Church reform and its hierarchy

Women sharing a Eucharist‘Reform and renewal’ is the term used for the Church of England ‘s wide-ranging programmes of change. This post is about its proposal to rapidly increase the number of lay ministers : the unpaid to 17,500 (a 48% increase) and the paid to 2,000 (a 69% increase).

Reform and Renewal is a top-down initiative from the archbishops, so lay people may want a say. Laura Sykes has on her own initiative set up the Lay Anglican Public Colloquium to develop ideas on the best ways forward.

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The fear of Hell

The Mouth of Hell. From the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, 14th century

The Mouth of Hell. From the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, 14th century

The door of the room has never been opened before since first she set her foot on that red-hot floor. Now she sees the door opening. She rushes forward… “Look,” she says, “at my burnt and bleeding feet. Let me go off this floor for one moment, only for one single short moment. Oh, that in this endless eternity of years I might forget the pain only for one single moment…” Oh, that you could hear the horrible, the fearful scream of that girl when she saw the door shutting never to be opened any more. The history of this girl is short. Her feet first led her into sin, so it is her feet which most of all are tormented.

This and similar stories appear in a series of fourteen books by Joseph Furniss, written for children in the 1860s. The most popular, The Sight of Hell, sold millions: that is to say, millions of parents bought them for their children to read. They wanted their children to believe a fate like this was a real prospect, and reflect on it.

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Almighty God, shift your arse off that sofa

Detail from Filippino Lippi’s St Paul Visiting St Peter in Prison, via Wikimedia Commons. Caption: 'If in a sense we're all sinners, why aren't you here in prison with me?'

‘If in a sense we’re all sinners, why aren’t you here in prison with me?’

What the new Church of England booklet Talking Jesus actually says is that a group of Christian leaders, meeting in March, shared a ‘collective longing for God to move in this nation’. For those who do not speak fluent Evangelicalese this sounds like telling God to ‘shift your arse off that sofa and get with the program’. There are no further instructions to God, but what runs right through the booklet is an elitist distinction between those who know what needs to be done and those who need to be done to.

Talking Jesus is sponsored by the Church of England, the Evangelical Alliance and an organisation called Hope that arranged a social survey. Here I summarise the booklet, suggest a background explanation and offer alternative ways to talk about Jesus.

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Tax credit cuts and poverty ethics

House of LordsNow that the UK House of Lords has voted against the Government’s proposal to cut tax credits, questions arise. This post focuses on poverty ethics.

Tax credits for people in low-paid jobs were a foolish idea in the first place. The Government argues that cutting them will make the economy more successful. Opponents argue that without adequate compensation the people concerned, already impoverished, will be driven into even deeper poverty. Even if the cuts will contribute to a more successful economy, people need an adequate income now. They cannot postpone their eating for a few years while waiting for the economy to grow.

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Good disagreement

BibleIn the continuing debate over gay marriage the Church Times has published an article by Andrew Atherstone and Andrew Goddard, ‘If we can’t make up, can we still kiss?’

This is a response. Their conservative evangelical approach is the cause of the problem, not the solution.

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Camels, needles, and the snares of wealth

camel with needleIt is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

So said Jesus, according to Mark. This is an edited version of a sermon for 11th October when this saying of Jesus will be read in churches.

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Substitute Christianity

distorted cathedral wallWhat makes churches fail? So asks Andrew Brown in an article on the continuing threats of schism over same-sex marriage. This time it is the Church of Nigeria which is winding us up, though to be fair its concern about climate change comes before same-sex marriage, which is more than can be said of most British churches.

In this article I argue that opposition to same-sex partnerships functions as a substitute Christian content, occupying a space which would otherwise have been embarrassingly empty.

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What if Hitler had been killed?

Hitler as a baby, via Wikimedia Commons

Hitler as a baby, via Wikimedia Commons

Would you have killed Hitler, if you had had the chance? The conspirators who tried, but failed, in 1944 had hoped to save incomparably more lives; but the conspiracy failed and Hitler’s reprisals killed thousands, many of them nothing to do with the conspiracy.

Daniel Hill gave a fascinating lecture on this topic on Thursday evening. The conspirators thought they were doing the morally right thing, though one of the audience pointed out some of them also thought they would have made a better job of winning the war for the Germans, as Hitler wasn’t a good strategist. If they had succeeded, we just do not know what the result would have been.

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The Anglican Communion’s Bedrooms

bedNot so much a divorce, more ‘moving into separate bedrooms’ was how Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, described the latest proposals for the international Anglican Communion, suggesting that the different provinces could be in communion with Canterbury but not necessarily with each other.

Once again Canterbury has invited all the primates from around the world to a meeting, and once again hardliners have replied, as they did to his predecessor Rowan Williams, that they would not attend if the Americans were there. Thinking Anglicans lists many public responses. Personally I’m thinking not so much divorce, more school playground.

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Domesticating God

Marduk, god of Babylon

Marduk, god of Babylon

How much do we know about God? How much should we expect to know?

This post is about the tension between admitting what we don’t know, and affirming whatever is important to us. At one extreme we cannot know anything about God. At the other extreme, God gets reduced to what our minds can conceive of.

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