The sharing of joy, not the shouting of jargon

This morning I gave a talk to members of West Mersea church about the nature of outreach, in preparation for the Diocesan centenary next year. These are my written-up notes, not a pure transcript of what was said.

There is something a little dispiriting when someone in authority tries to ginger up activity on behalf of the Church of England by declaiming that ‘the Church will be dead in a generation!’. Frankly, who cares? My concern with such language is that it is speaking from a place of fear rather than faith, and that, as such, it can never be good news, it can never be gospel. This is precisely what I believe we must avoid.

It calls to mind something which I have been exploring with my house group recently. We have been steadily working our way through Olivier Clement’s ‘The Roots of Christian Mysticism’, and we came across this extremely striking passage, extracted from the Shepherd of Hermas:

Clothe yourself then in joy where God delights to be. Make it your delight. For every joyful person acts well, thinks rightly, and tramples sadness underfoot. The gloomy person on the other hand always acts badly. In the first place such a one does wrong by grieving the Holy Spirit who is given to us as joy. Then … the gloomy person is guilty of impiety in not praying to the Lord … for prayer offered in sadness lacks the strength to ascend to the altar of God . . . Sadness mingled with prayer prevents it from rising, just as vinegar mingled with wine robs it of its flavour . . . Purify your heart then of the sadness that is evil, and you will be living for God. And all those who have stripped themselves of sadness in order to put on joy will likewise be living for God.

Now here, as with the archetypal mad professor handling fuming test tubes with tongs, we need to be very careful, if we are not simply to add greater burdens to our backs. I take the point of this passage to be that when we are in touch with the gospel, that is, when we are in touch with the good news that has given us joy, then we are enabled and strengthened to act rightly. This does not mean that, for example, our sufferings are caused by a lack of faith. It is to insist that if we are to act fully, and act from a basis of faith, then we also need to act from the basis of joy.

Consider the poor ladies recently released from thirty years of captivity in South London. Imagine what they felt in becoming free, the total transformation of their lives, and imagine what sort of language might come close to expressing their emotions. This is how we are to understand someone like St Paul, and, most especially, this is how we are to understand the grounds for his writings. Consider the passage that we had last week from Colossians – the famous passage about Christ, which is very philosophical. What needs to be kept in mind is the context that comes first, when Paul writes about being drawn out of darkness into the Kingdom of the Son. It is this experience which comes first, and all the metaphysics comes later. Unless we are able to retain a connection with the liberating joy which is the fuel for that philosophical reflection then we become ‘resounding gongs, or clashing cymbals’.

People will doubtless be aware that I find Russell Brand quite interesting at the moment. Have a watch of this video, where he is interviewing members of Westboro Baptist Church:

I find this remarkable, but also quite chilling. I wonder how many people see a vaster array of similarities between my church and the Westboro Baptists, rather than the differences. Whilst I don’t see Brand as orthodox, he is much closer to my own centre of spiritual gravity.

What we have here, I believe, is a perfect example of bad evangelism. It is one that emphasises a particular metaphysical framework, and uses particular jargon. If we say to someone outside the Christian conversation ‘Jesus died to save you from your sins’ it invites various responses: What sin? What IS sin? Why would a loving God set things up in this way anyway? In other words, the language is baroque and meaningless. It is because we know that this is how such words are likely to be received that so many hearts sink when evangelism is discussed.

What we need to pay attention to is the pattern of life which gives the language its context, and therefore meaning. It is the pattern of life and only the pattern of life that can make such language intelligible. I worry that much use of such traditional language is simply the echo of a faithful pattern of life that has now passed away. It is only when we are able to act in loving ways to each other that those who see us talk about love so much can begin to understand what we mean by it. If we continue to use such language, but act in hateful ways, then the words fall to the floor, fruitless.

If we are to engage with the world, and share good news, then we need to be rooted in our joys and not in our fears. We need to be on the path of becoming the people that God has created and called us to be. It is when we do this, when we are helping each other pursue our passions, that God can work his way through us, and we do not hinder Him.

I believe that this is part of the emphasis of the new Pope – as with his latest encyclical, but consider this:

“In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements. The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?”

The work of evangelism is not a sales pitch. We do not have to distort ourselves in order to appeal to the world. That, in fact, is a blasphemy. We are made in the image of God, and we each have a vocation to reveal a particular facet of that image to the world. If we allow the world to determine what is revealed and what isn’t, then we deface that image.

This applies to worship too. Worship is not oriented around evangelism – which isn’t to say that worship of itself cannot bring someone to faith, obviously it can. No, worship has to be oriented around God alone, else it ceases to be worship and becomes a golden calf, a source of poison for the community. That doesn’t mean that worship never changes, it means that the grounds for the change have to be internal – ‘what will enable this community to worship God more fully?’ – rather than external – ‘what will appeal to the outsider?’

Evangelism understood as a burden is a falsehood. As if the cry is
“what can we do to make ourselves loved again?” Evangelism will arise naturally and spontaneously, as a direct consequence of pursuing our vocations – and finding joy in doing so – or not at all. Isn’t this what we mean by being led by the Spirit? As we consider how and where to reach out to the community, I believe that our joys will help us discern our answers. Let us get to know our joys and we can then build from there.

I believe that the church does have something to offer the wider world, and I do have confidence in the faith. I watched the film Gravity recently, and I believe it is a wonderful picture of much modern life.


A human being, surrounded by the highest and most effective forms of technology available, yet utterly isolated and longing for home. I believe that this describes a great many people in our world, in our community.

What we can offer is a forgiving community, a place where people can be accepted as beings not doings. After all joy is a being not a doing. How can you ‘do’ joy? Joy comes when we experience that peace which the world cannot give, when we are at home in the world, when we are finding our purpose and point. This, in turn, gives rise to engagement in social justice – for how can we stand idly by when the opportunities for others to pursue their vocation are denied or worse? The heart of evangelism is outwardly focussed – on the welfare and service of the other – not inwardly focussed, on what might best serve the welfare of the church. In doing so, the church stands over against the world, especially a world that sees human beings as interchangeable commodities, to be used and abused as economic exigencies dictate.

We need to be about the business of sharing joy, not shouting jargon. If our inherited language retains sense then that will be shown by our lives. We need to be a blessing to the world, as salt and yeast and light, not a drain. We need to act on the assumption that God has gone ahead of us in all of our work and his gracious activity is already bearing fruit. In other words, we need to be able to join in and celebrate with the joys of the world – and it may just be that we discover and affirm our own joys in the process.


The Diocesan material followed.


Today is simply a beginning, to help people begin thinking about the process of outreach. There is a lot of more detailed work to be done. Further dates:
Saturday 1st March – study morning (10am!!) to plan the big weekend
Pentecost Sunday – a commissioning and releasing for the work
28th/29th June – the big weekend (to be confirmed)
21st September – gathering in for Harvest

Politics and the transcendent dimension

I want to make the argument that, not only do religious people have a right to engage in the political process but that, without religious people involved in politics, without the religious dimension being accepted as legitimate, the political process itself breaks down and inevitably corrupts. I want to make that argument by talking about ‘the transcendent’.

So what is ‘the transcendent’? Well, for my purposes here, I want to describe it simply as ‘that to which we are accountable’. In Christian terms, obviously, it is God, but the core understanding is in common across the different religious traditions. In all of them there is a sense that there is a higher authority than any person’s own particular judgement, and that the path of spiritual growth, of personal maturity, lies in learning to conform the individual will to that transcendence.

Where there is no such accountability – where there is no such sense of the transcendent – then there are no external brakes or restraints on the exercise of individual will. The political conversation devolves into a simple struggle for power, and whoever swings the biggest gun wins. This, it seems to me, accurately describes our existing political arrangements. We suffer from being governed by a class that, collectively, does not acknowledge any wider accountability. That is clearly not the case on an individual level – there are many religious people who exercise political authority – rather, it is a point about the cultural assumptions that dominate the political discourse as a whole. To bring this out dramatically, we only need to consider Alastair Campbell’s infamous ‘we don’t do God’ comment. We don’t do God; we don’t do the transcendent.

Why does there need to be such accountability? Surely I am not not arguing that those who accept the transcendent are somehow ‘better’ or ‘more virtuous’ than those who don’t? At an individual level, no. This is a red herring. Any one individual person may be more or less ethical and righteous, capable of acting honourably and without fear or favour. It is perfectly possible for the language of the transcendent to become empty, a way of disguising all sorts of internal horrors. Jesus said of the Pharisees that they were whitewashed tombs – the language of the transcendent was there, but the internal character that such language was supposed to reflect was markedly absent.

What I am wanting to focus on is the nature of the broader culture within which individuals operate. I believe that one sort of culture – one which acknowledges a role for the transcendent – allows for a different sort of political discourse, and a better sort, than one that does not. Take the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. People of good will can disagree on the merits of that particular decision, but was our dialogue helped or hindered by the absence of ‘doing God’? After all, the salient feature of our foreign policy environment since 9/11 is surely that we need to find a way to engage with and overcome those who ‘do God’ in a particularly virulent fashion. Is it possible to work out a way of engaging with Islamist terror without having a conversation about how and why such religious based terrorism is wrong? And can it be done without coming up with some alternative sense of the transcendent to set against that of the terrorists? I don’t believe so. After all, a specific part of the Islamist critique of our society, which they see as corrupt, soft and decadent, is precisely this loss of any sense of the transcendent, any sense that there is a higher authority than our own choices. They see this as a weakness, and they are emboldened by it.

What a sense of the transcendent allows for is the cultivation of a proper humility within our political culture, a sense that ‘we might be very wrong about this’. This is what seems to me to be most lacking. Our political culture seems to run on a tacit acceptance that the political contest is simply about different varieties of bureaucratic managerialism – a ‘we will run the business better than that lot’ sort of argument. So the political debates become ones about marginal efficiency, and the capacity to raise our long term growth rate by half a percentage point. The environment in which we now live – where there are existential questions for our nation to address, including the challenge of Islamist terrorism, the financial bankruptcy of our institutions, the exhaustion of natural resources – these are not challenges that can be met by managerialism!

Why is humility important? Humility is not self-abasement, it is not about being “ever so ‘umble”. It is about having a true recognition of our place in the world, of our own position and capacity – no more and no less. The language links with that of ‘humus’, that is, the earth. Those who are humble are earthed, they are well grounded in reality. In other words, those who are humble have, by definition, a more accurate understanding of the way that the world works. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. They are, therefore, as a direct consequence, better able to make good decisions, decisions that are more likely to have the intended effect. Those who lack humility are those who are misled about their place in the world; they therefore have a distorted understanding of reality; and they therefore make decisions accordingly.

A political culture which lacks a sense of the transcendent, therefore, lacks this capacity for humility. It will inevitably over-reach itself. It will believe that it has a greater capacity for influencing events than is the truth, and this will lead to increasingly dire consequences. For examples of this, simply read our devilish press. The political actors within such a system do what is right in their own eyes, and the nihilist zombies lead the lemmings over the cliff. Yes, lots of mixed metaphors there, but I’m sure you get the gist.

TBLA (11): the nature of heterosexual attraction (ii)

I wasn’t planning to come back to this so quickly after the last post, but I obviously didn’t make myself clear….

My language of ‘fundamental building block’ and ‘fundamental basis’ was meant to convey that this is where heterosexual attraction *begins*. It was not intended to reduce heterosexual attraction to this.

When St Paul talks about ‘the flesh’ I take him to mean precisely this biological inheritance. It is what we share with the animal kingdom, or, possibly more precisely, it is the nature of our ‘lizard brain’. It is the most primitive part of our personality. It is also what is most stimulated (in the male) by visual cues, which provoke the dopamine hit leading to addictions.

I believe that human desire – that is, the desire of one human being as a human being, not simply as an animal – is irreducibly complex. It begins with the biological for that is the stuff of which we are made, but it grows and develops until – ideally – the whole of a person is involved. This is what I believe the Christian notion of ‘chastity’ properly consists in. Not a simple repression of the biological but an integration of the biological with all the other elements of the personality. It includes all sorts of labyrinthine details of memory association, context and habits, friendliness and charm – all the things that poets have written about for a long time. Here, also, is where I think we don’t need to talk about ‘heterosexual’ either (I only brought in that restriction to try and simplify that first post).

So: sexy babies. That’s where desire begins for a human being. It isn’t where it ends, it isn’t even it’s most glorious flourishing – but I’m getting ahead of myself in my argument there.

TBLA (10): the nature of heterosexual attraction (i)

Image taken from – and this post prompted by – this post at one of my favourite film sites.

I want to sketch out a simple understanding of the nature of heterosexual attraction, in order to explain why I disagree with the line of argument expressed in the picture. It is an understanding which has only developed in me recently, and is still a ‘work in progress’, but the main lines of it seem to me to be very plausible.

The starting idea is this: the fundamental building block for what counts as sexy in a member of the opposite sex is “whatever makes for healthy babies” (and I owe that formulation to Athol Kay, whose writings I recommend). However, what counts as ‘making healthy babies’ is different in men and women.

For men, any particular act of sexual intercourse is ‘cheap’. It requires very little investment of biological “currency”, ie time and resources. For men, therefore, the question of what will make for a healthy baby is first and foremost a question of fertility, and therefore whatever indicates fertility is seen as sexy.

For women, however, the situation is directly opposite. However brief an act of sexual intercourse might be, the consequence, at least potentially, is immensely costly in terms of time and resources. Whilst there is undoubtedly an element of purely physical attraction (ie a purely ‘biological’ assessment of health and fertility) there is also a significant social element. That is, one of the key markers that trigger attraction for a man is ‘social status’, which is a proxy for the ability to command resources – and therefore ensure that any child born has a better chance of being raised to a healthy age.

So having said all that, what is my disagreement with people like MaryAnn? Well, that motorbike image is not comparing like with like. It is comparing an image developed to appeal to the biological instincts of heterosexual men – in other words, an image of a woman emphasising all the cues of healthy fertility – with a pastiche. The picture of the man by the motorcycle is not an image designed to appeal to the biological instincts of heterosexual women. What would such an image look like? Well, how about this:


In other words, not just that here is a handsome man, but that here is a man with significant social status and dominance.

What the objections to such images seem to me to be based on is a repudiation of the fundamental basis of male heterosexual attraction. Perhaps this is a good thing. Perhaps male heterosexual attraction is so inherently destructive to the social order that it really does need to be corralled and controlled. In many ways, traditional Christian sexual ethics is about just that.

Yet if we are not to be irredeemably sexist about this, we need to also acknowledge the fundamental basis of female heterosexual attraction, and the possibility that an unrestrained female desire can be just as destructive as the equivalent in the male. In other words, if we are not to be completely prejudiced, we need to ensure that those things which might turn women on are kept as far from them as possible, in just the same way that those things which might turn men on must be kept away from them.

We would end up with, among other things, a ban on images and a rigid segregation of the sexes. Something, perhaps, that looked a lot like Saudi Arabia.

Alternatively, we could just become a lot more relaxed about both sides of the equation, accept that men respond sexually in the way that they do, women respond sexually in the way that they do, and delight in our differences.

“For a blunder, that’s too big” – some brief musings on the death of the Church of England

The title of this post is one of my (many) favourite Wittgenstein quotations. It comes from his Lecture on Religious Belief, when he is pointing out that religious belief is not the same sort of thing as a scientific belief; that is, it isn’t something that proceeds in steady and cautious steps from evidence to conclusion. Those that think in these terms simply demonstrate their intellectual captivity to post-Enlightenment nostrums about rationality. Their time has passed; that intellectual battle has been lost; they are simply the intellectual equivalent of Japanese soldiers still occupying tiny islands long after the end of the Second World War. So, no more about that.

I most tend to think of Wittgenstein’s aphorism when pondering the huge cultural changes that we have gone through, where we haven’t yet worked out all the implications of what is happening, or whether they are desirable or not. Most especially, it comes to mind when I think about the Church of England, and what God might actually be seeking from us in this time that we have been given.

Consider George Carey’s fearful remarks, the tired old trope that the church is only one generation from extinction. I shouldn’t let it, but such language always irritates me. Jesus said that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, and I for one believe Him. So let us not get too hung up about whether it falls upon our poor mortal shoulders to save the church – or even the Church of England – for there are legions of angels working for God’s will to be accomplished. Let us, instead, work out what God is seeking to do and then try and cooperate with it.

Which is…? Well, ‘for a blunder, that’s too big’. Might it not be the case that, rather than a story about the long, melancholy withdrawing roar of the Sea of Faith – and therefore a sad story of decline and death – what we have in the religious history of England over the last 150 years is, in fact, the direct working out of God’s will? In other words, that the Church of England, as a centralised and established form of Christianity, intimately bound together with the legal and constitutional arrangements of the country, that this glorious old lady has in fact achieved all that God wanted her to achieve (quite possibly the worldwide transmission of the via media approach to the faith) and that, now this task has been accomplished, what God actually wants is for her to enter her rest, and hear those most gracious words ‘well done thou good and faithful servant’?

After all, what is it that is actually ‘dying’? It isn’t the gospel itself; it isn’t Christianity in this country; it isn’t even the local church, which is often in robust good health. No, it is simply the place that a particular form of Christianity held within the national life of England. England has moved away from it, and all of the ways in which being an Anglican were tied in to the old cultural forms are now dying. What is wrong with that?

I want to stick with my deckchairs and lifeboats image, however hackneyed. I believe that we most need to recognise that the good ship of Establishment is sinking, and trying to prevent that from taking place is not simply a wasted effort on our part, it is actually a blasphemous and misguided attempt to thwart God’s will. The decline of the Church of England is not a blunder.

What we are called to do is the same as what all Christians are called to do, every where and at every time – to be faithful, to hold on to Christ alone and to be willing to let go of everything else. The centralised Church of England is sinking – what strikes me now as being worthy of theological interest is the multitude of Anglicanisms that shall follow – a flotilla of lifeboats floating away from the wreckage, seeking a new shore on which to embark on new adventures. Which is, after all, a more exciting and more inspiring prospect.

Religion, politics, comedians and fools

Look at that comedian Russell Brand, he must be having a laugh. Who is he to think he can talk about politics? Doesn’t he know that you have to be qualified in order to have a political opinion? You need to be a professional politician, otherwise your views are illegitimate. Get back in your box and go back to amusing the masses – leave the political issues to your wise masters. Everything is fine. Go back to sleep…

It has been fascinating watching the reaction to Russell Brand’s recent political interventions – his editing of an edition of the New Statesman, his interview with Jeremy Paxman. Clearly he has struck a nerve; something that comes from having the nerve and keeping his nerve I guess. I have particularly enjoyed his emphasis upon the spiritual side of politics. Consider this: “Total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic system is what interests me, but that’s not on the ballot.” Yes, me too. In other words, it is the interplay of the spiritual and the political that most commands attention, and it is the rigid separation between the two that has blighted both.

The nature of the crises that we face – the loss of democratic legitimacy, the collapse of faith in the political process, especially amongst the young, the collapsing ecology driving the collapsing economy – these things cannot be addressed effectively unless they are considered from a wholly human point of view. By ‘wholly human’ I mean one that draws upon an analysis grounded in a full humanity – not one that simply sees us as interchangeable fleshly cogs within the military-industrial complex. There is more to being human than simply being a convenient source of purchasing power, provisioning the onward march of industrialism.

We need to have the revolution of values about which Brand talks, one which actually places us within a wider human and ecological context, and where the virtues of personal freedom and the free market are deployed in order to serve the wider human interest. This can be done; indeed, for much of human history, it was done. Sadly, we are at the tail end of many decades of ideologically driven institutional change which has turned much of our rich human ecology and culture into an ashy wasteland. It is only in this context that the fool can come and speak the truth, because his foolishness is what enables him to slip past the established guardians of acceptable political opinion.

What, after all, is the principal role of the fool? The court jester, the one who is given unique powers of truth-telling, the one person who can speak truth unto power – the antidote to the sycophancy and closed-loop thinking processes which so deform any institution that has remained static for too long; and, surely, that is a description that applies to our political process.

We are in very interesting times. The governing narratives that have dominated our political and cultural life for nearly three centuries have exhausted themselves and no longer have the moral capital to command our assent or our energies. We are in a period that is post-secular, for the rejection of the divine bankrupted itself long ago. We are in a period that is post-growth, for the abundant and cheap supplies of energy and other resources on which such growth depended have now been drawn down. We are in a period that is post-modern, for the assumptions about progress and an ever-improving path of development have been shown to be simply bad theology in fashionable dress.

We simply will not be able to understand our world or improve our condition unless we re-integrate our spirituality and our politics. We will not be able to assess the worth of any particular political project – or any particular politician come to that – unless we have some standard or reference against which that assessment can be made. What is that standard or reference? Well, that is the conversation that we need to be having. Is it the case that we still believe a constant search for economic growth is the answer to our problems? I doubt that many people believe that to be so, but I really wish that someone would tell that to our political masters so that they don’t spend quite so much time with their ritual incantations about a ‘return to economic growth’ which actually end up making people more miserable, not to mention the impact upon the wider ecology on which we all, ultimately, depend for our lives let alone our livelihoods.

The separation of the political and the religious is, in fact, a particular quirk of North-Western European Protestant culture. In any other society the idea that these things can be separated would be ridiculed for the folly that it is, yet in our society it remains the default assumption of “common sense”. There are particular reasons for this – principally the way in which the supposedly religious wreaked great violence upon each other in our civil war – yet the root issue is that one particular political grouping excluded the religious from the political sphere in order to more thoroughly establish their own powers, to make our world safe for the corporation. This is why, in this country, it is seen as not quite the done thing for the religious to speak out on political matters; why there is still a frisson when the Archbishop criticises Wonga, for example.

Yet it is because the Archbishop is being true to his own vocation that he has to speak out. Even the most random reading of the Bible will reveal some of the thousands of verses dedicated to social justice. It is simply not possible to be a Christian and not to have a political concern. That is not to determine what form that political concern takes – that was the mistake of those who slaughtered in our civil war – but it is to insist that the religious and the political cannot be separated, that these spheres interact with each other and cannot be coherently understood on their own. The time for that separation has passed, and it now falls to this generation to work out a new understanding, and a new pattern of life. That, at least, is my belief, and my passion, and what I shall seek to be continually and foolishly true to.

Of deckchairs and lifeboats

Hackneyed images become so because they contain a truth, and so I beg your indulgence as I deploy the Titanic metaphor to think about the ministry of the Church of England.

The Church of England in the form that it has taken, certainly from the late nineteenth-century, and largely since the Reformation, is sinking. It is spiritually moribund. The decline is of very long-standing; it has been lamented for at least two generations; and I find the challenge of trying to reverse that decline dispiriting in the extreme. (Follow the categories for more of my thinking on this).

We need to distinguish between several things. There is the universal church, against which Hades shall not succeed. I have great optimism that some time this century Christianity shall become the majority world faith. There is the local church, of which there are many varieties, and much rude health. There is the faith as the Church of England has received it, via media Christianity, to which I remain a committed and convinced believer. Then, as of one untimely born, there is the particular institutional arrangement that goes by the name ‘The Church of England’, which is really an archipelago of thousands of different legal entities. It is this latter which I believe to be sinking.

So, in this situation, what is the priest to do? And by priest, I really mean a stipendiary cleric. The Dioceses gather millions of pounds each year and spend most of it on paying for clergy. I want to ask the question: given the death of the institution, what is the best use of those funds? In other words, I want to ask – what is it that the clergy do that can be classed as shuffling deckchairs, and what can be classed as preparing eternal life-boats?

There is, after all, an immense paraphernalia of institutional wheel-turning that takes up the time of a stipendiary priest. Everything to do with buildings and churchyards qualifies; all that comes under the rubric of ‘establishment’, including the majority of occasional offices; much that is concerned with finance and so on. Most spectacularly at the moment, the question of whether the captain of the Titanic requires testicles is most certainly a deckchair question. I am not persuaded that any of this is a productive use of the resources that stipendiary clergy represent. It is not what they are trained for or called to. Almost all of it could be taken forward by a suitably qualified Christian lay person – and would be better done thereby.

So if that is the deckchair removal business, what is the proper work of the priest? As I have discussed several times previously, it is the cure of souls. This is what clergy are trained for; this is why they are formed through Word and Sacrament; this is what makes them tick. The care and – ultimately – the salvation of souls. This is the proper priestly work, the pastoral care of the sheep.

Now, as I understand it, the model of ministry in other countries – but still within the Anglican Communion – has much more lifeboat building done by clergy, and much less deckchair removal. I believe that the Church of England only has a future in so far as it begins to change to resemble its own children. There will be many different lifeboats, of many different stripes – the more the merrier in my view. Yet I believe that each will need its own priest. That is what we need to spend our time on. I shall, over time, seek to reduce my time spent on deckchairs to an absolute minimum, and pray that the Lord will prosper the work of my hands as I seek to build lifeboats.