- We lost a paradise by sin,
and have gained a heaven by the cross.
Stephen Charnock (1628-80)
Until sin be bitter,
Christ will not be sweet.
Thomas Watson (1668)
The cross once seen
is death to every vice.
William Cowper (1835)
The tear of repentance is shed by the eye of faith, and faith, as it weeps, stands beneath the cross.
Horatius Bonar? (1880s)
Let them that will, repent, that Christ may do for them.
I believe what Christ hath done for me, that I may repent.
Thomas Boston (1720s)
A discovery of Christ
in the light of the Spirit,
wastes, weakens and withers
the body of sin.
Ebenezer Erskine (1730s)
If you will remember Christ's love, you will be lifted up from your crookedness, and made straight.
C.H. Spurgeon (1890)
Live in Christ, die in Christ, and then flesh need not fear death.
John Knox (1572)
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Does it matter if Boris Johnson, MPs and staff had drinks parties after passing a law prohibiting social gatherings?
Whatever we think about the effectiveness of the law itself, Boris breached a principle which was agreed in this land over 400 years ago; no one is above the law (Lex Rex). At the time the nation agreed on this principle, after a bloody civil war, the law in mind was the law of God and any laws derived from God’s word.
When human rulers place themselves above the law and make laws without reference to God’s law, social and moral chaos ensues. King Saul is a prime example.
Saul was the first human king of Israel. He was an impetuous, rash and foolish man. Saul showed us what evil human rulers can do when left to their own devices.
King Saul made a short term law for his soldiers. The law was applied to a situation, for a day. It was a temporary ban, not to eat anything. The law had no reason behind it and Saul chose not to listen to God. He exercised the divine right of kings to command people to obey him, upon pain of a curse.
The structure and language of the narrative in 1 Samuel 13 and 14 closely mirrors the structure of Genesis chapters 2 and 3.
- Who made the law?
In Genesis chapter 2, God finished creating everything, then he made a law. (Genesis 2:17) – Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil or you shall die (be executed – mot tamut).
Saul copied God by making a similar law – Do not eat. Whoever eats will be under a curse (1 Samuel 14:24).
- Who did not hear the law?
In the Garden of Eden, Eve was not there when God made the law, but it is clear from her conversation with the serpent that Adam had told her the law.
Jonathan was not there when his dad, Saul, made the law not to eat and no one bothered to tell him.
- Who broke the law? And how did they break it?
Eve saw the fruit of the tree, she reached out, took the fruit, ate it and her eyes were opened (Genesis 3:6-7).
Jonathan saw honey on the tree, he reached out, took the honey, ate it and his eyes brightened. (1 Samuel 14:27). [Note that the land was quite literally flowing with honey, another reminder of the faithfulness of God]
- What was the penalty for breaking the law?
God announced the penalty for breaking the law in in the Garden of Eden. What was the penalty? DEATH by execution. The words in Hebrew are ‘mot tamut’.
Saul announced that he would execute anyone who had broken his rule not to eat. 1 Samuel 14:37
The language Saul used was exactly the same as the language God used in the Garden of Eden. You will surely die, or die you will die, or I will execute you.
So Saul not only ignored God, he tried to be God, he copied the way God ruled without listening to God.
- Who showed mercy?
In the Garden of Eden, God showed Adam and Eve mercy. When Adam and Eve sinned, God cursed them BUT he did not execute them.
When Saul found out that Jonathan had broken the law, Saul was ready to execute his son. 1 Samuel 14:44 – May God deal with me ever so severely if you do not die, Jonathan.
God had shown Adam and Eve mercy and God promised that Eve’s descendant would crush Satan and sort out the broken law.
God excluded Adam and Eve from his garden and gave them a suspended death sentence until Christ took the death penalty on the cross
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.
The LORD gave Israel the king they wanted and deserved. Boris Johnson is the PM we wanted and deserve. The appointment of kings or rulers who ignore God, make laws without consideration of God’s word, and who place themselves above the law, should draw us to Christ. He is suffering Saviour and loving Lord. When we all are willing to place ourselves under his rule and to show mercy, as God did, whilst He resolved the matter for our good, social and moral chaos is replaced with order, peace and rest.
Overcoming evil in the Christian Life. Working with Christ through spiritual battles, depression, self doubt and anxiety.
Mr Still unpacks the victory of Christ over sin and evil before exploring the reality of sin and evil in the life of the Christian.
I bought Towards Spiritual Maturity within a month of becoming a Christian in 1993. It was hard for me to understand the book as a brand new Christian, but I managed to glean a few gems. 28 years on, I have re-read it a few times. This time, I’ve appreciated the wisdom within its 62 short pages because I’ve lived through the spiritual battles, depressions and failures which Mr Still describes. My growth in spiritual maturity has happened as the great truths of God’s Word have moved from the pages of the Bible into my head before sinking deep into my heart. Spiritual growth is what has happened through battles against all kinds of foes, inside and out, physical and spiritual.
If you are in a dark place just now, I hope these quotes give you hope and strength for the fight.
Some quotes from my reading on the last two days of 2021:
Christ takes our place, and bears our sins with their guilt, punishment and shame ‘in his own body on the tree’, and on the third day rises without them, so that they are gone, for ever. Every sin we have committed from life’s beginning to its end, if for ever put away, never to be brought against us again. Christ the sinless one is God’s appointed substitute ‘Criminal’, to take our place. He is God’s ‘Dustman’, carrying away our filth with his own pure hands. What unutterable love, in action!
Conversion necessarily involves the once-for-all forgiveness (removal) of sins. But it involves much more. By it the believer is declared to be righteous in Christ, having been brought to new birth. He is not sinless, yet: as John says, the seed of God dwells in him and he cannot sin (1 John 3:9). Because his mind and will are united to Christ his attitude to sin is radically altered. The enmity and rebellion against God are slain, and sin is no longer a cause of wilful pride and perverse pleasure, but a cause of sorrow, shame and self-loathing.
There are no penal consequences of sin after conversion, for the child of God is in a state of grace, and although the chastisement may be severe, he knows he is free from final condemnation (Romans 8:1)
Are the sins of the saints not serious? Yes, indeed! They cause estrangement between the Father and his children. And while God will not disown them, however provocative they may be, he withdraws from them – even while he stands firm on the verities of forgiveness, justification and sanctification – and refuses to have active fellowship with them. The Father remains their Father and the children his children, but there is no communication until sin is confessed and repented of, and cleaning and fellowship sought.
Can our salvation be perfect before it is well begun? The answer is simple. Yes, by virtue of the perfection of the gift that God has given us. We begin perfect in the sense that God has from the beginning done a perfect work in us. But we are not perfect. No, but only a power which is perfect could hope to bring us to perfection.
Can your heart still not rest in humble and grateful acceptance of this mighty blessing? Do not be surprised; for all the powers of hell will resist your attempts to stand upon Romans 6:11. Every thought and feeling will rise to shout you down as the rankest hypocrite for saying you have indeed died to sin while the motions of sin are still present in your members.
The devil is not done yet. If he cannot shake our faith, he will go to the other extreme (he is fond of extremes). Now, shrewdly acquiescing in what we believe, he will try to draw us away into working it out on our own strength. We must therefore be sure that we are really drawing upon Christ by faith, and not trying to work it out on our own, but with Christ.
Here again, faith must take hold of fact. Do we really believe that Christ within is greater than the presence of sin within?
The devil knows that the soul justified by faith in Christ is lost to him forever. But he can still work much ill in our life, hindering growth in grace and interfering with training for Christian warfare. And this Satan does by instituting a new campaign of temptation and accusation, which consists of injecting new depths of evil thoughts into the mind, to cast down the godly soul utterly, and make him fear that the truth declared in Romans 6 does not work.
We must not put trust in our feelings. Only emotions which accompany the contemplation of the pure truth of God are to be trusted, and these, not of themselves, but only when accompanied with the truth that gives them rise.
Is the thought that we are moved by perverse and malign spiritual intelligencies not unnerving? Not if we know the truth. Satan and all his crew have been dealt with. Jesus, who died to take away our sins and to overthrow sin, also died to defeat Satan and his powers, for us. For us!
Christ has given us the power to bind the strong man, the devil, and spoil his goods, and this includes the freeing of our souls, and the souls of others, progressively from his thrawl. But first we must let the facts of Christ’s power sink deep into our minds until faith rises to take hold of them. Then faith will take hold of the enemy where his influence lives, and shake him until he flees for his life.
There are three stages in the training of a Christian soldier:
1. Strategic retreat.
2. Unyielding defence.
3. All out attack.
Much is said about the increasing tendency to escape from the pressures of modern life, and some escapes, like drugs and suicide, are bad. But escape is sometimes necessary. No man is able to cope with the evil in the world unaided. But the Christian is not unaided, he has Christ as his shelter, and must learn, especially in the evil day (Eph 6:13), to beat an ordered retreat from him and hide in the Rock of Ages until Satan’s fury is past (Ps 57:1).
God is not only our refuge, but our strength. Sheltered in him and made aware of the armour he provides, we are soon encouraged to don its several pieces and think about facing the foe. When Satan next attacks, we dare stand forth and resist him bravely.
In Christ we do not stand defenceless and exposed to the enemy’s onslaughts, but we are provided with suitable dress for the battle. To this we now turn. (Ephesians 6 – the full armour of God).
We just guard our inward moral integrity as our life; for, if we fail here, we fail utterly. Yet if we begin to see how cunningly occasional, or tactically planned these temptations are, we shall soon be wise, not only to them, but to him (Satan).
He may now assail us with a sense of restless foreboding, and with irrational fears, until we seriously doubt God, ourselves, and in fact, everything that is good. All joy goes out of life, nothing seems to matter, vague, gnawing, cynical dread underlies all we formerly thought secure.
Christ will not suffer us to be overwhelmed by him. It is well to remember that when we are tired, and tempted to resign ourselves to the darkness of defeat, the enemy may be almost played out. If we can hold on, he will collapse and let go. He must and will, because we are trusting in him who has vanquished him, once and for all.
When we use God’s Word in accordance with his will, we have all the consent and power of the Almighty behind us.
The connection of the sword of the Spirit with prayer is clear. It is not in direct witness, public or private, that the battle for souls is won, but in the closet and prayer room (Matt 6:6). Far too many who are engaged in Christian service do not appreciate this.
God is the only Worker, for all that we do in him is by his power. Those who seek to serve him and fight for him must be morally, intellectually and emotionally convinced that all the glory is his, and that the uncreated God will never share his sole prerogative with his creatures. What he shares are his blessings, and the man in Christ can have his fill of them – certainly more than he seeks.
We have heard the claim, and supported it, that the highest divine service on earth is intercession. Is there not a higher? Not higher, but different, which necessarily belongs with fruitful intercession. It is love to Jesus, and enjoyment of God. This is the highest worship, highest maturity, and highest service, all in one.
Spiritual maturity, then, is in sight when we begin to know that freedom from sinful and carnal distraction, high or low, which affords the soul leisure for the enjoyment of God.
Some quotes from my Christmas Eve reading, ‘The Work of the Pastor’ by Revd William Still (1964)…
“To be pastors you must be ‘fed men’, not only in knowledge, but in wisdom, grace, humility, courage, fear of God, and fearlessness of men.”
“Courage is the greatest lack today. If all men in the ministry acted upon what they know we would have a far better ministry.”
“there is nothing so boring, stale, flat and unprofitable as holy things retailed in the absence of the Spirit. This is one of the devil’s most cunning tricks, to cause the Word of God to be dispensed by lazy, sleepy, moribund creatures.”
“We are not called to make a crowd of worldly folk happy – but so to labour amongst them that, through many tribulations, discouragements and misunderstandings, we form a faithful people of God, however small a remnant of the total congregation that may be.”
“having been called or appointed to minister to a local congregation, begin to minister the Word of God to them at once, depending for all you are worth on the Holy Spirit, and believing that this is the biggest thing you can do for them in all the world. This is your life.”
“You will see the Word changing and exposing lives, and you will marvel and tremble and rejoice and fear all in one. You will be bowed in profoundest humility before God when you see that He has called you to follow in the train, however far behind, of the first Apostles…
“There is not a greater task a man can perform in the whole world than this, that he is being used to release the all-searching Word of God upon a company of needy souls. It is the most amazing thing. It works! God works. His Word works. Prayer works. The Spirit works.”
Conflict! Cost! Crucifixion! ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ None of us. ‘Our sufficiency is of God.’ It is when we see the cost of a real work of God in terms of human agony and sacrifice that we see whether our call to the ministry is of God or is a mere romantic notion.”
“Most pastors crack up because they try to do what God never intended them to do. They destroy themselves by sinful ambition, just as much as the drunkard and drug addict. Ambition drives them on.”
The testimony of a true Christian church ought to be how Christians love one another including the ‘odd bods’. Christ likes odd bods. Nearly all the fruitful Christian ministers, and fruitful laymen I know, are odd bods. But they are odd bods with a mission…
Modern Money Theory (MMT) has captivated the imagination of many economists and political thinkers. MMT is the idea that a government which has its own fiat money can never run out of money because it can always create more.
MMT theorists have studied the economic effects of ‘quantitative easing’, a term used for the way state banks increase the quantity of money during a crisis. State banks have created eye watering amounts of new money in their own fiat currencies during the financial crisis of 2008 and the Covid19 crisis (UK £895 billion, US $6.5 trillion, EU €1.8 trillion). Central banks have bought government debt from banks and pension funds. The banks were then able to lend money to customers and pension funds could buy other assets, such as shares and corporate bonds. This flow of new money propped up the economy.
MMT theorists argue that state banks should reduce poverty by creating new fiat money for governments to spend on creating new, guaranteed, jobs, like a permanent job retention scheme.
This sounds good in theory. Like all theories, it might work in some ways, but it might not. We can’t tell because complexity theory applies and makes forecasting economic outcomes as hard as forecasting the weather.
Economic patterns can be observed and general predictions made but economic variables are too great to be able to reliably predict an economic outcome. The slightest change of one variable, like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, can cause vast, unexpected changes in the future. The list of economic variables frazzles the mind. Supply and demand, variable interest rates, money supply, tax levels, complex debt structures, national debt, inter-government debt, the savings ratio, the list of variables goes on and on. Changes in population affect economics through birth rates, death rates, migration, marriage and divorce. No super computer or economic model can predict the economic future. MMT is too simple to guarantee the desired outcome. Creating new money could make some people poorer.
Predicting economic outcomes is made more complex by our human nature. We tend to spend lots on ourselves when money is plentiful and hoard when it gets tight. The boom-bust cycle is a product of human greed working, en-masse, in two directions. All people are naturally self-centred. Our frame of reference is ‘what will work best for me?’ The answers to this question result in all kinds of behaviour which render MMT, like other economic theories like the trickle-down effect of consumerism or the state organised communism, ineffective for fixing poverty. Poverty is systemic but systemic solutions won’t make it go away, because the people in the system are programmed to think ‘what’s best for me?’
‘Me first’ thinking plays out on the economic stage, like circus acts, in spectacular and unpredictable ways. Greed, sloth, pleasure seeking, lack of compassion, unwillingness to share and stinginess all break the system. We are each essentially like Ebeneezer Scrooge, no matter how hard we try to hide it, mask it or deny it. And we all have a myriad of ways of convincing ourselves that we are more economically altruistic than we really are.
Yet altruism, generosity and other person centredness is the key to unlock the system. It is a change of heart rather than a change of the economic system that we need.
What if we refocus on new objects of love and desire? Instead of loving money, and the belief that creating more of it will reduce our economic ills, we fix our hearts on something or someone else? What if we love ourselves less and love someone else more? What if instead of grudgingly paying tax and leaving everything to governments to run, those with money give generously to fund schools, hospitals, hospices, famine relief, drug and alcohol rehab and much more? What if we chased down the most loving work, to serve others, instead of chasing work with the most financial gain? What if, instead of clustering and clamouring for a better postcode we climbed down into poorer ones? What if we used what we gain to bring gain to others?
MMT wants the socio-economic system to bring gain to others but what we really need is an ancient money practice (AMP).
As we approach the global celebration of the birth of Christ, we need to recover, en-masse, this ancient event. What if we grasp again, in wonder and awe, how he climbed down from glory in the highest to poverty in a manger.
Let him move our hearts.
Since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:7-8)
We don’t need a new economic theory but loving and generous hearts.
I’ve been reliving my teenage years when I used to love working with wood.
The human cost of the Clergy Discipline Measure is enormous. 37% of respondents to the Sheldon Hub survey experienced thoughts of suicide. 62% suffer depression. Many clergy have left ministry and others, like me, survive but experience ongoing institutional betrayal trauma and psychological or moral injury. This paper explores an understanding of moral injury before establishing how CDM inflicts such injury. I will then propose a starting point for establishing effective discipline in the light of the true love of God.
What is Moral Injury?
Psychology Today defines moral injury as ‘the social, psychological, and spiritual harm that arises from a betrayal of one’s core values, such as justice, fairness, and loyalty. Harming others, whether in military or civilian life; failing to protect others, through error or inaction; and failure to be protected by leaders, especially in combat—can all wound a person’s conscience, leading to lasting anger, guilt, and shame, and can fundamentally alter one’s world view and impair the ability to trust others.’
The Lancet published an article in March 2021 exploring this relatively new area of mental health where severe psychological stress is induced by the violation of a person’s moral code. ‘Morally injurious events threaten one’s deeply held beliefs and trust…can cause profound feelings of shame and guilt, and alterations in cognitions and beliefs (eg, “I am a failure”, “colleagues don’t care about me”)…with a 2018 meta-analysis finding that exposure to potentially morally injurious events was significantly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and suicidality.’
The work carried out by Sheldon Hub into the lived experience of CDM respondents included the observation that ‘The personal pressures under which respondents usually continue outward ministry place psychological burdens upon them which manifest most often as the symptoms of anxiety, depression and, in some cases, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).’
The authors of the article in The Lancet believe existing approaches to the treatment of mental health issues, such as exposure-based approaches and CBT, are either unhelpful, ineffective or inappropriate for treating moral injury. ‘Approaches that focus on self-forgiveness, acceptance, self-compassion, and (if possible) making amends, might hold more promise. In cases in which the effects of moral injury extend beyond psychological to spiritual harms, spiritual care providers could have a role alongside mental health clinicians.’
In short, to use the findings of Williamson et al and Christian approaches to sin, CDM subjects respondents to social, psychological, and spiritual harm that arises from a betrayal of one’s core values, such as justice, fairness, loyalty, repentance compassion, forgiveness and restitution. The process must be renewed with the true love of God as the starting point.
What causes moral injury for CDM respondents?
The Sheldon Hub report, I was handed over to the Dogs, outlines a toxic combination of the circumstantial causes of PTS due to CDM. A caustic cocktail of a prolonged investigation, poor communication, minor complaints escalated by risk averse registrars into more serious allegations, no accountability within the system, conflicting rules, lack of confidence in the procedures, punitive meetings, broken trust with senior clergy, unresolved conflict with parishioners and strain on marriages and family members induce stress and trauma.
The discipline process will never be straightforward or easy. The complex and messy facts of a case need to be understood in the context of relationships which are separated by distance and time. Bishops, registrars and tribunal panel members must try to work out what actually happened in a remote community, not their own. The disjointed and often mishandled process is not the root cause of moral injury. Respondents would be protected from moral injury by a careful application of God’s love in Christ.
Moral injury caused by a lack of God’s love
Love is one of the most distinctive and attractive qualities of the church of Jesus Christ. When a member of the clergy is subject to the CDM process, the complainant, bishop and registrar seem to fail to demonstrate the love of God in Christ and this induces moral injury. The respondent’s deeply held understanding and experience of God’s love is betrayed.
The love of God in Christ is both expiatory and propitiatory. Everyone who experiences the perfect love of God in Christ no longer fears God because fear is to do with punishment. CDM requires bishops to answer one, closed question, ‘What level of sanction, ranging from a simple rebuke to permanent removal of licence, does the respondent deserve?’ The respondent endures an open-ended process under the threat of severe punishment, at worst, the loss of vocation and home. This approach to discipline is sub-Christian, denying the love of God in Christ and so causing severe moral injury to respondents.
The Apostle John writes specifically about the kind of love God demonstrates towards sinners in his fourth chapter of his first letter:
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
John’s teaching on the love of God in sending his Son as an atoning sacrifice for sin needs to be applied every time sin needs to be addressed. John helps us see why the CDM process lacks true love.
- Christian love is God centred. Love comes from God because God is love. (v7-8) Knowledge of the God who is love should render the Christian judicial process distinct to the judicial practices of the world, which does not know the God who is love.
- God’s love is demonstrated to us by the giving of the person of Christ as he died on the cross, an atonement for sin. (v9-10) CDM cases sometimes involve very serious sin. The cross declares that there is no sin which is beyond the atoning sacrifice and love of Christ. CDM is narrowly focused from the outset on the level of sanctions or penalty available to the bishop. These penalties range from rebuke to removal of license. With penalty as the focus, the love of God in Christ crucified for sin is absent from the process.
- God’s love is experienced in the church and made visible to the world by the way those who are born of God love one another. (v11-12) Complainants, bishops, registrars and respondents are compelled by the love of God to love one another. The love of Christ is more than compulsion, his people are obliged to love one another, we ought to love one another as he first loved us.
- God’s love is made real by His indwelling of believers by His Spirit, through their belief in the Father and Son, who mutually indwell believers and bring His love to life. Believers know and rely upon God’s love. (v13-16) When CDM narrowly focuses on the judicial process and penalty, divorced from God’s love, this betrayal results in moral injury.
- God is just. Justice is the fair, right, moral and deserved or merited application of the law to law breakers. God’s law has both moral and penal components. As God is just, he has set aside a day of judgement when he will act with perfect justice. (v17) If CDM is judicial, then the outcome ought to be just. The process ought to establish the truth, the facts and penalties ought to be deserved. The process cannot be just in cases where both complainant and respondent are at fault, but only the respondent can face sanctions.
- God’s love drives out the fear of punishment. The love of God (as Trinity) sent the person of Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (v10). The love of God is expiatory and propitiatory and this is experienced in Christ, as He removes the fear of punishment by his death on the cross (v18). For CDM to be truly loving, as God loves his people, the fear of punishment needs to be absent. Sanctions need to be seen and understood as discipline and protection for congregations, not punishment of the respondent. Sanctions must also be applicable to complainants, as personal discipline and protection for the congregation, including the respondent. Both complainant and respondent need to be offered restorative pastoral care and counselling with the potential for sanctions to be lifted.
- Christians are to love one another as God loved us, by not punishing one another for sin.
- The people of the world punish one another with aggression, anger, violence, retribution, murder or silence, isolation or withdrawing love and support. Some people turn to the police or courts to punish someone, and will lie to increase the severity of the punishment. This kind of behaviour is particularly prevalent in areas of urban deprivation. It has also been evident in the large number of vexatious CDM complaints. In some cases, complainants, registrars and bishops appear to want to punish clergy.
- Christian love is marked by love from God and for God, compassion for one another as his children, who are His dwelling places, and the people for whom Christ died to atone for sin. Love is expressed between believers by repentance for sin, confession, forgiveness, self-forgiveness, acceptance, mercy and grace. This kind of love needs to be the atmosphere in which CDM is done.
- CDM respondents do not experience this kind of love. Instead, their lived experience is of a prolonged, punitive process with the threat of severe penalty (loss of vocation, home and livelihood) at its conclusion. Moral injury is caused, at the deepest level, because core values of Christian love (atonement, expiation and propitiation) are absent in the CDM process. Post traumatic stress is induced by the continued threat of repeated punitive complaints.
CDM: a failure to love one another like Christ
CDM unlovingly escalates all complaints to a legal/judicial process with the possibility of five levels of punishment, ranging from rebuke to removal of licence. The process is, from the outset, sub-Christian, inducing the fear of punishment throughout.
The true love of God in Christ compels Christians to love one another by NOT punishing one another for sin. CDM needs to recover gospel love by framing sanctions as protection of church members from the sinful behaviour of abusive clergy, not punishment. CDM should recover the love of God which disciplines transgressors for their good, seeking to transform, restore and reconcile, where possible.
Moral injury occurs because clergy routinely seek to reconcile broken relationships through the love of Christ by encouraging compassion for one another, repentance for sin, confession, forgiveness, self-forgiveness, acceptance, mercy and grace whilst protecting the flock from wicked or evil people. Anglican liturgy reinforces this message of openness, honesty, repentance, love and charity.
You then, who truly and earnestly repent of your sins,
and are in love and charity with your neighbours,
and intend to lead a new life,
following the commandments of God,
and walking from this day forward in his holy ways:
draw near with faith,
and take this holy sacrament to your comfort;
and make your humble confession to almighty God.
The love of God in the death of Christ for sin is held out week after week at holy communion.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who, in your tender mercy,
gave your only Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption;
who made there by his one oblation of himself once offered
a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction
for the sins of the whole world;
he instituted, and in his holy gospel commanded us to continue,
a perpetual memory of his precious death until he comes again.
When clergy are then treated differently to this core belief and practice, with potentially severe punishment for them and their families, through the loss of home, income and vocation and without reference to the love of God in Christ, the stress is almost unbearable.
The replacement for CDM needs to capture again the love of God in a way which allows complainants, registrars and bishops to demonstrate it and clergy respondents to receive it. Clergy may be sanctioned by way of protection for the flock, transformation, restoration and reconciliation, but the fear of punishment must end.
The proposals in GS 2219 make several improvements to the existing scheme for clergy discipline but fall short of what is needed to protect clergy from the destructive weaponizing of the measure.
The CDM process has been shown to be severely punitive to respondents. Terms were unclear, rules contradictory and cases mishandled in a way which was deleterious to clergy mental health and wellbeing. The avoidance of the abuse of the process needs to be foremost in the mind of the church. The process of seeking justice must be humane.
Bishops, registrars, respondents and complainants ordinarily have existing relationships with one another. This inter-connectivity makes impartiality and objectivity almost impossible. Bishops, registrars and complainants may have mixed motives, desired outcomes and personal bias which act against natural justice. If a bishop, registrar and complainant want to make life difficult for a respondent cleric, safeguards need to be provided. This scheme does not adequately prevent the weaponising of the measure.
Detailed comment, questions and notes
Definition of terms. The terms Clergy Discipline and safeguarding require definition. What is a ‘safeguarding concern’ and when do ‘safeguarding matters relate to discipline’?
Para 7 fails to clarify, the role and nature of ordained ministry needs definition. ‘Areas of relationships within dioceses’ are said to need further work in relation to clergy ‘development, support and accountability’, safeguarding and lay discipline. This is severely problematic. The relationships within the diocese act against natural justice.
a. The difference between ‘complaints’ and ‘allegations of misconduct’ must be made clear.
b. Effective pastoral support needs to include detailed working knowledge of the Measure, Rules and Code of Practice and the authority to challenge any divergence from these three.
c. What is envisaged by ‘early investigation’?
d. What powers will the independent overseers have during a case? Will specialist lawyers be trained and employed in place of diocesan registrars?
e. What is proper resourcing?
Para 11. It is interesting that a 1996 report highlighted the need for a grievance procedure for clergy if discipline is mishandled. So what?
Para 12 – see above about clarity of definition
Para 15 – definition of misconduct
Para 16 – the terms will be defined by the implementation group
Para 18 – the advice of unqualified registrars is not appropriate assistance to the bishop.
Para 22 – Impartiality needs to be ensured. Matters of theological conviction, where the bishop and cleric are in theological dispute, must be removed from the measure. The diocesan bishop may not be qualified to judge on what constitutes a complaint or misconduct and diocesan registrars may not be suitably qualified to determine a course of action according to the doctrine of the Church of England. Registrars cannot always be deemed to be impartial, in part due to the interest of keeping on side with the bishop and in part due to potential bias against clergy with whom there is an existing working relationship.
Para 23 – what qualifies the complainant to determine which is the most appropriate track? Is this different to asking the complainant what outcome they are seeking.
Para 28 – support for respondents must include detailed working knowledge of the Measure, Rules and Code, akin to a shop steward.
Para 29 – where a complainant continues to worship at the parish church where the respondent is incumbent, the respondent should be offered the option to cease ministering in that place pending the outcome of the investigation or the complainant asked to worship elsewhere.
Para 31 – what effect will a panel which represents the entire diversity of the church have on cases of a doctrinal nature?
Para 32 – unmet deadlines are a significant source of stress and trauma for respondents. 28 days for a referral to an assessor, their investigation and report to the bishop a decision is predicated on assumptions that cannot be guaranteed. Postal delays, unavailability of the complainant or respondent, unreasonableness or uncooperativeness by the complainant, hesitancy by the bishop, who might say ‘ordinarily” the process would take 28 days but I need further time to come to a decision.’ Communication of delay needs to be prompt and bishops need to be bound to the 28 days without room for dilly-dallying or the punitive use of delays.
Para 36 – how will complaints be determined to be vexatious or repetitive?
Para 50 – who would be responsible for costs in cases where no legal aid was provided but the case is dismissed?
In Philippians 2:12 Paul writes, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
As we read the English translation, which confuses “you” singular and “you” plural, in our individualistic culture, we can turn this instruction into a private and personal development goal. “I need to do better. I should be a better Christian. I must try harder.” But this way of thinking always induces either pride or guilt and this cannot be Paul’s intention.
The instruction is not addressed to “you” singular, but to all the church members in Philippi. It is not a private and personal matter but a plural and corporate one.
Euodia and Syntyche, two prominent women in the church, had fallen out. Paul was directing them, and the whole church, to reconcile and get on with gospel ministry together. In their relationships or attitude towards others, they were to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5) and then work out their salvation, together.
Paul addresses this instruction to each of you plural (ἑαυτῶν), the ἀγαπητοί (beloved (plural) It is a collective instruction, addressed to individuals who are in relationship with one another.
“Fear and trembling” is an attitude between people in relationship. Paul uses the same phrase in 2 Corinthians 7 to describe the manner in which the Corinthians welcomed Titus:
In light of conflict and disagreement in church, to work out your salvation with fear and trembling is to be committed to relating to one another within the church family with the same attitude as Christ; with reverence or respect, humility, compassion and tenderness as you work toward being of one mind (Phil 2:2). The opposite of fear and trembling would be to destain, ignore or take for granted the other person.
The verb κατεργάζεσθε (work out) literally means “to work down to” or “to work to the bottom” which could be translated “to work it through”. It has the sense of “work out what needs to be done to bring to effect your salvation and do it.” Sort out your disagreement with the attitude of Christ.
I’ve just watched Mez McConnell talk with Andy Constable, Graham Thompson, and Ian Williamson about the difficult topic of abuse and forgiveness. I want to share it on my blog for some important reasons. If you have suffered abuse of any kind, or are/have been abusive, or if you have had a bust up, and are struggling to know what God expects you to do, this conversation will help you understand the difficulty of that walk.
It’s worth listening to four men who love Jesus and love each other speak about God and a something which has a huge personal impact on at least one of them. The conversation is not detached from the reality of the lives of these men. It is about God and about them. Does God expect ME to forgive MY abuser?
This conversation is realistic about the difficulty of forgiveness. These men have spent years studying the bible, thinking, applying the word of the life to their own lives whilst pastoring others. At least one is an abuse survivor and one was an angry man. They continue to wrestle with what it means to forgive and say some really helpful stuff here. This is one of the deepest and most difficult issues of the human heart.
This conversation is realistic about the long path to forgiveness. The memories, thoughts and feelings are deep and complex. The conversation makes that clear but it also gives some signposts and wise advice for us to head in the right direction.
Forgiveness is something I have been wrestling with personally and with people close to me. It is a great help to listen to others who are on that path, to learn from and to weep with the abused. You might not want to watch this video if you are experiencing the trauma of abuse. If that’s you, and you are local, come and speak with me.