The Bible as a wordsearch puzzle book

Wordsearch gridThe debate continues. In my recent post about same-sex relationships I accused Susie Leafe, Director of Reform, of making five errors about the Bible. In the comments at the bottom of the clatworthy edition (it isn’t in the Modern Church one) is a defence of Susie by Philip Almond and an invitation to continued dialogue.

I’m torn. Part of me feels angry that anyone should use such complicated systems to make the Bible mean what they want it to mean. The other part welcomes dialogue as our best hope of the two sides making progress. So I offer a general overview of the two most common ways to interpret the Bible, leaving to the end – as a kind of appendix – my detailed replies to Philip.

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What was that about the Bible?

radio studioThe BBC’s Today programme this morning interviewed Simon Sarmiento and Susie Leafe on the Church of England House of Bishops’ recent report on same-sex partnerships. If you want to listen to it it’s here , 1:21:45 in.

Simon was very polite about the bishops, much more than I would have been, but this post is about Susie’s contribution. Susie is the Director of Reform. I apologise in advance for the bitchy nature of my critique, but I strongly believe people who misrepresent the Bible while claiming to be its most fervent supporters should not be allowed to get away with it.

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You will be free to do what we tell you

Justin Welby, Archbishop of CanterburyThe Church of England’s General Synod is due to meet on 15th February, and some bizarre preparations are being made.

This post is about a long document, Setting God’s People Free , written by the Archbishops’ Council. On behalf of Modern Church I have written a response, much shorter but still over 4000 words, Setting God’s People Free to Do What They are Told. (Currently there’s a problem with the link. Click here and then click the link at the bottom of that page.)

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Here we go again

Bishop‘My primary feeling on reading the document was “here we go again”‘, Miranda Threlfall-Holmes remarks on her excellent response to the latest report from the Church of England’s House of Bishops on the apparently never-ending issue of same-sex relationships.

The Report is called Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations . I hope Miranda’s arguments carry some weight in the forthcoming General Synod meeting.

I’m not going to repeat what she says. This post focuses on why the Church of England’s leadership time after time comes out with statements like this, making no real changes while knowing perfectly well that the pantomime will have to end one day.

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Why does it matter about God?

Morning Prayers by Jef Leempoels, via Wikimedia Commons

Morning Prayers by Jef Leempoels, via Wikimedia Commons

This post is about God. Not about whether God exists, or what God is like, but why it matters – if at all.

Most church leaders these days agonise over the declining numbers who attend church services, so it might be worth asking: why should anyone attend them? What’s the point? What difference does it make?

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Are some people more trouble than they are worth?

HandcuffsSome of us cost a lot. The online journal article Childhood forecasting of a small segment of the population with large economic burden describes a recent study with results worth pondering. I spotted it through a summary in the Church Times , though this is behind a paywall.

Called the Dunedin Longitudinal Study, it plotted the lives of some children born in one hospital in 1972-73. Now that they have grown up, it turns out that 22% of them are responsible for 81% of their criminal convictions, 78% of their prescriptions for drugs, 77% of their fatherless children, 66% of their welfare claims, 57% of their hospital nights, 54% of the cigarettes smoked, 40% of their excess kilogrammes and 36% of their insurance claims.

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If you were an angel would you sing to a bunch of shepherds?

If anybody is to have a sneak preview of the saviour of the world, who should get it? According to Matthew, the preview was given to wise men from the East. According to Luke, it was given to a bunch of shepherds in fields just outside Bethlehem. Why choose them?

I take it that nobody saw it all happen and told Luke. Luke tells us he tried to get his facts right, but he still began by doing what biographers did in his day: using a story to illustrate the character of the person he was describing. The story is designed to explain who Jesus was and why he mattered. When he brings shepherds into the story he’s not just reporting what somebody told him; he’s making a point about Jesus. This post describes the point he’s making.

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Liberal theology and the Trinity

We at Modern Church sometimes get asked what our line is on a particular religious topic. Recently we have been asked about the Trinity.

We usually avoid having a line on specific religious doctrines. The whole point of liberal theology (at least, our version of it) is that we encourage people to think for themselves, and not accept a religious doctrine just because someone in authority tells us to.

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Genetic editing: what the debate tells us about ourselves

Robin Gill

Robin Gill

Robin Gill’s article in last Friday’s Church Times summarises the ethical debate about genetic editing. This post looks at the presuppositions behind the different positions.

Genetic editing is a new technique for altering DNA sequences in plants, animals and humans: Continue reading

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Zacchaeus and the sex worker

zacchaeus140This is about shame and reconciliation. It is an edited version of a sermon I gave last Sunday.

It draws on two stories. The main one is the biblical story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). By way of a modern comparison I describe a conversation I had with a sex worker.

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