The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury was on Premier Christian Radio today. During the interview he announced his new Jesus-shaped vision for the church in 2021. (I presume he was talking about the Church of England.) In the light of all he has learned since the start of the pandemic he has come up with the slogan “Simpler, Humbler, Bolder.”
Thank God for that, say I! It’s been a long time coming but simplicity, humility and boldness in the Anglican church will be warmly welcomed by many, if not most congregations
I will particularly welcome simplicity for a start because I have just been struggling with some more of the “Living in Love and Faith” document, produced by an assortment of bishops and others. When it came out at the beginning of November last year I tried to read the summary and then wrote an unpublished blog called ‘Loads and loads of flannel’. That tells you what I thought of it at the time.
Recently, being housebound, I have been making another attempt to get to grips with ‘Living in Love and Faith.’ That is until I got to the following sentence:
“Secure in its roots, the Christian understanding of marriage has been sufficiently supple to respond to changing cultures, and suitably rich in meaning to allow God’s gift to be received in different ages, even if its purposes have been lived out with greater clarity at some times more than others.”
Apart from being 50 words long it’s also overloaded with too many polysyllabic words. You don’t find many 50 word sentences in the Gospels. I would suggest the Archbishop begins, immediately (eufous), re-reading St Mark.
I’m still not quite sure what, exactly, the writers were trying to say. Perhaps that was the whole point. In fact, I think the whole of ‘LLF’ is a skilful mixture of gobbledegook and flannel, continuing the softening-up process until we all accept Same Sex Marriage as part of God’s new plan.
At least the six bishops in the Church in Wales, always ready to jump on any passing band wagon, seem to have taken up two bits of Justin Welby’s slogan even before he announced it. In the past I have often found them too lily-livered, slightly pompous and skilled in the art of obfuscation. Just before Christmas, simply and boldly they announced: A Bill to Authorise Experimental Use of Proposed Revisions of the Book of Common Prayer.
They blithely acknowledge that Scripture and Christian tradition have previously believed marriage to be between a man and a woman.
“However,” they say, “with new social, scientific and psychological understandings of sexuality in the last one and a half centuries, we believe that same-sex relationships can be understood in a radically different way, and that the teaching of Scripture should therefore be re-interrogated.”
On second thoughts, with a sentence of 42 words, nine of which have three or more syllables, perhaps they are not expressing themselves as simply as all that. It is a bold sentence at any rate.
I’d welcome humble, too. As many readers of my blog will know I am opposed to Same Sex marriage in church. I’m afraid to say I have met with no humility on that subject. Far from finding “good disagreement” the LGBT+ Chaplain of this diocese takes the attitude ‘like it or lump it.’ Regretfully, I have had to lump it because no one even wants to engage in any sort of discussion with me; nor wish to find out why I think the way I do.
Lastly, Bolder. Oh, please! At least allow the bold ones amongst us to go into Church during Lent to pray (behind masks) and praise (internally) and meditate together if we promise to sanitise our hands and stay two metres apart. Well, distancing won’t be difficult, given the size of our church and the tiny number in the congregation.
Since some cathedrals have been open for vaccinations, complete with organ recitals, there shouldn’t be any reason to prevent spiritual vaccination as well. I, for one, definitely benefit from a god-shot occasionally.
At last, Justin Welby has spoken out in praise of the wonderful Dean of Canterbury. Dr Robert Willis now has 40,000 tuning in to his on-line services of Morning Prayer, which he has been holding in his garden every single morning since lockdown began.
I hope his Grace watches the programme; he’d learn a lot. However, he made one mistake. He mentions the Dean’s cats and other animals who “kept on making un-invited appearances.” Nonsense. The cats all come and go as they please — they are in their own home, after all. Tiger, the three legged cat (he lost a leg to cancer a few months ago) is the only cat especially invited by the Dean to accompany him when he takes shelter from the rain in a greenhouse. All the other birds and animals are invited in and often given breakfast.
Most actors will tell you never to work with children or animals. There’s certainly no room for pomposity or arrogance when you’re surrounded by Winston, Clemmie and their seven little pigs. It was an incredibly bold idea to think of sitting in a garden, surrounded by a menagerie, and simply preach the Gospel, straight to camera with barely a note. His message is delivered with simplicity. And the Dean, no mean musician and hymn writer himself, frequently emphasises the joy of simple songs and poems. Gospel stories and psalms, translated into simple songs and poems, are easy to learn by heart and remain forever in your memory. The amount of interesting information the Dean slips in is impressive. He was the one who taught me (and I bet many others) the word eufous and thanks to him I now know the correct way to pronounce ‘pericope’. (I’d been saying perry-cope.)
Simpler, humbler, bolder. Yes, Archbishop. We’re with you, and the dear Dean, every step of the way.