Thursday 27 September 2007
The claim Gordon Brown uses is that he is getting on with the job and tackling the issues and the crises. He is the strong man in charge, in control.
Here, surely, Cameron can find weaknesses a-plenty. Cameron has to get his party behind him, and the Tories could well melt into confusion, but he also needs to be electorally credible. If I was him, I'd go after Brown on substance.
Which privatisation and contract arrangements led to a government research station to be unaccountable to the extent that it let out live Foot and Mouth? The veterinary authorities announced the end of Foot and Mouth - and after a day it was back again from the same source. It sounds like a structural and mismanaged legacy of incompetence to me - a disaster of privatisation and lack of management.
In having a crisis at Northern Rock, we see an economic regime presiding over a mountain of private (and increasingly state) debt that has facilitated a credit economy, and, furthermore, when the Bank of England wanted to apply discipline to the financial market, the government panicked and agreed to add credit into the credit bubble that was popping (thus the same problem carries on) so to encourage banks to go after every crazy money-making scheme knowing that if they fail the state will bale them out. Loans will go on being split and sold trying to make crazy, risky money wherever they can - presumably sometimes in Chinese property deals and endemic corruption or in the phantom economy of British overblown retailing and services or the American low wage service sector as its large manufacturing implodes.
The floods were worsened by badly located building and rotten drains; they showed a lack of investment in key defences, the stretching of emergency services, a chaos of insurance and non-insurance and unequal treatment between tenants in the private sector, remaining public sector tenants and house owners. Many have been left in comparative poverty, and with a loss of property values (before a crash in general property values finally takes place, once the bubble is gone). This was not Gordon Brown's finest hour; certainly he has nothing to crow about.
It is not general competence either. We are being spun. He came back from a holiday and he worked long hours. This is not the same as being effective.
Gordon Brown has surrounded himself with next generation or misplaced ministers, so it looks like a one man government. Alistair Darling, David Milliband and Ed Balls look somewhat shaky in what they are doing. Alistair Darling looks incompetent, David Milliband is unsure (he follows Margaret Beckett, who was clueless) and Ed Balls is in the wrong job.
Meanwhile public service pay is an ongoing issue, with even the possibility of some sort of pay policy. Has the government learnt anything? Perhaps it has - it continues to privatise council services and workers are ending up in private, competitive services.
When Gordon Brown did a choreographed walk to the assembly hall, I switched off. This was behind a security cordon and it was just theatrics. People are obviously having difficulty seeing through all this. He is having a honeymoon period. I am not fooled by presentation. He is doing nothing but treading water. He says British so often we remember that he is Scottish and there is a European Constitutional Treaty to dodge around.
If he went for a snap election the arguments could be made against him. They weren't because the pre-conference season has been the off-season for politics. So it was a free run of crises. Well now it is up to opposition leaders to pick away at his level of competence.
These days governments are overseers. They are not even managers. There is little else involved. Undermine competence and politics starts to move.
Wednesday 26 September 2007
Recently the Archbishop of Canterbury visited and said there is no ultimatum, called on dissident Episcopalians to seek solutions inside The Episcopalian Church and called bishops crossing boundaries from the NURKS "illicit". So presumably the statement of the House of Bishops should satisify him. It may not satisfy some Primates, but what are they going to do? Some may not go to Lambeth 2008. That's up to them. Some may organise their own Not Lambeth 2008 and that is up to them as well. Some may organise their own Communion, and it can add to other breakaways. The ball is in their court. That's it.
Meanwhile another one of those daft quizzes.
I found myself nearly completely disagreeing on just about every doctrinal position! Some came to a central position of neither agreeing not disagreeing. The result of the Are You a Heretic quiz was as follows: Pelagianism 58%, Monarchianism 50%, Socinianism 42%, Chalcedon compliant 33%, Nestorianism 25%, Docetism 25%, Modalism 25%, Apollanarian 25%, Adoptionist 25%, Donatism 17%, Arianism 17%, Monophysitism 17%, Gnosticism 8%, Albigensianism 0%.
So I don't believe in original sin and that we can choose to be good with self-responsibility (correct) ; and it seems I am supposed to emphasise the oneness of God (in either modalist fashion with the Trinity or unequal regarding the Trinity), when this came about by my disagreeing with just about every doctrinal statement presented. I am rather more postmodern than any of these views (including Socinian), and so tend to reject all these precision statements as just so many words. I think it is one of the better quizzes of the daft quizzes that thinks such can measure faith.
Sunday 23 September 2007
Interesting comments brought alive people I mentioned - biographies that showed even more the connections I was indicating and only knew about through research. What this does is revise what I once considered dead history. The standard view is that J. M. Lloyd Thomas produced a Free Catholicism that diverted from the Unitarian movement (and certainly its Puritan shadow) even if it followed the Presbyterian parish church mentality. (My argument, not expressed in the talk at all, about Unitarian development has been that the denominationalist side had revived the Puritan ethos without the Presbyterian stretch, whilst the later nineteenth Free Christian side had revived the Presbyterian breadth without the Puritanism - and both were myth making anyway in their selectivity.) Because it went off on its own, then, when it collapsed, as some practioners went to Rome, it has failed ever to connect with Unitarianism.
Then my argument has been that in the age of postmodernism the symbolic is important. I said at the talk (again not reading) that we now focus upon the signifier end of the sign, that there is a proper way to do liturgies and spirituality for their own sakes and that in some modernist inheritances, like the Unitarians, spirituality may appear to be a "bit thin". That, though, is one of its traditions. It then turns out, however, that there are connections between the Independent Liberal Catholic movement now and Unitarianism. Inspired by Lloyd Thomas, this movement of freedom to believe Catholic symbolism has been developing now.
One of the three who were inspired to start The Liberal Rite apparently went to do Unitarian ministry. Interesting, and one person at the group who "knows everyone" in Unitarianism (and does) did not know who this might have been. He did know, however, that one significant person in the small Liberal catholic Church International had started out in the Unitarians. Since the talk I have learnt by a correspondence that the Liberal Rite was connected with the Unitarians but rejected, presumably for the very reason that it did not fit in with the existing subcultures of the Unitarian denomination. I said at the talk (purely ad-libbing) that in my own case back in 1989-90 at Unitarian College I did not fit in with any of the running arguments, crossed them, managed to offend just about every sensitivity of these boundaries, and therefore did not last.
You would think that a liberal group, usually small, would welcome the broadest possible variety of associations. My talk was to emphasise that this is not the case, and it was demonstrated.
Incidentally, two points unmentioned in the talk have troubled me about the talk. The first is the point that liberal groups tend not to schism as groups, and secondly that they do not get together. These points probably hold up, but the LCCI has been part of various schisms in how it came about. They were over theosophy and doctrines, so doctrines cause schisms, but perhaps some have been due to personalities as well. I did qualify my view over the doctrinal American Unitarian Association breaking off from the UUA (with a good conversation about Kings Chapel, Boston, happy to be in the UUA whilst it maintains its Anglican ethos via its "Arian" theology). Secondly I would have rolled over and admitted the one big gaff over liberal groups not coming together - the Unitarians and Universalists in the USA did come together in 1961. What I would have said there is that all the arguments that kept them apart were long since defunct and they were still apart. When they joined, no one took up a general Universalist argument as opposed to a Unitarian argument. Each had plenty of the other anyway, and both were well modified too. Nevertheless it is a qualification to make, and I probably shall change the .HTML version of the talk.
Since being home a church friend has pointed out some transubstantiation statements made by the LCCI, although it also professes freedom of belief. Well it does for laity. Clergy should believe in some manner in real presence. Well, LCCI is not inspired by J. M. Lloyd Thomas, but as I understand him, J. M. Lloyd Thomas promoted a creedless Catholicism. He may well have come to believe in some form of real presence (I don't know) but, as with Martineau, this would have been an individual's view. Therefore this group, the LCCI, is not promoting a creedless Catholicism (and has never claimed to do so). But when I have written about simulacration as a postmodern version of both real presence and real absence, I get a feeling of exclusion regarding the LCCI on grounds that would not restrict a clergyperson in the Church of England! I would hope the Liberal Rite is different, and that the ILCF reflects the creedless view. Once again, at the very least, this is an example of small differences of view in liberal groups having a significance that keeps them apart. They can associate, but they don't join. This is the thesis that I think does hold.
Tuesday 18 September 2007
It has involved some research and some new thinking, and now it is a stage of pausing and later editing. I am making it available now, because if anyone does see it early, it might actually help absorb some difficult concepts and assist in framing discussion questions. I am sure that some matters have been missed, and some have been skated over rapidly. It is already quite long. Here are the links to the actual talk - it is on my website at Learning - Religion - Academic - Sociology of Progressive Religious Groups, and is provided in an .html version for viewing and a .pdf version for printing.
I intend to provide a summary to help people follow and absorb the talk: this is the summary:
A Sociology of Progressive Religious Groups
Why Liberal Religious Groups Cannot Get Together
A few liberal individuals rather than groups tend to move about. Splits have doctrinal causes.
The word radical is confusing and useless - the qualifier liberal is needed.
Which groups: Sea of Faith largely postmodern that reads, discusses and confers, the Progressive Christian Network (which constitutionally prevents groups joining) that reads, discusses and has an understanding of worship, Modern Churchpeople's Union, that reads, discusses, writes, confers, worships and strategises, the Unitarians and The Quakers, each a full denomination, the inclusive restricted liberalism of the Metropolitan Community Church, the Liberal Catholic Church International, associating with the Liberal Rite (of Unitarian Free Catholics inspiration) and others through the Independent Liberal Catholic Fellowship, and then individual website based creations, plus some groups that have become defunct, and then a need to consider some other faiths. Denominations contain individual liberal churches and have liberal biases, as have some Anglican provinces.
Liberalism can be defined: individualist, also constructed, rights-based, and is divided into liberal about something or liberal constitutionally. Groups can span these in tension (eg Unitarians, Quakers, LCCI). Liberal about facilitates a more in-depth theology than the breadth of constitutional liberalism.
Liberalism relates to systemic or human relations authority, based on large organisation or independent gathering. Some liberal groups show systemic leanings (Affirming Catholicism, Inclusive Church), some human relations (Unitarians, Quakers, LCCI, MCC), and some systemic if in transition (MCU, PCN).
Human relations authority has conserving features, but bipolarity is dangerous. The strongest institution is triangular, of a different 2 against 1, as was the Church of England (which isn't human relations) but it has recently moved to be bipolar and could divide. The UUA is a two by two bipolarity.
Troeltsch included liberalism in his Church Sect scheme by adding "Mysticism". The Church when out of step with the surrounding culture is compromised, today it is the same as a denomination. The cult is a transient, consumerist category. Mysticism involves purely voluntary gathering and reflects the Enlightenment (modernist).
Conversionists recruit by cultural similarity but belief difference (to and from the common culture). After a time a person may mature in belief, read or train, and becoming liberal may move to a church of belief similarity and cultural difference (to and from the common culture). A belief similar but culturally different church can be called an esoteric sect - a sect within a Church, if a Church means anything.
Even Mysticism groups form expectations within, say around the bipolar structures. These form subcultures affecting an overall shape that cannot interlock with other subcultures.
Different groups have their own purposes and functions, that keep them separate from other groups' purposes and functions.
However, individuals can move about, and have multiple memberships.
Yet so much is shared between these groups. Some share diverse and liberal worship forms, some share modernist and postmodernist debates, they can draw on similar past theological traditions (Martineau, Lloyd Thomas). Of course denominations have merged when weak and when arguments are old, but liberal groups tend to be weak even if new.
Soon there may be spillage of liberals as Anglican tensions continue.
Getting together reduces the restrictiveness of traditions but increases plurality, if people can get on together.
Saturday 15 September 2007
The latest attempt to change the agenda of the Archbishop of Canterbury via the form of an open letter is reproduced on Thinking Anglicans as well as numerous other places.
The reason that the document is discredited is that it was heavily written by the British born American, but Nigerian consecrated, Martyn Minns and further edited by English Anglican priest Chris Sugden. The Nigerian bishops find the document "most compelling", when it has been shot through and discredited by examination of the original Word document and its spin doctoring. It is not compelling, except to their own selves, but a one-sided presentation.
So now they want to use this letter to change the announced invitations of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to Lambeth 2008 (in the summer) and then the timetable of the Covenant process of discussion and consultation that would probably not be finalised (if it ever is) until 2012 - a Covenant about a process of communion wide management of change. About changing this the Nigerian bishops set out their "willingness and commitment to work towards that end". How good of them, but the approach as already set out was for the whole Communion. They assume a change is needed; they say they will work for their change - well, why not work according to the existing agenda? After all, the basis of the invitations to The Episcopal Church (TEC) bishops (in the USA) is according to the existing agenda.
The Nigerians do not want this: they want a change of approach. This is proposed via yet another open letter.
In it these bishops first divert from their own obsession with homosexuality by blaming the agenda on gay supporting protesters and British law - "the abuse directed towards those who hold to traditional views on matters of Human Sexuality". They list the "spate of hostility" in the UK, such as placard-carrying and leaflets-distributing campaigners at the last Lambeth Conference in 1998 distracting Bishops who had travelled "thousands of miles for fellowship". These protesters effectively shifted the focus of the conference to human sexuality.
Talk about pots calling kettles black - as if these railroaders of the 1998 Conference did not do this themselves? The list against the opposition goes on, in a way that can hardly be taken seriously.
It does remind one of the political operatives who, having their own agenda, go out and duffs up the opposition, to then blame the opposition and its violence for having to bring in the agenda. I'm avoiding mentioning the country, the movement and where it all led.
Recent attempts to mandate unbiblical views in the UK through force of law and the protests and attacks by activists determined to disrupt and intimidate any group that seeks to uphold biblical teaching.
In truth anyone who does not embrace revisionist views is a potential target. We know it is possible to provide some security to minimize such occurrences...Somehow the bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) are off their collective trolley. Perhaps the University of Kent ought to put up razor wire because the government introduced civil partnerships.
Because of this twisted analysis, and a questioning of the basis of the next Lambeth Conference for study, these Nigerian bishops want their own process. Postpone the Lambeth Conference, they say, which is too large and discussive for them (and Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda) to manipulate and have a primates meeting instead (which they can manipulate as they did when setting up their own headquarters at Tanzania in the primates meeting in February 2007 - Archbishop Akinola then consulting Martyn Minns and Chris Sugden). This meeting, rather than say the Archbishop and later the Anglican Consultative Council, would decide if The Episcopal Church has met its demands. This primates meeting would also decide to push ahead to "finalise" the Covenant, the Lambeth Conference being too large to do this.
Somehow this is supposed to allow "current tensions to subside". They don't seem to realise that there many other points of view. Such a change of approach now would probably cause tensions to boil even more.
The letter is signed off: "Bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)". That's what they call themselves, after the name-change, which assumes this Church is the core of the Anglican Communion, whatever it does.
The open letter is ostensibly an attempt to force the Archbishop to choose. They know perfectly well that he is not going to change tack at this stage, not when he intends to keep as many sides talking for as long as they can. If they know this already then they are setting him up - for blame.
Recently the Archbishop made an excellent lecture to Christians and Muslims (I thought it was); in the USA with TEC bishops he will open an interfaith based centre. In the previous Wilberforce lecture (April 2007) he made a distinction between public morality and private concerns (such as sexuality). He has laid out his path in interviews.
Of course he could about turn and do things their way. He would annoy so very many if he did. If he did so it would reverse everything he has been saying so far this year, and reverse his actions to date. It would be tragic and laughable. Strained credibility on all of this would be lost.
Open letters do not lead to such reversals. This open letter is a stunt. Watch how they are continuing to set up the Archbishop of Canterbury and declare him to be in league with The Episcopal Church leadership, thus declared heretical, and therefore produce the necessity to reroute Anglicanism via the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). It is a justification for what will be their schism and that of a few others. Their hole is for them to dig and spades offered by them should be refused.
Friday 14 September 2007
It was sent to email@example.com
For many weeks now my Freeview box, a Thomson, has been counting down to quit and only today did it download a new 14 day listings for Freeview channels. The result was appalling. It flickers, it is nasty, has adverts, is less simple to use, and lost the inview picture and thus you could not keep an ear and an eye to the programme on at the time. This picture, it says, can be achieved by tuning to Channel 5 for an update to the whole system, but here the Freeview set (or my other one) does not tune to Channel 5 automatically or in any other way. Indeed, it picks up no channels from that set and probably would not pick up the advertised Nuts TV, which I do not want. Not that your service is any better than what was replaced.I'm thinking that, as the TV licence runs out in December, I might actually get rid of (sell) all TV equipment. I am watching less and less, and what I watch tends to be old programmes and occasional documentaries of interest.
Channel 5 and its family of screen-logo ruined channels is only available by satellite.
I annoys me that something unwanted is delivered like this. Fortunately I am not technically stupid and can operate this set, and was able after some effort (without any help from your mess) to go and retrieve the "old" listings system. I just hope that others who are similarly annoyed also can find out after some searching what to do to get rid of your incursion.
Now there was a programme on BBC 4 starting yesterday called The Protestant Reformation with Tristram Hunt presenting.
This turned out to be a most nauseating programme, viewing through the usual distracting BBC Four logo. First of all the music behind was irritating. Secondly, the programme leapt about with generalities all over the place. Henry VIII did not set up a Protestant Church - it can only be called Protestant by a form of default against Roman Catholicism. He was opposed to Lutheranism. Ideas crept into it. The programme abandoned the Puritans half way through their effect - what happened to them then? They set up the first wave of dissent. It later went uncritically with the view that Methodism (second wave) was working class - any reasonable historian will tell that only a minority of Methodists were working class, and that like all such denominations it was by and large middle class. The early idealist socialists that gave form to the Labour Party, a number of them with indeed church connections, were middle class; and even the most radical denomination in terms of social ethic, the Unitarians, were hampered by liberal ideology and association with capitalism, even if it was of the more progressive end - enlightened self-interest. Its radicals knew the distance between churches and the working class. Some did get through, and some Methodist chapels in specific locations, but lets avoid sweeping statements.
Even E. P. Thompson has been criticised for saying the Methodists prevented revolution by offering religious palliatives of the future utopia, on the basis that not enough working class were involved. In so far as this happened, it was because middle class churches provided leisure, welfare and education services that brought in an outer circle of working class children and some of their parents.
This programme then was an idea that just added another hour (to be endlessly repeated) and was cheaply made, but allowing the presenter some foreign travel.
The key to the Protestant revolution is that it set up institutions, that would offer the beginning of pluralism. Pluralism is not made by ideas but by institutions of dispersed power, and legal frameworks. They then contain and promote ideas. This point may come into later programmes, but this one missed this particular point altogether.
I could read better in ten minutes, and it is why I'm thinking it is time to give up TV. BBC News 24 is streamed on the Internet now, so even that viewing is unnecessary. The licence fee saved could pay for the broadband.
Wednesday 12 September 2007
Some sections I highlighted on my contribution to the Fulcrum website, and I can discuss them here. There are further points to make too, which, honestly, have to be made in the light of the other matter of September 2007.
First of all an issue is what kind of theology has relevance outside the holy huddle? It is, surely, theology that relates to the nature of relationships in wider society. It is social theology, of course, but what happens here is that Williams applies his understanding of text and narrative from three sources - the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible and the Qur'an. These sources are not unambiguous in their rejection of violence, but they do relate to the non-violent approach to resisting oppression, and therefore the form of fellowship of people one with another when in a complex pluralist social world like ours.
Here is what Williams states about how Gandhi read the Bhagavad-Gita:
Gandhi is reflecting on the emphasis in the Bhagavad-Gita on detachment: our natural or instinctive way of operating in the world is to imagine ourselves as controlling both our own destiny and the conditions in which we live, so that we struggle for the conditions that promise us such control. But the divine imperative is that our actions should be determined not by this but by the fixed resolve to act in accordance with the truth – that is, with the truth of who and what he actually are both in society and in the universe itself. When we have learned to act in this way, we are free from fear; we give up the anxious effort to master our circumstances by force.
Williams refers to Satyagraha: but Gandhi combined this with Ahimsa. Gandhi learnt from Jainism and its non-violence (the two go together in the same way Mikhail Gorbachev coupled Glasnost and Perestroika - one being the philosophical commitment to truth and the other a commitment to a form of action). So there is a direct connection then between the text and the action involved.
Also the quest for an action that does not simply mirror the action of the oppressor does find allies across divides, and of course Gandhi was murdered by a nationalist Hindu and not by anyone across the divide.
Thus it is relevant that Williams also states:
surely what any religious believer wants is to have the voice of faith heard within the pluralist debate, to have a guaranteed place at the table? Surely that’s why we are discussing the whole question of faith and civil society and why we want to answer once and for all the reproach that religion is a dangerous and destabilizing presence in our culture?
In the criticisms of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins (Rowan Williams was reading the Hitchens book during his break), these attacking the supernatural and superstitious and the ethically awful, Williams pleads for the positive contributions of the religions to the fundamental worth of the individual and the contribution to the social good. When reorientated religions are about having all people at the table, all able to make a positive contribution to peace between each other.
Williams clearly is no Durkheim even if the social good sounds functionalist: religion is not equated with social functionalism, nor simply with law and politics (comments made about Islam in particular). Nor is the human contribution ever quite finished:
– a condition that can be partially realised in the life of the community around Jesus but waits for its full embodiment in a future only God knows.
Islam, like Christianity, refuses to make faith either subservient to the social order or simply an aspect among others of social life: it is something that offers transformation to the entire range of human activity.
The reason I use the Internet identity "Pluralist" is because I identified with the progressive side of that small Unitarian denomination, not just with religious humanism but with insights of the faiths. It was always an institutional shame that Christianity was divided off from the pluralist side and that it was associated with maintenance of identity in appearing to be a church and performing appropriately. My pluralism included Christianity, and its radical expressions. My social gospel, was that people could come together, to worship in difference, and not expect to be the same and not have to agree. My view did not prevail, as congregations sought agreement, identity and then the denomination decided to "uphold liberal Christianity" (whatever that meant). One may as well be postliberal then in a richer, theologically deep, institution.
It must be obvious why I warm to this lecture. I know, this is what Williams also states:
Jesus himself in his trial before Pilate says that his royal authority does not derive from anything except the eternal truth which he himself embodies as the incarnate Word of God; only if his authority depended on some other source would his servants fight (Jn 18.36-7). Earthly authority needs to reinforce itself in conflict and dominance; if the community of Jesus’ followers reinforced itself in such a way, it would be admitting that its claims were derived from this human order.
Rowan Williams knows that he states this section as he does, not just because he believes it, but with an eye to the inevitable tribal critics who will jump on his generosity to not just Gandhi but to the Gita as source and the Qur'an as scriptural sources. I think this lecture is as important as Jonathan Sack's 2001 book The Dignity of Difference, and both book and lecture respond to September 11 2001 in New York. Sacks' book also draws on texts, this time both written and oral in the traditions of Judaism to uphold not a theological or Enlightenment universalism but a divine basis for difference. Again, I don't care for the rejection of Enlightenment insight and universal (about which progressive Jews were so important) but it shows a religious contribution to the plural nature of the world: via the dignity of the individual to the complexity of the social.
And what of the inevitable tribalisms? Sacks had to travel to Manchester to meet Orthodox rabbis who criticised his book. He rewrote a chapter, taking out the most contentious points but keeping the central message. This is September 2007, where there are many basically homophobic types waving Bibles and demanding selective literalist readings from it, and who want to throw out a Church that includes those who do theology not unlike Rowan Williams, and replace that Church with an authoritarian alternative (one that recently has felt the censorship of offending the Rwandan presidency).
Come on! This archbishop surely cannot produce material like this, and participate with Episcopalians in New Orleans, and open an interfaith based centre there, and behave like some sort of institutionalised cane-wielding headmaster of old? If he comes anywhere near this, he would appear to be so ridiculously inconsistent that it would be laughable and tragic at the same time.
This lecture is closely-worded and complex material, and hardly reaches the masses, but it does speak of religion and society today, and is a positive reflection from three scriptural texts and their interpretation. It is the way to do relevant and connecting theology.
Monday 10 September 2007
What this allows is the creation of spaces for all sorts of fantasy creations. Of course the fantasy is real, just as the real is fantasy. You can live inside such fantasy reality. The problem is that they do not fix very well, are very leaky and bubbles are just,well, bubbles - they can collapse and get very wet.
Yale postliberalism in theology (articulated by George Lindbeck) tries to fix an ecumenical definition of Christianity, and because it cannot be fixed as a Truth, it is expressed as a drama. Hans Frei did the same before this with how the Bible is to be understood - it is "history-like" rather than history and gains its identity through expression by being read (it actually has to be read by a community to have its particular expression - in this sense Lindbeck on the ecumenical doctrine comes before Frei on the Bible). John Milbank went further than Linbeck, creating a premodern content of some sort of Catholic Christianity (but not Roman as such) inside the postmodern bubble. It is a way of peace. He further thinks that, inside this space, this perspective can rule all other perspectives, and opposes vigorously sociology by calling it secular theology. It also opposes the Enlightenment.
Now there are these so called "communion conservatives" in Anglicanism wanting to preserve a single, collective, and orthodox Church - orthodox meaning keeping the whole package interrelating without these pesky nuisance liberals importing their Enlightenment (modernist) heresies. So they do it via this Lindbeck/ Milbank type stuff, especially Milbank as he is an Anglican.
One of these is Craig Uffman (right), who therefore promotes conservatism in theology and makes frequent references to John Milbank. He writes an essay on Fulcrum consistent with its communion conservatism as promoted by Graham Kings.
I think its second part, calling the Enlightenment as heresy, is the sort of twaddle that can be expected from the whole package people. It's as if they want to be in the Middle Ages - but none of these people think like they did in the Middle Ages. The whole point about postmodernity is that it is post modern. It is not chuck away the modern, it follows on from it. There is the work of empirical primary sources history, of philosophy, of social science research on human groups and causality, and on semiotics that also related to social anthropology, and there is the scientific falsifiability method and indeed working hypotheses of understandings along the lines of paradigms. There has been the logic of maths. All these matter. These now become, in postmodernity, intensely deconstructed. What are these primary sources and what do they represent to readers? Is every culture to be understood only from within? What does it mean to have language express changing scientific paradigms (plus the impact of common sense defying quantum variation)? What is the impact of maths that is no longer a sufficient, closed and adequate system to itself and cannot handle extremities?
Postmodernity is not some dive into a romanticised past. Of course it takes on board romanticism, and the fantasies of the poetic. It is about eclectic mixing, as in architecture. Daniel Liechty wrote a postliberal book, Theology in Postliberal Perspective, 1990, SCM, but it is overshadowed by the Yale book, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age, of 1984 (Liechty's book was started earlier, he told me). This is indeed post-liberal, it understands that there was a liberal phase that it is post about. The book understands different faiths and is driven by ethics. Quite so.
Liberals are all to some extent postliberal, as I say in my paper that might be read out in the local church In Depth Group (see the previous post here). This is because there has to be a package of some sort. But it is no excuse for ignoring other methodologies in other subjects, or calling an important phase in intellectual development a "heresy". This is junk.
It is now a romanticised, rather pathetic hope that somehow an institution can stay loyal to a complete inherited package (from when, precisely - culture changes all the time) and that can be maintained so that it keeps an American Church away from its ethical mission and can keep the Africans on board. The ethical price is just too high. Institutional unity for the sake of unity is just not worth the price of lack of inclusion, when what it seems to be about is some really premodern text that has nothing to do with loving relationships between people who fancy someone else of the same sex.
And this is the point: it is a lot of theological verbage when the ethical question is really quite simple, set against a book that tells us nothing about science, nothing about philosophy, that is not history, that does not employ critical methods - a book which is mythological, that does have ethical insight from Jesus and his expectation of the moment wrapped up within that culture, that is about early Churches written from a Paul dominated path that came to be proto-orthodox and involves an awful lot of arguing in an early charismatic and fluid period. Christians might find great inspiration in the Bible, but are not its slaves.
This is it (if you don't need to read this, scroll down to the cartoon):
I am delighted that you have agreed to meet with the House of Bishops of the American Episcopal Church in September, even if you appear to be unwilling to come alone. It has seemed strange that you, who have had so much to say about the American Church, have not been willing to do so before now. Your office is still honored by Episcopalians in this country, so our bishops will welcome you warmly and politely. We have some amazingly competent men and women in that body, many of whom have not yet met you.
There is clearly an estrangement between that body and you in your role as the Archbishop of Canterbury. I want to share with you my understanding of the sources of that estrangement. First, I believe that most of our senior bishops, including me, were elated, at your appointment by Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Most Americans are not aware that yours is an appointed, not an elected position. Those of us who knew you were keenly aware of your intellectual gifts, your openness on all of the great social debates of our generation andindeed of your personal warmth. We also believed that the Lambeth Conference of 1998, presided over by your predecessor, George Carey, had been a disaster that would haunt the Communion for at least a quarter of a century. An assembly of bishops hissing at and treating fellow bishops with whom they disagreed quite rudely, was anything but an example of Christian community. The unwillingness of that hostile majority to listen to the voices of invited gay Christians, their use of the Bible in debate as a weapon to justify prejudice, the almost totalitarian attempt made to manage the press and to prevent access to the wider audience and the dishonest denial of the obvious and blatant homophobia among the bishops made that Lambeth Conference the most disillusioning ecclesiastical gathering I have ever attended. The Church desperately needed new leadership and so many of us greeted your appointment with hope. Your detractors in the evangelical camp both in England and in the third world actively lobbied against your appointment. The hopes of those of us who welcomed your appointment were, however, short lived because in one decision after another you seemed incapable of functioning as the leader the Church wanted and needed.
It began at the moment of your appointment when you wrote a public letter to the other primates assuring them that you would not continue in your enlightened and open engagement with the moral issue of defining and welcoming those Christians who are gay and lesbian.
We all knew where you stood. Your ministry had not been secret. We knew you had been one of the voices that sought to temper the homophobia of your predecessor's rhetoric. We knew of your personal friendship with gay clergy and that you had even knowingly ordained a gay man to the priesthood. You, however, seemed to leap immediately to the conclusion that unity was more important than truth. Perhaps you did not realize that your appointment as the archbishop was because you had different values from those of your predecessor and that your values were exactly what the Church wanted and needed in its new archbishop.
In that letter, in a way that was to me a breathtaking display of ineptitude and moral weakness, you effectively abdicated your leadership role. The message you communicated was that in the service of unity you would surrender to whoever had the loudest public voice.
A leader gets only one chance to make a good first impression and you totally failed that chance. Unity is surely a virtue, but it must be weighed against truth, the Church's primary virtue.
Next came the bizarre episode of the appointment of the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey John, a known gay priest, to be the area bishop for Reading in the Diocese of Oxford. He was proposed by the Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries. The nomination was approved by all of the necessary authorities, including you, the Prime Minister and the Queen. The fundamentalists and the evangelicals were predictably severe and anything but charitable or Christian. They and their allies in the press assassinated Jeffrey John's character and made his life miserable. Once again you collapsed in the face of this pressure and, in a four-hour conversation, you forced your friend and mine, Jeffery John, who is not only a brilliant New Testament scholar, but also one who gave you his word that he was living a celibate life, to resign his appointment to that Episcopal office. The message went out for all to hear that if people are angry enough, the Archbishop will always back down. Your leadership, as well as our trust in your integrity, all but disappeared.
Shortly thereafter, you concurred in a "guilt" appointment by naming Jeffrey Dean of St. Alban's Cathedral. It is a strange church and a strange hierarchy that proclaims that a gay man cannot be a bishop but can be a dean. Your credibility suffered once again.
When Gene Robinson in the United States was elected the Bishop of New Hampshire and, more particularly, when his election was confirmed by a concurrent majority of the bishops, priests and lay deputies at the General Convention (read General Synod), you appeared to panic. You called an urgent meeting of the primates of the entire Anglican Communion and allowed them to express enormous hostility. No one seemed to challenge either their use of scripture, which revealed an amazing ignorance of the last 250 years of biblical scholarship, or their understanding of homosexuality. By acting as if homosexuality is a choice made by evil people they violated everything that medical science has discovered about sexual orientation in the last century.
Just as the Church was historically wrong in its treatment of women, so now as a result of your leadership, we are espousing a position about homosexuality that is dated, uninformed, inhumane and frankly embarrassing. No learned person stands there today.
Then you appointed the group, under Robin Eames' chairmanship, that produced the Windsor Report. That report confirmed every mistake you had already made. It asked the American Church to apologize to other parts of the Anglican Communion for its "insensitivity." Can one apologize for trying to end prejudice and oppression? If the issue were slavery, would you ask for an apology to the slave holders? That report got the response it deserved. Our leaders were indeed sorry that others felt hurt, but they were not prepared to apologize for taking a giant step in removing one more killing prejudice from both the Church and the world. Those angry elements of the church were not satisfied by the Windsor report, inept as it was. They never will be until they have bent you and this communion into a pre-modern, hate filled, Bible quoting group of people incapable of embracing the world in which we live.
Next came threats issued by the primates of the excommunication of the American Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion, as if they actually had that power. Ultimatums and deadlines for us to conform to their homophobia were treated by you as if that were appropriate behavior. When the American Church elected Katharine Jefferts-Schori to be its Presiding Bishop and thus the Primate of our Province, your response to that major achievement was pathetic. You did not rejoice that equality had finally been achieved in our struggle against sexism; your concern was about how much more difficult her election would make the life of the Anglican Communion. Once again, institutional peace was made primary to the rising consciousness that challenges what the Church has done to women for so long. When Katharine took her place among the other primates, she underwent with dignity, the refusal of some of those bishops to receive communion with her. Is that the mentality required to build unity?
Later you issued a statement saying that if homosexuals want to be received in the life of the Church, they will have to change their behavior. I found that statement incredible. If you mean they have to change from being homosexual then you are obviously not informed about homosexuality. It is not a choice or a sin, anymore than being left handed, or male or female, or black or even transgender is a choice or a sin. All of us simply awaken to these aspects of our identity. That truth is so elementary and so well documented that only prejudiced eyes can fail to recognize it. No one in intellectual circles today still gives that point of view credibility..
Next you declined to invite Gene Robinson to the Lambeth Conference of 2008. All of the closeted homosexual bishops are invited, the honest one is not invited. I can name the gay bishops who have, during my active career. served in both the Episcopal Church and in the Church of England? I bet you can too. Are you suggesting that dishonesty is a virtue?
You continue to act as if quoting the Bible to undergird a dying prejudice is a legitimate tactic. It is in fact the last resort that religious people always use to validate "tradition" over change. The Bible was quoted to support the Divine Right of Kings in 1215, to oppose Galileo in the 17th century, to oppose Darwin in the 19th century, to support slavery and apartheid in the 19th and 20th centuries, to keep women from being educated, voting and being ordained in the 20th and 21st century. Today it is quoted to continue the oppression and rejection of homosexual people. The Bible has lost each of those battles. It will lose the present battle and you, my friend, will end up on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of morality and the wrong side of truth. It is a genuine tragedy that you, the most intellectually-gifted Archbishop of Canterbury in almost a century, have become so miserable a failure in so short a period of time.
You were appointed to lead, Rowan, not to capitulate to the hysterical anger of those who are locked in the past. For the sake of God and this Church, the time has come for you to do so. I hope you still have that capability.
John Shelby Spong, 8th Bishop of Newark, Retired
Sunday 9 September 2007
I'm up and running now, with so much more to do however, and mistakes and problems along the way. My first actual output is a paper for the St Mary's Barton-on-Humber In Depth Group about non-exclusive spirituality, to be incorporated into another presentation, read out or ignored by the effective leader of the group. Non-exclusive Christianity is his own bias, one that I share.
The work was typed and text processed on this computer, but hand-made into HTML and uploaded on to the website from the other computer that has been running nicely since 1998. The one that went pop was purchased from a crook, as I discovered earlier, and who shut down his shop some time back but carries on trading from a pick up and set down point. So I was back there last week, pointing out the details of his crookery.
Wednesday 5 September 2007
and the result I obtained was 141:
60 - 149 You are a Bishop Spong Christian (a.k.a. "Biblical Revisionist").This next one is more behavioural, but also daft:
I scored 66% on that. It tells me that I don't know what I am talking about andI am neither one thing nor the other. Wrong on both counts, then.
Then with this one I scored as a "moderate evangelical", when I am not an evangelical at all, plus its blurb was stupid.
What Kind of Evangelical Are You created with QuizFarm.com
I have seen the above one before, but used all three as used by the ornamentalsheep, as this rather higher scoring ordinand in Wales reports. To be called a Jerry Falwell Christian and respond to the following text that "this is nice" would not exactly be my response. I regard him and what he stands for as anything but nice.
I suppose I ought to compose my own quiz, but then it might not communicate very well and would be puzzling. I regard theology and faith to be too qualitative for a quantitative output quiz.
Sunday 2 September 2007
It seems that Chris Sugden, having been visiting Jamaica, has been feeding the Jamaican Gleaner with his viewpoint, and the word "feeding" is used by me only because of how journalists, being generally lazy, reprint the contents of press releases or take whatever is offered (the dictum being the more you provide,the more likely they are to accept your contribution); of course, on pet subjects they offer their own ever continuing bias, so let's allow for that as well. I know nothing of the Jamaican Gleaner, so it is a case of following the text of the report. The report in full is here, from 1 September 2007:
It's another case of a referring to the best bits.
Archbishop Peter Akinola, being the leader of the largest Anglican diocese is seen by many in the church as a natural replacement for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams.Well this is quite a development. Who came up with that one, that Akinola is a "natural replacement" for Rowan Williams? Is this Chris Sugden's view?
Sugden is suggesting that the Episcopal church missed an opportunity to take a middle path, and is trying to label it as extreme: after a simple assertion that the Episcopal Church did not fulfil the wishes of the Windsor Report in June 2006 there is then Sugden's own explanation of the dynamic of that meeting:
According to Sugden, "Bishop Peter Lee of Diocese of Virginia an effort to create a kind of middle ground that would satisfy the pro-homosexual lobby and the orthodox Anglicans." "First, people were saying that there are 15 per cent of the Anglicans who are the activists for gay inclusion. Second, there are 15 per cent who are biblically convinced that while people with gay orientation are welcomed like anybody else, there can be no gay practice. And third, there were 70 per cent in the middle who are saying that there is a plague on both your houses - we want to get on being Christians and will that 70 per cent please stand and be counted."These figures are purely imagined, but let's see what is the argument:
"Bishop Peter Lee was arguing that the average person in the pew just wanted to get on, so let's have something that accepts the Windsor Report with certain caveats. But there was a very strong opposition to that. Peter Lee's argument was we can do nothing and we should do nothing that gives any signal to our active gay and lesbian members that they are anything else but fully members of this church and fully open to all the senior positions in the church - priests, bishops. Therefore, any agreement you come to with the rest of the Anglican communion, should not be at price these people who we fully accept with all their gay practices as being perfectly acceptable members of the Anglican community." But, Bishop Lee's argument, Canon Sugden said, was crushed because that sort of middle of the way view - was acceptable to neither the gay lobby nor the conservative lobby. So the idea of a solid middle ground collapsed.In fact, that proposal, of Peter Lee, to keep faith with active gay and lesbian members, would have satisfied those very people. It is unclear how this relates to the supposed 70%, if it does. The account just seems odd. What happened is then returned to, despite the biased comment earlier in the report (The 2.3-million member Episcopal Church in the United States, which is led by Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, convened the general convention in June of 2006 but did not fulfil the wishes of the Windsor Report.)
So the report goes on, in thus contradictory style:
Following the general convention of the Episcopal church in the United States, the Archbishop of Canterbury created a panel to consider the way forward. The panel drew from the Primates Committee and the Anglican Consultative Council. This group met in September 2006 but they kept their report secretive until a meeting with all primates in Tanzania last February. The report delivered at the Tanzania meeting by the Archbishop of Canterbury was that the Episcopal Church in America had, as their polity allowed, substantially met the recommendations of the Windsor Report.This does not exactly equate with a simple statement that the Windsor Report sub-group (the 'panel') found that The Episcopal Church had passed on two recommendations and was neutral about the third. There is then this reference to particularly Archbishop Drexel Gomez:
Canon Sugden reported that Archbishop Gomez rejected the Canterbury clerics position, arguing that panel's report was unacceptable and was not an accurate or fair representation of the positions of the Episcopal Church in the United States. The primates gave the Episcopal Church seven months to clarify their reaction to the Windsor Report. That seven month expires on September 30.Now they are not exactly waiting for September 30, due to these continuing consecrations of Americans under the Kenyans and Ugandans, that follow on from the Nigerians and the Rwandans. This inability to wait is being made clear:
Canon Sugden said it seems the mood of the primates is that gay issues have rocked the Anglican Church long enough and it was time to forge ahead. He cited the response of Archbishop Akinola in a recent speech to the House of Bishops, who said that the matter has dragged on long enough and there can be no semantic appeasing of the various factions in the church. Hence, Akinola stressed, the time had come for the church to choose.Later on the report states, again with a loaded view:
Though public gay scandals have been rocking the church since 2003, there has hardly been even a feeble mumble out of the Archbishop of Canterbury in defence of the orthodox position in the United States, which is the view of Bishop Duncan of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.The text of the report then begins to look close to that posted on the Anglican Mainstream website in Chris Sugden's own writing (use of such phraseology as dumbed-down Lambeth Conference which will not address this issue decisively), as discussed in the previous entry here. It throws in at the end, as well as a mention of the September 30 deadline (one wonders how that is relevant given the stance of the boundary crossers like these particular African Churches) the fact that the Episcopal diocese of Chicago on Tuesday included a lesbian priest among five nominees for bishop.
"In other words, since the Archbishop of Canterbury has not provided for the safe oversight of the orthodox in the United States, he has forfeited his role as the one who gathers the Communion. This has become further obvious with the refusal of the invitation to the Lambeth Conference by the leaders of over half the Anglicans in the world and the questioning by some English bishops as to whether they will attend".
Drexel Gomez was present at the consecrations on September 1, and yet he chairs the Covenant Design Group that is supposed to created a process that guides change in the Anglican Communion to the slowest according to resistance to change from some of its Churches. So it seems he is at once guiding the Anglican Communion towards some sort of solution, including The Episcopal Church (which it isn't, because it won't work) whilst at the same time involving himself with those who are undermining The Episcopal Church and the present condition of the Anglican Communion. It seems that he is batting in both teams, rather like Bishops Duncan and Iker. Chris Sugden is also batting in both teams; he is one of those by his own words who clearly wants Rowan Williams replaced as Archbishop and wants the Communion to have a different basis of operation - in practice will mean an alternative and competing communion. There will be no rush to join Akinola's Communion, even if he is seen as a "natural replacement" by some people, presumably including Chris Sugden.
Saturday 1 September 2007
I would have believed the ‘computer software’ story were it not for the allegation of ‘minor amendments’ by the Canon Chris Sugden who had nothing to do with the document.
Well he did have something to do with the document, because the Word file is available for all to see. Perhaps Tunde Popoola should take some advice: if you are going to lie, make sure you do not leave documentary evidence so that you are found out. Or, better still, don't lie.
It might be difficult to see the authorship of changes, but with the Track Changes displayed, conversion to a web page within MS Word and then viewing the source brings out all the authors. Here is an example that shows that said people worked on the document:
datetime="2007-08-13T08:39"prediction/ins/span span class=msoInsins
class=msoInsins cite="mailto:Chris%20Sugden" datetime="2007-08-15T14:44"span
class=msoDeldel cite="mailto:Martyn%20Minns" datetime="2007-08-15T09:52"A/del/spanspan
class=msoInsins datetime="2007-08-15T14:44"t /ins/span/ins/spanspan
class=msoInsins cite="mailto:Martyn%20Minns" datetime="2007-08-15T09:59"t/ins/span
http://episcopalchurch.typepad.com/episcope/files/A_Most_Agonizing_Journey.docThe main question however is what is Chris Sugden up to in a more strategic sense; approving as he is of recent consecrations of Kenyan bishops to operate in the United States. He has now come out with a personally penned piece that is simply very significant for the future intentions of not just Anglicanism in the USA but also in the UK.
It is called Not Schism but Revolution
These are texts from it that I have highlighted and extracted, and on which I add comment:
the Communion has been increasingly under the dominance of leadership which is over-influenced by the assumptions of western intellectual culture through the dominant role of the Church of England and ECUSA. People are now saying publicly that this unrepresentative dominance must end.
Some people also say that Churches should relate to the culture they are in, and this is the case with the United States and the United Kingdom, otherwise they become uncommunicative sects. The Communion should be flexible, not centralised or going in a centralising direction. It is why there is opposition to the Covenant; it is a huge error by Rowan Williams that the Covenant can govern a process of change when the Communion is so bipolar. Relevant to the article and what it states is Chris Sugden's coupling of the Church of England and The Episcopal Church (TEC). Simply, the boundary crossings in the USA could come to the UK, especially if the leadership of the Church of England, the Church in Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church is deemed equally heretical - and the latter two do have a more consistent liberal identity than the Church of England. So what does Chris Sugden state?
In other words, since the Archbishop of Canterbury has not provided for the safe oversight of the orthodox in the United States, he has forfeited his role as the one who gathers the Communion.
This is about an absence of oversight structures being set up for dissident congregations in the USA. It was against TEC polity, and to decide upon it takes its General Convention to do it, if it so decides, in 2009. It is hardly the Archbishop of Canterbury's fault, but he is being increasingly targeted by the schismatics, especially as the border crossings intensify.
refusing to attend a dumbed-down Lambeth Conference
The reference to dumbing down is another attack on the Archbishop. He has made it clear that invitations are for discussions, Bible study and working parties, and not for passing resolutions. Perhaps Lambeth is being intellectualised up, not dumbed down: he wants no repeat of rowdy meetings and railroaded resolutions. However, attacking it in advance is preparation for alternative gatherings which, no doubt, will pass resolutions.
the old leadership gets increasingly out of touch with reality. The Archbishop of York
Now the Archbishop of York has stated that these sexual questions that obsess the likes of Anglican Mainstream and others are not a primary doctrinal issue, whereas they say from a biblical literalist point of view that they are. The Archbishop has also stated that those who set up a Not the Lambeth Conference meeting are being schismatic. So obviously they don't like him.
The Communion will remain, but the form and the leadership will change.
This is obviously a reference to a different centre for the Anglican Communion and a different organising principle. However, it will not "remain", it will be another, and new. It is important to note here that the conservative faction has already split, so that the likes of Ephraim Reader retain contact with the Anglican Communion through the Archbishop of Canterbury, whereas his once pal Bishop Robert Duncan are with the people who intend (obviously from this piece) a new Communion.
This is another tract by Chris Sugden, one of the organisers of the new Communion, and surely he is not going to be a principle organiser in England. Oh and watch out for the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, a lonely episcopal sender of greetings to the recent Kenyan consecrations in the USA (a few others would join him).
Let's be clear, now. When the Anglo-Catholic traditionalists lost the vote about ordaining women back in 1993 their backs were broken as a movement within the main body of the Church of England. A different kind of Affirming Catholicism took their place. When Chris Sugden and others create the new Communion, the effect on evangelicals could well be the same - divided, weakened and taking the weight of evangelicalism to the more liberal Open Evangelicals. The effect of the new Communion could be precisely the opposite of what Chris Sugden intends. Such is often the case in the history of institutionalised religion.
I recall different times and events, but those Presbyterian Puritans set out in 1662 to produce a pure Church in their own image, and ended up being the backbone of liberal Unitarianism. I wonder what Chris Sugden may produce, indirectly if not directly?