The Times, August 05, 2002

A question of belief

Should the Church tolerate a pick'n'mix approach to the Creed?

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NOBODY in their senses would buy a second-hand car (or a new one for that matter) from a salesman who said: "Well, I can assure you itís very comfortable but Iím not too certain about the engine/gearbox/brakes. In fact Iím not too clear about what a gearbox really is." No sale, thank you!

The Rev Francis Gardom, London SE10


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Female pragmatism

PERHAPS women have a more pragmatic and realistic attitude towards the tenets of the faith? Maybe they instinctively realise that the greatest value of religion is social, rather than intellectual, and that these intellectually outmoded and fictitious beliefs serve only a social purpose. If so, all hail to them. They seem to have a more subtle appreciation of the realities of the situation than their more literal-minded male colleagues. A Buddhist would understand how the same truth can be presented in different ways, corresponding to the listenerís intellectual and cultural level. But this idea of cultural relativity does not seem to be widely understood within Christianity Ė too subtle for us Westerners perhaps? Or at least those of us who are male?

Noel Edgar, Shrewsbury


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Fingers crossed

OF ALL the statements contained in the Creed, our belief in the resurrection of Christ from the dead is absolutely essential to Christian faith. Without Passiontide and Easter, the Church is an empty shell. It appals me, and I hope very many others, that three out of ten male priests and five out of ten female priests responding to the Christian Research survey deny the truth of the Resurrection.

Did they not affirm this belief at their ordination? Do they not lead their congregations in this positive affirmation week after week? Do they not teach it to schoolchildren and confirmation candidates and ask parents and godparents to affirm it at baptisms? How can priests who openly reject the central tenets of Christianity presume to tutor and lead the laity? Maybe they keep their fingers crossed when they say the Creed.

Such a loss of faith must be agony for any honest man or woman in holy orders. Who is helping them?

Roger Coombs, Goudhurst, Kent


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Iím with the women

I MUST say that I found Ruth Gledhillís article (July 31) encouraging. I believe that Christianity needs to evolve and that it should stop browbeating the congregation into believing, literally, the texts of the Bible. I believe that what is referred to as "historic truths of the Christian faith" are by no means historical truths, but metaphorical stories.

If attitudes within the clergy are beginning to reflect this, then that can only be a step to raising the crumbling credibility of Christianity in this country. Iím with the women.

T. S. Thompson, Brighton


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The root of human problems

DURING my 30 years working in the social sciences I met many females who thought that most human problems were the fault of men. I am indebted to the Rev Robbie Low (chairman of the traditionalist think-tank Cost of Conscience) for pointing out that this particular shortcoming does not apply within the Church of England.

The Rev David Dewey, Parish Priest, St Paulís Walden, Hertfordshire


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Solid foundations

THE Evangelical Alliance is appalled by Christian Researchís findings that so many ministers are unable to affirm some of the core doctrines of Christianity such as the Virgin Birth and the physical Resurrection of Christ. Appalled, but not entirely surprised.

Previous surveys on the subject point to a clear pattern emerging: churches which doubt their doctrine imperil their very survival. Those who maintain confidence in the truths of scripture and are prepared to present them unapologetically, yet humbly, tend to grow.

I believe it is no accident that evangelical churches which, by and large, stand on and for those truths have proved themselves the most successful in bucking the trend of slow decline that has infected the Christian Church over the past 30 years. Alpha is a case in point. Now recognised by nearly four million people nationwide, the Anglican Churchís most influential tool for delivering the Christian message bar none is built on a sure foundation of biblical doctrine.

All ministers face doubts at times. But as the man who approached Jesus said, "I do believe Ė help me overcome my unbelief!" If Christian leaders cannot or will not endorse the central claims of Christ they should not be leading churches in the first place. Where they do, those congregations will dwindle and fade away.

Joel Edwards, General Director, Evangelical Alliance, London SE11


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Scrutinising hypocrisy

IT IS crucial to realise that there are sociological reasons why this study suggests that there are more liberal female priests in the Church of England than there are male ones.

The liberal faction in the Church of England has set out to court women as long as they are also relatively theologically agnostic. And why might this be the case? It is intuitively obvious that all institutions wishing to reform themselves require the approval of the women within them Ė because these women symbolise the handing on of beliefs to the next generation.

The loud and media-orientated campaign for female ordination waged by the liberals was theologically unorthodox in that it portrayed the ordination of women as a neglected civil right. However, those Christians who agree with the ordination of women see it not as such a right but as a divine vocation. Furthermore, media treatment of this issue tends to ignore the fact that there are ordained women who are orthodox, rather than theological liberals.

Women in the churches are cynically manipulated in these debates so that they are opposed by ultra-conservatives if they confess to ministerial vocation, while the beliefs pertaining to this vocation are opposed by the secularists and liberals who shout most loudly about supporting women.

The potential hypocrisy involved in this debate should therefore not be left unscrutinised.

Carys Moseley, Oxford


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Celestial lucky dip

AND why not? Selective belief has been rife in the Church of England for ages. Itís a cornerstone for those who wish to appear "modern". The Virgin Birth, miracles and Resurrection have been air-brushed by the avant-garde, as has a belief in God Himself. Roll up, roll up for the celestial lucky dip. If it puts more bums on pews, who cares about Holy Writ? So terribly Dark Ages donít you think?

D. R. Taylor, Leeds


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