoption and ratification for the Communion.

Whereas, for others, it was a watering down other than for the tentative appendix (intended to do the disciplining), and it is not acceptable to many either. Perhaps (a section of) the Global South is set on its own path.

Meanwhile statements like this irritate me:

We are most grateful to our Lord for enabling us as members of the GS Primates Steering Committee to meet in the midst of busy commitments and schedules...

Enabled by the Holy Spirit, we were able to focus in unity on the original spirit, vision and vocation of the Global South in the Anglican Communion which had developed and deepened since the fateful event of November 2003.

They are rather sure of themselves, aren't they?

Just before this the air fares were also spent (some must have come early) on the GAFCON crew getting together in March 10 to 12 to produce a statement that says nothing but public relations speak. They do like to get in first, these GAFCON people!

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Easter Day

From just after 6 am this Easter Day - at the Parish Church of St Mary Barton-upon-Humber and featuring a bonfire to light the main candle and then light the rest.

* * *

I quite like this, the 2006 Confession from the Dutch Remonstrant Church:

We are aware and we affirm

that we do not find our peace in the certainty of what we confess,
but in wonder of what befalls us and what we are given;

that we do not find our destination in indifference and greed,
but in vigilance and in connection with all that lives;

that our existence is not fulfilled by who we are and what we possess,
but by what is infinitely greater than we can contain.

Guided by this awareness, we believe in God's Spirit
who transcends all that divides people
and inspires them to what is holy and good,
that in singing and in silence,
in prayer and in work,
they worship and serve God.

We believe in Jesus, a Spirit-filled human,
the face of God, seeing us and disturbing us.
He loved humanity and was crucified
but he lives, beyond his own and our death.
He is our holy example of wisdom and courage
and he brings God's eternal love close to us.

We believe in God, the Eternal,
who is love unfathomed, the ground of being,
who shows us the way of freedom and justice
and beckons us to a future of peace.

We believe that
weak and fallible though we are,
we are called to be church,
connected to Christ and all who believe,
in the sign of hope.

For we believe in the future of God and the world,
in a divine patience that gives time
to live and to die and to rise,
in the kingdom that is and will come,
where God will be for eternity: all in all.

To God be the glory and honour
in time and eternity.


Erika Has Had Enough

Erika Baker wishes to appeal for practical advice towards setting up a broadly Christian retreat for rejects, misfits and those who can’t find peace anywhere else. She is an Anglican but these days Anglicanism seems to be projecting itself at the expense of some minorities, particularly the lesbian and gay. So she wants to set up a place in England where people can go for a weekend or a week and be themselves, pray if they want, and maybe have some spiritual guidance and direction.

She has run largish projects before, but not in the area of religious retreats. It might happen in a partially used holiday home or somewhere like that. She would need good advice about finance, tax, legal status, insurance requirements, advertising, and other practicalities.

My own response was to point to the efforts at Orkney at the Haughland House Retreat Centre Shapinsay, Orkney Isles. The person who has done all the work is Lesley McKeown who, living on Orkney, and not seeing other obvious Unitarians (with the nearest Unitarian chapel to attend at Aberdeen), decided to bring Unitarians to her. She did this with a retreat centre including a small chapel (which, with a window like that - illustrated from the website, is quite contemplative). It opened in 2006.

Something related to this might work, though the kinds of misfits each attracts may not be the same - it all depends what events are put on and what ethos is established. Lesley McKeown converted farm buildings for her project, which might loosely be called 'religious tourism'.

A much bigger version for retreats and activities is the Nightingale Centre in Derbyshire. There is a chapel across the road.

Contact Erika via erika at blagdonlake dot demon dot co dot uk or by leaving messages via comments.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Anglican Catechism - Also A No

The Modern Churchpeople's Union blog is right to draw attention to the Global South Anglican Catechism under construction, and its potential role alongside a Covenant that the Global South is pushing in terms of its latest output towards Lambeth 2008 and the exercise of discipline afterwards. The catechism is being written by a task force under Michael Nai Chiu Poon, a conservative theologian from Singapore, who has clashed with GAFCON and now regards it as "Gnostic". Personally I think that label is rather silly in application to them. There is an outline catechism (a sort of work in progress) also from Singapore by Gilbert Wong. Mark Harris back in May 2007 had seen that the deadline for the Catechism was June 2008 and in time for the GAFCON conference. However, given the opposition Poon has faced and shown to GAFCON, it is surely meant for the broader body of Anglicans. Yet this catechism has no authority beyond anyone who would want to take it up (neither has the Covenant for that matter, but it is more likely to be forced) and may be no more than for the Global South. If it so turns out, and has a Anglican Communion perspective to it, then it will be another agent of "Communion schism" rather than unity, just like a Covenant with any teeth will be rejected by national Church after Church in sufficient numbers to render it useless and to be withdrawn.

More Little Easter

So how is my little Easter doing? First of all, I was not going to be a martyr for a car parking company on the basis of very flimsy documents and use of Civil Law, other than the hit against me of paying them money that could have been used elsewhere. There are strategies in publicity regarding such operations and the retail companies that are beneficiaries. The garage planning problem now moves on, with (at last) the simplified drawings taken as acceptable. I may well make a webpage - with far more useful drawings that make use of that new fangled invention called the computer rather than trying to imitate paper and pencil and, I am sure, if the council isn't, that the public can well understand such images.

Life is full of groanings, and I hear people I know of going through their own trials too, bearing their own crosses (as it is so often called). There are many far worse off than me even nearby. My crisis has the feeling of being yet to come and really bite - family, home, work (lack of), money, locality, housing.

My other Little Easter concerns my religious future - a sort of space in this season to make an assessment of where things are going and not going. Along with a few private thoughts I gave this matter a little further thought during the about 45 minutes I spent on the "watch" that follows the service when the lights went out on the Thursday.

The first thing is that if the wider Church of England was like the (adopted) local church then there would not be a problem. The local church stretches across the spectrum and has a place and activity for every strain and strand. Somewhere there is a core activity that suits different sorts, and you can talk with the sympathetic and talk across the many variations.

In one way the Church of England is still like the local church. Every aspect of what is local is found elsewhere, and there is more elsewhere too. There are specialities in each and every way, and generalities out there.

Yet locally you see standards of performance that might not be carried out would it not be for the closing-in nature of the Church of England over the last decades, and now the influence of the Anglican Communion. You are always aware of performance boundaries.

To be more specific: if the whole of the Church of England was like that as presented by Andrew Goddard and Craig Uffman - especially recently - I could not be a member. They are not talking about options either, but about schism if the Bible is not read the one way that they interpret. The actuality of Craig Uffman's four part piece is likely to be less intolerant, but his argument still involves a literalist double bind of this 1 Corinthians 5 and Romans 1 and can just as easily stack up to justify those outside interventionists who intend to exclude a Church and then provide cover for groups and individuals. Even if I have this wrong, his argument definitely allows insiders of Churches to set up alternatives and seek cover from the outside (which is only the other side of the same interventionist process).

Now it is clear that the Archbishop of Canterbury would agree with Andrew Goddard and Craig Uffman regarding the one way to read the Bible: there are no straightforward alternative texts. They are all sifting through the ink, the letters, the words and the sentences, so closely, that they all seem to have lost the more general point (which is incredible). This Archbishop ties this up with the 1998 rally that was the Lambeth Conference 1998 resolution 1:10, and then even more so with his pseudo-Roman Catholicism regarding the Anglican Communion. Andrew Goddard and Craig Uffman don't do the latter, but they do an alternative version. I don't: the nearer model for me is the Eastern Orthodoxy of autocephalous Churches and of these Anglican Churches relating to each other on that basis. Actually Anglicanism is its own model, so it tries to hold autonomy with geographical monopoly given to its various centres. This doesn't work under strain, and one of them has to give when there is such theological and pastoral difference. In the autocephalous model it would be accepted as a consequence that there would be different Anglican Churches or denominations in the same geographical locality. It has already happened with some Anglican Continuing Churches, of course.

Now the Archbishop, and the Fulcrum position, wants to push the Covenant as the means to centralise, to discipline, to bring the Churches closer together so that the monopoly is preserved - doctrinal and geographic. The sense of one fellowship of believers (Protestant) or Communion (Catholic) would be strengthened. However, I see this as a project already in trouble. No matter how much the Covenant gets railroaded through by majorities or minorities of bishops at Lambeth, should they so userp the given agenda and form of gathering, it still then has to go to the Churches for their consent. It is rather like changing the American Constitution when it gets pushed through the Congress and then has to go to the actual States. In the Anglican case, a disciplining Covenant - in anything like the Nassau Draft or the St Andrews Draft with its tentative appendix - simply will not be acceptable to a sufficient number of Churches. In other words a Covenant that can do any job will itself bring about an institutional schism as several Churches say no and become 'second division'. Even the Church of England cannot take instruction from outside. Nevertheless it could attempt to, itself, always agree with the international Covenant, though no Synod could bind another Synod in the future. One can imagine the huge pressures exerted by the House of Bishops to conform, should this Covenant develop at the Lambeth Conference 2008 and go on to be imposed.

That conference will also be influenced by the GAFCON one coming before it, as indeed GAFCON intends. GAFCON will speak in forked tongue - on the one had attempting to show that Lambeth is incapable of changing the Anglican Communion and on the other trying to influence the Anglican Communion. It does that now when it says it is not separatist and then organises itself in a separatist manner - it is why it is Religious Trotskyitism (maintains self-control via a core group in charge, is deceptive and strategic, entryist as required, attacking friends as necessary in pursuing near goals before the bigger goals). My guess is that Lambeth 2008 will try to cover the territory occupied by GAFCON as a way of attempting to reduce its impact structurally, and this of course will mean a bad taste narrowing outcome in Lambeth too. Instead of taking them on, and saying "you occupy the narrow ground and we'll occupy the broad ground", the temptation will be to try and show GAFCON as unnecessary.

No doubt after Lambeth the usual voices will say this isn't everything and is not the whole perspective of Anglicanism.

A throwaway remark interested me in a sermon locally this Easter. It was about the difference between being taken to the cross for our sins and embracing the cross for redemption of the world. The point was made that being taken is "not Anglican orthodoxy yet". It is as if one would then suddenly change the message to what is newly required orthodoxy. It's that standards of performance thing again. We know that the breadth of the Church of England has been narrowing, but all this seems anathema to me, that you alter the message according to demands made and what is orthodoxy at the moment.

Much of this in my Little Easter then is similar to what I wrote before, and, in the end, so is the timescale. Someone said to me on Thursday that there are those who politick are out there and there is the the reality here. Yeah, but it is how there and here relates as a system. Of course Lambeth may pronounce and the locality may initially ignore it, and many localities react similarly, but it and they won't, inevitably.

Graham Kings says that given the liberals and GAFCON then Fulcrum is in the centre (Wednesday 19 March 2008 - 09:30am). Andrew Goddard wrote his letter (8 March) not to include Giles Goddard, but that his view is the only view, as the other is schism. So they want this one view. If Lambeth 2008 reflects that, then I might well carry on locally if it is a place of some resistance, but beyond that I would start to drift again. I have considered, on two main occasions, ordained ministry in the Church of England, but it is the present direction of this Church that is becoming throttling. I am, I know, already at the margins, but any further and it would just be unsustainable. I would give my loyalty and service, of course, and then you don't contemplate a move and you'd do an intellectual battle instead, but at this point one just sees so many more storm clouds and indeed it is already raining hard. My sort of liberal ecumenical breadth, and a willingness to traverse boundaries, and see what the other person is saying rather than play the institutional game, is just being closed down. Some of us, who do not make these institutional compromises to the extent necessary, end up having to drift as a kind of life's vocation. This is uncomfortable, but when systems are scared they exclude, and the Church of England is scared.

Liberals now are keeping relatively quiet (notice how that Affirming Liberalism website is pretty much frozen dead), and (Affirming) Catholics are concerned but pulled different ways and plodding on in localities. The Modern Churchpeople's Union sees the need for no Covenant but is trying to work the system. The action is with the evangelicals, but only because of the division coming in their ranks, and the hardening up of the Fulcrum position is evidence of their fear and their lack of an actual position that sustains when they get into "supreme" biblical details as recently. The Archbishop is simply adding to the atmosphere of restriction and embodies the example of a once broad individual becoming a system apparatchik and then adding some by going much much further - the worst evangelicalism soldered on to a centralised pseudo-Romanism. His is a dark and disastrous cocktail.

I look forward to the collapse of the Covenant as too many Churches reject it and the resignation of this Archbishop. It is necessary for the health of broad Anglicanism that both go, the Archbishop because he is so associated with this policy. Both going would lead to quite some internal strife and chaos, but it might also free up space and varieties of identities. Can we wait this long, or would the strife overwhelm the released spaces for difference?

Anarchist Liberals

This is no more really than a simple link to that end of Liberal Catholicism which could be described as anarchistic. Liberal Catholicism as a sort of patchwork movement has various strands and tendencies, but they tend to be clericalised, and this is the matter of episcopi vagantes and all that. So for some groups, when they combine the priesthood of all believers with Catholic order, what that means is potentially priesting all the church body according to individual choice. Choice determines everything, and this therefore is the kind of anarchistic end. This is the condition of The Young Rite, which earlier in March had a big do making Aristid Havlicek a bishop. The only reason I highlight it here is the involvement of Alistair Bate (and lots of photos of this event - he is the chap in the white mitre), who has been mentioned and cartooned here (scroll down) and here before, who started life in Unitarianism and ended up based in Edinburgh via the Liberal Catholic Church International (scroll down) and now in the ILCF and the Ancient Catholic Church. As I keep a watch and have occasional contact, I notice that a few more people seem to be joining the Liberal Rite, the Ancient Catholic Church and ILCF groupings (here's another chap). I suppose The Young Rite does not appeal to me, with its approach, but these highly variable groups overlap and have levels of contact with each other.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

What Are They Going To Do?

The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt, North Africa and the Horn of Africa, muses on the extension of the Covenant timetable to 2015. He wants people:

to pray especially for Archbishop Rowan and the Windsor Continuing Group so that the right decisions would be taken.

What decisions? A decision to proceed with the Anglican Communion Covenant - to 2015 or 2012 if rushed? Some fifteen provinces only responded to the Nassau Draft and they went from hostility to the lukewarm. Even England cannot accept instruction from outside. The St Andrew's Draft is a watering down (from that viewpoint), with resistance already shown to its potential appendix (e.g., in the English General Synod) that is itself ambiguous about discipline. The power centres of Anglicanism reside in the national Churches, not in the Communion.

Meanwhile whilst Mouneer Anis says one thing, Suheil Dawani was doing something a little different. He has met with The Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori and she presented him with a cheque for useful projects. This must have been a useful meeting, coming as it does before GAFCON descends on the bishop's diocese despite the fact that he did not want GAFCON there - and yet he will go to see them to tell them a little about reconciliation rather than conflict. She is there for Holy Week.

So as with Fulcrum lately and as with Mouneer Anis: what are you going to do? GAFCON has decided that a schism has happened already, and so is busy doing the actual schism. One wonders if GAFCON, which was shrinking rather rapidly as it managed to so annoy potential supporters, can rise to the opportunity of these others hardening their positions. Alternatively, as in the evangelical ability to snatch defeats from victories - this all could well end in one almighty mess for the evangelicals. While they end up divided, and nothing much being done, a tolerant Anglicanism might just - just - plod on and emerge within many national Churches where this is growing increasingly necessary and right.


Friends on Tuesday night saw the notice that looks like a parking ticket, and the crime of walking off the car park. They were clear that this firm, UK Parking Control Ltd. will have thought of everything, and in any case they will pass it on to a debt collecting agency and then you've got the credit rating to contend with that they will undermine. One friend, a shop manager for some years, said the car park will be owned by the property company, and who knows the connections between the companies. It is like a gamble and whether to take them on in civil law. Furthermore the arguments in court could become entangled - that a car park is nearly empty could be a benefit to customers who do not walk off the car park.

On the websites there are people who have had a victory even over UKPC and told the debt recovery agency to cease and desist from their activities - a key element is that the driver not the vehicle owner is the focus of civil action, and yet via the DVLA this operation targets the registered keeper. This is because the driver comes on to the car park. I may have indicated I was the driver.

I stayed in for the morning to go to Barton later, and pick up the post (it is late here - usual crap service). The document duly arrived, and extraordinary it is. It does not even detail the supposed transgression, and the photographic evidence shows only the presence of the car. My mistake, I suppose, was to come out of Halfords at Grimsby and go to the car before walking off. Had I walked off directly from the store the photo evidence (I presume exists - but not from this alone) would not have linked me directly to the car. Though, being transparent, my photo identity is all over the Internet.

Well, I took my friends' joint advice with one exception - I went to the solicitor's. What I wanted was the solicitor to show some eagerness in taking the matter on. Is it true, as some say, that when pressed the likes of UKPC Ltd. never go to court because they cannot sustain the actual requirements of contract law? The receptionist took the document to him, around the corner. He said only via her that he had a special interest, because he had been caught by one. But this was not what I wanted to hear, and to hear more would have cost just under £30. For him to do something would have cost more (though I might have done the rest).

Clearly he had a problem and it was a case to take on and discover. That was not good enough. A case that, if pressed far enough, will win is one a solicitor would take on. I thought there and then the solicitor can fight his battle - and I hope he wins and makes good. Me, I neither have the playing skills nor the number of chips to play this effectively. This is not an issue I wanted to be a martyr over. It is not simply a case of the hassle, but the outcome at the end of the hassle.

Some months ago my friend, the shop man, bought some petrol and fumed at it being faster on the money wheel than the litre wheel. It cost a huge amount to fill his vehicle. As a result he went on about it in the vehicle and went past a speed camera in Stoneferry Road and took the cost of a class about speeding on the chin. Thus it was a very expensive tank of petrol. I so very nearly did the same thing, though I was under 35 when I saw the speedometer at the last minute and pushed the brake. By the way, in that direction, the camera is after the hazard and not before, and is partly concealed on approach.

In my little Easter I have decided to take this racketeering on the chin, and yes they have profited on the thinnest of grounds. My other friend commented that I go around with such honesty (steady on) and yet got caught with this.

Meanwhile all that is left is a lifetime ban from me on B & Q and Halfords; I shall never go in their stores again. I cannot think of how many outside replacement powerlights I have bought at B & Q, light bulbs and other fittings for indoors and out. I've browsed and bought. I've only not bought things at Halfords because the store is expensive, but an advert came on TV this evening for them and a sale and my reaction was - "Not in a thousand years, not ever." They join Currys, a firm I have ignored for years. Once I was looking for DVD players and there I was in Lakeside, Scunthorpe, where they have a store. I did not go in. Nor will I ever again for Halfords and B &Q.

UKPC Ltd. exist to make a profit. No doubt they go around the unregulated private car parks advertising their services providing workers with cameras. There is a Staples store in Grimsby, and they are there at that car park (other stores there too). I don't think I'll be going in there with a vehicle - the documentation sent to me was so thin they could make it up. Walking off is not prevented there, but it is £170 if you stay more than two hours and at that rate I'd want to be out in five minutes - but I would not trust them anyway as it gets harder for them to make money on transgressions.

The first moral of the story is, first, read the signs carefully. Go to a place where the car park is owned by the store and there is one store for the one car park and they manage it themselves. Better still, go to one where you pay something and either pay something or get the money back on a low amount purchase - then there is a deal involved, and you have at least recognised who is the owner.

The other moral of this story is that, starting with Thatcher and continuing under Blair, this society has turned from being one of a kind of one of basic individual liberty to a surveillance society. Now every private and public outfit is watching what you are doing and trying to cash in. Racketeering joins stealth taxation. The more they watch you, the more you end up watching them. Cameras and people in uniforms, public and private, are everywhere.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Goddard Schism

Interestingly the latest letter from Andrew Goddard to Giles Goddard covers the narrow area I have also been covering in commenting on Craig Uffman's latest piece.

It is now clear in his letter that Andrew Goddard also follows the Conservative Evangelical agenda and regards the acceptability of homosexual practice as schismatic.

Now let's get this clear (if possible): Craig Uffman regards the actions of the Conservative Evangelicals via GAFCON and all that as schismatic, but Andrew Goddard's letter regards the acceptability of homosexual practice as schismatic itself.

Now if the acceptability of homosexual practice is schismatic itself, then separation as a result of others having homosexual practice is not schismatic. Once again, the Conservative Evangelicals are right on this narrow understanding - which Andrew Goddard shares.

It was not long ago that Andrew Goddard seemed to promote a cultural argument regarding homosexuality. He said I'd understood him wrongly, and had to think on. Now he is clearly with the Conservative Evangelicals.

His use of Wofhart Pannenberg is from this article in Good News Magazine. Pannenberg's piece is even more restrictive. From a stance that Jesus promotes an absolutist view of marriage, all relationships should subsume to marriage, including that of the homofile.

The mere existence of homophile inclinations does not automatically lead to homosexual practice. Rather, these inclinations can be integrated into a life in which they are subordinated to the relationship with the opposite sex where, in fact, the subject of sexual activity should not be the all-determining centre of human life and vocation.

This nonsense is telling homosexual people that they should marry as if they were heterosexuals and put their inclinations into this. It is utter rubbish, of course. If this is the biblical witness, then the Bible is to be opposed.

However, Pannenberg talks about the unambiguous direction of scripture and this includes the opportunity it rejects to deal with homosexuality positively in a different culture - which could include ours.

Moreover, the biblical statements about homosexuality cannot be relativised as the expressions of a cultural situation that today is simply outdated. The biblical witness from the outset deliberately opposed the assumptions of their cultural environment in the name of faith in the God of Israel, who in Creation appointed men and women for a particular identity.

Well the statements didn't, did they? What they commented upon was a culture of responsive casual homosexuality that followed on from idolatry. It was not a comment on a culture including faithful homosexual relationships, as such did not exist there. He tackles this business of new evidence:

Contemporary advocates for a change in the church's view of homosexuality commonly point out that the biblical statements were unaware of important modern anthropological evidence. This new evidence, it is said, suggests that homosexuality must be regarded as a given constituent of the psychosomatic identity of homosexual persons, entirely prior to any corresponding sexual expression. (For the sake of clarity it is better to speak here of a homophile inclination as distant from homosexual practice.) Such phenomena occur not only in people who are homosexually active. But inclination need not dictate practice.

But this is not the central issue at all: the orientation of gay people is not the point - it is that they have honest, mutually giving relationships, and that those relationships are enriched through sexual expression. It is the give and take exchange symbolised in sex that adds to these relationships. Orientation actually is not particularly relevant here - obviously it matters as to who you choose for a relationship of depth and significance, but sexual expression is about enrichment. It is symbolic at a deep level.

Pannenburg simply has gone down a blind alley with his subordinating rubbish and cod anthropology. So the sexual relationship adds to faithfulness.

Now, on the other hand, we supposedly have these ancient rules - rules that Scripture on the narrow reading regards the practice and approval of homosexual activity as grounds for exclusion of the Christian until a point of repentance. Thus to approve gay relationships as well as to do them means schism. Now the Conservative Evangelicals schism - but here the tables are turned, and clearly from his logic Andrew Goddard must regard what the Conservative Evangelicals are doing as a removal because a schism has in effect already taken place.

So now we know. I will be charitable and say that the Bible has not tackled the culture of the faithful gay relationship. However, my view is different from this. It is that there is much in the Bible that is, frankly, rubbish, and there is much material that can be happily ignored even if texts do not offer ambiguity. The views of the Bible given by the opinionated Paul on homosexuality are, frankly, such rubbish, and whilst Jesus has a view against divorce (also ignored for practical, pastoral and human reasons) we really must not go and extend that view beyond which it will go.

However, if Andew Goddard really agrees with Pannenburg's article, then he must agree with the actions of those who have separated on the grounds that schism has already happened.

Let us be clear where this goes: given that the Anglican Covenant has received few responses and pretty much all were lukewarm to hostile, and that the Covenant now will not be able to exclude, as there is a such flow of opinion against this, there is no way that The Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada will be disciplined or excluded for some time being and not by powers that this Communion will ever acquire as it cannot achieve the centralisation necessary. Furthermore the pressure is on by which more Anglican Churches (which have a broader and lighter touch view of Scripture than these evangelicals) will introduce more inclusive views of ceremonies and leadership.

So Andrew Goddard had better take the logic all the way, that the GAFCON project is actually correct if you take this view of Scripture. In the hardening division that cuts through the space occupied by Fulcrum, it is clear which side of the dividing line he is on.

For me, if the views of Andrew Goddard represent Anglicanism as a whole, then, ethically, it stinks. Fortunately he does not, but this is a mighty division now between this form of the religious and the ethical, and I know where I am. I am with people and not with those who have a magnifying glass up against black ink. The Bible was made for us, not us for the Bible. This really is a complete division.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Broad Affirmations

As indicated in the previous entry, there was some discussion about the In depth Group discussion back on Tuesday 11 March, and so I have prepared a paper today that might be used to form the basis of the meeting in April.

It can be found here directly. Alternatively go to Learning - Religion - Anglican (and scroll down past St. Mary's) - In-Depth Group Paper (April 2008).

It discusses what is rejected and what is affirmed from a broad liberal perspective that I put forward. It relates to the previous discussion and uses the substance of Craig Uffman's arguments about Anglican affairs (which he makes in contrast with Conservative Evangelicals) to reject his and other approaches and make its general point about method.

Update: 20 March

The fourth part is published here. It includes:

The recurring claim of the advocates of structural separation seems to be that Paul's insistence on discipline at table in Corinth (1 Cor 5) provides biblical warrant for their plan to split with Canterbury and form a new denomination. In Part III (Paul, Corinth, and the Practice of Holy Discipline), we saw that there is no such warrant in the text.

I certainly did not think that he argued this at all; on the grounds he provided, and they provide, he showed that those in GAFCON are correct. See my paper, first link above. Take the four points summarised about part 3 in part 4, including this:

The discipline envisioned is prescribed for individuals only. 1 Cor 5 does not support in any sense the notion of a minority of persons declaring a community no longer a church' or 'a heretic church'. Indeed, in spite of all of its faults, Paul does not condemn the church at Corinth, but rather calls the community to be at peace with one another, in spite of their differences.

However (yet far be it for me to defend them), what GAFCON and indeed now Andrew Goddard is saying using Pannenberg, is that the schism has already happened - and so by border crossing some Churches of the Communion pick up individuals who wish to be faithful. As I don't accept that argument (and narrow biblical interpretation) then for me the schism has not happened and so GAFCON is causing schism. This is not Craig Uffman's view - he does have the narrow biblical interpretation. The other argument is whether Anglicanism is one and does have such a centre, or whether Anglicanism consists of, in essence from a Catholic stance, autocephalous Churches - what Fulcrum from its Protstant view calls "federal". There is no centre, and an ineffective or failed Covenant will underline this. After all, Corinth is one Church just as the Church of England is one Church - not some Near Eastern Pauline Union or the Anglican communion.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Little Easter

Here we are at Holy Week, and it can be a time for reflection.

Personally there are a number of issues to reflect upon, and one is relationships with my family where, after some crisis, there is a kind of ongoing (and yet, perhaps, temporary as in flux) stability. I rent the house that belongs to my mother, a legally set-out arrangement, that has settled down now into something that will go on as needed. A house, though, changes, and there are concerns about condition and its maintenance, or whether it is just to be sold off. One responsibility for me agreed from the beginning has been to sort out a garage extension that needs planning permission and work to resume. I never knew it could be such an awkward business - submitting plans rejected over and over again due to specific requirements (despite an early misleading statement that such plans are flexible regarding a small project like a domestic garage not attached to a house). No wonder firms command fees to draw simple shapes as well as more complex ones. This garage business is and has been real and symbolic of human relationships: having one set of appalling neighbours who caused the work being commissioned on it some time ago (they have gone - they were able to block access unless it was pushed back), and a falling out with those with whom we were in agreement because of all the tension involved in the process. Relations with those neighbours have fallen now into a kind of best left alone condition - sad but so long as people behave then it is the best that seems to be. It is not reconciliation, and I look for reconciliation across the whole of this area still.

Reconciliation is a core belief of mine. It is not always possible, but it should be sought. Ways through disputes must be peaceful if at all possible: stand back and get out of the way when necessary. Nevertheless, proceed forward with the intention of justice.

There is a second garden behind this garage. At present its back fence is collapsed (to be restored with the garage). The garden has gone wild. Inaccessible boundary trees are shooting upwards. The garage extension half-started and half-started again in being pushed back and enlarged stands frozen. It is a mess. It is indeed highly symbolic. Yet a day could arrive when again I tend the garden. A small tree I planted continues to grow and one day it may be cared for. People tell me that the day should arrive when I am no longer here but living elsewhere and doing something new and productive. Others here will then have the resources to move in and put things right. Here at present I have not, living here alone, and the payment was made to put all this right.

The relevance of the above complexity of disputes combined was that it has been a huge personal disturbance that has affected much else, not least my involvement in the church I attend, where the value of pastoral support is offset by the skewing of the clarity of any thoughts regarding taking any of my own ministry further.

I have an additional little Easter in one sense that I am about to refuse to pay a charge for walking out of a car park (see the earlier entry). As one thinks of, 'Ah well pay their demand for money', you realise there is an absolute principle involved here of transparency and consent in contracts, and that this is not right, and so a court must be involved if UKPC Ltd. wishes to pursue this with me. You just have to be ready for all the correspondence and the rest, and to organise and arrange everything, and understand the worst case scenario - and be prepared for it (I am - for a judge in court to tell me a schedule of payments even if this involves extra legal costs). This is a principle at stake and it must be pursued; I will not pay this charge, and there can be no other path. It is my little Easter and it may go on some time. It won't threaten me physically, nor is it criminal law, but it might undermine credit ratings (I owe no one anything and never have, but I may need to borrow in the future), and as bailiffs threaten to attack my credit ratings I must take that on too.

As regards the religious life: I take it very seriously. I am not in it for half measures. Yet, over recent years it has felt like an experience of half measures. I want to put myself forward. Last Easter I took a service in the church. The reason is that it was an ecumenical slot, and it took place at St. Mary's. Offered to me, I provided a paintings based Stations of the Cross service. Its theology was explorative, and radical in some implications, but faithful. This year the ecumenical services are elsewhere, and not being on any rotas I have done little in the way of presentation. Some weeks back, when I gave some involvement of a painting and an intercession, it was again suggested that I go on the rota. I have decided not to do so, and indeed have started to see myself on a downward curve of involvement.

There is no criticism here on the local church: the issue is my relationship with Anglicanism. Anyone who reads my comments on this blog or on Thinking Anglicans or even Fulcrum will realise that I am somewhat semi-detached from all the dogma and doctrine. I commented on a piece written by Craig Uffman very recently. It seemed to me he had not so far made his argument at all. He was going through the minutiae of biblical detail to argue against those who would exclude The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada from "table fellowship". Yet he had made the others' case, not his; not unless he can regard gay relationships as faithful. Of course he is locked into this minutiae of biblical detail and I think this is all a red herring. He should be looking at the wood, not the trees.

This is the state of Anglicanism. Instead of it being broad and about grace, about tolerance and reconciliation, it seems to be about details and disputes of exclusion. The fundies seem to be running the asylum, at least at one level. I end up joining in the debate, because it identifies a commitment and because I can see basic issues of justice being undermined. But I do it from the edge, rather than the centre, given how this centre is being increasingly being defined.

At the moment my main local function seems to be as some sort of back-room boy consulted about radical theology by a presenter in the In Depth Group. He wants to push the group this way and that, though, funnily enough, I don't. I just want to present the arguments openly and to cut away at the leaps some people make that aren't there, or at least to have them justified. After the service this morning he was again disappointed, but I asked someone who often seems to be agreeing with me when I speak (and says agreeable things for me). I said it was a good discussion, and she said, also to her visiting daughter, "It was. The radical theology group - you'd like that. She's an agnostic." I said, "So am I." Ah, the radical theology group. Perhaps the presenter should not be so disappointed. I said earlier to him that we should work with people where they are, and rather rejected his idea that the next discussion could be from a paper of Cupitt versus Hebblethwaite. No, it will get caught up on details in the text: they don't know that Hebblethwaite is Cupitt's long time Roman Catholic sparring partner. I said Cupitt dedicated a book to him (in sarcastic style). No: I said I'll offer him a paper on doctrine and doubt.

One reason why there is a lack of local participation and development by me - I do attend the Bishops' Course (it's a sort of adult education approach) - is because of the wider issues of dogma, belief and the rest. I will be very loyal and would not upset necessary formal relationships, but I have itchy feet. Very recently I ignored these itchy feet and focused on where I am, and grew frustrated with the whole scene.

In the service, I reflected, as I do, even while some behind me chat away even in supposedly solemn moments. The preaching priest was on an exchange. Both he and ours had started their own ministries in churches that had now "failed" - ours was at its closure service along with a bishop. In those days the Church of England still valued new churches on estates. He did not say this but I thought of the Minster model (discussed here in an earlier entry). Rural churches are also contracting and closing. It was an honest sermon - and you say "Thanks be to God" in bad times and good. It is interesting that the church in Grimsby has closed on Palm Sunday, so that the Easter Sunday will be lost to it, and will only be elsewhere. It rather gives support to my Buddhist view about transience too - another of my core beliefs.

It was there in the service that the idea flashed in me that Holy Week would be a reflection on my relationship with Anglicanism. I'm not going to go to every service. I shall decide this relationship, if I decide anything, on its own merits. I don't know how I would arrange a situation where I finally gave up on wider Anglicanism whilst still having no difficulty with the local church and knowing some of the people there. It does not quite make sense and might not be sustainable: would I communicate in the Eucharist? Recently I contacted and mentioned contacting Mirfield (a monastery) for a week there (some time in the future), in order to reflect. It has gone completely ignored by all - unanswered email and everything. So I will do this at home, this week, and in the church's services I do attend.

At the In Depth Group a participant said he does not know what he believes and yet he wants to believe, like he once did. I asked why he wants to believe. I implied that I do not want to believe more than I do. This is something I need to reflect upon myself and how it relates. So here goes.


Note that the link in the comment made is here - the link in the comment is too long to work.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Backward Flip Somersaults Coming?

Well back to the usual coverage...

There does seem to be something in the air (according to George Conger and the Church of England Newspaper) that after all the pain and heartache and alternative plans and goodness knows what else, invitations to the Lambeth Conference could now extend outwards to those so far excluded.

I really did not believe this was possible (and it may not be possible). I just wonder whether the Archbishop will have any credibility left, because if he does invite CANA and AMIA bishops to Lambeth it will be an utter reversal of everything he has said.

Of course, people change their minds. When in a hole, stop digging. But at this very deep stage it would look spectacularly bad and a huge loss of credibility - and would be the start of different digging. It would also mean a rapid and quick reversal regarding Gene Robinson - surely he would be invited too; after all, those who consecrated him are invited and the symbolism of leaving him out alone would be nothing short of repulsive.

Everything that could be wrong about this is wrong about this. A long time ago all the lot of them should have been invited.

However, before the Archbishop does a wopping somersault, he should realise that the GAFCON crowd wanted the Lambeth Conference delayed, and may still not come. If they do come they will try to hijack it into making resolutions. They will stomp around puffed up with ego and will try to grab the agenda. Does anyone (other than them) want this?

Plus GAFCON may collapse into its own minority status and costs. Why rescue them from their failure so that they can harass others? They have walked off - leave them to it.

It is all rather too late now.

I do think though that when this Lambeth Conference is finished, and maybe afterwards when the Covenant is demonstrably useless or too unacceptable for too many provinces, that this Archbishop should consider that his policy has utterly failed - trying to impose via some psuedo-Roman Catholicism an interpretation of reading the Bible that simply is not broadly shared beyond some New Puritan Protestants.

Maybe when this all collapses Anglicanism can again become the diverse set of national Churches that it is (mainly) and, picking up the pieces, start to build relationships where possible from the ruins that failure will bring.

Then perhaps someone might learn - persistent and continual discrimination in the end undermines the soul of an institution and rots it from the inside. Some police forces became rotten after corruption meant they undermined the law. They had to be cleaned up. The gay discrimination issue is rotting the supposed ethical Churches from the inside. This is what has been happening for far too long, and why those Churches which can proceed to be inclusive should be able to get on with it and be a witness to others.

Someone also might learn that when an institution is spinning outwards and stretching, the effort to hammer it in to a forced centre for the sake of the institution simply causes more cracks - the harder the central pressure the more massive the eruption.

What a mess.