Archive for May, 2012

Rowan Williams, via The Telegraph

Thinking about the next Archbishop of Canterbury, whoever it is, I recall the enthronement of the retiring one.  Rowan Williams underwent a triad of consecration, as bishop of the see of Canterbury, as Primate of All England and as some kind of primus inter paresfor worldwide Anglicanism.  Let’s stick with the first two of these functions and interrogate the third.

One has to ask: isn’t it past the time that the primates and bishops of global Anglicanism should be regarding +Cantuar as their leader by default?  Dr Williams’ time in the post has made this only too clear.  There are limits to the extent to which we can consider the Anglican faith as espoused by the Primate of Nigeria, for example, being concordant with, say, the church in Canada; or in Bath & Wells, come to that.  It’s a serious gap.  However much he has tried to bridge it, and however good a priest he is, Rowan has been on a hiding to nothing.  Let him be the last in this inter-communal role.

The cultural context is so different, and the underlying assumptions so various, that it’s becoming ever more evident that Canterbury cannot realistically be expected to bridge the painful diversity that Anglicanism has become.  So let him stay here, and if the church splits along obvious fault-lines as a result, so be it.

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The Church of England is under attack for being allegedly lukewarm to the Gospel and concerned only with ‘social betterment.’  Once again Evangelicalism’s calls for ‘old-time religion’ disclose its aversion to change. (more…)

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Dipping further into Hindu scripture yields the following: yet another sign of mankind’s ceaseless and fruitless attempts to define the indefinable:

It moves.  It moves not.
It is far, yet It is near:
It is within this whole universe,
And yet It is without it.

Those who see all beings in the Self,
And the Self in all beings
Will never shrink from It.

When once one understands that in oneself
The Self’s become all beings,
When once one’s seen the unity,
What room is there for sorrow?  What room for perplexity?

(Isa Upanishad, verses 5 – 7)

These words were written between 1200 and 800BCE – centuries before St John’s Gospel.

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Last week I came across a copy of R C Zaehner’s translations of Hindu scriptures, bought it and have since been discovering all sort of gems, like this stanza (The Bhagavad-Gita, 4:39):

A man of faith, intent on wisdom,
His senses all restrained, will wisdom win;
And, wisdom won, he’ll come right soon
To perfect peace.

This is almost completely paralleled in the Bible, in the lovely text, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee” (Isaiah 26:3). The nearest equivalent I can find in the Arberry transcription of the Holy Qu’ran is “And God summons to the Abode of Peace, and He guides whomsoever He will to a straight path… “(Sura 10:25).

To complete a quartet of such insights, let us end with a slightly different perspective, a Stoic text written by an emperor:

“Nowhere can a man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul”  (Marcus Aurelius  Meditations 4:3)

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The church in the slums

These days, there seem to be growing calls to exclude organised religion from the public space, as it is excluded in explicitly secular polities such as Cuba or France.  In the US, the debate about school prayer and displaying the Ten Commandments never really goes away. (more…)

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Change is a constant, we like to say.  Everything changes over time, even religion.  But not everyone agrees.  One of the great fault-lines in both Christianity and Judaism lies between those who have no problem with the idea that religions evolve and those others who emphatically disagree.  The two sides often misunderstand each other and so, fuelled by category error, the debate becomes ever more heated and less clear. (more…)

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