Monday, 28 February 2011

More comment on Civil Partnerships & Marriage

An open letter to the Prime Minister regarding Homosexual Marriage and the registration of Civil Partnerships in places of religious worship has been sent by three organisations, The Council of the Protestant Truth Society with the support of the Council of Church Society and the Management Committee of Christian Watch.

The Living Church has an article by John Martin Erastianism Debate Rears its Head.

The British Humanist Association published Church of England’s opposition to gay marriage highlights need for disestablishment.

At Episcopal Café Jim Naughton is still trying to unravel What exactly is Rowan Williams saying about the new civil partnership bill?

Cranmer has The Government are NOT about to force ‘gay marriage’ on the Church of England.

Andrew Carey wrote for the Church of England Newspaper Redefining what marriage means.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 11:31pm GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Court upholds ban on foster couple

Updated twice Monday evening

The BBC reports Court backs decision to bar Christian foster couple.

The full text of the judgment can be found here. The language used by the judges is really quite extraordinarily strong.

It has seriously upset Christian Concern whose article is over here. Another version of this appears as a Christian Legal Centre press release.

Andrew Brown has published an analysis, at The law of England is not Christian.

The Christian Institute and similar bodies have mounted a series of court cases over the alleged persecution of Christians in the last five years. Almost all have been based around the claim that Christians are entitled to discriminate against gay people. Each one has ended in defeat. From the cross worn by Nadia Eweida to the attempts to allow religious exemption to the registrants of civil marriage, or the owners of B&Bs, the cases have been pitched as matters of high principle, and the judges have responded with increasing asperity. None, I think, has been so brutal as Lord Justice Munby in his judgment on the case of Owen and Eunice Johns, a couple of Sheffield pentecostalists who were turned down as foster carers because they would not accept homosexuality…

…[T]hey wrote to the council “We take these statements and others to mean that it is either your policy, or your understanding of the law, that Christians and other faith groups who hold the view that any sexual union outside a marriage between a man and a woman is morally reprehensible are persons who are unfit to foster. In short you seem to be suggesting that Christians (such as us) can only adopt if we compromise our beliefs regarding sexual ethics”.

This is the view that Lord Justice Munby has described as a “travesty of reality”.

He quotes some substantial excerpts from the judgment, and then concludes:

Obviously, these judgments will have a considerable effect on evangelical protestantism in this country, which has always taken the view that we are, or should be, a Christian nation. But I think the greatest effect will not be on pentecostalists like the Johnses. They can adjust quite easily to the idea that they live under a heathen or godless regime. It is the old-fashioned evangelical wing of the Church of England which will be most upset and confused by these clear statements of principle.

Others have issued statements:

Stonewall Stonewall welcomes ‘landmark’ fostering decision

British Humanist Association High court upholds decision to bar anti-gay Christian couple from fostering: BHA comments

Gavin Drake has also written an analysis, see Misplaced outrage over High Court “ban” on Christian foster parents which makes some good points. One thing he says is this:

The Christian Legal Centre have issued a press release about the case which they open: “In a landmark judgment, which will have a serious impact on the future of fostering and adoption in the UK, the High Court has suggested that Christians with traditional views on sexual ethics are unsuitable as foster carers, and that homosexual ‘rights’ trump freedom of conscience in the UK.

This is nothing less than a lie and I am appalled that a Christian group should seek to misrepresent the truth in such a way. I’d go so far as to suggest that the Christian Legal Centre’s press release may amount to a contempt of court.

Lawyer Neil Addison has commented at Religion Law blog see Johns v Derby Council - Christian Foster Carers Case and he concludes:

All in all this does appear to be a case that should not have been brought and which, from the point of view of orthodox Christians has done more harm than good.

Perhaps in fulfillment of Andrew Brown’s last sentence (see above) Chris Sugden has weighed in at Anglican Mainstream with High Court ruling on Foster-Care parents.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 4:00pm GMT | Comments (39) | TrackBack
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Anglican Covenant: call for fair process and honest debate

press release from No Anglican Covenant Coalition

LONDON —The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has criticized church officials for attempting to suppress honest discussion of the proposed Anglican Covenant.

“Instead of fostering a free and open discussion, church officials are trying to ensure that this radical document is endorsed without serious debate,” according to Coalition Moderator, Dr Lesley Fellows. “Unfortunately, this is entirely consistent with what has been happening throughout the process.”

The idea of an Anglican Covenant was first proposed officially in 2004 as a means of addressing divisions among the member churches of the Anglican Communion on matters ranging from human sexuality to the role of women. The current draft, which has been unilaterally designated as “final”, has been referred to the Communion churches for adoption. The proposed Covenant establishes mechanisms that would have the effect of forcing member churches to conform to the demands and expectations of other churches or risk exclusion from the Communion. The draft must be either accepted without amendment or rejected entirely; no other options are allowed.

A series of decisions demonstrate a pattern of bias and manipulation designed to facilitate Covenant adoption:

  • November 2010 — When the Church of England debated the Anglican Covenant, official materials prepared for General Synod members made no reference to the concerns of critics or to the case against the Covenant. This was in marked contrast to what happened in 2007, when the House of Bishops agreed that an additional briefing document presenting opposing arguments should be circulated to all General Synod members in advance of the debate.
  • November 2010 — When Modern Church and Inclusive Church placed advertisements critical of the proposed Covenant in the church press, and when the No Anglican Covenant Coalition was launched, Covenant sceptics were criticized by senior church officials for going public and “campaigning” instead of remaining silent.
  • December 2010 — When the draft Covenant was formally referred to English dioceses, the referral document provided a random list of quotations from the last General Synod debate, with pro- and anti-Covenant remarks mixed up together, followed by a purely pro-Covenant presentation.
  • January 2011 — A request by Covenant opponents to the Business Committee of General Synod to circulate material setting out the case against the Covenant was rejected.
  • February 2011 — The Anglican Communion Office issued an official study guide and list of questions and answers for international use that neither provide a balanced look at the issues nor fairly represent the views of those critical of the Covenant.

“In the history of General Synod, we know of no instance where such an important matter (designated as Article 8) has been referred to diocesan synods without the case for both sides being clearly set out,” according to Jonathan Clatworthy, General Secretary of Modern Church and a member of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition. “Both sides were represented regarding the most recent plans for unity with the Methodists. That was the case at every stage of the debate over the ordination of women as priests, and now, as bishops. The material concerning the Covenant falls far short of the ideals of justice, of the Anglican tradition. Even in the House of Commons, all sides of an issue are allowed to be heard.”

The No Anglican Covenant Coalition website,, provides a wealth of resources for those seeking to understand the proposed Anglican Covenant. Material specifically designed for use by Church of England dioceses is also available from the Modern Church Web site at

“Diocesan synods in the Church of England deserve to hear all sides of the debate,” said Dr Fellows. “We are not afraid of an open, fair, and honest debate. If the supporters of the Covenant had a stronger case, perhaps they wouldn’t be either.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 1:00pm GMT | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Civil Partnerships: Guardian editorial

The Guardian has published a strongly worded editorial, which criticises both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, for the public statements made by some of their leaders.

Read it (and follow the excellent links) at Civil partnerships: bluster in bad faith.

The heart sinks at the prospect of another battle between faith and the state, in which the churches wring their hands and find themselves sustaining discrimination against gay and lesbian couples. But such a dispute has begun with the government’s confirmation that it plans to lift the total ban on holding civil partnership ceremonies in religious buildings. First, the Church of England warned of “unexplored impacts”, “confusion” and “difficult and unintended consequences for churches”. In sum, because the church can’t make up its mind, everyone else ought to hold back. Now the Catholic church has joined the fray, railing against the proposal in even more strident terms…

It concludes with:

…This is a proposal which the Church of England – whose own bishops split on the issue in the Lords last year – should find unexceptional. Equality, one bishop claimed in that debate, is not the same as making the laws for everyone the same. But nor should the principles of some faiths be imposed on others. The blanket ban on religious institutions hosting partnership ceremonies is a lawful infringement of their liberty. It must be swept away. Doing that will not eradicate every ancient prejudice or protect everybody from them, it will merely give progressive believers the right to do things in new ways. As such, it will strengthen and not compromise freedom of conscience. Claims to the contrary are illogical bluster.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 8:10am GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 27 February 2011

Civil partnerships in churches: Archbishop speaks


Jonathan Wynne-Jones reports in the Sunday Telegraph that Archbishop says the Church will resist Government moves on gay marriage.

…Dr Rowan Williams has refused to be drawn on the issue publicly, but has broken his silence to tell MPs he is not prepared for the Coalition to tell the Church how to behave.

He told a private meeting of influential politicians that the Church of England would not bow to public pressure to allow its buildings to be used to conduct same-sex civil partnerships…

And in more detail:

…Challenged by Simon Kirby, the Tory MP for Brighton Kempton, to explain what he would say to a same-sex couple wanting a church union, he said that the Church is welcoming to homosexuals and permits its clergy to enter civil partnerships.

However, he stressed that it would not countenance weakening its teaching on marriage and said that it would not be dictated to by the Government.

But Mr Kirby said that the Dr Williams’s comments threaten to alienate homosexual churchgoers and would give rise to accusations that the Church out of touch with society.

“I hoped he might be more measured in his response and reflect on the cases for both sides of the argument more evenly, but he was very one sided,” he said.

“Public opinion is moving faster than the Church on this issue and it is increasingly in danger of getting left behind.

“Obviously it is a difficult issue for the Church, but it has many gay men and women who want to be treated the same way as everyone else.”

Doug Chaplin has written a detailed analysis of this story on his blog, see A politician’s PR, or, stitching up the Archbishop. And I have commented there.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 8:41am GMT | Comments (80) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 26 February 2011

Civil Partnerships & Marriage: further opinions

Judith Maltby writes in the Guardian today (in the Face to faith column) that Churches should celebrate bringing God into civil partnership ceremonies.

…Some leaders in my own church, the Church of England, as well as the Roman Catholic church have described this as an assault on religious liberty – and no doubt there is an aggressive secularist agenda to embarrass the churches, though aggressive secularists should note that we are pretty good at doing that ourselves without their help. Indeed, the religious liberty defence has a patronising and hollow ring to it when Quakers and Reform Jews are asking precisely for the liberty to register and bless civil partnerships in their own places of worship. They do not need Anglican or Roman Catholic bishops to “save them from themselves” – especially since both our churches have a shameful history of persecuting these very same faith groups.

So why does the liberty to introduce God into civil partnership ceremonies devalue marriage? It would appear that there just isn’t enough of God to go around. One cannot, apparently, honour and bless one pattern of living a faithful and committed life, without somehow devaluing another. It is the theological equivalent of printing too much money…

Some other opinions that we failed to report earlier:

LGCM LGCM welcomes another step towards full marriage equality

Peter Tatchell Religious civil partnerships welcome, no progress on gay marriage

Quakers Quakers welcome government move on civil partnerships

Cutting Edge Consortium Cutting Edge Consortium asks Government to press ahead with Marriage Review

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 2:34pm GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Stephen Tomkins writes for The Guardian about How biblical literalism took root. “The Bible doesn’t state that it should be read literally – yet an all-or-nothing approach is the core of many Christians’ faith.”

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times: Get to grips with banks’ morality.

David Wolpe writes in The Huffington Post Why Everyone Should Study the Bible.

This week’s The Question in Comment is free belief in The Guardian is What is marriage for?
There are answers from Harriet Baber, Roz Kaveney, Shelina Zahra Janmohamed plus one from Austen Ivereigh that we linked to here.

The Evangelical Alliance has published 21st Century Evangelicals: A snapshot of the beliefs and habits of evangelical Christians in the UK.

Bob Siegel asks in The Washington Times Does Jesus belong on the college campus?

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Judgment in Colorado Springs

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports Armstrong sentenced to probation, $99,247 restitution.

A judge Friday sentenced the Rev. Donald Armstrong to four years probation for his no-contest plea to one count of misdemeanor theft of funds from the Colorado Springs church where he once served as rector.

Fourth Judicial District Judge Gregory R. Werner also ordered Armstrong to pay restitution in the amount of $99,247 that was diverted to pay for his son’s and daughter’s college education. The money came from a trust fund originally set up to pay for the education of seminary students…

And the Colorado Springs Independent has Armstrong avoids jail time, must pay $99,247 in restitution.

The Rev. Don Armstrong won’t have to serve any jail time for misusing funds while he was rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

That ruling came Friday afternoon from 4th Judicial District Judge Gregory Werner, who upheld an earlier plea agreement that gives Armstrong two concurrent four-year probation terms for no-contest pleas involving his stewardship of a Grace scholarship fund called the Bowton Trust.

Werner did order Armstrong to pay $99,247 in restitution to Grace for money that went from the Bowton Trust to pay for his children’s college-related expenses. Werner singled out those funds because, he said, Armstrong had fiduciary responsibility over the trust as Grace’s rector.

The judge also ordered that, during his probation, Armstrong will have to do 400 hours of community service outside his current church, St. George’s Anglican Church. The 61-year-old rector also must disclose all of his current finances and is prohibited from managing the finances of any church or group in a fiduciary role…

An earlier and very long article in the Independent Judgment day for the Rev. Armstrong reviewed the whole background to this case in considerable detail. Worth reading. It also reports that:

The 61-year-old is as comfortable as ever in pushing his conservative theology from the pulpit, as in his sermon Feb. 6 when Armstrong chastised the daughters of George W. Bush and John McCain for “speaking out in favor of same-sex marriage,” adding, “how quickly we should see it as human-centered thinking, not God’s teaching.”

Armstrong remains a priest in good standing in CANA, under Bishop Martyn Minns, which is part of either ACNA, or part of CoN (Anglican Communion) or possibly both.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 26 February 2011 at 10:08am GMT | Comments (33) | TrackBack
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Friday, 25 February 2011

Religion or Belief - statistics

From BRIN (British Religion in Numbers)

A Perfect Companion

Anybody feeling a little at sea in the plethora of religious data may find a new briefing paper from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) a great boon. Written by EHRC’s research manager, David Perfect, and simply entitled Religion or Belief, it is available to download from:

The 25-page paper brings together a selection of key national statistics on religion in Great Britain, sometimes as time series. The document is short enough for BRIN readers to consult directly, so no summary of findings will be attempted here. However, an annotated listing of the 19 tables may be found useful.

Follow the link to A Perfect Companion for the annotated listing.

Thanks to The Church Mouse for drawing my attention to this.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 25 February 2011 at 10:21am GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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CANA now belongs to ACNA not Nigeria?

Updated Friday afternoon (? added to headline, see below)

From a report in the Vanguard CANA no longer a Nigeria mission, says Archbishop Okoh.

The Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, the Primate of Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), says the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), is no longer under the jurisdiction of Nigeria.

Speaking during his recent visit to London , Okoh said: “CANA is now part of the Anglican Province of North America (ACNA).

ACNA is a breakaway province from the Episcopal Church headed by Archbishop Robert Duncan.

“We are not interested in territorial ambition; our main reason for going to America was to provide for those who were no longer finding it possible to worship in the Episcopal church.

“A new structure has been put up in the U.S. which is ACNA.

“CANA now belongs to ACNA even though they still relate to us;but essentially it now belongs to Anglican province of North America,” he said.

Archbishop Okoh visit to London was reported by George Conger in the Church of England Newspaper as Nigerian archbishop in Lambeth meeting with Dr Williams.

The head of the Anglican Communion’s largest province will meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury this week at Lambeth Palace.

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria is scheduled to meet with Dr. Williams on Feb 17, and will also meet with officials from the Nigerian High Commission and Nigerian expatriates during a three day pastoral visit to the UK.

A spokesman for Archbishop Okoh said this week’s visit will be his first to London since his election as primate. A trip set for December 2010 was postponed due to inclement weather. The trip will also provide an opportunity for Dr. Rowan Williams to mend fences with the Nigerian Church, which along with a majority of the African church has become estranged from Lambeth over the past three years.

(As an aside, this report also contains information about the reason for the absence from the recent Dublin primates meeting of the Kenyan primate.)

And Archbishop Okoh was also quoted recently in a Nigerian Observer report Nigeria Anglicans Re-Affirm Stand On Gay Marriages.

Episcopal Café has commented on the status of ACNA in Abp Okoh says CANA belongs to ACNA, not CoN.

…Okoh’s statement illustrates the ability to redefine the relationship between CANA and the Church of Nigeria to meet the circumstances. The Province of the Southern Cone has been sanctioned by the Anglican Communion Office for crossing provincial boundaries into the United States. The question has lingered, why did the Church of Nigeria escape the same sanctions on the same grounds?

The question remains whether CANA and the Church of Nigeria will be allowed have it both ways as suit the circumstances. See CANA’s self definition on its website

…and Frequently Asked Questions about Dual Citizenship in CANA & ACNA, updated 2010-12-16.

And the Church of Nigeria’s own website contains this on its FAQ page:

Q5. What is CANA?

CANA is the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. Initially started to provide worship centres for Nigerians in North America, it is now a Missionary diocese of the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion catering for many who feel alienated as their former church walks away from the faith once delivered…

Update Friday afternoon

There are developments in this story. Anglican Mainstream reports: Clarification of CANA under the jurisdiction of Nigeria.

A recent article in Vanguard Online states that CANA is no longer a Nigeria Mission. This is incorrect. Bishop Martyn Minns’ Archdeacon, The Ven Julian Dobbs, writes:

CANA’s Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns (who is currently in Singapore en route to Nigeria for the Church of Nigeria’s House of Bishops’ meeting, which is to be followed by a meeting of the Church of Nigeria’s Standing Committee) has asked me to pass along this information to you:

Earlier this morning Bishop Minns heard from both Archbishop Nicholas Okoh and Registrar Abraham Yisa who were surprised to see a recent statement in the media that suggests that CANA is no longer part of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).

Both Archbishop Okoh as well as Registrar Yisa told Bishop Minns that such reports are erroneous. They assured him that there has been no change in the status that exists between CANA and the Church of Nigeria, that Bishop Minns and CANA’s suffragan bishops continue to serve as members of the House of Bishops in the Church of Nigeria, and that the Church of Nigeria at the same time continues to promote the full recognition of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) as a province in the Anglican Communion.

Information regarding the relationship that exists between CANA, the Church of Nigeria, and the ACNA can be found on the CANA website.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 25 February 2011 at 8:39am GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 24 February 2011

Anglican Covenant: more documents

A new set of documents has been published by Modern Church as Church of England resources intended for use in forthcoming diocesan synod debates on the proposed Anglican Covenant.

The resources can all be found at this page which notes that:

On 24 November 2010 the General Synod of the Church of England voted to consider adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant. As this would constitute

“a permanent and substantial change of relationship between the Church of England and another Christian body”

it may not receive final approval unless first approved by a majority of the dioceses at meetings of their diocesan synods.

These documents have been produced as resources for presenting the case against the Covenant in these debates.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 10:41pm GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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New Zealand earthquake

updated Friday

I am sure that readers of this blog having been following the story of the devastating earthquake that struck Christchurch in New Zealand on Tuesday this week.

The websites of Christchurch Diocese and Cathedral have photographs and news.

And here are a few media stories with a particular Anglican slant.

Brent Wittmeier in the Edmonton Journal (Canada) Former Edmonton bishop safe

The New Zealand Herald No survivors in cathedral after earthquake - police

Marites N Sison in the Anglican Journal (Canada) ‘Pray for confidence that God will see us through’

Mary Frances Schjonberg for Episcopal News Service (USA) New Zealand Anglicans begin to pick up the pieces

BBC World Service Dean of Christchurch Cathedral on New Zealand quake and New Zealand: Fears after Christchurch cathedral tower collapse

Nine News (Australia) NZ quake destroyed ‘symbol of hope’

Marc Greenhill in The Age (Australia) Pianist survives collapse

Friday Update

Dan Parker at 3 News (New Zealand) Cathedral a symbol of Christchurch survival

Mary Frances Schjonberg for Episcopal News Service (USA) New Zealand Anglicans assess damage, reach out to others

Ed Beavan, Muriel Porter, Australia Correspondent and Helen Saxbee in the Church Times ‘Sense of despair’ as buildings collapse in NZ earthquake

St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow, which is an almost exact twin of the cathedral which has been damaged in Christchurch, is holding a benefit concert on Monday evening, 28 February.

The Diocese of Christchurch has this Respite Accommodation & Quake Appeal.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 11:40am GMT | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Civil partnerships in churches: legal analysis

Will churches really be sued for not allowing civil partnerships? is the title of an excellent, detailed analysis by Matthew Flinn at the UK Human Rights Blog.

Matthew provides a detailed explanation of the wording of all the relevant sections of the applicable statutes and regulations, with links to the text. I may reproduce some of that detail in a later article here.

He then goes on to discuss whether or not there is any risk of a successful discrimination claim being brought against anyone for refusing to make religious premises available for such an event. His conclusion:

In the round, the concerns of religious institutions that the changes will, in themselves, require them to facilitate civil partnerships are probably unfounded. Although this is certainly not the only question posed by the changes; there are other dilemmas which may arise pursuant to the operation of ecclesiastical law. For example, the Church of England, which has made clear it will forbid its churches to be used to facilitate civil partnerships, may face difficulties in preventing rectors who have freehold title to parish property for using their premises for that purpose, and there may be issues in disciplining a clergyman who invites a civil registrar onto his premises to conduct a civil partnership ceremony.

And he ends by saying:

…In the meantime, it is possible that some religious institutions are really more worried about the ever closer prospect of full marriage equality for homosexuals, than of the risk of being sued.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 24 February 2011 at 9:02am GMT | Comments (19) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

ACNA priest on Communion-wide body?

Previously, questions were asked about the participation of Mark McIntosh in the work of ARCIC III.

Now, some questions have been raised about the participation of Julian Linnell in this Evangelism and Church Growth Initiative of the Anglican Communion Office.

See the recent news report: More than 60 evangelism resources soon available for the Anglican Communion.

Questions are asked here:

Paul Bagshaw Who is the Anglican Communion Office working for?

Mark Harris Is Julian Linnell an ACNA member on an Anglican Communion group? and later ACNA priest part of Anglican Communion evangelism group

Episcopal Café Jim Naughton Of dubious appointments

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 at 10:04am GMT | Comments (26) | TrackBack
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Monday, 21 February 2011

Civil Partnerships & Marriage: yet more comment

Updated Wednesday

Ruth Gledhill has interviewed Giles Fraser on YouTube, watch Canon Giles Fraser tells Ruth Gledhill why Church should celebrate gay marriage.

Austen Ivereigh has written a further article about this for America see Bishops to challenge UK laws allowing gay marriage in churches.

Colin Coward has written about Changing Attitude England’s campaign for civil partnerships to be held in Church of England churches.

Michelle Hutchinson has written at Practical Ethics about Civil Partnership, Religion and the BNP.


Riazat Butt reports in the Guardian the remarks of RC Archbishop Peter Smith, in Catholic archbishop accuses coalition over gay marriage in church move

The Catholic church is on a collision course with the government after declaring it will oppose in the “strongest terms” changes to the Equality Act that will allow gay couples to register civil partnerships in places of worship.

A statement from the archbishop of Southwark, the Most Rev Peter Smith, said it was neither “necessary nor desirable” to allow gays and lesbians to have civil partnership ceremonies in religious premises and accused the government of “considering a fundamental change to the status of marriage”.

You can read the full statement made by the archbishop over here.

Austen Ivereigh has continued (see link above) to defend the archbishop’s position on this, at Cif belief, see In marriage we trust.

…But civil partnerships are not marriage. The last government made that clear when it said they could not be religiously solemnised. Implicit in that restriction was a final vestige of recognition that marriage is a natural institution, beyond the state or churches to redefine. Now a Conservative government (committed, now there’s the irony, to restoring the vigour of civil society) wishes to use the power of the state to refashion the primary cell of civil society. Allowing churches to solemnise gay marriages is one of the most statist acts ever attempted by a government, and an assault on religious freedom.

The fact that Quakers and Unitarians are happy to host this government’s totalitarian fantasy is neither here nor there; they have no more right to redefine marriage than has the state…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 21 February 2011 at 9:56pm GMT | Comments (32) | TrackBack
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Anglican Covenant: more opinions

Updated Wednesday

Anglicans Online has taken a public stand on the Anglican Covenant. You can read this by going over here.

…In the nearly 20 years that this website called ‘Anglicans Online’ has existed, we’ve tried to be a place outside politics, a via media centre where Anglicans of every stripe, opinion, background, and churchmanship (remember that word?) could come and be at home. We shunned the shrill, avoided invective, and cleaved to reason, moderation, and what we’ve trusted is a genuine Anglican sensibility. We’ve not voiced our opinion on controversial matters, holding to that fact that reasonable people can disagree — and we’re proud to call many of those reasonable people our friends.

But it’s time for Anglicans Online to state that we’re not in favour of the Covenant and cannot imagine a Communion bound by it.

At the end of its cumbrous process for approval, we hope it will fail and be heard of no more. If such isn’t the case, we fear for what the quondam Ecclesia Anglicana will become.

Also, Paul Bagshaw points out that views about the Covenant in Japan are not straightforward, see The view from Japan.

And for those who want to trace the development of the text of the Covenant, this page from Tobias Haller should prove invaluable: A Comparison of various drafts of the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant.

Paul Bagshaw has comments on this, see The Synoptic Covenant.

Meanwhile, Pluralist is not impressed with the documents coming from IASCUFO, see Not a Whiff of No and also Not a Whiff of No: the Q and A.

And neither is Paul Bagshaw, see Study Guide, Q&A, C-

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 21 February 2011 at 9:33pm GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 20 February 2011

Civil Partnerships & Marriage: more comment

The Economist has published I thee bless.

BRITAIN took a small step this week towards eroding the legal distinction between gays and straights in the matter of matrimony. The civil partnerships that came into force in 2005 grant same-sex couples essentially the same legal rights (over property, pensions, inheritance and parenting) as opposite-sex marrieds; but the law stipulates that the ceremonies must be secular. Last year, after fierce opposition, Parliament voted to remove the prohibition on civil partners tying the knot in churches, synagogues and other religious settings. On February 17th the government said it would begin consultations on implementing that decision—with a view to changing the regulations this year…

Fulcrum has published a statement: On the Use of Religious Buildings for Registration of Civil Partnerships.

The Evangelical Alliance has this statement: Religious liberty must be guaranteed - Alliance responds to proposals to enact section 202 of Equality Act 2010 and also Government proposes allowing civil partnerships in religious settings.

The Tablet has this editorial: Marriage a La Mode.

Throughout the West, the issue of gay marriage has been used as the spearhead of a secularising agenda, propelled by those who want to rid modern civilisation of all traces of its Christian roots. Paradoxically, within the gay community itself the most vociferous supporters of gay marriage have been gay Christians, who want to be given an equal place in the life of Christian institutions rather than to overthrow them. Both these views are reflected in church reactions to government proposals in response to gay pressure, for instance for allowing a religious element in civil partnership ceremonies – at present forbidden by law – and even allowing a partnership or marriage ceremony in a church or synagogue. The Quakers, some liberal synagogues and the Unitarian Church would welcome that permission…

Austen Ivereigh has written in America The Church will have to fight this attempt to redefine marriage.

It’s hard so far to see the tempest behind the first clouds and hastening winds. But an announcement yesterday by the UK government that it intends to lift the ban on civil partnerships being celebrated in places of worship is set to unleash a storm which could well redefine the relationship between Church and state; and have profound long-term consequences — especially for Anglicanism…

The Plymouth Herald printed Will gay church marriages end up in the courtroom?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 20 February 2011 at 12:13am GMT | Comments (71) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 19 February 2011


updated Monday

Theo Hobson writes in The Guardian about Evangelicals turning to Jewish customs? It’s complicated. “Evangelical Christians have become increasingly admiring of the sacramental richness of Judaism.”

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about A false ideal that erodes self-worth.

Scott McLemee writes for Inside Higher Ed Let Us Now Praise KJV.
Wayne Clarke asks Should we revere the Authorised Version?
And at The Guardian Jeanette Winterson, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Alexander McCall Smith, Michèle Roberts, David Crystal and Diarmaid McCulloch each write about The King James Bible’s language lessons.
Also in The Guardian David Edgar writes The King James Bible reconsidered. “We are steeped in the idioms and phrases of the King James Version. On its 400th anniversary, David Edgar questions how revolutionary it really was.”
The Guardian also asks its readers to Help us spot phrases from the King James Bible. “As the King James Bible celebrates its 400th anniversary, help us build a picture of how its phrases are used around the web today.” It provides a list of Phrases from the King James Bible, although as the first commenter points out many of these are not original to the KJB, but come from Tyndale.

Johann Hari writes in The Independent Get bishops out of our law-making. “Is Nick Clegg even going to abandon his atheism, and give the forces of organised religion yet more power over us?”
update: The Church Mouse has written this response to Hari’s article: Fact check: Johann Hari’s attack on the Lords Spiritual in the Independent.

Mark Vernon writes in The Guardian about Ultra-Darwinists and the pious gene. “Richard Dawkins won’t like it, but he and creationists are singing from similar hymn sheets, according to a new book.”

Gordon Brown has given a lecture on Faith in Politics?

Carl McColman writes for The Huffington Post about After a Century, Why Mysticism Still Inspires.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 19 February 2011 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (16) | TrackBack
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Friday, 18 February 2011

Why do the Primates meet?

Savitri Hensman writes in the Guardian about the Ascent of the Anglican primates.

More than a third of those invited to a recent Anglican primates’ meeting were unable or unwilling to attend. There has been much debate about whose fault this was. But there are more basic questions. How useful are such meetings (which aim to bring together the most senior bishops from each province) and how much power should be given to bishops and archbishops?

Paul Bagshaw has commented further on this in Ascent of the Primates.

The voice of the laity has almost no place in the centralised and curial world envisaged in the Covenant, as was evident from its inception. This is from a report to General Synod in 2007, responding to the Nassau draft which Jonathan Clatworthy and I wrote with John Saxbee, Bishop of Lincoln:

4.8 The absent laity

Apart from a brief, factual, mention in §5 para. 6 the laity are invisible in this Draft Covenant. If the Draft’s processes were to be implemented the voice of the laity would be utterly peripheral and rendered inaudible. This is a contradiction of an ecclesiology in which the Church is ‘the blessed company of all faithful people’ (Book of Common Prayer, 1662). To marginalise the laity in decision making would be to hobble the body of Christ, to undermine the faithful work of the people of God, and to diminish the quality of ecclesial life.

It’s worth looking back to what the primates themselves said about this in Dublin (scroll down for the full text of Towards an Understanding of the Purpose and Scope of the Primates’ Meeting: A working document)

And here is yet another view, from Benjamin Guyer at Covenant The Primates’ Meeting, 2011: Mis-Representation and the Failure to Resolve.

If we are going to enter into these kinds of necessary critiques, then we ought to do so while recognizing the institutional ends and the limits of the Primates’ Meeting. Otherwise our critiques will be rooted in expectations and assumptions that are either unfair or, what is worse, false.

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Civil Partnerships & Marriage: Church Times report

The Church Times website has a report by Ed Beavan and me, Civil partnerships will not be forced on Church, says May.

This expands the earlier report by Ed which appears in the paper edition, to include an interview with Lynne Featherstone which I conducted on Thursday. The portion of the report containing the interview is copied below the fold.

Speaking on Thursday to the Church Times, the Minister for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone, confirmed that there would be two separate streams of action.

Neither of these, she said, constituted government approval of “gay marriages in churches”, as some religious commentators had suggested.

One stream would implement Lord Alli’s amendment to the Equality Act 2010 by bringing forward, in the late Spring, draft amendments to Clause 11 of the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005.

There would then be a formal public consultation on this draft, before a text was laid before Parliament for approval. The regulations currently prohibit not only the use of religious premises for civil partnerships, but also the use (in any venue) of religious texts, such as Bible readings or hymns, or the participation of a minister of religion.

Ms Featherstone confirmed that the consultation would address all of these aspects. She stressed, however, that the key issue was to ensure religious freedom, both for those who wished to take advantage of these changes, and those who did not want to do so.

There was no question that any organisation, or any individual member of the clergy, would be under any Government compulsion to do anything.

Asked whether the Church of England would be able, under the new regulations, to opt out en bloc from the new provisions, the Minister said that this had yet to be decided, and would depend on the outcome of the consultation.

As a separate stream of activity, the Government was committing to a review of further possible changes to the law to bring civil partnerships and civil marriage more closely in line with each other.

Ms Featherstone emphasised that this was a matter of “early days and baby steps”. There was as yet no defined plan of activity, but the Government would consult very broadly and very carefully before proceeding further.

There would be detailed consultations with representatives of all the religious faiths, as well as with all other interested parties. If suggested changes to the civil arrangements impinged on the law relating to marriage in the Church of England, that would have to be taken into account.

This announcement, said the Minister, was simply a commitment to look further at the relevant issues, which were complex. The consultations were not working to any deadline, and would be allowed to take “whatever time it takes”.

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Thursday, 17 February 2011

Study Guide for Anglican Covenant

The Anglican Communion Office announces Study guide on the Anglican Communion Covenant published.

A study guide and a Questions & Answers document was published today to assist people exploring the Anglican Communion Covenant.

The study guide (available as a pdf document) from the Anglican Communion website ( is intended for parishes, deaneries, dioceses or groups of individuals wishing to explore the Covenant and the way it describes Anglican identity. It contains the text of the Anglican Communion Covenant interspersed with summaries of the material. Communion members are invited to download the guide and to adapt it for their own context. There is also a set of Questions & Answers about the Covenant that seeks to address some commonly asked questions. Neither is a definitive commentary on the Covenant.

These resources were produced as a result of a meeting of the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee on Unity Faith and Order (IASCUFO) in 2009. A working group of IASCUFO has now completed this commission. There is a suggestion that people may be interested in including some of the material for use in parish bulletins, diocesan newspapers or other church communication channels.

The working group of IASCUFO includes the Rt Revd Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Christchurch New Zealand (convenor); the Rt Revd Kumara Ilangasinghe, recently retired Bishop of Kurunagala, Church of Ceylon; and the Revd Dr Simon Oliver, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Nottingham.

The Q&A is also available as a PDF.

More about IASCUFO can be found here.

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Civil Partnerships and Marriage: comment


Among all the noise about this, there have been some thoughtful articles.

Leading article: A welcome blow against discrimination

Much attention around the expected change to the law will concentrate on whether the churches will now have to allow gay marriages to take place in their places of worship. Certainly, it will be interesting to see how the Church of England, which remains bitterly divided over the ordination of gay priests, responds.

If changes to the law force what is still the Established Church in England to clarify its muddled and often disingenuous thinking on the question of sexual equality, so much the better. But in an age when a growing number of marriages take place in civil settings and have no religious element to them at all, this is at the same time a peripheral matter.

Much more important than anything the churches have to say is that Britain is now a world front-runner in the field of equality for sexual minorities. If the Coalition Government succeeds in following through on Ms Featherstone’s expected proposals, it will be to its credit.

Tom Sutcliffe What’s undermining about gay marriage?

Michael White Same-sex marriage cannot be the same as heterosexual marriage

Giles Fraser 500 years of church intolerance

…But just as the government ought not to impose gay marriage on churches that are still not ready for it, so too the church must not impose its own institutional homophobia on gay Christians who want to use the Bible in a civil marriage ceremony. Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat equalities minister, is currently preparing plans for marriage equality. She must not be distracted by a nervous church protecting its control of biblical hermeneutics. People ought to be free to use the Bible as they feel the spirit leads. The word of God exceeds the limited imagination of the church. It always has.


Another good article, which first appeared in The Times has now appeared at the website of the Australian, see Gay marriage is good conservatism by Daniel Finkelstein

When civil partnerships were first suggested, the idea was advanced that providing legal status for gay couples might undermine heterosexual marriage. The means by which this would happen were obscure, but whether or not this was ever a sensible argument, it is apparent the fear is groundless.

The opposite point should recommend itself to Tories. Marriage strengthens commitment between couples and therefore brings stability into the lives of those who enter in it. The advantage of extending that to gay people is obvious. Nevertheless, there is an objection that the difference between marriage and gay civil partnership should be maintained, because marriage is intended for procreation. Another odd argument. Lots of people marry when they don’t intend to have children, cannot have children or are too old to do so. Should these people be forced to have civil partnerships?

Against this is the important fact - that to deny gay people the right to marry in the full sense is to deny people the dignity and respect they deserve. And who better than a Conservative can understand the desire of an individual for dignity, respect and social status?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 17 February 2011 at 8:48am GMT | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Civil Partnerships and Marriage Law Reform

Last weekend there was a flurry of speculative news reports about a forthcoming government announcement in this area. These reports prompted several religious organisations to issue statements, even though there was as yet no actual government announcement. For example, the Communications Office at Church House, Westminster, issued this on behalf of the Church of England:

“We have yet to see the proposals, so cannot comment in detail. Given the Church’s view on the nature of marriage, the House of Bishops has consistently been clear that the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register civil partnerships. The proposal as reported could also lead to inconsistencies with civil marriage, have unexplored impacts, and lead to confusion, with a number of difficult and unintended consequences for churches and faiths. Any change could therefore only be brought after proper and careful consideration of all the issues involved, to ensure that the intended freedom for all denominations over these matters is genuinely secured.”

Today, the Government Equalities Office has issued a press release which is headed New push for LGB and T equality will allow civil partnerships in religious buildings.

The full text of this is reproduced below the fold. This has provoked a further series of news stories and of statements.

News reports:

Guardian Alan Travis Gay marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships may soon be welcomed and Gay marriage v civil partnership: what’s the difference?

Telegraph Tim Ross Gay couples will be allowed to marry under Coalition plan

BBC Gay church ‘marriages’ plan to be announced

The Church of England has not issued any further statement. But two conservative evangelical groups have done so.

Reform and several other organisations have made a joint statement: Homosexual marriage and the registration of civil partnerships in churches:

Anglican Mainstream sent out a “press release” which has been reproduced over here.

Earlier this had been published: Statement from Anglican Mainstream on proposals for civil partnerships to be contracted in churches.

GEO press release 17 February 2011


As part of its commitment to advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB and T) people, the government will today announce that religious buildings will be allowed to host civil partnership registrations.

The change, which will be entirely voluntary and will not force any religious group to host civil partnership registrations if they do not wish to do so, is being introduced as part of the Equality Act. It will give same-sex couples, who are currently prevented from registering their civil partnership in a religious setting, the chance to do so.

The government’s LGB and T action plan, which was published last year, included a commitment to look at next steps for civil partnerships, and giving religious organisations the right to host registrations is the first stage in that process.

Ministers have also identified a desire to move towards equal civil marriage and partnerships, and will be consulting further how legislation can develop, working with all those who have an interest in the area.

Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May said:

“This government is committed to both advancing equality for LGB and T people and ensuring freedom of religion for people of all faiths, which is why we will be allowing religious organisations to host civil partnership registrations if they choose to do so.

“No religious group will be forced to host a civil partnership registration, but for those who wish to do so this is an important step forward.”

Minister for Equalities Lynne Featherstone said:

“Over the past few months I’ve spoken to a lot of LGB and T people and campaign groups, and it quickly became clear that there is a real desire to address the differences between civil marriage and civil partnerships.

“I’m delighted to announce that we are going to be the first British government to formally look at what steps can be taken to address this.”

Michael Hutchinson, for Quakers in Britain, said:

“Quakers warmly welcome the move to allow the celebration of civil partnerships on religious premises. We are also heartened by proposals to address calls for full equality of civil marriages and civil partnerships, as our religious experience leads us to seek a change in the law so that same sex marriages can be celebrated, witnessed and reported to the state in the same way as heterosexual marriages.”

The changes to the rules governing civil partnerships will come about by enacting section 202 of the Equality Act 2010. This removes the ban on civil partnership registrations being held on religious premises.

However, the rule is entirely permissive, meaning no religious organisation could be forced to host civil partnership registrations if it did not want to.


1. The removal of the ban on civil partnership registrations in religious premises will affect England and Wales. In Scotland and Northern Ireland it is a matter for the devolved administrations.

2. Section 202 of the Equality Act 2010 lifts the explicit ban on holding civil partnership registrations in religious premises, which is included in the Approved Premises (Marriage and Civil Partnership) Regulations 2005. Although it was passed by both Houses of Parliament on a free vote, making the necessary changes to the Approved Premises Regulations will require further legislation. The Government Equalities Office will launch a formal consultation on this later in the Spring.

3. Section 202 makes clear the voluntary nature of the provision, stating: “For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Act places an obligation on religious organisations to host civil partnership registrations if they do not wish to do so.”

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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Primates Standing Committee

ACNS has published Members of the Primates’ Standing Committee announced.

The following Primates were elected as members of the Primates’ Standing Committee at the recent Primates’ Meeting in Dublin, Ireland and have agreed to serve:

Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak (Sudan) - alternate Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi (Burundi)

Central, North, South Americas and the Caribbean
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (The Episcopal Church) - alternate
Archbishop John Holder (West Indies)

Bishop David Chillingworth (Scotland) - alternate Archbishop Alan Harper (Ireland)

Middle East and West Asia
Bishop Samuel Azariah (Pakistan) - alternate Bishop Paul Sarker (Bangladesh)

South East Asia and Oceania
Archbishop Paul Kwong (Hong Kong) - alternate Archbishop Winston Halapua (Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia)

Each Primate serves for a period of three years, and thereafter until the next Primates’ Meeting. Also membership ceases when a member ceases to be a Primate.

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Monday, 14 February 2011

Another Anglican Covenant roundup

Paul Bagshaw has written another article about the Anglican Covenant: Doors slammed shut! Windows blown open?

…I stand by my description of how I see the Communion shaping up (centralised in the Archbishop of Canterbury, the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion and their respective officials, clericalised, women and laity further marginalised, the distance from centre to edge getting ever greater).

But I will make a significant qualification.

A kairos moment
The end of the civil war gives a brief moment for debate on what the Communion might look like. The idea of changing it has been very widely accepted. Significant changes have already been made. But we no longer need to look at the Communion through the lens of civil war or the foci of sexuality, biblicism and accusations of colonialism. These remain important issues but, fairly abruptly, the steam has gone out of them and the engine driving them has departed on a side-line…

From Peter Carrell we have The Anglican Covenant’s future.

After the change to the life of the Communion marked and underlined by last week’s Primates’ Meeting, it could be fantasy to think the Anglican Covenant now has a future, other than as a piece of paper read by fewer and fewer people and signed up to by even fewer member churches (three to date). But as the days have gone by I have been thinking that the Covenant has a future, and that future could be along two lines (or more)…

Jim Naughton has written The Anglican Covenant is not as dead as it looks and the comments on this thread are well worth reading.

I am wondering if the proposed Anglican Covenant is as dead as many Episcopalians think it is. It seems to me that Rowan Williams is making slow but significant progress toward assembling a notional center that he can then play off against the left (constituted by us, the Brazilians, the Scots and maybe the Welsh) and the right (constituted by Nigeria, Uganda and the Southern Cone.)

Consider: The Churches of Mexico, Myanmar and the West Indies have approved the covenant, and the Churches of England and South Africa have embarked on a process that seems almost certain to end in its approval. Mexico and South Africa are two of the provinces that opponents of the covenant within the Episcopal Church hoped might keep us company if we declined to sign up.

The Australians and Canadians are in the midst of processes whose likely outcomes are not clear to me. But both are members of the British Commonwealth, and Archbishop Philip Aspinall of Australia is a leading figure among the Primates, so covenant opponents would be foolish to presume that these two provinces won’t follow where Canterbury leads…

Lesley Fellows got this reply by Joanna Udal to her letter that she had sent earlier to Rowan Williams.

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Saturday, 12 February 2011

General Synod statistics

James Townsend has published some statistics on the age distribution and gender balance of the current Church of England General Synod.

They are well worth looking at in detail, but a couple of his conclusions are particularly noteworthy.

“only 28% of the convocations [ie clergy] being female”
“Even though 35% of the Synod are newly elected, the bulk of the [lay] membership has simply got older by five years”

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 12 February 2011 at 6:16pm GMT | Comments (27) | TrackBack
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General Synod papers

A number of links have been quietly added to the Church of England’s webpage of papers for this past week’s meeting of General Synod: February 2011 Group of Sessions: Papers.

They include this Full summary with links to all papers and audio feeds for each session. this is more detailed than the summaries that were published shortly after the end of each morning and afternoon session.

There is also the official Business Done, and, at the bottom of the page, a full set of notice papers.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 12 February 2011 at 11:19am GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Rosie Harper writes for The Guardian about General Synod’s cliquey clergy. “The tribal factions of the General Synod aren’t hard to spot – but they’re supposed to work out God’s agenda, not their own.”

Andrew Brown at The Guardian offers a brief meditation on original sin, Apples, and omnipotent network gods: Augustinian and Pelagian software.

Savi Hensman writes for Ekklesia about Baptism: A new world coming.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Praise from a mouth that waters.

Shoshana Garfield writes in The Guardian about Faith in the darkest of moments. “Many torture victims tell convincing stories of divine intervention in their ordeal.”

Helen Lee writes for Busted Halo about God in Gaga. “Lady Gaga’s latest single is an anthem for the marginalized.” The article has been reprinted by The Washington Post.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 12 February 2011 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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General Synod: ACNA

The subject of the Anglican Church in North America was raised twice in the course of last week’s General Synod sessions in London.

First, it was raised in the debate on the Business Committee report. This was not because ACNA was mentioned in that report, on the contrary, it was a complaint by Lorna Ashworth that the forecast of future business showed no plan to bring forward the report that had been requested a year ago. You can hear her remarks by listening to the recording of that debate here (start at minute 34), or there is a longer transcript here.

…I do wonder how is it that we come to this agenda and there is no report back? And there is no indication of the forecast agenda for July either that there will be a report back. So I would like to request the Chair of the Business Committee to see to it, that that there is a report - that we will follow this up - and nothing will be kicked into touch. Thank you.

In his response to the debate, the acting chair of the committee, Bishop Trevor Willmott commented on this request (go to minute 40):

..Finally, if I may say to Lorna Ashworth, again I think the question is that she is - not solely in this chamber that that debate takes place, and I am assured that there will be opportunity for her to listen in to, and all of us to listen in to any comments which are made back by the Archbishops and the House of Bishops on that motion which was passed at that last session of Synod.

Second, a Question was asked, as follows.

The Revd Christopher Hobbs (London) to ask the Secretary General:

Q. What procedure would have to be followed for the Anglican Church in North America to be in communion with the Church of England and/or part of the Anglican Communion?

You can hear the answer given and the supplementary question and answer, by going here (go to minute 34.5). The first answer was as follows:

Mr William Fittall to reply:

A. Under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967 a determination by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York is conclusive where any question arises whether, for the purposes of the Measure, a church is in communion with, or its orders are ‘recognised and accepted’ by, the Church of England. A decision that the Church of England should enter into communion with another church outside the Anglican Communion would fall to be taken by the Synod. The one legally constituted body for the Communion is the Anglican Consultative Council, membership of which is regulated by its Constitution. That provides that the addition of a church to its schedule of membership requires the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Communion.

The second answer, to a supplementary by Fr David Houlding includes this:

…The archbishops gave a commitment in that motion that they would report back to the Synod in 2011, by my reckoning 2011 is only 5 weeks old, so I am sure that they will be reporting to the Synod in due course on what is indeed an important matter.

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Friday, 11 February 2011

ARCIC III participants announced

ACNS has announced the names of participants in the next stage of Anglican Communion-Roman Catholic Church dialogue. See this Press Release for ARCIC III.

The Most Reverend David Moxon, co-Chair, is the Bishop of Waikato and Archbishop of the Dioceses of New Zealand in the Province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Dr. Paula Gooder, biblical scholar, is Canon Theologian of Birmingham Cathedral, Visiting lecturer at King’s College, London, Associate lecturer at St Mellitus College, London, an Honorary Lecturer at the University of Birmingham and Senior Research Scholar at the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham, England.

The Rt Reverend Christopher Hill is the Bishop of Guildford and the Chair of the Council for Christian Unity of the Church of England.

The Reverend Dr Mark McIntosh is Van Mildert Canon Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Durham in England.

The Rt Reverend Nkosinathi Ndwandwe is Bishop Suffragan of Natal, Southern Area, in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

The Rt Reverend Linda Nicholls is Area Bishop for the episcopal area of Trent-Durham in the Diocese of Toronto, Anglican Church of Canada.

The Reverend Dr Michael Poon is director and Asian Christianity coordinator of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia at Trinity Theological College in Singapore, Province of South-East Asia.

The Reverend Canon Nicholas Sagovsky is retiring as Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey in the Church of England. An ecclesiologist, he served on ARCIC II.

The Reverend Dr Peter Sedgwick is Principal and Warden of St Michael’s College in Llandaff in the Church in Wales, where he teaches theology and social ethics.

The Reverend Dr Charles Sherlock is a consultant to ARCIC III. He has recently retired as Registrar of the Melbourne College of Divinity and lives in the Diocese of Bendigo, Anglican Church of Australia.

These nominations have raised some eyebrows. See ARCIC III members named, and then ARCIC appointment does not violate American ban, ACC says.

…in his Pentecost letter of May 28, 2010, Dr. Rowan Williams stated that members of provinces that were in breach of the three moratoria on gay bishops and blessings and cross-border encroachments of provincial boundaries would no longer participate in the formal ecumenical dialogues in which the Anglican Communion was engaged

“Provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged,” Dr. Williams wrote.

Yet, as the reports note:

One of the Anglican members was ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church and was one of the theologians who authored “To Set Our Hope on Christ: A Response to the Invitation of Windsor Report Paragraph 135.”

And it appears that he is still canonically resident in the Diocese of Chicago.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 11 February 2011 at 10:19pm GMT | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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General Synod - more reports

The detailed reports in today’s Church Times are only available to subscribers until a week today. But meanwhile this summary by Ed Thornton can be read by all: Synod wrestles with an England that no longer understands.

The Church Mouse looks at what the media decided to publish about the Synod: General Synod in the media - when there are no splits to dig into.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 11 February 2011 at 1:43pm GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Regeneration Youth Summit - book now!

From here:

The regeneration summit is an event organised by Church Army as a response to some shocking statistics about the numbers of young people in the Church of England. Regeneration will gather together a huge number of Bishops (including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York), some youth leaders and a massive number of young people to discuss how the Church can better equip, resource and reach young people in the UK today.

Church Mouse has more from Mark Russell: Guest post: Mark Russell, CEO Church Army - Young people set to “regenerate” the church at national summit.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York will be attending the summit along with more than 30 bishops and 30 youth leaders. Regeneration will provide them with a unique opportunity to hear directly from young people.

The vision for Regeneration is not simply to talk about the problems the church faces regarding youth. Instead, it will be a day for making practical suggestions and challenging the wider church to take mission involving young people more seriously.

Therefore, rather than young people attending an event led by bishops, the bishops will take part in an event led by young people. Regeneration will be overseen by a steering group of five young people who will lead the main sessions of the day and set the agenda for discussion – and I do mean ‘young’! The guy who is chairing the group, Sam Follett, is 20 years old… and has just been elected onto the General Synod.

And the practical details are here:

When, where… how?

The summit is going to be held at St Thomas’ Philadelphia Campus in Sheffield on 3rd March 2011, 9:30am - 5:15pm. You will only be let in if you’re on the guest list, so please apply (by Monday 14th Feb!)…


Our Facebook group can be found by clicking here, and on twitter we’re @regensummit.

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Wednesday, 9 February 2011

General Synod - more Wednesday press reports

Updated Wednesday evening and Thursday lunchtime

Riazat Butt in The Guardian Baptisms to be given in ‘BBC1 language’
BBC Baptism language to be simplified
Maria Mackay in Christian Today Church of England hopes simpler baptism language will connect with unchurched
Tim Ross in The Telegraph Church of England to rewrite baptism service words in ‘EastEnders’ speak

Independent Catholic News Bishop George Stack addresses Church of England General Synod

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 9 February 2011 at 6:48pm GMT | Comments (38) | TrackBack
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General Synod - Wednesday business

Updated at 5.30 pm

Here is the Order Paper for today’s business at General Synod.

Order Paper III - Wednesday 9th February

This is the text of the motion on Common Worship baptism provision as carried by Synod after amendment.

That this Synod request the House of Bishops to ask the Liturgical Commission to prepare material to supplement the Common Worship Initiation provision, including additional forms of the Decision, the Prayer over the Water and the Commission, expressed in accessible language.

In the afternoon there was a debate on the ARCIC (Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission) report Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ after which this motion was carried unamended.

That this Synod, affirming the aim of Anglican - Roman Catholic theological dialogue “to discover each other’s faith as it is today and to appeal to history only for enlightenment, not as a way of perpetuating past controversy” (Preface to The Final Report, 1982), and in the light of recent steps towards setting up ARCIC III:

(i) note the theological assessment of the ARCIC report Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ in the FOAG briefing paper GS 1818 as a contribution to further dialogue;

(ii) welcome exploration of how far Anglicans and Roman Catholics share a common faith and spirituality, based on the Scriptures and the early Ecumenical Councils, with regard to the Blessed Virgin Mary;

(iii) request that, in the context of the quest for closer unity between our two communions, further joint study of the issues identified in GS 1818 be undertaken - in particular, the question of the authority and status of the Roman Catholic dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary for Anglicans; and

(iv) encourage Anglicans to study the report with ecumenicalcolleagues and in particular, wherever possible, with their Roman Catholic neighbours.

And here are the official summaries of all the day’s business, with links to audio recordings of the debates.

morning: General Synod - Summary of business conducted on Wednesday 9th February 2011 AM
afternoon: General Synod - Summary of business conducted on Wednesday 9th February 2011 PM

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General Synod - Wednesday press reports

Riazat Butt in The Guardian: Church must continue to influence debate, says archbishop of York

Maria Mackay in Christian Today: Church has ‘God-given duty’ to shape Britain’s moral order – Sentamu

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General Synod business committee

Yesterday the General Synod failed to approve the proposed appointment of the Bishop of Dover as the Chair of the Business Committee.

Justin Brett has written about this development at On votes, rules and resistance.

…The Business Committee of General Synod is the body that decides Synod’s agenda. It is mostly (I think) either directly or indirectly elected by Synod itself. The rules that govern it state that its Chair must be one of the six people elected from General Synod to the Archbishops’ Council. One of these people is nominated by Archbishops’ Council in consultation with the Appointments Committee, and the name sent to Synod for approval.

As things have fallen out this time round, the person in question is the Bishop of Dover. Needless to say, this has caused some muttering among those for whom a purple shirt often serves dual purpose as a red rag…

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background to debate on Mary

In addition to the official papers available for this afternoon’s debate, which can be found here, the following may also be of interest:

Fulcrum Response to the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission Agreed Statement (first published in 2005) by Bishop Graham Kings.

Anglican Mainstream has published an article by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali Evangelical Mary.

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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

General Synod - Tuesday press previews and reports

The BBC previews one debate: Church debates BNP ban for clergy.

And The Telegraph and The Guardian both carry a Press Association report of the debate.
The Telegraph General Synod backs ban on clergy joining the BNP
The Guardian Church of England backs draft ban on clergy joining the BNP

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House of Laity Meeting on Monday

The House of Laity met on Monday before the first session of General Synod.
Justin Brett has reported what happened in What The House Of Laity Did First…

This afternoon the House of Laity was invited to co-opt Dr Priscilla Chadwick as a member of the House so that she could be re-appointed as Chair of the Dioceses Commission. The short version of what happened is that we declined to make such a co-option…

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General Synod - Tuesday business

updated Tuesday at 2.00 pm, 5.25 pm and 11.30 pm

Here is the Order Paper for today’s business at General Synod.

Order Paper II - Tuesday 8th February

And here are the official summaries of the day’s business.

morning: General Synod - Summary of business conducted on Tuesday 8th February 2011 AM
afternoon: General Synod - Summary of business conducted on Tuesday 8th February 2011 PM

The Archbishop of York gave a presidential address after lunch. The full text is here.

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Monday, 7 February 2011

General Synod - Monday business

The General Synod of the Church of England began its February group of sessions this afternoon.

Here is the official summary of the day’s business.
General Synod - Summary of business conducted on Monday 7th February 2011 PM
This includes links to audio recordings of the debates.

One item of business was this follow-on from the debate on the Anglican Communion Covenant held in November 2010.

Mr John Ward (London) moved:

‘That this Synod resolve that final approval of the Act of Synod adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant shall require the assent of two-thirds of the members of each House present and voting.’

Following debate, and a division by Houses, the motion was lost. Here are the voting figures.

  ayes noes abstentions
Bishops 4 32 2
Clergy 82 92 1
Laity 66 112 0

We will be reporting on some of the questions and answers separately.

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Saturday, 5 February 2011

Primates Meeting: more commentary 2

The Anglican Communion Institute has published Dublin Post-Mortem. The concluding paragraphs read:

…For all these reasons, the group of Primates who met in Dublin cannot be recognized as acting in accord with the accepted Communion understanding of the Primates’ Meeting as an Instrument of Communion. This Instrument thus joins the others as now being dysfunctional and lacking in communion credibility. The role of the Lambeth Conference as an Instrument of Communion is to “express episcopal collegiality worldwide.” But in 2008, when the bishops of most Anglicans “worldwide” were not present, it could not perform this function. It accomplished little of substance and is now regarded throughout much of the Communion as a symbol of futility. Similarly, the Anglican Consultative Council has been re-structured legally so that it is no longer recognizable as the Instrument defined in the Covenant or in past Anglican documents. The role of the Archbishop of Canterbury as an Instrument of Communion is to function as “a primacy of honor and respect among the college of bishops,” as “a focus and means of unity,” and the one who “gathers” the Lambeth Conference and Primates’ Meetings. Whatever may be said about the cause of the disintegration, it is incontrovertible empirically that Canterbury has been unable to perform this function over the last three years. The Communion thus finds itself with no working Instrument that has been able to perform its necessary function, follow its rules, and garner credible acceptance from the majority of the Communion.

We are left with a grouping—one can no longer say “communion”—of three dozen or so autonomous churches, many of whom are not in communion with others, without any effective Instruments of Communion to bind them together. This is made no less heartbreaking by being the Communion’s obvious trajectory for several years.

But we can only proceed from where we are. The first task for those who share a Communion ecclesiology is to begin to re-constitute working Instruments of Communion. These will necessarily be provisional at first, but if the Communion is to survive they must evolve into Instruments that actually work to unite the member churches of the Communion. If church history, including our own recent experience, teaches anything it is that neither confessions without instruments nor instruments without common faith and order are sufficient to preserve unity. As recently noted by the Secretary General, the vast majority of the Communion continues to share Anglicanism’s historic faith and order notwithstanding its rejection by two provinces. What is needed as a matter of urgency are Instruments that express that common faith. We call on the Primates representing the vast preponderance of Anglicans, together with their colleagues, to take up the charge of seeing to the furtherance of the Communion and we pledge our prayers to that end.

Bishop David Anderson of ACNA and the American Anglican Council in his latest weekly email quoted various other commentators and then wrote this:

…For my own opinion on the leadership of the Anglican Communion I would refer you to last week’s AAC Weekly Update, and my lead comments.

And here is what he had written (before the Dublin meeting took place):

Many of the primates have made their reasons for being absent very clear in public and private correspondence to Dr. Williams, who is the convener. However, the Anglican Communion Office, headed by Canon Kenneth Kearon, has concocted reasons for some of them that are simply disingenuous. Most of the primates have made it clear to Dr. Williams why they are absent and why they are frustrated and disappointed in his leadership. With this fact in mind, there is a question that begs to be asked; “Is Dr. Williams competent to lead the Communion?” You would be surprised if you polled liberal revisionists and orthodox conservatives to find that many on both sides would answer NO. It is time to acknowledge before the world that the emperor has no clothes, and the Archbishop of Canterbury has no competency to lead the Communion.

We do understand the formal process that led to the royal appointment/directive of Dr. Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury, but in practical, realpolitik terms, Williams was chosen by Prime Minister Tony Blair to assist in Blair’s task of blending church and state agendas to the gay agenda. One should be able to ask why in the world the entire Anglican Communion should be subject to a manipulative prelate chosen by a politician elected by a secular government. If there is no way to replace a failed archbishop and restart with an actually spiritual (in a historical and understandable sense) archbishop, then those who can see failure and call it for what it is need to look elsewhere for leadership.

The Anglican Communion is a wonderful global family that has some real dysfunction, and as is often the case, the heart of the dysfunction sits in the center. The heart of the dysfunction is not TEC, nor Bishop V. Gene Robinson, nor Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori. That these have perpetrated grossly unbiblical misconduct and deserve to be severely punished is clear enough, but to posit the blame on all of them gives them entirely too much credit and feeds their sense of importance. The blame properly falls on the spiritual father who should have disciplined the miscreants and is now unable to act for the well being of both the miscreants and the rest of the family. To be effective, discipline needs to be clear, redemptive in nature, and prompt - all of which Dr. Williams is unwilling and unable to fulfill.

In a more perfect world we could announce, “NEXT!” and pick a new one. As it is, the process will be unsure, open to failure, possessing unforeseen collateral effect, and take much more time. Will the Anglican Communion survive? Possibly, but most likely not in the form we have known. Perhaps there will be a healing of the orthodox Global South stress fracture, and a new way forward will be found. Fortunately, God is still sovereign, and the church still belongs to him, and in time he will set right what man has over turned…

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Primates Meeting: more commentary 1

Paul Bagshaw has written End game. His concluding paragraphs read:

I think George Conger is right: it is the end of the Communion we once thought we knew.

The Primates’ meeting is to be a consultative forum with no powers of instruction or direction. Powerful and influential, certainly, but these stem from the role of participants within their own Provinces, not across provinces. As the Primus said in the press conference, this is a Communion of independent provinces.

Conger is also right about the concentration of powers in the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Standing Committee is to be the Archbishop’s ‘consultative council’. In effect the Diocesan structure of the English Church is writ global: the monarchical Archbishop rules and courtiers advise. They have no veto.

A Communion for the twenty-first century

So this would now seem to be the shape of the Communion:

  • Each province is autonomous.
  • There is a stronger recognition of the differences of structure, decision making and distribution of powers within each province. Pressures towards harmonisation have been rebuffed.
  • The motif of ‘family’ has resurfaced, specifically in its aspect of ‘blood is thicker than water’, i.e. we disagree but continue together. Clearly this is only true for those family members who are prepared to stay together.
  • There is a renewed emphasis on regionalism, facilitated by the Primates’ Standing Committee. This will be a difficult trick to pull off effectively: on the one hand the centralising agenda will still pull matters towards the Archbishop of Canterbury and, on the other, the defence of autonomy will pull people apart. However, if successful, regional groupings could well supply an intermediate layer of debate and discussion which will enable better co-ordination of a looser Communion to the benefit of all.
  • It is an ever more clerical Communion. Unless regional meetings include the laity as full participants they will reinforce the dominance of bishops.
  • The more deliberative nature of the Lambeth Conference (if continued) and Primates’ Meeting will leave a vacuum. There will still be a demand for the equivalent of Lambeth Resolutions - of moral and persuasive authority, but only given force when incorporated in the
  • Power will flow to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Leadership of global deliberation will flow to the international consultative bodies. Thus power will flow to the Anglican Communion Office. Information and administration is power and it will all go though the ACO & Lambeth Palace staff.
  • The Anglican Consultative Council will be marginalised. Like an English Deanery Synod it will make work for itself but its primary function is merely to vote for (some of the) members of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion.
  • The SCAC will become a rubber stamp to endorse decisions made between the Archbishop of Canterbury, the General Secretary of the Communion, the ACO & Lambeth Palace staff.

The place of the Covenant in this is not clear. Clearly the Covenant is not dead. The logic of this shape of the Communion would marginalise it, perhaps draw any teeth, but the question remains: will the Covenant be an effective document oar will it now join the honoured ranks of documents with little or no consequence?

I’m still afraid it’s the former. If passed the Covenant contains so many powers-in-embryo that it will inevitably be used.

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Matt Idom writes in The Huffington Post about Worshiping God, Not the Bible.

Jane Williams continues her Comment is free belief series: The Book of Genesis, part 8: Why this story? “Genesis has shaped human history for generations, but it continues to offer new insights and raise new questions.”

Nick Spencer writes in The Guardian about Christianity: a faith for the simple. “Christianity’s founding ideals are anti-elitist – so should we be surprised if its followers are less educated than average?”

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about When mob bigotry is the spirit of the age.

Jill Hamilton writes in The Guardian about When sharing faith means sharing germs. “Baptism and the kissing of icons may raise health concerns, yet faith often trumps our modern obsession with hygiene.”

Christopher Howse writes for The Telegraph about Two days before the royal wedding.

Mark Vernon writes for The Guardian about Uncertainty’s promise. “Whether with science or religion, only by embracing doubt can we learn and grow.”

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Friday, 4 February 2011

Primates Meeting: Irish church press

The Church of Ireland Gazette has this leading article:

Editorial: The Primates Meeting

It includes the following:

The Covenant, of course, is also being debated throughout the Communion. However, a forthcoming colloquium on the subject - being jointly hosted by the Church of Ireland journal, Search, and the Church of Ireland Chaplaincy at Trinity College Dublin - could open up a deeper debate on the subject than we in the Church of Ireland so far have had (

A big question about the Covenant is just what impact it would have on the Communion:

Would it help the Communion overcome its difficulties?

Would it make no difference?

Would it create new difficulties?

Whatever people’s views on the Covenant, the General Synod is due to reach a position on it next May.

When international bodies hold top-level meetings in one’s country, a great deal depends on the local organisers.

We conclude this brief comment on the Primates’ Meeting by paying tribute both to our own Primate for his role as host and to the Church of Ireland staff who helped to make the event happen.

The Gazette also has a front page story about US Presiding Bishop encourages congregation and country in Christ Church Cathedral sermon during Primates’ Meeting.

Referring to the Republic’s impending general election, the American church leader asked the congregation: “what hopes is this nation laying on its next Taoiseach? will your next prime minister be expected to solve the entire fiscal crisis in his or her first week of office? that person will take office overloaded with urgent desires for healing and resolving all the ills of this nation, or maybe even larger parts of the world.”

With this in mind, Dr Jefferts Schori asked the country to be gentle with its new leaders, “but not too gentle”.

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Primates Meeting: church press reports


In the Church Times Ed Beavan reports under the headline Williams plans trips to mend fences

THE Archbishop of Canterbury will engage in a round of shuttle diplomacy in an attempt to improve relations with the Global South primates who boycotted last week’s primates’ Meeting.

Speaking during the closing press conference at the Emmaus Centre, near Dublin, on Sunday afternoon, Dr Williams spoke of his plans to visit some of the provinces of the absent Primates, such as South-East Asia. He said that he had recently met the Archbishop of Kenya, Dr Eliud Wabukala, one of the Primates who did not attend, taking part in “a very long and detailed conversation on a variety of matters”.

Such diplomatic endeavours would be a “long task”, he said; and trying to keep the diverse Com­munion together was “difficult”; but “the task we’ve been given, it’s part of the gift of living in the Church” and “part of the cross we carry”.

Dr Williams acknowledged that there remains a “critical situation” in the Anglican Communion. “Nobody would deny that. But that critical situation has not ended the rela­tionships, often very cordial and very constructive, between Churches within the Communion.”

And Ed also wrote Impressions of ‘gracefulness’.

THE Dublin Primates’ Meeting represented “comfort-zone Angli­can­­ism”, the Bishop of Argentina and chairman of the conservative GAFCON network, the Rt Revd Greg Venables, said this week.

Speaking on behalf of the GAFCON Primates of Uganda, Rwanda, West Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, and the Southern Cone — none of whom went to Dublin — Bishop Venables said that the meeting “had ignored the difficult issues that divide us.

“There was a denial of the serious­ness of the crisis facing the Communion which led to the absence of Primates representing two-thirds of the Anglican Com­munion, and there remains a com­plete lack of trust, which every day is getting worse.

“The Dublin meeting has just made things worse, as they did not deal with the reasons why people stayed away, or the causes of the divisions in the Anglican Church.”

Commenting on the new defini­tion of the standing committee of the Primates’ Meeting, Bishop Venables said that the creation of a new “centralised” body reminded him of Animal Farm: “It seems all Primates are equal but some are more equal than others.”

Update There is a further related report: Ed Thornton Kato murder ‘profoundly shocking’ - Dr Williams

Speaking at a press conference after the Primates’ Meeting, on Sunday, Dr Williams said that Mr Kato’s murder “illustrates the fact that words have results…When­ever people use any kind of language that dehumanises or demeans such persons [as homosexuals], we have to think these are the possible con­sequences.”

Dr Williams noted that the Arch­bishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Henry Orombi, was “a signatory, along with all the other Primates to . . . statements . . . deploring and condemning all violence and de­meaning language about homo­sexual persons”.

When contacted, the Archbishop of York’s office said that Dr Sen­tamu would not be com­menting on the murder of Mr Kato, and referred to Dr Williams’s statement.

There is editorial comment at Leader: Decommissioning. It concludes with this:

…Those unfamiliar with recent Anglican history might overlook the importance of that dull list produced in Dublin, with an even duller title: “Towards an Understanding of the Purpose and Scope of the Primates’ Meeting”. Until their principled — and possibly unwise — decision to give the Primates’ Meeting up as a bad job, the conservatives saw the gathering as a potential power-base to rival the other instruments of the Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury was an individual attached awkwardly to an ex-colonial power; the Lambeth Conference met only once a decade; and the Anglican Consultative Council, well . . . This left the Primates’ Meeting, the most representative body in the Communion — if you saw no need to represent lay people, the parish clergy, women, etc. Not only did it meet every two years: there was the prospect of a permanent standing committee, which could govern between meetings.

Suddenly there was the prospect of an effective, powerful gov­ern­ing body, in charge of theological and ethical pronounce­ments, discipline, and membership. Furthermore, the con­servatives might be strong enough to control it. It is in this light that the redefinition of the Primates’ Meeting, framed in their absence, must be seen. Note how the document refers to “taking counsel”, “being collegial”, “being consultative”, and “acknow­ledging diversity and giving space for difference”. On the pressing issues of faith, order, and ethics, the Primates are merely to “seek continuity and coherence”, whatever that means. And the standing committee has been tucked neatly away, to “act as a consultative council for the Archbishop of Canterbury” and to care for the “life and spirit” of the Primates’ Meeting, whatever that means. If the conservatives ever choose to return, they will find that the guns have been spiked.

Over at the Church of England Newspaper George Conger has written a report titled Dublin primates meeting marks an ‘end to the communion as we know it’.

He quotes conservative spokesmen as follows:

A spokesman for the Gafcon movement told The Church of England Newspaper that it was unlikely the primates affiliated with the conservative reform movement would comment on the meeting. Each archbishop made his own decision whether or not to attend, the spokesman explained, and there is no common response yet to what took place in Dublin.

A senior Global South leader told CEN, the Dublin meeting was “irrelevant” to several of the absent primates. “It doesn’t mean a thing to them,” he noted.

As Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Williams’ sole power lay in his ability to call meetings of the church. Lambeth and now Dublin has shown he has lost this “moral authority” as his invitations now go unanswered, the bishop noted. Dr. Williams cannot now claim that he speaks for a majority of Anglicans, he said.

(The quote used in the headline does not appear in the body of the article, but Dr Philip Turner, of the Anglican Communion Institute is quoted as saying

The “fabric” of the communion remains torn “because of a failure in leadership,” he said, noting that the “communion as we have known it is gone.”)

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Thursday, 3 February 2011

Church of England provisional attendance figures for 2009

The Church of England has released its provisional attendance figures for 2009 today. Details are in the press release, which is copied below.

The full figures are in this pdf file.

Provisional attendance figures for 2009 released: attending a local CofE church continues to be part of a typical week for 1.1 million people

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

Total attendance

The total number of adults, children and young people attending local churches has dropped two per cent overall in the seven years since 2002, with the 2009 figures showing a drop of one per cent against the number attending on an average week in 2008. The total number of under 16s was virtually unchanged compared to 2008 and remained more than two percent higher than 2002.

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

The Revd Lynda Barley, the Church of England’s Head of Research and Statistics, comments: “The figures released today, covering regular local church attendees, give an important but inevitably partial snapshot of today’s Church. They paint a mixed picture for 2009. Alongside some encouraging signs, such as the number of under 16s in church holding steady and growth in church attendance in 16 out of 44 dioceses, there are continued challenges, with further small declines in traditional attendance measures. Churches continue to be central to community life and are responding positively to changes in modern day lifestyles with a growing range of opportunities to participate in church life. Excluded from these figures are Fresh Expressions, chapel services in hospitals, education and other establishments, some international congregations and the projects funded by the Youth Evangelism Fund.

“It remains important to see these trends in the context of wider changes in a society where fewer people join and take part in membership organizations. Even in a General Election year, almost double the number of members of the three main political parties taken together will attend a Church of England parish church on a Sunday. Nevertheless, the figures are a further reminder of the importance, highlighted in the report - Challenges for the Quinquennium - which Synod will be debating next week, of achieving sustained numerical and spiritual growth over the coming years.”

continued below the fold

In summary: Average weekly attendance was down slightly at 1,131,000 (2008: 1,145,000; 2007: 1,160,000), as was average monthly attendance at 1,651,000 (2008: 1,667,000; 2007: 1,690,000). while average Sunday attendance dropped two per cent to 944,000 (2008: 960,000; 2007: 978,000) The average number of children and young people at services each week was slightly down at 223,000 (2008: 225,000; 2007: 219,000). The number of children and young people attending on a monthly basis was virtually unchanged at 436,000 (2008: 438,000; 2007: 424,000), while other research reveals that a further 375,000 attend other church based activities.

Marking life events

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

The number of marriages taking place in parish churches was down one per cent at 52,700. Blessings of marriages following a civil ceremony fell (by nine per cent, to 3,900). The total number of weddings in the UK in 2009 has not yet been published, although numbers have been falling gradually in recent years.

The total number of funerals conducted by the Church of England also dropped (by six per cent, to 176,700), particularly those taking place in crematoria (by nine per cent, to 85,600); this is against a backdrop of a falling UK mortality rate (the number of deaths fell by 3.5 per cent between 2008 and 2009).

Nine in ten Church of England parish churches completed attendance counts. These have been verified across all 16,000 Church of England churches by the Research and Statistics Department of the Archbishops’ Council. The provisional figures can be seen on the web.

Celebrating festivals

Widespread snow and ice badly effected Christmas Day attendances in 2009, with some churches forced to cancel services. Attendances and those receiving Communion on Easter Sunday were little changed from 2008.

In summary: Attendance at Church of England local church services on Christmas Eve/Day 2009 was down nine per cent at 2,420,600 (2008: 2,647,200; 2007: 2,656,800). These figures do not include the large number attending at other services related to Christmas, for example, Christingle and carol services during Advent. Easter observance was little changed at 1,411,200 (2008: 1,415,800; 2007: 1,469,000).

The number of adults on the electoral roll of local parish churches rose one per cent from 1,179,000 to 1,197,000. The historic ‘usual Sunday attendance’ measure (see note below for definition) fell two per cent to 826,000 (2008: 845,000; 2007: 868,000).


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

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

Membership of the three main political parties fell from a total of c.781,000 in 2000, to c.476,000 in 2008. Taken from House of Commons Library research paper, August 2009.

According to the Office of National Statistics, 72 per cent affiliate themselves with Christianity and of those who affiliate with Christianity, 32 per cent are practising. The data comes from the Citizenship Survey 2008/9 and Social Trends.

Definition of terms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Appeals Court upholds Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh

Updated again Saturday morning

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: Court upholds Episcopal Diocese’s claim to assets.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has upheld an Allegheny Common Pleas decision awarding centrally held property of the Episcopal diocese that split in 2008 to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh rather than to the rival Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

About $20 million in endowment funds and other assets is at stake. The ruling has no direct impact on ownership of parish property, other than indicating that Anglican parishes must apply to the Episcopal diocese to negotiate for their property, rather than vice versa.

The Anglican diocese has not decided whether to pursue a further appeal.

Lionel Deimel has further details of this, see Details of Commonwealth Court Ruling.

The full text of the judgment can be read from a PDF file here.

There is now a fuller story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Episcopal diocese wins a legal round.

Episcopal Bishop Kenneth Price Jr. welcomed the decision, which arrived the day his diocese reached the first settlement with an Anglican parish. It required that parish to cut ties with the Anglican diocese for five years.

“We are pleased with the court’s findings and hope this will be the final legal challenge concerning this issue,” he said.

He invited Anglican congregations “to join us in negotiating a settlement to our differences.”

Archbishop Duncan, who is also primate of the theologically conservative Anglican Church in North America, hasn’t decided whether to appeal.

“The decision of the appellate court is deeply disappointing,” he said. “In the next hours and days the bishop and standing committee will pray and take counsel about our corporate path forward.”

The Episcopal Diocese has issued this press release: Appeals Court Upholds Diocese in Assets Case

Update This press release has been issued: A Pastoral Letter to the Clergy and People of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh which includes the following paragraph:

…The Standing Committee met on Wednesday night, February 2nd. Three important decisions were made. First, we will petition the appellate court for a re-hearing, which means the lower court’s ruling will not yet be final. Second, the Standing Committee and Diocesan leadership (Bishop’s Office, Trustees and Council) will do everything we can to keep all our congregations working together. Third, the Standing Committee will work tirelessly for a negotiated end to the strife between the Anglican and Episcopal Church Dioceses…

Pittburgh Post-Gazette Anglican diocese asks court to rehear case

The filing, which must be made within 14 days, is not an appeal but an outright request for the same court to hear the case over, citing errors of fact in the ruling which was authored by Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer.

“There are some points of fact that are incorrect in the ruling,” said David Trautman, a spokesman for the Anglican diocese. “We are giving the court a chance to correct those errors.”

He did not specify the errors the Anglicans contend are in the ruling.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 at 11:01pm GMT | Comments (16) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: ECUSA

Primates Meeting: the Canadian view

The Primate of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, has given an interview to the Anglican Journal. Read it at Interview with the Primate.

There is also a letter sent to the Canadian church, see Archbishop Hiltz reflects on the Primates’ Meeting.

Here is one extract from the interview:

Q: How important was it to have this conversation?

A: Absolutely, critically, important…When you have primates who say, “For reasons of conscience and for reasons of who’s going to be there, I’m not coming,” you really have to sit down and say, “Well, what really is the purpose of the primates’ meeting?” There are some of us who would [agree with the] Archbishop of Canterbury that “the primates’ meeting is a given, you’re a primate. I may not be excited about going to a primates’ meeting, I don’t look forward to it, but nonetheless I have an obligation to attend the primates’ meeting…” It’s not just about my own personal choice; when you go to the primates’ meeting you don’t represent yourself or your own conscience alone, you go representing your province. To say, ‘I won’t go’ in some sense is to deny the voice and perspective of your own church that you represent…We recalled the fact that [the 101st Archbishop of Canterbury] Donald Coggan, 20 years ago, envisioned the primates’ meeting as a place “for leisurely thought, prayer, and deep consultation.” And then [Archbishop of Canterbury] Rowan Williams gave a history of the last 10 years of the primates’ meeting…What happened was there was a call in the communion for enhanced responsibility on the part of the primates… the primates were assuming an authority [that] as a group was never intended.

Q: Has this issue been resolved?

A: It was pretty clear…among those who were present, and that would have been two-thirds of us…that we don’t speak on our behalf. We speak on behalf of the churches that we represent and what we heard across the board was that we don’t speak until we’ve consulted with the bishops or the synods and councils of our churches…Within the Communion…there are some who really speak for themselves and they don’t consult or speak for their bishops or their provinces… That’s not only creating some difficulties within the communion, but it’s also, to be honest, creating tension within their own provinces. Some bishops are feeling that their perspective is not represented by what their primate says, or they’re told they can’t go to meetings because their primate has told them not to. They’re denied being part of the wider councils of the church. That’s really unfair…

And another extract:

Q: There were primates with more conservative views on sexuality who boycotted the meeting, but were there others with similar views who chose to attend?

A: There was a good mix of people…Those who came…exhibited huge loyalty to the Archbishop of Canterbury, deep respect for his invitation to draw us together in consultation with one another and a huge amount of respect for the Instruments of Communion…there was honest exchange between individual primates. But I have to say that this meeting was not in any way dominated by discussions around sexuality. In fact, you actually would have to pull very hard to find references to it in our plenary conversations, which is amazing…The last few primates’ meetings have just been dominated by that issue, [the] actions of certain provinces and the reactions of other provinces to those actions, people not going to the Eucharist. None of that happened, everybody participated fully in every aspect of the meeting…People were together at the Eucharist, they were together at tea, they were together at plenary, they were together for prayer, for meals. There was a real sense of community there… The blessing of same-sex unions was just not a big ticket item, not a topic of discussion at this meeting. Not only was it not a big ticket item but nobody was saying, “When are we going to get to this issue?” which was quite profound. Likewise, with the [proposed Anglican] Covenant…there was a general feeling that…we need to let the provinces have the conversations…and we’re not going to enter into a big conversation about it until our provinces have spoken.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 2 February 2011 at 7:52am GMT | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Canada