Peter Levite: Nine O'Clock and happy new year to my panellists in our occasional series of the religion slot. And also to some sat on the sofas nearby, who don't want to take part but have been with some of our panelists today.
Harry Tickpaper: I thought the religion slot was more frequent than 'occasional'.
Peter Levite: It involves too many researchers and my producers says it doesn't get the listening figures - and just think about the travel expenses.
Harry Tickpaper: What expenses? You take advantage of who happens to be visiting.
Peter Levite: Yes, but we need balance. This is a local panelist and blogger Harry Tickpaper speaking, who's feeling a bit grumpy today - yes or no? Well we have quite a few panellists and so I'll introduce them. Back with us yet again is Lesley Bloke visiting this part of the world, though I noticed that this time you didn't come in with Harry but with a new person here, Alan Tailgate.
Adam Tilgate: Okay. It's actually Adam and Tilgate.
Peter Levite: I suppose I was going to ask you, when you drove up, do you drive close to the next vehicle in front? Ha!
Lesley Bloke: His main problem driving was his long hair, but he's having it cut. So it will be all right.
Peter Levite: Adam Tilgate, you are actually the reason for our discussion. So thanks for coming. We are going to talk about liberalism because you are one of the people involved in Affirming Liberalism, a Church in England pressure group.
Adam Tilgate: Okay-ay...That's right. Okaaaay.
Peter Levite: More on that in a minute, however, because we're also taking advantage of Rowanov Treetri being back in the area, the Archbishop of Anglicanism. Welcome again Archbishop. You helped start a body called Affirming Catholicism, and my researchers say that some think you've rather let its followers down because it was liberal Catholic and inclusive, and you are not.
Rowanov Treetri: I would have been here with the Archbishop of the North but he isn't allowed here apparently.
Peter Levite: That doesn't answer my question. He's too rude. We let him into the Christmas party and even then he made a joke about appearing on the popular TV programme Antique Hunt.
Rowanov Treetri: But he helps me relax when on programmes like this. I mean I, er, focus on the people here as I am not a little uncertain when I address an unknown audience, like your remote listeners.
Peter Levite: My listeners are not remote. They email, text in: these listeners keep my afternoon programme going. Some of them blog, like so many people here including the new people here today.
Rowanov Treetri: Bloggers frustrate me and my aims. They have a little campaign going against me, and whilst people pray for bloggers and other people I wish they would pray more for the Anglican Communion.
Lesley Bloke: Drop your Covenant plan, Archbishop, and make me your secretary!
Rowanov Treetri: Well I appreciate your offer but I am more likely to appoint a member of the senior clergy or a bishop, and it would be I'm afraid to advance the Anglican Communion Covenant, so that we can be more like an international Church.
John Beautiful: Archbishop, if all these liberals are against your Covenant, then there must be something good in it even though I've little time for it.
Peter Levite: You are one of our travel expenses, providing some balance John Beautiful, a reverend from near the M11 and another blogger indeed.
Harry Tickpaper: Yes, and just near this upholder of Reformed Evangelicalism is a priest who's an ex-Unitarian minister. Keeps his head down.
Lesley Bloke: Oh, they go in that direction too?
Adam Tilgate: Okay. That's interesting.
Peter Levite: You're not as ugly as the photograph we had of you, John Beautiful.
John Beautiful: I blame The Guardian. They always use that picture of me that shows my face long and twisted and with a scraggy beard.
Peter Levite: And also with me is Peter Ghoul, another reverend brought in for balance, a blogger too, and Enfys Pobydd, who works in her own translation business, and is in a Civil Partnership. But you are not a blogger.
Enfys Pobydd: I just comment.
Peter Levite: And then we have...
Enfys Pobydd: I left the wife at home.
Peter Ghoul: Scientifically, lesbians live less long than heterosexuals; this is absolutely supportive of the Biblical ethic that is unwavering, if people would only read their Bible properly.
Jack Spunk: I made it clear I will not discuss this issue any more; the inclusion of all people is a pre-given.
Peter Levite: Bishop Jack Spunk is in the area lecturing, so agreed to come in for a small fee but he said we must introduce him last of all. Unfortunately I have yet to say hello to Rachel Marsovenus. Hello Rachel.
Rachel Marsovenus: Isn't it exciting.
Peter Levite: Had a good holiday?
Rachel Marsovenus: Writing lots of essays. Harry, I've got one for you to read. Here.
Harry Tickpaper: Thanks. Not what I hoped to be doing at the moment but we all have our crosses to bear
Enfys Pobydd: Interesting to hear you say that.
Lesley Bloke: Shut up Adam. And make sure you do get your hair cut.
Adam Tigate: Okay but I didn't say a word.
Peter Levite: Bishop Jack Spunk - how's it coming?
Jack Spunk: We made a lot of money here in Wykkyfish, in a week of my lectures and workshops, and a good turnout of middle class, retired people.
Peter Levite: You are associated with liberalism too, so you are especially welcome. Now, Reverend Tilgate, tell us about Asserting Liberalism.
Adam Tilgate: Okay. Okay. Affirming. Well, okay. Em, some of us near Oxford, around Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire sort of area thought we would set up a group based around the ideas of the theologian Keith Realist. He tries to indicate what is possible with religious language in the context of having scientific language for our theology.
Peter Levite: So what does your group believe in?
Adam Tilgate: Okay. Well, Okayay. Em, okay, it asserts beliefs in Jesus's teachings, the importance of his death and his resurrection and the action of the Holy Spirit. There's a proper place for biblical, literary and historical criticism of the Bible and we see that as positive towards constructing Christian belief. We use er reason, philosophy, science, mathematics and social sciences, the latter helping produce Christian ethics. Okay, so we want conversation with Evangelicals and Catholics and also other faith traditions and cultures.
Rachel Marsovenus: I've got all that in my essays, and I'm an Open Evangelical. I don't get the difference.
John Beautiful: But that's exactly the point, the stretching of the Evangelical name to the point that it becomes meaningless. You've either got sound Reformed theology or you have not.
Peter Ghoul: No, you have either got sound orthodox theology or you have not, based on correct doctrine and a faithful reading of the Bible, especially when it comes to how people behave and what the Church supports and does not support.
Noise off: It's not liberalism either.
Peter Levite: Someone on the sofa spoke.
Arthur Francis: I said that this Adam chap didn't describe liberal religion either.
Harry Tickpaper: That would be my point.
Peter Levite: Just to say that over on the sofa we have Arthur Francis, and you are a lay Unitarian. Yes. And with you is er Celia Dunham-Skipton, a retired Unitarian minister. And Jade Stowaway. Jade, are you Rachel Marsovenus's Civil Partner?
Jade Stowaway: You kidding? We're both married. And we are Evangelicals, you know.
Rachel Masovenus: What a peculiar thought!
Enfys Pobydd: It is not a peculiar thought; it happens to be a reality and we wouldn't mind a little bit of recognition.
Arthur Francis: The other two of us are here to look at candidates for a Unitarian ministry: offering an external ear and advice to the locals.
Peter Ghoul: Some of us, of course, believe in the eternal nature of Jesus Christ, and anyone else is simply wrong. He is our binding biblical scapegoat, whatever drivel some liberals might say.
Celia Dunham-Skipton: I once got into trouble with some conservative Unitarians by saying Jesus wouldn't want people to follow him who considered him to be eternal and he'd be suspicious of anyone who thought that of himself.
Harry Tickpaper: I'd have said something like that. I mean historically, he was an end time person, putting himself in harm's way (given the regime) to say to God, look God I'm doing my bit and now bring in the transformed and transforming messiah, whether him or someone else or something else. And it didn't happen.
Peter Ghoul: The Church teaches, and witnesses, the Resurrection: the resurrection of the body. Does Affirming Liberalism uphold the resurrection of the body?
Adam Tilgate: Okay, okay. I'd say it upholds the place of the resurrection.
John Beautiful: Yeah, but what does that mean?
Adam Tilgate: Okay, it could mean a transformed body, see, as in the Bible. We affirm these beliefs.
Peter Ghoul and John Beautiful: [together] But you don't!
Adam Tilgate: He couldn't be seen, then when he was seen he disappeared. He walked through walls.
Harry Tickpaper: All of which indicates it is a story. It is written by a community. Each event leaves a theological point for the community. Human beings when they die, rot.
Adam Tilgate: Okay, but we don't know in the case of Jesus.
Harry Tickpaper: If he's 100% human - and that means he is a creature of evolution like the rest of us - then when he died he rotted fast and his brain was irreparably damaged.
Enfys Pobydd: The doctrine says 100% divine and 100% human, and then it gives a lot of leeway for individual interpretation.
Harry Tickpaper, Peter Ghoul and John Beautiful: [together] What leeway?
Peter Ghoul: [alone] The doctrine was created in Chalcedon precisely not to give leeway, not to the Gnostics and not to the Arians. In fact they had disputes with far more precise variations than them. Orthodoxy became clear and precise, and on it our salvation hangs. And to quote Neuhaus's law: 'Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed'.
John Beautiful: Yeah, but it needed the Reformation to get to the finer points of salvation, particularly about who was saved. The Pope has a lot going for him but we'd be dangerous going down that road.
Peter Ghoul: Not so long as we stay biblical.
Peter Levite: Archbishop, you are quiet. My researchers tell me that your Affirming Catholicism took into itself a lot of the liberalism of the Church in England and put it in Catholic shoes.
Rowanov Treetri: I think it was a little more subtle than that. We can give it some historical perspective, I think. We didn't think that Anglo-Catholicism had to follow a particular kind of ethic associated with it, although as Archbishop of the whole Church I teach something pretty close to the ethic we had thought we could change. And some still do.
Enfys Pobydd: What?
Peter Ghoul: Keep to it.
Jack Spunk: It's truly appalling.
Rowanov Treetri: Well, you see, if I were you I just wouldn't bother. I wouldn't be a priest, never mind Archbishop, and I wonder whether I'd even be a Christian.
Lesley Bloke: This is the point.
Rowanov Treetri: But just to move away slightly from this. The low point of liberalism in the Church in England was when The Myth of God Incarnate appeared in 1977. That was reductionist and revisionist. It was a kind of dead end and we had to move from this for the sheer survival of Christian theological integrity. So there was a move to von Balthasar, Nicholas Lash, so we rediscovered a Catholicism away from a narrow limited Protestantism and we give thanks to Roman catholic theology and some Orthodox theology too. The book edited by John Hick didn't even reach out beyond our walls. But to be fair to Protestantism, Donald MacKinnon was interested in Barth...
Rachel Marsovenus: I've got my notepad out, Archbishop.
Rowanov Treetri: And MacKinnon was interested in Balthasar, and we took on philosophers such as Paul Ricoeur and Hans-Georg Gadamer.
Harry Tickpaper: But what is the motive of all this? You see a drive towards liberal Protestantism and religious humanism, and you run scared: you want to protect Christianity, just as now you want to protect the Church. It's a mild form of the present Pope, who is running scared about the 1960s.
Rowanov Treetri: In fact the ecumenical perspective has obviously been very important, and this is half of my point. But we do have considerable resources still, ourselves, and why I have quite some time for the Radical Orthodox movement, and Anglican movement that has developed a more robust Catholicism and overlaps with my own approach.
Harry Tickpaper: Platonist fantasies in a bubble of research-free pointlessness.
Rowanov Treetri: Well, no, rather as a resource as the Bible is a resource for developing ways and means to produce a resounding ethic.
Enfys Pobydd: Not an ethic that includes gay people.
Peter Ghoul: It is an ethic for gay people, however, because, like me, they can gain their salvation through godly obedience, including chastity in actual marriage, so they can indeed get married, have children, tell everyone about it, and show that the impossible is possible.
Rowanov Treetri: It's wearing me down, this. No, because the Church as a whole has not come to a view that can accept gay relationships ministry or bless gay relationships. All we can do is maintain the discussion, and do so theologically and not simply culture by culture.
Jack Spunk: You are an abject failure and you know it.
Rowanov Treetri: And you represent the thin end of Protestantism, but unfortunately we'd still have to let you you in to the Lambeth Conference if you were not retired, whereas we kept the more orthodox Gene out.
Peter Ghoul: No such thing as a gay gene, after all.
Rachel Marsovenus: This is the debate of the moment.
Enfys Pobydd: This is not a debate, it's about real people.
Rachel Marsovenus: But it's about finding new ways to attract in new believers.
Enfys Pobydd: We are leaving in big numbers! My partner and I would go if it wasn't for the local parish.
Lesley Bloke: Real people, Rachel.
Adam Tilgate: Okay, but I wish you could affirm a bit more, Lesley: try and use the Bible for example.
Lesley Bloke: I reach out to humanists as well, Adam, taking their arguments on board.
Jack Spunk: Excellent: it is the future.
Lesley Bloke: But it isn't: not in this Archbishop's Church or any I can see down the line.
Peter Ghoul: Not in mine.
Lesley Bloke: You planning to be an Archbishop.
Peter Ghoul: Upholding orthodoxy? What a good idea! I meant revisionism is not the future in my Church.
John Beautiful: Not in mine either.
Rachel Marsovenus: Not in mine.
Enfys Pobydd: I still say people can stay if they understand the 100% God and 100% man doctrine properly.
Peter Ghoul: They can stay if they believe it.
John Beautiful: They can stay if they confess it.
Harry Tickpaper: The space left by Affirming Catholicism for liberals is quite small. There has been also a pulling in of the boundaries.
Jack Spunk: He's responsible, this Archbishop
Harry Tickpaper: Since the later 1970s but gathered pace after the mild Durham Affair in the mid-eighties.
Rowanov Treetri: I hope as Archbishop I have indeed made at least some difference. Ecumenically, with the Covenant, we should be more recognisable as a Church internationally, and that also will help us gain more theological ballast.
Harry Tickpaper: But my point would be that we who have moved beyond believe more not less. We recognise the game-playing in theology, and the warped motives of self-defence. Rather, we look to science as it is, and wonder with awe. We look at the richness of cultures and yes religious expression in all its varieties and draw them in. We see the simplicity at the heart of things: what scientists call elegance and beauty. There is the whole of human interaction, all that of symbolic exchange including economic which does get ritualised by religions from exchange into gift. And we can reflect through the arts.
Rowanov Treetri: Well, if this is your thing. But I don't know how you would build a Church on this.
Harry Tickpaper: We have meeting places and we meet each person in their difficulties, and with pastoral care one for each other. This does not need towers of theology, just basic reflection and humanity. And it is humanity in all of its varieties, and we bless those varieties that are to the good and add to a sense of stability in all the transience. This means full inclusion for one, and freedom, reason and tolerance.
Jack Spong: And I'd call that theism. What fees do you pay to preach in your church?
Harry Tickpaper: It varies. Some do it for nothing. But if it is your living, and your profession, you get paid.
Jack Spong: Surely there are possibilities and potentials.
Harry Tickpaper: We like to think so but it is a struggle.
Peter Levite: Look we're coming to an end here. You've got your own denomination, Harry - and Arthur and Celia. Is there any future for anything like this sort of liberalism in the Church in England?
Jack Spong: If we don't reform Christianity will die. I nailed my theses to the door.
Rowanov Treetri, Peter Ghoul and John Beautiful: [together] But it's not Christianity!
Adam Tilgate: I'm looking forward to what Keith Realist says is okay this year.
Peter Levite: George Hudson, where are you?
George Hudson: We ought to begin the year at Wykkyfish Paragon, Peter. There's an old Intercity 125 coming in now. The weather is dull but I can't tell if it's raining as we are under glass.
Peter Levite: You are the most useless weatherman I know.
George Hudson: What did Carol Vorderman bring you for Christmas?
Peter Levite: Bye!
Peter Ghoul: I hope this wasn't some sort of illicit affair.
Lesley Bloke: God, you are impossible.
Peter Ghoul: And I am bringing God into it.
Harry Tickpaper: No you're not.
Lesley Bloke: And I prefer Bishop Spunk's God to any of yours: oh, not you Harry, or I suppose Adam.
Adam Tilgate: Okay. I'll never keep her within thanks to people like you.
Rowanov Treetri: Well the Holy Father is making this distinction, I think, between a smaller, purer, faithful, Church and one that is...
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