Recent Blogs

Richard Holloway, 'Stories We Tell Ourselves', Canongate Books, (2020) - a review by Ben Whitney

Richard Holloway, 'Stories We Tell Ourselves', Canongate Books, (2020) - a review by Ben Whitney

in many churches it is considered too risky to encourage people to think about what they believe

‘Christianity’ is clearly a spectrum, and we might always be better to speak of ‘Christianities’. On a scale from literalist/evangelical to radical/humanist, the former Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church is just slightly more orthodox than I am, but not much! He is ‘a Christian without God’, as he says at the end of this thrilling book. But he has not yet ‘returned the ticket’. Mine is sitting on the mantelpiece and might yet end up in the fire! Apart from his earliest work, which he now recants, anything by Holloway is always well worth a read and I still return to ‘Doubts and Loves’ (2001) on a regular basis. It’s a brilliant exploration of how to hold onto some kind of faith when so much makes me want to abandon it entirely.

His ‘mission’ is to make the Jesus story believable in the modern world. It is an urgent task, far more important than fancy flow diagrams and lists of allegedly innovative strategies. Dare I say, even more important than the endless sexuality debate. It’s the message, not the medium, which needs to be addressed.

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Living in Love and Faith, a reflection by Adrian Thatcher

Living in Love and Faith, a reflection by Adrian Thatcher

The final text tries hard to maintain a balance when discussing the many difficult questions.

LLF is framed in such a way as to offer the possibility of, and hope for, greater agreement between the sharply divided factions within the Church of England, based on the six Pastoral Principles for Living Well Together (4-5). The prior question is whether the framework provided in and by the book can do this. Unfortunately, I don’t think it can, for at least three broad reasons.

Read full article here:

Living in Love and Faith review Adrian Thatcher

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How Quakers are championing democracy

How Quakers are championing democracy

Recent government initiatives are making it more difficult for campaigning voices from faith and other groups to be heard.

Recent government initiatives are making it more difficult for campaigning voices from faith and other groups to be heard. Grace Da Costa explores the impact of this chilling effect on civil society, and shares what Quakers are doing to counteract it.

Quakers are known for their witness: living out their faith through action. Sometimes this action takes the form of campaigning and protesting. Our freedom to do these things is being threatened, but Quakers in Britain and other concerned groups are working together to do something about it.

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We don’t need more spreadsheet vicars - by Giles Fraser writing in UnHerd

We don’t need more spreadsheet vicars - by Giles Fraser writing in UnHerd

If the Church of England is going to die, I wish it would prepare to do so with a bit more Christian dignity

“It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with the management alone.”

With these words from Frederick Winslow Taylor, the so-called science of management consultancy came into being. And an era of misery began for those on the receiving end. In time, the language softened, the management gurus discovered technology and a smarter bedside manner, but the principles remained roughly the same.

Perhaps it is my inner Marxist struggling to get out – Gramsci said Taylorism inevitably gave rise to thoughts of revolution – but I was reminded of Taylor’s guiding principles as I looked through the recent directive from head office, outlining the new thinking on the organisational structures of the Church of England. The report is a series of impenetrable soul-sapping flow charts and space-ship style infographics that make those graphic medieval explanations of the trinity look like child’s play. It’s a powerpoint friendly “Vision of the Church of England in the 2020’s”. It seems the bishops have had the management consultants in. And the result is thoroughly depressing.

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Walking for Worship- A Quaker Reflects

Walking for Worship- A Quaker Reflects

When we first went into Lockdown back in March -it seems like years ago now- I started walking the lanes between 10:30 and 11:30 on a Sunday.

When we first went into Lockdown back in March -it seems like years ago now- I started walking the lanes between 10:30 and 11:30 on a Sunday. It probably marks me out as a Godless heretic but I do not like Zoom or the Skype system that preceded it - or social media, for that matter. Computers are wonderful tools for getting jobs done, I am using one now, but I am not comfortable sitting and staring at other people on a screen. I will, reluctantly use it for MfWfB (Meeting for Worship for Business) when my presence is required but otherwise, I will keep away.

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James McGrath  reflects on Peter Enns approach to the Bible (Patheos Website)

James McGrath reflects on Peter Enns approach to the Bible (Patheos Website)

“I’m not attacking the Bible. "

I am even told sometimes, “You’re attacking the Bible,” and when I am accused of such I simply say, “I’m not attacking the Bible. I’m attacking you. You’re problem is that you can’t tell the difference.” Our thinking about the Bible should never be confused with the Bible itself—or worse, with God.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania.

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Rabbi Heschel on Worship as a Kinship of Praise

Rabbi Heschel on Worship as a Kinship of Praise

Rabbi Heschel challenges believers not to live in the past, but not to forget it either—to strive for a new future

One thing I admire, writes Matthew Fox, (among many) in the teachings of Rabbi Heschel is how he challenges believers not to live in the past, but not to forget it either—to strive for a new future. He says:

Only he who is an heir is qualified to be a pioneer [and] in the realm of spirit only he who is a pioneer is able to be an heir.

He calls his people to be pioneers and know the past not to slavishly imitate it but to recreate it. "We should be pioneers as were our fathers three thousand years ago." A true pioneer creates anew.

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‘Living in Love and Faith’ should be seen as the Church of England addressing its own people - Adrian Alker, Chair PCN Britain

‘Living in Love and Faith’ should be seen as the Church of England addressing its own people - Adrian Alker, Chair PCN Britain

But what is the end? I think there might be four broad categories of response

In April of this year I tried to summarise where the mainstream churches in the UK stood in relation to the vexed issues of same sex marriage, matters around transgender and related questions. In the Spring of 2020 we had arrived at a point where gay and lesbian people were able to be married in the Scottish Episcopal Church, the URC, the Quakers and Unitarian and some Baptist churches. The Methodist Conference (now postponed because of the pandemic) is due to vote for a second time on proposals to allow same sex marriage in its churches and chapels.

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A Catholic Nun on What It Really Means to Be Pro-Life - Joan Chittister

A Catholic Nun on What It Really Means to Be Pro-Life - Joan Chittister

A moral world is one whose societies realize that none of us can manage alone without the help of those who believe that every life is as important as their own.

It’s so easy to be a one-issue voter. It’s also so superficial to be a one-issue anything. It’s a narrow, delimiting approach to the very essence of life.

And there may be some truth in that. But it is also true that all humans must be enabled to live as human beings — with dignity and decency — or the rest of us are no longer fully human beings ourselves, whether we realize it or not.

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Conservative evangelicals in the United Kingdom - an overview by Tom  Jackson

Conservative evangelicals in the United Kingdom - an overview by Tom Jackson

Whilst the Evangelical Alliance has promoted the evangelical wing of Christianity over a long period there have been many other allied developments in recent decades.

When in my early years living in Keswick the convention was an annual weekly event that in recent has been extended to three weeks. The Keswick Convention has been the spiritual home of conservative evangelicals for the last 145 years. It was started by two men, Canon Hartford Battersby a local vicar and Robert Wilson, a Quaker and businessman. Both had recently attended the Oxford Conference on religion from which both were inspired to start a religious gathering in Keswick in 1875. There was at the time much religious fervour in the country and in America stimulated by Robert Pearsall Smith and his wife Hannah preaching a holiness doctrine that influenced many. Both the Pearsall Smiths were originally Quakers who later became members of the Plymouth Brethren, with its strong emphasis on the inerrancy of scriptures and strict members' discipline. Robert was invited to speak at the first meeting, but illness prevented his attendance. Subsequently many speakers from the UK and America have been welcomed to lead the convention meetings who have a theological perspective as evangelicals that is fundamental to the Keswick Convention.

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The greatest commandment has guided my politics By Joe Biden, The Christian Post

The greatest commandment has guided my politics By Joe Biden, The Christian Post

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?”

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,’” he said. “This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

These abiding principles – loving God and loving others – are at the very foundation of my faith. Throughout my career in public service, these values have kept me grounded in what matters most. As a husband, father, and grandfather, they are the cornerstone upon which our family is built. Through the pain of losing my wife, my daughter, and my son, they have sustained me with eternal hope. My faith has been a source of immeasurable solace in times of grief, and a daily inspiration to fight against the abuse of power in all its forms.

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a perspective from outside the contemporary political and religious “encampments” of our day

a perspective from outside the contemporary political and religious “encampments” of our day

In our ugly and injurious present political climate, it has become all too easy to justify fear-filled and hateful thoughts

November 2, 2020

The title of these Letters from Outside the Camp is a reference to the many usages of “outside the camp” in the Hebrew Bible. In this series, we are using the phrase to signify a perspective from outside the contemporary political and religious “encampments” of our day.

These letters are addressed to those of you who are sincerely and devotedly trying to camp elsewhere than in any political party or religious denomination and outside the world of strongly held opinions. We know full well that we must now avoid the temptation to become our own defended camp.

As always, we want to inhabit that ever-prophetic position “on the edge of the inside,” which is described by the early Israelites as “the tent of meeting outside the camp” (Exodus 33:7). And even though this tent is foldable, moveable, and disposable, it is still a meeting place for “the holy,” which is always on the move and out in front of us.

In our ugly and injurious present political climate, it has become all too easy to justify fear-filled and hateful thoughts, words, and actions in defense against the “other” side. We project our anxiety elsewhere and misdiagnose the real problem (the real evil), forever exchanging it for smaller and seemingly more manageable problems. The over-defended ego always sees, hates, and attacks in other people its own faults—the parts of ourselves that we struggle to acknowledge. We do not want to give way on important moral issues, but this often means we don’t want to give way on our need to be right, superior, and in control. It is our deep attachment to this false or manufactured self that leads us into our greatest illusions. Most of us do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.

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And Jesus wept: a good idea, by Joan Chittister

And Jesus wept: a good idea, by Joan Chittister

Reflecting on the USA Joan says "From where I stand, it seems to me that we have to reboot the nature of the country that we are."

There is a very poignant moment in Scripture that gets little exegesis, it seems, but it touches the deepest nerve of a people in mourning for the loss of the character of their nation. Like our own.

It is the picture in Luke 19 of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem — the city on the hill that was the heart and soul of the nation.

"Jerusalem," Jesus cries, "you killers of the prophets." And then he speaks to the troubled city, "If only you had known the path to peace."

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Christ for a reality-TV generation

Christ for a reality-TV generation

Adrian Alker reflects on the power of story to change livesTODAY, across all platforms, the life stories of the famous and the infamous are as popular as ever.

Thousands follow their favourite singer or sports star on Twitter or Instagram. Every week, Hello magazine reaches more than two million adults, keen to see and read about the world’s celebrities. Autobiographies, such as Michelle Obama’s Becoming, often top the booksellers’ charts. Recent cinema releases have told the “true-life” stories of stars such as Judy Garland and Elton John.

The docudrama genre is increasingly seen on television. Recently, the BBC told the personal stories of those caught up in the Salisbury poisonings affair; it has also screened the harrowing story of the racist killing of the black teenager Anthony Walker, murdered in Liverpool in 2005. Such reality-based stories hit us hard, and help to shape our attitudes and responses.

We human beings are made of stories. Our life in this world is our story to tell: a unique story, whether we be famous, infamous, or unknown. Five short films, commissioned by the Progressive Christianity Network (PCN), tell the stories of ordinary people grappling with important contemporary issues. Since a report in this newspaper (News, 4 September), we have had many enquiries from people wanting to show these films, from dioceses to prison chaplaincies.

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Martin Luther King Jr. on the Beloved Community: Matthew Fox

Martin Luther King Jr. on the Beloved Community: Matthew Fox

"our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation."

September 28, 2020

The idea of the "Beloved Community" was central to the thinking of MLK jr. It appears from his earliest speeches and writings to his last ones. In an early article he wrote that the purpose of the Montgomery bus boycotts "is reconciliation…redemption, the creation of the beloved community." In 1957 he wrote that the "ultimate aim of SCLS is to foster and create the ‘beloved community’ in America where brotherhood is a reality."

In his final book he states that "our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation." Thus, we need to expand our sense of community. He warned that desegregation by itself would only produce "a society where men are physically desegregated and spiritually segregated, where elbows are together and hearts apart."

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England will miss our Church when it’s gone - Mary  Harrington - UnHerd

England will miss our Church when it’s gone - Mary Harrington - UnHerd

Without the steadying influence of Anglicanism, our politics could descend again into extremism

The Church of England is on its knees, and not in a good way. Before the pandemic, physical congregations were already sparse, and getting sparser: in 2019, estimates put the average Sunday service attendance at just 27 people. When Covid-19 reached these shores, the Anglican leadership responded by closing churches even for private prayer, and they’ve issued barely a squeak for months on end. No one knows whether physical congregations will ever recover.

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Order, Disorder, Reorder - Reorder: The Promised Land by Richard Rohr

Order, Disorder, Reorder - Reorder: The Promised Land by Richard Rohr

Liberals, however, must surrender their scepticism of leadership, eldering, or authority, and find what is good, healthy, and deeply true about a foundational order.

There seems to be a universal pattern of spiritual transformation that takes us from Order, through Disorder, to Reorder. Order, by itself, normally wants to eliminate any disorder or diversity, creating a narrow and cognitive rigidity in both people and systems. Disorder, by itself, closes us off from any primal union, meaning, and eventually even sanity in both people and systems. Our focus of this week is Reorder, or transformation of people and systems, which happens when both are seen to work together.

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