Saturday, 2 June 2012


Savitri Hensman writes in The Guardian that Inter-church alliances are not always blessed.

Dave Bookless writes on the A Rocha blog about Mission: Saving souls or saving seals?

Esther J Hamori writes in The Huffington Post about Biblical Standards for Marriage.

Bishop Peter Selby writes in the New Statesman that Money has changed – that’s the issue.

Andy Robertson writes for the Church Times about computer games in worship in Not to be consoled as to console.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 2 June 2012 at 11:00am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Any consideration of Biblical standards for marriage is sadly incomplete if it does not refer to the book of Esther, where marriage is one of the key issues in the book, and the narrative is awkward to integrate into a "Biblical view".

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Saturday, 2 June 2012 at 7:00pm BST

On the contrary, Mark Bennet, I think some proponents of the "Biblical view" of marriage would be delighted with the Book of Esther!
My memory of numerous Purim plays seen over the years, and condensed retellings of the Book of Esther heard during Purim services, is that the Book of Esther opens with King Ahashuerus ordering Queen Vashti to display her beauty in public. Rather than be displayed like some bauble, Vashti refuses. For her trouble, she is summarily dismissed as queen, and a decree is sent out by Ahashuerus reminding husbands of their duty to take complete mastery over their wives.
Nope, the Book of Esther is just the ticket for proponents of traditional marriage. Who knows what will happen if women engage in independent thinking? It will be the end of Western Civilization!
It’s too bad for supporters of traditional marriage -- as understood throughout the ages, of course -- that the Book of Esther didn't end there.
I've read sources that stated that Martin Luther wanted to drop the Book of Esther from Holy Scriptures. Officially, it was because the Book of Esther never once mentions God. Unofficially, I have to wonder whether it was because Esther proved herself to be a strong woman willing to stand up to the king when it was necessary.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Saturday, 2 June 2012 at 11:09pm BST

Savi's article gives us food for thought - on the wisdom of ecumenical striving that might lead to the loss of our distinctive Anglican ethos of openness to the world. The Reformation took place for a reason - mainly, to free the Church from hierarchical exclusivism. Do we want to return to the domination of papal magisterial rule?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 3 June 2012 at 11:32am BST

Peter, I believe the high-minded reason given for Vashti's refusal is found in midrashic commentaries rather than the text itself (the midrash interprets Ahasuerus' order that she appear wearing the crown to mean that that was *all* he wanted her to wear). Don't forget the whole idea of Esther "auditioning" for the role of wife and queen, along with the other maidens, either - she's not such a strong minded woman as to refuse that rather degrading procedure.

Posted by: Bill Dilworth on Sunday, 3 June 2012 at 6:33pm BST

I like the general premise of " Saving Souls or Saving Seals", but I contest the implications in the title. One ought also to be concerned about saving North Atlantic cod stocks, saving a way of life for Canada's indigenous people, and the economic marginalization sealers. It is laudable to be a disciple, but a disciple, by definition, is one who is a learner.There is little value in trading one kind of smug fundamentalism for another.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 4 June 2012 at 3:31am BST

Savi's artcle did give me some food for thought. I remember an exhibit in the Vatican museum which had been set up for a recurrence of Norwich cathedral (1000 years?) in the early 2000s (2002 or 2003 perhaps). There was also a public seminar of several days at which Eamon Duffy, Colim McCullock and Judith Maltby (in collar, by the way) were among the speakers. I noted to one of the C-of-E organizers of the exhibit that I found it strange that among all the photographs there wasn't one of a woman priest. He countered with something like: well of course we had to be sensitive to our hosts' position. But, he (!) added, there is a photo of a woman bishop. So I returned to the exhibit, and if you looked very carefully and if you knew what you were looking for, you might have noted a photo which included a group of bishops (tiny-scale), all robed, among which one was 'possibly' a woman, though the scale and dress made it difficult to be sure. Then and more so now, it seemed strange to me that Norwich was putting on an exhibit about the Cathedral and its long history, on the invitation of the Vatican Museum, but felt that any mention of women priest would 'offend' the Vatican, or might. But the C-of-E has and had then women priests, so what is the possible offence? If we were invited by the Methodists to put on an exhibit at Wesley House, would we make sure there were no photos with bishops included, since Methodists (in UK) don't have bishops? It sort of indicated to me that the C-of-E (in Norwich at least) was 'ashamed' to have done something RCs didn't agree with or do themselves (officially at least, because there are lots of stories about on-the-ground acceptance). So yes, I think Savi has a good point, that at the official level C-of-E often displays a sort of inferiority complex vis à vis RC Church hierarchy at least. A shame really, since I believe we have a very noble (though not always of course) tradition to offer others, women and all, but not only.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Monday, 4 June 2012 at 10:17am BST

@Rod: The purpose of an article (book etc.) title is to say, "Read the whole article (book etc.)!" It's not meant to point to any implications; it is just too short for that. Which implications did you find in the title?

The title "Mission: Saving souls or saving seals?" presents a dichotomy (is it a true one? a false one?) that usually polarizes people—you're either for the one or the other, seldom for both. Does one take priority over the other? Should the churches even consider these issues? Are they outdated? Should they be outsourced? The reader is supposed to read on and see the implications of the whole article itself.

I don't understand your mention to trading fundamentalisms. Anyway, yes to saving cod stocks and the other issues you refer to.

Vested interest disclosure: I work for A Rocha International. By the way, thank you TA for linking to our blog post.

Posted by: Júlio Reis on Monday, 4 June 2012 at 11:52am BST

Re Julio Reis, I like the point the article eventually gets to, "It’s not just about saving souls, it’s about ‘saving wholes’ – whole people in a whole creation." I like some of the points you raise in reply. Churches should consider environmental issues. Consideration includes an examination of an ultimately false dichotomy i.e. that salvation must be conceived of in the narrowest anthropocentric way or not at all.

Unfortunately the title "Saving Souls or Saving Seals", while a snappy piece of alliteration, tends, perhaps inadvertently, to undermine rather than point toward a consideration of complexity. What could be more fundamentalist like than some of the celebrity driven media homilies about the seal hunt? (see below)I found it odd that one of the most polarized environmental debates (seals, the seal hunt) is used to title an article that invites consideration of a less "either/or" model of salvation.

Church groups in Canada, by the way, are participating in today's web page blackout protest against, among other things, the culture war that our Federal neo-conservative government is waging against environmentalists. (see below)

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 4 June 2012 at 9:49pm BST

@Rod: Ahhhh, *that* smug fundamentalism! Seal hunting, Brigitte Bardot, OK, I get it now. Thank you for making that point clear.

I don’t think the post author was thinking of seal hunting. I understand that’s a hot topic in North America; here in Europe it’s very much a fringe issue (as far as I know). The title *was* exactly a snappy piece of alliteration. It was meant to be provocative, by displaying the “either/or” dichotomy, as if environmentalism and evangelism were contending for the top spot of the churches’ agendas today. The author’s position as you could see is that it’s a false dichotomy, and that we shouldn’t reduce the role of the church from God’s own stated purposes for it, which include the care of creation.

The photo which goes with the text features a Hawaiian Monk Seal, which hasn't been hunted in a hundred years, and rightly so since it's still listed as Critically Endangered. With a population of 1,100, its survival is totally dependent on human help. That seal needs saving, for sure! :-)

You could post a comment at the blog, if you feel your contribution would help towards a clear debate. Thanks for this exchange.

Posted by: Júlio Reis on Tuesday, 5 June 2012 at 4:51pm BST

Re Julio Reis, Yep, the seal hunt is a very hot topic in North America, and especially so here on the North Atlantic coast, where, periodically we receive visits from European celebrities on a mission, the most recent one being Sir Paul. The seal hunt remains a sticking point between Canada and the EU as well.

I had not thought to connect seals to Hawaii. So in this case, I guess to have to fess up that the road to hell is paved with bad assumptions. Thanks for surfacing the metaphor, so to speak. Very cool.

I have checked out the blog,and so like you I am grateful to Thinking Anglicans for making the link.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Tuesday, 5 June 2012 at 7:21pm BST

But the catchphrase "save the seals" comes directly from the campaign against the Canadian seal hunt - a campaign conducted by flim-flam artists and celebrity bigots.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Thursday, 7 June 2012 at 5:59am BST

Savitri Hensman's Guardian article caused what was for me a "eureka" moment. I personally know many Catholics and Orthodox people who are uncomfortable with their churches's stands on abortion, women's rights and human rights, sexuality and women priests and bishops. "Uncomfortable" is putting it mildly -- they have abandoned their churches altogether owing to these issues, and want nothing to do with them. They look enviously at Anglicanism, where despite disagreements progress is being made. Instead of us worrying about Catholic and Orthodox churches poaching the 10% of hard-right Anglicans from us, why don't we reach out to the disaffected 90% of first world Catholic and Orthodox people to Anglicanism? I actually see this as a tremendous growth opportunity for Anglicanism in the First World.

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Thursday, 7 June 2012 at 6:36pm BST

"why don't we reach out to the disaffected 90% of first world Catholic and Orthodox people" Randal Oulton

"The Church of England - not quite as homophobic as the Catholic Church" - that should pull 'em in.

Posted by: Laurence C. on Thursday, 7 June 2012 at 9:30pm BST

"The Church of England - not quite as homophobic as the Catholic Church" - that should pull 'em in."

Laurence; what evidence do you have for this statement? if true, one would hardly notice!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 8 June 2012 at 12:56am BST

Malcolm, that was my initial concern, and focus of my subsequent rejoinders, but Julio Reis seems to have disavowed that sense in this particular case.

There appears to be two ways into developing environmental theologies (1) justice and stewardship themes and (2) a consideration of soteriology that is cosmological rather than radically anthropocentric. The article gives rise to interesting questions with regard to the latter. By extension the article would also give rise to some very interesting critical questions about celebrity driven opposition to the North Atlantic seal hunt i.e. "saving seals" has to be considered within the context of a larger and more complex environmental and conservation conversation.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Friday, 8 June 2012 at 1:23am BST

Rod, I think I crossposted with you at some point.

As I read the exchange up to the point where I posted the comment, I had the impression (possibly mistaken) that Julio Reis had not understood the historical connections of the "saving seals" language and meme. He appeared quite startled that the article would have been read with such a lens - a lens that would have been inevitable for anyone knowledgeable about the dishonesty and emotional manipulations of the anti-sealing movement.

Like you, I'm glad he wasn't going there deliberately. However, I hope he understands why both you and I thought he was.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Friday, 8 June 2012 at 7:41am BST
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