Friday 9 November 2012

A Debate About the New Man

Peter Levite: I want to thank my panel for assembling at such short notice, although all of you but one are at home. We have at various parts of the country Reverend Lesley Tilgate...
Lesley Tilgate: At last you've got my name right.
Peter Levite: ...who lives and ministers near Aldershit; Reverend Jade Stowaway, who lives in our capital city, and a member of SeeSaw; Reverend Rachel Marsovenus, who lives and ministers at Burp; and the unreverend Harry Tick with me in the studio here at Wykkyfish. And it's the announcement that Justin R. Ewing is indeed going to be the next Archbishop of All England in the Church in England which means he will also be a sort of boss of the world Anglican Church.
Lesley Tilgate: It's not a Church. We spent a lot of time defeating the Covenant of the outgoing Archbishop to prove it's not a Church.
Peter Levite: Well let's begin to talk about this chap, a very contemporary chap in that he went to the top school of the country, and like most people who went there, was born to rule. Twenty first century and all that, and it's the religious equivalent of Sir Alec Douglas Home.
Rachel Marsovenus: But it's not his fault he went there. And as an evangelical, he must be one of the people.
Lesley Tilgate: I love the Alpha-Omega Course.
Harry Tick: That fundy thing dressed up as questions.
Peter Levite: Oh? So how can you love the Alpha-Omega Course if you don't believe in the resurrection as an historical event?
Lesley Tilgate: I haven't come on here to talk about me or about that.
Peter Levite: I notice you don't answer my question.
Harry Tick: I bet he would 'cause he went to that hand waving church which markets, copyrights and sells that course you've just mentioned.
Rachel Marsovenus: I don't see how you can disbelieve in the resurrection as historical and actual when you've been and get visited.
Peter Levite: What, visited by your local vicar?
Rachel Marsovenus: By the Holy Spirit, who also must have been involved in selecting this man.
Peter Levite: Wasn't exactly a straightforward process. It ended in having a giant tombola and people buying tickets.
Lesley Tilgate: That was my exclusive.
Peter Levite: But the rest of the candidates weren't that much more appealing. Er, well, they're old news now so let's look at him and who he is.
Lesley Tilgate: It's really important that he had a proper job, like I did.
Rachel Marsovenus: I did some teaching; I value the written word.
Peter Levite: Ah but he was an oil executive and busy in Africa. Lot's of stories of capitalist oil and exploitation of the locals in Africa.
Jade Stowaway: Significantly he was asked about what makes an ethical businessman when he came to the big career change, almost like his real conversion moment.
Peter Levite: Tell us the story.
Jade Stowaway: He and his wife Sue Ellen were taking a walk with Tarsus Parking, a very evangelical minister, going from the Diocese of Southfork to Damascus in the Home Counties. And it says here, in chapter 6 verse 35 of his biography by Mark Matthew, 'Tarsus asked him, "Pray, what makes an ethical oil executive?" And he replied, "Not sleeping with my secretary and not fiddling the accounts." Sue Ellen gave one of her characteristic grins of agreement. And Tarsus replied, "No, in your case it needs more than this. You must get ordained. And so it was that, as we shall see, Justin R. Ewing became deaconed as Rev. Justin R. Ewing, and served a curacy.'
Rachel Marsovenus: The real conversion experience is not when you become a Christian, and say you are, but when something else happens on top.
Peter Levite: Which has been a meteoric rise through the ranks, so that he  has been Bishop of the North East for only a short time, since New Testament Wrong occupied the post.
Lesley Tilgate: That's good because he can remember his former job, which is important when doing this job to be able to remember the job you did before this one.
Peter Levite: Remember, listeners, if you want to comment, send in your emails and texts. So what are his challenges?
Jade Stowaway: We hope we get two women bishops at least, my campaign is Yes Two Women Bishops, and then that job is done for him because we will then get four and the sky is the limit, or at least the House of Bishops. Then there is whether he can relaunch the Covenant or something like it.
Lesley Tilgate: Doubt it. It was Rowan Tree's great Catholic model of orthodoxy of purple. As an evangelical, J. R. will be more into a fellowship of believers. It won't matter if the Churches are more confederal.
Jade Stowaway: It might. He still might pursue reconciliation ministry among them. But what might matter more is if the hard right here try to organise a Church within a Church, to be like their own unofficial diocese or third province via an international oversight of bishops to have a women free zone when it comes to authority. He might tackle them just as structurally.
Harry Tick: Yes, they haven't gone away. And a certain Anthony Wedgwood Bigg has just left the dioces of Morse as a suffragan.
Peter Levite: You've said little, Harry Tick.
Harry Tick: I'm listening.
Lesley Tilgate: What he will be interested in is dysfunctional dioceses, how the money works, organising - and that's about the Church in England.
Rachel Marsovenus: If he could get more people excited, more bums off their seats.
Harry Tick: But if the far right organise their own money, their own training, their own preferred college, their own bishops and loyalties, then he will have to tackle the money issue.
Jade Stowaway: He does though represent the rise of the general evangelical within the Church in England. And he was getting into attacking loan sharks and youth unemployment in the North East.
Lesley Tilgate: I can live with that.
Harry Tick: But this is it. We are talking about the sectarian direction of a national Church. The North East was once a place for theologians and lefties, and they found an abrasive one last time who couldn't even decide on what name to use; this time they've had a capitalist and not a theologian at all. The sheer poverty of the competition allowed him to be projected fast, and he wouldn't have been chosen if there were more substantial figures or had been young or well enough. But the sheer fact is that for most people this news is no news, his elevation is an irrelevance. He represents little other indeed than a requirement to manage the institution and make it more practical, rational and solvent.
Lesley Tilgate: Unlike your little Church of shrinkage, tiny congregations, a collapsing centre...
Harry Tick: And there are grey areas and compromises but people can say what they believe rather than have strategies of deviation and survival that encourage dishonesty.
Lesley Tilgate: Well we can try to build some of that into the national Church, to give it spaces for people to be different, the Spirit moving it to new ideas, new places, culturally connected.
Rachel Marsovenus: No we need the Spirit filled revival, not like his Unitarians but like the Vineyard and Pentecostals. We need that experience and then you get the numbers.
Harry Tick: Spiritual entertainment.
Rachel Marsovenus: No it's not.
Harry Tick: It has a limited market: only so many to move from church to church.
Jade Stowaway: All of which proves that I occupy the centre, on the SeeSaw.
Harry Tick: Where the cut comes. It depends - if the Conservative Evangelicals stay, if the charismatics grow, you become the centre, and divided increasingly between your evangelical tendency and your open tendency, as to who you can live with the most. If the far right evangelicals organise themselves, effectively break away, should the new Archbishop even kick them out, then you will be to the right, with consequences I might say for those on the left.
Lesley Tilgate: They don't do doctrinal trials any more.
Harry Tick: There are ways and means; there are always ways and means.
Peter Levite: Final thought: he's not pro-gay, is he. You know, elitism, hierarchy, organisation, not into gay equality.
Lesley Tilgate: It's bad but we have to persuade.
Rachel Marsovenus: I am pleased.
Jade Stowaway: I'm probably changing my mind.
Lesley Tilgate: It depends what weight he gives to the wider Anglican Churches around the world. Rowan was more pro-gay but forced to be anti for the wider purpose of things; this new chap has no baggage at least and might surprise us.
Peter Levite: So a really final thought: how might he surprise us more?
Lesley Tilgate: Well, if he is managerial, and evangelical, he might look the other way from this Archbishop to the non-conformists undergoing structural rapid decline, and facilitate how they could come back on board - Methodists who can believe in threefold ministry, even the URC that doesn't.
Harry Tick: That's right. After women can be bishops, the older, traditional Catholicism is sidelined and therefore the other ecumenism can happen, and after going local the sheer decline and absence of purpose of these other historical denominations means they can come back in.
Peter Levite: Goodness me. Paul from Scunthorpe has emailed in and said that we've just had a reasonably sensible discussion but he still didn't understand it or what relevance it has got.
Keeley Sunshine Superwoman: The thing is, Peter, none of any of that explains anything. When I tell you the weather, like it will be sunny tomorrow but cold, there is the whole chaos of weather bubbling up under shifting parameters within the climactic system. It generates itself and it explains itself. One of your contributors said she doesn't believe in something supernatural, but the whole of that is supernatural and a different way of explaining anything. It is like visitations and interventions and wholly unscientific to how we explain anything today. So just how relevant is any new Archbishop?
Peter Levite: And I was going to ask you about the weather.
Keeley Sunshine Superwoman: I told you: cold and sunny.
Lesley Tilgate: I am trying to do without all the interventionist stuff.
Harry Tick: You can't; your religion is based on it. The history of ideas is the history of removing interventions and visitations. You cannot generate history by pumping up experience, you cannot make reality through text; religion needs to become a form of oversight and ethical expression compatible with explanations of reality.
Lesley Tilgate: We can still tell stories.
Jade Stowaway: We can still make ethical comments from those stories.
Rachel Marsovenus: Those stories can be regulative, setting definitions and limits.
Harry Tick: Why?
Peter Levite: News!

No comments: