Sunday, 30 August 2009

The challenge of Islam

Updated Wednesday morning

Michael Nazir-Ali , who retires from his current post on Tuesday, has given his final interview, as Bishop of Rochester, to Martin Beckford at the Telegraph.

See Bishop of Rochester: Church of England must do more to counter twin threats of secularism and radical Islam.

However, he will be continuing to speak out on this topic, as evidenced by this announcement from a right-wing Washington DC think tank, the Ethics and Public Policy Center:

EVENT: Agressive Secularism, Multiculturalism, and the Islamist Threat
A Lecture with Bishop Michael James Nazir-Ali

As Jim Naughton notes at Episcopal Café in CANA and the coming campaign against Islam:

CANA is also announcing a new program on “the Church and Islam” led by Canon Julian Dobbs, formerly of the vigorously anti-Islamic Barnabas Fund.

See the CANA press release: CANA Announces the “Church and Islam Project” and the website The Church and Islam.

Update See also Bishop of Rochester to aid persecuted Christians in Islamic world by Ruth Gledhill.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 30 August 2009 at 6:30pm BST | Comments (35) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Church of England

Akinola's primacy reviewed

Updated Saturday 5 September

The Guardian in Lagos, Nigeria has published a lengthy article: Akinola’s Primacy: The Journey So Far by Gbenga Onayiga.

The article has already been removed from the Guardian website - this is apparently their normal practice, see comment below - but the full article remains available at Anglican Mainstream.

Another copy of the article is currently available here. (H/T titusonenine)

Consequent upon the retirement of the 2nd Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Revd J.A. Adetiloye in December 1999, Most Revd Peter J.Akinola was, by Divine providence, duly elected the 3rd Primate of the Church of Nigeria on Tuesday, February 22, 2000. Archbishop Akinola, who was called from the carpentry of wood and materials to the carpentry of the Church of God, eventually proved to be a master craftman, who visualises a design and then perfectly brings it to reality. Before his election, as Primate, Archbishop Akinola was the Dean, Church of Nigeria, the Archbishop of the Province III (Northern Dioceses) and Bishop of Abuja. He had by divine grace and enablement built the Diocese of Abuja literally from nothing to the most viable Diocese of the Church of Nigeria. Thus for those who knew him, it was little wonder that his emergence as the Primate would definitely take the Church of Nigeria to a very high pedestal…

The article concludes:

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but anyone who does not think that Akinola’s primacy is a resounding success will have an uphill task for a better comparison, as the Church has never had it so good. In fact, Archbishop Akinola has succeeded in putting the Primacy of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) at a level that will take a very long time to equal nationally, regionally and globally. By the foregone indications, he has immensely endowed the future generation of Anglicans in many unprecedented ways.

Perhaps the best we can do is pray for a worthy successor who will be humble enough to continue the good work already started by building on the foundation already laid. Such a successor will, of course, have to identify those areas of the vision that call for a general review, taking cognisance of today’s peculiarities and faithfully implementing them so as to take the church to the next level.

Gbenga Onayiga is the Diocesan Communicator, Anglican Diocese of Abuja.

Fr Jake has provided a helpful supplement to this article, see Akinola’s Primacy: The Rest of the Story. And a commenter there adds a link to the 2006 New York Times article which concludes with:

“Self-seeking, self-glory, that is not me,” he said. “No. Many people say I embarrass them with my humility.”

Anyone who criticizes him as power-seeking is simply trying to undermine his message, he said. “The more they demonize, the stronger the works of God,” he said.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 30 August 2009 at 2:00pm BST | Comments (32) | TrackBack
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Salvation's goal

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote an essay at Episcopal Life Online under the title Salvation’s goal: returning all to right relationship.

I always am delighted when people listen to what I say in a sermon or address. Sometimes I am surprised by what they hear.

In my opening address at General Convention, I spoke about the “great Western heresy” of individualism (see the full text here). There have been varied reactions from people who weren’t there, who heard or read an isolated comment without the context. Apparently I wasn’t clear!

Individualism (the understanding that the interests and independence of the individual necessarily trump the interests of others as well as principles of interdependence) is basically unbiblical and unchristian.

The spiritual journey, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is about holy living in community. When Jesus was asked to summarize the Torah, he said, “love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” That means our task is to be in relationship with God and with our neighbors. If salvation is understood only as “getting right with God” without considering “getting right with (all) our neighbors,” then we’ve got a heresy (an unorthodox belief) on our hands…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 30 August 2009 at 1:45pm BST | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 29 August 2009

August bank holiday opinions

The Guardian has two major interviews.
Bishop Gene Robinson I’m not the gay bishop – I’m just the bishop
Nick Gumbel interview transcript
The paper also carries related articles by the interviewers.
Aida Edemariam Gay US bishop attacks treatment of gay and lesbian clergy by Church of England
Adam Rutherford Nicky Gumbel: messiah or Machiavelli?

Jonathan Sacks writes in the Times Credo column on The good tensions between reason and revelation.

In the Church Times Giles Fraser asks Is salvation a bit like bankruptcy?

In The Guardian Andrew Brown writes about Fundamentalists in the police.

Earlier in the week H E Baber wrote in The Guardian Unverifiable God is still good. She says “We know the logical positivists were wrong. So what’s wrong with a God who makes no difference?”

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 29 August 2009 at 9:50am BST | Comments (32) | TrackBack
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Friday, 21 August 2009

MCU response to Williams and Wright

The Modern Churchpeople’s Union has published a critique of the responses of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Durham to the decision by the Episcopal Church of the USA (TEC), at its General Convention in July 2009, to abandon its earlier moratoria on same-sex blessings and openly homosexual bishops.

Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future: MCU’s reply to Drs Williams and Wright

Summary of the MCU paper

  • Both papers blame the American church for rejecting a consensus that homosexuality is immoral. There is no such consensus; there is only their dogma.
  • Even if there were a consensus, the institutions of the Anglican Communion have neither legal nor moral authority to impose it on provinces which dissent. Their claim to have this authority is an attempt to introduce a new authoritarianism.
  • The controversy about homosexuality can only be resolved by open, free debate about the ethics of homosexuality. These papers, instead of engaging in that debate, seek to suppress it.
  • A great deal of scholarly literature has recently argued for a revision of the traditional Christian disapproval of homosexuality. These papers deny knowledge of it, thus implying that their position is uninformed.
  • Both papers appeal to an idealising theory of the church in order to argue that it cannot ordain homosexuals or perform same-sex blessings. These theories neither describe what is happening in practice nor express characteristically Anglican views of the church.
  • Both papers deny that they seek to centralise power in international Anglican institutions, while at the same time proposing innovations designed to have exactly this effect.
  • Both papers look forward to an Anglican Covenant which would create a two-tier Anglicanism, such that only those committed to condemning homosexuality would have representative functions or be consulted on Communion-wide matters.

You can read the papers by the Archbishop and Bishop here:
Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future
Rowan’s Reflections: Unpacking the Archbishop’s Statement

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 21 August 2009 at 3:08pm BST | Comments (110) | TrackBack
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SPCK bookshops latest

Staff sacked from the SPCK chain of bookshops have won a “substantial payout” to quote their union USDAW.
Sacked bookshop staff win payout

Pat Ashcroft reports on this in today’s Church Times Sacked staff see cash at last.
The BBC has Victory for workers sacked by e-mail.
The Church Times blog has Former SPCK workers win tribunal case.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 21 August 2009 at 1:15pm BST | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 16 August 2009

mid-August opinions

Updated Monday evening

Catherine Fox writes in the Times Credo column that The Virgin Mary can test everyone’s assumptions.

Hillel Athias-Robles writes in The Guardian that Gay-friendly congregations can provide a nurturing spiritual community.

Also in The Guardian Andrew Brown writes in Heartbreaking progress that “the slow and painful progress of gay rights at the expense of traditional evangelical understandings can’t be stopped, because so many gay people are Christians”.

In his article Andrew Brown refers to a book review at Fulcrum. This review is well worth reading for its own sake, so here is a direct link.
Review of Andrew Marin, Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 12:12pm BST | Comments (66) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 15 August 2009

General Synod - questions and answers

A transcript of the questions asked at last month’s General Synod and the answers is now online.


Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 11:47am BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Friday, 14 August 2009

Alyson Barnett-Cowan moves to ACO

ACNS reports Appointment of new Director for Unity, Faith and Order announced.

The Secretary General, Canon Kenneth Kearon, has announced the appointment of Canon Dr Alyson Barnett-Cowan as Director for Unity, Faith and Order at the Anglican Communion Office. The post is a new one in the Communion, and arose after some restructuring following the election of Canon Gregory Cameron, formally Director of Ecumenical Affairs and Deputy Secretary General, as Bishop of St Asaph in the Church in Wales.

Canon Barnett-Cowan is currently Director of Faith, Worship and Ministry of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, a post she has held since 1995. She has wide experience of the life of the Anglican Communion, having been a member of the Lambeth Commission on Communion (2003-4) and of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (2000-2008). She is currently a consultant to the Anglican-Lutheran International Commission, and has been a member of the Plenary Commission, Faith and Order at the World Council of Churches…

The Anglican Journal has a report, Canadian woman priest appointed to prestigious Communion position.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 10:55am BST | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 13 August 2009

South Carolina bishop makes proposals

The Diocese of South Carolina is in the news.

Associated Press via The Sun News Meeting to mull future of SC Episcopal diocese

Living Church S.C. Bishop Proposes Diocese Withdraw from TEC Governing Bodies

The full text of Bishop Lawrence’s Address to the Clergy, August 13, 2009

A summary of this can be found at Episcopal Café, see Bishop Lawrence speaks.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 11:50pm BST | Comments (66) | TrackBack
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the narrow scope of the "religious exemption"

In considering the Equality Bill and its applicability to the Church of England and other religious organisations, it may be worth noting how narrow is the scope of the existing Clause 7(3) in the current Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003. Clause 7(3) is the provision that provides an exemption to parts of the regulations when employment is for purposes of an organised religion.

What I mean by this is not the issue of to whom the exemption may apply, which has recently become a item of controversy, but the separate issue of to which parts of the regulations the exemption applies.

The corresponding wording of the Equality Bill in Schedule 9 is designed to replicate exactly the existing regulations. Here is the relevant wording of the current Regulation 7 (emphasis added):

7. - (1) In relation to discrimination falling within Regulation 3 (discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation) -

(a) regulation 6(1)(a) or (c) does not apply to any employment;

(b) regulation 6(2)(b) or (c) does not apply to promotion or transfer to, or training for, any employment; and

(c) regulation 6(2)(d) does not apply to dismissal from any employment,

where paragraph (2) or (3) applies.

These are the only clauses of the regulations to which clause 7(3) applies.

All other parts of the regulations apply even when employment is for purposes of an organised religion. This includes all other clauses within Regulation 6, and all other regulations, e.g. Regulation 4, Discrimination by way of victimisation, and Regulation 5, Harassment on grounds of sexual orientation. In connection with the latter, Regulation 6, Clause 3 reads:

(3) It is unlawful for an employer, in relation to employment by him at an establishment in Great Britain, to subject to harassment a person whom he employs or who has applied to him for employment.

Regulation 5 defines the term “harassment” for the purposes of these regulations.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 7:14pm BST | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Bishop Peter Selby to speak at WOTS

Bishop Peter Selby, the retired Bishop of Worcester and a long term supporter of Inclusive Church, is to speak at the Inclusive Church residential conference, Word on the Street. This will be held Monday 5th - Wednesday 7th October 2009.

His paper will be called “WHEN THE WORD ON THE STREET IS ‘RESIST’ - reflections on the present moment.” His offer follows the publication of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s response to the Episcopal Church - “Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future”.

For more information on this conference, see the latest newsletter here. Booking form available here.

In addition to the keynote speakers, as announced previously, the workshop leaders are:

Christina Rees - Through the Biblical Door

Christina Rees is chair of Women and the Church (WATCH) and a trustee of IC. In this workshop she explores human liberation and fulfilment in the light of her biblical understanding and personal experience, which includes the experience of leadership in the present struggle for women to become bishops within the Church of England.

Rose Hudson-Wilkin – My life and Our Life

Rose Hudson-Wilkin is Vicar of Holy Trinity, Dalston and All Saints, Haggerston. She is a member of General Synod and has recently completed a 10 year term as Chair of the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns. Today Rose helps us explore how to combat racism in the parish and the wider life of the Church of England.

Giles Goddard – Route Maps and Road Blocks

Giles Goddard is Chair of Inclusive Church, newly appointed Priest in Charge of St John’s Church Waterloo and hon. canon of Southwark Cathedral. His book “Space for Grace, Creating Inclusive Parishes” was published by Canterbury Press in November 2008. Giles has been involved in trying to make the structures of the church welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people for many years and uses this workshop to ask “Dialogue – where now, in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion?”

Clare Herbert – Sharing Everyday Bread

Clare Herbert is national coordinator of Inclusive Church and NSM at St Martin-in-the-Fields. In this workshop she introduces Everyday Bread , module 1 of the Inclusive Church 5 step programme “Living Christianity” and discusses resources for use in the parish and/or local area to increase participants’ confidence in faith and competence in “doing theology together”

Lesley Bilinda – Ubuntu, we can be human only together

Lesley Bilinda is the author of two books “The Colour of Darkness” and “With What Remains” (Hodder and Stoughton) and has been involved with the Tutu Foundation UK since its launch in 2007. Formerly the manager of a community health programme in Rwanda she has spoken widely on the issues of forgiveness and reconciliation following the murder of Rwandan husband Charles, with many of their family members and friends, in the genocide of 1994. Lesley will use this workshop to describe the work of the Foundation and to help us consider the principles of Ubuntu in our own work for inclusion and peace.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 12:25pm BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Monday, 10 August 2009

Changing Attitude on the Bishop of Durham

Updated Tuesday

Changing Attitude has published the first of two articles concerning the Bishop of Durham’s comments on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Reflections.

The first article is titled The dangerous Bishop of Durham – part 1.

The Bishop of Durham’s paper claiming to ‘unpack’ the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Reflections is dangerous for the Church of England, for LGBT people and for the worldwide Anglican Communion. People in the Changing Attitude network, gay and straight, are furious at his abuse and dishonesty. The paper reveals a bishop with a megalomaniacal drive to impose his own solution unilaterally on the Communion.

Durham would like The Episcopal Church and partnered LGBT people evicted from the Communion right now. His stand is unprincipled. The bishop has partnered lesbian and gay clergy in his own diocese and knows full well that there are many partnered clergy in the Church of England. Instead of addressing what he says is the impossibility of the church recognising same-sex blessings, he diverts attention away from home and focuses his attack on The Episcopal Church…

Part 2 is now published: The dangerous Bishop of Durham – part 2

The Bishop of Durham claims to speak for the House of Bishops and to know the mind of the Archbishop of Canterbury better than the Archbishop knows himself. He takes it upon himself to clarify and expand upon what the Archbishop ‘really meant’.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 10:54pm BST | Comments (74) | TrackBack
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TEC and the CofE


Giles Goddard has written an article at Daily Episcopalian entitled TEC and C of E: the makings of a progressive alliance.

…The big question facing us all is how we respond to the suggestion of a two-track Communion. The feeling within the progressive groups of the Church of England is that such a thing should be resisted, and if the Covenant were to bring this about it, too, should be resisted. However, and this is a new thought for me, there may be another way. The Episcopal Church in Anaheim passed various resolutions which reaffirmed its inclusive polity and brought greater clarity about the way forward TEC may take. In that context, and having passed those resolutions, what is to stop TEC signing the Covenant? We are awaiting a further draft, but unless it contains radical strengthening of any judicial measures, it seems to me that TEC would be able to sign it, as a sign of its mutual commitment and in the context of its present policy of ensuring that it is open to LGBT people both single and in relationships. Result; a Communion strengthened and affirmed in its breadth and diversity and once again bearing a global witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And for the Church of England? We still have a long way to go. The measures to bring about full recognition of LGBT Christians are still a few years off, and as presently drafted the Covenant might delay those measures even further. Maybe the Church of England shouldn’t sign it. In which case, I suppose, we would be outside the main body while TEC would be inside. Now there’s a thought to conjure with…..

And there is more from Giles here in a report by Riazat Butt for the Guardian headlined Survey set to reveal number of gay clergy in Church of England.

…The Rev Canon Giles Goddard, rector of St Peter’s , Walworth, in London and chair of Inclusive Church, said: “It’s very early days but we need realistic information on how many LGBT clergy there are. It’s about demonstrating to people that we’re here and we need to be respected and recognised. We want to play our full role in the life of the church…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 11:07am BST | Comments (110) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 9 August 2009

weddings, baptisms, blessings

The Church of England announced that it welcomed couples who already had children to get married. Last week, the Bishop of Wakefield explained this in an article in the Church Times Why the Church needs to welcome new weddings.

Now the Church is turning its attention to extending an extra welcome to couples with children, following Archbishops’ Council’s Weddings Project research in Bradford and Buckinghamshire, which found that one in five couples who come to church for a wedding already have children, together or from a previous relationship.

Nick Nawrockyi had a letter to the editor in the same issue, questioning the logic.

The House of Bishops stated in 2005: “Sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively.” What the Church is now saying is that we can offer you liturgical provision celebrating the fact that you’ve had children before marriage, but only because you’re heterosexual…

Meanwhile, Colin Coward wrote Civil Partnerships and gay marriage in England – the church’s nemesis. He concludes:

I think the conservative groups holding the church to ransom on gay blessings and the ordination of women bishops are doing untold harm to mission and evangelism in this country. The arguments for a change in teaching are as strong as those in favour of the abolition of slavery, the ordination of women, the acceptance of divorce and contraception. Change in teaching and practice is driven by Gospel imperatives of love and justice.

The general population and the majority of CofE members have got there more quickly than the senior bishops. The bishops are being held to ransom by the demands of other Provinces in the Anglican Communion and conservative pressure groups in the UK and North America.

The recent interventions by the Archbishop of Canterbury and even more so by the Bishop of Durham have been disastrous for the Church of England, alienating it even more from the people inside and outside our churches. People yearn for spiritual resources, creative worship, integrity in leadership and truthfulness in preaching and teaching. They perceive the church to be prejudiced and dishonest.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 9 August 2009 at 8:06am BST | Comments (117) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 8 August 2009

opinions on other subjects

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that It’s the poor what gets the pain.

And Robin Gill writes No reason to fear the slippery slope.

Last week, Elaine Storkey wrote that The C of E’s theology on weapons is hidden under a bushel. See What does the Church stand for?

Martin Robbins writes in the Guardian that Christian and Islamist extremists in Nigeria are exporting dangerous ideas.

At The Times Roderick Strange writes about Feeding the five thousand, day after day, for ever.

Martin Beckford reports in the Telegraph that Gordon Brown insists Britain is still Christian country. Church Mouse is not impressed.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 8 August 2009 at 12:33pm BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Friday, 7 August 2009

are war claims justified?

Updated again Monday morning

News coverage of this statement by 13 groups has been interesting.

First was Ruth Gledhill with New push for same-sex marriage, gay ordination in Church of England on her blog and Liberal Anglicans declare war on conservatives in the Church in The TImes .

Then there was Liberals question Archbishop on gay response from Toby Cohen at Religious Intelligence.

This was followed by ‘Not in our name’ pro-gay groups by Pat Ashworth at the Church Times.

Now Jonathan Wynne-Jones on his blog at the Telegraph has written Americans planning to start a civil war in the Church of England.
The Episcopal Café points out in One plus one equals six hundred sixty six, that only one American is identified.
His recent blog posting here is essentially a republication of an earlier article from last November.

Sunday update
Geoffrey Hoare has this further blog entry: The Blogosphere.

Monday update
And Mark Harris has noted what Bishop Anderson of the American Anglican Council said, first here, and then over here. And he also draws attention to the poll Should TEC set up in the UK? at Religious Intelligence.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 8 August 2009 at 12:37am BST | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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more views on the Covenant

Andrew Brown wrote Covenant and Schism.

There may be some good reasons for the Church of England to sign up to the Covenant. But the bishop of Croydon’s are absurd.

Lionel Deimel wrote No Anglican Covenant. He has even produced a logo for this, in small and large sizes.

Mark Harris and the ACI have been holding a dialogue.
First, ACI wrote Communion And Hierarchy.

Mark Harris… makes a number of observations and comments, some more accurate and apposite than others. However, one observation/comment in particular stands out and deserves thoughtful consideration, namely his claim that the position about the nature and structure of the Anglican Communion articulated by the Archbishop of Canterbury implies a form of global governance and hierarchy that runs all the way down. Fr. Harris’ claim deserves careful consideration because it has become already the default position of progressive defenders of TEC’s recent actions, and will without doubt stand near the center of TEC’s defense of the actions of its General Convention…

Then Mark wrote Why direct diocesan sign-on now to the Covenant is a bad idea.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said… “the question is becoming more sharply defined of whether, if a province declines such an invitation, any elements within it will be free (granted the explicit provision that the Covenant does not purport to alter the Constitution or internal polity of any province) to adopt the Covenant as a sign of their wish to act in a certain level of mutuality with other parts of the Communion. It is important that there should be a clear answer to this question.”

The Anglican Consultative Council determined that it was asking Provinces to consider the Anglican Covenant. That, of course, is appropriate, for the ACC is an “organization of organizations,” that is, its members are Churches. So the ACC asks its members (the Provinces) to respond to the Covenant. At that point the ACC is clear - it is Provinces, not dioceses, that are being asked to sign-on…

The ACI felt it necessary to respond to this, with More On Communion And Hierarchy.
Mark Harris responded again with Followup on Communion and Hierarchy, my article “Why direct sign on..,” etc.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 7 August 2009 at 8:34pm BST | Comments (14) | TrackBack
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Who cares about the Anglican schism?

Cif belief has this as Question of the Week: Who cares about the Anglican schism?

Dr Rowan Williams’s characteristically long and ruminative piece on the Anglican schism, or, as he would have it, the futures of Anglicanism, leaves one quite obvious question unanswered: what difference will any of this make?

The responses come from:

Harriet Baber Churchgoers don’t care

Graham Kings Federation isn’t enough

Davis Mac-Iyalla The church must recognise us

and, today, my own contribution: The English care about their clergy

It makes no sense to split over same-sex unions, when we are in communion with churches that already sanction them. And we will not let our LGBT clergy be hounded out.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 7 August 2009 at 12:15pm BST | Comments (25) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 6 August 2009

Does the CofE offer any moral leadership?

Bruce Anderson wrote a column for the Independent earlier this week titled The great ethical questions that society chooses to ignore, in which he discusses assisted suicide and related topics. But he concludes with this passage (emphasis added):

The arguments are finely balanced. But that brings us to another problem. There is no argument. The level of moral debate in modern Britain is pathetically, contemptibly low. That is another undeniable sign of decadence, and we should all be ashamed. This applies a fortiori to the churches, which should be taking the lead. Instead, they appear to be suffering from a collapse of intellectual and theological self-confidence. That is especially true of the Church of England, which has ceased to offer any coherent moral leadership.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is said to be clever. The main evidence for this is his ability to dress up accessible thoughts in incomprehensible prose. Not many years ago, if a question such as attempted suicide had arisen, everyone would have wanted to know what the Archbishop thought. Now, no one is interested, and he is probably too busy anyway, writing another speech about homosexual clergy. He must be the most ineffective Archbishop of all time. Under his lack of leadership, his Church is giggling its way to oblivion.

Other sources of moral guidance must be found. The Roman Catholics have a difficulty: their version of the homosexual imbroglio is still causing difficulties and undermining their self-confidence. Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, is an impressive figure, though less good at publicising himself than his predecessor, Lord Jakobovits. If it had not been for a couple of millennia of disputes, Margaret Thatcher would have loved to make him Archbishop of Canterbury.

But even if the Anglicans were in better shape, the churchmen cannot do everything, while too many philosophers are solely concerned with the meaning of meaning. If one wants to find contemporary intellectuals who are capable of addressing the big ethical questions, the best source is the judiciary. We need a Royal Commission, chaired by the retiring senior law lord, Tom Bingham.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 6 August 2009 at 10:24pm BST | Comments (26) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

further reactions to Rowan

Updated Thursday morning

First, there is Tobias Haller. See Reading Rowan — Part the First and also Reading Rowan — Part the Second.

Next, thanks to Malcolm, there is Tim Chesterton. See Why This Particular Line in the Sand?

Then, there is Jeremy Pemberton’s Sermon preached last Sunday in Southwell Minster about the Archbishop’s Reflections on GC.

Maggi Dawn wrote Dying in Politeness, and then Nick Baines wrote Covenant and politeness. The latter includes:

I think it is unlikely that Maggi would find anyone who is not exhausted by all this – other than Chris Sugden (& co) who has made it his life’s work to break the Communion apart and, I think, gets energised by conflict. Yet the complexity she recognises is more complex still – hence the problem. Many of us would like to walk away from it, but that doesn’t solve anything for the world the Church is there to serve. It is the ecumenical element that most imposes itself on my own consciousness…

And finally (for the moment) Episcopal Café drew attention to the excellent article off the cuff: Homosexuality and the Anglican debate at The Immanent Frame.


(from the comments) Southwark Cathedral sermons:

Colin Slee on 19 July

Andrew Nunn on 2 August

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 5 August 2009 at 1:22pm BST | Comments (22) | TrackBack
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Equality Bill: LGCM briefing

LGCM has published a briefing document on the Equality Bill.

You can find the full text of this document over here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 5 August 2009 at 12:51pm BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation

letter from Sweden

A little while ago, the response of the Church of England to a letter from the Church of Sweden was published in connection with General Synod Questions.

This was also reported on in the Church Times and elsewhere.

The full text of the letter from Sweden to which the reply was being made was not available at that time. But it is now, and, with the approval of the Church of Sweden, is reproduced in full below the fold.


Uppsala, March 2009.

Dear friends within the Porvoo Communion,

Within the Porvoo Communion we are committed to keep one another informed about major issues that are going on within our churches. As you know, the Church of Sweden has, for a long time, been involved with questions pertaining to unions for homosexual partners. As of 1995 Church of Sweden blesses couples who are registered partners by a civil ceremony. The Porvoo Communion has discussed these issues for a long time and I think that we will have them on the agenda for a long time to come. The Swedish society is transforming rapidly and I want to let you know what is happening right now.

In many of our countries the situation and rights of same-sex couples are being discussed. Some churches have also worked with the theological perspectives. The Church of Sweden has, as you might know, decided to offer a ceremony of praying for and blessing same-sex couples who have registered partnership since 1995 and a liturgical order for it since 2007. Some material, translated into English, has been shared with you before.

The decisions of Church of Sweden are based on intense and thorough theological discussions and are of course decisions relating to the Swedish context. Church of Sweden wants to stress and support faithful and lasting relationships. However, we have no intention of propagating our position to others. Since the nineties the bishops have for theological reasons unanimously supported the right of homosexuals to live together and have also maintained that the church can support and pray for these couples.

The issue has been brought up at Porvoo meetings and consultations, and also led to discussions, committee work and decisions within the Lutheran World Federation.

The political majority in Sweden has for some years wanted to abolish the difference between the institution of registered partnership and that of marriage. The differences in actual legal consequences are minimal already but the terminology differs. In early 2008 the Central Board of the Church of Sweden took the stance to accept a law covering both forms of unions but wanting to uphold the terminological distinction. A minority wanted to use the same term. A majority of the board wanted the Church to continue to perform the legal part of weddings and also include registering same-sex unions.

The Swedish parliament is now in the process of deciding upon a new law that will include hetero- and homosexual couples. Only one party, the Christian Democratic Party with around 5% of the voters behind it, wants to uphold a difference between partnership and matrimony. We can foresee a decision on a new law this spring, which will go into effect already from 1st May. The law will include the right for churches to perform the legal office both for heterosexual and homosexual couples. There will be no obligation for any church, pastor or priest to act against their own convictions.

This autumn the General Synod of the Church of Sweden will decide how to act. There will be no possibility to register partnership any longer and there would then be no way for the church to bless same-sex couples after 1st May. The church would then only have a rite for heterosexual couples. The Central Board, the Bishops’ Conference and the Doctrinal Commission are therefore now preparing for the deliberations and decisions of the General Synod at the end of October this year.

There is a majority among the bishops, in the Doctrinal Commission and in the Central Board for expanding the concept of marriage to include same-sex couples. This probably also goes for the General Synod.

There has, however, been a discussion among the bishops about a compulsory civil marriage in Sweden, similar to that which is common in continental Europe. On that issue a majority of the bishops are for a compulsory civil marriage. Among the laity the opinion seems to be the opposite.

The most probable outcome is that the General Synod will decide that the church will continue to handle the legal part of the wedding, including same-sex couples, under the presupposition that no individual pastor/priest is forced to act against his or her conscience. Sweden also has a tradition of a civil ceremony to conduct a marriage ceremony that is handled by the legal community.

It is all the more probable as the church has a strict policy not to discriminate against homosexuals and the church has already taken the most important decision, that of accepting and blessing same-sex couples.

All our churches are self-governed. We cannot force decisions upon each other. However it is to me of utmost importance to keep you informed of what is going on and we are of course ready to inform you more if so wanted.

Yours in Christ

Anders Wejryd, Archbishop

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 5 August 2009 at 12:00pm BST | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

On the Archbishop’s Reflections

On the Archbishop’s Reflections

4th August 2009

A joint statement by 13 groups working together in the Church of England

We have read and reflected upon the Archbishop’s response to the Episcopal Church of the USA “Communion, Covenant and our Anglican Future” and have a number of questions about the consequences of his response. We question whether the voices of those within the Church of England who are or who walk alongside lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people have been adequately heard within the recent discussions. These discussions have gone on in various places around the Communion, and we believe it is important in this context that the LGBT faithful and those who work alongside us speak as well.

We wish to reaffirm our loyalty to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the scriptures, our commitment to the Anglican way, and our celebration of and thanksgiving for the tradition and life of the Church of England. Above all, our concern is for the mission of the Church in our world. We have no doubt that the Church of England is called to live out the Gospel values of love and justice in the whole of its life; these values are intrinsic to the calling of Jesus Christ to follow him and it is out of this context that we speak.

While we acknowledge the intention of the Archbishop of Canterbury to seek a way forward for the Anglican Communion, we have grave concerns about the implications of his reflections in “Covenant, Communion and the Anglican Future.” For example, we consider that references to same-sex unions as a “chosen life-style”, and assertions that those who have made such a commitment are analogous to “a heterosexual person living in a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond” to be inconsistent with the Archbishop’s previous statements on committed and faithful same sex relationships ( and are at odds with our reading of the message of the gospel. Whilst we applaud his assertion that we are called to “become the Church God wants us to be, for the better proclamation of the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ” we find no indication of how that can be achieved for those who are not heterosexual.

We acknowledge, once again, that there are and always have been many loyal, committed and faithful bishops, priests and deacons – properly selected and ordained - and many lay people who are LGBT or who work alongside LGBT people with delight and thanksgiving. We know ourselves to be part of the church of God in England and we work, together, to bring about the reign of God in this part of God’s creation. We pray earnestly that the Church of England will continue to select, train, ordain and deploy LGBT people and enable them to exercise their calling from God in the Church of England.

Together, we reaffirm our commitment to working for the full inclusion of all people at all levels of ministry. We will continue to work towards liturgical and sacramental recognition of the God-given love which enables many LGBT couples to thrive. We will seek to strengthen the bonds of affection which exist between those in all the Churches of the Anglican Communion who share our commitment to the full inclusion of all of God’s faithful. We will also continue to work closely with our brother and sister churches, especially those with whom we have mutual recognition of orders such as the Nordic churches.

We will work to ensure that if the Church of England is to sign up to the Covenant, it has potential for rapid progress on this and other issues. We find the notion of a “two track communion” flawed in the way that the Act of Synod is flawed, and we commit ourselves to continuing the effort to find ways forward through which those who disagree profoundly on this and on other issues can continue to celebrate their common membership of the Church of England and unity in Christ.

Signed by representatives of the following groups working together in the Church of England

Accepting Evangelicals

Changing Attitude

The Clergy Consultation



Evangelical Fellowship of Lesbian and Gay Anglicans

General Synod Human Sexuality Group

Group for the Rescinding of the Act of Synod

Inclusive Church

Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (Anglican Matters)

Modern Churchpeople’s Union


WATCH National Committee

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 4 August 2009 at 6:26pm BST | Comments (50) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | InclusiveChurch

Saturday, 1 August 2009

reactions to Rowan on Saturday

Here are a few more items of this kind.

Malcolm at Simple Massing Priest has written If you meet the Anglican Communion on the road . . .

But I am becoming ever more convinced that Dr. Williams’s sincere attempts to save the Anglican Communion will, if allowed to come to fruition, ultimately destroy it.

There are a number of problems with the document. I’ll try to hit the main ones point by point…

Lionel Deimel has written Reflecting on the Archbishop’s Reflection.

…Episcopalians need to take a very close look at CCAF to understand better their problematic relationship to the Anglican Communion and their possibly even more problematic Anglican future. They need to recognize the ways in which the thinking of the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican leaders is dysfunctional or mistaken…

Jonathan Hagger aka MadPriest has responded to what Andrew Brown wrote with Politeness and the Death of the Church of England.

The Grand Tufti’s response to the votes taken at TEC’s general convention understandably resulted in many of my American friends saying “Well, stuff them all. We’ll go it alone.” As my main fear in this ongoing battle is that the US church will adopt an isolationist policy and leave the rest of the world’s progressives high and dry, I called them to task on this. Their reply was to ask the question, “What are English progressives doing to stop the imposition of a covenant that, if accepted by the Church of England, would lead to its complete theological stagnation for centuries to come?”

At this point I was just assuming what Andrew Brown assumes - that it would never get passed Synod. But I thought I better check before making this point on my blog…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 1 August 2009 at 4:39pm BST | Comments (37) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion

recent RC activities on equality legislation

Three developments which though not directly related to the Church of England are relevant to the general topic of such legislation in the UK.

Third Sector reports in Charity takes gay adoption case onward to High Court that:

The Catholic adoption agency that was told by both the Charity Commission and the Charity Tribunal that it could not restrict its services to heterosexual parents will take its case to the High Court.

The tribunal granted permission for the appeal by Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) earlier this month (Third Sector Online, 8 July), but the charity was unsure at the time whether it would go ahead.

Mark Wiggin, chief executive of Catholic Care, told Third Sector the charity would pursue the appeal, but he was unable to give any details about how the case would be funded. Taking the case to the Charity Tribunal cost the charity about £75,000…

Last week in the Tablet the RC Archbishop of Cardiff, Peter Smith wrote about the Equality Bill. His article is titled Voice that must be heard.

English and Welsh Catholic bishops warn that equality legislation currently before Parliament poses a threat to religious freedom. Here the chairman of their Christian Responsibility and Citizenship Committee explains why it is so important to challenge the secular status quo.

And, the RC bishops responded formally to the UK Consultation on the European Commission Proposal for an Equal Treatment Directive. They issued a press notice, and published their response in full, as a PDF. In it they assert that:

…the Church is not seeking special provisions which exempt it from universally applicable requirements.

They do however argue that:

…in the Church’s view an additional sub-paragraph is needed confirming that differences of treatment shall not constitute discrimination where such differences are required to enable a religious body to function in accordance with its ethos. A provision of this nature would go a long way to ensure that competing rights are balanced, rather than religious sensibilities being ignored or becoming the subject of tendentious claims.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 1 August 2009 at 10:45am BST | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation

General Convention revisited

Jane Shaw wrote in last week’s Church Times about it. See Mission was behind the US vote.

MANY RESPONSES to last week’s decision by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention to allow (again) the possibility of gay bishops and same-sex blessings, have spoken of schism. Worse, some suggested that the Convention’s decisions were deliberately provocative.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As one of a number of inter­national visitors at the General Con­vention, I witnessed the care and thought with which laity, clergy, and bishops deliberated on these issues. As the dust settles, we can ask more soberly: why did the votes go the way they did?

Meanwhile, from Global South Anglican we have Statement by Province of Southeast Asia Standing Committee.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 1 August 2009 at 9:26am BST | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: ECUSA

opinions as August begins

Face to Faith in the Guardian has an article by Steve Parish, a Warrington vicar, on how Westminster Abbey’s corona is not the first ‘how the other half lives’ issue to have split the church.

Justin Lewis-Anthony has responded to the Cif belief Question of the week, Do we need saints? with an article titled Closer to God.

Malcolm Evans explained in last week’s Church Times why we are witnessing not discrimination against the Church, but a move towards equality with other faiths. Read Christianity is losing its privileges.

Also, Jill Segger writes that Faith gives no right to be offensive.

John Shepherd writes in The Times that Religions are different streams leading to a single sea.

Giles Fraser asks in this week’s Church Times Are you Anglican or C of E?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 1 August 2009 at 8:22am BST | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion