Friday, 30 September 2011


A bit over exposed, but it's the first time I've had the telescope out for over a year. Here is an image of Jupiter taken from my back garden at about 10.30 pm. If you look carefully, you can see one of the four 'Galilean' moons just to the right. Not sure which one! There is another one off to the left towards the edge. Two more visible to the right through the telescope.

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Thursday, 29 September 2011

Childrens' Work Vacancies in the Diocese of Chelmsford

Children and Family Worker - Southend
Children and Family Worker required at Saint Stephen’s Church, Prittlewell to become
part of the team to make a difference in the local community:

We are: growing, enthusiastic, mission focused emerging Anglican church serving a specific community near the airport retail park, in the northern part of Southend.
We work: closely with the local primary School and Children’s Centre, and others,
developing a multi-agency approach within the community.
We have: a big vision - this task initially includes taking lead responsibility for Totz (Carer and Toddler programme) and Kids Café (after-school club) together with a leading role in Sunday morning children’s worship. With additional funding there will be a much larger role.
We offer: a contract for three year duration, starting in October 2011, initially for 10 hours per week with-a-view to additional hours, possibly full-time, when funding becomes available (application is underway now for spring 2012).

Salary will be £2800 pa together with a team of enthusiastic volunteers and helpers and a nurturing, uplifting environment in which you can develop your gifts.
The successful candidate should: have a passion to work with children and families;
have some experience with working with children;
have good communication skills;
have a great sense of fun
enjoy taking initiative and think out-of-the-box!
There is a genuine occupational requirement that the post holder is a follower of Jesus, and is willing to develop their discipleship and take an active part in the life of Saint Stephen’s.

An enhanced CRB check will be carried out.

References will be carried out.

For further information call or text Colin on 07789511910/01702 305953 or email

Please send cv to Saint Stephen’s, 90 Alton Gardens Prittlewell, Southend-on-sea SS2 6QZ
or by email to the above address.

Closing date: Friday 7th October 2011

Interviews planned for 13/14th October 2011

See us at
Christian Youth Worker, Tiptree, Essex
TYPO, the Tiptree Youth Project Outreach, has recently been formed by the four Christian churches in Tiptree.  We are looking to develop Christian youth work in the village, the local schools and surrounding areas, providing the young people in the community with interesting, absorbing and entertaining activities to learn about life, citizenship and explore the Christian faith.
We are looking for an experienced worker to build and develop TYPO from scratch into a successful and worthwhile organisation.  (NYA points 12+) with a salary in the region of £22,000 - £24,000.  For a complete job specification see apply to the Chairman, Nick Crick, at .
Closing date for applications October 1st.  Interviews in October.
The Bethany Children’s Trust
Job opportunity - Training and Project Development Coordinator

Location:Teddington, Middlesex, UK

If you have a passion to see the lives of children at risk restored and transformed, then this role could be for you.

The Bethany Children’s Trust (BCT) is a small, visionary charity that strengthens the capacity of churches locally and globally to lead their communities in caring for vulnerable children.  We achieve this through the provision of relevant support, such as training, resourcing and finance.  BCT networks with other organisations to bring about protection, improved quality of life and a hopeful future for children through collaborative action and advocacy.

The role:
BCT’s Training and Project Development Coordinator (TPDC)provides training, guidance and ongoing support to BCT’s overseas project partners, to help them to achieve their vision, develop according to good practice, and to grow in effectiveness, coverage and impact. The TPDC creates and facilitates training workshops and seminars to mobilise and equip overseas and UK churches and Christian projects to respond to the needs of children at risk locally and globally, through relevant, holistic action.

This post requires proven experience in:working cross-culturally and with children at risk; project management and development; facilitating training workshops and seminars using participatory approaches to learning; resource mobilisation and networking.

BCT currently works in several Francophone nations. Therefore an ability to write & speak good French is a requirement of this post. Applicants must be committed to BCT’s Christian beliefs. The post involves contact with children. Therefore, the recruitment process will include checks related to child protection issues. The successful applicant will be required to undertake regular overseas visits.

Status: Fulltime
To commence: As soon as possible
Closing Date: 7th October 2011

To find out more or to receive an application form, please contact Brenda Hunt, Office Manager: T: +44 (0)208 977 7571 E:
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Monday, 26 September 2011

Let the BBC put their own house in order!

The hot topic of the weekend was the rumoured decision of the BBC to do away with the designation 'BC' and 'AD' in order not to offend members of others faiths and none.

Let me be the first to say this does not go far enough! As anyone who has recently visited the entrance hall to the old Broadcasting House will know, the Latin inscription facing them near the lifts reads,
For those who might need a translation, the English version would be:
This Temple of the Arts and Muses is dedicated to ALMIGHTY GOD by the first Governors of Broadcasting in THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1931, Sir John Reith being Director- General. It is their prayer that good seed sown may bring forth a good harvest, that all things hostile to peace or purity may be banished from this house, and that the people, inclining their ear to whatsoever things are beautiful and honest and of good report, may tread the path of wisdom and uprightness.
Almighty Tosh more like! And far too much Bible - made worse by the fact that there is a statue in the same entrance-hall titled 'The Sower' which seems to be a distinct allusion to a biblical parable about the word of 'God'.

As anyone who has followed developments at the BBC in the past fifty years will know, it is not the job of this public corporation to guard the supposed morals of the nation, least of all those based on an outdated, minority religious perspective.

There is, as their own Bible says, a time to build up and a time to tear down. And the year 1 BBC is surely the time to begin the latter.

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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Are the theological colleges being phased out?

Are the theological colleges being phased out? I ask this because a correspondent has reported a situation where a potential ordination candidate has been told that anyone over 30 will not be allowed to go on a full-time residential training course as it is too expensive. Instead, candidates will have to undertake a part-time training, either on a regional course or at St Mellitus college.
Moreover, this person has been told that ‘in four to six years’ no one will be going to the traditional full-time colleges. Instead, all theological training will be part-time or ‘on the job’. The only people who will have undertaken a full-time theological degree in the Church of England will therefore eventually be people who did a course at a ‘secular’ University.
Now I was already under the impression that anyone over 30 would only be given a maximum two years residential training, and that even this would be curtailed if the candidate were substantially older, but I had not heard of this scheme to phase in the requirement for under thirties.
If this is happening, however, or even being considered, it is time to ask some serious and searching questions.
In the 1945 report Towards the Conversion of England, we find this consideration of the same topic:
During this acute post-war shortage the temptation will be for the laity to demand, and the Bishops to allow, a lower standard of training and of personal qualification, in order to save parish priests from breaking down under an impossible strain. We are convinced that were the Church to succumb, and to lower instead of raising the ordination standard, fatal and far reaching damage would be done to the cause of true religion: above all, to the cause nearest to our Saviour’s heart—evangelism. [107]
In other words, intensive training was seen not as a luxury but a necessity.
Now part of the problem, I suspect, is that there is too little correlation between training and ministry. Some of what goes on in the colleges has little bearing on what is required in the parishes.
Speaking for myself, however, I need every bit of the academic theology I have imbibed over the years, especially from my one-year post-graduate degree at Moore College. Indeed, on my return from Moore I wrote a short booklet called A Little Knowledge (pdf file) in which I confessed the error of my earlier ways in thinking that such intensive theological training was indeed unnecessary for the clergy. (Actually, looking at this again, I'd urge you to read it!)
Furthermore, as I explained to my correspondent, the current generation of 30-somethings in training for ordination are going to work at least five years longer than was the expectation when I was a 20-something in the same position. In all likelihood, they will be working until they are 70, not 65, and therefore a 35-year old graduate is facing a 35 year ministry.
In the present climate, will a two year course be enough, let alone a couple of years of part-time courses? On the matter of the biblical languages alone, it is instructive to compare what goes on now with what John Wesley required of his clergy:
Do I understand Greek and Hebrew? Otherwise, how can I undertake, (as every Minister does,) not only to explain books which are written therein, but to defend them against all opponents? Am I not at the mercy of every one who does understand, or even pretends to understand, the original? For which way can I confute his pretence? Do I understand the language of the Old Testament? critically? at all? Can I read into English one of David's Psalms; or even the first chapter of Genesis? Do I understand the language of the New Testament? Am I a critical master of it? Have I enough of it even to read into English the first chapter of St. Luke? If not, how many years did I spend at school? How many at the University? And what was I doing all those years? Ought not shame to cover my face? (An Address to the Clergy, 1756)
And if this is true of the languages, how much is it also true already of the deep issues of theology which lie beneath so many of the issues we face in our ministry?
But there lies the rub, doesn’t it? For a lot of what passes for ministry is not a ‘theological’ ministry at all. ‘Pastoral’ ministry in the Church of England is ‘helping people with their problems’, not bringing people to the knowledge of God in Christ. And who needs in-depth theological education to be a listening ear and a practical help?
Still, there is one piece of good news. If the evangelicals resist this pressure and find the money to send their own people on full-time courses (however few this may be) then one day in the future they will be the theological elite of the Church. Whether there will be much of the Church left is a moot point.
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Friday, 23 September 2011

'Fire from heaven'

I was surprised to see in the news today a report of a coroner officially recording a death by 'spontaneous combustion'.

The reason for my surprise was not just that the event occurred, nor even that the coroner had officially recognized this on the basis of the evidence, but that just a couple of days ago I'd been thinking to myself how, in this age of 'modern' reporting and forensic science, you never hear of this happening and that it was therefore a load of old tosh!

A long while ago, I came across a book on the subject with the title of this blog post - Fire from Heaven. Frankly, the cases it reported seemed to me to belong with stories about UFOs - whacky events with scarcely-credible witnesses. Some people might even say it belonged in the same category hinted at in the title - of unlikely biblical 'miracles'.

Yet here we are in 2011 with not only this being the recorded cause of death, but everything about it apparently fitting with the 'tradition' of these cases - an entirely, or almost entirely, burned-up human body, with very little 'colateral' damage to the immediate surroundings.

There's an interesting bit of blogging about it here, including the fact (which I'd forgotten, not that I've read the book) that Charles Dickens describes a case in Bleak House.

Perhaps a little less scepticism on my part is now called for!

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Invitation for Anglicans to take part in unique Bible survey

Posted On : September 22, 2011 4:02 PM | Posted By : Admin ACO
Related Categories: ACO - Bible in the life of the Church

By Stephen Lyon, Co-ordinator Bible in the Life of the Church Project

As part of the Bible in the Life of the Church project we are undertaking a Communion-wide survey of the way Anglicans understand and engage with the Bible. We rightly say the Bible is central to our life together but we also engage with it and interpret it in different ways. What are those differences? Why might there be differences? What can we learn from those who differ from us?

We are undertaking this survey by means of a questionnaire that is now available online and in a downloadable paper form. It takes about 10-15 minutes to complete and we want as many Anglicans as possible to get involved – either individually or through their local churches.

We also want to use the questionnaire as a way that churches can explore further the way they engage with the Bible, the processes used. So we have written a five-session course outline that looks in more depth at the issues that lie behind the questionnaire.

The results from the survey will be included in the final reports that come from the project when it reports to Anglican Consultative Council at its next meeting in November 2012.

Below are the various ways you can be involved in the survey and the necessary links or contacts.

1. Get your church or group to participate together using paper or online completion. For details look at “Guidelines for distribution and collection”

2. Take part individually in the survey online by going to:

3. Use the survey as part of a bible-study programme. For details of the five-session course Leaders’ notes look at:

For more details about the project as a whole go to:

To contact Stephen Lyon email:  

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Monday, 19 September 2011

Why do we need same-sex marriage?

Or to put it another way, why aren't civil partnerships enough?

And if civil partnerships aren't enough, why did the last government work so hard, with all the consultations, research, reports and accompanying public expenditure, to give us this inadequate provision?

And if it is so inadequate, why weren't there loud protests from interested parties at the time?

I'm sure I'll think of a few more questions, but these are the ones that immediately spring to mind.

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Friday, 16 September 2011

Review: Muriel Porter, Sydney Anglicans and the Threat to World Anglicanism

From September's New Directions.
Muriel Porter, Sydney Anglicans and the Threat to World Anglicanism — The Sydney Experiment: Ashgate Contemporary Ecclesiology Series (Ashgate Publishing: Farnham, 2011), pb, 164 pages + Bibliography, Subject Index, Foreword by Professor Martyn Percy (vii-xii) and Author’s Preface (xiii-xvi)

Back in 1993, when I was an overseas student at Moore Theological College, I became dimly aware through the media of someone called Muriel Porter. “Who is this woman,” I found myself asking, “And what has she got against the Diocese of Sydney?”
So regularly did she comment, I assumed she must be from that diocese. Only later did I discover that, although she was born and brought up as a Sydney Anglican, she had actually lived in Melbourne since the 1970s. Despite the distance of both space and time, however, something about the prevailing Sydney ethos had conceived and nurtured a fierce hostility.
In a sense, then, Sydney Anglicans and the Threat to World Anglicanism is a monument to a lifetime of dislike. Even more so is this the case when we realize that it is, in fact, a revision of her recent work on the same theme: The New Puritans: The Rise of Fundamentalism in the Anglican Church, published in 2006 (indeed, some of it is the same material).
The title of the latter, however, reflects a dominant theme in Porter’s analysis, namely that Sydney Anglicanism is actually a form of ‘fundamentalism’. As Porter herself acknowledges, this charge was faced and rejected by Archbishop Peter Jensen soon after his appointment (p12). But the cap must be made to fit, and so Porter draws on sociological notions of a ‘fundamentalist mentality’ (p13) to enforce the theological critique.
Porter is not ashamed to admit and display her dislike of all things Sydney in general and surnamed Jensen in particular. At one stage, for example, she refers to how the ‘tentacles’ of the diocese ‘reach around the globe and throughout the Anglican church’. But it is this emotive approach which is the key weakness of the book.
Her obsession — for such it surely is — has one redeeming feature, in that there are a lot of details, should you wish to be acquainted with them. Yet there are repeated references to ‘anecdotal evidence’ and she says herself that she has avoided an ‘investigative’ approach.
If you do not relish Porter’s hostility, however, this is probably not the right medium from which to learn about such matters as the ambitious diocesan Mission, or the recent problems with its finances. A more sober (though now dated) account of Sydney’s history is to be found in Ken Cable and Stephen Judd’s Sydney Anglicans. Otherwise, online resources can supply the lack.
The underlying problem with her own approach is that Porter seems to be affected by the same problem she alleges in those she opposes.
An entire chapter on ‘Women: Equal but Different’ begins with the assertion, attributed to Monica Furlong, that the arguments against women’s ordination are not really as important as what the arguments hide. In other words, it is all down to psychology:
‘Is there a lingering correlation between the early assessment of Sydney’s convict women as “damned whores” and the reluctance to allow women into church leadership in that city?’ (p33)
Any sensible person would surely answer, ‘No’. But Porter’s quasi-Freudian approach finds unconscious motivations beneath every surface. Thus Archbishop Jensen’s recent speeches reveal a man ‘fearful that he has lost his previously unassailable position’ (p153). Yet although Porter has often encountered Jensen at the national Synod, I find no evidence of personal acquaintance in the book. ‘Why,’ the armchair analyst might then ask, ‘Does Porter so de-personalise those with whom she so strongly disagrees?’ As to the book’s title, surely paranoid!
However, the most casual reader will soon find that Porter’s own motivation relies to a large extent on her views about the rôle of women (a subject on which Sydney is, of course, intransigently conservative and on which she has written several other books) — that and a nostalgia for the lost world of her Sydney childhood (eg pxiii). But her theology is less than ‘traditionalist’. Thus she regards the Articles of Religion as ‘merely an interesting but dated historical record’ (p24) and is openly revisionist on the subject of homosexuality.
Porter’s book actually has some important points to make, but they are hard to digest through the torrent of polemic. Sydney Anglicans do need to ask, for example, about their own ‘connectedness’ with historical Anglicanism — just as do Conservative Evangelicals in this country. And in fact such questions are being asked, not least (as it happens) by Archbishop Jensen’s son, Michael, who is now on the faculty at Moore College.
For Sydney Anglicans, then, Sydney Anglicans might actually make useful reading. For the rest of us, however, its one-sided approach and constant delighting in Sydney’s failures makes it heavy, and sometimes unpleasant, going.
Early in the book, Porter writes, ‘An Australian church without Sydney, I believe, would have released enormous energy for growth and renewal in the rest of the dioceses ...’ (p48). In the final chapter she hopes that the ‘End’ of the Sydney ‘Experiment’ will bring ‘... a more reasonable, generous, kindly form of Anglicanism’. Yet by her own admission, in the midst of a deeply secular and irreligious culture, Sydney Anglicanism succeeds where other Australian dioceses fail.
Porter’s ‘vision’, ultimately, is for a traditional church redolent of her past. I doubt that it is what Australia needs today.
John Richardson
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Thursday, 15 September 2011

GRAS, trust and the question of assurances

According to a front-page article in the Church of England Newspaper today, no promises made to opponents of women’s ordination in 1993 have been broken since then.
The claim comes in a paper (downloadable as a pdf) by Revd Rosalind Rutherford, which is published on the website of GRAS, the Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod.
Unfortunately, it illustrates precisely why there is so much mistrust around this issue at present. It also illustrates an astonishing lack of self-awareness.
Rosalind Rutherford’s paper seems to take the line that if the word ‘promise’ wasn’t actually used, and if the undertakings were not made in or through the General Synod of the Church of England, they don’t count. Thus, for example, she quotes Archbishop Carey’s statement to the Ecclesiastical Committee regarding the Act of Synod that, ‘it is our intention for this to be permanent and we are not thinking of rescinding it.’ This might appear to most people to be in the nature of an assurance, if not a promise. ‘However,’ she comments dismissively, ‘this remark was not made to Synod’ (5).
This whole approach rather overlooks the fact that legislation affecting the established Church is debated and approved by Parliament, and at the time it was quite clear that Parliament sought watertight provision for traditionalists.
Thus in a debate which took place on the eve of the meeting which actually passed the 1993 Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod, Lady Saulton of Abernathy stated in the House of Lords, “I myself asked the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury whether it was envisaged that the Act of Synod would operate in perpetuity or whether it would be in the nature of a temporary measure which would cease to operate at some future date. He replied that it was the intention that it should be permanent and that they were not thinking of rescinding it or anything like that. Then he added the caveat, ‘with the goodwill of the House of Bishops’. He went on to say that of course anything could happen in the future.”
As we now know, the Archbishop's ‘anything’ is precisely what happened. Moreover, it is clear from Rosalind Rutherford’s paper that this ‘anything’ will reduce, rather than increase, the present provision. At the end, she quotes an unnamed member of General Synod as stating ‘recently’ that in 1993 ‘we were too accommodating’. Clearly that is a mistake which is not about to be repeated.
What takes the proverbial biscuit, however, is the assertion in the paper that, ‘if the current proposals are agreed, the very provisions which the House of Bishops was trying to put into place in [the 1993 Act of Synod] will become part of legislation’ (3). Or again,
‘what was promised [by Archbishop Carey] for “as long as is needed” was episcopal oversight clearly exercised in full cooperation with the Diocesan who would retain jurisdiction, not a totally separate oversight defined by being uncorrupted by having ordained women. It could be argued that the current legislation is making good that commitment ...’ (Emphasis added)
The argument throughout Rutherford’s paper is that the problem since 1993 has been not that the Act of Synod was necessarily bad, but that the PEV’s operated in a way that exceeded what was intended. However, I may be missing something here, but is not this being said by someone on behalf of the Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod? And does not the word ‘rescind’ mean to revoke, cancel or repeal, as it says in my dictionary? And is there not some contradiction between ‘making good’ a ‘commitment’ and working for a number of years to ‘revoke, cancel or repeal’ the very administrative provision that expresses that commitment?
Forgive me, but given the express intention of GRAS not to make the same mistake of being ‘too accommodating’ this time round, it is hard not to question the self-awareness, indeed the integrity, behind such a statement.
John Richardson
15 September 2011
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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Review by Charles Raven of Mike Higton's, ‘Deciding Differently: Rowan Williams’ Theology of Moral Decision Making’

An important article by Charles Raven, reviewing Mike Higton's ‘Deciding Differently: Rowan Williams’ Theology of Moral Decision Making’, Grove Ethics Series, E162.

[...] It is always comforting to think that we can be Berthas or Chucks, occupying the middle ground yet keeping our integrity, but in today’s Anglican Communion that is a dangerous illusion. It depends on the assumption that what Mike Higton calls ‘the plain sense’ of Scripture and its ‘deep patterns’ are incompatible ways of looking at Scripture. Thoughtful evangelicals have never denied the importance of reason, but insist that reason should work subject to an inspired Scripture. This means that the ‘deep patterns’ will never therefore contradict the ‘plain sense’ when Scripture is read in the context of the whole. For instance the late John Stott’s understanding of homosexuality followed ‘the plain sense’ of Romans 1, but buttressed it by tracing the ‘deep pattern’ of human identity and gender in Scripture as a whole, notably the teaching of the early chapters of Genesis, as reaffirmed by Jesus in the synoptic gospels.

Mike Higton's distinction between ‘the plain sense’ which can be trumped by the ‘deep patterns’ is symptomatic of an unacknowledged problem with Rowan Williams’ understanding of Scripture, namely that Williams employs a hermeneutic of suspicion, not only about ourselves as readers, but about the text itself. Revealed truth, as I seek to demonstrate in ‘Shadow Gospel’, is seen to lie not in the text itself, but floats somewhat mysteriously behind it and therefore allows us to talk of ‘gospel’ truths that can be in direct contradiction to the straightforward teaching of Scripture, much as Rowan Williams did in his highly influential lecture ‘The Body’s Grace’ of 1989 in which he suggested that same sex unions were not only capable of expressing grace, but had could do so in a way that heterosexual unions could not.

So when we are told that accountability to Scripture is understood as sharing ‘a recognizable conversation’ (p17) this should ring an alarm bell. Such thinking pervades the Lambeth leadership of the Communion to the extent that the main conclusion of those Primates who did attend the Dublin Primates Meeting last February was to affirm that ‘we are passionately committed to journeying together in honest conversation’ while false teaching and immorality remained unchecked. The best contribution to that kind of conversation is absence and an unprecedented number of Global South Primates refused to give the impression of ‘business as usual’ when other Primates, notably Katherine Jefferts Schori, were being received as in good standing despite their unilateral abandonment of established Anglican sexual morality and doctrine. And it is rather difficult to see how those who take matters into their own hands can be recognised as subject even to the ‘grammar of obedience’, let alone the Word of God as Anglicans have historically understood it. Read more

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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Royal Naval College before Canary Wharf

Just by way of a change - this is a picture I took in the early 1980s looking down from the Royal Observatory towards Queen Anne's Palace, behind which is the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. Today, you're looking at a bunch of high rise buildings, so I'm rather sentimental about this view, which takes me back to childhood.

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Monday, 12 September 2011

UK Looting and the Stanford Experiment

"Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves." (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian religion, I, i, 1).
A little piece I wrote for our parish magazines:
What is ‘civilized’ behaviour and from whence does it come?
I ask these questions in the light of the outbreak of looting across England in the early days of August.
Looting is normally regarded with disdain, occasioned as it usually is by some kind of misfortune — a conflict, perhaps, or a natural disaster, which forces other people to leave their homes or property unprotected.
Yet in the wake of the shooting of Mark Duggan on August 5th, a significant number of people seem to have connected with their ‘inner looter’. And by no means all them fitted the traditional view of ‘low life’. Some were indeed your ‘typical hoody’. But others were clearly acting on an impulse quite against their normal personality. And it is this ‘out of character’ behaviour which is a warning to us all.
One of the most famous psychological studies ever carried out was the Stanford Prison Experiment. What it suggested about human nature is still controversial and disturbing.
In the experiment, student volunteers from Stanford University were randomly selected to act as either ‘prisoners’ or ‘guards’ in a simulated prison environment. This was in America in 1971. The Vietnam war was still in full flow and American students typically regarded themselves as the radical, ‘hip’ generation, opposed to authority as represented by the police and army. It might therefore have been expected that the student guards would adopt a ‘non-authoritarian’ approach to their rôle.
What actually happened meant that the planned two-week experiment had to be stopped after just a few days. Instead of a new, humane, regime emerging, student ‘guards’ forced student ‘prisoners’ to clean toilets with their bare hands and to wear bags over their heads when moving around. Intimidation was rife, and even acts of low-level violence.
Since then, the chief experimenter, Dr Philip Zimbardo, has published a book called The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil. Essentially, he says, we think we are ‘good individuals’, but under certain social influences we will act quite differently — indeed, we may do evil, especially when others around us are doing the same thing.
A lot surely depends, however, on how we have been taught to think about ourselves and about the pressures to conform. If we have been taught, in the words of another bit of 1970s pop-psychology, ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’, we may be ready to excuse ourselves and our behaviour. The Church of England’s traditional services of Morning and Evening Prayer, however, give us a very different self-image: ‘Have mercy upon us miserable offenders,’ they say, ‘Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults, Restore thou them that are penitent’.
In the days following the looting, many voices suggested that something has gone missing from our social conscience. Perhaps the ‘missing ingredient’ is this self-awareness of our own imperfections. Perhaps we need this before we can control those impulses which so easily overwhelm our consciences when all around us are going down the wrong track. Perhaps it is a sense that we ourselves are potentially evil that will best equip us not to do actual evil.
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Saturday, 10 September 2011

11th Chelmsford Anglican Bible Conference (correction)

The eleventh Chelmsford Anglican Bible Conference is on Saturday 1st October at the Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford (not the Meadgate Centre), where the speaker will be Dr John Lennox on the book of Genesis.

For further details, and to book online, go here.

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Reminder of CDEA Facebook Group

This is just a reminder to evangelical Anglicans in the Diocese of Chelmsford that there is a Facebook Group for you here: for which you might like to sign up.

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Wednesday, 7 September 2011

URGENT: re 2011 Chelmsford Anglican Bible Conference

CABC 2011 (the one with John Lennox on Genesis) has run out of brochures and would like to send a few more out.

If you have some piles of unused brochures sitting at home or in your church, would you be kind enough to send them asap to St Peter's Church Office, Gubbins Lane, Harold Wood, RM3 0QA.

Your reward will be in heaven, but it would be a big help right now here on earth.

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Winchester Cathedral, not bringing us down

Good to see that Tim Dakin has been appointed as the new Bishop of Winchester. I can't help thinking of the 'New Vaudeville Band' hit of the '60s every time things episcopal are mentioned in relation to Winchester, and I trust and pray that, unlike the Cathedral in the song, Tim will not at all 'bring us down' in his ministry.

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Sunday, 4 September 2011

Has Keele Failed?

This was the title of a book edited by Charles Yeats, to which a number of then-prominent evangelical Anglicans contributed in 1995, arguing that ‘Keele’ had very much succeeded. What they meant was that the commitment made at the first National Evangelical Anglican Congress to remain as part of the Church of England, against pleas to leave, had a good outcome both for evangelicals and for the Church.
I refer to this in my e-book, A Strategy that Changes the Denomination, partly as an example of the historical development of Anglican evangelicalism, partly because I think it shows how past generations of evangelicals have been over-optimistic in their assessment of the last forty-five years.
If we think that the aim of ‘Keele’ was to ensure that evangelicals remained within the Church of England, then obviously it was a success. We have.
But that is surely not a sufficient aim.
If we assess the results of Keele by what subsequently happened, both to evangelicalism and to the Church, the outcome is far less assured, not least because the Church of England itself has changed so much since then.
When I was a young trainee clergyman (just six years on from Keele), the phrase going round was that we were ‘in it to win it’. In other words, our commitment to the Church of England was on the basis that we expected to change it — we expected it to become more evangelical. But more than that, we wanted it to be not just ‘the best boat to fish from’ but a better boat doing more fishing.
So is it?
My own answer would be ‘no’. It is not a worse boat, but it is not a better boat. More importantly, there is no greater commitment to actual fishing now than there was then. Yes, we have ‘Fresh Expressions’ — but doesn’t that say that the old expressions are a bit stale? And we have ‘Back to Church Sunday’, but then we fill our churches at Christmas anyway.
But are we an organization where the norm is seeking conversions? I don’t see that happening, and I don’t see that being encouraged to happen by those in positions of leadership — the bishops and the archbishops, despite the greater presence of supposed ‘evangelizers’ in their ranks.
If we assess the current state of the Church of England by the proposals put forward in the 1945 report, Towards the Conversion of England, we are no nearer addressing that agenda than sixty-six years ago — and Keele is just a ‘blip’, a bit of ‘in house’ business for a little group of enthusiasts.
Next year brings elections to our diocesan synods. I have argued in A Strategy that Changes the Denomination that we evangelicals need to organize ourselves to get good people elected onto our diocesan boards and governing bodies where they can systematically address the agenda so as to encourage the evangelization of the nation.
The problem is in getting organized! Where is the drive for this going to come from? Who is going to encourage it at the grass-roots level? Who is going to endorse it from their pulpits or in their parish magazines or the national church press? What needs shouting from the housetops is currently being whispered in private!
What Keele succeeded in doing, I have argued, is creating an ‘enclave’ for evangelicals, where they could safely get on with doing their thing without threatening, or being threatened by, the institution. But the ‘thing’ of the institution ought to be evangelism, and it isn’t, despite the fact that the evangelicals stayed in 1967. In this respect, Keele failed.
Can we do any better?
John Richardson
4 September 2011
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Friday, 2 September 2011

A New Publication

Update - a pdf version has been added on the downloads page.

Following on from the Anglican Evangelical Junior Clergy Conference in July, I have now published a booklet titled A Strategy that Changes the Denomination that brings together many of the ideas presented and developed at the Conference.

This is currently available as a free download for Kindle (and Kindle-reading applications for other platforms). Click on the 'Downloads' tab above (just below the blog title) or click here to go to the downloads page.

Please notify any problems, or typos, in the comments section below. I will post a corrected version to the same link if necessary.

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