Daily Archives: December 21, 2017

(CEN) Andrew Carey A devastating critique the Church needs to heed

The cynic in me wonders whether there were any PR machinations involved in the fact that the publication of Lord Carlile’s review was sandwiched between the fawning and ingratiating visit of Radio 4’s Today programme to Lambeth Palace last week and the joyous announcement of Sarah Mullally’s appointment to London.

Surely not? But in my opinion, the Church of England has become a place where appearances matter more than the reality. Friday is, after all, a good day for burying bad news.

I do not think, however, that the debacle over George Bell will be easily forgotten, not least because to use the words of Lord Carlile, Church of England leaders have been less than ‘adroit’ in their reaction to his excoriating report.

Lord Carlile’s report is a model of brevity and propriety. It is a line-by-line study of something approaching a slow-motion train wreck. The story told is one in which hapless leaders believed positively ancient allegations with little understanding of the principles at stake and then did little or nothing to investigate the veracity of allegations. To compound their errors they were too concerned about the reputation of the Church and gave almost no consideration to the reputation of a long-dead man (and there was absolutely no thought given to surviving members of the Bell family). The minutiae of the mess is to be found in the unprofessional and bungled composition and process of the so-called Core Group.

But it is the Church of England’s response to the report that is most disappointing. Having appointed one of the most distinguished lawyers in the land, the Church of England failed to understand his key recommendation, which is also a basic principle of British justice, that a person is innocent until proven guilty. The Archbishop of Canterbury hides behind the Church of England’s recent conversion to transparency to reject Carlile’s central recommendation that, in certain cases where liability cannot be proven and is not accepted, the Church of England should explore a confidentiality agreement to preserve the anonymity of the accused.

But senior leaders of the Church of England demonstrate that they do not understand basic principles of justice in rejecting this recommendation out-of-hand, and they certainly have not understood Lord Carlile’s report.

The Church of England should have refused to name George Bell because the allegations against him couldn’t meet even a lower threshold of a civil standard of proof. That is primarily because even a deceased person should have a defence and the Church of England gave no dignity to Bell by refusing to recognise this.

I fear that the Church of England at its highest level lacks leaders who understand basic principles of justice.

But the serious problem is the Church of England has now badly handled all of its recent reviews, especially the Elliott review. Additionally, I have no doubt that it will not be long before the Gibb review will be found to be inadequate when IICSA looks into the Diocese of Chichester next March and Peter Ball next July.

The House of Bishops is currently responsible for safeguarding but there is an urgent case for the involvement of an independent safeguarding body. Members of General Synod are agitating for a serious debate on the ongoing problems of the Church on safeguarding, but action must begin before the February sessions.

My personal hope is that the Church of England’s senior leaders wake up to the problem, which is driven by a culture of fear, rather than a proper culture of compassion and justice. In particular, the Church’s longest-standing leaders, especially the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, a former high court judge who suffered under Idi Amin because of his stand for justice, must step up to the plate. A way must be found to bring all interested parties together– including victims and complainants, those falsely-accused, Church leaders, lawyers, politicians and representatives of clergy and laity in General Synod — in a serious attempt to bring about change in the Church of England before the Independent Inquiry introduces its own possibly unwelcome, unwanted, intrusive and even misguided reforms.

–The Church of England Newspaper, December 22/29 1017 edition; subsriptions are encouraged

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues

(First Things) Kyle Harper: The 1st Sexual Revolution–How Christianity transformed the ancient world

It is easy enough, and not entirely misleading, to say that Paul’s thought was compressed by the heavy weight of the apocalyptic atmosphere. He wanted his churches to live devotedly toward the coming age, during the small slice of time remaining. But that never led ancient Christians to doubt the larger significance of Paul’s austere counsels. After all, as the time between Christ’s ascension and return lengthened, the entire orthodox tradition in early Christianity chose not to write off Paul’s rigorism as a distortion of his apocalyptic lens; quite the opposite, it tended to accentuate the more extreme and anti-erotic possibilities latent in his thought. The possibility of full-blown Encratism stalked much of early Christian history. (Auden’s “Roman Wall Blues” is about right: “Piso’s a Christian, he worships a fish; / There’d be no kissing if he had his wish.”) In the second century, Clement of Alexandria held fast to the view that within marriage, only sex solely for the purpose of procreation was permissible. Not until the Jovinianist controversy was extinguished in the late fourth century, and Augustine’s tour de force “Of the Good of Marriage” was written, did it become completely clear within Christianity that marriage could be a genuine good and not merely some kind of lesser evil.

Over this same span of centuries, the Church gradually worked out another revolutionary implication of Paul’s message: Sexual morality would require moral agency for all persons, even those whose bodies were beyond the field of vision for ancient thinkers. In today’s terms, Christian sexual morality was inclusive. To be sure, Paul hardly announced the legal emancipation of the unfree. But already (so I have argued, though not all agree) Paul’s ban on porneia restricted one of the slave-owner’s most ordinary prerogatives: sexual access to his slaves. We can trace a dawning awareness in the early Church, unlike anything in pagan antiquity, of the sexual integrity of all persons. By the fifth century, Christian emperors were actually taking proactive (if still, by our standards, limited) measures to protect the bodily integrity of vulnerable women. The heightened place of sexuality in the overarching structure of morality, the respect for the human dignity of all persons, and the insistence on the value of the transcendent and sacred over the secular and the civic—these all went hand in hand in the growth of Christian culture.

Paul’s prohibition on fornication, his highly qualified acceptance of the practical necessity of marriage, and the liberatory movement of Christian individualism form a coherent ethic: For the early Christians, sexual morality was woven inseparably into their whole effort to live rightly in the world. Sex, by its essence, is entangled in the most fundamental questions about the nature of the self and its relation to God. Once launched, the revolution was not easily contained, and when the early Christians tore sexual morality away from the familiar outlines provided by the civic background, the repercussions were not confined to one discrete section of the moral code. Sex came to occupy a place in the foreground of moral instruction in a way that it simply never had in Judaism, or even the most stringent pagan philosophies. The conspicuous austerity of the early Christians caught the eye of early observers, including the Greek doctor Galen. In the competitive marketplace of Roman imperial religion, the way in which Paul loaded questions of sexual morality with dramatic salvific significance gave the moral teaching of this small but vocal movement a particular flavor. The proclamation of the gospel and this strange, spiritualized rigorism were inseparable.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Yorkshire Post) Do we need more TV programmes about religion?

The BBC has pledged to broaden its range of mainstream religious programmes. But, in our increasingly secular society, is this a step in the right direction? Chris Bond reports. For many people Christmas is a time of enjoyment, a chance to spend some quality time with friends and family. It’s also an opportunity to take stock and reflect as another year draws to a close.

Religion and its inherent message of kindness and helping others is at the heart of Christmas yet increasingly it seems drowned out by the rampant commercialisation of the festive season.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

(BBC) BBC to air more religious programming

The BBC has pledged to “raise our game” on religion by increasing the portrayal of all faiths in mainstream shows.

The corporation said it would “enhance” the representation of religion on TV and radio dramas and documentaries.

It said it would also create a new global religious affairs team, headed by a religion editor, in BBC News.

The BBC will also keep Thought For The Day on Radio 4’s Today programme – despite presenter John Humphrys saying it’s often “deeply, deeply boring”.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Media, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

(CEN) Bp Michael Nazir-Ali–There Must be no retreat from the public square by Christians

I have worked for a number of years with persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, especially in the Middle East and South Asia.Sometimes I am asked about those who feel they are ‘persecuted’ nearer home, in the UK. At one level the comparison is only superficial; Christian faith in the UK does not usually mean putting your life or liberty at risk.


I find, though, that persecution begins with exclusion and discrimination. What is being dismissed from your post for your Christian views on marriage if not persecution? Or being refused as an applicant for adopting or fostering children if not persecution? Or being suspended as a teacher because of your Christian beliefs? Or losing your job for praying with a patient, if not persecution? So many examples can be given.

The family has been under sustained attack in this country for the last 50years. The family is the basis of a stable society.Yet our country has just abandoned the biblical teaching of marriage in public law.These attacks will not stop there.

First, divorce is becoming ever easier with further proposals for no-fault divorce. Marriage is no longer a covenant or contract.There is no accountability for people who abandon a marriage for no good reason.Family patterns are being reinvented and we are being told that fathers are not necessary. Yet all the research shows that fathers are very important for the proper maturing of children.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(WBUR’s On Point) The Divisions In Christianity Over Sex

Five hundred years ago, Christianity was split in two by the Protestant Reformation. Today, Christians are divided again. But this time, it’s not the authority of the pope or the nature of worship in question, it’s sex. What’s moral, what’s not; what the Bible says, what it doesn’t say. What does it mean to be a Christian in the midst of a culture war? Two sides, with dueling manifestos. This hour, On Point: sex and the future of Christianity. –Tom Gjelten

Read the rest and listen to it all (a little over 47 minutes).

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Polyamory, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Saint Thomas

Almighty and everliving God, who didst strengthen thine apostle Thomas with sure and certain faith in thy Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in thy sight; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Frederick Macnutt

O Thou Who when Thou comest wilt take account of Thy servants: remember for good Thine eternal pact and promise in Thy Cross and Resurrection; in judgement forget not mercy; take not from us the help and comfort of Thy Holy Spirit; and suffer us not at that last hour to fall from Thee; Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High; and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

–Psalm 50:14-15

Posted in Theology: Scripture