Monday, 16 June 2008

For once in my life I agree with a Bishop!

Yeah, you read it right the first time!

The Bishop of Edinburgh gave an absolutely superb talk on how he's approaching the Lambeth Conference at St John's Princes Street tonight (Monday). It was the best bit of theology I've heard from a Bishop since I heard David Jenkins give the Charles Gore Lecture in Westminster Abbey in 1991. And it was the best reflection on the Trinity I've heard since the late, great James Bruce Torrance taught me at Aberdeen University in the 1980's.

His analysis of the current crisis was original, acute and incisive. He highlighted the difference between Provinces like the SEC where theological diversity is both a necessity and a virtue and the Provinces of the Global South which tend to be the product of missionary organisations. They imparted a monochrome Anglican theology from one part of the ecclesiastical spectrum to their converts and stressed the necessity of singing from the same hymn sheet as the norm to enable effective evangelism in an often and even still hostile context. Philosophically he challenged the idea that the debate is a clash between right and wrong world views, because if you hold God to be transcendent, then he is beyond our powers of ethical description and the current debates are a clash between different Goods, equally valid but different. He used a rather neat line from Isaiah Berlin to challenge both the conservative and radical groupings: "Happy are they who rest secure in unchallenged dogma - they are comfortable in their self-inflicted myopia". Brilliant!

I wasn't so taken with his analysis of different legal systems, but his reflection that the economy of the Trinity is not just an interchange of perfect love, but also a wrestling in intercession between the 3 persons as shown in the Garden of Gethsemane was simply superb. Disagreement, conflict and painful struggle is part of the Trinitarian nature of the Church and to opt out of that into a conservative holy huddle or a liberal glee club is to turn your back on God and fail to follow the Commandment not to take the Lord's name in vain - that was a stunning challenge to all engaged in debate at this time.

I was so impressed that I told him so - publicly - which is so not my usual style. I urged him to put the lecture on the Diocesan website because this challenge needs to be heard by more than the 60 or old Piskies in St John's tonight. 600 bishops need to hear it too! He agreed to do something with the website. It should be online in the next few days. Read it when it appears -it is seriously good, thought provoking stuff.


  1. That sounds worth following up. I hope he does post it. I used to feel envious of those who were so firm in their belief of dogma that they didn't feel the need to challenge it. Now I think - how boring!

  2. No there so far, I think - I'll keep an eye on my feed reader. Is it the case that only 8 subscribe to the website, or is that just the number of Bloglines-users?

  3. No it's just a new website!