Sunday, 25 July 2010

Link to Changing Attitude blog

An interesting article on the Changing Attitude blog. Colin Coward writes about the two groups of bishops set up to look again at the Issues in Human Sexuality document, and invites and thoughts on the future direction of the Church of England. Also worth reading about is CA's meeting with Lynne Featherstone, the equalities minister.

Link to Church Mouse

Great quiz from the Church Mouse blog. The chances are you read this blog yourself, it is not to be missed. There is also news of a newborn baby mouse...

Saturday, 24 July 2010

A life well lived

The little girl in the picture above is my Great Aunt Jennie. She was born in 1916 and the photo would have been taken around 1920, when Jennie was four or five. Jennie died earlier this month at the grand old age of ninety four.

Jennie Wood was born on a farm in Yorkshire to a Dales Methodist family, we still have writings and books of poems, penned by my grandmother, which are largely about the evils of liquor. By the age of twenty two Jennie was expressing her desire to join bible college and to put her faith to use helping and ministering to others. In 1939, accompanied by her older sister, Elsie, she attended a bible college in London and worked in the wartime slums.

In 1941 they were given a grant to set up a mission in Wolverhampton. They started off from a small shop which they rented, and raised funds by growing radishes and selling them to hotels - or so family legend goes! They then set up a pentecostal church in Temple Street, Wolverhampton - now the site of of the All Nations Christian mission, and you can read about Jennie and Elsie's part in that organisation here. Jennie and Elsie also refused to work in the munitions factories on pacifist grounds and continued their work in the most deprived parts of Wolverhampton.
I suspect the All Nations Christian Mission and I might be at odds theologically, but I am fascinated by my family history, with its fair share of strong minded Christian women  who saw themselves as having a definite role to play in spreading the gospel and working for social justice.
The picture below is of my grandmother's family, my grandmother is on the far left, Jennie is the baby and Elsie the younger girl.

Jennie Wood's funeral took place on Wednesday, she was interred at Carnforth cemetery.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Scarlet women

According to Riazat Butt ( who usually knows her stuff), London buses are to carry adverts for the ordination of women during the Papal visit. Some groups seem to think that this might cause offence. Offence does cut both ways; some people have already been offended by the rather unfortunate fact that the Vatican recently scored an own goal by declaring in the same breath that child abuse and the ordination of women are grave sins - yes, yes, I know it is more complex than that...

I tried to imagine what the slogan would be, and in the end I made my own using the atheist bus slogan generator. If anyone's offended, please remember that there are Roman Catholics who support the ordination of women. Also, if you don't like it you can always - er- go to another site...

Equality law and women bishops


H/t Thinking Anglicans.

In the above interview, Robert Key discusses the implications of the discrimination that will be inherent in the legislation for women bishops in the light of the Equality Act. Synod voted for Clause seven, that the legislation should be exempt from certain key aspects of equality legislation.
I have blogged before about signs that many are keenly aware that the Church may end up breaking the law! The Revision Committee has said that the debate in the Commons around the legality of discrimination in religious organisations did influence its decision to reconsider its early proposal to allow vesting by statutory transfer. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York also seemed to have an eye to equality legislation in their rather tenuous assertions that co-ordinate jurisdiction would avoid gender discrimination.
The likelihood is that the legality of the Church of England’s position will increasingly become a thorn in its flesh.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Sympathy vote




Oh dear! Bessie has hurt her paw in an incident involving a skateboard (don't ask!) and has had to visit the vet where she had a claw removed, bled profusely, had painkiller injected and showed her appreciation by trying to bite the vet. She has spent the day as looking sad and dejected as a man with the flu, only cheering up enough to wolf down her favourite chicken and rice supper before retiring to the sofa with her "woe is me face" to lap up more sympathy...

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Light of the World

Look upon us, O Lord,
and let all the darkness of our souls
vanish before the beams of thy brightness.
Fill us with holy love,
and open to us the treasures of thy wisdom.
All our desire is known unto thee,
therefore perfect what thou hast begun,
and what thy Spirit has awakened us to ask in prayer.
We seek thy face,
turn thy face unto us and show us thy glory.
Then shall our longing be satisfied,
and our peace shall be perfect.

(Augustine, 354 - 430)

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Married transsexuals

I had some very interesting conversations over the retreat weekend. One of them was with a young man whose had had someone living in his flat at university who identified as neither male or female, a position which makes it very difficult to refer to that person (other than by their name) when speaking in the third person.
I am aware that, although I am interested in inclusion, I know very little about the issues affecting those who are on the transgender spectrum. Today I read a post in which Anglican Mainstream seem concerned (as usual) about the parlous state of the nation, this time because a minister had suggested on her blog that married people who undergo gender reassignment might be allowed in law to remain married and still be legally recognised as their new gender. The position at the moment is that if a married post op transsexual wishes to have their new gender legally recognised they must first divorce their spouse in order to avoid a situation in which two people legally of the same gender are also married. The concern for AM is that- gasp- a change in the law might lead to same sex marriage in a small number of cases for the first time in British society!

I listened to a programme a while back on Radio 4 where a married couple were interviewed. One spouse was a male to female transsexual and had undergone gender reassignment surgery. The wife had stood by her spouse during her surgery and transitioning and accepted the fact that she was now with a woman, neither intended to leave the other.

Now, when two individuals have faced these types of odds together, in the face of probable personal trauma and possibly misunderstanding from those around them, then I believe that the last thing they need is to be forced to divorce! When people have demonstrated that quality of love and commitment, what they need is support and affirmation, and perhaps even a little humility from the rest of us in acknowledging that they are as married as anyone and that most of us could learn a lot from them.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Retreat - Christ Light of the World

I am now back from retreat, all refreshed and spiritual! We enjoyed a mixture of worship with group discussion, informal discussion and free time, a lunch out on Saturday evening and a walk on Sunday afternoon.Two of the people I already knew and thought would be there didn't turn up (are they trying to tell me something...) but it was lovely to reconnect with one or two others and meet new folk. Below are a few pictures of some of the places we visited.



Buckfast Abbey - photo taken on a visit on Saturday afternoon.





Some pictures from the gardens above. There were rose and lavender gardens and a sensual garden where you could smell the herbs and touch the plants, but not the monkshood ( or wolfbane) which is poisonous!

On Sunday afternoon we wandered on the moors, which worked up a good appetite for Sunday lunch. Some more here on flckr.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Away on retreat

Term has finally ended, and I have to admit that for me the hiatus of the summer holidays is always a time to pause and reflect a little on the past and future. A lot of things have happened over the past few months, and change is the word that keeps coming to mind. There’s been a new job for me, retirement for Kev, and personal and health problems with both our boys. Other changes include moving into new work premises, joining a new church and anticipating Paul starting college in September.

This coming weekend should bring an opportunity to seriously reflect as I am going on retreat tomorrow– to a Benedictine monastery known for its bee keeping – (I think those boxes are hives?) But I don’t want to reflect on the past, or at least I only want to focus on some of the positive changes that the past few months have brought and NOT the negatives.

I will be meeting some friends on the retreat and I am aiming just to be – to be myself and be with others, feel peace and joy and have fun. I logged on to Peter Bosco’s Liturgy blog today and found this post about finding God in the everyday things. The thoughts in it seemed right for this moment, and, since I leave tomorrow morning, and might not be blogging until at least Tuesday, I will leave you with it.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Thought for the day

Some eminently sensible comments, or so I thought, from Tom Butler on Thought for the day yesterday. I can't seem to link to the audio on its own, but you can find it under Tuesday's contribution on the link above. As Butler rightly says, there are provisions for those opposed, and both sides have made compromises. He seems to suggest we should now get on with the business - and trust.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Trouble ahead.

There has been a press release by the Catholic group FIF, and by Anglican Mainstream on behalf of Anglo Catholics and evangelicals which suggests a desire to overturn yesterday's decision. The basis of their objections will be that the vote would not have carried if the vote had not been by house, it was overturned in the house of clergy by only five votes, and this is an issue of such significance. WATCH has already issued a statement saying it is disappointed that these groups are aiming to overturn the due process of Synod.

One of my commenters asked if the Archbishops' authority has been damaged by Synod choosing to vote against them. I do not think so. Rowan Williams made it clear that voting for or against these proposals was not a loyalty test, many spoke of the reluctance with which they took that decision, but most of all it is the role of Synod to scrutinise legislation and act impartially.

I do think that Rowan Williams in particular is harrowed by the divisions in the Church of England and by the criticisms directed at his leadership. I think we saw this in John Sentamu's remarks against his detractors in his address yesterday. Williams genuinely has a heart for everyone in the Church, and nobody wants to be the person in charge if and when the Church breaks apart. I suppose he will take small comfort from the fact that the Church really is attempting the impossible in trying to keep everyone happy, or even on board, in the debates over women bishops and sexuality.

As I said in my last post, there IS provision for those opposed to women's ministry ; it may be a compromise, but it is far from being nothing. The provision is not ungenerous, but, as has been said by others, it does rely on trust and faith in each other - the simple fact is that there is not enough of that around.

Headaches and heartaches continue...

Sunday at Synod

Sunday morning we attended the service at York Minster. John Sentamu preached, largely on the parable of the Good Samaritan. Rowan Williams looked harrowed during the service, as he did in chamber yesterday. (I may do a further post tomorrow on media comments - with which I disagree- suggesting the Archbishops have lost authority over this defeat.) I met Justin Brett over coffee, see this great take on the women bishops debate from Justin Brett here as well as some interesting comment, offering a different perspective on his blog generally.
Colin Coward, Boby Egbele and I went on to a WATCH lunch and meeting. There was much discussion of yesterday's events. Many of WATCH had found the process painful, it is not nice for people to witness the distress of others, nor to hear themselves accused of a lack of generosity.

It should be pointed out that, contrary to some comments and reports in the media, there IS provision made for those opposed to the ministry of women. Traditionalists may not feel these proposals go far enough, but they are very substantial in comparison to the concessions that would be made in any other sphere. It is not unjust to say that, for some of those opposed, nothing would go far enough. It should be noted that the recommendation of the Revision Committee still represent a significant compromise for those who would dearly love to see genuine equality with no curtailing of women's rights to fully exercise episcopal ministry and authority.

Yesterday was most significant; tomorrow is also important, particularly in light of clause 2 and, possibly to a lesser extent, clause 7. Clause 2 relates to the single measure and there was some discussion at the WATCH meeting around this. Clause 7 is also interesting, this emphasises the Church's exemption from the equality act. There are some signs that the Church is nervous about its legal position on women bishops, perhaps not now, but with an eye to future amendments or clarifications of equality legislation. It is worth noting that the Revision Committee's decision to go back to the table and reconsider statutory vesting may have been influenced by the debate in the Commons which took place in November during their deliberations.

The Church of England is in a strange position if, as the established Church of the Realm, it asks Parliament to pass legislation which allows the kind of gender discrimination that is illegal in all other institutions. I believe it is also morally in a quandary as it would seem not to be practising what it preaches, to be asking others to do as it says, but not as it actually does.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Archbishops' amendments narrowly defeated

The proposal for co-ordinate jurisdiction proposed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York has been narrowly defeated. The vote was taken by houses. The House of Bishops voted 25 in favour and 15 against the proposals, the House of Laity voted 106 in favour and 86 against, but the proposals were thrown out by the House of Clery which voted 85 in favour and 90 against.

The Revision Committe urged Synod to vote down the Archbishops' proposals and there followed a series of impassioned speeches both for and against. There was a motion as to whether Synod was ready to decide before voting commenced.

Jonathon Baker, an Anglo Catholic, then asked for an adjournment until Monday to allow time to think, pray and for people to consider their options, especially as Synod had voted against their Archbishops. This was voted on, and it was decided to continue.

Blogging from Synod

I am at York this weekend, it is a beautiful day and watching the ducks and geese makes a welcome break from listening to the deliberations in the Synod chamber.

Speeches this morning included those from the Anglo Catholics, including a "young traditionalist woman." They mainly focused on the need for sacramental assurance and that the Church was reneging on previous promises and safeguards around the ministry of women. They felt that the Revision Committee report created "winners and losers" and left no place for those opposed, who should be recognised as faithful Anglicans.

John Saxbee, Bishop of Lincoln indicated that he would later feel called to vote against the Archbishops' proposals. He said that this was "a serious matter" but that the issues at stake were serious issues. That women are asked to minister in a church where a Code of Practice is required is, he reminded us, is in itself no small thing. He also urged that grace rather than law should govern our affairs.

Christine Hardman (Southwark) was the first speaker and spoke of some of the theology of incarnation and that the Revision Committee report really does go as far as it can for those opposed, but stops just short of moving to the creation of a two tier church.

Synod voted to take note of the recommendations of the Revision Committee.

This afternoon Synod has rejected two measures, one relating to separate dioceses and the other to transfer to suffragan bishops.

The Archbishop of York is currently speaking on the Archbishops' proposed amendments.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Out and about!


These two pictures may give you a hints as to where I will be this weekend and next. They are different locations BTW!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Jeffrey John rejected ?

Jeffrey John has been rejected as a candidate for Southwark, according to Jonathon Wynne Jones.
H/t to Church Mouse.

Heartaches and headaches

Christina Rees has written a detailed comment on the Archbishops' proposals, as has Graham Kings over at Fulcrum. Simon Sarmiento has also published a readable synopsis of what the different clauses and proposals might mean over on Thinking Anglicans - all the relevant documents are, of course, handily available over there if you happen to have a couple of hours free and a box of asprin.

I've been trying to figure it all out, and to be honest, I can't see this working without an almighty mess! Even Ed Tomlinson suggests that those with opposed views will end up in a ludicrous and "abusive" relationship and that the sensible option might just be a single clause measure while those opposed pack their bags for Rome...

Monday, 5 July 2010

Urgent Call for Prayer!

Significant Truths is calling for all readers to urgently pray for all those who think seem to think it is a matter of urgency to keep an entirely innocuous celibate gay man from becoming the next Bishop of Southwark. Please pray that we may all be granted a sense of perspective, grace, and love for our neighbour as ourselves, and that an awareness of the speck of dust in our neighbour’s eye will never block out the plank of wood in our own.

Amen .

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Jeffrey John shorlisted for Southwark

According to Jonathon Wynne Jones in the Telegraph, Jeffrey John has been shortlisted as a candidate to be Bishop of Southwark. This news, announced yesterday, has already caused a flurry of speculation about its potential to exacerbate the “war” between conservatives and liberals within the Church of England.
Well, I have stated before that I agree with the James Jones, bishop of Liverpool and Michael Perham, bishop of Gloucester that we have to stop thinking in terms of “war” and take a more mature and respectful attitude towards differing views on this issue. There are no grounds to reasonably debar Jeffrey John, except perhaps from most extreme and graceless conservative mindsets, given that the Church of England allows celibate priests in civil partnerships and Jeffrey John has stated that he is celibate.
I personally believe Jeffrey John has so much to offer the Church. I’ve already read conservative bloggers complaining that his appointment would be “iconic” for gay Christians. I am not sure I agree with that; some gay Christians feel he is a “tame” choice in that he is fully compliant with the rules on gay clergy anyway. However, the appalling way Jeffrey John was treated sent a loud and clear message to so many LGBT Christians and his appointment now would certainly be encouraging and healing to many. Many LGBT Christians, not to mention friends, families and supporters, feel disillusioned with the church. Some have left the church. I frequently have doubts about being involved myself, not because of the attitudes of individual churches, but because of the overarching stance and the hypocrisy it involves.
I hope Jeffrey John will be appointed, I don’t think he will, and I don’t quite know why I think that! I hope there wouldn’t be a conservative outcry if he was to be appointed, but I think there still might. Despite all the love and grace you can find at the grassroots (and there is a lot around), I have lost faith in the hierarchy of the Church of England not to cave in to pressure but to act with decency and a little teensy bit of grace and maturity over these issues?

So I am not sanguine, but I would be very, very happy to be pleasantly surprised...

Saturday, 3 July 2010

London Pride

Great article from Symon Hill on the Christian presence at London Pride.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Link to Liturgy blog

From the fantastic Liturgy blog -Mitregate 3D the movie.

Miracles


I wrote on Pullman's The Good man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ below and noted that in Pullman's rewriting of the gospels,

" The miracles are shown to be ordinary events inspired by the ability of Jesus to appeal to human generosity or to inspire life changing confidence in others."

It reminded me of this great sketch by Rowan Atkinson (a former Archbishop of Comedy.)

Apologies to anyone who finds this offensive...

Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

I have been reading The good man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, a novel I earmarked after hearing Pullman and Rowan Williams disussing it on the radio over Easter.
In Pullman's allegorical re-working of the gospel, Mary gives birth to, not one, but two sons, the hearty good man, Jesus, and the stunted scoundrel, Christ.
Jesus and Christ quite clearly represent two different facets of Christianity. Jesus embodies that which Pullman finds appealing; he is charismatic, human centred and dismissive of the force of power, institution or reputation. Christ represents the Church, and indeed the Word, he is manipulative, has an eye to expediency and yet, and this I find most fascinating, is often troubled, secretive and emotionally needy.

Pullman also restructures the gospels to create challenge; miracles are shown to be ordinary events inspired by the ability of Jesus to appeal to human generosity or to inspire life changing confidence in others. Pullman also writes in a terse, pared down prose, not unlike the gospels themselves, interspersed with the occasional sentence infused with question and meaning.
It is Christ, the shadowy figure who lurks unnoticed behind his brother, who absorbs Pullman the most. It is Christ’s emotions and thoughts that are most fully explored. I think there are two possible interpretations of the uneven presentation of the two brothers. Firstly, Pullman undoubtedly sees Christ (the Church and the Word) as the more complex character, carrying all the weight of history and ideology to come, upon his puny shoulders, whereas Jesus is, at that point, simply occupying a moment in time and history. As just a good man, Jesus needs less analysis.

However, another reading did occur, and that is that the reader is meant to feel they do not know Jesus as completely by the end of the novel as a tribute from the novelist to his figure and teaching which defies categories and analysis. Pullman’s depiction of Jesus has little piety. Jesus is a source of compassion, but he is also rebellious, indifferent, stubborn, mulish, impulsive, joyful, an unheeding maverick, a rambunctious child. I liked that, I really did.