Monday, 26 February 2007

GS: Question Time

The full list of Questions can be found here.

A few of the prepared written Answers are below. The full audio, including the supplementary questions and their answers, can be found here. We will transcribe more written answers, and a few of those supplementaries later on, when time permits.

The Archbishop of Canterbury to reply as Joint President of the Archbishops’ Council:

Mr Andrew Presland (Peterborough) to ask the Presidents of the Archbishops’ Council:

Q17. Does the Council regard the transitional period proposed to be given by the Government for the Roman Catholic adoption agencies “to adapt” to the requirements of the Sexual Orientation Regulations as:
1. a time in which faith groups are expected to rewrite their teachings so as to conform with the Government’s own agenda;
2. time to fall in line with the idea that the Government has reversed the long-standing principle that it should not be illegal for someone to act in accordance with his or her conscience; or
3. something else?

Mrs Alison Wynne (Blackburn) to ask the Presidents of the Archbishops’ Council:

Q18. In the light of fears that the introduction of the proposed Sexual Orientation Regulations for England, Wales and Scotland will severely hinder freedom of conscience, what representations has the Archbishops’ Council made, or will it now make, to the Government concerning those regulations?

Mrs Sarah Finch (London) to ask the Presidents of the Archbishops’ Council:
Q19. In view of the threat to freedom of conscience posed by the introduction of Sexual Orientation Regulations, is the Archbishops’ Council pressing for urgent further consultations with the Government, in order to preserve one of the most precious freedoms we enjoy in this country?

Mrs Sarah Finch (London) to ask the Presidents of the Archbishops’ Council:
Q20. What consultations is the Archbishops’ Council having with other faith groups in the United Kingdom, with a view to joint discussion with the Government to preserve our freedom of conscience?

Answer
With permission I shall answer this with questions 18, 19, and 20.

Last June the Archbishops Council submitted a carefully argued response to the Government’s consultation paper on the proposed regulations. The Government had already accepted the principle that some special provisions were needed to safeguard the manifesting of religious convictions. The issue at stake was how widely those provisions should be drafted to reflect a proper balancing of conflicting rights. Since then, Archbishops’ Council staff have stayed in close touch with the representatives of other churches and religious organisations. There has also been a series of exchanges with Government ministers and advisers.

The Regulations for Great Britain have yet to be published and will in some respects be different from those already approved by Parliament for Northern Ireland. It remains to be seen therefore, precisely what the impact will be on churches and religious organisations generally. But the decision already announced in relation to Roman Catholic adoption agencies has rightly caused concern about the State’s willingness to impose requirements on voluntary organisations that are in conflict with the religious convictions and consciences that are the inspiration for their work. Whatever view is taken of the Roman Catholic policy on adoption, there are deeper issues here about the rights, liberties and dignities of independent bodies in relation to the State. To use the law to make it impossible, after a transitional period, for a religious organisation to carry on doing work that is manifestly for the common good is a new and troubling development.

The Archbishop of York to reply as Chairman of the House of Bishops’ Standing Committee:

Mr Robert Hammond (Chelmsford) to ask the Chairman of the House of Bishops:

Q22. Noting how some of the words and actions of the celebrities in the Big Brother house, although apparently not intended to be, were perceived by the media and public as being racist, is the House of Bishops aware that some of its words and actions (like those of other Church leaders) about same-sex relationships may be perceived by the media, public and gay and lesbian Christians as being homophobic, and assuming that this is not its intention, what action is being taken to change this perception?

Answer
I think there are three issues here. First, just as with Big Brother we have to be realistic about the editing process in the media which often presents a polarised binary narrative of them and us. In such circumstances our words and actions are oversimplified as being either pro-gay or anti-gay, thereby distorting the message. Second, the distinction is made within the Church between orientation and practice is a distinction which is lost to many outside the Church who might employ the term “homophobic”. Finally the House is committed to listening process as outlined in subsection 3 of Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference and is also committed to “minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals” as outlined in subsection 4.

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Categorised as: General Synod
Comments

Oh the horror! It's the end of British civilization.!

Posted by: Richard Lyon on Tuesday, 27 February 2007 at 12:45am GMT

No, discriminating against people has nothing to do with 'the common good'

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 27 February 2007 at 12:53am GMT

Either this is exeedingly childish (on purpose), or straight out of la-la land.

"To think that people have died for this!"

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 27 February 2007 at 9:07am GMT

The AofC: "there are deeper issues here about the rights, liberties and dignities of independent bodies ..... "

Perhaps the Government feels that the rights, liberties and dignities of its citizens are more important?

And again: "To use the law to make it impossible .... for a religious organisation to carry on doing work .... "

It is not the law that is making it impossible for Catholic agencies to continue their work; it is their religious convictions.

Posted by: Terence Dear on Tuesday, 27 February 2007 at 10:47am GMT

So, at least this site isn't 'obsessed with sex'. I guess the other 80 or so questions were withdrawn?

Posted by: David Keen on Tuesday, 27 February 2007 at 11:52am GMT

Golly, I wonder how anyone could ever get the impression that the CoE is obsessed with sex!

Posted by: JPM on Tuesday, 27 February 2007 at 12:23pm GMT

'rightly caused concern about the State’s willingness to impose requirements on voluntary organisations that are in conflict with the religious convictions and consciences that are the inspiration for their work'

The Catholic church is quite willing to impose requirements on people whose religious convictions and consciences inspire them to disagree with and even abhor the official teachings of their church. Has the government taken a leaf out of their book? I know which looks to be the more Christian approach from God's point of view.

Posted by: Neil on Tuesday, 27 February 2007 at 12:41pm GMT

The ABC said (during the answer:
"The Regulations for Great Britain have yet to be published and will in some respects be different from those already approved by Parliament for Northern Ireland."

The fact they will be different in some respects, is major news

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 27 February 2007 at 1:21pm GMT

Conscience used to be respected in the UK, even when the government undertook bad actions, like the 1967 Abortion Act, which has killed millions of preborn children. Christian doctors and nurses were at least notionally allowed to withdraw on grounds of conscience. But these ideologically-driven SORs are forcing Catholic adoption agencies out of business. No respect for conscience where the gay agenda is concerned. The UK is following the route of Canada and Sweden, where Pastor Ake Green was notoriously prosecuted for criticizing homosexuality in a sermon. The proponents of the new sexual ethic want to stamp out dissent. They may yet succeed, as people emigrate, but one wonders what they'll say to the burgeoning Muslim populations of Malmo and other towns.

Posted by: Steve Watson. on Tuesday, 27 February 2007 at 4:56pm GMT

The issue of freedom of religion and conscience is considered at length in the just published Joint Committee on human rights report

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200607/jtselect/jtrights/58/5802.htm

Briefly described on my blog http://craig-cpnlsn.blogspot.com/2007/02/joint-committee-on-human-rights-report.html

It deals effectively with the misleading gumf put out by the religious right about an alleged conflict of rights and considers that while the freedom to have a belief (article 9 (1) of the ECHR) is absolute that its manifestation (article 9 (2) of the Convention) may be limited to protect the rights of others.... and that in this case it is necessary under separate human rights provisions to protect LGB people from such discrimination.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Wednesday, 28 February 2007 at 2:11pm GMT

No, conscience should not be respected if it means discriminating against gay and lesbian people.

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 28 February 2007 at 3:42pm GMT

Indeed, Craig, we can't have people refusing to burn incense to Caesar. What an idea. Where do they think authority comes from? Conscience should not be respected if it means discriminating against the State's claim to obedience.

Posted by: Steve Watson. on Wednesday, 28 February 2007 at 8:47pm GMT

IIRC the 'thurificati' and 'libellitaci' of the Roman persecutions represent a highly sophisticated attempt on the part of the Roman state to turn the CHurch's practices to its own advantage.

Because the Church at that time took a hard line on even those who had been coerced into apostasy (read 'huis clos' if you want an interesting meditation on the importance of one momentary lapse), it was an ingenious way of destroying the Church by creating a huge number of despairing ex-Christians who would act as a counter to Christian missionary activity,

The puritans of the time were hot against any recalculations of Church teaching (read Tertullian's 'De Coronis') for these overturned unbroken tradition. Others realised that the Roman state had exposed a weakness, and acted accordingly.....

Sometimes, you know, God can even work through non-churchgoers....

Posted by: Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Wednesday, 28 February 2007 at 10:51pm GMT

The problem with Tertullian's teaching is that he misunderstood the New Testament both on baptism and the Christian's growth in grace. Luther ('simul justus et peccator') and the actual Puritans of the 16th and 17th centuries understood the NT much better on these issues. Like the good jurist he was, Tertullian read the NT as presenting a judicial interim or transitional 'period of grace', while 'true' Christianity had arrived in his time - a bit like the 'period of grace' the UK government is giving the Catholic adoption agencies to knuckle under or close shop, after which True Humanist Liberation will have arrived. The thought that tax-paying citizens should publicly disagree with the state ideology of Tolerance is intolerable.

Posted by: Steve Watson. on Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 7:18am GMT

Plenty of people at the time didn't think Tertullian had misunderstood the NT. Time's arrow proved him wrong. Did C16-17 Puritans understand 'better' or is it simply that his particular puritanical path was closed down?

Anyhow, the serious point was that puritanism and hard-line thinking was exploited as a weapon against Christianity: 'radical' Christians managed to blunt the weapon by reconsidering previously hallowed doctrines - at the cost of enduring (eg) Tertullian's rigorist outburst.

Posted by: Mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 4:02pm GMT

David, Tertullian was not a 'Puritan' in the C16-17 sense for the simple reason that he went considerably beyond the NT in his rigorism and legalism; as I said above, he treated the NT as only interim (a period of grace to give people 'time to catch up') and not the actual standard for Christians. Tertullian's teachings - like obligatory celibacy or the near impossibility of reconcilation after post-baptismal sin (not to mention his curious doctrine of baptism) - were poorly founded on the NT, and brought a reaction from the Catholic church, from which Tertullian separated himself. The effect on North African Christianity was baneful, as the subsequent Donatist schism showed. At least as far as the doctrine of grace is concerned, the Reformers and Puritans (who were, of course, leading Church of England men) looked to the great opponent of the Donatists in North Africa, St Augustine. Not just time's arrow but a better grasp of the teaching of the Bible gave an answer to the Donatists - however, North African Christianity itself - Tertullian's heirs and all - was well nigh obliterated by the arrival of the Muslim Arabs in 698- not what you would call "'radical' Christians". Deleta est Carthago.
I owe most of my knowledge of Tertullian to the books and lectures of Gerald Bray, Professor of Anglican studies at Samford University, who did his doctorate on Tertullian at the Sorbonne.

Posted by: Steve Watson. on Friday, 2 March 2007 at 7:33am GMT

History is not just about reading books. One has to "read, learn and inwardly digest".

Some experience of the World does help.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 2 March 2007 at 1:05pm GMT
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