Holding together

These are difficult times.  I seem to be in fairly constant movement at the moment – apart from being available for the Bogstead crisis – so I am having difficulty keeping up with all the blogs and websites.  But it looks pretty febrile.

I came away from our General Synod continuing to ponder what I think is one of the key challenges of leadership in a situation of conflict like this.  We all have personal convictions and values which we wish to assert.  If one is to do that, I think it has to be done  somehow without being partisan and without excluding others.

In my past life, I did much reading on sectarianism.  Not so much the ‘in your face’ stuff.  But the more subtle [and more dangerous] forms of it.   ‘Overlooking’ is what happens when you speak of your own group as if no other group existed.  Ian Paisley used to refer to ‘the people of Ulster’ as if the catholic population didn’t exist.  The Pope came to meet ‘the young people of Ireland’ as if the protestants didn’t exist.

And every time I hear somebody say, ‘We are a liberal church’ – that’s what I hear.  We are a church which has within its life the divisions which are present in world anglicanism.  We may be liberal in our ethos – but we are not exclusively so.  And we have to keep finding ways of saying that so that we honour and respect those whose ethos is more conservative.

I told you it was difficult.


  1. Well the language certainly doesn’t help – as one ponders the difference between liberalism and liberality. But it comes down to the same thing in the end. Where the differences of view are such that people can no longer recognise one another as disciples of Jesus Christ, then we have reached the point where community is unsustainable. The problem is that different people have different pain thresholds.

  2. In light of the debate and decisions of the General Synod, the use of the term “liberal” to apply to those who deny a modus vivendi for those who have sincere and genuine objection to woman in the priesthood and episcopacy is either irony, or an abuse of the language.
    And perhaps now it is time to comsider, quite seriously, just where the outer bounds of liberality end and what is unacceptable or heritical begins. To discriminate is not just a pejorative term, it also means to distinguish the acceptable from the unacceptable.

  3. I should have patented it. But never mind. Thank-you to Kelvin – maybe the search for appropriate adjectives is misguided. But I certainly feel that we cause ourselves problems by the loose and coded use of terms like liberal. I was in Northern Ireland today with people who have a similarly coded use of traditional.

  4. Quite right. I don’t find the word ‘liberal’ (used unqualified) describes my religious views well at all.

    I cringe when people refer to me that way and when they refer to the SEC being a liberal church.

    For many years, (going back before the current troubles of the Anglican Communion) people have used the word ‘inclusive’ to describe the church. I find that a bit more helpful, but it still has its problems, not least when you look at the very narrow demographic profile of so many of our congregations.

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