This is the position of the blog entry that is now the subject of the threat of legal action, delivered to me on 2nd October 2011. No doubt Mhoira Lauer-Patterson has kept a copy of the original entry. So have I. I have kept her email source of this blog entry too. Nevertheless I shall meet her objection minimally by rewriting this entry to exclude using indented chunks of her email. Nevertheless this blog entry remains the same.
There is a blog entry on 2nd October 2011 that tackles the legal threat directly.
I have received an from Bishop Mhoira Lauer-Patterson that is in direct response to a blog entry here. Really it should have been placed as a comment. She tells me that she is deeply offended by my recent blog entry and that she will not be serialising the latter part of my article 'The Wandering Bishops...' that was in the June edition of NUF Viewpoint. My facts are apparently (now?) inaccurate.
I did not intend offence. I take it that the NUF Viewpoint article, written for the NUF (but she was free to spread it around) was going to be serialised, so it looks more like a sanction: if the 'facts' are inaccurate then presumably they were inaccurate.
The substance of her response is that Unitarian Ministries International is not in opposition to the General Assembly. On that, I put the opposition inside single quotation marks because it might be regarded so but I did not make the point myself. The point I make is that it selects ministers and the General Assembly arranges, oversees the training of ministers and their regulation. In other words, GA Unitarian ministers are trained and registered as such.
Nevertheless, Mhoira herself clearly sees a difference between the two bodies. The assertion is that the GA has a function to unify fragmentary views from roving speakers in Unitarian pulpits. Set against this, Unitarian Ministries International is in existence out of necessity because a number of Unitarians in Britain and the United States seem to put forward a non-Christian message.
This is the wrong idea about the General Assembly, as it does not intend to unify fragmentary views. The General Assembly's existence is no more than having brought together two umbrella organisations, the denominational one and the looser collection, in 1928. The argument for doctrine inside the denominational body was lost, and the looser collection, free Christian, was decidedly evolutionary in intent. So the fact is that the General Assembly covers both Christian and non-Christian. As in the United States, it is an individualist body, where the doctrinal centre is not a Church or book but the individual. It practices subjective, perhaps now postmodern faith. It has always been different from the 60,000 or so Transylvanians and their catechism based Unitarianism (a system though, once threatened by a lunatic Romanian leadership, is being badly affected by depopulation and economic change). However, the Transylvanian Unitarians do not attach themselves to the UMI but to the UUA and GA, and their bishop and ministers are having to confront hard decisions about adapting their faith. I referred to Knut Heidelberg because he seems to be one person riding two horses at once.
However, I was certainly opposed to the adoption of the GA Object, which includes the intention to 'uphold the liberal Christian tradition'. It is not the job of the GA or the churches to uphold anything. That we are free to ignore that just makes a mockery of its adoption in the first place, and is rather like the Anglicans who ignore their creeds. I am not a Christian and I stopped saying the creeds and taking communion when attending an Anglican church, but I fully participate in the Unitarian congregation because there is no demand that I should be a Christian.
Mhoira tells me in her email that the reason she joined UMI was because the GA is exclusivist regarding its ministers and them not joining other bodies. I did explain this in the previous blog entry on this topic. Actually, though, Mhoira has been welcomed into pulpits across the Yorkshire Unitarian Union, and all of us have respected her Church and the right of her Church to select its own ministers. We respect her Church based titles. I am, and I think we are, quite open ended in ecumenical terms, or interfaith terms. The UMI, Mhoira tells me, is not a church, but a ministerial tool by which those who are Christian Unitarians can share views and work experiences. She says is not a controlling body such as the GA, but then the GA only has the power to persuade.
Her email claims that the GA and UUA intention to own the name Unitarian is as much protectionist as Roman Catholicism or Anglicans saying you must belong to the Church of England. They build walls to stop people getting in and eject people when it suits them.
This is a misunderstanding. To be Unitarian is not to have a theological position, but to be part of an inheritance of congregations that, in 1845 in Parliament, received recognition that over a period of 25 years a congregation can change its views but retain its assetts. It all followed on from the Lady Hewley case in York, and completed what was started by the legalisation of the theological view practised of Unitarianism in 1813. In other words, to be an evolutionary Unitarian, holding views that change, is something particular to the congregations that started out as English Presbyterian and were joined by others (Cookite Methodists, Unitarian Baptists) and continued to change. After 1845 the Free Christian side, the evolutionists, that gave rise to the Religious Humanists and even Free Catholics, were in the ascendancy and thus gave identity to the Unitarians. Thus is completely different from Anglican exclusivity (which isn't - there is a distinction made between being in communion with the See of Canterbury or not) and Roman Catholicism. So, for example, I am Unitarian but I am not unitarian.
She claims I asserted that she joined UMI instead of undergoing 'ministry training' through the GA. But I made no such assertion. I said that UMI selects its ministers similar to LCAC. Here is the point: Anglicans and Roman Catholics choose to train ministers, but each has bishops who can, in theory, simply select who they want and make them ordained through a sacramental act. LCAC and other Liberal Catholics also ordain, indeed not only do some ordain but they reordain the ordained often several times [drawing in different lines of apostolic succession].
Actually the GA Ministry Committee does take previous academic and training experiences into account; the Anglicans and others who transfer over often only take short transfer courses like Unitarian History before coming on to the GA Roll simply because they were trained and are experienced already. The problem (and Mhoira is past the age of retirement even of Archbishops of Canterbury [who must retire at 70!]) is that she met none of the criteria of the GA, and that's the crux of it. The training side is the least of the issue. She and I were going to the Unitarian College presentation but she pulled out on receiving the forward rejection via all the criteria (she could still have come along). I decided to go on my own and I have written here in this blog about my considered response.
But let us just tackle the issue of training, because it does seem to grate. Mhoira outlines her extensive training: a Grad Dip Theology intensive degree programme and then a three year MA programme attended by ministers of various denominations. She also went to a Baptist summer school and had a year of ministry oversight in the Anglican Church of Australia.
Not only did she ask me if this is not enough, but she contrasted it with perceived amateurism regarding attempts to give cohesive sermons in Unitarian pulpits, and against that would not want to be moulded into the GA version of a 'professionally trained minister. She heard a minister try to relate to an elderly congregation by reading it children's stories, indicating that GA training is lacking.
Well, I spent seven years part time supervised producing what became a Sociology of Religion Ph.D. I had a year at Unitarian College Manchester (a year I regard as largely wasted - hardly training). I spent two years part time getting a Contemporary Theology MA. I spent a year full time getting a PGCE in Religious Education. Now I think this is not enough to be a minister, because I have not had a placement or a pastorate. Mhoira has had academic education and one year of Anglican pre-ministry training oversight after which she was told she was too old to continue towards further training.
She was therefore ordained otherwise independently and then, back in Britain, the LCAC (post-split) took her on and also decided she would be one of their bishops. That is absolutely their right, their judgment and their procedure, and I have not argued against that. Nor, actually, have I ever said anything about having a long-established piece of work submitted to what is her own theology school (whether or not registered in Florida, the United States), via a Skye viva or interview and being awarded a Ph.D.. What I have said about this is that the GA would be unlikely to recognise it, as indeed would not any university in this country. I have no idea if it is a Ph.D level piece of work and neither wish to see it nor judge it. I have only made the point with sensitivity that the GA would be unlikely to recognise the doctorate.
Also, against her assertion, I never claimed that others are not training professionals. I said they select. As for ministers and what they do, well we all have our views about what we hear. I too dislike children's stories when there are no children on the pretext that adults like them too - it is often (but not always) an excuse for not preparing a service for a particular congregation. It sometimes shows an inability to adapt ones own familiar running order. It is not an exclusive ministry issue.
She agrees with me that the LCAC is a clergy-led church, but that it is not true that it is easy to become a priest of the LCAC by simply asking for it.
But I haven't said that selection is easy. I have said it is a selection. How Adrian Glover decides to select (and now indeed Mhoira Lauer-Patterson) is up to them. Indeed, it is up to them.
Oh dear. John Kersey and Alistair Bate fell out with me over assisting a friend in Glasgow and now it seems I have fallen out with the newer LCAC as well. Is this why Liberal Catholics are so schismatic?
I have a lot of agreement with the newer LCAC and indeed aspects of its work in Swindon, but one gets the view in Swindon that it doesn't develop a congregation but ordains it. I would ask, have all those ordained in Swindon been through an academically backed training process? I realise the use of minor orders but I don't agree with this approach (that selects). In contrast, Unitarianism is lay led and its ministers serve; indeed in Great Britain few ministers are actually ordained.
I'm asked to get my facts right. But what is wrong is a claim that the GA has its own preferred system of indoctrination or that there is a question whether the GA has become as dictatorial as the mainstream Churches. She feels the difference between GA ministers and other denominations is its unitarian theology and little else. It would be something if the GA was dictatorial!
But obviously it is not even Unitarian theology. Oh, and how Anglican were the dissenters who refused to assent and consent to the whole of the Book of Common Prayer? Well, they were Anglican, formally, but how Anglican had some of them been during the Civil War and prior to the Restoration? How was it that when Christmas Day fell on Sunday, the first Hull English Presbyterian minister in his sermon did not even mention the birth of Christ once?
Mhoira now signs herself as +Mhoira, osb Rt Rev Dr Mhoira Lauer-Patterson (Ama Katarina) Bishop of the LCAC Diocese of Northumbria & Rheged Dean of the English College SMIU Unitarian minister without portfolio. [I respect the latter designation too, even if it is quite confusing to we GA Unitarians!]
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