Mounce on requirements for church leaders, including "husband of one wife"

Bill Mounce has just posted an interesting item, in his regular Monday series at Koinonia, on the requirements for church leaders. listed in 1 Timothy and Titus. He gives primacy to “an overseer must be (δει) above reproach” in 1 Timothy 3:2. But he points out that if every aspect of the list of requirements which follows, and of the similar list in Titus 1:6-9, is taken as absolute, the requirements are in tension with one another and with other New Testament teaching. So he writes:

My conclusion is that the lists show us the type of person who can be in leadership. Some of the requirements would by definition apply to all people: above reproach, hospitable, skilled teacher, etc. But others would depend on the person’s life situation: if married, he would have (δει) to be a “one-woman” man; if he has a family, he would have (δει) to manage his family well.

And to extend the same argument, if male and married, he would have to be a “one-woman” man. That is to say, it would be wrong to read this passage as an argument that overseers or elders must be male. This is the same conclusion as I came to, for similar but not identical reasons, in my series from several years ago The Scholarly and Fundamentalist Approaches to the Bible. It is good to see my conclusions supported by the complementarian (I think) scholar Bill Mounce.

So, if this argument is conceded, on what other biblical grounds do some Christians not allow women to be elders/presbyters/priests or overseers/bishops?

More on Reform: will they consecrate their own bishops?

Rachel has some interesting things to say about the Reform position on women bishops, including the text of a letter in the Church of England Newspaper (available online only to subscribers). See also John Richardson’s comment and Rachel’s reply.

Rachel also links to a post on the same subject by Peter Carrell, who offers a New Zealand perspective on the discussions.

And then Peter Carrell links back to England, and Cranmer’s Curate who has a post revealing that

Plans involving ‘senior figures’ are now underway to consecrate a group of Conservative Evangelical bishops for the UK.

The Curate (who is actually not a curate but an incumbent, a vicar) implies that this is something to do with the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, and Reform is not mentioned. But then if these new bishops are indeed to be “Conservative Evangelical” I can hardly believe that this is not something to do with Reform. Cranmer’s Curate is a member of this conservative evangelical group, and a signatory of their letter to the General Synod. I suppose he has been consulted in advance about their plans – and has broken ranks by revealing them. John Richardson the Ugley Vicar (who is not a vicar but a non-stipendiary curate), another member, has made proposals to Reform along these lines. So maybe the balance of views in Reform is shifting away from the strategy outlined in their letter to the General Synod and towards John’s proposals.

Primate genetics

Once before I commented on a BBC report about primates as if it was about archbishops rather than monkeys. But this time a new report on the BBC science website about primate genetics really is about an archbishop, Desmond Tutu – in fact retired and so a former primate. After tests of his genetic health, and comparison with results from other southern Africans, he discovered:

I am related to the San people, the first people to inhabit Southern Africa.

I am sure that doesn’t make him more closely related than anyone else to those other, non-human, primates. But I can’t help wondering which of the genetic traits of the San people would be of use for their work of leading Anglican churches.

Is Reform divided over women bishops?

I reported a few days ago on The Reform letter on women bishops. This has generated an interesting discussion in comments here and in private e-mail, as well as on other blogs.

Now Matt Wardman reports on something I had also noticed, and asks Why did Reform Leaders not all sign the Women Bishops letter? He names two well-known conservative evangelical Anglicans, Rev David Holloway and Rev Paul Perkin, who are incumbents of large churches and trustees and/or council members of Reform, but who are not listed as signatories of the letter. The large contributions that these churches surely make to their dioceses could have increased the sum that the signatories were threatening to withhold, 0.22% of the Church of England’s budget, to make it look a little bit less like a drop in the ocean.

Church Mouse lists several other Reform leaders who didn’t sign the letter – some of them because they are not incumbents. Julian Mann, one of the signatories who blogs as Cranmer’s Curate, also comments on the missing signatures, but not by name, and speculates on the reasons.

Of course it may simply be that Rev Rod Thomas, who wrote the letter, was unable to contact Holloway, Perkin and others in time to get their signatures. After all we can presume that they are rather busy looking after their large churches. So possibly there is no real division here.

Richard Connolly, commenting on Matt’s blog, suggests a reason for division, that the Reform leadership may not be united in its opposition to women bishops. But, as I commented in response (link to the Reform Covenant added),

If any of these Reform leaders are not actually opposed to women bishops there is some hypocrisy going on there. According to the page on Reform Trustees and Council Members, “The Council and Trustees each year sign the Reform Covenant …”, and one article of that covenant is:

The unique value of women’s ministry in the local congregation but also the divine order of male headship, which makes the headship of women as priests in charge, incumbents, dignitaries and bishops inappropriate.

But I would think it more likely that the Reform leaders are divided over what tactics to choose at this time. See for example how these tactics have been criticised by one Reform-oriented vicar.

I note that the Reform statement does not oppose women assistant clergy. Indeed, two of the Reform council members are ordained women – but neither of these are incumbents, and so they could not sign the letter.

The Reform-oriented vicar I mention is of course my old sparring partner John Richardson, the Ugley Vicar. I don’t know if he is actually a member of Reform, but this article by him and this one are on the Reform website. In his post he is openly critical of the Reform letter, not because he has any doubts in his opposition to women bishops, but because he sees the tactics in the Reform letter as counter-productive, with the threat in it likely to hurt Reform more than the Church of England.

Now I won’t presume to give Reform my advice about their tactics for reaching a goal I do not support. But John’s analysis of the letter, which is not so different from mine,  makes a lot of sense. And this suggests, and confirms Julian Mann’s suspicion, that if there really are divisions in Reform over this matter they are over tactics rather than over the principle of women bishops.

The Reform letter on women bishops: a threat of schism?

John Richardson and Dave Walker both post the full text of a letter from Reform, a conservative evangelical pressure group in the Church of England, to the General Synod of that Church which is meeting this week. The letter is signed by “50 incumbents of Church of England churches”, two of whom I know personally. I suspect John is not a signatory only because he is not technically an incumbent.

The letter is a contribution to the ongoing debate over women bishops in the Church of England. As the Bishop of Manchester reported to the General Synod yesterday (his draft text here, see also this report), the committee discussions have proved more complex and time-consuming than expected, and so the final decision has been delayed. But the outline now seems clear of the way ahead which will be put to a vote at the next meeting of the Synod, in July. As reported in The Times today,

any women consecrated bishops will be asked to “delegate” authority to another bishop, such as a suffragan, to carry out confirmations and other episcopal duties in parishes that refuse to accept her ministry. …

even where opponents opt for the ministry of the bishop delegated to look after them, there will be no alternative hierarchical structure of oversight that could make it appear as though the mother church of the Anglican Communion was being half-hearted about women bishops, or in any way doubting the integrity of their orders.

This is good news for the supporters of women bishops, who have seen rejected by the committee various proposals for more formal alternative episcopal oversight.

But it is this situation which prompted a strong response in the letter from Reform. The letter starts with a defence of Reform’s unreformed position on women in leadership, with appeals to Scripture interpreted in a particular way – a way which, as regular readers here will know, I have good arguments for rejecting. The authors make one interesting point here:

we emphasise again that we are NOT for a moment saying women are less valuable than men, and nor does the Scripture. … For the Bible separates roles and worth: our Lord Jesus himself submitted to the Father, but is, of course, no less God than he is.

Well, yes, but Jesus submitted himself voluntarily and temporarily, and so this cannot be used as an argument to force women to accept only submissive roles against their will and permanently.

The Reform letter writers then go on to explain how they might respond if the Church of England introduces women bishops without the kinds of safeguards they are demanding:

At the moment we are encouraging young men into the ordained ministry … However, we will be unable to do this if inadequately protective legislation is passed. The issue that will then arise is how to encourage these men to develop their ministries if they cannot do so within the formal structures of the Church of England. The answer must be to encourage them to undertake training for ministries outside those formal structures, although hopefully still within an Anglican tradition. We will, of course, have to help them with the financing of their training. …

Since we cannot take an oath of canonical obedience to a female bishop, we are unlikely to be appointed to future incumbencies. We see nothing but difficulty facing us. In these circumstances we will have to discuss with our congregations how to foster and protect the ministry they wish to receive. This is likely to generate a need for the creation of new independent charitable trusts whose purpose will be to finance our future ministries, when the need arises.

In other words, if they don’t get their own way, that is, if the democratically elected Synod rejects their position with a two-thirds majority, they will set up their own parallel ministry “within an Anglican tradition” but outside the Church of England system. They continue:

These twin developments will need to be financed from current congregational giving. This will inevitably put a severe strain on our ability to continue to contribute financially to Diocesan funds. Where we are unable to contribute as before …

In other words, they will fund their new parallel ministry by not paying what they are expected to pay to their dioceses. Potentially they could withhold the £22 million they have contributed between them over the last ten years.

So this letter can easily be perceived as an attempt to pervert the democratic processes of the Church of England by making financial threats.

But how real would these threats be? The potential loss to the dioceses averages out at £44,000 per parish per year. But much of that loss could be offset by the diocese by not replacing or making redundant the incumbent and any assistants they (well, in this case “he”) might have, thereby saving their stipends; by selling or letting the clergy houses; and by cutting off any grants those parishes might benefit from. And the percentage of the total diocesan budget under threat is probably quite small – after all, those signing the letter are only 50 clergy out of 12,000.

The greater threat to the Church of England is probably from the new structures, training institutions and “independent charitable trusts”, which Reform proposes setting up. While parish infrastructure is not mentioned, in practice the Church of England can never allow an independently trained and financed group of ministers to lead congregations within its buildings. So the route which Reform is starting on can only lead to a new group of local churches, in other words, to schism. Recent developments in the USA and in Canada have shown a way in which this schism might develop.

While the Church of England could survive the loss of 50 parishes, the danger is that many more, perhaps the majority of its evangelicals, might decide that the new structures are more supportive of them than the old ones are. At a time when many Anglo-Catholics are departing, the C of E could hardly survive the loss of its entire evangelical wing.

So what is to be done? The Church could submit to these threats from Reform and turn back from allowing women bishops at all. In fact it only needs just over one third of General Synod to see that as the best course for any proposals to be defeated in July. This now seems more likely than that Synod will choose to allow women bishops with the kinds of safeguards which Reform might accept.

But a better response is no response at all. The General Synod should simply ignore these veiled threats from Reform and treat them as what they are, a rather small pressure group. And if some of them do leave, the church authorities should be very careful not to do anything which might alienate that great majority of evangelical Anglicans who, even if they are uncomfortable in various ways, don’t see women bishops as a compelling reason to leave the Church of England. In this way there is a future ahead for the Church of England in which, in retrospect, it has lost a few troublesome extremists and gained new strength and unity as well as the benefits of women as well as men in its top leadership.

The youngest ever bishop: not Nazir-Ali

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali is in the news again, this time because an aide of Archbishop Rowan Williams used a (moderately) rude word about him in an article which was sent to 10 Downing Street and to 43 diocesan bishops. The most detailed and explicit account I have seen is in The Independent. Ruth Gledhill of the Times also reports the story, more briefly and with asterisks in the word in question. She gives her own ringing endorsement of Nazir-Ali, and also posts a transcript of an interesting BBC interview with him (to be broadcast on Radio 3 at 20:45 tonight, in progress as I write, so I’m surprised Ruth is allowed to publish the transcript in advance). Anglican Mainstream has posted an extract from the transcript.

But the BBC interviewer, Joan Bakewell, makes a small error in her introduction when she says:

As the youngest ever Anglican bishop, Michael Nazir-Ali was only thirty-five years old when he was appointed Bishop of Raiwind in his native Pakistan.

He may have been the youngest Anglican bishop at the time, but he certainly was not the youngest ever. I don’t know exactly who was. The preface to the Church of England ordinal (in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer) states that

every man which is to be ordained or consecrated Bishop shall be fully Thirty years of age.

I knew a man who was consecrated as an Anglican bishop as soon as he reached that age of 30. So he might have been the youngest ever. He also had the distinction of being a bishop for more than 60 years, very likely another record.

I was actually rather surprised to find a Wikipedia article about Bishop John Dickinson, which confirms my memory of this gentle man. From what I heard, he was consecrated in 1931 as soon as he reached the canonical age because of the urgent need for anyone to serve as bishop in Melanesia. Perhaps this was because of the disgrace and resignation of Bishop Frederick Molyneux – Gene Robinson is not the first gay bishop, just the first to be openly gay.

After only six years service as a bishop, Dickinson returned to northern England and became a country vicar, as indeed he remained until he retired. I think it was then that he married my mother’s first cousin Frances. In 1946 he officiated at my parents’ wedding in Westmorland (now Cumbria). I’m told that he walked 20 miles across the open moorland of the North Pennines, carrying his vestments, to get there. My mother thought of him as highly eccentric, but his decision to walk may have been partly from poverty.

I remember visiting his vicarage in a tiny village in Northumberland, probably shortly before he retired in 1971, and getting a taste of rural parish life as he drove me around for part of a day. I also remember visiting him and his wife in their retirement home. Despite his unusual start in life, to me he was a good kind example of a traditional country vicar.

PS Wikipedia appears to report that Bishop Daniel Tuttle became a bishop in the USA aged 29, and so illegally, but this conflicts with a Time Magazine article which implies that he was 31.

Doug Chaplin does a Mark Brewer …

… except that he actually managed to delete what he calls a libel, but is in fact the truth, because it was in a comment on his blog. And the alleged libel wasn’t even against himself, but against a bishop, and not even one who has authority over him.

Here is part of what I wrote, which I also posted as a comment at The Ugley Vicar:

It is all very well for Hooker to say things about how a bishop must behave, but that is empty if there are no sanctions on bishops who misbehave. And there have always been bishops and archbishops who set themselves up as mini-popes and persecute presbyters under them who are faithful to the gospel, from William Laud right up to Katharine Jefferts Schori. Hooker’s system may be an ideal one, but it is not a stable and workable one.

This was in response to this comment on Doug’s blog from “Mark B”, who I assume is not Mark Brewer:

magistra: moreover, Hooker, the father of Anglican ecclesiastical polity, says in his ‘Laws’ that bishops must not ignore the counsel of their presbyters. They must not set themselves over them, like mini-popes. No Cyprianism here! See the website of the English cleric John Richardson ‘The Ugley Vicar’ on this point.

Now I accept that this comment thread had got well off its original topic. But that is not the reason Doug deleted my comment, for he writes:

In my view it bought into rhetoric I regard as libellous to TEC’s Presiding Bishop. I’m sure you can find a way to make your point in other words.

But he doesn’t allow me to make my point in other words, by closing the thread to comments – although he had no problem with others taking the thread well off topic as long as they toed his pro-bishop line. I would have been happy to withdraw “mini-pope” as a comment about Schori, although not about Laud, if I had been given the chance, but I was given no chance to edit and re-post my comment. But I would not have withdrawn “persecute presbyters under them who are faithful to the gospel” as this is just what Schori is doing – and I could add that she is also persecuting bishops and lay people under her who seek to remain faithful to an understanding of the gospel which does not include inclusivity without repentance from sin.

There have always been many bishops of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion who have persecuted believers in the true gospel of Christ. They have consistently been supported by priests within the “Catholic” wing of this same Church. Doug has put himself well within this tradition. In John Richardson’s words, in the Church of England

You can disbelieve the fundamentals of the faith, but if you will acknowledge the bishop you can remain. But if you will not acknowledge the bishop, then the stricter your adherence to the faith the more you are a threat, rather than a benefit, to the institution. So the institution will obviously sacrifice believers who rebel rather than discipline unbelievers who conform.

But I wonder if Doug is really more upset about what I say about Laud, an Anglo-Catholic hero, than about Schori.

Doug, do you want to “sacrifice believers who rebel” by driving me out of the Church of England? I am not at all sure that I can stay in it, although I have put off making any decisions until after the Lambeth Conference. If the Church of England shows a gentleness and generosity towards those who have serious disagreements with it, in the way shown by many of its leaders, I just might be persuaded to stay. But if it displays the attitude of demanding adherence to the bishops’ party line, the line taken by Laud and Schori and now by you, then I will probably go. And I will not go quietly.

Which bishops want women to join them?

Ruth Gledhill digresses from her Lambeth Diary to give the low-down on which bishops at last week’s General Synod voted for and against the motion on women bishops. This includes some minor surprises. I won’t repeat all the details, but I will give the votes of those bishops in the Church of England who I have been mentioning on this blog.

On “the Bishop of Winchester’s motion, including the reaffirmation of the Lambeth 1998 resolution that both sides in the argument on women priests and bishops are ‘loyal Anglicans’”, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester, otherwise so far apart, were together among the 14 bishops who voted in favour. Among the 31 against this motion were Archbishop John Sentamu of York and bishops John Gladwin of Chelmsford, NT Wright of Durham and Pete Broadbent of Willesden. Ruth writes mischievously that

those who hold traditional views on ministry, men and women who believe implicitly in the Catholic faith contained in creeds and scripture, are now apparently not regarded as loyal Anglicans by two-thirds of the diocesan bishops of the Church of England present and voting at the Synod

– including Sentamu, Gladwin and Wright, also Broadbent who is not in fact “diocesan” but was included in this reckoning. So will Pete Broadbent, despite staying away from the Lambeth Conference, now be rejected by the conservatives? It will be interesting to see.

On the final motion, which I reported here, it seems that Archbishop Sentamu and bishops Gladwin and Broadbent were among 28 voting in favour, whereas 12 bishops including Nazir-Ali and Wright voted against, and Archbishop Williams abstained, alone – although at least four bishops seem to have absented themselves as 45 voted on several of the amendments. Well, at least I can agree with my own diocesan bishop on something. But there is surely something symbolically significant in the one who is supposed to be leading the Church of England choosing to abstain.

The problem with women bishops, and a new take on 1 Timothy 2:12

John Hartley’s take on Women Bishops Debate, from a clergy member of General Synod, is helpful. It explained to me one thing and gave me an interesting new insight on another.

John’s post explains why the opponents of women bishops will not accept a code of practice under which women bishops are required to appoint men to deputise for them when requested:

in saying that a woman bishop should/must delegate powers, it would implicitly admit that a woman bishop has powers to delegate and therefore that she is a bishop.

Well, I see the point, for those who have the legalistic mindset which many Christians seem to have inherited from the Pharisees rather than from our Lord. But then I would not have thought it impossible to come up with a wording to satisfy these people, in which the powers are technically delegated by one of the Archbishops rather than by the woman diocesan bishop. Of course that will work only as long as the Archbishop in question is male, but then I don’t see how these people could in any way remain within a Church of England headed by two female Archbishops!

In fact I don’t see how these people can remain within a church which appoints bishops who they don’t accept as being bishops. The only thing that could satisfy these people is a new province. General Synod isn’t offering them that, but then I doubt if it is within their power to do so. A new province is of course also what GAFCON is demanding, and proposing to set up unilaterally. Perhaps these opponents of women bishops will be welcome in that province – but then if it takes a permanent stand against women bishops it is less likely to be acceptable to others like me.

John Hartley also makes an interesting point about 1 Timothy 2:12:

As an evangelical I have still not given up hope of helping my evangelical opponents to see that 1 Tim 2:12 does not say “I do not permit a woman to teach a man”, but rather that it says “I do not permit a woman to teach at all”.  Because all evangelicals agree that some women nowadays do have teaching ministries – and therefore none of us live by the stricture of what it actually says – that women should keep silent.  Instead the verse is a statement of one particular person’s take (“I do not permit” – not “It should never be permitted”) in a particular place – which that same person did not take in other places (e.g. 1 Cor 11:5 which permits a woman to prophesy).  That same person had already admitted that there is a difference between his advice and the Lord’s word (1 Cor 7:10 & 12).

Good point! I can only agree that this verse must refer to a specific situation for which Paul lays down specific rules, not intended to be valid everywhere or for ever.

Which Carey is spot on?

John Richardson has posted on his personal blog something which I do not consider to be a blog post, because he has disabled comments on it. Yes, I know he has me in mind with this post, but it’s not the one I am talking about because it does allow comments. But in his non-post he writes (his emphasis)

Andrew Carey is spot on in this article.

Now this Andrew Carey is apparently the son of George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury who oversaw the introduction of women priests into the Church of England, and the divisive “flying bishops” measures which satisfied some of the opponents of women priests.

John Richardson quotes extensively from Andrew’s article, which starts as follows:

What should have been a joyous new beginning for women’s ministry at General Synod on Monday has been spoiled. Most women I know will not welcome the fact that progress towards ordaining them to the episcopate has been soured by the prospect of an exodus of many traditionalists from the Church of England amid an atmosphere of bitter recrimination.

The choice facing Synod was simple and straightforward. It was to pass legislation with structural provision for traditionalists or not. A code of practice was neither here nor there, because it clearly failed to meet the needs of those for whom it was designed. …

Coincidentally, perhaps, Alastair Cutting presents a guest post on the same subject by another Carey, Kevin. This Carey is not George’s son or Andrew’s brother. Indeed I doubt that he is closely related, because he was brought up as a Roman Catholic. He is, however, a member of the General Synod of the Church of England, and has an interesting, indeed bewildering, variety of experience. Kevin writes (extracts from his post):

I am prepared to live in peace and tolerance with those who think women should not be priests and to be patient with those who differ with me on the causes, nature and meaning of homosexuality but many of them, it seems, being “orthodox Anglicans” are not prepared to live with me. They want to destroy the Elizabethan settlement and turn us into a sect. …

Conservatives of both sorts face a difficult choice between mission and sectarian ecclesiology but the difference lies in this: whereas the Catholic conservatives are, by and large, so bound up in their sacramental pedigree that they have very little time for the mission to the unchurched, Evangelicals have a deep commitment to them which is being horribly impeded by their failure to see that whatever the Bible says about male headship, this is surely less important than what Jesus said about brining the Good News to the poor.

In my opinion it is Kevin, not Andrew, who is “spot on” here. Well, not entirely so, for my own position on homosexuality is I think not the same as his, but he is entirely correct in his point that Evangelicals should be preaching the gospel rather than being divisive about side issues like women’s ministry.

He is also right in opposing the attempts of a minority in the Church of England to turn it into something it never has been. The position of the traditionalist Anglicans who like to call themselves Catholics, rejection not only of the ministry of women but of the ministry of male bishops who have been “tainted” by ordaining women, is a betrayal of the Catholic principle of ex opere operato, which is also enshrined in Article XXVI of the Church of England. This reversion to the principles of the Donatists, who asserted the right to choose for themselves which of the properly ordained bishops they would accept, is bound to lead to sectarianism. The Church of England was wrong to make allowances for this position in 1994 and right to reject it now. A church can remain as a united body only if everyone in it accepts the validity of every ministry which it has authorised. People can be allowed to prefer to be ministered to by one group rather than another, but they cannot be allowed to reject the validity of the second group. A house divided against itself will surely fall.

Now I accept that a time may come when certain people in a church or similar body decide that it has strayed too far. For me that point might well be reached if a formal decision is made that homosexual activity is no bar to priesthood or episcopacy – an unlikely decision in the current climate. In such a position the conservatives would need first to try every channel within the church’s constitution to bring it back to the right path. If that fails, because the leadership or the majority have a clearly different position, those in the minority have a duty to accept the decision which has been properly made. That is to say, they should stop complaining about it and make their own clear choice: either to get on with implementing the decision of those in authority, or to get out.

This principle applies in this case, so I urge John Richardson and others like him first to work on making the Code of Practice as favourable to them as they can, and then make a clear decision to accept it or to leave. What should not happen, because it only destroys the church and its witness to the world, is for people like John to remain within the church as destructive grumblers. God’s position on those who do is clear:

And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.

1 Corinthians 10:10-11 (TNIV)

Yesterday I visited Sheffield (three hours’ drive from my home) to attend the admitting of a friend of mine as an evangelist in the Church Army. Among those leading the service were two people who had played a major part in the General Synod debate two days earlier and not far away in York. One of them was Bishop James Jones of Liverpool. The other was Mark Russell, the surprisingly young CEO of the Church Army. Coincidentally I think, yesterday Tim Chesterton posted a link to Mark’s blog, on which the latest post gives the text of Mark’s speech in the General Synod debate on women bishops.

I don’t entirely agree with Mark – but perhaps his different tone is because he, unlike me, has close relationships with people who take different positions on this matter. Nevertheless his post is well worth reading. In one key part of his speech he writes:

I believe Synod can make a prophetic statement that we can walk together holding our difference. Today I have heard so much fear in people’s voices and in speeches in this chamber. They are frightened where they will fit in the church they love. Fear. Isnt it interesting the most frequent scripture, do not be afraid..fear not.

Indeed. Let’s walk forward from where we are not in fear but in faith, that while the church is not perfect God is in control and is using it for his own purposes. Mark concludes:

I am naive, because I believe in a God of miracles. If Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley can agree to work together, then surely it is not beyond the realm of possibility that we can solve this question and agree to live together under God. Then we can get on with the real business of this Church, telling this nation about the transforming good news of Jesus Christ.