The new God squad: what Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis have in common

Evangelicals have taken charge in the Vatican and Lambeth Palace

6 July 2013

It’s a few weeks after the election of Pope Francis, and a notoriously leaky church source is talking about the revolution to come. The new leader of the faithful is a sharp operator who finds himself surrounded by ‘a medieval court system of hopeless characters, each jealously guarding their own silos of activity. There’s lots of crap people in key positions.’ Meanwhile, away from the court, bureaucrats churn out windy memos. They may not know it yet, but the process of ‘clearing out the weeds’ will start soon — possibly as early as this August.

That might seem over-ambitious, but we’re not talking about the sleepy Vatican. The source is an Anglican cleric and the ‘medieval court’ is Lambeth Palace; the shinypants bureaucrats are mostly in Church House, Westminster, headquarters of the General Synod. And the new man who can’t abide flummery is, of course, the Most Revd Justin Welby, oil executive turned Archbishop of Canterbury.

The similarities between Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis are almost spooky — once you get past the fact that one is an Old Etonian evangelical Protestant and the other a South American Jesuit who prays in front of garlanded statues of Mary. Archbishop Welby was enthroned two days after Francis was inaugurated. That’s simple coincidence, but the other parallels tell us a lot.

Both men were plucked from senior but not prominent positions in their churches with a mandate to simplify structures of government that had suffocated their intellectual predecessors, who also resembled each other in slightly unfortunate ways. Rowan Williams and Benedict XVI seemed overwhelmed by the weight of office; both took the puzzling decision to retreat into their studies at a time of crisis in order to write books — Dr Williams on metaphor and icon-ography in Dostoevsky, Benedict on the life of Jesus. When they retired, early and of their own volition, their in-trays were stacked higher than they had been when they took office. Their fans were disappointed and the men charged with replacing them thought: we’re not going to let that happen again.

Enter the God Squad. In Britain, this is a term used to describe Christian Union types who talk without embarrassment about Jesus (albeit often in an embarrassing fashion). Justin Welby found his vocation at Holy Trinity, Brompton, whose public-school-educated worshippers had an unnerving habit of mentioning the Lord just as the guests were digging into the stilton. But these days ‘HTB’ has refined its evangelising and forms part of a global network of Christians who preach the Gospel without worrying too much about denominational boundaries or liturgical niceties.

This supercharged evangelicalism thrives in Argentina, where its opposition to secularism and its embrace of Pentecostal ‘gifts of the Spirit’ captured the imagination of the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio. The future Pope Francis was never a typical Latin American Jesuit. He distrusted Catholic liberation theologians, preferring the company of evangelicals who entered the slums to preach about God and Satan rather than models of economic justice.

Francis feels very much at home in the company of the local God squad. In Buenos Aires, he would read the Bible with one of the diocese’s Protestant employees without trying to convert him to Rome. He also scandalised Catholic traditionalists by kneeling at a charismatic worship meeting while assorted Protestant pastors blessed him and laid hands on him.

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Perhaps you have to be a Latin American to understand the seeming contradictions in the new Pope’s spirituality. His intense devotion to the Virgin Mary is deep-rooted: he has dedicated his pontificate to Our Lady of Fatima, to the dismay of liberal Catholics who regard the 1917 apparitions, with their warnings of divine retribution, as melodramatic and superstitious. But Francis also favours a literal interpretation of the New Testament — which means that, like Protestant Pentecostalists, he believes that Christians are stalked by the Devil. Almost every day since becoming pope, Francis has warned Catholics that Satan lurks in activities as apparently trivial as gossip — a ‘dark joy’, as he called it. More starkly, he told the cardinals who elected him that ‘whoever does not pray to God, prays to the Devil’.

Such language, coupled with the Pope’s simple lifestyle, has delighted evangelical Christians. Timothy George, the Southern Baptist dean of Beeson Divinity School in Alabama, describes him as ‘our Francis, too’ — a man up to the challenge of ‘energising Catholic leaders for the New Evangelisation — to study the Scriptures, renew the disciplines of the faith, and boldly proclaim the love of Christ’.

The term ‘New Evangelisation’ is a Catholic one: it was adopted by Pope John Paul II in an attempt to persuade his flock to pluck up the nerve to preach the Gospel to non-Christians and lapsed Catholics, and it was so central to Benedict XVI’s ministry that he set up a Vatican department to promulgate it. But it took much of its inspiration from Protestantism — and especially the evangelical Americans who have made common cause with Catholics in their fight against abortion and gay marriage.

The alliance between Catholics and evangelicals is the most important and surprising development in global Christianity for decades. It goes beyond questions of sexual ethics. If you read the evangelical magazine Christianity Today or the Catholic Herald newspaper, you will find an exchange of ideas and expertise: Protestants dip into the Catholic tradition of contemplative spirituality while Catholics try to learn the evangelical knack of ‘planting’ prayer groups and congregations in hostile terrain.

Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis both bear the marks of this exchange. When Welby first attended HTB, some Anglican bishops regarded it as a sort of entryist sect, taking over moribund churches in the same way as Militant Tendency was colonising Labour party branches. No one makes that charge today. Under its remarkable vicar, the Revd Nicky Gumbel, HTB has toned down its fire-and-brimstone theology while forging new links with Roman Catholics in the great cause of spreading orthodox Christianity. Justin Welby is an admirer of Catholic social teaching and the Spiritual Exercises of the Jesuit founder St Ignatius Loyola. When he visited Pope Francis last month, he knelt and prayed before the tomb of Blessed John Paul II — until recently, an unthinkable gesture for an evangelical Archbishop of Canterbury or a graduate of HTB.

The Pope, meanwhile, often gives the impression that he’s addressing evangelicals as well as Catholics. At the Pentecost Vigil Mass, for example, he told the crowd in St Peter’s Square: ‘All of you in the square shouted out “Francis, Francis, Pope Francis”, but where was Jesus? I want to hear you shout out “Jesus, Jesus is Lord, and he is in our midst.”’ Calling out the name of Jesus is the stuff of revivalist meetings, not papal Masses.

To some conservative Catholics, these gestures seem contrived, evidence of Jesuitical cunning. ‘Frankie is less Assisi and more Howerd,’ one of them told me. ‘All those nay-nays and titter-ye-nots are scripted, not spontaneous.’ But most Christians, Catholic and Protestant, are delighted by the Pope’s conscience-pricking soundbites, accompanied by French-waiter shrugs. More significantly, perhaps, the world’s media — which conspicuously ignored Benedict XVI’s reforms to liturgy and priestly discipline — have already cast Francis in the role of Catholic pest controller, just the man to exterminate clerical paedophiles and money–launderers.

Francis does indeed need to play this role, and there are signs that he’s more than happy to do so. Since his election, the Pope has been dropping hints that the Vatican’s scandal-ridden bank was top of his hit list. This week its director and deputy director fell on their swords; another senior monsignor, a former banker, was arrested.

The Guardian, invariably spiteful in its treatment of Benedict, reported this story in glowing terms. What doesn’t seem to have occurred to it is that, if Francis does swing into action, he’ll do so in a wider context of spiritual warfare. For him, Vatican corruption is evidence of Satan’s assault on the people of God — and so is the worldwide campaign for gay marriage. When the Pope met the Archbishop of Canterbury, the first thing he did was to congratulate him on his stance against same-sex weddings.

The new leaders of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion face similar challenges. As structures collapse, albeit for different reasons, old-style church attendance is falling off a cliff. It’s fortunate, then, that Francis and Justin are what are politely termed ‘practical theologians’ — that is, not really theologians at all, but men whose faith involves rolling up their sleeves.

Archbishop Welby has already disappointed some churchgoers by the wetness of his clichés: they expected better of a former City high-flier than the familiar sanctification of government spending. But my Anglican source insists that this is misleading. ‘Through HTB, he has access to an amazing network of city boys and posh movers and shakers who’ll always help him out,’ he says. ‘If he needs to raise £100K for some special initiative from outside of the Church’s coffers, he’d have no trouble getting the right people to cough up. That’s something Rowan couldn’t do.’

The Pope’s challenge is even more daunting. The rottenness of the Roman Curia was never more evident than during the pontificate of Benedict XVI: heads of major departments ignored any papal instruction that didn’t take their fancy, secure in the knowledge that the former ‘Rottweiler’ was by then a gentle and weary soul. His successor is neither. And, like Justin Welby, he will not shrink from using worldly techniques to advance a distinctly aggressive spiritual agenda. If either man fails, it won’t be for lack of trying.

Damian Thompson is editor of Telegraph Blogs and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph. His book The Fix: How addiction is taking over your world is out in paperback.

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Show comments
  • ethaba

    I like Francis except for homophobia

    • Arden Forester

      Where does the “homophobia” come from? The Church does not preach such stuff and Francis is against that. As far as sexual morality is concerned, that is well known doctrine.

      • CharlesOConnell

        It’s anything they don’t like. We’ll probably read someday that perpetually angry people have a norepinehprine reuptake defect. It’s the political jargonization of what is really just a mental illness.

        • ethaba

          There was a time when women and members of other races were considered naturally “disordered” in one way or another, as the Church now claims of gay people. Today, the Church uses this descriptor regarding gay people. Yet every major psychological organization in the civilized world rejects this view. Any disorder is thus a result of the real abuse and maltreatment of gay people by the very organization which claims to love them, beginning with labeling them as defective. Imagine growing up in terror of nuns who would viciously attack any boy who showed signs of being gay. I experienced this on a daily level in my childhood. It is only by realizing that those who falsely claim to follow St. Francis are themselves disordered can any progress be made. I hope Francis I changes the tone of things because history and truth will not be on the Church’s side. One more Galileo affair and the Church, which I love, may be done for good

          • fergalf

            When exactly were women considered disordered as you say? Did nuns ever attack boys? Traditionally nuns would have little to no interaction with boys except perhaps in hospital. At the end of the day everyone needs to valued in society but that can’t condone how we choose to live our lives.

          • ethaba

            Thanks for responding Fergalf. I am guessing that you are not in the United States. In the US there was a huge system of private schools run separately by many orders of nuns. For example, in the town where I grew up there were various orders associated with various schools. I was taught by Franciscans. I can tell you by modern standards some (not all) would be considered child abusers. Now, some were holy and good indeed, but for me the the trauma of others was so great that it obscured their good work for me. I can tell you that probably many if not most of my classmates are no longer practicing Catholics. Ironically, I am still a Catholic and love the Catholic faith. The arrogance and hypocrisy is what perhaps disturbs me more than the brutality. This situation mirrors the current one in the Curia where there are many holy people but definitely is a stream of corruption. The problem is quite simple, people looked the other way. This is why despite his homophobia I like Francis because, as we say in US, he is going to kick some tail. I just hope gay people are not scape-goated because believe me in the long run that will be most problematic for a Church which really does not yet understand homosexuality from a scientific perspective.

          • fergalf

            Well where I am from nuns would teach not ever in boys schools. They would teach in girls schools. Serious abuses happened in boys but in the girls schools I refer to the worst that happened would be a slap for naught child. Of course this isn’t America though so obviously its different .

          • Vrai écossais

            Nuns are, by definition, not going to teach anyone as they have chosen a inward contemplation and do not leave the convent. Catholic sisters, do teach – boys and girls. Sisters are found in many catholic schools.

          • fergalf

            Thanks for the correction regarding nuns. Personally speaking I have never heard of sisters teaching boys although I imagine that it happens.

          • Dman

            Believe me I went to a boys prep school in Australia run by the Dominican nuns. They were sadists , psychopaths, and manipulative hypocrites of a high order especially by comparison with the Jesuits whose school I next attended.
            Sadly the combination of prepubescent boys and celibate and / or menopausal women was a toxic mix!
            There was not a scintilla of Christianity in most of these women

          • fergalf

            Strange. The ones I have met are the most compassionate selfless women imaginable. Must be a generation thing.

          • Suriani

            if bad experiences at school were confined to Catholic institutions i could see your point. as regards homosexuality science has yet to come up with an “explanation” all we have currently is theory.

          • jjw101

            To claim that homosexuality is not a disorder is to display a worrying lack of understanding of the most basic human biology and evolution. Ask someone to explain the birds and the bees to you.

          • Guglielmo Marinaro

            To claim that homosexuality is a disorder is to display a worryingly naïve and simplistic view of human sexuality. Maybe if jjw101 ruled the world, every day would be the first day of spring and the world’s human population would be 100% heterosexual. Fortunately, however, the universe is more complicated than it would have been if it had been drawn up to jjw101’s specifications – far more complicated, and far less boring.

          • fergalf

            From an evolutionary point of view it doesn’t make sense so in that sense it is a disorder. That says nothing about its morality. Having a flu is not a moral flaw.

          • Guglielmo Marinaro

            What do you mean by saying that it doesn’t make sense “from an evolutionary point of view”? That one of the purposes – and a very important one – served by heterosexual sex isn’t served by homosexual sex? So what? There are any number of human activities that do not serve any reproductive purpose whatever. Are they on that account to be accounted disorders? I think not.

          • fergalf

            I am not sure that they are. Look I am not saying gay people are bad, all I am doing is stating quite correctly that our species would disappear if we were all homosexual. We are just animals and thus looking at humans in evolutionary terms is relevant.

          • Guglielmo Marinaro

            Yes, our species would disappear if we all homosexual. Similarly, our species would disappear if we were all male, if we were all female, if we were all celibate, or if we were all heterosexual but used 100% effective contraception every time we had sex. But we aren’t worrying about any of those contingencies because we know perfectly well that, while they are abstract, logical possibilities, they simply are never going to happen in the real world.

            Evolutionary biology doesn’t decree that everyone ought to reproduce, or even that anyone should. In fact it doesn’t decree anything at all. It just tells us that, by and large, people do. As long as people keep on having heterosexual sex, the majority heterosexual population will continue to be replenished – and so will the minority homosexual population.

          • fergalf

            But the reality is for 200,000 years the ‘immutable homosexual’ lived as at least a bisexual and probably a heterosexual. Otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are today. I have gay friends who insist everyone is deep down homosexual. Maybe its true..

          • Guglielmo Marinaro

            “But the reality is for 200,000 years the ‘immutable homosexual’ lived as at least a bisexual and probably a heterosexual.”

            You should not be stating this as a fact, since you cannot possibly know it.

            “Otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

            A complete non sequitur. There was no need whatever for the homosexual minority (5% at a generous estimate) to live as bi-sexual or heterosexual (whether or not they actually did) for us to get to where we are today.

            “I have gay friends who insist everyone is deep down homosexual.”

            There are straight people who insist that everyone, not just the vast majority but EVERYONE, is deep down heterosexual. There are people who insist that the universe was created in six days at some point during the last 10,000 years, and that the story of Noah’s Ark is history. There are plenty of people with all sorts of groundless beliefs. I see no reason to pay the slightest attention to them.

          • fergalf

            Hunter gatherer societies as a rule don’t have regular homosexuality. I am not saying we will vanish due to homosexuality but its wishful thing to see it as part of suite of natural human behaviour.

          • Guglielmo Marinaro

            If homosexual behaviour weren’t natural human behaviour, it wouldn’t occur. That doesn’t prove that it’s OK, of course; there are plenty of perfectly natural human behaviours that we regard as morally wrong; but there is no good reason to think that homosexual behaviour is one of them. I know little or nothing about hunter gatherer societies, but I see no grounds for regarding them as more “natural” than any other kind of societies, still less as providing any model to which we should strive to conform. No hunter-gatherer cultures practice life-long monogamy. Should we therefore abandon it as an ideal? I think not.

          • fergalf

            Personally speaking I think its very useful to look at them as they give an insight why we do many things. Many hunter gatherer are monogamous. Not everyone in the group will be monogamy is practised.

          • Guglielmo Marinaro

            They may well give us an insight into why we do many things, I agree. They don’t give us a model to which we have any need or any duty to conform.

          • Captain Yossarian

            Fergalf, please learn more about evolution before spouting off nonsense about it.

            Evolution is descriptive, not prescriptive.

          • fergalf

            Please avoid the condescending remarks. Evolution is predictive and informs morality

          • Captain Yossarian

            Evolution has about as much to do with morality as gravity.

            Science describes what ‘is’, not what ‘ought’ to be. It is not a system of morality. The dexterity of our hand does not mean that we ought to use it to pickpocket, nor that we ought to use it to distribute alms.

            The argument “Oh, humanity would die out if everyone was gay!” is beyond stupid. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be condescending, but it really, really is. Totally stupid.

            If everyone were a woman, humanity would die out. Does that make being a woman wrong?

            If everyone were homogeneous in many specific traits, humanity would die out.

            Silly, silly reasoning. Invoking stupid, ridiculous scenarios doesn’t make a single bit of sense. Aside from being impossible, they’re simply absurd.

            And this is before we even address if something is more moral because it perpetuates a species. There is no way to link reproduction or species perpetuation with morality — if there is, I would love to see the evidence.

            There is no law saying that we have to perpetuate the species. Someone having 10 kids is not more moral or more “natural” (whatever that means) than someone having 2 or 0 kids.

            If I were a teacher of philosophy or critical thinking, I would print out your comments and ask my class to identify all of the classic logical fallacies in your posts. I suspect that it would be enough to generate at least a term’s worth of work.

          • fergalf

            Well whether is something is moral is not the same as being normal or not a ‘disorder’. That was not my point. I wasn’t even trying to emphasise that homosexuality is not moral, even though I mentioned it in my last point. That is a competently different topic. Philosophically it is pretty hard to define what is a disorder as many are subjective. Even if bats and mice might to be gay it doesn’t mean its not a disorder. Morality isn’t contingent on reproductive ability but naturalness or whatever word you choose to use absolutely does.

          • Guglielmo Marinaro

            Evolution is not predictive: it does not predict anything. WE may predict things on the basis of the fact of evolution. If we use evolution to predict that everyone will be heterosexual, we merely prove that our predictive faculty is not functioning correctly.

            As for “the LGBT movement regularly bring[ing] up various species in discussion of homosexuality”, I would like to point out that there is no monolithic LGBT movement, any more than there is a monolithic heterosexual movement. Yes, SOME gay activists have done this, but if they are doing so in an attempt to justify homosexuality or homosexual behaviour, then their argument is misconceived. It is disputable whether any real analogue to human homosexuality exists in non-human species, but that does not matter. In no other department of human life does any reasonable person regard animal behaviour as indicating what is “natural” (whatever that is supposed to mean) for us or as dictating what we should or should not do. There is no reason to make an exception in the case of human sexuality.

          • fergalf

            For the most part I agree with you. the animals kingdom traditionally was never a source of moral inspiration but we can see the flaws in our own characters in primates etc. Whatever about the animal kingdom the homo that have gone before us hugely influence what is considered natural from whether we should meat to why we have old age and the menopause. We have certain adaptations and lack other adaptations.

          • MaryMarriott

            You are displaying your own ignorance in your brief, superficial comment.

          • jjw101

            At least I was making a point – a point which you fail to adress (surprise, surprise!) All you’re doing in ‘your brief, superficial comment’ is trying to insult me because you don’t agree with me.

          • ethaba

            If that is true why do all major scientific, psychological,. and psychiatric associations who say anything about this subject completely disagree with you. I suppose the Westboro Baptist Church might agree with you, but they don’t even believe in evolution.

          • jjw101

            Sorry, but you’ve lost me. Gays can’t reproduce, that’s all I was saying. It may not be nice not to talk about it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

            I’m genuinally sorry about your childhood experiences which you talk about above – there’s no excuse for that sort of thing. But it seems to me you’re letting those experiences cloud your logic.

          • ethaba

            Thanks for your sympathy. Think about this – we are not far off technology wise when artificial wombs will be available. I suspect some women ( men) will choose this option, and it may even become commonplace. The idea that only a male-female couple that can be open to the transmission of life in the traditional way is the only morally acceptable situation is going to be a tough sell. I know – the gate is narrow, but it does not have to be.

          • MaryMarriott

            Yes, the RC denomination and indeed CofE are bringing themselves into (further) disrepute and hastening their own demise. There will always be lgbti however.

          • Suriani

            think you’ll find the Galileo affair had only a marginal bearing on science a lot more to do with factionalism within the Church cloaked in a scientific garb. Poor Galileo got caught in the middle.. Catholicism is not “anti-science”. The scientific community too has his its spats…some quite vitriolic involving the equivalent of anathematization, we just don’t hear as much about them, then Galileo types are rare.

          • ethaba

            I agree, but the Galileo affair is commonly misinterpreted to cast a shadow on the validity of the Church’s teaching authority in even learned minds that do not understand the subtleties of Catholic theology. It has done great damage.

      • MaryMarriott

        Homophobia is lethal in many jurisdictions around the world. So do rethink your glib approach to anti-gay words and actions in the Church of Rome, Arden Forester.

        • jjw101

          ‘Homophobia is lethal in many jurisdictions around the world.’ In many Muslim countries, you mean? That’s true, and it’s terrible, but it doesn’t mean homosexuality isn’t a disorder.

        • Arden Forester

          Excuse me Mary, it was not glib. I was reacting to a jibe against the Pope. Can’t think what you mean by “actions in the Church of Rome”. All people are capable of falling into sin, church included.

    • Tom Tom

      Not sure he has any fear of homosexuals as such merely a disdain for pathetic lost souls

      • josepholeary

        He may not, but about Tom Tom I’m not so sure

      • ethaba

        Not sure what you mean.

    • Bob Hutton

      When a Christian believes that homosexuality is contrary to the will of God he is not being homophobic but simply trying to be consistent with the New Testament scriptures. The good news is that homosexuals can be converted – read 1st Corinthians 6 v 9-11.

      • Guglielmo Marinaro

        Whatever St Paul may have meant by the words “arsenokoitai” and “malakoi” in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, it is clear from the context that they referred to something or other which he believed that these people had stopped DOING; there is no suggestion that anyone’s sexual orientation had changed, or that he even thought in those terms. No man or woman in the world is or ever was infallible, and that includes St Paul. There is no reason why we, getting on for 2,000 years later, should be bound by his limited knowledge and understanding of homosexuality.

        • Bob Hutton

          The Bible is the inerrant word of God. The prohibition of homosexuality is rooted on the early chapters of Genesis when we read that God created them Male and Female; moreover, this was upheld by Jesus in the Gospels.

          Paul himself would not have been perfect but his writings on the NT are part of the infallible word of God. Those who do not believe in the infallibility of the Bible have been blinded by the devil.

          • Guglielmo Marinaro

            There is no proof that the Bible is infallible. As the philosopher William James rightly said, “It is so human a book that I don’t see how belief in is divine authorship can survive the reading of it.” I don’t see any particular harm in calling it “the word of God” merely as a figure of speech, but once we start taking that literally we can end up adopting all sorts of immoral stances, e.g. the idea that homosexuality is “sinful” and that gay people shouldn’t form sexual relationships, and trying to justify them by brandishing the Bible at people.

          • Bob Hutton

            Proof the Bible is infallible – 1. Fulfilled prophecies. (google “Fulfilled prophecies in the Bible) 2. Archeological discoveries that prove the Bible (again, google this). 3. Stood the test of time. 4. Power to change lives.

            I don’t “Brandish” the Bible at people. However, I would lovingly, and gently, tell you that homosexuality is sinful – the Bible says so. However, the good news of the Gospel is that such can be delivered from this by the power of the Holy Spirit.

          • Guglielmo Marinaro

            Most of the “fulfilled prophecies” in the Bible are the same kind of “fulfilled prophecies” as in Nostradamus’s Quatrains. But that is a small point. Even genuine precognition is no proof of infallibility. Archaeological discoveries do not prove the Bible. There is no reason to regard large parts of the Old Testament as other than mythology, although they may contain historical elements; one might same the same of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and of Virgil’s Aeneid. Lives may well have been changed by the Bible; lives have also doubtless been changed by the Qur’an, by the Book of Mormon and by Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health, but that is no proof that they are infallible. And what of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita? These too have stood the test of time. As the late Sir Oliver Lodge rightly observed, “Infallible oracles are not given to men. … If infallible guides were available, human judgment would begin to atrophy, just in so far as they were available.”

            I would lovingly and gently tell you that your beliefs about homosexuality are wrong and pernicious. But there is hope. Some even of the most rabidly and obdurately anti-gay people have eventually seen the light and have repented.

          • Bob Hutton

            On the judgement day you will see that you have been in error all along – but it will be too late. I only hope that you see the light, before you die, and get right with God.

            I will not reply to you further as I do not wish to “cast pearls before swine”.

          • ethaba

            by deeming him a pig you bring judgment upon yourself.

          • Bob Hutton

            I am simply repeating the words of our Saviour when he cautioned His followers against arguing with people who are obviously intransigent. The same goes for you.

          • ethaba

            Right, and he said something about judging others and logs in people eyes

          • Guglielmo Marinaro

            I may be a pig, but if so, I am – to borrow the words of P.G. Wodehouse – “a shrewd, level-headed pig”.

      • ethaba

        ok. I guess I have to agree with you that he is not homophobic in the sense that he is just upholding the teaching of the Church. As for conversion, anyone can be converted.

  • Simon Semere

    You talk about the God Squad with no mention of Allahu Akahbar and co. Soon ramadan will be compulsory, inshallah we don’t get the stomach cramps, it won’t be easy.

  • Andy_London

    As a member of the Christian Union God Squad and now a member of a Baptist Church, I have always found it bizarre that so many Christians in Britain (but not Northern Ireland) seem to think that their faith is a private matter.

    After all Jesus was not private about his faith. His words in his local synagogue about Isaiah’s prophecy having been fulfilled in Him led to other worshippers trying to kill Him.

    Just because Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin are both willing to talk about the likes of Satan in the world, people find this weird. But why? This is all written in the Bible, the Old Testament of which Jesus clearly viewed as normative, another unpopular view in the modern (post modern?) Western Church.

    Perhaps if people read the Bible more and asked the Holy Spirit to explain its meaning to them, then there would be less confusion, fewer mixed messages and more believers in the various high positions of the churches?

    • Ian Walker

      I just asked the Holy Spirit to explain the Bible to me, but he remained stubbornly silent. I guess that pretending to not exist is a pretty good test of faith.

      • fergalf

        A sincere heart goes a long way.

      • Tom Tom

        Read up on TULIP to find your answer

      • Pete1216

        That an omniscient, omnipotent being(s) is undetectable with our considerable scientific skills is, to me, a hint.

      • Bob Hutton

        If you truly search for God with ALL your heart you WILL find Him, but only through faith in Christ.

        • norto

          Yes that is correct. That is how He found me.

        • mrmark1977

          That’s just poetic nonsense that doesn’t really mean anything.

          You’re basically saying ‘if you search for god with your emotions (lol, what emotions?), you will realise he exists, but only by believing Jesus was the son of god’.

          Just…utter drivel. It would be a joke how brainwashable some humans are (and how stupid they can be to think such nonsense phrases make any sense), if it weren’t so sad.

          • jmjm208

            You believe it is nonsense because the devil has blinded you. I do hope, for your sake, that you come to your senses and turn to Christ for salvation for your soul.

          • mrmark1977

            Saying I’ve been blinded is a stupid metaphor which shoots yourself and your sky daddy in the feet.

            Blind people cannot help being blind, and you are claiming I think it’s nonsense because some other being has caused me to be blind, or rather, some other being has caused me to think it’s nonsense, which would take away any blame from myself.

            And only a stupid or unfair ‘god’ would disagree with that, so assuming your god exists, I can only hope he’s not so stupid or unfair as to punish me for the actions of another being he created and allowed to do what he liked to people.

          • jmjm208

            When you stand before God to give an account of your life I suggest you attempt to present that argument to Him.

            He will quickly give you short shrift and cast you into the Lake of Fire.

          • mrmark1977

            Lol, so you DO think he’s stupid and/or unfair.

            By the way, I’m sure your god will be delighted to see you claim you know exactly how he will pass judgement, but making such threats claiming I will be tortured, doesn’t make either you or your ‘loving’ (snigger) god, appear to be particularly nice beings.

            And why would I need to give an account of my life to him, unless your god isn’t omniscient?

  • timinsingapore

    I had to go to a family wedding at an evangelical church recently – very unsettling, all that hand-raising and general abandon. Too much blind allegiance. The oily geniality of the man in charge prompted me to hope that the church’s books were regularly audited …

    • norto

      I am sure they were.

  • Saima ishaq

    Is it possible to read this without subscription?

  • CharlesOConnell

    So, how does that Stonewall Riots citation support your thesis?

  • Terence Hale

    The new God squad: what Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis
    have in common. It’s simple, a turbo injector the German’s invented it. Pope
    John Paul II a Saint, a “Tommy Cooper” out of the hat everybody make miracles, Archbishop Welby I’m off to Zimbabwe for a holiday.

  • Suriani

    Indeed we do seem to have an evangelical pope. The “informal”, being very polite, masses he celebrated in his former office are evident in his liturgical preferences in his current one. He appears unconcerned with “traditionalism” so perhaps he will not interfere in the small but growing bands of orthodox Catholics who prefer the pre -Vatican II liturgical books. Whether he will be supportive is another matter. He showed scant sign of it in Buenos Aires. Under HH pope Benedict the Anglican Ordinariate was top, under HH Papa Francisco with his old fashioned oecumenical notions might it be viewed as irrelevant? Regarding the vexed and vexing matter of the SSPX ¿quien sabe? Now he is Supreme Pontiff, a style he would not use but one nevertheless he bears, I trust we will not have any kneeling on tarmacs or worse kneeling before non-Catholic ministers to receive, whatever. The canonization of the man who brought the Church to the edge of total fragmentation is a bad augury. . But so was the abdication of Joseph Ratzinger….thus we go back to those lazy hazy days of the “spirit of the council”. Oy Veh!

  • True Blue

    How ridiculously insulting? Yet we are in times, where we can not afford to look ridiculous, nor be ridiculous! Since we are lead by the ridiculous, the results are obviously ridiculous.

    So the Archbishop of Canterbury has finally spoken what he left unspoken for sometime. Even the Alpha course that helped him earlier has not influenced his Theology.

    Are were surprised that Christian churches are slowly being emptied!

  • True Blue

    The true Gospel changes the societies, and that has been the case ever since,…. The Christianity at work aims at human heart, and heart only, by actions and not philosophies, theologies or human intellect, rubbish to say the least. By “La Biene Faisance” Love, Forgiveness and Charity in action.

    Surely the True Gospel changed societies in the past, so it does now, then and thereafter. No one will change that no matter what!

    The Archbishop above implies that, if A Society is Fascist or Nazi, so should Christianity follow and re-adjust accordingly!

    You can not be serious! Are you?

  • Ben

    All that and you fail to mention how Pope Francis and the Archbishop will compete for the moral high-ground (or indeed any rich under-water oil beds) surrounding the Falkland Islands? Goodness. It’s enough to make a pre-16th century Conservative smile. Next you’ll be querying whether, absent the Christians who funded and built the
    colleges and institutions that educated (and, in some cases, still house) them,
    half (or more!) of the UK’s atheist academics and commentators would cease to

    And hence inspire a further BoJo article featuring the TARDIS! Not to mention the tricky questions around how Ramadan might be properly applied in outer space… the first communion in orbit (or on the moon)… the first black disabled female atheist on the moon. or… oh! it’s time for bed! My mind’s wandering… I’ve almost begun dreaming…

  • Bob Hutton

    The evangelicals believe in accepting Jesus as a personal Saviour. This means not simply believing that He was a figure of history, and attending church now and then; it means having a strong heart-belief in the Saviour. A belief that is more than skin deep and affects every area of our lives.

    Moreover, we believe that, while it is right to respect non-Christian religions The Lord Jesus is unique and the only way to eternal life; as He said in John 14 v 6 (and read by Cameron at Maggie’s funeral) “I am the way, the truth and the life, NO-ONE comes to the Father but by me”.

    • mrmark1977

      “Moreover, we believe that, while it is right to respect non-Christian religions”

      Lets hope that God also thinks it’s right to respect them, or they’ll all be cooking in hell…

      “as He said in John 14 v 6 (and read by Cameron at Maggie’s funeral) “I
      am the way, the truth and the life, NO-ONE comes to the Father but by

      That’s just meaningless words, which you’ve been brainwashed to believe means ‘one can only go to heaven if they’re silly enough to believe that Jesus died so God wouldn’t torture them or snuff them out’.

      • Bob Hutton

        It would appear to be meaningless to you because of the truths of 1st Corinthians 1 v 18 viz. “The preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to those who are saved it is the power of God”

  • http://brotherlapin.wordpress.com/rood-and-norty-rabit/ Frere Rabit

    Why is it these days that anything to do with the Church suddenly attracts acres of puerile self-centred egotism from homosexualists? Scrolling down these comments, any self-respecting “gay” should be embarrassed by the imposition of this irrelevant agenda on those for whom it is irrelevant.

    Some of us did not have a view on the subject before this recent strident nonsense, but now we do. I stand against you. Call me homophobic if it pleases you.

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