IDWTSLACP Gambolling in the bailiwick

I think this is going to be the last post in this sequence, and it may be the reason, thanks be to God, that I started writing again.

Building on the idea of my last post – that I have a motte-and-bailey mind – I’ve been thinking further about how I have been interacting with people, both in real life and especially on-line. I have a highly trained speculative intellect, and I am accustomed to playing with ideas that I am not emotionally attached to – I am a ‘high-decoupler’ to use some modish language. I enjoy the innocence of a lamb gambolling in the green fields seeing a new thing and responding ‘ooh, shiny’.

I think this is a good thing on the whole (well I would…); most especially I think that it is a gift, and the cultivation of emotional detachment is an essential part of the spiritual journey. In classical Christian terms it is about developing the virtue of apatheia, and I write about how it is the spiritual foundation of the scientific method in my book, where I talk about the apathistic stance as the epistemological prerequisite for seeking any truth.

However, there is a time and a place for such speculation. Not everyone is able to ‘decouple’ in the way described; not everyone is able to play with ideas, to enjoy the ‘stress-testing’ of them in public, to not be disturbed by the truth or falsity of what may be conjured up (and I use such language deliberately). If nothing else, the events in Washington on 6th January show what can happen when bad speculation takes root in unhealthy soil. What I have been considering is whether my ponderings about electoral fraud are less an innocent gambolling and more a negligent and culpable gambling. We have entered into a fraught time, when we need to be more careful with our language – and I think I need on many levels to become more cautious with my own language. I am at heart a prudent, conservative and cautious person, and that is not what comes across from my gambolling in the bailiwick. I do not want to sound like a crazy person.

To adopt a metaphor that I first came across in Pirsig I have come to see my mind as like a river that has burst its banks, and the water has flooded into all sorts of strange areas. I need to work on deepening my intellectual channels, spending less time exploring – gambolling – and more time developing the elements of my understanding that I am seriously committed to. I need to spend more time in the motte and less in the bailey – and the time I spend in the bailey needs to become more private, so that my public facing writings are more secure and firmly rooted.

In short, it’s time for me to do my PhD.

Watch this space.

IDWTSLACP My motte-and-bailey mind

There is a bad form of argument known as the ‘motte-and-bailey’ fallacy. This is derived from the medieval castle system, where there is a motte (mound/castle) that can be defended easily, and a separate area (the bailey) which can’t be defended. In peaceful times the bailey can be used for lots of human activity; in times of conflict the people can retreat to the motte. So in an argument, a position can be advanced which is outlandish (can’t be defended) and the fallacy comes when the person advancing the argument shifts their position to say that they were only advancing a reasonable position (the motte). So it is an example of bad faith, what might be called ‘trolling’ these days.

So what do I mean when I say that I have a ‘motte-and-bailey’ mind? I mean that I will often consider things, and talk about things, without being committed to defending them – they are in the bailey. Whereas some things that I argue for I really AM committed to. I appreciate that this causes problems for other people; it has certainly caused me problems in my own life, when people have thought I was committed to a perspective (my motte) when in fact I was only exploring it (in my bailey).

In considering matters of faith, I have sometimes used the language of a doctrine being ‘weight-bearing’. That is, the Christian faith has many elements within it, and I have grown in my understanding of the faith over time. For many years I took the doctrine of the resurrection on trust – it resided in my bailey, I was still working through it. Eventually it became a part of my core understandings, it ‘took the weight’ in terms of how I live my life, and so it became a part of my motte, my most fundamental commitments. The doctrine of the Virgin Birth, by contrast, is still in the bailey, although it has moved closer to the motte over time.

This sequence of ‘I don’t want to sound like a crazy person’ is me making public those things which I am pondering which are in the bailey. I find them alarming. I don’t want them to be true. I am therefore opening them up to public scrutiny in order to bring them in to the light, to be exposed to criticism, to be tested and examined. I am grateful when people engage with what is in my bailey and say ‘Sam, that’s crap, because X, Y, Z’. I am saddened when people look at what is in the bailey and say variations of ‘you’re a moron’. It may well be true that I’m a moron, but calling me a moron doesn’t help me – and it doesn’t help those who are also considering the same questions.

I think I need to find a way of signalling the level of commitment that I hold to any viewpoints that I choose to discuss. The Less Wrong community have a useful marker – ‘epistemic status’ – which I quite like, but it’s a bit philosophically exact for this blog. Perhaps I can simply continue to use this language, putting ‘this is in my bailey’ or ‘this is part of my motte’ when putting forward an argument. Hopefully that will help to clarify things.

So, for the record – this entire sequence of IDWTSLACP is operating with my bailey. Everything I outline in it could be wrong, and my fundamental convictions would not be affected.

Whereas, when I start talking about the resurrection, and what it means for spiritual warfare and our present political crisis – that will involve a lot of ‘motte-stuff’!

IDWTSLACP – why the crazy conversation is important (OR: why the UK has a more hopeful prospect than the US in the coming years)

One of the dire consequences of our present cultural breakdown is the collapse of a shared space of discourse – a common frame of reference, a mutual framework of values – against which, within which, we can hammer out our differences without threatening the stability, and therefore the safety, of the community as a whole.

One of those shared values is democracy, which has as a necessary component the notion of ‘loser’s consent’. In other words, democracy is the means by which we have agreed to resolve our differences. We make our arguments and then there is an election (or a referendum!) which produces a decision for one path or another, and then there is a gathering around that decision with a common resolve to make the decision work, or apply.

The two shocks in the English-speaking world, of 2016, did not receive that expected loser’s consent. However, the working out of that refusal of consent took a different path in the UK and in the US.

In the UK there was a concerted effort on the part of the governing class to overthrow the verdict of the referendum. However, in contrast to what happened in other EU member states, the governing class was not able to succeed. Through a sequence of further democratic votes, most notably the impact of the Brexit party in the EU elections of 2019, and culminating in the General Election of December 2019, the democratic decision was re-affirmed, Mr Johnson received a mandate for Brexit and – slightly to my surprise – he has actually implemented it.

Please note that this is not an argument saying that Brexit was the ‘right’ decision. This is simply saying that in the UK a democratic verdict was implemented – there was a time of strife but in the end the institutions of the state, the limbs of the body politic, did actually reflect the choice that was made.

(A personal aside: whilst I am – obviously – a committed Brexiteer, it was actually a sense that this needed to happen, that there was a risk of something profoundly wrong and damaging about to take place, that moved me to stick my head up above the parapet with the Brexit Party. That was a terrifying experience on all sorts of levels; but it was the right decision, and, I believe, it was of God. A small but healing (for me) act of prophetic drama.)

This outcome – that the UK voted for Brexit, and the UK has now got Brexit, for better or for worse – gives me a degree of confidence in the future of our society. Our institutions eventually worked, and that means that our institutions continue to enjoy the consent of the population. When things go wrong – as they seem to be doing with our COVID response, whatever your view on the underlying science – then people will turn to the existing systems to remedy what has gone wrong. In other words, if Johnson is eventually considered to be an incompetent and bumbling fool then he will be thrown out of office, either by the Conservative MPs as they face the prospect of losing an election, or by the voters in a General election themselves.

The reason why I think that this is so essential is because I think if it hadn’t happened – if Brexit had been somehow denied by overt and covert means – we would find ourselves in the situation that the United States finds itself in today.

When Trump was elected, against the odds, there was a parallel reaction of the establishment to try and overturn that democratic shift. It took various forms, Russiagate was the most blatant, but there were others. Again, this is not a point in favour of Trump, it is a point about the democratic process. When one side of a democratic context refuses to accept the basic legitimacy of a decision that they did not support, then it is the framework itself that breaks down – and when the framework breaks down then there is no longer a possibility of a consensual future.

In my view, what we are seeing in the United States today is the product of both long-term and short-term factors. The long-term factors need not detain us now (see MacIntyre amongst others) but the short-term factors are quite straightforward. The deplorables have been demonised, and they have demonised in turn. Trump was denied legitimacy, and now Biden is denied legitimacy. Consent in the democratic process is being withdrawn, and that withdrawal is escalating. Place this into a context of cultural polarisation and add free access to automatic weapons, then stir.

I am very worried about the short-term (up to five years) future of the United States. I do not see how to get through the crisis that now obtains without things getting significantly worse, up to and including a degree of civil conflict, and possibly the secession or breakdown of the United States itself.

If there is to be a shared future – and this applies to the UK also, even though I hope and pray that we have now avoided the worst outcomes – then I believe there are two linked things that simply must be put in place. The first relates to political leadership, the second relates to how ordinary people conduct themselves with each other.

Political leaders must demonstrate honesty. The normal jostling for advantage, the reliance upon ‘spin’ to present events in a light that is most flattering to the speaker, these belong to a more luxurious and decadent age. We need plain speaking, frank admissions of what has gone wrong, what the true situation is. Leaders need to trust people again – and that cannot happen if the full truth of a situation is not disclosed.

Similarly, if there is to be a renewal of our shared cultural space there needs to be an acceptance of the legitimacy of difference. To denounce different perspectives as malicious – which is what happened in the Brexit debates – and fail to engage in the substance is part of the cultural breakdown that leads to greater conflict.

One might say: if there is to be reconciliation between the warring factions, that reconciliation can only be built upon a shared truth.

Which is why the ‘crazy’ questions simply must be addressed. They must be engaged with, patiently, and the truth must be excavated and brought out into the light. It will not do to repeat talking points shared on the one side or the other. There must be a recognition of the sincerely held beliefs held by those who oppose. There has to be an affirmation of the shared humanity of the other side. Without this there is only perpetual conflict and dissolution.

I am hopeful that the UK has been enabled by grace to find that more creative path. On this day of Epiphany, the light that enlightens the nations, I pray for the US – an amazing nation, a beautiful people – currently in the grip of a devilish crisis. Lord have mercy.

IDWTSLACP – OK, Covid in the UK has (probably) got much further to go

One of the principles of the ‘less wrong’ community, which I find very attractive, is a commitment to open thinking, in other words, to be clear about what evidence is being relied on to make what judgement. In addition – and possibly the most important of all – is a commitment to be clear when a view is changing as a result of finding new evidence.

So I’m glad to have written what I did earlier, as it provoked some good conversations and lines of investigation that have changed how I am seeing this. This represents progress, and is my new drug of choice (actually, that’s a bit flippant, but I’ll make a more serious point on that topic tomorrow). So this post is to explain a shift over the last 24 hours.

The issue that had engaged me was a perceived discrepancy between rocketing infection rates and an unchanging bed occupancy rate. This was the source for the point about bed occupancy:


I didn’t just go from the tweet; I did go to the NHS site to see if the raw figures back up what was shown in the graph, which they did.

However, in the light of the explosion of infections – why was the bed occupancy rate not changing? Perhaps it was because the argument offered by people like Mike Yeadon was true, ie that the testing regime is compromised by, amongst other things, a very high false-positive rate.

Some tweets from John Bye made me reconsider that possible answer:

In other words, if the false positive rate was madly high then it would show up in other places. That seemed plausible to me (although there were a couple of tweets in that thread that made me go ‘hmmmm’).

So there needed to be an alternative explanation for the discrepancy between the bed occupancy rate and the infection rate (ie why did one not reflect the other; same issue with the death rate, of course, but I thought that had alternative explanations along the lines indicated in my earlier post). I have now had a good conversation with a nurse on the front-line, who unpacked the seeming contradiction, and made a further essential point.

The reason why the bed occupancy rate isn’t changing is because it cannot change – there are only so many bed spaces available. What is happening is that the people who would otherwise be occupying those beds (in a ‘normal’ winter) are now not in hospital at all, displaced in favour of Covid+ patients. In other words, simply looking at bed occupancy rate is not a sufficient guide for measuring the impact of the virus.

The further essential point, though, is that the NHS has still not recovered from the earlier peak in April, most especially in terms of the availability of trained personnel, and that this has a huge impact on what is being demanded of nurses and doctors and support staff now. My friendly nurse was extremely concerned at the capacity of the hospitals to cope with the surge coming down the line due to the Christmas break. The NHS is really up against it.

Lockdown it is then.

IDWTSLACP – the COVID pandemic in the UK has (probably) run its course

My views updated here; this post left otherwise unchanged for reasons of historical accuracy…. and humility 😉

So a little while back, my son sent me a link to a James Delingpole interview with Mike Yeadon. I don’t listen to podcasts much, for the same reason that I don’t watch Youtube videos much – I find them an inefficient use of my intellectual bandwidth, as I can absorb information much more effectively by reading. However, I have something of a resolution to do more physical exercise (especially yoga) and it turns out that listening to a podcast matches up quite nicely with stretching my tired limbs during the day (much study leads to a weariness of the flesh and all that).

So, Yeadon argues – and he’s got a fair bit of authority from which to argue – that COVID is a real and horrible virus, and that it became endemic in the UK in April. However, as a virus, there is no such thing as a ‘second wave’ – they don’t exist. Viruses spread through a population following a Gompertz curve – all of them, without exception. Any rise in infection after that first wave peaking in April comes from where there are pockets of population that were not exposed earlier.

In addition, Yeadon argues that the testing regime that we have put in place isn’t just useless, it is actively counter-productive. He argues that we don’t have an epidemic of the virus, we have an epidemic of testing. We don’t know what the false-positive rate is for the tests, nor do we have assurance that those ministering the tests are competent to do so. Essentially, if the virus is really as widespread as believed – and has the effects that are believed by those advocating a continued lockdown – then there would need to be other evidence in addition to the testing. Which, allegedly, there isn’t. Certainly not much in terms of overall death rate or hospital admissions (see work by Joel Smalley).

I would have thought that if Yeadon is wrong then it would be fairly straightforward to show that he is wrong. His claims about the nature of virus epidemiology, for example, which he states as ‘axioms’ and learned in the first year of a degree – and which undermine most of the press coverage of COVID – are either true or not. So I’m looking out for a refutation of his arguments.

In the meantime I will happily follow the recommended advice; I will wear a mask when out in public; we will not sing in church services; and so on and so forth. Yet all the while I shall also become more and more persuaded that we have, more by cock-up than conspiracy, ended up in the absurd position of sacrificing lives when we thought we were saving them, and I wonder more and more – what will follow ‘following the science’ once it is shown that ‘following the science’ has caused such needless havoc and pain?

IDWTSLACP – The Democrats (probably) fixed that election

So here is the issue that prompted me to start writing this sequence. From what I have read, there is a prima facie case that the Democratic party machine fixed the November 2020 election. In addition, the way in which the Mainstream Media (MSM) have covered the issue has demonstrated that they are not concerned with the truth – and the way in which FB (which I hate) and Twitter (which I love) have engaged with the issue renders them morally compromised at the very least.

Why am I saying this? Where’s the evidence? Well, keep in mind that, as I have said before, Evidence ≠ Proof and if you sincerely want to examine the evidence, then the evidence is here.

What tipped the balance for me was the discovery that almost all the ‘bellwether counties’ called the election wrongly this year. I would love to see a probabilistic assessment of how likely it is for this to happen. It is such an unprecedented event that it would need (absent fraud) to be included in a wider narrative of election success. In other words, if this remarkable result were the consequence of a wide political embrace of Biden (or rejection of Trump) then many other things would also be the case. For example, Biden would need to outperform the results that Clinton achieved. Biden would have needed to have done that consistently across the United States and not just in the swing states. And so on.

So far as I can tell, these things did not happen. The remarkable achievements of Mr Biden seem to be associated most closely with the results obtained in Democrat governed swing states (not exclusively – eg Georgia).

None of this is to say that the people making these arguments are not lunatics. It’s because they seem to be lunatics – and engaging in blunderbuss legal applications riddled with errors – that I came up with the theme for this sequence. Yet, just because they are lunatics doesn’t mean that the election wasn’t fiddled.

There is something very wrong here. I’d love to read a psephological analysis (looking at you Peter Ould) as to how in fact is is perfectly plausible for Biden to have achieved what he achieved, especially with regard to the bellwether counties. Until and unless I do, I shall continue to find myself in the epistemic company of the crazies, nervously looking at my feet.

Update 10/1/21 – I’ve continued to dig, and found some good websites with the information that I was after. This lawsuit (against one of the key crazy people) is especially informative. I would now rewrite the headline as ‘the election almost certainly wasn’t fixed’. I’d want to keep some element of doubt, but that’s a personality quirk of mine, stemming from a theological and philosophical training – the only absolute is God.

I’m keeping the original post – and original post title – in place, to encourage my epistemic humility.

I don’t want to sound like a crazy person

I don’t want to sound like a crazy person – which is an acknowledgement that I know I sometimes do.

However, I also know that sometimes the crazy person is right, and not just in a ‘stopped clock is right twice a day’ sense. Sometimes the crazy person is right simply because they are outside the social consensus, in the way of children and naked emperors; sometimes also the desire to be a child, and mock the nakedness of emperors, is a temptation for those who are more cynical than innocent.

So I accept the hazards involved in speaking from an unusual perspective. I accept most of all that ‘of course I could be wrong’ and perhaps what I most want from speaking about what I see is a refreshed dialogue, new perspectives that can show me where I am wrong. I am thirsty for the truth.

I have my own biases, most of which flow from a profound commitment to the Christian tradition, which has given me a respectful scepticism towards “the science” and a realistic appraisal of the nature of human evil.

All of which is a bit of throat clearing. This last year – these last few years – have been difficult ones. I have often proclaimed that I wanted to write more, and then not done so. So I’m not going to proclaim anything about how often I shall write. All I want to say is: I’m going to write some things that will make me sound like a crazy person. This is me trying to find the truth, and providing updates along the way – I am a work in progress.

So that was 2020

Well now. Quite a year, in which the consequences of the last year or three started to work themselves out.
On the surface the worst one since 2012 (and very similar) but on the underneath… really very different. That was a year half way down a slide into an abyss. This feels more like I’m half way through my clambering out of the abyss. What I said at the conclusion last year is even more abundantly true: I am at peace with myself in a way that I haven’t known before, possibly ever as an adult. Also abundantly true: the Lord has provided.

Sad things: my marriage failed, in part because of Brexit, but that was as much a stressor (revealer) of existing problems as a cause of new ones.
Got made redundant (1/3rd of job).
Had significant health problem, doubtless brought on by stress, which I’m slowly getting on top of.

Good things: got properly published.
Started the WSET course on wine (exam on level 3 in March 2021).
Learned to appreciate just how good family and friends are to me and for me, and my loved ones seem to be doing OK. Zoom has been good!
Also: I have been blessed to be in this Diocese. No institution is perfect, but I find myself continually surprised by kindness, and I am grateful.

I’m still standing. I don’t know quite what God wants from me as my next step but I am at peace that I am, on the whole, going in the direction that He wants me to go in – subject, of course, to the way my own sins and delusions lead me astray. Feeling that you are responding to God’s call is no guarantee that you actually are – it needs to be confirmed by others, especially the wider church community.

All praise and thanks to God.

Previous years: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019.

Evidence ≠ Proof

There are so many remarkable things about what is happening in the United States at the moment. It is clearly in the throes of a constitutional crisis, which has been a long time coming, and will take many years to work through. We can hope and pray for wisdom, mercy and civil peace while they go through it. The US – and the world – may look very different on the other side, and it is in everyone’s interests for the US to be healthy.

I want to draw attention to one thing, though, which troubles me. The US mainstream media (MSNBC, NBC, ABC, etc! ) have been consistent in cutting off Trump’s rather bizarre speech last night. The “print” media has followed suit, and is being remarkably robust in pushing back against Trump’s claims.

I have no doubt that there is an immense amount of untruth, half-truth, exaggeration and simple bull$H!+ in what Trump has said – I haven’t listened to it, nor will I, but I base that remark on everything I have heard from him in other contexts. He’s an appalling politician, on all sorts of levels (still might be the best available option – that’s another conversation).

Yet all that can be true and it still be the case that ‘there is something rotten in the state of Denmark’. Just because a fool says that the sun will rise tomorrow, it doesn’t mean that the sun won’t rise. These claims need to be investigated thoroughly, and due process needs to be followed. If the system breaks down – and one of the more dangerous things that Trump has done is undermine faith in the system – everyone loses. The rule of law and the democratic process MUST be upheld, and seen to be upheld. It’s a Caesar’s wife situation.

I found the video footage (circulating on twitter) of what appeared to be an election official filling in blank ballot papers alarming to behold. Then I read that this is apparently standard practice when the original ballot paper cannot be machine read. There is claim and counter claim – evidence gets offered one way or the other (that’s what evidence IS) and eventually a judgement is reached. Evidence is not proof of wrong-doing, it’s saying ‘there is something funny going on here’.

From what I have observed in my semi-detached state, I think that there is evidence of wrong doing that needs to be investigated thoroughly and properly. There are clearly many problems in many states relating to due process, many of which were flagged up twenty years ago with Bush/Gore. It’s interesting to me that Florida seems to have updates its processes in a way that other states have not, but I’ve not examined things closely. I suspect we’re going to have a 2020 equivalent of ‘hanging chads’ pretty soon – Sharpie smudges perhaps?

Trump’s claims are ‘unproven’ and ‘alleged’ and so on. I think it’s fair enough to describe his claims in that way; I’m not sure it is right to shut him down completely and exclude those views from the public square. I think 2020 still has some surprises in store for us, and it would not be out of character for this year for Trump to eventually succeed in remaining President, which would leave the various media organisations with something of a problem. Well, they have lots of problems already.

More broadly, it seems to me that the coalition that Trump has pulled together – effectively the US equivalent of Red Tory – is going to win huuuuugely next time out. It’s the person who wins the next presidential election – who I expect to be a younger, more charismatic and charming version of Trump – who will end up guiding the US forward. I just hope the world doesn’t endure too much damage whilst the US undergoes some necessary refitting.

Open Source Anglicanism

I wonder how many readers of this article have heard of Open Source software? This is software for which the underlying programming code is publicly available and open to general use. Linux is a good example – it is a computer operating system run on open source lines, and does the same job as Windows, the product made by Microsoft. Due to the advantages that open source has over Windows, Linux, and software derived from Linux, now makes the digital world go round – it powers 8 out of 10 servers, which are what enable the internet to function.

One of the key advantages of Linux is that it avoids what is called ‘bloatware’ which is when a program becomes bigger and bigger over time – and takes up more and more room on your hard drive – and then slows down your computer, which becomes more and more prone to crashing. Bloatware means that the processing power of your computer is expended on inessential tasks. Microsoft filled Windows with bloatware because they thought that more features made their products more attractive, and they wanted to make more money. The Microsoft way is of a managerialism seeking to control everything from the centre, whereas the open source way is all about letting go of a desire to control the outcomes. It is purely about the process. Simply put, in the great majority of contexts, open source software is better than closed source software – it fosters co-operation and creativity and it is more reliable and more secure.

My question is: might it be possible for the Church of England to learn something from this? Might we be able to establish an ‘open source Anglicanism’? If we take the equivalent to the software code as ‘the gospel as the Church of England has received it’ then it is the job of those in the line of apostolic succession to spread that code and nothing else. The apostolic task is to teach the truth of the gospel, and to guard it against error, against heresy. This guarding doesn’t have to be done by an inquisition, it can be done simply by guarding boundaries – and the mechanism for this is already in place, it’s called a Bishop’s license. Everything else is ultimately disposable.

That means letting go of the fears which drive the need to control the outcomes – it’s a spiritual undertaking that can only be carried forward when we let go of our fears and properly learn to love God and trust the Holy Spirit. Everything else runs in the direction of ecclesiastical bloatware, and the Church of England has been suffocating for decades beneath that bloat, giving rise to tragedy and fiasco in equal measure. It is why our numbers have collapsed; it is why if we don’t change what we are doing, we will cease to exist within the next generation or so.

Open source Anglicanism doesn’t do anything other than teach the gospel as the Church of England has received it; or, to be clear, open source Anglicanism allows a very great many things to be done under the umbrella of Anglicanism, but they are not done by central direction, management and control. They are simply what are done by enthusiastic and faithful Anglicans in their own place and time.

So there are no central initiatives. There is simply a central teaching resource, embodied in the Diocesan Bishop and continually renewed, so that the gospel is proclaimed afresh in each generation. How that is done is then left to those who have the license in their own context. There is a minimal central organisation. The Bishop has a small staff of administrative and legal support, but concentrates on teaching the faith and enabling those who share in the cure of souls to conduct that task – so pastor to the pastors.

As for the clergy, once they are ordained and licensed, they have independence within that framework. Incumbency drives out priesthood – so let’s not have any clergy incumbents, and give all the legal control over parishes to the laity. Why on earth is it the business of a priest to decide what wording goes on a gravestone? Let priests be required to minister word and sacrament – and let anything else that they do be up to them. Let the stipend return to truly being a stipend!

Open source Anglicanism – in which the role of the officers of the church is to share the gospel by word and sacrament, and almost nothing else – is really a return to how the church started. All the essential things about Anglicanism, the Lambeth quadrilateral, these remain untouched – but all that has accumulated around those essentials is let go of. So often I feel that as a Church we have forgotten our core purpose, and we spend all our energies scratching around for more or less suitable substitutes, which, funnily enough, regularly follow the fashions of the day. We have forgotten that we are supposed to focus on the gospel, so we end up focussing on myriad other things, and we do them very badly, and the outside world looks on us with bemusement and contempt. We wrestle with the inertia of our inherited habits, and we don’t give ourselves the time to dig deep and ask who or what our present practices are actually serving.

If the Church of England is to pull out of its terminal descent it will only do so if it remembers how to trust the Holy Spirit, and recognises that the gospel itself is inherently contagious. We need to overcome the inertia of our inherited institutional imperatives – the blockage of ecclesiastical bloat. This is where we’re going to end up anyway, so why not co-operate with what God is bringing about? I passionately believe in the Gospel as the Church of England has received it, so why not try Open Source Anglicanism? Let’s set the gospel free.

(A more fully worked out description of what I was originally mulling over here)