Monday, 30 May 2011

More discussion on appointing gay CofE bishops

Updated again Saturday

First, there was an item about this on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme.

The radio programme synopsis can be found at this page.

Colin Coward has transcribed the pertinent section at BBC R4 Sunday programme interview with Colin Coward and Canon Chris Sugden by Edward Stourton.

Second, Cif belief has this Question of the Week: How should gay bishops be chosen?

And the first article published in response is by Lesley Fellows:
The Church of England has double standards when it comes to gay bishops
The checklist used to stop Jeffrey John becoming Bishop of Southwark seemed deliberately designed to exclude him.

Thursday update

Peter Ould has added to Cif belief this article: End the cold war over gay bishops.
We know the church is divided on gay bishops. What’s needed is a synod vote after full public discussion of all the issues.

Friday update

Colin Coward has added another article to this: Homophobia has infected the Church of England.
The church must find the courage to deal with the poisonous culture of anti-gay prejudice in its appointment of bishops.

Saturday update

Mark Oakley has added Gay or straight, allow clergy to reflect the rest of us.
We can’t have one morality for laity and one for clergy. An ordination checklist would be inhumane and hypocritical.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 30 May 2011 at 9:10pm BST | Comments (86) | TrackBack
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Another Anglican Covenant roundup

The Anglican Communion Institute has published The Covenant: What Is It All About? by Philip Turner.

The Living Church has published Recognizably Anglican by George R Sumner.

Mark Harris asks What’s at Stake with the Anglican Covenant. Some questions. And earlier, The Strange Case of the Province of South East Asia and their Letter of Accession.

Jonathan Clatworthy has written two items: Analysis of the Provincial Votes and a letter which has not so far been published by the Church Times but which appears here at Wounded Bird.

The Daily Episcopalian ran a series last week of articles that were first published by the Chicago Consultation:

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Saturday, 28 May 2011

opinion on a holiday weekend

Andrew Brown wrote at Cif belief Catholic child abuse analysed
The John Jay Institute report on the child abuse scandals in the USA has been published. It will surprise and discomfort all sides.

Savi Hensman wrote at Cif belief What would Jesus cut?
David Cameron claims Jesus invented the ‘big society’ – but the Christian message has a strong emphasis on social justice.

Giles Fraser wrote in the Guardian The killing of Osama bin Laden may only have turned us into our enemies
Christians lambasted for being wishy-washy are right to be suspicious of the idea of the just war.

AWN Pugin’s finest gift to his country
Sacred mysteries: Christopher Howse in the Telegraph finds that things are looking up for the Victorian architect’s most treasured building.

From last week’s Church Times:
Do God and government US-style
New American models of religious social action could work in the UK, argues Francis Davis.

In praise of normal mysticism
Evelyn Underhill’s writings remain a vital guide to the spiritual life, says Jane Shaw.

The Guardian’s Face to Faith column is by David Bryant: Heavyweight ethics are no way to help the newly bereaved face up to their grief.

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Friday, 27 May 2011

General Synod July Outline Agenda published

The outline agenda for the General Synod meeting at York in July is now available from this page, as a PDF file. The information is copied below the fold.

GENERAL SYNOD: JULY 2011 Timetable
Friday 8 July

2.30 p.m. Meeting of the House of Clergy

4.30 p.m. Introductions, Presentations and Welcome to Guests

Address by Archbishop of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania on behalf of the ecumenical guests

Progress of Measures and Statutory Instruments

Business Committee report

Dates of groups of sessions in 2013

Appointments to the Archbishops’ Council

Legal Advisory Commission constitution

6.20 p.m. Evening Worship
from 6.30 p.m. Dinner

8.30 p.m. Questions

Saturday 9 July

9.30 a.m. Presidential Address (by the Archbishop of Canterbury)

Rest of the morning: reflection, discussion and worship in small groups

from 1.00 p.m. Lunch

2.30 p.m. Legislative Business

6.20 p.m. Evening Worship
from 6.30 p.m. Dinner

8.30 p.m. Private Member’s Motion: Mission Action Planning in the Church of England

Sunday 10 July

10.00 a.m. Holy Communion in York Minster

2.30 p.m. Higher Education Funding Changes

Anglican-Methodist Covenant

Bradford Diocesan Synod Motion: Admission of Baptised Adults to Communion

6.20 p.m. Evening Worship
from 6.30 p.m. Dinner

8.30 p.m. Annual Report of the Audit Committee

Annual Report of the Archbishops’ Council

Monday 11 July

9.30 a.m. Morning Worship

Confirmation of the Appointment of the Chair of the Business Committee

Legislative Business

Liturgical Business: Additional Eucharistic Prayers: First Consideration

London DSM: House of Laity elections

1.00 p.m. Lunch

2.30 p.m. Unfinished Business: A Pastoral and Missional Approach for the Next
Decade: A report by the Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns

Budget of the Archbishops’ Council

Presence and Engagement: Inter faith issues

6.20 p.m. Evening Worship
from 6.30 p.m. Dinner

8.30 p.m. Conversations with the United Reformed Church

Tuesday 12 July

9.30 a.m. Morning Worship

Christians in the Holy Land: Presidential Statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury

Church Commissioners’ Annual Report

The Church and Education: Into the Next 200 Years

12.30 p.m. Prorogation

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Reactions to yesterday's revelations about CofE bishops

Updated Saturday evening

Here’s some of the responses to yesterday’s Guardian news story.

First, from the journalist who had the original scoop last July, Jonathan Wynne-Jones. He writes at the Telegraph that The Church of England cannot hide from a fight over gay bishops.

Savi Hensman has written at Ekklesia about Equality, prejudice, power and the Church of England.

From Scotland, Kelvin Holdsworth has written Colin Slee’s J’accuse.

Colin Coward at Changing Attitude has written Collusion, dishonesty, ignorance and stupidity are the marks of the House of Bishops.

Lesley Fellows has written How do you stop a brilliant gay man from being a bishop?

Benny Hazlehurst has written Archbishops haunted by a voice from the grave….

Peter Ould has written Leaks and Truth.

Adrian Worsfold has written The Rotten Stink at the Very Top.

Saturday evening updates

The Church Mouse has Gay Bishops, angry Archbishops and Deans speaking from beyond the grave.

Colin Coward has written again, see Campaigning for a healthy human Christian culture.

Peter Ould has written again, see Everybody Out!

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Thursday, 26 May 2011

House of Bishops tied in knots over gay bishops

Updated again Friday 3 June

Andrew Brown, writing in the Guardian, has a report headlined Church of England tied in knots over allowing gay men to become bishops.

A meeting of Church of England bishops in York this week has broken up without agreement on whether gay clergy should ever be allowed to be chosen for promotion to bishoprics.

The leadership of the established church remains tied in knots over how far it can comply with the Equality Act in its treatment of gay people. Church lawyers have told the bishops that while they cannot take into account that someone is homosexual in considering them for preferment, they also cannot put forward clergy in active same-sex relationships and, even if they are celibate, must consider whether they can “act as a focus for unity” to their flocks if appointed to a diocese.

Conservative evangelicals remain bitterly opposed to the ordination of gay people, even though many clergy are more or less openly gay, and some are in same-sex partnerships…

The report continues with details of

…an anguished and devastating memorandum written by the Very Rev Colin Slee, the former dean of Southwark Cathedral, shortly before his death from pancreatic cancer last November. Dr Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, and John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, vetoed candidates from becoming bishops of the south London diocese…

And it concludes by mentioning that

The House of Bishops sought legal advice to discover whether it would be illegal to deny John a job. A briefing in December from the Church House legal department appears to state that though it would be illegal to discriminate against him because he is a celibate gay person, it was perfectly in order to discriminate against him because there are Christians who cannot accept gay people.

The briefing states: “It is not open to a crown nominations committee or a bishop making a suffragan appointment to propose someone who is in a sexually active same-sex relationship; it is not open to them to take into account the mere fact that someone is gay by sexual orientation.”

Original documents:

Colin Slee’s memorandum

Legal memorandum

Friday update

The Church Times has its own report on these documents: House of Bishops divided on keeping out homosexuals (and scroll down for a second article, Slee: tears shed after angry talks).

And a further update, a week later:

There is another copy of Colin Slee’s memorandum that is slightly longer, available via this page.

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Monday, 23 May 2011

Church of Scotland considers Same Sex Relationships and the Ministry

Updated Tuesday

The General Assembly of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland is today considering a report on Same Sex Relationships and the Ministry. The report, and several related documents can be downloaded from here.

This week the Church Times published an article about this written jointly by Andrew Goddard and Giles Goddard. The article, as published, is available at the moment only to Church Times subscribers. But a version of it has been published by Fulcrum and can be read at Wisdom from the Scots: The CofE and Same-sex Unions.

Pending an official web page to link to, here is a summary of what they decided.

Kelvin Holdsworth has written this explanation: What the Church of Scotland decided today.

Here now is the official press release, available as a PDF here.

Tuesday press reports:

The Scotsman has extensive coverage:
Kirk split looms as members vote to back gay ministers
Catalyst that started the great debate
Analysis: ‘A peculiar decision which is unlikely to satisfy anyone’
Leader: Kirk’s vote for gay clergy marks clear divide

BBC
Church of Scotland votes on gay ministers
Mood shift points to gay clergy for the Kirk

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Sunday, 22 May 2011

Virginians form new ACNA diocese

The Anglican District of Virginia has chosen a new bishop and is forming itself into a new ACNA diocese. These congregations, which previously broke away from the Diocese of Virginia, have until now been part of CANA.

Here are some press releases:

Mid-Atlantic Anglicans Vote to Move Forward with Becoming a New Anglican Church Diocese

+Guernsey Elected for new Anglican Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic

Virginia Anglicans Vote to Become a Diocese within Anglican Church in North America

The new bishop is the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey. The other candidate was the Ven. Julian M. Dobbs.

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Gazette interviews Philip Giddings

The Church of Ireland Gazette reports: Anglican Communion ‘quite close to being dysfunctional’, senior English layman tells the Gazette.

In an interview reported in the current issue of The Church of Ireland Gazette, the Chair of the Church of England General Synod’s House of Laity, Dr Philip Giddings, speaks to the Gazette editor, Canon Ian Ellis, about the Anglican Covenant and the issue of women bishops in the Church of England.

The text of the interview report can be found at the link above.

A 23-minute audio of the whole interview can be found here.

(In the audio, the subject of the Covenant runs from 03:00-13:45 and the women bishops issue, including comment on the Ordinariate, runs from 13:45 to the end)

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Rapture: don't be silly

Bishop Alan Wilson was interviewed last night on Channel 4 News about the Rapture.
You can see and hear what he said via this page: World fails to end.

The US evangelist who said the world would end on 21 May stands by his prediction, as the Bishop of Buckingham tells Channel 4 News Saint Paul would have said “don’t be silly”.

But the best explanation of why it didn’t happen is undoubtedly this.

A less amusing but very sensible analysis is by Paul Roberts and is titled Life after the rapture – on grabbing the microphone.

The biggest “Christian” internet event of the year so far was the prediction that the world was going to end on 21st May 2011 at 6pm in each time-zone. The reaction by Christians has been either to ignore it, to join in lampooning it as extremely stupid, to protest loudly that they have nothing to do with the speculations of Harold Camping or to grow increasingly depressed at the amount of media interest that such an example of a group of Christians being extremely (and publicly) foolish has generated…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 22 May 2011 at 10:19am BST | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 21 May 2011

Methodist Church to appeal employment ruling

Remember this? Methodist minister ruled employee not office holder.

This week, it was announced that Methodist Church granted leave to appeal employment ruling.

The Methodist Church has been granted leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal against the judgement of an Employment Appeal Tribunal that Methodist ministers should be counted as employees and cases concerning them heard by Employment Tribunals. Methodist ministers have always been treated by the Church as office holders rather than employees.

Leave to appeal has been granted by the Court on the grounds that the appeal “has a real prospect of success on the basis of the submissions in the skeleton argument dated 14 April 2011. The state of the authorities on the key question of whether a minister of religion is not an employee is unclear and requires further consideration by the court following the case of Percy.”

This case may have significance for British churches other than the Methodists.

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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

opinion for the Rapture

Andrew Brown writes for The Guardian that The end of the world comes on the 21 May … well, perhaps. “Christians awaiting the rapture this week are part of a long and curious history in their desire to pinpoint the end of the world.”
Peter Sherlock writes for The Conversation: Judgement Day and the dead are rising: it must be Saturday.
The Church Times has this leader: End of the world? The least of our worries.
Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio writes for The Guardian about Hellfire and ice-cream – alternative visions of the Rapture. “I don’t believe the prediction that today is Judgment Day, but just in case…”

Michael Nazir-Ali writes for The Guardian about A true resurrection in Iraq. “Two Christian communities in Baghdad show real hope for Iraq’s historic diversity – if politicians do their bit.”

Ian Sample reports an interview with Stephen Hawking for The Guardian: ‘There is no heaven; it’s a fairy story.’
In response Michael Wenham writes for The Guardian: I’d stake my life that Stephen Hawking is wrong about heaven, and Brad Hirschfield writes for The Huffington Post: Stephen Hawking’s Sin In Denying Heaven.

Jonathan Weyer writes for The Huffington Post about What the Bible Really Says About Doubt.

Symon Hill writes for Ekklesia about Christianity and homophobia in Britain today.

Lauren R Stanley writes for the Episcopal Café In defense of seminaries.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 21 May 2011 at 11:00am BST | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Lords reform (and the bishops)

The Church Times has a report Lords Spiritual could be reduced to 12 bishops by Ed Beavan.

The previous week, prior to publication of the White Paper, it had published two articles about this:

Create a House of Talents by John F. H. Smith.

There is a better way than direct election to make Parliament’s Second Chamber more representative…

House of Lords reform: we are close to selling the pass by Bishop John Gladwin.

There is much inertia on the issue of the Second Chamber, but the stakes in parliamentary reform are high…

There has been plenty of criticism of the government proposals since the White Paper was published, including some that the bishops are being allowed to remain at all.

This post by Obiter J on Law and Lawyers contains a good summary of the proposals: Plantagenet Palliser - after 100 years, will Lords reform arrive?

The Constitution Unit Blog which comes from the UCL Constitution Unit has listed Eight key obstacles on the road to Lords reform one of which is:

4. Bishops. A reduction from 26 to 12 is proposed: possibly a compromise that pleases no one. Many want the bishops to go.

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Thursday, 19 May 2011

Guidance for parents of gay children

William Crawley recently mentioned on his blog the new pastoral resource published by Changing Attitude Ireland which was launched during the recent CofI General Synod by Bishop Michael Burrows.

The booklet “I think my son or daughter is gay” by Gerry Lynch is available as a PDF here.

Or as a Google document here.

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Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Bishops speak on Reform of the Lords

The Bishop of Winchester and the Bishop of Chester both spoke yesterday in the House of Lords on the subject of Lords Reform. Their words and the immediate responses from the Leader of the House (speaking for the government) are reproduced below the fold, but to see them in full context, go here (Winchester), and then here (Chester).

The Lord Bishop of Winchester:

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord the Leader of the House for bringing this Statement to your Lordships’ House. As noble Lords would expect, we on these Benches welcome the proposal that, if there is a partly appointed House, a smaller number of Church of England Bishops will remain as full Members, allowing for the smaller number of Peers in general. We stand ready and welcome the proposal that one of our number should be part of the Joint Committee. However, it is amazing to me that, as we have heard, the committee that has brought the Bill forward has not worked out or prescribed, or even suggested, how that lessening of the number is to be achieved. For many Members of your Lordships’ House, that will be one of the most crucial questions. How are they to be-I am trying to find a neutral word-excluded? It was very coy of the Statement to make no such suggestions.

Many of your Lordships know that right through this process the Bishops’ Benches have spoken about the place of the Bishops only at the end of all the papers that they have brought forward. That was the case with the paper produced for the Deputy Prime Minister’s committee by our convenor, my right reverend friend the Bishop of Leicester, at the end of July last year. Our interest throughout has been, and continues to be, effective government, holding the Executive properly to account, and the proper scrutiny, review and revision of legislation. If those are to remain, the prime focus of this House, alongside ensuring that the House of Commons does not seek to take all power, must be much of what the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, has just set out. That is absolutely critical. Those points were made to the committee-albeit, noble Lords will not be surprised to hear, in slightly less trenchant terms-in the submission of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Leicester.

I did not have the opportunity of seeing the material beforehand. However, I did a very brief scrutiny of the document, which says that, were there to be a House of 300, its Members should all be full time. Of course, Bishops will not be full time and nor will the 20 per cent of those who will have made their reputations and gained their expertise outside the world of party politics-if that is to be the number; my belief is that that is far too small a proportion. That seems to be a straight contradiction in the material that is put before us. The information recently noted-that some 40 per cent of the amendments to legislation brought forward in your Lordships’ House have been accepted and become law-only underlines the critical importance of having a competent, widely experienced upper House of Parliament, full of a variety of expertise. I am very puzzled to see how that can happen, though it is absolutely necessary if your Lordships’ House is to be an excellent body of scrutiny, review and revision, with a sizable proportion made up of those who are not already committed to the party structure.

The Statement that we have had repeated in this House said very little about the cost. I note the green White Paper-I cannot believe that the noble Baroness is the only one of us who takes as significant the green print on the front. There are pages and pages in it about costs, tax and all sorts of things, which seems a very strange thing to be leading into at this stage in this country’s history when so many other things are under such enormous financial pressure. I hope that, as the discussion continues, those on our Benches-of whom I shall not be one because I am soon to retire-will want to contribute very fully on the kinds of questions that both the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and, very particularly, the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, raised. We shall be working very particularly on good and responsible governance and, in the strongest possible sense, that legislation is being expertly and carefully scrutinised. I find it difficult to see how even an 80 per cent elected House will be prepared to bring the expertise and to give the time to the hard, line-by-line work that this House undertakes.

Lastly, I shall not use the tough words of the late Michael Foot any more than the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, did, but I find it hard to think that there will be people prepared to stand for election for this kind of role when-much though we may regret it-the reputation and standing of elected politicians is so remarkably low. Sheer wishful thinking is coming from all three political parties in so many different areas. The role of the Cross Benches and-dare I say it?-the Bishops over these next many years of discussion will be very important.

Lord Strathclyde:

My Lords, on behalf of the whole House, I pay tribute to the right reverend Prelate who, after 15 years as a Member of this House, will retire at the end of this month. Although he will be remembered for many great speeches, I am sure that his last contribution will be quoted on many occasions. The right reverend Prelate raised some very important issues on the full-time role of Members of this House once elected, on the rationale behind the proposals to have an elected House and on whether it would continue its scrutiny role. I see around me in this House many Members who have stood for election in another place and in other elected Parliaments and Assemblies, and they have the skills of scrutiny, so there is no reason why we should not be able to elect people to sit in this House who would have similar skills.

The question about full-time politicians is also important. What is intended by this is the expectation that those who stood for election would have the time available to devote themselves full-time to this House while the House is sitting; namely, around 150 days a year. It would not be a full-time job in the same way as being a Member of the House of Commons is a full-time job, with all the coalface representative functions of constituencies on the ground.

The Lord Bishop of Chester:

My Lords, I wonder whether I could ask the Leader of the House to address more directly what I took to be the central point made by the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and echoed by my right reverend friend the Bishop of Winchester. It was that a House of 300 full-timers would simply not have the expertise in the scrutiny of particular subjects that is afforded by the present composition of the House. In that case, how could this new House do its work as effectively as I believe this House does?

Lord Strathclyde:

My Lords, there is no magic about the figure of 300, any more than there was magic about the 600 figure for the House of Commons. Many argue that the existing House is far too big, but nobody has a view as to what the exact figure should be. There are many examples around the world of second Chambers being smaller-and sometimes substantially smaller-than the primary Chamber. I think that we ought to be able to manage with 300 full- time Members if they were elected.

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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Reform of the House of Lords

The government has published proposals for this.

Cabinet Office press release here.

The White Paper can be found here: House of Lords Reform Draft Bill.

The proposal includes reducing the number of bishops from 26 to 12.

The Church of England has issued this press release: Statement on Government white paper on House of Lords reform.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 at 3:32pm BST | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 15 May 2011

Ireland "subscribes" to the Anglican Covenant

Updated

The Church of Ireland has voted in favour of the Anglican Covenant. Here is what the official press release, issued last Friday, says:

The General Synod of the Church of Ireland meeting today in Armagh voted in favour of the following Motion on the Anglican Covenant:

‘Seeing that the Anglican Covenant is consonant with the doctrines and formularies of the Church of Ireland, the General Synod hereby subscribes the Covenant.’

The vote was passed by a large majority of the House of Representatives. The House of Bishops also voted as a separate House, approving the motion, also by a large majority.

The Motion was proposed by the Bishop of Cashel & Ossory, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, and seconded by the Bishop of Down & Dromore, the Rt Revd Harold Miller. In the course of the Synod debate it was stressed that the word ‘subscribe’ in relation to the Covenant, rather than ‘adopt’, was important. Subscribing the Covenant is an indication that the Church of Ireland has put its collective name to and aligned with it. The Covenant sits under the Preamble and Declaration of the Church and does not affect the sovereignty of the Church of Ireland or mean any change in doctrine.

So subscription is something different to adoption. And South East Asia used the term accession.

Confused? If so, then these three four blog articles may not help you.

Catholicity and Covenant has Quincy, SE Asia & Ireland: Covenant questions.

Bosco Peters at Liturgy has Anglican Covenant meaningless.

Tobias Haller at In a Godward Direction has The Anglican Covenant — Let’s be clear.

Alan Perry has What goes on in the Emerald Isle?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 15 May 2011 at 10:54pm BST | Comments (8) | TrackBack
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Freemasonry in the Church of England

Updated Tuesday

Jonathan Wynne-Jones has a news article in the Sunday Telegraph today, headlined Archbishop allows freemason to be bishop.

Dr Rowan Williams named the Rev Jonathan Baker as the next Bishop of Ebbsfleet despite knowing he was an active and senior mason.

The appointment, announced earlier this month, marked a significant U-turn by Dr Williams who had previously said that Freemasonry was “incompatible” with Christianity and had refused to promote Masons to senior posts.

Last week, as news of Fr Baker’s membership of the Masons began to circulate through the Church, it provoked growing concern and criticism from clergy and members of the General Synod.

When contacted by The Sunday Telegraph on Friday, Fr Baker defended his continued membership of the Masons and insisted it was compatible with his new role as a bishop.

Yet yesterday he said he had changed his mind was leaving the masons so he could concentrate on being a bishop, adding: “I wish nothing to distract from the inauguration of that ministry.”

The Church of England website has this page on Freemasonry.

July 1987 General Synod considered a report Freemasonry and Christianity: Are they compatible?

The following motion carried a margin of 8 to 1:

‘That this Synod endorses the Report of the Working Group (GS 784A), including its final paragraph, and commends it for discussion by the Church.’

At national level, there have been no formal developments since the 1987 debate.

The final paragraph of the report referred to in the motion reads as follows:

‘(122) This Report has identified a number of important issues on which, in the view of the Working Group, the General Synod will have to reflect as it considers ‘the compatibility or otherwise of Freemasonry with Christianity’. The reflections of the Working Group itself reveal understandable differences of opinion between those who are Freemasons and those who are not. Whilst the former fully agree that the Report shows that there are clear difficulties to be faced by Christians who are Freemasons, the latter are of the mind that the Report points to a number of very fundamental reasons to question the compatibility of Freemasonry and Christianity.’

In April 2003, the Telegraph carried this report: Rowan Williams apologises to Freemasons.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has been forced to apologise to Britain’s 330,000 Freemasons after he said that their beliefs were incompatible with Christianity and that he had rejected them from senior posts in his diocese…

…In his letter of apology, Dr Williams tries to distance himself from his own reported comments. He claims that his views were never meant to be public and were distorted by the media.

He wrote: “I have been sorry to learn of the distress of a considerable number of Freemasons . . . In replying to private correspondence, I had no intention of starting a public debate nor of questioning the good faith and generosity of individual Freemasons and I regret the tone and content of the media coverage.”

He added: “The quoted statements about the ‘satanic’ character of the Masonic ceremonies and other matters did not come from me and do not represent my judgment. Since my late father was a member of the Craft for many years, I have had every opportunity of observing the probity of individual members.”

Dr Williams does not, in his letter, deny that he has misgivings about the role of Freemasons within the Church.

He wrote: “Where anxieties exist, however, they are in relation not to Freemasonry but to Christian ministers subscribing to what could be and often is understood [or misunderstood] as a private system of profession and initiation, involving the taking of oaths of loyalty.”

He ends his letter by stating that Freemasons’ commitment to charity and the community is beyond question.

Updates
The Ebbsfleet website has: Personal statement by the Rev’d Jonathan Baker, bishop-designate of Ebbsfleet.

I joined freemasonry as an undergraduate in Oxford, before ordination. Over the years I have found it to be an organisation admirably committed to community life and involvement, with a record of charitable giving second to none, especially among, for example, unfashionable areas of medical research.

Had I ever encountered anything in freemasonry incompatible with my Christian faith I would, of course, have resigned at once. On the contrary, freemasonry is a secular organisation, wholly supportive of faith, and not an alternative to, or substitute for it. In terms of the Church of England, its support, for example, for cathedral fabric is well documented.

Last year HRH the Duke of Kent invited me to serve as an assistant Grand Chaplain, an invitation which I was pleased to accept. This appointment was for one year, and ceased in April.

To be a bishop requires one to review commitments across every area of life; indeed, Archbishop Rowan had invited me, in discussion, to re-consider, amongst other commitments, my membership of freemasonry. I had intended to discuss the issue more fully with friends and colleagues.

I have, however, decided to take the decision now. My absolute priority is the new ministry to which I have been called and to the people who will be in my care. I wish nothing to distract from the inauguration of that ministry.

I wish to pay tribute to the aims and objectives of freemasonry and the work which it carries out. I am thankful for the part it has played in my life and for the many friendships it has nurtured.

I have concluded that, because of the particular charism of episcopal ministry and the burden that ministry bears, I am resigning my membership of freemasonry.

The Church Mouse has The Church should update its policy on Freemasonry. He notes that Lambeth Palace does not know how many bishops are Freemasons.

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Saturday, 14 May 2011

Blogging for the world

Bishop Alan Wilson wrote last week for the Church Times about how Internet social media offer an irresistible opportunity to spread the gospel. The Church should plunge in.

This article is now available without subscription (though not indefinitely so) at Blogging for the world.

Mrs Partington lived at Sid­mouth on the seafront. The Revd Sydney Smith records her gallantry with a mop and pail during the great storm of 1813: “The Atlantic was roused; Mrs. Partington’s spirit was up. But I need not tell you that the contest was unequal; the Atlantic Ocean beat Mrs. Partington.”

Confronted by a new wave of communications technologies, some Christians will reach for the mop and pail. Others will just keep calm and carry on. A few will go sailing, seeing the Atlantic as the way to a new world.

New media are the greatest quan­tum leap in communications since the invention of printing. Networked computers are now connecting and reconnecting people all over the world in radical new ways…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 14 May 2011 at 11:18pm BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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opinion

Alex Preston writes in The Independent about God’s bankers: How evangelical Christianity is taking a hold of the City of London’s financial institutions.

Mark Vernon writes in The Guardian about Too much heat, not enough light in the creationism war. “The near hysterical way in which intelligent design is treated online only suits those who seek to politicise evolution.”

Marilyn McCord Adams at the Daily Episcopalian: What sort of victory?

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times: Uneasy? Dr Williams is right to be.

Jonathan Jones writes for The Guardian about The resurrection of religious art. “The trees placed in Westminster Abbey for the royal wedding were typical of how modern artists are transforming churches.”

Pierre Whalon writes for The Huffington Post about Big Media Events and the Churches That Put Them On.

Alan Wilson writes for The Guardian that Outlawing gayness is like ‘straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel’. “Uganda’s bill to ban all forms of homosexuality contravenes basic Christian teaching.”

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 14 May 2011 at 11:00am BST | Comments (7) | TrackBack
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Friday, 13 May 2011

South East Asia endorses the Anglican Covenant

George Conger reports for the CEN that South East Asia endorses the Anglican Covenant. Here’s an extract:

…The province noted that “our accession” to the covenant was based on the understanding “that those who accede” to the agreement “will unequivocally abide by Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 in its spirit and intent,” and would honour the moratorium on gay bishops and blessings.

Churches that accede to the covenant should also “bear authentic witness to the orthodox faith by an unequivocal commitment to the standards of moral and ethical holiness as set by Biblical norms in all aspects of their communal life.”

And South East Asia stated that it saw the primates as the body to oversee the implementation of the covenant, as it was the group “responsible for Faith and Order” in the Anglican Communion.

The language of the covenant that called for “common commitments and mutual accountability” among Anglicans to “hold each Church in the relationship of communion one with another,” echoed the “closing appeal” of the Kuala Lumpur statement. The 1997 statement called call for new structure to “guard the internal unity of our Communion,” and “strengthen the bonds of affection between our provinces, and especially, make for effective mutual accountability in all matters of doctrine and polity throughout the Communion.”

The province said the “similarities” between the documents were “not accidental” as the covenant was “the culmination of a decade of intense disputes over ethical teaching and church order in the Communion. The Kuala Lumpur Statement, in fact, marked the beginning of a united stand, spearheaded by churches in the southern continents, for the faith that was once delivered to the saints across the Communion.”

Those too young to remember it will find the Kuala Lumpur Statement here.

The full text of the Preamble to the Letter of Accession can be read here.

The Living Church has a report on this at S.E. Asia Adopts Anglican Covenant which contains the inital paragraphs.

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Church press reports on GAFCON 2

The Church Times has a sober news article, ‘Disappointed’ Primates announce GAFCON 2 by Ed Thornton.

THE leaders of GAFCON, a global network of conservative Anglicans, said this week that the decision to “reduce the status” of the Primates’ Meeting in Dublin earlier this year (News, 28 January) was “unacceptable.” Those who organised the meeting had been “misled”. The GAFCON leaders announced plans for a second conference in 2013, and the opening of new offices in London and Nairobi.

A 13-point communiqué, issued on Wednesday after a meeting of GAFCON Primates in Nairobi last month, said: “The fabric of our communion life has been torn at its deepest level and until the presenting issues are addressed we will remain weakened at a time when the needs before us are so great.”

The Church of England Newspaper has an exuberant report from George Conger headlined Gafcon throws down gauntlet to Dr. Williams.

The formation of the Anglican Ordinariate was a natural consequence of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s mismanagement of the crisis facing the Anglican Communion, the leaders of the Gafcon movement said in a statement released on May 10.

In a strongly worded communiqué summarizing the work of their April 25-28 meeting in Nairobi, the archbishops of the Gafcon movement, representing a majority of the church’s members, voiced their displeasure with the usurpation of authority by Dr. Williams and the staff of the Anglican Consultative Council and laid upon their door responsibility for the de facto schism within the communion.

While the 13-point communiqué touched on administrative issues for the Anglican reform movement, including the creation of a Nairobi and London offices, the appointment of Bishop Martyn Minns as Deputy Secretary, and the calling of a second Jerusalem conference in 2013, the heart of the letter came in a sustained attack on the actions taken by London-based instruments of the Anglican Communion.

While Pope Benedict XVI’s offer of an Anglican Ordinariate was “a gracious gift” to those Anglican clergy and congregations “alienated by recent actions in the Communion,” it should not have been necessary, the archbishops said.

“Our own Communion has failed to make adequate provision for those who hold to a traditional view of the faith. We remain convinced that from within the Provinces that we represent there are creative ways by which we can support those who have been alienated so that they can remain within the Anglican family,” they said…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 13 May 2011 at 7:43am BST | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 12 May 2011

Update on the Ugandan bill

Updated again 11 am Friday morning

The US Government has issued an extremely strong denunciation of the legislative proposals, see CNN U.S. State Department condemns ‘odious’ Ugandan anti-gay bill.

The State Department Thursday condemned a proposed bill in the Ugandan parliament that could make engaging in homosexual acts a capital offense punishable by death. The bill may be debated Friday by the Ugandan parliament.

“No amendments, no changes, would justify the passage of this odious bill,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. “Both (President Barack Obama) and (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) publicly said it is inconsistent with universal human rights standards and obligations.”

The State Department, he said, is joining Uganda’s own human rights commissions in calling for the bill’s rejection.

“We are following this legislative process very closely,” Toner said. “Our embassy is closely monitoring the parliament’s proceedings and we also are in close contact with Uganda’s civil rights and civil society leaders, as well as members of the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community there.”

Warren Throckmorton has this analysis of the current position: Possible amendments to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Human Rights Watch has Uganda: Parliament Committee Backs Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The Ugandan parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee has regrettably recommended passage of the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, including retaining the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” Human Rights Watch said today. The committee’s report, as seen by Human Rights Watch, recommends amendments deleting some provisions but adding criminal penalties for “conduct[ing] a marriage ceremony between persons of the same sex.”

The committee’s report is likely to be presented to parliament on May 13, 2011, as part of a debate before the bill could be up for a vote. Such reports are required under parliamentary procedure…

Box Turtle Bulletin has HRW: Uganda’s Parliamentary Committee Backs Retaining Death Penalty and Other Expanded Penalties.

Friday morning updates

Box Turtle Bulletin Uganda’s Death Penalty Appears Firmly In Place
Warren Throckmorton Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill: Is the death penalty off the table or not?

Warren Throckmorton Breaking: Ugandan Parliament stalled on technicality, fate of anti-gay bill uncertain

Despite being called to business today by Speaker Edward Ssekandi, Uganda’s parliamentary session has been stalled today and may adjourn without taking any action on pending legislation, including the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. According to parliamentary spokeswoman, Helen Kawesa, Parliament is stalled on a “technicality.” She said there is no Cabinet in place because it was dissolved in preparation for the end of the 8th Parliament in advance of yesterday’s Presidential inauguration. It is unclear who raised the issue of the necessity for Cabinet to be place for business to be conducted. However the effect is that the session is winding up, with members discussing how to proceed before the end of the 8th Parliament on 18th…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 12 May 2011 at 11:35pm BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Will there be a cull of bishops in the Lords?

Updated

A report in today’s Guardian by its Political Editor, Patrick Wintour suggests that this is likely to feature in the forthcoming proposals.

In today’s paper, he wrote Plans to reform House of Lords could include a lottery to cull peers.

…A lottery could be used to decide which peers are thrown out of the House of Lords under one method being discussed to cut the second chamber down to as few as 300 members.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, will seek to re-energise his political reform agenda next week when he publishes a white paper on an elected second chamber that will set out plans to cull remaining hereditary and appointed peers.

The government is expected to leave open the question of which peers are selected to stay, but a favoured option being canvassed is for each party group to hold a random draw for each phase of the removal of peers.

The draft bill will suggest slashing back the number of existing peers from 790 to 200 by 2015, with 100 elected in 2015, bringing the total size of the chamber to 300, half the size of the Commons.

Clegg will also canvass a softer option in which no peer is forced to leave until 2025, the point at which the reforms are complete. Numbers would fall as peers die or chose to retire, but this option has little support within the Liberal Democrats. Only bishops can currently retire, though others can take leave of absence. The aim is for the new Lords to be complete by 2025. Twelve bishops will be retained with full voting rights. Clegg will propose the second chamber is either 80% or 100% elected, saying a totally elected chamber is his preferred option…

These proposals are likely to meet opposition from all kinds of people. See for example, Clegg’s Lords reform plan ‘unprincipled’ by Ned Simons at ePolitix.com.

Today’s Church Times has this report by Ed Thornton Let other faiths in, Lords are urged and there are two further articles on the topic, available only to subscribers until the next week.

LEADERS of non-Christian faith groups should be invited to sit alongside bishops in the House of Lords, a historian who contributed to a commission on reform of the Second Chamber has suggested.

Writing in the Church Times today, John F. H. Smith, an architec­tural historian who made a sub­mission to the Royal Commis­sion on the Reform of the House of Lords, argues that, although bishops should re­main “in the majority”, “an interdenominational and inter­faith college” would “broaden faith repres­en­tation”.

And

…Also writing in the Church Times today, the former Bishop of Chelms­ford, the Rt Revd John Gladwin, says that reform of the Lords pre­sents “an opportunity to recover some ground for the Christian inheritance in our democratic public life.

“The Church of England, with 26 bishops sitting as Lords Spiritual, has both a particular responsibility and an opportunity to make a con­structive contribution to the current debate over what needs to be done.

“Hoping that the whole issue will go away and praying it into the long grass is not good enough for a Church carrying such national res­ponsibility. Nor will it do simply to defend the 26 seats.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 12 May 2011 at 11:06pm BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Canadian Ordinariate has difficulties

Updated Monday

Several reports of this have emerged today. The “Traditional Anglican Communion” in Canada is not, it seems, getting what it wants.

Ordinariate Portal has TAC Archbishop on Canadian Ordinariate.

Anna Arco at the Catholic Herald has Ordinariate talks stall in Canada.

As the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has been gaining deacons in the last few weeks and continues to take shape, expectant eyes begin to focus on the other side of the Atlantic. A decree establishing personal ordinariate for the United States is rumoured to be announced any day now. Things are looking good for the further implementation of the Pope’s 2009 Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus which reached out to Anglo-Catholics.

But this morning we learned that the leader of the Traditional Anglican Communion has thrown his toys out of the pram and warned that the British structure may well be the first and last ordinariate, as negotiations in Canada have come to a standstill.

Archbishop John Hepworth – a flamboyant and outspoken former Catholic turned Anglican who leads the TAC – wrote a letter to Bishop Peter Elliot, a former Anglican who is the Vatican’s appointed delegate for the Australian ordinariate, in which he accused the Vatican’s Canadian point man for the ordinariate of derailing the process. He said he would put talks with the Church on hold. He added that the Canadian development would have an effect on the potential establishment of ordinariates around the world, including in Australia. The TAC is the largest umbrella group for Anglo-Catholic continuing churches around the world who have broken with the Anglican Communion…

The bulk of membership of the TAC is to be found in Africa and in India, as originally reported by me in the Church Times, see my statistics here.

Update
The RC Archbishop of Toronto has issued a Statement re: Implementation of Anglicanorum Coetibus in Canada.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 12 May 2011 at 4:09pm BST | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill is far from dead

I wrote an article this morning for Cif belief that was published with the title Uganda’s anti-gay bill is far from dead.
It may be temporarily off the parliamentary agenda, but local Anglican support for the Ugandan anti-gay bill continues

The infamous Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill, which earlier this week was thought likely to be voted upon on Wednesday as the current session of the Uganda parliament draws to a close, does not now appear on the order paper for the day. The bill, which is technically still at the committee stage, could, however, be carried forward into the next session of parliament…

The article includes this analysis of the Anglican angle:

Sadly, local Anglican support for the bill continues, even though on Tuesday of the archbishop of Canterbury issued a statement in which he opposed it, saying: “Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades. Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.”

This was not, in fact, a new statement, but rather a quotation from the interview in the Telegraph that he gave in December 2009 to George Pitcher, who has since become his secretary for public affairs. Pitcher also wrote: “He adds that the Anglican Church in Uganda opposes the death penalty but, tellingly, he notes that its archbishop, Henry Orombi, who boycotted the Lambeth Conference last year, “has not taken a position on this bill.”

That lacuna was remedied in February 2010, when the Anglican church of Uganda issued a detailed statement offering strong support for the bill. It has not made any further public statements on the bill since that time. Archbishop Orombi has continued his boycott of Anglican Communion events, including the latest primates meeting in Dublin, and to support the rival church body Gafcon, which has announced plans for expansion. There can be little chance of a change of heart on homosexuality by Orombi.

Since I wrote this morning, the situation - which was changing rapidly then - has developed even further. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was restored to (a revised) Order Paper. However, it was not reached during the Wednesday session, and may now be considered in the additional session that has been scheduled for Friday. For the latest reports see Warren Throckmorton here, and also Box Turtle Bulletin here.

Update Box Turtle Bulletin also reports LA Times Not Withstanding, Uganda’s Death Penalty Has NOT Been Dropped.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 11 May 2011 at 11:31pm BST | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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GAFCON expands its organization

GAFCON has a press release: Plans announced for GAFCON 2 and London and Africa offices.

GAFCON primates meeting in Africa have announced plans for another international conference as well as opening offices in London and Nairobi.

The council of Anglican leaders was established by the Global Anglican Future Conference in 2008, representing more than 35 million Anglicans.

Now, the Primates are planning for a second GAFCON in 2013 preceded by a leadership conference in New York in 2012…

…In a 13 point statement issued after their Nairobi meeting, the Council said “if we are offer adequate support to our member provinces, sustain our various initiatives, and strengthen our communications capabilities we must add capacity to our current secretariat.”

A Chairman’s office would be established in Nairobi, Kenya and a GAFCON Global Coordination office would be established in London under the direction of the Rt. Rev’d Martyn Minns, Missionary Bishop of the Church of Nigeria, serving as Deputy Secretary and Executive Director.

The meeting discussed the challenges confronting the Anglican Communion and the Primates said they were “disappointed that those who organized the Primates meeting in Dublin not only failed to address these core concerns but decided instead to unilaterally reduce the status of the Primates’ Meeting. This action was taken with complete disregard for the resolutions of both Lambeth 1978 and 1998 that called for an enhanced role in ‘doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters’. We believe that they were seriously misled and their actions unacceptable.”

“We continue to be troubled by the promotion of a shadow gospel that appears to replace a traditional reading of Holy Scriptures and a robust theology of the church with an uncertain faith and a never ending listening process. This faith masquerades as a religion of tolerance and generosity and yet it is decidedly intolerant to those who hold to the “faith once and for all delivered to the saints”.

The thirteen-point statement is available in full via the above link, and also as a PDF. It includes:

9. Confident of the power of God’s Word to renew His church we are creating a network for theologians and theological educators who embrace the Jerusalem Declaration to give further support for our seminaries and Bible Colleges. We have also reviewed and approved plans for the leadership conference now scheduled for April 2012 and the beginning preparations for an international gathering of Primates, Bishops, Clergy and Lay Leaders now scheduled for the first half of 2013 and provisionally designated “GAFCON 2”.

10. We are delighted in the election of the Most Rev’d Eliud Wabukala, Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya to serve as Chairman of the Primates’ Council and also the Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh, Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) to serve as Vice-Chairman. We were pleased to appoint Bishop Greg Venables and Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini as trustees. We also welcomed the Most Rev’d Hector Zavala, Province of the Southern Cone and the Most Rev’d Onesphore Rwaje, Anglican Church of Rwanda as new members of the Council.

11. We also recognized that if we are offer adequate support to our member provinces, sustain our various initiatives, and strengthen our communications capabilities we must add capacity to our current secretariat. Consequently it was agreed that a GAFCON/FCA Chairman’s office would be established in Nairobi, Kenya and a Global Coordination office would be established in London under the direction of the Rt. Rev’d Martyn Minns, Missionary Bishop of the Church of Nigeria, serving as Deputy Secretary and Executive Director.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 11 May 2011 at 8:12am BST | Comments (27) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 7 May 2011

opinion

updated to add another answer to The Question

Jerry Bowyer writes for Forbes about The Seminary Bubble.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has published the text of a recent lecture: ‘Cloven Tongues’: Theology and the Translation of the Scriptures.

Giles Fraser writes for the Church Times about A Church for sinful addicts.

This week’s The Question in Comment is free belief is What choice for faith schools? “On what basis should faith schools choose children when they are oversubscribed – and who should decide?” There are answers from Andrew Copson, John Pritchard and Maeve McCormack.

David Briggs writes for The Association of Religion Data Archives about ‘Free riders’ and the recession: Churches face hard economic choices attracting new members.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 7 May 2011 at 11:00am BST | Comments (17) | TrackBack
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NT Wright and American Exceptionalism

The former Bishop of Durham, NT Wright, has written about the death of Osama Bin Laden. Versions of his writings have appeared in at least three places so far.

This article is in the Church Times The US plays with myths of heroism.

Another version is on Ruth Gledhill’s blog (scroll down for it).

And at Cif belief there is America’s exceptionalist justice.

Americans appear to be fairly united in their disagreement with his views: see comments at The Lead and also at TitusOneNine.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 7 May 2011 at 8:39am BST | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 5 May 2011

Archbishop of Canterbury on Osama bin Laden

Lambeth Palace press release: Archbishop on Osama Bin Laden

Q: Do you believe that the killing of Osama Bin Laden is justice for the 9/11 attacks and indeed other attacks? And was the US morally justified in shooting him even though he was unarmed as the White House now admits?

A: I think that the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling because it doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done, in those circumstances. I think it is also true that the different versions of events that have emerged in recent days have not done a great deal to help here. I don’t know the full details anymore than anyone else does but I do believe that in such circumstance when we are faced with someone who was manifestly a ‘war criminal’ as you might say in terms of the atrocities inflicted, it is important that justice is seen to be observed.

Press reports:

See the video of this, from Ruth Gledhill Archbishop of Canterbury condemns the manner of Osama bin Laden killing

Press Association via Independent Archbishop ‘uncomfortable’ over Bin Laden killing

Telegraph Tim Ross Osama bin Laden dead: Archbishop of Canterbury criticises White House

Guardian Riazat Butt Bin Laden killing left ‘uncomfortable feeling’ – Rowan Williams

BBC Archbishop ‘uncomfortable’ over Bin Laden unarmed death

Channel 4 News Osama bin Laden killing leaves Archbishop ‘uncomfortable’

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Church Commissioners' full report for 2010 issued

The publication of the Church Commissioners’ full report for 2010 has been announced today with this press release (now online).

Church Commissioners continue to support the Church in ‘challenging financial times’

The Church Commissioners have today published their full Annual Report and Accounts for 2010.

It follows publication of their 2010 annual results on April 15th, when they announced a 15.2 per cent return on their investments during 2010 and confirmed the fund’s strong long-term performance. The fund has now outperformed its comparator group over the past 10 and 15 years.*

Andrew Brown, Secretary to the Church Commissioners, said: “These are challenging financial times for all charities and public bodies, and the Church is not immune from these pressures.

“Although the Commissioners provide around 17p in the pound towards the costs of the Church’s mission, the vast majority of the remainder comes from the generosity of today’s worshippers. Parishes and dioceses rely on their continued support. Our contribution is biased towards supporting poorer dioceses.”

The Commissioners - who contributed more than £200 million in 2010 towards the cost of maintaining the mission of the Church of England - grew their fund to £5.3 billion (from £4.8 billion at December 31, 2009). More than half of their contribution meets the cost of clergy pensions earned before 1998.

Today’s report shows that the Commissioners are able to distribute £26 million more each year to the Church than if their investments had performed only at the industry average over the last ten years, while pursuing their policy of maintaining the real value of the fund.

Writing in the report’s foreword - full text below - Andreas Whittam Smith, First Church Estates Commissioner, expresses his caution for the future:

“The reason we are cautious is that for some time to come the world will struggle with the consequences of the financial crisis. Many governments, including our own, are heavily in debt and are striving to reduce public spending. Consumers, too, have total borrowings that are above their comfort levels. In addition, the banks, burnt by the very crisis they themselves caused, have restricted their lending.

“The upshot is that the Assets Committee is working on the assumption that while 2011 may well prove to be the third year in a row when equity markets, helped by low interest rates, deliver strong gains, conditions are not in place for the development of a multi-year bull market. We are also conscious that the task of meeting our pension liabilities, albeit under a scheme that closed in 1998, becomes more onerous during the next ten years. This reduces our margin for error.”

He explains that the Commissioners’ Assets Committee is revising its investments strategy: “Our habit of maintaining a very high weighting in equities and real estate regardless of market conditions, while it had served us well, is no longer appropriate.

“We must now be prepared to vary our asset allocations in a dynamic fashion, albeit purposively rather than rapidly. Careful phasing can mitigate any risks from mistiming. As a result we have begun to reduce the proportions of our funds held in pure risk assets.

“In cutting back our holdings of equities, however, we have decided to reduce our positions in global equities rather than in UK shares. On relative valuation grounds, the British market at its current levels is one of the more attractive ones.”

Mr Whittam Smith goes on to review asset classes, including timber and other ethical investments in which the Commissioners are placing their funds.

Returns from the fund, held in a broad range of assets, pay for: clergy pensions for service up to the end of 1997; supporting poorer dioceses with the costs of ministry; funding some mission activities; paying for bishops’ ministries and some cathedral costs; and funding the legal framework for parish reorganisation.

The Commissioners manage their investments within ethical guidelines, with advice from the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group.

The Annual Report can be read in full here

There are some accompanying “Notes for editors” below the fold.

Notes for Editors

*(See paragraph two). The comparator group quoted is the WM All Funds Universe. It is a collection of the investment results of UK pension funds and is widely used as an independent measure of the performance of funds. There were 203 funds in the 2010 universe, and there were 137 and 119 funds that have been included in the sample for the last ten and fifteen years respectively.

The Church Commissioners

The Church Commissioners play a vital role in supporting the Church of England as a Christian presence in every community.

The Commissioners fund all clergy pensions earned before 1998. (Pensions earned since then are paid from the separate Funded Scheme, which is funded by contributions from dioceses and other Church bodies).

The Commissioners’ fund is a closed fund, taking in no new money.

Actuaries assess the Commissioners’ fund in detail every three years (with yearly ‘desktop’ reviews in the intervening period) to advise on how much they can safely plan to spend to maintain sustainable distributions.

The Commissioners’ mission is to support the Church of England’s ministry, particularly in areas of need and opportunity. Their main responsibilities are:

  • to obtain a return from their diversified portfolio of assets, managed within an ethical framework, that will allow them to meet their pension obligations and to maintain, and grow over time, their support for the wider Church including supporting the work of bishops, cathedrals and parish ministry. The target long-term rate of return is RPI + 5.0% per annum.
  • to administer the legal framework for pastoral reorganisation and settling the future of buildings closed for regular public worship.

The 33 Church Commissioners are:

  • the two Archbishops;
  • three Church Estates Commissioners, who represent the Church Commissioners in General Synod and (Second Commissioner) in Parliament;
  • eleven people elected by General Synod: four bishops, three clergy, four lay people;
  • two deans;
  • nine people who are appointed by the Crown and the Archbishops; and
  • six ex-officio members: the Prime Minister, the Lord President of the Council, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Speakers of both Houses of Parliament.

History

The Queen Anne’s Bounty and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners joined in 1948 to form the Church Commissioners. Queen Anne’s Bounty was a charity founded in 1704 to help poor clergy. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners were given the estates belonging to bishops and cathedrals, so they could fund their ministry as well as the Church’s ministry into new urban areas.

Introduction to Church Commissioners’ 2010 Annual Report by the First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith

‘You are only as good as your last film’ it is said in Hollywood. In the same way, the trustees of the Church Commissioners’ £5.3 billion endowment are only as good as their most recent results. This is especially true at the moment. For members of the Assets Committee, who have responsibility for the Commissioners’ investment decisions, well understand that the economic outlook is, to put it frankly, unpromising. That perception has influenced many of the decisions we took during 2010, as I shall describe.

Performance

In the event our ‘last film’, which was performance of the Commissioners’ funds in 2010, was excellent. The total return in 2010 was 15.2 per cent. As always there are two questions that should be asked about investment performance. How does
it relate to what the beneficiaries of the fund can reasonably expect? In 2010 we reached the target we have set for ourselves with room to spare. Our long-term goal is to exceed the rate of inflation by five percentage points per annum. The retail price index rose by 4.8 per cent so we were over ten percentage points ahead. The second method of assessing performance is to compare it with the track record of comparable funds. Have we been managing our assets with reasonable skill? Here we can take comfort from the fact that we exceeded the industry average by more than two percentage points, a useful margin.

Looking back over the years, a third desirable characteristic comes to the fore. This is consistency. Our beneficiaries require stability. For the dioceses and cathedrals to which we make distributions, for example, volatility in the sums they receive from the Commissioners would make managing their resources more difficult, particularly as regards salary costs. We attempt to achieve consistency by investing our funds on a long-term view as well as by smoothing out the level of our distributions.

Turning to the Commissioners’ investment record over the longer term, it can be seen that we have consistently passed the second test, which is comparing our performance with that of comparable funds. As to the first test, although taking the past twenty years as a whole we have exceeded inflation plus five percentage points per annum (9.4 per cent per annum compared with 7.9 per cent), the shorter-term comparisons show that we have been falling behind since the turn of the century (6.3 per cent per annum versus 7.9 per cent). That emphasises that, although 2010 was satisfactory, we are not living in easy times for asset management.

Prospects

The reason we are cautious is that for some time to come the world will struggle with the consequences of the financial crisis. Many governments, including our own, are heavily in debt and are striving to reduce public spending. Consumers, too, have total borrowings that are above their comfort levels. In addition, the banks, burnt by the very crisis they themselves caused, have restricted their lending.

The upshot is that the Assets Committee is working on the assumption that while 2011 may well prove to be the third year in a row when equity markets, helped by low interest rates, deliver strong gains, conditions are not in place for the development of a multi-year bull market. We are also conscious that the task of meeting our pension liabilities, albeit under a scheme that closed in 1998, becomes more onerous during the next ten years. This reduces our margin for error.

Led by Tom Joy, our Director of Investments, the Assets Committee took a policy decision during 2010 to broaden the range of classes considered for investment, and also to be more flexible in distributing funds among the various asset classes through time. Our habit of maintaining a very high weighting in equities and real estate regardless of market conditions, while it had served us well, is no longer appropriate. We must now be prepared to vary our asset allocations in a dynamic fashion, albeit purposively rather than rapidly. Careful phasing can mitigate any risks from mistiming. As a result we have begun to reduce the proportions of our funds held in pure risk assets. In cutting back our holdings of equities, however, we have decided to reduce our positions in global equities rather than in UK shares. On relative valuation grounds, the British market at its current levels is one of the more attractive ones.

Plans

Where, though, should we be reinvesting the funds that have been thus released? We intend to open up a new asset class by making an investment in US timberlands. Timberland has provided investors with attractive returns in relation to risk over many years. Timber is a slow growing crop with opportunities for harvesting occurring after the first five years and for many years thereafter. The Commissioners’ staff have met with a wide range of possible managers in the United States and more recently members of the Assets Committee have crossed the Atlantic to meet the preferred managers.

We are also planning to extend our use of carefully selected hedge funds that meet our strict ethical guidelines. Many of them proved their worth during the financial crisis. We are already using one manager who runs an absolute return fund in which the Commissioners have a holding. Its results have been excellent. Absolute return funds typically pursue trading strategies that are indifferent to market direction and invest within or across asset classes, markets, regions and time horizons. There are other types of hedge fund that focus strictly on equity investment coupled with structures that limit downside risk. Others look for particular opportunities created by particular market events including mergers, restructurings and financial distress.

Our ethical guidelines mean that we take care neither to be party to pushing movements in commodity prices further than they would otherwise go nor to engage in similar movements in currencies. We must also avoid putting undue pressure on companies that may be in difficulties. We are confident we can avoid such situations. In the case of our current manager, for instance, we have been happy to increase our involvement recently.

Finally there is one asset class in which we have declined to participate for the time being, UK government bonds. They are unattractive when inflationary forces are gathering strength. For in managing risk, it is as important to say ‘no’ as it is to say ‘yes’.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 5 May 2011 at 11:07am BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Two new "flying bishops" appointed

Updated Friday

Two press notices from 10 Downing Street:
Suffragan See of Ebbsfleet
Suffragan See of Richborough

Lambeth Palace has issued this press release:

New Provincial Episcopal Visitors announced

Downing Street has today announced the appointment of the Reverend Jonathan Baker as Bishop of Ebbsfleet and the Reverend Norman Banks as the Bishop of Richborough, both of whom will be consecrated at a service at Southwark Cathedral on 16th June.

In line with the 1993 Act of Synod, the Archbishop of Canterbury has commissioned the Provincial Episcopal Visitors to work with the diocesan bishops to provide extended pastoral care and sacramental ministry, as well as acting as spokesmen and advisors, to ensure that ‘the integrity of differing beliefs and positions concerning the ordination of women to the priesthood should be mutually recognised and respected’.

The Revd Jonathan Baker who is currently Principal of Pusey House succeeds Bishop Andrew Burnham as Bishop of Ebbsfleet.

Commenting on his appointment, Jonathan Baker said:

‘The appointment of two new PEVs for the Southern Province is a real sign of commitment by the Church of England to the growth and renewal of every aspect of its common life, particularly its catholic tradition which I know and love. I look forward immensely to serving as Bishop of Ebbsfleet and to leading the clergy and lay people in my care to have confidence in their faith and in proclaiming the Gospel to all.’

The Revd Norman Banks who is currently Vicar of Walsingham, Houghton and Barsham, succeeds Bishop Keith Newton as Bishop of Richborough.

Commenting on his appointment, Norman Banks said:

‘One of the real pleasures and privileges of being Vicar of S. Mary’s is getting to know so many of the people who visit Walsingham regularly and make the Parish Church part of their pilgrimage.
I am both delighted and honoured that for those in the Richborough area I am about to have the opportunity and privilege of becoming their bishop and visiting them where they regularly worship. From the many recent conversations I have had, I believe that there is real desire across the Church of England to find a way for us to hold together with integrity and generosity. I hope the appointment of two new PEV’s will be seen as both ‘gift’ and ‘sign’ at this crucial time in the life of our Church.’

Welcoming the news, Dr Williams said:

‘I am very happy to welcome two such faithful and gifted priests as colleagues. They are taking up a very demanding pastoral ministry at a time of much upheaval and uncertainty, and will need our prayers and friendship as we work in the Church of England for a future in which there is full mutual respect and constructive work in mission to be undertaken together.

I am deeply grateful to those who have exercised pastoral care for traditionalist priests and parishes in recent months, especially Bishops John Ford, Mark Sowerby and Lindsay Urwin.’

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Revd Jonathan Baker

The Reverend Jonathan Baker (aged 44), studied at St John’s College, Oxford and then trained for the ordained ministry at St Stephen’s House, Oxford. He served his first curacy at Ascot Heath, in Oxford Diocese from 1993 to 1996. From 1996 he was firstly Curate at Reading St Mark before becoming Priest-in-Charge from 1996 to 1999, and then Vicar from 1999 to 2002. From 1996 to 1999 he was also Priest-in-Charge at Reading Holy Trinity and from 1999 to 2002 he was Vicar. Since 2003 he has been Principal at Pusey House in the diocese of Oxford and Honorary Curate at Oxford St Thomas in the diocese of Oxford.

Reverend Jonathan Baker is married to Jacqueline who is an academic publisher and they have three children, Dominic aged 16, William aged 12 and Caris aged 9.

Revd Norman Banks

The Reverend Norman Banks (aged 57), studied at Oriel College, Oxford and then trained for the ordained ministry at St Stephen’s House, Oxford. He served his first curacy at Newcastle Christ Church with St Ann from 1982 to 1987 and then Priest-in-Charge from 1987 to 1990 in the Diocese of Newcastle. From 1990 to 2000 he was Vicar of Tynemouth, Cullercoats St Paul in Newcastle Diocese. Since 2000 he has been Vicar of Walsingham, Houghton and Barsham in the diocese of Norwich and Rural Dean of Burnham and Walsingham from 2008. Since 2009 he has also been Chaplain to The Queen.

Press reports:

Riazat Butt Guardian Archbishop of Canterbury appoints flying bishops

…Mindful of the rows convulsing sections of the church, Williams welcomed Baker and Banks, describing them as “faithful and gifted”.

“They are taking up a very demanding pastoral ministry at a time of much upheaval and uncertainty, and will need our prayers and friendship as we work in the Church of England for a future in which there is full mutual respect and constructive work in mission to be undertaken together.”

He said they would be a permanent fixture in the Church of England, even though the draft law on women bishops does away with the positions.

At a press conference at Lambeth Palace, Williams said: “I have two new suffragans and General Synod can’t simply take them away. The pastoral need will not go away.”

Still no other UK MSM coverage of this announcement, but some reactions from church organisations:

Forward in Faith UK

A Statement from the Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod

A Statement issued by the Master General of The Society of the Holy Cross

Women and the Church (WATCH)

Two New Provincial Episcopal Visitors Announced

WATCH is deeply disappointed at the appointment of two new Provincial Episcopal Visitors. They will be bishops who do not recognise women as priests, and oppose the appointment of women as bishops. The vast majority of people inside and outside the Church of England want to see the Church led by women as well as men. The risk of these two appointments is that they will haul us back to a position where women priests and bishops are ‘nearly but not quite’ on a par with their male colleagues.

However the legislation for women bishops is currently out for consultation across the Dioceses. It contains generous provisions for those opposed to women bishops. These two new PEVs will no doubt be invited to play their part in pastoral and sacramental ministry in accordance with the provisions in the draft legislation. In appointing such bishops, who will remain permanently in place (though not as PEVs) after the legislation has been approved, the Archbishop is reinforcing the generosity and adequacy of those provisions.

Women priests, along with countless others, will have been inspired during the royal wedding last Friday when the Bishop of London, quoting St Catherine of Siena, said, “Be who God wants you to be and you will set the world on fire”. We hope that the Church of England will very soon set free women as well as men to become all that God calls them to be.

Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod - copied below the fold.

GRAS press release:

Appointment of two “flying bishops”

Appointing two new PEVs at this stage in the Women Bishop’s Legislation consultation
is deeply undermining of that synodical process and a further institutionalisation of the
fearful ecclesiology underlying the ‘Act of Synod’, the spirit of which will be perpetuated
by these appointments.

At Easter we celebrate the Risen Christ refusing to be locked out by his frightened
followers. So why has this very moment been chosen to appoint two new Bishops whose
reason for existence is to protect a small number of clergy and laity from their fear of
women mediating the Risen Christ in their midst and offering them Peace?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 5 May 2011 at 8:05am BST | Comments (64) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Cathedral attendance statistics

The Church of England has released statistics of attendances at cathedral services for 2010, with corresponding figures for each year back to 2000. The statistics include both Sunday and midweek services.

There is also a press release.

Attendance levels at regular weekly services in Church of England cathedrals have increased significantly again this year, by 7%, say the latest statistics from the Archbishops’ Council’s Research and Statistics Unit.

The rest of the press release is copied below the fold.

Since the turn of the millennium, they have steadily grown by a total of 37%, which is about 4% on average each year. At Sunday services alone, 15,800 adults and 3,100 children and young people are usually present while over the whole week the figures rise (by 73%) to 27,400 and 7,600 respectively. Westminster Abbey adds, on average, 1,800 people each week to these numbers.

The Revd Lynda Barley, Head of Research and Statistics, said: “The ministry of cathedrals is valued by many people. They have a treasured place in the heart of the nation and are actively used at key moments in individual lives and on public occasions.”

Midweek attendance has more than doubled since the turn of the millennium and is approaching the same level as Sunday attendance. In 2010, for example, it added 85% to Sunday congregations (slightly higher than previous years). Cathedrals are key places of daily Christian worship outside Sundays adding an additional 73% to the number of adult attenders and more than doubling the number of children over the whole week.

The Revd Lynda Barley added: “Cathedrals are proof of the benefit of being open and available throughout the week. Attendance at services outside Sundays has grown more significantly by 10% over the past year and will soon double Sunday congregations. Steady growth since the beginning of the millennium is encouraging cathedrals to explore the unique position they hold in the life of the nation and is restoring confidence in mission.”

Other newly published statistics include:

More than 3,150 specially arranged services were conducted by cathedrals in 2010 which attracted almost one million people.

Regular services attracted nearly two million people while 1.63 million people attended about 5,150 public/civic events arranged in cathedrals.

Over the last ten years both the numbers of public/civic events and specially arranged services have considerably increased. In particular, the number of public/civic events has almost doubled.

In 2010 approximately 760 baptisms (and thanksgivings for the birth of a child), 330 marriages (and blessings of marriage), 410 funerals and 130 memorial services were conducted by cathedral clergy. Baptisms of young people and adults (over 13 years of age) and number of child baptisms (aged one to 12 years) have almost doubled since the turn of the millennium. Overall, these figures reflect a fairly static picture over recent years but in common with the national trend the number of baptisms of older children, young people and adults is growing.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 4 May 2011 at 11:15am BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | statistics

Anglican Covenant: Mostly Harmless?

Alan Perry has written an article about the Anglican Covenant, which he has titled Mostly Harmless.

I have had a number of conversations with well-informed, thoughtful Anglicans, many of them in leadership positions such as Synod members and bishops and ecclesiastical lawyers, which convince me that a large number of people have essentially adopted a narrative about the proposed Anglican Covenant, a narrative which seems to be relatively uninfluenced by anything like reading the document. Their comments typically go like this:

I don’t actually believe that the Covenant will accomplish what it is supposed to do. It won’t really address the tensions in the Anglican Communion. But I don’t believe that it is the Abomination of Desolation, either. I don’t think it’s going to have any ill effect. Recommendations of Relational Consequences are nothing to worry about.

This reminds me of the succinct description of the Earth and its inhabitants in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “Mostly harmless.” Not to mention feckless.

I’m not sure about that assessment, but let’s assume it for a minute. What amazes me is the conclusion reached based on it:

Since it’s mostly harmless, even if it’s also not likely to produce any positive effects, I will vote to support it because by doing so we can show our commitment to the Anglican Communion and our loyalty to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Now, I am committed to the Anglican Communion, and loyal to the Archbishop of Canterbury, but I don’t grasp how this conclusion follows from the assumption that the proposed Covenant is both harmless and feckless.

Concerning the Archbishop of Canterbury, he has this to say:

And as to demonstrating loyalty to the Archbishop of Canterbury, surely supporting a proposed Covenant which we believe will eventually just sit harmlessly on a shelf gathering dust is equally ineffective. Do we participate in a charade simply to avoid hurting the Archbishop’s feelings, or to cheer him up by giving him something in the win column? Is that not to play the role of the royal advisers, praising the Emperor’s new clothes to his face whilst trying to avoid sniggering behind his naked back? In what way is that loyal to the Archbishop?

And he includes this specific reference to the Church of England:

What will happen when a woman is appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury, if some churches can’t accept her authority as an Instrument of Communion? Could a question be raised as to whether the Church of England in making the appointment was not sufficiently cautious, or failed to obtain sufficient consensus? How harmless will the Covenant look then?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 4 May 2011 at 8:35am BST | Comments (20) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

How is the Christian Legal Centre funded?

Updated

Last Sunday’s Observer newspaper carried an article titled Christian Legal Centre fights more than 50 religious discrimination cases by Jamie Doward and Seb Wheeler which discusses how this organisation is funded:

Questions have been asked about from where the centre – and its sister organisation, Christian Concern For Our Nation – obtain funding. Accounts show both organisations have little in the way of income.

Williams said all of the centre’s work was done on a pro bono basis by committed Christian lawyers and that what money it had came in small donations from more than 30,000 people who received its regular email updates. “We never ask clients for money,” she said. “Very often they fear losing their case and having to pay the costs of the other side. Part of our ministry is to ensure they are not burdened with that.”

Close observers of the centre believe it is adopting the tactics of wealthy US evangelical groups, notably the powerful Alliance Defence Fund, which, through its Blackstone Legal Fellowship, trains an army of Christian lawyers to defend religious freedom “through strategy, training, funding and direct litigation”.

The ADF, which according to filings had an income of almost $40m last year, is funded by prominent benefactors including Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater private security giant, the Covenant Foundation, which is financed by a leading member of the Texas Christian right, James Leininger, and the Bolthouse Foundation, a charity that rejects evolution, insisting “man was created by a direct act of God in His image, not from previously existing creatures”.

The ADF has joined forces with the Christian Legal Centre and Christian Concern For Our Nation to launch the Wilberforce Academy in the UK, which aims to train delegates “for servant-hearted, Christ-centred leadership in public life” having equipped them “with a robust biblical framework that guides their thinking, prayers and activity in addressing the issues facing our society”. Several of its delegates have already gone on to work for the legal centre and Christian Concern.

Update Wednesday

Joshua Rozenberg has written for the Guardian website that Belief is not always a good thing in an advocate.

Should advocates believe in the causes they argue in court? Generally speaking, it’s a bad idea.

Barristers who own up to their profession at dinner parties are often asked how they can defend someone who is guilty of a crime. The stock answer is that it’s not the lawyer’s job to decide whether a defendant is guilty: that’s a matter for the court.

Of course, if your client tells you he committed the crime and instructs you to tell the court he didn’t, you must withdraw from the case: a lawyer must never mislead the court. But the advocate’s job is to put forward his client’s case as effectively as possible, however implausible it may seem. That’s well understood by the court; indeed it’s welcomed. What judges don’t like are advocates who are so committed to a case that they lose their objectivity.

These thoughts are prompted by an Observer report that the Christian Legal Centre has some 50 claims of religious discrimination on its books. Many of those that come to court are likely to be argued by Paul Diamond, the centre’s standing counsel.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 3 May 2011 at 9:29am BST | Comments (9) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: equality legislation

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Birnam Wood comes to Westminster

The Marriage Service from the book commonly referred to as The 1928 Prayer Book has been getting a lot of attention recently.

This has, in more recent times, also been known as Alternative Services, Series One: The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony which was first authorized in 1966. (Since July 1929 it had been in widespread use despite Parliamentary defeat of ‘The Deposited Book’.)

It should not be confused with The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony in The Book of Common Prayer which was authorized in 1662.

The most usual form now used in the Church of England is neither of these, but rather the Common Worship Marriage Service.

Here is a collection of views about the church service last Friday:

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 1 May 2011 at 4:03pm BST | Comments (41) | TrackBack
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