With the Ancestors.   #pisky #GC78

  Airfares vary greatly from day to day so I have a day in hand.   Having done the tourist things in Salt Lake City, it’s probably a bit unkind to say that I’m glad that I don’t have two days in hand.  But this is the world centre of the Morman Church and that means that it is an extraordinary place for genealogical records.

If you wander in, volunteers step forward to help and in no time at all you are busy putting your family tree together.  It’s extraordinary – half an hour got me back to my grandfather’s great-grandparents.

I couldn’t resist a friendly question about the theology which lies behind all this – and that led to what seemed to me to be a slightly dubious conversation about those who have passed beyond the veil.  But if they are to be measured by friendliness and helpfulness, these people are exceptional.

 And since we are on ancestors – sign of age maybe on my birthday to be thinking about family trees and the like.  My paternal grandfather, Canon David Hare Chillingworth, has been on my bookshelf for a while so I thought he deserved an outing on the net.  A gentle, gentle priest.  Not sure what he would have thought of me.

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Off to the General Convention.  #pisky #GC78

This morning I’m off to the General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City.  This is their three-yearly meeting and it is huge.  I’m not much into special relationships.  But we have a special relationship with the   American church.  It’s partly history.  They crave history and we have plenty to spare – and the crossover is the consecration of Samuel Seabury,    

We also are alike in many ways.  In culture, they are a church of many small and independent (minded) congregations.  They are also a bit like us in polity.  No archbishop – but a Presiding Bishop a bit like our Primus.  Part of the interest in this meeting is that it will see the election of a new Presiding Bishop to succeed Katharine Jefferts Schori.  That decision will tell us a little bit about the future direction of travel of TEC and there are implications for the life of the Anglican Communion in that.  General Convention is remarkably unconnected internally – I see my friend Bishop Andy Jennings quoting Convenor Rev Gay Jennings as saying that it is time to consider a unicameral legislature.  At present it is amazingly unconnected internally and that might just mean that bishops become more powerful than they should be.

I’m sort of at home with the American Church.  I did what they call their ‘Bishop School’ so I am part of the Class of 2009 with a wide range of friends and contacts.  I’ll also be doing a bit on behalf of the Anglican Communion and Continuing Indaba – sometimes called Living Reconciliation – while I am there.  And there will be the year group reunion …

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Diana’s Ordination to the Priesthood. #pisky

A wonderful day yesterday as we celebrated Diana Hall’s Ordination to the Priesthood at St Andrews, St Andrews.  It’s a great privilege – I stand in the middle of moments like this and listen to the quality of what is happening around me.  And the future looks full of hope

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Same-Sex Marriage – writing for the Herald #pisky

I was glad to have the opportunity of writing this article for the Herald yesterday.

I think it is important to try and explain why it is that churches have difficulty with this issue. It’s partly straightforward divergence of view. But it’s also because we have sustained our traditional teaching on marriage to some extent on behalf of society. We are now in a time of significant change – we are in part recognising changes which have already happened all around us.

But we need to make a case for change – and this article begins to set out for a wider readership how we do that.

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General Synod begins

We began three days of General Synod today

The big focus of our work is the attempt to move forward on the issue of Same Sex Marriage. We worked at a process = amending and adjusting to try and get a process which would enable everybody to feel that what they hoped for – or could live with – would be expressed in the outcome.

My constant mantra is that we seek ‘visible unity in Christ with functional diversity’

Time will tell whether or not we achieved that

Here is the Sermon or Primus’ Charge

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Continuity and Discontinuity.    #pisky

Strange that having written about Irish Times journalist Fintan O’Toole last week I should find myself listening to him giving the Arbuthnott Lecture in Edinburgh University this evening.

Ireland is entering a season of commemorations – beginning with the centenary of the Easter Rising of 1916.  What Fintan O’Toole suggested was that, even though this was a violent entry into what became Irish independence, the level of continuity with the past was considerable.  Most obviously, civil service administration was carried across almost wholesale – as was the corpus of law, etc.  The implication for Scotland was that, should independence come, there would be a much higher level of continuity than many might expect.

A member of the audience asked the standard ‘What if?’ question of Irish history.  And there is a considerable amount of revisionism going on in the same vein in Ireland.  The third Home Rule Bill had been passed, although its implementation had been delayed because of the First World War.  The argument goes that the Easter Rising was an opportunistic pre-emptying of the situation.  Could we have avoided Irish Partition, the Irish Civil War and nearly a century of recurring violence which followed?  Would a single Irish state have avoided the ‘mirror image’ limitations which shaped the two states of a partitioned Ireland?  And the answer to the ‘what if?’ has to lie with the other reality – of the Ulster loyalists signing the Covenant in their blood.  Division was probably unavoidable.

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Athanasius and the Impenetrable Thickets #pisky

I was in St Andrews, St Andrews this morning. You may well ask why I would set myself up to preach on Trinity Sunday in a place like St Andrews. But I did and this was my effort

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Defeat and Victory?     #pisky #anglican

Here in Dublin, we are continuing to see reaction to the Irish Constitutional Referendum on Same Sex Marriage.  The Vatican response came this morning.  Cardinal Parolin told reporters on the margins of a Centesimus Annus conference in the Vatican:  ‘I believe that we are talking here not just about a defeat for Christian principles but also about a defeat for humanity,” 

In my opinion, Fintan O’Toole is one of the best Irish journalists.  I’m looking forward to hearing him speak in Edinburgh next month.  I think he got close to the heart of what has happened in Ireland when he described it as a ‘victory for articulacy’.  He speaks of the ‘riveting eloquence of so many people ….  who spoke their hearts and minds on the airwaves and the doorsteps’.   

But he describes another kind of articulacy and says this: ‘What actually changed Ireland over the last two decades is hundreds of thousands of painful, stammered conversations that began with the dreaded words, “I have something to tell you.”  It’s all those moments of coming out around kitchen tables, tentative words punctuated by sobs and sighs, by cold silences and fearful hesitations.’

I was delighted to meet Diarmuid Martin, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin last night.  For a long time now, he has been speaking uncomfortable truth to his own community.  He said that said the church needed to reconnect with young people to regain its traditional cultural standing and moral authority in Ireland.   ‘We [the church] have to stop and have a reality check, not move into denial of the realities. We won’t begin again with a sense of renewal, with a sense of denial.   I appreciate how gay and lesbian men and women feel on this day. That they feel this is something that is enriching the way they live. I think it is a social revolution.”

Thinking Anglicans gives the statement from the bishops of the Church of Ireland and a thoughtful contribution from Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin who is part of our meeting in Dublin

I’m with the articulacy which is tentative and expresses provisionality.  I heard some of it in our Cascade conversations – people speaking very different truths as they understand and experience them – speaking those truths in the presence of others who may not share them.  We didn’t expect people to give up their truth.  Just to share it and to listen to others.   That process was not about making decisions.  But it had a vital role in helping us to become the kind of church which can hold its diversity within a visible unity in Christ.

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4 Nations          #pisky

it sounds a bit like the rugby.  But the 4 Nations Consultation on Faith and Order which I am attending in Dublin isn’t quite the open and running game.  Possibly a bit more flat-footed than that.

Still it’s a really interesting time to be in Dublin as people digest the outcome of the Constitutional Referendum on Same Sex Marriage.  It is remarkable that what has been one of the most traditionally Roman Catholic countries in the world should vote decisively in favour of change.  Like the Scottish Independence Referendum, it is clear that young people in large numbers were deeply involved and voted with passion.  Also like the Scottish Referendum, it is clear that this changes everything.  It repositions the Irish Republic as the first country to make this choice by popular vote.  It shifts the relationship between generations in a decisive way.  Only time will tell what are the longer term implications. 

Meanwhile back at the Consultation …  we share understandings of how we respond as churches to human sexuality questions in general and same-sex marriage in particular.  I think that a major part of the journey has been the task of learning how to reach agreement and common understanding on questions which all too easily can divide.  

So in Scotland we have had Cascade Conversations in which we have spoken ..  carefully and truthfully – with one another.  I see that as ‘dialogue with our diversity’.  We have also had a major paper from our Doctrine Committee.  I see that as ‘dialogue with our tradition’.   Both these dialogues need and shape a space in which we can think and explore – many of my efforts recently have been committed to making sure that that space remains open.  It hasn’t always been easy.

Next month at our General Synod we shall begin to move in another way – attempting to find out whether we wish to define where we are by making changes to our Canons.  And if we do want to see change, what kind of change should that be.

I’ll say a bit more about that shortly.  But my hope is that we shall bring into that synodical process the values and patterns which we have learned and used earlier.  That means decisions in which we all share rather than processes in which we become winners and losers.  It means thinking about what ‘unity in diversity’ means – and how we hold together truth, unity, justice ….

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Church growth is – in my experience – a strange, somewhat unpredictable and rather random thing.  Not so much a programme which delivers defined outcomes within a timescale.  Rather more something which you become aware of and wonder about.

I used to watch people sort of wandering into church life.  They weren’t quite sure what t hey were looking for – and less sure about what they had found.  But if it was what they needed, they would stick.  What makes the difference is the quality of life of the faith community – and Pentecost.

It’s that kind of growth which we were trying to mark liturgically on Sunday – Pentecost – at Crieff in our Strathearn Group of churches.  We had a baptism – and three Affirmations of Baptism/Confirmations.  I say to congregations in these moments that these things would not be happening unless they had become the kind of communities in which it was possible or likely that people would experience a call of faith – or maybe the kind of community which people can see as offering support for the next stage of their journey.

We had to do a bit of tweaking to persuade our liturgy to express the same flexibility – but that’s all in a day’s work

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