Saturday, 27 February 2010

St. Paul the radical

Interesting article here by Tom Holland on St. Paul the radical ( I agree that Paul was radical) with some reference to the first letter to Timothy. The Bible: A History - St. Paul , hosted by Tim Holland is being aired on C4 tomorrow at 7pm and might be worth watching.

Bessie excluded!

Matthew had some friends staying over last night. They decided to sleep downstairs and the living room was strewn with various sleeping bags and duvets.
Bessie really wanted to join them on the basis that they let her last time, unfortunately she was not welcome as they complained that she previously woke them up at the crack of dawn by licking their faces. The upshot was that one very unhappy dog was banished to the kitchen where she scratched at the door, whimpered, howled mournfully and eventually gave up and sulked in her crate!
The minute she was allowed back in this morning, she stationed herself in the middle of all the bedding and stayed put with a look on her face that said it all.
(Bessie above: "This is my bed now")

Thursday, 25 February 2010

The Survivor by Primo Levi

Once more he sees his companions' faces
Livid in the first faint light,
Gray with cement dust,
Nebulous in the mist,
Tinged with death in their uneasy sleep.
At night, under the heavy burden
Of their dreams, their jaws move,
Chewing a non-existent turnip.

'Stand back, leave me alone, submerged people,
Go away. I haven't dispossessed anyone,
Haven't usurped anyone's bread.
No one died in my place. No one.
Go back into your mist.
It's not my fault if I live and breathe,
Eat, drink, sleep and put on clothes.'

Primo Levi was a survivor of the Holocaust himself and here he challenges our notion that those who have lived through trauma and survived are “lucky”. This survivor is haunted by memories and by guilt. The poem starts in the third person and this gives a sense of distance, as does the soft descriptive language “gray”, “faint light” “nebulous”. The atmospheric first half of the poem contrasts with the tortured justification of the survivor, who aggressively rants that he has nothing to forgive himself for yet struggles to achieve that self forgiveness.

Above: This photo from the San Francisco Holocaust Memorial seems to capture some of the unbearable sense of being haunted by memories you cannot turn your back on that is seen in Levi's poem.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Link to John Richardson article

I have decided to post the article written by John Richardson, the Ugley vicar, ( he said it, not me!) in which he explains that,

"Unsurprisingly, those women drawn to ordination to the priesthood tended to be those less committed to biblical precision, whilst those women drawn to full-time ministry, but of precise views, tended to avoid ordination to the priesthood." ( about paragraph eight)

(NB: this blog accepts no responsibility for the effects on anyone with medical condition such as high blood pressure.)

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Women and bondage!

Following the fuss over the comments of the Rev Angus Mcleay and his curate Mark Oden,I have been reading around some weblogs dealing with the attitude of Reform and the issue of women’s ministry generally.

There has been quite a level of comment on Mark Oden’s sermon, but not many seem to have drawn attention to the disturbing way that he draws a direct parallel between the physical suffering and torture of Jesus and the submission of women to their husbands. Oden dwells in considerable detail on the physical beating and humiliation of Christ,
“the suffering of Christ...tortured, beaten and yet he submitted... it was the father’s will to crush the son. Jesus embraces the pain... he hands his fate over to his father ... wives, in the same way, be submissive to your husbands.”

Now, I have my reservations about this wholehearted interpretation of the cross as a form of penal substitution, but when it has overtones that could be interpreted as suggesting that women’s passive submission to abuse or violence is somehow part of Christian doctrine, I do find it deeply offensive. I also believe that from a simple pastoral perspective, Oden should have thought about the effect of his words upon women who have suffered or are suffering abuse or upon men who are prone to anger or violence.

Of course, Reform would claim that their complementarian approach does not degrade women, that it in fact reveres and respects women, “put your wives on a pedestal” as Oden tells husbands in another sermon. The fact is that even of the most oppressive patriarchal systems use the arguments of reverence and protection to justify control over women.

I do believe that at the heart of Reform lies inveterate misogyny; their reading of Scripture, in particular specific verses, such as 1 Timothy 2:11-12, is skewed to focus on the idea of male headship. They pay only lip service to the radical sweep of Christ’s ministry, his counter cultural approach to women. They fail to look at the cultural context, such as the possibility that some Pauline injunctions are a response to the Artemis-saturated Ephesian culture and the way in which Paul also endorses the fact that women were clearly involved in ministry and leadership in the early church.
John Richardson waded in last week with some comments about how the influx of women into the church is causing it to become more liberal. He claims that women drawn to ordination tend to be “less committed to biblical precision, whilst those of precise views tend to avoid ordination to the priest- hood” - rather a rich claim as I would say Reform is far from “precise” in its biblical exegesis. He then goes on to claim that all these liberal women will influence the composition of Synod, making it harder to for conservatives to get elected. Richardson actually uses the word gerrymandering, saying the Bench of bishops will be “gerrymandered away from traditionalism!”

If in doubt, blame women and shout hysterically that they are taking over - when it is men who should be in control!

Archbishop's Reflections on Lent

Not as good as Webster in five and a half minutes, but for anyone who likes to hear wise words...

Friday, 19 February 2010

Webster on the web

I spent most of yesterday and all of this morning working on materials and lesson plans for Webster's The Duchess of Malfi and drafting out guides to themes, characters and critical perspectives. Then I found this on the web! Sheer genius! Five and a half minutes and the whole play is covered. I shall show this first lesson back, which then begs the question what am I going to do for the rest of the term?

It is well worth watching, very entertaining, especially all the deaths at the end!

You don't get this kind of high culture and educational value on every blog out there!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


It mildly irritates me when friends ask what I am giving up for Lent and then look disappointed when I say that I don’t give up anything for Lent. “I am giving up chocolate” (or alcohol) they sometimes confide, with a small note of pride.
There is no denying that the Christian season of Lent is associated with a time of austerity, abstinence and penance and there is nothing wrong with spiritual discipline when it is used to bring about opportunities for self reflection and closeness to God.
However, Lent does pose its problems and we are warned about them in scripture. First of all, giving up superficial luxuries is not really that sacrificial. To pat yourself on the back for giving up chocolate for a few weeks (probably because you want to shed a few pounds anyway) seems a form of self indulgent play acting, especially when we know of so much starvation in the world. No wonder we are told that we should not make a display of an act of fasting or denial.
I am also opposed to the idea of Lent as a time of guilt and spiritual suffering. There is a place for awareness of sin, but wallowing in a sense of our imperfections and shortcomings is helpful to few people. The Christian emphasis on sin, guilt and unworthiness is particularly unhealthy, in fact downright damaging to anyone who is prone to shame or low self esteem, particularly those who have suffered abuse, who have been controlled by oppressive churches or religious ideologies, or who struggle with painful issues.
Lent should never be about a self imposed suffering that cripples the soul, rather about spending time with God, valuing ourselves and others. Isaiah 58 is a wonderful passage for a theology of liberation, true fasting is NOT for “bowing one’s head like a reed or lying on sackcloth and ashes”:

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard

Isaiah 58:6-8 (New International Version)

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Change of plan

“It will be nice to have some help with the housework this week” , said Mr M as he brought me the morning cup of tea. It was only later, after I’d come round a little (I’m not at my best first thing in the morning) that I wondered what on earth did he mean?
Now, when I took on this new "high powered" job and Mr M became part time worker and house husband, I kind of planned on giving up the housework and have tended only to do the bare minimum of late. Which begged the question again, what did he mean, It will be nice to have some help with the housework?”

I did a quick grammatical analysis; it was definitely a declarative statement – a statement of fact -and it contained the modal auxiliary verb, “will.” Modal auxiliaries, as you will know, indicate the probability, possibility – or in the case of the modal “will”, the certainty of an event occurring. There were then only two possibilities a. Mr M had organised some hired help to get the house spick and span over the half term week OR b. He was counting on me spending some of my half term doing housework (!!??***?)
If you look back at my list of activities planned for half term, housework does not feature highly. (Note to self: must get Mr M to read this blog more often.) However, by 11 am said hired help had not materialised and I realised that this the morning’s statement was what is known as a hint. One of my maxims is that you ignore a hint from your spouse at your peril, so at the risk of sounding and feeling like a surrendered wife, I embarked on today’s major cleaning initiative.

The result was that by the time Mr M returned home at six o’clock the house looked cleaner and tidier than it has done...well...since I took this job and he took over the housework! All I can say is that he had better be grateful and he is cooking the meal tonight (he always does actually) and, after washing up, he’d better make me some fantastic pancakes.

Monday, 15 February 2010


This wordle contains some of the most common words used in this blog over the past month. You can read it more clearly if you click on it. I think it is quite pretty! Incidentally, ANCA stands for the Anglican-not Church in America . We have not recognised it as part of the Anglican family in this household. It also annoyed me that it came out so much bigger than Bessie.

Presence and perseverance

My internet mentor/ prayer buddy, has shared some thoughts about presence and perseverance,

"God is present." Just those three words, if we could just let that reality sink in. Earlier I read the words, “God's presence surrounds us in love--even when we are full of fear and confusion, or lost in sin. The constant presence of God is always and intimately with us, inviting us to respond."

I also had some thoughts on the word "perseverance." I thought maybe the word came from the idea of severing off, being free from, 'letting go', of perhaps old ways, which I thought seemed pretty good , but a prayer site I read told me, "persevere" comes from ,per - se - vere
which loosely translated says "by means of the truth.”
I do think the derivation of the word 'perseverance' from that site may be a little dodgy, though I did like it. Most dictionaries seem to break the word up as: per-severe; "per" meaning through and "severus" meaning severe. Perseverance is when we are given grace to hang in there while going through something hard or severe.

I found these insights so very helpful and had lots of thoughts about them, they have also got me reading through the bible for sections that deal with these two themes of God’s presence and our perseverance, the two are linked! A quick google also revealed that other faiths have shared our insights about perseverance as God with us, hence the quote in the picture above is from the Koran.

I mainly just want to let the words James wrote stand; I may blog on some of my ideas about them later. Perseverance is not perhaps a very appealing quality, but one of the first things that occurred to me is that it is the fourth in the list of the fruits of the spirit and is a sign and gift we are given when God is with us:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (King James)

As you can see from the post below, I am not very keen on the Christian view of Lent as a time of penance, deprivation and sack cloth and ashes but more as a time of green shoots and renewal.
Wishing you all love, joy and peace – and God’s transforming presence in any longsuffering – as we approach Lent this year.

Giving up church for Lent

I never give anything up for Lent, but I think I could manage this one...

Friday, 12 February 2010

Men know your limits!

The Rev McLeay and his curate Rev Mark Oden, who unsurprisingly are members of Reform, have managed to make utter fools of themselves by saying that women should submit to their husbands and remain silent.
First the Rev McLeay issued a leaflet explaining the importance of female submission to their husbands. In a section entitled, “More difficult passages to consider”, it continued
"It would seem that women should remain silent....if their questions could legitimately be answered by their husbands at home."
His curate then made matters worse by preaching a sermon in which he explained that the behaviour of modern, liberated women was to blame for the high divorce rate.
Oh dear! Perhaps Rev Oden should have done some research. “My wife asks questions in Church” actually comes very low on the list of reasons cited for divorce ,whilst the adultery of a husband is quite common.
The Rev McLeay should perhaps also have thought about the fact that many women now earn salaries and thus anticipated the fact that many of his congregation might put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, and cancel direct debits to the Church.
One of his female (ex) parishioners demonstrated that women often talk a lot of commonsense,
“How can they talk that way in the 21st century?” she said. “No wonder the Church is losing touch if this is the kind of gobbledegook they want us to believe it. I will not be going back to that church and will have to seriously consider my faith if this is the nonsense they are spouting now."
Next time a member of Reform is tempted to speak without first engaging his brain, he might do well to consult a sensible woman who will tell him to “shut the f*ck up.” There is a wise old saying,
“It is better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool than open it and remove all possible doubt.”

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Synod pensions

Surviving civil partners are eligible for equal pension rights and quite right too! Philip Gidding's motion that sisters, brothers, aunties, cousins, the dog and the goldfish are also eligible was defeated...

(You don't expect me to take that sort of nonsense seriously by Thursday evening of a long stressful week, do you?)

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

ACNA's aspirations recognised and will be explored further

There have been some misleading headlines from conservatives proclaiming that the ACNA has been "recognised" or is now an accepted part of the Anglican Communion! A careful perusal of the actual wording of the amended motion allows for a more cautious interpretation. Synod has recognised "the desire" of the ACNA to remain within the Anglican family - yes, a bit rich as in my view they walked out ( but, hey, I am biased.)The "aspirations" of the ACNA ( don't you love that?) will be "explored further" as they do "raise issues." Overall, this adds up to some very tentative wording. I am not sure it is good news, but it is hardly a ringing endorsement!

For the record the exact wording of the amended motion, which was carried by Synod, is:

'That this Synod

(a) aware of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada;

(b) recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family;

(c) acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and

(d) invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011.'

Do you think they know that there are so many organisations out there that boast the same acronym? It would be a lot more fun if Synod recognised the aspirations of the Antiques and Collectibles National Association or, better still, the Association des Centres Naturistes Affilies!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Caution, handle with care

Rowan Williams addressed Synod today in an attempt to quell bitter infighting over the ANCA, frustration from liberals at the delays in women bishops, the belligerence of those opposed to women’s Episcopal ministry and all the hurt and anger caused by various issues such as the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill and the election of Mary Glasspool. Sometimes, despite all my anger and frustration, I do feel sympathy for Williams, who would not given the impossible nature of his job? I do not think Williams is good at his role exactly, but who could shine in the impossible role of being everything to everyone?
And in the Communion? There is an undoubted good in the independence of local provinces, and there is an undoubted good in the fact that some provinces are increasingly patient, compassionate and thankful in respect of the experience and ministry of gay and lesbian people – entirely in accord with what the Lambeth Conferences and Primates’ statements have said. But when the affirmation of that good takes the form of pre-empting the discernment of the wider Anglican (and a lot of the non-Anglican) fellowship, and of acting in ways that negate the general understanding of the limits set by Bible and tradition, there is a conflict with another undoubted good, which is the capacity of the Anglican family to affirm and support one another in diverse contexts. The freedom claimed, for example, by the Episcopal Church to ordain a partnered homosexual bishop is, simply as a matter of fact, something that has a devastating impact on the freedom of, say, the Malaysian Christian to proclaim the faith without being cast as an enemy of public morality and risking both credibility and personal safety. It hardly needs to be added that the freedom that might be claimed by an African Anglican to support anti-gay legislation likewise has a serious impact on the credibility of the gospel in our setting.
I think many will comment on the balance of this speech, but to me it was almost too balanced. If you look at the sentences above, the clauses are almost like an equation, each aspect of that could be seen in a positive light could be equally balanced by a negative interpretation. There is a sense he wants to be fair to opposing viewpoints, to be descriptive and not prescriptive. The trouble is that so many on different sides do not want a description; they want action, whether that action is the disciplining of TEC or the ordination of women bishops.
William’s attempt to see the positive did appeal to me; he wrote of the good that he sees around the Communion. However, the good done, for example, in the Church of Uganda, does not prevent me from feeling anger when I read the appalling statement released by that Church today, a statement that equates homosexuality with paedophilia, recommending that the bill use,
Language that strengthens the existing Penal Code to protect the boy child, especially from homosexual exploitation; to prohibit lesbianism, bestiality, and other sexual perversions; and to prohibit procurement of material and promotion of homosexuality as normal or as an alternative lifestyle, be adopted.
(Church of Uganda’s response to 2009 Anti-homosexuality bill)

I also understand that the good done in TEC does not, for some conservatives, mitigate their actions in ordaining actively gay and lesbian bishops.

Ultimately, people do not want their differences described to them, so many within the Communion are tired of waiting, tired of waiting for equality for women, tired of waiting for honesty to truly acknowledge LGBT people within the Communion or, on the other side tired of waiting for “bibilical truth” to be affirmed and the errant rebuked.
What I found most ironic about William’s speech was the comment at the end that through loving each other,
“We may be able to show to the world a face rather different from that anxious, self-protective image that is so much in danger of entrenching itself in the popular mind as the typical Christian position.”
And this comes from a man whose default position is caution, who is handling the whole situation gingerly, as perhaps it warrants, who is looked to for action but impotent to take any, who is so very anxious and self protective that what he gives with one hand he takes away with the other. Williams is gifted in description above action, and here his words seemed to perfectly sum up the man himself.

( You can now watch this embedded below)

Archbishop's address

Monday, 8 February 2010

Threats, ultimatums and hissy fits

This month’s Synod will not consider the legislation on women bishops, but Reform has still written an open letter saying that if the legislation passes without concessions it will have no option but to tell its newly ordained priests to leave the Church of England and that Reform churches may stop contributing financially.
So, threats and blackmail from Reform, no surprise really and given that there are only fifty signatories to this letter the response could well be, “so what.” However, Reform, a mainly evangelical organisation, does have some clout in that it boasts large congregations which are financially viable, possibly because many of its members tithe , something that cannot be said of every liberal Anglican in the UK. Reform has also ordained over 180 men over the last decade, and claims that 50% of these are under the age of thirty.
Reform’s Chairman, Rod Thomas, said that “nothing is being done to head off the huge practical problems that will result”, a statement which seems oblivious to the fact that the small number of people who share his attitudes are the problem!

Meanwhile, Ed Tomlinson, the Forward in Faith vicar who largely gained prominence after mocking the sentimentality of the way his parishioners bury their nearest and dearest, has weighed in with some well timed whingeing. Tomlinson, it seems, is tempted by Rome’s offer of a home for disaffected priests but is seriously deterred by the fact that Roman Catholic stipends are so much lower than those of Church of England clergy, enough perhaps for a single man, but not sufficient for one with a wife and family to support.
The thought does occur that if we were to have a whip round for Tomlinson, he might still jump. Anyone prepared to contribute?

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Testosterone deficit!

The programme of questions and motions to be put before next week’s Synod has been published and I was sad enough to have a quick scan through them. I was somewhat amused by question 54 to be posed by The Revd Canon Simon Bessant (Sheffield) namely,
“Has the House of Bishops considered the significant missiological issues that emerge when a church experiences a testosterone deficit?”
So, now we know what is wrong with the C of E, not enough testosterone! Well, a quick google revealed that this deficit can be easily remedied. Given that this hormone is readily available in tablet, gel and even spray form, I suggest that testosterone pills and sprays be prescribed to all clergy.

However, if what we really want is more men to come to church, we might have to try a little bit harder.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Do dogs have souls? (part six)

Dogs like space and time for their private devotions...

... but they also make wonderful prayer companions.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Prayer for evening

Taking a few verses of Scripture and repeating and reflecting upon them, can be a simple and meaningful way of praying. The reading below, selected from the fourth Psalm, creates a sense of utter trust and peace.
In your anger do not sin;
When you are on your beds,
Search your hearts and be silent
Offer right sacrifices
And trust in the Lord.
I will lie down and sleep in peace
For you alone, O Lord,
Make me dwell in safety.