Monthly Archives: March 2020

Why ‘The Church’ isn’t Biblical

I have, interspersed with virus related issues – more coming – been running a series about why I left the Anglican church. Some of my issues with it apply to other inter/national chains.

I am now going to argue against these chains from the Good Book.

I invoke my usual proviso about using the Bible as our source:

—is it all from God as a timeless mandate?

—saying that the Bible is God’s only Word limits God as to what he can say and undermines our own intuition, where God speaks best

I am especially wary of cultural differences between Bible times and us, multiple translation, and of using texts out of context. Single half sentences a good argument do not make.

 

But if we were to take the Bible as our starting point to look for support of a chain church of the Orthodox, Anglican and Catholic variety, what would we find?

 

Our focus needs to be on the New Testament, since the Old is about a people whose faith follows a different course. It’s background to Christianity, and it can still be a source of learning and inspiration, but I wonder if the Old Testament is literally The Hebrew Bible: it’s the story of the Jewish people, but the Church’s story begins with the Gospels.

 

We must take Jesus’ ministry as a whole. His whole tone is one of subverting expectation.

What was his Mum’s prenatal hymn?

Swapping the humble and proud, the rich and poor, high and low.

Was Jesus born in a palace, or a stable?

Did he become a chief priest in the national church, or an itinerant independent preacher?

 

I wonder if those who argue that Jesus must’ve been a rabbi are those who are in a chain themselves, and like to think of Jesus being in it. Perhaps those who emphasise his mendicant, dissenting freelance nature are those in independent churches.

 

I think there is more support for the latter: Jesus’ father was a tradesman, not of noble birth

Jesus died as a criminal among thieves and robbers

he didn’t have an army – he wouldn’t even let his followers defend him at arrest

the sermon on the mount…more paradoxes and swaps

Jesus’ fraternising with outcasts, whom he favoured

Paul’s understanding – ‘he has taken the weak things of the world to shame the wise’

Jesus’ life and ministry seems to topsy turvy the established world:

He threw out money changers from the temple, defended the woman being stoned,

and broke their understanding of the Sabbath.

He seemed to hate the controlling abuse of power, and rules for rules’ sake.

His kingdom was and is internal and eternal.

 

And although Jesus said that not a jot or tittle of the law should pass away, he seemed both to fulfil it, and bring it to a new level, but not in the way that was anticipated.

His confirmation as Messiah came from anointing by a prostitute, on the feet, not the head.

 

The question arises: how much of the early church is relevant to us now. Is it background history, or something to emulate – or perhaps just when church planting. Is it the ideal?

If we do believe that the Bible is our model, and certainly our mandate, then we do not have the support of Scripture for the established churches.

 

Neither Jesus nor Paul and his fellow missionaries set up a rival to Judaism, a hierarchical religious chain as we know it. Believers met in homes; Jesus preached al fresco, not in Jewish holy buildings except for the day he said that Isaiah 42 was fulfilled in their hearing, and nearly got stoned.

 

As far as the Bible on church leadership is concerned, we just have Paul’s letters, often which were answering questions and dealing with issues in and from particular new communities.

The types of roles mentioned in Ephesians don’t match the establishment equivalent. For a start, as per the start of my novel, there is no vicar, no one person in charge of a community, no person set apart by a higher person. It doesn’t even talk about training and study.

 

There are deacons and overseers. Note these are plural, even in one congregation. Deacons are what C of E vicars get first ordained as. And what is their first deed at this ceremony (where they swear allegiance to the Queen and the Bishop!)? To administer communion. Like it’s the foremost power they get – not fully invested for another year – along with their new stoles [ceremonial scarves], a sign of authority.

I note that in the Metropolitan Community Church, the celebrant – not necessarily ordained – puts it on for communion with a spiel about a privilege invested in them by the community.

Note that in the early church, there’s no bishops or monarchs required, nor power passed from Masters like in Reiki or Freemasonry.

 

In online debates about the use of church leader titles, there is a divide between tradition and using the Bible. Those only arguing from the Bible point out that “reverend” is used just once, in Psalm 111, and is clearly referring to God. In the New Testament, no-one is styled with any title. Jesus in Matthew 23 speaks against this in an argument which ought to floor any adherent to being called Reverend… especially by appending Right or Venerable! They feel that ‘pastor’ is a better and more biblical name – but I would argue that isn’t a title, just a job description. It’s true that neither Jesus nor Paul nor Peter were given the titles used by clergy. There’s a claim that ‘Magdalene’ is one, but that’s about Mary’s spiritual understanding.

I particularly take issue with “rector” which was a more honorific title referring to the clergyman entitled to take parish tithes, when the whole neighbourhood, not just attending parishioners, had to give a tenth of their income and produce to their local Anglican minister. As this abhorrent prerogative has been abolished, the distinction is purely status driven, for there is no meaningful difference between ‘rector’ and ‘vicar’. If you’re a team minister leader, say so. ‘Rector’ is also related to straightness and rules, which I dislike – and yes, I am aware of another word from that root (chakra!).

The established churches interpret the Biblical Greek words used for church leaders in very different ways to other Christian groups. The word for ‘deacon’ becomes a councillor in the Presbyterian church, which it is at a local level in Baptists; in Anglican and Catholic churches, it’s the priests, traditionally the table servers at communion. Note that the eastern part of cathedrals especially is known as the presbytery – the space for priests alone to inhabit. Typically, the laity – the nonordained – have been disallowed in this space by the high altar; and today, it’s still got an awe and taboo around it and is often roped off or gated.

The higher the church, the greater the gates and the further back they push the laity.

Just like in the old Jewish temple which had various courts for the public (starting, like cathedral naves, with a kind of market), getting ever more exclusive as you got closer to the important bit, until there was the sealed empty room of God’s presence – the Holy of Holies – where the high priest alone may only enter once a year by pulling back the dense curtain.

Ruth Scott Connolly said in her Phoenix blog that the tearing of the temple curtain meant that no longer was God limited to the holy of holies: he came out, and we could go in.

No longer in a place for the high priest alone, God’s presence was now omnipresent.

Thus the role of priest as special mediator between humans and God, carrying out rituals and duties, allowed in certain places that others were not, ended with the Easter story. Paul believed that Jesus was now the great high priest, permanently. There was no need of priests: – yes to leaders, pastors, healers, word spreaders, but the priestly function of the Jewish world ended for followers of Jesus with Jesus. Hebrews 6 states the priesthood of all believers. It means we do not need an intermediary, and implies we can all potentially do all priestly functions.

Hence I wrote phrase that on my bosom when I left the church of England last month.

I do not see a scriptural mandate that only ordained people can administer the meal Jesus instigated. Breaking bread and drinking together is a wide old custom. Jesus is recorded to have said, “do this in remembrance of me”, not “here’s how you get fixed up to be able to do so.” No one in the room had to swear an oath, or put on a special outfit, or get blessed or zapped or gain a degree. Nor did the epistle writers say that. “Do this until he come” Paul exhorts in 1 Cor 12, and simply summarises the story of Jesus’ Last Supper. (These words are the only legal requirement of the church of England eucharist). It’s not: make sure it’s a man; make sure you have been to rabbi/Way school and got a certificate; make sure you’ve got this title and garment, and wear your stole like a Miss World sash until you’re deemed worthy to drape it.

 

The overseer is just that. Not a ‘I live in a palace and have big gardens and a hat shaped like a fountain pen, and a good salary and status.’ In medieval times, these office holders didn’t even necessarily live in or even visit their dioceses, and nor did some other senior clergy!

And as for Archbishops, or worse still, Popes…!!

Where are these in the Bible? God’s rep on Earth is the Holy Spirit; he sent no others.

 

It’s said that Peter was the first pope, but the keys speech doesn’t make him Father on Earth to Christian believers. There are but two people who are my father: my God and my Dad.

I certainly don’t acknowledge priests as ‘father’ as some honorific title.

 

And there’s the whole argument that Mary Magdalene is really Jesus’ successor, culverted by Peter’s followers, but who is re-emerging.

 

Ted Doe, writer of Who Do You Think You Are about Norwich Baptist history, states that the established churches are like old Judaism: “new wine into old wine skins” (Luke 5, Mark 2).

In fact, the wine isn’t very new either.

In fact, it occurs to me that modern Judaism doesn’t have priests and holy of holies. They have ravs and rabbis. Yes, even the Orthodox version. So why are certain Christians maintaining an order and division that even the original faith group doesn’t?

 

‘The Churches’ are too much like the military, and judges. It’s all about stripes and twirls in your wig. I know someone who sent his cassock back because it didn’t have the red edging of a canon on it. But we rarely see cassocks, they’re covered with surplice/surplus robes, outfits that are ridiculous in our culture – not to mention expensive. What better use of the hundreds of pounds these worth might churches make, for general benefit, not just show?

I have much more to critique about how the C of E uses money.

I have an even bigger critique coming of pastoral care – the very heart of ministry, and why I left.

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A message for ministers and a dream for all of us

A version of this is being shared with various ministers and newspapers:

I ask for measured measures about the virus. I’m alarmed about draconian steps and proposals. I am calling on all ministers to be proportional and wise, to not silence dissenters (who may have some valid points – after all, such a surreal situation deserves scrutiny), and to be aware that any enforced measures (such as testing, closures, bans, treatment, seizure or lockdown) have deleterious effects and decrease public trust and sympathy. Isolation creates economic and health crises. There’s a real threat of swift starvation for those in poverty. Quarantine can mean greater loneliness or relationship stress – from passive smoking to abuse. Mandatory vaccination is a human rights issue: not only is it abuse to insert a foreign body against your will, we don’t know what that body really does and if it’s yet safe. It also assumes this is the only model of healthcare, and we are aware that it’s a lucrative one. We have the inalienable right to our own bodies and to the care we choose. (I support natural medicine – the greater use of which would take the pressure off national allopathic medicine’s resources and allievate earnings loss amongst those workers). Many people are in fact voluntarily following official advice; and there’s a social collateral element which assists with that. The aggressive use of enforcement officers makes a democracy into a tyranny. I would like to see this country lead in its handling, by recognising the need to associate and to continue to allow us make our own informed sensible considerate choices, and that we can’t be together apart.

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I’m aware that the measures aren’t being followed by all and that there’s a belief that not doing so endangers not only yourself but others, and that governments have the right to take measures to enforce where safety is concerned… but that comes down to whether the establishment has executive powers over our own sovreignty, what model of government and healthcare we should have… all of which I’ll be taking up in forthcoming posts…

 

My dream… reverse no touch

In my dream, it was the opposite of what we’re asked to do. Instead of trying to avoid touch,  keeping far apart, avoiding physical affection…this was where we hugged and clasped the hands of even strangers if they were willing, for each touch was an act of healing and solidarity, and we needed to spread love to all.

It’s why there’s something counterintuitive, and perhaps suspicious about this.

Surely healing comes through touch, not avoidance? It feels like the premise for a dystopian sci-fi.

It recalls one: Metropolis where although the workers stand close in a lift, their heads are bowed and they don’t see or speak to one another, and they’re resigned to their minion life.

I fear that this distance will become standardised, that we’ll rely more on electronic transactions – which, unlike in person ones are trackable – and that this fear and wish to be a good citizen will make us more compliant and malleable generally. It’s a classic totalitarian sign to break up meetings and/or to require state permission to have them.

So as we try to be responsible and resist the spread, it’s good to be aware and to find other ways to connect.

Before things got stricter, I took a spread the love walk, silently and intangibly sending love to all those I passed (at the requisite distance) to their homes and offices, even their parked vehicles. I also greeted some strangers, smiled, and warmly thanked those that keep services open. And it made me feel happy too.

And if I sound naive – why should germs and fear have power over God and love?

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I’m aware that much of the world has gone into lockdown since I wrote that, and of the belief that being out is selfish because it spreads the disease. I’ve actually been out little, and I respect the health of others, but I have been doing some research from pandemics to papers to priestesses and Pasteur, and I am seeing different possibilities emerge, as I’ll share anon…

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Why the C of E is wrong – I

Following my previous post, I am running a series on why I left the Anglican communion.

For me, there is no Church with a capital C. It’s why I write ‘the church of England’. Yes, I am aware of grammatical rules. But the Church is God’s people, and I’ve come to realise that some of those are not Christians. But at its narrowest, the Church is those who follow the teachings of and have a personal relationship with Jesus. Still pretty broad.

The Church is not Anglicans/Episcopalians, Catholics, the Orthodox or the Reformed churches.  Note how many churches call themselves the singular Church! But the Church is never the official church of a country, the one entwined with state. These are flavours of Christianity; they are not able to claim to be The Church, implying that they alone are God’s people and others are not, or that they get to speak for God and represent other Christians on any level.

There are other groups who think of themselves as only God’s truly chosen (also wrong), but they are not that sort of Church – not the sort of whom the Queen is the head and the Prime Minister picks its bishops; not the sort whose leaders sit in the upper house of parliament; who have their own legal system, as outdated and unjust as the secular one. To formally complain, you must ask permission from the local bishop!

The Anglican church does not represent the Christian faith, and certainly not those of faith.

Reading more about the history of the Anglican church, I become ever angrier.

Until recently, I didn’t realise that there were two prongs to the Reformation: we generally only hear of one, the Magisterial branch. This is the tine who made a pretty-similar-to-the- church-you-protested-about chain which still remains. In England, it put church and state together; it retained the hierarchy of its predecessor; it enforced a set service which is still used. It continued to be landowning, state steering, elitist and controlling, with long histories of single families or institutions having the right to offer parish jobs to those it wished, without reference to their spirituality and suitability. It turfed the Catholics out of their buildings and commandeered them, and then began persecuting everyone who was not of their ilk. It barred all but its own from study and offices for over two centuries and it still has succeeded in keeping other faiths out of the house of lords and off the throne of Britain. (Capitals deliberately avoided).

The other prong was the Radical reformation: those who wanted to go further than the magisterial in altering the church, who disapproved of the hierarchy, riches and rituals, who believed they should be like the early church of the Bible before it became an international chain. They too suffered persecution. Dissenters of the radical tine whom we recognise today are Baptists, Quakers, and those who became Congregationalists and Unitarians. I am proudly from the latter, although my nonconformity goes further.

The Anglican church speaks of ‘tradition’ in support of itself, but like all establishment faiths, its past is coloured by control and exclusion. It was Anglicans who killed those who wouldn’t accept Henry VIII as its head, who punished those who didn’t attend their church, who burst in on other believers’ services to arrest and beat them, who ejected 2000 men from office at once for not accepting its tenets, who imprisoned and tortured and debarred, who extracted tithes of income and produce from everyone for centuries, regardless of where (or if) they worshipped.

Not all these are in the past. There is still elitism and nepotism. Whereas tithing for the whole neighbourhood has thankfully stopped, there is great pressure on congregants under the parish share system whereby a centrally determined quota has to be paid. The local parish church is the one eternally fundraising – even though nonconformist buildings are also often large and old now, and other faith groups have sometimes huge edifices. I’ve been invited to snowdrop walks, fetes, concerts, talks, seasonal services – all to raise money for the parish church. Often the parish church is more concerned about a practical need – a cracked window, falling tower, new heating, kitchen, even just moving the furniture around… and not something which the wider community benefits from… It’s all accoutrements.

I’ve even heard of parish churches having the cheek to ask that local traders donate to their fundraising efforts. Yet the church may not engage with or assist local residents and traders. I will have a separate section on pastoral care, but suffice to say that it’s often not resourced or well executed. The nearest to providing for the community is the church clock.

The church’s teachings have crept into wider culture for centuries.They were part of bringing in and perpetuating capitalism and slavery, and traded in fear.

Of course it is also fair to say that established churches (like others) were part of abolishing slavery. Most churches now are concerned for the environment – they recycle, and some even show sympathy for Extinction Rebellion. They’ll serve Fair Trade products and support causes from leprosy to water aid to poverty and homelessness.

Yet I’ve found that Anglican churches can be conformists in other aspects of social justice.

They can be policy driven and of a fix-it mentality. They don’t ask if providing clean water is part of literally tapping a community into the system and making this essential resource into a commodity controlled by someone else. I’m not sure if they ask enough questions about why people are on the streets, on drugs and drink, and how coming off all these isn’t again about resocialising these ‘unfortunates’ into the system. Just as water companies profit from pipelines, drugs companies profit from the prescribed drugs – in both senses – that those taking illegal drugs must use to come off the other sort. And being rehoused leads to taxes and rent being paid. Note that “3rd world” waterless communities and those living on the streets and imbibing illicit substances – and no I don’t imply those last two go together – are outside the mainstream capitalist system. So is well meant assistance really doing something more sinister?

I don’t know of any non Anglican churches in this country which install CCTV. I’ve seen snotty parking notices in a range of church car parks, included camera controlled fines extorted by parking firms – see my views on that here. But I’ve only seen wheelclamping threats in a parish church. Wht not just say – “parking for church users only please”?

Following another terror threat, Canterbury cathedral’s precinct was patrolled by armed guards. I told a minister who said, “Wow, they must have felt that was necessary”. I didn’t, as I shared here – and with the dean of the cathedral. After the Manchester arena bombing in 2017, its cathedral did bag searches on those attending services the next day. I was appalled.

Anglicans can be traditional about health. The evangelical end supports faith healing more, although it is wary of some alternative healthcare because of its new age or Eastern roots, and so can reject it – when actually faith and energy healing are similar. I’ve found that the higher end of the church focusses more on allopathic medicine and are great NHS supporters. Of course, many people have received good care from it and are understandably grateful. But Anglicans often uphold fellow institutions rather than critique them.

Coronavirus procedures swiftly appeared on Anglican websites. I’ve written my thoughts and concerns about that disease and our handling of it here and will again in my next post. But I will say that I’m glad that they kept meeting, when so much else was cancelled. (I was furious when I heard C of E policies, especially around Easter, where ministers were threatened for even entering a church alone!). And I saw a great poster today outside a church which made me smile – Mother Julian’s All Shall Be Well.

They don’t do everything wrong. And some of the individuals in them – including its ministers – comprise some lovely, genuine people who do good in the world, and whose faith and searchings are sincere. It’s the chain that I mind, although also the people who uphold the chain… and during this viral period, I continue to be shocked by clergy behaviours. I waited before saying that, hoping that the first sentence of this paragraph would be proven true for all I know.

I hope one day soon it’ll be possible to delete the latter half of the paragraph above.

Next, I will argue against the chain from the Good Book.

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You’re spreading fear more than germs – spread love instead

THIS IS BEING TWEAKED AS EVENTS UNFOLD

I take a break from my church of England [sic] series to speak out about the spread of fear via disease. I’m not going to even name that virus…

My fear is not of the disease, or dying, but how it’s handled and what it means.

Someone aptly said: what are they hiding or wanting us to look away from?

When wide outbreaks of disease occur, it is during times of unrest. I thought this when visiting the Real Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh regarding the C17 plague. This was a dramatic century. I question the official story of the start of the plague and the fires that wiped it out, and note that it coincided with new religious groups and the restoration of traditional power who persecuted those groups.

V for Vendetta is a fictional story about a disease that spreads, and a new fascist leader has the antidote…

This virus has come amid so much turmoil, at a time when we’re already being watched.

I’m concerned at calls to curtail the net. This means that censorship can come in through a back door. There’s a difference between unhelpful advice and stopping people from writing who might disagree with the official version. What matters is being discerning about the source.

I wonder if, beyond the biological causes, that people are simply more prone to disease during times of war, faminine, austerity, dictatorial leadership. Just as spiritual people see the environmental crisis as more than banning plastic and fracking, mass illness is also a symptom of gross imbalance and injustice.             It means we’ve lost our alignment.

Like war, a disease is a form of central population control by fear. Compliance seems a duty to assist with a common cause. It allows people to be contained and tracked – and worse of all, to be isolated and deprived of care and contact at the time we most need it.

Forensics should never mean we forego farewells.

It’s disturbing when a hug becomes an act of defiance. But as a graffitist wrote, defiance is an act of hope.

I question whether isolation and vaccination are the only and best responses.

The answers to an epidemic are not ultimately found in a lab – which is why I didn’t like the film Contagion. It worries me that this disease, 9 years on, has several similarities.

The problem is that the medical model works on only one level of understanding – what those in woo woo circles call lower energies/vibrations. It’s from an empirical, logic base – although this isolation has issues on that level, for it affects the economy and mental health in favour of physical, and means that resources and services could run out, causing greater panic and more deaths. What we need is a deeper, higher response that truly sees beyond face value and biology.

When a newspaper prints fearful headlines, encouraging us to panic over our health, fear strangers, and comply with unreasonable measures; when you post anxious social media about the topic, use health mask emoticons, or make a xenophobic quip about separation of certain peoples at a meeting – or cancel these unnecessarily, you too are spreading fear. When you call on your government to ‘do something’ you are encouraging them to take controlling action – even when they don’t want to.

It can mean we endure bullying in the name of healthcare.

It isn’t just hand washing that will truly stop this spread. Our real enemy is not germs, or foreigners, or other people generally.

I encourage people to think what they are washing with – over harvested palm oil, chemicals that are not good for us either – whilst making someone else a profit (as do drugs and facemasks). I only use natural toiletries and I read the labels very carefully. I encourage thinking about labels and ingredients in more general terms. We must ask carefully who we trust – and if we trust WHO and other official channels, rather than assuming we must.

Love, not fear – and also awakening. That’s what we should be spreading.

 

Here are some perspectives that you won’t see on the news…                          [inclusion doesn’t imply mutual or complete endorsement]

Comfort in the Face of the Covid-19 Pandemic

from Priestess Lauri Ann Lumbi (this may not be viewable for nonmembers now but you can read her next pieces)

Spiritual teacher and healer Jo Dunning sent a lovely message: her website is https://www.jodunningevents.com/portfolio-items/divine-chaos-of-creation

Here’s the most recent message https://www.jodunningevents.com/portfolio-items/inspire-message-by-jo-quick-pulse/

https://www.soulfulworkconsulting.com/blog/2020/4/12/happy-day-of-awakening-and-truth

by Rachel Horton White, also on the site below

Wake Up World on a different model of germs

https://consciouslifenews.com/expert-advice-from-an-herbal-immunity-pro-herbs-to-consider-for-coronavirus/11183331/  Herbs for immunity

Here’s one you did:

https://metro.co.uk/2020/03/18/coronavirus-frightening-shown-us-community-matters-12413057/  Green MP Caroline Lucas “Disaster can bring out the best in us if we let it”

 

Since publishing this, many countries have gone into lockdown, but I remain concerned about the necessity and efficacy of that move and what is happening…

 

 

 

 

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