Who's this then?

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Stebbing, Great Dunmow, Essex, United Kingdom
The occasional blog of an Anglican priest in rural Essex

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Oh who am I

Typealyser tells me that the author of http://timgoodbody.blogspot.com/ is of the type:
ISTP - The Mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts. The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

On the money really, except that the last sentence should conclude with the phrase "on Mario Kart". Funny, the Ugley Vicar's last sentence went awry as well (IMHO).
BTW I wrote this on 17 Dec last year but am posting it today 2 jan 09, in case you think I broke my advent vow!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Have just got back from Dublin which was ace - will post about it after Christmas, because while we were away i got round to reading the Shack, and was challenged (among other things) to deepen my relationship with God, which Sentamu Ebor seems to be recommending as a good practice in Advent.

With that in mind, I am giving up posting here until after Christmas (which effectively means next year as we are away for the last week of the year.)

Just one thing though, "The shack" could also be summed up as

"Comprehension is not a requisite for co-operation"

But I probably need to read it again to be sure

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Spread my wings and touch the sky

Rachel tagged me to write a creed in 140 characters (not including spaces judging by her excellent shot at it.)

see http://lingamish.wordpress.com/2008/11/20/tweet-creed-meme/

Yahweh is three persons in one.
Father Son Spirit
Creator Redeemer Sustainer
The Awesome God
The Crucified God
The Intimate God
Who was and is and will be.
Amen Amen Amen

A bit of a rush as I am off to Dublin tomorrow
I tag Philip, Sam, David, Adrian and Peter

Friday, 28 November 2008

Come on Come on let's stick/work together

In a rare moment of leisure the other day I watched The Matrix Reloaded which is a strange but highly enjoyable mixture of kick-ass action and philosophy/theology.

A cracking line jumped out at me when I watched the scene of the council of war, where the sceptical (i.e. does not believe the prophecy about Neo (Keanu Reeves, on the left here) being "The One", a kind of Christ figure sent to save humanity) captain Jason Lock argues with the governing council about their strategy; he says he cannot comprehend why they are taking the course of action they have chosen (i.e. to put their faith in Neo), and the council replies in the mighty words

That is, you don't have to fully agree with, understand or be in control of a situation (think "the darkness comprehendeth it not" - means a lot more than "doesn't understand") in order to work together with others to fix it.

There are any number of ways this phrase could be applied to life today; the credit crunch, cross-party ecological strategy, ecumenism, even kicking racism out of football - I don't get Manchester United or Millwall but I support their efforts to get rid of racist chanting etc.

But of course I'm posting it because of the post-NEAC5 skirmishing between Anglican Mainstream and Fulcrum, and indeed between GAFCON and everybody else.

And, even though I'm a declared Fulcrumite, this has got to be a mutual thing. A way forward can only be found by looking at common ground, and setting aside differences, no matter how painful.
Update: "Comprehension is not a requisite for cooperation" might be a one sentence summary of the book of Job.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Following Yonder star

this was my astronomy picture of the day for today but deserves preservation; pretty amazing stuff.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

O friends rejoice ...

O Christian women, Christian men,
All the world over, seek again
the Way disciples followed then
Christ through all ages is the same:
Place the same hope in his great name,
with the same faith his word proclaim.
Let Love's unconquerable might
your scattered companies unite
in service to the Lord of light
So shall God's will on earth be done,
new lamps be lit, new tasks begun,
and the whole church at last be one.

GKA Bell 1883-1958(ccl1966)

The stanza in bold italics jumped off the page at me this morning.
Ain't nobody but God can fix this mess

Monday, 17 November 2008

As saints of old still line the way ...

Well, people are posting away furiously here there and everywhere about Saturday's NEAC5 consultation. Even Pluralist has had a couple of goes. But the Ugley vicar reduces his comments to a preamble to a wedding sermon that I dare not read for my blood pressure's sake.

As for me, well it was my first proper evangelical "assembly" (unless you count being in the student body at Wycliffe Hall), and my first impression was that there were too many grey haired gentlemen and not enough women or people under 45. The chair of the session, Canon Michael Walters, who otherwise did a very good job, betrayed the truth of my impression when, in inviting comments from the floor he could only invite men by name. The old boy network lives on!

The morning was fairly innocuous, and I was lifted by the opportunity to see face to face people I recognise 'cos they have their photo on Fulcrum, but have never met properly. It was also one of those occasions when one scans the room for familiar faces - there were a fair few, but not as many proportionally as I would find at New Wine. I guess that says something about my constituency.

Talks were OK - I like Paul Perkin and he genuinely seemed to be preaching a message of unity, but I wasn't really sure whether in wanting us to redefine inclusiveness he was talking about our attitude to ECUSA or the C of E evangelical movement. I suppose different people starting from different places may have found what they wanted to hear in his carefully (and no doubt prayerfully) chosen words. The Bishop of Birkenhead talked a lot of sense; I wish they'd given him longer as he was the only person who said anything in depth about Lambeth. Bishop Michael is a nice guy - he's the only Bishop whose house I've been to and heard New Wine worship on the stereo. I think he lost his place a bit at the lectern, and didn't really say much I hadn't already heard expressed elsewhere.

As for the afternoon, well Christina Baxter had me in tears in her plea to God (and CEEC) for more women on the platform. Pete Broadbent had some constructive things to say too, but Mike Ovey was talking way too fast for me to keep up, and I'm afraid Chris Sugden's slick powerpoint just put me to sleep.

I remember the NUS in the 80's, and it was like that a bit when it came to the motion - whether or not we would express our support for the Jerusalem Declaration - lots of people asked for the motion to be withdrawn, or for a procedural motion that it be "not put". The main force of the argument was that this was meant to be a consultation but we hadn't been consulted, and it was all a bit too sudden for some. I felt we needed to have spent more time talking about the thing before we voted on it, and as we saw there was not going to be the opportunity to amend the motion, well it had to go. The vote itself was very tense, and hard to judge - although I saw Colin Buchanan tidying up his papers so I knew we'd won the day - as if anyone can judge a vote from the floor, he can.

But it wasn't a pretty end. Richard Turnbull, about whom many column inches have been written over the last few years, refused to withdraw the motion, and seemed oblivious to the fact that he had been defeated as he closed proceedings. I suspect his claim that the CEEC will just vote on it anyway may mean he is in trouble with them too.

He gathered himself enough to have a pop at Graham Kings in his summing up, and much as I am sympathetic to Graham's analytical picture of evangelicalism (h/t Rachel) I now conclude that there are only two kinds of evangelical - those who agree with Richard Turnbull and those who do not!

For the record, I couldn't have voted to express support for the Jerusalem Declaration, so in a slightly cowardly way I guess I'm glad we didn't vote. It's not that I don't want to affirm the orthodox in the States and Canada - I signed the petition that Jim Packer is an authentic Anglican. It's just that I don't agree with paragraph 13 about rejecting the authority of churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith.

There are two reasons for my discomfort with that paragraph. First, who decides who "those churches and leaders" are? What if I end up being one one day? Sounds like something from the Cultural Revolution. We don't actually remove someone's authority just because we reject it - they still have it, and opinion counts for nothing in disabling it.

Second, and in a way related to that, Article 26 of the 39 Articles, from which GAFCON I guess got the force of para 13, speaks of "the discipline of the church" and "by just judgement" in relation to how the heterodox should be dealt with. Neither CEEC nor NEAC nor GAFCON are executive bodies of the Anglican Communion; they do not have the power or authority to hand down discipline of the type article 26 and para 13 imply (to my reading). This properly belongs in the Cof E to the processes of the clergy discipline measure, and I guess the buck stops with Rowan Williams when it comes to the wider communion. If he is reluctant to wade in (which I guess he mostly is), it is for the same reason that The Bishop of London didn't discipline Martin Dudley for blessing a civil partnership in his church - we are all just far too nice to each other! At least Richard Turnbull doesn't suffer from that!

For me then the Jerusalem Declaration (sorry Jody, JD will always be Jack Daniels for me) is a case of nice missiology and morality, shame about the ecclesiology.
I asked two people last week who'd been to NEAC4 whether they wanted my spare ticket; they both said their experience at Blackpol had put them off ever attending again. I can't say I'm thrilled with the idea, but it may be necessary, if the bullying is going to be truly stopped.

To end on a positive note I have as a result of Saturday resolved to get more invovled in the diocesan evangelical association. Dunno where I'll find the time but there you go.

Monday, 10 November 2008

There's no gas there's no barbed wire no guns firing out

We used this photo yesterday as part of the powerpoint for Remembrance Sunday. It was actually taken a couple of years ago in leafy South Bucks, but it evokes well "a soft summer breeze makes the red poppies dance."

Its quite low resolution but feel free to nick it - no copyright, it was taken by my mum!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Together we are beautiful

Hi Jody,
Lots to think about there. There was a Fulcrum thread a while back on which "feminisation of the church" came up, but I’m still not sure exactly what people mean by it.
I have to say, (though I'm still struggling through "Why men hate going to church" its like wading through molasses – would say treacle but its American!) that I mostly think about the church, rather than clergy, when on the subject of men and women. Since the first women priests in the C of E in 94 we can say obviously that there has been a feminisation of the clergy, if we mean an increase in the number of women, but I agree that this has not yet ironed out the institutional maleness of the Church (which we strangely and rather patronisingly refer to as “her” sometimes – “Mother church” etc.)

I agree too that men outside the church (especially those of my generation and younger) don’t have a problem with women in church or women clergy – that’s not keeping them away; in fact it might even be a reason to go along. So the relationship between men in or nearly in the pew and women (clergy) is not in my experience the problem.

Where it hits the fan for the blokes I worship with and go to the pub with is the old “Jesus is my boyfriend” style worship songs, the worst offender recently being “Here I am, A laid down lover...” and as for “Kiss it better father make the hurting stop”, particularly on a kids praise album, that’s just getting way out of your average bloke’s comfort zone when it comes to expressions of public emotion.

When was the last time you saw a man who did not have his own school age children in church and who was not the vicar, joining in enthusiastically with an action song? So they might want to be there with the women and kids, but some of the stuff they are expected to sing and say and do is very cringe making. This in itself though may not be enough justification for the numerous men’s ministries that we see around.

I think “segregated” is a bit of a strong word; after all, men can now join the Mothers’ Union (and girls can join the cubs). There are some churches where stuff like Bible study and prayer is all done in single sex groups; that’s just getting silly and over-protective, especially with students! I can see that I’m arguing myself into a bit of a corner; we try to be an all-age church here, so maybe we should also be trying harder to include men and women in everything instead of just doing things like prayer breakfasts and outreach events separately. If the church developed more of a culture of doing things for all ages and both genders all the time, one might argue that inclusion is easier to achieve, in a diverse congregation.

On the other hand, if I run a curry night for couples I know from school, they all have to get sitters; if I invite the blokes out, then my wife invites the women a different night, that’s a little easier. That’s a practical thing rather than a theological one, I will admit. Perhaps another issue is that men’s outreach groups tend to have as their aim the conversion of the men into church going Christians, instead of just letting them be themselves and find a place to belong in a group – even if that group never actually gets into the church and only ever meets in the pub. If we held forums for discussion of issues that engage men, like war or the economy or Dawkins etc, leaving space for a range of opinion and not aiming for an altar call, the men might be keener to stick around. They might even think the church is actually worth being part of, and so would be helped on the way of self-discovery.

Reality is after all relational - as Christians we understand the world, ourselves and each other in the light of Christ; humanuity was created for relationship with God and with each other. Thjat's who we are, so yes, isolation can restrict our identity.

This is all great in theory but I still feel there is value in groupings or even organisations that are single sex – religious communities are at their best in that pattern, and very few of them never actually allow members of the opposite sex to visit, worship eat and live with them.

Perhaps is we can reflect on Obama’s win; it was 45 years from MLK’s speech to a black president. Change we need, yes, but it takes time (“Like a mighty tortoise move the church of God” etc). I just watched Ratatouille with my daughter. There’s a great line when the rat hero is battling with his father who wants him to be a rat, and his own desires to be a chef; he says “Change IS nature”

Throughout the years since ‘63 there have been special campaigning or interest groups for black people, which will I’m sure, continue. When I was a student the Union had a black rights officer, but no one (to the left of Genghis Khan) asked for a white rights officer.

In the Evangelical world you will be aware that there is a support group for women evangelical clergy (and ordinands) AWESOME. There are no cries for a similar body for the men (unless that’s what Reform is and I’ve been missing the point all these years (joking!)).

What I’m saying is, in purely human terms, to precipitate change I think you need special interest/campaign/support groups to empower/encourage/inform the people who seek the change. Of course God is involved in it too; he does the changing, essentially.

As we’ve seen, the church has a problem in keeping men interested in Christianity, so on this model I feel we are justified in having special interest groups for men, or special outreach strategies for men. Not because they are oppressed, far from it, but because they are a minority in the pews. As you so rightly say, the church is meant to reflect the whole image of God, and “male and female he created them”, not just men or just women, but both together as equals.

Just as black rights campaigners have been (for the most part in the mainstream) careful not to say life is just about black people (isn’t that why Obama left his old church) and just as most feminists (again, in the “mainstream”) don’t claim that life is just about women, Christian ministry to and outreach among men must not be exclusive or misogynistic, for the reasons you have outlined - because dodgy theology, even underlying sound ideas, will always be dodgy theology, which on a practical level will never keep the blokes on board.

I think this is why the macho male bonding type rallies don’t work, because the church as a whole isn’t like that, and shouldn’t be, so those drawn in through that kind of approach will end up disappointed and leave – or go back to the terraces.

I first went to church because of a woman; in that church there were women up the front leading and preaching; it was quite a few years before I actually realised (coming as I did from a totally secular childhood) that there were no women priests. When I read the Bible I saw it was full of dynamic and holy women – who were visited by Angels and told the will of God, or who first witnessed the resurrection and first told others about it.

Only now some 22 years later am I beginning to see that the elephant in the room is sometimes a man

Who isn’t there.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

But it wouldn't be nothing, nothing .....

Hi again Jody,

Well (cards on the table) I have now read the whole article properly several times and realised the identity of the writer and his context. I see this as a bloke writing for men, from the context of a church with a significant ministry to and outreach among men. It's a church not far from here, and I get on well with Steve's boss, and have even had one of his colleagues to preach here. That church also has on its staff one of the very few women priests who regularly speak at NW. So I guess my words are a bit guarded, but don't let that make you think I have moved on from the previous post - which I guess was really about your older post about women in leadership.

Now I am the kind of guy who reads his wife's Cosmo Eve or She, mostly because I can't stomach GQ and feel too old for Q and the NME, not fit enough for men's health and not nerdy enough for PC gamer (or whatever).

So the only magazine I read that is specifically for men is the one published by Christian Vision for Men, whom our Men's Group (known as BoB) subscribe to. It contains the kind of thing that Steve wrote, which, if you can look at it for the perspective of a ministry to men, in a culture where, as the book says (and I haven't finished reading it yet) "Men Hate Going to Church", is (for the most part) helpful - to men.

But my opening analogy doesn't work the other way round. My wife doesn't read men's magazines, and if she did she would probably find a lot of the content difficult to accept if not downright alien to her point of view. I do not think however, that it is wrong for there to be "niche" magazines in this sense, whether they are Christian (and therefore frankly likely to be cheesy) or secular (and therefore likely to be principally concerned with sex and physical appearance - but that doesn't always put me off reading them!)

And so I recognise Steve's article in NW mag as being appropriate for the context of a Christian magazine for men. If there was editorial error therefore on the part of NW, it was to assume that the readership of the NW mag and CVM mag are the same, or at least have a significant overlap. This I doubt. My reasoning is that there is always a page or article for women in the NW mag, but rarely a specific article for blokes - most of the readers, I deduce therefore, are women.

Most of the people in all of the churches I have ever been involved in (15 at the last count over the last 22 years) have been women. There is a problem with the church, that not enough men are part of it. I do not repeat do not think that the ordination of women has caused this. Its causes are much more long term and too complex to cover in just one post. I even understand that the bloke who wrote "Why men hate going to church" has now written another book in which the women of the church are challenged to bring the blokes in. This seems a refreshing approach, as even the Ugley Vicar has had enough of macho men's rallies.
The sentiment behind Steve's article, therefore, I pretty much agree with. We have a small men's group here which is aimed at the blokes on the fringe of church, and we do have a problem with a lack of blokes at the heart of the fellowship.

So, to the article itself. There was only one bit I thought was completely unacceptable - the paragraph you highlighted about people seeing the divine in men, as Pilate saw the divine in Jesus. This is indeed to elevate the status of the male above the female within redeemed humanity and therefore I don't think it is theologically acceptable - Christians are all called to reflect the glory of God in our lives, not just the blokes, even if you are writing for blokes (which I think Steve is).

Steve does say "for better or for worse, men still hold privileged positions of decision making authority ..." I read that as meaning he does not think that the status quo is what God wants, he is just saying that's how it is. So I guess we differ in that you have read him as meaning it is an acceptable status quo.

Some of the other quotations - such as the one from Marcus Tullius Cicero, or Proverbs 27 might be better applied to both men and women, in a TNIV or NRSV style, taking the old (say 1950's) "men" to mean both men and women. Today that usage is not usually editorially acceptable, but Steve is (appears to be) writing for men so I guess chose not to inclusivise his quotations.

Jane Morris's article on p48 of the same mag is about Esther - a woman leader writing about a woman hero. I've never edited a magazine like this but I wonder whether they figured Jane's article might provide a balance to Steve's.

So what do we do next? I am not one for stirring up trouble, but I might be prepared to email John Coles and Steve Clarke to ask for clarification. Until we have that, most of this discussion is just speculation.

You may not have liked a lot of this, but I do want to re-iterate that I support your call for a higher profile for Women in holy orders in NW leadership. I agree that a small part of Steve's article is out of order, but I urge you to consider his context when finalising your opinion of what he wrote. After all, even in an all age church like ours, if I put on an event or write a sermon that is aimed at old people or teenagers, those church members who are not part of the target audience do not feel insulted because they know from experience that there is something for them also on the agenda.

In 1981 as I walked across the quad at Harvard (age 15 on holiday), I heard two passing students talking. One said to the other, "If only Reagan or the Ayatollah had been a woman".

Monday, 3 November 2008

Here is healing and forgiveness ...?

This is a thing I've been thinking over for a while, following some stuff on The Radical Evangelical

Hi Jody,
I’ve been thinking about your post for quite a while, and thinking about the gender issue and new wine for ages too. I think we talked about it just after the conferences last summer. For a while my wife and I turned a blind eye, but since personal conversations with the Coles, and particularly since their seminar in 07 we feel more comfortable and accepted; that’s why rather than just sighing, I did a Homer Simpson forehead slapping D’oh! when I read your post.

I guessed the origin of your quotation straight away, even though I hadn’t read the mag itself. Possibly though this was because I know it’s one of your bugbears.

Dennis is right; we do just have to keep on going. I feel that the progress that has been made in recent years is partly down to the likes of yourself not being backward in coming forward at New Wine, but also partly because the Charismatic movement as a whole (cross-denominationally) tends not to think in terms of ordained leaders, but of leaders, per se, ordained or not. At the moment it happens that all the men on the leadership of New Wine are ordained, but not all of the women are. In one sense this could be seen as a good thing, that leadership roles are given to lay people. Too much power in the hands of male priests can also be counterbalanced by acknowledging the priesthood of all believers, not just by bringing in more women priests. That doesn’t mean I don’t think there should be more ordained women on the NW leadership or even the speakers list.

In a previous post on this subject you said, “being married to the bloke doesn’t count”. I think that’s a good point, if you are looking for ordained women in leadership. I’m not sure whether Jane Morriss, vicar of St Gabriel’s and on the leadership of the LSE week is married or not, but if she is we don’t see her husband in the mag or on the stage.

Looking at the history, I wasn’t around at the time but I do think that when the Pytches founded NW they did so as a couple, not as the vicar/bishop and his wife, almost in a parenting role – that is particularly true of their relationship with Soul Survivor. So it will have seemed natural to continue that couple thing, and at the time, say early to mid 90’s, the charismatic evangelical women priests we see today were all either curates or still in training, and the culture of the social grouping that makes up yer basic new wine church was both theologically and culturally conservative. I hope and pray their time will come soon.

That is to say, while they may not have theological objections to women in leadership, and while key charismatic texts like Joel 2 may have taken away the glass ceiling in theory (especially after Don Williams’ magisterial “Church, Wake Up!” call in the early noughties), in practice, your suburban upper middle class church, vicar and congregation are still going to be working on the social/cultural principle that it’s dad who gets up to get the train to London and mum who stays at home or works part time. In a sense this is divorced from the theology of charismata that affirms all believers as ministers in the Spirit. In low churches let’s not forget that ordination is not the be-all and end-all.

Anyway, NW is not a church it is a movement/network. It overlaps denominations, and even traditions within Anglicanism – let’s not forget that when he was in Wales, ++RW received a lot of prayerful support from NW types. Other than the fact that there is a communion at the conference, I wonder whether there need to be any priests on the leadership team, let alone more women priests. At least the situation is not as bad as the fire brigade where at one stage in the recent past following the introduction of equality policies of employment, it was hard to get a job as a fire fighter unless you were a black disabled woman.

To me New Wine is a family, and families aren’t led by priests, but by parents. I just don’t know if Marks Melluish and Bailey et al are in that place, or whether they do see themselves as the main “priestly” leaders with their wives as “helpers” (yuk), and I do know you need not fear the presence of Paul Perkin on the LSE leadership.

I don't know whether you're finding any of this helpful, and let me reassure you that I fervently hope that there will be more ordained women involved in leading NW soon.

Keep on going, and I pray things sort themselves out for you when it comes to your training.


Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Everywhere you go, always take the weather with you

Incredible day today weatherwise. Sunshine and frost, then snowstorm, (while driving over the yorkshire moors) then storm at sea at Sands End near Whitby. all accentuated by large number of in laws and cousins and wet dogs.
This is why I love half term!
When I get home for all souls I will think about Jody's post about new wine.

Friday, 24 October 2008

It takes every kind of people ... to make the world go round

Blimey, just got added to the General Synod Blogroll! (as long as they don't use it as bog roll - I remember only too well what the toilet paper is like at York!)

Fully admit to writing this to put a better title post on the roll there than the previous post to this.

Now what kind of lyric will get a synod member's attention?


Thursday, 23 October 2008

Ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha ha (yes that is a lyric)

They say you should laugh 17 times a day for good health

Watch this 17 times then!

Sometimes it's hard she said ...

This is my response to something that appeared on the Ugley Vicar blog recently. Post title relates to opening greeting ...

Dear John,

My invitation to join CDEA arrived today. If Stand Firm were the committee I don't think they'd let me in!
Nevertheless your thoughts on OE's have set me thinking again, as I prepare to go to All Souls for the NEAC day, about how we define ourselves within Anglicanism and within Evangelicalism.
I fully agree with you about Greenbelt, although we need to acknowledge that if the leaders shifted in theology in the mid 80's then the crowds are taking (or took) a little longer to shift. People were still experiencing conventional evangelical conversions there up to at least '85.
Stuff like Soul Survivor of course provided an alternative for charismatics from the early 90’s, which may have led to a drain of evangelicals going to GB.

But actually, only a very shallow approach to Evangelical identity would be based on "which festival do you go to?" so the whole New Wine/Spring Harvest/Word Alive thing just doesn't cut it for me because the people on the ground are not all making their choice on theological grounds - sometimes it's just when they are free!

Thinking about the atonement, a moment in my training comes to mind when Alister McGrath, lecturing on reformation theology, said that PSA was not a Biblical doctrine. The cat was definitely among the pigeons at college then.

I feel that conservatives frequently attract criticism for insisting that PSA is THE ONLY model that gives us a way to understand the cross, and that other approaches such as Christus Victor or moral example or “Cur Deus Homo” are in some way secondary or not worth including at all. In this I also feel there is not a little arrogance, as the thing about the atonement surely is that it is the most amazing gift that humanity has ever received from God, but our minds are not capable of fully comprehending its mechanics, so theologians down the ages, from Augustine to Anselm to Luther to NTW have written countless pages to help us grasp the enormity of its significance, and we still don’t fully get it.

To the person on the street or in the pew (especially those newly arrived in the pews), surely the most important thing is that there is an atonement – that we can be at one with God because of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. How it works is (for me as an OE anyway) secondary in importance to the (wonderful) fact that it does work. THIS IS THE GOOD NEWS.

Perhaps I can draw a comparison with the creation/evolution debate. Theologians across the spectrum refer to “theories of the atonement”, in the same way that Darwin formulated a “theory of evolution”. However, when one of these theories is taught as fact, you are bound to get conflict, in the same way that the presentation of Darwinism as fully factual and not just a theory creates conflicts with advocates of other approaches, whether Christian Creationists or advocates of intelligent design.

It is my impression, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, that CE theology treats PSA in the same way as Dawkins treats Darwinism – the only way to do it. So if that is either rejected or put alongside other theories to help understand the cross, then that is not (Conservative) evangelicalism.

However, OE’s in my experience tend to be eclectic in their theology, looking at different schools or traditions to enrich understanding of doctrine and tradition. That eclecticism for me means that it is OK to interact with any of the mainstream atonement theories.

We should not try to define ourselves either, I feel, on the issue of women’s ordination, because it is impossible to draw a neat line through evangelicalism on this basis. You just can’t consistently predict who will be in favour and who will not. Many of us (who are in favour) made decisions early on and only latterly came to see the Biblical argument; others changed their minds post-Toronto, and still others accept women in orders but not in authority (Richard Turnbull, it would appear, is in that place).

Surely the way forward is to concentrate on what we do agree on; to emphasize the importance of mission to the unchurched, as being primary. The renewal of the church can only be done by co-operating with the Spirit within the church. This is why the institution is important to OE’s; not necessarily that we accept its behaviour unconditionally - you are perhaps accurate in your assertion that OE’s question everything – but (a bit like a wayward teenager) that we love it and want to see it come to its full potential as the vehicle for God’s work in this country and the world.
This has been a long post, so just to finish, when it comes to your comments about OE’s and Rome, yes there are a lot of differences, especially when it comes to gender roles, but there are more than enough things that we can be together on to make me assert that I am only a Protestant because that is the designation of my church. I protest more about the C of E than I do about Rome! Belligerance is a bit of a scary word!

Hope the CRB thing resolves itself for your wife


Saturday, 18 October 2008

99% of Gargoyles look like Bob Todd

As Mike Yarwood used to say, "And this is me ..."
This is the kind of thing that makes me glad to be Church of England. I thought it was just me who remembered stuff like :-

"If you ever wondered how you get triangles from a cow, you need butter milk and cheese and an equilateral chainsaw"!

And today's alpha awayday makes me glad and privileged to be a minister in God's Church!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Hands across the water ...?

Got even crosser today when interacting with posters on the Stand Firm site which is based in America. How can they say that Tear Fund is not a Christian agency? OK, Desmond Tutu isn't exactly mainstream when it comes to matters of sexuality, but does that warrant calling him a heretic? Grrrrrrr!

At least they put "love your neighbour" under the comments box, to remind us to keep it friendly.

I suppose the climate in the US is rather rarefied, with all the depositions and secessions going on. Reform want to do that here, but I can't see how it'll work out - the ownership of church buildings is a lot more complex here than it is over there, for a start. Also, there are lots of team ministries and large benefices of a variety of traditions; what happens if one parish in such a team wants to opt out but not the others?

Makes you squirm and with you could just get on with the job!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Oh when will you ever learn, oh when will you ever learn?

Got very cross today about some stuff on Anglican Mainstream encouraging people to withdraw from association with Tear Fund because they invited Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak at arecent conference, and of course he does not have a very conservative position on gays.
Below is most of a post I put on Fulcrum in response to this

William Booth of Salvation Army fame was once challenged about accepting donations from parties trying to attach strings, in an "I'll scratch your back ... " type thing, but he replied,

"I'll take every penny and wash it clean with the tears of widows and orphans".

While we are not actually talking about money here, I feel that quotation might help the discussion, as I guess AM & reform (CT quoted someone from them saying he would be writing to Matthew Frost on this issue, straight after the conference) are wanting to imply that ++Tutu may be seeking to gain some kind of foothold in British Evangelicalism through association with TF. TF on their part have not to my knowledge said anything to indicate a shift in policy, they just want to work with anyone who shares their vision.
Presumably TF has signed the EA mission statement (or whatever) which is the same document that led to calls for Joel Edwards to stand down from the Equality commission on grounds of discrimination against gays. As the Americans say, go figure!

I think it is more likely that ++Tutu has seen the effect of TF's ministry on the ground and so responded to their invitation in good heart, because he shares their vision.

It's just modern day Donatism - not wanting to be "tainted" by association. I'm not an expert but I do recall some rather key reformers had somewhat dubious opinions of the Jews, but you don't hear about that so much. These are the same people I guess who have decided to stop reading anything at all by Steve Chalke or Roy Clements because on one issue they have divergent opinions.

If this now happens to ++Tutu it would be very sad. At New Wine last summer every toilet had a flyer put up in it inviting people to apply to go on a home-building project sponsored by ++Tutu - no one tore them down so I conclude that TF's opinion of the man is at least the prevalent one in charismatic evangelicalism.

People I have known who worked for Tear Fund on the ground were usually more concerned with avoiding getting shot or abducted than with what Bishops (or anyone else) happen to think about gays.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

No song title could possibly do this post justice!

Quite simply the funniest, most successful satire you'll see for many a year. I haven't laughed as much since the Young Ones
check out
Britain's got the pop factor and possibly a new Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly On Ice

and if you missed it for goodness sake find someone with Sky plus or get the DVD for Christmas

Saturday, 11 October 2008

It takes two ...

Cracking do the other night at the Bishop's house, for clergy married to clergy. Quite apart from anything else it was good to meet some more people from this diocese socially, on top of which the food and wine were very good and in large quantities.

We are setting up a network by email, and will be getting together again soon. I'm sure I'll be letting you know how it goes, with other songs with the word two in the title.

5 [not so] easy pieces

From Sam,
five people who have influenced my spiritual path:

Graham Cray: He was the vicar of the church I first went to as a believer, and at various points since then, most significantly,. as I have mentioned before, at the New Wine leaders conference in 2005, he has popped up to inspire and encourage me again. Like me he is also half of a clergy couple which kind of makes us kin.

Henry Pearson: Now the vicar of Trent near Sherborne, he was Rector of Marlborough when I arrived there in 92; he was my mentor, friend, and his wife introduced me to the person I married. Most significantly though Henry showed me how to be evangelical and catholic in the same breath.

Duncan Dyason: The founder of Toybox, a man with a real heart for the street children of Latin America. It was a privilege to work alongside him in rather more suburban settings, but also to see God wake him up to the discomfort of comfortable english life; his obedience to the call changed many lives on both sides of the Atlantic. Driven, but gentle; convinced of the truth but willing to work with anyone who can help.

Sister Helen Julian: A former spiritual director of mine; not the only Franciscan, but the only martial arts expert I've ever spent time with. She was another person who re-inforced in me the strength in breadth of Anglican spirituality. A great listener, an a good writer too.

Ken Reynolds: Gave up his job working for Rolls Royce to sit on park benches with heroin addicts and tell them about the love of God in Christ. A truly inspirational man who's evangelical faith has never prevented him from doing what it takes to reach out to the unloved and unlovely. When I worked alongside him I really felt I was making a difference.

Just missed the cut but in no particular order: Alister McGrath, Christine Allsopp, Barry Lomax, St Francis, John Wyclif, Robert Grossteste, Gladys Aylward, Vera Sinton, my brothers Steve and Guy, and my wife. Google 'em yourself.

I tag Jody Steve and Clare G and Andy G

Thursday, 9 October 2008

There's a little black spot on the sun today

Remember this, well I went back on Monday for phase 2, which did at least involve anaesthesia, but was still very painful - more blood involved but Lizzie (my new friend the periodontal specialist) was very good with the angle of her hands so most of the time I couldn't see the flecks on her latex gloves.

There is definitely a skill involved in bringing people through pain and making them feel good about it. Lizzie has got it. There was even Ray Lamontagne on the stereo - mostly audible over the drill though sometimes I had to concentrate really hard. Probably relaxed and distracted me at the same time.

My dentist simile last time was for the church; this time its for the economists. Somehow in the next few weeks and months they are going to have to get us to tighten our belts, and we're not going to enjoy it.

The Prime minister has got some serious root canal surgery to do on our wallets, and it'll cause almost endless column inches before it's done, but when it is, we will not even remember that it hurt and (whoever the PM is by then) we will just be glad its over.

By the way, if you hadn't guessed, that tag line is from "King of Pain" by the Police

Sunday, 28 September 2008

I'm going home ... to see my baby

Ten Years After sang that at Woodstock. It was very long - a whole side of the LP I think.

I went "home" yesterday, ten years after I was ordained, to an ordination at Salisbury Cathedral, where we were both ordained. A good friend was being made deacon, and co-incidentally so were two other people I have shared church with in different ways, all on the same day in the same place.

I don't normally go in for Cathedral worship - too much flouncing about and expensive finery, but this was a special occasion, and so I entered into the Spirit of the Liturgy and found that the old lady (as they call that fine building) had once again become a "thin place" - where the divide between heaven and earth is thin so the sense of God's presence is strong.

Now I know that's not a very rational thing to write and I remain agnostic about exactly how a place is holy but I am beginning to appreciate that there is a link between spiritual experience and temporal location. Places where we met with God in the past evoke memories of those encounters and so make us perhaps more open to another fresh encounter; thus, in supporting my friend in her ordination I was able to relive the amazing experience I had just over 10 years ago, and in reliving it I was refreshed by the Word, (the sermon was great, aimed at non-churchgoing families of candidates who wonder what's going on) the Spirit, the Sacrament and the general atmosphere of celebration.

That's why even though I don't live in Wiltshire any more, and Essex is my home, Salisbury Cathedral will always be my spiritual home, my "filling station", my oasis.

Arsenal 1 Hull City 2 that's why I love football

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Ch ch ch ch changes ...

Phil won't like it, but I really don't like Man U. At all ...

And this was my first conversion.

As a youngster in the late 1970's I was a keen follower of "The Red Devils", with bobble hat, scarf and posters, panini stickers etc. The Greenhof Brothers, Martin Buchan, Alec Stepney, Butch Wilkins etc were the bread and butter of school bus and playground conversations. we watched FA cup triumph and disaster and I can even remember something about the 20th anniversary of Munich '58. But I was not living anywhere near Manchester; my parents supported Liverpool and West Ham because that's where they were from (or near enough). I followed Man U in the same way I followed TV or film or pop stars - from afar.

Then, a few years on, I came to understand the real meaning of football supporting when a friend took me to Vicarage Road to watch Watford, our nearest first division team and I was soon converted from the Red Devils to the Hornets. This was more like it. The pre-Hillsborough terraces were charged with a great atmosphere; the ground was (?is) small enough to mean you felt really close to the action. I remember they beat Southampton 7-1 and at the next home game you could buy a pen with that score printed on it! We'd cheer the names on the team sheet as they were read out and appeared on the electronic scoreboard - Ray Train was always accompanied by a graphic of a steam loco. Being there, being almost close enough to touch your heroes, made for a much more authentic and exhilarating experience.

Of course this was the early 80's and that meant your colours were firmly nailed to the mast. Woe betide you therefore to come upon a crowd of away supporters on the way home - a bunch of Gooners (i.e. Arsenal fans) did for me one wet Saturday. The only time I have ever been physically attacked.

But that was enough. From the commitment of every home game I stopped going, and went back to armchair football. I've been to 1 FA cup game (Millwall vs Oxford Utd, mid 90's, with Graham Tomlin and a bunch of spotty ordinands) and a couple of Pickering Town home games since. So I became a supporter of "anyone but Man U".

And they make it easier for me almost every week, with their designer arrogance and their manager's blotchy-nosed strops at the referee or the groundsman or anyone else who's fault it might be other than his or the team's that they didn't win. I think it's great now that Quieroz has left, Sir Alex has to talk to the TV and press again. There is an air of assumed invincibility about the whole industry that is Manchester Utd, which my Christ-inspired tendency to support the underdog really rails against, so like 'King Kev [sic] I love it love it love it when they lose.

Just like someone who's stopped going to church and turned against Christianity, I've turned against Manchester Utd.

Mind you, should anyone from the Monotheistic faiths put their name behind a team called The Red Devils? I did once meet their chaplain though.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

I want to ride it where I like

Oh yes, the good old Ride and stride, sponsored bike ride yesterday, so lots of saddle sore backsides in church today.

Looks like out little lot have raised over £1000 which is 5 times more than last year, but then 5 times more people were involved this year, and 5 times as many people as last year now know we need to fix the church roof (that comment applies to both Stebbing and Lindsell!)

I went off with number 1 son, and we did 12 churches in 4 hours, at a leisurely pace. He seemed to enjoy the challenge and has himself raised over £150.

Just about to have a meeting to plan the Harvest festival, which we are also using as Back to church Sunday. This is a bit of a cheat as lots of people come back to church for harvest anyway. This will be the first time in a while that the harvest has not been that good; wet weather has meant that there are a few fields around here where the wheat is beyond saving, and a lot of what has been safely gathered in has been gathered into the dryer. So our prayers for the farmers will be perhaps a little more sincere this year.

We support Harvest for the Hungry, so in a few weeks we will be boxing up dry goods to ship the off to Eastern Europe. Even in our villages, this is a much more meaningful way of celebrating Harvest than having a procession of marrows etc which will just go manky in front of the altar.

[1 hour later] Not a manky marrow in sight. It'll be great. Now we just need people to bring their friends back to church!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Go on now go, walk out the door ... (?)

Aha, there it is, staring me in the face from Sunday's gospel reading, Matthew 18, 15-20.

We looked at it again at home group this afternoon, and had some considerable discussion - this is after all a passage with at least three major things in it that cause a stir

- if your brother sins against you, go show him his fault - when's the last time you did that?

Or again, if two on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done by my Father in heaven (my friend H**** had some choice words on that having prayed very hard for her late husband in his illness.)

And again, if he refuses to listen, tell it to the church ... that'd liven up 1662 communion!

But the thing we got stuck into (and perhaps it's fair to say, stuck on) was the meaning of "treat him as you would a tax collector or a pagan" (verse 17 TNIV)

I preached on this passage Sunday using some notes from Rootsonthe web by David Goodbourn, in which he makes the comment,

"There is an irony in letting the outcast be to you 'as a Gentile and a tax collector', given that there were now many Gentile Christians, and elsewhere in the Gospel tax collectors are welcomed into the kingdom of heaven."

Some in our homegroup felt that this implies that the sinner is in fact not excluded (as perhaps Jewish culture of the time would expect - hence the irony) but nurtured and supported and included, as the tax collectors and gentiles (NRSV so much better here) from the Matthean church were. This approach gains some strength from the fact that the rest of chapter 18 is all about inclusion, so on verse on exclusion seems rather out of place. The old "What would Jesus do?" question also lent weight to this idea.

On the other hand, some others in this light hearted and inquisitive discussion felt that the more immediately obvious meaning that, as tax collectors and Gentiles were outsiders to the Jewish community, so the unrepentant sinner should be shunned by the church. I guess this is where you got the practice of 'the ban' or shunning, in certain non-conformist churches and communities.

So it's about either keeping them in and looking after them, or kicking them out and thereby remaining "pure".

On the way home (or rather on the way to teach the Primary School Eoghan Heaslip's "Holy is the Lord") it suddenly struck me that these two potential interpretations would split pretty accurately the two sides of the Communion/ECUSA/sexuality/gafcon/fulcrum maggoty mess (to steal a phrase from Jody Stowell)

You either want to be shot of the revisionists/gay inclusivists (Ephraim Radner's words, not mine), because they "will not listen to the church", so you'd take the second interpretation, or you want to keep the door open, while being clear on what you feel is the ideal, therefore going for option 1.

Blimey, 3 nil in Zagreb and still 15 minutes to go!

Monday, 8 September 2008

Back on the chain gang

It was a really busy Sunday yesterday. I lost 2lbs during the day, despite a roast lunch. I guess that's what leading and preaching at 3 services including the baptism of twins takes out of you. Between the showers we also made it to a charity event in a local garden. Phew! I'm on the wagon for the usual September detox after too many beers in the sunshine, but after yesterday I could really have done with a drink - didn't succumb though.

I guess things are settling down after the back to school/work rush. I've got our Alpha supper tonight. I am speaking not cooking, so I've got it easy as we have no idea how many are coming!

Fulcrum have been busy too, and have produced a really useful summary and response to Lambeth and Gafcon.
I like it mostly because it is short (like Mervyn Stockwood, I'm not high church, I'm not low church, I'm short church!), and doesn't contain too much jargon. It also seems to have given a little more space and respect to Gafcon than I previously noticed on the forum there (maybe that's because I spent too much time reading Pluralist's stuff).
I am most taken though at the turn of events with Bishop Pete Broadbent, usually quite a good friend of Fulcrum, turning on them and challenging their ecclesiology.

On the old CLP thing, yesterday at Lindsell we started the parish project and finished the personal project. I used some Appreciative Enquiry questions to begin to get people thinking about the church's core values. We've got to formulate a vision by the middle of November, which could be a bit of a tight squeeze but you'll soon see!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

(Not) the diary of Horace Wimp

That was one of my favourite songs as a kid. Have you noticed by the way that the titles of these posts are mostly song lyrics? That one is a title (adapted) so doesn’t really fit but I couldn’t think of a lyric that fitted.

This is another Leadership Programme journal entry. You may recall that I am supposed to keep a journal reflecting on ministry and my own spirituality and personal life. If I was just doing it for myself I think I wouldn’t be so candid, as I would know when I was kidding myself. Blogging it forces me to be honest, but also makes me discreet! I am writing it on the course but it will only be posted when I get home so is still a bit retrospective.

This time I am only really half here (at Ditchingham, near Bungay), because it is the first week of September and about a million things are either about to happen or are happening now at home. These include back to school for the kids (an event I deemed more important than this morning’s first session and last nights evening event, but then my personal project since May has involved trying to get more time with the family!) and also three services to do on Sunday including a double baptism, and then the Alpha supper on Monday (lets not even go there when it comes to how many people are turning up for that!)

Despite having done a return trip home last night and this morning, then, I have just about managed to convince myself that I am here and I am learning things about myself.
So far these have been

That relationships are the key to my motivation – I do things in personal and professional life that are grounded in relationship – with God (obviously) but also with others. I wish I could post the whole of my Insights /discovery profile, but you’d get very bored as it is all about me. I have not really had much time for indicators of this sort – MBTI, Belbin etc, but this one really nails it, and all the more amazingly because I filled it out very fast with very little reflection.

That I thrive on working in teams. I pretty much knew this and it is good to know I am working to a strength. The issue to address is how to improve my attitude/motivation when by necessity I am working or making decisions alone – I hate that – even things like what to buy at the supermarket.

That I resist the idea of being alone in a spiritual context. I do pray on my own and I enjoy and grow in that, but I would much rather pray and worship with others – even if only one other person such as my wife. Insights suggests I might benefit from a week's silent retreat but where I am and who I am now would utterly hate that except for the sleep and the food! I guess this kind of thing shows up in that I get as much if not more out of spending time with my peers on things like CLP or at New Wine, than I do from the actual teaching.

So far, that has been OK, although I’ve only been to 1 ½ sessions. Last time, in May there was so much to take in I was a bit swamped and didn’t really let much of it sink in. Going over it again here now is good though. I am also very relieved that I am by no means the only person who didn’t do all the homework!

Monday, 1 September 2008

Well I just got back from a lovely trip ...

It wasn't across the milky way, but we did see some stars at the Cite de L'espace in Toulouse.

We were staying near Albi in the Tarn valley. A very hot and quite isolated place. It has a Cathedral which is the world's tallest free standing brick building (no rsj's in medieval times!)

The reason its so big was the architectural part of a power struggle between the Catholic church and the Albigensian sect (aka Cathars, because of their quest for purity). As well as sending in the inquisition (we had lunch next to a well where three inquisitors were drowned after having executed some villagers for heresy) and arranging "the Albigensian crusade" i.e. a number of massacres led by that well known thug Simon de Montfort (well known at least to heavy metal fans in Leicester because there is a gig venue there called the de Montfort hall), the church wanted to impose itself upon the heretics so they built this enormous edifice and decorated it with some groovy frescoes outlining the orthodox faith (although rather nicely the one depicting souls in torment in hell has had to be removed to accommodate an altar).

The heretics have been called there first protestants because they made a big fuss about the rotten state of the clergy at the time, whose moral life left a lot to be desired. So far so good we might say (especially if we are GAFCON) but unfortunately our potential pin up prots were in fact loony heretics who seem to have developed the idea that it was a good thing to starve to death as it showed how pure you were. they were very into purity of life and theology and knowledge - a bit like the gnostics I suppose. In a spooky preview of JW's, they also had two levels of believer - the pure ones and those who lived a normal life (i.e. did not starve themselves etc) but then received the laying on of hands for the baptism of the Spirit on their deathbeds. Weird.

Nice wine though!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

I heard it through the grapevine ...

Lots of debate going on about what evangelical means, on Fulcrum and the Ugley Vicar. It is good to think about stuff we have in common (say between open evangelicals and conservative ones).

I just spent 3 days on and off trying to write a post examining the conservative approach to stuff like bishops, (male and female) ordination (ditto) and the Bible.

Trouble was I either found their arguments too painful to accept or I just plain didn't know how they got to their conclusion. If I was their maths teacher I'd write "show your working" in the margin.

So no great words of wisdom, just disappointment and frustration that my own vine is trying to cut me off

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Do you really want to hurt me?


cat - pigeons, pigeons - cat, as Tommy Cooper might have said.

lots of kerfuffle on the Ugley Vicar Blog after I tipped off Fulcrum about John's recent post about NEAC. Had to eat humble pie and edit a post on Fulcrum. Fair play I guess - should watch my mouth (or my cursor)

Still, no point in writing stuff if you don't stand by it. Better try to get to NEAC on 15 Nov now. I'm sure that most times people get upset by posts, those posts were written in anger. No one intends to hurt, do they?

Went to a good meeting today to begin our deanery tourist trail project - something good can come from Deanery Synod! (no I do really like Synod actually, no sarcasm). Was good to actually be planning something together for the benefit of 24 or more churches, and for the extension of God's kingdom in this corner of West Essex.

What do you call a herd of cows in the fog?

Udderly lost!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Tell me are you a Christian child, and I said "ma'am I am tonight!"

Watched "Make me a Christian" on channel 4 last night. It was quite good viewing but raised a number of concerns too.

It's like a cross between "the Monastery", Big Brother, supernanny and life laundry. The idea is that a motley selection of people of all ages and social backgrounds are mentored by a group of ministers (all capable of landing modelling contracts, in passing) as they attempt to live a Christian life for three weeks.

All the Biblical input was fine; the starting point was "God loves you, no matter what you've done".

The thing was, they started with a formal Eucharist at York minster - hardly the most user friendly service for unchurched or ex-church people.

The mentors were then shown visiting some of the group in their homes to get to know them. This looked fairly innocuous to start with, but then the alarms went off because there was some pretty heavy insistence on change - removal of books and other items from houses and flats, and an enforced change in behaviour (in the case of a sexually promiscuous man).

Now here's the rub; in real life, when discipling a new convert, you might want them to change certain things but (in my book) you wouldn't wade in quite so heavily, being instead a little more patient and reliant on the power of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of the church, to transform the life of the disciple.

In this show, though, the starting point is not a conversion to a living faith, but a TV camera driven decision to live by a set of rules; this is not the same thing. I don't think prayer got much of a mention last night, although Bible reading was high on the agenda.

I guess the time constraints have meant that things are hurried up, but in real life if I did that sort of thing to someone I wouldn't see them for dust! It may well be that this would be the case on the show were it not for the 15 minutes of fame that having cameras along will bring.

What worries me most is that people like the participants - say "seekers" or whatever you want to call them, will watch this show and think that all ministers behave in this way towards their flocks. Nothing could be further from the truth from my perspective.

Yet it wasn't that I disagreed with the aim - it was just the means that made me cross. In a way this is like the thing about Rowan Williams and his two opinions about gays. If he only had 3 weeks to sort it out, he might be a little more forthright in his leading, but as he is a patient, prayerful and humble leader, he is listening to other voices and allowing his theology to be shaped by the place he finds himself in. So he keeps his personal theology in the background.

By contrast in "Make me a Christian", what would be many church leaders' underlying personal beliefs and practices are dragged to the surface and put into practice jackboot style, for reasons of brevity and "to make good TV". We all wish things would move along faster, but it would be disastrous if we pushed them this hard in real life.

In our churches here our outreach and pastoral care is founded on the principle of "belong, believe, behave", i.e. get people to feel they belong, give them the opportunity to find out what they do or don't believe (giving them the chance to encounter and respond to Christ through the Holy Spirit along the way), and thereby with God's help enabling the transformation of their behaviour.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe in the power of God to transform lives overnight (hence the title of this post which by the way refers to Marc Cohn's original not the Cher cover version), I just think that "Make me a Christian" is doing it the wrong way round and seems therefore to have shut God out of the process.

According to the taster clips though, this rather extreme pastoral method bears some fruit in the next episode. We shall see.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Through the Rain like an English summer ...

The last couple of days have seen some serious downpours here - real modem-busting thunderstorms - we are over cautious when it comes to unplugging stuff, in a case of once bitten (or rather struck) twice shy.

The church roof seems to be holding up, but our neighbour's garage was flooded. So this weekend I've been walking the dogs in the gaps between showers which are always quite muggy, and because the grass is wet they (being flat-coated retrievers) get soaked.

Still, they love it.

I'm supposed to pray when I walk, and it is easy to launch off into praise in this beautiful place, but my time with God is frequently interrupted because I have to stop the oldest dog from rolling in horse muck - yuck!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Adventure Island Ahoy

Cracking day yesterday for my son's birthday, at Adventure Island in Southend.

we rocked up at 10.30 for an 11am opening expecting a queue and there was eventually one but we were at the front.

Lots of rides including the most ridiculously scary and therefore entirely addictive roller coaster called the rage. See http://http://www.adventureisland.co.uk/rides/rage.html for details, but let me say it was the scariest ride ever experienced by this author! Straight vertical takeoff followed by same distance in a drop that was (dunno proper geometric term) beyond 90- degrees so you go back under yourself and are convinced you will fall out!

Southend was looking a bit dog-eared, in spite of our enjoyment. The pier and the Adventure Island complex have obviously had some investment (2 new rides, new tower lift access for pier) but when the pier won the 2007 pier of the year the judges obviously weren't shown the eastern facade from within the adventure island park, which featured seriously worn out paintwork and rust on a grand scale.

For a Friday in August it was pretty empty too -I couldn't believe we got a parking space in the street right across from the entrance to the park, and in the evening there weren't even very many young people out and about. Not great news for the region's economy I fear.

Not great news for the Times either with 18 bishops leaping to the defence of Rowan's right to change his mind and/or have evolving theological opinions. This is good news for us though as it shows that the Church is capable of accepting a leader changing - or indeed anyone changing, and unless some people do change their minds, the debates about gays and women are just going to get nastier.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Baby don't change your mind

Papers and blogs full today of the "revelation" that Rowan Williams has two opinions about homosexuality, one private (theological) and another public (leader's).

He's certainly getting it in the neck but I think we probably knew throughout Lambeth and all that came before that he had either changed his mind or had decided to go with his perception of the right flow as leader of the church.

I still rate the bloke as a first class leader. In fact any (OK any mainstream Anglican) church leader who lets all their own theological convictions rule the way they lead a church would probably have to:-

  • sack the Sunday school teachers for teaching fundamentalist approaches to Genesis 1-11

  • sack the organist because they don't have the same approach to music in worship

  • have a radically different baptism policy to the one currently in place.

  • find a new job!

Now of course you'd have to be mad to go through those bullet points as a to do list for the week, but that's the kind of thing Rowan's critics seem to be asking of him. We all have to make compromises because (IMHO) church leadership is not a solo craft; we sail as a team and we have to take the approaches and opinions and feelings of other team members into account, even when we are the captain. That's why I say, don't knock teh bloke, pray for him - go on, right now

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

retrospective clergy leadership programme journal II

Just been to see someone who could be my new spiritual director. It was an excellent time with a lovely person who can probably be very good for me as a spiritual mentor, as well as being able to take in my inevitable splurges of unloading( a bit like a blog then, really).

Of course I have to get a spiritual director as part of CLP, so in a way although this person (no you are not going to find out who it is) is great, I am finding myself thinking "am I just ticking the box?"

So much of what I intended after clp in May still remains undone, at the bottom of a deep filled cheesy crust in tray.
I hate paperwork and my heart sinks just thinking about how far behind I am. Doing this doesn't actually advance me in that direction but it does help to clear the mind!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Back home

We're back, after an exhausting but also uplifting and refreshing week at New Wine. Great worship, enjoyable and informative seminars and profound teaching and prayer ministry. It is great to be in a church where the stuff we bring home from New Wine is welcomed!

It was also excellent to do a bit of networking with old friends and new, though the highlight has to be being recognised by the worship leader, Vicky Beeching, who hadn't seen us for about a decade.

Back to the grind now, combining school holidays with parish work is always a joy and a challenge.

Lambeth seems to have gone pretty well in the end - prayer probably has more to do with it than politics, but that's not what the papers will say

Monday, 21 July 2008


For the last three weeks its been non stop in this house. Now it is slowing down a little for the summer, which is good as we have all been at breaking point because the parish eventually just invades everything else, which makes us all a bit crabby with each other.

I am so looking forward to going to New Wine this week (although don't even think about breaking into my house if you are reading this with that intent as you will not want to mess with what's here while we are gone!)

I am getting the camper ready and planning our route, starting to think about who I might run into on the site (apart from God obviously!)

Still time to reflect a little about Lambeth etc. Seems the parable of the weeds was a pretty good choice of gospel reading for last Sunday - wonder if they fixed that on purpose or whether God really does work by his Spirit through the lectionary - I think the latter!

Probably won't be able to post from Shepton Mallett so see you next week.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Village Fun Day

I'm absolutely cream crackered, and have got to get up at dawn to walk the dogs then take the 8 o'clock, then the 9.30, but it is worth it cos we raised over £2000 for the school, in a joint venture between school PTA and the Church. Our aim as a church was to bless the community, and we were greatly aided in that by a large donation which allowed us to hire three big bouncy castles

I never want to see a gazebo again though, after having put up 7 yesterday. One blew down and several more had to be dismantled, as though the sun shone all day it was a tad breezy.

£2000 - I'm really chuffed and am also relieved to be able to stop stressing about the Fun day, which as it turned out, was in fact fun to run and fun to be at!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Women Bishops - bring it on!

I am in favour of women bishops; I am in favour of women priests and do not subscribe to Reform style "headship theology", (go here to read my take on all that) so it follows naturally that I support the consecration of women as bishops. Bishops are still priests (and deacons) - you do not surrender your letters of orders when you are consecrated (do you?)

I am not a liberal though. I have a high view of Scripture as the Word of God, don't have much time for a lot of of critical scholarship and function spiritually in a Charismatic Evangelical worldview. I'll happily admit to catholic tendencies, but not liberal, no siree!

I really hope that if nothing else, this summer's General Synod vote and Lambeth conference will be able to put to rest the idea that if you are in favour of women as priests and bishops you must also be in favour of the affirmation of homosexual physical relationships as biblically acceptable, and the ordination of active homosexuals.

There is a big difference. Being a woman is not a moral issue, but a matter of creation. No matter what you think about homosexuality, it is a question of morality - you either accept it as morally right or wrong. Someone's gender is not generally open to public discussion like that.

People who are more conservative than me and more liberal than me both say however that to support women's ordination will lead to a support for gay ordination (to be acceptable, instead of just done on the quiet.)

But I just don't think it follows. The conservatives will say, Oh well it's a slippery slope once you've let go of the authority of the Bible. I would say the liberals have let go of the authority of the Bible, even though you don't have to do that to arrive at a conclusion that women can be leaders.

The thing is, the person who invented the term "slippery slope" (Francis Schaeffer, for whom I otherwise have the greatest regard) lived up a mountain and saw things therefore from a mountain top perspective. I live in flat Essex, where things don't slip down, theologically or physically. That colours my approach, but what defines it is a marvellous book that was recommended by Bishop Graham Cray to the 2005 New Wine Leaders' Conference. It is Grove Booklet B16 "A Slippery Slope? the ordination of Women and Homosexual Practice - a case study in Biblical Interpretation" by RT France. Go here to order online.

The moment of it's recommendation sticks in my mind, as Charles Raven had just addressed the conference calling for support for Reform's campaigning against the church's (perceived) direction on these issues, treating them as a single matter. Bishop Graham stood up and said "it doesn't have to be like that". He also spoke favourably of Rowan Williams' orthodoxy. The conference were stunned, but in a good way.

I'll let you read the book (and check out Rosy Ashley's chapter in "the Call for Women Bishops") but basically the thing is that the interpretive processes that we use to come to a conclusion about women's ministry (and France leaves room for decisions either way on that) are not the same as those that are used in attempts to justify the inclusion of sexually active homosexuals in church leadership.

For me it is possible to conclude that women in leadership is a biblical thing; I can't say the same for homosexuals if they are in physical relationships, any more than I think it is alright for a straight priest to co-habit with a sexual partner if they are not married.

Why Rowan Williams should be like a dentist

I went to the dentist the other day and came away with a very sore mouth, yet I felt well looked after and at the time I seemed to have had more than satisfactory treatment, and I was happy with the plans for future treatments. Looking back the pain was as much as it would have been if someone had punched be in the mouth (or at least what I imagine that would be like as an adult, since the last time it happened to me I was 8).

The thing is, the dentist (actually that's a misnomer, it was a periodental specialist) was very kind and helpful and efficient and, well just nice to me, even as she stuck a 9mm spike down the gaps between my teeth and my gums - yes, ouch! Then she gave me some inter-dental brushes which are supposed to help the problem but actually make my gums bleed a lot. Yet I still feel that I was well looked after (even after I'd paid the bill).

So I reflected that Rowan Williams and the Anglican hierarchy need to use the same skill, of inflicting pain on people and giving them tough things to do in the future, while at the same time being able to convince them that the actions and decisions of the church are for the best, are right and will be beneficial in the long run, and making them feel part of the process and an important part at that.

Whether it is the issue of gay bishops or women bishops, there are going to be some people at the Lambeth conference who will be in pain, just as there were at General Synod last week. Decisions will apparently not be made at Lambeth but there will be lots of talking. The task of the Archbishop will be to be like these people's dentist - to acknowledge that it hurts but to be so loving and humble and well organised and presentable that those in pain (the patients I suppose we could say) still feel positively about being at Lambeth, and about being Anglican, and so will stay on board.

Bad dentists lose their patients, but Rowan Williams is not a bad Archbishop, so he needn't lose people over all this stuff. I hope that those who have apparently decided to "go private" at GAFCON might also see that the surgery they are thinking of leaving still has a place for them.

Good dentists usually have good receptionists. Perhaps the welcome team at Lambeth might be prevailed upon to ensure that Gene Robinson does let some other people get on the telly occasionally!

Of course the other parallel is that my teeth are in such a state for two reasons; one is genetic and the other is because I haven't looked after them as well as I might have done.

Where we are now in the Anglican communion, with traditionalist theology and bishops coming over from Africa and Asia and what used to be called "the colonies" surely results in part from the theology of the missionaries who went out to the colonies in the 19th century and planted churches. Some of their opinions about (for example) homosexuality arise from their own cultural and historical experience (what one might say is genetic) and some of it arises from the theology and ethics imparted by faithful missions over many decades.

But we didn't look after them very well over time, as now, back in the West liberal theology has come to the fore (not that there is no conservative theology there nor that there is no liberalism in (say) Africa), and so we are behaving like a dentist who says "Well, I told you to do that to look after your teeth then but now I have changed my mind and it doesn't matter any more, let them rot."

There used to be a dental hygiene campaign with the slogan "ignore them and they'll go away." (i.e. your teeth). It seems to me that cannot be said of any of the vocal groups making noises about the Communion, sexual morality or the historic decision of the Church of England to pave the way for Women in the episcopate.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Church Politics

There's tons of stuff in the media at the moment about the Church of England, because the Lambeth conference is about to start and there are Bishops from all over the world all over the TV news and papers.

One in particular - Gene Robinson, whom the papers are calling the world's first openly gay bishop. He hasn't been invited to Lambeth, but is going anyway and will surely take every media opportunity to rub the noses of his opponents in the mess that we are all making of the Anglican Church.

I have my own strong opinions about the ethical prerequisites for Christian leadership, which we won't get into right now. Let's just say they are founded on a high valuing of Christian marriage. Thing is, I'm in a cleft stick, since my ecclesiology tells me that the validity of a sacramental ministry is not dependant on the nature of the minister providing it (Article 26, the 39 Articles of Religion) whereas my (I guess relatively conservative)Biblical approach to morality tells me that the ECUSA (i.e. US Anglicans) should not have elected Gene, (an out, active gay man) as a bishop, given the storm they must have known it would cause. So in fact it ought to have been just his electors, not Gene himself who were dis invited to the Lambeth conference.

The worst thing about all this mess is that it is just a distraction from the task of parish ministry which I should be getting on with instead of blogging away on here.

Stuff on Women Bishops to come later.

Retrospective Leadership Programme Journal

I need to use my imagination today to write about events from the middle of May.

I went off to the Diocesan Clergy Leadership Programme in two minds as to whether it would be an enjoyable experience. It was in Ditchingham in a very pleasant retreat centre, and there were a lot of new people to meet, as well as a few familiar faces. Even after nearly two years here I still don't know that many other vicars, so in that respect alone it was going to be a worthwhile exercise, just making new connections.

The staff running the course were all very good at getting their teaching across, although for me just as there were lots of new people to meet, there was a lot of new teaching to take on board, sometimes 2 or 3 things in one day which was exhausting, but looking back, I think I have been able to let the appropriate stuff sink in, and the stuff that doesn't fit wash away.

Being a church leader has been a funny old game in many ways Not least, in the selection process, our leadership skills are observed and talked about, then we are told that we do have the potential to be selected, then we go and more interviews in which we talk about the same gifts of leadership. Then we get trained up and ordained and start being a leader (albeit a junior one as a curate). By this time in my case at least the stuff that first got me noticed had slipped into the recesses of my self - awareness. This is mostly due to a complete lack( in those days) of any approach to specific leadership training during my theological college course.

When filling out job applications (which even vicars have to do) I became a little more aware of strengths and weaknesses in my character and ministry, so I am able to approach CLP (Clergy Leadership Programme) with a view to fixing some of those things - like my strategic planning and my paperwork systems, both of which were pretty non-existent before CLP.

At this stage, some 2 months on, I wouldn't say I have been able to implement everything as per what was suggested on CLP but at the very least the intention is there. Time is the factor - there just isn't enough of it. I really enjoyed the chance to be out of the parish for a few days and be a bit more objective - thing is you then hit the ground running on your return and I haven't stopped since.

I guess my biggest issue was no one had said to me exactly what leadership actually is. Is it Management? There were certainly lots of patterns and models from industry to support that theme, but the presentations were always done from within the Christian tradition, and it was by no means a secular context - indeed I found the worship to be most refreshing and varied - a real tonic after some previous residentials in a former life!

I am supposed to be having lunch with someone else from the course, to see how things have gone since we came home. Perhaps I will post another few thoughts then.

Welcome to the Friends' Meeting House

This is my first posting.
I mean, I have put stuff on other people's blogs and forums - mostly Fulcrum.
Thing is, I like the idea of getting stuff off my chest, especially about the Church of England and the Anglican communion, but a blog like this is a little bit more discreet than something quite high profile like Fulcrum.
A few months back I started a Leadership programme for vicars in which we were encouraged to keep a journal, something that I find really difficult, so in a way this blog is the offspring of that challenge.

So anyway, I do church for a living, (if you want to see the churches I serve, go here) but I am in fact quite a normal bloke - a dad, a husband, a neighbour. I like to have the occasional beer or two in our local pub, The White Hart, which has it's own brewery. People sometimes say I find it hard to switch off work, but then since I am a professional Christian, I can't exactly stop my faith from surfacing in my conversations.

Our churches are all in small villages, but we love rural life and we enjoy the fact that (for example) in Lindsell this morning we had nearly 10% of the population of the community in church - around 15 people. It's just easier to do community in small places. When I go to London and walk down the street I look at everyone's face, with a view to smiling at them or even exchanging a greeting. Some people clearly think I am a loony, but the thing is, in a village, that is normal behaviour (even if you are not the vicar) because there is a greater degree of familiarity - people know lots of other people if not everyone in their village. that's how it's meant to be I think.

That'll do for now