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Congratulations Nick

A photo of Nick Knisely

I was very pleased to hear of an announcement in the Twittersphere earlier this week when Nick Knisely was elected on 2 June to be the 13th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island. Assuming all goes well in the process, he’ll be purple-ized later this year.

I wanted to cover this news here because Nick has been someone who I’ve followed at a semi-distance for some time. I first met him through his work for the Episcopal Church in the USA on communications and he was part of a ‘futures’ group that I helped to convene in Dublin a good few years ago now while I was working for Church House Publishing.

I remember sitting at breakfast with him and another American priest, Andy Thayer, while they discussing dimension theory and having not the foggiest clue what they were talking about! I decided to keep quiet and focus on my hotel English breakfast!

Nick is a physics professor, in his spare time, and a blogger. Read more

When the church is a donut

A photo of my all-time favourite donut from Krispy Kreme

Q. When is the church a donut?
A. When it forgets its lessons from history.

There is something that has mystified me about the debate over women in the episcopate since the church first started debating all this aeons ago.

In recent days, the topic has been in the headlines again because the House of Bishops have made some changes to the draft legislation that will go before General Synod in July.

In this draft legislation (as amended by the House), one of the provisions for the dissenters is that they will Read more

Oh Rowan, say it ain’t so

Archbishop Rowan Williams

Last Friday morning, as increasingly I tend to do, I opened the news apps on my iPad rather than buying a daily paper and groaned.

The top ‘trending’ topic was that Archbishop Rowan Williams had announced his intention to step down at the end of this year. There had been rumbles for a while within church circles but I guess I was ignoring the rumours in the hope that the rumbles were wrong.

Already, various reviews and ‘obituaries’ of his ten years as Archbishop are starting to emerge both in print and online and, inevitably, they all make enormous play of Read more

Sad to see at any time, let alone Christmas


In previous years, I have wished everyone a Merry Christmas with a bit of art (usually graffiti) and perhaps a poem. This year, I’m afraid my Christmas mood has been very definitely spoilt by news of a (near) riot at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem between different denominations who both have rights within the space.

This church, traditionally held to be built upon the site of the place where Jesus was born, ought to be one of the most holiest sites in the world. To some it is. To most this Christmas, it’s another testimony of Christians seeming inability to love one another. Lord, have mercy.

Rt Rev Douglas Coupland please step forward

A cartoon representation of a faceless Generation X Bishop

In the course of my recent efforts to complete my Masters dissertation, I noticed something interesting. You might not have noticed it but in 2009 a quiet, unannounced seachange began in the House of Bishops. It was nothing to do with women or homosexuality. Nope. It started amongst the Suffragans when Paul Williams (Kensington) became the first.

Since then Jonathan Frost (Southampton) joined him in 2010 and Jonathan Baker (Ebbsfleet) has arrived in 2011 to join an exclusive club that is only going to get larger and larger. It probably won’t be long before a diocesan Bishop joins the group and, depending on how you draw your boundaries, Mark Sowerby (Horsham), Mark Rylands (Shrewsbury) and John Holbrook (Brixworth) might also be eligible to join.

What is this mysterious group that seems to cross churchmanship lines and theological traditions? Well, all those Bishops were born in the 1960s and Williams, Frost and Baker are most definitely the first entrants into the House of Bishops from the so-called “Generation X”.

The exact boundaries of a generation are always a bit fuzzy, but following Sara Savage and friends in Making Sense of Generation Y, Generation X are those Read more

The hunt for the smoking gun

A photo of a smoking gun

In January, I was interested to read an article on the BBC News website about whether geniuses are born not made. Essentially the article is a promotional piece for a new book called The Genius in all of us by David Shenk. I found that interesting in itself since I thought the BBC is not usually one for advertising but perhaps I’m being naive.

Anyway, the basic gist of the article and of Shenk’s book seems to be that the genes we are born with are not ‘robot actors’ always doing the same thing in exactly the same way, but rather that heredity, our genes, and who they make us to be interact with their surroundings. There is a far more interesting and developmental process in play.

“They now know that genes interact with their surroundings, getting turned on and off all the time. In effect, the same genes have different effects depending on who they are talking to” (quote from the BBC article).

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Lament for the Church and Internet

Given my own recent focus on the Church of England website, I was interested to read Brian Reid’s Richard’s lament for the state of the Anglican Church’s engagement with the Internet worldwide (rather than just focussing on England) over at Anglicans Online.

Anglicans Online, as a website, is the grand-daddy. Around since the early nineties and way ahead of the curve in seeing what was happening and what needed to happen in terms of church engagement with the web. It remains one of the best places to go for information.

Sad to say, I don’t think they are wrong when they bemoan how some church’s are just not getting it with the Internet and are allowing web presences to lapse or remain in ruins:

In some instances, 20%-50% of a given diocese’s parishes have abandoned the use of the internet for informational or evangelical [sic?] purposes. This means that it would have been much easier a year ago for you to use the internet to learn about a church and its service times.

The whole article is worth a read as Brian Richard makes a call for consistent, determined, thoughtful and united working to communicate our faith, of which the Internet remains a vital part.

More casualties in Christian Publishing, stateside

Church Publishing website screengrab

I heard more sad news over the weekend as the Christian publishing industry continues to face extremely serious struggles.

This time, the news comes from the United States, and my old employer’s ‘equivalent’ company in the USA. As Church House Publishing is (or rather was) to the Church of England, so too Church Publishing is to the Episcopal Church.

Church Publishing has announced cuts of 40% in their workforce and the entire closure of their Denver office. I think they had acquired the Denver office when they bought up Morehouse in 2005 and so this looks like, essentially, a drawing back in of operations to their central hub in New York rather than running two separate bases.

What I thought was interesting in the announcement is that CPI’s overseers clearly still see that Church Publishing is, in their words, a ‘mission-critical’ service. How different to the Church of England’s treatment of Church House Publishing.

However, regardless of strategic perspective, it is still a tragedy to see people losing their jobs and the Christian publishing industry in the doldrums.

Re-writing history

Cartoon image of George W. Bush re-writing history

Just a brief blog post today: A fascinating set of thoughts from ‘the Dark Side of the Moon’ where Yellow Stevens points out the re-writing of history going on in certain quarters around the debate on women in the episcopate.

He notes Forward in Faith (and other groups in similar shoes) like to portray the debate in terms of saying:

“that they have stayed the same and the Church of England has moved. It is now a liberal dying Church that doesn’t believe anything, so they have no choice but to abandon the sinking ship and head for the lifeboats and wait for the Roman rescue liner.”

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‘it ain’t what ya’ do, its da way dat ya do it’

photo of Fun Boy Three's single - it ain't what you do

It isn’t often that you are going to find Rt Revd David Stancliffe, former Bishop of Salisbury, and Bananarama mentioned in the same sentence. Indeed, they cut very different figures in my own memories.

For me, Bishop David will always be in my mind immaculately dressed. I guess you have to be a Bishop to attempt bright red socks – but from his socks upwards, I never knew him anything less than a very, very smart chair of the Liturgical Commission, someone I got to know through my days with Church House Publishing.

On the other hand, Fun Boy Three and Bananarama hold a different memory in my mind. As a ten year old boy, just discovering music and Top of the Pops, I remember watching three men and three women (the men on their way down from ‘The Specials’ era, the girls on their way up to future pop legend) bouncing around singing ‘it ain’t what ya’ do, its da way dat ya do it’ as fairly ragged, big haired, messy eighties stars in overgrown jumpers. Read more