This is the talk I gave at St Bride's Liverpool last night, in the ‘What’s so special about religion?’ series. The title was ‘What’s so special about Christianity?’
My aim is to draw out how Christianity has meant different things at different times, by giving a brief summary of its history. I am not claiming any deep truth for my nine stages. You could divide up Christian history in any number of ways. This is just my way of summarising what seem to me the most distinctive types.
This is my sermon for Palm Sunday, based on Matthew 21:1-11. I was brought up to think of Jesus’ procession with the donkey and the palm branches as one of the most colourful stories in the Bible, but without the foggiest idea why he did it.
Recently biblical scholars have examined the background and explained what it would have meant at the time. There is a readable account in Borg and Crossan’s The Last Week.
This is an edited version of a talk I gave at St Bride's Liverpool on 26th March.
Among Christians the authority of the Bible, and how to read it, are hotly contested. The best known debates at the moment are about the ethics of same-sex partnerships and gender relationships.
On Friday 24th February Martyn Percy wrote an article questioning the nomination of Philip North, Bishop of Blackburn, to the see of Sheffield.
How, he asked, could someone who believed that women clergy and those ordained by them were not real clergy serve as bishop in a ‘woman-friendly’ diocese where women make up a third of the clergy? You could do one or the other but not both.
In the debate that has unfolded on social media since then, no-one has answered this challenge – not even Philip North himself. The evasions reveal a Church in retreat from serious theological reflection.
No, sex and women priests are not the same thing.
In the continuing debate over the Bishop of Sheffield, liberals are often accused of saying one thing about women priests and the opposite about same-sex partnerships. I am grateful to a number of correspondents, including Tiffer Robinson and David Emmott, for helping me understand the point. Still, I think it is mistaken, and this post explains my reasons.