I find it interesting when two different sides to a dispute put forward two different narratives. It’s not so much that there is a conflict going on, it’s the reasons for the narratives being played out, the way that people not only take sides but also become incredibly selective in what they will and won’t report.
Take for example, the current rumpus in Jersey. There are currently two narratives being broadcast into the media (but at this moment one of those narratives is getting much better traction than the other). The first narrative from the Diocese is that there were genuine issues with how Bob Key handled the complaint from HG. All the Diocese has been trying to do since then in commissioning two reports (Korris and Steel which is still unpublished) is make sure that safe-guarding practices are being properly followed on the island. The visitation this week by Bishops Nigel Stock and Trevor Willmott are simply part of that ongoing process. On the other side is the narrative that this has never been about safeguarding, that the Bishop’s intent all along has been to change the Canons of the Church in Jersey to get more control over the island, and that at the heart of the conflict is nothing to do with looking after people properly but rather it is just about power.
The truth is probably somewhere between the two. What is more interesting though is the way both sides have tried to control the narrative. The Diocese of Winchester from the beginning employed the London PR firm Luther Pendragon to help shape the public perception of what was going on. I want to suggest that far from being proactive in doing this they have pretty much sat back and let events take their course. I certainly have never had any proactive engagement from Pendragon (beyond being pushed press releases) and a quick check with bloggers and mainstream media folks on Jersey confirms that I am not alone in this experience.
Compare this to the “pro-Jersey” lobby (most of whom are on the island). In the past fortnight they have run an extensive and exhaustive campaign of briefings and behind-the-scenes conversations to shape the narrative as much as possible on the island. From the non-release of the Steel Report they have pushed the message that the Dean is “exonerated” (the truth of course is slightly more subtle – no charges are to be laid against Bob Key but this does not necessarily mean that the Steel Report has found him guiltless on all fronts, merely that there will be no disciplinary process) and they have added on the political pressure with questions in the Jersey States and interviews and news items on all the mainstream media outlets (BBC Radio and TV, ITV Channel News and the Jersey Evening Press). What is even more strategic is that they have already so shaped the framework for the reception of the Steel Report when (if?) it is eventually published that it almost doesn’t matter what it says – the narrative now established is that it clears the Dean and that the Bishop ****ed up big time (if you pardon my Anglo-Saxon, but as an example see this editorial in the JEP on the 4th). This is pretty much the story now as far as the media are concerned – the Bishop way overstepped his powers, has played a desparately bad game despite having a good hand, and is now paying the price for it.
It doesn’t even matter whether that narrative is actually true. Indeed, the fact that the Bishop’s narrative isn’t playing on the media at all (he has refused all interviews – go figure) practically demonstrates that he has played a bad game with what was technically a Royal Flush, and all things have followed from that, rightly or wrongly.
Back when I was a humble undergraduate (oh so long ago) our Political Theory tutor got us all to pick some atypical political texts and share them with our seminar. I decided to read Sun Tzu’s Art of War and though I didn’t appreciate it at the time (I didn’t appreciate lots of things at the time to be honest), it is easily the forerunner of Machiavelli’s The Prince, applicable not just to armed combat but also intellectual fights of all kinds. In it Sun Tzu gives the following advice.
Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
I’m also reminded of another ancient man’s words.
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
If you want to play games my friends, make sure you have staked out the playing field before you start. If you don’t you will suddenly find that you don’t know the rules and every move you make is a foul. Next thing you know, you’re sent off and the pitch belongs to your enemies.
And not even the most expensive PR firm in the world can spin you out of that defeat.
A letter that the Bishop of Winchester sent to the Dean Bob Key on the 9th of March has come into the public domain. After questions were raised in the States on Tuesday, BBC Jersey ran the following news item and interview this morning.
In particular, in the light of the Dissenting Statement, we express the following concerns about aspects of the Report:
Although the church’s teaching is upheld, its theological and biblical basis is not clearly articulated and there appears to be a willingness to separate teaching and practice in a way which threatens incoherence and charges of hypocrisy.
The emphasis on the qualities of a relationship without clear reference to the gift of marriage fails to do justice to Scripture and tradition in relation to both sexual same-sex relationships and heterosexual cohabitation (para 148).
The recommendation “to mark the formation of a permanent same sex relationship in a public service” and to leave the form of this to the discretion of the parish priest risks undermining the unity of the church’s teaching and practice and our ecclesiology. This is particularly of concern if such services were to follow a civil marriage. We would like to see a form of genuine pastoral accommodation together with rigorous engagement with doctrine and Scripture.
This recommendation disregards the statement of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion in 2006 that “the authorisation by any one bishop, diocese or Province, of any public Rite of Blessing, or permission to develop or use such a rite, would go against the standard of teaching to which the Communion as a whole has indicated that it is bound” (italics added) and its judgment in 2007 that “the celebration of a public liturgy which includes a blessing on a same-sex union is not within the breadth of private pastoral responseenvisaged by the Primates in their Pastoral Letter of 2003” and that “the use of any such rites or liturgies” with the bishop’s authority would represent a breach of the Communion moratorium.
We therefore believe that for the House of Bishops to implement this recommendation, particularly prior to the conclusion of any facilitated conversations (as appears to be proposed in para 391) would damage the unity of the Church of England and the Communion.
E. Exploring “Pastoral accommodation”
In considering alternative forms of genuine “pastoral accommodation” (“pastoral hospitality” may be a preferable designation) we believe that there are two distinctions which are helpful and important and which need further thought and application:
(1) The distinction between (a) “blessing” (declaring on behalf of God to his people) and (b) “thanksgiving” (the people offering thanks to God for that which is good)
(2) The distinction between (a) private prayers and (b) public services and acts of worship.
We believe that “pastoral accommodation” which upholds church teaching is best expressed in private prayers in the context of Christian formation that sets out God’s purposes and leads people into greater conformity with them. Such prayers should focus on prayers for God’s grace and thanksgiving for the virtues evident in a loving non-marital relationship. This, rather than public services, particularly services of blessing, on non-marital patterns of life, is the form of “pastoral accommodation” we commend.
F. Conclusion: The Church after the Pilling Report
The lack of agreement within the Report reflects the deep divisions which are found within the wider church. We urge all Anglicans to pray for the bishops as they face major decisions and for those who will design the proposed facilitated conversations. In addition to exploring sexuality we believe these need also to consider how, given such deep differences, we can better live together and be faithful to what we understand to be God’s call in this area.
For all those thinking Fulcrum was going to cave in on this issue, think again.
Scientists have drawn on nearly 1,000 brain scans to confirm what many had surely concluded long ago: that stark differences exist in the wiring of male and female brains.
Maps of neural circuitry showed that on average women’s brains were highly connected across the left and right hemispheres, in contrast to men’s brains, where the connections were typically stronger between the front and back regions.
Ragini Verma, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, said the greatest surprise was how much the findings supported old stereotypes, with men’s brains apparently wired more for perception and co-ordinated actions, and women’s for social skills and memory, making them better equipped for multitasking.
“If you look at functional studies, the left of the brain is more for logical thinking, the right of the brain is for more intuitive thinking. So if there’s a task that involves doing both of those things, it would seem that women are hardwired to do those better,” Verma said. “Women are better at intuitive thinking. Women are better at remembering things. When you talk, women are more emotionally involved – they will listen more.”
She added: “I was surprised that it matched a lot of the stereotypes that we think we have in our heads. If I wanted to go to a chef or a hairstylist, they are mainly men.”
The findings come from one of the largest studies to look at how brains are wired in healthy males and females. The maps give scientists a more complete picture of what counts as normal for each sex at various ages. Armed with the maps, they hope to learn more about whether abnormalities in brain connectivity affect brain disorders such as schizophrenia and depression.
Verma’s team used a technique called diffusion tensor imaging to map neural connections in the brains of 428 males and 521 females aged eight to 22. The neural connections are much like a road system over which the brain’s traffic travels.
The scans showed greater connectivity between the left and right sides of the brain in women, while the connections in men were mostly confined to individual hemispheres. The only region where men had more connections between the left and right sides of the brain was in the cerebellum, which plays a vital role in motor control. “If you want to learn how to ski, it’s the cerebellum that has to be strong,” Verma said. Details of the study are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Male and female brains showed few differences in connectivity up to the age of 13, but became more differentiated in 14- to 17-year-olds.
“It’s quite striking how complementary the brains of women and men really are,” Ruben Gur, a co-author on the study, said in a statement. “Detailed connectome maps of the brain will not only help us better understand the differences between how men and women think, but it will also give us more insight into the roots of neurological disorders, which are often sex-related.”
So the complementarian “equal but different functions” has something going for it. We’re wired as men and women to be better at certain things.
Some quick thoughts in the area of sexuality.
Can we do this for “gay”, “lesbian” and “bi” people please
Can we do this for trans people please – that would be fascinating
Really interesting is that the brains are roughly the same until puberty from when the brains grow differently
Aber mit der Heimat
geht man immer herum,
durch die Welt,
dort und dort
No one could describe
the Word of the Father;
but when He took flesh from you, O Theotokos,
He consented to be described, and restored the fallen image to its former beauty.
We confess and proclaim our salvation in word and image.
Kontakion of the Triumph of Orthodoxy
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Second Week of Advent
O Lord, raise up, we pray, your power
and come among us,
and with great might succour us;
that whereas, through our sins and wickedness
we are grievously hindered
in running the race that is set before us,
your bountiful grace and mercy
may speedily help and deliver us;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honour and glory, now and for ever.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10, ESV)