Thursday, 29 April 2010

Not above the law

The judge's ruling on the McFarlane case was that,

"We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs.
The precepts of any one religion - any belief system - cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. "


I have said before that I think some Christians are struggling to come to terms with the fact that, although Christians enjoy many privileges and exemptions in British society, there are definite limits upon these. There is also the issue of whether Gary McFarlane's views did represent those of Christians in Britain as a whole, or only an increasingly diminishing number of Christians - although I do not think the judge would think this a factor for consideration.

I can see that the desire of the judge to apply the law equally across the board is probably to the benefit of society as a whole, I can understand that it causes dismay in those who think their views are deserving of special treatment.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Finding meaning


BEYOND THE STUDY OF THEOLOGY

Those who don’t feel this love pulling them like a river
Those who don’t drink dawn like a cup of spring water
or take sunset like supper
Those who don’t want to change
let them sleep…
This Love is beyond the study of theology that old trickery and hypocrisy
If you want to improve your mind that way sleep on.
I’ve given up on my brain; I’ve torn the cloth to shreds and thrown it away.
If you’re not completely naked wrap your beautiful robe of words
around you and sleep.

~Jellaludin Rumi

This poem challenges me to question where we really find meaning. I would say that I am someone who thinks quite a lot, (usually when I should be thinking about something else) but I find my greatest "meaning" in something beyond thought. The sermon today was about how we "know", and whether what we know objectively or what we "know" subjectively counts most and it reminded me of this poem.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Together on the road


First of all, apologies to any of you who would be quite happy if you never came across the words “Anglican Communion” or “Anglican Covenant” again, but I felt I had to comment (briefly) on the statement from the Global South meeting which has been taking place in Singapore this week.
In this document, the leaders of the Global South speak of “the mind of the Communion” and a “shared understanding of our common faith” and of how the “peace of our Communion has been deeply wounded by those who claim the name Anglican but who pursue an agenda of their own desire.”
It is patently ridiculous to claim that the Communion has a single “mind” on the issues that this document addresses. The Communion has within it a diverse range of opinions and practices on this matter, from the liberal acceptance of homosexuality in TEC to its condemnation as a disorientation in the Church of Uganda. Our own Church of England sees a range of opinion, and practice on the ground is at variance with any “official” line. In the light of this, how can it possibly be meaningful to speak of the “mind of the Communion” – unless by Communion you mean those who agree only with the leaders of the Global South?
And this is precisely what they do mean and what this document is all about! Those who do not agree must be excluded; they are not brothers and sisters in Christ. A pre-requisite for joining the Covenant, they suggest, is that all joining must be “compliant with Lambeth 1:10” and there is “a need to review the entire Anglican Communion structure.”
In contrast, Colin Coward writes in the Changing Attitude blog , “those gathered in Singapore are Anglicans, Christians on the road with us, and however uncomfortable they make life for us, they are still, like it or not, in communion with us. Neither side particularly likes this state of affairs, but I don’t believe we have the option (which they take to themselves) to say we are not in communion.”

Which is the Christian path, to walk with those with whom we disagree or to refuse to do so?

Love is an Orientation tour

I reviewed Andrew Marin's Love is an Orientation a while back. Here is an update on his blog of his UK tour. I thought it was interesting to hear Jeremy Marks comment on how the Church is so uninterested in talking to groups like Courage, it makes you wonder if the so called listening process has ever really existed. Perhaps it should be renamed the silencing process or the talking about process!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

The Great Escape!

Those of you who know us well will be aware that, back in September, Kev and I reversed roles. After almost ten years working part time I accepted a full time post and promotion and Kev opted to work three days a week. Those of you who know us even better will be aware that for various reasons this set up did not work. In recent weeks I have been considering resigning, a step I didn’t want to take and that we were not really in a position for me to take. As you can see from an extract from an email below, my dilemma has been resolved, Kev becomes full time house husband from tomorrow!
As many of you will know, I have resigned and shall be leaving on Friday 24th to become an “unemployment statistic”. My very own 'Great Escape'. I would like to thank all of you that have helped me over the time that I have been here and the courtesies that you have shown. I am finally putting my family first and hopefully getting a life back.
This is a momentous step for Kev; work has been his life and I really do appreciate the sacrifice involved. Please pray that we cope and that he is able to see early retirement as a gift, as he says in the email a great escape and not a deprivation - or as one of his colleagues put it in response to the above email:

“You lucky, lucky, lucky B!”

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Now that the dust has settled...


Britain is no longer grounded, and we are free to pollute the atmosphere with plane fumes once again. Just to celebrate, here are a few of my favourite Iceland volcano funnies!

Q:What do Cheryl Cole and the Iceland volcano have in common? A:They both chucked out ash.

Dear Iceland, We said send cash, not ash.

It was the last wish of the Icelandic economy that its ashes were spread all over Europe.

There’s no pleasing the English. The last time they got the Ashes they were over the moon.

A man went out and got hit by a bag of frozen sausages, a chocolate gateau and some fish fingers. Someone said it's fallout from Iceland.
( I know they're dreadful, but it's been a long, long week! )

Thought for the day

I listen to thought for the day almost every morning while driving into work. A moving contribution from the inimitable Rabbi Lionel Blue on being gay and being a person of faith is worth listening to here.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Come to me all who are heavy laden...

...this bike is too small for this load...

... I never asked to be a beast of burden...

...is it much further?..

...grit your teeth and bear it..,

...and the prize goes to this one - for ambition? or folly?

These last few weeks I have felt that I am carrying too many burdens and I've had a few days when I've just thought I can't cope. One of my favourite bible verses is Matthew 11:28 “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am humble in spirit and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The promise of being relieved of a burden and given rest when weary is an enticing one. The image of a yoke in the next line is perhaps less appealing. A yoke has negative connotations of being tied, oppressed and constrained. However, when oxen are pulling a weight, a yoke apparently offers control; it harnesses the power of two together and allows them to brake more easily. Familiar with carpentry, Christ would have known that a well designed yoke, one carefully measured and tailored to the animal in question, made all the difference. A badly designed yoke causes chaffing and sores, can impede an animal’s vision if it pushes the head too low and hinders rather than helps.

God’s yoke is easy, one bible version I found rendered the verse, and “my yoke fits perfectly.” I don’t know literally how accurate this version is, but I think it catches the meaning of the verse.

So, we are not promised a life free from burdens, but we are promised that they will be light and that the God, who knows us from the womb, hand crafts our yoke, although there are certainly plenty of times that I, along with the rest of us, certainly don’t feel that way!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Poster boys



I was quite taken with these spoof election posters - Brown as bully boy bruiser and air brushed "posh boy" Cameron. Surely they should do one sending up the fact that Cameron's kids go to - a state school - he told us often enough!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Watch the Worm



Just to be clear, by "the worm" I don't mean Brown, Clegg or Cameron (would I?) No, I am referring to this wiggly line that charts viewers' reactions to the comments of the three politicians, apparently that eerily silent audience were asked to twiddle some knobs to show their response, rather than cheering and jeering in the time honoured fashion.

Anyhow, it is fascinating to watch the worm and the way it reacts to Brown - and then Cameron's comments on immigration. It is also rather scary. Forget Blair's "Education, education, education" soundbite, it looks like it is more like "Immigration, immigration, immigration".

I actually watched almost all of it. I felt like it was the same product, packaged in a very slightly different way each time...

Special courts for Christians?

This link takes you to an interesting clip from Radio 4 in which two participants discuss whether there is a clash between gay rights and religious rights, and whether specialist judges should hear cases involving Christians.
I think judges should be impartial and act in accordance with the law of the land, rather than being handpicked for their sensitivity to any group in society. Each case is different and should be considered on its merits; I must say that I do not know all the facts of the McFarlane case.
I do believe that there is a place for freedom of conscience, we see this in the law that allows doctors to be exempted from carrying out terminations and it was decided earlier this year that Christian chemists may refuse to sell the morning after pill. It must be considered that the law of the land does already give Christians organisations special exemption from the laws on discrimination on grounds of gender and sexuality.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Politician talk




We are going to be listening to a lot of politician talk over the next few weeks with all the inevitable sound bites, empty promises and evasions. I am sure there will be nothing as entertaining as this interview between Michael Howard and Jeremy Paxman back in 1997. I know you'll have seen it, but it is well worth watching again.

By the end of the clip, both Paxman and Howard can't help smiling at the ludicrous charade that is the political interview! Just remember - it's all a game.

Inclusive Barbie!

A number of bloggers have picked up on the recent news item about clerical Barbie, Rector's Ramblings has posted this item which also considers Atheist Barbie ( does she have a copy of The God Delusion in place of The Bible?)
A quick google revealed that there is a diverse array of Barbies available. Barbie now hails from a range of ethnic backgrounds, has moved into the ranks of the police and business and could have aspirations for the White House. I even found Butch Barbie and Gangsta Bitch Barbie - but I think these had been tailor made rather than being commercially available. Let's hope Bishop Barbie puts in an appearance soon!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Love is an Orientation review

Despite being a straight American conservative evangelical Christian, Andrew Marin was one of the first to speak up against the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill and he organised a day of prayer, which was taken up by LGBT affirming groups such as Changing Attitude. It was this positive action, when so many other remained silent, that got me interested enough to buy his book Love is an Orientation , a publication that had caused some debate among conservative evangelicals.
Marin is currently visiting the UK , he has been speaking at Spring Harvest and will be moving on to events organised through Courage later in the month.
In Love is an Orientation Marin says he wants to aim to elevate the conversation between fundamentalist Christians and the LGBT community. He identifies the impasse we have reached in that the Lesbian and gay community (secular and Christian) and traditional conservative Christians are unable to communicate , locked in intransigent attitudes , fearful of conceding anything to the other side and crippled by negative assumptions. In short, there is an inability to listen or to love that characterises so much of the debate.
Marin argues that it is beholden on the Christian community to be the ones to generously initiate bridge building, partly because those within the LGBT community are the ones who have been and are misunderstood, hurt and rejected and who understandably do not feel “safe” with Christians or in a Christian environment and also because this is what Christ would do.
However, Marin’s approach is not to win people around in order to change sexual orientation or behaviour, simply to win them around purely to show the love of Christ. It is here that his message becomes unpalatable to so many fundamentalist Christians, who feel that nothing has actually been achieved unless people conform to a conservative mindset and renounce their relationships and their sexual identity. Marin writes,
“Throughout the entirety of Scripture the Father is calling his sheep to realise this radical way of life. But still few are able to find it – to leave the judging to God, to leave the convicting to the Holy Spirit and to embrace the orientation of love. To worship with, go to church with, explore difficult questions with, be real with and be intentionally committed to live life with people who are honestly open to the call of God on their life... these choices are not about gays and lesbians, they’re about us.”
I think Marin is right, Scripture does teach us that our concern should always be with our own behaviour - the plank in our own eye - not with policing the personal morality of our fellow human beings. I do not think it is a message that will go down too well with many fundamentalist Christians because it takes away power and asks them to substitute this with a love that has relinquished power and control. Marin also writes that,
“It is more important for people to know that we are honest and vulnerable than that we are Christians” and, “From moment one we must be genuine and authentic, there is no room for thinly veiled agendas.”
I can see why Marin’s approach frightens fundamentalists and I can see why his refusal to give a rubber stamp of approval to homosexual practice might anger some liberals. The slogan of the Marin Foundation is “Be Bold”, but the boldness he advocates is not strident or aggressive but a leap of faith that it is right to truly respect and understand other human beings, to love but not count the cost.
Love is an Orientation is also well worth reading because Marin has immersed himself in the community he serves, choosing to live in a predominantly gay neighbourhood in Chicago. The stories he tells about the range of perplexing, myth busting individuals he has met and situations he has encountered show the importance of insight, lived experience and genuine human encounter over the aridity of arguments, theories and sound bites.

A tale of two letters

One letter in question is from the Presiding Bishop about the consecration of Mary Glasspool. Katharine Jefferts Schori writes that,

"our Communion also has a very broad range of opinion... some provinces do not believe women can or should be consecrated as bishops; some do not believe divorced and remarried persons can or should be consecrated; some provinces do not believe persons without advanced theological degrees should be consecrated. I know that many of you do not see these as equivalent, yet our diversity remains."

The other letter is from Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda, also in response to the consecration of Mary Glasspool, he warns that Anglicanism is moving, "further and further into a darkness." He also complains about TEC, he complains about an alleged "shift in the balance of powers", he complains about the Windsor process, he complains about the way the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion has developed, he complains he has been treated unfairly - in fact he complains quite a lot!
(Bizarrely, Orombi says that, "there is no such thing as the Standing Committee." It is not quite clear whether he has resigned from the Committee. Ruth Gledhill in her blog says he has not - I suppose we would have to ask if you can resign from a Committee that you believe doesn't / shouldn't actually exist?)

Finally, he calls for an urgent meeting of the primates, and insists the primates of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada must not be invited.

In short, Rowan William's mail bag could be summarised thus:

Hi Rowan,
We're going ahead.
Kath
xxx


Rowan,
You are useless, you should have stopped this before,
stop it now, kick them out.
Henry
xxx


Mary Glasspool is to be consecrated on 15th May.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Easter people - when it's all been said and done


A friend sent me a link to this video saying he loves the Irish flute melody and found the lyrics meaningful and that I might like it as well. So, thanks for the video and also to Lesley who told me how to post it without cutting off the screen!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Doner Kebab Pot Noodle

Doner kebab flavoured pot noodle - can you believe it? This product was apparently launched last month and one of our sons has already requested that we purchase a supply for late night snacking!
Kev objects on the basis that a. There is plenty of good, nourishing and tasty food provided in this household b. We would have to make a trip out at three am in the morning to avoid the embarrassment of being spotted buying said snack and c. If he wants to shovel that kind of - er- rubbish - down his neck, he can buy it himself.

I wonder who on earth came up with the idea of combining pot noodles and doner kebab and were they very drunk at the time?

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Child abuse and the Roman Catholic Church

Rowan Williams has now apologised for having said the Roman Catholic Church has lost all credibility, although if anyone listened to him yesterday on Radio 4 with Phillip Pullman, he did go on to say that it is now difficult to walk down the street in Ireland with a dog collar on!

James ( our Irish Roman Catholic correspondent) gives his views:)

Your estimable Archbishop Rowan Williams caused quite a stir over here- among the bishops anyway! He was quite right in what he said, though I can see how the 'good guys', who have been trying to fix up this mess, feel that they are all tarred with the same brush- but I think even the 'good guys' are being somewhat over sensitive. The Catholic church in Ireland has lost all credibility and I think that therein lies the hope of a new beginning. At this point the Irish bishops are actually better at facing the reality of the situation than the Vatican, which is being defensive and seems to be falling into the same trap (i.e. don't admit to mistakes as this will bankrupt the church if it has to pay damages.)People are also asking whether the Irish (and American, Dutch, German) bishops all act independently in covering up the scandals or was Rome involved? Seems unlikely that a church with such a strong centralised authority structure would have a large number of senior figures disregarding their instructions on matters as fundamental as these.

For individual Catholics the choices are fairly stark but for me anyway I see the Catholic church as my church, with a senior administrative layer who have lost their way morally, but I'm not leaving my church because those guys don't know right from wrong. Sometimes the lower down the hierarchy the better they are; we must acknowledge that there are so many priests and nuns who live saintly lives and serve their people so well. And the Irish hierarchy now, after the resignations , is in general not too bad! There are a good few still that just don't get it but even the primate (who has grave questions to answer) seems to have changed markedly in tone while he 'considers his position'. This more humiliated/humble church may be a much better church than we have had for generations.


I read on another blog recently an imagined scenario in which the Roman Catholic Church paid out in full to compensate the victims of abuse; far from destroying the church this dramatic action revitalised it as people began to meet in their homes, gave freely of their time and money and saw a revival of grassroots faith.

It would indeed be a positive thing if humility and repentance could transform the Church and win people to faith.

Do dogs have souls ( part eight)

I had to link to this great item by Icearc. It is hard to believe it isn't a spoof, but apparently there is a company of atheists in America who will assign you someone "left behind" to take care of your dog for you after you have been swept up in the rapture - see here. (Those of you who have no idea what I am on about should just give thanks for your untroubled upbringing...)



As for Bessie, she is coming with me...


Sunday, 4 April 2010

Love is come again


Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,
he that for three days in the grave had lain,
quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving in pain,
thy touch can call us back to life again,
fields of hearts that dead and bare have been:
love is come again, like wheat that springeth green

Friday, 2 April 2010

Good Friday meditation



A Good Friday meditation based around fine art.This does last for nearly eight minutes - and I hope it posts better than the last video - but I found it moving to see the depcitions of the events of Holy Week through the eyes of various artists.

Good Friday poetry

R. S. Thomas, “In a Country Church”

To one kneeling down no word came,
Only the wind’s song, saddening the lips
Of the grave saints, rigid in glass;
Or the dry whisper of unseen wings,
Bats not angels, in the high roof.

Was he balked by silence? He kneeled long,
And saw love in a dark crown
Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree
Golden with fruit of a man’s body

The first stanza of this poem conveys to me the forlorn sense of loss and hopelessness of Good Friday and Easter Saturday. I once heard a preacher say that most of us live, not in the anguish of the Good Fridays of our lives, nor in the glory and revelations of Easter Sunday, but in the humdrum pain of Easter Saturday, where there is “no word” and only “dry whispers” of “bats, not angels.”
R.S. Thomas was clearly familiar with the experience of the spiritual dry season, but also with the revelation won through vigil. The vision of Christ on the cross at the end of the poem is remarkable because it captures the intensity of Good Friday and the glory of Easter Saturday. The dark crown of thorns is “blazing”, a beautiful intense image of passion and holiness as well as pain and suffering. As in medieval literature, the cross becomes a tree- “golden with fruit of a man’s body”. This line not only identifies Christ as the second Adam who redeems man’s fall, but has connotations of splendor, the life giving fruit of the cross replacing the death dealing fruit of Eden.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Passover explained

Maundy Thursday

A sunny, cold and windy Maundy Thursday. I took Bessie for a long walk this morning ; we walked for an hour, it was muddy, windy and invigorating - so much better than the sleet and drizzle we had yesterday and Tuesday.
I love daffodils, they always remind me of Easter and spring. I noticed that the snowdrops and crocuses of only a few weeks ago have disappeared and been replaced by daffodils everywhere. I took this picture of a bunch growing wild in the hedgerows.
I will not be going to the usual Mandy Thursday meal tonight - I will miss it as it has become part and parcel of Easter for me. I will be posting a great pesach video though - coming shortly!