Category : England / UK

Revisiting Alexander Solzjenitsyn’s 1978 Address ‘A World Split Apart’

‘A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.

Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable, as well as intellectually and even morally worn it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and with countries not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance….

Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counterbalanced by the young people’s right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.

And what shall we say criminality as such? Legal frames, especially in the United States, are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also certain individual crimes. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency with the support of thousands of public defenders. When a government starts an earnest fight against terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorist’s civil rights. There are many such cases.

Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of evil has come about gradually, but it was evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature….’

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, History, Religion & Culture, Russia

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–The Church of England teaching document on sexuality

One of the great reliefs of the last sessions of General Synod in York (on July 6th to 10th) was the absence of any acrimonious debates about sexuality in the main chamber. The Business Committee had taken the bold and commendable decision that, in the light of the planned teaching document on sexuality, any private members’ or diocesan motions on related issues would not be taken until after the document was produced and discussed. The teaching document was announced after the ‘rebellion’ in February 2017 when Synod decided ‘not to take note’ of a report from the House of Bishops’ report on the state of play in discussions following the long and drawn out (and expensive!) process of ‘Shared Conversations‘.

There had already been an announcement that there was going to be a change in name for the document.

Living in Love and Faith: A new name for the Episcopal Teaching Document

As the work of the Episcopal Teaching Document has progressed it has become clearer that the word ‘document’ does not do justice to the emerging vision for the resources that the groups working on it envisage. Furthermore, ‘teaching’ does not reflect the working groups’ aspiration to produce teaching materials that will invite active engagement in mutual learning. So, after several months and the participation of many people, a new title for the project has been agreed by the Archbishops: Living in Love and Faith: Christian Teaching and Learning about Human Identity, Sexuality and Marriage.

This provided plenty of fuel for the suspicious, that there was a retreat from the idea that the Church of England might actually have a clear position on sexuality that needed ‘teaching’. But Justin Welby had said from the beginning that this was going to be a ‘mapping’ exercise, highlighting areas of agreement, the areas of disagreement and possible ways forward—which in itself suggests that this, another costly process, would not lead to any clear resolution. Personally, I was intrigued at the idea that ‘teaching’ on its on does not ‘invite active engagement in mutual learning’, but in fact in Higher Education it is common to talk about a ‘teaching and learning strategy’, recognising that the focus needs to be not simply on what is offered, but also on the effect that it has in enabling learning to take place.

So instead of any debate, the Saturday afternoon of Synod was given over to a series of workshops and seminars, some of which focussed on other topics (including digital evangelism) but which included presentations on the work of the different groups involved in the process (Bible, theology, biological and social sciences, history and a slightly separate Pastoral Advisory Group). I attended the ones on Bible, theology and science, and what emerged was a rather mixed picture of what we might expect from the process….

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology

‘A New Settlement Revised: Religion and Belief in Schools’ – A Church of England response

In response to the report published yesterday by the Westminster Faith Debates, by Charles Clarke and Linda Woodhead, The Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, Revd Nigel Genders, said: 

“Church of England Schools provide education for the whole community. This includes those of other faiths and those of no faith, as well as Christian families. Around one million pupils attend our schools every day, each receiving a high-quality education, and our approach to education remains extremely popular.

“The report from the Westminster Faith Debates continues an important conversation about religion and belief in schools, and the type of education we want for our children.

“The report recognises that in today’s world there is an increasing need for religious literacy. While the recommendations will need to be read in the light of the publication of the Commission on Religious Education’s report, expected in the autumn, we welcome the recognition of the importance of religious education in schools.

“The report raises the question of collective worship. Collective worship provides a vital opportunity for children to pause and reflect on the big questions of life and develop spiritually, and we are pleased to see a significant ground-shift in this revised report away from any call to abolish it, which would be to the detriment of children’s wellbeing.

“We have consistently argued that the issue of school admissions is complex in a system where parental choice is valued….

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Education, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CEN) New survey reveals what Britons think of Christians

Only 38 per cent of UK adults disagree that being an atheist or non-religious is more normal than being a Christian, according to a Com-Res survey.

The survey on perceptions of Christianity in the UK found that 28 per cent of respondents believe that being an atheist or non-religious is more normal than being a Christian, while 48 per cent of respondents neither agreed nor disagreed.

The survey showed that while 22 per cent of those aged 65 or over agreed with the statement, the figure rose to 34 per cent of 18-24-year-olds, the highest figure between the age groups.

Some 33 per cent of people who never go to church agreed with this statement, the highest among the categories, while the next biggest (31 per cent) was among those who go three to four times a week, compared with 20 per cent of regular churchgoers and 9 out of 12 (72 per cent) of those who attend services every day.

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Posted in England / UK, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(DM) Christian doctor is sacked by the Government for refusing to identify patients by their preferred gender because he believes sex is established at birth

A doctor has been fired from a top government role for suggesting gender is determined at birth.

Dr David Mackereth, 55, who has worked as an NHS doctor for 26 years, was deemed to be ‘unfit to work’ after he said he would refuse to identify patients by their preferred gender.

The senior doctor was set to become a disability assessor for the Department for Work and Pensions claims a person’s gender is biological and said his right to freedom of speech had been denied.

The medic, from Dudley in the West Midlands, fears other ‘professional people of faith’ could lose their jobs simply for holding opinions about gender that are ‘centuries old’.

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Posted in Children, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, Sexuality

(BBC) Chief rabbi: Labour should toughen up anti-Semitism code

The code does endorse the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism and includes behaviours it lists as likely to be regarded as anti-Semitic – but critics point out that it leaves out four examples from that definition:

Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country
Claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour
Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations
Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis

Chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis attacked the omission of these examples and said it was “astonishing that the Labour Party presumes it is more qualified” to define anti-Semitism than the Jewish community.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Guardian) What is the true human cost of your £5 hand car wash? the C of E provides a role in finding the Answer

Beyond checking for concrete and prices below £6, what can drivers do to avoid potentially problematic car washes? Frazer, who believes £9 is a reasonable minimum price for a basic wash, advises checking for the overall quality of a site. “If it’s being held together with bits of string, that’s another indicator,” she says. Nearby caravans or signs of on-site accommodation are a potential concern, as is an absence of receipts.

While the scale of the problem remains largely unknown, and workers themselves report being reluctant to raise the alarm, drivers are being recruited to help identify problem sites. The church is playing an unlikely role; the Anglican and Catholic churches in England have backed a new Safe Car Wash phone app. It asks drivers for a site’s location and name (if there is one), followed by a series of questions about it and its workers. It encourages drivers not to confront workers. Instead, the Church of England’s Clewer Initiative against anti-slavery, which launched the app on 4 June, shares the data with the National Crime Agency and the GLAA, among other authorities. If answers to the questions about safety gear and other observations suggests a potential problem, users are also encouraged to contact the Modern Slavery Helpline.

“Too often we rush in, you’re on your phone and see all this activity, you give your £6 and drive off,” says Alastair Redfern, the bishop of Derby, who works on anti-slavery projects in the church and the House of Lords. “We’re just saying, please stop and think first.” The Clewer Initiative says the app was downloaded more than 5,000 times in its first month, while the charity Unseen, which runs the slavery helpline, said last week that 11 cases indicating 69 potential victims had been reported to it through the app.

But concern about car washes that may be contravening one or several laws and regulations should not lead to assumptions about all such businesses, Frazer adds. There are legitimate businesses that offer competitive prices. That some car washes might have sub-standard drainage does not necessarily mean they are fronts of organised crime. “And if workers look a bit bedraggled, it doesn’t mean it’s all to do with modern slavery – you cannot generalise in that way,” Frazer adds.

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Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

Congratulation to Novak Djokovic, 2018 Wimbledon men’s Champion

John Updike, the great American author, made the following observation: “Professionalism in art has this difficulty: to be professional is to be dependable, to be dependable is to be predictable, and predictability is aesthetically boring — an anti-virtue in a field where we hope to be astonished and startled and at some deep level refreshed.”

I wonder if it is this sentiment that underpins the lack of affection for Djokovic. Is he too dependable? Too predictable? Does his game lack that element of surprise that is so central to, say, Federer? If so, allow me to suggest that dependability contains its own kind of beauty. To watch this unique athlete hitting groundstrokes deep and true, returning serves with solidity, chasing down balls with those elastic legs, is a privilege.

One must surely admire his journey, too. He lived his formative years in the devastation of war-torn Belgrade, spending 78 straight nights in a shelter as Nato bombs rained down during the Kosovo campaign. He was almost killed by the precision bomb of an F-117 bomber, which levelled a building a few yards away. There have been other upheavals, not least in tennis where, for many years, he had a body that broke down at critical moments.

Today, dependability is not just an approach to tennis, but a kind of sanctuary. His phenomenal work rate, on and off the court, is an elusive search for shots that never miss, never fragment, never let him down. Yesterday, he looked as implacable as two years ago, when he won four straight slams and had a stranglehold on the game. He is not just one of the greats of tennis, but of sport.

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Posted in England / UK, Men, Serbia, Sports

(Eleanor Parker) Some extracts from an Anglo-Saxon homily on St Swithun’s life and miracles

Today is St Swithun’s Day, when the weather-gods obey the saint of Winchester – ‘St Swithun’s day if thou dost rain / For forty days it will remain’, and all that. So let’s look at a few extracts from an Old English homily for St Swithun’s Day, written by Ælfric in the last decade of the tenth century.

Ælfric had a personal connection to Swithun’s story, and in this homily he adds in one or two comments to remind us of it. Swithun was an obscure ninth-century Bishop of Winchester whose fame is almost entirely the work of Æthelwold, his successor at Winchester more than a century later. Winchester was the royal city of Wessex but it was surprisingly short on saints, so Æthelwold did his best to elevate some of his predecessors to that status, including Swithun and St Birinus (a better-attested saint, though his popularity never caught on as Swithun’s did). On 15 July 971, Æthelwold had Swithun’s remains translated to a new shrine inside the Old Minster, Winchester. Ælfric, who was educated at Winchester under Æthelwold and had a great respect for his bishop, would have witnessed much of this, and by the time he wrote about it, around 25 years later, he had come to see Æthelwold’s time – his own youth – as a kind of golden age for the English church, when the king and holy bishops worked together and religion and peace flourished in the land. By the 990s, with the Vikings suddenly once more a pressing threat, this seemed to him like a bright but vanished world.

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Posted in Church History, England / UK

Congratulations to Novak Djokovic for beating Rafa Nadal and making his First Grand Slam Final since 2016

Posted in England / UK, Men, Sports

Congratulations to Kevin Anderson, Winner Today of the Second Longest match in Wimbledon history in His semi-final match against John Isner

Posted in England / UK, Men, Sports

(Church Times) Tim Wyatt asks some of the C of E’s most prolific users of Twitter and Facebook what they think about social media

It is not hard to find a bad news story featuring social media. From allegations of data misuse and interference in elections to the opprobrium heaped on those guilty of ill-judged Twitter posts, and concerns about the impact on social cohesion and attention spans, it seems that we might be falling out of love with the medium.

In the halcyon days of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the rest, the Church of England, like the rest of the world, appeared enraptured. There was widespread enthusiasm about the opportunities for mission and communication.

The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, captured much of the optimistic mood in a column for the Church Times in 2011: “Christians have much to say using social media because churches contain many ordinary people with engaging stories to tell. The more they get out there and speak freely, the richer a view of Christianity the world will get” (Comment, 6 May 2011).

Bloggers such as Church Mouse (16,500 followers) and the “digital nun” Sister Catherine Wybourne (19,500 followers) shot to prominence, while a thousand Facebook groups sprang up as believers coalesced online around their various interests and traditions.

One blogging priest, the Revd Peter Ould, even co-ordinated early efforts on Twitter into a website, the Twurch of England, which collated every tweet from Church of England bishops and priests into a single live feed. Asked in an interview whether he was excited by the possibilities, he replied: “Absolutely — and we’re only just beginning to see the potential.”

While these early experiments are often remembered fondly, the pitfalls were soon encountered….

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(Inews) Church of England seeks law to protect cash-strapped cathedrals from being sold

The Church of England is to seek legal protection against being forced to sell its cash-strapped ancient cathedrals in the event that any them become bankrupt. A meeting of the General Synod, the church’s parliament, this week set in train the passing of a new law which would prevent creditors from seeking the sale of a cathedral’s land or buildings in the event that it falls insolvent.

The financial health of some of the CofE’s 42 cathedrals, among which figure some of the greatest treasures of British architecture, has made recent headlines as a number of institutions struggle to secure sufficient income….

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

England’s Magical Run in the 2018 World Cup Finally Comes to an End

They tell you it’s about who wants it more. It’s not. You don’t get to a World Cup semifinal — via a combined three penalty shootouts — if you don’t want it desperately, as much as the air you breathe and the affection you crave. Nobody could look the players from England or Croatia in the eye and judge who was hungrier, not after seeing them battle for 120 minutes Wednesday night at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Rather, it’s about lies and deception. The lies you tell your body in an attempt to deceive it into thinking your hit points aren’t down to zero. And the lies you tell yourself when you convince yourself that, yes, you can reach that stray ball and, no, you won’t let that opponent pass. Most of all, it’s about believing that you can keep going through heavy legs, searing pain and shortness of breath.

And do it all with clarity of mind. That last bit is crucial and, perhaps, the reason Croatia will be back here on Sunday to take on France in the World Cup final. England’s collective mind got fuzzier as the game went on. Croatia’s, somehow, seemed to grow clearer, scything through the pain, fatigue and inevitable errors.

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Posted in England / UK, Men, Russia, Sports

(NPR) Inspired By The Beatles’ Love Gospel, ‘Submarine Churches’ Bucked Tradition

When the phantasmagorically weird Beatles film Yellow Submarine premiered 50 years ago, its psychedelic colors and peace-and-love sensibility quickly influenced fashion, graphic design, animation and music.

But the 1968 movie also influenced organized religion — a fact lost in the hubbub over the release of a restored and remastered version in American theaters on July 8.

Not long after the British-made film landed in the United States, “submarine churches” attracted urban, young people. They adopted the outline of a yellow submarine with a small cross on its periscope as their symbol and displayed it alongside peace signs, flowers and other popular emblems of the 1960s.

There were enough of the churches a year after the film’s release that they operated The Submarine Church Press, which published a national directory of 40 such churches, most with mainline Protestant or Catholic roots, and held a three-day “rap session,” or conference, in Kansas City, Mo. Attendees came from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis and Akron, Ohio.

“In the Beatles’ movie, the submarine was the place where they loved each other in a groovy way and got strength to do battle with the Blue Meanies,” Rev. Tony Nugent, a former co-pastor of a submarine church in Berkeley, Calif., told The New York Times in 1970. “It also shows that a church has to have flexibility and maneuverability.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, England / UK, Music, Parish Ministry