Friday, 30 April 2010

Debate 3

I came slightly late to the debate due to having discovered a job interview in a junk email box. So I sent a yes I will be there reply before going to the television, and I must have missed a bit where Nick Clegg wriggled defensively about the Euro. Having not seen that, and yet seen him just about hold his own on immigration, but also being repetitive (including this 'other parties' stuff), I just ummed and arred and thought that Cameron had taken too many hits from Brown to have won. So I gave it just to Clegg, then Cameron and then Brown back some way, him last because he never seemed to get what he needed from this debate - to shine on his apparent subject, despite the attacks laid on Cameron. He did not show he himself as the commander for himself. In fact, he pushed the notion of no cuts now to protect the crawl out of the recession, when governments make decisions for later anyway, and we all know the level of debt that needs tackling. But then all of them had a sense of denial.

Later everyone said Clegg had done less well, and some thought Brown had done better. But even if Brown did do better, it's almost like it's becoming a lost cause. However, against that is the electoral arithmetic that should still deliver seats to Brown he would lose in a more equitable electoral system, compared with Cameron and many times more than Clegg.

I spent time much debate time doing very fast and rough pen sketches. I did Emily Maitlis too afterwards during Newsnight, and tried to do Laura Kuenssberg at the earlier news, but, despite her obvious asymmetric features, scrapped it in favour of one from a photo. These sketches are featured.

Thus I discovered that, just like last week, I wasn't typical in my opinion, plus I discovered the weak reply on the Euro. I also agreed with later opinion that Clegg seemed somewhat below par: when he was quizzed by students recently he was very clear, gave good answers to good questions. But I also thought the debate itself was poor: and David Dimblebum should have kept his mouth shut. He couldn't ask questions, so he just showed his frustration via repetition. It's as if the boxing match of 15 rounds should have lasted 12 at most, and thus the whole thing was flagging. Viewing figures will be interesting as many may have switched over for football.

The poll of instant polls says Cameron 38%, Clegg 32% and Brown 26%. Into the last week, then, of the campaign, and one wonders. If I was to guess, it was that Brown now has fired all his shots and will begin to fade. The debates meant he could say everything he needed, and having done so, he is stuck. It will be interesting to see if Cameron gets a lift, and begins to sniff a majority. That may intensify Labour to Lib Dem tactical voting, if Brown does slip further, though some constituencies may see it go the other way. But also, and here's a deflating matter from my point of view, if Clegg flatlines now, and some Labour-Tory constituencies wont see a possible Lib Dem surge, then there may be a failure of the Lib Dem soft vote to actually connect. It needs a bandwagon to get a bandwagon, and the wheel slipped a bit.

There are two aspects that may change the election.

One is as yet hardly mentioned. It's that a great many people are employed in the public sector. A great many in the private sector actually rely on public contracts. If the Tories slash and burn, the rise in unemployment could be massive. People may think this needs a more sympathetic, careful touch. The 'Big Society' is just a piece of spin for a smaller State - but the State does direct so much activity as of now.

The second aspect is well mentioned and is the gathering storm from Greece, now knocking on the door of Portugal and Spain, and it is the debt levels and the economy. Greece is very nearly bankrupt and there could be a domino effect. We are somewhat after Italy.

If I was Nick Clegg I'd now start emphasising my team, like the other guy painted on the bus. Cameron mentioned his team in the debate. Presumably the parties will have rallies, but the teams should be shown rapidly before then and introduced. Clegg needs to be with his people, like of course Dr Vince Cable, but also Edward Davey, Chris Huhne, David Heath, Simon Hughes, Nick Harvey, Prof. Steve Webb, David Laws, Sarah Teather, Norman Baker, Don Foster, Julia Goldsworthy, John Thurso and Lynne Featherstone. Show these people as capable of being in government, and do it quick, like being ready.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

The Gaffer

A number of points flow from yesterday's characteristic Prime Ministerial storm in a tea cup. He met Gillian Duffy, a sort of straight talking northern working class woman, but as soon as Gordon Brown was back within the car he was back into his world of political fixing and presentation. Thus something that actually went reasonably well for him became "a disaster" once cocooned in his car and this disaster was "Sue's fault" that should never have happened. The Thick of It on BBC TV has shown this internal mentality of the hothouse political world, where all is appearance on the news and all is measured, and where the team eats itself in a series of mutual recriminations. Also, like in The Thick of It, a spiral of its own far worse dynamic then takes place.

So he appears on the radio when the tape is played, and he makes an excuse that he didn't have time to answer Mrs Duffy. He indeed had plenty of time to answer her, and did. He makes the point about private conversation. He says sorry to her among all the deflecting talk away from him as his own head is in his hand. Then he bolts out of the room, as the first 'disaster' that would not have been becomes an actual disaster of apparent duplicity.

I don't think he did attack her: what he did was classify her and thus stereotype her. He classified her as an ex-Labour voter who has a racist outlook by easily slipping into talk of immigrants and then he sees her as a lost core Labour voter that can be attracted to the BNP. She's probably not so at all. No one has explained that the immigrant is both a labour supply and a market, and that they contributed to the boom; they were a strain on resources but that, in the movements within the European Union, many have gone back, just as Britons come and go across Europe. There is a problem of outside EU immigration into the shadows, which undermines the minimum wage, of people who need either to become Europeans or to leave.

Calling her a bigoted woman was a classification; nevertheless as part of the spiral and dynamic, he rings an apology and then goes to her house to see her for longer than many a head of state. He then comes out and grins his own report on his own gushing apology. So it looks worse and worse.

In the end, though it looks pretty awful it amounts to very little - other than he is a grumpy workaholic who doesn't get out beyond his own world of political fixing and presentation. The captain is very used to his own ship, and has his own world inside and little-praised careerists around him that he can blame, and he grips the steering wheel, but seems to have forgotten what the sea is like.

Does it matter? Not really. If he doesn't shine in what should be his debate on Thursday, that will matter. In order to shine, he might descend into a world of statistics and rattling off claims in the manner he did at the Iraq Inquiry (which came undone). The others may be more effective. They ought, however, to leave off referring to his little local difficulty today. If he, however, criticises Nick Clegg's tendency to use words like "nutters" and "bilge", then Nick Clegg can say he uses them in public. I watched Clegg take questions from students at Oxford Brookes University and I thought he had command over some rather good questions. I noticed that beyond that, Clegg and Cameron somewhat disappeared today, and we know why. This is a General Election of mainly three one and a half hour examinations. You pass them and you succeed. It's as if the coursework, including incidents in Rochdale, hardly matter.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Bishop Goes Further North

Christianity Today: Bishop New Testament Wrong, you have decided to retire early from being Bishop of the North East.

NT Wrong: That I have, yes, most regrettably. I have a better offer even further up north. Come on, I haven't much time.

Christianity Today: Let's examine the reasons. As a result of your many trips to the USA, you are known there as a book seller, but one wonders if you have discovered something in your research where the Jewish Jesus does not quite relate to the doctrine about which you are a somewhat passionate defender.

NT Wrong: Not at all, but I will be freer to do one thing at once rather than two. And I shall be travelling up there very soon.

Christianity Today: What one thing?

NT Wrong: Write.

Christianity Today: Wrong; Bishop Wrong you will still be. I mean a scholar like, for example, May of Acorn accuses you of wrong motivation: whereas she just follows the text, you are an apologist - you make the text come to a conclusion you wish to see before you get it.

NT Wrong: I think I've heard of her: she's a Gnostic isn't she?

Christianity Today: No, she looks at the various Nag Hammadi Gospels but also includes the canonical. She just follows the texts, like a social anthropologist through time.

NT Wrong: I am a leading objective, doctrinal, textual, modernist, postmodernist, so that no one has a neutral position. Like I say to the American Church, you are either for us or against us. I shall continue to write to match the Jewish last days world to the community after Jesus and Christian doctrine hundreds of years later. My work carries quite a punch in the academic community: I am a big name to be put on the academic staff.

Christianity Today: Let me try another reason, then. You were not going to become the Archbishop of Anglicanism. So you may as well retire early. A Bishop Jones James has beaten you to it, hasn't he, via his recent Kinnock speech.

NT Wrong: What Kinnock speech? Collecting redundancy notices in Liverpool from taxis?

Christianity Today: Where he comes out of the evangelical camp to give a more inclusive view of the gay issue, like a Kinnock, something you cannot do given your own Church politics allegiances. I mean, who can replace Rowanov Williamsyevich Treetri when his Covenant falls apart and the Communion divides and someone needs to be in this one but reach out?

NT Wrong: You don't want me to get angry with you, do you?

Christianity Today: Not really.

NT Wrong: I have no such ambitions that you seem to dream up for me, other than to be what I am, which is an international scholar so widely recognised that I became a bishop in a diocese that appoints academics. For your information, laddie, I have had plenty of influence with the current Archbishop. I knew what he was thinking. He is a good friend of mine. Often, let's be clear, I was the hand working the puppet.

Christianity Today: You once said he was sending out letters in taking action against The Episcopal Church regarding the Lambeth Conference I think. He didn't.

NT Wrong: I overheard things that didn't come about. I was there. I was at the centre.

Christianity Today: He doesn't seem to regard you as the friend you regard him, after all you haven't exactly helped his approach.

NT Wrong: I felt that as a friend he needed a kick up the backside. I don't like the tone of your questions.

Christianity Today: Have you neglected your diocese? After all, you seem more concerned with trips to America to sell your books.

NT Wrong: Are you deliberately trying to be an obnoxious git? International Anglicanism is very important when you are trying to build a worldwide fellowship of believers that agree with me.

Christianity Today: I suggest that with the Global South making plans to set up their own structures, or have a different Covenant from the one the Archbishop is selling - Primates instead of the Standing Committee - that you are bottling out. You see there is nowhere else to go with this. The game is up. You are out of here.

NT Wrong: If I wasn't a bishop I'd be thinking of thumping you.

Christianity Today: Are you going to be joining Bishop Nasser Alley Cat in representing Christians under pressure, such as, in your case, those seeking an Anglican Covenant of the Primates?

NT Wrong: I am going further north, not south. I will be in my study and teaching some students who can learn great things at my lap.

Christianity Today: A centre where a once Catholic priest turned Scottish militant reformer and influenced the aristocrats.

NT Wrong: A place of academic study for serious people like me.

Christianity Today: Do you think Durham might have a more liberal scholar as bishop again?

NT Wrong: Their days are over - long gone. They produced our most depressing years of theology. They conked out in 1978. Anyway, who is there?

Christianity Today: Well, they are still around, say Professor Animal Lindsey for example?

NT Wrong: I think we might refer to the good Bishop Peter Brough Troosers regarding any such theologies that he says are on the periphery. Like he says, I tackle the main issues, the biblical issues; the Church has changed since the days of Robinson and the barley water of whether God exists or not and that sort of utter rubbish. I have given this diocese the sort of ballast that the retired chap Bishop Ear now in Yorkshire never offered in his crazy doubting. You didn't get that from me. Have you any more ridiculous questions?

Christianity Today: Do you think you might disappear from view?

NT Wrong: You come up further north and I'll close my study door and trap your hand.

Christianity Today: Do you think, regarding your later pronouncements on Anglicanism, as an active bishop, that you became something of a laughing stock? Ouch! That wasn't very pleasant.

NT Wrong: My hand slipped.

Christianity Today: Your pen hurt me.

NT Wrong: Correct. Hermeneutically, it was the effect of the shape of the pen, not the bodily influence.

Christianity Today: But that's exactly the opposite of what you say in your writings, when you affirm the influence of the body, even though we have no evidence other than the language and culture, their beliefs and expectations.

NT Wrong: Culture is important. Read my next fistful of books, with the emphasis on fistful. Good bye.

Christianity Today: Mind if I don't?

NT Wrong: Prat.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Marryin' Marin South

Noticing the comments on my last blog entry, from Dah • veed and referring to Erika, I don't have a view myself of Andrew Marin who is either a Conservative Christian bridge-builder with the gay community or is a wolf in sheep's clothing to do the old 'chop off your head' act once you've danced merrily in.

It depends on your circle. I see my circle as overlapping with some liberal Christians as well as undogmatic humanists and with Buddhists. I don't find any intellectual meeting with conservative Christians and so they are someone with whom I'd have a very limited conversation. Not carrying the label 'Christian', like say Colin Coward, I feel under no commitment to count Andrew Marin in. I do not believe in any incarnational Christianity requiring forms of supernatural or substitute mechanics.

Just for the record, I note what has happened among those not building any bridges from conservative Anglican Christianity to the rest. There are proposals by Archbishops John Chew and Mouneer Anis which in effect would set up a Global South Anglican structure different from any broader Communion, or alternatively require a Covenant with Primates at the deciding helm rather than a Standing Committee. These are just proposals in the air. It suggests to me that the existing Covenant is one they don't like unless, I assume, they could manipulate the Standing Committee. It's of little concern: let them do what they want. The more they do it, the more that Western Anglicanism is allowed to be sensitive to its cultural settings. The Westerners don't need a Covenant even if those Southerners think they do in their authoritarian outlook, in the 'faith once delivered' by the Victorians. It wouldn't be the same Covenant. The Archbishop of Canterbury wants to force his version through, but one wonders why. In the evening I went to an evensong in olde worlde language, but even that is dislodging.

My focus is elsewhere. Another brand new Unitarian attender, locally, and one asking me about the Gospel of Thomas (answer: a Gnostic gospel but only sayings, known complete, discovered at Nag Hammadi, regarded by The Jesus Seminar as containing some authentic Jesus sayings and thus gets serious attention, along with the view that first came the Pauline writings, then the sayings being collected, then the narrative gospels traditions, and the 'Thomas' collected up sayings). Whereas the chap from Barton hasn't returned (yet), this person shows every indication of wanting to stay. I'm observing what is a recovery of a congregation, a 'bounce' effect that is a noted phenomena so that most attending faces now are only so many years duration. It's quite strange, really.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Electoral Fun

The BBC Election calculator shows why thoughts of electoral victory for the Liberal Democrats is cloud cuckoo land, unless there is an utter volcanic eruption.

Nick Clegg said this morning that a party that came third could not provide the Prime Minister. It is easily possible for Labour to come third and win most seats. Trouble is, this is first past the post, and it delivers a casino gamble of seats. Alan Johnson provided a refreshing political interview, and as a supporter of PR is the obvious (Mandelson considered?) replacement Prime Minister who could provide cover to Clegg's complain, given his PR supporting progressive position. Clegg's point is, in part, to stop Cameron saying, 'Vote Clegg Get Brown.' Cameron says this mantra in his bid to hold on because electoral arithmetic is more pro-Labour as these examples below show:

On a 30% tie for votes each, and 10% for others, the result is 315 Labour, 206 Conservative and 100 Liberal Democrat and 29 others. The reason is that Labour votes are more concentrated in urban areas and Liberal Democrat votes are the smoothest in distribution. See below.

A more realistic view is that the Conservatives will get about 35%, that Labour will hold to 29% and the Liberal Democrats 26%. The reasoning is that a surge for surge's sake based on softer and younger voting never quite comes about. Now there is need for care, here, because people do look at their constituencies, and there is suggestion, given this surge, of tactical voting especially Labour to Lib Dem to prevent Conservatives winning in some seats. But the upshot here would be Conservative 270, Labour 272 and the Liberal Democrats 79 with 29 others. See below.

If the surge does happen and the Liberal Democrats come joint top, so that the Liberal Democrats get 32%, the Conservatives flop at 32% (the sense that Cameron's campaign is exhausting itself) and Labour dip to 26% (because of incumbency), then the outcome is 250 Conservative, 247 Labour and 124 Liberal Democrats.

If the surge becomes a bandwagon of intent, and the Liberal Democrats win with 35%, Conservatives 30% (because it is not the party of change) and Labour 25%, then the outcome is 231 Labour, 217 Conservative, and 173 Liberal Democrats. This is clearly a perverse result, as Labour is the largest party on clearly the fewest votes. See below.

In the realm of madness, where the Liberal Democrats get 40% and the other two 25% each, even then the Liberal Democrats fail to get a majority. The Conservatives on 40% get a 56 majority and Labour on 40% get a majority of 128. See below.

However, this is the turning point, and in the realm of the bonkers, where the 25% each for Labour and Conservative drop to 24% each, still 10% for others, the Liberal Democrat majority becomes 118. See below.

I noticed on Friday a Conservative poster had been defaced. A call for 'Change' (echoing Obama) had someone put Lib Dem on it, and on the back you would lose your benefits. I thought, humm, real political graffiti. This poster has since disappeared. The landowner puts these large posters up in Barton every election. Didn't make any difference in 1997 and may not now.

The BBC Election calculator is good fun, so play with it.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Paxo Stuffed Dave?

Has Paxo stuffed Cameron?

David Cameron needs to get seats wherever he can, given the nationalists in Scotland and Wales and the resurgent Liberal Democrats.

He engages in debate with other leaders, and also he gives these so-called meet the people where he is surrounded by party people and journalists throw occasional questions. Nothing unique in this, nor in submitting himself to one to one skilled interviewing including by the present day Robin Day, Jeremy Paxman.

The fact is that Cameron's so-called big society and radical change is just another way of saying smaller State. It means, for example, charities doing what the State did rather than properly contracted provision. If it can be done for nearly nothing, second best is best. Cuts will slash all over the place. It is the usual Thatcherite conservatism, dressed up.

"So where is the State too big?" Paxman asked him (from memory). Or, he might have said, 'Walk into my parlour said the spider to the fly.' Cameron replied that Northern Ireland is too large and, as another example, the North East.

The point is this. Over the last decades some regions have experienced economic growth through the state sector, including redistributing government jobs to the regions from the London hothouse. It is regional policy. Both the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats have a commitment to regional policy and, the Lib Dems to political decentralisation. But the Tories believe in the market or market substitutes for the free-to-use sectors.

The local press in the two named regions have already picked up Cameron and his statement of cutting the state sector there. He is in trouble. He is showing his lack of experience. He has given another weapon to the opposition, and that 'change' has to be principally constitutional.

Friday, 23 April 2010

After the Second Debate

I watched all of the Sky News Leaders' Debate but via the BBC News Channel because the picture was less cluttered (I wonder when these TV channels realise that we want to see a clear and clean picture?).

When it ended I thought, hum, Gordon Brown seemed to have just won, with David Cameron second and Nick Clegg third, and that's despite me being Liberal Democrat in voting intention. Clegg did turn immigration around to his success, to include a question unanswered by the others, but he did have to stave off attack and both of the others improved their game. There was a lot of fast talking and learnt body language. I felt that Gordon Brown landed some punches - particularly the quip of Cameron weak on the economy and Clegg on defence, and his "get real", though I actually agree with Clegg that Trident is over costly for any independent nuclear deterrent based on a different strategic world, if we should have such at all.

But it seems that the viewing world did not agree with me. Two or three polls still put Clegg first, and one put Cameron first with Clegg and Brown equal second.

Two old friends in Hull have dropped into their Labourite tribal logic and continue their anti-hung parliament rhetoric, despite a 'nepotism' element in the Labour candidate choice after Prescott in East Hull (and where Liberal Democrats have built a local base in Hull, and could do well). I said to them in the first week, about their dismissal of the Liberal Democrats: "Don't you be so sure." Now, at this point, even my optimism for the Liberal Democrats might be too timid.

Should there be a hung parliament, given that the polling does translate into voting (and if only in some constituencies, that means it is even more effective), it will come with strange features. The first is that the Tories' mountain to climb to win means that with a same or higher share of the vote they should come second to Labour in seats. The Liberal Democrats, without concentrated constituency by constituency swings, have even more to do to translate votes into seats - it is only at about 40% that suddenly a Liberal Democrat landslide comes, and until then they get poor returns. Thus Labour comes third and can 'win'.

If this happens then there is a crisis for the so-called winning party, and a consequence for legitimacy is the necessity of a coalition and actually the removal of Gordon Brown. Indeed, there are some skulduggery theorists who say that Peter Mandelson is deliberately running a campaign to this end, and why Labour cosies more or less to the Liberal Democrats.

The logic runs like this. Labour could lose its majority but is likely the biggest party. It could regain a majority by having a broader left coalition via the main progressive forces. If this happens, Labour to woo the Liberal Democrats would ditch Gordon Brown for a broad left and constitutional moderniser, probably not David Miliband (I always remember Ralph Miliband, the socialist writer) but Alan Johnson (also based in Hull). Gordon Brown might cling on, given his attachment to power, but then the Queen can call for a different Labour politician who becomes Prime Minister for a loose or firm coalition, and thus could be someone like Johnson. That would bypass Gordon Brown, who would then have to give up because he really wants power over government.

What the Conservative Party would do isn't clear. It might bleat a lot, but then it was never sufficiently in favour of electoral reform. It could, of course, suddenly become a convert to electoral reform to have power after all these years and save David Cameron's bacon. But if a different left Prime Minister emerged, having the party support representing over 50% of voters, the Conservative Party could be in turmoil. It would still be out of power, and the leftish facing Cameron would have failed after all the right wingers. That is why he is nervous, because the Conservative Party might not survive. After all, there remains sufficient lack of trust in what it represents: the damage that the wreckless John Major and dogmatic Margaret Thatcher did seemingly impossible to overcome even after all this time.

This maybe is what is in the devious Mandelson's mind: reconciled himself to a drop in the vote and numbers of Labour MPs, he can see how it works out to put the Conservatives in desperate contradiction. He sees a Blairite future thanks to Liberal Democrat support (he might be wrong here - they have stronger radical tendencies). The broad left outcome could reorganise the Conservative Party still adrift, for a centre-left to be different from the right wing tendency. In the end, this is the nervousness - even desperation - of David Cameron. Plus he will be blamed as a front runner for stupidly saying yes to these debates that 'let Clegg in' and have lit the electoral revolution, and which he is desperate to stop by his demand for a majority and nothing else.

It is just possible that this election is the one by which the Liberal Democrats, after their steady building, achieve their ends at last, and this after many had thought their MP numbers would go down.

Well: we're not there yet, but it is really quite exciting. And when you look at Nick Clegg at other election events he does carry himself well, speak confidently and is up on his brief, and he is prepared to use direct language as required. So he shouldn't be nervous at the final debate, but perhaps Cameron will be.

DVD Combo drive reads DVD won't read CD

If anyone knows how to solve a problem where a DVD/ CD drive reads DVDs but not CDs - it will go on trying to read a CD endlessly - I'd be grateful. Some help websites say clean the lens reader with cotton buds and alcohol, but in a different but also Windows XP machine all the DVD CD drive worked. One advice file said if you find PxHelp20.sys in the registry remove it, but I did not find this. Other advice files say this is a common problem, the end. I do have now a dedicated CD drive, which managed to disappear, but a visual basic file I copied and correctly labelled to click on proved the means to get it back.

A visual clue is my drop down menus have gone to black not blue and lost some 3D effect.

A point seems to be coming for a full Windows XP reinstall, which is a mountain of work to reinstall programs and restore data. What a nuisance.

DVD Combo drive reads DVD won't read CD.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Local Statistics

I am interested in some of the statistics of the town church I currently attend on Sunday evenings. There is a stewardship campaign coming, beginning on May 4th. Prior to this, there was a survey. I am not involved in any of this, but some of the statistics struck me as being interesting and typical and some just examples of how not to ask statistical questions.

One feature typical of many a church is the age profile. It is top heavy, and of course female dominated (this example not as much as for some churches).
The About Your Faith question shows that either that there are no converts, or that there were some so long ago that they make up most of the life of the person (and 95% are over 46 - 46 to 65 being unfortunately too wide a band for an upper age range population). New people then must be circulated Christians. We know there is a conveyor belt going on here, and sociologists of religion know that religiosity does not increase as one gets older but that patterns of contact and religiosity have changed through present age ranges that shift along. So the largely absent generation, all things being equal, will stay largely absent as it gets older.

Many questions just don't follow a precision-contrast test needed to be useful. So I am reluctant to make anything of the issue of attendance as below, simply because you can be regular and occasional (and what does such mean in terms of frequency?), and how people view their income depends on what people think the average income might be (we tend to think we are below the average!). Other questions fail similar meaningful tests.

Barriers to giving again have a question problem that (changes in) the cost of living that would stop most people giving to the church is not actually related to (changes in) income, and given inflation is a reality most people then should have stopped giving (!), but nevertheless local wasting of money and all going to the diocese (but it never all goes to the diocese so why ask that question?) are identified as the other main reasons people would stop - thus people are reluctant to give into local excess and the higher Church. Question is, what is perceived as waste? For example, how does paying some clergy a salary relate to giving to the diocese/ local waste when there are numbers of unpaid clergy available and paid clergy are paid from above?
Make of these what you will, and the other answers. The statistics are public, so I am not revealing anything. I will reveal an opinion that they might have asked about asking survey questions.

Given that the Unitarian church I attend might one day produce a document for would be intended paid ministry, similar sorts of but different and precision-contrast questions might be asked there. I already know that there are a much smaller number of attenders but that every statistic should be more favourable. And I wonder whether that makes for a better future, or whether the numbers are just too low for anything to be said about the future. I just get the sense sometimes, in attending and looking (and thinking about), that indigenous historically based organised religion in Britain is simply on the way out.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Wider Significance?

This very good continuing account of Baha'i history might just have wider significance for Anglicans. If anyone wants to know why I have been opposed to a formal Covenant in Anglicanism from the off, this is reason number two, after reason number one, which is that I have always been a credal minimalist (by which means either zero creeds or made ineffective).

The basic concept that is at stake in the dispute between conservative/ fundamentalist and liberal/ reform-oriented Bahais is what the Haifan tradition calls "the Covenant" - the idea that Bahaullah supposedly intended to found a religion led by infallible successors and a religious "Administrative Order" claiming to be perfect, free from error, and forbidden to be challenged on any issue. Any Bahai who has ever argued that this was not the true intention of Bahaullah for the Bahai faith - that he really meant for his religion to evolve in a more free-spirited fashion and for its leaders to be more humble in their claims - has either intentionally or unintentionally been supporting the position first articulated by the man whom Haifan Bahais consider the "Arch-breaker of the Covenant": Mirza Muhammad Ali, Ghusn-i-Akbar. It may be useful for this reality to be openly discussed, so that everyone involved in Bahaism will know where they really stand and act accordingly with boldness and conviction.

Covenants work like this: they exclude. In effect, Anglicans supporting the Covenant are supporting the concept of Covenant Breakers.

Ghusn-i-Akbar's or Muhammad Ali's group were called 'The Unitarians' on the basis (I understand - this may be incomplete) that they were People of the Book. Isn't that interesting - that they achieved this title based on a scriptural principle (regarding Bahaullah's writings) rather than having absolute authority in the next leader, on a sort of Shia Islam/ papal principle. Early Unitarians were also people of the Bible, that they read it straight up and could not find the doctrine of the Trinity in the Bible, or indeed an expressly evangelical view of atonement as doctrine. Not that this bothers most Unitarians now, whose view of faith is more about difference together and acts as a gospel of getting on in the world.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Real Video

The Archbishop of Anglicanism has made a video for those in Singapore at the moment:

I would say greetings to some of you, anyway, in the name of our risen Lord and Saviour, but as you already exclude those I might have to exclude, I can indeed say greetings to you all.

I suppose if I was honest, I could say you are able to meet at any time of the year and you just happen to be meeting now. But to give it additional meaningless gloss I'll say that you are meeting in this most precious season of the Christian year - the Easter season and then the obvious point is Pentecost comes next, and that's when we can get out the bubbly.

In fact, to really up the bullshit, I can say I am delighted. I am delighted you are meeting now, subject to the remarks already made, and that I am delighted you are meeting at this time in our Communion. Why I should be delighted when the thing seems to be falling apart, in part due to your efforts and in part due to mine, I haven't the foggiest. But it sounds good and religiously good and that will do for now.

I want to comment on one or two things, and I wonder if you can guess what they are?

The final text of the Anglican Covenant has now been available for battling over for several months. As you know it's the fruit of long, careful, jockeying for positions; the fruit of a sustained attempt on the part of so many people to get one up on each other, to determine not only what it is that splits us apart in terms of fighting over scripture but also how we can humanly separate.

The text of the [Anglican] Covenant is a whole. Well I did chuck out section 4 to bring it back again, but there it is, and now people are fighting over whether it's the Standing Committee or whether it's the Primates that should be the boss. So it be and we let battles commence again. The Covenant sets out selectively the understanding you can have of the faith we seem unable to share, crumbling the foundations as the building itself falls down. The path it sets out for the future twists and turns, is tortuous and a mess, and you will meet all sorts of hobgoblins on the way. There is so much to shout about at each other and that has often been the way in the history of Christianity, via its disputes, splits and schisms as we prepare for yet another one. For a bit of further cover I might mention the Benedictine tradition in which that mutual listening and obedience to one another has been so crucial but seems to have no impact on anyone I deal with. Who knows what Jesus Christ would make of all this.

I am sure you will all be doing Bible study to find in it what you want to see, which is what we do anyway. And I could go on but I know you want me to get to the main gist.

Of course we are persisting on the need for a Covenant in the light of confusion, brokenness and tension within our Anglican family - a brokenness and a tension that has been made still more acute by recent decisions in some of our Provinces which will remain nameless in the case of Canada - oops - but you lot are really on to this election and consecration of Mary Glasspool in Los Angeles.

Some of us have problems with women as bishops, but when it comes to a lezzy that really does matter. That really does focus our attention. So there is the need for retribution, recriminations, more fights, division, and whatever else we can do, and I am in discussions about doing this despite the fact that I used to theologise in precisely the opposite direction. But you know me: I'm a weathervane for which way the wind blows, and at present you lot blow the hardest.

It is how we express the sense that most Anglicans will want to express, that this decision cannot speak for our common mind. I am obviously in touch with most Anglicans and know their one mind but what I really mean is this centralised construction I want is being built on the back of excluding lezzies and homos and those who give so many of us the visceral ick. I mean, just what do they get up to - it hardly bares mentioning and it matters not whether they are in stable relationships or jumping from one bed to another. This concerns us so greatly.

On the other hand, when I talk to other people, and they blow in the other direction, about how Anglicans feel, I then find it difficult to make any decision, but I do still ask the lezzies and homos to sacrifice themselves for my ambitions for a Communion to be like a Church, built on a fantasy of Catholicism and a fundamentalism of the scriptures. But don't worry, I'll intellectualise these approaches for you and make them look different from what they really are.

So let's gloss this up a bit too and say the Holy Spirit might descend on you and make you a little less like rabid dogs barking at those you don't like in all your prejudices wrapped up as theology, and for which I am forever having to nod my head like someone without principle. You might then just find a teeny weeny inkling of a broader horizon of God's purpose for us as Anglicans, for us as Christians, and indeed for us as human beings - but let's be realistic and suppose that we will still be excluding a few categories of course.

So happy Easter to you all and let's see if this nonsense persuades anyone any more, as we are in danger of losing all credibility. Did I say all? I am not usually as outlandish as that, except when it comes to those we should sacrifice on the march to a Greater Church.

Pathetic, Appalling

Rowan Williams really shows a supreme ability to stand on his head in that he is the ultimate bureaucrat as and when required. He can do it straight faced too.

What this institutional double-speak suggests is that at the heart of this expressed religion is a lie, that in order to keep in with people slavishly following an ancient text as if it reads straight off a page, he will simply say, without reference to whether it is good or right:

In all your minds there will be questions around the election and consecration of Mary Glasspool in Los Angeles. All of us share the concern that in this decision and action the Episcopal Church has deepened the divide between itself and the rest of the Anglican family. And as I speak to you now, I am in discussion with a number of people around the world about what consequences might follow from that decision, and how we express the sense that most Anglicans will want to express, that this decision cannot speak for our common mind.

Who invented a common mind? What is a common mind? Amongst whom? Who is he speaking for? He hasn't even had this Covenant passed and accepted. And who is he to organise a response, undoubtedly bureaucratic, regarding the consequences of that decision? Who are the various people he is talking to, who also can arrange a consequence to the decision?

Once again, what is the purpose of this Covenant? Is it like in his December video, a way of bringing together that is not penal or excluding, or is it like in this present speech, a means to consequences? On the other hand, who is Rowan Williams? Is he the lecturer at Lincoln or the bureaucrat in Lambeth Palace? All this talk of 'Christ' and greetings in the name of Christ is cover for straightforward duplicity.

Other words from Rowan Williams, at Lincoln then are worth repeating:

Some of the contemporary cultural crises confront us in understanding, remembering and wanting, and involve how we try to deny the problem is posed, and also can show how we as people of faith recover our direction and enter into the fullness of our humanity [on this journey].

This affects our Christian understanding too: "We've lost a great deal of our doctrinal uncertainty, however loudly we may shout about it." [Rowan Williams] We have lost a sense that we can confidently trace the works of God and confidently relay to the world what God has said.

We deny this sometimes by slipping back into tribal, moralising and noisy forms of faith which never quite come to terms with the huge crisis and challenge in the middle of it all. We've lost a lot of our bearings.... He [the present Pope] doesn't mean rational procedures as much as a loss of patience with argument, real mutual persuasion and careful argument which might enlarge our minds to receive more of the truth.

And you, the Archbishop of Canterbury? So he's back with the tribe and the bureaucracy. On the other hand, perhaps he never left it, because Lincoln is a more liberal diocese in England, and so he'll say this to Lincoln and say something else to the Global South or indeed what anyone wants to hear, anywhere, according to which way the wind blows among however he perceives his audience.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Donald, Where's Your Theological Troosers?

These days one of the buzz words is "nuance", where people do the terribly English thing of understating what they mean. So with this in mind one ought to be grateful to the likes of Fulcrum for publishing to the Internet such utter crap as Chapter 2 of Doctrine Matters by this new Bishop of Peterborough Donald Allister. It contains the old one about doctrine supports the Bible and the Bible supports doctrine, as if the trinitarian doctrine was so obvious to the early Christian communities, or as if Jesus and early believers would not have bothered with the God-facing human and subordinate statements. Just look at such statements within to show how all sorts of doctrines could support the Bible and the Bible can support different doctrines, and that's even more so when we widen out the scriptures from the later formed Church's choice of biblical books.

This has been discussed many a time. But the real 'crap' in his writing is in how he attacks and dismisses academic theology. He contrasts his view of the doctrine of the Trinity:

This contrasts sharply with some modern so-called doctrine, where people decide what is important, then try to develop a doctrine of it. If the Bible has something to say, that will be taken into account; if not, Christians can still think and discuss and come up with a 'doctrine'. So today we have these modern types of doctrine covering such subjects as nuclear weapons and political liberation, animal rights and world development. Those are subjects on which Christians should develop a view. Christian involvement in such things is important, not least because it will balance some of the wilder ideas. But they are not the subjects of theology or doctrine.

What? They are "not the subjects of theology"? I'd have thought they were absolutely the working and relevant part of the subjects of theology and indeed doctrines (yes, I'll use the plural). Not much point to living a faith-life unless they are! And this paragraph continues:

The Bible must set the agenda for doctrine. Otherwise we are in the nonsense world of some modern theologians, for whom theology is empty rejecting on any event of experience in the light of their faith (often a faith in which scripture is not very important). True theology will reflect on what is going on, but always in the light of the Bible and in such a way that the Bible is in control.

I think 'rejecting' above is a Freudian slip: presumably he meant 'reflecting'. Beyond that error, it is as if those who develop peace, liberation, animal and economy theologies just ignore what is biblical and go about it all in some fanciful way. It is as if experience is not important, when it absolutely matters to how we go from life to what is important about life and then to engage with religious traditions and literary deposits.

There is so much to laugh at in his ridiculous piece of writing, as he says much the same thing several times:

Another danger is that doctrine will lose its essential linkage with scripture. This has happened in the world of academic theology to an alarming, degree, and much of the havoc wrought there has worked its way into churches. So-called doctrine with no apparent connection to the Bible creates all sorts of problems. It introduces wrong thinking and heresy. It becomes simply an academic exercise and so puts off those Christians who are less academic.

Oh dear oh dear. We must pat people on the head and say don't worry, we'll say all the right things and nice and simply for you. What "alarming degree", what "havoc"? This goes on (sorry, but it is right to point out the extent of the drivel):

There is a further danger when attitudes to doctrine and ways of doing it go wrong. This is that doctrine can easily be taken over by the world or by worldly ways of thinking. Again, this has happened in much modern theology. The activity of doing theology, making doctrine, is often not seen as explaining or systematising the Bible, but as trying to make sense of the world in the light of what we know or feel or guess about God. This means that the all-important headings used in doctrine are chosen not to explain scripture but to be relevant to theologians' ideas of what is really important. The result is that many modern theologians are really writing sociology or anthropology, politics or economics. Those are genuine academic disciplines, but they aren't the same as Christian doctrine.

Goodness! I'd hope that the world of theology does indeed engage with sociology, anthropology, politics and economics. That's the world analysed as it is, and where it happens. And another place where theology is (increasingly less) done is the university, and here is a depressing call to shrink that relationship further:

It is within the church, the believing community, that the task of developing and reshaping doctrine must be done. Part of the reason for the rampant liberalism we see today, where theologians virtually ignore the Bible or feel free to disagree with it, is that people try to do their theology outside the church. They operate within universities and colleges, creating an academic so-called theology which is of no use at all for the believer wanting to understand the Bible better.

This is a bishop who has a terrible past for narrow fundamentalism, and yet who on taking office implied a sort of 'I love you all' including the remarkable adoption himself of a liberalism as a legitimate Christian tendency among others. Here, what he shows is his crass ignorance.

Now I am no defender of 'biblical orthodoxy' or method or for a pre-determined doctrinal outcome. That's why, in the end, my experience and reasoning have moved me back from the Anglican orbit except at the outer margins. But there are those in the universities and elsewhere, in their usually non-reciprocal engagement with sociology and anthropology and politics and economics, in their development of animal and liberation theologies (etc.), who actually do give express engagement with the Bible and what is actually there and its narrative, and even with given Christian doctrines of this bishop's Church and similar. What this bishop shows, and Fulcrum for publishing such, is that this sort of evangelical polemic relies on distortion and ignorance, that is academically slight, and that, most of all, it is pathetic.

And I put this as someone who expressly does not think that Rabbi Jesus ever regarded himself as equal with God, let alone co-equal, that it is pure myth to say that he was some Godhead "made" human, that he achieved divinity either at baptism or the claimed resurrection (or points in between), and as if the early Churches had only one view as Jesus's mistaken endtime God-focus went through relatively rapid change to become an exclusive salvation faith through him as they still stood in such expectations and then gradually formed more 'sacred-traditional' views. But I would debate such with anyone of more intelligent presentation than the above (not necessarily of more intelligence - that's different), for that crass and crap presentation insults those with whom I'd have a good debate.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Latest Video Text from Glad Ruthie

As you all know I have something of a Unitarian ancestry and have been to their national gathering which was very nice but then I am more evangelical and have contacts, which is me really, and in looking for the next controversial thing I can report on I managed to go to Africa and interview his holiness the former Archbishop of Nigeria with nothing on who pays the ferryman and that gets me among my friends in the new GAFFCON crowd and yet of course in the new world of blogging and lots of first hand accounts I have no need to travel anywhere much any more though I am always at the end of a telephone, that old technology, with the old address book of contacts and all of which with this Internet these days keeps the all important expenses down and then ha! that's me amongst the bishops at the 2008 Lambeth Conference which looked quite good and just who was that bishop's wife with all the flesh exposed tattoos as I like a bit of the old combination of incisive thinking if I have it and self-presentation which I do as I was sat on the lawn amongst all the purple and that's me but then despite my links from all those evangelical blogs and right wingers really and then what controversy I can create with my issues dartboard like that other cartoonist once did when it comes to this poor 'do something please' archbishop but you can see a strategy or you can't and that's me and most Christians are liberal Christians really and I am and I don't like all this recent talk of persecution when there isn't any although I myself will soon disappear behind a pay wall and will have to shout especially loudly to attract any attention rather like my good friend this Cudden Carelyless does but he is getting embarrassing so I might see whether my expenses runs to giving him an interview next time as I have his number in my book or perhaps when he is in court up against some sympathetic judges but only if I can tear away from the various books and blogs that keep reminding me what is the way Christianity is sort of dividing up at the moment because sometimes I'm not sure or get it wrong yet then I see that I have some sympathetic comments on Blinking Anglicans this time which is good but I wonder what Standfur is like if I must look there but I do to keep the expenses down and must find something else to write about that does not necessarily show what I don't know about that much but whether I can make a big splash, you know that sort of thing once the shutters go down and I wonder which church I shall attend on Sunday but I don't do Roman Catholic or perhaps I shall become a Buddhist instead next week if they have anything to discuss much which they don't really so the archbishop is much more fun and then they've got that other one who's a publicity seeker but then I don't know anything about that.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Iceland's Revenge

Ever since the UK used anti-terrorist legislation to stop a bankrupt Iceland collapsing its banking within our borders, the Icelanders have had it in for us. Now they have stopped our aircraft.

Two men from the Icelandic firm How on Earth Windows and Doors burrowed into mountain and started lighting some fires, and they heated the rocks, agitated the mountain and the magma ejaculated out. We know why they did it, because they'd gone bust and needed a cheap way to relaunch and produce glass. The rock and ice is superheated into glass and is showering upwards as part of a cheap manufacturing process. They can then collect it as it descends among the tapioca in New Holland (where there is a firm, Howarth Windows and Doors) and other places.

Only today I had to wipe dust off the windows of the car before travelling.

Then look at the shape of the cloud that the Icelanders have blown down to the UK. It is the shape of a woman's stilhetto shoe, which is always dangerous footwear to anyone around her and completely banned from Private Finance Initiative new buildings. The wearer can either kick her opponent or stamp the pointed high heel into her opponent. The Icelanders are doing the same. The buckle is open, which is the travelling means of the glass particles and dust.

I think we need Vince Cable to sort this out.

Thank you for reading this, which is being submitted for a modern day peer-reviewed Icelandic creation myth saga, and in the next blog entry I'll be discussing how Christianity works.

Clegg's Moment

When Nick Clegg beat Chris Huhne for the Liberal Democrat leadership it was the media face beating another one of those who had business experience. I admit that for a time until relatively recently I was thinking the wrong man had been chosen.

I did not watch all the debate of the three party leaders - I skipped Have I Got News for You but did watch Outnumbered, which is a genuinely engaging comedy and has actors in the making (Ramona Marquez is bound to be a talented actor for decades to come - she showed a deft touch of acting skill in how she tackled the child of Enid Blyton isolated by her damaged and self-obsessed mother while maintaining her own 'family values' public relations).

Nick Clegg simply obeyed the rules you see laid out in many walks of life. Remember names, they say in teaching. In being a radio disc jockey, talk as if you are speaking to one person. Use good eye contact - contrast his eye contact and Gordon Brown's (yes, I know, but eye contact is an act one can learn - and I'm no good at it). Look confident. At first I was thinking, 'Get your hand out of your pocket,' but contrasted his ease with himself and David Cameron's obvious nervousness. Cameron just was not sure how to present himself nor whether to attack or agree. But also Clegg knew his brief, and as of the last four or five elections the Liberal Democrats have focused on policies that they can summarise.

The other two are left with a problem now, and it is whether they should 'agree' with Nick Clegg, or go after him. It depends if they think they are still the main runners. My two oldest friends retain a visceral dislike of the Liberal Democrats/ Liberals despite the fact that they have the policies closest to their views. They still talk in terms of supporting who you have to support, like some football team, but then I never did football. In fact one has drifted off into minor parties because Labour became so right wing. I voted Conservative in 1979 and Labour in 1997 (because of the constituency I am in). Otherwise I am a social liberal. I am aware that the further decline in the tactical vote (of Lib Dem to Labour) could favour the Conservatives. But there are plenty of places where the Liberal Democrats are second, and there is nothing stopping a second volcano exploding into the atmosphere, if people get over old visceral attitudes.

It's not just that Nick Clegg was there, as one of the three, making himself known. He actually did the better job of presenting himself and the ideas.

I actually haven't written Gordon Brown off yet. Obviously someone else may have been a better presenter, but he might still use his gravitas. The problem is that a lot of the Labour vote hollowed out during Blair's rule, not just because of his deceptions regarding the Iraq war but also because he didn't take the Labour constituency along with him in government, with the one exception of the minimum wage. He gave a sufficient place for the Liberal Democrats to occupy and gain a political identity to his left that was policy based.

There was a curious part of that debate where Gordon Brown said how Nick Clegg agrees with him over reform of voting (really - the AV system?) and the House of Lords. Come on, everyone knows this has been a Liberal stance over the modern period. It is Gordon Brown who is the Johnny come lately on this one. He was also against political reform when Blair thought about it for a moment when he had a big tent idea for the broader left and libertarians, until Blair instead stole Conservative clothes over and again and became anti-libertarian (And thus hollowed out the Labour bedrock support; one reason why Hull has a Liberal Democrat council, for example, and who'd have thought that only twenty years ago?).

Will it make a difference? The Conservatives led the election in the first week. They made the issues and images and had business support over the National Insurance tax increase. The poll rating of a narrow lead didn't move. If the Liberal Democrats poll rating moves after this, then that will show the resistance still felt regarding the Conservatives and where people might want to put their votes.

In my constituency the Liberal Democrats are third but I just take the view if you want them then you vote for them, and that's how they become second or first. My vote is really theirs; it was only Labour's when the Tories had to be removed. Politics needs such a renewal in this country that it needs a volcano, and it will only come with something really different. The MP for this area represented people in terms of approaching ministers but always voted with the government. She is trying hard to retain her vote as a clean (in terms of the scandal, and she was clean), hardworking MP, and perhaps she might get re-elected, but whereas in 1997 I was part of the unofficial nationwide electoral pact to remove a disastrous government, I am now part of the fluidity of the current political situation. Anything can happen, locally and nationally. The problem is that our electoral system is like throwing dice, because you never know what creates what - and that's one reason why it should be changed - but the melt is such that an ambiguous House of Commons might just be the means to clean up and change politics even if that is before a second election under a different system, via a co-operating government (as in the devolved assemblies) that does the main and needed political and economic tasks that must begin for the future.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Ridley Daft - a Means to Divide

As The Episcopal Church moves towards its consecration of its bishop who happens to be lesbian, the Global South is introducing an interesting new tactic.

So far we have had the issue of the new Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion already setting up shop, and this is the bureaucratic hub as regards the not yet (if at all) in place Covenant. It is the focus of the talk and advice, but the Standing Committee is to relate, more or less, to the Anglican Consultative Council, the nearest thing to something synodical at this international level of getting together. This is instead of the Primates.

However, some of us have noticed that the latest wheeze of the complaining Global South hierarchy, as regards this up and coming meeting of 19th - 23rd April 2010, is that:

provincial and invited participants should be unequivocally committed to uphold the spirit and intent of the 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 and the proposed Anglican Covenant (full Ridley Draft).

That's a new one, or rather an old one: and that older draft was more towards the Primates in terms of centralisation. It surely is daft to go backwards; this was revised, and the newer more acceptable final draft removed the much more clearly Roman Catholic view of hierarchy towards a more bureaucratic hierarchy - which some have since wanted to manipulate by having the Standing Committee begin again with invitees as the Covenant gets signed, should it ever be so. But now they want the dafter draft! Are they not confident enough to manipulate the new Standing Committee? Presumably its means to power is not sufficiently Primatial.

So the whole thing is descending into something of a mess. The 'Catholic' notion of making the Communion more like a Church, as pushed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is turning with that into a fellowship of believers worldwide with an authority system to match. I suppose if you start a ball rolling, don't be surprised if people come along to kick it harder, and at different angles.

They want the Archbishop of Canterbury to convene a Primates meeting, and one on condition that he excludes both American and Canadian Churches. The latest politicking correspondent in public is the Archbishop of the Province of the Indian Ocean, Ian Ernest. Why can't they convene one if it is so urgent? After all, one is due in January 2011. Perhaps because they want or even need his stamp of legitimacy on to something that is made to be urgently exclusive and excluding, but such would be against what he said in his December video about the final draft.

If you are going to organise a schism, don't you do it yourselves?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


I am withdrawing a little bit further from Anglican involvement. On a Tuesday I go out with friends in Hull, so it was relatively convenient to call in for the half hour service in the evening that finished on the travel time to pass through Barton to Hull to pick up friends and get to our destination. A tiny handful attend this service, and I was one of them, indeed probably the most regular of all.

This was increasingly odd as I didn't participate in that part of the service concerning the Eucharist, but there was usually an ad-libbed sermon even for the few given by the priest-in-charge. Now that he has 'gone' for three months, the others standing in usually do not give a sermon. That pushes the balance of purpose for my attendance beyond the point, and so I've let everyone who stands in know I'm going no longer. I am going to attend Sunday evenings and occasional Wednesday mornings.

The church does have an inclusive ethos, but it is ridiculous to be inclusive of me given that my beliefs are clearly now outside those of such a church and its promises. In any case, as something of a religious anorak, and being somewhat of a megalomaniac for a minute, there is no purpose in being inclusive of me as I can turn up at all sorts of things, and there is no need to be any more than this church is supposed to be. I'll do the In Depth presentations for as long as the group and the powers that be accept this: if either say no, I stop.

The church has somewhat 'risen up the candle' in recent years, but not by as much as it might have. It cannot because it serves a town and is the only Anglican institution. As for myself, I did use the place as an experiment in going a little up the candle, but it proved unattractive and somewhat illusory. I did gain a little more in the way of appreciating notions of 'transcendence', but in the battle between non-realism and real absence I'm on the non-realist side - just. What in the end undermines 'going up the candle' is hierarchy and the inner core of deference it creates. For example, I have never called any priest "Father"; the only father I've ever had is now dead. I'm afraid I want the liberality I express to be combined with a democratic and equalitarian spirit - indeed ministry for me is a matter of training and position and respect comes to that and the person as a human being. Such does not prevent cliques forming, but we can always say that they should not. Nor does it deny that some people have more spiritual development than others, but that should not come via a sacred position. Such preserved 'sacredness' is at odds with a more rational liberality. Either you have developed your sacredness or you haven't.

The fact is that the church where I now give more of my time and attention gives more opportunities for participation and creative involvement. It lives and dies by the seat of its pants, and it is, as such, more exciting. Things sometimes happen for random reasons, but it's how you then grab that randomness and use it. Experiments can be tried and, if they fail, you don't do them again.

I don't know the future for a moderate, inclusive, Anglicanism. Who does? I identify its liturgies and this constant Eucharistic repetition as a barrier, because they are such an acquired taste and require much pre-knowledge and pre-understanding. Take the psalms, however insightful they may be regarding the human condition. I wonder when the Hull Unitarian church last sung a psalm. Maybe the early 1970s? Perhaps there was one later that was isolated. Yet the Church of England church uses psalms still periodically in sung form.

In the 1950s and 1960s the Unitarian congregation might have used Orders of Worship (1932), which remains the last recognisably consistent liturgical book in British Unitarianism; but I know this was being reduced in use even then, becoming pick and mix for a while, and now I look at my borrowed copy and almost all of it is impossible to use without major transition of language and belief (which I do, which is why I borrowed one - not that the copies are in any demand at all). I wonder how people with no former insight regard the Church of England liturgies at first or even after several sights. What do they think of the strange way to sing psalms and what do they mean?

I know at the margins there is this attempt at 'Fresh Expressions' but some are wondering where that leads, as it gets caught up in the current religious wars of evangelical, traditionalists and liberal, and it lacks transitional stages into the more standard material. Do they relate to the sociology of knowledge? In other words, given the this-world practicality of most thinking, and the absence of Christian formation anywhere else (the social role of the choir and Sunday School is pretty much dead), I cannot see where even handfuls of regular attenders will come from. Obviously some must, otherwise the places will close. It is not for nothing that twenty years ago many trainee ministers were in their thirties and now many are in their fifties - training is largely drawing from the same conveyor belt.

That someone like me moves on is neither here nor there. I'm a rather strange anorak and religious theorist. What I'm puzzling over is what there is beyond the sectarian. One possibility is community groups - there is a thriving ladies group at that church - but the question is how such filter into a worshipping community, if at all. People are quite specific about what groups they will join (if they join any) and why. The British are clever at using religious institutions and keeping religion at arms length.

Monday, 12 April 2010


Sunday I provided a couple of segments into Barry Cundhill's organised service at Hull Unitarians. There was a piece on the perceived benefits of church attendance. I wrote it in a theoretical style drawing on contract theory, exchange/ gift theory and social anthropology. I also provided intercessory prayers. As well as a list of rapidly available hymns, now with Hymns for Living 204 added, I also now provide 75 rapidly available short pieces of music that can accompany the offertory or a meditative spot. Incidentally, this was the weekend of the General Assembly, and the attenders should return with twenty five of Sing Your Faith hymns supplement books, so I shall have to get on with expanding the range of tunes and hymns available. Beyond such volunteering, as recently added to my online CVs, I keep a record of applied for jobs, which has also been updated.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Less a Smoking Gun, More the Bullet

The latest revelation regarding this Pope means he is in very serious trouble. Associated Press shows that ,as Cardinal Ratzinger back in 1985, he wrote a letter resisting the defrocking of Stephen Kiesle in order to put the Church bureaucracy first. In other words, he did precisely what the accusations are regarding the Church, the law, and the victims and itself. Cover it up and cover it up again. It is, of course, moral bankruptcy. It is hardly the "petty gossip" that one cardinal recently called the accusations focussing upon this pope.

It is said that Ratzinger wanted more to clean up regarding paedophile priests compared with those around him; yes, but the letter is the document, the actual bullet never mind a smoking gun. He signed the document, it was sent by him. There are also several other incidents involving him now: such as his failure to act over US priest Lawrence Murphy in the 1990s, and that he didn't act against Arizona priest Michael Teta for more than a decade. These have been smoking guns, but a document is a document.

If he had any decency he would resign himself, because he is providing cover for others not resigning. Their fingers can point at him. He won't, so presumably he will limp on as Pope until the Vatican sees the need for a thoroughgoing internal reformation. He cannot do it. The period of John Paul II's charismatic conservatism, and this pope's rational conservatism seems to have run its course into contradiction, in that this pope's smaller and purer Church is now bankrupt, in that it is instead smaller and self-serving.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Orombi follows Anis Out

It seems that Henry Orombi has resigned from the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, apparently on the basis that there is no Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. The centralisation by this Standing Committee, to overlook the Covenant, before it is even accepted, is challenged by the likes of Orombi on the basis of instead having centralisation by the Primates. His argument is that the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolved that the Primates can meet in between bishops' meetings with an enhanced responsibility to offer guidance. He (still) wants Rowan Williams to convene a meeting of Primates under its own agenda.

To do what? To offer guidance or try to create a situation of governance? Who says that authority exists to set these institutions up at all? Anyway, if the situation is so desperate, why don't these Primates convene the meeting themselves? He wants the Archbishop of Canterbury to exclude The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada from the meeting, but probably he has no grounds for excluding them even if he were to call such a meeting. And one wonders what did happen to GAFCON and all that, which seems so ineffective itself.


However, see a comment that, just like Mouneer Anis, he will still be around, that raises the question: when is a resignation not actually a resignation? Has he actually gone?


No. Alison Barfoot has apologised. It seems that his ghost writer had over-spooked his letter.