Counter-cultural Cranmer?

Those who can vote in the current General Synod elections have this week received something from a group calling itself ‘CounterCulturalChurch’. This is a reaction to two emails from another loose grouping, ‘InclusiveOxford’, which I have supported. The full text of that ‘CounterCulturalChurch’ message is at the end of this blog post.

There are many, many questions raised by their insistence that the church “has always been called to be counter-cultural”. Some of these are matters of historical fact; in the early church – the period about which I know most – the relationship between the message of the church and that of Roman imperial culture is hardly so simple. I suppose you could get around that by stressing “called”: the church has not always listened, when called. Other questions are contemporary. What exactly is ‘culture’ saying, today? That women should give up their jobs and stay at home? That women should be included at all levels of society and paid equally? That transphobia is acceptable, or that people who are gay should be assaulted? Or that it’s fine to be trans or gay or both? Which ‘culture’ are we called to ‘counter’?  

But as a historian, I am also disturbed by the email’s statement that “Cranmer wrote these prophetic words: ‘What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies’”.  

Because, quite simply, he didn’t.  

It doesn’t take much effort to find out that the words are not those of Cranmer, but of Ashley Null; see for example here. It’s “not a direct quote from Cranmer”, as noted here, and it’s only on ‘Quote sites’ that it is attributed to Cranmer himself, as here. You can easily find out more about Ashley Null and his work on Cranmer, for example here, but the writers of the email don’t seem to be interested in him.  

Why a “Cranmer quote”? As it happens, I included a chapter on ‘Hippocrates in quotes’ in a book I wrote about the history of creating one’s own version of Hippocrates in order to promote a drug or a method of healing. The whole book is open-access, online, here. I noted there that “Quotations give the impression of knowledge without the hard work of reading the rest of the text from which they are taken.” They are often lifted out of context, altered or even created from scratch by their receivers. An Internet quote has various features, some of which are more or less specific to the electronic medium; the quote is usually presented as something someone ‘said’ rather than ‘wrote’, it is noteworthy and repeatable, and it has an implicit meaning that is largely taken for granted, so it needs no explanation or commentary. It is not just presented with no context; the very concept of there being a greater text is absent. “Hippocrates quotes” commonly give no date and no title of the text from which they are supposed to originate.  

But this “Cranmer quote” is even worse – it is very simple to find that these are not words which he wrote! So, why Cranmer? I think I’ve worked out why whoever wrote this message wanted to include his name. I suspect it goes back to the advice issued by CEEC and EGGS to their candidates for Synod, discussed here: in essence, try to sound like an Anglican. Thomas Cranmer: just saying his name means you are a proper Anglican. Or, not.      

The email:
You will have received two emails from ‘Inclusive Church’ so to find some balance here’s an email from a group of candidates who, united around Jesus’ teaching, want to achieve pretty much everything ‘Inclusive Church’ wishes to but without being swept along by culture by redefining marriage.
The church, if true to the Gospel, has always been called to be counter-cultural.  The church, as a lifeboat, should be in the sea but when the sea gets into the lifeboat we’re in trouble.  This is the predicament we’re in now.
Cranmer wrote these prophetic words: “What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies” but we, the candidates listed below, promise to uphold the truth as revealed in scripture. 
As John Stott said: “Truth becomes hard if not softened by love;
Love becomes soft if not strengthened by truth”
.  We – a broad coalition of orthodox clergy and lay people – commit to holding grace and truth in balance so please prayerfully consider voting for us:
Andrew Atherstone, Johnny Dade, Martin Khurt, Joy Mawdesley, Kevin Mentzel, Jeremy Moodey, Will Pearson-Gee, Kate Pellereau, Vaughan Roberts and David Walker.
Andrew Bell, Gracy Crane, Prudence Dailey, Andrew Gibson, David Horrocks Helen Lamb, Andy Marshall, Daniel Matovu, Olly Shaw and Jacob Wigley.
The deadline to vote is this Friday at midnight. Don’t miss it!
Yours in Christ,
[This is the first and last email you’ll receive from us.]

About fluff35

I blog on a range of subjects arising from various aspects of my life. On, I focus on my reactions to early retirement and think about aspects of teaching and research which I hope will be stimulating to those still working in higher education. On, I blog as an authorized lay preacher in a pretty standard parish church of the Church of England, who needs to write in order to find out what she thinks. I took part in the Oxford/St Albans/Armed Forces C of E 'Shared Conversations' in March 2016, worked on the Living in Love and Faith resources from 2017 and was elected to General Synod in October 2021, and continue to try to reflect on some of the issues. On I share my thoughts on various aspects of the history of medicine and the body. I have also written for The Conversation UK on
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3 Responses to Counter-cultural Cranmer?

  1. Pingback: Opinion – 9 October 2021 | Thinking Anglicans

  2. Pingback: Back on General Synod after all these years… | sharedconversations

  3. Pingback: Forty years of foreplay: before the February 2023 General Synod | sharedconversations

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