letters to the editor
From Fr Ivan Clutterbuck
So the gospels can be trusted as historical records of Our Lords earthly ministry after all! At least according to a press release from the Archbishop of Canterbury on the occasion of the award of the 2009 Michael Ramsey Prize to Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham.
In the words of one of the judges it has 'placed something of a bomb under a good deal of New Testament scholarship. His book shows why we are right to have confidence in the testimony of those who personally witnessed the life of Jesus as recorded in the gospels.'
The book challenges the prevailing liberal assumption that the accounts of Jesus circulated as 'anonymous community traditions', asserting instead that they were transmitted in the names of the original eyewitnesses. It dispels the idea put forward by such as Leslie Houl-den that since both Scripture and tradition have lost their authority, all church matters must now be made simply in the light of 'appropriateness and expediency!
How grateful bishops were for that liberal scholarship when they debated the ministry of women. Can we now expect a rethink on the matter?
College of St Barnabas,
Lingfield RH7 6NJ
From an 'Anglo-Catholic vegetarian'
I read Fr Kirk's latest rant against vegetarians [ND June] with a mixture of amusement and sadness. At a time when the Faith is under attack on every front, when church attendance continues to decline and when every tradition and belief is under attack from within, I really think there are more important issues for him to address.
A couple of reminders for Fr Kirk; Adam and Eve were vegetarians until the Fall, and the Eucharist instituted at the Last Supper replaced the Passover sacrifice.
As the Good Book tells us, 'The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.' I do not condemn Fr Kirk. Fr Kirk, please, do not condemn me.
128 Oxford Rd, Birmingham B13 9SH
New Testament and priesthood
From the Asst Curate of Abergavenny
If I understand him correctly, Bp Buchanan (a) asserts the eternal priesthood of Christ 'after the order of Melchizedek as set out in Hebrews, but (b) denies that the 'ministerial priesthood' of the Church shares in Christ's priesthood in a 'distinctive' way, claiming such a (catholic) understanding of the ministerial priesthood to be in fact contrary to Hebrews (and thus to Scripture as a whole?).
But if he is indeed looking for the Scriptural basis of a 'catholic' understanding of the ministerial priesthood surely he is looking in the wrong place? For while Hebrews does masterfully expound the eternal priesthood of Christ, it is not much concerned with the implications for the apostolic ministry - probably because that is not what its addressees were wrestling with.
The sharing of the ministerial priesthood in that same eternal priesthood of Christ is instead rooted in the 'making' of the Twelve 'to be with him and to be sent' and its implications for the ministry stemming from them. This is to be found both in the gospels and elsewhere in the New Testament, but not in Hebrews. Yet unless Bp Buchanan urges us to revisit Article XX, this alone is not an argument against the scriptural basis of the ministerial priesthood as such.
Some months ago I suggested to Bp Buchanan he engage with Power's Spiritual Theology of the Priesthood. This has evidently not been fruitful. May I try again? There is an excellent little section that addresses our question head on (and gives some of the New Testament references alluded to above) in Pope Benedict's Called to Communion of 1996 (pp. 105-31).
There is undeniably a scarcity of 'Heretical' language in the New Testament. But not an absence of its reality in Christ and the apostolic ministry he gives to his Church.
Holy Trinity Vicarage, Baker Street,
Abergavenny NP7 5BH
Theology and opinion
From Dr Christopher Wilkinson
When asked, by a member of the Governing Body of the Church In Wales at its Easter meeting, if the Welsh Bench would re-visit the matter of replacing the recently retired Provincial Assistant Bishop, the Archbishop of Wales replied that (amongst other things) the views held by those who could not accept the ordination of women as priests or bishops were 'personal'.
I understood these views to have been, and still are, the teaching of the Orthodox and Catholic church of which the Church In Wales still claims to be part!
21 Rectory Road, Barry CF63 3QB
No to Calvinism
From Canon John Burrows
That Christians are called and chosen, but nevertheless voluntarily accept the Lord who 'wants all to be saved' is one of the both-and paradoxes of the Faith, which we apprehend spiritually rather than intellectually.
The old Roman Missal spoke of 'those whom thou foreknowest to be thine by faith and works' which rather minimizes our election.
Calvin took the opposite path with his doctrine of the predestination of some to damnation, which minimizes personal conversion. This belief is found neither in Augustine nor the 39 Articles. There were later repeated attempts to make the Church of England affirm the (Calvinist) Synod of Dort, which it firmly resisted.
55 Berners Street, Ipswich IP1 3LN
Sing something simple
From Fr Geoffrey Squire ssc
I shared a recent train journey with a man who, knowing that I have written several hymns myself, told me of this composition of his vicar. I quote the first verse: What shall we do with the dead Lord Jesus? What shall we do with the dead Lord Jesus'? What shall we do with the dead Lord Jesus, early in the morning? Hoo-ray and up he rises. Hoo-ray and up he rises. Hoo-ray and up he rises, early in the morning. As you have probably guessed, it is set to the tune of the 'Drunken sailor'.
Little Cross, Goodleigh, Barnstaple
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