Here is a headline from Thursday’s Daily Telegraph.
Honestly. I’m not making it up. But they can skip the classes if it’s all too upsetting!
Glasgow University has also issued warnings to its veterinary students that they may have to work with dead animals. Those studying ‘Contemporary Society’, who will be discussing illness and violence, are also dutifully warned.
Stirling University has told its gender studies students: “We cannot anticipate or exclude the possibility that you may encounter material which is triggering [ie, which can trigger a negative reaction] and we urge that you take all necessary precautions to look after yourself in and around the programme.”
Oh, little diddums. The university explains that this in an effort to protect pupils’ mental health. Frankly, I’d be more worried about the mental health of the tutors.
But to get back to the crucifixtion. As a cradle Anglican this is what I learned in Sunday school, aged six. First, every Sunday, I had to recite however many verses of the Psalms I had been set to learn by heart as homework. The psalms were used as an introduction to the Old Testament. That way the Superintendent avoided the difficult bits and the unsavoury subjects. Then we moved on to the New Testament. That’s where I learned the following.
1. God, the one true God, created the world and absolutely everything in it. (We were still at war at this time, so this included bombs and Hitler.)
2. He came to earth (though still God) as a man. He was crucified, which was a truly terrible death, and rose from the dead. (That was called the Resurrection, which I couldn’t say, but I did know it was the most important thing of all.)
3. He sent the Holy Ghost, which was also the one true God, to stay with us on earth.
As a child I don’t remember having any trouble with that.(1)
It seems to me it’s our bishops who are the true Snowflake generation. They seem incapable of facing the reality of the Bible – which is tough and tends to thunder out the truth. They prefer to pussyfoot along, patting heads and making soothing noises about how to re-interpret the bits of the Bible that might be upsetting. Rather like cornered animals, senior clergy tend to snap and snarl when provoked by dissent, so those of us who disagree back off or leave.
As a New Year gesture the Very Revd Prof Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, posted a new 95 Theses, 500 years after Martin Luther’s. Ninety five might have been a good number way back then but for people today, (most of the world it seems) who Twitter and Text, 95 is far too many. Prof Percy also frequently repeats himself, especially when he finds an example he likes, such as “2. The church is in danger of exchanging its birthright for a mess of secular pottage” and “11 The office of bishop has been exchanged for a bowl of lentil stew”.
However, there were certainly several statements concerning the failings and misconceptions of present day bishops which I recognise as true.
Thesis 1. “The most important role for our bishops is to mediate the wisdom and compassion of God: to be teachers and pastors, after the example of Christ himself, no less.”
Hear hear! I think, for example, that a wise and compassionate Bishop should at least acknowledge a letter or an e mail from a concerned parishioner, even if his well-staffed office is too busy micro-managing Mission Areas to actually send a reply. Sadly, I have noticed that all this managing leaves little time for simple courtesy.
Thesis 2. “The church needs bishops who can be theologians, and contextualize the Word of God, so congregations can begin to reflect theologically on their lives and work today.”
Yep. I think a bit of theological reflection would do congregations a world of good. Sermons in the church I left told me little beyond the fact that God loved me, and that I was a Pharisee if I didn’t support Same Sex Marriage.(2)
A Holy Organogram
Certainly, Thesis 7 resonated with me.
“Not everything that counts can be counted. Not everything that can be counted, counts (Einstein). Parish churches are named (often after saints). They are not numbers (on a pie-chart set within a ‘dashboard’). Naming implies identity and a personality for each church. Numbers reduce congregations to anonymous units.” Percy also condemns bishops who put value on “management skills, strategic plans, ‘leadership’ courses, therapeutic techniques, motivational talks, strap-lines and glib mottos” above the Word of God and points out that congregations don’t expect their bishops to have MBA’s. (3)
Better than a pie chart
I recognise the truth of Thesis 48 as well.
“Stated simply, the calling of the bishop is to help congregations and communities become what they are called to be. It is not to impose a blueprint from ‘mission control’ or to issue command-and-control directives from diocesan central office.”
Here in Wales we have definitely suffered from blueprints issued from ‘mission control’. Few congregations here, even those with Gay clergy, had the remotest interest in or wish for Same Sex Marriage. They had never been horrible to gays or caused terror or grief to lesbians—that seems to have been the fault of the clergy. It was the Bishop, aided and abetted by Diocesan Central Office, who imposed an LGBT Chaplain on this Diocese and filled the Diocesan magazine with SSM propoganda and it is the Bench of Bishops who have made SSM and re-interpretation of the Bible their life’s work.
“It is hard to imagine a Michael Ramsey, William Temple or Edward King (4) receiving preferment in the current climate. The managers would say they don’t tick the right boxes.” (5) This is because “managers mostly make safe choices; they are inherently risk-aversive. So interesting, creative, ‘wild card’ bishops are not easily imaginable as long as the ecclesiastical managers continue to rule the church.”
“For the first time since the Reformation, we now have no bishops who have held a university post in theology. This is no small scandal.”
After thirty years in Cambridge I’m not sure about this one. I can think of several notable theologians who would have made hopeless bishops. On the other hand I do think a degree in theology is a better preparation for bishophood than one in Quantum Theory, or Speech and Language or Oceanography.
Finally, here is part of Martin Percy’s last Thesis, 95.
“Bishops are to be occupied with God (for which they need theology and spirituality); and then to be occupied with what they think might preoccupy God’s heart and mind – the cares and concerns Christ has for our broken world and its needy people (and so engage in pastoral care).”
Lots of ideas there for New Year’s Resolutions for Bishops but I think I won’t hold my breath. What a fascinating year this is likely to be.
Notes (1) See Blog ‘Learn more about the Trinity’from May 21st, 2016 (2) More blogs on SSM than I care to number.
(3)Blog ‘Eccentric and Anarchic ‘- August 29th,2016 (4) Google Edward King on Wikipedia. Martyn Percy is quite right. These days he’d never get a look-in.
(5)’Saints need not apply’ – Oct 18th 2016