The C of E Brexit allegation

Cathy Newman’s rather unsatisfactory interview with Justin Welby on Friday early on repeated the not-entirely true “Pollsters say the majority of Anglican churchgoers voted to leave.”

The polling data from the British Election Study (BES) might more carefully be described as saying: those who identified in a poll as Church of England/Anglican/Episcopalian voted 60% to 40% to leave. Figures from British Religion in Numbers, whose graph I reproduce below.

I am not entirely sure these two statements are the same thing.

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A Tanzanian Gallery

I’ve been having a fairly ruthless sort and cull of the photos I brought back from my recent visit to Tanzania – to our partners and friends in the diocese of Morogoro. Here are some of my favourites. I hope you enjoy them too. (Click on any image to enlarge and enter the gallery at that point.)

Bracketing out the sermon?

I find myself increasingly of the opinion that the sign of the cross is a bad way to begin a sermon, and ever more dubious whether a prayer before preaching is much better. I mean this most specifically in the context of the eucharist, and I suppose I’d better say why.

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Candlemas musings

I’ve been pondering a few random thoughts on my way towards a sermon for Sunday.

The Presentation, Fra Angelico 1433-34
Tempera on wood, Museo Diocesano, Cortona

Luke includes three episodes in the life of young Jesus: circumcision, presentation and holding a seminar in the temple at the age of twelve. The first two get a festival, the last gets no liturgical commemoration. Why?

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Brother or believer?

Overall, I like the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. It often combines freshness of language with the King James tradition, and generally does a good job of gender inclusive language about people. But in morning prayer this morning I found myself questioning its gender inclusive choice.

The bema at Corinth – where law cases could be heard
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That’s more like an apology

Last week I outlined the sorts of thing that I don’t think work as arguments for or defences of Christian faith. Today I want to look at some of the things I hold to be more helpful.

Francis Spufford, writer of the excellent Unapologetic (photo credit: James Atkinson)

First, there are those positive accounts people give of why they believe what they believe, and how it makes sense to them. Francis Spufford’s 2012 book Unapologetic is one of the best of these to have been published recently. That doesn’t mean everyone will like it, or that all readers will find it persuasive. It does mean it comes across honestly, personally and thoughtfully, and shows how Spufford sets out the case for what he believes is a reasoned and reasonable response to reality, which also offers wisdom for living in and with that reality.

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Would I call that an apology?

I have been known to use the word “apologetic” (an adjective normally describing works that defend the Christian faith) as an insult. Sometimes, in a piece of academic work, the argument is remarkably unconvincing to anyone who doesn’t share the writer’s presuppositions. To anyone else it looks like, at best, special pleading. Instead of a work of scholarship investigating, say, the early history of the gospels, it comes across as a work of apologetic, trying to make a case that the writer’s view is defensible, but only able to persuade those who already hold that viewpoint.

C. S. Lewis, still the most widely read apologist, over 50 years after his death.

Such writers do have their counterparts on the other side of the argument. I also find myself reading people who, rather than offering a scholarly investigation (again as an example) into the early history of the gospels, seem more keen to construct or stress interpretations of the evidence that are incompatible with traditional Christian faith, than to give a good historical accounting of the complex detail.

(I should add a plug here for History for Atheists, a blog by Tim O’Neill – himself an atheist – doing his best to keep atheist readings of history and Christianity honest.)

Those are not the apologetics I’m looking for.

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Epiphany, not really a season?

As I watched the people after Mass at the church I was visiting carefully putting Christmas back into boxes for a year, I thought to myself, “Liturgists 0, Culture 1.”

Common Worship enforced an Epiphany season on the Church of England, prolonging Christmas well past Twelfth Night, into the beginning of February. Older calendars brought Christmas to a close with the day of Epiphany.

Detail from Fra Angelico’s Adoration of the Magi

I suppose one way to see it is an argument over whether to follow Matthew’s gospel prologue, or Luke’s. Matthew brings his infancy narrative to a close with the visit of the wise men, the massacre of the innocents, and the holy family’s asylum-seeking escape into Egypt. Luke brings the infancy narrative to a close with the 40-days-after-birth ceremony of purification prescribed in Jewish law (although he concludes his prologue with an additional story around the time Jesus might have had whatever passed for bar mitzvah in the first century).

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On Christian humanism

In returning to blogging, I’ve chosen to promote the strapline of a previous blog to be the title of this one: Musings of a Christian humanist. One or two people have asked me what I mean by this. I thought it would be worth a post outlining some of the thoughts that inform my choice. I will also copy the main contents of this post into the About page.

Hans Holbein’s portrait of Erasmus, the great early modern Christian humanist (detail)
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My photo portfolio

The second online thing I decided to do for this year was to make use of the portfolio option included in my Adobe plan.

Feet on staircase – Apple Store, Covent Garden

This is one of the images I’ve included in my black and white gallery. So far I’ve added four galleries, and you can access the portfolio here.