Advent Day 3

The Third Day of Advent 

What songs of justice might we sing this Advent?

[Read more…]

Advent Day 2

The Second Day of Advent / The Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle

Are we, like Andrew–who was often in his brother’s shadow–to become alive in the death of the ego?

[Read more…]

Don’t reap me bro!

Some notes on the parable of the wheat and the tares: [Read more…]

Music for Sunday

I just came back from my ward’s Primary Presentation sacrament meeting based on the 2015 Sharing Time theme, “I know my Savior Lives.” The children opened their presentation by singing I Know That My Savior Loves Me: [Read more…]

How Abrahamic tests work

First, Isaac has to be your son, so unless it’s your own child whose baptism you have to cancel, you ain’t Abraham. Stop egging on Abraham from a distance. You should be devastated by what he’s about to do.

Second, Abraham was willing to kill his son even though he knew it to be wrong. He didn’t come up with lame justifications. It was murder and he knew it. It certainly was not done to “protect Isaac.”

Third, the command came direct from God, a deity he knew face-to-face. He did not read it on a cuneiform tablet he had happened to notice that morning. Even if the tablet were to have come from a respected source, that source had been known to get things wrong from time to time.

Fourth, he didn’t end up doing it! If you’re a bishop about to refuse a naming and blessing even though you know it’s wrong, I suppose you’ve passed the test. Expect an angel to order you to change your mind. Happy ending.

Why I am not at church today, or, behold the broken camel

Partially it is because I am very tired, having worked without a weekend off for about a month now. Mostly, though, it is because I feel shattered by the latest policy announcement from Salt Lake and feel compelled by my conscience to register a small token of protest. (In this, I speak for myself, and not for this blog. For those bothered by the policy but still at church today I say go and be the best Mormon you can be.) [Read more…]



And this is why.

On taking over my dad’s collection of stuff

On the 31 May 1964, in the upstairs of a small home he rented with my mum, my father tuned his radio to 6155 khz. Between 18.30 and 18.45 GMT he could hear the radio programming broadcasted by Österreichischer Rundfunk. He subsequently sent a transmission reception report to Austria and received this card in return:IMG_20150914_192126 [Read more…]

Some (more) questions for Public Affairs

BCC has been critical of Public Affairs recently. It is fair to say that emotions have sometimes run regrettably high at times but that is only because the Newsroom wields great public power in Mormonism and some of us feel frustrated when it (in our view) does so clumsily. The following is a genuine attempt to understand the place of the usually excellent Newsroom in LDS life. Answers to the following questions would be very useful.

1. What is the functional difference between a statement signed by the Brethren (e.g. a First Presidency letter) and a Newsroom release, which, we are told, seems to have the de facto approval of the same?

[Read more…]

Memo to the Newsroom: If the real leaders are away, best to keep quiet until they get back

[A few further points now added at the end of the post.]

The poor judgement exercised by some sections of Public Affairs was in evidence during the Kate Kelly affair. It has happened again, this time in the form of one of the most intemperate releases I have read coming from 15 E. South Temple Street. The Newsroom can do better than this.

Herewith some comments on the testy “Church Re-evaluating Scouting Program” statement of 27 July 2015: [Read more…]

Pilgrimage to St. David’s Cathedral, Wales

St. Non's chapel

St. Non’s chapel

The latest pilgrimage organised by the Mormon Society of St. James was to St. Davids* in Wales. Joining the pilgrimage were BCC bloggers Ronan and Jason, Bloggernacle regular Christian, and two micro-Ronans. Herewith a report:

[Read more…]

Encountering the Visible Church on the Pilgrim Ways of Europe

From a talk given at the Education Weekend 2015 in Oxford and adapted from a book currently being wrestled into life: Between Canterbury and Salt Lake: A Christian Journey.

Sarria, Spain

Sarria, Spain

Tonight I want to tell the story of a walk, or rather a series of walks. The story begins right here in the Oxford chapel, but more on that later. [Read more…]

13 things I want my children to know

From a sacrament meeting talk given on Father’s Day.

1. You can support any football you want and retain your father’s favour . . . bar one: Liverpool F.C., a.k.a. the RS. [Read more…]

Gadfield Elm at 175 (+4)

This way to the

This way to the “world’s oldest” Mormon chapel

If by chapel you mean a religious meeting place designated as a “chapel,” then the Gadfield Elm chapel in Worcestershire, England, is the oldest Mormon chapel in the world. Built in 1836 by the United Brethren, the chapel became a Mormon centre in 1840 during Wilford Woodruff’s British mission. Local Mormons — whose restoration of the building and sacred myth-making centred thereon are interesting manifestations of Mormon localism — celebrated today the 175th anniversary of the 1840 conference that established the Mormon church in their area. [Read more…]

Corpus Christi

One of the traps into which religion can fall is that it often makes the thing into the thing signified. There is “God” — theological debates, Del Parson paintings, doctrinal pronouncements, even the scriptures — and there is “God above God,” the noumenal thing that is never quite the phenomenal thing.  [Read more…]

In favour of substitutionary atonement, sort of (a postscript)

Q: Do you believe that Jesus died as a vicarious sacrifice for sin?

A: Yes.

Q: That’s a pretty standard belief. What’s the big deal? [Read more…]

In favour of substitutionary atonement, sort of (2/2)


The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (but only for first century Jews).

If someone were to volunteer to die in place of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, we would not think that justice, nor even mercy, had been served. Show justice — if the death penalty is your thing — by killing him. Show mercy by not killing him. But kill someone else to satisfy the demands of justice? Ridiculous.
[Read more…]

Ascension Day


Mormon Lectionary Project

Ascension Day

Acts 1:1-11Psalm 47; D&C 88:6

The Collect: Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Saviour Jesus Christ descended below all things and ascended above all things that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to see that he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Filmed versions of the Ascension tend to be badly done. The New Testament tells us that “as [the disciples] were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1: 10-11). The literal image of Jesus ascending into the sky may well reflect what happened, but expressing this in art runs the danger of overly reifying what was essentially a mystical experience. One also runs the danger of farce: on his way to heaven, how did Jesus escape the atmosphere? Where is heaven? Is a resurrected body capable of flying? In space? How did he generate lift? Silly.

The BBC/HBO Passion sensibly avoids all this by simply having the ascending Jesus disappear into a crowd in Jerusalem. He is gone but he is also all of us.  [Read more…]

In favour of substitutionary atonement , sort of (1 of 2)

On Palm Sunday our direction turned to the Herodian temple and it is there where it must remain if we are to properly understand Jesus’ atonement. Jesus’ first act in Jerusalem was to visit the temple. With the cursing of the fig tree, the parable of the wicked tenants, and the violent cleansing of its precincts, his rejection of the temple was total and unambiguous. By driving out the money changers he was certainly making a statement about financial corruption in holy places, but more to the point was that by doing so, the rituals of the temple were disrupted. This seems to be the central purpose of Holy Week: Jesus’ acts are an apocalyptic rejection of the Jewish temple and its replacement in his own body. Here he goes beyond the Qumran community who had fled to the desert to await the new temple; Jesus does not wait for God to act, he is God. The temple is symbolically torn down. Note the tearing of the veil at his death.

[Read more…]

The Bloggers’ Tale #Canpilgrim

Day Five: Canterbury to Dover

(Peter) We made it. The first 18 miles or so of the Via Francigena have been trodden by MSSJ pilgrim feet, with we hope many more to come in the next two years. Today we saw sun and rain, a bad fall, a good lunch and the bittersweet conclusion of our short but sweet pilgrimage. Before we scattered to the winds, we met on Dover’s beach, and two of us braved the cold channel waters to finish the trip in a fitting manner.

While plans are still very preliminary, we’re thinking St. Bernard’s pass in Switzerland next year and Rome the year after. Stay tuned to BCC for further details as plans crystallize.

For now I’m off to spend the night in an airport. Safe travels, everyone; I hope to see you soon.

[Read more…]

MLP: Maundy Thursday

Mormon Lectionary Project

Maundy Thursday

Exodus 12:1-4, 11-141 Corinthians 11:23-26John 13:1-17, 31b-35Psalm 116:1, 10-17; 3 Nephi 18:1-9

The Collect: Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he died, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in this holy ordinance gives us a pledge of eternal life. Holiness to the Lord. Amen.

On Palm Sunday our direction was turned to the Herodian temple and it is there where it must remain. Jesus’ first act in Jerusalem was to visit the temple. With the cursing of the fig tree, the parable of the wicked tenants, and the violent cleansing of its precincts, his rejection of the temple was total. By driving out the money changers he was certainly making a statement about financial corruption in holy places, but more to the point was that by doing so, the rituals of the temple were disrupted. This seems to be the central purpose of Holy Week — the apocalyptic rejection of the Jewish temple and its replacement in his own body. Here he goes beyond the Qumran community who had fled to the desert to await the new temple; Jesus destroys it himself. Note the tearing of the veil at his death. [Read more…]

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Matthew 21:1-11Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29, D&C 93:35

The Collect: Heavenly Father: In your love towards the human race you sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross: grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility, and also be made partakers of his atonement; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

On Palm Sunday the Messiah is finally revealed. No more preaching in the Galilean backwaters. No more Messianic Secret. On Palm Sunday, Jesus publicly enacts the prophecy of Zechariah concerning the Messiah: [Read more…]

Jesus Movies for Holy Week

Every year I teach a course on Jesus in film, focusing on the way film has depicted the Passion. We also read the Gospel accounts and find that a comparison of the accounts with the films provokes interesting discussions on religion and art, theology and historicity. These were this year’s films:

Triumphal entry / cleansing of the temple: The Last Temptation of Christ

“You think you’re special? God is not an Israelite!” spits Willem Defoe to Caiaphas after he loses his temper at the temple. This is a remarkable scene in an amazing film and does better than most to explain how Jesus came to be seen as a threat to the established order of things.

[Read more…]

A Short Sermon for Holy Week

Given in Worcester Cathedral, 25.iii.15

The Easter story is not quite what it looks like when first encountered. We have had readings about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem — which I do not think is quite as positive as it sounds — and the painful death of Jesus on the cross, which is certainly not as negative as torture and death would otherwise seem to be.

So, this is my message: Easter is more than it appears to be and I will try to explain how. [Read more…]

Lent III

There is a much arid earth between Egypt and the Promised Land and thus the complaint to Moses sounds reasonable, given the circumstances:

The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst? (Exodus 17).

Here we are a few weeks into Lent and for many of us so many of those good intentions we had back in Egypt are broken. In the wilderness, we have failed. On Ash Wednesday we thought that this Lent would be the one, the one in which spiritual discipline would whisk us all the way to Easter on a cloud of religious glory. Not so, for in our wilderness of Sin, there seems to be no water, despite our hope that things would be different this time. God is right: “This people are wayward in their hearts; they do not know my ways” (Psalm 95). Yes, but that is the way of us, Lord. Have mercy and let the water flow anew. [Read more…]

Final call for Canterbury

4262004_60958_2It’s five weeks and a day before the Canterbury pilgrimage (beginning April 7). A reminder that there are ways to participate that don’t necessarily mean participating in the whole event: join us for food at The George Inn in Southwark, for Evensong at St. Paul’s, for the fireside at BYU London, in walking from Detling to Canterbury via Ashford, or from Canterbury to Dover on the Via Francigena. Go to the event’s page for more details:

Mormon Space Doctrine: A Necessary Embarrassment?

Kolob_CoverI was recently introduced to something called “the Kolob theorem.” It arose in an otherwise sensible Mormon discussion of astronomy and cosmology and was seamlessly introduced into the conversation alongside other theories such as the Big Bang and the multiverse. Its proponents are otherwise normal, well-educated Mormons who generally say sensible things. [Read more…]

Shrove Tuesday/Ash Wednesday



Mormon Lectionary Project: Ash Wednesday

Joel 2:1-2,12-172 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10Matthew 6:1-6,16-21Psalm 103; 2 Nephi 4: 15-35

The Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Like Advent, Lent signals new life on the horizon. Shorn of all the secular trappings of Easter, the beginning of Lent is thus, along with First Advent, perhaps holier than the holiday it precedes. It is a day worth paying attention to, but in doing so, we admit our Anglo-Catholic tendencies. We Protestants (and Mormonism, whatever its doctrinal divergences, is culturally low church Protestant) have had an uneasy relationship with Lent, the 40 days (not counting Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Henry VIII, for example, allowed the eating of dairy products, hitherto forbidden during Lent, in his new English church. The Puritans abolished Lent altogether before it was reinstated by Charles II in 1664. By Victorian times, it had almost disappeared from English custom as one Yorkshireman ruefully noted in 1865: [Read more…]

Magna Carta and Common Consent

Notes for a first Sunday priesthood meeting.

Who or what am I?

  • I dislike fish-weirs on the Medway.
  • I took the advice of Walter, bishop of Worcester.
  • I speak Latin.
  • David Cameron does not know what I mean.
  • I was sealed by the king who lays buried in Worcester cathedral.
  • I am 800 years old this year.
  • I am from Runnymede in Surrey.

[Read more…]

On rights, draw the veil of ignorance

Some thoughts about religious freedom vs. LGBTQ rights. [Read more…]


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