Saturday, 30 January 2010

late January opinion

Nicholas Sagovsky writes in The Guardian The City of God and the City and asks “Where are the reminders of the City of God in today’s market-driven developments?”

Andrew Brown, also in The Guardian, writes The historical Jesus and asks “Just what, if anything, does the earliest source tell us about Jesus as he appeared to non-Christians?”

Giles Fraser in the Church Times writes Go back to controls for casino banks.

Looking forward to Candlemas Geoffrey Rowell has a Credo column in the Times: Simeon’s triumphal cry heralds the coming of the light. “The feast of Candlemas is the encounter of human longing and brokenness with the healing love of God.”

John Packer, the bishop of Ripon and Leeds, writes in the Yorkshire Post Don’t stop the many migrants who have enriched Britain.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 30 January 2010 at 5:28pm GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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God's Call and Our Response

This is the title of a publication from the Chicago Consultation.

As the press release says:

Earlier this month, diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction were formally notified of the election of the Rev. Mary Glasspool as bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Los Angeles. Bishop-elect Glasspool is the second openly gay, partnered person to be elected bishop in the Anglican Communion.

The 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church affirmed, through Resolution D025, that God calls partnered gay and lesbian people to all orders of ministry in the Episcopal Church. The Chicago Consultation believes that this position is consistent with traditional Anglican polity and theology. To aid standing committees and bishops with their role in the consent process, we have published a collection of essays by eminent theologians across the Episcopal Church…

God’s Call and Our Response is available as a PDF file.

It is is edited by the Rev. Dr. Ruth A. Meyers, Hodges-Haynes Professor of Liturgics at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. It includes essays by:

  • The Rev. Canon Gary R. Hall, Ph.D, Christ Church Cranbrook, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
  • The Rev. Jay Emerson Johnson, Ph.D., Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California
  • The Rev. Dr. John Kater, Professor Emeritus of Ministry Development, Church Divinity School of the Pacific
  • Dr. Fredrica Harris Thompsett, Mary Wolfe Professor of Historical Theology, Episcopal Divinity School

More about the Chicago Consultation here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 30 January 2010 at 8:14am GMT | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Friday, 29 January 2010

News from Pittsburgh

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh has a press release:

Today Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph James accepted a Special Master’s report detailing the properties the Judge has previously ruled should be controlled by the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The Special Master compiled his inventory following the Judge’s order of October 6, 2009, in which he ruled that a 2005 Stipulation agreed to by former diocesan leaders prevented them from continuing to hold diocesan assets.

Today’s order contains provisions intended to make it clear to the financial institutions holding the assets that they should now take their instructions only from designated representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. The order, which takes effect immediately, also requires former diocesan leaders to provide ongoing cooperation to the Diocese to implement the provisions of the Order.

The Diocese plans to quickly make arrangements so that all parishes may again have access to their investment funds that were frozen by financial institutions during the legal proceedings.

A PDF of Judge James’ January 29th order and the public version of the Special Master’s report can be viewed by clicking here.

Lionel Deimel has additional information here, and more here. And even more here.

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Equality Bill: Lords revision days 4 and 5

Monday was revision day 4. Wednesday was day 5 and this was originally supposed to be the final day, but now an additional day has been scheduled for Tuesday 9 February (during General Synod, so not so convenient for bishops, perhaps.)

On Monday, following the previously reported debates on Clause 2, amendments to Clause 3 were also considered. Both the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Winchester took part in this debate.

The Hansard report of that starts here. Monday’s PDF is here.

Then, on day 5, the Hansard report of the debate starts here. The PDF file for the day is over here.

Official news report of Day 5.

The day began by consideration of the mandatory retirement age. The Bishop of Chester spoke on that.

Then, amendments relating to faith schools were considered. That part of the debate starts here.

And there was a debate on amendments relating to whether or not the public equality duty should be extended to cover Religion or Belief. That debates starts here.

The Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Liverpool both spoke in these debates. No votes were taken on anything.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 29 January 2010 at 10:44pm GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Equality Bill: church press coverage

Today’s Church Times has three mentions of the bill.

There is a full news report of Monday’s debate, written by me, Bishops win in Equality Bill fight.

There is a leader, titled Opportunities not yet equal.

And there is comment on the secular press coverage of it in the Press Column (subscriber only until next week) by Andrew Brown.

THE Government’s defeat in the Lords over the Equality Bill was covered on remarkably simple left/right lines: for the right-wing papers, the issue was simply one of the freedom of the Churches from the oppressions of Harriet Harman and the European Union; for the Left, it was just as simply the freedom of gays to be employed…

The Church of England Newspaper devoted its entire front page to the bill. The main news story is reproduced over here.

Catholic Herald Anna Arco Government suffers Equality Bill defeat

More to follow.

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Thursday, 28 January 2010

ACNA motion: amendment

The text of the House of Bishops amendment to the ACNA motion is now available:

Item 14 Anglican Church in North America (GS 1764A and 1764B)

The Bishop of Bristol (the Rt Revd Mike Hill) to move as an amendment:

Leave out everything after “That this Synod” and insert:

“(a) recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family;

(b) acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and

(c) invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011”.

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Blessed are the poor

As I sit typing this I can look out of the window over the city of Pune in the state of Maharashtra in India, about 100 miles south-east of Mumbai. The view comprises high-rise tower blocks, green lawns and trees, concrete and glass. It could be anywhere in the developed world (though the 30 C temperature and sun virtually overhead in a cloudless sky at noon confirm that it is not England!). But I know that just across the road, and out of sight from here, are the shacks, corrugated steel sheds, and tents that everywhere are intermingled with the lives and buildings of richer Indians and their western business partners. Pune today is a rapidly-growing city, the eighth largest in India, with half a dozen universities and growing hi-tech industrial, IT and commercial sectors.

It was in a very much smaller Pune, then spelt Poona, that in 1927 the Christa Seva Sangha made its first real home. Founded in 1922 by five Indians and an Englishman this ashram or religious community — whose name means the Community of the Servants of Christ — intended to form a life of common service and equal fellowship for Indians and Europeans. The Englishman was Jack Winslow and the community soon attracted some attention in both India and England, which enabled it to move to Poona after a few years. Winslow’s account of the Society can be read online. Originally dedicated to St Barnabas, the Society soon added St Francis as joint patron, a dedication that became more important as it adopted a formal rule and vows.

In 1927 the community was joined by a number of new recruits, one of whom was a young priest called Algy Robertson, and by 1930 there were around 30 members. Robertson was convinced that the Sangha should be a Franciscan community, but after a few years his health broke and he returned to England. Still a member of the Sangha, he became vicar of St Ives, a dozen miles north-west of Cambridge, and the vicarage at St Ives became home to several Brothers of the community as well as a refuge for visitors from Poona. There are still those in St Ives (where I have lived and worshipped for twenty years or so) who can recall the Brothers living in the vicarage and cycling around the town and to nearby villlages. In 1936, however, Robertson’s group joined with another Franciscan community in England to form the Society of St Francis, with a rule largely written by Robertson and based on the principles of the Sangha in Poona. In 1937 Robertson resigned from St Ives to move to the new community at Hilfield, near Cerne Abbas in Dorset, where he was based for the rest of his life.

The Franciscan ideal of embracing poverty and the service of the poor is one that comes swiftly to mind in the streets of modern Pune, just as it must have done in the very different Poona of the 1920s and 30s, to Francis in the thirteenth century, and just as it must have done to an itinerant preacher from Nazareth two thousand years ago. The poor are still with us, and the priority of working for the alleviation of hunger, homelessness, disease and injustice is as necessary now as it was then.

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Thursday, 28 January 2010 at 6:59am GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Monday, 25 January 2010

Equality Bill: voting results on Clause 2

Updated twice Tuesday morning

All of the amendments proposed by Baroness O’Cathain and others were agreed today.

See here for what each amendment says.

Amendment 98 216-178 agreed by 38 votes

Amendment 99 agreed

Amendment 99A 174-195 disagreed by 21 votes (government amendment)

Amendment 100 177- 172 agreed by 5 votes

More details tomorrow. Eight bishops participated in these votes.

Updates

The Hansard record of the debate on the amendments of Baroness O’Cathain listed above starts here. The PDF version is over here.

Slightly earlier, the amendments of Lord Alli had been debated. That record begins here.

Official news report

Voting details:
Amendment 98
Amendment 99 - no division
Amendment 99A
Amendment 100

Press reports on all this are sometimes inaccurate on the voting figures. But here they are:

Telegraph Equalities Bill: Church leaders defeat Government over gay staff

BBC Government defeated three times over church gay plan

Reuters Government loses its Equality Bill faith proposals

Daily Mail Lords defeat for Harman over forcing churches to hire gays

Independent Peers defeat Government on church gay ban

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 25 January 2010 at 11:37pm GMT | Comments (45) | TrackBack
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Inclusive Church Lent Course

Inclusive Church has a new course for new and established Christians: Living Christianity - Everyday Bread.

We are pleased to launch LIVING CHRISTIANITY, a five part programme (ideal for a Lent Course) that takes the shape of the Eucharist to introduce Christian faith in the Inclusive tradition. “Living Christianity is a course to nurture new Christians, to refresh old ones and to catch up with people asking questions about the Christian faith. It has been written by leaders in parish ministry in the Church of England who are concerned to celebrate the breadth and diversity of traditional Anglicanism.”

Available as a book or Digital Download from stores.lulu.com/inclusivechurch.

Participants’ notes cost £3.99 each, and the Leaders’ notes are £9.99 (or £5.99 to download in .pdf format.

There is an extract from one of the sessions on the web page.

The latest Inclusive Church newsletter is available here.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 25 January 2010 at 2:10pm GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Equality Bill: media coverage

BBC Churches fear Equality Bill will conflict with faith

Guardian Afua Hirsch Equality bill: churches and campaigners demand clarity on religion’s exemption

Ekklesia Religion on the agenda as Parliament debates Equality Bill and Equality Bill addresses discrimination against Christians

Daily Mail Harriet Harman’s law ‘will force churches to hire gays’

Telegraph Half of older workers want to keep jobs past retirement age (this is not a story about bishops)

From the blogs:

Cranmer supports the amendments about Civil Partnerships, see Equality Bill: European Commission v the Church of Jesus Christ

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Sunday, 24 January 2010

Equality Bill: Clause 3

The bishops have not expressed any interest in Clause 3, the one which deals with discrimination on the ground of Religion or Belief. Here’s how it reads at present:

Other requirements relating to religion or belief

3. A person (A) with an ethos based on religion or belief does not contravene a provision mentioned in paragraph 1(2) by applying in relation to work a requirement to be of a particular religion or belief if A shows that, having regard to that ethos and to the nature or context of the work—
(a) it is an occupational requirement,
(b) the application of the requirement is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, and
(c) the person to whom A applies the requirement does not meet it (or A has reasonable grounds for not being satisfied that the person meets it).

There are five amendments listed.

Amendment 101ZA Baroness Turner of Camden

in para (a) leave out “an” and insert “a genuine”

Amendment 101A Baroness Turner of Camden

at end insert—
“(d) A is not operating as a public authority, on behalf of a public authority or operating in relation to a contract with public authorities.”

Amendment 101B Lord Lester of Herne Hill

at end insert—
“Paragraph 3 does not apply when A is operating—
(a) on behalf of a public authority, and
(b) under the terms of contract between the organisation and the public authority.”

Amendment 101C Baroness Turner of Camden

at end insert—
“The exception under paragraph 3 shall not be used to justify discrimination on any other protected ground.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 24 January 2010 at 11:52pm GMT | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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Churches panic over Equality Bill

Comment is free: belief has today published an article written by me, see

Churches panic over equality bill.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 24 January 2010 at 1:10pm GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Equality Bill: the purposes paragraph

The bishops say in their press release that they are supporting three specific amendments to Schedule 9 Clause 2 of the Equality Bill. Here is the detail of the third one. As before, please remember two things:

- this clause does not deal with discrimination on the grounds of Religion or Belief, that is covered in Clause 3.

- this clause deals with a variety of other requirements as listed in paragraph 4.

Amendment 100 is sponsored by Baroness O’Cathain, Lord Anderson of Swansea, the Lord Bishop of Winchester, and Baroness Butler-Sloss.

This removes paragraph 8 entirely, thus:

(8) Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion only if the employment wholly or mainly involves— (a) leading or assisting in the observance of liturgical or ritualistic practices of the religion, or (b) promoting or explaining the doctrine of the religion (whether to followers of the religion or to others).

There is no such wording in existing legislation.

Before that amendment is considered, Amendment 99A will be moved by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, on behalf of the government. This amendment inserts the following wording at the end of paragraph 6, leaving paragraph 8 unchanged. However, Baroness Royall has stated that if Amendment 99A is passed, the government will accept Amendment 100.

”( ) Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion only if—
(a) the employment is as a minister of religion, or
(b) the employment is in another post that exists (or, where the post has not previously been filled, that would exist) to promote or represent the religion or to explain the doctrines of the religion (whether to followers of the religion or to others).”

The government says that this is only a clarification of the existing law, and does not constitute any change. It refers to the statement made by Lord Sainsbury of Turville in the House of Lords in 2003:

“When drafting Regulation 7(3), we had in mind a very narrow range of employment: ministers of religion, plus a small number of posts outside the clergy, including those who exist to promote and represent religion.” [Official Report, House of Lords, 17 June 2003; Vol. 649, c. 779.]

The bishops say “the current limited exemptions for organised religions are balanced and should not be further restricted.”

What they ask is for candidates for “a small number of lay posts”, or more exactly “certain senior lay posts that involve promoting and representing the religion” to be required “to demonstrate an ability to live a life consistent with the ethos of the religion”.

There are two other amendments being proposed to Clause 2.

In Amendment 97E Lord Alli proposes to delete paragraph (4f) thus

(f) a requirement related to sexual orientation.

In Amendment 100A Baroness Turner of Camden proposes to insert three words in paragraph 8, thus:

-(8) Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion only if the purpose of the employment wholly or mainly involves etc.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 24 January 2010 at 7:36am GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 23 January 2010

Equality Bill: the proportionality test

The bishops say in their press release that they are supporting three specific amendments to Schedule 9 Clause 2 of the Equality Bill. Here is the detail of the first two. Please remember two things:

- this clause does not deal with discrimination on the grounds of Religion or Belief, that is covered in Clause 3.

- this clause deals with a variety of other requirements as listed in paragraph 4.

Amendments 98 and 99 are sponsored by Baroness O’Cathain, Lord Anderson of Swansea, the Lord Bishop of Winchester, and Baroness Butler-Sloss.

These amendments have the following effect:

(5) The application of a requirement engages the compliance principle if the application is a proportionate means of complying requirement is applied so as to comply with the doctrines of the religion.

(6) The application of a requirement engages the non-conflict principle if, because of the nature or context of the employment, the application is a proportionate means of avoiding conflict requirement is applied so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers.

The wording that they seek to delete was not in Clause 7 of the 2003 Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, nor was it in the The Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005 amending Clause 19 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, both of which are to be replaced by this Schedule.

The proportionality principle is however a requirement of the European Employment Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000.

Article 4

Occupational requirements

1. Notwithstanding Article 2(1) and (2), Member States may provide that a difference of treatment which is based on a characteristic related to any of the grounds referred to in Article 1 shall not constitute discrimination where, by reason of the nature of the particular occupational activities concerned or of the context in which they are carried out, such a characteristic constitutes a genuine and determining occupational requirement, provided that the objective is legitimate and the requirement is proportionate.

2. Member States may maintain national legislation in force at the date of adoption of this Directive or provide for future legislation incorporating national practices existing at the date of adoption of this Directive pursuant to which, in the case of occupational activities within churches and other public or private organisations the ethos of which is based on religion or belief, a difference of treatment based on a person’s religion or belief shall not constitute discrimination where, by reason of the nature of these activities or of the context in which they are carried out, a person’s religion or belief constitute a genuine, legitimate and justified occupational requirement, having regard to the organisation’s ethos. This difference of treatment shall be implemented taking account of Member States’ constitutional provisions and principles, as well as the general principles of Community law, and should not justify discrimination on another ground.

Provided that its provisions are otherwise complied with, this Directive shall thus not prejudice the right of churches and other public or private organisations, the ethos of which is based on religion or belief, acting in conformity with national constitutions and laws, to require individuals working for them to act in good faith and with loyalty to the organisation’s ethos.

Or in other words, the Directive contains a strict test which must be satisfied if a difference of treatment is to be considered non-discriminatory: there must be a genuine and determining occupational requirement, the objective must be legitimate and the requirement proportionate. No elements of this test appear in Regulation 7(3).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 9:56pm GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Opinion this week

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times Repent of a theology of blame

Harriet Baber has a Face to Faith article in The Guardian Evangelical US megachurches like Saddleback are market-driven, with transcendence not on the menu

Ruth Gledhill writes in the Times about preachers Spreading the word of preaching, from the transcendent to the bumbling
and about cathedrals in MPs want crumbling cathedrals to get Government cash

Alan Wilson wrote on Cif belief about The media’s trouble with religion

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 2:53pm GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Equality Bill: statement from three bishops

Church of England press release received at 11 am Saturday

Equality Bill: ‘Churches must not face further restrictions’

23 January 2010

A statement issued on behalf of the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter and Chair of the Churches Legislation Advisory Service and the Rt Revd Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, as bishops who have taken a keen interest in the progression of the Bill:

“This Monday, as Peers meet to consider the Government’s Equality Bill, they will be asked to vote on an issue of great importance to Christians and all people of faith. At stake is how we, as a liberal democracy based on Christian values, strike the right balance between the rights and responsibilities of different groups to be protected from harassment and unfair discrimination and the rights of churches and religious organisations to appoint and employ people consistently with their guiding doctrine and ethos.

“The Christian Churches, alongside many other faiths, support the Equality Bill’s wider aims in promoting fairness in society and improving redress for those who have suffered unjust treatment.

“However, unless the present drafting of the Bill is changed, churches and other faiths will find themselves more vulnerable to legal challenge than under the current law. When regulations on employment discrimination were passed as recently as 2003, churches and other faiths were granted certain limited exemptions by parliament to be used when recruiting ministers of religion or others to a small number of lay posts. These enabled religious organisations to apply requirements that candidates for certain senior lay posts that involve promoting and representing the religion are able to demonstrate an ability to live a life consistent with the ethos of the religion, as well as sharing the faith.

“The government have said that they share our view - that the current limited exemptions for organised religions are balanced and should not be further restricted. Yet they are proposing to modify them. They have produced no convincing case for change. They have now offered to amend their original proposals in the Bill but instead of reverting to the status quo have produced words which will still create difficulties for churches and religious groups. This despite our raising the problem many months ago and offering various ways of resolving the issue.

“We must conclude therefore that the only way to maintain the status quo in exemptions for religious organisations is for Peers to support amendments 98, 99 and 100 on Monday, tabled by Baroness O’Cathain and the Bishop of Winchester, over and above the Governnment’s compromise amendment 99A.”

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Friday, 22 January 2010

Equality Bill: Friday update

There are further reports about this today:

In the Church Times there is a report by me, subscriber-only until next Friday, headlined Change fails to silence critics. A longer account by me is below.

In the Catholic Herald Simon Caldwell has a report headlined Equality Bill still a threat, say bishops.

On the other hand, the National Secular Society has a press release, NSS battles to minimise religious opt outs in Equality Bill.

A new Marshalled List of Amendments has been published. I will review the changes in a later post.

What follows is my full account of events of the past week.

The Government’s efforts to clarify the exemption for churches in the Equality Bill have not been welcomed by either the Archbishops’ Council or the Roman Catholic bishops conference. The Bill is due to complete its Committee stage in the House of Lords next week.

The new amendment wording is:
—————————————————————-
Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion only if—
(a) the employment is as a minister of religion, or
(b) the employment is in another post that exists (or, where the post has not previously been filled, that would exist) to promote or represent the religion or to explain the doctrines of the religion (whether to followers of the religion or to others).
——————————————————————-

When the amendment text was published last Thursday, a spokesman for the Archbishops’ Council said “The Government amendment reflects a recognition that the concerns expressed all along by the churches have been well founded. But it still falls short of what we have been arguing for and leaves too much for the courts and tribunals to interpret. That is why we shall continue to support the deletion of clause 2 (8) as the surest way of preserving the status quo for churches and other faiths.”

Asked to clarify this on Monday, Mr William Fittall, Secretary-General of the Archbishops’ Council, confirmed that the church would prefer that the existing wording should simply be deleted. Consultations had been held with Government since last June, but the new amendment was not satisfactory.

On Friday, Mr Richard Kornicki of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales had said “The Government amendment goes some way to meeting our needs - particularly in putting the position of Ministers of religion beyond doubt, and identifying ‘promote’, ‘represent’ or ‘explain the doctrine’ as functions to be covered. However, the phrase ‘exists to’ might, according to legal advice, be interpreted narrowly by courts as meaning the whole purpose, which would get us straight back into the problems caused by the ‘wholly or mainly’ formulation”. He believed that deletion was “the only sure way of guaranteeing that the Bill neither extends nor narrows the scope of the current legal provision.”

A spokesman for the Government Equalities Office insisted on Tuesday that the new definition made no change at all in the current law. He pointed out that the wording reflected very closely what Lord Sainsbury had said in the House of Lords in June 2003 and putting this wording on the face of the bill would give greater clarity. Speaking for the Government at that time, Lord Sainsbury had said: “When drafting Regulation 7(3), we had in mind a very narrow range of employment: ministers of religion, plus a small number of posts outside the clergy, including those who exist to promote and represent religion.”

These amendments to Schedule 9 Clause 2 of the Bill will be debated in the House of Lords next Monday.

Another amendment proposed by the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Michael Scott-Joynt, Baroness Butler-Sloss, and others, would remove the word “proportionate” from the clause. This word, which did not appear in the corresponding 2003 regulations, was included by the Government to clarify the requirement of the European Equal Treatment Directive 2000 for a proportionality test to apply. The recent “reasoned opinion” sent to the UK government by the European Commission argues that “exceptions to the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for religious employers are broader than that permitted by the directive”.

An attempt will also be made to amend Clause 3 of Schedule 9, which deals with employment discrimination on grounds of Religion or Belief. This exemption applies to any employer “with an ethos based on religion or belief”. The amendments, proposed by Lord Lester and by Baroness Turner of Camden, seek to remove this freedom when an employer is “operating on behalf of a public authority”.

The Government has accepted the need for two amendments, proposed by the Bishop of Winchester and by Baroness Gould of Potter Newton, concerning the religious marriage of somebody who has undergone gender reassignment. These ensure that clergy of any denomination with conscientious objections will, as now, not be obliged to perform such marriages. The House of Lords approved them on Tuesday.

Back on the 13 January, the Bishop of Winchester also spoke in the debate last Tuesday about the issue of harassment. This was in the context of an amendment dealing with Clause 14: Combined discrimination: dual characteristics. The Bishop’s remarks can be found here.

Ruth Gledhill blogged about this yesterday, in Bishop of Winchester: Equality Bill ‘irrational and ignorant’. I added a comment there as follows:

The Bishop of Winchester’s remarks about harassment are interesting, and - as Lord Lester said - this topic will come up in its own right later, but the issue is entirely separate from the Schedule 9 clauses that are upsetting CARE, Christian Institute, and CCFON so mightily, and in my opinion unjustifiably.

It is incorrect to suggest that the bishop described the Equality Bill per se as “irrational and ignorant”.

When he said “It is an irrational and ignorant way of behaving by authorities and others” he was not referring to the wording of the bill, but to the behaviours by local authorities that he had enumerated in the previous paragraph. He said that he thought the proposed wording of the bill “may exacerbate that set of problems”.

It is a rare occasion indeed when I defend the Bishop of Winchester…

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Church of England statistics

updated Friday evening and Saturday morning to include more press reports

The Church of England has released provisional attendance figures for 2008: Provisional attendance figures for 2008.

There is a press release summarising and commenting on the figures. The full text of the press release is reproduced below the fold.

The think-tank Ekklesia has published its views on the figures: Church of England sees greater decline in church attendance.
Andrew Brown writes in his blog in The Guardian Church statistics: not many dead.
Riazat Butt writes in The Guardian Church of England attendance falls for fifth year in row.
Andy Bloxham and Martin Beckford in the Telegraph write Average age of churchgoers now 61, Church of England report finds.
Ruth Gledhill writes in the Times Church of England congregations fall again, and half are pensioners.

Also published today is research surveying of the diversity of Church of England congregations: Celebrating Diversity in the Church of England.

Provisional attendance figures for 2008 released: attending a local CofE church is part of a typical week for 1.1 million people
22 January 2010


The latest local church attendance figures from the Church of England show that around 1.7 million people continue to attend Church of England services each month, and around 1.1 million attend church as part of a typical week – and not just on a Sunday.

Regular attendance

The total number of adults, children and young people regularly attending local churches has dropped two per cent overall in the six years since 2002, with the 2008 figures showing a drop of one per cent against the number attending on an average week in 2007. The number of under 16s increased by three per cent over the year, returning to two per cent below their 2002 level.

People continue to attend church on other days than Sunday. For every 50 people attending church or cathedrals on a typical Sunday, another 10 attend during the week and an extra 37 in total over a month.

The Revd Lynda Barley, the Church of England’s Head of Research and Statistics, comments: “The figures released today, covering regular local church attendees, give an important but inevitably partial snapshot of today’s Church. They paint a mixed picture for 2008. Alongside some encouraging signs, such as the number of under 16s in church increasing and growth in church attendance in 14 out of 44 dioceses, are some disappointments, with further small declines in traditional attendance measures. Excluded from these figures are Fresh Expressions, chapel services in hospitals, education and other establishments, some international congregations and the projects funded by the Youth Evangelism Fund.

“It is important to see these trends in the context of wider changes in a society where fewer people are willing to join and take part in membership organizations. Political parties have seen their memberships fall by around 40 per cent in recent years. Even in a General Election year, almost double the number of members of the three main political parties taken together will attend a Church of England parish church on Sunday.”

  • In summary: Average weekly attendance was down slightly at 1,145,000 (2007: 1,160,000; 2006: 1,163,000), as was average Sunday attendance at 960,000 (2007: 978,000; 2006: 983,000) and average monthly attendance at 1,667,000 (2007: 1,690,000; 2006: 1,694,000). The average number of children and young people at services each week rose by three per cent to 225,000 (2207: 219,000; 2006: 228,000). The number of children and young people attending on a monthly basis also grew three per cent to 438,000 (2007: 424,000; 2006: 442,000).

Marking life events

The total number of baptisms remained stable, with increases in the number of ‘child’ and ‘adult’ baptisms (those aged one year and older). The number of ‘infant’ baptisms (under one year old) fell by two per cent. The number of Thanksgivings for the birth of a child fell by five per cent.

The number of marriages taking place in parish churches fell by three per cent to 53,100 (significant changes to marriage law which widened the number of churches where couples are eligible to be married did not take effect until October 2008 and their effect is not, therefore, fully reflected in these figures). Blessings of marriages following a civil ceremony fell (by three per cent, to 4,400). The total number of weddings in the UK in 2008 has not yet been published, although numbers have been falling by around three per cent each year in recent years.

The total number of funerals conducted by the Church of England also dropped (by three per cent, to 188,100), particularly those taking place in crematoria (by five per cent, to 93,600); this is against a backdrop of a falling UK mortality rate (the number of deaths fell by 1.4 per cent between 2007 and 2008).

More than nine in ten Church of England parish churches completed attendance counts, representing the highest participation rate ever. These have been verified across all 16,000 Church of England churches by the Research and Statistics Department of the Archbishops’ Council. The provisional figures can be seen on the web at: www.cofe.anglican.org/info/statistics/2008provisionalattendance.pdf.

Celebrating festivals

The trend detected in recent years whereby attendance dips when Christmas Day falls on a weekday continued in 2008, with attendance over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day remaining similar to that in 2007. Attendances and those receiving Communion on Easter Sunday fell by around four per cent against 2007.

  • In summary: Attendance at Church of England local church services on Christmas Eve/Day 2008 remained broadly similar at 2,647,200 (2007: 2,656,800; 2006: 2,994,100). These figures do not include the large number attending at other services related to Christmas ,for example, carol services during Advent. Easter observance dropped back by three per cent to 1,415,800 (2007: 1,469,000; 2006: 1,484,700).

The number of adults on the electoral roll of local parish churches remained stable, as expected following the major revision reported in 2007’s statistics. The historic ‘usual Sunday attendance’ measure (see note below for definition) fell three per cent to 845,000 (2007: 868,000; 2006: 871,000).

Separate research published today surveying the diversity of Church of England congregations, called Celebrating Diversity in the Church of England, is available at: www.cofe.anglican.org/about/gensynod/agendas/feb2010/gsmisc/gsmisc938.doc.

Notes

* Fresh Expressions is a movement led by the Church of England and the Methodist Church to nurture contemporary forms of church life alongside traditional ones (www.freshexpressions.org.uk). Fresh Expressions are being formed in a variety of ways, from new congregations targeting particular groups such as Goths, to café churches and skateboard parks.

** The Youth Evangelism Fund is supported by the Archbishops’ Council (50 per cent), the Henry Smith Charity, the Laing Family Trusts, and the Jerusalem Trust. It aims to enable more young people to connect with the Gospel and develop faith within the life of the Church by allowing young people to share faith with their peers in ways that make sense to them. Each year for five years, eight to 10 dioceses are receiving YEF support to resource new ideas for mission.

Membership of the three main political parties has fallen from a total of c.781,000 in 2000, to c.476,000 in 2008. Taken from House of Commons Library research paper, August 2009: http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/briefings/snsg-05125.pdf.

Definition of terms

Average Sunday attendance: the average number of attendees at Sunday church services, typically over a four-week period in October.

Average weekly attendance: the average number of attendees at church services throughout the week, typically over a four-week period in October.

Each of the above measures is provided separately for adults and children/young people aged under 16 years. The highest and lowest counts over the four-week period are calculated as follows:

Highest Sunday/weekly attendance: the sum of the highest Sunday (weekly) attendances over the four-week period. The ‘highest’ figures on the accompanying tables are proxies (in fact under-estimates) for monthly attendance levels.

Lowest Sunday/weekly attendance: the sum of the lowest Sunday (weekly) attendances over the four-week period.

Attendance figures are only included where local churches held at least one church-based service (which included adult presence) during the week under examination.

The traditional usual Sunday attendance (uSa) measure is interpreted differently across the dioceses and is therefore not regarded as statistically accurate as a comparison.

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General Synod agenda - more press reports

The Church Times reports on the agenda for February, Margaret Duggan writes Synod’s ‘full agenda’ to include pensions, Fresh Expressions, and religion on TV.

And, in a separate article, Pat Ashworth writes Synod to debate the ACNA. More details of that motion with full copies of the two background papers (and our main discussion of it) can be found here.

The BBC reported Anglican dissidents put back decision on Vatican offer.

In connection with the preceding item, the Church TImes also has an article by Bill Bowder on a meeting earlier this week at Westminster Abbey: Rome not ‘escape hatch’ Abbey conference hears.

And the Carlisle-based News and Star reports Retired Cumbrian producer attacks BBC over religious coverage.

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Thursday, 21 January 2010

Equality Bill: what others are saying

There has been relatively little coverage of the religion aspects of this in the media until recently. A few items:

Telegraph Martin Beckford today has Bishop of Winchester warns Christians may have to give up public sector jobs because of secular agenda and last week had Equality Bill ‘dangerously’ trying to force religious belief behind closed doors, bishops warn.

The Sunday Telegraph also had a report by Patrick Hennessy headlined Catholic ban on women priests ‘illegal under Harriet Harman equality bill’ which earned a mention in the Church Times press column by Andrew Brown thus:

Full marks to CARE, the Evangelical pressure group, for getting the most completely bogus story of the week into The Sunday Telegraph, via its political editor, who solemnly informed the readers that Harriet Harman’s Equality Bill would force the Roman Catholic Church to abandon an all-male priesthood.

The Church of England Newspaper last week had UK promises amendments to controversial Equality Bill. I had a report in the Church Times last week which is subscriber-only until tomorrow, Move to erase doubts over Equality Bill and which takes a rather different view.

Today, the Daily Mail has Video urging protest against Equality Bill that ‘infringes Christian freedom’ to be screened in churches.

Press releases from conservative organisations:

On the other hand:

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Anglican Communion Covenant - CofE consideration

General Synod members have been sent the following paper outlining how the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant will be considered for adoption by the Church of England.

GS MISC 934

THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION COVENANT

1. I received on 18 December from the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion the final text of the Anglican Communion Covenant, approved for distribution that day by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, for formal consideration for adoption. The full copy of the text is available at http://www.anglicancommunion.org/commission/covenant/final/text.cfm.

2. The approval of the text by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion comes at the end of a long process flowing from the publication of the report of the Lambeth Commission - The Windsor Report - in October 2004. Synod has subsequently discussed governance issues in the Anglican Communion and the possibility of the draft Covenant in February 2005, July 2007, February 2008, July 2008 and February 2009.

3. GS 1716, which was prepared for last February’s debate, gave some indication of the synodical process which would need to be undertaken to adopt the Covenant, though it made clear that certain matters could not be resolved until the final text of the Covenant was available.

4. What happens now is that the Faith and Order Advisory Group, which has led the work on earlier Church of England responses to drafts of the Covenant, will consider the text and offer an assessment which will be available to the House of Bishops when it next meets in May. In addition the Legal Office will consider whether the text means that the Synod’s process of adoption will need to follow the Article 7 and or 8 procedures.

5. Once the House of Bishops is satisfied that the Covenant should be commended to the Synod for adoption it will be for the Business Committee to decide when to schedule the initial debate. As noted in GS 1716 it is likely that, from receiving the final text the Church of England will need “at least 18 months to 2 years to come to a final decision.”

WILLIAM FITTALL
12 January 2010

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Equality Bill: Lords revision day 3

The Hansard record of day three can be found here as a PDF, or starts here in html.
The official news report of the day is here.

There was an interesting debate on an amendment proposed by Lord Alton of Liverpool. This starts here.

What the Bishop of Winchester had to say can be found here.

The article in The Times yesterday by Shami Chakrabarti referred to in the debate, can be found here.

The Bishop of Winchester’s amendment dealing with Gender Reassignment and the Marriage Act was accepted without any difficulty by the Government. The debate about that starts here (the Bishop of Southwark stood in as the Bishop of Winchester had to leave before this was reached).

A further exchange of religious interest occurred starting here. The topic being discussed was the content of television programmes. The Archbishop of York participated in this debate.

The amendments to Schedule 9 will now certainly be discussed on Monday afternoon. There has been a change to the texts of Amendments 98 and 99. New wording is here. The old wording was in both cases simply: leave out “proportionate”. The wording was not in the 2003 SO Regulations, but was put into the Equality Bill in order to make plain on the face of the bill the proportionality requirement of the underlying European Employment Equality Directive 2000.

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Women Bishops Delay - WATCH Press Statement

WATCH (Women and the Church) issued this statement this evening.

WATCH PRESS STATEMENT
Tuesday, 19th January 2010 – for immediate release
FURTHER DELAY FOR WOMEN BISHOPS

Following the publication this week of General Synod’s February agenda, WATCH notes with deep regret that there will be no debate on the draft legislation for women bishops. The Revision Committee set up to prepare the legislation which will open the Episcopate to women has failed to complete its task in time for February’s synod, as requested in a synod motion one year ago. Although not explicitly asked to do so, the Revision Committee considered a range of options for the legislation, including models already rejected by General Synod.

Despite this disappointing setback, WATCH would like to thank those members of the Revision Committee who have worked hard and with dedication in their attempt to achieve the aims of the General Synod to create something that offers a moment of transformation of historic proportions in the life of the Church.

“At least no one can say that any stone has been left unturned” said Christina Rees, chair of WATCH. “We now expect the very best legislation to be presented well in advance of the July meeting of General Synod. We hope to see a clear, workable and straightforward set of proposals, which are closely aligned to what Synod requested in July 2008, namely legislation making it possible for women to be bishops within the existing structures of the Church. Perhaps all the extra time this is taking will help the Revision Committee to reach the simplicity that lies beyond complexity.”

WATCH is pleased to see that the Bishop of Manchester, as Chair of the Steering Committee, is to give February’s Synod a report on the process so far and hopes that he will provide a full explanation of the reasons for the delay. WATCH also hopes that he would agree that it would be unthinkable if their report is not brought to the July 2010 meeting of General Synod. This matter is of such ecclesial and public importance that should the Church fail to honour its decisions to allow women to be bishops, especially as women account for nearly 40% of the Church’s active clergy, it risks becoming an object of ridicule. WATCH therefore hopes that the Bishop of Manchester will provide assurances that the report will indeed be brought to the July 2010 meeting of General Synod without suffering further prevarication and delay.

Further, WATCH believes it is now incumbent upon the Revision Committee to produce a comprehensive report that will obviate the need for past models and options to be considered yet again in July 2010. Along with doubtless many members of General Synod, WATCH would also expect the Revision Committee’s report to be available well in advance of the July meeting, so that proper consideration and consultation may take place.

WATCH also hopes that the Business Committee will make every effort to ensure sufficient time and flexibility is scheduled at the July Synod to complete all the stages necessary for the draft legislation to be sent to the dioceses.

CONTACTS:

Christina Rees
(Chair)
01763–848-822

Revd Hugh Lee
(General Synod member)
01865-316-245

Revd Rachel Weir
(Vice-Chair)
07815-729-565

Revd Dr Charles Read
(Vice-Chair)
07910-128-265

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 11:25pm GMT | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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General Synod motion - Parity of pension provision for surviving civil partners

Next month’s meeting of General Synod will be debating this private member’s motion, proposed by The Revd Mark Bratton, on Thursday 11 February:

“That this Synod request the Archbishops’ Council and the Church of England Pensions Board to bring forward changes to the rules governing the clergy pension scheme in order to go beyond the requirements of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and provide for pension benefits to be paid to the surviving civil partners of deceased clergy on the same basis as they are currently paid to surviving spouses.‟.

Here are the papers for this debate.

GS 1770A Background paper by Mark Bratton available here as a PDF, and also here as a web page

GS 1770B Background note from the Rt Reverend John Packer available here as a PDF, and also here as a web page

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General Synod - ACNA motion

Next month’s meeting of General Synod will be debating this private member’s motion, proposed by Lorna Ashworth, on Wednesday 10 February:

“That this Synod express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with
the Anglican Church in North America”.

Here are the papers for this debate.

GS 1764A Background paper by Lorna Ashworth available here as a PDF, and also here as a web page

GS 1764B Background note from the Secretary General available here as a PDF, and also here as a web page

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Monday, 18 January 2010

General Synod agenda - press reports

Some early reports on next month’s Synod business.

Martin Beckford in the Telegraph BBC’s ‘marginalisation’ of religion to be criticised by Church of England’s governing body

Riazat Butt in The Guardian Religion on TV either marginalised or freak show, clergy complain

Jonathan Wynne-Jones in the Telegraph Church to vote on greater rights for partners of gay clergy

Riazat Butt in The Guardian Delay hits ordination of women bishops

Martha Linden (Press Association) in the Independent Key debate on women bishops delayed

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General Synod - February 2010 - full agenda published

The General Synod of the Church of England will meet in London from 8 to 12 February 2010. The following press release was issued a short time ago.

See our adjoining item for links to online Synod papers.

Full agenda published for February’s General Synod
18 January 2010

Debates on children and young people, mission, TV coverage of religion, science and religious belief, church buildings, relations with the Anglican Church in North America, clergy pensions and legislation feature in sessions of the Church of England’s ‘parliament,’ the General Synod, to be held in London from February 8th to 12th.

Children and young people

Synod will debate the report Going for Growth, on the Board of Education’s new strategy for children and young people. This offers both a theological framework and practical proposals, and is a sequel to the debate at the July 2009 Synod on the major inquiry into childhood commissioned by The Children’s Society, A Good Childhood.

Mission

The report and motion from the Mission and Public Affairs Council will follow up the 2004 Synod debate on ‘Mission-shaped Church’ and will encourage action in training and deployment; the making of Bishops’ Mission Orders, and research on the growth of the ‘mixed-economy Church.’ Bishop Graham Cray (Archbishops’ Missioner and Fresh Expressions Team Leader) will give a presentation on the current programme and future plans for Fresh Expressions.

TV coverage of religion and ethics

A Private Member’s Motion from Mr. Nigel Holmes (Carlisle) invites the Synod to ask the BBC and Ofcom to explain why British television marginalises TV coverage of religious and ethical issues.

Legislation

Synod will be asked to complete several items of legislative business – chiefly the Ecclesiastical Fees (Amendment) Measure, which will put in place a new framework for the making of orders for parochial fees. Synod will also be asked to approve two codes of practice issued by the Archbishops’ Council, which set out the capability and grievance procedures that will apply to the clergy under the new common tenure arrangements.

Clergy pensions

An Archbishops’ Council report sets out the reasons for the proposed changes to the Clergy Pensions Scheme. These include increasing the pension age for future service to 68 and increasing the accrual period for future service to 43 years. There is a separate report on changes being proposed in relation to ill-health retirement.

There is also a Private Member’s Motion from the Revd Mark Bratton (Coventry) which asks the Archbishops’ Council and the Pensions Board to bring forward changes to the pension scheme’s rules, to provide pension benefits for surviving civil partners.

Science and religious belief

Synod will debate a Diocesan Synod Motion from Manchester, expressing concern at the perceived need to choose between the claims of science and belief in God; and urging the House of Bishops to promote a better public understanding of the compatibility of science and Christian belief.

Church buildings

The Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division will give a short presentation on what the Division has achieved since the publication five years ago of Building Faith in our Future, and the challenges that cathedrals and church buildings face today. This will preface a debate on the Ripon and Leeds Diocesan Synod Motion, which seeks to increase substantially the amount of money available for the repair of listed church buildings.

Relations with the Anglican Church in North America

A Private Member’s Motion from Mrs. Lorna Ashworth (Chichester) asks the Synod to express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America (which includes churches which have separated from The Episcopal Church in the United States, and the Anglican Church of Canada).

Other Private Members Motions and Diocesan Synod Motions

There will be a debate on a Private Members’ Motion from Mr. Tom Benyon (Oxford) which expresses concern about the potentially desensitising and damaging effects on children and young people of computer games containing violent and sexual content; and seeks changes to the classification system for video games and a review of the regulatory system for advertising video games.

There are two other Diocesan Synod Motions. One from Chelmsford asks Synod to request dioceses, deaneries and parishes to adopt some symbol of the Church’s confidence in the Bible for the nation, bearing in mind that 2011 is the 400th anniversary of the Authorised Version of the Bible. The other is from Coventry diocese, which asks for the case for legislation conferring incorporated status on deanery synods to be considered.

Women bishops

The Revision Committee on Women in the Episcopate has reluctantly concluded that it still has too much to undertake in order to conclude its work in time for the February Synod. The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd. Nigel McCulloch, as Chair of the Steering Committee, will make a statement.

Other business

Synod will be addressed by the President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference (the Reverend David Gamble, and Dr. Richard Vautrey) as an expression of the Covenant relationship between the Church of England and the Methodist Church. There will be an opportunity for questions and contributions from the floor.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, will give a Presidential Address. There will also be a presentation on the role of armed forces chaplains in the current military operations overseas.

There is also one item of liturgical business: the Revision Stage of the Additional Weekday Lectionary; and some business relating to Synod’s Standing Orders, and the forthcoming Synod elections.

Communicating Synod

Parishioners can keep in touch with the General Synod while it meets. Background papers and other information will be posted on the Church of England website ahead of the General Synod sessions. A live feed will be available courtesy of Premier Radio (accessible from front page of www.cofe.anglican.org), and audio files of debates, along with updates on the days’ proceedings will be posted during the sessions.

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General Synod - February 2010 - online papers

Many papers for next month’s meeting of General Synod are now online. The list below will be updated as the remainder become available. Papers are also listed when they are known to exist but are not yet online.

Updated 20, 25, 26, 29 January

Agenda

GS 1756 Full Agenda
Outline Agenda

Papers for Debate

The scheduled day for debate is appended.

GS 1639B Draft Amending Canon No 29 [Tuesday]
GS 1639C Petition to the Crown
GS 1639Z Report of the Steering Committee

GS 1715B Ecclesiastical Fees (Amendment) Measure [Tuesday]
GS 1715Z Report of the Steering Committee

GS 1724A Additional Weekday Lectionary and Amendments to Calendar, Lectionary and Collects [Wednesday]
GS 1724Y Report of the Revision Committee

GS 1727A Care of Cathedrals Measure [Tuesday and Thursday]

GS 1740A Mission and Pastoral Measure [Tuesday and Thursday]
GS 1740Y Revision Committee Report

GS 1757 Report by the Business Committee [Monday]

GS 1758 Clergy Pensions: Task Group Report [Tuesday]
GS 1759 Clergy Pensions: Ill-health retirement [Tuesday]

GS 1760 General Synod Elections 2010 [Tuesday]

GS 1761 Mission Shaped Church: Follow-up [Tuesday]

GS 1763 44th Report of the Standing Orders Committee [Wednesday]

GS 1766 Fresh Expressions [Thursday]

GS 1767 Realising the missionary potential of Church buildings [Thursday]

GS 1769 Going for Growth (covering note only) [Thursday]
Going for Growth report

GS 1774 and GS 1775 Codes of Practice under Section 8 of the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure 2009 [Tuesday]
GS 1774-5X Explanatory Memorandum

Private Member’s Motions

GS 1762A and GS 1762B (Mr Nigel Holmes): TV Coverage of Religious and Ethical Issues [Wednesday]
GS 1764A and GS 1764B (Mrs Lorna Ashworth): Anglican Church in North America [Wednesday]
GS 1770A and GS 1770B (The Revd Mark Bratton): Parity of pension provision for surviving civil partners [Thursday]
GS 1771A and GS 1771B (Mr Thomas Benyon): Violent computer games [Thursday]

Diocesan Synod Motions

GS 1765A and GS 1765B (Chelmsford): Confidence in the Bible [Wednesday]
GS 1768 (Ripon and Leeds): Repair of Church buildings [Thursday]
GS 1772A and GS 1772B (Manchester): Compatibility of Science and Christian Belief [Friday]
GS 1773A and GS 1773B (Coventry): Deanery Synods [Friday]

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Saturday, 16 January 2010

Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway

Updated Sunday morning

The Diocese of Glasgow & Galloway has announced that the Very Rev Dr Gregor Duncan has been elected to be its next bishop.

The Very Rev Dr Gregor Duncan elected as Bishop

The BBC and the Press Association in reporting this concentrate on one of the unsuccessful candidates.

BBC Priest fails in female bishop bid
PA Priest not elected as female bishop

Update

Bishop David Chillingworth comments on media coverage, in Welcome to Bishop Gregor.

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mid-January opinions

Andreas Whittam Smith writes in the Independent about POWER2010. See Here’s one way to reconnect voters and see what he is talking about at the POWER2010 website.

Roderick Strange writes in The Times that Water into wine teaches us about transformation.

And Rosemary Lain-Priestley writes there about Being a mother, wife and priest.

In the Guardian Riaz Ravat writes in the Face to Faith column that amid a slew of negative coverage, we must all work at challenging how Muslims are seen.

The Brookings Institution has published a paper by Alex Evans and David Steven titled Hitting Reboot: Where Next For Climate After Copenhagen? (The paper itself is a PDF download from that page.) (Hat tip: Richard Chartres.)

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times that Science is not neutral.

And his Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4 on Friday, about Theodicy is available here to listen to, or here as a podcast. The text will also be on the BBC website later, but is available now below the fold.

Thought for the Day, Friday 15 January 2010

The word “theodicy” describes the intellectual attempt to justify the existence of God in the face of human suffering. Coined by Leibniz at the beginning of the eighteenth century, he argued that out of the various possible worlds that God could have created, he might have created the best of these, a world containing less suffering than all the other options available. With this suggestion, Leibniz sought to explain how it’s at least logically possible that a merciful God could create a world with the suffering that it has.

And then, in 1755, some years after Leibniz published his famous argument, a massive earthquake hit Lisbon on the morning of the first of November, the popular feast day of All Saints. A 15ft crack opened down the middle of the street. Locals watched the tide disappear only to return as a huge wave that drowned most of the city. 30-40 thousand people were killed.

It was in the face of this terrible disaster that Voltaire came to mount his celebrated attack upon Leibniz in Candide. Voltaire cast Leibniz as the foolish Dr Pangloss, ready to trot out the absurd idea that this is the best of all possible worlds whatever misfortune befell him. The satire was biting. He was claiming that all theologians seem to care about in the face of human misery is getting God off the hook. Theodicy, Voltaire insists, is a moral disgrace and a sick joke.

Well, I have no answer to the question of how God can allow so many innocent people to die in natural disasters, like the earthquakes of Lisbon or Haiti. And indeed, I can quite understand that many will regard these events as proof positive that religious people are living a foolish dream like the idiotic Dr Pangloss.

And yet, I still believe. For there exists a place in me - deeper than my rational self - that compels me to respond to tragedies like Haiti not with argument but with prayer. On a very basic level, what people find in religion is not so much the answers, but a means of responding to and living with life’s hardest questions. And this is why a tragedy like this doesn’t, on the whole, make believers suddenly wake up to the foolishness of their faith. On the contrary, it mostly tends to deepen our sense of a need for God.

What many believers mean by faith is not that we have a firm foundation in rational justification. Those, like Leibniz, who try to claim this are, I believe, rationalizing something that properly exists on another level. Which is why, at a moment like this, I’d prefer to leave the arguments to others. For me, this is a time quietly to light a candle for the people of Haiti and to offer them up to God in my prayers. May the souls of the departed rest in peace.

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Friday, 15 January 2010

women bishops delay

Pat Ashworth reports in the Church Times today, Women face another delay as committee misses deadline.

THE draft legislation on women bishops will not be coming before the General Synod for debate next month as scheduled. Instead, the revision committee is expected still to be working on it after Easter. It will not now be debated till July…

This became public knowledge by the issue of the draft agenda, a little over a week ago.

Also, Jane Hedges writes about women in senior clergy posts, A little encouragement is all it will take.

This contains the results of a survey which showed that women clergy were less likely to respond to open competitive advertising than they were to respond to a personal approach. But what we don’t learn is whether this is the same or different for male clergy.

And there is a Church Times leader, Women bishops delay (scroll down).

THERE are two sorts of waiting. One is the wait while a family comes to a decision about whether it wants to journey to a par­­ticular place. Time can pass during consultations and preparation, but it is generally considered well spent in order to reach a proper agreement. The second sort of wait is when, having decided on its journey, the family stands on a snowy platform awaiting a scheduled train that the rail company has just taken out of service.

Churchpeople are entitled to feel irritated that the revision com­mittee charged with taking forward the draft women-bishops legislation has missed its February deadline. The next stage of the process must therefore be delayed till the General Synod meets again in July. It is, though, important that the Synod comes up with the best possible legislation to introduce women to the episcopate without reservation while, at the same time, seeking not to un­church those who object. This was the Synod’s express wish, and it cannot be any surprise that the revision committee has struggled to fulfil both sides of this task. Returning to the analogy above, there is no point in the train’s arriving in the station if the whole family is not on the platform. The committee now needs to be more open about its deliberations in order to curb the Synod’s impatience.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 15 January 2010 at 11:22pm GMT | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 14 January 2010

Equality Bill - new definition proposed

Updated

The Government has proposed a new definition of when “Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion”.

Here it is:

Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion only if—

(a) the employment is as a minister of religion, or

(b) the employment is in another post that exists (or, where the post has not previously been filled, that would exist) to promote or represent the religion or to explain the doctrines of the religion (whether to followers of the religion or to others).

This would replace the current wording found in Schedule 9, Paragraph 2(8).

Update

In order to evaluate this, it may be helpful to recall that this clause is designed to cover a variety of issues, not only sexual orientation.

(a) a requirement to be of a particular sex;

(b) a requirement not to be a transsexual person;

(c) a requirement not to be married or a civil partner;

(d) a requirement not to be married to, or the civil partner of, a person who has a living former spouse or civil partner;

(e) a requirement relating to circumstances in which a marriage or civil partnership came to an end;

(f) a requirement related to sexual orientation.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 14 January 2010 at 11:47am GMT | Comments (25) | TrackBack
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Equality Bill - Lords revision day 2

The House of Lords continued its examination of the Equality Bill yesterday. Amendments discussed covered clauses 10 to 29. Here is the news page with links.

The Hansard record can be found starting here, or the PDF file is over here.

Two of the amendments I had previously listed as interesting were debated.

Amendment 20 (Baroness Varsi and Baroness Morris) which would remove the word “philosophical” from the definition of “belief”, was debated, follow that from here.

At the end of the evening, Lord MacKay of Clashfern proposed Amendment 57A:

“Conscientious objection
Nothing in this Act shall have the effect of requiring a person (A) to provide a good or service to a person (B) when doing so has the effect of making A complicit with an action to which A has a genuine conscientious objection.”

Read the debate on that from here.

Also, yesterday there was a change in the list of peers sponsoring the amendment to delete Sch 9 Clause 2 Para 8. Baroness Varsi’s name was removed, and was replaced by Baroness Butler-Sloss. Lady Butler-Sloss also added her name to those sponsoring the amendment to delete the word “proportionate” in in paragraphs 5 and 6 of Schedule 9 clause 2.

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Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Traditional Anglican Communion statistics

This week in the Church Times there is a report on this topic. The original is subscriber-only until Friday but meanwhile is copied below.

TAC members mostly in India by Simon Sarmiento

NINETY per cent of the membership of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) resides in India and Africa, information received by the Church Times shows.

The TAC was formed in 1990, and now in­cludes former Anglicans in six continents. Its current Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth, is based in South Australia. Dialogue be­tween the TAC and the Vatican, after a formal petition made by the TAC in October 2007, was cited as a significant factor in the decision by the Congre­ga­tion for the Doctrine of the Faith to issue the Apostolic Constitution Anglican­orum Coetibus (News, 13 November).

The secretary to the College of Bishops of the TAC, Cheryl Wood­man, supplied the figures shown on the left. She said that they were “based on about 60 per cent of our communicant membership attend­ing every Sunday”, and that “this would easily bring the [membership] figure to around the 400,000 that is regularly quoted.”

In India, the TAC is represented by the Anglican Church of India (ACI). The ACI was formed in 1964 by Anglicans who withdrew from the Churches of North and South India. It now has 15 dioceses. The Traditional Anglican Church in Britain lists about 20 parishes on its website.

Territory

Attendance

Proportion

India

130,000

54%

Southern Africa (including Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia and the Eastern Cape)

 65,000

27%

Central Africa (including Kenya, Cameroon, Eastern Congo and Tanzania)

 26,000

11%

UK and Europe

   1,800

0.7%

Canada

   2,000

0.8%

USA

   2,500

1.0%

Central America

   7,000

2.3%

Australia (inc Torres Straights), New Zealand, and Japan

   6,500

2.7%

240,800

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 12 January 2010 at 11:47am GMT | Comments (28) | TrackBack
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Equality Bill - Lords revision starts

See earlier article here which includes a list of some of the amendments of interest.

Yesterday’s committee hearings dealt with Clauses 1 to 9. No amendments were agreed. The Hansard record begins here. The Parliament website has this news report with links.

Amendments considered included one from the Bishop of Chester on gender reassignment. (The Bishop of Chichester spoke on his behalf.)

The latest (Tuesday morning) list of the remaining marshalled amendments (excludes those considered yesterday) can be found here. Committee hearings resume on Wednesday.

The Bishop of Winchester’s amendment relating to marriages and gender reassignment discrimination has now reappeared in much shorter form then before:

58A* Page 143, line 2, at end insert—

GENDER REASSIGNMENT
A person does not contravene section 29, so far as relating to gender reassignment discrimination, only because of anything done in reliance on section 5B of the Marriage Act 1949 (solemnisation of marriages involving person of acquired gender).”

Baroness Noakes and Baroness Neuberger have added their names to Lord Alli’s amendment relating to the venues for civil partnerships.

Meanwhile in the House of Commons, two questions were asked relating to the EU “reasoned opinion”.

Stewart Jackson (- Shadow Minister, Communities and Local Government; Peterborough, Conservative)

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality if she will place in the Library a copy of the reasoned opinion of the European Commission on the compliance of the UK’s equality legislation with the EU Equal Treatment Directive.

Maria Eagle (Minister of State (also in the Government Equalities Office), Ministry of Justice; Liverpool, Garston, Labour)

The understanding between the European Commission and member states is that infraction correspondence remains confidential. The Commission publishes the fact that a Reasoned Opinion has been sent, but not the letter itself. The Government will therefore not be placing a copy of this Reasoned Opinion in the Library.

Philip Davies (Shipley, Conservative)

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what recent discussions she has had with the European Commission on UK compliance with EU anti-discrimination legislation; and if she will make a statement.

Maria Eagle (Minister of State (also in the Government Equalities Office), Ministry of Justice; Liverpool, Garston, Labour)

The European Commission sent two reasoned opinions to the UK Government on 20 November 2009 which questioned the compliance of our domestic legislation with two European Directives in certain respects. We are studying these reasoned opinions carefully and will reply to the Commission towards the end of January.

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Sunday, 10 January 2010

a bridge too far?

Episcopal Café has drawn attention in ABC’s visitors to Canada on “aberrations south of the border” to a report in the Anglican Journal on the recent visit to Canada of “two pastoral visitors from the U.K. who were deputized by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams”. They were Bishop Chad Gandiya of Harare, Zimbabwe, and Bishop Colin Bennetts, the retired bishop of Coventry.

Rather surprisingly, the visitors appear to have included remarks in their report about a country they were not visiting, the USA. According to the Journal:

The visitors said they were also reminded frequently by bishops that “Canada is not the USA.” While the United States is seen as a melting pot culture where religious and ethnic groups are synthesized into “Americans,” Canadians “genuinely value and seek to live with diversity.” Differences between the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church were underscored, including the area of Christology. “We sensed that in Canada there was a general consensus on the nature of orthodoxy, with fewer extreme views of the kind that have led to some of the aberrations south of the border,” the report said. “Even the bishops who were strongly progressive in the matter of same-sex blessings insisted that they stood firmly within the creedal mainstream.” This, the report said, is “an encouraging sign that it allows for a more obviously Christ-centred approach to issues that currently divide the Communion, to say nothing of the wider church.”

Now read this article about the skills of Bishop Bennetts as a “bridge-builder”, Conflict resolution expert sent to observe at HOB.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 10 January 2010 at 11:59pm GMT | Comments (194) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 9 January 2010

opinions in the snow

Although he is now Hunkering down in the snow? Alan Wilson wrote last Sunday about the Rule of St Benedict, see It’s not what you say….

Giles Fraser wrote in the Church Times about Football in the wilds of Yemen.

John Cottingham writes in The Times that Our restless quest for God is a search for home.

David Bryant writes in the Guardian that A religion that is based on a code of moral injunctions should be approached warily.

Cif belief asked What are you frightened of this year? to which David Walker replied Spiders and authoritarianism and Mark Dowd replied The Pope’s visit.

Fulcrum published a sermon by Graham Kings on The Holy Spirit and the Magi.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 9 January 2010 at 9:15am GMT | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Friday, 8 January 2010

General Synod - February 2010 - outline agenda

The outline agenda for next month’s meeting of General Synod is now available online and is copied below.

Note: In the agenda DSM stands for Diocesan Synod Motion, and PMM for Private Member’s Motion. The texts of the private members’ motions are online.

GENERAL SYNOD: FEBRUARY 2010

Outline Agenda

Monday 8 February

Afternoon

[ 2-4pm: Meetings of the House of Clergy and House of Laity ]

  • Prayers, introductions, progress of Measures
  • Presentation under SO 97: Statement concerning the Revision Committee on the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure
  • Business Committee report
  • Questions

Tuesday 9 February

Morning

  • Prayers
  • Legislative business
    • Amending Canon No 29 (Clergy Terms of Service) – Final Drafting and Final Approval
    • Ecclesiastical Fees (Amendment) Measure – Final Drafting and Final Approval
    • Pastoral and Mission Measure – Revision Stage
    • Care of Cathedrals Measure – Revision Stage
    • Codes of Practice under Section 8 of the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure 2009 – Approval

Afternoon

  • Presidential Address
  • Clergy Pensions: Proposed scheme changes
  • Clergy Pensions: Ill-health retirement
  • General Synod elections: distribution of places
  • Mission-shaped Church: follow-up

Wednesday 10 February

Morning

  • Holy Communion
  • PMM: Nigel Holmes: TV Coverage of Religious and Ethical Issues
  • Standing Orders Committee report

Afternoon

  • PMM: Lorna Ashworth: Anglican Church in North America
  • Military Chaplaincy: Presentation
  • Liturgical Business: Additional Weekday Lectionary: Report of the Revision Committee
  • Chelmsford DSM: Confidence in the Bible

Thursday 11 February

Morning

  • Prayers
  • Address by the President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, followed by contributions from the floor
  • Fresh Expressions: Presentation
  • Bread out of Millstones: Realising the Potential of Church Buildings: Presentation by the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division
  • Ripon and Leeds DSM: Repair of Church Buildings

Afternoon

  • Going for Growth: Children’s and Youth Strategy: Report from the Education Division
  • PMM: The Revd Mark Bratton: Parity of Pension Provision for Surviving Civil Partners
  • Legislative Business: Final Drafting and Final Approval: Pastoral and Mission Measure and Care of Cathedrals Measure
  • PMM: Tom Benyon: Violent computer Games

Friday 12 February

Morning

  • Prayers
  • Manchester DSM: Compatibility of Science and Christian Belief
  • Coventry DSM: Deanery Synods
  • Farewells
  • Prorogation
Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 8 January 2010 at 5:46pm GMT | Comments (23) | TrackBack
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Equality Bill in the Lords

Amended again Monday afternoon

My report in last week’s Church Times on the December debate in the House of Lords, can be now be read at Religion is more than this, say peers.

The consideration of the Equality Bill will resume next week, when the House of Lords considers the bill in Committee. The following five dates have been allocated: Monday 11 Jan, Wednesday 13 Jan, Tuesday 19 Jan, Monday 25 Jan, Wednesday 27 January.

Numerous amendments have been proposed, see the new marshalled list of amendments to be moved in committee, starting here.
Monday And now this revised marshalled list starting here.

The Conservative party spokesperson, Baroness Varsi, together with Baroness O’Cathain, Lord Anderson of Swansea, and the Bishop of Winchester have put down an amendment to strike out the whole of the new definition of the purposes of organised religion. Amendment 100. The latter three have also put down an amendment to remove the word “proportionate” in paragraphs 5 and 6 of Schedule 9 clause 2. Amendments 98, 99

Baroness Varsi and Baroness Morris have also put down an amendment which would remove the word “philosophical” from the definition of “belief”. Amendment 20

The Bishop of Winchester had put down an amendment dealing with religious marriages and gender reassignment discrimination. This is not in the current list because it has been withdrawn for redrafting.I am told it will be resubmitted shortly.

The Bishop of Chester has put down an amendment to insert the words “under medical supervision” into the definition of gender reassignment. Amendment 10

Baroness Turner of Camden has put down amendments to ensure that the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 will have to be read in light of Schedule 9 (3). Amendments 124, 125 and 137

She has also put down amendments:

- to modify paragraph 8 so that it reads (addition in bold):

Employment is for the purposes of an organised religion only if the purpose of the employment wholly or mainly involves—

Amendment 100

- to qualify Clause 3 of Schedule 9 (Other requirements relating to religion or belief) to add:

(d) A is not operating as a public authority, on behalf of a public authority or operating in relation to a contract with public authorities.”

Amendment 101A

Lord Alli has put down amendments:

- to allow civil partnerships to take place on religious premises Amendment 119A

- to delete the clause in Schedule 9 paragraph 2(4) which reads “(f) a requirement related to sexual orientation.” i.e. the transposition of the 2003 SO Regulations paragraph 7(3). Amendment 97E

Lord MacKay of Clashfern has put down this amendment:

“Conscientious objection
Nothing in this Act shall have the effect of requiring a person (A) to provide a good or service to a person (B) when doing so has the effect of making A complicit with an action to which A has a genuine conscientious objection.”

Amendment 57A

Michael Foster MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Equalities has today announced that the Government will propose an amendment:

Contrary to some reports over the weekend, the Equality Bill will still allow churches to hire only male clergy and will let faith-based charities continue to recruit people of the same faith where this is a requirement of the job, such as care staff who may also be asked to pray with the people they look after. We have been absolutely clear on this throughout the Bill’s passage, but as there has been some misunderstanding around our intentions we will amend the Bill to make this clear beyond doubt.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

another Covenant roundup

Updated Friday morning

Malcolm whose earlier article at Simple Massing Priest The Anglican Covenant and Democratic Centralism was listed only in the comments on my previous roundup, has written again, this one is titled Rowan and the real revisionists.

Neal Michell has written Is the Anglican Covenant Non-Anglican? at Covenant.

Leander Harding has written Commentary on the Anglican Covenant 2009.

Ruth Gledhill has interviewed Gregory Cameron, see Confidence in the Covenant? at Religious Intelligence and also Church of England to consider communion with conservatives in US at The Times together with General Synod to be asked to recognise ACNA.

Retired archbishop Moses Tay doesn’t think much of the Covenant, see Anglican Covenant ‘Whitewashes’ Denomination’s Immorality: Retired Archbishop exclusively in the Christian Post.

In a related matter, Kenneth Kearon has provided an explanation of the current legal status of the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council. See this article at Episcopal Café Anglican Constitution is what it seems to be and also this note from Lionel Deimel Communion Transparency, Take 3.

Addition

Scott Gunn has published Anglican Communion woes? Be not afraid.

The Private Members’ Motion relating to ACNA can be found here. Scroll up for an explanation of how motions get selected for debate.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 10:48pm GMT | Comments (57) | TrackBack
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UK government appoints new faith advisers

Updated Saturday morning

John Denham announced yesterday the names of 13 new faith advisers who “will act as a ‘sounding board’ to advise on effective engagement with faith communities, and the impact of Communities and Local Government policy on faith communities.”

Read the full press release here.

The members of the panel are:

  • Canon Dr Alan Billings - Formerly Director of the Centre for Ethics and Religion at the University of Lancaster.
  • Dr Harriet Crabtree - Director of the Inter Faith Network for the UK.
  • Marcia Dixon - Editor of Keep the Faith, a publication distributed to black majority churches.
  • Dr Doreen Finneron - Founder and director of the Faith Based Regeneration Network.
  • Jenny Kartupelis - Director of the East of England Faiths Council and Fellow of the Faiths and Civil Society Unit at Goldsmiths College.
  • Wakkas Khan - Director of the Exploring Islam Foundation and a founding member of the Radical Middle Way.
  • Alveena Malik - A Principal Associate at the Institute of Community Cohesion and a Trustee of the Muslim Institute.
  • Mehri Niknam - Founder and director of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation.
  • Rosalind Preston - President of the Jewish Volunteer Network and Chair of Nightingale House.
  • Dr Jasdev Singh Rai - General Secretary of the British Sikh Consultative Forum and Director of the Sikh Human Rights Group.
  • Bishop Tim Stevens - Anglican Bishop of Leicester and Founder and Chair of the Faith Leaders Forum of Leicester.
  • Arjan Vekaria - President of Shree Kutch Leva Patel Community (UK) and the Hindu Forum of Britain.
  • Prof Paul Weller - Head of Research and Commercial Development, Faculty of Education, Health and Sciences and Professor of Inter-Religious Relations, University of Derby.

So far, there appear to be no newspaper reports of this.

Update

Heresy Corner has collected biographical information about the panel members, see The God Squad.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 7 January 2010 at 1:18pm GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Graham Leonard obituaries

The former Bishop of London, Graham Leonard, died on Wednesday.

Telegraph The Rt Rev Mgr Graham Leonard

Guardian Alan Webster Monsignor Graham Leonard obituary

The Times The Right Rev Mgr Graham Leonard: Bishop of London, 1981-91

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Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Life after Epiphany

In his brief and brilliant poem T S Eliot traces the path of the Magi, through “the very dead of winter” facing hazards, challenges and portents on the road to their destination as witnesses of the newborn Christ. But as so often with Eliot, it’s the twist in the final few lines that takes the reader off into a new and hitherto unexplored dimension. For, whereas Matthew simply tells us that they made their way home by a different route, Eliot makes us listen to the elderly traveller reflect on life after Epiphany:

…this birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Eliot’s insight is that, no matter how hard or arduous the journey to a religious experience may be, the greater challenge lies in living in the light of that experience afterwards, among people who haven’t shared it and cannot understand it. It’s a thesis borne out by statistical surveys which invariably show a majority of respondents are able to identify something that has happened to them that they would classify as a religious experience, and yet in most cases they haven’t found a way of integrating it into the rest of their lives.

I like to think that what is in the poem isn’t just Eliot’s Christian insight but something of his quintessentially Anglican identity. Here was a man who spent many years in the office of churchwarden, a position less associated with theophanies than with the challenge of ensuring good order and that the practicalities of church life are given due attention. In my years as a parish priest I found that a high proportion of those who came to join us were not new-born Christians, fresh from some profound conversion experience, but men and women who had come to faith elsewhere, often in more evangelical or Pentecostal gatherings, and had, after a short while, found little there that enabled them to live in the world as it is; nothing that could sustain them once Epiphany was over.

To be Anglican is not to disregard or downplay religious experiences. I know in my own life how important are both the occasions when I receive an intense experience of God and the daily sense of his quiet presence beside me and within me as I encounter him in contemplative prayer. But being Anglican is so much more; it’s about being resourced, equipped and encouraged to live a Christian life that is fully incarnated into a world which operates according to significantly different values. The work I do, nationally and locally, to promote high standards in equality and diversity practice, and my involvements with the Housing Association movement are as much what it is to be Anglican as my attendance at public worship and, as a bishop, my role as Eucharistic President.

And so I delight that the Church of England calendar now has the post Epiphany season running all the way through to Candlemas on February 2nd. But I do slightly wonder why so many of the Sunday lections for the next few weeks are about the miraculous, when, as Eliot has told us, that’s the easy bit, it’s after the journey is over that the real challenges arise.

David Walker is Bishop of Dudley in the Diocese of Worcester

Posted by David Walker on Wednesday, 6 January 2010 at 12:00am GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Monday, 4 January 2010

When one more step is a step too far

The way the stories of the nativity are told, they are full of journeys. There is Mary’s trip to see Elizabeth for companionship in pregnancy, the journey to Bethlehem to be registered and for the infant to be born, the journey to Egypt to escape Herod and later on to Nazareth to keep below the political horizon, and of course the journey of the magi to find the holy child.

And our stories are often full of journeys at this time of year. In our case, my son’s arrival from Germany was delayed by 20 hours and Air France lost his luggage for 10 days. Numerous family members across three generations came to visit from York and Lancashire, and this year the accounts of their travels were coloured with anxiety about the weather. And today, all my sisters and I are meeting in Lancashire to discuss the care of our elderly mother, though I will be travelling furthest for this occasion. And there will be similar accounts of the journeys made by you and yours over the holiday period, which will take in every detail of what went wrong or the signs of grace and blessing that made them a joy. On the whole, these are not life-changing journeys, though you can’t always know when you are setting off which trips will change things for ever and which will merely take you to another place.

The image of the journey is much used as a metaphor for the life of faith and for life in general. I have myself given sermons on the spiritual journey at this time of year. There are times when the metaphor works really well. I can remember a long wait once at Amsterdam airport, reflecting on how life is like waiting for the next plane. But the metaphor does have its limitations, and I would say on the whole that it is over-used and risks becoming a cliché. It becomes a problem as an image when one feels stuck and the sense that we should be going somewhere in our faith becomes another stick to beat oneself with. It is a problem, too, for people whose spirituality is centred on stability, on staying in one place and experiencing the height and the depth of that domain. It is a problem also because it tends to be used about my spiritual journey, rather than about the shared experience of a community.

It seems likely that different personality types respond more favourably to different images of the spiritual life, perhaps to artistic images such as a dance, for instance, or a picture or a symphony. Another series of helpful images centres on growth, seeds, trees, blossom and fruit.

The metaphor matters because it helps to shape the way you make sense of your experience. I have travelled with the spiritual journey metaphor for a long time, but I am beginning to feel that it won’t do any more. My hope for this new year is that I can find a new way to conceptualise my relationship with God and my calling to serve and that it becomes a little less about me.

Meg Gilley is a parish priest working in former pit villages in County Durham.

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Sunday, 3 January 2010

Covenant roundup

The latest text of the Anglican Covenant is linked from this earlier article.

Responses from Provinces to Section 4 of the Ridley Cambridge Draft of the Anglican Covenant are in a PDF, here.

This week’s Church Times summarises the story, see Pat Ashworth Anglican Churches sent final text of Covenant — ‘not a penal code’.

Responses to the final version are varied. Here is a selection:

Living Church

Catholic Voices: Four Responses to the Covenant (Graham Kings, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Tony Clavier, Richard Kew) and also The Covenant and the Fullness of Time (Peter Carrell). Also Essential Aspects (Christopher Wells) and Editorial: To Arrive Where We Started.

Anglican Communion Institute

Committing to the Anglican Covenant:An analysis by the Anglican Communion Institute and also Ephraim Radner The New Season: The Emerging Shape of Anglican Mission

A.S. Haley Common Sense and the Covenant

Bishop Chris Epting An Improved Anglican Covenant

Bosco Peters Anglican Covenant – partly used

Jim Stockton Bad Fruit from Bad Seed

Adrian Worsfold Anglicanism gives way to Democratic Centralism and also Authority to the Standing Committee!

Mark Harris Coal in your Christmas Stocking? One lump or two?

Tobias Haller Incarnation (?)

Jim Naughton What are the consequences of not signing the covenant?

And, linked earlier, but repeated for convenience, Giles Fraser Covenant fatalism (almost).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 3 January 2010 at 5:27pm GMT | Comments (117) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 2 January 2010

New Year opinions

We need social networking, but more of it should be in the real world rather than online, writes Julia Neuberger in the Guardian.

Richard Moth writes in The Times about Serving in Afghanistan with a true spirit of self-giving.

You can read and watch The Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year Message.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Covenant fatalism (almost). (TA will have a roundup of reactions to the final Anglican Covenant proposal soon.)

Pat Ashworth wrote in the previous edition of the Church Times about diocesan missioners. See Taking stock and doing something.

In that issue, Peter Thompson wrote that The Noughties live up to their name.

And today Andrew Brown writes in the Guardian about Leicester. See Here, everyone is a minority.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 2 January 2010 at 9:24am GMT | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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Friday, 1 January 2010

Start the new Decade with a bit of Both/And

Thirty-five years ago, Cambridge opened new worlds to me — I used to think 1 January was New Year’s Day, Hogmanay in Scotland. The Cambridge University Diary, however, designated the day thus: CIRCUMCISION: University LIbrary closed to readers. A good day to stay out of the stacks, then. And what an embarrassing, not quite Anglo-Saxon thing ‘Circumcision’ sounds like! Messy, painful, foreign.

Up to 1752, new year in England, for most legal and general purposes, had been the Annunciation — Lady Day, 25 March, nine months before Christmas (geddit?). In a Christian scheme of time, the good news of the Incarnation made an appropriate start to the year. After 1753 it still did, but New Year’s Day, by default, became the Circumcision. Now we start each new year of grace with a liturgical reminder of Jesus’s location within the old law of … er, grace or works?

The old law was, in fact, a law of grace, not a simple game of works. God gave circumcision as a sign of his favour towards his people, their specialness (to use a rather cheesy term) and their identity. It was a way of personalising their belonging and identity by expressing it in an individual’s flesh. It was some of the troops who turned the observance of circumcision into a legalistic game of Brownie Points, and when they did this they were going beyond the original intentions of its Framer.

This matters, partly as a matter of good theology, but also because historically whenever Christians have rejected their Jewish roots, it has done them no good and cursed them and all the world, shamefully. Supersessionist fantasy leads directly to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the ghetto, ultimately the gas chamber. From Marcion to the Eisenach Institute for the Study and Eradication of Jewish Influence on German Church Life, be very afraid when Christians start trying to slew off their Jewish roots.

Anyway, the relationship between grace and works is actually rather interesting. Any fool can play one off against the other, indeed most fools do. Either we are home and dry, or we have to work our socks off to attain our heavenly home. But what if the truth was not either, or neither, but, simultaneously, both? Get out of jail free, and then work your freedom as vigorously and in as disciplined a way as if you still had to work your passage, but freely this time?

I’m fascinated by the way that when you lay before Christians, in a descriptive rather than loaded way, the dozen or so classic theories of atonement in the New Testament, people of all stripes, including many who often major in their sermons on one simple theory full stop, tend to end up choosing two, not one.

Furthermore if you put down the theories on two cards, one labelled ‘get out of jail free’ and the other ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling’, usually they choose one from each card. Why not? The ability to walk down the sidewalk and chew gum simultaneously is a virtue, not a limitation.

So the Circumcision is not a feast of legalism, or a reminder of grace. Legalism is always bad news, and pure antinomianism is always fantasy. The Brownie Point circuits are too profoundly hardwired into human nature for this to be otherwise. Rather the Circumcision is a time to celebrate the joy of both/and theology — like light as wave and packet, life in Christ gloriously free and also infinitely challenged.

A secure identity, and everything to live for. Happy New Year!

Alan Wilson is area Bishop of Buckingham in the diocese of Oxford.

Posted by Alan Wilson on Friday, 1 January 2010 at 12:00am GMT | Comments (15) | TrackBack
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