Saturday, 31 January 2009

Toronto: Same-sex Unions

The bishops of the Diocese of Toronto are proposing to respond pastorally in the matter of committed same-sex relationships.

See the press announcement: Bishops propose pastoral response to committed same-sex relationships.

See the Draft Discussion Document for Consultation (PDF).

The press statement includes:

The bishops’ proposal in offering a pastoral response is as follows:

  • Episcopal permission be given to a limited number of parishes, based on Episcopal discernment, to offer prayers and blessing (but not the nuptial blessing) to same-sex couples in stable, long-term, committed relationships, as an extension of the current pastoral norms.
  • Episcopal guidelines on the nature of the prayers/blessing will be established. A particular rite will not be authorized.
  • Episcopal permission for blessings will be required.
  • Evaluation of this pastoral response will be undertaken after one year.
  • No parish or clergy will be required to participate.
  • A Bishop’s Commission will be formed to create the guidelines, monitor activity and review.
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 2:47pm GMT | Comments (36) | TrackBack
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Episcopal Church response to Covenant

The Executive Council of The Episcopal Church has published its latest response to the St Andrew’s Draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

The response is in a PDF file available here.

There is also a covering press release. Some excerpts:

[Episcopal News Service — Stockton, California] The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council said January 30 that the church “remains committed to the Communion-wide process of conversation towards an Anglican covenant.”

“At the same time, TEC wants to emphasize that matters of moral authority and interdependence amongst churches result from mutuality, not regulation,” the council wrote its response to the St. Andrew’s Draft of the proposed covenant.

“Care needs to be taken that our conversations around an Anglican covenant do not draw us necessarily toward a hierarchical model of a church union or even the perception of Anglicanism as a singular global church,” the response said…

…Council’s covenant response reiterates the Episcopal Church’s stance that participation in the covenant development process “does not implicitly commit” the church to ultimately approving a covenant. And it makes clear that only the General Convention can sign the church onto such a document. It predicts that such approval would not come until at least 2012 and not until at least 2015 if such approval was deemed to require changes to the Episcopal Church’s constitution…

…In response to the Joint Standing Committee’s question about what changes are needed in the St. Andrew’s Draft, the council offered nearly five pages of section-by-section comments. It raised the most concern over the process (that begins to be described in Section 3.2.5) to be employed when any proposed or enacted measures at the provincial or local level “are deemed to threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness or credibility of its mission.”

Calling it “the most problematic section,” the response said the process that involves consultation, mediation, and communion-wide evaluation is “overly juridical.” The council said that from the time an Anglican covenant was proposed in an appendix to the 2004 Windsor Report, there has been a movement “calling for the beginnings of inter-Anglican canon law or, if not that, inter-Anglican processes for negotiations and settlement of disputes and concerns.” Council summed up its comments by asking, “How does the covenant help us look like Christ?” and asked how it helps Anglicans recognize Christ in each other…

The recent Church of England response to the same draft was reported here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 1:37pm GMT | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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opinions before Candlemas

Stephen Platten writes in The Times about Edwin Muir, in Beauty and hope born in poems of dark desolation.

Stephen Timms writes in the Guardian about Harnessing the power of faith. The full text of his speech is available from Ruth Gledhill’s blog, Labour ‘does God’ (scroll down for link to file).

John Madeley writes in the Guardian about the theology of enough.

John Barton writes in the Church Times that The BBC should not be impartial.

Giles Fraser writes in The Times about Cape Coast Castle in Cry out for mercy in the grey zone.

Paul Laity interviews Blair Worden in the Guardian about his new book The English Civil Wars, see A life in writing: Blair Worden.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 10:04am GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Friday, 30 January 2009

General Synod - more press reports

Here is a follow-up to our first round-up of press reports on the agenda for next month’s meeting of the Church of England General Synod.

First, two subscriber-only items by Bill Bowder in last week’s Church Times are now generally available.
Synod to discuss ban on BNP membership
Diocesan motion expresses concerns after Eweida case

Synod will be debating the Financial Crisis and the Recession on 12 February. A report on what effect the crisis might have on the Church itself was sent to synod members a few days ago. The Church’s own finances will be debated by the synod in July.
Martin Beckford in the Telegraph Church of England calls for increased donations as recession hits finances
Bill Bowder in the Church Times Parishes hit for millions by crunch
The Church Times also has Leader: reasons to spend fatly in the lean years
The paper GS Misc 913 Financial Prospects for the Church of England is available here as a PDF, and also here as a web page.

One item on the synod agenda next month is a private member’s motion on church water bills. There have been several press reports on this topic recently.
Martin Beckford in the Telegraph Churches, Scout troops and sports clubs celebrate as water firm freezes ‘rain tax’
and ‘Rain tax’ means churches pay many times more than neighbouring businesses
Three items at the BBC
Churches fight drain on finances
Church begins ‘rain tax’ protest
Ministers fight church ‘rain tax’

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 30 January 2009 at 9:52am GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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An Issue of Biblical Proportions

I recently attended a discussion on biblical inerrancy. More precisely, the gathering in question consisted of a number of people who hold firm to the view that every part of the Bible is a literal and accurate historical document, containing teaching that cannot be questioned, and some other people whose views varied from those who valued the Bible as a holy scripture without buying into the idea of the book as a literal record of all it contained, to those who didn’t think much of it at all.

But actually no, this is not going to be a post about inerrancy or the little battles between the fundamentalists and the rest. My point here is a different one. During the conversations (or maybe I should say declarations, there wasn’t much give and take) every so often someone would quote from the Bible. And what struck me was that people were quoting from different versions and translations, some of which were familiar to me and some of which definitely were not. One person used the following quote: ‘Those who want to come with me must say no to the things they want’. I guessed that this must be from Matthew 16, but the particular form of words was entirely new to me. By googling it later I discovered that it was from a version called ‘God’s Word’, which I suspect is a paraphrase rather than a translation.

Whatever views we may have on the relative merits of this or that version of the Bible, what strikes me is that we no longer have a common language for scripture. It is not just that we have our own preferences in terms of the style and language of different translations, we also have versions that base themselves on a particular theological outlook that has helped to fashion the text (such as the New International Version).

When I was growing up there was only one Bible I would come across — the Authorised Version. At that time the New English Bible had made an appearance, but (at least in the circles I moved in) it was not normal to see it used in worship; it was more a study aid. And so my generation of young people had a significant fund of biblical passages which we could quote easily from memory.

Nowadays that is not so. Clearly part of the reason is that our society has a much more tenuous relationship with organised religion than it did back then. But I suspect that scripture is something less direct for us because, when we hear it, it can take any number of quite different forms. For a while I had begun to think that, perhaps, the New Revised Standard Version might become the dominant Bible, but I suspect this is not happening, and if I am honest, I have to admit that I am going off it somewhat; it, too, has too much of an agenda.

Maybe I am being nostalgic about something that had to come to an end anyway and that cannot be restored. But at least part of me regrets that we have lost the idea of scripture as a common property that is not just somewhere in the background but that is part of us and is, in large passages, remembered by us. I think we have lost something.

Posted by Ferdinand von Prondzynski on Friday, 30 January 2009 at 7:39am GMT | Comments (41) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 29 January 2009

Election of Church Commissioners

This press release was issued by the Church of England yesterday.

Elections to the Church Commissioners
28 January 2009

In its current round of quinquennial elections to the Church Commissioners, the General Synod has appointed three clerical and four lay members.

They are:

House of Clergy
The Revd Canon Bob Baker
The Revd Jeremy Crocker (St Albans)
The Revd Stephen Trott (Peterborough)

House of Laity
April Alexander (Southwark)
Peter Bruinvels (Guildford)
Gavin Oldham (Oxford)
Jacob Vince (Chichester)


Four members of the House of Bishops and two Deans were duly nominated for election as Commissioners. In both cases this was the number required and it was announced in December that the following therefore stood elected to serve as Church Commissioners from 1 January 2009 - 31 December 2013:

The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham
The Rt Revd Mike Hill, Bishop of Bristol
The Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester
The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dr Richard Chartres, Bishop of London

The Very Revd Adrian Newman, Dean of Rochester
The Very Revd Dr Christopher Hardwick, Dean of Truro

The other Church Commissioners are

The Archbishop of Canterbury (chairman)
The Archbishop of York

The three Church Estates Commissioners (appointed by Her Majesty)
Andreas Whittam Smith, First Church Estates Commissioner
Sir Stuart Bell MP, Second Church Estates Commissioner
T E H Walker, Third Church Estates Commissioner

Three people nominated by Her Majesty
R H Powers
Canon J A Spence
J Wythe

Three people nominated by the Archbishops
P Harrison QC
Peter Parker
Nicholas Sykes

Three people Nominated by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York after consultation with the Lord Mayors of the Cities of London and York and the Vice-Chancellors of Oxford and Cambridge Universities
B Carroll
Sir Robert Finch
Revd Rachel E Harrison

Ex Officio
The First Lord of the Treasury
The Lord President of the Council
The Secretary of State for the Home Department
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
The Speaker of the House of Commons
The Speaker of the House of Lords

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 29 January 2009 at 3:46pm GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Bishop Henry Scriven

Updated again Saturday morning

There have been several confusing reports about Bishop Henry Scriven’s status as a bishop.

ENS reported Presiding Bishop accepts two bishops’ voluntary renunciation of orders.

Religious Intelligence reported US Presiding Bishop deposes Church of England Bishop

…On Oct 16, Bishop Scriven wrote to Bishop Schori to inform her that he was returning to the Britain to take up the post of director of South American ministry for SAMS-CMS. Ordained in the Church of England, Bishop Scriven was consecrated in 1995 as Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe by Archbishop George Carey. In 2002, Bishop Scriven became the Assistant Bishop of Pittsburgh in the Episcopal Church. Following Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan’s deposition from office as Bishop of Pittsburgh on Sept 19, Bishop Scriven’s position in the US church was terminated.

In his letter, Bishop Scriven informed Bishop Schori he was returning to the UK to take up the SAMS-CMS post and had been appointed an Honorary Assistant Bishop and would be under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Oxford.

In her response of Nov 12, Bishop Schori acknowledged that Bishop Scriven was now a Bishop of the Church of England, and said she would “release you from your orders in this Church” for reasons “not effecting moral character.” Bishop Schori added that she believed “that subtlety was lost on some of our Communion partners” over her understanding of canon law, as her action would not undo the “indelible” mark of ordination, but was a housekeeping action that would end his licence to serve in the US Church.

However, before Bishop Schori’s tenure as Presiding Bishop, bishops who left the US church to serve in other provinces were not released from their orders, but transferred to other churches…

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has issued a statement:

An article that appeared on Episcopal Life Online on January 23, 2009 reported that Bishop Henry Scriven, the former Assistant Bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, had renounced his orders and that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, had accepted that renunciation. Although the article may suggest otherwise, the Standing Committee understands that this action was not in any sense a disciplinary action or an action taken because of Bishop Scriven’s support for the attempt to realign the Diocese with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Before he relocated to England, Bishop Scriven had submitted his resignation as a member of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, inasmuch as he was planning to return to England and serve as Assistant to the Bishop of Oxford. In order to permit that, the Canons required that he be released from his orders in the Episcopal Church for reasons not affecting his moral character, which is what occurred. This is a routine way of permitting Bishop Scriven to continue his ministry. Orders in the Church themselves are indelible, but licensing is required to exercise them.

The Standing Committee gives thanks for the gracious way in which Bishop Scriven exercised his ministry in the Episcopal Church while he served here as Assistant Bishop and we hope he and his wife Catherine will visit us in the future.

Friday morning update

The Church Times has a report by Pat Ashworth ‘Really weird’, but Scriven bears no ill will on orders.

…Bishop Scriven described the letter he received in November releasing him from his orders as “really weird”. He retained it but did not respond to it. The promised certificate releasing Bishop Scriven from his orders did not reach him personally, “though, to be fair, she might have tried as I was wandering round the world,” he said on Wednesday.

The correspondence is now in the public domain. “I had no desire to publish these letters until the thing was announced but was then very happy for them to be released,” Bishop Scriven said. “Hers was a very gracious letter but I was kind of boggled by the language really. It’s two nations divided by the same language, it seems to me. I bear no ill will, and I think it’s a storm in a teacup really…

There is a further report from ENS which notes PITTSBURGH: Standing Committee acknowledges Scriven’s service to diocese.

The Anglican Communion Institute has published Is The Renunciation of Orders Routine?

Saturday update

Andrew Carey has also weighed in, see A dangerous move by the Americans.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 28 January 2009 at 4:21pm GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 27 January 2009

primates meeting approaches

Updated yet again Friday afternoon

The forthcoming meeting in Alexandria, reported earlier here, starts next Sunday.

Some further reports have appeared:

Anglican Journal Marites N Sison Hiltz to update other primates on state of Canadian church

Times Online Ruth Gledhill Anglican primates to meet in Egypt

The meeting will be held at the Helnan Palestine Hotel, “a five stars deluxe hotel with a unique location on the Mediterranean Sea”.


Religious Intelligence George Conger Primates’ Meeting to avoid divisive issues

Lambeth Palace (via ACO) Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit to North Africa

Times Online Ruth Gledhill Plans for new province in US opposed by senior Anglican

Living Church George Conger Welsh Primate: New Province is ‘Total Nonsense’

Friday morning

Church Times Pat Ashworth Primates to meet in Egypt behind closed doors

…Canon Kearon confirmed on Wednesday that no paper had so far been received from the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) Primates concerning the pro posed Anglican Province in North America. A report in The Living Church this week said: “Bishop Duncan said the GAFCON Primates will present a paper and make the case of an alternative province.”

Canon Kearon emphasised that the agenda was a draft, that it was in the hands of the Primates, and was often rearranged. “We haven’t received a paper,” he said. “If it’s an application by the new entity in the US to join [the Communion] we would deal with [put ting it on to the agenda] in a business session if appropriate, but they might decide other wise if we haven’t been notified of it.”

Religion News Service Daniel Burke Anglicans Set to Consider Rival North American Church

Conservative Anglicans say they do not expect their new North American church to receive official approval from Anglican archbishops who will convene next week (Feb. 1-5) in Alexandria, Egypt.

“We do expect that our situation will be discussed,” said the Rev. Peter Frank, a spokesman for the newly established Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). “At the same time, it would be very surprising if there was some kind of quick, game-changing action.”

… To date, only five primates, most from Africa, where Anglicans lean conservative on sexual issues, have publicly sanctioned the new North American church.

Bishop Martyn Minns, a leader in ACNA, said he expects more primates to approve the rival church after it has ratified its constitution in June. “They’re going to wait until we’re up and running,” he said.

Jim Naughton, director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, said: “I don’t think there’s any chance of two-thirds of the primates expressing desire to legitimize this thing in any capacity.”

Friday afternoon

A crucial analysis of the forthcoming meeting is in the cartoon at The Primates Meeting: How personal disorganisation is splitting the Anglican Church.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 27 January 2009 at 11:11pm GMT | Comments (24) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 25 January 2009

reports from Virginia

The Diocese of Virginia held its annual Council meeting yesterday. A number of resolutions were passed. They included this one:

R-4a Blessedness of Covenanted Relationships

RESOLVED, that the Diocese of Virginia recognizes our responsibility to respond to the pastoral needs of our faithful gay and lesbian members in a spirit of love, compassion and respect, and in doing so seek to fulfill our baptismal commitment to respect the dignity of every human being; and be it further

RESOLVED, that accordingly the 214th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia affirms the inherent integrity of and blessededness of committed Christian relationships between two adult persons, when those relationships are “characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.” (Resolution 2000-D039 of the 73rd General Convention of the Episcopal Church).

Two other resolutions on related topics were not passed, but were referred to an already existing diocesan Windsor Dialogue Commission. For details of these resolutions see:
R-5: Allowing Clergy To Exercise Pastoral Care In Blessing the Unions Of Same-Gender Couples
R-6: Inclusiveness in Ordained Ministry

According to Episcopal Café another highlight of the event was this:

…the longest applause came during the closing remarks of the chaplain for this year’s 214th Annual Council. Archbishop Barry Morgan, Primate of Wales, said Wales was in the same boat as The Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church and he would resist the formation of an alternative North American province with, in his words, “every fiber of my being.” The room jumped to its feet with applause and cheering.

The report of the Windsor Dialogue Commission is a PDF file here. Appendices 2 and 3 contain liturgies in Thanksgiving for a Committed Relationship and for Friendship.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 25 January 2009 at 8:22am GMT | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 24 January 2009

opinions after an inauguration

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times about Obama and the devil in the hole.

Jonathan Sacks wrote in The Times that Obama renews a covenant and inspires fresh hope.

Simon Barrow wrote at Ekklesia about Re-investing democracy with hope.

Comment is free had a whole week of answers to the question: Will Obama be good for religion?

At the Telegraph George Pitcher had opinions on the inauguration speech, Barack Obama inauguration: God knows His place, and also on the accompanying deluge of prayers, We British pray better than Americans.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, Karen Pollock writes in the Guardian about antisemitism, in Face to Faith.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 24 January 2009 at 12:13pm GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Friday, 23 January 2009

two American news items

Updated Sunday lunchtime

First, George Conger reports in the Church of England Newspaper that those Brazilians, who earlier had affiliated with the Province of the Southern Cone, have now decided to migrate to the new grouping being formed in North America. See Brazilian diocese links with the Americans.

The synod of the Diocese of Recife has voted to leave the shelter of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone and affiliate with the third province movement in North America.

At its Dec 4-6 meeting in Jaboatão dos Guararapes the ex-Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil (IEAB) diocese voted to join with the ex-Episcopal Church dioceses of Pittsburgh, Quincy, Fort Worth and San Joaquin, along with a number of continuing American and Canadian Anglican and African-led jurisdictions, to form the new province.

The move from the Southern Cone to the third province will take place in June at the Anglican Church in North America’s founding convocation in Fort Worth…

Update Sunday
Anglican Mainstream has published this Important correction from Diocese of Recife which says this is not correct.

It was a surprise to all of us from the Diocese of Recife to read the title and the internal affirmation of the article “The Synod of the Diocese of Recife has voted to leave the shelter of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone and affiliate with the third province movement in North America”. We had no debate or deliberation in the Synod of this subject…

Second, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Morgan Stanley has frozen the accounts of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh because it is unsure who should be allowed to access them. See Schism causes Morgan Stanley to freeze Episcopalian accounts.

Financial services firm Morgan Stanley has frozen the accounts of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh because it is unsure who should be allowed to access them.

In a letter Jan. 13, the firm said it would not allow any further distributions until it received a court order listing those authorized to use the accounts…

Related to this, the diocese has published Information On Recent Court Filings by Southern Cone Group.

On January 20, 2009, the attorneys for former Bishop Duncan and other former leaders of the Diocese who now regard themselves to be affiliated with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone filed three motions with the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County seeking to oppose the “Request to Special Master” that had been filed jointly by the Diocese and Calvary Episcopal Church on January 8, 2009…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 10:43pm GMT | Comments (14) | TrackBack
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General Synod agenda - press reports

The Church Times has published a detailed report by Margaret Duggan on next month’s General Synod Agenda Financial crisis and ARCIC report feature on Synod agenda

One item was picked up by the secular press.
The Guardian Church of England may ban clergy from joining BNP
Martin Beckford in the Telegraph Vicars could be banned from membership of British National Party

And then there are two reports on an item that will not be debated this time because of a lack of interest from synod members:
Martin Beckford in the Telegraph Fix date of Easter to prevent ‘confusion and disruption’ over holidays, says clergyman
Steve Doughty in the Mail Church of England clerics want Easter date fixed for every year

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 11:22am GMT | Comments (35) | TrackBack
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It took my daughter, who tells me she no longer believes in God, to pick up on the unthinking and unchristian words coming out of my mouth. I was deploring the death of ‘innocent civilians’ in Gaza. Of what possible relevance was their innocence to the value of their life? she enquired. How many in that literally bloody mess could possibly refrain from hatred of Israel, and the desire to break its iron grip? How many who were offered the chance to strike at Israel would resist the temptation, and how could peace ever be reached while we took this into consideration. Guilt and innocence are too often mere matters of chance in such a situation.

And she is right. The sight of children killed by adults is an outrage and a horror. That does not mean that there are clear divisions into guilty and innocent. The secular world likes the idea that some are guilty, some innocent, and it has responded to the outrage of Gaza with a concept of ‘proportionality’. Gaza is wrong because it is disproportionate. A disproportionate number of the innocent are suffering. No Christian believes themselves innocent. Each believes they must offer unconditional forgiveness to those who injure them, that they must forgive and rebuild relationships of all kinds on the knowledge of this guilt in themselves and others. Our faith offers a way out of conflict by accepting pain and allowing it to die with us, or rather to die in our God. We are committed to a path where we suffer and forgive, and leave justice to God. There is no proportionality in such a path. There is no proportionality in God’s love for us, either.

Proportionality ought to be a taboo word to those whose founder roundly condemned seeking an eye for an eye. Proportionality is another word for a childish desire for ‘tit for tat’. I am liable be told that this is high minded nonsense, and that in international situations we must lay to one side our faith and our ideals, and be practical. I make two answers.

The first is that ‘proportionality’ is doomed to failure. While extremists on either side can derail any possible peace process by a single act of outrageous violence, which is liable to create a proportionate response, there can never be peace. Peace can come only when one side, or better, both sides, can swallow outrage and not react to it.

The second, I make in the words of President Obama, in his inauguration speech. ‘We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.’ He is right. If our ideals are true, and if our faith is right, we cannot expect any other path to succeed. We Christians have to believe, and I write ‘have to’ advisedly, that Jesus’s core teaching is right for us, and for everybody. If this is God’s world, where we are to work his will, no other path will arrive at his destination. The only safety lies in our being prepared to offer his advice to others, and to live it ourselves.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 23 January 2009 at 7:13am GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 22 January 2009

CofE and the Covenant

The Church of England General Synod will be considering the Covenant again in February.

The two relevant documents are:

GS 1716 Anglican Covenant available here as a PDF, and also here as a web page.

GS Misc 910 The Governance of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion by Colin Podmore, available here as a PDF, and also here as a web page.

Last November, Mr Justin Brett asked a (written, electronic) Question, which is reported here:

Mr Justin Brett (Oxford) to ask the Secretary General:

Q2. What research has been undertaken to establish the effect of the Church of England’s participation in an Anglican Communion Covenant upon the relationship between the Church of England and the Crown, given the Queen’s position as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and the consequent tension between her prerogative and the potential demands of a disciplinary process within the proposed Covenant?

Mr William Fittall to reply as Secretary General:

A. The Church of England response of 19 December 2007 to the initial draft Covenant noted on page 13 that ‘it would be unlawful for the General Synod to delegate its decision making powers to the primates, and that this therefore means that it could not sign up to a Covenant which purported to give the primates of the Communion the ability to give ‘direction’ about the course of action that the Church of England should take.’ The same would be true in relation to delegation to any other body of the Anglican Communion. Since as a matter of law the Church of England could not submit itself to any such external power of direction, any separate possible difficulties in relation to the Royal Prerogative could not in practice arise.

There is no reference in the new report to the point raised in this Q and A.

The report indicates that the House of Bishops believes the process of adoption of the Covenant should not involve the passing of any Measure or Canon, but rather the passing of a Synod resolution which should then be formally declared to be an Act of Synod. It also considers that such a resolution would most likely be both Article 7 and Article 8 business, and thus would require referral to the dioceses.

The Church of England’s earlier response to the (then) draft Covenant can be found here. The full text is available in html here.

The Church Times reported last year’s debate: Anglican Covenant: New Covenant draft welcomed more warmly.

The voting result at that time was reported here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 22 January 2009 at 9:31am GMT | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

General Synod Papers

Updated Tuesday 27 January and Thursday 29 January

Most papers for next month’s meeting of General Synod are now online. Links will be added to the list below as the remainder become available.


Special Agenda I - Legislative Business

Papers for debates

The scheduled day for debate is appended.

GS 1642B Draft Amending Canon No. 28 [Tuesday]
GS 1642C Petition for Her Majesty’s Royal Assent and Licence [Tuesday]
GS 1642Z Report by the House of Bishops

GS 1683B Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure [Tuesday]
GS 1683Z and Report by the Steering Committee

GS 1692A Draft Vacancies in Suffragan Sees and Other Ecclesiastical Offices Measure [Thursday]
GS 1693A Draft Crown Benefices (Parish Representatives) Measure [Thursday]
GS 1692-3Y Report by the Revision Committee

GS 1699 Revised Forty-Third Report of the Standing Orders Committee [Wednesday]
First Notice Paper

GS 1707 Women in the Episcopate [Wednesday]
GS 1708 Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure [Wednesday]
GS 1709 Draft Amending Canon No. 30 [Wednesday]
GS 1710 Illustrative Code of Practice
GS 1708-10X Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1712 Report by the Business Committee [Monday]

GS 1713 Church as Communion [Monday]

GS 1714 Review of Constitutions [Tuesday]

GS 1715 Ecclesiastical Fees (Amendment) Measure [Tuesday]
GS 1715X Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1716 Anglican Covenant [Thursday]

GS 1717 Church of England Funded Pensions Scheme (Debt Apportionment) (Amendment) Rules 2008 [Thursday]
GS 1717X Explanatory Memorandum
GS 1718 Church of England Funded Pensions Scheme (Exclusion of ineligible Persons) (Amendment) Rules 2008 [Thursday]
GS 1718X Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1719 Implications of the Financial Crisis and the Recession [Thursday]

GS 1720 Inter Faith: Presence and Engagement [Thursday]

GS Misc 898 revised and GS Misc 898A Revised Diocesan Synod Motion: Voice of the Church in Public Life [Tuesday]
GS Misc 903A and GS Misc 903B Private Member’s Motion: Membership of Organisations which Contradict the Duty to Promote Race Equality [Tuesday]
GS Misc 904A and GS Misc 904B Private Member’s Motion: Church Water Bills [Wednesday]
GS Misc 905A and GS Misc 905B Uniqueness of Christ in Multi-Faith Britain [Wednesday]
GS Misc 906A and GS Misc 906B Diocesan Synod Motion: Human Trafficking [Wednesday]
GS Misc 907A and GS Misc 907B Diocesan Synod Motion: The Future of Church of England Retreat Houses [Thursday]
GS Misc 908A and GS Misc 908B Diocesan Synod Motion: Justice and Asylum Seekers [Friday]
GS Misc 909A and GS Misc 909B Diocesan Synod Motion: Climate Change and the Church’s property [Friday]
GS Misc 911A and GS Misc 911B Eucharistic Worship for Young People [contingency business]

Other papers circulated to members of the General Synod

GS Misc 900 The 36th Report of the Central Stipends Authority 2008
GS Misc 902 Update on Forecast Archbishops’ Council Expenditure 2008
GS Misc 910 The Governance of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion
GS Misc 912 Moral, But No Compass A Report to the C of E from the Von Hugel Institute Background paper from the Rt Revd Stephen Lowe, Bishop for Urban Life and Faith
GS Misc 913 Financial Prospects for the Church of England
GS Misc 914 Activities of the Archbishops’ Council
GS Misc 915 Reflections on how Decisions are Made

A Church of England Approach to the Unique Significance of Jesus Christ A paper prepared by Dr Martin Davie for the Theological Group of the House of Bishops

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 21 January 2009 at 6:08pm GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Are senior CofE bishops conservatives?

Andrew Brown thinks they are. Read his blog article, The conservatives take over the asylum, and the comments there.

The items to which this refers are:

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 21 January 2009 at 4:21pm GMT | Comments (21) | TrackBack
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Monday, 19 January 2009

General Synod - February 2009

The General Synod of the Church of England will meet in London from 9 to 13 February 2009. The following press release was issued a short time ago.

NEWS from the Church of England



General Synod: February 2009

Key debates on the international financial crisis, women bishops, the Anglican Covenant, human trafficking, asylum, Anglican-Roman Catholic relations and inter faith relations

Major debates concerning the Church’s ministry and relations with other Churches, the financial crisis and the Church’s engagement with wider society will be on the agenda at the General Synod when it meets at Church House, Westminster from Monday to Friday, 9-13 February. The Synod will be debating a considerable amount of legislative business, including the first consideration stage of the draft women bishops legislation.

The International Financial Crisis
The Synod agenda provides opportunities for members to reflect on the international financial crisis and the recession. On the Tuesday afternoon, Andreas Whittam Smith (First Church Estates Commissioner) will facilitate presentations from and engage in dialogue with Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach and the Rt Revd Peter Selby. This will be an opportunity for the Synod to hear about and discuss with the two speakers the reasons for the crisis and its wider implications.

Brian Griffiths has been Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs International since 1991 and a member of the Board since 2007. He was from 1984 to 1990 Head of Mrs Thatcher’s Policy Unit at No 10 Downing Street. He is the author of a number of books and. since 1997, has been Chairman of the Lambeth Fund. Peter Selby was, until 2007, Bishop of Worcester and a member of the Church Commissioners’ Assets Committee. He has been a member of the Doctrine Commission and has written on the subject of faith and economics.

On the Thursday afternoon there will be a debate, introduced by the Archbishop of York, examining the challenges and opportunities for the Church’s mission and ministry in communities that the international financial crisis and recession presents.

Women Bishops
Last July, the Synod agreed that draft legislation be prepared, including special arrangements for those who would not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops (or priests) in a statutory national code of practice. The Women Bishops Legislative Drafting Group (chaired by the Bishop of Manchester) has completed its work on this basis and the Synod will be giving First Consideration to the draft legislation required to admit women to the episcopate.

It will not be possible to move amendments to the draft legislation at this Group of Sessions; the issue before the Synod will be whether to agree that the draft Measure and draft Amending Canon be referred for consideration by a Revision Committee. (See PR103/08 at

Anglican Covenant
The Churches of the Anglican Communion were asked in March 2008 if they were able, in principle, to commit to the Covenant process and to say if there were any elements which in their view would need extensive change in order to make viable the process of adoption by their Synods. The General Synod will consider a take note motion, moved by the Bishop of Rochester on behalf of the House of Bishops, on a report from the House, to which is attached a draft Church of England response to these questions. The draft response welcomes the direction of travel of the Covenant while flagging up a number of points which still require attention.

Anglican-Roman Catholic Relations
The Synod will be addressed on its first day by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster. His address, together with an introduction by the Archbishop of Canterbury, will provide an opportunity for the Synod to reflect on relations between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. This will lead to a debate, requested by the Synod, on the report by the Second Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission on Church as Communion.

Inter Faith Relations
The Synod will consider a Private Member’s Motion from Mr Paul Eddy, which asks the House of Bishops to report to the Synod on their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in a multi-faith society and to offer examples of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none.

The Synod will also be considering the inter faith and engagement programme which it launched in July 2005 when it also set up a task group, chaired by the Bishop of Bradford. This second debate provides the Synod with an opportunity to take note of what has been achieved so far and the work that is proposed for the next phase of the Presence and Engagement programme

The Church in Public Life
There are three Diocesan Synod Motions particularly concerned with the Church’s engagement in wider society. The first, from Chester, is wide ranging in its concern about the role of the Church in civic society and asks the divisions of the Archbishops’ Council to report to the Synod on their work to foster a clearer understanding of the Christian faith among the institutions and organizations of society, and to reinforce the claims of the Church to take its place in public life.

The second motion, which has been passed in identical terms by the Newcastle and Winchester Diocesan Synods, urges the Church of England to deplore the continuing evil of human trafficking, to support the work of those who seek to end human trafficking and to rescue those trapped in it, and also to support the implementation of the UK Action Plan on Tackling Human Trafficking, particularly in relation to the 2012 Olympics. The debate will be preceded by a presentation which will include an invited speaker from the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre.

The motion from the Southwell and Nottingham Diocesan Synod asks the Synod to call on the Government to ensure that the treatment of asylum seekers is just and compassionate. In particular, it calls for the conferring of a right to work on all asylum seekers, and the declaration of an amnesty for legacy cases that predate the Government’s New Asylum Model. It also asks the Government to find a practical and humane remedy to the situation of refused asylum seekers who are unable to return to their country of origin because of personal safety, health or family reasons.

A Private Member’s Motion from Ms Vasantha Gnanadoss asks the House of Bishops to formulate and implement a policy for the Church of England under which clergy, ordinands and such employed lay persons as have duties that require them to speak on behalf of the Church should not be a member of an organization whose constitution, aims, objectives or pronouncements contradict the duty to promote race equality.

Property Issues for the Church
Three motions explore different aspects of the Church’s property and resources.

The Private Member’s Motion from Mr Martin Dales expresses concern about the effect on many parish churches of the sudden and very large rises in water charges for churches in some areas. It asks the Government to remind OFWAT of its obligations to ensure that the water companies adhere to the guidance given in 2000 by the Secretary of State for the Environment not to treat all non-household customers (including places of worship) as if they were businesses.

The Worcester Diocesan Synod Motion calls on the Archbishops’ Council to conduct an urgent review of the Endowments and Glebe Measure and other church legislation, with a view to enabling diocesan bodies and PCCs, in disposing of land, to give weight to environmental as well as financial considerations, particularly in relation to cutting carbon emissions.

A motion passed in the same terms by both the Leicester and Peterborough Diocesan Synods asks the Archbishops’ Council to review and make recommendations for the future sustainability of the Church of England retreat houses, and encourages church bodies to make full use of these resources.

Other Business
The Archbishop of Canterbury will give a Presidential Address, which will include a reflection on the recent Lambeth Conference.

A report from the Standing Orders Committee proposes some adjustments to the Synod’s procedures. There will also be a presentation on some proposed changes to the constitution of bodies answerable to the Synod through the Archbishops’ Council.

Communicating Synod
Parishioners can keep in touch with the General Synod while it meets. Background papers and other information will be posted on the Church of England website ( ahead of the General Synod sessions. Audio files of debates, along with updates on the days’ proceedings will be posted during the sessions.


Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 19 January 2009 at 11:40am GMT | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 18 January 2009

from the National Archives

Last week, the Church Times had a feature about theNational Archives at Kew, and the government documents that reveal the relationship between the state and the Church of England in the 20th century.

First, see Treasures buried in the archive by A.D. Harvey.

Then, read the full text of a 1960 memorandum from David Stephens, the Prime Minister’s appointments secretary, to Harold Macmillan about the filling of vacant sees.

A quiet word about the next archbishop.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 18 January 2009 at 12:31pm GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 17 January 2009

Primates to meet in Alexandria

The Anglican Communion Office has issued several notices about the forthcoming meeting in Alexandria, Egypt from 1 to 5 February. See

History of the February 2009 Primates Meeting
Media Advisory on the 2009 Primates Meeting
Press Media Accreditation

Episcopal Life Online has vastly more information at Primates to address international concerns at February meeting in Alexandria, Egypt including this:

The primates will also hear an update from the Windsor Continuation Group and receive a report the group is presenting to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The group, which last met in December 2008, is charged with addressing questions arising from the Windsor Report, such as recommended bans on same-gender blessings, cross-border interventions and the ordination of gay and lesbian people to the episcopate.

The Living Church reports in GAFCON Primates Prepare Case for New Province that:

The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican), is involved in “an unanticipated series of consultations with the primates who originated the call” for a new Anglican province in North America, participants in an Anglican theology conference have been told.

Bishop Duncan had been scheduled to address “North American Anglicanism After GAFCON and Lambeth” at the Mere Anglicanism conference in Charleston, S.C. Instead, the Very Rev. William McKeachie, dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul which is the conference location, read a letter from Bishop Duncan. He said that following consultations about the proposed new province between Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and members of the GAFCON primates’ steering committee in London last month, Archbishop Williams had asked that a paper be prepared setting out the situation and the hopes for a new structure. The Archbishop invited the primates to forward the case to the Anglican Consultative Council along with their comments.

Bishop Duncan said the GAFCON primates will present the paper and make the case for an alternate province during the primates’ meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, next month…

Dave Walker’s cartoon at the time of the last primates meeting can be seen here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 17 January 2009 at 10:17am GMT | Comments (41) | TrackBack
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columns for thought

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times about his visit to Ghana, see Being canny in the raw church. For a picture of this event, see the piece at the Telegraph by Jonathan Wynne-Jones Pro-gay vicar of Putney made an African canon.

George Pitcher writes in the Telegraph that Barack Obama’s faith, like Lincoln’s, is uncertain.

In the Guardian Ali Eteraz writes that The inauguration of Barack Obama will be a secular hajj for America’s collective redemption.

Nick Jowett writes in The Times about the Week of Christian Unity, see we must keep our eye on the pearl of great price.

Mark Vernon writes at Ekklesia on Making sense of Charles Darwin.

Back at the Telegraph Michael Portillo writes The British state mustn’t let go of the church.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 17 January 2009 at 9:27am GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Friday, 16 January 2009

Green Shoots?

Baroness Vadera was asked whether she thought there were any ‘green shoots’ in the economy; a phrase which effectively shot Norman Lamont during the last economic recession. Well, Lamont had seen signs of hope, and the Baroness gave a clear example of positive news, even on a day when the job losses were huge.

We cannot live without hope, and the very fact of life itself is proof of that. The life we have on earth is not just bound to repeat the past, and run down and decay, deteriorating from an original perfection. Rather, new life emerges, new life evolves, and possibilities arise which the past could never have foreseen.

For the Christian, this hope is exemplified in the recognition that in Christ there is a new creation. What emerged from the shameful death of Jesus Christ on the cross was unimaginable, even to people who might have professed a belief in a final resurrection. Belief in the resurrection of Jesus did provoke outrage. Many people, including St Paul himself before his conversion, were filled with fury at the claims of Jesus’s former disciples, and both James and Stephen were put to death. But those who continued to live in hope triumphed in spite of the odds against them. In the Easter season we sing ‘Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain’. We are people who believe in green shoots.

So, as a Christian, I will see signs of hope even in the present situation. First, and most importantly, house prices are readjusting to the level at which ordinary people might reasonably expect to be able to buy a home. It may not look like an investment, it may not yield great profits, but it will be a place for people to call their own. Too many people have been shut out of the housing market for too long by inflated prices and by the greed of buy to let landlords who have taken so many properties at the lower end of the market out of the reach of first time buyers.

Next, we shall all have to learn to spend just what we earn. For home owners this has been difficult. There has been the temptation to finance large items by re-mortgaging homes which have appeared to be rising in price, and having unaffordable treats on the back of an unsustainable bubble of debt. Instead of re-mortgaging for the holiday, the car, the new kitchen. people will need to learn to make their demands more reasonable, and cut the new suit according to the cloth in hand.

The banks and investment bankers have taken a battering. We have seen that the emperor had no clothes. The rich were creaming off not only their profits, but helping themselves to money which in the end did not exist. The result of this exposure may be a society less driven by greed, and one which sees the value of work rather than gambling huge sums and rewarding the lucky. Perhaps people will choose careers on the basis of the good that they will do rather than on just the money which might come flooding in. At one level the result of all this is a recession. The estate agent, the holiday company and the kitchen fitters will see a reduction in their business that may well be permanent. The car manufacturers are already feeling the pinch. In sectors of the economy in which much of the spending has been supported by large scale re-mortgaging there may never be a return to the levels of activity which we saw until eighteen months ago when the credit crunch hit first the U.S.A. and then the rest of the world. On top of this has been the problem that we have wanted cheap goods, particularly clothing and electronic goods. Once, as in the proud days when Marks and Spencer’s sold home produced clothing, we paid a fair price and the producers received a living wage. But now the producers are unseen, their employment conditions are questionable, and we import with little to offer in return apart from the opportunity to help finance our own debt. This is a nettle which the U.S. economy must grasp first, but all western economies must also face.

The huge hike in oil and commodity prices last summer finally persuaded people of the seriousness and the sense of the green agenda, with the need to consume less oil and, on the way, protect the future of the planet. It has forced a change in attitude.

And then for Britain and the U.S. in particular there has been the enormous cost of funding wars which have stretched not only our troops but also the government purse beyond the limit for far too long. This legacy of the Bush and Blair administrations is not sustainable in the long term. Perhaps it has taken until the money ran out of everything for the voices of reason and morality to be heard in relation to our spending on war.

It may be that those who started these conflicts could look back and see that previous wars, in the Falklands, or removing the Iraqis from Kuwait, had looked short and, in balance, profitable. These wars gave the opportunity to showcase new technology that the world would want to buy, and the major arms producers saw an increase in sales when the superiority of high tech forces over those more traditionally armed was made apparent. But Afghanistan and Iraq have not lent themselves to such displays of superiority. Baghdad did not need to be razed to the ground before the western forces moved in. No-one was impressed by the destruction of the city’s infrastructure, and people are even less impressed because preparations for peace were so inadequate. The death toll is what commands the headlines today. Our continued presence in the Middle East, and our financing of Israeli aggression in Gaza have the effect of driving desperate people to take desperate measures. War mongering breeds extremists. Our Foreign Secretary now declares that the ‘war on terror’ was a mistake. I am reminded of the medal won by my grandfather which bears the inscription ‘Afghanistan N W F 1919’. He was firmly of the opinion that we had had no business there and that no conventional army could ever win there. I don’t think things have changed.

So, are there ‘green shoots’? Yes. The American people voted that they didn’t want more years of the same. They wanted change and the election of Barak Obama is surely a sign that the Americans have hoped for something different. That deeply religious nation has expressed a wish for a more compassionate Christianity, rather than the values of a gung ho cowboy who saw himself as a crusader. I pray that the green shoots may herald a new creation, a new attitude, and a determination not to repeat the mistakes, financial and moral, of the first years of the 21st century.

Posted by Tom Ambrose on Friday, 16 January 2009 at 7:39am GMT | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 14 January 2009

a woman bishop in England

Martin Beckford reports on Britain’s first woman bishop to take office this weekend.

History will be made this weekend as the first female bishop to serve in a British church takes office.

However the Church of England continues to argue about how and when women should be introduced to the episcopate, while the Roman Catholic Church maintains that only men can serve as priests.

So it has been left to the Lutheran Church in Great Britain, which has just a few thousand worshippers, to become the first to take the radical step.

The Rev Jana Jeruma-Grinberga, whose parents were Latvian refugees but who was born in England, will be consecrated as the church’s first female bishop on Saturday at a ceremony in the City of London…

…A spokesman for the Lutherans said in a statement: “The Lutheran Church in Great Britain will consecrate its first woman bishop, the Rt Rev Jana Jeruma-Grinberga, on Saturday 17th January 2009, in the historic Wren church of St Anne & St Agnes on Gresham Street, in the City of London.

“Her predecessor, the Rt Rev Walter Jagucki, will preside at the service, and bishops and other clergy from Nordic and European Lutheran churches will participate in the consecration.”

More information about the Lutheran Church of Great Britain is here.

More information about UK-based Lutherans generally is here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 14 January 2009 at 10:44pm GMT | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Tribal Fellowship

Whenever we see righteous indignation, especially in the media, alarm bells should go off in our heads, and we should reach for at least one pinch of salt with more on standby.

This week Prince Harry has been brought to book by some of the press. While in military service in Afghanistan, he called one comrade a Paki, and said another looked like a raghead, (an American epithet for anyone wearing a keffiyeh, the traditional Middle Eastern headdress and protection from sun and sand). I’ll set aside the fact that some of these newspapers are quite capable of name-calling themselves, when the occasion demands.

Name-calling has less to do with the person or group that is being called names, and more about the name-callers. When I went to school in the 1970’s, branding people Paki’s was wrong, but routine, and you had to be quite resolute to avoid being caught up in it. The Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi kids in my school were no better or worse than the rest of us. Being a minority, they probably conducted themselves better than we did.

What drove the name-calling was not whether these minorities deserved it, it was about scruffy working-class Birmingham kids seeing a group they felt they could finally feel superior to. There was a bonding to be had here which was very alluring. If you joined in, then you were part of a group, you belonged. This is why it didn’t necessarily have to be South Asians, it could have been any easily identifiable group, the key was the name-callers belonging together as a group.

Princes don’t belong, by definition, they are always out-of-step with the rest of us. This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t want to, it is a basic human need. We should not be surprised if they occasionally do things which are gawky, or ill-judged. We should certainly be more compassionate than some of our newspapers. Whatever Prince Harry takes from this episode the hard lesson is that, even among his fellow soldiers, someone in that fellowship was going to betray him, to send him the message loud and clear, that he did not belong.

Posted by Andrew Spurr on Wednesday, 14 January 2009 at 11:15am GMT | Comments (22) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 13 January 2009

St Albans gets a new bishop

The tenth Bishop of St Albans is to be the Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, Downing Street has announced this morning.

Read the announcement on the St Albans diocesan website.

Watch the YouTube video here.

Listen to an audio recording of his opening remarks at the press conference.

Read four pages from the Diocese of Lichfield site: Prime Minister’s announcement, Tributes as Bishop of Shrewsbury prepares to move to St Albans, Bishop of Shrewsbury excited about his move to St Albans, and another copy of the St Albans press release.

The CofE also carries the press release.

And the original announcement from 10 Downing Street? Well, it has belatedly appeared here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 13 January 2009 at 12:24pm GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Monday, 12 January 2009

Anglican angles on Obama's inauguration

Updated again Friday evening

First, there was the invitation to Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church to give the formal invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration. There was a lot of negative reaction to this, but more recently Mr Warren added his own Anglican angle, as reported by Christianity Today in Displaced Anglicans Offered Refuge on Saddleback Campus.

Wednesday evening update That article was removed, as explained here. The original text can still be found here.

Second, there is the news report that the Rev. Sharon E. Watkins of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is to deliver the sermon at the national prayer service that is held the day after the inauguration. The Anglican angle is that this service is being held at the Washington National Cathedral.

Third, there is the announcement that Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson is to offer prayers at the Lincoln Memorial concert two days before the inauguration. See also the ENS report: New Hampshire bishop invited to offer prayers at inaugural kickoff event. And there are many links to other reports here.

British reporting of this: Guardian, Times, Telegraph.

Wednesday morning updates

Episcopal News Service has more on the Rick Warren story, at ‘Purpose-Driven’ pastor offers space to dissident Episcopalians.

And Max Blumenthal has written about Rick Warren’s Africa Problem.

National Public Radio has a 5 minute radio interview with Bishop Robinson at Robinson ‘Delighted’ To Be Part Of Inauguration.

Wednesday evening update

A fourth Anglican angle on the inauguration can be found in the Washington Post which reports that Historic Church Will Host President-Elect on Big Day. This refers to St John’s Church Lafayette Square.

Friday evening update
More Anglican angles on the Washington Cathedral service, which will involve both the Bishop of Washington and the Presiding Bishop.

Even more detail on all the participants in that service is provided by ENS here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 12 January 2009 at 9:26pm GMT | Comments (28) | TrackBack
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another Fort Worth update

The previous one was over a month ago.

The Presiding Bishop is due to attend a special diocesan convention in Fort Worth on 7 February. See FORT WORTH: Presiding Bishop will convene a special diocesan convention. The formal notice is here.

Bishop Jack Iker has sent a letter to the Presiding Bishop, making a public objection about this. (H/T Est Anima Legis)

Also, the Church of England Newspaper reports that Fort Worth bishop demands right to respond to ‘abandonment’ charge. See also here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 12 January 2009 at 9:03pm GMT | Comments (26) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 10 January 2009

A look back at Lambeth

Bishop Nick Baines, who authored a blog for Fulcrum during the Lambeth Conference, and has his own blog here, has written an article, The Lambeth Conference 2008, a review after six months. He says:

It is a review not of the conference itself, but of the conference as reflected in the blog I wrote during it.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 8:47am GMT | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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columns after Epiphany

Michael Symmons Roberts writes in The Times: dream songs of faith, doubt and the God of rescue.

Barry Courtier writes in the Guardian that Metaphors can provide a useful way of forming an understanding of God.

George Pitcher wrote for the Telegraph that The Horsham Crucifix isn’t ‘horrific’.

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times about Being there to pray for the debtors.

Mark Vernon wrote at Comment is free about Darwin’s year.

Simon Barrow wrote at Ekklesia: On not being left eyeless in Gaza.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 10 January 2009 at 8:20am GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Friday, 9 January 2009

women bishops update

Updated Saturday

Today, the Church Times reports: Women drafts impress supporters, but not FiF by Pat Ashworth.

DRAFT legislation for women bishops has drawn cautious responses since its publication last week (News, 2 January). There is a prevailing desire not to question what the proposed Code of Practice could do before the General Synod examines it in detail in February.

The response of the traditionalist Catholic body Forward in Faith has been the most uncompromising. While it welcomed publication of the further report and associated documents, the organisation opposes in principle the Code that is at the heart of the proposals.
“We have consistently argued that a Code of Practice (with no transfer of jurisdiction) will not provide the security which tens of thousands of faithful and loyal Anglicans need in order to live with integrity in the Church of England after the ordina tion of women to the episcopate. Nothing in these documents changes that situation,” a terse statement on its website said last week…

The Forward in Faith statement is here.

And there is a Leader: Manchester’s plan.

…Taking the two sides in turn, supporters of women bishops have nothing to fear. This is a big, grown-up world, where every woman priest lives with the knowledge that her orders are questioned by a neighbouring priest or parish. After all, every C of E priest works (or should work) closely with Roman Catholics who cannot official recognise his or her orders; every Christian works (or should work) with people of other faiths who take issue with many of his or her central beliefs. In 21st-century Britain, any Christian — bishop, priest, or lay person — who is surrounded solely by affirming, unchallenging supporters needs to get out more. If women are confident that opposition will dwindle naturally over the years, then they need do nothing but wait.
One might be similarly robust with traditionalists. If they believe in the rightness of their position, it will thrive in the C of E whether hedged about by legal structures or not. The Manchester proposals contain firmer provisions for opponents of women bishops than had been thought, and it is conceivable that agreement might be reached on this basis. But there is a stumbling block. The 15 years since the passing of the Act of Synod have furnished traditionalists with a wealth of tales of pressure and shenanigans in some dioceses. These have brought them to the point where they simply do not trust bishops, or future bishops, to uphold the code of conduct…

Last week, The Times had It’s time to appoint Britain’s first woman bishop, says Canon Jane Hedges by Ruth Gledhill.

And Ruth’s blog asked: Women bishops: what’s the answer?

Jonathan Wynne-Jones wrote It’s time for a truce in battle over women bishops.

Notes of a meeting of Church of England bishops held at Lambeth Palace have been passed to me…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 9 January 2009 at 1:20pm GMT | Comments (117) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 8 January 2009

Pittsburgh: moves to claim assets

Updated again Monday evening

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has issued this press release: Diocese Asks Court For Access To Funds.

Request Made In Case Which Defined “Episcopal Diocese”

Pittsburgh, PA – Today, January 8, 2009, the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh asked a court for control of church assets still held by former diocesan leaders who have left the Episcopal Church.

The request was made in the context of an existing court order which stipulated that local Episcopal property must stay in the control of a diocese that is part of the Episcopal Church of the United States.

“We’re not asking for anything the court has not already addressed, or for anything former leaders have not already agreed to,” said the Rev. Dr. James Simons, President of the diocesan Standing Committee, the group currently leading the Pittsburgh Episcopal Diocese.

The original court order was issued in October 2005 as a result of a lawsuit filed by Calvary Episcopal Church in East Liberty. The order prohibits any group that separates itself from the Episcopal Church from continuing to use or control Diocesan property. The order specifically defines the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh as being part of “the Episcopal Church of the United States of America.” In negotiations leading to the 2005 Order, former Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan and his attorneys agreed this stipulation would apply regardless of the circumstances surrounding any separation, even if every parish were to leave…

…Approximately 27 congregations, or about 40% of the Pittsburgh Diocese prior to the October separation, remain active in the life of the Episcopal Church.

The Southern Cone-affiliated body has also issued a press release: New Diocese Attempts to Join Lawsuit

In an expected, but disappointing decision, the newly forming Episcopal Church diocese in southwestern Pennsylvania announced today that it intends to move forward with legal action against The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (Anglican) by attempting to claim all diocesan property.

“The document filed today in the Calvary litigation by Calvary and the new diocese created after the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh withdrew from The Episcopal Church is both procedurally and substantively improper. Moreover, it is regrettable that these groups have chosen to pursue more litigation rather than agree to equitable division of the assets.” said the Rev. Peter Frank, diocesan spokesman.

Initial press reports:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Claim filed to control local Episcopal Church assets

Associated Press Pa. Episcopal church sues parishes for $20 million

Friday press reports

Associated Press Diocese seeks $20M from breakaway Episcopalians

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Episcopal Diocese claims $20 million in schism fight by Paula Reed Ward

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Episcopal groups battle over assets by Craig Smith

Episcopal News Service PITTSBURGH: Diocesan leaders ask court for access to assets by Mary Frances Schjonberg

Monday update

There is an excellent summary by Joan R. Gundersen of recent events in Pittsburgh in this post: A Pittsburgh timeline.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 8 January 2009 at 10:50pm GMT | Comments (16) | TrackBack
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'There's probably no God'

An advertising campaign on buses declares ‘THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’

The creator of the advert, Ariane Sherine, says it is a counter campaign to one run on buses in June 2008 which had Bible quotes on them such as ‘Jesus died for your sins’ and a URL for a web site which included statements saying that ‘All non Christians would burn in hell for eternity in a lake of fire’. So she decided to design an advert with a positive message which said the opposite.

It poses a serious question to Christians about the image of our faith which we wish to present to the world. We are familiar wayside pulpits; posters with bible quotations such as ‘The wages of sin is death’, and we have to ask ourselves whether people put out this kind of message just in order to feel smug, rather than to attract an outsider to a living faith in Jesus Christ.

Coincidentally, The Daily Mirror carried a story today about a priest who clearly was sensitive about the message which his church projected, and replaced a particularly gruesome crucifix with a cross.

He said ‘It was a scary image, particularly for children. Parents didn’t want to walk past it with their kids, because they found it so horrifying.’ The sculpture was a brilliant piece of work. When it was conceived in the 1960s the majority of young people in Britain would have attended Sunday School, and would have been able to place the image in context. There was in the thin figure with protruding rib cage, a disturbing reminder of the images of inmates of Belsen. People might have understood that this Jesus showed God identified with the worst suffering that humanity can inflict, and sharing in human pain. But a church which always proclaimed Good Friday and never Easter might be open to misunderstanding. Replacing the crucifix with a cross has been a move towards a message which many Christians would find more appropriate. Removing the crucifix and having nothing to replace it would certainly have conveyed the wrong message, and the newspaper article is unfair in declaring that it been ‘unceremoniously yanked’ from its place.

One of the early campaigns from the Churches Advertising Network was judged to be controversial because it went rather further in removing a crucifix. At the time the most common Christian advertising in the week leading up to Easter had been a small poster produced by the Knights of St. Columba with a silhouette of Christ on the Cross and the words ‘THIS IS HOLY WEEK’. The criticism was that the Network’s advert had ‘dropped the cross’ completely. Instead it declared ‘SURPRISE! said Jesus to his friends three days after they buried him…’ But the campaign was for Easter Day, and a number of those within the Christian Church who during Lent had complained about ‘dropping the cross’ actually admitted that when it came to writing the Easter sermon, the campaign was right on target.

However, the evidence for this final statement is somewhat anecdotal: very little research has been done about the image which Christianity presents to the world and the impression which it has on outsiders. This is worrying in a faith which has mission at its heart. We don’t have evidence about what actually keeps people out of church rather than welcoming them in. But the ‘THERE’S PROBABLY NO GOD’ advert should make us think about the way we appear to outsiders. The creator of the campaign was very clear about the way Christianity appeared to be presented to her, and she was clearly not alone. With no organisation, donations of more than £140,000 have made this as visible as the largest Christian campaigns, such as those which advertised the Billy Graham missions or the Alpha Course. It really has struck a chord with very many people who probably see religious people as killjoys, for this is what the advert says. The author goes further in seeing Christians as people who worry and threaten those who do not subscribe to their faith.

This presents us with a clear challenge to present a positive image of faith. It ought to be obvious. As the Westminster Confession states ‘Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever’. Real enjoyment is at the heart of faith.

But in our presentation of the gospel we easily slip into trying to motivate people out of fear rather than love. Some presentations of the gospel go so far as to portray the atonement as ‘cosmic child abuse’ to use Steve Chalk’s phrase. And to outsiders it must appear that we reserve a special hatred for religious believers whose faith is closest to our own, but who hold differences of opinion on matters which are not even touched on in the Creeds.

The advert is surely a wake up call to all religious believers. Our response might begin with a heartfelt cry, ‘There IS a God!’ for it is this realisation which frees us from worry and leads to real joy.

Posted by Tom Ambrose on Thursday, 8 January 2009 at 3:39pm GMT | Comments (80) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Colorado Springs fraud case

The Colorado Gazette reports Grace raid affidavit details claims that Armstrong misused church funds:

The Rev. Donald Armstrong funneled money earmarked for “single, unmarried seminarians” from a Grace Church trust fund to pay for his two children’s college tuition, according to Colorado Springs police investigators.

That accusation was contained in a affidavit supporting a search warrant used by police in a November raid on Grace Church and St. Stephen’s and its offices in a next door Victorian home known as the McWilliams House at 601 N. Tejon St.

The affidavit, returned by detective Michael Flynn to the court Tuesday, outlines the 18-month police investigation from May 2007 - when they were notified by the Episcopal Church, Diocese of Colorado that it suspected financial wrongdoing by Armstrong - and Nov. 25, when a judge signed the warrant authorizing the search…

Once again, there is an exhaustive set of links to earlier reports on this story already available at Episcopal Café.

The previous TA article on this case can be found here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 7 January 2009 at 10:34pm GMT | Comments (14) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 6 January 2009

California court rules on church property cases

Episcopal News Service reports:

In a landmark ruling that could have national implications, the California Supreme Court on January 5 upheld an earlier court decision that buildings and property do not belong to dissident congregations but to the Diocese of Los Angeles and the general Episcopal Church…

See California Supreme Court rules disputed property belongs to general church by Pat McCaughan.

The full text of the opinion is a PDF file available here.

There are many more links to related stories at Episcopal Café both here, and also here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 6 January 2009 at 10:27pm GMT | Comments (24) | TrackBack
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Where Jesus is shown forth

Epiphany gives us three stories of showing forth, when you bring the Eastern and Western traditions together, three stories in which the nature of Jesus is revealed in surprising and unexpected ways.

Today we start with the story of the wise men following a star to find the new king. The first visitors to the infant Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel are the wise men. Whoever they were, they were Gentiles. So, even though Matthew puts Jesus very much in a Jewish framework and his infancy stories are about portraying Jesus as the new Moses, Jesus is manifested first to foreigners. And that says that Jesus is for us too, all that he was, all that he did, all that he taught, was for us, for those who come because they have enough wisdom to follow the light and make the hard journey to come and kneel before the true king.

Then we get the story of the baptism of Jesus. The accounts show God proclaiming that Jesus is his son, and he is the Beloved, and God the Father is very proud of him. In all four Gospels, the baptism manifests Jesus’ divine origins.

And the triptych is completed with the story of the wedding at Cana, when the wedding feast, the messianic banquet, is enlivened by the new wine. Jesus is the one who transforms the ordinary water of our worship into better wine that you have ever tasted. Jesus brings in the kingdom of God which is fulfilled in the heavenly feast.

Three images, three stories which proclaim Jesus and make him known; three stories which shape what we think of Jesus and how we relate to him. All of them would have shaken the assumptions of those who first heard them.

But of course, Jesus is made known in so many other stories, in the lives of the apostles and other saints, in the gifts and kindnesses of humble folk, in the pursuit of justice and reconciliation, every time we present the word made flesh, every time we follow the way in faithfulness, proclaim the truth and reveal the light.

For example, in 2009 falls the 200th anniversary of the birth of Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species. There is an extensive programme this year to celebrate Darwin, including a series on BBC Radio 4 this week. I would argue that the search for scientific truth reveals Jesus, the Logos at the heart of creation, in whom all truth resides.

This works if you make the framework big enough, if you believe that this is God’s world and everything about it reveals God in some way.

So I invite you to open your eyes and ears today and look for manifestations of Jesus all around you. And allow yourself to be surprised.

Posted by Meg Gilley on Tuesday, 6 January 2009 at 7:29am GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Monday, 5 January 2009

Gregory Cameron goes to St Asaph

The Diocese of St Asaph has elected a new bishop.

See the official Church in Wales press release.

A senior adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury was today elected as the next Bishop of St Asaph.

The Rev Canon Gregory Cameron, 49, who is Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Office in London, was chosen by members of the Electoral College of the Church in Wales meeting at St Asaph Cathedral.

The announcement was made by the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, at the west door of the cathedral on the first day of the meeting.

Canon Gregory Cameron will be the 76th Bishop of St Asaph, an area covering the north-east corner of Wales – the counties of Conwy and Flintshire, Wrexham county borough, the eastern part of Merioneth in Gwynedd and part of northern Powys. His election follows the retirement in December of the Rt Rev John Davies who served as Bishop of the diocese from 1999.

A Welshman who was ordained in the Diocese of Monmouth, Mr Cameron has been involved in the ecumenical relations of the Anglican Communion at global level for the past five years. Previously, he served as Chaplain to the Archbishop of Wales, then Dr Rowan Williams.

Married to Clare, the couple have three sons, aged 11, nine and six…

The first press report is here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 5 January 2009 at 6:21pm GMT | Comments (14) | TrackBack
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King and God and sacrifice...

Until Francis of Assisi came along and subverted it all, the most popular scene in Christian art to be drawn from the infancy narratives was the adoration of the magi. The reasons, as often in church history had less to do with theology or devotion than with more earthy matters. Art was, by and large, commissioned by rulers, and such men had a natural interest in having the infant Jesus portrayed as a king among kings. Even in pictures of the mother and her child we see no vulnerable human baby but a miniature sovereign, often with crown and sceptre, enthroned on Mary’s lap. The message was clear, if Jesus is like your earthly king then your ruler is like Jesus – treat him accordingly. Maybe it was under such pressures that legend had transmuted Persian astrologers into royalty in the first place.

The irony lies in that, in doing so, the church had made a bulwark of human authority out of the very tale that was intended to subvert it. For each of the three gifts offered by the magi strikes a blow directly into the heart of the traditional imagery it employs. Gold for a ruler; incense for a divinity; myrrh for a death, as the hymn puts it, Jesus is greeted as “king and god and sacrifice”, but each of them is the very opposite of what it seems.

Centuries earlier prophets had cautioned the Israelites about kings, warning that they would rule over them more for their own personal benefit and aggrandisement rather than for the wellbeing of the people. By that first Epiphany in Bethlehem a thousand years had proved it all too true. As Herod accurately observed, Jesus was there to undermine and supplant his authority. But not simply to supplant in name, replacing one tyrant with another as the devil would tempt him thirty years later. Jesus offers a new way of being king that has its roots in service, in love, in self-emptying and will blossom in healing and in teaching. Meanwhile each earthly empire, from ancient Rome via Victorian Britain and the Soviet Union to 21st century USA, remains satanic; serving the powerful and their interests before anyone else.

Likewise, Jesus seeks to deconstruct our familiar notions of divinity. He brings no set of dogmas for unthinking assent; no comprehensive list of unchallengeable moral precepts. He comes instead with a fund of simple stories and a natural critique of all that passes for human behaviour. He lays down not “what” to believe and to do but “how” to live and “why” it matters. Arguable as to whether it’s enough on which to pin a couple of creeds and a handful or so of sacraments, it’s the very opposite of the efforts his followers continue to make to separate, exclude and anathematise each other.

Finally he turns the whole concept of sacrifice on its head. Instead of the one to whom sacrifice is to be made, God becomes himself the victim. It’s a notion so challenging to conventional wisdom that, from catholic Eucharistic theology to the concept of substitutionary atonement beloved of the more firm Protestants, many Christians have sought to restore the natural order rather than root themselves in the one who gives himself not simply for us but to us.

So, as metaphorically we travel with the magi today on the final leg of their journey to Bethlehem, remember this: Epiphany is startling. It overturns what society, secular and religious, is comfortable with. It’s as shocking as the notion that God should be revealed as a Jewish baby to the gentile followers of religious practices condemned by the Old Testament.


Posted by David Walker on Monday, 5 January 2009 at 6:58am GMT | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 3 January 2009

opinions before Epiphany

Geoffrey Rowell writes in The Times about Dancing in time to a divinely ordained rhythm of life.

Gerald Butt writes in the Guardian about flying.

Andrew Brown wrote at Cif:belief about Mr Algie’s honesty bucket.

Alan Wilson has written Blowing bubbles in Hard Times?

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times Longing for the truth of glory.

Two weeks ago, Jeremy Morris wrote in the Church Times that A learning Church is healthy.

Added later:
Michael Reiss has written in The Times that Darwinian thinking clarifies and deepens religious faith.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 3 January 2009 at 12:01pm GMT | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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A Liturgical Christmas

Christmas is the time of year when, due to various bits of travelling and visiting, I get to sample services in churches I don’t otherwise attend. Over the past three or four years during the last week in December, I have attended services in places like Santa Barbara, London, Hull, Mullingar (Ireland), and others, and the denominations have included not just Anglicans, but also Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and Roman Catholics; in addition to my own ‘home’ parish of the St Bartholomew, Dublin, where I will always be for the Midnight Mass (which indeed is so described, unusually for Ireland).

In these visits, I have been able to observe two things. First, there appears in some clerical circles to be a growing level of discomfort with the Incarnation — one member of the clergy suggested in a sermon that the Incarnation as a theological concept is ‘a disaster’. I might be tempted to explore that a little further, but perhaps that is for another time.

My second (and for this piece main) observation is that the idea of a liturgical church is under threat. And no, I am not talking about the Methodists and Presbyterians particularly, but the whole experience across the denominations. Of course, as my own wandering attendance around Christmas shows, services at this time of year tend to have an above-average number of visitors and strangers in the pews some of them on a break from their normal places of worship like me, and some making their annual or suchlike visit to a church, any church. It is quite possible that clergy faced with such congregations feel that they must offer them more easily digestible fare. At any rate — server and liturgical pedant that I am — I have tended to find plenty to make my hair stand on end.

Of course the polite thing to do is to show no sign of noticing anything untoward, and that’s the route I follow. But I nevertheless find myself sinning gravely by allowing my mind to drift into a state of irritation. I need to get a hold of myself.

But I do wonder whether the idea of Anglicanism as a liturgical movement is coming to an end. The movers and shakers of the new fundamentalist Anglicanism growing out of places like Sydney do not, I think, bother their heads much about liturgy. And every so often when, in various discussion groups, I raise liturgical issues, someone will invariably pipe up and say that liturgy simply does not matter when set against hunger, starvation, dictatorship and other evils. It is, I have to admit, easy to be bullied into submission at such moments.

And yet, it seems to me that liturgy matters. It is there at the moment where we come to worship God, and how can we say that how we address and speak with God doesn’t matter. It is how we in part express our faith, and it is how we allow God to touch us. And when it ceases to be familiar to the people, a lot of what we believe in theology can also become distant.

When I first became a liturgical Anglican, it was universal in churches I would attend for Christmas to bow, genuflect or kneel at the ‘incarnatus’ in the creed. Right then, it is a meaningful way for us to express something about the Incarnation. But, it seems, not so much any more. I notice that fewer and fewer people do it, even amongst the clergy.

Maybe I am just too old-fashioned. Or maybe, we are losing our way just a little.

Posted by Ferdinand von Prondzynski on Saturday, 3 January 2009 at 8:27am GMT | Comments (84) | TrackBack
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Friday, 2 January 2009

more on women bishops

The Church Times has a news report: Legislation drafted for women bishops.

Comment is free has published an opinion article by Judith Maltby Women bishops: get over them.

In the press release, Women in the Episcopate draft Measure published, which was linked previously, there is a further link to the December 08 House of Bishops Summary of Decisions document (.doc format) which contains the following:

4. Women in the Episcopate

The House of Bishops considered the draft report, Measure, Amending Canon, Code of Practice and Explanatory Memorandum prepared by the Legislative Drafting Group. It made a number of detailed suggestions for the Bishops of Manchester and Basingstoke to report to the group for consideration at its final meeting. The House welcomed the careful and thorough work that the group had carried out in accordance with the mandate given by Synod.

In discussion several members of the House expressed support for further work to be done to explore approaches for those who could not receive the ministry of women priests and bishops which would either permit a diocesan bishop to confer jurisdiction by operation of law rather than by delegation or would provide a measure of cohesion and assurance through the development of a new, recognised religious society.

The House concluded that it would not be timely for it to commission further work of this kind at this point. It noted, however, that individual bishops would be able to lend their support to attempts to amend the draft material in these and other ways once Synod had resolved to commit it to the revision process. It was important that members of the House played their part in ensuring that the proposals were carefully scrutinised during the synodical process and alternatives duly tested.

The House acknowledged that it would continue to have a special responsibility for seeking to help the Church of England, through the legislative process, come to a conclusion that built trust and enabled as many people as possible, as loyal Anglicans, to remain members of the Church of England, notwithstanding their differing theological convictions on this issue.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 2 January 2009 at 9:18am GMT | Comments (49) | TrackBack
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review of the year

The Church Times review of 2008 is now available online.

The main news review is here.

There are several other pages, including this press review.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 2 January 2009 at 8:53am GMT | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 1 January 2009

Count your blessings

In my childhood, a shadow lay over the days after Christmas, the shadow of the thank-you letters. Until these had been written, to grandparents, godparents, uncles, aunts and family friends, we were not free for untrammelled enjoyment of our new acquisitions. I still have one contemporary and a god-child who are exemplary in writing their thanks, but it’s a practice which has very largely disappeared, at least among my friends and family. Maybe it went with the general decline in letter-writing, but it doesn’t seem to have been replaced by text, email, or even phone calls. I don’t doubt that those to whom I gave presents are, on the whole, pleased that I did so, but gratitude, it seems, is now to be assumed, not expressed.

There seems to be a parallel withdrawal from an articulated sense of gratitude within our collective church practice. Explicit thanksgiving to God is, of course, part of our liturgies; it is vocalised at the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer and is the very heart of that prayer, and it is part of our post-communion response. I can’t, however, remember the last time I said in public worship any form of the General Thanksgiving, so painfully learned at school, and Common Worship has specifically omitted thanks to God from the forms of intercession. A number of our local leaders of intercessions still use the introductory form from the Alternative Service Book: ‘Let us pray for the church and the world’, they say, ‘and let us thank God for his goodness’. Nine times out of ten, however, we are drawn, often eloquently and movingly into the needs of the former, but the latter, the thanksgiving, is entirely absent. When, from time to time, we open intercessions to all comers, so that we can pray with them for whatever they wish to bring before us and before God, we rarely move from need to thanksgiving; just occasionally voices, mainly from Africa and the Caribbean, will be moved to recount and give thanks for God’s blessings.

The absence of gratitude can be seen as a healthy development within the wider culture, the growing understanding of the essential value of each human being and their corresponding entitlement to freedom, justice, education, work, family life etc. Much that was once seen as a generous gift, from those who had to those who had not, is now accepted as a matter not of grace but of right. A properly less deferential society may also be a less grateful one, and if thanks are to be offered with a tugged forelock, then there is little to mourn in their absence. Also at work is a theological change, a move away from a strongly interventionist understanding of God; if the parking place is available by chance rather than as a response to prayer, we are less inclined to offer thanks to the deity who might lie behind the chance.

But to live thankfully, and to articulate those thanks, need not indicate either deference or a god of the parking spaces. Grace said before a meal reminds us of those on whom we rely for the production and preparation of our food, it reminds us of our interconnectedness and interdependence.

‘Thank-yous’ for the presents we received at Christmas brings to our minds those who have invested time and thought and money in us, even when the investment (like so many this year) may have been misdirected into something which seems to have little intrinsic worth. Becoming conscious of occasions for gratitude prompts us to emphasise relationship rather than autonomy; gratitude demands an object outside ourselves, an other who has played some part in our lives. Practised as a habit, gratitude makes us aware of how we are linked to our neighbours and ultimately to God.

So, Pollyanna-ish as it may seem, I bid you, as you say good-bye to the Very Bad Year of 2008, and look forward to the gloom and despondency of 2009 — count your blessings!

Posted by Jane Freeman on Thursday, 1 January 2009 at 1:04am GMT | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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