The Church of Scotland has agreed to maintain a status quo precluding further ordinations of gay and lesbian clergy, while permitting local congregations to do exactly the opposite – if a suitably crafted church law can be agreed next year. That’s a big ‘if’, says Simon Barrow. As a statement of theological principle, this settlement risks looking a mess. In worldly terms it is classic coalition government. But it raises the key question as to whether the coalition can hold.
The Church of Scotland vote to allow civil partnered gay and lesbian ministers, despite no change in the official teaching on sexuality, shows that the drift towards accepting gay people in the Kirk is continuing, says Simon Barrow. Indeed, while seeking pastoral sensitivity towards their opponents, the advocates of change believe that full inclusion is now inevitable.
There are many important issues in public life right now, but for a large number of people in Scotland the future of football, the national game, is no small matter, says Simon Barrow. It is not just about sport, it is also about people, communities, hopes and dreams, culture and values. Put bluntly, who does (and who should) own a sport loved by hundreds of thousands? Whose interests are being served by the way it is presently being run?
Christians need to re-envision the meaning of the Cross in history and in our culture, such that we are equipped to go and do the Gospel that shapes us in a confused, broken, unjust and often violent world, says Simon Barrow. This will help us see that it is not true that the only ‘weapons’ at the Church's disposal are not the coercive ones wielded by our opponents. Rather, God’s cross points to the resources of suffering love that only the God of life can offer, because they are ‘beyond our means’ humanly, but not beyond divine gifting.
When Pope Francis first emerged into the blinking glare of global publicity, most people had little idea who he was, says Simon Barrow. The initial attempts to fill the media void with headlines, soundbites and images still leaves us bereft of deeper understanding. We need time to grow that, and to realise that it is the fruits of action rather than heated rhetoric that will get us closer to the complexity of truth.
This week (20 January 2013) the thinktank Demos (“ideas and action to promote the common good”) has published its report Faithful Providers, which argues that faith-based organisations should be used more as public service providers. Simon Barrow offers an initial response, highlighting some of the problematic assumptions and stances within the report, setting out the background to successive government's interest in co-opting faith providers, and pointing towards a more radical Christian stance which roots service in a tradition of modelling and advocating a different social order based on justice and equality.
The assertion that “those at the top and those at the bottom are being hit hardest” by the government's austerity policies suggests a misleading equivalence, says Simon Barrow. In reality it is those with least who are being punished most.
Setting the Church of England free would be in its own interests, says Simon Barrow, as the disestablishment debate rears its head again following the General Synod debacle over women bishops. The Christian religion’s claim to truth and authority resides neither in state nor market, but in systems of belief and community which it should be capable of developing through bodies that are part of civic society.
Judging from the volumes of media coverage and online comment the goings on at this week's General Synod have generated, popular nerves have definitely been touched. But of what kind and to what effect? Simon Barrow explores the case for establishing the independence of church and state, in this article looking at the issue primarily in terms of societal pluralism, but noting the theological concerns which are actually central to the case Ekklesia wishes to make for disestablishment.
There is room for real, substantial reform to the EU budget and many other aspects of the functioning and policy of European institutions, says Simon Barrow. But to address these issues properly, Britain’s political leaders should abandon rather than feed the narrow Westminster mindset that the recent EU budget row exemplifies.