Sunday, 23 April 2017
GAFCON threatens to plant a bishop in Britain
Jonathan Petre reports in the Mail on Sunday that African and Asian church leaders threaten to ‘plant’ a bishop in Britain to defy Welby on gay Christians:
Conservative Anglican archbishops from Africa and Asia are plotting to create a new ‘missionary’ bishop to lead traditionalists in the UK – after warning that the Church of England is becoming too liberal on homosexuality.
The rebel archbishops are set to give the green light to the controversial plan at a crucial meeting in Africa this week in defiance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
Insiders said the move was the ‘nuclear option’ as it would represent a highly provocative intervention into the Church of England by foreign archbishops and a direct challenge to the authority of Archbishop Welby, who is nominal head of Anglicans worldwide…
Anglican Mainstream which has close ties to GAFCON reports that:
Anglican Mainstream understands from Gafcon UK that this article is only partially correct, and that Gafcon UK will be issuing a comment later.
We will update this article when the latter occurs.
Saturday, 22 April 2017
Opinion - 22 April 2017
David Walker ViaMedia.News Why Should the Devil Have All the Best Tunes (and Words)?
Adrian Harris, the Church of England’s head of digital communications, has been talking to Helen Dunne of CorpComms Magazine: How the Church of England is extending its congregation
Madeleine Davies Church Times Exporting the Brompton Way
“An HTB church-plant is now widely expected when a well-situated urban church’s numbers are low.”
Wednesday, 19 April 2017
Opinion - 19 April 2017
Joanna Ruck The Guardian Easter Sunday around the world – in pictures
Nick Spencer The Telegraph Our politicians are more devout than ever – so it’s time we started taking their faith seriously
Melanie McDonagh The Spectator If you want to save the CofE, then get stuck in (and go to church)
a few Easter sermons
Archbishop of Dublin [There is a link to the full text at the end.]
Archbishop of Canterbury
Bishop of Chichester
Bishop of Durham
Bishop of Jarrow
Bishop of Leeds
Bishop of Lincoln
Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham
Tuesday, 18 April 2017
Church of Scotland report on human sexuality
The following press release from the Church of Scotland has been issued today:
The latest report from the Theological Forum on human sexuality to come before the General Assembly has been published.
The comprehensive document will be considered by Commissioners in Edinburgh next month.
The document has found its way into the public domain ahead of schedule, before all the General Assembly reports are published in the Blue Book on Thursday.
In light of the report appearing in the national press, the Principal Clerk has authorised its immediate publication to allow Commissioners, members of the church and members of the public to understand fully the content and context.
The General Assembly is being asked to consider two key issues.
- Authorise the Legal Questions Committee to undertake a further study on the legal implications of conducting same-sex marriages and report back to the General Assembly in 2018. *
- Invite the Church to take stock of its history of discrimination at different levels and in different ways against gay people and to apologise individually and corporately and seek to do better.
In releasing the report the Convener of the Theological Forum, the Very Rev Professor Iain Torrance, said: “The Report addresses what has been a long running argument in all the churches.
“In years past there has been an idea that in time one side in this argument would emerge as the sole victor.
“We don’t think like that now.
“That is why we are arguing for what, last year, the Forum called ‘constrained difference’.
“This is saying that within limits we can make space for more than one approach.
“It is closely similar to what the Archbishop of Canterbury calls ‘mutual flourishing’.
“This is a centrist report, aimed at encouraging mutual flourishing.”
The Principal Clerk, the Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, said: “It is unfortunate that this report has found its way into the public domain before this year’s volume of Assembly Reports has been published.
“However, it is important that people are now able to access the full report.
“It will now be for the Assembly to decide whether it wants to ask the Legal Questions Committee to pursue further research on the matters which would require to be addressed in any new legislation permitting Ministers and Deacons to officiate at same-sex marriage ceremonies.
“If the General Assembly does move in this direction a further report will be heard in 2018.”
The full text of the report is available here.
The previous report published in 2013 is still available here. As we reported at the time the best analysis of that report was by Law & Religion UK: Men and Women in Marriage, and the Church of Scotland.
The Diocese of Gloucester has this morning announced that Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester between 2004 and 2014, died on the evening of Monday 17 April.
In the announcement, Bishop Michael’s successor as Bishop of Gloucester, Bishop Rachel Treweek writes:
It is with great sadness that I am writing to inform you that Bishop Michael died peacefully at home on Monday evening, April 17, following a special Easter weekend with all the family.
I last saw Bishop Michael on Tuesday 11 April during Holy Week. Not only was it good to share together in the Eucharist on that occasion but also to preside at the Chrism Eucharist on Maundy Thursday knowing that the Dean would then be taking Bishop Michael bread and wine from our service in Gloucester Cathedral with the love and prayers of the Diocese.
Sunday, 16 April 2017
Easter in the office
It was Sunday morning in Jerusalem and the staff at Temple House, administrative headquarters for Religious Affairs, were making their way back to their desks after the short Passover break. They were doing so with some reluctance; last week had been particularly tough across all departments.
It had started in Finance; temple money changers had demanded compensation after someone had been allowed to run amok, overturning their tables. Next, Stewardship had complained that queues of impoverished widows carefully placing single small coins in the treasury were putting off the more prestigious High Value Donors; important men who appreciated neither the wait nor the smell. Around midweek, HR got wind that a man called Lazarus, whose sisters had just claimed welfare payments following his death, was apparently alive and well and walking the streets of Bethany.
Across the corridor, Safeguarding were investigating rumours that an unknown rabbi had been, in the words of a reliable informant, “suffering the little children to come unto him”. There was no documentary evidence of him completing the necessary training. Legal had spent half the week looking into what powers they had to restrict him.
Communications had faced their own problems, when local media published a survey claiming an alarmingly high proportion of Sadducees did not believe in a physical resurrection of the dead. Getting out their rebuttals wasn’t helped by a meltdown in IT. Half the messenger pigeons had come down with bird flu and Maintenance couldn’t promise spares until after the holiday. To top it all, the secretary to the Buildings Committee had spent hours refuting claims that somebody had submitted an application to tear down the Temple and replace it in just three days. “Does nobody realise how many months it takes to approve moving a candlestick, let alone throw up an entire new building, and with unconventional construction techniques?”, she’d exclaimed.
Anyway, today was the start of a new week. Much of the trouble had been traced back to a single maverick preacher. With some help from the Romans, he had been appropriately dealt with. After that the Passover had been fairly quiet.
Actually, like most Passovers they could remember, it had been a bit of a let down. Every year, in the build up to the festival, there was at least a frisson of hope that this would be the time when God would act to save his people. Maybe this Passover would not simply be a remembrance of long ago but the moment when a new deliverance would be accomplished. It never happened, but the annual tinge of post-festival disappointment could not quite be expunged.
And the new week wasn’t shaping up well. Reports coming in suggested unauthorised removal of a body from a grave; was it a matter for Faculty administration? Some witnesses implied there had been violence against the troops guarding the tomb; did this make it a Discipline matter? A woman now claimed to have seen the deceased; perhaps it was a ghost, as he hadn’t allowed her to touch him. Maybe Deliverance were the people to handle it. Still, in every office there’s a place where the complex and difficult problems nobody wants to deal with get dumped, and Religious Affairs was no different. After all, if somebody was wandering around the city carrying a three-day old corpse that had lost its burial wrappings, it just had to be a case for Health and Safety.
David Walker is the Bishop of Manchester.
Easter messages from bishops - a selection
Bishop of Basingstoke
Bishop of Bath and Wells
Bishops of Blackburn, Burnley and Lancaster
Bishop of Chichester [3½ minute video]
Bishop of Coventry
Bishop of Dorking
Bishop of Dover
Bishop of Dudley
The Bishop of Durham has two different messages written message video message
Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe
Bishop of Leeds
The Bishop of Liverpool has two different messages written message video message
Bishop of Manchester
Bishop of Newcastle
Bishop of Norwich
Bishop of Oxford
Bishop of St Edmundsbury And Ipswich
Bishop of Sherborne
Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham [4 minute video]
Bishop of Warrington
Bishop of Worcester
Saturday, 15 April 2017
Opinion - 15 April 2017
Two pieces from The Spectator:
Rod Dreher The Benedict option “Believers must find new, more radical ways to practise their faith.”
and in response
Matthew Parris Why I admire the Church of England “Some disapprove of the church’s frequent accommodations with secular society. I do not.”
Paul Bayes ViaMedia.News A Moment in the Tangle
Two pieces from ABC Religion and Ethics:
Stanley Hauerwas Naming God: The Burning Bush, the Cross and the Hiddenness of the Revealed God
Richard B Hays What Is Handed Over: Maundy Thursday, Memory and the Gospel
Peter Ould looks at a recent ComRes poll poll for Psephizo Do Christians really not believe in the Resurrection?
Richard Coles New Statesman Brexiteers and Remainers alike could learn from the life of Jesus
Alison Ray British Library Medieval manuscripts blog A hunt for medieval Easter eggs — including a 15th-century recipe for an imitation egg
Harriet Sherwood The Guardian The modern pilgrims retracing Britain’s ancient routes
Friday, 14 April 2017
With the devil on your back
“It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back.” So wrote Sydney Carter, in a song which will be sung across the country today. (It’s also the fifth most popular copyrighted song in school assemblies according to CCLI.)
Carter himself called it “pretty far flown, probably heretical and anyway dubiously Christian,” and expected opposition. There’s some truth in his comments — it could be variously labelled as syncretist, universalist, Platonist and several other -ist’s as well — but the numbers tell their own story.
A lot of that is down to the catchy Shaker tune, but the gentle cynicism about the establishment and expansive cosmic vista catch the mood of the times too. What it nearly misses is the agony. “No real people were hurt during the writing of this song.” Nearly — if it wasn’t for the line I began with, where the real struggle shudders through.
And on Good Friday, it must. We’ll sing “Lift High the Cross”, but be careful to balance it with “it causes me to tremble.” We cannot sustain the pretence that Easter has not already happened that the liturgy properly invites; but we dare not pretend that Easter was and is without cost.
For me this Easter some of that cost and contradiction is personal — my father died just a few weeks ago. But it is also ecclesiastical. Strong feelings are swirling around us. Ten bishops out of ten would like to tidy them up. But the lesson of a certain un-noted report was that feelings like these are not to be tidied or managed but lived alongside. We will find God’s good future for us with them, through them, not by burying them and thinking they’re gone. The bench too will have to learn new ways of modelling and leading unity which do not bury its own diversity: something I’ve seen beginning in my days in the House and College, but something we still have to explore further and very tenderly together.
What this mustn’t be, though, is a surrender to the short-cuts of post-truth politics or populist power. If the dance of God is to go on, the choreography of the Kingdom requires all of us to be on the floor, sharing in the exacting task of listening, looking, learning, following, leading — in a pattern that will look very broken if part of it is missing. We will actually need each other to make it work.
As well as doing plenty of personal processing today, then, I’ll also be bringing some very different sorts of friends with me in my mind to the Cross, each of whom has a piece of my heart, acknowledging their hopes and their hurts, sensing the limb-breaking tensions, feeling the weight of the devil on all our backs that would seek to pull us apart: but feeling too the unstoppable rhythm of the dance that will go on.
David Thomson is Bishop of Huntingdon in the diocese of Ely.
Thursday, 13 April 2017
Living as the Body of Christ
When we offer the elements at the Eucharist, in the person of the priest, Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and shares out his Body. At the same time Jesus accepts and sanctifies our sacrifice of thanks and praise. He takes each of us and blesses us. We are broken, too, as we share his suffering for the sake of the world.
And we are shared out as well. Some of us get caught up in lively debates with people who are vehemently opposed to living a life of faith, sometimes with very good reason after a bad experience of the Church. A person said to me that the Church was full of hypocrites, so I told him there was always room for one more. He came back for more and said, “Do you think you’re Jesus or something”? I told him, “In a sense, yes”. I believe it was Austen Farrar who wrote that as Jesus knew his death was drawing near and that he would be taken out of this world, he took not only bread and wine to be his body and blood; he also took those disciples to embody the continuing power of his Incarnation in the world. For if we, the Body of Christ, empowered by the Spirit of Christ, are not living out what Jesus made us at the Last Supper, the expression of his Incarnation in the world today, who else is it going to be? The world has a desperate need for his presence, in the Gospel, in the Eucharist, and in each of us. Somewhere in the complexity of their lives people are invited to discover the living God in the quality of the hospitality which we both offer and receive. If you will, it is the kind of foot washing to which we are all called. Someone has to embody God alongside everyone so that everyone can open up to the God within and around them. It takes the poor in spirit to touch and heal the poverty of the world’s fear and hopelessness. This is a job for us.
So the Eucharist which Christ instituted on the night he was betrayed is not just a memorial of the Last Supper celebrated once a year. It is not just the particular sacramental moment of our regular worship. It is the whole of our life lived in thanksgiving to God. And before we start to back out of the deal because we are unworthy, let us remember that Jesus included Judas in the foot washing and the breaking of bread. No one is left out who does not choose to absent themselves. Give thanks to the God who takes us, who loves us now, and who loves us into becoming that beautiful and holy people whom God already sees. Living as the Body of Christ, the Mass of the Last Supper reminds us, is always about being a guest before ever we are the host. That’s an important lesson about how we engage in God’s mission in God’s world.
Stephen Conway is the Bishop of Ely.
Wednesday, 12 April 2017
Opinion - 12 April 2017
Louie Crew Clay Episcopal Café Sass and the Gospel
Nick Spencer Theos Looking down the well at the resurrection
Philip Jones Ecclesiastical Law The Easter Offering: Duty and Charity
Jenny Sinclair The Tablet Rebuilding the Broken Body
Kelvin Holdsworth Whither the Chrism Mass?
Monday, 10 April 2017
Cathedrals Working Group
We reported here on the Bishop of Peterborough’s Visitation Charge to the Cathedral. In his charge the bishop urged “the Archbishops’ Council, the Church Commissioners, and the House of Bishops, to look at whether the current Cathedrals Measure is adequate, and to consider revising it”. In response to the bishop’s request, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have today announced that they have set up a Cathedrals Working Group. Details are in this press release, which is copied below the fold.
Frank Cranmer of Law & Religion UK has posted here: Review of the governance of English Cathedrals.
The announcement was anticipated by Catherine Pepinster in yesterday’s Observer: Anglicans launch rescue bid as England’s finest cathedrals battle a financial crisis.
Ruth Gledhill writes today for Christian Today: Cathedrals in England to be given management overhaul after growing cash crisis problems.Continue reading "Cathedrals Working Group"
Saturday, 8 April 2017
Next Bishop of Sheffield - news and reactions
Catherine Fox Close Encounters The Leaving of Liverpool
Tim Wyatt Church Times Dean of Liverpool named as the next Bishop of Sheffield
Robert Cumber The Star Sheffield’s next bishop vows to restore unity following row over women priests
… Dr Wilcox said: “I will be ordaining with great joy and delight both women and men as priests in the diocese but I will also be hugely supportive of Bishop Glyn (who opposes the ordination of women priests) and respect the traditional Catholic position.” …
Harriet Sherwood The Guardian No 10 names new bishop of Sheffield after row over previous appointee
Olivia Rudgard The Telegraph New Bishop of Sheffield: It’s an ‘enormous privilege’ to proof-read my wife’s raunchy Church novels
[Fifty Shades of Purple is not, as the above article might suggest, a book, but a two-part blog: chapter one chapter two.]
Harry Farley Christian Today New Bishop of Sheffield announced after ‘highly individualised attacks’ forced Philip North to stand down
Glyn Webster Bishop of Beverley Bishop of Sheffield: Peter Wilcox
Archbishop Cranmer Sheffield gets its second best bishop – Pete Wilcox, Dean of Liverpool
Opinion - 8 April 2017
J Barrett Lee Hopping Hadrian’s Wall Altar Calls: Discussing Liturgical Worship with Evangelicals
Nick Baines Diocese of Leeds Bishop Nick speaks on working with the media
N T Wright ABC Religion and Ethic Palm Sunday: Jesus Rides into the Perfect Storm
Kelvin Holdsworth Thurible Trolleys are for Supermarkets (and not for funerals).
Roger Bolton Church Times The BBC and religion: bad decisions, badly timed
“The Corporation lacks a strategy, and is dangerously out of touch with faith communities.”
Madeleine Davies Church Times Why big churches aren’t led by women
“Care for their families is a key reason hardly any women are incumbents of the Church’s largest churches, a new research paper from Ministry Division has concluded.”
The paper is here: Vocational pathways: Clergy leading large churches.
We have a king who rides a donkey
Anglicans of a certain age may remember the ‘Pink Book’, a collection of traditional hymns set to new melodies. I have it on moderately unreliable information that some of the perpetrators never seriously intended their forced marriage of the words of ‘Vexilla Regis’ to the tune of ‘Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington’ to have any currency beyond an intimate, if misguided, circle, but, as they say, the rest is history. Nevertheless, they would welcome into their circle whoever it was who decided that a jolly good wheeze for Palm Sunday would be to set a rhyme about the Triumphal Entry to the tune of ‘What shall we do with the drunken sailor’. But my unease about Palm Sunday’s proliferation of donkeys goes beyond the æsthetic.
Two aspects of the donkey ritual in particular strike me. First, is it not curious that, although we willingly cast people as Christ in various forms of Passion play up and down the land, the Palm Sunday donkey is usually unburdened. What are we looking at? And, perhaps more to the point for those for whom the Palm-Sunday-with-a-donkey is a profound act of witness, what is the onlooker supposed to see? Something’s missing.
And my second concern starts in a conversation some years ago when the Palm Sunday liturgy started once more to incorporate the reading of the Passion. An indignant parishioner demanded to know why we were spoiling Palm Sunday with a long Passion reading? Did it not detract from the Triumphal Entry, and also make the service far too long? Should not the Passion reading be left for Good Friday, so we could therefore enjoy the Palm Sunday story unclouded? And, as it happened, they never attended the Holy Week services, so they would bound effortlessly from the cries of ‘Hosanna’ to those of ‘He is risen’.
A riderless donkey and a sanitised liturgy conspire to bypass the messy reality of the Gospel. Attention falls not on the Christ, riding to his doom, but on the anonymous animal, for there is no human figure there to cause us to ask, ‘And what happens next?’ The band of enthusiastic, palm-waving followers may well find unpalatable a fifteen minute reading of the Passion in all its darkness. What bystanders there may be at 09.30 on Sunday will look on with a mixture of bewilderment, amusement and even a little ridicule at this peculiar spectacle.
Yet somehow, in this there is a faithful encounter with the Gospel narrative. Between the lines of the Palm Sunday story we see the enraptured followers, all shouting ‘Hosanna’ and preferring not to think about where this might all be leading. We hear the crowd, puzzled, uncomprehending, asking what all the fuss is about. The donkey in the Gospels might just as well be riderless for all the serious attention being paid to its rider and what he might signify by the locals, by the tourists, and even by the disciples themselves, still reluctant to take to heart Jesus’ dark warnings of what must be. And in Sunday morning’s damp and half-deserted streets there is a genuine echo of Jerusalem’s confused, ambivalent mosaic.
‘We have a king who rides a donkey’ these days might well produce the response, ‘So? The house of Windsor has ridden elephants.’ But the very incoherence of this much-loved Palm Sunday spectacle brings us closer than we could expect to the real Triumphal Entry. In all this tangle of uncomprehending denial, with its over-optimistic disciples, its uncomprehending crowd and its all-but-invisible rider journeying towards a cross about which no-one really wants to think, we find our participant selves.
David Rowett is a priest in the diocese of Lincoln