Monday, 4 April 2011

Not Being at the Centre

My recent interaction with Madpriest (Jonathan Hagger) doesn't just highlight the problem with blogging for some, but the attraction of the Church of England for some as a kind of holding-to 'nurse'.

First of all, on the matter of blogging, one comment rather confirms the point:
Blogger Fr Kenny said...

I was once told to tone down my blog because I could no longer have a "prophetic ministry". I did so and stayed in post. However, to blog the inane is pretty soul-destroying to say the least. That's why I'm taking a break, at least... probably chucking it altogether....

3 April 2011 10:15

But to return to the main issue is this notion of the Church of England as the necessary place to be.

Blogger Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

My suggestion was and is to walk away. I was 'out of it' for one and a half years, and only returned as comfortable and on my terms.

It might be better to kill the blog as well as killing what you are doing, to only return long after some water has washed over.

If you must do the ministry thing then become independent, do funerals, go and get ad hoc preaching, and do it in a new way. I'd clear out of the C of E as part of doing something different.

2 April 2011 03:34

This received this follow-up reply:

Blogger MadPriest said...

I think The Pluralist is the reason I don't just walk away. Although I get some pleasure from the popularity of OCICBW..., I have always blogged to make life better for other people and to change things. If I was to walk away from the church I would become an outsider like Adrian and my words would be dismissed just as Adrian's words are so often dismissed as not being authentic. Personally, I believe there that an outsider's objective words are extremely necessary in any argument and Adrian provides such objectivity far better than I ever could. So, I have to do what I can do.

2 April 2011 10:46

And later I returned with:

Blogger Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I don't think a lot about this authenticity. Look at what Mark Paris and Simon Mapp are doing, and to do it they have to be outside the C of E. The C of E is increasingly 'damaged goods' in this country, and is slipping away, and represents less of the ethical and spiritual. Your website would have to become your shop window, if you did rites of passage and preached where they paid you ad hoc.

I don't care about being on the outside. Nor do I car about blogging league tables or Wikio and all that. It is another form of attachment to something sugary.

It is possible at an impasse just to stay there, other things will change even if you don't. But then you don't plan your way out.

2 April 2011 16:45

I was trying to suggest a positive solution. The ongoing dialogue suggested why, I think, Jonathan Hagger isn't right on this, even from his own standpoint in that this further comment of his made the important points:

Blogger MadPriest said...

I think what you do is different, Adrian and, as I said, vital. But you have to admit you are always being accused of poking your nose in somebody else's business. That obviously does not bother you but it does weaken your effectiveness. And the fact remains - the church is the body of Christ. Some of us are required to "heal thyself" rather than taking on the role of disinterested doctor.

2 April 2011 16:54

One might quibble about the post-Wedgwood Liberal Catholic strand, even if they have authentic bishops in a long line of ordinations back in time, but there is no basis for regarding, say, the Open Episcopal Church as other than 'the body of Christ' if you believe in that sort of thing. Independence is an option. The OEC follows the creeds and councils (even if it gives Catholic latitude to its self-financing clergy) with bishops and other orders and its main 'liberal' basis is simply social inclusion. To give another example: a small group of conserving Orthodox were in the lines of ordinations like Jules Ferrette to Hugh George de Willmott Newman and I understand including in part from the once Unitarian Ulric Vernon Herford. But they retain all the councils and creeds, and Orthodox patterns. Tiny and independent, they attached themselves to wider Orthodoxy as indeed they might and they are surely Orthodox full and complete.

So the Independent Sacramental Movement has the whole range of theologies and something like the OEC wants to be very ecumenical. And when you think about it, the Church of England is as much a breakaway as any of these smaller bodies.

In what sense then am I poking my nose into someone else's business? Well, only because I continue to discuss Anglican affairs. Perhaps I shouldn't and it would be better if I did not: perhaps Jonathan would be liberated if he did not. Increasingly (if not quite yet - and there's the rub), what Anglicanism does is getting irrelevant to this country, and its ethical stance is only cutting it further adrift.

Now I am central to faith, in the sense that I am central to a general pluralistic stance and one found in the Unitarians. To the extent that I comment about this small group, that's then central, but I'm only Unitarian on a Martineau principle, that there's no other realistic choice. His view was that it's not something to be over promoted in a denominationalist sense, but you're a liar if you don't use the label given what it means in the broad creedless sense. And I claim to be both theologically informed and central in that way.

On this point, take another blog's comments, only on Sunday itself:

Blogger Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Some rapid thoughts:

He [Jesus] initiated the ritual of the Eucharist although it was simply remembering his sacrificial love over a meal - Really? I think this is highly contentious

He encouraged us to build a community - Hardly

He gave us a set of teachings - Only after the fact.

You are referring just to one writer. Religion does not require a supernatural. What it involves is exchange and gift, with the product of binding (religio). This is what people have done over time. It is related to our tendency to be collective with identity, to include some in and rule others out.

3 April 2011 09:17

This was followed, seen after my return from church, with:

Blogger Lesley said...

I agree that religion doesn't require a supernatural element - take Buddhism.. it is just a generalisation.

3 April 2011 12:20

I thought I'd clarify:

Blogger Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

His own community was presumably the leaders to come of each tribe of Israel, actually (when all transformed) or in symbol, plus one woman (I wonder what her role was). But he didn't encourage *us* to have community.

There seems to be a last meal of some significance connected to other meals, but the problem is what significance, but surely it is not a liturgical innovation and did not institute the Eucharist.

So much of that, like the teachings, is in the volatile, shifting early charismatic community, under all sorts of expectations and tensions.

3 April 2011 15:11

There is nothing peculiar or remarkable about my views of the historical Jesus. It isn't the Jesus of dogma and doctrine, but I refuse to accept that such dogma 'central' to anything beyond its institutions. My dialogue there is typical, again on a Martineau experience, of what often happened between Unitarian clergy who'd engaged with German biblical criticism and Anglican theologians in the later nineteenth century. That's not poking my nose in, but having a dialogue with those arguably closer to a Unitarian position than to their own institution's doctrine (as also seen later on Sunday regarding original sin).


Erika Baker said...

It’s maybe not so much a question of “poking your nose into someone else’s business” but a question of relevance. On Christian blogs people generally try to make sense of their faith in one way or the other. But the starting point IS the faith. So someone who keeps saying that he doesn’t share that faith but nevertheless believes he has something important to contribute in that context may be talking past those he is addressing.
You’re absolutely brilliant when you analyse church politics. But in a thread where a priest, for example, grapples with the doctrine of original sin, it is possibly more appropriate to give faith-based answers than to say “I don’t believe it”. Not because “I don’t believe it” isn’t a valid answer, but because in the context it’s not necessarily a relevant or helpful one. Having done grappling, the person who asked the question may come to the same conclusion as you did, but while they’re grappling it’s the various answers faith can give that matter more than a call from outside the faith.

Jonathan’s blogging is more dangerous because he blogs from the inside, being one of those inside and therefore challenging them much more deeply.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

This is the notion that there IS a faith, a package delivered. Well if there IS then it ought to command submission. He is actually saying that too, in large part. But then you have those who want it both ways, and that's when it all starts to break down.

If some doctrines are interpreted out to become meaningless or made optional by individuals then the prior claim of the package is lost simply because it has been overturned.

That's a comment anyone can make, but perhaps better made from the outside.

Erika Baker said...

The problem with the comment is that it is based on the assumption that doctrine is a package that you're told to believe or else.

And while some people of faith would agree, I think it is on the whole a comment based in a lack of understanding of faith.

I don't have to believe in Mary's immaculate conception to have a Christian faith. I don't have to believe in a virgin birth.
Just because some people keep telling me that I must doesn't make it so.

For me, that's upside down talking.
The experience of faith comes first, then comes the attempt to find words that make sense of it.

The assumption people who don't have faith make is that doctrine comes first and that faith derives from it.
You said to me recently that I believe what the church tells me to believe. But that's wrong. The church was and is made up of people who have had experiences similar to mine and who have tried to find ways of putting them into words. So it's not a case of them telling me what to believe, but of them having found words that chime with what I know.

Some doctrines make sense to me (even if never literal), so I keep them.
With others, I can see that they make sense to others and that they help others and I can even see why they make sense to others.

But I personally can let them go without losing a single shred of my faith.
And that’s not an intellectual statement but an absolute fact in my personal life. It’s not something you can reason away with logic, because it is not based on logic in the first place.

I can understand that people who don’t have faith don’t understand that.
But it does also mean that their comments on it are maybe not as relevant as they would be if they came from the inside.

Hugh said...

' There is nothing peculiar or remarkable about my views of the historical Jesus. It isn't the Jesus of dogma and doctrine, but I refuse to accept that such dogma 'central' to anything beyond its institutions.'

Well said Adrian .

Regards .


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I will not accept offensive comments about people.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I don't know how you know, Erika, that your experiences are those equivalent of other people of your faith, except by the language that they use and you use. There isn't some sort of fuzzy experience that identifies itself as looking for these words and those words all of one faith.

And how do you know that I don't have the same experience, except that I select some words from Buddhism, some from humanism and some from Christianity? It is only a wider form of accepting and rejecting after all.

Erika Baker said...

that's true. I don't know about other people's experience.
When I was child I used to love imagining that other people saw and experienced everything different to me. That when I said "yellow" they saw the colour I experienced as "red". That we could never know anything at all about others.

But that's only partly true. We seem to have a vocabulary of nebulous experience things that seems to speak to all of us of roughly the same thing and so we probably have very similar experiences of phenonena like sadness, fear, aprehension, love, tension, anticipation etc.

So when I read how other people experience their faith I can see my own experience reflected in it.

The intellectual framework around it is a different question. I am sure that if I had been brought up in a different culture, the words of Islam or of Buddhism would have helped me to understand what I experience. And just like with Chritianity, there would have been things that are abhorrent, some irrelevant, some expressing a deep truth.

I am always fascinated by how similar the mystics of all major faith speak of this numinous that pervades their lives. The mystics of the faiths have more in common with each other than they have with the fundagelicals of their groups.

For me, Christianity works. The psychology works in a human context, most of the words work in an intellectual one to tie in what I experience with how it might be explained.

My best friend is a Pagan and she uses different words and concepts for what we both think is the same experience of "god" in our lives.

How do I know that you don't have the same experience? Because you have repeatedly told me that you don't.
You have repeatedly stated that what you call "transcendence" is a theoretical possibility for you, not an actually experienced reality.
I simply take your word for it.
I certainly wouldn't presume to claim that you're experiencing something you say you're not.