Book of Prayers

95 Theses

Jonathan's 95 Theses

In 1517 Martin Luther affixed to the door of the Castle church at Wittenberg his 95 theses against indulgences. He became an active proponent of reform in the church and played a considerable role in the Reformation.

The Church of England has become corrupt and requires substantial reform. It has disinherited the British people from the Christian faith, denying them access to Christian ministry and the simple truths of the Christian gospel.

I, Revd Jonathan Blake on this the fourteenth day of April, 1999, do hereby affix these 95 theses to the door of Canterbury Cathedral, in the city where St Augustine formed his first church in this country.

I offer them in humility as a priest, in the hope that they may initiate widespread debate and lead to a comprehensive reform of the church.

Revd Jonathan Blake,

14.4.99

1. ' God is love and those who live in love, live in God and God lives in them. '

Jesus said, Love your neighbour as yourself.

' There are three things that last forever: faith hope and love But the greatest of them is love.

The premise of the following theses is that the church has one supreme commission, which is to love.

2. Love is unconditional. It is grace, freely offered, freely given, freely received.

3. Love never rejects, condemns, excludes.

4. Love listens, learns and accommodates.

5. Love forgives and never reneges its responsibility to all.

6. Love is not willing to cast aside, alienate or ostracise. Love cherishes every life form.

7. Love is characterised by an open door, by possibility, opportunity and encouragement.

8. Anyone who loves is Christian in spirit.

9. Anyone who forgives is Christian in spirit.

10. All who serve others are Christian in spirit. It matters not whether they are from another faith or have no faith. Whether they live in a conventional manner or alternative. Wherever love is visible in actions God is at work and the Christian spirit is manifest.

11. Love invites the church to seek out and serve all who so display the presence of God in their work and lives, the real Christians who may never choose to enter a church building.

12. Love invites the church to stop devoting its attention to the few who attend worship and to turn most of its attention instead to the vast numbers, who don't,

14. Love invites Christians to stop investing their time and attention in church pursuits within the church family and instead to be imaginative about and committed to expressing love to those outside the church family.

15. Love invites the church to cherish creation and all living creatures and to be at the forefront of Campaigning to protect the world and environment,

16, Love invites the church to cherish every human being, affording them respect and dignity and allowing for no discrimination on any ground whatsoever,

17. Love resists the rise in evangelicalism and fundamentalism in the church today. There is no neat systematic method of packaging God or faith. Love encourages variety not uniformity.

RITES

BAPTISM

I8. It is not love that leads the church to reject many of those who ask to be baptised. No one was refused baptism In the Gospels. All who came were baptised.

19. It is not love that leads the church to require a priest to refuse baptism to a person from another parish, unless they have obtained their parish priest's permission first.

20. The church should always be willing to baptise anyone who asks to be baptised. There should be no requirements laid upon them, no conditions set and no obstacles put in their way. They should experience the grace of God in the open, warm, unconditional acceptance and granting of their request. This is love.

21. Love invites the clergy to offer ministry to everyone and anyone. Never to turn away an applicant for baptism. Never to turn away applicants for marriage. Always to invite everyone to communion. Always to offer acceptance and respect and ministry whatever a person's beliefs or lifestyle.

22. It is not love that leads the church to refuse baptism to parents who are not married. The church has no divine authority to withhold the grace of God from any person, whatever their state or condition; whatever their approach to life or beliefs.

COMMUNION

23. It Is not love that leads the church to withhold from so many people the Invitation to Jesus `s table. There is no record that Jesus wanted this selective approach.

24. The church should always invite everyone to receive communion Irrespective of whether they are confirmed, Christian or atheist. This is love.

23. It is not love that leads the church to corrupt the symbol of 'communion by administering it in an exclusive and divisive way.

26. It is not love that leads the church to bar children from receiving communion. How can the church share a family meal and exclude the most vulnerable and needy?

27. The church should invite babies and all children to receive communion. This is love.

MARRIAGE

28. It is not love that leads the church to reject many people who ask to be married in church, if they have been divorced. Jesus warned us not to judge or condemn. Jesus showed us how to practice forgiveness and how to find the path of resurrection. How then can the church judge, withhold forgiveness and deny applicants for marriage the benefits of resurrection.

29. Love invites the church to marry anyone who asks to be married in church.

30. Love invites the church to marry gay, lesbian and transsexual couples in church, as well as those who live in an alternative or unconventional way.

WORSHIP

31. Love invites the clergy to stop exercising control over the expression of people's spirituality. Lay people should be encouraged to take services including communion and baptism. Experiments in worship and in different ways of believing should be encouraged.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES

DISCRIMINATION ACCORDING TO GENDER

32. It is not love that leads the church to be institutionally sexist.

33. Love invites the church to operate an equal opportunities policy ensuring that both men and women are equally represented at every level of church life. Reactionary and prejudiced views can't be allowed to find refuge behind the guise of theology or principles of faith. Love would afford to everyone equal rights, responsibilities, status and respect.

34. Love invites women bishops to be appointed without delay.

DISCRIMINATION ACCORDING TO RACE

33. It is not love that leads the church to be institutionally racist.

36. Love invites the church to operate an equal opportunities policy ensuring that all the races represented within this land have equal access to every level of church life. At present the selection process discriminates against those from ethnic minorities. Love would seek out and include all and everyone.

DISCRIMINATION ACCORDING TO ABILITY

37. It is not love that leads the church to discriminate against the disabled.

38. Love is offended that the majority of churches have no or inadequate facilities for the disabled. The church regards the provision of such facilities as a low priority. Love invites every church at once to install toilet facilities and proper access for the disabled to and within the building.

39. Love invites the church to install Braille books and loop amplification systems in all churches

40. It is not love that leads the church to discriminate against the disabled by preventing them from becoming priests. Love invites the church to provide resources, both human and financial, to overcome this.

DISCRIMINATION ACCORDING TO LIFESTYLE

41. It is not love that leads the church to discriminate against those who adopt alternative lifestyles.

42. It is not love that has lead the church to become a place hi jacked by the respectable and conventional. Those who live differently feel ostracised and abandoned by the church. The church is for everyone.

43. Love invites the church to cease its judgemental commentary about people's lives and aspire to become the place of absolute and unconditional acceptance and love.

44. It is not love that leads the church to interfere in the expression of love in people's relationships.

43. Love finds the pope's teaching about contraception and the prohibition of catholic clergy from marrying an abhorrence. Love finds the Anglican requirement that sex should only take place within marriage an abhorrence. Love finds the teaching of the church that homosexuals and homosexual priests refrain from the physical expression of their sexuality an abhorrence.

46. Love invites the church to stop playing God and to stop issuing dictates that are scientifically flawed and morally questionable.

47. It is not love that leads the church to be characterised as rejecting, judging, condemning and saying NO. The church places burdens of guilt and self-recrimination upon people's backs and does so little to release them or heal them.

48. The church should rise to the requirement to be at the forefront of innovative and enlightened thinking, keeping pace with a modern world and thinking anew theologically and ethically.

49. In the twenty first century, it is likely that unimaginable scientific advances will be made. Correspondingly, the church must be ready to advance its own insights.

30. History and increased knowledge have exposed the subjective nature of much so-called truth '. The church must therefore display a humility and flexibility when pronouncing on moral issues.

DISCRIMINATION ACCORDING TO AGE

51. It is not love that leads the church to be unfriendly places for children. Love invites the church to clear play areas within the church for children, as well as providing crèche, nappy changing and bottle warming facilities. Children should also be welcome at and fully involved in services, including leading them.

DISCRIMINATION ACCORDING TO CULTURE

52. It is not love that leads the church to be culturally elitist, Services and church life generally display a distinct ecclesiastical culture, which has to be learnt and often poses a barrier to people becoming involved.

53. Love invites the church to relax the control it exercises through Canon law and permit widespread parochial experimentation both in worship and church decision-making and to encourage the local church to reflect the culture and traditions of the people.

THEOLOGY

54. Love cannot take the church seriously if it is unwilling or incapable of reforming its theological teaching.

55. It is not love that leads the church hierarchy to deceive the congregations by withholding the insights of modern theology and research.

56.1t is not love that leads the church to expect Christians to believe the bible' stories in a simplistic and literal way.

57. It is not love that leads the church to resist proper enquiry by confusing the enquirer with complex and often nonsensical dogma.

58. Love knows that the origins of all church teaching and dogma are simple and clearly understood truths. It is not love that has lead the church to conceal those truths and often to destroy them in the development of ever more complicated theological teaching.

59. It is not love that has lead the church to distort Jesus`s simple meal of love and his simple symbolic gestures into devilish arguments about flesh and blood and who can and can't receive. The church has harvested only blood and bitterness by so doing and still does.

60. It is not love that has lead the church to deny people full access to God by describing God in trinitarian language that no bishop or theologian has ever been able to explain adequately to the people.

61. It is not love that that has lead to church teaching enshrining and perpetuating prejudice, and because the church claims such teaching is absolute has allowed it to act as a moral cancer in the development of ethics.

62. The language of the Trinity presents God as Father and Son and Holy Spirit. It is not love that leads the church to describe God in language which originated in ancient philosophy and which appears patriarchal, gender biased and nonsensical in today's world.

63. It is not love which leads the church to continue such bias in referring to Jesus as the ' Son of God` while failing to name another the Daughter of God .

64. It is not love that leads the church to mislead people by teaching that Jesus was perfect and sinless when even the Bible shows otherwise. It is not love that the church requires people to follow the example of this so called perfect Jesus and so debilitates them with guilt at their own failure to do so, which makes them dependent on the church for forgiveness.

65. It is not love that obscures the truth that Jesus was a man like any other, a mixture of good and bad, whose genius was to learn how to integrate his life for the benefit of others in the practice of love.

66. It is not love that leads the church to mislead the people by teaching that the words of the Bible are all God `s words instead of encouraging them to read the Bible critically, discarding the bad and cherishing the good.

67. It is not love that leads the church to teach about hell and judgement as realities after death, when love could never treat their own child in such a way.

68. It is not love that leads the church to teach that Christianity is the one, true and only way to God and that all other faiths are inferior.

69. It is not love that leads the denominations to be divided, to reject each other's ministers and priests and to bar each other's worshipper's from receiving communion

70. Love invites the church to stop trying to impose dogma onto people and instead to preach the simple truth of love.

71. Love invites the church to teach that describing Jesus as the son of God is to make the point that all of us are God's children, sons and daughters of God and need to live our lives and treat each other, accordingly.

72. Love invites the church to teach that describing Jesus as having a bodily resurrection is to make the point that all of us can endure suffering and be restored.

73. Love invites the church, rather than describing God in Trinitarian language, to describe God as the God of love, who loves everyone, who loves everything, who invites us to love everyone and everything too.

74. Love invites the church to teach that describing the supernatural, the miracle stories and the extraordinary is to make the point that through living life to the full we can make our lives extra ordinary, super natural and miraculous.

73. Love invites the church to teach that instead of it being essential to take Holy Communion each week, all of us in our everyday lives should sit down to eat with friends and enemies alike.

ORGANISATION

76. Love rebukes the church for putting philosophy, power and politics before the central commission to love.

77. It is not love that leads the church to operate like a massive business empire. The church spends vast amounts of money maintaining buildings, paying for administrative structures, and supporting the lavish lifestyles of many of its employees.

78. The churches and cathedrals are the heritage of the British people and yet those very people are increasingly denied access to them, the church exercises tight controls, with times of entry and entry charges and limitations as to who may use the building,

79, Love invites the church to divest itself of all its buildings. The spirit does not exist in bricks and mortar. Worship cannot be confined to sanctuary or chancel, it begs release,

80, Love invites the church to divest itself of its responsibilities for church buildings and cathedrals. All such properties could be made over to and held in trust by the trustees of a newly formed charity, a Trust, like the National Trust, perhaps named The Ecclesiastical Trust.

81. The Ecclesiastical Trust could then maintain the buildings independently,

82. Love invites churches and cathedrals, administered under these reforms by the Ecclesiastical Trust, to be made available to everyone to offer worship and other appropriate events and for clergy to be willing to take services in them for everyone.

83. Love invites the church to sell all bishop's residences and vicarages and leave all clergy to be responsible for arranging their own accommodation.

84. It is not love that decides that the church commissioners and many church officials are paid high salaries and that bishops and archdeacons are paid higher amounts than vicars. Love invites all clergy and church officials to receive the same income.

83. It is not love that has arranged for bishops to live in palaces and most vicars to reside in larger houses than their parishioners. It is not love that arranges for bishops to ride in chauffeur driven cars and be regular guests at royal, political, and monied dinners.

86. It is not love that determines that the majority of a bishop's time is spent mixing with the articulate and the powerful, is spent with clergy and church officials, is spent in meetings and conferences, is spent with the few who go to church.

87. Where are the bishops and priests who spend the majority of their time expressing love to the poor, the powerless, the persecuted, the homeless and the abandoned in society? Where are the bishops and priests who spend the majority of their time expressing love by giving time to the weak, by dining with the beggars and by rubbing shoulders daily with the downcast? Love invites the clergy to surrender their stipend and to live from their own endeavour.

88. It is not love that guides the church to use its vast reserves of wealth to pay for its own infrastructure and to benefit its own clients, as any business or company would do, but only gives a minute proportion to the poor and to those outside the church. Love invites the church to become poor, by withdrawing its investments and selling its assets and using them solely for the physical and psychological well being of the people of this country and of the world.

IN CONCLUSION

90. Love is willing to admit mistakes, recognise that certain traditions, teachings and rules are flawed and progress to a more enlightened understanding and practice. The church of the twenty first century needs radical reform making it unrecognisable from what now exists.

91. Love invites worship to be woven into the everyday. Fabric of life, taking place in homes, gardens, pubs, nightclubs, sports centres, beauty spots, hotels; everywhere and anywhere.

92. Love invites the bishops and priests to be released from their preoccupations with buildings, synods and committees, politics and prestige. Love invites them back onto the road, a mobile resource visiting and ministering to the people of this country, whatever their beliefs or ways.

93. Love invites the clergy to speak about God simply and to identify God in everyday loving forms of behaviour and to encourage people to greater expressions of love in their lives.

94. Love invites the clergy to live and to encourage Christians to live their beliefs in practise rather than in ritual; action as prayer, eating with the poor as communion, reconciliation as repentance.

95. If the Church of England, the Catholic Church and all other denominational churches are to survive in the next century, it will only be through a reformation as comprehensive as any hitherto. In order to be so reformed it is necessary for what is, to die and be reborn through love. It is my earnest prayer and hope that this will happen for the sake of this generation and all that are to come.

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THE CATHEDRAL AUTHORITIES DID NOT WANT ME TO PUT THE THESES ON THE DOOR TO CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL, EVEN THOUGH I TRIED TO FIND A MEANS OF ATTACHING THEM WHICH WOULD BE ACCEPTABLE TO THE AUTHORITIES, EVEN USING BLUTACK!

HOWEVER THEY WERE ADAMANTLY AGAINST ANYTHING BEING PUT THERE.

THEY INVITED THE POLICE TO ATTEND AND I WAS ARRESTED AND TAKEN TO THE POLICE STATION, WHERE THE POLICE WERE KINDNESS ITSELF AND EXPRESSED THEIR REGRET AT HAVING TO ARREST ME.

I WAS RELEASED ON BAIL. A FEW WEEKS LATER I WAS TOLD THAT I WAS NOT GOING TO BE CHARGED WITH ANY OFFENCE.

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