Monday, 30 March 2009

Rochester: further media coverage

Updated Tuesday morning

George Conger Religious Intelligence Bishop of Rochester’s surprise resignation

…Details of Bishop Nazir Ali’s new work have not been finalized, the diocese noted, leading to speculation that the 59 year old bishop might be preparing for another role in the Anglican Communion in light of his high profile stance within the conservative wing of the church.

However, the General Secretary of the Church of Pakistan, Humphrey Peters tells The Church of England Newspaper the news of the resignation came as a surprise. “So far we have no idea nor have we heard anything from Bishop Michael Nazir Ali. But, in case he feels like working for Church in Pakistan in these most critical times, the Church will be more than happy to welcome him.”

A spokesman for the Gafcon movement, stated while its leaders were generally aware of Dr. Nazir Ali’s wish to move on, they had no specific knowledge about his Saturday announcement.

Speculation that Dr. Nazir Ali might take a leadership role in the third province movement in the US was downplayed by its leaders, who noted that there was no shortage of bishops in the breakaway group. Dr. Nazir Ali had sought out posts in the US in the past, and in 2004 explored becoming dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, however US sources expect the conservative leader to lend his considerable talents to the church in the developing world…

Andrew Brown Comment is free Belief What next for the Bishop of Rochester?

…His position within the diocese of Rochester had become a difficult one. A lot of his clergy were unhappy with his decision last year to boycott the Lambeth Conference, which was meant to be a gathering demonstrating the unity of the Communion’s 800 bishops around the world. In the event, something like 230 stayed away but the only English heavyweight to do so was Nazir Ali.

Signing up for a declaration that describes the Archbishop of Canterbury as an apostate for his tolerance of liberal views on homosexuality was not a way to endear himself to his colleagues, who already regarded him as vain and ambitious. But he is also consistent about his beliefs and prepared to act on them and suffer for them. As a young man in Pakistan, the son of a convert from Islam, he became the youngest Anglican bishop in the world, in a back-country diocese from which he had to be rescued, after local fundamentalists threatened to kill him and his family.

That kind of experience shaped his view of Islam in general and Pakistani peasant Islam in particular. It lay behind his claim last year that there were already “no go” areas in British cities, although he never specified where they were. It also shaped his curiously fierce monotheistic criticism of the religion. The last time we had a serious conversation, he wanted to talk about how Sufistic Islam was corrupted by its veneration of saints. He has also been unfashionably fierce in his view of Roman Catholicism as a corruption of pure Christian virtue.

I will miss him because he was one of the few principled conservative intellectuals in the House of Bishops; while I thought he was wrong about almost everything, he spoke from a lot of knowledge and a real sense of tradition…

Tuesday morning update

Jonathan Wynne-Jones disagrees with George Pitcher’s earlier comments, at the Telegraph Liberals too hasty in claiming victory at Bishop Nazir-Ali’s resignation

Charles Raven, who is already outside the Church of England, has strong criticism of GP, see Bishop Michael Nazir Ali – ‘Enough is Enough’

Bishop Pierre Whalon had this to say, On Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali’s resignation.

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G20: report on PPF and today's communiqué

Dave Walker has published a comprehensive report on Saturday’s events, at the Church Times blog. He concludes his report with this:

…Overall, a worthwhile event. I personally was disappointed by the turnout at the service, but it didn’t really surprise me given the lack of interest there seemed to be from Christians on blogs and social networking sites in the week leading up to it (feel free to disagree or twll me why that is in the comments below). However, the ‘Put People First’ event as a whole seemed to be well reported in the Sunday papers and appears to have done well in terms of getting its message out. Let’s hope that the G20 leaders, meeting this week, heed that message. I will be blogging from the G20 meeting - more about that in another post.

See Report from the ‘Put People First’ service and rally.

Lambeth Palace has published a communiqué from a wide range of religious leaders in Britain. See G20 leaders must not forget promises to the poor - Religious Leaders Communiqué:

We write as religious leaders who share a belief in God and the dignity of human life. We wish to acknowledge with realism and humility the severity of the current economic crisis and the sheer complexity of the global and local challenge faced by political leaders. We pray for the leaders of the G20 as they prepare to meet in London this week. They, and we, have a crucial role to play in recovering that lost sense of balance between the requirements of market mechanisms that help deliver increased prosperity, and the moral requirement to safeguard human dignity, regardless of economic or social category…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 30 March 2009 at 12:16pm BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 28 March 2009

Rochester: media coverage

Updated further on Monday morning

Ruth Gledhill The Times Bishop of Rochester steps down early

Jonathan Wynne-Jones Telegraph Bishop of Rochester is stepping down

Ruth Gledhill The Times Bishop of Rochester to resign a decade early

Jonathan Wynne-Jones Telegraph Michael Nazir-Ali steps down as Bishop of Rochester

Press Association via the Guardian Controversial bishop quits Rochester diocese

Damian Thompson Telegraph The resignation of Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali is a victory for Islamism

Kent Online Bishop of Rochester resigns

BBC Bishop of Rochester stands down

Jonathan Wynne-Jones Sunday Telegraph Bishop of Rochester resigns to become defender of persecuted Christians

Ruth Gledhill Sunday Times Radical bishop quits early for new mission

Sunday Times leading article A troublesome priest in a timid church

Mail on Sunday Church of England’s most outspoken and only black Bishop is to quit

Note This headline was changed some time after 8 am Sunday, but here is the evidence of the earlier version.

The new headline is Bishop Nazir-Ali, scourge of Church liberals, steps down.

Independent Bishop of Rochester retires

United Press International Pakistani bishop in England resigns

Sunday Mirror I quit: Islam row bishop headline changed to Islam row Bishop of Rochester to step down.

Associated Press of Pakistan Bishop Ali to quit his post: a report

George Pitcher Telegraph Bishop Nazir-Ali retires; a rebellion fizzles out

Riazat Butt Guardian Michael Nazir-Ali steps down to focus on helping persecuted Christians

Ekklesia Anglican bishop resigns and announces plan to support harassed Christians

Melanie Phillips Mail When a bishop has to leave the Church of England to stand up for Christians, what hope is left for Britain?
and a Mail Comment article, We’re losing our faith in a desperate bid to appear inclusive and tolerant

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Bishop of Rochester resigns

There was still no sign of this release on the Rochester diocesan website at 6.00 pm Saturday, last website update was on 20 March, it says.
Monday lunchtime
A copy of the press release has at last appeared on the Rochester diocesan website, as a PDF file.

Bishopscourt, Rochester, Kent ME1 1TS
01634 814439 / 07791 968819

Bishop Michael announces his intention to step down as Bishop of Rochester

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has announced his intention to step down as Bishop of Rochester as from 1st September 2009. He will have been Bishop in the Diocese for nearly 15 years and during this time has played a major part in the life of the church.

Bishop Michael is hoping to work with a number of church leaders from areas where the church is under pressure, particularly in minority situations, who have asked him to assist them with education and training for their particular situation. Details of this arrangement are still being worked out.

Bishop Michael, who will be 60 in August, is the 106th Bishop of Rochester. He is originally from Asia and was the first non-white Diocesan Bishop in the Church of England. He was appointed to Rochester in 1994. Before that he was the General Secretary of CMS from 1989-1994 and before that Bishop of Raiwind in Pakistan and theological Assistant to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Since 1999 he has also been a member of the House of Lords where he has been active in a number of areas of national and international concern.

Bishop Michael says, “We thank God for his blessings and for friends we have made in the Diocese in the past 15 years. I am so grateful to God for the friendship and loyalty of those around us and ask for people’s prayers as we take this step of faith ‘not knowing where we are going’ (Heb 11:8).

The Archbishop of Canterbury says: Bishop Michael’s decision to undertake this new and very challenging ministry will leave a real gap in the ranks of English bishops. His enormous theological skill, his specialist involvement in the complex debates around bioethics, his wide international experience and his clarity of mind and expression have made him a really valuable colleague, and he has served the Church and the wider society with dedication and distinction.

In his new work with churches in minority situations, he will need all our prayer and support. It is a courageous initiative and a timely one. I am personally very glad that I shall still be able to draw on his expertise and friendship, and wish him every strength and blessing in his work.

The Bishop of Tonbridge, the Rt Revd Dr Brian Castle says: “Bishop Michael has had a distinguished ministry locally, nationally and internationally. He has been a true prophet in the way that he has courageously spoken out against both injustice and compromising the Word of God. His talks and statements, always prayerfully conceived, are listened to carefully, even by those who disagree with him. His Presidential Addresses at Diocesan Synod merit publication. Bishop Michael, so faithfully supported by Valerie, has exercised a leadership which inspires, challenges and takes full account of the complexities of contemporary culture, ensuring that the structures of the diocese serve its vision. He will be greatly missed by Rochester whose people he has faithfully loved and nurtured over the years.”

The Dean of Rochester, the Very Revd Adrian Newman, says: “Bishop Michael has exercised an influential and high profile ministry within and well beyond the Diocese of Rochester. His passion for making Christ known is matched only by his ability to communicate across cultural divisions, and this has opened doors of influence that he has always been courageous enough to walk through, often at personal cost. It has been a privilege to serve alongside him within the Diocese, and I am delighted that his unique gifts will continue to be offered to the wider life of church and society.”

The Diocesan Secretary, Canon Louise Gilbert, says: “Bishop Michael’s tenure has been characterised by a determination to see some significant Diocesan challenges through to successful conclusion. Through his leadership we now have a senior staff which operates as a cohesive body following a comprehensive Diocesan structures review. This is of benefit to the entire Diocese. In addition, we have reformed partnerships with neighbouring Dioceses. Rochester Cathedral is now positively flourishing thanks to Bishop Michael’s keen interest and thoughtful appointments. His considerable gifts leave the Diocese with a legacy of exemplary arrangements for pastoral care, teaching and a positive environment in which faith can flourish. We will miss his guidance and on a personal note, I wish him every joy and fulfilment in his new role.”

Bishop Michael’s farewell service for the Diocese will be held at Rochester Cathedral on 12th September 2009 at 3.15 p.m. and further details will be circulated at a later date. Details about the process of appointing a new Bishop and the arrangements during the interregnum will also be published later.


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opinions as the clocks spring forward

Jonathan Sacks writes in The Times that Darwin pointed the way to an unselfish evolution.

Oliver Rafferty writes in the Guardian that: The ideas that led to George Tyrrell’s excommunication still confront Christianity.

For extra measure, Catherine Robinson writes in the same paper that Tim Berners-Lee’s invention symbolises Unitarian desire to foster communication.

In the Church Times John Packer argues in The West needs to understand faith that there is a dangerous ignorance of religion in the West’s foreign policy.

Giles Fraser writes there about Philip Blond, in Behind the allure of the Red Tory.

The best comment I saw about the parliamentary debate yesterday on the Royal Marriages and Succession to the Crown (Prevention of Discrimination) Bill 2008-09 was the Channel 4 News interview with David Starkey. There is a link to the video clip from this page. (For the best background briefing paper see this - H/T Ruth Gledhill.)

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Friday, 27 March 2009

US Religious Landscape Survey

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey is available on the web in a variety of formats.

From the Summary:

An extensive new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life details statistics on religion in America and explores the shifts taking place in the U.S. religious landscape. Based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans age 18 and older, the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey finds that religious affiliation in the U.S. is both very diverse and extremely fluid.

One of the key findings is that:

More than one-quarter of American adults (28%) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion - or no religion at all. If change in affiliation from one type of Protestantism to another is included, 44% of adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.

Another of its findings is that Most Mainline Protestants Say Society Should Accept Homosexuality.

Members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, two mainline Protestant denominations, are considering whether to allow the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians as members of their clergy. The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, finds that majorities of both denominations say that homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society. Among mainline Protestants overall, 56% say homosexuality should be accepted, compared with only about one-in-four evangelical Protestants and four-in-ten members of historically black Protestant churches.

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G20 climate change and the churches

First, several British churches, but not the Church of England, published a statement this week, in advance of the G20 conference meeting in London next week.

Churches challenge G20 leaders on real leadership:

Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Church leaders have challenged the G20 heads of government, meeting in London next week, to show real leadership and ensure that solutions to the current economic crisis lead to action on global warming. They want the G20 nations to grasp the opportunity for investment in new technology, which will save energy and reduce carbon output. In particular, they are urging the richer nations to agree generous support for developing countries, so they can afford the initiatives they need to take.

Second, in connection with the Put People First rally in central London for jobs, justice, climate, there will be a Church Service at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster on Saturday 28 March at 11 a.m. Speakers include Richard Chartres, Bishop of London.

Church Times blogger Dave Walker will be reporting on the day’s events.

Third, Archbishop Rowan Williams delivered the Ebor Lecture earlier this week in York Minster, on the subject: Renewing the Face of the Earth: Human Responsibility and the Environment. Full text and audio here. Press release here.

Dave Walker reported it as Religious communities “failing profoundly” in climate change response. and he has comprehensive links to secular press coverage of the lecture, which was extensive.

Jim Naughton criticised the archbishop in The Archbishop of Canterbury’s own shortcomings on climate change:

…Until he states clearly that powerful people in his own Communion don’t believe human activity contributes to global warming, and that he appeases these people so that they won’t split the Communion over the issue of homosexuality, he has little credibility on this matter.

If one examines the funding sources of the organizations behind the attempted Anglican schism, and the funding sources of the organizations that deny human activity contributes to climate change, one finds that they are sometimes one and the same…

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Thursday, 26 March 2009

Word on the Street

Inclusive Church is delighted to announce its next residential conference on Monday 5th - Wednesday 7th October 2009.

“Word on the Street - reading the Bible inclusively” will be a three day conference at the Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, Derbyshire to help us see how Holy Scripture does indeed:

  • call us to a faith in God which draws all people to God
  • root and ground our call on the Anglican Church to live out the promise of Jesus’ inclusive Gospel within its three-fold ministries of deacon, priest and bishop
  • celebrate the gifts of all members of the Body of Christ, regardless of their gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation

With Workshops, Bible studies, Worship, Plenary, Meals and Bar

The keynote speakers are:

  • Revd Prof Richard Burridge, Dean of King’s College, London
  • Dr Paula Gooder, Freelance writer and lecturer in Biblical Studies
  • Dr Robert Beckford, Educator, author and award-winning broadcaster
  • Speaker to be confirmed
  • Canon Giles Goddard, Chair, Inclusive Church

The cost is £195. Students and those on low income £130. Residential ordinands and stipendiary curates £90.

For a flyer and booking form follow this link. Book early to avoid disappointment!

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What shall we say?

Inclusive language is a contentious issue still. Inclusive Church and WATCH (Women and the Church) jointly organised a day conference on 9th Feb 2009. The speakers were

  • Canon Lucy Winkett
  • Dr Steven Shakespeare
  • Revd June Boyce-Tillman
  • Revd Elizabeth Baxter

Links to their presentations and related materials can all be found here, or as follows:

Speak to us of liturgy - Lucy Winkett

Speak to us of prayers, by Steven Shakespeare

Elisabeth Baxter - Inclusive Language for a therapeutic church - handout (PDF)

June Boyce-Tillman - Hymns for today’s church - handout (PDF)

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Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Revision Committee membership announced

A press release from the Church of England announces the full list of names of those who will constitute the Revision Committee for the draft legislation enabling women to become bishops in the Church of England.

Press release: Women in the episcopate draft legislation: Revision Committee announced

We already knew the names of the members of the Steering Committee:

  • Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch (Bishop of Manchester) (Chair)
  • Very Revd Vivienne Faull (Dean of Leicester, Deans)
  • Dr Paula Gooder (Birmingham)
  • Ven Alistair Magowan (Archdeacon of Dorset, Salisbury)
  • Revd Canon Anne Stevens (Southwark)
  • Mrs Margaret Swinson (Manchester)
  • Mr Geoffrey Tattersall QC (Manchester)
  • Rt Revd Trevor Willmott (Bishop of Basingstoke, Southern Suffragans)

And we already knew the name of the Chair of the Revision Committee:

  • Ven Clive Mansell (Archdeacon of Tonbridge, Rochester)

What is new is the names chosen by the Appointments Committee:

  • Mrs April Alexander (Southwark)
  • Mrs Lorna Ashworth (Chichester)
  • Revd Jonathan Baker (Oxford)
  • Rt Revd Peter Broadbent (Bishop of Willesden, Southern Suffragans)
  • Ven Christine Hardman (Archdeacon of Lewisham, Southwark)
  • Revd Canon Dr Alan Hargrave (Ely)
  • Rt Revd Martin Jarrett (Bishop of Beverley, Northern Suffragans)
  • Revd Canon Simon Killwick (Manchester)
  • Revd Angus MacLeay (Rochester)
  • Mrs Caroline Spencer (Canterbury)
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Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Judgement in Colorado Springs

Updated again Thursday morning

Thursday morning update
Colorado Springs Gazette Judge orders Anglican parish to vacate Grace church by April 3

A judge on Wednesday ordered the Anglican parish that’s been meeting at Grace Church, 631 N. Tejon St., to vacate the building by April 3 at 5 p.m., setting the stage for the exiled Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal parish to hold its first service in the gothic church on Palm Sunday.

Judge Larry Schwartz also ordered the Anglican parish priest, Donald Armstrong, to vacate the rectory, where he lives on Electra Drive in the Skyline Way area, by May 8. This revised the original order issued on Tuesday, which stated that Armstrong would have to vacate by April 1.

Earlier report:

The property dispute in the Diocese of Colorado over Grace and St Stephens parish property has been resolved in favour of the diocese. Many members of the congregation have affiliated with CANA.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports it this way: Armstrong camp loses Tejon Street church report written through extensively and new headline is One group leaving Grace church, one moving in — but when?

From the earlier version:

According to a press release issued by the Rev. Alan Crippen II, a member of the breakway group, Judge Larry Schwartz issued a 28-page ruling that concluded , among other things: “The Diocese over most of its 135 years existence demonstrates a unity of purpose on the part of the parish and general church. … The trust created through past genereations of members of Grace Church and St. Stephen’s prohibits the departing parish members from taking the property with them.”

Crippen said the group is considering an appeal, but is already preparing to move from the historic property.

“We will meet at a new location,” he said in an interview.

Because of the ruling, the congregation’s leader, the Rev. Donald Armstrong, is also losing his rectory, and the church loses its name because it’s so similar to the Episcopal congregation, Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal.

Martin Nussbaum, attorney for the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, expects the move to go quickly.

“We will be in possession of the property no later than next Wednesday,” he said.

The press release from the Diocese of Colorado is available here as a PDF. The content as a web page can be found here at Episcopal Café:

The Bishop and Diocese of Colorado, and the more than 500 members of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church rejoice today that the members of the Episcopal parish will be returning to their church home as a result of a decision issued by District Court Judge Larry Schwartz. In that ruling, Judge Schwartz found that the historic property is held in trust for the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church and ordered the breakaway congregation that wrongfully took possession of the property two years ago to leave…

There is also a press release from the continuing parish.

The full text of the judgement is on the website of the continuing Episcopal parish as a PDF file.

The website of the CANA-affiliated congregation has its press release here as a PDF file:

“For two years we have been praying for justice in this case, and the Court has now ruled. Judge Schwartz is a fair and honorable man and we appreciate his own sacrifice and considered effort in hearing our case. Our congregation will take some time to review his ruling with our attorneys before we make a formal response.

There is much yet to be settled even with this significant ruling now issued,” said Father Donald Armstrong, rector of Grace Church & St. Stephen’s.

“As to the future of our congregation, it’s the people and not the building that is at the heart of our life in Christ,” Armstrong said. “This decision is one major step out of the ambiguity in which we have lived these past two years and will allow us to more readily refocus on gospel work and service. At the very least this is an occasion for renewal and recommitment to the essential things of gospel work. Our Plan B is well-developed, exciting, and will be announced shortly.”


“This is a new beginning for Grace Church & St. Stephen’s in its partnership with CANA,” said the Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, missionary bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).

“Grace Church has a glorious heritage and an exciting future ahead of it. Although this decision is disappointing, the congregation and its leadership in Don Armstrong are strong in their commitment to gospel work and the renewal of Anglicanism in Colorado Springs and beyond. I fully expect that its members will quickly recover
from the sad loss of their historic place of worship. Knowing the people of Grace Church and their buoyant optimism, I anticipate that the parish’s best days are yet ahead.”

Update Wednesday morning

Episcopal News Service has a detailed report at Diocese of Colorado, Episcopal Church prevail in Grace and St. Stephen’s church property dispute by Pat McCaughan. It includes this:

Armstrong, who became rector of the congregation in 1987, is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation into allegations he misappropriated parish funds. No criminal charges have as yet been filed in that matter, although parish financial records and computers were seized during a November 2008 police raid.

A year earlier, an ecclesiastical court had judged Armstrong guilty of financial improprieties and sentenced him to deposition from ordained ministry. On September 26, 2007, the five-member panel of clergy and laity unanimously found him “guilty on all counts … (of) theft of $392,409.93 from Grace Church and causing Grace Church to issue false W-2s and underreport Armstrong’s benefits by $548,097.27,” according to a diocesan spokesperson.

The diocesan court also found Armstrong guilty on four other charges, including receiving illegal loans totaling $122,497.16 as well as “unauthorized encumbrance and alienation of Grace Church’s real property, violation of the temporary inhibition placed on Armstrong and improper use of clergy discretionary funds and failure to maintain proper accounting records.”


Local media reported that police were called to the church by Armstrong a few hours after the court’s ruling. Armstrong said that security guards hired by the diocese who were on the property to patrol it were trespassing.

Armstrong told a Colorado Springs Gazette reporter that “they have no right to be on the property until April.”

Other press reports:

Associated Press Breakaway Episcopalians lose bid to keep building

Denver Post Church is Episcopal property, judge says

Colorado Springs Gazette Grace Church timeline

CANA has issued a press release, CANA Responds to Colorado Springs Ruling:

“While we are of course disappointed with today’s ruling, we will continue with our ministry and mission work in Colorado Springs and around the nation,” said CANA Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns. “The Gospel is not spread by church buildings or church property. It is the living Christ that works in people, and we are praying for the orthodox Anglicans in Colorado Springs that the work of the Lord will continue.”

“We remain steadfast in our effort to defend the historic Christian faith across the country. There is clearly a division within The Episcopal Church which broke its relationship with the worldwide Anglican Communion and fell out of step with much of Christendom by choosing to redefine and reinterpret Scripture,” Minns concluded.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 24 March 2009 at 6:15pm GMT | Comments (31) | TrackBack
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Scottish responses to Anglican documents

Two documents are available from the Scottish Episcopal Church.

The bishops have published a response to the letter issued in February by the meeting of Anglican primates in Alexandria.

College of Bishops Respond to Anglican Primates’ Letter of February 2009 is available as a PDF file.

The Faith and Order Board has responded to the St Andrews Draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

A Response from the Faith and Order Board of the Scottish Episcopal Church is also available as a PDF file.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 24 March 2009 at 10:34am GMT | Comments (20) | TrackBack
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Monday, 23 March 2009

other Nigerian stories

Comment is free has an article No change in attitudes by Davis Mac-Iyalla.

CANA and ACNA both have press releases about the Nigerian response to the latter:

The matter is also referred to in this report from the Living Church ACNA Expects at Least Five Inaugural Dioceses.

There is no mention on either of these websites of the support given by the Church of Nigeria (and other Christian churches) to the proposed Nigerian Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Act. Do CANA and ACNA support the Church of Nigeria’s position?

The story is attracting comment from secular sources in Africa, see for example:

Lagos Guardian Homosexuality and the lawmakers What has Africa done to organised religion to deserve this…

IHEU Leo Igwe condemns Anglican Archbishop’s homophobic outburst

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 23 March 2009 at 8:48am GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 22 March 2009

Pastoral letter from Archbishop Akinola

The Standing Committee meeting on which previous reports have been made, has yielded a further document Standing Committee Meeting:Pastoral Letter signed by Archbishop Peter Akinola. It concludes:

We are especially concerned about those who are using large sums of money to lure our youth to see homosexuality and lesbianism as normative. We must consistently and faithfully teach about God’s commands on this ungodly practice and help those with such orientation to seek deliverance and pastoral counsel.

It was also our great delight to welcome to our meeting, the Rt. Rev Bob Duncan, Bishop of Pittsburgh in the USA, and Moderator of the Common Cause Partnership which is a fellowship of about 11 Anglican groups that are determined to maintain the Biblical and historic convictions of our faith, including CANA (also represented at this meeting by our own Bishop Martyn Minns). We have declared ourselves to be in full communion with the emerging province of the Anglican Church of North America, praying that they will remain solidly rooted in the foundations of our faith.

We have expressed our grave concerns over the relentless aggression against Christians in the North of Nigeria and have again drawn the attention of our governments to this unhappy scenario. We are calling for a national conference of all stakeholders to deal with the issue of religious intolerance and guarantee a peaceful and just future for our beloved country. We especially call on our members in the National Assembly to keep alert to this threat to our corporate existence. Most of all we call on our churches to pray earnestly about the future of our nation.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 22 March 2009 at 8:15am GMT | Comments (45) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 21 March 2009

opinions during Lent

Christian peacemakers must play a major role in healing Northern Ireland’s pain, says Roy Searle in the Guardian’s Face to Faith column.

Morals: the one thing markets don’t make said Jonathan Sacks yesterday in The Times.

Roderick Strange writes in The Times today about Embracing the precious gifts of our Lenten practice.

At Total Politics Andrew Hawkins reports on a survey to answer the question, Is the Church of England still the Tory Party at prayer?

Tony Blair wrote an article for the New Statesman on Why we must all do God, and Andrew Brown wrote a critique of this at Comment is free titled Doing God - the vague way.

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times that Humankind needs limits for reality.

The Church Times has a leader headed God as father and mother.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 21 March 2009 at 7:48am GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Friday, 20 March 2009

The Serpent on a Pole

For all of its beauty and joy, this world is founded on pain and loss. Darwin is not a challenge to Christian belief because he shows how species arise over time (rather than being created at one fixed point) but because he makes it impossible to imagine a time before death and pain entered the world. They have been the constant companions of creation, in all their nastiest forms. Even creationists cannot believe that Adam brought death into the world.

Whatever the theological problems this raises, the solution does not include running away. The Israelites in the desert tried that, and died. The cure they were offered was staring at the very thing they feared. They were to stare hard at the serpent death which terrified them so, according to Rabbi Arthur Waskow and Rabbi Phyllis Berman in Red Cow, Red Blood, Red Dye: Staring Death & Life in the Face.

For Christians this becomes even more poignant. For us it is Christ who becomes the serpent on a pole. Looking at him, we see what horrifies us; agonising suffering and bloody death. It is easy, with practise, to become complacent about it, seeing new life springing from this agony. We do not serve our God well by doing so.

The serpent in the wilderness was offered to allow the people of God to face their terrors. They looked into the pit of the image of death. Christ offers us the image of our worst imaginings, and of all the suffering of nature. Every meadow pipit pushed out by the baby cuckoo, every caterpillar split open by the parasitic wasp who has eaten though it, each is summoned up in the image of the creator of them dragging out a slow death from suffocation. Lifted up so, he draws all to him.

Somewhere in this, I feel, lies something of a solution. It is far from an intellectually satisfying solution. Yet it is played out again and again. Suffering can demean and destroy, and yet on occasion individuals can transcend themselves through it. These last months have seen the suffering of the Cameron family and of Jade Goody. The circumstances are totally different, yet, yet… The extraordinarily moving exchange in the Commons between two bereaved fathers, both knowing the constant anxiety of having a child with a life-limiting disease was a moment of reality in the too-often artificial rhetoric of that cold institution. Jade Goody’s decision not to hide her slow descent to death has opened up conversations about facing death over the whole country.

I am not speaking of the general need to address urgent problems, true as it is that we must. There are many issues on which we are out of time, and running faster will not serve us. Unpleasant truths about the thoughts of those who are our co-religionists. Painful realisations about the financial state of many of our congregations. Nasty facts about the age structure of those congregations, and just why they are so structured. Not to mention the now fast-ticking bomb of ecological disaster.

All this is true and urgent, but it is only a weak reflection of the story of the bronze serpent and the man on the cross. That promise is about facing the terror of pain and death in the word, and being blessed in the facing of it. That story underlies all the other terrors we need to deal with, and if we do not face it, we cannot face them. We need to turn and face that serpent because only by looking steadily on its face can we hope to gain healing for our other ills.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 20 March 2009 at 12:36pm GMT | Comments (16) | TrackBack
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Lambeth Conference: funding

Updated Saturday evening

This press release comes from the Church of England:

Lambeth Conference: funding

The Lambeth Conference Funding Review Group has published its report. The review was commissioned last August by the Board of Governors of the Church Commissioners, and the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England following an approach from the Lambeth Conference Company* for financial help.

The Review Group, chaired by John Ormerod, a former partner of accountancy firm Deloitte, makes a number of recommendations to be acted on by the Lambeth Conference Company and the Anglican Communion Office.

The Board of Governors of the Church Commissioners and the Archbishops’ Council each agreed, last August, to make available to the Lambeth Conference Company up to £600,000 as required to enable the Company to honour its commitments while fundraising efforts continued. Both bodies regarded these amounts as interest free loan facilities. Of the £388,000 actually borrowed by the Company, £124,000 has now been repaid, leaving £132,000 owing to each organisation as fundraising continues.

By the end of 2008, the review reports, the projected deficit had reduced from an estimate of over £1 million in August 2008 to £288,000, in part as a result of further fundraising efforts and in part due to actual costs proving lower than had been cautiously projected earlier in the year. The total cost of the event was £5.2million, as against the budget of £6.1million.

*The Lambeth Conference Company is the body given responsibility for managing the finances and administration of the Lambeth Conference 2008.

The main report is available as a .doc file.

Update Now also available as a PDF file.

Appendices are available as a PDF file.

From the Notes to editors:

The review group’s members were: (chair) John Ormerod, a former partner of accountancy firm Deloitte; the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester and member of the Archbishops’ Council; Dr Christina Baxter, principal of St John’s theological college, Nottingham and also an Archbishops’ Council member; and Timothy Walker, Third Church Estates Commissioner. The group had staff support from two people provided via the office of the Church Commissioners.

There has already been generous support from the Church of England for the Lambeth Conference. Parishes and dioceses have made donations towards the costs of overseas bishops attending and the Church Commissioners have met the fees of the English bishops and their wives attending the Lambeth Conference, the costs of some of the conference organising staff, and some of the hospitality offered by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 20 March 2009 at 12:28pm GMT | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Decriminalisation in Nigeria

The United States government has announced it will support the UN resolution concerning decriminalisation of homosexuality.

This is a resolution that the Vatican did not support, but about which it did say:

“The Holy See appreciates the attempts made in [the declaration] to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urge states to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them.”

Savitri Hensman has written at Comment is free that Nigeria’s attack on human rights has no virtue. She writes:

…Yet several church leaders have spoken in favour of the bill, including Rev Patrick Alumake, who claims to represent the Roman Catholic Church, though his stance appears to defy Vatican policy. While hardly gay-friendly, this opposes criminalisation. It will be revealing to see how Rome reacts.

Another champion of the bill has been Archbishop Peter Akinola, though the international Anglican Communion, to which his church belongs, has repeatedly called for human rights for all, including homosexuals.

In a statement supporting the bill, Archbishop Akinola starts with his own (contested) interpretation of the Bible, and warns, “Any society or nation that approves same sex union as an acceptable life style is in an advanced stage of corruption/moral decay. This bill therefore seeks to shield Nigeria from the complete annihilation that will follow the wrath of God should this practice be accepted as normal in this land.” He goes on to make further extraordinary claims: “Part of the purpose of God is to ensure that human existence is sustained through procreation. God blessed them ie Adam and Eve and told them, multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1: 28). Same sex marriage is a violation of this divine injunction and will only endanger human existence.” The fact that these dire predictions have not come to pass elsewhere in the world does not deter him.

Despite the major historical contribution made by Africans (including Nigerians) in winning recognition for and defending human rights, he is dismissive of these: “We must take note of the various stages of pernicious western influence in our nation and continent … The present clamour for unrestricted human rights especially in relation to same sex union is yet another ploy to unleash more mayhem on this nation.”

The Archbishop’s portrayal of the threat posed by gays and lesbians would appear to justify even the harshest measures: “Same sex marriage… is a perversion, a deviation and an aberration that is capable of engendering moral and social holocaust in this county. It is also capable of existincting (sic) mankind and as such should never be allowed to take root in Nigeria.” In this apocalyptic worldview, it can be too risky to love one’s neighbour as oneself…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 20 March 2009 at 12:07pm GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 19 March 2009

Nigerian communiqué

The Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is much larger than you would suppose from its name and normal Western usage of that term:

The Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the leadership of the Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, met at All Souls Chapel and Oduduwa Hall at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State, from March 10-14, 2009. The Standing Committee serves as the Executive Body of the Church of Nigeria between meetings of the General Synod. One hundred and fifty five bishops, one hundred and fifty clergy and one hundred and thirty nine laity were present…

The General Synod must be truly huge in scale.

See earlier item for the Primate’s Opening Remarks.

This body has issued a Communiqué which includes the following:


For more than twenty years there has been an unrelenting religious crisis in Nigeria. The Christian Church has been the target of attack and has suffered irreparable losses in many parts of the North. At different times various reasons have been advanced: unemployment, poverty, politics and sectarian tensions. However, those who have perpetrated these destructive actions have never been brought to justice, operate with impunity and appear to be motivated by the conviction that if they persist they will be able to claim entire sections of Nigeria for their faith. We reject this claim.

We also view with grave concern the recent inflammatory statement by Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima calling for the total Islamization of Nigeria. This attitude threatens the very existence of our nation. Since this call violates specific Constitutional provision for the freedom of religion and his pubic oath to protect the Constitution we ask the leadership of the Senate to investigate as to whether Senator Yerima is qualified to continue to hold office.

We call for a national conference of all relevant stakeholders especially the National Assembly, Media practitioners, religious leaders and the guardians of our constitution to deal with these issues and plan for a peaceful and just future for Nigeria. We are convinced that unless urgent action is taken we may have no future for the next generation.


As Anglican Christians we continue to be distressed by the spiritual crisis within our own family of faith in other parts of the world. Since 2003 the unilateral revisionist actions of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church Canada have torn the fabric of our common life. While the Church of Nigeria stands resolutely and uncompromisingly on the truth of the Holy Scriptures and the Lordship of Jesus Christ endless meetings and repeated communiqués have done nothing to bring restoration of our beloved communion. In this, however, and in all these matters our hope is not in our own efforts but in the Lord Himself. We can therefore boldly declare to our nation and to the world, “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 19 March 2009 at 6:15pm GMT | Comments (21) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 18 March 2009

more on Anglican women at UNCSW

An earlier report on Anglican women at the UNCSW is here.

The links to some documents in that article are now broken, apologies.

Here are some new reports and documents:

UN Commission on the Status of Women Fifty-third session, 2– 13 March 2009

  • Agreed conclusions - The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including care-giving in the context of HIV/AIDS


Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 at 8:48am GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 17 March 2009

ministerial education inspection reports

The Church of England has announced today:

Church publishes inspection reports

The Church of England today publishes inspection reports on two of its ministerial training colleges.

The Church has a long track record of ensuring the quality of the initial training of its clergy by regular inspection of its training institutions. Theological colleges and part-time training courses are inspected every five years by teams of inspectors appointed by the bishops of the Church of England. Where training is delivered ecumenically, Church of England inspectors work in partnership with teams from the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union.

In the past the reports have been confidential to bishops and church leaders, but from today inspection reports will appear on the Church of England website. Inspection reports on the institutions of partner churches will appear on their websites. At first there will only be a limited number of reports, because training institutions are only inspected every five years. Over the coming years a full set of reports will appear.

See Quality Assurance in Ministerial Education and The Quality Framework for Ordination Training.

The first two reports are available as PDF files from this page:

Wycliffe Hall Oxford

St Stephen’s House Oxford

Wycliffe Hall has published this press release: Bishops’ Inspection 2008 and there is also this PDF file containing Wycliffe Bishop’s [sic] Response:

Statement by the Bishop of Liverpool (Chair of Council)
Bishop of Chester (Chair-designate of Council)
Bishop of Birmingham

17 March 2009: We are grateful to the Inspectors for their work, and for the wide endorsement which they give to Wycliffe Hall and its work. We are pleased that the Inspectors have confidence in Wycliffe, and we note their qualifications. In particular we welcome their recognition that the difficulties of recent years in relation to staff relationships are now largely overcome.

We welcome the recommendations of the Inspectors, and the Council and staff will do their utmost to ensure that they are given very careful consideration, and are acted upon.

We regret that the Inspectors have judged it right to declare that they have no confidence in one area of the Hall’s life, in relation to aspects of Practical and Pastoral Theology. We doubt that the evidence which the Inspectors adduce merits such a stark assessment, but we will ensure that the recommendations which are made in relation to this area are given speedy and particular attention. We share the confidence that the Inspectors have that Wycliffe Hall is fit for purpose, and look forward to maintaining its high academic standards and formation of both men and women for ordained ministry in the Church of England.

+ James Liverpool
+ Peter Cestr
+ David Birmingham

Several downloads are available here, which contain submissions made to the inspectors.

St Stephen’s House has also published a press release: Response to the Publication of the Inspection Report 2008

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 17 March 2009 at 9:50am GMT | Comments (19) | TrackBack
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Monday, 16 March 2009

Communications breakdown

The Diocese of Manchester reports: Bishop silenced by email failure:

1 million spams and a virus bring down Bishop of Manchester & Church of England email systems.

The central offices of the Diocese of Manchester were without email from 3-13 March (10 days) following a virus infecting its servers and an unprecedented amount of spam. The problems have also affected the Bishops of Manchester and other senior clergy in the diocese.

While some emails have now been restored, others are still not getting through, particularly to satellite offices.

Two weeks ago, following continuing concerns over missing e-mails and an unacceptably high occurrence of breaks in service, the diocese changed its IT provider.

The new IT technicians discovered a virus and tried to remove it. While doing so they found that it had severely corrupted systems. This has meant that, since 3 March, e-mails sent to the Diocese of Manchester central offices, its Archdeacons, and the Bishops of Bolton and Middleton have not been received, nor have they been able to send e-mails. E-mails sent via the Diocese of Manchester website have not been delivered either.

In addition, an audit of the 6000 pieces of communications sent by the Bishop of Manchester over the past ten months revealed that a significant amount of electronic mail, though sent by the Bishop, may have been deleted during sending or has simply not been delivered by the system. In addition, many emails sent to the Bishop may not have been received.

A spokesman for the Bishop said, “Given the nature and scale of the problem it is likely that the Bishop will never fully know which e-mails failed to arrive nor the number of emails that were sent by others to him but were never received by his office. If people have written or emailed the Bishop of Manchester during the past ten months and not received a reply, it is likely that a system failure is to blame.”

“The new IT providers have been given the brief of establishing, as an urgent priority, a cast iron IT system for Bishops, Archdeacons and our central administration. If an e-mail is sent to us and a reply or acknowledgement has not been received within three days, then individuals should follow-up the message with a phone call. As a policy, where possible, people should always request a receipt when sending e-mail to us.”

As the Manchester Evening News reports:

The problem is particularly embarrassing because Mr McCulloch serves as the CoE’s communications spokesman.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 16 March 2009 at 2:49pm GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Does the Future have a Church of England?

Updated Tuesday evening

The Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt, has expressed his opinions on this subject in a lecture, given recently at St Paul’s School of Theology in St Helier, Jersey.
(The Channel Islands are annexed to the Diocese of Winchester.)

You can read the full text of his lecture on the diocesan website, at Bishop Michael on the Future of the Church of England.

Here’s a teaser:

…I am now going to examine some of the specific questions, challenges, realities in the life of the Church of England today which, I think, may be causing people to ask the question that is the title of this Lecture – or at least to think that such a title is worth offering to me, and I to think it worth accepting! I could have arranged them in more than one order; the order that I have chosen is only sometimes that of the importance that I see them having, the level of threat that I see them posing!

Secularisation of politics and public life
Women and the Episcopate
Same-sex sexual behaviour,
Decline from orthodox teaching
Division of the Anglican Communion
Ecumenical developments
Financial Pressures
Absorption in, distraction by, these!

Tuesday update

Andrew Brown has commented on this lecture at Cif Belief in Secularism threatens British Christianity, says bishop.

… I remember debating this last question with him from one of the twin pulpits of St Mary le Bow, and how impressed I was by his utter imperviousness to arguments from educated secular opinion.

Now he has published a talk he gave recently on the threats to the continuation of the Church of England, and it’s clear that he thinks that educated secular opinion is one of the main hostile forces facing his church…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 16 March 2009 at 1:38pm GMT | Comments (24) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 14 March 2009

opinions to consider

Terry Philpot wrote for the Guardian about the RC adoption societies, see Face to Faith.

Sara Maitland wrote in The Times about Why the Via Dolorosa can be a powerful experience.

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times about Grounding ideology in people. See New England - Kirsty MacColl at the Church Times blog for background material.

Alexandru Popescu wrote at Comment is free about An iconic power.

James W. Jones wrote in the Church Times last week about Churches talking past each other. Many in the C of E misunderstand the Episcopal Church in the US, he says.

Robert Pigott at the BBC has written another Faith Diary.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 14 March 2009 at 6:23pm GMT | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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more news from Nigeria

Further excerpts from Meeting of the CON Standing Committee: PRIMATE’S OPENING REMARKS:

The Anglican Communion

Early last month at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates of the Anglican Communion had their meeting in an atmosphere of ‘peace and mutual respect’ for five days in Alexandria, Egypt. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the meeting was that the ‘status quo ante’ was maintained. That is to say that we remain as we have been since 2003 when the unilateral revisionist actions of TEC and Canada tore the fabric of our common life, in a state of impaired or broken sacramental communion. We have not been able to deal with the fundamental problems of our brokenness nor see through decisions taken at previous meetings of the Primates.

It seems to me the Communion is playing a game of ‘just keep talking’ until perhaps someone will blink or become weary and give up the struggle. Confident that we are on the LORD’s side contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, we can rest assured that: “those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” On this vexatious issue, the Church of Nigeria will neither blink nor be weary.

On my return from Egypt, I issued a letter to the faithful titled ‘a wake up call’. I also sent an open letter to our chairman, Dr Rowan. In both, I made it clear that America is not thinking of backing off from its new religion. And the rest of us desiring to keep the unity and structures of the Communion by all means including losing our faith and churches risk the danger of becoming a church that has the appearance of being alive but in reality are no more than what Prof John Mbiti once described as the ‘living-dead.’

The Global South

The Primates and leadership of the Global South also met and decided to call the ‘fourth trumpet’ in the first quarter of 2010, perhaps in the UK. The last one was held in Ein Sukhnan, near the red sea, Egypt. Each of our Provinces will be represented by the Primate, a bishop, a senior priest, lay leaders comprising of a man, a woman and a youth.


GAFCON continues to wax stronger. Membership of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is growing in many parts of the world beyond our own imagination. Here at home, some of our senior lay leaders (Fellowship of Christian Patriots, FCP) organised a two-day celebration of the ideals of GAFCON with special lectures and service of praise and thanksgiving to God. We are deeply grateful to the Christian Patriots. I urge all our members to obtain copies of the lecture. The GAFCON Primate’s Council will meet in the UK after Easter. I ask for your prayers.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 14 March 2009 at 5:50pm GMT | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Friday, 13 March 2009

some reactions to the Nigerian church story

Updated Saturday afternoon

See previous articles here, here, and here.

Andrew Brown has commented about this at Comment is free: Belief in The latest hate speech from the Church of Nigeria.

Pluralist has commented on his blog in Expel the Nigerian Church - Time to Move On.

Episcopal Café has a further article, Nigeria’s legal system adequate for persecution.

The US State Department report mentioned there can be found at 2008 Human Rights Report: Nigeria.

The current legislation is not the same as that proposed in 2006 which was also commended by the Church of Nigeria.

There is no mention of this matter at the website of CANA, but the front page does have this in the sidebar:

Every person is made in the image of God and deserves to be treated that way.
-the Rt Rev’d. Martyn Minns

Episcopal Café points out that Martyn Minns and Robert Duncan are among the bishops at the Church of Nigeria House of Bishops meeting, read Meeting of the CON Standing Committee: PRIMATE’S OPENING REMARK [sic] from the official website of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion):

We are glad to welcome back home our CANA bishop, Martyn Minns. With us at this meeting is Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh. Bob leads the Common Cause Partnership that will soon metamorphose against all odds into a new Anglican Province in North America.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 13 March 2009 at 11:37pm GMT | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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the washing machine and what it doesn't mean

According to the official Vatican newspaper, the washing machine has done more to liberate women than anything else in the 20th century. One has to ask where the Vatican gets the information on which to base this kind of conclusion. This is particularly necessary in the light of the public admission that a failure to read the news meant that the Pope committed a major blunder in readmitting to communion someone who denied the Holocaust, Richard Williamson. At least the Pope responded on this occasion to the worldwide outrage which his action had caused.

No such response has come from the Roman Catholic Church to the story that a nine year old girl has been excommunicated. The Brazilian child had been abused for years by her stepfather. She went to hospital to investigate a pain and was found to be four months pregnant, carrying twins. Fearing for her life, doctors gave her an abortion. The response of Cardinal Giovanni Batista Re, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, was that the twins had a right to life and that the mother and those involved in the abortion should be excommunicated. The Church said nothing about the man who raped the girl.

Punishing a nine year old child in this way when she needs all the love and support the Church can give is barbaric. Brazilian authorities, in a country which only allows abortion in exceptional circumstances, had made the reasonable judgement that this case was one in which the mother’s life was the prime concern: it is likely that neither mother nor the unborn children would have survived if the pregnancy had gone much further. But the Church gives the impression that the men in charge will not engage seriously with women’s issues. They imagine that they want washing machines, rather than protection from unwanted pregnancy. They ignore the fact that many people in the world still do not have access to safe water for drinking or washing, and that it is generally supposed that women will be responsible for fetching the water from a contaminated source when there isn’t a clean piped supply. For such people there are many more things that could make life easier than having a washing machine. It is only when there is a power supply and piped water that the machine is usable at all. But the availability of safe contraception requires no great infrastructure to be in place before it can benefit every woman on the planet who needs it. Protection from unwanted pregnancy and from AIDS are part of a woman’s right to life. In a world where men still take advantage of women physically and emotionally it is wrong that the Church seeks to deny them any defence. Rape is a moment’s madness for the man, but can have lifelong consequences for the woman. Requiring women to live with the consequences of being violated is wrong. The support that they need after such an attack should include the ‘morning after’ pill or other means of ensuring that the woman is not required to bear the child of the man who raped her.

Unfortunately in the Roman Catholic Church the fact that the rules are made only by unmarried men means that issues are never examined from a woman’s point of view. It has been necessary for people to formulate a deliberate feminist theology just to attempt the redress centuries of imbalance. If, in the light of the controversy of Richard Williamson the Vatican is seriously interested in looking at the internet to discover world opinion, it might be helpful if some serious attention were paid to women’s issues. It would be good to start with examining why a nine year old child can be excommunicated rather than supported by the Church after being raped.

Posted by Tom Ambrose on Friday, 13 March 2009 at 7:22pm GMT | Comments (87) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 12 March 2009

Church of Nigeria statement on legislation

Updated again Saturday

The full text of the statement submitted by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) to the public hearing on the Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2008 is now available. There are five graphics files (click on each image to enlarge) or there is a PDF file here.

Extracts from this are also available at Changing Attitude, see Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Act and the Church of Nigeria’s position paper.

Friday lunchtime update

The full text of the legislation itself is now also available, it occupies only two pages:

See below for two other versions

Further reports of the hearing from Changing Attitude:

Report on the Hearing on the Same Gender Marriage (Prohibtion) Bill 2008 in Abuja, Nigeria which includes this:

…There was a heavy controversy between me and the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) when I mentioned how Archbishop Akinola and the bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) have committed themselves to the process of listening to LGBT people in the Lambeth Conference 1998 Resolution 1.10. Being committed to listen to LGBT people and coming to the hearing to support the bill is not honest. The representative of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) took offence and denied that.

and Church of Nigeria bussed people in to the Same Gender Marriage Bill hearing:

…On Wednesday, while we were outside waiting to be allowed to enter, some interesting things began to happen. Buses began to arrive carrying members of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Joint Women’s Fellowship together with the Youth Fellowship buses from Jos. They parked right next to us.

The atmosphere became very tense for us lesbian and gay representatives. The church members looked at us with terrible hard faces. They were wearing T-shirts with the slogans saying: IT IS UNAFRICAN, IT IS UNGODLY, IT IS SENSELESS, UNCULTURAL…

…After which a Bishop said that clearly it was a big lie for any gay person to say that he was created by God. He also said from his statement that being gay was an acquired syndrome from the western world.

Friday evening update

Lionel Deimel has made available a more easily readable copy of the legislation, see
Akinola: Anglican Fundamentalist, Fascist, and Theocrat.

Saturday update

And there is a PDF of the legislation available also here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 12 March 2009 at 11:02pm GMT | Comments (41) | TrackBack
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More Nigerian statements

Mark Harris has collated some further statements by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) on the subject of homosexuality at Nigerian Anglicans ramp up the anti-gay rhetoric:

From Celebrating the ideals of GAFCON dated 24 February:

“the fellowship of Christian patriots in collaboration with Christian association of Nigeria (CAN) and the church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) flagged off the service of stand up for Jesus Festival of praise and thanksgiving held at the National Christian Centre Abuja on Saturday.

It brought to the fore the war against homosexualism, lesbianism and same sex marriage being waged by the church lead by the primate of all Nigeria Anglican communion Most Rev Peter Akinola, At the service the fight against union of same sex received a boost following a unanimous support pledged by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and well meaning Nigerians.”


“While American and Canadian Churches openly ordained gay clergy and blessed same-sex unions in September 2006. The Church of Nigeria headed by Archbishop Akinola issued a statement to the Nation commending the law-makers for their prompt reaction to outlaw same-sex relationships in Nigeria and calls for the bill to be passed since the idea expressed in the bill is the moral position of Nigerians regarding same-sex relationships.”

and this, later in the report of that lecture and discussion:

“Rev. Father George Ehusani, a former Treasurer of CAN said homosexuality as inherently disordered and that as far as Christian Religion is concerned it is a CRIME because instead of promoting the family it destroys it. He said Christians and Pastoral leaders have the primary responsibility of leading Homos from hell to heaven and bring them to sanity.

The Rt. Rev. Duke Akamisoko in his contribution suggested that political leaders and political office holders must be screened and investigated during electioneering to be sure that they have no leaning with homosexuality and lesbianism. He quoted copiously from the Bible to support his stand that homosexuality should not be condoned but punished severely.

The Rt. Rev. Samuel Olukunle Ajani said we should not shy away from the fact that homosexuality are living with the society hence all instruments should be employed to fight the scourge like HIV/AIDS and cultism.

It was the considered opinion of the generality of people gathered that pragmatic efforts should be made to teach and sensitize children from kindergartner to tertiary institutions and most importantly the Legislatures must take a definite stand to pass the Homosexuality Bill before it. “

“While rounding up the programme, the Primate of all Nigeria, Anglican Communion, The Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola said the Homosexual problem is not peculiar to Anglicans or Christians alone, according to him, it is a global human problem, he said all hands should be on deck to teach and sensitize people on what evil same-sex union has brought to mankind.”

And finally, at the close of the report, what Mark Harris considers the most telling comment was this, made by Archbishop Akinola:

“Primate Akinola raised a poser, and warned the National Assembly and the government not to succumb to serious pressures being mounted in the name of civil and human rights. He said that as long as Nigeria does not have the right to order England or the West on what to do likewise America has no right to tell us how to live in Nigeria.”

Also, Jim Naughton asks some further questions on Episcopal Café at Nigeria once again considers harshly punitive anti-gay legislation.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 12 March 2009 at 4:00pm GMT | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Nigerian church support for legislation

Updated Sunday

The BBC reports under the headline Nigeria gay activists speak out

Church groups spoke in favour of the bill, saying that gay marriage risked “tearing the fabric of society”.

“In the Bible it says homosexuals are criminals,” Pius Akubo of the Daughters of Sarah church told lawmakers.

Rev Patrick Alumake told the National Assembly the top leadership of the Catholic church in Nigeria supported the bill wholeheartedly.

“There are wild, weird, ways of life that are affecting our own culture very negatively, we have people who either by way of the media or travelling around the world have allowed new ideas which are harmful to our nation and our belief,” he said.

According to reports in Nigerian media The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) was outspoken in its support for the legislation. See below the fold for detailed reports.

Changing Attitude reports that its Nigerian members spoke up, see Group leaders from Changing Attitude Nigeria present statement on Same Gender Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2008 at public hearing in Abuja.

This is the legislation about which Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch said:

Nigeria’s proposed ban on same-sex partnerships an assault on human rights.

A bill now before the Nigerian National Assembly aims to outlaw marriages between individuals of the same sex – in a country where homosexuality is already criminalized. The bill would punish “the coming together of persons of the same sex with the purpose of leaving together as husband and wife or for other purposes of same sexual relationship” with up to three years’ imprisonment.

If passed, the bill would give licence to the authorities to raid public or private gatherings of any group of people they suspect to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The measure would also increase the risk of violence and other acts of discrimination against individuals who are suspected of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

“It is simply unacceptable to single out one group of people to be deprived of the rights we all enjoy,” said Aster Van Kregten, Amnesty International’s Nigeria researcher. “Legalising discrimination is reprehensible in itself and can only promote acts of hatred.”

In addition to the measures against those thought to be in same-sex relationships, the bill would authorise sentences of up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of N2,000 (US$14) for any person who “witnesses, abets and aids the solemnization of a same gender marriage.”

These provisions would violate the rights to freedom from discrimination, freedom of private and family life, freedom of religion or belief, and freedom of association, guaranteed in the Nigerian constitution and by human rights treaties.

Press Reports mentioning the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)

Punch Homosexuals protest move to criminalise same-sex marriage

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), condemned homosexuality, describing it as “being ungodly, unscriptural, unnatural, unprofitable, unhealthy, un-cultural, un-African and un-Nigerian.”

Independent Homosexuals Besiege NASS, Seek Stoppage Of Same-sex Marriage Bill

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) argued in its submission that “same-sex marriage is out to foist on the world a false sense of the family which will bring disastrous consequences to mankind.

“Same sex marriage, apart from being ungodly, it is unscriptural, unnatural, unprofitable, unhealthy, un-cultural, un-African and un-Nigerian.

“It is a perversion, a deviation and an aberration that is capable of engendering moral and social holocaust in this country. Outlawing it is to ensure the continued existence of this nation.”

Nigeria Exchange Homosexuals protest against making same-sex marriage a crime

But the Church of Nigeria called homosexuality “being ungodly, unscriptural, unnatural, unprofitable, unhealthy, un-cultural, un-African and un-Nigerian.”

Church groups spoke in favour of the bill, saying that homosexual marriage risked “tearing the fabric of society and in the Bible it says homosexuals are criminals,”

“There are wild, weird, ways of life that are affecting our own culture very negatively, we have people who either by way of the media or travelling around the world have allowed new ideas which are harmful to our nation and our belief,”

This Day Homosexuals Kick against Same-sex Prohibition Bill

In a presentation by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the church said “same sex marriage is out to foist on the world a false sense of the family, which will bring disastrous consequences to mankind.”

According to the clerics, same sex marriage ”apart from being ungodly, was unscriptural, unnatural, unprofitable, unhealthy, un-cultural, un-African and un-Nigerian. It is a perversion, a deviation and an aberration that is capable of engendering moral and social holocaust in this country. Outlawing it is to ensure the continued existence of this nation.”

Daily Trust Homosexuals storm National Assembly

However, an overwhelming number of people at the public hearing, especially religious bodies, supported the enactment of the bill.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in its presentation said it “strongly supports this bill and wants the members of the National Assembly to ensure that it is passed. Every country has its laws; there is nothing like a universal law and you see weird ways of life affecting our people negatively. Christians and Muslims are strongly against homosexuality.”

On its part, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) said “same sex marriage is out to foist on the world a false sense of the family which will bring disastrous consequences to mankind.”

It added that “same sex marriage apart from being ungodly, it is unscriptural, unnatural, unprofitable, unhealthy, un-cultural, un-African and un-Nigerian. It is a perversion, a deviation and an aberration that is capable of engendering moral and social holocaust in this country. Outlawing it is to ensure the continued existence of this nation.”

Fellowship of Christian Patriots (FCP) for its part said “God in his infinite wisdom, made sex enjoyable in order to encourage indulgence in it, for the purpose of procreation and not merely for hedonistic pleasure.”

Added Sunday
Somehow I missed this one earlier:

Sun Homosexuals storm House to oppose Anti-gay Bill

Head of Anglican Church in Nigeria, Rev Peter Akinola in a memo to the public hearing pointed out Biblical verses that opposed sexual intercourse by persons of same sex.

He reminded the committee that the purpose of God’s creation of human beings was to sustain procreation, noting that the existence of gay in churches in Nigeria was embarrassing and unhealthy.

“The Bill will not only preserve the Nigerian families, but will also ensure that the community spirit in Africa does not dies.

“Same sex marriage, apart from being ungodly is also unscriptural, unnatural, unprofitable, un-cultural, unhealthy, un-African, and un-Nigerian,” he argued.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 12 March 2009 at 9:25am GMT | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 11 March 2009

ecclesiology explained

Bishop Alan Wilson has written two blog posts about this.

First, Ecclesiology: What is Church, then?

Saturday I drew the short straw — helping enable a discussion at Diocesan Synod on the ecclesiological dimensions of ordaining female bishops. What then is “Church?” I tried to frame the discussion in four dimensions of being Church.

Every licensing we proclaim “The Church of England is part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” What does this really mean?

Second, this supplement, Ecclesiology: fifth element?

5. Church as Pilgrimage

A lot of ecclesiology is based on how the ship is running, but the real question is where the ship is going! Christians do not see history as a giant circular recycling exercise, but a journey which begins in a garden and ends in a city.

All worth reading carefully.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 11 March 2009 at 3:52pm GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 10 March 2009

faith schools under pressure

For background to this, see TA articles from last September, here, here and here.

Last week, just prior to a conference of the Liberal Democrats, the Guardian published a letter, defending faith schools and in particular their selection policies, which had again been criticised earlier in the week in a new research report from Research and Information on State Education. (Full report as a PDF here.)

Banning selection of pupils by faith in religious schools would be “perverse and unjust”, a group of religious organisations which run faith state schools in Britain argue today.

In an exclusive letter published in the Guardian today, a cross-denominational group of religious leaders, led by the Church of England Board of Education, defends selection of some students and staff on the basis of commitment to their faith.

The letter comes ahead of a policy debate on 5-19 education in England at the Liberal Democrats’ spring conference tomorrow, which calls for a ban on selection by faith in religious schools, and follows a critical report by academics at the London School of Economics…

That critical report was attacked by the same leaders, see for example Religious Intelligence Church hits back at school admission policy claims by Matt Cresswell.

Janina Ainsworth, Chief Education Officer for the Church of England, said that a damning report commissioned by the Research and Information on State Education trust (RISE) was based on “out-of-date information that takes no account of the recent changes to the Admissions Code”…

…Commenting on the report Ms Ainsworth said that those with an agenda against popular church schools were using the research as “an opportunity to try and wrestle power from local people and further centralise admissions decisions.”

She continued: “The findings of this report do not support the recommendations made: nowhere does it present evidence that schools are breaking their own admissions policies to select certain types of students.

“It is unclear on what basis this report can obliquely claim that those local people who give their time freely as school governors are in some way acting unfairly.”

She added: “Church attendance is the only measure our schools use when allocating places on the basis of faith, and you can’t get a much simpler way of assessing whether someone has a faith commitment or not.”

As it turned out, the Lib Dem conference didn’t approve the original motion calling for a ban on selection, but did approve the following:

ii) Requiring all existing state-funded faith schools to come forward within five years with plans to demonstrate the inclusiveness of their intakes, with local authorities empowered to oversee and approve the delivery of these plans, and to withdraw state-funded status where inclusiveness cannot be demonstrated.

They also voted for:

iii) Ending the opt-out from employment and equalities legislation for staff in faith schools, except those responsible for religious instruction.

An attempt to extend iii) to also exempt ‘the senior management team’ was defeated.

The BBC therefore reported this as Lib Dems back state faith schools.

On the other hand Ekklesia which is a founder member of Accord reported it differently:
Liberal Democrats vote to demand fairness from faith schools
Lib Dem policy on faith schools is inclusion ‘breakthrough’
People of faith speak out for inclusive schools policy
Why church schools can be less than Christian by Jeremy Chadd

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 10 March 2009 at 10:06pm GMT | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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Ethics, Economics, and Global Justice

The Archbishop of Canterbury delivered a lecture last Saturday in Cardiff.

Here’s the LamPal press release.

Here’s the full text.

Now here’s the press coverage:

BBC Church calls for ‘just’ recovery

The Times Ruth Gledhill Archbishop Dr Rowan William[s] blames government for economic crisis and her blog entry, Don’t blame greedy bankers - blame your own pride, Rowan tells Government. And republished the full text on the web here.

Guardian Sam Jones Don’t blame the bankers - deregulation and spending caused it too, says Williams and sidebar, In the archbishop’s words. Also an edited extract of the lecture, Rowan Williams Deeper than simple greed and also the full text on the web. Analysis by Andrew Brown at Cif Belief Deconstructing Rowan.

Telegraph no coverage so far that I could find.

Ekklesia Archbishop sets out fresh agenda for economic justice

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 10 March 2009 at 8:47am GMT | Comments (21) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 8 March 2009

USA: dioceses respond to defections

The Diocese of Quincy is reorganising itself, see ENS report, Diversity embraced as steering committee leads reorganization by Joe Bjordal:

A newly appointed steering committee, representing persons in the Diocese of Quincy who want to remain in the Episcopal Church, has met with the Presiding Bishop in New York, welcomed a bishop as consultant, and released a vision statement and immediate goals for the reorganizing diocese.

Last November, a number of clergy and laypersons in the Peoria, Illinois-based diocese voted to leave the Episcopal Church due to theological disagreements and align with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

The reorganization moves are in preparation for a special synod meeting which has been called by Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for Saturday, April 4 to be held at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Peoria. In a notice issued February 27, Jefferts Schori called for the synod, saying there was “no bishop of the Diocese of Quincy, or any qualified members of the standing committee of that diocese.”

The notice from the Presiding Bishop can be found in full here.

The Diocese of Fort Worth is seeking to recover control of its assets, see ENS report Continuing diocese requests ‘orderly transfer of assets’ by Pat McCaughan:

The standing committee of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth (Texas) and Provisional Bishop Edwin Gulick have written to former bishop Jack Iker to request a “peaceful and orderly transfer of property and other assets.”

“Our hope is to work together with those who left the Episcopal Church to make this period of transition as painless as possible in what has been a sad time for all of us,” said the Rev. Frederick Barber, president of the standing committee. “Those who left remain our brothers and sisters in Christ. But we also know we have a sacred responsibility to the Episcopalians of the diocese to be good stewards of property that is held in trust for generations of Episcopalians past and to come.”

The March 3 letter, written by chancellor Kathleen Wells, also asked that Iker and others not interfere with the reorganization of the continuing diocese; refrain from using the diocesan logo and seals and meet with representatives of the continuing diocese “to plan the orderly transition” of property and assets. Last November, Iker and some members of the diocese voted to realign with the Argentina-based Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

The letter itself can be read in full as a PDF file here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 8 March 2009 at 7:02pm GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 7 March 2009

Canada: developments on blessings

Updated Sunday evening

Same-sex blessings are in the news again in Canada.

The Anglican Journal reports that Ottawa diocese appoints committee to consider ‘blessings’ and there is material in the March issue of Crosstalk in a PDF file. See cover story and then on page 2, Bishop John Chapman has written a column. The Journal reports:

The bishop of the diocese of Ottawa, John Chapman, has appointed a doctrine and worship committee to determine whether same-sex unions can be blessed on a limited basis in the diocese.

If the committee recommends that such blessings be allowed “in the spirit of experiential discernment,” Bishop Chapman said it would only be offered in one parish, St. John the Evangelist, an inner city parish which has long advocated for the rights of gays and lesbians.

“In the event that I instruct the parish of St. John the Evangelist to proceed, this is as far as I am prepared to move on the matter until General Synod 2010,” he said in his March column at the diocesan newspaper, Crosstalk…

Update His March column can be read in full as a web page here.

The National Post reported this under the headline Anglican diocese will defy and bless but also reported that the diocese denied it was breaking a moratorium:

…In a press release issued on Monday night, the diocese said: “Just as the Church was not able to come to a clear mind regarding the benefits of the ordination of women to the priesthood until it experienced the priestly ministry of women, Bishop [John H.] Chapman has taken the process of discernment with regards to same sex blessings to a place beyond discussion.”

and this was confirmed by a spokesman for the Anglican Church of Canada who said:

…what the Diocese of Ottawa is doing is not a breaking the ban but rather a continuation of their “discernment process.”

The same Anglican Journal report goes on to cover a related development in the diocese of Niagara. Bishop Michael Bird reports here on his recent visit to Lambeth Palace. Here’s an extract:

…In that interview I reviewed with him the multitude of task forces, hearings, Bishop’s statements, regional and parish meetings and the long list of Diocesan and General Synods that have discussed and wrestled with this issue since 1976. I gave him a full account of our dealings with dissenting parishes and the court proceedings we have been involved in. I shared with Archbishop Rowan our experience of the incredible contribution that gay and lesbian people have made and continue to make in every aspect of our Church’s life and witness, and expressed the overwhelming desire on the part of two Synod’s to move forward with the blessing of committed same-sex relationships for couples who have been civilly married. I also indicated to him my intentions with regard to my giving permission for these blessings to begin to take place.

One of the most powerful moments in the course of my fifty minute meeting with the Archbishop was the opportunity to describe the process of how our new Vision has emerged and how we believe that God is calling us as a Diocesan family to enhance and develop our work together under the five key areas of focus that are outlined in the Vision. In fact I indicated that it was my sense that the challenge the Vision offers us around the work of prophetic justice-making has made us even more determined to become a more open and inclusive Church.

Archbishop Williams listened carefully to my presentation and there was no doubt that I had his full attention. He thanked me for such a full and detailed report and he indicated how important this opportunity was for him to hear from me personally. We went on to have a very helpful and frank conversation about the implications involved and I expressed my own personal commitment and the strong desire of the Diocese of Niagara to remain in communication and dialogue with our sister and brother Anglicans around the world. I made it clear that we very much value and hold dear our membership in the Anglican Communion and we are grateful for his leadership and ministry…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 7 March 2009 at 5:10pm GMT | Comments (26) | TrackBack
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women bishops: FiF, Fulcrum, and AffCath

The BBC has a report by Trevor Timpson titled Women ‘to change CofE for ever’ which reports on two groups in favour of women bishops, Fulcrum and Affirming Catholicism.

…What is reported less often, is that many Anglicans in both traditions support the appointment of female bishops.

Some of these believe the proposal is completely in line with their Evangelical or Anglo-Catholic beliefs, and that the ministry of women priests has already brought great blessings on the Church…

Meanwhile, Forward in Faith has published several articles in New Directions following on from the February debate in General Synod, see Bishop of London, Bishop of Chichester Jonathan Baker, and Geoffrey Kirk. and the resolution passed at the FiF Special Assembly on 14 February is here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 7 March 2009 at 4:04pm GMT | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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opinions to discuss

In The Times John Shepherd writes about Revelation and the straitjacket of human language.

The Guardian has Simon Rocker writing about the Haredim in Face to Faith.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that Jade Goody shows how to die.

Nick Baines wrote about Martin Niemoeller in Death of a Hero.

Alan Wilson wrote about How our grandpas twittered…

Simon Barrow wrote at Ekklesia that Faith needs a freedom agenda. Savi Hensman wrote about Moving faith forward on civil liberties. Vaughan Jones wrote about Humanity and justice is ‘modern liberty’ for Christians.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 7 March 2009 at 8:06am GMT | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Friday, 6 March 2009

The Church and Mammon

I have been thinking about money. First, a few snapshots:

February’s General Synod had two goes at the Financial Crisis. I was impressed that the debate wasn’t defensive about the impact on the church, but speaker after speaker said that the church needs to stand alongside those who are affected by debt and repossession, and we heard about some good projects.

Then last week, I was at the Archbishops’ Council’s Finance Committee. It was the most interesting and lively Finance Committee I have been to. It was as if the financial crisis had shaken things up and created a new freedom. Someone said, ‘does this mean that we can do things differently now?’ It left me hopeful that good things will emerge from these difficult times.

Last year, one of my churches closed for worship and began the process of merging with a neighbouring parish. The crisis was triggered by money worries, though the causes went deeper. The PCC made its decision prayerfully and responsibly. It was a huge achievement.

I am working temporarily with another pair of parishes, and people are complaining about the parish share. There is a huge amount of ignorance about the purpose of the parish share. Telling them it contributes towards the cost of ministry doesn’t help much, as the benefice has been vacant for over three years, and they think the money would be better spent on maintenance for crumbling buildings.

Each deanery in our diocese is developing a deanery plan. One angry response criticises the process for being driven by money rather than by God’s will. If we pray and do what God wants, we will not lack resources, the critic says. Human, secular ways of planning will fail.

None of these images will surprise you — they are all familiar expressions of the Church’s sometimes uneasy relationship with money.

Just a few thoughts — and I am sure you will offer more:

Money is a language. God will speak to us in whatever language we are able to listen. If there is a crisis with money, what is God saying? When I consider the Financial Crisis on a theological level (and of course it can and must be read on other levels as well), I hear a condemnation of our society’s love of money and insatiable appetites that must be satisfied now. We do need to repent and rebuild our infrastructure on better values.

Money also asks questions of the church about its priorities. In a crisis, money tells us that we can’t do what we thought we wanted to do, and maybe we need to go back to think and pray about what it is that we are called to do in this place, at this time. It may be that we need to do less of something that is good in order to do another thing that is better. It may be that we need to close some churches to make space for fresh expressions. Sometimes we need the challenge that money poses to look again at who we are and what God wants of us. Mostly what I see in the church, particularly at local level, is people avoiding those questions. There is such fear.

But the wrestling is important. When we allow ourselves and our churches to be challenged, I think we shall emerge with new values, new understanding and new vision. We should welcome the opportunities to wrestle with plans that explore our relationships with money and weigh our priorities in a prayerful way. Money in itself is not evil, but we do need to bring it before God.

Posted by Meg Gilley on Friday, 6 March 2009 at 2:51pm GMT | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 5 March 2009

CofE pensions: a scene-setting paper

A Church of England press release today is titled Update published on Clergy Pensions Scheme.

The Church of England has today published a paper on the impact of the credit crunch and recession on the financial position of the Funded Clergy Pension Scheme and what this might mean for the future of the scheme…

There is also a paper from the Task Group:

The Task Group comprises the Chairman of the Pensions Board (Dr Jonathan Spencer), the First Church Estates Commissioner (Andreas Whittam Smith) and the Chairman of the Archbishops’ Council’s Finance Committee (Andrew Britton) assisted by the Chief Officers of the three organisations and the Chief of Staff at Lambeth Palace. Their initial paper is available via the Church of England website here. (.doc file)

And it is also available as a more accessible web page at Scene-Setting Paper from Archbishops’ Task Group.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 5 March 2009 at 1:33pm GMT | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Anglican women at the UNCSW

Updated Friday evening

First, ENS has a report Network members support expanded role for Anglican women:

Noting that women make up just six percent of the Anglican Communion’s top decision-makers, the International Anglican Women’s Network urged at its February 22-27 meeting in New York City that the worldwide church study the role of women and find ways to empower female leadership.

Representatives of 30 of the 38 Anglican provinces (national or regional groupings of national churches) and the network’s steering committee met in person for the first time since the network, which represents 40 million Anglican women in 165 countries, was formed in 1996.

Read the full text of the statement issued at the First Meeting of the IAWN Provincial Links and Steering Group.

And the Church of England contact? Check this page.

Now to the UN meeting. ENS also carries this:

In recognition of International Women’s Day, Episcopal Life Weekly bulletin inserts for March 8 outline the work of Anglican representatives to the 53rd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The commission will meet this year from March 2-13.

As the bulletin insert says:

A delegation of women from the Anglican Communion will take part in the 53rd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW), to be held March 2 to 13. The Anglican women, representing some 30 of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion, are nominated by the Primates (leading archbishops or presiding bishops) of their provinces.

Read the whole insert as a PDF here.

For more information see Ecumenical Women at the United Nations. There is also a helpful guide to the UNCSW here.

See the statement submitted to the CSW by the Anglican Consultative Council.

And there is also this statement submitted by the Mothers’ Union.

Friday update

ENS has a further report, Anglican women find strength at network meeting.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 4 March 2009 at 8:42am GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 3 March 2009

creationism in Britain

Theos has announced Biggest evolution and God survey ever launched today.

Among its key findings, the report reveals that:

  • Only 54% of people know that Charles Darwin wrote The Origin of Species (3% believe he wrote The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and 1% think he wrote The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver).
  • Only 15% of people know that Charles Darwin was a self-described agnostic towards the end of his life (20% think he was an atheist).
  • 42% of people believe that evolution presents some challenges to Christianity but that it is possible to believe in both.

The research also canvassed people across the UK about the origins of human life and found that:

  • The East has the largest proportion of people in the UK who believe that the theory of evolution removes any need for God (44%)
  • Wales has the largest proportion of theistic evolutionists (the belief that evolution is part of God’s plan - 38%).
  • Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of people who believe in Intelligent Design (16%) and Creationism (25%).

Read the full report as a PDF here (1.1.Mb).

The Guardian has published a snazzy interactive map which shows more details of the regional breakdown of answers. This accompanies a news report headlined Four out of five Britons repudiate creationism.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 3 March 2009 at 11:36pm GMT | Comments (35) | TrackBack
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Monday, 2 March 2009

reconciliation efforts

Updated Tuesday morning

A report from the Anglican Journal in Canada says Burundi archbishop supports Canadian church in opposing cross-border interventions, and there is also ‘Stay the course’ in Burundi, UN envoy advises Canadian Anglican delegation.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has thanked his Burundian counterpart, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, for the Anglican Church of Burundi’s stance against cross-border interventions, notwithstanding its opposition to more liberal views on homosexuality in some churches in Canada.

Meanwhile, there is an announcement from Lambeth Palace about the Pastoral Visitors, which says:

Pastoral Visitors Briefing Seminar

Following the Report of the Windsor Continuation Group to the Archbishop of Canterbury (which was published at the Primates Meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, in February 2009) the initial group of Pastoral Visitors called for by the Windsor Continuation Group in their Report and commended by the Primates Meeting in their Communiqué (para 15) met for a briefing session at Virginia Theological Seminary from 25-28 February.

Those appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Pastoral Visitors team are: the Rt Rev’d Santosh Marray, the Rt Rev’d Colin Bennetts, the Rt Rev’d Simon Chiwanga, Maj Gen (ret’d) Tim Cross, Canon Dr Chad Gandiya, who all participated in the briefing seminar, and the Very Rev’d Justin Welby, who was unable to attend.

The meeting was facilitated by the Rt Rev’d Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells, England, and received briefings from the Rev’d Dr Ephraim Radner (Wycliffe Theological Seminary, Toronto) the Rt Rev’d Gary Lillibridge (Bishop of West Texas, TEC and member of the Windsor Continuation Group), The Rev’d Canon Dr Chuck Robertson (Canon to the Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church), the Rt Rev’d Herbert Donovan (Deputy to the Presiding Bishop for Anglican Communion Relations, TEC) and the Ven Paul Fehely (Principal Secretary to the Primate, the Anglican Church of Canada) and members of the Faculty at VTS.

The Pastoral Visitors team will now report to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Update Tuesday

More details about these individuals are contained in the report by Matthew Davies at ENS Pastoral visitors appointed by Archbishop of Canterbury:

  • the Rt. Rev. Santosh Marray, bishop of Seychelles (Indian Ocean);
  • the Rt. Rev. Colin Bennetts, retired bishop of Coventry (England);
  • the Rt. Rev. Simon Chiwanga, retired bishop of Mpwapwa (Tanzania) and former chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council;
  • Major General Tim Cross, a retired British soldier who was the U.K.’s senior-most officer involved in the Pentagon’s post-war planning in Iraq;
  • Canon Chad Gandiya, Africa desk officer for the U.K.-based mission organization USPG; and
  • the Very Rev. Justin Welby, dean of Liverpool Cathedral (England).

And there is slightly more information in this Living Church article, by George Conger Pastoral Visitors Hold Inaugural Meeting:

  • The Rt. Rev. Santosh Marray, who retired in 2008 as Bishop of the Seychelles in the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean. Bishop Marray served in the Diocese of Florida at the time of his election in 2005, and is presently a member of the Anglican Covenant Design Group.
  • The Rt. Rev. Colin Bennetts, retired Bishop of Coventry in the Church of England. He also serves as chairman of the International Centre for Reconciliation (ICR) based at Coventry Cathedral.
  • The Very Rev. Justin Welby, dean of Liverpool Cathedral (England). Dean Welby was formerly sub dean and canon for reconciliation ministry at Coventry Cathedral.
  • The Rt. Rev. Simon Chiwanga, retired Bishop of Mwapwa in the Anglican Church of Tanzania. For 18 years he served on the Anglican Consultative Council.
  • The Rev. Canon Chad Gandiya, former dean of Bishop Gaul Theological College in Harare, Zimbabwe, and now serves as the United Society for the PreservationPropagation of the Gospel’s regional desk officer for Africa.
  • Maj. General Tim Cross, former chief logistics officer in the British Army. Gen. Cross was deputy head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Iraq. He is also a visiting professor at Nottingham and Cranfield universities.

For the background, see this excerpt from the Alexandria primates meeting communiqué:

15. The Archbishop of Canterbury reported to us on the development of a scheme for a Pastoral Council, consistent with the proposal of the Windsor Continuation Group, and the Pastoral Visitors, whom he is appointing as a starting point for this idea, in line with the opinions expressed at the Lambeth Conference. The intention is that the Pastoral Visitors will be commissioned by him to conduct personal and face to face conversations in order to assist in the clearest discernment of the ways forward in any given situation of tension. We affirm the Archbishop of Canterbury in this initiative.

They were also commended by the Windsor Continuation Group, which said:

87. However, the need for such a ministry of reconciliation is urgent in the life of the Communion. The WCG welcomes the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury intends to move ahead with the appointment of a small number of “Pastoral Visitors” as proposed by the bishops at the Lambeth Conference (see above), and who could be called upon “in any dispute” or situation of tension between now and next May, as the proposal for a full Pastoral Forum is taken forward.

88. These Pastoral Visitors could be be:

  • Appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the limited period of twelve months in the first instance.
  • Drawn from senior leaders of the Communion, present or retired, or other notable individuals with specific skills in mediation and arbitration.
  • Available to the Archbishop to be commissioned as his emissary for specific work to assist in maintaining the highest degree of Communion possible in situations of disagreement or tension.
  • Available as well to the Primates of the Anglican Communion to act on their behalf in situations of disagreement or tension as go-betweens, arbitrators or conciliators, as deemed appropriate by those primates.
  • Available for appointment to particular positions or roles within the Anglican Communion which would be consistent with their work and the constitutional requirements or conventions of the body for which they are nominated.
  • Required to act in a manner consistent with the Constitutions and Canons of those Provinces with which they relate in the pursuance of any matter referred to them.

89. The WCG affirms the decision of the Archbishop that it is an integral element in their ministry that Pastoral Visitors would not have any authority to make dispositions or proposals for structural solutions to any situation, unless expressly authorised to do so by the Primate or other lawful authority of the particular Provinces with which they have been asked to work.

90. The scope of the activity that the Pastoral Visitors will be able to undertake will depend on the availability of funding. In all matters referred to the Pastoral Visitors, it will be helpful if the Provinces concerned would be willing to nominate a colleague who would be committed to working alongside them.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 2 March 2009 at 10:55am GMT | Comments (21) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Which bishops are against women bishops?

Last year, I made an analysis of the July vote which I titled Bishops give a clear lead, in which I said:

Episcopal opposition turned out to be almost entirely limited to a core group of only twelve bishops. These included five who later signed the 15 August letter (see below) and who also have votes in Synod, i.e. the Bishops of Blackburn, Chichester, Europe, Burnley and Beverley. There were also seven others: the Bishops of Birmingham, Exeter, London, Rochester, Winchester, Dover and, significantly, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

At the end of the debate, the Archbishop abstained, and the other eleven all voted against the substantive motion. The only other bishop who voted “No” was the Bishop of Durham, whose earlier motion to adjourn the debate had support from only 46% of the synod. He had consistently opposed every amendment throughout the debate.

So, how did these thirteen bishops vote in February 2009, and who else voted AGAINST this legislation?

An examination of the February voting record shows as follows:

  • The Archbishop of Canterbury voted in favour of both items.
  • The Bishops of Blackburn, Chichester, Europe, Burnley and Beverley voted against both items, EXCEPT that: Chichester did not record a vote on Item 508 (draft canon) and Europe voted FOR the draft canon.
  • London voted against both items. Birmingham and Winchester voted FOR both items. Exeter and Rochester recorded no vote on either item. Dover voted against the draft measure but for the the draft canon.
  • Durham voted for both items.

Thus altogether only seven bishops of the “July thirteen” voted against the draft measure, and only five voted against the draft canon.

However, there were other bishops who cast negative votes: Chester, Norwich and Wakefield voted against the draft measure, and Salisbury and Wakefield voted against the draft canon while Chester abstained in relation to the canon (Norwich voted for it).

In summary, the bishops gave a even clearer lead than in July.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 1 March 2009 at 5:13pm GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England