Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Lutheran Church blesses "non traditional communion of life".

 I seem to have only just picked up on the news that the Lutheran Church in Italy has sanctioned the blessing of homosexual unions. The blessing is also open to heterosexual couples in what was translated as a non- traditional communion of life ( I assume that means living together?) The Church says it is distinct from marriage (obviously) but it is clearly the church giving its approval to sexual relationships outside of marriage. The Lutheran Church says this is:  “A decision rising from listening to God’s Word and from observation of society”, an attitude which seems nicely balanced to me, but which some see as the church  changing the construction of marriage and adapting itself to the times rather than upholding an eternal truth about marriage - though how anyone can think that exists given the multiplicity of models seen throughout human history and in the bible, I do wonder...

I did have to smile though as I couldn't quite imagine anyone saying, "We're not married, but we are in a non traditional communion of life."

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Children who abuse

Quite a few reports and articles surrounding the sexual abuse of children have cropped up recently and it has made me think about how ignorant so many people are about abuse, its range and complexity. I mention the perpetrators of abuse because I was struck by an NSPCC report earlier in the week which revealed not only the scale of the abuse, but also discussed the taboo and little known fact that many perpetrators of abuse are themselves under the age of eighteen.

The media, the tabloid press in particular, still tend to depict abusers in terms of "stranger danger" (even though this accounts for a tiny fraction of abuse cases.) We are much more comfortable with the idea of an abuser as a sleazy unkempt man in a park who preys on children. Some Christian groups still perpetuate the myth that abusers are largely homosexual men, rather strange considering that girls account for 86% of known victims! Whatever our choice of profile to demonise as a typical abuser, few of us want to believe that abusers may be respectable professional people, women, or other children - but they can be and they often are. A third of abused males report being abused by a woman, for example, a statistic which scotches the myth that women do not abuse.

The abuse of children by other children is a particularly painful and thorny issue, and it is horrifying to read that a quarter of abusers are under the age of eighteen. Sexual abuse by another child also poses great difficulties for the abused child. It is no easier to speak out about abuse carried out by other children, the shame, sense of taboo and fear of not being believed is just as great. Children who "come out" about it as adults often face problems because the abuse is dismissed as "less serious" or not "real abuse"; it can be put down to "playing doctors and nurses" when often it was no such thing. I can't imagine what it is like to be abused by another child, but one of the hardest cases I heard was of someone who was abused when she was nine, initially by three teenage boys and then by some more of their friends. By the time she was in her own teens she was promiscuious, reckless, getting into trouble at school and home. As an adult she still found it hard to accept she was not responsible and this is common in those abused by children ; it is clear that a fifty five year old man should not be acting in that way, harder when the abuser is fifteen.

We need to move away from tabloid myths about abuse and abusers and be clear sighted in recognising the often complex situations involved and the pain and damage inflicted. We need to educate and empower children and we need to learn how to deal more effectively with survivors and with perpetrators.

Colin Coward on Sunday

I thought Colin Coward did an excellent job on the Sunday programme this morning ( relevant bit starts about 35 minutes into the programme.) Having said that, I truly am getting ticked off by Anglican Mainstream's depressingly predictable attempts to  link gay people to an agenda to attack marriage and advocate promiscuity. They really do need to be challenged for these kind of slurs.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Church behaving badly

 It is quite interesting to read the leaked account by the late Rev Colin Slee of the shouting and tears as well as the cowardice, hypocrisy, dishonesty of the House of Bishops. Another Colin, the Rev Coward on the Changing Attitude blog writes of this week's reported meeting of the bishops to discuss gay priests. Colin Coward expresses his anger with the church (Slee's family feel his anger and distress may have contributed to his cancer)  and with the cowardice of those who play the "don't- ask- don't tell- bloody- well- know- but -don't- say- anything-and-let's-hang-the-honest-out-to-dry" approach. We knew a lot of it and could have guessed most of it, although it is hardly edifying to read about that sort of behaviour in print.
The attitude of the Church strikes me as so desperately childish; while everyone around them grows up, they play game of make pretend. More people in senior positions in the Church  must have the courage of their convictions, otherwise we are stuck with the status quo until they die off and are replaced by a younger generation.
Slee used the word "nuclear" about the revelations, and Coward picks up on it. All I can say is that if the end is coming for the Church, it feels less like a bang than a whimper.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


I am experiencing some problems with comments. Hoping it will soon be sorted!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Kirk decides

 Yesterday saw significant moves towards the acceptance of  clergy openly in same sex relationships in the Church of Scotland. The General Assembly voted to "allow the induction into pastoral charges of ministers and deacons ordained before May 2009 who are in a same-sex relationship", though there are some concerns about potential problems this cut off point may raise. The Kirk has also voted to reconsider the moratorium again in 2013 and also to consider the blessing of the relationship of persons in committed, life long same sex relationships. It is not the case that the Kirk is allowing the ordination of gay and lesbian priests, but this ruling is likely to pave the way to that decision. Some Church of Scotland churches  and individuals will be celebrating, others will not. Reports claimed that ten percent of ministers said they would leave the Kirk in the event of acceptance of LGBT priests, but then five percent said they would leave given the opposite decision! Some say this will tear apart the Kirk, but I have a feeling they will weather it. Watch this space!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Reflections on the Rapture

I had an interesting discussion on face book about  how all the hype about Harold Camping and the rapture had brought back memories of seeing an "end times" film  back in the late seventies when I was about twelve. I should explain that I attended a charismatic, evangelical youth group which, looking back, was rather misguided in some of its teachings and approaches. The film in question was undoubtedly A Thief in the Night, a film which was based on Larry Norman's 1969 song "I wish we'd all been ready", although I am sure I also saw its sequel "Distant Thunder". In Thief in the Night, Patty, a young married woman, is left behind, not because she isn't a Christian but more because her theological approach isn't quite right ( that's me finished then...) Her husband is taken and Patty has to endure the tribulation on her own.

Anyhow, by now you will either be nodding in recognition or thinking "WTF" - which was my husband's reaction when I told him, but my main point in writing this piece is not to reminisce about end time films and literature but more to reflect on the idea that such melodramatic obsessions with what we might call the more sensational aspects of Christianity long pre-date Harold Camping's recent prediction of May 21st apocalypse and is not confined to American flakeys. When I watched A Thief in the Night I was only twelve years old, most of the adults around me bought into the ideologies expressed and I was not equipped to recognise it as extreme religious fantasy, but  saw it as an accurate depiction of what would shortly happen. It did not help that the film was followed by a very earnest talk by our youth leader about how we might be "left behind" - as a teenager with pretty low self esteem  I was secretly sure I would be - and how we must not succumb to accepting the mark of the beast, despite the fact this would mean starvation/ torture.

When I hear the stories of followers of Camping who have given away their life's savings or given up their jobs, or  are simply bewildered and lost, I am torn between feeling sorry for them as victims or angry with them for their naivety. On the one hand, they are not twelve, on the other, they are clearly people unable to take full responsibility or control of their own lives, for whatever reasons.   We might say that Camping's followers have been "brainwashed", but what is brainwashing and how do we recognise it? I recently read on Faith is not the Same as Religion, Peter's account of his time in a  monastery, a place which most would see as mainstream and above board, but a place he left suffering from the effects of brainwashing as completely as if he had been enmeshed in any extremist sect. We need to be careful before we disassociate ourselves too much from Camping's followers. One of the things that makes them so embarrassing is that we do not wish to be tarred with the same brush, and because they seem to confirm all the things that the new breed of militant atheists say about Christianity as an irrational fantasy, with the more sane of us simply on the far end of the spectrum...
Food for thought indeed!

(The above clip contains some shocking images of clothes and hair styles from the 1970s - don't say you haven't been warned!)

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Malta's divorce laws

As a member of a Christian European group involved in working towards inclusion, I do try to generally keep up with the situation in  countries other than Britain, and I regularly get emails concerning various events, votes, petitions. Malta, the  last European country to oppose divorce, is currently facing a May 28 referendum. The upcoming referendum is over legislation that is far from being a green light to liberalism; it will offer voters the option of divorce only for couples who have had four years of marital separation with no prospect of reconciliation. Only separation and annulment  are possible under the current Marriage Act. I don't particularly like the idea of annulment as, in all but a handful of circumstances, it is a type of sanitised lie which pretends a marriage/ relationship was never valid rather than facing up to the reality that marriage does break down.

 I find it offensive when people assume that, because I hold certain views, I am cavalier in my attitude to marriage. Marriage involves taking vows before God and, more importantly (because it is more important to God) it involves undertaking a lifelong vocation to another person, to love and cherish them and to look to their interests and well being. At the same time I strongly believe that the breakdown of any marriage is a tragedy and not a sin or a crime. This is not to say there is not sin or failure involved in any such breakdown, but it is the type of sin and failure that we are all capable of, and which occurs in all our relationships. Perhaps those whose marriages last are simply fortunate that the combination of difficulties and failures were not sufficient to overwhelm the relationship. I do not understand how people can judge in these cases, and the situation in Malta undoubtedly causes much human misery.

The account here comes from a Roman Catholic priest who describes his shame at the tactics the Church has used in Malta in the run up to the referendum.  So this post is as much to, once again, express despair over the effects of institutionalised religion and its barbarous attitudes to human dignity and freedom as it is to reflect on Malta.The account was sent to me in an email this morning and I found it left me saddened and  angry, but moved by the thought of those who speak out despite everything - please read it.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Rapture ready?

Any top rapture tips would be appreciated!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Worth taking notice

This offering from Archdruid Eileen should keep you all amused.

Meanwhile I am off to make something out of raffia minus the tealights
and fire extinguisher, although the left-wing post-imperial middle class guilt symposium does also sound very me.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Church and the Masons

 Quite a few people have been getting upset over the news that Rowan Williams has apparently approved the Rev Jonathan Baker  to become a bishop despite the fact he is a free mason (although has now said he will be leaving the organisation so it does not interfere with his role.) I don't know a lot about the Masons, what I do know I can't say I approve of. I was quite amused to find that a description of Freemasonry as,

" a secretive male-only organisation...which requires its members to declare a belief in a “supreme being” and to undergo elaborate rituals."

Goodness, nothing like any part of the Church then!

Saturday, 14 May 2011


I listened to some of the debate/ discussion  about whether women as priests and bishops between John Richardson and Christina Rees on Unbelievable!, a discussion programme on Premier Christian Radio this afternoon. It was all rather civilised ( which is good) and they both put forward arguments from the bible. As I was listening, I thought again that scripture is so rich that it can be used to support so many different perspectives - otherwise why would we have so many denominations, let alone just different approaches?
I just can't help feeling that what it boils down to is that, whether we are liberal or conservative, we see and find in scripture our own particular preferences, prejudices, assumptions and world views. I really do feel that the roots of the views of those opposed to the ordination of women lie in ...well...their view of women and men and whether they see us as equal or not. And don't tell me that women are equal but different - or at least not if by "different" you mean unfit to be in authority over men in the church, or not called by God to a vocation of priestly ministry - because that is patently untrue, and it is unequal.

Do dogs have souls? ( part thirteen)

More evidence above, firstly what happens to a dog in purgatory and secondly a theological treatise on the way God is made in Dog's image (I have got that right, haven't I..?)

Friday, 13 May 2011

News from Uganda

 The news from Uganda, where the bill allowing the death penalty for homosexual acts has been recommended  by a committee, I am not sure it has been passed, but this scenario is looking increasingly likely. I did think that the Church of England's response to the possibility of this was somewhat mealy mouthed - was this just me? I am not holding my breath over the likely reaction - if any reaction - from Canterbury. I know from experience that the next few weeks, possibly months, may be a time when I find it difficult to remain in the Church (this is not a reflection on the church I currently attend, more on the attitudes seen in the official hierarchy of the Church of England.) However, the main concern is not for how this affects us, but for the appalling situation for those people of Uganda denied their right to be treated as human beings because of the fact that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.

Latest reports are that the bill has not been debated, this is a cause for celebration, but not complacency because there are very likely to be attempts to reintroduce it later this year once national outrage has died down. I think the video below strikes a balance between celebration and caution. I know most of you will know this, but it is not the case that all Ugandans support this bill and want it passed - and there are Christian voices, such as Christopher Senyemo, speaking against it. I would personally like our Ugandan Archbishop of York to be a little more vocal in his condemnations of the death penalty.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Prediction and prophecies

 I heard on the news yesterday that people were fleeing Rome in their thousands because of  a prediction by  Raffaele Bendandi’s  -a man who reportedly had little knowledge of seismology, but attracted a large following because of his reputed accuracy in predicting earthquakes based on his home grown theories. Cynics have pointed out that Bendandi  only predicted some earthquakes  and his success was a bit hit and miss, so to speak. There was, of course, a major earthquake yesterday in Spain, and some are saying this was the one Bendandi predicted - in which case I give him about 2 out of 10 for effort, or luck! I just hope none of the six victims of the Spanish earthquake were holidaying in Spain in order to try to avoid the earthquake in Rome...
The news item made me think about our very natural human instinct to know, in particular to know about potential disasters and apocalyptic events. I also reflected on the seductive power of predictions and prophecies - one of my students was talking to me a few weeks ago about Nostradamus and the way he is credited with predicting the rise of Hitler, and the events of 9/11. The bible tells us that we cannot predict the end of the world because no-one knows but the father. This does not stop Christians with a certain mindset from attempting to do so and concocting all kinds of conspiracies and fantasies - usually linked to the Book of Revelation, which has a lot to answer for!
Prophets, of course, are not people who predict the future, they are people who read the signs of the times and warn us all to be more alert to them. That's a lot more useful, but it lacks the drama that some people need to spice up their faith a bit. There have been countless predictions of the end of the world and the latest is the apparently growing belief that the date in Jesus's diary is May 21st this year. This fact has apparently been carefully established by sussing out few cryptic clues, counting up various dates in the bible and doing some simple maths. Let's hope you are all rapture ready then? I didn't make it all the way through this video, by the way, so I don't know how it ends...

Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality bill update

 It appears that Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality bill, calling for the death penalty for homosexual acts may not have been dropped from the order papers as suggested. The reports are rather confusing, but it seems that the bill might be debated and possibly pushed through tomorrow.  I received an email about this only a short while ago and somehow I have managed to delete the email! It outlined the situation and asked readers not to sign a petition but to phone their Head of State directly. I think the action was intended to get attention by swamping the phone lines.  I did phone several of the suggested numbers and in the end spoke to someone in the Foreign Office, she then directed me to http://www.no10.gov.uk/ website, where I could apparently leave an email!  I am never sure how much difference this type of action makes; I still did it anyway.
I have blogged on this bill before, and, although I have not blogged on this over the last few days, I have to say that I found the Church of England's official response, via Rowan Williams, rather lacking in conviction - but maybe that is just me?

Sunday, 8 May 2011

On the Road

"Our battered suitcases were  piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life."
- Jack Kerouac, On the Road.

The reading today, the account of the road to Emmaus, is one  I always find meaningful  and moving. This post resurrection appearance seems to encapsulate most tellingly the nature of  the joys and difficulties of living beyond  Easter. I did not blog about the Resurrection this year, I may well do next year, but it is an event that is much harder to grasp than the crucifixion. Most of us can identify with the idea of a suffering Christ - simply because suffering and failure are so much a part of being human- but the Resurrection defies understanding,and, as we see in the story of doubting Thomas, it can defy belief. The appearances of Christ seem to continue the theme of the elusive; Christ is  a complete stranger who turns up while other things are happening.
If the Resurrection is hard to grasp, the practicalities of continuing after the Resurrection are even more difficult. No matter how intense the awe and exultation, the mundane practicalities of life reassert themselves, the doubts creep in, we remain mortal, our faith fails to live up to the promise of Easter. The appearances of Jesus give us a hope that there will be still be tangible moments when we realise that God remains with us - but they also tell us that that we may not always recognise those moments until after the event. A key element  is the unrecognisable nature of the risen Christ. He is encountered at inbetween moments,  at daybreak out fishing,  on a long dusty road, or when our eyes are blinded with tears. We realise too late what we have encountered, sometimes we know with certainty, but have no proof, at other times we half know - but we did not recognise him. We are stupid, we are too dumb for words, our hearts burned with a knowledge that our eyes and mind could not comprehend. At times his presence is as real as someone who sits and walks and talks and breaks bread with us, at others he is a guess or a glimpse and the minute we try to define him he disappears.
I think this gospel reading teaches, warns and reassures us in so many ways about the reality of living as Easter people when Easter is over.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

That uncomfortable feeling

I have to say that I was rather amused by this parody of Rowan William's statement on Bin Laden's death on NewsBiscuit. However, I am still of the opinion that I would rather have a bearded woolly liberal expressing his "discomfort" than some of the "GOTCHA" responses seen from other quarters. Undisguised exultation as a supposedly Christian reaction leaves me with feelings of profound discomfort as well.
 A lot of what Rowan William's says is quite nuanced, as a result, like many liberal intellectuals, he can suffer from misleading media representations ( remember the Shariah stuff?) as well as causing extreme reactions in evangelicals who are too dim to understand the idea of a conceptual response (miaaow...) It does occur to me that if we really want an Archbishop who is intelligent but will  still manage to say sensible and appropriate things to the press, then it is high time to appoint a woman...

In blog we trust

Yes, I know it is a terrible post title, but perhaps not  much worse than "Go forth and blog" - the title of this article about a recent blogging conference hosted by the Vatican. The Roman Catholic Church has decided it needs to engage more with the modern world (hmmmm) and reach out to people using modern media.  There were 750 applicants, but only 150 could be accommodated. Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of Pontifical Council for Social Communications, welcomed the chosen bloggers to the Vatican and told them the Vatican wanted to begin “a dialogue between faith and the emerging culture” that is the blogosphere.The organisers were very keen to emphasise that this is not an attempt to control blogging, but to facilitate and aid communication whilst the initiative remained very much with the bloggers.
You can read a little about the proceedings on the fantastic blog Blue Eyed Ennis. Wouldn't it be fun if the Church of England were to follow suit?

Going up in the world

Linking to this post on Lesley's blog has nothing to do with everything to do with the fact I feature on it :)

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Peace and beauty

I sometimes stop at this mere on my way home and just enjoy a few moments of quiet. It was such a lovely place to be  today that I took some pictures of the swans on the water. Swans are pretty vicious animals, but there is something about the sight of the wildfowl on the water that makes me feel serene.  I know a few friends who have special places that they need to go to from time to time, I don't know if everyone does! I always leave this spot feeling peaceful.

Monday, 2 May 2011

No winners

I am currently listening to a Radio 4 extended news coverage of the death of Osama Bin Laden and at this moment to people in New York. It is interesting to note the range of  responses, some people expressing intense exultation and a sense of victory, but with some reports of  a more sombre reaction,  people lighting candles and remembering the dead. I have just seen the comment on twitter of one 9/11 survivor, Harry Waizer: "I just can't find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama bin Laden".
Like everyone I was shocked and horrified by the events of 9/11 and found it hard to imagine the scale of  the terror, loss and suffering. Perhaps I am unimaginative, but I found it difficult this morning to feel any sort of emotional reaction to the news of Bin Laden's death.  I could not find it in myself to feel anything other than it is a good thing that he is gone, at the same time I felt our main focus should be upon the implications of his death, whether it will make us safer or less so, whether it will make any long term difference to global terrorism, which surely lies in ideologies as much as in individuals.
 I suppose I should make some attempt to consider the moral issues around this killing, but I am loathe to do so because on the one hand there is so much to say and on the other hand so little. We are clearly told to love our enemies in the bible. We are told a lot of other things as well, things which contradict the idea of loving our enemies, which just goes to show how isolated verses don't take us that far!  I guess that when Christ said love your enemies he also meant mass murderers, not just love those who are a little bit nasty to you, but never in the real world is the USA going to love its enemy in this context! Love and forgiveness are not always practical or possible on a personal level either; how many of those, whether Christian or not, who lost loved ones in 9/11 would say that they have forgiven, much more that they love those responsible? Which of us would really argue that they should, or must do so?
Listening to some of those interviewed today I heard the unmistakable note of revenge, one man expressed his view that the devil had been destroyed. The events of 9/11 were evil, but it was not an evil that came from nowhere, but an evil rooted in ideas and ideologies, no doubt Bin Laden thought "justice had been done" when the towers collapsed. Nor does the death of Bin Laden even out the score, nobody is a winner in this situation. The dead of 9/11 remain dead, the suffering cannot be erased and the fact that we are capable of carrying out atrocities, or repaying our hurts without a thought for human suffering and that we will carry on doing so for the whole of human history, makes us all losers. I am not very good at forgiving; if I had lost someone in 9/11, I might be rejoicing at Bin Laden's death. As it is, I feel more like lighting a candle - not for him but for us all.