Thinking allowed

The Great Schism

This morn­ing I listened to anoth­er pro­gramme in the BBC Radio 4 series, In Our Time. This must be the best pro­gramme on the radio, and this week it looked at the Great Schism between the east­ern and west­ern Church, con­cen­trated in the mutu­al excom­mu­nic­a­tion in 1054.

What is even more remark­able is the rel­ev­ance of much of what they were talk­ing about to the cur­rent goings-on at Lam­beth. Here we had a dis­pute primar­ily about author­ity, and about a shift in the bal­ance of power, from the ‘old church’ in the Greek-speak­ing east, towards the Lat­in-speak­ing west, culim­in­at­ing a determ­in­a­tion by the up-and-com­ing west and its pat­ri­arch at Rome to con­cen­trate author­ity in its hands, rather than shar­ing it in a more demo­crat­ic ‘first among equals’ basis.

My only caveat would be to won­der about the author­ity of an ‘expert’ who thinks that com­mu­nion in one kind, increas­ingly prac­tised in the West, meant that the laity were lim­ited to receiv­ing only the chalice, and not the bread — a state­ment which no one corrected.

Any­way, the broad­cast is worth listen­ing to, wheth­er or not you see any par­al­lels, or wheth­er you agree with my sug­ges­ted par­al­lels (per­haps it’s like a good ser­mon, which every listen­er thinks is dir­ec­ted solely at them). Then, if you haven’t done so before, enjoy you­self brows­ing through the archives listen­ing to pre­vi­ous broad­casts over the last couple of years.


ordination of bishops

Today I went to West­min­ster Abbey for the ordin­a­tion or con­sec­ra­tion of two bish­ops. This would also have been the ser­vice at which Jef­frey John would have been ordained bish­op had he not stood down.

The ser­vice was led by Arch­bish­op Row­an Wil­li­ams, and around forty oth­er bish­ops also took part. A pic­ture of the moment when they all laid hands on Can­on John Inge can be seen here — Alan Wilson is the fig­ure clad in black chi­mere in the fore­ground. More pic­tures can be seen on the Ely dio­ces­an website

Appar­ently there was a small demon­stra­tion by mem­bers of Out­rage! (details here) but I can hon­estly say that I neither saw nor heard this, nor heard any rumour of it — there was no sign that I could see of any protest at the treat­ment of Can­on Jef­frey John. I did think there might be some protest, and I had my cam­era ready to cap­ture any thing that happened.



spiritual hunger

In an art­icle ‘Spir­itu­al spend­ing’ costs women £670m a year in today’s Daily Tele­graph (free regis­tra­tion required, fake details okay!), a num­ber of ‘altern­at­ive’ forms of spir­itu­al­ity are lis­ted, includ­ing reflex­o­logy, acu­punc­ture, mas­sage, reiki, and so on. Appar­ently women are spend­ing a lot of time and money on these ‘to com­bat the stress of mod­ern life’. Chris­tian­ity and oth­er reli­gions don’t even get a mention.

As has been sug­ges­ted by oth­ers, there does seem to be a hun­ger for spir­itu­al­ity that the mod­ern world doesn’t oth­er­wise sup­ply. I won­der what it is that these new age tech­niques provide that is lack­ing in Chris­tian­ity? Or, con­trari­wise, what is it about Chris­tian­ity that is unwel­come? Com­mit­ment per­haps? An accom­pa­ny­ing social mes­sage? Or is it ‘post-imper­i­al­ism’ — Chris­tian­ity hav­ing ruled the roost in the west for so long, many people would rather look else­where, or per­haps don’t see any­thing par­tic­u­larly spir­itu­al about the faith­ful few at their loc­al church? Per­haps they want to asso­ci­ate with people of a sim­il­ar age and don’t find that (or think they won’t) at the church either?


Church 'faces gay hunger strike'

The BBC car­ries a report sug­gest­ing the pos­sib­il­ity of ‘civil dis­obedi­ence’ if the Church does not become more tol­er­ant of gay men and les­bi­ans. The claim is made by Richard Kirk­er, of the Les­bi­an and Gay Chris­ti­an Move­ment. The report spe­cific­ally men­tions ‘hun­ger strikes’.


Homophobia in the Name of God

Homo­pho­bia in the Name of God is an art­icle, notion­ally about same-sex mar­riage in Canada, but which con­tains some inter­est­ing cri­ti­cism of the stance of con­ser­vat­ive reli­gious groups. The author, George Dvor­sky of Toronto, sug­gests that the cri­ti­cisms made by such groups are in fact counter-pro­duct­ive to their own cause, a view that I am inclined to agree with.

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