‘Is the new Bishop of London any good?’

If nothing else, the announcement that Sarah Mullally was to be the new Bishop of London was entertaining in the way that it flummoxed all the pundits and predictors. As the inimitable Richard Coles put it: ‘In your faces, haruspices‘. But then followed the slightly predictable rush to judgement, with a number of comments made interpreting the ‘meaning and significance’ of this rather surprising appointment. Peter Ould was quite positive about the skills and outlook that someone with Sarah’s background would bring. Paul Richardson was rather less positive about having another senior bishop who is ‘not a theologian’. Others were, sadly, just unpleasant.

Although Paul Richardson’s comments were not well received by some, he was actually making an observation about the Church and its leadership as a whole, rather then evaluating this appointment on its own terms. Should the bench of bishops have a particular shape, or contain particular skills and knowledge—in this case, where is the theological depth overall? The problem here is the supposition that the Church as a whole has any strategy; to my knowledge, diocesan appointments are made with a view to the needs of the diocese, and not with a view to the strategy of the Church.

But is it actually helpful to make any comment at all? From a human point of view, it has to be asked who would want to be a bishop in the Church of England right now? It is an institution facing multiple pressures, with (if anything) greater rather than lesser challenges ahead, where the relentless decline in attendance still shows no obvious signs of slowing down, and trying to operate (as any institution is) in a more fragmented and complex context than ever. Anyone appointed to such a position needs sympathy and encouragement rather than evaluation and assessment before he or she has even started the job. Perhaps this is a time to be ‘swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry’ (James 1.19). Many will have seen it as vitally important that a woman has been appointed to a senior position; but equally many have been frustrated by this, and protest that Sarah was appointed ‘because she was the best for the job’. All this conversation raises three dangers for me.

The first danger is that we forget that any role in ministry is not simply a job to be done, with skills, competencies and aptitudes required which can be supplied by ‘the best candidate’ who brings the appropriate qualifications. I am very conscious of the importance of skills and competence, and have seen at first hand the problems in ministry caused by practice incompetence—but if we think this is what ministry is primarily about, even for a bishop leading the complexities of a diocese in a global city—then we have forgotten the keep the main thing the main thing. At her ordination as bishop, Sarah was asked:

Will you be diligent in prayer, in reading Holy Scripture, and in all studies that will deepen your faith and fit you to bear witness to the truth of the gospel?

Will you lead Christ’s people in proclaiming his glorious gospel, so that the good news of salvation may be heard in every place?

Will you faithfully minister the doctrine and sacraments of Christ as the Church of England has received them, so that the people committed to your charge may be defended against error and flourish in the faith?

These are not mere activities, but are about fundamental life orientation and character. I trust that these things will be as important in London as they ever are anywhere else. Clergy are now spending more time in administration than they are in preparing teaching and preaching and in theological study combined, and as far as I can see it isn’t leading to growing churches!

The second thing easily forgotten is that ministry is not a career, and becoming a bishop isn’t the sacred equivalent of becoming a secular CEO. I am reminded of the joke about the bishop visiting a parish, and being left alone with the vicar’s son whilst waiting for lunch to be served.

Boy: How did you become a bishop?

Bishop: Well, I sang in the choir, and was the best chorister. Then I went to theological college, and was the best student. Then I was ordained, and I was the best vicar. So they made me a bishop. Why do you ask?

Boy: Because before you arrived, my dad asked ‘How on earth did that man become a bishop?’!

Bishops are not primus super pares but primus inter pares—first amongst equals. Institutionally, there is responsibility for decision-making, and ecclesially all clergy make an oath of canonical obedience (though of course this is primarily directed to the authorised liturgy of the Church). But theologically, we need to focus a little more on Augustine’s perspective: ‘For you, I am a bishop. But with you, I am a Christian.’ At the ordination of a bishop, the question is not asked ‘Are you the best person for the job?’ but ‘Do you believe that God is calling you to this ministry?’ Confidence comes not from the transparent processes of the Crown Nominations Committee, but from the promise of Jesus: ‘I chose you and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit that shall last.’

A little while ago I was wondering whether to apply for a particular post, and even got to the point of talking to my bishop about it. But in prayer one day God said to me very clearly, almost audibly ‘Do not apply for that post’. That was enough, and that was the end of any further thought. I have applied for posts in the past, where I thought (probably rightly) that I was the best for the job—but had no settled sense that God was actually calling me to it—with the result that the interview did not go well! The ordained father of a friend recently died at a good age though after a long illness. The friend said to me ‘He was very able, and could have gone a long way ‘in the church’. But he chose to give his life to ministry in the parish’. The Lord preserve us from every only paying lip-service to the importance of ‘coal-face’ ministry. What matters is not whether we are best qualified, but whether God has called us.

The third thing we easily forget is that individuals are not that important. I say this rather guardedly, because I am aware of all the research that says leaders can make a real difference in organisations, and because I have seen it close up. When I taught at St John’s College, Nottingham, every day I would walk up the stairs to my study past the pictures of former principals, each with a pen-portrait biography underneath their picture. You could see the way the life of the college had ebbed and flowed with the different leaders that it had. And yet, in the end, we are not saved by leadership. Matt Ridley wrote a fascinating reflection this week on whether there would ever be an interest in creating ‘designer babies’ even if we could. He first notes how difficult and unpleasant have been many of the geniuses in history—but then makes a fascinating observation about the importance of individuals.

Individual intelligence is overrated. This is partly the well-worn argument that lots of other characteristics determine success, especially energy and diligence. We know people who are too bright to be decisive; or conversely achieve much in spite of their apparent disadvantages. However, I mean something more than this. I mean that human achievements are always and everywhere collective. Every object and service you use is the product of different minds working together to invent or manage something that is way beyond the capacity of any individual mind.

All too often institutions look for multi-talented individuals as leaders who will, in themselves, solve all the problems and overcome all the challenges that the institution faces. But institutions are not saved by individuals—still less the Church of England, even less the church of God. Salvation comes from the power of God, working amongst the people of God through the action of the Spirit of God. Godly leaders will have a key role in that—but the leaders themselves are not the source of salvation.

Theologically is it also worth pointing out that the church is not constituted by its bishops; the episcopacy is not the esse of the church, even if it is given for the church’s bene esse. And episcopal leadership is exercised by a whole range of people, not just those who have been appointed bishops in the institution of the Church—more so now, in the age of the internet, than perhaps ever before.

When I meet the Lord face to face on the Day of Judgement, there is one question I am absolutely certain he will not ask me: ‘How well did you get on with climbing the greasy spire of church preferment?’ (I’ve got a feeling that the question might not even make sense to him.) But I think I know what he will ask:

‘Did you you fight the good fight? Did you finish the race? Did you keep the faith?’ (2 Tim 4.7).

Perhaps those are the kinds of questions we should be asking of our leaders—because in the end those are the only ones that matter.

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172 thoughts on “‘Is the new Bishop of London any good?’”

  1. But there still is the question – what are bishops and what are they there for? For those of us looking in from other non-episcopalian contexts it would help too as we try to make sense of how we relate to the C of E. This links in to a question about what is the Anglican doctrine of the church and how local church and denomination works. Is the bishop essentially a pastoral support to other church leaders (A bit like the FIEC visitor and superintendent ministers in some denominations), a glorified administrator, someone up the hierarchy or are they the true elders where in effect the diocese is the true local church.

    This matters as evangelical anglicans make decisions about other things in relation to their beliefs. How important is it that the bishop and the wider denomination reflect your position on x y and z. But it also is important for non-anglicans as we try to make sense of how we relate to you which is becoming trickier

  2. This is a very gracious post, but I’m not convinced. To me it can be paraphrased as ‘yes, she’s really not very remarkable or well-qualified, but does it really matter?’ But my answer is, yes it really does. Bishops in the Church of England have a huge amount of power and influence over the way their diocese operates, play a key role in steering the wider church, and are a major outward facing role for speaking into the public sphere. It is a crucial role with inherent requirements against which any incumbent can be measured, and it matters. And as you point out, good leadership has been shown to be critical to organisational success.

    I don’t buy the sociological idea that it is social forces (effectively) rather than individuals on which human history turns. This is why we celebrate individuals and their achievements – Moses, Elijah, David, Jesus, Paul, Athanasius, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Churchill etc. It is individuals who invent and innovate and discover. Humanity is God’s rational and free creature, made in his image, and the master of his own destiny (under God’s generous providence). Humanity is not just a faceless collective but a collection of individuals, each of which can contribute to the development of human history, and some of which can contribute in hugely significant ways.

    And let us not forget the article Psephizo carried earlier in the year about how effective Richard Chartres had been as Bishop of London https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/what-made-richard-chartres-such-an-effective-leader/. It’s hard to reconcile the sentiments of that post with this one (I realise the earlier one was a guest post, but even so).

    So I’m going to risk being ungracious and say that I’m really very disappointed in this appointment. My strong suspicion is that it is ideologically motivated and not done for the best interests of the diocese or wider church. If this is the best the CNC can come up with to succeed Richard Chartres then we have to think it bodes ill for the future of the episcopacy and the Church of England. A lot of people think the upper echelons of the Church of England have been colonised by ideological feminists who care more about equality and diversity than the Gospel. I’m beginning to fear they are right.

    • I am not sure why you think + Sarah is not very remarkable nor well qualified (nor am I sure what well qualified would look like). True, she will not be a Prince of the Church, like the remarkable Chartres, but I think you may be underestimating her!

      • I hope so. I haven’t found anyone celebrating her gifts yet, including those defending the appointment (like this article), so I have deduced from that that the general view is that she does not have standout gifts as e.g. a theologian, scholar, preacher, teacher, orator, evangelist or strategic thinker. I appreciate this could be said about many CofE bishops, but one might have thought the Bishop of London (key role, key diocese) would be an exception to any general mediocrity in the upper leadership of the Church.

        Of course, her apparent lack of commitment to upholding biblical orthodoxy in church teaching and practice is also a matter of deep concern at this point (though at least she isn’t (yet) committed to a heterodox view, I suppose).

        • Well, she is certainly a strategic thinker and an evangelist. Not a scholar or theologian in the Rowan Williams model. She is deeply pastoral, which many priests and bishops aren’t, and you don’t get to be Chief Nursing Officer without being very bright and very steely. I think some of the comment on the nursing background has been a tad sexist- some might deplore Welby’s secular background, but they didn’t sneer at the oil executive career in quite the same way.
          As for her ‘orthodoxy’, I am amused that both ‘sides’ see her views as problematic. She was one of the authors of GS2055. Time will tell. She has a backbone of steel, I suspect.
          Given the peculiarities of the London Diocese, I think it’s a prophetic appointment.

          • Given London has area bishops and the diocesan takes a more strategic and public-facing role, I’m not sure how important being deeply pastoral is – would that not have suited an area bishop role better?

            I hope you’re right about being a strategic thinker – no one I’ve read has explained that to be one of her strengths, but I may just have missed it.

            I agree about some of the commentary being sexist – Jules Gomes in particular I thought unnecessarily (and unjustifiably) negative, to the point of misogyny.

          • I think pastoral care is important, however senior the post. Some senior bishops seem to be not very good at it.
            She is certainly a strategic thinker, a must for her previous role I would have thought. But I have seen evidence of this.
            I don’t mind people being critical of this appointment, but I thought Gomes’ piece was deplorable. Sexist, Islamophobic, mean-spirited. He has a massive chip on his shoulder.

    • I have seen people who seem unremarkable, put into the right position and suddenly become very remarkable. The only one who knows what gifts +Sarah has in her is God himself. One hopes the CNC had some insights but maybe they just had a sense that God was calling. God calls some unlikely people and then equips them for the task. Her predecessor was a remarkable Bishop. I do not recall, when he was appointed what people said of the appointment, but I suspect some were not pleased and others were. The decision is made, lets pray and wait and see what God will do.

  3. I read today an excellent old article by James Atkinson, on the Celtic Way. What stood out was not what has become de-rigeur when waxing about the Celtic Church: creation spirituality, community, rhythms of prayer, liturgy etc those things were secondary and underpinned the main focus which was tenacious and infectious passion for Evangelism and founding and re-founding the church on the Gospel. Prof Atkinson described St Columba as ‘A true Celt, he had no stomach for conferences and organisation, he just wanted to get on with the task of preaching.’ The CofE is a huge organisation and so we need gifted organisers, managers, financiers and administrators. But there are gifted lay people who can do all that and largely should. Bishops are to take the lead and be Lords and Ladies Spiritual. Their most prominent quality should not be experience in the world, but experience of heaven, spiritual character and theological depth and a consuming zeal to evangelise the nation and disciple the flock. The new Bp of London has an outstanding professional track record and a clear vocation to the priesthood. She has in spades skills and experience equipping her for many of the jobs she will be required to do as Bp of London. But my wider question is, will she be doing the job a Bishop should do: lead the faithful deeper into the faith, safeguard that faith from attack without and within, pastor the pastors, represent Christ to the community and lead the church forward in evangelising the nation. I pray that like Columba of old, Bp Sarah soon has no stomach for committees and politics (and gives that away to laity and odd clergy who like that stuff) and gets on with the task of preaching the gospel & evangelising the nation.

    • Which comes back to my question above … you’ve given a clear view of what a biwhopvshould do but is that agreed. Furthermore, is the role of bishop actually designed in a way that gives someone a fighting opportunity to do that. Isn’t it the case that 1. People who are not official bishops have done more of that than official bishops and even when bishops, their authority and ability to do what you describe tends to be wider than and not dependent upon their official role. So, John Stott, Dick Lucas, David Watson, Richard Coekin and Nicky Gumbell have fulfilled that type of role in a way that bishops have not. Indeed, even anglicans may look outside the denomination to people like Keller and Piper. Meanwhile Tom Wright was looked to not as a bishop but as a theologian and on the Anglo Catholic side, the Bishop of Burnley has an influence that is not dependent on or limited to his role.


        ARE you persuaded that the holy Scriptures contain sufficiently all doctrine required of necessity for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined out of the same holy Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge, and to teach or maintain nothing as required of necessity to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the same?

        WILL you then faithfully exercise yourself in the same holy Scriptures, and call upon God by prayer, for the true understanding of the same; so as ye may be able by them to teach and exhort with wholesome doctrine, and to withstand and convince the gainsayers?

        BE you ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word; and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to the same?

        WILL you deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world; that you may shew yourself in all things an example of good works unto others, that the adversary may be ashamed, having nothing to say against you?

        WILL you maintain and set forward (as much as shall lie in you) quietness, peace, and love among all men; and such as be unquiet, disobedient and criminous within your Diocese, correct and punish, according to such authority as ye have by God’s Word, and as to you shall be committed by the Ordinance of this Realm?

          • And there in lies the exact problem from those looking in if that is really it. It does not give a job and scoping distinction. It gives qualities – quite rightly for someone involved in teaching and pastoral care in the church but it does not set out what the role is . How does this description differ from a vicar or curate’s role for example.

          • In a handbook for CofE Bishops, ‘A Bishop’s Ministry’ by Bp David Tustin:
            “the ordinal rightly underlines the corporate aspects of the Bishop’s job description’

          • But to respond to your questions – my observation is that most Bishops are so swamped by managerial and bureaucratic busyness and business that the ordinal charge gets left aside – I think much of their daily duties have little correspondence with their charge. Of course, some will love that and would balk and fail at being spiritual & theological leaders. Yes some of those ministers you list, who are/were not Bishops, did/do fulfil aspects of the spiritual and theological nature of the role. I doubt any Anglican looks to the two named non-conformist American Bible teachers to fulfil an episcopal role for them – but many certainly are inspired and encouraged by them.

          • Yes, I think the teaching pastoral ministry is very similar – I think the distinction between vicar and Bishop is primarily one of scale and authority. The vicar over her parish(es) – the Bishop over all the vicars and their parishes. The Bishop is shepherd the shepherds and keep the vicars envisioned and orthodox.

          • Thanks for expanding on this. This is why it pushes the question because the job spec that Bishops seem to be assessed against doesn’t look like a teaching elder job spec in terms of the outcome, not least this one. If there is a need for an admijistrative/ PR role then that is Maybe best overtly stated. The question of hierarchy and authority – so a pastor over the pastors to teach them and to guard against heresy doesn’t work when 1. The church institutionally accepts a broad range of views and 2. It is the churches that see themselves- or more specifically some of them based on size and clout – as the guardian’s of orthodoxy responsible for keeping their bishops in line. Finally, how does Ian’s view that a bishop is first among equals work when someone is appointed in and over the rest of the clergy in the diocese. This might apply to the Archbishop but can’t really work in this model can it? A bishop would have to be chosen from his number and the clergy would need some form of collegiate working together for that to be so. This keeps bringing us back to the point that the CofE structures don’t seem to do the job that evangelical Anglicans seem to think they are meant to do. So, for those of us looking in, we keep asking, why do our brothers keep putting an institutional unity with people they are not one with and in any case doesn’t work ahead of true unity and fellowship with those they are one with. Surely the only real dividing point now between us is that Anglican Evangelicals swear nominal allegiance to an episcopacy. If the episcopacy is now meaningless then what point clinging on?

          • Dave, these are reasonable points. I can only answer for myself – God saved me in the CofE, discipled me in the CofE, called me into ministry in the CofE, was trained for ordained ministry in the CofE, and have served as a CofE minister for over 20years. In all this there was no pragmatism, but specific clear leadings of the Lord. I am therefore, even at times of despair, reluctant to leave without similar clear leadings. Theological and moral compromise in the CofE is a major issue for me, but I am not yet being required to do anything against my beliefs. I can believe what I believe and practise my ministry as I believe with complete freedom. The point at which I am officially required to act against my conscience I will protest and fight and consider leaving. But I am loathe to give in and give up to false teaching and compromising synods. I find it interesting that to all the morally/theologically flaky churches in the NT, the apostles never shut them down or called the saints to leave but rather challenged the error and fought for the truth and commended the saints for sticking in and up for Jesus – be it the church in Corinth, Colosse, of Galatians, Pergammum, Thyatira etc All were in serious error, but leaving the congregation and starting up elsewhere was never called for. I think the NT indicates there are always Tares in the Wheat, a 5th Column of false teaching in the church. Some of us who are sick with the state of the CofE are not yet ready to be Puritans setting sail – we are still free to preach what we want, as we want and currently church doctrine and law are on our side. As for the Liberal shenanigans, well, I believe in the Holy Spirit.

          • Hi Simon,

            Thanks for your candour here. On the one hand, I completely understand how you’ve interpreted your formative Christian experiences in the Church of England as ‘clear leadings of the Lord’.

            Also, for an ordained minister to leave the Church could also involve reneging on the vow made during licensing: ‘Will you commit yourself to the mission and ministry of the people in this place to further the kingdom of God?’

            In fact, Ian Paul maintained a similar position to yours when, in reflecting on GAFCON’s unilateral (and somewhat stealthly) ordination of Johnathan Pryke, he wrote: ‘Secondly, it is becoming abundantly clear that this sort of approach to dealing with the perceived drift in the doctrine and teaching in the Church is singularly unhelpful. For one thing, no new line has been crossed: canon law has not been revised; the liturgy has not been changed; nothing formal has changed in the Church’s teaching. If some are unhappy with the drifting practice of the Church, then they should probably have left the C of E in the 1960s, when, if anything, both practice and teaching were more heterodox than they are now. But the bigger question for evangelicals in the Church of England is: Why adopt a strategy of institutional separation rather than continue to engage and lobby from within? If evangelicals believe that they are the ones who are being faithful to the actual, historic teaching of the Church, why simply hand that to others by engaging in this ecclesial jiggery-pokery?

            Nevetheless, I think there needs to be a careful qualification of your comparisons between the current situation in the CofE and the early church era.

            For instance, you wrote: ”I find it interesting that to all the morally/theologically flaky churches in the NT, the apostles never shut them down or called the saints to leave but rather challenged the error and fought for the truth and commended the saints for sticking in and up for Jesus.’

            My response would be that the apostles wielded far greater authority than any ordained minister can legally exercise today. Of course, the apostles did challenge error and fight for the truth, but, more than this, they were able to exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the laity.

            For example, St. Paul told the Corinthians: ‘I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.’ (1 Cor. 5:9 – 11)

            To the Thessalonians, he wrote: ‘In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. (2 Thess. 3:6)

            He repeated this instruction further on in the same chapter: ‘Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer. (2 Thess. 3:14)

            In contrast, you may be able to believe what you believe, but, in accordance with Canon B16, it is not you, but it’s the bishop who is permitted to protect order in the church by excluding from Holy Communion a ‘notorious and evil liver’: a phrase which is defined in the strictest terms by the judgement in Banister vs Thompson (e.g ‘the evil living must cause offence to the public conscience’).

            Instead, in the face of false teaching, the priest’s function is limited to exhortation. He ‘has authority to reprove, rebuke, exhort…He is to rebuke sin and to give warning of ‘unworthy receiving’ od holy communion.’ (Banister vs. Thompson p. 387)

            Yes, there are always tares and wheat, but the parable relates more to the Lord’s forbearance in extending probation for the entire world than to tolerating rejection of apostolic authority.

            As you say, you’re not ready to be Puritans setting sail, but the Great Ejection took place before they emigrated to more tolerant climes.

            One account of the history of that tragic expulsion bears a striking resemblance to recent events in the CofE today:
            ‘Charles was playing for time and trying to keep the presbyterians sweet with gracious words until a new Parliament was elected, to whom he had said he would defer. Clarendon, his Lord Chancellor, was “still apprehensive of Presbyterian political strength and uncertain of the popularity of Puritanism”, and so concessions at this stage seemed wise while the future was uncertain. The re-establishment of the Church of England proceeded apace “under cover of this feigned conciliation”, with more bishops and cathedral staff being appointed and increasingly widespread use of the Prayer Book.

            Meanwhile, other evangelical groups such as the Independents / Congregationalists and Anabaptists were infuriated with the Presbyterian leaders who had resisted moves towards a general toleration in favour of their own comprehension in a national church structure. In the jockeying for position and influence in the coming new order, “evangelical” groups inevitably disagreed on tactics and the limits of toleration. They were thus divided and soon to be conquered.

            We should all be aware that like Charles II, Justin Welby is merely playing for time. History has a way of repeating itself.
            1. As the Puritan cause became linked in the public mind to rebellion and volatility, so will evangelicalism become linked in the public mind to the threats of ‘spiritual abuse’, unruly divisiveness and to the safeguarding of LGBT youth.
            2. As with the pamphleteers, the more vociferous and implacable evangelicals will be singled out for harassment.
            3. As in the ‘Savoy Conference’, Sheldon swept aside the ‘good disagreement’ of the Worcester House Declaration to dismiss all but a few exceptions to the BCP from the Puritan camp, so the Teaching Document will dismiss all but a few nods in the direction of marriage orthodoxy. For this, the recently published CofE Schools Guidance on HBT bullying shows form.
            4. As with the Act of Uniformity, ministers will be expected to abide by a code which will prevent overt denunciation of same-sex sexual behaviour as devaluing LGBT identities and (to use Jayne Ozanne’s phrasing) ‘spiritually abusive’.

            In this regard, the CDM process will become the judicial mechanism for eliminating clerical dissent in the next Great Ejection.

          • David – your knowledge of church history and analogy of correspondence to our current situation is fascinating and impressively marshalled – so what do you think is the way forward for those of us in my position called into the CofE, able to exercise ministry without constraint and yet frustrated even sickened by the growing compromise?

          • Hi Simon,

            Supporters of traditional marriage in the CofE now need to lay aside their differences over tactics and the ever so subtle jockeying for prominence in order to unite and to confront tirelessly the scurrilous charge which uses ‘guilt by association’ to portray the orthodox biblical marriage tradition as the cause of ‘spiritual abuse’ and a threat to LGBT safeguarding.

            In the face of high-level connivance at this unfair political ruse, now is the time to expose the sheer ugliness of such falsehood without fear or favour, but thoughtfully, vociferously, fearlessly and repeatedly until, if it doesn’t cause overt remorse, it will, at least, arouse their shame.

            Of course, it’s your decision, but you asked, and that’s what I’d do, if I was exercising ministry in the CofE without constraint.

            Let me know what you think.

          • Hi Simon,

            In 1657, alarm over the London uprising of the Fifth Monarchists provoked the Cavalier Parliament’s draconian response towards all non-conformism.

            By 1661, Gilbert Sheldon, the Bishop of London, had stoked Royalist fears of rebellion to the extent that the Bishops at the Savoy Conference were emboldened to treat the objections of their Puritan counterparts with utter contempt.

            Similarly, the Archbishop of York emphatically endorsed Jayne Ozanne’s PMM GS2070 as a safeguarding imperative, explaining ‘so I can sleep at night’.

            Similarly, Bishop Richard Frith spoke out in favour of the Hereford motion requests that the HoB consider introducing liturgy for same-sex couples.

            Despite all of this, Bishop Sarah Mullaly insists that the issue is undecided because the Church is in a period of reflection. Saying one thing, while the Church hierarchy tacitly supports another is what I mean by high-level connivance.

            The growing compromise which you describe is more the result of manipulative alarmism than it is caused by deliberate defection from orthodox Christianity.

            In terms of manipulative alarmism, consider the revisionist spin on the terrible suicide of Lizzie Lowe, the very talented church-going 14-year old from Didsbury who hanged herself back in 2014.

            The Manchester Evening News reported from the Coroner’s Inquest, stating: ‘In the months before her death, 14-year-old Elisabeth Lowe, known as Lizzie, had confided to pals that she thought she may be a lesbian, an inquest heard.

            Her friends said she was scared of telling her parents and had struggled to reconcile her feelings with the family’s strong Christian faith.

            But Lizzie’s dad said her fears were ‘misplaced’ and that she would have received a ‘wealth of love and acceptance.’

            ‘Asked how the family would have reacted if she had spoken to them about her sexuality, Mr Lowe said: “It wouldn’t have come as much surprise. She was very much a tomboy. In fact, she was more of a boy than some of the boys were, so it would have been no surprise at all. We would have been very supportive.”


      • In contrast with Kevin Lowe’s reply, which demonstrates that those who hold to the orthodox view of marriage, can still be reassuring, supportive and loving towards LGBT youth, now read the Rev. Dr. Nick Bundock’s account of Lizzie’s suicide as the impetus for his parish’s embrace of the revisionist agenda:

        ‘Lizzie had become convinced that God could not love her the way she was — a feeling she expressed by text message to the few confidants she had, leading up to her fatal decision.

        St James and Emmanuel has undergone a revolution since Lizzie died. It is not that we were ever “hard-line”. Actually, we have always been a pretty broad expression of Evangelicalism. Like many similar churches, however, we have largely avoided the topic of homo­sexuality, to preserve the peace. I now realise, too late, that ignoring the topic of sexuality is, by definition, exclusive, and unsafe for people who are gay.

        In the months after the coroner’s report, the revolution at St James and Emmanuel started with a decision by the PCC to adopt a statement of inclusion. This was followed by three structured “listening evenings”, and inclusion is now a regular item on the agenda of the PCC.

        We lost some members during the turmoil of 2015. That was im­­mensely painful for me as a vicar. But we have also gained members, including a wonderful gay couple who had been told not to play in the worship band of their previous church when people had found out about their relationship.

        Worship in our church has never been more vibrant and alive. Our paradigm shift has swept a new sense of immanence into our services, and a fresh honesty into our interactions. Personally, I have crossed the Rubicon: there is no way back. When I do look back, I do so with horror at what a passively homophobic priest I have been.’

        In crossing that Rubicon, I wonder out loud whether Bundock also believes that Lizzie’s dad, as a fellow traditionalist, was similarly passively homophobic. In fact, his response unfairly implicates all who hold to the orthodox position on marriage, but that’s the basis of his justification for the changes which he’s implemented.

        Furthermore, Bundock is proclaiming the ‘revisionist gospel of LGBT safeguarding’ as far beyond his Didsbury patch as St. Laurence’s Church, Ludlow and at the invitation of the Hereford Diocese Inclusive Church Forum led by Rev. Kay Garlick (https://en-gb.facebook.com/hdicf/)

        And for their recent Campaign Day in Sheffield, One Body-One Faith invited Garlick to ‘share her experience of the business mechanisms of the Church of England and also her more recent experience guiding the Hereford motion through deanery and diocesan synods.’

        If you want to expose this manipulative alarmism, take to social media (e.g. diocesan facebook page) and deanery synod meetings with this story. Challenge directly any Church leader who is shameless enough to put this manipulative revisionist spin on the tragedy of LGBT suicide.

        Eph. 6:11 – 13.

        • Hi David

          I would add the devious attempt to smear conservative soteriology of the cross and atonement with the abuse of John Smyth as inherently abusive or motivating abuse as an additional line of attack on orthodox and conservative theology and wings of the church.

          • Hi Will,

            Too true.

            What concerns me is the uncoordinated lack of ‘political’ mobilisation among organisations like EGGS, CEEC, Reform and Forward in Faith when compared to revisionist pressure groups.

            The responses of these orthodox groups are mostly confessional apologetics.

            We need to get beyond this and to work together to identify and seize upon every opportunity for impromptu and organised debates with the leaders of the revisionist movement about the victims of their own political movement: the real-life experiences of collateral damage caused to children and spouses through desertion for a new same-sex partner; the real-life experiences of a child’s innocence and natural parenthood undermined by the so-called intentional parenthood of same-sex couples; the stated agenda of global LGBT pressure groups to extend parental rights to same-sex spouses regardless of the means of conception or genetic connection to the child.

            At a time when the increased influx of ordinands requires eye-watering increases in 2019/20 diocesan apportionments, we also need to ensure that the Church hierarchy fully understands the consequences for Parish Share, if they ride roughshod over orthodox Christian teaching.

          • Did you see that Colin Blakely, editor of CEN, has become a trustee of the Ozanne Foundation? Do you think part of the problem is that too many evangelicals have been taken in by the agenda?

          • Maybe that’s why they stopped publishing my letters. That, and the fact that I stopped writing any.

            Is CEN, on a shoestring, struggling to fill space, and therefore grateful for offers?

            That column space is not at a premium is proven by the fact that the same letter-writers are published week on week. Staff is skeleton.

            So all the revisionists need to do is offer articles.

            It is a given that if the ‘revisionists’ are able to use the inaccurate term via media for themselves, then that is tactical, and is aimed at a reframing of people’s perception. That being so, they will certainly have the tactic (for alas plotters and schemers do exist as well as transparent people) of using the Evangelical press rather than preaching to the choir. Saturation. Jamming.

            Should Jayne Ozanne, for example, wish to write in CEN, then she is a leading self-described evangelical of many years’ standing and a noble pedigree, and a high public profile. So her requests will not be turned down. Neither will Giles Goddard’s (he also began evangelical – but even if he hadn’t…). Etc..

            The CEN leader style is nice and punchy, independent-thinking, if sometimes seemingly last-minute.

          • Hi Will/Christopher,

            All good points. However, like the armour Saul placed on David, the approach of setting up a foundation will be unwieldy and ponderous.

            Instead, what debaters like ourselves lack in such resources, we make up for in our God-given and honed abilities to argue decisively in any live or social media forum and to deliver the debating equivalent of David’s coup de grace

            2018 will be a busy year for ‘casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;’ (2 Cor. 10:5)

            I look forward to collaborating with both of you next year!

          • Hi again,

            For further insight, you might also want to read the following Guardian article in which Colin Blakely defended his decision to publish an article in which Alan Craig’coined the Gaystapo moniker to describe the leadership of gay rights groups: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/nov/08/anglican-newspaper-defends-gaystapo-article

            So, becoming trustee of the Ozanne Foundation is just the tonic for rehabilitating the public image of CEN which was so marred by that PR disaster.

            The reality is that, in promoting the orthodox position, very few evangelical leaders have managed to run the gauntlet of stock homophobia allegations.

            TBH, Ian Paul is one of very few evangelical leaders who have appeared in the mass media and survived attempts to make the homophobia slur stick, despite several desperate attempts to do so.

            We need to pray for God to maintain his moral Teflon-coating. 🙂

  4. I am undecided, but I’ll make clear my initial reactions.

    1. I didn’t know anything about this appointment until it happened, and couldn’t tell you who any other candidates were, or how the process for selection works, or much of anything relating to internal church politics. As a general rule, I don’t much care who the Bishop of London is. In this respect then, I am somewhat like the majority of the population: an ignorant outsider, and it worth noting that my initial impression of Sarah from the few secular media outlets that announced her was a positive one. Her bio sounds good, she presents well, she doesn’t have a ‘history’ for the media to snipe at.

    2. However, in other respects I am not a passive outsider, and I do try to keep my finger on the pulse in the CofE in regards matters theological/doctrinal/liturgical. What the CofE does, after all, is often mirrored and/or replicated with subtle changes by/in other mainstream denominations.

    To that end I did some reading, and read a handful (6) of articles/reactions. Only one of these was positive, 2 were fairly apathetic and the other 3 were negative. I then listened to Sarah’s interview on Radio 4, and while I certainly wouldn’t go as far as Gomez (as linked above) I think the core analysis of the criticism she’s facing is correct. She does sound mealy-mouthed about the gospel, and while I sort-of-understand what she’s trying to say in regards to the safeguarding/gospel comments, I think this is something that sounds nice but lacks substance, and that sounds like it might be characteristic of her.

    3. I do not think we have to force Bishops into the “Theologian/Scholar” pigeonhole, and agree with Dave Williams (above), but, and it’s an important ‘but’, a Bishop should know how to do this, at least to a level where they don’t leave a good leave good of Anglican commenters scratching their heads over her supposed orthodoxy.

  5. I have a couple of thoughts.

    Firstly, I am not persuaded that Sarah Mullaly really has the qualifications to be Bishop of London. I’m not asking in the sense of whether she has enough academic qualifications (although she did train part-time, and as you yourself have asked Ian, is a part-time course really as good as a full-time one?) but rather whether she has the appropriate biblical qualifications. Is she able to teach the faith effectively, and to refute error? The interviews she’s given so far indicate to me she’s not a teacher and defender of the apostolic faith, but a manager who’s going to be a referee rather than lead the way. She seems to suffer from an acute case of ‘Welby-itis’ in being unable to articulate what is sinful or not and wanting to disagree well.

    Secondly, it was interesting to watch the reaction on twitter. The usual suspects were lauding it as a great victory (“yay! A woman! How forward thinking and progressive!”) But there was no critical reflection on whether she may or may not be the right person for the job. The cynical part of me (ok, that’s quite a big part, but still) wonders whether the reaction would have been the same if the diocese had simply grabbed a woman off the street and made her bishop, so long as it was a woman. So often this seems to me to be the case with ‘progressive’ types – ‘the cause’ becomes more important than anything else. Which leads to celebrating a woman being appointed to be +London no matter how qualified or otherwise she may be. Frankly I think this is insulting to women and anti-equality (surely equality means people should be celebrated only for the gifts they bring rather than their sex?).

    I’m afraid I can’t celebrate this appointment. And the tragedy is, Sarah Mullaly is just par for the course In the CofE now… a bunch of middle managers rather than spiritual leaders.

    • I hear ya – except Sarah Mullaly was no ‘middle manager’, she was at the top of the pile responsible and representing 700,000 Nurses. In that sense, she may well have more senior leadership experience than any other Bishop in the CofE. These are great skills when leading a huge diverse diocese. The question though is whether she the spiritual depth and Biblical theological conviction. Time will tell – we must pray for our Bishops.

      • Anglican Unscripted rightly draws attention to the fact that as an NHS nursing leader she could scarcely not have been in favour of ‘abortion’. Which is hard to get one’s mind round, and a point of the first importance.

        • Christopher – this is something I had neither conceived nor read others raise – but this is more significant an issue than any other questions asked of her…was Sarah Mullally as Chief Nursing Officer between 1994-2005 actively supportive of the 1,000,000 abortions in England & Wales?

          • Hi Simon,

            So, here are the facts. There’s an overlap of three years between Sarah Mullaly’s tenure as Chief Nursing Officer (1999 – 2004) and her ordination to deacon (2001) and priest (2003).

            You may remember that in 2001, another female priest, Rev. Joanna Jepson, instigated a legal challenge to the late abortion of a 28-week foetus. Through her legal team, she rejected the medical authorities’ rationale that the discovery of cleft lip and palate was compatible with grounds for termination specified in the 1967 Abortion Act.

            Since Sarah Mullaly resigned from her position as CNO for England and Wales, I’ve seen nothing from her in the pubic domain which provides even a cursory commentary on the moral dilemma of abortion and the conscientious objections of medical health professionals.

            For instance, in 2014, the UK Supreme Court ruled that two Catholic midwives (Mary Doogan and Connie Wood) did not have a right to be excused from supervising staff involved in performing abortions; that conscientious objection is limited to the refusing involvement in abortion procedure itself.

            There is now the prospect of that nurses and midwives may also be required to perform vacuum aspiration abortions: http://srh.bmj.com/content/familyplanning/early/2017/01/18/jfprhc-2016-101542.full.pdf

            I’m happy to be corrected by evidence to the contrary, but, given her past role as HM Government’s most senior adviser on nursing matters, her years of deafening silence on the issues of abortion and conscientious objection are very worrying.

            The ‘mutual flourishing’ mantra cannot be extended to connivance at the deaths of over a million foetuses.

            So, beyond just reciting her outstanding managerial credentials, can someone show me where Sarah Mullaly has demonstrated courage and moral leadership on the issue of abortion?

          • If someone can’t take the obvious view even on the deliberate killing of babies, they will also be passively led (or hypnotised) by the incoherent, amoral, selfish-end-justifies-means ideology of the powerful on any lesser matter. But where are truth and justice?

          • I agree there is a moral issue here but a few comments:
            I am in no doubt she will have given this a great great of thought. I don’t understand why some here are assuming the opposite. I think she should be afforded the same respect we would like to receive ourselves when our views are not known but (rightly) being sought.
            It is possibly I will not agree with the view she carefully worked through to.
            What is ‘the obvious view’ to my eyes may not be obvious to someone else. Ethically scrupulous people can come to different convictions.
            We do not know actually what she believes on this subject. But I think we should beware of assuming her views from our experience of her silence on this matter. Speaking publicly is not the only way of exercising influence or shaping opinion. Nor is it always appropriate while in a representative public role. ‘Moral leadership’ involves much more than public declarations.
            May I suggest to those who are particularly concerned about what she believes on this is to write and ask her. But until we know more I do not think it helpful to assume that because we have not heard her speak on this – in a way we ourselves think she should have – that she is lacking in courage, is passively-led, amoral on everything else and does not exercise moral leadership. ‘Where is truth?’ Best thing is to ask.

          • Hi David,

            Happy New Year.

            There is no ‘obvious view’ implied by mentioning Sarah Mullally’s ‘years of deafening silence on the issues of abortion and conscientious objection.’

            As I wrote above: I’m happy to be corrected by evidence to the contrary, so feel free to do so here.

            You wrote that: ‘moral leadership’ involves much more than public declarations.

            I’d agree. Yet, that doesn’t mean that moral leadership should preclude public declarations. In fact, as exemplified by Christ and the apostles, it should includes public declarations.

            As St. Paul explained in 2 Cor. 4:13: ‘It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak.’

            The CofE has not only believed, but has also spoken by making several public declarations on the abortion (and no less unequivocally than last year’s public declaration condemning conversion therapy).

            In 1980, the Board for Social Responsibility showed moral leadership in its public declaration on behalf of the Church:
            ‘In the light of our conviction that the fetus has the right to live and develop as a member of the human family, we see abortion, the termination of that life by the act of man, as a great moral evil. We do no believe that the right to life, as a right pertaining to persons, admit of no exceptions whatever; but the right of the innocent to life admits surely of few exceptions indeed.’

            This was followed by the 1983 General Synod resolution: ‘That in situations where the continuance of a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother a termination of pregnancy may be justified and that there must be adequate and safe provision in our society for such situations.’

            A decade later in 1993 General Synod resolved that:
            ‘‘In the rare occasions when abortion is carried out beyond 24 weeks, ‘Serious foetal
            handicap’ should be interpreted strictly as applying to those conditions where survival is
            possible only for a very short period’

            ‘The number of abortions carried out since the passage of the Abortion Act 1967 is unacceptably high.

            In its 2013 reply to the Parliamentary Inquiry on Abortion and Disability March 2013, the MPA division stated that:
            ‘‘Ground E is discriminatory on two counts. In the first instance, it permits abortions to be
            carried out solely on the basis of disability; secondly, it removes the twenty-four week time
            limit for abortions in cases of disability. We do not believe that such discrimination, founded
            on the risk of disability, is justifiable. While not extending to foetuses, the concerns addressed
            and the spirit behind equality legislation are contrary to the provisions of Ground E which
            also militates against advances made in recent decades to value individuals with disability.’

            So, I’d agree that ‘best thing is to ask’, but, we can only hope for a response on the abortion issue which improves on her reply during a recent interview, which could so easily be re-cycled to address every imaginable controversial issue:

            ‘ one the things I’m doing is meeting those people that reflect the whole diversity across the Church of England. And in a sense it’s not avoiding the subject but it’s recognizing that there is a difference, that the Church of England, um, is taking a period of reflection, and recognizing that it does involve people, so there is a sense in which you have to compassionately, um, deal with these issues, and, er, I am forever encouraged that the church across London is undertaking a whole series of things in communities, to be, er, welcoming to that diversity. And one of the wonderful things yesterday was being out in Hackney, and seeing, er, a church that is welcoming people…

            The Church of England deserves better than someone who resorts this kind of all-purpose befuddled fence-sitting.

          • So whether young human beings should or should not be killed (often: dismembered, binned/burnt/flushed away into the bargain) with the approval of their mothers and/or fathers before they even have the chance to be born is a finely-balanced issue? Hmm.

          • Christopher and David Happy New Year to you both …. I am just saying we do not actually know what she thinks. That’s all. I accept that for you both that is in itself a damning criticism. But ‘befuddled fence sitting’ like ‘years of deafening silence’ sounds very much like a prejudgment to me. I am not prepared to assume she has nowhere in her various roles attempted to exercise, influence or give a lead on this issue. Indeed I would find it astonishing.

          • Dear David – blessed new year to you. Whilst we seem to disagree over the seriousness of this ethical issue, I do agree we must not guess not prejudge Bp Sarah, but must ascertain the facts and they will out. Some take a stand and directly confront evil and speak truth to power as did Elijah to Ahab, whilst others act discretely behind the scenes like Obadiah who was ‘over Ahab’s household’, perhaps compromising on some things for the greater good, in his case using his office to save 100 prophets. I sincerely hope that Bp Sarah when Chief Nurse was an Obadiah who acted as best she could to safeguard the unborn; and I pray she will prove to be an Elijah as Bishop of London directly challenging the Jezebel structures that seek to oppose God’s kingdom.

          • Hi David,

            In my previous comment, I asked: ‘can someone show me where Sarah Mullaly has demonstrated courage and moral leadership on the issue of abortion?’

            Given her public profile, I am already astonished that I can find no evidence of her attempts ‘to exercise, influence or give a lead on this issue’ of abortion. In contrast, Mullally has been quite outspoken on safeguarding issues.

            Presenting the relative dearth of her public response to the abortion issue as ‘years of deafening silence’ is not a pre-judgement; it should be a spur for you and/or others to provide evidence to the contrary.

          • Thanks Simon – and greetings. Yes I am with you on this one. And you offer a help biblical comparison of two contrasting but effective leadership approaches. (but did +Richard ‘directly confront Jezebel structures’ of London?)
            David – by ‘public profile’ you mean leading the nursing profession? Aren’t you in danger of assuming only one kind of public leadership is valid? I do not accept that she should be judged on strong public pronouncements. The fact you can find no evidence for her views does now mean she was not, in a less public way, ‘exercising, influencing or give a lead on this issue’. Safeguarding requires a much more openly public role.
            Ask her my friend.

          • Of course, the normal means of leadership is not being (to all intents and purposes) silent over a period of several years.

            But there is the added dimension that the (what seems to me, in this regard) vicious leadership of the N ”H” S would be very unlikely to promote anyone that high that had not sold their soul re ‘abortion’ so-called. Killing babies good. Saving babies bad.

          • Christopher There is no ‘normal means of leadership’. It is no one thing and depends on the job. The rest of your comment I prefer not to respond to.

          • OK David – call me old fashioned but I would not personally opt to debate complex medical ethics on twitter. Come on.

          • David,

            I’m not seeking a debate with Mullally. It would be enough for her to respond with a link to a prepared statement posted on her blog.

            So, come on. Why don’t you apply your own advice, choose whatever forum you like and ask her yourself?

            Or was ‘ask her’ just a rhetorical exhortation that it would be naive to take seriously?

          • And a direct response to my abortion question (which, like safeguarding, is a complex issue of rights and responsibilities) would also be a perfect opportunity for the new bishop to improve public trust in the Church of England from its current position just above the banks and the newspapers: https://nfpsynergy.net/slidezone/trust-oct-15

          • Correction: ‘…to improve public trust in the Church of England from its current position just above the newspapers and political parties.

            I apologise that this erratum may have momentarily (but unintentionally) sullied the impeccable reputation of our UK banking community! 🙂

          • David R, you say you ‘prefer not to respond’. Does that mean that your stance has been found wanting and therefore has no answer? A stance which can’t answer questions is a stance we relinquish as not adequate.

            Killing babies is, of course, not ‘complex medical ethics’.

            It is not *complex* because whether or not one should kill a human is one of the most straightforward questions.

            It is not *medical* because medical has to do with healing, not with its reverse, killing.

            It is *ethics* because killing is unethical.

          • Hi Chris,

            Those, who roundly condemned all forms of conversion therapy for unwanted same-sex sexual attraction, did so because they believe that:
            1. we should only treat illnesses;
            2. that there is so much potential for harm that it mustn’t be left to the autonomy of healthcare clients to decide.

            On that basis, why don’t the same people roundly condemn the abortion of unwanted babies? Or do they believe that:
            1. abortion is treatment for the illness of unwanted foetuses?
            2. there is such negligible harm that it must be left to the autonomy of healthcare clients to decide?

            Oh, the irony and hypocrisy!

          • Yes. At the time I pointed out the very large inconsistency of getting all scared about intentions yet thinking nothing of going the whole hog and cutting off body parts.

            This too is a large inconsistency. You’re not allowed to have an unwanted or unwelcome habit of mind or inclination. You ought to ”want” it. Why don’t you ”want” it?… But an entire unwanted human being? That is deservedly unwanted. Kill ”it”!

          • It could actually be argued that there is a danger that ”situation ethics” can be used ideologically in the service of power and elites. Situation ethics think they are under no obligation to do joined-up thinking (they wish) which is why we get these anomalies (and several more listed at the start of my chapter 11 of What Are They Teaching The Children? [VfJ / Wilberforce]). Of course, one aspect of the drive for situation ethics is good: the need for case-by-case assessment. That doesn’t mean failing to do joined-up thinking.

    • Training where it is part time theological study and part time vocational training could/ should be as good as full time residential. However, whether or not it was is the question. Depends who and how

  6. I’m concerned that she is not a theologian, nor has any ambitions to be so, apparently. That doesn’t mean that a professor of Theology should have been appointed; fortunately we’ve gone off those since the days of David Jenkins, Bp of Durham. But surely a theologian (Gk, knowledge of God, or thereabouts) is anyone who can reflect on the Scriptures and bring them to bear on society as we see it around us? Otherwise theology is a useless academic study of other theologians – you know the thoughts of man, but you don’t understand the mind of God.
    If a Bishop can’t do that very simple thing, then I’m surprised they can fill any pastoral position, let alone the third most senior in the C of E. Bishops Welby and Mullaly have many things in common – two years a Bishop before being catapulted into something several steps up from anything else they might have encountered, vast experience of nursing and the oil industry (how did we ever get on without it?), and no reputation for expository preaching. Welby flounders because he has nothing to fall back on; expect Bishop Dame Sarah to do the same.

  7. Ian writes: “The third thing we easily forget is that individuals are not that important.”

    Well, I wish that could have been true during Katherine Jefferts Schori’s rule over TEC – that church went into catastrophic tailspin, many hundreds of clergy left and formed ACNA, and attendance nosedived.

    I do not think Mullally would do that to London, but nor do I see in her any of the outstanding gifts of a church leader and builder, as a preacher, theologian, evangelist or apologist for the faith. She was evidently appointed by Welby and Sentamu because she is woman, not because she was the most outstanding candidate.

    From what I have read she is another un-theological liberal who no doubt had an evangelical conversion in her teens (as most liberals did) but whose ideology now is much more sociological than theological.

    I don’t think she really has a clue how to bring the Gospel to the Muslims of London or even any sense that that is the Church’s mission. That she supports revisionism on homosexual relations is clear to anyone who can read between the lines.

  8. Was it too much and unrealistic to hope that a new bishop would be widely applauded (‘universally’ has never been the case), rather than ‘the jury is out’ for so many people? That feels a very sad thing about her reception and a terrible temperature on our church health thermometer.

    I’m not negative at all about her management skills ( I ‘did’ some management training during my stipendiary ministry) …but this is useful as a layer on top of someone’s role ‘fit’. So as a concern…,are we preferring management skills to the spiritual/theological ability needed in a minister? Church growth and conversions might be hindered by a lack of organisation but organisation, on its own, is nothing.

    As part of,a wider body one might imagine that bishop could look for and find theological/biblical expertise from his/her colleagues. But,..do people for whom this is not their strength value it or treat it lightly?

    Finally… Is there really a need to call some posts ‘senior’? I know it carries a higher stipend…though why?

  9. Well put indeed…

    The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments

  10. Comment from the Antipodes:

    I remember our beloved Archbishop Paul Reeves, on the occasion when Archbishop Desmond Tutu visited New Zealand, saying that he was most impressed by +Desmond’ s devotion to Christ in the Daily Eucharist – from which he said he gained his inspiration and power to witness each day.

    This, surely, is the mark of a Bishop and Chief Pastor: to meet with Christ on a daily basis and then to ‘Go Forth on Mission’.

  11. On the face of it the instinct to pass judgement on someone who has just been appointed to a senior role in the Church of England might seem ungracious to say the least. Yet in this case there is a compelling reason, a duty even, to do just that.

    To put it simply, we are not all stupid. As a church we are living through a torrid time, led by a clique for whom trust and loyalty have been stretched until, for an increasing number, it has now snapped. Only the terminally naïve could be unaware of the manipulation of people, of words, of appointments, of disciplinary inaction which has propelled the church to a position where many of the faithful have grave doubts that there is a godly and holy future for the CofE. In such circumstances the appointment of a new bishop of London is as obvious a clue as to the clique’s intentions as you could ask for. I use the word ‘clique’ advisedly: it means ‘an exclusive circle of people with a common purpose’.

    Some people argue, as Tony Benn used to say, that it is policies that matter rather than personalities. But nothing could be farther from the truth. It always comes down to people in the end. It is often said that the wrong landlord can empty a thriving pub of its regulars in 6 weeks. A weak prime minister can reduce government to a shambles in short order. A poor head teacher will undermine the morale of the staff. A Christian leader who has little grasp (or interest) in theology and no words or enthusiasm to communicate the Gospel faithfully and energetically cannot make up for it through skill in ascending greasy steeples.

    It is desperately sad when cynicism is the default reaction to appointments in a church. But that is where we are now in the CofE. Some say that during 2017 there was a point where the lights turned out. Only God knows the truth about that, but I’m pretty sure that uncertainty for our church’s future is the defining mark of the faithful as this year comes to an end.

  12. She seems absolutely admirable, but then spoilt everything by her answer on ‘is gay sex a sin?’. Truth never, never, never equals diplomacy. They are not even closely connected. The answers that both she and Archbishop JW gave had nothing to do with truth, conviction or integrity (or evidence or research) at all – they simply reflected the lobby-groups’ stand-off and perceived stalemate. That is not how truth is attained. To substitute diplomacy for truthfulness or honesty is a sign of character and not a good one.

    So are the 2 of them happy for us to regard them not as being people of truth? Not as being people of conviction? Not as being people of integrity? Not as being people capable of independent thought? As being people who think that truth lies in the current state of play within lobby groups??

    This is an incredibly serious matter. If everyone stated the truth as they saw it, and (further) gave their reasons, there would then be no problem.

    I don’t think we could trust either of them to give a straight or truthful answer on any matter unless this were rectified. Some answers might be true, but how could we know which ones?

    If that is not serious, I don’t know what is.

    Interestingly, the seriousness of it is spotted by Gavin Ashenden and Anglican Unscripted, but not by St Helen’s.

  13. Unless St Helen’s is playing a different game. We must watch what they do. Nothing really holds St Helen’s to the C of E except some complex battle about who owns the real estate.
    St Helen’s has also established many congregations around London, as has Co-Mission, which is identical in theology.
    Now that Anglican bishops exist in England outside the C of E and a network of AMiE churches has been formed, there are other routes to ‘mutual flourishing’.

    • I very much doubt they are playing a ‘game’ at all – just being faithful to the best and most proven traditions.

      You, like me, have probably noticed that many people simply assume that others are being tactical. This says a lot about themselves and their own levels of transparency: apparently they have never encountered a non-plotting/scheming sort of person, and are certainly not such a person themselves.

      Of course, there is a fine line between being plotting/scheming and simply being well-planned or strategic. The difference lies in the purity of the motive.

  14. The seed is the word of God, and on good soil it multiplies 30x, 60x, 100x. But for any who do not have it (the living and active word/Spirit) I’d expect that even what they have will be taken away.

    There’s growth (which breeds growth) and shrinkage (which has its own normalising effect) – there are leavens good and bad; but it’s not possible to stand still. As the man said (in fact it was Bash), being a Christian is like riding a bike. If you don’t move you fall off.

  15. What I do beg is that people consider in detail how incomparably bad ‘good disagreement’ or ‘agreeing to disagree’ is as a principle.

    First, if everyone presupposes that views will remain polarised, there is no need to investigate whether the actual evidence matches one’s own preferences or not (and come off it, the chances of evidence matching [in full??] anyone’s *preferences* are regularly going to be astronomically low). This breaks the cardinal rule of debate. A conclusion comes at the end: the start is the worst possible juncture that a conclusion can come at – both in terms of accuracy and in terms of integrity and avoidance of ideology and power politics.

    Second, there is no requirement to be familiar with evidence before stating (what are misleadingly called) one’s ‘conclusions’. Generally in scholarly discussions, the more startling the statistic, the more central it will rightly be to the investigation. Whereas that is nothing like the case with CofE on homosexuality. People claim to have opinions and views *already* without having any idea about the startling discrepancies between typical ‘heterosexual’ and homosexual rates of promiscuity, indulgence in risky sexual practices, STIs, life expectancy. Nor is there any expectation that before having a ‘view’ people will have any familiarity with the exegetical discussions of 2 millennia. The biblical passages need not be correct in what they assert, but for this discussion it is essential to be familiar with what they *do* assert, which can then be tested against the realities.

    Third, it is impossible that an opinion-graph with peaks at both poles yet no reading in the middle (i.e., the very reverse of normal distribution) represents honest reading of the evidence. Such a graph accurately plots polarised ideologies and preferences as opposed to evidenced conclusions. But ideology is not evidence-based: so far from that, it is the enemy and opposite of scholarship.

    Fourth, the homosexual issue us getting preferential treatment if it is the only issue where people are granted the luxury of good disagreement. Whereas if it is not the only such issue, then a free for all beckons, since it would seem unfair and illogical to exclude any issue.

    Fifth, it is a strange issue to select for such preferential treatment. Why has it been promoted above the many issues that are genuinely controversial in exegesis, logic and reality? Through 2 millennia there has not been any recognition that the scriptures are other than plain in their basic stance here. Even when this is finally noticed, the timing and location of this development suggests that social conformity is the driver.

    • Fourth, the homosexual issue us getting preferential treatment if it is the only issue where people are granted the luxury of good disagreement. Whereas if it is not the only such issue, then a free for all beckons, since it would seem unfair and illogical to exclude any issue.

      That is an excellent point. Is the position reached over female ordination not one that can be described as “good disagreement” though?

      • Actually, there are lots of things over which there is disagreement, sometimes ‘good’: the Eucharist, vestments, praying for the dead, the intercession of saints, the place of Mary, atonement…most of them rather more important than sexuality.

        • Disagreement (honest disagreement) is fine. Whereas lumping together stances based on evidence with stances based on wishful thinking (all of them are ‘views’, ‘opinions’, ‘positions’, after all…) is the least fine thing conceivable.

          • Since it is the season of goodwill may I just gently remind you that it is hardly fair to caricature revisionist arguments as based upon ‘wishful thinking’. They are formed through attention to scholarship and evidence as much as ‘traditionalist’ arguments. We all have views, opinions and positions after all; they are reached, I hope, through close attention to scripture and wide reading of research. We seem to be able to live together with widely differing beliefs on other theological and biblical matters – as the wide scholarship attests. It is a pity we cannot live together on matters such as sex, sexuality, and gender.
            Merry Christmas.

          • But I didn’t make a correlation between revisionism and wishful thinking. I just said, truly, that (unbelievably) when people say that there are different positions, stances, views and opinions, they often do not even care to differentiate between those based on years of study and those based on no study but only personal preference. All of these are ‘views’, all are ‘opinions’. But they are of extremely varying worth. Otherwise, I demand to speak at the next astrophysics conference, and I demand that you applaud what I say.

        • Hi Penelope,

          When compared to the current sexual revisionism, none of the differences over the Eucharist, vestments, praying for the dead, the intercession of the saints, the place of Mary, or the atonement would have achieved ‘good disagreement’ had they succeeded in altering the Church’s liturgy.

          So, notwithstanding the qualifications of the Oxford Movement, whatever the divergent beliefs concerning transubstantiation, Article XXVIII rejects it and any eucharistic liturgy, such as perpetual adoration,which is predicated upon it.

          As with the decision to ordain women bishops, whatever the conciliatory gestures made at the time (such as guiding principles), for one position to gain ascendancy invariably spells relegation and isolation from the mainstream for those who don’t support it.

          Lex orandi, lex credendi.

          • Hi David

            I don’t call having your own flavour bishops (FiF, headship evangelical) exactly isolation. However, the church still remarries divorced people despite Canon B30, which I believe stretches lex orandi lex credendi to its limits. Ditto belief in the real presence and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; whatever the 39 Articles declare, many perfectly orthodox Anglicans witness to these week by week. Just as many orthodox Anglicans chose not to wear vestments (before the rules were changed) and many do still use unauthorised forms of worship.
            But the kind of sexual revisionism of which we speak is more major than contraception or the remarriage or divorcees. I truly do wonder why.
            Anyway, Merry Xmas!

          • ‘But the kind of sexual revisionism of which we speak is more major than contraception or the remarriage or divorcees. I truly do wonder why.’

            Once again, Penelope:
            1) Please point to the passages of scripture which condemn contraception
            2) Remarriage of divorcees in certain circumstances is permitted by Christ, and the church does so in exceptional circumstances, and is clear that divorce is deeply regrettable.

            The current sexual revisionism on the other hand involves using spurious arguments about the supposed narrow context of clear (and hitherto universally recognised) scriptural prohibitions on same-sex sex to push an agenda clearly at odds with biblical orthodoxy on sex and marriage.

            Hope that makes more sense now. Merry Christmas!

          • Hi Penelope,

            I don’t see how capitulation (yes, he was pushed) to the concerted campaign aimed hounding Philip North out of preferment to the see of Sheffield is tantamount to having your own flavour of bishop.

            Concerning the divorce comparison, we’ve been here before.

            Your comparison would be valid, if you could show me any same-sex couple who’d be willing to acknowledge, similarly to those seeking Church re-marriage after divorce, that same-sex sexual relationships are ‘a breach of God’s will for marriage’. We both know that won’t happen and that’s why the Hereford motion is just vapid nonsense.

            There may well be unofficial toleration of contraception, belief in the real presence, adoration of the blessed sacrament, and vestment non-conformances.

            The law already maintains a clear distinction between these kinds of beliefs and those which clergy have a duty to uphold and which fall within the Schedule 9 exemptions of the Equality Act 2010.

            Unofficial and carefully delineated toleration is not the same as official wholesale endorsement, since accomplishing the latter involves substantial amendments to canon law and Church liturgy.

            Have a blessed Christmas.

          • Hi Will & David
            You know I don’t agree and we’ve rehearsed some of these arguments before. I am sure we’ll revisit them in the New Year. But, as I listen to the 9L and C may I wish you both a very happy and blessed Christmas.

    • To summarise:
      There is not a stance so baseless, so founded on vested interests, so manipulative in that it is actually known to be false, so unresearched, that ‘good disagreement’ will not clothe it with an undeserved false respectability and give it a place at a table.

      Bring in good disagreement, and it is equivalent to shutting down every university.

      • Yes, however my principle concern is not that “good disagreement” exists, but that it often seems to be the desirable outcome.

        Good disagreement is really just a reluctant-yet-amicable ‘compromise position’ dressed up in church-speak to make it more palatable to the competing parties….

        This is not invalid of itself (compromise shows maturity), but, setting out to debate something of great importance when the other, more ‘polar’, alternatives have been denied a priori is just plain stupid.

        • Good disagreement can sometimes be research conclusion vs ideological vested-interest position. Failure to see this possibility is incredibly dangerous. That is why everything stands or falls on (by?) evidence alone.

        • Penelope.

          A half-truth is not true.

          Universities are hotbeds of truth-seeking. This does not involve (a) dissent and disagreement any more than it involves (b) discovery, refining, exclusion of options, and new consensuses. It involves both.

          To favour one of (a) and (b) over the other, moreover, is bias.

          And it is worse than that, because people can have their own obscurantist reasons for favouring cloudiness over the bright light of day: light excludes or shows up error, whereas when we are in the dark, then all options are ‘allowed’, even purely ideological and groundless ones that are based on self-interest.

          • In that case why are there disagreements between scholars? Why does the New Consensus on Paul not receive universal acceptance or universal rebuttal? Who is ‘right’ about the anti-imperialist Paul: NT Wright or John Barclay? Who is ‘right’ about Jesus’ eschatological sayings in the gospels: Wright or Eddie Adams?

          • Your reply makes no sense.

            I had said that universities involve *both* a (dispute) *and* b (advance in knowledge).

            You replied as though I had said they involved b and not a.

            Which is just as bad as saying that they involve a and not b. Which cannot, surely be your position – is it?

          • Penelope, I think I am more with you on this than Christopher. I think his comment is true for *many* subjects, but not for theology—which is one reason why it is being systematically sidelined in universities (its lack of economic usefulness being the other)

            The New *Perspective* on Paul has large elements which have been accepted—but also questioned, and if you explore the right places you will find some good analysis of this. (I can tell you confidently that, though I like Eddie Adams personally, I think his monograph on cosmic eschatological language is mistaken: just because someone says it, it does not mean they are intending it to be non-metaphorical, which is essentially his argument; there is a good paper on this by my friend Suse McBay).

            But in theology, unlike much soft research science and almost all ‘hard’ science, is far too much shaped by ideology, cultural trends, and personal power plays. The REF funding system really does not help this—and in fact undermines the integrity of research in many areas. It is quite possible to put out a view, win some fans and establish a school—even if your method is really poor. There are many examples of this in the modern period, and they continue today.

          • Yes – thinking about it, I was not really focussing on theology, just speaking in general about the pursuit of knowledge and truth. Things probably are different, at present, when it comes to theology. We’d all wish it were not so.

            Speaking tongue in cheek but not inaccurately, my aversion to ideology is (not without reason) absolute, and I would constantly press for a scholarship (truth-seeking) vs ideology perspective.

            Michael Hampson said that at Cuddesdon he would breathe a sigh of relief when biblical studies came round, because for the one and only time one was dealing with solid data. Texts. Historical individuals. Archaeological artefacts. Inscriptions. Phew!

            The term ‘theology’ covers many areas, so we should be clear what we mean. Speculative theology is not a hard science, and is rife with ideology. It is easy to test this: just ask: ‘to what extent are your ”conclusions” congenial to you?’ and, if ideology is present, the extent will be suspiciously high. If one is not sometimes coming to uncongenial conclusions, then one’s honesty has to be examined.

            I do think philosophy of religion and biblical studies (which resembles Classics) are relatively hard sciences in theory if not always in practice. Doctrine (as opposed to history of doctrine) is less so, and I would almost rather it were composed of the results of philosophy of religion and biblical studies. In a sort of pincer movement.

            However – when preaching I have always done biblical theology, and biblical theology turns out to be something that can (broadly) be done coherently. Were the biblical writings less unified, it could not be. Biblical theology is utterly vital, because here the match with life-experience comes into play. It rarely does so with either biblical studies or philosophy of religion.

            I have urged (and here I seem still to be in a minority!!) that in order for biblical studies to be a harder science (and for our results to be more secure), we should prioritise those areas where results are relatively verifiable and falsifiable – which are, happily, often also those questions where the data is not impossibly large: and then use our findings as a foundation for other study. In practice this means that we begin with logical and internal-coherence questions, such as:
            -interrelationships (for which we have bags of data in almost every single verse)
            (This applies mostly to the gospels and Revelation, which are the only areas I really work in.)

            Being so averse to ideology in all its manifestations, I suppose I like ideology least in Christian studies – partly because one of the main points about being or becoming a Christian is to renounce the lies and lying atmosphere one so often finds in the secular world. And because one expects to find truth and a love of truth where one finds Christianity. Empire and Commonwealth immigrants find British culture rejecting the truth it possesses in favour of lies, and cannot believe what they are seeing.

            This is much like feeling worse when women swear than when men do. It is not that it is any worse when women do it (just as ideology is no worse in theology than elsewhere) but rather that one gets the sinking feeling that if the degeneration is found even there, then nowhere at all can now be free from it.

          • Hello Christopher and Ian
            Yes, I agree that some subjects are more ‘ideological ‘ than others, but no subject (few?) are entirely free of bias, conscious or unconscious. Christopher and I have had this argument before because I believe that it is impossible for scholarship to be completely objective or disinterested.
            Another example of the ‘hotbed of dissent’ is the current furore in Oxforc over Nigel Biggar.

            The biblical scholarship examples I gave above were because I know more about this than about current theological disputes. I could have added Mark Goodacre’s disbelief in Q.
            I did mean new consensus rather than new perspective, though there’s plenty of disagreement in the latter too. I’m a Douglas Campbell follower. Rather as I agree with Eddie rather than with Wright on eschatology.

            As a matter of interest, which ‘schools’ we’re you thinking of?

            And, Christopher, I don’t think archaeology is intrinsically clear. Helen King is doing some work on womb votives from antiquity. We don’t know what they were used for; we don’t even know that they do represent wombs, since they don’t look much like a womb. Who decides?

          • Hi Penelope

            Several points here.

            You say that scholarship cannot be disinterested (large-scale assertion: alarm bells). But you have not answered the points I have made about that:

            (1) People already know what their own biases and preferences are. Well then, they can factor in the fact that their own biases and preferences are known, and discriminate against their own biases to the appropriate degree.

            (2) If some people are better able to do (1) than others, then who is to say what is the maximum degree to which someone can be self-aware and counter their own biases? We can’t prove that there is no-one who is perfectly able to do that.

            (3) The periodic table is not the fruit of ideology. It is something that was ‘always’ there and was just discovered. It just is as it is and cannot be otherwise. I’m not at liberty to replace ‘helium’ with ‘Mickey Mouse’ at number 2 in the table. Same applies to developmental biology. Same applies to DNA. Same applies to the necessary tautological truths of mathematics. Every subject under the sun has a mathematical and/or logic-problem element to it somewhere. Even New Testament studies.

            (4) However, if we are talking theology only, then biblical studies is one of the ‘harder’ aspects of theology. It is no more theology than it is cultural studies anyway. Not that it is actually a hard science, but it is harder than some.

            (5) The Nigel Biggar dispute: the existence of a dispute is not evidence that we do not sometimes know who is (more) right at a given point! On the point where his critics say he is asking the wrong questions and looking at the wrong angles, they (in Johannine terms) stand condemned together with the Communists, because if their theory is a cherry-picking theory that can cope only with carefully selected questions rather than being comprehensive and coping with all angles, then obviously their theory is no good: that is scholarship 101. Besides, the Empire is a vast subject in detail, time and space: an unnuanced simplistic theory is scarcely going to be better than Biggar’s nuanced one. It comes back, as ever, to ideology.

            (6) I don’t disagree with your specific point on archaeology. Archaeology involves things one can see and touch – that is all I meant.

    • The media being a particular demographic with a combination of vested interests and an unusual degree of opportunity to ‘jam’ public opinion.

      So long as people remain terrified of being in a minority (and so long as they are expert in only 1% of possible subjects, which will always be the case for all of us) then the rest follows, and the media (and /or elites – oh la la) get their way.

      Economic advance making it harder to stop people simply doing whatever they want.

      Human nature.

    • Simon – the key driver in society is the growth of atheism among the elite (and recently more widely) since the mid 19th century, accompanied by all kinds of alternative philosophies to Christianity – Marx, Mill, Freud, Dewey, Gramsci, Sartre, Keynes, Hayek, Foucault etc. This cultural shift has replaced the overarching idea of human beings under the design and law of their creator God with a vision of human progress through the liberation of the inner authentic individual, freed from all encumbrances of nature. The supposedly authentic individual has replaced God at the centre of our social vision and its sense of order. The result is inherently unstable and anti-rational.

      See my Grove booklet for the bigger picture! 🙂 https://grovebooks.co.uk/products/e-185-evangelical-social-theology-past-and-present

      • Will – you are absolutely correct – it is atheism among the elites, which reconfigures how one thinks about sexuality and human mortality. Protestant churches which have gone the whole nine yards – like the Church of Sweden – are really indistinguishable from atheism with touches of nature mysticism (which is where the Church of Sweden is today).
        After the Protestant state churches of Europe have capitulated – as they will – to the revisionist sexual (which is only paganism), the next step will be the embrace of assisted suicide.

        Regretfully I have concluded that it is one of the Laws of Unintended Consequences that the 1992 decision of the C of E to ordain women was going to make this outcome inevitable.

        • ‘Regretfully I have concluded that it is one of the Laws of Unintended Consequences that the 1992 decision of the C of E to ordain women was going to make this outcome inevitable.’ How so Brian?

          • Probably three or so reasons for this.

            1. I started with a low(or even subterranean) church that is more functional than anything: that the work of ministry is essentially about preaching and teaching the Word of God and it never struck me that the minister’s sex (I will not use that grammatical word ‘gender’) had much to do with this. I never gave much thought to the relational aspects of the ministry or the way in which the minister is meant to be a spiritual father (yes, father) to the congregation. And knowing many good and faithful evangelical women, I cautiously supported the ordination of women to the presbyterate, although I was never fully convinced by the biblical and historical arguments put in favour.
            2. I have come to see that women are essentially pastoral-nurturing in their nature (which is what it means to be a mother) and it is no accident that the vast majority of primary school teachers and nurses are women. That is how it has always been and always will be, and no amount of social engineering will essentially change this. Look at Norway and Sweden for this.
            3. The infusion of thousands of women into the ordained ministry of the C of E in one generation meant that the church very quickly became entrenched in a pastoral-nurturing mode; and so many of these women took their outlook as former nurses and primary teachers into church ministry. You will find very little talk of ‘spiritual warfare’, the ‘clash of kingdoms’ or ‘winning others to Christ’ in such a world, and little about divine judgment or the awful cost of rejecting Christ. There is an implicit universalism in such a world and the task of the church is to do what the NHS and state schools claim to do: ‘to serve everyone’ and ‘to make known God’s love’ – although these bromides hardly began with women’s ordination.
            4. Politically the structures of the C of E were changed beyond recognition by WO. First, the Anglo-Catholic element departed in significant numbers or became a shell of itself. With this loss, the C of E also lost a significant element that knew and loved the Church Fathers and everything that the Patristic era bequeathed to the Ecclesia Anglicana. The majority of women who were ordained are the product of part-time ‘ecumenical’ courses – the new Bishop of London is a case in point – and their task is to manage (for free) a declining institution. Their outlook is liturgical and liberal (in other words, a kind of soft liberal Catholicism): vestments, crossing oneself, a big focus on even more Eucharistic worship as the panacea for the church’s ills; and a disinterest in (or little capacity for) expository preaching, fundamental theology or evangelism. When a bishop urges the necessity for more ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ you are hearing first of all the language of postmodern secular society, not the Gospel of repentance and faith in Christ the God-Man and Sin-bearer.
            5. Along with these ‘in the middle’, there has entered a more self-consciously feminist group shaped by secular philosophy, sometimes postmodern, sometimes neo-Marxist, inveighing against the Church’s patriarchy, sexism, heteronormativity etc – along with attacks on the traditional language for God in the Bible and the liturgy. This should be a familiar story to most readers of this blog, so there is no need to rehearse it here, other than to say that the presence of women in the ordained ministry has accelerated this theological change (and make no mistake, it is a theological change, it is more than style).
            6. Although I have tried (as Ian has) to resist connecting the two, I find it increasingly difficult to deny that support for WO must lead to sexual revisionism. The arguments for one are routinely used in support of the other – and it is telling that you will *never* find an advocate of sexual revisionism who is not also a supporter of WO. It is a ‘seamless web’ as far as they are concerned.
            So that is what I mean by ‘the Law of Unintended Consequences’. Once women were present in the House of Clergy- and now in the House of Bishops, liberal ideas on homosexuality would have an ever greater salience in the Church of England.
            A Rubicon was crossed – and as in the case of that (apparently insignificant) event of January 49 BC, who knew where it would lead?

          • Brian
            I don’t agree with much of what you say, but one minor correction, I know several advocates of ‘sexual revisionism’, clerical and lay, who are opposed to the ordination of women.

          • Brian – I don’t like your arguments, but it doesn’t mean they’re not correct.

            In terms of female clergy and synod, certainly the rejection of the HOB report on same-sex marriage last Feb in the House of Clergy could be put down to the presence of its female members: http://archbishopcranmer.com/synod-vote-same-sex-relations-female-clergy-wot-won-it-lost-it/

            Female clergy voted 4 to 1 against the report, whereas male clergy voted 3 to 2 in favour. (Female laity voted 57 per cent against, while male laity voted 2 to 1 in favour). Not exactly an encouraging sign of orthodoxy amongst female ministers.

          • Postmodernism is part of the same slippery slope as agree to disagree.

            It could be connected with the same feminisation that you spoke of. There is a reaction against debate and logic and things actually being correct or incorrect – let’s have good disagreement instead. No battle is taking place, despite the fact that the spiritual battle is a constant across otherwise diverse streams of Christianity (pentecostal, pietistic, Blake, Catholic, Inkling).

          • Brian – as always I appreciate your considered reply
            Penelope – as always I appreciate your Grit
            Will – thanks for those stats – hadn’t seen them before – would love to hear more of your reflection on them
            Christopher – as always I appreciate your precision

          • Many thanks, and Merry Christmas.

            In-house hospitality and equality figure perhaps more in the typical female world than in the typical male world. Megachurches and statesmanship – well, maybe more men than women have their eyes on those, but they may actually be more a male thing anyway – the former seems to be anyway.

            Sometimes people reduce this to left brain and right brain. Even if that is right, we still need to balance the two, no ultra-feminisation or masculinisation. However – brain-halves aren’t the bottom line at all. The fact that some people are less logical does not mean we should consider good logic and poor logic as equally good!! The fact that some people are more hospitable does not mean we should treat bad and good hospitality as equally good. We need a combination of the best in all areas. Where the current feminisation (such as it is) can be criticised is that it has narrowed horizons in what after all is a very big world. And it also seems to have the same preoccupations, often, as the media, the state, and the ‘world’.

        • What do you think connects the ordination of women to the priesthood (did not ordination to the diaconate make the 1992 decision inevitable?) to capitulation to the revisionist agenda? Not saying you’re wrong just interested in your reasoning. Also why do you say regretfully – do you otherwise support women’s ordained ministry?

        • Brian
          Your post has resonated with my concerns about the C of E. I began by supporting women’s ordination and indeed I personally know a number of very good women priests. But I have realised that women’s ordination has been bad for the Church as a whole. the fast rise in the number of women has feminised the church and been off putting for men. We need men to be masculine and strong in support of the Gospel. I am so tired of “niceness” crippling the church. Gentle Jesus meek and mild is also the one who called the Pharisees “you brood of vipers”. We need to “stand firm” and a male headship to assist us in doing so.

          • It’s a shame that the ‘feminisation’ of the church has put off men. Two thousand years of patriarchy didn’t manage to put off women. We must be more robust. And we can be far more nasty. But I’m hoping the Church will embrace niceness. I don’t see much evidence for it at present.

          • I believe in individuals and genders leading in their own areas of expertise (the charismatic model of leadership).

            If so be that men on average are more leftbrained and women more rightbrained – and I have never seen a study that denied it, so we can take it as read – then women will more often need to be those who lead (for example) in war-avoidance and positive alternatives to war (a diplomatic matter that requires empathy and emotional intelligence) and men will more often need to be those who lead on logical and truth-oriented matters. There is no excuse for trying to lead in areas where one is not fitted or expert.

    • Could be a case for separating the emotional from the substantial content. It is always perfectly possible (if not agreeable) that the most emotional article will also be the best argued, and that the least emotional will be the worst argued. As Paul Merton says, ‘It could happen’.

      • Like it or not, this point is at the heart of many present disputes. People just cannot conceive that accurate points can be made from a bitter or petty heart, or inaccurate ones from a suave voice. Truth is a very different matter indeed from emotional content, and is separable from it.

        Relatedly: it is to be expected from the law of averages that a certain proportion (say: at least 20%) of the honest or truthful provisional conclusions we come to will be unwelcome to us. If anyone never, ever comes to provisional conclusions that are unwelcome to them, then they are either making reality in their own image, or are not honest, or are fudging reality and ideology together.

    • It is not both, surely?

      Just because the writer of said article is unpleasant and overly-critical, it does not mean that he is also wrong because of it. For instance I think Jules Gomez was right when he asserted that she was ‘bland’ on the subject of the gospel, and that from a senior/high profile bishop this is worrying at best and frankly insulting at worst, but simultaneously wrong to be so sarcastic and insulting in return. His legitimate concerns are lost amid jokes about the “Bishopette of Londonstan”.

  16. Thanks for this Ian. Here and elsewhere I continue to read numerous and varied responses to this appointment. And I know it is one of those times when the big questions get asked of those who are appointed to lead us. I am also clear that a number of responses have indeed been ‘just unpleasant’. Brian Robins seems to have missed those.
    But one side of this discussion is missing – as it always tends to be. How about a blog called ‘Are we any good at following?’ Our discussions reveal the intense and strong investment we have in our leaders. And while some of our questions are rightly directed at the institution with its present choices and priorities, we might also do a bit of self reflecting on the realism of our own expectations and the demands assume we can lay upon those appointed this role for us. I recall George Carey in the early years of his time at Bath and Well saying that the biggest single burden on becoming bishop was managing the sheer weight of negativity and complaining that went with the job. The responsibility is a shared one.

    • When I clicked on ‘just unpleasant’ I was led directly to the article to which I was referring and which I had previously read. I feel it was perfectly reasonable to assume this was THE piece criticised, so I’m not sure what I am supposed to have missed

    • David – as you know, bishops set about to shape the character of their dioceses by blocking some appointments, championing others – and even trying to hasten some clergy out of the diocese. It is little wonder if Carey and others experienced ‘negativity’ if they were not seen to be respecting the rights of parishes or if others don’t see things their way.

      And yet all we can conclude from the reigns of Carey and Williams in Canterbury is that they failed to reverse the decline of the C of E – hence the rise of the managerial class of Welby and his surrogate Mullally.

      • For the record Brian – this was the mail bag Carey received before he had started actually doing or not doing anything. It is routinely what Bishops get sent.

        • I knew George a little too and saw something of his strengths and weaknesses (though not as closely as others). He could be inspirational – but also dismissive of his critics. I wonder if this is a consequence of the English class system in the Church of England, when a working class lad climbs the greasy pole and has to face waspishness and snobbery. I’m sure Carey faced a good deal of this but didn’t have the largeness of mind to deal with it. The current imbroglio with Welby and the removal of his PTO (surely the first time this has happened to a former Archbishop of Canterbury since Thomas Cranmer?) is a desperately sad sign of the state of the C of E and those in its leadership.

      • Brian ‘as you know, bishops set about to shape the character of their dioceses by blocking some appointments, championing others’. I have worked in a number of diocese at the level impacted by this. So yes – but it is rather loaded way of expressing what I know to be generally more collaborative and prayerful process. But yes, Bishops appoint and the shape the character of their diocese – that is part of their job. The difference is that I don’t see this in such wholly negative terms. But nor do I know why you do. But I accept that this is part of a debate beyond the limits of this thread. Christmas blessings to you and yours.

        • Why do I see this as largely negative? 1. Because I see the local church as the fundamental unit of the church, not the administrative association that is a diocese. 2. Because liberal bishops use their power to appoint likeminded people to diocesan posts which must be paid from the parish share. 3. Because liberal bishops make their diocese unfriendly for evangelicals and are obstructive – this is exactly what the bishops of Liverpool and Manchester are doing now: they are vigorously promoting the pro-gay agenda with the aim of transforming their dioceses that way.

          But I’m sure you knew that already.

  17. Brian Robin Thanks for clarifying. But I found it a thoroughly nasty piece of writing and am not prepared to debate on those terms. Like Ian (I imagine)I I have been following discussion threads on fb and Thinking Anglicans – and there is plenty to choose from there that is just as rude. I am up for robust and honest debate. But I don’t think this is how Christians do business. It honours no one.

    • David,

      Give me Jules Gomes any day over the bland niceness of the regular bishops (serving and retired) who, on Thought For The Day, are obviously speaking to their churchy chums rather than attempting to engage poor Joe Bloggs who is bored witless by their three minutes of banality. Jules actually has something to say, is exceptionally gifted with words, and says it without fear or favour in the same kind of engaging way that grabbed people’s attention when Jesus spoke.

      ‘Nastiness’ is of course in the ear of the listener. Today’s faux politeness regularly amounts to craven acquiescence to the diktats of self appointed thought police; it robs us of energy and, more seriously, of truth. As the prophets of old could have testified, speaking truth to power will regularly be taken as crude and offensive language by those who most need to hear it.

      It was a long time ago that I started to lament the silence of leading evangelicals in the face of revisionist manoeuvres by the CofE hierarchy. That silence largely remains to this day; it has probably been a big factor in the speed and depth of the church’s decline. Thank God for the few, such as Jules Gomes, who dare to speak as they find.

      • “bland niceness of the regular bishops (serving and retired) who, on Thought For The Day…”


        Someone once said that the problem with Thought for the Day was not that it was too religious but that it wasnt religious enough. I’d go along that corridor but in that Jesus the Lord is unusually if not entirely missing from many ‘Christian’ contributors. Just social commentary which might be wrong or right but certainly not more than this. What happened to ‘in season or out of season’?

        • That’s right. For years ‘Thought for the day’ was shadowed by a satirical blog called ‘Platitude for the day’ which was often uncomfortably close to the truth.

          It is usually moralising from a centre-left point of view ascribed to a very human Jesus – who is not Lord and God but a wise if ineffectual teacher of morality. All very Kantian, really.

      • Gomes piece should not have been written by a Christian, still less a priest (and yes, I am holding clergy to higher standards here). It was nasty, spiteful, vindictive, misogynistic, and Islamonphobic. He could, as many did, have criticised the appointment of Bishop Sarah because,in his opinion, she lacked experience or theological expertise, but the language he chose to do so was inflammatory and hateful. The sort of invective that a secular columnist like Katie Hopkins employs – and she has just been sacked by the Mail Online! His shock jockey tactics speak strongly of personal disappointment.
        H e needs a food spiritual director, not the publicity he receives from publishing in ‘Conservative Woman’.

        • I quite agree.

          My complaint above was that however ‘right’ Jules’ comments and concerns are, the language he chose to make his point distracts (at best) and undermines (at worst) that very point. He of course has a right to say what he feels, but I felt it ill-judged as well.

        • The terms Islamophobic and misogynistic (like e.g. sexist) may perhaps apply in this case, but they are terms that are not always intelligently or coherently used. For example, there are ways in which the genders are on average significantly different (of course!) and to say that is truthful; if someone then calls that sexist, tehn tehy are banning truth. That is a very very serious matter.

          • I personally wouldn’t have said that Jules’ comments were ‘misogynistic’ as such, but then I’m prepared to accept that that’s in the eye of the beholder. I’m not saying Penelope is wrong, just that I didn’t read it in that light.

            Islamophobic though? I’m more inclined to agree with that, but I think it’s with good reason in this instance. Jules is absolutely right to be concerned by one of Christianity’s chief adversaries being coddled too much by the church. (I would not advocate for animosity between the two, but good dialogue does not mean agreeing all the time, and certainly not reading the Koran in cathedrals). To my knowledge Sarah has not personally been responsible for something like that, but I am unconvinced she will have a robust response to it when it does happen on her watch.

        • Penelope
          From your point of view Jesus was behaving very badly when he threw the tables over in the Temple and accused the hierarchy of being a den of thieves.
          I agree with Don that the church needs a good dose of truth and honesty instead of talking Of good disagreement. That only seems to work in one direction as Bishop Sarah is not being rejected like Bishop North.

          • There is nothing wrong with righteous anger, as both Jesus and Paul demonstrated. As I said, Gomes could have expressed his criticism robustly without resorting to cheap invective. There is nothing to stop the church striving for both honesty and good disagreement. As I commented, we do disagree on many issues; women’s ordination being one of them. It is clear that the appointment of Bishop Sarah was agreed with those who might have objected, like St Helen’s Bishopgate and +.Maidstone. Bishop Philip’s was not, and many of the clergy of Sheffield felt unrepresented.

        • ‘At noon, Elijah began making fun of them. “Pray louder!” he said. “Baal must be a god. Maybe he’s day-dreaming or using the toilet or traveling somewhere. Or maybe he’s asleep, and you have to wake him up.” (1 Ki. 18:27)

          For some here, Elijah’s mocking was an ‘incitement to religious hatred’. It might also come across today as cheap invective.

          And contrary to the notion that such railing was confined to the OT, we read Jesus’ outburst in Matt.23:27, which could be easily mistaken for text-book symptoms of dikigorosophobia (irrational fear of lawyers).

          In contrast, the 1998 disruption of George Carey’s 1998 Easter sermon from Canterbury Cathedral by Peter Tatchell and a dozen placard-waving protesters and the defiance of canonical obedience by lesbian and gay priests are glibly excused by the same as ‘prophetic’ and expressive of ‘righteous anger’.

          Christ’s exposure of pharasaic double-standards in Matt. 11:17 comes to mind.

          • I love those links! How clever. Well Elijah had his moments. And when we seek to model ourselves on Christ I think we should retain the anger without the invective. And I don’t find Tatchell’s protest acceptable either. I still find Gomes’ piece unacceptable. But Merry Xmas

          • ‘Dikigorosophobia’ – what a great word. Aversion to lawyers is a perfectly logical stance, though, and nothing to do with fear. I prize the Christian Legal Centre for restoring the good name of (a few) lawyers.

  18. ‘Today’s faux politeness regularly amounts to craven acquiescence to the diktats of self appointed thought police’

    quote of the week

  19. Don Benson Well goodwill to all men I say – hopelessly faux polite of the angels I know. I grant you he is eloquent – he is also rude, superior, sexist and cynical among other things. Defend it if you will but it is not Christian. Nor does it make any debate possible if that is really what you want. So why do it? As revenge for a very small number of Bishops who do Thought for the Day being too nice? Seriously? “‘Nastiness’ is of course in the ear of the listener.” Of course it is – that is why it is aimed there.
    Simon – and trying here to avoid any mistaking me as a defender of niceness – that quote is total b*****ks.

    • lol David – you are neither faux nor a defender of niceness – just authentically nice –
      I happen to agree with you over Don about Jules who sounded bitter – but I still think Don’s quote above is a truth brilliantly stated and made me smile through the man flu

    • David

      In one comment about ‘nastiness’ you’ve implied that I consider God’s goodwill message to mankind as faux politeness, suggested that I view what Jules Gomes’ wrote was ‘revenge’ for TFTD, and rounded off by describing something I said as total b******ks. Oh, and you’ve accused Jules of being ‘rude, superior, sexist and cynical among other things’!

      None of it upsets me in the slightest: the irony is too delicious – and that’s the joy of being British!

      • Don. No – but the angel’s message and language is surely fair game for the same accusation. No I was asking what the point of writing that at all was. Yes he is rude etc. Was not trying to challenge you not upset you. Being British is one of the more anguished parts of life for me at present to be honest. Blessings on your Christmas.

    • But why aren’t tone and content two separate topics?

      In absolute terms, style and substance are both very important. In relative terms, substance is the more important. If your proposal is that where style is bad we ought not even to analyse the substance, then 3 separate errors are being made:

      (a) style is put above substance and not vice-versa

      (b) style is seen as relevant to our assessment of substance – it isn’t.

      (c) substance is not being assessed at all! – which is a tricksy sleight of hand. In cases where points are made that could undercut someone’s position, people will wish to use this tactic: ‘The style is bad so I am not going to look at the substance’. Very convenient for them; and they also mark themselves henceforth as dishonest.

      Now, in this particular case, I personally do not rate the substance especially highly. I’m making a general point that ‘style bad therefore substance need not be read’ is quite clearly a non sequitur.

      • You are of course absolutely right – truth is truth whether it is stated with shouts, sneers or snot.
        But sometimes the tone or manner of what is said is really the main thing the speaker intends to convey, than the actual content of what is stated.

        • Yes, of course it is, but that does not gainsay my point.

          All you’re saying is that the two go together, which we know and agree on. But that does not mean that they cannot be separated.

          Everyone knows that it is possible to deliver sublime content (Mendeleef, Einstein breakthroughs) in a sneering tone. This content could have been delivered thus when it was first announced. Likewise a Shakespeare sonnet. Likewise John’s prologue. The content is as it is, and remains so.

          • A general comment (i.e. not specifically a response to Jules Gomes’s post, which I agree is ungracious, regardless of its content): surely the Ephesians 4 v 15 should be our guide, “…speaking the truth in love.” So ‘tone’ is important.

          • It was a misreading of Christopher, who I had read initially as saying that content and tone can and should always be separated. His response clearly adds the caveat I had missed.

          • I value precision so much that I still am aghast at how imprecise I can actually be, especially when writing very quickly. I do prefer speech-conversations where comeback and correction of misunderstanding can be more immediate, and also tones of voice and facial expression can be employed.

  20. For those who haven’t heard or read Mullally’s car crash interview on Radio 4 here is a transcript of the end: a perfect example of managerial evasion which you can interpret any way you like – and PRECISELY in the manner of Welby (cf his disgraceful response to the Carlile Report).

    Transcript excerpt: Interview of the Bishop of London-elect, Dame Sarah Mullally, by BBC’s Mishal Husain, Radio 4 Today Programme, Tuesday 19th December, 7.54am:

    MH: How would you vote when Synod debates blessings for same sex relationships?

    SM: Well, at that point I won’t be in Synod, so I won’t have a vote. But what we haveto remember is…

    MH: How would you vote?

    SM: What we have to remember is that this is about people, and, um, the church seeks to demonstrate love to all, because it reflects the God of love, who loves everybody, and obviously this issue isn’t just an issue for London, not just for us in the Church of England, but also the Anglican Community, um and at the moment the church is taking a period to reflect, there is work that is going on, er, and I’m involved in that, and, er, for me that is important that we take a time of reflection, whilst, you know, standing on the traditions of the Church of England…

    MH: Would you bless a same sex marriage?

    SM: At the moment there is no provision to do that

    MH: Would you like there to be that provision?

    SM: As I said there is a period of reflection that is going on at the moment, and I am part of that…

    MH: Have you not decided how you feel about blessing a same sex marriage?

    SM: I think that, what we have to recognize is a real diversity within the Church of England, and if we are going to take seriously the wish of the two Archbishops to take a period of reflection, then we need to allow that process to go ahead, and I have been very encouraged by those who wish to work with us on that. And at the same time we do have to recognize that this is a challenge for all people, and we do this as we have always done it in the past, we manage difference…

    MH: [Interrupts] I recognize that this is difficult…a sensitive issue…[continues, then mentions] St Helen’s Bishopsgate where the vicar has said he is looking to the new Bishop to condemn homosexual relationships as sinful, otherwise there will be some kind of break. [Deep breath]. Do you think homosexual relationships are sinful?

    SM: Er, well, the comment came across in the press, and one the things I’m doing is meeting those people that reflect the whole diversity across the Church of England. And in a sense it’s not avoiding the subject but it’s recognizing that there is a difference, that the Church of England, um, is taking a period of reflection, and recognizing that it does involve people, so there is a sense in which you have to compassionately, um, deal with these issues, and, er, I am forever encouraged that the church across London is undertaking a whole series of things in communities, to be, er, welcoming to that diversity. And one of the wonderful things yesterday was being out in Hackney, and seeing, er, a church that is welcoming people…

    Interviewer interrupts and asks about the possibility of a female Archbishop in her lifetime.

    SM replies about focusing on the job in hand.

    Interview ends. Programme moves to the weather forecast.



    • A factual correction. The Hereford Diocesan motion requesting the House of Bishops “to commend an Order of Prayer and Dedication after the registration of a civil partnership or a same-sex marriage” is not on the General Synod agenda in February 2018, and given that the Church’s new ‘teaching document’ is not scheduled to be ready till 2020, it is quite likely that the motion will not be on Synod’s agenda for debate before then. However, the announcement of Bishop Sarah’s appointment on the C of E website stated, “She will be installed as the 133rd Bishop of London at St Paul’s Cathedral in the new year.” Bishop Sarah will legally become Bishop of London (and thus a member of the House of Bishops) earlier than that, on her ‘Confirmation of Election’. So, if the Hereford motion is scheduled for debate at York in July 2018, she will almost certainly be a member of General Synod by then and will have a vote.

      • Hi David,

        The Hereford motion will be fast-tracked. Preb Kay Garlick not only sits on the Archbishop’s Council, but she is also chair of Hereford Diocese Inclusive Church Forum, and chair of the Business Committee of General Synod.

        The phrase ‘power elite’ comes to mind.

        • I very much doubt that the Hereford motion will be fast-tracked, for the reason set out in my comment. In any event, your information about Kay Garlick is out of date. She is no longer a member of General Synod or the Archbishops’ Council, and the chairman of the Business Committee is the Revd Canon Sue Booys from Oxford diocese.

          • I accept your correction regarding Kay Garlick’s current role.

            However, what isn’t out of date is that One Body One Faith’s confidence in Kay Garlick’s crucial guidance of the Hereford motion through Hereford deanery and diocesan synod which prompted them to invite her to speak at their recent Campaign Day in Sheffield.

            As Chair of Hereford Diocese Inclusive Church Forum, she was invited by One Body-One Faith to ‘share her experience of the business mechanisms of the Church of England and also her more recent experience guiding the Hereford motion through deanery and diocesan synods.’ at their recent Campaign Day.


            On this basis, I’m inclined to believe that her experience/influence will also be instrumental in ‘guiding’ the Hereford motion through General Synod.

            Whether her acknowledged experience of the business mechanisms of the CofE could result in ‘fast-tracking’ is debatable.

            According to your reasoning from the timetable for the proposed Teaching Document, would you also think that this would prevent the HoB until 2020 from responding to General Synod’s (Blackburn) motion (GS 2071) requesting special liturgy to mark gender transition?

          • David,
            In reply to your further comment of 29 December 2017 at 11.32 am, I don’t have any information on when the House of Bishops will respond to the Blackburn motion, which was passed at General Synod on 9 July 2017. However, since the motion was agreed by GS by a large majority in all three houses (the bishops voted 30 for, to 2 against, with 2 abstentions), I would expect a report back to synod within 12 months,otherwise questions are likely to be asked about when the HoB will respond.
            However, it is important to note the terms of the motion, which differ significantly from the Hereford motion. What GS agreed was this: “That this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.”
            Note that the HoB are only enjoined to ‘consider whether’ such materials might be prepared.
            I cannot predict the HoB response to this request, but it is worth noting that in his background note, GS 2071B, the Secretary General, William Nye, noted (para 12) that the existing Common Worship authorised form of service for the ‘Affirmation of Baptismal Faith’, “is sometimes used in a context where a person has been through a significant personal transition of one kind or another and now wishes to re-affirm their identity in Christ and their place within the life of the church as rooted in their original baptism, and to mark that publicly. It is therefore already available for use in the context of gender transition.” It could be, therefore, that, as Nye adds, if the motion is passed, the HoB “might conclude that existing liturgical materials provided sufficient flexibility to meet this pastoral need,as in paragraph 12 above.” (GS 2071B, para 14.)

          • Hi David,

            Thanks for your thoughtful response here and, furthermore, thanks for your outstanding advocacy (alongside Martin Sewell and others) at General Synod and elsewhere in support of justice for George Bell.

            Happy New Year!

  21. Off piste but…. since the CofE /Lambeth Conferences condemned contraception from 1880 to 1930..and only grudgingly accepted it then ( with many Lambeth bishops dissenting) and given this significant change brought forth a riposte in the Encyclical Casti Connubii I find it difficult to believe they can have taken this line without reference to the Bible.
    Has no monograph been published on this or have I missed it. I would have thought changes in the C of E teaching on sex/ divorce etc would make an excellent PhD thesis…as shown in official prouncements and text books of moral theology used in clergy training.It’s interesting how any discussion of the sinfulness of masturbation seems to have disappeared in the early 60s after lovely debate before.

    • Perry – as you’ve brought this up, look up the 1930 papers (no doubt you can find them in the Cathedral archive in Canterbury) and tell us what they say.
      I suspect (but have never investigated the matter) that Anglican moral theology tracked Catholicism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because Anglo-Catholicism was a dominant force in the English episcopacy and maybe it followed RC natural law arguments.

  22. I doubt if the paper work is in Canterbury…the accounts/ resolutions of the Conferences perhaps. The paper work would be in Lambeth.The 1930 Conference of course was the one that have a very cautious acceptance of contraception. Anglo-Catholicism may have been relatively strong at the 1930 Conference but hardly in the 1880s. .As regards Anglo Catholics in the episcopate..how many before the first world war.Langs appointment to York marked the first high churchman in the Northern Province.I once asked my friend the Methodist historian Martin Wellings who wrote about anglican evangelical responses to theological liberalism, ritualism and the higher criticism You may know his book. He said evangelicals were as hostile to contraception as most other non liberal Christians.Given the pervasive anti Roman Catholic feeling in the C of E I doubt if RC approaches cut much ice with most anglican bishops and certainly not in the Church of Ireland whose theological contribution to the Lambeth Conferences was much valued.As I said it is a subject worthy of detailed historical study…sadly of course many of the clergy of the C of E are sadly deficient in historical knowledge of their own tradition

    • I know very little about the history of the subject but I think evangelicals in the 19th century were generally negative about contraception – though I don’t know how they argued biblically.
      I have heard that contraception was widespread in France in the 19th century and was one of the factors in their population being markedly lower than the military wanted, the French always casting a suspicious eye on Prussians and then German militarism.

  23. How the subject was argued would be very interesting to discover.Alas many aspects of Anglican Church history 1880 onwards are under researched and sadly I can’t see this improving. We don’t really know the strengths of the various “parties ” within the C of E in any great detail. I rather suspect Anglo-Catholicism was not actually as strong between the wars as it’s made out to be…despite the attention paid to the Congresses. Apparently there is to be a significant history of Anglican moral theology to be published soon in a series edited by Paul Avis.Sarah Coakley told me it’s very good..but i often wonder how interested many in the present day C of E are that interested. I remember going to a conference in the mid ups about the role of history in clergy formation…..and for many there is significantly less now!

  24. Looking from the outside the CofE seems to be more of a slightly left of centre political pressure group rather than a religious organisation.

    Whenever I see Welby on the box (which is surprisingly often – why does he always seem to be wearing that lamp shade in his head?) he is very vocal on a whole range of political topics, but seems rather reticent on the gospel.

    I have a pretty shrewd idea of where Welby stands on, for instance;

    This country’s economic model, economic justice, Brexit, Northern Ireland, food-banks, housing, trade, unionist identity, the Good Friday Agreement, Trump, Israel and the two state solution, gay rights, public enemies, and media headlines which stir up hate and division.

    But I have never heard Welby try to evangelise his television audiences.

    The CofE seems to have a very tightly defined political position which is parroted by many other bishops – the Bishops of Liverpool and Guildford being prominent examples of his happy chorus line.

    I struggle to understand how any spirit filled Christian can continue to break bread with the CofE – which seems to have abandoned scripture to become a highly populist organisation for espousing an “anything goes” morality (so long as it doesn’t offend Welby’s political orthodoxy) and which is in absolute horror of the potentially challenging bits of scripture.

    It can hardly be a massive surprise that congregations are dwindling.

    If people want to hear one of Welby’s political speeches they can join a political party and get it he full fat version – rather than listening to a dull sermon from an insipid bloke in a frock.

    • Patrick Moore I am not sure what you are hoping for by way of response to your contribution here. I have frequently heard and read ++Justin preach the gospel unambiguously and many of his leadership initiatives have made exactly this a priority. It is not hard to find these. Please check your facts. You could look up bishop’s mitres while you are at it. I find your final sentence as rude as it is a distortion of the truth. I do not know what corner of the church you belong but, for the record, and in Christian love, you will not ever find me mocking it as you do mine here.

  25. We do know what she thinks on abortion. She wrote :

    “I would suspect that I would describe my approach to this issue as pro choice rather than pro live although if it were a continuum I would be somewhere along it moving towards pro life when it relates to my choice and then enabling choice when it related to others – if that makes any sense.”

    She is pro for others, not for herself.
    So she is pro choice, in a very literal sense of that phrase. So pro abortion.



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