Tag Archive: Church of England

God save the Queen …

Union Flag… and God bless us all.



Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ exchanged the glory of a heavenly throne for the form of a servant,
we thank you that you have given Elizabeth our Queen a heart to serve her people,
and have kept her devoted in this service beyond all who were before her:
encourage us by her example to serve one another, and to seek the common good,
until you call us all to reign with Christ in your eternal kingdom.

(prayer from the Church of England website)

… so you decide to clean the mirror.

I recently attended a day course to raise awareness about domestic abuse. This is something I knew existed but, like many people I suppose, I assumed that it was rare and did not affect anyone I knew. You see, domestic violence, which is one kind of abuse, does not broadcast itself on the estate where I live. It all happens in another part of town.

Well, I learnt that that is just not true. The statistics were frighteningly high and there are psychological abuse and financial abuse as well as the more-reported sexual and physical abuses. My fellow students and I did struggle with some definitions. We could see how some incidents in isolation, while still wrong, did not amount to a pattern of abuse. For example, a sarcastic remark, a put-down, a criticism of your partner’s appearance is something many of us have said or heard – and regret afterwards. And it would be easy to excuse someone’s poor behaviour with a dismissive “but we’ve all done that” or, worse, ” what goes on behind closed doors is none of our business”.

The fact is that criticism can be used to put someone in their place and keep them there. The jokes at their expense gradually undermine their self-confidence until there is little of none left. Gradually, you have them under your control.The abuse is verbal and not a single smack of the fist is needed.

Then there is money: who controls the purse strings? Now, we had some discussion about this because some of us recognise that in some marriages one person may be more competent/confident in managing the money. That is OK if you are in the habit in trying to explain what is going on from time to time, insist that both of you see the financial advisor and you do not have everything in your own name: there must be some discretion for each of you and a level of trust that does not have to account for every single penny. By contrast, we heard about one instance where one partner worked and earned more than the other. The man took both their wages and she had to ask for some of her own money back – which he resisted and resented. To help make the distinction one member of our family said that it was one thing to be in charge of the money and another to be in control. In other words, one of us might be responsible for the finances but not in a dictatorial sort of way.

There was a lot more in the course but I think one of the key lessons was to realise that abuse is the result of one partner/family member wanting complete control over the other. It was as if they saw themselves in the other person and did not like what they saw. So, instead of sorting themselves out they tried to sort the other one out: “When he sees his dirty face in the mirror, he cleans the mirror”.

The message for the church is two-fold. Firstly, if we want our churches to be safe places for people to come then we need to recognise that it is likely that there are some in our congregations who are abused or who are abusers: their public persona may be wonderful and they may even be in church leadership.

Secondly, abuse is not part of God’s plan. Abuse violates the marriage covenant: there are vows to love and to cherish and to honour; there are none which permit abuse, physical violence or otherwise. Jesus tells us to love one another (John chapter 15 verse 12) and if this is true of his disciples then it applies no less to families. “God is love, and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (1 John chapter 4 verse 16, NRSV)

There are a number of places you can go if this affects you. I found this link to restoredrelationships.org worth a look. In this country there are now dedicated units in the police, the National Domestic Violence Helpline and Childline as well. For the churches there is also the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) with further advice and information.

Incidentally, we learnt that while most domestic abuse is perpetrated by men on women (for which there is most research, and hence the main focus of our course), there is also abuse women on men; by men on men and by women on women.

A prayer for the home

Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, you shared at Nazareth the life of an earthly home. Reign in the home of your servants as Lord and King. Give them grace to minister to others as you have ministered to them. Grant that by deed and word they may be witnesses of your saving love to those among whom they live; for the sake of your holy name. Amen. (from Common Worship: Pastoral Services p 161)

Second Sunday of Advent 2013

What is in a word?

I thought that was going to be an easy question to answer. Take the sentence “The red bus was going along the road”, for example. A word like “bus” refers to an object, in this case a particular type of vehicle. “Red” tells us the colour we see. “Going” tells us what it was doing; “along” tells us how; and “the road” tells us where. It is a bit more complicated when you have to explain what “the” means – I know it is a “definite article” but that only requires more explanation. Then there are feelings like “travel-sick” or “love” which you can’t see. To cap it all there are words which have more than one meaning. “Love” is a good example because it can mean “romantic love shared between two people” it can mean “the bond between parents and children” and it can mean a strong liking for some object as in “I love chocolate”. Or there are words which change according to context such as the word “perfect”.

To perfect something is to take something that is not perfect and by some process make it so. To be perfect is to already be just right. Used as a verb it suggests an aspiration; as an adjective it suggests you have already achieved it.

Words can be used to describe objects we can see and touch; or feelings we experience; or to try to communicate ideas and ideals we strive for. Generally speaking we use words to try to make sense of what we see and know so that other people can also see and know what we do. It gets more complicated with poetry, jokes and puns but these also have in common the possibility of being shared with other people.

Christians sometimes refer to “the Word of God” which turns out to be both specific and ambiguous. It is specific because it refers to God communicating with the world. It is an expression of God’s truth and the intention is that human beings can and will share that.

It is ambiguous because sometimes it is taken to refer to the Bible – a book full of words and the source of inspiration for Christians of all ages – and sometimes it refers to Jesus Christ, who is the best expression of who and what God is.  I get the feeling that sometimes Christians forget what the Bible is for: it is a God-given gift intended to point us to Jesus.

So it is appropriate during Advent to thank God for the Bible, while remembering that its duty (and our reading of it) is to lead to Jesus.

A prayer for the second Sunday of Advent

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning; help us to hear them, to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and for ever hold fast the hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. (Common Worship)

Advent Sunday 2013

Why are we waiting? I’m bored!

What do you do while you wait? What do you do with the time that has been suddenly given to your but is not long enough (you think) to start a new task? For example, your guest said they would arrive at 12.30 pm, it is now 12.40 pm. It is too soon to start phoning or texting (or is it?) and you cannot (or don’t want to) start without them. What do you do? Play eye-spy?

Or your flight/train has been delayed. You have shown your ticket, checked your luggage, had your lunch so what do you do now? If you have a smart phone you might check your e-mails – but how many times can you do that?

The thing is, if we have to wait, especially unexpectedly, it is easy to get impatient and before long we might find that our travelling companions, colleagues or family, get the wrong end of our frustration. This is a time when the commandment “love your neighbour” might help us. On these occasions, whether waiting for a bus, for Christmas or the return of Jesus, we do well to remember “Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans chapter 13 verse 10, NRSV). We might not have a catch-all strategy of what to do while waiting, but at least we have an idea of “how to do”.

We might find it hard to be patient but it is in our power to be kind.

A prayer for Advent Sunday

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility; that on the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, on God, now and for ever. Amen. (Common Worship: Advent Sunday)

Archbishop Issues Call for Church Revolution.

A friend of mine alerted me to Archbishop Justin’s presidential address. It is well thought out and challenging not just to synod but to the ordinary person in the pew.

He sets out the fact that our culture is now very different to the one many of us grew up with; the task is to sort out how to take account of this seriously without diluting truth or denying the gospel. The good news of God’s love is revealed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. How to apply that in practice has produced a range of responses from Christians  – even from within the same church! One of the Archbishop’s points is that we need to be completely honest – if we say there is room for an opposing view point then the people holding it should know that in practice, not just word, they are welcome. If we believe that in fact their point of view has no place in our church then better say so than pretend otherwise. Ouch.

How we treat each other in church is no substitute for going out to share the gospel – yet what we do in church does have an impact on how the good news is (mis-)heard.


I have resisted till now the temptation to comment on this TV comedy in case it sounded like special pleading. However, credit where credit is due, this comedy is good. Mostly not ‘laugh out loud’ funny but clever, witty and may make you smile. The critics seem quietly impressed too.

From the Guardian, John Crace (11th Nov 2011) “Quite deliberately, with little fanfare, Rev. gets to the heart of the modern church by exposing it as both a source of much goodness and a complete irrelevance.” Nice for the writers of “Rev.” although somewhat damning with faint praise for the Church of England. Meanwhile Alison Graham has come round to liking the series (‘Radio Times’ week beginning 26th Nov 2011).

From a technical point of view it makes a change to see a fictional portrayal of the C of E that does not have me shouting at the TV: “that service is not authorised”, “you haven’t done the legal preliminaries”, “a green stole in Advent – you must be mad!” OK so it’s not really that important in a film or some such but other professionals have confessed the same impatience with inaccurate portrayals: real police compared to TV cop shows, real forensic scientists compared to etc … well you get the picture. It’s OK when you remember that it is fiction but people do often get their ideas from what they see on TV.

So far I have not noticed any major gaffes. For example, the prayer used in episode 3 was straight from the service of Compline and appropriate for a house blessing – and the archdeacon was quite right: leave exorcism to the experts. Similarly Rev. was right when he explained that the Holy Spirit is not a ghost, although he did start to get unstuck when he talked about “God’s energy” – He is more than an impersonal force – but I don’t expect systematic theology from a comedy.

Of course some of Rev. is somewhat far-fetched; it is fiction, after all. However, I find that any minor discomfort I may feel is because some of it can be quite close to home. Ministry can feel a bit like Rev. sometimes.

As for what rating I would give: technical accuracy 9 out of ten; story lines: 7 out of ten; laughter: 3 out of ten; feel good factor: 8 out of ten. Overall 7 out of ten or four stars.

Women bishops?

Most of what follows has also been published in our parish magazine. The Church of England’s General Synod is currently consulting the dioceses’ about proposals that would allow for women to be ordained bishop. The proposals also make provision for those who cannot accept this on grounds of conscience. I think it is fair to say that during the forth-coming debate it is unlikely that anyone will change their mind. The issues have been discussed for many years and I, for one, have not heard anything new recently to make me change my mind – much as I respect those with whom I disagree.

In 1975 the General Synod of the Church of England resolved that “there are no fundamental objections to the ordination of women to the priesthood”. It took some twenty or so years before that became a reality. Since then there has been much debate, discussion, and argument over how to interpret the Bible, and much soul-searching over the issue.

What follows is my personal opinion but I hope it will be useful whatever side of the discussion you find yourself on.

In the 1980s, when I first considered the question of the ordination of women, I was told that it was contrary to what the Bible taught, against the long-held tradition of the Church and to ordain women as priests would be to give in to the spirit of the age rather than to spread the good news of Christ.

However, when I came to look up the Bible references for myself, I found that the New Testament did not necessarily confirm that view. Some of the texts quoted were not about ordination as such – and were routinely ignored by churches. For example, in 1 Timothy it says that women should not teach yet they were allowed to be Sunday School teachers and college lecturers.

Some of the texts were ambiguous: the word “woman” could be translated as “wife”, which meant that the objection would not to be women being in charge but to wives bossing their husbands around! There is more in the New Testament, of course, but I have not found that it conclusively forbids the ordination of women in particular or the leadership of women in general.

Another objection at that time was that ordaining women was something the Church of England could not do unless the rest of the Christian churches did. I found that puzzling, since I thought that the reformation, which brought about the separation of the Church of England from Rome, was, in part, about national churches being able to make decisions without waiting for approval from somewhere else. I could see that not every Christian would agree with that point of view (the Roman Catholic Church for instance) but I could not understand how you could be in the Church of England and yet strongly disagree with one of its basic principles.

Now in the 21st century, the Church of England is considering the possibility of having women bishops. As before, the discussion, debate and arguments have been rumbling on for a couple of decades or more. It cannot be said that the C of E is making a hasty decision!


Bishops are understood to stand in the apostolic tradition – that is to say they have received their authority and their teaching from predecessors who go back to the time of the apostles including St Peter and St Paul etc. In Romans chapter 16 verse 7 Andronicus and Junia “are prominent among the apostles”. Junia, a woman, stands out amongst the other apostles. Here we have a woman in that tradition. Elsewhere the NT stresses the complementarity and mutuality of men and women. E.g. Galatians chapter 3 verse 28 “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ.” (NRSV) In other words our role and status as a member of Christ’s people does not depend upon an accident of birth.


As well as the Bible there is the Tradition of the Church to consider. An ancient title of Mary Magdalene is “apostle to the apostles”. This is because, when it came to being sent by Jesus to tell the good news of his resurrection, she was the first to do so. Meanwhile, having women Bishops is not a modern idea: the ancient Celtic church included women among their bishops.


In the Church of England, the person under God who has supreme authority, the person who has oversight (episcope) of the church is the Monarch; namely, Her Majesty the Queen. She has authority over the bishops – it is under her authority that they are appointed. She is defender of the (Christian) Faith and at her coronation she is anointed in recognition of her divine calling.

It seems illogical to me to be in the Church of England today and yet oppose women in the episcopate when we already have one at the top!

And finally, I believe that the Church of England should ordain women bishops not because it is what I like but because I believe that it is what God wants.


Each diocese is being asked to consider new legislation which would allow women to be consecrated as bishops and would also continue to take into account those who have conscientious theological objections. The Measure requires every diocesan bishop (be they male or female) to appoint another male bishop from the House of Bishops to have pastoral care of those parishes who have made a special request in writing. Meanwhile, as and when a parish has a vacancy, they may also request that only a male priest be appointed as incumbent/priest-in-charge.

Please add your prayers for the various meetings and discussions that are going on. I believe that the main tests for us will not be just whether the church makes the right decision; but also how we treat those with whom we profoundly disagree. There will be some people who will feel that they have “lost”. Will there still be a warm welcome for them in our church?

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