In April 1984 Channel 4 broadcast three one hour long documentary programmes titled Jesus: the Evidence. Three of the issues addressed in the programmes were that Jesus never called himself God in the Gospels; that the titles attributed to Jesus in the Gospels (e.g. ‘Son of God’) were not in fact used during his lifetime; that Jesus, as a Jew, was hardly likely to have claimed to be God. I find myself wondering how many Church of England clergy still believe that Jesus thought of himself as divine, the Son of God. How many think that Matthew and Luke’s birth narratives are historically true? How many think the resurrection narratives in the four gospels are accurate historical accounts of an event that happened?
We are living through a three-decade long period of regression in our national life, a regressive movement found in other countries. I observe regression taking place in the social, political and religious realms. Fewer people speak with an independent mind, rooted in the wisdom that comes from commitment to truth-telling, integrity, and a deeply embedded set of values, whether they are grounded in Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Moslem, Hindu, philosophical, agnostic or atheist traditions. The regressive era we are living through needs an infusion of Wisdom teachers and practitioners. Without them, we lack the people capable of teaching us about ourselves, our behaviour patterns, insecurities and anxieties and addictions.
Prayer is a two-way process. We are making something of the Mystery of God in our prayer and prayer is making something of the Mystery of God in us. At least, this is what can happen when it is ‘true’ prayer, remembering Ken Leech’s phrase, prayer that is truly open and radical, taking risks, allowing the Mystery we call God to impact us, our preconceptions and prejudices, our emotions and energies.
I’ve been reading The Christlike God written by John V. Taylor, formerly Bishop of Winchester and published in 1992. There is much in the book that echoes my own ideas about God, creation, evolution, and contemporary contemplative life. In the penultimate chapter, Dwell in me, I in you, (John 17.21,22), Taylor writes about the author Charles Williams and his use of the word coinherence to describe the relationship between God, the divine other, and us, human kind, Homo sapiens. I believe the universe, the divine Mystery and human life are seamlessly interwoven, coinherent, as Charles Williams describes.
Sara Gillingham wrote about herself as a person with intersex characteristics and her experience of the Living in Love and Faith process in an article published by the Church Times in January 2019. More recently she has accused the LGBTI+ groups in the Church of blindly following a Process set out by the House of Bishops and failing to hold the House of Bishops to account. We need, she said, to hold each other accountable as well, as we are failing currently to set-out a roadmap against which we can measure our own successes or failures in bringing about change.
Transgender and Intersex friends of mine and the wider Transgender and Intersex networks to which they belong are angry at the way they feel the LLF process abused them. The serious concerns reported repeatedly by some have not been taken onboard. From my liminal place in relation to the Church of England my perspective is clearly at odds with those who are committed to the protection and preservation of the institution. I do not see best practice or the highest interests of LGBTI+ people being upheld.
The attempt to create a new mythic history of China and to suppress evidence of more recent events may seem remote from our concerns in the Christian West, but in this evolving age of a seamless reality we are discovering that every country and culture and human being is in some way intrinsically interconnected. The church tinkers with small issues it thinks are important and fails to see the how it needs to develop the biggest picture possible in response to the dangerous new myths that are being deliberately constructed.
My transgender Christian friends are furious about the news that three senior bishops responsible for the Living in Love and faith process recently met a delegation of conservative catholics and evangelicals who had demanded a meeting to talk about the transgender guidance issued by the House of Bishops. Conservative Anglicans are exerting extreme pressure on the Living in Love and Faith project to ensure that the outcome absolutely does not respond to the expectations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people that our God-given identities are finally recognised and granted equality by a revision of Church teaching and practice about human gender and sexuality.
Tucked away at the end of this blog is the revolutionary dynamite that was inspired by an article in the Guardian Review on Saturday 18 May 2019. Only a seamless vision of creation, evolution, Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus the risen Christ, son of God, can hope to radically transform our relationship with our planet, the universe, our brothers and sisters in every continent of every race and gender and sexuality, overcoming our addiction to the defence of prejudice and difference.
In June 1988 a group from St Faith’s Wandsworth went to St Columba’s Woking for a retreat weekend led by Verena Tschudin. Verena provided us with a number of pictures from which we could choose one. She also gave us a series of questions to help us engage with the image. I offer these journal thoughts from thirty-one years ago as a complementary insight to what was going on within me at the same time as I was writing my reflections about parish life and ministry in the previous blog.