Wednesday 7 July 2010

Faith, Fear, Freedom, Pharisaism

Morning Prayers at the Senior Management Group in Oxford yesterday, led by Nigel Wearne, our head of finance. How fortunate are we to have a head of finance who leads creative worship as well as keeping the books?
He brought a wonderful poem for a summer’s morning, by e.e.cummings:
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
I was also struck by the wisdom of the traditional morning Collect we also used, which perfectly addresses an age of anxiety. Anxiety, which is never understandable (“where is your faith?” asks the Lord) begets defensive and uncharitable attitudes tending towards Pharisaism. By their fruits you know them. The only alternative is faith in God, which begets an infectious, naturally missional love of “everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes”
O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord,
in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life,
who service is perfect freedom:
Defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies;
that we, surely trusting in thy defense,
may not fear the power of any adversaries;
through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
The press has been full of stories about the possibility of Dr Jeffrey John becoming bishop of Southwark. He was nominated as Bishop of Reading at the time I was as Bishop of Buckingham, and personally, I would have been perfectly happy to serve with Jeffrey as an episcopal colleague. His rule of life was, as far as could be told, entirely consistent with the discipline of the Church and still is. I’ve heard reactions from the pews since Sunday’s Telegraph story ranging from “Oh not again” to “this is a great opportunity to redeem a nasty injustice.” If Jeffrey were to be nominated, the reaction would be an interesting sign of how things have moved on, or not, since 2003.

The only sane bottom line has to be that this is simply an appointment and if those whose job it is to discern the truth see in Jeffrey the gifts and calling to undertake the work (and most who know him and the Southwark diocese well seem to think these are pretty obvious), why, apart from steamy politics, why, apart from fear, wouldn’t they appoint the best person for the job?

pictures from the flower festival at Wingrave last week, with special thanks to Neil who organised it, and his team.


Lesley said...


FrPaulB said...

There is a wonderful choral setting of the e.e. cummings poem by Eric Whitacre included on the CD "Cloudburst"

Geoff Colmer said...

Alan, if you haven't heard Eric Whitacre's setting of cumming's poem, you absolutely must! The version on Spotify is a bit naff, but the Polyphony version is a taste of heaven. Geoff

Anonymous said...

We in the Diocese of St Albans will miss Jeffrey if he is appointed to Southwark. He has been an inspiring dean of the Abbey and a much valued teacher and preacher throughout the diocese. Why can't appointments be made, as you say, on the basis of gifts and calling, rather than our present obsession with gender & sexuality. I keep going back to Acts 11.17." It is clear that God gave those (Gentiles) the same gift he gave us in the beginning. Who was I, then, to try to stop God?"

Erika Baker said...

Why? Because fear, once it has gripped you, is terrifying to shake off. So terrifying that many rather cloak it in comforting words of righteousness so they never have to look at it again.

Ernest said...

It is an interesting commentary on the times that we live in that someones private life, no matter how public could be used as a weapon to destroy their chances of serving in a role which God may be calling them to.

When the Church is considering whether divorced Clergy are able to serve as Bishops I would have thought that we could over come these obstacles through prayer and proper discernment of the qualities needed for the post.

I just hope that God's will is the one that prevails.

Anders Branderud said...

Re the use of the term “pharisaism”:
A logical analysis (found in ( is the website of the only legitimate Netzarim-group)) (including the logical implications of the research by Ben-Gurion Univ. Prof. of Linguistics Elisha Qimron of Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT) of all extant source documents of what Christians calls “the gospel of Matthew” (Ribi Yehoshuas teachings was redacted and the redaction is found in what Christians call “the gospel of Matthew”) and archeology proves that the historical Ribi Yehosuha ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) from Nazareth and his talmidim (apprentice-students), called the Netzarim, taught and lived Torah all of their lives; and that Netzarim and Christianity were always antithetical.

It is important to distinguish the two polar-opposites - the authentic, historical, PRO-Torah 1st-century Ribi from Nazareth and the 4th-century (post-135 C.E.), arch-antithesis ANTI-Torah apostasy developed by the Hellenists (namely the Sadducees and Roman pagans who conspired to kill Ribi Yәhoshua ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah), displaced his original followers Netzarim and redacted the NT). (Source:

That website also proves that Ribi Yehoshua was a Pharisee and that he taught this in Netzarim Reconstruction of Hebrew Matityahu 23:1-3:

”Then Yehoshua spoke to the qehilot and to his talmidim saying, ”The Sophrim and those of the Rabbinic-Perushim sect of Judaism who advocate that Halakhah must be exclusively oral sit upon the bench of Mosheh. So now, keep shomeir and do concering everything – as much as they shall tell you! Just don’t imitate their maaseh because they say but they don’t do.”
The Rabbinic-Perushim taught that one should follow the mitzwot (directive or military-style orders), and Ribi Yehoshua taught that one should listen to that. The Rabbinic-Perushim advocated Halakhah (oral Torah).

Erika Baker said...

It seems that angry fear won.

Lapinbizarre said...

"....why, apart from steamy politics, why, apart from fear, wouldn’t they appoint the best person for the job?"

Erika Baker said...

They may, of course, have done that. Being gay shouldn't bar you from a post but it doesn't qualify you for it either.

K. Lonopin said...

Gone are the days when immigrants came to the US in sailboats and steamships, destined never to return home. In today’s globalized flat world, with access to cheap direct flights across continents, broadband internet, Blackberries, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and video conferencing, an immigrant can continue to maintain deep ties and bonds even if absent from the country.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks for comments. The Whitacre is absolutely amazing! Thanks for the tip-off about it.

Erika, I'm so grateful for your take, and its compassionate understanding that people who behave badly because they are afraid of others' sexual orientation really are behaving badly, but are still people. This doesn't mean going along with all their ideas, but the problem won't get better until the underlying fear moves on.

I think I also have some concern in the story having been whipped up in the first place by Jonathan Wynne -Jones of the Telegraph, then stoked up on Tuesday by his announcement Jeffrey wasn't giong to be appointed. This was blatantly stirring it, which J W-J has every right to do (only doing his job), but we have a choice about how far we want to be led along the road, emotionally, by this.

All of us, surely, have been shortlisted for jobs we didn't get, and, frankly, the right (other) person did. This rumour kicked in at the shortlisting stage, with various constructions being built on projections and, in justice, I don't think it's fair to indulge ourselves too much in speculation.

It’s also the fact that the committees that make these decisions are only human, albeit seeking God's guidance, and they decide corporately. It can't be fair to blame any decision on any one member, even if he's the ABC. This issue may be a lightning conductor for other feelings about Rowan that are, strctly speaking, not relevant to the question at hand.

Personally, in my own (small) area of responsibility my colleagues and I strongly attempt to make appointments in as fair and open a way as possible, with as ruthless an insistence as we can manage on finding God's person for the job on the basis of evidence.

We may like or not like their decision, but none of us have any way of knowing that the committee we're talking about here didn't do the same thing.

Finally, one of the most impressive things for me about Jeffrey, as long as I've known him (which is only 7 years), has been his faith, courage and dignity, evident in an aposolic sense of proportion about his own place in the great scheme of things. We can all learn from that.

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