Prayer, Spirituality

Being human, well….

Given the coverage of the Lambeth Conference in both church and secular press in recent weeks I have decided it is time to say clearly and simply that I am an ordinand (trainee priest) in the Church of England who hopes, and prays, that my church will soon end its discrimination agains LGBTQ+ people (and end discrimination on grounds of sex, class, race, disability and age, too). I hope and pray that we will welcome and respect all equally and marry same sex couples, as the Episcopal Scottish Church, the Chuch of Scotland, the Church of Wales and the Methodists in the UK have decided to do.

So I support the signatories of Bishop Michael Curry’s letter https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=596491731839593&set=a.281607236661379

And I was moved by Sandi Toksvig’s letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury https://twitter.com/sanditoksvig/status/1554948904881381377/photo/2

And I hope, very much, that he meets her and listens to her and that they become friends.

Because, most of all, I want us to learn to disagree better – without shouting at each other, walking out of the room, or going to war. I don’t, personally, think Jesus of Nazareth said ANYTHING about sexuality. What he taught us was how to tackle the difficult task of being human, well and how to challenge antihuman forces, practices and beliefs that bring death to people, rather than life.

The issue around sexuality masks a deeper issue that is really about the different ways people of faith read their holy texts. Do we read them literally, as handbooks, telling us what to do and what not to do? Or do we read them as complex products of their time and place, holy poetry, Wisdom literatures that can and do speak to us and inspire us but which also come to us from violent times and places where women, children, sexual minorities, the disabled were seen as ‘less’ than?

With other feminist theologians I want to point out that our scriptures and our creeds were written by and mostly about the actions and beliefs of powerful (straight) men and present us with male imagery for a powerful and masculine God. Our holy texts have been and still are mis-used to oppress and bring death, not life, despair and hate, not hope.

That does not mean I reject the bible or the traditions of my church but I don’t simply ‘accept’ them either. They are to be wrestled with, argued with and searched for the treasures they can and still do yield to us. I revere the bible but I don’t think it’s a simple book with a single message. It inspires and moves me, angers me and troubles me, comforts me and helps me to be human.

And as there are many voices and messages in the bible, though some are quieter than others, so I would like us as people of faith to acknowlege the value of multiple perspectives, many voices. I want us to listen to the voices of the LGBTQ+ community, of children, of women and the poor and the disabled, of minorities and learn what they can tell us of the Divine.

And I very much want Christianity to move on from its obsession with disapproving of what people do in bed and to focus much more on that difficult task of being human, well. Because that’s what I think religion is for …. to help us to be kinder to each other and to the planet and to ourselves. Simple. Albeit, not easy.

And obviously, feel free to disagree with me 🙂

And if you want a radical feminist liberation theologian and Roman Catholic nun to read try https://www.amazon.co.uk/Books-Ivone-Gebara/s?rh=n%3A266239%2Cp_27%3AIvone+Gebara

Those nuns don’t pull their theological punches……

Book Reviews, Prayer, Spirituality, Well-being in education

Book Review: Appreciating Church

Tim Slack and Fiona Thomas

Appreciating Church: A practical appreciative inquiry resource for church communities

ISBN: 978-0-9955594-1-7

Publisher: Fiona Shaw www.appreciating.church

Appreciating Church is a handbook style resource book based on an ecumenical project of the same name. The aim of the project is to create ‘communities of practice’ – groups that foster change in positive, hopeful, inclusive and encouraging ways. Behind the project, and behind the book, is the organizational practice of Appreciative Inquiry, a practice that is based on looking for the best in people and in organizations. Developed by David Cooperrider, appreciative inquiry and, by extension, Appreciating Church start NOT from the viewpoint that organizations are problems to be solved, but that they are miracles of human organizing and ingenuity – to be appreciated.

I heard Cooperrider speak once. He is both the son and the father of Christian ministers. His belief in the potential of human goodness to bring about positive change in the world was palpable and deeply inspiring. He was perhaps the most hope filled person I have ever met. Cooperrider’s key insight is that if you go looking for problems you will find them – and you are then likely to get bogged down in them. If you ask different questions – questions about when an organization is at its best, when its people are at their best, you don’t cover over the difficulties but you do help to generate the imagination, the creativity and the energy needed to move beyond them. In every system, every church, every person – something is working, something good is happening. Appreciative inquiry seeks to find that goodness and to grow it.

Appreciating Church is a practical resource for bringing some of that hope filled appreciation into churches and church projects. It does this by bringing together a bit of theory, a lot of stories and a lot of resources to help communities see themselves and the future a little bit differently. As a church leader, I particularly liked – and will be able to quickly and easily use – the practical suggestions for introducing an appreciative approach into meetings and also its use for the discipline of spiritual journaling.

Richard Rohr describes contemplation as a way of seeing that includes recognizing and appreciating. I have worked with appreciative inquiry in the past and recognize its overlap with the contemplative path. Appreciating Church seems to me to be one more way in which the essential spiritual path of contemplation is being reinvigorated for today’s church.