Tuesday 31 May 2011

Starting at the Same Time

This was a comment of mine at Lesley's new blog home, but it was only what was happening that early evening in one house with two unmarried but intended clerics.

Her head thrust back, their bodies pressed uponLink the films of perspiration generated between them. As he slid his body up against hers, her arm came from under the sheets to tap her finger on her book Issues in Human Sexuality left on the bedside cupboard, causing her equally Reverend friend to say, “OK”, and move to the side to where she could extend her other hand. There she released his passionate rise, knowing that both he and she were being consistent with Church of England teaching.

But what I didn't post was what was happening elsewhere.

In the living room the priest was still looking at his post received that morning, a letter from a friend offering sympathy and the statement that she supposed he would never be raised to the ministry of a bishop. On the sofa at ninety degrees was the friend who loved him, looking across at the man with a letter, feeling a terrible burden that this man's career was suffering because they had made a Civil Partnership. Feeling such a burden, the friend got off the sofa and went in complete silence to his own bedroom upstairs and shut the door not to emerge until the following day.

And elsewhere?

Meanwhile, the bishop said to his wife, "If you'll have those notes for me tomorrow for the diocesan meeting, remember the guest speaker is Canterbury."
"When do I pick you up?"
"For 10 am is early enough."
So he went off for the evening, in mufti, leaving his wife and secretary at the computer, driving to a semi-detached house, where he left his car and met John his friend, and then both took a taxi for a club.
The beat was pounding and relentless, and the club were full of men, some looking for dance partners, and some like the bishop with their own. Though here he didn't say he was a bishop.
Thoroughly sweaty and gyrated the two took a taxi to a bed and breakfast run by Jim and Bobby, and spent the night together in the room in the roof, grinding away their passion to the point of complete exhaustion, and afterwards needing the long sleep in that double bed.
Next day at 9 am the wife arrived outside in her car with fresh clothes and briefing papers. She rang the doorbell but waited in the car until her man appeared, and even though it was getting warm he had a scarf around his neck, which he took off once she had driven away.
"Yes he's very very well, it was a great night. Next week it's Thursday. Now, it could be a bad meeting today. They say the Archbishop is angry and there could be tears."

Monday 30 May 2011

Music and Services and a Quality Threshold

I'm pleased that the 'trinitarian hymn' has found favour with someone well outside the Unitarian fold, and it is proof (if needed) that the 2010 hymn book Sing Your Faith (that supplements Hymns for Living) does stretch the whole range. This is an intelligent Christian hymn using theological concepts. However, I admit to being worried about next week's service in a way unexpected: it is Unitarian traditionalist Christian about the King James Bible and I have done something interesting - I have turned down doing a reading of a Psalm. Now there is a practical reason, which is I prefer to disappear behind the curtain as I operate all the music to assist the illusion of its appearance. But I admit that I really do not like the service structure put in front of me so far, as I get to see the outline in advance. When I was at Barton and the Church of England there I reached a point where I turned down all requests to participate, and this is the case with this example.

I don't even think the service suits the Hull congregation, but then that is just my opinion. Sunday last was Stephen's service on being a hypocrite. That was Christian orientated but also with a light touch. I particularly liked his reference to the late Unitarian Sir Cyril Smith (who opened the Hull church building) and the difference between the write up in The Inquirer and the write up in Private Eye after his death - surely The Inquirer could have contained something of which was in Private Eye, he said. Quite so.

Afterwards I laughed at the editing of my piece about our coming Liberal Catholic preacher in the bi-monthly church rag. By way of explanation, it was "edited down to zero". Fortunately, the other chap's introduction survived, but even it was edited. Meanwhile there is a page about a dog. My view is this. What I wrote might require a bit of work to understand it all, but it we don't put in some effort to tackle something different then we end up with endless mediocrity. If we always write to what we think people will understand, then no one learns anything. I read things I don't understand and then I go and find out what they mean. Anyway, if people are interested, there is a long article left on the side to pick up. I'm not bothered about it but nor am I in any rush to provide content.

However, the AGM comes soon and the report booklet was handed out. It says (Chair):

The music difficulty has now been solved by the willing help of Adrian Worsfold and the new sound system. The services once again run smoothly and the microphone is working well. All this adds to the atmosphere of our worship. Thank you, Adrian, for working so hard for us...

And the Secretary:

Thanks to Adrian is now in charge of the music. Our new music centre is a delight which enhances the quality of the services.

Now as well as the hymns on Sunday last I also put out pieces by Bach, Parry, Richard Clayderman and Pino Donaggio. The latter provided the end piece of music, which people listen to before they get up for the coffee. This was the Love Theme from Don't Look Now, which I explained after is played over the main sex scene intercut with putting their clothes on that the censors liked because it showed two people in love trying to get over their bereavement.

But the music was such that it might have finished here, or here or here, and why didn't I fade it out? Because the whole emphasis, since I have taken over this task, has been on quality, and fading out would ruin the integrity of the music. I do extracts for the collections, but that's all. I edit hymns and extracts so that you cannot see the joins. I 'play' each piece we use unseen by the congregation and to the moment the preacher announces it. The quality of the music the system produces is superb, and to get it I went to a small DJ repair business and chatted with the sole trader again and again before installation (and he didn't overcharge like an obvious place to go would have done). I still chat with him now.

Once you start to 'oh just fade it out' and so on, you're on the slippery slope. And how many pieces of (non-hymn) music have I repeated so far? About five I think. Music is playing when people come in, and it can play through the coffee if they want (it gets turned right down, does go off).

The hymns are either sourced elsewhere, come from Unitarian choirs, or in the end I can transcribe and make the musical sound (and I've got the hang of more or less echo too, an instrument can thus feel further back or forward). I still want someone to learn to make up the two identical CDs for each time; there is just one other trained chap who can play them on the equipment from the track list made every week. On Tuesday last I had a bad cold and lacked energy, and I wondered if it lasted whether a CD would get made up. They are relying on me and it shouldn't be as exclusive as that; but, if you are going to rely on me then it gets done according to a quality threshold.

By the way, if the language of 'working so hard for us' seems not to include me in the 'us', it could be because I am not actually a member of the congregation.

Sunday 29 May 2011

Trinitarian Hymn in Unitarian Service

Just a few hymns highlighted here to be sung on Sunday, in a service from Stephen Carlile. He wanted two tunes to be different, and so that meant a bit of finding and editing.

There is no need to then provide the following tune here, because SF 028 Repton is a tune change from Lob Gott, Ihr Christen (which I have lob got) to Repton, or that of 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind':

Dear weaver of our live's design
Whose patterns all obey,
With skilful fingers gently guide
The sturdy threads that will survive
The tangle of our days.

Take up the fabric of our lives
With hands that gently hold;
Bind in the ragged edge that care
Would sunder and that pain would tear,
and mend out rav'ling souls.

Let eyes that in the plainest cloth
A hidden beauty see;
Discern in us the richest hues,
Show us the patterns we may use
To set our spirits free.
Nancy C. Dorian.

Click to hear HL 188 Love Unknown choir (temporary)

HL 195 Ellacombe - the words to this can be viewed on 14 May 2011 on ths blog (I'll not upload the music this time)

Click to hear HL 064 Old Hundredth choir (temporary)

Finally there is the final hymn SF 137 Beethoven F (Stephen wanted the music of the chorus from the 9th Symphony): the words are fairly conventional, though clearly trinitarian. By request I now include the music for a limited period:

Praise to God the world's Creator,
Source of Life and growth and breath,
Cradling in her arms her children,
Holding them from birth to death.
In our bodies, in our living,
Strength and truth and all we do,
God is present, working with us,
Making us creators too.

Praise to God, our saving Wisdom,
Meeting us with love and grace,
Helping us to grow in wholeness,
Giving freedom, love and space.
In our hurting, in our risking,
In the thoughts we dare not name,
God is present, growing with us,
Healing us from pride and shame.

Praise to God, the Spirit in us,
Prompting hidden depths of prayer,
Firing us to long for justice,
Reaching out with tender care.
In our searching, in our loving,
In our struggles to be free,
God is present, living in us,
Pointing us to what shall be.
Jan Berry.

More on the Smell

The accusation was that Lambeth Palace leaked the CNC workings in order, as Sentamu mouthed, to make it look as if Colin Slee had done the leak as a means to support his friend Jeffrey John and thus undermine him.

As I have come up to speed, the leak enquiry took place and last November the Archbishop of Canterbury has declared that the leak enquiry (called the Fitchie Enquiry) finding is secret.

Some of the graphic documents stop short, but the longer ones have these aspects. Look at the parts I have highlighted in blue (starting near the end of page 7):

The danger, several years down the line, is that there are bishops who unquestionably have been less than candid about their domestic


arrangements and who, in a conspiracy of silence, have been appointed to senior positions. It is in the nature of things that this situation cannot endure, and exposure of the reality would be 'nuclear' Appointing Jeffrey would lessen that real threat. As we approach Passiontide, one cannot help thinking of the High Priest's dismissive remark: "It is better that one man suffer...". Despite being in a celibate relationship, Jeffrey was scapegoated and just left in that appalling position, and it is our responsibility and obligation to get him out. It would remove a real stain on the Church's reputation, it would also be a chance to prove that the Church is not totally homophobic, and at least means it when it says that only sexual practice, not orientation, is the problem.

I have been impressed by James Jones' humility and change of heart (probably as a result of what he has seen in the inner city parishes), and especially his recent comments to his Synod. There is definitely a change of temperament among 'open evangelicals', perhaps because of what they now see among their own ranks, and this was evidenced in the vote concerning pension rights for surviving partners in a CP at the recent Synod. In relation to the Communion, I believe also there are clear signs that much of the Church would welcome a move forwards, much is relaxing and people are realising previous mistakes, not least because unacceptable conduct has been overlooked in, for example, Nigeria, Uganda and elsewhere, without any recognition that cultural difference occurs two ways.

I have also a deep pastoral concern. Jeffrey has lived silently with his anger as a victim of injustice despite constant media offers. We know Grant became dangerously ill after the 2003 debacle through the physical effects of intense stress. They have both been heroic. I am also well aware, from parochial and indeed university experience throughout my ministry, that people with unresolved injustices (anger, hurt), have a very high rate of serious illness and cancer in particular. I would find my own silence tested beyond endurance should that happen to either of them.

I believe Southwark's vacancy offers an unrivalled avenue of hope and I will work very hard to enable that to be fulfilled for the Diocese, the Church and the Communion.

With best wishes.

Appendix 2

Email to Chris Smith

Dear Chris, Thank you for your letter dated August 17th. I hope you had a good break.

Your letter does not respond to my questions previously sent to you.

1. It tells us, for the first time, that Baroness Fitchie will be accompanied, and you kindly supplied an additional CV for Pam Cooke. In that case I need to ask, or are we to assume, it will be in order to bring a colleague also? It would be procedurally highly irregular to have to people conducting the inquiry and each person being questioned only alone.

2. Likewise, you did not reply to my question about making our own recording.

3. Paragraph 5 says, 'Baroness Fitchie will report to the Archbishops ...and they will consider how her conclusions will be shared! I asked for an assurance that the CNC will receive the report, not edited extracts. Participation implies full access. I am not at all happy with this lack of transparency.


4. The penultimate paragraph is really surprising. We are asked to contact Caroiine Boddington in your absence. That carries all sorts of implications which are not appropriate to such an inquiry.

Finally, I hope you are aware of the marvellous oxymoron in the terms of reference, (your italics) '...and to make any recommendations necessary to improve the confidentiality in the work of the Commission as it seeks to open up its processes.'

I look forwards to your assurances on these points before I reply to Carolyn Dunlop.

Dear Chris, Thank you for this. I am here most of August and September and am happy to see someone when they ask/ however, before doing so I wish to know:

the terms of reference;
the CV of the person making the inquiry; if a record is being taken of any 'interview' (curious word) then we may take a recorder;
will have a copy of that record supplied by the person to us;
we will see the final report.

There may be statements and matters we are willing to identify which we would offer in one circumstance but not in others. (e,g. observations on the conduct of both archbishops both before and during and after the CNC).


From: Chris Smith (LP) [mailto:chris.smith@lambethpalace.org.uk]
Sent: 30 July 2010 15:56
To: Colin Slee
Subject: CNC

Dear Colin

Further to Caroline's email of 15 July, I am writing to advise you that a suitable independent figure has agreed to lead our enquiry and will be briefed next week. Interviews are likely to be taking place at Lambeth Palace over the coming weeks, and my PA Rebecca will be in touch with you about convenient dates. We quite understand that many of you will be on holiday and clearly this is not the best time of year to try and complete such an exercise. It is likely therefore that some of the meetings will take place in Septernber.

In preparation for the interview I wonder if I might suggest you write down your recollections and understandings of events and their sequence check the dates when documents were sent or received and make a note of anything else you think might be relevant to the integrity of this CNC. it is likely that a record will be taken of the interview.

Please let me or Caroline know if you have any queries about all this.

Kind regards Chris Smith
Chief of Staff
Lambeth Palace

Friday 27 May 2011

The Rotten Stink at the Very Top

What we know from this controversy of secrecy and politicking is that nothing gets any better. The Fritchie Enquiry into who made the leak is itself a secret! The Archbishop Rowan Williams in November 2010 said it was concluded and would not be circulated. This would have been a joke of course, to make the enquiry a secret, if it wasn't so real.

Was the enquiry some sort of palliative at the time? When a government does not know what to do, and is under pressure, it has an enquiry - the usual thing being that when the findings come out politics has moved on. But if Williams leaked it, then of course the enquiry too becomes a secret. Lies lead on to lies. This would never 'move on'.

According to the Slee recollection, this is Sentamu being just nasty to Jeffrey John and implying his friends were lobbying for him, when all the time the crooks were Williams and Sentamu:

12. The same day ++Sentamu was at St Albans for the ordinations (his daughter was being ordained). He made an extremely telling remark to Jeffrey John in the hearing of several witnesses: "I don't know why your friends have leaked the fact that your name is on the list for Southwark. It won't do you any good".


Personally I regard the remark (especially in St Albans), as meaning that + Sentamu assumed from the outset, that I was involved.

It is a world of lies and deception at the very top of the Church of England. This was an incredible encounter:

The Archbishop himself was telling us that he was the leaker. No wonder the Press described the source to me as 'impeccable'. There is only one source; everything else is a consequence of that breach of trust.


18. I met the Archbishop on the staircase during the break before evensong. There were two witnesses: one downstairs and one (unknown) upstairs. I said: "When I reported that I knew of the leak ten days before it was published and had warned your staff, you looked as though you didn't know that, am I right?"
"Yes, I did not know; in fairness to them, I was on retreat with the ordination candidates and could not be reached."
"Would you like me to tell you how I think it happened?"
"No!" (he was shouting).
"Then who am I to tell?"
"If you think you know, go and confront him yourself!" - and he went off down the stairs. The witness in the corridor, who had stopped, dissolved away. I never found out who it was.

19. I am bound to ask if the Archbishop realised at that point he was the leak. I felt like Nathan confronting King David, but in Hebrew scripture, King David listens and realises.

20. The Archbishop was not incommunicado. He was not on retreat and he was not on retreat for ten days. He may have wished to identify with the candidates, but he was not being ordained. It is entirely a matter of poor communication within the staff that the Archbishop could not be disturbed.

The blogs have exploded with this story; there is a report in the Church Times open to non-subscribers. If Williams and Sentamu had any decency they would resign, and if they haven't they should be pushed.

Thursday 26 May 2011

Propriety and Scandal


I have OCRed the text originating with Colin Slee. It's not mine so I can't publish straight up. What's clear is the dirty way both Williams and Semantu tried to pin the leak on Slee, via gossip, having had the leak earlier. The meeting was a disgrace, with Semantu doing some vote changing using a him and three other persons visit to the urinals.

Let's look at this Guardian report carefully, based on a record by the late Colin Slee.
The fraught divisions have been laid bare in the leak of an anguished and devastating memorandum written by the Very Rev Colin Slee, the former dean of Southwark Cathedral, shortly before his death from pancreatic cancer last November. Dr Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, and John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, vetoed candidates from becoming bishops of the south London diocese.

So these two were actively involved in preventing Southwark choosing its bishop. We know this much. So how was this done?

The document reveals shouting matches and arm-twisting by the archbishops to keep out the diocese's preferred choices as bishop: Jeffrey John, the gay dean of St Albans, and Nicholas Holtam, rector of St Martin-in-the-Fields in central London, whose wife was divorced many years ago. Eventually Christopher Chessun, then an assistant bishop, was chosen.

Sounds rough. How rough?

Slee described Williams shouting and losing his temper in last year's Southwark meeting, which left several members of the crown nomination committee, responsible for the selection of bishops, in tears.

So perhaps we understand a little more about this bureaucratic Archbishop and his Yorkie sidekick, and the railroading of the Covenant, with the presentation of a one-sided argument. Outside all the academic stuff, outside the public smiles, comes an operator losing his temper in order to exclude and preserve.

Since then Nicholas Holtam has received a position, but Jeffrey John hasn't. The Archbishop is so sorry about Jeffrey John that he continues to shout.

Duplicity, that is dishonesty, meanwhile runs riot, for those who are less open as gay bishops, enjoying their relationships fleeting and otherwise, carry on regardless.

Ruth, eldest daughter of Colin Slee, thinks the row and its bad atmosphere made her father angry and depressed, and it contributed to his cancer from which he died.

Furthermore, Colin Slee believed that Rowan Williams himself leaked about the meeting, about which an enquiry was set up. What's the betting that the enquiry does not find that Rowan Williams leaked? Lambeth Palace denies it, Bishopthorpe stays silent.

Compared with any scandal that a gay bishop might not be a focus of unity, this is real and actual scandal. Of course Williams should have gone long ago, and take his York subordinate with him. He is railroading the Church of England to a point where it freezes itself so that he and his successors and their instruments can stand and direct Anglican traffic on issues like excluding gay people. He is building a Church empire to take the result for 'better identity' to the pope.

As for the policy and law in York this week, here is some real bullshit. You cannot take into account whether a person is gay in considering them for being a bishop, but you cannot promote a bishop who is in a relationship nor if they would not be a focus for unity in the diocese.

Process, then:

  • He's gay. Doesn't matter, we must consider him.
  • He's actively gay. Does matter, we can't appoint him.
  • He's not actively gay. Does matter, it probably means disunity.
  • A bit of a delay but a divorced chap can get through so far.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Sex and the Clashes with Propriety

The question is, when you look at an image, what do you see? In the example just drawn - which is a combined edge detection and drawing - you can see a clergywoman thanks to the collar and possibly an academic thanks to the spectacles. These are all ideological signs, pointing away to a cluster of meanings. These alone would be relatively harmonious, but the figure is young and 'sexy' too, and shape is a reason. She is more shapely than the original, and the original is an Australian nude model.

There are artists who went into brothels and painted, and painted them in different states of private washing or in a bar, and then there were others who plucked out such women and painted them over and over again and normalised them regarding the situation. But they always carried something of that artist's relationship.

Most of my cartoon caricatures of clergy people for my blog have been blokes. In the end I got fed up with doing blokes all the time, and wanted to do more women. Lesley provided a high number of images with a challenge similar to that of my wife, in that she looks different in many of them. So I ran with that, and a small number of them were 'sexy' or made that way. Rachel then went to St Alks' Ball and joined in a fashion show, and went abroad, and they provided more source material - also because she has distinctive features, what she has referred to as the Spencer nose. If you look at my pictures I sort of get her and then more, some via edge detection, and some not. The sexiness she presents simply derives from the photos. There's maybe more front, there's an end to the dress, or rearranging, or following through a joke, but believe me it takes little to express what you can see.

Now she goes to a parish and parishioners are signing up to her Facebook pages. Suddenly there is that (I long saw it coming) arrived clash of propriety.

In urban society we can put about several personas more or less relatively protected. The patterns of relationships - who knows you - rarely cross. A scandal can generate publicity to bust some appearances made in some directions of behaviours and appearances perfectly acceptable in others.

Today the Internet reintroduces the village. Your different personas will be visible across different constituencies. Risk of contradiction is greater: the Internet is not all freedom, but brings back some restrictions of the village.

How many people know naturist clergy? I do. They also have a web presence, but you won't know they are naturists. I know a two lay preachers who are naturists, and indeed I painted her with nothing on. They appeared on a gardening programme and people who were apparently progressive got all up tight and stupid. Of course these clergy and lay people do not publish their photos for all to see, and you won't see my painting reproduced or the source material.

But sexiness is one further notch along the way from sometimes embarrassing bodies, because the Churches have such difficulty with the subject. They are bound up with the stuffy and duplicitous norms of Victorian propriety. They are safe. The safe approach in religion is to cover up, hide, deny, avoid. Don't tell is far wider than something with the homosexual community.

Recently I wrote a little about Sangharakshita and Charles Leadbeater. In those days of their sexual exploits, homosexuality was a very difficult behaviour to negotiate. These days there are paths open to propriety. But we criticise Sangharakshita because he was a teacher of people who he told was all right to join him for sex, and they took something on trust they did not want. He also displayed robes to Indians that suggested he was not sexually active (as part of his Buddhist discipline) when he was. His partners (if we call them that) suffered afterwards. What do we make of Leadbeater and his openly telling young boys to masturbate and enjoy it? Was he forward thinking, or just a pervert getting a thrill?

We have to be up front about sex, but also have it as consent. I have never been to a brothel, or indeed hired a prostitute (what for?), but I knew immediately when I photographed at a photographic studio in 1992-3 that the relationship between some photographers and models was that of inside a brothel. They would come back again and again, photographing the same repetitive poses, but believe they were having a conversation and some sort of relationship with the favoured young women. The women, however, were clever, because if they managed the conversation well the client would come back again. For them, they would work all day in some rubbishy job, or be a student, and this was a quick way to make money and have a better life. When David Blunkett introduced student fees for Higher Education, he increased the supply of models to such studios as well as dancers to bars and the rest. The studio women thought it great when they got their picture into the Daily Sport, but the real goal was The Sun, and to move up into higher paid work. Few did.

So the image, then, is powerful and seductive, but it is ideological. Now fashion shows are fluff and not very important, although people like to dress well. The Daily Mail article about Stephanie Nadarajah is tittle-tattle. A fashion show for clergy, in particular women, seems a contradiction again. Just wear black, or a simple colour - reserve purple (between red and blue) for bishops (except for Stephanie Nadarajah and no doubt very many). Fashion shows the body, and so there is the contradiction.

Except, of course, it should not be. In my view, theology derives from the body and the culture. We speak, and we have collective language. Religion is like art: we make it up and it is a construction around ethical considerations. As individuals, we are trapped in bodies: and a good place to start is with the unattractive and the dementia mind. But at the other end is the need to grasp and celebrate attractiveness, as part of our biological drives, of the dance between people that makes, in the end, coupling or more numbers in trusted relationships. Well, we hope so, in that no one will ever remove power and economic issues from relationships, because relationships have always been about power and economy. That's one good reason for my lack of success for so long whereas a Pauline Prescott hangs on to her husband for her self-esteem while he plays away with his secretary and feels very sorry afterwards.

So in measure I would say challenge the clash, and affirm the body and the sexual, but do it while the other person says yes, and at the hint of no don't.

Website Changes Nearly Done

My website changes have happened rather more rapidly and smoothly than I could have hoped. At present there is the dial up old one still there across seven free accounts, and has been like that for years. However, the URL I own refers to the new location. The anomaly has been looking at the website broadband but uploading via dial up and at additional cost. The launch of Dropbox and its sheer practicality has caused the change at last and to having something that works using broadband both ways, and not only that but without having to use an FTP program. Once a Linkdocument is saved, it's up at the speed of the broadband link.

My latest area of editing is autobiographical, and have just updated the page of answers all about me.

I have cut the website dramatically in that all the images are now Facebook based, and will be chopped and changed as I fancy. My photos and artwork will be displayed there by topic: caricatures of religious people are thus displayed and get used on my blog. The Galleries point to these Facebook albums. Photography and art have always been important, but I will be reserved about extending the galleries. I'd rather remove and replace. I'm scrapping the feedback form, which in recent times has been hit by spam despite a failed and illusory use of Capatcha. The only awkward change has been regarding the Bonskeid area and its images, but I decided not to have a separate area for them. I'll continue to keep what is a unique website archive about a once superb facility. The least stable page is external links, which I have checked through and brought up to date.

There will still be faulty webpages. These will have old URLs on them, and with the best will in the world I can't find them all easily. Old pages are different: my views have changed and where I can I have tried to date some pages; what I am going to do when I've finally completed website areas (and changed the dial up area to page jumps) is go through the blog and add entries to keep into the website - those that are more like essays or more significant. The blog will be news, comment and advertising the website, and the blog will get advertised from Facebook as of now.

Websites get old and go wrong, and a large one like mine needs a lot of management. But I keep it simple and it is simply a trail of where I have been and what I have done and of what interests me.

My first webpage was written and uploaded in November 1998. It reached some 1850 .html and .pdf pages including image pages in 2010 and the removal of these images and containing pages means it will be many fewer pages. But soon pages will be added and the various levels of menus will have to function. I'm using HTML 4 but prefer tables to positioning relative or absolute, and relative spacing allows the page to fill any computer screen. I hate websites that go off on the right hand side or, conversely, shrink to the left. My content is open for use, so just obey the usual academic rules against plagiarism.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Ordination - Defining and Defectiveness

Perhaps before comparing ordination or the lack of ordination (yet still recognition), we should look at what is involved in ordination.

To do this, one might consider ordination in both Christianity and Buddhism, given that these practices are structural in both even if they are described in each from within separately.

Ordination in Christianity comes as a part of that continuous community with its birth day at Pentecost that is continuous with those believing in Jesus Christ and his resurrection.

Those who are ordained, and who practice ministry, are a focus of unity in the claims of the Christian community. The individual feels a call to exercise ministry, and this is recognised by the Church as a group. From the earliest times the Church has ordained by the laying on of hands.

The person so ordained then builds up that community through service. He or she acts as a guide and celebrant, offers care and acts prophetically. These abilities suggest gifts, first considered by the individual (even vaguely) and then the ordination is recognition of the receipt of that charism. So there is (usually) something of the supernatural in the notion of gift and charism.

The minister, however, does not act alone, but is given active support and indeed shared participation by the community. So the minister becomes a focus that is a focus. But it still needs the person who is, to some extent, set apart.

A great deal of this may be functional, and much is rational. But if the body and material world is affirmed, then talking about people is to talk about the sacredness in the material. The gift is not some spiritual higher ether but of and in the person him or herself.

All ministry is sacramental, but only most Christian ministries exercise the celebration of sacraments. Those that do have rules about these set aside people, ordained, who celebrate the sacraments. In some cases these imply a proper order in dynamic with the gift of charism being made active, in a supernatural sense, but some take the power and charism conferred at ordination to imply some sort of power in the priesthood, which is a magical or esoteric interpretation.

Presbyters are such set apart servers, the focus of unity, but there is a further need for Elders who even further co-ordinate all these people, including the Presbyters.

These Elders are in many cases Bishops. The Bishop in some traditions is the representative presbyter (focus requires one person) and then the other presbyters are his (or her, sometimes) representatives. This is a top-down view, but many presbyteries retain a bottom-up view.

For all presbyters, the test of the Church is the judgment made by other presbyters at ordination, so all ministers are ordained by others down the ages. However, some make a closer rule of this, that the chief focus of unity in an area should be named, that he (or sometimes she) was ordained by another named person, or better a gathering of chiefs of different areas, and this has to be done by proper rite. There is a fine line here between supernatural gift and order, and magic by power of initiation.

Most such ordinations by Presbyters or named Elders/ Bishops include the examination of doctrinal correctness as well as the good standing of the individual.

For some the charism is taken on trust as freely offered and cannot be mechanical, and the stress is on the correctness of belief.

Where there is diversity of belief, the function of ordination is seen as an approval by the Church regarding charism and gift, and does lay hope that the person is of good character. No ministry, however, relies on good character: ministry can take place even where character is found to be defective. Nevertheless, that very diversity causes ordination itself to be questioned, and the notion of being set apart is challenged.

In some cases of diversity of belief, however, there has run with it a more magical view of ordination, still conferred on the person. A curious situation can arise here where all the procedures are highly traditional at the same time as intellectual freedom exists. Presumably a more supernatural alternative would allow these charisms and gifts to come about in a liturgical freedom as well as belief freedom. Magic demands method demands propriety.

Much of this derives from Liberal Catholic Bishop Charles Webster Leadbeater (1854-1934), a one time Anglican priest who became an occultist and Theosophist, and connecting himself in part to Hinduism and Buddhism, and produced Christian liturgy.

He had such creative ideas and impact, and yet was a questionable character in how he handled his homosexual relationships.

Another person of questionable character is Dennis Lingwood (1925-) because of the nature of his homosexual relationships that were with some people looking to him as a teacher. It also raised questions about an ideology of single sex living that has been interpreted as anti-family. I myself met a person married who lived in a single sex house, and who followed the view that the nuclear family was less important than in Western ideology. Yet these places were sometimes the place of sexual activity within the sexes - and when it gets mixed up with religion and teaching and mutual pastoral care it gets problematic.

Huge damage has been done to his own creation as a result of revelations regarding his sexual activity (the pyschological damage and worse to the 18 and 19 year olds involved) despite the Buddhism that was launched in the FWBO/ WBO that has since, not unsurprisingly, changed its name to Triratna since Sangharakshita gave up all active involvement.

One of the claims of Lingwood/ Sangharakshita is his ordinations across different Buddhist traditions prior to creating a Western Buddhism.

Each ordination is recognition by a community, but they can mean a beginning of spiritual activity (as a Theravadan Bhikku, for example, and Mahayana ordinations) as much as an achievement of spiritual activity. Buddhism is about deep learning into specifics in order to transcend the stickiness of personality and to become more clearly aware. Yet an emphasis is found in Buddhism on the connections between named persons, of masters, as ordinations take place.

Sangharakshita wrote 43 Years Ago -Reflections on My Bhikkhu Ordination published in 1993 by Windhorse. In it is the claim that six years after his ordination in 1950, Sangharakshita discovered a technical irregularity which rendered the ordination invalid. It was because one of the six monks who officiated at his ordination had actually transgressed his monastic vows..

This is itself questionable but it seems odd that after this discovery the public position was that the ordination was valid, when he must have thought differently. WBO member Punyaraja was expelled when he questioned this order's standing in 1987.

Other Buddhists do question the depth and rightness of the Triratna Buddhist Community as an expression of Buddhism. As an individual, I warmed to what I encountered and the people I met. They seemed to focus on the essentials, and did it through classes, though criticism that ethical businesses were in effect partly financed by people being on the dole also seems valid in the sense that they didn't have monks and laity but the WBO people seemed to live on the dole. Well I live on the dole now and that means looking for a job. You can volunteer (the rules have only recently been relaxed) but you are looking to get paid and off the dole!

The result of recent revelations is that the movement is sorting itself out, and not simply by the pronouncements of the leaders. Perhaps this is a good thing, and charges of a sectarian Buddhism won't continue.

In the end, what difference does ordination make if the ideas are still valid (assuming they are valid)? Indeed, an argument can be made that defective orders are part of the way of religion, even part of the way of creative religion. The notion that an ordination is not valid because of some misconduct, or because some technicality is breached, seems to shift to the magical. Honesty is important and so is character, but perfection isn't, and nor is transmission of known dishonesty on to the unknowing (unless the dishonesty is widespread and a further recognition is needed).

I am in favour of ordination - ordination is about recognition and about service, and the fact is that it is conferred by people in the thrust of the religious path to someone beginning that religious path. I am against magic, so when there is a charism or gift, it isn't the transformation of a person to become ontologically different. For me, the line between the supernatural and magic is so narrow that magic is the better explanation - the priest has power to bring the presence of Christ into the elements. Otherwise anyone can do it, if this happens at all. But then I'm against the supernatural and magic. Magic is done by people with skill and props, and there is nothing beyond or outside, and the same is so with the supernatural. Charism and gift is a talent that can be developed. You can still have ministry and faith without the supernatural and magic, you can still have ordinations, and talent with education and training, but what you don't have is sacred deposits and instant elevations of individuals.

There is little value, then, in ordinations that claim to be of Roman, Old Catholic, Syro-Chaldean lines in the multiple, or in multiple Buddhist traditions, unless there is real recognition, intent and study.

Monday 23 May 2011

Who's for Ordination?

As I repair and reposition my website, the good point about a blog is that it can respond to the things of the moment, in terms of where the author is as regards a series of actions or thoughts.

I have acted as a sort of link person between the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church and Unitarianism, and the actual connection person I have facilitated is now making those connections herself and I can roughly make the arguments but see what actually happens (This sounds a bit like the Baha'i view of the Bab making the way for Baha'u'llah, but don't tell the Bab that as he had his own ideas).

The issue is one of ministry and how we do it or don't do it, and the value of ordination, apostolic ordination or none at all. From one angle Louise Rogers says to me something like: have a list of what needs doing, and then get people to do these things, rather than be told what you ought to have (for example by the General Assembly and a Roll of Ministers).

To me, this is the ultimate lowest ministry, a rational working out of needs and tasks, and distributing them out. The problem is that it takes away the usefulness of a co-ordinating personality that is easily recognised, and indeed the notions of embodiment in a person. I think the sacred is about the theology of the body and culture. I am not arguing (I hope not) for two tiers of Church person, but I think I am arguing for a special effort at learning and subsequent teaching for someone carrying the evolving tradition that one calls Unitarian.

Thus the special person is so because they have skills and knowledge, the knowledge transferred through the skills. If we follow not a priesthood of all believers model but an educational facilitating model, that person puts into practice the knowledge to pass it on to others and those skills - and this includes both exercising and spreading pastoral work. Let us think of it a big like the Buddhist who learns the teachings, joins the community and does the effort and then, with recognition from the Sangha, passes it on.

There is a rationality in having both ministers and superintendent ministers, and the lack of the latter is one reason why Unitarianism is unco-ordinated and uneven, often the best places not helping the weak because of the dominant congregationalist model. For me, the more you push the education justification, the more the minister becomes a superintendent minister - because the minister is constantly in the process of assisting others to do the job he or she can do. We really ought to crack this isolationism.

All this rational explanation is sufficient as explanations and justifications until you realise that we are in the business of what we might or might not call the sacred, and so sacredness has a part to play in the specialness of the facilitating person. Sacredness is in the material and is in expression. As soon as you start on that road, you start on a road towards something more Catholic.

Most Protestant existence is a fellowship of believers, and there is the priesthood of all believers. Unitarians are not believers in that sense, and does not constitute a fellowship of belief. It constitutes a fellowship of difference coming together. However, again, the facilitating person is one who ministers to that diverse group, and in the context of what we might consider as sacred or, at least, special.

Unitarians over the decades have dropped the importance of ordination, but some ministers still value this rite. It is acquired in the Presbyterian system (a gathering of discussing ministers) in Northern Ireland, by past association in other denominations and by special effort in addition to joining the General Assembly Roll (and enacting that roll membership by the ministry with a congregation or two). Roman Catholic and Anglican priests becoming Unitarian ministers bring with them their ordinations and these are claimed as apostolic, whereas Free Church ministers bring their non-apostolic ordinations. But here is something not often considered, that Liberal Catholics also bring across apostolic ordinations - or, in the other direction, seek them out.

Now why this is in any way different is because these folk have their apostolic ordinations with a tradition that began by adding the extras of Theosophy and Krishnamurti and a bit of Buddhism and some conversion of the supernatural into magic. Even the Old Catholic defines itself as outside the dogma of the Roman Church (especially of 1870) even if it does not have participation in the Reformation.

There is then the history of the Liberal Catholics being in part Unitarians going up the candle, with some finding trinitarianism (but then some being broad Church and high Church together trinitarians from the off - in Anglicanism, Charles Gore merged their philosophies and Roman Catholicism had a short Modernist period that affected Old and Liberal Catholic origins).

There is an argument made here that the apostolic and the Unitarian are in conflict, and it is a good argument. The ordination of Knut Heidelberg stated it was non-apostolic, "because we don't believe it," said the sermoniser. It means that, does it not, that the apostolic bit, if it already exists, is something of a remnant. If so, isn't all ordination something of a neither here nor there?

I don't know the status of Carlton Pearson's ordination as bishop in the UUA. However, in that he is a one congregation minister, his title of Bishop is not functioning - a bishop to be a bishop ought to be a co-ordinator among more than one, to bring things together, and to have ministers in and around them. The Unitarian bishops in Kenya are bishops by the fact that this is what they do. My friend Helpme Mohrmen in India is something of a bishop too, by what he does among the Khasi churches, though he doesn't use the title. I like the name Bishop Helpme - that's about right.

Liberal Catholics will ordain using traditional rites in order to secure the ordination, and have it certificated, photographed, listed, deposited. Clearly this is not important to Unitarians. An aspect of Liberal Catholicism then is that ministry is acquired and passed on. To the extent that sacredness is a kind of ball you have and then pass on, then there is a clear difference. Unitarians (hopefully) grow towards the sacred - indeed the Protestants who became Free Catholic and Liberal Catholic grew into such sacredness before they joined that other definition of special sacredness, the one that is given over or handed on.

As liberals, Unitarians should support religious liberalism wherever it is found. Unitarian history at its margin does involve tipping over into the Catholic: this is a matter of record, and it is indeed one demonstrable line from Martineau (the other being pure subjectivism and arguably into liturgical postmodernism). Unitarians though are not into any 'off the peg' or magical or supernatural sacred, so that in that there is something sacred then the title ought to reflect what is being done.

Well, except that Unitarianism is so decentralised that it gets a bit chaotic, and there are many reasons to do many things, and Liberal Catholicism as a clergy-led entity are so few that titles may not reflect what actually goes on. But, also on a good Martineau principle, we are fuzzy about denominations and boundaries, and individuals can slip around one to the other.

Bishops who spend their time meeting up and reordaining each other, on a sort of negative dog-breeding principle of making themselves ever more mongrel-like in the breeds they represent, have little to do with Unitarianism. But developing the connection with the sacred, and facilitating by doing what bishops and priests do among those of diverse belief, is part of the Unitarian experience as things start to get more symbolic, seeking the sacred, and in developing facilitated communities.

Sunday 22 May 2011

Hymns and Website

You can listen to the hymns that will be sung at Hull Unitarian Church the day after members of other churches have gone up in the sky.

In order they are Hymns for Living HL 015 Old 120th, HL 037 Duke Street choir, HL 155 Herongate choir and HL 156 Rimington. These are temporary links only.

The last hymn is this:

O live each day and live it well -
All else is life but flung away,
Who lives a life or love can tell
Of true things truly done each day.

Be what thou seemest; live thy creed;
Hold up to earth the torch divine;
Be what thou prayest to be made;
The thirst for righteousness be thine.

Fill up each hour with what will last;
Use well the moments as they go;
Into life's soil thy seed is cast -
Thy deeds into a harvest grow.

Sow truth, if thou the true wouldst reap;
Who sows the false shall reap the vain;
Erect and sound thy conscience keep,
From hollow words and deeds refrain.

Sow love, and taste its fruitage pure;
Sow peace, and reap its harvest bright;
Sow sunbeams on the rock and moor,
And find a harvest-home of light.

Incidentally, earlier than expected, my main website is now found in a different place and this is where http://www.pluralist.co.uk goes. Clicking through may still cause links to jump back to places of the dial up location, but the slow repairs are ongoing and significant changes have already been made. From my point of view this change is excellent because now as soon as I save a change the page is instantly uploaded. There is no FTP or browser messing about. All images will be put to Facebook: most have gone there already and sometimes you may need to log in and other times (direct to albums) not. At least then people can comment on the pictures directly.

Friday 20 May 2011

Spoof (and yet Serious) Parish Profile

Thanks to Lesley's blog entry structure I've done this near pinch. Be aware that this is entirely fictional and bears no relation to anything real.

A Unitarian Church Somewhere in England

Ministerial post available without gender or sexuality discrimination offering creative potential and a congregation wishing to grow in quantity and quality of spiritual life. There is no doctrinal test but the congregation spans the range from religious humanism to liberal Christianity.

(Are there any candidates who'd want to come to the far out coast at the end of a railway line?)

The Regional Union would support such a ministry and offer fellowship with other Unitarians.

(It's lonely out there and if we chip in we want some of our own services taken.)


We are looking for someone with strategic vision. The minister would be expected to get busy in city life and represent the church as an attractive place to attend. The minister should join in with local interfaith meetings and be as ecumenical as welcomed. As well as the expected pastoral visiting, the Minister would do some administration and the church would double up as an office. It would be useful to be ICT competent and publish materials on religious faith and Unitarianism in particular especially with a local aspect.

(In other words, the church needs a manager as well as a minister, and given a small congregation do some other jobs for the money.)

We like the worship as we have developed it and would hope the Minister would facilitate this and assist in its quality.

(Here's something - we already take our own services and want to carry on doing so. You're not even going to take a service every week! So instead of hearing your voice over and over again, you can tell us how to make our worship better. It's not like an Anglican service where you just pick up a book and read it out.)

Person Specification

We want a Minister who will bring in people and help to keep them.

(Because this is hard going and difficult to achieve.)

We want a Minister with a warm personality that attracts people.

(Too many Unitarian ministers end up being grumpy, having to deal with the same awkward squads on committee month after month.)

The Minister should be pastoral and visit the church members. Counselling experience is useful.

(But don't come round too often and give us some space).

The Minister should be or become skilled in website maintenance, blogging, Desk Top Publishing, Spreadsheets, Word Processing, with artistic skills, writing music by computer, operating sound systems and understand teaching methods and administrative processes.

(The more the better including what we've not thought about.)


You can change it but don't mess around with the seats. Do light a chalice to start the service and don't forget to blow it out at the end. You should show our service takers how to do it better and institute regular training and can people please use the microphone properly.

(I know you might want the seats in a semi-circle but people are really funny about where they sit).


The congregation is modest in size but dedicated.

(We will rate you according to how many people you add or lose. So you and us make it all attractive.)

The Church Building

Now the forebears built a big steepled monster in what was a well off suburb after they left the Old Town. But now it is a low maintenance city centre church (with a wopping big new Tesco around the corner) and small enough to make a few people look like many. But that's no excuse to mumble or gabble at the pulpit.

(It's nothing much to look at and it can get too hot inside.)


Surely there are some students interested in a liberal faith? How is it we get only one or two at times and then from abroad?

(Don't kid yourself that Unitarianism attracts intellectuals.)


No problem. You'd be amazed.

(Thanks, forebears: you were the urban wealthy.)


It will be provided, and can be something new or you might even be unlucky and become a near neighbour of Adrian. Your accommodation can be your own; you can hold all meetings in the church if you want.

(The one time large enough manse was sold off.)

Thursday 19 May 2011

Another Article Coming Along

I've been asked by Rev. Tony McNeile if I've any "pearls of wisdom" for the National Unitarian Fellowship articles he edits of between three and five thousand words, so I have done about two thousand so far on similarities and differences between Unitarianism and Liberal Catholicism.

It is not the same, although it covers similar ground, as the article gone off to The Inquirer. This new one is intended to be more chatty and even humorous, and goes into the negative side more as well as a more positive approach. Anyway, because the NUF publishes online in its Viewpoint (as a .PDF) I won't until it appears over there. My approach to this is to bang out words as fast as possible, edit and reshape, and then put in details like dates and sources and just check what I think is so from memory is actually correct. I've asked, so far in on the first draft (straight out of my head) whether this is the sort of thing grabbing his interest and intent.

More Historical Resources

Some fantastic resources are being made available for free with the documents release - past publications of The Lindsey Press. Those like me who dig into the past to legitimate what we try to do in the present can use this - I need to dig further and I doubt I can keep up. The resource (under James Barry) is just getting better and better, with a feature of the latest acquisitions and then choices afterwards. This is bound to be of interest well beyond the Unitarian constituency.

Clearly, before I attempt to write any more about these past characters, I am going to have to check carefully these resources.

Just as a reminder: if you are going to scan the text behind the image, get hold of something like NoteTab Light and set it to pasteboard to copy the book text as you go along. You will notice so many hard returns, and then highlight each paragraph and click Join Lines (that can be put on the top toolbar). Better still, write a clip to remove excess spaces and regularise paragraphs (like I did).