Sunday 15 November 2009

Hope in God, despair at the conservative mindset

Reading the Church Times and Church of England Newspaper (CEN) on Saturday morning, an article by Harriet Baber offered sanity when I had been reading madness.

Let’s start with the madness, and first the Church of England Newspaper, which reports that the Rev Graham Taylor, former vicar of Cloughton, Scarborough is converting to Roman Catholicism. Commenting on why he is leaving the CofE he says that if more preached a gospel of salvation “that would cure the ills of this society overnight if properly embraced.” Note that – “cure the ills of society overnight.” Overnight? Do people like Graham Taylor really believe that more preaching according to his understanding of truth and reality will achieve this dramatic result? Madness.

In a letter to the Church Times a Mr Duncan Reeve writes about opposing world-views – he presents a polarity – is the Bible reliable or do modern scientific fads have more authority than the Word of God? He says: “It hard to imagine how the Bible could have been written to make it more clear that Genesis contains a historical account of recent six-day creation.” More madness.

Back to the Church of England Newspaper which reports that the rector of the Sunyani Polytechnic Institution, Prof Kwasi Nsiah Gyabaah, warned that the Anglican Church is losing members to the Catholic and independent churches, blaming the Communion’s divisions over gay bishops and blessings, though he admits that the Church also competes with sports, popular culture and other recreational activities in vying for the attention of people. He admits that a return to an authoritarian model of church governance is not the answer. Instead, he urges the church to be both culturally relevant as well as firmly tied to the unchanging word of God. There it is again, that unchanging word of God, the ‘plain teaching of scripture’, which justifies ignorant attitudes about both creation and human sexuality.

Lastly to the Church Times once again, where Harriet Baber, Professor of Philosophy at the University of San Diego, California, writes about the Pope’s recent approach to Anglicans.

She asks is: “How will the ongoing realignment of religious identity play out? For now, conservative churches are growing. Religious belief and practice thrive in “traditional cultures” — in developing countries, among immigrants, and within the American working class. There, churches that promote gender roles and “family values” provide a refuge from modernity. But, whatever the short-term benefits for conservative churches, in the long run they will lose.”

“Conservatives have bought time for Christianity by identifying it with a conservative social agenda that still sells, but, in the end, they will lose out for the very same reason: because Christianity is not a moral agenda or social programme, but a revelation of the nature of God, beside which all social arrangements are parochial and trivial.”

Conservatives think they are defending God and protecting Christianity whereas in reality they are doing exactly the opposite, in the UK and North America as well, ultimately, in Africa, Asia and South America. The world does not need more biblical fundamentalism, back to basics or ‘the clear Word of God’ which will transform society overnight. It needs people with prophetic vision and a passion for truth and love, people whose lives are rooted in prayerful awareness of the revelation of God in Scripture, through Jesus Christ, and in myriad, mystical, tender ways in creation and the practice of the presence of God in daily life.


  1. What? No word yet from Archbishop Rowan and Archbishop John? No statement from the Primates (or an emergency meeting) on the proposed murdering of LGBT Anglicans in Uganda?

    More Madness (I´m beginning to think it is US who are completely barking mad when supporting any spiritual leadership from these political, not-so-religious, clergypeople)!

  2. You're missing the point: in the longer run, both conservatives and 'progressives' will lose.
    There's no need for activism to hand around the supernatural anymore; the religious need the activists(of both left and right)to prove their own relevance.

  3. Colin,
    My apologies for using your comments box to ask for help but the last line of this post got to me.
    I'm middle aged, married and bisexual. Most of my Christian experience has been in conservative evangelical or pentecostal settings with a side journey into dry, academic theology.
    I want to practise the presence of God in daily life to a far greater extent than I do but all I have to fall back on are the rule-books of the conservative churches I've been involved with.
    Can you recommend any resources that would help and guide me, please?
    There's an American online magazine called Whosoever that helps a bit but their culture is different from England's.

  4. I read Graham Taylor's first, hugely successful but very poorly written, story. The indebtedness to Pullman and Rowling was almost embarrassing. Principle from such a source is not plausible.

  5. Idon't know if you will see this, Sapphire, but the Metropolitan Community Church could probably recommend some helpful reading for you. You didn't say where you live but MCC has branches all over the country and you could find your nearest one by searching on Google

  6. A Study of Morality

    At that fateful moment, Adam and Eve are standing together at the tree, and although only the woman and the serpent speak, Adam was present, and it seems he accepted the fruit that his wife handed him. He was fully complicitous, and indeed, Yahweh holds him responsible. Yahweh reproaches Adam. Adam says: Well, Eve handed to me. She gave it to me. Eve explains, the serpent tricked me. Yahweh vents his fury on all three, and he does so in ascending order: first the serpent for his trickery and then the woman, and finally the man. The doctrine of original sin, which is the idea that humans after Adam are born into a state of sin, by definition. The actions of Adam and Eve bring death to the human race, they don’t bring a state of utter and unredeemed sinfulness. In fact, humans have moral choice in each and every age. Adam and Eve after eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and bad, they also lose their harmonious relationship with nature. There had been a peaceful relationship between creatures and humans to that point. Humans are banished now from the Garden. It used to yield its fruits to them without any labor, but now humans have to toil for food and the earth yields its fruits only stintingly. The humans will learn that the concomitant of their freedom is responsibility. Their first act of defiance is punished harshly. So they learn, that the moral choices and actions of humans have consequences that have to be borne by the perpetrator. Evil is a product of human behavior, not a principal inherent in the cosmos; man’s disobedience is the cause of the human predicament. So knowledge or wisdom or perhaps moral freedom, seems to come at a very high price.

    The disobedience happens in a rather backhanded way. It’s interesting, Yahweh tells Adam before the creation of Eve that he’s not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, lest you die. Eve doesn’t hear this command directly, she hasn’t been created. Then we meet the cunning serpent, and although many will identify the serpent as Satan, an enticer, a tempter, some sort of evil creature, the serpent doesn’t seem to be so. The serpent in Eden is simply a talking animal.

    Adam and Eve after eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and bad are like Yahweh; they have become wise in that they have learned they have moral choice. They have free will, they can defy Yahweh and Yahweh’s plans for them in a way that animals and natural phenomena cannot. But now that means there is a serious danger here, Yahweh says, “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and bad, what if he should stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and life forever!” So the acceptance of mortality as an inescapable part of the human condition, the quest for immortality, Yahweh could not afford to allow them access to the tree of life, and Yahweh maintains the upper hand in this, the fact that they eventually must die. Yahweh has to punt the ball, he has to modify his plans by barring access to the tree of life, humans are going to be a force to be reckoned with. Because of the length of these reasoning’s, read more at,

    Thanks for any insight.