The Christian message has been lost in the gay marriage debate

12 03 2012

If Christians want to be heard in a debate about Gay marriage, they must think more carefully before they speak.

The church should never feel obliged to follow fashions, and keep in step with popular opinion. We forget at our peril that Christ made himself deeply unpopular – his message was so controversial that our ancestors were moved to crucify him.

Far from feeling intimidated when it seems the masses disagree, Christians should step up to the public platform and use the gospel to present challenging questions about the nature of our society.

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Surprising success at Synod

9 02 2012

Depending on where you read it, a summary of this week’s sessions at General Synod might tell you it was a disaster, or tell you it was a humiliating bun fight that achieved very little. I disagree – this synod was the most successful I have ever attended (I am shocked to be able to recall five previous meetings).

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Controversy at the CofE Education Division

23 01 2012

It has become a familiar story in economic difficulty: dedicated and well-regarded public servants performing vital work are told that they will no longer be funded so to do.

However, we must not make the mistake of assuming that the recent restructuring proposed in the Education Division of the Church of England follows the pattern of public sector cuts in the secular world. Many diocesan youth officers and young people themselves have expressed anger about the slimming down of two seperate roles (National Childrens’ Advisor and National Youth Advisor) into one ‘Going for Growth Officer’. Read the rest of this entry »

What kind of society…?

2 01 2012

The Archbishop of Canterbury has used his New Year message to challenge society about the way we deal with young people. In particular, he asks:

“What kind of society is it that lets down so many of its young people? That doesn’t provide enough good role models and drives youngsters further into unhappiness and anxiety by only showing them suspicion and negativity. When you see the gifts they can offer, the energy that can be released when they feel safe and loved, you see what a tragedy we so often allow to happen.”

A few weeks ago I wrote in the Telegraph about the need for the whole of our society to take responsibility for the development and education of our young people. I note that Dr Williams calls for individuals to take action in their local community, rather than any shift in government policy. I suspect that’s not because he is afraid of making political statements, but because he understands the nature of the challenge.

Working recently as a teacher, I began to understand the way many young people see the world around them. National governmental policies do have a big impact (university fees policy is a clear example), but they are superseded by local and immediate factors: an inspiring teacher in the classroom, for example, can nurture extra-ordinary talent. In the same way, every interaction with adults in society has an impact on young people.

I have an idea that I would love to see come to reality, but wasn’t brave enough to include in my Telegraph article. I would like to see all shop owners and bus drivers receive training on how to get the best out of young people. These are people who have regular, and sometimes difficult engagement with young people. They are, to use an overused phrase, on the frontline for us on this issue.

Some might say that government is in a good position to arrange such training, but wouldn’t it be better if Stagecoach, and the Association of British Newsagent Owners recognised for themselves the impact that they could have. Indeed, what if all of us were to heed Dr William’s thoughts about what kind of society in which we want our young brothers and sisters to grow up?

Women Bishops – What is our church?

25 09 2011

This is the text of a short speech I made to the Manchester Diocesan Synod during the special session called to discuss women bishops. After the Synod had voted overwhelmingly to support the current legislation, I spoke to the following motion. This motion called on the General Synod to reconsider the Archbishops’ Amendment of 2010.


“James Townsend, Hulme deanery and General Synod. I would like you to support this following motion.

Like a steeple, I believe the church must stand to raise our eyes heavenward. It is for us to show the world the love of christ… not in what we say, but in how we behave. Sometimes that responsibility is difficult. But it is when it is difficult that it is most important.

I believe passionately in women bishops – I rejoice that we have just signalled our support for women in the episcopacy. But many people in this Synod have explained that they cannot accept women as bishops, or the provision made for them as it stands. Their argument has always struck me as weak, tenuous and based on wooly thinking.

But that is where they are, and no matter what I think, if I am to be a model Christian in Society, I must find a way to accommodate their position within mine.

If we cannot support this following motion, what are we to do? Do we turn to those in this synod who have asked today for greater provision? Do we ask them to stand up now, and leave?

I am not prepared to do that.

I’m not sure what I think of a church that would do that.”

Turning Tides

13 03 2011

The legends of ancient kings and queens often appear to be quite removed from reality. It is tempting to forget that these great stories feature real people – who lived, breathed, blew their noses and didn’t like spinach.   One such figure is King Canute, who was for a time styled “King of all England and Denmark, and of the Norwegians and of some of the Swedes.” Clearly, not a man any history book should pass over without some mention.   What is striking about the legend of this man is that popular culture remembers none of his great achievements, Read the rest of this entry »

Synod Stats

12 02 2011

The Church of England is said to be ‘Synodically governed, episcopally led.’ Consequently it is important that we take General Synod seriously, and give it the scrutiny that any other legislative body could expect. This includes its membership. Adrian Greenwood (Southwark) recently asked a question to the Clerk of the Synod about the make-up of the Synod’s membership.

Using the Written Answer (and a little help from the Synod office), I have put together some charts. By combining the gender data with an age profile, one can see some dramatic differences between the Clergy and the House of Laity. Read the rest of this entry »