Tuesday, 28 February 2006

Nigeria: church comments on the proposed law

The Living Church has published a report on what Bishop Chane said, Washington Bishop Condemns Proposed Nigerian Law, Primate’s Role. The article contains two separate further pieces of information:

What Rowan Williams said about this in Brazil:

…Speaking to delegates at the World Council of Churches on Feb. 17, the Archbishop of Canterbury declined to defend or condemn the proposed Nigerian legislation, saying “there is a difference between what might be said theologically about patterns [of behavior] and what is said about human and civil rights.”

It is a “real challenge” to “give effect to the listening process in situations where gay people are actively persecuted,” the Most Rev. Williams said. However, “the primates have said, more than once, that they deplore such activities, corporately.”

The “question is whether their churches” can find “ways of acting on that recognition on the wrongness of persecution,” he said…

What Canon Popoola said about this to TLC:

…A spokesman for the Church of Nigeria, Canon Akintunde Popoola, disputed this characterization, arguing Bishop Chane misconstrued the text of the bill and Archbishop Akinola’s role in the legislative process. “Archbishop Peter to my knowledge is yet to comment [publicly] on the bill. I have said we welcome it because we view homosexuality as ‘against the norm’.”

While banning ‘gay clubs’ in “institutions from secondary to the tertiary level or other institutions in particular” and “generally, by government agencies,” the proposed law is silent as to the status of private gay clubs.

The proposed law should also be seen in light of the wider conflict between civil law and Shariah law in Nigeria, Canon Popoola said. Under existing “Islamic law” in effect in “some parts of the country,” the acts covered by the proposed law currently “stipulate the death penalty,” he said.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 28 February 2006 at 11:49am GMT | Comments (38)
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Calvin, usury and civil partnerships

Last December, TA reported briefly on the Welsh bishops statement on civil partnerships, and on Andrew Goddard’s response to it.

Then in January, TA reported on the Bishop of Bangor’s forthright response to Andrew Goddard.

Since then, Andrew Goddard responded by republishing an earlier essay entitled Semper Reformanda in a Changing World: Calvin, Usury and Evangelical Moral Theology.

Now, the bishop, Anthony Crockett, has published this further article. It’s quite long, but does come back eventually to the original topic:

…The Welsh Bishops, to get back to my original paper, tried in their statements on homosexuality and civil partnerships to indicate their perception of where Christians who read the Bible with integrity are, like Calvin in his day. Some of the views they mentioned are undoubtedly revisionist, in terms of the biblical and traditional material - as revisionist, but not more so, as Calvin’s in relation to usury - and on the same grounds, namely the principle of equity and the application of the Golden Rule ‘on which hang the law and the prophets’. The Bishops might have taken the trouble to produce ‘a form of moral argumentation and an appeal to Scripture’, to say nothing of tradition, social change and the ‘way in which our current situation is different from that of the biblical writers’. But those arguments are already much in the public domain. The Bishops appreciated the need, felt by some, to reconceptualise the phenomenon of homosexuality (cf Calvin’s identical argument on p12), and now Dr Goddard, in posting his paper on the Fulcrum website, has done them the favour of reproducing that argumentation for all to see, and to make up their minds. The Bishops will welcome his willingness to apply Calvin’s method based on equity and the Golden Rule, for like Calvin, they do not want to ‘turn (their) back on Scripture. Rather (they want to) let Scripture shape (their) thinking at the level of moral and theological principles’ (p10).

Perhaps Dr Goddard would agree that it would have been better if he had applied his analysis of Calvin’s hermeneutical method to our Statements, before he reached for his pen. Then his precipitate response and unhelpful tone might have been avoided. But all’s well that ends well. We should be glad that his lucid presentation of Calvin’s rationale for his revision of the consistent, unwavering, ‘clear’ biblical and traditional veto on usury is now in the public domain. I should like to suggest that we should all apply it consistently and conscientiously to the issue of same-sex relationships, refusing to confuse the issue with that of promiscuity, as Gagnon - he of the unpleasant tone - does. Instead of condemnation, we should admit that when homosexual people talk of permanent, loving, same-sex relationships, they are speaking of something which ‘is in fact significantly different in practice from Scriptural concerns and so cannot simply be subsumed in the standard moral descriptions and condemnations’, as Dr Goddard himself recognises could be the case (p12). Who knows, we might even consent to listen ‘to homosexual people, welcoming them into our homes and sitting down to eat with them’, as Stephen Fowl (p6) recommends.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 28 February 2006 at 10:45am GMT | Comments (8)
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Monday, 27 February 2006

Rowan Williams at the WCC in Brazil

The Living Church has published another article, which summarises what the archbishop said at a meeting of Anglican delegates to the Assembly:

Archbishop Williams Urges Shared Sacrifice, Continued Dialogue

This gives a lot more detail than was in the earlier ACNS report linked previously here. Read it all, please. The concluding paragraphs are:

The “challenge to every single member of the Communion” therefore is “together [to] rediscover a sense that we are all under the judgment of God; that we are all called to holiness; that we are all called to sacrifice.”

It will not do to present the problem “as a matter in which one side would win and the other lose” as “we need each other desperately. And that is my deepest conviction about the Anglican Communion,” Archbishop Williams said.

“We need therefore to go on meeting and listening,” he said, “where people listen and look, not in great political assemblies, but in fellowship between parishes, dioceses, and projects.”

That is the way forward to an “Anglican future that is not completely polarized, that is not completely divided culturally, ideologically, theologically. Where we can share with one another patterns of obedience of Christ without expecting them to be always the same everywhere, but at least trying to be recognizable to each other.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 27 February 2006 at 10:49pm GMT | Comments (5)
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Affirming Catholicism holds conference on women bishops

Press Release: Anglican and Roman Catholics argue for women bishops

The Anglican organisation Affirming Catholicism is to hold a day conference on Saturday 11 March promoting the ordination of women as bishops. The ‘symposium’, to be held in St Matthew’s Church, Westminster, will see leading Oxford theologians Dr Jane Shaw, Dr Charlotte Methuen and Dr Mark Chapman setting out the case for women’s Episcopal ordination from a catholic point of view. They will be joined by Roman Catholic proponent of women’s ordination, John Wijngaards.

‘There is a mistaken perception that most Anglican catholics oppose the ordination of women,’ says the Rev’d Richard Jenkins, Director of Affirming Catholicism. ‘That simply isn’t the case. We want to celebrate the ministry of ordained women and to demonstrate that the full inclusion of women in the apostolic ministry enhances its symbolic and effective witness.’

Participants will also grapple with the theological and practical issue of how and to what extent the Church of England can accommodate those who disagree with the ordination of women. Members of the public can take part in the symposium by contacting Lisa Martell on 020 7222 5166 or by email, administrator@affirmingcatholicism.org.uk. (Cost, including lunch, £10, £5 concessions).

Papers delivered on the day will be published by Affirming Catholicism as a contribution to the Church of England’s ongoing debate about the consecration of women. The General Synod of the Church of England will next debate the issue in its July group of sessions when it will decide how to proceed with legislation to create women bishops.

Dr Mark Chapman is vice-Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon; Dr Charlotte Methuen is Departmental Lecturer in Ecclesiastical History at Keble College, Oxford; Dr Jane Shaw is Chaplain of New College, Oxford. John Wijngaards is theological adviser to the Roman Catholic movement ‘women priests’.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 27 February 2006 at 10:17pm GMT | Comments (1)
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civil partnerships and the Scottish RC bishops

Recently, the Scottish RC bishops issued a Pastoral Letter on Family Law. This is a response to the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

That letter was discussed in an article by Aidan O’Neill originally published under the title Ties that bind. This article first appeared on 11 February 2006 in The Tablet, the Catholic weekly. www.thetablet.co.uk, and is reproduced here with permission.

Aidan O’Neill is a QC based in Scotland.

The article will I believe be of interest to Anglicans.

CIVIL PARTNERSHIPS AND THE SCOTTISH BISHOPS

by Aidan O’Neill

On 25 January 2006 the eight bishops who make up the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland issued a Pastoral Letter on Family Law, to be read in all parishes and distributed to Catholic households throughout Scotland. The signatory of the letter is the Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti. In this letter Archbishop Conti condemns the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which makes provision for the registration and legal recognition in the United Kingdom of same-sex partnerships. He describes the 2004 Act as creating a “fiction of marriage” for same-sex couples by according to registered civil partners the same access to tax relief, inheritance rights, housing and social-security benefits as are available to married couples. At the same time he calls the Act “defective” on the grounds that it fails to make like provision for existing “family members who share their property and accept responsibility of care for one another”.

The Scottish bishops’ opposition to the legal recognition of same sex partnerships is clear from Archbishop Conti’s letter of complaint. They see it as constituting both insult and injury to marriage. But the presumptions and reasoning supporting this conclusion are less than clear, and need some unpacking.

In the first place, the Archbishop’s letter fails to take account of the fact that there exists a fundamental distinction between civil marriage as regulated by the State and sacramental marriage subject to the discipline and regulation of the (minority) Catholic Church. In Scotland, the State has long allowed for divorce and remarriage; the Church (in theory) does not.

In pre-Reformation Scotland the Catholic Church’s rules concerning the prohibited degrees of relationship which invalidated marriage were exploited by clergy and laity so as to permit a flourishing “divorce culture” among the unreformed pre-Protestant Scots. The Church’s rules - which constituted the law of the land prior to the Scottish Reformation in 1560 - were that no-one was permitted to marry another related to them within four degrees of consanguinity, affinity or spirituality. This meant that people who shared a common great-great-grandparent - whether related to them by blood, by marriage, or god-parenthood - could not validly marry one another without canonical dispensation. But such marriages were, of course, commonly entered into. Thus, if a divorce was subsequently considered expedient then the failure to obtain the appropriate dispensation at the time of marriage could be used to obtain an annulment from the Catholic Church authorities.

It was, in fact, to strengthen respect for the marriage bond – the practice of the canon law on marriage having fallen into disrepute - that the Reformed Protestant Church of Scotland promoted new legislation before the Scottish Parliament in the course of the 1560s. This civil legislation limited the relationships that invalidated marriage to the second degree (in conformity with the incest prohibitions contained in Chapter 18 of the Book of Leviticus) and allowed for divorce on the grounds of adultery or desertion and for remarriage in Church on the part of the wronged or innocent spouse. Thus the dominant reformed and Christian vision of marriage which has prevailed in Scotland for over 400 years is one which allows for divorce and remarriage – a view which the Catholic Church has not admitted.

Further the archbishop’s letter is – to use his own words – “disingenuous” when it seeks to use examples from “the other great world faiths in our midst” to support his views on marriage and the family. Jewish law has always made provision for divorce and remarriage during the lifetime of one’s former spouse, as has Islam. The rights of women within Islamic marriage differ considerably from those of men. And both Islamic law and Sephardic and Yemenite Judaism allow for polygamy, with men permitted under these religious laws to take up to four wives. These visions are impossible to square with Catholic orthodoxy on marriage and the family.

When the Scottish Bishops’ claim to be defending “marriage” in their pastoral letter it is not clear what particular tradition or definition of marriage they mean. In our pluralist democracy it is for the State and not for the Church to regulate civil marriage. The State’s extension to same-sex couples of the legal rights, benefits, duties and responsibilities of civil marriage does not impact upon the Church’s rights to define and regulate for its own adherents what constitutes religious marriage.

And when it talks of defending “family life” the Bishops’ pastoral letter relies on a reductionist notion of “family”. When used in the letter “family” appears to be confined to “parents with children”, albeit that it expressly includes “single parents, particularly those who are single not through choice but by circumstance”. But, says the archbishop, same-sex partnerships are not to be considered to constitute “families” worthy of the law’s respect and protection because they are “of their nature incapable of providing tomorrow’s citizens whose values will determine our society”. On this approach childless married couples would also fall outside the definition of “family” and the privileges which the law currently affords them should be removed and transferred, instead, to cohabiting couples bringing up children. This is hardly defensible.

The author of the letter is taking a somewhat ahistorical approach, because family, historically, means the members of a “household” and does not necessarily connote any blood relationship. As Lord Clyde noted in Fitzpatrick v. Sterling Housing Association (2001), a case in which the House of Lords ruled that the concept of “family” is now to be regarded as extending to committed same-sex partnerships marked by mutual fidelity, care and respect: “Some of the most close family relationships may be created by choice … Marriage is the obvious example. Adoption of children is another. The element of a free mutual choice … to spend one’s life with another is one form of a family bond. The kind of [same-sex] relationship with which the present case is concerned is one where the parties of their own choice live together … Beyond that kind of case and the case of a relationship akin to that of parent and child the element of choice does not seem to operate to achieve a family bond. One cannot choose to become a brother or a sister, an aunt or an uncle.” The civil partnership legislation is all about two individuals choosing to become kin. It is about creating family life, not about its destruction or devaluation.

Sexual orientation is not about who you have sex with, but rather about who you fall in love with, body and soul. And civil partnerships seek to affirm and support the love of two individuals for one another. Rather than speculating about sex, would it not be better for our bishops to concentrate on preaching the Christian message that God is love and that “where love and loving kindness dwell there God abides” ?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 27 February 2006 at 9:11pm GMT | Comments (4)
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Sunday, 26 February 2006

Nigerian bishops speak out

From the Church of Nigeria official website:

Anglican Leaders seek end to religious crisis

Ibadan, Feb. 24, 2006- The carnage of violence that has besieged the nation this past week has led many religious leaders to ask the reason behind the avoidable mayhem.

In separate interviews, Anglican Bishops, whose areas of jurisdiction witnessed religious riots, called for an immediate cessation to further killings.

They also want government to address the issue of religious intolerance. …

Bishop of Gombe, the Rt. Rev Henry Ndukuba, Bishop on the Niger in Anambra state the Rt. Rev Ken Okeke, In Niger Delta, Bishop Edafe Emamezi of the Missionary Diocese of Western Izon, are all quoted.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 26 February 2006 at 4:50pm GMT | Comments (6)
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BBC radio items on Nigeria, Sudan

From the Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4

Religious riots in Nigeria

Religious riots in Nigeria have claimed more than 100 lives this week.

Nigeria’s 120 million people are roughly equally divided between northern Muslims, and Christians and animists in the south.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in communal violence since 1999. For the latest news Roger Bolton was joined by the BBC’s Alex Last in the Niger Delta.

bbc.co.uk/news - Nigeria country profile
Listen (3m 51s) (Real Audio)

Archbishop of Canterbury in Sudan

The Archbishop of Canterbury is in the Sudan. What can such visits achieve and can this latest one contribute to peace between the Muslims and Christians in the Sudan, and of course in the Darfur region in the north west where ethnic cleansing has been taking place?

Roger spoke to BBC correspondent, Jonah Fisher, in Khartoum and asked him where in the Sudan the Archbishop will be going.

bbc.co.uk/religion - Archbishop of Canterbury
Listen (4m 15s)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 26 February 2006 at 4:04pm GMT | Comments (0)
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Saturday, 25 February 2006

Washington bishop criticises Akinola

Updated Saturday 4 March

The Washington Post carries this article by John Chane Bishop of Washington, A Gospel of Intolerance, which will appear in the Sunday edition of the newspaper. It is strongly critical of Archbishop Akinola:

…Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, primate of the Church of Nigeria and leader of the conservative wing of the communion, recently threw his prestige and resources behind a new law that criminalizes same-sex marriage in his country and denies gay citizens the freedoms to assemble and petition their government. The law also infringes upon press and religious freedom by authorizing Nigeria’s government to prosecute newspapers that publicize same-sex associations and religious organizations that permit same-sex unions…

… Surprisingly, few voices — Anglican or otherwise — have been raised in opposition to the archbishop. When I compare this silence with the cacophony that followed the Episcopal Church’s decision to consecrate the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, a gay man who lives openly with his partner, as the bishop of New Hampshire, I am compelled to ask whether the global Christian community has lost not only its backbone but its moral bearings. Have we become so cowed by the periodic eruptions about the decadent West that Archbishop Akinola and his allies issue that we are no longer willing to name an injustice when we see one?…

Update Saturday 4 March
Martyn Minns has responded to this article.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 25 February 2006 at 1:39pm GMT | Comments (14)
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map of Nigerian violence

Christianity Today’s weblog has comprehensive reporting of the Nigerian disturbances, and that includes a link to this annotated map showing where each reported event has occurred.
Hat Tip to GetReligion for this.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 25 February 2006 at 9:45am GMT | Comments (0)
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weekend godslots

Traditional religious values are emphasized in this week’s contributions.

In The Times Geoffrey Rowell writes Lent is a good time to celebrate the old-fashioned virtue of courtesy.

Alison Leonard writes for Face to Faith in the Guardian that the Quaker approach of open dialogue could help to improve the relationship between faiths.

And the Telegraph’s Christopher Howse writes about The view from Wittenham Clumps.

The Times also carries an extract from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book 2006: Forgiveness in a culture stripped of grace by Miroslav Volf director of the Yale Centre for Faith and Culture.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 25 February 2006 at 9:29am GMT | Comments (3)
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Friday, 24 February 2006

Malawi story continues

Updated Saturday morning

Since my previous report, dated 13 February, these further reports have been posted:

10 February The Nation Editorial Opinion It’s Intolerance

24 February The Nation Anglicans hold archbishop under hostage

24 February Daily Times Cracks in Anglican Church over bishop-elect worsen

Update Saturday morning
The Guardian has African rebels hail English vicar by Rory Carroll

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 24 February 2006 at 10:22pm GMT | Comments (5)
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violence in Nigeria

Updated Saturday morning

The latest reports of religious strife in Nigeria are very disturbing:

New York Times Lydia Polgreen Nigeria Counts 100 Deaths Over Danish Caricatures
BBC Bodies pile up after Nigeria riot
Guardian Revenge attacks kill 20 Nigerian Muslims
Independent Five days of violence by Nigerian Christians and Muslims kill 150
IRIN via Reuters At least 123 killed as anger over cartoons fuels existing tensions
Update here is a link to the latest reports from this source.
Telegraph Sectarian killings strain the fragile unity of Nigeria

Ecumenical News International Anglican leader warns of reprisals over torching of Nigeria churches
Church Times Rachel Harden Muslim mobs murder African Christians
NB scroll down for Bishop’s wife in hospital after attack which is about the wife of the Bishop of Jos. See also CEN Mob attacks Bishops family. And also, see this letter from the bishop.

The statement made by Archbishop Akinola, in his role as President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, can be found in full on the Church of Nigeria website. That statement was criticised yesterday on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

Nigeria is suffering inter-faith violence as a result of the row over the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Nearly a hundred people have been killed in the last few days. Bishop Cyril Okorocha of the Owerri Diocese in south-east Nigeria, joins the programme.

Listen with Real Audio (4 minutes).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 24 February 2006 at 10:50am GMT | Comments (21)
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More on Caterpillar in the Church Times

The Church Times has a leader this week about the synod vote: Caterpillar vote leaves its tracks.

In the same issue, Rachel Harden reports on the Paul Oestreicher article: Canon attacks Zionist moral blackmail’ and Giles Fraser explains that I’m not anti-Semitic, and neither is the Synod.

In last week’s issue there were several letters to the editor.

Two weeks ago, on 10 February, the debate was reported as Synod rounds on Caterpillar Inc and Bulldozer motion ‘based on ignorance’.

Back on 23 September 2005, the following report was made: Caterpillar holdings kept for time being.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 24 February 2006 at 9:59am GMT | Comments (0)
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Thursday, 23 February 2006

Williams on the moratorium

Updated Friday evening

The Living Church carries a report from the WCC Assembly in Brazil in which Rowan Williams is quoted as saying, in response to a question about the moratorium on consecrating non-celibate homosexual bishops:

“I believe if there is ever to be a change in the discipline and teaching of the Anglican Communion on this matter it should not be the decision of one Church alone,”

Read the full story with further quotes: Archbishop Williams: Episcopal Church Should Maintain Consecration Moratorium .

He made this statement on Friday, 17 February.

On Monday, 20 February, the Diocese of California announced the names of five candidates for its election of a diocesan (scheduled for May). The Church of England Newspaper reports on this matter under the headline New row brewing as USA considers another gay bishop. The final paragraph reads (emphasis added):

Dr Williams stressed his opposition to the move. “If there is ever to be a change on the discipline and teaching of the Anglican Communion [on homosexuality] it should not be the decision of one Church alone. “The Church must have the highest degree of consensus for such a radical change,” he argued, adding he was very uneasy about the way in which change has gone forward in the American Church over this issue.

That first sentence is misleading insofar as the California announcement had not yet been made.

Update A further report on Rowan Williams’ WCC attendance has been published by ACNS: Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams addresses WCC General Assembly. Part of this report:

Archbishop Williams began the day with an open discussion for Anglicans attending the Assembly, where he talked about the life of the Anglican Communion generally, and laid out his vision for the way that we can move forward together as a world-wide group of Christians. He described how, in his view, neither of the two polarised positions taken by some in the Communion represent a good way forward, and described this by saying: ‘I would be very sad to see Anglicanism becoming either the Church of a western liberal elite or the Church of anti-intellectual post-missionary society. I am putting it very bluntly here, and I think the dangers that we face in the Communion very serious.’

He concluded by saying: ‘who knows what God has in store for the Anglican Communion? When I try to look into the future of the Anglican Communion eighteen months forward, I have no idea what might happen. But if God has a purpose for us in the Communion, then we can relax. I do not mean to say we can stop, and do nothing. I mean we can stop at least being so desperately and bitterly anxious. So often our Anglican world gives off in the media a sense of bitterness and anxiety. Well that is the last thing we want to share with the world. We need to be honest. We need to work. We need to recognise there are no short answers. We need to do all that because we believe God has something to say to us, and with us, in the context of the World Church, which is why we are here in this Assembly. That is, because we believe God is faithful to his calling and his promise.’

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 23 February 2006 at 10:59pm GMT | Comments (18)
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Sentamu on Guantanamo Bay

Recently, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu was reported in the Independent as saying:

The Americans are breaking international law it is a society heading towards Animal Farm.

There is a report on this also in the CEN Archbishop attacks Guantanamo camp.

There is also a report in the Church Times Guantanamo is Animal Farm, Sentamu says.

On Thursday, he issued a further press statement, which is reproduced below the fold.

Update Friday’s Times newspaper carries this:
Blair condones Amin-style tactics against terrorism, says Archbishop

Statement from the Archbishop of York
The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd and Rt Hon John Sentamu, said today (23/02/06) in response to the suggestion that the Guantanamo Bay situation was an anomaly:

“This is not an anomaly. By “declaring war on terror” President Bush is perversely applying the rules of engagement which apply in a war situation. But the prisoners are not being regularly visited by the Red Cross or Red Crescent, which is required by the Geneva Convention. They were not even allowed to be interviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Group.

In Uganda President Amin did something similar: he did not imprison suspects because he knew that in prison the law would apply to them, so he created special places to keep them. If the Guantanamo Bay detainees were on American soil, the law would apply. This is a breach of international law and a blight on the conscience of America.”

The Archbishop had previously said (17/02/06)

“The American Government is breaking international law. Whatever they may say about democracy, to hold someone for up to four years without charge clearly indicates a society that is heading towards George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

The main building block of a democratic society is that everyone is equal before the law, is innocent until proved otherwise and has the right to legal representation. If the guilt of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay is beyond doubt, why are the Americans afraid to bring them to trial? Transparency and accountability are the other side of the coin of freedom and responsibility.

We are all accountable for our actions in spite of circumstances. The events of 9/11 cannot erase the rule of law and international obligations. I back the United Nations Human Rights Commission report, recommending that the US try all the detainees, or free them without further delay. If the US refuses to respond, maybe the Commission should seek a writ of Habeas Corpus in a United States Court, or at the Hague.”

ends

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 23 February 2006 at 10:34pm GMT | Comments (7)
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Tuesday, 21 February 2006

Divestment: more discussion

Yesterday the Guardian carried a major comment article by Paul Oestreicher entitled Israel’s policies are feeding the cancer of anti-semitism.
There was an accompanying news story by Stephen Bates Leading Anglican hits back in ‘anti-Israel’ row. Today there are lots of letters to the editor.

Elsewhere the Jerusalem Post carried a comment article entitled Remembering William Temple and from Porto Alegre came this Associated Press report from the WCC Assembly Campaign for pro-Palestinian divestment seeks momentum at world church gathering.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 21 February 2006 at 8:14am GMT | Comments (1)
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Sunday, 19 February 2006

women bishops: further information on TEA

First, what is a possible timetable for the process?

The General Synod papers included a note which was an Annex to GS 1605A. The text of this is given below the fold.

Second, what are the views on TEA of those entirely opposed to women bishops?

FiF reacts to General Synod debate on Guildford Report

Andrew Burnham Bishop of Ebbsfleet wrote a pastoral letter about it in January, and has since prepared a leaflet: Explaining T.E.A. in Parishes.

The February issue of New Directions has several articles on TEA from opponents, including Paul Benfield, Bishop Lindsay Urwin, and John Hunwicke, who apparently objects to being in communion with any [male] bishop who has one or more women priests in his diocese.

The conservative evangelical view is put forward by Bishop Wallace Benn and others in A Way Forward.

Possible Synod timetable (on the assumption that the legislation represented both Article 7 business and Article 8 business)

  1. Drafting Group appointed. Oversees preparation of draft Measure and Canon for introduction to the Synod (a year is likely to elapse between the decision to appoint a legislative drafting group and its report to Synod);
  2. Draft Measure and Canon introduced, given First Consideration by Synod and referred to Revision Committee to consider proposals for amendment (the Revision Committee stage could also be expected to take a year )</em>;
  3. Report from Revision Committee considered by Synod, followed by the Revision Stage in Synod (whether this needed to straddle more than one group of sessions would depend on the nature of the legislation and the number of amendments at this stage);
  4. Reference of draft Measure and Canon, as amended, to diocesan synods under Article 8. The approval of a majority of the synods is required for the legislation to proceed further (A year to 18 months would need to be allowed for this stage to allow dioceses the option for an initial diocesan synod debate, and possible reference to deanery synods before a formal diocesan synod vote. A reference of the legislation to dioceses at this stage in the process is mandatory, whether or not there has been pre-legislative consultation of the dioceses);
  5. Report back to Synod from the Business Committee on the diocesan reference and Final Drafting;
  6. Consideration by the House of Bishops;
  7. Possible references to the Convocations and House of Laity under Article 7 (this would not normally be at the same group of sessions as Final Approval);
  8. Final approval by Synod. A two–thirds majority in each House is required at this point;
  9. Parliamentary scrutiny of Measure, including by the Ecclesiastical Committee (this would probably take some months);
  10. Royal Assent for Measure and Promulging of Canon by Synod.
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 19 February 2006 at 8:26pm GMT | Comments (7)
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More about the Chief Rabbi and the CofE

Jerusalem Post UK top rabbi takes on Anglican Church by George Conger

BBC Bishop defends Church Israel move and listen (Real Audio - 5 mins) to Bishop of Hulme and Chief Rabbi from the Sunday radio programme (programme features The Right Reverend Stephen Lowe and Rabbi Alan Plancey, who covers Jewish-Christian Relations for the Chief Rabbi’s Cabinet)

New York Times Alan Cowell Divestiture Dispute in Britain Raises Jewish-Christian Tensions

Associated Press Churches Debate Pro-Palestinian Divestment (from the WCC meeting in Brazil)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 19 February 2006 at 2:01pm GMT | Comments (2)
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Saturday, 18 February 2006

articles of interest

First of all, Rowan Williams gave an address yesterday to the World Council of Churches meeting, in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The archbishop’s website has the full text.

For more background on this meeting, see the ACNS report, and also the WCC assembly website itself. Earlier Lambeth Palace press release here. Subsequent WCC press release here. And see also this. Update And this WCC press release.

Back in England, the newspapers offer:

Guardian David Monkton Methodist chaplain to Nottingham police, writes about his work in Face to Faith.

The Times Tony Bayfield thinks that Believers are at home in a secular society and Lavinia Byrne says The internet is new ground for the Gospels — some stony, some good.

In the Tablet Robert Mickens has an interesting piece on Indulgences, He who holds the keys to the kingdom.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 18 February 2006 at 10:48am GMT | Comments (6)
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Friday, 17 February 2006

Caterpillar: the EIAG statement

Statement by the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group

issued 8 February 2006

We welcome the General Synod’s debate on the work of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG). The EIAG will of course reflect on the message Synod has sent, as we continue an active process of engagement and monitoring. The resolution passed by Synod on Monday is, however, an advisory one only; a resolution cannot take away from each investment body of the Church its own legal responsibility to take decisions on these matters (see http://www.cofe.anglican.org/news/pr6605.html).

Reports that ‘the Church of England has decided to disinvest from Caterpillar’ - let alone to boycott Israel, as some e-mails from the USA allege - are wholly untrue.

John Reynolds
Chairman, EIAG

Notes: continued below the fold.

Notes:

1. Ethical considerations form an integral part of the Church of England’s investment management process, in keeping with its Christian witness and values. The Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG), on which the three main investment and Trustee bodies of the Church of England - the Church Commissioners, the Central Board of Finance and the Church of England Pensions Board - are represented together with representatives, [of] the General Synod, the Archbishops’ Council and the Mission and Public Affairs Council [are represented], carries out on their behalf ethical investment research, develops policy and communicates this to the wider Church. this policy is applied to all classes of asset under management including securities, land and real estate.

The policy recommended by the EIAG and accepted by the main investment and trustee bodies of the Church of England is not to invest in any company that promotes pornography or supplies armaments and not to invest in companies whose management practices are judged by us to be unacceptable. In addition, investment is avoided in any company, a major part of whose business activity or focus is gambling or the supply of tobacco products, alcoholic beverages or non-offensive military equipment.

Given the complexity of many companies, some will have business interests in areas we seek to avoid and these are closely monitored to ensure they meet our broader criteria.

2. The resolution passed by General Synod on Monday 6 February was:

That this Synod:

(a) heed the call from our sister church, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, for morally responsible investment in the Palestinian occupied territories and, in particular, to disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation, such as Caterpillar Inc, until they change their policies;

(b) encourage the Ethical Investment Advisory Group to follow up the consultation referred to in its Report (GS 1604) with intensive discussions with Caterpillar Inc, with a view to its withdrawing from supplying or maintaining either equipment or parts for use by the state of Israel in demolishing Palestinian homes &c;

(c) in the light of the urgency of the situation, and the increased support needed by Palestinian Christians, urge members of the EIAG to actively engage with monitoring the effects of Caterpillar Inc’s machinery in the Palestinian occupied territories through visiting the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East to learn of their concerns first hand, and to see recent house demolitions;

(d) urge the EIAG to give weight to the illegality under international law of the activities in which Caterpillar Inc’s equipment is involved; and

(e) urge the EIAG to respond to the monitoring visit and the further discussions with Caterpillar Inc by updating its recommendations in the light of these.’

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 17 February 2006 at 2:33pm GMT | Comments (4)
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Chief Rabbi criticises Church of England

Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks has written an article criticising the action of the General Synod to review its investments in firms whose products are used by Israel in the occupied territories. Some news reports on this:

BBC Church’s Israel policy criticised and listen to this Radio 4 Today discussion (Real Audio - 5 minutes) Jeff Barak of the Jewish Chronicle and Keith Malcouronne, a General Synod member.

Telegraph Jonathan Petre Synod has damaged relations with Jews, says Chief Rabbi

Guardian Stephen Bates Sacks accuses synod of bulldozer ill-judgment

The Times Helen Nugent Chief Rabbi flays Church over vote on Israel assets

Independent Ian Herbert Chief Rabbi attacks Church of England for its Israel protest

The full text of the article, which appears in the Jewish Chronicle today, was issued to the press beforehand. It can be found below the fold.

Strong nerves needed

Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks argues that British Jewry must remain calm in the face of recent, highly disturbing events, and continue to engage with the wider community

The strength of a people is tested in troubled times. These are troubled times. Events have succeeded one another at breakneck pace: the Iranian threat to wipe Israel off the map; the election by the Palestinians of Hamas, a group committed to the destruction of Israel; the violence following the publication of the Danish cartoons; and the Abu Hamza trial.
Locally there was the vote of the synod of the Church of England to heed a call to divest from companies associated with Israel; the Populus poll of British Muslims; and Guardian articles accusing Israel of being an apartheid state. These are of altogether lesser consequence, but they have added to our sense of vulnerability. How should we respond?
First let us acknowledge our anger and pain. Israel has taken great risks for peace, yet it seems at every stage to be rewarded with further hostility. The Jewish community in Britain has contributed immensely to national life, yet after 350 years we still feel at risk. Nor are our fears ungrounded. We have long and bitter memories. We recognise danger when we see it.
To feel anger and pain is natural. To act on it, though, is another matter entirely. It is what our enemies anticipated. Often, it is what they intended. Action in the heat of emotion can be rash and ill-judged. It can make things worse. It can lead people to focus on the moment instead of thinking long-term. Especially if a group is small, it must choose its battlegrounds carefully. Wherever possible, it should not fight alone. It must win friends, and make its case from the highest of moral grounds. That is not weakness but wisdom. Be deliberate in judgement, said the sages.
They might have added: especially when the stakes are high.
We carry with us decisive grounds for courage. The Jewish people has survived longer than any other religion or civilization the West has known. It was threatened by the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, ancient Greece and Rome, the medieval empires of Christianity and Islam, and in the twentieth century by the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. Each once bestrode the narrow world like a colossus, but all were eventually consigned to the pages of history. The Jewish people — seemingly small, weak, powerless — still lives. These encounters were not without their human cost, sometimes immense. But after each, the Jewish people rebuilt itself, never more so than after the Holocaust. If the strength of the people is tested in troubled times, ours is a people of awe-inspiring strength.
We must now work together as a community, developing strategies, pooling our wisdom, cultivating our allies, sharing our strengths. Several meetings to this end have already taken place in recent days, and the work will continue in the coming months. We must respond with dignity and calm, thinking long-term, avoiding predictable reactions, never stooping to the level of our opponents. In tense times, the advantage goes to the group with the strongest nerves. After all that has befallen our people, we have strong nerves.
The most important fact about the present situation is that on the big issues, neither Israel nor the Jewish people stand alone. An Iran with nuclear capability is a threat not only to Israel but to the world. Condoleezza Rice and Tony Blair have seen this clearly. So too have Jacques Chirac and Angela Merkel. Chirac’s statement on January 19 that France was prepared to launch a nuclear strike against any country sponsoring a terrorist attack against French interests, and Angela Merkel’s comparison of Ahmadinejad to Hitler were immensely significant signals. These politicians know that the diatribes against Israel are a thinly disguised attack on the West and its freedoms.
As for the election of Hamas, this became inevitable because of the corruption of the previous regime. Every Palestinian knew this. The point, though, is that so did leading European politicians, who none the less continued to fund the Arafat administration. The politics of “sup with the devil so long as it’s the devil you know” works in the short term but never in the long. America discovered this after funding the mujahideen radicals —Osama bin Laden’s early associates — in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Europe must not make this mistake again.
The violence following the Danish cartoons exceeded all bounds. Rightly, key representatives of the British Muslim community have dissociated themselves from it. The cartoons should not have been published. But if free speech has limits for the Danish press, it has limits for those who protest against the Danish press. As John Locke, the architect of tolerance, said more than three centuries ago: “It is unreasonable that any should have a free liberty of their religion who do not acknowledge it as a principle of theirs that nobody ought to persecute or molest another because he dissents from him in religion.”
On all these issues we take our stand with those prepared to fight for tolerance, non-violent conflict resolution, moderation, mutual respect, self-restraint and the civilities of a free society. This is not a Jewish struggle but a human one, and we will work with people of goodwill, whatever their faith or lack of it.
The vote of the synod of the Church of England to “heed” a call to divestment from certain companies associated with Israel was ill-judged even on its own terms. The immediate result will be to reduce the Church’s ability to act as a force for peace between Israel and the Palestinians for as long as the decision remains in force. The essence of mediation is the willingness to listen to both sides.
The timing could not have been more inappropriate. Israel has risked civil war to carry out the Gaza withdrawal, the first time in the history of the Middle East that a nation has evacuated territory gained in a defensive war without a single concession, even the most nominal, on the other side. Israel faces two enemies, Iran and Hamas, open in their threat to eliminate it. It needs support, not vilification.
For years I have called on religious groups in Britain to send a message of friendship and coexistence to conflict zones throughout the world, instead of importing those conflicts into Britain itself. The effect of the synod vote will be the opposite. The Church has chosen to take a stand on the politics of the Middle East over which it has no influence, knowing that it will have the most adverse repercussions on a situation over which it has enormous influence, namely Jewish-Christian relations in Britain.
That is why we cannot let the matter rest. If there was one candle of hope above all others after the Holocaust it was that Jews and Christians at last learned to speak to one another after some 17 centuries of hostility that led to exiles, expulsions, ghettoes, forced conversions, staged disputations, libels, inquisitions, burnings at the stake, massacres and pogroms. We must not let that candle be extinguished.
The Church could have chosen, instead of penalizing Israel, to invest in the Palestinian economy. That would have helped the Palestinians. It would have had the support of most Israelis and most Jews. Indeed it is an Australian-born Jew, James Wolfensohn, former head of the World Bank, who is supervising the reconstruction of the Palestinian economy on behalf of the Group of Four, and who personally raised the funds to buy for the Palestinians the Israeli agricultural facilities in Gaza. The Church’s gesture will hurt Israelis and Jews without helping the Palestinians.
As a community, we must engage more actively in the promotion of good community relations, especially at the local level. We must teach ourselves and others the full history of our people’s four-thousand-year bond with the land of Israel; how we were ousted by empire after empire but always returned; how Israel in the days of the prophets and today tirelessly sought peace, only to be rewarded with war. We must cultivate the friendship of people of generosity of spirit in all faiths. We must work with journalists who know that truth is never partisan. We must seek the support of politicians who speak to the highest, not the lowest, instincts of the public. We have enemies, but we have many friends.
Above all, we must take our stand on the value system Abraham and Judaism conferred on the world. The crisis humanity faces in the 21st century is not just political or economic, military or diplomatic. It is moral and spiritual. Can we be true to our faith while being a blessing to others regardless of their faith? Can we heed the call of God to mend not destroy?
Aggression is the child of fear, and the only lasting antidote is the faith that says, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”
We will never cease to love Israel, pray for peace, and work for the benefit of humanity. Our nerves must stay strong, our judgment calm and our language cool. And we will win. For if Jewish history has a message to the world, it is that there is something in the human spirit that cannot be defeated – something that gave and still gives our tiny, afflicted, tempest-tossed people the strength to outlive all its enemies while enlarging the moral imagination of mankind.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 17 February 2006 at 1:26pm GMT | Comments (13)
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Tutu speaks out on Guantánamo

Update Saturday
‘The Americans are breaking international law… it is a society heading towards Animal Farm’ - Archbishop Sentamu on Guantanamo

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has joined in the growing chorus of condemnation of America’s Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
Read the BBC News report Tutu calls for Guantanamo closure and listen (Real Audio - 8+ minutes) to the Radio 4 Today interview:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been very critical of Britain’s way of dealing with the threat from terrorism and he too, along with Kofi Annan and many others, supports the mounting pressure to close Guantanamo Bay.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 17 February 2006 at 1:07pm GMT | Comments (6)
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Nigeria: open letter to Canterbury and others

Changing Attitude has published a press release, concerning an Open Letter to the Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, the Anglican Communion Office and the Anglican Consultative Council.

You can read the full text of the Open Letter here. It summarises the history of events relating to Changing Attitude (Nigeria) and the press releases from The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and then concludes:

On Wednesday 18 January 2006 the Federal Executive Council of Nigeria approved a bill for an Act prohibiting marriages between people of the same sex. The Bill also prohibits the public show of same sex amorous relationships. Any person involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations in private is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment. The bill received the support of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).

We understand that the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council is meeting in London in March 2006. We ask that you bring this matter to the attention of the Standing Committee and the Councils of the Anglican Communion. In particular:

We ask that attention be paid to those members of the Councils who are failing to honour the documents and statements agreed by those Councils to listen to the experience of lesbian and gay people.

We ask that the Primates of the Anglican Communion respect the dignity and integrity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Anglicans and oppose legislation designed to curtail our essential right to protection and freedom of association.

We are committed to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We are committed to engage with the Church in dialogue in a spirit of mutual respect, honouring difference.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 17 February 2006 at 12:12pm GMT | Comments (2)
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Thursday, 16 February 2006

civil partnerships: a college dean writes

In the Guardian today, Stephen Bates writes that: Dean considers blessing gay couples in civil partnerships.

The letter to which he refers is reproduced below the fold.

Text of letter from the Dean of Emmanuel College Cambridge The Revd Jeremy Caddick

6th February 2006
The Rt Revd Dr Anthony Russell
Bishop of Ely

Civil Partnerships

The Chapel Committee here recently met and considered, among other things, what should be the response to requests for services following the registering of Civil Partnerships. The Committee looked at the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement issued last July.

I am conscious that the Colleges do not see themselves as falling within the formal jurisdiction of the Diocese of Ely, but I thought it important to write to you as the nearest member of the House of Bishops to tell you about the outcome of those discussions, and also to put on record my own dismay at the damage that is being done to the Church’s standing by the handling of this question. I am aware that your ear will also be being bent by those who take a very different view from my own!

The advice of members of the Chapel Committee and of the College Council, who also considered the matter, was that we would not wish to close the door to having services for members of the College community who requested them. They left it to the Dean to judge what form of service would be appropriate. (I recognise that there will be complex issues to be talked through in relation to each request that is received. None have been so far.)

The House of Bishops statement came in for considerable criticism. In particular people were not convinced by the distinction between not offering a blessing on one hand and encouraging clergy to respond sensitively to requests for services of prayer on the other.

In a community such as this one people know that there is considerable diversity in human sexual relationships, and, in general, see the importance of affirming and celebrating those that are faithful and life affirming. People look to college chapels as offering resources and support in doing that, and this is part of the ministry here that I continue to find rewarding and encouraging.

I appreciate the political considerations that propel the House of Bishops to begin the statement with quite such a vehement reaffirmation of the teaching that, “sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively” (emphasis added). However such a starting point would seem to fly in the face of pastoral experience. To put it bluntly, what planet is the House of Bishops on? I cannot recall the last time I presided over the marriage of a couple who were not already sleeping together. I have no intention of turning such couples away and rather than taxing them on the subject of their sleeping arrangements, I find it much more productive to use this once in a lifetime opportunity to draw their attention to the grace-charged and God revealing aspects of the relationship that they are in the process of making.

I am concerned that in setting its face so publicly against gay relationships the Church imperils, perhaps terminally, its standing to speak authoritatively on the subject of relationships generally. There is no shortage of people who wish to portray the Church as reactionary and irrelevant. To be blunt again, I am dismayed that the House of Bishops statement plays into their hands.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 16 February 2006 at 3:04pm GMT | Comments (49)
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Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Nigeria update

Changing Attitude has issued this press release:
Changing Attitude Nigeria responds to Government proposals to outlaw same-sex marriage

A recent comment on the Nigerian government’s proposals can be found in Vanguard (Lagos) via allAfrica.com Holy Nigeria ! or a direct link here. Another comment column from the same source is Homosexuality And Its Enemies.

Mark Harris writing on his blog The Silence Continues includes a portion of the wording of the proposed legislation. The full text can be downloaded in PDF format here from okrasoup.

Andrew Carey writing in the Church of England Newspaper recently said:

The fact of the matter is that evangelical Anglicans elsewhere in the Communion are badly compromised by the Nigerian Church’s attitude to the human rights of homosexuals….

Evangelicals in the west who claim to ‘love the sinner’ while ‘hating the sin’, must work to persuade Anglican leaders elsewhere that a truly pastoral approach to homosexual people must be as concerned about their human rights as it is about their all-too-human wrongs.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 3:44pm GMT | Comments (38)
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Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Church Representation Rules 2006

Update March 2011 Comments on this article are now closed, but see Church Representation Rules 2011.

Church House Publishing has just issued the 2006 edition of the Church Representation Rules. The rules are not online (but perhaps they ought to be) and the published edition does not list what has actually changed since the previous (2004) edition. The changes are in Statutory Instrument 2004 No 1889, the legal instrument that put them into effect. As this will make little sense without (and probably even with) reference to the old version of the rules I give a summary of the changes below the fold.

Rule 2(4)
The next year in which a new electoral roll must be prepared has been brought forward from 2008 to 2007. Subsequent new rolls will continue to be required every six years, ie in 2013, 2019 etc.

Rule 2(9)
This has been clarified to make it clear that the new roll comes into effect immediately on publication.

Rule 9(4)
The requirement to publish the annual report and statements after the annual meeting has been removed. [They still have to be published before the meeting.]

Rules 10(1)(c), 24(6) and (7), and 30(5)(c)
The minimum age for election to a deanery or diocesan synod is reduced to sixteen.

Rules 11(7) and (11) and 12(1)
The rules on the method of voting at annual meetings have been amended.

Rule 24(2)(e)
The qualification for retired clergy to be eligible for membership of a deanery synod is changed from receipt of a pension to either permission to officiate or being a habitual worshipper.

Rule 25(2)
A diocesan synod may now take into account the number of parish churches (or districts) in each parish when deciding numbers to be elected to deanery synods.

Rule 27(1)(b)
In cathedrals which are not parish churches lay people must now be on the community roll to be eligible for election to a deanery synod (rather than being a “habitual worshipper”). This does not apply to the Royal Peculiars or to Christ Church Oxford.

Appendix I [Synodical Government Forms]
Section 4
Words have been added to the end of note 2(a). This reflects a change made to Rule 10(1)(a) on an earlier occasion.
Note 2(c) has been changed to reflect the change to Rule 10(1)(c) etc.

Section 4A
The rule number in the heading has been corrected.

Sections 7 and 8
The column “Mark your vote in this column” has been moved from the right to the left hand side of the form.

Appendix II [General Provisions relating to PCCs]
Paragraph 4(b) has been amended to permit the use of email when giving notice of PCC meetings.

In addition changes affecting diocesan synods and the General Synod have been made to rules 31(3), 35(1), 36, 37, 39, 41, 46.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 14 February 2006 at 2:40pm GMT | Comments (422)
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Monday, 13 February 2006

ECUSA departures

I have no idea who is responsible for this blog, but it seems to contain useful information:

ECUSA departures

Lists parishes that have left the Episcopal Church USA. When a group of parishioners has left, and the parish itself remains in the ECUSA, it is not listed here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 13 February 2006 at 10:28pm GMT | Comments (49)
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Lake Malawi update

NIcholas Henderson, whose election as bishop of the diocese of Lake Malawi was not confirmed, is visiting Malawi.

There have been four reports recently, whose tenor suggests that considerable disquiet remains about earlier events there.

The Nation Malawi Pro-gay bishop to visit Malawi 3 Feb

The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) via allAfrica.com Anglican Christians for Bishop’s Impeachment 7 Feb

The Nation Malango okays pro-gay bishop visit 10 Feb

The Nation I’m not gay — rejected bishop 13 Feb

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 13 February 2006 at 8:24pm GMT | Comments (13)
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Sunday, 12 February 2006

Sunday radio items

Three Anglican items from the BBC Sunday programme:

Disinvestment

“I am ashamed to be an Anglican”, said the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, this week. “More sanctimonious claptrap from the C of E.” said Canon Andrew White in Iraq. He said he despaired of his church. They were both talking about a resolution passed at this week’s General Synod supporting disinvestment in the company Caterpillar because of the use of their products by Israel in the West bank and Gaza against Palestinians.
This row is of course hugely embarrassing for the C of E and is made even more so by the fact that George Carey’s successor Rowan Williams, supported the motion. But the present Archbishop was clearly worried by the adverse reaction that resulted and wrote to the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sachs, expressing his deep regret at the effect on Jewish friends and neighbours of how the Synod’s decision had been perceived.
Interviews with Simon McIlwaine, spokesperson for Anglicans for Israel and the Bishop of Chelmsford, John Gladwin.

Listen (11m 17s)

More items below the fold.

Sandy Millar

In November we discussed the appointment of the man behind the Alpha Course, the retired London Vicar, Sandy Millar, as a bishop in Uganda. This week he was formally licensed in St Paul’s Cathedral.
Sandy Millar’s appointment was regarded with suspicion in some quarters, where people saw it as an evangelical plot and feared it might set a precedent for one Anglican province to interfere in the affairs of another.
Christopher Landau interviews the new bishop.

Listen (4m 0s)

Youth and the Church

In May last year we reported how parishioners in Rochdale felt so intimidated by youths who gathered outside their church that their Vicar decided to abandon it and hold their Ascension Day service in his home instead. That experience prompted the Church of England in Greater Manchester to issue guidelines on how vicars should deal with young people who hang around churchyards.
The booklet, which is being issued to all churches in the Diocese, draws on some more positive encounters between vicars and young people - - including a project in Ashton, which has brought a group of 14 -17 year olds out of the cold and into their local vicarage.

Listen (6m 22s)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 12 February 2006 at 5:37pm GMT | Comments (0)
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Saturday, 11 February 2006

Ecumenical comments from the CofE

Two items from the CofE Council for Christian Unity:

Some comments on Ecumenical Responses to “Women Bishops in the Church of England?” by Martin Davie. This is a follow-up to GS Misc 807 which was considered by General Synod last Monday.

A Response from the Faith and Order Advisory Group to the decisions of the Swedish Church Assembly concerning homosexual partnerships
In January 2006 FOAG sent to the Church of Sweden a response to its new official policy on homosexual partnerships and the “Life Together” document underlying it. This response was made available to members of the General Synod and sent to all the Anglican and Lutheran Churches of the Porvoo Agreement.

The Church of Sweden press release relating to this is here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 11 February 2006 at 10:30pm GMT | Comments (24)
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General Synod: more documents published

Two documents have been added to the CofE website:

The Decisions made by the Synod at the group of sessions are available as an RTF file here. An html copy is here.

The Answers to Questions 61 to the end, i.e. those which were not reached during the Thursday session. These are in an RTF file here.

Written Answers to Questions 1 to 16 and 26 to 60, which differ only very slightly from the oral answers given on Thursday, were issued to the Press, but not to synod members, in printed format on Thursday. The actual answers delivered can be heard in the Audio file published here (scroll to the bottom).

Answers to Questions 17 to 25 were reproduced here earlier, and the corresponding audio file can be found here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 11 February 2006 at 4:52pm GMT | Comments (1)
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columns for Saturday

Overcoming fear is the first step towards a cure for wounds of the soul is the title of the column by Roderick Strange in The Times.

Christopher Howse writes about RC re-organisation in London in Time for a tricky bit of rewiring.

Giles Fraser writes in the Guardian about how iconoclasm links Milton, Marx and the Sex Pistols with the Jewish and Islamic worlds in Face to Faith.

Alain Woodrow writes in the Tablet about the cartoons, Sacred and profane.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 11 February 2006 at 10:48am GMT | Comments (0)
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more synod press coverage on Saturday

The Telegraph can’t stop. No less than four items about the slavery issue.
Jonathan Petre An unhappy reminder of complicity in a tragedy
Ben Fenton Church’s slavery apology ‘is not enough’
Letter to the editor The bishop who fought the slave trade
Telegraph leader Slavish guilt

And Times Online had Archbishop apologises to Chief Rabbi over Israel snub by Ruth Gledhill, see also here.

Update Jerusalem Post George Conger Archbishop apologizes for divestment

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 11 February 2006 at 9:25am GMT | Comments (1)
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Friday, 10 February 2006

Archbishop writes to Chief Rabbi

Following on from the General Synod vote about Israeli-related disinvestment, Rowan Williams has sent a letter to England’s Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. See the press release which includes the full text of the letter.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 10 February 2006 at 7:23pm GMT | Comments (0)
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Friday press reports

Church Times
Synod rejects ‘single-clause’ option for women bishops
Rachel Harden Housing sell-off is ‘deplorable’
Bulldozer motion ‘based on ignorance’

Telegraph
Jonathan Petre Compromise close on women bishops

Guardian
Michael Hann Should the C of E pay reparations for slavery?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 10 February 2006 at 8:50am GMT | Comments (2)
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Thursday, 9 February 2006

General Synod: Thursday afternoon

Here is the official report: General Synod - Summary of business conducted on Thursday 9th February pm

I will report further on some of the Answers to Questions later.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 9 February 2006 at 9:20pm GMT | Comments (2)
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General Synod: Thursday morning

The motion to move forward on women bishops was passed with 1 negative vote. But there were several people present who abstained. The voting was recorded as 348-1. The official report is here: General Synod - Summary of Business Conducted, Thursday 9th February am. The audio file is now available there.

Details of the rejected amendments are given below the fold. All were lost on a show of hands, except as otherwise noted.

The key paragraph of the motion is very loosely worded, note the phrasing I have emphasised below:

(b) consider that an approach along the lines of “Transferred Episcopal Arrangements”, expressed in a Measure with an associated code of practice, merits further exploration as a basis for proceeding in a way that will maintain the highest possible degree of communion in the Church of England;

Archbishop’s contribution to the debate on the House of Bishops’ Women Bishops Group: Report to the General Synod
Archbishop’s speech summing up the debate on the House of Bishops’ Women Bishops Group: Report to the General Synod

Press Reports:

Reuters Church of England backs plans for women bishops and Williams urges support for women bishops

BBC Synod backs women bishops plan

Press Association Church backs compromise on women bishops

Text of amendments that were considered and rejected

24. Mr Kevin Carey (Chichester)

‘At the beginning insert as a new paragraph

“(a) Affirm its belief in mission credibility, episcopal integrity, structural simplicity, ecclesiological solidarity and tolerant permeability as the basis for the ordination of women to the episcopate;”

and re-letter the remaining paragraphs accordingly.’

25. Mr Robert Key (Salisbury)

‘In paragraph (b) or (c) ) leave out the words “”Transferred Episcopal Arrangements”, expressed in a Measure with an associated code of practice” and insert the words “a simple enabling Measure with an enforceable code of practice”.’

The Revd Charles Read (Northern Universities) submitted an amendment to substantially the same effect.

26. Mr Gavin Oldham (Oxford)

‘In paragraph (b) (or (c) ) after the words “code of practice” insert the words “with provisions for both parishes and individual parishioners,”.’

27. The Revd Jeremy Crocker (St Albans)If item 25, is not carried:

‘In paragraph (b) (or (c) ) after the words “for proceeding” insert the words “, and ask that at the same time the single clause Measure and code of practice be revisited as a possible route forward,”.’

This was defeated after a vote by houses, with Bishops and Laity voting against, and Clergy voting for. Bishops 9-33, Clergy 102-79, Laity 73-113. (Note total voting 409 out of 466.)

28. The Revd Canon Chris Sugden (Oxford)

‘In paragraph (c) or (d) after the word “theological,” insert the word “ethical”.’

29. Mrs Sue Slater (Lincoln)

‘At the end of paragraph (d) (or (e)) insert the words “, and ask that the Drafting Group for that legislation include lay people and women”.’

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 9 February 2006 at 1:10pm GMT | Comments (29)
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Thursday morning press reports

Church Times Wednesday’s Roundup

Telegraph Jonathan Petre Church offers apology for its role in slavery

The Times Ruth Gledhill Church apologises for role in slave trade

Also, Oliver Kamm Wholly wrong: a holy mess

And a letter to the editor from Lord Carey.

Guardian Stephen Bates Church apologises for benefiting from slave trade

Reuters Anglicans say sorry for role in slave trade

New York Times Neela Banerjee Anglicans Vote to Divest From Concerns in Israel-Occupied Areas

Jerusalem Post George Conger Church of England’s disinvestment vote ‘only advisory’

BBC A stained glass ceiling?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 9 February 2006 at 8:13am GMT | Comments (0)
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Wednesday, 8 February 2006

General Synod: Wednesday

This morning’s business is reported on the CofE website:
General Synod - Summary of Business Conducted Wednesday 8th February am.

This includes a full audio record of the Questions about the Octavia Hill Estates including the supplementary questions and answers. The text of Andreas Whittam Smith’s written answers is below the fold.

In his supplementary answers, he referred to the Oxford judgement. That can be read in full here (PDF format)

Press Association
Martha Linden Church Commissioners reject housing sale criticism

Church of England Newspaper
Jonathan Wynne-Jones and Matt Cresswell Bishop says property sale will affect Church’s mission

The CEN has placed these Synod stories from yesterday online:
Rural discrimination claim
Synod plea for stronger Christian ethos in Church colleges
Convergence revealed in conversations with Baptists

The official report of the afternoon’s business is here:General Synod - Summary of Business Conducted on Wednesday 8th February pm
When noting the voting figures given, it may help to remember that the total membership of the synod is 466.

Archbishop’s contribution to the debate on the Bicentenary of the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade

Associated Press Church of England to apologize for role in slave trade
BBC Church apologises for slave trade
ekklesia Church of England apologises for part in slave trade

Answer to Questions 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 24, 25
As members of Synod know, the Commissioners’ Assets Committee decided last year to market the freeholds of their remaining properties on the Octavia Hill Estates. The Committee’s decision was taken as part of its overall investment strategy and reflected the fact the Commissioners are not suitable owners of such assets, lacking the economies of scale and the sources of funding avilable to housing associations and to publicly quoted companies specialising in this field.

Last week, the Committee met to review the bids received and Synod will understand that we were faced with an extremely sensitive and difficult decision. The Commissioners are not a housing charity and have a clear legal duty to manage their investments to support the mission of the Church throughout the whole country. In particular, charity law requires trustees not to sell land or buildings at under value.

The Committee also carefully considered the nature of the bidders in terms of their potential impact on the estates and its tenants. The offers on the table were from private landlords, housing associations and joint ventures between the two. From the research we conducted into each of the offers the Committee noted that there was, by and large, not a significant difference in the way these different types of bidders were proposing to manage the estates.

After much deliberation, the Committee agreed to accept the offer from a 50/50 joint venture between Genesis Housing Group, a registered social landlord that owns and manages 41,000 homes across London and the South East, and Grainger Trust, a publicly quoted company which owns over 12,000 residential units. The Committee believed that this bid was the best in all material respects.

From the outset of this process, the Commissioners have been open with residents and other stakeholders. We have welcomed the subsequent dialogue and have given interested groups and individuals every opportunity to make representations. We believe the current sale will have the benefit of both meeting our obligations and being a positive outcome for residents. The estates will now be managed by a housing association, which is more likely to be able to invest in the estates for the future. Rental policy will be a matter for the new owners, and will not be a condition of the sale although it is subject to the rights and obligations of the existing tenancies. Over 50% of those tenancies benefit from either rental or tenure security and in many cases both. The Committee is satisfied that the management of these estates by the new owners will be in accordance with best practice in the housing association sector.

Answer to Q21
The concern of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, having inherited certain London property, was to provide decent accommodation for the working classes. My predecessor wrote in 1934 that “it is the Commissioners’ policy to act as public-spirited landowners. It must be understood, however, that they have no funds especially applicable to housing… They are not, as is sometimes supposed, entirely free to sacrifice the objects entrusted to their beneficence in order to help other causes, however excellent or deserving of financial support.”

Octavia Hill helped the Commissioners manage their properties, on the basis that the landlord is not merely a rent collector but responsible for the spiritual and moral well-being of its tenants. her concern was to provide well-managed housing for the deserving poor as long as they paid an economic rent so their souls were not corrupted by receiving something for nothing.

Answer to Q23
The Commissioners’s policy statement of 2001 set out the basis of future rental policy onthe estates and has been adhered to. In addition, since 2002 the Commissioners have undertaken approximately £20 million of improvements to the estates. When this statement was issued the Commissioners undertook to keep their policy towards the estates under regular review, alongside their ongoing review of all their investment assets.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 8 February 2006 at 11:36am GMT | Comments (0)
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press reports of Tuesday's debates

Guardian Stephen Bates
Synod opens debate on women bishops

Telegraph Jonathan Petre
General Synod tries to smooth path for first woman bishop

Press Association Compromise over women bishops ‘discriminatory’

Church Times Synod Roundup

And, Alastair Cutting is blogging from the synod.

Update
Some other press coverage of the Caterpillar matter:
Jerusalem Post George Conger Lord Carey ‘ashamed to be an Anglican’
Haaretz Anglican Church in Britain decides to divest
Palestine News Agency UK Campaigners Welcome Church of England Divestment Vote on Caterpillar
ekklesia C of E’s disinvestment vote increases risk for arms dealers say campaigners

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 8 February 2006 at 8:09am GMT | Comments (0)
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Tuesday, 7 February 2006

General Synod: Tuesday

General Synod - Summary of Business Conducted on Tuesday 7th February am
This includes an audio recording of the whole debate.

The Times Ruth Gledhill Synod inches towards women bishops

Archbishop of Canterbury’s Sermon at Eucharist service, General Synod London

Archbishop’s contribution to the debate on the House of Bishops’ Women Bishops Group Report to the General Synod from a working group chaired by the Bishop of Guilford

Change in the order of business for Wednesday:
Questions 17-25 relating to the Octavia Hill Estates will be taken on Wednesday morning immediately after the Legislative Business.

Evening Update
General Synod - Summary of Business Conducted on Tuesday 7th February pm
Again complete audio files are available there.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 7 February 2006 at 4:25pm GMT | Comments (4)
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Press reports of Monday's debates

The Times Ruth Gledhill
Disunity ‘is the cost of women being bishops’
Synod in disinvestment snub to Israel
Also, Ruth’s blog has Church-Israel row looms as synod backs Caterpillar divestment

Telegraph Jonathan Petre
Williams backs bid to disinvest in firms that aid Israeli ‘occupiers’
Cardinal’s warning on women bishops

Guardian Stephen Bates
Church votes to sell off shares in Caterpillar

BBC Robert Pigott
Synod tackles women bishop debate

Today radio programme excerpts (Real Audio)

The spring Synod of the Church of England is attempting to reach a compromise over women bishops. Listen here

The Rt Rev Christopher Hill, Bishop of Guildford, and Dr John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham, on the proposals for a compromise over the issue of women bishops Listen here

Church Times
Monday’s Synod round-up

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 7 February 2006 at 8:05am GMT | Comments (7)
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Monday, 6 February 2006

Octavia Hill Estates

Last Friday, the Church Commissioners made a decision to sell their remaining holdings of property in the Octavia Hill Estates. The press release announcing this decision is here:
Church Commissioners select buyer for London residential properties.

This action was opposed before the decision was taken, and continues to be opposed by a variety of groups. Some reports on this:
Ekklesia Church of England accused of acting unethically over homes sale
LondonSE1 Waterloo and Union Street homes sold by Church Commissioners
BBC MPs’ shock at church homes sale and Protest on church homes sell-off
Guardian Archbishop intervenes in row over £200m estates sale.
24dash.com Octavia Hill residents stage protest over Church of England’s decision to sell homes

A letter, from the three MPs whose constituents are affected by this, to all members of the synod was issued today, and the text of it appears in full below the fold.

To: All members of the General Synod

6 February 2006

Dear Member of Synod,

Re: Sale of Church Commissioners’ properties in Walworth, Vauxhall and Waterloo

We are writing to you to express our concerns about the decision to sell properties in Walworth, Vauxhall and Waterloo to Grainger Trust and Geninvest taken by the Assets Committee of the Church Commissioners on Friday 3rd February 2006.

This decision to ignore the bid from a registered social landlord which would have guaranteed the future security of residents in these homes is deplorable. We are angry and disappointed that the Church Commissioners have betrayed their tenants and have shown disdain for their ethical responsibilities.

For over a hundred years the Church of England has played a key role in providing social housing to low income families as an expression of its commitment to social justice.

The difference in the sale of these properties to a registered social landlord rather than a private developer, would be insignificant in comparison to the £4.3 billion worth of assets that the Church Commissioners manage, and the Church of England pensions assets of over £500 million.

We call on the General Synod to condemn this sell off and instead instruct the Asset committee to sell to a social landlord.

Yours faithfully,

Harriet Harman MP
Camberwell and Peckham

Kate Hoey MP
Vauxhall

Simon Hughes MP
North Southwark & Bermondsey

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 6 February 2006 at 11:26pm GMT | Comments (1)
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General Synod: Monday report

The official report of today’s business can be found here. Audio recordings of the proceedings have been posted. (The .wax files can be heard using Windows Media Player.)

As the report shows, synod declined to extend the session beyond 7 pm, and this meant that the last item of scheduled business was not completed by the time of adjournment. Therefore no debate yet occurred on the motion from the Bishop of Southwark relating to investments in land and real estate, which would give an opportunity for a substantive discussion of the Octavia Hill Estates matter.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 6 February 2006 at 10:50pm GMT | Comments (2)
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Sunday, 5 February 2006

Sunday radio

The BBC radio programme Sunday has several items of Anglican interest today. Real Player required.

Rowan Williams is interviewed about Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

It’s easy to understand why Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran theologian, is a hero, even a saint, to German Christians. Unlike so many of their religious leaders, Bonhoeffer’s opposition to the Nazis was unremitting and he paid for it with his life. He was involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler and was executed in the last weeks of the war.
But what relevance does he have for non-Germans in the 21st century?
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has no doubt of the theologian’s importance. He has travelled to Germany and Poland to attend celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of Bonhoeffer’s birth.

Listen (5m 22s)

And two items previewing General Synod debates this week.

Rural churches

Perhaps next Tuesday afternoon’s debate at the General Synod should be held not in the chamber of Church House in Westminster but in a draughty parish hall in a remote country village. They’ll be talking about rural churches - something we might take for granted, but which in many places are facing crisis - just like every other kind of rural service. The synod debate follows an internal report on rural churches which often lose out on grants from government and other funding agencies.

Listen (6m 32s)

Slave trade

Next year will see the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Colonies and next week’s General Synod will debate a motion calling on the Church to help mark the anniversary and use it as an opportunity to campaign for an end to human trafficking and other modern forms of slavery. But an amendment to the motion will also be tabled. It will call on the Church of England to recognise the damage done by its own involvement in the Slave Trade. It will also urge the Church to address the legacy of the slave trade and offer an apology to the heirs of those who were enslaved.

Listen (4m 11s)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 5 February 2006 at 11:50am GMT | Comments (0)
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Saturday, 4 February 2006

weekend reading

Editorial comment on the British government’s defeat over the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill is found in both the Church Times and the Tablet.

The Guardian discusses the papal encyclical in a Face to Faith column by Catherine Pepinster, editor of The Tablet. More about this topic is found in The Tablet itself in this article by Robert Mickens. There’s also a piece in the Telegraph by Christopher Howse.

The Times considers Dietrich Bonhoeffer in an article by Stephen Plant and in an extract from (with broken link to) the speech given in Poland yesterday by Rowan Williams.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 4 February 2006 at 9:07am GMT | Comments (0)
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Thursday, 2 February 2006

General Synod: Questions

The Questions to be asked have now been published, as noted in our Synod Papers item (which contains links to all documents for this group of sessions bar one item, GS 1601, which has still not been made available electronically).

The original .rtf Questions file is on the CofE website here. An html version of this page is available here. The construction of the html version took me approximately 90 seconds and required no technical skill.

Question 62 is a Question about the November Answers. I have been asking the same question of the synod office ever since November and I have never had any reply to my queries, so I will be really interested in the answer.

The Answers session is at the end of Thursday next week.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 2 February 2006 at 6:38pm GMT | Comments (1)
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women bishops: the opponents rally

Updated Friday

In the Church of England Newspaper there is an article listing Roger Beckwith, Wallace Benn, Gerald Bray and Mike Ovey as contributors, which sets out Why evangelicals are unhappy with the Guildford proposals.

And another article in the CEN reports on the Forward in Faith rally last Saturday: Church is treating us like children says bishop and Bishop Lindsay Urwin wrote in his local newspaper that Women bishops - compromise ‘won’t solve problem’.

Detailed reports from the FiF rally are to be found here, and here.

Update The Church Times has an extensive report by Glyn Paflin on the FiF event: Catholics will take TEA if it’s ‘fairtrade’.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 2 February 2006 at 4:38pm GMT | Comments (11)
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civil partnerships: Ecclesiastical Law Journal article

The Ecclesiastical Law Journal is published by the Ecclesiastical Law Society. The January issue contains an article entitled The Civil Partnership Act 2004, Same-Sex Marriage and the Church of England by Jacqueline Humphreys, Barrister.

The Editor of the Journal, Mark Hill, has given his permission for this copyrighted article to be reproduced by Thinking Anglicans, and you can read it in full here.

In an editorial in the magazine, Chancellor Hill comments on the article as follows:

Jacky Humphreys offers a detailed critique of the Civil Partnership Act. The Act will have a profound effect on our collective understanding of society. Her article merits thoughtful reflection. I have the misfortune of differing from her in one minor but significant respect. I do not consider that the existence of a civil partnership carries with it by implication the inference that it is a sexual union. Far from it — the partnership is financial in nature dealing with joint ownership of possessions and rights of inheritance. I would therefore consider any enquiry of a civil partner into the nature of his or her partnership to be unacceptably intrusive and a breach of the right to respect for one’s private and family life.

It seems pretty clear that the House of Bishops Pastoral Statment accepted Chancellor Hill’s view that a CP is not necessarily a sexual relationship. It is to be hoped that all bishops will also heed his view of the Human Rights consequences that follow from such a position.

The section of the article to which Chancellor Hill’s comment relates can be found here. However, it pays to read the whole article right through.

Following a detailed comparison of Marriage and Civil Partnership, the author concludes that:

In my view, the 2004 Act has an understanding of civil partnerships that are voluntary, permanent, sexual, monogamous, potentially mutually supportive and potentially nurturing of children in the same ways that a marriage is understood to be within English law. A civil partnership is probably also understood as requiring sexual fidelity in the same way marriage does, although confirmation of this will only be obtained once judicial implementation of the provision takes place. In these ways then, civil partnerships are conceptually the same as marriage.

The key conceptual difference between civil partnerships and marriage is that one is essentially same-sex and the other is essentially opposite-sex, with the corollary that children cannot be conceived naturally by the partners. There are some practical differences in law relating directly to that physiological difference, namely the absence of provision regarding non-consummation and adultery and, in the usual run of things, the conception of children. Therefore whether it is correct to regard civil partnerships as same-sex marriage depends on whether one regards those aspects of marriage that are the same as civil partnerships—voluntary, permanent, sexual, monogamous, mutually supportive, nurturing of children and probably sexually faithful—as more or less vital to the definition of marriage than the key difference, which is the sex of the persons entering the status. Is heterosexuality the essential conceptual component of marriage, or is the term ‘marriage’ in danger of becoming cheapened by this narrow focus on the gender of the participants?

The third part of the article deals with several specific practical issues: Clergy Discipline and Employment, Occasional Offices, Blessing Services, and the Admission to Communion of Notorious Offenders.

Her concluding section is reproduced below the fold.

Conclusion

As can be seen above, civil partnerships are in all important respects the same as marriage in terms of practical legal effect. Civil partnerships also share the overwhelming majority of the conceptual understandings of marriage that exist within English law. The key difference is, of course, the gender of the participants. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 does not, in any practical sense, undermine marriage. It does not change marriage law save for a very few technical details and does not change the legal consequences of marriage at all. The provision for gay and lesbian couples in civil partnerships is in almost all contexts the same as for married heterosexual couples. It is not better than for married couples. Therefore there is no sense in which the State support for marriage has been eroded. Nor is there any sense in which the status of marriage has become second best to civil partnerships. So in neither of these senses can it coherently be maintained that civil partnerships ‘undermine marriage’.

Further no coherent case has yet been advanced as to how a couple of the same sex living together in a voluntary, permanent, faithful relationship in any way makes another couple’s marriage more likely to break down. It is difficult to see how one couple’s marriage undermines another couples’ civil partnership, or vice versa. In fact the introduction of a marriage-like status for couples for whom traditional marriage is not an option is rather affirming of the status, rights and responsibilities of marriage. These are seen as such a good thing that more couples should have the opportunity of sharing in them.

What this Act does do, however, is challenge the a priori belief, held by some in the Church, that the social goods of marriage can be experienced and manifested only by heterosexual couples. Whether this belief is true is an empirical question. However, the evidence to determine whether or not same-sex partnerships can achieve the social goods of marriage will now be in the public domain. It will be interesting to see over time how the failure rate for civil partnerships compares to the high levels of divorce in heterosexual marriage.

Further, the fact of legal recognition of these relationships is likely to promote the general belief already widespread in society that gay partnerships can be just as stable, faithful, life-affirming, joyful and loving as heterosexual marriage can be. Therefore those in the Church who wish to maintain that homosexual partnerships are on scriptural or theological grounds a less good thing than marriage—or more bluntly that such relationships are sinful—will have to engage directly with this ‘best’ form of gay relationship. Cheap shots at gay promiscuity will not win the argument. For society and more liberal people in the Church to accept the conservative view that same-sex sexual activity is always wrong, the conservatives will have to show why the faithful sexual expression of love within this form of relationship, which looks remarkably like a marriage, is necessarily wrong. Therefore there is hope that the passing of this piece of legislation will force the Church to improve the quality of its debate on this issue.

© 2006 The Ecclesiastical Law Society

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 2 February 2006 at 3:48pm GMT | Comments (39)
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