Monday 31 August 2009

Jesus on Nigerian Daytime Television

Aki Nolo's Wordwork Hour

Archbishop Aki Nolo: Hello, and welcome to Aki Nolo's Wordwork Hour. Your friendly Archbishop Carpenter is going to show you today how to makes a cabinet in which you can keep all your valuable things. And today I have a special guest, Jesus. Jesus. Tell me about yourself.

Jesus: I am Yeshua, born in Capernaum, and when I was 30 ran a small movement of followers for a year until the authorities in Jerusalem got me.

Archbishop Aki Nolo: Not according to my book. You were born in Bethlehem and I thought you were busy for three years.

Jesus: If you say so. By the way, I thank you for getting me back to be on your programme.

Archbishop Aki Nolo: For you the viewers we have a little competition on the programme, to see which one of us produces the better cabinet. See, both of us were carpenters. Jesus, here is your saw, some nails and a hammer and there is some hardwood over there for you. I have here my computer controlled pre-designed flat pack creating cutter kindly donated by my American and British script writers into which I can feed this fantastic pre-produced MDF. So Jesus, I wonder who will produce the best cabinet?

Jesus: Who said I was a carpenter doing things like this?

Archbishop Aki Nolo: The Bible.

Jesus: I'm in the Bible? Gosh. Is there a new book in it?

Archbishop Aki Nolo: You are very famous. Would you like to begin?

Jesus: Well, if it said I was a carpenter it was wrong. The translation must be too specific. I was a builder. I just learnt how to cut things up and put them together, wood, stone, produce of the fields - just put a roof over people's heads, you know, kept them cool and kept them warm. You know when I taught things I used some building metaphors.

Archbishop Aki Nolo: The Bible is never wrong, you know.

Jesus: Have you got one I can look at?

Archbishop Aki Nolo: There's a spare one over here because we read it at the end of the programme when there is a moral to what we have been doing.

Jesus: Well thank you very much; I'm fascinated.

Archbishop Aki Nolo: Can you look at it afterwards? You have a cabinet to make on my programme. Are you ready? The clock will count down 45 minutes and the studio audience will cheer us along and vote at the end. So the clock starts... now! OK, so I pick up this big piece already measured of MDF and now some people will help me operate the computer and use the correct design. Please welcome my friends Chris Sugar Daddum and Marty Mints!

Jesus: Quite a jagged edge on this saw. Must be a miracle how you got that done. So let me look at the wood here. That's some hard stuff there.

In one part of the studio the flat pack designs are cut out instantly by Aki Nolo's two helpers and laid down on the floor. In another Jesus is looking at the saw and then the wood, but gets distracted by the Bible so sits down cross legged by a studio curtain and starts to read it.

Jesus: Who on earth is this Paul character? He seems to have got it all wrong. It's not about me at all, but about God.... Hang on, my folks the Jews and these new people seem to be in dispute here. Well that's hardly what I was doing. What's happened to the family? Gosh, if I go back here it tells me how I was born. What, he wasn't my dad? Hang on, it then says he was; how many generations? He never said that. He just told me to get an honest job and stop spouting all that rubbish - it will do me no good. He seems to disappear later on here. Oh Mum was there... Sounds like a riotous wedding, that one. No no, there was plenty to drink. Dum de dum. Oh, I don't remember that trial. How's me woman featuring in this?

Archbishop Aki Nolo: Huh huh Jesus you won't get far with your cabinet sitting there like that. You'd better get sawing, Jesus. You know, viewers, Jesus and I both share this ever so 'umble background of being a carpenter and being raised up by God to be mighty leaders. I have produced a Church that is magnificent in all that it does, and there is no one to equal me. Jesus here was a pretty good Christ in his own right too, though he seems to be a bit forgetful.

Jesus: Well I remember saying something like this here, but not all at once, and not up a hill. Hang on, just turn some pages. Oh I wasn't up a hill but on a plain. Well I wasn't on that either. What a funny book! No no no, it wasn't like that when we had a bit of fish and bread. They missed a bit out when they went fishing and some brought in some bread baskets. Good picnic though, I enjoyed it.

Aki Nolo walks off to see how the folks are dealing with the flat pack product, but unfortunately they are having trouble putting it together, because the instructions aren't as clear as they might be. Meanwhile there is a "pssst" coming from behind the studio curtain.

Local craftsman: Jesus, come to the curtain. I saw you were coming on to the programme last week and I knew what he'd do, so I've made you a cabinet out here. Beautiful hardwood too. It's a gift - make sure it goes to an orphanage afterwards. You carry on reading, friend. Is everyone ready?

Just then the lights dipped and two hefty men brought the cabinet through the curtains. Then they left with the supplied hardwood and the lights came up again.

Archbishop Aki Nolo: Don't panic my audience friends. You knows I said to this place get its own generators so we don't have power cut when my programme goes out. I am that sort of leader. I hope they did as I instructed, and if they didn't there will be hell to pay. I plan ahead, viewers, and I make things happen. Now what is the problem with the flat pack? No no don't worry Chris and Marty because I'll go see what Jesus is doing because I bet he has a lot to do... Let's just sees... Oh shit. Floor manager! Stop stop, stop this now! Don't put the camera on that!

Floor Manager: Control! Stop it. Pull the plugs. We'll record it. Well, blame it on a power cut. I know what he said! Well we didn't, so blame it on a power cut.

Aki Nolo gestures towards a camera operator and walks closer to Jesus; a camera follows.

Jesus: I just never said this, didn't infer it, don't want it. What on earth is all this stuff about? I mean, I appreciate it, but it is nothing about what I wanted people to do. I just helped them along for what was to come, though it seems it didn't come did it.

Archbishop Aki Nolo: How did you do that?

Jesus: I laid on hands and so did my friends.

Archbishop Aki Nolo: We've stopped the programme. I'm not having this. We'll record it and get the flat pack done. Right. Well, before I send you back, can you come here Jesus. Stand up man.

Jesus: Sure. I'll get up.

Archbishop Aki Nolo: Now record this. Shake my hand Jesus. Yes, well let me say, well done, nice try, you managed to get this done with your saw but you were beaten by the precision and the speed of the computer. But thank you very much and we'll see if next week a new contestant can prove victorious over your Archbishop. Well you might as well take that cabinet to my house, and when they have finished doing the flat pack film that. Get the audience voting for me, or use a previous week. Let the orphanage have the flat pack if it must.

Jesus: I suggest you do it the other way around, Archbishop. Because I will be meeting you later. And by the way, this continued to go out live, just as you've done it.

Floor manager: We pulled the plugs.

Jesus: I know. It continued to go out live.

Archbishop Aki Nolo: I see. You are here just to cause trouble. You know we put people in prison for far less in Nigeria. I send you back now and I tell you this, I won't meet you again.

Jesus: It was me who decided to come here for your programme. You neither brought me here, nor will you be the one sending me back. But I am going back, and, as I said, I will see you later Archbishop. You'd better now address your audience here and watching at home and offer an explanation. I'm leaving now, and going to speak to a local craftsman to say thank you before I go home. Viewers, you have seen the work of a skilled man. I wish you all well.

Radio Review Anglicanism Programme

Broadcast Sunday 30 August

Archbishop of Anglicanism: Thank you for agreeing to come to this our gathering, which we hold to discuss the condition of the worldwide Anglican Church for our radio listeners here on Christianity Now Radio. Do have a bread role and a drink of wine, as we talk, if we can all have these together.

[Jingle] Christianity Now Radio!

Archbishop of Anglicanism: With me for our discussion is Reverend Gob Tunga Onya Ennuss, a spokesperson for Archbishop Akinola, who will I'm sure soon retire, and also I welcome Bishop Michael Ali-England...

Bishop Michael Ali-England: I'm not sure why I welcome you.

Bishop Kathy Jefferson Starship: Me or him?

Archbishop of Anglicanism: ...who is indeed retiring very shortly indeed. I thought we could have your perspective, as people retiring. Not you, Bishop Kathy, welcome, and not you, Gob Tunga Onya Ennuss, and perhaps I might ask you why you are here representing Archbishop Akil Nolo in that he is not actually here himself. I hope he is well and active as usual, keeping in correspondence with his American and British friends.

Gob Tunga Onya Ennuss: I am his spokesman person and he is ever so humble. He has ascended the loftier heights about which few cannot compare, taking our Church with his mastery of leaderships, the leaderships that comes from beginning as an 'umble carpenter and becoming a carpenter craftsman, even more than Our Lord himself I believe, though everyone is entitled to their opinion. Why are you a woman, laughing?

Bishop Kathy Jefferson Starship: Women are capable of laughter.

Archbishop of Anglicanism: And just on a personal note, you were saying Reverend Gob that your tongue is not its best and you need to swallow plenty of liquids.

Gob Tunga Onya Ennuss: My tongue will grow strength with its particular task in my new role with the Archbishop but yes for the moment I need to swallow and not spit. I spit and gets dries but I need smooth like milk and honey.

Archbishop of Anglicanism: I suppose the chief event of recent weeks was perhaps my own considered reflection upon the decision of the triennial General Convention of The Episcopal Church, which I attended and offered some thoughts and supposed such an outcome possible. Whilst I am of course very pleased that the Church is making such a contribution to our excellent gathering of 2008, I am unfortunately nevertheless forced to consider how in a two track communion we can maintain the fullest contact with the second track and the possibility of dioceses relating to track 1 when their province is in track 2 or possibly vice versa in a potential radical rearrangement of the worldwide Anglican Church as it forms itself over the coming years under the influence of the Covenant once part four is revised shortly.

Bishop Kathy Jefferson Starship: We did welcome you.

Gob Tunga Onya Ennuss: I am lost. Could you explains what you meaning? By the way, can I have some cool liquid? This wine is rustic.

Bishop Michael Ali-England: No, no, don't explain all that to him or we'll be here all day, and I am a busy man now. I am retiring, you know, to spend more time with Christianity. What he means Gob - or is it Ennus? - is he wants them still to pay the bills later on. I tell you, you said one good thing: that people in gay relationships cannot represent Anglican Christianity at any level of ministry. And that allowed my frustrated colleague to come in and echo that loud and clear so that I didn't need to.

Archbishop of Anglicanism: I have been wondering this way or that whether I could not have said it with yet more unclarity. I thought I had been somewhat indecisively careful in how it was said, but presumably not.

Bishop Michael Ali-England: You are too obscure when you try to explain something. In this case, you were absolutely stark. But, look, let us not be under any illusion here, ministers who are gay are now actively representing portions of the Anglican Church ejaculating to modern culture. They may as well be in another religion. In making the resolutions that they have, they have changed beliefs regarding God, salvation, marriage and human sexuality.

Bishop Kathy Jefferson Starship: I reject this, absolutely. What I find 'cultural' is this religion of individualism. I think this is a heresy, if there are any heresies. We can look objectively at the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and within it is the commandment to be interdependent, except when it comes to being too interdependent within the Anglican Communion, if it is to become a Church.

Archbishop of Anglicanism: You can perhaps expand on this, then, Bishop Michael.

Bishop Michael Ali-England: Well it is very simple you see. It is sociologically the case that we normally have a religion of a high hurdle of belief, so distinctive that strikes us out from the culture. But if resolutions are being passed, actually and virtually, that mean God is no more than a generalised aspiration of depth, in a Tillichian sense, that salvation is from something like going down the road of Eastern-like dharma, that men will soon marry transgendered people and not know if she is a wife or a husband, and human sexuality can no longer be described in purely biblical terms, then clearly these people are moving towards something like Unitarianism or some sort of multi-faith mixture that we need defending from: they are a capitulation to the culture.

Bishop Kathy Jefferson Starship: No. We are making distinctive decisions about a gospel for the people. It is like this. There may be a crisis in the Anglican aeroplane, but what do you do? You keep flying. You figure out your position, and then you can radio for help. And it may just be that you are flying in the right direction anyway. Keep flying the plane because, you know, what the stewards get up to on their nights in hotels is quite a minor matter in comparison with the fact that the airline flies aeroplanes according to flightpaths and not a lonely jet going on any journey.

Bishop Michael Ali-England: My impression is that your aeroplane is on precisely its own route. None of what you have just said amounts to an argument against anything I have just said.

Gob Tunga Onya Ennuss: Our great high leader, Kim il Aki Nolo...

Archbishop of Anglicanism: Who?

Gob Tunga Onya Ennuss: He changes his name to a much more masculine name. He is now Kim il Aki Nolo. You see, there is no homosexuality in Nigeria, or indeed in any part of incontinent Africa. We do not see it in the great national parks where the tourists come, except among the tourists, and so the tourists ought to stay out of our major cities corrupting our youth. We are very concerned about our youth, who under Aki Nolo's inspiring leadership seen that they too can rise with church work from a lowly trade to major diplomatic status on the world stooges, and we are grateful to God that he sent down such a man to this earth that he acquired divinely status. And it is his express command that people who, let me say, play cricket for the other side, should actually spend a lot of time in prison until they lose this sin of the flesh, and indeed not only those who play for the other side but those who sit in the crowd watching such cricket can also go to prison. Because cricket-sin is evasive, corrosive, expandsive, explosive and deposive, and we are not having these deposives among our young people when we have to also fight corruptions and political violences with the Muslims too.

Archbishop of Anglicanism: Whilst we cannot reduce the gay issue to human rights, and the Church must operate according to its own language, which puzzles the public as to why we are so slow in meeting the equality of civic society, nevertheless we must uphold the rights of gay and lesbian people in civic society and there is no place in the Anglican Church for asking such people to go to prison, at least not for very long and with particular discomfort. I do hope to see Kim il Aki Nolo - yes? - and hope to have a quiet word about this.

Bishop Kathy Jefferson Starship: We could try the Anglican Consultative Council as an arena for a quiet word. Or not. Perhaps an airport?

Gob Tunga Onya Ennuss: Our great leader does not have quiet words. If you Archbishop have quiet word with him, he does not need you, and he can do you through the Primates' Council.

Archbishop of Anglicanism: Well I'd better turn to you, Michael. Do you not have hope for the Anglican Church and its Catholicity, which we are trying to build, including the UFO, as we try to make that distinction between the Church and its ways of proceeding and the society and its ways of proceeding?

Bishop Michael Ali-England: I don't know about this one track two track, but if we have two track as clearly two track we might even relate to it more positively and creatively, but not if two track is trying to impersonate one track. Mind, then we have Unidentified Faith and Order, instead of what we want which is Uniform Faith and Order. But look: we should promote the culture of the British because it is our roots across the Empire. The culture tells us who we are. Thanks to the Celts, thanks to Augustine the missionary - and we read our Bede - this land from Kent to Northumberland, from Ireland to East Anglia, was and should be historically Christian. I have always said that without this culture we will be rootless, increasingly homosexual and unable to replenish our population. And who is replenishing the population? It's in those areas where people like me are unwelcome, the vast housing estates where we now find Muslims among all the white working class that has so long enhanced and upheld our Christian roots. There you will find the babies being born and sent to these new academies, like that Archbishop Sentamu School I nearly visited the other day up north when they wouldn't let me in. So, yes, we must not let the Church descend to just reflecting the culture and we should with the British culture indeed with its traditions and royal family. And of course in your country too, your Ennus, with all the fighting and the need to defend the south.

Gob Tunga Onya Ennuss: His magesterium has told us all, "The Muslims do not have a monopoly of violence." We have our youth, who he inspires; and we can send the youth clubs to go with clubs and sticks to fight the Muslim youth clubs. These are our human rights Archbishop, our Anglican Church (Anglican Communion) reaching its heights of missionary activity - thanks to the British originally and yet now we are having to go back to the British with intolerances and getting out that man - now in your country - when we are worried when our girls will become wives ever again.

Bishop Kathy Jefferson Starship: The question is who is dying and who is hungry? Who needs at least an in flight dinner? Who is excluded from the agapé meal? We in our hierarchical, collective, Church decided to fly the aeroplane into Los Angeles airport and pick up people there with pride. The airport security was going to be a problem, but our relationship with the Anglican Communion is still on orange alert, not red alert. Is anyone listening to me? Not here, maybe the public do. They don't care about salvation formulas, like as if we're making baby milk. Breast is best. It is quite sinful for me to talk just as an individual. Is it one bottle or two breasts? Think about it, gentlemen. Look, we turn the collective hexadecimal-world aeroplane towards Jerusalem, where we talk together - no, not that meeting with its so-called Declaration, but the mixture of faith journeys in that great cosmopolitan city, where difference talks to difference, and God chooses whom he saves. Such is like the Anglican Communion - not a Church. This is our mission, where the stewards of the faith can stop serving the minimum of meals on trays and start cooking wholesome meals for many, especially dived-for seafood, with many ethnic and sexuality elements, perhaps visiting pigpens for choice cuts while holding their noses and maybe even choosing the vegetarian option and visiting Pagans not pigpens. I'm always pleased when people listen to my sermons.

Archbishop of Anglicanism: Yes, we are running out of time. Thank you for that, all of you. It seems that we have come to the end of our time. Well, what to conclude? I think it is reasonably fair to suggest, at least tentatively, not that the worldwide Anglican Church has been in weaker hands, but indeed in better hands, the Primates, and, though I'd give myself only three out of ten and could certainly do better, is nevertheless marching in a much clearer direction now, and since I made my Reflection and we all seem to agree, which gives me hope for our Catholicity, and I am sure the UFO will fly; and I would just like to thank you for coming and reflecting yourselves, wishing you a happy retirement Bishop Michael in being busier for Christianity, and hoping Reverend Gob that your tongue gets better and that you pass on my good wishes to the Archbishop of one of our leading local Churches.

Gob Tunga Onya Ennuss: The leading and serious Churches, the Church of the Anglican Communion; I will give him as licks for you.

Bishop Michael Ali-England: Well I'm no longer interested so you can stay in your job if you want.

[Jingle] Christianity Now Radio!

Bishop Kathy Jefferson Starship: I enjoyed that. Doesn't anyone want to eat their bread with me?

Archbishop of Anglicanism: Now I hand you lay listeners over to the Christian Zionist programme, 'The Messianics', where we hear about, it says here, Israel's expansive development in preparing a way for the return of Christ very soon. I might listen to this myself - on limited ecumenical grounds.

Saturday 29 August 2009

A Tale of Two Blogs

Standfirm in Faith has discovered these biblical passages, the ones that show Jesus learning a moral lesson from a Gentile:

Mark 7.24-37 'The Syrophoenician Woman's Faith' (New RSV):

24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, 'Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs.' 28 But she answered him, 'Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs.' 29 Then he said to her, 'For saying that, you may go - the demon has left your daughter.' 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Matthew 15.21-39 'The Canaanite Woman’s Faith' (New RSV):

21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22J ust then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, 'Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.' 23 But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, 'Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.' 24 He answered, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.' 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, 'Lord, help me.' 26 He answered, 'It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs.' 27 She said, 'Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.' 28 Then Jesus answered her, 'Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.' And her daughter was healed instantly.

So what does the main man of that blog state about these passages? In the context of having a crack at Brian Mclaren in an article, Matt Kennedy further comments for explanation:

And Jesus is still overcoming his own religious prejudice today thanks to the grace of Brian Mclaren

Poor benighted Jesus - trapped in first century ethnic prejudices and, worse, he's a Jew - an oppressor of Palestinians. It has been such a struggle but the syrophonecian woman, Brian Mclaren, and TEC have together managed to bring some enlightenment to the world despite Jesus'

Moreover, the woman did not "teach" Jesus anything.

If you are correct that Jesus learned to overcome prejudice from the woman, that implies, necessarily, that Jesus first words to the woman, whatever the proper translation, represented a "prejudiced" estimation of her worth as compared with that of the Jewish people. [...]

The sort of ignorance you seem to assert that Jesus embraced prior to his "enlightenment" involves Jesus in a violation of God's moral character. God shows no partiality. But, according to Mclaren and your post above, Jesus did.

That would render Jesus unqualified to atone for sin…and we might as well eat, drink, and be merry.

His decision to heal the woman's daughter was not "justice". It was not the result of having been educated out of cultural prejudice in order to "treat equals equally".

It was an act of mercy and grace - an undeserved favour to a sinner who deserves hell. Such is true for every benefit we receive from him. We have absolutely no standing question the moral propriety of his initial words to the woman or to anyone else. The reality of our natural condition before a holy God is that we are far in far far worse shape than "little dogs" under the master's table.

There was also a comment that sums up the war being waged here:

The Rev. Kaeton expounded on Jesus' being "schooled" by the woman - stating that Jesus realized…(wait for it)...THAT HE HAD BEEN WRONG. Yeah, different religions, totally

So what's happening here is that the demand for orthodoxy is skewing the reading of the passage. This is the idea that because he is God, Jesus cannot learn any moral lesson or cannot be wrong. One wonders what his mother did during his formative years - perhaps she made jam while her son brought himself up.

The point of the passage is that Jesus's ministry was to the Jews and no one else, and he had the same tribal views you would expect of those who beleived they had a special responsibility in faith and were chosen as such by God and they would be first into the coming Kingdom. Thus they were dismissive of Gentiles and their religions. However, this female Gentile is complaining about her treatment by using the Jews language about the Gentiles back at Jesus, and Jesus realises he is making a mistake and puts it right. In other words, Jesus learns.

Of course it has doctrinal implications. It is one of those passages that has caused the so called 'orthodox' to wriggle in their explanations.

I'd much rather read the verse straight; in fact I'd much rather understand the different schools or strands at the time, from the different early Churches, and how they contributed to all the different tendencies in the New Testament among Christians who were hardly trinitarians (!) and undergoing some narrow orthodox dance.

For such insights on purely evidential work I have not seen better than the material April de Conick has been putting out on her blog. I keep a link to it from this blog, and I use it myself to read hers. The Creating Jesus strand and now Jesus on the Road to Nicea is excellent material. Of course she gets challenged and she replies. It so happens that the The Syrophoenician Woman's Faith matter has arisen in comments relating to the division between Jews adapting to a rabbinical faith and mainly Gentiles creating a distinctive Christianity. Here are the relevant comments:

rameumptom said...

This is an interesting change for Christianity, given that Jesus started out anti-Gentile. He commanded his disciples to not preach to the Gentiles, but only the tribes of Israel. And when approached by a Canaanite woman to heal her daughter, Jesus responded that the "dogs" did not eat off the Master's table - basically calling Canaanites and other Gentiles "dogs" which is still used in the Middle East as an epithet.
Interesting to see how the Christian Church changed from anti-Gentile to anti-Semitic in so few short years.

April DeConick said...


Indeed, a clear and straight answer regarding the use of the word "dogs". There is clearly a moral element to this tale, with Jesus learning.

The lesson is further clear: don't let doctrine pre-determine the meaning of a passage. You need to know the context, and you need to see the drama involved. How historic is the passage? Who knows: it remains secondary material about any such encounter, but there is the story chosen to be in the texts by Mark and by Matthew. There may have been any number of encounters with non-Jews and Jesus, but the focus towards his people was clear and the early Churches were becoming quite different regarding their population.

The biggest error of course was that the Kingdom did not come quickly; the motivation for the ministry of Jesus, and for those early Jewish believers in his messianic status, led the various believers to face disappointment. As April de Conick herself suggests, there were two results of this mistake: one was to intensify the Kingdom vision, and the other was to establish the Church as a long haul institution and that saw those revolutionary social attitudes replaced by more usual hierarchies.
April De Conick is not making any theological point: she just deals with the textual and historical evidence. But I am. Yes, this does get discussed in the seminaries and, for me, it demonstrates that so called narrow orthodoxy is wrong, and it further demonstrates that religious content is principally cultural and relativistic.

Thursday 27 August 2009

Anglican No Longer

An explanation is given on Episcopal Café Daily Episcopalian. I did wonder about the appropriateness of this piece but perhaps others can use it to ask why they are Anglican and Christian and also I tried to generalise some points - for example that the wider Anglican movement strikes me as unethical.

Dreaming of Humiliation

Here's a blog entry like none before!

I've just woken from a dream having fallen asleep in a chair for a stretch into long after I'd have gone to bed, when the dream was that I've been tortured and humiliated by the Palestinian Authority. Now I have no reason to label or identify the Palestinian Authority, though I know the dream conformed in part to some media images. In the dream I was separated from friends after I think we were all picked up, and then I realised I was surrounded closely by men in a small rectangular room - not much bigger than a single bedroom (of the kind I don't have in this house). I remember treating the people with respect, even naming their Palestinian Authority carefully, but I realised there would be no choice and I would be tortured and humiliated, but the dream ended not with that (which seems not to have featured itself) but returning home down a street to a house afterwards, exhausted after confinement, and all I wanted to do was go into the house alone and recover. I think friends were already in the area but it didn't matter.

It's the sort of dream you come from and wonder why on earth that 'happened', and so I went to do some washing up first in a state of puzzlement and some initial disorientation.

Why would I dream this? Well, there could be several reasons.

One is I had an interview in the morning (Wednesday) for a Placement Officer when the feedback was, contrary to recent interviews, that my answers "lacked depth". I went to this interview, for a job applied for back in February, and it was the second in a row interview with all women candidates except me and all women interviewers. One woman I spoke to before the interview had experience in her current job of placing awkward people in make-believe employment situations, and of course I realised I had no chance against such a candidate. But I knew this anyway, and was told afterwards by telephone that my interview answers lacked depth because I had so little experience in the Health and Social Sector. This raises the usual question you want to ask, but never do, which is, "Given that this was clearly obvious from the application form that I sent you, why the fucking hell did you bother to interview me?" The answer is, of course, that I am one of the tossers selected to make up the numbers so they can have a publicly held interview and obey employment law.

People who are unemployed and can write a half-decent application form are basically subjected to this pathetic situation. I know a good application from a forced one, and a good interview chance from one that is a set-up. Interviews are an icing on a cake that confirm the application: it is all they are and can be. If you lack core experience in the face of questions, you cannot make it up except by best parallels. The feedback thought I would make a good teacher; had I thought about teaching? Oh dear. I simply said there were a number of options and goodbye.

Another reason for such a dream could well be the humiliation involved when my mother left in 2006, by cloak and dagger means as assisted by others, for which I've done nothing since but tried to find routes to reconciliation with all involved. My mother now is well into her deep dementia with which I struggled alone in her earlier angry phases, and with my distant wife dodging her on one of her final returns, while others took in my mother's self-promoting propaganda by telephone and visit - until, of course, she was taken to live alongside them and they discovered everything for themselves.

Now I live in a condition of inadequate income to pay all the bills, looking ahead to having to sell the car.

The reason today that I might dream of torture and humiliation was contact from my distant wife, who has lived in the south of the country since she left for Reading, her university course gone by now, and who has just had her laptop stolen from her burgled flat. She has asked me and friends if anyone can help, including what is the cheapest one and where as a replacement. Contacted today by telephone, and realising the effect it must be having on her, I suggested she might want to come up here just to rest a while and recover, but she said something like (I didn't quite catch it) not when she is like this. She utterly refuses to come northwards again because she associates it with antagonism (from my mother, and by extension others), and because it is the isolation of a village in an area of little prospect of employment, she thinks. Not that she is employed or it looks likely. So my suggestion, made at my own humiliation, really, was again rejected on her absolutism that she must never come north again. Most people of course would have said 'sod off' long ago or some such, but it is not my style and so long as she does not become a barrier to an unknown future I keep channels of communication open, even regularly (via the free Internet phone, prior to the theft).

Well I suppose there is nothing for it but to have the rest of the sleep in the place intended for sleeping and resume the drudgery of tomorrow's daytime as it comes.


Also I went and got out and juggled what money I have, and my friend who does this as her job tried to tell me that some of my Aldi purchases were not actually cheap and how I could cook for less, and I had to remind her that, "You are talking to an idiot," and said to her that what I need in life is "a cook and a prostitute" and "both for free".

Also I went out to post a letter (regarding another interview) and coming back realised I'd so disappeared from local view that I'd no idea who these other people were going into nearby houses.

[Google adverts flashed at me after writing and editing include Relieve poverty... and then Building transformative businesses. Honestly, what crap.]

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Not Quite On Demand

Today I watched the programme How Do You Know God Exists? via the Internet that first aired on Channel 4 on 16 August and has about 20 days to go on 4OD (Four on Demand). The programme was written and produced by Anthony Thomas. There was also a newspaper report at the time.

Although it featured Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Roman Catholic figures (namely Jonathan Sachs, Sadhu Paramtattvadas, Tariq Ramadan and Vincent Nichols), two of them national leaders of their religious bodies (Chief Rabbi and Catholic Archbishop of Westminster), a main interest here has to be in what Anglican Christian Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said in the programme because of what he had said recently to his own Church regarding gay people being unable to be representative of Anglicanism in any ministry.

He said (according to my listening) that although he is not as a leader of a party, nor that he has no convictions or cannot speak on them, his position means he holds personal convictions he cannot push.

What he does though is push very well, in entirely the opposite direction a viewpoint than the one it is supposed he does possess as his opinion! That is what he did, when he crossed the line and made his declaration about the impossibility of gay people representing the Church in any ministry. May be he has changed his mind and believes this too. He has said before how he changed his mind regarding the importance of the virgin birth (towards a more orthodox view). Plus we know that he has no restrictions pushing his personal belief in Catholicism and relating that to an international Church bureaucracy.

Whatever he still claims about holding a private opinion but representing another opinion, many an Anglican has decided to say that's it and have had enough of this because of the damage that will be caused by pushing his public opinion and the private views he can push. Anglicanism is not, nor should not become, a more sophisticated form of Roman Catholicism in its centralisation.

Rowan Williams can talk about the Church catching up with society! But note on this how he spoke in terms of women and ministry. He said that the Church must try to solve the matter in its own terms, which can be longer and embarrassing. People around it don't understand why it takes so long or the terms Church uses.

So he becomes purely internal in his language and logic, but this (we clearly see) results in a reverse gear. He seems now to inhabit two worlds, an internal Church world and a secular world communication of Christian views. Most Anglicans do not do this, do they? Is not the Anglican more culturally connected and communicative? We know of the believers who, pressed regarding their faith, will flick a switch and become other-worldly dogmatic, and then when released from questions revert to being ordinary and practical thinkers like the rest of the population, but surely the Archbishop is not like this? Or is he when it comes to Church-world?

He admitted that the Church doesn't have a clear voice in the media, being conflict ridden and obsessed by in house matters, but people say they want to hear from the Church for a vision held up before them. More generally, he is confident and trusting that God exists, an awareness from his teens. You can have a personal relationship. God is absolutely present in every bit of creation in every act of the universe. God is promised to be in the afterlife. He has strains of belief at times of bereavement and times of someone's suffering.

I was interested in his references to dementia, in that my own mother has become diminished through this and now needs professional care and treatment. The presenter was so affected by a relationship with someone with dementia. Rowan Williams said that he has also sat close to dementia sufferer, and that it is painful to watch someone disappearing. He did not think that the body is left behind with something of the person gone somewhere else. Instead God may deal with people at levels we cannot understand. This was the best sense he could deal with it and that it is brutally difficult.

My own view is that the God language and relating that to 'should be no suffering' is not helpful. Rather as the person diminishes mentally, they are within that personality, and it is within that and even its strangeness and misconnecting that a sort of value of life is still to be affirmed. We do not know that world within, its dreams and nighmares, and its frustrated talk, but the speaker seems to be sure and certain and communication goes on. Somehow you have to level with it and engage with it. The explanation is biological and a form of death, but its the life within that is the point of engagement, and even when there is apparently nothing left there is something, just a spark, or a moment, before finally the body switches itself off through being incapable of running itself. Death, then, is the last point of death.

He is right to say nevertheless that your value as a human being does not depend on control, or possessions.

He said that atheists do have moral values and impressive ones, but his question is where they get them from. He holds that the universe and what is profound pushes us towards a moral perspective in life which is the presence and action of God in all things and the atheists (like it or not) benefit from that.

Well that is his view, of course, though for me wonder is in the science and the maths itself. I find God language less and less useful. Moral values derive from pain and pleasure, and a question arises about what is happiness - is it an excess of something or is there a joy to be found that is a deeper happiness. The Darwinian view of a pitiless creation is a three a clock in the morning view of the world, he said, but from another perspective we are capable of meaning, love, relationship and prayer. Some indicated how the Darwinian world is the self-refreshing world, it is its own newness.

There was no Buddhist in the programme so for that perspective the viewer relied on a comment from Rowan Williams himself that [his] hell is to be stuck with his selfish little ego for all eternity. It is torment enough to be thrown back on yourself. I happen to agree with him here, which is why death in the end becomes important because the idea of going on and on strikes me as a hell too.

He also thought we should (or at least he does) come to the Bible with enormous openness, with an eagerness to be taught, but not to read every single verse of Genesis as if history as we understand it. I think that was putting it in a very mild and limited way (but the context was Darwinian and pitiless evolving). My view is to have an openness to all scriptures and an eagerness to learn, critically, and this is of course extendable.

The presenter noted that these religious leaders, to whom he gave gushing high moral praise, were closer to each other than to they were to those who share their specific beliefs. Well that's because he chose them, of course, but it probably was not the case with the Hindu anyway and the Roman Catholic was rather select in his own answers.

Sunday 23 August 2009

Jumping Over a Hurdle

Gary L'Hommideau of ACNA is part of a small and moderate wave of self-criticism that the escapee Christian Conservatives are making of themselves. His features around the need:

for affirmation by those who have already rejected us. We can’t bear the thought that anyone might get the wrong idea about our good intentions.

This centres around the homophobia tag being pinned on these escapees from The Episcopal Church, as John Shelby Spong proclaims that The Episcopal Church (TEC) is on the right side of history and that this particular battle is over within TEC. L'Hommidieu agrees that the battle is over within TEC.

He tries to turn this around against the "inclusiveness dogma" in TEC by reference to sociology of religion, that they in ACNA welcome anyone who will reorientate themselves - but this involves a cost in terms of membership or belief, whereas TEC's inclusivity involves lower tension with surroundings and thus a lower cost of membership. This draws on the work of sociologists Rodney Stark and Roger Finke. In other words, the sect offers a reason to join of distinctiveness, whereas the Church does not - it is too close to society.

Would it be so simple. There is clearly a problem with the concept of Church, but it is not quite as given here. The problem is that it would recruit, but in a traditionalist or still identifiable residual Christian culture for which it is suited. Everyone is born into it, and will join it, unless they are of a minority that goes to a sect. Unfortunately for the Church, the culture has shifted away from such 'natural' support, and this leads to a dilemma for the Church.

However, in the United States there never was a 'Church' and there always was a set of denominations. So joining TEC even as a Church is still to join an identity: Anglican, inclusive, sacramental. The fact that it is moderate is neither here nor there: it still does possess cultural distinction.

As for the sect, the error made in this article is that the additionally demanding and costly sect gives no way in. Who is it that gets to leap over the hurdle? If it is a small ethnic group, then such a sect will remain small and distinct (and it is this group that often becomes a denomination as it moderates its identity through wealth and assimilation; some groups fight hard to retain social separation, however). Sects that want to grow must attract, and the answer is to be found in these media churches. They offer no ecclesiastical barriers to participation and membership. They look secular, with very little in the way of ornamentation (often not even a cross), and men and women lead them, with the vital prop of a microphone, and behind them is the rock band for entertaining spirituality. People turn up in casual dress - everyone. Then the verbal content is the high barrier (yet still simplistic for easy consumption): the Jesus-salvation message is the hurdle, the repetition of "the Bible says" and plenty for the participants to sway to and lose themselves into. They will be saved, and they will be floating in the air when the tribulation comes - but of course only they believe such drivel.

That's not what ACNA is about. ACNA is as peculiar and culturally distinct as TEC. Indeed, in some cases, in its split between high Catholicism and Calvinism, it shuts itself off to the public by all sorts of internal theologies that are inaccessible to the unread. ACNA is for people who are already Anglicans, or come from the Calvinist side and related denominations. Basically ACNA is a continuing sect or multiple of sects. In terms of other people - new people - it is as random in recruitment as any other body. Someone might turn up and 'grow into it', but unless they stay to 'grow into it' it will look pretty strange stuff.

What TEC does is offer a means of spirituality whilst not losing your brain. There is a distinctive message, to grow into, but it is one treated gently and gives people plenty of time.

One reason the Unitarian Universalist Association has been able to grow over recent years is because it also offers people to keep their ways of thinking, but the denomination has also offered a badge of identity. It further has distinct sub-sections rooted in its own traditions, that are also American literary and religious traditions, so it has the transcendental and the rational, and thus has Western and Eastern, Religious Humanist and liberal Christian. Its risk is that it remains a wordy spirituality (despite its bottom-up creativity and the transcendental) and its openness to society that helps one come in easily lets one go out too. For families, the UUA offers a non-dogmatic religious education, which is quite a plus point.

In the UK and Europe the background is one where Church has become culturally dislodged, and anyway Church was always held at arms length for social class reasons. Thus as society shifts away from the thought forms of the Church, people stay away. It is not necessary to acquire an identity via attendance at churches for a majority and assimilating population. An open denomination like the Unitarians seems like something that is dislodged from a past generalist Christian culture, and it must offer space for an open spirituality and creativity to the very few interested. Its offer of non-dogmatic religious education competes with exactly the same happening in schools: the Unitarian Sunday School collapsed along with all other Sunday Schools. Its leisure and education provisions failed with those in other denominations. So Unitarianism is really for the interested, for those who want to create, and it is why chapels where existing groups fight to retain their own way of doing things will fail. They really do have to be radically open to change, as well as targeting those social groups who would be spiritual and creative and are ill-served by mainline churches.

In Europe (the UK is really just a distinct part of this) the Church will have a residual outreach, keeping its doctrines but going easy on them, unless of course internally Church decides to become more sectarian and close the door to that way in. The Archbishop of Canterbury seems intent on going in this direction. Producing 'Fresh Expressions' while hyping up the dogma will only work if it is more or less thorough, and it is presently half-hearted, and others are already doing it. No one is sure about 'Fresh Expressions' or has really thought it through as to what its various efforts at accessibility are for. Incidentally, the Nine O'Clock Sheffield service was thought through: a liberal-charismatic service that connected with the dance culture and brought in young people for celebration, community, engagement and discussion. That had quite a consistency to it and a specific appeal. 'Fresh Expressions' isn't a patch on this, and its post-Evangelical origins and its involvement by some liberals too seem internal to the top down organisation involved.

So the Church then will muddle on with its plant and equipment partly used, but denominations will fail because there are no distinct discussed-theological reasons for any of those now to exist. Maybe one merged entity might offer a 'low' alternative to Church. Curiously, if they could only organise themselves better and more purposively, the Unitarians as thoroughgoing liberals might have something disctinct and different to offer, with its rationality and romanticism, as will the Quakers, with their distinctive gathering style, but it remains a question as whether Unitarians can organise themselves and be that open-ended offering.

Scrabble: It's Not About Words

How to play Scrabble? Best to play against one person. I did and hated any game where it came via several people because it makes a nonsense of strategies. I used to learn a lot of two and some three letter words, though the online version is different in what is allowed and not. It is always easier to get a 7 letter word out early, so make it difficult quickly. Close down loose words by putting other words all over them - don't go out if you don't have to, and don't let the other player get to the high powered squares. Try and use higher score letters to the maximum power, and that means running both directions, and better still on a high powered square. Towards the end, reverse the tightness and, with some guessing of the other's tiles, try and make a way to get rid of final letters. It can, at times, decide who wins.

I used to play my mother, and she played to put out words, whereas I played to put out letters on positions. Words were just a filter. I didn't always win. Dominic above plays like I do, so I reckon keep playing and he'll win about half the games. In the end, the letters make a lot of difference, and if both play to exploit the board then they will make all the difference.

Saturday 22 August 2009

Animal Welfare Highlighted and Protected

At the moment I am doing some more liturgical writing, and my method is to take existing texts and turn them around and about so eventually they look quite different but still generate some sort of spiritual resonance. So I am always interested to see new ones.

There is some Christian liturgy just available with prayers and readings for Animal Welfare Sunday on October 4th written by Andrew Linzey (Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics). It is available here directly, which is via the relevant RSPCA website page. I couldn't myself use these directly, but I can keep the essence of what matters regarding reflecting upon animal welfare. Of course I downloaded and kept a copy, but use is not helped by the RSPCA published .PDF being copy-disabled and note-attachment disabled, as many people would want to take some of this material and incorporate it into existing material. Anyway, I converted it to open use quite easily by using GSView, the file size dropping from over 3.5 mb to under 750 kb (including retaining the top heavy image), and the text file - still sorted into pages - being just under 32 kb. So why bother?

This is how liturgical material is often used: by being reused. It is important to respect intellectual property rights and creativity, of course, and one means by which I do that is quoting the source of originals even where changes, removals and additions are such that something significantly new has emerged (whilst remaining connected; once a product is so different that a connection is lost beyond inspiration then such an acknowledgement can be misleading). But liturgy is about creativity in the human mind, and in this age needs access to the electronic text. I discovered the text was disabled when I tried to extract the copyright information! Well, here are the sources of the liturgical material at

Introduction, prayers and compilation © Andrew Linzey, 2004. First published in 1975; revised 1981, 1987, 1992, 1996 and 2004.

Some material has been adapted from Andrew Linzey, Animal Rites: Liturgies of Animal Care, London: SCM Press, and Cleveland, Ohio: The Pilgrim Press, 1998. © Andrew Linzey.

Where indicated, scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright, 1946, 1952, 1971 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and are used with permission.

Cover illustration: Francis and the Wolf
© 2002 by John August Swanson
Serigraph 26" x 18"

For reproduction of the copyright textual material in this booklet, please contact Andrew Linzey at

Now nicely extracted for any subsequent reuse in parts, as relevant; of course to use many chunks and not to change them or to knock bits off (while leaving the rest as was) really does need contact with the author, where then putting the source down is not sufficient. Also changing context is not on - a prayer used in a service in an abattoir isn't on. Such rules are normal and apply. Anything I do will end up on my website and is open to all.


Jonathan Clatworthy discusses liberalism on his website, related to a book.

For me, the word liberal has become one of those plastic words that is in danger of losing communicative meaning. The Conservative Party at present is fond of using the word liberal. It means, presently, something like social liberal, whereas in the 1980s the Conservative Party had ditched its "one nation" Conservatism for Manchester or Economic Liberalism. The liberalism it now uses it is stealing from the Liberal Democrats, as it is a watered down version of the liberalism of Jo Grimond. That was an intensely local, communal, social liberalism, and at one point even Tony Blair wanted to pull the progressive Liberal political tradition into his big tent. If the conservatives follow through accessible or open primaries then actually it is following the liberalism that forms the ideology of the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats also inherited the intellectual social democracy once of Labour, but (hopefully) not its centralist tendencies.

In religion the word liberal has arguably an even looser use, or at best an untidy use.

One use is to be liberal about something. So whatever happens to be the thing in play, to be a liberal is to be a liberal in relationship to that. This is what is often meant by liberal Christianity. It is rather difficult to use this across the religions. What is it to be a liberal Hindu, for example, or a liberal Buddhist? So the liberalism is a relationship to a dogma or a received tradition somehow fixed.

Another use of liberal would be something like the Socinian use, a commitment to a process of reasoning. So you receive the given text, and that text is the evident material in front (with all its contradictions and variations) and even if the text is revelation in basic reception it is reasoned out for understanding. This is what the Church of England means when it refers to the Liberal tradition it receives along with the Evangelical and the Catholic.

Being liberal also means relating to the naturalistic, ordinary, secular even, ways of common understanding and importing these into a religious tradition. This is not about reason as such, or as a process, but the sociology of knowledge about how we assume thought. It is about how being technological affects thought. For example, if rain is coming we no longer give that divine meaning or interference, but just think in terms of weather charts. If we have a problem, our technological culture tells us that we make solutions. Praying is beyond plausibility.

This further extends into the culture of social trends, so to be liberal is to connect with the variety of definitions that arise in the secular and ordinary world about being human - how we, so to speak, paint our faces and wear badges. This overlaps with the naturalistic (biology, chemistry, physics, maths), but it makes the naturalistic ideological too.

Also being liberal is to be liberal constitutionally. This means rejecting creeds and instruments of power - authority is purely consensual and earnt. Some institutions have limited liberal elements, for example checks and balances in power can be a liberal element or a relaxed view of creeds. The authority given to decentralised theologians can be a liberalising element. Some institutions are thoroughly liberal, for example in rejecting creeds, any central power and having no belief conditions of membership. Nevertheless, even in constitutionally liberal groups (Quakers, Unitarians) concentrations of power can emerge (e.g. at the congregational level). Inevitably the constitutional liberal is dealing in a market place of ideas and building from the bottom up. There is plenty in the religious culture, but not so co-ordinated as was, so is more like a 'homeles mind' and making sense of old and new religious symbols is quite a task every time.

Another form of liberalism is consumerist New Age religion, at least in as far as it represents choice across different purchasable forms. You may also pay your fee and do one thing, and pay your fee and do another thing. The actual forms themselves may be supernatural, superstitious and magical, even authoritarian.

For myself, I am a constitutional and process liberal, and of course think naturalistically and according to the sociology of knowledge. I no longer say creeds, nor take communion, and by removing the Anglican label I also declare that, say, the Bishop of Lincoln is not my bishop. He is nothing to do with me. He might have a lot to do with a church I walk into, but I do it freelance. By the way I suggest he is 'liberal-about-Christianity.'

The claim I want to make is that inevitably the ethical will be located within the sociology of knowledge of what is plausible and in naturalistic thinking. This means that where a tradition is set up against plausibility and the naturalistic, e.g opposes 'human rights' as inadequate, then the tradition will veer towards being unethical. Ethics are located in who we are in a simple and straightforward sense, but also in ideas that are part of the naturalistic outlook. Talk about a man as a God and virgin births or coming back to life seem to exist in another realm.

Some think that being liberal means being open minded to the point where the rejection of some things ought to be reconsidered. This is the worst use of liberal: once something has been reasoned, once something is worked through, that's that unless there is new evidence or argument to the contrary to then be reconsidered. But that is the process of liberalism and this other possibility is the inconclusiveness of any conclusion.

Just to have a tradition and follow it in the manner that it becomes its own policeman seems bizarre, but this is what Rowan Williams does - and indeed in some cases he is so buried inside the Bible and narrative detail that he forgets today's sociology of knowledge and plausibility. Reason does not mean working out the tradition - that is what the tradition does. Nor is it about constructing a narrative of the Bible, because that is what the evangelical does. Reasoning is not subservient to a greater task and is thus reduced in scope. It always stands under its own rules that expand its scope.

Bishop John A. T. Robinson of Honest to God used to reason, except he would be dogmatic when it came to the incarnation. He thought there was a necessary and vital task for the Church to find the argument for it. Not the argument about it, but already in favour. But folks since like Don Cupitt and Richard Holloway are fully liberal (despite Cupitt's rejection of the term when it comes to liberal-about-something theologians) because they pursue religion within plausibility, naturalistically, and in a method where everything is subject to discussion and debate from the bottom up, not as in a tradition of top down where debate is to affirm or continue the whole tradition. I'm with Cupitt and Holloway.

Thursday 20 August 2009

The Smell of Coffee

Hooray for the Modern Churchpeople's Union in updating the appearance of its website, and more of a hooray for new content in an article that focuses on the recent attacks on gay people as necessarily unrepresentative in Anglicanism in the pursuit of goals to centralise worldwide Anglicanism. The following is not a summary of the argument made, but just some lifted choice paragraphs and phrases which show further that the liberal side has had enough, and that pretences to reason shown by Rowan Williams in particular are over. For some time there has been a willingness among some groups to run with the Covenant and make it more inclusive, but it is now clear that trying to 'go along' with the Covenant is futile. The MCU article is a good, well written, well argued piece. The President of MCU is Bishop John Saxbee.

In my view, the best paragraph is this one:

For the Anglican Communion to be 'essentially a loose federation of local bodies with a cultural history in common' would be to keep it near enough as it is. Williams' hope of a 'global consensus' in a 'theologically coherent "community of Christian communities"' has never been the historical reality - especially if it implies agreement on ethical issues like homosexuality - and stands no chance of becoming so in the foreseeable future. To make the governance of the Anglican Communion fit this idea would, contrary to his claim, be a major innovation.

Each paragraph below can be separated by other explanatory words in the original article, and each here can stand alone - this is not necessarily repeating the narrative of the argument.

Rowan Williams... largely repeating arguments

N T Wright, Bishop of Durham, is a longer paper, written in blunter language

Both papers blame the American church for rejecting a consensus that homosexuality is immoral. There is no such consensus; there is only their dogma.

...the institutions of the Anglican Communion have neither legal nor moral authority to impose it on provinces which dissent. Their claim to have this authority is an attempt to introduce a new authoritarianism. These papers, instead of engaging in that debate, seek to suppress it.

[They contain] an idealising theory of the church

[They] deny that they seek to centralise power ...while at the same time proposing innovations designed to have exactly this effect

Both insist there is an Anglican consensus that homosexuality is immoral ...[but] they make no attempt to appeal to a general agreement. They appeal instead to a few central authorities...

Williams and Wright represent a defensive, reactionary church leadership responding to new moral theories not by arguing that they are untrue but by suppressing them in the name of their dogmas.

Williams and Wright both write as though this authority was already there

...they are in the process of creating an authoritarian centralised system, and are identifying themselves with it.

These arguments, though expressed by senior figures of the Communion, represent only the more authoritarian elements of Anglican moral thought.

In general, moral rules serve people in two ways: to guide them in their own lives, and to give them bullets to fire at others. Wright uses the latter for all it is worth at no cost to himself.

Williams allows for change as a theoretical possibility but makes it impossible in practice, demanding 'the authority of the Church Catholic, or even of the Communion as a whole'. Williams' ideal church is Catholic.

...the agreement of the whole church really means only the agreement of archbishops, Vatican and patriarchs

Wright's vision is Calvinist rather than Catholic. clarify the distinction between true Christians and everybody else, and to ensure that one's own church is entirely governed by true Christians.

[They show] their ignorance of the theological arguments in favour of accepting homosexuality. Williams reduces them to human rights. Wright tells us that 'some in TEC insist that their theological position has in fact been argued, and that the rest of the Communion is ignoring these arguments.' He then immediately proves them right [about his ignorance].

Firstly, biblical exegesis reveals that the texts usually cited as condemnations of homosexuality are not all about homosexuality ...[; secondly] the teaching of the Christian church through its history has been nowhere near as monolithic as Williams and Wright would have us believe. Thirdly, the traditional 'natural law' argument has been turned on its head. ...that some diversity of sexual practice is necessary to the survival of every species of bird and animal.

There is now a large body of scholarly literature in all three areas. We must accept Wright's admission that he is unaware of it. In Williams' case the matter is more complex. We know from previous publications that Williams the theologian is familiar with it; he could never speak of 'the way in which the Church has consistently read the Bible for the last two thousand years'. Yet Williams the archbishop writes it. does appear that he considers it his responsibility, as archbishop, to ignore the findings of theological scholarship until such time as they are formally accepted by church leaders as the official teaching of the church. This is to take an authoritarian, dogmatic view of Anglican doctrine.

...'what affects the communion of all should be decided by all' may indeed be venerable but to call it 'the conviction of the Church from its very early days' ignores the historical reality of repeated controversy within and between denominations. It has never been a formal part of the Anglican Communion's governance and to introduce it now in the face of immense opposition would indeed be 'some piece of modern bureaucratic absolutism'.

[As for] Wright [,] If there is any doubt that it would involve centralising power, his point about 'ecumenical credibility' makes it clear: he wants a small number of people who can attend meetings with patriarchs and cardinals and declare authoritatively what the Anglican position is...

An important strand of Wright's argument is the urgency of a solution. He writes at length about it. There is no time to wait for more committees to meet: the matter must be settled now.

Williams, however much he softens his language, still looks forward to a tighter structure where covenanters commit themselves to agreeing with each other and non-covenanters are excluded from representative functions. Here we see two features of his catholic theology which conflict with each other: on the one hand the desire to retain as many people as possible within the church, and on the other the authoritarian commitment to its official teaching.

Both Williams and Wright show themselves to be dogmatic authoritarians. Their appeal to consensus is really an appeal to an unreflective dogma which refuses to take any account of current beliefs. Their denials of a centralising agenda are only there to make their centralising proposals sound acceptable.

Williams' hierarchical, hieratic and dogmatic doctrine of the church, with no interest in what the laity think and no real place for change, is Anglican to the extent that it has its roots in the Oxford Movement, but has never characterised Anglicanism as a whole. Wright's equally dogmatic, but Puritan and schismatic, doctrine of the church is Anglican to the extent that it represents the Church of England in its sixteenth-century Calvinist phase and the minority of Anglicans who wish to reaffirm it today.

The current alliance between these two theologies cannot be stable: they disagree with each other about too much.

Neither position is characteristic of Anglicanism. Other Anglicans, calling themselves open evangelicals, or liberal catholics, or broad church, or radicals, or liberals, have not been part of this programme to condemn the Americans and introduce an Anglican Covenant.

It is a tragedy that this more open, tolerant, creative Anglican ecclesiology has gone too far in tolerating the intolerant and including the excluders. They have now taken many of the senior posts in the church, and seek to turn Anglicanism into an intolerant and exclusive sect.

The MCU piece then identifies Williams's and Wright's inward looking with decline and seeks revival by being more outward looking.

I suppose the question is how one revives the outward view, but, as for these two, both regarded the recent liberal period of theology (up to the 1980's) as going as far as it could go or as a low point in theology, and they are not going to be steering the ship in a more outward looking direction. We all see this very clearly now.

What a career for Rowan Williams: he has been rotted by Church doctrine and its defence to a logical point where Anglicanism has never been. Williams's Catholic obsession is clear, but the rot started with his Advent Letter 2007, when he married it himself to a dallying with biblical literalism that also seems to be driving the shift to the centre, just as Wright bellows his conservative biblical apologetics towards a traditionalist Catholic view of central authority.

Wednesday 19 August 2009


I used to play my mother at Scrabble. I played to a tight pattern to score as often as possible in two directions for letters and to close down the possibility of long words without cost. You can stretch words out, but it must be your word that reaches the triple word scores. Towards the end you need to get rid of high scoring letters and have a places to drop these and as many letters as possible. Dementia of course has ruined my mother's ability to play, and represents another 'death' before death.

Now thanks to Facebook I can play remotely, though the difference is words can be checked before play (and two letter words are displayed), letters used are monitored (with such information mattering near the end. In the Scrabble I played with mother a word could be challenged after it was placed and a successful challenge opening the dictionary/ word list book and finding no such word meant you lost the go. Nevertheless, how fascinating that for the very first game, I ended up with 338 points and Dominic 339, but he has a J and C left (11 points to remove) and I have a C left (3 points to remove) and these cannot be played. So I win. Here is the board at the point where he has to pass, I then pass and the game is over. Click on the image to see a bigger image.

Meanwhile, and also concerning words, I am starting a small project to produce a booklet about examinations in the past and present. It is not just about whether exams have become 'dumbed down' (compare a set of 1970s O level questions with an A level paper in the 2000s; see a CSE question in the 1970s and compare with a GCSE question in the 2000s) but also what exams are used for and how also they reflect the status of teaching as a profession and how education has moved from distrusting the quantifiable to now when everything has to be quantified in order to be justified. The input-output model, once so distrusted in education, is now set in stone - but the stone is cracking. Results can be so deceptive!

Monday 17 August 2009

UFO and the Lake District

A group of UFO believers from across the Anglican Communion will be at the Lake District next weekend to spread a message of enforcement.

The Anglican Office for Unity, Faith and Order (UFO) will meet 'The Old Man of Coniston', Lord Melvyn Baggage, on one of the 19 mountains across the world charged by Archbishop Straker, the founder of the office, using his Mastercard.

Given that he has paid the price, and contacted Jesus about it, and lectured Buddha, others can now walk on the hill to spread unification energy all over the world. The other eighteen hills around the world were charged by Access.

While Jesus and Buddha came from earth, it is believed that Archbishop Straker is an extra-terrestrial, and speaks a language no one on the planet really understands. His prophetic utterances have to be interpreted by Bishop N. T. Freeman, who stands on top of mountains bellowing at the top of his voice. People in the Lake District are said to be "fed up with the racket" that can be heard as far away as Bishop Auckland and its spooky castle.

Church groups often travel with their priests up and down these charged features, including having a go up and down with The Old Man of Coniston. Some groups experience cleansing and rebirth, along with Melvyn, who is 2,635ft tall, by having a dip in Windermere.

Melvyn Baggage tells visitors how he himself was charged in 1958, shortly before he started presenting The South Bank Show, the arts programme described as "the exception that proves the rule" - that ITV is devoted to hours and hours of crass culture.

Melvyn, who therefore stays in London, where he uses his Lake District energy to write sexually charged novels, still returns regularly to find out the best bits of grass for his characters to have a good hump. He did a good one on BBC television about an older banker and a young woman, and she ended up going back in time to the lost East End of the 1940s to be met by a married Dipstick from the contemporary East End, before then quitting to move to Ireland and being pestered by a Roman Catholic priest and quitting there to emerge as the temporary Controller of the alien Cybermen. Melvyn Baggage said that the Anglican UFO Office contacted him and wants to meet to ask him to make sure that his novels remain heterosexual in character, even if outside the boundaries of marriage.

"They asked me if I would change my name, and become 'The Old Man of Covenant', but I said this would alter my personality too much. I think they want to ask me this again." Melvyn stated further: "We all start as children, you know, and this is the basis of all my novels, that we grow up and then get a bit frisky as we get turned on by the naughty bits. If you go up and down with me in the Lake District, then the hills and lakes and fresh air make you quite randy, giving that extra special energy. It is better than fighting one another. I am a lover not a fighter, a lover and not a quitter, just like my iconic political friend Lord Mendelstone. We have to stop being backwards. I'm happy to meet, but I cannot assure the Anglican UFO that I will stay within its boundaries of desire; I have though suggested that they also contact Jeanette Winterlesbee-Ann for the next time she goes to Buttermere. I appreciate that the UFO thinks we lack intelligence and that this is a backward planet, because some people like the same naughty bits that they possess themselves, but the Office actually might be a bit thick itself on these matters. It probably needs some help."