Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Three Ways of the Postmodern Theological

Best wishes to Rachel Marszalek and Jody Stowell as they go off into retreat ahead of their ordinations as deacons. That's despite them being evangelicals! Both have been victims of my drawing, Rachel more than many. Rachel writes good essays and has engaged with me at that level, and yet I think a lot of this evangelical sourced postmodern theology (it starts with Karl Barth and journeys through Hans Frei and the institutional George Lindbeck) is much of the Emperor's New Clothes. Another variant is the Radical Orthodoxy that is a kind of bubble of Anglo-Catholic postmodernism. Liberal postmodernism is the one that allows itself to spread out somewhat - Don Cupitt is the British version but the main man is arguably Mark C. Taylor in the United States. Of course there is hardly a boundary between liberal postmodernism and liberal modernism, as with say John Hick, though the latter types retain a form of theism. It makes sense - postmodernism and high modernism go together in the social sciences.

This is how I understand how postmodernisms in different camps come together. In Barth's scheme, the God of revelation is so high and dry you can't see it. No one can approach it - that is corrupt religion. So it has no objective existence, no actuality in history, culture - only in encounter under revelation. So Hans Frei says with no objectivity nor subjectivity it is like the postmodern and is received in the biblical narrative - which is history-like, or biography-like.

So there is a sleight of hand, there. In Radical Orthodoxy postmodernism allows for difference and thus a reassertion of the Platonic, the true and good - but within its bubble. It then gets to be like a bit of a thug (it can when the Church is perfect peace) and says it has the right to truth and something like Sociology is a form of secular theology. Rowan Williams expresses a kind of Radical Orthodoxy by always going on about 'the story' as authentic, except he gets into the detail and you start to think it is historical detail when it could just be fictitious. His Catholicism is highly institutional, as the people opposing the Anglican Communion Covenant have discovered. The Church is the ethic, so there is nothing that the Church need absorb - human rights is an inadequate starting point because they are secular and outside the bubble (though John Milbank is pro-gay inclusion!).

The liberal postmodernism is where each has their own language and nothing is dominant over the other. This is the problem of translating between cultures, discovered in a Social Anthropology that does not want to have Western intellectual terms as superior. You end up with a highly fluid, symbolic religion, Baudrillardian in that the symbols build up and break down. It is the anti-matter with the matter, and never only one of them: so a Eucharist is both real presence and unreal absence and never one. In terms of liberalism, the highly subjective breaks down into the postmodern, especially when the highly subjective tries to live with collective forms, such as shared worship. The Martineau route to postmodernism is the mirror image of the Barthian route; indeed the particular and the general are the opposite. For Martineau the Bible is something that is but an example of something all the greater; for Barth the Bible is the greater and activity identified as religion is the subsumed within it.

For myself, I am probably a high modernist. Sociology isn't just secular theology because it does research and produces, whether valid or regular, answers you don't want. It is not like a novel where you can make it all up. Nor is science. Yes there are ignored questions and big theories to change, and issues of language, but your experiments soon say yes or no in a real sense. The big humanist narratives are not narratives like theology: they actually reflect technological achievement. Theology, though, is open to the postmodern, because it is creative, is fictitious, is artistic. It is a form of reflection, and a means to engage with ethics.

I'm a soft postmodernist in religion in that I don't believe in the existence of God in any directive sense, but it is a useful 'summary' term about our hopes and fears. But I am not a postmodernist regarding science or anything else - I must be a critical realist. Each subject has a different language game, but that includes degrees of objectivity. Religion has realities of exchange and gift, of the communal and binding, but these are not structural: the poststructural and postmodern can run riot in varieties of interpretations.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

AMiE More and it Gets Personal

Clearly this launch of the Anglican Mission in England is causing a few ripples, particularly among other Evangelicals. It is another example of the old story: the nearest competitor is the fiercest opposition. When the Social Democratic Party broke away from Labour, Labour carried on opposing the Conservatives but it was the former Labour people they opposed with venom.

One of my comments to an open evangelical's blog was rejected because it mentioned a real person, and whether open evangelical boundaries would be drawn against that person. I understand the sensitivities here, but in the end all this jockeying for position comes down to people - actual people - who are either included or excluded. The Fulcrum Statement on Interventionist Anglican Mission in England makes the demand:

We affirm...

...the concern to continue the pressure for maintaining the Anglican Communion's conservative view on sexual ethics within the Church of England.

The real people I know about, in the Church of England, are completely and totally opposed to this position.

Given that such people exist, in holy orders or not, and with Church jobs or not, all the 'indabas' in the world are not going to create some result that is both the Fulcrum affirmation and the opposite, inclusive, view. One of them has to give way.

However, the AMiE strategy is as much against the so-called "liberal evangelicals" as against liberals proper, given how they were described by the Principal of Wycliffe College in his now infamous Reform lecture in 2006. In it Richard Turnbull stated that:

And thirdly, I want to note the challenge that liberalism brings to us. We are all aware - in this room you don't need me to say or to explain to you the challenge that liberalism brings to the Church at large. I need [?] also want to warn against the nature of liberalism within our own midst. What I mean by that is this whole idea of what it means to be evangelical being broadened so that it encompasses everybody and everything. If the liberals seek to capture the theological colleges in order to exercise strategic influence, the first step will be to encourage liberal evangelicals to capture the evangelical colleges.

In other words, to reverse this around as to what he actually meant, the first step is to take on the liberal evangelicals and then be able to tackle the liberals proper.

The point about AMiE and the whole GAFCON industry is precisely to have alternative episcopal oversight so as not to have the institutional compromises of the Fulcrum kind.

My own view about the future is this: the Church of England under present management will bend hell to get the Anglican Communion Covenant through. Whatever it's overall effect in broader Anglicanism, its effect on the Church of England must be to freeze the institution because the Church of England provides the Archbishop, on of the Instruments of Unity. So there will be no inclusion or indeed anything that compromises this provision. The Liberals have one chance now to bust the Covenant, and if they do, that it is somehow unworkable, they will save the Church of England to at least allow it to evolve sometime in the future (and they might just get rid of this dreadful Archbishop Rowan Williams - again, it comes down to real people).

If the Covenant is passed, then really the need for a sectarian inside approach for evangelicals will be just silly, or rather completely entryist. They will want to be the lead evangelicals regardless, rather as Militant wanted to set the agenda for Labour in the 1980s.

But we know what happened. They didn't have a Rowan Williams who could duck and weave and force through some kind of appeasement to the entryists at a higher level, but a Neil Kinnock who in the end realised he had to pull the plant up and dig out the roots. Doing that meant the SDP became unnecessary in and of itself: later, of course, Labour forgot what it was at all and drifted off in the opposite direction, to the benefit of the left of centre Liberal Democrats until - oh dear, they got into bed with the Tories.

I remember at the time trying to go our with a socialist woman, an ex-Roman Catholic (and boy did that show through - all the stronger rejection and yet it was a wopping shadow over her). She referred to entryists and the like, by which she turned it around and meant the Gang of Four. But she was wrong because the Gang of Four were leaving anyway. That was the point.

I'm like one of the Gang of Four. I've left. But there are the Denis Healeys and Callaghans left behind, and even those who are equivalent of the ones who were to the right of them. The Internet person I'm referring to basically blogs religious humanist arguments and plenty of psychology. Yes the correct doctrinal headline buttons are pressed every so often. Even her now husband when interviewing her for a tiny temporary radio station asked about any references to the Bible - and he is an Affirming Liberal. So what about the Affirming Liberals and their equivalent, all of whom will be inclusivists?

My tradition is that of Richard Baxter. I mention him because even some of those who left the Church of England in 1662 did so despite being regarded as 'sober' - not all Puritans were raving extremists. The chap whose money pays for my house and, pretty much, the church, was strict but not a raving extremist. Nevertheless a point is arriving again where something has to give. Either the liberals ought to go, or the extremists of the evangelicals.

Usually what happens is that the broad people and the liberals hang on, as well as the compromisers. The extreme or principled or whatever usually design their way out. The Puritans did; the Methodists did. AMiE looks like a design for a way out, in that at some point entryism results in the bodies involved being removed (or you get compromised and compromised - Methodists and Puritans were both entryists in their day). I'm just suggesting that if the Covenant goes through, then Rowan Williams won't have just betrayed his friend (twice), but he will have shafted every person who agreed with his original objection to Lambeth 1998 1:10 and who saw him as intellectual ballast and a thinker of reasonable religion.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Singing Out of Time

The problem with prerecorded music of any kind is that it is unforgiving and inflexible. When singing the first hymn, and the first verse, everyone decided to leave a gap before the third line that wasn't there, and the music of the fourth line ended while everyone (except me - I stopped) was half way through and still going. So next verse, I became a kind of choir leader from behind the curtain, and punched in the early first word, third line. The tune of Amazing Grace used the piano for HL 177.

Community, supporting friends,
Hands joined in unity...
Rejoice, my friend, in fellowship,
In living, full and free.

O let us live with humankind
As sisters, brothers, true,
We'll share our joys, our sorrows share,
Becoming as we do.

We all can grow. We can become
Our finer selves set free...
Risk what we are, sure in our faith
In what we yet can be.

Doris Jeanine Stevens

Two of the hymns had choirs, one from the awful first 21 Hymns CD originally recorded in mono with a huge background hiss. For each hymn, I took off the hiss, leaving a metallic sound behind, and then by negative amplifying added a stereo breadth and then something called GVerb - basically an echo that throws the object backwards - to get rid of the metallic ribble sound, at a little cost of the esses and some clarity.

The second choir CD following that to assist Hymns for Living (1985) was much better - in stereo. The four to assist Sing Your Faith (2010) are better still. Before the two HL CDs there was a tape recorded in Harris Manchester College, Oxford, where the person recording it clunked his switches during the final echo of each hymn. The result there was I have had to cut the clunk off and then add artificial echo. My friend Mr Sedman (who installed the sound system, and what a difference it makes) says it will have been recorded with a ghetto blaster or similar. Ah yeah. Clunk - we've done that one. Nobody thinks.

While handing these CDs I have built up a stock of organ playing, piano playing and other instruments for other hymns, speeding them up or slowing them down, raising or lowering the pitch, with the correct number of verses (adding or removing) right in the depths of the wave form to achieve no clicks or joins.

Some music is 'fake', in the sense that it is untouched by human hands. The innovation today was I had taken a .MID (computer generated file) of Carmina Burana - 25 mins worth - and turned all its instruments into pianos. It's incredible to see the notes of the .MID file - saving as text effectively at 460 kb plus. It sort of worked as the lead in piece to start the service on time. In future though I'll chop out most of it. I did the same for a fugue. Thus I said for the hymn, where people sung it their way: the only thing is I could write it out and build the pause in where people want it. The music would then come from the music composing software.

However, I am more likely to reproduce HL 174, A Church is a Living Fellowship, that was the hymn in the dreadful quality CD that I had to process. This is because its tune is Lancaster (9.6. 9.6), by Unitarian music guru David Dawson, and so is simply unavailable elsewhere.

A church is a living fellowship
More than a holy shrine,
Where people can share their hopes and fear,
Less of the yours and mine;

Where bonded by trust we search for Truth
Beyond the chains of creeds,
And thought can aspire to shine with fire
From all our deepest needs.

Let's stretch out the open hand of Love,
Conquer the fists of hate,
Divided no more by voices of war,
Greeds of our mindless state;

We'll take all our building bricks of Truth,
Make of them homes of Life,
A future to face the shame and disgrace
In all our past of strife.

A church is a place of human trust
More than of brick and stone;
Of Love we will sing to make it ring
In every joyous tone.

Here's a case of where an author in a book is given a birth date and a dash, but the book becomes out of date as the Unitarian minister author has died since. The author is Frank Clabburn, self-confessed at the humanist end of the denomination. So I'm thinking that this is likely to get my rewrite treatment, depending on the time available given the next service and its demands.

SPREAD a Little Unhappiness

First off best wishes to the newly named Lesley Crawley and her husband Alan.

As 'low liberals', they won't be too sympathetic to the nature of the new Anglican Mission in England and the Society for the Propagation of Reformed Evangelical Anglican Doctrine. The lead man in this is the unfortunately-named Charles Raven (given the better known and rather different Anglican divine of the same name), who is no longer a member of the Church of England.

As an outsider it is odd that he follows the line given by GAFCON, but which no one really believes, that it is an inside the Church of England reforming body. Yet he states:

Receiving the AMiE as the new wineskin of global Anglicanism could very well be its last chance ’to wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die’ (Revelation 3:2).

Hang on. Doesn't this relate to the idea that you can't put new wine in old wineskins? So you can't have the old Church of England then - if it is to be the new wineskin of global Anglicanism, with overseas or other episcopal oversight as this entryist body AMiE sees fit?

Given that Charles Raven is a 'New Puritan' and has been kicked out of the C of E, his ideological predecessor is more Richard Baxter rather than Richard Hooker. Baxter is also an ideological predecessor of mine, in that I attend the movement derived from the English Presbyterians who left the Church of England but were, in a few senses, more moderate that those Puritans who preferred congregationalism (though both organised using independency). The difference is that the trustee-led Bible only pew renters liberalised over time and then caught the capitalist liberal ideological spirit and later a critical, individualist, spirit.

Raven represents a movement different from the developments in nineteenth century Anglicanism towards liberalism, Catholicism and, for some, a synthesis of the two found today in Affirming Catholicism.

Now Raven and company think they can do church planting to recover reformed Anglicanism where it is lacking. I've news for them - no chance. Why? Well, I have a local story to tell as to why.

I did part of my Ph.D participant observation in an evangelical Anglican Church. It didn't boom in numbers, because there is no magic formula and Hull is tough territory regardless. However, the New Life Church in Bridlington Avenue, supplier of content to satellite Christian television, is going to built a thousand seat media and community church in Kingswood, north Hull. They'll do it by a church plant, splitting their own congregation. I can tell Charles Raven now that the Anglican church nearest, that passes every evangelical test he would set, is doomed. That media church will provide the kind of religious entertainment that attracts the numbers. It will do some community outreach too, on its terms. But this is like a religious vacuum cleaner at this end of the market. The people will drive in and come from around, and the evangelical Anglican church won't be able to compete. It may as well become liberal.

The Anglican Church with its formats and formulas and hierarchy cannot compete with the media church's informality, and the sheer nature of the entertainment that crosses over with spirituality. Just a few of these churches sweep up the available evangelical numbers in a city. Anglicanism is already becoming an acquired taste that no one understands unless they are already insiders. The danger is, too, that those who do join and get coached by an evangelical Anglican church will simply go off to the bigger, better experience.

Perhaps at his end of the market, the compatible folks for Anglicanism are SPREAD more thinly.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Erastian Interference

The English national Church says that, when it comes to Civil Partnerships on religious premises, other faiths and denominations should not have celebrants who are registrars, that the registrar should do the civil bit first and take no part in the service, and that the partnership done, the service should then proceed. HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM NOW?

STOP INTERFERING! The service should BE the way that the gay people come together in their union.

Meanwhile, I've seen the first draft of the response of the English national Church to the government. It follows below:

Church in England press release needs to indicate that given the decision that Parliament has already taken against our better Plan A judgement to amend the Civil Partnership Act 2004, the response here focuses on our Plan B need to have unfettered freedom to deny gay people our blessings and to be able to continue to legislate internally to this end for as long as we want.

Opting in is the key. Unless and until and underwear the General Synod should say 'aye' three times, there will be no dirtying our premises with such actions, so our lot can keep their vests on.

We need a full hermeneutically checked submission that addresses the specific issues raised by the consultation from Cleggy to clergy, without any Open Evangelical or Affirming Catholic double facing nuances, and this would be so if so set out below.

Q1: Requiring consent

We like the idea of consent, and once general consent is given in a denomination then the locals might have someone to say we would like to register the building for the purpose - and let's just see what local prejudice there is in these so called progressive denominations. Hah! But if you don't opt in to start with, no one local will be able to ask. The Church in England then would have to give its consent first, though this would have to be consistent with the Anglican Communion Covenant and providing the Archbishop Instrument to the Communion. So we won't be opting in until the Nigerians do. Hah!

Q2 and Q3: who will be required to give consent?

For some decades now we have lived alongside all sorts of heretics and strange beliefs so they'd better do something nearer to what they want, though it hardly goes along with the Erastian principle and keeping our focus of unity heterosexual bishops in the House of Lords.

We are epicopally led synodically governed. This means that the Archbishops shout at people and bully the other bishops, who are generally stupid. In the end the General Synod makes a decision, but they love the Archbishops and operate like jelly. See how we are getting this Anglican Communion Covenant through! Hah! So despite us being the State Church, this General Synod is our Parliament and it will keep the gays out as well as think about other forms of prejudice.

So the law should name the General Synod as the body that makes decisions despite the fact that the Archbishops twist people's arms, leak and go to the toilet. That'll be nice.

Q4 and Q5: demonstrating consent in applications to the local authority

Just send off your applications once the denomination has said yes, but if it says no then put a line through it.

The local authority might delay matters just to check that the denomination did agree, but by calling it a consultation it would notify the public that gays would be gathering in these places and the public might want to organise some mob-like opposition.

If the local authority cocks it up (hah!) then a right of review should also exist after approval so that the denomination can say it said no or the mob can have more time to organise.

The denomination would also be able to say yes and then no, and thus scrap all the local consents to have gay people present for so called blessings. We reckon five days is about right to reverse things and organise the mob.

Q7 and Q.8: Buildings issues

Obviously churches ought to look like churches and temples look like temples, otherwise there's going to be all sorts of confusion about people having something so-called sacred or not sacred, religious or civil, Richard and Cyril. We need less unclarity on this matter.

Presumably use can be made of the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855 in so far as that system is applicable. We don't want the Scottish situation where some cleric can do it in the street. We don't want gay blessings in the street, after all, although we would make an exception for a busy road.

But it is nothing to do with us as the Church in England doesn't register its buildings for marriage as we have Erastian State privilege, or at least we used to have this until Civil Partnerships and equality legislation came in.

But belonging to does not a Church or Temple make. In any case there is no such thing as the Church in England inc, although clergy do use Church in England ink. We think our diplomats should meet government diplomats for bilateral talks on this matter, which might create some delay.

Q.9 and Q.10: Availability and public access

Now here's an important principle. We don't want institutions of one religion or denomination doing Religious Civil Partnerships for members of other faiths or denominations. So if a bunch of Unitarians started gay-marrying Christians, we would seek damages in court and have such a denomination shut down. We refer to the Lady Hewley and Lady Healey case, a couple of Puritans who were a bit naughty with one another.

If heretics use the church for a service, then heretics are the only people to go inside them for their so-called blessings and partnership wotsits.

Q.11 and Q.12: Layout and general use

And the other thing is, a church is a church and not a restaurant. So if food isn't normally consumed on the premises you can't exactly have a Civil Partnership done with religion given the tendency for Civil Partners to eat and drink. Otherwise this will clash with the Equality Act that states that all people must have equal access to food and drink, consistent with the money in the handbag or whatever the man has.

Q.13: Religious symbols, iconography and objects

Denominations and faiths may as well keep the pictures on the wall and other items on shelves and tables while Civil Partnerships were registered.

On the other hand, a Civil Marriage can't have such symbols on display. You might have a moonlit night picture but not a church in the foreground. This creates some confusion, because a Civil Partnership won't be like a Civil Marriage any more, but then was it? But let's keep a Civil marriage secular so that our religious marriage is the real deal, the proper dog's bollocks when compared with something else in religious premises.

Q.14: Conduct of the ceremony

But if there is a Civil Registrar, then you can't have religious things going on. Just as a Civil Marriage can't have a Bible reading, or from the Qur'an, or from Star Wars, nor should a Civil Partnership with a registrar. So we think that the way to do this is have a registrar with his or her or transexual fingers in his or her or transexual ears while the so-called religious bits happen, and singing away "la la la", until the religious celebrant tells him, her or himher to come over and use some ink.

If he/ she/ heshe does the civil ceremony first then the religious bit will be like it is now, any sort of add-on, and it would even more so be a rubbish thing that others do. It wouldn't be a combined Religious Civil Partnership, and thus only heterosexual marriage would be the real deal, the dog's bollocks.

Q.15 - 20: Approval of premises

Who can apply

Talk any more about trustees and proprieters and we'll call our lawyers.


Of course local authorities should charge for Civil Partnerships. The price should be prohibitive.

Revoking approval

If the local authority can find an excuse, they should be able to close religious premises down that have conducted Civil Partnerships.
Training and information

Although it won't concern us, we would be interested to know how training will be done. The more ignorant people are, the fewer places will open for this sort of thing.

Q 21: Other issues

The fuckilty jurisdiction

Now here is how we are going to stop it all. The General Synod says no. So some people might be a bit sneaky and try and hold a ceremony in a parish church. Will they cocoa! Let's be honest - these blessings are not properly religious. They are secular and if you do secular things in an English church then you need a fuckilty. Like if you want to do some social science, you need a Fuckilty of Social Science (and then you can fuck up some Economics, Politics, Sociology). So, any non-sacred use of a church building would have to get a fuckilty from a consistent court. Such a non-sacred use of one of our premises ain't going to get a fuckilty from a consistent court.

Religious celebrants

And no, faith groups and denominations shouldn't have celebrants as registrars for Civil Partnerships! Hah! So you can't have a registrar involved, he ought to act first, and you can do your so called religion afterwards. How is that different from now? IT ISN'T!

Yes we want to interfere in how you do your so-called religion!

Q.22: Potential legal challenges

We want our position watertight. No gay partnerships on our premises, and we will make sure there are no fuckilties.

Q.23 - Q.25: Impact assessment

Perhaps no one wants these things after all? Anyway, the labour cost is under £18 an hour. That's how much our ministers get for reading a book and imagining a sermon.

(Interfering, overtly gay-free) Church in England

For June 2011

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Last Saturday

Mark Townshend can be described as a Hedge Priest; it means, according to Druids, that he is in between Christian and Nature traditions. Between June 2007 and April 2010 Mark Townshend was in a kind of limbo, an Anglican exile that ended with an orthodoxy test and then return of his priestly licence. Nevertheless, he decided to stay out, and thus has been reordained in the Open Episcopal Church (sub-conditione - just in case)

The liturgy represented both aspects, and so some came from the Ordinal of the Liberal Catholic Church and part came from poet and liturgist Revd. Tess Ward.

This was the Solstice Eucharistic element by Revd. Tess ward:

We are approaching the long day
The day for brightness, for lightness, for life-giving renewal
When the sun burnishes at full strength
Rays flaring like the mane of a lion
With courage and energy at its heart.
On this day we will raise the bread of Christ
like a monstrance of life death and new life
drawing us into the power and struggle of God’s Spirit in the world.
This is the day between Pentecost and the Summer Solstice
when the warm earth is bursting with joy
This is the day for rejoicing and being with friends
for fruitfulness and creativity
for celebrating the fire in our spirits
and finding our compasses set at true
as we venture on in our journeys.

But the longest day is a day that must pass
It is the day that looks toward the shortest day
It is the day when the sun will begin to wane
And we are reminded that
light belongs with shadow
flourishing with diminishment
So as the sun draws all to its zenith,
we embrace with love all that must fade.
In silence, let us remember all that is broken in our world at this time……
Those whom we know who need our prayers and holding in the light…….

And let us place ourselves in the divine rhythm of life death and new life
as we come to this table now……..

For Christ was born in the milk and moon of earth
pushed from the dark soupy waters
into a wall-less world.
We saw him with our own eyes
Touched him with our hands
We saw road-dust on his feet, smelt sea-salt in his hair,
Toil behind his finger nails
And gathered round a table with those whose faces are like ours
Planted in a particular time and a place
He took a loaf in his hands and blessed it
He broke it open and said “Take eat, this is my body broken for all that is broken.
Share it to remember me”.
He took a pitcher of wine and poured it into a cup.
He blessed it and said “Drink from this for compassion’s sake for it is my blood poured on this earth so love may flow and heal this troubled world. Share it to remember me.”
And here with the song of the birds
and the abundance of the fruits and flowers
Amongst the orchards and the river and the gentle curve of land
Here amidst the fiery forces of nature
He hung alone upon a tree
rooted in the humus and soil of all that lives.
He gathered all the silence of the mountain times to himself
And let the darkness come upon him.
He plunged down and down and darkly down
through emptiness and chaos, through formless void.
He plunged so deeply and so violently that he touched bottom
And the Spirit hovered over the face of the deep
and shone in the dazzling darkness
and the heavy mass of all that is unhealed was rolled away.
And love carved a space inside the centre
into which a voice might speak
an echo of the first and deepest sound ever made
longing for union
a word issuing forth from the womb of the eternal
a cry so natural it calls us to come to our senses.

For as it was then so now and here
Spirit from the beginning,
breathing through all,
through flame and wave
through land and pore
in the hills and on the shore
and the dear flesh of every one we ever loved.
Come brood over these earthly things
That they may become for us the body and blood of Christ
Breathe peace through the
struggle and the striving
Breathe joy through root and star
Breathe love down to the skin and the sinew,
the blood and the bone,
For you are the lived life.
You dwell within us and among us.
You are here.
You are there.
You are one.

Mark has taken the Rent a Rev. tag from Rev. Horseman, himself marginalised and exiled from the Church of England and who has now retired. So it is a risky venture, but with full freedom to be both a Catholic priest and nature based. Instead of heresy there is creativity.

Here is a prayer from one of the Pagans (I have seen this before):

Grant, O Great Spirit, thy Protection,
And in Protection, Strength,
And in Strength, Understanding,
And in Understanding, Knowledge,
And in Knowledge, the Knowledge of Justice,
And in the Knowledge of Justice, the Love of it,
And in the Love of it, the Love of All Existences,
And in the Love of All Existences,
The Love of God/Goddess and all Goodness.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Laughing Stock

The Church of England advice to itself about gay bishops remains convoluted as with the original leak (via Thinking Anglicans). The law allows a religious body to discriminate on the basis not of its doctrines but on what a significant number of its followers think:

because of the nature or context of the [office], the requirement is applied so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers.

The C of E itself, however, concentrates on whether anyone is doing nookie or not outside of marriage. So there is no restriction on a bishop being in a Civil Partnership as such. However, some people then believe things about the Civil Partnership even if a bishop in one said no nookie is taking place. Perhaps in his diocesan magazine, he and 'Fred' can declare that they are not playing with each other under the bedsheets.

26. It is clearly the case that a significant number of Anglicans, on grounds of strongly held religious conviction believe that a Christian leader should not enter into a civil partnership, even if celibate, because it involves forming an exclusive, lifelong bond with someone of the same sex, creates family ties and is generally viewed in wider society as akin to same-sex marriage. It is equally clear that many other Anglicans believe that it is appropriate that clergy who are gay by orientation enter into civil partnerships, even though the discipline of the church requires them to remain sexually abstinent.

It is this 'division of opinion' that means a gay man in a Civil Partnership is unlikely ever to become a bishop! This of course is exactly how the Anglican Covenant will operate - the division of opinion serves the more conservative outcome, and indeed providing the Archbishop of Canterbury as a regulative instrument to this Covenant will mean the Church of England in particular will be duty bound to maintain the most conservative of outcomes.

• where someone is in a civil partnership and/or is known to have been in a same-sex relationship, even though now celibate, it is for the CNC in the case of diocesan appointments and for the diocesan bishop, in consultation with the relevant archbishop, in relation to suffragan appointments, to come to a view whether the person concerned can act as a focus for unity because of these matters.

The answer surely is always going to be "no", because there are always enough people to make a fuss. It is why, when a diocese might suggest a gay man as a bishop, Archbishops might make some people cry or change their vote during a visit to the urinals or leak matters and hold an enquiry where the findings themselves are held in secret.

There are few objective measures in this: it is just opinion at the time (that's like the Covenant too). But one matter that might be made almost objective is what the person concerned states. Never mind what he thinks, but what does he state:

29. Relevant factors which can properly be taken into account include:
• whether the candidate had always complied with the Church’s teachings on same-sex sexual activity;...
• whether he was in a continuing civil partnership with a person with whom he had had an earlier same-sex sexual relationship;
• whether he had expressed repentance for any previous same-sex sexual activity;...

In other words, whilst the diocesan rag might state that the bishop was having no nookie, he would also have to say that if he used to have nookie that it was wrong and indeed no one should have nookie outside of heterosexual marriage. The fact that he used to offer some of his flesh to Fred for a bit of bonding was, he now realises, mistaken and should Fred approach him he will slap his hand. Meanwhile, Bishop Jim next door says nothing about when he ran through a string of female relationships before he hitched up with Jane.

So he says - but as we know with this Archbishop of Canterbury, there are things you state publically and things you might think privately.

Put simply, the Church of England on this matter is a laughing stock. Reform says the Civil Partnership compromises a bishop. It does, given the silly rules to begin with.

The only relevant opinion surely about lifestyle is that someone is faithful to someone else. The rest - the focus on the body bits - is irrelevant. Marriage is not some magical act. What happens before it, even after it with separation, is about faithfulness offered, taken, reciprocated and observed regarding the other person. To allow a Civil Partnership should be enough. Indeed, marriage and partnership should be available to all, so that orientations can enjoy stronger and weaker forms of partnering for equal civil benefits. The Church of England ought to be capable of showing its discrimination with more clarity.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Told of a Tour

The problem with people on holiday, or otherwise engaged, when the congregation is small already is that it soon thins out. And so the numbers were thin to welcome Neville Kenyon, last years General Assembly President. It's fair to say that he is a denominationalist and that was evident even in his prayers. He wants distance between Unitarianism and the collection of Christian denominations. The talk was a tour around Unitarianism as taken last year by the then President. He made it to around 80 churches and there were some 15 more asking, like Hull. He saw positive signs. He was a little puzzled by the presence of Mhoira Lauer-Patterson in the congregation, as she was wearing a clerical collar. He knew she wasn't "one of ours", though soon was to learn of her involvement particularly in Leeds (Mhoira takes a service in Hull soon). It was because I'd been asked information about Bournemouth that I asked him, and it had closed recently but a group are hoping to gather in Poole. Poole closed a long time ago; it was the first ministry of Hull's long standing minister, the late Ernest Penn. I didn't ask for contact details, if they were available. Of course Neville was able to say that Leeds is a very different place and ethos from Hull - Mill Hill is an example of Victorian Gothic. Hull was like that up to 1976, though even then it didn't match Leeds. The Hull church used to rival the what was a children's hospital next door. Now those NHS administrative buildings dwarf the functional church (where, sometime this last fortnight, someone's nicked the lead).

Elsewhere it was Trinity Sunday, and this was always a bit of a laugh for me to hear preachers express puzzlement with it or themselves about it or hand it over to some curate or lay reader. It received not a thought in our place and that's probably quite right.Some will have given it attention to reject it, others attention to see it as a mythic communal expression but it could be four or five.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Streamlined Unitarian Education

Unitarians have a humorously named Joined Up Education Panel. I'm not quite sure how it is joined up, and what possibly wasn't beforehand.

It offers two courses to anyone, at different levels. These reflect the apparent need to train people to take services and also to inform the Unitarian tradition. The Education people have streamlined two courses for these purposes.

The Worship Studies Course (WSC) (good job it is not simply the Worship Course) starts at a lower level than the Unitarian Studies Course (USC). The Worship Foundation Step is for students to take services in their own or neighbouring congregations. I wonder how many who do this have taken the course?

Foundation students look at What is worship? Speech and Communication, Elements of the service (readings, prayers/ meditation/ silence, hymns, music, sermon/ address, stories/ children), Practicalities and Precautions. Sources and Resources.

Then both the WSC and the USC have the Preliminary Step, being four modules each.

The four modules for both are:

  1. Unitarian theology/ thought.
  2. Unitarian history - local/ broader.
  3. Biblical studies.
  4. World religions and worship including new age/ earth spirit spirituality.

THe USC students present 4 short essays to each of these, and WSC students submit four services to each of these and in addition deliver two of the services for assessment by an appropriate person, e.g. a minister or recognised lay leader/ preacher/ pastor. Funnily enough, I was asked if I could assess one service, and I'm none of these.

Personally I am concerned at the prominence given to biblical studies. This should extend out to other scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, Buddhist Sutras and the Qur'an. It would then be more consistent with the fourth module. This is not very joined up!

At the Preliminary Step Study Skills are offered to both sets of students.

Only the Advanced Step leads on to Lay Preacher recognition by the General Assembly. After that the WSC leads on to Lay Pastor or Ministerial training.

The four modules remain the same but this time WSC students submit six services with appropriate readings and hymns for each of the modules at a higher level than at the Preliminary Step. Six services are presented from the twenty four, assessed by someone appropriate like a minister or recognised lay leader/ preacher/ pastor.

USC students submit six essays for each of the four modules at a higher level than in the Preliminary Step. These are between 1500-2000 words each.

Each module should take six months.

In addition to holding a portfolio, WSC students in particular would find it useful to keep records of attendance at the likes of Hucklow Summer School, Unitarian Experience Week and other conferences, courses or meetings. It would help in applying for Lay Pastor or Ministerial training.

I just wonder how many will take these courses. First of all, 2000 words limit per essay would frustrate me. I don't want to be funny, but I reckon I am well up on Unitarian theology/ thought, and I have written papers on Unitarian history both local and broader. I might have to do more for Biblical studies, but my scriptural use goes further, and as a trained RE teacher I passed a knowledge base for world religions and the experiential and I have looked into new age/ earth spirit spirituality at some depth.

In fact, I'd go so far to suggest that, in a few areas and specialities, I probably am better read and have produced more than a number of the tutors. Plus as well as the RE PGCE I have a Sociology of Religion Ph.D and a Contemporary Theology MA for which my dissertation was on the theologies within Unitarian Universalism. I have presented on Unitarian history local and broader to the Hull and District Theological Society. I also spent a year getting bored at Unitarian College where the initial University of Manchester MA course was deemed too repetitive and low level given my Ph.D overlap and I went on instead to do a psychology of adult education course (wrongly interpreted by some at the time as a lack of commitment to ministry training and backing a different horse). Oh and I have written study skills materials as I have both supported study skills and taught literacy in HE and FE respectively.

My more in depth services that I present - all of which use liturgical principles many others do not consider - often leave people saying that my sermons lose them at some point. I'd like to see quite a broad extension of Unitarian knowledge and identity so that some people understand better the basics. For example, I remember it took a while to get some people to realise that the 1672 date of starting the congregation was not the Unitarian kick off date. If it has a date then in Hull it is 1802. The founders were quite the opposite of Unitarians - demanding liberty of worship is not the same as being liberal. Even then the suggestion was made that they were in some way 'like us' when it was a wholly different period of time and understanding. Nor do many people realise how there were two camps of Unitarians, and in Hull both were evident and represented throughout the nineteenth century. But not a lot of people know this.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Ready for Sunday

Wednesday I began creating a CD for the service on Sunday, to discover software that needed setting properly and the odd missing program to be found and downloaded. It's amazing just how much goes into this method of providing music. It is similar for art work. I have installed fewer programs this time, but the key ones remain the same. And I wondered where were these brushes I once used in the drawing and painting program, only to realise that they had to be downloaded and added to the ones available. The first drawing after restoration, of Adrian Glover of the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church, is here shown.

Whilst then I'm still going to press the need for back up in making these CDs, I realise that I might have to load in software and choose the settings for whoever takes up the task.What's the betting that no one else takes on the task, and then is the method of provision sustainable if only one person can do it?

Nearly twenty one minutes of music plays up to the beginning of the service, and there are two pieces within - an interlude and collection. The latter is an extract, as is the end piece by experiment. The hymns are SF 158 Morning Light choir, SF 079 Beethoven choir, SF 014 Westchase choir and SF 196 Woodlands (thus all from the new book). The latter music I made up myself and twice, once via music composing software. Below is the third hymn, Sing Your Faith 14.

Bring many names,
Beautiful and good,
Celebrate in parable and story,
Holiness in glory,
Living, loving God:
Hail and Hosanna,
Bring many names!

Strong mother God,
Working night and day,
Planning all the wonders of creation,
Setting each equation,
Genius at play:
Hail and Hosanna,
Strong mother God!

Warm father God,
Hugging every child,
Feeling all the strains of human living,
Caring and forgiving,
Till we're reconciled:
Hail and Hosanna,
Warm father God!

Old, aching God,
Grey with endless care,
Calmly piercing evil's new disguises,
Glad of good suprises,
Wiser than despair:
Hail and Hosanna,
Old, aching God!

Young, growing God,
Eager, on the move,
Saying no to falsehood and unkindness,
Crying out for justice
Giving all you have:
Hail and Hosanna,
Young, growing God!

Great, living God,
Never fully known,
Joyful darkness far beyond our seeing,
Closer yet than breathing,
Everlasing home:
Hail and Hosanna,
Great, Living God.

Brian Wren. Music by Carlton R. Young.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Transporting and Resurrection

I made a comment at Fulcrum that I'd like to expand on here.

One of the failings of the Star Trek franchise was the matter of transporting. This was the idea that as matter you could be converted into energy, with a pattern, transported and rebuilt. The amount of energy was never discussed, but it would of course be an explosive amount using Einstein's little formula. Be that as it may, no one would do it.

To go into a transporter is to die. You, the person you experience, would simply end. Then, down on a planet surface, allowing for a remote reconstitution of energy into matter, a reconstruction would take place. That person would have all the same features and memories, and be that person, but despite the internal illusion that person would be different. Yes, he or she can remember walking into the transporter, but the person that did it wouldn't remember anything ever more.

With the job done, the person transports back. And dies as the material is destroyed. The reconstruction back on the ship remembers energising, but the person that energised is dead.

Indeed there is no need to transport the energy at all - just send the pattern, and gather up the energy anywhere. It is exactly like having a copier.

Now I take the view that the resurrection of Jesus Christ, using the texts, is a myth. It is an explanation for an inspiration, legitimacy, leadership and a particular ritual (the meal, the presence of the coming messiah). It is an old belief and not one we share.

But just suppose it was capable of being video recorded, or there was some sort of walking through walls chap after Jesus's death looking like him. The point is that the same argument applies. If Jesus did die, and fully died, then that consciousness went with him. Anything after is a copy.

I just think that both Star Trek transporting and resurrection is drivel. Indeed, what actually DNA reproduction tells us is that there are mistakes in copying. So Captain Kirk would not be quite the same with each copy, nor the one copy of Christ. A little error would appear here or there. Fortunately I believe in neither, and even if copying to such life-enhancing detail was possible, no one would ever enter a transporter from choice.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Gay Times Go

Just a note here that I have written and sent off my piece to the Gay Times, of a difficult to contract down to some 630 words, on why the Archbishop of Canterbury should resign over the his impact on the gay issue in the Church of England. Well, I could put it here now, but I won't, other than to say he should be pushed before it is too late. It compares the Archbishop to an American President and the power to persuade, and illustrates some of his demonstrated political skills, his ethical reversal from before Rowan Williams's "job" and why the Covenant is really the final battle for liberals, social or theological, within the Church of England. Once it is through, the issue is frozen, as is the Church of England, and my short piece even explains why. If I had more space I would say he has been the most disastrous Archbishop this Church has suffered in a number of centuries.

Trip to York

I am still somewhat distracted by computer restoration matters, puzzled as to why my drawing tablet knocks out my mouse (it didn't before). So this report is brief.

I was disappointed about the trip to York Unitarians. To me the place was not as busy as believed, although it has a complete age range. I was disappointed too about the service: I agreed with a comment from someone that it was too much "happy families" and, for me, it lacked ballast. Still, I did get to meet Celia Midgley, herself with John travelled from Skipton, who has a memory better than mine for past conversations. They were important pastoral supporters of mine while I was at Unitarian College. John and her had a strong negative response to my discovery back then of the Free Catholic experiment, that it was an aberration in Unitarian history. So I had brief news of that form of religious life resurfacing in this part of the world. The demand to go off to a local pub for lunch cut into the opportunity to have conversation, and personally I'd rather have stayed in the church and spoken to people we had the opportunity to meet. Then it rained so we just returned to Hull.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Williams the Amateur

Obviously I have heard the news about Rowan Williams and his commentary on government, and how it was highlighted in the media. What seemed odd on television was an apparent criticism of Ian Duncan Smith and his welfare to work policy, a sort of anti-poverty policy, and yet he had been invited by the guest editor Williams to write in the New Statesman magazine. The answer, of course, is that Williams was not criticising him and his policies, but making statements about a coalition government producing those policies for which no one had voted (NHS reform is the obvious one) and a matter of fear over what the government was doing.

The problem with the Ian Duncan Smith policy is that it won't work unless there are jobs to fill; and this 'payment by results' business seems just more of the same crap those of us inhabiting the system have seen before. How many times can you tell someone how to produce a CV? What would be the point of giving me literacy lessons or how to switch on a computer? So if the policy is useless, at least make it cheap (no results equals no payment), and private firms will just be going out of business doing this silly merry go round of placements and apparent activity.

What this government has done is attacked the poor financially, as well as all but the rich, and the rapid shrinking of public employment could cause an economic heart attack on an already weak patient. The IMF is imposing this medicine elsewhere, so we got in first on the basis that doing it ourselves impresses the bankrupters and keeps our interest rates down. So the economic world is bust. So there will be more unemployment here (along with fiddled statistics: I believe none of them). Fundamentally, then, the problem is that so much finance now is a Mickey Mouse reshuffling the pack; the scandal of the Southern Cross residential homes under this sort of capital-releasing bonus paying nonsense that puts real lives at risk is part of the brokenness that is today's capitalism. Capitalism is bust and we need a new way to organise human essentials.

Now if the Archbishop had said that, it would have been something. But he did not. And once upon a time there was an output of Christian social theology, in Anglican terms lasting for around a generation more after William Temple. Now it is the Archbishop acting as a happy amateur in a field not his own, whose opinion on this matter is no more worthwhile than mine.

But as many point out, he hardly preaches or practises what he preaches to the public at large: he lacks legitimacy himself. He has no democratic backing, and represents privilege into the House of Lords. He acts in an authoritarian manner, and seeks exemptions from equality legislation and anything else his own Church desires. He even acts like a politician with the same devious and manipulative methods as suits.

Towards Restoration

Friday was a day off from being glued to the computer. It did not even come on during the day. Thursday had been a day of initial restoration. On Wednesday we had to tackle the inability to get on to the Internet, and I even rang the shop that made up the computer. Saying that his father, who'd have dealt with me, was in later at 3 pm was accompanied by them using standard chips. My friend knew that these would be labelled and looked for himself, eventually finding motherboard drivers to make the difference, but going semi-blind he installed a little too much and received the blue screen of death at every Windows boot up. So we ended up going across Hull and into Hessle where the whole reinstallation process began again from the beginning.

Data was extracted yet again via Safe Mode but this time I arrived at his house having purchased an external hard drive. The data went on to that. Then Windows was reinstalled and Service Pack 2 again, and the drivers as necessary were entered to gain connection to the Internet.

All I did today when home was replace two RJ45 wires to give the Internet to my old second computer. It is an old, robust one but slow. However, when our friends shuffle along computers, I have decided that my replacement will have to be different. I must learn how to operate Linux and to get it to do important tasks. I just get the sense that Windows is far too complex and bloated for its own good, subject to attack and leads on to these major restorations. I'm not happy that having installed and put in some software it needed a defragmenting, and I am typing while a Shred program is removing piles of enormous stuff from the Recycle Bin. It will need another defragmenting. I don't actually like the principle of 'automatic updates' by which Internet Explorer jumped to version 8 and then Service Pack 3 appeared and was entered.

I've learnt a lot but then years back I learnt enough about Mallard Basic to produce menus and tasks on an Amstrad PCW. The point of a computer is to write, to draw, to read, to communicate: to be creative. It is not - for me - about examining the engine and the means to travel. I want to actually travel. QVC this evening was flogging a complicated touch screen multimedia thing based on huge computing power and complexity: what it that gets a maleware and virus? It'll be like the modern car where only a garage will be able to repair, at a huge price, before the next attempt at money extraction, and the terms of what is viewed is all commercially driven.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Computer Sick

I am writing this from a very sick computer. It is slow: text is appearing from my typing at variable rates. From Sunday afternoon to this afternoon my computer was heavily and comprehensibly disabled, and even now it cannot system restore (it gets stuck midway). On Sunday afternoon a malware virus kicked in, telling me that my hard drive was dying, which at first I believed. I did until the scan told me to buy extra software, which is not even of the Windows technique as it was masquerading. The malware, we later considered and I discovered, made all main drive folders and files hidden and read only, which was why we could do so little even in safe mode. Even now after some registry actions of mine all shortcuts have been lost.

Linux Puppy showed that all the folders and files seemingly lost existed, but it would not allow them to be moved about.

After a call last night my computer whizzkid friend Dominic came here to battle with the computer, and he didn't get far fast, and even he had to ring his professional computer fixer brother. But crucially he did get to the Windows Task Manager and by deduction was able to discover the malware file, though not its entire location. Later a downloaded AVG caught that named file and we discovered the complete location. It is D:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\25812772.exe and it is related to Win32\kryptik.ora. This can come to a computer by various means.

The upshot is he is back tomorrow and it is a data saving to an external drive and a full Windows reinstallation session. It will take me a long time to restore the computer with the programs I use, but it is now very slow and sick. I have had to show all hidden files and folders, and turn all of them via Properties away from Read Only and Hidden. Three attempts at System Restore, all of which failed, returned many back to Read Only and Hidden. Some ought to be hidden. Hopefully this will assist moving files to a hard drive, but of course all programs need installing and those that don't need installing need shortcuts to be put in logical Start Menu Programs folders.

The last malware I received gave me a split second at boot up to run something. I was able to use Spybot then and to knock it out. Unfortunately this time Safe Mode with Networking, which gave some access online, resulted in downloading something called Prevx to remove viruses etc. but it seems to me to behave like malware. I cannot remove it, it is telling me files are viruses which are not, and payment is required to remove these files. I will be able to remove it with some effort (but it is misplaced effort).

So I won't be online, or receiving anymore emails for a few days, while I restore the computer.

Whatever one does, regarding the malware, never be tempted to 'purchase' because they do not offer a solution to the damage - they simply take your financial details and steal money. It has to be removed.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Can't Satisfy all of the People all of the Time

It matters that, whatever the subject matter, the service is well presented and it was very well presented today - indeed one that many a service taker might follow regarding diction, pace and spaces. The topic covered matters heard before about the King James Bible with a bit extra about the service taker's attendance at a Bible course at Luther King House and contrasting the optional nature of the Bible among Unitarians with that of others and their applications. I'm one that does not hold the Bible as normative and seek inspiration anywhere according to what it offers. This is what individualism means and the more liberal strand of postmodernism.

As for the music, I can't win. A fortnight ago a hymn with a choir was too slow, this time a hymn (without a choir) was too fast. The out music, Egg's Fugue in D Minor, seemed to jolt a few people. As Prog-Rock goes, it is the most gentle of pieces and closes to the classical. Last week a chap said the music was a dirge and he wondered when it would end (it wasn't long). Still, our service taker was impressed with the system and it is as good as having an organ player, piano player, band, orchestra, soloists... so long as the music leads the pace.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

No Hymns

I'll be honest. The reason I'm not uploading any hymns this week is I don't like the appearance of the service. We've done 400 years of the KJV Bible before, and on the surface I don't like the traditionalist Unitarian theme with these hymns. I could be wrong and hope I am wrong. I've still done a CD (which is twice - back up and I run two at once) and I've done it to theme (so I added Psalm 148 as meditation music) but also tried to add a little modernity here and there in the surrounding music. For me, Unitarianism should be about being post-Christian: Christian liberalism is well served elsewhere and this isn't very liberal but sounds ancient.

One of the difficulties in having so many outside presenters, and those who haven't done a service before in Hull, is that they have to make assumptions about a congregation, and if this is so here then it is I suggest off the mark. If it is playing safe, then it is not playing safe. The Unitarian denomination is weak, but I can't see this kind of service aiding recovery. Also none of the hymns have Unitarian choir support, and the only one that is so marked is actually a solo with which is easier to sing along.

4. Hl 077 Dominus Regit Me piano [Our Parents' Faith]
5. HL 066 Crimond choir [The Lord's My Shepherd]
7. HL 063 Buckland alt [Holy Spirit, Truth Divine]
9. HL 075 Austria [God of Ages and of Nations]

Friday, 3 June 2011

Cake and Eating

I am accused of having my cake and eating it by Madpriest. This is because I prefer the current definition of Unitarianism and also include mystery: he thinks contemporary Unitarianism is like attending an ethics lecture. This, presumably, is derived from years of experience in attending Unitarian churches, unlike in my case. What he refers to is that Unitarianism is 'low liberal' in character, and I have written about why this is so over recent blog entries (the development and busting of Free Catholicism in denominational terms, being an indicator). There is a Puritan shadow over many a Unitarian service, but there is still place for mystery in the use of the arts, in the theological breadth covered, and in the don't know.

The kind of biblicism referred to positively by my 'opponents' was a transitory phase in Unitarianism, and indeed gave rise to the name of the denomination. The biblicism that read 'unitarian' theology off the page (Arian at best), and realised that trinitarian belief was extra-biblical, was superseded by German biblical criticism and the romantic movement, indeed the latter being in part with the later down-draught from the Oxford Movement. Unitarians were synthesising something of both the liberals and Catholics in Oxford long before Charles Gore did so in his way; indeed the Unitarians allowed the posher parts of non-conformity to adopt both a more churchy appearance and theological modernism. The older Unitarian biblicists, who were denominationalists and competitors of others, not ecumenical in spirit like the romanticists, had nowhere to go intellectually and died out. The idea that they are a model for viable religion is a joke. But then I've never taken ignorance as a basis for advice.

I have a lot of sympathy for Madpriest and people in his position. He is not a theological liberal but he is inclusive. I just think he has arrived at an impasse before most others. Well others have arrived there, but moved on. The Mark Townshends and Simon Mapps of this world have simply seen the need to change allegiance. Madpriest wants his cake and eat it - he wants to be honest, sell himself by a blog, have a ministry and be in the Church of England. But the Church of England, by its ways and means, has said no. He can keep buttin' that dam but why bother when the water behind it is increasingly stagnant?

Now he complains about the new bishop to Durham, in that this bloke is a supposedly a capitalist toff. The point, of course, is the demise of the liberal intellectual going to that position. After Tom Wright, they've chosen a capitalist corporate organiser, as if they are still trying to do the 'magick cleansing' long after David Jenkins. First of all they appoint a conservative biblical theologian and then a capitalist oil man and financier. On each count, that's a reverse on David Jenkins. Of course there is a message in there: the days of radical thinking, the days of inclusion, are over.

Next up is the Covenant, for the special role the Church of England will observe. This specifically is to freeze the Church, to allow the Archbishop of Canterbury to play the international referee role and have more of an international Church. Keep opposing it, of course, but when it is passed the theological and inclusive liberals had better stop bleating. Once fixed their agenda is not going to happen: and the evangelical numbers won't let it happen.

I cannot understand why Madpriest doesn't send off his application form to the Open Episcopal Church or similar. He is going to have to be independent anyway. Of course there is no salary there, but there is the freedom to build your identity and yet be in a Church group. I'm sure they'd have him, or perhaps he doesn't want to join a group that would have him. That would be another case of eating the cake.

Other theological liberals will have to consider their futures too. Some of them are Unitarians by another name, others might be better off as Liberal Catholics, and indeed the OEC stretches to them (it also has theological breadth).

When the Covenant comes in, stop bleating. That will be the end point. You all know it, but then the history of the C of E liberal is not one shining with consistency or glory, given the skill with articulating duplicity (me too) - whether that liberal is social, theological or both.

Durham Gets an Unoriginal Route

Well, you see, what I think is, in the spirit of one of my predecessor's here, you know during the 1980s coal dispute, that what the Church of England needs is a good dose of corporate capitalism. Now as a bishop I'm ever so 'umble and really have come via a very average route for a bishop, which means, you know, a bit privileged don't you know entirely in the old ways of the Church of England. Rab was quite a moderate Tory don't you know, and became Baron Butler, but not Butler as in the butler with the drinks but the one who called the butler. And I went to Eton, which exceeds the best of the comprehensives, and Trinity College, and ended up big in the Oil Industry don't you know, which is quite a bit different from supporting the miners like that war of Jenkins ear did, but then there are ethics in exploiting natural resources and indeed ethics in shifting money in the City of London like I advise as we saw so recently when the whole world economy nearly came crashing down thanks to the capitalist dynamic. And the NHS, divided up into Trusts like enterprises, well I could indeed lead one of those. Chrstianity? Oh yes bang the drum and cymbal for that one. Well I thought, one day, I'd done the finances and extracted lots of the black stuff and taken so much out in the Capitalist Spirit so perhaps I could find a Protestant Ethic conscience and put something back in, don't you know, wear some of the black stuff with that little white collar and of course I am leadership material like I wear it well.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Archbishop Describes Archbishop Qualities

Asked which Shakespearean character he found most compelling, Dr Williams chose Macbeth, but quickly added the caveat: "That's not to say I identify with him, because you don't really want a serial killer as the Archbishop of Canterbury."

No, but you might have one that shouts and makes people cry, or leaks documents and makes the enquiry a secret, while Yorkie goes around blaming an innoncent party.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The 'Ed Bishop Gets His Way

The 'Ed Bishop had made it very clear, and we don't want him to get angry do we, that there is to be only my presentation about the Anglican Covenant, that document from outer space, and I am, surprise surprise, going to recommend it to you. Now I know you over there are considering voting against, so, er, Archcaptain Scarlet can get one of his Interceptors and take you out to our urinals where something jolly strange can happen, and you might find a Skydiver underwater, to be followed up with something known as a Yorkie - whispers and innuendo. So why do we want this thing? Well, because he says we do, because the 'Ed Bishop himself says that if we bring all our troubles to the centre then we can process them very very slowly indeed. It's not like Sky One and innovation you know - and so we shall not do what some would have done. We'll be more like the Moon Mobile, hovering and never going anywhere. But even more so, here is where we watch all the Anglican UFOs around the world and so our 'Ed Bishop can't be one of those with changeable policies and I'm afraid there is no space in our Church for Gay Ellis. Don't think that voting against it here will derail the whole thing across the Anglican Communion because it won't work like that in causing a situation of chaos and not something we want to do, and it includes Section 4, not excludes Section 4 don't you know. And don't forget our Ed Bishop goes to the Ed Ed Bishop at Moonbase and says come on, this is now an entity which processes its policies internationally so start treating us as one thing not many.

[The vote]

What three laity opposed, one clergy opposed, two clergy abstained? Was the clergy person SID? High up indeed. Ha ha, not any more. I think we might find a leak faster than a Shadair SST about just who they were and we'll be looking at your Church careers. It won't do you any good, defying the proper authorities. What? Well, if there is a leak enquiry we'll just make it a secret, as we are indeed a SHADOwy organisation. Good, well, we have adopted it not subscribed to it or digested it and why did no one invite me to Wakefield?