Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Women Bishops

Initially I was surprised to see that I had neglected this blog for so many months but this lack of posts is symbolic of my lack of progress on the "faith situation". I've been in a bit of limbo and slipped back into atheism. I have started to feel inauthentic and stopped describing myself as a "Christian".

I've been trying to make sense of the "Women Bishops" vote. If God exists and he has a plan then what was the purpose behind what happened?

It's trying to find answers to questions such as this which leads me to love unintended consequences. If you want to read more about that then try www.freakanomics.com.

It occurs to me that one unintended consequence of the failed vote is that everyone is talking about the Anglican Church and getting really passionately vocal (for and against), including me. My outrage at the vote has, curiously, drawn me back towards faith.

Last week my friend said "It makes me SO angry that I want to become a woman bishop, and I'm an atheist".

I replied that when looking at the New Testament, Jesus was very much ahead of his time in how he treated women and put women to the fore. I spoke about  the story of Mary and Martha. My friend stopped me and said "You talk about Jesus like he was a real person". I said "He was!". My certainty surprised me. Those words have stayed with me for a week now, like a coat I can't, or don't want to take off. I am now struggling to understand what it is that I don't believe in. I believe that Jesus was a real person who did what he said he did. Surely that counts as a mustard seed of faith?

It has been so exciting to see my twitter timeline awash with tweets examining the meaning of the bible. Quite often I am reading some amazingly insightful comments from non-Christians. 

I've copied below a few tweets that struck a chord with me. Caitlin Moran, writing in The Times, summed it up nicely saying that it's like being able to be an MP but not the PM or work for NASA but not go into space.

So so sad. Just voted for another 8 years of arguing with each other while the world watches with incomprehension. Don't give up on Church.

The Queen should do an episode of undercover boss where she tries to get a job as a Bishop in that Church Of England she's in charge of.

It was once rumoured that from the top of Canterbury Cathedral, on a clear day, it was almost possible to see the 21st Century.

As it is, many people, atheist or not, have gained an understanding of the workings of the church. I had never heard of the "House of Leity". People have had access to scripture and discussed scripture. How extraordinary that the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:13 is being discussed on twitter.

I'm using the English Standard Version below but it is worth checking out other translations.

"But I want you to understand that the head of every man in Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God".

I have to say that I'm with the Bishop of Liverpool, who in his speech in favour of Women Bishops explained that Christ is not less than God and therefore a woman is not less than a man. So the meaning of this paragraph seems to hinge on the meaning of "headship". 
Those against women bishops just lift out the middle bit "the head of a wife is her husband".
Whereas the Bishop of Liverpool says "God is the head of Christ” can't mean Christ is subordinate to God or a less authority than God because that would be denying the full divinity of Jesus.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams sums up how many people (not just clergy) are feeling "There will be people feeling profoundly vulnerable, unwanted and unsure".
I cannot understand the line of thought of our Dean, in saying that he voted against to prevent a schism in the church.
Surely both positions cannot be correct. One group is right in the eyes of God and one group is wrong. Those who have, I imagine, studied scripture most closely must be the Bishops so I would take their lead.
I cannot think of a worse position than being a Woman Bishop, who is told by a church "You are not wanted. We want a man". I cannot imagine how awful that would feel. It would seem to me that, the very fact that a church wants a man, is the very reason they should have to have a woman, because whilst I can understand that some people may genuinely feel it is a faith based issue, my gut feeling is that there is a larger group who unthinkingly wish things to remain as they have always been. 
Wouldn't "stand-in" Bishops be colluding with those who are against?
Just imagine that this wasn't about "women" but about colour. The words could not even be thought or written down as it would be met with utter outrage but is it really any different?
I believe the church should make a decision one way or another and some will stay and some will leave. Both positions cannot be right.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Gay Marriage

I don't know why it's called "gay marriage". Why don't people just call it "marriage" because that's what it is.

"Our strong advice to anyone who disagrees with same-sex marriage is not to get married to someone of the same sex" says  Ben Summerskill of Stonewall.

God gave us free-will so why is the church trying to curtail people's free will to marry as they wish?

What happened to live and let live? 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Passionate about debt relief

I'm making a small departure from my usual format because I want to share an amazing organisation that I have had the honour of becoming involved with. CAP Money provides amazing resources that helps people sort out their finances.

Since watching a video and hearing a speaker at church a couple of years ago I became motivated to train to be a CAP Money Coach and now run courses in Jersey with two colleagues (one of whom is my inspirational vicar Rev. Martyn Shea).

Whatever your situation, whether you just want to do a financial health-check, or a financial spring-clean or perhaps you are ready to face up to the financial challenge of debt - then CAP is there to help. The beauty of this is that no one need to know or can guess why anyone else is on the course - confidentiality is guaranteed.

The course has three one-hour sessions which we run at times to suit people's needs. The first course we ran was in the early evening. The most recent one started at 12noon and we offered lunch, enabling workers to come during their lunch breaks. The format is simple - there's a short introduction, a stimulating video and then a workbook.

CAP operates a really simple cash based system using three bank accounts - regular payments, savings and cash. Even if those in debt we still encourage a small amount of saving.

In the UK there is CAP Money plus which is staffed by people highly experienced in dealing with the most serious end of debt e.g repossessions, mortgages, bank loans and worse. Any lawyers reading this, please can I encourage you to send clients with financial problems in the direction of your local CAP Money Centre.

One person who recently completed the course said that he had received help elsewhere but doing CAP was the first time that he felt hope.

Another person who has completed the course has been so emboldened by their success at organising their finances that they are now feeling confident enough to tackle other challenges in their life. 

I hope you will find time to click on the link above and watch some of the video clips. CAP is a most extraordinary organisation providing practical help to people in need.

Perhaps you will be inspired to do the course or train as a CAP Money Coach.

As an aside - 

I have spoken about God-Incidences in the past. One of the motivating factors in doing the training was a desire to do something practical in honour of my dear friend who committed suicide two years ago and died on 23rd February. The God-Incidence - when I signed up for the training it was on my friend's birthday. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

More God-incidences

A twitter friend has sent me some bible verses. They feel like the most awesome gift. A gift from God? There's a recurring theme of God-incidences here. The timing is, as often, impeccable. At the precise moment last night that I was feeling really low - a combination of factors including a sick child throwing up all night and then a gift of bible verse. This, I imagine, is how the lady felt when the Milk Tray man delivered the chocolates.

Deuteronomy 1:29-33
New International Version (NIV)
29 Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. 30 The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the wilderness. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”
32 In spite of this, you did not trust in the LORD your God, 33 who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.

Revelation 3:20
New International Version (NIV)
20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Luke 11:9-10
New International Version (NIV)
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Matthew 14:22-33
New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Walks on the Water
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.