Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Oxford Faith Debates: survey of clergy opinion

An announcement from Westminster Faith Debates, Clergy Polled In New Anglican Survey, reports that:

A new survey is underway, gathering information about the beliefs and values of Anglican clergy in the UK for the purpose of academic research, and to support a forthcoming debate series on the Future of the Church of England. Designed by Professor Linda Woodhead at Lancaster University, the survey is being administered by the professional market research agency YouGov among a random sample of UK clergy. It is carried out anonymously so that individuals can complete their answers and express their views with the guarantee of confidentiality.

The research is gathering opinion on different aspects of the Church of England and its future direction from the people who serve it and know it better than anyone. As well as seeking views on the operation and priorities of the Anglican Church itself, the survey also asks for responses to questions on various moral, social and political issues. Findings will be made available on the Westminster Faith Debates website in due course.

These findings will also inform a series of free debates to be held at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford this autumn, which will bring distinguished speakers and experts together with an open public audience to consider how the Church of England can flourish in the future. Panellists include Sir Tony Baldry MP, Vicky Beeching, Diarmaid MacCulloch and the Bishop of Oxford, and the debates will be made available online afterwards as podcasts. The events are being organised by the Westminster Faith Debates, with the support of Ripon College, Cuddesdon and the Church Times.

In addition, Professor Woodhead is inviting any Anglican clergy who are listed in Crockfords to nominate themselves to participate in a panel, which she can call upon to respond to future requests for polls of clergy opinion. Write to s.reader@lancs.ac.uk putting ‘panel’ in the subject line.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 26 August 2014 at 10:00pm BST
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Two new bishops for the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales

Downing Street has today announced the appointment of two Area Bishops for the newly created Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales. The diocesan bishop Nick Baines has the details: Two new bishops.

The Revd Dr Toby Howarth, currently Secretary for Inter Religious Affairs to the Archbishop of Canterbury and National Inter Religious Affairs Adviser for the Church of England will be the Bishop of Bradford.

The Revd Dr Jonathan Gibbs, currently Rector of Heswall in the Diocese of Chester, will be the first ever Bishop of Huddersfield. This is a new bishopric covering the local authority areas of Calderdale and Kirklees and is one of five areas in the diocese, which each have their own bishop.

Here are the official announcements from Downing Street.

Suffragan Bishop of Huddersfield: Jonathan Robert Gibbs
Suffragan Bishop of Bradford: Toby Matthew Howarth

The diocesan website has: New Bishops announced for West Yorkshire and Dales.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 26 August 2014 at 10:29am BST
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Saturday, 23 August 2014

Equal Marriage: recent developments

The Office of National Statistics recently answered this question: How many marriages of same sex couples have been formed in England and Wales so far?

ONS looks at the first provisional statistics between 29th March and 30th June 2014.

This is the first time that ONS has published provisional statistics on marriage of same sex couples for England and Wales. These statistics cover quarters 1 and 2, 2014. The Marriages (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 made provision for the marriage of same sex couples in England and Wales, either in a civil ceremony (in a register office or approved premise such as a hotel) or on religious premises (provided that the religious organisation agrees). The first marriages of same sex couples took place on 29 March 2014. From 10 December 2014 civil partners are expected to be able to convert their civil partnership into a marriage.

How many marriages have been formed between same sex couples?

A total of 1,409 marriages were formed between same sex couples between 29 March and 30 June 2014. Of these, 56% of marriages were to female couples (796 marriages) while 44% were to male couples (613 marriages). Over the three day period from 29 March to 31 March 2014 there were 95 marriages of same sex couples. There were 351 marriages in April, 465 in May and 498 in June (Figure 1).

And there is a lot more detail on the sex, age, etc. of the couples.

Law & Religion UK provided some further analysis and comment: Same sex marriage statistics: 2014, Q1 & Q2 which includes:

However, it could be argued that although there is now the possibility of same sex marriage in England and Wales, latest ONS data indicate that up to the end of 2012, a total of 60,454 civil partnerships had been formed, and until 10 December 2014 none of these nor those formed subsequently will be able to be converted into a same sex marriage. We therefore await the statistics for Q4 with interest.

And the same site had earlier provided an update on Civil partnership conversion to same-sex marriage: religious content which, in addition to dealing with the subject contained in the article title, includes the following observation (emphasis added):

From the legal point of view, the conversion process is essentially an interim measure directed at couples who entered into civil partnerships between its introduction in 2005 and the availability of same-sex marriage in 2014. Nevertheless, within this period a significant number of civil partnerships have been formed: latest data from ONS indicate that since the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force in December 2005, there were 60,454 civil partnerships up to the end of 2012, i.e. 120,908 civil partners, an order of magnitude greater than the 11,000 to 22,000 civil partners estimated in the regulatory impact assessment. The ONS is currently examining the trends in civil partnerships, how marriages to same sex couples will change the statistics, and how this might best be reported, here and here.

With regard to the conversion process, government priorities appear to be: meeting the 10 December 2014 deadline; and reflecting the responses in its 2012 consultation. The delay caused by the withdrawal of the draft statutory instrument, and the potential complications associated with the introduction of a religious element are likely to limit the changes that may be introduced at this late stage. Furthermore, the potentially large number of couples wishing to convert their civil partnerships to same sex marriages may also preclude changing the proposed procedure unless present resources are augmented2.
2 There were ~183,000 civil marriage ceremonies in 2012, ONS data.

So, to consider a possible scenario, if around 50% of all extant Civil Partnerships were converted in the six month period from December, that would be an increase from around 500 a month to around 5,000 a month. And an additional 30,000 same-sex marriages on top of (say) 90,000 heterosexual marriages. Which is quite a large temporary fluctuation.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 23 August 2014 at 5:15pm BST
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Categorised as: equality legislation


John Pavlovitz Church, Here’s Why People Are Leaving You. Part 1 and Part 2

Anna Norman-Walker It all begins, not with abandonment of the truth, but with the humility to accept you just might have been wrong ….

Giles Fraser The Guardian If this is real religion, then you can count me as an atheist

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 23 August 2014 at 11:00am BST
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Friday, 22 August 2014

Case-law on religion and employment

Law and Religion UK has published Case-law on religion and employment. Frank Cranmer writes:

As some readers will be aware, I am the current Secretary of the Churches’ Legislation Advisory Service; and one of my duties is to keep my members up to date with legal and policy developments which might affect them. Some considerable time ago I was asked by one of the member Churches if I could produce a note on the case-law relating to clergy employment.

I did as I was asked; and since then I’ve revised it regularly to take account of new decisions and new areas as the occasion has demanded. The current version of the paper addresses the legislation and recent case law relating to ministers of religion in the Church of England, the Church of Scotland and other religious organisations, the position of lay employees, volunteers and interns, entitlement to the National Minimum Wage, the current exceptions relating to employment by religious organisations and vicarious liability.

Employment law is in a constant state of development; and the result of regular revision is that what began as a fairly short paper is now the length of a fairly substantial journal article. Yesterday I posted the latest version on the public part of the CLAS website – and since I’m not a specialist employment lawyer I should be very grateful indeed for any comments/corrections/criticisms from anyone out there who is.

Comments of the type requested may be more helpful to Frank if posted at his website, rather than here. But the document may well be of interest to TA readers who are not employment law specialists.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 22 August 2014 at 3:30pm BST
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South Carolina affiliates with the Global South

This announcement has been made jointly by the Global South Primatial Steering Committee and the Diocese of South Carolina led by Bishop Mark Lawrence.

Diocese of South Carolina: Global South Welcomes Diocese of South Carolina

…As you will recall the 223rd Diocesan Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina meeting at Christ Church in Mt. Pleasant on March 14-15, 2014 unanimously accepted the offer of the Global South Primates Steering Committee for Provisional Primatial Oversight.

Now this morning we receive with gratitude this letter from the Global South Primatial Steering Committee. It is their acceptance of our request for this gracious relationship. I trust you will be heartened as I have been by their welcome of us “… as an active and faithful member within the Global South of the Anglican Communion, until such time as a permanent primatial affiliation can be found.” It is my joy to share it with you…

Letter from Archbishops Anis and Ernest: Announcement regarding the Diocese of South Carolina.
Also available at Global South Anglican.

…The Global South of the Anglican Communion welcomes the unanimous request of The Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence, XIV Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, and the Convention of the Diocese of South Carolina to “accept the offer of the newly created Global South Primatial Oversight Council for pastoral oversight of our ministry as a diocese during the temporary period of our discernment of our final provincial affiliation.”

The decision of the Diocese of South Carolina was made in response to the meeting of the Global South Primates Steering Committee in Cairo, Egypt from 14-15 February 2014.1 A recommendation from that meeting stated that, “we decided to establish a Primatial Oversight Council, in following-through the recommendations taken at Dar es Salam in 2007, to provide pastoral and primatial oversight to dissenting individuals, parishes, and dioceses in order to keep them within the Communion.”

Recognizing the faithfulness of Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Diocese of South Carolina, and in appreciation for their contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, the Global South welcomes them as an active and faithful member within the Global South of the Anglican Communion, until such time as a permanent primatial affiliation can be found…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 22 August 2014 at 3:23pm BST
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | ECUSA

Monday, 18 August 2014

Vicky Beeching comes out as a lesbian

Last week Patrick Strudwick in the Independent broke the story about Vicky Beeching: Vicky Beeching, Christian rock star ‘I’m gay. God loves me just the way I am’.

Another interview by Jonathan Merritt appeared at RNS Christian rock star Vicky Beeching comes out as gay: An RNS interview.

Channel 4 News had an interview which is included in this report: ‘They made me feel like they thought I was demon-possessed’.

The BBC Radio 4 Sunday interviewed her in the last ten minutes of this episode.

Comments on the matter from others have included:

Eddie Green Outwards and Upwards

Accepting Evangelicals have issued a press release: Evangelical support for Vicky Beeching.

Symon Hill at Ekklesia Vicky Beeching and the EA: Who represents evangelicals?

Peter Ormerod at Comment is free Why Vicky Beeching coming out matters.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 18 August 2014 at 10:50pm BST
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Sunday, 17 August 2014

Letter to Government - Iraq and IS

Updated Sunday evening

Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds, has sent a letter about Iraq and IS to the Prime Minister. The bishop has published the text of the letter on his blog with this explanation.

Recognising the complexities of such matters and the difficult role of the Prime Minister in them, I wrote the letter as a constructive stimulus to discussion of the wider questions provoked by what is happening in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. Attempting to fix the immediate will prove costly in every respect, if we don’t have a long-term, overarching and holistic vision for what we – along with other governments, agencies and partners (such as the churches) – need to achieve. The lack of clarity about such a comprehensive and coherent vision is being commonly remarked upon, and my letter seeks concisely and respectfully to elicit some response to these serious questions.

Mark Townsend writes in The Observer today that Church launches bitter attack on PM’s ‘incoherent’ Middle East policy.

The Church of England has delivered a withering critique of David Cameron’s Middle East policy, describing the government’s approach as incoherent, ill-thought-out and determined by “the loudest media voice at any particular time”.

The criticisms are made in an extraordinary letter to the prime minister signed by the bishop of Leeds, Nicholas Baines, and written with the support of the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Seen by the Observer, it describes the UK’s foreign policy as so muddled and reactive that it is “difficult to discern the strategic intentions” of the government’s approach to the region…

[The Observer’s link to the full text of the letter is broken; it should be Dear prime minister: what is the UK government’s strategy in Iraq and Syria?]

The Telegraph has Church of England attacks Government response to Iraq crisis.

This morning’s BBC Radio4 Sunday programme covers this story with an interview with the Bishop of Manchester [starting at 1 minute 6 seconds].

The Church of England website has this page on Iraq.

Symon Hill writes that Nick Baines is mistaken: Cameron’s policy is coherent, but morally foul.


Nick Baines has some “comments of explanation”: As I was saying…

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 17 August 2014 at 12:26pm BST
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EHRC calls for evidence on religion or belief issues

Updated Tuesday

EHRC press release

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has launched a major call for evidence from individuals and organisations about how their religion or belief, or that of other people, may have affected their experiences in the workplace and in using the services and facilities they need in everyday life. People can give their feedback at www.equalityhumanrights.com/religion.

The Commission wants to gather as much information as possible from members of the public, employers, providers of services, legal advisors and religion or belief organisations. This will be used to assess how employers and service providers are taking religion or belief into account and the impact this has on individuals. The work covers all faiths and beliefs and experiences in England, Scotland and Wales. We want to hear about the issues people face and how they find solutions. The Commission will also use the evidence as part of its work looking at how effective the current legislation is proving in practice.

Despite a number of high profile legal cases involving the manifestation of religion or belief, very little is known about how frequently these issues occur in practice…

More background on the policy objective Shared understandings: a new EHRC strategy to strengthen understanding of religion or belief in public life.

Some further detail is below the fold.


Andrew Brown has written about this consultation: This attempt to redefine religious bias marks a shift from hard secularism

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has launched a consultation on whether it is handling religious equality appropriately. This marks a significant unease with the way in which equality law has dealt with Christians, in particular since 2010. The central question is whether there is anything more to Christian discontent than whingeing about the progress of gay rights…

…So the Evangelical Alliance, which claims to represent 2 million Christians, is asking its followers to write to the EHRC about their concerns. Given the strength of evangelical feeling against homosexuality, this could result in a lot of letters. The difficulty is that most of the alliance’s cases appear to the outside world to be Christians claiming that unless they can discriminate against gay people, they are themselves the victims of discrimination. This is not a view with wide appeal…

Continue reading "EHRC calls for evidence on religion or belief issues"
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 17 August 2014 at 12:15pm BST
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Saturday, 16 August 2014


Christina Patterson The Guardian The Good News Bible taught me the power of words, but also stole my youth

For lovers of mediaeval church architecture, James Alexander Cameron writes on Great Mistakes in English Medieval architecture.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 16 August 2014 at 11:00am BST
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Thursday, 14 August 2014

Church of England Finance Statistics 2012

The Church of England has published its Finance Statistics 2012 today together with this press release.

Record amount from parishes to fund ministry and mission, show 2012 stats
14 August 2014

Parishes across the country raised a record amount of £929 million in 2012 to fund the ministry and mission of the Church of England across the country according to statistics published today. Parishes raised these funds from a combination of investments, legacies and donations despite the reduced gift aid rates*. The figure represents a modest increase on £916m in 2011.

In addition to funding the work of the Church at a parish, diocesan and national level, Parish Churches also continued to give generously to other organisations donating more than £46m to other charitable organisations, exceeding the £43.3m raised by Children in Need.

The statistics also show that after three years of deficits, parishes have successfully reduced their expenditure and encouraged more giving, to reach a break-even point in 2012. After adjusting for inflation, the data show that expenditure increased between 2002 and 2009 but has been steadily declining since.

Dr John Preston, the Church of England’s national stewardship adviser said: “The 2012 figures show the Church’s continued commitment to give generously despite the economic environment. It is a real testimony to the generosity of people in the pews that despite the reduced gift aid rates they have raised the largest ever amount of money to support the ministry and mission of the church. The Christian principle of stewardship is clearly alive and well.”


* http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/charities/helpsheet-1.pdf

The information in the Finance Stats document is collated from the annual parish returns (excluding the Diocese in Europe).

For further Church of England statistics see https://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/facts-stats/research-statistics.aspx.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 14 August 2014 at 1:31pm BST
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Categorised as: Church of England | statistics

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Statement from Archbishop of Canterbury on Iraq

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued this Statement from Archbishop Justin on Iraq yesterday (Friday).

“The horrific events in Iraq rightly call our attention and sorrow yet again. Christians and other religious minorities are being killed and face terrible suffering.

“What we are seeing in Iraq violates brutally people’s right to freedom of religion and belief, as set out under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is extremely important that aid efforts are supported and that those who have been displaced are able to find safety. I believe that, like France, the United Kingdom’s doors should be open to refugees, as they have been throughout history.

“The international community must document human rights abuses being committed in northern Iraq so that future prosecutions can take place. It is important and necessary for the international community to challenge the culture of impunity which has allowed these atrocities to take place.

“With the world’s attention on the plight of those in Iraq, we must not forget that this is part of an evil pattern around the world where Christians and other minorities are being killed and persecuted for their faith. Only this week I received an email from a friend in Northern Nigeria about an appalling attack on a village, where Christians were killed because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Such horrific stories have become depressingly familiar in countries around the world, including Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

“We must continue to cry to God for peace and justice and security throughout the world. Those suffering such appalling treatment in Iraq are especially in my prayers at this time.”

Press reports include:

Edward Malnick The Telegraph Archbishop of Canterbury urges Britain to open doors to persecuted Iraqi Christians

Sam Jones and Owen Bowcott The Guardian Isis persecution of Iraqi Christians has become genocide, says religious leaders

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 9 August 2014 at 11:08am BST
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Oliver Farry New Statesman What should happen to churches as religion recedes?

Peter Stanford Third Sector Faith and Good Works - the weakening of traditional links

Giles Fraser The Guardian Just how far does the concept of Christian solidarity extend?

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 9 August 2014 at 11:00am BST
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Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Archbishop of Uganda says anti-gay law still needed

Last Friday, the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014 was declared invalid by a Ugandan constitutional court, because it had been passed by Parliament without a proper quorum.

See reports of this, such as Uganda Anti-Gay Law Struck Down by Court in the New York Times or Uganda anti-gay law declared ‘null and void’ by constitutional court in the Guardian.

There are now reports that Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, Primate of Uganda, has called for its prompt re-introduction:

Religion News Service Uganda’s Anglican leader doubles down on anti-gay law

Uganda’s top Anglican leader criticized the constitutional court for striking down the country’s controversial anti-gay law on a technicality, saying the law is still needed to protect children and families from Western-imported homosexuality…

Episcopal News Service Uganda’s Anglican leader says anti-gay law still needed

…Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali called the decision a disappointment for the Church of Uganda, religious leaders and many Ugandans.

“The ‘court of public opinion’ has clearly indicated its support for the Act, and we urge Parliament to consider voting again on the Bill with the proper quorum in place,” Ntagali said on Aug. 4.

Uganda’s religious leaders had widely supported the law, but opposed an earlier clause threatening the death penalty for some homosexual acts. Most Ugandan church leaders say homosexuality is against God’s order and African cultures. Such a law was needed to protect families, children and youth, the leaders stressed.

“I appeal to all God-fearing people and all Ugandans to remain committed to the support against homosexuality,” said Ntagali, whose church cut ties with the Episcopal Church, the United States-based branch of Anglicanism, after the election of an openly gay bishop in 2003…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 9:00am BST
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Bishop of Gloucester steps back

Updated Friday morning

It was reported on Saturday that the Bishop of Gloucester, Michael Perham, who was due to retire later this year, was to step back ‘for personal reasons’ with immediate effect. It has now been confirmed that he has today been interviewed by Gloucestershire Police in connection with two alleged incidents of indecent assault in the early 1980s. He has not been arrested and was not charged. One incident concerns a woman aged over 18 at the time, and the other a woman under 18 at the time.

Further coverage in

The Bishop of Tewkesbury, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, will act as bishop.

UPDATED Wednesday evening with other reports. There is little or no extra information in any of these stories.

Updated again Friday

The Bishop of Tewkesbury has published this letter on the diocesan website.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Tuesday, 5 August 2014 at 6:32pm BST
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