Saturday, 24 September 2011

Fierce Criticism: My Response

This is the position of the blog entry that is now the subject of the threat of legal action, delivered to me on 2nd October 2011. No doubt Mhoira Lauer-Patterson has kept a copy of the original entry. So have I. I have kept her email source of this blog entry too. Nevertheless I shall meet her objection minimally by rewriting this entry to exclude using indented chunks of her email. Nevertheless this blog entry remains the same.

There is a blog entry on 2nd October 2011 that tackles the legal threat directly.

I have received an from Bishop Mhoira Lauer-Patterson that is in direct response to a blog entry here. Really it should have been placed as a comment. She tells me that she is deeply offended by my recent blog entry and that she will not be serialising the latter part of my article 'The Wandering Bishops...' that was in the June edition of NUF Viewpoint. My facts are apparently (now?) inaccurate.

I did not intend offence. I take it that the NUF Viewpoint article, written for the NUF (but she was free to spread it around) was going to be serialised, so it looks more like a sanction: if the 'facts' are inaccurate then presumably they were inaccurate.

The substance of her response is that Unitarian Ministries International is not in opposition to the General Assembly. On that, I put the opposition inside single quotation marks because it might be regarded so but I did not make the point myself. The point I make is that it selects ministers and the General Assembly arranges, oversees the training of ministers and their regulation. In other words, GA Unitarian ministers are trained and registered as such.

Nevertheless, Mhoira herself clearly sees a difference between the two bodies. The assertion is that the GA has a function to unify fragmentary views from roving speakers in Unitarian pulpits. Set against this, Unitarian Ministries International is in existence out of necessity because a number of Unitarians in Britain and the United States seem to put forward a non-Christian message.

This is the wrong idea about the General Assembly, as it does not intend to unify fragmentary views. The General Assembly's existence is no more than having brought together two umbrella organisations, the denominational one and the looser collection, in 1928. The argument for doctrine inside the denominational body was lost, and the looser collection, free Christian, was decidedly evolutionary in intent. So the fact is that the General Assembly covers both Christian and non-Christian. As in the United States, it is an individualist body, where the doctrinal centre is not a Church or book but the individual. It practices subjective, perhaps now postmodern faith. It has always been different from the 60,000 or so Transylvanians and their catechism based Unitarianism (a system though, once threatened by a lunatic Romanian leadership, is being badly affected by depopulation and economic change). However, the Transylvanian Unitarians do not attach themselves to the UMI but to the UUA and GA, and their bishop and ministers are having to confront hard decisions about adapting their faith. I referred to Knut Heidelberg because he seems to be one person riding two horses at once.

However, I was certainly opposed to the adoption of the GA Object, which includes the intention to 'uphold the liberal Christian tradition'. It is not the job of the GA or the churches to uphold anything. That we are free to ignore that just makes a mockery of its adoption in the first place, and is rather like the Anglicans who ignore their creeds. I am not a Christian and I stopped saying the creeds and taking communion when attending an Anglican church, but I fully participate in the Unitarian congregation because there is no demand that I should be a Christian.

Mhoira tells me in her email that the reason she joined UMI was because the GA is exclusivist regarding its ministers and them not joining other bodies. I did explain this in the previous blog entry on this topic. Actually, though, Mhoira has been welcomed into pulpits across the Yorkshire Unitarian Union, and all of us have respected her Church and the right of her Church to select its own ministers. We respect her Church based titles. I am, and I think we are, quite open ended in ecumenical terms, or interfaith terms. The UMI, Mhoira tells me, is not a church, but a ministerial tool by which those who are Christian Unitarians can share views and work experiences. She says is not a controlling body such as the GA, but then the GA only has the power to persuade.

Her email claims that the GA and UUA intention to own the name Unitarian is as much protectionist as Roman Catholicism or Anglicans saying you must belong to the Church of England. They build walls to stop people getting in and eject people when it suits them.

This is a misunderstanding. To be Unitarian is not to have a theological position, but to be part of an inheritance of congregations that, in 1845 in Parliament, received recognition that over a period of 25 years a congregation can change its views but retain its assetts. It all followed on from the Lady Hewley case in York, and completed what was started by the legalisation of the theological view practised of Unitarianism in 1813. In other words, to be an evolutionary Unitarian, holding views that change, is something particular to the congregations that started out as English Presbyterian and were joined by others (Cookite Methodists, Unitarian Baptists) and continued to change. After 1845 the Free Christian side, the evolutionists, that gave rise to the Religious Humanists and even Free Catholics, were in the ascendancy and thus gave identity to the Unitarians. Thus is completely different from Anglican exclusivity (which isn't - there is a distinction made between being in communion with the See of Canterbury or not) and Roman Catholicism. So, for example, I am Unitarian but I am not unitarian.

She claims I asserted that she joined UMI instead of undergoing 'ministry training' through the GA. But I made no such assertion. I said that UMI selects its ministers similar to LCAC. Here is the point: Anglicans and Roman Catholics choose to train ministers, but each has bishops who can, in theory, simply select who they want and make them ordained through a sacramental act. LCAC and other Liberal Catholics also ordain, indeed not only do some ordain but they reordain the ordained often several times [drawing in different lines of apostolic succession].

Actually the GA Ministry Committee does take previous academic and training experiences into account; the Anglicans and others who transfer over often only take short transfer courses like Unitarian History before coming on to the GA Roll simply because they were trained and are experienced already. The problem (and Mhoira is past the age of retirement even of Archbishops of Canterbury [who must retire at 70!]) is that she met none of the criteria of the GA, and that's the crux of it. The training side is the least of the issue. She and I were going to the Unitarian College presentation but she pulled out on receiving the forward rejection via all the criteria (she could still have come along). I decided to go on my own and I have written here in this blog about my considered response.

But let us just tackle the issue of training, because it does seem to grate. Mhoira outlines her extensive training: a Grad Dip Theology intensive degree programme and then a three year MA programme attended by ministers of various denominations. She also went to a Baptist summer school and had a year of ministry oversight in the Anglican Church of Australia.

Not only did she ask me if this is not enough, but she contrasted it with perceived amateurism regarding attempts to give cohesive sermons in Unitarian pulpits, and against that would not want to be moulded into the GA version of a 'professionally trained minister. She heard a minister try to relate to an elderly congregation by reading it children's stories, indicating that GA training is lacking.

Well, I spent seven years part time supervised producing what became a Sociology of Religion Ph.D. I had a year at Unitarian College Manchester (a year I regard as largely wasted - hardly training). I spent two years part time getting a Contemporary Theology MA. I spent a year full time getting a PGCE in Religious Education. Now I think this is not enough to be a minister, because I have not had a placement or a pastorate. Mhoira has had academic education and one year of Anglican pre-ministry training oversight after which she was told she was too old to continue towards further training.

She was therefore ordained otherwise independently and then, back in Britain, the LCAC (post-split) took her on and also decided she would be one of their bishops. That is absolutely their right, their judgment and their procedure, and I have not argued against that. Nor, actually, have I ever said anything about having a long-established piece of work submitted to what is her own theology school (whether or not registered in Florida, the United States), via a Skye viva or interview and being awarded a Ph.D.. What I have said about this is that the GA would be unlikely to recognise it, as indeed would not any university in this country. I have no idea if it is a Ph.D level piece of work and neither wish to see it nor judge it. I have only made the point with sensitivity that the GA would be unlikely to recognise the doctorate.

Also, against her assertion, I never claimed that others are not training professionals. I said they select. As for ministers and what they do, well we all have our views about what we hear. I too dislike children's stories when there are no children on the pretext that adults like them too - it is often (but not always) an excuse for not preparing a service for a particular congregation. It sometimes shows an inability to adapt ones own familiar running order. It is not an exclusive ministry issue.

She agrees with me that the LCAC is a clergy-led church, but that it is not true that it is easy to become a priest of the LCAC by simply asking for it.

But I haven't said that selection is easy. I have said it is a selection. How Adrian Glover decides to select (and now indeed Mhoira Lauer-Patterson) is up to them. Indeed, it is up to them.

Oh dear. John Kersey and Alistair Bate fell out with me over assisting a friend in Glasgow and now it seems I have fallen out with the newer LCAC as well. Is this why Liberal Catholics are so schismatic?

I have a lot of agreement with the newer LCAC and indeed aspects of its work in Swindon, but one gets the view in Swindon that it doesn't develop a congregation but ordains it. I would ask, have all those ordained in Swindon been through an academically backed training process? I realise the use of minor orders but I don't agree with this approach (that selects). In contrast, Unitarianism is lay led and its ministers serve; indeed in Great Britain few ministers are actually ordained.

I'm asked to get my facts right. But what is wrong is a claim that the GA has its own preferred system of indoctrination or that there is a question whether the GA has become as dictatorial as the mainstream Churches. She feels the difference between GA ministers and other denominations is its unitarian theology and little else. It would be something if the GA was dictatorial!

But obviously it is not even Unitarian theology. Oh, and how Anglican were the dissenters who refused to assent and consent to the whole of the Book of Common Prayer? Well, they were Anglican, formally, but how Anglican had some of them been during the Civil War and prior to the Restoration? How was it that when Christmas Day fell on Sunday, the first Hull English Presbyterian minister in his sermon did not even mention the birth of Christ once?

Mhoira now signs herself as +Mhoira, osb Rt Rev Dr Mhoira Lauer-Patterson (Ama Katarina) Bishop of the LCAC Diocese of Northumbria & Rheged Dean of the English College SMIU Unitarian minister without portfolio. [I respect the latter designation too, even if it is quite confusing to we GA Unitarians!]


Anonymous said...

Let's be clear, you have posted an email without permission of the sender. Is that not a breach of trust? Or does the argument matter more?

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I thought about this for a while. The whole email was based on the blog entry, and I took the view it was public material. Not all of it is on display - some of it is because it is the best way to tackle the misconceptions.

Had it been clear it was private, I would have replied directly and personally, and done so with a concentration on the language used against me and the issues would not have been discussed.

Sometimes people hide behind privacy in order to vent their anger and attack someone. I wasn't having this, and so I went public with the issues. I prefer not to engage in personal type communications.

Anyway, in future I assume her emails are private but then it is a different way of handling such correspondence.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Looking at this email again, I'm not taking criticism about this. It was insulting and written in language intended to put down. The issues were in the public realm and that's where they should be tackled.

Very Revd Mark Paris said...

Adrian, I find the way you address Rt Rev Dr Mhoira Lauer-Patterson as ""she"" so disrespectful

The Very Revd Monsignor Mark Paris said...


I have looked at this post again and again, and I must say it has to be one of the worst posts you have placed on here, I am in two minds of visiting this blog again!

1- you do not post e-mails onto a public form for the world to read
2- you do not disrespect people by addressing them as HE/SHE

I find this as a direct attack on the L.C.A.C.

You Say:

“””” I made no such assertion about Mhoira. I said that UMI selects its ministers similar to LCAC. Here is the point: Anglicans and Roman Catholics choose to train ministers, but each has bishops who can, in theory, simply select who they want and make them ordained through a sacramental act. LCAC and other Liberal Catholics also ordain, indeed not only do some ordain but they reordain the ordained often several times. “”””

I have NEVER seen or read about any of the Bishops in the L.C.A.C re-ordain anyone!

Incardination -YES! Re-ordaining NO!

You Say:
“” The problem is for Mhoira (and she is past the age of retirement even of Archbishops of Canterbury) “” - Is this another direct attack?

Also Adrain, how dare you plaster across the internet that the L.C.A.C ordains when someone asks for it. Let me ask you a Question how do you know? Your claims to this is UNTRUE and so misleading and I would like you to correct that statement, if you do not know the true facts then keep your views to yourself.

This is not the first time I have seen you mention Swindon, as for your information we do have a congregation here and it is a lot larger than the ministry team! Maybe you would like to visit one day then write the facts regarding this?


The Very Revd Monsignor Mark Paris RSStS, FMC Episcopal Vicar for the Diocese of Dumnonia & Wessex. Priest In-Charge L.C.A.C. Swindon

Dr B Jones BA BD MTh PhD DD said...

Its all quite entertaining watching this from the outside, as far as I can see it the people in the lcac keep giving themselves titles and academic qualifications. Now this is entirely up to them. I'd just be interested in what Dr Lauer-Patterson's Phd thesis is in and where has it be published? Who was it accredited by as well would be interesting.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I don't understand the problem of referring to someone as he or she. It happens in the House of Commons all the time, because the comments go through the speaker. It is a means of respect and neutrality. It happens on a blog because messages are addressed to a reader.

Well, LCAC reordained when Kersey, Lindley, Bate etc. acquired various different lines of episcopacy.

I see that Mark Paris is now called Monsignor. That's an upgrade of a title. I see you have added another member of clergy in your parish team. I looked at the photographs of your recent event. I was trying to see the laity in this and was finding it difficult beyond what seemed to be some visitors.

Liberal Catholic patterns tend to be that the laity comes along through rites of passage and the like, which their clergy service, but that is not how other churches understand their laity. They work on establishing (or failing to establish) congregations of lay people. Perhaps Mark Paris - he - would inform us of his congregation.

I made a distinction between selecting towards ministry and training towards ministry, neither of which is exclusive, but a bishop as bishop can decide to ordain (though there may be training) whereas Unitarian ministry is only by training and then recognition. UMI is more like LCAC than the GA Unitarians in this respect.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Oh and as for comparing Mhoira and the Anglican Archbishops'retirement age, it is a spot of comparative humour in the context of an Archbishop expected to retire in roughly a year, well before his demanded retirement age of 70. It is no 'attack' at all. It is something that Mhoira herself has faced in terms of age discrimination contrasted with capability. In at least part for reasons of discrimination she became ordained otherwise.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I notice I mixed my yous and hes. The speaker would have been very cross with me for using 'you'. It is disrespectful.

The Very Revd Monsignor Mark Paris said...

Adrian, I have no interest in proving to you that Swindon has a congregation the ""prove is in the pudding"" Oh and yes you do see correctly I do hold the title Monsignor, "" Its Called Work and progression""

The Very Revd Monsignor Mark Paris said...

Dr B Jones BA BD MTh PhD DD (???) it would be interesting to see Who accredited your degrees?

Titles are given in the L.C.A.C. when it is warranted to do so, depending on the training and the work of each member.

Dr Jones said...

BA BD - University of Wales, MTh Phd - Oxford, DD - Wales

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

The answer, Dr. Jones, is that they have their own seminary that issues their degrees and also does their training.

All mine from University of Hull: PGCE, MA, Ph.D, BA (Hons.) in reverse order.

Dr Jones said...

I don't really understand it. If for example, they want to do serious academic training and award degrees through their seminary program, then why not do what a great many of other denominations do. Devise in conjunction with an established internationally recognised university a diploma/degree or post grad program that is externally validated. Wales, London, Chester, York, Sheffield, Leeds, Open etc already do this. Not to do so makes the academic qualification non transferable and pretty useless im afraid to say.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Yes the latest one I encountered (and criticised, for Unitarians) was the contextual theology foundation/ MA degrees at the University of Chester.

Andrew Hall said...

The L.C.A.C is a young church and as such operates its own Seminary to allow worthy men and woman to make there calling become a reality free of student debt etc. Candidates for holy orders are free to use any of the mainstream academic institutions across the UK or abroad if they wish to do so. The LCAC has many at home churches were people meet for worship this is not at all an uncommon practice many new churches have started out this way indeed most of the early Christians met for worship this way. It is a fair to say that a great many Liberal and Old Catholic Churches never grow beyond their front rooms or temp chapels this is a trend the LCAC hopes to reverse. The LCAC has had its teething problems but several of the clergy who left LCAC have now returned and the church is now I believe heading in the right direction. PAX Rt Revd Andrew Hall

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Thanks Andrew Hall.

Andrew Hall said...

Many full time paid clergy of main stream churches often ridicule or be little the role of the Indie Movement within Christendom. With church attendances the lowest at any time in history and churches across the land are closing their doors at an alarming rate for good and are often being turned into offices homes showrooms or just allowed to fall down etc. Many of these exact same people see the writing on the wall and fear that their churches and their faith will become a mirror image of the Independent movement. Unless this trend is reversed and soon the major churches role in our society will be further reduced and eventually become irrelevant and in some instances we will see whole denominations disappear altogether. We may see an even smaller Christian church in the future than even anyone can imagine. The Church of Scotland for example will according to some reports be gone in thirty years if they continue to fail to attract the nation’s youth. So what is then the answer? I believe as a faith we have to be seen as less judgemental and old fashioned avoid infighting between churches and seem less stuffy less Dot Cotton and a bit more modern old but new I mean let’s not fling the baby out with the bath water. We need to better market the wider Christian church and community. The church is to coin an advertisers phrase We have a great product with very poor marketing. Rt.Revd Andrew Hall

MikeB said...

Be nice to see more of Andrews approach in the LCaC than Marks. Mark sounded like he was having a bit of a hissy fit and 30 mins later pops up again with a more "impressive" title. I find this sad. Self serving and introspective awarding of titles, degrees, beer tokens etc do not impress anyone.

However I do think that the LCAC and other lib caths have a valid mission and they need to focus on that rather than working through some silly titles

mikeb DkA
(drinker of kirstall ales)