The Satirical Christian has written Ecclesiastical Dominos.
How do you get people to vote for something they don’t want?
In the Church of England, it’s easy. You employ the domino effect.
Take the Anglican Covenant, for instance. It is clear that many people in the Church of England are deeply suspicious of it. In the debate in General Synod last November many voices raised deep misgivings about it, even among the House of Bishops. In fact, enough people were sufficiently concerned to mean that if the vote was taken purely on what people thought, it would probably have been chucked out there and then…
Bosco Peters has written Anglican Covenant.
…I have tended towards the approach that if you have a problem because you lost something in the garden, to get a solution that’s where you should be looking – even if the light in the house is better! I do not think that the “Covenant” is the appropriate tool as a solution for the “problem”, just as I do not think that a sledgehammer is the appropriate tool as a solution for screwing two planks together.
The “problem” is the ethics of committed same sex relationships. Discussing that is IMO what should be happening. Of course, for some, there is nothing to discuss…
And he continues with
How to get a province to sign up to the “Covenant”
Lessons from/for the Church of England
1) Make sure that the lowest voting percentage possible be required (2/3 or 3/4 in all houses would be just hopeless to get the “Covenant” through. And involving parliament in the state church’s significant signing away of its autonomy would just be a step too far.) How embarrassing if others signed up to the “Covenant” and the Church of England didn’t!
Aidan O’Neill QC has written at the UK Human Rights Blog about Squaring equality with religion.
…The relationship between the expression of religious beliefs and practice and equality law is a fraught one, and particular difficulty has been experienced in the matter of the application of the law outlawing discrimination…
And later on he has this:
…Thus, for the religious, their attitudes and judgments on right conduct are the very opposite of “prejudice” which anti-discrimination law was supposed to be aimed at. And, they would say, there can be no proper comparison between those who would discriminate on grounds of a religiously informed conscience, and those who so act simply from unthinking incoherent prejudice or bigotry. The pretended comparison between the religious and the irreligious wrongly treats unlike cases alike. The law should, instead, respect those who act on the basis of religiously informed conscience and make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them.
On this analysis, being religious is more akin, for discrimination law purposes, to having a disability. The law does not compare the disabled with the able-bodied and say that they should be treated the same – rather the law requires that account be taken of disability and appropriate measures taken to place the disabled on an equal footing with those without that disability. Similarly, the claim is made that the law should not treat the religious and the irreligious as equivalent; rather, the law should respect the beliefs and consciences of the religious and allow them to act on those beliefs without falling foul of anti-discrimination law…
Meanwhile Alan Wilson wrote Squaring a Human Rights Circle.
So what about religious particularity and freedom from discrimination? Pushed to an absolute degree either could compromise the other. If an atheist could fight a way through the courts to become Pope that would be a magnificent expression of openness, but bad news for the Papacy, which partly exists to define and maintain a particular identity in a way that can only credibly be done by a Roman Catholic. If, conversely, a Police force decided to soft pedal on the misdeeds of some clergy because they are authority figures in the community representing the dominant religion, this is plainly wrong and deprives the victims of a basic justice they have every right to expect.
This becomes even more complicated when people start asserting Christian rights. Jesus’ teaching about non violent resistance (turning the other cheek etc) and the strand of wisdom represented by Romans 13, does not lend itself to crusading militancy. Whenever the Church has ignored this principle it has made a fool of itself and compromised the gospel by behaving in a violent and assertive way to whch it might notionally have been entitled, but which was far from Christlike. People who are being reviled have a notional right to revile back, perhaps, but Jesus tells his followers to do the exact opposite. This being the case it is hard to represent an assertion of that right as something required of his followers by their religon. It damn well is not.
A few preliminary jottings are emerging for me about the ways christians are supposed to apply human rights law to ourselves…
The Government Equalities Office has announced the opening of this consultation.
Press release: Civil partnerships on religious premises: a consultation
Opening date: 31 March 2011
Closing date: 23 June 2011
In February we announced our commitment to enabling civil partnerships to be registered on the religious premises of those faith groups who wished to host them. This will be done by implementing section 202 of the Equality Act 2010. This provision removes the legal prohibition on civil partnerships being registered on religious premises, enables regulations to be made setting out the arrangements for these premises to be approved by the local authority and clarifies that there is no obligation on faith groups to have civil partnership registrations on their premises.
Civil partnerships on religious premises: a consultation sets out detailed proposals for this voluntary measure which enhances the freedom of both faith groups and same-sex couples. The proposals are designed to enable faith groups to opt in, respect the different decision-making structures of different faith groups, minimise the risk of successful legal challenges and be straightforward for local authorities to operate. The law will make clear that faith groups are not obliged to host civil partnerships. It would also be unlawful for a civil partnership to be registered on a religious premises that had not been approved for the purpose by the local authority. That approval will be given only with the approval of the faith group concerned.
We propose a two stage process for enabling civil partnerships to be registered on particular religious premises. First the faith group concerned will have to consent to this and the consultation document sets out how this could happen. Then the local authority in whose area the premises is located will have to approve the premises and the consultation document sets out what conditions should apply to the approval. The registration of civil partnerships would remain secular, despite taking place on religious premises, but a religious service could be held to mark the registration.
This consultation will be of particular interest to:
- faith groups including religions, denominations and individual independent religious congregations
- Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) organisations, LGB individuals and their families and friends
- Local authorities, including registrars and other relevant local authority employees
- owners and managers of buildings approved for civil marriages and civil partnerships
Comments from other interested parties are also welcome.
Download the consultation
The official CofE response to the second sentence of this paragraph (emphasis added) from the consultation document will be interesting:
1.8 Please tell us whether you are responding as an individual or whether you
are representing the views of an organisation. If you are responding on
behalf of an organisation please tell us whom the organisation represents
and, where possible, how the views of members have been sought.
A recent decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal is concerned with the employment status of Methodist ministers.
The case is UKEAT/0219/10/DM between Ms H. A. Moore and The President of the Methodist Conference. The judgment, dated 15 March 2011 is available here, and can also be downloaded from here. (49 pages as a .doc file).
Here’s a news report from the Western Morning News Female church minister wins landmark employment rights case.
A sacked [but see comment below] female minister in Cornwall has won a landmark ruling to bring a case against the Methodist Church for unfair dismissal.
The decision by the Employment Appeal Tribunal reverses an earlier decision by the Court of Appeal and paves the way for all clergy to challenge their employers in the courts.
The tribunal concluded that Haley Moore, who was dismissed as a minister in Redruth, was an employee under the Employment Rights Act and can take action against her former employer, the President of the Methodist Conference.
The Unite union, which has been fighting for equal rights at work for religious workers for 16 years, said the decision was a “significant step forward”.
but note also:
A Methodist Church spokesman said it would appeal the ruling.
Kenneth Howcroft, assistant secretary of conference, said: “The Methodist Church is seeking an appeal against the judgement that Haley Moore’s case is a matter for an employment tribunal.
“As it stands, Methodist ministers are office holders, not employees, of the Church and have legal rights of redress under long established, procedural channels.”
And a press release from the solicitors: New Landmark Employment Ruling for Clergy.
The decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal is a significant step towards achieving this as it establishes that a Methodist minister is an employee under employment legislation, which is contrary to the Court of Appeal’s decision about Methodist ministers in 1984. The Methodist Church has 21 days from the date of the EAT’s order of 15 March 2011 to make an application for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal.”
And a press release from the Trade Union: Church of England urged ‘to smell the coffee’ over employment rights, following landmark ruling in Cornwall.
Religion Law Blog carries some comment on this by Neil Addison:
In Moore v The President Of The Methodist Conference BAILII: UKEAT 0219_10_1503 the Employment Appeals Tribunal decided that a Methodist Minister was an Employee for the purposes of Employment Law, in this case a claim for unfair dismissal. The EAT applied an earlier House of Lords case Percy v. Church of Scotland  UKHL 73 in which the House of Lords decided that a Church of Scotland Minister was an employee.
Prior to Percy the general assumption in law was that religious ministers, of all denominations, were office holders rather than employees and so were not protected under unfair dismissal and/or discrimination law. In Percy however the House of Lords decided that, on the specific facts, the Minister in the case was an employee and the same decision was made in Moore as regards a Methodist minister.
How far this principle will extend is difficult to determine. It is possible that Denominations which have a very sacramental view of the status and role of the Clergy, such aside the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, will continue to be able to claim that their clergy are “office holders” rather than employees. However for Free Church Ministers, Rabbi’s and Immans the position may be different and they may be held to be employees of their respective congregations should they decide to sue for unfair dismissal or discrimination.
The full text of the Methodist Conference statement quoted in part above:
The Revd Kenneth Howcroft, Assistant Secretary of the Methodist Conference, said: “The Methodist Church is seeking leave to appeal against the judgement that Haley Moore’s case is a matter for an employment tribunal. It is treating the matter with great seriousness as something that would affect all our ministers. The Court of Appeal held as long ago as 1984 that Methodist ministers are not employees. A minister’s role is one which is traditionally based on the ethos and laws of the Church rather than on a secular ethos. Our ministers have legal rights of redress under Church procedures. The Methodist Church cares for all who serve it, whether lay or ordained, paid or volunteer, and we want to ensure that we treat everyone fairly and properly.”
Martin L Smith at Episcopal Café asks What are bishops for?
Bruce Kaye, writing for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, asks Does Fresh Expressions misrepresent the Gospel?
Mark Vernon gives his answer to last week’s The Question (Who is in hell?) in The Guardian: Rob Bell’s intervention in the often ugly world of American evangelicalism. “In its treatment of hell, the pastor’s book holds two Christian truths in tension: human freedom and God’s infinite love.”
Fred Clark writes on his slacktivist blog about The paradox of pitchforks, a devilish problem.
Craig McQueen at the (Scottish) Daily Record writes about How the King James Bible still influences the way we speak 400 years after it was written.
Meanwhile Giles Fraser has a Thought for the Day about the King James Bible and this comment article in the Church Times: In praise of Shakespeare, not Jesus?
Chris Arnot reports in the Education section of The Guardian that Religious leaders are out of touch with issues of sexuality, survey reveals. “Results also indicate young people are finding it difficult to combine their religion with their sexuality.”
A newly published paper A mathematical model of social group competition with application to the growth of religious non-affiliation by Daniel M Abrams, Haley A Yaple and Richard J Wiener has prompted these two responses.
Wendy M Grossman in The Guardian: I’ve no faith in this idea that religion is dying out
The Church Mouse: Mathematicians predict religion will become extinct in secularised nations
The (slightly shortened) texts of the papers delivered at the recent event in Dublin are now online at the website of Search.
The SEARCH Colloquium on “The Proposed Anglican Covenant - a step forward of a step too far?” took place in TCD on Saturday March 12th and has been judged a great success. Over 50 people attended the Thomas Davis Theatre to hear speakers from England, Wales and Ireland (both North and South) consider the decision on our response to the Covenant to be made at the General Synod in Armagh in May.
After a welcome from the TCD chaplain and secretary of the SEARCH editorial committee, the Revd Darren McCallig, and a brief introduction from the editor, Canon Ginnie Kennerley, the speakers and their subjects were as follows:
- Ms Kate Turner, C of I lay representative on the Anglican Consultative Council: “A Brief Historical Introduction to the Covenant.”
- The Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, Bishop of St Asaph, former Deputey Secretary General of the Anglican Communion: “The Case for the Covenant.”
- The Revd Jonathan Clatworthy, general secretary of Modern Church: “Reservations about the Covenant.”
- The Rt Revd Michael Burrows, Bishop of Cashel and Ossory and former C of I clerical representative on the Anglican Consultative Council: “The Implications for the Church of Ireland.”
The panel discussion which followed was chaired by the Revd Professor John Bartlett, chairman of the SEARCH editorial committee.
The Church of Ireland Gazette reports:
Recommended terms of C. of I. response to Anglican Covenant explained at colloquium meeting
At a recent special colloquium in Dublin on the proposed Anglican Covenant, the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, told participants that the Church of Ireland General synod’s standing Committee had decided that the General synod next May would be asked to “subscribe” the document, but not “adopt” it.
Bishop Burrows distinguished between the two terms, commenting that “the difficulty with the word ‘adopt’ is that you make the thing you adopt part of yourself”, and pointed out that the Covenant would be “a freely entered into regulation of our external relationships”, but that the Church of Ireland could “walk away”.
He said that, while it had originally been felt that a special Bill would be required, the standing Committee had now opted for a simple motion for next May’s General synod in Armagh. Bishop Burrows quoted the text of the scheduled motion: “seeing that the Anglican Covenant is consonant with the doctrines and formularies of the Church of Ireland, the General synod hereby subscribes the Covenant.”
There is also an Editorial comment titled Approaching the Covenant. Scroll down the same link to read it in full.
The recent colloquium sponsored by Search and the TCD church of Ireland chaplaincy on the proposed Anglican covenant (report, page 1) heard excellent addresses on the subject, but it was Bishop Michael Burrows’ explanation of the procedure being followed in the church of Ireland regarding a formal response to the text that gave rise to most discussion. Indeed, semantics were to take centre stage, with the implications of the words “adopt” and “subscribe” being explored.
Bishop Burrows, hotfoot from this month’s Standing committee meeting when the procedure to be followed had been decided, referred to the three options for the General Synod: a Special Bill, an Ordinary Bill and a motion. A Special Bill, Bishop Burrows reminded everyone, would involve a two-year process and two-thirds majorities at every stage, unlike an Ordinary Bill or a motion, either of which would be taken within one meeting of the Synod and would require only simple majorities. The motion procedure had been chosen, he reported.
Then came the semantics. Bishop Burrows explained that the term “subscribe” had been preferred to “adopt”, as to adopt something involved taking it into one’s being. From a legal perspective, the term “subscribe” apparently is weaker than “adopt”, leaving the Church of Ireland more able, as Bishop Burrows put it, to “walk away”. Nonetheless, Bishop Burrows insisted on the “honourable” use of the term “subscribe” in the Church of Ireland, but that did not prevent the semantic distinction still making the planned motion sound rather like a highly nuanced pre-nuptial agreement arising from doubts about the contract in the first place, or a kind of arms’ length embracing of a loved one. Fine words of commitment may be uttered, but signing on the dotted line is carefully managed in order to try to avoid over-involvement. Bearing all of this in mind, one could be forgiven for wondering to what extent, if the covenant is considered unsuitable for the General Synod to “adopt”, there is any real heart on the part of those concerned even for “subscribing” it…
Last week the Church Times published a Guide to the Covenant. This is now available to non-subscribers, but only as a PDF file (4.1 Mb).
This is highly recommended reading. :-)
One of the articles has been reproduced at Anglican Mainstream. See Church of Nigeria and the proposed Anglican Covenant.
It seems that Clergy have no ‘office-holder’ option when they fill in their census forms.
According to an announcement from St Albans diocese (scroll down), and no doubt others:
The Archbishops’ Council says:
(a) We very much regret that The Office for National Statistics has not provided a box that allows non-employee office holders to respond accurately.
(b) Clergy will have to decide whether to tick employee or self-employed, neither of which is accurate.
Considering all the fuss that has been made about the status of clergy as office-holders, this has to count as a #fail for the Archbishops’ Council.
Siobhan McAndrew at BRIN (British Religion in Numbers) has just published some interesting statistics.
The government recently made a statement about this. Riazat Butt reported for the Guardian that Free schools will not teach creationism, says Department for Education.
The Department for Education has said Michael Gove is “crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact” after a warning that the government’s new free schools could be exploited by fundamentalist churches looking to promote a literal interpretation of the Bible.
The remarks follow a letter to the education secretary from the British Centre for Science Education (BCSE) suggesting that creationists planned to use government legislation on free schools to mount a “concerted attack” on science education…
Here is the full text not only of the letter, but also the attached memorandum that they sent.
But the government response is not as simple as the unknown headline writer suggests. As the Guardian article makes clear:
“Creationism will be embodied as a belief at Everyday Champions Academy, but will not be taught in the sciences,” said its leader Gareth Morgan. “Similarly, evolution will be taught as a theory. We believe children should have a broad knowledge of all theories in order that they can make informed choice.”
The DfE spokesman said groups setting up new free schools in the UK will be vetted to ensure that they have “strong education aims” and “high curriculum standards”. He said: “The education secretary is crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact. Ministers have said they will not accept any proposal where there are concerns about the people behind the project.”
See this website for more information about the proposed new school.
A question was recently asked in Parliament by Julian Huppert MP. Emphasis added.
Julian Huppert (Cambridge, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for Education what his policy is on (a) ensuring that free schools are not permitted to teach creationism outside the religious education curriculum and (b) requiring evolution to be taught as a science in such schools.
Nick Gibb (Minister of State (Schools), Education; Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, Conservative)
Academies and free schools will benefit from having freedom over the curriculum they deliver. However, we have been clear that creationism should not form part of any science curriculum or be taught as a scientific alternative to accepted scientific theories. We expect to see evolution and its foundation topics fully included in any science curriculum. Under the Government’s planned reforms to school inspection, there will be stronger focus on teaching. Teachers will be expected to demonstrate that their subject knowledge is secure. If creationism is being taught as a scientific fact in science or any other areas of the curriculum outside denominational RE and collective worship, this would be noted in the Ofsted report.
Why is it that the only people who are expressing public concern about this issue are Humanists?
Updated Friday morning
Neil Addison has written at Religion Law Blog about this case, see Italian Crucifix Case - Grand Chamber Judgment.
As I predicted in my earlier Blogs the ECtHR based its decision on the concept of the “margin of appreciation” and decided that it was for individual countries to make these decisions so that just as France is free to ban all religious symbols from state schools so Italy is free to put religious symbols in state schools. In the UK context this is a significant basis for the decision. When UK Courts apply the Human Rights Act 1998 which incorporates the European Convention into UK law they apply the “margin of appreciation” so as to give that margin to Government and public bodies. The fact that the display of the Crucifix, or indeed any other form of religious symbol, is governed by the “margin of appreciation” will go a long way to free local and central government, schools etc from the danger of legal cases being brought to ban Nativity Displays, prayers at remembrance parades etc.
Unusually for the ECtHR there were a number of separate concurring judgments and I feel that some of them deserve quoting in detail because they do pick up and question the often unquestioned assumption that Secularism is the same as religious neutrality.
And he includes some quotes from them.
William Oddie wrote at the Catholic Herald that Fr Lombardi is wrong: the judgment on crucifixes isn’t about Europe’s Christian roots.
What is actually much more interesting about the court’s full judgment is that it gives a lengthy account, with generous quotations, of the original judgment in an Italian court which was subsequently set aside by the European Court, a reversal now itself reversed by the highest European Court, the “Grand Chamber” (maybe it doesn’t sound so silly in French). The Italian judgment found in favour of keeping crucifixes, not for their religious value, but because they symbolised the moral values which in the end led to the Enlightenment and the modern Italian secular state. Neat, eh? This the Italian court did by delivering itself of a lengthy disquisition on Italian cultural history which had nothing whatever to do with legal argument at all, long and windy stuff (wonderfully Italian: you simply can’t imagine it in an English courtroom), a lot of which is actually rather interesting stuff.
And he goes on to give an illustrative quote.
Andrew Brown at Cif belief writes Raise high the crucifix!
The decision of the European court of Human Rights that Italian schools may continue to display a crucifix in the classroom is obviously a victory for common sense, of which only fanatics would disapprove. But it is also, in a small way, something to help rescue the European project, and to preserve us from the wilder excesses of American political life.
The idea that human rights legislation should be used to prevent children from being exposed to a crucifix is a profoundly totalitarian and superstitious perversion of one of our civilisation’s best inventions. To understand why, consider another family which would want their children protect from crucifixes, but this time not secular Finns, but Muslims. They exist. One Shia Muslim girl I know was not allowed as a child to walk through much of the Victoria & Albert museum, because to do so would expose her to Christian symbolism…
Shiranikha Herbert writes at the Church Times that Classroom crucifixes can stay, Strasbourg rules.
…The 17 judges of the Grand Chamber decided by 15 votes to two that there had been no violation of the rights guaranteed by the Convention. Judge Bonello said that a European court should not be called upon to “bankrupt centuries of European tradition” and “rob Italians of part of their cultural personality”. The court should, “before joining any crusade to demonise the crucifix”, place the presence of that emblem in its rightful historical perspective in Italian schools.
Until relatively recently, the “secular” state had delegated education to Christian institutions, who had a virtual monopoly on education. The presence of the crucifix in Italian schools testified to that historical reality. Now, Judge Bonello said, “a court in a glass box, a thousand kilometres away, had been engaged to veto overnight what [had] survived countless generations”, and was being “asked to be an accomplice in a major act of cultural vandalism”.
It was “uninformed nonsense”, the Judge said, “to assert that the presence of the crucifix in Italian schools bears witness to a reactionary fascist measure imposed, in between gulps of castor oil, by Signor Mussolini”, whose circulars merely took formal notice of a historical reality that predated him by several centuries.
“Nations do not fashion their histories on the spur of the moment…”
Lautsi v. Italy was destined to achieve legendary status in the ECtHR’s case law. In fact, it became the stuff of legends long before the Grand Chamber’s judgment came out. Rarely has a judgment of a supranational court put such a spell on people. Rarely has it inspired such passionate comments and speculation even before it was released. Rarely have so many people looked forward to a judgment with such anxious anticipation. But why? What is it about the issues involved in this case that causes them to speak so strongly to the hearts and minds of so many? It is a question I have been asking myself for a while now, while reflecting on the tension between freedom of and freedom from religion in the Court’s case law. And the question is haunting me now more than ever, having read the Lautsi judgment and the comments in the blogosphere thereon and preparing a post of my own. I have not been able to come up with a satisfactory answer to the question. At least not satisfactory to a legal mind. My personal preoccupation with Lautsi seems to stem from a strong conviction that neutrality requires that the state should not hang crucifixes on the walls in public schools. I will attempt to explain my opinion in this post. But I will also explain why this is perhaps not an issue to be decided by a human rights court.
Two cathedral deans have recently been appointed as suffragan bishops.
There are some brief details of the Appointments Committee of the Church of England (and an
out-of-date up-to-date list of members) on the Church of England website here, and I have copied this below the fold.
But much more useful and interesting is the paper GS Misc 963 Appointments 2010-2015 which “provides details about the work of the Appointments Committee of the Church of England and sets out some of the appointments to be made in the quinquennium”. Although dated October 2010 (and presumably issued to General Synod members then) it has, I think, only just appeared on the Elections and appointments page of the CofE website.
There is provision for the establishment of the Appointments Committee both in the National Institutions Measure 1998 and in the Standing Orders of the General Synod. It is, therefore, a Committee both of the Archbishops’ Council and the General Synod and it is responsible for making such appointments and/or recommendations on appointments to synodical and other bodies as the Synod or the Archbishops’ Council require.
From the Lichfield Diocesan Website
Lichfield Diocese approves Anglican Communion Covenant
The Lichfield Diocesan Synod has become the first in the Church of England to approve the Anglican Communion Covenant with overwhelming votes in favour in all three houses (bishops, clergy and laity).
The vote at today’s meeting in Longton Hall near Stoke on Trent is in response to the General Synod’s decision to refer the matter to the dioceses. All 44 dioceses in the Church of England are being asked to “approve the draft Act of Synod adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant.” Last week the diocese of Wakefield voted to reject the motion; and the diocese of Hereford voted to refer the matter to deanery synods for wider discussion.
An attempt to adjourn the debate in Lichfield diocese so it could be referred to deanery synods was rejected with 47 voting in favour of an adjournment and 60 voting against.
Before the debate, members heard from the Revd Dr Andrew Goddard, lecturer in ethics at Trinity College, Bristol, who introduced the Covenant and outlined some of the arguments for and against it.
The idea behind an Anglican Communion Covenant - the closest thing to a constitution for the worldwide Anglican Communion - was first proposed in the Windsor report of 2004, following developments in relation to same-sex partnerships in North America. It was envisaged that the Anglican Covenant would “make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection” which govern the relationships between the churches of the Anglican Communion.
A text of the Covenant was sent to all the Provinces of the Anglican Communion for their approval in December 2009. Each Province has different governance structures and it is expected to be a number of years before all the Provinces complete the process for acceptance or rejection. The Anglican Consultative Council will discuss progress at its meeting expected in November 2012.
In the Church of England, the House of Bishops agreed in May 2010 to commend the Covenant to the General Synod and a draft Act of Synod was debated by the General Synod in November last year and referred to diocesan synods. If a majority of dioceses agree to the draft Act of Synod it will return to the General Synod for final approval, possibly in 2012.
The Anglican Communion is not a single church or a federation of churches but a collection of 44 different churches made up of 34 Provinces, four United Churches, and six other churches, spread across the globe; with an estimated 80 million Christians.
The tensions in the Communion which arose as a result of the liberalising actions of the Episcopal Church of the United States and the Anglican Church of Canada in the area of sexuality highlighted that there were no formal structures or agreements for handling disputes when they arise. The Covenant is designed to balance the need to define how the churches of the Communion formally relate to each other without creating a formal constitution or federation; continuing to hold the Communion together through mutual relationships.
The Diocese of Lichfield has formal mission partnerships with the Dioceses of West Malaysia, Kuching and Singapore in South East Asia, Matlosane in South Africa and Qu’Appelle in Canada. Churches within the diocese enjoy individual relationships with churches across the Communion.
The result of the vote in the Lichfield Diocesan Synod were:
The audio of the Synod debate will be available on the Lichfield Diocesan website on Monday afternoon: lichfield.anglican.org/chadnet/synod.
This week The Question at The Guardian’s Comment is free belief is Who is in hell?
There are answers from John Richardson, Mary Finnigan and Roz Kaveney.
Andrew Brown has also written on the topic in his Comment is free belief blog: Hell and linoleum. “What would it feel like to believe that anyone really deserved eternal conscious torment? Is it even humanly possible?”
Andrew Brown also writes about Hooker on grief and hell. “Can wicked and stupid people ever be truly happy? One of the founders of Anglicanism thought they could not.”
Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times: I believe in death — not immortality
Theo Hobson writes in The Guardian that Gay-friendly Christianity has become a self-righteous subculture. “The Christian gay rights lobby adopts the narrative of ‘accepting who you are’ and diverts the religion towards a flabby liberalism.”
Samira Ahmed at the Three Faiths Forum asks Do they mean us? “Who‘s included and excluded in news coverage and how to make it better.”
Hymns Ancient and Modern was first published 150 years ago. To mark the occasion the Church Times published a series of articles last week which are now available to non-subscribers.
Hymns A&M: National treasure — not royal appointment
Hymns A&M: Savaged by the red tops
Hymns A&M: Let’s make it official
Hymns A&M: A candle in the darkness
Christopher Howse has also marked the anniversary in The Telegraph: A&M: the C of E in words and music.
Giles Fraser also writes in today’s Guardian Unanswered questions on Japan’s suffering. “In the face of great tragedy, we can admit we do not understand without losing our faith.”
Updated Friday evening
Long-suffering TA readers will recall this case.
The Associated Press reports today: European court: Crucifix acceptable in classrooms.
The full text of the judgment is available as a PDF over here.
Here is the official press release from the court also as a PDF.
The ECHR Blog has published Grand Chamber Judgment in Lautsi: No Violation.
Austen Ivereigh at America has written Lautsi overturned: secularization has a reverse gear. Earlier he had written a much longer article, Waiting on Lautsi.
The National Secular Society has reacted with Crucifix case overturned by Human Rights Court.
Riazat Butt writes in the Guardian European Court of Human Rights rules crucifixes are allowed in state schools
Hugh Muir in the Diary column of today’s Guardian, is straplined A sensible move by the Church of England - will wonders never cease?
Churchill said the Americans do the right thing when all other avenues have been exhausted – but he could just as easily have been talking about the Church of England. Little is achieved without muddle and controversy. And this sadly characterises the way the powers have handled the future deployment of the Rev Nick Holtam, capable vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, who would have been a bishop by now were it not for the fact that his wife of more than 30 years was previously married and divorced. Conservatives on the bench of bishops used the “taint” of the spouse’s divorce to effectively veto Rev Nick’s elevation. The fact that he’s a liberal didn’t help. But God might well reflect that the Church of England works in mysterious ways. Sometimes that’s good. For it does appear that Rev Nick is going to get a mitre after all. We are told to be watchful of Salisbury. And it is probably no coincidence that the next-door bishop Michael Scott-Joynt of Winchester – the church’s arch Tory bishop who spoke out against the appointment of bishops with divorced wives last year – is imminently for retirement. We’ll miss him but everything may progress more smoothly in his absence. And we’ll get along just fine with Bishop Nick.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (Scotland) has issued this press release: New Scottish Government called upon to address Equal Marriage for same sex couples.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland today launched a new report calling for access to equal marriage for same sex couples in Scotland. The report is a result of a symposium recently held by the Commission to investigate perceived barriers to equal marriage and suggest ways forward for legislators.
Scotland currently has a segregated family law system in which marriage is available only to mixed-sex couples, and civil partnership only to same-sex couples.
In England and Wales, the UK Government has announced public consultations on proposals to hold civil partnerships on religious premises and to open up civil marriage to same-sex couples and civil partnership to mixed-sex couples. However, because marriage and civil partnership are devolved issues, these proposals apply to England and Wales only.
The report calls upon the Scottish Government to consider these disparities and to take steps to bring about equal access to marriage in Scotland. The evidence and research contained within the report aims to inform their deliberations…
The EHRC report is available here: Equal Access to Marriage: Ending the segregation of same-sex couples and transgender people in Scotland. (PDF)
The Diocese of Birmingham voted last Saturday in favour of women in the episcopate of the Church of England.
Press Statement Monday 14th March 2011 from Women and the Church (WATCH)
Massive Support for Women Bishops Legislation in Birmingham
WATCH is delighted by the result of the first Diocesan vote on the law that will allow women to become bishops in the Church of England. In Birmingham on Saturday the Diocesan Synod voted by 75 to 4 in favour of the legislation with its accompanying provisions for those who will not accept women as bishops. To make that endorsement even more clear, two motions that asked for even more provisions for those opposed were defeated, with only a small minority of people voting for them.
Hilary Cotton, WATCH Vice Chair and Head of Campaign, said, ‘This indicates two things to us: firstly, that people in Birmingham want the Church to get on with making women bishops as soon as possible and, secondly, they are satisfied with the provision that this legislation makes for those who will not accept women bishops.’
Hilary Cotton: Campaign Co-ordinator - Home: 01483856827 Mobile: 07793817058
Sally Barnes: Media Officer - Home: 020 8731 0960 Mobile 07759343335
Notes for Editors
WATCH (Women and the Church) is a voluntary organisation of women and men who are campaigning to see women take their place alongside men without discrimination and at every level in the Church of England. This requires the removal of current legal obstacles to the consecration of women as bishops. WATCH believes that the full equality of women and men in the Church is part of God’s will for all people, and reflects the inclusive heart of the Christian scripture and tradition.
The Church Times carried a report on 18 March, Women: yes-vote taken in Birmingham.
THE diocese of Birmingham has voted overwhelmingly in favour of the draft legislation to allow women to become bishops.
Birmingham is the first diocese to vote on the legislation, which was passed by the General Synod to dioceses last year (News, 16 July).
The vote in Birmingham, last Saturday, was 74 to four in favour of the legislation with its current provisions for those who do not accept women as bishops. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, and the Bishop of Aston, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, both voted in favour.
The legislation had been considered in deanery synods in the diocese before last weekend’s vote, and two additional motions emerged from these debates, both asking for increased provisions and safeguards for opponents. These were also defeated, however, by a large majority, attracting just a handful of votes in support.
Dr Rachel Jepson, a member of Birmingham’s diocesan synod and a member of the General Synod, said that the vote was significant. “The quality of debate in deanery synods and in diocesan synod was very good, with good listening as well. People have had the opportunity to say what they think, but it’s good to have that decision behind us now so we can move forward.”
The organisation Women and the Church (WATCH) said that it expects the Birmingham vote to be replayed in the majority of dioceses.
The vice-chair of WATCH, Hilary Cotton, said: “This indicates two things to us: first, that people in Birmingham want the Church to get on with making women bishops as soon as possible; and, second, they are satisfied with the provision that this legislation makes for those who will not accept women bishops.”
Many dioceses will hold their votes on the legislation this autumn. If a majority approve it, it will return to the General Synod in 2012 for final drafting, with a final-approval vote expected in July 2012.
Updated Friday morning
Press Release from Modern Church, Inclusive Church and the No Anglican Covenant Coalition
First English diocesan vote rejects Anglican Covenant
Modern Church, Inclusive Church and the No Anglican Covenant Coalition are pleased with the result of the first diocesan vote on the proposed Anglican Covenant.
Both clergy and laity (the latter overwhelmingly) rejected the Covenant at the Wakefield Diocesan Synod meeting on Saturday 12th March.
While recognising the need to avoid the bitter controversies of recent years, we are glad that this Synod does not believe the Covenant is the way to do it.
We believe we should retain the traditional Anglican openness in which provinces govern themselves and disagreements are resolved by openly debating the issues free from threats of sanctions or schism.
The proposed Anglican Covenant offers instead a process for suppressing disagreements by establishing a central authority, with power to pass judgements and penalise dissident provinces by excluding them from international structures.
We trust that other Church of England Dioceses will have the courage to follow Wakefield’s example.
Rev Giles Goddard, 07762 373674, www.inclusivechurch2.net
Rev Jonathan Clatworthy, 0151 7276291, www.modernchurch.org.uk
Rev Lesley Fellows, 01844 239268, www.noanglicancovenant.org
The Church Times has a report, Wakefield synod votes against the Covenant.
THE first English diocesan synod to debate the Anglican Covenant has rejected it. On Saturday, in Wakefield diocese, the vote was lost in the Houses of Laity (10 for, 23 against) and Clergy (16 for, 17 against, 1 abstention). Both Bishops voted for its adoption…
Updated again Thursday morning
The Archbishop of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai The Most Revd Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu has issued a statement via the ACNS, see A statement from the Archbishop of the Anglican Communion in Japan.
…Since the earthquake the Provincial office has worked very hard to find out about the people and the churches in Tohoku diocese. However, we could neither contact them by phone nor email. Only yesterday were we able to start to see a picture of the devastation in the affected areas. I had been most concerned that I could not contact the Bishop of Tohoku diocese [The Rt Revd John Hiromichi Kato], but on Saturday he rang me and I was able to find out more about what had happened to the churches in Sendai City.
Bp Kato explained that he himself had not been able to find out much about the other churches in the diocese of Tohoku. This was largely due to the fact that neither power supplies nor telephone lines had been restored in areas most badly hit by the tsunami. There is particular concern for two churches: Isoyama St Peter’s Church in Fukushima Prefecture and Kamaishi Shinai Church and the kindergarten in Iwate that were close to the sea. Priests have been frantically trying to confirm that their parishioners are safe. We also know that it is not only Tohoku diocese that has been affected, some churches in Kita Kanto diocese have been reported to have been damaged also…
An earlier report: Bishop of tsunami-hit diocese is safe, but uncontactable.
From Shinya Samuel Yawata - Secretary, PIM NSKK, based upon reports from the dioceses of Tohoku, Kita Kanto, Yokohama and Tokyo
15 March, 2011
The earthquake/tsunami affected areas include the dioceses of Tohoku and Kita Kanto, and a very small area of the Diocese of Yokohama in Chiba prefecture.
The Diocese of Tohoku covers the prefectures of Aomori, Akita, Miyagi, Yamagata, and Fukushima, and the last three have been hit hard, particularly Miyagi prefecture. Membership of diocese of Tohoku is about 1,500 people and there are 29 churches, chapels and missionary stations. Its Cathedral is in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture.
The Diocese of Kita Kanto covers prefectures of Ibaragi, Tochigi, Gunma, and Saitama. The membership of the diocese is about 2,100 people and there are 31 churches, chapels, and missionary stations. Its Cathedral is located in Maebashi-shi, Gunma prefecture.
It was the biggest earthquake in recent history, followed by a big tsunami, and fires. Now the nuclear reactor is in danger. The death toll continues to rise and as I write this there are 3,100 or more deaths and 550,000 people are living in temporary shelters (according to [Japanese newspaper] Asahi Shimbun).
This update includes the latest information about the situation in Kita Kanto. I am still awaiting for official information from the diocese of Tohoku. There are no casualties among clergy.
St. Stephen’s Church in Mito-city, Ibaragi prefecture has lost its bell tower although not completely destroyed with a big crack in the tower, and the church building and rectory suffered substantial damage, cracked and fallen walls and ceiling. Shimodate Anglican Church in Ibaragi prefecture also has sustained significant damage with walls and ceilings damaged. Other churches sustained cracked walls, ceilings and damage to shelves, but it is limited to minor damage.
In other areas within diocese of Tokyo and Yokohama there is no substantial damage to church buildings except broken or cracked window glass, cracks in walls and fallen shelves.
Five days ago, on March 11 at 2:46 PM, there was a major earthquake followed by a tsunami and fires. Now we are facing potential disaster caused by the malfunction of nuclear power plant. On the day of earthquake it was snowing. Today it is expected to get colder. The tsunami and the fires it caused have made us miserable. We are now experiencing a lack of food supply. Over the past five days there have been as series of worrying aftershocks. Essential services are disrupted, particularly the phones with many people unable to recharge their cell phones. There is now a petrol shortage in the immediate area. We were simply not prepared for problems on this scale. In the central part of Sendai City there does not appear to be major damage to the buildings; it almost appears as if there is no problem, but in reality the lack of essential services—gas, electricity and water—is particularly hard for people.
What we are experiencing in our city does not compare to what we have seen in the media, particularly those areas directly impacted by the tsunami. According to the Asahi newspaper, life for the between 400,000 to 500,000 people living in temporary shelters is getting worse. The affected area is very wide and diocesan staff have not been able to visit all areas…
Third Sector Online reports that Catholic Care’s exclusion of same-sex couples ‘unjustified’, charity tribunal hears.
The Charity Commission has defended its decision not to allow the charity Catholic Care to prevent gay people from using its adoption service, at a charity tribunal hearing.
During the hearing, which finished on Friday, the commission argued it would be a “serious and demeaning act of discrimination” for the charity to restrict its adoption services to heterosexual, married couples.
The charity appealed to the tribunal to quash the commission’s ruling, made in August last year, that it could not change its objects to prevent same-sex couples from using its adoption service. Catholic Care argued that failing to change its objects would force it to close its adoption service because it would lose its funding from the Catholic church.
The commission’s barrister, Emma Dixon, said at the hearing: “The exclusion of same-sex couples is a particularly serious and indeed a demeaning act of discrimination. Weighty reasons would be needed to justify discrimination on the grounds of sexuality.”
… Alison McKenna, principal judge of the charity tribunal, said it would make its decision in about a month.
Updated to include Committee for Ministry of and Among Deaf and Disabled People result.
The Church of England has released more results of elections to General Synod boards and committees. I have listed the names of the successful candidates with links to the detailed results below the fold.
The Revd Stephen France
The Rt Revd Richard Frith, Bishop of Hull
The Rt Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester
Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns
The Rt Revd David Walker, Bishop of Dudley
The Revd Paul Cartwright
Remuneration and Conditions of Service Committee
Church of England Pensions Board
The Revd Paul Benfield
House of Bishops’ Standing Committee
The Rt Revd Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester
Successful candidates in contested elections with links to full results.
Board of Education
Cathedrals Fabric Commission
CMDDP (Committee for Ministry of and Among Deaf and Disabled People)
RACSC (Remuneration and Conditions of Service Committee)
Council for Christian Unity - House of Clergy
Council for Christian Unity - House of Laity
Mission and Public Affairs Council - House of Clergy
Mission and Public Affairs Council - House of Laity
Pensions Board - House of Laity (Casual Vacancy)
A new edition of the Church Representation Rules of the Church of England has been published: Church Representation Rules 2011. The previous edition was dated 2006, and since then changes have been made to the rules by the Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure 2007 and the Church Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolution 2009.
I have listed below the fold a summary of these changes.
It is important to note that there is no fully up-to-date copy of the Rules available online.
The Rules originated as Schedule 3 to the Synodical Government Measure 1969, but they have been amended many times since then. Although the online text of the Measure is updated to incorporate amendments, there is a timelag, and the notes at the beginning of the online text of Schedule 3 list changes dating back to 2003 that have not yet been made.
It should also be noted that the rules in the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are not necessarily the same as in England.
Changes made by the Church Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolution 2009
Replace Rule 13 by “13. Elections of churchwardens shall be conducted, at a meeting of parishioners, in accordance with the provisions of sections 4 and 5 of the Churchwardens Measure 2001.”
A number of changes to Rules 19 (Joint parochial church councils), 20 (Team councils) and 21 (Group councils)
A reduction in the minimum size of diocesan synods from 120 to 100 (Rule 31(8))
An increase in the minimum nomination period for diocesan synod elections from 14 to 21 days (Rule 32(4))
The correction of an error in paragraph 5 of Appendix II
Changes made by the Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure 2007
Section 49(4) added a new Rule 27A.
27A Representation of persons to whom mission orders relate
(1) Any diocesan synod may, at the request of the bishop or bishops who has or have made a bishop’s mission order under section 47 of the Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure 2007 which is in force, provide by scheme for representation on such deanery synod as may be determined by or under the scheme of such persons to whom the order relates as may be specified in or under the scheme.
(2) The provisions of rule 26(2) shall apply to schemes made under this rule.
Section 63(6) and Schedule 7 removed all references to Area Synods from Rules 24(6)(b) and 34(1)(c).
Mark Vernon writes for Ekklesia about Having faith in the importance of doubt.
Tamie Fields Harkins, at her blog the owls & the angels has a step-by-step plan for how to get more young people into the church: ah, the church.
Jeremy Nicholas writes in Gramophone about Hymns Ancient and Modern rejected.
Phil Zuckerman and Dan Cady in The Huffington Post explain Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus.
Stanley Hauerwas writes for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about The place of the church: locality and catholicity.
Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that Many things might not get better.
Bagehot writes about the British 2011 census for The Economist: There is a difference between lacking faith, and having no religion.
There were several articles and reflections for Ash Wednesday.
Mark Vernon in The Guardian: On Ash Wednesday, consider the gift of death
The Postulant: Remember
Penny Nash: Are You a Christian Giving Up Social Media for Lent? Please Don’t.
Scott Gunn: Blogtastic Lent or Lentastic blogs?
Colin Coward: Ash Wednesday
Scott Gunn is writing about the 39 Articles of Religion, one per day (except Sundays) during Lent. Here is his introduction: Of the 39 Articles of Religion and the first two articles.
Article I: Of faith in the Holy Trinity
Article II: Of the Word, or Son of God, which was made very man
The Archbishop of Canterbury has published a letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion.
The portion of the letter dealing with Communion internal politics is copied below the fold.
The recent Primates’ Meeting in Dublin did not set out to offer a solution to the ongoing challenges of mutual understanding and of the limits of our diversity in the Communion. But it is important to note carefully what it did set out to do and what it achieved. In recent years, many have appealed to the Primates to resolve the problems of the Communion by taking decisive action to enforce discipline on this or that Province. In approaching the Dublin Meeting, we believed that it was essential to clarify how the Primates themselves understood the nature of their office and authority. It has always been clear that not all have the same view – not because of different theological convictions alone, but also because of the different legal and canonical roles they occupy as Primates. Some have a good deal of individual authority; others have their powers very closely limited by their own canons. It would therefore be difficult if the Meeting collectively gave powers to Primates that were greater than their own canons allowed them individually, as was noted at the 2008 Lambeth Conference (Lambeth Indaba 2008 #151).
The unanimous judgement of those who were present was that the Meeting should not see itself as a ‘supreme court’, with canonical powers, but that it should nevertheless be profoundly and regularly concerned with looking for ways of securing unity and building relationships of trust. And one reason for the fact that it did not offer any new schemes for this was that those present were still committed to the Covenant process and had no desire to interrupt the significant discussions of this that are currently going on (as many of you will know, several Provinces have already adopted the Covenant and others are very close to finalising their decision).
The Primates were strongly focused on the situation of churches under threat, and this was reflected in the statements they issued. But it is also important to recognise that the Primates made no change to their existing commitments to both the Covenant process and the moratoria requests. The purpose of the Dublin meeting was, as I have said, not to offer fresh solutions but to clarify what we believed about our shared purpose and identity as a Primates’ Meeting. I think that this clarity was achieved, and achieved in an atmosphere of very demanding and searching conversation, which intensified our sense of commitment to each other and the Communion. We were painfully aware of those who did not feel able to be with us, and held them in prayer each day, seeking to remind ourselves of the concerns that they would have wanted to put on the table. We were all agreed that the Meeting inevitably represented ‘unfinished business’, and were all committed to pursuing the conversations needed to consolidate our fellowship. We shall continue to seek ways of meeting at every level that will prevent our being isolated from each other in suspicion and hostility.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has issued a statement: Commission statement on Preddy and Hall legal case
11 March 2011
John Wadham, Legal Director at the Commission, said:
“This morning we withdrew our cross appeal in this case. It was filed initially because of an error of judgment on the part of our legal team.
“They submitted the cross appeal in an attempt to clarify the law around how damages are calculated in cases such as this. This resulted in it appearing that Steve Preddy and Martyn Hall were seeking to increase the amount of damages they receive because Mr and Mrs Bull’s Christian beliefs had led them to break the law. This was not our intention and it was certainly not the intention of Steve and Martyn.
“I would like to confirm that public money will not be spent funding a claim for increased damages in this case…”
That’s the second retraction the EHRC has made in recent days. See also Johns v Derby City Council.
The Press Association report is available at Gay couple end hotel payout claim.
A(nother) lawyer wrote Foster care and religion: the legal debate.
Bishop Alan Wilson writes again today: Munchausen loses Court Case.
…Ah, but you may say, there are people out there who don’t like Christianity. There are, and there always were. Some English Christians seem hell bent on behaving like a persecuted minority, and who am I to try and stop them? They’ve obviously never been to Pakistan or anywhere else Christians really are persecuted as Christians.
Historic Christianity does have massive historic, cultural and legal influence in the UK, not least in the pursuit of ancient rights founded on the principles of Equity that gave rise to our human rights law in the first place. The surest way to destroy this influence is for a group of zealots to take upon themselves the role of being the “one prophet left,” and indulge in the legal equivalent of Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy…
Andrea Minichiello Williams at Christian Concern wrote Permanent Exclusion and the Johns.
…I hope that the highlighting of the issue in the press will shatter the misconception that the Equality Act means equality for all. Some are very much more equal than others. We are currently living in ‘Animal Farm’ days; “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.
And Paul Diamond wrote Why the Johns Case will not be appealed.
…I have reluctantly advised the Johns not to appeal; such an appeal would normally be expected but now, in my opinion, futile - a waste of resources. The Courts are so set against religious freedom for Christians that an appeal is likely to only make matters worse.
The problem is a combination of bad laws and, in recent years, a number of poor judicial appointments by the previous Government. Where there are excellent Judges they are restricted by bad laws. Unfortunately, there are also Judges making law based on personal predilections. Parliament must remedy this situation as a matter of urgency.
The ideals of the Equality Acts and the Sexual Orientation Regulations have much to commend them in so far as all civilised people would not accept overt discrimination against any person based on irrelevant considerations as to their sexual orientation or faith. However, the laws are bad. They are poorly drafted leaving too much discretion to the Courts; they are contradictory in so far as one cannot have a society without substantive values. Finally and most importantly these laws are political laws seeking a political objective.
The laws are currently being used to eradicate Judeo Christian morality and usher in secular values. The secular movement is but a variant of the Utopian ambitions that have inspired man from the beginning of time. However, the end game of such programmes is always the same. To repeatedly promote a failed ideology is base ignorance or at its worst criminal. Coerced morality or coerced immorality (depending on one’s perspective) is not the hallmark of a free society…
Mr Diamond was interviewed this morning, along with Lord Falconer, a former Lord Chancellor, on the BBC’s Today radio programme, listen at Are courts enforcing a ‘new morality’?
Ghanaian bishop Festus Yeboah-Asuamah told a recent meeting of Ghanaian theologians that while the challenges facing the Communion were “complex”, and that the answers may yet be “far away” there was hope in unity.
Speaking at the latest Continuing Indaba ‘hub’ meeting, Bishop Festus said, “There is hope! We should try as much as possible to keep the Anglican Communion together – we are one family.”
He was one of ten theologians who met on March 4-5 to consider how Ghanaian culture and theology could shape the Continuing Indaba1 initiative taking place across the Anglican Communion.
Facilitated by Dr Victor Atta-Baffoe, Dean of St Nicholas Seminary in Ghana’s Cape Coast, the group considered a number of models of conversation from their cultural perspectives that resonate with the Scriptures and the traditions of the church.
Last November there was a meeting in Limuru, Kenya, see Continuing Indaba gives bishops “excitement and hope for the future of the Communion”.
For more background on Continuing Indaba, see here.
According to a news release from the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds: Ripon and Leeds votes yes to a new ‘super-diocese’.
The Synod (or ‘parliament’) of the Ripon and Leeds diocese which met this Saturday March 5th at St Aidan’s Church High School in Harrogate ‘agreed in principle’ to the creation of a single diocese for West and North-west Yorkshire, but called for a full financial risk analysis of the costs involved before such a scheme could go ahead.
The meeting rejected proposals, contained in the 120 page Dioceses Commission report, concerning the name for the new diocese and the choice of the new diocesan bishop…
The proposals are explained by the diocese here.
Also, the Diocese of Bradford considered the proposals, see Synod Discusses Proposals for a New Diocese.
the Synod heard the different responses to the proposals by the Dioceses Commission last December to create a larger diocese covering the whole of West Yorkshire and a large part of North Yorkshire. The Synod agreed to a draft scheme being produced, which is the next stage in the process, and it proposed that the scheme should be drawn up with the help of all three dioceses. The Synod did not, at this stage, vote on any of the specific proposals, including the principal one of creating one larger diocese out of all three dioceses.
The Archdeacon of Bradford, the Venerable David Lee, says, “This is still very much an enquiry and consultation stage; we were not obliged to vote on anything at this point, simply to let the Dioceses Commission know whether we think it is worthwhile for them to go ahead and draw up a draft scheme. So Synod is saying that the diocese is open to change, but we think that more work needs to be done, including a financial analysis, before we can begin to vote on any specific proposal. Once the consultation period is over the Dioceses Commission will be able to see what sort of draft scheme can be produced.”
I can’t find any information on the Diocese of Wakefield website about its Diocesan Synod. But I am told that the Wakefield process involves a joint meeting with the two other Yorkshire dioceses, further consultations, and then a special synod in early May to respond to the proposals by 9 May.
There seems to be no end to the comments on this.
Alan Wilson writes for the Guardian’s Face to Faith column, Homosexuality, Christianity and child welfare.
…So what does the case really show? First, that the customary paranoia of rightwing newspaper op-eds sounds silly in court. Courts will injunct in cases of real urgency, but they are, quite rightly, very reluctant to compensate people for wrongs they have not yet suffered, simply to make a point on behalf of a group of zealots, however sincere they may be. It is absolutely no part of a court’s job to enter into such antics, just to create a story for the press.
This case was the fourth bite at this particular cherry by the barrister Paul Diamond and his chums in the Christian Legal Centre. There is now nothing more legally to be said on this subject than various judges, especially Lord Justice Laws, a devout Christian and churchwarden, have said so far. Rightwing Christians must establish their views on their merits, not expect courts to do the job for them.
How does orthodox Christian teaching relate to the views that were seeking legal protection? When Mrs Johns averred, for example, that “having a different sexual orientation was unnatural and wrong”, she put herself well beyond what either the Church of England or the church of Rome are prepared to say on the matter of orientation. The Johnses are entitled to their views, but cannot expect them to be unquestioned insofar as they could affect the welfare of a child…
Anglican Mainstream has reproduced an editorial from the Church of England Newspaper The unique problem of Christianity for the judges.
…The three most potent decisions of the High Court of Justice, delivered by Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson, were that they were ‘secular’ judges, that they accepted that caring foster parents were not acceptable for holding sexual morality corresponding to the historic Christian ethical stance on homosexual sexual intercourse, and for denying a scintilla of place for Christianity in British law. They also implicitly accepted the dogma of the EHRC, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, that Christian beliefs taught to young children would ‘infect’ them. We have come a very, very long way from ‘Clause 4’ and the ban on promoting homosexuality in schools, now that is compulsory and Christian belief is positively harmful. In the eyes of the law homophobia is not religious, anyone of any belief can be guilty, but this raises serious questions for traditionalist Christians and the Churches in general. Doctrine must now be viewed in subordination to the country’s anti-discrimination laws…
And Paul Sims at the New Humanist writes about Fostering, gay rights and the secular law.
Olivia Crellin writes in Varsity about Wearing faith on your sleeve.
Harry Mount writes for The Telegraph about St Paul’s Cathedral anniversary: the beauty of the domes that Wren built. “With St Paul’s Cathedral celebrating its 300th anniversary, Harry Mount wishes that more of London’s architecture would possess such lasting beauty.”
Stephen Tomkins writes in The Guardian: King James Bible: ‘Twas a work most modern. “Later versions may lack its resonance, but it’s time to let go of the King James Bible and the cod Jacobean it has bequeathed.”
Dallas Graham writes in The Guardian Don’t rebuild the Christchurch cathedral. “Yes, it was glorious, but a great weakness has been horribly exposed – stone buildings are deadly in an earthquake zone.”
Mark Vernon writes in The Guardian In praise of doubt, maybe. “Why do we have such an unbalanced attitude to doubt, demanding certainty where there is none, and pretending to doubt what everyone knows?”
George Pitcher writes in The Telegraph that The religion control freaks are telling you what to think for the 2011 Census .
Meanwhile in The Guardian this week’s The Question is What should we tell the census about our religious affiliation? with answers from Andrew Copson, William Bloom and the Church Mouse.
The National Secular Society thinks that Church-state confrontation over gay marriage could be solved with disestablishment.
Giles Fraser says I don’t see a threat in gay blessings.
Benny Hazlehurst has written: Towards a Theology of Gay Marriage.
And there was a letter in the Guardian published under the headline Toilets, insects … but not civil partnerships.
Updated Sunday morning
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has issued a statement apologising for a mistaken in their intervention in this case:
Earlier this week the case of Johns v Derby City Council, in which the Commission had intervened, attracted some attention. Unfortunately a mistake within our legal submission led to an inference that we did not intend and which was misconstrued as suggesting that the Commission equates Christian moral views with an infection. This oversight was caused by a drafting error in our submissions to the court. This should have been picked up in our internal clearance process for the legal documentation and does not represent the position of the Commission in any way.
Furthermore, the Commission entirely rejects any view (as reported in the media) that rights in relation to sexual orientation ‘take precedence’ over religious rights. The Commission fully upholds the rights of looked-after children to be supported in their chosen religion or that of their family, in the context of the paramount importance of the welfare of the child…
Christian Concern has issued Johns Fostering Case: Effects of the Ruling and Further Analysis.
There has been huge media interest regarding the Johns ruling by the High Court. There has also been some confusion over the nature and implications of the ruling.
According to this American report, there will be no appeal of this case. See Christian couple warned not to appeal decision barring them from foster care. Some extracts are below the fold.
“When these laws were introduced, particularly by Prime Minister Blair, they were not resisted,” Diamond said. “They seemed fair and reasonable. But over the past five or six years, we’ve had a number of crazy decisions in Britain.
“We once had a millennium’s worth of human rights and religious freedom, just built into the culture,” Diamond recalled. “It’s inconceivable that these millennium-old freedoms could be overturned in 10 years – but they were. People are getting very scared, and rightly so.”
“Things can change very rapidly. If a few key things happen in America, and a few judicial appointments should be made, you will find that there can be very swift and rapid changes in your basic assumptions of what your rights are.”
“It’s got very little to do with the law,” he observed. “You have to see these decisions as political acts. One set of ‘rights’ is triumphing over another. It’s simply masked by this language of ‘tolerance’ and ‘diversity.’”
“If we went to the court of appeal, I believe the outcome would have been worse,” Diamond lamented. “The judgment, which was so bad in terms of Christian rights, would have been reinforced at a higher level. And we have cost rules here, so you can end up paying the other side for your attempt to stand on your rights.”
“I thought an appeal, in the current circumstances, would be hopeless – and would make the situation worse for Christians. The senior court of appeals judge made it quite clear that he believes the outcome of religious practice is ‘discriminatory’ against homosexuals.”
Andrea Minichiello Williams, who assisted the Johns in her position as the head of the Christian Legal Centre, shared Diamond’s concern over what was happening in Britain. Like Diamond, she voiced concern that the United States and other countries could be traveling a similar path, sooner than most citizens might expect.
In England, she recalled, Christians and other religious groups had received “continual assurances” that equality and non-discrimination laws would not be used to subject them to discrimination for their own beliefs.
“And yet,” she said, “the law has very clearly been used to trample Christian rights.”
“What we’ve got is the imposition of a new political orthodoxy,” Williams explained. “If you don’t think or act in a certain way, you will find yourself barred from public office. It’s very frightening, and it’s very real. We have plenty of cases here at the Christian Legal Centre to prove it.”
“It doesn’t take long,” she reflected. “We were not in this position at the beginning of the Tony Blair/Gordon Brown regime.”
The Church Times today has a news report by Ed Beavan Pentecostal couple find no comfort in the High Court.
A COUPLE’s views on homosexuality are relevant to whether or not they can foster children, the High Court ruled on Monday. The court also ruled that to ban them on these grounds would not be discriminatory, even when their views are informed by religion…
And there is a Leader: The Johns judgment: a useful corrective
…Some Christians — we do not know how many — would agree with Mr Johns’s view that, were a foster child to express the view that he or she was possibly gay, an attempt should be made “gently [to] turn them round”. Others would disagree. Neither side could claim that theirs was the exclusive “Christian” view, and thus, even within the Church, an appeal needs to be made to authorities other than the Bible. For Anglicans, these are tradition and reason. Another quote from Lord Justice Laws: “The general law may, of course, protect a particular social or moral position which is espoused by Christianity, not because of its religious imprimatur, but on the footing that in reason its merits commend themselves.”
This important point is repeatedly overlooked by those who cite scripture (or their interpretation of it) and then feel hard done by when they are ignored. It is not a new requirement that the Church, or a section of it, marshall evidence to demonstrate that what it proposes or defends is for the general good. This is the day-to-day task of bishops in the House of Lords. What is new, perhaps, is the laziness of Christians when it comes to reasoning their case, with the result that rationality is now thought, erroneously, to be the preserve of secularists. In such an atmosphere, the lack of investment by the Church in research and education has severely weakened its intellectual centre, leaving the field to be occupied by lobby groups of various persuasions. When these go to law, it is no surprise when their emotive, partial arguments are given short shrift. This is emphatically not the defeat of Christian principles or teaching. A few more press releases and a little more lazy journalism might, however, convince people that it is so.
There is a press release, Anglican Communion bishops: “We really need one another. We are stronger together than apart.” Full text below the fold.
And there is a statement A Testimony of Grace from the Consultation of Bishops in Dialogue, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Full text here.
Copies also available at ACNS here.
FROM THE CONSULTATION OF ANGLICAN BISHOPS IN DIALOGUE
DAR ES SALAAM 3 MARCH 2011
From February 24 to 27 2011, nineteen bishops of the Anglican Communion met in Dar Es Salaam Tanzania. The Provinces represented were: Botswana, Burundi, Canada, England, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Southern Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, and the United States. This meeting had its origins in the Lambeth Conference of 2008, at which some significant partnership relationships and commitment to further dialogue had been made.
In a context undergirded by worship, bishops shared testimonies from their partnership mission and dialogue work, and together visited local projects in education and community service. The group is grateful to the Primate of Tanzania, Archbishop Valentino Mokiwa, the MEA Foundation and St. Augustine’s Primary School for their warm welcome.
These bishops have been engaged in a process of patient and holy listening. Some diocesan partnerships have been involved in dialogue about human sexuality prior to the meeting and these continue. The present context of conflict in the wider Anglican Communion around issues of human sexuality has presented the opportunity to renew commitments to each other: these Church leaders have chosen to turn to one another within the Body of Christ. The know one another to be and trust each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
The bishops reflected on the legacies of collusion in the slave trade, and encourage the Communion to work on dialogue and reconciliation in relation to slavery. They also witnessed the positive impact of global Anglican partnership in visits with the MEA Foundation and St. Augustine’s diocesan primary school, meeting students, orphans, those in need of health care and those dying of AIDS. They mourn the impact of the economic crisis on these ministries, some of which will no longer exist after this year.
Commending the experience of such dialogue-in-partnership and encouraging other bishops to take on such initiatives, the bishops at Dar es Salaam offer a “Testimony of Grace” to the wider Church. This statement is appended to this Press Release.
For further information, contact the bishops noted below, or Canon Isaac Kawuki Mukasa (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the Rev’d Eileen Scully (email@example.com) for further information.
The Rt. Rev’d Michael Bird Niagara
The Rt. Rev’d George Bruce Ontario
The Rt. Rev’d John Chapman Ottawa
The Rt. Rev’d Garth Counsell Cape Town
The Rt. Rev’d Terry Dance Huron
The Rt. Rev’d Mary Gray-Reeves El Camino Real
The Rt. Rev’d Michael Ingham New Westminster
The Most Rev’d Colin Johnson Toronto
The Rt. Rev’d Shannon Johnston Virginia
The Rt. Rev’d Julius Kalu Mombasa
The Rt. Rev’d Sixbert Macumi Buye
The Rt. Rev’d Sadock Makaya Western Tanganyika
The Rt. Rev’d Mdimi Mhogolo Central Tanganyika
The Rt. Rev’d Gerard Mpango Western Tanganyika
The Rt. Rev’d Musonda Mwamba Botswana
The Rt. Rev’d Michael Perham Gloucester
The Rt. Rev’d Anthony Poggo Kajo Keji
The Rt. Rev’d Daniel Sarfo Kumasi
The Rt. Rev’d James Tengatenga Southern Malawi
The Rev’d Canon Dr. Isaac Kawuki Mukasa, Coordinator for Dialogue, Anglican Church of Canada
The Rev’d Dr. Eileen Scully, Interim Director of Faith, Worship and Ministry, Anglican Church of Canada
The Evangelical Alliance has issued a press statement: Response to Derby City Council Fostering Case.
It is not true that Christians are being prevented from fostering and adopting children in spite of increasing evidence that they are being marginalised in public life, says the Evangelical Alliance…
…While the outcome is unhelpful for Christians and other religious believers with orthodox beliefs, it is unlikely that the case will carry any major landmark implications.
It is highly questionable whether British courts of law should be used as forums for debating the pros and cons of conflicting human rights created by equalities legislation. Instead, they should only be used to resolve disputed points of law based on evidence.
The Evangelical Alliance expresses doubt about the wisdom in bringing such cases to the High Court in the first place. While there is no doubt that equality laws appear increasingly controversial in the way they seem to disproportionately impact against Christians, there is a clear need for a more cautious and strategic approach when deciding to take matters to court…
Andrew Brown comments on this at Evangelicals reverse the ferret.
The Evangelical Alliance has disowned the tactics of the Christian Legal Centre, the fringe group which brought a case against Derby Council on behalf of a Pentecostal couple who feared that their views on gay people would prevent them from fostering children.
The Evangelical Alliance’s statement stands in sharp contrast to the hysterical coverage in some right-wing papers. Many reported without question the claims of the CLC that the ruling meant that orthodox christian views were now enough to bar anyone from fostering children…
The position taken by the EA is very clear. Less clear but also interesting was the distancing from the CLC that the Christian Institute took in its full statement earlier:
The Johns’ case was supported by The Christian Legal Centre, an entirely separate organisation to The Christian Institute.
Updated again Wednesday afternoon
Stephen Bates reports for the Guardian Anti-gay Christian couple lose foster care case
John Aston and Jan Colley, PA via Independent Anti-gay Christian couple lose battle to become foster parents
The Telegraph has huge coverage, including this Leader Foster parents defeated by the new Inquisition
and the following additional articles:
Foster parent ban: ‘this is a secular state’, say High Court judges
Foster parent ban: ‘we have not received justice’
Fostering row commentary: would-be parents must be non-judgmental
Foster parent ban: Lord Justice Munby ‘avid supporter of open justice’
Foster parent ban: Mr Justice Beatson ‘UK’s best academic lawyer’
Peter Ould has written Breaking - Christians with Traditional Moral Views can still be Foster Parents
The Christian Institute has published Christian Institute responds to foster carer court case and there is a fuller statement available as a PDF over here in which the Christian Institute is at pains to note that it is a completely separate organisation from the Christian Legal Centre.
Ruth Gledhill has posted a video on UTube which contains comments from Eunice and Owen Johns and also from Andrea Minichiello Williams of the Christian Legal Centre. See it here.
Symon Hill has written at Left Foot forward Lazy journalism surrounds the latest foster parents furore
Melanie Phillips has written for the Spectator The judges’ atheist inquisition
The UK Human Rights Blog has an analysis by Rosalind English Analysis: the place of religion in foster care decisions