Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Meeting the judge

And there she was, in my face again. I was having a quiet chat with Jim, and she was there shouting at me again. It was a dispute over a house, and frankly she was not being realistic. That of course is the trouble with these people. They don’t accept reality. Which was that Jud needed a bigger plot to make the development he had on worthwhile, and her house got in the way. That is how it is. I was the judge and she needed to accept that.

But she didn’t accept it, and there she was, in my face at every turn. I was furious. Jim was laughing of course. ‘It’s not like she can DO anything, is it?’ he said. The trouble was that to ignore her was one thing, but to take action against her would cause the wrong kind of talk.

First, she caught me at the gates, where I sat with the other elders. She stood there crying out about the Law – and what it said about widows and justice. And I made a joke of it. I turned to Jim and said: ‘She got a right good education, didn’t she?’ and that turned it off.

Then I was in the market place and it was the prophets. I got Amos, and his comments on selling the needy for a pair of shoes. I got Micah, and the Lord requiring justice and mercy. I raged inside. But I said: ‘I’ll prophesy then, that you will lose your voice shouting.’ And that again made a joke, and John thought it quite funny.

I mean, I wasn’t selling her into slavery was I? Or beating her up? All I was doing was ensuring that a much-needed development went through, and that those who ought to benefit from enterprise did.

And then in an alley way, I was alone, except for the nonentities around me. Her eyes held mine and I saw the anger, and time and place swung away. Her face, the sexless ageless face of a woman past child bearing, was now crowned with gold, and light and fire played in the gold. She grew, and now she was three, four times my size, and she moved back, and I saw robes flowing around her, embroidered, coloured. I was no longer sure if she was man or woman. This regal figure stood on the warm fiery backs of two immense creatures, like female sphinxes, whose wings bore the monarch aloft. Around the figure were others. Those who looked like angels. Then there were wheels on fire, dragons, a monstrous bull, an eagle. There were dark figures which filled me with fear, and bright ones even more terrible.

Then I saw the figures of men and women. They were dressed in rags, and robes, and clothes I cannot describe. They all turned to the throne, which now filled the whole of the sky and they cried out, ‘How long, O Lord, how long? We hunger and thirst to see right prevail. Fill the hungry with good things!’ I could not count them, and I could never describe the longing and the anger of their voices.

The figure on the throne turned to me, and still with the face and the voice of the widow thundered: ‘Grant me justice!’

I wet myself.

I was suddenly standing in a dark alley, and I stumbled home and the slaves got me to bed.

The next morning, I went to the gate. Jud was there. I sat down. The widow came forward. She did not say anything. She looked at me. I gave her justice. I heard the disgusted comments of Jud, Jim, John. I cared. Oh, yes, I still cared. But caring or not, well … it is an easy thing to say you do not care for God or humankind, isn’t it? It is different when you meet them.

Luke 18: 1-8

Rosemary Hannah is a historian and author of The Grand Designer a biography of the third Marquess of Bute.


We invite you to make a contribution to the Church Urban Fund, which helps local groups work among the homeless and destitute, and tries, through local projects, to help them turn their lives around. You can support their work via this secure page www.cuf.org.uk/donate/advent-appeal/24/credit-card. Thank you.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah on Wednesday, 7 December 2016 at 8:00am GMT
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Sunday, 4 December 2016

An Angelic Salutation

For a long while they sat opposite each other, gently holding hands. She with her head bent, her body racked with sobs; the Angel calm, still, waiting for the word that would have to be spoken. At last the woman lifted her head, pushed her hair away from tear stained cheeks, and said, simply, “I can’t”. Silence followed. She was gathering her energies to offer a reason, a rationale for why her courage had failed her; why she, who had always been obedient to God’s will and law, was now withholding her consent. “Don’t be afraid”, said the Angel. He’d used those words before, at the very beginning of the meeting, when his sudden presence, and the light that quietly emanated from him, had so clearly scared her. Now half-formed sentences began to tumble from her: about her place within this close knit community; the shame that the inevitable gossip and accusations would bring both on her and her family; the loneliness of a life as a tainted woman, one no man would take as wife; the pull towards prostitution, in the struggle to sustain herself and the child she would bear. It was too much. Please let this cup pass from her.

The Angel still held on to her as tightly as ever. Only when she had emptied herself of both her words and her tears did he respond. “Fear not”, he said, for a third time. “God loves you. He loves you as deeply as ever. This was never a command, always an invitation to come on a particular journey with him. Go in peace. Marry. Have children, and bring them up in that same love of The Lord which you yourself know. And teach them this; that God, in their generation, will do this great thing. Tell them to be alert, to watch for the signs that the Promised One is coming among them. Live long, do not regret your decision today; but of your mercy, when you hear of Him, pray for His mother.”

He stood up, passed out of the house, walked perhaps a stone’s throw away from the building, then stopped to wipe a hand across his eyes. He gazed back at the woman’s home for some minutes. Silently, he held her and all that she was before the One who had sent him. From somewhere within his robes he pulled out a scroll and unfurled it. It was a list of names, women’s names. Many had already been crossed through, and now there was another to strike out. He looked at the details for his next assignment. Another unpromising village, another pious but conventional upbringing. Another dispiritingly traditional name. Mary.

David Walker is the Bishop of Manchester


We invite you to make a contribution to the Church Urban Fund, which helps local groups work among the homeless and destitute, and tries, through local projects, to help them turn their lives around. You can support their work via this secure page www.cuf.org.uk/donate/advent-appeal/24/credit-card. Thank you.

Posted by David Walker on Sunday, 4 December 2016 at 8:00am GMT
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Saturday, 3 December 2016

Opinion - 3 December 2016

Martyn Percy Understanding the Ministry of the Church Today: a lecture in honour of the late Rev’d Canon Dr Ian Tomlinson

Diana Butler Bass Washington Post Forget red and green: Make it a blue holiday instead

Justin Welby New Statesman Travelling to Pakistan, fighting face-blindness and getting cross with myself
The Archbishop of Canterbury writes The Diary.

Kelvin Holdsworth Ten Key Skills for Priestly Ministry

Colin Blakely talks to Philip BaldwinChurch of England Newspaper The campaigner who can’t stop talking about his faith

Jody Stowell ViaMedia.News A Political Advent…

Church Times Leader comment Mammon’s victims

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 3 December 2016 at 11:00am GMT
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Thursday, 1 December 2016

Preparing the way

As a bagger of Wainwrights’s summits and occasional gully-scrambler I’ve always been faintly depressed by the vision in Isaiah 40 of every valley being raised up and every mountain lowered: perhaps it’s living in Lincolnshire which makes mountains something to be longed for rather than obliterated as the mind’s eye conjures up a landscape rather like Salisbury Plain (but without the archæology) spray-painted beige and with a café every half mile or so. Some years ago, coming down off a snow-covered Lakeland ridge, we met a group who wanted to know where the path went and whether they’d find a tea room at the end of it: we couldn’t help but feel that they were missing something.

There is a fascinating dialogue to be encountered between those passages where God prepares the way for returning exiles and those where the pathway is prepared for God himself to come — rich soil for the exegete and the poet. But it was a recent study day which changed my own take on the taming of the wilderness, as it became apparent that the clearing of the ground was not about making the journey easy and effortless. It was about making the journey possible.

This fed my understanding of what it is to be (in any sense) a spiritual accompanier. We know that we can’t make the journey for another person, for that would be hubristic and inauthentic. All we can try and do is to clear enough obstructions out of the path to make undertaking the journey feasible.

It’s essential, though, that ‘spiritual accompanier’ shouldn’t be cramped into the space marked ‘spirituality’: the Gospel of our accompanying of someone also touches the emotional and the material. When John urges people to clear the way, we may note how he tells the soldier, for example, not to place obstacles in the way of other people through extortion. And this is where the Advent preparation of the way touches on our own society and its treatment of the vulnerable and the marginalised.

An acquaintance with ‘inside knowledge’ told me of the way in which those working with the unemployed and other vulnerable groups are pressured to place as many obstacles in their path as possible to deny them their legal entitlements. Perhaps in order to provide the tabloids with red meat for the readership, the safety net has been removed to provided edifyingly hard landings for those feckless enough to lose job or health or home. Far from clearing the way, every effort is being made to ensure that, for vulnerable groups, the journey is impossible, the demands superhuman.

In the interplay between the two Advent themes of restoring homeless and of making the path straight for God we may find a mirror-image of the scapegoating and the deliberate impeding of the vulnerable which seems to play so well in Europe and the US. A faith which takes the Advent message seriously may have hard questions to ask of a society which keeps its exiles at a distance, which makes the rough places rougher and the crooked more bewildering, which ensures that the route home is as harsh and as daunting as it possibly can.

David Rowett is a priest in the diocese of Lincoln


We invite you to make a contribution to the Church Urban Fund, which helps local groups work among the homeless and destitute, and tries, through local projects, to help them turn their lives around. You can support their work via this secure page www.cuf.org.uk/donate/advent-appeal/24/credit-card. Thank you.

Posted by David Rowett on Thursday, 1 December 2016 at 11:00am GMT
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Sunday, 27 November 2016

Advent Hope

Advent is the time for Hope.

Advent 2016 brings to a close a year for which the new word is – as the Oxford English Dictionary has declared – ‘post-truth’. What hope, we might ask, for a post-truth world?

We have witnessed two election campaigns where truth and fact were in short supply. Since Brexit we have learned not to trust the polls. The events of previous months have revealed an enormous disconnect between what’s in hearts and minds, and the political systems that we take for granted in Western democracy. So many who simply don’t believe, any more, the established democratic processes. What lies underneath that disaffection?

Many things, of course. A sense of unfairness, as some experience real poverty and see others growing richer: the widening inequalities of society. There’s a retreat, too, from the idea of unity across regions and nations, a retrenchment: why should we think about the needs of strangers and aliens, when we’re up against it? A sense of being overwhelmed by the immense global movements – 60 million – fleeing war, violence, famine, insecurity; seeking a new home. And no longer do people trust experts, professional politicians, those with experience and learning – they belong to a political system seen not as democratic, but as elitist and corrupt. The fears and disaffection is not difficult to understand. It’s a world of change, of disrupted stabilities. A post-truth world.

A world also increasingly dominated by fear. It swirls around, transferred and contagious. It undermines trust between people, between nations. It’s fuelled by those who want the fear, who deliberately terrorise to destabilise. Or who themselves are expansionist, ready to take advantage of weakness. We are caught up in global forces, including the serious threat of global warming and climate change which makes us all more fearful than we tend to admit. Massive global forces at play which stir deep fear and destroy trust.

Dante put those who undermine trust at the very bottom of hell. Without trust, societies can’t function. We need a basic trust between people, between nations, for stability and negotiation to happen, for politics rather than war to prevail.

The most tempting thing to do, as we feel the fear, is to fall into the same dynamic ourselves. To start to think tribally, to divide the world into us and them. To lose compassion for the other – whoever she or he might be. To fail to see the humanity and dignity of all. To distrust rather than trust. And then fear begins to have its head.

That’s when our Christian faith needs to kick in. Because if faith in Jesus Christ means anything, it must give us the resources to dig deeper than the fear, to find a bedrock that is secure and enduring.

If our Christian faith gives us anything, it is the strong assurance that the fears and terrors of this present age are not the final word.

St Paul wrote to the Colossians of Christ:

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. Colossians 1.20​

As Advent begins, that deep, rich, full time in which we prepare our souls to receive the Christchild at his nativity, his rebirth at the heart of the creation, we would do well to think more profoundly who Christ is. St Paul contemplates Jesus Christ, and sees in him all the fullness of God. As such Christ is the realisation of true humanity.

Karl Rahner wrote of the Eucharist as the anticipation of the eschaton – the fullness of the end and wholeness of all things. The eschaton, for Rahner, becomes not so much the chronological endpoint of time, but rather the full completion or wholeness of all things, already realised in Jesus Christ. The Eucharist becomes the Eschaton. Each time we celebrate Eucharist together, we are already there. We have arrived at the heart of fullness of God, the heart of the fulfilment of all things created by God. There is no other moment so full of God’s love and grace as that moment.

We cannot know how God’s thoughts and ways comprehend what we call evil. We know the destructive, callous, cruel evil that is passive harm, causing untold suffering; we know also how evil can take on a life of its own, and generate systems and forces that destroy, and leave survivors suffering for generations. We know how the erosion of trust, how terror destabilises nations, how evil works; how it undermines the foundations required for flourishing life.

If there is nothing more than the fullness of God, where is evil? Is evil beyond God? Surely not, for then there is something that is beyond God’s love and God is less than God.

The theologian Katherine Sonderegger asks what God knows of evil. What can God know of evil, without compromising God’s own goodness? She writes most interestingly of the way God comprehends all things – even evil.

The Divine Wisdom comprehends evil in its scope and depth and shocking negation, its utter poverty and lack. God alone comprehends evil as such. (The Doctrine of God, 2015: 373)

In this time, when we see through a glass darkly, we can know that God comprehends evil. God knows the cruelty of callous evil, and the consequences of natural disaster, creating havoc on peoples and communities, suffering beyond human imagination. God knows this; comprehends. Sonderegger’s account of Moses’ encounter with the Living God – I AM THAT I AM – in the Burning Bush, recalls the utter magnitude of the fullness of God, that consumes all that negates God. In the Fullness of Time, when all comes at last into the presence of the Fullness of God, then all dross will burn away, will be no more.

To affirm this is to affirm the ultimate goodness and truth of the Fullness of God.

As we gather for Eucharist, we know that in him all evil is embraced by God, comprehended by a power that is greater than anything evil can do, for that power is love.

All our mundane time revolves around this Eucharist moment. This moment that takes us to the heart of everything, where we are embraced within the heart of God. At that moment we enter the fullness of God, we are held in everlasting arms, surrounded, comprehended in love, our dross and sin judged and burned away.

In that moment of fullness we know the fullness of time, which is realised once and for all in Jesus Christ. It was realised in his birth, life, death and resurrection. It is realised again, and again, in Eucharist. All life revolves around this reality.

And because we know the fullness of God’s superabundant grace and love at that moment, we can also know that all will be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

This Advent – as we contemplate the post-liberal, post-truth world in which we now live – let us hold fast that central Advent hope that the truth and reality of the fullness of God is realised in Jesus Christ. We are caught up into that truth and reality whenever we gather in Eucharist, whenever we are the Church worshipping, and receiving the real presence of Christ, in word and sacrament. This is the true reality, the ultimate truth. This is the reality that is God’s love, in which all things, all time is redeemed and finds fulfilment. This is the fullness of time, already realised in Christ, and God’s gift to us, now in this moment, and for evermore.

Frances Ward is Dean of St Edmunsbury, in the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.


We invite you to make a contribution to the Church Urban Fund, which helps local groups work among the homeless and destitute, and tries, through local projects, to help them turn their lives around. You can support their work via this secure page www.cuf.org.uk/donate/advent-appeal/24/credit-card. Thank you.

Posted by Frances Ward on Sunday, 27 November 2016 at 5:00pm GMT
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Saturday, 26 November 2016

Opinion - 26 November 2016

Jonathan Robinson ξἐνος Measuring Success or Faithfulness

Bishop James Jones delivered the The Tenth Anniversary Ebor Lecture on 23 November: A Journey around Justice.
[also available in alternative formatting here]

David Ison ViaMedia.News “Absolute is NOT fabulous!”

St Chrysostom’s Church, Manchester Bishops’ choices of funeral hymns

Nick Bundock Church Times Grief, self-criticism, and a new immanence

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 26 November 2016 at 11:00am GMT
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Advent Thoughts — and Actions

One evening a couple of weeks ago as I went to enter my parish church, I almost tripped over a homeless person sleeping on the ground in the church porch. It was a cold night in our fairly-prosperous middle-class town. Sheep and goats — parable. Real people — in a desperate situation. What can we do?

As the new liturgical year begins on the First Sunday of Advent, Thinking Anglicans will once more be publishing a series of reflective pieces from a number of writers. We hope that this will challenge all of us to proclaim God’s love to the world, and also to take some practical action.

Much of what we publish and discuss is about sexuality and gender, whether that is women in the clergy or LGBT issues — so this is a reminder to us all that following Jesus Christ has other aspects too. It isn’t to diminish the importance of those topics, but there are other critical issues as well. This falls within the broad remit of the social gospel, and the very firm belief that the proclamation of social justice and the social gospel — and actually doing it, not just talking about it — is important and is a crucial part of our mission as Christians, as thinking Anglicans. Intelligent, considered discourse and engaging with such discourse in the rest of life (not just with other Christians), is something we can do to help proclaim God’s love for everyone, in a world which for some people is a very difficult place.

Over the next few weeks as we prepare to celebrate the mystery of the Word-made-Flesh, society around us indulges in a frenzy of consumption. And alongside publishing some pieces on a general theme of homelessness we want to give our readers an opportunity to do something about it. We invite you to make a contribution to the Church Urban Fund, which helps local groups work among the homeless and destitute, and tries, through local projects, to help them turn their lives around. At this time of year the CUF mounts its Advent Sleepout Challenge. It may be too late to join in the Challenge itself, but we invite you to donate money via their secure page www.cuf.org.uk/donate/advent-appeal/24/credit-card.

‘ “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” ’ (Matthew 25.44,45)

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Saturday, 26 November 2016 at 7:30am GMT
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Friday, 25 November 2016

GAFCON UK responds to William Nye letter

Updated Saturday evening

This new 1400-word article has appeared today on the GAFCON UK website: Secretary-General’s letter shows why GAFCON UK is needed.

Harry Farley has reported on it: CofE More Worried About ‘Twitter Mobs’ Than ‘What Is Right Before God’ Over Sexuality – GAFCON.

Zachary Giuliano had earlier helpfully noted over here that

… if one follows the news through, it seems that the GAFCON UK statements are being coordinated partly by Canon Andrew Gross. He is listed as the “media contact” or “press officer” for GAFCON, and has responded to criticisms of the statement. But his “day job,” as it were, is as canon for communications and media relations in ACNA, and he sometimes travels with Archbishop Foley Beach, as photos on Beach’s Facebook page and various stories attest. We have yet another sign of American Anglican conservative leadership (of a particular sort) attempting to shape attitudes throughout the Communion…

As references are being made to the process by which the Lambeth 1.10 resolution came into existence, I thought it might be useful to link to my original reporting of Lambeth 1998 which consists of a series of 22 near-daily and quite detailed reports written as the conference proceeded.

Update
And, here is the statement that was issued on 5 August, immediately following the passage of the resolution: A Pastoral Statement to Lesbian and Gay Anglicans from Some Member Bishops of the Lambeth Conference. Eventually this attracted 185 signatures, including many of those who had voted in favour of the resolution.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 25 November 2016 at 5:52pm GMT
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Wednesday, 23 November 2016

report from House of Bishops on today's meeting

Statement from the House of Bishops

The House of Bishops of the Church of England met at Lambeth Palace on Wednesday 23 November.

The formal meeting was preceded by a Eucharist where the Bishops remembered St Clement. Prayers were said for those across the globe who are persecuted for their faith, victims of religious violence and those with responsibility for Government.

The meeting received an update on the work of the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Sexuality by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in September 2016 to assist the process of consideration.

As with the meeting of the College of Bishops in September, the considerations of the House of Bishops took place in private, with reflections due to be shared with the wider College of Bishops next month.

It is envisaged the House will prepare material to bring to the General Synod for initial consideration in February 2017.

Ends

Notes to Editors

Background on #RedWednesday and those persecuted for their faith
http://www.anglicannews.org/news/2016/11/faith-communities-unite-on-red-wednesday-for-victims-of-religious-persecution.aspx

St Clement: http://www.chpublishing.co.uk/features/saints-on-earth

Statement following the College of Bishops in September 2016
https://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2016/09/statement-from-the-college-of-bishops.aspx

Announcement of membership and terms of reference of Bishops’ Reflection Group on Sexuality
https://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2016/09/bishops%E2%80%99-reflection-group-on-human-sexuality.aspx

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 23 November 2016 at 5:29pm GMT
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Lord Carlile named as independent reviewer in George Bell case

Updated Wednesday morning to add press reports

Church of England press release

Lord Carlile named as independent reviewer in George Bell case
22 November 2016

Lord Carlile of Berriew has been named as the independent reviewer of the processes used in the Bishop George Bell case. The lessons learnt review, commissioned by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team, in accordance with the House of Bishops’ guidance on all complex cases, is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.

In 2015 the Bishop of Chichester issued a formal apology following the settlement of a legal civil claim regarding allegations of sexual abuse by Bishop Bell, who was Bishop of Chichester from 1929 until shortly before his death in 1958.

The aim of the review will be to look at the processes surrounding the allegations which were first brought in 1995 to the diocese of Chichester, with the same allegations brought again, this time to Lambeth Palace, in 2013. It will also consider the processes, including the commissioning of independent expert reports and archival and other investigations, which were used to inform the decision to settle the case, in order to learn lessons which can applied to the handling of similar safeguarding cases in future. The full Terms of Reference are set out below.

Lord Carlile CBE QC is a Member of the House of Lords, having served as a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament from 1983-1997. He was the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation between 2001 and 2011. He has a strong interest in cyber-related issues especially regarding National Security. (see full biography below). An executive summary of the review will be published once Lord Carlile has completed his work.

The Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead bishop on safeguarding, said: “I am grateful to Lord Carlile for agreeing to undertake the review, which will take a detailed look into how the Church handled the George Bell case; as with all serious cases there are always lessons to be learnt. The Church of England takes all safeguarding issues very seriously and we will continue to listen to everyone affected in this case while we await the findings of the review. The diocese of Chichester continues to be in touch and offer support to the survivor known as Carol, who brought the allegations.”

[continued below the fold]

Press reports

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Church of England appoints Lord Carlile to review George Bell claim

John Bingham The Telegraph Ex-terror reviewer Lord Carlile to re-examine Bishop Bell sex abuse decision

BBC News Bishop George Bell case: Lord Carlile to lead review

Chichester Observer Top QC will review the Bishop George Bell case

Continue reading "Lord Carlile named as independent reviewer in George Bell case"
Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 23 November 2016 at 12:05am GMT
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Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Cof E responds to GAFCON UK

Church of England press release

Secretary General responds to GAFCON UK

22 November 2016

William Nye, Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council, has today sent the following letter to the Revd Canon Andy Lines, Chairman of GAFCON UK Task Force in response to the briefing paper, ‘The Church of England and Lambeth 1:10’.

Dear Andy

I have seen a paper entitled, “The Church of England and Lambeth 1:10”, produced by GAFCON UK and dated 13 November, which is described as a briefing to GAFCON Primates. It purports to be an account of “the situation in the Church of England regarding attitudes and teaching on sexual ethics.”

The paper paints a significantly misleading picture both of the teaching and practice of the Church of England, and of Resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. I am writing to correct some of the erroneous assertions.

Resolution 1:10 of Lambeth 1998

Resolution 1:10 is one of over 90 Resolutions approved by the Lambeth Conference in 1998. It expressed the will of that Conference. Like all Lambeth Conference resolutions, it is not legally binding on all provinces of the Communion, including the Church of England, though it commends an essential and persuasive view of the attitude of the Communion.

Resolution 1:10 sets out teaching on marriage, as being between a man and a woman, and teaching on abstinence outside marriage. It sets out teaching on homosexual practice. It commits the Conference to listening to the experience of homosexual persons, assures them they are loved by God, and condemns irrational fear of homosexuals. It says nothing about discipline within provinces of the Anglican Communion; the Lambeth Conference has no jurisdiction to do so.

The Resolution is an important document in the history of the Anglican Communion. It is not the only important resolution, from that Conference or others. It does not have the force of Scripture, nor is it part of the deposit of faith. The key elements for the Communion are those within the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral.

Teaching and practice in the Church of England

The teaching of the Church of England on matters relating to same-sex practice and unions is, and remains, as set out in the document issued by the Church’s House of Bishops in 1991, “Issues in Human Sexuality”. That document pre-dates the Lambeth Conference of 1998, and is consistent with the resolution 1:10 of the Conference. Subsequent refinement of the teaching by the House of Bishops, as in guidance documents issued when the British State introduced civil partnerships and then (civil) same-sex marriage, has not changed the fundamental substance of that teaching.

When the Government proposed to introduce same-sex (civil) marriage the Church of England argued against it, including in Parliament.

Previously in 2004 the majority of our bishops had voted for legalising civil partnerships when that legislation made its way through parliament.

English law now provides for same-sex civil marriage, and for Christian denominations other than the Church of England or Church in Wales to opt into providing same-sex marriage if they wish to. There is no provision in English law for same-sex marriage in Church of England churches. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 - the Act of the UK Parliament which introduced same-sex marriage in England and other parts of the UK - expressly leaves intact the Church of England’s Canon which defines marriage as “in its nature a union permanent and lifelong … of one man with one woman”. And although the Act changes the definition of marriage in English law generally, those changes do not apply to any ecclesiastical law of the Church of England (Canon B.30).

At present, the House of Bishops is reflecting on conversations across the Church on same-sex issues. But at this point no change has been made to teaching, nor has there been any formal proposal to do so.

The great majority of the clergy and laity of the Church of England have adhered to the teaching and guidance as taught by the House of Bishops, which is consistent with Lambeth 1:10.

You describe a number of issues as being “violations” of Lambeth 1:10. For many of these, I would venture to suggest that they are not “violations” - though, as noted above, Lambeth Conference Resolutions do not provide a binding discipline on member provinces of the Communion. For example:

clergy in the Church of England are indeed permitted to enter into civil partnerships (which are legally not the same as marriage, and therefore have no bearing on the doctrine of marriage);

clergy in the Church of England are permitted to offer prayers of support on a pastoral basis for people in same-sex relationships;

churches are able to indicate that they welcome LGBTI people, just as they would welcome all people;

clergy and laity alike are entitled to argue for changes to teaching and practice.

There have undoubtedly been cases of people in the Church of England who have not kept to the teaching as set out in “Issues in Human Sexuality”. I will not comment on such individual cases. I do not believe it is appropriate to debate these publicly. What matters is not whether they are “violating Lambeth 1:10”, which as noted above has no binding legal force. What matters is the position under the Canons (for the clergy) and the broader law and teaching of the Church of England for the laity. It is not the case that no discipline has been applied to clergy who, in violation of their duties under the Canons, have entered same-sex civil marriages. How discipline in the Church of England is applied is a matter for the Bishops of the Church.

I hope that this will give you and readers of the paper a clearer picture of the state of teaching and practice in the Church of England.

Best wishes

William

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 22 November 2016 at 7:37pm GMT
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Monday, 21 November 2016

AMiE and GAFCON UK - what's the connection?

The GAFCON UK website explains the connection here:

…Through affiliation to GAFCON UK, Christians in the British Isles will be connected with this global movement for renewal and mission with its spiritual vitality and evangelistic zeal, doctrinal clarity, wisdom and faithfulness under pressure. As GAFCON is not a new independent church or a rival to the Anglican Communion, membership of GAFCON UK is compatible with being a loyal member of Anglican churches in England, Scotland and Wales while our national churches remain orthodox in their official teachings and policies.

However, those who are concerned about the apparent drift of their denomination can rest secure that whatever happens, there is no need to leave Anglicanism, which is validated not from a human office or place, but from faithfulness to its historic self-understanding. The GAFCON Primates Council stands ready to authenticate those who wish to remain Anglican, but if necessary outside local institutional structures: this has already started with the establishment of the Anglican Mission in England (AMiE)…

The Anglican Mission in England website explains itself thus:

…A variety of Anglican churches are part of AMiE. Some churches are outside the structures of the Church of England. Others remain within the denomination but are experiencing tensions, whilst others have joined to support them…

And there is a list of (currently seven) local churches here.

Continue reading "AMiE and GAFCON UK - what's the connection?"
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 21 November 2016 at 12:52pm GMT
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Saturday, 19 November 2016

Bishop of Salisbury responds to GAFCON UK

Updated Sunday morning

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, wrote a letter which was published in the Church Times this week. The full text is available on the Salisbury diocesan website: Letter to the Church Times, November 2016 and is copied below.

The Church Times also carried this report of the GAFCON UK letter and reactions to it: Listing ‘violators’ of Lambeth Conference resolution is ‘outrageous’, says Bishop.

From the Bishop of Salisbury

Sir, — The GAFCON Statement of 13 November about Lambeth I.10 is outrageous.

First, “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites that you are. . .” When Jesus attacked people he thought were in error, there is not a single instance when he named an individual. To name individuals in this statement is wrong, creates a climate of fear, and opens them to personal abuse.

Second, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” There is a great deal of inaccuracy in the GAFCON statement. The priest named from this diocese is not licensed, as they say he is. He has carried the cost of conscience personally. The blessing of Gay Pride in Salisbury was a joyful celebration of a people who are part of our community and among the rich diversity of all God’s children. This is in keeping with Lambeth I.10, which calls us “to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals.”

Third, “Love your enemies.” GAFCON may think that the people named represent a serious error, but the way in which they are misrepresented is not the way for followers of Jesus, who usually want to represent opponents truthfully and see the best possible motives in others, not the worst.

Fifth*, “Do as you would be done by.” Lambeth I.10 also contained statements about the way Provinces relate to one another. Nothing is said about GAFCON’s own repeated violations of these. Lambeth I.10 also acknowledged the Bishops’ inability to come to a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised. “The challenge to our Church is to maintain its unity while we seek, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to discern the way of Christ for the world today with respect to human sexuality. To do so will require sacrifice, trust and charity towards one another, remembering that ultimately the identity of each person is defined by Christ.”

For myself, I learned a long time ago that where you stand affects what you can see. In 2002, at the retirement of a colleague, I stood with 800 others in church to give thanks for the ministry of a gay priest who had exercised an outstanding ministry for 40 years among students, homeless people, and several parishes and congregations.

As the Diocesan Bishop’s Adviser on Pastoral Care, he had cared for many clergy, and had a particular ministry among gay people. Though the institutional Church has at times seemed to find their very existence an “inconvenient truth”, God made LGBT people, loves them, and preserves them. I knew I belonged with the people who gathered in church that evening, and Christ was with us.

+ NICHOLAS SARUM

* Note – this is an error introduced by the Church Times in-house drafting process.

Update

Hear the bishop and Andy Lines on this morning’s Sunday programme here (36 minutes in).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 19 November 2016 at 1:13pm GMT
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Opinion - 19 November 2016

Lucy Sixsmith On learning from Nineveh

David Emmott Hard or soft?

Simon Butler ViaMedia.News Time to Cultivate Your Garden?

The atheist Derren Brown’s stage show draws heavily on religious influences. He talks to Madeleine Davies for Church Times: An illusion of miracles.

Stephen Bullivant Catholic Herald The real Blessed Lucy of Narnia was even more amazing than CS Lewis’s imagination

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 19 November 2016 at 11:00am GMT
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Tuesday, 15 November 2016

GAFCON UK issues Lambeth 1.10 hitlist

Updated yet again Tuesday 22 November

Update GAFCON UK has today issued this further document The Lambeth I:10 Briefing: Process and Motive, Truth and Love which seeks to justify the original statement.

—————

This statement from GAFCON UK was issued on Sunday: The Church of England and Lambeth 1:10.

This paper was recently presented as a briefing to the GAFCON Primates on the situation in the Church of England regarding attitudes, teaching and practice on sexual ethics, official and unofficial. It argues that the Church of England has already ‘crossed the line’ by allowing a culture to develop where violations of Lambeth Resolution 1:10 are increasingly prevalent. It is published with permission…

The document has been reported on by Christian Today Row Over Release Of Gay Clergy List and now also with this: Gafcon Gay Clergy List Prompts Hundreds To Sign ‘Proud List Of Violators’

and by Premier Radio GAFCON defends decision to release list of gay Church of England clergy.

LGCM has issued a press release condemning the document: LGCM condemns GAFCON’s attempt to shame LGBT Christians.

Jeremy Pemberton has commented on his personal blog You know who you are.

Rachel Mann has also commented on her blog Dear Anonymous UK GAFCON Guy.

The LGBTI Mission has also issued a condemnation of the GAFCON UK action: Lambeth 1.10 hitlist condemned.

And there is now a website where people can sign up to be on record as “violators” or “supporters”.

Law & Religion UK has an article too: GAFCON, Lambeth I:10 and the Church of England.

Andrew Lightbown has written on his blog: An open letter to GAFCON: not good enough.

LGCM now also has this: Introducing the Inaugural LGCM/GAFCON Rainbow List: let’s help them do the job properly!

One of those named in the original GAFCON UK article has sent us this response:

Dear Editor

Waking up on Tuesday morning to find myself on a list of “named and shamed” by GAFCON UK was a bit of a surprise. The fact that they are presumptuous enough to ‘out’ someone’s theology without engaging with them or even checking their facts properly is extraordinary. A few months ago I asked to have a cup of tea with a member of GAFCON UK to correct their assumptions and discuss biblical interpretations. This priest sadly refused to meet me. I find that action alone so deeply ungracious and disrespectful. How can we try to evangelize a loving God when the clergy cannot even demonstrate decent human courtesy to one another?

Yours,
The Rev’d Charlotte Bannister-Parker
The University Church
Oxford

Readers may be interested to note that GAFCON UK has made a number of corrections to the original text of the article, which are noted in a large number of additional footnotes.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 15 November 2016 at 11:00am GMT
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