Meanwhile back on planet earth...

They're changing things at General Synod
It's all going down rather well with Reform
Rod says we must still be on our guard
"A Con Evo's life is terribly hard",
Says Rod.

They're changing things at General Synod
Fulcrum responds with some thoughts through Elaine
"We have more of our sort sitting in the box
The grass-roots are flowering so take off your socks,"
Says Rod.

They're changing things at General Synod
Church Mouse is suspicious and fueling the blogs
Rod might be confused in his numbers game.
"Well, God take care of him, all the same,"
Says Mouse.

They're changing things at General Synod
A 2/3 majority or not is the thing.
They've great big parties inside the grounds.
"I wouldn't be Rowan for a hundred pounds,"
Says Alice.

They're changing things at General Synod
All soon to gather in Lambeth Palace.
A face looked out, but it wasn't Rod's.
"He's much too busy a-signing things,"
Says Alice.

They're changing things at General Synod
Christopher Robin looks on and picks up the news,
"Do you think the Church care a hoot about me?"
"Sure to, dear, but it's time for tea,"
Says Alice.

The latest letter from Reform expresses hopes that the elections bode well for
them. They believe that the 2/3s majority needed for the election of Women Bishops is looking unlikely. They are also planning to set up a 'Religious society' inside the church of England for the 'many who remain firmly opposed to the idea [of Women Bishops], because the Bible says that there should be different roles for men and women both in the family and the church.'

Meanwhile over at Fulcrum, a more nuanced, generous and intelligent response has been penned by Elaine Storkey saying that:

"It is in the readiness to hear the Bible through the presentations of others that understanding is developed. It is in the listening and weighing up of the argument where decisions are best made. It is in the openness with which we concede that none of us has the whole truth, for that belongs to God alone, that humility and generosity begin to flourish...No-one has yet fully heard why many of us, who hold a high view of Scripture, feel compelled to open all the offices of the Church to the full participation of women, because we have not had chance to explain it."

Before Tom Wright retired to lecture at St Andrew's, he encouraged us to have the debate too. 

So it could be an interesting few years ahead.

A little light

Blue cabin afforded time near the roar of the ocean, doesn't half get things in perspective. Blue cabin was also a thin space. Wow! I guess in part it was to do with the rawness of the place, howling winds, pebbles crunching under foot, walking, eating, sleeping, talking, praying...living from the point of basic need, living in the present moment, only planning the next meal and that happening more spontaneously than not, in response to growling stomachs, whatever the time of day. We spent time with God and one another and God met with us, generously through his Spirit, manifestly through his Spirit so that our time became God-time, when you realise you have been praying for hours but it only feels like five minutes, I love that...

I  screamed at the ocean - "thank you Jesus!" and I am aware that this all sounds rather dramatic but it's got to be healthy, you know, to shout into something that is so much louder and more powerful than you are and become aware of the majesty of it all and your own tininess, which even though I am, (literally 5ft2), I often forget, as the concerns I have take on gargantuan proportions or the list of things I think I have to be busy with becomes mountainous!

...so 'thin(k) spaces' in blue cabins might punctuate my life, for at least I am able to forget for a while and just 'be', or at least that might be 'remembering and being' rather than forgetting.

My friend has an expression when I speak this way...'meanwhile back on planet earth...' she says, with a big smile on her face and meanwhile ... back on planet earth, sermons will be prepared and essays researched and Fulcrum and Reform have interesting things to say on the latest General Synod elections and my family are travelling off for a two day break, without me this time, so I can consider all these things and so this time, retreating takes on a different flavour, technology on rather than off, central heating replacing raw winds and layers of clothing, eating to punctuate the studying rather than being an event in itself... oh well, perhaps I can find a thin space here too, you never know...


God's grace in the world or not?

Tom Wright describes how 'Leslie Newbigin, whose name you will know, a wonderful man I was privileged to know in the latter years of his life, was once asked whether he was optimistic or pessimistic about some issue. He said, "I'm neither an optimist nor a pessimist. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead."'

I am not too well so I am in bed with my laptop, not an uncommon thing, reading some articles on Schleiermacher and Barth and various blogs and a bit about Stanley Hauerwas, whose name I keep coming across.

I am thinking about my father's theological insights, we have quite an email dialogue going on. Reading Schleiermacher is helping me to understand my dad's doctrine of God. I am also thinking about my recent conversation with David Ould and all of this in light of the last essay I had returned, which they are asking if they can put in the library (!) and whether I will always think what I articulated in that essay.

Such are the rambling thoughts of a woman with a horrible cold and too many things to read. I am trying to decide whether my perception of God's action in the world and in the lives of those who do not worship him, is shaped by theology, doctrine, or is also, in part, the product of an optimistic nature (mine).

You see Stanley Hauerwas seems to propose something rather less than an optimistic view of the world. In my last blog-post, I rather carelessly asserted that the world recognised the equality of women before the church. In a statement like this - world, equality and church all need expanding upon. It is too crass. It includes thoughts that Jesus broke social taboos to promote an equality between people which had the Roman Empire unsettled to no small degree and that the early church had its female preachers and teachers but then the later church, as we know, promoted a theology of womanhood leaving a lot to be desired. In fact female desire was what it obsessed over and blamed women for. See here.

But I digress...a little. In David's response he cited a world that 'does not know Christ nor has no desire to please him'. I wonder whether I can confidently claim such a thing. Theologically, I think that I should and I suppose if we return to desire again, the 'world' does desire many things and many are not about pleasing Christ, however, it would seem that unconsciously some of the actions of this very world do please him, or at least that has been my experience. I remember being a discordant voice in a bible study group once for voicing what I perceived as the progression we had made in the last 50 years in terms of our treatment of one another. I was pleased to read in Tom Wright's 'Simply Christian', "People sometimes talk as if the last 50 years have seen a decline in morality. But actually these have been some of the most morally sensitive, indeed moralistic, times in recorded history. People care, and care passionately, about the places where the world needs putting to rights."

Over the summer I developed much reason to believe that the world, as I hint, even if rather naively with my reasoning about women, can exhibit the compassion of the God that created it, even if it does not attribute such action to God. With an open attitude to the idea that God's grace is at work in the world and through people who do not yet submit to Christ's Lordship, I worked with a ministry seeking partnership with secular care agencies who might not proclaim the faith, but do exhibit the behaviours of a compassionate God by his common grace. Spina explores the biblical narratives where, 'outsiders... do something that promotes the agenda of [God], their outsider status notwithstanding... and magnify the emphasis on God’s sovereignty and grace.'2

But it would seem that Hauwerwas entertains that:

“The world” is a culture of unbelief, hatred, and violence. The church is a gathering of people constituted by the death and resurrection of Christ in such a way that they lead lives so altered by the sanctifying power of the cross that they live by the law of forgiveness and the perfection of virtue. They are ruled by the Sermon on the Mount, and, since the church is the embodiment of the eschaton in time, it achieves the perfection there required of it. It is a “Messianic community” where the kingdom of God “takes visible, practical form.”

Karl Barth writes proposing that 'the power of God can be detected neither in the world of nature nor in the souls of men.'3

However Barth goes on to believe that the church can be the inner circle of the Kingdom of God, and the state the outer.4 During my summer ministry experiences, I learnt that with a creation-centred theology, I could enthusiastically pursue relationship with secular agencies as I reflected on ever-increasing circles of community and God's grace in the world. I was left hope-filled.

Pleasing God? Common grace? At work in the world - yes. 
I still have much to learn about how I articulate these things.

1 Tom Wright, Simply Christian

2 Spina, The Faith of the Outsider, 10

3 Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, 36

4 Green, (ed.), Karl Barth : theologian of freedom, 265


Back to the beginning again

I have reasons to consider 1 Tim 2:11-15 again. I will not explain why but I will update this post once the event I am leading is complete.

Just when I thought I had lain this down...

Well, I do not think that it is to be.

Brain keeps whirring and it stirs something deep within to be called again into a place where the hermeneutics on this passage might be opened up afresh.

I come at it now with a gentler heart-beat, a steadier hand exegeting and a broader and more grace-filled approach.

I am an evangelical, I believe in the Word of God as inspired and true and having now read and read around this topic, understand that the Church made its decision to ordain and consecrate women because of its reading of the scriptures too. Society got there before the church but the church did not make its decision because of society, however it does enable us to have a more effective voice in society.

Anyway, as a colleague and I work out what we are going to say, i shall pray that we can deliver our thoughts perhaps a little more objectively than perhaps I might have done a few years ago.


“The Bible and Gender Equality,” by Rebecca Merrill Groothuis 

Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy, ed. Ronald W. Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, with Gordon Fee

Equal to Serve: Women and Men Working Together Revealing the Gospel, by Gretchen Gaebelein Hull

“Exegetical Fallacies in Interpreting 1 Timothy 2:11-15,” Linda L. Belleville

Good News for Women: a Biblical Picture of Gender Equality, by Rebecca Merrill Groothuis

I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence, by Catherine Clark Kroeger and Richard Clark Kroeger

BAILEY, K.E., Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. Cultural Studies in the Gospels

WRIGHT, N.T., Women's Service in the Church http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm

Rosemary Radford Ruether, 'Women-Church Theology and Practice of Feminist Liturgical Communities', Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1985

GROOTHUIS, R. M., The Bible and Gender equality

(http://www.cbeinternational.org/new/pdf_files/free_articles/groothius_bible_genderequailty.pdf) Nov 08

ASHLEY R., 'Can a Woman Have Authority Over a Man?', in HARRIS, H. & SHAW, J.,The Call for Women Bishops, London, 2004

BELIZIKIAN, G., Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible says about a woman's place in church and family, 3rd edition, U.S.A, Grand Rapids, 2006

MARSHALL, I.H., 'Mutual Love and Submission in Marriage', in Discovering Biblical Equality,ed.s) R. W. Pierce and R M Groothuis: IVP, 2005

NOVAKOVIC, L., 'I Have Seen the Lord' in Mutuality, Spring, 2006 (http://www.cbeinternational.org/new/pdf_files/free_articles/Novakovic_Mary_Magdalene.pdf) Nov 2008

STORKEY, E., Created or Constructed. The Great Gender Debate, Cumbria, Pasternoster Press, 2000

TILLEY, M.A., Catholic Biblical Quarterley; Jan 2008, Vol. 70 Issue 1, p.156-157 'A Review of MADIGAN, K. & OSIEK, C. (eds.). Ordained Women in the Early Church: A Documentary History Baltimore/London, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003'


The infiltration of the spammers

An email spam targeted me with a direct mail message. It looks like my mailing list has been stolen and they have searched the Web for addresses associated with me. They have grabbed lists of addresses and are using my mailing lists as a direct target for their attacks.

Oh sugar, this is something of a bother. It highlights for me a character trait of which I have long been aware and I am working upon it - I can be a little naive.

Quite frankly in the world I inhabit, people can be risen from the dead, healed and all other sorts of things, amazing and supernatural are possible. I am rather open-minded. I assume the best of people and situations and that most people are operating for my good. So when I am invited to consider the photographs of a friend whom I can only imagine must have had another baby or done something equally remarkable to be wanting to share that same event with all acquaintances, I assume this is the case and venture into the recommended photo-sharing domain, filling in my email address and password - big mistake!

Please can you let me know if you have received unexpected mail from me. I am in the process of creating a new email account and I will let you know what that is in due course. I just hope no one is sending strange blog comments all over the world, pretending to be me. I think all will be well, being ever the optimist but if you receive mail that seems somewhat out-of-character, it probably is - it is not from me.


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A little background reading so we might mutually flourish when there are different opinions