St Luke's Church, Eccleshill, Bradford, UK
Bringing the good news of Jesus to the people of Eccleshill.
This page is (roughly) a copy of the vicar's election address which is being sent to all the clergy electors in the Bradford Diocese. The formatting won't be exactly the same, as it depends on the settings on your browser, and the second page of the original (below the horizontal line) was set out in columns with the first part in very small print - so I thought it was better to abandon that formatting here.
If you want to know more about me and my views, why not try reading some parish magazine articles on the St Luke's church web site at www.stluke-eccleshill.org.uk, or e-mailing me a question (address above).
You'd need the gift of prophecy (which I haven't got) to forecast all the things General Synod might debate during the next five years. But here are some likely topics and my thoughts on them:
Mission. The Church will attempt to become more "mission-shaped" as we try to spread the Gospel. I think this is a good thing, provided we take care to preserve the good bits of what we already have. I'm in favour of moves to reduce regulations when it comes to planting new churches and winding up old ones.
Liturgy. Anglican worship is OK for those who like that kind of thing, but our present books and forms of service aren't really very accessible to children, the working classes, those with reading difficulties, those with flairs for drama and creativity, and those who prefer less formality. In Canada the Anglican Church has become the "liturgical option" for Christians who like that kind of thing. The C of E is in danger of becoming the same here!
There are always liturgical matters up for debate, and I want to make sure that our words reflect biblical doctrine while being more accessible to those who don't itch where we scratch. So, for instance, I'll be in favour of a better Eucharistic Prayer when children are present, and further moves to allow sensible collects. What I really want to see is more sharing of good resources so all churches can benefit from the creativity of the few. (I guess that's why I inflict songs on you!)
Ecumenism. It's a scandal that our churches are so divided, but the route to harmony is by accepting others as brothers and sisters in Christ, and not by insisting that 'they' be more like 'us'. I spoke against the most recent "In the Spirit of the Covenant" report (on Anglican / Methodist relations) because it held out a model of each church having to become more acceptable to the other, instead of a model of us accepting each other as we are now. It also had a very exclusive high-church doctrine of what the Eucharist was all about. I want to see us work more collaboratively and stop highlighting these sorts of difficulties. The bible alone should be the benchmark of what we accept as 'Christian'.
Children and communion. We all agree it's a scandal that our children can't receive at Christmas midnight when all the once-a-year communicants are welcome at the rail. Giving our children the bread and wine has to be an improvement on this, and the bible certainly doesn't say who can and can't receive.
However we are now at risk of admitting people to communion without ever challenging them with a public confirmation. What will happen when they become the once-a-year midnighters at Christmas?
In 2006 this issue will definitely be back on the agenda, with moves to enshrine our present practice in legislation. I want to continue admitting children to communion, but to make sure that we don't kill confirmation by neglect.
Women bishops. I'm in favour, because I think the NT passages about God's gifting take precedence over the ones limiting women (which I think were cultural and not gospel). But the real question is what provision will be put in place for those who aren't? I don't want a "third province", and I don't want yet more of the "institutionalised schism" which we have at the moment. I'd rather we tried to take down the present no-go regulations, perhaps by time-limiting and phasing them out.
In July I voted for two amendments which would have required a proper theological debate before a decision. They were both lost. But I think the present injustice to women is worse than possible future schism, so when push comes to shove, I will vote for women bishops without further delay.
Clergy lifestyles. I think scripture permits either celibacy or sex within heterosexual marriage. Those who live by these options deserve the church's support and blessing, including ordination and consecration, whatever their sexual orientation. (So I agree with the "Issues" and "Some Issues" reports.) But those who don't, don't.
We are all sinners, and I don't think all clergy will necessarily tell their bishops the truth on these matters. So I think the bishops' recent response to "civil partnerships" (allowing clergy to enter these if they assured their bishops that their relationship with a same-sex friend was non-physical) was wrong. Clergy need to be seen to act rightly, as well as to act rightly. As I said in another debate: in God we trust, but everyone else we audit.
I await the American church's responses to the Eames questions, and I hope for reconciliation; but I must admit I still can't see how eventual schism can be avoided.
Environmental, ethical and social issues. These are debated regularly by Synod - the motions always get carried almost unanimously; but one has to ask what was the point, when little seems to change as a result. They have been described as "motherhood and apply pie" debates - everyone is in favour of the motion, but so what? Overall I wish we didn't have so many motions which are designed to send messages: I would rather Synod concentrated on finding ways to make a real difference instead of just talking.
Etcetera ... . There are vast amounts of paper produced before synod meetings, and I am somewhat surprised at myself for finding the energy to read most of it - I guess that's why I believe I'm gifted for this sort of job. But at the end of the day, I believe detail is important in seeing the kingdom of God come with power, and that's partly why I think Synod needs minds like mine on it!
I must admit that I wasn't sure of the wisdom of writing a second page for this "election address", and if you've managed to get through all of the above you deserve congratulations. So let's finish with something lighter:
What the critics say:
Q. Isn't he too blunt?
Q. What's this Darth Vadar bit in the paper?
Q. Does he speak in meetings?
Q. What about his clapped-out car?
Q. How would I know what he thinks about things?
Q. Will he be preferred?
Q. Is it true his wife goes to a different church?
Q. Will he stay in the diocese?
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This web page was last updated on 13th September 2005.