Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bishop Tim Dakin & Lord Raymond Plant

In Winchester Cathedral Close on a summer May evening yesterday the brand new Bishop Tim Dakin and Lord Raymond Plant were brought together by Dean James Atwell with an audience of about 100, for a dialogue. The subject was: Church for the Nation. Can the Church of England be both a Church for the Nation and an anchor member for the Anglican Communion? 
The Bishop is making his mark quickly and widely and he speaks his mind. Lord Plant set the scene as to how human rights and equality legislation removes a specific religious base for law - since religious belief lies in the heart of the believer and cannot, in a secular society, bind non-adherents. But then, human rights legislation is largely equivalent to rights in common law, so not too many problems there perhaps, although someone has asked (whatever next!): 'Is the new Archbishop of Canterbury expected to be an Anglican?'  A current issue is House of Lords reform and the pressure to deny seats to the 26 bishops out of over 800 other members. 

Bishop Tim with a teasing: 'Did Jesus intend to start a world movement' said that dealing with pluralism was included at the start.  Jewish Christians had to come to terms with  Gentile Christians who carried no Jewish cultural heritage - but they worked it out. A danger lies in thinking our church business is tied up with a 'philosophy of law' when it is essentially about 'hope in Christ'. This involves a change of personality - such as St Paul clearly admitted to in his writings. The Anglican Church has moved through various phases to modern times from its Reformation start, but has not fully resolved its latest modern missionary movement period. To many we are strangers bringing a strange gospel, and we are aware of the power of the metropolitan media, of London and the big newspapers in setting agendas.

Faith and church order are part of how we relate to culture.  But what if a new Archbishop of Canterbury is not of our own culture? Appreciating another person's point of view may help us to see that our understanding is limited, and help us change our views. Bishop Tim said that the Anglican church is a highly complex thing with lots of baggage associated and he has  appointed as chaplain a barrister versed in canon law (Gavin Foster) to help him steer though.  Raymond Plant was nervous of tradition and it should only be appealed to because it brings benefits, not just because it has authority as tradition. The Bishop said we need humility about our western church tradition - it is not for everyone, what if someone from elsewhere says we are wrong? They may be right.  But to drop all tradition and rely on reason alone could mean a new 'tradition of reason'. 

On a practical level of how and where to engage in society, agreeing with Lord P he said that we must use moral language, but not with churchy words. Ethics is the thing. The ethics of the economy is an important area for Christians to engage in but not in religious terms. A starting point is that economics is a study of 'God's generosity'. Lord P referred to the work of Michael Sandel on how markets are dangerous places if we let them rule [see this 6 min. YouTube clip] . 

posted by Charles Bazlinton

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