Sunday, 28 February 2010

faith and politics

Updated Sunday evening

As the General Election nears, more and more reports are appearing on this topic.

The Archbishop of York gave an interview to Articles of Faith titled ‘Faith in Politics – Why Vote’. Archbishop of York: ‘Don’t let BNP win at Westminster’ (scroll down).

This week, the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales will issue a document, to be titled Choosing the Common Good.
There have been two articles in The Times about it, see Roman Catholic bishops enter pre-election fray and also Catholic Church voting guide will be claimed by the Tories. And one article in the Telegraph see Catholic Church election advice seen as endorsement for Tories.

Meanwhile, politicians have also been giving advice to churches. See for example, Church should accept equal rights for gays, says David Cameron and Cameron tells Rowan: Make your Church pro-gay.

In an interview with the gay magazine Attitude, Cameron tells award-winning journalist Johann Hari that ‘our Lord Jesus’ would back equality and gay rights if he were around today. He says he doesn’t want to get into a row with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. ‘But I think the Church has to do some of the things that the Conservative Party has been through – sorting this issue out and recognising that full equality is a bottom line full essential.’

More from the original interview is here. Cranmer had a lot of comment on this.

(Related interview with Gordon Brown here, and report of interview with Nick Clegg here.)

Sunday evening

Jim Murphy MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, delivered this lecture: Faith, family and fairness: Labour’s ‘values voters’.
This provoked a strong response from Cardinal Keith O’Brien, from the Church of Scotland, and from the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. See:

Cardinal Keith O’Brien hits out at Labour for ‘ignoring’ religious views

Church of Scotland hits out at Labour ‘party of faith’ claim

Scottish Episcopal Church attacks Labour ‘party of faith’ claims and the full text from Bishop David Chillingworth is available via here.

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Saturday, 27 February 2010

opinion at the end of February

This week The Question in The Guardian’s Comment is free section is Are religious texts lost in translation?
Can the spirit of the original be adequately conveyed in a different language?
There have been three Responses.
Alexander Goldberg The word is just the beginning
Conserving the message of texts is important, but it’s what you do with those texts and their teachings that really matters.
Heather McDougall A question of interpretation
Two key texts – John’s gospel and Revelation – illuminate the way belief can turn on the translation of one or two words.
Usama Hasan When words are immutable
There are still those that argue that the Qur’an should not be translated at all. But the best translation of its teachings is action.

In other Comment is free columns:

Lee Rayfield writes Let’s not take the path of assisted dying
Arguments in favour of assisted dying play on our sense of compassion – but they should be resisted.

Andrew Brown asks What do believers want from God?
The Church of England has opened a web page for anyone to post their prayers. Reading them is sad and humbling.

Tom Holland writes a Face to faith column about St Paul, the radical.
St Paul is often dismissed as a finger-wagging bigot. This could not be further from the truth

Tom Sutcliffe writes that The old doctrines are not enough.
The church must provide a valid assertion of truth about life that can stand comparison truths and wisdom drawn from science

Elsewhere:

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that New vigour is required in our ethical life.

Jonathan Sacks writes in a Times Credo column
Credo: Why the Ancient Greeks were wrong about morality
The Judaeo-Christian ethic is not the only way of being moral; but it is the only system that has endured

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 27 February 2010 at 10:45am GMT | Comments (26) | TrackBack
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Friday, 26 February 2010

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

General Synod - electronic voting

The detailed results of the electronic voting at this month’s General Synod are now available. These include the votes of each member who took part.

Here are the details for the two controversial items.

Anglican Church in North America

This is the final version of the motion (Item 14 as amended by Items 55 and 59):

That this Synod, aware of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada:
(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.

It was carried by these votes:

In Favour Against Recorded
abstentions
309 69 17

Here are the electronic voting results for this item.

Parity of pension provision for surviving civil partners

This is the motion (Item 22):

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.

It was carried by the following votes after a Division by Houses.

 In FavourAgainstRecorded
abstentions
Bishops1223
Clergy972310
Laity78599

Here are the electronic voting results for the above motion.

There was an amendment (Item 64) moved to the above motion:

Leave out everything after “That this Synod” and insert:
“recognise that it will be some considerable time before surviving civil partners’ pension rights reach parity with those of spouses, and in the light of that note the helpful confirmation from the Pensions Board that surviving civil partners of deceased clergy are eligible to be considered for hardship grants if they meet the same qualifying conditions as apply to surviving spouses.”

This was lost by the following votes.

In Favour Against Recorded
abstentions
110 154 15

Here are the electronic voting results for the amendment.

Other electronic votes

The other electronic votes are linked here.

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more on the civil partnerships story

Updated further on Thursday morning

Back on 5 February, Iain McLean who is Professor of Politics at Oxford University, wrote An open letter to the Bishop of Winchester at the Open Democracy website.

Stuart White wrote a follow-up to this What about my freedom of religion? at Next Left.

This led to today’s letter which you can find via here.

Today, Ruth Gledhill reports all this, and a lot more, on her blog at Gays could soon ‘marry’ in churches, synagogues.

See also the two articles in The Times

Anglican bishops back end to ban on gay civil partnerships in church by Ruth Gledhill and Rosemary Bennett

Civil partnerships have made gay couples just like everyone else by Rosemary Bennett

Ekklesia also has a roundup of these events, which notes that:

Hardline religious activists opposed to any extension of rights for LGBT people are already lobbying vocally against the change.

Updates

Other media have repeated the story, see
BBC Clerics call for gay ceremonies at religious venues
Daily Mail Steve Doughty Liberal bishops call for gay couples to be allowed to marry in church
Telegraph Heidi Blake Senior bishops want gay weddings in churches

CIf belief has an article by Andrew Pakula Bishops shouldn’t block equality.

And Diarmaid MacCulloch has also written there, see Bishops act the bully in parliament.

Aaron Goldstein Why equality matters to us

From the other end of the spectrum, ex-CofE minister Charles Raven writes about this, When will Gay Couples be able to take vows in the Church of England?

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Monday, 22 February 2010

Civil Partnerships: a letter and a leader

The following letter will appear in The Times tomorrow. It is on the newspaper’s website now.

It’s discrimination to stop gay couples taking vows in church
It is inconsistent to affirm the spiritual independence of the CofE but also deny the spiritual independence of three small communities

Sir, The Civil Partnership Act 2004 prohibits civil partnerships from being registered in any religious premises in Great Britain. Three faith communities — Liberal Judaism, the Quakers, and the Unitarians — have considered this restriction prayerfully and decided in conscience that they wish to register civil partnerships on their premises. An amendment to the Equality Bill, to allow this, was debated in the House of Lords on January 25. It was opposed by the Bishops of Winchester and Chichester on the grounds that, if passed, it would put unacceptable pressure on the Church of England. The former said that “churches of all sorts really should not reduce or fudge, let alone deny, the distinction” between marriage and civil partnership.

In the same debate, the bishops were crucial in defeating government proposals to limit the space within which religious bodies are exempt from anti-discrimination law. They see that as a fundamental matter of conscience. But it is inconsistent to affirm the spiritual independence of the Church of England and simultaneously to deny the spiritual independence of the three small communities who seek this change for themselves (and not for anybody else).

The bishops’ “slippery slope” argument is invalid. Straight couples have the choice between civil marriage and religious marriage. Gay couples are denied a similar choice. To deny people of faith the opportunity of registering the most important promise of their lives in their willing church or synagogue, according to its liturgy, is plainly discriminatory. In the US it would be unconstitutional under the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise . . . of religion.

The amendment will be re-presented by Lord Alli on March 2. We urge every peer who believes in spiritual independence, or in non-discrimination, to support it.

Iain McLean, Professor of Politics, Oxford
Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church, Oxford
The Right Rev David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury
The Right Rev John Gladwin, Former Bishop of Chelmsford
Lord Harries of Pentregarth, Former Bishop of Oxford
The Right Rev Bill Ind, Former Bishop of Truro
The Right Rev Peter Selby, Former Bishop of Worcester
The Right Rev Kenneth Stevenson, Former Bishop of Portsmouth
The Very Rev Nick Bury, Dean of Gloucester
The Rev Jeremy Caddick, Dean, Emmanuel College, Cambridge
The Very Rev Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans
The Very Rev Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark
Canon Dr Judith Maltby, Chaplain, Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Canon Brian Mountford, Vicar of the University Church, Oxford
Canon Jane Shaw, Dean of Divinity, New College, Oxford
The Rev Sarah Coakley, Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity, Cambridge
Sarah Foot, Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History
Alec Ryrie, Professor of the History of Christianity, Durham
Stuart White, Director of the Public Policy Unit, Oxford
Jill Green, Quakers

There is also a leading article, Equal before God.

This Government has done much to bring the law into line with modern attitudes towards homosexuality. It scrapped Section 28 , equalised the age of consent and ended the ban on gays in the Armed Forces.

Now it must resolve the legal asymmetry that prevents homosexual civil partnerships from taking place on religious premises. In a letter to The Times today, a distinguished group of mostly Anglican clergy correctly point out that “straight couples have the choice between civil marriage and religious marriage. Gay couples are denied a similar choice”. That clearly discriminates against homosexuals who are also believers, and three faith communities — Liberal Judaism, the Quakers and the Unitarians — now wish to register civil partnerships on their premises. A legal amendment permitting them to do so is expected to be debated in the House of Lords next month.

The Church of England has so far resisted change, arguing that if some religious groups are allowed to hold civil partnerships then the pressure on the C of E to follow suit will become intolerable. It is a feeble argument. No one is arguing that any church should be forced to conduct a civil partnership. But willing churches should not be precluded from doing so.

Benjamin Disraeli believed the Church of England to be “a part of our liberties, a part of our national character”. If it has any hope of continuing in that role, the Church — and the Government — must recognise that our liberties today should include the right of homosexuals to register the most important promise of their lives in a church.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 22 February 2010 at 6:50pm GMT | Comments (32) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 20 February 2010

opinion for the start of Lent

Karen Burke wrires in a Comment is free column in The Guardian about The death of Methodism? Not quite. The Methodist Church might change, or even merge with the CofE. But Methodists don’t need an insitution to be who they are.

Robert Colquhoun writes in the Times about Men, sex, and the Church. Images of a passive Jesus do not encourage red-blooded males to go to Church, but where can men find an authentic model of male Christianity?

Theo Hobson writes in a Comment is free column in The Guardian about An illiberal establishment. For bishops to say that establishment keeps Christianity in the public square is a self-serving betrayal of the gospel.

Ripon Cathedral is hosting a series of lectures on Religion and Politics – The Role of the Church in Contemporary Society during 2010. James Jones, the bishop of Liverpool, gave the first of these this week with the title ‘My Kingdom is not of this world’ - Really?

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Lent, death, Room 101, and wads of cash.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali writes in the Telegraph about Promoting life rather than death. It is absolutely right for us to feel compassion for those who have a terminal or an incurable illness and for their near and dear ones who wish to relieve them of this burden, even if this means the death of the one who is ill.

And finally Jonathan Bartley looks ahead to later in the year in a Comment is free column with That papal Thought for the Day pitch. Pope Benedict may fill BBC Radio 4’s religion slot when he visits this year. What will he be able to get past the producers?

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 20 February 2010 at 1:51pm GMT | Comments (15) | TrackBack
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Citizen Ethics Network

Updated Sunday evening

A new and interesting online project has been launched today: Citizen Ethics Network.

The Citizen Ethics Network has been established by Madeleine Bunting (Associate Editor and Columnist for The Guardian), Adam Lent (Head of Economic and Social Affairs at the Trades Union Congress) and Mark Vernon (writer and journalist). The Network is an independent initiative of Madeleine, Adam and Mark and its activities and views do not reflect those of The Guardian or the TUC.

The first publication is a booklet, in PDF format, titled Citizen Ethics in a Time of Crisis.

Contributors include Rowan Williams, Michael Sandel, Diane Coyle, Philip Pullman, Carey Oppenheim, Jesse Norman, Nicholas Sagovsky, Julian Glover, Richard Reeves, Jonathan Rutherford and Jon Cruddas, Robert Skidelsky, Will Hutton, Oliver James, Polly Toynbee, Tariq Ramadan, Alain de Botton, Camila Batmanghelidjh, and Mary Midgley.

The Guardian has also published a four page insert in today’s edition, containing extracts from the booklet.

Cif belief has started a discussion thread, Can you make society more ethical?

There will also be an event at the British Museum, on Friday, 26 February.

Updates

Cif belief has now published: Out of the abyss of individualism by Rowan Williams

Towards a just society by Michael Sandel

The three virtues we need by Philip Pullman

To tackle the last decades’ myths, we must dust off the big moral questions by Madeleine Bunting

Do contribute to the comments at these articles if they interest you.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 20 February 2010 at 9:00am GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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cloak and dagger ordinariates

Updated again Tuesday

Next Monday, FiF UK is observing a Day of Prayer in relation to Anglicanorum Coetibus. Bishop Andrew Burnham’s pastoral letter for February is here.

But Bishop Paul Richardson hasn’t waited, see Martin Beckford’s news story Bishop who predicted death of Church of England converts to Rome.

Meanwhile FiF Australia has already made its decision on this. See this news report in the Telegraph Australia’s traditional Anglicans vote to convert to Catholicism.

Andrew Brown reported in Cif belief on “an email from an Anglican ‘flying bishop’ to a Catholic bishop in Australia” in The cloak and dagger Catholics.

Austen Ivereigh commented on this in America in Romeward Anglicans: a case of too much politics?

Damian Thompson has written in the Catholic Herald It does not matter if the Ordinariate is small at first (also copied over to his Telegraph blog).

Update
A new website, Friends of the Ordinariate, has been launched. This website has been commended by Forward in Faith UK. The Church Times blog has some further tidbits.

Riazat Butt has commented at Cif belief Who’s in the Foto?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 20 February 2010 at 7:31am GMT | Comments (24) | TrackBack
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Friday, 19 February 2010

Law suits demonic, says Akinola

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) website has published the text of some reports by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) concerning recent activities of Archbishop Peter Akinola.

See Law suits against traditional Anglicans demonic, says Akinola.

The full text of this is copied below the fold.

Scroll down even further for the full text of a second article titled Battle against unscriptural practices not over, says Akinola. Also copied.

So far, I have not been able to locate either of these reports at the website of NAN.

(h/t to Episcopal Café)

Law suits against traditional Anglicans demonic, says Akinola

Washington, Feb. 11, 2010 (NAN) Archbishop Peter Akinola, the outgoing Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), has described as “demonic’’, the myriad of ongoing lawsuits instituted against orthodox Anglicans in North America.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Washington D.C., Akinola said the intention of the lawsuits was to stifle and annihilate the growth of the Church in the U.S.

NAN reports that the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a missionary initiative of the Church of Nigeria, was established in 2005 to cater for Christians opposed to same-sex teachings.

The convocation, which disassociates itself from the U.S. Episcopal Church, says it has grown to about 95 congregations since its formation.

Akinola noted that the growth had not been without serious challenges.

According to him, the mainstream U.S. Episcopal Church had filed multi-million dollar suits over ownership of church property.

“It is (the law suits) a major challenge. It is not CANA going to court; it is the demonic powers in the so-called Episcopal Church that are suing CANA churches.

“They are fighting us with everything they have with the hope of crushing us.

“It is so ungodly, so demonic and they are determined to completely wipe us out and this is costing millions of dollars.

“Money that could have been used in more positive work of the gospel, is now being used for legal battle; it’s so sad,” he said.

The Nigerian Anglican leader, who in 2006, consecrated a former Episcopal Church priest Martyn Minns, as bishop of CANA, said some of the legal battles had been decided in favour of CANA and some against it.

“Where we have lost, our people have braced up to say that they will not bow down to Baal and they will not on the account of money go and do what is not right.’’ he said.

Akinola, who was in the U.S. for a farewell luncheon organised in his honour by CANA, also spoke on what he plans to do after retirement on March 25.

“Peter Akinola has been able to live a very active life and at the age of 66, it is not possible for him to go and sit down.

“With the help of parents, we have been able to incorporate Peter Akinola Foundation (PAF) which has five broad initiatives.

“Four are written down and one is kept in the mind.

“ The four that are written down have to do with youth empowerment, mission and evangelism, standing-in-the-gap (a programme for lukewarm members of the church) and the fourth one is continental- a concern to deal with African unity and economic empowerment,’’ he said.

He said that the N300 million Foundation would also initiate a programme to spur Christian leaders particularly those in Africa, to “wake-up’’ to their leadership roles and responsibilities. (ENDS)

Battle against unscriptural practices not over, says Akinola

Washington, Feb. 11, 2010 (NAN) Archbishop Peter Akinola, the outgoing Primate of Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), says the ongoing battle against unscriptural practices in the “Church of God’’ will continue after his retirement on March 25.

At a valedictory luncheon in Washington D.C, organised by the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), Akinola urged evangelicals in the Church to continue to stand firm against “huge problems confronting the Church.’’

“The problems that led to the forming of CANA are still very much with us; the battle is not over yet.

“Akinola is going to step down from this office but you dare not step down from this struggle.

“The schools which our children attend are filled teachers who are promoting this same evil agenda,’’ he said.

The cleric described as very fascinating the “story of CANA’’, which was established as a spiritual harbour for Christians opposed to liberal teachings of the US Episcopal Church.

“It was originally meant to be a church that will be a home for Nigerian Anglicans in this country.

“ We said we will not allow them to go to drift to some other churches, that was the initial plan.

“But in God’s providence, that little effort has resulted in this mighty tree called CANA and in that I rejoice,’’ he said.

Akinola insisted that he was not “retiring from preaching the gospel of Christ, saying “ I am transiting to another phase of work.’’

The New Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that in spite of heavy snowstorms in Washington D.C on Wednesday, the organisers of the event braced the odds to organise the momentous event.

The occasion was laden with tributes from friends, priests, parishioners and Church leaders who lauded the visionary leadership of the 66-year old cleric.

Bishop Martyn Minns of CANA recounted Akinola’s humble beginning from a poor home and his growing into a “man with great passion for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.’’

“A man who is determined to be obedient to the word of God, who sees no problems but opportunities,’’ Minns, who was consecrated the first bishop of CANA in August 2006 in Abuja said of Akinola.

Mr Abraham Yisa , the Registrar of the Church and Chairman, Board of Trustees of CANA, thanked Akinola for his selfless service and jovially invited him to “ please apply for the position of a parish priest in CANA after retirement.’’

Emmanuel Kampouris, the publisher of Kairos, a Christian journal, said owing to Akinola’s commitment to the Holy Bible he had spoken at various events in the world “telling the hard truth in love and encouraging those facing fiery trials.’’

He commended his great courage, saying “ he is a Man who fears only God and we thank God for that.’’

Akinola will be retiring as Bishop of Abuja diocese, Archbishop of Abuja and Primate of Nigeria, a position he held for a decade.

The Primate-elect, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh is currently the Chairman, Nigeria Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC). (NAN) ENDS

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 19 February 2010 at 11:11am GMT | Comments (25) | TrackBack
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General Synod - Church Times detailed reports 1

The first batch of detailed Synod reports from the Church Times are now available to non-subscribers.

Questions

Women Bishops: Women: the direction of travel

Terms of Service: Synod approves code for ‘hard cases’

Legislation

The Archbishop of Canterbury’ Presidential Address

Religious Broadcasting: Speakers channel their TV concerns

Clergy Pensions: Retire later for full pension, clergy told

The remaining reports will be available next week.

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Tuesday, 16 February 2010

What We Think We Are Doing

An article with this title by Bishop Pierre Whalon appears this week at Anglicans Online.

You can read it here.

There is then further comment and response by Bishop Whalon at the Episcopal Café.

See the comments here, and the response here.

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Sunday, 14 February 2010

more on the ACNA debate - part 2

Updated yet again Tuesday evening

See earlier list of pro-ACNA items.

The Church Times headline is Synod holds off from ACNA.

THE General Synod declined on Wednesday afternoon to express a desire to be in communion with the Anglican Church in North Amerca (ACNA).

But, “aware of the distress caused by recent divisions” in the Anglican Churches of the US and Canada, it recognised and affirmed the desire of those who had formed ACNA to be part of the Anglican family, and “acknowledged 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”.

Earlier in the week, Matt Davies of ENS had reported Church of England says no to full communion with breakaway entity.

Church Mouse For the avoidance of doubt - the CofE did not ‘recognise’ the ACNA yesterday

Simple Massing Priest “Just a flesh wound”

Lionel Deimel Declaring Victory and Moving On

Scott Gunn Parsing Synod — what have they done?

Jim’s Thoughts resolution

Colin Coward Lorna Ashworth’s motion about the Anglican Church in North America

ask the priest Synod, ACNA and the FCE - A narrowly-avoided theological misstep

Updates

More from Simple Massing Priest
SOMEBODY on the Anglican Right is lying
and
Another lie from the Anglican Right

Justin Brett ACNA-Related Ramblings

Stand Firm has discovered another document, Copy of TEC Memo Circulated at CoE Synod.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 14 February 2010 at 8:29am GMT | Comments (24) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 13 February 2010

more on the civil partners pensions debate

The text of the speeches by Giles Goddard and by Simon Baynes are both published below the fold.

Colin Coward has commented about the debate: General Synod approves pension parity for Civil Partnerships.

Andrew Brown commented about it at Cif:belief in Recoiling from nastiness.

According to Christian Today in its news story

One Synod member, who asked to remain anonymous, said conservative Synod members had deliberately withheld from taking to the floor to speak against the motion for fear of reprisals.

“They didn’t dare to. There would have been screams of homophobia if anyone had dared oppose it,” he said.

Anglican Mainstream has already issued two memoranda:

AM comments on private member motion on pensions for civil partners

and a few hours later: Clergy Pension Scheme – what was and wasn’t decided at General Synod

And AM has also published “A briefing paper by Clive Scowen prepared for the Synod debate”, dated 18 January: Should civil partners be treated like spouses?

Speech to the C of E’s General Synod 11th Feb - Giles Goddard, Chair, Inclusive Church and member of General Synod

I support this motion. But to explain why, I would like to talk first about the wider context in which we find ourselves. Coming to the end of my first Synod I’ve been honoured and humbled to be part of such a wide range of debates. But it does, nevertheless, seem to me that there’s a sort of cancer affecting the Church of England, something which is running through our life and debilitating all that we try to do. It’s not the presence of lesbian and gay people in loving relationships throughout the church, nor is it the opposition to that - no, it’s the argument around all this. It’s been going on for thirty years now, and it comes out in all sorts of different and unhelpful ways. It comes out, for instance, in the agitation in the House of Lords about the Equalities Bill. Whatever the bishops may have intended , and I acknowledge the very real concerns about religious freedom, the result of their activities was to reconfirm in the public mind the connection between Christianity and homophobia – not surprisingly, because the churches do have a history in this area. It comes out in tensions within the Anglican Communion. It was clearly the elephant in the room in our debate yesterday about ACNA, and we might have had a more realistic debate if we’d been able to acknowledge that. It comes out again and again in the lives of those of us trying to do good work in local parishes – I’m based just across the river in Waterloo, and we struggle to engage with institutions like the National Theatre and the South Bank Centre largely because of the church’s attitudes to human sexuality.

We are forfeiting our right to speak on any moral question or question of justice, as anything we say is undermined by the public perception of the church’s attitude on these matters. To be clear- the perception of homophobia in the church is deeply impeding our mission.

This motion gives us a chance to make a fresh start; to act with generosity, and to begin to undo the damage which has been done. We’re all getting tired of this discussion, and I honour the Archbishop’s words on Tuesday. But it’s not going to go away until we find a way of making progress. At the moment we’re locked in an uneasy stalemate, for which we must all bear some responsibility. So we need to find a new way – a way based on much deeper respect for one another’s views, for acknowledgement of their Biblical and faithful roots and the sincerity and deeply known Christianity across the spectrum.

We certainly need, now, leadership from the House of Bishops, reflecting the various views which I know are there but which we hear very little. Above all, we need to rediscover, in this area, the notion that Anglicanism is a community of civilised disagreement.

It’s a question, in the end, of mission. About the face we present to the world. There’s nothing clever or countercultural about resisting the love of God – and that’s how it comes across.

So, now, turning to the motion - I know that there are people in this room for whom civil partnerships are an anathema. There are others whose lives have been transformed by the ceremony, and who are deeply regretful that the church does not yet offer a way to celebrate that before God. This motion isn’t about approval or disapproval of civil partnerships - it’s about justice, generosity and care. If we pass it, we won’t be giving approval to these relationships, but we’ll be reflecting and celebrating the Anglican way for the sake of mission.

On so many other issues – the remarriage of divorced people, for example, or the admission of children to communion, or worship, or the wording of the Lord’s Prayer – over and over again we’ve learnt how to live alongside each other, as I hope we will over women bishops. It’s the parable of the wheat and the tares – both grow until we know the truth. We in Inclusive Church, of which I’m chair, are deeply committed to making that happen. One of my delights is speaking to some- distressingly few but some - evangelical and conservative brothers and sisters, and acknowledging the depth of our mutual attachment within the same church.

And so I will vote for the motion. First, because it’s right. There is no justification for our treating the permanent, stable and faithful partners of clergy any differently to how we treat their spouses, and it’s important to acknowledge that.
And, second, because this gives us an opportunity to be generous, and to send a message to those we serve. We are, as I say, undermining our mission at the moment – we need to demonstrate that we do want to live and work alongside one another for the Reign of God and in the name of justice and love. We’re not talking about very much money; and the symbolism of this would far outweigh the monetary value. So I urge you to support the motion.

General Synod: 11th February 2009: Civil Partners Pensions Debate SpeechSimon Baynes, 394, St Albans

Mr Chairman,
I am the new boy on the Pensions Board. I was elected at the tail end of last year and look forward to my first meeting later this month. After this week’s debates I can see that I shall be very busy! I’m deeply grateful to those who voted for me… and humbled by the size of the vote that came my way.

And, what I say in this speech is a personal view that I shall be taking to the Board when we meet. A personal view of someone who works as an Independent Pensions Trustee.

We all know there are two issues which are certain to fill the press gallery here at Church House. One is the issue of Women Bishops and the other is anything to do with Gay Clergy.

I am sorry to disappoint the ladies and gentlemen up there - there is no debate on Women Bishops in this group of sessions and there is no debate on Gay Clergy either. This is not a debate about Gay Clergy. It is a debate about pensions and the unfairness that we have allowed to be built into our system.

I have been struck by the case of Jeffrey John, who is Dean of the Cathedral where I regularly worship. On realising how he and his partner are treated under the present rules, compared to married clergy, my wife and I were simply appalled.

If Jeffrey died, then his partner for over 30 years would receive £3,370 per annum.
But… if instead of being in partnership for 30 years, had Jeffrey been married for just a few days before he died then his widow would receive £7,550 per annum. That’s more than double!

I commend Mark Bratton for his motion. If there was ever a case of treating one group of clergy unfairly compared to another, this is it.

Mr Chairman, let’s cast our minds forward 38 years. This debate would not be necessary because 43 years would have passed from the Civil Partnership Act becoming law. The discrimination that clergy in civil partnerships face today would have gone away, simply because the clock has ticked forward. We have already accepted the principle of equality. It exists today, except we’re saying it can’t happen fully for 38 years.

Put another way…. How would we feel if slavery had been abolished but existing slaves had to carry on being slaves for another 38 years? The analogy is exactly the same…. and remember, some Christians were against the abolition of slavery even when it happened.

To continue as we are, is tantamount to saying the Church of England will pay “as little as it can get away with”, irrespective of whether it is right or wrong. Employers who pay as little as they can get away with are, in my experience, some of the nastiest employers around and the Church should not be amongst them.

And, we’re not talking about much money in the greater scheme of things. This is not a debate about whether we can afford it. It is a debate about fairness and whether we wish to be in the pursuit of justice.

To vote this motion down would make the Church look, at best very mean, and at worst a laughing stock – We really must avoid this. When I raised this issue with the Policy Director of the National Association of Pension Funds he wrote to me to say “We are in favour of common sense”.

Mr Chairman, I hope that Synod will vote to show that we are all in favour of common sense. I support the motion unamended.

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post-Synod opinion

The Comment is Free section of The Guardian has several General Synod related articles.

Christina Rees Faith in the future: This 35-year debate has become tortuous. But one day soon, women will become bishops.

Judith Maltby Synod: messy, imperfect, but ours: General Synod is a product of a tumultuous history. Flawed as it is, it is rooted in and reflects our traditions.

Andrew Brown Why is the Synod so boring? A reflection on this most urgent question; submitted for wider consultation.

Rosemary Hartill The adversarial model doesn’t help The General Synod suffers because of the way it replicates Parliament – it breeds factions, and disagreement.

Andrew Brown Recoiling from nastiness The General Synod has shown that the Church of England rejects homophobia even if it can’t accept gay people on their own terms.

Andrew Brown Are science and atheism compatible? Science brings no comfort to to anyone with dogmatic beliefs about world.

Dave Walker General Synod The general synod as observed from a lofty vantage point.

And here’s some comment on other topics and from elsewhere.

Giles Fraser in the Church Times Face to face with a man I’ve just had a pop at.

Roderick Strange in a Credo column in the Times We need a blessed filter to make sense of our lives How can wealth, comfort, pleasure and a good name be suspect?

Aaron Taylor in The Guardian A season of bright sadness For Orthodox Christians, the penitential season of Lent means much more than fasting.

Nick Spencer in The Guardian Cherie Booth, faith and religion Why it was reasonable for Cherie Booth to take Shamso Miah’s religious committment into account when sentencing him.

Christopher Howse in the Telegraph Our Sound Is Our Wound by Lucy Winkett: Hearing alarms, listening for angels What we can hear, or choose to hear forms a theme in the Lent book of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

And finally a leading article in The Independent The ignored gospel message

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more on the ACNA debate

Updated

The synod debate on ACNA has produced these reactions from Americans who support ACNA:

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Friday, 12 February 2010

Brian Lewis writes about the ACNA debate

The following article was written by Brian Lewis for the Preludium blog of Mark Harris.

“We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language” (Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost 1887).

I was alarmed but (bearing in mind Oscar’s witticism) should not have been surprised to hear that some in TEC and ACoC might misunderstand the full significance of the Church of England’s General Synod’s decision to reject the call to “express a desire to be in Communion with ACNA”.

But let us be clear it did just that, not once, but twice or perhaps even three times.

To follow through the sequence of events.

The original motion was:

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

In a background paper circulated in advance of the debate the mover (Lorna Ashworth) made a number of allegations about TEC and the ACoC. This clearly established that though the motion was ostensibly only about ACNA it was intended to invite the CoE to condemn the behaviour of TEC and ACoC.

In response to that briefing paper I circulated to all members of synod two papers.

  • The first was written by Revd Canon Alan T Perry LL M. a lecturer in ecclesiastical polity at the Montreal Diocesan Theological College, and amongst other things former Prolocutor of the Province of Canada and member of the Council of the Canadian General Synod, and specifically rebutting the allegations made against ACoC in Mrs Ashworth’s briefing paper.
  • The second was compiled by Simon Sarmiento (of among other things Thinking Anglicans fame) after consultation with David Booth Beers, Chancellor to the Presiding Bishop and Mary E. Kostel, Special Counsel to the Presiding Bishop for property litigation and discipline, and assistance from the Revd Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG, the Revd Scott Gunn, and Ms Susan Erdey of the Church Pension Group. It rebutted the allegations made against TEC.

All synod members including the Archbishops were sent these papers (I believe they are now online at Thinking Anglicans). Members of TEC and ACoC are indebted to Simon; I know how hard he worked on the production of theses papers. I also know how grateful many members of synod were to receive them.

Mrs Ashworth duly presented her motion to Synod, the further allegations made in her opening address confirmed that this was indeed a motion inviting synod to condemn the actions of TEC and ACoC.

In response to the original motion the Bishop of Bristol put forward an amendment (with the support of the House of Bishops) entirely replacing it.

The amendment reads

That this synod
(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.

There are two key and essential things to recognise about this amendment (certainly recognised by everyone in the synod and why it was resisted by those supporting ACNA):

  • The original motion had asked the synod to express OUR desire to be in COMMUNION with ACNA.
  • The replacement recognised and affirmed THEIR desire to remain part of the Anglican FAMILY.

(Other finer questions about “affirm” and “remain” were not key to the understanding of this amendment and to my recollection not brought into the debate, indeed an amendment to leave out “affirm” was withdrawn; we could equally say that by saying the leadership had “formed” ACNA the Bishop was saying ACNA is a new church, but that was also not part of the debate nor probably part of the Bishop’s intention. )

The force of this amendment is in replacing OUR desire to be in COMMUNION with THEIR desire to remain part of the Anglican FAMILY.

Synod accepted this amendment.

Synod declined to express “a desire to be in Communion with ACNA”. That matters. Questions not asked are one thing but when a question is asked and the answer is politely No Thank You that changes where you are.

The No Thank You was polite, of course it was, but it was real. The amendment also asked our Archbishops for a report on the situation, and helpfully recognised the reality of the issues any future possible recognition would raise for the relevant authorities.

I find it difficult to see how ACNA could welcome any of this.

Further In case it was just possible that this was not a rejection of synod “expressing a desire to be in Communion with ACNA” the supporters of ACNA put forward again, as an amendment to the Bishop’s amendment, the original request “that this Synod express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America”. Asking the Synod to say both things at once. A very Anglican fudge that would have been!

The Bishop of Winchester and other ACNA supporters spoke for this, needless to say I spoke against it.

This was the critical moment of the debate - you might just possibly maintain we had in the Bishop’s amendment acknowledged proper procedure - the role of the “relevant authorities” the role of the Archbishops etc, now we could add in the support of our persecuted brothers and sisters (as they were presented to us), and say we desired to be in Communion with them.

The synod carefully considered this and voted No.

That is the second time.

Then we were asked to add an amendment that expressed “our desire that in the interim, the orders of ACNA clergy be recognised and accepted by the Archbishops subject to their satisfaction as to such clergy being of good standing, enabling them to exercise their ordained ministry in this country, according to the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967.”

We said No. Recognising orders is a key part of being in Communion.

I’m afraid I consider that is No a third time.

It was hardly surprising however that nobody objected to the final amendment, an acknowledgement of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada - indeed I had referred to it myself when calling on synod members to support those who had remained faithful to their church.

I know the very existence of this debate raises questions about one part of the Anglican Communion interfering with another - and those questions were raised - but before we answer them, what of the Archbishop of Canterbury in his Presidential address expressing “repugnance” of the “infamous” proposed legislation in Uganda, and the efforts he and other CofE bishops have made communicating directly with the Anglican Church in Uganda. It is also not improper for a synod to offer its view of who it hopes we will be in Communion with. But I recognise there are big issues at stake for the Communion generally - I would just reiterate, I see little cause for concern for TEC or ACoC in the outcome of this particular debate, and to be frank it is beyond disingenuous or bizarre for anybody connected with ACNA to pretend this is in anyway an affirmation of ACNA.

Brian Lewis

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Equality Bill: final day of Lords Committee stage

This happened last Tuesday, 9 February.

The Hansard record starts here, or the PDF is over here.

The Archbishop of York took part in the debate. On this occasion, and in a different context to the previous one, he was in favour of the concept of proportionality.

His contributions are here, here, and here.

The Bill now moves to the Report stage, which will occur on Tuesday 2 March.

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General Synod - reports on Friday's business

updated Friday evening

Synod discussed the compatibility of science and Christian belief this morning.

Stephen Bates in The Guardian General Synod says religion and science not mutually exclusive

BBC Synod emphasises compatibility of religion and science

Press Association Religion compatible with science, synod told

Maria Mackay in Christian Today Science and religion are compatible, says Church of England

Martin Beckford in the Telegraph Atheists are wrong to claim science and religion are incompatible, Church of England says

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Americans not part of Church of Uganda

A further release from the Church of Uganda has been received.

See here for the most recent statement. Also here for an earlier statement.

Now this:

For Immediate Release
12th February 2010

Anglican Churches in America Not Part of Church of Uganda’s Position on Anti-Homosexuality Bill

The Church of Uganda does not have oversight of any Anglican churches in the United States. Member churches of the Anglican Church in North America that have been in partnership with the Church of Uganda in the past were not in any way involved in the Church of Uganda’s position on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. They were not consulted, nor was their support enlisted. The Ugandan context is different from the American context and it is likely that our American friends will have a different position from that of the Church of Uganda.

- END -

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Equality Bill: last week's Tablet articles

Last week’s issue of The Tablet had several articles on this subject, including:

Elena Curti Parliament in his sights - The Pope and the Equality Bill

An editorial: Deepest Human desire

and an article by Clifford Longley reproduced here below the fold, with the express permission of the editor.

Clifford Longley’s column from The Tablet dated 6 February 2010.

‘If something said by the Pope can be fitted by the media into one of its templates, it will be’

The Catholic Church, with Pope Benedict at the centre, was engulfed in a firestorm of mostly hostile media attention starting on Monday night. And the embers will not die quickly. There is every prospect that the papal visit in September will turn into one long shouting match of the same kind, with truth the first casualty.

I became aware of the spin that was developing when a correspondent rang me for my reaction to the Pope’s address to the bishops of England and Wales during their ad limina visit to the Holy See. Was it, the correspondent asked, an attack on the Equality Bill now going before Parliament, as people were saying? I said it was almost certainly about the gay adoption issue, because it criticised legislation already in effect, not legislation still under debate.

But this news desk wanted it to be about the Equality Bill whether it was or not. By evening, most of the rest of the media had joined in, with the BBC excitedly calling it an “unprecedented intervention” in British politics by the Pope. (Never mind that the Vatican called the invasion of Iraq a “crime against peace”.) Given the way the media herd-instinct operates and newspapers and the broadcasters follow each other’s lead, this quickly became the received view.

By the time the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, was being interviewed from Rome by John Humphrys of the BBC’s Today programme next morning, the trap was set. “This is the Pope getting involved in our politics, isn’t it?” he asked Archbishop Nichols. The “this” of the question obviously referred to the current Equality Bill furore in the morning’s papers; the “this” of the archbishop’s answer, however, was the well-known Catholic complaint about Catholic adoption agencies being squeezed out of business by the Sexual Orientation Equality Regulations, three years ago. As the archbishop knew, the Pope’s words were clearly about past legislation, not future. After praising British commitment to equality in general, the Pope had added: “The effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this
goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs.” Which the bishops have said many times, and apart from the word “unjust”, was a purely factual statement.

I later asked the correspondent who had rung me why the false interpretation had persisted beyond the point at which it had been realised, and the reply was: “As you know, sometimes newspapers are afraid to be a lone voice.” I have to say that by next day, leaving aside the obsession with the Equality Bill, that paper had got it more or less right – although one has to ask, without the Equality Bill angle, whether there was much of a story there anyway. “Pope endorses bishops’ stand over gay adoption” wasn’t going to set the world alight. But for ever and a day, people will believe that the Pope had joined the debate over legislation before Parliament, and they also believe this was in some way unprecedented and, with reference to John Humphrys, utterly improper.

“Houston, we have a problem.” The wheels haven’t yet fallen off the papal visit, but there is a warning here. This incident tells us quite a lot about the secular media’s willingness to twist the facts to create a story. It also tells us about the sensitivity of public opinion, or a certain section of it. On the right, of course, this papal “intervention in British politics” was wholly welcome.

But we should probe more deeply. News reporting works by templates. If something said by the Pope can be fitted into one of the media’s favourite current templates, it will be shaped for that purpose. The template here is about religion, and Catholicism in particular, as an anti-progressive force in society. So even if the Pope didn’t mean to attack the Equality Bill, the “greater truth” served by this type of news reporting was that he would have done if he’d thought of it. And never mind that he was speaking carefully, defending the Church’s religious freedom while praising the British tradition of freedom of speech, and indeed, of promoting equality. He was deemed to be trampling all over gay rights in general, not to mention parliamentary sovereignty.

It would be dangerous to assume that the papal visit will be conducted against a media background that is benign. What the Catholic Church needs is a sophisticated rapid-rebuttal unit that knows the way the media thinks, and that can intervene to put out media fires before they take hold. Sometimes spin-doctoring is a necessary evil.

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General Synod - business done Friday

A summary of Friday’s business at General Synod is online.

General Synod - Summary of Business Conducted on Friday 12th February 2010 AM

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Thursday, 11 February 2010

Inclusive Church statement on civil partners pensions

Inclusive Church

Press Release

11th February 2010

Inclusive Church welcomes the vote by the Church of England’s General Synod to extend pension rights beyond the legal minimum for civil partners.

The motion was carried by a clear majority in the Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity. The debate was characterised by a desire to show that the church can act justly and generously in support of those in civil partnerships.

Revd. Canon Giles Goddard, Chair of Inclusive Church said:

“This vote underlines Archbishop’s Rowan Williams’ earlier comments and clearly demonstrates that the Church of England is opposed to all forms of homophobia. I hope this will be the beginning of a new openness towards LGBT people in the church.”

Revd Mark Bratton, proposer of the motion said:

“This unexpected result will encourage those who have given their lives to supporting those in ministry that the church values their commitment and sacrifice.”

The motion:

“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 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.”

Voting:
Bishops
12 for
2 against
3 abstentions
Clergy
97 for
23 against
10 abstentions
Laity
78 for
59 against
9 abstentions

More information contact:
Revd Canon Giles Goddard 07762 373 674
Revd Mark Bratton 0754 060 4225

ends

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General Synod - business done Thursday

Summaries of Thursday’s business at General Synod are online.

morning General Synod - Summary of Business Conducted on Thursday 11th February 2010 AM

afternoon General Synod - Summary of Business Conducted on Thursday 11th February 2010 PM

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General Synod - Thursday's business - press reports

updated Friday morning

Ruth Gledhill in the Times Methodists declare ‘we’re ready to merge’ with CofE

Maria Mackay in Christian Today Methodist Church ‘prepared to go out of existence’ for mission

Martin Beckford in the Telegraph General Synod: Methodists likely to merge with Church of England

Jerome Taylor in The Independent Leader signals end of Methodism

Steve Doughty in the Mail Methodist church ‘prepared to go out of existence’

Note The above items refer to an address by the President and the Vice-President of the Methodist Conference to the General Synod on Thursday morning. The Methodist Church of Great Britain have released this press release.
President and Vice-President address General Synod
The text of the address is available here.

Stephen Bates in The Guardian Church of England General Synod extends pension rights for gay partners

The BBC has Synod votes to give gay clergy equal pension rights

Maria Mackay in Christian Today Church grants full pension rights to gay clergy

Ruth Gledhill in the Times Partners of gay clergy win same pensions as spouses

Martin Beckford in the Telegraph General Synod: Church of England backs equal pension rights for gay clergy partners

Stephen Bates in The Guardian Anglican church calls for tighter regulation of violent computer games

Martin Beckford in the Telegraph General Synod: Church expresses ‘concern’ about effects of computer games on children

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General Synod - pensions for surviving civil partners

This afternoon General Synod voted in favour of providing pensions to the surviving civil partners of clergy on the same basis as they are paid to surviving spouses. At present, and in accordance with the minimum requirements of the law, service before 5 December 2005 does not count towards the level of pension for surviving civil partners.

The private member’s motion, text below, was proposed by the Revd Mark Bratton, and was passed without amendment.

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.

The vote was taken by houses and all three houses voted in favour; here are the detailed voting figures.

   for  against abstentions
bishops
12
2
3
clergy
97
23
10
laity
78
59
9

There were two unsuccessful proposed amendments. One, from the bishop of Ripon and Leeds, would have reworded the motion to:

That this Synod recognise that it will be some considerable time before surviving civil partners’ pension rights reach parity with those of spouses, and in the light of that note the helpful confirmation from the Pensions Board that surviving civil partners of deceased clergy are eligible to be considered for hardship grants if they meet the same qualifying conditions as apply to surviving spouses.

This amendment was defeated with 110 votes in favour, 154 against and 15 recorded abstentions.

A second amendment, proposed by Dr Philip Giddings, would have added a long list of dependent relatives, as well as civil partners, to those entitled to pensions; this was defeated on a show of hands.

Background papers
GS 1770A paper prepared by Mark Bratton
GS 1770B paper by the Rt Reverend John Packer, Chair of DRACSC (The Archbishops’ Council Deployment, Remuneration and Conditions of Service Committee)

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General Synod - Thursday morning press reports

Reports of Wednesday’s broadcasting debate are linked here and of the ACNA debate here.

On other matters there is this.

Martin Beckford in the Telegraph Church of England warned against thoughtless criticism of Armed Forces by senior padre

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Church of Uganda statement on anti homosexuality bill

On 9 February, the Church of Uganda issued a statement on the proposed Uganda legislation. The full text of this is contained in a PDF file. It has also been copied below the fold.

According to the covering email:

The attached document is the official position of the Church of Uganda as endorsed by the House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda.

Kindly ensure that it is represented in its entirety.

CHURCH OF UGANDA’S POSITION ON THE ANTI HOMOSEXUALITY BILL 2009

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Church of Uganda associates itself with the concerns expressed in the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009. However, instead of a completely new Bill, the Church recommends a Bill that amends the Penal Code Act (Cap.120) addressing loopholes, in particular:

  • protecting the vulnerabilities of the boy child; 1
  • proportionality in sentencing;
  • and, ensuring that sexual orientation is excluded as a protected human right.

Further, we recommend involvement of all stakeholders in the preparation of such a Bill in order to uphold Uganda’s values as they relate to human sexuality.

Church of Uganda’s position on Homosexuality

The Church of Uganda derives her mandate and authority from the canonical scriptures of the Old and New Testament, as the ultimate rule and standard of faith, given by inspiration of God and containing all things necessary from salvation. 2 Her mission is to “fulfil Christ’s mission through holistic teaching, evangelism, discipleship and healing for healthy and godly nations 3.”

The Church’s position on human sexuality is consistent with its basis of faith and doctrine, and has been stated very clearly over the years as reflected in various documents. i ii iii

From a plain reading of Scripture, from a careful reading of Scripture, and from a critical reading of Scripture, homosexual practice has no place in God’s design of creation, the continuation of the human race through procreation, or His plan of redemption. Even natural law reveals that the very act of sexual intercourse is an experience of embracing the sexual “other”. The Church of Uganda, therefore, believes that “Homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture” (Resolution 1.10, 1998 Lambeth Conference). At the same time, the Church of Uganda is committed at all levels to offer counseling, healing and prayer for people with homosexual disorientation, especially in our schools and other institutions of learning. The Church is a safe place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing.

The Objective of the Bill

The Church of Uganda appreciates the spirit of the Bill’s objective of protecting the family, especially in light of a growing propaganda to influence younger people to accept homosexuality as a legitimate way of expressing human sexuality.
We particularly appreciate the objectives of the Bill which seek to:

a) provide for marriage in Uganda as contracted only between a man and woman;
b) prohibit and penalize homosexual behaviour and related practices in Uganda as they constitute a threat to the traditional family;
c) prohibit ratification of any internationla treaties, conventions, protocols, agreements and declarations which are contrary or inconsistent with teh provisions of the Act;
d) prohibit the licensing of organizations which promote homosexuality.

The need for a Bill that amends existing legislation

We affirm the need for a Bill in light of the existing loopholes in the current legislation, specifically sections 145‐148 of the Penal Code Act (Cap 120), which does not explicitly address the other issues asscociated with homosexual practice such as procurement, recruitment and dissemination of literature. That notwithstanding, the ideal situation would be one where necessary amendment is made to existing legislation to also enumerate other sexual offences such as lesbianism and bestiality. This would not require a fresh bill on homosexuality per se but rather an amendment to the existing provisions which would also change the title to something like “The Penal Code Unnatural Offences Amendment Bill.”

Recommendation

As Parliament considers streamlining the existing legislation, we recommend that the following isues be taken into consideration:

1. Ensure that the law protects the confidentiality of medical, pastoral and counseling relationships, including those that disclose homosexual practice in accordance with the relevant professional codes of ethics.

2. Language that strengthens the existing Penal Code to protect the boy child, especially from homosexual exploitation; to prohibit lesbianism, bestiality, and other sexual perversions; and to prohibit procurement of material and promotion of homosexuality as normal or as an alternative lifestyle, be adopted.

3. Ensure that homosexual practice or the promotion of homosexual relations is not adopted as a human right.

4. Existing and future Educational materials and programmes on gender identity and sex education are in compliance with the values and the laws of Uganda.

5. The involvment of additional stakeholders in the evaluation of the gaps in the existing legislation, including, but not limited to, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, its Department of Immigration and other relevant departments

6. The undertaking of a comprehensive legislative and literature review of all the laws and literature related to the subject at hand in order to identify the actual gaps in the existing legislations.

Conclusion

As a Church, we affirm the necessity of appropriate amendments within the existing legislation and corresponding Penal Code sections. The Church of Uganda, being a part of the Anglican Communion, reiterates her position on human sexuality and her desire to uphold the pastoral position of providing love and care for all God’s people caught up in any sin and remaining consistent with Holy Scriptures of the Christian Church.

Footnotes
1 Cf. The discrepancy between Penal Code sections 128 and 147. Cf. also Section 129 which has no corresponding section for the boy child.
2 Article 2‐ Doctrine and Worship, Church of The Province of Uganda‐ Provincial Constitution 1972 as amended (1994).
3 Mission statement, Church of the Province of Uganda

i Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference of Bishops [Anglican Communion] held in 1998
ii The Church of Uganda’s Position Paper on Scripture, Authority and Human Sexuality May 2005
iii Press Statement of February 21, 2007 by Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi on the Primates’ Meeting held in Dar‐es‐ Salaam, Tanzania

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criticism of the presidential address

At Ekklesia there is some analysis of what Rowan Williams said on Tuesday, in Archbishop says sorry to gays but defends Church’s discrimination.

In Cif: belief Savi Hensman gets more explicit: Rowan’s apology falls short.

And, I wrote a piece for Cif:belief which is headlined Rowan’s speech and the equality bill.

Also, Kelvin Holdsworth has written Still Shocking.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 11 February 2010 at 8:09am GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 10 February 2010

General Synod - press reports of the ACNA debate

Updated Thursday morning to include more details of the motion and amendments and further press reports

Stephen Bates in The Guardian Church of England keeps distance from breakaway US conservative Episcopalians

Jerome Taylor in The Independent Church sidesteps gay issue at Synod debate

Avril Ormsby at Reuters UK Church stops short of communion with U.S. conservatives

For the record, the original motion proposed by Lorna Ashworth was

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

Synod amended this to

That this Synod
(a) aware of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada;
(b) recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family;
(c) 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
(d) invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011.

The amended motion was largely the proposal of the bishop of Bristol, on behalf of the House of Bishops, but paragraph (a) was added on a proposal from the Revd Andrew Dow (diocese of Gloucester).

The amended motion was carried by 309 votes in favour to 69 against, with 17 recorded abstentions.

There was an attempt to amend the motion to read:

That this Synod
(a) express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America;
(b) recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family;
(c) acknowledge these aspirations, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raise issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and
(d) invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011.

This was defeated by 166 votes in favour to 223 against with 2 recorded abstentions.

During the debate there were two procedural motions, one to move to next business and one to adjourn the debate, but both were defeated. If carried either would have brought the debate to an immediate end without a vote.

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General Synod - business done Wednesday

Summaries of Wednesday’s business at General Synod are online.

morning General Synod - Summary of Business Conducted on Wednesday 10th February 2010 AM

afternoon General Synod - Summary of Business Conducted on Wednesday 10th February 2010 PM

The second of these will not be complete until after the close of business at 7.00 pm.

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General Synod - Wednesday's Broadcasting debate

Synod debated this private member’s motion on religious broadcasting, proposed by Nigel Holmes, this (Wednesday) morning:

That this Synod call upon the BBC and Ofcom to explain why British television, which was once exemplary in its coverage of religious and ethical issues, now marginalizes the few such programmes which remain and completely ignored the Christian significance of Good Friday 2009.

An amendment was moved by the Bishop of Manchester, and carried by Synod, which reworded the motion to read:

That this Synod

(a) express its appreciation of the vital role played by those engaged in communicating religious belief and practice through the media, at a time of changes within the industry; and

(b) express its deep concern about the overall reduction in religious broadcasting across British television in recent years, and call upon mainstream broadcasters to nurture and develop the expertise to create and commission high quality religious content across the full range of their output, particularly material that imaginatively marks major festivals and portrays acts of worship.

The amended motion was carried by 267 votes in favour with 4 against and 2 recorded abstentions.

Here are some press reports.

Stephen Bates in The Guardian Synod rejects motion attacking broadcasters over lack of religious programmes

Martha Linden of the Press Association in the Independent Church concern over religious broadcast hours

Avril Ormsby of Reuters UK Church of England laments drop in religious TV programmes

The BBC has Church of England concerned by ‘religious TV cuts’

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General Synod - Wednesday morning press reports

updated Wednesday lunchtime

We covered most of these last night, but here are a couple looking forward to some of today’s business.

Ruth Gledhill in the Times Anglican Church in North America ‘should be in communion with C of E’

The BBC has BBC accused over a lack of religious broadcasts

The Guardian has BBC religious coverage to come under fire at Church of England debate

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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

General Synod - press reports of Archbishop of Canterbury's presidential address

updated Thursday morning

We link to the text of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s presidential address here. Here are some early press reports of what he said.

Stephen Bates in The Guardian Archbishop of Canterbury appeals for unity over gay clergy and women bishops

update The Guardian has issued a correction to the above article. The online version appears to be correct.

 A story reported Rowan Williams’s appeal for Anglicans to show mutual tolerance over issues of gay equality and female bishops. The story also noted a statement put out by the head of the church in Uganda, Henry Orombi, supporting his country’s proposed anti-gay legislation. Contrary to our headline – Archbishop’s plea for tolerance undermined by attack on gay people at General Synod, 10 February, page 4 – the Orombi statement was issued in Kampala. The statement also insisted: “The church is a safe place for individuals to seek help and healing.” This was changed in editing to “Williams’s church”, when the Ugandan archbishop was referring to his own.

Martin Beckford in the Telegraph Relaxing assisted suicide laws a ‘moral mistake’ - Archbishop of Canterbury

Ruth Gledhill in the Times Rowan Williams issues ‘profound apology’ to gay Christians

Steve Doughty in the Mail Archbishop of Canterbury says changes to assisted dying laws will ‘cross a moral boundary’

Avril Ormsby at Reuters UK Archbishop warns over restricting religious freedoms

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General Synod - business done Tuesday

updated Tuesday evening

Summaries of Tuesday’s business at General Synod are online.

morning General Synod - Summary of Business Conducted on Tuesday 9th February 2010 AM

afternoon General Synod - Summary of Business Conducted on Tuesday 9th February 2010 PM

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General Synod - Archbishop of Canterbury's presidential address

The Archbishop of Canterbury gave his presidential address to General Synod this afternoon. A press release is online, followed by the text of the speech.

Archbishop’s Presidential Address

In addition there is Word document of the speech linked from here.

The Archbishop delivering his address.

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General Synod - Tuesday morning press reports

Stephen Bates in The Guardian New split in Church of England over women bishops

Martin Beckford in the Telegraph General Synod: Church of England exodus feared unless women bishops plans changed

Andrew Hough in the Telegraph General Synod: Church of England suffering from ‘testosterone deficit’

George Pitcher in the Telegraph The Church is full of women – so obviously what we don’t need is women bishops

Jonathan Wynne-Jones in the Telegraph Church of England is ‘living in the past’, says BBC’s head of religion

Ruth Gledhill in the Times Dr Rowan Williams to challenge infighting over gays and women bishops

Steve Doughty in the Mail Where have all the men gone? asks the Church of England

Jerome Taylor in the Independent Evangelicals in warning over women bishops

Many of these articles refer to this press release from Reform Reform highlights ‘huge practical problems’ with women bishops and an attached letter sent to Synod members.

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ACNA: another critical view

A critical view of the ACNA resolution is contained in an article published on Fulcrum and due to also appear on Religious Intellligence written by the Bishop of Sherborne, Graham Kings.

Read General Synod Motion concerning the Anglican Church in North America.

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ACNA: some other views

The Church of England Newspaper reports that one episcopal signer of the original resolution has had new thoughts. In Controversial American vote defused by House of Bishops it is reported that:

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, said: “My name is on the original motion of Lorna Ashworth’s, and I’m happy that it was and is, but I realise that it is more practical to ask the Synod to do something that it really is in a position to do. “It is not in fact the role of the Church of England to make these kind of decisions, nor is it for Synod to make these kind of decisions. Therefore, to enable the archbishops and the bishops and others to vote positively, there needs to be an amendment like that which the Bishop of Bristol will be bringing.

“It does two things. It brings the motion in line with the constitutional role and the canonical realities as to who actually makes these decisions. At the same time it is a clear and positive affirmation of the character and intentions and standpoint of the ACNA.

Somebody who left the Church of England quite a while ago, Charles Raven, now a major force in the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans says this, in a piece published on Anglican Mainstream titled The English General Synod: The Centre Cannot Hold:

…it is as much about the English Church as the Church in North America.

She poses precisely the sort of question that the Church of England’s leadership wants to avoid because the ACNA represents a choice which must be made between two incompatible forms of religion – historic biblical Anglicanism and that pseudo- Anglicanism being promoted by TEC and its allies which derives its energy from the spirit of the age rather than the Spirit of Christ.

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ACNA: questions on a postcard

Tobias Haller has composed some pithy questions that member of General Synod might care to ponder about ACNA:

Please consider the following for a moment:

1) What would be done in the Church of England if a bishop from the convocation of Canterbury were to announce one day that he no longer considered himself to be under the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury and had transferred his allegiance to the Archbishop of Tanzania, but intended to remain in his present location and exercise episcopal functions as a representative of his new archbishop?

2) What would be done in the Church of England in the case of a priest who announced that he no longer recognized his diocesan bishop as having any authority over him, but refused to relinquish his cure? And if he invited bishops from other dioceses or provinces to do parish visitations there?

3) What would be done in the Church of England if the clergy and parish council of a parish in, shall we say, Dibley, announced that it was no longer part of the Church of England, but considered itself now to be a congregation of the Church of the Province of the Sudan, altered all of their signage and other public information to reflect this change, purporting now to be part of “The Anglican Church in England” and invited bishops from the Sudan to function in the parish, refusing to have anything more to do with their C. of E. diocese or its leadership?

These are the kinds of things The Episcopal Church is having to deal with, as facts on the ground. Any depositions, inhibitions, or lawsuits are a result of and in response to precisely these sorts of actions. Consider carefully how you vote on the motion to come before you. You may soon be dealing with just such situations yourself.

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Monday, 8 February 2010

General Synod - business done Monday

A summary of Monday’s business at General Synod is online.

General Synod - Summary of Business Conducted on Monday 8th February 2010 PM

There are links to audio of the proceedings.

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The Episcopal Church and the ACNA

The Episcopal Church
Office of Public Affairs
February 4, 2010

The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA)

The following is one in a series of talking points prepared as a resource for The Episcopal Church.

Talking Points:

The Episcopal Church and the ACNA

The facts about The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA).

  • The Episcopal Church is over 7400 congregations in 109 dioceses plus three regional areas in 16 countries with 2.2 million members.
  • It is important to note that membership in ACNA includes churches and denominations which have disassociated from The Episcopal Church both recently and over the last 130 years, as well as congregations which have never been part of The Episcopal Church. A definitive number is difficult to ascertain.
  • ACNA is led by an archbishop who is not a member of The Episcopal Church, The Church of England, the Anglican Church of Canada, or The Anglican Communion.
  • The Episcopal Church laity and clergy believe the Christian faith as stated in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. We call the Holy Scriptures the Word of God because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible. We look to the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church in the understanding of the Scriptures. Our assurance as Christians is that nothing, not even death, shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • The Episcopal Church welcomes all who wish to serve God through Jesus Christ.
  • The Episcopal Church welcomes women in ordained ministry – deacons, priests and bishops. The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church is the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to lead The Episcopal Church as well as any of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion. ACNA does not permit women to serve as bishops and, in some areas, bars women from all ordination.
  • The Episcopal Church is a member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion, serving God together and working together to bring the Reign of God on earth. ACNA is not a member of the Worldwide Anglican Communion.
  • It is important to note that those who have remained in The Episcopal Church in those places where some have left include conservatives as well as liberals, persons on the political right as well as on the political left, and everything in between.
  • It is an inaccurate and misleading image that pictures those who have broken away from The Episcopal Church as the persecuted faithful, when in reality those who have remained have felt deeply hurt, and now in some cases are exiled from their own church buildings by ACNA.
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Tales from ACNA-land

Scott Gunn has posted a series of blog articles recently commenting on various matters relating to ACNA.

Some examples:

Putting the shoe on your foot

“Church Militant” gets new meaning

Duncan says Canterbury is “lost”

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Sunday, 7 February 2010

Equality Bill notes

Some exchanges from the House of Commons last Thursday:

Kitty Ussher (Burnley) (Lab): … I know that my right hon. and learned Friend shares my view that it is wrong that religious organisations should be able to discriminate against, for example, gay people or women who apply for non-religious posts in those organisations. She will also know that a Government amendment on that subject was defeated recently in the other place. Will she therefore take this opportunity to clarify for hon. Members whether she will reintroduce such an amendment when the Equality Bill returns to the Commons?
Ms Harman: I thank my hon. Friend for raising this matter. The Government’s policy is clear and has not changed. Our view remains that religious organisations employing people should comply with the law that applies to all other employers, whether that is the requirement to have written contracts, pay sick pay or the minimum wage, or the requirement not to sack people unfairly or discriminate against them. However, our position has always been that for specifically religious work—as a vicar, priest, rabbi or imam—religious organisations would be exempt from non-discrimination law. A religious organisation cannot discriminate against gay people or women when it hires a bookkeeper, but it can when choosing a minister of religion.
The amendment that we proposed in the House of Lords did not intend to change that policy position. What it sought to do was make the distinction between religious and non-religious jobs clearer. The Lords did not regard our amendment as helpful. We will therefore leave the law as it is, and not bring the amendment back to this House. The law will remain as it was: in anti-discrimination law there is an exemption for religious jobs but not for non-religious jobs.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): With regard to what the Leader of the House said earlier about the Equality Bill, she will know that concern was expressed in the other place that her amendments were so tightly drawn that they could have encompassed even the Archbishop of York, because he spends a lot of his time working in the community, not just proclaiming the liturgy. Being positive, and now that the Government are not overturning their defeats, can we take it that the Government now accept the principle that the Churches must be allowed to regulate their own clergy according to their own conscience?
Ms Harman: The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. We never sought to, or indeed even unintentionally, propose non-discrimination laws covering bishops, rabbis, archbishops or priests. In the 2003 non-discrimination employment regulations, we explicitly allowed for an exemption for those involved in religious ministry, so I am sorry that he has taken the opportunity to spread a misapprehension. There was never an intention—and nor is there an intention—to apply the provisions to those involved in religious ministry. However, if a church, synagogue or mosque is hiring a cleaner, bookkeeper or finance officer, it will have to comply with the normal, non-discrimination provisions of employment, like all others. I hope that, instead of spreading misapprehension, he will reassure those who raised that concern with him that it never was the Government’s intention to make that change. The amendment simply clarified the difference between a religious and non-religious job, and whatever the criticisms of the drafting, which I do not accept, nobody could think that it would say that being Archbishop of Canterbury was not a religious job.

Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): Given that the right hon. and learned Lady clearly believes in its continued importance and relevance in today’s world, may we have a debate in Government time on papal infallibility?
Ms Harman: That is not a matter for the House. What are matters for the House are public policy and legislative scrutiny, and what is a matter for the Government is to ensure that, although we respect the fact that some areas of religion must be subject to the control and decisions of those religions, for the rest, religious organisations, like everyone else, obey the law.

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Saturday, 6 February 2010

General Synod Questions

The questions to be asked at General Synod next week are now online.

General Synod February 2010 Questions

The answers will be given in the last item of business on Monday 8 February.

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Opinions before Synod

Alan Wilson looks forward to next week’s meeting of General Synod in a Face to face column in The Guardian: How the General Synod works is more important than anything it decides.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that Football needs some humility.

Rowan Williams has written in Newsweek about God and Wall Street. The article is also available on the Archbishop’s website.

John Shepherd writes in a Times Credo column that We all have faith, whether or not we recognise it.

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Friday, 5 February 2010

ACNA: the background reading

Updated

As listed in my paper:

Professor Bruce Mullin’s Affidavit in the case of the Diocese of Ohio

This deals particularly with the issue of parishes purporting to depart from a diocese. It has not previously been published.

Professor Bruce Mullin’s Affidavit in the case of the Diocese of Fort Worth

This deals particularly with the issue of dioceses purporting to depart from TEC.

Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church (2009)

New edition, just published electronically during the past week.

The “Chapman report” January 2004

This matter was also reported at the time by Stephen Bates in the Guardian see
US Anglicans plot to break up church and Leaked letters reveal plot to split US church.

“Alternative oversight”

On January 14, 2004 , The Washington Post published a story headlined, “Plan to Supplant Episcopal Church USA Is Revealed.”

The article was based on a letter from the Rev. Geoff Chapman, rector of St. Stephen’s, Sewickley-one of the larger parishes in Duncan ‘s diocese-who said he was responding to an inquiry on behalf of the AAC and its “Bishops Committee on Adequate Episcopal Oversight.” 10 The letter, dated December 28, 2003 , was leaked to Post reporter Alan Cooperman.

In the letter, Chapman wrote that the AAC’s “ultimate goal is a realignment of Anglicanism on North American soil” resulting in a “replacement jurisdiction.” He added that conservatives would “seek to retain ownership of our property as we move into this realignment.”

A parish interested in “alternative oversight” should declare its relationship with its diocesan Bishop “severely damaged” as a result of Robinson’s consecration, Chapman wrote, and state that it now looked to “one of the Primates or an AAC orthodox Bishop for their ‘primary pastoral leadership.’”

Episcopal bishops who claimed authority over a parish in another bishop’s diocese would be vulnerable to prosecution under canon law. However, Chapman wrote, “we do have non-geographical oversight available from ‘offshore’ Bishops, and retired Bishops.”

If “adequate settlements” were not within reach by “some yet to be determined moment, probably in 2004,” he added, “a faithful disobedience of canon law on a widespread basis may be necessary.”

[extract from Following the Money see link below]

The “Barfoot memo” March 2004

The concept of “offshore oversight” for conservative Episcopal parishes was developed further in a March 3, 2004 , memo to “Ekklesia Society primates and bishops” and leaders of the Network by Canon Alison Barfoot. It was occasioned, Barfoot wrote, by conversations with Atwood, John Guernsey of the Network and Martyn Minns of the AAC.

Barfoot, formerly co-rector at Christ Church in Overland Park , Kansas , had recently been appointed an assistant to Orombi, primate of the province of Uganda . An ally of Duncan’s, Orombi had broken off relations with the Episcopal Church in December 2003.

In the memo, Barfoot outlined a three-step plan for removing parishes from the oversight of Episcopal bishops and placing them under the oversight of an “offshore” bishop who would then delegate his authority over that parish to the Network. If a parish did not already have a relationship with an offshore bishop, Barfoot suggested, the Ekklesia Society could arrange a match.

[extract from Following the Money see link below]

Following the Money 2006

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Responses to ACNA documents

The American Anglican Council has published this press release: Rebutting Simon Sarmiento and TEC’s Factual Inaccuracies.

The article lists only five points.

Anglican Essentials Canada has published this article: ACoC priest, Alan Perry, questions the ACNA briefing paper.

The article lists only one point.

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ACNA - some more stuff

Today’s Church Times carries a news report by Pat Ashworth Accuracy of briefing paper on ACNA challenged.

This mentions a press release from the American Anglican Council, which you can see here: AAC Tracks Episcopal Church’s Canonical Abuse - Plight of Orthodox Anglicans.

This article from almost a year ago may be useful: 16 February 2009 ACNA publishes statistics.

And there is this one from earlier, 12 December 2008 ACNA: 700 congregations?

Also, 12 December, revised 19 December 2008: church press covers ACNA

And there are other articles from last year:

April: ACNA does not expect recognition

May: ACNA appeals for $700K

June: more about ACNA

July: General Synod: Questions about ACNA and ACNA and FCA

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Equality Bill: more articles

The Church Times today carries my report of recent events under the headline: Churches to keep their exemption from equality law, Harman confirms.

THE LAW covering church employment will stay as it is, the Minister for Women and Equality, Harriet Harman, said on Tuesday. She was speaking after the defeat in the Lords of an amendment to the Equality Bill (News, 29 January), which sought to clarify the ex­emption for religious bodies from the existing legislation, to ensure that it applied only to church ministers…

This report also includes two sections on more of the House of Lords debates from Monday and Wednesday of last week, including the one on Civil Partnerships venues.

Earlier on Monday of last week, the House considered a proposal from Lord Alli to to amend the Civil Partner­ships Act to allow religious venues to be used.

Lord Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford, spoke in support. He said: “The Government were absolutely right to respect the religious sensitivities of the Church of England when the Civil Partnership Bill went through Parlia­ment, but since that time a new situation has emerged. The Quakers, liberal Jews, and other religious bodies have made it quite clear that they want permission to conduct these cere­monies in a religious context with religious language. This is a fundamental issue of reli­gious freedom…”

Cif: belief yesterday carried a comment article by Riazat Butt headlined More Catholic than the pope.

There is still much anger over the pope’s comments about UK equality laws. Part of me wonders why people are surprised by the nature of his observations – they are exactly what one would expect – and part of me also wonders why people are focusing on the equality bill, which was more about Anglicans than Catholics. The Catholic bishops did not turn a blind eye to the proposed legislation, but it was the Lords Spiritual who went to war over it. They won. Well done them. That the established church is trying to shut out people whose lifestyle is at odds with Christian ethos brings the words “stable”, “door” and “bolted” to mind. Their attempts to legitimise “sexual cleansing” also reminds me of the time that Katharine Jefferts Schori accused the C of E of double standards

and she concludes:

While I accept the pope was out of order for passing judgment on equality legislation and UK attitudes towards homosexuality, the same level of anger and outrage must be directed at those Church of England bishops who fought tooth and nail to keep the status quo, to preserve their right to discriminate against gays and lesbians and to institutionalise and legitimise prejudice against anyone they deemed to be unfit for purpose because of their lifestyle.

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Thursday, 4 February 2010

ACNA and the Episcopal Church

Readers may recall this General Synod motion, which is being debated next Wednesday. And there is this amendment.

A paper rebutting the claims made about the Episcopal Church, compiled by me, has been issued to General Synod members.

That paper can now be read in full here.

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ACNA and Canada

Readers may recall this General Synod motion, which is being debated next Wednesday. And there is this amendment.

A paper rebutting the claims made about the Anglican Church of Canada, written by Alan Perry has been issued to General Synod members.

That paper can now be read in full here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 4 February 2010 at 4:55pm GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Equality Bill: did the government back down?

Newspaper headlines on Wednesday were confusing:

Independent Jerome Taylor Harriet Harman defends equality legislation following Pope’s criticism

Telegraph Andrew Porter and Martin Beckford Victory for religious groups as Labour gives up on Equality Bill clause condemned by Pope

The Times Rosemary Bennett and Ruth Gledhill Harriet Harman backs down over employment equality for churches

The Independent also had The Big Question: What is equality legislation, and why is the Pope so concerned about it? by Andy McSmith

Andrew Brown interpreted all this as Harman retreats.

So what actually happened?

First, on Thursday last week, long before the Pope spoke, Harriet Harman answered a question in the House of Commons. You can read the Hansard record of it here. The relevant bit is also copied below the fold.

Second, this week the following statement was issued by the GEO on Tuesday:

Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, said:

“There are religious jobs and non-religious jobs within organised religion. For example, a pensions assistant ensuring that the records database is kept up to date is not doing a religious job. Issuing and processing invoices, even if it is done in the employment of a church or other religious organisation is not a religious job.

“Employment and non-discrimination law applies to religious organisations when they employ people in non-religious jobs in the same way that it does to all other employers. We have never insisted on non-discrimination legislation applying to religious jobs such as being a vicar, a bishop, an imam or a rabbi.

“Religious organisations can decide themselves how to do that. However, when it comes to non-religious jobs, those organisations must comply with the law. We thought that it would be helpful for everyone involved to clarify the law, and that is what the amendment that we brought forward aimed to do. That amendment was rejected. So the law remains as it was.”

Andrew Rosindell: Will the Minister finally admit that were it not for the successful amendment from Baroness O’Cathain in the House of Lords earlier this week, the Equality Bill as unamended would have further restricted employment for people working in religious organisations?

Ms Harman: No, it would not. We thought that it would be helpful for everyone involved to clarify the law, and that is what the amendment that we brought forward aimed to do. That amendment was rejected. However, it would be helpful for the House to understand that there are religious jobs and non-religious jobs within organisations. For example, I would say that a pensions assistant ensuring that the records database is kept up to date was not doing a religious job. I would also say that issuing and processing invoices, even if it is done in the employment of the Church of England, is not a religious job.

To make it clear, the law applies to religious organisations when they employ people in non-religious jobs in the same way that it does to everyone else. We have always been clear that we are not going to insist on non-discrimination in relation to religious jobs such as being a vicar, a bishop, an imam or a rabbi. The law has stepped back from that and said that religious organisations can decide themselves how to do that. However, when it comes to non-religious jobs, those organisations must comply with the law, and that is how the law remains.

Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): The Minister will know that before the Government’s defeat, her Bill as unamended did not even make it clear that ministers of religion would have to live in accordance with the faith of their religion. Following the Government’s defeat in the other place not once but three times, by a coalition led by Conservative peers, bishops and Cross Benchers, the Bill has been improved. Can the Minister confirm that the Government will accept the decision in the other place to enable Churches to insist that key posts be held by those who live in accordance with the tenets of their faith, or will she seek to reverse that defeat in this House?

Ms Harman: I think that the hon. Gentleman is trying to perpetrate a further misunderstanding. We are absolutely clear that we have never intended to extend the non-discrimination provisions to ministers of religion, nor have we ever tried to do so. Therefore they are exempted. We have always made it absolutely clear that they are and will continue to be exempted from the non-discrimination laws, and we have not sought to change that. There has been an issue about what is or is not a religious job, and we sought to clarify that. Our helpful clarification was not regarded as helpful in the House of Lords, and therefore the amendment was defeated. We will consider how to respond to that, but an official announcement will be made in due course, once these things have gone through the machinery, as it were. However, I would reassure hon. Members that the policy will remain as it is, and I would not want to lead them to anticipate that it will be brought forward again in this House.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 4 February 2010 at 9:16am GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation

Equality Bill - further reactions

Steve Bell in the Guardian had a cartoon, see Your equality laws are unjust, pope tells UK before visit.

Listen to Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff, speaking on Vatican Radio in Rome on Tuesday.

The Guardian published this editorial comment on Wednesday: Equalities legislation: The pope protests.

The Question of the Week at Cif:belief has been Does faith trump equality? (This was started on Monday, before the Pope spoke.)

In response to the Pope incident, Martin Pendergast wrote at Cif: belief All of us deserve equality.

And Simon Jenkins wrote An odious view, indeed. But I’m with Pope Benedict on this one.

The Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks wrote in The Times The Pope is right about the threat to freedom.

The Archbishop of York gave a lecture, in Newcastle, titled Gracious Magnanimity vs. Tolerance. You can read the full text of that here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 4 February 2010 at 9:00am GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

Monday, 1 February 2010

Pope comments on Equality Bill

Updated again Tuesday morning

The Pope has commented on British equality legislation.

Cif belief has republished an address delivered to the Catholic bishops of England and Wales by Pope Benedict on 1 February 2010.

The key paragraph is this:

Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed. I urge you as Pastors to ensure that the Church’s moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended. Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others – on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth. Continue to insist upon your right to participate in national debate through respectful dialogue with other elements in society. In doing so, you are not only maintaining long-standing British traditions of freedom of expression and honest exchange of opinion, but you are actually giving voice to the convictions of many people who lack the means to express them: when so many of the population claim to be Christian, how could anyone dispute the Gospel’s right to be heard?

There has been a speedy British media reaction to this:

Telegraph Damian Thompson Pope tells English and Welsh bishops to get their act together and Has the Pope declared war on Labour?
Martin Beckford Pope Benedict XVI criticises ‘unjust’ effects of Harriet Harman’s Equality Bill

Press Association Pope confirms he will visit Britain Headline changed to Pope attacks equality laws in UK

The Times Ruth Gledhill Pope Benedict XVI confirms first state visit to UK and Pope: Britain’s equal rights legislation ‘violates’ natural law and Pope Benedict XVI attacks Labour’s equality push

BBC Pope Benedict confirms first papal UK visit since 1982

Guardian Riazat Butt Pope condemns gay equality laws ahead of first UK visit

Independent Jerome Taylor Pope: I’ll visit but I don’t like your equality laws

Monday evening additions

Government Equalities Office press statement:

“The Pope acknowledges our country’s firm commitment to equality for all members of society. We believe everyone should have a fair chance in life and not be discriminated against. The Equality Bill will make Britain a fairer and more equal place.”

Telegraph Editorial Opinion Harriet Harman’s Equality Bill should be laid to rest headline changed to The Pope, Labour and religious freedom.

The Times Ruth Gledhill Pope Benedict XVI misses the point in his attack on UK equality law

Guardian Andrew Brown Papal aggression

Catholic Herald Mark Greaves Pope Benedict condemns Equality Bill

Reuters Philip Pullella Pope confirms Britain visit, attacks equality bill and second version of this story

Telegraph Martin Beckford Pope Benedict XVI attacks Labour’s ‘unjust’ equality laws ahead of UK visit and later version Pope attacks Labour laws on equality

Tuesday morning updates

Daily Mail Simon Caldwell Pope condemns Harman equality drive as ‘violation of natural law’

Mirror POPE SLAMS RIGHTS BILL

BBC Pope Benedict attacks government over Equality Bill

Herald (Scotland) Outrage as Pope attacks UK equality laws ahead of state visit

Press Association Anger as Pope slams UK equality law

Also Martha Linden of PA, via Independent Anger after Pope slams ‘unjust’ UK equality laws

Guardian Riazat Butt Your equality laws are unjust, pope tells UK before visit

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 1 February 2010 at 6:41pm GMT | Comments (65) | TrackBack
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a bishop resigns from a committee

Updated again Thursday morning

The Primate of The Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East , Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt has announced his resignation from what used to be called the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council, but which has now been restyled as the “Anglican Communion Standing Committee”.

His statement is available as a PDF from the website of the Diocese of Egypt which summarises it:

“I have come to realize that my presence in the current [Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion] has no value whatsoever and my voice is like a useless cry in the wilderness.” However, he assured the Anglican Communion that he would not stop his commitment “for the present and future of our beloved Anglican Communion and the greater Christian witness.”

This has prompted the Anglican Communion Institute to issue a paper titled The Anglican Communion Covenant: Where Do We Go From Here? which contains a summary of itself:

In summary, and on the basis of our continued conviction that the Covenant itself as currently formulated is a positive, faithful, and necessary basis for the renewal of the Anglican Communion and its member churches, we argue that:

1. The final Covenant text envisions a Communion of responsibly coordinated Instruments, ordered episcopally, that the current ACC-led standing committee is in fact undermining;

2. The current ACC standing committee is not necessarily the “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” indicated by the Covenant text, and cannot therefore automatically claim the authority it seems to be assuming;

3. The current ACC standing committee has little credibility in the eyes of a large part of the Communion and ought not to be claiming the authority it seems to be assuming;

4. Those Churches of the Communion who move fully and decisively to adopt the Covenant must work with a provisional and representative standing committee, continuous in membership with the other Instruments, that will direct the implementation of the Covenant in a way that can eventually permit a Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion to be formed as envisioned by the Covenant text.

There is a discussion of this at titusonenine where Stephen Noll has written this comment. (number 5 on the blog).

Other comments: Jim Naughton here, and Andrew Gerns over here.

Updates

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued a brief statement.

Doug LeBlanc reported in the Living Church on an interview with Bishop Mouneer, see Bp. Mouneer: Talks Prompted Resignation.

ENS has MIDDLE EAST: President Bishop Mouneer Anis resigns from Standing Committee.

Thursday morning update

There is a further comment by Ephraim Radner “The Anglican Covenant: Where Do We Go From Here?”: A further comment.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 1 February 2010 at 8:45am GMT | Comments (26) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion