Wednesday, 31 August 2005

civil partnerships: some more considerations

First a couple of links:

I should have included this article by Simon Barrow earlier, but here it is: Civil Partnerships are a Blessing which links to a number of relevant earlier articles by him.

And the issue of Civil Partnerships and the CofE has now reached the Isle of Man.

The following CofE press office summary of the Pastoral Statement by the House of Bishops may be helpful in analysing the reactions of overseas primates and others, including those of Peter Akinola and also Bernard Malango and Drexel Gomez.

1. The House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships, issued in July, does not change the Church of England’s position on same sex relationships.

2. It upholds the historic teaching of the Church that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life and is the proper context for sexual activity. Hence, sexual relationships outside marriage, whether heterosexual or same-sex, fall short of God’s purposes for human beings.

3. It remains the view of the House of Bishops that clergy are expected to live according to the Church’s teaching.

4. The Pastoral Statement was issued by the bishops to offer guidance to the Church of England in response to legislation passed by the British Government and coming into force in December.

5. The Church’s approach to civil partnerships reflects the fact that they will not be marriages, nor based on the presumption of sexual relations between the two people making the legal agreement.

There have been a number of comments about how a policy in this matter can be enforced. What is important to remember is that, because there has been no change in policy the following paragraph from Issues (1991) also still applies:

5.18 In the light of this judgement some may propose that bishops should be more rigorous in searching out and exposing clergy who may be in sexually active homophile relationships. We reject this approach for two reasons. First, there is a growing tendency today to regard any two people of the same sex who choose to make their home together as being in some form of erotic relationship. This is a grossly unfair assumption, which can give rise to much unhappiness, and the Church should do nothing that might seem to countenance or promote it. Secondly, it has always been the practice of the Church of England to trust its members, and not to carry out intrusive interrogations in order to make sure that they are behaving themselves. Any general inquisition into the conduct of the clergy would not only infringe their right to privacy but would manifest a distrust not consonant with the commission entrusted to them, and likely to undermine their confidence and morale. Although we must take steps to avoid public scandal and to protect the Church’s teaching, we shall continue, as we have done hitherto, to treat all clergy who give no occasion for scandal with trust and respect, and we expect all our fellow Christians to do the same.

(Thanks to a letter writer in last week’s Church Times for drawing attention to this point.)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 31 August 2005 at 12:06pm BST | Comments (25)
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Tuesday, 30 August 2005

Shakespeare and religion

The BBC Today programme had a segment this morning on the theories of Clare Asquith, listen here (Real Audio, 5.5 minutes) to her and to Professor Stanley Wells who is unconvinced.

On Sunday, the Observer had this story Shakespeare was a political rebel who wrote in code, claims author

This earlier article The Catholic Bard in Commonweal gives more detail of her views.

The Washington Post published this review: Papist Plots

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 30 August 2005 at 12:50pm BST | Comments (3)
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Monday, 29 August 2005

General Synod reports

I wrote a report of the July 2005 General Synod for Anglicans Online a little while ago; you can read it here. I have done one of these for every Synod meeting for the last quinquennium; they are all linked from here (near the bottom of the page). There are also a few earlier ones here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 29 August 2005 at 10:38pm BST | Comments (0)
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CAPAC again

This new organisation got relatively little attention in Britain, when reports of it first appeared, so maybe this further longer version of the article by Auburn Faber Traycik in the Christian Challenge will change that: Pan-American, Pan-Anglican.
Notice in particular the wording of A Covenant of Understanding which can be found here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 29 August 2005 at 8:04pm BST | Comments (41)
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Black bishop attacks Church racism

The Telegraph has a report today by Jonathan Petre that Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop-designate of York, has used the foreword of a new book implicitly to criticise fellow Church leaders for failing to deal properly with discrimination in the organisation. See Black bishop attacks Church racism. An excerpt:

The book to which Dr Sentamu has contributed, Rejection, Resistance and Resurrection, Speaking out on racism in the Church, is a hard-hitting account of the rejection felt by many black Anglicans.

Written by Mukti Barton, the adviser on black and Asian ministries to the Bishop of Birmingham, Dr Sentamu’s present post, it describes racism as a “deadly poison” often unconsciously spread by white Christians.

It also claims that black people are significantly under represented in the clergy, even in the diocese of Birmingham.

Dr Sentamu, who is to launch the book in Birmingham cathedral next month, said in the foreword: “The stories in this book speak of the pain of what it is to undergo institutional racism.

“The cost is in terms of the lives of people who are hampered in their growth into the image of God created in them.”

However, the editors of the Telegraph know better than the bishop, and have published this leader The way to empty pews in which they say Dr Sentamu is wrong:

A useful litmus test can be applied to distinguish vibrant, fast-growing denominations from struggling or moribund ones. Those that are obsessed with accusing themselves of racism tend to be in a worse state of health than those that - while vigorously opposing racial prejudice, as the Gospel demands - have resisted the breast-beating and grievance-mongering of secular multiculturalists.

For the past 20 years, the race relations industry has exerted a formidable grip on the mainstream churches in Britain: Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Methodists have been falling over each other in their eagerness to send themselves on “racism awareness courses”.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 29 August 2005 at 6:18pm BST | Comments (8)
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synod elections

The quinquennial synod election season is upon us. This article provides links to national (not local diocesan) sites that contain information relevant to these elections. Provision of a link here does not imply endorsement of any campaigning group by Thinking Anglicans. If we have omitted a group that you think should be included, write a Comment.

Church of England: General Synod Election 2005
Note: deadline dates vary from diocese to diocese. Check your local diocesan website for details.

Open Synod Group
Affirming Catholicism
InclusiveChurch
Reform
Forward in Faith

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 29 August 2005 at 12:23pm BST | Comments (3)
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Saturday, 27 August 2005

holiday weekend columns

(This is a bank holiday weekend in England.)

Christopher Howse writes his Telegraph column about the Pope in Cologne, The revolution of the Magi.

For another view of the TV documentary mentioned by Howse, see Simon Barrow REFLECTING ON ‘GOD’S ROTTWEILER?’

The Guardian godslot is by Fred Sedgwick and is about the Book of Common Prayer, Prayers for today while Natasha Walter questions “evangelical” schools in Divine and rule.

Stephen Plant writes in The Times about the recent British school exam results, The tide is turning in favour of theology and the study of religion while Jonathan Romain writes about Jewish/Muslim relations, Making friends in Abraham’s family.

Giles Fraser in the Church Times has another view on the school exam results in Why schools need to look for their lost sheep.

The Spectator has an article provocatively entitled America: not a Christian country (easier to read printer-friendly version here).

EXTRA
As it is also Greenbelt this weekend, I offer two thoughtful posts from Paul Roberts who recently visited South Barrington:
A Brit in South Barrington 1
A Brit in South Barrington 2
where as Maggi Dawn says: Paul has been joining in with a Willow Creek conference, and is asking intelligent questions… like what can we learn from this phenomenon, even if it’s not our cup of tea?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 27 August 2005 at 10:06am BST | Comments (0)
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Thursday, 25 August 2005

Lake Malawi: confirmation of election postponed

Updated Monday and Wednesday

A letter from Archbishop Bernard Malango to his provincial bishops about the election of Nicholas Henderson has been published. A copy is below the fold. (The confusing second headline was in the copy as received.)

Updated again The Living Church has published a report on this, Archbishop Malango Postpones Consecration of English Bishop-Elect which contains details of other correspondence between the archbishop and the bishop-elect. This other letter includes the following passage:

The documents such as the Nicene Creed and the Thirty-Nine Articles are not simply theological photographs snapped at a moment in history; they are foundation stones which must be affirmed. Are you willing to state clearly and without equivocation that you fully accept, believe and practice the faith described in the classic Anglican formularies including the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Creeds, and the Ordinal? To be clear, I am not asking if you affirm that they are part of our history. You should know that they represent a standard of ministry and theology which is the practice and the norm of this province. If you were to come here with a different faith, it would be not only difficult; it would be the cause of disastrous conflict in the diocese and the Province. Are you able to affirm and commit to the faith as described in them without exception?

Interestingly, although this other letter also contains detailed questions relating to human sexuality, it does not even mention Lambeth I.10 despite the reference to it in the text below.

Further update In addition to the earlier news reports of this matter I can now link to last week’s Church Times report by Pat Ashworth Malawi’s ‘modern churchman’ bishop. (This week’s Church Times report is available only to subscribers.)

Updated Monday
Ruth Gledhill in The Times had Questions about lodger confront a new bishop. In this, Bishop Pete Broadbent says:

“There is no witch to be hunted here. It is unfair for someone to be vilified in this way. As Nicholas’s bishop I understand he has given assurances on all the issues raised by Archbishop Malango. He has given assurances on the primary authority of Scripture, the Creeds and on the matter of his own life being consonant with the Gospel. It is a matter for Dr Malango as the consecrating Archbishop what he does about that.”

Updated Wednesday
Reuters has a report from Blantyre Malawians oppose bishop in Anglican gay split.
The references here to “Presbyterian” suggest the writer is not quite on top of his subject.

CENTRAL AFRICA: Archbishop Malango Postpones Court of Confirmation

ELECTION OF BISHOP OF LAKE MALAWI TO WAIT

24th August 2005

Dear my Brothers,

Mercy, Love and Peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord be yours in abundance.

I should have written to you long before this about the Election of Bishop of Lake Malawi. The delay has been because of receiving letters of protest from local and oversees people.

The Reverend Nicholas Henderson is said to be or was the Chairman of Modern Church people’s Union. The Liberalism of the MCU is well known and although often vigorously contested in debates fall within the broad limits of theological diversity of the Church of England. The appointment of a leading MCU member as bishop of an English diocese would be controversial and possibly opposed in some parishes.

I have just written to Nicholas that as the Archbishop who will be performing the consecration I will need, as for any candidate assurance on three points:

1. That the Bishop Elect accepts the controlling Authority of Holy Scriptures i.e. that it is the Authority, not just an ‘authority’ among others.

2. That the Bishop Elect accepts and will preach and teach wholesome on doctrine which consonant with the Holy Scriptures, and in particular with regard to marriage and family life, Resolution 1:10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

3. That the Bishop Elect fashions his own life and of his household according to the doctrine of Christ. (This is contained in the ordination charge).

Because of the complexity of the matter I am postponing the Court of Confirmation which was scheduled on the 3rd September and the Consecration which was scheduled on 9th October 2005. This will help to avoid further misunderstandings and litigations in the Province.

I think you have already received the correspondence that I have sent to Nicholas Henderson and to his Bishop in London.

Please continue praying for your Archbishop and the Diocese of Lake Malawi.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Bernard Amos Malango
ARCHBISHOP & PRIMATE

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 25 August 2005 at 8:31am BST | Comments (21)
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Wednesday, 24 August 2005

Connecticut Six file formal charges against bishop

Update
The Living Church has published this news report: Formal Charges Lodged Against Connecticut Bishop which explains more about the process.

The Connecticut Six have now taken formal action under Episcopal canon law against their diocesan bishop, Andrew Smith, by filing charges against him in accordance with TITLE IV, CANON 3 (PDF file) of the Episcopal Church.

The full text of these charges can be found in a 1.2 Mb 22-page PDF file, available here.

A press release from the American Anglican Council is here.

The charges have been filed by a total of 19 persons, all of whom are it seems either clergy at, or communicants at, the six parishes who are already in dispute. Some of the names are hard to read from the PDF, but I expect a list will be published somewhere shortly.

The charges accuse the bishop of “undermining the structure of the Episcopal Church and denying canonical due process for the so-called ‘Connecticut Six’ clergy” and include “violating the Episcopal Church’s Constitution, national canons, diocesan canons, and the laws of the state of Connecticut”.

I will add further links here as other reports are published. But what happens next, it appears, is this:

Sec. 26. Any Charge against a Bishop shall be filed with the Presiding Bishop who shall promptly communicate the same to the Respondent. The Presiding Bishop shall forward the Charge to the Review Committee at such time as the Presiding Bishop shall determine or when requested in writing by the Complainant or Respondent after 90 days of receipt of the charge by the Presiding Bishop…

…Sec. 40. Within sixty days after receiving a Charge, the Review Committee shall convene to consider the Charge. If after such consideration the Review Committee determines that an Offense may have occurred if the facts alleged be true, the Review Committee shall prepare a written general statement of the Charge and the facts alleged to support the Charge and transmit the same to the Church Attorney.

The ECUSA website shows the Title IV Review Committee mandate and its current membership.

What is not at all clear is how this action will affect the earlier appeal made to the international Anglican Panel of Reference.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 24 August 2005 at 10:30pm BST | Comments (32)
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Saturday, 20 August 2005

two more views on civil partnerships

Tim Jones, who is English although working in the USA, has written this comment about the bishops’ statement, Strangers in a Strange Land:

…To many outside the UK it seems bizarre that Christian bishops could vote for something that seems to them so, well, un-Christian. The powerful Anglican archbishop of Nigeria is furious, and reports are circulating that he is contemplating proposals for the Anglican Communion to discipline the Church of England, its historical ‘mother-church’. It is part of a wider debate about sexuality and church order that the Anglican Communion, the world’s third largest Christian denomination, may not survive intact…

And Pete Broadbent who is an English suffragan bishop, wrote about the statement in the Usenet newsgroup uk.religion.christian. His remarks are copied in full below the fold.

“I think a little clarity might be in order here.

1. Civil Partnerships are part of the law of the land. If two persons decide to enter into a Civil Partnership, there is nothing the Church of England can do to stop them.

2. The Church clearly teaches that marriage is the only lifelong commitment sanctioned by God. Our view of civil partnerships is that they cannot be held to be marriage, and cannot be recognised by the CofE as marriage.

3. Many (though not all) bishops would say that civil partnerships are a non-category; a nonsense category invented by Government as a way of fudging the issue on gay marriage.

4. We are therefore living in two realms; in the Church, a civil partnership has no meaning, beyond a commitment two people have to each other. In the State, such partnerships have meaning, and bring with them legal rights and responsibilities (which will impinge on all churches, not just the CofE).

5. We cannot therefore prohibit clergy from declaring a civil partnership. They have that right under civil law. We can only take action against them in so far as they contravene the teachings of scripture and the Church. The dilemma (which is not about fudge or compromise, but about reality) is that there is nothing per se wrong from scripture in entering a covenant of friendship and lifelong commitment to another person (indeed, during the drawing up of the legislation, it was argued quite sensibly that if Government was inventing this foolish category, then it ought to apply to brother and sister who wished to make the same kind of commitment to each other). If we were to take action against people for contracting a civil partnership we would be contravening their human rights, and would face legal challenge and inevitable costs. Perhaps Reform would like to put up the money if they want to see us go that route?

6. We are therefore left with this ridiculous and unsolvable pastoral conundrum, in that we have no grounds to prohibit civil partnerships, because they are not homosexual “marriage”. They are not therefore by their nature contrary to the teaching of the Church. However, we all know that the majority of people wishing to contract civil partnerships are going to be gay couples. Hence we are into the scenario of having to interrogate clergy about their bedroom habits, which is plainly sordid and intrusive. The legislation has us over a barrel. Those of us who have to operate the Bishops’ Pastoral Statement see it as very far from a fudge, because we have the uncomfortable responsibility of operating the pastoral discipline which it entails.

Pete Broadbent”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 11:19pm BST | Comments (70)
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Malawi elects British bishop

ACNS reports:

The Revd Nicholas Henderson, currently Vicar of two west London parishes, All Saints, Ealing & St Martin’s West Acton, has been elected as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Lake Malawi.

Newspaper reports have been rather more forthcoming:

The Nation (Malawi) Anglicans reject bishop-elect by Bright Sonani

Church of England Newspaper Cleric’s bishop post riles African critics by George Conger and Jonathan Wynne-Jones

The Times Malawi in uproar over promotion of pro-gay churchman by Ruth Gledhill and Jonathan Wynne-Jones

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 11:01pm BST | Comments (6)
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ND articles on civil partnerships

In his recent New Directions article Michael Scott-Joynt referred to the previous articles of Nicholas Turner in that magazine. Here are the links to those articles which have reported on the progress of this legislation. It is clear that Mr Turner doesn’t like it:

June 2004 An Unholy Alliance
July 2004 Strange bedfellows
September2004 The confusion deepens
December 2004 Marital discord
February 2005 Deliberate confusion?

And yet, the official Forward in Faith response to the Bishops’ Pastoral Statement was less critical than most.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 10:16pm BST | Comments (10)
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views from the papers

The Tablet has an appreciation of Brother Roger by Alain Woodrow A man of peace cut down.

In the Telegraph Charles Moore thinks that Westminster Abbey was right to reject Hollywood’s 30 pieces of silver, while Christopher Howse discusses government attitudes to religion in A game that the Romans played, and a leader column discusses The Pope’s duty.

Dwight Longenecker writes in The Times about Roman Catholics in the USA: Roman road leads South to a brighter future.

More interesting than today’s godslot on Bible translation was the Guardian’s report yesterday Call to end state’s link with church. More about this is at the Fabian Society’s website, and the full article is Religion and the British state: a new settlement. Earlier in the week, Giles Fraser had written The idolatry of holy books which explores the parallels between Islam and the Christian reformers. He concludes:

For there can be few more chilling examples of theocratic fascism than Calvin’s Geneva. In toppling the authority of the clergy, he made it the responsibility of the civil magistrates to enforce the word of God. Spon, in his History of Geneva, writes: “In the year 1560, a citizen [of Geneva], having been condemned to the lash by the small council, for the crime of adultery, appealed from its sentence to the Two Hundred. His case was reconsidered, and the council, knowing that he had before committed the offence, and been against caught therein, condemned him to death, to the great astonishment of the criminal.” Elsewhere, Picot observes, “There were children publicly scourged, and hung, for having called their mother she-devil and thief. When the child had not attained the age of reason, they hung him by the armpits, to manifest that he deserved death.” Quite clearly, the fear that western liberals have of sharia law can hardly be appeased with reference to a reformed polity.

Rushdie’s suggestion that a reformed Islam might find a way beyond the besetting sins of anti-semitism, sexism and homophobia is also, alas, unlikely. Luther himself was famously and virulently anti-semitic. The Reformation did little for women, and the place to find the most neanderthal religious homophobia in Britain today is in an organisation called Reform. Until the Reformation finishes its work and trains its powerful commitment to iconoclasm on the sources of its own prejudice it will hardly be a model to hold up for other religious traditions to follow.

One of the most interesting articles this week is in the Church of England Newspaper: The hidden Bible - Mark Ireland asks why evangelists are neglecting the Bible. This reveals that:

One of the strange rules of thumb I’ve discovered, visiting many churches in my role as a diocesan missioner, is that the more evangelical the church is, the fewer verses of the Bible you are likely to hear read in worship. When I go to a church in the central or liberal tradition, I will always encounter two Bible readings. When I go to one of the catholic parishes in the diocese, I will usually hear four pieces of Scripture read - Old Testament, Psalm, New Testament and Gospel - with the words printed out on the service sheet for the people to follow. However, when I visit an evangelical parish, I will usually hear only one passage of the Bible.

And finally, the Financial Times reports on what happened when Jonathan Miller visited St Mary’s Primrose Hill: True disbeliever.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 20 August 2005 at 7:52am BST | Comments (12)
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Friday, 19 August 2005

civil partnerships: Peter Selby

UPDATE The article is available on the Diocese of Worcester’s website.

The Church Times today carries an article by Peter Selby Bishop of Worcester. There is a report in the paper about the article by Rachel Boulding headlined Selby breaks bishops’ ranks which summarises the article well.
Sadly, the article itself is at present available only to paid subscribers. Update now available and linked. Meanwhile it has been quoted in part on titusonenine. That does not include the following excerpt:

It should be a source not of fear, but of delight, that many who do not aspire to matrimony, or to whose circumstances it is inappropriate, wish none the less to order their lives by means of as many of the aspects of the married state as are made available to them.

Is it not a vindication of all that has been revealed to us about the contribution of marriage to human flourishing that, often in the face of sustained public and ecclesiastical disapproval, and the presence of some very destructive lifestyles within the “gay scene”, many gay and lesbian people have aspired to order their lives in the kind of faithfulness and responsibility that civil partnerships involve.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 19 August 2005 at 8:15pm BST | Comments (30)
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Wednesday, 17 August 2005

More about Riga

Here are two additional documents:
First, the statement issued by the Diocese in Europe, and then - below the fold - the document from Latvia to which, it appears, Bishop Geoffrey Rowell was responding.

STATEMENT FROM THE DIOCESE IN EUROPE RE. GAY PRIDE MARCH AND SERVICE IN RIGA

The Bishop in Europe returned from a visit to the United States to find the Latvian Church leaders’ Common Statement relating to the gay, lesbian and bisexual parade ‘Riga Pride 2005’, but because of his absence abroad that statement did not reach him until after the parade and the service had taken place.

St Saviour’s Riga had not requested any permission for such a service to take place and the bishop was concerned at reports of such a service occurring. He confirms that the Common Statement states the official position of the Anglican Church, which does not recommend the blessing and legitimising of same sex unions and teaches clearly that the proper context of sexual intercourse is within marriage as a lifelong commitment of a man and a woman. The Church of England honours close and celibate same sex friendships and has also committed itself of listening to the experience of gay and lesbian people.

Bishop Geoffrey believes it is inappropriate that, as churches wrestle with the proper pastoral care for those of homosexual orientation, a church service to be used in what would seem to be a lobbying and confrontational way and has made this clear to the Chaplain and Church Council. He will discuss the events with the Chaplain of St Saviour’s and the Church Council in due course.

COMMON STATEMENT

by
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia
The Latvian Roman Catholic Church
The Latvian Orthodox Church
The Latvian Baptist Union

Christ says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. And whoever comes to me I will never drive away”. Prophet Isaiah characterises the natural state of a human be like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. Each person during lifetime constantly faces temptations, which burden the consciousness and injure the soul. Some people among us face a temptation which is being called homosexual orientation. Us and them Christ invites to come to Him, saying - repent from the sins and believe in Good News. The Good News is that Christ grants forgiveness and inner healing to everyone who repents from sins and comes to Him in faith.

July 23 in the church of the Anglican St.Saviour’s congregation a service is scheduled to take place as part of the gay, lesbian and bi-sexual parade “Riga Pride 2005”. The programme of the event as well as its name (pride), testifies that the participants of the parade want to go to the church and come to Christ not to repent their sins and receive forgiveness, but to stand before Him with pride about their homosexual life style. However Holy Scripture declares it a sin, which denies the person the eternal life. The service as well as lectures that strive to prove the opposite are deceiving oneself and others. The leaders of the largest Latvian Christian denominations call upon Christians to pray for these people who are in dangerous delusion, may God lighten their minds and does not permit them to carry away others, especially young people. We also call upon the leadership of the Riga St.Saviour Anglican congregation to be aware that a service with such approach contradicts the official position of the Anglican Church, which denies homosexual relationship as incompatible with Scriptures and does not recommend to bless and legitimise same sex unions. We call upon the bishop of the Church of England Diocese in Europe Geoffrey Rowell to direct his attention to what is happening in the congregation in Riga which is under his supervision.

We call upon the Riga City Council to be aware of its responsibility, giving permit to organise the event, the aim of which is to challenge and change the fundamental moral values, which have formed the moral basics of our society for hundreds of years. Attempts to define anew what is family and marriage, carry great and far-reaching public danger. Attempts to obtain the rights to adopt children, which socialist powers recently achieved in Spain, substantially violate rights of children and subject them to an experience that cripples soul and world view. Article 2, paragraph 3 of the law “On Meetings, Marches and Pickets” permits denial of such demonstrations that cause danger to the morality of the society. Riga City Council is sovereign in its deed and will have to take up all the responsibility for the consequences of the event.
Family - father, mother, children is the only society forming unit, which in the history of civilization has proved itself as being a powerful factor in sustaining a healthy and vital nation. The blessing of the Creator attends the family institution. Not only legendary Sodom but also Roman Empire perished as a result of moral collapse. We do not want our nation to experience a similar fate. Love towards God and our nation motivated us to come up with this common statement.

Riga, July 19, 2005

Archbishop of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia Jānis Vanags
Cardinal of The Latvian Roman Catholic Church Jānis Pujāts
Metropolite of The Latvian Orthodox Aleksandrs
Bishop of The Latvian Baptist Union Jānis Šmits

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 17 August 2005 at 10:10am BST | Comments (12)
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Tuesday, 16 August 2005

What happened in Riga

Last week the Church of England Newspaper reported on an event that happened in Latvia, at the Anglican Chaplaincy of St Saviour’s Riga where the Chaplain is The Reverend Dr. Juris Cālītis who also is Dean of Theology at the University of Latvia.

The article as originally written appears below. (The version published by CEN was slightly shorter.) The author George Conger writes:

This isn’t a story about the issues that divide: blessings or ordinations, but about simple human decency on the part of a small Church of England parish in Riga, Latvia.

Picture here

The Bishop in Europe, the Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Rowell, has rebuked the chaplain and parish council of the Church of England parish in Riga for hosting a gay pride service following a violent street march through the old city of the Latvian capital.

Approximately 100 marchers celebrating “Riga Pride 2005” on July 23 were pelted with eggs and tomatoes and threatened with violence during the country’s first ‘gay pride’ march by several thousand onlookers. While neo-Nazi skinheads and Russian nationalists played a prominent role in peppering the marchers with abuse, the majority of the mob were Christians from Latvia’s mainline churches: Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Orthodox the Rev. Juris Calitas, Riga’s Anglican chaplain stated.

Controversy over the march began shortly after Riga’s city council granted permission for the march on July 8. MP’s from the Green and conservative parties as well as the heads of Latvia’s Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist and Orthodox Churches protested. Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis stated on July 20 a gay pride parade was “not acceptable” as “Latvia is a state based on Christian values”, prompting Riga’s mayor to cancel the parade.

An emergency appeal to an administrative court restored the permit and the parade took place under the protective police shield. The hour-long paradebegan and ended at St. Savior’s [Church of England] and was followed by an ecumenical Anglican-Lutheran worship service.

Parade participant, Maris Sants reports that to enter St Savior’s the marchers had to pass through a hostile jeering crowd, including one woman standing at the Church door holding an icon and crucifix. “While trying topress people to kiss” the relics, Mr. Sants stated, she “eventually gave slaps to some participants”.

A spokesman for the Bishop in Europe told The Church of England Newspaper, “St Saviour’s Riga had not requested any permission for such a service to take place and the bishop was concerned at reports of such a service occurring”.

“Bishop Geoffrey believes it is inappropriate that, as churches wrestle with the proper pastoral care for those of homosexual orientation, a church service to be used in what would seem to be a lobbying and confrontational way and has made this clear to the Chaplain and Church Council.”

Martin Reynolds of the Gay and Lesbian Christian Movement stated he was “amazed” at these remarks, writing to Bishop Rowell on Aug 8 “Your chaplain and congregation exhibited bravery and compassion”.

Dean of Theology at the University of Latvia, Dr. Calitis—-a priest of the Church of England and pastor of the Latvian Lutheran Church—-noted the mobs reminded him of the anti-Jewish pogroms of the war years. “It was scapegoating,” he stated. “It’s hard to understand how Christian people with the least understanding of their mandate can be involved in mobs like this.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 16 August 2005 at 10:40pm BST | Comments (39)
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Saturday, 13 August 2005

letter from Peru

I’m writing this piece some four weeks into a stay in the Diocese of Peru. It’s my first lengthy opportunity to spend time in a part of the Anglican Communion in the global south.

Part of coming here has been not only to see what a sister diocese is doing but also to gain some perspective on my own ministry and priorities, and to see the life of the Church of England from a different viewpoint. The reflections are obviously my own, and equally obviously carry all the naivety that goes with only a month’s exposure.

Being Anglican in this country that is neither English speaking nor a former part of the British Empire is about having a faith that has both the liveliness of some of the more recent Pentecostal missions (usually imported from North America) and the sacramental underpinning and liturgy of Catholicism. There is evidence that this wasn’t always the case. At some points in the past British missionaries have used South America as a place to export both very partial styles of churchmanship that were marginal positions at home and their personal disgruntlement with British Anglicanism too. Mercifully this is no longer prevalent.

To what feels now a very healthy mixture is added a real imperative to work among the poor in both the expanding metropolitan areas and the remote, highly underdeveloped, rural regions. A generation ago, in the time of Gustavo Guttierez, there was much impressive work done by the Roman Catholic Church in taking up the concerns of the marginalised in the urban “pueblos jovenes” or shanties. Sadly, this seems to have been lost through the consistent policy of the previous pope in imposing conservative bishops on the dioceses. Several of the Anglican clergy are themselves former RC priests.

After very difficult times in the period of the Shining Path guerrilla movement Peru has enjoyed more settled years of late. There is evidence all around of the economy growing. The Lima shanties that Henri Nouwen described twenty years ago are now graced by solid houses and tarmac roads. Further out onto the slopes of the mountains new developments of basic shacks repeat what he then described, but the evidence is of communities over time becoming established and gradually edging from grinding poverty to relative poverty. The pattern is similar elsewhere in the country.

This mixture of civil stability and growth is providing a solid foundation on which the church can expand. What a small body such as the Anglican diocese, with no more than a dozen or so churches and a handful of missions in development, can achieve is necessarily limited, but it is being done with real passion in schools, churches, children’s homes, medical clinics, employment training projects and canteens. New church missions are being planted in the most recent and poorest areas, whilst in more established ones existing work is being expanded. Priests and lay workers are being trained in the diocese, and a new seminary to open shortly in Lima (there is already a part time one in Arequipa) will at last allow potential clergy to be trained in a fully Anglican environment. Parish mission teams come from North America and beyond. They experience a week or so in the life of the church here, and help with the practical work of the missions. In many cases when they return home they continue to offer support to the ongoing work.

The church here knows how important it is to be a member of a wider communion. A very significant proportion of time and energy goes into welcoming visitors from other parts of the world. As a small and relatively recently established church it knows how much it benefits from being part of a communion that has many millions of adherents across the globe, and from the insights and experiences of Anglicanism that they bring. I’m sure that many Anglicans here are scarcely aware of what they have to offer in return, not least as a church that is discovering and delighting in an identity and pattern of mission that many of us elsewhere simply take for granted. Moreover, if being deeply, loyally Anglican mattered less then decisions taken by provinces in the global north could be more easily shrugged off.

To be human is to prioritise. There are only so many battles that can be fought at once and only so many areas in which the church can deepen its life. The priorities hare are pretty hard to argue with. They are to build the church, especially in the poorer areas, through good liturgy, lively worship, social action and Christian teaching. And to build it in ways that are coherent with indigenous culture and sustainable into the long term; avoiding overdependence on the particular gifts and preferences of the small number of overseas personnel that might be working here at any particular time. In Peru at least, the increasing role of women as sole providers for their families, and the presence of a small number of women deacons, suggests that the ground is being prepared for future debate about gender inequalities in the church and beyond. However any idea that the church here either could or should get itself into a position to open up a wider debate on sexuality issues is pretty far fetched.

Earlier this week I stood overlooking the Colca Canyon as a Peruvian Anglican priest pointed out the remote villages, with neither electricity nor roads, on the opposite side. It takes him several days to complete a circuit of them on foot. It took the pair of us six hours and one breakdown on a rickety bus to even reach this point. It took as long with two breakdowns to get back again. It’s a long way geographically from a diocese in Central England where I can be in any of 280 church buildings in less than an hour from home. And some of the pressing issues may seem very different too. But what I am experiencing here is both prayerfully thoughtful and essentially Anglican.

Posted by David Walker on Saturday, 13 August 2005 at 6:54pm BST | Comments (3)
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Saturday reading choices

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph on the Foundations of fundamentalism

… ‘Without saying as much in so many words, fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide.” Such a judgment would be unremarkable in the letters page of the Independent, perhaps. It is more surprising in a document for which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was responsible before he was elected as Pope Benedict XVI…

In The Times Roderick Strange writes that Our understanding of Mary no longer need divide the Christian creeds

Ian Bradley writes in the Guardian about the British TV programme Songs of Praise, Praise, my soul, the king of heaven

The Independent may no longer have a godslot, but Andrew Buncombe reports on a visit to Lakewood Church in Houston: Jesus Inc. Welcome to the world’s biggest church

Philip Crispin writes in the Tablet about Faith’s French revolution which will sound rather familiar to English Anglicans

With the number of priests in steep decline, the laity is keeping the Catholic church alive in rural France. It’s a dramatic transformation borne of necessity…

A week ago, the Church Times carried this article by Kenneth Leech, Beware the bureaucrats. Here’s how it starts:

NEARLY ten years ago, an article by the then Bishop of Chichester, Dr Eric Kemp, “Following the example of Mammon”, appeared in the Church Times (17 November 1995). It warned about the centralisation of power in the Church of England, and the danger that archbishops would come to be seen as managing directors.

The following day, Professor Richard Roberts, writing in The Independent, described Archbishop Carey as “the John Birt of the Church of England”, and the Church as a managed, product-driven organisation.

These words still haunt me. They seem to confirm my worst fears about the Church. I am not attacking central institutions, or even bureaucrats as such, but questioning where our priorities should lie.

And an earlier article in Christianity Today by Doug LeBlanc about Peter Akinola, entitled Out of Africa

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 13 August 2005 at 9:44am BST
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Friday, 12 August 2005

church press reports

Pat Ashworth in the Church Times reports No Church can ignore the Bible - Akinola and his statement is reprinted in full.

The Church of England Newspaper has New Act will establish gay marriage critics warn (in the newspaper “marriage” is in quotes) which reports on what the Bishop of Winchester and Anglican Mainstream have said, while also clarifying the effect of some of the legal changes being made.

Earlier, I quoted a fragment from the Church Times press column, about the spiked Sunday Times report on Akinola. You can now read the whole of last week’s column.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 12 August 2005 at 2:50pm BST | Comments (0)
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Thursday, 11 August 2005

service announcement

We apologise to our users, and particularly those who comment, for the recent service disruption here. The articles posted since last Saturday have had to be restored manually. We regret however that it will not be possible to restore the comments made from last Saturday until this morning, including any made during that period to older articles.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 11 August 2005 at 5:31pm BST | Comments (4)
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Wednesday, 10 August 2005

civil partnerships: Winchester speaks

Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, has written this article about the Civil Partnership Act in the August issue of New Directions.

He refers to the Pastoral Statement, of which he is a signatory, thus:

The House of Bishops is on the point of publishing (I write in mid-July) a carefully considered, orthodox Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships; but on 29 May a substantially inaccurate preview of a draft of this Statement appeared in the Sunday Times – and caused consternation as it was circulated around the Anglican Communion among people many of whom can have no understanding of the cultural and legislative world through which we in the UK are now living. (But many of our own people have not woken up to its character either!)

In fact, the article covers several other pieces of legislation, and says only the following about the CPA:

The Civil Partnerships [sic] Act 2004 was designed to meet the needs of ‘same-sex couples in supportive relationships (who) cannot marry but deserve the opportunity of legal recognition.’ It provides for such couples who are not within the ‘prohibited degrees of relationship’ to register their relationship in a Register Office as a Civil Partnership (CP). The Act closely and exhaustively replicates for CPs virtually every provision in law that relates to marriage.

In June 2004, members of the House of Lords, myself among them, sought by amendment to extend the provisions of the (then) Bill to couples (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who are within the ‘prohibited degrees’ (e.g. two sisters, or a father and daughter) and who have lived under the same roof for twelve years. The amendment was carried in the face of government and Liberal Democrat opposition; but the government announced the same day that the amendment so radically altered the Bill’s concept of a CP that it could not proceed with the Bill while the amendment stood part of it – effectively admitting that after all the Bill was drawn up only in the interest of those in same-sex, and sexual, relationships. In due course the Commons removed our amendment and the Lords refused to allow its return.

I recognize that people in same-sex relationships can face some significant disadvantages and injustices which it is right that the government should seek to legislate to rectify – but not by replicating virtually every provision that relates to marriage. To me the CP Act undermines the distinctiveness and fundamental importance to society of marriage by effectively equating same-sex relationships with it, notwithstanding the government’s repeated assertions that this was not its intention.

It is, I judge, this dishonesty at the heart of the CP Act 2004 which will render the Church of England so wide open to mischievous misrepresentation when the Act comes into force in December.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 10 August 2005 at 11:47pm BST | Comments (34)
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July Synod - answers to questions and transcripts

The Church of England website now includes the answers to questions and transcripts of some of the debates from last month’s meeting of General Synod.

Questions and Answers

Links to the transcripts can be found here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 10 August 2005 at 2:21pm BST | Comments (0)
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civil partnerships: CEEC statement

The Church of England Evangelical Council has issued a statement. It is not yet on the CEEC website but can be found at Anglican Mainstream: Civil Partnerships - CEEC Response to Bishops and also on titusonenine.

Update, it is now on the CEEC website as an RTF file, here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 10 August 2005 at 2:16pm BST | Comments (4)
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Tuesday, 9 August 2005

civil partnerships: changes to church law

Anglican Mainstream has a note about the changes to ecclesiastical law that are being made by the government in connection with the Civil Partnership Act. The item can be read in full here. The hyperlinks in the following extract may prove useful.

This is because the Civil Partnership Act 2004 contains provisions (sections 255 and 259) enabling the Government to amend and even repeal other legislation in order to give full effect to the purposes of the Act. This includes even amending and repealing church law. The power in relation to church law is exercised by statutory instrument approved by both Houses of Parliament.

At the time of writing there is one draft statutory instrument which deals with church law awaiting such approval, and one statutory instrument still being drafted by parliamentary draftsmen. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Overseas Relationships and Consequential, etc. Amendments) Order 2005 proposes to amend four pieces of church legislation: the Pluralities Act 1838, the Parsonages Measure 1938, the Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986, and the Church of England (Legal Aid) Measure 1994. The Civil Partnership Act (Judicial Pensions and Church Pensions, etc.) Order 2005 will, as its name suggests, amend the church’s pensions legislation to give protection to civil partners. It is intended that both these provisions will come into force on the same day as the Act itself, namely 5 December 2005.

The relevant portion of The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Overseas Relationships and Consequential, etc. Amendments) Order 2005 is reproduced below the fold.

The following Hansard extract shows what the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) said in the House of Lords about this, on 19 July:

Schedule 3 to the order amends Church legislation to insert references to “civil partner” and “surviving civil partner” where there are existing references to “spouse” and “widow or widower”. Section 259 enables a Minister of the Crown to make amendments to Church legislation although, as the Committee will be aware, by convention the government do not legislate for the Church of England without its consent. I stress that the provisions in the order amending Church legislation have been drafted by Church lawyers, consulted on internally within the Church, and finally have been approved by the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops. The Church has asked that we include the amendments in the order, which we are content to do. The amendments in Schedule 3 do not cover Church pensions, as those will be dealt with in a separate instrument to be made under Section 255 of the Act.

Draft Statutory Instrument 2005 No.
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Overseas Relationships and Consequential, etc. Amendments) Order 2005

SCHEDULE 3
Article 4(3)

AMENDMENTS OF CHURCH LEGISLATION

Pluralities Act 1838

1. —(1) The Pluralities Act 1838 [footnote 10] shall be amended as follows.

(2) In section 36 (widow of any spiritual person may continue in the house of residence for two months after his decease), for “widow or widower” substitute “surviving spouse or surviving civil partner”.

(3) In section 43 (bishop may grant licences for non-residence in certain enumerated cases), after “spouse” insert (in each place) “or civil partner”.

Parsonages Measure 1938

2. In section 1(6) of the Parsonages Measure 1938 [footnote11] (definition of “connected person”), after “spouse” insert “or civil partner”.

Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986

3. —(1) The Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986 [footnote 12] shall be amended as follows.

(2) In section 11(2)(a) (requirements as to meetings of parochial church council), after “spouse” insert “or civil partner”.

(3) In section 12(4) (joint meeting of parochial church council with bishop and patron), after “spouse” insert “or civil partner”.

Church of England (Legal Aid) Measure 1994

4. In section 2(5) of the Church of England (Legal Aid) Measure 1994 [footnote 13] (applications for legal aid), for “wife or husband” substitute “spouse or civil partner”.

Footnotes

[10] 1838 c. 106.

[11] 1938 1 & 2 Geo 6. No. 3. The definition of “connected person” in section 1(6) was substituted by section 1 of, and Schedule 1, paragraph 2(b) to, the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 2005.

[12] 1986 No. 3. The word “spouse” in sections 11(2)(a) and 12(4) was substituted by section 10 of, and paragraphs 10(b) and 11 of Schedule 3 to, the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993.

[13] 1994 No. 3.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 9 August 2005 at 9:54pm BST | Comments (4)
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Paul Perkin on civil partnerships

Paul Perkin who is Vicar of St.Mark’s, St.Peter’s & St.Paul’s Battersea in the Diocese of Southwark, has written An Open Letter to English Bishops. Mr Perkin is on the council of Reform.

He raises two issues, one about blessings of such partnerships and one about baptism of children. The key questions:

Blessings

The bishops said:

18. It will be important, however, to bear in mind that registered partnerships do allow for a range of different situations- including those where the relationship is simply one of friendship. Hence, clergy need to have regard to the teaching of the church on sexual morality, celibacy, and the positive value of committed friendships in the Christian tradition. Where clergy are approached by people asking for prayer in relation to entering into a civil partnership they should respond pastorally and sensitively in the light of the circumstances of each case.

Paul Perkin asks:

…I intend always pastorally and sensitively to decline politely any request for such a prayer affirming a same-sex union. Can you clarify for me ‘the light of the circumstances’ in which you would feel it necessary to discipline me for such a refusal, before I go any further? You might well receive complaints from my parishioners, and it is only fair that the House of Bishops spell out now on what grounds you would be sympathetic to such a complaint.

Baptism

The bishops said about baptism:

23. The House considers that lay people who have registered civil partnerships ought not to be asked to give assurances about the nature of their relationship before being admitted to baptism, confirmation and communion. Issues in Human Sexuality made it clear that, while the same standards apply to all, the Church did not want to exclude from its fellowship those lay people of gay or lesbian orientation who, in conscience, were unable to accept that a life of sexual abstinence was required of them and instead chose to enter into a faithful, committed relationship….

Paul Perkin asks:

…It is our practice [at St Mark’s] to delay the baptism of heterosexual adults known to be cohabiting outside marriage, giving time for progress in discipleship. Is the House suggesting that this practice is wrong? If I intend pastorally and sensitively to decline politely any request for such a baptism, can you clarify for me the light of the circumstances in which you would feel it necessary to discipline me for such a refusal, before I go any further? Or is the House suggesting that clergy may enquire of heterosexual relationships outside marriage, but may not enquire of homosexual relationships? Or perhaps neither – is the House suggesting that relationships in general fall outside the scope of enquiry of candidates’ genuine repenting and turning to Christ? You might well receive complaints from my parishioners, and it is only fair that the House of Bishops spell out now on what grounds they would be sympathetic to such a complaint.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 9 August 2005 at 2:11pm BST | Comments (1)
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Monday, 8 August 2005

civil partnerships, Akinola: a newspaper reports

The other London newspaper correspondents are on holiday, but according to Jonathan Petre in the Telegraph
Gay clergy to defy bishops over no-sex ‘marriages’
and
‘I am not prepared to give assurances to anybody about my relationship’

This is the first UK newspaper report on the matter to name an overseas bishop, since the Sunday Times squib of 8 days ago.

The website for the petition mentioned in the article is here.

The Living Church has also reported this story:
Nigerian Primate Dismayed by British HOB Response to Civil Partnership Act.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 8 August 2005 at 12:46pm BST | Comments (0)
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Saturday, 6 August 2005

columns to ponder

For the weekend:

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about the CofE bishops and civil partnerships, Why you need love and more

Paul Oestreicher writes in the Guardian about The message of Hiroshima

George Coyne the Vatican’s chief astronomer writes in the Tablet about evolution in God’s chance creation

In The Times Jonathan Sacks has a column entitled ‘A clock seems to tick in the history of religions, sending crisis’

Damian Thompson writes in the Telegraph about Ancient fantasies that infect the internet and inspire suicide bombers and Christopher Howse has Christianity’s top 10 ideas

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 6 August 2005 at 2:14pm BST | Comments (4)
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Friday, 5 August 2005

civil partnerships: Akinola statement

A statement by Archbishop Peter Akinola has been published here on THE CHURCH OF NIGERIA (Anglican Communion) website: A STATEMENT ON THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND’S RESPONSE TO CIVIL PARTNERSHIPS BY THE PRIMATE OF ALL NIGERIA

The first published copy appeared on titusonenine
A Statement on the Church of England response to Civil Partnerships by the Primate of All Nigeria

The email distribution came from Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream

Update The statement has now also been published by ACNS here

The text is reproduced below the fold. References in square brackets are to paragraphs of the pastoral statement.

I read with utter dismay the pastoral statement recently issued by the Church of England House of Bishops with regard to the Civil Partnership Act scheduled to come into force on 5 December 2005.

While I was pleased to note the reaffirmation of the Church’s historic teaching on both marriage and sexual intercourse [1], [4] I was sorely distressed that these words are not matched by corresponding actions.

The language of the Civil Partnerships Act makes it plain that what is being proposed is same-sex marriage in everything but name. This is even acknowledged in the statement [10]. I find it incomprehensible therefore that the House of Bishops would not find open participation in such ‘marriages’ to be repugnant to Holy Scriptures and incompatible with Holy Orders.

The proposal that the bishops will extract a promise from clergy who register that there will be no sexual intimacy in these relationships is the height of hypocrisy. It is totally unworkable and it invites deception and ridicule. How on earth can this be honoured? For the Church of England to promote such a departure from historic teaching is outrageous.

I also note with alarm that the statement encourages the church to ask nothing of lay people who become registered same-sex partners before they are admitted to baptism, confirmation and communion. [23] This not only dishonours the laity and the sacraments of the Church - it also makes it obvious that the bishops of the Church of England are proposing a deliberate change in the discipline of the church.

It seems clear the House of Bishops is determined to chart a course for the Church of England that brings further division at a time when we are still struggling with fragmentation and disunity within the Communion. Let it be known that it is not a path that we can follow. It is also a path that is clearly at odds with the mind of the rest of the Anglican Communion.

May I remind the Bishops of the Church of England that, when faced with similar decisions on the part of the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada, discipline was imposed. While I have great affection and respect for the historic role that the Church of England has played in all of our lives, no church can ignore the teaching of the Bible with impunity and no church is beyond discipline.

I call on the House of Bishops of the Church of England to renounce their statement and declare their unqualified commitment to the historic faith, teaching and practice of the Church. Failure to do so will only add to our current crisis.

I am, by this statement, asking my brother Primates, their bishops and all the faithful in our Communion to remain calm in the face of this new provocation as we look forward to our next meeting. I also call on all those who cherish and uphold the integrity and sanctity of the Word of God to pray for our beloved Church.

–The Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola CON, DD, Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 5 August 2005 at 2:22pm BST | Comments (50)
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civil partnerships: Church Times

Pat Ashworth in the Church Times reports Akinola’s demand to ‘suspend’ C of E viewed with caution:

The Anglican Communion Office has tried without success to contact Archbishop Akinola, who is on holiday until 8 August. Its spokesman, James Rosenthal, said on Wednesday: “We are trying to verify the story from the Archbishop’s office in Nigeria, and have not been able to do that. We are concerned, because it is a very serious matter.” Lambeth Palace said that it could not comment until the story was verified.

Archbishop Akinola is believed to be planning to make a full statement.

Over in the Press Column, not yet on the web, Andrew Brown notes that:

The attribution of the quotes to serious church leaders rather than some random vituperating blowhard on the internet is something that might be missed by a non-specialist. You couldn’t discern it from the language used. They all talk the same way.

The idiots on the internet sound as if they could decide the fate of modern Christianity; the Primates’ opinions have the weightless freedom of email.

The column contains more on this subject…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 5 August 2005 at 8:21am BST | Comments (2)
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Thursday, 4 August 2005

documents from Eastern Michigan

There was another deposition in ECUSA today, this one in Eastern Michigan. It provoked a strong reaction from Forward in Faith North America which published five documents relating to this event.

The documents giving the diocesan view of this matter are reproduced here, below the fold.

And this report appeared on TLC Bishop Howe Withdraws Name from Eastern Michigan Censure Letter

Update
A further report on TLC Eastern Michigan Bishop Responds to Critics of His Deposition

August 4, 2005
Statement prior to reading the deposition of Gene Geromel as a priest in the Episcopal Church.

On February 6, 2000 The Rev. Gene Geromel and the congregation of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church voted with a vote exceeding two Thirds of their communicant population to leave the Episcopal Church. The occasion for the vote was preceded by a one-year dialogue between members of St. Bart’s vestry and members of the Diocese’s Standing Committee. The prearranged understanding was that if the adult members were to cast a vote in excess of two thirds of their communicant population, the Diocese would sell the Church buildings and Rectory to the congregation at market value.

A year prior to the vote, members of the congregation formed a legal entity, PECUSA, INC. without informing the diocese. In the year prior to the 2/6/00 vote, the congregation defaulted completely in giving their diocesan tithe, in violation of diocesan canons. The Rev. Geromel also publicly refused to receive the Bread and Wine of Holy Communion from the bishop of Eastern Michigan for more then a year up to the time of the vote stating that that he was not in communion with his bishop.

The St. Bart’s buildings, owned by the diocese, were sold to St. Bart’s in due course, and St. Bart’s became a church not recognized by the Episcopal Church.

In an act of generosity the bishop offered Gene the opportunity to remain a priest in the diocese as a licensed clergyman serving an ecumenical Church. In order for The Rev. Geromel to be licensed he had to agree to abide by the Constitution and Canons of the church and his ordination vows in which he pledged obedience to, and remains in communion with his bishop. The Re. Geromel said he could not do this in due conscience: hence the license was never granted.

Consequently, in another act of generosity the bishop withheld a deposition process for a five year period with the clearly stated hope that the Rev. Geromel might someday “return” to the Episcopal Church, or to a day when there might be a canonically appropriate way for Geromel to transfer to another duly recognized Anglican jurisdiction that was recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church has upheld a long standing principle that a priest can only be transferred to another Diocese if they are called to physically work and live in that Diocese. A Priest may not function in a diocese other than their own without the other diocese’s bishop’s permission.

During these past five years, Geromel has filed three annual reports to the bishop of Eastern Michigan where he has the fragile standing of a “priest-not-in-good-­standing’ who may not function sacramentally in any Episcopal Church in Eastern Michigan. Also during this period of time the bishop has once given permission to the Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy, to visit St. Bartholomew’s. Bishop Ackerman and the Bishop of Eastern Michigan have a standing agreement (which is know to Geromel) that he is welcome in Eastern Michigan as long as he sought prior permission and reported his activities to the bishop of Eastern Michigan.

In January 2005, five years after St. Bartholomew’s separation from the Episcopal Church, the Standing Committee of the diocese has asked the bishop to finalize its relations with Geromel by issuing a six-month inhibition, during which time if Geromel did not reaffirm his communal status with the bishop, a letter of deposition would be served. The charge for the inhibition is that Geromel has abandoned the Communion of the Episcopal Church.

The President of the Standing Committee reads the January letter asking for the bishop to serve a letter of inhibition.

The letter of deposition is read and signed and served.

Letter from the Standing Committee

THE EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF EASTERN MICHIGAN STANDING COMMITTEE
924 North Niagara Street
Saginaw, Ml 48607
877-752-6020 Fax 989-752-6120

Dean Bedford, Jr., President
The Rev. Peter Cominos, Vice-Pres.
The Rev. Gail L. Vince, sect.

08 January 2005

To The Rt. Rev. Edwin M. Leidel, Jr.

On Sunday, 06 February 2000 the Rev. Gene Geromel led the people of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in a vote to separate their congregation from the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan and the Episcopal Church in the USA. Subsequently, the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Eastern Michigan sold the church and rectory property to the congregation at lair market value. The congregation now calls itself St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church, but has no valid canonical relationship to ECUSA.

In a pastoral letter to the diocese, dated 07 February 2000, Bishop Leidel stated:

The Rev. Gene Geromel is an executive officer of an organization called “Forward in Faith North America”. It is the hope of this organization to implement a non-geographic American Anglican Province to co-exist with ECUSA as a legitimate Anglican diocese of conservative Anglicans, I personally find it hard to believe that such an entity can exist without causing confusion and harm to the missionary intent of God’s work within Anglicanism. God and Time will tell. Until then, it is my intent to remain connected (if not “in communion”) with the Rev. Gene Geromel and the people of St. Bartholomew’s.

After the publication of the Windsor Report it is becoming clear that an extra-territorial jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church is in all likelihood, never going to happen.

In a letter to the Rev. Geromel, dated 26 July 2001, Bishop Leidel stated:

It always remains my hope and prayer that, at some time, Fr. Geromel and the people of St. Bartholomew’s will return to a status of full membership in good standing within the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan.

It is now clear that neither the Rev. Geromel nor the people of St. Bartholomew’s have any intention to return to the fold of the Diocese of Eastern Michigan and the Episcopal Church.

In the same 26 July communication Rev. Geromel was invited to remain in communion with Bishop Leidel by stating his willingness to be in communion with Bishop Leidel. Rev. Geromel has never responded to that invitation and he has in the past refused to take communion from Bishop Leidel prior to the February 2600 separation.

Having heard recently that the Standing Committee might bring charges of “Abandonment of the Communion of this Church against him, Rev. Geromel wrote a letter to Bishop Leidel asking that the Bishop share the letter with the Standing Committee include the following warning:

“if you choose to raise the issue of any abandoning the communion of this Church’….it would bring with it publicity more detrimental to you than to me, especially in an area where yon have already lost at least a third of the Episcopalians and nearly all the orthodox clergy.”

In the same letter Rev. Geromel also charged that he has been unjustly treated in not being granted a transfer to a Network diocese in California while continuing to function as the pastor of St. Bartholomew’s within the geographic limits of the Diocese of Eastern Michigan. Bishop Leidel’s refusal to do this was reaffirmed in a 27 September 2004 resolution of the House of Bishops, which states:

The House of Bishops rejects the practice of transfer of canonical residence to allow a priest or bishop to exercise ordained ministry outside of the geographical boundaries of his or her canonical license.

In light of all of the above the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan unanimously declares that it has determined that the Rev. Gene Geromel has abandoned the Communion of this Church by an open renunciation of the Discipline of this Church on the following grounds:

1. He has led his congregation out of the Diocese and Episcopal Church.
2. He acknowledges that he is out of communion with his bishop.
3. He has shown no sign of wanting to return to the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Eastern Michigan as a priest in good standing.
4. He has not participated in the Councils of the Episcopal Church for over five years.

Yours Faithfully in Christ,
(signed by Dean Bedford, Gail Vince, William McClure, Dana Howard, Charles Geagan, Pete Jungquist, Charles Leibrand, Elsa Pressentin, and Glenn Stone.)

The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 4 August 2005 at 10:58pm BST | Comments (22)
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Categorised as: ECUSA

CAPAC: some reactions

If the CAPAC acronym is not yet familiar, read this first

LGCM published a press release The Anglican Communion and the Sunday Times story. A Response from LGCM

Fr Jake has CAPAC; Justifying Criminal Actions
with some really interesting comments

J-Tron has The new “Anglican” alliance and other things that will destroy the Anglican Communion
also with interesting comments, as noted by bls in Never

Mark Harris has The Council of Anglican Provinces of the Americas is a dangerous overreach

Update This matter got a tiny mention at the end of the Church Times story on Akinola:

These developments coincide with another new alliance of conservative Anglicans, to be known as the Council of Anglican Provinces of the Americas and Caribbean (CAPAC), modelled on the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA). The plans and a “Covenant of Understanding” were announced by Archbishop Gomez and the Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone, the Most Revd Gregory Venables.

The story deserves more attention than that.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 4 August 2005 at 10:26pm BST | Comments (5)
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion

civil partnerships: yet more responses

Forward in Faith UK FiF Response on ‘on Civil Partnerships’

Reform BISHOPSPROPOSALS ON CIVIL PARTNERSHIP ACT ‘FLAWED AND UNWORKABLESAYS REFORM

CEN Andrew Carey Andrew Carey on the C of E Bishops Approach to Civil Partnerships

Agape Press Kendall Harmon Church of England’s Homosexual ‘Marriage’ Compromise Has Theologian Concerned

Simon Barrow BEING CIVIL ABOUT PARTNERSHIPS

Sean Doherty Civil Partnerships in the Church of England

Other bloggers have commented on the previously reported response of Archbishop Peter Akinola

(some of these blog entries also have interesting comments)

Mark Harris There is an Anglican Communion future if we want it and, if we are mindful of the times we may be part of it.

Fr Jake C of E Threatened with Suspension

Simeon in the Suburbs Pope Peter I of Alexandria

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 4 August 2005 at 12:59pm BST | Comments (19)
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Categorised as: Church of England

Tuesday, 2 August 2005

Afro-Anglicanism Conference 2005

Both ENS and the Anglican Church of Canada have issued press releases about this event which occurred in Toronto recently. This was the third such conference to be held.

Website of the Conference

ENS Afro-Anglicans from around the world gathered in Toronto at third international conference

ACC Afro-Anglicanism conference ends; issues pact reflecting ubuntu

Scroll down either of the press releases to find the full text of The Toronto Accord

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 2 August 2005 at 10:28pm BST | Comments (3)
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion