Tag Archives: John Gladwin

Service to celebrate 25th Anniversary of Jane Fraser’s ordination

Upton on Severn, June 22nd 2014

Sermon by the Rt Revd John Gladwin 

So Ruth went down to the threshing floor and did just what her mother-in-law had instructed her. When Boaz had eaten and drunk, and he was in a contented mood, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain. Then she came stealthily and uncovered his feet and lay down. At midnight the man was startled and turned over, and there, lying at his feet, was a woman.

Continue reading Service to celebrate 25th Anniversary of Jane Fraser’s ordination

CSCS News, Autumn 2014: Editorial & Contents Guide

Editorial

Anthony Woollard

Shortly after CSCS’ highly successful Embodied Ministry conference at Cuddesdon in July, our sister organisation Modern Church (www.modernchurch.org.uk) held its own conference on Liberal Spirituality.  Unsurprisingly, there was some read-across – certainly in the dramatis personae, with Martyn Percy facilitating both conferences, Emma Percy making a most significant contribution to both (including, at the latter, a memorable talk on breastfeeding as a model of spirituality and ministry), and yet more wise words from Carla Grosch-Miller.  But for me one of the less expected links was the showing of an unusual Swedish film called As it is in Heaven.  It showed how an ailing professional musician took a backwoods church choir to international fame, at the cost of his own life.  There were quite a few (not very explicit) sexual awakenings in the film, including that of a pastor and his wife who came to be confronted by the role of Law in their own lives and the need to rediscover Love.  But it was the moment of the conductor’s death which moved me greatly; as he lay stricken by his fatal heart attack, having just impregnated the girl who loved him, he listened to his choir bringing an international audience to their feet – and died with a smile on his face. Continue reading CSCS News, Autumn 2014: Editorial & Contents Guide

Sexuality and the Church

John Gladwin

‘I have learnt to watch my back when there are Bishops around’. That came from the lips of an outstanding priest who is in a Civil Partnership. Whatever our view about the issues raised by same sex partnerships in our time the remark is disturbing. Sadly, it is not the first such remark that has come my way over recent years. The fear and anxiety which these comments reveal is shared by the church’s leadership who similarly and paradoxically do not know what to do and how to respond. In an atmosphere of mutual anxiety pastoral care disappears and a distance is created where there ought to be deepening bonds of love and support.

Yet among the community of the baptised there is much to celebrate. I have listened to lay people in churches with a strong conservative tradition speak in the same breath of their own spiritual awakening and of their support and affection for gay members of their family and circle of friends. ‘We have learnt more about what love really means from James and Phil than from many of the married couples within our circle of friends’. So in the day to day experience of Christian women and men we find a desire and capacity to recognise goodness when it stares you in the face. The leadership of all our churches needs to work hard to develop that relaxed and appreciative attitude towards sisters and brothers whose life experience may be different from their own or even from what they might consider to be appropriate.

Providing space for the other and creating a culture of respect for the integrity and for the conscience of others is basic to a wholesome and mature community and so for the life of the Christian church. Both inside and outside the church our culture is making huge strides in this direction. Studies, for example, in the USA reveal that the cultural attitudes of people under 45 and even more so people under 25 are completely bypassing the inherited attitudes of the conservative Bible belt churches. Whatever is held in the pulpit as ‘Christian’ for our culture is not believed in the pews by the emerging generation of Christians let alone others.

In our own society this goes hand in hand with a commitment to human rights and to a proper respect for human equality across the diversity of contemporary social experience. People are much less willing to accept discriminatory attitudes and practices than was the case 15 or 20 years ago. So when the churches appear to want to distance themselves from the provisions which protect against discrimination they distance themselves from the expectations of a growing generation of people today. People hear the stories of the poor treatment of gay and lesbian friends in some religious contexts and come to the conclusion that this is all about institutional protection and unwillingness to help this generation find help and support in living out a faithful Christian commitment.

The basic challenge is not theological – we have learnt to live with plurality of life within the Gospel community – it is attitudinal. When we look positively upon one another across the rich diversity of human experience we will be able to find the language of faith to interpret the tradition in our own time and for people today.

Watching our backs when the Bishop is around is not a happy picture of how church is received by those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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A Dialogue between the Churches on Sexuality Issues – An Anglican Approach

The Rt. Revd. John Gladwin

A personal disclaimer – what I say should not be taken as necessarily representing Anglicanism! I am an Anglican and what I say I believe to be in that tradition – but many Anglicans may come at these matters very differently – a matter which I consider to be a strength in church life.

Anglican conversations about sex, its meaning and purpose in human life, spin round our traditions on marriage. In a variety of ways Anglicans enter this field from this entrance point. Since liturgy plays an important role in shaping our doctrine and attitudes, the changing shape of the liturgies of marriage play an important role in this.  Anglicans would be heard saying the following sort of things:

  • Marriage is a gift God gave to humanity in creation.
  • Marriage is a covenant of love and commitment between a man and a woman.
  • Marriage is a sacrament or is sacramental in type – a means through which God’s grace may be experienced in our lives.

The character of the gift.

  • Universal – for all and to be a blessing for the world, including those who do not formally enter into marriage.
  • It is an exclusive bond – joining of the couple in union is the bodily sign of the love that brings them together. Sex, commitment and love are to be held together.
  • It is the context within which God wills the creation of new life in children.

Marriage is not a civil arrangement, nor a service in church.

In regard to the morality of sexual behaviour these understandings would resist two ways of creating a division between sexual behaviour and the relationship between the people. There is the obvious one that sex for self gratification irrespective of whether there is any relationship is sinful – fornication. There is the less obvious one of the suggestion that where there is love, anything goes. So Anglicans have, from a variety of frameworks of moral endeavour, always taken an interest in the morality of the act as well as the quality of the relationship.

The sexual bond and act is of itself a profound good – part of the gift of life God has given in our creation as human beings. So that long cultural history of experiencing sex as sinful in itself and dirty has no place in serious Anglican theology – from the Prayer Book onwards!

In attending to these questions of both relationship and praxis, Anglicans always hold to the essential authority of the church in the Bible, interpreted down the centuries in the teaching of the church and qualified by reason – which some would say includes experience.

We may not hold as true, things which are manifestly against the doctrine of Scripture.

When tackling the complex issues facing us today – not just the personal and pastoral needs of same sex couples, but cohabitation, the forms of marriage in society where many are reticent about making such commitments and the impact on behaviour of safe contraceptive protection, the HIV/Aids crisis and of the wider cultural mores which are manifestly changing – Anglicans can look back on a history of development and even change in their judgements.

The obvious ones

  • Contraception and family planning
  • Divorce and remarriage
  • Contemporary techniques in human fertilisation, family reconstruction and so on.

So we are always having to reshape how we speak about these issues – finding new directions in Scripture and in the understanding of our traditions.

What I think is remarkable at present is the shift in thinking about the needs of same sex couples. From an age of deep ambivalence about marriage, we now have same sex couples seeking stability, recognition and human rights in parallel to marriage.

Is this compromising our doctrine of marriage or is it strengthening it?

That is unfinished business for us.

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CSCS NEWS 29 Spring 2006: Editorial

Anthony Woollard

Fundamental to our sexuality is the orgasmic experience: the petit mort, a kind of death, a loss of the Self in the Other or a fusion of Self and Other. Many would say that something a little like this is also at the heart of the religious experience. In both cases the concept can be and often is misused, as a means of exploitation or a flight from responsibility. But its place cannot be denied. “He (she) must increase, and I must decrease” is a challenge at the heart of both faith and sexuality.

For that reason, it might be expected that Christian organisations would be happy to accept diminution and demise when their work was done. Alas, it is not always so. But one of the topics at our Annual General Meeting was whether CSCS has now fulfilled its mission and should quietly leave the ground to others.

It will be clear from the discussion reported below in the Minutes of that meeting that we are by no means sure that our mission is yet redundant. And much in the Annual Conference that preceded the AGM appeared to confirm that CSCS, or something very like it, is still direly needed.

The theme this year was “The Sexuality Debate in Ecumenical Perspective”. It was presented in dialogue between one of our Patrons, John Gladwin, Anglican Bishop of Chelmsford; our Matron, Roberta Rominger of the United Reformed Church; and (in the unavoidable absence of our Methodist Patron David Gamble) John Simmonds, a Methodist minister from Leek in Staffordshire. All their presentations are summarised below. The Roman Catholic Church was noticeably absent from the platform though not from the floor.

John Gladwin has contributed to our thinking in the past, most recently indeed in the last issue of this newsletter. On this occasion, to my slight personal surprise, he decided to start from Anglican formularies rather than from the postmodern thinking which has characterised his previous inputs. He demonstrated that the Anglican tradition, whilst exalting the normativeness of marriage, has been by no means unaware of wider debates on sexuality or inflexible in its responses to them. It was good for us that he did start from tradition, for many of us perhaps find it too easy to start from experience. Yet I could not help feeling that, if and insofar as this was where my Church started from, it might be missing out on some contemporary perspectives. Where, apart from a few luminaries like Adrian Thatcher (and from a different perspective Jim Cotter), is the Anglican theology of sexuality which is truly for today?

The other two contributors, though more experiential in approach, also started from the positions in their own churches, and that was a salutary experience. Anglicans, and for that matter Roman Catholics, tend to be so obsessed with their internal debates – mainly on gay clergy – that they imagine such issues in other churches are all over bar the shouting. Rather, it seems, amongst both URC and Methodists, they have been largely swept under the carpet. Yes, there are some openly gay clergy, and there are congregations which affirm a generous approach to issues of sexuality generally; but there is also considerable reluctance to grapple openly with the issues, and some very substantial pockets of conservative resistance. The Methodist Church’s remarkable Resolution Six from their 1993 Conference, which John Simmonds quotes, is rather better, one might think, than some Lambeth Conference statements or those emanating from the Vatican (at least under the previous regime) – yet it is by no means universally honoured. Individual congregations can and do reject gay ministerial candidates, and those seeking higher office have been blocked. There is some evidence of a willingness, for example in the Methodist women’s organisation (particularly the Autumn 2005 edition of its journal Magnet), to debate the fundamental issues about the nature of sexuality and its relationship with faith, in a way which might not be possible in some other churches; but this is highly controversial. In both churches there is still a fear of “frightening the horses”, and probably a majority who oppose both the conservative and the liberal positions and wish the issues would go away. There has been real progress in both, perhaps especially within Methodism (due to its historic emphasis on experience?), but very little evidence that the debate has been fully embedded and that church members in generally would endorse the openness which is at the heart of CSCS’ mission statement. As John Simmonds put it, few local churches have yet come out of the closet.

So, are we still needed? As will be clear from the Minutes, the jury is out. Our effective survival will depend on our ability to hold existing members, and gain new ones, through the new subscription structure which allows for a fairly nominal subscription from those who do not wish to receive our learned journal. That in turn may depend on the impact of our joint summer conference with the Modern Churchpeople’s Union and the Student Christian Movement – there are still a few places left! – and of our updated website, which ALL members are asked to look at and comment on to the Chair.

In fact the future of CSCS now depends on YOUR response as never before.

 

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