Sunday, 29 April 2007

an invitation from Dylan

Sarah Dylan Breuer has issued an invitation at Grace Notes.

…I’d love to see if the community of readers here and on ‘reasserter’ (a term often preferred for self-designation by people often designated as ‘conservatives’ by progressives) blogs such as TitusOneNine and StandFirm can come up with a list of important points we actually agree on.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to start a list of points on which I think I and many ‘progressives’ agree with the vast majority of ‘reasserters.’ Progressives and reasserters, please use the comments either to add your own points on which you think we’d agree or to let me know if you don’t actually agree with one of the points posted up here, and I’ll periodically edit the list in light of the comments…

I invite TA readers to contribute to the discussion over there, on Dylan’s blog. Comments here are therefore closed, at least for now.

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Saturday, 28 April 2007

more American news

Archbishop Peter Akinola is going to visit Virginia USA. Read all about it in the New York Times where Neela Bannerjee reports Visit by Anglican Bishop Draws Episcopal Anger.

Here is the place where this event will occur.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has issued this statement:

“I have only just become aware of the possible visit by the Primate of Nigeria. Unfortunately, my office has not been directly informed of his pending visit, but we will now pursue extending to him a personal invitation to see him while he is in the United States. I regret that he has apparently accepted an invitation to provide episcopal ministry here without any notice or prior invitation. That is not the ancient practice followed in most of the church catholic, which since the fourth century has expected that bishops minister only within their own churches, except by explicit invitation from another bishop with jurisdiction. This action would only serve to heighten current tensions, and would be regrettable if it does indeed occur.”

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this week's columns

Christopher Howse in the Daily Telegraph has Rowan Williams on the side of the angels.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed writes the Face to Faith column in the Guardian and blogs at Spirit21.

The Times Credo column is written by Roderick Strange.

From the Church Times Giles Fraser writes about film-making in Quarter of a million well spent.

From the Tablet Austen Ivereigh writes about irregular migrants in Plight of the shadow people.

From the Spectator The new religious right by James Forsyth.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 28 April 2007 at 6:30pm BST | Comments (31) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 26 April 2007

American news roundup

Updated Friday

An open letter to Rowan Williams was issued by a distinguished group of Episcopal rectors and cathedral deans who had been staying at the Canterbury Cathedral.

You can read the full text of it at the Episcopal Café Letter to Lambeth:

We salute your stated desires to “keep everyone at the table.” Your recent call for a renewed reading and hearing of scripture, rooted in eucharistic fellowship and the Holy Spirit, is one that we eagerly accept. We note that such a call is what holds our own parishes and cathedrals together. Our local communities are full of people who have disagreements, but who yet share eucharist, scripture, and truly holy communion together. Thus, in our commitment to the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit has continuing occasion to renew us. Thus, too, we celebrate Jesus Christ together in our Anglican heritage.

Toward that end, we urge you to continue our Anglican precedent of inviting all jurisdictional bishops of The Episcopal Church in the United States and of the Anglican Church of Canada to the upcoming Lambeth Conference. We certainly respect the fact such an invitation is yours to give; but we pray that your invitation will be as broad and graceful as the invitation Jesus offers all Christians to gather at table together.

From Jim Naughton, we learn news not published by Lambeth Palace: Rowan Williams to take sabbatical at Georgetown
Update The Telegraph has more about this: A glutton for Punishment. See also this Prospect magazine article (hat tip Episcopal Café)

The Presiding Bishop visited Boston and her remarks there were reported in the Boston Globe as Episcopal leader holds firm on gay rights:

Saying “I don’t believe that there is any will in this church to move backward,” the top official of the Episcopal Church USA said yesterday that the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire has been “a great blessing” despite triggering intense controversy and talk of possible schism.

In an interview during a visit to Boston, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori compared the gay rights struggle to battles over slavery and women’s rights, and said she believes that it has become a vocation for the Episcopal Church “to keep questions of human sexuality in conversation, and before not just the rest of our own church, but the rest of the world.”

…The Anglican Communion has been embroiled in a debate about whether and how to punish the American church for its consent to Robinson’s election, which some Anglican primates view as a violation of biblical teachings about sexuality.

“This is an issue for some clergy and a handful of bishops in our own church, and for a handful of primates across the communion, who believe that this issue is of sufficient importance to chuck us out, but the vast majority of people and clergy in this church, and I would believe across the communion, think that our common mission is of far higher importance,” Jefferts Schori said. “If we focus on the mission we share, we’re going to figure out how to get along together, even if we disagree about some things that generate a good deal more heat than light.”

And there is much more of this interview on video here.

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Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Church of Scotland admits to 'historic intolerance'

A working group of the Mission and Discipleship Council of the Church of Scotland is to present the General Assembly with an in-depth report on ‘same-sex partnerships as an issue in theology and human sexuality’.

Read the official press release here:

…The report, which is entitled A challenge to unity, takes as its starting point an acknowledgement of the strength of feeling that has already been expressed on the issue of same-sex relationships. However, the considerable body of work that is to go before May’s Assembly does not seek only to study the two sides of the debate – indeed, the idea that the debate has only two primary viewpoints is specifically rejected. A challenge to unity seeks to give a flavour of the wide range of views held within the church, and to identify areas of common ground around which the church might unite…

Read the full text of the report here (RTF).

Read the Ekklesia news article: Church of Scotland admits institutional homophobia:

An influential group of ministers in Scotland’s largest Protestant church has said that its clergy and congregations have been “sinfully” intolerant of gays and lesbians in its ranks.

In a report on homosexuality, a working party has concluded that the Church of Scotland has been institutionally homophobic for much of its history…

Other news reports:
Scotsman Ten years, hundreds of hours of debate and the Kirk finally decides on homosexuality: ‘It’s up to you!’
Guardian ‘Sinful’ Church of Scotland told it must accept gays in its ranks

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Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Wilberforce lecture

Updated again Thursday

Dr Rowan Williams today delivered a Wilberforce Lecture in Hull.

Last Sunday, the Sunday Times printed an advance extract from the lecture which you can read at Down with godless government and about which Christopher Morgan wrote Archbishop tells MPs to rediscover their moral mission.

Today, Jonathan Petre previewed the lecture in the Daily Telegraph in Archbishop attacks ‘erosion of Christian values’.

The official press release about this lecture is available on ACNS as Archbishop of Canterbury - moral vision should be at the heart of politics.

The full text of the lecture will no doubt eventually be now is available here.

Guardian People column commented:

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, was lecturing politicians in his Wilberforce lecture in Hull last night on the importance of rediscovering their moral energy. He also stressed the necessity of C of E bishops retaining their position in the House of Lords to continue offering “independent moral comment”. Meanwhile, central Africa’s Anglican bishops have taken a different moral line by saying the west ought to give Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, a break and lift sanctions. Their number includes the Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, a Mugabe crony accused by parishioners of inciting murder and seizing land, in contrast to the call by the country’s Catholic bishops for Mugabe to stand down. No sign yet that our archbishop plans to disinvite them from next year’s Lambeth conference.

Ekklesia said Williams says democracy not enough to determine ‘moral vision’

Update
The BBC interviewed the archbishop on Newsnight and carried this report of the interview: Williams urges political ‘morals’. The earlier BBC report of the lecture is here.
Update 5 May The transcript of the 25 April Newsnight interview is available here.

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Religious beliefs give no right to discriminate

Religious beliefs give no right to discriminate against gays is the title of an article in The Times today, written by David Pannick QC. This article is concerned with the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. (PDF of print version here.)

Mr Pannick is a barrister at Blackstone Chambers and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He writes a fortnightly column for The Times Law section.

Part of what he says:

…The regulations do not prevent anyone from believing whatever they like for whatever reason they wish. But although freedom of belief is absolute, freedom to manifest belief is strictly limited. This was confirmed by the law lords last year when rejecting the claim of the schoolgirl who wanted to wear a particular form of religious dress in defiance of the school uniform policy.

The right not to be discriminated against on the ground of sexual orientation is a fundamental right, any interference with which requires substantial justification. That the discriminator is acting by reference to his or her religious beliefs cannot of itself provide a justification, any more than if the provider of the services (perhaps Boers who emigrated from South Africa after the National Party lost power) have a religious objection to dealing with people of a different race.

No doubt the State should interfere with the manifestation of the religious beliefs of others only where that is justified. But the religious objector is entitled to no special protection in this respect. If I run an adoption agency and believe that it is wrong for children to be adopted by homosexuals, the fact that my views are based on logic, careful study of reports, and an expertise in child psychology cannot make my beliefs less entitled to respect than if they are based on a belief that God told Moses or Muhammad the right answer…

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Leaven in the Lump of Lambeth

Updated Friday

The Reverend Professor Marilyn McCord Adams delivered a lecture with the above title last Saturday. Its subtitle was Spiritual Temptations and Ecclesial Opportunities.

The occasion of this was the LGCM Annual Conference in London.

You can read the text of this at Episcopal Café the new version of Daily Episcopalian.
It is here at Leaven in the lump.

You can also listen to it by downloading a podcast file that is 17 Mbytes (large, but then it took 42 minutes to deliver). That file is here.

Update
My report of the lecture is in Friday’s Church Times at Primates seen as dictatorial.

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Monday, 23 April 2007

Zimbabwe: Anglican bishops support Mugabe

Updated yet again Sunday

The bishops of the Province of Central Africa have issued a Pastoral Letter. The text of the letter can be read here.

This news has been reported widely, see Associated Press African Anglican Bishops Support Mugabe and the Angola Press African Anglican bishops support Mugabe.

Magic Statistics has plenty of background links in Anglican bishops support Mugabe after Catholics call for his departure.

Here is what the Roman Catholic bishops said: Repent And Listen to the Cry of Citizens as reported in the Zimbabwe Independent.

The pro-Mugabe Herald in Zimbabwe reports it this way: Anglican Bishops Support Mugabe.

Update
Episcopal News Service has republished this report from Ecumenical News International
ZIMBABWE: Anglican bishops want sanctions on country’s ruling elite lifted

Thursday
Some further reports related to this:
The Zimbabwean Trevor Grundy Not in our name say Anglicans
Anglican Mainstream The Director of Zimbabwe Christian Alliance speaks of their role in Zimbabwe

Friday
There is a report by Pat Ashworth in the Church Times Anglican statement not meant to be pro-Mugabe, says bishop

…light has since been thrown on its context by a respected signatory, the Bishop of Botswana, the Rt Revd Trevor Mwamba, and by the Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, who returned on Wednesday from a diocesan visit to Zimbabwe.

… Bishop Mwamba, who gave a keynote address to senior judges and others at the Ecclesiastical Law Society Conference in Liverpool earlier this year (News, 2 February), said on Tuesday that the letter had to be seen in the context of the Anglican situation in Zimbabwe. The spirit in which it had been sent was to support the progressive forces and the need for change, and was not in any way meant to be pro-Mugabe, he said.

Choosing his words carefully, the Bishop commented: “As you can imagine, in Zimbabwe there are divisions within the Church itself, and so there was a need to wean certain hearts and minds to be able to put forward a statement all the bishops could subscribe to.

“In that sense, yes, it does not appear as sharp as the pastoral letter from the Catholic bishops. It took a middle-of-the-road pastoral approach. Nevertheless, the sting is there in calling for drastic change, for the government to be called upon to create a conducive environment for that, and for the Church to stand forward and speak sharply in the context of its calling and prophetic ministry.” The Bishop described it as “the beginning of a long journey of bishops moving together — very gently, for need of carrying certain of our friends along”…

Sunday
Magic Statistics has further detailed comment at Bishop Mwamba says Anglican statement not pro-Mugabe.

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Saturday, 21 April 2007

godslots this weekend

Guardian Tom Horwood Religious leaders should be hopeful, not defensive, in public debate.

The Times Jonathan Romain If thy scripture offend one of another faith, pluck it out.

Daily Telegraph Christopher Howse The orientalist of Letchworth.

The Church Times had this leader, Picking up the Bible’s tune.

And Giles Fraser argues that cars are a moral issue.

The Tablet has a feature article by Keith Ward Order out of chaos about Pope Benedict and evolution.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 21 April 2007 at 9:41pm BST | Comments (69) | TrackBack
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Friday, 20 April 2007

Lambeth Palace job vacancy

Dave Walker has drawn attention to this Church Times advertisement in his blog article, Top job in the Anglican Communion up for grabs.

It appears that this is not a job for which any Genuine Occupational Requirement applies, either for Religion or Belief or for Sexual Orientation.

See also Diversity is the Key (H/T Hugh).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 20 April 2007 at 10:59pm BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 19 April 2007

Colorado Springs: further reports

Updated

Since the last update there have been some more reporting:

Jean Torkelson in the Rocky Mountain News had Anglican bishop to make case for leaving Episcopal Church, as well as Episcopal group ditches pastor, and earlier there had been Colorado Springs rector faces supporters, critics.

Meanwhile, Paul Asay has two more blog entries, Oh, these Tangled Webs and 33 Days and Counting.

The Associated Press had Church leader rebuts financial allegations.

Update
A further article in the Rocky Mountain News Episcopal parish in Springs invited to join breakaway group.
And also in the Colorado Springs Independent Grace’s state of confusion.

Further Update
Paul Asay has another blog entry: Breaking Up is Hard to Do.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 19 April 2007 at 8:42am BST | Comments (68) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Hereford case: hearing concludes

Updated 27 April

The employment tribunal hearing of the discrimination case against the Hereford Diocesan Board of Finance concluded on Monday in a long hearing that went from 10.20 am to 6.30 pm.

Judgement was reserved and will not be published for several weeks.

The day’s events attracted some press coverage:

Western Mail Church in a ‘shambles’ over homosexuality, says Synod member and an earlier version Church stand on homosexuality ‘a shambles’ with longer quotes.

BBC Judgement reserved at tribunal and Church’s gay policy ‘shambles’.

Norwich Evening News City diocese joins gay tribunal row and Norfolk Eastern Daily Press Anglican attitude to gays attacked.

Coventry Telegraph Bishop facing ‘gay bias’ claim.

My own report is due to appear in the Church Times on Friday. Last week’s report by Bill Bowder is here: Bishop: No extra-marital sex for leaders.

Press releases:
For the Claimant: John Reaney’s claim against the Diocese of Hereford closed today
For the Respondent: STATEMENT FROM THE DIOCESE OF HEREFORD…

Update The Church Times carried this report of mine on 20 April, Reaney judgment awaited. A copy of this article is reproduced below.

Reaney judgment awaited by Simon Sarmiento Church Times 20 April 2007
The employment tribunal completed its hearing of John Reaney’s discrimination claim against the diocese of Hereford on Monday (News, 13 April).

It heard, among other things, that the Church of England had “no firm position on homosexuality”. It then said that judgment would be reserved for several weeks.

Sue Johns, who has been a member of the General Synod for the diocese of Norwich since 1990, gave evidence in support of Mr Reaney. She had known him since 1997, when he became a youth officer in her diocese. The Church could not afford to lose the work of a man of his calibre, she said.

Noting that the Synod had never debated Issues in Human Sexuality (CHP, 1991), on which the Bishop of Hereford had relied earlier in the tribunal, she referred to documents from the General Synod sessions in February, as evidence of the current approach in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. These included the Archbishop of Canterbury’s presidential address, the House of Bishops background note (GS Misc 842B) for the debate on lesbian and gay Christians, and the resolution passed by the Synod.

Mrs Johns told the tribunal: “The Church of England has no consistency and no firm position on homosexuality. In addition, there are vast differences from one parish to another.”

Counsel for both sides then presented submissions, and were questioned by the tribunal chairman. Most facts in the case are undisputed, and it turns largely on the interpretation of the religious-exemption clause in the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, which make discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal (News, 5 April), and also on the identification of a “comparator” for testing the question of discrimination.

Counsel for the diocese insisted that the only correct comparison should be with an unmarried heterosexual man who declared that he had recently left a long-term sexual relationship. The Bishop had said that such a person would be subjected to exactly the same requirement of abstention from sexual activity as was Mr Reaney.

Counsel also argued that it was reasonable for the Bishop not to be satisfied with the undertakings given by Mr Reaney: that he would abstain, and would consult the Bishop if his circumstances changed.

Counsel for Mr Reaney argued that the High Court’s judicial review of the Regulations (News, 30 April 2004) had established that the religious exemption must be interpreted extremely narrowly to ensure that it remained compatible with European law; the tribunal was bound by that decision.

The scope of the exemption could not be extended to a lay employee merely by the Bishop’s choosing to describe him as a “minister of the gospel”. She argued that, in law, Mr Reaney would not be employed for the “purposes of an organised religion”.

Afterwards, Alison Downie, John Reaney’s solicitor, said: “My client has received many messages of support from outside and within the Churches — for which he is very grateful. All my client seeks is fair treatment in accordance with the law.”

A spokeswoman for the diocese of Hereford said: “We will comment further when judgment is received.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 at 9:08am BST | Comments (104) | TrackBack
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Canadian trip: press coverage

Many links to North American news coverage of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Canadian trip are at epiScope. See Rocket man and earlier He says he’s coming.

Here in the UK, Ekklesia has Archbishop seeks to build bridges with USA trip and Williams says the Bible invites listening not dogmatism.

The Living Church has Archbishop of Canterbury Agrees to Meet House of Bishops.

The Anglican Journal has an exclusive interview with the archbishop here: Archbishop will not cancel Lambeth Conference.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams considered cancelling the 2008 Lambeth Conference of the world’s Anglican bishops due to the sexuality debates roiling the church, but decided against it.

“Yes, we’ve already been considering that and the answer is no. We’ve been looking at whether the timing is right, but if we wait for the ideal time, we will wait more than just 18 months,” he told the Anglican Journal in an exclusive interview…

Read all of it.

And there is this Anglican Journal report: Williams bemoans loss of listening to Scripture.

Update
Here is a transcript of the press conference: Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, speaks to the press.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 at 8:31am BST | Comments (57) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 17 April 2007

The Bible: Reading and Hearing

As part of his current brief trip to Canada the Archbishop of Canterbury has given a lecture The Bible: Reading and Hearing to students at Wycliffe and Trinity theological colleges in Toronto. The full press release from Lambeth Palace is below the fold but here is the first paragraph.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan WIlliams, has told an audience of theological students that both intensely liberal and ultra conservative readings of the Bible are ‘rootless’ and are limited in what they can contribute to the life of the church. In the Larkin Stuart lecture, delivered today at an event hosted jointly by Wycliffe and Trinity theological colleges in Toronto, Dr Williams said that Christians need to reconnect with scripture as something to be listened to and heard in the context of Jesus’s invitation to the Eucharist and to work for the Kingdom.

The full text of the lecture is online here and here.

Archbishop - church needs to listen properly to the bible

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan WIlliams, has told an audience of theological students that both intensely liberal and ultra conservative readings of the Bible are ‘rootless’ and are limited in what they can contribute to the life of the church. In the Larkin Stuart lecture, delivered today at an event hosted jointly by Wycliffe and Trinity theological colleges in Toronto, Dr Williams said that Christians need to reconnect with scripture as something to be listened to and heard in the context of Jesus’s invitation to the Eucharist and to work for the Kingdom.

“… The Church’s public use of the Bible represents the Church as defined in some important way by listening: the community when it comes together doesn’t only break bread and reflect together and intercede, it silences itself to hear something. It represents itself in that moment as a community existing in response to a word of summons or invitation, to an act of communication that requires to be heard and answered.”

This, he argues, is crucial in the way in which the communities of Christians are informed by what the Scriptures say:

“Take Scripture out of this context of the invitation to sit at table with Jesus and to be incorporated into his labour and suffering for the Kingdom, and you will be treating Scripture as either simply an inspired supernatural guide for individual conduct or a piece of detached historical record - the typical exaggerations of Biblicist and liberal approaches respectively.”

“For the former, the work of the Spirit is more or less restricted to the transformation of the particular believer; for the latter, the life of the community is where the Spirit is primarily to be heard and discerned, with Scripture an illuninating adjunct at certain points.”

Dr Williams says that neither isolating texts from their contexts nor dismissing them as limited by prevalent cultural understanding were helpful approaches. Quoting from St John’s Gospel, Dr Williams said that Jesus’s teaching that ‘no-one can come to the Father except by me’ (John 14 v 6 ) could not be used simply as a trump card in discussions with other faiths: the verse needed to be heard in its full biblical context as the development of the question posed by his earlier saying, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ (John 13 v 33).

” … This certainly does not suggest in an direct way a more inclusive approach to other faiths. But the point is that the actual question being asked is not about the fate of non-Christians; it is about how the disciples are to understand the death of Jesus as the necessary clearing of the way which they are to walk.”

Similarly, St Paul’s denunciation of homosexuality in Romans 1 v 27 also needed to be properly heard as an ancilliary point in an argument about another matter entirely. That did not diminish its force but made it harder either to discard it or to use it as a definite proof text.

“It is not helpful for a ‘liberal’ or revisionist case, since the whole point of Paul’s rhetorical gambit is that everyone in his imagined readership agrees in thinking the same sex relations of the culture around them to be as obviously immoral as idol-worship or disobedience to parents. It is not very helpful to the conervative either, though, because Paul insists on shifting the focus away from the objects of moral disapprobation in chapter 1 to the reading / hearing subject who has at this point been happily identifying with Paul’s castigation of someone else … Paul is making a primary point not about homosexuality but about the delusions of the supposedly law- abiding. “

Christians cannot pick and choose amongst the texts of scripture, he concluded; the whole of the Bible needed ot be understood both as inspired and inspiring - the work of the Holy Spirit:

“It is the spirit that connects the periods of God’s communicative action towards humanity and thus connects the diverse texts that make up the one manifold text that we call Holy Scripture. The Spirit’s work as ‘breathing’ God’s wisdom into the text of Scripture is not a magical process that removes bilblical writing from the realm of actual human writing; it is the work of creating one ‘movement’ out of the diverse historical narratives and textual deposits that represent Israel’s and the Church’s efforts to find words to communicate God’s communication of summons and invitation.

“The Spirit through the events of God’s initiative stirs up the words and makes sense of them for the reader/hearer in the Spirit-sustained community. As Karl Barth insisted, this leaves no ground for breaking up Scripture into the parts we can ‘approve’ as God-inspired and the parts that are merely human; the whole is human and the whole is offered by God in and through the life of the body; always shaping and determining the form of that life. “

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 at 11:12am BST | Comments (107) | TrackBack
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Monday, 16 April 2007

Williams to visit US bishops - early press reports

Anglican Journal (Canada) Williams will meet with U.S. bishops
Episcopal Life Online Archbishop of Canterbury announces plans to visit the Episcopal Church
Both of these report that the visit will take place during the regular autumn meeting of the US House of Bishops already scheduled to take place in New Orleans from 20 to 25 September.

Jonathan Petre in the Telegraph Williams to meet liberal bishops over gays

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 10:53pm BST | Comments (44) | TrackBack
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Archbishop to visit US Church

Lambeth Palace has announced this evening that the Archbishop of Canterbury is to visit the US Episcopal Church in the autumn. The full text of the press release follows.

Archbishop to visit US Church

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has announced that he intends to visit the United States this autumn in response to the invitation from the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church.

Speaking in a press conference in Toronto, Dr Williams said he would undertake the visit together with members of the Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council:

“I look forward to some sharing of our experiences as pastors as well as discussion of the business of the Communion. These are complicated days for our church internationally and its all the more important to keep up personal relationships and conversations. ….my aim is to try and keep people around the table for as long as possible on this, to understand one another, and to encourage local churches”.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 16 April 2007 at 7:27pm BST | Comments (69) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 15 April 2007

Colorado Springs: another update

It’s all a bit confusing, but here are several further articles relating to this story.

Colorado Gazette Paul Asay Anglican group cuts ties with Armstrong which reports on the meeting yesterday at which Fr Armstrong spoke.

Denver Post Virginia Culver Episcopal priest denies funds misused

Sarah Dylan Breuer the “Communion” afterthought which examines the history of the ACI website in great detail.

A letter to the editor of the Gazette (apparently as yet unpublished) from Fr Armstrong’s senior warden (scroll down)

Diocese of Colorado letter from the bishop, and press release dated 14 April: full text below the fold.

From: Bishop O’Neill
Sent: Saturday, April 14, 2007 5:37 PM
To: Coloclergy
Subject: Update and Media Statement re. Grace Church

Dear Friends,

You will undoubtedly read various accounts in tomorrow morning’s papers regarding a meeting held this morning at Grace Church in Colorado Springs in which Don Armstrong offered a public response to the charges of financial misconduct that he is currently facing.

I am attaching to this email the media statement that my office released this afternoon in response to that meeting. I hope that you will find it helpful in the event that you have any questions from any members of your congregations.

I am indeed sorry that Father Armstrong has chosen this course of action. As you will see in the media statement, Father Armstrong has been offered a number of formal and informal opportunities to provide either me, the Chancellor, or the Church Attorney any evidence or explanation that would mitigate the allegations against him. Sadly, he has consistently declined to do so and has not been willing to respond to any reasonable questioning by those who are informed about the facts of the case against him.

With regard to both Father Armstrong’s conduct and the seizing of the property of Grace and Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church, I will certainly continue to pursue every legal course of action available—ecclesiastical, criminal, and civil—that I deem appropriate.

If there is any specific information that you would find helpful, or if you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to be in touch with me. It is important to me to do all that I can to keep you informed, particularly to the degree that it will support your pastoral leadership in your congregation. Again, please don’t hesitate to ask.

In the meantime, please know that I am grateful to you for your patience with this very sad and unfortunate situation. I continue to ask your prayers for Don and his family and for all the people of Grace Church.

God’s peace and blessing be with you all. Yours faithfully in Christ,
Bishop O’Neill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2007
Contact: Beckett Stokes, bstokes@coloradodiocese.org
(303) 748-9835 mobile
(303) 837-1173 office

The public meeting conducted by the Rev. Donald Armstrong today does not constitute a legitimate response to the serious charges of financial misconduct pending against him.

The Canons of the Church provide a clear and reasonable process by which allegations of wrongdoing against any member of the clergy can be investigated and resolved. This process – which is based on the United States Military’s Uniform Code of Military Justice – is designed to protect the interests of all involved, and provides those accused of wrongdoing with particular protections and avenues of appeal. The bishop and diocese have followed this process faithfully. In the course of the investigation, Rev. Armstrong has been formally and informally invited by the bishop, the diocesan chancellor and the Church Attorney on several occasions to offer information and evidence that would mitigate or provide reasonable explanations for the allegations against him. He has not availed himself of these opportunities.

Rev. Armstrong has chosen instead to violate the terms of his inhibition (or temporary administrative leave), make many misleading and false public statements, and work actively – along with former members of the parish’s vestry - to illegally take the real property of the Episcopal parish of Grace and St. Stephen’s from its rightful occupants and put it under the control of a Nigerian bishop.

Rev. Armstrong remains an Episcopal priest, under inhibition by his bishop, facing trial on several charges of financial and other misconduct in Ecclesiastical Court.

The Presentment prepared by the Church Attorney and the Diocesan Review Committee, which outlines these charges and the evidence supporting them, is a public document and available from the diocese upon request.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 15 April 2007 at 12:23pm BST | Comments (60) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 14 April 2007

Clearly defined Anglicanism

In last week’s Church Times David L. Edwards argues that the new Anglican Covenant may already be out of date.

Read the whole article here.

WILL THE NEW Anglican Covenant, which has already been drafted, be regarded as decisive by many people over many years? The history of attempts to define Anglicanism in a long text do not suggest a “Yes” — unless the Covenant is revised substantially as well as stylistically…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 14 April 2007 at 10:39pm BST | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Canadian press review

Update The Toronto Star had a third article: Gay rights, church’s `defining moment’

Retired Connecticut Bishop Arthur Walmsley can only watch from the sidelines as his beloved Anglican church rips itself apart over gay rights – and he couldn’t be more proud, however much the process saddens him…

and

…Retired Toronto archbishop Terry Finlay echoed Walmsley’s comments and called on the Canadian church to endorse same-sex blessings despite dire warnings about the consequences…
——

On the eve of Archbishop Rowan Williams’ visit to Canada, the Toronto Star had two articles:

Anglican heat on eve of prelate’s visit

On the eve of a visit to this country by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Canada’s Anglican leader is trying to defuse fallout from a story in the British press in which he accuses the head of the church of being “indecisive” and failing to lead through a crisis over gay rights that threatens to split the church worldwide.

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Canadian church, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph this week that Rowan Williams’s handling of the homosexuality crisis had been “disappointing and lacking” at critical points…

A gentle call to stay strong

OTTAWA–Choosing his words carefully, the longtime former leader of the Canadian Anglican Church opened a conference on gay rights in the church last night with a gentle, but deliberate, nudge toward acceptance and a rejection of rigid doctrine.

“Matters of doctrine become matters of control,” Michael Peers, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada from 1986 to 2004, said, breaking three years of public silence…

The Hamilton Spectator has Archbishop will hear all issues

Technically, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican church, is coming to our diocese to lead bishops in prayer, not to discuss the fractious business of gay clergy and same-sex blessings.

“But I don’t think he’ll be praying through dinner,” says the Right Rev. Ralph Spence, bishop of the Diocese of Niagara and the official host for the whirlwind 48-hour visit next week by the Most Rev. Rowan Williams.

“You can’t get bishops together and not have them share their thoughts on everything,” Spence said in an interview this week…

The Edmonton Journal has Anglican primate visits Canadian church on brink of schism

“One of the most difficult jobs in Christendom.”

That’s how Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent for the Times of London, describes the work of the Archbishop of Canterbury, a position of high expectations and heavy responsibility, but little or no power.

Archbishop Dr. Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world’s 70 million Anglicans, comes to Canada Sunday for a three-day visit, his first since assuming the Chair of St. Augustine, as the office is more loftily known, in 2002…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 14 April 2007 at 10:13pm BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Connecticut: Bishop cleared of charges

Episcopal News Service has published Charges dropped against Connecticut bishop.

See also, the Connecticut diocesan statement Ecclesiastical charges against the Rt. Rev. Andrew D. Smith dropped by Episcopal Church review committee.

The full report of the Title IV Review Committee can be downloaded here (PDF, 4.5 Mbytes).

There is another report by the Living Church: Investigation Clears Bishop of Connecticut. It includes this:

At several points in the decision the review committee made comparisons of the actions of the six clergy to recommendations made in the so-called “Chapman Memo,” an unofficial strategy report leaked to the press that called for widespread canonical disobedience with the objective being the replacement of The Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion.

“The AAC [American Anglican Council] had advised dissenting priests and congregations to plan and prepare to separate themselves from their dioceses but not to say that they were ‘out of communion’ with the dioceses, precisely in order to avoid proceedings under Canon IV.10,” the decision stated. “While it may seem surprising and even ironic that priests could be found to have abandoned the communion of the Church while protesting that they were not leaving the Church and are in fact trying to preserve the Church’s communion with Anglicans worldwide, the canons do not preclude addressing the acts of the six priests described above through Title IV, Canon 10.”

Fr. Hansen was removed from priestly ministry within The Episcopal Church, but the other five continue to serve as rectors of their respective parishes. Based on the review committee decision it would appear there is no impediment to prevent Bishop Smith from immediately removing the other five, but Karin Hamilton, the director of communication for the diocese, said she is unaware of any such plans by Bishop Smith.

Hartford Courant Review Panel Clears Episcopal Leader and this earlier report from Associated Press Church Dismisses Religious Charges Against Episcopal Bishop.
New Haven Register Charges against Episcopal bishop dropped

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ACI disassociates itself from Grace Church

The Anglican Communion Institute has issued a statement, Announcement Concerning the Anglican Communion Institute via Stand Firm and titusonenine which can be read in full here, or alternatively here, and which concludes:

…In consequence of the legal and ecclesiastical struggles Grace Church and Fr Armstrong are now engaged with, we judge it proper to dissolve our relationship with the web-site and all activities of Grace Church (CANA or TEC), so that the charges of the Presentment and other matters of public trust and ecclesial jurisdiction might be resolved without interference.

We will continue to work on matters related to the Anglican Communion in the same way as previously.

Christopher Seitz, President
Philip Turner, Vice-President
Ephraim Radner, Senior Fellow

Understandably, this statement has not yet appeared on the ACI website operated on behalf of the ACI from Colorado Springs. There are some further comments of interest on titusonenine.

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comment columns

In The Times Luis Rodriguez who is an Anglican priest writes that the Church will find a special place for its scapegoats — again.

In the Daily Telegraph Christopher Howse asks How did the death of Jesus save us?

In the Guardian Nicholas Buxton, an ordinand at Stephen’s House, writes the Face to Faith column.

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times about The great thanksgiving at sunrise.

There is an excellent article in The New Yorker by Jane Kramer on The Pope and Islam.

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Friday, 13 April 2007

More from Ephraim Radner

Over in Pueblo, Colorado, Dr Ephraim Radner Rector of Church of the Ascension has written another article, titled The March Statement by the House of Bishops: Confusing the Flock which criticises the statement issued by the meeting of the House of Bishops which he himself had earlier addressed.

Many, including those opposing its content, have praised the recent House of Bishops Statement for its “clarity”. In what follows, I want to dispute that evaluation. The Statement is unclear in numerous important respects, except one, viz. its animus against the Anglican Communion’s Primates’ Meeting. The reasons for that animus, however, are hardly spelled out, are often contradictory, and are lodged within a tissue of assertions that are without stated rationale. This is not clarity at all. And in the context of the current agonized and conflicted debate within TEC and the Communion, the Statement amounts to an act of pastoral and theological irresponsibility of the highest order….

Warning: there are over 8000 words in the article.

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Colorado Springs: update

The Colorado Springs Gazette on Friday published this letter from nineteen former vestry members from Grace and St. Stephens Episcopal Church, under the headline Pastor must answer important questions. It begins:

We are 19 former vestry members from Grace and St. Stephens Episcopal Church. Between us, we served almost every year when Father Don Armstrong was rector. Though we represent a variety of views on the moral issues facing our church, those issues are not in question here.

At issue is the commandment: Thou shalt not steal. Armstrong is exploiting theological divisions within the Episcopal Church to avoid a canonical investigation about his alleged financial wrongdoing. He has defied church and civil law by occupying and taking property from the church he and his allies left. We cannot keep silent.

Armstrong dismisses inquiries into his financial activities. He cries “religious persecution.” Consider the facts and ask: Is Armstrong trustworthy? Is he guilty of financial wrongdoing? Do he and his followers have a lawful basis for taking church property?

The background to this was explained Thursday by Paul Asay on his blog in Breaking Ranks:

Tomorrow’s edition of The Gazette will contain a letter from 19 ex-vestry members of Grace who, in essence, are publicly questioning their former rector’s honesty.

“(The Rev. Donald) Armstrong is exploiting theological divisions within the Episcopal Church to avoid a canonical investigation about his alleged financial wrongdoing,” the letter says. “He has defied church and civil law by occupying and taking property from the church he and his allies left. We cannot keep silent.”

I talked with one of these former vestry members a few days ago. Timothy Fuller served on the vestry only a year, and resigned in January after learning, he says, that the vestry was secretly talking with Armstrong (which violated Armstrong’s suspension) and was plotting to break away from The Episcopal Church…

In another Thursday blog entry More Grace Info … Paul Asay writes:

This Saturday, the Rev. Donald Armstrong, longtime rector of Grace Church and St. Stephen’s Parish, will try to explain away allegations that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from his church.

One of the main issues he’ll likely address is how he allegedly used the Anglican Communion Institute, a conservative theological think-tank operated as a ministry of Grace. Armstrong is still listed on its Web site as its executive director.

Timothy Fuller, a former vestry member of Grace, said he served on the ACI’s board for three years. Not once in those three years, Fuller said, did the board formally meet.

In October 2006, according to Fuller, Armstrong told the vestry that the ACI had borrowed about $170,000 from Grace over several years, and the vestry resolved the Institute would pay it back in $10,000 yearly installments, beginning this year.The vestry meeting was the first time Fuller had heard of the $170,000 the ACI allegedly borrowed. He resigned from the Institute’s board two months later.

According to the Rev. Christopher Seitz, president of the ACI and a professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, the ACI shouldn’t have been very expensive.

“The only cost of running the Institute is our time, which we give away, and a Web site, which involves nominal costs,” Seitz said in an e-mail. “Travel reimbursements were handled by the executive director, or we paid for these costs ourselves. There are no employees, no overhead in a formal sense, no hard-copy publications and no programs to fund.”

The presentment alleges that Armstrong caused the church to pay $146,316 beginning in March 2003 as “outreach expenses” to the Institute — money it never received. According to the presentment, the checks in question were made payable to “Donald Armstrong College Fund” or “College Fund.”

Armstrong says the ACI actually funded several projects, and acknowledged his children’s education was one of them…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 13 April 2007 at 11:12pm BST | Comments (14) | TrackBack
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The Mystery of Salvation

The Church Times reports in Dean stands by Radio 4 talk on cross by Pat Ashworth that:

Dr John writes in his letter that the teaching of his talk was exactly in line with the guidance given by the Church of England’s Doctrine Commission in its 1995 report The Mystery of Salvation. He quotes the report: “The notion of propitiation as the placating by man of an angry God is definitely unchristian.”

What he said in full on this point was :

The most recent statement by the Church of England on the meaning of the Cross is the Doctrine Commission’s report The Mystery of Salvation (1995).

It restates the view of the 1938 Commission that “the notion of propitiation as the placating by man of an angry God is definitely unchristian” (p. 213). It also observes that “the traditional vocabulary of atonement with its central themes of law, wrath, guilt, punishment and acquittal, leave many Christians cold and signally fail to move many people, young and old, who wish to take steps towards faith. These images do not correspond to the spiritual search of many people today and therefore hamper the Church’s mission.”

Instead, it recommends that the Cross should be presented “as revealing the heart of a fellow-suffering God” (p. 113).

The Church Times also reports that:

The Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, reportedly also criticised the BBC for allowing such a prominent slot to be given to such a “provocative argument”.

The Sunday Telegraph report quoted him as saying: “[Dr John] is denying the way in which we understand Christ’s sacrifice. It is right to stress that he is a God of love, but he is ignoring that this means he must also be angry at everything that distorts human life.”

But it doesn’t mention that Dr Wright was himself a member of the Doctrine Commission.

The full text of the letter is at the bottom of the news report linked above.

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Thursday, 12 April 2007

Tom Butler speaks about the primates

Here is a part of the Presidential Address delivered by the Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, to his Diocesan Synod on 10 March 2007:

…The same might be said of the Primates Meeting in Tanzania. None of us were there but in a letter to Primates last week Archbishop Rowan observed that the meeting was far from being an easy few days but he believed that it had been a productive gathering with a great deal of honesty. The product of the meeting was a communiqué containing a set of demands to which the American Church must respond by the end of September, and a draft covenant to which provinces are to respond and their bishops are to discuss further at next year’s Lambeth Conference.

We’ll look a little more closely at both covenant and communiqué a little later in our agenda, but now I’d like to reflect upon what might be a flaw at the heart of this approach to our difficulties…

…I may be getting this wrong, but I believe that the Primates have ignored or underestimated the strength and depth of these values in church as well as state in the United States. The church was the creation of popular democracy after the revolution. Church congregations in each state voted as to whether they wished for bishops to be appointed. Still today, bishops in America have no authority to veto decisions of their diocesan councils. African bishops might in some places be in a position to hire and fire their clergy at will; American bishops have no such authority and would regard it as being un-American.

Whatever the issue, then, for primates to instruct or request American bishops to take actions which appear to them to be undemocratic, or exceeding their powers, is to ask something that they are not in a position to deliver without denying their church polity, culture and history, however loyal they wish to be to the Communion.

And here I believe lies the fundamental flaw. The Primates have misunderstood the nature of our communion. From the consecration of the first overseas Anglican bishops there was no intention of creating a kind of Soviet bloc Communion where each province had to march in step with one another.

Listen to this letter of the English Bishops to the Philadelphia Convention in 1786 when they had been requested to consecrate an American priest as bishop. They wrote: ‘We cannot but be extremely cautious, lest we should be the instruments of establishing an ecclesiastical system which will be called a branch of the Church of England, but afterwards may possibly appear to have departed from it essentially, either in doctrine or discipline.’

There was no intention then of creating a branch of the Church of England in America, or an Anglican satellite, and the English bishops were ultimately satisfied in their negotiations with the General Convention and America had their bishops but in way far more accountable to local church democracy than we have ever seen here.

Of course most of the Anglican Churches in the Communion were established in countries which were part of the British Empire, with bishops initially sent out to serve from England. But that was not universally so, and just as the nations achieved independence with their own constitutions, so we see autonomous local Anglican provinces with their own constitutions and systems of canon law.

And just as many of these nations, with others, have voluntarily become members of the Commonwealth symbolically focussed on the Queen, but with no pretence of having authority in one another’s nations, so the Anglican provinces find the focus of their unity in the archbishop of Canterbury, but up until now there has been no sense of having authority in one another’s provinces. That is not the post-Tanzanian meeting climate. We will see later in the year whether the American bishops can find the form of words demanded of them. I could offer them one or two priests from the Diocese of Southwark who are skilled in drafting words which take us to the brink but not quite over it. It might be possible and we might yet all show up at the Lambeth Conference next year.

But whether we do or not, I would like us to return to our roots and ask ourselves, is it our calling to be a Communion where we must march in step, and if one province departs from the others in doctrine or discipline, they must depart the Communion because otherwise the others feel compromised? Or is it our calling to be a Commonwealth of Anglican provinces, uncompromised by the beliefs and behaviour of other provinces, trusting that they know what is best for the Church and world in their particular culture with their particular history and tradition. I don’t hear that argument being made. Perhaps it should be…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 12 April 2007 at 12:00pm BST | Comments (49) | TrackBack
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North American travel notes

Citing “Scheduling conflicts with the Easter season and summer vacations” the Living Church reports ‘Windsor Bishops’ Unlikely to Meet Before August. When they do meet it will be in Navasota, Texas.

Meanwhile, Episcopal News Service reports that:

An Executive Council work group, appointed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, has begun considering the role, responsibilities and potential response of the Executive Council to the issues raised by the recent communiqué from the Primates of the Anglican Communion.

See Executive Council group begins communiqué work, which mentions that the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church will meet in Parsippany, New Jersey 11-14 June. Also, see Draft Response to Primates’ Communique Reviewed in the Living Church.

The Anglican Church of Canada will hold its triennal General Synod in Winnipeg, Manitoba from 19-25 June.

Before that the Canadian House of Bishops will hold its Spring meeting at Niagara Falls, Ontario from 16 to 20 April. The Archbishop of Canterbury will join them to lead a one-day retreat on Tuesday 17 April. See Anglican Journal report Canterbury comes to Canada.

Prior to that on Monday 16 April he will hold a press conference at 10:45 am, at the Anglican Church of Canada’s National Office in Toronto, Ontario. I daresay he will be asked questions about the report by Jonathan Petre in the Daily Telegraph Primate says Williams is indecisive leader (see also Living Church Canadian Primate: Communion Headed Toward Schism.)

In today’s Guardian Stephen Bates reports as follows:

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is still hesitating about whether to accept an invitation from American bishops to meet them to discuss the gay crisis in the Anglican communion, even though it turns out that he is spending part of the summer in the US. The American Episcopalians are threatened with expulsion from the worldwide church after September because of their welcoming attitude towards gays and, following a meeting last month, their bishops asked to meet Dr Williams to explain their point of view. You might think that the archbishop would want to meet them, not least since they provide much of the money which keeps the Anglican mission going. His answer instead is that he is planning to spend much of the next three months on sabbatical and holiday, so won’t be available. What the Church of England hasn’t said is that he’ll be in the US. Asked yesterday whether he might offer them a little time, Williams’s spokesman said: “No, that’s off limits.”

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Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Colorado: presentment issued

Since the previous report here on CANA in Colorado there has been extensive local newspaper coverage of developments at Grace Church and St. Stephen’s Parish. You can find links to most of those stories via epiScope.

One recent story is Grace asks court to protect property from state diocese by Paul Assay in the Colorado Springs Gazette. This links to a PDF file (650K) of the presentment issued against The Reverend Donald Armstrong by the Diocese of Colorado.

Yesterday, the same reporter wrote Date set for Grace parishioners to vote on vestry’s severed ties. This includes:

MORE DETAILS ABOUT ARMSTRONG’S CHARGES PRESENTED BY DIOCESE

The Episcopal Diocese of Colorado released a copy of its charges against the Rev. Donald Armstrong on Friday, providing far greater detail of the Colorado Springs priest’s alleged misuse of funds.

Armstrong, longtime rector for Grace Church and St. Stephen’s Parish, was suspended in December while the diocese investigated whether he misapplied church money. The document released Friday — a presentment to the diocese’s ecclesiastical court — is a summary of what the investigation found. The presentment alleges:

- Armstrong used a scholarship fund, whose committee hasn’t met since 1992, to fund his own children’s education, provide an $8,800 grant for a former associate and for other unknown uses. Alleged theft: $115,387.

- The “outreach expenses” on the books that Grace Church made to the Anglican Communion Institute, Grace’s conservative think tank, never reached the institute. Instead, those payments were made to accounts called “Donald Armstrong — College Fund” or “College Fund.” Alleged theft: $146,316.

- The church paid for cell phones, personal computers and car expenses for his wife and children. Alleged theft: $130,707.

- Armstrong caused the church to underreport hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and benefits, including $261,703 for his children’s college-related expenses, $110,920 in personal expenses and $81,589 in unpaid, no-interest “loans” the church gave Armstrong. Alleged unreported income: $548,097.

- Armstrong received 14 loans from the church over 10 to 12 years, even though state law says corporations (Grace Church) can’t loan money to directors or officers. Total value of the alleged loans: $122,479.

The presentment, issued by the Diocesan Review Committee, also alleges that Armstrong misused the church’s discretionary fund account, broke the terms of his suspension, and encumbered the church with $4.5 million in debt without diocesan permission.

Jim Naughton has drawn attention to the part of the presentment (page 5) which says:

…the Anglican Communion Institute (“ACI”) is a ministry of Grace Church. While ACI is not a legal entity, it has its own checking account. The operating accounts of Grace Church and ACI were used interchangeably to pay for the operating expenses of the other….

Christopher Seitz has made this comment about the above:

This is confusing to us at ACI. ACI was formed at the January 2004 conference in Charleston, with the dissolving of SEAD, so as to assist several Primates and the work of the AC. Prior to this, there was an ‘Anglican Institute’ at Grace Church. Many of the dates in the Presentment pre-date ACI but could pertain to AI. It is unclear where the confusion is being introduced. Then again, in one newspaper account, it is made to appear that ACI was a victim of this ‘bad book-keeping.’ So until there is more public airing, things remain unclear. The way this has unfolded, the potential for confusion and hurt is maximised in a way that is tragic. C Seitz, President, ACI

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Monday, 9 April 2007

more Easter columns

Judith Maltby wrote Easter: finding God on Comment is free.

Richard Harries wrote Why the church must ease the pain of Rowan’s Passion in Sunday’s Observer.

Stephen Bates wrote Easter: a cross to bear on Comment is free.

The Sunday Times published this Leader: Misplaced sympathy in response to a news report by Christopher Morgan Bishop praises Iran.
Update Monday- Libby Purves has more comment on this matter in Religion: it makes bishops go bonkers.

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church Idris Jones wrote this Easter Message.

The Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan wrote this Easter Message.

The Archbishop of Armagh Alan Harper wrote another Easter Message.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote New life out of death: a message for Easter.

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Sunday, 8 April 2007

Easter Day sermons

Archbishop of Canterbury: human failure is overcome by God’s love

Archbishop of York: Victory and Peace of the Resurrection

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 8 April 2007 at 2:50pm BST | Comments (32) | TrackBack
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two radio items

The BBC radio programme Sunday had segments on both the Hereford case and the Radio talk.

Penal substitution. Start here and go forward here 24.5 minutes. Lasts about 7 minutes. No bishops.

Employment discrimination. Same file, immediately after the above. Or go forward from the beginning 31.5 minutes.Also lasts about 7 minutes. Still no bishops.

Better URLs later in the week.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 8 April 2007 at 2:30pm BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 7 April 2007

Easter weekend columns

The Times
Geoffrey Rowell On Easter morning a new order broke into the world
And Pete Wilcox Don’t be afraid of the winged messengers

Guardian
Tom Wright Easter’s message of resurrection is a powerful one
And Giles Fraser Embrace freedom

Daily Telegraph
Christopher Howse Ancient Easters caught in stone
And Leader The flesh and blood hopes of Easter

Church Times
Leader Called to be witnesses
And Giles Fraser Why liberals believe the resurrection

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Thursday, 5 April 2007

Hereford case: Thursday report

Today, Thursday, John Reaney gave evidence to the tribunal, see this report from the Press Association Bishop ‘embarrassed’ gay job applicant:

…At the meeting on July 19, Bishop Priddis wanted to ask Mr Reaney, who currently works for the Weston Spirit charity, the reasons why he had left his youth worker post in the Diocese of Chester in 2002 after 16 months.

Mr Reaney told the tribunal today he resigned after being asked to choose between his partner and his job.

Around four months prior to the meeting with Bishop Priddis, Mr Reaney said this five-year relationship had come to an end.

During a two-hour meeting at The Palace in Hereford, which was also attended by John Chapman, the chairman of the Hereford Diocesan Board of Education, Mr Reaney claims the Bishop first asked him about his relationship history.

“I said I was not in a sexual relationship and was not looking for one and that I was able to exercise self control,” said Mr Reaney.

“The Bishop put it to me that this situation could change. I made it very clear to the Bishop that I was not seeking a relationship and would adhere to his wishes if I were under his authority.

“I would communicate with him if I was struggling. He asked me ’what would you do if you met someone?’

“I told that if I felt a relationship might develop in the future, I would discuss it with him.

“However, I reiterated to him that I was not in a sexual relationship and I did intend to remain that way and I explicitly told him that I was certainly happy to remain celibate for the duration of the post.”

He added: “When the Bishop asked me if I thought it was appropriate for a Youth Officer to have such a homosexual relationship, I turned to the Bishop and said ’before we go any further what is your stance?’

“His words to me were ’whilst many of our colleagues are becoming more liberal on the issue, I find myself becoming more conservative.’

“At this point my heart sank. That was the turning point in the conversation for me.”

Mr Reaney said he was left “very embarrassed and extremely upset” following the meeting…

BBC Bishop ‘upset’ gay lay applicant

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newspaper reports on BBC talk

Updated Friday evening

The Times Marcus Leroux Crucifixion ‘makes God into a psychopath’.

Telegraph Jonathan Petre Crucifixion makes God seem like a psychopath, says cleric.

The Guardian’s correspondent Stephen Bates wrote a piece for the newspaper which didn’t get printed. You can read it below. Maybe TA readers would like to suggest what headline the newspaper should have used…
Update Friday evening A revised version of this article has now been published at Comment is Free under the title To forgive is divine.

And Damian Thompson of the Telegraph has blogged The sound bite that sunk its teeth in.

Update Friday morning
William Crawley has helpfully linked to the two-page BBC Religion discussion of Theories of the Atonement.

Article by Stephen Bates

Evangelical Anglican bishops yesterday expressed their dismay that the BBC had allowed Dr Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans who four years ago was hounded out of a bishopric because of his homosexuality, to give a “tragic” Lenten talk criticising their view of the Good Friday crucifixion by claiming it made God out to be a psychopath.

Insisting that their attack had nothing to do with renewing their assault on Dr John, the two suffragan bishops, the Rt. Revs. Pete Broadbent of Willesden and Wallace Benn of Lewes, claimed their criticism was theological not personal. They admitted, however, that they had not read the talk before launching their attack.

In the broadcast last night, Dr John said that the evangelical belief that Christ atoned for the sins of the world through his execution, made God out to be a monster: “What sort of God was this, getting so angry with the world and the people He created and then, to calm himself down, demanding the blood of His own son? And anyway, why should God forgive us through punishing someone else? It was worse than illogical, it was insane. It made God sound like a psychopath. If any human being behaved like this we’d say they were a monster.”

Dr John was forced to stand down as the newly-appointed Bishop of Reading in 2003 by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, his old friend, who had previously endorsed the appointment, following protests by evangelicals. The dean has admitted being gay and in a long-term relationship which he insists is chaste but has in the past spoken in favour of a more accepting attitude to gays in the church.

The doctrine of substitutionary atonement or penal substitution as it is called, remains highly controversial even among evangelicals. Critics say it makes no sense of Christ’s frequent talk of forgiveness in the Gospels and also devalues the importance of the Resurrection story on Easter Sunday. Dr John said: “God shows He knows what it is like to be the loser; God hurts and weeps and bleeds and dies…he bears our griefs and shares our sorrow.”

Bishop Broadbent said: “I think he is not being true to Scripture. He denies that there is a need for atonement… and wants us to see the death of Jesus as only expressing self-giving love and entering into ultimate suffering. It is of course - thank God - but it is also so much more. He is caricaturing the doctrine in order to criticise it. I am not being homophobic. It’s not a war on Jeffrey John. I’ve got nothing against him at all.”

In an entry on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website, the Rev. Giles Fraser, vicar of Putney and a friend of Dr John’s, wrote: “Easter is a time for stringing up the innocent and this year once again the sacrificial victim is the dean of St Albans. We all know the reason why he’s hated by conservatives…not because he’s gay but because he’s honest…he has been saying nothing but the truth known by most people in the pews: that the idea of God murdering His son for the salvation of the world is barbaric and morally indefensible.”

Dr John himself last night insisted his remarks were in line with the Church of England’s doctrinal commission on the subject, drawn up among others by Dr Williams and the evangelical bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, who said at the weekend he was “fed up” with the BBC for allowing such “unfortunate views” to be broadcast.

Dr John said: “One of the reasons I wanted to give the talk was that the doctrine of the cross I was taught as a child kept me from faith for a long time and I have met very many others who have reacted in the same way.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 5 April 2007 at 2:20pm BST | Comments (24) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 4 April 2007

bishops attack a talk they have not read

The BBC Radio 4 series Lent Talks has had six well-known figures reflect on the story of Jesus’ ministry and Passion from the perspective of their own personal and professional experience. The BBC web page, with all the audio and text files is here.

Tonight, the talk by Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans “rejects the idea of a God of wrath” to quote the BBC blurb.

The full text of the talk can now be read here.

This talk has been the subject of a surprising amount of pre-publicity, starting with a report in the Sunday Telegraph with a ridiculously misleading headline, Easter message: Christ did not die for sin.

Giles Fraser writing today on Comment is Free in an article titled Cross purposes says:

Easter is a time for stringing up the innocent. And this year, once again, the sacrificial victim is the dean of St Albans, Dr Jeffrey John. Of course, we all know the reason why he’s hated by conservatives in the church. No, not because he is gay, but because he’s honest. And it’s this same honesty that has got him in trouble again. For, once again, what he has been saying is nothing other than a truth known by most people in the pews: that the idea of God murdering his son for the salvation of the world is barbaric and morally indefensible. It turns Christianity into “cosmic child abuse”.

The technical theological term for this nasty perversion of the Easter story is penal substitution

The topic was also discussed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning:

0735 A senior clergymen is afraid that some Christian teaching suggests God is a psychopath.

Ekklesia had Evangelical Bishops attack Jeffrey John talk (without reading it):

Two junior evangelical bishops have attacked a Lent talk to be given tonight on BBC’s Radio 4 by Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans cathedral, without reading it.

In a statement released today from the evangelical Spring Harvest event, the Rt Revd Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes and the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willsden, said Jeffrey John had “got it wrong”.

However, both bishops later told Ekklesia that they had yet to read the 2,200 word transcript of the talk.

However, apparently contradicting several of the claims made by the bishops, in the transcript obtained by Ekklesia in advance of the broadcast tonight, Jeffrey John states: “On the cross Jesus dies for our sins; the price of our sin is paid.”

When asked whether the bishops would issue a correction Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willsden declined. He said: “As the BBC have not made a transcript available, we have had to comment on the material that is available.”

He said that he had read an article in the Sunday Telegraph about it, and listened to a discussion on Radio 4 this morning about it…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 4 April 2007 at 8:35pm BST | Comments (75) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Hereford case: diocese issues statement

Updated Thursday morning

Statement from the Diocese of Hereford April 03rd 2007

“The Bishop of Hereford denies any unlawful discrimination and has acted in accordance with Church teaching in applying a standard of sexual practice that applied equally to heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and transsexual people and not on the orientation of any particular group. We expect the same sexual standards of behaviour from support ministers, or lay ministers, as we do of clergy. We will not comment further whilst the Employment Tribunal proceedings are continuing.”

Anni Holden, Director of Communications
The Diocesan Office, The Palace, Hereford HR4 9BL
Tel: 01432 373342 mobile 07889 186316
a.holden@hereford.anglican.org
www.hereford.anglican.org

Updates
Wednesday morning press reports:
Press Association Bishop accused of discrimination

Wednesday afternoon press reports:
Press Association Bishop denies discrimination
Hereford Times Bishop gives evidence
BBC Bishop faces gay claim tribunal

PA reports:

Bishop Priddis said at a staff meeting on July 19 last year, following the interview process for the youth worker position, he learnt that Mr Reaney had indicated on his application form that he was gay.

He said he subsequently decided to call Mr Reaney in for a discussion during which it emerged that he had not long come out of a five-year homosexual relationship.

The Bishop said he concluded that Mr Reaney was not emotionally in a position to be making promises about his behaviour for the future. “Such sexuality in itself was not an issue but Mr Reaney’s lifestyle had the potential to impact on the spiritual, moral and ethical leadership within the diocese.,” said Bishop Priddis.

He said he made it quite clear to Mr Reaney that a person in a committed sexual relationship outside of marriage, whether they were heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgender, would also be turned down for the job, which he said was a key appointment within the diocese.

The Bishop said this view on sex outside of marriage was reinforced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the General Synod, the national assembly of the Church of England, and the Lambeth Conference, which is a meeting of the archbishops and bishops of the Anglican Communion every ten years.

The tribunal heard the job was not offered to anyone else after Bishop Priddis vetoed the appointment.

After highlighting the limited finances of his diocese, Bishop Priddis said: “Even had Mr Reaney been appointed last summer, there would have been the possibility of him being made redundant and that could have happened sooner rather than later.”

Under cross-examination from Mr Reaney’s barrister, Sandhya Drew, Bishop Priddis denied he had breached the equal opportunity policy of his own diocese.

He said: “The Church’s teachings draws distinction between sexual orientation and practice and lifestyle.

“We didn’t discriminate against Mr Reaney on the grounds of sexuality. Had we done so we wouldn’t have called him for an interview.”

Wednesday evening:
BBC Bishop denies gay discrimination
Daily Mail/Evening Standard Why I barred gay worker, by the bishop:

… Mr Reaney said he had recently ended a five-year homosexual relationship and gave an undertaking that he would not have another.

But, said the bishop, giving evidence: “I had my misgivings. If he had remained celibate it would have satisfied this issue. The question was, did I have good reason for believing that was his position, and my conclusion was: no.”

Thursday morning
Church Times Bill Bowder (written before the hearing yesterday) Tribunal case after bishop blocks job for youth worker

…Mr Reaney was an experienced youth worker when he applied for the post. The Norwich diocese had employed him as a youth officer for four years. He left to go to the diocese of Chester in 2001 with good references, a diocesan spokeswoman said.

A Chester diocesan spokesman said that Mr Reaney had spent a year as a youth officer in the diocese and that his work had been “successful”. Asked whether Mr Reaney’s sexuality had been discussed in any public fora, the spokesman said: “That was not an issue with us.” It was an issue arising in another diocese, he said.

Peter Ball, the Church of England’s national youth officer, who wrote a reference for Mr Reaney for the Hereford post, said on Monday that he had written it “on the basis of his capability to do the job. He is a good person to do the job.” Mr Ball would make no further comment, as he was directly involved in the tribunal proceedings, which he was due to attend on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Sue Johns, a General Synod representative for the Norwich diocese, said that she was also attending as a witness for Mr Reaney. “I had experience of his ministry in Norwich diocese, which was quite amazing,” she said.

“He was immensely gifted with young people and he brought many young people to faith. He engaged them, enlivened them, and energised them. He set up a diocesan youth synod in the 1990s. He left because he came from the north of England, and he saw a job in Chester diocese, which was closer to home.”

The Times David Sanderson Gay man’s lifestyle made him unfit for post, insists bishop

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 3 April 2007 at 6:51pm BST | Comments (35) | TrackBack
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AffCath: Church must practice respect it teaches

Affirming Catholicism press release 3 April, 2007

Lesbian and gay Christians: Church must practice respect it teaches

Affirming Catholicism, the progressive Anglican Organisation, has welcomed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent statement on the place of lesbian and gay people in the Anglican Church and called on him to champion the cause of gay people inside the Church as well as arguing for their fair treatment in civil society. Dr Williams statement came after the publication of a report on the ‘listening process’ which Anglican Churches world-wide pledged themselves to engage in since at least 1978 when the Lambeth Conference - the 10 yearly gathering of Anglican Bishops - called for a ‘deep and dispassionate study’ of homosexuality. In his response the Archbishop says that Anglicans are ‘to manifest a credible respect for the proper liberties of homosexual people.’ As well as condemning repressive legislation and hate crimes he calls for the Church to be a ‘safe space where people may be honest and where they may be confident that they will have their human dignity respected.’ The Chair of the Executive Committee of Affirming Catholicism, the Rev’d Dr Barry Norris said:

We’re delighted that the Archbishop has so unequivocally affirmed the place of lesbian and gay people in society and in the Church. However there are still parts of the Communion which have not yet openly acknowledged the presence of homosexual people, still less made a safe and welcoming place for them. At the same time North American Churches are being censured for engaging in precisely the sort of process the Archbishop and successive Lambeth Conferences have called for. We very much hope that the Archbishop will build on this statement over the coming months by challenging prejudice inside and outside the Church, and helping lesbian and gay voices to be heard.

Affirming Catholicism has for a long time backed moves to include lesbian and gay Christians fully into the life of the Church, including the ordained ministry. The organisation has also maintained that different understandings of what the Bible says on the issue need not divide the Church and has commended respectful dialogue with those who continue to hold a conservative position. The Rev’d Nerissa Jones, Chair of Trustees of the organisation said:

The listening process demands great respect, courtesy and patience from all of us who are trying to build bridges and learn to take account of others’ points of view. This sort of approach is core to the way Affirming Catholicism’s approach. Even if we have made mistakes, we will continue to engage as individuals and as a group, and we will play our part in creating safe and respectful places of encounter and dialogue.

Affirming Catholicism’s next national conference is due to take place in Canterbury in July next year and will consider in detail how Christians can understand the bible in contemporary society. The final report of the Communion’s listening process is due to be made a few weeks later at the next Lambeth Conference also in July in Canterbury.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 3 April 2007 at 6:27pm BST | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 1 April 2007

Bishop Chane interviewed

The BBC radio programme Sunday carried an item concerning the Anglican Communion and the American church.

Better link now available:

Holding the Anglican Communion together
Ever since the gay Bishop Gene Robinson was consecrated in America, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has being trying to find a formula to keep the Anglican Communion together.

At a meeting of the Primates in Tanzania, the Americans were asked to accept and implement the Lambeth resolutions (the traditional teachings on sexuality) and to agree a new system of pastoral oversight for some conservatives in the American church who won’t accept the authority of Bishops with a more liberal line on sexuality. The Bishops of the Episcopal Church have refused these two recommendations.

One of those Bishops, John Chane of Washington, explained why he found the recommendations offensive and disrespectful. Damian Thompson, leader writer for the Daily Telegraph who thinks “it’s all over for the Archbishop”, and Martyn Percy, Principal of Ripon Theological College, also joined Sunday.
Listen (10m 29s)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 12:18pm BST | Comments (35) | TrackBack
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English bishop to appear at tribunal

Updated Monday

The Bishop of Hereford, Anthony Priddis is to appear before an employment tribunal in Cardiff on Wednesday, in a case involving the Employment Equality Regulations (Sexual Orientation) 2003.

Reports today in both the Observer Bishop blocks gay youth worker’s job by Anushka Asthana and in the Sunday Telegraph Gay youth worker accuses bishop of discrimination after failing to get job by Jonathan Wynne-Jones.

Update
The BBC is now also carrying this story: Gay man takes bishop to tribunal.

Update Monday
The Mail on Sunday had Bishop accused of blocking gay man’s job will face a tribunal by Tom Kelly.

Western Daily Press BISHOP BANNED JOB APPLICANT WHO WAS GAY.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 1 April 2007 at 11:26am BST | Comments (44) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation