Lay Anglicana, the unofficial voice of the laity throughout the Anglican Communion.
This is the place to share news and views from the pews.

Get involved ...

Category - "Anglican Communion":

Are Non-Church-going Anglicans the Key to the Church’s Future?


Professor Linda Woodhead is from the department of politics, philosophy and religion at Lancaster University. Last week’s Church Times contains an article by her beginning:

THE Church of England’s mission strategies and investment of energy assume that churches and churchgoers are its main resources. But a significant new survey offers a broader answer. It suggests that non-churchgoing Anglicans may be much more important to the Church and its future than the dismissive word “nominals” implies.

This has been the subject of a lively debate on Facebook, which raises several interesting threads for future debate. I have therefore taken the unusual step of reproducing the conversation here, chiefly for archival purposes. However, if anything strikes a chord, please feel free to re-start the comments 🙂

Linda Woodhead: “To me at least, [The Church of England] seems to have abandoned its sense of itself as a lay Church governed by monarch and Parliament, and responsible to the people, and has become both more clerical and more congregationally based. This is bound up with a dismissal of “nominal” Anglicans.
One consequence is that it is hard for lay people, particularly non-churchgoers, to be taken seriously. Despite their prominence at all levels of society, they are not encouraged to think of themselves as real Anglicans. They do not become spokespeople for their Church, or play an active part in its governance.”

Updated Saturday evening Yesterday’s Church Times has an article by Linda Woodhead about a survey that “suggests that non-churchgoing Anglicans may be much more important to the Church and its future than the dismissive word “nominals” implies.” The article is…

  • You, Bex Lewis and 10 others like this.
  • Robin Ward That is a very tendentious reading of the Church of England’s self-understanding indeed.
  • Edward Martin Perhaps we now need to differentiate between ‘Anglicans’ and ‘Anglican Christians’?
  • Alan Wilson For me it does raise questions of “who is a member?” that have long historical pedigree. Simply saying “The baptised” may well be thought too open (however theologically correct) but then saying “Weekly churchgoers” or “Electoral Roll Members” has to be too narrow, doesn’t it? And, finally, what is the relationship of the (largely clerical) “Management” to the plebs sancta dei? What should it be?
  • Steve Walters It appears that for most churches (the hierarchy at least) it’s members vary depending on what is involved. Most of the time church members are those who come to services regularly, up until there is some cash to be made, such as weddings or funerals and then having once had a cousin who sang in the choir is enough. This sweeping generalisation doesn’t apply to a good number of the clergy, but it does to those concerned with church finances
  • Robin Ward But this is all actually completely to do with internal political rows between different sorts of enthusiasts – jittery liberals shocked by the inability of the synodical process to deliver their objectives, calling in aid a Baldwinesque myth of Anglican England. The rampant Erastianism about Parliamentary sovereignty since the women bishops vote has been truly astounding, would Linda Woodhead have wanted it when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister?
  • Alan Wilson It could be, indeed, Robin. But beyond the narrow politics I do wonder about what is going on in the outfield — the plebs sancta dei zone? All I think prof Woodhead is trying to do is describe the constituency of the C of E; which is broader than its activists on all sides, surely.
  • Tony Eccleston Seen from Andalucía, just before setting off for the annual meeting of a C of E chaplaincy which is both wholly dependent on its own fund-raising and the employer of its priests, the definitions of Anglican and member seem relatively straightforward. Perhaps we carry our historical baggage more lightly.
  • Jonathan Jennings I always used to say that the Church of England doesn’t have a concept of membership; the basic answers to the question ‘who are the C of E’s members?’ are theologically, ‘the baptised’, and legally, ‘anyone who wants to be, whether the clergy or congregation like it or not.’ Establishment’s real function is not at the level of Bishops in Parliament or the role of the Crown, but in the legal underpinning of the wedging open the door of the parish church. When people come in, they have as much right to be there as anyone and that’s sometimes a necessary corrective to a sense of ownership. The only way of truly disestablishing the England would be to extinguish the current legal rights of residentially-qualified parishioners.
  • Alan Wilson I agree, Jonathan. It’s one of the reasons a narrow response by the Church to Marriage legislation is so dangerous, in a way that some of my colleagues just don’t understand.
  • Matthew Caminer Your mention of plebs, +Alan, makes me reflect again on the otherwise brilliant Oxford Diocese leaflet on parish share. It did leave me with a strong sense of an implicit money-based expectation that the CofE of the future will be ‘managed’ by a compact group of ‘professional’ clergy supported by a much larger group of ‘amateur’ self-supporting priests and lay ministers…. which increasingly smacks of ‘officers and other ranks’, before you even start thinking of the people in the pews. And I have to say that many of the structures and attitudes, training, funding, pastoral care etc from theological college stage through into ministerial life, seem to support that perspective. At times it has a rather nasty feeling of ‘proper priests’ and ‘plebs’
  • Alan Wilson Thanks, Matthew for articulating something that rather worries me, not only about our diocese but the whole Church of England. When, for example, will we have a Ministry Division that is as concerned with the 98% (perhaps) of the Church’s ministry delivered by unordained people as it is about the 2% (perhaps) delivered by clergy?
  • Matthew Caminer Indeed. I am reminded of a Scottish Episcopal Church years ago which went to the Bishop of Edinburgh (good old +Richard!) during a vacancy and said “we have decided we don’t need a stipendiary priest after all, because we have everything, internally and externally, under control. All we need is someone to be a shepherd and lead services.” So enlightened, but so rare…
  • Pete Ward I think Linda has a point. Deep in the Anglican Church is the sense that it is in someway there for everyone in a parish. The fact that a large number of these people don’t attend but still see themselves as Anglican is a challenge to ‘intensive’ forms of Church – what I call solid Church. The real issue is how should the CoE ‘minister’ beyond its gatherings. We have some clues with chaplaincy and relationships to schools and other community bodies but what else. How can we see a more Liquid Church emerge? ‘Getting them in’ seems myopic or at least one dimensional – whatever the church tradition it emerges from. Rather we need to ask what is the Holy Spirit already doing beyond our buildings and our gatherings in people’s lives and how should we be catching up with this? Linked to this I think the idea that we might also invite financial support across a wider group is very interesting. In other words a more ‘centrifugal’ rather than centripetal movement might if well conceived offer a ways of support.
  • Alan Wilson Thanks, Pete. I strongly agree. I think Cole Moreton‘s “God is no longer an Englishman” indicates that there are very rich places for ministry for “village holy people.” And I know a few good examples of Churches who asked “Where’s the Fire?” and discovered energy in surprising places in communities they serve and have kindled new life in doing this.
  • Anthony Clavier Michael Ramsey, who championed the “Parish Communion” movement, prophesied that the abandonment of Matins would drive from the church, those who wished to participate as Anglicans but were not totally committed to its teachings.
  • Alan Wilson A few years ago I helped with a pre-retirement group of clergy in the Durham diocese who were reviewing their careers — fascinating able interesting people, but many reflected on one of two career patterns in which they had basically done the same job four times over (1) High — get rid of 11.00 high Mass and replace with Parish Communion (2) Low get rid of Mattins and replace with Family Service and/or Parish Communion. The PC movement was so right theologically, but humanly fortified the tendency Linda identifies powerfully.
  • Ernie Feasey We have a couple of Matins and Evensong services per month in our parishes, which get a different congregation than the HC, Sung Eucharist or Family Services. The preferred format is BCP Traditional language. We’ve also run some compline services, which are also well attended. It seems to be that we need to get the mix right to reach those who are not comfortable with modern or Common Worship services. We also make other opportunities to meet people where they are and there was a very succesfull carol service in a village pub last Christmas. It needs more imagination and wider interaction iwht people at our School and in the other community events – and not all people want to be involved every week, some are comfortable with occasional or even seasonal attendance. It’s still their Parish Church and they identify with it, just can’t or won’t commit to regular attendance.
  • Richard Haggis It’s sweetly navel-gazing of clergy to think that the solution to problems is to fiddle with liturgy. It’s like bishops thinking that problems can be solved by clever forms of words. It’s what they’re good at, but, alas, useful only in very particular (or even peculiar) and limited circumstances.
  • Alan Wilson Thanks for broadening the subject out, Richard. I think people are turned onto or off from their local Church far more by the kind of community it is than the details of the liturgy on offer there. The “management” did go through many years in the past of defining everyone by their liturgical preferences, but this was only a small part of what was going on.
  • Bradley Upham I have to agree with Richard Haggis on this one. It is the (often) constant tinkering and fiddling with liturgy (this includes music) that is a turn-off than most would care to think. Anglicans have an special affection for the ascetic, whether they realize it or not, and to change it can be quite disturbing. Parishes that have changed this, might have a rebirth, but it comes usually after a long period of decline, only after the parish attending population has turned over.
  • Matthew Caminer I’m all for trying things that will engage and retain the congregations of the future, but if Messy Church and all the other forms of Fresh Expressions give a feeling of exclusion and disenfranchisement for those who worship in ‘old’ ways with sincerity and stabillity over time, then it is not universally successful… a case of both and rather than either or?
  • Richard Haggis It always amuses me when a parson welcomes “especially the newcomers”, and I look at the oldcomers, and think “poor buggers, they’ve been paying for this show for years, and no one even notices them, in the quest for novelty – even in people”.
  • Matthew Caminer As regards the original proposition of this thread, the growth of massive benefices with fewer clergy to serve them should in theory be a heaven-sent opportunity to engage the laity more, rather than less, in leadership. The fact is, though, that many congregations have something approaching a child to parent dependency on the clergy, and for them nothing less than a priest will do. In other words, it is not just about what the establishment does top down, but also about bottom up expectations
  • Richard Haggis That’s true, Matthew, but it also suits the clergy very well to infantilise the laity, in exchange for being idolised, and then burning out because there’s no one confident enough to delegate to! It would have to be said that precisely none of this is healthy.
  • Alan Wilson back in 2005 Donald Spaeth published a really interesting Cambridge thesis studying the Archdeaconry of Wiltshire and asking when people stopped going to Church en masse. The answer was that successive waves of clergy enforcing their latest notion of how to be a proper Church came along after 1660 — Evangelical, Arminian, Calvinist, Tractarian, the lot. Each time this happened some people went with the new thing and slightly more peeled off leaving a rump in the middle. The result was continuous salami slicing over 300 years. The biggest slice of all came off when residence was enforced in 1805, and clergy started enforcing gentlemanly behaviour on their parishioners. It’s a salutary lesson.

    This book explores popular support for the Church of England during a critical period, from the Stuart Restoration to the mid-eighteenth century, when Churchmen perceived themselves to be under attack from all sides. In many provincial parishes, the clergy also found themselves in dispute with their…
  • Steve Walters It’s wonderful to look at new ways of making worship acceptable, and accessible, however it’s the Church’s role in wider society that needs looking at, increasing the relevance to people’s lives. So often the busiest churches have outreach work, even if its the Priest popping into the local pub for a pint or a coke, and chatting about the football. Our role so often isolates us, we have the largest (and often most run down inside) houses in the area, up a long drive separating us from our parishioners. Not many vicarages, or manses, or presbytery are on the 12th floor of a block of flats. We need to live and take part in our communities for the Church if whatever denomination to thrive
  • Clare Amos If I am ruthlessly honest I suspect that the importance given to the Anglican Communion in recent years has not been helpful in this respect. I love the Communion – and indeed working for the Communion office, but it is fairly apparent that in many Provinces of the Communion the delicate balance between the episcopal and the synodical governance of the church that (ideally at least) is part of the tradition of English church life does not really exist – instead the bishops are far more powerful. I think that has affected in turn the dynamics in England as well. (It is of course interesting that it is a church where the synodical element is very powerful – TEC – which is out of favour with many other Anglican Provinces)
  • Katherine J. Kaye At the risk of sounding even MORE heretical, the change in the liturgy which decommissioned Morning Prayer and put the eurcharist as front-center-and-the-whole-point of a Sunday service also marginalised non-communicants and made the whole process into a club of insiders. It isn’t sharing in communion that really makes us brothers and sisters, it is baptism, faith, and grace. My poor noncommunicant husband is Outsidered every time he goes to church. It’s excluding and far too “priesty”.
  • Keeley Cavendish Very true, Linda. The C of E is governed at local, regional and national level by cliques of unwelcoming people, with inexplicably high opinions of themselves. Quite often, anyone who finds that they do not share the left-of-centre, PC views of many within the church hierarchy, finds him/herself excluded quite ruthlessly.
  • Alan Wilson Clare, thanks for describing something I’ve noticed to be the case in various overseas settings. The good news is that when people actually encounter others in different churches the result is usually joy. The bad communion news is a lot of the office politics and manipulation at another level. My thought, Katherine is I’ve met Episcopal Church theologians who put great stress on Baptism as the basis for the Church, and working out the implications…
  • Pippa Soundy Is Anglicanism too self-conscious? Preaching on the lectionary this morning, if struck me that the hallmarks of Jesus people are their love for each other and their reception of the gift of the Spirit. Having belonged to some very different kinds of churches where these hallmarks were present, I tend to think of everything else as secondary.
  • Alan Wilson Thanks, Pippa. Is that how we rebuild the ruins from the streets up?
  • Pippa Soundy Hope so – very much!
  • Robert Dimmick Just come back from the AGM of our Local Ecumenical Partnership. One member complaining because he’d noticed we hadn’t complied 100% with the Church Representation Rules and also pointing out that we were probably not compliant with the canon on LEPs. Others complaining that they had been asked to sign forms for the Anglican Electoral Roll which we are treating as a common membership roll – they don’t want even to say that they are “also a member of the Church of England”, they just want to be Christians worshipping in the Christian church which serves this area (at least for non-RCs). Some of us wanting to say, damn the rules, let’s just act like a church of people who love God and each other and who want to work together for the Kingdom. A frustrating situation.
  • T.J. Tracey Jones Love God, Build the church, Reach out to the lost… Simples!
  • June Butler From my view across the pond outside the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s dual role as Primate of all England and primus inter pares of the Anglican Communion seems to constrain the governance and policies of the Church of England. The more I look at the position of the ABC, the more difficult it appears to have one person exercise leadership in the two roles.
  • Chris Fewings A few thoughts from a peripheral church member in the Church of England, possibly off-topic and ill-informed:

    1) How much longer can the model of Victorian churches (and other frowsty barns), with 20% of the pews filled for an hour or two a week, served by an increasingly thinly stretched ‘professional’ clergy survive? Twenty years?

    2) As a ritualist (baptised in the Brethren as a teenager), I can envisage many groups of future anglicans meeting in small spaces, perhaps in homes, to celebrate a eucharist which may be highly elaborate, with proper regard to holy orders. But this is antithetical (or at best parallel) to the parish church as a sign of the other (a sacrament in itself) in the community.

    3) A few churches have become or been built as flexible multipurpose buildings for worship *and* community use. This often seems to require massive capital investment, and one or more rare local visionaries. But I sometimes look at a church and think ‘Chancel: worship. Aisles: offices to let. Nave: dances, music, markets, after-school clubs, adult education classes; occasional services with large congregations’. Can some of that be achieved in some places without ambitious building projects?

    4) Is parish communion about dispensing sacerdotally controlled sacraments or about the life-giving mystery of the body of christ meeting, raising its voice, recognising the holy, sharing, eating, becoming? I rarely ‘take communion’ but I regard the handshake of peace as a sacrament. I regard the words of scripture and the liturgy as sacramental too, but to have at the centre of our weekly liturgy a service without the sensuality of taste and swallowing the fruit of the earth and work of human hands in a re-membering of the central paradox of the Christian story? It would be like going to the theatre to listen to a radio play.

    5) St Paul was the apostle to the gentiles in a rather extraordinary way: he insisted on bringing their sacrilegious uncircumcised ways into the Jewish church.

    Do we need an apostle to the secular, the agnostic, the atheist – one who will embrace their godlessness as a hymn to the unknowable in whom we live and move and have our being, and hammer out theology on the hoof?

    6) So many dead lie round. The church probably has a better grasp on death (and on failure) than the secular culture; can we hold the dead, and the memory of the dead, for the wider community?
  • June Butler Katherine, I agree that the move away from regular services of Morning Prayer was perhaps a mistake. A service in which everyone who walks in the church door can participate fully seems a lovely thing now that it’s mostly disappeared.
  • Chris Fewings It’s not true that someone who walks in off the streets can fully participate in matins or evensong. Will the whole atmosphere put them off? Will they want to say the responses? If they say them will they feel their heart is in them? Will they want to sing? All these apply to someone who’s never been to church, or only goes occasionally, or went as a child or a long time ago, and comes back and finds things have changed, or they have changed.
  • June Butler As fully as they care to participate, Chris. If a person wishes to sit quietly, that’s fine, too. The point is that no one is excluded from any part of the service.
  • T.J. Tracey Jones In 1 Cor 1 Paul challenges the people’s thinking of themselves as following this leader or that one etc.. At the end of the day, are we putting Jesus at the centre of our worship or are we following this leader or that one?
    Each one (bishop, priest, pastor, whatever) would be mortifies if they thought people were following and trusting them when really they are trying to point the way to Jesus.
    What kind of man was Jesus? Traditionalist, radical, progressive, conservative? …. ALL of them! No one can say that the church should only be one type of thing… They automatically alienate the other 3/4 of the church.
    We need to put Jesus at the centre… Above all other gods… Lord of lords… King of kings…
    Thanx Malcolm Duncan great sermon this am.
  • Jonathan Jennings I think it’s amazing that we constantly analyse the ways in which church attendance has changed as though everything else hasn’t. It is not the church’s failure that it doesn’t command the support it used to command a hundred years ago. I once read a partly constructed thesis somewhere which sought to chart the decline of evensong by doing statistical analysis of attendance in the 1960s. it confirmed quite neatly the anecdotal stories about the Forsyte Saga’s effect on mainstream churchgoing. We haven’t properly factored in the effect of changes in daily life, including the necessity of both partners holding down jobs in order to sustain a family, and the consequent growth in the importance of Sunday trading and expansion in Sunday as a social and shopping space, none of which was true even twenty years ago. Congregations who constantly feel guilty that they’re not as large or busy as they were a generation ago should relax and remember that exactly the same is true of trade unions and political parties.
  • Phil Hemsley To be honest, I haven’t read all the comments above, but since my friend Pippa commented I saw the headline, and being controversial I’ll offer

    The church in recent decades has not been successful in the UK. The results show…See more
  • Alan Wilson Thank you very much, Phil. The underwear story brings home the point very well. I often find that when Jesus’ teaching and character, and its concrete content is named, interest follows. When, on the other hand people attempt the Supernatural / doesn’t actually do stuff paradox, or posit a God zone apart from another, secular zone, privileging one over the other, people are genuinely foxed as to what is going on. Really grateful for your help on this.
  • Erika Baker If only 5% of people attend church we can be fairly sure that most of the 95% have no idea at all what goes on inside one. They have no idea what the liturgy might be, what kind of hymns people sing or don’t sing, what they say about God or Jesus. They know as much about what goes inside their local church as I know about what goes on inside the local mosque – the things you see on television, the self portrayals of the organisation in the news and in some of its more PR savvy members.
  • Alan Wilson +Dominic Walker used to send curates in training into a betting shop to experience what church felt like to outsiders…
  • Matthew Caminer When people prioritise numbers above all else, I am reminded of the person who pointed out that during the Stalinist times, the church in Russia was kept going by (harmless?) old ladies in black, and not too many of them. I rather suspect that the numbers in churches these days are probably a far fairer reflection of ‘believing’ people than in the days when there was a social cachet to going to church, nothing to do with needing to believe anything! Jane Austen: “How would you have liked making sermons, Mr Wyckham?” had no connection with whether he had a faith: just something that second sons did. So BAPS wouldn’t have been much use!

    On which score, and thinking back to earlier parts of this thread, I am left wondering whether the move towards ever-larger benefices led by stipendiaries, supported by much larger numbers of SSMs and LLMs was the result of a strategic vision or simply a pragmatic response to financial necessity. I would like to imagine the former, but I suspect the latter.
  • Katherine J. Kaye I don’t think there’s any doubt that the move away from stipes towards SSM/LLMs was financial and coincided with women moving into the priesthood and congregations changing with demography.
  • Matthew Caminer Yes, Katherine… the statistics support that…. 67% (and increasing) of females offering for ordination are SSMs, as opposed to only 25% (and static) of men. Not suggesting reasons or causality, but those are published CofE statistics.
  • Katherine J. Kaye In the history of women’s paid work in essentially middle-class occupations (excluding the vast numbers of working lower-class women in factories, mining, and agriculture) every time women are recruited in any number into an employment category, wages, and prestige as defined by ‘traditionally male’ norms, go down. This has been true in science (where it was a growth field for women and middle-class men, because ‘gentlemen’ did Classics and thence went into law and politics, up to WW1, then becamse male-only, and since circa 1980 has had more integration with women and correspondingly lower pay rates, especially in academia); in medicine (excluding surgery); in both the Bar and in legal practice generally; and in management and the boardroom, where even in major companies, women on the board are *still* paid less than their male counterparts. Women are universally STILL regarded as a source of cheap labour and men are STILL regarded as somehow more worthy of more money. My more-irate reaction phase tells me that men just down tools andrefuse to work unless their egos are massaged by sufficient recognition, but I compeletly acknowledge that this is a quondam and biased reaction!
  • Richard Haggis A largely non-stipendiary clergy is going to be quite a boot up the arse for bishops and laity alike, as they start to hear the word “no” expressed to their faces in the terms it’s been phrased only in the bathroom mirror until now. It could all be rather fun – people HATE it when they HAVE to co-operate.
  • Matthew Caminer Seriously, however much the church may claim that it is not seeking a ‘one size fits all’ solution, the fact is that that is an almost inevitable consequence of an IME regime that is based on streamlined delivery, a lot of box-ticking, and little to nurture individual gifts and callings, let alone educate or change expectations of host congregations. Hence endless advertisements in CT for “energetic” applicants – meaning presumably people prepared to work 70+ hour weeks, and prepared to sacrifice their personal and spiritual integrity to accept demands that are simply not a good fit for who they are? All such a long way from the Ordinal… “Priests are people who pray”…. In all that they do, do, do, where is the space for the rich contribution of, say, contemplatives… people with busy day to day occupations…. people with families…. ? Maybe dioceses, IME Officers and Training Incumbants could do more, but congregations must equally share responsibility to support and preserve the physical, mental and spiritual health of clergy AND their families.
    Ever-growing benefices should in theory present the wonderful opportunity for a rich mix of Ordained and non-Ordained ministry, and, within the Ordained, a rich mix of spirituality, time-commitment, involvement and so on… so room for anything from workaholic Marthas to “contemplative-in-the-world” Marys. I suspect, though, that the latter are seen largely as misfits and oddballs, when they should arguably be treasured most of all.

Time For The Laity To Lead On Blessing Same-Sex Relationships?: Chris Fewings


It is time for “lay” Anglicans in the Church of England to start celebrating public thanksgivings for and blessings of committed same-sex relationship – in churches where possible, in church halls and church porches, in parks and on village greens.

Must I be ordained to bless my brothers and sisters? To give thanks to the Lord of love? Do priests and bishops control the life-giving mysteries?

That was my first thought on hearing of Men and Women in Marriage “a document from the Faith and Order Commission published with the agreement of the House of Bishops of the Church of England and approved for study” this week. The document seems to entrench an attitude of inertia in the institutional Church of England and make for a deeper divide between its upper echelons and substantial proportion of its clergy and laity. It also reflects an idealised view of the nuclear family which belongs more to the aspirations 1950s than the realities of the 21st century.

Peter and JaneJane married Peter. Peter married Jane. Hello Peter. Hello Jane.

Jane and Peter had 2.4 children and went to church on Sundays. Hello children. Hello Peter. Hello Jane.

The 1950s came to an abrupt end. Some people were very confused. The church painted a big picture of Peter and Jane and their 2.4 children on the church noticeboard and varnished it with everlasting varnish.

Everyone felt much happier now. They went inside the church and it was just like the 1950s picture books. It was such a lovely game of Let’s Pretend that they all vowed never to stop playing it for ever and ever Amen.

When I posted my thoughts on Facebook one reaction was that Methodism began with a similar eruption of lay activity, to which I replied:

Am I right in thinking that both John and Charles Wesley remained presbyters of the Church of England all their lives? And were deeply reluctant to allow their followers to form a separate church?
There are surely many examples of movements within the church, some perhaps lay-led, which largely stayed within the church – the charismatic movement of the 1960s for example. In the middle ages they tended to form themselves into orders (after starting as raggle-taggle bands like Francis’s) and eventually get papal approval. At a parish level this could be a peace and justice group, or a contemplative prayer group, or a bible study group.

In some cases I suppose the movement splits two ways – some remain to reform from the inside, or simply be a nucleus for a minority who cannot follow the ways of the majority, but can remain in formal unity. I have the impression that C19 Evangelical Anglicanism was a child of Methodism.

There is already at least one church which originally formed as a home for LGBT Christians who felt ostracised by mainstream churches, and no doubt there are many LGBTQI local, national and international groups and organisations which function within Anglican churches and/or ecumenically.

Perhaps until recent years these groups have mainly acted as pressure groups (and pressure valves) for individuals who do not conform to conventional pre-1960s views of sexuality, and feel excluded or marginalised or confused, with a few Wilberforces joining them in solidarity.

I’m suggesting something which would be led as much by “straight” CoE Christians as “gay”, who disagree with the House of Bishops and wish to openly, publicly, prayerfully, ceremonially and joyfully celebrate the love of God as expressed in same-sex relationships in ways that make sense within their own traditions.

For some, it would be important not to use terminology reserved for the sacrament of marriage by those who have received the sacrament of holy orders. For me, the essential points are that the ceremonies:-
– should not be hidden away
– should affirm their Christian and Anglican nature (for example by being held in or outside churches)
– should in no way be seen as second-rate rites for second-class citizens.

The illustration is copyright: kabliczech via Shutterstock

The above article is made up of comments posted on Facebook on 10th April, with the explanatory paragraphs in smaller type added on 12th April. Chris Fewings.

Reflection on Archbishop Justin’s Enthronement Sermon

Archbishop Justin preached movingly on the courage and confidence we are going to need in order to move forward: ‘Out of our own traditions and into the waves‘. I offer some additional thoughts about walking on water.

Queen Victoria and the Empress Eugenie together attended the opera. After the national anthems had been played, the French empress took her seat, having first looked behind her to ensure that the chair was in place. The Empress of India, on the other hand, needed no such backward glance, subconsciously knowing there must be a seat ready: there always had been, and there always would be.

St Peter sets off, as confidently as Queen Victoria, to walk across the water towards Jesus. All goes well for the first few steps until his conscious mind remembers the law of gravity and he notices that there is a strong wind blowing: he loses his ‘blessed assurance’ and begins to sink.

All the gospels tell the story of Jesus walking on the water after the miracle of the loaves of fishes, but it is only in Matthew that we have the story about Peter. For Matthew, Peter’s problem was not only that he took his eyes off Jesus, but that he wanted proof of the presence of Christ, and so left the boat in the first place. The message is not “If he had enough faith, he could have walked on the water,” just as the message to us is not “If we had enough faith, we could overcome all our problems in spectacular ways.” This interpretation is wrong in that it identifies faith with spectacular exceptions to the warp and woof of our ordinary days, days that are all subject to the laws of physics and biology. This is wrong because when our fantasies of overcoming this web are shattered by the realities of accident, disease, aging, and circumstance and we begin to sink, this view encourages us to feel guilt because of our “lack of faith.” Faith is not being able to walk on the water − only God can do that − but daring to believe, in the face of all the evidence, that God is with us in the boat, made real in the community of faith as it makes its way through the storm, battered by the waves.
Eugene Boring Matthew, The New Interpreters’ Bible

The word nave comes from the Latin word navis meaning a boat or ship – God is on board with us.
Peter should have believed Jesus and stayed in the boat. I know we love the walking on water bit, the brave heroic action. And there are times when our faith means taking these kind of risks, and relying on God to make all the difference. But there are more times when faith requires the risk of taking Jesus at his word. Trusting him. In fair weather, storms, calm waters and the choppy seas where our lives feel in danger.
Brian P. Stoffregen Exegetical Notes

St Peter should have remembered Nicely-Nicely Johnson’s testimony at the Salvation Army meeting:

As I laughed at those passengers to heaven
A great big wave came and washed me over board!
And as I sank and I hollered “someone save me!”
That’s the moment I woke up, thank the Lord.
And I said to myself, sit down,
sit down, you’re rockin’ the boat!
Said to myself sit down, sit down, you’re rockin’ the boat
Sit down, sit down, sit down, you’re rockin’ the boat!
Nicely-Nicely Johnson’s testimony in ‘Guys and Dolls’, 1950

The sea itself in biblical thought denotes the forces of chaos, held at bay in the creative act of God, but always threatening … Whereas the modern mind thinks of defying the law of gravity, the biblical mind thinks of the one who overcomes the power of chaos…From the Epic of Gilgamesh onward, it was a commonplace of ancient thought that no human being could perform this feat, reserved for deity. In biblical thought, only God walks on the sea. Precisely in the midst of this symmetrically constructed story, Jesus does what only God can do, and speaks with the voice of God, “I am.”
Eugene Boring Matthew, The New Interpreters’ Bible

What is the secret of serene confidence in the existence of the Almighty? As Immanuel Kant almost said in ‘The Critique of Pure Reason’, there are two ways of knowing anything: working it out by pure logic, and knowing something intuitively. For now, I suggest we take it on trust and see where the Holy Spirit and our new Archbishop of Canterbury may lead us.

Lift up our souls, O Lord,
Above the weary round of harassing thoughts,
to your eternal presence.
Lift up our minds
to the pure, bright, serene
atmosphere of your presence,
that we may breathe freely,
and rest there in your love.
From there, surrounded by your peace,
may we return to do or to bear
whatever shall best please you,
O blessed Lord.
Edward Pusey (1800-1882)

D H Lawrence wrote in 1928:

‘The moon perhaps has shrunk a little. One has been forced to learn about orbits, eclipses, relative distances, craters and so on. The crescent at evening still startles the soul with its delicate flashing, but the mind works automatically and says ‘Ah, she is in her first quarter…the earth’s shadow is over her’. And willy-nilly the intrusion of the mental processes dims the brilliance, the magic of the first perception. It is the same with all things. The sheer delight of a child’s perception is based on wonder; and, deny it as we may, knowledge and wonder counteract one another. You cannot help feeling wonder in an ant busily tugging at a straw. Even the real scientist works in a sense of wonder.
Now, hymns live and glisten in the depths of man’s consciousness in undimmed wonder because they have not been subjected to any criticism or analysis…so that the miracle of the loaves and fishes is just as good to me now as when I was a child. I am eternally grateful for the wonder with which all religious teaching filled my childhood. ‘O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’, we sang. I don’t know what this is exactly. But if you don’t think about it – and why should you?- it has a magic. In me, it still produces a sense of splendour. When I was about 7, a teacher tried to harrow us about the crucifixion. She kept saying ‘aren’t you sorry for Jesus?’ and most of the children wept. I never did care about the crucifixion, yet the wonder of it penetrated very deep in me.’
Hymns in a Man’s Life.

To have a simple faith is not necessarily the mark of a simple person: it may be the product of years of thought and prayer. The 18th century Quakers who emigrated to the Americas hoped to build a new life in a new world. They would face many challenges, but they rejoiced in God and in his presence as they often sang in the Appalachian mountains:
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

The illustration is by Alessandro Allori via Wikimedia

A New Moses And A New Exodus?


When Christians think about travelling for God, we usually think in terms of individual pilgrimage. Maggi Dawn’s ‘The Accidental Pilgrim‘ describes it in terms of the labyrinth on the book jacket: we travel without being certain that we will ever reach the centre, but different travellers on the same road, and the same travellers at different times, will all find something different. And it is possible to make this journey of discovery, to ‘travel for God’, without leaving one’s room. Pilgrimage is an individual journey, whether or not it is taken in the company of others, like Chaucer’s. And it is also, surely, a voluntary journey: or can you think of anyone going on a pilgrimage because they have been told to do so by another human being?


The second book of the Old Testament, on the other hand, tells how the Israelites, led by Moses, left a life of slavery in Egypt to journey together through the wilderness to Mount Sinai, where Yahweh promised them the land of Canaan in return for their faithfulness. There is a sense in which this was a mass pilgrimage, but the exodus (literally ‘going out’) was not a matter of individual prompting by God, but of the whole community together making this arduous journey for the sake of the hive as a whole, not for the sake of the individual bees that went to make up the hive.

Although the clip from ‘The Ten Commandments‘ above is rather toe-curling to us, it does illustrate very well both the scale of the undertaking and the sense of joint effort and belonging.


While individual pilgrimages do not need authority figures, it is inconceivable that the Israelites would ever have got out of Egypt in exodus without a strong and charismatic leader. Indeed a version of Exodus, written in Old English (Anglo-Saxon) brings a traditional “heroic style” to its biblical subject-matter, with pervasive military imagery and Moses as a general. And Moses must have had the qualities of both a political leader and a military leader. But ultimately it was through his ability to communicate the word of God, and lead the people in God’s name that validated him as a leader: seeing that the people were uncontrollable, Moses went to the entry of the camp and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come unto me.” (Exodus 32.36)

A New Moses and a New Exodus?

On Monday February 4th, Bishop Justin Welby began work as our new Archbishop of Canterbury. He has expressed dismay at the internal disputes which have threatened to cripple the Church of England in recent years. I would add that the wrangling over the Anglican Covenant nearly did that to the Anglican Communion as a whole. Occasionally abstruse points of theology, combined with an inward-looking emphasis on procedural policy, have at times meant that we have become a Body of Christ determined, rather than spreading the good news of the gospel, to spend our time fussing like an aging valetudinarian over the workings of our own Body.

We need to look outwards and onwards. We need even to remember the Israelites and consider the good of the hive as well as the good of the bee. We need to stop obsessing about gender, remember why we exist as a Church and what it means to be Christian. Bishop Justin said recently to Ruth Gledhill ‘I know I will disappoint a lot of people in this job. The thing about the Church is that we are so human…I’m just a very ordinary Christian‘.

This reminds me strongly, and encouragingly, of Prince Caspian:

“Welcome, Prince,’ said Aslan. ‘Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?’

I – I don’t think I do, Sir,’ said Caspian…

Good,’ said Aslan. ‘If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been proof that you were not.”

― C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia

I am sure Moses felt just the same as Prince Caspian…

Action-Centred Leadership

Those of you who attended management courses in the 1980s will remember ‘Action-Centred Leadership‘. Those of you who did not may, however, remember those Army recruiting advertisements that used to appear in the Sunday newspapers where you were invited to manoeuvre an imaginary barrel over a stream with the help of a couple of sticks and a few men. If you arrived at what was called ‘the Directing Staff Solution’, you were reckoned to be officer material.

Time may prove me wrong but, from the glint in (Arch)bishop Justin’s eye, I think the Church of England may be in for a spot of Action-Centred Leadership.

Mr Bean or Moses

Bishop Justin has been teasingly compared to Mr Bean. I suggest that a more telling comparison may be with Clark Kent. As you will remember, Mr Kent’s alter ego is exactly what the Church may need. I do hope there is a handy telephone kiosk at Lambeth Palace.

This piece is based on a post for Digidisciple, ‘Travelling for God’ of 5 February 2013.

An Observation on Bishops’ Mitres

Apropos of nothing in particular, I was musing the other day, as you do, about the extraordinary lengths that bishops’ mitres go to these days. Or perhaps one should say, the extraordinary heights that they reach. Have you noticed? I do wonder how they keep them on in a high wind – is there some internal arrangement of rubber bands and combs that attach them to the head? This would work for a woman bishop, but except for our recent Archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops I can think of do not have noticeably thick heads of hair. Perhaps they use superglue?

It was not always thus. In earlier days, a mitre was an altogether more modest form of headgear, only slightly loftier than a biretta. And of course Archbishops of Canterbury tend to build up  a wardrobe of mitres, so I could also find images of slightly smaller ones. I have only seen our new Archbishop of Canterbury in one mitre so far, and that is on the modest side.

But by way of comparison and contrast, may I offer you some random Archbishops of Canterbury from an earlier era? Of course, I realise there were exceptions so I include a leaning tower of Pisa of a mitre to save you the trouble of finding the exception. But I would be interested if anyone thinks I have got this wrong – maybe it is all in my fevered imagination?

Of course, if one were as unkind as one is impertinent, one might propose a new theory –  to rival Newton and Einstein? –

The height of an Anglican bishop’s mitre is in inverse proportion to the power that he actually wields.

‘The Underground Church’: Wendy Dackson


The Underground Church, by Robin Meyers.

Jossey-Bass, 2012.  288 pages, $24. 95


Robin Meyers is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, a liberal American denomination.  This is one of a small number of Christian denominations in the United States that do not necessarily adhere to the letter of the historic creeds.  Meyers indicates (although does not explicitly claim) that this may be in part due to a rejection of the Constantinian compromise which made the Church the ‘official’ religion of the Roman Empire, and thus caused its collusion in the Empire’s corruption.  The main point of the book is that the Church began its life as a subversive movement, and to reclaim its authenticity it should return to its ‘underground’ origins—adapted, of course, for the contemporary (and probably implicitly, American) situation.  As in a number of other recent books (notably Ken Howard’s Paradoxy:  Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them), the author emphasizes the need to move beyond the liberal/conservative boundaries that mark  one congregation or denomination off from another, and even cause divisions within denominations and congregations.  He admits that he is making some gross generalizations—that ‘conservatives’ tend to equate religious faith with assent to verbal formulae about God, and that ‘liberals’ tend to emphasize practices and social action when they speak about the role of religion in their lives.

Meyers identifies the single most urgent reason for a reclaiming of the Church as ‘underground’:  nobody expects anything important to happen in church any more.  “Every Sunday morning, countless people wake up with both a desire to go to church and a gnawing sense that it won’t be worth it.”  In a culture where it is safe and respectable to go to church, nothing much happens there.  While the church was still a persecuted, illegal sect, something happened in the secret gatherings that was life-giving and made it worth the risk of freedom and even life.  Now that church participation is a respectable, even expected, part of life, it has become ‘for the most part, dull and dishonest’.  We are not hearing vital truths from the pulpit, and we are not challenging ‘deep and destructive illusions by which we are living unsustainable lives’.  Prophetic speech in church would be treated ‘as if a wild animal had suddenly wandered into the sancturary.’

What would it take to return to the pre-Constantinian, ‘underground’ subversive Church?  It would mean far less emphasis on doctrine and more on practices (with a special emphasis on hospitality).  Meyers argues for more openness to the other (especially in terms of setting minimal requirements for receiving communion), but also a higher level of commitment (in terms of more rigorous requirements for baptism, and sacrificial financial giving to the church).  There is a particular criticism of the Constantinian compromise in terms of Christian support for the military (which, for Meyers, trickles down even to contemporary enthusiasm for contact sport).

Like many other current books lamenting the current state of church (Diana Butler Bass’s Christianity after Religion comes to mind), I am on board for about a third to a half of the book.  I think Meyers has made a more or less accurate diagnosis of the state of the church in terms of in-fighting, preaching, and ill-advised priorities concerning resources.  I think he is right in his assessment that the churches are not connecting with what really matters to most people—we still have passions and commitments, but they are not anything we encounter in the nave on a Sunday morning.  (This was also the subject of a recent blog post on Episcopal Cafe).


However, it breaks down for me at the point where it becomes an unreflective anti-Constantinian diatribe (beginning around chapter 4).  Although Meyers complains that the church has, to its detriment, become tainted with Empire values (and the new ‘Empire’ is the United States), he also claims that it is supposed to be the yeast in the ‘three measures of flour’ (Matthew 13:33)—and he identifies that flour with the Empire.  But how could the church have leavened the Empire (and he points out that ‘leaven’, in the first century CE, was a taint) unless it had been taken in, even hidden in that Empire?  At some level, the Church had to become intimately involved with the Empire to do that—not to maintain some kind of separate purity.  And although Meyers (along with others) decry the Church’s having taken on Empire values (hierarchical structures, accumulation of wealth and earthly power), he seems to ignore that the Church has had some leavening effect on society.  Stephen Pinker, in his Better Angels of our Nature:  Why Violence has Declined, makes this very case in that things like just war theory and proportionality (which temper the effects of violence) are ideas and practices that would not have existed apart from the Church’s interactions with the Empire.


Meyers’ book is worth reading, and there are many points, especially early on, that will likely resonate with those of us who are dissatisfied with ‘church-as-it-is’.  But the Church was never meant to be primarily for its own benefit; it was meant to transform the world.  I am not sure how an uncritical anti-Constantinianism contributes to that.

Introverts In The Church: Wendy Dackson

Contemporary church culture, perhaps especially (but certainly not limited to) American evangelical culture, is geared toward extroversion.  The emphasis on ‘sharing’ faith, and personal evangelism, is particularly suited to those who are naturally comfortable with self-revelation, extemporaneous speaking, and multiple simultaneous sensory inputs, and who does not question that faithfulness (to God, to the local church community) is equated with increasingly visible involvement.  The American ‘mega-church’ phenomenon would indicate that ‘successful church leadership’ requires bold personalities who can quickly engage with, and win the loyalty of, large numbers of people.  As Adam S. McHugh points out, this is not necessarily an easy environment in which people who are naturally inclined to deep relationships with smaller numbers of people, defined roles, silence, and reflective space in which to think before speaking.  Indeed, his opening question is ‘Can introverts thrive in the church?’

For the most part, McHugh is far more focused on introverts as church ‘leaders’, with an overwhelming focus on ordained leadership, and the book includes a great many extracts of interviews with introverted pastors, and much of his own struggle as an introverted minister who, in various settings, felt that he was working very much against his own inclinations and strengths, inauthentically attempting to take on a more extroverted persona.  The author suggests strongly that, if a church has the luxury of multiple staff, it would do well to balance the leadership with a good blend of extroverted and introverted ministers—although he notes that many advertisements for pastoral work are worded (explicitly or otherwise) practically to exclude or at least discourage introverts.  McHugh cites many of the strengths of introverts as ordained leaders, including a love of study and preparation (which serves the preaching task well), a preference for individual relationships which is particularly suited to crisis-care pastoral work (such as hospice chaplaincies and spiritual direction), and an inclination toward quieter and more structured forms of worship (which are seeing a revival in the evangelical churches, with many thanks to Brian MacLaren’s championing of ‘ancient practices’).  He gives what appears to me as sound advice to pastors concerning care of the self so that the introverted church leader can function well and authentically from his or her own strengths, even when the demands of the job require more input and interaction than the pastor prefers.

McHugh is weaker, I think, in his assessment of introverted lay people in the church.  Although in the introduction, he promises that his own story will include his church participation as a lay and ordained introvert, I detected no mention of his involvement prior to ordination (or even after, as part of a church community where he was not a member of staff).  He praises introverts’ involvement as lay members of congregations mostly for their willingness to take on ‘behind the scenes’ tasks diligently and dependably, and (rightly) points out that without their help with jobs such as running audiovisual equipment, editing the newsletter, and the like, more extroverted ministers’ work would be hampered—and that the more visible ‘leaders’ should be thankful for the support provided by introverted Christians.  While this is undoubtedly correct, it is not without its problems, especially as it is not a long stride between the attitude of being grateful for this low-key support and assuming that introverts are simply there as handmaidens to the ‘real’ (extroverted) work of evangelical ministry.  McHugh does nothing to counter the possibility of making this step, and is silent on the dangers to extroverts of assuming that a ‘behind the scenes’ person is happy not to receive credit for his or her ideas and contributions, and is somehow less important to the life of the church.

A major point of disagreement I have with Introverts in the Church is the repeated refrain that introverts have less energy and move more slowly than their extroverted co-religionists.  I would argue that introverts (amongst whom I count myself) are less demonstrative about our expenditures of energy—our gestures are smaller, our facial expressions are less dramatic (although in my case that is partly due to an incomplete recovery from Bell’s Palsy)—but we do not have less energy.  We may put considerable energy into the ‘quiet phase’ of a project or activity, where planning and analysis are key, so that the publicly visible manifestation goes more smoothly and efficiently.  And as  Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power, notes, swimming, ice skating (figure and speed), gymnastics, and long-distance running are all athletic activities geared toward those who work best alone—and certainly do not move slowly.

In general, I agree with McHugh that the church—and not just evangelical churches—are often not the easiest environment for introverts, and that the natural gifts of introverted Christians are less appreciated than they should be, for the good of both the individual Christians and for the ecclesial community.  I think the church needs to be considerably more counter-cultural in this regard, as our general secular society is more geared toward extroverts, and the church has taken on that characteristic.  But I think we also need to be considerably more nuanced about introverted Christians—lay and ordained—than McHugh appears to be.


Introverts in the Church:  Finding our way in an extroverted culture, by Adam S.McHugh.  Downers Grove, Illinois:  InterVarsity Press, 2009.  (Kindle edition) 222 pp., $9.19.

Thought for the Second Sunday before Advent: Revolutionary Change

There is only so much you can do with Elastoplast or duct tape and pretending that if things are unpleasant or unwelcome they don’t exist. I make no apologies for using an image from the Tarot to illustrate today’s readings, particularly the gospel, but if this offends you please read no further.

In two days time, General Synod will vote on whether to recognise the 21st century by admitting women to the episcopate. And next spring a new Archbishop of Canterbury will be enthroned. Make no mistake, both these events will change the Church of England. It is my hope and my opinion that both changes will be for the better, but so far we have seen only the velvet glove of Bishop Justin Welby – if you ask those who have negotiated with him, either over oil or in the middle of the African bush, I imagine they would assure you that the iron hand is definitely there underneath.

Wikipedia describes the meaning of the card as follows:

A variety of explanations for the images depicted on the card have been attempted. For example, it may be a reference to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, where God destroys a tower built by mankind to reach Heaven. Alternatively, the Harrowing of Hell was a frequent subject in late medieval liturgical drama, and Hell could be depicted as a great gate knocked asunder by Jesus Christ, with accompanying pyrotechnics.

In this manuscript picture of the Harrowing of Hell, Jesus forces open the fiery tower gate of Hell to free the virtuous dead from Limbo. The enactment of this scene in liturgical drama may be one source of the image of the Tower.

To some, it symbolizes failure, ruin and catastrophe. Many differing meanings are attributed to the card:

  • To others, the Tower represents the paradigms constructed by the ego, the sum total of all schema that the mind constructs to understand the universe. The Tower is struck by lightning when reality does not conform to expectation..Life is self-correcting. Either [people] must make changes in their own lives, or the changes will be made for them.
  • [Are we]  holding on to false ideas or pretences; a new approach to thinking about the problem is needed. [We are]advised to think outside the box… It may be time… to re-examine belief structures, ideologies, and paradigms … The card may also point toward seeking education or higher knowledge.
  • Others believe that the Tower represents dualism, and the smashing of dualism into its component parts, in preparation for renewal that does not come from reified, entrenched concepts. The Ivory Tower as a parallel image comes to mind, with all its good parts and its bad parts.


This all sounds like very good advice from my pew in the Church – how does it seem from where you are sitting?

Two hymns:

And thou wilt bring the young green corn, the young green corn for ever singing…

And Laurence Housman’s

Father eternal, Ruler of creation,
Spirit of life, which moved ere form was made;
Through the thick darkness covering every nation,
Light to man’s blindness, O be Thou our aid:
Thy kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.


Races and peoples, lo! we stand divided,
And sharing not our griefs, no joy can share;
By wars and tumults love is mocked, derided,
His conquering cross no kingdom wills to bear:
Thy kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.


Envious of heart, blind eyed, with tongues confounded,
Nation by nation still goes unforgiven;
In wrath and fear, by jealousies surrounded,
Building proud towers which shall not reach to heaven:
Thy kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.
How shall we love Thee, holy, hidden Being,
If we love not the world which Thou hast made?
O give us brother love for better seeing
Thy world made flesh, and in a manger laid:
Thy kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.

Open Letter to (Arch)bishop Justin Welby: Leonardo Ricardo

Leonardo Ricardo, my friend and colleague on the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, has kindly allowed me to re-blog this letter from his website, Eruptions At The Foot Of The Volcano. The illustration is one of his paintings, which I hope he will not mind my reproducing here.


SHALL WE STAY OR FALL AWAY? ¨…hold open the possibility of changing my mind¨

The Rt. Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury (designate)


Estimado Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham, Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury designate,


Onward we go. Yes we do. You do and I do. Forward we go by opening our minds/spirits and receiving, adjusting to one another and by being willing to grow into the greatest and newest discoveries amongst God’s constant revelations. What a challenge for mutual discernment we have before your enthronement March, 2013! Saint Augustine, pray for us.


Bishop Justin Welby, are you willing to change?


Thankfully, I´ve arrived at some understanding of God’s will for me, and for some other Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people like me after a lifetime of trying to figure ¨God¨ out! I’m especially glad to share the God of my understanding with you today. You seem like a spiritually healthy soul to me and I trust the Crown Nominations Commission has not let me/us down after submitting your nomination to the Prime Minister and the Queen for approval as our next Archbishop of Canterbury.


I just watched an interview featuring you from Lambeth Palace on CNN International. It’s nice to meet you, Bishop. Please come right in and have a seat in my home at the Foot of the Volcano in Guatemala, Central America.


There is a pressing personal matter that I’d like to discuss with you before you officially become another first amongst equals at The Anglican Communion.


I am 69 years old. I am a retired ¨Americano¨ and I am an active artist/painter, and a ¨Gay¨ (as opposed to Heterosexual) member of The Episcopal Church/Anglican Communion. I live in Central America and I am also a resident of Florida, U.S.A.. There you have it, the basics about me, or at least, it’s a start:


I was born in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. I was born to heterosexual parents who loved one another until death when they did part. I have an older sister and we had a Cocker Spaniel named ¨Taffy¨ while growing up. We were a middle class family. We had a nice home with a lovely garden and the world shined and sparkled around us. We were a fortunate family in many ways. I knew it then and I know it now. Thanks be to God.


I was different even as a child into adulthood. I knew I was different but I lived with my ¨sexual orientation¨ secret, because, afterall, I agreed with people who said there could be something wrong with me/people like me. I felt shame, I felt guilt! I felt alone/different and I didn’t even know why I was different or why God made me into being the way I was. It didn’t make sense. I didn’t make sense even to me as I grew up.


Best to pretend *things* were different than they really were in my very own customized/isolated reality. Onward.


Oddly, I was a very outgoing kid and young adult. My happy nature prevented me from being a cowardly and timid member of society. I was thrilled to be alive, that is, I was mostly thrilled to be me (except for a not-as-big-as-I-thought-it-to-be-secret that was eating away inside of me as I bit my fingernails). Inferiority? How could this be? I was a lively, healthy, creative, playful, loved/loving one of Gods beings (except I loathed me)?


Best to drink and make that part go away! Best it go away for the moment, for the evening or until another day. My difference faded when I drank them away. Presto, gone. Many enchanted evenings and a decade+ passed on as I tried to make *things* different than they were.


I drank alcoholicly from 18 years old until age 35. I was a success in my personal life but I loathed the innermost me. At age 35 I couldn´t hide anymore, there was no place left to hide from the homosexual shame inside of me. I was at the dropping off place and I wanted to die! I couldn´t pretend anymore. That is, I wanted to die but then I´d be dead. I didn’t want to be dead! I just wanted to die or find out how to live. I prayed to God (with drunken pleading) to ¨take this away from me.¨ God did. The alcoholism that is.


So, from age 35 right up until this momento I’ve been relieved of my active alcoholism. I’ve not been relieved of being the authentic me. The biggest, and best, lesson I´ve learned in sobriety was/is that God wanted me to be me…in all my affairs. Not just sometimes. Not cowardly! Not just when it was convenient/safe. Not just when I was on the otherside of the need to tell you, in the church and beyond, what I thought you/they, we wanted to hear. I’m called to always to be me. Now that’s a challenge. Personal authenticity! Imagine, being selfaccountable in my reality in front of you and everyone else on a regular basis! My shrinking away into someone else days/daze were over at last! Freedom at last! I got to be the whole person that I was born to be. Thanks be to God. Enter personal responsibility!


Bishop Justin Welby. It’s time for you to step up to and address one of the greatest ¨religious¨ issues/crimes of our time. It’s up to you to lead the Church of England/Anglican Communion by helping to introduce everyday reality, equality and mutual-accountability at Church. It’s time for you and others to stop playing pretend that you are different than me (and Anglican people like me). The thinking/beliving must be reviewed that you are somehow more honorable than me and other Anglicans like me and our LGBT clergy. It´s your chance to HELP LGBT Anglicans at home and abroad by demonstrating your personal integrity and the open mindedness you wish to have. You pray to have. You ought not look the otherway when Anglicans like David Kato are murdered in Uganda nor when a innocent is beaten to death in Liverpool (while the Lambeth Conference is in session with no mention) or LGBT bloodrenched Jamaica during the ACC meeting… and/or when Anglican Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo is ex-communicated for ministering to the marginalized/suicidal LGBT Ugandans! Speak up against viciousness within the Anglican Communion. Please don’t play pretend, Bishop


It’s time for you to stand tall as our next Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s time for you to cry out to God and ask God to help you/us find your/our way away from the active discrimination and the practicing of difference, fear and hate against LGBT Christians at the Church of England and various deadly outposts of Christianlike ministry at the Anglican Communion.


Very truly yours,


Leonard Clark (aka Leonardo Ricardo)

(Arch)bishop Justin: The First Hundred Days

Napoleon set the pace with his hundred days. And then came the Americans, not as trailblazers as they might claim, but still with the same concept:

It’s not a perfect measure, but it’s a useful one—the 100-day standard for gauging presidential effectiveness. The underlying truth is that presidents tend to be most effective when they first take office, when their leadership style seems fresh and new, when the aura of victory is still powerful, and when their impact on Congress is usually at its height. There is nothing magic about the number, and many presidential aides over the years have complained that it is an artificial yardstick. But it has been used by the public, the media, and scholars as a gauge of presidential success and activism since Franklin D. Roosevelt pioneered the 100-day concept when he took office in 1933.

Although the enthronement does not take place until 21 March 2013, the chatterati had decided on the strengths and weaknesses of Justin Welby’s Primacy before the announcement of his appointment this morning. This is understandable, given the hopes and fears riding on the appointment. But it is hardly fair, before the poor man has had a chance to get his feet under the archiepiscopal desk. Commentators have been hard-put to pin down his churchmanship: although there have been straws in the wind as to his own views over the years, there has been scant evidence of any policy he would attempt to impose as Cantuar.

My own wing of the Church has been most nervous about his stand on gay clergy and same-sex marriages. This is what he had to say at his press conference this morning:

‘Steel in voice’

Yet there was also something even more apparent – the hint of steel in his voice as he went on to outline in pretty firm detail where he stood on some of the major challenges facing the Church, and how he hoped to tackle them. As we know, he very much supports women bishops and strongly urged the upcoming Synod meeting to vote in their favour. But he also made clear that a way had to be found to keep those people who were unhappy with female “headship” within the Church. It was on the issue of gay marriage though that Bishop Welby was perhaps the most forthright – and clear. He supports the Church’s opposition to the introduction of gay civil marriage, but in an organisation well known for clerics who often use ecclesiastical language which seems to fudge what they really mean, he also clearly produced an olive branch….Referring to civil partnerships, he acknowledged that the state had a right to define the status of people in co-habiting relationships. That hasn’t always been the position of bishops in the national Church – some who sit in the Lords spoke against that original piece of legislation. He also made clear that any homophobia in the pews adversely influences Anglican Churches in Africa (where clerics have often been accused of using rhetoric that endangers gay people). And most interestingly, in saying he didn’t want to engage in the “language of exclusion”, he called for the creation of safe spaces where issues of sexuality could be discussed honestly. That sounds like Bishop Welby is opening the door to what could be future talks with advocates of gay marriage, both from within the Church and wider society.

It seems to me, and it is possible that my view is shared by our Cantuar-designate, that there are two main ways to handle the work load of being Archbishop of Canterbury and some sort of leader within the Anglican Communion. The first is to treat it as a series of labours of Hercules, as envisaged by John Singer Sargent in our illustration, which involves the daily tackling of a multi-headed Hydra, armed with a machete and  the ‘constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros‘ in the words of the present incumbent. Although the Herculean protagonist may win the odd skirmish, he is unlikely to win the overall battle.

The other possibility is to try it from an altogether more laid-back position. The role model that comes to mind is the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland:

The metaphor is not perfect, of course, but  back in July he was considering how one might square the circle, seeming to promise a listening primate, not a dictatorial one.

On the subject of women bishops he speaks of the need to square the circle, reconciling those who think it a theological necessity and those who think it a theological impossibility. How do you do this? “Well, you just look at the circle and say it’s a circle with sharp bits on it.”

In fact, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass might provide excellent bedtime re-reading for our Archbishop of Canterbury-designate in preparation for his role ahead.

A Plea for 100 Days for Cantuar-in-Waiting

The enthronement is in 133 days time. After that, would it be too much to ask for 100 days grace before we begin to judge Archbishop Justin Welby as our Primate? That makes 233 days in all in which to pray, think and consult, all of which he has declared he will do.

Now is the time to lobby, perhaps, but not yet to judge, certainly not yet to condemn.

I quote Grandmere Mimi’s prayer from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of The Episcopal Church, which she calls ‘The Bloggers’ Prayer’:

Almighty God, you proclaim your truth in every age by many voices: Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read; that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous; to the honor of Jesus Christ our Lord.


And a prayer for Unity from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer for the day of Accession of a monarch:
O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace; Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly Union and Concord; that, as there is but one Body, and one Spirit, and one Hope of our Calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may henceforth be all of one heart, and of one soul, united in one holy bond of Truth and Peace, of Faith and Charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
We rely on donations to keep this website running.