“The job begins of leading a divided and ailing Church of England”: What bad research is this?

What rot is this?! I got it from the BBC website.

They got this bit right: The Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Justin Welby, will walk into St Paul’s Cathedral this morning as one of the Church’s newest bishops and emerge as the spiritual leader of some 80 million Anglicans across the world.

As a non-Anglican I have no axe to grind but to say the Anglican Church is divided and ailing is complete tosh.

Atheism is so twentieth century. Religion is currently experiencing a resurgence across the globe. This is the characteristic of the beginning of the twenty-first century. The world is witnessing a huge explosion of religious conversion and growth, and Christianity growing faster than any other religion, and faster than at any time in human history.

The secularist and atheists must be wringing their hands as their ranks of the unbelievers are shrinking as a proportion of the world’s population. Secularism has lost its identification with progress and modernity, and consequently it has lost the main source of its appeal. Some people are missing the most important development of our time: the global revival of religion. It’s happening on every continent.

People who are ignorant about religion will be at a disadvantage in the twenty-first century as religion will shape our world.

Anglicanism has a vocal and awkward minority, but a tail trying to wag the dog can never be described as division. Anglicanism is growing, and in this country they are at the forefront of experimental forms of doing church with their “Emerging Church” stream. They are most certainly not ailing.

I will be very interested to see how the new Archbishop of Canterbury makes a difference.


The Bible and Homosexuality – some views put side by side – all by people called Steve

Christianity Today have helpfully placed on line a series of recent articles that, to me, seem to sum up the debate about how we can see the bible’s (and therefore glimpse God’s) perspective on homosexuality.

The first thing that alerted me to their post was when I read the comment by Steve Clifford in one of the regular EA bulletins I receive.

Steve Clifford

It was entitled: A response to Steve Chalke’s article in Christianity magazine. Statement from Steve Clifford, general director, Evangelical Alliance. If you want to look at these articles I think his comments are a good place to start as it will give an idea of the turbulence Stave Chalke’s article has caused, not only because of the content of it but because of who it is that has said these things.

Clifford sees Steve Chalke having “distanced himself from the vast majority of the evangelical community here in the UK, but indeed from the Church across the world and 2,000 years of biblical interpretation”.

Clifford went on to say:

Steve has raised issues which touch on deep areas of human identity. At a Soul Survivor seminar last summer, a Baptist minister who lives with same-sex attraction introduced his talk to a marquee full of young people by indicating that he would love to find a theology in the Bible which would support a sexually-active gay life. But, he said: “I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not there and I don’t want to live in rebellion to the one that I love.” This pastor is just one of tens of thousands of Christians who have come to the conclusion that sex was designed by God to be expressed within a committed relationship for life between a man and a woman – we call this marriage – and have chosen to live a celibate life.

Steve Chalke’s challenge to historic biblical interpretation is in danger of undermining such courageous lifestyle decisions.

As I say, Chalke has created some turbulence!

Steve Chalke’s article seems to be in two version, a shorter and an extended one. I assume someone seriously wanting to weight these views and wanting to give a full hearing to Chalke will want to read the extended article. I did.

It seems to me that Steve Chalke is able to come to his surprising conclusions as a result of the strange view he has of what the bible is. Also, instead of grappling with the topic biblical interpretation on the topic he list matters that the universal church has changed it’s mind about over the centuries and claims the matter of homosexual practice to be the same sort of thing. Just because the church has treated women badly, in spite of them being treated with equality in the early days of the church, is in no way equivalent to the matter of homosexuality.

What I thought was an excellent response to Steve Chalke on the EA site, is by Steve Holmes. This, perhaps, raises another question: Why are they all called Steve? Is it only people called Steve that are interested in this or do we have to change our name to Steve once we are interested in the subject?

They are not all called Steve after all, the response on the Christianity Today site is by Greg Downes.

The Christianity Today articles, including Steve Chalke’s can be found here.

“I think the [charity] Commission are committed to the suppression of religion”

So said Peter bone MP introducing his ten minute rule bill on the Charities Act yesterday.

Results of The National Church And Social Action Survey 2012 have just been released and is relevant to this as it gives us a great picture of what is happening through churches in the UK currently.

  • Hours spent by volunteers in UK Churches on local social action initiatives have increased by 36% in two years to 98M hours.
  • In spite of the current economic problems, funds given by UK Church members that were spent on social action initiatives have increased by 19% in two years to £342M.
  • There has been a rapid diversification of social actions by churches – the average number of social action initiatives undertaken by a Church has risen from 5.7 to 8.2.
  • Please note these figures only cover Church initiatives. It does not include voluntary work by Christians in the community that is not initiated by a Church e.g. work by local charities.
  • Staff hours are calculated as 55M hours in support of social action initiatives. This is equivalent to roughly 1 hour of staff time to 2 hours of volunteer effort.
  • Total financial contribution to social initiatives is probably above £2.5bn per annum when costed.

See Jubilee Plus for more info.

Looks like the UK Government is cooking the books over their gay marriage ‘consultation’

The Government is in growing trouble over its plans to redefine marriage.

Today their sham consultation process has been exposed by MPs and the media for everyone to see. The Government claimed this was the ‘biggest listening exercise’ ever carried out – but ignored many objections including the 500,000 signatories of the C4M national petition!

The House of Commons has heard that the Government plans to push on with its highly controversial plans, relying on a claimed slight majority of consultation responses (by excluding objections, such as the C4M petition).

The Government’s online consultation response form, upon which their ‘consultation’ depended, was wide open to abuse. It was anonymous and could be completed by anyone in the world, as many times as they liked! Do the Government think people will be fooled by this?

And it is not only about this issue that they have been revealed to be shabby. If they can cook the books on this ‘consultation’ they will find it difficult to resist the temptation do it again over other issues. This is a serious eroding of democracy.

Maria Miller

Mrs Miller, the Equalities Minister, addressed the Commons at lunchtime today. She repeatedly promised a ‘quadruple lock’ to protect churches and other religious premises. But this ignores the millions of people whose civil liberties at work will be under threat if marriage is redefined as most people realise that in time the European Court of Human Rights will back gay marriage, whatever Government Ministers may say today.

Delighting in Great Malvern Priory

Life is full of such wonderful things.

I have just spent a holiday morning in Great Malvern Priory. The small town of Malvern is a delight in itself with it’s steep streets and shopping centre with very little chain store presence. But the priory…

Bought by local people in 1541 for £20 to save it from destruction. It was founded in 1085 by Aldwyn as a Benedictine Priory. It remained a monastery for over 450 years.

Though saved from demolition by the locals in 1541 it wasn’t until 1860 that restoration began.

It is Norman but the huge pillars would have fitted in well in an ancient Roman building with the huge pillars and strong arches.

I liked this photograph that I got as the light from the stained glass lit up the opposite wall so well.


Churches Child Protection Advisory Service calls on Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards to engage with faith communities

The Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) today called on Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards (LSCBs) “to engage with their local faith communities as an urgent priority”.

I hope they do! They have some catching up to do.

The call comes as the Department for Education (DfE) publishes the National Action Plan to tackle Child Abuse linked to Faith or Belief, on behalf of the National Working Group. Welcoming the Plan, CCPAS said that it was especially pleased that the government’s blueprint for tacking the problem was based, in part, on the work it had pioneered with faith communities over the past few years.

Simon Bass, CEO of CCPAS commented: “This Action Plan helps raise awareness of the issue of child abuse linked to faith or belief and to encourage people to take practical steps to prevent such abuse. We are pleased that government and all members of the working group have understood the gravity of the problem and recognise that a multi-layered approach is needed if the evil of faith-based abuse is to be combated successfully. We now look forward to working with all parties particularly faith leaders to implement its proposals.

“CCPAS’s particular status within the church community has enabled us to initiate engagement with church communities, which led to us professionally train well over 4,000 leaders and workers in how to prevent abuse from taking place in their churches. We are now well placed to help deliver the other key strand of the Action Plan’s strategy, empowering practitioners, since we act as the natural bridge between churches and the statutory agencies.

“But no matter how good the Plan is nationally, it will only succeed if it is taken on board at local and community levels, too. This is why we are today calling upon LSCBs throughout the UK to engage with their local faith communities. Some have already done so, but many have not. A first step is to know exactly which faith groups they have, and where they worship – and this they must do as an urgent priority”.

The National Action Plan, Executive Summary and the Letter from Tim Loughton to the Members of the National Working Group on Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief can be found here:

Action Plan and the letter

Executive summary

God is nothing and Christian Atheism. New to me but I like it

I have just read an excellent post on runningheads.net recommended to me by my friend John B.

As a Pentecostal preacher I have been trying to declare recently that God is more than can be put into words, yet alone comprehend. I have been growing increasingly dissatisfied with the smallness of the God too often proclaimed by Christians and rejected by atheists. I too reject the God the atheists reject – too small!

I recommend you read the post for yourself here. To give you a taster this is how it starts:

I am reading a fascinating book on the otherness of God (The Otherness of God in Christian Theology by Barry D. Smith. Pickwick, forthcoming). It delves into the Hebrew Bible and Hellenistic roots of the classical Christian tradition that God is utterly unlike anything in creation.

God is literally nothing — no-thing. God is not an object in the world; not a being. God does not exist in a manner like anything else but in a fundamentally different, unique mode. Indeed, some orthodox strands of the Christian tradition went so far as to deny the category of existence to God because that would put God on the same level as creation. Etymologically “to exist” is it stand forth or to stand out (against some presupposed background) but such a category only applies to created things and not to the Creator. On this view

  • God is not a being
  • nor even The Supreme Being

For then God would be “like us but bigger.” But God is not simply a SUPER-super-hero.

But for the radicals God is not even “Being itself.” God is “beyond being,” and utterly transcendent. Literally nothing can be known of God-in-Godself.