Here is the problem for someone in this situation. It is the risk telling us this, when you are supposed to lead the troops into Christian battle. Either you put up a public front and be dishonest, or you be honest and then make yourself open to exactly this following criticism from a colleague, David Cloake:
In the last twenty-four hours you have spoken about your past atheism, your crisis of faith, and how you wish to thin out your orthodoxies. This is part of the life of a priest surely, but I am agitated by the rightness of airing this stuff publicly. Yes, you have a gathering of very loyal followers who lap this stuff up, but I wonder how much you are giving them what they want. Certainly the 'comment applause' suggests that this might be the case.
I am among your readers, and I hope a friend. But I am a priest too who believes strongly that we take our anxieties about our the religion that we represent publicly and offer them privately within our own support mechanisms.
Now we know that a Church of England minister represents a corporate and collective front, but this is surely dishonest. Of course you could use silence, but then opening a public blog and playing a hand as if you hold eights when you hold threes is going to be dishonest. You might even be good at it, until someone says, "See you." Because then the dishonest minister will have to run, and fast.
Anita, dreaming beneath the spires, said:
If we engage in the same dialectic as she does, and come out on the side of Christian orthodoxy, our faith will only be stronger for it.
Good, but what if you don't? Has she? Of course the liberal is in a no-win situation. For all the justification in available and sophisticated theology, there is a little list, and the list is under question. For those who have denied the list, there is a history of removals as well as a more or less unknown history of walkouts (though I know a few actual cases).
Recently Lesley suggested a set of taboos generated, she says, by Christianity, of homosexuality, child abuse, incest and cannibalism, that could be seen as 'healing' if going through them, so I suggested some taboos that cannot be bust. They haven't been, in these parts, except by me, because if you bust that list you should be out. Of course I am out, but I wasn't even ordained, and lay people are no longer disciplined for unbelief whatever they may say.
Andrew Furlong did bust my taboo in 2001, saying Jesus was not the Son of God, and he was removed from the Church of Ireland. In the Church of England Anthony Freeman was removed in 1994, because of what he said about God, and you can read my alternative review of his book (the link at the Sea of Faith website is broken).
When Anita suggested that Lesley had given clues regarding exciting projects that intimated she would go into other employment, Lesley corrected that saying she wished to remain as a priest. Of course it isn't entirely in her hands. She is not in an Andrew Furlong or Anthrony Freeman position, yet, or publically, but she is not far off. It is a huge matter for a Church to remove a priest, but on the other hand one of them has to employ her. No one has deposed Mad Priest, Jonathan Hagger, but no one is employing him (and his punk webblog, becoming a means towards some income, has been inactive for days).
Indeed, in the 1960s and 1970s there was a move out of ministry by many who became social workers or at least took up the relative freedom of unpaid non-stipendary ministry. However, the former is to give up the core of what ministry is about for something of other professional speciality, where you definitely don't do God, and the latter is a cop-out unless there are more solid arrangements that necessitate the same, like being a chaplain, which is then just someone else paying the bill. Chaplains and the other paid of universities are usually more on a limb regarding belief. Non-stipendary ministers active in parishes aren't usually any freer, being subject to the same dynamic dance as the paid.
There are options as well of independence or semi-independence, like joining the Open Episcopal Church, the Liberal Catholic Church International (LCCI) or the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church (LCAC). In each you remain as priest (actually, coming from the Church of England, you might be conditionally reordained). The LCCI and LCAC are both deliberately broad and eclectic, but are still into the cosmic Christ at least, and adds a certain amount of magic in some interpretations - that's at least one of the historical perspectives. The LCAC makes an additional push into liberalism, but isn't quite like the Free Catholics of old or the intentions of the Unitarian then Bishop Ulric Vernon Herford. I don't quite understand how one would be very liberal theologically and in the Open Episcopal Church, but it is the case with some - it is just socially inclusive, Nicene, independent and ecumenical.
In the Unitarians we do not talk about how little we believe, but what we believe and how. With us, and with the Quakers, it is all the other way around. We spread out regarding beliefs, and they can be, usually, religious humanist, liberal Christian, Eastern (mainly Buddhist) and Pagan (mainly natural, earth focused and ecological). There is both the reasoning rational tradition (the main one) and the non-rational (from Romanticism and Transcendentalism). Unlike Quakers, Unitarians do have ministers, and they do all that ministers do, although the focus is congregational and not parish (not a lot of difference, in many cases: plus the English Presbyterian tradition was still parish orientated). Some ministers are ordained, if from other denominations and Northern Ireland, some are even priests in background, but many full ministers are not ordained. So Bob Wightman is ordained, because he was a Congregationalist, and Tony McNeile isn't - "I don't believe in it," he said to me.
So the point is this: if you don't have the list to start with, you don't have the dilemma. I'm not troubled with what I don't believe, because what I don't believe is the known unbelieved and then the unknown unbelieved. What I believe in religion is consistent with the sociology of knowledge and my entire outlook.
For the case of a list:
I do not believe in one God, but in signals of transcendence
Any possible overall transcendence is inactive
All life evolves
Much can be discovered
Being inventive also leads to discoveries
I do not believe in one Lord but in people and the living
There is no one Son of God
There are interesting ethical and religious prophets who make mistakes
Prophetic people are just humans like the rest of us
Salvation is something like non-attachment to things that are transient
The religious task is to come to terms with death of self and other
This can be called awareness
There is liberation in being compassionate when also aware
This connects self to community
Much knowledge depends upon research - reliable and valid
Much knowledge is artistic and imaginative
A lot of understanding is framed by making stories
We give and receive, and exchange
Exchanging with others binds us together
Some exchange can be material giving for a hoped for spiritual return
It is useful to take time out to reflect and contemplate
Sometimes it is good to strive out and take risks
We should know where we have come from up to the present
Ethically we should ask where we are going
A church is a time-out place to ask questions relating to awe, wonder, the community and the self
Various traditions can be useful to frame these questions
The questions should be open and answers tentative
We are aware of the reality of where we are and what happens
We look forward to building something better than we have
We should attempt to build it, even in the smallest encounters