Saturday, 31 May 2008

Do American bishops have a different view of their role?

Bonnie Anderson, who is president of the House of Deputies of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, has made a statement about the Lambeth Conference to a Conference for Religion Writers. You can read that statement in full at Rowan Williams and “the distinctive charism of bishops” on Daily Episcopalian.

Update: Episcopal News Service has now also published this text.

Here’s a snippet:

…I think that the Archbishop has given up trying to get our bishops to take an independent stand on the future of the moratorium of same sex blessings for instance, and is now moving to “plan B” and turning his attention to encouraging our bishops to understand their “distinctive charism” as bishops, perhaps in a new way. I envision Archbishop Rowan pondering in, to use his word, “puzzlement” why these bishops of the Episcopal church don’t just stand up and exercise their authority as bishops like most of the rest of the bishops in the Communion do. Why would our bishops “bind themselves to future direction for the Convention?” Some of us in TEC in the past have thought that perhaps the Archbishop and others in the Anglican Communion do not understand the baptismal covenant that we hold foundational. Perhaps they just don’t “get” the way we choose to govern ourselves; the ministers of the church as the laity, clergy and the bishops, and that at the very core of our beliefs we believe in the God- given gifts of all God’s people, none more important than the other, just gifts differing. We believe that God speaks uniquely through laity, bishops, priests and deacons. This participatory structure in our church allows a fullness of revelation and insight that must not be lost in this important time of discernment. But I think our governance is clearly understood. I just don’t think the Archbishop has much use for it…

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opinions at the Festival of the Visitation

Joanna Collicutt asks in the Guardian Are we “hard-wired” to believe in God?

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about John Wesley’s polygamous brother-in-law.

In The Times Anil Bhanot presents A Hindu view on the challenge to the sanctity of life.

Simon Barrow writes about Globalisation for Ekklesia see Hearing hope through the babble.

Nick Spencer writes for Fulcrum about Neither Private nor Privileged:
the role of Christianity in Britain today
.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Penalties of chaos in Chelsea.

The Church Times leader is about the Festival of the Visitation. See The song from the silence.

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Friday, 30 May 2008

Bishop Nazir-Ali stirs the pot some more

The Bishop of Rochester is attracting considerable attention in the UK media at present arising not only from his support for Paul Eddy’s private member’s motion, but also from an article he wrote for a new magazine, which you can now read in full: Breaking Faith With Britain.

BBC Robert Pigott Britain left with ‘moral vacuum’

Church Times Bill Bowder Christians have duty to witness to their faith, says Bishop Nazir-Ali

The Guardian has today published a profile by Riazat Butt Nazir-Ali is a prophet and prophets are rejected by their own, as Jesus was. He is a serious man for serious times and a Leader: Bishop’s move.
And Simon Barrow has written a thoughtful piece on Comment is free titled Blinkered bishop.

Over at the Telegraph Martin Beckford has written two pieces: Bishop of Rochester ‘doing the BNP’s work’ and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali: Radical Islam is filling void left by collapse of Christianity in UK. And this comment piece by George Pitcher: Right or wrong, the Bishop of Rochester named our ills.

The Times has Radical Islam taking advantage of Christianity’s decline, says bishop by Hollye Blades.

Cartoon by Dave Walker.

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women bishops: more about the laity petition

As noted previously, a petition for lay members of the Church of England was recently published. Here is the covering letter for that petition:

AN INVITATION TO LAY MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
FROM: Canon Dr Susan Atkin
Professor Anthony Berry
Hilary Cotton
Robert Key MP
Baroness Pauline Perry
Christina Rees
Lord Walpole
TO: Lay members of the Church of England

Greetings! You are invited to show your support for the letter sent in May 2008 by senior clergywomen to the House of Bishops. The letter, the text of which is below and which is also attached, urges the bishops to proceed with opening the episcopate to women without any further delay, and to resist anything in legislation that includes discrimination against women. General Synod will be meeting from 4 – 8 July, and we hope to be able to show strong lay support for the clergywomen’s stance. If you wish to sign, please go to the petition website below.

The website for the petition for lay members is http://www.gopetition.co.uk/online/19571.html

Please send this website link to any of your friends whom you believe should be made aware of its existence. If they are not equipped with a computer please enable them to sign by offering them the facility of doing so via your computer.

If you feel you are unable to sign, thank you for reading this and for considering doing so.

Statement to the House of Bishops regarding the Single Clause Measure as outlined in the Manchester Report

From: Women Clergy

We welcome the work done by the Legislative Drafting Group outlining ways forward for the Church with regard to the consecration of women as bishops. As ordained women, from amongst whom some of the first generation of women bishops may come, we wish to make our own contribution to the current debate.

We believe that it should be possible for women to be consecrated as bishops, but not at any price. The price of legal “safeguards” for those opposed is simply too high, diminishing not just the women concerned, but the catholicity, integrity and mission of the episcopate and of the Church as a whole. We cannot countenance any proposal that would, once again, enshrine and formalise discrimination against women in legislation. With great regret, we would be prepared to wait longer, rather than see further damage done to the Church of England by passing discriminatory laws. In this, we support the recent principled stand taken by the Archbishop and Bishops of the Church in Wales.

After 21 years of ordained ministry and 14 years of priesthood, many of us have much experience of building trustful relationships with those unable to accept the priestly ministry of women. In the Anglican Communion overseas, women take this experience into the episcopate, which leads them to invite other bishops into their Dioceses or Episcopal areas to ordain, confirm and take other services when required. Bishops should be trusted to act wisely and behave with dignity, and all bishops should work within clear expectations and codes of practice. The language of “protection” and “safeguard” is offensive to women, and we believe the existing disciplinary procedures are enough for women or men to be brought to account if they behave inappropriately. We would commend the good practice over the past 20 years of the 15 Anglican Provinces which have already opened the episcopate to women: none of these has passed discriminatory legislation.

Discussion of a single clause measure without including the possible arrangements for those opposed, characterises those who argue for it as somehow “not caring” about those who oppose the ordination/consecration of women. This is far from the truth. Strong relationships have been forged on the anvil of profound disagreement and there is ample testimony to the richness of these encounters, to set alongside those situations which have proved painful. As the broken body of Christ on earth, the Church’s internal relationships should rest on trust, forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation, rather than on protection and an over-anxious reliance on the letter of the law. Work has already been done on a draft proposal of robust and clear arrangements that make the passing of a single clause measure realistic in today’s Church, as well as theologically and ecclesiologically cohesive.

We long to see the consecration of women bishops in the Church of England, and believe it is right both in principle and in timing. But because we love the Church, we are not willing to assent to a further fracture in our communion and threat to our unity. If it is to be episcopacy for women qualified by legal arrangements to “protect” others from our oversight, then our answer, respectfully, is thank you, but no.

May 2008

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women as bishops: further items

Updated Saturday

Today, the Church Times reports that ‘Chaos’ warning as rumours fly after Bishops’ meeting by Bill Bowder.

.. A spokesman for Forward in Faith said that it did not comment on speculation based on leaks.

News of a possible decision by the Bishops not to offer legal provision for the objectors was reported in The Sunday Telegraph this week. It said the move had been opposed by a “substantial minority”, and that the Archbishop of Canterbury had argued that, although creating jurisdictions with male bishops only would further divide the Church, it would honour promises made to traditionalists.

On Tuesday, however, a Church of England spokesman refused to confirm whether the Bishops wanted a simple “code of conduct” for objectors, in order to keep the legislation to a minimum, and had rejected the idea of a third province. He also declined to comment on whether they wanted to end the right of parishes to opt out of the ministry of women priests.

“The House of Bishops had a full discussion of the Manchester report [News, 2 May], and agreed that the options in the report should be debated by the Synod in July. The House agreed a motion to act as a starting point for the Synod debate. The wording of this will be issued with the other Synod papers next month,” the spokesman said.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York would set out in a covering note “the considerations [the House of Bishops] believes that the Synod will need to weigh in coming to a decision”.

In the paper edition this article also says that:

“Two online petitions, one for male clergy (including retired bishops), and the other for laity, have been set up by Thinking Anglicans to support legislation for women bishops that does not give legal protection to objectors.”

This sentence is wrong and has been corrected on the Church Times website. Thinking Anglicans did not set up these petitions. Nor did we set up these petitions opposing such legislation.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph today has a further story, see Church of England closer to appointing women bishops after MPs signal approval by Martin Beckford.

Members of Parliament’s Ecclesiastical Committee had previously said the church was not ready for women priests to become bishops, an historic step which has divided Anglicanism for decades.

But this week MPs on the committee, whose approval would be needed before any legislation is passed, said most are now in favour after bishops voted to go ahead with the reforms without any concessions to opponents…

And here is another parliamentary exchange that occurred recently, well on 8 May, concerning this matter.

Robert Key (Salisbury, Conservative)
There is clearly still some way to go. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me that it really is time that the Church of England stopped discriminating against 50 per cent. of the human race when it comes to episcopal appointments? Can he imagine this House finding it expedient to agree to any Measure from Synod that sought to discriminate against women, in the hope that it was going to allow women bishops in the Church of England—but not at any price?

Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner; Middlesbrough, Labour)
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments. He will remember that this House voted almost unanimously, but certainly overwhelmingly, for women priests way back in 1992. Given that he is a member of the General Synod, he will know that in July it will look at the options for progressing the ordination of women as bishops, informed by the recently published report of the legislative drafting group, chaired by the Bishop of Manchester. This House—in its majority, I think—supports women bishops and we urge the Church in this case to make haste less slowly.

Update Saturday
Matt Cresswell has a similar report for Religious Intelligence Parliamentary boost for women bishops campaign.

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Thursday, 29 May 2008

Lambeth bishops plan to walk

Updated Friday lunchtime

This press release from Lambeth Palace is headlined Archbishop unveils plans for London event to challenge global governments to reach targets on tackling poverty.

The same release from the Anglican Communion Office is headlined The Archbishop of Canterbury - plans to challenge global governments to tackle poverty.

And when released by Episcopal News Service it becomes Bishops’ London walk to underscore commitment to MDGs.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has today announced plans to mount an unprecedented mass walk of bishops and other faith leaders through central London during the forthcoming Lambeth Conference to demonstrate the Anglican Communion’s determination to help end extreme poverty across the globe…

Why is this being announced today?

The announcement of this walk is being released to coincide with a meeting of faith leaders and heads of faith-based development agencies, who met at Lambeth Palace today (29th May). The group discussed how faith groups can ensure that governments honour their spending commitments towards the UN targets and make policy decisions in their support.

Not explained is why the LamPal website shows today’s date on this release as Donnerstag 29 Mai 2008. Update This has now been corrected.

The Living Church has reported the news with a snappier headline: Archbishop Plans London March with Poverty Focus.

Kent News appears to be the only secular UK news outlet so far to report on this: Bishops to march on London in name of poverty.

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Wednesday, 28 May 2008

petitions opposed to the 'Single Clause' option

Two such petitions, one for those who are opposed to women as bishops in general, and one for those who are in favour of women as bishops but are opposed to the ‘Single Clause’ option are now also available.

For some background on these petitions, see here.

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Tuesday, 27 May 2008

petitions in support of women as bishops

Two petitions have been set up: one for Church of England male clergy (other than serving bishops), the other for all lay people of the Church of England.

The petitions can be found at these websites:

The letter of invitation to male clergy is below. A separate letter of invitation to laity will follow.

AN INVITATION TO MALE CLERGY
FROM: The Deans of Bristol, Durham, Manchester, Southwark and St Edmundsbury
TO: Male clergy and retired bishops of the Church of England

Greetings! You are invited to read the statement below (and also attached) and to add your signature to the on-line petition.

This petition is for male clergy and retired bishops to sign. It is not for serving bishops. The website for the petition for male clergy is
http://www.gopetition.co.uk/online/19569.html

There is a separate website for lay people to sign and show their support for the letter from the women clergy to the House of Bishops. The website for the petition for lay people is http://www.gopetition.co.uk/online/19571.html

Please send these website links to any of your friends and colleagues whom you believe should be made aware of their existence. If they are not equipped with a computer please enable them to sign by offering them the facility of doing so via your computer.

If you feel you are unable to sign, thank you for reading this and for considering doing so.

A statement from male clergy to the House of Bishops

We welcome the letter sent in early May by our women clergy colleagues to the House of Bishops of the Church of England. In common with them, we support the Simplest Statutory Approach outlined in the Report of the Women Bishops Legislative Drafting Group (GS 1685).

The letter, signed by over 500 clergy women within two days, has accumulated even more support since it was published and is now approaching a thousand signatures. We wish the House of Bishops to be aware how strongly our women colleagues are supported by us, their male counterparts in the ministry of the Church.

We emphasise our agreement that the price of having arrangements spelt out in law for those opposed to women bishops is too high and we would add that the language of ‘safeguards’ is offensive. Any such legislation would enshrine discrimination against women within the ordained ministries of the Church, which we would find unacceptable. Twenty years’ experience in the provinces of the Anglican Communion where there are women bishops has shown tried and tested ways to meet graciously and generously the concerns of those who remain opposed to women’s ordination. In none of the 15 provinces that have voted to have women as bishops has discriminatory legislation been included. We are confident that acceptable non-statutory arrangements can be devised.

We point out that many ordained men supported the ordination of women to the priesthood from the outset; significantly, many others have changed their minds over the past fourteen years. We value the ministry and collegiality of female clergy as much as that of our male colleagues; parishes and congregations have been enriched and assisted, cathedrals have benefited from the addition of women to their Chapters, and most congregations are bemused that any further hesitation and prevarication is even being considered. They know the good fruits of a priesthood inclusive of both women and men.

We urge the House of Bishops to give a clear and positive lead in the General Synod that the simplest statutory approach is all that is required to enable the ordination of women to the episcopate, something for which the Synod has already shown its support. We believe this will have widespread approval within our congregations and in both Houses of Parliament. We also believe that having women as well as men serving as bishops will be beneficial to all our work and that it will result in greater unity and integrity within our Church and greater credibility in our mission and ministry.

We consider that any further delay or any compromise in legislation would be deleterious to our mission and evangelism. We are also aware that some men themselves may well refuse ordination to the episcopate if the Church chooses to be discriminatory in its acceptance of women as bishops.

We appreciate the patience and generosity expressed by our sisters in Orders and we urge that the time is right for a formal and simple extension of their ministries to include episcopacy as soon as possible.

We sign this letter in a spirit of solidarity in faith and work with our female colleagues and we pray for wisdom, clarity and courage for our (all male) House of Bishops.

June 2008

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Monday, 26 May 2008

In God's Name

Updated Thursday evening

There was a television current affairs programme on Channel 4 last week, in the Dispatches series, entitled In God’s Name. Here’s the Channel 4 blurb about the programme.

If you didn’t see it and want to do so, you can find it on this website.

The film-maker, David Modell wrote a major article for the Sunday Telegraph before the programme aired, which was headlined Christian fundamentalists fighting spiritual battle in Parliament. This Sunday, there were several letters to the editor.

The article and the programme devote considerable space to the activities of the public policy director of the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship.

No less a person than Joel Edwards wrote an open letter to Channel 4 about it.

Stephen Green who was also featured, and whom Joel Edwards describes as an extremist, has responded to the programme here. (h/t Louise Ashworth)

Craig Nelson commented about the programme here and also here.

Updates Thursday evening

Simon Barrow has written a detailed analysis of the issues raised by the TV programme for Wardman Wire which you can read at A fundamental problem? Thinking Aloud by Simon Barrow.

In that article he also links to an earlier interview with Andrea Minichiello Williams done by Rachel Harden in the Church Times which I inexplicably forgot to include here earlier.

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Categorised as: News | equality legislation

Sunday, 25 May 2008

women bishops: the House takes a position

Jonathan Wynne-Jones reports in the Sunday Telegraph that:

…At a confidential meeting, bishops narrowly voted to proceed with the historic reforms and to resist pressure to create separate dioceses free of women clergy.

The decision will dismay hundreds of priests who could defect to the Roman Catholic Church, which refuses to ordain women. It was taken at a meeting of about 50 members of the House of Bishops, at a hotel in Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, last week, and has set the stage for a showdown with traditionalists when the General Synod, the Church’s parliament, is next convened, in July.

During the meeting, the bishops were deeply divided over ways of solving the issue, which has engulfed the Church in bitter debate for decades. Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, argued that making women bishops could exclude from the Church those opposed to the idea, unless proper provisions were made for them.

He acknowledged that creating new dioceses which were only for men could create further division within the Church, but said that the move would honour promises made to traditionalists when women were first made priests, in the early 1990s.

Following the debate, the bishops decided to endorse legislation – which will now be voted on at the Synod – that would end special arrangements for clergy who are not prepared to accept female priests, including “flying” bishops, senior clergy who operate across different dioceses, ministering to those opposed to women priests.

Instead, the bishops opted for a Synod motion that asks for respect for opponents of women bishops, but does not make provisions for them.

The motion makes clear that a significant minority disagrees with this approach.

The move means that it is now highly unlikely that new dioceses will be created for opponents of women bishops…

Read the whole article headlined Church of England faces exodus over women bishop reforms.

To remind you of what the options offered by the Manchester Report are, see this summary by Dave Walker or alternatively, read the earlier article here:

Report on Women as Bishops to which links to html copies of several more annexes have been added today.

The full text of the main body of the report is available here.

In light of the above report, the following annexes of the report may be of interest:

Annex D - Illustration of ‘Statutory Code of Practice’ option

Annex D, Measure 2 - Draft Bishops (Consecration of Women) Measure (No 2) or here is the PDF original.

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Saturday, 24 May 2008

Archbishop Akinola's address in Pittsburgh

Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry reports:

Trinity School for Ministry held its 30th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 17 at Trinity Cathedral in downtown Pittsburgh. Forty-nine students graduated, including five Doctor of Ministry, 31 Master of Divinity, five Master of Arts in Religion, one Master of Arts in Mission and Evangelism, six diploma students and one Certificate of Work Accomplished for an African student completing his studies in Africa. The Most Rev. Peter Akinola, DD, Archbishop of Nigeria, delivered the commencement address. His son, Emmanuel, was one of the graduates.

The full text is available here as a PDF file.

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two American views

Two unrelated recent articles from Episcopal Church commentators worth reading:

Doug LeBlanc wrote for Episcopal Life about Staying involved.

Since I began reporting on the Episcopal Church in the early 1990s, conservatives have gone through a few different regroupings: Episcopalians United begat the American Anglican Council, which begat the Anglican Communion Network, which begat the Common Cause Partnership. An important change since General Convention in 2003 is that each regrouping has brought many conservatives ever closer to leaving the Episcopal Church. I was beginning to wonder what any remaining conservative presence within TEC might look like in the next few years.
I was fairly sure we did not need another group with a national headquarters, a logo and regular conferences. I believed that conservatives within TEC needed to find some way between the poles of departure and mere acquiescence to the more provocative resolutions of General Convention.

I’ve now heard some encouraging notes for a conservative future within TEC. Two hours of audio, posted on the website of St. Andrew’s Church in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina (PBinSC.notlong.com), suggest that the conservative future sounds assertive rather than aggressive and hopeful rather than despairing…

Andrew Gerns watched the press conference held earlier this week in New York City, and wrote this article: Taking an appreciative path at Lambeth.

The conventional wisdom is wrong. At least about the Lambeth Conference.

I watched the video news-conference by The Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas and the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts-Schori yesterday. I had these big ideas about live-blogging it, but that wasn’t practical. I am glad I didn’t. In attempting to draw immediate conclusions, I would have missed the heart of the story.

My gut feeling was very positive…that the attempt is to build a basis for resolution of thorny issues by building on relationships. But I was still perplexed, at a time when Anglican divisions are at their highest and most delicate…how can we move forward? And when everyone is itching for a solution (theirs) how can consensus be reached?

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Angst in DuPage County

The Diocese of Chicago is not the only body claiming to be Anglican in the environs of Chicago.

Jason Byassee has written a fascinating article in the Christian Century describing the fragmentation taking place there. The article is titled Splitting up.

There are some very interesting comments about this article, including several by its author, in Jason Byasee: Anglican angst in Illinois and Beyond at titusonenine.

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opinions just after Trinity

In The Times Roderick Strange writes about Corpus Christi in A simple supper in an upper room that feeds us still.

In the Guardian Stephen Heap discusses A truly secular approach can resolve conflicts between religious law and the law of the land.

Christians have no monopoly on morality, says Lisa Jardine, who is interviewed in in the New Statesman.

Also Julian Baggini writes that we need new ways to decide ethical issues in Now let the real battle begin.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Levelling with odd bedfellows.

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about The voices that Joan of Arc heard.

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Friday, 23 May 2008

Church Times on the embryology bill

Ed Beavan has this news report, Embryology vote leaves lobbyists out in the cold and there is a Leader, In the wake of the embryo debate, which has harsh words for some:

The second observation is that, in the main, the debate has been conducted at a disappointingly low level. It was only to be expected that the different lobby groups would simplify the issues in order to attract support; but the ludicrous invocation of Dr Frankenstein at every turn has degraded the arguments, not least those of some Christian lobbyists. The Church has been justifiably scornful of Richard Dawkins’s efforts to construct a case against religion. Religious commentators ought, at least, to ensure they have a secure grasp on the scientific constraints contained in the Bill before dismissing them in such a cavalier fashion.

This is not the first time for such criticism, remember this earlier leader, Church fails its Biology exam, from 28 March this year. It ended with:

Theologians have been rightly dismissive of the ignorant forays that scientists have made into theology. They must beware of giving scientists the opportunity to return the compliment.

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more Church reaction to parliamentary votes

Some media reports were linked in this earlier article. When I read the BBC report linked there, Churches unhappy over father figures, I was a bit surprised at the strength of reaction attributed to the Church of England on the issue of the role of fathers in connection with IVF treatment, so did some checking on this.

In fact Robert Pigott is not misrepresenting the position of the CofE’s Mission and Public Affairs Council. Here’s the full text of the response provided to the recent vote:

A Church of England spokesman said: “The Church holds that a child’s right not to be deliberately deprived of having a father is greater than any ‘right’ to a child through IVF. There is a huge difference between a child who finds themselves in a single parent family through bereavement or breakdown of parental relationship, and those who find themselves in this situation by design, for which this Bill allows. We are extremely disappointed that the important role of fathers was not recognised in the Bill, and that we now have a situation where the perceived ‘right’ to have a child trumps the right for a child to be given the best possible start in life. This vote sends a signal that fathers don’t matter.”

That response is entirely consistent with the position taken earlier, and contained in a PDF document published in June 2007, titled Response from the Church of England Mission and Public Affairs Council to the Call for Evidence from the Joint Committee on the Draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill and which is available here. The section relating to this topic is reproduced in full below the fold. The press release issued by the CofE at that time was headed Church says IVF children need fathers.

And indeed, TA linked to this document in March this year, see more on the embryology bill. The focus of that TA article, and of the Church Times reports, was primarily on the apparent change of position by CofE bishops from the stance taken by the MPA Council concerning the use of embryos, see this Church Times report of June 2007, C of E: yes to hybrids.

12. What are your views on the proposal in the draft Bill to remove from the existing conditions of treatment the requirement to take account of “the need of that child for a father” before treatment services can be provided?

We believe it is wrong to remove the requirement to take account of “the need of that child for a father” from the Bill as it sends an entirely erroneous signal about the significance of fathers especially at a time when many children and families are suffering because of lack of attention and care from absent fathers.

In paras. 2.25 and 2.26 of the White Paper, the Government suggests it is removing ‘the need of a child for a father’ clause so as not to appear to discriminate against same sex couples (or single mothers) who want to have a child using IVF. The Government is bowing to the argument that as single people and gay couples can legally adopt, so the same permission must therefore be given if they wish to ‘commission’ a child using IVF. This is a non sequitur because the situations are markedly different. In adoption, the hospitality of a home is being offered to an already existing child who has had the misfortune through circumstance or necessity to lose or be removed from contact with its parents. Bringing the care of an adoptive home to a needy child is a wholly different circumstance to deciding in advance to use IVF technology to bring into the world a child who will, ‘by design’, never have a father (or mother, in the case gay men commissioning a child by IVF surrogacy). It sends the signal that everyone has a right to a child and this ‘right’ over-rules consideration of that child’s welfare.

If discrimination is the issue here, we feel the greater discrimination is in ensuring that a child will never have any chance of knowing a father, rather than in saying that gay couples have an automatic right to have a child. We consider that the child’s right not to be deliberately deprived of having a father is greater than any right of a gay couple to commission a child by IVF. The prior protection in law should be afforded to those with the greater vulnerability – the children yet to be born.

Of those without an organisational affiliation who responded to this question in the Government’s consultation, over 80% were in favour of inserting ‘the need of a child for a father and a mother’ into the Act. We agree, but want to emphasize that affirming consideration of the need of a child for a father and a mother is not equating alternative parenting or unconventional families with irresponsible or abusive parenting. Rather it is putting the welfare of the child first and looking to what are likely to be the best interests of a child who has yet to be born. The Christian response is to seek to support all families in bringing up a child in a loving and secure home life, and to acknowledge the extra help needed, for instance, when circumstances like death of a partner or desertion mean that a single parent carries the onerous burden of lone parent.

In para. 2.26 of the White Paper, the Government says that it ‘is not convinced that the retention of this provision could be justified in terms of evidence of harm, particularly when weighed against the potential harms arising from the consequences of encouraging some women who wish to conceive to make private arrangements for insemination rather than use licensed treatment services’. We wonder why the Government has changed its ethical stance to base it on ‘evidence of harm’ when it rightly rebuked the STC for taking just such an approach because such evidence is not always forthcoming in advance, saying instead that ‘the potential harms that should be taken into account may not necessarily be susceptible to demonstration and evidence in advance. For example, in our view the application of a precautionary approach requires that consideration of harms to society or to patients must include the consideration of potential harms to future offspring’.

An argument based on ‘evidence of harm’ is very weak because of the paucity of actual evidence here – as pointed out by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali in his evidence to the STC and admitted by the Government in its consultation. Therefore, because the evidence available is equivocal and not decisive, it is far better then to take the precautionary approach of not putting a child into a situation where it may be harmed because its identity is designed from the start to be that of a person who never had a
social or biological father. This is qualitatively different from children whose fathers have died or deserted, or whose father is social rather than biological because of sperm donation. They are not children deliberately brought into the world without any chance of having a father to either be present in their lives or to refer to. This is a situation which could seriously impair a child’s ability to resolve its identity.

The STC say the need of a child for a father clause is ‘unjustifiably offensive’ to many. This is a disingenuous argument because to remove this stipulation and imply that having a father is not important to the child can be argued to be unjustifiably offensive to a hugely greater number of people.

In recent years the Government has stated that they believe that it is better for a child to have both a father and a mother, that ‘the single most important factor is the welfare of the child’ and that ‘the welfare of children cannot always be adequately protected by concern for the interests of the adults involved’. We are concerned that the Government now appears to have abandoned these views in deciding to remove the ‘need of a child for a father’ clause and in shifting the emphasis from the welfare of the child to the desires and supposed rights of adults to be able to have a child using IVF. We urge the Government to retain the need of a child for a father clause.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 23 May 2008 at 2:17pm BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 22 May 2008

Kenyan church challenged

Charles Njonjo, a former Cabinet minister, and described by the paper as “a staunch member of the Anglican Church” has written a commentary article for the Daily Nation headlined Failing to attend the Lambeth Conference is cowardly.

MEMBERS OF THE ANGLICAN Church in Kenya would like to know why our bishops are not attending the Lambeth 2008 Conference.

Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi is reported as reasoning thus: “Lambeth 2008 should have been about a return to God in view of these realities, yet it’s obvious that won’t be the case. Canterbury has sanctioned homosexuality. We cannot be going there to keep up with its theological gymnastics.”

Is this not missing the point of Lambeth? Isn’t this cowardly?

And later, he writes:

…We know that already, some bishops who do not take the same position as the Archbishop have courageously registered for the conference. Yet others, maybe from fear, are attending as observers

SHOULDN’T WE HAVE BORROWED a leaf from the House of Bishops of the province of South East Asia, who made the following resolutions:

1. Encourages the bishops of our Province to participate in the Lambeth Conference 2008, yet also fully understands and respects the decision of some who for their own principled reasons, may choose not to attend the conference;

2. We should demand of our bishops to show leadership in the Church now that we are the focus of world Christianity.

I find it impossible to keep quiet when people are frequently hounded, vilified, molested and even killed as targets of homophobia for something they did not choose — their sexual orientation.

Where is our Christian charity?

How sad it is that the Church should be so obsessed with this particular issue of human sexuality when God’s children are facing massive problems — poverty, disease, corruption and conflict!

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 22 May 2008 at 8:29am BST | Comments (14) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Church reaction to parliamentary votes

Once again Dave Walker has a roundup of reactions to the voting in the House of Commons, see Abortion vote: blog responses.

If you want to know what the numeric outcomes of all the abortion votes were, Louise Ashworth has them summarised here (these figures appear in the deadtree Guardian but I can’t find them on the website). The IVF votes (there were two of these) are reported by the BBC here.

It appears that somebody (or maybe more than one person) has been giving out reaction quotes on behalf of the Church of England. See these reports:

Martin Revis Ecumenical News International via Episcopal News Service Religious leaders critical of vote to allow embryo research

Dr. Malcom Brown, director of Mission and Public Affairs for the Church of England, said, “Any erosion of the unique moral status of the human embryo opens the door — if only a crack — at the top of a ‘slippery slope’ to treating human beings as less than ends in themselves.”

Robert Pigott BBC Churches unhappy over father figures

But the Church of England has reserved its greatest ire for the decision of MPs to allow single women and lesbian couples to seek IVF treatment without having to consider the need for a father for their children.

Its verdict is stark.

“This vote sends a signal that fathers don’t matter,” it said.

“The Church holds that a child’s right not to be deliberately deprived of having a father is greater than any ‘right’ to a child through IVF.

“We are extremely disappointed that the important role of fathers was not recognised in the bill, and that we now have a situation where the perceived ‘right’ to have a child trumps the right for a child to be given the best possible start in life.”

…The Church of England focuses on how children end up without a father.

“There is a huge difference between a child who finds themselves in a single-parent family through bereavement or breakdown of parental relationship, and those who find themselves in this situation by design, for which this bill allows.”

By comparison the Church’s official reaction to the defeat of several attempts to cut the limit for abortion of 24 weeks’ gestation was mild.

A spokesman said that “abortion is used too freely”, but added that “the upper limit should be considered sympathetically on the basis of medical advances”.

The problem for the Church of England - a large organisation lacking strong top-down authority - is the wide range of strong views on abortion held by its members.

Update Thursday morning

The Bishop of Bradford has expressed his personal opinions see Bishop critical of abortion decision in the Bradford Telegraph & Argus.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 21 May 2008 at 11:01pm BST | Comments (32) | TrackBack
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Middle East Presiding Bishop will not attend GAFCON

The Most Revd Mouneer Anis, Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, and Presiding Bishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East will not be attending GAFCON.

He has explained why in a letter. The full text of the letter is below the fold.

Update Saturday evening

There are comments about this on many sites.

Covenant has Mouneer Anis explains his withdrawal from GAFCON.

babyblue asked Uh oh … Mouneer Anis jumps the shark?

08 May 2008

My very dear brothers in Christ,

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

First I want to make it clear that this letter expresses my views as the Bishop of the Diocese of Egypt, not the views of the whole Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. I count it a great honour to have been invited to GAFCON.

I appreciate the fact that GAFCON provides an important meeting place for leaders from the South and from the North. I very much understand the frustrations as well as the hopes that led to the organisation of this conference.

I do share your frustration in regard to what is going on in our Communion, as well as your hopes for strong and faithful Anglican church.

I am very disappointed with the direction taken by the Episcopal Church in the USA and the Anglican Church in Canada. This direction is not only about sexual ethics, which are contrary to Scripture, but also in regard to the fundamentals of the Apostolic Faith as we received it, like the Nature of Christ, the authority of scripture and God’s Salvation through Jesus Christ.

In addition they use very ambiguous language and contradictory phrases in their responses to the clear Windsor recommendation as well as the Dar es Salaam ones. It was shocking for me to hear that some now ask for the definition of ‘moratorium’ after four years of issuing The Windsor Report!

I am deeply concerned that The Windsor Report and Dar es Salaam recommendations were not followed through and now the very people who caused the Communion’s crisis are invited to the most important Anglican council which is the Lambeth Conference. It is wrong to sweep all these problems under the carpet!

I also share your hopes that we can go forward to advance the mission of the Gospel and be instruments in building the Church of Christ, founded on the Biblical truth.

Having said all this I am sorry that I will not be able to be with you at your Conference but I assure you that you will be in my prayers. Please accept my apologies. I also look forward to receiving your recommendations before going to Lambeth. My brothers I want to draw your attention to the following: 1) The unity of the Global South (GS) is our great concern.

As you know the Global South was established in 1997 and has been recognized by the whole Anglican Communion. It has been effective in strengthening the South to South links. The GS is composed of more than twenty provinces.

There is now increasing interest from Orthodox Bishops in the North to be affiliated with the Global South. This is because we use a moderate but form of language. In our last Steering Committee of the Global South in March we, in our statement, affirmed the importance of the Global South and its mission: We see an increasing conviction and confirmation of the prophetic and priestly vocation of the Global South in the Anglican Communion.

As Primates coming from different contexts, we were led into deep conversations and helpful clarifications on the challenges before us (Ps 133; Eph 4:1-6; Phil 2:1-5). We reaffirmed our total and collegial commitment to the solemn vocation of the Global South. We resolved, and urge all in the Global South and other orthodox constituencies of the wider Communion to strengthen our hearts and wills to work together for the fundamental renewal and transformation of the global Anglican Communion. ِ

We also stated: Through our conversations together and clarifications made, we are led to understand and appreciate the principled reasons for participation in GAFCON (June 2008) and Lambeth Conference (Jul 2008). Even if there are different perspectives on these, they do not and should not be allowed to disrupt the common vision, unity and trust within the Global South.

For this reason I appeal to you to take the above statements fully into your consideration and to be careful not to make binding decisions which may result in dividing Anglicans in the Global South and elsewhere. At the same time I would like to share with you a little more of my own thinking.

I believe that the best strategy for safeguarding orthodox faith and unhindered mission is to have parallel processes for building unity among those loyal to the biblical historic faith and ethics in both the South and the North. Orthodox leaders in the South and in the North need to continue to work together and support each other.

I would respectfully add that the Global South must not be driven by an exclusively Northern agenda or Northern personalities. The meeting of the Global South in ‘09 will be critical for the future, and the agenda will need careful preparation ahead of time.

The constitution of the Global South needs to be reviewed in such a way as to clarify representation and appointment of office bearers. The Global South has contributed much to the initiation of the Covenant process, and will need to consider how it is progressing.

If there is no prospect of a Covenant that safeguards orthodoxy and unhindered mission within a reasonable timescale, then the possibility of adopting a “holding covenant” may need to be considered. I urge you all to consider participating in the Lambeth Conference.

The absence of any of your voices will be a great loss. God has spoken to me through the Book of Jonah. So I decided not to withdraw but to go and speak the truth, and leave the rest to God. Please remember that there will be bishops who are not fully aware of the seriousness of the situation. They need to be alerted. Your presence would be a help, as indeed it was in 1998.

I am reminded by the words of Jesus that we continue to live in the world: “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” John 17: 14-16 One last point: we need to combine steadfastness, a peaceable spirit and gracious language.

I believe that the language we use needs to be especially appealing to the “people in the pews” who may be confused or misled, having less understanding of the issues of the controversy, but who want to remain true Christians and Anglicans. “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thess 5:24 May the Lord bless you.

Yours in Christ,

+Mouneer Egypt
The Most Rev Dr Mouneer H. Anis
Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 21 May 2008 at 6:02pm BST | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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Director of Communications becomes bishop

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) issued this announcement:

21st May, 2008.

For Release to all Media Houses:

ELECTION OF TWO BISHOPS

The Episcopal Synod of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), met at the Cathedral Church of Saint James the Great, Ibadan, Oyo State, on Wednesday, May 14, 2008, and elected the Venerable Akintunde Popoola of All Saints Church, Wuse, Abuja to the See of Offa, Kwara State, where the incumbent was recently translated. Also, the Venerable Geoffrey N. Chukwunenye of All Saints Church, Surulere, Lagos, was elected to the newly created See of Oru in Imo State.

The date and venue for their consecration will be announced later.

Signed
Venerable AkinTunde Popoola
Director of Communications

N.B : In Anglican ecclesiastical terminology a See is the area of jurisdiction of a diocesan bishop while Translation, as applied to a serving bishop, means transfer to another diocese

Secretariat:
24, Douala Street, Wuse P. O. Box 212, ADCP, Abuja, Nigeria.
Tel: +234-9-523-6950, 523-0987/9,
Fax: 523-1527, 523-0986.
E-mail: communication@anglican-nig.org
Website: www.anglican-nig.org

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 21 May 2008 at 12:42pm BST | Comments (24) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Lambeth Conference: US presentation

The Episcopal Church, USA held a press conference in New York on the Lambeth Conference today. It featured the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and the Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas, professor at Episcopal Divinity School and a member of the Conference’s design group.

You can watch the entire press conference here.

Related news story:

Lambeth Conference will help bishops strengthen partnerships, Jefferts Schori tells media

And earlier:

Lambeth Conference will focus on equipping bishops for mission

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 20 May 2008 at 11:42pm BST | Comments (24) | TrackBack
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Pittsburgh: realignment challenged

Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh (PEP) has issued Realignment Reconsidered a point-by-point rebuttal to the 8-page handout from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, Frequently Asked Questions About Realignment (both documents are PDF files).

The PEP press release: Pittsburgh Episcopal group disputes diocese’s defense of schism

…“Diocesan leaders have been telling parishes that realignment is both proper and innocuous; we believe it is neither,” explained Lionel Deimel, PEP board member and principal author of the new document. “Parishes who trust what they are being told—conveniently packaged by the diocese in “FAQ About Realignment”—risk losing both their parish property and their status within the Anglican Communion.”

According to the new document, “It is the position of The Episcopal Church, supported overwhelmingly by diocesan chancellors and legal scholars, that a diocese cannot properly remove its accession clause from its constitution, nor can it remove itself from The Episcopal Church.” PEP cites events in the Diocese of San Joaquin as evidence that The Episcopal Church will act boldly to protect its interests.

PEP hopes that “Realignment Reconsidered” will encourage Episcopalians in Pittsburgh to examine the risks and benefits of realignment more critically. “It is ironic,” suggests PEP secretary Alfred Mann, “that people want to break away from a church that is so tolerant of different views, but that toleration seems to be one of the characteristics of The Episcopal Church they most dislike.”

Lionel Deimel gives some background to the document here.

Some extracts from the document can be found at Episcopal Café.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 20 May 2008 at 11:33am BST | Comments (22) | TrackBack
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Monday, 19 May 2008

Affirming Catholicism responds to Manchester report

Affirming Catholicism has published A Response to The Report of the Women Bishops Legislative Drafting Group (The Manchester Report).

The copy of this on their website is here.

The full text of this response is also reproduced here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 19 May 2008 at 3:31pm BST | Comments (25) | TrackBack
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Uganda goes to GAFCON

There is a report in The Monitor (Kampala) by Tabu Butagira headlined Church of Uganda Steps Farther Away Over Gays (via AllAfrica.com)

…By Wednesday last week, at least 108 Ugandans had signed up to attend the June 22-29 symposium in Jerusalem that is expected to attract 1,000 people from 17 provinces of the Anglican Communion in the global south, representing about 35 million active followers.

The Communion has 38 provinces plus related churches representing some 80 million people across the world. Each province is led by a primate.

Forty two Ugandan bishops plus their spouses will be among those who will also visit sacred sites in Jerusalem such as the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Ophel Gardens and Temple steps where it is believed the first Pentecostal, Apostle Peter, preached…

The Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye said the upcoming conference will reinforce the faith and remove growing anxiety over the homosexuality and same-sex marriage debate that has pitted the liberal wing of the church against the conservative one.

“The Anglicans in Uganda want to remain steadfast in faith [but] when they begin to hear about things like homosexuality penetrating the Anglican Communion, they get worried that the future of Anglicans is uncertain,” said Canon Mwesigye, the spokesman/provincial secretary of the Church of Uganda.

This says 42 bishops, cf. Church Times report earlier, mentioning 31 bishops.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 19 May 2008 at 2:59pm BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Parliament watching

Dave Walker has provided a full roundup of links related to this week’s major legislative event, also known as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 19 May 2008 at 2:48pm BST | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 17 May 2008

The Prospects case

Ekklesia reports on this in Christian charity found to have discriminated on grounds of religion.

An Employment Tribunal in Abergele has today unanimously found in favour of a former employee of a Christian charity who was claiming constructive dismissal and discrimination on grounds of religion or belief.

The Tribunal heard that Prospects, a Christian charity which receives public money for its work with people with learning disabilities, and which had previously employed a number of non-Christian staff and volunteers – including a number who were transferred to them under TUPE Regulations – acted illegally when in 2004 it began recruiting only practising Christians for almost all posts, and told existing non-Christian staff that they were no longer eligible for promotion.

Mr James Boddy, Barrister from 11 King’s Bench Walk Chambers, representing the claimant Mr Mark Sheridan, declared: “This is an important decision because it is the first time an employment tribunal has been called on to decide the extent to which an organisation with a religious ethos is allowed to discriminate on grounds of religion or belief…”

This story was reported in some detail last December, by Ruth Gledhill in The Times see Christian ‘forced to discrimate’ against non-Christian staff and on her blog at Christian claims discrimination ‘on grounds of religion’.

See also the BHA press release, Tribunal victory for employee in landmark religious discrimination case.

And Simon Barrow’s comments are here.

Simon Barrow, co-director of Ekklesia, said: “This judgement ought to make religious charities sit up and think - not just about their legal responsibilities and the morality of non-discrimination, but about the impact of their behaviour on their image with the public at large.”

He continued: “Leaders and entrepreneurs in many faith organisations seem reluctant to embrace a comprehensive equalities agenda, or to recognise their culpability in issues of discrimination. Yet they are often the first to seek exemptions from legislation accepted by others and to complain that they are being ‘attacked’ when criticisms are raised.”

“The Christian message of love and justice is undermined by poor employment and equalities practices in the Christian organisations. This is an opportunity for the churches to get their house in order.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 17 May 2008 at 11:00am BST | Comments (24) | TrackBack
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opinions before Trinity

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about the City Churches in After the fires of London.

Simon Barrow writes for Wardman Wire on The Struggle to be Truthful: Thinking Aloud.

In the Church Times Rebecca Paveley interviewed Gordon Brown, see Not strangers but neighbours.

Giles Fraser wrote that Doctor Who proves the success of the gospel.

The Times has The value of mercy as a means of overcoming anger by Usama Hasan.

The Guardian has Andrew Copson writing about humanism and the school curriculum in Face to faith.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 17 May 2008 at 10:09am BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Friday, 16 May 2008

phone calls not letters

Remember that business about letters from the Archbishop of Canterbury to selected bishops? See for example, this earlier article.

Well, now read this in the Living Church Canterbury Calling: Archbishop on the Phone for Lambeth

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ Pentecost letter to the bishops of the Anglican Communion was not the anticipated communication in which he reportedly would ask bishops to predicate their attendace at the Lambeth Conference this summer upon their willingness to accept the recommendations in the Windsor Report.

A spokesman said Archbishop Williams had modified his plan to write to bishops whose stated positions ran contrary to the colleagial gathering of equals he envisions for Lambeth. Instead, Archbishop Williams has been in telephone contact with a number of bishops, asking that they honor the integrity of the meeting, the spokesman told The Church of England Newspaper

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Orombi replies to Jefferts Schori

I reported earlier on the letter sent to the Primate of Uganda, Archbishop Henry Orombi.

On Thursday he responded to this. The full text of his letter is below the fold.

Episcopal News Service reported on this in Uganda archbishop responds to Presiding Bishop’s objection to his ‘incursion’ into Georgia by Matthew Davies.

14th May 2008

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
The Episcopal Church USA
815 Second Avenue
New York, NY

Dear Bishop Katharine,

I received word of your letter through a colleague who had seen it on the internet. Without the internet, I may never have known that you had written such a personal, yet sadly ironic, letter to me.

Unfortunately, you appear to have been misinformed about key matters, which I hope to clear up in this letter.

1. I am not visiting a church in the Diocese of Georgia. I am visiting a congregation that is part of the Church of Uganda. Were I to visit a congregation within TEC, I would certainly observe the courtesy of contacting the local bishop. Since, however, I am visiting a congregation that is part of the Church of Uganda, I feel very free to visit them and encourage them through the Word of God.

2. The reason this congregation separated from TEC and is now part of the Church of Uganda is that the actions of TEC’s General Convention and statements of duly elected TEC leaders and representatives indicate that TEC has abandoned the historic Christian faith. Furthermore, as predicted by the Primates of the Anglican Communion in October 2003, TEC’s actions have, in fact, torn the fabric of the Communion at its deepest level.

3. May I remind you that the initial reason the Lambeth Commission on Communion was appointed was because of unbiblical decisions taken by TEC in defiance of repeated warnings by all of the Anglican Instruments of Communion. The Windsor Report was produced and accepted in amended form by the Primates at our meeting in Dromantine, Northern Ireland, in February 2005. It is, therefore, quite ironic for you to be quoting the Windsor Report to me. Nowhere in the Windsor Report or in subsequent statements of the Instruments of Communion is there a moral equivalence between the unbiblical actions and decisions of TEC that have torn the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level and the pastoral response on our part to provide ecclesiastical oversight to American congregations who wish to continue to uphold the faith once delivered to the saints and remain a part of the Anglican Communion. Your selective quoting of the Windsor Report is stunning in its arrogance and condescension.

4. You and your House of Bishops rejected outright the Pastoral Scheme painstakingly devised in Dar es Salaam, and to which you agreed. You have, therefore, left us no choice but to continue to respond to the cries of God’s faithful people in America for episcopal oversight that upholds and promotes historic, biblical Anglicanism.

5. An important element of the Dar es Salaam agreement was the plea by the Primates that “the representatives of The Episcopal Church and of those congregations in property disputes with it to suspend all actions in law arising in this situation.” This was something to which you gave verbal assent and yet you have initiated more legal actions against congregations and clergy in your short tenure as Presiding Bishop than all of your predecessors combined. I urge you to rethink, suspend litigation and follow a more Christ-like approach to settling your differences.

Finally, I appeal to you to heed the advice of Gamaliel in Acts 5.38ff, “Leave these [churches] alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop [them]; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

Yours, in Christ,

The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi
ARCHBISHOP OF CHURCH OF UGANDA.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 16 May 2008 at 12:29pm BST | Comments (41) | TrackBack
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Rochester demonstration planned

Updated again Saturday afternoon

A demonstration against the Bishop of Rochester is planned at Rochester Cathedral on Saturday.

Kent Online reports as follows:

Bishop denies gay prejudice claims - but protest is planned

One of the county’s cathedrals will be the stage for a gay rights group’s demonstration this weekend.

International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) is angry at the Bishop of Rochester’s opposition to an homosexual American bishop attending a key church meeting.

But the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali said he respected all people no matter their sexuality.

A spokesperson for the group said: “The Bishop can change his religion but, just as he cannot change his skin colour, we cannot change our sexuality.”

IDAHO also believes the bishop has opposed gay rights measures such as child adoption by gay partners.

The group will be protesting at Rochester Cathedral on Saturday.

Anglican Mainstream reports that the bishop has issued a statement, though I could not find it on the diocesan website. Here is what AM reports:

Bishop of Rochester’s statement about the demonstration planned against him on May 17:

A public notice of a demonstration against the Bishop of Rochester has been circulated (see below).
The Bishop of Rochester has responded.

[ link to original of “public notice” ]

An IDAHO Day demo will be held outside Rochester Cathedral, Medway, Kent from 1200-1300 hrs. The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, has fairly regularly spoken out against LGBT rights. Late last year he spoke against civil partnerships and child adoption by gay couples. He has since apparently decided not to attend the forthcoming Lambeth Conference, due to be held in Canterbury (University site) in July/August 2008. Mainly it appears due to the gay issue and the position of Bishop Gene Robinson. Bishop Robinson is coming to the conference anyway and we will be challenging the Bishop of Rochester to stay in the UK an go and meet with and talk to Gene in Canterbury.

Further, the Bishop of Rochester has himself suffered and complained about abuse and even death threats because he converted from Islam to Christianity. Since he now knows exactly what such hatred is like, we will be asking why he still feels unable to make common cause with groups such as LGBT people who have are still suffering the same merely because of our sexuality including regularly from religionists. The Bishop can change his religion but, just as he cannot change his skin colour, we cannot change our sexuality. Neither he nor us, nor indeed anyone; should have to uffer abuse, threats or attacks because of such things. All will be welcome to join us whether LGBT or straight friends on the day. The gay run pub The Ship in Rochester High St- a few hundred yards away should be open for refreshments also. PLEASE NOTE THE EMAIL ADDRESS IS FOR USE WITH THIS DEMO ONLY.

Statement regarding the demonstration on 17 May 2008

I acknowledge and respect the equal dignity of all - regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. There is no place for the harassment or persecution of anyone for whatever reason.

We are thankful that in this country there is freedom of meeting and expression for all.

The Bible and the Church teach that the proper expression of our sexuality is in the context of marriage. This has to do with God’s purposes in creating us, respect for persons and the importance of the family as a basic unit of society.

+Michael Roffen:

Saturday morning update

The Medway Messenger carries a fuller report, Gay rights group set for cathedral protest concluding with this:

…Medway Police said they were aware of the demonstration. A spokesman said: “We are aware of a planned protest on Saturday and we will police it appropriately.”

May 17 marks the day the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from it’s list of recognised mental illnesses 18 years ago.

The day will also see Kent Police relaunch a telephone line to report homophobic acts…

Saturday afternoon update

And now, there is a much longer report on Kent News headlined Gay rights campaigners to protest at cathedral. This includes a detailed account of how Kent Police are taking seriously the issue of homophobic behaviour. The article was on the front page of the Kentish Saturday Observer as you can see from this PDF file.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 16 May 2008 at 11:46am BST | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Lambeth: bishop counting

Bill Bowder has a report in the Church Times today Two months to go and bishops are still checking in.

On Wednesday, numbers stood at 620 of the possible 880 bishops in the Anglican Communion. Officials calculate that about ten per cent of sees are vacant. Nigeria has said that none of its 141 bishops will attend; nor will Uganda’s 31 bishops. This leaves fewer than 20 bishops unaccounted for.”

…The Anglican Communion Office said on Wednesday that it had received no official notification that any of the bishops who had been invited were not attending.

“It is not wise to say who will be there till much closer to the event,” said a spokesman.

So far, 570 spouses have registered for the spouses’ conference.

This week, the organisers of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) said that 280 bishops had registered to attend. GAFCON, a conservative gathering, takes place in Jordan and Jerusalem next month. It is now clear that many bishops plan to attend both conferences.

No mention in this article of others who have said they will not come:

  • Kenya - 29 domestic dioceses - see Reuters news report here.

Dave Walker has a nice cartoon here.

The official conference website has three posters, here, here, and here.
There are also numerous bookmarks here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 16 May 2008 at 8:29am BST | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 15 May 2008

women as bishops: the Australian protocol

The bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia recently agreed a Protocol about Women in the Episcopate.

The text of this document can be found as a PDF file on the national church website, here.

It is also reproduced in full below the fold.

AUSTRALIAN ANGLICAN BISHOPSPROTOCOL

No. 011 YEAR: 2008

WOMEN IN THE EPISCOPATE

1. As bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia, we recognise that the ministry of ordained women has been accepted in many dioceses of this Church, and also acknowledge that there are those who, for various reasons and to varying degrees, are unable to accept women in the ordained ministry.

2. We recognise the good faith of those who support the ordination and consecration of women and of those who cannot receive these developments, and pledge that those who hold either conviction will continue to have a valued and respected place in this Church.

3. We resolve to nurture the highest possible level of collegiality as bishops, seeking to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

4. We affirm that all people are made in the image of God, and expressly reject any intolerance or unjust discrimination against any member of this Church on the grounds of gender, since all are one in Christ Jesus, while acknowledging that diverse biblical and theological views on the place of gender in the order of creation and the church are genuinely held.

5. We affirm that episcopal ministry should be available to every community of faith and every member of this Church, whatever their belief as to the acceptability of a woman holding office as a bishop, and that the diocesan bishop will ensure that pastorally sensitive and appropriate episcopal ministry is provided.

6. We affirm that every diocesan bishop and every bishop providing episcopal ministry within a diocese should be mutually accountable in collegial solidarity with his or her episcopal colleagues for ensuring that there are reasonable and appropriate arrangements for episcopal ministry. Accordingly, we encourage all dioceses who desire to appoint or elect women as bishops to make provision for reasonable and appropriate episcopal ministry, addressing matters including the following:

a. arrangements for episcopal visitation, confirmation and ordination;
b. provisions for matters of discipline and pastoral succession;
c. procedures through which a community of faith may request the provision of this ministry; and
d. provision about the manner in which the costsofproviding this ministry are to be borne.

We also note the proposed provisions for alternative episcopal ministry in the Bill for a Church Law (Further Clarification) Canon 2004 and commend these to the dioceses for consideration in developing “reasonable and appropriate arrangements” with a degree of continuity across the Anglican Church of Australia.

7. We recommend that the custom of the Metropolitan or Primate acting as chief consecrator should be varied to the extent necessary when the Metropolitan or Primate is a woman or when a woman is to be consecrated.

8. We encourage Metropolitans, when planning consecration services, to consider that for some it will be important that three of the consecrating bishops are men, and we also pledge to act with respect for one another in the ordering of services of consecration.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 15 May 2008 at 10:00am BST | Comments (16) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 14 May 2008

"Yes" to Women Bishops, but not at any price

Press Release - 14th May 2008 for immediate release

Women Clergy Message to Bishops: “Yes” to Women Bishops, but not at any price

In an outspoken statement sent this week to all bishops in the Church of England, nearly half of all licensed women clergy called for no further delay on women bishops, but also, for no further discrimination written into the legislation.

The statement, drawn up by leading women priests, states: “We believe that it should be possible for women to be consecrated as bishop, but not at any price. The price of legal ‘safeguards’ for those opposed is simply too high, diminishing not just the women concerned, but the catholicity, integrity and mission of the episcopate and of the Church as a whole.”

It goes on to say: “We cannot countenance any proposal that would, once again, enshrine and formalise discrimination against women in legislation.” None of the 15 Anglican provinces which have voted for women bishops have included discriminatory legislation.

The statement challenges any suggestion that those who want the simplest statutory provisions do not care for those who remain opposed to women’s ordained ministry, and points to “strong relationships” and to the possibility of a code of practice that make “the passing of a single clause measure realistic in today’s Church, as well as theologically and ecclesiologically cohesive.”

The statement declares that “all bishops should work within clear expectations and codes of practice. The language of “protection” and “safeguard” is offensive to women, and we believe the existing disciplinary procedures are enough for women or men to be brought to account if they behave inappropriately.”

The covering letter, dated 11th May 2008, is signed by Jane Hedges, Canon Steward at Westminster Abbey, Rosemary Lain-Priestley, Secretary of the National Association of Diocesan Advisors in Women’s Ministry and Lucy Winkett, Canon Precentor at St Paul’s Cathedral and more than 500 other ordained women. Since then a further 213 women priests have added their names to the statement, representing nearly half of all ordained women in the Church of England.

CONTACTS:

Christina Rees (Chair National WATCH)
Tel: 01763-848-822
eMail: Christina@MediaMaxima.com

Revd Canon Lucy Winkett
Tel: 020-7246-8321
eMail: precentor@stpaulscathedral.org.uk

Revd Vanda Rowe
Tel: 01980-610-305
eMail: rev.vandarowe@gmail.com

Revd Canon Jane Hedges
Tel: 020-7654-4867
eMail: Jane.Hedges@westminster-abbey.org

The full text of the statement follows below the fold.

Statement to the House of Bishops regarding the Single Clause Measure as outlined in the Manchester Report

From: Women Clergy undersigned

We welcome the work done by the Legislative Drafting Group outlining ways forward for the Church with regard to the consecration of women as bishops. As ordained women, from amongst whom some of the first generation of women bishops may come, we wish to make our own contribution to the current debate.

We believe that it should be possible for women to be consecrated as bishops, but not at any price. The price of legal “safeguards” for those opposed is simply too high, diminishing not just the women concerned, but the catholicity, integrity and mission of the episcopate and of the Church as a whole. We cannot countenance any proposal that would, once again, enshrine and formalise discrimination against women in legislation. With great regret, we would be prepared to wait longer, rather than see further damage done to the Church of England by passing discriminatory laws. In this, we support the recent principled stand taken by the Archbishop and Bishops of the Church in Wales.

After 21 years of ordained ministry and 14 years of priesthood, many of us have much experience of building trustful relationships with those unable to accept the priestly ministry of women. In the Anglican Communion overseas, women take this experience into the episcopate, which leads them to invite other bishops into their Dioceses or Episcopal areas to ordain, confirm and take other services when required. Bishops should be trusted to act wisely and behave with dignity, and all bishops should work within clear expectations and codes of practice. The language of “protection” and “safeguard” is offensive to women, and we believe the existing disciplinary procedures are enough for women or men to be brought to account if they behave inappropriately. We would commend the good practice over the past 20 years of the 15 Anglican Provinces which have already opened the episcopate to women: none of these has passed discriminatory legislation.

Discussion of a single clause measure without including the possible arrangements for those opposed, characterises those who argue for it as somehow “not caring” about those who oppose the ordination/consecration of women. This is far from the truth. Strong relationships have been forged on the anvil of profound disagreement and there is ample testimony to the richness of these encounters, to set alongside those situations which have proved painful. As the broken body of Christ on earth, the Church’s internal relationships should rest on trust, forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation, rather than on protection and an over-anxious reliance on the letter of the law. Work has already been done on a draft proposal of robust and clear arrangements that make the passing of a single clause measure realistic in today’s Church, as well as theologically and ecclesiologically cohesive.

We long to see the consecration of women bishops in the Church of England, and believe it is right both in principle and in timing. But because we love the Church, we are not willing to assent to a further fracture in our communion and threat to our unity. If it is to be episcopacy for women qualified by legal arrangements to “protect” others from our oversight, then our answer, respectfully, is thank you, but no.

May 2008

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Irish archbishop speaks about Lambeth

The Irish Independent reports under the headline Plea for unity over gay bishop argument that:

The Archbishop of Dublin has urged Church of Ireland members not to split over the issue of ordaining gay men as bishops, which has caused a crisis for the world-wide Anglican Communion.

Speaking last night at the Synod’s annual service in Galway, Archbishop John Neill also suggested that a resolution of the church’s “gay bishop” crisis could be found when the world’s Anglican bishops meet in July for their 10-yearly Lambeth Conference…

The full text of John Neill’s sermon can be found here.

The synod is also reported by Episcopal News Service in Archbishop reflects on Holy Land visit, condemns car bomb attack:

Harper, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland since February 2007, told a news conference following the synod’s opening session that the Church of Ireland remains in communion with every part of the Anglican Communion and spoke about his hopes for this summer’s Lambeth Conference of bishops. “I believe that we will find a way to manage the differences that we have with respect to everyone’s ethically held positions,” he said.

Harper described the July 16-August 3 conference in Canterbury as an opportunity for the bishops “to pray together, to study together, to discuss the problems and issues which are particularly current from their own perspectives and in their own backgrounds, to gain strength from one another, and to recognize in one another a Communion which goes back over many centuries.”

Acknowledging that it has the power to make resolutions, but that the Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces are not required to conform to them, Harper said the conference “was never set up as a legislative body and it is not that now. If there is a particular direction that is to be embraced by the whole Communion, it isn’t the Lambeth Conference that makes that decision.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has invited some 880 bishops to attend this year’s gathering. Harper noted that certain bishops and primates have indicated their intention to boycott the Lambeth Conference, but said he expects the once-a-decade gathering to “reinforce the relationships amongst those bishops who attend.”

Also, the full text of Alan Harper’s presidential address to the synod can be found here (PDF).

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CT interview of VGR

Last week, the Church Times carried a lengthy article in which the Editor, Paul Handley, interviewed the Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson.

This is now available for all to read, at Never lonelier, never more blessed.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 14 May 2008 at 9:34am BST | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Monday, 12 May 2008

GAFCON update

This GAFCON press release 1,000 Christian leaders, 280 bishops to GAFCON in Jerusalem has been issued.

Over 1000 senior leaders from seventeen provinces in the Anglican Communion, representing 35 million church-going Anglicans, have registered for the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem at the close of the online registration process. They include 280 bishops, almost all accompanied by their wives. Final attendance figures will depend on smooth processing of requested visas, and other factors.

GAFCON leaders have met in the period leading up to Pentecost with the leaders of Anglican, Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic churches and Palestinian Christians and Messianic Jews in Jerusalem to brief them on the nature and purpose of GAFCON. GAFCON is concerned to affirm the continuing presence of the Church in the Holy Land.

Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, the chair of the Programme Committee reports that the programme is almost complete. “Our programme will focus on the transforming love of Christ. We will be drawing from the scriptures of the Old and New Testament in our pilgrimage, and their relevance to the challenges facing the church globally today. These include secularism, other religions, poverty and HIV/Aids as well as moral and theological issues.”

Pilgrims will visit traditional sites in Jerusalem during the pilgrimage June 22 – 29, 2008 including Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Ophel Gardens and Temple steps where at the first Pentecost Peter preached and people of all nations responded. The 1000 pilgrims will travel to Bethlehem to the Church of the Nativity and Shepherds’ Field, and then to Galilee.

The goals of the GAFCON conference in Jerusalem are to:

1. Provide an opportunity for fellowship as well as to continue to experience and proclaim the transforming love of Christ.

2. Develop a renewed understanding of our identity as Anglican Christians.

3. Prepare for an Anglican future in which the Gospel is uncompromised and Christ-centered mission a top priority. Pentecost 2008

This release does not mention Jordan, but the conference brochure (PDF) does refer to “An initial consultation in Jordan…”

Meanwhile, criticism of GAFCON from open evangelicals continues, see Graham Kings’ recent address here or another version here, which was in the Church of England Newspaper.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 12 May 2008 at 9:33pm BST | Comments (39) | TrackBack
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Presiding Bishop writes to Primate of Uganda

Updated Thursday evening
Scroll down for the response by Archbishop Orombi

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has written to Archbishop Henry Orombi.

See Episcopal News Service Ugandan primate’s ‘incursion’ into Georgia violates Windsor Report, Presiding Bishop notes.

Archbishop of Uganda Henry Orombi’s actions to visit a Savannah congregation on May 14 without the invitation of Episcopal Bishop of Georgia Henry Louttit “violate the spirit and letter of the work of the Windsor Report, and only lead to heightened tensions,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote in a May 12 letter to Orombi.
“We are more than willing to receive you for conversation, dialogue, and reconciliation, yet you continue to act without speaking with us,” Jefferts Schori wrote in her letter sent by email. “I hope and pray that you might respond to our invitation and meet with representatives of this Church.”

But noting that Orombi’s planned visit comes without Louttit’s invitation, “I must protest this unwarranted incursion into The Episcopal Church,” Jefferts Schori wrote in her letter.

According to reports, Orombi plans to meet May 14 with clergy and laity who voted in October 2007 to disaffiliate with the Episcopal Church. The group continues to occupy historic Christ Church, Savannah, while the continuing Episcopal congregation meets at Savannah’s Church of St. Michael and All Angels. Christ Church, Savannah, dates from 1733.

The full text of Jefferts Schori’s letter follows.


May 12, 2008

The Most Revd Henry Luke Orombi
Archbishop of Uganda and Bishop of Kampala
PO Box 14123
Kampala
UGANDA
EAST AFRICA

My dear brother,

I understand from advertising here that you plan to visit a congregation in the Diocese of Georgia on 14 May of this year. The diocesan, Bishop Henry Louttit, has not given any invitation for you to do so, nor received any information from you about your planned visit. I must protest this unwarranted incursion into The Episcopal Church. I am concerned that you seem to feel it appropriate to visit, preach, and exercise episcopal ministry within the territory of this Church, and I wonder how you would receive similar behavior in Uganda. These actions violate the spirit and letter of the work of the Windsor Report, and only lead to heightened tensions. We are more than willing to receive you for conversation, dialogue, and reconciliation, yet you continue to act without speaking with us. I hope and pray that you might respond to our invitation and meet with representatives of this Church.

I remain

Your servant in Christ,

Katharine Jefferts Schori

cc:
Bishop Henry Louttit
Archbishop Rowan Williams

Update Thursday evening

Archbishop Henry Orombi has responded to this letter in an email published at Stand Firm which you can read here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 12 May 2008 at 8:55pm BST | Comments (20) | TrackBack
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Archbishop of Canterbury's Pentecost Letter to the Bishops of the Anglican Communion

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has today sent an open letter to the bishops of the Anglican Communion, in advance of the Lambeth Conference.

The full text of the letter is online and can also be found below:

The Feast of Pentecost is a time when we give thanks that God, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, makes us able to speak to each other and to the whole world of the wonderful things done in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a good moment to look forward prayerfully to the Lambeth Conference, asking God to pour out the Spirit on all of us as we make ready for this time together, so that we shall indeed be given grace to speak boldly in his Name.

I indicated in earlier letters that the shape of the Conference will be different from what many have been used to. We have listened carefully to those who have expressed their difficulties with Western and parliamentary styles of meeting, and the Design Group has tried to find a new style – a style more reflective of that Pentecost moment when all received the gift of speaking freely about Christ.

At the heart of this will be the indaba groups. Indaba is a Zulu word describing a meeting for purposeful discussion among equals. Its aim is not to negotiate a formula that will keep everyone happy but to go to the heart of an issue and find what the true challenges are before seeking God’s way forward. It is a method with parallels in many cultures, and it is close to what Benedictine monks and Quaker Meetings seek to achieve as they listen quietly together to God, in a community where all are committed to a fellowship of love and attention to each other and to the word of God.

Each day’s work in this context will go forward with careful facilitation and preparation, to ensure that all voices are heard (and many languages also!). The hope is that over the two weeks we spend together, these groups will build a level of trust that will help us break down the walls we have so often built against each other in the Communion. And in combination with the intensive prayer and fellowship of the smaller Bible study groups, all this will result, by God’s grace, in clearer vision and discernment of what needs to be done.

As I noted when I wrote to you in Advent, this makes it all the more essential that those who come to Lambeth will arrive genuinely willing to engage fully in that growth towards closer unity that the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process envisage. We hope that people will not come so wedded to their own agenda and their local priorities that they cannot listen to those from other cultural backgrounds. As you may have gathered, in circumstances where there has been divisive or controversial action, I have been discussing privately with some bishops the need to be wholeheartedly part of a shared vision and process in our time together.

Of course, as baptised Christians and pastors of Christ’s flock, we are not just seeking some low-level consensus, or a simple agreement to disagree politely. We are asking for the fire of the Spirit to come upon us and deepen our sense that we are answerable to and for each other and answerable to God for the faithful proclamation of his grace uniquely offered in Jesus. That deepening may be painful in all kinds of ways. The Spirit does not show us a way to by-pass the Cross. But only in this way shall we truly appear in the world as Christ’s Body as a sign of God’s Kingdom which challenges a world scarred by poverty, violence and injustice.

The potential of our Conference is great. The focus of all we do is meant to be strengthening our Communion and equipping all bishops to engage more effectively in mission; only God the Holy Spirit can bind us together in lasting and Christ-centred way, and only God the Holy Spirit can give us the words we need to make Christ truly known in our world. So we must go on praying hard with our people that the Spirit will bring these possibilities to fruition as only he can. Those who have planned the Conference have felt truly touched by that Spirit as they have worked together, and I know that their only wish is that what they have outlined for us will enable others to experience the same renewal and delight in our fellowship.

This is an ambitious event – ambitious for God and God’s Kingdom, which is wholly appropriate for a Lambeth Conference. And our ambition is nothing less than renewal and revival for us all in the Name of Jesus and the power of his Spirit.

May that Spirit be with you daily in your preparation for our meeting. As Our Lord says, ‘You know him, for he lives with and will be in you’ (Jn 14.17).

+ Rowan Cantuar

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 12 May 2008 at 5:25pm BST | Comments (16) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 11 May 2008

embryology bill debate: archbishop writes

Tomorrow the House of Commons begins debating the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, an updated version of the current legislation which became law in 1990.

See Embryology Bill: the key points at the BBC.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has written in the Mail on Sunday about the issues involved, see We condemn torture, rape - anything that uses another’s body for our own purpose - Shouldn’t we show embryos similar respect?

Update The same Daily Mail text is now on the Lambeth Palace site as well.

Here is the earlier TA report on what was said when the House of Lords considered this bill.

Rather surprisingly, the Medical Research Council is discouraging scientists from attending Parliament, see BBC Scientists’ protest discouraged.

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Saturday, 10 May 2008

opinions at Whitsun

Geoffrey Rowell writes in The Times about The celestial fire that brings us new life and inspiration.

Chris Duggan writes in the Guardian about our ecological sins. See Face to faith.

Christopher Howse writes in the Daily Telegraph about Boris Johnson and the Holy Trinity.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Maude Royden in Do people need saving from this?

At Ekklesia there are several items. First, and rather belatedly, a link to a paper published some weeks ago by Savi Hensman under the heading Listening and learning in the sexuality debate.

Jonathan Bartley asks Are Christians facing discrimination?

Simon Barrow writes a column titled Land of hope and glory?

And, finally, over in the Spectator there is an article by Theo Hobson ‘It’s Harder For Straights To Feel Christian Charity Than Gays’

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Thursday, 8 May 2008

Anglican Church Bans Polygamy

Anglican Church Bans Polygamy is the headline of a news article at PM News by Kazeem Ugbodaga:

The Anglican Communion in Nigeria has banned polygamy among members of the church.

The ban was handed down by the Archbishop and Primate of the Church, Most Reverend Peter Akinola.

Worried by the proliferation of marriages in the church among polygamous members, Akinola wrote to all Anglican Communions in the country to desist from such practice, which he described as unscriptural.

According to him, the integrity of the Christian faith is far more important than the reputation of those who turn their backs on the word of God.

“Those of us who are in the forefront of the prophetic call for a return to Biblical truth, cannot close our eyes to the increasingly blatant disregard for the teaching of the Bible on family life.

“The observation will destroy our witness if not firmly addressed. We cannot claim to be a Bible-believing church and yet be selective in our obedience,” he added.

Akinola stated emphatically that whosoever is involved in polygamous marriage, no matter how highly placed, must come under authority of the Bible.

He warned that any attempt to trivialise the Bible’s teaching on monogamy as the ultimate standard for the Christian family “will make a mockery of whatever else we stand for.

“Sadly, sometimes, even our leadership has looked the other way on this matter.”

The Anglican Communion Nigeria, during the crisis on whether to ordain gays (homosexuals) as preachers in the Anglican Communion overseas, stood against it…

Update Saturday

The BBC has a report on this, Warning for Christian polygamists.

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Religious attendance statistics in dispute

Updated again Friday evening

A body called Christian Research has made a number of claims that have been reported by newspapers:

The Times Ruth Gledhill Churchgoing on its knees as Christianity falls out of favour and also commentary at God-shaped hole will lead to loss of national sense of identity.

Daily Telegraph George Pitcher Practising Muslims ‘will outnumber Christians by 2035’

Daily Mail Ben Clerkin ‘More practising Muslims than Christians in Britain by 2035’

But are these claims true? And why are quotation marks used in the headlines?

The Church of England issued a statement Latest Religious Trends publication ‘flawed and dangerously misleading’. This says:

…Across Christian denominations and other faiths, the research does not compare like with like. The number of active Muslims, for example, is an estimated projection based on halving the number of people who said they were Muslim at the last national government census in 2001. The same process for those who said they were Christian at the last census would yield about 20 million active Christians of whom around 14 million are active Anglicans (based on recent national surveys).

Instead, this research estimates Christian ‘membership’ using, for example, the number of adults on the Church of England’s local parish based formal voting lists as the sole measure of its active ‘members’. Huge numbers of people worshipping every week and involved in their churches in all sorts of other ways are consequently missed…

David Keen has a blog post Why Christian Research is Wrong and Dave Walker has more at Is the church in decline?

Update Thursday evening

Andrew Brown has published an article on Comment is free titled Prayers for the fearful in which he criticises this research:

…These extrapolations are all based on present trends continuing, which tells us that they are certainly wrong. It is an absolutely safe bet that society will have changed drastically in the next 40 years and in ways that we can’t foresee. Present trends will not continue. They may get worse, of course, for Christianity, but I doubt it.

The real lesson of these figures is not that the Church of England may cease to exist, or even that Islam is on the rise. It is that religion does not exist as a distinct mode of thought or existence. Religious allegiance is not a matter of theology; it’s not even, really, a matter of spirituality.

What really drives it is its function of ritualising and dramatising moral values and stories about society. This means that any church, any mosque, and so on, serves as a focus for a particular community and is embedded with all sort of extra-religious cultural assumptions and practices. If the community disappears, so does the church. The community will disappear when it no longer has an economic or political function and when the cost of membership seems to exceed the benefits…

And now, the author of the original research is disputing the Ruth Gledhill article:

The Times has ran a double page feature from Ruth Gledhill on declining church attendance, and compares it to the rising number of Muslims and Hindus attending worship. Benita Hewitt is the new director of Christian Research Association, whose Religious Trends have been quoted, describes the article as very misleading. Church attendance once a week is compared to mosque attendance once a year, and no allowance has been made for once a month, once a year, midweek and FX church attendance…

Update Friday morning

David Keen has drawn attention in the comments to this sample article featured in the March 2008 issue of Quadrant, which contains data that doesn’t match the newspaper reports. See David’s own blog article about this here.

Update Friday evening

Ruth Gledhill has posted Latest religious trends which includes two tables taken from the report (click on the tables to enlarge them). See also the comments to this blog article for more information.

Letters to The Times can be found here.

Dave Walker has obtained more comment from Benita Hewitt which is available here.

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Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Prayers for Burma

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has written to the Anglican church in Burma following the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in the area of the Irrawaddy River Delta.

See statement from Lambeth Palace here, and for background links to relief agencies, see the ACNS copy here.

In the letter to Archbishop Stephen Than Myint Oo, Dr Williams assures the church of the prayers of the Anglican Communion and commends the rescue operation now underway:

“I am heartened to know relief efforts are underway to help hundreds of thousands of people who are without clean water, food, or shelter. Our hearts grieve with all those who have lost their loved ones, their homes and their livelihoods. In the face of such loss, all I can offer in my prayers for you is the totality of the love of God, even in the face of all that on earth is disfigured by natural disaster. ‘This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.’ (John 6.39). Please be assured that your brothers and sisters across the Communion are holding you in their prayers.”

The Anglican church in Burma is known as the Church of the Province of Myanmar. Its leader is The Most Revd Stephen Than Myint Oo, Archbishop of Myanmar & Bishop of Yangon.

Update
Update from the Anglican Church of the Province of Myanmar

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 7 May 2008 at 6:35pm BST | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Zimbabwe: more statements

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA has issued a statement about Zimbabwe. See ENS Presiding Bishop’s statement on the Zimbabwe crisis.

For earlier statements see here and earlier ACNS had Archbishop Thabo Makgoba calls for UN arms embargo on Zimbabwe.

Also, USPG: Anglicans in World Mission has issued a statement, see ACNS Anglican Church in Zimbabwe is making a difference:

USPG: Anglicans in World Mission, has been heartened by the response to the call to prayer issued for (27th April 2008) by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

The Rt Revd Michael Doe, General Secretary of USPG today said: “USPG: Anglicans in World Mission, as the principal Anglican agency working in the Dioceses of Zimbabwe, has been overwhelmed by the response individuals, parishes and Dioceses are making to the call to prayer.

“We’d like to follow up the Archbishops’ call to ask for the prayers of individuals for the specific needs of those dioceses, and to share some of the good work that is continuing there. USPG has continued to stand by the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe, and its steadfastness is an example to us all…”

And ENS also has Zimbabwe Anglicans face ‘communist-style’ persecution, says bishop.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 7 May 2008 at 1:45pm BST | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion

Pittsburgh comes to Lambeth

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has issued an announcement Pittsburgh Bishops to Attend Lambeth Conference.

Bishops Robert Duncan and Henry Scriven confirmed today that they will be attending both the Global Anglican Future Conference in Jordan and Jerusalem in June and the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in Kent, England, this July and August.

“After consulting with the people of Pittsburgh and our friends around the globe, we have come to the conclusion that it is necessary for us to be present at both gatherings,” said Bishop Robert Duncan.

The Global Anglican Future Conference is focused on moving forward with the work and witness of the church even as the crisis in the Anglican Communion over discipline and biblical authority continues. It brings together hundreds of bishops who have, as a matter of conscience, decided not to attend the Lambeth Conference, as well as other bishops who believe that global partnerships and the current conflicts necessitate their presence at both meetings. Among those going to Jerusalem and Jordan are many of the strongest supporters of orthodox Anglicans in North America. “We will be among friends, focused squarely on the Gospel, and dealing openly with how we build the missionary relationships, covenantal boundaries and responsible structures for the future of Anglicanism,” said Bishop Duncan.

Bishops Duncan and Scriven will then join some six-hundred bishops and archbishops (about two-thirds of all Anglican bishops) who will be attending the Anglican Communion’s once-a-decade Lambeth Conference of Bishops. “Given the expense and the stated-intent of the Archbishop of Canterbury that Lambeth can no longer be considered a decision making council of the church, choosing to be present was not easy,” said Bishop Duncan. In an effort to limit costs connected to the meeting, an estimated $12,000 per attending bishop and spouse for the entire two-and-a-half week Lambeth Conference, Bishop Duncan will attend July 16-25 and Bishop Scriven will attend July 26 - August 3.

Both bishops believe it is important that the diocese be represented throughout the Lambeth Conference, if for no other reason than to provide an alternative perspective on the situation in The Episcopal Church. “Those who accuse us of abandoning the Anglican Communion will certainly be present and vocal. It is important for us to be able to respond directly to their claims about the situation in The Episcopal Church and our place in the Communion,” added Bishop Duncan. As with the Global Anglican Future Conference, both Pittsburgh bishops will also work to strengthen missionary partnerships with bishops from every corner of the world.

Bishop Scriven asked that Pittsburgh Episcopalians pray for both meetings. “We hope that many join us in praying for God’s clear presence and guidance in the Holy Land and Canterbury. With God, all things are possible,” he said.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 7 May 2008 at 9:01am BST | Comments (37) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: ECUSA

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Canadian developments

Updated Tuesday evening

In Ontario, the civil court has ruled that church buildings must be shared pending the outcome of litigation.

Canadian Press Breakaway Anglicans to share churches with diocese, Ont. judge rules

Hamilton Spectator Anglican churches awarded joint custody

Toronto Globe & Mail Diocese, parishes to share churches

The Anglican Network in Canada issued a press release, which appears on the sydneyanglicans site, Parishioners disappointed by court decision.

Earlier, in Alberta the Diocese of Athabasca passed resolutions supporting Canadian breakaway churches. The Anglican Journal reported that:

The archbishop of Athabasca has issued a letter confirming his diocese’s commitment to the Canadian church and the Anglican Communion after its synod passed motions supporting churches that have left the Anglican Church of Canada and criticizing bishops who have gone to court over property issues…

Updates about Niagara
The Diocese of Niagara has issued this press release (PDF).

The court decision is available here (PDF).

The Anglican Church of Canada also has a press release.

The Anglican Journal has Churches must share buildings with Niagara diocese, court rules.

And there is a later Canadian Press report Breakaway Niagara Anglican churches consider appealing order to share with diocese.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 6 May 2008 at 10:01am BST | Comments (36) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Canada

Canterbury visits Rome

Updated Tuesday evening

The Lambeth Palace press release was titled Archbishop to convene the 7th Building Bridges seminar in Rome.

Reuters reported it as Pope discusses Islam relations with Anglican head.

Vatican Radio had an interview: Pope Meets with Head of Anglican Communion.

The entire interview (8 minutes) can be downloaded from here. This is worth listening to in full.

Zenit has ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY VISITS BENEDICT XVI.

The Guardian has Vatican lends hand to Williams in battle to shore up Anglican unity.

Update Tuesday afternoon
Another Lambeth Palace press release is headed Archbishop - ‘friendly meeting’ with Pope Benedict and this page, headed Interview with Vatican Radio in Rome, links to a shorter audio recording and transcript of what was actually broadcast.

See also Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Benedict discuss ecumenical, Muslim-Christian relations from ENS and Archbishop of Canterbury - ‘friendly meeting’ with Pope Benedict from ACNS.

Tuesday evening
There is also this report in the Catholic Herald based on an interview with Cardinal Kasper, and this interpretation of it by Ruth Gledhill.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 6 May 2008 at 9:16am BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion

Monday, 5 May 2008

Religious faith and human rights

Last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury delivered a lecture at the London School of Economics. The title was Religious faith and human rights.

You can read the full text of the lecture here.

Natalie Hanman has written at Comment is free about this lecture. Her article is titled Cross purposes. In the article she asks which comes first: gender equality before the law, or religious liberty?

This article also explains about the current UK legislation imposing a “public sector equality duty” and the proposals to extend this duty into more areas.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 5 May 2008 at 11:11pm BST | Comments (15) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

Saturday, 3 May 2008

opinions for Ascensiontide

Jonathan Sacks writes in The Times Teach your children well the power of Passover.

Steve Parish writes about zeal for the social Gospel in the Guardian’s Face to faith column.

Christopher Howse writes about Furnishings that cost Laud’s life in the Daily Telegraph.

In the Church Times Giles Fraser writes about how The battle of good and bad religion hots up.

Over on Comment is free Riazat Butt writes about Our dirty little secret.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 3 May 2008 at 2:17pm BST | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Friday, 2 May 2008

women as bishops: two opinion items

Theo Hobson wrote on Comment is free that

Church reformers must come to terms with the fact that it is a fundamentally reactionary institution…

Read O thou great irredeemable.

Andrew Brown wrote on helmintholog a piece unhelpfully titled Anglican Anorak post. It is in fact a discussion of the Manchester report including this:

The real story is that the ordination of women priests was bought on credit, and the church can’t ever pay down more than the interest on the bill. When women priests were ordained, the Church of England was only held together, to the extent that it was, by both sides making solemn promises that they didn’t believe they would ever be called on and had no real intention of delivering. In particular, the supporters of women priests solemnly promised that there would always be an honoured place for their opponents within the church, even though they thought of the arrangements as entirely transitional; in return the opponents solemnly declared that women priests were legally and validly priests, even though they did not believe this could possibly be true. They still don’t.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 2 May 2008 at 7:17pm BST | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

West Africa speaks up

ACNS has published a Statement by the Church of the Province of West Africa on the state of the Anglican Communion.

The Church of the Province of West Africa (Anglican Communion) meeting in Douala, Cameroon, on the 11th day of April, in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand and Eight, having considered very carefully, among other pressing and very important issues, the current general state of the Anglican Commuion in the light of same – sex relationship receiving official recognition and approval by some dioceses and provinces, an issue which is seriously threatening the unity of the Communion, do hereby make the following statement:

1 i. That we are resolved to continue to be in communion with the See of Canterbury as we unequivocally and unambiguously remain in the Anglican Communion.

ii. In this regard, we reiterate the resolution of Anglican Consultative Council, Hong Kong, August 2002 in response to Archbishop George Carey’s urging that dioceses “that are considering matters of faith and doctrine that could affect the unity of the Communion to consult widely in their provinces, and beyond before final decisions are made or action is taken.”

iii. We affirm the importance of showing concern and regard to the rest of the Communion.

2. We, however, out rightly condemn and reject the unacceptable action of some of the members of the Communion in the blessing and formal acceptance of same-sex marriages and relationships, the appointment, election and ordination to ecclesiastical offices of those persons who openly admit and declare that they are homosexuals and lesbians (cf Romans 1:26-27). That such practices of some of the members of our Communion do exist and that they are to be treated pastorally, we deny not. However, that they be given official recognition and acceptance by the Church of God as a standard form of life is quite another stand which we cannot and dare not accept.

3. We reiterate that while we remain members of the Communion, we shall continue to abhor such practices and, therefore, appeal to those members to reconsider their actions in the light of Biblical Teachings and Christian Principles.

4. We wish to commend the Leadership of the Anglican Communion for all the efforts being made in the face of many challenges to keep the Communion intact just as our forebears did down the ages in the midst of numerous controversies.

5. We further urge all members of the Communion to tread very cautiously in these trying and challenging moments of our existence even as we each try hard to uphold the beliefs and practices of the Anglican Communion especially as have been espoused by various Gatherings and recognized Organs which symbolize instruments of Unity within the Communion, and we do urge all to “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3)

6. In a debate, name-calling should be avoided. Reducing the conversation to Liberals versus Conservatives is not helpful; it only adds fuel to an already inflamed situation.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 2 May 2008 at 6:59pm BST | Comments (44) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion

Covenant flow charts

If you think that some of the Manchester report’s proposals are complicated, then try this.

Paul Bagshaw has prepared diagrams to show how the proposals in the Appendix to the St Andrew’s Draft of the Anglican Covenant might work.

See them here (PDF).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 2 May 2008 at 9:20am BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion

women as bishops: Church Times explains

Two articles by Pat Ashworth in today’s Church Times set out to explain what the Manchester report really says. See

Women bishops: choose path you want, says group

Manchester report: the conclusions summarised

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 2 May 2008 at 9:15am BST | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Thursday, 1 May 2008

bishops interviewed

The Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone Gregory Venables is interviewed by Ruth Gledhill. See Archbishop Greg: ‘Why I’ll be at Lambeth’.

The Bishop of New Hampshire is also interviewed by Ruth Gledhill. See Lambeth: Bishop Gene and Bishop Greg.

Update Friday morning
Not only is Bishop Venables coming to Lambeth, but so also is the Bishop of Fort Worth, see this announcement.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 1 May 2008 at 6:22pm BST | Comments (63) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion