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Separate Beds And Separate Tables For The Anglican Communion?


Copyright: sutsaiy via Shutterstock. Image ID: 309126473

If asked to describe through an image what it has hitherto meant to be a member of the Anglican Communion, most of us would pick, I think, not the compass rose used by the ACO (from the four corners of the earth) but a version of The Last Supper, at which all of its members are welcome to sit together at The Lord’s Table.

Yesterday, the still new-ish Archbishop of Canterbury proposed a revolution, as he invited the 37 primates to a ‘gathering’ in Canterbury from 11-16 January, 1916. No decennial summer outing, this, but a gathering scheduled between Epiphany and Candlemas, when daylight is at its shortest, and the ground may be under snow. The pathetic fallacy is not always fallacious (hence its ubiquitous use in literature), and the timing is surely a theatrical device designed to set a sombre mood of ‘bleak mid-winter’.

In brief, Archbishop Justin is suggesting that we cease to fall over backwards to hold on to the Anglican Communion as a force seeking to hold everything revolving around the centre (which, had the Anglican Covenant been passed, would have acted as the reference point). Instead, we could aim to be a force seeking to spread out into the world, according to broadly agreed principles (based on the understanding of the Bible by each Church in the Communion). {The Archbishop does not describe it thus, this is my interpretation}.



The immediate press and public reaction is well summarised on Thinking Anglicans. The meeting is to be an opportunity for a “review of the structures of the Anglican Communion.” In an interview with the Anglican Journal, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said the invitation was “not a surprise,” and nor was Welby’s stated desire to review the structures of the communion. “He’s been quite open about that from early on.”

 The Guardian ran an article under the headline, “Archbishop of Canterbury urges breakup of divided Anglican Communion,” to which Lambeth Palace responded by tweeting “Just to clarify, the Archbishop of Canterbury is NOT planning to break up the Anglican Communion.” The headline has since been changed. The Guardian reported that the archbishop would propose that the worldwide grouping be reorganized “as a group of churches that are all linked to Canterbury but no longer necessarily to each other.” It quoted an unnamed Lambeth Palace source as saying the proposal would allow Welby to maintain relations with both liberal and conservative churches in the Communion, which have been deeply divided over the issue of human sexuality.


Lay Anglicana Interpretation

Bearing in mind that I am writing only 24 hours after the news broke, and reserve the right to change my mind later…

  • This is almost entirely good news for the liberal catholic churches in the Communion.
  • All those Churches who self-identify as Anglican will be invited to be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, should they so wish, but would still be able to call themselves Anglican if they did not so wish; the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury would derive solely from his occupation of the post and buildings which were the first so to call themselves, and the bilateral relations between the Church of England and each other Anglican Church would be fluid and determined solely by the two parties.
  • The Anglican Communion would no longer be recognisable as we currently know it: not only are separate bedrooms and beds being talked of by the archbishop’s spokesman, but separate tables would logically follow, and some would eat in the dining room, some in the kitchen, some off their knees in the drawing room, and some on the verandah – as in my illustration.
  • This loose federation  would allow like-minded Anglicans across the world to form loose alliances – not necessarily de jure, but de facto.
  • The Church of England would finally be enabled to consider issues like the admittance of LGBT people to the priesthood and episcopate, and same sex marriages, without feeling constrained by the views of GAFCON etc.
  • Members of The Episcopal Church have expressed disquiet over the invitation of ACNA to at least part of the 2016 conference. As the Anglican Communion is presently constituted, this is indeed odd: only TEC officially represents Anglicans from the US. For the sake of consistency, it is to be hoped that Archbishop Justin has also invited AMiE, which represents a similar threat to the hegemony of the Church of England. But, if the looser, federated, Anglican Communion is accepted, any number of groups might spring up which describe themselves as Anglican – it would not matter to the rest because we would not be obliged to agree detailed doctrine with each other. Breakaway groups would be allowed to form ad infinitum.
  • The loose federation envisaged by Archbishop Justin is not a new idea – so far as I can see it represents a return to the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886/8 which includes”The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of His Church.” This consummation, devoutly to be wished, has long been called for by Lay Anglicana, most recently in November 2013.



What could possibly go wrong?

I leave it to you, dear readers, to fill in this section. The archbishop’s spokesman is said to regard a successful outcome as by no means guaranteed. Luckily, the Archbishop of Canterbury spends much of his day in prayer.




‘Downton Church — Season 2: Eight Lessons the Church Could Learn from Downton Abbey’ by Dr Wendy Dackson


Downton Abbey Church Logo

by Ken Howard and Wendy Dackson

Alrighty then! Our recent blog post “10 Ways the Church is Like Downton Abbey” got quite a lot of views. So, like our friends in Public Television, we decided to renew Downton Church for a second “season.” And the theme for season two is “Eight Lessons the Church Could Learn from Downton Abbey.”

Indeed, there much agreement in the comments we received that Downton Abbey – both the story and the production – was an excellent metaphor for the organized Church. Both are centuries-old institutions, both have a tendency toward aristocratic organization and behavior, both are steeped in tradition and stymied by traditionalism, both have a higher opinion of their own inherent holiness than their histories reveal. In other words, as institutions, both Downton Abbey and the Church are prone to similar mistakes.

Yet as the historical premise of Downton Abbey and the current cultural context of the Church (“in a world where everything is changing, an institution struggles for relevance…”) reveal, both institutions are capable – albeit reluctantly and imperfectly – of learning and change. So taking the metaphor a step further, what are some lessons that the Church can learn (or perhaps remember) from looking in the mirror of Downton Abbey.

Lesson #1 Noblesse oblige (with nobility, obligation). One thing that the various members of the Crawley family learn again and again, each in different ways, is that with positions of social power and influence comes social obligations: an understanding of their responsibility for those whose lives and livelihoods depend upon them. Lord Robert always seems keenly aware of the house’s obligation to provide economic sustenance and social stability (maybe too much of the latter) to both those directly employed by the house, and those on the wider estate and in the village. Lady Cora seems more attentive – though in a somewhat naïve fashion – to the emotional lives of those who depend on them. Lady Mary, on the other hand, makes a transition from self-centered debutante to more of a socialite with a conscience, who understands that part of their responsibility to those around them is to remain relevant to their needs in a time when those needs are changing in big ways.

What might the Church learn? Despite the claim that churches are somehow under siege from the prevailing culture (at least in North America and western Europe), they still hold a privileged position. Whether as employers of lay professionals (educators, administrators, musicians, and a variety of others), or as shapers of public opinion and policy (as evidenced in the new-but-contested RIFRA laws in Indiana), they influence people well beyond who shows up in any given congregation on Sundays. That influence shapes public perception of the Church –for good or ill. Churches might be better attuned to how their actions affect those with whom they have little if any contact.

Lesson #2 – Willingness to change. Speaking of change, another thing the members of the Crawley household all seem to learn – albeit reluctantly – is that change (sometimes profound change) is often a necessity. And they display willingness (if under duress) to listen to and act on (if sometimes fumblingly) voices other than their own about better ways forward. Indeed, one by one each of the family members seem to learn the painful lesson that the world doesn’t revolve around their comfortable traditions, and that awareness of the changing needs of the world around them often requires them to adapt – not just by adding electricity, telephones, radios, and other new-fangled technology, or sporting new fashions at social occasions, but by making deeper changes and finding new reasons for being.

What might the Church learn? That “modernizing” is more than trying to be “trendy” or “relevant” to a particular generation – right now, the millennials. Concentrating on new music that sounds more like what young people hear on the radio, or being more “cool” in the language used in preaching, or using “contemporary” forms of worship isn’t enough – worse than not enough, in some cases it may actually be harmful: like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, when we really need to be getting people into lifeboats. This is not a new problem. Every generation in From the very beginning, every generation in Church has faced the challenge of translating the Gospel for a new generation. The problem arises when, instead of offering the new generation a true translation in words they understand, we instead sugarcoat it with passing cultural affections in order to make it easier to swallow. True modernizing means discovering what are the public perceptions and beliefs about the faith are and addressing them honestly and directly, without compromising the core of Christian faith or cheapening the tough demands that being a follower of Jesus entails. It isn’t easy or quick, the way changing up the music or adding projection screens might be.

Lesson #3 – A Sense of Family. At Downton, the servants are more than simply support staff to the family and the house. By and large, there is a palpable sense of family between the upstairs Crawleys and the downstairs servants: a feeling of connection and interrelatedness. And while the relationship is not always pleasant – or healthy, for that matter – it is deep and strong… How else could a character like Thomas survive for all these seasons? And how else could the Dowager and Isobell become such a mutually (and lovingly) irritating odd couple.

What might the Church learn? William Temple is frequently misquoted as saying that “the church is the only institution that exists primarily for those outside it” (click here to read what he actually said), how Christians behave toward other Christians is important. When the Church treats its loyal members badly – especially when longtime, committed lay people are treated badly – it does more than encourage those individuals to leave. It undermines the public perception of the Church as a benevolent institution. Because when church is important to people, they share all the reasons why. But when church loses its luster, people share those reasons, too.

Lesson #4 –Willingness to “bend the rules” in order to “do the right thing.” There is a ongoing tension at Downton Abbey between the need to respect the rules (or follow tradition, which is harder) societally and the need to do what is right in individual cases. And example of this was the case of Mrs. Patmore’s dead nephew, Archie, and his exclusion from the war memorial, which Lord Grantham resolved by erecting a special memorial to honor Archie’s sacrifice. This goes to the heart of the tension in the church between tradition (honoring things that have been tested by time) and traditionalism (worshipping tradition for its own sake), which the Church has had to learn century after century.

What might the Church learn? First, we might learn that some rules just shouldn’t exist in at all. Second, we might learn that service doesn’t have to be perfect to be sincere and devoted, and that the people who render service also don’t have to be perfect, either. Finally, we might learn that we will garner more loyalty by finding ways to show appreciation than we will by finding ways to withhold it.

Lesson #5 – Willingness to find humane ways to outplace members of the downstairs household when continued relationship becomes untenable. Time and again, the Crawley family finds ways to part ways with servants who have become too difficult or embarrassing to endure. On the plus side, they realize that in an “incestuous” institution like the aristocracy one has to take great care in the way that people are let go, since termination without reference is tantamount to a sentence of lifelong poverty or worse (in the case of pregnant Ivy), and even laying off a person due to the elimination of a specialized position (in the case of Mosley) may render an otherwise loyal and competent former employee without honorable work. They have learned from painful experience not to throw anybody “under the bus.”

What might the Church learn? Don’t throw people under the bus. See Lessons #1 and #3. ‘Nuff said….

Would you like to know what Lessons 6, 7 and 8 might be? Please follow the link here:

The ABC And The ABC Of The Anglican Communion

Rockefeller Centre NYC Atlas

Rockefeller Centre NYC Atlas

The Vortex

 Anyone who saw the Archbishop of Canterbury carry a wooden cross through the streets of Dover on Good Friday can be in little doubt that he feels genuine anguish at the agony the Anglican Communion perceives itself to be in, apparently incapable of resolution. On the one hand are the GAFCON countries, as convinced of the moral rectitude of their own position as any Pharisee; on the other are the rest of us, who find Galatians a better guide to Christianity than Leviticus.

On 4 April, somewhat unfortunately juxtaposed with his visit to The Episcopal Church, Archbishop Justin took part in a phone-in on LBC:

A subsequent report in the Daily Telegraph said:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has suggested he is powerless to provide blessings for gay marriages because to do so would split the global Anglican Church.  In an interview with The Telegraph, the Most Rev Justin Welby says that the Church had probably caused “great harm” to homosexuals in the past — but there was not always a “huge amount” that could be done now to rectify the situation. Although indicating that he was sympathetic to calls for the Church to publicly honour gay relationships, the Archbishop says that it is “impossible” for some followers in Africa to support homosexuality. In the interview, the leader of the Anglican Church, which has 77 million followers globally, speaks movingly of the persecution faced by Christians in parts of the world. He indicates that the Church must not take a step that would cut off these groups, most of them in the third world, however much this angers parts of society in Britain…“I do believe passionately that unity is something we have to maintain,” the Archbishop said privately soon afterwards. “I may be wrong, but I also believe that to take a step that means that people who desperately need our help — and who we can help — can’t take it, feel in their own culture that it is impossible to be helped by us, is something that we can’t easily do.”
Interview in the Telegraph, 18 Apr 2014

Possibilities for Reconciliation

Church leaders, when faced with an intractable situation, are given to dumping the whole problem on God, and asking Him to to sort things out. Sometimes, though, one senses that God’s response is to decline to accept, and kindly but firmly return the problem to us. One reason may be that he wants us to come up with a third possibility, to think again. For one thing:

“If you dip into any college, or school, or parish, or family – anything you like – at a given point in its history, you always find that there was a time before that point when there was more elbow room and contrasts weren’t quite so sharp; and that there’s going to be a time after that point when there is even less room for indecision and choices are even more momentous. Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse: the possibilities of even apparent neutrality are always diminishing. The whole thing is sorting itself out all the time, coming to a point, getting sharper and harder.”
C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

Send for a child of five

Imagine that you are faced with a set of impenetrably difficult assembly instructions from IKEA. What do you do? Well, for Groucho Marx the solution was:

A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. 

A child of five might suggest the following:

The Anglican Communion is not a Church, it is a loose association of Christian churches which were set up by the Church of England in British colonies around the world two or three hundred years ago and which have since developed through the work of the Holy Spirit and according to the characteristics of the country in which they were implanted. Rather as the Queen has the courtesy title of ‘Head of the Commonwealth’, the Archbishop of Canterbury of the day is primus inter pares of all Anglican bishops. He is not the ‘head of the Anglican Church’, for there is no such thing.

What’s the problem? Each province is entitled, and has always been entitled, to interpret Christianity in the way that seems right in their own circumstances.

Er, that’s it.

Peaceful co-existence or mutually assured destruction

The Churches of the Anglican Communion are essentially faced with this choice. Either we try and follow Krushchev’s policy introduced in 1956 at the 20th Congress of the CPSU or those of us on the sidelines, powerless to halt our leaders from taking us into the vortex through their intransigence, are in little doubt that the alternative is mutually assured destruction. And all for the want of a child of five.

Letting Go of “Leadership”: Dr Wendy Dackson


A number of years ago, I was very close to a young married couple with a small child whom I knew from my church.  I thoroughly enjoyed their company, and we spent practically every waking hour of the weekends together.  We would make plans to go to museums, the zoo, air shows, shopping, and everything else that three adults and a toddler can do.  It was a lot of fun—for about a year.  I was finding that, as fond of them as I truly was, I also dreaded the Thursday night conversation after choir practice of ‘what are we doing on Saturday?’  I sometimes wanted a Saturday to do things that single women in their thirties might want to do (including just slobbing out with a book or cleaning my apartment).

In the course of a conversation with another single friend in her late forties, this concern came up, and she gave me an image that I found helpful.  She said that a jar needs a lid, but sometimes, in the course of time, the rim and the lid can get clogged with stuff that makes it difficult to put them together correctly.  You need to separate the jar from the lid, clean the screw-threads, let it air dry, and only then can they go together again as they were meant to do.  This metaphor helped me understand that as important as my time with this family was, I also needed to separate from them on occasion, and by doing that it would help rather than hinder the positive relationship I had with my married-with-children friends.

I’m experiencing the same uncomfortable, clogged-up relationship lately with the word ‘leadership’, especially when it applies to the church.  It was triggered yesterday, when this (admittedly very good) blog post was shared on two separate Facebook pages.  I am in agreement with what Nieuwhof says about pastors being responsible for small groups of people (usually ‘local churches’), and that there is a need for people who can think beyond the local.  I’d add that it needs to extend beyond just launching a bunch of new communities, but to do some serious work on the inter-relatedness and distinctiveness of various types of communities (such as my interest in the differences of dioceses throughout the Anglican Communion, or the question of identity for Anglicans whose first language is not English, such as the Francophone Network of the Anglican Communion).  It needs not just to seek opportunities for bringing new people in, but to create spaces for reflection which leads to more considered action.  And it needs not to be limited to the ordained.

My own Facebook status reflects my discomfort with the terminology of ‘leadership’ itself, more than any disagreement with Nieuwhof.  I wrote:

The Church does not need any more ‘leaders’, and should stop training ‘leaders’. Because ‘leader’ implies ‘followers’, and that means ‘leaders’ are by nature backward-looking to see who is behind them. What the Church needs are people who are passionate about doing what needs to be done, and are ready to welcome people to join *alongside* them, so that together they will get all the things that need to be done, DONE.

I did not quite anticipate having as lively a discussion as my admittedly bad-mood status update sparked, and I did not realize how aggravated I have become, over the past few years, at the language of ‘leadership’.

The church, from where I sit (which is mostly on the outside these days) does not need one more ‘leader’.  We have all the Leader we need in the person of Jesus—and that is the only person who should, in the church, have ‘followers’.  Human leadership, even in the church, is a matter of looking backwards, to see who is behind, who is following, and how many of them.  The focus is on the success of the ‘leader’—how effectively s/he can get people to follow.  When you have to keep looking over your shoulder at who’s behind you, it diminishes your capacity to look at the road ahead. Furthermore, few people can authentically ‘follow’ more than one ‘leader’—there is little or no overlap, and therefore, it can only be measured or described in ways that are inappropriately competitive.

I got a bit of pushback, with one of the conversation partners calling it ‘servant leadership’.  Jesus might have displayed this, but I have yet to see it in any local church or higher institution.  The term has become a two-edged sword, and we should put it down immediately.  The edges are, I think, less whether we are talking about clergy/laity, but who is doing the talking about whom. If I say about myself ‘I am a servant leader’, at some level (intended or not), I am saying ‘I am doing you a great SERVICE, and thus your task is to follow me and do as I say.’ If I tell you ‘Yours is a servant leadership’, what I am likely saying (at least in part) is that your God-designated place in the grand scheme is to serve (me) and set an example that others will follow.

In the first instance (“I see myself as a servant leader”), it is what sociolinguist Deborah Tannen calls (in her book, The Argument Culture) ‘getting the lower hand’–it obligates someone to you because you are (falsely) putting yourself in a one-down position in relation to them. By doing this, you take control of the relationship, while falsely asserting that the other person is really in the driving seat.

In the second instance, by praising someone else’s ‘servant leadership’, we get a double-win: we say something ‘nice’, while keeping that person firmly in his/her place.

All of this is problematic, whether we are, in Nieuwhof’s terms, ‘pastors’ or ‘entrepreneurs’.  “Leadership” , using my friend’s metaphor, is a jar that is so full of junk that it needs to be unscrewed, cleaned out, let to air for a good long time—and only then can we put it back together and use it well.

What would I rather see?  First, I do not think we need a new terminology for the same old problem.  Calling something by the more modern name of ‘tuberculosis’ when our ancestors used to call it ‘consumption’ does not change what the problem really is.  We need a remedy, not a new name.

Secondly, although we may not need more pastors, we probably don’t need fewer, either.  There will always be a need for people who are very good at caring for the local church, identifying the needs of the ‘little flocks’ and making sure those needs are met.  After all, it is most likely that people who flourish in the local church are the ones who can emerge as the entrepreneurs that Nieuwhof wants to see more of.

I agree, however, that we need more than pastors.  Entrepreneurs is perhaps one category that we do need, but we need more than that, too.  We need people who are committed to a complementary endeavor to entrepreneurial action—we also need people who are passionate about reflection on experience, because completing the action/reflection cycle is more effective than either action or reflection alone.

I don’t have a ‘catchy’ term for this.  The best I can do is to say that the church, in my experience and observation, needs quite a few passionate accountable visionaries.  There may be some overlap into the categories of pastor and entrepreneur, but it is an area that needs to be developed—and it may need more well-qualified lay practitioners than ordained ones.  The passionate accountable visionary is a person who sees a bigger picture than local congregations, is concerned with quality of Christian life together (not just in the congregation, but across wide areas of the Communion of Saints), and makes imaginative connections between realities and aspirations.  A passionate accountable visionary has is grounded in theology as well as practical knowledge, and is capable of making a theological analysis of what s/he observes and experiences.

The ‘passionate’ and ‘visionary’ elements are fairly obvious—it’s the ‘accountable’ that needs to be teased out a bit more.  This person is resourced  by the church:  laborers deserve their pay, and if someone has equipped himself for this kind of work, the church must be prepared to compensate him for performing it, whether he is lay or ordained.  It is a dedicated life of study and sharing, which is far beyond what can be sustained in off-hours from a full-time job. It needs frequent contact with other visionaries, for stimulus and for sharing across communities.

Those who wish to support the passionate visionary’s work are not followers, so much as  backers, very much in the sense that this word is used in a business context—they invest in a person’s passion and knowledge, expecting a return for their churches, whether local churches or a wider association.  They have a right, even a responsibility, to ask for regular communications from whoever they support, and any backer could support a number of visionary thinkers.

This, obviously is very different from the leader/follower model:  a visionary might be supported by a number of people, who in turn support others (and ideally, there could be a great amount of overlap between the ‘support system’ of passionate visionaries).  The passionate accountable visionary is in ‘front’, not to attract attention or to ‘lead’, but to see what is needed for the future of the church.  The ‘backers’ are behind—not to follow, but to encourage, and to create energy, and to maintain accountability.

The effect would be much like an ecclesiastical version of Dragon’s Den or Shark Tankthe return on investment not measured in monetary terms, but the advancement of the gracious reign of God.


Editor’s note:

This post is being published simultaneously on the blog of the Revd Ken Howard, a fellow admirer of Dr Wendy Dackson’s work. This is a great blog, which I think readers of Lay Anglicana would also enjoy. Ken’s Wikipedia page is here. He is:

“an author, an ordained minister of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Washington, and a thought leader in church planting and post-partisan Christian unity. Howard is the founding vicar and first rector of Saint Nicholas Church.[1] He led Saint Nicholas through its 1388% growth from 1995 to present,[2][3] including purchasing and breaking ground on its own property and constructing the church building itself.[4] He gives talks and presentations nationwide on topics from his book Paradoxy: Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them, as well as consulting on conflict resolution, vision, and direction for congregations and dioceses, through the Paradoxy Center for Incarnational Christianity at St. Nicholas Church.[5]A Christian of Jewish origins, Howard has been an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church since 1993, focusing on church planting, congregational vitality, and conflict transformation. Prior to ordination Howard was a consultant in team-building, organizational development, and strategic planning. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary, with honors in Church History for his research into the Jewish origins of early Christianity, published in Jewish Christianity in the Early Church.[6] In 2010, Howard authored the book Paradoxy: Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them, the premise of which is to help congregations “transcend dead-end divisions and transform conflict into healthy diversity united by the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit”

Time To Call In Mycroft?


A Little Local Difficulty

The Church of England has had a difficult week (if you need a quick update, I recommend the summary and collation by Thinking Anglicans as well as the piece on St Laurence’s blog).

The problem is as old as organised society itself: quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who oversees the overseers? Who shepherds the shepherds? In the case of the Church of England, one would hope that the answer is the Holy Spirit. The difficulty is that, since we have free will, the Holy Spirit can only intervene if asked, and then there remains the problem of interpreting any reply. Now, our bishops are of course men of God and do spend quite a lot of time listening out for the views of the Holy Spirit. The trouble is that sometimes when they should, they don’t. It seems no one asked the Holy Spirit (or understood the response) whether, in the light of the Pilling Report, the speech by Sir Joseph Pilling at General Synod and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s placatory words at synod, the following day was the best time to release the most unpastoral of Pastoral Statements.

Who on earth am I to judge whether this was the will of the Holy Spirit? Well, we have it on good authority that we should judge such actions by their fruits. In this case, the statement has caused pain, distress, exasperation, anguish, anger, fear and ridicule, both amongst the faithful and the ‘not yet churched’ amongst whom the Church is urging us to evangelise.


Papering Over The Cracks in the Anglican Communion

It has been said that the statement was aimed at those provinces in the Anglican Communion who have threatened to leave the Communion unless the Church of England takes the same line as they do on sexuality. In other words, twenty-four hours after the promises were made, all that the Church of England has already achieved in this area, and the ‘facilitated conversations’ that had been promised at February’s General Synod, have been jettisoned as so much useless ballast, in order to stay in the same lifeboat as the GAFCON countries, who had this to say about the Anglican Communion:

“the fabric of the Communion was torn at its deepest level as a result of the actions taken by The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church in Canada since 2003. As a result, our Anglican Communion is currently suffering from broken relations, a lack of trust, and dysfunctional instruments of unity’.”

If we are picking lifeboats, I would rather be sharing mine with The Episcopal Church, the Canadians, New Zealanders etc etc. It may be pleasant to dwell in unity, but it comes at too high a price if it involves sacrificing what we believe to be the truth. Shakespeare put this thought elegantly into the often quoted words of Polonius, but the Book of Proverbs also has wisdom on the subject.

 Cherchez Une ‘Eminence Grise’

I do have one possible structural solution, an idea to help forestall some of the many self-inflicted wounds of the Church of England in future. That is, why not copy Cardinal Richelieu, a church politician par excellence?

An éminence grise (French for “grey eminence”) is a powerful decision-maker or advisor who operates “behind the scenes” or in a non-public or unofficial capacity. This phrase originally referred to François Leclerc du Tremblay, the right-hand man of Cardinal Richelieu. Leclerc was a Capuchin friar who was renowned for his beige attire (as beige was termed “grey” in that era.) The title “His Eminence” is used to address or refer to a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. Although Leclerc never achieved the rank of Cardinal, those around him addressed him as such in deference to the considerable influence this “grey” friar held over “His Eminence the Cardinal”.

I even have a candidate, Sherlock Holmes’s brother Mycroft, described in “The Bruce-Partington Plans“:

The conclusions of every department are passed to him, and he is the central exchange, the clearinghouse, which makes out the balance. All other men are specialists, but his specialism is omniscience.

The elder Holmes … might claim to hold a minor position in the British Government, but the truth is, he IS the British Government. Well, when he’s not too busy being the British Secret Service of course, or the C.I.A on a freelance basis… You do not contact Mycroft Holmes, he contacts you… Should you ever meet him, he will likely be the most dangerous man you’ve ever met. He will never text though, not if he can talk… His powers of deduction equal if not supersede Sherlock’s own who has always been so resentful. Not that he has the time for any case that requires ‘leg work’. After all, he can’t possibly be away from the office for any length of time, not with the Korean elections so… well, you don’t need to know about that, do you?



It is such a shame that Mycroft is not available – he would have fitted admirably. Sir Humphrey Appleby would be another choice. Even the Dowager Countess of Grantham might have filled the role, at a pinch. What we really need is a smooth man (like Mycroft) to head the team, with two hairy men (say Malcolm Tucker and Alistair Campbell) as his assistants. Alistair Campbell describes himself on his website as ‘Communicator, Writer, Strategist’, which is almost an application for the job.

The other route would be to look amongst the Whitehall warriors, perhaps more likely to offer a safe pair of hands.


Code of Practice for Bishops

When soldiers go into battle, they are given a yellow card which summarises the rules of engagement. It might be a good idea to issue all bishops with a similar card to help them avoid engaging foot with mouth, perhaps along the following lines:


Send Not To Know For Whom The Bell Tolls


Protestors demonstrate against Nigeria's anti-gay law.‘A far-off country of which we know little’, was the shameful excuse of Chamberlain as to why Britain should not go to war with Germany over the invasion of Czechoslovakia. But we are no longer islands, entire of ourselves (if we ever were) thanks to modern mass communications.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock without access to the internet  for the last week you will know that Nigeria has just passed a law which:

outlaws “gay clubs, societies and organizations, their sustenance, processions and meetings,” or anyone who helps them, imposing jail time of up to 10 years for offenders.

Homosexual acts were already illegal in Nigeria, but the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act… means ...anyone married to someone of the same sex can get up to 14 years. The law was met with condemnation from the United States, Britain and Canada, with US Secretary of State John Kerry saying it “dangerously restricts freedom” of expression and association of all Nigerians. And UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said: “Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights.”

And what crime is it that is being targeted? What canon of jurisprudence is offended?  As A E Housman wrote bitterly (but, as he thought, satirically):

Oh who is that young sinner with the handcuffs on his wrists?
And what has he been after that they groan and shake their fists?
And wherefore is he wearing such a conscience-stricken air?
Oh they're taking him to prison for the colour of his hair.

'Tis a shame to human nature, such a head of hair as his;
In the good old time 'twas hanging for the colour that it is;
Though hanging isn't bad enough and flaying would be fair
For the nameless and abominable colour of his hair.


In the face of this offence against natural justice, Christians will ask what the Anglican Church in Nigeria has to say. After all, even if you accept that homosexual physicality is a sin (which most of us don’t), Christ was happy to sup with all. The depressing answer is:

Aloysius Agbo, the Anglican Bishop of Nsukka said Tuesday, “Every Christian in Nigeria is happy about the development … especially when he did that contrary to the pressure from the western world.” Being gay is “unnatural, unwise and ungodly,” he said. “If our forefathers have done that [same-sex marriage], many of us would not have been born.” On Monday, the Presbyterian Prelate Emele Mba Uka also praised the new law. “Homosexuality as one of the greatest human deviant behaviours has been with man from earliest times. Man has fought it for a long time but it refuses to die,” he said. Uka equated gay sex with “incest, rape and adultery” and said that such a “perverse sexual lifestyles attract God’s punishment” which is “hell.”


And what has the Anglican Communion to say on the subject, in particular the Archbishops of Canterbury and York? Nothing. Nothing at all. Pin-drop silence.

Now, Nigerian Christians are our brothers and sisters in Christ. So it behoves us to allow for their interpretation of Christianity to differ from ours. BUT the Nigerians apparently do not play by the same rules, they feel perfectly self-righteous in creating a civil law to make it illegal to, as it were, have red hair, and despise those who disagree with this interpretation of the words of Our Lord.

1,101 people have signed a petition asking our Church leaders to give a lead, and make it clear that this legislation does not conform with Christianity. There has been no statement from Cantuar or Ebor. It is possible that we are running into the same problems that Cantuar had over the Anglican Covenant (in which there was a strong undercurrent of anti-LGBTQ attitudes). A liberal, ‘bien-pensant’ Westerner finds it very difficult to take issue with someone who is black: it is a problem of inverted racism.  And in the case of Archbishop Justin, this is doubly hard because he has spent so much time in Nigeria, and his experiences when captured led, in part, to his work in reconciliation. He is in a genuinely difficult position.

But ++Justin has asked members of the Church of England to undertake a concerted programme of ‘conscious evangelism’. Sorry, but I doubt that I am alone in lacking enthusiasm for this task at a time when our Church refuses to stand up for our Christian beliefs.



Savi Hensman has written a clear-headed and incisive piece for Ekklesia about the situation which I urge you to read. She says:

In this context, some overseas religious leaders may fear that anything they say may be twisted to try to show that local defenders of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights are following a western agenda, hence making matters worse. However silence allows untruths to take hold, including the notion that God is on the side of those who hurt and vilify those made in the Divine image.

Truth is of vital importance in the New Testament (e.g. John 8). No human can be confident that he or she knows the whole truth. But sharing what one knows or believes to be true on important matters, and listening to others’ responses in order to adjust or build on this, can help to create a world where destructive forms of untruth are exposed.

Church leaders could perhaps point out that human rights are by no means a purely western concept – indeed the United Nations and international human rights organisations criticise European and North American as well as other governments when they act in cruel and unjust ways. In this interconnected world, not challenging injustice in another country may result in bolstering the power and prestige of those mistreating others. This is not about ‘the West’ standing in judgement but Christians everywhere being ready to come to the aid of the needy and oppressed.

How did Niemoller’s poem go again?

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

Photograph courtesy of LGBTQ Nation

‘Unabashedly Episcopalian – Proclaiming the Good News of the Episcopal Church’, by Andrew Doyle: Wendy Dackson



C. Andrew Doyle is the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.  In this short book, he takes the reader through the Baptismal Covenant found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer  in use in most Episcopal congregations in the United States.  The book’s intended audience appears to be those seeking baptism (for themselves or for a child) or confirmation in this denomination, and one of the endorsements on the back jacket of the book claims it is a ‘love letter to a church that could use one right this minute!” And yes, Doyle does hold up the beauty of Episcopal liturgy and practice as attractive reasons to enter into a life journey of Christian faith within this particular expression of Christianity.  It may also help those who have been long time members to “see our church again for the first time” (ix), as he says in the acknowledgements which start the book.


The book is a good introduction to the Episcopal Church for those who have never been part of a Christian community.  It tells clearly, accurately, and passionately about the life of  Christian faith in the contemporary world.  Mostly, it avoids what I consider to be a too-heavy and wrongheaded emphasis on ‘salvation’ as individualistic and about getting to heaven after death.  Indeed, one of the things Bishop Doyle emphasizes early on is that the point of faith is this worldly:


“We do believe in the kingdom of heaven, but we believe that we participate in bringing it to life today.  We do not spend a lot of time concerned with life after death; we spend most of our time working to make haven real in this world.” (p.11)


This has been the direction my own spiritual journey has taken in the last few years, and I was happy to see it as part of what a bishop promotes as appropriate instruction for new Christians in the Episcopal tradition. He also emphasized that in the Episcopal Church, our life is lived in connection with the gospel sacraments of baptism and eucharist, with the understanding that they are to strengthen and equip us for mission in the world.  That mission includes care of and responsibility for others (although I found that in his discussion of this toward the end of the book, it was a little more individualistic, one-to-one care than might really be transformative of the unjust social structures we are meant to transform). He is clear throughout that the baptismal covenant is not only about belief, but about “the kind of people we wish to become, and the type of world we wish to live in” (p.12)


All of this is encouraging, especially as people of all ages (not only the young on whom so much energy is lavished) seek to connect what they believe with how they live, and at a time when one of the biggest reasons for leaving church is that people fail to find that connection.  About midway through the book (pp.48-51), there is an excellent reflection on the meaning of each clause of the Lord’s Prayer.  This is one of the high points of the book, and worth reading the whole for these three pages alone.


What troubles me (and I am admittedly not the target readership for this book) is that Doyle makes many claims for what is uniquely Episcopalian, and I often found myself asking questions such as “What deonmination does not hold the Lord’s prayer as central to their common life of worship?” Or “What denomination does not believe that it was their responsibility to walk with God in faith in the world?” And “What Christian church does not proclaim the stories of scripture?”  Claims such as these are not, in my view, not only wrong (these things are shared by a variety of Christian denominations, and the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral recognizes more commonality than Doyle does in this book), but they are indeed contrary to the ecumenical leadership that the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion have provided in the search for greater Christian unity.  Interestingly, he cites only one theologian from the Anglican tradition (N.T. Wright), and holds up examples of Episcopal missionaries, but makes no mention of American Episcopalians who have contributed to the life and belief of the church through their ideas.


I am a firm believer that Christianity is best practiced within the framework of particular communities, and my chosen one is the Episcopal Church (and has also been the Church of England).  I think that people should be very aware of their denomination’s commitments and emphases, and for the neophyte Episcopalian, Doyle’s book is a start.  But there is something of an inappropriately triumphalist tone in statements such as the following:

“Our world is hungry and starving for the Word of God proclaimed by our kind of church—the Episcopal Church’: (p. 104).  This is especially jarring as, in several places within the text, Doyle claims that we are a hospitable church, and it is not our mission to make people be or believe “like us”.


I think Unabashedly Episcopalian is an excellent book for those inquiring about membership in this denomination, and there is much that I agree with theologically.  But for the ecumenically minded Episcopalian, or one who has studied other works on the history of Anglicanism, it does not have much to offer.




Unabashedly Episcopalian: Proclaiming the Good News of the Episcopal Church, by Andrew Doyle.  Harrisburg, PA:  Morehouse, 2012. Paperback, 114 pp.

The image of Bishop Doyle is via the Episcopal News Service.

The Seven Disciplines of Evangelisation: Bishop Steven Croft


The following is an important paper on the future of the Church of England, which is to be discussed at General Synod next month. I am grateful to The Revd David Keen for alerting me to it, and for Bishop Steven Croft for generously suggesting that his readers share it widely to promote discussion throughout the Church.

Over the last six weeks I’ve been trying to develop a discussion paper on evangelisation in dialogue with a number of groups locally and nationally. The paper is a reflection arising from the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October.  It was originally prepared to introduce a discussion among diocesan bishops in the Church of England.  I developed it further after that conversation and have now presented the ideas in a couple of dioceses to groups of clergy and in a variety of other places.

The feedback has been largely positive and so I’m posting the latest version of the paper here as very much “work in progress”.  Feel free to reproduce it for discussion in any way that is helpful.

The Seven Disciplines of Evangelisation
A discussion paper
Steven Croft
June, 2013. 
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” John 3.16
In October 2012 I was the Anglican Fraternal Delegate to the Synod of Bishops in Rome: a three week gathering of Roman Catholic Cardinals and Bishops with Pope Benedict to explore the single theme of the new evangelization.
The Synod of Bishops was a rich experience of listening to another Church reflect on the challenge of growing the Church and of the role of Bishops in leading that process.
This paper is a reflection arising from sharing in the Synod and my own experience thus far of attempting to develop vision and strategy for growth within the Diocese of Sheffield and more widely.
The paper is framed as a series of brief propositions and questions for discussion.
The paper was originally prepared as a discussion paper for the annual meeting of Diocesan Bishops and Archbishops of the Church of England on 10th April, 2013. I have made some revisions to the paper following discussion with fellow bishops.  The original paper had five disciplines. I have now added a sixth (placed first) following a suggestion made by the Bishop of London and a seventh (placed last) taking up a number of suggestions made by colleagues, including the Bishop of Connor whose diocese I visited the day after the English bishops meeting.
The original title of the paper was “How may bishops lead in growing the Church?”.  I have retained some of the emphasis on the role of bishops specifically in the text of this version of the paper.  However I believe the questions of how to give leadership in this area is relevant to all ordained and lay people who share in the oversight of God’s Church.*  I therefore hope that the paper will be relevant to a number of groups across the Church of England and not only bishops.
1.         Growing the Church in the present context is immensely challenging
I returned from the Synod of Bishops convinced that the Church all over the world is having the same conversation about the challenge and difficulty of evangelization.  I expected to hear about challenge and difficulty from Europe and North America and about growth and hope from Asia, Africa and South America.  There were some contrasts but in fact the picture was much more one of challenge in the face of a uniform, powerful, global secularizing culture.
The difficulty in the transmission of the faith in the face of this secularizing culture is at the root of many of the other difficulties we grapple with as Churches (apparent lack of finance, vocations, the need to re-imagine ministry, decreasing resources to serve the common good).
The questions we are grappling with in our dioceses and in the Church of England are not unique to Anglicans or to Christians in Britain or the Church in Europe.  They are global questions and, I would argue, the single most serious challenge the Church will face in the next generation.
How should we lead and guide the Church in this aspect of our life given this challenging context?
We need to be realistic about the challenges.  We need to practice and live hope as a key virtue in leadership.  We need to be deeply rooted in prayer and in the scriptures.  We need to be aware that the leadership we offer individually and bishops, clergy and lay people sets a tone and makes a difference to the whole church. We need to prioritise thinking and reflection around this issue.  We should beware of simplistic rhetoric and easy solutions. 
2.         We need a richer dialogue on evangelization and growing the Church
The Synod of Bishops was able to set aside three whole weeks to deal with a single issue and was itself part of a longer five year process leading up to and from the Synod.  This meant that there was in depth engagement with the subject over many hours of listening within a coherent and transformational process.   Major theological and practical resources will in due time emerge from this process.
By contrast, many discussions of growing the Church and evangelization at senior level in the Church of England are superficial, skate over the surface of the issues and make little progress.
Some of the reasons for this are:
·      The agendas of bishops meetings and other meetings are dominated by questions of gender and ministry and human sexuality leaving little quality space for deeper engagement with evangelization.
·      We feel a constant need to balance our agendas between serving the common good on the one hand and evangelization/growth on the other as if they were in competition (there was no evidence of this in Rome).  It becomes impossible to devote even a whole day to growth and evangelization.
·      The evangelization and growth agenda is seen as the province of a particular church tradition and which is regarded with suspicion by those not of that tradition (again there was no evidence of this in Rome).
·      It is also possible that, as individuals and as a body, we see the complexity of the call to grow the Church and we are in danger of being overwhelmed by that complexity.  It is easier to address the more specific questions.
·      At the same time there is a prevailing myth that we ought to be (and perhaps some are) competent at leading the Church into growth and therefore we don’t need to focus our conversation here.

How can we better develop this richer dialogue on evangelization and growing the Church to nourish our individual and corporate leadership as bishops?…


[Please now go to Bishop Steven’s blog to read the rest of this important piece…]

* The highlighting of this sentence, which seemed particularly relevant to Lay Anglicana, is my own. Ed.

The image is via Wikimedia.

“Managing Clergy Lives: Obedience, Sacrifice, Intimacy” – Review by Matthew Caminer



Two of my best-loved DVDs are dramatisations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.  Both paint a picture of the priesthood that is little more than the assumed profession of a younger son, or else something that could be bestowed on an unfortunate friend or relative, regardless of suitability. Thus it is possible for Lizzie to ask: “How should you have liked making sermons?” and for Wickham to reply “Exceedingly well” without there being any discussion of his vocation, and with a complete absence of the sort of scrutiny that characterises today’s Church of England as individuals offer themselves for ordination.

By contrast, Managing Clergy Lives paints a picture of ordination that is weighty, awesome and therefore, to misuse the Book of Common Prayer “not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly.”  Using the metaphor of the panopticon, Peyton and Gatrell explore the way in which our understanding of ordination has evolved, with the focus on a three-fold obligation…. obedience, sacrifice and intimacy.

The panopticon was conceived as an especially oppressive prison in which the inmates were constantly under scrutiny, and could never escape from the vigilance of their guards, thereby intensifying the ordeal of their confinement to an almost intolerable level.  Michel Foucault borrowed this concept when he coined the expression The Panopticon of Ordination”, suggesting that once ordained, clergy are under the dual scrutiny of God and of the Church, and unable to escape either.  Once ordained: always ordained.

Rather in the way that Psalm 139 (“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?”) may be seen in either a half-full or a half-empty way, or both, the panopticon of ordination carries similar overtones. In terms of the practicalities of everyday life, what may seem trivial examples – the vicarage being public territory, being available round the clock, having to do more and more with less and less, and so on – are simply indicators of a far greater and more awesome commitment, to a life of obedience, sacrifice and intimacy that Peyton and Gatrell explore in some depth.

Managing Clergy Lives combines extensive literature reviews with quotations from the research group.  These bring to life the realities as seen and experienced by a panel of Area/Rural Deans, and paint a picture of life-long dedication, tenacity and endurance.  Amusing anecdotes weave their way through the text, with references also to the impact of the ordained life on clergy families and households.

If I have a quarrel, it is this. I am not an academic and the book, which is after all based on a doctoral thesis, seems to labour the literature review, with frequent citations interrupting the text, and favouring a circumlocutory approach that ensures that every T is crossed and every I dotted. Put another way, it is not a page turner, nor at £17:99 is it priced as such.

I was also a little uneasy as to whether a panel of four dozen Area/Rural deans – predominantly full-time stipendiary, and by definition successful in view of their appointment to these roles – could really be said to represent the life, challenges and travails of clergy in general. I concede that you have to start somewhere, but I felt that some of the authors’ assertions might have been less sustainable if the panel had included, for instance, self-supporting ministers, curates in training and close-to-retirement clergy who had never sought nor been granted preferment.

Why was it worth publishing? All in all, I believe that for the unordained, the awesomeness of ordination is barely understood.  I am not talking here about people being unaware of the workload and things like that; but of the underlying and overbearing imperatives that make ordained clergy who they are.  With this comes a paradox: Managing Clergy Lives does not pretend to be a populist book to enable the person in the pew better to understand the calling and challenges of their parish priest, and yet that may really be what is needed. Conversely, the sorts of people who would read this might end up feeling that it had not added a great deal to what they already knew.

So, am I glad I read Managing Clergy Lives? Yes.  Did learn from it? Definitely? Would I recommend it?  Simply put, if the concept of the panopticon of ordination correctly portrays the true meaning of ordination, then being a priest simply isn’t “just like any other profession”, and the life of the priest and the priest’s family are quite distinct. This needs to be clearly understood, and therefore, if you can cope with an academic approach, it is worth reading.


Managing Clergy Lives: Obedience, Sacrifice, Intimacy

Authors Nigel Peyton and Caroline Gatrell

Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic

ISBN-10: 1441121250

ISBN-13: 978-1441121257

You can hear Dr Nigel Peyton and Dr Caroline Gatrell discuss this book in ‘Thinking Aloud’ with Laurie Taylor on 22 April here

The Rt Revd Dr Peyton is Bishop of Brechin and Honorary Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University. Dr Gatrell is Senior Lecturer in the School of Management at Lancaster University

“The Wrath Of God Was Satisfied?”: The Revd Bosco Peters

There is an important blog post and subsequent discussion on the website of The Revd Bosco Peters, which I urge you to go and read in full. Here is the first section. (I have inserted above a video of the song ‘In Christ alone’ – the words are at 1.31.)


The wrath of God

At our recent synod meeting, one of the songs was Stuart Townend and Keith Getty’s In Christ alone with the words:

“Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied”

Those words as understood by many (if not most) in that room are heresy. The understanding of those words by many (most) who enthusiastically sing this in services around the planet is heretical.

The understanding is that God (The Father) was angry at us in our sinfulness. And that God took out this rage on Christ instead of on us. And that this now enables God (The Father) to love us.

This understanding is heresy.

Our diocesan synodical singing of these words comes on the heels of a diocesan-wide study through Lent of a booklet The Praying Life, written by two of the top and most influential theologians in our diocese, Peter Carrell and Lynda Patterson. In this they wrote:

‘This cup’ particularly points to the cross as the place on which the wrath of God against sin was borne by Jesus as the final and full sacrifice for the sin of the world.

And Peter reinforces Lynda’s and his point on his blog:

If Jesus were not raised then we would not know whether God’s wrath was satisfied. That Jesus was raised demonstrated that God’s wrath was satisfied. The cup had been drained by Jesus.

The wrath-of-God-satisfied approach has been canonised as our diocesan soteriology (understanding of how we are saved).

Let me stress I am not saying Lynda and Peter are heretics. I am not taking (what is here called) a “Title D” process against them. Theologians have minds wired so that words for them can mean something quite different to what they appear to mean to the rest (majority) of us….

{You can read the rest of Bosco’s post – and the subsequent comments – here }

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