Friday, 15 May 2009

Equality Bill - Church of England briefing

The Equality Bill 2008-2009 had a second reading in the House of Commons on Monday. The Hansard record of that debate starts here.

The full text of the bill can be found in two PDF files, here, and here. For html formatted versions go here.

For background papers, this page is very useful.

See earlier article for my report in the Church Times on the Church of England’s criticism of the bill’s definition of the phrase “for the pur­poses of organised religion”.

The Mission and Public Affairs Council of the CofE issued a parliamentary briefing in advance of Monday’s debate. A PDF version is now on the Church Times website. An html version can be found here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 15 May 2009 at 10:35pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
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Under the heading 'Church of England to challenge equality bill', Riazat Butt writes in the Guardian today (16 May) [The church] argued the equality bill has 'potential for drift' towards government actively promoting religious equality 'which could undermine the public place of the Church of England'.

There we have it, neither religious equality nor indeed human rights are of interest to the C of E. What matters is its place in society. What a sorry position the church has got itself into.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 16 May 2009 at 5:40pm BST

Richard Ashby rightly, in my opinion, questions the propriety of the C.of E. challenging the rights of others to propagate and practice their faith in the UK. For the C.of E. to any longer claim *special provision* emphasises the present outstanding criticism of other Christian bodies; that C.of E. is a 'state religion', having special privileges not available to other Christian Churches or any other religious bodies. To continue in this state dependency situation marks out the C.of E. as being different from other Anglican Churches around the world, which have to bear witness to Christ alongside people of other faiths.

One of the benefits of the Roman Catholic system is that it can claim a 'universality' perhaps more proper to the practice of Christianity. To continue to proclaim the Church of England as the exclusive 'national state religion' in today's world, is to maintain the Constantinian model, which became problematic for the spread of Christianity into realms not ruled by Constantine.
Also, with a growing number of immigrants from other countries, there is a need for tolerance of other belief systems than our own.

Anglicanism is already a world-wide phenomenon. And although this has its problems - as witness the exclusivism of the 'Global South Churches' -
Anglicanism can claim to be a branch of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ in that world.

For the C. of E. to claim special status in the UK., would be like saying to the other groups of Anglicans around the world: "Our brand of Angicanism is superior to yours - simply because we are unique holders of its genius, which is derived from the state, and not the Universal Christ who is Lord of the Church".

Jesus seemed to have no quarrel with people of other religious and cultural streams. In fact, he sometimes applauded their faith as being more effective than that of his own Jewish brothers and sisters. Someone once said that faith is 'caught and not taught', so that if we live out our faith in the light of Jesus' call in today's Gospel reading to "Abide in my love" (cf John 15:9-17), abiding in God's love, it may be that the Church will be able to meet the challenge of all other religious faith systems - not by competition, but by universal love and acceptance of others.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 17 May 2009 at 7:35am BST

"Our brand of Angicanism is superior to yours"

As an Anglican living in a country where we have no "official status", but are merely one, rather small, group of Christians among many, I can honestly say I have never felt the CofE was claiming to be somehow more exalted than the rest of us. I just think it's really, really funny, yet sweet in an oddly sentimental sort of way, that all these conservative eccentric old men get to play Empire and convince themselves they actually have power outside their very limited sphere. It's like looking at some renactment village put together for tourists. Not only that, but I feel smug, God forgive my wicked soul, that I look at the Establishment of the CofE as something amusing rather than getting all worked up that the CofE could be interpreted as saying its Anglicanism is somehow superior to that of "my" branch of Anglicanism. Offence is mine to take, not theirs to give. I choose not to be offended that a group of eccentric conservative Englishmen might be considered to be thinking themselves in some way superior to me. There have always been eccentric conservative Englishmen who think themselves superior to me. Even not so conservative Englishmen, like Paul McCartney, think themselves superior to me. How is this night different from all other nights?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 18 May 2009 at 4:11pm BST

No, Ford. Here's one Englishman, living abroad, who does not consider himself superior to you - or to anyone else in the Communion. It's just that I felt - as an Englishman abroad - that the dear old C.of E. (my alma mater) must try to extricate itself from the stigma of 'State Church'. This has been one of the unfortunate situations in which certain Roman Catholics feel they are somewhat superior to what some of them want to label as a state-controlled religion, and therefore hardly to be trusted.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 19 May 2009 at 7:51am BST

Fr. Ron,

One of the joys of being a demmed colonial is having scorn for the colonizers. I often say, and it is not even half joking, that the best reason to keep the Commonwealth together is that no matter the colour of our skin, our language, our religion, we all of us have had the experience of having snotty upper class Brits look down their noses at us. It might have varied in severity depending on some racial factors, but it is a common experience for us. It also allows us a great deal of fodder for humour, and believe me this is all about humour. Seriously, if I can sit with a Nigerian and share stories of the humour of British superiority, doesn't that bring us closer together and make our differences seem less important? I have done this with people from India. I grew up in a place where that kind of colonialism was commonplace, and it was a surprise for some of my Indian friends to find that I could relate to their stories of growing up in the late days of the Raj. Suddenly, though our races differed, we were that much more united. And not in hatred of our common "other", either, but in a bit of wry humour at those who, years ago, lorded it over us. And, as an Englishman, you get to come back now with some comical quip about how you actually ARE superior. I mean, God DID write the Bible in your language, after all:-) Just don't make a reference to the sun not setting on the Empire, 'cuz we all know why that was. Join in the fun, as long as it's done in fun. Laughing about things long ago, even if those things still have a few shadows lying about, is a sign that we are able to put them aside in the interest of unity.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 25 May 2009 at 4:56pm BST

Ford. Pax Vobiscum! I do value your sense of humor (or should that be humour?) It's the likes of you on this site that keeps me going - together with lots of other lovely people who seem to share the need for an incarnate religous understanding of the God of Love. Good on yer! In this week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we Anglicans need to look to one another - as well as the larger multi-denominational sector - for signs of koinonia.

"God has gone up with a merry noise, Alleluia! He has gone up with the sound of the trumpet, Alleluia, Alleluia!"

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 27 May 2009 at 12:19am BST
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