Thought I’d pop this on to give you some insight into the creative process behind my upcoming album:
Posts Tagged ‘Church Life’
The Government’s Succession to the Crown Bill received it’s second reading and completed its remaining stages in the House of Commons today.
My own knowledge of the Bill was limited to a vague understanding that it will end male primogeniture and permit the heir to marry a Roman Catholic.
So my aim here is to simply chart those articles that have been written today on this topic, which enhanced my understanding a little regarding the history, complexity, and possible ramifications of the bill.
The first I read (and this was the article that grabbed my attention on this issue) was written by Adrian Hilton in the Mail and was simultaneously informative and alarming: The Coalition rides roughshod over the Constitution.
Here’s a snippet:
This is an astonishing subversion of democracy, but wholly consistent with the oligarchical form of governance to which we are now routinely subject. As with the European Commission and 40 years of the incremental primacy of EU law over national legislation, so this Government invokes the presumed authority of the elite Commonwealth club over the sovereignty of Parliament. And to hear that No10 and the Palace have agreed this coup is even more unsettling. As Harold Macmillan stated: ‘We have not overthrown the divine right of kings to fall down for the divine right of experts.’
Next up Law and Religion UK: Succession to the Crown Bill: possible untoward effects? This concludes:
The relative complexity – emotional, political, legal, administrative – of these issues are no doubt glimpsed by government. Of course, the government does not wish to plunge into these deep waters. It wants a quick, limited fix without too much argument. Commentators are right that there has been too little public discussion, but not all the blame can be laid at the government’s door. What is needed is fresh, bound-breaking thinking and most of that can best come only from within the Church itself.
Cranmer wrote a piece with the provocative title: The Act of Settlement and constitutional terrorism:
Today, an amendment to the Act of Settlement is being rushed through the House of Commons by means usually reserved for emergency terrorism legislation. The imminent royal baby appears to represent a threat to the Coalition’s equality agenda every bit as serious as that posed by al-Qaeda to the safety and security of the free world. There will be minimal debate and negligible scrutiny; a Commons guillotine and wave at a committee.
It is, in fact, a constitutional stitch-up between Cameron and Clegg; No10 and Buckingham Palace; the Government and the Crown, with the connivance of the Heads of Commonwealth.
It is not simply a matter of ending male primogeniture or permitting the Monarch to marry a Roman Catholic: the constitutional ripples will be felt for decades to come. Indeed, today’s apparently trivial ‘modernising’ amendments could lead to the disestablishment of the Church of England, the end of the Union, and even the demise of the Monarchy itself.
George Trefgarne in the Spectator:
The answer is that the Act, having been rushed through in Britain will be on the statute book, waiting for the Lord President to produce his pen to implement each clause in Britain as he sees fit.
This takes us to the essence of the criticism of the Bill. In the name of modernisation it risks introducing two entirely new concepts into the succession to the Crown: doubt, and executive discretion. At the same time, it removes another important convention: pragmatism. For if we were confronted with a brilliant elder daughter, married to a Catholic, we would probably find a way of allowing her to succeed without resorting to a doctrinare process fraught with legal difficulty.
Once you start to think of it like that, you realise that Mr Clegg may be opening yet another can of the constitutional worms he so enjoys feeding to us all, like the AV referendum.
As evidenced above, from my reading today, the rushed Bill doesn’t sound good. Having said that, the Church of England appear in favour of the bill:
This Government and the previous Government have consulted closely with senior Church of England figures throughout the long process which has led up to the introduction of this Bill.
In a speech in the House of Lords during debate on the Queen’s speech on 14thMay 2012, the then Bishop of Blackburn said: “the references in the humble Address to reform of the rules of royal succession are sensible and timely. I know I speak for all on these Benches when I say that we wish the Government well in their present consultations with the other Commonwealth realms. We look forward to and hope that it will then be possible for the necessary Bill to pass quickly through both Houses of Parliament.”
Feel free to post more links in the comments and of course let us know what you think on this issue.
UPDATE: David Lindsay comments from a Catholic perspective.
To be upfront, I didn’t know what the issue was with the government Workfare scheme. I’ve not really been interested in this until this morning, when I read Johnny Void’s provocatively entitled post: Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness (unless thou is the Salvation Army fibbing about workfare).
Void’s post alleges the Salvation Army continuous to use Workfare workers and he links to a rather grim story in the Daily Record (Scotland). Void also links to a Jobcentre referral to Mandatory Work Activity letter (dated 17th Jan) which clearly cites the venue as an Salvation Army shop.
I spoke briefly with Void and he Tweeted:
— johnnyvoid (@johnnyvoid) January 19, 2013
So, where to start with finding out about Workfare; Wikipedia of course:
Workfare in the United Kingdom refers to government workfare policies whereby individuals must undertake work in return for their benefit payments or risk losing them. Workfare policies are politically controversial. Supporters argue that such policies help people move off of welfare and into employment (See welfare-to-work) whereas critics argue that they are analogous to slavery and counterproductive in decreasing unemployment.
OK, where too next, Twitter of course, and the link given by a couple of folk was on the Boycott Workfare website, which I’ll let you read, but I will cite their raison d’etre:
Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights.
BoycottWelfare Tweeted me directly:
— BoycottWorkfare (@boycottworkfare) January 19, 2013
The Boycott Workfare link is well worth reading; it very clearly sets out their objections to Charity Workfare. Here’s a quote:
By colluding with the government to increase the number of benefit sanctions charities are pushing vulnerable people further into poverty and destitution. Oxfam have refused to take part in workfare because they say it is incompatible with the goal of reducing poverty in the UK. When homelessness charity SHP left the Work Programme earlier this year they warned that sanctions were pushing vulnerable individuals further into poverty and leaving them with little option but to beg and steal. The increase in benefit sanctions is one of the reasons that we are seeing an increase in the use of food banks.
OK, so where are we?
Workfare is a highly controversial and contentious issue, so much so, that some big highstreet names and charities have very publicly suspended their involvement in the Workfare program.
The evidence suggests that the Salvation Army are involved in the scheme at some level, so what is the Sally Army’s formal response:
There is no mandatory voluntary work for the three sub contracts we deliver within the Work Programme. Anyone who volunteers their services to us does so in the knowledge that their benefits will not be affected.
We do not have any national agreements in place to provide mandatory 4-week work placements, but on a local level we are aware that our trading company has been approached by independent welfare to work providers which have been offering short-term work experience, locally, in some of our retail shops. We must stress that no placements are in place of paid work and we trust the decision of our local representatives to provide valuable professional experience.
We don’t take people in short-term placements for work that would otherwise be paid as we believe in empowering the person who is volunteering, by treating them with the respect that everyone in society is due. We believe strongly that every person has worth, irrespective of what they can offer society and it is our desire to help all who are willing to work, irrespective of their starting point. For some, the route to employment can be a long one with several milestones on the way.
Working in stages back into the workplace helps to build confidence as a lack of confidence is one of the overriding barriers to work. We believe that it is important that people on long term benefits ‘test’ themselves in the workplace, to gain work experience without any threat of losing benefit or having to start the process again.
It is sensible to partner with the private and voluntary sector to provide many of the programmes, not because the work will be done ‘on the cheap’ but because better value will be achieved by the flexibility of our sector to tailor programmes to individual need and achieve better results. We have the expertise and broad working base to help achieve effective outcomes.
How does this read to you? For me, I am left with absolutely no idea whether the Salvation Army participates in the Workfare scheme or not.
Whether you be for, or against, Workfare, it would strike me the prudent move as a Christian organisation, with such an morally explosive issue, would be to withdraw from the scheme and publicly state as much. Otherwise, you might just find yourself on the receiving end of responses such as this:
@echurchblog oh and Deuteronomy 24:15 and Jeremiah 22:13
— johnnyvoid (@johnnyvoid) January 19, 2013
I have Tweeted the Salvation Army direct:
— eChurch Blog (@eChurchBlog) January 19, 2013
I’ll let you know if I receive a response.
UPDATE: Three Tweets received from BoycottWorkfare which really cast the Salvation Army in a poor light in regard to this issue:
— BoycottWorkfare (@boycottworkfare) January 19, 2013
— BoycottWorkfare (@boycottworkfare) January 19, 2013
— BoycottWorkfare (@boycottworkfare) January 19, 2013
I thought this an interesting development:
Neil Summerton, chair of Partnership, says he fears the forthcoming charity tribunal case involving the Preston Down Trust will damage the reputation of other types of brethren
The chair of a support body for the Open Brethren has written to the Charity Commission and the Public Administration Select Committee to outline the differences between his faith and the branch of the Exclusive Brethren which has been refused charitable status by the regulator.
Neil Summerton, chair of Partnership, told Third Sector he was worried that allegations about the Exclusive Brethren could damage other types of Brethren in the UK.
In June last year, the commission refused charitable status to the Preston Down Trust, a congregation of Exclusive Brethren in Devon. An appeal to the charity tribunal is due to be heard in March.
In the letter to the commission, Summerton says the Exclusive Brethren split from his own faith in 1848, and that one branch of the Exclusive Brethren, now under the leadership of an Australian accountant called Bruce Hales, “went in a decisively sectarian direction” in the 1950s.
He says this branch, which includes the Preston Down Trust, has recently renamed itself the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, which the group says is its historical name.
There are other branches of the Exclusive Brethren in the UK, he says, that do not follow Hales and have not adopted the new name.
He says the Open Brethren congregations, of which there are about 1,000 in the UK, do not follow a central leader and do not practice the doctrine of separation followed by the Exclusive Brethren. This practice forbids followers to eat and drink with outsiders, watch television or listen to the radio, or live in semi-detached houses next to non-Brethren.
Guest post by Edmund Standing:
Stuart has recently published a thought-provoking post looking at psychotherapy and what role Christianity and the Church might play in its delivery. The following post is not intended as an attack but rather as an alternative contribution to the discussion and as a consideration of the important role the New Testament should play in dealing with the question of ‘therapy’.
In response to the question ‘Should everyone be in therapy?’, I would answer with a resounding ‘no’, for far from most people actually needing therapy and a deeper exploration of selfhood, it is arguably our modern culture’s fixation on the self that has greatly contributed to the social and intellectual malaise that has given rise to the apparent epidemic of depression and nervous disorders which seems to characterise our age. This fixation on selfhood, and the associated pathologisation of anyone who doesn’t feel fully at ease with themselves, lies at the root of the modern ‘therapy culture’ and is arguably rooted in the social atomisation issuing from an increasingly individualistic and materialistic society (or lack of society). Despite what the therapy industry might tell us, true mental illness is still a relatively rare phenomenon, but what we have seen grow exponentially is the widespread sense of being deeply uneasy, hollow, and anxious. Such a feeling in a medical-centred culture is generally nowadays classified as being a manifestation of one or other nervous disorder or depression, and a dubious combination of medication and psychobabble are seen to be its ‘cure’, but perhaps we need to look at such disorders and ‘depression’ (often a very slippery and ill-defined concept) as evidence that the human spirit is crying out under the pressures of living in what is an increasingly unhealthy and unnatural environment.
By ‘unhealthy’, I am not merely referring to the usual suspects such as fast food and lack of exercise (although these do play an important role), but rather more to a kind of spiritual sickness. This sickness is the result of the human, a naturally communal and social being, finding himself living in a world of excessive competition, of shallow appearances, of consumerism, of the love of money, and a world in which success is measured not in terms of contentment but rather in terms of social standing and the accumulation of power and possessions. This is the world of ‘me’, a world in which you buy cosmetics ‘because you’re worth it’, a world in which people are running up huge credit card debts as they attempt to feed their craving for ‘products’, and a world in which the idols of the day are rich and famous ‘celebrities’. This is also, it is worth noting, the age of microwave meals for one, and an age in which the concept of ‘friendship’ increasingly means nothing more than having a list of people connected to you on a social networking website. It is no great surprise that such a world has led to an increasing desire among its inhabitants to reach out for ‘therapy’, yet there is a very powerful alternative to the culture of the self and of therapy, and this is found in the New Testament.
The New Testament provides us with a picture of Jesus as a man who loved to be amongst people and who loved to eat and drink with people. We see a man who chooses to eat with the social outcasts of his day (Matthew 9:11), who helps his disciples catch fish (Luke 5:1-11), who provides lunch for those who have followed him (Mark 8:1-9), and who ensures that a wedding party doesn’t run dry (John 2:1-2:11), and who did so, it should be noted, (as suggested by the steward in the text) after the guests had already ‘become drunk’. This Jesus is a man who, even as he approached the Crucifixion, gathered his disciples together for a final meal, and is a risen Lord who knocks at the door and promises to those who open the door that ‘I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me’ (Revelation 3:20). Jesus promises that he is among us communally, for ‘where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them’ (Matthew 18:20). The Book of Acts shows how radically the early Christians followed the example of Jesus:
All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved (Acts 2:44-47).
Christianity, then, from the time of Jesus well into the early period of the Church, showed no regard for the modern concepts of ‘selfhood’ or ‘self-realisation’. To know oneself as a self was only ever to know oneself as a self in relation. While the early radicalism of the Christian community eventually gave way to a more formalised ‘religious’ structure, this notion of the blending of the sacred and the profane, and of the importance of community, not of selfhood, still remained as an underlying concept.
One of the greatest losses of modernity has been the decline of community spirit and the sense of being united around common practices. Where once the church and the pub provided the two key venues in which communities could come together, many churches across the land are gradually emptying and pub closures now take place on a weekly basis, as cheap supermarket alcohol leads people out of the old communal space and into drinking at home, often alone. Biblical Christianity offers a way to combine all of this – the experience of community, shared worship, and shared eating and drinking. This Christianity points us to a God of relationships, not a God of the isolated self.
It is no coincidence that ours is an age that has seen a growth in ‘new age’ spiritualities. These ‘spiritualities’ are often focused on the self, on an inner path, on ‘Enlightenment’, and on a lonely project of solo communion with some vague ‘higher power’. This is the spirituality of an age of excessive individualism, an off-the-shelf commodified ‘religious experience’ for those who seek some form of inner release, as opposed to the communal belonging found in Christianity. Christians have in their hands a great and powerful tool for overcoming the isolation of individualism, as well as its associated narcissism, search for self-gratification, vacuous consumerism, and psychological maladies. The answer lies not in a culture of therapy, but rather in the rediscovery of the radically relational and communal lifestyle of Jesus and his early followers.
This is by no means a ‘quick fix’ solution and is not something that can happen overnight. It constitutes a significant challenge to the Church to once again return to its roots, to strip away the institutionalisation that has sapped the life out of Christianity’s early core, and perhaps calls for a renewed consideration of what it actually means to be a part of the Church. Most importantly, it constitutes a call to re-think the ‘personal salvation’ theology promoted by much of modern Christianity and to consider the possibility that the call of Jesus is not a call simply to the individual, but rather a call to a wholeness that can only come through community.
Two articles appeared yesterday in the media claiming those who are ‘spiritual’ but not practicing organised religion were more prone to mental health problems, than those practicing religion and those neither religious nor spiritual.
Being spiritual may give life deeper meaning, but it can also make you more susceptible to mental illness, new research suggests.
A study found that people professing to be spiritual, but not conventionally religious, were more likely to suffer from a host of mental challenges.
They suffered problems including abnormal eating conditions, drug abuse, anxiety disorder, phobias and neurosis.
They were also more likely than others to be taking medication for mental health problems.
They are more likely to suffer from a range of mental health problems than either the conventionally religious or those who are agnostic or atheists, found researchers at University College London.
They are more disposed towards anxiety disorders, phobias and neuroses, have eating disorders and drug problems.
In addition, they are more likely than others to be taking medication for mental health problems.
Professor Michael King, from University College London, and his fellow researchers wrote in the British Journal of Psychiatry: “Our main finding is that people who had a spiritual understanding of life had worse mental health than those with an understanding that was neither religious nor spiritual.”
Before I move on I want to note that both articles concluded with this comment from the researchers:
The nature of this association needs greater examination in qualitative and in prospective quantitative research.
The study was published in The British Journal of Psychiatry:
Religious participation or belief may predict better mental health but most research is American and measures of spirituality are often conflated with well-being.
To examine associations between a spiritual or religious understanding of life and psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses.
We analysed data collected from interviews with 7403 people who participated in the third National Psychiatric Morbidity Study in England.
Of the participants 35% had a religious understanding of life, 19% were spiritual but not religious and 46% were neither religious nor spiritual. Religious people were similar to those who were neither religious nor spiritual with regard to the prevalence of mental disorders, except that the former were less likely to have ever used drugs (odds ratio (OR) = 0.73, 95% CI 0.60–0.88) or be a hazardous drinker (OR = 0.81, 95% CI 0.69–0.96). Spiritual people were more likely than those who were neither religious nor spiritual to have ever used (OR = 1.24, 95% CI 1.02–1.49) or be dependent on drugs (OR = 1.77, 95% CI 1.20–2.61), and to have abnormal eating attitudes (OR = 1.46, 95% CI 1.10–1.94), generalised anxiety disorder (OR = 1.50, 95% CI 1.09–2.06), any phobia (OR = 1.72, 95% CI 1.07–2.77) or any neurotic disorder (OR = 1.37, 95% CI 1.12–1.68). They were also more likely to be taking psychotropic medication (OR = 1.40, 95% CI 1.05–1.86).
People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder.
OK, the major problem with drawing any conclusion from this study, is the ‘chicken and egg’ question. Which came first, spirituality or mental illness?
Put simply, does being ‘spiritual’ without being religious cause mental problems? Or does having mental problems cause folk to search for spiritual understanding without wishing to practice religion?
The popular assumption will be that a spiritual outlook causes mental problems; however, it is equally valid to claim that those with existing mental health problems seek a spiritual understanding for comfort.
Another intrigue thrown up in this study relates to the mentally ill and the practice of religion.
Is it possible to infer that those not practicing religion have less social support, increasing vulnerability?
If this is the case, then the question must be asked as to why this group has a reluctance to be part of a religion.
Religion, was articulated as: “the actual practice of a faith, e.g. going to a temple, mosque, church or synagogue”.
Is it possible that the mentally ill feel their respective place of worship is uncomfortable for them?
If so, then searching questions must be asked.
UPDATE: The Spectator has a blog on this in which they rightly note the ‘Chicken and egg’ issue.
St Mark’s is part of the New Wine Network of Churches and stated this on their website, and so mobile networks classified them under ‘alcohol’.
And if you’re wondering why I posted this, I confess, it made me laugh and I couldn’t resist the headline…..
BRIN have an excellent round-up which includes stats relating to religion and Christmas.
I’ll nick the ‘Nativity Knowledge’ section, but hop over for the ‘Churchgoing at Christmas’ and other stuff:
Britons’ knowledge of the nativity story is somewhat variable, according to a new survey. Asked ten specific questions about the first Christmas, on average they scored six out of ten, with 22% of parents and 18% of children scoring eight out of ten or more. The best-known facts about the nativity are that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (98%), Mary put the baby Jesus in a manger (89%), and that the Angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth (83%). At the other end of the spectrum, only 14% knew that the three wise men travelled West following the star, 26% that Mary and Joseph were espoused (and thus not married) when she found out she was going to have a baby, and 32% knew that Immanuel means God is with us. A notable feature of the incorrect answers was the not infrequent appearance of Father Christmas, especially among parents’ responses. Over half of families (52%) said they planned to go to a school nativity play this year.
Funny old world. The Church of England gets it in the neck from politicians regarding women bishops and gay marriage. The Mother of Democracy makes space for people elected on a fraction of the electorate’s votes to threaten the Church that if we don’t change our polity they will do it for us. In other words, “we don’t like how your people voted, so change the system in such a way that they get it right next time – or we will force you to do it”.
Source: Bishop Nick Baines - Great piece, do hop over and read it all.
Here you go Church leaders everywhere; if you wish to up the donations, ensure you absolve folk of their sins:
People who recall being absolved of their sins, are more likely to donate money to the church, according to research published today in the journal Religion, Brain and Behavior.
Researchers from Royal Holloway and the University of Oxford assigned participants two memory tasks. In the first, they were asked to privately recall a sin that they had committed in the past, while in the second, they recalled attending confession for this sin or imagined doing so, if they had not confessed in reality.
Each participant was also given an opportunity to donate to a local Catholic church by placing some money in an envelope. For some participants, this donation was collected before they recalled being absolved of the sin, whereas for others the donation was collected afterward.
The results showed that recalling (or imagining) absolution strongly increased church donations, with the effect more pronounced in participants who believed in divine judgment and engaged in religious activities such as reading the bible or praying.
Dr Ryan McKay from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway said: “Recent evidence has suggested that people are more likely to behave prosocially, such as helping, sharing, donating, co-operating and volunteering, when they feel guilty. This raises the question of whether religious rituals of absolution, in which people are absolved of their sins and released from guilt, would actually make people less prosocial.
“However, the results of our study suggest the opposite – that ‘releasing’ people from their sin has a positive prosocial effect. This indicates that the Catholic ritual of confession is an effective means of promoting commitment to the church”