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‘House of Bishops’ Declaration and the Five Guiding Principles’: Tim Hind

Statue of Saint Peter by Giuseppe de Fabris

Part of the legislative package that the General Synod passed at their meeting in York in July 2014 is a Declaration by the House of Bishops regarding the way in which they will operate should the legislation come into law in due course. It is predicated on five principles which have gained universal acceptance by all sides of the debate.

In November 2012, the General Synod seemed to implode as it came to terms with what some had been predicting for some time, namely that the vote for the current legislation would be lost because it would fail to get the requisite majority (66.7%) in all three Houses – and particularly in the House of Laity. There were many dire consequences predicted but we need to keep in focus that, should it have been passed, the Code of Practice had yet to be debated – it was only in draft form – and that even with a fair wind and using our pedestrian procedures we would be heading for finalisation in 2015!  In fact we would be likely to be still arguing over the nitty gritty of the Code of Practice. Frightening!

As a result of a bit of creative use of procedures, coupled with the application of the reconciliation ministry from Coventry in the form of facilitated conversations, there has been a dramatic turn around and a successful conclusion to this chapter in the history of the Church of England.

So what is so special about the 5 principles?

The principles can be paraphrased as follows but it is vital that the Declaration & its Annex must be examined in full!

1 The Church of England treats all ordained people, regardless of gender, the same and expects others to do the same

2 All Church of England ministers must accept that this decision has been made clearly

3 the Church of England recognises that this must be set against a backdrop of differing opinions within the Anglican Communion & Ecumenical Partnerships

4 Within the Church of England, the Church is committed to enabling all to flourish within its life and structures

5 There will be no time limit imposed on any pastoral or sacramental provision made to satisfy the 4th principle.

Now it is possible be either sceptical or cynical about these principles. However, those who have a positive outlook will be at worst sceptical – the proof of the pudding argument.

Just after the train crash of 2012, one suffragan standing in during a vacant see said “The mistrust of the bishops in Synod is palpable”. It is clear to almost everyone that there has been a seed change in the House of Bishops since then. If nothing else the introduction of 8 regional women observers has occurred and that in itself has further changed the dynamics within meetings of that House.

So, for me, the idea that a positive declaration from the House of Bishops that they are going to commit to a way of acting out the 5 principles is now believable.

We have a new legislative package, a new commitment that people will be treated fairly, a set if 5 principles that impose duties on all sides of the argument.

We can now be confident, as John Spence said in the final speech from the floor of Synod, that Christ can be restored to his rightful place.

tim hind

Tim Hind

Vice Chair House of Laity General Synod but writing in a personal capacity.

I am very grateful to Tim Hind for agreeing to help us ‘unpack’ the fine print in the agreement to raise women to the episcopate. Whichever wing of the Church you are from, there are principles that make you want to cheer, as well as others that may make you nervous as to how they will work out in practice. But Tim is the best possible guide to this, as he has a ‘feel’ second to none for the workings of the Church of England.

He does not volunteer the information, so I will on his behalf, that he is a member of the Archbishops Council:

“The Archbishops’ Council provides within the Church of England a focus for leadership and executive responsibility and a forum for strategic thinking and planning. Within an overall vision for the Church set by the House of Bishops, the Council proposes an ordering of priorities in consultation with the House of Bishops and the General Synod and takes an overview of the Church’s financial needs and resources.”

“Beyond The Collar – Confessions of a Vicar” by Mark Edwards


The Revd Mark Anthony Edwards is the Team Vicar at the churches of St Cuthbert’s and St Matthews in the benefice of  Christ the King in the Diocese of Newcastle, where he has served since 2008. He lives in the vicarage of St Matthew’s in Dinnington.

This is the outer layer of the onion. Peel it off, and you will find beneath the story of his time as an Anglican priest. He studied for the priesthood at Cranmer Hall, Durham, and was ordained deacon in 1995 in Carlisle Cathedral. He then became an assistant curate, first at   Ulverston (St Mary with Holy Trinity and St Jude), and then, after he was priested in 1997, at Barrow-in-Furness (St John the Evangelist) from 2000 to 2008. Since then he has served as Team Vicar at  St Matthews, Barrow-in-Furness  with   Christ the King, Newcastle and was also Chaplain to the Northumbria Police from 2008-2012.

So far, so commonplace, you may say. But peel off the next layer, and you will find him working as a lay pastoral assistant in the Baptist Church. 1984 found Mark Edwards studying at Morland Bible College. He had come to faith through the help of ‘a godly pastor’ at Chester City Mission, where he had been spending a lot of time.

41ULf1EnE8L._And why had he been spending a lot of time at the Chester City Mission? Well, and it is at this point that Mark’s life story departs from the usual well-worn tracks, he had been sleeping on the floor of this church because he was homeless. And why was he homeless? Well, he had been discharged from a mental health hospital, where he had been sectioned. And why was he sectioned? He had tried to commit suicide. And why had he tried to kill himself? He had been in care from the age of 3 until the age of 17. Mark’s first book, ‘ Tears in the Dark’, covers the period of his life up until his ordination as deacon in 1995.

D. Gray, in reviewing this book, says:

Mark Edwards is my vicar so I can see the continuing results of his book from his difficult childhood to his calling to the priesthood. The book is full of struggle and love and God’s intervention by placing Mark’s wife Lesley in his path when he needed love the most. She was and is his Godsend and I recommend “Tears in the Dark” not just as a good read but as a learning tool for all who suffered in childhood and beyond


Mark Edwards seems to be a living breathing exemplar of the adage, ‘if God gives you lemons, make lemonade’. It is pretty clear that, not only has he turned his own life around, he is devoting himself to those around him. He says ‘when I am not involved in Ministry I am on duty as a volunteer community First Responder with the Ambulance Service’. And you will realise that this is just the tip of the iceberg when I tell you that he was awarded the MBE in 2010 ‘for services to the community of Barrow in Furness’. How many other priests do you know who have had a similar award?

I have not met Mark, but we have spoken on the telephone and I can vouch for his endearing openness and the ability to project his love of God and his fellow man. ‘Beyond the Collar’ is available as a Kindle publication rather than in hard cover, but he drew the following personal warm responses to his book:

‘ A pacey fluent irresistible read with a Tiggerish bounce, nakedly candid, forthright and impressive ‘ Quentin Letts 

Mark Edwards takes the reader on a personal emotional roller-coaster, while conveying what it’s like to be a vicar in a Northern industrial town ” Editor of The Independent Chris Blackhurst

‘ A very honest and revealing book and a good read ‘ – ITV Lorraine Kelly

‘ Well worth the read.’ Natalie Haynes ( Booker Prize Judge)

‘ A powerful story’ BBC Television Songs of Praise Pam Rhodes

” A refreshing down to earth account of the difficulties and challenges facing a Vicar and his family “ ( Church of England Newspaper )

“ A no-holds-barred honest laugh-out-loud funny sometimes raw Auto-biography of a Vicar“ Pattie Moys ( Minister)


chiefs visit 2007008

Beyond the Collar: Confessions of a Vicar [Kindle Edition]


Kindle Price: £4.27 includes VAT* & free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
* Unlike print books, digital books are subject to VAT.

What the Revd Mark Edward says about this book:

I was inspired to write this sequel ‘ Beyond the Collar ‘  to reveal what life is really like (warts and all) behind the dog collar for a clergyman and his family living in the vicarage and serving the parish.

The book picks up from where my last one left off at my ordination in 1995 and tells the story of my curacy and my first living as Vicar serving in two deprived parishes.

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.

‘Consumer’ Feedback On ‘The Pilgrim Course’

Lay Anglicana first wrote about the Pilgrim Course on publication, last October. The Revd Peter Crumpler kindly – and sportingly – gave us his first reactions before he had had a chance to try it out on any potential students or disciples. If you have not yet looked at Pilgrim or used it yourself, you may like to read his post before continuing with the attempt below at a further description in the light of practical experience in a group. The Pilgrim Course also has its own website, with new resources being added to it constantly.

We have just used Pilgrim as our benefice Lent course. Between 15 and 30 people attended the sessions each week, including two people previously unknown to any of us from another part of the deanery, attracted by the publicity in The Church Times and elsewhere.

Of the parts that have been published, we decided that ‘Turning to Christ’ was not appropriate in view of our audience – seasoned Christians one and all – and that we would begin with the second course on The Lord’s Prayer.

Sowing and Reaping

The Leader’s Guide explains the thinking behind the course, and confirms the first impression that this is to be a course for a generation.


Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? The course is explained in terms of the church year, as well as the calendar year (unless you happen to live at the equator). A cycle of sowing and reaping, and sowing and reaping in a virtuous circle envisages the gentle evangelisation of the unchurched or formerly churched, followed by fellowship and discipleship, followed by a further round of ‘sowing’.

Publishing cycle

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? In the long run, a community can decide whether it wants to begin with the follow stage or the grow stage. Different Christian groups will choose different paths. For example, a community where there is experience of drawing new people in, and a will to do so, might want to begin with ‘sowing’. Another group, perhaps from a smaller rural community where the congregation consists of the old reliables with little fresh blood coming in, might  choose to concentrate on growing or ‘reaping’ their existing members, in the hope that they might then turn to sowing.

However, at present there is no such consideration as only the first two in the follow stage have been published. It is obvious that one sows before one reaps, but less obvious that the egg comes before the chicken. I see the temptation to begin with the follow stage, and then (some 18 months later) publish the grow booklets. But I suggest it might have been better to publish first the second stage, so that existing groups could be led into the next stage. The problem will cease to be a problem in 2015, of course, when the last booklets are published. Meanwhile, in the session that I led I did tweak the readings (shortening the discussions on the Prodigal Son, and adding some thoughts of Corrie Ten Boom to make the session a little more complex). I was encouraged in this by whoever tweets on behalf of Pilgrim, who reassured me that it is essential to tailor the sessions to those attending. I worried that punitive lightning might strike, appalled at my temerity, but in fact the session went quite well and the heavens took it in good grace.


Overall impression

There was considerable enthusiasm about the course (in a restrained, Anglican sort of way). The mixture of bible reading, discussion, and audio and video clips, ensured that the sessions remained lively. I would very much like to hear from anyone who has used it to ‘sow’, in other words with seekers or new Christians.

The choice of which Lent course to use has been made for us for many years to come.

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”

“It’s Your Calling” : Vocation Days in the Diocese of Rochester – Ernie Feasey


Editor’s Foreword

In the bad old days, when I first became a training officer in one of the dustier corners of HM’s civil service –  shall we call it the Department of Administrative Affairs to protect the guilty? – training was part of the Supply Department, along with office furniture and stationery. The training department would decide what courses to offer, and then invite other departments to send candidates in a steady stream to be ‘done’, rather as for flu jabs. It took another ten years, but we got there eventually: training was moved to the Personnel Department, and became tailored to individual need. The mantra went (and probably still does)

  1. Identify the individual’s training need
  2. Design appropriate training and offer to candidate
  3. Monitor the effectiveness of the training and then, you guessed it, back to [1].


I have never been employed by the Church of England or any diocese, but I really think a revolution has taken hold, possibly (if our information is correct) led by the Diocese of Rochester. The logo gives the hint – green shoots are to be positively encouraged, and the focus is now first and foremost on the person being trained, ‘Growing Your Ministry‘. Bravo Rochester!

Ernie Feasey will be known to many of you as ukviewer or minidvr, an active participant on social media, particularly twitter and facebook, where he contributes regularly to discussions on the future (and past) of Christianity and the Church of England. Here he has kindly described ‘It’s Your Calling‘.

It’s Your Calling Day at St Nicholas Church, Rochester

I attended the Vocations Day at Rochester on 15 February 2014 (0930-1630), with 11 other candidates from churches across the diocese.  This day was unlike any other that I have attended, and I have been to two or three, albeit in a different diocese, over the last 5 years or so.


The day was organised by the Rev Mark Griffin, who oversees Ministry and Vocation across the diocese as well as being a Parish Priest in Sevenoaks.  He was most ably supported by a number of the Deanery Vocations advisers including Marcel  (Dartford),  Jim  (Rochester),  Suzanne  (Gillingham), Sue  (Findsbury), Nigel  (Penge) and  Sussane (Current LLM Cohort).


The format for the day was organised around the Eucharist in four sessions:


Session 1:Journeying,  was preceded by the Opening Worship, which was the Gathering up to the Epistle.  The reading  was Isaiah 6:1-8.  The story of Isaiah being called and sent.  God having reassured him that his unworthiness had been forgiven by a live coal applied to his lips by a Seraphim, and the Lord asking “who shall I send” and Isaiah’s response “Here I am Lord,  send me”.


Ÿ  Mark developed Isaiah’s story and explored the word journey in some depth. We shared results  from our reflections as a group  our individual journies of faith – the journey which resulted in our attendance today.


Session 2 – entitled The call in the bible was preceded by worship from the Gospel reading, John 15:12-17, the passage where Jesus tells the disciples that they no longer servants, but friends, as he has made known to them his Fathers’ business.


Ÿ  Mark illustrated the nature of a call using passages from both the old and new testaments. Sue than developed it further by describing her own background with a creative e description of particular stages on her journey that stood out as “moments of Grace” (my description) where the call moved on, changed or adapted, often in unexpected directions.  This was sometimes connected with life events, but at other times due to an interaction or event that just changed everything.   We worked through this ourselves individually than shared some or our own journeys with our larger group.


Session 3 – entitled Church, which church? dealt with the nature of vocations and call and change.  We had input from Marcel, Jim and Nigel sharing their stories. Each emphasised the privilege that they felt to be working with vocations..  Vocation and the call to serve was covered in great depth and how it can develop and change over time.  Jim in particular expanded on the theme of change and how the rate of change, which is perceived by some as slow, is actually fast compared to earlier times.  The Cof E is in the context of risk taking and moving out of churches into the community.  There were excellent examples provided from Marcel in what is happening  Dartford and Nigel in his unique role as a stipended Lay Reader leading a  parish in Penge.  Imagination, innovative thinking and risk taking are building a different type of church to the traditional model.  It seems that adaptability and listening for the Holy Spirit are a key part of their ministry and the churches are growing.


Session 4 – entitled ‘Where do we go from here’   Was devoted to explaining the vocations  process within Rochester  diocese and the way that discernment,  training for and deployment of Lay Ministry had changed and was changing.  The Basis was Licensed Lay Ministry (replacing Reader) which consists of the 1st year foundation course for a Bishops’ certificate in Christian Ministry, which provides outlets to continue onto LLM over a further 2  years. It can be designed or streamed to a particular ministry that individuals felt called to.  The foundation  course equips individuals for a Christian Ministry role in their parish, which combined with a number of short courses may be used to focus that ministry in a specific direction.  This was a comprehensive package and the  contributions from Susanne, Sue and Nigel on Lay Ministry and Mark, Jim and Suzanne on Ordained Ministry (in groups) provided lots of opportunities for inquiry.  We were assured that this day will be followed up by the appropriate deanery Vocations Advisor in the near future.


The Eucharist than continued from sharing the peace, through Communion to the blessing.  A powerful shared experience as individuals in turn, administered the host and the wine to each other.


The overall day had the feeling of a prayerful, reflective event. It gave comprehensive coverage and exploration together of our understanding of vocation and a call to service in some form in the context of our own parish,  local and particular to each of us.   The organisation provided space and time for reflection, accompanied by appropriate music as well as lively worship.  Our singing unaccompanied was very much in tune and surprisingly good.  I felt comfortable being among fellow travellers on a exploration which might take us in different directions, but might also be shared as we move into a common training cohort in the future.  Something to look forward to.


I believe that Mark and the team should be commended on the way the day was organised and run and I for one didn’t have anything pertinent to add on how it could be done better.


Reflection:  What did I get from the day?


It seems to me that the day was another occasion of Grace (my words for special, memorable experiences of God’s sharing love).  I went with an open mind, I came away refreshed and encouraged enormously. This time around, the Church means business when dealing with inquiries from those exploring a vocation.


I also have a better picture of what is involved and a possible pathway towards the future.   I envisage discussing completing the Foundation level Certificate in Christian Ministry, which may or may not lead to Licensed Lay Ministry.  But I  note the ability to complete a range of short courses for specific, targeted ministry roles.   I feel that this might be a combination that is a possible fit for where the parish might discern a specific role for me to fill in due course.


The illustration is courtesy of Soup Art Designs.






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:


Have You Seen The Light?


Now we see through a glass darkly. Yes, but. The Church of England may, just may, be beginning to see the light.

Suppose we think of the Word of God as pure white light. John Donne talked of a heaven where there would be no dazzling, nor darkness, but one equal light. But in this world we are unable to see the light of the Logos in all its clarity but look at everything through a glass, or prism. As we all learnt in physics, this means that what we are seeing is refracted light, literally distorted, broken down into its component colours. It is further ‘distorted’ by idiosyncracies in our own lenses.

Although we are warned not to create God in our own image, we can only see and understand God according to our own perspective – no amount of will can change that. Almost all of us read the Bible in translation into our vernacular, which further ‘refracts’ the original. Even scholars who understand Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac do so from a 21st century perspective, and their understanding of the language of the Early Christians at this distance in time must only be partial.

With my prismatic rainbow analogy, some will see the Word of God as red, some as blue and some as yellow. You may think there are seven colours in the rainbow. But to Pantone,  there are more than 3,000 colours in our world. This was implicitly acknowledged in the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral but recently in the Anglican Communion the redd-ites have been thumping the table, hoping to persuade the green-ites to abandon their interpretation of the Word in favour of the ‘one true meaning’. And, of course, vice versa.

The Church has been drawn into endless pitched battles, incapable of resolution since everyone can see their own points of view so clearly. The Anglican Covenant was but one example of the Church being diverted from its true task into pointless attempts to make the reddites and the greenites see the same truth.

Archbishop Justin has made no such mistake. From the moment he talked to Giles Fraser about squaring the circle by means of perception, many of us hoped that he would be chosen as the next Cantuar, and  our prayers have been answered. Of course it is an impossible task, but the Revd David Keen is not alone in sensing a change in the air.

Yes, we want women admitted to the episcopate as soon as possible. Some of us also hope for fairer and more loving treatment of the LGBT community. And after those two, others of us would like greater inclusion of (and less condescension to) the laity. But that must wait. To those who say that we cannot ask more people to join us in the Church until we have created a more worthy church (by women bishops etc), I have come to the conclusion, after several years of watching the internal wrangling at close quarters, that we will never get there by simply doing more of the same until the mills of God gradually grind us all down.

The only hope is for us to follow Archbishop Justin’s lead and concentrate on the pure white light that we know is behind the prism. And the good news that we are now being asked to share is knowledge of that white light, not the 3,000 colours and viewpoints it can be broken down into.


Archbishop Justin Welby-The Road to Canterbury: Andrew Atherstone

ABCJ 001

Women Bishops

Welby found himself called upon [as Bishop of Durham] to bring reconciliation between hostile factions over the consecration of women as bishops. After years of acrimonious debate and numerous official reports, this development seemed increasingly certain.

As a result, some traditionalists within Durham diocese felt unable to remain within the Anglican family. Most of the congregation at St James the Great in Darlington decided to join the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, established by Pope Benedict XVI to welcome former Anglicans into full communion with Rome while retaining some of their Anglican heritage. The first wave of departures, during Holy Week 2011, saw 10,000 lay people and 60 clergy from across England enter the Ordinariate. The Darlington group were part of the second wave at Lent 2012, led by their parish priest, Ian Grieves, who felt pushed out of Anglicanism by ‘this politically correct Church and liberal agenda which grinds on and on.’  Welby was ‘deeply sad’ at the congregation’s decision but was determined that this parting of friends would be without acrimony. He had known Grieves for 20 years since undertaking a training placement at St James while a student at Cranmer Hall, one of his early encounters with the catholic tradition, and praised his former supervisor as a ‘quite exceptional priest…a teacher of great gifts.’ In a poignant public act of friendship, Welby preached at the congregation’s final mass in February 2012, on the eve of their departure, announcing that ‘This is not a time for apologies. It is a time for repentance…Our repentance is for being part of a church which is in such a state. What do we do now? Bless, not curse.’

Welby’s personal commitment to the consecration of women bishops was not in doubt. In a pastoral letter to his diocese in July 2012 he made it clear that he held these views

as a result of careful studies of the scriptures, and examination of the tradition and ways in which the Church globally has grown into new forms of ministry over the two thousand years of its existence. They are not views gained simply from a pragmatic following of society around us, but are ones held in all conscience and with deep commitment.

At the same time he was ‘passionately committed’ to a theological understanding of the church as a redeemed fellowship, not a self-selecting group.

To put it in crude terms, because God has brought us together we are stuck with each other and we had better learn to do it the way God wants us to. That means in practice that we need to learn diversity without enmity, to love not only those with whom we agree but especially those with whom we do not agree.

Therefore he strongly supported the need for those in conscience theologically opposed to the ordination of women to be ensured a ‘proper place’ in the Church of England, though he acknowledged that it was ‘a difficult square to make into a circle’. In conversation with Giles Fraser, he spoke of ‘a circle with sharp bits on it’. The bishop told his diocesan synod that he personally would ‘spare no effort’ in seeking to find a way for the Church of England to demonstrate, not only in words, that it valued everyone. Behind the scenes he worked actively to bring together the most vocal participants in the debate by creating a safe space for ‘mutual listening’. The aim was ‘reconciliation’ which meant not unanimity or even broad agreement, ‘but the transformation of destructive conflict into constructive conflict’…

(p141) He urged support for the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure , as finally proposed, believing it to be ‘as good as we can get’. But he lamented the manner in which Anglicans had debated the issue with a ‘fire-fight of words, articles, letters and emails’, drawing parallels with the sectarian violence he had often witnessed in Africa and the Middle East. Followers of Christ, he proclaimed, should behave differently, as ‘reconciled reconcilers’ and a witness to the world. Returning to one of his favourite mottoes, Welby exhorted the Church of England to prove its commitment to ‘diversity in amity, not diversity in enmity’:

The Church is, above all, those who are drawn into being a new people by the work of Christ and the gift of the Spirit. We are reconciled to God and to one another, not by our choice but by his. That is at the heart of our testimony to the gospel.

…This Anglican inclusivity was ‘a foundation stone for our mission in this country and the world more widely.

We cannot get trapped into believing that this is a zero-sum decision, where one person’s gain must be another’s loss. That is not a theology of grace.

Instead of going to war against one another over such issues, the bishop urged that Christians must

carry peace and grace as a treasure for the world. We must be those who live a better way; who carry that treasure visibly and distribute it lavishly.

This book is not the last word on the present Archbishop of Canterbury, nor does it purport to be. It is, however, an excellent preliminary biography written without knowing how the last chapters will be written. Much of the material has already appeared in the press, but Andrew Atherstone has collated well the information available publicly and he has also mined the parish magazines of Southam, where Justin Welby was parish priest. I value particularly the insight that these give into the essence of Archbishop Justin.

I thoroughly recommend this overview of a man who will play a decisive, perhaps historic, role in our beloved Church at a turning point in its history.
(I do feel somewhat like Spike Milligan – wot, no mention of my part in ++Justin’s meteoric rise? ;>) I can certainly claim to be the one to have discovered the link between him and the present Welby baronet, the nephew of Justin’s maternal great-uncle’s wife, and I think I was the first to publish on his Weiler antecedents, just beating the Telegraph to it in the Jewish Chronicle. Ah well, sic transit and all that…)

This extract begins on page 138.

Archbishop Justin Welby

The Road to Canterbury

Andrew Atherstone

published by Darton, Longman and Todd

978 0 232 52994 4
Paperback |160 pp |178 x 110 mm


Rowan Williams retired as Archbishop of Canterbury on 31 December 2012, and the Crown Nominations Commission elected the Rt Revd Justin Welby as his successor, enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral in March 2013.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has an international profile and influence. In this short, lively and informative book, Andrew Atherstone, explores Welby’s life from his formative years, education, and eleven year career in the oil industry to his ministry, as well as his theology and world view, beginning with a concise examination of his writings and how they inform his thinking.

Andrew Atherstone is tutor in History and Doctrine, and Latimer research fellow, at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and has published Andrew4widely on a number of Anglican personalities such as Charles Golightly (Oxford’s Protestant Spy, Paternoster, 2007), and George Carey.

An American Thinks about the Royal Baptism: Wendy Dackson

Baptistry ceiling of Neon, Ravenna

Baptistry ceiling of Neon, Ravenna



Two days after my knee surgery, I woke up early to catch the coverage of infant Prince George of Cambridge’s baptism on Good Morning America.  Really, it wasn’t much to get up for—watching people arrive, but no actual broadcast of the service itself.  The real interest for me has been my Facebook feed, and the commentary by American friends (over whom the Supreme Governor of the Church of England has no jurisdiction) concerning this liturgical event.


After more than four years living in England, and working with churches, I found nothing remarkable about the occasion.  It was what I have come to expect as a typical Church of England baptism, despite the notoriety of the main participants.  The family gathered at a place of worship with which there is a significant connection, with family and friends with whom they share spiritual values and convictions.  The clergy invited to officiate have important relationships with the parents.  It was not an enormous gathering, but done at a time when the people who share the family’s spiritual journey could assemble to witness the event, and to welcome and encourage the new Christian to the household of God.  In many ways, there was absolutely nothing remarkable about Prince George’s baptismal service.


So, I was a bit taken aback with some criticisms I saw leveled, by otherwise open-minded people.  People who ordinarily would take to task anyone who inappropriately applied one cultural or theological norm to a situation where another was called for.  People who would ordinarily recognize a sort of cultural imperialism if the economically and socially privileged world imposed its standards on developing nations–but who did not recognize that it is equally imperialist to apply a US norm to the Church of England.  I found it especially disturbing, because these are people who, despite high levels of education, have not really taken the time to examine why the principles they insisted upon were not applicable.  There were two instances of critique which I attempted (unsuccessfully) to engage, but the discussion fell short of what I had hoped.  This reflection stems from those instances.


The first was when someone expressed gladness that the prince had been baptized, but wished that Archbishop Oscar Romero‘s insistance that “all people, regardless of their position in society, receive the sacrament equally and without exception.”  I asked what was meant by this, and how it was applicable to the situation of the baptism of an English infant prince.  The response, initially, was that I received instruction to go watch a video with Raul Julia entitled “Romero“.  (I am unable at the moment to go to libraries to hunt up videos and will not be able for a few more weeks—sorry.)  When pressed, my interlocutor cited the objection raised in the film to the ruling class custom of “private baptisms”, held outside the usual worship times and where only those invited could be present for the ceremony.  This may have been a problem in Latin America; my English experience is that most baptisms are conducted outside of Sunday morning worship, and are relatively small services where family and friends attend.  This is not just for certain classes, and the fact that the royal baptism was one of these typically small English ceremonies was probably what confused my interlocutor to the point of equating it with the aristocratic private baptisms in San Salvador.  This person did not realize that low-key baptism is an option available to most English families–not just the upper classes.


Furthermore, it seems a theological nonsense to say that baptism is somehow not the same depending on the character (whether public or private) of the ceremony.  One is not “more baptized” if the sacrament is administered by the archbishop in the presence of a handful of witnesses—nor is one any less baptized in that setting.  The grace of baptism is not something that can be quantified, and so to speak of baptism not being “equal” makes no sense.  Finally, the assertion that it should be “without exception” is unfathomable in anything resembling a religiously plural society (such as the United Kingdom, or the US, for that matter).  Baptism is the liturgical recognition of membership in the Christian community.  Its exact significance and timing will differ from one denominational group to another, but it is only for those who choose to enter (on their own, or through their sponsors).  The only “without exception” that can be imagined is that baptism will be provided without exception for those who wish it.  This side of the eschaton, we cannot expect a community of nothing but baptised Christians–and we may be surprised if we arrive on the other side of that divide and find that even there, baptism without exception does not exist.  If the church holds (as it generally does) that all people should seek the benefits of baptism, and does not have the power to require people to do it, the church needs to ask what are we doing or not doing to make the life with God in the community of the church a desirable good.  And then the church needs to do something about the answers to that question.


Those were my concerns with the critiques raised by one conversation partner.  Equally disturbing were the pronouncements made by an Episcopal priest in how a service of baptism held outside the Sunday worship of the congregation did not live up to the liturgiology of the Episcopal Church’s 1979 Book of Common Prayer—and how “far behind the times” the Church of England is (which may have some merits, but is not applicable in this instance).  Objections to the way the service was conducted (and remember, nobody in the conversation actually was privy to what went on—not even me) circled around the failure to welcome the newly baptized into the community of faithful; to do proper preparation and reflection prior to and after the administration of the sacrament; and to provide adequate pastoral care for the baptismal candidate and family.


I found this line of reasoning to be invalid.  First, we cannot judge what preparation occurred prior to the event, as we do not know.  What we can say with a fair amount of confidence is that the Duchess of Cambridge was confirmed shortly before her wedding in 2011, by one of the bishops who presided at her infant son’s baptism.  Her preparation was seen to be adequate by a senior bishop in her church, and there is no reason to assume that the private nature of the ceremony indicates a lack of preparation.  Secondly, the child was baptized in a worship space that is meaningful to the family, where they regularly receive spiritual nurture, and amongst people whose values are consistent with those of the parents of the newly baptized.  It is particularly interesting to note that the choice of sponsors was not a pro forma selection of who would be honored to be a royal godparent, but people who the Duke and Duchess trust with their child’s spiritual formation. This indicates a fairly sophisticated reflective process on the meaning of baptism and the role of faith in the life of a potential monarch.  The question of reflection subsequent to the baptism is, to my mind, a non-starter:  when do you know it has been enough, or done to a satisfactory degree?  The answer is very simply that it is not knowable.  It is a lifetime process, and cannot be captured or controlled by priest or community (and not every community is adequate to the task of baptismal reflection).  Finally, the question of pastoral care for the family is silly.  If any family was more in need of a quiet, low-key baptismal celebration, in the presence of those who mean the most to the parents and child, than the Duke, Duchess and their baby prince, I can hardly imagine who that might be.  But the main problem is to evaluate a Church of England service through the lens of the Episcopal Church (USA) 1979 Book of Common Prayer, and to make pronouncements that the service has failed to be something it never claimed.


What might have been an advantage, if any can be imagined, of the baptism of the newest royal being more public in its character?  I think there is a theological nuance that most have missed.  At least, I have not seen anyone other than myself make a claim for it.  It is that society has asked the church to help it transform into something better, nobler, more holy than it is.  The symbolism of the royal family—the highest echelon of English society—has submitted itself to the authority of God’s gentle and just rule.  Society, represented by a helpless infant, has asked to become what it is not yet.  It is a start for Prince George, and a re-start, a reaffirmation of aspiration to the Kingdom that we pray will come on earth, made in his person on behalf of the social order of the nation.  That is what we should be reflecting on as the significance of the royal baptism this past week.  That is what we should grieve that we did not witness.  The adequacy of post-baptismal reflection about this event is not just the task of the Duke, Duchess, their son and his sponsors.  The question of societal transformation under the guidance of and in partnership with the church needs all of our participation.  Critique from the cheap seats is not an option.

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