Saturday, 10 December 2011

John 1:14

Christmas poem 2011

John 1:14

In the contradiction of the gods of Mammon and the lords of Misrule
In the pavement legalities of occupation and assertion, injunction and counterclaim
At the interface of tourist and worshipper, occupier and passer-by
He pitched his tent among us.

In another place and time, where the Eagle standard spreads its wings
In the tyrant rule of Herod, toying with Magi and butchering children
At the Royal City – subject today to another occupation
He pitched his tent among us.

In a culture where “reality” is pathos and everything has a price
In the lives of poor and privileged, Pharisee and refugee
At the cusp of history, at this time and at all times
He pitched his tent among us.

Come, transforming Christ, manger born and Spirit led
Take hold of what is tawdry and bring your kingdom’s joy
Take lives which ache for vision and instil eternal hope
And pitch your tent among us.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Open Evangelicalism

I've found several people asking what they think the terminology of Open Evangelical means. Here's an attempt at definition that I wrote some time ago...

Towards a definition of "Open Evangelical"

"Open evangelical" is a term that has emerged in the context of evangelical Anglicanism in the UK. Broadly speaking it is those who see themselves as heirs of the Keele Congress of 1967, when evangelical Anglicans committed themselves to work in the mainstream of the Church of England, who would want to wear that label. "Open evangelical" is usually defined over against "conservative evangelical", although open evangelicals would claim to be conservative on scripture and radical on everything else.

What are open evangelicals in the Church of England open to ?

1.         Biblical scholarship
(Believing scripture to be inspired, but not wishing to wear the inerrantist label, and content to accept that theology is a positive gift to the church, and that hermeneutics are essential to the task of understanding an inspired scripture).

2.         Cultural change
An unchanging gospel must be proclaimed in a variety of cultural contexts, and to be open is to be culturally aware and adaptable.

3.         Other theological traditions
Open evangelicals would accept that others not owning the evangelical label are also Christians, and would want to learn from them.

4.         Holistic mission
Most open evangelicals are convinced that evangelism and social action go hand in hand, and that the motivation for social and political engagement is God's activity and calling to people and churches, and not merely a means of pre-evangelism.

5.         The Church of England
A majority of evangelical Anglicans would want to wear the label that way round, with "evangelical" as the adjective that defines "Anglican". This entails a commitment to the structures and ecclesiology of the Church of England.

6.         The full ministry of women in the church
Open evangelicals supported the ordination of women to the priesthood (the conservatives didn't), and would argue from scripture that women can be both priests and bishops, and take their full part in the Church of England's ministry.

7.         Evangelism
To be an open evangelical is to believe that every structure in the church must pass the acid test "does this further the mission of God?" There is no point in the church being there for its own sake. It is only there as sign of the Kingdom.

8.         The World
Open evangelicals are basically world affirming. They believe that the role of the Church of England is to be the church for the whole country, and that to be committed to that view entails working with the grain of society rather than against it.

9.         New patterns of worship, prayer, and liturgy
Experiment in the area of worship is a hallmark of open evangelical Anglicanism. They have been in the forefront of devising new liturgy, writing new songs, and encouraging new patterns of worship.

10.        God
It is probably the case that open evangelicals have a view of God that sees him more as an agent of change than as a defender of the status quo...

Monday, 11 July 2011

On Chairing the Business Committee

Synod has got itself into a terrible mess about the next chair of the Business Committee. The Bishop of Dover, who would be an admirable person to do the job, fit and proper in every sense and in a way that Rebekah and Rupert and Andy are not, has withdrawn his nomination. The Archbishop of Canterbury attempted, in a rather manipulative way, to chastise Synod for opposing his nomination. But of course the issues aren't about the personal - though they contain the personal.

The impasse came about because the National Institutions Measure (which I helped steer through Synod) stipulates that the Chair of the Business Committee should be chosen from the 6 elected members of the Archbishops' Council (2 clergy, 2 lay, 2 bishops). Actually it was never intended that the 2 bishops should be considered as candidates for the post. In those days, the 2 bishops chaired the two major committees - education and ministry. We never thought that they should be candidates for chairing the business committee or the appointments committee - and they never have. With hindsight, we should have written that convention into the standing orders of Synod, but at the time it seemed so obvious that a bishop should not undertake these synodical roles that we didn't do so.

The point is that the Chair of the Business Committee has to be independent and be seen to be independent. They have to steer the business of Synod. They have to defend the rights of "back-bench" members.They have to say "no" to Church House, the House of Bishops, the Archbishops' Council - and to retain control of what comes on the Synod agenda - something they have lamentably failed to do of late, leading to a creeping centralisation and a number of very thin Synod agendas.
They have to ensure that people are heard and listened to and their contributions enabled. They have to be approachable and democrats to their fingertips. It's a hard job. I did it for several years, and I hope I managed to do some of that. I'm sure that the Bishop of Dover would have done and been all those things better than I did. But that's not the point.

Having a bishop chairing the Business Committee when the House and its Standing Committee meet in secret, when the Bishop has the ear of his fellow bishops, when a bishop is perceived as a person of power, and when people are rightly suspicious of bishops (there's nothing wrong with a bit of hermeneutical and ideological suspicion!) would be entirely wrong. We should change the Standing Orders to exclude the possibility of any bishop chairing the Business Committee. If the 2 clergy and 2 laity on Archbishops' Council are seen as unsuitable persons (a bit of a rude conclusion to have reached), then allow the Business Committee to elect its own chair from among its membership (excluding Bishops, of course). But it must be a competent clergyperson or lay person. Not a Bishop.