First, Jonathan Petre had another Anglican story on Friday, headlined Attempt to expel US Anglicans at summit which reports that ‘Conservative archbishops are increasingly confident that they can force the expulsion of the American Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion over its liberal line on homosexuality’.
And today’s Sunday Times has this by Christopher Morgan, Church revolt against Williams over gay bishop which says much the same thing. But also that LGCM is seeking to have Peter Akinola barred by David Blunkett from entry to the UK. on the grounds that he might incite hatred…
Second, if you didn’t hear this morning’s Sunday programme on Radio 4, go here to find out what was said by Steven Croft of Cranmer Hall. His views differed somewhat from those of the guy from Reform (in Hull). Andrew Brown the journalist was also interviewed in this piece. The Beeb’s intro starts:
Not all publicity is good publicity, as the Church of England found out recently when it got a thorough battering in the press over the Jeffrey John Affair. But one group who may disagree are the evangelical Anglicans who so vocally opposed the gay cleric’s appointment as bishop. They have been loud and proud in their attempts to show they are a force to be reckoned with
I’ve been going to Greenbelt for most of my adult Christian life. This year’s had a higher impact on me, probably because I needed it more than in other years. These days I spend most of the time chewing the fat with old friends who I meet up with each Greenbelt, especially among those who have, like me, been involved in ‘Alternative’ Worship. A number of seminars and talks this year sought to bring together thinking from Alternative Worship groups and what is becoming known as ‘Emerging Church’ – neither of which is an exclusively Anglican phenomenon.
So what is Emerging Church? It’s a bit of a mixed bag, incorporating Church Plants, Youth Church, Cell Church, and Alternative Worship groups. It also includes various attempts at Christian community. What unites it all is the attempt to bring ‘Church’ into situations where the existing forms of Church fail to reach. The traditional paradigm of Christian ‘outreach’ suggests a model where the existing Christian community goes out and grabs people from outside to bring them in. Here the Church is seen as akin to a sheepfold or an ark, rescuing those outside of the Church’s ambit to bring them to a place of safety and benefit. Most existing parish churches have this paradigm in mind when considering any form of encounter with those beyond their fringe, either in terms of evangelism, publicity or social engagement.
The biggest snag with this model seems to be cultural. No matter how good an attempt churches might make in their outreach (and some are making very good jobs of it), there is a growing cultural gulf between the activities and structures of ‘ordinary’ church communities, and those which exist beyond the fringe. This has been particularly felt among those working with children and youth as well as the younger end of the adult age-range. There has been growing recognition that this is a problem of cultural change rather than human development (‘they’ll grow out of it…’). It particularly shows itself in an inability to integrate children and adults into existing forms of liturgy and worship. This has provided Alternative Worship with its central rationale (see my Alternative Worship in the Church of England, Grove Books, 1999).
Yet although worship is the point where these problems are felt most acutely, the situation extends into many other areas. Examples might be architectural (people not wanting to go into a church building), social (people not able to ‘fit in’ because they’ve never belonged to a formal, structured social group outside of work), linguistic (people not able to engage or express their faith without learning a whole new religious vocabulary, and feeling isolated until they do so), stylistic (expressed through dress code, music, iconography, and so on).
The idea of adapting the Church’s worship has been relatively easy for Anglicans to adopt (lawyers and traditionalists notwithstanding). What is more challenging is the new paradigm of Emerging Church. In this case, instead of expecting the ‘outsider’ to make the cultural transition required to join the Church, the Church itself makes that transition. This is not easy. The way it happens involves Christians ‘doing Church’ (a phrase which is deliberately vague) outside the bounds of existing established Christian communities. In contrast to the traditional ‘outreach’ paradigm, this involves Christians locating themselves in the wider culture, and it also assumes those Christians are to some extent part of that displaced culture themselves. Examples might be a church emerging from Christians working in a school environment, youth churches, churches which emerged from urban social networks of friends, etc.
For this to happen, a number of things appear to need to be in place. Firstly, there needs to be the willingness to recognise that genuine Church might emerge in this way. This can be a hard pill for existing churches to swallow. There are big ecclesiological questions which need to be asked and answered. Secondly, there needs to be sufficient support by the existing churches for the enterprise – this would be essential if the results are not to be fragmentary or short-lived. This is a particular issue for Anglicans: how to embrace churches founded on the new paradigm as part of the whole, as fully ‘legit’ Anglican churches. Thirdly, there needs to be an awareness of the full responsibilities that being Church entails on the part of Emerging congregations and leaders. Without this, they will either be short-lived, or fail to nurture and care for those who live out their faith among them. This aspect includes issues of accountability and dialogue with other, more traditional forms of church. Fourthly, there needs to be a clear intention that doing Church is the aim of the process, rather than some loose, vaguely spiritual affiliation.
Despite the fact that much of its ecclesiology is still unformed and provisional, I find myself increasingly convinced of the importance of Emerging Church. This is partly because it is more apostolic than the earlier paradigms: after all, this is pretty much what the apostles had to do in the case of the Gentile mission, and it avoids the principal pitfall of the Church in its traditional missionary mindset - cultural imperialism. Post-Christian Europe is suffering a cultural hangover from its Christian past, but with many younger people unsure of what produced the hangover in the first place. The last thing that stands a chance of success in our context is traditional Christian mission, for the simple reason that the religious culture that it seeks to impose is the very one which has just been rejected. People won’t buy it, not because they recognise it as an outmoded commodity, but because their present religious culture has an in-built rejection mechanism attuned to Christianity. (Of course, this also means that the Emerging paradigm, which tries to inculturate Church in current Western culture, is faced with an even more difficult task than inculturating Church in a non-Western culture.) But the main reason I’m interested is that Alternative Worship seems to have come to a crossroads. Those of us who’ve been involved for a number of years know that the buzz of ultra-creative worship only keeps things going for so long. We realise that worship is only one manifestation of the cultural exile which many Christians feel about the Church. The Alternative Worship movement needs a more rounded view of the Kingdom and Church to move it on, in order to sustain those who spent the past decade putting on some of the most engaging worship in this country. The vision isn’t any longer just about worship: it’s about how we perceive the Kingdom of God, of which the Church is supposed to be a sign, in a culture now so far removed from the message and ideals of Christianity. For those it seeks to reach, the Church is represented by particular manifestions of its genus - churches. Unless this Church can function again as a sign of the Kingdom, then I can’t see that it has a point, let alone a future.
It’s Tuesday evening (26 August) and I got back from Greenbelt last night - I think it was my fifth year of attending. Though I’ve categorised this as news, I’m not sure that Greenbelt is news for Thinking Anglicans. No dancing Archbishop Rowan this year, so it probably won’t make it to the nationals, except the Church Times. But there were connexions with what’s being discussed elsewhere on this site.
The festival, of course, has its origins among evangelicals, though its constituency these days is pretty wide. And for those of us who turned out to the ‘inclusive church’ launch at Putney earlier this month, it was good to hear a rousing endorsement of inclusion and of the peculiarly inclusive nature of Anglican spirituality from Dave Tomlinson, self-proclaimed post-evangelical and vicar of St Luke’s, Holloway: the extent of ‘wiggle room’ in the Church of England was, he said, one of its great attractions for one born and brought up with the Brethren.
Sad, however, to hear just how abstruse and alienating the structures of the CofE can sound when you try to explain them to other people. Christina Rees may have called her seminar ‘Vicars in Knickers’, but explaining the process by which we come to have an Act of Synod and just what resolutions A, B, and C provide moved us a long way from the accessible or the vaguely amusing.
Discussions of ‘emerging church’ encouraged us to look kindly on our failures, when trying out new structures - interesting that we are not encouraged to look so kindly on falling numbers if we stick to old ways!
As always, one of Greenbelt’s great strengths is the presence of missionary and campaigning organisations demanding that we lift our eyes from our own navels: look at urban ministry in the light of what happens in the world’s cities, said USPG; hear the stories of the people and the church of Northern Uganda, said CMS; and, repeatedly, look hard at the patterns of world trade, said Christian Aid.
And think how all of those things play into the asylum debate in this country, said Vaughan Jones, director of the refugee agency, Praxis.
Perhaps Greenbelt is a representation of the CofE itself - anyone attending will find the places and groups with which and whom they feel comfortable. And occasionally they’ll end up in the wrong seminar, or at the wrong service, singing the songs they never meant to sing.
Amidst all this, I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know, there was also music, and relaxation, and the odd pint in the bar.
Writing in today’s Telegraph, Jonathan Petre reports on a new study by Peter Brierley of Christian Research. He says this suggests that, if current trends continue, evangelicals will make up more than half of all Sunday church worshippers in 10 years’ time, up from about a third now. Moreover, all but a tiny proportion of the new breed of evangelicals will be theologically conservative, viewing sex outside marriage, including homosexuality, as outlawed by Scripture.
Petre’s full article here does contain some criticisms of the research by Gordon Lynch of Birmingham University. TA will seek more information too.
Theo Hobson, writing in today’s Guardian, says that “We are witnessing the end of the Church of England”. This is not for the reasons normally given, such as conflicting views on homosexuality, but because of differing understanding of the concept of the church. “The evangelicals, ever since the reformation, have been lukewarm about the church’s institutional authority. They see it as a means to an end” - and that is all.
Today the Church Times breaks the news that somebody has produced a handbook to help organisations avoid having to employ non-Christians.
Bill Bowder’s story is headlined How to employ only Christians - a guide.
I’m sending off for a copy of this book immediately.
Here is some more background in a 6 June press release from the Evangelical Alliance.
On 8 May, a letter was sent to members of the Council, members of the House of Bishops, and Diocesan Secretaries, reporting what had been achieved by Church House staff in their negotiations with the government about the Employment Equality Regulations. The full text of this letter appears below.
Analysis real soon now :-)
Members of the Archbishops’ Council
Members of the House of Bishops
8 May 2003
EMPLOYMENT EQUALITY REGULATIONS
The Government is today publishing regulations to implement the European Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation Directive agreed in 2000. The expectation is that the regulations will be debated and voted on in each House of Parliament before the summer recess. There will be no ability to move amendments. Provided they are approved, the regulations will come into force on 1 December. The Government will be producing further guidance on the regulations in due course and we shall look to see whether there is any material we might usefully produce from here to supplement that. The purpose of this note is to provide an initial explanation of what the regulations will mean for us and what line we are taking publicly on them.
The Directive required EU governments to outlaw discrimination in employment on grounds of sexual orientation, religious belief, disability and age. The deadline for implementation is December this year in respect of sexual orientation and religion and December 2006 in relation to disability and age. Under the separate Race Directive, governments also have to introduce adequate protection against racial discrimination in employment by July 2003, though given the extensive anti-discrimination legislation already in force in this country, the need for amendment is very limited.
The Government published draft regulations last October. The Archbishops’ Council’s response of 23 January voiced the Church of England’s ‘strong support for creating a legal framework to safeguard basic rights and promote dignity, equality and respect for all members of society … The general point to underline is that we want to be in a position where we can encourage our own members to contribute to the development of best practice in this important area of our social life. The best context for this will be one in which there has not been a difficult and polarising public debate about the extent to which the regulations respect the doctrinally-based needs of the Churches and other faith-based communities.’
The Archbishops’ Council identified five concerns about the initial draft of the regulations. Subsequently we also leant support to a point raised by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference about the impact of the religious discrimination regulations on the admission policies of Catholic sixth form colleges.
Over the past few months we have, in partnership with our Roman Catholic colleagues, had a series of exchanges and meetings with DTI officials. In addition the Bishop of Southwark together with Archbishops Vincent Nichols and Peter Smith met the Equality Minister, Barbara Roche, last week.
Our assessment of the progress we have made is summed up in the on the record statement by the Bishop of Southwark which our Communications Unit are using in response to enquiries. Others approached for public comment may want to draw on this:
The regulations which the Government has published today represent a considerable improvement on last autumn’s consultation document. The Government has listened to representations from the Churches and we welcome that. Nevertheless we retain significant concerns over the amount of litigation which the regulations are likely to generate and regret that the Government has not introduced as much clarity in them as we had sought. The proper legal protection of individual rights, which we support, needs to be consistent with the rights of the Churches and other faith groups to religious freedom. That must include the ability to set our own requirements about belief and conduct in respect of those who serve and represent us. We shall be closely monitoring the implementation of the regulations.
The position we have reached on the six points raised with the Government is as follows.
As with other anti-discrimination legislation, the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations permit discrimination in certain circumstances. In particular, where an employer has an ethos based on religion or belief discrimination would be lawful where, ‘having regard to that ethos and to the nature of the employment or the context in which it is carried out, being of a particular religion or belief is a genuine occupational requirement for the job, and it is proportionate to apply that requirement in the particular case’. This provision was already in the draft regulations published last autumn in relation to recruitment and promotion but not in relation to dismissal, even where someone had abandoned their religious allegiance. The Government has accepted our representations on this point and amended the Regulations so that dismissal is now possible.
We also pressed the Government to be more precise about when an organisation can be said to have ‘an ethos based on religion or belief’ and to stay closer to the wording of the Directive in defining what constitutes harassment (whether in relation to religious belief or sexual orientation). The Government resisted our representations on these two points. Much, therefore, turns on how the courts interpret these provisions in practice.
An additional point in relation to religious discrimination concerns the ability of faith-based sixth form colleges to take religious affiliation into account in their selection policies. The Regulations do not affect schools admission policies generally, so the existing DfES approved policy framework on faith schools remains in force.
The Regulations do, however, outlaw religious discrimination in relation to the provision of vocational training except where that is in preparation for posts which themselves carry a genuine occupational requirement (eg training Catholics to teach in Catholic Church schools). Although sixth form colleges are, in law, schools, they are also regarded as providers of vocational training. The effect of the Regulations, therefore, is that schools, including those with sixth forms, will be able to continue with their present admissions policies, which take religious affiliation into account in certain circumstances. But sixth form colleges will no longer be able to do so. There are a number of Catholic (but no Anglican) sixth form colleges.
We have agreed with our Catholic colleagues that this is an anomaly and supported their efforts to secure a change in the Regulations. The Government has, however, resisted this. The Catholic bishops are likely to continue to protest about this.
We had raised a small point in relation to a proposed amendment to the exemption for charities in section 34 of the Race Relations Act 1976. We feared that this might restrict the work of religious charities focused on a particular ethnic group (for example the Church’s Ministry among the Jews). In the light of our representations the Government has adopted a different drafting approach which, we believe, meets the nub of our concerns.
The final and most difficult issue has been the implications of the draft Sexual Orientation Regulations for ourselves and other Churches and faith groups. The nub of the difficulty here is that the courts are most unlikely to make any clear distinction between orientation and behaviour. There was therefore a substantial risk that the Regulations would encroach on the freedom which all religious organisations need to determine their own conduct rules in relation to those who work for and represent them. Our concerns were shared by a number of other Churches and by the Inter-Faith Network.
The Government has moved to meet these concerns, though by adopting a different drafting approach from the one which we advocated. The Sexual Orientation Regulations now include a provision in relation to employment or professional or trade qualification ‘for purposes of an organised religion’. In such circumstances it will continue to be lawful to apply a requirement related to sexual orientation - (i) so as to comply with the doctrines of the religion, or (ii) because of the nature of the employment and the context in which it is carried out, so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly-held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers’.
We have had long and difficult discussions with government officials over the phrase ‘for purposes of an organised religion’. It will clearly provide a much greater degree of protection in relation to Church posts and officers than the earlier draft of the Regulations. But it remains to be seen how precisely the courts will interpret it, for example in relation to Church schools and other Christian organisations.
It is because of this lack of clarity and the risk of contentious and costly litigation, that our welcome for the changes which the Government has made is somewhat qualified.
Robin Eames and John Neill, archbishops respectively of Armagh and Dublin, have issued a press release containing a joint statement concerning the election of a bishop for the diocese of New Hampshire, USA.
The statement says that this election raises grave issues for the Anglican Communion and refers to the discussion on homosexuality in which the Irish House of Bishops is currently engaged. The archbishops say: “We regret the threat to the unity of the Anglican Communion caused by this election at a time when the Christian Church faces such grave issues in a divided world.”
This statement then refers to Clause 3 of the declaration to which all Irish clergy must subscribe. This says:
“The Church of Ireland will maintain Communion with the sister Church of England, and with all other Christian Churches agreeing in the principles of this Declaration; and will set forward, so far as in it lieth, quietness, peace, and love among all Christian people.”
The statement ends as follows:
“It is clear that what happens in another part of the Anglican Communion cannot change the Church of Ireland and that we have a duty to do all that we can to maintain as high a degree of unity as possible with those from whom we differ.
Our prayer must be that God will deepen our understanding of these issues, so that we may discern a way forward that is faithful to Christ and sensitive to the needs of the Church and of the world. In the past many issues have led to division between Christian Churches and that division has often crippled the mission of the Church. It is our task today, whilst differing on many issues, to maintain the communion to which God calls us.”
The Economist has on 14 August, published in its regular Bagehot column, a piece titled Archbishop Major which asks With the Anglican Communion on the verge of schism, can Rowan Williams learn anything from John Major?
Note: Back in July, the Economist wrote about the Jeffrey John affair, and quoted Peter Akinola of Nigeria as saying: “I cannot think of how a man in his senses would be having a sexual relationship with another man. Even in the world of animals, dogs, cows, lions, we don’t hear of such things.” The Economist then said:
“Why should the Archbishop of Canterbury pay any attention to such on outburst? First, the Nigerian Primate has powerful allies, both at home and abroad. Social conservatives in the Church of England, who are fast becoming expert organisers, had by June 25th set up a new network, Anglican Mainstream, to lobby against the appointment of gay clergy…
“The second reason why… has to do with the increasing centralisation of the Anglican communion… George Carey… has bequeathed… an institution in which decisions taken in one diocese are subject to global scrutiny and comment, and in which the head of the church is expected to answer for the whole.”
This new article is available electronically only to those who subscribe to the magazine, and I cannot reproduce it here in full without breaching copyright. But there is a summary below.
I think the comparison with Major has some merit, although obviously RW and JM are leagues apart, not least in IQ. Certainly, the claim that there is no chance of a “miraculous reassertion of the good manners and tolerance that have been the traditional hallmarks of Anglicanism” seems pretty accurate to me when reviewing the recent remarks of African and American conservative anglicans.
The article compares RW’s situation to that facing John Major when he was prime minister, and sees a parallel between the substantial, well-organised minorities who opposed JM then on the European single currency and who oppose RW now on homosexual clergy. In both cases, says the Economist, “their views on a particular issue were so strongly held that group loyalty and obedience to properly constituted authority could be ignored”.
Liberals, they say, are convinced that left to his own devices, his attitude towards sexuality would be as inclusive as their own. But, says the Economist, that is not what will happen.
Socially conservative evangelicals distrust him, but they think he is frightened of them and can be bullied into appeasement. The shameful treatment of the openly homosexual (albeit celibate) Canon Jeffrey John suggests they might be right. …Threats by evangelical churches to withhold their dues if Dr John was not forced to step down were taken seriously in Lambeth Palace. As a supporter of Dr John observed: “Rowan was taken aback by the size of his mailbag”.
Turning to the Primates meeting in October, the Economist says:
Perhaps Dr Williams has a clear idea of what he wants to achieve with this summit of the 38 Anglican primates. But he has admitted in the past to being not much good at strategy. According to those close to him, he seems to be hoping for a miraculous reassertion of the good manners and tolerance that have been the traditional hallmarks of Anglicanism. Fat chance. Too many people are spoiling for a fight.
Anglican Mainstream, a conservative pressure group that emerged from the campaign against Dr John, has been busily pumping up the indignation of evangelical primates from “the global south”, such as the outspoken Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, and the Archbishop of the West Indies, Drexel Gomez. They and the ambitious Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, argue that the American church should be declared to be in impaired or broken communion following Mr Robinson’s appointment. There is also much talk of precipitating a “realignment” of the church if no action is taken against the Episcopalians, which many take to be a threat to remove the Church of England from its position of leadership within the Anglican Communion, or just plain schism.
The liberal position is then summarised this way:
The liberals are determined that Dr Williams should use the two-day primates’ meeting to confront what one describes as “the blackmail and coercion; the appalling interference in the work of independent provinces”. They point out that if any English province intervened in Nigeria there would be hell to pay. Respect for cultural differences, they claim, should be a two-way street. Given that very nearly all the money that sustains the church in Africa and Asia comes from England and, above all, America, the liberals say that “realignment” is a bluff that Dr Williams should call.”
In conclusion, the Economist says that RW will (like JM) become an object of contempt for his refusal to allow the Anglican Communion to destroy itself.
He will appear weak by seeking compromise and will disappoint and infuriate nearly everybody. But he may well be right to do so. Great institutions with long histories should try not to destroy themselves over transient issues, however important they may seem at the time or however keenly differences may be felt by individuals. After a while, the Tories realised that their obsession with Europe was not shared by the electorate. The same applies to the Anglican Church’s current obsession with homosexuality. It is simply not something that most people in the pews care very much about, whether they live in Oxfordshire or Gambia. It will pass. Dr Williams can at least take some comfort from that.
In my earlier analyses of the Sexual Orientation Regulations, I failed to report that in addition to Clause 7(3), there is a further special exemption for “organised religion” at Clause 16 which deals with Qualifications Bodies. Clause 16(3) reads:
(3) Paragraph (1) does not apply to a professional or trade qualification for purposes of an organised religion where a requirement related to sexual orientation is applied to the qualification so as to comply with the doctrines of the religion or avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers.
I’m not entirely clear what this is intended to refer to as far as the Church of England is concerned. Is ordination to be considered as a trade qualification?
The DTI guidance note says:
48. Regulation 16(3) provides an exception in relation to qualifications for purposes of an organised religion, which is similar to the exception in regulation 7 (see above), and to section 19 of the SDA. Where a qualification is for purposes of an organised religion, it allows the body to apply a requirement related to sexual orientation so as to comply with the doctrines of the religion or avoid conflicting with followers’ religious convictions. This could apply to qualifications required to be a minister of a particular religion, for example, to the extent that such a position constitutes a profession or trade for the purposes of regulation 16. Regulation 16(3) is consistent with Article 4.1 of the Directive, although it does not copy out its wording. This is because a requirement which meets the criteria defined in regulation 16(3) is necessarily a genuine and determining occupational requirement which is applied proportionately, within the meaning of Article 4.1.
I have written previously in my personal blog here about the Employment Equality regulations and the role played by the Archbishops’ Council in their framing.
Here is the full text of the letter which William Fittall, Secretary General of the General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council, sent to the Clerk to the JCSI on 9 June.
Comment about this is invited from readers. I expect to publish my own analysis here shortly.
Martyn Atkins Esq
Clerk to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments
House of Commons
9 June 2003
EMPLOYMENT EQUALITY REGULATIONS
Having read the transcript of last Tuesday’s oral evidence from the Department of Trade and Industry, I should be grateful if you would draw the following additional points to the Committee’s attention on behalf of the Church of England at their meeting tomorrow. While in the time available there has not been the opportunity to share this letter with other churches and faith groups, its analysis is consistent with the position which they have taken in discussions over recent months.
2. Much of the Committee’s questioning was directed to regulation 7(3) of the Sexual Orientation Regulations. The purpose of this letter is, therefore, to:
- clarify the underlying objectives of the churches and faith groups;
- explain why the original draft regulations caused us such concern;
- consider the question of compatibility with the Directive; and
- explore from our perspective whether regulation 7(3) (together with the corresponding provision in regulation 16(3)) is satisfactory.
Objectives of churches and faith groups
3. The Archbishops’ Council strongly supports creating a legal framework to safeguard basic rights and promote equality. It therefore welcomes the Directive and the regulations necessary to implement it.
4. As the Directive recognises, discrimination on grounds of religious belief raises particular issues for faith communities in relation to their own internal affairs. Religious affiliation is a necessary prerequisite for certain appointments and that is provided for through the genuine occupational requirement exception.
5. Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation also raises particular issues for faith communities, though the issue is complicated by the varying ways in which the term ‘sexual orientation’ can be used. So far as the Church of England is concerned - and the same would be true for many of the denominations and faiths - there are no circumstances in which we would wish to be able to discriminate against people on the grounds of their sexual orientation as such. We do not have posts or orders where there is a requirement to be of a particular sexual orientation.
6. Nearly all faith communities do, however, have their own belief-based requirements and expectations in relation to sexual behaviour. The nature of these, and the extent to which compliance with them is a condition of appointment or employment, varies a good deal. But in many instances a central place is given to marriage. Thus, for example, those seeking ordination in the Church of England are expected to be either married or sexually abstinent. This is by definition discriminatory since marriage can in the eyes of the church, and the law, be contracted only between a man and a woman.
7. The consistent legal advice we have received is that, given the way the regulations are framed, courts and tribunals applying them will not draw any clear-cut distinction between orientation and behaviour manifesting that orientation. Thus, in an individual case, it would not in practice be open to faith communities to defend successfully the application of a marriage or abstinence policy against a discrimination claim by arguing that the requirement was about behaviour rather than mere orientation.
8. There is, therefore, a need to ensure that the regulations can properly protect gay and lesbian people against discrimination in society, while at the same time protecting religious organisations from litigation which would in effect be challenging the application of their own doctrines and beliefs within their own internal structures.
9. This is not an easy balance to strike. What we would, however, urge the Committee to recognise is that there are genuine issues of religious liberty at stake here.
10. Our objectives in relation to the sexual orientation regulations are, therefore, simply put: to ensure that they do not deny faith communities a broad measure of freedom to determine what requirements in relation to sexual behaviour should apply to those who wish to serve or represent them, even though this might otherwise constitute direct or indirect discrimination in relation to sexual orientation.
11. There are, as the Committee’s questioning explored, some difficult issues here over who should be regarded as serving and representing faith communities and whether similar requirements are reasonable in relation to all of them. For some purposes the Church of England draws a distinction between its ordained priesthood and others. But we do not believe that an exemption in these regulations simply in relation to ministers of religion (including ministers of non-Christian faiths, many of whom are subject to rules on sexual behaviour no less stringent than our own) would be satisfactory. Many denominations, including our own, have large numbers of lay people who occupy key paid roles nationally or locally in the churches and their agencies, and are as a result expected to live in a manner consistent with the teachings of the church.
12. The draft published by the DTI in October made no special provision for faith communities. It would, therefore, have been necessary to rely on the general exception for genuine occupational qualification requirements. During last Tuesday’s evidence, your Committee asked why reliance on regulation 7(2) would not in fact have sufficed. It was suggested that the new regulation 7(3) might be only slightly broader, the implication being that it might not be necessary. We contest that.
13. The difficulty is that regulation 7(2) applies only where being of a particular sexual orientation is a genuine and determining occupational requirement. As explained above, we have no posts or offices where there is a requirement to be heterosexual (or indeed homosexual). Our requirements are in relation to behaviour, not sexuality itself. Regulation 7(2) in the earlier draft and now does not cater for that. That is why the new regulations 7(3) and 16(3) refer to ‘a requirement related to sexual orientation’.
Compatibility with the Directive
14. The rights that the regulations will create for individuals have to be seen within the context of other rights, including the right to freedom of religion. It is important to read Article 4 of the Directive alongside Article 2(5) of the Directive (which states that the Directive is not to prejudice measures laid down by national law which, in a democratic society, are necessary for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others) and with paragraph 24 of its Preamble, which states that the EU “respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities in the Member States … [and] with this in view, Member States may maintain or lay down specific provisions on genuine, legitimate and justified occupational requirements which might be required for carrying out an occupational activity”.
15. Those provisions demonstrate, we believe, that the Directive makes it clear - as would be required by the Human Rights Act in any event - that, in implementing it, individual rights have to be balanced against the rights of the churches and other faith groups to religious freedom. In the context of the matters dealt with by the Regulations, we believe this involves protecting the rights and freedoms of churches and religious organisations to set their own requirements about belief and conduct in respect of those who serve and represent them.
16. Against that background, we believe that Regulation 7(3) fully meets the requirements of Article 4(1) of the Directive. It confers an exemption related to a particular type of activity and context (i.e. employment for purposes of an organised religion), fulfils a legitimate objective (i.e. protecting the right to religious freedom) and is proportionate (because, except where religious doctrines are engaged, it is not generally available but only where there are strongly held religious convictions and a conduct requirement is objectively justified by the nature of the employment or office and the context in which it is carried out).
17. Our clear legal advice, including from Sir Anthony Hammond QC (Standing Legislative Counsel to the General Synod and a former Treasury Solicitor and Legal Adviser to the DTI) is that regulations 7(3) and 16(3), which seek to safeguard the application of religious doctrine and strongly held religious convictions, are compatible with the Directive.
Is regulation 7(3) satisfactory?
18. We have our own reservations about the drafting of regulation 7(3) and some other provisions in the sets of regulations. That is why, when they were published, the Bishop of Southwark said that, taken as a whole the regulations represented a considerable improvement on the earlier version, but that we retained “significant concerns over the amount of litigation which the regulations are likely to generate and regret that the Government has not introduced as much clarity in them as we had sought”.
19. We would, therefore, have welcomed a drafting approach which reduced the prospect of uncertain and costly litigation and put beyond doubt the ability of faith based organisations to apply their own conduct requirements.
20. That said, some of the criticisms made of regulation 7(3) seem to us to be driven more by a reluctance to acknowledge the rights and needs of faith communities than by an analysis of the text itself. The test “for purposes of an organised religion” is, for example, clearly an objective one. In addition, the requirement has to be rooted either in doctrine or in strongly held religious convictions, not mere prejudices.
21. The proper legal protection of individual rights, which we support, needs to be consistent with the rights of the churches and other faith groups to religious freedom. That is why these regulations raise important questions for the churches. Sexual ethics have changed rapidly in society in recent years and there are likely to continue to be vigorous debates within many faith groups over how to respond to that development. The central point, however, is that these debates must be for the faiths themselves to resolve. That is something on which the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England, including our two Archbishops, have been unanimous.
22. In any report which the Committee makes on the regulations we would urge it to make clear that:
- faith groups must not only be allowed to reach their own views on matters of sexual ethics but also have a broad measure of freedom to determine the extent to which those who represent and serve them are required to abide by their teaching;
- a genuine occupational requirement giving effect to this is compatible with the Directive.
Second, here is a pastoral letter written by the Bishop of Arizona to his diocese. (Arizona is a diocese which voted in all three orders in favour of the confirmation of the Bishop-elect of New Hampshire and in favour of the compromise resolution on same-sex blessings.)
I found all of these helpful in understanding how mainstream Americans view recent ECUSA events.
Ruth Gledhill writes in The Times today that Archbishop of Canterbury backs faithful gay relationships. This story is based on the fact that Canterbury Press is to republish an earlier essay of Rowan’s in the book of essays The Way Forward: Christian Voices on Homosexuality edited by Timothy Bradshaw, due to appear in the middle of September.
A second article in the same newspaper discusses another essay and the book further.
Gay clergy need not be celibate, says Dr John.
Rabbi Lionel Blue talked about acceptance of gay people in Tuesday’s Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4.
Whilst most liberal Jews accept gay people, and a gay rabbi like Lionel Blue, Orthodox and Hasidic Jews do not. The dilemma of those who want to remain Orthodox whilst finding themselves to be gay is beautifully portrayed in the documentary Trembling before G-d. What comes across most strongly is the desire of the gay people to hold firmly to their faith, and Christians may be astonished mainly at the insight this provides to the commitment and fervour of those who hold to Orthodox Judaism, and the way faith directs every aspect of life.
Damian Thompson reviews Rowan Williams by Rupert Shortt
The only half-crown item in a sixpenny bazaar
Mary Ann Sieghart has written this article in The Times:
If all liberals left the church it would cease to be a national institution and become a narrow sect.
A letter in The Times today commenting on this article is at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,173-777273,00.html
Another letter today from Charles Read pointing out that the meeting was not attended only by liberals, and speaking up for evangelicals who support an inclusive church.
And for the third day running, some letters about this.
Thinking Anglicans has received the sermon that Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark preached at St Mary’s Putney on Monday, 11 August at the service which launched www.inclusivechurch.net.
SERMON FOR ST MARY’S PUTNEY.MONDAY AUGUST 11TH 2003
Isaiah 42: 1-9. Galatians 3: 23-29. John 3: 16-21
“Indeed, God did not send the Son in to the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3: 17
When Bp Roy Williamson asked me to become (then) Provost of Southwark, he asked me to raise the profile of the Cathedral. When Canon Jeffrey John joined the Chapter he preached a wonderful first sermon and some members of the congregation told me I had competition, I repeated this compliment to the new Canon who simply said, “There is no competition”… well, I don’t know about the preaching, but regarding profile, OK, I know when I’m beaten, and I want to say to all the Deans of all the other Cathedrals, “Southwark has the most famous Canon Theologian in the world, and we’re keeping him”. Thank you, Philip Giddings.
I have to go to conduct a funeral after this Eucharist so I only have this chance to make my small contribution to this day, which I welcome. It must end clearly, and with genuine goals if it is to be of service to the Church, people must go away and do what they have undertaken. Moderate and open people are not good at organised lobby groups and funding, and that may be a good trait, but moderate people also need to recognise there is a sin called sloth.
This will not be a good sermon because it has too much in it. I remember a Bishop of Truro preaching in St Albans once, starting, “I have thirteen points to make.” — and he had — and he did.
We need to re-learn the vocabulary. I give you an example; I insist the Cathedral clergy wear black shirts — because it is a statement of history and origin, a uniform deeply rooted in tradition and monastic antecedents; none of those sky-coloured shades indicative of a deep mariological tendency which would shock their habitual wearers; nor the floral extravaganzas more symptomatic of a photo collage of the Chelsea flower show than the hard work of saving souls — and black shoes and socks; and be at the Daily Offices. Until General Synod said we could, we didn’t conduct second marriages; we don’t do same sex blessings or admit children to communion before confirmation. All that makes me a “liberal”, a “moderniser”. Then there are those who, like the Archbishop of Sydney, don’t wear clerical dress, so you don’t know who they are or what they represent, have liturgies which pay scant attention to canon law if at all, seek lay presidency at the Eucharist, re-baptise, are unaware that, after Alpha, the Greek alphabet continues with Beta and Gamma all the way to Omega. All that makes them “conservative”.
There’s a more important way we need to re-learn the vocabulary. Churches with a sacramental tradition, a high doctrine of the Church, have been willing, as for example when Dr Carey became Archbishop, to say, “OK we will work with him, we respect his office, we will do our best and we will co-operate.” and they did. But when Rowan Williams was appointed we see that there is a different definition of a high doctrine of the church whereby an archbishop can be unwelcome if you don’t like him, subverted, even by diocesan bishops and overseas archbishops; a high doctrine of the church can mean “rule or ruin”.
Then there is the descent in to name-calling. I am actually sorry that my remark about the “Anglican Taliban” caused offence to some evangelical clergy and laity. Sorry, because I genuinely know and respect many of them are thoughtful and sincere, some far more radicalised by their faith than I am, they want the Church to prosper and they have spent much of their lives and ministries rejoicing in the wide variety of the Anglican tradition. The Taliban are, of course, a small fundamentalist group, very highly organised and well-funded who hijacked the government of Afghanistan and what it means to be an orthodox Muslim with the most terrible consequences within and beyond Afghanistan. The lessons are there to be studied. But then I want to say to those to whom I wrongly gave offence that some of the characterisation of the ordination of women, of gay and lesbian people, and of broad and tolerant churches as “failing” or “unfaithful” is deeply hurtful, and those who have been, even remotely or passively, associated with such attitudes should not suddenly become sensitive when they find the roles reversed.
We all know this shows that there is always a deep temptation to be sucked down to the level against which one stands. We are called to greater fidelity of conduct, purpose and aspiration; that is one of the principles to be remembered today. Name-calling is useful shorthand but also a lazy and destructive loss of intellectual discipline, and, let’s be completely honest, — enormous and cathartic fun — just so long as we remember to keep our sense of humour at all times and not actually believe in the names.
I was only able to be at General Synod part of the time, but was constantly being stopped by evangelicals who wanted to tell me how ashamed they are of what has happened and, apparently, in their name. Of course the ones who are pleased and not at all ashamed were not going to stop me, but if we are to pay attention to vocabulary then the word “evangelical” needs an ambulance because it has become a totem for values and aspirations which are much narrower and more judgemental than the gospel of the New Testament, “euaggelion” ever was. We can help to rescue it by being properly evangelical in our faith ourselves, that should be a part of today’s agenda. But it can best be rescued by intelligent and thoughtful evangelical Christians, of whom there are very many, showing that they can use scripture with scholarship, care and dignity and not as a weapon for condemnation.
But there is an even more important vocabulary that we must learn. It is the vocabulary of biblical study as conducted from different perspectives. The debate about a faithful, inclusive and welcoming church is in many ways not a debate at all about gay clergy, women clergy, inclusive language or the Act of Synod and women bishops — all good media stuff. It is a debate about something that is not particularly media accessible or comprehensible — it is about hermeneutics.
Hermeneutics is about the interpretation of the meaning of scripture, as opposed to exegesis, which is about the practical application of the meaning of scripture. I am such a progressive liberal that I believe ordinands should study scripture in the original language wherever possible and should be equipped to help their congregations to do so also. I take scripture extremely seriously. I pay attention to the text in preaching; I may spend hours looking at commentaries and lexicons etc. My methodology is a world away from bible study groups which can become a sharing of personal responses, opinion, pious platitude and pooled ignorance. That is not taking scripture seriously. We can teach the evangelical tradition a lot about bible study. The really liberal tradition omits nothing, examines everything, engages with everything, is highly disciplined because nothing is allowed to go un-considered, liberals take scripture deeply seriously. A high doctrine of scripture is an Anglican gift to the Church of God from, and since, the Reformation; Word and Sacrament held, and holding, together. I want to encourage you all not only to take your own hermeneutics seriously but to find ways to engage with those with whom you may not feel a natural common ground and discover their hermeneutics also. And when the hermeneutics are done then the exegesis is informed and better applied. Too many people are failing to recognise the need for a rigorous study and hermeneutic before they even begin an exegesis, if we had that rigorous study we would not allow the Church to become a vehicle of prejudice, misguided exegesis.
One of the ways we can help is by blowing the trumpet of liberal and catholic minded, open, welcoming churches rather better; for too long we have allowed the mythology to develop that it is only the conservative evangelical churches of the affluent neighbourhoods which are prospering. Indeed they may be, and the image that they present, of a judgemental and exclusive church may be one reason a large part of the 73% of this country who call themselves Christian don’t actually attend church, they don’t like that image, it is untrue to their Christianity, but there are churches, like this one, Southwark Cathedral, St Albans Abbey and Great St Mary’s Cambridge all of which I know, and many more, which are doing their job well but do not boast. In particular there are inner city and rural parish churches which are very healthy and faithful, but they are also different, because they are broad and available to the entire community which may be very small, and they are not based upon prosperity values. Perhaps we need to blow some trumpets on the rooftops.
Another way is by ensuring that the abiding sin of sloth does not creep in. Open and welcoming churches does not mean sloppy, they should be on time, well-ordered, well-preached, well-presented and above all, well-prayed. One of the greatest tools of evangelism is excellence; people are attracted to worship that clearly places the highest possible value on the quality of what is being offered to God time after time after time. If lonely clergy find the Daily Offices hard, and goodness knows they are, then organise teams of people who will be there with them day by day so that we are better at praying together. If you pray together you can work together, if you do not, then there is no chance. Daily prayer and the Offices of the Church of England is the way of excellence. It is also the way of attention to the whole of scripture and tradition through the lectionary and guards against “pick’n’mix religion” which focuses on favourite passages and pet themes.
We need also to recognise the politics with which we are working. Conservative evangelical churches tend to be in very prosperous neighbourhoods, or if not, then they attract very prosperous eclectic congregations. Many of the clergy, not least among those who have been identified as conservative and evangelical, are prisoners of their own pews. In the catholic and so-called liberal broad churches of the Church of England we have been working for several decades to empower lay people so that they are a proper balance to the charge that “Father always knows best”. We need to recognise, however, that within the Church of England, as with so much else, there is an opposite expression, it is Anglican congregationalism whereby the minister knows little and is at the behest of powerful and articulate laity to the degree that clergy feel they cannot declare themselves or their hermeneutics in leadership, because life would be made impossible for them. They need help, sensitively and carefully in developing stratagems that bring their congregations with them and teach a gospel which is not simply based on personal opinions and has scholarship and research.
There is another, unpleasant, area of politics which today’s discussions should also address. I have been asked, more than anything in the past weeks, about schism and about money being withheld. If today’s discussions are seriously addressed to the unity and openness of the Church of England then these threats need confronting head-on. Not only are they an abuse of money and a proper doctrine of the Church but they are also open to a reply. It would be wonderful if today’s gathering began some organised response to the coercion of the withheld quota. Central, moderate and catholic minded congregations can very easily do this by undertaking to make up the difference of any diocesan shortfall and thereby face down the threats. I believe that congregations will welcome this request that they act with generous principle according to their beliefs. It may be time to call some bluffs, we will be amazed by the response, not least from all those who have felt excluded by the image of the self-righteous judgemental church who are willing to belong to and contribute to a forgiving church in which we are all recognised sinners.
We need also to address the strange notion of schism whereby people have such a low view of their baptism, and such a limited ecclesiology, that they think they are entitled to threaten schism. First let us acknowledge that the Church is already divided — between those who attend in some form and the many millions who do not and of whom a great number feel excluded, unwelcome, judged and condemned. They are baptised, as you and I are. They are baptised as those who now threaten to leave the church are. Today’s Epistle put it thus, “for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” So wherein lies this threat, does it have any doctrinal content? If Bishops are a focus for unity then they must discern what that actually means and where the boundaries of unity are to be placed, or are they meaningless? To those who believe that schism is a threat worth making I would say the boot is altogether on the other foot. Schism may doctrinally occur when the Church tells someone they are no longer acceptable as a member, it is not something a member, or a group, can effect, that is different, that is sectarianism.
I have said little directly of today’s scriptural passages, all of which were and are the basis of this sermon. I will not trivialise any of them by exploiting texts to add a pious gloss. Each one of them speaks of a gospel church, including Isaiah, and every one of them speaks of the cost of that goal in different ways. I wish this gathering well and I hope that it may be the beginning of a more confident and courageous Church of England which ultimately brings many more in to a wide and generous love reflecting God’s vast embrace founded upon Word and Sacrament expressed in prayerful excellence. AMEN.
Matthew Parris, in a bizarre article in The Times on Saturday says that the Church should not change its view on homosexuality.
Writing as a self-confessed gay atheist, Parris attempts to tell Christians what they should believe. Christians must believe something, he seems to say, and that revelation — false though he as an atheist claims it to be — is unchanging and is the only thing believers can cling on to.
It seems a most peculiar logic. Perhaps he just wants to set the Church up as an Aunt Sally, to be easily knocked down, so that he can just laugh at poor hopeless conservative Christians and their hatred of same-sex relationships, and triumphantly claim that he is right — a sort of gay equivalent of Richard Dawkins. Or perhaps he wants Christianity to be so obviously in conflict with his own worldview that he can easily dismiss it as an out of date mythology.
What’s even more surprising is that The Times presumably actually paid him to write this stuff.
Thinking Anglicans has received the following press release, announcing the formation of a new movement in the Church of England.
Grassroots Church movement calls for inclusiveness
Sunday 10th August 2003
For immediate release
The call for an inclusive Church will be heard loud and clear at a mass meeting to be held at St Mary’s Church, Putney on Monday 11th August 2003. During the meeting an online petition will be launched at www.inclusivechurch.net. The meeting is an occasion for Christians to express their views over issues such as the Jeffrey John debacle and the Church’s resistance to women bishops. The organizers have been overwhelmed by the numbers of people wanting to attend. Inclusivechurch.net is the result of that response.
Giles Fraser, the vicar of St Mary’s Church and one of the organizers of the meeting, said: ‘The church is not full of bigots. Debates in the church over homosexuality or women bishops are too easily hijacked by conservatives claiming to speak for a majority of Christians. Inclusivechurch.net is a chance for regular church-goers everywhere to say that they believe the Church must be inclusive. We want to see thousands of different voices uniting behind that belief.’
The meeting will begin at 10.30am with a Eucharist. During the service there will be an ‘open mike’ session during which people will be invited to express their views. A number of senior Anglican clergy will be present, including Deans and Archdeacons. Bishops have not been invited to safeguard the grassroots nature of the meeting.
The meeting began as a group of friends from Southwark, London and Oxford who were increasingly worried about the future direction of the Church of England. Others asked if they could come including individuals from the evangelical wing of the Church. It snowballed very quickly. A number of organizations including LGCM, Changing Attitudes, Affirming Catholicism, MCU, GRAS and the Open Synod group are sending representatives.
Inclusivechurch.net contains a Statement of Belief written by a group of Oxford theologians. The statement expresses the strong conviction that the Church is for all people regardless of sex, race or sexual orientation. It calls on the Church to act justly, particularly in the appointment of clergy and bishops regardless of sex, race or sexual orientation. Visitors to the website, be they individuals, PCCs (Parochial Church Councils) or other organizations, are invited to register their support.
Press are invited to attend the meeting respecting the fact that it is open to anyone. It is on Monday 11th August, starting at 10.30am, at St Mary’s Church, Putney.
Pictures from Putney Bridge of the tower of St Mary’s Church draped with a massive banner declaring the church’s inclusivity will be available.
Giles Fraser can be contacted on 07811 444011 on Sunday 10th August & Monday 11th August. Thereafter press enquires should be made to Mark Vernon on 07966 376564 or the Rev’d Mark Harris on 07813 676892.
St Mary’s Church, Putney is on Putney High Street, SW15.
Last week the Doctrine Commission of the Church of England published a report entitled Being Human and with the long explanatory subtitle “A Christian understanding of personhood illustrated with reference to power, money, sex and time”.
It doesn’t seem to be readable on the web, but there is a summary on this week’s Church Times website and the report can be bought from Church House Publishing or, as they say, from any good bookshop.
From the summaries I have seen so far this looks like an important contribution as to how we understand ourselves. I plan to get a copy soon, and will add my further thoughts here.
Thinking Anglicans is initially the work of three people. We have invited a number of others to join us and will list them here in due course.
Simon Kershaw was born in Warwickshire, read Physics at Wadham College, Oxford, and since then has worked in the computer software industry for a variety of companies.
Married with two children, he now lives in St Ives near Cambridge. He has contributed to a number of publications, including A Companion to Common Worship, vol 1 (SPCK 2001, edited by Professor Paul Bradshaw), Come to the Feast (Canterbury Press 2001, by Gill Ambrose and Simon Kershaw), and Exciting Holiness, second edition (Canterbury Press 2003).
Simon Sarmiento was born in Sheffield and graduated in Industrial Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is now retired from a major British software company, where he served for a decade as personnel director and later as head of internal IT.
Married with four grown-up children, he worked in the USA for a while, and lived in St Albans Hertfordshire from 1971 to 2014 where he worshipped at the Cathedral and Abbey Church of Saint Alban. He is part of the team that publishes Anglicans Online and has been a consultant to Church House Publishing. He now lives in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.
Peter Owen was born in Southend-on-Sea, read Mathematical Physics at Birmingham University and has a DPhil in Astrophysics from Sussex University. He taught mathematics in higher education for thirty years before taking early retirement in 2000.
He lives in the suburbs of Liverpool and is a worshipper and former churchwarden at St Luke’s Church in Crosby. He is part of the team that publishes Anglicans Online. Outside the church, he chaired an NHS Research Ethics Committee for seven years is now a member of the Greater Manchester West Committee. He was a member of General Synod from 1995 to 2005.
David Walker was born in Lancashire, brought up in Yorkshire, studied and researched in Mathematics at Kings College, Cambridge until being accepted as a Church of England ordinand by the Bishop of Ely in early 1980. Having studied Theology at Birmingham under David Ford and Frances Young, he then spent 17 years in parochial and industrial chaplaincy ministry in the Diocese of Sheffield. In November 2000, he became Bishop of Dudley in the Diocese of Worcester. Sue (who teaches at a pupil referral unit) and he have two teenage children, three cats and three ferrets. They are both Franciscan tertiaries. He has an interest in social policy and governance issues and is active in various housing charities.
Paul Roberts is vicar of two parishes in Bristol. He has taught liturgy and doctrine at Trinity College, Bristol and was a founder of Resonance, an alternative worship collective. He also co-hosts www.alternativeworship.org. He is a member of the General Synod.
Tom Ambrose studied Arts, then Geology, at Sheffield University. The fruits of his research in Northern Spain contributed to Spanish Geological Survey maps. He trained for ordination at Emmanuel College Cambridge and Westcott House. After six years in parishes in Newcastle Diocese he returned to Cambridgeshire. For 6 years he was Director of Communications for the Diocese of Ely, and joined the Churches Advertising Network.
He is married to Gill, and they have two grown up children. Gill is editor of Roots, a member of General Synod and the Liturgical Commission, and is the author of books on Children’s and Youth work. With Simon Kershaw she wrote Come to the Feast (Canterbury Press 2001, by Gill Ambrose and Simon Kershaw).
Thinking Anglicans is a website for thoughtful contributions to the proclamation of the gospel message. Here writers reflect on what it means to be a Christian, particularly in Britain today.
Thinking Anglicans will actively report news, events and documents that affect church people, and will comment on them from a liberal Christian perspective.
Thinking Anglicans proclaims a tolerant, progressive and compassionate Christian spirituality, in which justice is central to the proclamation of the good news of the kingdom of God. Our spirituality must engage with the world, and be consistent with the scientific and philosophical understanding on which our modern world is based. It must address the changes which science and technology have brought into our lives.
Thinking Anglicans takes the form of weblogs (or ‘blogs’) in which writers place their thoughts in public for all to read. We each take responsibility for our own words. There is no central definition or declaration of faith to which contributors must subscribe, although most of our writers are active Christians in communion with the see of Canterbury. Rather there is a range of opinions, which contributes to debate, and is legitimate diversity within the Christian faith. The site will be updated frequently, with regular contributions from our team of writers, commenting on news events and exploring wider issues and deeper meanings.
Thinking Anglicans is a focal point where you can find the words of informed contributors to the contemporary understanding of Christian faith, as well as the views of ordinary ‘Anglicans in the pew’. In a world where the voices of fundamentalism and conservatism are frequently heard, Thinking Anglicans is a place for a tolerant, thoughtful and understanding exploration of Christian faith. We hope this shared witness of the vision of God’s kingdom in the world will help and encourage both Christians and others.