What makes giving feedback work well?

I have spent more nearly 40 years giving feedback and encouraging others to do so in a range of professional, personal and ministerial contexts. These have included being a personnel professional in an FMCG multi-national, being an ordained leader working with lay and ordained colleagues, and in the context of theological education. As a result I have two convictions about feedback:

1. Most people find it very hard to give and receive feedback in a positive, valuable and formative way. The idea of both giving and receiving feedback fills people with dread, and poorly given feedback can leave deep wounds which last for years and can destroy trust, friendship and working relationships.

2. Giving and receiving feedback is an essential professional, managerial and ministerial skill which can often unlock significant areas of growth and development. Without it we trip over our own flaws, risk damaging others and can hit an unnecessary ceiling in our own competence and effectiveness.

Feedback is a very powerful thing, not least because it helps us develop that vital element of maturity, ‘to see ourselves as others see us.’ For anyone in a public role this is vital. After all, how others see you is…how others see you! And feedback is potentially happening all the time. As I frequently commented to those in ministry training: just because people are not talking to you, it does not mean they are not talking about you! We are constantly being judged, evaluated and assessed. If we are able to access, in a positive and useful way, some of that evaluation, it could really help us to grow. And if our goal is to serve others, shouldn’t we want to do that as best we can?

So how is structured feedback done well? Here are my eight top tips.

1. Give notice

When you need to give some feedback, either as a regular thing or just as a one-off, always give notice to the other person. ‘Let’s fix a time to review how that went.’ There are two main reasons for this, one to do with you, and one to do with the other person. In relation to you, the person giving feedback, it is vital that the goal of the feedback is the growth and development of the other person, and is seen to be this, and is not a pressure valve to allow you to vent your frustration. For the other person, receiving feedback could be emotionally demanding, especially if he or she is not used to this. Giving notice allows the recipient to be prepared to receive your comments—and perhaps even to review what happened themselves first.

If you are the recipient, and someone tries to give you unplanned feedback, a good response is: ‘Thanks for telling me that. I wonder if we could arrange a time for a proper conversation about it?’

2. Choose a good time

A follow-on from the first point is to then find a good time to give the feedback. The most important thing it not to give feedback on the day of the event in question, particularly if this relates to public ministry. For example, preaching is demanding enough emotionally without having to face immediate evaluation as well. And those feeding back need to reflect on their experience as well. Things can look quite different after a day or two of reflection on the event, as the trivial things subside and what was important stands out; I have been struck by how my observations about a sermon, for example, are slightly different when I watch or listen again a few days later with the preacher.  Make sure you allow enough time for a good conversation as well, and be clear how long the feedback session will last (which is a good policy for any meeting).

A good time for feedback will usually be in a context one-to-one, unless you have reached the point in your team where feedback is something natural to all your working relations. A good rule of thumb here is ‘Praise in public; criticise in private.’

3. Shape your feedback

In the past I have been taught to start with the good, what went well, or strengths, and then move on to the negative, to things that need attention and development. The problem with this shape, if used regularly, is that the person on the receiving end is listening to the good stuff, but inside is just bracing themselves to be hit with the bad! A better shape is to either mix it up, or go ‘good—bad—good’ so that you finish on a positive note.

Even better is to make the event a genuine conversation. I will often now start conversations by asking the recipient to assess what went well and what needs development. If feedback is not genuinely owned, it will not have its effect. And there are often opportunities to say ‘No, actually, that was better than you thought’ or ‘That thing you thought was a problem really isn’t.’ It is nice to be able to tell people things are not as bad as they supposed!

4. Give reasons why

Feedback needs to have external references points in two directions.

First, comments need to draw on evidence from the event so the basis of comments is clear. Secondly, the reason for change needs to have a clear external rationale (‘If you do it this way, it means that people can…’). This prevents the feedback simply being a vehicle for your own opinions and prejudices; it needs to genuinely lead to more effective performance, and the person receiving comments needs to see how the comments will genuinely be of help to them. And if this is a ministry context, then the main goal must surely be serving the people you are ministering to, so that adds overall motivation.

5. Suggest a plan of action

Evidence-based feedback with a good rationale should then lead to a plan of action. This does not need to be complicated, but it does mean that there should be a clear way to allow the person receiving feedback to actually address the issue at hand. And it also anticipates the problem of feedback: ‘I realise that needs to change—but how am I going to go about it?’ I find this especially so in relation to preaching; a key objective must be to offer alternative strategies, so that the preacher actually has some (perhaps rhetorical) tools that they can make use of.

6. Focus on strengths as well as weaknesses

There is a real danger in giving feedback that the process only focusses on weaknesses rather than strengths. I suppose the reason why it happens is that it is easier to spot mistakes than it is to recognise how strengths might develop further. But if this happens, then it can be demoralising for the receiver; the repeated agenda is to focus on the things that are not going well, rather than the things that are. So it is also worth exploring how things that are strengths already can become points of excellence within the ministry or performance.

After all, none of us is every going to be great at everything. We can relieve the pressure on ourselves and others if, at the right moment, we say ‘This is always going to be a weak point for me; I will get it as far as I can, but also focus on other things.’

7. Make it regular

Feedback is most difficult when it happens as a one-off, and the first time of significant feedback is often the most challenging. But the goal for any kind of ministry team should be to make feedback a regular feature of working together. If it is ‘just one of the things we do,’ then it is much less daunting and can become more fruitful—and making it regular removes the emotional pressure as well.

8. Make it symmetrical

If feedback is such a potential powerful tool for personal growth and development, then all should be making use of it. And if it is to avoid becoming an exercise in the use of power, then team leaders need feedback from team members as much as members need feedback from leaders and others. In a healthy ministry team, even the person ‘in charge’ should be ready to receive feedback from others. I have been preaching for 30 years, and taught it for the best part of a decade, but I still ask for feedback on my preaching. I still have room for improvement!

In Romans 16.2, Paul describes Phoebe as someone who has been ‘a prostatis for many, including me.’ Some commentators have argued that this cannot be a term of leadership, since otherwise it would mean that Paul, the great apostle, was in debt to someone from whom he had learnt about leadership. How unthinkable! In fact, I am sure that Paul was willing to learn from others just as much as he was willing to teach others.

Even as I start living my seventh decade (!), I find that I am seeking feedback and comment from others as much as, or perhaps more, than ever. You never stop growing and changing in ministry, and there are always new things to learn. God has not finished with me yet—so I still need good feedback from others. (You can offer some in the comments below.)

Post Script

When I write on a subject which does not look theological in content, some friends have asked about why there is not a theological rationale. This might be one such post. I think I would offer the following assumptions underpinning my practice here.

First, we are all made in the image of God, and therefore are on a level playing field in the context of ministry (or any other occupation come to that). Therefore there always needs to be mutual respect and mutual accountability.

Secondly, ministry in the New Testament is always plural. Everywhere you look there are partnerships and teams—and so there must also have been sharing of ministry, and the natural implication is that there is learning from one another.

Thirdly, all in ministry of any kind always continue to be disciples, and the word ‘disciple’ means ‘someone who is learning from another’.

Fourth, because of our sin, failure and human finitude, we all start from an imperfect beginning, but are all on a journey to perfection which we will only see fully realised in the New Creation. ‘To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often’ (John Henry Newman).

Finally, I find it striking that the kind of mutual accountability, encouragement and commitment to growth is precisely what we find Paul doing at the end of many of his letters. 1 Thessalonians is a good example:

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. (1 Thess 5.12–15)

That is theological enough for me!

For an assessment framework that allows for good and all-round feedback on preaching, see the post on What makes a good sermon?

Signup to get email updates of new posts
We promise not to spam you. Unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

If you enjoyed this, do share it on social media (Facebook or Twitter) using the buttons on the left. Follow me on Twitter @psephizo. Like my page on Facebook.

Much of my work is done on a freelance basis. If you have valued this post, you can make a single or repeat donation through PayPal:

For other ways to support this ministry, visit my Support page.

Comments policy: Do engage with the subject. Please don't turn this into a private discussion board. Do challenge others in the debate; please don't attack them personally. I no longer allow anonymous comments; if there are very good reasons, you may publish under a pseudonym; otherwise please include your full name, both first and surnames.

109 thoughts on “What makes giving feedback work well?”

  1. Ian
    I would welcome your feedback to me on why you think I keep pressing you to debate original Sin and Article 9.
    Phil Almond

      • Careful! No dogs allowed.
        As part of a 360 degree feed-back, how is PA to assess IP’s avoidance of the issue PA seeks an answer to.
        No systematic theology allowed? As a discrete topic and/or hermeneutic?

        • Phil, I do not have a settled view on the doctrine of original sin but I am interested to read what others (including you) have to say about it. However, I suspect a reason why IP does not engage with your request is that your approach to scripture is very much a proof-texting one.

          I have noticed that your discourses are more often that not, devoid of any contextual, historical or literary narrative that underpins your assertions. You seem to be to be very confident of the perspicuity of scripture and your hermenuetic appears to mainly consist placing proof texts with each other to make your point. Yet I think that most exegesis is much more than this. We sometimes need to go outside the text to understand what it meant to the readers of the time and what it it mains to us today to arrive at the best understanding using scripture tradition and reason. I don’t see much evidence that you do this. Maybe you think that’s the wrong approach?

          The value of a blog like this is as it says, ‘Scholarship Serving Ministry’ I have been surprised at the number of thine i have had my thinking challenged on a particular issue where I was certain what I thought about was correct but looking at it more deeply here I have changed my view. Can you you point to any instance on Ian’s blog where this has been true for you?

          So I think if you were to offer a more scholarly approach to you ‘bone; as it were than simply quoting proof texts I think IP might be more willing to engage with you.

          • Hello Chris,
            To proof text, and with context, Ian’s blog title is carefully crafted as:
            scholarship. serving. ministry.

          • To Chris Bishop –

            To be fair to Philip Almond, he believes in Article 9 (” Of Original or Birth Sin”), of the 39 Articles of Religion (available online).

            If you have a personal objection to Article 9, then I’m sure Phil (and no doubt many others) would like to see your reasoning, and the use of any Scriptures to that are utilized in support of your thinking.

    • Phil, first, you are to be commended for your tenacity and single focus. These are good attributes when applied in the right area.

      What seems to be lacking is any analysis of those Christian interpretative traditions which, against yours, do not hold to a doctrine of Original Sin.

      Perhaps I might suggest you explore what the Orthodox [sic] Church has to say, or not, on this subject. For instance, David Bentley Hart, who is Orthodox, asserts that Augustine derived his doctrine of Original Sin from using an inadequate Latin translation of the book of Romans (I presume the Vetus Latinus). The Reformer were very keen on Augustine, which would explain how this became part of Reformation theology. But if the Orthodox, for whom the Greek (original) text was authoritative for them, do not have this doctrine, perhaps their understanding is correct.

      I hope you find this suggestion constructive and interesting. Thank you for your time.

      • But David, is DBH correct in that assertion? Although, he is learned, he has come significantly adrift in other areas of theology, so far as I’ve read, possibly to the discomfort of his erstwhile fans.
        The problem is that there is no discussion at all, as quite properly PA seeks to tether the question to the Arts of faith within the context of the CoE.
        And PA has brought together scripture systematically, not based on Augustine, so far as I can tell.

        • Geoff –

          Philip Almond is only supporting Article 9 of the 39 Articles of Religion – as far as I can see. If Article 9 needs correction, revision, or re-writing then, ideally, we need to see reasons for compelling ‘counter-narratives’. At the end of the day, let each person be persuaded in their own minds.

      • To David B Wilson;

        The key verse of Romans 5:12, reads EXACTLY as below, in the “New Testament (The Eastern-Greek Orthodox Bible)” :

        “Therefore, as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so death passed to everyone, because {of which} all sinned.”

        So, there we have it. Man is a ‘sinner’ just because he is mortal. Man is made a ‘sinner’ (Romans 5:19) by just being made (in his post-Fall condition) mortal.

        Simple idea – but is it really Scriptural ? ; and is the Eastern-Greek Orthodox Bible’s rendition of Romans 5:12 really the best translational option ?

        • Ian’s articles often contain statements on the true meaning of passages of the Bible.
          The debate I am suggesting would consist of a discussion of the true meaning of passages of the Bible, including Romans 5: 12-21. I work with the Nestle Greek Text with a Literal English Translation by The Rev. Alfred Marshall.
          Of course other Greek Texts and their meaning would be part of the discussion.

          Phil Almond

          • Philip – Some ‘feedback’ on your comment :

            A lot depends on how one translates the Greek “eph ho” in Romans 5:12.

            The possible meanings include :

            (1). “because”. (cf. The New Revised Standard Bible).

            (2) “In whom”. (cf. The Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible).

            (3) “in which”/ “of which”. (cf. The Eastern-Greek Orthodox Bible).

          • John
            I am hoping for a full discussion of the passage, which would include the options you mention.

            Phil Almond

          • Here is a thought-provoking article on defective Christian scriptural exegesis and some of its causes:

            Augustine’s magisterial reading of the Letter to the Romans, as unfolded in reams of his writings, and ever thereafter by his theological heirs [i.e., Western Christianity]: perhaps the most sublime “strong misreading” in the history of Christian thought, and one that comprises specimens of all four classes of misprision.

            Of the first [translator’s error], for instance: the notoriously misleading Latin rendering of Romans 5:12 that deceived Augustine into imagining Paul believed all human beings to have, in some mysterious manner, sinned “in” Adam, which obliged Augustine to think of original sin – bondage to death, mental and moral debility, estrangement from God – ever more insistently in terms of an inherited guilt (a concept as logically coherent as that of a square circle), and which prompted him to assert with such sinewy vigour the justly eternal torment of babes who died unbaptized.

            And of the second [questionable renderings of certain words]: the way, for instance, Augustine’s misunderstanding of Paul’s theology of election was abetted by the simple contingency of a verb as weak as the Greek proorizein (“sketching out beforehand,” “planning,” etc.) being rendered as praedestinare – etymologically defensible, but connotatively impossible.

            And of the third [unfamiliarity of the original author’s (historically specific) idiom]: Augustine’s frequent failure to appreciate the degree to which, for Paul, the “works” (erga, opera) he contradistinguishes from faith are works of the Mosaic law, “observances” (circumcision, kosher regulations, and so on).

            And of the fourth [“untranslatable” remoteness of the author’s own (culturally specific) theological concerns] – well, the evidences abound: Augustine’s attempt to reverse the first two terms in the order of election laid out in Romans 8:29–30 (“Whom he foreknew he also marked out beforehand”); or his eagerness, when citing Romans 5:18, to quote the protasis (“Just as one man’s offence led to condemnation for all men”), but his reluctance to quote the (strictly isomorphic) apodosis (“so also one man’s righteousness led to justification unto life for all men”); or, of course, his entire reading of Romans 9–11 … (https://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/05/traditio-deformis)

  2. Good points well made as usual! The only thing I would add from my own experience is that, particularly with verbal feedback, it is really important that the first point is positive. If the first point is negative the recipient may resist the rest or be too down to receive anything else you say.

  3. This call for feed-back challenges the degree of mutual respect and mutual honouring between folk. It’s tough but necessary. Thank you for posting it.

  4. The best way that I have experienced [once!] feedback.
    Start with asking, e.g.” How do you think you/we have been doing on this project etc.” This gives the person/s a chance to evaluate
    for themselves thier action/s.They may already realize their strengths and weaknesses or aims for improvement. On the perceived negative aspects of the case one could ask “How do think you should or could have handled that differently.”
    All of which negates a judgemental atmosphere. always remebering St.Pauls’ injunction in Romans 14:4 “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.”

  5. Hi Ian,
    Even commenters on this blog could do with the occasional appraisal from time to time.
    Perhaps like Jacob on his death bed giving his sons prophetic blessings!?
    Better a rebuke from a friend than to be ignored as irrelevant.

  6. As someone who has reached a ‘certain/ uncertain? age; and being ordained 45 years ago, I could possibly envy Phoebe with her *prostasis*. In theological terms, I carry my *prosthesis* ; an integral part of belonging to my current ‘ecclesiastical network’ (one must be discreet!). Within the network, I would appear to be viewed as engaged in *stormtrooping* i.e. ‘surplus to requirements ministry’ -but with little ‘trooping’! Outside these confines, I have good working relations with other denominations and with a younger generations of Christians.
    Without indulging in more self-pity, I would make one further point: over several years involved in this post, *feedback* has not been for me its primary function; rather it has been *feed-in* – apart from my ancient array of theological tomes and on-line information, this is the only source of ongoing intellectual theological/Biblical stimulus that I have at my disposal!

      • No. They have different meanings which are, perhaps, not as… ahem… discrete as they should be:
        discrete = clearly separate
        discreet = careful about what you say or do
        I teach students to remember the difference by noticing that the ‘t’ in ‘discrete’ clearly separates the two ‘e’s.
        In this case, you spelled it correctly according to your intended meaning.

  7. Geoff,
    Just because DBH may have come adrift in other areas of his theology does not mean that his assertions about OS are not without merit. I have read the argument that David Wilson alludes to above, in many other places. One needs to examine how robust the doctrine is, how it originated and became accepted in sections of the church throughout history.

    Have a nasty feeling this thread is about to be derailed….

    • Not by me, Chris..
      As general feedback, it is significant, to me, that the (strong?) current-flow of responses without any substantial and wide ranging discussion proposed by you and David W is opposed to the fall and original sin and in the past when others such as John Thompson, have been robust in their push-back in support of it, they have been roundly opposed and in all intents and purposes closed down.
      In fact I can’t recall anyone on this site who has commented in support of the theology of original sin/fall, though I stand to be corrected.
      Bearing in mind the comments Ian’s posts on scripture, such as the last one, engendered, I would not see Ian’s blog to be the place to enjoin such discussions. Similarly, the Triune God of orthodox Christianity ( even as opposed orthodox Greek church.)
      And it would be good to have some of PA’s contributions on Ian’s articles on scripture and other topics.

      • @ Geoff

        Perhaps the best time is Holy Week and Easter Sunday for such a discussion.

        O truly necessary sin of Adam,
        destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
        O happy fault
        that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

        The heart of the Christian Gospel.

    • I believe that DBH is absolutely correct to question the origin of original sin.
      His work on salvation in ‘That all shall be saved’ is also admirable.
      And, of course, he is Orthodox.

      • @ Andrew G

        Agree with your first point (our understanding of original sin/predestination) but not completely with your second (universal salvation). A lot hinges on Romans 5:18 and whether it is referring to salvation of all believers or the salvation of all people.

        [This is “feedback”, not a change of subject]

        • Happy Jack
          Romans 5:18 “so therefore as through one offence to all men to condemnation, so also through one righteous act to all men to justification of life”.
          The first phrase proves that all men are condemned because of Adam’s sin. That is the doctrine of Original Sin.
          But the second phrase is qualified by 5:17. Only those who receive “the abundance of the grace and of the gift of righteousness” will “reign in life through the one [man] Jesus Christ”
          Phil Almond

  8. Geoff, l wasn’t suggesting you were, only that things have a habit of going off subject on this blog quite often.
    I think that if a debate about the merits or otherwise of the doctrine of OS is to be had,then it needs its own OP and its up to Ian if he wants to do that.
    It is his Blog after all.

    • But isn’t Ian always exhorting us to be honest. I am just exhorting him to be honest and say where he stands on Article 9 in view of the fact that at some point he has made the Anglican Declaration of Assent to the 39 Articles.

      Phil Almond

      • Hello Phil,
        That is understood. I would want to know what my minister, believes as it central to mission or purpose of church. Indeed, the Good News of Jesus.
        But in reality, is it going to happen in the light of the CoE internal rivings over the doctrine of marriage? To suggest or imply a waiver or denial of Article 9 doctrine would undermine opposition to changing the CoE doctrine of marriage.
        It is likely that marriage revisionist would deny Article 9. and would welcome opposition confirmation that they no longer support Art 9.
        There is much more at stake than Art 9 in the current climate of the CoE a risk of exposing even more disarray and inconsitent adherence to doctrine in the CoE.

        • Geoff
          I agree with Ian on his view of marriage/sexuality, and I agree with many of his posts. But we disagree on Original Sin, Penal Substitution, Eternal Punishment and Womens Ordination. I agree that there is doctrinal turmoil in the CofE. One of my concerns is what the CEEC believe. Ian is on the CEEC.

          Phil Almond

          • Phil,
            Is it not bad timing? Timing which may have knock -on and foreseeable effects. And a matter for the CEEC to elucidate? That would help to determine any continued support by you and other Anglicans.

          • And Phil,
            I know one (former?) CEEC member who subscribes to all the Articles of Faith and is thoroughly Reformed in beliefs. I know nothing of any other present or former member.

          • What is the most important challenge facing conservative evangelicals in the Church of England today? Is it the disagreement about marriage and sexuality? Truly this is important but it is not the most important. The most important is the failure of the Church as a whole to believe, teach and preach the terrible Biblical warnings of the Day of Judgment facing non-Christians, and the wonderful invitation to all to repent and submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection.

            A serious effort by the CEEC and Church Society to do everything possible to address this failure would involve mobilising all the Diocesan Evangelical Groups to support an open letter of challenge and rebuke to the rest of the Church together with an integrated plan to get this issue raised formally at all Synodical levels.

            Philip Almond

          • Now, there is a thing, now we have it from AG: untaught, untutored ordinands as the norm in the CoE, it seems.
            Could it be that there is systemic negligence from DDO’s if it is within their purview?

      • @ Philip A

        Perhaps you could unpack The Declaration of Assent for Happy Jack. It hardly stands as a test of Anglican orthodoxy!

        Here’s the current version, introduced in 1975:

        The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. In the declaration you are about to make, will you affirm your loyalty to this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to those in your care?

        Declaration of Assent
        I, [A B], do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness; and in public prayer and administration of the sacraments, I will use only the forms of service which are authorized or allowed by Canon.

        Here, it seems. there is a declaration of belief in the faith to which the 39 Articles., the Books of Homilies and the Book of Common Prayer bear witness. But is this equivalent to saying one believes in the Articles? This is not very plain. The clergy are required to subscribe to them, but the form of this subscription is left open.

        It seems to HJ, the Articles are not entirely clear and are open to a wide range of interpretations and applications (so too the BCP and Homilies). Do the Articles provide a dogmatic definition of faith or a middle way between Rome and Geneva? They cannot be used for teaching purposes or as proof of a doctrinal position – this needs a citation from Scripture and an exegesis.

        • Happy Jack
          Anglicans disagree among themselves about what the Declaration commits to. I have debated at length with Andrew Godsall on this. My view is that it does commit the one making it to belief in the Articles

          Phil Almond

          • It took me some time to realise that the commitments of the Declaration of Assent are a bit of a red herring.

            The key thing is the ordinal. At ordination clergy commit to believing, upholding, and teaching the doctrine of the Church. Canon A5 states that the doctrine of the Church is to be found in the formularies of the Church, that is, the Articles, the BCP, and the (BCP) Ordinal.

            You cannot use the Declaration as a get-out clause.

          • I think you’d need detailed legal opinion on this Ian.

            It is clear that clergy are not bound by believing each of the articles. We have been over this many times. It was made clear in the run up to the change in the preface to the declaration in 1975.

            The doctrine of the BCP is implicit, rather than explicit, apart from the Articles. Open to much interpretation.

            The BCP Ordinal is used pretty rarely and you will be hard pushed to prove that the Ordinal is used as a basis for any teaching at the TEIs. Be my guest in attempting to do so. If ordinands are not explicitly taught something, they can not legitimately be expected to profess something. And anyway the BCP Ordinal has to be interpreted according to the time in which it was written in the same way that the 39 Articles do.

            I very much doubt what you say would survive legal challenge.

          • Andrew, I think you have missed the point. The ordination vows are clear, as is Canon A5. Yes, an individual might be excused if untaught—but do we really assume that clergy will just parrot without asking any question?

            The doctrine of the C of E, particularly on marriage, has indeed been tested in law, and was not found wanting. (Look up Pemberton v Inwood.)

          • Phil,
            I trust that you now have your answer to your question posed to Ian.
            Requiring a legal opinion, get- out defence, seems to me, a former lawyer, like caught in the act, guilty -denying; guilty-justifying-wriggling. (Which also leaves no room for manoeuvres of mitigation.)

          • Hello Phil,
            Now, there is a thing, now we have it from AG: untaught, untutored ordinands as the norm in the CoE, it seems.
            Could it be that there is systemic negligence from DDO’s if it is within their purview?

          • Ian I think you are missing the point. The relevant part of the Common Worship Oridnal – which is the one that is most often used says this:

            “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?”

            Now you are fully aware that there are quite different interpretations when it comes, for example, to the sacrament of Holy Communion. There is not one simple doctrine in that matter.
            You are fully aware that there are different interpretations when it comes to the doctrine of Holy Baptism.
            You are fully aware that there are different interpretations concerning even the number of sacraments.
            Much as you would like it to be the case, conservative evangelicals do not have a monopoly on the interpretation of doctrine.
            And ordinands are not questioned about their interpretations when they take their vow concerning the doctrine and sacraments of Christ as the Church of England has received them.

          • Andrew, I don’t think I am the one missing the point, despite your repeated claims.

            The ordination starts with this interrogation:

            Do you believe the doctrine of the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it, and in your ministry will you expound and teach it?

            Ordinands I believe it and will so do.

            According to Canon A5, that doctrine is found in the formularies—the BCP, the Articles, and the BCP Ordinal. There is no ambiguity there.

            The C of E’s doctrine of Communion is receptionist. There is no ambiguity in the liturgy about this at all. What ambiguity are you thinking of?

            The C of E’s doctrine of the sacraments is clear, as set out in Article XXV:

            There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.

            Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures, but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

            The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.

            Where is there any ambiguity? I am not sure what you are thinking of. Can you clarify?

          • Ian, I don’t need to clarify the point about the Articles. That point has been made many times. Clergy are not bound to believe every one of the Articles and the CofE has been explicit about that since at least 1975.
            The Article you mention is manifest nonsense now. The CofE doesn’t act like it believes it at all. Why are ordinands routinely anointed and vested in various ways at their ordinations? Why when the sick are visited are they anointed with oil specifically blessed for the purpose by a bishop? Why in almost every Cathedral is the sacrament reserved in a chapel specifically as a focus for prayer and devotion?
            And even routine celebrations of the Eucharist in many places indicate a more catholic interpretation than more reception. Let alone celebrations during Holy Week, especially on Maundy Thursday and at the Easter Vigil. The C of E makes liturgical provision for this and for receiving communion from the reserved sacrament on Good Friday.
            As I have said, the C of E is not uniform in its understanding. I can’t imagine where you have been during many of the debates in General Synod if you think it is?

          • Andrew ‘Ian, I don’t need to clarify the point about the Articles.’ Er, I think you do. You are offering a very odd argument.

            You are claiming that, because the Declaration of Assent looks vague, that vagueness trumps the specificity of the ordination vows. Why should it? The vows are clear and unambiguous. As is Canon A5.

            To go back to the sacraments: The Articles are emphatic that there are only two dominical sacraments; all the ordained promise to believe and expound the doctrine of the Church, which is that there are two dominical sacraments. Where is there latitude to teach or believe there are seven—except by saying ‘This is the doctrine of other churches which we believe are in error’?

          • Hi Ian
            I have been reflecting on the exchanges between you and Andrew Godsall.
            I now think that the Declaration of Assent and the Ordinal reinforce each other and I would like to make the following observations:

            Stating the obvious the background to this discussion is the gap which now exists between the statement of Canon A5
            “Of the doctrine of the Church of England
            The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.
            In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal”

            And what the majority of Anglican Clergy actually believe.

            I offer three bits of evidence to illustrate this gap:

            1 General Synod Report GS2055
            The General Synod Report from the House of Bishops, GS 2055, ‘Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations’ contains two paragraphs with implications wider and deeper than the main subject of the Report.

            ‘48. Canon A 5 states that “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.” These are singled out as particular sources of doctrine, not exclusive ones.’
            ‘49. Canon A 5 thus preserves a degree of latitude in how clergy interpret the doctrines of the Church of England. But it is a latitude with boundaries. Where the Canons set out the content of particular doctrines, those canonical provisions define the boundaries in respect of the matters they address.’
            The authors of GS2055 have understood ‘particular sources’ in paragraph 48 to mean ‘not exclusive’ sources. This is questionable. The more obvious meaning of ‘particular’ in this context is something like ‘specifically’. In the Bishops’ thinking the ‘degree of latitude’ claimed by paragraph 49 clearly depends on setting the Articles, Prayer Book and Ordinal alongside other sources of doctrine, opening the door to interpretations of doctrine which would be ruled out if the Articles, Prayer Book and Ordinal were the only sources.
            Also Canon A5 should be read alongside Canon C15 – Of the Declaration of Assent. In the Preface to the Declaration it is stated that the Church of England has been led by the Holy Spirit to bear witness to Christian truth in the Articles, Prayer Book and Ordinal (No mention of ‘particular’ there!).
            The General Synod declined to ‘take note’ of GS2055. Nevertheless paragraphs 48 and 49 contain a point which is easily overlooked – and I venture to suggest, with all due respect, that the potential significance of those paragraphs has (formally at any rate) been overlooked, to judge by the apparent absence of any minority report dissenting from GS 2055.

            2 GS 1554
            On the ‘Thinking Anglicans’ website there is a post by Peter Owen on Friday, 9 September 2005 at 2:04pm:
            “Where is the Church’s doctrine to be found? As far as the Church of England is concerned, the answer is at first glance simple. Canon A5 states that:
            ‘The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal’. Furthermore the Worship and Doctrine Measure 1974 notes that ‘references in the Measure to the doctrine of the Church of England shall be construed in accordance with the statement concerning that doctrine contained in the Canons of the Church of England.’
            But it’s not as simple as that, and there is a good section on “Doctrine in the Church of England in an Historical Perspective” in GS 1554. This document contains the proposals for updating the procedures for clergy discipline in matters of doctrine, ritual and ceremonial that were defeated at General Synod in July 2004. I think that one of the reasons for this defeat was the difficulty of saying just what the CofE’s doctrine is”.

            GS 1554 illustrates the gap. For example it contains the remarkable statement “We must recognise that it is never enough simply to appeal to documents, whether they be primary documents such as the scriptures or secondary ones such as the Book of Common Prayer and the Articles. The question will always arise as to who has authority to interpret these documents”

            3 Andrews post August 22, 2023 at 7:55 pm
            The practices Andrew mentions illustrate the gap, and also the things Andrew does not mention – the doctrines of the Articles that he does not believe.

            As Andrew Godsall keeps telling us, the Clerical Subscription Act of 1865 amended Canon XXXVI of 1604 so that instead of an obligation to “acknowledge all and every one of the Articles to be agreeable to the Word of God” only a general assent was Demanded”.
            “This formulation (the present Canon C15) is significantly looser than Canon XXXVI of 1603.”

            My point in disagreeing with Andrew is that the actual wording of the Present Preface and Declaration still commits assent to belief in all the Articles, whatever the intention of those making the changes might have been! (Assuming the normal meaning of the English language).

            One thing does puzzle me Ian. You posted, “The ordination starts with this interrogation:
            Do you believe the doctrine of the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it, and in your ministry will you expound and teach it?
            Ordinands I believe it and will so do.”

            The nearest statement to that in my Prayer Book says:

            The Bishop .Will you then give your faithful diligence always so to minister the doctrine and sacraments, and the discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded, and as this Church and Realm hath received the same, according to the commandments of God; so that you may teach the people committed to your cure and charge with all diligence to keep and observe the same?
            Answer. I will so do, by the help of the Lord.

            Am I missing something?

            Phil Almond

          • Phil ‘Am I missing something?’ Only that I was quoting from Common Worship. Of course, the Common Worship ordinal must be understood as a permitted alternative to the BCP, but in doing so must be understood to be teaching the same doctrine and theology.

          • I am not offering an odd argument at all. This has been covered many times and is repeated in the recent t publication To Proclaim Afresh. Clergy are not bound to believe all of the Articles. That is the reason the Preface to the declaration was changed.

            You don’t even engage with the evidence I offer in my post concerning the sacraments. I know what the Article says. I know the (anti Catholic) reasons it was written that way. We have moved on since the 16th century, thankfully. The various liturgies the CofE currently offers – authorised liturgies – do not support your rigid point of view. The evidence is against you.

          • ‘The various liturgies the CofE currently offers – authorised liturgies – do not support your rigid point of view. The evidence is against you.’ Is it?

            What the legal judgement you post does not do is deal properly with either Canon A5 or the liturgy. Although it cites a previous judgement which asserted that ‘the Articles are not seen as defining the doctrine of the Church’, that is a contradiction of Canon law found in A5.

            And of course the liturgy, which consonantly defines our doctrine, doesn’t support that view. Nowhere in our liturgy is the site for Communion described as an ‘altar’; contrary to RC liturgy, nowhere does the president ‘offer’ the elements; consistently the theology is receptionist, mostly clearly in the invitation to ‘feed on him in your hearts’ which reproduces the BCP words of distribution; and contrary to RC liturgy, nowhere is anything other than Communion and baptism described as a ‘sacrament’.

            If I were wrong, Anglo-Catholics would not need to reach for (illegal) Roman liturgy—which they always do, since C of E liturgy does not support their doctrine.

            When there is diversity in the C of E, it is most usually diversity as to whether we believe or not the doctrine set out according to Canon A5 found in the formularies, which is also consistently expressed in our liturgy.

          • This has been posted before but it helpfully summarises the legal background to the changes in interpretations around the status of the Articles. There are other documents as well, including To Proclaim Afresh and they have been referenced here before.
            The bottom line is absolutely clear. The 39 Articles bear witness to the faith. But because of the historical turmoil in which they were produced, they are incapable of bearing witnessing as faithfully as they should.


          • “Nowhere in our liturgy is the site for Communion described as an ‘altar’; “

            You are quite incorrect about that. In the Coronation liturgy of 1953 the word altar was used 39 times and in the Coronation liturgy of 2023 it was used 15 times. What more iconic or defining places than the Coronation could you find the use of the word?

            You don’t engage, I notice, with the liturgies around the sacraments of ordination or anointing of the sick. Or the liturgies for Holy Week and Easter.
            And you don’t offer any evidence at all that the 39 Articles are taught by any of the TEIs. It is just possible that they are by Oak Hill but I don’t know of any others. Do you?

          • Andrew, thanks—you have just proved my point! The only place they can be found is in these exceptional liturgy, which are not approved by canon in the regular way.

            The word is found nowhere in any liturgy authorised for use on a Sunday in the local church.

            Where does the C of E call ordination a ‘sacrament’?

            Given that the Articles express Anglican doctrine, if TEIs are not teaching them, they are failing. At St John’s, we required all ordinands to have read them before they filled in their application form. Again, failure to teach is not evidence of ‘diversity of doctrine in the Church’. It is evidence of failure.

          • The liturgies are exceptional in that they are expressly approved for use by the Archbishops and the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. That they choose, and have chosen from at least 1953, to use the word Altar suggests it is the most commonly understood term. That makes sense in the context.
            As for Sunday liturgy, I don’t know anywhere that issues the complete CW books. They are far too cumbersome and difficult to navigate. What churches do is produce their own form of service booklet. They will therefore use the terms that are most normal in their own setting, and as the word Altar is clearly approved for use by both the Archbishops and the Supreme Governor I don’t think anyone is going to argue with its use in a local service book are they. I certainly haven’t been aware of that in all my adult life. Please point to any challenges you can find to the use of the word altar in a local edition of a Sunday service booklet.
            What I think we have to do is accept that we are a broad Church and that both the use of the terms Altar and Holy Table are current and just behave like adults and move on.

            The C of E behaves as if ordination is a sacrament. It anoints candidates. It vests them. And it believes the rite confers grace on them. All the marks of a sacrament. Ditto the rite of anointing the sick.

            The Holy Week liturgies reverence the sacrament. Chapels in Cathedrals and Churches are set aside to reserve the sacrament as places of a focus of prayer and devotion. This is just normal practice, despite what Article 25 might say.

            And of course ordinands are directed to read the Articles. I was directed to read them. I was also explicitly taught on many occasions that I was giving general assent to them and did not literally have to subscribe every word of them because of the circumstances in which they were written. Please do read To Proclaim Afresh.

        • HJ was taught at school that the 39 Articles were designed in to achieve a consensus at the time to bring an end to religious disagreement and so were left open to different interpretations (for example, Article 17). They were composed so as not to be problematical to Catholic-minded, as well as Protestant-minded people, i.e., they served a political purpose.

          Is this true?

          • Not really. They were revised, and were designed to command assent, but not between what we would now call ‘Catholic’ and Protestant. They are unashamedly Protestant.

            But the coda is interesting: ‘Furthermore, we must receive God’s promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture’. This is a particular reminder of the general principle that the Articles (and other formularies) are designed to be biblical, and not set out any doctrine separate from the biblical faith.

          • HJ you are on to something very important there. There is an extreme Protestantism to the Articles that indicates the civil and religious turmoil in which they were born. Because that is the case they have to be viewed with some suspicion.
            The bottom line is absolutely clear. The 39 Articles bear witness to the faith. But because of the historical turmoil in which they were produced, they are incapable of bearing witnessing as faithfully as they should.
            The definitive commentary on them probably remains Bicknell.

          • Andrew, in agreeing with HJ you have just contradicted him.

            Do they express ‘extreme Protestantism’ or do they express a compromise?

            They cannot be both!

          • Andrew
            In your August 24, 2023 at 7:27 am post you said

            “The 39 Articles bear witness to the faith. But because of the historical turmoil in which they were produced, they are incapable of bearing witnessing as faithfully as they should.”

            How can you say such a thing since the Church was led by the Holy Spirit?

            “Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons”.

            Also you are confronted not only by Canon A5 as Ian has pointed out, but also by Canon A2:

            “The Thirty-nine Articles are agreeable to the Word of God and may be assented unto with a good conscience by all members of the Church of England.”

            Phil Almond

          • Phil, the Church, capital C, has indeed been led by the Holy Spirit over the years. I am not wholly convinced that the entirety of the episode of the English episode in the Reformation was the work of the Holy Spirit. I think the will of errant human beings had quite a lot to do with it. There was political motivation and action, whatever way you look at it. It was nasty as even a cursory reading of history will tell you.
            As to Canon A2 the word ‘may’ is most significant. All members may assent to the Articles. They don’t actually have to, as the legal judgment I have posted a link to makes clear.

          • Andrew
            But according to Canon A2, if you don’t assent to any of the Articles you are not assenting to a truth which is agreeable to the word of God. That is, you are denying it.

            Phil Almond

          • I certainly do assent to some of the Articles. Some of them are manifestly and obviously true. Some of them are manifestly and obviously the product of 16th century religious and political turmoil and aren’t very nice.

          • Andrew, all the Articles are part of the doctrine of the Church, according to Canon A5. You now appear to be saying that you do not like or agree with some elements of the doctrine of the Church. How does that line up with your ordination vows?

          • Ian, please read To Proclaim Afresh et etc. Clergy give general assent to the 39 Articles. They are not bound to subscribe them all and have not been since at least 1975 when the preface to the declaration of assent was changed specifically to reflect that fact. My ordination vows were made with all of that as background.

          • ‘My ordination vows were made with all of that as background’

            So when you said that you believed the doctrine of the Church, which Canon A5 says is found in the formularies, you didn’t actually mean it, but that’s ok?

          • Besides Canon A5 is correct isn’t it?
            “In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.”
            Doctrine certainly is found in the 39 Articles. There is nothing in the Canon that says every one of the Articles contains doctrine or is correct.

          • Andrew you seem to be taking a Humpty Dumpty approach to words. When the Canon says ‘to be found’, no ordinary reader interprets this to mean ‘There might be, somewhere amongst them, one or grains of doctrine which we might be able to agree with.’ It means, this is where the doctrine of the C of E is to be found. And that has been tested in law, as you know.

            I look forward to you returning to Planet Earth at some time in the future.

          • Ian you seem incapable of actually reading what is being said. Of course the Articles contain doctrine. Where have I ever denied that? But not all of the Articles even purport to contain doctrine, and, as I have evidenced above, not all of the Articles are compatible with the way that the CofE currently does things liturgically.
            You recognise I’m sure – and probably rejoice – that the 39 Articles were written in a time of particular political and religious turmoil in an attempt to exclude any hint of Catholicism. We live in a more ecumenical age, even in the CofE. We are a broader Church than the conservative evangelical one. I look forward to you embracing that.

          • ‘But not all of the Articles even purport to contain doctrine,’ But you have claimed that there is some doctrine in the Articles that you do not believe. That contradicts your vows.

            ‘and, as I have evidenced above, not all of the Articles are compatible with the way that the CofE currently does things liturgically.’

            No, you haven’t. Which liturgy has been authorised by Synod through Canon law for use in Churches which contradicts the articles?

          • “But you have claimed that there is some doctrine in the Articles that you do not believe”

            Please point to where I have said that?

            I have said that I do not have to believe all of the articles and that has been said by the Cof E about its clergy since at least 1975 and as recently as 2022 in the publication of To Proclaim Afresh – declaration and oaths for church of england ministers. Faith and Order Commission.

          • Andrew
            We have debated and disagreed for years about these things. In answer to your challenge to point to where you have said that you do not believe some of the Articles I would have to spend some time searching through your posts.
            One of our debates/disagreements was about whether Jesus said ‘The Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all the things leading to sin and the ones doing lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there will be the wailing and the gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The one having ears let him hear’ and what Jesus meant.
            I took the trouble to summarise what you said in that disagreement. It is too long to post all of it but an extract gives an indication of your view. You agree that ‘Everything that Jesus said is of importance’ but you also said ‘the bible contains factual errors and logical contradictions’. ‘We are inheritors of the community, not of words in a book. Community came first, bible came second’. ‘We must question “What is the text telling that is something more than just the words?” It’s not factual history, but salvation history. The texts give insight into the communities who wrote them’. ’What I said, of course, was “I think it possible that he did not say those things in that way.”….which is a bit different to what you claim I said. I think it more likely that Jesus said some things, and different traditions have built upon that and a writer like Matthew could have elaborated what he had heard for his own ends. There is a distinction to be made between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith’. ‘The gospel writers tell the truth, but they ‘tell it slant’. They want us to find out more than is in the text. The way we do that is in community with others. The texts, for me, are a starting point, not the final point’.
            I think this shows that you and Ian have different presuppositions about the Bible itself.

            Phil Almond

          • Andrew
            In answer to your
            “But you have claimed that there is some doctrine in the Articles that you do not believe”

            Please point to where I have said that?
            I quote:
            ‘Andrew Godsall
            October 1, 2020 at 7:53 pm
            I’m sure my mere appearance will prompt Phil to come along and ask if I believe the awful truths about God’s judgement as portrayed in the 39 Articles so let me say from the outset that no, I don’t believe them and never have and have always been totally honest about this and have been ordained 32 years’.

            Phil Almond

          • Yes Phil, and that is not Christian doctrine and not even Ian thinks it is. So please try again.
            Ian: I don’t know why you find this confusing and I don’t know why you continually ignore the CofE’s own publications on this matter. Please read To Proclaim Afresh.
            Let me spell this out for the final time. I’m not going over it again.
            The primary source of Christian doctrine is holy scripture and the Catholic Creeds. Those primary sources of doctrine are repeated in the 39 articles, the BCP, and the ordinal. This is what Canon A5 says. But everyone knows that there are other things in the ordinal, and the BCP and the 39 Articles. You only have to look at them to know that. This other stuff is not necessarily doctrine. And in the case of the 39 Articles, we – clergy – do not have to accept it all. And in the case of the 39 Articles it has been made plain to clergy as a matter of legal advice that they do not have to give more than general assent to the 39 Articles. In other words, they will assent to those parts that constitute Christian doctrine but can decline to assent to the parts that are not. As a matter of conscience. We live in an ecumenical age and don’t need to fight the battles of the 16th century and pretend they are Christian doctrine – we can be confident that the scriptures and the catholic creeds give us that doctrine just as Canon A5 says.
            *If* you think there is some conflict between Canon A2 and the document To Proclaim Afresh then please take that up with the Faith and Order Commission, and not me.

  9. Hello Colin,
    Age. Don’t you know how old you are? Unless someone other than you, was there at your birth who can evidence the date, it is hearsay.
    Except as written down in a document of Public Record, a birth certificate, one could be of an uncertain age! And in today’s culture, you only have believe, and you are.
    Your considered contributions here are valued, all the more so, due to longevity of faith, in running the race.

    • Geoff – Careful reflection on the content of my post might answer your question. Nevertheless while I stressed the personal priority of ‘feed -in’, I do greatly appreciate the constant support I receive from you (even if you disagree with some aspects of what I have said). More generally however on occasions when having spent considerable time on a particular issue – yet without a response, I begin to wonder if either I’m losing touch. Or is is that there are aspects to feedback which, for other reasons preclude such a situation? I think that Ian (Paul’s) first major point could do with further exploration!

      • Hello Colin,
        I think that the nature of the beast, that is the comments section, with is varied and variable comments, generally precludes feedback of the *critical friend* type for a number of reasons:
        1 Ian’s headings invariably put articles in the contentious category, begging questions.
        2. This seems to generate, more often than not, first responders who hone-in on one point, which may be of a minor point, but is a hobby-horse to them, and tangential to the main message(s) of the article.
        3. The comments, consequently, veer in the direction of cross pollinated adversarial, some of which are twitter-like in composition and content (not that I’m on twitter.)
        4. Comments by A to B often attract interlocutors C +D, and off we go down another theological rabbit hole, made more difficult to navigate by the cascade of comments.
        5. Personally, this format, regretfully, has drawn me into writing in ways I would not have formerly engaged in, by writing mostly in note form, and from my phone and more grievous to me, without researching or reading reliable sources.
        6. Having said that, I’m unsure whether extended comments are well-read, or are skimmed only to counter some point or other. And they may be ignored due to whom the commentator is.
        7. Frequently, I wonder why I comment at all, and come up with some answers that I don’t like.
        8. Finally, Colin, as some encouragement to you, you don’t know who your comments will influence.
        Years ago, in a multidisciplinary meeting in the NHS there was professional organised feedback to heart disease risk assessment; the feedback was to be given to lay patients who were to be told the risk both in “relative” and in “absolute” terms. I piped up, asking why they wouldn’t speak in a language understood by lay patients, simply saying that this is your personal risk. Of course, this was opposed by the professionals who had devised the scheme. It wasn’t until years later that, I was told by a Pharmacist from Boots who was at the meeting, that the system has been changed as a result of my input.
        We never know what influence we may have in and for (and heinously against) the Kingdom of God, and no one will hear the words, “Well done brilliant and successful servant.”

  10. I suppose that it all boils down to how you define what SIN is.
    We all have a view of what SINS are,within ourselves and within others and we all confess sins in church. What is the criteria by which we make those assumptions?. What is God’s view of SIN?
    Why does God detest SIN ?
    I think that at the fall God took responsibility for sin and its’concequences . a ] In providing skins [ i.e the death of an animal ] which then works out in the Salvation story.Everyone needs Christ not only to forgive SINS but to be delivered from the Power of SIN through sanctification of the Holy Spirit

  11. I came to this post late on Sunday night and was encouraged that the subject of feedback was even being discussed. As a manager for many years in various large organisations where regular meetings to give and receive feedback were the norm, with formal reviews held quarterly and monthly and informal ones all the time, plus formal 360-degree feedback from staff, managers and peers, it strikes me that this is an aspect of the world that the Church could usefully adopt.

    I note that Ian refers to something that we used to call the ‘praise sandwich’ in which any negative feedback is sandwiched between positive points about the individual’s performance. Ian has also emphasised the absolute need for evidence when providing feedback and I would add to that, the need to distinguish between one-off occurrences and a recurring pattern of behaviour. We can all make mistakes, especially when stressed or overtired, but a recurring pattern of behaviour needs to be highlighted with examples if an individual does not recognise the habits in themselves. (I have also noted that I notice my own faults in others and could be quite harsh about them when I was younger, a trait that I hope I have overcome now that I too am in my 7th decade.)

    Finally, a point that has at times frustrated me concerning clergy is that all too often they appear to think that they can never show weakness in front of others. We members of the laity know that nobody but Jesus is perfect and actually warm to those with a sense of humility. Twice I have left a church because of the controlling (at times bullying) nature of the church leader and each time God has led me and my wife to a church with a humble leader, who has been unafraid to admit that they don’t have all the answers. We want to be able to support our clergy but sometimes they give the appearance that they don’t need any support from anyone. If more colleges would teach trainee ministers that, with the support of the laity, they can achieve so much more in God’s Kingdom, the denominational churches in this country would be growing in the way that so many of the non-denominational churches are, instead of slowly (or rapidly) declining.

  12. A summary of the three-cornered debates/disagreements between Andrew Godsall, Ian Paul and Phil Almond:

    There are two debates/disagreements:

    First: whether or not the Ordination and Declaration of Assent promises commit to believing all the Articles, or only some of the Articles. Andrew believes the promises commit to believing only some (not “the awful truths about God’s judgement as portrayed in the 39 Articles”). Ian believes the promises commit to believing all.

    However, in private correspondence with Ian he says that he does not believe that we all face God’s condemnation because of Adam’s sin as well as because of our personal sins “because they cannot be proved by the sure warrant of Scripture!” In my reply to Ian I pointed out that I believe this statement can be proved by the sure warrant of scripture and that we are also disagreeing on what Article 9 means (on original sin).

    I hope Ian and I will eventually debate what the Bible says on this issue and on other disagreements (the atonement doctrine of penal substitution and eternal retribution on the unsaved).

    That brings me to the Second debate/disagreement – what the Bible says (more important than what the Articles say). It is clear from an earlier post (Matthew 13) that Andrew has a different view of the Bible than both Ian and me. So while Ian and I can have a meaningful discussion of what the Bible means because we agree, for instance, that Christ did say what the Bible asserts he said, this is not possible with Andrew because of his view.

    Phil Almond

    • “First: whether or not the Ordination and Declaration of Assent promises commit to believing all the Articles, or only some of the Articles. Andrew believes the promises commit to believing only some “

      This is not a question of belief Phil. It is a question of fact. The Preface to the Declaration of Assent was changed in 1975 to reflect the fact that clergy hsve general assent to the 39 Articles rather than believing every part of all of them. This is just the way it is.

      As to views of the bible. Well, that’s a matter that occupies not just the three of us but Christians throughout history and throughout traditions and throughout the world. Let’s try, for a change, not to make it personal, and it might help our progress with any debate.

  13. Andrew You said:

    ‘The Preface to the Declaration of Assent was changed in 1975 to reflect the fact that clergy hsve general assent to the 39 Articles rather than believing every part of all of them. This is just the way it is’.
    As I keep saying, the present wording of the Preface and Declaration, the words themselves, do not support your view, whatever the intention in 1975 might have been. There is also the question of the Ordinal as Ian has pointed out. As to the Bible, if we look at the last 2000 years your liberal view is in a minority.

    Phil Almond

    • “do not support your view, “
      Not my view. The simple fact. Read the history of it post 1968 Lambeth Conference. Read To Proclaim Afresh. Then if you have a problem write to the Faith and Order Commission rather than pretending it’s simply an alternative reading. It isn’t. It’s the way it is. Ditto Ian’s question about the ordinal. *If* it’s a problem, It isn’t my problem.
      As to ‘liberal’ views of the bible. I’m really not so sure about that. Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians outnumber Protestants. Their readings of scripture will not match yours in many places. And since when do numbers decide truth.

      • Andrew
        We are disagreeing about what Canon C15, Preface and Declaration of Assent mean, given the actual words used. Reading the things you mention won’t alter those words. I think (obviously I can’t prove it) that most Roman Catholics and most Orthodox Christians would believe that Christ did say the words the Bible asserts he said. But I agree that numbers don’t decide truth. I was trying to explain that those who believe the Bible is God’s Word written can’t have a meaningful debate with those, like your good self, who don’t believe that – as evidenced by what you said in our discussion on Mathew 13.

        Phil Almond

        • No, you are disagreeing with the legal fact that clergy, by making the declaration of assent, make general and not absolute assent to the 39 Articles.
          Please read: Subscription and Assent to the 39 Articles: A report of the Archbishops’ Commission on Christian Doctrine SPCK 1968 #63-69
          It details how clergy are at liberty to ask questions about the Articles and therefore only make a general assent.

          • No, please read Canon C15 itself. You made the Declaration of assent. If words mean anything, when you made it you were saying that the Church was led by the Holy Spirit and you were saying that you affirmed your loyalty to this inheritance of faith, which includes the 39 Articles. There is nothing in Canon C15 about picking and choosing among the Articles. If other documents allow picking and choosing that is irrelevant since Canon 15 does not mention them.

            And you still have to answer Ian’s point about your ordination vows

            Do you understand the point I made about the Bible, that we cannot have a meaningful debate about what it says?

            Phil Almond

          • I’ve read it all many times Phil. There is nothing in Canon C15 or any other documentation that says anything other than that the 39 Articles have ‘borne witness’. I have no problem affirming that. Particularly because I know, that as a member of the clergy, I am allowed to question the Articles. That was expressly said in 1968, as I have just pointed out to you. It was re-affirmed in 1975. It was re-affirmed in 2022. Same goes for Ian’s point about ordination vows.
            Take all of this up with someone else if you think I’m wrong. I’m confident I am not.

          • As to your point about the bible: I don’t think it’s possible to have a meaningful debate with you until you acknowledge that different approaches to understanding the composition of the bible are possible. It is widely acknowledged that Anglicans do have such different approaches *and that they can respect each other in their difference*. I certainly respect and will defend to the death your right to hold your view but I would expect the same in return. I don’t believe you would afford me such respect and therefore I do not think we could hold any meaningful debate for that reason.

    • Oh and the ‘awful’ truths about God’s judgment I’m afraid are awful. I’ve always been a universalist. We are all predestined for glory in Christ. If we aren’t then I’m afraid I’ve no interest in any of it. I’ve always said that. And no one has ever had a problem with it. I was ordained with bishops and lawyers and college principals and ddos and etc etc knowing that. Hell is a despicable place and Christ has broken the power of death and hell. If that doesn’t mean for all of us, then it doesn’t mean for any of us.

  14. Finally given myself time to read this, and it was time well spent. I meet with our ministry leaders on a regular basis, and the theme of our next session is ‘developing others’, so this is spot on.

  15. Ian,

    Your extensive experience and thoughtful insights into the art of giving feedback are truly invaluable. It’s evident that your years of practice in various professional, personal, and ministerial contexts have equipped you with a deep understanding of the complexities involved in this essential skill.

    I particularly appreciate your emphasis on the dual nature of feedback—both its potential for growth and its potential for harm. Your acknowledgment of the emotional impact of feedback, both for the giver and the receiver, underscores the importance of approaching this process with sensitivity and intentionality.

    Your practical tips for giving feedback, from providing notice and choosing an appropriate time to shaping the feedback and suggesting a plan of action, offer a comprehensive framework for fostering constructive dialogue and development. Moreover, your emphasis on focusing on strengths as well as weaknesses and making feedback a regular and symmetrical practice within ministry teams reflects a commitment to nurturing a culture of mutual respect, accountability, and growth.

    Your theological reflections on the significance of mutual learning and discipleship within ministry add a rich layer of depth to your insights. Indeed, feedback becomes not merely a professional or managerial tool but also a spiritual practice rooted in the principles of respect, humility, and continual transformation.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and expertise on this important topic. Your guidance will undoubtedly benefit many individuals and ministry teams striving to cultivate environments of growth, learning, and mutual support.

    Warm regards,


Leave a comment