The question of marriage today, E4
Is thoughtmail the next big thing?
By Ian Gregor y f it wasn’t for the fact that nobody will be able to make money out of it, the next big thing would be ‘thoughtmail’. The boffins are hard at work on it, and within the lifetime of my grandchildren will have twigged how to send and receive messages across distance, time and space, without an ‘i’ or an ‘app’ – by telepathy. OK, like the song said: ‘they all laughed at Christopher Columbus’, and Mrs Baird would look at her son John
Logie and tell him to eat his porridge and get to school when she saw the gleam in his eye about television. Don’t write the idea off because it sounds too fanciful. Stranger things happen. Who would have dreamed that I could stand as I did the other day on York Station, and watch a pretty girl get our her tiny mobile phone and speak to her boyfriend. ‘Where are you now, love?’ she asked. ... ‘Not Chicago USA?...’ ‘Did you get the job?...’ And so it went on, voices bouncing off a sky-high satellite, like chatting over
a cup of tea in the station buffet. ‘Skype’ even sends images. Science has come a long way since I was given a ‘crystal set’ for my tenth birthday in 1946, and all my friends clustered round to hear music played by Victor Silvester and his orchestra. Now schoolchildren take their electronic gadgets to school, and go home to a swirl of words, music and ideas fed to them from distant sources. They don’t seem to show any signs of wonder at all this; it’s just there, innit? The vast range of discoveries that
have astonished all who have lived in the ‘modern’ (1930s onwards) world is just the start of what we may yet discover. Telepathic communication is among them, a mystery ready to be revealed: come in Miss Marple. Less well known, but just as likely to reveal all, is Rupert Sheldrake, author of several books, most recently The Science Delusion (Coronet 2012) in which he is pawing the ground waiting for science to take him seriously. Sheldrake is eloquent about the way in which human beings once talked to one another by telepathy, a gift now driven from us by modern life. He quotes recorded cases in which animals ‘know’ when there is to be a disaster like the Tsunami and flee to higher ground, and are even aware when their masters are coming home, despite different times of day or night. Humans, too, may ‘know’ what is happening to their loved ones. He quotes bushmen in the Kalahari desert who make a ‘kill’ and are taking the meat home when it is suggested that their families might be told that food was on its way. They replied: ‘They already know. We bushmen have a wire here’ (he tapped his chest). Sure enough the people waiting for them at their camp miles away were singing and dancing to welcome them. Serious people are engaged in research on non-material means of transferring feelings, needs and thoughts across distances without technical equipment. Their work is now at the same stage as was primitive experiments with radio and television. It is proving hard to get a fair hearing. Sheldrake criticises the science establishment, not least Richard Dawkins, for apparently dismissing the paranormal. He is reported to have said that those who believe in it are ‘fakes and charlatans’. Science, he insists, should be based on open-minded inquiry into the unknown. “No one would denounce research in physical chemistry, say, while knowing nothing about the subject. Yet in relation to psychic phenomena committed materialists feel free to disregard the evidence and behave irrationally and unscientifically.” A bright grandchild tells me in all seriousness that ‘thought-mail’ will be ‘the next big thing’. If I understand this little nerd aright, he means we will be able to control thought processes well enough to focus on the words and images we wish to transit, and mentally instruct them to reach the receiver, who will download them. And all this via telepathy. He must have been reading the Bible, and come across this bit from Psalm 139: ‘You understand my thoughts afar off. There is not a word in my tongue but you know it altogether.’ Such knowledge is ‘too wonderful for us’ But be sure somebody is working on it and eventually I may have to take the incredulity off my face and accept that this young man knows a lot more about the future that his grandfather.
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View from the Pew
My own nominations for Room 101 ’ve been a fan of the BBC comedy series, Room 101, for the past 18 years. The idea of the show is to invite celebrities to talk about their pet hates and persuade the host (first Nick Hancock, then Paul Merton, and now the brilliant Frank Skinner) to consign them to Orwell’s Room 101. Those of you familiar with the novel 1984, will know that Room 101 was the torture room based on a committee room in Broadcasting House, in which Orwell had to sit through interminable meetings. As I get older I can always find plenty to moan about. In the past I occasionally
itemised my Desert Island Discs, nowadays in an idle moment I’m far more prone to list those things I find particularly irksome. This week I’ll put the relatively new phenomenon of ‘blogging bishops’ into Room 101. I usually enjoy the Bishop of Bradford’s website (www.nickbaines.wordpress.com) but a recent entry was nauseatingly trite, incomprehensible and full of jargon. He wrote: “One of the privileges of being a bishop is that you get out and about a lot - visiting real people in real local places, hearing local stories, learning about the uniquely local realities, and seeing one ‘locality’
through the lens of another.” I think what irritates me here is the idea that bishops are somehow above it all, that it’s other people who are ‘real’ rather than them, and that they have some superior insight as a result of being above the fray of ‘local’ or ‘real’ life. Even worse than this is a recent blog entry by the blogging Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, (www.bishopalan.blogspot.co.uk). Here are a few of his sweeping generalisations: “The Church in its own bubble has become, at best the guardian of the value system of the nation’s grandparents, and at worst a den of religious anoraks defined by defensiveness, esoteric logic and discrimination… The RC Church seems corrupt and weird about sex… The real fault line now in the Church is between those of all stripes who are at home with
April 8, 2012 social change, and whose Jesus inspires them to find ways of living authentic lives in this culture, and those who fear it, and whose religion is a way to prevent it, or even reverse it.” There’s a dismissive sneer at grandparents as a group, the gratuitous swipe at Roman Catholicism, and the irritating use of the word ‘authentic’, which is intended to convey that only those enthusiastic and unquestioning about recent sweeping social change are ‘living authentic lives’. In future weeks I’ll put other dislikes in Room 101. In the meantime your own suggestions about the irritations of church life, minor or major, are welcome. And I’ll be the judge as to whether they are consigned to Room 101. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Time to end this Lords conundrum A reduced number of bishops will continue to sit in the reformed House of Lords in a draft bill that was published last week. This poses severe problems for the Church of England in the sense that bishops cannot be regarded as full-time members of the legislature: they are only part-time, temporary attendees who have a full-time job elsewhere. The reduction from 26 bishops to 12 in a mainly elected chamber will undoubtedly result in the neglect of their diocesan duties. If these proposals go through, then the pressure will be on these 12 bishops to justify their places alongside those who are newly ennobled as a result of proportional elections. They will stick out like a sore thumb unless they attend frequently, vote and make speeches. In other words we have the prospect of bishops becoming politicians - something that is not their calling. It might be time for the Church of England to voluntarily pull the plug on the Peers Spiritual.
Tim Farron, the ambitious President of the Liberal Democrats who some see as a successor to Nick Clegg, has quickly dissociated himself from a letter he signed to the Advertising Standards Authority following the ban on street healers in Bath. In a weaselly U-turn to a Lib Dem website, Farron claims the ASA decision ‘offends my Liberalism far more than it bothers me from a Christian perspective’. He admits he should not have signed the letter as written, denounces its references to prayers for Fabrice Muamba as ‘crass’, and protests that while prayer ‘helps’, God ‘mostly heals through medicine, surgery, and human compassion and ingenuity’. Farron has probably ended up offending everyone. Many Christians will see him as a coward who turned tail when his political career seemed in danger while others (Christian and non-Christian) will wonder why he signed such a letter in the first place. Although he has had his defenders on the grounds of support for free speech, the overwhelming Lib Dem response has been negative. A revealing story, little reported in the national press, has weakened a potential focus for opposition to the Coalition within the Lib Dem party.
It looks as if a reduced number of bishops will continue to sit on the leather benches of the Lords, no doubt keeping their privileged place on the ‘government’ or ‘spiritual’ side of the house. The only consolation for Lib Dem peers anxious to take over the benches is that there will be fewer bishops and less competition for seats in a House due to be reduced in numbers. As well as their seats, the bishops will be able to continue claiming £300 a day for every full day they attended the house ((£150 for a half day). Chris Bryant, Labour MP and former Anglican priest, reports that last October the bishops claimed £15,300 in allowances, including £2,700 for the Bishop of Chester, £2,250 for the Bishop of Leicester, and £900 for London. Bryant terms the Bishop of London’s claim ‘extraordinary’. Presumably there are no expenses involved for accommodation. At 64, the bishop is entitled to a London Freedom Pass but perhaps he has claimed for taxis or petrol for his official car. The best guess is that the bishop has put in the claim to cover office expenses, something he has done in the past. Bryant’s judgement that Catholic bishops make a more effective political splash and are not allowed to sit in the Lords must be challenged. Which newspaper does he read and which TV stations does he watch if he thinks that?
. .. y r e l l a G g n i r e p s i h The W
Once there were closed scholarships at Oxford and Cambridge for students from particular parts of the country or certain privileged schools. Although public schools had their fair share of these, the bias was really towards the old and well-established. Lady Elizabeth Hastings left money to help poor scholars from the likes of Appleby and Alston because those were needy places in the early 18th Century. Now the School of Oriental and African Studies is promoting a new type of closed scholarship, one restricted to the follower of a particular religion. Only Muslims can apply for Nohoudh Trust PhD Scholarships. The 2010 Equality Act would seem to rule this out but SOAS claims there is an exemption if the restriction is set out in the trust document (which it is in this case). It also claims that since the aim of the research is the better integration of Muslims into British society the restriction is justified. Muslims, it is argued, are more likely to get an accurate picture of the Muslim community and persuade other Muslims to speak to them. To the outsider this looks like giving up on integration before the research gets under way. Over to the Charity Commissioners.
The post-mortem on the failure of the Covenant has begun. Quick off the mark to apportion praise or blame was Ruth Gledhill in The Times. She gave the credit to the Rev Jean Mayland, a veteran of many debates on women priests. Mayland, now 75, has retired to Hexham where she worships at the Abbey. “Networking and getting people together is perhaps my biggest forte,” she told Gledhill. “But in our wildest dreams never thought it would get defeated.” Fingering Maynard as the culprit is a bit like accusing Miss Marple of committing murder but many veterans of Lambeth 2008 will remember this mild-mannered woman lobbying in the Marketplace on behalf of WATCH, Inclusive Church and the Modern Churchperson’s Union. Then aged 72 she joined other volunteers in sharing Spartan living conditions for the chance to influence decisions about the future of the Anglican Communion. She argued against the moratorium on gay blessings and consecrations and criticised the proposed Covenant as designed to please Africans, who wanted to preserve a fundamentalist interpretation of scripture, and Roman Catholics addicted to a hierarchical system of control. Maynard gave her recipe then for victory. “The answer,” she said, “lies in developing a spirituality for the long haul and in getting practised at lifting oneself up from blow after blow.” It seems to have worked.
April 8, 2012
Searching for an Archbishop of Canterbury for our times By J John r Rowan Williams has served as head of the Anglican Communion for ten years and the world has changed markedly in that time, and not for the better. Within the UK there have been profound changes in society: the complex responses to 9/11; the rise of exaggerated political correctness; the financial crisis; an increasingly confused and vague national spirituality; and a continuing numerical decline and division within the Anglican Church. In the light of this, I suggest that the new Archbishop needs to have the following qualities.
tion have their merits but they can be misinterpreted. When it comes to eternal truths there is a lot to be said for plain speaking. But connecting with people is not simply a matter of words, it is also about deeds. The modern world may not understand very much about Christianity but it is able to recognise and admire kindness and
goodness. The new Archbishop will soon have enemies, so it will do him much good if he is able to radiate that kindness and grace that can turn enemies into friends. 4) He should be a man who will confront the culture. In the UK the influence of the church is being increasingly marginalised,
5) He should be a man of discernment, not simply intelligence or wisdom but that combination of God-given grace and human intellect that allows someone to detect problems and identify opportunities. The new Archbishop will need to discern whom he should choose as an ally and whom he should reject. This, of course, is going to be most critical in terms of the media. They cannot be ignored but neither can they be unhesitatingly embraced. The new Archbishop will also need the wisdom to know which battles must be fought today and which can be postponed until tomorrow.
1) He should be a man who knows God’s priorities. One of the dangers of involvement with a large organisation having a range of internal issues is that you can become focused on administration and crisis management and lose sight of what you are supposed to do. This is a particular problem where the main item on your agenda should be to do God’s will and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is vital to remember that even at their best, the denominations only approximate to God’s eternal Kingdom. One ironic result of this is that the very worst thing that any church leader can do is to put their denomination first. Churches exist for God’s Kingdom, not the other way around. The new Archbishop must be God’s man first and an Anglican second.
6) He should be a man of courage. It is a long-standing rule that anyone who goes out and preaches the good news of Jesus will face opposition. As far as I’m aware the last Archbishop of Canterbury to be martyred was Thomas Cranmer, who went to the stake in 1556 but these are frankly dark days for the church in the West.
2) He should be a man of conviction, a man confident in the Christian faith as revealed by Scripture and taught by the Church over centuries. For a long time church leaders and theologians have imagined that caution, uncertainty and even doubt are virtues. Unfortunately, in our unsophisticated, soundbite age, even a slightly hesitant expression of a theological truth will be perceived as denial. In a culture where everything is doubted and conviction is a rarity, the new Archbishop of Canterbury needs to be a man of firm belief.
If the Anglican Church in our land is to have any future then it needs a remarkable leader. The qualities I have listed are in short supply and the occurrence of them all in one person would be close to a miracle. Fortunately, I have put my hope in a God for whom miracles do not pose a problem. What is more, I think there are three suitable candidates!
3) He should be a man who can connect, and is able to express himself in words that can be understood. Subtlety and sophistica-
The Rev Canon J John Is Director, www.philotrust.com
he Cranmer blog reviews the first Parliamentary debate for 40 years of a substantive motion dealing directly with euthanasia and the ‘right to die’: “The law on assisted suicide remains unchanged: it is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Yet we know where the DPP’s ‘guidelines’ will end, for we have seen with abortion that procedures that were only ever intended to be performed in extremis lead to all manner of unintended abuses. A distinction will now be drawn between maliciously encouraging someone to kill themselves, which would continue to be prosecuted, and compassionately supporting someone’s decision to die, which will not lead to arrest and prosecution. And it will be for the clever and expensive lawyers to argue over whether or not one may be compassionately malicious.” One contributor responds: “Suicide is not illegal. Openly assisting someone, physically incapable but mentally aware to make that decision should not be a crime. The DPP currently investigate all cases of such now, and is more than likely to make the decision not to prosecute. Why not allow the ‘investigation’ to take place while the person is alive instead of piling the pain of arrest and suspicion upon a loving friend or relative.” Another writes: “A man’s life has intrinsic value because it reflects the image of his Creator. That life must be defended even from the desires of the man himself.” The Ugley Vicar blog discusses a recent interview with Bishop Gene Robinson on Radio 4: “Bishop Robinson spoke, with great eloquence, of how moves to the acceptance of lesbianism, gayness, bisexuality and transexuality are leadings of the Holy Spirit.
with Christianity now seen as just a minor element in a diverse cultural landscape. Even when the Christian faith is acknowledged, what the gospel stands for is diluted, so that any sort of biblical morality has been almost entirely excluded from the bedroom and is increasingly being removed from the boardroom. A new Archbishop must be prepared to stand up for what Scripture teaches, as truths to be lived out in our lives. He must be prepared to take the good news of Jesus out from the church into the shopping mall, the dole queue and the football stadium – he needs to be a missionary Archbishop.
“Robinson, and those of the same persuasion are following the route of Quakerism. Let us not forget that in its day, Quakerism was a vibrant expression of many aspects of Christian faith. Quakers were at the forefront of social reforms which put the mainstream churches to shame and literally left their mark on the English landscape, to say nothing of their impact elsewhere. Yet Quakerism today can hardly claim to be an orthodox expression of Christianity.” A contributor writes: “It is ironic that the supposedly same Holy Spirit is telling others in no uncertain terms- to live a life of celibacy - the way of love and holiness, and not the way of the flesh. So who is actually hearing from God?” The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, blogs: “Yesterday, for the third time this year, someone expressed to me genuine concern about involving the Church in a project because they feared that dealing with a discriminatory organisation would compromise their moral integrity. The C of E used to be the guardian of the nation’s morals, but is increasingly perceived as irrelevant, or even a threat to them. “This moral shift makes the conventional language of high, low and broad, conservatives and liberals, traditionalists and revisionists, mods and rockers, irrelevant. The real fault line now in the Church is between those of all stripes who are at home with social change, and whose Jesus inspires them to find ways of living authentic lives in this culture, and those who fear it, and whose religion is a way to prevent it, or even reverse it.”
What the Blogs Say
By Peter Grinyer oday, marriage is seen by many as a relic of the past. Why not just live together without this expensive and tiresome formality? Indeed according to the Times on 4 February it is up to £5,000 a year cheaper to live with another person and share costs, so why marry? The problem is brought into sharp focus with the arrival of the first baby, the result being that only too often the man leaves. Today according to Gingerbread (the Charity for single-parent families) 23 per cent of children are being brought up by single parents: in 90 per cent of the cases the lone parent is a woman. So what is happening and is it important? Does marriage matter or is it irrelevant to any of these issues in the 21st Century? In 2008 the Office of National Statistics published research based on over 5,600 children. The research showed that 33 per cent of children of single parents suffered from emotional problems, and 43 per cent had behavioural issues. They were also likely to be three times more likely to be aggressive, and, if their parent forms a new relationship are three times more likely to run away from home. Educationally it has long been known that children of single-parent families on average do worse than those from stable couples. The latest report came from research done by the University of Chicago reported in The Telegraph on 3 January 2012 that “Boys are more likely to misbehave and go on to achieve low grades —particularly marked in single-parent families.” Lacking a male role model in the family, some boys suffer long-term consequences. Ashley John-Baptiste of X Factor fame in an interview article in the Times on November 12 2011 talking about his troubled childhood said: “I was searching for something. If you don’t have a father you always are”. It is now accepted that a stable mother/father relationship is the best foundation for a child’s welfare. The question of how to encourage that stable relationship has been contentious. The
government instructed the National Office of Statistics in 2003 that it was unnecessary to record “Marital Status” that the appropriate category was to be changed to “Couple parent families”. The inevitable result has been that government research cannot easily differentiate between married and unmarried couples. Harriet Harman, a Labour Minister, was reported to have commented in 2008: “Marriage has little relevance to public policy.” The implication being that the stability of a relationship was unaffected by the marital status of the parties involved. The result of this attitude can be seen in Gingerbread statistics. In 1971 eight per cent of families with children were single-parent families, by 1998 it was 24 per cent and by 2010 it was 23 per cent. The theory that “Marriage does not matter” has been completely refuted by research carried out as part of the The Millennium Cohort Study (MCS). The MCS was a study of 15,119 babies and their parents. The babies were born between September 2000 and January 2002. The families were interviewed when their babies were nine months old and again when they were three years old. The starting point was the family status at the birth of the child. This could be classed as married, cohabitating, engaged, friends, etc. Married couples represented 63 per cent of the sample, and cohabitating or closely involved 33 per cent, the rest being “Other”. The first conclusion that can be drawn from the MCS is that cohabitation is inherently unstable, particularly where children are involved. The MCS sought to establish if income or number of children would influence the results. Whilst the number of children, in the family unit, affected the figures marginally, income was another matter. The MCS showed that where income is low (ie less than £15,000) then marriage was far more stable than cohabitation. By the time income had reached in excess of £41,000 at 2006 levels the stability of cohabitation begins to approach but does not match marriage. The MCS is backed up by research by The Institute for Social and Economic Research over a seven-year period, which showed that about 70 per cent of marriages lasted until the children were 16 as compared to only a third of cohabitating relationships. While the Millennium study is highlighting the problems of stability in cohabitating and married couples it does not currently have anything to say about the financial effect of break up. Gingerbread, has many statistics on this. There are three million children living with 1.9 million single parents and 51 per cent of the single parents were either divorced, separated or widowed. In total 49 per cent were single, ie not married. Of those 940,000, 46 per cent live in poverty, 43 per cent are in social housing. Some 62 per cent of single parents regardless of previous status (Married, single, etc) receive no financial support from their former partner. A total of 71 per cent receive housing benefit. The total cost to the state including all benefits has been estimated as £20 billion at 2006 levels. All well-intentioned attempts to force financial contributions from the absent parent by all governments have ended in costly failure. The absence of either a mother or a father has other consequences. In every society and in every religion “Honour your mother and father” has been a core teaching. However, it is difficult for a child of a single parent to honour someone who has abandoned them, possibly diminishing their life chances and where as a result the remaining parent may suffer poverty today and loneliness in old age. The cost of marriage is also a factor. However, modern weddings with the associated stag and hen parties are a product of the Victorian invention of the “White Wedding” and the marketing departments of the wedding industry. In previous
April 8, 2012 generations it was a much quieter ceremony, with only close family involved. The fact is that you can get married either at a civil ceremony or a religious one for less than £500. In spite of mounting evidence, the “Modern View” is that marriage is irrelevant to the problems that arise when couples drift into relationships with the complications of children and property ownership. There are continual calls to change the law to assist those who are cohabitating and to give them rights and status equal to married couples. Anyone who asserts that marriage is a solution to many of these issues is routinely portrayed as unsympathetic to the plight of the single parent and it is usually suggested that their arguments are patently wrong because of the many children who have a good childhood even though they are brought up by a single parent. Marriage is not a “Magic Answer” but it is better than the alternatives. Where there are marital problems, investing in Marriage Guidance is a much cheaper option than supporting single mothers. This must be a priority for all involved organizations and the government. A sixth form girl wrote in a 2002 questionnaire for the Diocese of Southwark’s report: “However painful it is for me because of my personal situation, I need to know the facts as it is my future that is affected,” and a single mother when interviewed by the author commented “I wish I had known”. Promoting marriage must become central to our vision of a future society. This can only be done by education of children and young people, even adults. At a time when the nation needs to reduce the Welfare Budget we need to go back to basics and tackle the cause and not just the effect of social problems if we are to have any real chance of reducing the costs of single-family support. We need to promote marriage, it does matter, primarily for the sake of the children but also for the parents, the State and for society in general. The “Tax Break” is at first sight a simple idea but it reaches few people, does not tackle the realities of heterosexual relationships and does little to educate the unemployed, the uninterested and the young — in marriage and partnership relations and problems. In this area education is paramount and at present there is little on offer. This is a long outstanding problem, as an article in The Times on 11 February 2002 by Alexandra Frean revealed: “There was a reluctance among policy makers and opinion-formers to talk about the importance of marriage for fear of being considered judgemental”. Yet the Southwark Report reported that young people actually wanted information and valued it. The result of its lack can be seen in the problems we see today. Finally I would thank all the people, whose advice and articles have helped to produce this summary. Any errors are mine not theirs. Peter Grinyer is a Reader in the Exeter Diocese
Marriage: Irrelevant or not?
April 8, 2012
By Graham Kings, Bishop of Sherborne njustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable web of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects us all indirectly’. Martin Luther King wrote these words in a letter from jail in Birmingham, Alabama, on 6 April 1963.
Communion through the Lambeth Conference, which meets every 10 years, and through regular visits to partner provinces and dioceses across the world. We have found that in encouraging clergy and lay people to join in with these partnerships, they are also invigorated with the vision of interdependence. Third, bishops have followed the Covenant closely over the last 8 years or so and seen its developing improvements.
juxtaposed. Sadly, the majority of the diocesan synods of the Church of England, but not the majority of the voters, has opted for a bag of marbles. It seems to me that there are three options for the future shape of the Anglican Communion. First, the ‘web of mutuality’ manifested in the Covenant, which provides autonomy and interdependence with
Communion Connections: Web of Mutuality or Fragmentation? On Wednesday last week a group of bishops of the Church of England, with Justices of the Supreme Court, pondered these words in our hearts. We were being shown round the new court in Parliament Square, London. The words are etched in glass, by Richard Kindersley, one of a series of quotations, in the library. I remember reflecting on their connections to current discussions about the Anglican Communion Covenant. The Covenant was designed as a ‘web of mutuality’ across the Anglican Communion: a balance of provincial autonomy with worldwide interdependence and accountability. The Covenant sets out an orderly process towards the resolutions of conflicts to replace the chaotic, hastily arranged meetings of the past, which too often have led to a barrage of curses and contested statements. Tragically, the Covenant has been voted down in the Church of England and now cannot be debated and voted on in General Synod next July. It needed over half of the 44 dioceses to vote for it positively. So far 25 dioceses have voted no, and 15 yes. Interestingly, the total number of votes, so far, is slightly over half in favour and, amongst the bishops, nearly 80 per cent were in favour. Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of History of the Church at the University of Oxford, has accused the bishops of being out of touch with the rest of the church. There may be other explanations of our votes. First, a foundation of our calling is providing a focus of unity in the dioceses and a web of connections across space and time. Thus a Covenant that reflects a ‘web of mutuality’ is attractive and nourishing. Second, bishops experience the depth and challenge of relationships in the
The English vote may have an impact on, but cannot bring to a halt, the Covenant movement in the Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as being ‘Primate of All England’ is also one of the ‘Instruments of Communion’. He presides at the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meetings and the Anglican Consultative Council (the latter has clergy and lay people as well as bishops) as an ‘Instrument of Communion’, rather than as ‘Primate of All England’, and so will continue to fulfill these roles. The consequences of last Saturday’s votes are being discussed across the Communion. Andrew Brown of The Guardian has written about ‘The Anglican Schism’ and sees Saturday’s vote as a key date. Andrew Goddard’s Fulcrum article, ‘The Anglican Communion Covenant and the Church of England: Ramifications’ is particularly perceptive. He shows that the Covenant will continue to be considered around the Communion, that eight provinces have embraced it and the next Anglican Consultative Council (27 October to 7 November 2012 in New Zealand) will take stock, but cannot end the process. So, despite the English decision, other provinces are being encouraged to adopt the Covenant. I have argued that the Anglican Communion may be described as a ‘bunch of grapes’ as opposed to a ‘bag of marbles’: personal interdependence, organically connected, rather than isolated autonomy, merely
‘It seems to me that there are three options for the future shape of the Anglican Communion’
accountability. This is the broad centre ground of those who vote for the Covenant, and includes the leaders of the Communion-minded Global South Anglican movement, based in Singapore. Second, ‘confessionalism’, gathered
around the Jerusalem Declaration of the conservative Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA), the follow-up group to the Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON). Based currently in Nairobi, FCA hosts a conference in London from 23-27 April, at which some members of the Global South Anglican Movement will also attend. Third, ‘independent autonomy’, following the radically liberal current leaders of The Episcopal Church, in the USA, (TEC).
Following further likely controversial decisions of TEC’s General Convention in July, there may well be more fragmentation between the first two and the third options. These decisions, together with the English vote, may lead to the Anglican Communion declining into a Federation or Association. To counter this doleful demotion, we need to hold onto the long-term vision of interdependence and autonomy in the first 3 sections of the Covenant and find another way to express accountability. This hope may be inspired by words from another letter written from prison. They provide a tantalizing mission, tantamount to a way forward amidst the fragments. Saint Paul, in Rome, wrote to the Church at Ephesus in the early 60s AD: ‘But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.’ (Ephesians 4:15-16) Dr Graham Kings is Bishop of Sherborne and theological secretary of Fulcrum http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/
April 8, 2012
Aardman takes to the High Seas! he Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists (dir. Peter Lord, cert. U) brings Aardman’s Wallace and Gromit team into new territory with a tale of the high seas. Resisting making the script too much like “Talk like a pirate day”, me hearties, they’ve cast Hugh Grant to voice The Pirate Captain who makes one last bid to be “Pirate of the Year”. As he’s up against rather more booty-laden competitors Cutlass Lil (Salma Hayek), Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) and Peg Leg Hastings (Lenny Henry), his chances seem slim, especially as his choice of ships to raid is poor (plague ship, school outing, etc). Then he goes after The Beagle and captures Charles Darwin (David Tennant). As Polly, the ship’s parrot, looks uncommonly like a dodo, a whole new thread to the story takes us to London, despite Queen Victoria’s hatred of pirates, to display Polly at the Royal Society. Pirate Captain even slips the word and the concept of evolution to Darwin. The storyline is adapted by Hamish McColl from Gideon Defoe’s first Pirates book (no doubt with more to come from the series) and seems rather slimmed down in plot detail. Making up for it is the visual stuff, which is just brilliant: the application form for Pirate of the Year has a section for “roaring” where the strongest rating is “Brian Blessed”, and then Brian Blessed turns up voicing the Pirate King who presides over the contest. Anachronisms extend in all directions from the supposed 1837 setting, beginning with long-dead Admiral Collingwood at an audience with Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton), but we also get electric light, lifts, and even a prototype nuclear bomb. A ship with a reversing warning is another novelty, though sadly not enough for the rowing boat in the way. There are not that many huge laughs, but it hardly matters as the plot takes one crazy twist after another, culminating in the not so far-fetched idea of a Victorian dining club specialising in eating endangered species. Try the pygmy elephant nuggets. The crew are identified by attributes. Number Two (Martin Freeman) is actually billed as Pirate with Scarf, Brendan Gleeson as Pirate with Gout, Russell Tovey as Albino Pirate, and Ashley Jensen as Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate. All the characters are in Aardman’s traditional claymation. The model for the pirate ship is actually 15 feet long, and built by a company called Cod Steaks, based in Bristol (so very shipshape). The drawn background flies by: there’s a tavern called Napoleon Blownapart, and the motto of the Royal Society appears to be “Playing God since 1449”. Then when most of the audience has left, stay for the marvellous illustrations during the end credits showing a succession of contemporary posters for events like Cockney Baiting, and consumer goods – there’s even a pauper repellent, “Urchin-be-gone”.
ore serious fare can be found in Werner Herzog’s latest documentary, Into the Abyss (cert. 12A). After looking at primitive cave drawings in Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Herzog turns his attention to primitive elements of our own time, as Michael Perry awaits his execution in Texas for a brutal murder. Herzog examines why people kill, and why the state kills killers.
Coming up over Easter, other than the Pirates there’s not much aimed at the school
holiday market. French film Le Havre seems a heart-warming story of an elderly man looking after an African boy who’s escaped from a container of illegal immigrants. Questioned about the boy, he says he’s his brother: “I’m the albino of the family”. Of course, ITV’s feeble TV serial version has served to enhance the reputation of the real thing as James Cameron’s Titanic makes a 3D return to the big screen – or take your sou’wester and head for the nearest IMAX. Steve Parish
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK Lost Kingdoms of Africa (Acorn Media) an you believe that there are some parts of the planet that even David Attenborough has not filmed? In this surprising BBC mini-series, Dr Gus Casely-Hayford takes us to parts of Africa that are hardly ever seen, exploring four ancient kingdoms. Blowing away desert sands, he shows how green, fertile and immensely rich Africa once was. In the first of these 55-minute episodes, we see Nubia’s pyramids, which still remain as testament to when Nubia was powerful enough to conquer Egypt. We also get a peek into the Old
Testament land of Cush. Casely-Hayford then asks whether Ethiopia’s
emperors really descended from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. En route, he shows Lallibella’s huge church, dug out of solid rock like a massive sculpture, and Debra Doma’s hilltop monastery – one of the oldest permanently- occupied Christian communities in the world. The Great Zimbabwe story reveals a gold-rich African kingdom and a city whose amazing huge and precision-fit stone walls still puzzle us today. The final episode shows how the displaced people of Benin (now parts of Nigeria and Mali) kept their identities alive from ancient times through wood and metal images, some of which are now in the British Museum. This is a visual treat, with some dramatic landscapes, breathtaking rock-built settlements, a castle and bright colours, virtually all of it uncovering an Africa that most people did not know existed. Discovering these civilisations is a particularly fresh experience. Derek Walker
April 8, 2012
Understanding what the Bible says about the Last Things The Last Things Anthony C Thiselton SPCK, pb, £17.99 nthony Thiselton is both a philosopher and a biblical scholar. His past publications have included an excellent short dictionary of the philosophy of religion and important studies on hermeneutics. In this new study of the Bible’s teaching on eschatology both Thiselton’s gifts as an analytical philosopher and as an exegete are on display. Typical of his approach is his discussion of the question of whether we pass into God’s presence immediately after death (as one or two biblical texts suggest) or whether we have to wait for the General Resurrection of the Dead (as many more texts appear to suggest). At death do we depart immediately to be with Christ or do we enter into an intermediate state of waiting for the Coming of Christ? Thiselton uses a famous paradox of Gilbert Ryle and an analysis made by Wittgenstein to argue that there is a difference between how an observer views things and how a participant sees them. From the point of view of an observer, there is a period of continuing history, waiting and expectation. But from the point of view of the participant there is only the experience of passing into the presence of Christ. For the Catholic theologian, this solution raises problems about the role of the saints and their ability to intercede for the living in God’s presence but this is not a problem Thiselton addresses. Although there are references to discussions of purgatory by Geoffrey Rowell, an
Music and Theology in NineteenthCentur y Britain Ed: Martin V Clarke Ashgate, hp, £60.00 his scholarly work consists of 11 essays by a selection of musicians and Theologians. As usual with such works the contributions are of variable quality, Ian Bradley’s essay starts things off with an eccentric argument that the mostly high-church composers of Victorian hymn tunes were essentially theologically liberal in that they exude supposedly liberal values of grace, order, openness and diversity, a claim that the composers themselves might have seen fit to question. Things improve however from then on, the second essay by Martin V Clarke on the rise of hymnody in the Church of England among both high church and evangelical sections setting the tone. He shows convincingly that for all their differences, both groups were united in seeking a corporate spirituality of worship that, in its drawing on ancient sources, revealed the church as cutting across barriers of time and space. These essays are fascinatingly wide ranging, Charles Edward McGuire’s essay on the teaching of English hymnody by Non-conformist missionaries in Madagascar being a brilliant example. What at first seems the dry and technical subject of the use of Tonic Sol-Fa
Anglo-Catholic theologian, and to such Roman Catholics as Karl Rahner and Newman, Thiselton writes as a Protestant and evangelical theologian. Writing as an evangelical, Thiselton understandably feels the need to address the concerns of the premillenialists. He admits that it is not easy to convince the literalists of the symbolic nature of much of the Book of Revelation but stresses the fundamental point that the main concern of prophecy is not primarily prediction (although it may include this) but to draw out ‘the practical implications of the gospel for those who stand in need of assurance or rebuke as participants’. This is a book full of fresh insights that will provoke reflection among scholars and also stimulate ordinary Christians to think again about death, resurrection and judgement. It is a book that requires careful reading but it
singing method actually opens up a penetrating study of the relationship between European missions and colonialism. To what extent were Malagasy Christians being taught to sing in a dignified and reverent manner, or were they simply denied the opportunity to express their faith in their own way to placate the musical prejudices of British Victorians? The reader shall come to his or her own conclusions. As this reference to the Tonic Sol-Far singing method indicates, this is an often technical book; the nonspecialist reader must be braced for a good deal of technical vocabulary and ominous depictions of musical scales and assorted paraphernalia alongside some high-flown Theology and more besides. The final essay, on the influence of evolutionary science and philosophy on Victorian religion and musicology by Bennett Zon encapsulates the spirit of this book perfectly. It must be carefully read in full to be understood, or indeed believed. This is a formidable work; the price alone will deter the faint-hearted. However, whilst none of these essays constitutes a light read, they are rewardingly comprehensible, given effort, and give one a pleasing sense of triumph after reading them. If you are interested in the subject of Music and theology in Nineteenth Century Britain and are looking for a challenge then this may be for you. Christopher Villiers
is not obscure or hard to understand if given the attention it deserves. At times it is also a book that can lead to prayer or deeper spiritual insight. Among the highlights are Thiselton’s use of Wittgenstein’s understanding of waiting to illuminate the eschatology of the New Testament. For Wittgenstein what is important about waiting is not the feelings of expectation inside someone’s head so much as the acts of preparation to which the behaviour gives rise. The New Testament does not want us to be in a heightened psychological state of expectation at the thought of Christ’s return but to be living calmly under the Lordship of Christ in our everyday life. Thiselton follows Tom Wright in rejecting everlasting punishment while leaving open the question of whether some human beings are so resistant to God’s love that they will simply cease to be. “The darker side of language about the ‘Last Things’ cannot be all hypothesis designed to imply accountability,” Thiselton tells us, “but an over objectified understanding of the ‘Last Things’ sometimes goes beyond what we know for sure.” In Thiselton’s understanding, human beings are more like oppressed victims than those who freely choose good or evil acts. He broadens his concept of oppression from the economic interpretation favoured by liberation theologians to argue human beings can be imprisoned by their historical circumstances or ‘throwness’, to use the language of Heidegger. “If God’s vindication of the oppressed includes those weighed down by the constraints imposed upon them, by their race, gender or society, who is to say how far God’s act of vindication can reach?” he asks. The Justification which we accept now in faith is a foreshadowing of the Last Judgement when we will receive God’s definite verdict that “things have been put right” or ‘justified’ in Christ. Paul Richardson
Life’s not always easy Gordon W Kuhrt Morse-Brown Publishing, pb, £9.95 f God is all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful, then how can he allow pain and disability? Gordon W Kuhrt says adults run away from this big question, therefore, they can’t help their children answer it. Through his book Life’s not always easy, Kuhrt deals with the heavy subject by providing a quick read with a light tone geared towards children and grandchildren. He tells of the experiences he had growing up with an infantile paralysis, polio that in the modern day would be treated early in childhood. Without the right care early on, he had frequent surgeries for the first 20 years of his life. In addition, he did not see his family often as they were Christian missionaries in India and he had to remain in England for treatment. However, he urges his grandchildren and anyone else reading that it wasn’t all gloomy. He insists that other people face worse pains and difficulties and that his suffering should not be put on their level. Half of the small book is about his own experiences, and then he writes in his second half about what there is to do about pain. He wants children and adults to consider the pain that they and others go through and he especially wants children to not worry about being cowardly or whiney if they are facing troubles. He states that “Pain is a warning system. It keeps us from danger and damage.” Kuhrt lists different pains in life: some are accidents, some are a part of nature, and some are human behaviour. He also alludes to the Book of Job, saying that “sometimes pain and suffering is a real mystery which we just cannot understand.” Something to recognize is that God is all good and almighty but that through Jesus, God also suffers, even more than human suffering. As the book is a journey to understanding, Kuhrt states towards the end that when anybody is hurting, they should seek help. But whether medical help for physical pain, or family and friendly help for emotional pain, either one also requires faith in God. In time, people must accept the pain and challenge themselves to see what they can still do with their lives. But not only should people be concerned for their own pain but be concerned about others. While Kuhrt explains suffering and what people can do to cope, he also provides an answer to how God will mend human suffering. It gives a strong conclusion to a soft theology lesson for young people, yet gives a warm reminder to adults about handling pain, disability and suffering. Evan Phail
www2engl, na. nsuna, y2c. m
The mysterious world of VAT charges on food
A novel view of the week
Sex discrimination! or a moment last week I thought April Fool’s Day had come early. But no, Friday really was National Cleavage Day. A day of empowerment for women everywhere — or so the promoters would have us believe. Any guesses as to whom that disinterested group of people might be? That’s right: Wonderbra. “It is a day for women to realise that their cleavage is something unique and that they should be proud of it.” Actually, I would contest that. Anyone who ever walked past a building site in the days before Considerate Construction, or who has had a chap in to fix the boiler, will know about another kind of cleavage. However, gentlemen in low slung jeans were not being exhorted to celebrate National Cleavage Day last Friday. This can’t be right. If insurance companies can longer advertise special policies for women drivers, how can it be legal for men to be excluded from an upbeat parade of their own unique assets? There is clearly an equality issue here. If, as Samantha Patterson of Wonderbra is reported as saying, National Cleavage Day “gives men a legitimate reason to stare at boobs”, surely it is only fair that women should be offered a legitimate opportunity
to ogle male backsides? We also need to be able to vote for a male celebrity alongside Holly Willoughby — this year’s winner — to reign in the cleavage hall of fame. In an age when men are increasingly marginalised and disempowered, we should be vigilant for those areas of public life where they are at risk of being disadvantaged. After all, as a spokesperson for Wonderbra so cogently puts it, “Showing your cleavage is the embodiment of empowerment.” I for one would be sorry to see men excluded from the all the wide-ranging benefits that come from being sexually objectified and turned into a commodity for the sake of the free market. Of course, it’s possible that some men will object to being pressurised into celebrating National Cleavage Day. But this is probably because they are old and bitter because their cleavage is saggy. Men like this just want to spoil the fun for everyone else by claiming the moral high ground — but we all know it’s just sour grapes really. Or else it’s because they have no sense of humour and they just don’t get post modern irony. (NB Post modern irony is when you embrace outmoded sexist attitudes because you don’t want to look as though you’ve got no sense of humour.)
What an exciting week for the humble pastie. Until the budget the biggest national pastie controversies focused on whether they should contain carrot, and whether the seam should be along the top or round the side. But that’s all changed now with Pastiegate. VAT on hot pasties! On all hot food served in bakeries and supermarkets! For years we have been able to enjoy a hot sausage roll VAT-free, courtesy of some clever legal sleight of hand, but this loophole is being closed. What will the schoolchildren of our land eat now as they mooch round the streets of our towns during their lunch break? VAT is a mysterious beast. I’ve been taking a look at the HM Revenue and Customs website to inform myself a bit on this subject. Books are zero rated. No VAT on books. Quite right. Even books containing hot sex scenes. Cycle helmets are zero rated. Good show. But ‘children’s safety seats with bare wheeled framework’ come in for VAT at 5%. The sale or charter of civil aeroplanes is zero-rated, but sanitary protection products are in the 5% VAT band. Who decides, I wonder? Does a group of housewives sit around a table and say ‘Well, obviously tampons are a bit of luxury, but we don’t want to clobber Lear jet owners with a big VAT bill, do we?’ Now I’m looking more closely at VAT on food. Basic foodstuffs — quite fairly, I think — do not have VAT on them. But once you start asking what constitutes a basic foodstuff you stray into increasingly baroque definitions and distinctions. For example, ‘Caramel or “millionaire’s” shortcake consisting of a base of shortbread topped with a layer of caramel and (usually) chocolate or carob’ has no VAT on it, while ‘Shortbread biscuits partly or wholly chocolate-covered’ are standard rated at 20%. It gets even more complex when we turn to meat: ‘Meat & poultry – beef, lamb, pork, chicken, etc.’ are zero rated as you’d expect. But so too are ‘Exotic meat – horse, ostrich, crocodile, kangaroo, etc.’ ‘Live animals’ for food are zero rate, but ‘live horses’ are standard rate VAT. Is this because no decent English person would dream of eating horsemeat? Yes, horsemeat is what Johnny Foreigner serves up in his stinky garlic-laced cuisine. But how does VAT on food impinge on church life? Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that ‘communion wafers used in the celebration of the Christian Communion, Mass or Eucharist are zero-rated’. But here’s a point at which the current VAT system appears to favour Nonconformist congregations: ‘unfermented communion wine is also zero-rated (but fermented communion wine is standard-rated)’. Happily, that other staple of church life — tea and biscuits — is zero rated. Unless your biscuit is partly or wholly coated in chocolate, of course.
Close Encounters — The Two Saints Way Last week end in Lichfield we welcomed the first official batch of pilgrims who had walked the 86 miles of the Two Saints Way. This is a new pilgrimage route that links the cathedrals of Chester and Lichfield. It gets its name from our two Saxon saints who brought the Gospel from Northumbria to the benighted kingdom of Mercia in the seventh century. Here in Lichfield we have the shrine of St Chad’s shrine, while Chester have St Werburgh’s shrine. The group of pilgrims set off from Chester last Sunday. They had their feet washed in our cathedral here, and visited the site of St Chad’s well at St Chad’s church, just the other side of Stowe Pool, where the Bishop of Lichfield opened the first interpretation panel. If travelling the Two Saints Way sounds like your kind of holiday, you can find out more at http://twosaintsway.org.uk/.
Janey Lee Grace Live Healthy! Live Happy!
She’s a chocolate girl! s we head for Easter all unholy thoughts are on chocolate, my four children are in orbit with excitement at what the Easter bunny might deliver. If you’re a newspaper-reading Chocolate lover you’re probably handing around your last choccy button in delight at the recent news story that ‘Chocolate is good for you’ – and eating more can help keep you thin. The Daily Mail reminded us that Hollywood star Katharine Hepburn, when asked about her slim physique once said: “What you see before you is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.” Women are programmed to love chocolate: let’s face it at certain times of the month most women would kill for chocolate, you’ve seen the slogans on fridge magnets! ‘We know she’s a chocolate girl, cos he thinks she melts when he touches her’, goes the old song from Deacon Blue. Excuse the 80s nostalgia, but it wouldn’t sound quite the same if it went ‘Poor quality confectionary girl’ but sadly that’s exactly what most com-
mercially available chocolate is. Conventional chocolate contains a fair number of calories but of course calories are not the issue, fillers and additives certainly are! In its raw form, chocolate – raw cacao — is good for us (one of our ‘five a day’ according a friend of mine, after all – she reasons, it’s a bean!) Chocolate is high in chemicals that can speed up our metabolism, it has antioxidants and makes us feel good thanks to the stimulant Theobromine. The problem isn’t the raw chocolate, it’s the added sweeteners, flavourings and preservatives that make it calorie laden and a very unhealthy choice. As always, though, I like to be
the bearer of good news and lo! You can eat chocolate and be healthy – just opt for the highest percentage Cacao you can find, with the least fillers: you usually find that organic 75 per cent cacao is very satisfying so you need only a square or two. If you want to experiment with 100 per cent raw, believe it or not you can sneak a really healthy Dessert into anyone with a Raw Chocolate Mousse. You need half an avocado (peeled and stoned – obviously!) with three tablespoons of raw cacao powder, add a natural sweetener such as Tiana Coconut nectar or agave syrup to sweeten, a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of vanilla essence, whizz it all up in a high speed blender, and serve chilled with a swirl of cream on top – Yummy! I defy your guests to be able to detect the avocado! Here’s another healthy tip, check out Ohso Probiotic Chocolate, guilt free, ‘one a day’ little bars containing one billion good bacteria. Maybe the newspapers were right, chocolate can be good for you. Probiotic chocolate - www.ohsolovesyourtummy.com Tiana Coconut nectar and Raw Cacao powder www.janeysnaturalstore.com