Quotations from Tried for Heresy A 21st Century Journey of Faith by Andrew Furlong (former Dean of Clonmacnoise, Ireland), to be published on 1st October 2003, ISBN 1 903816 52 1, O Books, UK and US


"I consider that religious faith finds its most appropriate home, and only authentic home, in a pluralist setting characterized by metaphor and symbolism, diversity and debate, tolerance and respect, innovative thinking and provisionality, and critiquing and acknowledgement of mistaken or outdated interpretations. In my view, the Christian vision is of a world embraced by one great mysterious love. I look on people, who claim for themselves a Christian identity, as both struggling to and as also resisting living out their response to that ultimately faithful mystery which I call 'God'. My vision of the church, at its best, is not of a people at enmity with each other, because of the different ways in which they express their beliefs, though sometimes indeed that is the reality found on the ground in many religious contexts. Rather it is a vision of a people struggling together in a common task." (p9)


A key question to have in mind might be this one: if some of our Primates were women, how might they handle problems differently? At times, women are better than men are at admitting that they need outside help to empower them to work out strategies to deal with their problems. In the present situation, the Primates might benefit from the skilled assistance of conflict facilitators (maybe one male and one female), perhaps this has been planned for October or for another meeting at a later date.

"Although others disagree with me, I think [Christianity] has the potential to be re-shaped to become one in which women and men can be affirmed in the diversity of their humanity and in which they can have full and equal opportunities for leadership - and hopefully a different sort of leadership. Let the exploration of gender and the search for gender equality advance. Too many have suffered too long on account of powerful self-interest and, with respect, because of misguided theories about what we are meant to be and how we are meant to live in the diversity of our humanities." (p13)

" It was clear [my bishop] and I had some deep conflicts over our ideas about what authentic Christianity is. I believe that Richard Clarke should have called in a skilled and experienced facilitator who would have helped the two of us to work together towards conflict transformation. It was clear to me that our conversations about belief, in December 2001 and March 2002, were inadequate, and certainly left me feeling dissatisfied, because I did not feel that we had shared in a true dialogue or that I had been truly listened to. I did not feel that we had reached a sufficiently deep level of analysis to understand our conflicting views properly. [This is where a conflict facilitator could have been very helpful] I also felt threatened by the power of his office and the way he might use his power." [A conflict facilitator would recognize this, there are unequal power relations between our Primates too] (p100)


"[The church] needs to accept that serving the cause of truth, and particularly in the context of religious claims, means inviting people to persevere, if they are willing, in a difficult task - that of helping a religious tradition to evolve given the best insights and innovative thinking available. It implies accepting the need to live with what may appear, at the time, to be views that cannot be reconciled." (p99)

"For as members of the human family in the world, we face the enormously difficult moral challenge of finding ways to live, with all our diversity, at peace and not at war. We need good examples, we need inspiration, and we need the spiritual and moral resources to construct a peaceful tolerant world for us all to live in." (p99)


"Much as [the members of my parish] may have liked me and would miss me as a person, my continuing ministry would no longer be tolerable to [most of] them, unless a suitable intervention helped them to see that pluralism need not threaten them and could be welcomed for the richness it brings. But surely it wasn't necessary. In one of her interviews for her book, C of E: The State It's In,(p.162) Monica Furlong talked with Archbishop George Carey, whom she quotes as having said:
"I'd like to argue, you know, that the broad church that we are now is probably a foretaste of what is to come. If we want to think about the coming great church, then it is going to be one in which we have to accept huge differences within the family, and we are not going to have final answers this side of eternity. Living with differences, I think, is actually the genius of Anglicanism" .
One might think of William Temple, who though publicly doubting the Virgin Birth, became an Archbishop of Canterbury, at a time when the majority within his church still did believe in the Virgin Birth." (p98)


"The sad situation in which the dean of Clonmacnoise finds himself demonstrates, yet again, that the peculiarly Christian desire for doctrinal uniformity can only make for division and enmity. Ireland" (p20)

"The astute observation of Richard Holloway that he sent me as part of a possible endorsement for this book offers the correct diagnosis, in my view. [Here is what he says] "Those people who believe that the Christian Faith is a prepacked and unalterable teaching will find this book dangerously subversive. But the author is not out to replace the traditional faith with another, more modern version: he is saying that the day of purely official theology is at an end. What Andrew Furlong is demonstrating in these pages is the vitality of a theology that allows, indeed celebrates, a number of different approaches, including his own. He is telling us that the day of prescriptive doctrine is over - it's just that the Church has yet to catch up with the fact." "(p104)


"To my mind, the Bible's authority is not the authority of a God who was once claimed to have written it: its only authority is the authority of the spiritual and moral truths we believe we find within it. Though we can never prove we have found such moral or spiritual truths. Modern democratic voting does not mean that the majority has found the truth either. We can only try to make our judgements, according to our best lights, and at times we may be right and at times we may prove to have been mistaken." (p114)

"Many of us today can no longer read it, or listen to it being read, as once we did. Our worldview is radically different in important ways. We are much more aware that our religion is a human creation and that it continues to evolve as it is interpreted from one generation to another, from one culture to another, and as fresh thinking and insights are brought to bear on it. In so far as the Bible speaks of the mystery of an elusive, unseen and inscrutable God, if there is a God at all, it can remind us of this aspect of our faith. The pluralism in the Bible, and the conflicting views of God and God's nature are a clear testimony to the way in which a religion evolves from generation to generation, as it reflects on the past, re-expresses it and adds creative insights or introduces what will for future generation appear to be incredible ideas." (p113)


"My understanding of the Christian religion, which at present is still a minority understanding, means that I look on Christianity as being on a level platform with the other religions of humankind. I accept that the majority of Christians believe that there is a uniqueness about Christianity. It is centred on their interpretation of Jesus Christ as the Revelation and Incarnation of God and as the Saviour of the world. This interpretation, to their minds, makes it a 'higher or better or truer' religion than others. What the minority and the majority viewpoints within the Christian 'family' have in common is both a belief in a God of all-embracing inclusive love, to whom people are of equal worth, and a recognition that many of the religions share a similar ethical code. I believe that my interpretation of Christianity can contribute more to peace between the religions than the traditional interpretation." (p13)

"Within my identity as a human being is a spiritual component - my quest for and trust in God and my commitment to ethical values. The different religions have each seen their God as carrying a passport that provides an identity as a Christian God, a Muslim God, a Hindu God or a Buddhist God etc. I think of God today as travelling without a passport of any kind. God simply travels under his or her own hidden and mysterious identity. In a globalized world a search for an authentic spirituality for such a world has begun. I believe it will be based on a sense of the sacred precious worth of human life and on a moral appreciation of our inter-dependence on a precarious eco-system. It will be a spirituality closely connected with a life of action, a spirituality of engagement in the muck and mess, as well as the beauty and wonder of our world. For this vision people will wager their lives, for this they will live and die. For some it will be a spirituality that points beyond the known limits of life and of our universe to some great and good mysterious power. I submit that my understanding of religion and belief, based on the assumption that God is not knowable to us can contribute to peace among people of a religious outlook in our world. For it inevitable means that all belief is speculative and conjectural, no matter how profound the reflection and reasoning underlying it or the human experiences that have helped create new insights of a spiritual or moral nature. My position requires that I be tentative, provisional, and accepting of alternative viewpoints." (p 252)

"Globalization brings our world together and increases the commonalities - whether through the commodities we buy or through a sense of a shared humanity in suffering and care. However, it is also being recognized how the human spirit reacts against homogenization. There is a new emphasis on cultural diversity as an enrichment of our world. This, to my mind, will mean that while a common language for a global spirituality may be constructed, such a spirituality will be expressed in diverse ways through the world's varied cultures. Those involved in the religions would do well to try to create a more pluralistic and democratic atmosphere. In the past there have been huge tensions among the differing sects and strands within each faith tradition. They have been compared to unhappy dysfunctional families where much hate and mistrust has flourished. It is likely that the conservatives and traditionalists in the future will continue to have their place in the world of spirituality, but so too will the liberals and the radicals. Perhaps we can learn from the past, and learn to be more tolerant of each other and less threatened by each other." (pp252-253)

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