Sunday, 29 July 2012


This has been prompted by a rant from the wonderful @amyunchained. But it has been a bugbear of mine for some time - the acceptance of gossip in church circles, while railing against other sins.

Gossip is about hearing information, and passing it on, or even just remembering/recording it as accepted information. It does not have to be malicious, but it is unsubstantiated. It is something that is seen in other circles, but it is in the church that it is most damaging, I think, because the church is a place that should be safe.

One of the problems is that it is rife across all areas of the church. From the prayers who listen to peoples problems and accept their perception on issues, without knowing whether they have the full story, to clergy who listen to comments about their congregation, because they have to, but store that information away, to the various groups in the church who pass information around "just for prayer".

The problem is that gossip is deadly to a community, because there is never any opportunity to respond to the gossip, as it is never discussed with the person concerned. Even when it is, that may be only one version of the story, and it seems that getting the truth spread around is more difficult than gossip. So people are trying to relate when those they are relating to believe things about them. What is more, they know that there might be stories about them spread about as well, and so tend not to open up so much to others. All in all, it does not make for a good community.

Gossip, when it is left to fester and spread, takes on the aura of truth - people tend to believe what others tell them, if it is not contradicted. So lies spread as truth, and truth suffers. That is not good for a community whose core values should be truth. When truth suffers, The Truth suffers, because our message is something we must embody - in fact, what we embody becomes our message, whether we like it or not.

So when a bishop gets letters or phone calls from parishioners, the prevalence of gossip means that he cannot be sure whether it is genuine or just someone with a grudge. So often, the result is that the church authorities take the side of the clergy, and dismiss the claims, because they probably know them better, and trust them. The assumption is that complaints are just malicious gossip.

Whatever, gossip destroys community, destroys church, destroys people. I knew a friend who was attending a con-evo church, but had to leave, because some of her past was spread about. What does that say about them? What does it say about the church when we prefer to spread rumour and lies than truth? What does it say about us? How can we be honest, when we do not believe in truth? And if we cannot be honest, we cannot be open, we cannot be a community, and we cannot therefore be the people of Jesus.


Friday, 27 July 2012


I have read a whole lot of positive and negative stuff about the London 2012 Olympics. So I thought that I would put my own thoughts down.

I am a great supporter of the Olympics, and I think, in principle, it is a great thing for London to have them this year. They are the premier sporting competition globally, and it is a wonderful that we can show that we are able to put this event on. What is more, I think that in this difficult time of economic recession, we have done a fantastic job putting this together. I can only hope that the sporting aspects are as good.

However there is an issue that keeps raising its head, and that is the Brand Nazis, LOGOC, who are taking a very negative attitude to anyone using the logo or name. What is more, the sponsors are taking a similarly drastic approach to any competition. I think this is all very unfortunate.

The was a chance here, it seems, to bring a lot of money into the UK economy, and bringing money to a range of businesses across the country. As it is, a lot of the tourist money will end up being taken by the big corporate sponsors. That is wrong. This money will largely go out of the country and out of the economy here. If it was more spent locally, spent with businesses who have the imagination to make something of the Olympics, and sell to the visitors. That would be very British - we are a nation of shopkeepers, surely. There is a danger, it seems to me, that most of the people who come here will only ever experience the Olympics, and never experience Britain.

I am very proud of my country. I think we have a lot to offer people who come to visit. I worry that the corporate nature of the games means that many of the visitors only ever get the corporate image, the corporate British experience, and never get the real, authentic experience. I think they miss out on what we are really about. If every Olympics is the same, with the same corporate sponsors, the same brand enforcement, then I would ask why it matters where the event is - it will be the same anywhere. And we lose the uniqueness of having a games in this country rather than anywhere else.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Holiday in Yorkshire

The second part of our holiday was in Yorkshire.

 The first two here are from Riveaux Abbey, one of the most important Cistercian monasteries in Europe, and is very well preserved.

 Then I went to Fountains Abbey - even more intact, and also a stunning piece of architecture. It was also a very important abbey, and you still get some sense of what it might have been like. In both of these abbeys, you can get some sense of the work that was done to build them - the care and attention to detail in the carving - all done, with hand tools, chisels and hammers.
I have been asked why, given my thoughts and comments about the church, why I have visited 3 monasteries in the summer. None of them, I should point out, have any special place for me - Lindisfarne is closer to my spiritual heart. But they are all places that have a long-term spiritual depth, places that people have met with God in over centuries. That is not something that I would even want to ignore.
But it also shows me - especially with the Yorkshire abbeys - that the systems and structures we build and expect will last for centuries can be destroyed so easily. I am sure that some of the monks involved in these abbeys felt that when Henry dissolved them, the church was coming to an end. It didn't, of course. And today, the real church - Gods people - will survive if the Church of England collapses, the Baptist church disseminates, and the Catholic church withdraws - that is, if the current church structures fail - Gods church and work will continue. The church of the 22nd century may look nothing like the church of the 21st. But that is not to say it will not be valid and successful.

Holiday in Scotland

We have recently returned from a holiday in Scotland, on the West coast, which is a wonderful part of the country, although a fantastically long way from all sorts of other places. I have included in this blog some of the pictures.

Being in that part of the country, you cannot ignore the local geography, with hills all around - including Ben Nevis, the tallest point in the UK, which just goes to show how flat we really are – and water – lochs, the sea, as well as the many islands that make up that part of the country.

What struck me is that the islands are rally just hills that happen to start too low, and the sea has covered their bases. The difference between a hill and an island, is just where it starts. Sometimes, in life, it seems that we are cut off from everyone else, stuck on our own island. And yet, in truth, we are on a mountain top. It is just that this mountain may be a little more difficult to reach.

Enough deep thought - pictures are what you want. These are evening pictures from the apartment - 10:00 or later.

 There is something fantastic about being somewhere that does not really get dark.

And the sunsets from where we were looked fantastic.

We visited Staffa and saw penguins, as well as Iona and saw the abbey

We had a good time - I will post a few more from Yorkshire later.

Sunday, 22 July 2012


Some people get very hung up on labels. has, of late, been decrying labels that others put on him, refusing to be defined by them – while trying to take the label “atheist” himself. I am not sure I agree with this anti-labelism though.

I do have a problem with pigeon-holes. The difference is that you can only ever be in one pigeon-hole, and when you are in it, that defines you entirely, and tends to separate you from others – definition by those things that differ is a problem.

We were in Yorkshire recently, and had a meal from a Chinese Takeaway. I am presuming that it was run by a family, the older members of the family being in the back cooking, and talking Chinese exclusively. The younger members served us, and spoke English without a trace of Chinese accent. However one spoke with a Yorkshire accent, and one with a London or Southern accent. It made me wonder if they spoke Chinese with a Yorkshire accent, and how obscure that seems. But it made me think what are they? Chinese? Yes, by racial origin, family, one language. British? Yes by birth, I am guessing. Yorkshire? Yes, because that is where they live, and where the younger one was probably born. All of these make up a rich and varied cultural mix, all of these labels contribute to some part of who they are.

That is why I don’t have a problem with labels, because you can always add more labels. Yes, I am a Christian, Evangelical, supporter of Women Bishops and gay marriage. Some may label me “open evangelical”, others “liberal”, others “heretical” – that is fine, I will take those labels, but add my own – like “Biblically based” – usually one that sits uncomfortably with the others.

That is, I think the fun of labels. You can stick whatever labels you want on me. What you can’t do is ignore the others that I have stuck on me, or refuse to allow me to put my own labels on. You cannot define me with your labels – you can only add a particular something to the rich blend I already have.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Why people hate going to church

I have recently finished reading "Why men hate going to church", by David Murrow. It is an interesting book, with some generalisation, and quite a bit that does not apply directly to the UK church, but it was worth reading, and asks some very useful questions.

At the same time, the CofE is continuing to have its discussions about women bishops, which - on current sight - looks likely to be rejected because of the amendments made to satisfy opponents of the measure. I should say that, while in principle I am all for it, if it does not make women bishops entirely equal to male bishops, it should fail, because it is continuing the misogyny that still exists in the church.

But the problem in both of these issues is, at core, the same - some things require complete and fundamental changes, and trying to do a patch-on solution will not work. If we tried it with the government, we would end up in chaos: I don't like the Tories, so I want to have Alternative Governmental Oversight by the Green Party, and will only accept the laws that they agree with. It can't work, because most green policies require widespread application. I can support them, and work towards increasing political power for them, but I cannot just reject the majority and insist on being represented by someone I agree with.

One of the core problems that Morrow raises is very similar, that a significant portion of the church in the UK is female-orientated. The Pastorate/clergy is still strongly make dominated, but in terms of the local churches, they are often run - on a practical level - by women, and a lot of the way things are done are female-orientated. To attract men back into the church - or youngsters, working families, people with a heartbeat, whoever you are after - will often require some fundamental changes in the way things are done. Tinkering, providing mens events or mens services will not work long term, because the men will not stay. Replace "men" with whoever you want to attract.

It seems that so often, we have ideals of wanting to attract a certain group of people into what we currently do that we miss the real challenge, which is to do something different, and attract people in that way. Changing the entire focus or structure of the church will be painful, will lose people (before newcomers arrive), and will be upsetting, but if we insist on hanging onto what we currently do, but hope for different people to join us, we are following Einsteins famous maxim about insanity "doing the same things, and expecting a different outcome".