Recent Blogs

“Why Was Jesus Tortured to Death?” Or, Death to Our Toxic Ideas of Why Jesus Lived and Died

“Why Was Jesus Tortured to Death?” Or, Death to Our Toxic Ideas of Why Jesus Lived and Died

Have you ever wondered what Jesus did to deserve being tortured and crucified to death? How could someone so good be treated so inhumanely? Some answer this in purely theological terms, but do you not wonder the real reasons why people so despised him that they did this to him? Too often we haven’t thought about this latter question, and it actually gives insight to the theological answer as well.

Jesus died, if we look closely at the gospel accounts, because he was perceived as a threat to the value system of the Roman Empire and the Jewish religious hierarchy of his day. They considered him to be an insurrectionist, one who wanted to overthrow the system as it was, and had always been from one domination culture to the next.

And honestly, they were right about him. This is what the gospel writers seem to agree was his mission in life: to overturn all the earthly rulers and powers of this world, and to create an egalitarian world that lived in accordance with the values of God. Jesus believed that living by God’s values, not Caesar’s, would transform the entire world.

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Stolen lives - Telling the stories that need to be told

Stolen lives - Telling the stories that need to be told

Four talks presented by Root and Branch and the Scottish Laity Network

We are deeply grateful to MACSAS (Ministry and Clerical Sexual Abuse Survivors) and Catholic Survivors for supporting us and guiding our planning. It is immensely humbling that survivors of abuse have put their trust in Root and Branch and Scottish Laity Network.

“Our Church is a place of serious crimes, of frightening attacks on the lives and integrity of children and adults. We must recognize and confess it: we have allowed an ecclesial system to develop which—far from bearing life and opening up to spiritual liberty - damages, crushes, tramples on human beings and their most basic rights.”

Archbishop De Moulins-Beaufort’s second response to the Sauvé report, (The Independent

Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (CIASE) 2021.

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MARTYN PERCY - TURBULENT PRIEST

MARTYN PERCY - TURBULENT PRIEST

THE REVD JONATHAN AITKEN SERMON, 6TH MARCH 2022

Read by Very Revd Canon Dr Robin Gibbons on Sunday 6 March 2022

at Pusey House, St Giles, Oxford OX1 3LZ for Lent 1

The first Sunday in Lent is a solemn occasion in the Church Calendar. One of its traditions is the singing or reading of a Penitential Psalm. That’s why we our reading today is one of the greatest Penitential Psalms, Psalm 130, often known as the De Profundis or “Out of the Depths” Psalm. Looking across the world from the War in Ukraine to academic and clerical scandals here in Oxford there does seem to be rather a lot to be gloomy about. But before we sink into too much despondency at the start of lugubrious Lent let me try to lighten our darkness with a humorous story, which perhaps illustrates the hope and the scope of Psalm 130.

This story dates back to a time when I was in the depths, coming to the end of serving an 18-month prison sentence for perjury. Unexpectedly my prison chaplain said to me: “As it’s your last Sunday in here, would you like to give the sermon at our evening service?” Unaccustomed though I had become to public speaking, the old trooper in me made me reply:

“All right, I’ll give it a go – but what should I preach about?”

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Holding the Tension of Opposites

Holding the Tension of Opposites

An Alternative Orthodoxy helps us discern which stories to include and which to transcend.

What happens when the stories of our early lives no longer resonate with what we’re experiencing now? The death of a someone close, condemnation from a once-loving church, an uphill battle for peace and justice — when dogma no longer feels right, when belief no longer aligns with life, it’s time to seek new understanding. The path through this kind of disorder is one Fr. Richard Rohr often calls holding the tension of opposites.

When Debbie Burkholder felt her theology crumble, she felt the call to transcend. But it was not easy. She also experienced anger, disappointment, shame, and loneliness.

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The Church’s war on the clergy

The Church’s war on the clergy

Bishops have been captured by management - BY GILES FRASER, 10th Feb 2022

No one in their right mind should want to be a bishop. It’s a terrible, terrible job. You spend half of your life in pointless meetings reading screeds of minutes covered in ghastly acronyms, and the other half going round the Diocese doing confirmations and ordinations, again and again on some kind of continual liturgical merry-go-round. While vicars have a base, and they can get to know their people over time, Bishops see new people every day, and their relationships can often be little more than meet and greet.

Spiritually it is extremely bad for you; people are either too nice or too horrible. Expectations are unrealistic: you are a fantasy of projection and a lightning-rod for disappointment. And every day having to put up with jokes about actresses and only being able to move diagonally… The golden rule is: if you really want to be a bishop, you almost certainly shouldn’t be one.

Things are about to get a whole lot worse. Bishops are the latest part of the church now slated for reinvention — part of the twaddle-riven Welby-era revolution that is totally transforming church structures.

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Truro plan for 30 second theology….

Truro plan for 30 second theology….

I was recently sent a plan in embryo for the reorganisation of a deanery in Truro diocese. As I read, gape mouthed, at the plan to close 50% of the churches, radically reduce clergy, and remove swathes of parochial church councils one item staggered me even more. It was then I became further depressed as one further aim was outlined – members of the congregations would be changed from volunteers to disciples and taught how to answer the question “why are you a Christian” in 30 seconds!

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Can We Be "Friends" with God? - Diana Butler Bass

Can We Be "Friends" with God? - Diana Butler Bass

Author and scholar Diana Butler Bass describes friendship with Jesus as something that—contrary to some popular opinion—is the mark of a mature faith. Friendship with God is at the heart of the biblical story:

The Bible tells a different story about friendship with God, especially in the Hebrew scriptures. Friendship is anything but immaturity; it is a gift of wisdom: “In every generation [wisdom] passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets” (Wisdom of Solomon 7:27). Two of Israel’s greatest heroes, Abraham, the father of faith, and Moses, the liberating prophet, are specifically called friends of God. In Isaiah 41:8, God refers to Abraham as “my friend,” a tradition that carries into the New Testament (James 2:23). Of Moses, Exodus says: “The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (33:11), a very rare intimacy, for such close proximity to the divine usually meant death (33:20). . . .

The point is that friendship with God establishes the covenant—and that Israel is freed from bondage into a new family forged by friendship through the law given by Moses. Friendship with God is not a biblical side story; rather, it is central to the promises and faithfulness of being a called people, in which all are friends, companions, intimates, siblings, and beloved.

Early Christians, most of whom were Jews, knew all of this and extended the idea of divine friendship to Jesus. The New Testament vividly recounts the closeness of Jesus’s circle of friends, women and men transformed through their relationship with him. . . .

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A Revelation of Heaven on Earth

A Revelation of Heaven on Earth

We return today to CAC teacher Brian McLaren, who illustrates how one of the Bible’s most challenging books—Revelation—can be a source of wisdom and hope for us today:
There’s a beautiful visionary scene at the end of the Book of Revelation that is as relevant today as it was in the first century. It doesn’t picture us being evacuated from Earth to heaven as many assume. It pictures a New Jerusalem descending from heaven to Earth [see Revelation, chapter 21]. This new city doesn’t need a temple because God’s presence is felt everywhere. It doesn’t need sun or moon because the light of Christ illuminates it from within. Its gates are never shut, and it welcomes people from around the world to receive the treasures it offers and bring the treasures they can offer. From the center of the city, from God’s own throne, a river flows—a river of life or aliveness. Along its banks grows the Tree of Life. All of this, of course, evokes the original creation story and echoes God’s own words in Revelation: “Behold! I’m making all things new!”

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Will anyone ever be held to account over John Smyth?

Will anyone ever be held to account over John Smyth?

December 16, 2021Stephen's Blog: Stephen Parsons

Words of Archbishop Justin after meeting Smyth survivors May 2021


It is almost exactly ten years since I first disclosed the abuse by John Smyth QC in the 1970s and 1980s. It is also coming up to five years since the Channel 4 programmes that first brought this to the public’s attention. A Review was announced by the Lead Bishop for Safeguarding on 13 August 2018, the day after John Smyth died. It is now 28 months after that Lessons Learned Review was announced as starting.

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Evangelical Alliance: “Loving & Orthodox” or “Damaging & Dangerous”?

Evangelical Alliance: “Loving & Orthodox” or “Damaging & Dangerous”?

by Jayne Ozanne, Editor Director of ViaMedia.News, Member of General Synod and Chair of the Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition

Last week the campaign to ban conversion therapy was given a significant boost by a letter to the Secretary of State from hundreds of Christian leaders stating clearly that they believed their “Christian duty” was to continue to conduct harmful conversion practices.

It was just the proof needed to show a sceptical public that the modern-day threat of conversion practices is real and that, even more worryingly, there is absolutely no recognition or remorse for the harm that they have caused countless LGBT+ people.

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Eagle Poem by Joy Harjo

Eagle Poem by Joy Harjo

To pray you open your whole self

To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon

To one whole voice that is you.

And know there is more

That you can’t see, can’t hear;

Can’t know except in moments

Steadily growing, and in languages

That aren’t always sound but other

Circles of motion.

Like eagle that Sunday morning

Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky

In wind, swept our hearts clean

With sacred wings.

We see you, see ourselves and know

That we must take the utmost care

And kindness in all things.

Breathe in, knowing we are made of

All this, and breathe, knowing

We are truly blessed because we

Were born, and die soon within a

True circle of motion,

Like eagle rounding out the morning

Inside us.

We pray that it will be done

In beauty.

In beauty.

Bonhoeffer on Stupidity

Bonhoeffer on Stupidity

Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice

Taken from a circular letter, addressing many topics, written to three friends and co-workers in the conspiracy against Hitler, on the tenth anniversary of Hitler’s accession to the chancellorship of Germany…

‘Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed- in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.

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The Leicester Challenge to the Parish System? Stephen Parsons

The Leicester Challenge to the Parish System? Stephen Parsons

Those of us who were ordained some years ago will sometimes express puzzlement at the terminology used to describe the work of the parish church today.

Those of us who were ordained some years ago will sometimes express puzzlement at the terminology used to describe the work of the parish church today. We may have a special problem with the word ‘mission’ as it is sprinkled throughout many church documents. I expressed bafflement at the use of the word by the diocese of Winchester. The diocesan slogan, ‘Living the Mission of Jesus’ has no obvious meaning, even though we could hazard a guess at what the author had in mind. I wonder what the next Bishop of Winchester will do with this catchphrase and whether it will be quietly shelved along with other initiatives designed to make the diocese more mission aware. For clergy of my vintage, mission in a parish was what we were trying to do all the time. The work of prayer and worship, good pastoral care, learning and spiritual growth gave to each congregation a spiritual dynamic which, we hoped, would overflow into the wider community. People did not necessarily come to the church, but the faithful living out of the reality of God by those who did, could act like yeast working on the dough. There was mission and growth, though such growth was seldom spectacular. The Church, in short, was an institution which, in many places, dovetailed into the wider society. This was in spite of the fact that only a small minority supported it by their presence and their financial giving. As William Temple put it, the Church is the only organisation set up for the benefit of those who are not its members.

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Bleeding for Jesus by Andrew Graystone. First Reactions: Stephen Parsons

Bleeding for Jesus by Andrew Graystone. First Reactions: Stephen Parsons

The book, Bleeding for Jesus, John Smyth and the cult of Iwerne camps (BFJ), which I received on Friday, has nothing resembling a good or tidy conclusion.

The book, Bleeding for Jesus, John Smyth and the cult of Iwerne camps (BFJ), which I received on Friday, has nothing resembling a good or tidy conclusion. There are indeed some good people scattered here and there in the narrative and these help to mitigate what is an appalling tale of cruelty, moral failure and indifference which fill the pages. The book by Andrew Graystone is one that shocks and depresses one at the same time. The only hero in the story is perhaps the author himself. Some in the story deserve our respect as innocent victims but only a small few deserve any admiration for their actions and Christian behaviour. Graystone’s narrative, in its clear simplicity, helps us to make sense of what is, much of the time, a total horror story. BFJ represents an extraordinary piece of research. The detail in it is mind blowing and, as far as one can tell, completely accurate. If there are errors, as some have already claimed, they do not detract from the main thrust of the book and its meticulous attention to detail. Graystone has evidently spoken to hundreds of people and mastered thousands of pages of documents. The work he has done is part of a wider but necessary movement to bring light into murky areas of Church safeguarding failures from the past.

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