I am not sure whether to call myself a Christian, a Humanist or a Christian Humanist. What I do know is that over forty plus years of professional life, human interaction has fascinated me and human wellbeing is what I have tried – not always successfully – to facilitate.
In the mid 1970’s I joined the Anglican Franciscan Order (SSF) to test my vocation to the Religious life. After four years I came to the point of needing to make the decision whether this was for life or not. ‘Not’ was what both I and the Order decided. From there I went to Theological College and was ordained in 1981.
During the following years I became increasingly interested in human psychology and, in particular, the interface between psychology and religion. Whilst working as a parish priest I trained as a counsellor with Relate, and at the end of the 1980’s did a degree in psychology and religion. Following this I spent a number of years training in psychotherapy, both Jungian and with the Human Givens Institute. During these years I worked in Chaplaincy and also as an organisational consultant in a NHS Trust. During this time I was a member of several professional psychological bodies and practiced as a psychotherapist. The article Christ as Archetype available on this website, was originally written for Self and Society, the journal of the Association for Humanistic Psychology.
What I grow increasingly convinced of is the need for humanity to let go of (or at least sit lightly to) its ‘ologies’ ‘isms’ ‘anities’ or any other grouping that claims exclusive knowledge and prescriptive rites or practices. Religion is of course renowned for dividing the ‘sheep from the goats’, every practitioner believing that they, of course, are among the sheep not the goats! But psychology is equally guilty of ‘denominational sectarianism’, often with long established therapeutic techniques being as dogmatic as anything religion can produce.
For me as a (Christian Humanist, I think), and as a priest, the life of Jesus of Nazareth is central. It is central, not because I believe all of the gospel stories are literally true – far from it. His life and the myths woven round him, show that in a human life – a fully human life – we have a paradigm for what it is to live in a truly humane way. The second century bishop, Irenaeus, said: “The glory of God is a human being who is fully alive”. This must surely be the ultimate aim of us all, for ourselves and for others, to be ‘fully alive’. This state has been variously called ‘enlightenment’, being ‘born again’, ‘finding congruence’ or ‘individuation’.
To me the names do not matter, nor do the ‘ologies’ matter except in as much as they often constrain us rather than liberate us. I remain a Christian priest, not because I’m willing to believe the unbelievable, but because in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, I see a man worth emulating, a man who was fully human and fully alive. It’s what I would like to be, and it’s what I like to help others become – if that’s what they want.
I currently live in West London; I’m married to Ruth who is a writer, broadcaster and facilitator. We have two grown-up children.