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Editorial 20232023-11-30T16:55:32+00:00

Editorial 2023

Expect the unexpected

In his New Year Editorial the Rev'd Dr.Nicholas Henderson writes: Bethlehem closed down for Christmas, Ukraine brings the season forward from 7th January to 25th December and hardly anything left standing in Gaza. Political will to resolve what is becoming a very uncertain New Year appears to be weakening. Christ was born in a time of autocratic rule, in an occupied country. According to the narrative his birth was followed by a massacre and a refugee flight into Egypt. It does seem a case of plus ça change. After all we have been appealing to God for generations in our prayers for peace, which have either been unanswered or more likely subjected to human fallibility and misuse of the freedom of will that we have failed to exercise responsibly. The last editorial on this site appealed for a ceasefire in Gaza at a time when the idea was politically unpopular. Now, an overwhelming number of countries support the idea but it has been vetoed, largely by the United States. Should the coming end of year presidential election in that country produce a narrow win or a challenged result, the previous beacon of Western democracy could well descend into a dangerous fractious dispute exacerbated by the constitutional Second Amendment’s ‘right to bear arms’ with a veritable arsenal of military grade weapons to hand. .....

Editorial: Call a ceasefire!

The Editor, The Rev'd Dr. Nicholas Henderson writes: The long war in Ukraine has been put quietly to one side by the press, public media and politicians even though a relentless battle continues. That conflict precipitated by a much larger country invading a smaller has become a stalemate war of attrition and gone off the front pages. Ukraine has been eclipsed by the new conflict started by the horrendous and brutal attack by Hamas into Israel with the death of over 1400 innocent civilians, old and young and the taking of over 200 hostages. In turn it is hardly necessary to rehearse the consequent intense reprisals that have seen ceaseless bombing and military incursion into Gaza (often described as the largest open-air prison in the world) by Israel as it executes its intention to destroy Hamas. This brutal saga will likely continue until the various Western nations, principally the United States with, amongst others, the U.K. on its coat tails, decide it must stop ... if they are not too late by then. ...

Editorial: The next forty years and the end of mainstream Christianity?

The Editor, the Rev'd Dr. Nicholas Henderson writes: According to an article recently published in the U.K. Church Times an analysis of R-number modelling, as used during the Covid crisis, which calculates the growth or contraction rates of events and institutions, has given the Church of England a “reproduction potential” R number of 0.9. In short this means that at current rate of decline the Church will cease to exist in 2062. The C of E isn’t alone in this, the Church in Wales the Methodist Church and the Roman Catholics are also heading for oblivion. Only Baptist churches, Pentecostalist and other Evangelical churches are apparently bucking the trend … to a degree. All over the Western World a similar analysis can be applied to what might be called traditional churches. For example, the Episcopal Church in the United States, along with other major denominations, is currently having a crisis of candidates for ordination. Of course, the so-called developing nations have an entirely different growth narrative as the gravitational centre of the Christian Faith shifts south. ... Nevertheless, it might be worthwhile looking ahead to the next forty years or so to speculate what might be the ongoing challenges to us and the next two generations? This is about as far into the future as it is realistic to contemplate without writing dystopian science fiction. ...

The rise and rise of autocracy

The Editor - The Rev'd Dr. Nicholas Henderson writes: Democracy is the de jure status of the world with only Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Brunei, Afghanistan and the Vatican not claiming that system. The question must therefore arise as to what democracy really is? Increasingly, with a tightening of centralised state control, bringing the judiciary under governmental oversight and electoral manipulation, democracy appears more like a veneer of legitimisation for what are otherwise autocracies. We might initially cite as examples former communist states such as China or Russia but more worrying are countries such as Turkey, or even in the European Union, Hungary and Poland where the drift towards autocracy is growing. The term democracy is from the ancient Greek δημοκρατία. This can be broken own into dêmos (the common people) and krátos (force or might). Under the ruler Cleisthenes in 508 BC we first have Athenian democracy. Since then the freedom of the people has been hard fought both for and against. In truth the default position for most of human history has been autocratic rule by monarchs and dynasties. Democracy is a fragile flower that is always in danger of withering and reverting to autocratic rule. ...

Addressing God … Guest Editorial

Guest Editor, Michael Collins writes: It has been well observed that fidelity to tradition must be a creative fidelity. That prompts me as an historian to reflect on what tradition really is and how it comes to be. This question is of fundamental importance to those Anglicans especially who locate themselves in the catholic wing of the Church, since Tradition along with the Bible and Reason, serves as one of the sources of Anglican theology supplementary to Scripture and hence to teaching and practice. Thus, we must ask what we are being faithful to, and what is its character? To what extent is Tradition a product of history and thus in principle mutable, and to what extent is it a source of revelation independent of the Bible? For many catholic-inclined Anglicans, the Bible indeed, rather than an ahistorical deposit, is itself part of Tradition. Anglicans assert that Tradition cannot be in conflict with Scripture and if it appears to be must be reconciled with Scripture or corrected by Scripture. That position in turn invites the question of what we take Scripture to be because at the root of all these discussions is the human quest for certainty in religion and hence of the locus of authority. Those who wish to safeguard the intellectual and volitional integrity of believers have sometimes rejected Tradition root and branch under the banner of sola scriptura asserting that Scripture contains or witnesses to everything necessary to salvation. Anglicanism under Modernity, and increasingly as Modernity has fulfilled its logic and challenged and corroded what many have taken as traditional assumptions and beliefs, today risks losing touch with a coherent rationale for Tradition, instead pulling up the anchor supplied by a sense of history and setting out on an uncharted sea. ...

‘In God we Trust’ – Editorial, Easter 2023

The Editor,The Rev'd Dr. Nicholas Henderson writes in the Easter Editorial: ‘In God we Trust’– a phrase that appears on American banknotes and coinage – was first approved by Congress in 1864 during the American Civil War. The provenance of the phrase isn’t biblical but comes rather from the American National Anthem, a stanza at the end of the fourth and final rarely sung verse: “And this be our motto: In God is our trust. And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” The anthem is itself an exposition of a poem ‘The Defence of Fort McHenry’ by Frances Scott Key during the War of 1812 against the British. It seems today that the banknote rather than the motto has elicited more faith than a sinking conventional religious affiliation and patriotism. All over the Western world something similar has been happening for at least the last 70 years and arguably longer. Traditional denominational Christianity is in slow and perhaps terminal decline. Of course, this is always countered by the claim that conservative evangelical church congregations are supposedly growing and flourishing. Whatever, it is obvious that the critical mass of Christian observance is shifting out of Europe and North America southwards and towards what is generally called the developing world. No one has satisfactorily explained the reason why people are choosing a non-affiliated secular way of life. ...

Democratic Deficit?

The Editor, The Rev'd Dr. Nicholas Henderson writes in his Editorial post, Lent 2023: ‘Gerrymandering’ is the political manipulation of electoral boundaries with the intent of creating an undue advantage for a political party or faction. These days it might also be extended to describe generically other associated practices to the same end. ... Whilst currently busy assessing the recent decision published by the House of Bishops and welcomed by the General Synod to enable same-sex couples to come to church after a civil marriage or partnership to give thanks, dedicate their relationship to God and receive God’s blessing - even the Church of England, cannot be accused of gerrymandering. At least not in terms of its electoral process, which has long used a system of Proportional Representation for its elections – the precise form being STV (Single Transferable Vote). ... Not fraudulent, but certainly unfair, the system as used in the United Kingdom for parliamentary elections remains that of the so-called ‘first past the post’ (FPTP) where winner takes all regardless of how low a percentage actually voted for the candidate. This has produced some seriously skewed results. For example, the Johnson-led conservative victory at the 2020 general election produced a large parliamentary majority of 80 seats – hailed a great mandate and the will of the people on what was actually only 43.6% of the popular vote. Clearly, this system often effectively negates the wishes of a majority of voters. ... The use of voter ID is in itself no bad thing, if it ensures democracy rather than distorting it. Nevertheless, there is a legitimate concern even if the scheme may in practice backfire and in practice remove the vote from the very people it is meant to encourage . In short and in practice it looks like a subtle variation of gerrymandering. ...

That’s one small, timid step for the Church of England.

The Editor: The Rev'd Dr. Nicholas Henderson writes - The Church of England has almost concluded a long and at times tedious ‘Living in Love and Faith’ process of discernment and consultation regarding gay relationships and essentially about whether to allow these to be consummated in Christian marriage. Now the House of Bishops have effectively short-circuited the final decision, meant to be decided by the General Synod in February 2023, by pronouncing that they will not change the Church’s fundamental teaching “that holy matrimony is between one man and one woman for life.” Notwithstanding that part of that ‘fundamental teaching’ has long been bypassed in that remarriage in church after divorce is commonplace and permitted, the bishops apparently have felt unable to go further and allow same-sex couples to enjoy the same privilege. ...

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