Friday, 4 March 2016

Ann Morisy

Yesterday (3 March 2016) I attended a Lent talk at All Saints, Kingston upon Thames, by Ann Morisy, who is a community, rather than an academic, theologian.  After a deceptively light-hearted introduction of herself as a simple lass from the Bootle Bible Belt, she ranged widely.  She talkedof God as the presence of another in times of vulnerability, of the importance of integrity and accepting integrity.  She had been an active evangelical when young but then moved towards scepticism, via the study of sociology, and Buddhism before returning to the church.  She became a campaigner for women's ordination and as a reward, or punishment, got posted to the ultramontane diocese of London, where she took to studying her conservative opponents as if she were an anthropologist with a curiosity to experience and learn.  As a result she realised her own tendency to 'otherise'.  She developed a scheme to show how the process of otherisation makes religion dangerous.  Opponents - in her case, opponents of women's ordination - are seen as persecutors and collectively guilty leading to exponents - supporters of women's ordination - becoming supremacists and persecutors in their turn, in a vicious cycle.  It was a brave, Christian conclusion for her to come to and reminded me of my own proclivity for taking entrenched positions. An antidote to otherisation is the traditional practice of confessing sin, which induces in one a healthy humility. Morisy talks, less traditionally, of the transgressive power of the Holy Spirit, the power of spiritual practice to move one across boundaries.

She briefly went over some of her other interests: humour as the bizarre return of repressed behaviour; the spirituality of aging and inter-generational inequality; and the importance of acting locally.  On the latter point I felt she had perhaps not quite got the balance right.  We live in a global world and it seems right and possible to have a global perspective while recognising that one's scope to make a difference is largely confined to the local level.  Lobby nationally but act locally, as the Quakers say.  (Although out of my own sense of guilt I feel that lobbying and generating words is more congenial though less productive than actually doing anything).

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