James Meikle Guardian Ex-archbishop attacks judges over gay counselling ruling
Jerome Taylor Church’s call for religious judges is rejected by Court of Appeal and
Robert Verkaik Lord Carey’s proposal is a step back to medieval days and
Steve Clifford If Christians are marginalised, it is not just the fault of secular society
John Bingham Gary McFarlane: judge’s assault on ‘irrational’ religious freedom claims in sex therapist case and
Gary McFarlane: the counsellor whose case led to warnings of ‘civil unrest’ and
Michael Nazir-Ali The legal threat to our spiritual tradition
Andrew Brown Cif belief Carey slapped down by senior judge
Neil Addison What is Religious Discrimination ?
Heresy Corner Laying down the Laws
Philip Henson Cif belief Carey’s intervention backfires
And here is an older article by him , written before the judgment, which I failed to link to previously.
The church cannot claim ‘superior right’
Christian Institute Christian counsellor appeal turned down
Letter to The Times (Saturday edition) Christian courts
In his judgment, Lord Justice Laws said this…
20. …But they do not confront deeper concerns expressed in Lord Carey’s statement and in Mr Diamond’s argument. These are to be found for example in the references to an alleged want of understanding or sensitivity on the part of the courts in relation to the beliefs espoused by Lord Carey and others: “a lack of sensitivity to religious belief” (paragraph 10 of the witness statement).
21. These concerns are formulated at such a level of generality that it is hard to know precisely what Lord Carey has in mind. Broadly, however, the argument must be that the courts ought to be more sympathetic to the substance of the Christian beliefs referred to than appears to be the case, and should be readier than they are to uphold and defend them. The beliefs in question are not specified by Lord Carey. Since his statement is given in support of the applicant’s case, it must be a fair assumption that they include what is expressly stated at paragraph 21 of Mr Diamond’s skeleton argument of 23 December 2009:
“To the religious adherent ‘Religion’ is the route to salvation:-
- The fear of hell is central to the appellant’s religious belief; and individuals ought to be informed of the consequences of hell;
- The proposition of the appellant’s religious belief is that sin will have eternal consequences. Those who do not repent will go to hell when they die…”
22. In a free constitution such as ours there is an important distinction to be drawn between the law’s protection of the right to hold and express a belief and the law’s protection of that belief’s substance or content. The common law and ECHR Article 9 offer vigorous protection of the Christian’s right (and every other person’s right) to hold and express his or her beliefs. And so they should. By contrast they do not, and should not, offer any protection whatever of the substance or content of those beliefs on the ground only that they are based on religious precepts. These are twin conditions of a free society.
23. The first of these conditions is largely uncontentious. I should say a little more, however, about the second. The general law may of course protect a particular social or moral position which is espoused by Christianity, not because of its religious imprimatur, but on the footing that in reason its merits commend themselves. So it is with core provisions of the criminal law: the prohibition of violence and dishonesty. The Judaeo-Christian tradition, stretching over many centuries, has no doubt exerted a profound influence upon the judgment of lawmakers as to the objective merits of this or that social policy. And the liturgy and practice of the established Church are to some extent prescribed by law. But the conferment of any legal protection or preference upon a particular substantive moral position on the ground only that it is espoused by the adherents of a particular faith, however long its tradition, however rich its culture, is deeply unprincipled. It imposes compulsory law, not to advance the general good on objective grounds, but to give effect to the force of subjective opinion. This must be so, since in the eye of everyone save the believer religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence. It may of course be true; but the ascertainment of such a truth lies beyond the means by which laws are made in a reasonable society. Therefore it lies only in the heart of the believer, who is alone bound by it. No one else is or can be so bound, unless by his own free choice he accepts its claims.
24. The promulgation of law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified. It is irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective. But it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary. We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs. The precepts of any one religion – any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other. If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens; and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic. The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments. The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law; but the State, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself.
25. So it is that the law must firmly safeguard the right to hold and express religious belief; equally firmly, it must eschew any protection of such a belief’s content in the name only of its religious credentials. Both principles are necessary conditions of a free and rational regime.
You can learn something more about Paul Diamond by reading this interview with him in last week’s Church Times.
Updated twice Thursday afternoon
Read the full text of the judgment here.
More press coverage:
Press Association via the Guardian Christian counsellor loses court fight over sacking
and another PA version, this time via the Independent Sacked Christian counsellor Gary McFarlane’s appeal bid dismissed
The Times Frances Gibb Special legal protection of Christianity ‘divisive, capricious and arbitrary’ headline now changed to: Judge rejects ‘irrational’ idea that Christianity deserves special protection from law
Reactions from campaigning groups:
The Church Commissioners have announced their results for 2009 under this headline: “Church Commissioners’ 2009 results confirm long-term growth - level of support to the Church to be maintained”. The full announcement can be read in this press release and here are the first few paragraphs.
The Church Commissioners achieved a 15.6 per cent return on their investments during 2009. Results announced today show that the fund has now outperformed its comparator group over the last year as well as over the past five, 10 and 20 years.
Today’s results mean that the Commissioners’ current level of support to the Church – including increased pensions costs - can be maintained, in cash terms, for a further three-year period, from 2011 to 2013.
The Commissioners’ asset value has grown to £4.8 billion (from £4.4 billion at December 31, 2008), and the fund has been able to distribute £31 million more each year to the Church than if the investments had performed only at the industry average over the last ten years. The 15.6 per cent return was achieved against a comparator performance of 15.1 per cent for 2009.
In the last five years, the Commissioners achieved average returns of 6.6 per cent per year, against the comparator of 6.2 per cent. Over the past 10 years, the Commissioners’ total returns averaged 5.1 per cent per year, against the comparator group’s 3.1 per cent. Over the past 20 years, the Commissioners outperformed the comparator group with an average annual return of 7.8 per cent against 7.7 per cent.
There are no links in the press release and I have been unable to find an online copy of the full Commissioners’ report for 2009.
Updated twice on Wednesday
from the Diocese of Durham website
The Bishop of Durham, Dr N. T. Wright, has announced that he will be retiring from the See of Durham on August 31.
Dr Wright, who will be 62 this autumn, is returning to the academic world, in which he spent the first twenty years of his career, and will take up a new appointment as Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.
Announcing his move, Bishop Tom said, ‘This has been the hardest decision of my life. It has been an indescribable privilege to be Bishop of the ancient Diocese of Durham, to work with a superb team of colleagues, to take part in the work of God’s kingdom here in the north-east, and to represent the region and its churches in the House of Lords and in General Synod. I have loved the people, the place, the heritage and the work. But my continuing vocation to be a writer, teacher and broadcaster, for the benefit (I hope) of the wider world and church, has been increasingly difficult to combine with the complex demands and duties of a diocesan bishop. I am very sad about this, but the choice has become increasingly clear.’
Among the initiatives Bishop Tom has pioneered has been the ‘Big Read’ programme, which has got people across the North-East, and across all Christian churches, reading the Bible together in Lent. This programme will expand to a national level next year, with Bishop Tom’s forthcoming ‘Lent for Everyone – Matthew’ being the basic text.
As Bishop of Durham, Dr Wright has spoken in the House of Lords on numerous occasions and issues. Most recently he has championed the cause of new underground technology for the clean use of coal from the region’s still massive coalfields. He has also taken a lead in debating issues surrounding constitutional reform. Within the wider Anglican world he was a member of the Commission that produced the Windsor Report (2004) on the future of the Anglican Communion, and was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s special representative at the Roman Catholic Synod of Bishops in 2008. Together with Maggie, his wife, he has developed a close relationship with HMS Bulwark, which is twinned with County Durham, culminating in a seminar on board which brought together leading theologians and military personnel to discuss issues of war, peace and faith. He has worked hard to develop friendships and partnerships with Christians of all denominations. He has spoken frequently on radio and TV, including writing and presenting a series of radio meditations and music and television programmes on the resurrection and on the problem of evil.
As a writer, Bishop Tom has been working on three series of books – Christian Origins and the Question of God (at a scholarly level), The New Testament for Everyone (at a popular level) and a sequence of studies to introduce the Christian faith, Simply Christian, Surprised by Hope and most recently Virtue Reborn (US Title After You Believe). He hopes now to be able to complete these collections, and other ongoing research, while teaching (particularly graduate students) in the Faculty of Divinity at St Andrews. He has also been approached to head up various broadcasting projects to bring the results of good biblical scholarship to a wider audience.
Bishop Tom and Maggie have four adult children and three grandchildren.
And from the University of St Andrews:
From the Lambeth Palace website: Archbishop - Bishop of Durham ‘will be greatly missed’
From the website of The Tablet Bishop of Durham stands down complaining of red tape:
…Dr Wright, 61, one of the most senior figures in the Church of England, told The Tablet today that diocesan bishops in the Church of England were weighed down by bureaucracy. “It’s something the Church shares with other professions, the feeling of being hamstrung by petty legislation and regulation,” he said…
Andrew Brown has written about it at Cif belief see News of God’s world
The bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, has announced his resignation. He is going to take up a chair at St Andrews. He is a prolific author, and the leading evangelical scholar in the Church of England. As Bishop of Durham he has been distinguished for his implacable hostility to anyone who would accept gays within the church, especially American liberals. On the other hand, he has not gone off with Gafcon and the global south in their schism.
He has always seemed to be to a first class prefect at a minor public school – exactly the sort of person I got myself expelled to get away from. On the notoriously scientific Brown two axis scale of clergy measurement he scores high on the “Would you trust him with a secret?” question, but only moderately on “Would you trust him with your pension?”
(The scale is calibrated with reference to Rowan Williams, who scores 95% on the pastoral axis, and 5% on the practical one). But add in the third axis – would I take his advice on a personal problem? – and Wright scores about 20%. Were I gay, that figure would be 2%. This is a drawback in anyone dealing with the clergy of the Church of England.
So who will be his successor? Traditionally, the bishop of Durham has been a scholarly figure, who would score like Rowan Williams on the pastoral/practical axis. Williams himself would have made an excellent bishop there, in the tradition of Michael Ramsay, a man so splendidly unworldly that he threw his unwanted diplomatic presents into the Wear. But this tradition came rather unglued in the 80s with the appointment of David Jenkins, (90/50/80 on the three axis scale) who became a liberal hate-figure to the evangelicals. It is not an exaggeration to say that the overwhelming aim of evangelical appointments since then has been to ensure that there will never be another bishop like Jenkins in the post. Hence Tom Wright, who has claimed that a video camera could have captured the resurrection. Is it now time for a scholarly bishop less identified with one party?.
The previous report here was in late January.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Anglicans hear legal fight details in Monroeville meetings.
And, direct from the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh:
Parishes and Diocese Meet to Discuss Litigation
Leaders from all 55 parishes in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh met with diocesan leaders to worship and discuss the current status of the litigation with The Episcopal Church. Archbishop Duncan read a prepared statement, which addressed financial concerns, timelines, and the way forward in mission. Bob Devlin, chancellor for the diocese, and members of the standing committee responded to questions and concerns from parish leaders. Parish leaders were also given various resources to guide them in moving forward with their mission.
To view Archbishop Duncan’s statement, click here. [PDF]
To view a Frequently Asked Questions sheet from this meeting, click here. [PDF]
Bill Bowder Church Times Trumpet blast from the Global South
Andrew Gerns Episcopal Café Thus spake the Global South
Lionel Deimel Listening to the Trumpet
This week’s The Question in The Guardian’s Comment is free Belief is What do we want from St George? What sense can we make of the figure and myth of St George?. And here are the replies.
Judith Maltby Saints: the world’s oldest buddy system. Saints are there to inspire and teach us. St George’s story stands as a rebuke to those that use him for ill.
Adam Rutherford Doctor Who slays St George. St George is all very well, but doesn’t have much to do with being English in the 21st century. I propose a new patron saint.
Nesrine Malik A saint for the desperate. In the Middle East, St George is regarded as a saint of asylum, a protector of the desperate.
Jonathan Bartley Reclaiming St George. The true story of St George – champion of the ignored – is one we need to rediscover.
Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian about Theology natural and unnatural. Is there any possible defence for “Intelligent Design”? Is there any way for theists to abandon the idea?
Diarmaid MacCulloch writes in The Washington Post about Christian love and sex. How should the church respond to the reality that sex is for procreation and for pleasure?
Theo Hobson writes in The Guardian about A confession of faith. We should be frank about the fact that Christianity commits us to some embarrassingly mythological language.
Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times On the value of what is pointless.
John Shepherd writes in this week’s Credo column in the Times that Trite music blocks our ears to the divine in the liturgy. Our worship enables us to enter another time and another dimension - a realm of experience beyond our ordinary human experience.
Updated twice Friday afternoon
The following statement has been issued at the end of the meeting: Fourth Trumpet from the Fourth Anglican Global South to South Encounter, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Singapore, 19th – 23rd April 2010.
An extract from it appears below the fold.
Living Church Christopher Wells Dispatch from Singapore: What is at Stake
There are numerous audio recordings on this page.
There are video recordings on this page.
The remarks of Bishop Mouneer Anis on Global South Structures are transcribed below the video link here.
Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini’s speech is on video here.
Colin Coward has posted What has emerged from the Fourth Global South to South Encounter in Singapore?
ENS has SINGAPORE: Global South Anglicans call for action against Episcopal Church, Anglican Church of Canada and ‘There are no quick solutions,’ Canterbury says in video message to Global South meeting.
extract from Fourth Trumpet
16. In contrast, we continue to grieve over the life of The Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada and all those churches that have rejected the Way of the Lord as expressed in Holy Scripture. The recent action of TEC in the election and intended consecration of Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian, as a bishop in Los Angeles, has demonstrated, yet again, a total disregard for the mind of the Communion. These churches continue in their defiance as they set themselves on a course that contradicts the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures on matters so fundamental that they affect the very salvation of those involved. Such actions violate the integrity of the Gospel, the Communion and our Christian witness to the rest of the world. In the face of this we dare not remain silent and must respond with appropriate action.
17. We uphold the courageous actions taken by Archbishops Mouneer Anis (Jerusalem and the Middle East), Henry Orombi (Uganda) and Ian Ernest (Indian Ocean) and are encouraged by their decision not to participate in meetings of the various Instruments of Communion at which representatives of The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada are present. We understand their actions to be in protest of the failure to correct the ongoing crisis situation.
18. Some of our Provinces are already in a state of broken and impaired Communion with The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada. Their continued refusal to honor the many requests1 made of them by the various meetings of the Primates throughout the Windsor Process have brought discredit to our witness and we urge the Archbishop of Canterbury to implement the recommended actions. In light of the above, this Fourth South-to-South Encounter encourages our various Provinces to reconsider their communion relationships with The Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada until it becomes clear that there is genuine repentance.
19. We were pleased to welcome two Communion Partner bishops from The Episcopal Church USA (TEC) and acknowledge that with them there are many within TEC who do not accept their church’s innovations. We assure them of our loving and prayerful support. We are grateful that the recently formed Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is a faithful expression of Anglicanism. We welcomed them as partners in the Gospel and our hope is that all provinces will be in full communion with the clergy and people of the ACNA and the Communion Partners.
Jonathan Wynne-Jones has posted on his Telegraph blog: Is Archbishop Akinola in a civil partnership?
The full text of Archbishop of Canterbury’s video address to the Fourth Global South to South Encounter, 20 April 2010 is available on the Lambeth Palace website.
The link contains the full text if you scroll down far enough. Before that there is also a link to the video itself. But first there is a press release about the address.
The full text is also available on the Global South Anglican website.
There is a major feature article on the Church of England in The New Yorker dated 26 April, which is now online
but is only available to paid subscribers and available to all via this link: A Canterbury Tale.
However, others have now written about it, so it is worth mentioning here.
Here’s the abstract from the New Yorker itself: Jane Kramer, A Reporter at Large, “A Canterbury Tale,” The New Yorker, April 26, 2010, p. 40. It starts out:
ABSTRACT: A REPORTER AT LARGE about the battle in the Church of England over female bishops. Today, women account for nearly a third of the Church of England’s working priests, and most of them are waiting for the investiture of the Church of England’s first female bishop—a process begun in 2008, when of the laity, clergy, and bishops in the Church’s governing body, the General Synod, voted in favor of removing the last vestiges of gender discrimination from canon law. Not everyone is pleased. Thousands of conservative Anglicans—priests and laymen—still refuse to take Communion from a female priest, and would certainly refuse to take it from any priest ordained by a female bishop. For the past two years, they have been threatening to leave the Church at the first sign of a woman in a bishop’s mitre. The next session of the General Synod, in July, is going to consider, and is expected to approve, the draft for a change in canon law that would open the episcopate to women. If a large number of militant conservatives do leave then, the Church of England and, with it, the churches of a worldwide Anglican Communion, will fracture…
The Living Church has New Yorker Article Features Abp. Williams.
And Episcopal Café has Ash in the air, and the CofE in The New Yorker.
ACNS has the background: Fourth Anglican Global South to South Encounter begins in Singapore
Read news items from Global South Anglican:
Read the full texts of the Opening Addresses:
Update Video of this sermon now available here.
An extract from the sermon is below the fold.
…In our Anglican Communion, we have worked very hard in the last three years trying to agree and sign up to a new Anglican Covenant. Covenant is a very serious and weighty matter. Be it between God and his people or between business partners and even in the context of marriage, the terms and conditions of any covenant must never be taken lightly.
Initially, it was felt that a comprehensive Anglican covenant would help heal the wounds and restore confidence in our relationships within the Anglican family, as it would provide for accountability. But as things stand today in the Communion, this Encounter gathered here in Singapore needs to assure itself if the proposed covenant offers any such hope.
More importantly, has the real problem that tore the fabric of the Communion been addressed? Can the Covenant address the problem? As we are gathered here today, there are those who are in what they call ‘impaired communion’ and others in what is called ‘broken sacramental communion’ with The Episcopal Church in North America and the Anglican Church of Canada. All calls for accountability and repentance have not been heeded. Decisions taken by the Primates to resolve the problem at their meetings in Brazil, Dromantine and Dar es Salam have been jettisoned. Consequently, the Communion has not been able to mend the ‘broken net’.
This, sadly, is the eighth year since we have not all been in communion with one another, globally, in the same Anglican Church. It appears that some of our leaders value the ageing structures of the communion much more than anything else, hence, the illusion that with more meetings, organisations and networks the crises will disappear. How wrong.
We all know that signing the covenant will not stop TEC from pursuing its own agenda. In fact only recently, it elected and confirmed another openly practicing lesbian priest to the episcopate. The Communion is still unable to exercise discipline. We are God’s Covenant to the world, yes, but we are divided. We lack discipline. We lack the courage to call ‘a spade a spade’. Our obedience to God is selective.
My sisters and brothers from around the world, I am troubled, I am sad in fact I am confused. If the churches in the Global South sign up, would they then become a new Communion? Wouldn’t that further polarize the church? On the other hand the Churches in the Global South cannot forever continue to merely react to the actions of the Western churches. If TEC for political reasons chooses to sign, and we can’t stop them, but continues to disregard the mind of the Communion on these matters that have caused us so much grief, it will make nonsense of the whole exercise.
There is a new online religious data resource: British Religion in Numbers [BRIN]. This is how BRIN introduces itself.
British Religion in Numbers is an online religious data resource.
Numbers aren’t just for statisticians. People want to visualise and understand data for work, for study, for general interest, or to settle a debate. Many debates over religion rest on questions of how large? how many? how typical?
Religious data sources tend to be difficult to find, or need a good deal of interpretation. For example, is Britain 72% Christian, as the 2001 Census reported, or 50% Christian, as found by the 2008 British Social Attitudes survey?
We want to draw religious data sources together, explain how data can be used, and present some examples intuitively to a wide audience.
This is how the Religion and Society research programme describes BRIN.
A great leap forward in accessing facts and figures on religion in Britain has been made possible by a project funded by the Religion and Society Programme. Leading scholars David Voas and Clive Field with a team based at the University of Manchester this month [April 2010] launched a new free-to-use website which will be of immense value to academic researchers as well as to government, private enterprises, journalists, and anyone wanting authoritative and up-to-date data on British religion. British Religion in Numbers [BRIN] catalogues published data on religion in Britain covering a period of 4 centuries, and draws already from over 1700 sources. It breaks new ground in including opinion poll data and is comprehensively searchable.
Ruth Gledhill has written about BRIN in the Times: Faith by numbers: Fantastic new religious research tool launched.
Siobhan McAndrew, project officer for British Religion in Numbers, has written this for The Guardian: Making religion count. Is religion too complex to quantify? Aspects of it may be, but there are mountains of data out there which we shouldn’t ignore.
Every five years the entire General Synod is re-elected and the next elections will take place this autumn. The Church of England has launched a campaign to encourage people to stand for election.
The official press release is copied below the fold.
Resourcing those with a ‘big heart’ seeking election to the new General
More than one national election is taking place this year. A campaign is launched today to encourage “people with a very big heart” to stand for election to the General Synod of the Church of England. Containing 378 lay and clergy members, and passing Measures that have the same effect as those of Parliament, the General Synod continues to play an essential role in the life of the country as well as the Church. It will be dissolved at the end of the July 2010 group of sessions in York, and a new Synod elected for a five-year term in September/October, and inaugurated in November.
Under the slogan ‘Be Part of the Big Picture’, new resources include a five-minute DVD filmed at General Synod in February 2010, featuring contributions from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Business Committee chair Preb Kay Garlick, outgoing members of the Houses of Laity and Clergy, and national journalists. Copies are being sent to dioceses to be available for viewings in all 718 Church of England deaneries.
A new website full of vital information for those considering standing has been uploaded at www.generalsynodelections2010.org. It includes an online videocast of the DVD and a free downloadable poster and leaflet, so that parishes can join in the campaign to encourage full representation from across the Church.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, says on the DVD: “Any healthy and mature Church is a Church where everyone feels they have a voice. Synod needs your voice because we need all the voices together to discover the truth that God wants us to know for our generation, society, sanctification, our own hope and our own health.”
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, adds: “We want people whom I call all-weather Christians - people who are all-rounders really that can actually play the different jobs, because there are people sitting on committees, different boards and councils. So what we want are people who have a very big heart, who want to come here and bring friendship, bring love, bring vitality, and we want all ages.”
On the new website Synod members guide visitors through the requirements and election procedures of the Houses of Laity and House of Clergy respectively.
To stand for the House of Laity you need to be:
18 or over
An ‘actual Communicant’ in the Church of England
On the electoral roll of a parish or the community roll of a cathedral
To stand for the House of Clergy you need to be:
Ordained priest or deacon, be beneficed or licensed or have permission to officiate in the diocese or hold office in the cathedral
David Williams, Clerk to Synod, said: “The next few months will be a challenging yet rewarding time of circulating the information and then electing members reflecting the diversity of the Church for the new quinquennium. Nominations are particularly welcome from people of minority ethnic backgrounds as we move forwards into our Ninth General Synod.”
Closing date for nominations is 3rd September 2010; elections take place September/October 2010; the Ninth General Synod is inaugurated at Church House in London on 22nd-24th November 2010.
To find out more about the work of General Synod, visit www.cofe.anglican.org/about/gensynod.
The Equality Bill received the Royal Assent on 8 April.
The full text of the Equality Act 2010 can be found here:
The Act will start to come into force from October 2010. More information on that is here.
The text of the debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday 6 April, when all the House of Lords amendments were approved without any voting taking place, can be found here:
During the debate, the Solicitor-General said:
The House might recall that it was mentioned on Report and Third Reading that the European Commission had delivered a reasoned opinion in November 2009 on two aspects of our implementation of this directive. We have now responded to that opinion, although the correspondence is kept confidential. However, as my noble Friend Baroness Royall explained on 25 January in the debate in Committee in the other place, we did not inform the European Commission that the Bill will amend regulation 7(3) of the 2003 regulations, which paragraph 2 of schedule 9 replaces, to bring the position into line with the directive. We did not say that because the existing legislation already complies with the directive. I ask the House to agree to these amendments.
Now available to non-subscribers is Hugh Rayment-Pickard in the Church Times with Time the C of E stopped dodging. He argues that too many opt-outs have undermined the Church’s mission.
Alan Wilson writes in Bishop Alan’s Blog about How many people go to Church.
Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times: Beware the forces of Palinisation.
Mary-Jane Rubenstein at Killing the Buddha writes in Notes from the Tangled Anglican Web about “What the schism over sexuality has to do with the colonial legacy in Africa”.
Lisa Miller writes in Newsweek about A Traditionalist Who Shakes Tradition. Nobody seems to care that the new Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles is a lesbian. Don’t blame distraction by the Catholics.
Christopher Howse writes in his Sacred mysteries column in the Telegraph: Four seasons and a funeral. A remarkable film has been made about the nuns of the Carmelite monastery in Notting Hill, he says.
Steven Hepburn writes a Comment is free column in The Guardian: From Cif to the cloister. He says “In making my decision to become a monk, I’ve tried to answer the question many of you will now put: what good will it do?”
Roderick Strange has a Credo column in the Times: The idea of celibacy is still possible, it just takes maturity. Celibacy seems bewildering in our highly sexualised society. It becomes all too easy to explain abuse by blaming celibacy. But we need to be wary.
Doug Chaplin has fisked the witness statement at One law for us, one for you: the Carey-a Sharia revisited.
Afua Hirsch in the Guardian has written Lawyers reject calls for Christian-sensitive judges.
Stephen Bates at Cif belief has written Lord Carey’s bloated conscience.
Earlier yesterday on the Today BBC radio programme, Barrister Dinah Rose and Andrea Williams of Christian Legal Centre discussed the implications. (hat tip SB).
Ruth Gledhill has the full text of the witness statement made today in the High Court by Lord Carey, in the case of Gary McFarlane.
Updated twice Thursday morning and twice Thursday afternoon
According to Andrew Alderson in the Telegraph:
Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and other church leaders will urge senior judges to stand down from future Court of Appeal hearings because of “disturbing” and “dangerous” rulings they issued in recent religious discrimination cases.
Senior churchmen do not think they have any chance of a “fair” ruling if the latest significant hearing – due on Thursday – is heard in front of those judges who, they argue, have already shown a lack of understanding of Christian beliefs….
Lord Carey and others will this week support a formal application by lawyers acting for Gary McFarlane, a Christian relationship counsellor, that a specialist panel of five judges with a proven understanding of religious issues and headed by Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, should be established to hear his case and future cases involving religious rights.
Also, Laura Clark in the Mail reported that:
Lord Carey will back an application by Mr McFarlane’s lawyers for the case to be heard by a specialist panel of five judges with an understanding of religious issues.
It would be headed by Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice.
A spokesman for Lord Carey yesterday confirmed the former archbishop has already prepared a witness statement.
He will warn of ‘disturbing’ rulings and ‘dangerous’ reasoning in previous cases. Other senior church figures are also said to have prepared statements.
Responses to this include:
Ruth Gledhill in The Times It can only harm Christians to bleat about persecution and be sure to watch the video version as well.
In Britain Christians cry: “We are being persecuted.” But the lions don’t exist beyond their imaginations or the arena beyond their story books. Lord Carey of Clifton, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and his fellow victims are giving all Christians a bad name. It is time for liberals to stand up and say: “We will not be slain by this malevolent spirit, not even when the persecutors are our fellow Christians…”
Andrew Brown at Cif belief Carey’s court is an admission of defeat
…But as soon as the church, or Christianity, becomes just another pressure group fighting its corner, it has conceded the power to grant legitimacy to something else, whether this is public opinion or the political process. And from a position outside Christianity, it is absurd to demand that cases involving Christians and their tender consciences be tried by Christians, but corresponding cases involving Muslims should not be tried by Muslims.
Telegraph Peter Hutchison ‘Persecuted Christians’ join forces
The letter mentioned in this report can now be read here (scroll down) or in the comments below.
Press release from CCFON, titled (the quotation marks are theirs!) ‘Christian Victims’ of English Judicial System to Challenge Master of the Rolls - today in Court
Frances Gibb The Times Lord Carey warns of ‘unrest’ if judges continue with ‘dangerous’ rulings
Lord Carey of Clifton, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, warned today of future “civil unrest” if judges continue with “disturbing” and “dangerous” rulings in religious discrimination cases.
He intervened in a case being brought by a Bristol solicitor and relationship counsellor who wants a special panel of five senior judges to hear his appeal against being sacked for refusing to counsel homosexual couples.
Lord Carey, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, attacked the courts over a series of “disturbing” judgments and accused judges of being responsible for some “dangerous” reasoning which could, if taken to extremes, lead to Christians being banned from the workplace.
“Recent decisions of the courts have illuminated insensitivity to the interests and needs of the Christian community and represent disturbing judgments,” he said in a witness statement.
Lord Carey said it was “but a short step from the dismissal of a sincere Christian from employment to a “religious bar” to any employment by Christians.”
Lord Carey, who said he had the support of several other Anglican bishops and other leading churchmen, also attacked recent decisions by the Court of Appeal on the right of Christians to wear crosses in the workplace…
And also, Peter Hutchison Telegraph ‘Civil unrest’ warning over ‘un-Christian’ rulings
…Paul Diamond, who was applying to the Court of Appeal for permission to challenge an employment tribunal ruling which backed the sacking of Mr McFarlane, said: “There will be a collision between the established faith of this land and judicial decisions which will lead to civil unrest.”
He added that laws protecting religious freedom now “counted for nothing” in the courts.
Now the Archbishop of the Province of the Indian Ocean, The Most Revd Ian Ernest, who is Bishop of Mauritius, has written to the Archbishop of Canterbury as well.
Read his letter in full here.
We have already reported the Archbishop of Canterbury’s participation in the BBC Radio 4 Start the Week programme last week.
The Archbishop has now published the following on his website, with links to audio files of the programme and a subsequent discussion on the BBC’s Feedback programme.
Monday 05 April 2010
In a special Easter edition of Start the Week recorded at Lambeth Palace, Andrew Marr discusses personal faith and institutional failure with Dr Rowan Williams.
The programme also discusses atheism and the Bible with novelist Philip Pullman, on the publication of his new work ‘The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ’; whether faith can or should enter economics with Islamic scholar Professor Mona Siddiqui and cultural identity and religious jokes with David Baddiel on the release of his new film The Infidel.
Play 100405 Easter Start The Week [28Mb]
A few days after Start the Week was broadcast, Feedback, the forum show for comments, queries and criticisms of BBC radio programmes and policy asked ‘Did Radio 4 misrepresent statements made by the Archbishop of Canterbury in its news bulletins over the weekend?’
Play 100409 BBC Feedback [12Mb]
Updated Tuesday evening
The communiqué refers to the fourth Global South to South Encounter (GSE4) to be held later this month at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Singapore. The programme for GSE4 is here and the list of participants here.
Update See also ENS report, Conservative Primates Council elects new leadership, criticizes Episcopal Church.
Communiqué from the Primates’ Council of GAFCON/FCA
April 10, 2010
Grateful for the gracious guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the leadership of the Most Reverend Peter J. Akinola, the Primates Council of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON/FCA) met in Bermuda from April 5 through 9, 2010.
The Primates Council consists of Primates (Senior Archbishops) of Anglican Provinces who met together in Jerusalem in June 2008 as part of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON). Their determination to give witness to the life transforming gospel of Jesus Christ and the trustworthiness of the Bible led to the establishment of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA).
FCA is a movement defined by theology that delivers spiritual and practical outcomes to faithful Anglican Christians around the world. Together the Primates Council represents over thirty four million Anglicans more than half of the active membership of the Anglican Communion
In faithful obedience to the Great Commission the Primates Council devoted much of their meeting ensuring that those provinces presently members of the FCA would be strengthened in their witness to the whole Gospel through engagement in various development projects, the production of critical theological resources and participation in multi-national mission initiatives.
We gave thanks for the visionary and sacrificial leadership of our founding chairman, Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, retired Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). We are also grateful for his courageous stand for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints and his leadership both of the Church of Nigeria and also within the wider Anglican Communion.
We elected the Most Rev’d Gregory Venables, Presiding Bishop of the Southern Cone, as the Chairman and the Most Rev’d Emmanuel Kolini, Church of Rwanda, and the Most Rev’d Eliud Wabukala, Anglican Church of Kenya as the Vice-Chairmen. The Most Rev’d Peter Jensen, Diocese of Sydney, Anglican Church of Australia, continues as General Secretary.
We acknowledged that the issues that divide our beloved Communion are far from settled and that the election of the Reverend Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian, as a Bishop in Los Angeles in The Episcopal Church (TEC), makes clear to all that the American Episcopal Church leadership has formally committed itself to a pattern of life which is contrary to Scripture.
This action also makes clear that any pretence that there has been a season of gracious restraint in the Communion has come to an end. Now is the time for all orthodox biblical Anglicans, both in the USA and around the world, to demonstrate a clear and unambiguous stand for the historic faith and their refusal to participate in the direction and unbiblical practice and agenda of TEC.
We recognise that the current strategy in the Anglican Communion to strengthen structures by committee and commission has proved ineffective. Indeed we believe that the current structures have lost integrity and relevance. We believe that it is only by a theologically grounded, biblically shaped reformation such as the one called for by the Jerusalem Declaration that God¹s Kingdom will advance. The Anglican Communion will only be able to fulfill its gospel mandate if it understands itself to be a community gathered around a confession of faith rather than an organisation that has its primary focus on institutional loyalty.
We committed ourselves once more to the Mission of Christ working collaboratively both with our friends in the Global South and throughout the Communion and look forward with anticipation to the FOURTH GLOBAL SOUTH TO SOUTH ENCOUNTER to be held later this month at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Singapore.
We are also aware of the challenges that many of our sisters and brothers face in different parts of the world. In particular we are mindful of those who live with the threat of violence because of their Christian faith, such as Nigeria, Iraq and Sudan and those who live in places of deprivation and disaster such as Haiti and Chile. We also observe that there are a growing number of nations, such as Kenya, Uganda and now the United Kingdom where Christian views are marginalized or ignored. We stand with all those in such circumstances and assure them of our continued prayers.
The Primates Council expressed its profound appreciation for the gracious hospitality shown it by the people of Bermuda and the faithful witness of Christians in this land for almost four hundred years. We are aware of some of their current concerns and tensions and are praying for God’s guidance and wisdom for the leaders of both the churches and the government.
To God be the glory!
Present in Bermuda were:
The Most Rev’d Peter J. Akinola, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
The Most Rev’d Justice Akrofi, Archbishop, Anglican Province of West Africa
The Most Rev’d Robert Duncan, Archbishop, Anglican Church in North America
The Most Rev’d Emmanuel Kolini, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Rwanda
The Most Rev’d Valentino Mokiwa, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Tanzania
The Most Rev’d Gregory Venables, Presiding Bishop, Province of the Southern Cone
The Most Rev’d Eliud Wabukala, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Kenya
The Most Rev’d Nicholas Okoh, Archbishop, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
The Most Rev’d Henry L. Orombi, Archbishop, Anglican Church of Uganda, represented by Bishop Nathan Kyamanywa
The Most Rev’d Peter Jensen, Archbishop, Diocese of Sydney
Jonathan Bartley in The Guardian writes At cross purposes. Conflicting views of the meaning of the crucifixion have led to strikingly different patterns of behaviour among believers.
Proof of God comes in “resurrection moments” says the Archbishop of Wales in his Easter sermon.
Richard Harries in the Times writes Marginalised maybe, but we aren’t persecuted. Christians in Britain must learn to profess their faith without sounding superior to others.
Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that The Left is just too patronising.
Stephen Tomkins writes in The Guardian about The Christian tradition of politics. It’s hard to believe sometimes, but Christian feeling for politics isn’t all about sex, as the pioneers of the labour movement show.
Tony Bayfield writes in The Guardian about Religion’s role: separate but engaged. While religion must be separated from the state, it should have influence in politics.
Christopher Howse writes in a Sacred Mysteries column in the Telegraph about The serpent-sharp power of prudence. A believer has someone to ask for the strength to go through with a prudent act.
Kathy Galloway writes in a Credo column in the Times that Our true life consists in what we value, not in our wealth. There is the danger inherent in the worldly power that money brings with it; the power to get one’s own way, to seek to buy people as well as things.
In a five-minute video Guardian religious affairs correspondent Riazat Butt talks to director Michael Whyte about his film No Greater Love, a portrait of a Carmelite convent in west London.
Updated Saturday to restore a missing paragraph to the letter
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has written to her fellow Anglican primates regarding the forthcoming consecration of bishop-elect Mary Glasspool. The letter is posted at the Diocese of East Tennessee website, and reprinted here below the fold.
My dear brothers in Christ:
I write you because of developments in The Episcopal Church, about which you will soon hear and read. As you all know, the Diocese of Los Angeles elected two suffragan bishops in December, and the consent process for those bishops has been ongoing since then. One of those bishops-elect is a woman in a partnered same-sex relationship.
At this point, she has received consent from a majority of the bishops with jurisdiction, and a majority of the standing committees of this Church. According to our canons, I must now take order for her consecration. I will do so, and anticipate that both bishops-elect will be consecrated at the same service on 15 May. It has been my practice, since I took office, to preside at the consecration of new bishops, and I intend to do so in this case as well.
I realize that this development will cause hurt and pain to some of you. I am deeply aware of the range of opinion and position about this. I would note that our Communion also has a very broad range of opinion and position about the suitable characteristics of bishops in general – some provinces do not believe women can or should be consecrated as bishops; some do not believe divorced and remarried persons can or should be consecrated; some provinces do not believe persons without advanced theological degrees should be consecrated. I know that many of you do not see these as equivalent issues, yet our diversity remains.
It may help you to know that our House of Bishops will continue to discuss these issues at our meeting later this month. The papers we discuss will be available publicly following that meeting, and we will endeavor to see that you receive copies. I would encourage you to engage in conversation any bishops whom you know in this Church, particularly those you came to know at Lambeth, whether in Bible study or Indaba groups.
Know that this is not the decision of one person, or a small group of people. It represents the mind of a majority of elected leaders in The Episcopal Church, lay, clergy, and bishops, who have carefully considered the opinions and feelings of other members of the Anglican Communion as well as the decades-long conversations within this Church. It represents a prayerful and thoughtful decision, made in good faith that this Church is ‘working out its salvation in fear and trembling, believing that God is at work in us’ (Philippians 2:12-13).
I ask your prayers for this Church, for the Diocese of Los Angeles, and for the members of the Anglican Communion. This part of the Body of Christ has abundant work to do, and God’s mission needs us all.
If you have questions about this decision or process, I would encourage you to contact me. I would be glad to talk with you.
I pray that your ministry may continue to be a transformative blessing to many. I remain
Your servant in Christ,
Katharine Jefferts Schori
Updated Friday afternoon twice and Saturday afternoon
The Most Revd Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop of the Church of Uganda has written to the Archbishop of Canterbury today about “about the shift in the balance of powers among the Instruments of Communion”. He complains that the Joint Standing Committee is being given “enhanced responsibility” whilst the Primates of the Anglican Communion (of which he is one) are being given “diminished responsibility”. In the letter he resigns from the Standing Committee.
He also says that “There is an urgent need for a meeting of the Primates to continue sorting out the crisis that is before us, especially given the upcoming consecration of a Lesbian as Bishop in America.” However “the meeting should not include the Primates of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada who are proceeding with unbiblical practices that contradict the faith of Anglicanism”.
The full text of the letter can be found here and is also copied here below the fold.
Pat Ashworth reports this for the Church Times: Anglicans ‘moving into darkness’ says Orombi.
Ruth Gledhill is reporting in her Times blog that Orombi has not in fact resigned from the Standing Committee.
We also have a copy of the original letter.
Matthew Davies at Episcopal Life reports this as UGANDA: Archbishop Orombi expresses concerns about Standing Committee.
The Most Rev. Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury
Easter greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In February I read with great interest Bishop Mouneer Anis’ letter of resignation from the Joint Standing Committee. I am grateful for his clarity and honesty. He has verbalized very well what many of us have thought and felt, and inspired me to write, as well.
As you know from our private conversations, I have absented myself for principled reasons from all meetings of the Joint Standing Committee since our Primates meeting in Dar es Salaam in 2007.
The first meeting of the Joint Standing Committee was later that year in New Orleans. At our Primates meeting in February 2007, we made certain requests of the Episcopal Church. In our Dar es Salaam communiqué we did not envision interference in the American House of Bishops while they were considering our requests. For me to participate in a meeting in New Orleans before the 30th September deadline would have violated our hard-won agreement in Dar es Salaam and would have been another case of undermining our instruments of communion. My desire to uphold our Dar es Salaam communiqué was intended to strengthen our instruments of communion so we would be able to mature into an even more effective global communion of the Church of Jesus Christ than in the past.
Subsequent meetings of the Joint Standing Committee have included the Primate of the Episcopal Church (TEC) and other members of TEC, who are the very ones who have pushed the Anglican Communion into this sustained crisis. How can we expect the gross violators of Biblical Truth to sanction their own discipline when they believe they have done nothing wrong and further insist that their revisionist theology is actually the substance of Anglicanism? We have only to note the recent election and confirmation of an active Lesbian as a Suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of Los Angeles to realize that TEC has no interest in “gracious restraint,” let alone a moratorium on the things that have brought us to this point of collapse. It is now impossible to regard their earlier words of “regret” as a serious gesture of reconciliation with the rest of the Communion.
Together with Bishop Mouneer, I am equally concerned, as you know, about the shift in the balance of powers among the Instruments of Communion. It was the Primates in 2003 who requested the Lambeth Commission on Communion that ultimately produced the Windsor Report. It was the Primates who received the Windsor Report at our meeting in Dromantine in 2005. It was the Primates, through our Dromantine Communique, who presented the appropriate “hermeneutic” through which to read the Windsor Report. That “hermeneutic,” however, has been obscured by the leadership at St. Andrew’s House who somehow created something we never envisioned called the “Windsor Process.”
The Windsor Report was not a “process.” It was a Report, commissioned by the Primates and received by the Primates. The Primates made specific and clear requests of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. When TEC, particularly, did not clearly answer our questions, we gave them more time in 2007 to clarify their position.
Suddenly, though, after the 2007 Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam, the Primates no longer had a role to play in the very process they had begun. The process was mysteriously transferred to the Anglican Consultative Council and, more particularly, to the Joint Standing Committee. The Joint Standing Committee has now evolved into the “Standing Committee.” Some suggest that it is the Standing Committee “of the Anglican Communion.”
There is, however, no “Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion” The Standing Committee has never been approved in its present form by the Primates Meeting or the Lambeth Conference. Rather, it was adopted by itself, with your approval and the approval of the ACC. The fact that five Primates are included in no way represents our Anglican understanding of the role of Primates as metropolitan bishops of their provinces.
Anglicanism is a church of Bishops and, at its best, is conciliar in its governance. The grave crisis before us as a Communion is both a matter of faith as well as order. Matters of faith and order are the domain of Bishops. In a Communion the size of the Anglican Communion, it is unwieldy to think of gathering all the Bishops of the Communion together more frequently than the current pattern of every ten years. That is why the Lambeth Conference in 1998 resolved that the Primates Meeting should be able to “exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters.” (Resolution III.6).
What has emerged, however, is the Standing Committee being given “enhanced responsibility” and the Primates being given “diminished responsibility,” even in regard to a process begun by them. Indeed, this Standing Committee has granted itself supreme authority over Covenant discipline in the latest draft. Under these circumstances, it has not been possible for me to participate in meetings of the Joint Standing Committee that has taken upon itself authority it has not been given.
Accordingly, I stand with my brother Primate, Bishop Mouneer Anis, in his courageous decision to resign from the Standing Committee. Many of us are in a state of resignation as we see how the Communion is moving away further and further into darkness, especially since the Primates’ meeting in Dar es Salaam.
Your Grace, I have urged you in the past, and I will urge you again. There is an urgent need for a meeting of the Primates to continue sorting out the crisis that is before us, especially given the upcoming consecration of a Lesbian as Bishop in America. The Primates Meeting is the only Instrument that has been given authority to act, and it can act if you will call us together.
The agenda for that meeting should be set by the Primates themselves at the meeting, and not by any other staff in advance of the meeting. I reiterate this point because you will recall our cordial December 2008 meeting with you, Chris Smith, and the other GAFCON Primates in Canterbury where we discussed the agenda for the Primates meeting to take place in Alexandria the following month. None of our submissions were included in the agenda. Likewise, at the beginning of the January 2009 Primates meeting I was asked to present a position paper on the effect of the crisis in the Communion from our perspective, but I was not informed in advance, so I did not come prepared. Yet, other presenters, including TEC and Canada, were given prior information and came very prepared. I have never received a formal written apology about that incident, and it has caused me to wonder if there are two standards at work in how a Primate is treated.
Finally, the meeting should not include the Primates of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada who are proceeding with unbiblical practices that contradict the faith of Anglicanism. We cannot carry on with business as usual until order is brought out of this chaos.
Yours, in Christ,
The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi
ARCHBISHOP OF CHURCH OF UGANDA.
xc: Primates, Moderators, and Members of the Standing Committee of the ACC
The Equality Bill completed its passage through the UK Parliament yesterday when the House of Commons accepted all the Lords amendments. It will now go for Royal Assent.
Press Association Equality Bill sent for Royal Assent
Updated Monday afternoon
This morning BBC Radio 4 broadcast a special edition of Start the Week recorded at Lambeth Palace. This was trailed as follows.
In a special edition of Start the Week recorded at Lambeth Palace, Andrew Marr talks to the Archbishop of Canterbury about his role combining the history and structure of the church with personal belief. They are joined by Philip Pullman who was inspired by Dr Rowan Williams to write his new book The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ about religion, truth and interpretation; by Professor Mona Siddiqui who’ll be discussing her new role trying to marry religious values with economic growth and by author and comedian David Baddiel who’ll be talking about religious identity and his new film The Infidel, a comedy about a Muslim who realises he’s Jewish.
The programme is now available to listen to online; the main interview with the archbishop is between 1min 30sec and 8min 45sec from the beginning.
Update As well as the streaming audio linked above, there is a podcast available for download.
The Guardian has a leading article: Rowan Williams: Little cause for regrets. Archbishop has said out loud something that is completely straightforward and thereby provoked an enormous row.
There have been a number of news items in the last few days anticipating what the archbishop was going to say.
The BBC itself carried this report on Saturday Williams criticises Irish Catholic Church ‘credibility’ followed by Rowan Williams expresses ‘regret’ over church remarks and then on Sunday by Archbishop of Canterbury sorry over abuse comments.
David Batty in The Guardian Archbishop of Canterbury: Irish Catholic church has lost all credibility
Ruth Gledhill in the Times Rowan Williams, The Archbishop of Canterbury, regrets Catholic attack
Ireland Archbishop stunned by Dr Rowan Williams’ criticism of Catholic Church
Archbishop on papal offer: ‘God bless them, I don’t’
Press release from Lambeth Palace
Sunday 4th April 2010
Archbishop – Cross is a challenge to the world
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has used his Easter sermon to urge Christians to keep a proper sense of proportion when they feel they are experiencing opposition to their faith and remember both the physical suffering of Christian minorities in other countries and call to mind what exactly the Cross stands for in their faith.
In his Easter sermon delivered at Canterbury Cathedral he says that ‘bureaucratic silliness’ over displaying religious symbols should not be mistaken for physical persecution:
‘It is not the case that Christians are at risk of their lives or liberties in this country simply for being Christians. Whenever you hear overheated language about this remember those many, many places where persecution is real and Christians are being killed regularly and mercilessly or imprisoned and harassed for their resistance to injustice.”
“Remember our brothers and sisters in Nigeria and in Iraq, the Christian communities of southern Sudan … the Christian minorities in the Holy Land … or our own Anglican friends in Zimbabwe; … we need to keep a sense of perspective, and to redouble our prayers and concrete support.”
He says that the climate of intellectual opposition to Christianity – what he called ‘the strange mixture of contempt and fear towards the Christian faith’, regarding it as both irrelevant and a threat – is largely unjustified:
“… on many of the major moral questions of the day, the Christian Church still speaks for a substantial percentage of the country – not to mention speaking with the same concerns as people of other faiths. On burning questions like the rightness of assisted suicide, it is far from the case that the Christian view is only that of a tiny religious minority; and the debate is still very much alive.”
He challenges intellectual critics of religion and Christianity to come and see the difference that Christians are making in their communities
“… at local level, the Church’s continuing contribution to tackling the human problems no-one else is prepared to take on is one of the great untold stories of our time. I think of the work of a parish I visited in Cleethorpes a few weeks ago and the work they sponsor and organize with teenagers excluded from school in an area of high deprivation. I should be more impressed with secularist assaults if there were more sign of grass roots volunteer work of this intensity done by non-religious or anti-religious groups.”
“There are things to be properly afraid of in religious history, Christian and non-Christian; there are contemporary religious philosophies of the Taleban variety which we rightly want to resist as firmly as we can. But we do need to say to some of our critics that a visit to projects like the one I have mentioned ought to make it plain enough that the last thing in view is some kind of religious tyranny. And if any of the Church’s vocal critics would care to accompany me on such a visit, I should be delighted to oblige.”
But he says the Cross is an object that ought to be feared as well as respected because what it stands for is nothing less than the uncomfortable reality about ourselves and the world we live in:
… we must acknowledge our own share in what the cross is and represents; we must learn to see ourselves as caught up in a world where the innocent are scapegoated and killed and where we are all unwilling, to a greater or lesser degree, to face unwelcome truths about ourselves. We must learn to see that we cannot by our own wisdom and strength cut ourselves loose from the tangle of injustice, resentment, fear and prejudice that traps the human family in conflict and misery.”
And the hope that it represents is no less challenging, he says;
“If you want it to be invisible because it’s too upsetting to people’s security, I can well understand that; but let’s have it out in the open. Is the God we see in the cross, the God who lives through and beyond terrible dereliction and death and still promises mercy, renewal, life – is that God too much of a menace to be mentioned or shown in the public life and the human interactions of society?”
We have already linked to the ecumenical Easter Letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Here are links to, and extracts from, some of the many other Easter messages.
Beginning with the example of the people of Haiti, who “need to practice saying Alleluia” this year so that they can celebrate Easter in the midst of grief and darkness, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori calls on Episcopalians to stretch their spiritual muscles in order to “insist on resurrection everywhere we turn” in her 2010 Easter message.
“Christ is Risen, Christ is Risen; Tell it with a joyful voice”
Having made our journey through Holy Week, commemorating the events of the Lord’s passion, death and burial we come now to Easter and the joy of His Glorious Resurrection.
Sunday by Sunday throughout the great festival of Easter, we take delight in hearing those stories of how the risen Lord appeared to so many — greeting and calling them by name, opening the scriptures and teaching them, breaking bread in their midst, bestowing his peace, breathing the Holy Spirit into their hearts and then sending them into all the world. Alongside these wonderful stories are accounts of the earliest Christian preaching recorded in The Acts of the Apostles.
A belief in death and resurrection of Jesus is a decision of the mind and the heart. It is a faith choice. You can believe the witnesses who say that something remarkable occurred in the resurrection of Jesus from death – a resurrection that has gone on recreating the world ever since by the triumph of divine life over death, divine love over hate, and divine light over darkness. Or you can believe that the witnesses were mistaken and that life and death, love and hate, light and darkness are evenly matched and that there is no ultimate power for good that is stronger than the grave.
In a message on Youtube for Easter 2010, Archbishop Philip Freier invites you to be inspired by the lives of Hugh Evans, founder of the Oaktree Foundation and the Global Poverty Project, and Jessie Taylor, refugee advocate and lawyer. Their compassion and pursuit of justice have come from a living faith in the risen Christ.
When the Roman Emperor Constantine won a decisive battle at the Milvian Bridge in the year 312, he had a vision. Constantine thought he saw in the sky the Greek letters Chi-Rho – the first letters of the word Christ – with the words in hoc signo vincit – ‘in this sign, conquer’. Constantine won, and took control of the Roman Empire, bringing to an end the persecution of Christianity, and establishing it as a religio licita – a permitted religion, and then recognising it as the religion of the Roman Empire, even though he himself was not baptised until he was dying. The church historian, Eusebius of Caesarea, saw the conversion of Constantine as one of the great providential moments. Just as St Luke, at the end of the Acts of the Apostles, brings the Gospel to Rome, the political heart of the known world, so now the kingdoms of this world, and the Roman Empire in particular, ‘have become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ.’
Would that things were so simple. A millennium or more after Constantine a German monk, Martin Luther, saw the corruption of the church and, in part, traced it back to Constantine. Had the church captured the empire, or the empire captured the church? The relation between church and state has always been ambiguous.
Christ’s death and resurrection bring forgiveness to those with broken and ruptured lives and hope for a more just and humane society, the Bishop of Bangor says in his Easter message this year.
“There is no going back” says the Bishop of St Asaph as he reflects on the message of Easter this year. The symbol of the egg, so familiar at Easter, reminds us that there comes a time when “the chick bursts forth, and there’s no going back.” The resurrection of Jesus “is an invitation to us to embrace new life”.
Oscar Romero’s murder in El Salvador. He was murdered because he challenged the violence and oppression of those in positions of political power. He was slain by a goverment-sanctioned bullet to the chest as he said Mass in the humble monastery where he lived.
The story of Easter is told this year in a context where many of our key ‘institutions’ are under serious scrutiny - and it is right that it should be so. Institutions are necessary for the ordering of society, but they can take on a life of their own and become self-serving. That applies, of course, not only to the institutions of politics and society, but also - and equally - to the institutions of the church, which can be just as fallen, just as sinful, and even more profoundly disappointing, because they claim to exist for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Revd David Gamble, President of the Methodist Conference
In his Easter message, Revd David Gamble, President of the Methodist Conference, has called on Methodists to celebrate God’s action in the here and now.
David stressed the Church’s responsibility to tell good news stories, witnessing to God’s love in action in the lives of individuals and communities in 21st century Britain and all around the world.
He spoke of how the most exciting stories of the Methodist faith lie not just in the past, but in contemporary Church life. “There are some impressive and important stories to be told,” he said. “Not of how things used to be. Not of our Church’s former greatness. Not of our happy memories. But of God’s love in action in the lives of people here and now. The stories come from all over the place. And it is important we share them.”
Christ’s Resurrection urges us to create a society which brings love, truth and justice to all, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon says in his Easter message.
All of us have a political choice in the next few weeks. We call upon all people of goodwill to make it clear to candidates of all parties that we should choose life over death and the alleviation of poverty over the replacement of Trident.
Good Friday and Easter Day are the centre of the Christian faith story. Our churches will be busy this weekend. Our worship will be full of drama and emotion as we tell again what we believe to be the greatest story of all human history. You will be welcome join us and to be part of that.
And finally …
Archbishop Robert Duncan of The Anglican Church in North America
“Go make the tomb secure…”
The Archbishop of Canterbury has recorded his Reflections on Holy Week and given a series of Holy Week Lectures entitled ‘The beginning of the Gospel - reading Mark’s life of Jesus’.
The Archbishop has also given an address on The Fellowship of the Baptized.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols talks about Holy Week through Art (a 13 minute video).
This week’s The Question in The Guardian is Should we observe Easter or Earth Hour? with these responses.
Stephen Tomkins: A glimmer of hope for the world. A cross, or a crescent, is more likely to inspire collective action for the environment than any secular symbol
Alan Wilson: Redemption from the inside out. Scolding is not enough to turn the tide of human nature. Inner change, not scare tactics, is what’s needed to save us.
Harriet Baber writes in The Guardian about The utilitarian case for Easter. Made-up symbolic gestures and holidays like Earth Hour don’t have the same pizzazz as Easter.
Giles Fraser in the Church Times says Preach the power of Christ risen.
Cole Moreton writes in The Guardian about Welcome to the Church of Everywhere. Organised religion has waned but a new faith has bloomed – epitomised by Jade Goody’s funeral.
[Moreton’s new book Is God Still an Englishman? is reviewed in the Independent by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.]
George Pitcher in the Telegraph asks Will we follow Jesus out of the comfort zone? Easter is a time to reflect Christ’s compassion for the wretched.
It’s not really opinion, but here is a fine set of photographs of Holy Week worshippers from around the world: Holy Week, 2010.