A sad goodbye – another influential Christian blogger calls it a day, but do we care?

Peter Ould FundamentalsIt was with great sadness that I read yesterday’s post by the Rev. Peter Ould on his Exercise in the Fundamentals of Orthodoxy blog. Peter has announced that after eight years he will be shutting down the website.

This is a significant loss to the Christian blogging community in the UK. Peter’s is one of the biggest and most influential Christian bloggers in this country, writing with great intelligence and wisdom on issues relating to Christianity, politics, the Church of England, occasionally Doctor Who and in particular sexual identity. Peter describes himself as post-gay and his extensive thinking and application of the Bible to the whole area of homosexuality from a conservative Christian perspective has been incredibly helpful for me in gaining a better understanding of how all Christians and churches can be more affirming and loving of all people irrespective of their sexuality whilst staying obedient to God.

Since I began blogging two and a half years ago we have said goodbye to The Church Mouse, Stuart James at eChurch and now Peter Ould; three of the most consistently high quality, prolific and widely read Christian bloggers. Each provided a valuable contribution to the online presence of Christians and even though some excellent new blogs have sprung up in the meantime (Law & Religion UK and Psephizo), their absence still is and will be felt

If you look across the pond to America there is a vibrant Christian blogging community. The most well known bloggers such as Ann Voskamp, Tim Challies and Rachel Held Evans are pretty much able to write full time and earn a living in the process. They are just as influential as famous US Church pastors and some have a growing following in the UK too.

Of course the Christian population in the US is considerably larger than here in the UK and churches and ministries are vastly better funded. The contrast though is stark. For example, Rend Collective who are arguably the best and biggest Christian band hailing from the UK have been living on peanuts until recently struggling to get by, despite touring extensively. For the small number of serious Christian bloggers here the thought of earning a living through your work is fantasy. Instead it’s the opposite. Most bloggers have full time jobs and families. The blogging has to fit round these and the expense of keeping a website going comes out of your own pocket. Like the Apostle Paul, who made tents to fund his own ministry, so writing a blog, even one as widely read as Archbishop Cranmer’s which will have over 100,000 views a month, can come at a great personal cost in terms of time, money and energy.

It’s no surprise writers who have so much to bring to the table get exhausted and reach the point of having had enough.

I suppose the point of this post is to ask the question, ‘Do we care?’ Is the online presence of Christians through blogs and social media of any great value? Would it make any difference if Christian comment was reduced back to The Church Times, the Catholic Herald and Christianity Magazine plus one or two other publications as it was pre-internet? Are these new forms of Christian witness worth investing in?

In an age where we have 24-hour news and religion is regularly hitting the headlines, who is going to provide a voice when Christianity is misrepresented or belittled? Who can provide intelligent analysis from a Christian perspective and occasionally set the agenda rather than just reacting to it? Peter Ould, through his blog and also his media work has been able to do this and it is more than a shame to lose his contribution.

I’m not doing this as a request for donations. No one is forcing me or others to do what we do and I expect nothing in return, but I am also thinking about the direction that social media, alongside the traditional forms of media are heading and how the Church engages with them and provides a presence that will allow our faith to be in the mix rather than edged to the sidelines. I believe there is much potential for Christianity to influence and impact our society in this way, but when the pioneers and prophets struggle to keep going it makes that job all the more harder.

Categories: Blogging, Faith in society

Tags: , , ,

22 replies

  1. Whilst your concerns are understandable my initial reaction is “don’t worry” and “the Lord will provide.” If blogs such as this are of value in the work of the Kingdom (and I believe that they do!) then I have confidence that the “prophets” will arise. What we do not need is peopel stepping into the breech just because the gap is there. There are some great Christian bloggers about but a proliferation does not necessarily increase quality – quite the reverse perhaps as has been demonstrated by the multiplicity of TV channels.

    In the meantime though (assuming that you still believe this is what God wants you to do) please keep up the good work!

  2. Some really good and important thoughts here.

    I’ve no doubt the gaps will be filled as time goes on. I think the turnover of bloggers is bound to be much faster than magazines.

    So I’m not too worried about the UK blogosphere totally disappearing. But I do wish there was the ‘market’ in the UK for bloggers to put out content which earns them a living. Perhaps there will be in time, but right now it seems unlikely.

    All that to say…keep up the good work Gillan! Readers probably don’t encourage bloggers as much as they should do. The culture is too often commenting when you disagree and saying nothing when you agree!

  3. That’s very sad Gillan – I particularly miss the eChurch blog. Ann Voskamp is extraordinarily talented and I think she thrives (she admits on her website ‘the poor have made me rich’).

    Your blog is a must-read because it’s balanced, gives many the opportunity to speak and you also have the integrity to write an ad-free blog.

    It’s very hard to make a living as a writer of any kind. I have part-time work which brings in far much more money than any writing that I do. As a skill I still think writing is largely undervalued. For example, I walked into an employment agency today and told the people there that I’m a qualified writer and I was met with blank, eerie stares – as if to ask ‘Okay, you write, but do you have any useful skills?’

    There are very few opportunities for bloggers who want to write on anything except a voluntary basis. This can bring a freedom with it, in that many bloggers, Christian and non-Christian will not be silenced by the need to please advertisers. But as you know, we all face huge pressures in what we write – and these pressures are not always to do with advertisers – sometimes they are about not alienating our audiences. And you can’t really ignore the fact that we live in an over-competitive society and that this also influences Christians.

    As long as we keep our integrity I think we are pleasing God whether we thrive or simply survive (and I admit that I tend to survive better than thrive (the proof of this is that I’m still alive) (I think) (am I?) (I don’t know anymore! Help!!!!)).

    Seriously though, keep going, your blog is really good.

  4. For David and me at any rate, blogging has to fit round family and work commitments. And the expense of keeping a website going does indeed come out our own pockets: we’ve just had to pay for quite extensive work on the site after it got corrupted. We’ve mulled over the possibility of accepting advertising (we could probably make a little money at it because we’ve now got a big enough “back catalogue” to get about 250 views a day) – only to reject it. Part of the reason is just natural antipathy and part is that (for me at least, but I’m sure David would agree) I’d prefer to be free to say what I think without the fear that I might offend a potential advertiser. Anyway, we aim to be a serious academic blog – and anyone who expects to make money out of writing for academia needs his or her head examining.

    In addition, however, I don’t think I’d like to be a full-time professional blogger because if I didn’t have a day-job to relate it to (even, in my case, a part-time one) I’d end up writing into a vacuum; and I fear that the resulting posts might become completely divorced from reality – even as it is, I’m conscious that they sometimes have more than a hint of anorak about them. So the day-job helps the blog and vice versa; and every now and then something that started life as a blog post gets cannibalised for a formal academic piece for publication. So I reckon there’s still room in the blogosphere for amateurs (in the older sense as well as the newer one).

    Finally, I’m sad to see Peter go, even though I rarely agree with what he writes. Part of the importance of the blogosphere is that it exposes one to a range of opinions of which one might be otherwise unaware. And it would be a very dull world if we agreed with each other all the time.


    PS: And thanks for the kind reference to the blog.

  5. Imho, the answer to all your four questions is “Yes”! All serious in-depth bloggers such as yourself are greatly valued by regular readers and help to question and discuss important issues and thus stretch us. So I want to thank and encourage every blogger to continue.

    At heart the Christian blogger is communicating their life in Christ and thus evangelising in an intimate one-to-one way – as well as teaching to some degree or other from expertise and experience. My own areas of interest have engendered some surprising contacts and great appreciation from those whom I could help personally.

    Having taken early retirement I’m fortunate to be ‘re-fired’ and have slots of daytime to get into the destiny I missed when aged eight. Even so, ‘tapping time’ has to be kept tight and articles concise, more so than I’d like.

    So, if you’re like me and got to download the brainbox, then write, write and write more as and when one can. And if it’s a calling from the Lord, then it’s right to serve in His sight and more right as He provides the insights. Our cyber soul-mates are sadly missed, yet more will respond to the Spirit’s inner urge – it’s rather a microcosm of life within the wider body of Christ.

  6. I have also followed Peter’s blog and will miss his valuable contribution.As you said, he is especially equipped to contribute to the debate about gay identity and his posts and photos of his children are a wonderful testimony to his personal life.
    I know many others also value his contribution and this was shown yesterday in the responses to Peter’s post about his decision to say farewell to blogging.
    You mentioned other bloggers – I also follow Alastair Roberts and also the ‘Mere Fidelity’ podcast recently set up by him and his blogger friends.
    I feel encouraged by your final paragraph and have faith in the work of the Holy Spirit in equipping and guiding us – often in ways we could never have thought possible!

  7. Thank you, Gillan, for all your stimulating blogs, I would not be without them.
    For an answer, without hesitation, the church should offer funding to Christian bloggers through their Communications department – and yes, I can see the possible reservations about accepting such funding, but there should be no strings beyond the initial offer (clearly if that were abused, the funding, and access could be stopped).
    The church is so incredibly bad about communicating *any* good news – THE Good News – that this would encourage a wider spread of contact points. It would be good to continue the discussion!

  8. I will definitely miss Peter’s blog, as it has been a source of both great insight and amusement. Peter’s delivery style was a huge factor in what made me a reader and I will miss both the potential of new posts and the chance to go back through his old ones.
    Regarding the wider issue, I think that we have to accept the fact that if a Christian blogger is able to create a new piece on a daily basis and able to maintain a decent quality to these posts then we are incredibly lucky. As someone who does blog, although currently only occasionally, I recognise some of the constraints of working a full-time job alongside trying to maintain an internet presence. It can lead to you being tired, reacting in a less than acceptable manner to those that take issue with you and potentially affect how you are with those closest to you. What I would love to see is those who have already created a blog recognising the limitations of not being able to do it as a job and accepting that they may not be able to make a post for a week or so due to family life and work, rather than what appears to be an all-or-nothing approach to things. Losing people’s insight, no matter how irregularly it appears, from the internet is not a good thing in my opinion.

  9. Thanks for all your responses and encouragement. So much wisdom!

    I am happy to keep going for now, but the thought of doing this for the next 30+ years is quite scary. My frustration is that I have a lot more to say than time to write. I probably could do this blog full time if I had the chance. If I didn’t have work commitments it would also allow me to attend events such as this morning’s National Prayer Breakfast in Parliament and get involved more than as well as observe and write.

    We’ll see how things go. I feel strongly that God has called me to this and I trust that he will use me as He sees fit.

    I hope that at some point Peter will be able to contribute again in some way when the time is right. He is very good at challenging us even if we don’t agree with him (although I mostly do). We need more people like that in the Church.

  10. To my mind, there are two issues at stake here: bloggers having to spend their own cash to run a blog that has overgrown the bounds of free platforms, and actually making a living from a blog.
    On the former, please, please, tell readers that you’re spending the money and give a paypal link to drop cash in to. Defraying these costs should be born by everyone. On the latter, I think there is a real issue with America’s ‘debate’ in the sheer quantity of Professional Pundits – people who get paid to come up with opinions, and who’s life inside the Punditsphere means they’re removed from the reality they’re commenting on. Much better to be able to share a lived experience.
    But both of these things come down to a cultural issue: in America, the idea of directly handing cash to someone to tell them they’ve done a good job is a bit deal (see also tipping culture, televangelists). Over here, we get kind of embarrassed about the whole thing. Its no coincidence that GoFundMe.com is an American website (and the sheer quantity of appeals for help with medical bills is another story altogether). To an extent (and lets not go too far) its time to be honest about the financial costs and ask for support.

  11. My thoughts echo those of Frank on our funding, balance with family and work commitment, and the need for exposure to the range of opinions such as Peter’s that are available on the blogosphere, which we as bloggers need to be aware of when writing our posts.

    We are fortunate in that although our specific interests cover different part of the religion and law spectrum, we can maintain continuity of posts when one of us is on holiday or out of email context, provided that there are the issues on which to comment – there are certainly “slow news” weeks, but equally those in which there are almost too many important issues to write about, where we can decide upon who writes what, and when.

    For some there is often a gap when a blog closes down, such as that of The Church Mouse, but for others there may be a degree of relief, such as was probably the case for the “Protect the Pope” blog. In writing a post, therefore, it is important to be aware of the range of views that are out there, but also who are the likely audience for a particular piece, an assumption only borne out by a post facto look at the statistics.

  12. Keep at it! We need people like you, Gillan

  13. I used to blog my Christian Bookshops blog almost daily; now it’s much more sparse, maybe once a month or so: most of the conversations have moved onto facebook, and I have other priorities. That’s life, as they say, or the way the cookie crumbles, or something like that … or as the writer of Ecclesiastes puts it, to everything there is a season…

  14. Initial reaction was one of despondency. Was sad to hear of this.

    However, I do entirely understand. The thought of trying to maintain any form of blogging with a young family and a demanding job seems crazy. I can’t imagine how anyone, let alone someone writing within a heated topic such as sexuality could maintain it. I hope that with the advent of LivingOut.Org that there may be some room for a group-administered blogging site for christians within this heated terrain.

    More generally, it would seem that doing a ‘Cranmer’ might be the best thing to do and ask for financial support. Many of us do care but cannot in good conscience commit the time necessary to write (or have the necessary capabilities to do so well). You guys are pioneers and prophets and your presence is important – if it is simply the case of cash to maintain the presence then Graham Martin’s first point is a good one. Of course if it is a question of time and prior commitments that need to be honoured then maybe he has done the better thing.

  15. With respect, “..doing a ‘Cranmer’..” doesn’t always work! There is absolutely no money to be made in blogging on religion (even advertising income is paltry). Mainstream advertisers such as those who pay Guido or ConHome generally exclude His Grace as the belief is that those who read on religion generally don’t do politics. Absurd, but the piper calls the tune.

    If every monthly reader of His Grace’s blog gave just 10p, His Grace would be sitting very pretty indeed (except that PayPal would take the whole amount in ‘commission’, since 10p is deemed inconsequential). With sympathetic readers, funds can be raised for specific projects, as His Grace is currently finding. But there is absolutely no appetite for regular giving. Tent-making can be terribly tedious.

    Peter Ould is indeed a huge loss to the Christian blogging community in the UK. He would be welcome to guest-post for His Grace’s new, all-singing, all-dancing blog, when it’s finally up and running.

  16. Cranmer, Thank you for the reply – it was unexpected.
    It is indeed absurd – missing a trick even. I look forward to your all-singing wordpress blog and shall hope to hear occasionally from Peter from that pulpit should he desire it.

    • I’m totally exasperated, the whole gist of these comments, indeed, the whole ‘blog’ is based on the assumption one should be a slave to something – but to be a slave (offering one’s life) to something you have never seen, touched or heard has to be the ultimate act of faith … or utter stupidity.

      • ‘Totally exasperated’ Neil? It’s probably because your premise isn’t true, and it’s sounds presumptuous. You may think I’m whacky, but I know many who’ve had the physical sensations – and more – of the invisible One you’re referring to. But if you’ve no grid for anything supra-natural, no wonder you’re exasperated.

        May I challenge you to ask Him for such a personal encounter?

  17. Ah, so the Post-Gay Priest is no longer blogging, is he?

    I seem to recall him throwing a wobbly à la Violet Elizabeth Bott and threatening to scweam and scweam and scweam until he turned a metaphorical shade of episcopal purple (which is perhaps as close as he will ever come to displaying that particular color about his person). I believe the issue was that he wasn’t getting the recognition he felt he deserved from whatever conservative elements of the Church his miserable little homophobic blog pleased so much. But I see he’s chosen to flounce off and sulk in silence instead.

    I can’t say I’m surprised. You only had to follow the barbed and often venomous comments he tacked on to his blog posts to know that he was a tantrum waiting to happen.

    Perhaps those conservative elements were wise enough to recognize that such a quixotic and mercurial character would be a disastrous choice as spokesgay (or spokespostgay, to use his own odd nomenclature) for their cause. Given his inability to rise serenely above the slings and arrows, and those deeply unfortunate Eurovision “nuls points” music videos he so regularly posted, perhaps they felt he just wasn’t phlegmatic and English enough for their purposes. Or maybe they realized that his interesting domestic situation was a time bomb waiting to explode. Only they know why they declined to stump up with the support and preferment that Rev. Ould clearly felt he was entitled to. Conjecture is therefore pointless, although as always, assigning causes to the reverses of one’s opponents is an amusing pastime. But then I suppose it isn’t honorable to crow. My bad…

    Oh well, what matters is not why, but rather the fact itself. One more enemy of the LGBT community bites the dust, at least for the present. It’s a cause for minor celebration, although I’ve no doubt he’ll be back once the condition he appears to be suffering from (commonly known as high dudgeon) wears off. You can’t keep a good postgay evangelist down. All you can do is enjoy the calm that follows his periodical showy and melodramatic exits.

    So worry ye not all ye homophobes and God botherers. In the words of another famous conservative (although strangely enough, not homophobic) Austrian media star, he’ll be back.

  18. He was a pious hypocrite, gleefully giving encouragement to sanctimonious gay bashers while cheerfully ignoring the sins of his own side. (Church of England investments in arm dealers and usurers like Wonga anybody?)

    He claimed to represent some kind of “orthodoxy” yet he fully denied the most fundamentally orthodox teaching the church held, regarding human sexuality, throughout the centuries i.e ALL non-procreational sex is, by definition, sin. So whilst gleefully posting acerbic posts about “liberals”, he had no problems when it came to the liberal (and heretical) decision of the 1930 Lambeth Conference to allow for artificial contraception. It seems that he had no problems condoning sin when it came to his own personal convenience.

    I deny the term “Christian” to him. True Christianity should be rooted in the simple sentence “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Not an attitude that can be readily applied to Parson Ould. The idea that all sex outside marriage should be criminalized and subject to religious sanction and discouraged comes from the paganist views of Plato (in particular his “Laws” which spells it out pretty clearly). For the early church marriage was a secular distraction from the holy life (a position clearly outlined by Paul and in Christ himself never having married).

    Even the other day Rev. Ould posted on Twitter something about how when St Boniface cut down some pagan tree (and destroyed pagan temples let’s not forget) he was regarded as a holy man instead of a cultural vandal as he would be today. That pretty much puts Parson Ould in the same “spiritual” league as ISIS in the middle east.

    But you are right about one thing. Who cares?

%d bloggers like this: