Friday, 31 March 2006

LEAC: more reports

For earlier articles go here and here.

Next, two reports in the Church Times by Doug LeBlanc:
Survey is part of anti-liberal bid on 17 March and
Low-budget fight-back begins in Maryland on 24 March.

Then, this report by Sarah Dylan Breuer in the Witness Inside LEAC.

And now, the LEAC website at This contains several pages which make clear the mission and objectives of LEAC, together with The LEAC Difference and The Call for Lay Help, and the LEAC Response, not to mention Less Talk, More Education, More Action.

Unsurprisingly their press release on the website reports that:
Bishops responding to LEAC survey reject key homosexual agenda items.
The version of this sent to others appears to be rather shorter, see Episcopal Bishops, If Voting Secretly, Would Oppose Church’s Stance on Homosexual Agenda Items Adopted in 2003, a Lay Poll Reports.

They sent surveys to about 298 bishops, and got 80 responses. Of these responses, they report that:

56.25% of respondents now would disapprove of the 2003 General Convention resolution which led to consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson, and 57.5% would oppose provisions for church blessing of same-sex domestic partnerships, another of the convention’s historic resolutions.

Considering the first of these two resolutions, this means that 45 bishops recorded to LEAC that they would now have voted against and that 35 recorded that they would now have voted in favour. The actual numbers of bishops who voted in 2003 was 43 against, and 62 in favour with 2 not voting. (Only active diocesans had a vote on the matter, whereas this survey went to all current members of the house.)

Voting by bishops on the second resolution at GC 2003 is not known as it was done by a voice vote.

Magic Statistics has weighed in again with ECUSA survey results released. He comments in detail on the differences between the two press releases, and shows how misleading the public press release is.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 31 March 2006 at 2:27pm BST | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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Rowan Williams on climate change

On the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme last Tuesday 28 March, the Archbishop of Canterbury expressed his concerns over the issue of climate change.
A full transcript of the interview is available on the CofE website. (Also on Lambeth Palace and ENS sites.)
You can also listen to the interview (Real Audio required) on the BBC website - 17 minutes total, but the archbishop comes first in sequence, and this lasts about 9 minutes. The other person interviewed is Margaret Beckett who is the UK Secretary of State for the Environment.

Church Times Dr Williams: Billions could die from climate change by Pat Ashworth

BBC Archbishop urges emissions cuts

A few nuggets on what the Church of England is doing about this itself can be found here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 31 March 2006 at 12:44pm BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Bishop of Exeter's speech to ECUSA HoB

The recent remarks of Bishop Michael Langrish in the USA previously mentioned here have been published in full on his diocesan website. You can read them at Some Reflections offered to the House of Bishops of ECUSA.

(*Addendum* This diagram, included in the article by Andrew Goddard mentioned below in a comment, may also be useful for readers of the original article.)

This has been reported today in the Church Times by Pat Ashworth as ECUSA could wreck it all, envoy warns US Bishops.

The Episcopal News Service reported this also, in Exeter bishop, South Indian scholar offer texts from House of Bishops’ meeting.

The other speaker whose remarks are published by ENS is Sathi Clarke, a priest of the Church of South India and a professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D. C. who delivered a paper on biblical interpretation: Sathi Clarke’s speech at Spring 2006 House of Bishops meeting .

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Friday, 24 March 2006

Nigeria in the news again

The Church Times take on the Guardian interview is broader, as revealed by the headline over the report by Rachel Harden: Dr Williams defends Akinola on anti-Muslim riots. The CT press column also deals with the interview at length, but that will not be available on the web for another week.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Peter Akinola, acting as President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has issued A Call to National Mourning as explaine in this press release: CAN declares Two-Day National Mourning.
The Living Church reported this together with some comments from Canon Popoola, in Nigerian Strike Will Protest Sectarian Violence.

And for completeness, here is the defence of the archbishop’s earlier remarks that was made by Bishop Robert Duncan.

Added Friday afternoon
However, there is further news via Blog of Daniel about how others outside the church view the Nigerian legislative proposals in Human rights in Nigeria. And Peter Akinola says “Amen.”

Sixteen human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have urged Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in this Letter to President Obasanjo Regarding Bill to Criminalize Gay Rights to withdraw what the groups characterize as a “draconian” measure that not only “contravenes international law” but violates the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which “ensure(s) rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.”

The bill also undermines Nigeria’s struggle to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, as a further story from Human Rights Watch points out: Nigeria: Obasanjo Must Withdraw Bill to Criminalize Gay Rights.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 24 March 2006 at 8:55am GMT | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 23 March 2006

options and scenarios

Updated Friday morning and again Friday evening

Ruth Gledhill has a blog entry today that is mostly about the Recife situation. While not wishing to minimize the significance of that topic, I did find the second part of her article even more interesting:

…The Anglican Communion is in deep crisis. The General Convention in the US could see the ratification of the election of a gay or lesbian Bishop of California. Convention will also debate where Ecusa goes now in response to the Windsor Report. The outcome will determine whether Gene Robinson and the bishops who consecrated him are invited to Lambeth 2008. My guess is that when the invitations go out later this year, some of the US bishops and suffragans might be invited with observer status only, rather as the Ecusa delegates attended the ACC meeting in Nottingham. But beyond not inviting people and issuing public rebukes, there is very little Dr Williams can do with respect to Ecusa if the North Americans do decide to follow their liberal consience, as seems likely.

Meanwhile, work is going on to examine the ACC constitution for a way forward. The constitution is framed to allow new members to be elected into the Anglican Communion but there is no mechanism for expelling anyone or inviting them to leave.

It is to debate issues such as this that Dr Williams has convened a meeting at Lambeth Palace on 24 April to examine the ‘options and scenarios’ for the ‘post-General Convention period’ in the Anglican Communion. Those invited include the Bishops of Durham, Winchester, Exeter, Manchester, Norwich, Bristol and the Dean of St Paul’s as well as representatives from the Church’s mission agencies and Anglican Mainstream. They will discuss the implications for the Church of England and how the ‘Instruments of Unity’ should respond to whatever happens in Ecusa this summer.

In his letter of invitation, leaked to me, Dr Williams’ head of staff Chris Smith says the roundtable discussion concerns the ‘next critical months’ in the life of the Anglican Communion. ‘This is too important a set of issues to allow events to overtake us,’ he says.

My source, who is not one of those invited, interprets it this way: ‘The wording of the invitation makes it fairly clear that Lambeth is expecting no backtrack from Ecusa and is therefore working out how to manage the oncoming schism.’ …

The Bishop of Exeter was present at the recent ECUSA House of Bishops meeting, as noted here. No doubt the July General Synod meeting will be hearing more about all this. (General Convention dates are 13-21 June, General Synod dates are 7-11 July.)

Update 1 The Living Church has also noticed Ruth’s report, see Bishop of Exeter Represents Canterbury at House of Bishops Retreat.

Update 2
Ruth Gledhill has published more, see Schism looms, Exeter warns US bishops

Update 3
On Saturday, The Times had this short piece Archbishop holds talks over fear of a schism.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 23 March 2006 at 4:33pm GMT | Comments (38) | TrackBack
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ECUSA: press reports

Following the recent meeting of the ECUSA House of Bishops, there have been American press reports which attempt to put the forthcoming General Convention into context:

Reuters Michael Conlon U.S. Episcopal church faces another showdown over gays

Associated Press Rachel Zoll Episcopal leader: concern on gay candidates for California bishop

The House of Bishops itself issued this: A Word to the Church which includes the following:

The unity, mission, and faithfulness of the Church are matters very much in our prayers. We strongly affirm our desire for the Episcopal Church to remain a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, and we recognize that the gift of communion requires generosity and restraint on the part of all. We were blessed by the presence and presentation of our guest from the Church of England, the Right Reverend Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter, who encouraged and challenged us in respect to our relationship with the larger Anglican Communion. On behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Ms. Sue Parks, the Manager of the Lambeth Conference, briefed us on the plans for the Lambeth Conference 2008.

We believe that the most effective way to foster communion is to be present for each other, as often as possible, so that we may learn from each other, be corrected by each other, and discern the mind of Christ together. In this regard we were encouraged by the report of the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. We welcomed the Commission’s overview of the report that it is preparing in order to assist the General Convention in addressing the critical issues and concerns raised in the Windsor Report, in the Primates’ Communiqué, and by the Anglican Consultative Council. The report, which will be completed and issued early in April, affirms our commitment to the Anglican Communion, and will include a number of resolutions to be proposed for consideration by the General Convention. We commend to the prayerful reflection and legislative process of the General Convention this report of the Special Commission as a way forward in faithfulness to our Lord, to the Episcopal Church, and to the Anglican Communion.

The House of Bishops also issued this pastoral letter: The Sin of Racism: A Call to Covenant.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 23 March 2006 at 3:27pm GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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some press reaction to the Guardian interview

Updated Thursday evening

Some blog reactions also:
Jeff Jarvis on Comment is Free First church of media
PZ Myers
on Pharyngula Archbishop of Canterbury, anti-creationist, hat tip to Andrew Brown who has on helmintholog written Rowan, PZ, creationism

Other newspapers have followed up on the creationism aspect of the original interview:

Telegraph Jonathan Petre reported: Clarke opposes creation teaching which came twinned with a leader Intelligent by Design.  The Mirror seemed not to understand at all, with BAN BIBLE SCIENCE IN SCHOOL'.

The BBC gave more background with Fears over teaching creationism.

The Scotsman found another supporter: Scots church leader joins row over teaching of creationism in schools. In Glasgow, the Herald tried to explain all this in a feature article by Ron Ferguson: A battle that is all of their own creation

Sarah Lyall in the New York Times had Anglican Leader Says the Schools Shouldn't Teach Creationism while the Associated Press had Archbishop Opposed to Teaching Creationism

Reuters Paul Majendie said Anglican leader opposes creationism in schools.

The Guardian itself had a number of letters to the editor

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Wednesday, 22 March 2006

women bishops: the ten-minute rule bill

The Hansard verbatim record of this debate starts here and concludes here.

For the short amusing version, read sketch writer Ann Treneman in The Times Spiritual debate is divine comedy.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 22 March 2006 at 7:51am GMT | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 21 March 2006

The Guardian interview

Alan Rusbridger editor of the Guardian interviewed Rowan Williams last Friday. The results are:

A front page news story by Stephen Bates Archbishop: stop teaching creationism
An article, based on the interview, in the G2 section of the paper:
‘I am comic vicar to the nation’

A complete transcript of the interview: Interview: Rowan Williams
Selected audio extracts of the interview: Listen to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s interview

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 21 March 2006 at 7:17am GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 18 March 2006

ECUSA and the Windsor Report

Updated 23 March
The Living Church now has a report on this with more detail, Windsor Report Response Presented to Bishops.

The ECUSA House of Bishops is currently holding one of its regular meetings, this time at the Kanuga Conference Centre in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

They have received a preliminary report from the Special Commission on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion announced last September - for backstory see ENS Special Commission on Episcopal Church, Anglican Communion to meet and TLC Special General Convention Commission Appointed.

See the latest ENS report: Special Commission members brief bishops on progress.

The Commission will offer a full report, relating to the Windsor Report, Primates Meeting, and the Anglican Consultative Council, to the 75th General Convention approximately 60 days prior to Convention, i.e. about 10 April.

Then, as the General Convention of ECUSA approaches, a separate official commission will prepare formal resolutions for the Convention to consider. Membership of this commission was recently announced, see ENS Special committee on Church and Communion named. Although this is a separate body, there is a significant overlap of members between the two groups. The Convention meets from 13 to 21 June in Columbus, Ohio.

In a separate development, the Presiding Bishop has written to the other primates about the Listening Process:
see ENS Interview: Presiding Bishop supports listening process, writes to primates
Transcript: Presiding Bishop supports listening process, writes to primates.
This has been reported by the Living Church magazine as Presiding Bishop Writes to Primates.
The actual text of this letter has not (yet?) been published.

Meanwhile, in yet another development, the Diocese of California will hold its election of a new diocesan bishop on 6 May. This is thought to be relevant because the nominees include several persons who are in same-sex relationships. The General Convention will be asked to ratify the outcome of the election. You can read all about the election process of that diocese on a special website which contains profiles of all the candidates as well as of the diocese and much else besides.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 18 March 2006 at 7:08pm GMT | Comments (8)
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Archbishops' Council recruiting new members

The Archbishops’ Council is advertising this week for two vacancies among its appointed members.
The advert can be viewed here as a (very small) PDF file. Or on the Church Times website. Or on this site here.

We are looking for 2 individuals (one immediately and one in January 2007) who will be part of the leadership of the Church. Skills and experience in the areas of education, public affairs and law would be particularly welcome, but applications from people with a record of achievement in other areas are also welcome. You will have a lively Christian faith, be expected to contribute to the mission and ministry of the Church, and be able to commit at least 3 days per month.

In addition to the material provided in the application pack, available via the previous link, prospective applicants might like to peruse the CofE official website for the Archbishops’ Council pages.

Here is the current membership of the council.

The annual report for 2004 is available here (ignore the erroneous wording in the Title field of this page).

The recent synod document (RTF) Into the New Quinquennium is also very pertinent.

So also are the papers relating to the recent Service Review, in particular the 43-page report (.doc).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 18 March 2006 at 12:23pm GMT | Comments (0)
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from the papers

Face to Faith in today’s Guardian is written by Jonathan Romain and considers prostitution in Hebrew scripture.
Diarmaid MacCulloch reviews a new book by Karen Armstrong in The axis of goodness.

The same book is also reviewed today in the Independent by Peter Stanford.

Stephen Plant writes in The Times Credo column Let all churches enjoy the feedom to teach.
There is also an extract from the new book by Edward Stourton in From the Cold War to the Council: the making of a Polish Pope and this sidebar.

Christopher Howse write in the Telegraph about the new winner of the Templeton prize, John Barrow in Space means not dread but life.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 18 March 2006 at 9:44am GMT | Comments (1)
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Friday, 17 March 2006

trouble in Philadelphia

Bishop Charles Bennison of the Diocese of Pennsylvania says he won’t resign, according to the Living Church yesterday. Earlier in the week it had published this article: Church Report Concludes Reconciliation Unlikely in Pennsylvania.

The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Pennsylvania has its own website, independently of the diocesan one. The report which triggered this latest round in the long-running dispute is available here as a PDF. The Standing Committee explains why it has published it in this covering letter. For the attachments to the report go here and scroll down.

The Bishop’s reply to this amazingly frank report is in another letter, also available as a PDF here.

Next Saturday, 25th, a special diocesan convention will meet to try and agree a budget for the diocese, which was rejected at the previous convention. The entire Standing Committee had previously called for Bishop Bennison’s resignation. Earlier, the Regional Deans had proposed mediation.

Update 24 March The Church Times has Bennison refuses to resign see.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 17 March 2006 at 11:52am GMT | Comments (12)
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Kunonga 'must stand trial'

Last week, the Church Times carried an edited version of the submission made by Bob Stumbles who is Chancellor of the Diocese of Harare and also Deputy Chancellor of the Province of Central Africa. This is now available on the web.

The background was explained in a news article by Pat Ashworth: Kunonga ‘must stand trial’.

Mr Stumbles’ submission is here: Malango has no right to close Kunonga’s trial.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 17 March 2006 at 8:00am GMT | Comments (0)
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Wednesday, 15 March 2006

more about the questionnaire authors

Updated Saturday 18 March
I can now also link to the Church Times report of last week:
Pat Ashworth Carey group looks to set up rival US province.

The following announcement issued by Lay Episcopalians For the Anglican Communion gives some insight into the purpose of the recent questionnaire.

No website yet for LEAC as far as I know, but the local parish church of Jim Ince is All Saints Chevy Chase.

Meanwhile, the Presiding Bishop wrote to all his colleagues about the questionnaire, see this article from the Living Church: Survey, Archbishop Carey Draw Presiding Bishop’s Ire which also reports on an interview with Mr Ince.

A professional statistician explains why an anonymous survey has technical problems.

Invitation to traditional Christians who wish to stay in the Anglican Communion

IT’S ACTION TIME! Save more than a remnant. Please help now!

Lay Episcopalians For the Anglican Communion (Not affiliated with any parish church.)

presents rescue initiatives assisting clergy-led efforts impeded by bullying revisionist bishops:

“Action Now: A Plan to Save Our Church”

In Memorial Hall, All Saints’ Church, 3 Chevy Chase Circle, Chevy Chase, MD

TUESDAY, March 21
7:30-9:00 p.m.


SATURDAY, March 25
10:00-11:30 a.m.
(Duplicate events)

BACKGROUND: Leaders of clergy-led traditional Episcopal organizations — Anglican Communion Network, American Anglican Council, Anglicans United — and faithful foreign bishops are publicly and repeatedly appealing for powerful, new, dedicated action by laypersons. The unmet need: education and fearless communications exposing the Christian gravity of revisionist errors and agendas. Clergy cannot lead this, because of a gruesome pattern of professional and economic reprisal by revisionist bishops run amok.

ECUSA’s presiding bishop and his fellow schismatic leaders failed to heed admonitions from Anglican primates whose membership represents more than 75% of worldwide faithful. That caused suspension of the American church from the Consultative Council of the Anglican Communion. We are out of communion or have impaired communion with most of the Anglican Communion. (Affiliation with the Anglican Communion Network gives some a sense of comfort, but historic ties are torn.) Schism is imminent. We can save a million Anglican innocents trapped in ECUSA, heading for Unitarianism.

With GC’06 coming, the new Lay Episcopalians for the Anglican Communion (LEAC) is executing a plan for believing parishes to remain in a cleansed ECUSA. Failing that, we will rescue, in Anglican Communion safety, Episcopalians in “THE SILENT MIDDLE 80%,” many now innocently trapped in their pews as ECUSA heads for Unitarianism.

Learn about and help D.C.-based LEAC’s important, positive programs. Invest your time and talent in your church’s survival, with partners in faith. Bring along orthodox friends.

Our American Church in extremis needs your talent and free time now. Pick your niche:


Can’t come but need info? Call or email Jim Ince: (240)485-7357/
(These meetings are about a national movement, NOT specifically about All Saints’.)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 15 March 2006 at 7:47am GMT | Comments (42)
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Monday, 13 March 2006

civil partnerships: some follow-up items

First, the short version of the learned paper by Jacqueline Humphreys that first appeared in the Ecclesiastical Law Journal was published last week in the Church Times. The long version was published here previously.

The short version is Does this differ from marriage?

Second, the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly will be considering this in May, see General Assembly to examine civil partnership implications. Whatever they decide it is likely to annoy the Scottish Roman Catholic bishops. That article Ties that bind in the Tablet provoked some correspondence there.

Mario Conti the Archbishop of Glasgow wrote to defend himself against criticism of his “reductionist notion of family” by appealing to para 2202 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Aidan O’Neill’s response to him was not published by the journal, but is below the fold here.

However, The Tablet did publish O’Neill’s riposte to another clerical correspondent who queried his use of the words “fall in love with, body and soul” as he was “not sure it offers a way to truth in marriage…”. Aidan O’Neill replied as follows:

Your correspondent Fr. Cridland questions my use of the phrase “falling in love, body and soul” (“Ties that bind”, 11 February). Rather than referring to individuals seeking to justify breaching their vows, whether of celibacy or married fidelity, I was in fact alluding to the latest Papal encyclical Deus Caritas Est where Benedict XVI refers to the love called “eros by the Ancient Greeks … where body and soul are inseparably joined and human beings glimpse an apparently irresistible promise of happiness”. Although the Pope states that this is to be seen in the “love between man and woman”, in fact the paradigmatic case in which eros was discussed and analysed by the Ancient Greeks – notably in the writings of Plato – was the passionate and all-consuming love between two persons of the same sex: see, in particular, the speeches in The Symposium and the description of erotic love in Phaedrus. In his encyclical the Pope explicitly uses the Platonic model of eros as leading the lovers toward the Divine on “a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing” in which love is not self-seeking but “becomes concern and care for the other” and “seeks the good of the beloved”. But to be true to his sources, he has to acknowledge that this love is not a purely heterosexual phenomenon. The proper fulfilment of eros may well, for many, be found in marriage; for others, it may be found in civil partnership.

Defining a family
Aidan O’Neill’s reply to Mario Conti

I note that Archbishop Conti now accepts (correspondence, 25 February 2006) that to use the term “family” to mean only “married couple with children” is to apply a normative rather than an empirical or comprehensive definition of the concept of family. But I wonder if it has ever occurred to him that that the Scottish bishops’ readiness to pronounce so confidently and definitively on matters of sexuality and the law may itself be damaging to Catholic family life ?

As the Vatican’s Instruction of November 2005 concerning the Admission of Persons with Homosexual Tendencies to Seminary and to Holy Orders recognizes, homosexuals exist (and flourish) within the Church, and spring from the bosom of even the most devout Catholic families. Gay Catholics are often other Catholics’ sons and daughters, brothers and sisters; sometimes, indeed, their parents; but, perhaps more commonly, their priests. And the Vatican’s 2005 instruction requests that gay Catholics be open about their sexuality, noting that the concealment of homosexuality “does not correspond to the spirit of truth, loyalty and openness that must characterise the personality of him who believes he is called to serve Christ and his Church”. But the Scottish bishops claim that family life is threatened by homosexuality and undermined by the legal recognition of same sex relationships. They suggest that those who support - or who might avail themselves of - the civil partnership legislation are (albeit, perhaps unwittingly) furthering some covert, militant and immoral “homosexual agenda”, intent on destroying normal family life.

The story isn’t true, however. Like marriage, civil partnership is a public affirmation by two individuals proclaiming - with the law’s blessing – their mutual commitment to a shared life of honesty, trust, vulnerability and love. Those are values which ought to be central to Catholic life, and should be welcomed by our bishops. Instead, in setting up a false opposition between “the family” and “the homosexual”, the bishops are in grave danger of bearing false witness against their neighbour. In so doing they would sow discord and division in the heart of the family, where peace and unity should prevail.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 13 March 2006 at 10:30pm GMT | Comments (0)
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Sunday, 12 March 2006

Lambeth 2008

This week, Rowan Williams issued a pastoral letter to the 38 Primates of the Anglican Communion and Moderators of the United Churches, in which he “sets out his thinking” on the Lambeth Conference 2008 (scroll down past the press release for the full text of the letter).

Although this provoked no reportage in London dailies it was noticed by the wire services:
Press Association Archbishop keen to avoid gay row
Associated Press Anglican Leader Rules Out Gay Debate and later, World Anglican leader rules out rewrite of stand against gay sex
and these reports were widely reprinted across the UK provincial press and across the USA.

The Church Times reported it this way: No enthusiasm for sex at Lambeth by Bill Bowder

In North America, there were several press releases or reports about it:
Episcopal News Service Listening: Archbishop of Canterbury sets out thinking on Lambeth Conference 2008
Living Church Archbishop Williams Writes to the Primates
American Anglican Council Archbishop of Canterbury Says Sexuality Debate Will Not Be Reopened at Lambeth 2008

Anglican Church of Canada Williams sets out thinking on Lambeth Conference 2008

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 12 March 2006 at 2:58pm GMT | Comments (29)
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Saturday, 11 March 2006

Saturday views

From The Times:
The Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali talks to Michael Binyon about Muslim and Christian relations Missionary faiths need reciprocity and detente.

Roderick Strange writes the Credo column, Temptation offers short cuts to happiness, but it is actually corroding us.

In the Guardian Fred Sedgwick writes the Face to Faith column: If we pray with brutal honesty, we might find God, and the ‘acute peace beyond the unendurable’.

Also Karen Armstrong writes a column that argues: We can defuse this tension between competing conceptions of the sacred.

Christopher Howse in his Telegraph column retells the story of Sexual politics at Lake Malawi, quoting from the Church Times.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 11 March 2006 at 3:16pm GMT | Comments (0)
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Friday, 10 March 2006

CofE pensions crisis: more coverage

Some press reports of the recent announcements:

Church Times last week had: C of E faces new £36-million pensions squeeze

Church of England Newspaper this week has a feature article by Bishop John Packer Facing up to the pensions crisis.

The Church of England website has, in addition to the documents linked here previously has more items:

An article designed for parish magazines, which can be downloaded as an RTF file, or read here below the fold.

The Powerpoint slides used at the General Synod presentation in February can be downloaded.

You can listen to the audio recording of that presentation here.

If you want to know more about how the clergy pension scheme works from the member’s viewpoint, you need to download as a PDF the booklet Your Pension Questions Answered . Other material is available from the links on the right hand side of this page.

Article for use by parish magazines

By Shaun Farrell, Secretary, the Church of England Pensions Board

In common with private companies and public bodies, the Church of England is reviewing its pensions policy. No decisions have been taken and none will be taken until the General Synod debates them and that will not be before next year.

Like all other defined benefit pension schemes, the Church’s pension schemes are under pressure. They are being squeezed because of the long-term reduction in returns from investments, and the increasing life expectancy of members. On top of that, new Government regulations designed to make pension schemes more secure for their members are also likely to increase the cost of the Church’s schemes.

The new regulations and code of practice result from the Pensions Act 2004 and substantially change the way in which schemes have to assess their assets and liabilities. They require pensions funds to take a more cautious view of likely investment returns and to adopt an investment policy that attempts to reduce risk still further. They also stipulate that deficits in pensions funds should be made good more quickly than before.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York set up a task group to look at the impact on pensions. Its report sets out the issues facing the Church and starts a wide consultation ahead of any decisions. The report is published in full on the Church of England’s website,, with a link, Pensions update, to all the relevant documents.

The key questions tabled by the task group were:

  • Is the Church’s commitment to the clergy pension scheme in its present form such that it is willing and able to find the additional money to fund it, however high the future contribution rate might have to be, or is there an overall cost beyond which it would not be practicable or desirable to go?
  • What changes in pension entitlement for the future service of existing members of the clergy should be contemplated if some cost reduction proves unavoidable?
  • Should the present clergy scheme be closed to new entrants and less expensive pension arrangements be introduced for them?
  • Should increases in pensions be linked in future to increases in prices rather than in stipends (as they are at present)? Without recreating unacceptable commitments for the Church Commissioners, is there any way in which their assets could help to ease the situation, particularly over the period in which past service deficit has to be cleared?

The report, which has been circulated to a wide range of church bodies, foresees a six-month consultation process within dioceses starting some time after Easter and a report to General Synod on options in February 2007. The consultation comes in advance of the statutory three-yearly valuation of the clergy pensions scheme as at December 2006.

* Parochial clergy are currently paid an annual stipend of around £19,000 and have the use of a house provided by the Church. The current pension, payable at 65 to those with 37 years’ full-time service, is £11,686, plus a lump sum of three times the pension on retirement. Retired clergy provide their own accommodation, while the Pensions Board provides some assistance for those with limited resources.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 10 March 2006 at 11:35pm GMT | Comments (4)
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Thursday, 9 March 2006

Nigerian legislation and the Church of Nigeria

Updated Friday 10 March
First, the text of the draft Nigerian legislation that has been under discussion here and elsewhere is reproduced below the fold.

Second, this legislation was endorsed explicitly by the following statement:

The Bill against Homosexuality:

The Church commends the law-makers for their prompt reaction to outlaw same-sex relationships in Nigeria and calls for the bill to be passed since the idea expressed in the bill is the moral position of Nigerians regarding human sexuality.

This occurs in the MESSAGE TO THE NATION / COMMUNIQUE from the meeting of the Standing Committee held in Ibadan on 22-25 February, signed by the Primate, and posted on the official provincial website. That meeting was several days before the recent claims that he had made no public statement on this matter. Amended Wednesday 15 March

The PASTORAL LETTER TO THE CHURCH from the same source, dated 25 February, does not mention this topic.
Hat Tip: Mark Harris.

Addition Friday 10 March
The US Department of State issued this Press Statement back on 1 February: Nigerian Legislation Threatens to Limit Rights of Sexual Minorities.


1. Short Title

This Act may be cited as Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006.

2. Interpretation

In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires-

“Marriage” means a legally binding union between a man and a woman be it performed under the authority of the State, Islamic Law or Customary Law; “Minister” means the Minister responsible for Internal Affairs; “Same Sex Marriage” means the coming together of two persons of the same gender or sex in a civil union, marriage, domestic partnership or other form of same sex relationship for the purposes of cohabitation as husband and wife.

3.Validity and Recognition of Marriage.

For the avoidance of doubt only marriage entered into between a man and a woman under the marriage Act or under the Islamic and Customary Laws are valid and recognized in Nigeria.

4. Prohibition of Same Sex Marriage, etc.

(1) Marriage between persons of the same sex and adoption of children by them in or out of a same sex marriage or relationship is prohibited in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

(2) Any marriage entered into by persons of same sex pursuant to a license issued by another state, country, foreign jurisdiction or otherwise shall be void in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

(3) Marriages between persons of the same sex are invalid and shall not be recognized as entitled to the benefits of a valid marriage.

(4) Any contractual or other rights granted to persons involved in same sex marriage or accruing to such persons by virtue of a license shall be unenforceable in any Court of law in Nigeria.

(5) The Courts in Nigeria shall have no jurisdiction to grant a divorce, separation and maintenance orders with regard to such same sex marriage, consider or rule on any of their rights arising from or in connection with such marriage.

5. Non-Recognition of Same Sex Marriage

(1) Marriage between persons of same sex entered into in any jurisdiction whether within or outside Nigeria, any other state or country or otherwise or any other location or relationships between persons of the same sex which are treated as marriage in any jurisdiction, whether within or out side Nigeria are not recognized in Nigeria.

(2) All arms of government and agencies in the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not give effect to any public act, record or judicial proceeding within or outside Nigeria, with regard to same sex marriage or relationship or a claim arising from such marriage or relationship.

6. Prohibition of celebration of same sex marriage in a place of worship

(1) Same sex marriage shall not be celebrated in any place of worship by any recognized cleric of a Mosque, Church, denomination or body to which such place of worship belongs.

(2) No marriage license shall be issued to parties of the same sex in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

7. Prohibition of Registration of Gay Clubs and Societies and Publicity of same sex sexual relationship.

(1) Registration of Gay Clubs, Societies and organizations by whatever name they are called in institutions from secondary to the tertiary level or other institutions in particular and, in Nigeria generally, by government agencies is hereby prohibited.

(2) Publicity, procession and public show of same-sex amorous relationship through the electronic or print media physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise are prohibited in Nigeria.

(3) Any person who is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.

8. Offences and Penalties.

(1) Any person goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.

(2) Any person performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.

9. Jurisdiction

The High Court in the States and the Federal Capital Territory shall have jurisdiction to entertain all matters, causes and proceedings arising from same sex marriages and relationships.


This Act shall prohibit in the Federal Republic of Nigeria the relationship between persons of the same sex, celebration of marriage by them and other matters connected therewith.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 9 March 2006 at 2:55pm GMT | Comments (27)
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View from Fleet Street

This View from Fleet Street column by Stephen Bates of the Guardian appeared in the CEN on Friday 3 March. It is republished by permission of the Church of England Newspaper.

“There is always something new coming out of Africa,” wrote Aristotle more than 2,000 years ago and he didn’t mean new in a nice way. To him it meant strange and undesirable.

I hope more than a few Anglicans would agree with him at the moment. Scarcely a week seems to pass without some new scandal, some outrageous statement or appalling behaviour coming out not of sundry regimes, militias, or armed factions, but from an institution that is fast becoming equally corrupt, the Anglican Church itself.

These are not just any old Anglicans but bishops and archbishops, with scarcely a peep coming out of anyone, least of all their allies in the evangelical constituency, with only a few honourable exceptions. For the rest it is almost as if embarrassment, political correctness and maybe even the fear of upsetting those on the same side in the gay row causes a reticence that is close to cowardice.

Two recent, egregious, examples: last week our old friend Archbishop Akinola waded into the inter-religious violence in Nigeria with all the abandon of a man waving a lighted match near a pool of petrol, threatening Muslims that they did not have a monopoly of violence. Who knows what the effect, but shortly afterwards Christian mobs in Onitsha started hacking people to death with machetes. The only people I can find who condoned the Archbishop’s remarks were on American blogsites. Even his fellow bishop Cyril Okorocha thought he was being inflammatory.

Akinola’s hot on the Bible but he doesn’t seem to have read the Beatitudes recently. Of course Christians were already under attack from Muslims but that’s no excuse. The injunctions in Matthew 5 really take on their meaning when they are most difficult.

This of course is the archbishop who has just ostentatiously praised the Nigerian government for introducing draconian and inhumane legislation against homosexuals, thereby breaking that great holy writ of conservative evangelicals, Lambeth 1.10, but that’s old news.

Let’s take as our second example one of Akinola’s allies, the Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most Rev. Bernard Malango, another primate who is quick to criticise the gay mote in England and America but slow to recognise the beam in his own eye.

He’s the man who recently absolved, without trial, Bishop Nolbert Kunonga of Harare. The list of 38 charges against the good bishop, who is a crony of Robert Mugabe, brought against him by his own black parishioners, include little matters such as incitement to murder, intimidation, ignoring church law, mishandling funds and proselytising for Zanu PF from the pulpit. He has also occupied a farm and evicted 40 families from a local village. A couple of months ago he even licensed the acting vice-president of Zimbabwe Joseph Msika, a man on record as saying that whites are not human beings, to act as a deacon of the church.

Archbishop Malango decided Kunonga had done nothing wrong after the case faltered in Zimbabwe, because of a little spot of harassment and intimidation. Thanks to that, he has not a stain on his character and is going round saying the charges were all got up by whites.

But that’s not all Archbishop Malango’s been up to. He’s also been persecuting the Rev. Nicholas Henderson, the London vicar who was chosen last summer as Bishop of Lake Malawi by members of the diocese impressed by his many years of close association and work with them.

Henderson was rejected by the archbishop as being of “unsound faith” because he had been secretary of the Modern Churchpeople’s Union, a body so subversive that it has been undermining the church for only the last 108 years.

There were also unsubstantiated smears about the vicar’s sexuality, allegedly poured into the archbishop’s ear by conservative evangelicals and bloggers – they’d certainly know all about him – which were so devastating that even Mr Henderson’s own assurances of his theological, ethical and sexual orthodoxy and, perhaps more to the point, the support of his impeccably evangelical bishop, Pete Broadbent, were not enough to save him.

Mr Henderson has recently been back to Malawi but was told he should not enter a church during his stay. Local Anglicans have been demonstrating in his support and insisting they want him rather than an old buddy of Malango’s whom the archbishop wishes to instal instead.

Now these men have all been very hot on western decadence. They want the American Episcopal Church, and especially Gene Robinson, banned from the next Lambeth Conference, though I don’t think Robinson has ever threatened violence against anyone.

All I know is that if Rowan Williams bans the bishop of New Hampshire but extends invitations to men such as Akinola, Malango and Kunonga, Anglicanism will have ceased to be a communion worthy of the name. It will be, to coin a phrase, spiritually dead.

Stephen Bates is religious affairs correspondent of the Guardian.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 9 March 2006 at 11:05am GMT | Comments (8)
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Monday, 6 March 2006

ethical investment: a roundup

Updated Tuesday

Below is the text of an article by Stephen Bates which appeared under the title A Question of Judgement in The Tablet dated 25 February. It is reproduced here by kind permission of The Tablet.

In the same issue, The Tablet also published a related article, Capital concerns by Brian Griffiths who is vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs and a member of the Church of England.

On Sunday, this profile of John Reynolds chairman of the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG), appeared in the Observer: Confessions of ethics man.

Last week, the Church Commissioners announced:

Grainger GenInvest and The Church Commissioners have exchanged contracts for the freeholds of 976 predominantly residential properties in Waterloo, Winchester Park, Vauxhall, Pimlico and Walworth. Completion of the sale is expected within the next few weeks.

Thus the sale of the Octavia Hill Estates, which got rather overshadowed by the Caterpillar issue, has now been concluded, whereas nothing at all has happened, and indeed may never happen, about the Caterpillar shares held by church bodies.

Item added Tuesday
Caterpillar: Ethical Investment Advisory Group confirms earlier decision

The Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group, after careful consideration at a specially convened meeting to discuss Caterpillar Inc – the US-based manufacturer of construction and mining equipment – has unanimously reaffirmed its previous decision, taken in September 2005.

The decision involved: not recommending disinvestment from Caterpillar; continuing its programme of engagement with Caterpillar; and making clear its intention of revisiting this decision if there are new sales of Caterpillar equipment to the Israeli defence forces for use in the demolition of Palestinian houses…

A question of judgement

When Archbishop Rowan Williams raised his hand at the end of a somewhat perfunctory debate in the Church of England General Synod a couple of weeks ago, he can have had little idea what impact his vote would have. His support for a motion calling for the Church Commissioners – managers of the CofE’s £4.3 billion-worth of assets – to disinvest from companies profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories - and specifically Caterpillar Inc., the American machinery company whose giant bulldozers have been used to flatten Palestinian homes - has reverberated around the Anglican Communion and damaged relations with Britain’s Jewish community.

The opprobrium meted out to the synod in general and the archbishop in particular has been quite extraordinary, particularly as the event seemed almost akin to a junior common room motion passed at the end of an exhausting meeting. Since then American conservative Episcopalian websites have been full of commentary about the Church of England supporting terrorism, boycotting Israel, and backing Hamas. They have routinely accused Dr Williams of being an anti-Semite.

Lord Carey, Williams’s predecessor as archbishop, described the vote as making him feel ashamed to be an Anglican. Canon Andrew White, the church’s Middle East negotiator, said it was clap-trap. And last Friday, in the cruellest cut of all, the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, a man whose congruence with Dr Williams might normally be thought to extend all the way to their matching grey beards, denounced the decision in an article for The Jewish Chronicle as ill-judged and inappropriate.

Then there have been the charges of anti-Semitism from some Jewish quarters while senior churchmen have riposted by claiming criticism of Israeli policies is legitimate and not anti-Jewish. The Revd Paul Oestreicher, himself a German Jew who converted to Christianity, wrote in The Guardian this week that: “I cannot listen calmly when a great many citizens of Israel think and speak of Palestinians in the way a great many Germans thought and spoke about Jews when I was one of them and had to flee … the State of Israel has become a cruel and occupying power.”

This row is certainly the severest strain in Anglican-Jewish relationships for many years. That it has escalated to such an extent says much of the febrility of Middle Eastern affairs and the insecurity and defensiveness of Jews in Britain, no less than Israel. But the central issue as to whether the Church Commissioners, responsible for the Church of England’s money, should invest in an American machinery company one of whose products may be used for purposes of which the church ethically disapproves – has been rather trampled under foot.

The Church’s shares in Caterpillar are worth £2.5 million out of an investment portfolio of more than £950 million. It is financially insignificant: the Caterpillar investment does not even rate a mention in the Church Commissioners’ last annual report, coming way behind at least 80 other corporations, headed by Vodafone in which the church has invested £114 million, or BP in which it has £108 million.

It matters even less to Caterpillar, based in Peoria, Illinois, whose website boasts fourth quarter sales and revenues in 2005 of $9.6 billion – half as much again as the entire assets of the Church of England. Caterpillar boasts of record profits per share – up 40 per cent, equivalent of $1.20 (69p) a share - as a result of its year’s trading, which might be some consolation if the commissioners were actually to sell the Church’s shares.

Not that they are going to do so. A statement issued within two days of the synod vote made clear that the commissioners have no intention of selling: “The resolution is … 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. Reports that ‘the Church of England has decided to disinvest from Caterpillar’ – let alone to boycott Israel … are wholly untrue,” the commissioners loftily announced.

The disinvestment call did not come out of the blue, even if it surprised many synod members. The charity War on Want has been campaigning for the church to take its money out of Caterpillar for many months.

The company’s giant D9 bulldozers, the size of a bus, are highly visible symbols of the struggle, never mind that Caterpillar contends that it has not sold them, or spare parts, directly to Israel but to the US military, which passed them on several years ago, placing the sales well out of the company’s hands.

Israel itself points out that the D9s were also used against illegal Jewish settlements in Gaza last summer and are mainly employed in more constructive building projects.

In the light of the concern the church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group, responsible for ensuring the commissioners do not put the church’s money anywhere they shouldn’t, has engaged in talks with Caterpillar for some time.

War on Want organised fringe meetings to keep them up to the mark at the last two synods, in July and November. I was asked to chair the debate at the November synod and such was the pulling power of the issue that just 14 members, including one bishop, turned up.

This month’s debate in synod was not quite so poorly attended, but it took place at the end of a day’s business and lasted less than half an hour. It was far from one-sided – Christopher Herbert, the Bishop of St Albans and chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews, warned the synod that it should not act precipitously. But what clearly made the most impact was the reading out of an impassioned letter from Bishop Riah Hanna Abu El-Assal of Jerusalem, who is himself a Palestinian, supporting a boycott.

There was also a vehement speech from John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford and chairman of Christian Aid, who announced: “The problem is not Caterpillar. The problem is the situation in the Middle East and the Government of Israel.”

What may also have motivated some members was an attack on the Church Commissioners from an entirely different quarter, over their decision to sell off the Octavia Hill housing estates in south London to a private developer. That move had sparked much higher-profile protests than the Caterpillar investment. It was portrayed as the Church turning its back on poor tenants in accommodation run for their benefit since the days of the eponymous Victorian benefactor.

Outside the synod that afternoon local MPs had been protesting and lobbying members, so it was very much in their minds. The sale of the estates was, like the Caterpillar issue, not exactly clear-cut: some of the tenants are by no means any more members of the deserving poor and the commissioners have a responsibility to maximise revenues for the Church.

But the commissioners have been perfunctory in defending their decision to sell and Andreas Whittam Smith, the First Estates Commissioner, who was put up to defend the move appeared both patronising and dismissive. The Octavia Hill sale has netted the church approximately £6 million more than it would have gained by selling to a social housing trust and securing the tenants their homes.

On the Caterpillar row, a number of forces have been at work in fomenting reaction within the Jewish community, not least a understandable fear that, at a time when Hamas is calling for Israel’s very existence to be expunged and with many voices in the west questioning Israeli government policy, now even a reliable source of support was slipping away.

The well-organised email lobbying of Jewish groups in Israel and the US have fuelled further the row, as have the public criticisms of Lord Carey and Canon White, neither of whom attended the synod debate. The Chief rabbi has also wavered. His initial response to Archbishop Williams’s letter of explanation following the initial outrage over the debate was emollient and reassuring. This however was more publicly replaced by his Jewish Chronicle article which stoked the flames at the end of last week.

Sir Jonathan, for all his amiable public profile, has a mixed reputation within the Jewish community for havering on a series of key issues in an attempt to straddle his diverse and often mutually antagonistic community.

When he changed the text of his last book The Dignity of Difference, which speculated that Jews might have something to learn from other faiths, a Jewish bookshop in north London sold copies of the original version under a poster stating: “Buy now before he changes his mind again.”

In last Friday’s Jewish Chronicle article, Sir Jonathan’s suggestion that the Church of England might like to invest in more constructive projects in Palestine if it really wanted to help was overshadowed by his censure of the synod’s temerity. It was, The Jewish Chronicle rightly said, a severe tongue lashing and it will probably do the chief rabbi no harm with many British Jews. The chief victim of this whole affair is Rowan Williams, his authority once again called into question.

He is damned if he sits on the fence and condemned if he slides off it. But at the moment he must wish that, like John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, sitting beside him, he’d kept his hand in his pocket for the synod vote.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 6 March 2006 at 5:29pm GMT | Comments (1)
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RW interview: more press coverage

Further Update
The archbishop’s own website now also carries a transcript of the TV programme as transmitted.

Ruth Gledhill’s blog now carries the full transcript of this interview. Read Archbishop’s interview with Sir David Frost. This is the full, unedited version.

Telegraph coverage of yesterday’s television interview is comprehensive:
Archbishop warns gay issue may ‘rupture’ Church and Williams: Cuba camp is setting a dangerous precedent America both by Jonathan Petre and
Missed chance to speak out on Darfur’s bloody conflict speaks volumes by David Blair, Africa Correspondent

Guardian Stephen Bates Archbishop warns of split over gay bishops

The Times Ruth Gledhill Archbishop attacks Guantanamo

Ekklesia Archbishop of Canterbury condemns Guantanamo Bay camp includes useful back links to earlier Christian protests about this.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 6 March 2006 at 8:50am GMT | Comments (17)
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Sunday, 5 March 2006

Nigeria: two more views

First, Martyn Minns has responded to last weekend’s Washington Post article by Bishop John Chane. His response is in a Word document on his own parish website, but an html copy can be seen here. As you would expect, he is strongly critical of Bishop Chane.

Second, Andrew Carey has interviewed the Archbishop of Kaduna, Josiah Idowu-Fearon about the violence in Nigeria, in this week’s Church of England Newspaper, Why should a cartoon bring us to civil war? His views are very interesting.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 5 March 2006 at 5:21pm GMT | Comments (5)
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Lake Malawi: a provincial press release

Update Tuesday
Malawi Daily Times Anglican bishop’s offices still closed

The Province of Central Africa issued a press release on 25 February. This can be found on the Anglican Mainstream site, where it was posted on 2 March. The press release starts out:

The office of the Church of the Province of Central Africa would like to categorically refute some of the information masqueraded as facts that appeared in both The Nation and The Daily Times newspapers of Friday’s edition which is not only incorrect but misleading…

Those reports are linked from this TA news article of 24 February.

The pastoral letter mentioned further on in the press release was linked here.

Nevertheless the Church of England Newspaper published this further report on 3 March, Archbishop forced to flee following Malawi protest.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 5 March 2006 at 4:46pm GMT | Comments (0)
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Rowan Williams interview on TV

The BBC TV programme The Heaven and Earth Show this morning carried an interview of Rowan Williams which had been conducted in Khartoum by David Frost.

The full video interview (nearly 20 minutes) is now on the web, here.

At present the programme’s website carries only a brief note about it. However, the interview was also discussed on the BBC Sunday radio programme. The website for that programme, which used to be updated within hours of the live transmission, has now announced that it will not be updated until Monday morning. So I cannot at present give a link to the individual item. There is a link to the audio of the entire (45 minute) programme here (Real Audio). The discussion - Ed Stourton talked to Ruth Gledhill - of the Rowan Williams interview, which includes audio clips, starts about 30.5 minutes in and lasts about six minutes.

Update the programme details page has now been updated. The direct link to the 6 minute audio item is here.

Other reports of this interview:
BBC Archbishop fears Church ‘rupture’ NB story has been rewritten and now headlined Williams attacks Guantanamo camp
Telegraph Archbishop fears gay ‘rupture’ of Anglican church
Reuters Anglican leader criticises Guantanamo, terrorism
Press Association Archbishop condemns Guantanamo camp
Associated Press Guantanamo Worries England’s Archbishop

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 5 March 2006 at 12:17pm GMT | Comments (12)
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Saturday, 4 March 2006

columns for the week

Giles Fraser got Lent off to a good start with his Thought for the Day on Thursday on the BBC.

Some newspaper columns look at recent events in various lights. The Times has Jonathan Sacks writing about One thing a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian and a humanist can agree on. The Guardian has Ian Bradley comparing the recent Lib Dem leadership contest to contemporary British Christianity in Face to Faith. Earlier this week, the Guardian had an interesting column by Madeleine Bunting on British multiculturalism, It takes more than tea and biscuits to overcome indifference and fear.

Christopher Howse in the Telegraph reviews a book: Can hope save you from hell?

More substantial is this article from the Economist by Matthew Bishop The business of giving.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 4 March 2006 at 9:07am GMT | Comments (0)
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Friday, 3 March 2006

American Questionnaire

The members of the US House of Bishops have each been sent a questionnaire. Absolutely everything that is known about this questionnaire can be seen in the photo scans of the document that I have uploaded:

First page
Second page
(you might need to click on each picture to get it full-size and easily legible, depending on what browser you use)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 3 March 2006 at 11:51pm GMT | Comments (37)
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women bishops - an MP intervenes

Ruth Gledhill has a report on her blog today, Church-State war looms over women bishops.

She reports that Chris Bryant, who is a Labour MP for a Welsh constituency, has tabled a private member’s bill which will have its First Reading on 21 March. The official confirmation of this fact can be found here:

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993 so as to remove the bar on the consecration of women as bishops; and for connected purposes.

The text of his bill will not be published until 21 March, but it is safe to assume that it would amend Clause 1 of the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993 (No. 2) along the following lines:

1.—(1) It shall be lawful for the General Synod to make provision by Canon for enabling a woman to be ordained to the office of priest or to consecrate a woman as bishop if she otherwise satisfies the requirements of Canon Law as to the persons who may be ordained as priests.

(2) Nothing in this Measure shall make it lawful for a woman to be consecrated to the office of bishop.

This is likely to upset quite a lot of church people, but on the other hand, as Ruth notes, it might well get significant support from parliamentarians, not all of whom are sympathetic to the Church of England’s self-perception.

See also this report from Ekklesia Bill to pave way for women bishops

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 3 March 2006 at 8:17pm GMT | Comments (44)
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Nigerian bishops write about same-sex unions

Updated again Tuesday 14 March

Updated Friday evening

The Church of Nigeria’s official website has published an article, titled The Absurdity Of Same Sex Union. The article is written by The Rt. Rev. David Onuoha, M.A. (Bishop of Okigwe South).

I think it is reasonable to assume that the views expressed in this article are shared by other Nigerian Anglican leaders.

A long article has appeared in the Vanguard, dated Saturday, which is titled WAR AGAINST GAYS, LESBIANS: We must use all we have to chase ‘em away, say clerics. This contains quotes from many religious leaders in Nigeria. Scroll down to the end for the comments by the Anglican Bishop of Lagos, Dr. Ephraim Adebola Ademowo under the heading Judiciary must ensure there’s no breach:

It is crazy, abnormal and is not promoted by any religion known to man. Islam condemns it, Christianity loathes it and there is no known religion that accommodates the practice. If you are asking the position of my church, I think it is very well known all over the world and we have not changed.

As a matter of fact, we commend the Federal Government for the bold step it has taken thus far on the issue and we hope it will go the whole hog to make the National Assembly complete the process by enacting it into law which will be completed to the letter.

It is an unhealthy practice and every normal human being will boldly tell you it is not part of the traditional African culture. But above all, the Bible is very clear on the issue. It described it as an abberation and should not be seen among men who are called of by the name of God.

So, we totally commend the Federal Government for its initiatives and we will continue to pray that the National Assembly will enact the law and the judiciary will follow suit to interprete the laws when the time comes in order to forestall any breach of the law.

Update 14 March
A response to the first item above has been published by Changing Attitude Nigeria and can be read at The Truth of same-sex unions in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 3 March 2006 at 1:59pm GMT | Comments (8)
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Another open letter about Nigeria

The Church Times has an exclusive news report this morning. In Dr Williams asked to censure Akinola over riot reaction Rachel Harden reports that:

A COALITION of volunteers in Nigeria has written an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury asking him to denounce last week’s “irresponsible” statement by the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, on the current Christian-Muslim riots…

…The volunteers say this “aggressive and inflammatory rhetoric” will incite further violence…

…The writers, a group of mixed nationalities and religions, all believed that the statement issued by the Roman Catholic Church in Nigeria, which appealed for calm, was far more effective…

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria website has two reports related to this: a statement here and this earlier one.

UPDATE 10 March

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 3 March 2006 at 1:08pm GMT | Comments (0)
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Thursday, 2 March 2006

InclusiveChurch open letter to archbishop

InclusiveChurch calls on the Archbishop of Canterbury to support lesbian and gay Anglicans in Nigeria and Uganda

Press Release

InclusiveChurch and its Partner Organisations have called on the Archbishop of Canterbury to support lesbian and gay Christians in Nigeria and Uganda and asked him to encourage the Anglican Churches in Nigeria and Uganda to desist from denigrating them and denying their existence as committed and active Anglicans.

InclusiveChurch welcomes the establishment of Changing Attitude Nigeria and Integrity Uganda as legitimate voices of gay and lesbian Africans within our Anglican Communion. InclusiveChurch believes that the dire situation of lesbian and gay Anglicans in these countries is exacerbated by the actions of our own church.

In their joint letter to the Archbishop, the Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser, President of InclusiveChurch and the Rev. Giles Goddard, Chair say, ‘We are deeply concerned that in Nigeria in particular the Anglican Church appears to be encouraging the State to engage in active persecution of gay people and those who speak for them.’

Successive Lambeth Conferences have called on the Anglican Communion to engage in dialogue with gay Christians and to listen to their experiences. Integrity Uganda and Changing Attitude Nigeria provide ways of responding to this call. InclusiveChurch believes that all Anglicans should welcome the establishment of these groups and seek to assist them in their difficult and dangerous situations. To deny them a legitimate place in the life of the church is reject the call of the Lambeth Conference resolutions.

InclusiveChurch believes that the full inclusion, without conditions, of women, lesbian and gay people, people from all ethnic backgrounds and people with disabilities at all levels of the church is essential as a sign of the universal love of God.

InclusiveChurch is a campaigning organisation which is committed to celebrating and maintaining the Anglican tradition of inclusion and diversity. More information at

For further information contact The Rev. Giles Goddard at 07762 373 674

The full text of the open letter appears below the fold.

Text of Open Letter

The Archbishop of Canterbury,
Lambeth Palace
London SE1

21st February 2006

Dear Archbishop,

Inclusive Church and its Partner Organisations welcome the establishment of Changing Attitude Nigeria and Integrity Uganda as legitimate voices of gay and lesbian Africans within our Anglican Communion. We are deeply concerned at the hostility and aggression that those who belong to, and those who support these organisations, have met from their respective Anglican Churches and ask that they be affirmed as members of the Anglican family with the right to be heard and respected.

Successive Lambeth Conferences have called on the Anglican Communion to engage in dialogue with gay Christians and to listen to their experiences. Integrity Uganda and Changing Attitude Nigeria provide ways of responding to this call. We believe that all Anglicans should welcome the establishment of these groups and seek to assist them in their difficult and dangerous situations. To deny them a legitimate place in the life of the church is reject the call of the Lambeth Conference resolutions.

We are deeply concerned that in Nigeria in particular the Anglican Church appears to be encouraging the State to engage in active persecution of gay people and those who speak for them. We hope that you will encourage all Anglicans to support these vulnerable Christians and to encourage the Churches in Nigeria and Uganda in particular to recognise the members and supporters of these groups as part of our Anglican family, and to desist from denigrating them even denying their existence as committed and active Anglicans.

We recognise how very difficult it is to raise this concern in the current climate of conflict within the Anglican Communion but the dire situation of these Anglicans can not wait for the Anglican Communion to resolve its internal difficulties, the physical dangers that they face are, we believe, being exacerbated by the actions of our own church. We earnestly hope that you will be able to recognise their situation and encourage all concerned to cease the campaign against them and recognise the Christian duty to protect, not persecute, these vulnerable Christians.

Yours sincerely,

Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser, President
Rev. Giles Goddard, Chair

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 2 March 2006 at 1:07pm GMT | Comments (19)
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Categorised as: InclusiveChurch

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

Lake Malawi: a provincial pastoral letter

The website of the Diocese of Lake Malawi has not been updated since last July. But today the following appeared on the blog of the American Anglican Council:
Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of the Province to the Diocese of Lake Malawi.
The letter is dated 15 February.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 1 March 2006 at 11:42pm GMT | Comments (3)
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion

church pensions in the news

On the one hand, the American Church Pension Group has announced plans to make significant increases in USA clergy pensions that they pay out.
ENS Pension benefit formula to get adjustment
TLC Pension Group Enhances Benefits

A detailed announcement will be made soon, but Sullivan said the change means a “meaningful across-the-board increases” in benefits. Clergy with a history of very low compensation will see the biggest increases, averaging 18 percent. Those with the highest earning history will have an average 12 percent increase.

Sullivan said the decision is one of many the pension fund has made in recent months in response to its excellent financial picture. As of the end of 2005, Sullivan said, the fund had an all-time high of $7.6 billion available for pension benefits plus sizable additional reserves.

This bottom line is unlike that of the top 100 pension funds in the United States. Most of those funds have liabilities that far outstrip their assets and the federal government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation says the U.S. faces a $450 billion such gap, Sullivan said.

On the other hand, the Church of England today made this announcement:
Church launches consultation on pensions policy

In common with private companies and public bodies, the Church of England is to review its pensions policy.

Like other defined benefit pension schemes, the Church’s pension schemes are under pressure because of the long-term reduction in returns from stock exchange investments, and the increasing life expectancy of members.

Recent government moves designed to make pension schemes more secure for their members are also likely to have an adverse impact on the cost of the Church’s pension schemes.

…Taken together, the impact of the new regulations could prompt an increase in the contribution rate paid into the Clergy Pensions scheme from the present 33.8 per cent of the pensionable stipend to between 46 per cent and 57 per cent.

It seems ECUSA has got something right :-)

Full text of the CofE report is here (RTF). Annex is here (contains key facts).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 1 March 2006 at 6:31pm GMT | Comments (2)
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion