Lent Course 2006: The People of God


This Lent Course started life as an essay in response to a sermon of Bishop John Hind who called for a theological approach to contemporary issues facing the Church of England. The issues he singled out at the time were Lay Presidency at the Eucharist, women in the Episcopate and Civil Partnerships.

When I had finished writing the essay I realised that its great weakness was that it had not been put into the wider context of the People of God in the Body of Christ. This gave me the idea of adapting the material from an essay into a more open-ended enquiry which took the form of a Lent Course which was given in Hurstpierpoint earlier this year. Although the topics with which it deals may not prove to be of lasting moment, I believe that the approaches outlined and the handling of the topical material may prove of value long after these issues have been replaced by others which might benefit from similar treatment.

I know it will irritate some people, but I have deliberately avoided using both gendered pronouns and the culturally ugly "it" as an alternative when referring to the attributes of God and have used this term as opposed to "Persons"; consistent with this I use the names of the attributes - Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier - rather than the names of the "Persons" with which they are associated. This is not a matter of 'political correctness' but of trying, as far as possible, to rid any concept of God, difficult enough in itself, of the baggage of human discourse about gender and personal identity.

The original essay, whose title is the sub title of this Course, was written during a two-day retreat at Penhurst in January this year and I want to thank Storm and Richard Hann for their welcome and for quietly working and praying while I wrote; and for praying with me and for me.

September 2006


Please select a section:

  1. Introduction
  2. Unit One - A Brief History of God
    This Unit outlines the history and doctrinal position of Christianity before moving on to say something about the formation and history of the Church of England. It asks questions about where we fit with the rest of Christianity, how we would define Christian unity, and how the decisions different Christian denominations make impinge on each other.
  3. Unit Two - Ranking as an analytical tool
    This sounds fearsome but it simply clarifies what we do subconsciously; it looks at a range of issues and asks us to say which are more or less important; or which are sub issues of other issues. The objective is to help us to separate issues so that they are not all tangled in a large bucket labelled "Theology".
  4. Unit Three - Lay presidency at the Eucharist
    How important is this issue? How are we to understand the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist which is so central to the lives of many of us? What happens at the Eucharist? Is what happens so important that it requires the active presence of a priest? How does this fit in with St. Peter's idea that we are all members of the "Royal Priesthood" (1 Peter 2:1-10)?
  5. Unit Four - Women and the Episcopate
    How important is this issue? We are still living in the aftermath of the decision of the Church to admit women to the priesthood. Is admitting women as bishops a logical step or is there something different about being a bishop from being a priest? What can we learn from the controversy over women priests? What qualities do we expect from our bishops?
  6. Unit Five - Civil Partnerships
    How important is this issue? Why are some people in the Church so inflamed about homosexual people? What is the relationship between theology, ethics and natural science? Is homosexuality natural, inherited, socially acquired, or sinful? To what extent are homosexual people worthy to be people of God?
  7. Conclusion - Some Reflections on the People of God