Christ Centred AND Jesus Shaped

The Rev’d Canon Dr Robin Ward examines the wording of the new Church of England vision statement. Aside from it being a pithy phrase does it reveal a heretical theology?

The Church of England has adopted a new Vision document for the next ten years of her life, compiled after much consultation by the new Archbishop of York.  It has as its strapline ‘Christ centred and Jesus shaped. Simpler, humbler, bolder’ and a diagram that has at its centre ‘Christ centred. Rooted: going back to the heart of our tradition… Radical’ and ‘Jesus shaped. By the 5 marks of mission’.  Predictably this has taken something of a pebble dashing on social media, summed up in the lapidary remark of one commentator as ‘The Church of England has written its own Treaty of Versailles, and is now going to spend a decade looking for someone to surrender to’.  But it is perhaps rather more serious that the soundbite we are meant to take away from all this, and which I have no doubt will become ubiquitous in communications from the hierarchy, ‘Christ centred and Jesus shaped’, might in fact be not just a bit annoying but actually heretical.

How so?  St Cyril of Alexandria, writing in his Third Letter to Nestorius, says: Whoever allocates the terms contained in the gospels and the apostolic writings and applied to Christ by the saints or used of himself by himself to two persons or subjects and attaches some to the man considered separately from the Word of God, some as divine to the Word of God the Father alone, shall be anathema.  The whole burden of patristic Christology, beginning with the condemnation of Apollinaris at the first Council of Constantinople in 381 and continuing right up to the condemnation of the iconoclasts at the second Council of Nicaea in 787, is the attempt to express two fundamental principles: that there is one subject, one ‘I’, in the incarnate Christ; and that the human nature taken by the Word is a complete and integral one.  So expressions which seem to infer that there are two subjects in the Word made flesh: Christ on whom to be centred, and Jesus by whom to be shaped, would seem to contradict this.

Is the Church of England now committed to a decade of being Anglican centred but Nestorian shaped?  The Vision document itself is evidently a bit anxious about this as it adds a two-paragraph explanation of the phrase.  That this is necessary at all might well suggest that second thoughts about having it front up the next decade of policy are in order.  And the explanation in some respects makes matters worse.  It is quite proper to say ‘We make no distinction between ‘Christ’ and ‘Jesus’. The two phrases are simply a shorter way of saying we are called to be Jesus Christ centred and Jesus Christ shaped’.  But the second paragraph then goes on to make exactly the two-subject inference that ought to be avoided: that the title ‘Christ’ is being used as shorthand to refer to Jesus Christ ‘in [whom], and therefore in the Trinitarian life of God… we root ourselves’;  and the name ‘Jesus’ is used as shorthand to refer to Jesus Christ as ‘the preacher and healer from Nazareth, who… lived a life like ours… and showed us what our humanity could be’.  This is unhappy, and as an explanation makes matters worse, not better.

Does any of this matter?  Thirty years ago the general consensus held among those who taught Anglican ordinands was that Nestorius was tiresome in person but to a large degree fundamentally orthodox in doctrine, and that the Council of Chalcedon endorsed this by siding with the patrician Imperial civil servant Leo of Rome against the vulgar and shouty demagogue Dioscorus of Alexandria.  Scholarship has moved on, and with this has come a renewed sensibility about getting this stuff right: only this month, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have removed the word ‘one’ from the conclusion of the collects of the Roman Missal in English (…one God, world without end)for fear of an Arian interpretation.  When ordinands ask me why Christology matters, I ask them to look at the video of the new Russian Military Cathedral – dubbed with the music from Warhammer 40k: Mechanicus – and think about why Christians only 1500 miles away find this idiom more appealing than On Eagle’s Wings, Mary did you know, and The Kingdom Season.

A better Christian Russia gave us Sergius Bulgakov, who wrote this about the Name of God: The Lord Jesus Christ is perfect Man and true God: in Him were united without separation and without confusion two natures and two wills, with one hypostasis.  And the oneness of the hypostasis signifies, among other things, the oneness of the Name in which is expressed the individual being, the personhood… the Name of the Lord Jesus belongs to both natures; it is the Name of God and of Man in their unity.  The Church of England teaches this when it enjoins reverence to be made during divine service when the Holy Name is mentioned.  We should look again at a decade-long Vision statement that obscures it.

The Rev’d Canon Dr Robin Ward, Principal, St Stephen’s House

Only Connect

The Bishop of Ely reflects on digital worship, lockdown, canon law and the approaching Advent season.

I recently preached at a service of the word led by lay ministers on Zoom. The design of the liturgy was exemplary, as was the choice of pre-recorded hymns. The intercessions were beautifully composed and illustrated by well-chosen photographs of people and landscapes. At their heart was the current crisis and tragedy of the pandemic. It was inspiring for me, having spent my fourteen years as a bishop in two largely rural dioceses. During this time, I have been promoting good quality non-eucharistic worship which lay people can lead and deliver ably to the glory of God. On this particular Sunday, worshippers were brought together in one united service from the eight parishes of this multi-parish benefice. They manifestly enjoyed being together in worship and fellowship. It was great that one of those attending is a farmer who was on audio while she saw to her cows and shared the hymns with them.

I was struck by the rich connectivity of the whole experience for me. Having warmly greeted one another as we arrived at the zoom space, we were gently led into the presence of God in reverence and praise. There was nothing chatty about the service, making it about us; yet the assembly was brought together as the Body of Christ. Although I find most of my time on Zoom tiring and frustrating, to be honest, I am thankful to God for the remarkable and imaginative efforts of our clergy and ministry teams to learn skills they have not had before in order to feed God’s people from the Word of God and to enable the faithful to make their spiritual communion.

Yes, you can feel the ‘but’ coming. Ours is an incarnational faith. Even when it was not possible to celebrate the Eucharist in church, churches were still open as food hubs. At least one parish in Cambridge has allocated a piece of vacant land to be a vegetable garden to serve the foodbank. This faith we share is physical and material as well as ineffable and mysterious. The first lockdown was described somewhere as being an extended Holy Saturday. For me, it always had the character of Advent, waiting afresh for the coming of God under the form of bread and wine, in water and holy oil to baptise and anoint. We cherish the points of connection made on social platforms, but as we live the consequences of natural and man-made disaster, we are invited to renew our commitment to longing and waiting for the proper resumption of safe human interaction under God’s gaze and in God’s grace. This is our ongoing living of Advent.

The American economist, J. K. Galbraith, spoke about ‘the politics of contentment’ created by there being so much living space for the well-to-do, it was possible never to connect with the economic, social or health care needs of poor people and people of colour. It’s like a number of countries sharing the same boundaries. One could apply this to North and South here. This creates an ease of objectification of individuals and whole communities.  As an episcosaurus, I no doubt undervalue the technology that I rely on; but I observe that the internet which can be so splendid also divides us with fake news and hate crime and has the power to atomise human communion.

In his novel Howard’s End, E. M. Forster speaks through his main character to say, ‘Only connect’. It has two meanings, first to resolve conflicts within each person and second, and more importantly, to build personal relationships. Forster was suspicious of the idea that technological advances are always good. I remember being terrified as a youth by his short story, The Machine Stops. Patterns of digital communication are still developing. However, it was Forster’s view that the more people we know in number, the less close we might be to all. I trust that it does not apply in the case of bishops engaging with their clergy and people! However, as the late Bishop David Jenkins used to say, we may not be up to it, but God is down to it. God calls us into explicit eucharistic relationship. This cannot be replaced or reduced by a digital agape, consoling and bonding as that may be. Real presence only works in the physical reality of the very particular. That is the model by which we serve our parish communities. This is how Christ makes himself known and offers us the fruits of his sacrifice of love.

Connecting is vital to our human flourishing. Social distancing is essential for a fair time to come; but it is also heart-breaking. Part of the current crisis and world events also show us how human fracturing is growing. This is why we need the rule of law which can be developed by legitimate authority. This applies to the Church and its laws, too. I used to abhor the way that Roman Catholic seminarians were taught sacramental theology and ecclesiology through the matrix of canon law. Now I see its merits. My observation would be that teaching on the sacraments is generally woeful across the Church in whatever tradition. In other parts of the world it is no wonder that independent churches are not celebrating the Eucharist at all, and without any good reason which might be cited by Quakers or Salvationists. During these last months, only canon law has protected us from ordinations outside the Eucharist and still protects us from allowing our doctrine to be changed by the introduction of individual communion cups. Poor teaching about concomitance has done us real harm. Thankfully, it is canon law which has helped us to re-assert that the Person of Christ cannot be divided. In A Man for All Seasons, Thomas More eloquently reminds his hot-headed son-in-law that the reasonable laws of the land are like thickets which, if cut down, remove every obstacle when the devil decides to pursue us. Canon law is the sinew of the Church’s doctrine and ecclesiology which protects us and keep us whole. Sinews need to be flexed and exercised for our health and our unity. Only connect.

We are soon to resume public worship. My fellow worshippers on Zoom are looking forward to attending the Eucharist in person on 3rd December. We are missing so much and long for healing and a restoration of connection between family members and whole communities. Advent is a season of penitence and hope as we long for the coming of Christ as our Lord and Judge. We pray that Christ will be our heart again and take away the heavy stone of fear and isolation. There can be no greater connection than that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

The Right Rev’d Stephen Conway, Lord Bishop of Ely

What do we owe the dead?

Medieval Historian, Charlotte Gauthier delves into the past, through a Rowan Williams shaped lens to ask our ancestors to assist in making sense of modernity and the purpose of the prayer of the Church.

The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. (Psalm 16:6)

As a medievalist, I must admit often feeling more comfortable amongst the dead than the living. Certainly I spend more time with the former, attempting to understand from their preserved words and the records of their deeds what sort of people they were and why they did what they did.

Medieval and early modern writers believed the chief purpose of history to be moral instruction. By considering the past, students of history were expected to learn how to act virtuously in the present. Historical perspective was also seen as a necessary check and corrective to spiritual pride. The poet Thomas Hoccleve recommended the study of history as a useful antidote to heretical beliefs arising from over-indulgence in contemporary debates.

Hoccleve was right.

Rowan Williams’ book Why Study the Past? (Eerdmans: 2005) ought to be required reading for any would-be liturgical or theological innovator. Williams argues convincingly that history provides us with a deeply nourishing sense of where we have come from and how we have developed morally, and that ‘we shall emerge from the study of the past with some greater fullness of Christian maturity’. Nevertheless, Williams’ careful, cogent argument cedes a basic and fatal premise to the would-be iconoclast: he implies that we are self-evidently more moral than our ancestors by virtue of living later than them, and therefore having learnt lessons that were unavailable to them at their stage of history. This prepares the way for those who, in the name of humanitarianism or public safety, would cut us off from certain historical ways of thinking about human flourishing.

And cut us off they have. Much that was helpful and life-sustaining in our tradition has been, or is being, sacrificed on the altar of modernity for a variety of plausible-seeming reasons. The coronavirus pandemic has brought this long-standing problem into sharper focus, as we have (in some cases willingly) sacrificed our basic freedom to worship and accepted the classification of private and communal prayer as a ‘leisure activity’ ancillary to our charitable endeavours.

It is difficult to tell whether the decline in the understanding of prayer as the distinctive vocation of the Church is the cause or effect of a lack of belief in its efficacy, for the situation is self-reinforcing. Prayer can often lack the personal satisfaction of ‘doing something’ concrete and the immediate, visible effect of the work in the eyes of the world. This is a desperate irony: in response to declining belief and declining numbers, churches have turned to demonstrating ‘results’ and proving worth in purely humanitarian terms, which detracts from the distinctive nature of the Church and may perpetuate decline, or at least allow it to go unchecked.

A historical understanding of the Church’s purpose and of the means of human flourishing is a life centred on prayer. This was not just for priests and vowed religious: fifteenth-century writers like Walter Hilton wrote treatises for England’s thriving literate merchant class on how to integrate contemplative practice into the active, secular life. The Book of Common Prayer sought to support a regular pattern of devotion in the English layman. In the twentieth century, writers like Fr Martin Thornton sought to revive the ‘threefold regula’ of daily Office, regular reception of the Eucharist, and private devotion.

Our forebears understood that good works emerge from our faith and from our discharge of the duty and joy of prayer, both individually and – crucially – in community with our friends and neighbours in Christ. Surely our witness would be more efficacious if it was obvious that the food banks or homeless shelters or support groups we run were the fruits of a regular practice of prayer on behalf of ourselves and our communities, and if we trusted the Spirit to give the increase in our numbers, as He did for our forefathers. This is precisely what has not been in evidence during the first UK coronavirus lockdown, as church-run food banks were allowed to remain open as a vital service to the community, while churches themselves were closed for prayer even by a priest alone. If God is who He says He is, prayer is the more vital community service.

This lesson seems to have been partially learnt – but only partially. During the second UK lockdown, churches will be allowed to remain open for private prayer. While this will provide a lifeline to those who suffered alone and in silence during the first lockdown (including those of no faith who nevertheless sought out churches as a place of solace and found them shuttered and dark), the prohibition of communal worship cuts us off from the core of our faith – from gathering with our friends and neighbours to share in the Eucharist.

This is a crucial point about God’s action in the world. The Bible constantly refers to history, and is itself in large part a history – the history of a community. In the Office each day we reinforce our participation in the community that stretches back for millennia, remembering the promises God made to our forefathers and giving thanks for His faithfulness in keeping them. For our part, we have not been so faithful in maintaining and increasing the goodly heritage entrusted to us by the dead.

Though we too rarely consider them, the dead have most certainly considered us. Henry of Huntingdon, archdeacon of that place and one of the finest historians of the Anglo-Norman era, wrote in 1135:

‘I, who will already be dust by your time, have made mention of you in this book, so long before you are to be born, so that if – as my soul strongly desires – it shall come about that this book comes into your hands, I beg you, in the incomprehensible mercy of God, to pray for me, poor wretch. In the same way, may those who will walk with God in the fourth and fifth millennia pray and petition for you, if indeed mortal man survives so long.’

What, then, do we owe the dead? The careful, conscientious attempt to understand them and to preserve the best of what they have left us. Not, of course, to imitate exactly or to cower servilely before them – theirs is a vote, not a dictatorship – but likewise not to be too ready to throw away the freedoms and the understanding of human flourishing that they have left us. Most of all, we owe them (and ourselves) the recognition that our duty and our joy is to give lavishly of the treasures stored up for us by those who have gone before, and to store up new treasure for those who will come after.

The dead have not only much to teach us, but as the Church Triumphant in sanctorum communio with the living, they surely also have a stake in how we treat their words and their heritage – the Faith as they have passed it on to us. Before declaring the past to be dead – superseded by the bright, shiny newness of modern thought and word and deed – let us seek truly to understand and to value the gifts left to us by those who went before. Let us remember that we too will die, and may hope that our words and deeds will live after us to cheer and comfort and educate and instruct those who follow – not to be wantonly thrown away by those who refuse to consider that we may have had something good or true or beautiful to say and to leave behind us for their sakes.

He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Charlotte Gauthier is a historian whose research focuses on late-medieval conceptions of ‘Christendom’ and the effect of the crusades on church, state and society in fifteenth-century England.

Mass Education

As many churches are forced by the pandemic to reconsider their Sunday School or Children’s Church, Sam Dennis asks whether the Mass is the best place for teaching the faith.

For many of us in parishes up and down the country, a major concern will be for our children’s groups that, pre-COVID, ran alongside the Liturgy of the Word during the Parish Eucharist. In my own parish, renewing these groups in recent years has helped contribute to making our congregation more welcoming to families, and has been an area of growth.

I’m sure we are not alone in finding that the space our group has used is unsuitable for social distancing, and not all our volunteers or helpers are ready to return. At the same time, social distancing means we can’t do what we normally would during our monthly all age Mass.

During the months of lockdown, and since our muted return to public worship, I have been wondering what we can learn through this experience, and how it might inform our approach to catechesis, teaching and discipleship moving forward.

Like many churches, our ‘young church’ is led by volunteers, mainly parents, and they follow the lectionary readings. Our leaders and helpers do an excellent job – especially given that a lot of the readings contain no stories, and sometimes might seem of limited applicability to children. Yet when they return to the main congregation, you can usually tell they have had a good time, and our children enjoy showing off their work, and telling us what they’ve been learning about. The children feel at home and part of the Church.

But I do wonder how far the young churches and Sunday schools that we have run either teach our children the key stories of the Bible, or inculturate deep sacramental worship. There have been times when I’ve prepared children for their First Communion when they haven’t been able to name a parable or miracle of Jesus, let alone a story from the Hebrew Bible, and the doctrine of the Real Presence always comes as a surprise.

From time to time, on Anglican Twitter, we hear people lament the decline of biblical literacy – within as well as outside the Church, even among ordinands during training. I suspect that some of this can be attributed to the way we have approached Sunday worship, as the world changes around us. The Catholic movement within the Church of England sought to restore the centrality of the Eucharist to the life of the Church, and the Parish Communion has been one of its greatest legacies, but it has unforeseen consequences.

In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis gives some advice around the homily, which is telling. He writes how the homily should be seen as part of the Eucharist, “not so much a time for mediation and catechesis as a dialogue between God and his people… this context demands that preaching should guide the assembly, and the preacher, to a life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist.”

The Eucharist is our place for communion with God, and conversion. It is not primarily the place of teaching, or learning the story of salvation, and so many Bible stories rarely find their way into the Sunday lectionary. When I’ve asked young people and adults at Confirmation classes to put biblical stories into order, they have often struggled to. Our stories have been fragmented, even when they are half-remembered.

In the past, I suspect that this would have posed less of a problem. So many of these stories would have been taught in school, or at home, and were held by a wider Christian culture. So I don’t believe this decline can be blamed on Anglo-Catholicism, or Liberalism within the Church of England. Indeed, much of the art and imagery in our churches is testament to a lively and deep biblical imagination. Instead, I think, the fragmenting and forgetfulness of our story has more to do with how we’ve responded to the social changes of the last century.

Some of us might have been able to ignore what’s going on around us, as we look at our vibrant Sunday morning congregations. Last year, I did some research into our parish registers going back 40 years. The story they told was more complicated than a simple one of growth or decline. Over that time, with ups and downs along the way, the median number of communicants at the Parish Eucharist had increased 20%. But during the same time, Christmas communicants fell by 27%, infant baptisms by 67% and church weddings by 70%. From the more fragmentary old returns I could find there’s been a similar drop in funerals. Over that time, we’ve lost uniformed organisations, parade services and parish am-dram groups.

Many of us will have been inspired at theological college by Stanley Hauerwas’ vision of a more distinctive, less compromised Church after Christendom, and welcomed Christendom’s demise. However, we can forget how much we have relied upon its pervasive reach to communicate our sacred stories. And as Christendom crumbles, eucharistic worship has been expected to do what it was not created for – becoming the main place for Christian teaching for adults as well as children, rather than letting it be the thin place within a Christian culture where we encounter the divine, and are transformed.

Trying to fit too much into the Eucharist might also be one of the reasons our ‘Parish Communion’ Masses can take so much time, feel crowded, unbalanced or busy – as we struggle to fit in teaching, community notices and the children’s show and tell, before tea and coffee at the end!

Mindful of people’s short attention spans whilst scrolling, we’ve adapted our online content so we’ve got used to shorter online Eucharists, with shorter homilies during the lockdown. Through this time, much of our teaching has been separated from our worship – in online content that more people can access than did at our old midweek groups. Since returning to public worship, our Masses have been shorter and all age, without being ‘all age’, and our young church has gone off lectionary and online.

It’s very tempting to want to return to familiar patterns, or to feel stuck when they aren’t available to us – as if we can’t do anything until that’s possible again. Many of us are rightfully concerned by attempts to put a positive spin on this awful, disorienting time as an amazing opportunity for change or growth – especially when they seem dismissive or undermining of the traditions that root us in Christ, and the parish system that roots us in our local communities.

One of the greatest legacies of the Catholic movement within the Church of England is the spread of the Parish Communion. But, just as Jesus is not the answer to every question, so the Eucharist is not the only solution for the world we now find ourselves in. So perhaps now is also a good time for those of us who cherish the Eucharist and value its place in the heart of our worship to read the signs of the times. We are being called to find new ways to share the gospel and teach the faith – with the children who are still brought to church, the adults who still bring them, and our communities beyond.

The Rev’d Sam Dennis, Vicar of St Luke’s, Croydon Woodside

Singing a new song

Edward Dowler considers the Psalms, Augustine and anthropology, and calls for the safe restoration of congregational singing to our worshiping life.

I recently went to assist my diocesan bishop at the licensing of a new priest-in-charge in the parishes of Ore: a very deprived suburb of Hastings.  Music was played both by the organist and also through an electronic system.  But, in accordance with the current regulations, only the small church choir was allowed to sing.  Spontaneously, however, a wonderful thing happened that I expect has been replicated in churches around the country at the current time.  Although muzzled by their masks and visors, I became aware that sound was coming from the congregation: they literally could not stop themselves from echoing the tunes that were being played.  This was not some coordinated act of disobedience: they were aware of the rules and not deliberately seeking to disobey them.  But I came to realise that the song of the Christian community is literally irrepressible: it cannot be held back because God is its source and origin, and it seeks to outpour itself to God in return.  As the Psalmist expresses it:

‘He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.’ (Psalm 40.3)

Commenting on another psalm in a sermon to his congregation, St Augustine of Hippo remarks how the Psalmist’s words, Sing him a new song, sing skilfully to him in jubilation, reflects the experience of workers in the fields in rural north Africa.  They find themselves so caught up in happiness that they give vent to their deepest inner feelings in a non-verbal, or perhaps pre-verbal, song of joy: 

‘This is what acceptable singing to God means: to sing jubilantly.  But what is that?  It is to grasp the fact that what is sung in the heart cannot be articulated in words.  Think of people who sing at harvest time, or in the vineyard, or at any work that goes with a swing.  They begin by caroling their joy in words, but after a while they seem to be so full of gladness that they find words no longer adequate to express it, so they abandon distinct syllables and words, and resort to a single cry of jubilant happiness… it indicates that the heart is bringing forth what defies speech.’ (1)

As Augustine’s translator the late Sister Maria Boulding writes, ‘Iubilum (= jubilation) in classical Latin evokes rustic songs, mountain cries, whoops of joy, shepherds’ shouts’.  God has provided an irrepressible song that goes beyond what can ever be verbally articulated.

Augustine’s experience of jubilant workers in the field is fascinatingly in tune with the insights of the neuroscientist and philosopher Iain McGilchrist writing in his landmark work on the human brain The Master and his Emissary.  We naturally assume that humans first made up language so that they could communicate efficiently with one another and then, perhaps somewhat self-indulgently, invented some nice tunes to accompany their words.  But McGilchrist questions whether we have got this in the right order.  Examination of human skeletons from long before the time human language arose reveals that our ancestors had, by comparison with apes and monkeys, remarkably large thoracic vertebral canals supplying the nerves that allow control of the voice and the respiration needed for singing.  What is the explanation for this?  McGilchrist writes,

‘The most likely answer is a surprise, and requires a bit of a frame shift for most of us.  For the explanation of this sophisticated control and modulation of the production of sound, in the absence of language as we know it, has to be that it was for a sort of non-verbal language, one in which there was intonation and phrasing, but no actual words: and what is that, if not music?’ (2)

The weight of the evidence is that ‘music came first’, which is why the anthropologist Robin Dunbar, cited by McGilchrist, argues that ‘music has very ancient origins, long predating the evolution of language’.  If McGilchrist and Dunbar are right, music was thus the most fundamental form of communication: God put a song in our mouths long before we used them to speak.

Music is not a pleasant add-on, but deeply integral to our worshipping life, and indeed to our human physiology.  It has now been scientifically shown that singing in church is no more likely to cause infection than speaking, (3) especially when done from behind a mask – although the effectiveness of these is in any case debatable.  The song that God has put deeply within our hearts and within the structure of our bodies demands to be allowed to return to him in the overflowing praise of the heart.  My plea is that we should no longer be prohibited from setting it free.

The Venerable Dr Edward Dowler is Archdeacon of Hastings in the Diocese of Chichester.


1) Exposition of Psalm 32.2.8, trans. M. Boulding, Vol 1, p.401, n. 30.
2) McGilchrist, p.102.

Deschooling Theology

In a further contribution to debate on the future of theological formation, Tom Plant argues for the maximum possible decentralisation of ministerial education. He wonders whether the ideas of Ivan Illich might be of help to us in forming a radical new vision of what formation might look like liberated from church bureaucracy and academic accreditation.

Various voices have of late lambasted the poor state of theological education in the Church of England, not least on this blog. In a lecture for the Church Union, Canon Robin Ward, Principal of St Stephen’s House, is one of the few who also offers solutions. In the process, he raises the unlikely spectre of priest turned communitarian-libertarian guru Ivan Illich, author of the prescient Deschooling Society. Illich foresaw education happening not en masse, but in smaller, elective communities of mutual learning connected by something like the extensive digital communications we now enjoy, but which were technologically impossible when he wrote in the 1970s. With the unprecedented sharing of intellectual resources online during the Coronavirus lockdown, Illich’s ideas finally look feasible.

It’s time to ‘deschool’ theological education. Instead of large courses and colleges, imagine something like the mediaeval schools in which small communities of, say, twelve people live and study together with just one master, perhaps a house for duty parish priest with a strong academic background or a lay theologian. The community members need not be ordinands. They may also be candidates for lay ministry, potential Religious Studies teachers or catechists, or anyone who wants to live in a community of prayer and study for some time – something like the new Urban Abbey at St Giles, Reading.

Deschooling theological education would break its dependency on the universities: from their curricula, their politics, their term-times, and vitally, from the prestige their degrees accord. It would also challenge the paternalism of which the Church can be guilty. It would, not least, save a great deal of money.

1. A curriculum for the Church

The curriculum of an academic theology degree no longer guarantees the scriptural, philosophical, and doctrinal grounding requisite to ministerial needs or true to the historic teachings of the Church of England. On the small scale of a deschooled community, the curriculum and length of study could be tailored to the particular community, rather than being compromised by the institutional limitations of mass education and the ideological vagaries of our academic elite.

The master of the community would not be able to teach an entire theological curriculum alone, but thanks to online communications, would not need to. The communities could network to provide online lectures, and make far better use of the huge range of material already available online. Where specific tuition in practical skills like languages or music is needed, specialists would be brought in, online or in person, on an ad hoc basis according to community needs.

Community members who have knowledge to share could do so. Many ordinands complain of being “deskilled” at seminary; but why employ a Greek lecturer when one of your community members has a Classics degree, or pay someone to deliver a bereavement course when you have a practising psychotherapist living with you?

Communities would not face the cost of a large, permanent faculty and would make proper use of the gifts of their members, who could hold one another and the master to greater account.

2. A full working year of self-funded, part-time study

The thirty-week teaching year, for which one is expected to abandon employment entirely, barely suits modern 18-21 year olds, let alone anyone else. It fits around the needs of academic research rather than teaching and learning. Deschooled communities would not be limited to the university thirty-week year, since teaching could happen all year round. The teaching would take place only two or three days of each week (as it tends to even in “full time” university education), while the members would continue part-time throughout the year in their employment, secular or otherwise, and pay their own way in the community. Without the imposition of vast holidays, a far fuller curriculum could be taught, including both philosophy and theology.

This would not only save the Church money, but encourage a genuine spirit of community and mutual responsibility, far better than the current infantilisation of ordinands. They would do their own laundry, cleaning, cooking and washing up, just like most people do, but sharing tasks on rotation. They would take charge of the finances of the community, into which they would be paying as they continued to work. Even the community leader’s stipend might be paid by the members’ earnings. So communities would be self-supporting, mutually accountable and prepare ordinands for the financial operation of parishes.

3. Escaping the accreditation scam

The link of accreditation to examinations open only to those who have spent three years and thousands of pounds excludes those without the means and serves no obvious purpose to the Church beyond the social capital of her ministers. Illich would get rid of accreditation altogether, and let people be judged by their fruits. However, relying on references and word of mouth alone is prone to nepotism. The problem is not assessment per se, but making assessment the entire aim of education, and selling it as part of an exclusive package in which the assessors have a monopoly over the teaching.

One answer is to offer examinations and accreditation without prerequisites and only for the cost of marking. These might take the form of general examinations for lay readers and clergy, but given the social status still (for now) accorded to degrees, I would suggest that Lambeth offer theology degrees by examination alone.

There is much talk about inclusion in universities. The offer of degrees by examination alone would allow capable learners and teachers to thrive, regardless of their backgrounds, and would reward autodidacts. It would also break the university hegemony on teaching. This would diversify the social and racial constitution of our ministers and theologians, a far bolder move from the Church in addressing societal inequalities than our usual centralised responses.

4. Lighter weight, lower risk and cheap

Small communities would not need large, expensive colleges to live in. One of the few cases where greater centralisation might help the Church is in the delegation of its housing stock. Given the vast properties that some single clergy or couples live in, especially around cathedral closes, it should not be hard to find suitable places to host small learning communities. They could also fill the spaces in monastic communities with large properties (or their sales proceeds) and nobody to look after them.

The failure of such communities would result in closure, but at no cost to the Church, and the community members left adrift could still find other communities in which to complete their studies: no need for expensive bail-outs.

I envision small seminaries popping up in cities and around cathedral closes, networked to provide a comprehensive theological education not just to ordinands but to anyone who is willing to study hard and to contribute financially as they can. They would enrich the spiritual life of the churches, cathedrals and monasteries and the towns or villages they are based in, dispersed far more widely than just university cities. Like residential colleges, these would be spiritually grounded in a communal life of work, study and prayer; but like non-residential courses, they would develop greater self-determination and responsibility. Theological educators in the Church, lay and ordained, would be put to proper use, rather than trying to compete for the few places available in often politically charged secular theology departments. And all this can be done by cutting costs, decentralising, building personal responsibility, and developing people’s gifts.

There are proposals for a new theological institution in the North West. Our bishops could act quickly to make a trial run of these Illichian proposals for a deschooled theological education. They would need to resist their instincts which, I suspect, tend to be left-leaning, centralising and paternalistic, bolstered by an understandable fear of abuse of authority. As the Church is buffeted into mediocrity and defensiveness, it is tempting to try to grasp the rudder even harder. But now is surely the time for letting go and taking risks, especially when they could save both money and souls.

The Rev’d Thomas Plant is Chaplain of Lichfield Cathedral School and Fellow of the Cambridge Society for the Study of Platonism

Holy Useful

Barry Orford replies to an earlier article on this blog by Angela Tilby. He shares many of her concerns about theological formation. As a constructive contribution to debate he ponders two possible ways forward in renewing our seminaries. The first is the need for a rediscovery of our common liturgical tradition. The second is to wonder whether the time has come for ministerial formation increasingly to sever its links with the secular academy. 

I know I am not alone in thinking that Angela Tilby in her article ‘We don’t need no education’ has voiced powerfully the concerns of those almost frantic at the present state of the Church of England. Caution is necessary about such alarm, because our Church has been in lamentable situations before now, being almost extinguished under the Commonwealth. Nonetheless, it is particularly distressing to witness an ecclesiastical shambles of our own making, the product of institutional self-interest, managerial authoritarianism, and decisions being made without basic knowledge of our intellectual, liturgical and spiritual inheritance. Many of Angela Tilby’s points deserve articles in their own right. I wish to touch on two issues she raises.

To begin with, Canon Tilby is courageous in asserting that one feature which has long been eroding our confidence is the progressive loss of liturgies which we have in common. Indeed, the title Common Worship for our liturgical texts invites derision. However good the intentions of our liturgists, we see a chaotic worshipping environment, where even the fundamental Anglican insistence on liturgical devotion is being ditched by “Spirit-led” congregations without a murmur of episcopal censure.

Whatever the shortcomings of the Book of Common Prayer – and they were revealed starkly during the First World War, beginning the movement for liturgical reform – there was no question until now that it was a foundation document of our Church. Its rites were the property of all Anglicans, and its language formed the public and private prayer of generations, as well as instructing them in the basics of Christian doctrine. For example, Morning and Evening Prayer ensured that the Apostles’ Creed was recited daily in public worship, a regular reminder of the irreducible essentials of Christian faith. (How many of those training for ordination now are told that clergy are under a canonical obligation to recite the Office daily?) More than anything, these services were memorable.

This is not a plea for liturgical antiquarianism. Adaptations to services will inevitably be necessary, but let them be part of a firm tradition rooted in the BCP and written by those who can write well. As Charles Williams remarked, why is it that when ecclesiastical authorities need something written, they so rarely turn to anyone whose business is writing? (It must be admitted, though, that today even professional writers cannot be relied on for good style and correct grammar.)

In short, I am with Angela Tilby in believing that there is a need for us to be drawn together again by agreed liturgies which do not permit endless variations and exceptions – truly a Common Prayer.

Another issue raised by Canon Tilby is that of ordination training. It is rumoured that in the corridors of power residential training is looked on with disfavour. (Too expensive.) Non-residential courses are viewed as the way forward. We should not be dismissive about such courses because good work can be done by them, but I wonder whether a more radical view of priestly formation may now be required.

Putting it bluntly, is it time for ordination training to cut loose from the universities? Accreditation of courses by secular academic departments is costly, so ought the Church of England to consider establishing its own scheme for ordination studies? Those with long memories will say that this is a return to the era of the General Ordination Examination. (G.O.E. We must have acronyms today.) Would this be such a bad thing?

I am not proposing dumbing-down in ordination training. On the contrary, I wish to see future priests given the most rigorous instruction possible, but teaching directly applied to the vocation they are pursuing. This would include an introduction to the critical study of the scriptures and its application in preaching, as well as a thorough grounding in Christian doctrine, ancient and modern, and its role in homiletics. (It is seventy years since Dorothy L. Sayers asserted that one reason so many sermons are deadly dull is that preachers do not teach dogma. Without that, what do we have to say?) The principles of liturgy must be instilled into a generation of ordinands probably unaware of them, and too frequently unfamiliar with liturgy at all. Some guidance on the exciting challenges offered to theology by the sciences would not come amiss. Church history, especially Anglican history, must be moved to a central role. These basic elements would be accompanied by the studies in pastoralia and spirituality proper to priestly formation.

With imaginative thinking, this should not be impossible. Cost will certainly be involved, because this cannot be a fast-track road to ordination, but only one other cause has an equal claim on our money, and that is putting priests into parishes.

Canon Tilby reminds us that where the priestly life is concerned the Church of England has traditionally been in the business of forming professionals. In support of what she says, I would make Michael Ramsey’s Durham ordination charge ‘A Devout, Learned and Useful Clergy’ compulsory reading for ordinands, for those involved with the selection of ordination candidates, and those responsible for ordination studies. Its tone is of its time, but it sets a standard which is needed urgently in the Church now. A Christian community where “anything goes” in its services and in its understanding of theology, scripture and ministry must inevitably disintegrate into incoherence. The signs suggest that this is the threat which faces us.

The Rev’d Dr Barry A. Orford, Emeritus Fellow, St Cross College, Oxford

A Shot of Salvation

Peter Anthony reveals the murky racist past that lies behind the invention of individual communion cups in Nineteenth Century America and argues against their introduction in the Church of England for a number of theological and practical reasons.

Is the use of individual communion glasses to avoid the spread of COVID a good idea? A small number of voices have recently argued that these little thimble-sized cups should be allowed in the Church of England.

I want to explain in this article why this proposal is the worst possible way of dealing with the threat of COVID during worship and why it represents a worrying change in eucharistic theology which would be a significant threat to the unity of our Church. Moreover, the introduction of individual communion cups in the Nineteenth Century was closely linked with deplorable racist assumptions and is rooted in prejudice – which I for one do not wish to be associated with at all.

Theological concerns

A major problem with the proposal is the fact that it represents a substantial shift in the received eucharistic doctrine of the Church of England.

The Church of England has never in any of its formularies distanced itself from the doctrine of concomitance, which teaches that the grace of the sacrament of the Eucharist is received in its fulness even if communion is administered under only one kind. At the Reformation, the return of the chalice to the people was a significant and welcome liturgical reform but did not come at the expense of ditching the doctrine of concomitance. Common Worship liturgies for the communion of the sick make it clear, for example, that if the sick person is very weak, or encumbered somehow, communion in one kind as an exception to the rule is entirely acceptable.

The Church of England has for many years now dealt with periods of infection or epidemic by withdrawing the chalice as a temporary action. A good example would be the Swine Flu outbreak in 2009. It has always been restored when the time of emergency is over – the suspension of the common cup has only ever been a time-limited injunction. As such, it has never undermined the important Anglican liturgical tradition of the laity receiving the chalice as the norm.

The sharing of one cup also carries deep theological significance. It reveals the unity which the Christian family shares in Christ. The Eucharist draws us deeper into the mystery which is Christ’s Body, the Church. It is not just about an atomised individual’s unmediated communion with God. At the altar, we enter into the eschatological reality of our redemption by Christ through the Paschal Mystery, as we worship together with the Church in heaven and on earth.

It must be assumed, therefore, that if those advocating these changes feel it is impossible to celebrate the Eucharist without receiving the chalice, they are proposing a doctrine of the Eucharist which is different to that which the Church of England has taught until now in its formularies and liturgy. If the House of Bishops allows this proposal, it needs to enunciate what this new doctrine is.

Practical concerns 

A further problem with this new idea is quite simply one of practicality. There is no measure by which individual communion cups offer an experience of the Eucharist which is more hygienic than the present situation mandated by law, which simply involves, as a temporary measure, receiving solely the host.

One of the most important ideas undergirding the COVID worship restrictions is the principle that the less physical contact a worshipper has with others and the church building the better. The more physical contact, the higher the theoretical risk of infection. Being attentive to key sources of infection such as tiny particles of moisture on the breath is also important, as is shielding specific parts of the face, such as the mouth, which are the key places for the virus to enter the body. This is why we wear masks and keep social distance.

Using small communion glasses on the other hand increases the number of objects that are touched by more than one person during a celebration of the Eucharist. Not only that, but communion glasses come into direct contact with the communicant’s lips, one of the most susceptible places for infection to enter the body. The giving out of small glasses from a tray is exceptionally difficult to do in a COVID-safe way. All this increases the risk of contagion to those receiving communion, by comparison with receiving in one kind alone.

Individual cups are also more dangerous for whoever is responsible for cleaning them or throwing them away. Current Church of England rites mandate without exception the reverent consumption of the sacred elements after a celebration of the Eucharist. Any wine left over in individual communion cups would need to be consumed. This would expose the person cleaning them to significant risk before they even started washing them. If leftover eucharistic elements are now to be washed down a drain, the House of Bishops needs to make clear what new eucharistic doctrine makes this possible.

Individual shot glasses are in fact a classic example of an intervention that gives a dangerous sense of false hygienic reassurance. Thinking through the mechanics of how they would be used indicates pretty quickly that they have the potential to be a significant source of infection. 

Historical Concerns

In addition, the history of using individual thimbles for the Eucharist is a surprisingly murky one. It is far from clear that the modern Church should be allying itself with a practice whose origins are closely linked with racism and prejudice.

Their principal advocates were a coalition of late Nineteenth Century American Protestants who claimed to have hygienic concerns in mind at a time when germ theory was just emerging and urban epidemics amongst the industrial working classes were common. However, there is ample historical evidence that many at the time felt the real reason for their popularity was racism and social prejudice. Small communion glasses meant white congregations didn’t have to share the chalice with their black brothers and sisters.

A fascinating article by Barak Wright (also available on the PBS/NPC website WHYY as a 6-minute podcast which is really worth listening to)(1) draws attention to the research of James Buckley, the editor of an American Methodist publication in the 1890s, who had significant reservations about the introduction of individual communion glasses. He gathered evidence that their popularity stemmed from pretty uncomplicated prejudice – squeamish congregations where the middle classes didn’t want to drink from the same cup as poor immigrants, and white Christians who didn’t want to share the chalice with black Christians.

This outlook is not confined to the Nineteenth Century. Many Christians today can remember the hysteria during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s when similar arguments were made about the need for more “hygienic” communion practices. Most people looking back on that period would admit now that many of those calls stemmed from homophobia rather than concern for hygiene.

The sharing of a common eucharistic cup rather than individual glasses is a vital sign of the unity all Christians share in Christ, irrespective of background, wealth, identity, or culture.


There is very little to commend the use of individual thimble glasses at communion. It is clear their use would represent a shift in the eucharistic doctrine of the Church of England. At this time of crisis, this is the last thing we need, when a perfectly satisfactory and widely agreed way of dealing with communion under the present epidemic is available and mandated by law. Logic simply does not point to egg cup sized glasses being more hygienic than communion in one kind. Indeed, there is much to suggest that they are in fact more dangerous and increase the risk of infection. Finally, the worrying racist history of this practice should make us think twice about adopting it.

The sharing of the common cup is a crucial sign of our common identity in Christ which goes beyond race, class, gender, and sexuality. The task ahead of us is very straightforward – simply waiting patiently a few months more until this practice can be restored.

The Rev’d Dr Peter Anthony



Sitting at the Foot of Gamaliel

Using the Fathers in Catechesis

Studying the Church Fathers is dismissed by some as the preserve of the Academy, with little relevance, or suitability, for making 21st century disciples. Jonathan Bish, however, argues that, for those ‘hungry for God’, their insights are as fresh and lively as ever.

In my seven years in ministry, I have prepared nearly 30 adults for confirmation. That may not sound like many – after all, some parishes present as many candidates every year. But, in both churches I have served in, they represent a revival of yearly catechesis and confirmation services in the face of the Church’s significant decline in the north of England. And every candidate I have prepared for confirmation has read St Augustine.

Along with other catechetical tools, such as ‘mapping your life’ (1) and engaging with artistic depictions of Jesus, confirmation courses I organise include engagement with the Christian tradition, and particularly the Church Fathers. In a typical session, the confirmands explore “What the Bible says”, “What the Church of England says”, and “What a Famous Christian said” about a particular topic. The ‘Famous Christians’ have included, at various times, Origen, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas, Pseudo-Dionysius and Augustine. Modern interlopers have occasionally appeared, including C.S. Lewis, Evelyn Underhill, Pope Francis and Leonardo Boff.

Why do this? It is not to give the impression that Christianity is a religion for the well-read, the erudite or the antiquarian. Instead, we read the fathers and mothers of our faith so that we know the figures looking down on us from stained glass windows had similar experiences of God in Christ that we have begun to glimpse in prayer, the sacraments and our life story. Moreover, for us as Anglicans, the ‘Fathers and Councils’ occupy a unique place of authority. (2)

Both areas I’ve worked in have lower than average educational attainment. Our confirmands are ordinary northern lads and lasses, some of whom have had a struggle in school or college. There is a pervasive culture of talking down to those enquiring into the Christian faith, on the assumption that only simple presentations of the gospel convert. By reading the Fathers, we take back what is ours. We give those joining our congregation access to the treasures of the faith, an opportunity to make the Christian tradition their own, and a chance to join their own voices to the choir of saints.

And you know what? It actually works. Every year when we explore the existence of God, I ask our confirmands to read Genesis 1.1-5, Article I of the 39 Articles, a short section of Pseudo-Dionysius’ Divine Names where God is described as the beautiful and the good, (3) and this passage from the Confessions:

With you as my guide I entered into my innermost citadel, and was given power to 
do so because you had become my helper. I entered and with my soul’s eye such as 
it was, saw above that same eye of my soul the immutable light higher than my mind 
– not the light of every day… but a different thing, utterly different from all our kinds 
of light… It was superior because it made me.

“It’s personal to him”; “It’s true to life”; “It’s authentic”. Those are all words our candidates have used to describe Augustine’s words. It is far and above the most popular passage of those we read – though as a good medievalist, I still make a plea for Pseudo-Dionysius. Why is it Augustine is popular? Because he speaks to the end of our searching: being met by God who knows us better than we know ourselves.

I call the approach I use ‘sitting at the foot of Gamaliel (5)’. Much as Paul was educated by Gamaliel to be zealous for God and the ancestral law, and this shaped his conversion to follow Christ, so drinking deeply from the Christian tradition can give those who come to our churches the chance to integrate their existing life experience, and further develop the tradition as they pass on the faith in turn.

Are there pitfalls? Sure. I made the mistake of trying to explain allegorical interpretation of scripture once, and it fell flat. We have the familiar problem of holding on to those we confirm – although the usual Sunday attendance has grown in both churches I’ve served in. The catalogue of famous Christians I work from could be characterised as ‘male, pale and stale’ – but it behoves us to remember the lively debate over Augustine as a Romanised-Berber (6) and that the mothers of the early church are often known through the men who wrote about them. (7)

Where this approach works, it is a reminder of that great truth which Evelyn Underhill forcefully encouraged priests and Christian teachers of every generation to remember, that the Christian faith is not humanitarian, but theocentric: “God is the interesting thing about religion, and people are hungry for God.” (8) Perhaps that’s a mission statement for the Church today?

The Rev’d Jonathan Bish
Associate Priest, North Wakefield Benefice


1) A technique used in the ‘Smart’ course from ‘Leading your church into growth’
2) Canon A5
3) “Everything looks to the Beautiful and the Good as the cause of being, and there is nothing in the world without a share in the Beautiful and the Good.” Divine Names 4.7
4)  Confessions 7.10.16
5) Acts 22.36)
6) For a useful introduction to the debate and a survey of the literature on Augustine’s background which is available in an open-access form, see David E. Wilhite, “Augustine the African: Post-colonial, Postcolonial, and Post-Postcolonial Readings,” Journal of Post-Colonial Theory and Theology 5, no. 1 (July 2014): 1-34. Available:
7) To take two prominent examples, Macrina is known through her brother Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Macrina (and through her influence in his writings) and Monica is known through the Confessions. The Acts of Perpetua and Felicity is a notable exception, as it preserves an account of Perpetua’s martyrdom largely credited by the text to her own hand, as is Egeria’s Travels, a text all ordinands ought to encounter in their liturgical training!
8) A letter from Evelyn Underhill to Archbishop Lang of Canterbury. Available:

By Law Established

Vestry-Room, formerly Court of Arches, St. Mary-le-Bow. Illustration from Old England, A Pictorial Museum edited by Charles Knight (James Sangster & Co, c 1845).

Management Consultants will speak unto Hierarchs

In the wake of suggestions that ordinations should take place without a celebration of the Mass, and that the common Eucharistic cup should be replaced with individual glasses, William Davage asks how these canonical irregularities came to be proposed in the first place.

In the early days of this blog I contributed an essay ( expressing an anxiety that some with authority in the Church of England might see the pandemic and “lockdown” restrictions imposed by government, and self-imposed on churches, as a splendid opportunity to complete the protestant Reformation.

In more recent days there have been a few more straws in the wind, and sometimes evidence stronger than that, which give rise to increased suspicion and alarm. These further concerns do not merely question a Catholic understanding of the Church of England or its iteration as a Via Media between Geneva and Rome. Rather they undermine more generally an Anglican understanding of the Church of England as a Church by law established.

Recent days have revealed suspicions that at least two dioceses had been planning to hold ordinations with no celebration of the Eucharist as part of the service, a rite unknown in the authorized liturgies of the Church of England. Mercifully any such plans have been prevented. This immediately raised a few eyebrows, however, and questions such as whether or not legal advice had been taken.

Here were echoes of the advice (disguised as an instruction) to prevent priests from entering their churches to pray or to offer Mass, even alone, which was similarly lacking the buttress of legal advice. Were the lawyers not asked because the enquirers feared, or knew, the answer they would receive?

The question of legality, though, was not the first to spring to my mind. I asked, how could this policy ever have been thought of in the first place? How was it even conceivable by anyone in a position of responsibility in the Church of England? In my naivety, it did not occur to me that anyone, especially anyone in episcopal authority, with even a passing familiarity with Anglican practices, formularies, traditions, ethos, canon law, custom and practice, or the Book of Common Prayer could think it possible.

Sacraments seem to be dispensable. Legal arguments have recently been circulated in the press as part of an attempt to prove that individual cups for Holy Communion are legal. It seems that each communicant should have a small individual glass of wine. Perhaps the (presently unsaid) “Amen” should change to “Cheers”. This seems to be directed at the current COVID instructions to administer in one kind. Although I am not aware of any bishop yet voicing support for such a change, the recent track record in defence of the Sacraments is not encouraging. Why is energy being expended in the councils of the Church in an effort to promote and defend something that is clearly and demonstrably not Anglican. Is it possibly because receiving in one kind is perceived as a Roman Catholic practice?

Were the proponents of these ideas to have attended Mass at either Clifton Cathedral or the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, as I have done before “lockdown”, they may have noticed, as I did, that a large majority of communicants received in both kinds. Of course, for many years communion was, with some exceptions, limited to one kind. In the wake of Vatican II communion under both kinds could be granted as bishops thought fitting, not only to clergy and religious but to the laity. Regular provision requires episcopal authority, and bishops in many countries have given blanket authority to administer under both kinds. Modern practice in much of the English-speaking world, as in much of Europe, is to offer communion in both kinds, allowing communicants to choose whether to receive in one or both forms. Catholic teaching is that Christ is sacramentally present under each species, equally and fully. Nothing of his sacramental presence is lacking in either species.

Behind all this lies something profoundly disturbing. So lacking is the episcopate in understanding of its duty to guard and teach the Catholic Faith as received by the Church of England, so enfeebled its grasp of its prophetic office, that it has turned to recruiting advisors from beyond the confessional boundaries. These management consultants frequently possess neither knowledge of, nor concern for, our Anglican heritage. Their language is not rooted in the Prayer Book, nor in the King James Bible, the Revised Standard, New English, or Jerusalem Bibles. It is the language of management speak, of outcomes, targets, strategies, structures, focus groups, team-building. It embraces a transient trend, already dated and jaded, rather than eternal verities that speak heart to heart, soul to soul.

The disillusion with our leadership from Anglicans of every hue is almost palpable. How is confidence to be restored, unless we encourage the advancement to the episcopate of those who are not only learned in our Anglican heritage, but who also demonstrate commitment to a spirituality rooted in prayer and sacrament, and not in corporate management?

The Rev’d William Davage

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