Tag Archives: Justin Welby

The C of E’s future. Andrew Brown’s Blog (Guardian)

The Church of England’s unglamorous, local future
The archbishop of Canterbury must acknowledge that disestablishment has already happened, and look to a future that faces reality

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The Church of England General Synod. Photograph: Johnny Armstead/Demotix/Corbis
The Church of England is already disestablished in all the ways that really matter. Whatever it tells itself, it has drifted to the margins of national life. Outside the upper classes and the traditional professions it’s no longer an essential part of the way in which the country understands itself.

England no longer capitalises “church”. This isn’t a problem about belief in God, or atheism. The number of people who call themselves Anglicans has declined a great deal faster in the last 30 years than the number who say they believe in God. Detailed polling shows that the problem gets worse as you move down the age groups, so that more people under 24 believe the church is a force for bad in society than suppose it’s a force for good.

This isn’t a problem with legal establishment – something that isn’t a live issue. It is about the role of the church in the country’s imagination of itself. And I think it is significant, and worrying for the church that the two huge national ritual self-presentations – the funeral of Princess Diana and the Olympics opening ceremony – show a marked diminution in Christian and especially Anglican content. The Diana funeral was about half Anglican, and half teddy bears. The Olympic ceremony, choreographed by two Catholics, one lapsed, had nothing Anglican in it at all.

So what the Church of England needs to do is to re-establish itself in the ordinary life of the country. Its instinct is obviously to do this with grand gestures, speeches, proclamations and debates, but this is entirely wrong. Instead of pretending it is a single coherent entity with clearly defined opinions and policies – something which simply isn’t true and never will be – it should just forget about the national level and get on with things locally.

This lesson has already been learned slowly and painfully at the international level. The attempt to present the Anglican Communion as a coherent church that could negotiate as an equal with the Roman Catholics has been an unmitigated disaster. When the resulting posturing was not vacuous it was poisonous, especially about gay people. The Anglican Communion is finished now. The schism happened and nobody cared. Individual churches have flourishing links in the ruins and this is a good and vital thing. But this is nothing to do with the Lambeth Conferences, any more than European trade was nourished by the Holy Roman Empire.

Now this must also happen at a national level. The General Synod and the “Church of England” as a body capable of having opinions or policies on anything need to shut up. No one cares what they think, except when they say or do something exceptionally crass and repulsive. No one cares what archbishops think, but churchgoers care for the good opinion of their congregations. No one goes to “the Church of England” anyway – people go to their local church. So that’s where the effort needs to go. What matters is not doctrine, but the way that faith plays out in everyday life.

This is an unglamorous and local future in which the Church of England becomes less coherent and more alive. But it’s the only future in which it has a chance. Christianity is interesting only in so far as it is true. Churches are compelling only in so far as they deal with reality. Far too much of the past 30 years has been spent in “voodoo Christianity” – the attempt to summon up importance in the world by performing bureaucratic ritual. Almost everyone in the institutional church knows this today. What Justin Welby has to do is give them permission to admit it, and to act on it. Only by admitting it has already been disestablished can the church hope ever to re-establish itself.

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adJUSTIN it

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(any excuse to show a picture of an attractive woman – Meenister)

Fix Your Collar, Justin Welby
Our Lady of Walsingham miraculously reappears after 1000 years of silence to help the Apostle to the English fix his clericals.
An Open Letter to Archbishop Justin
Your Grace,
I wish to send my most sincere, if overdue, congratulations to you, Archbishop Justin, on your election to the Primate of All England and the spiritual head of the Global Anglican Communion. Your story is rather inspiring; from oil man to Archbishop in no time. You surely have your work set out for you. Following in the footsteps of giants, holding an unruly communion together, and the care of some 80 million souls in this troubling age are no small tasks. That being said, there is one matter that must be discussed.
In your tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury, it has come to my attention that your collar is in a perilous state. Whether speaking with the media or performing liturgical tasks, it seems to precariously hang from your neck: perhaps you are metaphorically mirroring the flexibility of Anglican practice or the loose bonds of affection found in the Anglican Communion.
Nevertheless, this is an intervention of love. For the sake of all in the Church of England and in our Communion, we ask that you properly adjust your clericals. This blog will be utterly destroyed with the fulfillment of one of the following two conditions:
(1) you diligently push in your collar and show due progress in this task;
(2) you inform us (privately or publicly) of a medical condition that would make carrying out this task an impediment.
We pray for your leadership as well as your clericals.
Our Lady of Walsingham
Nov 17th, 2013

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Press it in ever so slightly, your Grace. Fix your collar

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 Nobody disputes that the Cross of Nails makes for powerful, profound pectoral jewellery. But the collar’s another story.

                                                                                                               Please, fix

 

Some directions, your Grace:
1) Rotate finger 180°.
2) Draw finger towards neck.
3) Gingerly press collar.
Your Grace, the Canons of the Church explicitly state, “insofar as he carries out licit practice of his holy orders, the clergyman’s collar must remain flush against his neck, with minimal protrusion.” Well, maybe not, but please fix your collar.

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Grey Men

JANET STREET-PORTER

Sunday 1 September 2013

The Church’s grey men are out of touch

 Repent isn’t a word we use much. It’s not as fashionable as “sorry”, that devalued bit of emotional sticking plaster trotted out by everyone from Tony Blair to David Cameron when they want to win a few electoral brownie points. Repentance suggests that a sin has been committed in the first place, not an act of aggression like a war waged on a lie that can be tidied away with an elaborate apology. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, is a verbose fellow who likes to air his thoughts on a daily basis. He’s not a neat and tidy spiritual leader, more an unfocused work in progress. Should a beleaguered church with a declining membership in the UK be led by a chap who publicly says he’s thinking through divisive issues like same-sex marriage? Or should he man up, be brave, and offer unequivocal spiritual guidance even though it risks losing traditional members?

Last week, Dr Welby (who belonged to the evangelical wing of the Church) told an audience of born-again Christians that they must “repent” over the way the church has treated gay people. He declared that most people under 35 viewed such attitudes as offensive, on a par with racism: “The Church has not been good at dealing with homophobia… and we have to be really, really repentant about that because it is utterly and totally wrong.” Welby voted against same-sex marriage in the Lords, and when younger, opposed homosexuals being allowed to adopt children. He says his mind is “not yet clear” on the issue of gay marriage, and he struggles with conflicting thoughts.

Ben Summerskill of Stonewall thinks the Archbishop is hypocritical: the Church holds services for pets, but still refuses to bless the long-term partnerships of same-sex couples. What the Church of England needs is a clear direction, not a load of woolly waffle about “repentance”. By the way, those under 35 aren’t “a younger generation”, but a huge section of the population, people with children, partners, homes, jobs and responsibilities.

The Church is run by a bunch of grey men in fancy costumes: look at any picture of the Synod and weep. They fail to represent modern Britain in any meaningful way. Welby says he wants Christians to focus less on what they are against, but sometimes in life I find that really useful. I am profoundly against inequality in any shape or form – so I find a Christian leader’s refusal to accept gay marriage repugnant.

The Church must adapt to a changing society. This is not a sign of weakness, but of strength, otherwise it is shrinking its horizons, focusing on a literal interpretation of the Bible and refusing access to men and women because of their sexual orientation. Jesus would have been appalled.

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September 3, 2013 · 13:38

Justin Welby and Homophobia

The Guardian home

Badge Andrew Brown Blog

Justin Welby gets real on homophobia

Welby knows that young people detest anti-gay prejudice, and is telling his church. It’s more than Rowan Williams did

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA

Justin Welby thinks that it is a huge problem for the church in this country that it is defined by what it’s against. “Young people say ‘I don’t want to hear about a faith that is homophobic’,” he told a gathering of leaders from the Evangelical Alliance on Wednesday, many of whom have campaigned hard against gay marriage. So I asked him if he regretted that he’d voted against it.

“No,” he said. “I am happy that I voted against it. It seemed to me that the bill was rewriting the nature of marriage in a way that [conflicted] with the Christian tradition, with scripture, and with understanding.”

But once he’d said that he went on to say quite a lot more which showed that his thought has in fact moved on from the simplicities of the spring. First, he admitted that the church was “deeply and profoundly divided” over the issue. This is not at all what he said in the House of Lords at the time, when he claimed that all the major denominations opposed the bill. Yet there is very clear polling evidence from the Westminster Faith debates, to show that Christians, even evangelical Christians, are very conflicted about this, and the opinions of the lay members of the church much more resemble the opinions of unbelievers than they do their own leadership.

Second, he used the term “homophobia” in an honest way. There are still some evangelicals who claim it is a made-up term that refers to nothing in particular. Not so Welby. Gay marriage was, he said, an attempt to deal with issues of homophobia. “The church has not been good at dealing with it. We have implicitly and even explicitly supported [homophobia] and that demands repentance.”

This is, I think, something that he sees as a command from God, rather than an adjustment to the world. That in itself is an important shift, since the only way that conservative religious attitudes will change is if they stop looking to religious conservatives like surrender.

More to the point, he now understands just how dreadful conservative Christian attitudes seem to anyone under 35. “The vast majority of people under 35 think [the church’s resistance to gay marriage] is not just incomprehensible but plain wrong and wicked, and they assimilate it to racism and other horrors.”

He made clear later that this attitude was found among young evangelicals as well as ordinary people, and that it was reflected in his experience as well as in public opinion polls.

Of course, this isn’t really news. It is a recognition of reality much clearer and more forceful than Rowan Williams could have allowed himself, but the only possible audience for his remarks was sitting in front of him. No one outside the church cares in the slightest what its leaders say about sex. Very few people inside care either: according to the YouGov Westminster Faith Debate polls, only 2% of Anglicans take into account the views of religious leaders when making moral decisions.

Some of his evangelical audience will have heard only what he said about voting against the bill. Others will have understood what he also said about how catastrophic this attitude has become for the credibility of Christianity as a moral force in this country. But I think there is an irreversible shift of attitude under way here.

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Trendy vicars, your time has come at last

Pope Francis Portrait Painting

Pope Francis Portrait Painting (Photo credit: faithmouse)

from The Independent

Ellen E Jones

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Justin Welby and now the Pope supporting gay rights: Welby leads the way – but Pope Francis is taking baby steps in the right direction

 

In case you haven’t read the fashion pull-out in the latest parish newsletter, let me be the first to pass on the good news: Trendy vicars are bang on trend. The energetic young clergyman or woman in a colourful woolly jumper was once a BBC sit-com trope or a bogeyman for conservative churchgoers. Now, apparently, they’re running the show.

True, Justin Welby is yet to deliver a sermon in rap form, but in the months since he was installed as Archbishop, he’s rarely been off the ball. He’s offered opinions on every trending topic from welfare reform to City culture and now he’s taken a stand on payday lenders. This week Pope Francis, leader of 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide, took his own baby-steps into the 21st century when he told an informal press conference. “You should not discriminate against or marginalise [gay] people, and the Catechism says this as well.”

To many, Pope Francis’s words will be a maddeningly overdue statement of the obvious. Is it bad to discriminate against gay people? Is the Pope a Catholic? Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was unimpressed. He dismissed the statement as “a change of tone…but not a change in substance.”

It’s to be hoped a change in tone might signal a change in substance, but still, Tatchell’s cynicism is not unfounded. Most religious organisations keep time with an internal clock about four centuries behind GMT. This slow pace of modernisation goes a long way to explaining why 64 per cent of British 18-24 year-olds are not affiliated to any religion. It also suggests why it would be unfair to dismiss the views of church leaders as a merely superficial attempt to seem ‘with it’. Any decent comms manager would consider this too little, too late. And anyway, they didn’t have comms managers in the Middle Ages.

Politicians may consider a Church that comments on the welfare of the poor or City culture an unwelcome interference, but that’s not because the comments themselves are radical. Jesus’s thoughts on rich men, camels and needles are well-known. If they now seem even more relevant than they ever were in 1st century Galilee, that’s hardly Justin Welby’s doing.

The trendy vicar might fancy himself down with the kids, but his strength isn’t radicalism; it’s a determination to connect the Church, and all its members, with the outside world. Other vicars nibble victoria sponge during parish tea; trendy vicar gets his teeth stuck in to the issues of the day.

Why should Britain’s non-church goers care what religious leaders say on social and political matters? Because when no mainstream political party is willing to stick up for the poor and disenfranchised, here are a few major organisations that can step into the breach. So, godly and godless, let’s put aside our differences and hold hands for a verse or two of Kumbaya. Unlike the third Sunday after Pentecost, the trendy vicar’s ascendance is a church event we all have cause to celebrate

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C of E Indulgences

 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has followed the lead of Pope Francis in offering indulgences for those who follow him on Twitter. There was widespread head-scratching earlier in the week at the announcement by the Vatican that the Papal court handling pardons for sins had ruled that contrite Catholics could gain ‘indulgences’ by following World Youth Day on Twitter.

 

The Anglican model is slightly different, as the doctrine of Purgatory and Indulgences are among those doctrines which the Church of England has discarded since its break from Rome. However, Archbishop Welby, sensing an opportunity for an easy win to please his home crowd, has ruled that PCC members who follow @ABCJustin or @LambethPalaceon Twitter will be able to download a voucher allowing them to leave PCC meetings after the first 90 minutes, even if they are the vicar.

 

A spokesperson for the Church of England said, “Like the Orthodox Church, we do not have a doctrine of Purgatory in the Church of England. Our official line is that this Roman idea ‘is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God’. However, the Pope’s concept of Twitter-bribes to get his follower count up looked good to us. Who among the Anglican flock has not been trapped in an epic PCC meeting where having what amounts to a ‘Go home or to the pub’ card from the Archbishop of Canterbury would not have been a blessed relief from torment?.”

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July 26, 2013 · 10:22

Bishops’ Pricks

Future Church of England bishops to be quizzed on their sex lives
By John Bingham Religious Affairs Editor10:00PM BST 08 Jul 2013

Every Church of England cleric who could be promoted to become a bishop is to be asked to provide details of their sex life to the Archbishop of Canterbury or York, it has emerged.

In an effort to avoid “the appearance of discrimination” against gay priests – who are required to claim to be celibate if they are in civil partnerships – all future candidates for the episcopate will also be subject to a “test” to ensure they have no sexual skeletons in the closet.

Before they can be considered for a mitre they will have to persuade an archbishop that they are not involved in activity which might be considered sinful – and are not planning to do so.

The questioning, likely to be conducted by a serving bishop on behalf of one of the two archbishops, is to determine whether their private life “is and will remain consistent with the teaching of the Church of England”.

Church teaching only permits sex between a husband and wife and explicitly rules out any kind of gay or lesbian sex, extra-marital affairs or, officially at least, cohabiting couples sleeping together before marriage.

But some passages in the book of Leviticus are much more detailed: specifying a ban on sexual relations with various “beasts” or humans if they are members of the extended family.

It is unlikely, however, that these will fall within the scope of the Church of England’s hiring procedures.

Details of the new requirement emerged in a written answer to a question before the Church’s governing General Synod.

It follows the disclosure last month that, under new arrangements agreed by the House of Bishops, people in same-sex civil partnerships must satisfy either the Archbishop of Canterbury or York that they are not sleeping with their partner before they can become a bishop.

Similar arrangements are in place for divorced clergy being considered for episcopal appointment.

The Rev Canon Giles Goddard of St John’s church in Waterloo, central London, asked why such “assurances” are sought only from clerics in civil partnerships or divorcees.

William Fittall, the Secretary General to the General Synod, replied that the questions for divorcees were are “to determine that there are no issues from the breakdown of the previous marriage that might constitute an obstacle to episcopal appointment”.

He added: “In relation to civil partnership the test is of a different character namely whether someone’s conduct is and will remain consistent with the teaching of the Church of England.

But, he explained: “To avoid the appearance of discrimination that assurance is in fact now sought in relation to all candidates for episcopal appointment.”

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July 8, 2013 · 23:16

The Archbishop of W****rbury! or Welby the w****er

Archbishop of Westminster attacks gay marriage plan

3marcus-png

A furious row has erupted among members of the clergy after a Church of England priest branded the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, a “w****r” for resisting the government’s attempts to legalise gay marriage.

The attack, by the Revd Marcus Ranshaw, came after Archbishop Welby warned that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill would effectively “abolish” the traditional institution of marriage, the “cornerstone” of society.

In an angry posting on Facebook last night, the Revd Ramshaw, a supporter of gay marriage, wrote: “what really upsets me is nasty people such as Justin Welby robbing me of my faith in the church, he does not speak in my name and i think he is a wanker, but im not going to stop being a christian or a priest.”

But he was swiftly taken to task by the Revd Arun Arora, the Director of Communications for the Church of England, who posted: “Calling another Christian a w****r doesn’t work for me as a priestly response,” and went on to add: “I think any right-minded person would find a priest calling his archbishop an onanist to be utterly outrageous.”

The row has since escalated, with Revd Ramshaw accusing Archbishop Welby of having “a nasty, ill-judged opinion on homosexual relations” which has divided the church into “bitterness and anger.”

Regarding his choice of language, he admitted: “i accept that that term was wrong and for that i am sorry, but i hope he knows how much hurt he is doing to faithful, loyal christians who love the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In response, the Revd Arora accused his fellow priest of being “ungracious and a liar who breaks his promises” for not readily apologising.

Speaking to The Independent the Revd Ramshaw, a former associate vicar at St Edward King and Martyr Church in Cambridge, said: “I inadvertently said the Archbishop of Canterbury was a w****r in one single line…it was not a public platform, it was a personal post which I deleted at the request of the director of communications for the Church of England. I am genuinely sorry that I got cross for one second and just put in that one word.”

The priest added: “Why should I be so taken to task about this?…I have made a complaint to Facebook and reported him for threatening behaviour. I intend to make a complaint to Church House…this is not a way to treat any Christian…it is bullying, it’s nasty and it’s horrible and I will construct a complaint on that basis.”

Lambeth Palace would not comment on the row, but in a statement to The Independent, Revd Arora said: “The issue of same Sex Marriage is an emotive one. There are a variety of views within the Church and much of that debate takes place online.

“I don’t think calling someone a ‘w****r’ is the best way of engaging. Whilst I am sure this will be water off a duck’s back for Archbishop Justin, I think it was right to challenge Marcus’ approach.”

article from the “Independent” newspaper

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Cheesus

No PR agency in the world could sell the disturbing message of a broken man on the cross. That’s why we get Jesus-lite

ned flanders

Ned Flanders of The Simpsons giving a fine rendition of the cheesy Christian smile

One thing you learn pretty quickly as a priest taking primary school assemblies is that, according to the under fives, there is no question that cannot be appropriately answered with the word Jesus. Obviously, anything faintly religious must be answered in that way. But other questions too. “What is the capital of France?”, “What is the price of a loaf of bread?”, “What is the name of your sister?”.

In every class there is always some little mite who enthusiastically sticks up their hand, bursting with confidence. Jesus, they say, proudly, when chosen.

After a while, if you say a word enough, over and over again, it loses its meaning. It even begins to sound a little different. Jesus morphs into Cheesus – the es getting steadily elongated. Those who talk about Cheesus do so with a creepy sort of chummyiness. This is what evangelicals call “a personal relationship”, by which they mean that Cheesus has become their boyfriend or best mate.

And when such people speak of Cheesus they have to wear that sickly smile too. It’s that I-know-something-you-don’t smile. Patronising, superior and faux caring all at the same time. And if you disagree with them they will pray for you. It makes you want to bang your head against a brick wall.

Once again, the evangelicals are in the ascendency in the Church of England. Rowan Williams never spoke of Cheesus. He had way too much gravitas. Which was why so many non-Christians respected him. And, to be fair, Justin Welby doesn’t do that either – but I worry that he does have a slight weakness in that direction. After all, that is the stable of the church he hails from. And if he does lapse into Cheesus-speak, heaven save him from Rowan Atkinson, whose Red Nose day satire was a little too close for comfort.

Welby, however, does have one important inoculation against Cheesus. He has personal experience of tragedy and Cheesus cannot deal with tragedy. Which is why, for the worst sort of Cheesus-loving evangelicals, the cross of Good Friday is actually celebrated as a moment of triumph. This is theologically illiterate. Next week, in the run up to Easter, Christianity goes into existential crisis. It fails.

The disciples run away, unable to cope with the impossible demands placed upon them. The hero they gave up everything to follow is exposed to public ridicule and handed over to Roman execution. And the broken man on the cross begins to fear that God is no longer present.

The fact that this is not the end of the story does not take away from the fact that tragedy will always be folded into the experience of faith. Even the resurrected Jesus bears the scars of his suffering. A man who has been through something like that will never smile that cheesy smile or think of faith as some sunny suburban upspeak.

Justin Welby is the theological product of Holy Trinity Brompton, the Old Etonian-run church next to Harrods that brought the world the Alpha Course and doubles up as a posh dating agency for west London singles. They are brilliant at PR and have pots of money. And if Christianity is all about success, then you have it hand it to them.

But the problem with PR Christianity is that it can easily transform Jesus into Cheesus, which is a form of Jesus-lite, a romantic infatuation, a Mills & Boon theology that makes you feel all warm inside. The Gospels, however, tell an altogether more disturbing story. And there is no PR agency in the world that could sell the message of a man who told his followers that they too would have to go the way of the cross. That’s the problem with Cheesus. He won’t really suffer and he doesn’t ever die.

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