Recent Blogs

‘Key limiting factors’: the end of stipendiary parish ministry - Abp Cranmer Website

‘Key limiting factors’: the end of stipendiary parish ministry - Abp Cranmer Website

perhaps there are no lay leaders waiting and yearning to be ‘released’

Priests are expensive. Church buildings are expensive. Theological formation is expensive. So the Church of England has set out its ‘Vision and Strategy‘ for cost-cutting: 10,000 new lay-led churches over the next 10 years, to make one million new disciples for Christ. Far better to bring Jesus to the local school or village hall, where the people are, and have them led by ordinary people, like most people are, than to try to sustain a model of church which is, to speak candidly, unsustainable.


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Preaching “On the Mount” - Diana Butler Bass

Preaching “On the Mount” - Diana Butler Bass

Diana Butler Bass shares how Jesus’ teaching “on the mount” placed him in the lineage of Moses and other revered Jewish prophets

Popular religious scholar and friend Diana Butler Bass shares how Jesus’ teaching “on the mount” placed him in the lineage of Moses and other revered Jewish prophets. Jesus builds on his own Jewish tradition to call his hearers to transformative living.

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Be careful what you wish for...restructuring the CofE.....by Ben Whitney

Be careful what you wish for...restructuring the CofE.....by Ben Whitney

A shift to a conservative evangelical Biblical literalism?

Not for the first time, the C of E appears to be determined to promote its own worst interests in the modern world. In addition to prevaricating on its attitudes towards those who are gay, and turning down a plan to appoint Race Equality Officers in every diocese, Synod has now voted to ‘take note’ of a Vision and Strategy document that threatens to take us back to the Middle Ages.

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A new approach to living out our faith in action

A new approach to living out our faith in action

Robert Almond, co-clerk of Quaker Peace & Social Witness Central Committee, reflects on developing a new strategy for Quaker work in the world.

We can achieve more by giving greater focus to fewer things.

Over the last month since the local elections I've been reflecting on a comment made several times by several Labour politicians, that "we need to spend less time talking to ourselves, and more time talking and working with those in the communities we seek to represent".

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To Return or Not to Return?

To Return or Not to Return?

Alongside the successful roll out of the Covid vaccination programme comes the increasing hope of the return to normal life. It has been a long and unprecedented interruption for every organisation, every business, every charity, with losses to be counted in personal, social and economic terms. For many churchgoers the hope is now of a welcome resumption of services and the many aspects of church life.

Cathedrals are gearing up to welcome visitors once more, with the demise of tourist income costing up to millions of pounds in lost revenue. There are many small and already struggling congregations which may face closure. The pandemic may well have hastened those rationalisation plans which some dioceses in the Church of England have been forced to embark upon, as the downturn of finances forces a reduction in clergy and an amalgamation of parishes.

Meanwhile during the pandemic and its effect of impoverishing many families and of accentuating loneliness and isolation, many churches have done heroic work in hosting foodbanks, organising doorstep visits and continuing to serve their communities as best they could.

The government talks of ‘building back better’, of lessons learnt through this awful time so that never again will our country be so susceptible in the face of such global threats. But what of churches? Do they need to ‘build back better? Quite understandably the emphasis has been on ‘resuming business as normal’, (the recent words of the Dean of Exeter), to seeing folk back in the pews, to coffee and chat after the service. There is a sense of wanting to reconnect with friends and with the place of the church in the community as it marks the seasons and opens its doors for quiet prayer, for pilgrimage, for those school visits and often as a concert venue.

But is it all so obvious and straightforward as this? Will the churches simply open their doors, resume services and expect that all will indeed be back to normal? Or will there be a need to ‘build back better’ and what might this mean both in the minds of clergy and congregations?

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A Necessary Negativity:  Richard Rohr

A Necessary Negativity: Richard Rohr

True spirituality, that which invites us to ever deeper levels of transformation and love, does not insist on “staying positive” all the time, but on “staying true”

True spirituality, that which invites us to ever deeper levels of transformation and love, does not insist on “staying positive” all the time, but on “staying true” to the journey. Drawing on the wisdom of both the Sufi mystical tradition in which she was raised as well as the teachings of Jung and other scholars, author and dreamwork specialist Toko-pa Turner writes about how facing our shadows will benefit us individually and collectively, even as it makes us uncomfortable:

What if [negative emotions] have something essential to communicate to us and each other, and the real problem is the misguided attitude that negative feelings make us less evolved and need fixing? In the same way that we hold others at an arm’s length when they are too different from us, we avoid the inner encounter with otherness, excluding anything that doesn’t fit the image we’ve been building of ourselves.

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Violence, Fear and Coercion in the Church of England?  Stephen Parsons

Violence, Fear and Coercion in the Church of England? Stephen Parsons

‘Nothing justifies violence or coercion. Christian relationships are to be marked by love, gentleness and respect.’

‘Nothing justifies violence or coercion. Christian relationships are to be marked by love, gentleness and respect.’ These are words uttered by the new Archbishop of Sydney in Australia, Kanishka Raffel, but they could be spoken by a Christian leader anywhere in the world. I begin this blog post with something completely unremarkable and obvious for a Christian. It is, however, quite hard to find to find these qualities in some sections of the Church. To illustrate my point, that violence stalks the Church in some places, I draw attention to some recent episodes that haunt our imaginations (or at least they do mine).

The first episode is the fear-laden culture that thirtyone-eight claimed to have found in its investigation of Jonathan Fletcher. This fear that the report drew attention to, was the generalised atmosphere that pervaded the entire constituency where Fletcher held influence. This inhibited people coming forward to say what they knew. I have it on good authority that something similar has been found in the John Smyth enquiry. Few of the witnesses have come forward with any degree of enthusiasm, even though they might have seen evil or worse still, suffered grievously at the hands of Smyth. It seems that a fear of what might happen if they came forward, was the overriding concern that still motivates their actions. This appears far stronger than any desire for truth and justice.

Continue Reading on survivingchurch.org »

The Absence of Goodness and Absence of the Sacred: Matthew Fox

The Absence of Goodness and Absence of the Sacred: Matthew Fox

We are making progress, hopefully, as we begin finally to wake up and look around us and see what destruction we have wrought.

The very first page of the Bible is a celebration of cosmology, a praise of creation as “good” and “very good.” This is so clear and straightforward and direct that it is amazing that humans—and subsequent interpretations of the Bible—so miss it.

How much of this missing of the primary meaning of the Bible lies at the roots of what humans are busy doing today to the earth—ignoring the suffering we have put her under; in denial about what is happening all around us as droughts, floods, hurricanes, rising of seas, abandoning of islands by humans who have dwelt there for thousands of years?

...Not to mention the most massive extinction spasm of creatures we have witnessed since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago?

Continue Reading on dailymeditationswithmatthewfox.org »

Synods will make the difference??

Synods will make the difference??

Over the years, we have begun to discover some differences between Jesus and the church: Jesus has credibility.

The reputation of the church, on the other hand, teeters. The papacy, the very cornerstone of the church, is a little-known history because so many of the early popes themselves were morally decrepit. The institution itself has wavered between the preservation of the faith and the amassing of power. The call of the church to protect the faith deteriorated into the Crusades rather than into universal unity. Evangelization became more a game of denominational competition than wholesale welcome of the ecumenical others.

Until finally, the renewal of the church has been swamped in regalia, clericalism and wealth. The eminence of the church has become more architectural, more institutional than ringingly, obviously, universally compassionate. At least not as the divorced Catholic saw it then. Not as the Catholic in a mixed marriage saw it. Not as the beaten women they were telling to be more obedient to their husbands saw it. And certainly not as LGBT persons seeking real love and the sacraments they need to maintain them even now.

Yet, it is also the church that saved itself over and over again. The church recoiled from nepotism — the control of the church by family dynasties. The church faced a long, long struggle to do it but managed finally to free itself from secular power in a monarchial world that had come to engulf it in simony and the selling of positions, pastorates and religious hucksterism.

Even more, the church pursued idea development well beyond the errant levels of piety gone astray or magic confused with sacramentalism. The church triumphant educated generations of the faithful who sought to lead both a spiritual life and a humanly fulfilled life. And, from age to age, the church gave the world models of sanctity that kept Jesus alive in our midst.

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More Wisdom from Howard Thurman - Matthew Fox

More Wisdom from Howard Thurman - Matthew Fox

Resurrection Logic: How Jesus; First Followers Believed God Raised Him from the Dead

Resurrection Logic: How Jesus; First Followers Believed God Raised Him from the Dead

Among the many lessons I learned from dialoging with Bruce Chilton on his seminal book, Resurrection Logic: How Jesus; First Followers Believed God Raised Him from the Dead, is respect for diversity. It is so clear that many people who experienced the risen Christ did so in very diverse ways.

Continue Reading on dailymeditationswithmatthewfox.org »

Death penalty, pandemic: celebrating the scandalous relevance of 2021's Holy Week: Fr Daniel Horan

Death penalty, pandemic: celebrating the scandalous relevance of 2021's Holy Week: Fr Daniel Horan

those with attentive eyes, ears, minds and hearts can see how the scandal of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ

Understandably, the primary focus of the celebration of the Lord's Supper is on the establishment of the Eucharist as Christ's gift of his sacramental presence to the church. But this did not happen in a vacuum, and we would do well to remember what Scripture recounts about the context of what unfolded in that upper room. "The Last Supper," drawing by Bartolomeo Schedoni, 1578-1615 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

What we inaugurate tomorrow evening with the Sign of the Cross at the opening of the Holy Thursday liturgy is not just the beginning of the Mass of the Lord's Supper, but the opening of a three-day-long celebration of Christianity's most sacred solemnity: the Easter triduum.

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Vatican Promoting the Mortal Sin of Homophobia (still) - Matthew Fox

Vatican Promoting the Mortal Sin of Homophobia (still) - Matthew Fox

An 85-year-old Irish (once Catholic) woman from the Boston area sent me this headlined article last night: "Vatican excludes gay union blessings because God ‘can’t bless sin.’"

The woman’s response? Very succinct and to the point: "Who gives a damn WHAT they say—or bless—or don’t bless?"

How many (more) gay or trans youth will commit suicide over this "religious" pronouncement?

How many more will go into deep depression?

Continue Reading on dailymeditationswithmatthewfox.org »

When conversion is abusive

When conversion is abusive

We all want others to change — but at what cost? BY GILES FRASER

Some sermons fall to their death on the church floor. Others stay on in the memory for a long time afterwards. This one, from decades ago, remains with me, as emotionally vivid as the day it was preached. The priest was gay, but had long struggled to reconcile his sexual desire with the church’s historic teaching on homosexuality. So, as a young man, he sought out conversion therapy in the form of electrical aversion therapy. And understandably frightened at the prospect of being held down and given electric shocks he would down several G&Ts prior to treatment. “I’m still gay,” he explained “but I now hate the taste of gin”.

The practice of conversion therapy was overwhelmingly renounced by The Church of England in the summer of 2017. Leading the debate in the General Synod, Jayne Ozanne, described the breakdowns she had suffered as a result of it, of the periods she would spend in hospital. Conversion therapy, she said, is “abuse from which vulnerable adults need protecting”. The Church agreed.

Four years on and the Government says it is going to bring forward plans to ban conversion therapy “shortly” — though last week three members of the Government’s LGBT+ advisors panel resigned because it wasn’t happening soon enough. But notwithstanding this slowness, and despite objections from the Evangelical Alliance, a ban is coming. And a good thing too. Conversion therapy combines quack science with homophobic bullying — and the sooner it goes, the better.

Continue Reading on unherd.com »

Episcopal oversight is crucial in Church of England

Episcopal oversight is crucial in Church of England

It is dangerous to hand power, instead, to deaneries, argues Thomas Carpenter in the Church Times

A. J. P. TAYLOR began his English History 1914-1945 with the assertion that “Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman.”

Until recently, a sensible, law-abiding parish priest could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the deanery. In some dioceses, however, no longer do we say “Where the bishop is, there is the Church,” but “Where the Deanery Mission and Pastoral Committee meets, there is our resourcing ministry strategy for the next five years.”

In some dioceses, it is no longer the bishop, but the deanery, that decides whether a parish may have a priest, or how much it must pay for one. Having received these new powers from above, in such dioceses the deanery is now seeking to wrestle more from below. Previously, meetings of the deanery chapter were attended by clergy voluntarily for prayer and study; now, priests are compelled to go. Once, a parish’s evangelism of its people was a matter for the vicar and the church council; now, it must conform to a Deanery Mission Plan. In Wigan, the zenith has been reached: there are no parishes any longer, only the deanery.

In the diocese of Manchester, there will soon be seven full-time area deans, appointed by the Bishop to “share in the Bishop’s leadership of mission and pastoral care”, with the authority to appraise the work of parish priests in their deanery (News, 29 May 2020). No longer will incumbents in Manchester be accountable directly to the bishop who has shared with them the cure of souls, or able to regard themselves as the local representation of the bishop’s leadership.

Continue Reading on churchtimes.co.uk »

The Church of England's bureaucracy is out of control. Emma Thompson28 February 2021

The Church of England's bureaucracy is out of control. Emma Thompson28 February 2021

The General Synod (the Church of England’s elected governing body) met by Zoom webinar on Saturday. The meeting was on YouTube, open to public viewing. The Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell, presented an update on his ‘Vision and Strategy, outlining a ‘mixed ecology’ Church in which every member matters and resources should go to the first line of the ministry, with only necessary costs on central and diocesan structure and services.

Yet Chelmsford Diocese (the district where Stephen Cottrell was previously Bishop) has already announced a morale-sapping plan to reduce its parish vicars by an eyewatering 61 this year, potentially more – while continuing to recruit for new diocesan managerial posts.

Although the Church is not a profit-making business, it is critical that it be financially viable. However, its approach to expenditure is incoherent. Since it is overwhelmingly financed by its parishes, reducing parish vicars (who are central to attracting financial support) sits oddly with recruiting more diocesan staff and new ordinands, spending £270 million in a 10-year programme of ‘Strategic Development Funding’ for new initiatives such as church plants, and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s suggestion that dioceses could sell Church-owned land at an undervalue for affordable housing.


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Be   Pro Palestinian, Pro Israeli, Pro Human, Pro Peace

Be Pro Palestinian, Pro Israeli, Pro Human, Pro Peace

This was the strong message from the webinar hosted by the Friends of the Bereaved families forum www.familiesforum.co.uk last week

This was the strong message from the webinar hosted by the Friends of the Bereaved families forum www.familiesforum.co.uk last week and to which there is now a link on our Website. The webinar was chaired by Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg who introduced Arab Aramin, a Palestinian, and Yigal Elhanan an Israeli Jew who each lost a sister because of the conflict. They are both members of the Parents circle-family forum that brings together bereaved family members from Palestinian and Israeli communities to share their stories and work together for Justice and Peace and prevent further death from vengeance and retaliation. They jointly are active in sharing this message and running educational events bringing together young people from both sides to overcome the segregation built into the society which leaves people fearful and ignorant of each others’ lives. They say they are part of a ‘club’ that no one wants to join. I feel everyone concerned about the region should hear their story as they speak with authority into the situation.

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