Recent Blogs

The love affair with the parish — has it ended?

The love affair with the parish — has it ended?

In the second part of her study, Madeleine Davies looks at the forces for its retention and abandonment

In May 2021, the bishops of the diocese of Blackburn issued a letter setting out the way ahead. “We will never ‘manage’ or ‘decline’ our way out of a crisis,” they wrote. “Only faith can do that. As a diocese we remain committed to parish life, to maintaining our current numbers of stipendiary clergy, to forming excellent priests and lay leaders and to investing in the front line. We need more vocations to the priesthood and more lay leaders. And we need you!”

Continue Reading on churchtimes.co.uk »

‘Focal’. ‘Oversight’. The C of E of the future

‘Focal’. ‘Oversight’. The C of E of the future

In the Church Times on the 10th September Madeleine Davies began a two-part examination of the Church’s future.

IN 2019, Anglican worshippers in the diocese of Sheffield were informed of the existence of a “four-headed beast”. They were not alone in facing this creature, they were told: it existed in every other diocese, especially in the north and more urban areas.

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Participatory Morality: Richard Rohr

Participatory Morality: Richard Rohr

the vast majority of Christians made Christianity into a set of morals and rituals instead of an all-embracing mysticism of the present moment. Moralism—as opposed to healthy morality—is the reliance on largely arbitrary purity codes,

Jesus’ message of “full and final participation” was periodically enjoyed and taught by many unknown saints and mystics. It must be admitted, though, that the vast majority of Christians made Christianity into a set of morals and rituals instead of an all-embracing mysticism of the present moment. Moralism—as opposed to healthy morality—is the reliance on largely arbitrary purity codes, needed rituals, and dutiful “requirements” that are framed as prerequisites for enlightenment. Every group and individual usually begins this way. I guess it is understandable. People look for something visible, seemingly demanding, and socially affirming to do or not dorather than undergo a radical transformation to the mind and heart of God. It is no wonder that Jesus so strongly warns against public prayer, public acts of generosity, and visible fasting in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:1–18). Yet that is what we still do!

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Tiny dioceses and bishopped subdeans / Diocèses minuscules et évêques-doyens. Georges francophone, pastoralia, theologia 2021-02-22

Tiny dioceses and bishopped subdeans / Diocèses minuscules et évêques-doyens. Georges francophone, pastoralia, theologia 2021-02-22

A couple of years ago, as I was studying in order to obtain my master’s degree in ecumenism, I was writing one of my essays about the steps the different Churches should take in order to achieve a worldwide full-communion agreement. One of my six key points was the episcopate. I was squeezing my brain to find a solution that would be acceptable to both episcopal and non-episcopal denominations. The solution I proposed seemed to work in the ecumenical context, and I dare put it again on the table, in the context of the financial crisis that the Churches are going through.

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My Truth

My Truth

Sunday, I attend a service at my local Anglican cathedral. The light, the music, the echoes, the history, the footsteps from so many generations – this all fills me with awe and wonder. The presence of the holy, the eternal breath, the heartbeat of the universe fills the magnificent space.

But the words, they make me tremble. I remain silent during much of the responsive reading, especially during ‘The Creed’. I wonder if those gathered think about the words and claim them as their ‘truth.’ I do not, yet my faith is strong and palpable here and now.

What do I believe? As I hear the cathedral congregation utter the Nicene Creed, I consider what I agree with and what I don’t agree with, what I believe and what I don’t believe.

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The Great Leap Forward (Part Two)

The Great Leap Forward (Part Two)

The Church of England’s Growth Fetish

The premise of the Church Growth Movement was simple: any enlargement is unquestionably good. Correspondingly, all available resources and thinking are placed at the disposal of such reification, in the wider cause of mission and ministry. Any conversation about proportionality (or obesity) cannot compute. Size matters; biggest is best; increase is indisputably the purpose of the church.

The missiology and ecclesiology of the Church Growth Movement are typically shaped by a cocktail of rational-pragmatic thinking. In the McDonaldisation of the church, this is the “go large” constituency. Thus, any kind of science, engineering, management consultancy, marketing, selling, marketing, group dynamics, communications – to name but a few – have an inordinate influence over the theological and spiritual character of the evangelistic programmes and any resources for multiplication. C. Peter Wagner expressed the growth-size worldview-horizon so typical of the time with remarkable clarity:

Continue Reading on modernchurch.org.uk »

The Great Leap Forward (Part One)

The Great Leap Forward (Part One)

The New Politics of Ecclesionomics for the Church of England

Your Church Can Grow! Nine outstanding alumni pastors join Dr Robert Schuller for a power-packed Institute for Successful Church Leadership… You will learn…how they made their churches grow, what makes success, how obstacles are overcome, ministry principles that work, and how to build a great church… (Advertisement for Church Growth Conference: Christianity Today Magazine, July 1987, p. 62).

I had to pinch myself the other day, when reading the Church Times. This doesn’t happen often – the pinching I mean. But pinch I did, as I read of plans for 10,000 new lay-led churches by 2030. Moreover, ones that did not costly need buildings, or costly well-trained and theologically-literate clergy. As these new lay-led churches will all be headed by the ‘right kinds’ of Christians, there should be no fear of heterodoxy being modelled, or heresy being taught and preached. Orthodox Christianity – the gospel – has presumably never needed egghead theologians or church fathers to guard the truth or correct error. There are many self-appointed purveyors of truth leading churches in London right now who can keep us all on the straight and narrow. These are the ‘right kind’ of Christians, so we can all relax.

Continue Reading on modernchurch.org.uk »

‘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.

Be careful what you wish for...restructuring the CofE.

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".

Continue Reading on quaker.org.uk »

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.

Continue Reading on ncronline.org »

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 »

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