On Charlottesville and home again

The horror of Charlottesville for American friends was the visibility of things they had believed and hoped were confined to history. Is there anything similar in recent UK history? Unfortunately, yes. Do we have examples in recent times of people introducing explicit Nazi language and images into our political discourse? Yes. Katie Hopkins, a journalist who has written for many of our most popular press outlets, casually tweeted about the need for a ‘final solution’ recently—it was too much for one of her media employers (LBC), but she still writes for the British press. In a very similar vein, this week Trevor Kavanagh, the former political editor of our best-selling daily newspaper, wrote an article depicting ‘The Muslim Problem’. Kavanagh is a very...

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On Charlottesville and home

Today was the first day of the new school year here in Fife. Two of our daughters attend a school named ‘Madras College’, where our church congregation also happens to meet of a Sunday morning. It is a very ordinary state-funded Scottish high school which, like many thousands of British institutions, owes its odd name to an old connection with someone involved in the Empire. Most of its buildings in desperate need of replacement, although there is one fine quadrangle of great architectural merit and real note. I have forborne from commenting much in public on the—horrific—scenes enacted last weekend in Charlottesville, VA, scenes sparked by the intention to remove a monument to someone who was revered by his contemporaries, but has been judged more harshly by...

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Our story begins in exile: ‘Baptist social theology’ and the EU referendum

One of the books I have recently been reading with interest and profit is Anglican Social Theology (ed. Malcolm Brown) (London: Church House Publishing, 2014). Apart from the intrinsic interest in tracing significant contributions to political theology that happened to come from within the Church of England, I was struck by the contributors’ awareness that the project, or projects, they were tracing were distinctively ‘Anglican’. As Brown puts it in an early prospectus: We have chosen to speak of an Anglican social theology with a deliberate intention of echoing the concept of Catholic social teaching because we recognise that the latter is much better known as a theological school or tradition that informs practice. Our contention … is that a distinctively...

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On religious liberty: an open letter to Franklin Graham

Dear Mr Graham, This week someone who has put himself forward as a candidate for the presidency of your great nation made a number of hate-filled and inaccurate comments about Muslims, and proposed some extreme policies on the back of those comments. This came to our attention here in the UK because one of the things he claimed, entirely erroneously, was that parts of London were so radicalised that they had become no-go areas for our police and security services. Our national response was, as our national responses so often are, as mocking as it was derisive. The mayor of London led the way, but on social media many of us joined in with the humour. I know London well; I trained for ministry there, took my PhD there, pastored my first church there, made, with my...

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Sex, death and marriage

In case anyone is interested, this is the paper I gave at an ETS panel on theological methodology for discussing marriage; many of the arguments have or will appear in print elsewhere, but I’m not going to publish this, so it may as well be here.   And I say to you, that whoever puts away his wife  – except on account of porneia – and marries another woman commits adultery. [His] disciples said to him, ‘If that is the way it is for a man with his wife, it is not a good idea to get married!’ Mt. 19:9-10 (my tr.) This retort from the disciples fascinates me, as does its neglect in recent commentary and ethical reflection. Let me pose my question straightforwardly: can any of us here imagine Christian leaders in our own context responding to a...

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