Saturday, 31 December 2005

religion at the weekend

From the British newspapers:

Geoffrey Rowell in The Times writes that The calendar of commercialism does not reflect our spiritual rhythms.

Andrew Brown in the Guardian asks, in an essay entitled Belief systems: Are we hardwired for religion, or is it just a psychological and social need?

Two columns deal with the forthcoming 350th anniversary of the “resettlement” of the Jews in England:
Guardian Geoffrey Alderman in the Face to Faith column; and
The Times Jonathan Romain The timeless question: consolidate or integrate?

In the Telegraph, Christopher Howse writes about Naming the birds of heaven.

As it is New Year’s Eve today, the papers have articles about the New Year, like these:
Ruth Gledhill in The Times Bishops resolve to fight the flab - and end world poverty (see more about this column here), while Jonathan Petre in yesterday’s Telegraph was more sombre.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 31 December 2005 at 9:17am GMT | Comments (0)
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Friday, 30 December 2005

Anglican Theological Review: Fall 2005

A range of essays from the Fall 2005 issue of Anglican Theological Review is now available from this page.

Several of these relate to the Windsor Report.

The Windsor Report: Communion, Structure, and Covenant by Ellen Wondra (this is an introduction to the set of articles, another copy is here)

A Note on the Role of North America in the Evolution of Anglicanism by Paul Marshall
After Dromantine by George Sumner
Authority, Unity, and Mission in the Windsor Report by Ian Douglas
Thoughts on the Windsor Report: What Went Wrong? by Paul F M Zahl
The Spiritual Context of the Windsor Report by Steven Charleston
“But It Shall Not Be So Among You”: Some Reflections Towards the Reception of the Windsor Report within ECUSA by A Katherine Grieb
Covenant, Contract, and Communion: Reflections on a Post-Windsor Anglicanism by Harold Lewis
Freedom and Covenant: The Miltonian Analogy Transfigured by Ephraim Radner
Restoring the Bonds of Affection by William R Carroll
The Windsor Report: Two Observations on Its Ecumenical Content by J. Robert Wright
The Windsor Report and Ecumenical Dialogue by Kevin Flynn
The Unopened Gift by Jeffrey Steenson

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 30 December 2005 at 11:00pm GMT | Comments (4)
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civil partnerships: AM and some statistics

Updated 9 January
“Anglican Mainstream” has issued a press release. The text of it is not currently on at last posted to the AM website but meanwhile it can be found here. It says in part (emphasis added):

Following the passing of the Act, the House of Bishops of the Church of England released a pastoral statement on July 25 2005. Anglican Mainstream, the Church of England Evangelical Council, and Reform all issued responses to the Bishops’ statement between July and September. Between them they represent people in over 1000 churches and 2000 clergy throughout England. The Anglican Mainstream letter… has since been personally signed by over 1700 people, including 290 clergy and two Bishops from 260 churches in 38 dioceses. It has today been presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury as evidence of the deep disquiet within the Church about the pastoral situation which the Civil Partnership Act has created.

The statistics included in this press release are rather interesting. (Of course, any AM-originated statistics warrant caution in interpretation.)

Anglican Mainstream UK (which covers Wales, Scotland, and Ireland as well) has a Steering Committee which includes representatives from: Reform, CEEC, Church Society, and New Wine. It is curious that the latter two organisations are not mentioned in the press release.

If this coalition represents only 1000 churches and 2000 clergy in the Church of England then it would seem to be very far indeed from representing “mainstream” evangelical opinion within the Church of England.

What is even more significant is how few signatures AM has managed to obtain, even after several months of active solicitation.

According to the CofE official website, there are:

“… more than 9,000 paid clergy; more than 2,000 non-stipendiary ministers;… around 5,000 active retired clergy; and 1,100 chaplains in colleges, universities, hospitals, schools, prisons and the armed forces.”

and from here:

“The Church of England has some 16,000 church buildings, in 13,000 parishes covering the whole of England…”

And AM obtained less than 300 clergy signatures from only 260 churches.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 30 December 2005 at 10:12pm GMT | Comments (40)
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civil partnerships: recent CT reports

In today’s Church Times Bill Bowder reports on what the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich said in Bishop: gays ‘amongst the best’ clerics.

Earlier in the month, Rachel Harden had two articles: Priests prepare to register their civil partnerships and also Both sides agree: this is not marriage.

And a further report was entitled Don’t try to bend gay rules, says Dr Wright.

This week’s column by Giles Fraser is headlined Protect me from prying bishops.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 30 December 2005 at 2:23pm GMT | Comments (7)
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Is God on Their Side?

BBC Radio 4’s Analysis: Is God on their Side?, was broadcast on Thursday, 29 December, 2005 at 20:30 GMT.

Analysis explores the beliefs, the world view and the aspirations of the politically religious in America to discover why so many have come to believe that God, uniquely, is on their side.

Presenter: Andrew Brown

More information from the BBC about the programme

More information from the presenter

Read the programme transcript

Listen to the programme (Real Audio - just under 28 minutes long)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 30 December 2005 at 2:07pm GMT | Comments (0)
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Sunday, 25 December 2005

Christmas sermons

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon is here, below the fold.
The Archbishop of York’s sermon is on the York diocesan website.

Text of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon for Christmas Day
Canterbury Cathedral
25 December 2005

Exactly twelve months ago, on the last Sunday of December 2004, we were beginning to confront the reality of one of the most terrible natural disasters in living memory. It’s impossible not to be aware of that anniversary: dates are etched in our minds. Our lives aren’t just featureless strips of things going on. We make maps of our lives, we tell stories divided by events where something happened to change things. For those most directly involved, the date of Dec, 26th, 2004, marks a brutal interruption - the death or injury of someone, terrible anxiety, bereavement, anger and bewilderment. But for all of us, the date will carry significance, for all of us something erupted into our comfortable consciousness. Like September 11th and, now, July 7th as well, it stands in the landscape or the map, a feature that will never be obliterated. That was when things changed.

Anniversaries are among the things we most take for granted, in our personal lives - birthdays and wedding anniversaries - and in public life - November 5th, Remembrance Day. This last year, we have been marking two hundred years since Trafalgar and sixty years since the end of the Second War. It’s all the more strange, then, that so many are so reluctant to treat Christmas as an anniversary. Just as in the Millennium year, there was embarrassment about what it actually commemorated, so there is the same embarrassment about the event that Christmas marks. Yet again, we’ve had the reports of people trying to find ways of turning Christmas into a bland and empty winter jollification. The message seems so often to be, ‘Don’t remember the story; what matters isn’t the real history of the world but just the cycle of the seasons. You only need to remember last year - it got cold and dark and then it started getting warmer and lighter again.’ How very bizarre that the most enlightened and progressive thinking of the Western world should take us back to the mindset of the cavemen!

All right; but why remember the story exactly? Just as a heartwarming tale of a vulnerable baby? There are plenty of other stories about that. What was it that changed when this particular baby was born in Bethlehem? Why is it a vital part of the story of the whole world? Christians have a quite elaborate answer, in terms of how this was the moment when God began to live as a human being, began to live the life that led to his redeeming death and transforming resurrection. But just for a minute, put this on hold. If you were an unbeliever or half-believer, what might convince you that this did indeed mark a change so significant that we’d still be thinking about it after two thousand years?

‘Everything necessary has been given us in the Gospels. What is it? Firstly, the love of one’s neighbour - the supreme form of living energy. Once it fills the heart of man it has to overflow and spend itself. And secondly, the two concepts which are the main part of the make-up of modern man - without them he is inconceivable - the ideas of free personality and of life regarded as sacrifice.’ Words from one of the great novels of the twentieth century, a novel born out of the nightmare conditions of modern totalitarianism - Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago (p.50). Again and again in this astonishing work, Pasternak returns to the point, the point of vision which gave him his own personal resource to fight back against the pressure to silence and conformity in Stalin’s Russia. ‘Something in the world had been changed. Rome was at an end. The reign of numbers was at an end…The story of a human life became the life story of God and filled the universe’ (p.404).

What has changed? ‘Rome was at an end’ says Pasternak’s character. Christ was born into a society we can hardly imagine (though a somewhat lurid television series this autumn has captured some of it), in which any notion of the sanctity of every life was completely alien; some were born only to die - handicapped children, girl children in some places, exposed on hillsides to starve or freeze; slaves who existed to serve every passing desire of their masters and mistresses; outsiders, foreigners, who were not really human; gladiators whose job it was to kill or be killed for public amusement. It’s not - let’s be clear - that human behaviour has improved so spectacularly since the first Christmas that we can look back on these atrocities with complacency. A country with our current rates of abortion cannot afford to rest on its ethical laurels; there is effective slavery among the poorest of our world; civilised societies have started flirting once again with the idea that torture might be acceptable. It isn’t that we have left Roman-style inhumanity entirely behind; what has changed is that no-one now could possibly take these things for granted without coming up against a challenge from most of the main imaginative and moral currents of our European and Middle Eastern cultural history.

In other words, you may or may not believe what Christian doctrine says about the child in the manger; but you will, consciously or not, be looking at the human world in a framework that Jesus Christ made possible - which is, incidentally, quite a good reason for thinking twice before rejecting the doctrine. A vision has been introduced into the world that cannot be expelled. We talk boldly - and for the most part rightly - about how we can’t turn the clock back with ideals of democracy and accountability and freedom of conscience. No-one can pretend they haven’t been thought about and in some degree realised among us. True; but what about the fact that, ultimately, made all of them possible, the fact that put an end to Rome, to the age of unquestioned, inhuman empires and mass deaths that gave no-one any sleepless nights?

Sometimes today you can just faintly hear voices whispering that perhaps there was something to be said for the ancient world; that universal human dignity and the absolute wrongness of certain acts of violence and cruelty are nice ideas but a bit difficult in a complicated world. God forgive us. But if we do ever come to forget not just the Christmas story but what it made possible, the end of Rome, the arrival of a different humanity, there is enough, sadly, in our idle and self-obsessed hearts to let the ancient world begin to creep back a little bit more.

I don’t believe that in fact it could be possible to forget. When modern tyrannies have tried to make people forget, memory has shown itself pretty tenacious, secretly, obstinately, subversively. After all, if it’s simply true that Jesus was born and lived and died and rose as he did, things just have changed; you can deny that the sun has risen if you like, but only by insisting on keeping your eyes tight shut. All around, the landscape has changed, and people are discovering that they are capable of living differently in the company of Jesus.

A few weeks ago, Gee Walker, mother of the murdered Liverpool teenager, Anthony Walker, told us that yes, she forgave her son’s killers and yes, her heart was still broken. What made this so intensely moving was the fact that her forgiveness was drawn agonisingly out of her, without making her loss easier. She could not have been who she was if she did not recognise that forgiveness was laid upon her; her life and her dead son’s would have been nonsense if she did not forgive. It was mercy without a hint of trivialisation or excuse for wrongdoing. No preacher could say it like that, could make it sound utterly true and costly and necessary all at once.

And last week, the mother of Abigail Witchalls, paralysed by a knife attack in April, described her sadness about Abigail’s attacker, who had killed himself: ‘his death is the real tragedy in this story’, she wrote, not making light of her daughter’s terrible ordeal or denying the complex evil of the action, but simply making space in her heart for someone else’s fear and pain.

Why remember what happened at Bethlehem, why resist the efforts to reduce it to a brief fling of sentimental goodwill in the middle of bad weather? Because of people like these. They have known in their flesh and nerves just what the difference is that Jesus makes; it is not comfort or easy answers, it is the sheer fact that - we have to use the word - miraculous love is possible. The vilest offender, as the hymn says, is now deserving of attention and compassion; no life can be allowed to fall out of the circle of love. Because God has overthrown the empire of numbers and calculations, mass movements and majority interests: ‘The story of a human life became the life story of God and filled the universe.’ Remember this day; this was when the new creation began.

ENDS
© Rowan Williams 2005

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 25 December 2005 at 12:51pm GMT | Comments (0)
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Saturday, 24 December 2005

extra columns

Two weeks ago, TA linked to the first part of a report by Ian Mayes, in his Open Door column, on the Guardian’s coverage of religion. The second part of this got delayed by a Chomskyian diversion, but appeared last Monday. Here it is.

On Wednesday, Richard Chartres talked about Christmas on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day.

Today, the Guardian also carried an interview with Nicholas Holtam under the headline Motley Pew, and a column by Giles Fraser entitled Don’t leave those kids alone.

There was another good Thought for the Day on Friday, by Angela Tilby. The text of this is currently lost in the post, but you can hear it here (Real Audio): Darwin didn’t think that his theory of evolution dealt a death-blow to religious faith.

And The Times had another leader today: Very civil partnerships.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 24 December 2005 at 6:28pm GMT | Comments (0)
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Christmas columns

In The Times the Archbishop of York John Sentamu writes the Credo column: Like children, we will be surprised and overwhelmed. Also, the Bishop of Colombo Duleep de Chickera looks back at the tsunami, Wave of division that defies God’s timeless love. The Times leader is headed O come, all ye faithful.

In the Guardian the leader is titled In praise of … Bethlehem. The Face to Faith column by Pete Tobias is about Hanukah falling this year on Christmas Day. Another leader is on Living and giving after the tsunami.

The Telegraph leader is titled Christmas and the end of history. Christopher Howse writes about What the bells told Toby Veck.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 24 December 2005 at 1:02pm GMT | Comments (1)
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Thursday, 22 December 2005

Simon Mayo interview transcript

Fulcrum has transcribed the whole of the Simon Mayo interview with Rowan Williams previously reported. The transcript starts here, and not only is it complete, but it is also indexed by subject. What an achievement!

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 22 December 2005 at 12:47pm GMT | Comments (2)
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Tuesday, 20 December 2005

Looking Forward

In his advent letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams offers his advent hopes for individuals, societies and the Church. For the last of these he gives us just two themes – reconciliation and renewal. Being a sucker for alliteration, I would like to add a third – readiness – to make a new version of the “3 R’s”. I have been trying to reflect on these hopes through the season.

I rather regret that in recent times it has become unfashionable in Advent to preach on the “Last Things” (Death, Judgement, Hell and Heaven). Indeed, instead of looking forward to eternity, we are now asked by our lectionaries to look back (to the patriarchs, prophets, John the Baptist and Mary). To be frank, I don‘t think looking at the past is much help in terms of any of these three “R’s”. So let me suggest an Advent alternative.

From this perspective, reconciliation is about recognising that those we are in dispute with on Earth are also those with whom we hope to spend eternity. Despite the old joke (told at some point against most Christian denominations) there is no walled-off enclosure in heaven reserved for those who don’t think that anyone else is up there. In eternity, those with whom I have fallen out now, and to whom I may have behaved uncharitably, will be closer to me than the nearest human being in this present life. The Advent call to the Churches for reconciliation is therefore not so much “unity in diversity”, as “unity in eternity”.

Renewal also has its Advent dimension. We are to breath new life into our earthbound church so that we anticipate something of eternity. Taking just one example, it’s a call to make sure that the heavenly dimension is not absent from our liturgy and worship. And if that seems a rather too obvious thing to say, it is not that uncommon in my experience to find church services that appear to value matey-ness above mystery. A worship that is anticipatory of eternity will speak powerfully to our emotions, to our intellects and to our aesthetic senses. All too often we settle for being gently entertained.

Finally in Advent we are called to readiness. We are invited to prepare ourselves for a God who acts, not capriciously as did the Greek and Roman deities, but with a consistent and loving purpose moving ever towards the ultimate and complete fulfilment of his will. To be ready means to be prepared to wait. To wait for a God who may act sooner or later than we expect. It means to travel light so that, at any point, we are prepared to drop anything that holds us back from responding to where God is. As Archbishop Rowan has said elsewhere, the task of the Church is to notice what God is doing and join in with it.

In the final days of Advent maybe we can move beyond the remembrance of things past, so beloved of our current lectionaries, and begin to look forward. And as we do so, may we look forward both to that great breaking of God into the world that we call the incarnation, and that even greater breaking in of the world into God that we call eternity.

Posted by David Walker on Tuesday, 20 December 2005 at 10:05am GMT | Comments (6)
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Sunday, 18 December 2005

Nigeria: New York Times report

The recent Changing Attitude event in Abuja is now reported in the Sunday edition of the New York Times:
Nigerian Anglicans Seeing Gay Challenge to Orthodoxy by Lydia Polgreen. here’s an extract:

…The Anglican debate has largely played out as one between traditional African values and what many people call the decadence of the West. As one Anglican, Chimae Ikegwuru of Port Harcourt, put it: “Homosexuality is a Western thing. In Nigeria we don’t condone it, we don’t tolerate it.”

Nigeria’s gay men and lesbians regularly face harassment and arrest, gay activists here say. The criminal code bans acts “against the order of nature,” and imposes sentences of up to 14 years for those convicted. In practice, gay men are often arrested and jailed until they can bribe their jailers to let them go. In areas of Nigeria that adhere to Islamic law, Shariah, the sentence for homosexual acts is death.

Yet homosexuality is relatively common, particularly in the military, which dominated the country’s politics for decades, said Dare Odumuye, founder of Nigeria’s first gay rights organization, Alliance Rights Nigeria. “It has always been in our culture in Nigeria,” he said.

Still, in a country riven by corruption and strife, and perpetually perched on the edge of chaos, deeply conservative religious beliefs and literal readings of not only the Bible but also the Koran offer certainty and stability otherwise unavailable.

“The Bible and the creeds don’t lend themselves to any variation over time,” said Oluranti Odubogun, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Nigeria. “They don’t subject themselves to cultural changes. They are guidance given for human existence from age to age.” But that desire for certainty and absolutism has run up against another powerful force, the wider struggle for self-determination, particularly among young people in Africa…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 18 December 2005 at 4:00am GMT | Comments (34)
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weekend columns

The Times has an interesting feature article about women’s ordination, titled The sisterhood. Interviews with three Anglicans are included: Joanne Grenfell, Lucy Winkett and Jessica Swift.

Elsewhere in The Times Roderick Strange writes about Christmas and Ruth Gledhill writes about St Nicholas.

Michael Burleigh’s piece in the Times titled Peer into today’s Aladdin’s cave and try to detect a spiritual life contrasts with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor writing in the Observer about an Outbreak of faith.

The Guardian’s Face to Faith column is by David Self and is about civil partnerships.

In the Telegraph on Saturday, Christopher Howse wrote about The Christmas law of gravity. But much more interesting is the article by John Sentamu in the Sunday edition, This year, Christmas should last a lifetime.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 18 December 2005 at 3:19am GMT | Comments (1)
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Saturday, 17 December 2005

employment status of the clergy

Updated 24 December
The Church Times has two reports on this, both can be found at Church studies employment ruling; scroll down for Shiranikha Herbert’s report of the case.

A court case with significant implications for the Church of England (and other UK Anglicans) was decided in the House of Lords this week. Although the case itself concerned a claim alleging sex discrimination in the (presbyterian) Church of Scotland, it could have much wider ramifications in the long term.

The best newspaper reports of this are in the Scotsman and the Guardian.
Scotsman Susan Mansfield and (scroll down) Julie Sabba Ex-minister wins right to sue Kirk for sex discrimination
Guardian Clare Dyer Kirk minister sacked over affair wins right to lodge sex bias claim
Update also Woman ex-minister to sue Kirk over sex ‘bias’ by David Lister in The Times

The full text of the Law Lords ruling is online here:
Judgments - Percy (AP) (Apellant) v. Church of Scotland Board of National Mission (Respondent) (Scotland) and a PDF of this, which may be more convenient because it is some 60 pages long on paper, is here.

Other press coverage:
Observer before the judgement Minister awaits sex bias verdict … against God
The Times/PA News Woman vicar cleared to bring sex claim
Herald She worked for God on high, but her boss is down on earth
BBC Ex-minister wins sex claim fight

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 17 December 2005 at 12:58pm GMT | Comments (6)
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Friday, 16 December 2005

Transcripts of Proceedings

Transcripts of Proceedings are now available for the November meeting of General Synod.

Tuesday
Wednesday morning
Wednesday afternoon

The last of these contains the answers to all questions reached before close of business. The answers to the questions not reached are here.

The July 2005 Report of Proceedings (in PDF format) has recently become available online here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 16 December 2005 at 7:45pm GMT | Comments (2)
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Lambeth Conference plans

The text of the Advent letter sent by Rowan Williams to all 38 primates of the Anglican Communion is published:
Text of the Advent Letter sent by the Archbishop of Canterbury [to Primates] and Moderators of the United Churches.

See also this ACNS press release: Dates for 2008 Lambeth Conference announced by Archbishop of Canterbury.

The earlier Church Times article by Tom Wright Why Dr Williams must stand firm was responding to the CT leader previously reported here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 16 December 2005 at 4:16pm GMT | Comments (15)
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Thursday, 15 December 2005

elections to synodical bodies

The several houses that constitute the General Synod recently held elections for the filling of various vacancies, including many of the seats on the Archbishops’ Council.
See details of these election results here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 15 December 2005 at 11:02pm GMT | Comments (0)
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Wednesday, 14 December 2005

civil partnerships: individual bishops views

Updated Thursday

First, John Hind Bishop of Chichester delivered a pastoral letter at his recent diocesan synod. The full text is on the diocesan website here: Civil Partnerships — A Pastoral Letter.

Second, Tom Wright Bishop of Durham issued an Ad Clerum letter to diocesan clergy yesterday. You can’t read that, or anything much, on the Durham diocesan website which is being refurbished, but it is available here.

The Bishop of Worcester’s views were reported earlier.

Update
The Bishop of Winchester Michael Scott-Joynt has issued this statement.

Changing Attitude has issued a Rough Guide to the Civil Partnership Law which mentions that:

There are two bishops, one Northern, one Southern Province, with whom we haven’t talked because their views are predictable and dangerous for gay clergy. You will know who they are and you would be advised not to register a partnership if you serve in either of their dioceses.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 14 December 2005 at 6:02pm GMT | Comments (31)
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civil partnerships: AffCath booklet

Affirming Catholicism has announced it is to publish a booklet on Civil Partnerships.
The press release is reproduced below the fold (as it is not yet on the AffCath website).

ekklesia has this news article: Affirming Catholicism and two bishops back civil partnerships.

*PRESS RELEASE *

Affirming Catholicism welcomes civil partnerships as pastoral opportunity for Church

As the first civil partnerships are about to be registered in England on 21 December, the progressive Anglican organisation Affirming Catholicism has announced the publication of a booklet calling on the Church to welcome the development as a pastoral opportunity and a means of listening to the experience of lesbian and gay Christians.

The booklet, written by an Anglican priest, argues that civil partnerships will provide a way out of the ‘catch 22’ which faces many homosexual Christians whose relationships are criticised for being unstable while - at the same time - the Church fails to offer any support which might help couples stay together. Canon Nerissa Jones, MBE, the Chair of Trustees said:

‘The period of listening and reception to which Anglicans are committed can’t happen on a purely theoretical level. It must also be about the lived experience of lesbian and gay Christians who need to feel safe enough to tell their stories. We believe that civil partnership can help give that security and that local clergy should offer prayer and support for couples.’

The Church of England Bishops have stated that, while there could be no authorised liturgy to bless same-sex couples until there was consensus on Church teaching, parish priests should nonetheless respond sensitively and pastorally to gay couples seeking blessings.

The publication, which opens with a foreword by The Very Rev’d Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, calls for an end to the double standard at the heart of current Church teaching which accepts gay relationships between lay people but bans sexually active homosexual women and men from the priesthood. The booklet will be published on Friday 27 January 2006.

Ends

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 14 December 2005 at 11:30am GMT | Comments (5)
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Lake Malawi: diocese rejects provincial decisions

Updated Saturday
This week’s Church Times carries more detail of the story below. See Malawi 21 reject Bishop Mwenda by Pat Ashworth.

According to the Daily Times in Malawi, Anglicans reject bishop again:

The Anglican Diocese of Lake Malawi has rejected retired Bishop Leonard Mwenda of Lusaka, Zambia who was last month appointed interim head of the church in place of another rejected Bishop-elect Reverend Nicholas Paul Henderson.

The Court of Anglican bishops in Central Africa refused to confirm Henderson as bishop for Diocese of Lake Malawi on allegations that he was supportive of homosexuality.

But the clergy from the Lake Malawi Diocese meeting Friday last week disagreed with the church court’s decision to reject Henderson and complained that Mwenda was imposed on the Diocese.

More details in the article.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 14 December 2005 at 9:05am GMT | Comments (6)
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Monday, 12 December 2005

civil partnerships: a further legal opinion

Recently we published here an opinion on civil partnerships issued by LGCM and written by Derek Belcher.

Anglican Mainstream has now published a response by James Behrens which you can find at A Further Opinion regarding Civil Partnerships. He begins:

This further opinion is a response to a paper by Canon Belcher for the LGCM which comments on my written opinion of 30 June 2005 published by Anglican Mainstream. Canon Belcher and I are not as far apart as may be thought. Some people have read my written opinion as saying that the mere fact of entering into a civil partnership is a matter for ecclesiastical discipline. That was not my intention, and it is not my opinion. I am sorry that confusion has been caused. I make it clear now that it is active homosexual practice which is a matter for ecclesiastical discipline, rather than the fact of civil partnership itself. If the relationship between the parties to a civil partnership is chaste, the matter is not one for ecclesiastical discipline.

I annex to this note a slightly revised text for my written opinion which, I hope, makes my position clear. I have underlined the differences from the original version for ease of reference.

Unfortunately the AM web page has lost Dr Behrens’ underlining. Perhaps this will be rectified soon. Meanwhile the original version, of which this is a revision, can be found here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 12 December 2005 at 6:38pm GMT | Comments (10)
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Sunday, 11 December 2005

civil partnerships: church legislation changes

The promised regulations altering church legislation have come into force as The Civil Partnership (Judicial Pensions and Church Pensions, etc.) Order 2005. Part 8 of this (scroll down a way) amends all of the following:

Church Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 1960
Clergy Pensions Measure 1961
Clergy Pensions (Amendment) Measure 1972
Deaconesses and Lay Workers (Pensions) Measure 1980
Pastoral Measure 1983
Pensions Measure 1997
Church of England (Pensions) Measure 2003

An explanatory memorandum is available as a PDF file. See pages 18-20.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 11 December 2005 at 10:12pm GMT | Comments (2)
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Sex Discrimination: new regulations

See my report of last March on Updating the Sex Discrimination Act reproducing GS Misc 777, which was sent to all General Synod members to inform them about the consultations being held with the government by both the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council and the reasons for needing to make these changes.

The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 has now been amended significantly, by publication of The Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005.

This includes inter alia the new version of Section 19 of the 1975 Act. This is the section which enables religious groups to discriminate in certain circumstances. The full text of the new version is reproduced below the fold. It is almost identical to the earlier draft. Note also that it includes references to civil partners as well as to spouses (all of which was in the draft).

The official explanatory memorandum is available as a PDF file. It is a document of 51 pages. The discussion of Section 19 is on pages 26 and 27.
A further DTI explanatory document is available as a Word file. Again the relevant pages are 26 and 27.
The government’s response to the earlier consultation is also available as a Word file. This time the relevant pages are 25 and 26.

New version of Section 19

Clergy
20. —(1) For section 19 of the 1975 Act (ministers of religion etc.) substitute—

“19. —
(1) Nothing in this Part shall make it unlawful to apply a requirement in relation to employment where—

(a) the employment is for purposes of an organised religion,

(b) the requirement is one to which subsection (3) applies, and

(c) the requirement is applied—
(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.

(2) Nothing in section 13 shall make it unlawful to apply a requirement in relation to an authorisation or qualification (as defined in that section) where—

(a)the authorisation or qualification is for purposes of an organised religion,

(b) the requirement is one to which subsection (3) applies, and

(c) the requirement is applied—
(i) so as to comply with the doctrines of the religion, or
(ii) by the authority or body concerned, or by the person by whom the authority or body acts in a particular case, so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly-held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers.

(3) This subsection applies to—

(a) a requirement to be of a particular sex,

(b) a requirement not to be undergoing or to have undergone gender reassignment,

(c) a requirement relating to not being married or to not being a civil partner,

(d) a requirement, applied in relation to a person who is married, or is a civil partner, that relates—
(i) to the person, or the person’s spouse or civil partner, not having a living former spouse or a living former civil partner, or
(ii) to how the person, or the person’s spouse or civil partner, has at any time ceased to be married or ceased to be a civil partner.”.

(2) Section 6 of the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993 (No. 2)[1993 No. 2] is repealed.

(3) Regulation 5 of the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999[S.I. 1999/1102] is revoked.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 11 December 2005 at 6:56pm GMT | Comments (1)
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Saturday, 10 December 2005

from the London papers

The Guardian has had several items of a religious nature this week:
St Andrews researcher questions belief in hell
Oliver Cromwell and the Jews: a correction
and today’s Face to Faith column by Malachi O’Doherty
But even more interesting was this from the Readers Editor, Ian Mayes:
Open door
The readers’ editor on … a charge that the paper is no longer secular.

Christopher Howse writes today in the Telegraph about Fashions in sexuality and Charles Moore writes about Rowan Williams’ visit to Pakistan in But, Archbishop, this is the bleak mid-winter for many Christians.

Jonathan Sacks writes in The Times about Different freedoms, or why religion and politics should never mix. Michael Binyon writes on Bridge between the mosque and the synagogue.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 10 December 2005 at 1:46pm GMT | Comments (2)
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Friday, 9 December 2005

more about the Lake Malawi election

A lot more information about the rejection of Nicholas Henderson’s election is found today in a report by Pat Ashworth in the Church Times: Elected bishop is vetoed as ‘unsound’, for example:

The decision was not conveyed to Mr Henderson until he phoned the Provincial Secretary. He discovered that he had been rejected by a majority vote by the bishops of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, and Malawi. Five bishops are known to have supported Mr Henderson, who has had no contact with Archbishop Malango, despite repeated phone calls over five days.

The CEN has this report by George Conger: London vicar rebuffed as bishop in Central Africa.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 9 December 2005 at 8:47am GMT | Comments (32)
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Thursday, 8 December 2005

Scottish Primus on civil partnerships

To all serving clergy

Civil Partnerships

As you will be aware, o­n 5th December 2005, the Civil Partnership Act came into force. As a result, two people of the same sex will be able to acquire a new legal status through registering a civil partnership. This will have very significant implications for their rights and responsibilities in respect of taxation, nationality, immigration, heritance, liability for maintenance and child support, tenancies, employment and pension benefits.

The Bishops recognise that there is a variety of views in the Church o­n the subject of civil partnerships. They also realise that there may be members within your congregations, or colleagues in ministry who may be considering entering into such partnerships now, or at some time in the future. This may raise pastoral issues for you which you would wish to discuss with your Bishop. This note is to confirm that, in every diocese, the Bishop is happy to make himself available to discuss any such pastoral issues should they arise.

It should be noted that the Act does not allow Church buildings to be used for registering civil partnerships and there is no authorised liturgy in the Scottish Episcopal Church for the blessing of such partnerships.

+Bruce
The Most Rev Bruce Cameron
Primus and Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 8 December 2005 at 10:38pm GMT | Comments (20)
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Southwark ordinations analysed

Fulcrum has published a comprehensive analysis by Graham Kings of the recent irregular ordinations in Southwark diocese:
Judicious or Precipitate? Evangelicals and Order in the Church of England.

Also, this week, the CEN reports on this letter from the Southwark Diocesan Evangelical Union under the headline Southwark appeal for healing of division.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 8 December 2005 at 8:46am GMT | Comments (2)
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Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Simon Mayo interviews Rowan Williams

Updated Saturday

BBC Radio Five Live presenter Simon Mayo interviewed Rowan Williams for 35 minutes yesterday. You can hear the whole thing here (Real Audio).

Includes discussion of pretty much every current hot Anglican topic.

Update Ruth Gledhill has some more about this interview here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 7 December 2005 at 4:02pm GMT | Comments (7)
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Sunday, 4 December 2005

Nigerian reports

Updated Monday

Changing Attitude has reported that: Changing Attitude Nigeria holds successful first General Meeting.
Some pictures are included (scroll down).

Several commenters on this site have questioned whether this event really occurred. Here are some Nigerian newspaper reports from the Vanguard which shed an interesting light on the matter:

Gays, lesbians unveil selves:
Ignore them—Archbishop Ademowo
Everybody must rise up against it —Rev. (Mrs) George

Update
Here is a detailed report of the event from the Nigerian Sun
Amazing Nigerian gays and lesbians hold extraordinary meeting
and an interview as well:
We are set to take Nigeria by storm, says leader of the gay and lesbian movement

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 4 December 2005 at 12:03pm GMT | Comments (37)
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Saturday, 3 December 2005

Welsh bishops statement on civil partnerships

Updated 12 December

The Bishops of the Church in Wales, at a recent meeting of the Bench of Bishops, agreed the following statement on Civil Partnerships:

In December 2005 the Civil Partnership Act comes into force. As a result, two people of the same sex will acquire a new legal status through registering a civil partnership. This will have very significant implications for their rights and responsibilities in respect of taxation, nationality and immigration, inheritance, liability for maintenance and child support, tenancies, employment and pension benefits. The Bishops of the Church in Wales cannot and would not wish to prevent what the law allows for Church members, both lay and clerical. The legislation leaves entirely open the nature of the commitment that members of a couple choose to make to each other when forming a civil partnership. It is not predicated on the intention to engage in a sexual relationship. The new legislation makes no change in the law in relation to marriage and the Government has stated that it has no intention of introducing same-sex ‘marriage’.

As a result, people in a variety of relationships will be able to register as civil partners. The Act does not allow church buildings to be used for registering civil partnerships, and the Bishops do not intend to produce an authorised public liturgy for such registrations.”

Copies of the statement have been distributed to members of the church’s Governing Body and to all clerics serving within the Church in Wales.

END 3rd December 2005

Update 12 December

Andrew Goddard has published a response to this statement here

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 3 December 2005 at 8:29pm GMT | Comments (14)
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Be Prepared

Two news stories have caught my attention in this first week of Advent, and provided contrasting commentaries on the theme of the season.

The first was the kidnap of Norman Kember and his fellow ‘peace activists’ in Iraq. The outline of the story, westerners abducted, lives threatened, is both familiar and shocking, as is so much news coming from that country. The details, as they emerged, tell a less common story. After years of commitment to peace and reconciliation - and a history of opposition to the invasion of Iraq - Norman Kember decided that demonstration, meetings, the Greenbelt peace tent, weren’t enough. ‘I’ve done a lot of writing and talking about peacemaking. I’ve demonstrated, you name it, I’ve been on it, but I feel that’s what I’d call cheap peacemaking.’ He presumably knew the risks he ran in going to Iraq as a westerner, a professing Christian, and operating outside the protective structures of the occupying forces. Prophetic wisdom, or wild folly?

The second story was the Adair Turner report on pensions, which has prompted discussions ranging well beyond the issue of state pension provision. Without doubt, the discussions are much needed, and any outcome will require wisdom and foresight in planning for a future which is sustainable, in which those in greatest need can be supported, in which skills and gifts are used for the common good, and a proper balance is found between rest and continuing productive economic engagement. Sadly, much of what has been said and written has focussed either on individuals or on a sense of unfairness which reminds me of my own childhood dissatisfaction that my brother had a Christmas stocking until he was 13, while for me the cut-off point was 10!

Both stories, for me, echo the Advent theme of preparedness. Norman Kember has left behind security, certainty, physical well-being, and stepped into a world where he must have been prepared for the worst to happen - and it has. The discussion over pensions is a search for the very opposite; it is about preparing for security, for assurance, for the certainty that each of us will be able to live in at least moderate prosperity for the later part of our lives.

I’m 99% sure that I shall be looking for a secure pension in a few years time, not abandoning all assurance in the pursuit of peace. But I found myself wondering whether the Advent call to readiness was really about investing in pension plans; I suspect Norman Kember’s attentiveness to the people of Iraq is closer to the watching and waiting required.

Posted by Jane Freeman on Saturday, 3 December 2005 at 6:25pm GMT | Comments (3)
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Saturday browsing

In The Times Geoffrey Rowell writes about Advent: Advent reminds us to stay watchful as we await the kingdom of God.
Also, Valerie Grove interviews Timothy Radcliffe ‘Christians should puzzle and intrigue people’.

Steve Parish raises questions about the link between church and state in the Guardian’s Face to Faith column.

Christopher Howse writes about C. S. Lewis: The saint and the dinosaur in the Telegraph. There was also an interesting article earlier in the week about Anglicans in Baghdad: Reflections of a ‘cheap warmaker’ by Danny Kruger.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 3 December 2005 at 12:56pm GMT | Comments (2)
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Malawi: Bishop Pete comments

Pete Broadbent writes:

The news that the election of Nicholas Henderson as Bishop of Lake Malawi has been blocked by the Court of Confirmation is perhaps not surprising in the current climate of relations between the northern and southern parts of the Anglican Communion. Yet, as Nick’s bishop, I could have hoped that he might have been treated with more justice and with attention to what he actually believes, rather than what he is alleged to believe. We need to keep Nick in our prayers at this difficult time.

He was rejected on the grounds that he had previously been Chair of the Modern Churchpeoples’ Union, and was therefore seen to be a liberal in theological standpoint and in putative support for the liberalisation of the Church’s stance on gay relationships. Allegations were also made about his private life. All this despite Nick’s strong declarations that he accepts the faith revealed in the scriptures and set forth in the creeds, that he holds to the teaching of the Church on sexual ethics, and that there never has been any question about the standards of his moral conduct. Nick has become a victim of the warfare between African traditionalism and Western liberalism. I find it deeply sad that, as someone who would find myself more obviously on the traditionalist side of things, my letters in support of Nick and his orthodoxy were quite simply ignored by those responsible for confirming his election. In stark terms, my references as his bishop and Nick’s own affirmations of faith were not believed.

There are several obvious lessons to be learned from this sad case.

First, that guilt by association is alive and well and living in the Anglican Communion. As an evangelical, I’m well used to this particular phenomenon. Some free church evangelicals seek to dignify it by giving it a theological category of “secondary separation” - I can’t be in communion with you if you are in communion with someone who holds views that are perceived as heterodox. In this case, whatever Nick Henderson’s own views (which I would still want to describe as traditionally Anglican), the very fact that he had been an organiser of the MCU was enough to make him unacceptable, because there were some in that organisation who were seen to hold to a revisionist viewpoint.

Secondly, the danger of the power of the internet as a means both of instant communication and instant condemnation. Those who were opposed to Nick Henderson’s election were immediately in action once his election had been announced, spreading defamatory and untrue allegations about him all over the place. This included the release of private correspondence between the consecrating bishop and the consecrand - stuff which, even in the leaky Church of England, we would never consider as public property. And, because journalism these days can become a fundamentally lazy occupation (you google someone’s name, read the stories about them, and retread the material so that it becomes common currency), those allegations spread round the world, but can all be sourced back to one particular American website, which despite their lack of any personal knowledge of the priest they were defaming, was quite prepared to condemn him out of hand.

A third issue is the way in which nuance and complexity are being ignored in these debates. I do not want the Anglican Communion to become a place where a revisionist liberal theology becomes the norm. But equally I do not want to see a witch hunt against liberalism, which at its best (and in the liberality of the classic Church of England ethos) continues to make a huge contribution towards shaping our theology and ethos. The MCU as an organisation is not one I would want to join, but the fundamentally conservative liberalism espoused by many of its members needs to be assimilated and understood by evangelicals, charismatics, conservatives and traditionalists. To insist that membership or leadership of such an organisation should be a ground for blocking a duly elected bishop smacks of McCarthyism. That’s not to say that there should not be grounds for suggesting that a person’s views and teaching might make them a person not suitable to be a bishop - here in the UK we had our own debate about that in respect of an appointment to the see of Reading, and I was one of those who advocated that the appointment should not be made. Some will think that I am now being hypocritical. I would argue that there is a difference between views definitely held and taught by an individual and views held and taught by others within an organisation of which that individual is a member. What is more obviously at stake here is the capacity for us to hold debates about the teachings of scripture and the Church which are not starkly polarised into “Who is not for us is against us” positions. Those charged with deciding whether Nick’s election should be confirmed clearly saw him as part of the liberal Western enemy, despite his long association with, and care for, the clergy and people of Lake Malawi through a mission partnership with his parishes. Many Malawi clergy had visited us here, and I had the privilege of meeting some of them. But all those relationships counted for naught, because complexity is not on the map.

We have so much to lose if our relationships with the vibrant and growing churches of the South are soured or severed. I am deeply saddened at how Nick has been treated. I am saddened that the African bishops could not hear what was being said to them about the nature of his belief and practice and the suitability of his candidature for the calling to be a bishop in the Church of God. But we need to recognise the depths of suspicion about ECUSA, Canada, and now the Church of England that have brought us to this position. Indeed, we need to voice more clearly between ourselves the stark differences between our different theologies. While I am prepared to defend MCU, I would find it much harder to defend some of the positions taken (for example) by various sections of ECUSA on theology, ethics and pastoral practice. We need also to find ways - through personal contact, partnership in the gospel, and the Windsor Report framework - to mend these relationships.

Pete Broadbent
Bishop of Willesden & Acting Archdeacon of Northolt

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 3 December 2005 at 12:24pm GMT | Comments (96)
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Malawi election is not confirmed

For earlier reports see here, here, and here.

The Court of Confirmation met on Tuesday 29 November, and it did not confirm the election.

News reports:
Nation Online Bishop elect’s fate today (before the meeting)and Anglicans reject bishop-elect
Reuters Malawi Anglicans reject pro-gay UK bishop
BBC Malawi rejects ‘pro-gay’ bishop
Mail and Guardian Anglicans reject bishop for supporting gay rights
Associated Press via Jamaica! Malawi rejects pro-gay British bishop

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 3 December 2005 at 11:15am GMT | Comments (5)
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Friday, 2 December 2005

Global South: more disagreement

Pat Ashworth reports in the Church Times today that A fourth Primate disowns ‘hectoring’ letter.

…The Archbishop of Burundi, the Most Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, was one of three Primates listed among the 17 signatories as “Present but had to leave before the final draft was circulated”. He has also confirmed that he did not sign.

He responded in a message to the Church Times on Tuesday: “I have read Archbishop Akinola’s letter. Without going into details of the content, I would like to make it clear that I was not present when that letter was written, so I did not take part in its conception. It is sad what is going on.”…

Also, the Southern African province reports on how their representative was treated:

Further light was shed by the Primate of Southern Africa, the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane. In a message to the Church Times, he writes that he was represented at the meeting in Egypt, where the letter was drafted, by the Bishop of Pretoria, Dr Johannes Seoka.

Bishop Seoka had “found himself excluded from meetings, including those at which the letter was discussed - despite the presence, it appeared, of others who were neither Primates nor, indeed, from the Global South”, the Archbishop writes.

The full text of Abp Ndungane’s remarks is available this week only to CT subscribers. I will link to it here when it is available.

Meanwhile there is also an article in the CT by Bishop Tom Wright which is summarised in Pat Ashworth’s article but again the full text is for subscribers only, until next week now available here. Meanwhile an extract is available here.

But he also is strongly critical of the Global South letter:

This kind of hectoring inevitably backfires, creating such distaste that people instinctively want to do the opposite of what is requested, or at least to declare loftily that one must do nothing at all rather than give in to such bullying.

Perhaps that is what some of these groups intend: to generate a situation where they can claim spurious justification for schism. Archbishop Akinola, and particularly his advisers and letter-drafters, need to be reminded of the Windsor report’s insistence on due process within an episcopal Communion.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 2 December 2005 at 4:23pm GMT | Comments (17)
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David Edwards defends Europe

Last week the Church Times carried an open letter to the bishops of the Global South from David Edwards. It is now on the web at Europe is not a barren desert.

…the example of insensitivity or ignorance that I find most offensive is your description of Europe as a “spiritual desert”.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 2 December 2005 at 8:36am GMT | Comments (30)
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Thursday, 1 December 2005

BBC world service discussion

BBC World Service broadcasts a daily radio programme Analysis. Wednesday’s edition was as follows:

The Anglican Church - ready to split? 30.11.2005

Listen here (13 minutes - Real Audio)

The Church of England today enthrones its first black archbishop.

The Right Reverend Dr John Sentamu, who was born in Uganda, is being enthroned as Archbishop of York, the second most powerful position in the Church of England, after the Archbishop of Canterbury.

His appointment comes at a difficult time for the Anglican communion, which is still deeply divided over the ordination two years ago in America of an openly homosexual bishop.

So is a break up of the church now inevitable?

Interviews with Stephen Bates, Cyril Okorocha, Colin Slee, Martyn Percy and Graham Kings.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 1 December 2005 at 2:25pm GMT | Comments (3)
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