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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