The Lord’s


Penwith Deanery Readers/Lay Ministers’ Newsletter

Issue 9


This very old rose was planted by my grandfather some seventy years ago. Its fragrance is beautiful. I can never pass it without stopping to enjoy what Papa planted. We are blessed by so much that has been lovingly planted in our life’s garden!

I was reminded yesterday when I stopped of this song written by Graham Kendrick in 1986.

May the fragrance of Jesus fill this place. (Men)
May the fragrance of Jesus fill this place. (Women)
May the fragrance of Jesus fill this place. (Men)
Lovely fragrance of Jesus, (Women)
Rising from the sacrifice (All)
Of lives laid down in adoration.

May the glory of Jesus fill His church. (Men)
May the glory of Jesus fill His church. (Women)
May the glory of Jesus fill His church. (Men)
Radiant glory of Jesus, (Women)
Shining from our faces (All)
As we gaze in adoration.

May the beauty of Jesus fill my life. (Men)
May the beauty of Jesus fill my life. (Women)
May the beauty of Jesus fill my life. (Men)
Perfect beauty of Jesus, (Women)
Fill my thoughts, my words, my deeds, (All)
My all I give in adoration.

As we lead and share in Worship, may this be our prayer.

May we be blessed and be a blessing!


(Penwith Deanery Lay Ministers’ Chaplain)

Friday 24th June 2022

Deacons and Priests

As I write this the new Deacons who have their initiation this evening and those to be priested tomorrow are finishing their time at Epiphany house on Silent retreat.  I had the joy and privilege of being their chaplain for the day yesterday – being available for conversation, leading Morning and Evening prayer and acting as Deacon at the lunchtime eucharist service.  I hope the fact that my daughter chose to ring my mobile phone as I spoke the introduction to Morning Prayer (yes, I should have switched it to silent) will be a lasting lesson to them not to do the same. 🙂 

On Tuesday I went to Lis Escop to observe the legally binding promises that group made complete with bewigged lawyer as witness.  It certainly marked the solemnity and importance of what they were undertaking. 

Petertide Ordinations 2022 – Truro Diocese : Truro Diocese – A link to those involved this year. 


Whenever I am involved in these things, be it Chaplain on an Ordinand’s retreat or on the panel for Reader selection it makes me review my own vocation because I have always held the view that vocations evolve over time.  

In a discussion with St Austell Readers recently the fact that both warden and deputy warden are ordained ministers was questioned and why they were not lay positions. Further to that it was suggested that I might take it on!   My thoughts are that the wardens position needs to be held by someone who can action change and not merely talk about it.  My vocation, although it has shifted a bit over the years has always been in support of others, to act as a critical friend where needed and to come up with ideas.  In teaching I was happiest as deputy-head and really did not like my spells as headteacher where I spent far too much time dealing with administration rather than anything to do with the children!   In the church, I love my role as Reader/Licensed Lay Minister because I can support my incumbent, take some of the load and I am in the glorious position of being able to suggests things without being where the buck stops.

Chaplaincy to the Readers 

Our deaneries are all very different in both character and in the distribution of Licensed Lay Ministry.   Previously each deanery had a deanery reader steward, or DRS and that role has now changed to Deanery Chaplains to Readers.  I do wonder if this should be extended to Deanery Chaplains to Lay ministers to include worship leaders and others who hold some sort of diocesan authority.  Graham in St Austell is already inviting worship leaders to take part in their meetings which I think is a good move. 

We are exploring how we might group the deaneries so that ministers are not isolated and without colleagues or a chaplain.  More news on this as it is discussed.  We do have deaneries without anyone and readers who feel called to chaplaincy but are not in that Deanery. 

Please do have a look at the previous post

This came up in a collection of papers had I been sent by A reader called Frank Mitchell who was also a local historian. As a young trainee reader back in 1986 Frank was kind enough to share his wisdom and wide knowledge.  This little snippet from the Truro Diocesan Magazine might just interest you as it did me. 

I received an invitation yesterday from the Archbishop of York… well the archbishops office inviting me to the CRS 100 year celebratory bun fight in York  – which I declined on account of the 6 hour drive

Form the Turo Diocesan Magazine

Dear fellow Readers / Licensed Lay Ministers 

The blog / website will updated during this week with any documents mentioned below.

Reader’s Day prompted questions about a few issues which were then discussed at the Wardens Group Meeting this week.

Where can a Reader Minister?

To avoid any confusion….. I can confirm that all licensed lay ministers, whether they have a full license or still have permission to officiate, may minister outside their own local area by invitation and with permission from their own incumbent.

We briefly discussed whether the same was true for local worship leaders; although we felt that the same rule should apply, we could not find a definitive answer and that is being investigated.

Transforming Ministry Magazine

Having consulted with Readers about how much, or little they read the magazine and whether they would pay for it the cost of £18 per head, is not tenable in the current financial climate especially as over half the respondents either did not read the magazine or only glanced at it. Therefore, the wardens group decided that if Readers want the magazine, they should subscribe for themselves. If any readers find the magazine particularly valuable but find the financial commitment difficult the diocese will provide some bursaries. Anyone in this position should speak to the Deputy Warden or to the Chaplain.

Paperwork and Re-licensing:

All readers will now have to be relicensed every three years and those who currently hold PTO will be fully relicensed when that PTO runs out. The paperwork for this process including the new work agreement / ministerial review has been agreed and will be sent out my Mel Pomeroy from the Admin team as licenses fall due.  I will put finalised copies on the Chaplain’s Website in due course

DBS checks and the renewal of safeguarding training will be integral in re-licensing.



As I sit on the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel (DSAP) I shared a paper on the positives and the problems of safeguarding faced by readers in their local churches. I will share that paper on the blog page.  I do hope that it reflects your feelings and concerns. 

Report for the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel

Reader Handbook:

The Reader Handbook is well out of date and a group has been tasked with updating it.  Readers Handbook – as at 17th October 2013

This will include changes to arrangements for committees and meetings. Some of these changes are detailed in a paper from Bishop Hugh which will also appear in the blog when it has been updated. 2022 May – Readers update summary

Deanery Reader Stewards / Deanery Chaplains to Readers.

It was agreed a while ago that the role of Steward should evolve into the role of Deanery Chaplains, and I am delighted that a few of our new chaplains have taken on the new mantle with effect and enthusiasm. David and John at different ends of the county have been telephoning Readers in their deaneries and Graham in the middle has arranged a programme of discussions and activities.   We are aware that some Readers are fairly isolated in their own areas and the suggestion is that they should be linked to a wider group, for example North and South Carnmarth.   Let me know if you have problems hearing from a local chaplain.

Another Reader has hung up their Blue Scarf:

Andy Duff, who served for 22 years as a Reader in the Churches on the Roseland. Please pray for him and all who have left Reader Ministry in the past 12 months that they will find a new way of serving.

Only four weeks left to watch this interesting view of the Hillsong Ministry.

“God Goes Viral” – a thought-provoking documentary in the BBC Storyville Series.

Ministers in Conversation on ZOOM is on Monday mornings at 10 am

Please join us if you want to share your feelings about any of the issues raised here…. Or if you would like to discuss something theological, political or trivial! 😊



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Emma, Bishop of Lambeth led our first session after morning worship led by Margaret Sylvester-Thorne. Please note that the worship songs have been muted to avoid YouTube Copywrite infringements. 

In Part two of the Reader Day Bishop Hugh sent a video message and some questions to challenge.  This section contains a good deal of interesting discussion between those present – especially in the AGM section and the general feedback / plenary.  

Below is a video participants were encouraged to watch before coming to Reader Day….. worth a watch if you have not seen it already. 

Some people requested the report on Reader Ministry (spoken about by Bishop Hugh)  by the sub-group of the Warden’s Committee

ReaderWPreport (Final) May 2021

Reader Day Chat Comments

10:01:05         From  Emma Ineson : “Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come” (Revelation 4.8).

10:01:39         From  Emma Ineson : : “He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (3.11).

10:03:01         From  Emma Ineson : “Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart,” (Deuteronomy 8.2)

10:03:42         From  Emma Ineson : ‘A Christianity that seeks the Lord among the ruins of the past and encloses him in the tomb of habit is a Christianity without Easter’.

10:05:51         From  Emma Ineson : 15While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ 19He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place..’

10:08:24         From  Emma Ineson : will power and way power

10:09:50         From  Emma Ineson : Proverbs 13.12 says: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”.

10:13:05         From  Emma Ineson : We had hoped ….

10:14:54         From  Jim : to meet in person….. but found the joys of zoom

10:15:28         From  Sandy Massie : … to be further On The Way and have a better idea of the destination. (Kerrier)

10:15:46         From  Claire Salzmann : we wouldn’t seek to return to ‘normal’, but reach for ‘newness’

10:16:02         From  Lydia Remick : Amen Claire.

10:16:31         From  Lydia Remick : … for more openness to lay ministries where they are not yet being utilised

10:16:56         From  David Watters : To learn from the disappointments of the pandemic and bring that to a newness ……

10:17:03         From  Claire : for our missing generations to reach for God

10:17:16         From  Tony : to help ‘bottle stoppers’ out of the bottle!

10:17:19         From  Tim Symonds : That the leaders of the church would call our nation to repentance because we have gone so far away from God as a nation. ‘If my people…2 Chron 7:14

10:17:29         From  Martin Smith : to support what is and find ways for what will be.

10:17:31         From  ann kerridge : that I could have  more confidence in church leaders

10:18:04         From  Sandy Massie : Amen to 2 Chron 7.14!

10:20:39         From  Emma Ineson : “thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity.”

10:21:02         From  Emma Ineson : followers “to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.”

10:23:58         From  Emma Ineson : a church of missionary disciples

10:25:27         From  Emma Ineson : younger and more diverse

10:26:40         From  Emma Ineson : mixed ecology of church is the norm

10:31:53         From  Emma Ineson : 1 Peter 1: 3-7 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, 7so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed

10:33:12         From  Emma Ineson : “Hope remains central not as something that we deserve, but as something that we are given … Hope cannot be separated from the life that Jesus offers in his death and resurrection.  It is not based on wishful thinking, fantasy, hyperbole, or any propaganda promoted by the empire or those pretending to have God’s authority. Neither does such hope ever reduce to mere optimism, as if it were like a secular hope for good weather or the success of one’s football team. It is instead secure and anchored in God.  This is the biblical mark of hope; it is always characterised by God’s assured redemptive future already reaching out towards us, yet never in our grasp by skill or power. Faithful hope, living hope, is refined and strengthened, rather than subverted, by the experience of trials and suffering”.

10:35:14         From  Emma Ineson : We live the past according to our faith; we live the present according to our love; we live the future according to our hope’

10:35:58         From  Emma Ineson : : “We have hope that …”

10:52:56         From  David Watters : STP is a group who want things to be as they were in the past1

10:58:09         From  Wendy Earl : Hear hear Michael!


11:31:29         From  Lydia Remick   to   Jim(Direct Message) : We need to get AD Paul up to speed with some things as he says the same about LWLs only working in their area which is not right.

11:43:55         From  Sally Piper :

11:59:05         From  Gaynor Sutton : Apologies everyone, I have to leave at 12 – many thanks for today

12:00:16         From  Lydia Remick   to   Jim(Direct Message) : Hi Jim, I have a LWL event on everyday faith in Saturday and on the back on what Hugh is saying it feels right to invite LLMs

12:14:31         From  Jim : How do you respond to the phrase ‘Readers are Community Ministers who teach, preach and enable everyday Christian faith’? How about the phrase ‘Community theologians for everyday faith’?

12:40:35         From  Lydia Remick :

12:40:40         From  Lydia Remick : second group down

12:43:24         From  Sandy Massie : Is a copy of the Report available to all?

12:43:57         From  Jim : I will send out the link again

12:47:15         From  Claire   to   Jim(Direct Message) : Hi JIm, can you let me know who the DRC is for Bodmin and Trigg Minor? Many thanks Claire C

12:50:59         From  Lydia Remick : 

Some of the issues raised:

Mixed messages about where Licensed Lay Minister were allowed to preach and lead worship.

* The lack of consistency in educating congregations and indeed Lay Ministers for Holy Communion by Extension. It is really important to read the policy document below! 

Links to the training materials that should be used are here:

  1. The Eucharist (Book 6) (
  2. CbE in DoT policy Letter CbE 060721 Training – liturgy Training – service order AC-Principles-of-Canon-Law
  3. Letter CbE 060721
  4. Training – liturgy
  5. Training – service order
  6. AC-Principles-of-Canon-Law

The need to update the Reader Handbook and whether the AGM for Readers was necessary. 

The Handbook:

People in Post:

A note of who is in post:


  1. WARDEN : +Hugh
  2. DEPUTY WARDEN: Rev Canon Paul
  4. CHAPLAIN – Jim
  5. MINUTE SEC. Margaret
  6. EVENTS Coordinator: Claire

Wardens Group:

  1. Warden +Hugh
  2. Deputy Warden Rev Paul
  3. Chaplain: Jim
  4. Director of  Training – Rev Jane
  5. Post Licensing  Tutor – Martin
  6. Lay Ministry Team: Lydia
  7. Ministry Team; Sally Piper
  8. Diocesan Admin Team: Mel
  9. Plus
    invited  specialists where needed


114 CV                                          Thought for the Day – Easter IV



Evensong: Readings

Acts ch.9, vv36-end

John ch.12, vv20-26


The Lectionary has requested that the reading from Acts should be read at the principal service, and as Evensong is St.Michaels’ principal service I have included in place of the OT reading.

The reading from John describes an encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees and their adherents.  It was during the Festival of Dedication, or Festival of Lights during November – December.  The crowd pressed Jesus to declare whether he was the Messiah.  Jesus was quite explicit, and concluded with the declaration – I and the Father are one”.  It didn’t go down terribly well.  Faced with the choice Jesus lays before us, do we follow him (to coin a familiar phrase), or do we stick with how our lives have been shaped and what we know for certain.  The Jews stuck with what they had been told and what they knew.

I remember Tabitha, or Dorcas in the reading from Acts from an unsuspected source.  British Railways bought some very expensive diesel locomotives, and the first was to be named ceremonially.  On learning of the name, the GM said that it should have been Dorcas.  Why?  Because it was full of good works.  (Groan – Ed) 

The story of the raising of Tabitha is charming, as is the story of the healing of the lame man in Ch.3.  The Book of Acts was almost certainly written by Luke as a second part of his Gospel, and it describes the acts of both Peter and Paul in response to the command of Jesus at his Ascension.    Both men were the means of miracles, and in a sense they continued to be taught and led by Jesus in spirit.  The Gospels take us from the earliest times to the Passion, the end of Jesus’ earthly life. 

The Book of Acts takes us, uniquely, from Jesus’ Ascension forward into the first century AD.  The question that teases the mind is when and how Luke gathered his information.   And from whom.  What Luke tells us is unique.  It is the only record we have of the miraculous deeds worked through the faiths of Peter and Paul.  It is enormously valuable, detailing Peter’s post-Ascension ministry, and Paul’s journeys.  The narrative of Acts, which is thought to have been written between 80 and 90AD, contains quite detailed information on the events.  It suggests to me that for many years before embarking on his Gospel, Luke kept quite a lot of written records of the work of the Apostles which informed his Gospel and Acts. 

The alternative suggestion is that Luke had a remarkably long memory for detail and chronology which of course is quite possible.  Whichever it may be, it is clear that our debt to St. Luke is beyond value and we give thanks for his words. 

We continue to pray for peace in this world, especially in Ukraine, and the other parts of this violent world obscured from us for the time being by the barbarity and inhumanity of the Russian leader.  We give thanks for what we are given in love and faith, and we remember those suffering, or alone, or who are just a dear memory.


Illustrations:  St.Peter and the Raising of Tabitha.

                     St. Luke, by Guernica.

Rick Cowdery, an LLM with the Diocese’s Saltash Hub, is taking the Christian Aid 300,000 Steps in May Challenge for Christian Aid.

For more than 70 years, Christian Aid has been standing with the poorest of our neighbours. They work in 37 countries to stand up for dignity, equality and justice.

Everyone is equal in the sight of God.

Yet we live in a world where poverty still persists.

Poverty is an outrage against humanity. It robs people of their dignity and lets injustice thrive.


However, together, we have the power to transform lives.

Step by step.

Together, we can create a world where everyone can live.

Step by step.

Together, we can restore justice to our world.

Step by step.

Rick has set up a JustGiving page at where you can, if you feel so moved, chuck a few spare coppers to help some of your poor neighbours. Some are closer than you maybe think.

Thank you.

#CAW #300Ksteps

Watch out for emails like this one from me or anyone who is likely to be on the diocesan, or other public data base. 

Note that although this says it comes from me- the address is definitely not mine…. the link it leads to probably will attempt to load something suspicious onto your device, or computer. 

This type of scam is called clone phishing. I first came across it last year with fake emails from my Rector. Now my name has been used.

It is different to hacking, where the criminal guesses your password and takes over your real account. 

This is a safeguarding issue for all the folks in our churches who use email and might inadvertently click on a link sent in an email of this sort and find their computers, bank accounts and email accounts compromised.  

Please be vigilant and pass on the warning. It could be your name that is used…. or you may be the person duped into clicking that link!

113 CV                  Thought for the Day – St. Philip and St. James and Easter III

 by Didymus

No Evensong: Readings

Isaiah ch.40, vv27-end

Acts ch.9, vv1-22

John ch.12, vv20-26


As Easter floats away into the recent past, having remembered St. Mark, we now remember both St. Philip and St. James.  Remembering people from the past, be they described as saints or not, is important.  They gave their lives both spiritually and often literally for the faith of Jesus Christ, a faith which we carry forward in our lives.  Or should.

The risk is that it encourages the church to live in the past – which much of it does (about 200 years at least – Ed) – but we must always look forward, as I am sure they would have us do. The celebration of the two saints is transferred to tomorrow.

As there are at least six known Jameses in the Bible, we need to know which we are remembering.  James is an Anglicisation of Jacob, the Hebrew name meaning “heel-catcher”.  This strange name was given to Jacob, as he was born after his brother Esau, “on his heels” as one might say.  The most eminent James was the son of Zebedee, James the Great, brother of St. John the Apostle, remembered on July 25th (Wait awhile, St. Kew! – Ed).

James the Younger, (or more unkindly, “the Lesser”, probably due to his height) was a Disciple, spoken of as the son of Alphaeus.  Carefully avoiding the complex world of genealogy, the Disciple Matthew was known as Levi and described as the son of Alphaeus, which suggests that they were related in some way, perhaps cousins or even brothers  This James was also linked with the rather anonymous Disciple Thaddeus, possibly from the same family group.  Little is known about James’ life and work.  Clopas, who was one of the men on the road to Emmaus, had a son who was called James, and Jesus had a half-brother named James, but there is no evidence to connect either with this James, the Younger.

St. Philip was a Disciple that we know a little more about.  He was originally a disciple of John the Baptist, and left to follow Jesus.  It is likely that Philip was the unnamed companion to Andrew, who left John the Baptist at his bidding, and followed Jesus.  Later he introduced Jesus to his friend, the acerbic Nathaniel, whose initial scepticism turned to enthusiasm on hearing Jesus’ words.  Philip was the Disciple who was given the staggering task of feeding the 5,000, and could not.  Imagine his perplexity on hearing Jesus say, in effect, “All right.  Tell the people to sit down.”  Imagine also his wonder at seeing the miracle unfold before his eyes. 

Later, in his ch.12 John records Philip being approached by some Greeks who wished to see Jesus.  It is a curious three verses, and no conversation is recorded: instead Jesus appears to be reflecting on the coming of his Passion.  Philip again appears in the very important Ch.14, when Jesus talks about the future in terms that the Disciples must have found difficult.  Philip appeals to Jesus to show them The Father, drawing a stunning reply, paraphrased:-

“Philip how long have you known me?  Do you not realise that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father?  If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

Amazing words indeed.


St. Philip must not be confused with Philip the Deacon, one of the seven good men chosen or ordained if you prefer, as evangelists, people who spread the good tidings of Jesus Christ.  Philip the Deacon was tried by a Pharisee court, and stoned to death.

I have lengthened the reading from Acts to describe the Conversion of Paul in full.  There is no point in offering a fragment of a story, particularly for visitors, for whom it will be meaningless.  Far better to tell the whole story. 

In due course I will bring the weekly parts of the Raising of Lazarus into one reading.  We come to church to worship and hear the word, so let’s do it properly.



* Means “Proper job” in Cornish.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Stupidity
A warning and an encouragement for 21st-century Christians?

FROM: Martin Adams (Reader in St Illogan Parish)
I recently came across the following article by Dietrich Bonhoeffer; and
immediately was struck that the points he was making in the closing
years and months of World War II are scarcely less relevant for Christians
today. Anyone who goes to the trouble of reading this might wish to
read Bonhoeffer’s words before mine. The article is below, at the end.
Many of the tensions wracking the Church of Jesus Christ today — not
just the Church of England, but most institutional churches in the West
and in the English-speaking world — have arisen through attempts,
especially over the last 50 years or so, to accommodate the Church’s
mission to the precepts of identity politics. It is inevitable, and even
necessary, that a church in a particular time and place will reflect the
cultural and other characteristics of that society; and that point is a
major preoccupation of a classic of late 20th-century Christian thought,
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (SPCK, 1989), by Lesslie Newbigin (1909–
1998). Among the the central ideas that Newbiggin tackles head-on are
the necessity for a Christian to: 1) exercise discernment about the culture
in which he or she is living; 2) be willing to let go of cherished cultural
and other presuppositions, ideas and practices that are not central to the
Gospel; 3) prioritise the core teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
while seeking, as much as possible, to find an accommodation that will
enable the believer to work effectively in that society as a disciple of
Jesus Christ, especially in the Church’s main purpose in the world —
Here, I do not wish to attack identity politics beyond mentioning one
most-fundamental point. A central tenet of Judeo-Christian teaching for
the last 2000 and more years has been that we are all made in the image
of God, are therefore all equal in that most-basic sense, and that equality
before God should be the basis of our behaviour one to another. On that
idea, universally declared throughout scripture, have rested most of the
Church’s words and actions that have sought to tackle injustices of all
kinds. Those actions have sometimes been too slow, sometimes
christians have perpetuated injustices; but that equality before God
stands as a fundamental aspect of His love for the whole world. (John
3:16, for example)

Identity politics does the opposite. It identifies injustices or other things
that might need to be remedied or ameliorated; but it does so by
concentrating on what divides us — black or white, slave or free, male
or female, rich or poor, etc. — and it understands these differences by
claiming to identify those who have power and those who do not. It
places the remedies in the hands of people, not in the hands of God. Its
ideologies have an inexorable tendency to seep into all areas of life,
affecting education (and not just higher education, where so much of it
was born and is nourished), government policies and the general
institutions of state and society. Unfortunately, the church (not just the
Church of England) is far from immune to such infection; and because
of that it often fails to identify the true nature of the language and ideas
that it is absorbing. We (for none of us is immune to this) see what we or
others think of as an injustice; we see the attempt to deal with it; and we
jump on the bandwagon without realising the ungodly nature of the
ideas that seek to produce a remedy. An ungodly idea cannot produce a
godly remedy.

Finally, if Christians accept, even unconsciously, an ideology that
concentrates on what divides us, that acceptance inevitably undermines
the ability to live out and to rest soundly on that most basic grounding
of faithful discipleship. Our identity is in Christ; and that identity is far,
far more important than anything the world has to offer. The scriptures
are full of this, but some of the more obvious statements to that effect are
in 1 Corinthians 7:23, Colossians 2:20, and Galatians 3:28.
Bonhoeffer, and the Church in Germany during the first half of the 20th
century, were confronted with an identitarian ideology infinitely worse
than contemporary identity politics. In the following article, written
while he was in prison because he refused to obey the Nazi authorities,
is mainly concerned with the effects of Nazi ideology on his fellow
countrymen, and with the stultifying effect Nazi power had on most of
the German people including, most sadly, a large part of the Church.
Finally, one should note that the definition of stupidity that I (and I
think Bonhoeffer) have in mind is “Behaviour that shows a lack of good
sense or judgement” (OED). So the question I keep asking myself about
this entire subject is, “Am I being stupid?” I have no enduring yardstick
against which to make a Christian assessment of that, except the
writings of scripture, of the Church’s historical wisdom, and of godly
men and women I know or know of.
Over the last few weeks I have sought to understand better why I sense
that Bonhoeffer’s distinction between stupidity and malice is relevant to
the church’s position today, vis-à-vis the fundamentally ungodly nature
of contemporary identity politics. In particular I have been considering
the following points (mainly his, partly mine).

1) “[Stupidity] . . . is in essence not an intellectual defect but a human one.
There are human beings who are of remarkably agile intellect yet stupid, and
others who are intellectually quite dull yet anything but stupid.”

2) “The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital
defect, but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or that
they allow this to happen to them.”
This is central, for it suggests that stupidity is something into
which we can all fall; but that there is a remedy.

3) “The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the
fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels
that one is dealing not at all with a person, but with slogans, catchwords and
the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused,
and abused in his very being.”
These were the sentences that jumped out to me most on my first
reading of Bonhoeffer’s article. They jumped out because I have long
been troubled at the tendency for those who espouse identity politics,
regardless of party-political associations, to talk in slogans — usually to
one another because that is how they become convinced of their own
righteousness. All too often, it is impossible to hold a conversation; and
having spent my entire working life in academia, I know this at first

4) Finally, Bonhoeffer declares the only way to liberate people from
their stupidity:
“The word of the Bible that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom
declares that the internal liberation of human beings to live the responsible life
before God is the only genuine way to overcome stupidity.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer and six other major figures in the resistance against
Nazism (several of them Christians) were executed on the specific order
of Hitler in Flossenbürg Concentration Camp (Bavaria) on 9th April
1945 — less than a month before the war’s end.
* * * *

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
‘Letters and Papers from Prison’

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 8. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press,
2010, pp. 43–44.

On Stupidity
Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may
protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of
force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that
it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity
we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything
here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply
need not be believed — in such moments the stupid person even becomes
critical — and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as
inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the
malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes
dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for
than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid
person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.
If we want to know how to get the better of stupidity, we must seek to
understand its nature. This much is certain, that it is in essence not an
intellectual defect but a human one. There are human beings who are of
remarkably agile intellect yet stupid, and others who are intellectually quite
dull yet anything but stupid. We discover this to our surprise in particular
situations. The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a
congenital defect, but that, under certain circumstances, people are made
stupid or that they allow this to happen to them. We note further that people
who have isolated themselves from others or who live in solitude manifest
this defect less frequently than individuals or groups of people inclined or
condemned to sociability. And so it would seem that stupidity is perhaps less
a psychological than a sociological problem. It is a particular form of the
impact of historical circumstances on human beings, a psychological
concomitant of certain external conditions. Upon closer observation, it
becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere,
be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind
with stupidity. It would even seem that this is virtually a sociologicalpsychological
law. The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The
process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the
intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the
overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner
independence, and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an
autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the
stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not
independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing
not at all with a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have
taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in
his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will
also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is
evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can
once and for all destroy human beings.
Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not
instruction, can overcome stupidity. Here we must come to terms with the
fact that in most cases a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only
when external liberation has preceded it. Until then we must abandon all
attempts to convince the stupid person. This state of affairs explains why in
such circumstances our attempts to know what ‘the people’ really think are in
vain and why, under these circumstances, this question is so irrelevant for the
person who is thinking and acting responsibly. The word of the Bible that the
fear of God is the beginning of wisdom declares that the internal liberation of
human beings to live the responsible life before God is the only genuine way
to overcome stupidity.
But these thoughts about stupidity also offer consolation in that they utterly
forbid us to consider the majority of people to be stupid in every
circumstance. It really will depend on whether those in power expect more
from people’s stupidity than from their inner independence and wisdom.