Wednesday, 31 December 2008


Updated again Thursday evening

Various Anglican leaders have commented on the current situation in Gaza.

Presiding Bishop joins call for end to Gaza attacks

MIDDLE EAST: Jerusalem bishop issues statement on Gaza

MIDDLE EAST: Patriarchs, heads of Jerusalem churches issue ecumenical statement on Gaza

Statements from around the Communion on the Situation in Gaza.

Archbishop’s statement on Gaza (Archbishop of Canterbury)

New Year’s Day News from Gaza

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 at 7:02pm GMT | Comments (15) | TrackBack
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Literalism and Subversion

L’Homme Armé

The man, the man, the armed man,
The armed man
The armed man should be feared, should be feared.
Everywhere it has been proclaimed
That each man shall arm himself
With a coat of iron mail.
(attr. the court of Charles the Bold, 1433-77).

The warmongering Charles the Bold of Burgundy, in between skirmishes and battles, presided over a remarkably musical court, one of whose members penned the song ‘L’homme armé’. The tune caught on, appearing in dozens of mediæval mass settings, but so far as I know, no-one had the brass face to use the words in a religious context.

Until recently.

I admit to being underwhelmed when I first heard Karl Jenkins’ ‘The armed man — a mass for peace’, probably because it was being hyped to death by Classic FM (note for colonials — a radio station specialising in lifestyle music for the moneyed middle classes) in ‘lollipop’ snatches designed to calm gridlocked commuters. But I came to realise he’d done something rather clever: by creative use of text and intertextuality — including the Ordinary of the mass — he’d managed to take the uncompromisingly military ‘L’homme armé doibt on doubter’, ‘The armed man should be feared’ and so subvert it that by the end of the work it became an impassioned plea for peace, doubtless leaving Charles the Bold (who, it should be noted, died in one of his own battles) gently spinning in his grave. Subversion, a leading up the proverbial garden path, is perhaps a more fruitful way of bringing about change than reaction.

For Christians, this can hardly be a surprise. The ‘crux gemmata’, the ‘jewelled cross’ demonstrates one way in which we have subverted the Cross, transforming its original power as an instrument of Roman oppression into a symbol of honour and glory, and some recent studies place the stone crosses of the Anglo-Saxon period (e.g., at Ruthwell) in the same ‘crux gemmata’ tradition. The art of the early mediæval period, with its ‘Christus Rex’ symbolism points us in a similar direction, as do the various forms of the Rood poem and Venantius Fortunatus’ ‘Vexilla Regis’.

It is suggested that the devotion to a tortured Christ begins only in the writings of the ninth-century Candidus of Fulda, which devotion opened the way to a literalistic, rather than a subversive, reading of the Cross (and which, we might argue, facilitated the penal understanding of atonement, not to mention Mel Gibson’s profoundly unbiblical gorefest). The tortured Christ invites pity and shame; Christ subversive on the Cross takes us somewhere else, ‘leading captivity captive’.

St. Mary’s Barton backs on to an artesian well, the sort of ‘holy well’ which historically (and currently, at places like Walsingham, Lourdes and Madron) has been associated with healing and the like. Of the mediæval chapels within our building, the oldest dedication is that of St Thomas of Canterbury, victim of twelfth-century power politics, whose feast we celebrated a couple of days ago. This juxtaposition of a martyr’s altar and a site with connotations of healing echoes the cult of Thomas evidenced in the Canterbury Tales — where a story of the violent is subverted into one of healing and hope and wholeness.

Christianity as revolution has been a theological platitude since the 1960s (‘Sing we a song of high revolt,’ gets the blood fizzing, to be sure, but most western Christians are still wealthy and white, which rather gives the game away). But there is good reason to think that our current context, our common societal mental matrix, is no longer centred on revolution but subversion, the undermining of the powerful by means of their own tools. Entering a new year intent on subverting the world for God might be a Christian vocation with much deeper roots than that knee-jerk counter-culturalism so often offered us as the Good News.


Posted by David Rowett on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 at 7:56am GMT | Comments (16) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Women Bishops - press reports

Updated Wednesday morning

Martin Beckford in the Telegraph Bishops put forward as solution to Church of England row over women clergy

Ruth Gledhill in The Times Historic Church of England deal paves way for first women bishops
and Women reach for bishops’ chairs in Church of England as last barriers fall

Riazat Butt in The Guardian Church tries to quell dissent over female bishops with new role

Robert Verkaik in The Independent Opt-out for parishioners opposed to women bishops

WATCH (Women and the Church) has issued a press release today commenting on the draft.

WATCH is pleased that provision in the draft legislation endorses the authority of diocesan bishops, and that they retain the authority to delegate certain functions to another bishop if requested to do so. This means that episcopal authority resides in and is retained by the diocesan bishop and is not transferred automatically to another bishop.

The full press release is below the fold.

Wednesday updates

George Pitcher at the Telegraph has Women bishops demonstrate the Anglican tradition of compromise.

Andrew Brown at Comment is free has Will complementary bishops fly?

Women in the Episcopate

WATCH Statement on the Further Report of the Legislative Drafting Group (GS 1707)

In 2005 General Synod passed a motion asking that the legal obstacles to having women as bishops be removed, and this report contains draft legislation making it possible for that to happen at last.

WATCH is pleased that provision in the draft legislation endorses the authority of diocesan bishops, and that they retain the authority to delegate certain functions to another bishop if requested to do so. This means that episcopal authority resides in and is retained by the diocesan bishop and is not transferred automatically to another bishop. WATCH is opposed, however, to the provision of male-only suffragan sees from which ‘complementary’ bishops may be appointed.

The report acknowledges that some of its arrangements would restrict the rights of bishops who are women, and cites the Church of England’s continuing exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the principle in English law that where there are conflicting rights, the “exercise of one right may sometimes need to be restricted in order to protect the exercise of another right”. (GS1707 page 3, paragraph 16)

WATCH is dismayed that the rights of bishops who are women should be proscribed and that there is not equality of opportunity for women at this level in the Church. WATCH believes that the 20 years’ experience of women as bishops elsewhere in the Anglican Communion shows that mutually acceptable arrangements work well on an informal basis. Chair of WATCH, Christina Rees said today, “This report needs to be seen in the context of a General Synod which has for the past few years stated its desire to open the episcopate to women, and in the wider context of a Church which wonders why this is taking so long. WATCH will be making submissions to the Revision Committee about the contents of the Code of Practice, some of which we find unacceptable, but for now, we take heart that at last we have the draft measure which makes it possible for women to be bishops.”


Christina Rees

Revd Charles Read

Revd Sarah Lamming

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 30 December 2008 at 12:30am GMT | Comments (104) | TrackBack
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Monday, 29 December 2008

Christmas-tide Opinion

Paul Handley, the editor of the Church Times, has a major article in the Comment is free section of The Guardian today.
The Anglican Communion will finally split in 2009 - This will be the year of unavoidable schism in the church.

Also in The Guardian are these two items by Andrew Brown.
The New Atheism, a definition and a quiz - What makes a New Atheist different from an old one? Here are the five doctrines which distinguish them.
So the pope is a Catholic - You may disagree with him. But – properly read – his views on homosexuality are not egregious bigotry.

Jane Williams in The Guardian
Acts of the Apostles, part 3: An ideal church? - Acts implies that the Holy Spirit’s work always leads to the formation of community.

Jonathan Romain in The Guardian
How to survive a sermon - Many of us will be listening to sermons this week. They can be tests of endurance, but they can sometimes be life-changing.

Roderick Strange writes in the Credo section of The Times Commitment and fidelity are demanding qualities - A time to remember and appreciate what our families give us.

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about English kings and St John the Evangelist.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 29 December 2008 at 9:32pm GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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February General Synod

The Church of England General Synod meets from 9 to 13 February in London and an outline agenda has been published, and is copied below.

One major item of business is the first consideration of the Women Bishops legislation. See our separate item on this and make your comments there please.

February Group of Sessions 2009

Sitting hours: 9.30 am to 1 pm and 2.30 pm to 7 pm, except where otherwise stated

Monday 9 February
3.00 pm Prayers, introductions, welcomes; progress of legislation etc
Business Committee report and dates for Synod in 2011 and 2012
Appointment of Chair of Appointments Committee
Address by Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, introduced by the Archbishop of Canterbury
Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission report on Church as Communion

Tuesday 10 February
9.30 am Prayers
Review of Constitutions: presentation, followed by questions
Legislative Business:
Amending Canon No 28: Final Approval
Miscellaneous Provisions Measure – Final Drafting & Final Approval
Ecclesiastical Fees (Amendment) Measure – First Consideration
(if time allows, legislative business scheduled for Thursday will be taken)

2.30 pm Presidential Address
Private Members’ Motion: Vasantha Gnanadoss: Membership of Organisations which Contradict the Duty to Promote Race Equality
The International Financial Crisis and Recession: presentation
Diocesan Synod Motion: Diocese of Chester: Voice of the Church in Public Life

Wednesday 11 February
9.30 am Holy Communion
Women Bishops legislation: First Consideration

2.30 pm Private Members’ Motion: Martin Dales: Church Water Bills
Private Members’ Motion: Paul Eddy: The Uniqueness of Christ in Multi-Faith Britain
Standing Orders Committee report
Diocesan Synod Motion: Dioceses of Newcastle and Winchester: Human Trafficking (presentation followed by debate)

Thursday 12 February
9.30 am Prayers
Anglican Covenant
Legislative Business:
Vacancies in Suffragan Sees and Other Ecclesiastical Offices Measure: Revision Stage
Crown Benefices (Parish Representatives) Measure
Funded Pension Scheme Rules changes

2.30 pm The International Financial Crisis and Recession: debate
Inter faith/Presence and Engagement
Diocesan Synod Motion: Dioceses of Leicester and Peterborough: Future of Church of England Retreat Houses

Friday 13 February
9.30 am Prayers
Diocesan Synod Motion: Diocese of Southwell & Nottingham: Justice and Asylum Seekers
Diocesan Synod Motion: Diocese of Worcester: Climate Change and the Church’s Property Transactions
1.00pm Prorogation

Contingency business:
Diocesan Synod Motion: Diocese of Peterborough: Eucharistic Worship for Young People

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 29 December 2008 at 5:11pm GMT | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Women Bishops in the Church of England

The Women in the Episcopate draft Measure has been published.

In the official press release the chair of the legislative drafting group, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, is quoted as saying:

The General Synod mandated us to draft a Measure including special arrangements, within existing structures, for those unable to receive the ministry of women bishops and to do that in a national code of practice. We believe we have achieved that by providing for male complementary bishops, as we suggested in our earlier report, and now hand our work to the Synod to discuss the drafts in detail.

The draft measure and associated papers are available for download.

GS 1707 - Women in the Episcopate - Further Report from the Legislative Drafting Group
GS 1708 - Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure
GS 1709 - Amending Canon Number 30
GS 1710 - Illustrative Code of Practice
GS 1708-10X - Explanatory Memorandum

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 29 December 2008 at 5:09pm GMT | Comments (29) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 28 December 2008

Christmas sermons

The Archbishop of Canterbury preached at Canterbury Cathedral.

It is … a new creation … [that] can be brought into being only in ‘flesh’: not by material force, not by brilliant negotiation but by making real in human affairs the depth of divine life and love; by showing ‘glory’ — the intensity and radiance of unqualified joy, eternal self-giving. Only in the heart of the ordinary vulnerability of human life can this be shown in such a way, so that we are saved from the terrible temptation of confusing it with earthly power and success.

Read the full sermon here.

The Archbishop of York referred to the economic situation in his sermon.

If I enrich myself at my poor neighbour’s expense, when they are in financial straits, I certainly have the wrong attitude on the matter. True charity repudiates the idea of personal gain as a result of lending money to make ruthless gain- usury – bringing about permanent disappropriation and enslavement. Clearly the way to come closer to God is to be generous and honest towards our fellow human beings.

Extracts from his sermon can be read here

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Sunday, 28 December 2008 at 8:50pm GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 27 December 2008

Look for the holy in the right place

Each year in our town we seem to find more and more Christmas Concerts on the social calendar. One of their consistent themes is to try and answer the need to return to a sense of Christmas being a special feeling and, inevitably descends into sentimentality and schmaltz. This derives from the sagging momentum of the German-style Christmas imported by the Victorians and, behind that, an awe-and-wonder reading of the sacred texts of Christmas.

To rescue Christmas from this increasingly wearying regression, we need to look again at the sacred texts in a way that invites us to be partners rather than spectators. Spectators see stars and magi, prophecies from long ago, squadrons of angels in the heavens and at the centre, a birth which is miraculous because it did not require the conventional preliminaries. All we can do, in the face of stories like this, is to exclaim that God is clever. Faced with our own inability to recreate such signs of wonder, our faces are pressed against the window of supernatural pyrotechnics and we come away empty-handed.

The stories of the supernatural birth of Jesus take on a different light when we consider them as part of a literary genre of the ancient world. There were many and various such stories, none more famous than the story of Augustus Caesar, born to his mother Atia and the god Apollo. Typically such birth stories came at the conclusion of the telling of the great deeds of an individual which must have been conceived in no less than the heavens. Augustus had brought the end of civil war and the longest period of peace that could be remembered. Although the Pax Romana was only felt if you were Romana, leaving the peasant classes impoverished, nonetheless it did not stop him being entitled Prince of Peace, while the coins of the empire styled him Son of God. When his biographer, Suetonius, concluded the story of his life he appended the story of Apollo coming to Atia in the temple and impregnating her. Ten months later, Atia’s husband dreamt he saw the sun rise from her womb and indeed the new Caesar would be born of Atia and the God of Light and be proclaimed Light of the World.

At the end of Augustus’s reign, there began the life of another man whose followers felt his life was patterned after the way of the heavens, Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew. Not the heavens of the brute force of Rome, but the heaven of a God who had made a good earth and had promised a land to a nation in which all should enjoy its fruits. This man met violence with peace, met poverty by organising people to share food, and met sickness with healing. This, said his followers, must surely be what a god does. On the day this man rode into Jerusalem, to the acclaim of crowds, the Roman authorities took one look at him, decided he was trouble and executed him, in the manner where they put dissidents on public display to warn others what happens when you cross Rome’s rule.

But his followers continued to experience his presence and the movement spread. In time his story was written and, quite late on in the process, stories of his divine conception were told. His destiny was described in terms of heroes of the past, Matthew used the stories of Moses, Luke the story of Samuel, and the titles Lord, Son of God, Prince of Peace. In other words, these birth stories were treason; if you said Jesus was Lord, you were saying that Caesar wasn’t.

We need this view of divinity now, as never before. The majority of our world is malnourished, and since 1945 we have come to the end of being able to use violence as a solution; we need this view of the sacred which is non-violent before we go up in a nuclear flash.

Christmas is not about trying to explain wondrous events, as if they literally happened, in the vain hope they can be repeated in our own day. They are narrative aids, both to subvert the birth stories of the leaders of empire, and point to a much more important truth that the life of this man is the pattern for how humanity might shape itself to become like the realm in the heavens, the Kingdom of God on earth.

Posted by Andrew Spurr on Saturday, 27 December 2008 at 12:53pm GMT | Comments (34) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 25 December 2008

Image of God

an imaginative meditation for Christmas Day

I wept the day I gave birth. In the middle of all the joy, I looked and I wept. What I had called into being, I had also called into pain. The nearest, dearest, first, who opened his eyes wide and flung out his arms, he would carry the worst of the suffering. I had longed so for joy and companionship, but looking, I could see I had made pain. I had made struggle, and growth. I had begotten a child in my own image. I had created pain, for without pain, no one could be my companion.

I rejoiced the day I gave birth. I looked and my heart was filled with pride and joy. Those tiny sparks, reflected flickering lights, were crammed with courage and joy despite the darkness which surrounded them. I saw them struggle to live and to love, and, miraculously, even to give birth and to create. I saw love reflected in a thousand ways, in a myriad of broken miniature mirrors, and to me each of the tiny reflections seemed more beautiful than the original, lived as it was in partial darkness and unknowing.

And as I looked I saw the first in all his glory. My heart stopped at the beauty and the courage of him, at the love which filled him to the core, such love that it pulsed out of him, and all the flickering lights grew stronger, and the reflection grew and dazzled until the darkness began to roll back.

His eyes sought mine, and he called out to me: ‘Father, glorify your name.’

I caught his meaning, and my heart broke and reformed and joy filled me, oozing up to cover the pain, bright and overmastering. I looked at true beauty in wonder, and the wonder was that all of this was my own image. ‘I have glorified my name, and I will glorify it again.’ I answered.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah on Thursday, 25 December 2008 at 12:44am GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 24 December 2008

No Depression

My favourite Radio 3 programme is Late Junction. Last Thursday, on the last programme of the year, they played the Carter family singing “No Depression in heaven”. This song from 1936 is suddenly relevant again in our current economic gloom, and depicts the great depression as a sign of the end times and heaven as an alternative to hunger and want. The chorus goes:

I’m going where there’s no depression
To a lovely land that’s free from care.
I’ll leave this world of toil and trouble.
My home’s in heaven. I’m going there.

You can hear it in a number of places, including here.

Heaven, God’s space, is imagined as a glorious place where there is no recession, no investment scandals, no crisis in banking, no defaulting on loans, no large-scale redundancies. Heaven is shown as quite separate from all of this.

Though it is — in some way — a theological reflection on economic crisis, I suspect it is not the reality check that the Archbishop of Canterbury was looking for.

There is an otherness of heaven, but it doesn’t stay “out there”. The message of Christmas is that heaven comes here and enters in to our space. Heaven doesn’t remain apart from the toil and trouble. Rather God breaks in to all the mess and is born as a vulnerable baby in the middle of it all.

Heaven is what happens when we let God in. It’s not that God is going to wave a magic pantomime wand and sort out the problems, but God will stand with us in the misery, inspire us to help those who are in depression because of the Depression, and give us the tools for making the moral and economic choices for remaking our world.

We need to start again, with the baby in the manger.

Posted by Meg Gilley on Wednesday, 24 December 2008 at 8:03am GMT | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 23 December 2008

human ecology

The Pope, speaking on issues of sexuality, argues from the position of an organisation which has a vested interested in preserving a traditional totally male hierarchy. It reflects a view, now not universally accepted, that women have no voice and no vote, where husbands take over the property and the rights of wives, and in which the woman is ceremonially handed over from her father to her husband at her wedding.

Women’s emancipation in society has been one of the chief causes of a serious rift between Church and State in many countries where the ministry of Churches has remained restricted to men. Even formerly Catholic countries now describe themselves as having a secular constitution, and signs of the rift are most noticeable in areas relating to human sexuality:

  • Female emancipation
  • Legalisation of contraception
  • Legalisation of abortion
  • Liberalisation of divorce laws
  • Decriminalisation of homosexual acts
  • Equal rights for women
  • An end to oppression of gay and lesbian people
  • Legal frameworks for gay partnerships

It would be difficult to cite any other area in which Church and State have been more out of step with each other.

This unfortunately gives the impression that the only morality of interest to the Church is sexual morality. Indeed, it would now appear that the last time the Church could ever claim to lead a moral crusade to promote human equality it was over the ending of slavery, some two centuries ago. Since then it has been the State which has been in the forefront of promoting the dignity and equality of all people, whilst the Church has maintained its traditional inequalities by arguing for an opt-out from national legislation.

Clearly Church and State perceive society very differently. The State sees all people as having an equal and valid contribution to make, whereas the Church, in preserving a traditional male hierarchy, has a structure which appears more primitive and tribal.

Homo sapiens evolved the capability of operating in larger units than any other large mammal. As this happened the pattern of a clan under the headship of a dominant male required some adjustment.

With children taking many years to come to maturity, grandparents became important in helping them acquire the skills they would need for survival. And it was no longer only the breeding couples of this largely monogamous species which held the fabric of society together. A significant contribution has always been made by those who did not marry. Those who did not have the constant responsibility of feeding and rearing their own children had time to develop skills and enrich the community in other ways which would make them valuable to the whole group.

Such people were not perceived as a threat to married couples. The man who did not covet his neighbour’s wife has always been less of a danger to society than the heterosexual man who might want to tempt her away. The reason for having strict marriage laws is not because of what gay people might do, but in order to protect couples from heterosexual predators. It would therefore appear that once again the Pope has shown that the Church is out of step with society in its understanding of human sexuality. There is no danger to the species from gay people whilst 90% of people are attracted to the opposite sex. Gay people have never posed any threat to those who wish to live as heterosexual couples. They simply accept this as a valid lifestyle for those who wish to enjoy it.

Society in Britain, North America, and much of Europe is happy with this situation and has framed legislation to protect the rights of all people. By contrast the Pope is the personification of a wrong human ecology; one which fails to give rights to all people. And people wonder, seeing the Church of England’s hesitation over the ordination of women to the episcopate, whether having an Established Church which retains such an outmoded view of women has anything to commend it.

Posted by Tom Ambrose on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 at 2:35pm GMT | Comments (92) | TrackBack
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Monday, 22 December 2008

A pregnant pause

As Mary makes her weary way to Bethlehem the Christ within her is about to face one of the most dangerous moments of his existence. For both mother and child the journey from womb to outside world in first century Palestine comes with a high mortality risk; their fates entwined together, either might kill the other.

St Luke gives few insights into the unborn Christ, telling us briefly of how John the Baptist, himself yet unborn, leaps in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary visits. But that account, taken with the story of Gabriel’s visit, is enough to establish that the Son of God did not take on human form at any point later than conception. It’s not a point I’ve heard dwelt on by preachers and theologians, and liturgically it all gets lost in the joy of Christmas when we gaze in awe at the infant in the manger, yet the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy matter.

The Early Fathers had a knock down argument for the necessity of the incarnation; “What has not been assumed (by God) has not been saved”, they stated. The salvation of humanity could only be accomplished, and was fully accomplished, by true God becoming truly human. Christ became first a single vital cell, then a rapidly dividing clump of cells, then embryo and foetus. Just as the creed affirms that at Easter Christ descends to hell to save the dead, so, in these nine hidden months God works the salvation of the many that will never see the light of day: the miscarried; the aborted; the stillborn.

At the same time he himself is being fashioned both by God and Mary. A recent academic study found that human metabolism is fixed before birth, so that, inter alia, mothers who diet during pregnancy are more likely to have children with a lifelong tendency to obesity. How Mary has lived during these nine vital months will affect, indeed quite literally shape, her son for the whole of his life. She is no passive incubator of the divine child but fully part of his formation. He shares not just her genes but the consequences of her actions. We, who share her flesh, are both active in the drama of salvation and shapers of the living Christ that is revealed to the world.

In little over a couple of days the full joy of Christmas will be upon us; for today the task is to pause, and be with Mary in her pregnancy, and all that it means for us.

Posted by David Walker on Monday, 22 December 2008 at 4:59pm GMT | Comments (26) | TrackBack
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ABC writes in the Telegraph

The Archbishop of Canterbury has written a comment article in today’s Daily Telegraph. The article is then the subject of the front-page lead story, which puts a rather different slant on it. Read the Archbishop’s article first. Here’s a taster:

Christmas is supremely the story of a God who is not interested in telling us about principles. First comes the action — God beginning to live a human life. Then comes the appeal: do you love and trust what you see in this human life, the life of Jesus? Then the implication: everyone is capable of saying yes to this appeal, so no one is dispensable. You don’t and can’t know where the boundary will lie between people who belong and people who don’t belong.

The front page lead, on the other hand, is headlined ‘Archbishop of Canterbury warns recession Britain must learn lessons from Nazi Germany’:

Dr Rowan Williams risks causing a new controversy by inviting a comparison between Gordon Brown’s response to the economic downturn and the Third Reich.

In an article for The Daily Telegraph, he claims Germany in the 1930s pursued a “principle” that worked consistently but only on the basis that “quite a lot of people that you might have thought mattered as human beings actually didn’t”.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Monday, 22 December 2008 at 10:44am GMT | Comments (14) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 21 December 2008

sacked for insulting the Bishop of Rochester

Updated late Sunday night

The BBC reports that

A member of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s staff has been sacked for insulting the Bishop of Rochester in an official document.

The worker wrote the obscenity next to the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali’s comments on a vicar’s job inquiry.

More details in the story Sacking over senior bishop insult.


The Independent has a more detailed article: What did the aide say about the Bishop …?

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Sunday, 21 December 2008 at 7:28pm GMT | Comments (34) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 20 December 2008

opinions before Christmas

Both Guardian and The Times have columns about Hanukah, one from Howard Cooper, the other from Jonathan Sacks.

The Telegraph has Christopher Howse on The words that train the ear.

Giles Fraser in the Church Times has Celebrating where God gets real.

Comment is free asked What letter would you write to God? with answers so far from Julian Baggini, Mark Vernon, Francis Davis.

And for light relief, there is Andrew Brown saying that Science proves Anglicans smartest.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 20 December 2008 at 9:10am GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Friday, 19 December 2008

Virginia property dispute: further rulings

The Fairfax County Circuit Court today issued its last rulings in the long-running property dispute between the Diocese of Virginia and the eleven congregations that seek to depart from The Episcopal Church but retain their parochial property. The Diocese of Virginia intends to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Virginia.

The actual court ruling (PDF)

Press release from Anglican District of Virginia NB This is very poorly formatted, an easier to read copy can be found here instead.

Press release from CANA

Statement by Bishop Martyn Minns

Press release from Diocese of Virginia

Press statement from Canon Charles Robertson, Canon to the Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop

ENS has VIRGINIA: Court ruling clears way for property-litigation appeal by Mary Frances Schjonberg

The archive of documents can be read here. Or alternatively over here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 19 December 2008 at 4:20pm GMT | Comments (28) | TrackBack
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Seasonal Greetings

Over the past week, I spent a few days in the United States of America. In America, they know how to do Christmas in style. Yes, I know, it’s not Christmastide and all that, but of course all the Christmas decorations are up, and every PA loudspeaker you encounter is belting out either Christmas carols (more likely than not as interpreted by Bing Crosby), or else 1950s Christmas-and-snowflakes-themed songs. And I don’t care whether that’s cool or not, but I like it, even a lot.

While in California I went to a local crafts market, and enjoyed the products on offer, and bought a few of them. But there was something that caught my eye in particular: a small business selling what I might call unusual greeting cards. The first one I saw had the following happy exclamation on the cover: “Here’s your f***ing Christmas card!” And the second continued with the theme: “Happy F***ing Holidays.”

Maybe I should have been scandalised, but in fact I burst out laughing and bought a few of both, already forming a plan as to who would be worthy recipients. At least one of them was a member of the clergy, by the way.

Of course I am not suggesting that we should move over to a rather coarser, or for that matter more cynical, view of the season of the Incarnation. But equally, the Incarnation is not some kind of celestial bubble wrap that protects us from the shocks and prods of “real life”. When God became man, God did not come into a world of sweet fairy tales, but into humanity as we know it with all its edginess.

Of course, we are now in Advent, a season in which to prepare and reflect. So whether your kind of Advent is the experience of quiet and penitential reflection, or the in-your-face call to repentance of John the Baptist, or joyful anticipation, it may be good to remember that the season that follows may have its harder edge for some people, and that our preparations should also anticipate that. I haven’t sent the cards after all, but as I write I am looking at one of them, and I find that it’s a useful aid to my spiritual life at this time of year. Just for once, at least.

Posted by Ferdinand von Prondzynski on Friday, 19 December 2008 at 7:51am GMT | Comments (36) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 18 December 2008

ABC interviewed on BBC radio

This morning, on the Today radio programme, John Humphrys interviewed the Archbishop of Canterbury. You can listen to the whole event, here.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has issued his Christmas message. In a wide-ranging interview, he gives his views on the economic downturn, the invasion of Iraq and the possibility of disestablishment of the Church of England.

This interview has also provoked a considerable volume of comment, including from the Prime Minister. Here’s some of the reporting:

BBC Economic crisis a ‘reality check’ by Robert Piggot

Brown’s spending plans like ‘addict returning to the drug’, says archbishop and
Spin, Brown style: or how to bash the Tories with a bishop

Martin Beckford Archbishop of Canterbury: Gordon Brown’s recovery plan like ‘addict returning to drug’
James Kirkup and Martin Beckford Gordon Brown hits back over Rowan Williams’ economic attack

The Times
Philippe Naughton Archbishop of Canterbury welcomes credit crunch ‘reality check’ and
Brown slaps down Archbishop of Canterbury in credit crunch row

The Archbishop’s Christmas Message can be found here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 18 December 2008 at 10:59pm GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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ABC interviewed in NS

The New Statesman has an interview, or rather a report on a series of interviews, with Rowan Williams in its latest issue.

See Interview: Rowan Williams by James Macintyre.

This interview has provoked quite a lot of comment in the Telegraph , The Times and the Guardian.

Telegraph Archbishop of Canterbury: Disestablishment would not be ‘end of the world’ by Martin Beckford.

The Times Archbishop: disestablishment of Church of England not ‘the end of the world by Ruth Gledhill and Archbishop of Canterbury: Not ‘end of world’ if Church disestablished on Ruth’s blog.

Guardian Riazat Butt Church and state could separate in UK, says Archbishop of Canterbury online yesterday afternoon, and Archbishop backs disestablishment (and the Muppets) in this morning’s newspaper. But today’s newspaper also has How Williams changed views on splitting church from state by Stephen Bates and Comment is free has Reading between Rowan’s lines by Giles Fraser.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 18 December 2008 at 11:12am GMT | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Parish Resources

At TA we have just become aware of a new Church of England website Parish Resources “supporting stewardship in the local church”. To quote the site itself

We are stewards. Both individually and corporately, all that we have and all that we are comes from God - our time, our money, our skills and the environment. Christian stewardship relates to how we respond to God’s amazing generosity to us.

This site offers a wide range of resources to support all aspects of stewardship in the local church. There are pages for those who preach and teach about stewardship, for encouraging giving in the local church, for parish treasurers, Gift Aid secretaries and for those involved in seeking funding for major projects. Guidance on SORP2005 can be found here, as well as some statistics on giving and church finance.

Additional resources are provided for PCC members in their role as charity trustees, guidance on registering larger PCCs with the Charity Commission, a stewardship toolkit for rural churches, a good practice guide for managing parish reserves, and a number of activities for use in teaching stewardship topics to young people. We also have a sister site with resources on encouraging people to consider leaving a gift to the church in their wills.

All the resources are free.

Although some of the site is specific to Church of England parishes much of the information will be of wider interest.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 17 December 2008 at 9:07pm GMT | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Presiding Bishop at National Press Club

The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church addressed the National Press Club, in Washington DC.

There is a transcript of her speech here.

There is an audio recording which also includes the extended Question and Answer session here.

A video recording of the event is over here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 17 December 2008 at 9:34am GMT | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Monday, 15 December 2008

Private feast, or public festival?

Talking to a young Nigerian woman this week, I asked her what she thought of the approach to Christmas in our part of east London, and how British celebrations contrasted with those in her home country. ‘It’s very quiet,’ she said. ‘In Nigeria, there would be people out dancing and singing, wherever you go.’ There’s a climate issue here, of course. As I write, the rain pours down out of grey skies, and shoppers scurry along the high street, heads down under their umbrellas. Any carol singers, let alone dancers, aren’t going to receive much notice.

There’s also an underlying question about the balance of public and private in our observance of the festivities. We lead our public life in the run-up to Christmas (and in the days immediately afterwards) on the high streets and in shopping centres and retail parks. Those are our places of encounter with the stranger, with those who are in some way not ‘ours’. We all share in the queue for the till, we compete for the bargain or for access to the mirror, we mutter apologies as we take each other’s space. Occasionally we will pause together, our attention taken by some religious, civic, or commercial offering for general consumption: the Salvation Army band or a school choir if we are lucky, the mall grotto or recorded carols and a mechanical Father Christmas if we are not.

There are halfway houses between this public life and the privacy of the home. They are the places where we are part of an extended group, drawn together by common interest which takes us beyond the domestic circle. Parents and carers gather for the school nativity play; we still have very traditional nativity plays in multi-cultural East Ham. For those who work together, there is the office Christmas party, or its substitute. Every club, be it Rotary, bowls, line dancing or the Women’s Institute, will have its Christmas do.

When it comes to Christmas Day, however, the gears change. Just look at the TV advertisements: Christmas is a private event which happens in a purely domestic setting and is just for family, or at most for friends so close that they replace family. We close down, retire behind our front doors, and hide, safe from the threat of the unfamiliar. Even the pattern of churchgoing increasingly conforms. For all but the hard core, the religious bit of Christmas is something to be got out of the way before the day itself. Crib services and Christingles on Christmas Eve are the great growth area, especially for the very occasional or once a year churchgoers; and even for the faithful and observant, Midnight Mass means that church is done virtually before the feast day begins. We, too, have our ‘common interest’ event before the festival.

Does this domestication have its roots in the Reformation, with Luther’s reinvention of the family as the location of everyday holiness, and the loss of the Catholic tradition of the public and communal? Are we re-engaging with the domesticity of the Jewish Sabbath? Does it derive from the breakdown of shared culture in a post-industrial and multi-cultural society? Can we blame this, too, on late capitalist consumerism?

Whatever the underlying reasons for this pattern, it is worth noting that the most significant group for whom Christmas is experienced in public, as a time of consorting with strangers in a place not their own, are those who have no home, or for whom there is no family provision. The centres provided by Crisis, the church and charity Christmas lunches for the elderly and lonely, these are the places of the non-domestic, unprivatised Christmas.

When I get home after morning service on Christmas Day, like most clergy I shall shut the door with relief, and relax in the company of my family. But niggling somewhere will be a question about the contrast between that pleasurable experience and the story of good news announced noisily and very publicly with a choir of angels and a star, and a stable whose door seemed to be perpetually open to those who wanted to come and see.

Posted by Jane Freeman on Monday, 15 December 2008 at 11:40am GMT | Comments (40) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 14 December 2008

problem in Chichester?

Updated Tuesday morning

Jonathan Wynne-Jones reports in the Telegraph that Bishop faces rebellion over women clergy.

On one side of the row is the Rt Rev John Hind, the Bishop of Chichester, who has a black belt in judo and a staunch opponent of the ordination of women.

In the opposing corner is a growing group of clergy and worshippers in his diocese, who are dismayed by the bishop’s intransigence.

Bishop Hind has told his diocesan synod that when he appoints a new junior bishop, they will not be permitted to ordain women…

The report also includes these statistics:

Out of its 393 parishes, only 65 have stated that they would not accept a woman as their incumbent.


Among 308 paid clergy in the Chichester diocese, only 20 are women.

The Telegraph report refers to a letter from the bishop to the Church Times.

The story began with this news report: No change for women by Ed Beavan.

That provoked this letter from Bishop John Hind Traditionalists and women’s ordination.

In turn, there followed another letter from Christina Rees, Sarah Lamming, and Charles Read: Juggling unsatisfactory outcomes after women vote (scroll down to the bottom for this letter).

And, though probably not finally, there is another letter, this time from Dr Brian Hanson, in this week’s Church Times, normally available only to subscribers for the first week, but already published elsewhere, so look at this: Chichester, Horsham & Fairness.

Tuesday morning update

George Pitcher at the Telegraph has also written about this, see Planet Chichester threatens to divide Church.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 14 December 2008 at 9:51pm GMT | Comments (87) | TrackBack
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reports from Pittsburgh

Updated Tuesday morning

From the diocese:

State Of The Diocese Report - The Rev. Dr. James B. Simons

Bishop Named For Pittsburgh Episcopalians

Greetings to the Special Convention from The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Revised Resolution IV “Affirming Accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church” Is Available [as a PDF]

From the newspapers:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Ann Rodgers Diocese names interim leader

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Debra Erdley Smaller Episcopal diocese rebuilds

Tuesday morning update

Episcopal News Service at last has a report, Pittsburgh Episcopalians reorganize diocese.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 14 December 2008 at 9:20am GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Friday, 12 December 2008

columns in the middle of Advent

The Dean of Perth (Western Australia), John Shepherd has written in The Times Salvation is not about who is in and who is out.

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about Sister Wendy’s pictures of love.

David Peel writes about his battle with cancer in the Guardian’s Face to Faith.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that One size of school can’t fit all values.

The Cif Belief Question this week is What should evangelicals believe? Answers come from John Richardson, Christina Rees, Justin Thacker and Graham Kings.

At Ekklesia Simon Barrow asks Which Jesus are we expecting?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 12 December 2008 at 9:52am GMT | Comments (19) | TrackBack
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church press covers ACNA

Revised on 19 December

The Church of England Newspaper has this article by George Conger Canterbury won’t block or bless new province:

The Archbishop of Canterbury will not block the creation of a third Anglican province in North America, sources familiar with Dr. Rowan Williams’ Dec 5 meeting with five traditionalist archbishops, tell The Church of England Newspaper.

However, the archbishop will not give it his endorsement either, arguing his office does not have the legal authority to make, or un-make, Anglicans.

On Dec 5, five members of the Gafcon primates council: Archbishops Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone, and Henry Orombi of Uganda met with Dr. Williams in Canterbury for approximately five hours to discuss the current state of affairs within the Communion…

The Church Times has this article by Pat Ashworth New Anglican province comes into being in US together with a sidebar, Members of the Group (scroll down below the main article for this):

SOME members of the new Church began breaking away before the present crisis. One ACNA partner, the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC), split from the Episcopal Church in the United States as long ago as 1873. The Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA), affiliated to Rwanda, was, in 2000, already moving towards establishing a separate province, after the irregular consecrations of Bishop John Rodgers and Bishop Chuck Murphy in Singapore. The AMiA had 23 parishes in 2000. Now it says it has 140, including 12 in Canada (who are members of the Anglican Coalition in Canada, its subsidiary)…

The Church Times also has an article by Bishop Duncan on its Comment pages, which is at present only now available to subscribers. This makes it harder possible to appreciate the Leader article A new Church in the United States which says:

WHETHER it is viewed with sympathy or suspicion, there is no doubt that the new Anglican Church in North America changes the Anglican map. To be more accurate, it lays a new map (a relief map, perhaps?) on top of the old one, so that in his otherwise factual article (See Comment ) the new Archbishop, the Most Revd Bob Duncan, can say artlessly that the charge of boundary-crossing, condemned by the Windsor report, “is most effectively and completely addressed by general acceptance of the new province”. Although territorial confusion matters less where a church is defined more by congregational membership than place of abode, the parish ideal is none the less strong…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 12 December 2008 at 9:52am GMT | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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ACNA: 700 congregations?

Updated Friday evening

The press release about the Anglican Church in North America says

“The movement unites 700 orthodox Anglican congregations, representing roughly 100,000 people…”

“The Common Cause Partnership is a federation of Anglican Christians that links together eight Anglican jurisdictions and organizations in North America, including the American Anglican Council, the Anglican Coalition in Canada, the Anglican Communion Network, the Anglican Mission in the Americas, the Anglican Network in Canada, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, Forward in Faith North America, the Reformed Episcopal Church, and the bishops and congregations linked with Kenya, Uganda, and South America’s Southern Cone.”

Estimates of the numbers of parishes by jurisdiction are shown below. Some of these figures come directly from the Common Cause database, others were supplied to me, and others are my own estimate. I would welcome corrections to any of these figures. The table does not include any contribution from the 75 Forward in Faith North America congregations listed by Common Cause, most of which as I understand it are still within The Episcopal Church.

Friday update

Forward in Faith North America has published Forward in Faith NA responds to Q & A on the new ACNA which may answer some of the questions raised here about the status of FiFNA congregations in ACNA.

Reformed Episcopal Church  (includes 7 in Canada) 135
CC database
Anglican Mission in the Americas  (Rwanda)
(includes 12 in Canada )
CC database
Convocation of Anglicans in North America (Nigeria) 68
CC database
Missionary Convocation of Kenya 36
Bp Atwood
Missionary Convocation of Uganda 51
Bp Guernsey
Missionary Convocation of the Southern Cone  
-       Ex San Joaquin 30
SS estimate
-       Ex Pittsburgh 55
SS estimate
-       Ex Quincy 20
SS estimate
-       Ex Fort Worth 45
SS estimate
-       Ex Canada ANiC 19
CC database
-       Individual congregations affiliated to Bolivia, Argentina and Recife 45
SS 2007 est.
Grand Total
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 12 December 2008 at 7:42am GMT | Comments (36) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 11 December 2008

About those bridesmaids

Ten bridesmaids took their lamps… (Matthew 25.1-13)

Among the Advent stories of the need to keep watchful, this one adds a different twist. All ten fell asleep, but some had taken the precaution of providing themselves with more oil.

It isn’t surprising they slept. After many generations, we are still waiting. Our grandparents knew the value of keeping the reserve of oil; they had lived through wars and depression, and recognised a need for caution. But their attitude has gone out of fashion. It’s as though the bridesmaids woke up one morning and decided that their wedding garments were now seriously out of fashion, and that it would be fun to trade some of that carefully stored oil for a brand new outfit.

We did save once. And for a time when interest rates reached double figures our savings appeared to be capable of giving almost instant gratification to our desires. But then interest rates fell, and only property seemed to be climbing in value. We stopped saving, and tested the inflated value of our homes by re-mortgaging to give ourselves a treat; a holiday, a car, a new kitchen, or just the brand new outfit in order to keep in the fashion.

The building societies found that the savings had dried up, so they had to look for funds elsewhere to satisfy the inflated demands of their clients. And now the lamps are going out for lack of oil. We can’t go back to the banks. They have no more funds, and besides, our houses aren’t worth what we once claimed.

We are told that, in desperation, people are looking to churches for a way out of the dilemma, or at least for some relief from their pain. But the one who said ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth’ is not likely to feed our addiction to consumerism.

Fortunately, all we face at the moment is a credit crunch which might bring us to our senses, rather than the appearance of the bridegroom heralding the end of the age. So there might, in this Advent season, be time to reassess our priorities. We might learn to wait, this time for something really worth waiting for.

Posted by Tom Ambrose on Thursday, 11 December 2008 at 7:02pm GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Los Angeles authorizes blessings

See this news report by Episcopal News Service LOS ANGELES: Bishop authorizes blessings of lifelong covenantal relationships.

Bishop J. Jon Bruno of Los Angeles has authorized the use of a rite for the “Sacramental Blessing of a Life-long Covenant” for both same-gender and heterosexual couples…

On the diocesan website there are these four PDF files:

Policy Regarding the Sacramental Blessing of Life-long Covenants in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles

Some Questions and Answers: The Sacramental Blessing of a Life-Long Covenant

Service for the Sacramental Blessing of a Life-Long Covenant

Suggested Readings for the Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 11 December 2008 at 12:25pm GMT | Comments (64) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Network to cease operation

Updated Friday

The Anglican Communion Network has issued a press release Anglican Communion Network Celebrates Successes, Prepares for Hand Over to Province.

“God did not use the Network to change the direction of The Episcopal Church as we had originally hoped. He has used it and us to create a Biblical, missionary and united Anglican province-in-waiting here in North America. We are deeply thankful to Him and to all who have supported its work,” said Bishop Duncan.

The full text of the Resolution includes this:

…And finally be it resolved, that the Steering Committee enter into conversation with that part of the membership of the Anglican Communion Network remaining in The Episcopal Church as to whether they might desire to take upon themselves the original mantle of the Anglican Communion Network.

Friday Update

The Living Church reports that Rio Grande Drops Network Affiliation:

The standing committee of the Diocese of the Rio Grande has voted unanimously to disaffiliate from the Anglican Communion Network…

…The withdrawal of the Rio Grande, which did not send any representatives to the annual council meeting, leaves eight of the original 10 dioceses nominally in the organization. Four of the original 10 founding dioceses—Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy and San Joaquin—have withdrawn from The Episcopal Church.

…Bishop John Howe of the Diocese of Central Florida withdrew his Network affiliation about six months ago in favor of affiliation with the Anglican Communion Institute. Leaders from the remaining four Network dioceses—Albany, Dallas, South Carolina and Springfield—expressed varying degrees of support for the formation of another organization, but all four said there were no plans at present to discuss withdrawal or disaffiliation.

And there is also an ENS report on this: RIO GRANDE: Diocese disaffiliates from Anglican Communion Network.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 10 December 2008 at 9:07am GMT | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Bishop Chane writes about ACNA

The Bishop of Washington, John Chane has written a letter to his diocese about the proposed formation of a new province in North America.

Read it all here. There is also a PDF version.

Here’s an extract:

…The Archbishop of Canterbury wisely did not invite any of the bishops consecrated to serve in the Nigerian, Ugandan, Rwandan or Kenyan incursions into the United States to last summer’s Lambeth Conference. Nor did he invite bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church, which broke from the Anglican Communion almost 130 years ago. Williams seems unlikely to reverse course now. He knows that the leaders of the proposed province have been working, overtly and covertly, to undermine the Episcopal Church for almost a decade, so what was a front page story to the editors of the New York Times was old news to him. It would be folly for the Archbishop to even consider recognizing a non-geographical province because it would unleash chaos in the Communion, with theological minorities in every jurisdiction seeking to affiliate with likeminded Anglicans in other provinces. Unfortunately, the Archbishop has contributed to the confusion and anxiety the leaders of the proposed province have sought to foster by meeting on numerous occasions with Duncan and his allies. These meetings have bestowed an unwarranted sense of legitimacy on those who seek to deconstruct the Anglican Communion.

What Duncan and Minns propose – that Duncan become the Archbishop of a newly minted non-geographical province with the support of GAFCON primates such as Peter Akinola of Nigeria and Henry Orombi of Uganda – is a rejection of the respectful diversity and generous orthodoxy that defines the Communion. It is a repudiation of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in our communal life. It flies in the very face of what it truly means to be an Anglican. For Minns to suggest that he is leading a “new reformation” is ludicrous and demeans the historicity and value of the real Reformation as we know it and live it. The movers of the proposed new province embarrass themselves, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion by the self-serving media coverage they have worked so hard to achieve. The news of the proposed province appears at a time when more than 28 million Americans are living on food stamps, one out of every 10 new mortgage holders is facing foreclosure, unemployment is at its highest level in decades, the auto industry is “tanking” and the real danger of deflation or a possible depression looms large on the horizon. In the global south, millions live on $1 a day, and wars, ethnic and religious violence, poverty and the AIDS epidemic continue to wrack the African continent. To learn in this context that Duncan, Minns and their allies think that the most important issue facing the church is the sexuality of the Bishop of New Hampshire suggests a level of self-absorption that is difficult to square with the teachings of Christ. And to learn that the New York Times considers the complaints of these deposed, retired and irregularly consecrated bishops to be front page news suggests a fixation on “culture wars” reporting that deprives readers of a true sense of the challenges facing the church in this country…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 9 December 2008 at 10:17pm GMT | Comments (22) | TrackBack
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Monday, 8 December 2008


The CEEC has news:

Chairman stands down.


´The Executive Officer of the Church of England Evangelical Council informed the meeting that Dr Richard Turnbull had tendered a letter of resignation as chairman. The letter was read to the meeting and was received with great surprise and regret. “Richard has contributed significantly to the life of CEEC, for thirteen years as a member and for the last three of those years as its chair. The Council is very grateful to him for all that he has done over those years; and records that it is not the Council´s wish that he should discontinue as its chairman.” Having due regard to Richards priorities for home, for family and for his responsibilities as Principal of Wycliffe Hall, it was resolved that his resignation be accepted with great regret; and that Richard be invited to continue as a member of the Council.´

A statement from Bishop Wallace Benn, President of CEEC will be available shortly.

And, the Council has issued this statement:

The Council met on 4th December - its first meeting since the NEAC5 Consultation meeting at All Souls Langham Place on 15th November 2008. The following statement summarises our deliberations concerning the Consultation.

CEEC apologises for the fact that we failed to circulate the proposed resolutions prior to the Consultation day. We acknowledge that this was a serious mistake which understandably caused consternation on the day.

We appreciate the fact that, following 15th November, many people availed themselves of the opportunity to make their views known by e-mail to CEEC have heard a summary of what was said by this means.

We understand that what happened at the Consultation together with associated press reports has undermined the credibility of the Council. Though we are sensitive to the accusation that CEEC is not properly representative of evangelicals, over half the membership is elected and all those who subscribe to the Council’s Basis of Faith are eligible to stand for election.

We resolve to do all we can to fulfill our stated purpose of taking counsel together about matters of particular concern to evangelical Anglicans.

The Council, having listened to all that was said on 15th November, has adopted the following Resolution:

  • “CEEC affirms and rejoices that the Church of England professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and its historic formularies (the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons) and set out in Canon A5 and the Declaration of Assent.
  • Further we affirm (1) the CEEC’s own Basis of Belief, (2) Resolution 3.5 of Lambeth 1998 (concerning the authority of Holy Scriptures), (3) Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998 (concerning human sexuality), and (4) the Jerusalem Declaration, and as members of the Anglican Communion, we acknowledge our obligation to stand in prayerful solidarity with faithful Anglicans across the globe.
  • We recognize that evangelical Anglicans will pursue a variety of strategies for dealing with the current crisis in the Communion, and we support those who are seeking to work through the existing Anglican Communion structures, those who are working within the framework set out in the GAFCON Statement, and those supporting both.
  • We call on the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates to recognize the urgency of the situation as it affects parishes and clergy, particularly in the USA, Canada and Brazil, and to give immediate and serious consideration to granting recognition to the new Province in the USA.
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 8 December 2008 at 2:40pm GMT | Comments (26) | TrackBack
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The power of story

There is an old saw which says that God invented humanity because God loves stories. In the tradition of the Hebrew people, there was a prohibition against rendering their God in the plastic arts and so they went to town on narrative and thoroughly delighted in it. The Hebrew sacred texts are story and counter-story describing worlds and the God who is active in those worlds. If you are familiar with the world painted by the Deuteronomist, that you get what you deserve, and God rewards the righteous, then the Book of Job comes alive as a counter-story, protesting that ill-fortune falls on the righteous too, and the reasons are hidden in the depths of God.

The Christmas stories are counter-stories. They are stories which are holding out for a God and a world which will work differently to the one in which the storytellers live. Matthew uses the Moses story, and Luke the call of Samuel, to tell their listeners that the God who was present in these classical tales is present in Jesus of Nazareth. We know that the Christmas stories are counter-stories because they use words for Jesus of Nazareth which the early audience will have associated with Augustus Caesar. Caesar was Son of God, Prince of Peace, and our Christmas birth story writers are saying that Jesus is these things, in other words, Jesus is, Caesar is not. Caesar’s Roman Peace is fine if you are Roman, and so long as Caesar has the biggest army. The peace of Jesus of Nazareth is about seeking out those who do not benefit from Roman peace, and including them at life’s table. Our Christmas stories are asking us whether our God is more likely to be found in a Roman palace, or a cow’s feeding trough.

All of this is commonplace for first year students in Biblical studies, I’m saying nothing new. But over the last several years my worry has been that we have lost our grip on the power of story. When you clear our public spaces of religious stories (particularly those pressed into the service of worldly interest) you are not left with a pristine post-Enlightenment space. The power of stories is that they are ways of inviting us to consider who we might be, they invite us to make lives in the worlds they describe, and they invite our loyalty and our resources. This is too much power to be left unfulfilled.

Into this space come the storytellers we know, news organisations, spin doctors and advertisements, each seeking to frame the world and our place in it. With the technological gap between generations, the worry is that our children are being formed by stories told by Nintendo, Sony and the like. After school our children step into virtual worlds which are laid out before them. They can progress through these worlds with the purchase of each upgrade, and they are being encouraged to acquire skills which will help them be promoted through the moral universes the games companies have described.

All of this goes by stealth because this happens unsupervised. Work-weary parents may even be grateful for the diversion. Narratives are being quietly assimilated, and these are shared in the schoolyard, and young friends measure each other by their skill and knowledge in worlds barely guessed at by those who have the care of developing the next generation.

We need to dispense with the tinsel-and-teatowel Christmas and recover its visceral power in the world where the story was first told, a world which was about brute force and malnutrition. We need to rediscover the power of telling stories of a God which runs counter to the prevailing values of the day.

If we can recover Christmas as a counter-story in its own day under Rome, we might want to start telling new counter-stories about the God we believe in, in our own day, to the Playstation generation.

Posted by Andrew Spurr on Monday, 8 December 2008 at 10:11am GMT | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Los Angeles news

The Diocese of Los Angeles held its annual convention last weekend.

News reports:

Los Angeles Times Episcopal Diocese of L.A. officially condones the blessing of gay unions by Jessica Garrison

The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has announced that church leaders can bless the unions of same-sex couples as a matter of policy.

The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, whose diocese encompasses Los Angeles County and five other Southern California counties, made the announcement Friday during a diocesan convention in Riverside.

Bruno acted just days after hundreds of conservative Episcopal congregations in North America formed a breakaway church amid a rift that began with the ordination of a gay bishop in New Hampshire five years ago.

Bruno’s declaration is not expected to have a major effect on Episcopal churches in Southern California. Many have been blessing gay unions for years. But he has now made it official…

Riverside Press-Enterprise At Riverside convention Episcopalians say no to ban on gay bishops by David Olson

In a move that presaged yet another battle over homosexuality at a national Episcopal Church meeting, delegates to the Los Angeles Diocese’s convention voted overwhelmingly Saturday to support lifting a moratorium on consecrating bishops who are in same-sex relationships…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 8 December 2008 at 10:04am GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 6 December 2008

Sunday Tribune interviews Archbishop Akinola

There is a lengthy interview with Archbishop Peter Akinola in the Sunday Tribune, a Nigerian newspaper.

Read it all here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 6 December 2008 at 11:29pm GMT | Comments (29) | TrackBack
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opinions this weekend

Comment is free Belief has a weekly question. This week it is Can religion help us through the slump?

There are five responses from Julia Neuberger, Francis Davis, Ishtiaq Hussain, Graham Kings, and Nick Spencer.

Christopher Howse writes in the Telegraph about the Enigmatic life of Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Michael Wright argues in the Guardian that Now is a good time for Quakers to reassess their priorities and find their tongues.

Catherine Pepinster writes in The Times The beauty of our creations is also part of our faith.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that Borrowing is no way out of the credit crisis.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 6 December 2008 at 9:32am GMT | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Friday, 5 December 2008

update on Fort Worth

Updated again Sunday morning

From epiScope: Renunciation of Orders

Today, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori “accepted the renunciation of the Ordained Ministry of this Church, made in writing on November 24, 2008 by the Right Rev. Jack Leo Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth who is, therefore, removed from Ordained Ministry of this Church and released from the obligations of all Ministerial offices, and is deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God’s Word and Sacraments conferred on him in Ordinations.”

Saturday morning update

There is a detailed ENS report: Presiding Bishop declares inhibited Fort Worth bishop has renounced his orders.

See also PB “accepts” Bishop Iker’s renunciation of orders at Episcopal Café.

Here is what was published on the date mentioned above.

Read what she wrote to the House of Bishops.

…My decision to accept Bishop Iker’s voluntary renunciation fits squarely within the canons. Bishop Iker’s November 24 statement clearly constitutes “a renunciation of the ordained ministry of this Church, and a desire to be removed therefrom” as contemplated by Canon III.12.7(a). Other, similar letters — most recently from Bishops Bena and Fairfield — have also been treated as voluntary renunciations and with the consent of my Council of Advice I have accepted them and removed and released those bishops from our ordained ministry, as well…

Sunday morning update

Bishop Iker has issued a statement: What Renunciation?

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports Episcopal Church presiding bishop says Iker renounced orders.

And, Bishop Iker commented on the proposed new province in this newspaper report: Fort Worth Episcopal bishop weighs in on the church’s split.

The Steering Committee North Texas Episcopalians issued this statement.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 5 December 2008 at 11:55pm GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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GAFCON primates meet at Canterbury

Updated Tuesday

Primates of the GAFCON Primates’ Council meeting in London have issued the following statement about the Province of the Anglican Church in North America:

We welcome the news of the North American Anglican Province in formation. We fully support this development with our prayer and blessing, since it demonstrates the determination of these faithful Christians to remain authentic Anglicans.

North American Anglicans have been tragically divided since 2003 when activities condemned by the clear teaching of Scripture and the vast majority of the Anglican Communion were publicly endorsed. This has left many Anglicans without a proper spiritual home. The steps taken to form the new Province are a necessary initiative. A new Province will draw together in unity many of those who wish to remain faithful to the teaching of God’s word, and also create the highest level of fellowship possible with the wider Anglican Communion.

Furthermore, it releases the energy of many Anglican Christians to be involved in mission, free from the difficulties of remaining in fellowship with those who have so clearly disregarded the word of God.

There are some reports of the meeting that was held today between several GAFCON primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury:

Ruth Gledhill has Canterbury summit: nothing happened

Baby Blue has Rowan Williams hosts Anglican primates at Canterbury Cathedral for emergency summit

Tuesday update

Although the statement appearing on the GAFCON website does not include any signatures, it now appears from this Religion News Service report, Conservative Anglican Primates Back New Province, that it may have been signed by only five of the six primates who constitute the GAFCON primates council. The name missing from the RNS report is The Most Rev Valentino Mokiwa, Primate of Tanzania.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 5 December 2008 at 11:44pm GMT | Comments (20) | TrackBack
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more reports on Wheaton

Updated again Saturday morning

The Los Angeles Times has Episcopal Church leader says those who defected ‘are no longer Episcopalians’ by Duke Helfand

Update There is an additional article: Split in Episcopal Church hits new level

The Washington Post has A Worldwide Anglican Melee by Jacqueline L. Salmon and Michelle Boorstein

The Toronto Star has Anglicans formalize split by Stuart Laidlaw

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has Episcopalian churches in Georgia may join new Anglican group by Christopher Quinn

Religion News Service has What’s ahead for the fractured Episcopal Church? by Daniel Burke

Christianity Today has Conservative Anglicans Create Rival Church by Timothy Morgan

Jim Naughton at Episcopal Café has 100,000? We think not and he also has some critique of other coverage here and also here.


The Living Church has at last published a report, Provisional Structure Unveiled for New Province.

Stand Firm has published a note: Clarifying the Role of the AAC in the New Province.

The Anglican Journal has Anglican Church in North America: new church or new province?

Christian Today has GAFCON Primates to meet Archbishop over US split

The New York Times has yet another article, Conservative Anglicans Vow to Press Ahead With Split by Laurie Goodstein.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 5 December 2008 at 6:19pm GMT | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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some reactions to Wheaton

Updated Saturday morning

Among the interesting comments so far…

Jan Nunley reminds us of some earlier news events in Everything old…

In particular, she links to Dissident Episcopalians Meet to Discuss New Church, which is dated 1977.

Update Jan has more, in I found another one….

Jeffrey Weiss at the Dallas Morning News suggests the new ‘Anglican Church in North America’ isn’t actually Anglican, in fact he says:

At this point I put these folks in the same basket as the women who claim they’re Catholic priests, Christians who say they are “Messianic Jews” and Mormons who say they are Christians.

Ian Douglas asks Why do we call them traditionalists?

Paragraph 154 of The Windsor Report clearly states: ‘Whilst there are instances in the polity of Anglican churches that more than one jurisdiction exists in one place, this is something to be discouraged rather than propagated. We do not therefore favour the establishment of parallel jurisdictions.’

Update Jeff Sharlet has Anglicans Toot Somebody Else’s Horn.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 5 December 2008 at 8:46am GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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update on Quincy

Updated Friday evening

The Living Church reports that the former bishop of Quincy, who recently retired suddenly just before the diocese voted to align with the Southern Cone, has accepted a new assignment, see Bishop Ackerman Accepts Call to Springfield.

ENS reports that QUINCY: Diocese begins to reorganize after split.

There is a report overnight that

Members of the Cathedral parish of the Diocese of Quincy voted Thursday night to not be “realigned” or “removed” to the Anglican province of the Southern Cone in a 181 to 35 vote.

According to Episcopal Café four hundred of the diocese’s 1850 members belong to the cathedral parish, and it accounts for 22 percent of Quincy’s average Sunday attendance.

There is more information here.

Friday evening update

ENS has QUINCY: Cathedral to stay in the Episcopal Church and the Living Church has Quincy’s Cathedral Parish Won’t Join Southern Cone.

And there is this press release about a forthcoming meeting.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 5 December 2008 at 8:12am GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 4 December 2008

Lambeth responds to Wheaton

Updated Thursday evening

For reports of the event yesterday in Illinois, see here, and also here.

ENS has published Lambeth Palace responds to Common Cause Partnership announcement:

“There are clear guidelines set out in the Anglican Consultative Council Reports, notably ACC 10 in 1996 (resolution 12), detailing the steps necessary for the amendments of existing provincial constitutions and the creation of new provinces,” the spokesperson said. “Once begun, any of these processes will take years to complete. In relation to the recent announcement from the meeting of the Common Cause Partnership in Chicago, the process has not yet begun.”

Resolution 12 from ACC 10 can be found here.

The BBC World Service has a 9 minute radio segment in which Christopher Landau interviews several of the principals in this story.



Listen (9mins)
Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December 2008, 00:41 GMT

Breakaway members of the Anglican churches in North America are announcing the formation of a new north American church. Their unilateral actions will result in two competing Anglican churches existing in North America.

Our religious affairs correspondent Christopher Landau asks: What does this mean for those trying to preserve the unity of the worldwide communion?

Thursday evening update

A further Episcopal News Service report: Communion process presents challenges for proposed province by Matthew Davies and Mary Frances Schjonberg

Church of England Newspaper New American Province looms by George Conger

The Times Archbishops hold Canterbury summit over threat of schism by Ruth Gledhill

And also, Lambeth Palace on new province as Gafcon primates fly in for summit on Ruth’s blog.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 4 December 2008 at 3:00pm GMT | Comments (21) | TrackBack
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The great king's feast

On this day in the year 1637, a man reported a vision that he had seen. ‘I have been at a great feast,’ he said, ‘O, magnify the Lord with me.’ One of his hearers asked him, ‘At a feast?’ and he replied, ‘Ay, at a great feast. At the great King’s feast.’

These were the last words of Nicholas Ferrar, who died at Little Gidding shortly after midnight on Monday 4 December 1637, just as Advent Sunday had ended.

In Advent the Church traditionally focuses on ‘coming’. Perhaps primarily we think of the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem, but the lectionary reminds us of other themes too: the role of John the Baptist; the prophets; judgement; the kingdom that is to come.

Ferrar’s vision of a feast was and remains one of the central images of the coming kingdom — a time of plenty, a time when all shall be welcomed to eat at the table in God’s household. It’s an image that Jesus uses frequently in his parables about the kingdom, and it is an image that comes to us from the Old Testament prophets. Isaiah foretells that God ‘will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines’ (Isaiah 25.6).

In Isaiah this is all seen as part of the time when God shall rule the earth from Mount Zion, and the poor, the humble, the downtrodden will be raised up to a place of honour. Death itself will be swallowed up for ever, and God will wipe away the tears from the people’s eyes. Isaiah’s prophecy was made at a time of great difficulty for the people of Israel and it proclaims his belief that, however bad things looked, the God of Israel would remember those who were faithful.

Isaiah, moreover, proclaims his great idea that the God of Israel was supreme, the only god, and that God is a lover of justice and mercy, rather than an unfaithful tyrant. Jesus develops the idea further: he does not simply talk about feasting in God’s kingdom; in addition he actually sits and eats and drinks with the underclasses and the unclean, declaring by his actions that their sins are forgiven (because they needed no further ritual cleansing) and that they are favoured by God. Jesus’s respectable contemporaries were scandalized by this behaviour, but it is all too easy for us not to see the scandal, and even easier for us to pay lip-service to looking after those less favoured by society in our own day.

Nicholas Ferrar and his family, living a quiet and godly life at Little Gidding, did not forget the poor and needy. They welcomed into their household a number of poor widows, they provided alms and education for many, and Ferrar, utilizing his training in medicine, ran a dispensary for the neighbourhood. And we too, each of us in our own lives, can perhaps take some simple and practical steps to alleviate the suffering around us. In this way, as well as by prayer and faith, we will help to realize God’s kingdom here on earth, and proclaim the Advent hope to the world. That is our challenge this Advent.

Today at Little Gidding, a service of Holy Communion will be celebrated at the tomb of Nicholas Ferrar to honour his memory and his example of spiritual determination and faith in an age of great trouble. In the eucharist we enjoy a foretaste of the banquet in God’s household. May we, with Nicholas Ferrar and all God’s holy people, sit at the great King’s feast!

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Thursday, 4 December 2008 at 8:08am GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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further news reports from Wheaton

Updated Thursday lunchtime

For earlier reports go here.

The New York Times article by Laurie Goodstein previously linked has been written-through and is now headlined Episcopal Split as Conservatives Form New Group (h/t KH).

Also, there is a link here to a podcast in which this journalist is interviewed.

Reuters Michael Conlon Episcopal Church dissidents move toward division

Chicago Tribune Manya Brachear Conservatives unveil plan to break from Episcopal Church

Cleveland Plain Dealer Former Episcopal breakaway parishes join new North American Anglican Church

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Fort Worth Episcopal diocese joins new Anglican Church in North America

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Proposed constitution to reunite conservative Episcopalian groups

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Duncan to head new Anglican church

Canada National Post Conservative Anglicans take step in forming new church

Washington Post Conservative Episcopalians Vote to Create Alternative Branch by Michelle Boorstein

Washington Times Anglican conservatives propose constitution by Julia Duin

And,in the British press:

Telegraph Anglican row spills into US as Episcopal church splits over homosexual priests by Tom Leonard

And, there was this earlier report on Episcopal News Service that I missed yesterday, Conservative Anglicans due to announce new province.

Thursday lunchtime update

Religious Intelligence has this report by George Conger Legal framework set for new Third Province in North America

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 4 December 2008 at 8:00am GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Anglican fragmentation 2

Updated Wednesday evening

Three reports this morning about the forthcoming event in Illinois:

BBC North American Anglicans to split by Christopher Landau
Update this report has now been written-through by editorial staff and retitled North American Anglicans separate.

Christian Science Monitor Conservative bishops propose a competing North American Anglican church by Jane Lampman

Christian Post Breakaway Anglicans Aim for Less Division with New Province by Lillian Kwon

Wednesday evening update

This short Associated Press report: Conservatives form rival group to Episcopal Church

Now superseded by this substantial one by Rachel Zoll Conservatives form rival group to Episcopal Church

New York Times Laurie Goodstein Conservatives Expected to Split Episcopal Church

Chicago Tribune Manya Brachear Schism or stunt? Conservatives form new Anglican denomination

Dallas Morning News Jeffrey Weiss New Anglican-ish province to include Fort Worth?

epiScope has this Statement from The Episcopal Church.

The Anglican Church in North America has published:
Draft Constitution html pdf
Draft Canons html pdf

Telegraph US Anglicans form breakaway church

Daily Mail Anglican Church in U.S. splits in two in row over gay issues

Wall Street Journal Episcopals Form Rival Church

Earlier reports:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Constitution to reunite conservative Episcopal groups

Canadian Press Breakaway Anglicans to form new North American church

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 2 December 2008 at 11:19pm GMT | Comments (22) | TrackBack
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Anglican fragmentation

A report from Canada of division among conservatives there, in an Anglican Journal report Conservative Anglicans determined to stay within church by Keith Knight.

About 50 conservative Anglican leaders, including eight young theological students, gathered in Toronto for a one-day consultation on Nov. 25 and emerged with a determination to remain within the Anglican Church of Canada. They came from 16 dioceses across the country.

Rev. Brett Cane of St. Aidan’s Anglican Church in Winnipeg is chair of Anglican Essentials Federation who was quick to point out that the organization is going through a name change. He said that the “Essentials” label has negative connotations in some parts of the country. He said that the federation is loosening its connection to the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC). “We will still maintain links of fellowship with the network but we will not be organizationally tied together.”

Andrew Brown has commented at Cif belief on Anglican divisions in When a schism has a schism of its own.

For most of the first years of Rowan Williams’ time as leader of the Anglican Communion, there was a running story about whether he could hold it together in the face of its divisions about almost everything, but most noisily about gay people and liberalism. Some time this summer, it became obvious that he hadn’t and that there is a full-scale schism under way but by that time almost everyone had got bored and started to talk about other things. So this week the story returns with a twist: will there be a second schism within the schism? In particular will the coalition that has been trying to drive the liberal churches of North America out of the Communion break up; and will the puritan evangelical faction start to break up the Church of England too?

Over at Episcopal Café there is discussion under the heading If the Episcopal Church got adventuresome of an article on his own blog by Geoffrey Hoare titled Archbishop Duncan.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 2 December 2008 at 11:19pm GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Archbishop in TV documentary

BBC One (Wales only) has a documentary scheduled for Wednesday 3 December at 10.45 pm.

The Archbishop

A personal profile of The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, filmed at a time of great division in the Anglican Church. The programme examines the arguments surrounding the consecration of gay bishops and the ordination of women bishops.

Read the press release at the Church in Wales website: The Archbishop - BBC One Wales documentary.

Two newspaper reports:

Western Mail Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan says he would consecrate a gay bishop

Daily Post Archbishop of Wales would consecrate gay bishop

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 2 December 2008 at 10:09am GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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