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The Church and Society : Erika Baker


I’m sure you all know Erika Baker?

This post is partly a tribute to her, and partly a conversation between the two of us. First, the tribute. Ever since I began this blog, Erika has been the greatest possible support and encouragement. I know many other bloggers would say the same thing – we all rely on her to tease meaning out of what we have written, and to pose questions which relate to our post but bring in angles we had perhaps not thought of. I read her comments not just here, but on many other blogs and she is unfailingly polite and considerate, while still probing and occasionally challenging.

I and many of her other friends are continually exerting pressure on her (so far without success) to start her own blog. She refuses, but we persevere. However, although I think this is a loss to cyberspace, I can see that she is exercising a real ministry to those of us blogging about the Church: I hope she won’t mind my saying I regard her as my fairy godmother (though I hasten to add that she is considerably younger than me).  Today was a case in point: we were having a discussion on the post about Bishop Steven Croft and his (presumed) candidacy for the next Archbishop of Canterbury. The conversation was getting a little bogged down but Erika saw my smoke signals and flew to the rescue.


The following is taken from Erika’s comments on the post – I felt it deserved a wider circulation, particularly as the points she covers are much broader in their implication than the candidacy for Archbishop of Canterbury of +Steven Croft.


EB: I think … makes an important point that has been left out of the discussion so far. To what extent is an Archbishop of Canterbury required to connect to the society around him and not just to the members of his church?

LS It may not be so important in other parts of the Anglican Communion, but since the Church of England is the Church of the State, it is surely of supreme importance in England? I wonder what you think about the issue of same-sex marriage in this context?

EB: If it is true that Steven Croft is against same sex marriage, it has to be stated that he is against something that is becoming commonly accepted in Britain and even within the Church of England. 

It is still just possible to be against it and to retain moral authority in the Church of England, but the time when those views will be considered immoral are not far away.

++Rowan Williams floundered on this obvious development and he was torn in half because the more conservative majority in the Anglican Communion opposed it strongly.

I agree … that it would be foolish to dismiss a candidate because he does not agree with my own views.

But the political facts remain: the new ABC is the most visible Christian in the CoE, the religious head of the CoE and also Primus inter Pares in the Anglican Communion.

Bearing in mind that we have spent decades arguing about the place of women and of  Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the church and in society,

that our own society is becoming increasingly progressive,

that our own church is becoming increasingly progressive, 

but that our Anglican Communion is still largely conservative – what kind of candidate could possibly succeed?


++Rowan tried to listen to all sides and prioritised unity over all else. The unity he presides over is one in name only – his approach, though laudable, did not really succeed at any level.

Regardless of where any individual stands on the gay question or the question of women priests and bishops, the overarching question is:

Is it even possible to be the religious head of the Church of England as well as of the Anglican Communion?


LS: I think that there are murmurings throughout the Anglican Communion about exactly this. Everyone keeps harping on about the need to have a new Archbishop of  Canterbury who will be young enough to host the next Lambeth Conference, but I am not at all sure that the next conference of the Anglican Communion will be held in Lambeth.

Can +Steven Croft bring anything to the role that could resolve the deadlock we’re in?

Because unless we resolve that deadlock somehow, neither the Anglican Communion nor the Church of England will survive in a meaningful way.


LS: Thank-you for sharing your thoughts, Erika






The illustration is a photograph by Martin Kemp of a carving of a bishop at Winchester Cathedral, via Shutterstock under licence.


40 comments on this post:

Erika Baker said...

For once I’m speechless.

Laura, I do not deserve this accolade, I just writes it as I sees it and I am VERY opinionated behind the polite facade!
It’s just that you and so many other bloggers are giving me so much excellent material to engage with!
Thank you for blogging!

01 September 2012 16:05
Richard Haggis said...

The next Archbishop of Canterbury needs to be precisely that. Carey and Williams tried – because they were asked to – to be international figures, and failed mightily. There is no such thing as “the Anglican Communion”. Anglicanism is a way of doing theology – as such, it embraces Roman Catholics, Methodists, Orthodox, free-churchers, and many others. But until and unless the archbishop is true to the values – spiritual and theological – of the English people, it will keep going astray, and those with the wherewithal to keep the show on the road will keep funding the cats’ home.

01 September 2012 16:12
UKViewer said...

This is a discussion that deserves to be aired widely, but in my mind is being conducted behind closed doors, in secret between men and women who have been nominated, elected (in the case of Canterbury Diocesan Synod) or selected for their expertise or insight (i.e. Arch Bishop Morgan of Wales appointed by the Anglican Communion).

What isn’t really in the public domain is what the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) are expecting the next ABC to be doing. They opened a consultation of sorts, but the parameters were opaque and it closed on 30th April 2012.

Erika raises valid points about our expectations from the post and role of the Arch Bishop. Her questions raise doubts in my mind about looking for someone who matches my own theological position, in favour of someone who can hold a strategic position within both the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. That’s not so simple.

My view is that as the Diocesan of Canterbury and the Senior Bishop in the Church of England the Arch Bishops primary role is to minister to the Diocese, the church and wider society within the Kingdom. He (or hopefully she, eventually) is the focal point along with the Supreme Governor in the leadership, theological, liturgical and pastoral care within the United Kingdom.

The personal qualities required of such a person need to be broadly inclusive but with a keen sense of and understanding of the broader Church. This must include other faiths and denominations to ensure that both working relationships are maintained and that we are able to share the care for each other, respecting our differences, but building on what we hold in common.

My mind is drawn to the reported words of the Prince of Wales some years ago when talking about the role of the Supreme Governor; “Not defender of the faith – but Defender of all of the faiths”.

In all of this, the Anglican Communion holds it’s position as the additional role, in my mind political, of holding together the worldwide Anglican Churches whose roots were founded upon those of the Church of England over the past 400 years or so. Despite Richard’s view that it does not exist, it is out there and their ‘official website’ makes it clear that it’s not going away.

My view remains that the leadership of the Arch Bishop of Canterbury as being “First among Equals” is one that is a burden on the primary role in the United Kingdom and should be one that is shared or rotated among the many Primates across the communion.

However, I realise that my view is not and won’t be shared by many, so the reality is that the next Arch Bishop (at least) will be required to fulfil the current role until something else can be negotiated (if it ever is).

Dividing the Arch Bishop’s loyalties will cause similar tensions to that experienced by the last three Arch Bishops, not least from the more Conservative African Primates. Holding the whole thing together is already difficult, with those members of GAFCON ( disagreement, amounting to schism (or at the least broken communion). The new Arch Bishop will need supremely good pastoral intuition and negotiating skill to just maintain the status quo.

The future of the Anglican Communion must be in jeopardy unless there is some movement of the Holy Spirit within the whole communion to bring those disagreements to the table and for them to be worked through to a typical Anglican fudge that works. With the best will in the world and prayer, I can’t really see it happening without one or other surrendering or compromising the things that they hold dear in the interest of unity.

Always the optimist, I hope and pray that I’m mistaken and that the CNC will make the right recommendation and will be proven to be have been an inspired choice. Whether or not it’s Stephen Croft or not is not an issue for me.

In the end, I haven’t yet been required to make an oath of allegiance to my Bishop so have the freedom to look at things from my admittedly single perspective and to write what I think and believe.

I still prefer James Jones above the other candidates.

Matthew Caminer said...

I’m amused at ‘is being conducted behind closed doors’ when you are making your own very welcome contributions incognito yourself!!!

Chris Fewings said...

It’s one thing to comment anonymously on a blog; another to select someone for a potentially very influential role in secrecy. I believe some provinces are far more open about this?

01 September 2012 18:38
01 September 2012 18:23
01 September 2012 17:14
Erika Baker said...

I would like to approach the ABC question from a different angle.
I think we have explored the “is homosexuality sinful, yes or no” question until there is nothing more to be said. All we have achieved in the process is that positions are entrenched and that people genuinely detest each other.

I don’t think we can get much further with this approach.

To my mind, what is needed is a change of questions. Rowan Williams once said that the church has to minister in the context it finds itself. That principle taken seriously would allow for different local responses.

I also believe that we need to ask another questions: “given that I believe the opinions of the others to be sinful, what does my faith tell me about how to deal with sinners”?
This change would not produce a change in general direction immediately, but it could in the long run.

Is there anyone among the prospective candidates we think might be strong enough to simply refuse to engage with the current deadlock and start by a. setting firm parameters for what the AC can do and what local churches can do, and b. start asking different questions?

Matthew Caminer said...

Thanks Erika, I found that a really constructive way forward, especially the penultimate paragraph, because it basically invites everyone to converge over time on a Gospel approach, and let’s face it, that can’t be bad, can it?

As regards your final question, I don’t think I am knowledgeable enough to respond, though in my naivety I would have assumed that the role description for being AC is would have made that distinction clear. I have never seen it, whereas I have seen a lot of vague and woolly role descriptions in my time, so who knows?!

A tiny challenge: I agree (your first paragraph) that there are sadly entrenched and increasingly polarised positions. However, although it may seem the case from where you stand, isn’t it perhaps an over-generalisation to say that “people genuinely hate each other”? Some may, but other are confused, pained, all sorts of things, apathetic even, but not necessarily always feeling hateful.

Erika Baker said...

apart from politics and using religion as a smokescreen I cannot imagine a single reason other than hatred for groups to break away from the AC because some place in America has a partnered gay bishop.

I think you’re right, on a parish level, there is less of it. Maybe…

… I am contact point for Changing Attitude in my diocese, and even after 7 years of it I still cry when people contact me with their stories of how they are being treated and the genuine hated in their local church. One of my stock examples (not because it is shocking but because it is representative) is the story of a lesbian street pastor who during her training watched a film detailing occasions street pastors might be asked to respond to. One was a clip of a civil partnership. One of the trainees in the room got up, clenched a fist and said he’d effing like to push their effing faces in. He was not challenged and he’s now out there recruiting for Jesus.

You and I are lucky that we have not experienced this in our parishes, and of course, it takes a lot for a straight person even to become aware of it.

I have experienced it on blogs. Now, it’s quite possible that that is where the kind of people gather who are very passionate about some things.

But if we were truly guided by a spirit of Christian love – would the AC really find itself in the frightful mess it is in? Would Nigeria and Kenya call for the death penalty for those who merely associate with known gay people? Would we tolerate that street pastor training?

Matthew Caminer said...

I must have misunderstood the purpose of this fresh (i.e. non-+Stephen) thread… I had understood it, and your introduction to it, to be about moving on from a topic which, as you say, has been done to death. But what I am actually hearing from your reply to my comment (which was pretty supportive of your position) is it being put unremittingly square and central in this thread too. I’m a little confused!

Erika Baker said...

You asked me why I thought there was hatred, not confusion or something else, and I explained why I thought it boils down to that.

The question is how we deal with it.
And that’s where I think that the old question isn’t helping and that a new approach is needed.

And I think that largely because I believe that any approach that makes us concentrate on the individuals (“how do I deal with the ones I disagree with?”) will ultimately foster understanding and will melt away the hatred on both sides.

So, getting back to the ABC question – who can break through entrenched positions, get people to see the humans and the actual lives underneath the presenting issues (on both sides), and foster a real encounter and therefore a real chance of progress?

01 September 2012 20:59
Matthew Caminer said...

Put another way…. anybody ever watch(ed) Frasier? We were watching an episode tonight in which, in his bumbling clumsiness, Frasier got the signals wrong, made an inappropriate comment and the entire company was hauled in for a sexual harrassment seminar. In other words, I am always aware that anything I say may offend, but….

… there was an earlier episode in which a character was in love and would not stop talking about her lover. The challenge was to create a conversation which could not or would not somehow lead back to her mentioning some aspect of him. It didn’t work: she always did it!

So…. I find myself thinking that we could be talking about the relative merits of BCP v CW, or of gas v electric heating in church or whatever: it ALWAYS seems to be yanked back to a discussion of LGBT issues, and once there, kept there. Am I the only person who finds this (using a bland moderate expression) an over-emphasis?

01 September 2012 21:05
Erika Baker said...

Well, yes, if we were talking about the BCP it would be rather strange if the discussion was yanked back to the lgbt issue.
But if we are talking about the fragementation of the Anglican Communion, it would be equally strange to put it down to the BCP question.

You can argue that there was a will to cause trouble in the first place and that the lgbt issue was hijacked for that purpose (and there is ample evidence for that, not least that discussions about separation and biblical orthodoxy predate the Gene Robinson election).
But you cannot argue that the current state of affairs isn’t down to the lgbt issue, with one side shouting that the whole AC is caving into secular values and the other shouting that the AC isn’t understanding homosexualityl. People in the middle, like Rowan Williams, get ground to dust.

I agree with you, I wish it were different. But I don’t think that wishful thinking will make it different.

One of the big arguments those supporting gay rights has been for years that the church is seemingly able to accommodate difference in opinion and practice with every other issue it is facing and that it is only the lgbt question that seems to be the litmus test for orthodoxy.

But we are where we are, not where we would like to be.

01 September 2012 21:15
Erika Baker said...

I am trying to find another example that has proved to be as explosive as the lgbt issue and I cannot think of a single one. The CoE may fight over women priests and bishops, they are a reality in some parts of the AC and not even being discussed in others. But they are not a communion breaking issue.

Neither is Lay Presidency as piloted in Sydney. Some mutter about it, TEC discusses it with more seriousness, but it’s not a deal breaker.

Liturgy – within the CoE some clamour for the BCP, some evangelical parishes are so way out they have no reconisable liturgy at all. As for the Communion as a whole – the variety is breathtaking! Is any of it a deal breaker? No.

The absolutely only deal breaker there is and has been for the last few decades is the lgbt issue.

We need an ABC who can recognise it and find a way forward, not someone who simply pretends that is is somethign whipped up by some minor interest groups.

01 September 2012 21:42
Matthew Caminer said...

Two very reasonable and generously worded replies, Erika. Thank you. Gives me much to think about.

02 September 2012 06:36
Joyce said...

I love references to Frasier! Thank you.
I home-schooled a child for four terms in St Niles’ School.It was a very happy place.
The desire to talk to other fans of Frasier was the reason I got connected to the internet in the first place,via
a set top box nearly a year before I got a computer.But for that I wouldn’t be on this
or any other Church site even now.
I used the computer then for watching Frasier epsisodes before they were shown here so that I wouldn’t find myself reading discussions about something I hadn’t seen.Yes,I remember well the episode where they had to have seminars about sexual harassment. What I remember most about the hilarious and outrageous sexual morality of that show was the episode in which ‘Is this a business meeting or a date ?’ literally meant ‘Do I keep my trousers on or do I take them off ?’.
The question the Church needs to address – and Frasier writers weren’t squeamish about mentioning religion – should be how do we convey the stance of the Church regarding
sexual matters as a whole ? Do we still believe the only place for copulation is within a marriage or don’t we ? If we do,why doesn’t the Church say so a lot louder than it does ?
Millions of people are single,divorced or widowed, regardless of whether they are straight or LGBT.Many still believe sexual behaviour is sinful until or unless they are
married-whatever marriage is, and whatever their personal inclination is.
Is fornication approved of now or do we maintain the tradional view ?
Why on earth does it matter what anyone else’s sexual desire is,so long as they control their actions ? Furthermore if members of any sexual minority don’t want to be ‘hated’ and they want other people to mind their own business,why, if they are not able to enter into a scripturally-approved sexual union,do they tell anybody what their leanings are,especially in church ? Why mention it in the street? I don’t understand why there is suddenly an issue at all. If anyone was committing fornication whether with their own sex or the opposite one it used to be kept secret,just like anything anything else they didn’t want generally known. And the last person anybody would involve would be the vicar.
Why it’s come up recently and started causing controversy in the Church of all places is something I can’t see explained anywhere let alone find ‘done to death’.
Why on earth anybody’s sex life or lack of it should matter to the Church to the extent of causing conflct beats me. It never has been a problem before in all these centuries.
Surely whatever our sexuality is,we all need comfort in bereavement,prayers when we’re sick,advice about leadimgs of the Holy Spirit,teaching about scripture etc.
As individuals, married or not,we all have need for ministry. That is what should concern ministers of all levels and all Christians.Sexual preferences shouldn’t make any difference even if we know what they are.
There should be no call to favour or exclude any particular group.
So to another question related to this topic : What does it mean when it is said that any particular priest,especially a bishop, is ‘in favour of LGBT’? Does it mean he’s saying that although I’ve been told for fifty years that as an unmarried woman I’m supposed to be chaste,if I fancied a woman instead of a man then chastity wouldn’t be required ? That it would be acceptable to do whatever it is they couldn’t tell Queen Victoria ? If that is what it means then I might not be hating anybody but I’d be
jolly annoyed at the injustice of it.
Unfairness doesn’t begin to describe it.If it doesn’t mean that then what does it mean ?

04 September 2012 00:16
Erika Baker said...

whatever one might think of sex before marriage, the lbgt issue has nothing to do with it because historically, gay people are not allowed to get married.

Society has since worked out that being gay is not a choice and that it is extremely unfair to tell gay people that they only moral lifestyle for them is to remain alone.

You cannot blame people for having a relationship outside marriage when you do not allow them get married so they could have one inside marriage. And to expect them to be shamefully quiet about it is not really right.

And so we have increasingly worked our way towards recognising that, if gay people are as faithful to each other as straights and as committed, they should be allowed to have he same kind of relationships and in particular the same kind of legal protection that marriage confers.

The church is still in two minds about that and the debate is fierce.
But the question is legtimate and has to be answered.

04 September 2012 06:51
Chris Fewings said...

Joyce wrote:

Why on earth anybody’s sex life or lack of it should matter to the Church to the extent of causing conflct beats me. It never has been a problem before in all these centuries.

Joyce, I sympathise with your exasperation on the private being made public. I think one reason that sex has always been an issue for the church is that we are sexual beings, even those of us who are single. It’s a part of our God-given humanity, which we share with Jesus Christ. That’s why we have weddings in church: weddings celebrate loving relationships which include sex and remind us that this love is part of something much, much greater.

05 September 2012 11:25
Joyce said...

You’re right,Chris.It’s been part of the marriage service going back to the year dot.I read somewhere that mediaeval marriage vows included being ‘bonair and buxom in bed and board’. Lord Peter Wimsey, when discussing which form of the marriage service he wanted to use, said that as for ‘having not the gift of continence’ he wouldn’t have it as a gift. The mating and reproductive instincts are part of our being,it’s true. We may be the only species that cognitively separates the two while being aware of the connection. All the Bible instructs us about mating,however,is when _not_ to do it.
I grew up,as did many of us in this group, in a time five or more decades ago when our religious instruction at school,and perhaps at Sunday School or Bible class,included sexuality.We were taught that it was a gift that was God-given and should be expressed physically within a marriage.It should not be the subject of smut and dirty jokes. It was not just for producing children. Sexual intercourse should not be indulged in with anyone to whom we were not married because that would be a sin. (I’ve been asking whether the Church has changed that teaching,because I’ve not heard it said for a few years. However,nobody seems to want to answer that question.) Within marriage,we were told,it was far from sinful,it was an expression of love.
Until now. sexuality was indeed something that was also personal and private. We can’t tell by looking at somebody or sitting beside them in church whether they are having intercourse or not,let alone with whom, or want to do so with someone or something that’s not his or her spouse – unless they say so. Why would we want to know anyway,and for goodness sake why does anyone want to tell ?
Why would bishops, with all they have to think about,have an opinion about the physical desires of individuals with their flock ? Opinions can’t change that sort of thing any more than they can change somebody’s natural hair colour or their height. And why oh why does the flock want to know what that opinion is even if it exists ? If there is a fashion for wanting to know such things,the best thing surely would be for bishops to say nothing and then it would die down to be replaced by something important,such as how many angels can dance on a pin,whether pets have souls,how we can feed the hungry or how the gospel can be spread.

05 September 2012 13:48
Erika Baker said...

I’m sorry you have not responded to my reply to you.
I tried to explain why Bishops have to deal with this question.
It is precisely because we believe that sex should be part of marriage and that we also believe in all the other goods of marriage you mention, that gay people are asking to be allowed to get married.

The question is not going to go away. Society is increasingly discovering that gay people are just like straight people only without the ability to fall in love with partners of the opposite sex.

And gay people are asking why that should mean they cannot have the legal and emotional security of marriage.
And society is replying that, yes, gay people should be given that right.

The church is a part of this society and has to find answers to the moral questions of the day.
It is desperately trying to do so and the debate is passionate and divisive.

But you cannot argue that it should not happen!
There are hundred thousands of gay people and they would like to have the same option of having lasting stable relationships.
At present, all they are being offered by the church is loneliness, whether they’re called to celibacy or not.
And if they’re not called to it and wish to be partnered, they are offered a life of secrecy and of being labelled fornicators etc.
I don’t find that appealing at all.

It is possible that the church will not change its mind and that it will continue to offer gay people nothing.
That is indeed one possible outcome of the debate.

But the debate itself is surely important. Unless you believe that the moral status of hundred thousands of people in this country is not important? Don’t we owe them at least to hear what they say and to engage with it?
Do we even have the moral right not to do that?

05 September 2012 14:03
Joyce said...

Thanks, Erika.I didn’t realise I hadn’t responded to your reply. It’s very difficult, technically speaking to reply on this board.I hope nothing got lost.I I didn’t what you were telling me but from your latest one it’s making a bit more sense. Let me see if I’ve got it right: if a bishop is said to be pro LGBT he is in favour of the Church’s allowing them to get married in church aamd if he is anti-LGBT he thinks they should not get married in church

05 September 2012 21:35
Erika Baker said...

it’s a little more complicated than that, because we already have Civil Partnerships and while many gay people believe these are not the same as marriage, many Christians think that we should be happy with them.

So a Bishop who is pro-lgbt could also simply support Civil Partnerships, which is something the church as a whole does not yet do.

The official policy of the church is that gay people should not have sexual relationships and that civil partnerships are not marriages, therefore civil partnered people should not have sex either.

The reality is that gay people only have civil partnerships as a form of formal commitment and that they therefore treat it the same as marriage, and that generally includes a sexual relationship.

It becomes a problem when you think of gay priests. The church says it is ok for priests to be gay but they have to be celibate.
And it expects that its civil partnered priests are celibate too.

And so it’s all a terrible muddle where no-one really knows where anyone stands.

What gay people want is to be accepted on exactly the same terms as straight people.
They want to be able to get married, or at least have their civil partnerships recognised as full relationships. And they want to be able to follow God’s call to the priesthood if they follow the same rules that straight people follow.

And so I would say that a pro-lgbt bishop is someone who supports that gay people should have the same rights and responsibilities as straight people.
Whereas an anti-lgbt bishop is someone who believes that special rules apply to gay people and that regardless of how committed they are in their relationships, they must never have sex and if they do, they must never be priests.

05 September 2012 21:52
Joyce said...

Thanks, Erika.I didn’t realise I hadn’t responded to your reply. It’s very difficult, technically speaking, to reply on this board.I could have sworn I’d answered the part I thought I understood. I hope nothing got lost.It is very frustrating after you’ve been to the trouble of typing and wrestling with the page. I know how you feel at not getting a response,nobody ever answers my questions either.Well, hardly ever. I had to have the screamin’ habdabs in the forum before anybody would even tell me what @ and # meant but eventually I was told and it helped.
I do get reactions sometimes to what readers think they’ve implied from what I’ve actually asked. I’ve had a few of those this week. I’m giving up asking after this. I didn’t understand most of what you were telling me in your last post but from your latest one it’s making a bit more sense. Let me see if I’ve got this bit right: gay people who get married/partnered in a registrar’s want to get married in church instead. So,if a bishop is said to be ‘pro LGBT’ it means he is in favour of the Church’s allowing them to get married in church and if he is ‘anti-LGBT’ he thinks they should not get married in church or not yet. It’s nothing to do with his wanting to know about and comment on the sexuality of churchgoers.(Seemed a very odd issue to me. ) There are gay people who care so much about what the church thinks they suffer loneliness and don’t get partnered. This is why bishops think they should get into debates about it.
I think the penny may be dropping. ?????

05 September 2012 22:15
Chris Fewings said...

Joyce, I agree it is extremely frustrating when computers don’t do what we want them to. I find on the internet that as soon as I get used to something, someone goes and changes it! While you struggled with @ and #, I took a while to work ‘ABC’ for Archbishop of Canterbury and ‘PEV’ for something-or-the-other episcopal visitor. As for ‘ABE’ …

06 September 2012 13:54
Erika Baker said...

Joyce, I agree, computers can be extremely frustrating as well as people who assume that everyone is as interested in computer language and symbols and everything else as they are and who ignore questions. If you ever think I’m ignoring a question of yours, kick me!!

06 September 2012 18:58
01 September 2012 20:55
01 September 2012 20:33
01 September 2012 20:19
01 September 2012 18:48
UKViewer said...

Matthew, Thanks for your comment, I find it amusing as well, once I think about it. 🙂

I’ve always used my screen name here and on other public forums. As I blog, am on facebook, google+ and elsewhere, I have got used to people knowing who I am, despite the screen name.

I know Laura and help her administer the facebook site and always post comments there under my own name.

Chris Fewings said...

You’d seem less anonymous if you gave your website as rather than, which leads nowhere!

01 September 2012 19:02
Lay Anglicana said...

Yes, I think we have all got used to UKViewer/minidvr and I would like to record my absolute indebtedness to you. We are indeed joint administrators of the Lay Anglicana Facebook page, but you also led the Lay Anglicana Lent course, as well as being a constant companion and contributor to the blog.
I am hoping you will once again be at the CNMAC on 19 October – where you will again be prepared to unmask yourself! 🙂

01 September 2012 19:52
01 September 2012 18:54
Matthew Caminer said...

On the ‘behind closed doors’ thing, I am interested in the contrast between the CofE (Eastablished) and the Scottish Episcopal Church (not Established). In the latter, bishops are elected by the three houses (Bishops, Clergy and Laity) in as transparent a way as I think is possible, with nominations also ‘open’. When it comes to the appointment of Primus, I think it is more or less a question of Muggin’s Turn, but then it is Primus not Archbishop, big difference…. and the SEC is a member of the Anglican family worldwide, not in a sort of uneasy leadership of it. Perhaps disestablishment would solve a lot of problems!

Erika Baker said...

Couldn’t agree more. And I’d also like to see different Provinces taking turns at proposing the ABC, not always the CoE. It’s a historic accident that the ABC is always a member of the CoE, but if we split the role of “head of the established CoE” and “Head of the Anglican Communion”, there is no reason why we cannot broaden out and be genuinely inclusive.

Joyce said...

The ABC is not, and so far as I know never has been,even accidentally,a member of the CofE. LOL

Erika Baker said...

Absolutely. The question is whether that is still appropriate today.
It arises out of the CoE being the mother church and remaining the head of all the other baby churches developing around the Commonwealth.
But today our relationships, even in the church, are characterised by a little more equality and less by thoughts of England ruling the world, so it is not necesarily wrong to ask whether we could not come up with a different system.

I would like to see a rotating system whereby each Province appoints an ABC, or at least one where candidates from all provinces can be proposed.

It would help to reduce the tension within the Communion because the CoE is generally more liberal than many of the African and Southern Cone Provinces and Rowan Williams was in such trouble precisely because he had to balance the different approaches needed to keep the CoE relevant in its society while making sure that other Provinces can keep their churches relevant to theirs.

I don’t see how else we can ever overcome that tension.

04 September 2012 06:57
04 September 2012 00:26
01 September 2012 21:03
01 September 2012 20:48
David@Montreal said...

If i might get…. rather personal for a moment. As Erika is talking about (graciously dismissing)herself in that first comment:’I am VERY opinionated behind the polite facade!’ she…..doesn’t quite know what she’s talking about. As having had the benefit of reading Erika online in a number of different forums, for several years now, and writing as a Canadian, it has been my experience that Erika is one of the clearest, best reasoned and most articulate voices in the CoE. Yes, she is also my LGBT sister, but i’ve lost count of the time i’ve found myself in an online discussion where the vested interests were all gnashing their teeth and making threatening noises until Erika reminded folks of the essentials of the discussion and got things back on track. It’s people like Erika and Laura which save me from losing hope about our tradition over that side of the pond. Thank-you Laura, for this opportunity to put the record….. ahem, straight!

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you, David, for taking the opportunity to tell Erika how much we all appreciate her 🙂

02 September 2012 05:22
01 September 2012 23:46
Matthew Caminer said...

So, taking Erika’s very helpful clarifications to heart, I am left with the rather uneasy feeling of wondering not who will be the ‘best’ candidate for ABofC, but rather who will be the ‘least bad’.

Chris Fewings said...

Or who would be fool enough to take on this impossible job!

02 September 2012 12:11
02 September 2012 06:40
Chris Fewings said...

Erika, and Matthew, I’m beginning to wonder if LGBT issues in the Church represent something else as well as themselves: our treatment of ‘lepers'(!), our attachment to power based on wealth and control of resources rather than the power of relationship and giving.

02 September 2012 12:23
Erika Baker said...

I agree, these are the questions that ought to be asked.
Even assuming that homosexuality might be wrong, why are we treating gay people with so much more passion and antagonism than, say, tax evaders?

And the women priest debate in the UK is almost as fierce and unrelenting and marked by the same unforgiving passion and fits neatly into the same categorisation you make.

I fear that the church with its hierarchical and largely male structures is very badly placed to look at those questions dispassionately and constructively.

Chris Fewings said...

So there’s something funny going on, and it’s to do with
1. power (and ownership of truth)
2. relationships
3. dangly bits; embarrassment about bodies, and ways of touching
4. outcasts (excluding some can reinforce our own sense of belonging)
5. disgust; possibly self-loathing

Is this another iteration of an age-old souls-before-bodies ?heresy which surfaces in different guises in Christian history (at least since Origen)? Often it’s cropped up in the context of debates about celibacy.

How about this? “I’m scared of the sheer force and scale of bodily desire; I must put strict limits on it so that it doesn’t overwhelm me.” And then projection: “Those people over there are the problem.” And then the clincher: “God says so. Psychology and sociology are irrelevant. God does not speak through those.”

Erika Baker said...

Psychologically, I’m sure this is more or less what happens.
I’m not quite so certain why it seems to affect more men than women and why it results in trying to control the role of women in general.

There was this quote by Hilary Clinton that did the rounds on Facebook, on how the one thing that appears to unite all those at the extreme ends of politics is a desire to control women.
And I think in that context, gay people come under the heading of “women” because they’re not “real men”.

And I find it interesting that all those people I know who are at ease with themselves and in their sexuality and their relationships tend not to be anti-gay nor afraid of women. They don’t underrate sex but don’t overrate and overemphasise it either. And they value equality in all their relationships without feeling threatened by the power of the other.

The question is what to do about it.
How do we get more and more people to face their fears and to become people who are at ease with themselves and therefore with others?

Chris Fewings said...

I can’t answer your question, but I’m interested in what you say about those who want to control women and gay men (or shut them out, or silence them).

I’m guessing that this one manifestation of a wider phenomenon of wanting to control any individual or group perceived as weak, perhaps to bolster one’s own sense of security.

Does give this a clue as to how gender and sexual orientation issues fit into the wider picture?
1. Jesus’ mission to outcasts sits uneasily with any church structure, because structures tend to define who’s in and who’s out.
2. Pain is pain: emotional pain can hurt just as much as physical pain. Currently the church is more comfortable than giving food to the hungry (or even preaching that they should be fully included in society) than facing up to how it excludes people itself. Again, this contrasts with Jesus’ approach, whose invective was directed at religious leaders.
3. Is there some kind of love-proclaiming which doesn’t split off different kinds of outcasts into separate issues (yet is useful rather than woolly)?

06 September 2012 13:48
03 September 2012 19:21
03 September 2012 18:51
02 September 2012 12:37

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