Friday, 3 June 2011

Cake and Eating

I am accused of having my cake and eating it by Madpriest. This is because I prefer the current definition of Unitarianism and also include mystery: he thinks contemporary Unitarianism is like attending an ethics lecture. This, presumably, is derived from years of experience in attending Unitarian churches, unlike in my case. What he refers to is that Unitarianism is 'low liberal' in character, and I have written about why this is so over recent blog entries (the development and busting of Free Catholicism in denominational terms, being an indicator). There is a Puritan shadow over many a Unitarian service, but there is still place for mystery in the use of the arts, in the theological breadth covered, and in the don't know.

The kind of biblicism referred to positively by my 'opponents' was a transitory phase in Unitarianism, and indeed gave rise to the name of the denomination. The biblicism that read 'unitarian' theology off the page (Arian at best), and realised that trinitarian belief was extra-biblical, was superseded by German biblical criticism and the romantic movement, indeed the latter being in part with the later down-draught from the Oxford Movement. Unitarians were synthesising something of both the liberals and Catholics in Oxford long before Charles Gore did so in his way; indeed the Unitarians allowed the posher parts of non-conformity to adopt both a more churchy appearance and theological modernism. The older Unitarian biblicists, who were denominationalists and competitors of others, not ecumenical in spirit like the romanticists, had nowhere to go intellectually and died out. The idea that they are a model for viable religion is a joke. But then I've never taken ignorance as a basis for advice.

I have a lot of sympathy for Madpriest and people in his position. He is not a theological liberal but he is inclusive. I just think he has arrived at an impasse before most others. Well others have arrived there, but moved on. The Mark Townshends and Simon Mapps of this world have simply seen the need to change allegiance. Madpriest wants his cake and eat it - he wants to be honest, sell himself by a blog, have a ministry and be in the Church of England. But the Church of England, by its ways and means, has said no. He can keep buttin' that dam but why bother when the water behind it is increasingly stagnant?

Now he complains about the new bishop to Durham, in that this bloke is a supposedly a capitalist toff. The point, of course, is the demise of the liberal intellectual going to that position. After Tom Wright, they've chosen a capitalist corporate organiser, as if they are still trying to do the 'magick cleansing' long after David Jenkins. First of all they appoint a conservative biblical theologian and then a capitalist oil man and financier. On each count, that's a reverse on David Jenkins. Of course there is a message in there: the days of radical thinking, the days of inclusion, are over.

Next up is the Covenant, for the special role the Church of England will observe. This specifically is to freeze the Church, to allow the Archbishop of Canterbury to play the international referee role and have more of an international Church. Keep opposing it, of course, but when it is passed the theological and inclusive liberals had better stop bleating. Once fixed their agenda is not going to happen: and the evangelical numbers won't let it happen.

I cannot understand why Madpriest doesn't send off his application form to the Open Episcopal Church or similar. He is going to have to be independent anyway. Of course there is no salary there, but there is the freedom to build your identity and yet be in a Church group. I'm sure they'd have him, or perhaps he doesn't want to join a group that would have him. That would be another case of eating the cake.

Other theological liberals will have to consider their futures too. Some of them are Unitarians by another name, others might be better off as Liberal Catholics, and indeed the OEC stretches to them (it also has theological breadth).

When the Covenant comes in, stop bleating. That will be the end point. You all know it, but then the history of the C of E liberal is not one shining with consistency or glory, given the skill with articulating duplicity (me too) - whether that liberal is social, theological or both.


Gary Paul Gilbert said...

Mad Priest's attack on Unitarianism is less than inclusive. He praises old-time Unitarians because they at least read Christian scripture. Admiring only that which resembles one sounds like narcissism. Why is he bashing the Unitarians when they are among the more progressive religious bodies in England today, particularly on LGBT issues? Reform Judaism, the Unitarians, and the Quakers recently got Parliament to allow civil partnerships to be contracted and celebrated in religious venues. The Church of England opposed the reform. People need not agree on theology in order to work together for justice.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Erika Baker said...

MP wasn't "bashing" anything. Adrian suggested more Christians should become Unitarian and MP simply replied that for him, and as far as he could tell for most of those reading OCICBW, that wouldn't work because current Unitarians don't share enough with the kind of Christian MP is, so he wouldn't feel at home there.

That's a fair enough comment.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I'm under no illusion that MadPriest is anywhere near Unitarian. He isn't. But he was bashing the presenters of BBC programmes as undermining Christianity as Unitarians. I point out that he bleats on about the lack of social inclusion, but there are also those in the C of E who are Unitarian by another name who are also inclusive. When the Covenant comes in, they'd better stop bleating. Giles Fraser calls it all institutionalised homophobia, and I presume he has no alternative religious home, but some do. Some ought to go independent and some ought to join a group closer to how they actually think. Read them - you soon see how little the supernatural has in importance, how they mean something different by their particular uses of the same words.