ian-tomlinson
Church of England

Understanding the Ministry of the Church Today: a lecture in honour of the late Rev’d Canon Dr Ian Tomlinson

The Rev’d Canon Dr Ian Tomlinson died peacefully at his home on Monday 31st October. He had asked the Very Rev’d Professor Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, to deliver a lecture at his funeral, rather than the usual eulogy or sermon. It is reproduced here in its entirety:

Understanding the Ministry of the Church Today
The Very Rev’d Prof. Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford

Ian Tomlinson, born in 1950, had been the Rector of Ragged Appleshaw benefice in the Diocese of Winchester since 1979.  He had also been an instrumental founder and overseer of the Diocesan Pastoral Care and Counselling Service, serving as Bishop’s Adviser for over fifteen years, and was a driving force on the Committee of the Andover Crisis Centre for over thirty years.  He had previously served curacies in Yorkshire.  There are many here today who mourn him: Caroline, his devoted wife; his three fine sons – Hugh, Ralph and James – of whom he was so proud; and parishioners, friends, colleagues near and far.  Many, many people are here to mourn his passing, reminisce over good times, as well as his deep and courageous last few years battling with cancer.  Ian, I can tell you, would have been embarrassed, and told us all to stop it at once.

Ian studied at London, the Open, Hull and Oxford Universities, and at the Richmond Fellowship College and the Tavistock Clinic, in London. He was a Professional Associate of the Grubb Institute of Behavioural Studies and was a pioneer in using psychotherapy to inform understandings of ministry.  In his inimitable, hospitable manner, full of self-deprecation tempered with beautiful humility and rich insight, rose to become one of the most influential clergyman of his generation.  Always more of a ‘back room boy’, he preferred consultancy and counsel to the ecclesiastical limelight.  He was a remarkable priest, pastor, counsellor, consultant, scholar, wry observer, wit – and more besides.

Now, I need to explain to you that this is not a eulogy, or a conventional sermon for this kind of occasion.  Ian was very specific about what he wanted at his funeral, and expressly asked for a talk and reflection on ministry today.  Nothing more; nothing less.  And so that is what it will be.  I knew Ian as one of my doctoral students, and it was a rare privilege to supervise someone with such an effervescent mind.  He also had a fabulous sense of humour, and could be quite irreverent when discussing the diocesan hierarchy.  But he loved them too, and wouldn’t harm a fly.

So my starting point for this address is a poem he gave me. Unpublished, as it turns out, as it was supressed some forty years ago, and seen as too subversive.  But uncannily, more is said in this poem about the authentic nature of ministry than could be expressed in several thousand words of prose.  I don’t know who wrote this, but we know that the lines were intended to inspire vocations to ordained ministry. And the poem goes like this:

Give us a man of God
Father, to pray for us,
Longed for, and insignificant,
But excellent in mercy,
And ordain him
Someone who loves the mystery of the faith
Whose conversation seems
Credibly to come from heaven
A poor man, a hungry man
Whose hospitality is endless.

Give us a preaching man,
Father, who doesn’t know how to fake,
A free man, on holiday
In this parish, a still man
Good as an ikon
With a heart full of treasure;
Someone to talk to
When death comes here,
A fellow countryman of birth and death
And the dynasty of our family,
Whose eye has missed nothing.

Give us a man without sanctimony
Father, to handle what is eternal,
A private citizen among miracles
Not his, modest
Capable of silence
Someone who reminds us now and then
Of your own description
And another kingdom
By the righteousness of his judgement
Or some grace in what’s done
In laying down his life even
For his friends.

Reginald Askew, (source: Advisory Council for Church Ministry prayer card, Petertide, 1975).

Ian stands as an exemplar of our highest and finest traditions of devoted parish priests, who have served their communities, and God, with deep commitment and unswerving constancy. He spent over thirty-five years in one parish – a once unremarkable pattern of ministry that is almost unheard of in today’s Church of England.  His dedication to God, sense of virtue, and his profound compassion for his people marked him out as a truly great pastor and priest.

Like many doctoral students, supervisors tend to learn much from them, even as they supervise their project and mentor the person. Ian was no exception to this, and his blend of gentle, sharp, incisive, visionary reflective skills, together with his profound humanity – and through which the warm radiant grace of God was liberally poured – made both him and his project a joy to work with.

His capacity to reflect on himself, his ministry and community was always remarkable. His eye missed nothing. He was the quintessential participant observer and observing participant. Rather like a family therapist at a large celebratory wedding reception with their own kith and kin, he knew how to join in and enjoy himself; but also when to step back, muse and reflect. He prayed for his people; he visited graciously, but tended not to intrude. He counselled and consoled, yet understood the difference between empathy and compassion. He was but one sign of God’s kingdom in a small-ish English rural benefice – an unchanging symbol of God’s light, love and presence in a world that is distracted and busy.

But lest this sound like the burnishing of the memory of Ian, this same priest was utterly contemporary and professional in his work, with a methodology and practice of ministry that was responsively dynamic both in and to its environments. He read assiduously and discerningly. Ian blended the unchanging virtues, values, practices and behaviours of a faithful ministry, with all the very best theology, wisdom and work of a thoroughly modern minister. Yet his additional work as a counsellor for the diocese – and this over more than two decades – often struggled for recognition, despite its dynamic impact and a thoroughly contemporary, professional approach to ordained ministry.

When I think of Ian and his work, I am reminded of one of my (few) detective heroes, Peter Falk. He plays the TV character known as Columbo, a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. Lieutenant Columbo was a detective consistently underestimated by his suspects, who were initially reassured and distracted by his circumstantial speech. Despite his unassuming appearance and apparent absentmindedness, he shrewdly solved his cases by marshalling and sifting all the piecemeal evidence.

Columbo’s work was distinguished by a formidable eye for detail and his dogged, dedicated approach. He appeared to be an unassuming man; he was very kind, and befriended everyone to get a better insight into what was really going on; he often pretended not to understand at all – in order to understand more and better; he shuffled around, rarely making eye contact, picking up evidence, stories and impressions, here and there, piecing together the broken bits of a much bigger picture; he used all his senses; he analysed; he tended to dress down; he finally made eye contact at a precise point of epiphany;  modest, he then shuffled off stage, and into the next episode.

Ian is a reminder of something currently lost to the church; indeed a church that has somehow become forgetful of itself, and so without a deep sense of constancy, has developed multiple addictions to change. But as Albert Einstein once opined, not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that is counted, counts. Counting ‘members’ or the hard, inner-core of congregational attendees does not tell the whole story; indeed, it does not even account for the half of it.

The mission of the church is a vocation to serve communities, not just convert individuals into members.  Partly for this reason, the church needs to become more cautious about recasting clerical and ministerial paradigms of leadership in apparently more successful secular moulds.  As one writer puts it:

What is happening to ministries that equip the saints for the work of service when we adopt the language and values of the corporate world and describe ministers as Chief Executive Officers, Heads of Staff, Executive Pastors, Directors of this and that? Why is it that ministers studies have become offices? (This) may be superficial evidences of the problem…[but it is what happens] when the values of the corporate world join with the values of the market place in the church…

The more the church is treated as an organisation, the more its mission becomes focussed on techniques designed to maximize output and productivity. We become obsessed with quantity instead of quality and where we have a care for quality, it is only to serve the larger goal of increasing quantity. The church moves to becoming a managed machine, with its managers judging their performance by growth-related metrics.

Invariably, the clergy and the congregations are made to collude with this – largely through the imposition of codes of compliance, in the name of ‘missional excellence’ or ‘healthy churches’. This can rob clergy and parishes of their distinctive local autonomy, and can also override the value of local knowledge. It turns partnerships and soft forms of association rooted in trust into hard forms of organisation and corporation. This can destroy the soul of the church, and the souls of the clergy who are seeking to serve their communities with compassion, and their congregations with zeal.

As two writers for The Economist note,

Professionals…value autonomy…[yet] there are many examples of professionals surrendering their autonomy in the face of managerial change agendas. It has happened in health care, as management systems have been imported from automobile manufacturing, to control the workflow of doctors. Now even priests are being sent on management training courses in business schools…

Ian had a wry, sharp sense of humour.  He knew it was all too easy to distil the mission of a church and your clergy into three handy tasks, and all beginning with ‘p’, to pick a letter at random: Prophetic, Pioneer and Passionate.  But he knew that such distillation sold the church well short of its roles and vision.  Ian’s Ian ministry embodied several quite different ‘p’s’: Pausing and Prayer; churches to be Pastoral, Present and Public; clergy to be Priestly and Prescient.

Ultimately, Ian knew that ministry is not really work, a profession, or labour; but to use an old fashioned word, it is, rather, an ‘occupation’.  A rather quaint word, granted; but an ‘occupation’ is something that consumes time, energy and lives, but is not paid or recognized as ‘work’ in the way that the secular world understands the term. Ministry is an uncommon ‘occupation’ – a sphere of activity where remuneration is not linked to the value of the endeavour (which in itself was hard to measure) – either for the priest or for the wider public.  This makes understandings of ministry more marginal, even though its symbolic and public functions remain public and at times highly visible.  The practice of being engaged in an occupation of this kind says something about the possibilities for different kinds of spaces in communities – social, pastoral, intellectual, spiritual, to name but a few.

So, what is ministry like today?  In some respects, it is rather like intentional parenting. That is to say, there are indeed plans and structures, and there is no getting away from the essential value of these for cultivating healthy individuals and relationships. A loving and cherishing home underlie this ecology.  But mature parenting is also about accepting that despite the intentionality of plans and structures, life, like ministry, is a constant stream of interruptions, disruptions and surprises – some of which are welcome, but not all of them.  Ministry, like parenting, is a relatively boundless occupation.

Theological education and formation – in both its highly formed and rather unformed states – prepares the minister for this world, and this type of occupation.  Which is why it is important that the structuring of training oscillates between the systematic and unsystematic, and the planned and the fluid: our wisdom is found in the spaces between these.

But Ian understood that our churches and theological landscape were often formed by wider cultural and political forces.  We often discussed this passage by Lesslie Newbigin:

Modern capitalism has created a world totally different from anything known before.  Previous ages have assumed that resources are limited and that economics – housekeeping – is about how to distribute them fairly. (Ian, I should add here, always felt that the institution the church was most like was the extended family – and so our leaders did not need MBA’s, but rather needed to learn how to be good parents…but I digress, and Newbiggin continues…). Since Adam Smith, we have learned to assume that exponential growth is the basic law of economics and that no limits can be set to it.  Growth is for the sake of growth and is not determined by any overarching social purpose.  And that, of course, is an exact account of the phenomenon which, when it occurs in the human body, is called cancer.

For Ian, this analogy was pertinent. Metastatic Cancer feeds off testosterone; and when it can’t find it, it makes its own. So the illness that claimed Ian was a perfect fit for Newbigin’s analogy.  Obsessed with growth, the church produces compensatory hormones and then continues to feeds off itself, until it is finally self-consumed.  This led us to talk about patterns of leadership being formed in various dioceses of the Church of England, and what they were like.  I must confess I don’t remember all the details of these conversations – though North Korea often cropped up: another cult of leadership that promises endless growth in return for unquestioning obedience.

So what are the clergy for?  Some theologies of ministry entertain romantic fantasies about distinctiveness; but it is in the tasks and life of ministry that clergy begin to find the correspondence between the Creator and the created.  The ‘set-apart-ness’ that guarantees both centrality and marginality in any community or parish is fundamental to the vocation.  Moreover, it is frequently in the marginality of life and death that the office and calling becomes apparent. One writer, Tom Lynch, a funeral director who constantly witnessed the ministry of clergy in death and bereavement, reflects upon this:

‘I remember the priest I called to bury one of our town’s homeless tramps – a man without family or friends or finances.  He, the grave- diggers, and I carried the casket to the grave.  The priest incensed the body, blessed it with holy water, and read from the liturgy for twenty minutes, then sang In Paradisum – that gorgeous Latin for “May the angels lead you into Paradise” – as we lowered the poor man’s body into the ground.  When I asked him why he’d gone to such trouble, he said these are the most important funerals – even if only God is watching – because it affirms the agreement between “all God’s children” that we will witness and remember and take care of each other’.

The same writer continues,

‘…in each case these holy people treated the bodies of the dead neither as a bother or embarrassment, nor an idol or icon, nor just a shell.  They treated the dead like one of our own, precious to the people who loved them, temples of the Holy Spirit, neighbours, family, fellow pilgrims.  They stand – these clergy, these local heroes, these saints and sinners, these men and women of God – in that difficult space between the living and the dead, between faith and fear, between humanity and Christianity and say out loud, “Behold, I show you a mystery.”

Clergy occupy that strange hinterland between the secular and sacred, the temporal and the eternal, acting as interpreters and mediators, embodying and signifying faith, hope and love.  They are both distant and immediate; remote, yet intimate.  And in occupying this most marginal and transitory ground, and sometimes helping to close the gaps between these worlds, they become humanly and spiritually necessary even as they live out their (party willed, partly imposed) social marginality.

It is nothing less than to follow the call of Jesus: to belong both to the wilderness, but also to the city.  To be a citizen of some place; but also of nowhere; of earth and of heaven.  To be of the people; but also for their sake, to be wholly, holy other.  I realize that this may be a deeply unfashionable note on which to end, but perhaps the most important thing about ministry is, after all, to be vested in the notion of occupation.

Our priests are to be occupied with God.  And then to be pre-occupied with all the people, places and parishes that are given by God into our care: to dwell amongst, care for and love those people and places as Christ would himself.

So I want to draw to a close with a small extract from one brief tribute of the many that have flooded in from colleagues of Ian.  Mark Bailey notes that an important part of Ian’s work, and indeed his legacy, was the setting up of a counselling service for use by clergy and their households within the Diocese of Winchester. So, Mark writes:

Ian was all too aware of the vulnerability and frailty of clergy and their need for psychological support at times of crisis. He cared very deeply about his fellow priests and knew from his own life’s experience how valuable, even vital, being able to share and off-load in a safe therapeutic setting could be. Ian had a big heart and a very good mind. He was dubbed by more than one as ‘the priest’s pastor’ and was much admired for this work by [all] who had the pleasure of working with him.

And so I return to that poem with which we started, and give thanks to God for Ian – his life, work and ministry:

Give us a preaching man…who doesn’t know how to fake,
A free man, on holiday in this parish,
a still man, good as an ikon with a heart full of treasure;
Someone to talk to when death comes here,
A fellow countryman of birth and death and the dynasty of our family,
Whose eye has missed nothing…

Today, it is God’s own eye that is fully on that man – Ian: one whom we have been blessed to know, and who in cherishing us, came to embody all that we affirm and recognise in good ministry.

So Ian, may you rest in peace and rise in glory.  Amen.

  • chefofsinners

    The criticism of the current AoC is thinly veiled to the point of indecency.
    The church is, of course, the narrow way and few there be that find it, but nevertheless our commission is to go into all the world and preach the gospel. The church would not be so concerned with growth had it not experienced such massive decline in recent decades.

    • Mike Stallard

      Couldn’t agree more. That is precisely why I left the CoE and my holiday parish and became a Catholic layman. Best decision I ever made. I now stand by and watch my old Church sinking into the mud.

      • bluedog

        Have you ever been called a fair-weather friend and wondered why?

        • Mike Stallard

          One of the most thought provoking letters I received when I left was from a Brigadier who told me, quite simply, that a sentry does not desert his post. I have not forgotten that.
          But I still insist it was the right thing to do and it was also one of the best decisions I have ever made. One selling point (for me) is the fact that in Australia, in Singapore and in UAE, there is a lovely mass full of people.
          If you are wrong, admit it, whatever the cost.

          • Inspector General

            Can’t say one blames you at all for your decision to leave Anglicanism. No permanency or stability of the thing it seems. Women priests, women bishops, openly homosexual clergy ‘married’ to members of the same sex. Paedophile rainbow flags in churches. A pathological desire to incorporate as much Marxism as they can get away with. The whole set up run for the benefit of the progressive clergy and nothing, nothing at all about the church’s prime function – the guidance of souls in this life and the possibility of salvation once it’s over. All very sad…but all very human as it corrupts into humanist irrelevance…

          • Mike Stallard

            OK One more thought.
            Our village used to cohere round the Church. I don’t say people were religious or actually even christian, but they had a safe place to meet where everyone had to be loving and kindly disposed and where history lingered. Every few miles, there was another friendly little community reaching out to us and we to them. Then, in the Market Town a Huge Church with lots of bells and Important Vicars.
            It all worked really well – or so it seemed.
            Now swept away. And we are left with a cold, unloving suburb full of strangers.

          • bluedog

            ‘Now swept away. And we are left with a cold, unloving suburb full of strangers.’

            And the CofE is to blame for this?

          • Mike Stallard

            Blame is a word which I loathe. I am not blaming anyone.
            What I am saying is that the loss of the CoE which was there once has now left a gaping hole which leaves our village high and dry. It is rather like putting out a fire: you get cold.

          • chefofsinners

            It’s up to us to light new fires.

          • Mike Stallard

            Not possible.
            I have often thought about this.
            1. Say I go to the Vicar (as I have) with a brilliant new idea – done by me, a Catholic laymen, and not involving any Church resources at all) I get the brush off.
            2. Say I offer to read Mattins/Evensong all by myself in a cold, lonely Church, I have to get the key from the shop and make a fuss. Easier at home!
            3. Even if we did get a group going regularly in the cold, dark, dusty, lonely Church, pretty soon the Diocesans would come down on us demanding that we pay for the privilege.
            Much easier to add my tiny resources to the Catholics where I belong, and where I am known and among friends.

          • chefofsinners

            What if the apostles had taken that attitude?

          • Mike Stallard

            Allow me to ask this: Have you ever tried fighting the CoE from within? I learned the hard way – often – that you cannot win. You really can’t.
            If you just break their rules, they simply contradict you and undo any good you may have done. Discussing it beforehand, of course, means delay and when I tried that too, it is simply batted away.
            If you do it by stealth, then you quite often get away with it. But not always.
            And now, with the loss of the independence of the incumbent – I notice an awful lot of “priests in charge” who are “instituted” not “inducted” – I really cannot see any change likely. Get wrong with the Bishops and that’s it – out!

            In our town, we have a school teacher who left and set up his own King’s Church. It is (at the moment) vibrant and it holds a commanding position in the town, rejuvenating buildings and helping the many homeless migrants.
            Our Catholic Church used to do that too – but is going through a bad patch at the moment.
            The Anglicans? Nothing.

          • Inspector General

            Oh. One thought you were on about the purity and nature of the beast…

      • Little Black Censored

        “Best decision I ever made. I now stand by and watch my old Church sinking into the mud.”
        Gosh, what jolly fun!

  • Anton

    That comment by Lesslie Newbigin – a hero of mine – was one of his few mistakes. It is based on the inaccurate phrase “the accumulation of capital” as the definition of capitalism. Who would not be repelled by such a phrase, with its images of a fat man smoking a cigar in a large house, with a huge bank balance, and indifferent to the starving poor outside his gate? But what the accumulation of capital actually means, in Adam Smith’s sense, is that a nation steadily improves its standard of living. It is perfectly legitimate to wish and work for that. By grace of God we British live in nicer houses than the inhabitants of, for instance, Bangla Desh; but we did not build those houses ourselves. Many of them, and the associated infrastructure, were already standing when we were born. We have simply added the fruit of our own labours to the accumulated wealth of generations that went before us. That is all that is meant by “the accumulation of capital”.

    • David

      Well explained.

      • Anton

        The main difference between economists (especially socialist ones) and me is that I know I don’t understand economics.

        • David

          Very droll.
          But I suspect you know the basics well enough.
          Modesty does not become you.

          • Anton

            But immodesty probably becomes me less… let me try this:

            After a decade of self-education about economics, beginning from absolutely zero (albeit having proficiency in mathematics), I reckon I now understand it about as well as an economics professor… which is to say, not at all.

            All of what I have learnt comes from asking myself the question, What is money? Yet you seldom see it asked, let alone answered, in most textbooks. You compliment me by saying I know the basics, but there is no agreement about the basics, which is why there are different schools of economics. There aren’t different schools of physics, except at the research frontier.

          • David

            I agree. Ultimately the question “what is money”, is value judgement laden philosophical question of course.

          • Sarky

            What is money?

            It’s the physical manifestation of an empty promise.

          • IanCad

            Something that has no value unless it’s spent.

          • Coniston

            The classic remark about economics is, of course, that in economic exams the same questions are are asked every year – but the answers are changed every year.
            As for money, all bank notes have printed on them – ‘I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of …..’. Is this is a lie – were bank notes originally a kind of bearer bond, a pound sterling being a pound weight of silver? I did economics so long ago I have forgotten.

          • Anton

            You did economics so long ago that banknotes did have those words written on them! They haven’t done so for quite a while – certainly not the ten pound note that I’ve just got out of my pocket and am looking at as I type.

            A pound sterling was a pound weight of silver at one point in Anglo-Saxon times. But even then debasement of the coinage soon set in.

          • Coniston

            Actually the paper bank notes do still have these words – in extremely small print, but I’m not sure about the new plastic notes.

          • Anton

            Actually yes you are right; my apologies. You will get some other fiat legal tender, though, such as two five pound notes saying the same thing, or ten coins with much less value as metal than in the imprint. Fiat currency is the original sin of all financial systems.

          • chefofsinners

            This is why economics is loath to call itself a science. Some institutions award BAs and some award BScs in economics. When I graduated I was allowed to choose.
            One problem is that economies are so complex they are indescribable and unpredictable. In recent years globalisation has worsened the problem considerably. All economic models are therefore simplifications and based on assumptions, both of which make the model next to useless.
            However, the biggest problem with economics is that people are involved. One of the most basic assumptions of economics is that consumers are rational, which of course they are not.
            Money, at its simplest definition, is a medium of exchange. Fiat currency works perfectly well so long as there is trust in it. It is, as someone has said below, a promise. Unfortunately, people don’t always keep their promises.
            Why do you think fiat currency is a sin? It seems to me to be a convenience. It is people who are sinful.

          • Anton

            Please see my exchange with Avi about economics in the thread beneath His Grace’s article (posted on November 24) about the Chancellor’s autumn statement; I say more about my views of economics there.

            What is sinful is the enforcement by government of fiat currency, such as a coin containing 50% base metal, as being legal tender of value equal to a coin of equal weight containing exclusively precious metal. Which coin will be accepted as of what value outside the borders of jurisdiction of that government? (Hence Gresham’s law as people preferentially hoard the undebased coins and trade with the debased ones.) Precious metals are the people’s free choice of exchange medium, whereas fiat currency is the government’s. But it is a ripoff, because the government can pay itself two coins for the price of one. Unbacked paper money is even more open to abuse. And what the government decides one day is fiat currency, it can decide the next day isn’t. Look at the chaos in India over the government’s impending derecognition of 500- and 1000-rupee notes.

          • chefofsinners

            But people can and do hold their wealth in any form they wish: property, gold, anything. If they want to hold it as a medium of exchange they can use any one of many world currencies. When they need to trade they only need to hold cash momentarily. Do you have a hoard of undebased coins?
            Even if a government engages in shenanigans with the currency, it does so for the good of the people.

          • Anton

            Good of the people? Somewhat implausible to read idealism from you, Ch[i]ef. Fiat currency is a way for the government/king to enrich itself at the expense of the people without explicitly taxing them.

            I counsel those who can afford precious metals to hold part of their wealth in that form. And not necessarily gold, in view of Roosevelt’s pernicious Executive Order 6102 in 1933.

          • chefofsinners

            A self interested government will find plenty of ways to screw the population over, with or without fiat currency. QE and devaluation in our country have been undertaken in a genuine attempt to ease economic difficulties.
            Most ordinary citizens hold the majority of their wealth as property: real estate, cars and other tangible assets.

          • Anton

            Yes of course government screws its population over in multiple ways, fiat currency being one of the better ones. Devaluation in the Bretton Woods era was certainly for the country’s good, but QE just happens to have enriched the 1% while hollowing out the middle class; now there’s a coincidence.

          • chefofsinners

            The recent problems of a lack of liquidity would have been unfinitely worse if we were on the gold standard. Fiat currency has enabled our economy to continue to function. You might not have started from here, but there’s no way back.

          • Anton

            True – but very economical with the truth. For lack of liquidity read people hanging on to their money because they don’t trust others to repay loans; and the biggest debtors of all are governments, who (forget the fiction of independent central banks) mint or print fiat currency.

            There is no way to avoid a crash far greater than 2008. This time there will be no bail-out, or even bail-in, and unlimited money printing by the Fed won’t help because of Triffin’s dilemma. Expect a total lockdown of the banking system, followed by riots, martial law and dictatorship. Probably the IMF will issue Special Drawing rights to all nations including the USA, whose currency will lose reserve status; then governments can ease liquidity and restart the system again. But the world will be a very different place afterwards. This could happen any time. And it is all due to fiat currency.

          • bluedog

            ‘Expect a total lockdown of the banking system,’

            Probably not. The state has plenipotentiary powers to ensure that the day to day functioning of the economy continues, as it must. Capital controls could be implemented as they have been in the past, but Britain is well-placed. One feels sorry for those nations within the Euro-zone, where the intersection of the powers of the state and the supra-national entity will prove to be a fatal weakness. One trusts that the Italian government, for example, would have a plan on file to re-launch the Lira.

          • Anton

            It has been admitted that liquidity came within a few hours of failing on two occasions in the last 20 years and ATMs going dark. Plenipotentiary powers are irrelevant; how can the State prevent this? I am not talking about a problem confined to the Eurozone. Think 2008 but worse.

          • bluedog

            The state through the agency of its central bank simply prints money. The costs of doing this would be far less than the costs of allowing the economy to freeze.

            Talking of ATMs, and given your enthusiasm for precious metal, how does one’s debit card allow one to collect a gold bezant or two before heading to the supermarket? Will my Shellcard loyalty programme still work?

          • Anton

            Holding precious metal is insurance; that’s all.

            I explained that, regardless even of kicking off hyperinflation, the USA will not be able to print its was back to liquidity because it is the world’s reserve currency and debt is created overseas that absorbs it. The amount of printing needed to reliquefy the whole world would wreck the dollar. This is the flipside of the famous postwar comment of John Connally to the Europeans that the dollar is “our currency but your problem”. Please see “Triffin’s dilemma” on Wikipedia.

          • bluedog

            One questions the value of precious metals as an ultimate store of value. Who decides the value? Would the ruling market price apply in a personal negotiation in extremis? If you are talking about investment in commodities, and you are, it seems important to divide them into hard and soft categories. In addition, energy commodities need to be put into a separate category. The important thing about commodities is that they are critical for the continuance of human society and can usually be exchanged for barter in the absence of a currency. Note that in order to determine the rate of inflation over hundreds of years, economic historians base their assumptions on the price of wheat, not gold.

          • Anton

            As people tend to think that gold is for the rich only, I should explain how precious metals are the people’s choice of exchange medium. The statement is true – it’s just that most of us can’t afford very much gold. Here is how it came about. Our society evolved from an agrarian economy. When items come to market, there are exchange rates between pairs of goods, including grain, cabbages, meat, shoes and so on. But grain is acceptable in exchange for all the others, whereas the converse is not true. Why is that? Grain is easily weighed and divided, cannot be counterfeited, and can be stored such that it does not degenerate rapidly. Further, grain is grown as a staple for everybody, and everybody knows that everybody needs food every day. People therefore know that they will be able to pass grain on, and are consequently willing to accept more of it than they need for personal consumption: they have immediate confidence in it as an exchange medium. Persons who bring other goods to market can barter them for grain, then barter grain they do not need to eat themselves for other goods they want (or store it).

            Among the goods that came to market were gold and silver. Precious metals share with grainseed the properties necessary for exchange, storage and accounting: durability, distinctiveness, divisibility and portability. In fact they are more readily portable than grain, and they can be hidden more easily. But how did something unnecessary for life take over as an exchange medium from something vital for it? Gold and silver are not necessary to life, but they are still desired. They can be crafted for adornments, and the wealthy, who could afford objects of beauty but no practical use, would exchange grain for them; the exchange rate was set by their scarcity, by the strength of desire for them (rooted partly in snob value, hence some of the biblical warnings about money), and by the amount of grain excess to foreseen requirements for food. Once people saw precious metals being accepted in markets for more and more goods, they gained confidence in them as a currency. That confidence would falter if circumstances caused precious metals to be no longer exchangeable for food staples, as you say, but such circumstances are extraordinary. This is why gold and silver are the people’s choice of exchange medium; there has been a world currency for many centuries! Government fiat currency, in contrast, represents the nationalisation of money.

          • bluedog

            ‘Government fiat currency, in contrast, represents the nationalisation of money.’

            All this thinking needs to end in a strategy which enables one to achieve the ultimate goal – to maintain or preferably increase, the purchasing power of one’s capital. Deciding that fiat currency is not to be trusted, particularly in a democracy, is an extremely important development, and it only remains to follow the logic towards the next step. Having decided on the basis of a life-time’s experience that the currency is going to become worthless it is logical not to own it. It is even more logical to actually borrow it, and as much as you can, secured against an asset which cannot be debased. After all, if you borrow something that you believe is going to become worthless, your borrowing costs in terms of repayment of principal will be very low. As precious metals pay no interest they are not a viable investment proposition in these circumstances.

            From a macro economic perspective, precious metals fail most tests as they are limited in availability and cannot be used to stimulate the economy. Churchill found this out when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer and re-established the gold standard for the pound sterling in 1925.

          • Anton

            Stop thinking of precious metals as an investment! They are money. All else is debt.

            It makes sense to borrow as much fiat currency as you can and invest it only in a purely inflationary scenario. I am expecting, as happened in Germany following WW1, deflation followed by severe inflation. To maintain your wealth through that cycle requires nimbleness.

            Stimulate the economy?? Fiat currency is the very cause of the business cycle of unsustainable boom followed by socially distressing bust. As for Britain and the gold standard between the wars, already a pound note was not redeemable against gold if everybody wanted it at once (despite the wording). The original sin of fiat currency had already been committed.

          • bluedog

            ‘Stop thinking of precious metals as an investment!’

            Disagree. Precious metals are just another asset class without any mystical claim to being money.

          • Anton

            Certainly an asset class, but the claim they are money is practical not mystical: they are the people’s free choice of exchange medium.

  • Anton

    The more the church is treated as an organisation, the more its mission becomes focussed on techniques designed to maximize output and productivity.

    The CoE has been an organisation since Henry VIII cleaved it from an even larger organisation. The early church knew nothing of Establishment, multiple levels of hierarchy and an ordained officer class. And he mission of the church is not “a vocation to serve communities” but a vocation to serve God in the community. The difference is vital.

  • Martin

    Not one mention of the gospel, no mention of the Bible, the only mention of preaching in the poem.

    And the Church, by the way, is the assembling of the people of God, not an organisation.

    I’d be less than pleased by such an eulogy.

    • Dominic Stockford

      Quite so. My thoughts. My mother-in-law’s recent funeral was highlighted by a fabulous sermon on Salvation through Jesus Christ, and Him alone.

      • Martin

        Dominic

        My sympathy for your families recent loss, but it is always good to hear of the proclaiming of the gospel.

  • len

    Unless Christ becomes central to all the Church does all the Church does will be devoid of the Life only Christ can give.

    • David

      Well said, and very succinctly put.
      However, if I may be so bold as to say that, a comma after the first “does” would facilitate ease of comprehension.

      • len

        Thanks, will put in comma

  • David

    The mission of the Church is, as always, “to make disciples of all nations”.
    We do this by preaching the gospel in many different, varied ways, as is suitable for the local culture, but preach it we must..

    May his soul rest with God..

  • chefofsinners

    This non-eulogy is easy to criticise, but it also contains wisdom.
    It is right to laud a man for being occupied with God. Jesus’ words to His servants in Luke 19 were “Occupy until I come.”
    Any man who is truly occupied with God is one like Elijah, of whose spirit we should seek a double portion.

    • ‘ it is right to laud a man for being occupied with God.’. I agree. But within this eulogy there is something rather vague and mystical about this that does not seem to express the biblical focus on such an occupation. The biblical focus is really Christ for only in him God is revealed. Further it is Christ as creator, sustainer and redeemer with a particular emphasis on redeemer. Christ is the Word in whom God is contextualised, revealed, and shaped. God is Christlike. Christ, and so God, is gospel-driven. We know God when we know Jesus and share in his concerns.

      In Lk 19, ‘occupy till I come,’ is not a call to contemplation. (Not that contemplation is wrong, as long a it is contemplation of God in Christ’.) But a call to active service. It is call to use one’s God-given/Christ-given gifts in Christ’s service until his return.

      • chefofsinners

        Exactly right. The call is to active service, but the inner life of God’s servants is the source of the desire to serve.

    • IanCad

      Any criticism should be blunted by the introduction to the service:

      “—this is not a eulogy, or a conventional sermon for this kind of occasion—“

  • Mike Stallard

    WOW!
    Fantastic!
    Well done!
    Unbelievable!

  • alternative_perspective

    Please correct me if I’m wrong but are we not all at enmity with God until bound in grace by the Lord Jesus with the rest of the church? ie. this son was dead but is now alive….
    In short – we are not all God’s children though we may all be his creations.
    Perhaps it is the charitable thing to do – to assume fraternity in Christ – but this seems to be an assumption that the lost and the dead make all to readily – assuming an eternal life without realising they first need raising from the dead.

    • Dominic Stockford

      As one of my friends points out, we are/were indeed dead in our sin, and what can the dead do? Nothing – excepting ‘stinketh’ (Lazarus).

  • Does Reginald Askew’s excellent poem contain a subtext calling for a pastor who won’t rock the Establishment boat? Do we need also somebody to follow the example of Christ upsetting the Temple applecarts?

    • len

      In spite of Christ warnings to ‘the church ‘(Revelation 2) its seems that large sections are still soundly asleep.

  • Alison Bailey Castellina

    This lecture on the real value of trained pastoral care could have fully escaped the realm of platitude if it had highlighted that trained clergy-counsellors (who are more than ‘psychologists’ or counsellors) are channels for The Great Psychologist. Christ’s efficacious message leads to psychological wholeness though spiritual salvation, using the Scriptures. People today desperately need to hear about God’s love for them. It is the distinctive role of the clergy to share what psychologists cannot/do not i.e. Christ, Saviour and Healer. My own feeling is that funerals are not meant to praise the dead, who, in the case of committed Christians are already in a far, far better place. Funerals are for the living to hear the Gospel of salvation through a sermon which should open by telling briefly how the departed ministered and served Him. Then the sermon should move firmly on to focus on Christ and the meaning of His Cross.

    • David

      Well said !
      Of course as there are so few committed Christians, then few funerals are of the committed.

    • len

      Most funeral services are to comfort the bereaved(rightly so) but these services can, and do, give a false sense of ‘a right’ of people to enter heaven if they have been ‘good people’ or some sort of ‘right ‘ where people just end up in heaven as a bus ends up in the terminus at the end of its journey.
      The Gospel needs to be preached ‘in season and out of season’ so that people have a definite clear meaning of the Gospel before they come to the end of life’s journey.

      (My punctuation skills are not of the best so I have left a few commas and a full stop so if i have missed them anywhere please insert where required ,,, . 😉 )

      • IanCad

        No doubt about it Len, comforting the family is important but it is also a great opportunity to tell to the unchurched the gospel message; and that in truth. Many funeral services portray the message of Universalism. All will be saved.
        Even the wonderful Billy Graham who has bought the Gospel light to millions falsifies the scriptures in his assurances that there is an immediate passage to Heaven for the departed, as he did during the funeral of President Nixon, where he said the late statesman was now in Heaven, looking down and smiling at the proceedings. Shockingly unbiblical!

        • Dominic Stockford

          We MUST preach the Gospel at funerals. I rejoice when I bury a Christian, they have so often made it clear that they do not want me to talk of them, but they do want me to preach the Gospel.

          • Sarky

            “I rejoice when I bury a christian”

            Are you a member of ISIS?

          • Dominic Stockford

            You really are an idiot. And now a blocked one.

          • Sarky

            I’m devastated.

          • IanCad

            Is it not going to be a little tough to convey the gospel message to someone you refuse to talk with?

          • Dominic Stockford

            I have on a number of occasions, already done so. However, I remember Jesus’ words to his disciples, for just such a situation. “Leave, brushing the dust from your feet as you go”.

            We are told that the Holy Spirit will enliven a man’s heart, not continual banging away by us. The seed is sown, I leave the outcome to God.

          • IanCad

            Last paragraph -Spot On! However, I’m not sure your analogy is valid, for, in the above case a definite and consistent rejection was being presented to visiting strangers.
            In this case we are all visitors within HG’s tent of truth and disputation, sacred and profane, I do not think it appropriate for us to decide on the guest list.

          • The Explorer

            ISIS prefer them to be alive when they bury them.

        • The Explorer

          “This day you shall be with me in Paradise.” Christ was as unbiblical as Billy Graham.

          • IanCad

            Explorer,
            You are citing one of the proof texts used to promote the Hellenistic doctrine of the immortality of the soul; a belief that sets at nought the clear teaching of a future judgement and resurrection.
            I note you quoted from The Vulgate where “This day” is used instead of “Today.” Either way, it should be noted that there was no punctuation in the original texts and the translators supplied a comma which they placed before instead of after the word “Today”, which would have harmonized the translation with the rest of scripture.

          • The Explorer

            I tell you this today. You will be with me in Paradise.
            I tell you this. Today, you will be with me in Paradise.

            What a difference the placing of a full stop can make.

          • IanCad

            A couple of other examples where Today, or This day. is used to convey emphasis or certitude rather than immediacy, can be found in Deut. 8:19 and Acts 20:26.

          • The Explorer

            Yes, those are good examples. There’s still the parable of Dives and Lazarus, Hebrews 9:27, 2 Corinthians 5 6-8, and Philippians 1:23 to interpret.

            My own view is that there is judgement immediately after death. The redeemed are conscious with Christ in a temporary Paradise, and the unsaved are in a temporary Hell.

            At the Last Judgment, those alive at the time are judged, and the dead have their destinies confirmed. All receive their resurrection bodies and go either to the New Heaven and Earth (which replaces the temporary Paradise) or follow the Devil and his angels into the Lake of Fire (which replaces the temporary Hell).

            You, of course, will not agree, and I am not trying to persuade you. I am merely outlining what my own position is.

          • IanCad

            No! You are correct, I do not agree and will merely state that your viewpoint leads directly to the dogma of purgatory.

          • The Explorer

            Yes. It does raise the question of what the souls of the saved are doing between death and the Last Judgement. With soul sleep, the issue doesn’t arise. My main problem with Purgatory is that what happens to you is determined by the actions of others, rather than by your own faith in Christ.

            Augustine started it with ‘No salvation outside the Church.’ If that was true, unbaptised babies went to Hell. Therefore, you needed to be baptised as an infant and you were dependent on the actions of adults on your behalf. Accept that, and it’s easy to accept that the prayers, payments etc on your behalf by the living will affect the speed of your progress from Purgatory to Heaven.

            So I reject the idea of a Purgatory separate from Heaven, but there may be a purging process going on between individual death and the Last Judgement.

          • IanCad

            Which would of course be supported by a literalist assessment of the story of Dives and Lazarus. It is though, a parable, and nothing more.

          • Little Black Censored

            Why would he have said “I tell you this today”?

          • The Explorer

            To suit the theology of those who believe in soul sleep. The soul sleeps with the body until the Last Judgment. “Today you will be with me in Paradise,” rather goes against that; so they have to adjust the punctuation to get round the problem. You will be with me in Paradise, but only at the end of the world.

      • David

        Len, You are right. There is a need to preach the gospel. But the tricky part is to both, comfort the bereaved, and present the plain truth of the gospel.

        • len

          Agreed, one must be sensitive to those grieving but it is the living that must hear the Gospel.
          It is not always easy to speak the truth with love in difficult situations.

          • Sarky

            That’s why I prefer humanist funerals. No alterior motive.

          • Anton

            You might also consider the motives of people who go to church once a year, at Christmas, yet who – and whose relatives demand – a church funeral with a Christian service.

          • Sarky

            Nothing more than tradition.
            No different than non Christians having christenings for their kids.

          • Anton

            I’d put that in the same category. You are too intelligent not to know that you ducking an issue here.

          • Sarky

            I don’t think I am. Church now is more tradition than an actual belief in an afterlife.

          • Anton

            How did it get to be a tradition?

          • Sarky

            Is that a rhetorical question?

          • Anton

            I’m not asking for a history lesson, but reply as you feel.

          • Sarky

            People go because they feel they should, because of our culture or its what their parents did, not because they actually believe.

          • Anton

            That’s probably an accurate answer, but be aware that it applies only to some churches; nobody comes to the one I am in for that reason, and I am deliberately in a congregation of that sort.

          • grutchyngfysch

            Odd how these “traditions” in almost every culture congregate around the same moments: birth, marriage, death.

            Almost as though there is a consistent need in humans to understand the most significant and intimate moments in terms of something greater than mere materiality. Chalk it up to tradition all you want, but there’s a need there that isn’t satisfied by “the Universe doesn’t care”.

          • Little Black Censored

            How do you know?

          • Sarky

            The cofe’s own research says as much.

          • chefofsinners

            Well, is it?

          • Dominic Stockford

            It isn’t a mere ‘tradition’ in any of the congregations with which I identify, and join with as part of Christ’s church. It’s the whole point, the sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life in Jesus Christ.

          • Sarky

            except it’s not ‘sure’ or ‘certain’ is it.

          • chefofsinners

            Have faith.

          • Sarky

            If you need faith it’s not sure or certain.

          • chefofsinners

            Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

          • Sarky

            Nice dodge.

          • chefofsinners

            I dodged nothing. Those are the opening words of Hebrews chapter 11, the defining bible passage on faith.

          • Sarky

            Alright then, a bronze age dodge.

          • Anton

            You and Chef are using the word ‘faith’ in two different senses. (Greek has two different words, in fact.) What Chef is saying is that faith does not mean crossing your fingers; it is confidence that something promised will happen, albeit in God’s timing not ours. You are using it in the cross-your-fingers sense. This is not criticism, but explanation of why you are talking past each other.

          • chefofsinners

            We are speaking of eternal things.

          • magnolia

            And in which part of the Bronze Age are you thinking the Letter to the Hebrews was written?

          • IanCad

            Not sure of what version you are citing Chef, but it just doesn’t have the beauty of the KJV.

            “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

          • chefofsinners

            The NIV.
            Does it not lack the poetic majesty of the proper version? For God assuredly speaks only 17th century English.

          • IanCad

            Yes! It lacks it in the passage quoted. Don’t get me wrong, the KJV can be tough to cotton and other versions help to make difficult passages clearer.

          • chefofsinners

            Yea, the KJV can be tough to cotton and tough be the cottoning thereof with a great toughness, wherein doth the versions other make clearer the passages of difficulty withal.

          • IanCad

            Thanks for giving me a smile wherein to start the day thereof unto the uttermost.

          • Graham James

            Should that not be ‘speaketh’?

          • carl jacobs

            A humanist funeral – where the impotent and powerless stand in the presence of death and pretend that life has some meaning after all? Yes, who wouldn’t prefer that.

          • Sarky

            With or without religion life has meaning. Are you that arrogant that you can tell people how best to grieve?

          • Anton
          • Sarky

            Totally agree. It’s pretty much how I see things.

          • carl jacobs

            With or without religion life has meaning.

            Does it? From where does this meaning proceed?

            Are you that arrogant that you can tell people how best to grieve?

            Good grief. What I said had nothing to do with how people grieve. It was a reference to the metaphysical context in which they grieve.

          • Sarky

            Sorry Carl, that came across a bit harsh. Your original comment came across as very condescending to those with a different world view.

          • carl jacobs

            No worries. Sarky, I wouldn’t engage you if I didn’t respect you. I’ve become intolerant of internet fools. There is a reason I ignore Linus.

          • len

            You have thrown up your hands and surrendered to the darkness rather than seek the Light.
            That’s really pitiful!.

          • Sarky

            I haven’t surrendered to anything. Just made an informed choice.

          • len

            What information?.
            The reason I ask is is because I have been down the same route as yourself and reached a different conclusion (eventually)
            I am not a stereotypical ‘religious person’ and have lived more of my years as an atheist than a Christian.

          • Sarky

            What info? Where to start…

          • len

            You say you made an informed choice.I was wondering who or what had informed you?.

          • Sarky

            To be honest, even as a kid I never believed it. Everything I’ve read since has reinforced that.

          • len

            I personally believe it takes a revelation to know the truth about God .Only God can give you that revelation.
            ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’.(Jeremiah 29:13)
            Not saying this is easy, indeed it will not happen until it becomes the most important thing in your life…

          • Sarky

            Which it never will. There are certain things that will always be the most important to me.

          • Little Black Censored

            You started off with the great disadvantage of being a kid.

        • Dominic Stockford

          Tricky? Use the Prayer Book Service, speak of their hope for the future, and then point out to people ‘I have a certain hope, a sure and certain hope, through Jesus Christ’. It makes it simple!

          • Anton

            The trouble with that approach is that the Prayer Book Service assumes the deceased was a Christian and therefore heaven-bound. If the deceased had lived an obviously immoral life and never been near a church then the very decision to use words implying that he or she is in heaven is going to make a mockery of all accompanying preaching that you must repent and believe.

      • Alison Bailey Castellina

        Being merely human, we cannot know someone’s eternal destiny, so one has reflect that one ‘hopes’, rather than that one knows. What one says when someone bereaved says “They are together in heaven now” is that one ‘hopes’, if there has been regular taking of Communion and other signs of faith. The NT tells believers people not to mourn like pagans at funerals, hinting, I think, that there is a place for something more than words of comfort at such times. The comfort is in someone’s faith and assurances in the Bible about the Resurrection – the central message of Christian funerals – which is reflected in the preacher preaching the Gospel (of eternal Life).

  • len

    The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important information that any person can ever hear.The Gospel is the key to knowing who we are, who Jesus Christ is, the plan of God for humanity, the identity of the spirit entity who deceives mankind and opposes God.What could be more important?.
    Eternity is too long to get things wrong.