Monday, 29 August 2011

Sydney Anglicans

Updated Saturday

ABC in Australia has published this article by Muriel Porter: Sydney Anglicans and the threat to world Anglicanism. It starts:

Sydney Diocese has always been an important player in the Anglican Church of Australia.

It is the oldest and largest of the 23 Australian dioceses, and until its recent catastrophic financial losses, was the richest. It is also the most conservative, and is strident in defence of that conservatism.

But how could Sydney Diocese be a threat to the international Anglican Communion? After all, Australia, with just 3.7 million Anglicans according to the 2006 census - the same number as those Australians who claimed no religion - should be but a small player among the 80 million world Anglicans.

Yet in the first decade of the twenty-first century, under the leadership of Archbishop Peter Jensen, Sydney Diocese has become a force to be reckoned with in the Anglican Communion. As a leader of the alternative international Anglican movement focused in the Global Anglican Future (GAFCON) project, his diocese became what can only be described as a destabilizing influence.

And it ends with:

Overall, Sydney’s influence is of real concern for the future of world Anglicanism.

The article is an edited extract from Dr Porter’s new book Sydney Anglicans and the Threat to World Anglicanism.

Dr Porter is a journalist and author, a Fellow of the University of Melbourne School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, and a member of the Australian General Synod.


ABC News has published this response by Mark Thompson Religion & Ethics: Serious flaws in Muriel Porter’s misguided polemic.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 29 August 2011 at 12:00pm BST | Comments (52) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Church of Australia | Anglican Communion

Saturday, 27 August 2011

opinion for a bank holiday weekend

Hywel Williams writes for The Guardian about Putting our faith in fragments.
“Be it medieval bones or rubble from the Twin Towers, relics affirm our belief in human endurance.”

Tom Wright writes for The Spectator about “How the Church of England can – and will – endure”: Keep the faith.

Riazat Butt of The Guardian is travelling through Afghanistan with army chaplains: Religion on the frontline. Here are her reports so far.
Religion in Camp Bastion: ‘What people are asked to do here can lead to big questions’
Baptism at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan
Life as a humanist with the armed forces in Afghanistan

Matthew Adams writes for The Guardian about Christianity and capital punishment: thou shalt not kill?
“A petition urging the reintroduction of the death penalty in the UK poses some pertinent questions for Christianity.”

Brandon Peach in Relevant Magazine asks Will the Internet Kill Christianity?
Richard Beck at Experimental Theology summarises the article and adds some comments of his own.

Nick Jowett asks in The Guardian Was Jesus judgmental?
“Perhaps Christ was a more normal human being than people have been willing to believe.”

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Friday, 26 August 2011

Liturgical consultation on marriage rites also hears about same-sex blessings

Today’s Church Times carries a news report, by me, on the recent meeting of the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation.

See ‘Respectful’ hearing for gay-rites debate.

“RITES relating to marriage” was the subject under study by 56 Anglican liturgists at the biennial meeting of the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation (IALC) earlier this month in Canterbury. Continuing work that was begun two years ago in New Zealand, a report on this topic will be completed by December.

Participants came from 19 An­glican provinces, including Brazil, Hong Kong, Nigeria, and the Southern Cone. Topics included theology, cultural contexts, and the shape and elements of ritual. Papers were delivered by the Bishop of Central Tanganyika, the Rt Revd Mdimi Mhogolo, and by the Revd Dr Simon Jones, of Merton College, Oxford…

…In addition to the regular sessions, there was a separate presentation by members of the Standing Commis­sion on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) of the Episcopal Church in the United States on their development of a theological rationale and litur­gical principles for same-sex bless­ings. Those who attended were asked to give feed­back by consider­ing specific ques­tions in small work­ing groups.

The chair of the IALC, Dr Eileen Scully, from Canada, said on Thurs­day of last week that the purpose of the IALC meeting was to work on rites related to heterosexual couples only. In countries where civil-marriage laws were changing, how­ever, to allow either civil unions or same-sex marriage, Churches faced challenges. They needed to reflect on the parallels with traditional marriage…

Anglican Communion Office backfiles of material on IALC here.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Uganda’s Cabinet throw out MP David Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

The Daily Monitor in Uganda reported earlier this week that Cabinet drops Bahati’s gay Bill.

Cabinet has finally thrown out the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009 on the advice of Mr Adolf Mwesige, the ruling party lawyer. However, Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, the architect of the Bill, insists the proposed legislation is now property of Parliament and that the Executive should stop “playing hide- and- seek games” on the matter.

See also
Daily Monitor Blocking gays Bill is moral corruption -MPs
Reuters Uganda strikes down bid to revive anti-gay bill
Behind the Mask Uganda Parliament meets September 7 to decide on ‘Kill the gays bill’
Radio Netherlands Gay community cautious after Ugandan bill thrown out
The New Civil Rights Movement Uganda: The Stealth Campaign To Quietly Pass The Kill The Gays Bill
Uganda’s Cabinet throw out MP David Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill on the Changing Attitude website.

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Saturday, 20 August 2011


Lesley Crawley writes for The Guardian’s Cif belief that Sexism runs deep in the Church of England.
“I’ve experienced prejudice working as an engineer and as a priest – only difference is, in the church it’s institutionalised.”

Anna Tims writes about the Bishop of London for The Guardian: A working life: the bishop.
“From dawn till dusk, the diocese of London fills Richard Chartres’ exhausting schedule. He’s got an Oyster card, but finds his hybrid car a convenient compromise.”

Judith Maltby writes for Cif belief about The Church of England’s shameful record on capital punishment.
“If parliament debates the death penalty, the church should speak against it with all the authority of a reformed sinner.”

British Religion in Numbers has data on this week’s A-level results in Religious Studies: Religious Studies A Levels, 2011.

Bruce Chilton in The Huffington Post asks (and answers) the question What Does The Bible Say About The Mother Of Jesus?

Also in The Huffington Post Maria Mayo writes about 5 Myths About Forgiveness in the Bible.

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Church Times reports on two equality law issues

The Church Times has a report by Pat Ashworth Nurses win abortion battle.

The first part of this deals with the case reported here: Equality Act applied in abortion case.

The second part deals with the EHRC intervention: Equality Commission reveals its views on 4 cases at the European Court. This finishes with a quote from me, which unfortunately got shortened in the editing process. The full quote reads as follows:

Many observers will welcome the EHRC’s suggestion that the rights of Eweida and Chaplin, under Article 9(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights to manifest their Christian beliefs, were not adequately considered. It is unclear why claims such as theirs ever came before the courts at all.

However, the EHRC’s view that the domestic courts came to the correct conclusions in the cases of Ladele and McFarlane will be very unwelcome to those who have campaigned so vigorously and so long on their behalf. Most employment lawyers though will breathe a sigh of relief that common sense has again prevailed.

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Thursday, 18 August 2011

Letter to Rowan Williams from Metropolitan Community Church leaders

Back in June, we noted that a Church Times leader had said this about that Legal Opinion, which was first reported much earlier in May.

In May, our view was a negative one, since the document listed several reasons why the appointment of a gay bishop could be blocked. This week’s positive spin has not changed our opinion. As the leaders of the “gay-led” Metropolitan Commun­ity Church in Manchester wrote to Dr Williams this week, “We note that [unlike a gay candidate] heterosexual candidates for bishop­rics are not asked to repent of any sexual activity with which the Crown Appointments Commission may be uncom­fortable.” More than one serving bishop has said that he would have con­sidered it an impertinence had he been asked about his sexual history.

The legal advice has no more weight now than before it was circulated to Synod members. It was not approved by the Bishops when they discussed it in May, not least because, to many, the brief was not how to remove discrimination within the Church, but how to continue it untroubled by the law.

The full text of the letter to Rowan Williams from MCC leaders mentioned above (and which was published here) is copied in full below the fold.

Dear Archbishop Rowan,

As leaders of the lgbt-led Metropolitan Community Church in the United Kingdom we wish to publically voice our dismay at the legal advice which has been given to the Church of England regarding the possibility of openly gay men being consecrated as bishops.

We understand that the legal advice suggests that there should be no bar, per se, to gay men serving as bishops provided that they repent of any same sex activity before they entered the priesthood, have lived by the requirement to be celibate since ordination and promise to continue to be celibate.

We feel that the spectacle of the Church of England trying to avoid complying with the law is unedifying and betrays a deep unease about the wonderful diversity of human sexuality. We note that heterosexual candidates for bishoprics are not asked to repent of any sexual activity with which the Crown Appointments Commission may be uncomfortable. We also note that Jeffrey John, an outstanding priest and leader of the Church of England, has publically stated he remains celibate out of fidelity to your church’s teaching yet he was still blocked from preferment. Even when we keep your rules, we’re still discriminated against.

We also think the policy of requiring celibacy will simply make the Church of England look even more ridiculous and open yourselves up to the most dreadful kind of casuistry as people wonder what, exactly celibacy requires. Could, for example, a gay bishop kiss his partner? Does the bishop and his partner have to sleep in separate rooms in the episcopal palace, or would twin beds in the same room suffice? If twin beds are acceptable what would be a “celibate” distance between the beds – 5 feet, 10 feet, or opposite ends of the room? Do any lapses in this celibacy rule have to be reported and, if so, to whom? The Archbishop of the Province? Her Majesty The Queen? The Prime Minister? The Diocesan Synod or just the local press?

The failure of the Church of England to embrace the reality of the diversity of human sexuality repels people from the wider Church as we are all deemed to be intolerant.

We are an lgbt-led church, yet we talk far more about mission than we do about sexuality. We commend this approach to you. In an age where many people are “spiritual but not religious”, where society is increasingly open to lesbian and gay people and where there is great hunger for authentic spirituality it is sad to see the energy and resources of the Church of England be used to avoid the provisions of the Equalities Act.

Yours Sincerely,

The Reverends Andy Braunston, Kieren Bourne, Jane Clarke, Catherine Dearlove, Chris Dowd, Debbie Gaston, Sharon Ferguson, Dwayne Morgan, Maxwell Reay, and Ruth Scott.

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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Dean of York defends Anglican cathedrals

The Very Reverend Keith Jones, Dean of York has written to the Catholic Herald, responding to an intemperate and ill-informed attack on York Minster’s admissions charges and the Church of England in general.

An entry charge at York Minster is needed to maintain such a gigantic building

SIR – William Oddie makes very hostile comments about York Minster in protest at the entry charge, and many other things. He does not say how otherwise we are to maintain this gigantic building, which is not subsidised by the state, and which employs (proudly) numerous skilled workers in stone and glass, and music and teaching, to maintain York Minster for the nation and the world at large. We are not profiteers, but a charity. We take pains to make our references to our constant worship and Christian witness such that non-Christians will not be put off, but his sneers fail to mention that we give free entry to acts of worship or the fact that hundreds attend Evensong each day.

Then there is his charge of the Minster being “purloined” at the Reformation. As an expression of hard-line opinion he is entitled to utter it, but for those Christians who hope and pray for better it is crude and hopeless. For the record, our Anglican view is that York Minster is the product and expression of English Christianity, and belongs now as always to the people of England under their lawful sovereign. The Dean and Chapter maintain and administer it for them by the same law of the land.

The relationship of the Church of England with the see of Rome has varied in form considerably over the centuries; however, we do not believe that the Church of this land is constituted by our recognition of the jurisdiction of the Pope and we hold to the hope of a union of the Churches in which we can belong together again, the honour (and even primacy) of the Roman see being appropriately recognised. Of course it is a difficult thing, but York Minster is a place where already many traditions of English Christianity meet often in friendship and hospitality, praying together and sharing many things we hold in common. Mr Oddie’s accusations of criminality hardly relate to what we believe to be the guidance, let alone the charitableness, of the Holy Spirit, but rather to the jeers of sectarian strife.

Yours faithfully,
Keith Jones

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Monday, 15 August 2011

Equality Commission reveals its views on 4 cases at the European Court

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published Legal intervention on religion or belief rights: seeking your views.

Last month we announced that we had applied to intervene at the European Court of Human Rights and we have now been granted permission to do so.

We are considering using the four cases already before this Court as a platform to advise on and clarify the interpretation of human rights laws. We are seeking your views on our proposed submission on the human rights elements of the four cases claiming religious discrimination, and separately, whether the concept of reasonable accommodation has any useful practical application in cases concerning the manifestation of religion or belief…

And there is a 6 page consultation document (.doc)

The essence of their position is this:

We propose to intervene in:

• Eweida and Chaplin on the basis that the Courts may not have given sufficient weight to Article 9(2) of the Convention.

• Ladele and Mcfarlane on the basis that the domestic courts came to the correct conclusions.


We had suggested that our intervention might put forward the idea of extending the concept of reasonable accommodation beyond disability. However, we also know that this idea needs more careful consideration than the timetable for the European Court of Human Rights allows.

So they won’t now be doing that, but they are seeking views on the subject.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 15 August 2011 at 3:21pm BST | Comments (13) | TrackBack
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Equality Act applied in abortion case

Neil Addison reports on his Religion Law Blog about a new use of the Religion and Belief provisions in the Equality Act 2010.

See Abortion and the Equality Act.

…From the facts it was clear that the Hospital had not recognised or accepted that the Nurses had a legal right to refuse to participate. EMA has been held by the High Court, in the BPAS case mentioned, to be an Abortion procedure under the Abortion Act 1967 and as such the Nurses had an absolute right to refuse to participate under the conscientious objection provisions of s4 of the Abortion Act.

Abortion Act 1967 - 4. Conscientious objection to participation in treatment
(1) Subject to sub-section (2) of this section, no person shall be under any duty whether by contract or by any statutory or other legal requirement to participate in any treatment authorised by this Act to which he has a conscientious objection

TMLC wrote to the hospital stating that the Nurses were refusing to work in the Clinic and quoting their rights under s4 Abortion Act. The letter also stated that their belief in the sanctity of life from conception onwards was a philosophical belief protected under the Equality Act and therefore any attempt to pressure them into participating in the Abortion Clinic or to suggest that their refusal would affect their career would be illegal under the Equality Act 2010.

This particular interpretation of the Equality Act has never, to my knowledge, been argued before however since the Courts have accepted that the philosophical belief in Global warming is protected under Equality legislation, see Grainger Plc & Ors v. Nicholson [2009] UKEAT 0219_09_0311 I could see no reason why belief that human life begins at conception should not be equally protected.

The reason for including the Equality Act in the letters to the Hospital was in order to provide the Nurses with additional protections. Section 4 of the Abortion Act though it is clear does not provide any enforcement mechanism and also does not protect a conscientious objector from being pressurised to participate in Abortion, held back in their career due to their pro-life belief or indeed not employed in the first place. However using the Equality Act as well as s4 of the Abortion Act meant that the Nurses would be able to claim Harassment, Victimisation or Discrimination in an Employment Tribunal if they were put under pressure at work because of their reliance on the conscientious objection protection in s4…

Gavin Drake has some further comments on this.

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Saturday, 13 August 2011


Helen Berry writes for the OUPblog about Why history says gay people can’t marry…nor can anyone else* (*unless they have kids of their own).

Bishop Pierre Whalon writes for The Huffington Post Why I Am Not An Atheist.

At Cif belief Thomas Prosser argues that Christian teen camps are wicked, innit, whilst Steve Clifford responds that Christian camps are not about indoctrination.

John Dominic Crossan writes for The Huffington Post about The Search for the Historical Paul: What Paul Thought About Women.

Martin Saunders writes for Cif belief that After the riots, my faith-based youth work gives me hope in this generation.
“Faith-based youth work has something special to offer young people, because it offers something distinctive: transformation.”

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RC adoption agency persists in its appeal

In June we reported that Catholic Care had been refused leave to appeal by the Charity Tribunal, but noted that the agency’s solicitor had said:

the charity could appeal to the Upper Tribunal for a review of the charity tribunal’s decision not to allow the appeal. He said trustees had not decided whether to do so.

And it is now reported that they have done this. See this from Third Sector Catholic Care given leave to appeal again.

…After a further charity tribunal ruling in June that it would not accept an appeal against the decision, Catholic Care has appealed to the Upper Tribunal, which has the same status as the High Court.

The Upper Tribunal confirmed this week that it would allow the appeal.

Benjamin James, a solicitor at the law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, acting on behalf of Catholic Care, told Third Sector the charity would argue in its appeal that the charity tribunal had failed to properly perform the balancing act required to determine whether discrimination was reasonable given that, according to the charity, the alternative was closing its adoption service.

James said the charity would attempt to overturn the charity tribunal’s ruling that it had not provided sufficient evidence to show that losing funds from the Catholic Church would force it to close the service. The tribunal had suggested the charity could raise money from other sources…

The historical background to this case can be found in this excellent article in Caritas from last October, by Michael King and Fraser Simpson Equality v religious belief. They then go on to comment:

Alternative approaches

The solution followed by three agencies, covering seven dioceses in England & Wales has been to embrace the regulations, both in technical detail and in spirit, by pursuing an open policy with regard to potential adopters.

The result has been that non-discriminatory agencies are simply carrying on doing what they have done before, having regard for the best interests of the child.

Some commentators agree that this has been achieved without undermining or jeopardising the Catholic nature of the adoption agency involved. Although some bishops and clergy may not feel able to sit on the boards of such agencies, it is argued that this does not necessarily alter their Catholic heritage, charism and ethos. It must be remembered that, at law, faith-based adoption agencies are not usually branches of a particular religious body, but are generally autonomous charities in their own right, and so the question of the interests of those whom they are set up to serve has to be uppermost in the minds of the trustees, whatever their decision may be.

Some church leaders have suggested that, going forwards, funding of agencies might be withdrawn and leases over diocesan properties might not be renewed. Agencies that do follow the open route must be aware of these risks and try to mitigate the potential harm by positive dialogue with dioceses and their people. They might perhaps draw comfort from the fact that there are many Catholic charities in existence, dealing with education, the care of disabled or elderly people or rehabilitation of sufferers from addiction, which have no clerical trustees but are nevertheless accepted as carrying out the wider mission of the Church.

The future

All of the Catholic adoption agencies have deservedly high reputations for the work which they have pursued in the best interests of the children whom they were established to serve and one hopes that in one way or another this work will continue.

However, it is in our respectful view possible for those agencies, which after careful thought have adopted an open policy, to comply with the regulations and yet to think of themselves as pursuing the mission of the Church towards children in need of adoptive parents.

The most recent report from Caritas also notes this:

Sarah Clune of law firm Stone King told Caritas: “An interesting point to note is that in its judgment of 26 April 2011, the Tribunal referred to the Public Sector Equality Duty (s.149 Equality Act 2010, which has since come into force), which imposes a duty on public bodies to pay due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity.

Whilst not relevant to the Tribunal’s decision, the Tribunal stated that even if the charity were permitted to discriminate in reliance upon s.139 of the Equality Act 2010, the duty is likely to impact, in due course, on the willingness of local authorities to work with a charity which discriminated on the grounds of sexual orientation in respect of adoption placements.”

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Friday, 12 August 2011

more comments on the riots

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke in the House of Lords yesterday. His remarks are here.

So did the Archbishop of York. Text over here.

The Bishop of London also made comments, after visiting the affected areas. See this.

Today’s Church Times (press date Wednesday) carries reports of church responses.
See Rioters help themselves; Christians help victims by Ed Thornton
and also Bishop contrasts ‘thuggery’ of vandals with soldiers’ sacrifice.

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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Bishops comment on London civil disturbances

The Bishop of Southwark has issued a statement: Message to churches about the London riots.

The Bishop of Willesden (an area within the Diocese of London) has issued a statement to his clergy. This is copied below the fold.

The Bishop of London has also issued a statement: London riots: message from the Bishop of London.

The Bishop of St Albans has issued a statement with other church leaders: Bishop leads message of support for Luton

The [RC] Archbishop of Westminster issued this statement: Archbishop Nichols has asked Catholics to pray for those directly affected by the violence in London.


We’re all shocked and horrified at what’s been happening these past few days in our communities across London. Whatever sparked the original violence in Tottenham, the copycat looting and pillaging is not a legitimate form of protest – people are, sadly, trashing their own localities. There are many questions to be asked about how we have created a society in which greed and consumerism combine to make people desire commodities and are prepared to steal in order to get them. And where young people see the destruction of property as a form of fun and entertainment. Relationships between the police and young people in many parts of London are fragile – and we will need to work hard at rebuilding them in the aftermath of all this. But there’s no excuse for lawlessness, either. Criminal behaviour mustn’t prosper.

Our Christian response must be to pray – for the peace and good of our cities. Where appropriate and safe, we may wish to open our churches for prayer and practical support for local people. There are clean-up operations going on in Ealing and other places where we can be involved practically. And where we are in contact with local youth, we should be doing what we can to persuade them to stay off the streets.

I know that the Bishops of Edmonton and Stepney have been out on the streets to pray, support and encourage. We need to seek the good of all, and work and pray for justice, peace and the rule of law in our communities.

The Bishop of Edmonton and the Archdeacon of Hampstead are currently handling diocesan responses to the situation.

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Sunday, 7 August 2011

further developments in the ECHR appeal

Two more developments in the previously reported appeal to the European Court of Human Rights of four recent cases involving discrimination in the UK, and the announcement by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that it would intervene in the case. That development was recorded here (12 July), and then here (14 July).

Now the Christian Institute is reporting that Angela Mason, one of the EHRC commissioners has said:

“The commission has already decided not to put forward ‘reasonable adjustment’ arguments if we do continue with our intervention.”

Their source is Pink News which carries further comments from Ms Mason:

“The legal issues are complex but it is a question of harm. And we have to be very careful when the issue is of manifesting religious belief that is about discrimination.”

When asked whether she had been consulted before the EHRC made its announcement, she said: “A press release is a press release. I don’t think it fully represented the opinion of the commission.

“It is important to carefully consider all the points and arguments that have been made and take them into account before we decide to intervene. We haven’t actually been given permission to intervene yet and there are sensitive and conflicting issues.”

Speaking about her personal views, she added: “The balance of reasonable adjustment does not deal in the cases of Ladele and McFarlane.

“If we go back to the issue of harm, there is less harm involved in the wearing of crosses than the view that gay men are less equal.”

The second development is the National Secular Society has announced that it is also going to intervene in the case. See NSS given leave to intervene at ECHR in religious discrimination cases.

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Saturday, 6 August 2011

What Rowan Williams wrote about homosexuality in 1988

This is taken from a Jubilee Group pamphlet, published in 1988, and titled Speaking Love’s Name; Homosexuality: Some Catholic and Socialist Perspectives. Several excerpts are available on the web here.

The Introduction to the pamphlet was written by Rowan Willliams. A copy has been placed below the fold.

More about the Jubilee Group starting here.

The General Synod resolution of 11 November 1987 to which Rowan Williams refers:

‘This Synod affirms that the biblical and traditional teaching on chastity and fidelity in personal relationships is a response to, and expression of, God’s love for each one of us, and in particular affirms:

(1) that sexual intercourse is an act of total commitment which belongs properly within a permanent married relationship,
(2) that fornication and adultery are sins against this ideal, and are to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion,

(3) that homosexual genital acts also fall short of this ideal, and are likewise to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion,

(4) that all Christians are called to be exemplary in all spheres of morality, including sexual morality, and that holiness of life is particularly required of Christian leaders.’

As noted in GS Misc 842b:

Although often referred to as the ‘Higton motion’ (the debate was on a Private Member’s Motion from the Revd Tony Higton) what the Synod passed was in fact a substantially recast motion proposed by way of an amendment by the then Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Michael Baughen.

Introduction by Rowan Williams

The past year has been a wintry one for the Church of England; a time in which it has often been difficult to believe that it is possible to be an Anglican with integrity. We have shown ourselves to be self-destructive in our inner conflicts, in some very dramatic ways: above all, we have shown a degree of collective neurosis on the subject of sexuality that is really quite astounding in this century and this culture. We have, it seems, been happy to collude with the paranoia of populist homophobia, fuelled by the AIDS epidemic and by myths of gay ‘propaganda’ in schools — fuelled, that is, by tragedy on the one hand and lies on the other. Last November, the General Synod passed a resolution whose force remains ambiguous, declaring the undesirability of gay clergy being allowed to express and experience their sexual identity in the way most people do. Even the most superficial analysis of the debate shows how the Synod was simultaneously cajoled and panicked into this move: well-meaning ‘liberals’, equally afraid of the harshness of the original motion (about which the less said the better) and of getting involved in a genuinely theological debate on sexuality, joined hands with some of the most disturbing elements in the contemporary Church of England, those who are determined to make it an ideologically monolithic body, to produce a vote which has, in practice, delivered much of what the original motion aimed at. This shabby compromise has been held up by bishops as representing the ‘mind’ of the Church, and accorded something like legislative force. Bishops have appealed to it in justifying their actions against gay clergy and ordinands. It is becoming harder all the time for a gay person to be honest in the Church. We have helped to build a climate in which concealment is rewarded — while at the same time conniving with the hysteria of the gutter press, and effectively giving into their hands as victims all those who do not manage successful concealment. And the lowest point has come with the vendetta conducted by the Diocese of London through its legal officers against the parish of St. Botolph’s, Aldgate, and the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.

What, as a church, do we think we are doing? It is time we heard and applied to ourselves the woes addressed by Jesus to those who put stumbling blocks before those who believe — or seek to believe, or understand what it is to believe. For whom are the actions of the past few months good news? Perhaps for the moralists who seem to think that discipleship is primarily about rule-keeping in a restricted field of behaviour (but who are not above collaborating with a segment of the Press that is openly pornographic); or for those who cannot cope with the rapidity of change in sexual mores, especially the new habit of talking with confidence and self-trust about sexuality. It is possible to feel some real sympathy for people who are bewildered and even hurt by such changes, and it is crucial not to forget that they too have pastoral needs. But as the New Testament makes plain, to go at the pace of the slowest, to respect the human needs of those whose vision is less clear, is not to compromise on the substantive point of what liberty in Christ means. The Church of England has indeed been giving an uncertain moral lead, just as it has been accused of doing — but the uncertainty has been over the moral and spiritual importance of truthfulness, truth to one’s own nature, truth in relations with other believers. The more we make such truthfulness impossible, the more we quench the Spirit.

As the debate amply shows, ‘liberalism’ is not enough. It is hopelessly inadequate now to think that we can go back to the comfortably discreet situation in which sexual orientation was known and tacitly accepted, but never discussed, let alone affirmed. Such a situation too helps to nourish just that coyness, adolescent naughtiness and irresponsibility which many, gay and straight, I have found so tiresome a feature of the ecclesiastical gay scene: no-one holds you responsible for an adult sexuality, or suggests that you might need to share and reflect as much as anyone else, and there is little help in working out a tough and consistent morality. To argue for the need for gay liberation in the Church is not to commend a policy of letting everyone go their way in a bland situationist paradise, but to ask that this issue become part of the collective and public reflection of the Church, something on which experience can be shared and supportive and challenging patterns evolved. But aren’t there, frankly, a great many more important matters for the Church in general and Catholic Socialists in particular, to get involved in at the moment? This is the voice of the contemporary wisdom of the Labour Party, in other terms, and, there as here, it assumes that justice is divisible. If we have no integrity here, we cannot expect to carry conviction elsewhere, because the issues of victimisation and disempowering are the same here as with the questions of race, sex and class. Even more importantly, for the Christian, we, as a church, make the claim that we show something of that order of human relationships in which God is the final creative authority (‘the Kingdom of God’). When we produce a situation of repression and dishonesty, we at the very least put that claim in question for many of those in need of the good news of Christ. This is not an optional extra for us. The present collection of essays is an attempt to acknowledge the mess we are — in; to express some of the hurt and anger that has been generated (not least among those who feel that their pastors in the Church, especially those in ‘leadership’ positions, have let them down); and to move the necessary theological discussion a little bit further forward. But it will have made its point if it communicates why so many people currently feel ashamed of our Church’s public voice on this issue. Not all of us are fully agreed on the tactics or the theology of where we go next; but we share the sense that our Church has not done well in these matters, and that we are in urgent need of plain speaking and clear thinking, recognising that there is a debate to be conducted (which has already begun long since, if the truth be told) about theology and spirituality, one that is not to be sidetracked either by the trading of texts or by a tactful but finally corrupting liberal discretion.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 1:10pm BST | Comments (59) | TrackBack
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opinion for the Transfiguration

Pierre Whalon at Anglicans Online asks (and answers) What is Anglicanism?

Giles Fraser writes for the Church Times about Probing the virtues of economic growth.

Mr CatOLick asks Why does Christianity hurt the young?

Bill Carroll writes for the Episcopal Café: Wounded by God.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 11:23am BST | Comments (4) | TrackBack
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Friday, 5 August 2011

friction over the Ordinariate

We reported earlier on the challenge being made in respect of the large financial grant from the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament to the Ordinariate.

There was a further story in the Church Times on Ordinariate finances: Ordinariate describes its £1-million donation as allowing breathing space.

The correspondence columns have had several letters about this, see last week and also two weeks earlier.

This week there is another story, about another society, see President of CU to quit over its exclusion of Ordinariate. And more letters, but these are behind the paywall until next week.

The Church Union website is over here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 5 August 2011 at 11:50pm BST | Comments (64) | TrackBack
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The Future(s) of Anglicanism

Gladstone’s Library is holding a residential event from the evening of Friday 2nd to lunchtime on Sunday 4th September which is titled The Future(s) of Anglicanism.

Is there a distinctive Anglican ethos and does it still survive? What does Anglicanism stand for? Is Anglicanism in danger of splitting apart over contentious issues like gay clergy, divorce, women bishops - the so-called western liberal agenda? The end of Anglicanism as we know it?

Is an Anglican Covenant the answer to our contemporary problems? Amidst all the controversy do we miss signs of hope and vibrancy - and the beginnings of an exciting future?

The speakers are:

  • Bishop Gregory Cameron
  • Jonathan Clatworthy
  • Bishop Gayle Harris
  • Simon Sarmiento
  • Anne Stevens
  • Peter Francis

More details from this page.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 5 August 2011 at 2:30pm BST | Comments (10) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 4 August 2011

Bishop Victoria Matthews on Women in the Episcopate

Victoria Matthews, the Bishop of Christchurch in New Zealand addressed a fringe meeting (arranged by WATCH and the Open Synod Group) at last month’s meeting of the Church of England General Synod.

Although her address was primarily about Women in the Episcopate, she also spoke about the earthquakes in Christchurch.

The full text of her address is below the fold.

Church of England General Synod, 10 July 2011
Address by Bishop Victoria Matthews
on the Subject of
Women in the Episcopate.

Opening Prayer:
Gracious God we come before you in thanksgiving for our life in Christ and for the manifold blessings we have received from your hands. In this time we have together considering your call and the exercise of ordered ministry in your church, grant us grace that our ears may hear and eyes see the fullness of the life of the Body of Christ on earth and the promises of your Kingdom yet to be realized. Come Holy Spirit, and set our hearts on fire for love of you. In the strong name of Jesus Christ we pray. AMEN.

I would like to begin by thanking WATCH and Open Synod for this invitation. Thank you also to Archbishops Rowan and John for their warm welcome to this General Synod. To begin with a disclaimer, the topic I am asked to address seems a bit dated. I do not say that as a criticism but as an admission. I have been in episcopal ministry for over 17 years, longer than I served in parish ministry and theological education combined. Indeed I have served in three different dioceses [Toronto, Edmonton and Christchurch] as either Suffragan or Diocesan Bishop. Currently I am service the Diocese of Christchurch, New Zealand where we have experienced an astounding and unsettling 7000 plus earthquakes and aftershocks in what is now being described as writing a new chapter in earthquake history. 181 people have died with many others injured. A third of the listed buildings in the city are down and more are to come. 23 Anglican churches are unsafe to enter, with a smaller number of vicarages and halls also listed for demolition. The Cathedral, which is the icon of the city has been sufficiently damaged to require partial or full deconstruction. On June 13, just a very few weeks ago, when the fourth and fifth major earthquakes struck [both over 5.5] the icon within the icon of the cathedral, the Rose Window, fell inwards along with 75% of the west wall. Throughout this time of devastation and upset, the National Government and the Christchurch city council, recognizing that what we are experiencing is the biggest natural disaster ever experienced in New Zealand, have looked repeatedly to the church for leadership. Remember this is New Zealand with a culture that is increasingly secular. But it does have to be said that this secular self-understanding has not always been the identity of Christchurch. The history of Christchurch goes back to Archbishop Sumner and the Canterbury Association when four sailing vessels were sent to New Zealand to establish a new colony more English than England, named for Christchurch Oxford and intended to be clearly Anglican in its vision and reality Today it continues to be the most Anglican part of New Zealand. When I was elected in Christchurch by the Electoral College of the Diocese, the medium level upset was the election of a Canadian bishop sight unseen, elected on reputation and references and not that I was a woman. There was also an upset that I was reputed to be an Anglo Catholic, yet had just been elected Bishop by a clearly evangelical diocese, but again the controversy was not about gender. You may remember that Penelope Jamieson, now retired, was elected in 1990 by the Diocese of Dunedin, New Zealand, as the first woman Diocesan in the Communion. This is not to say there was no concern about gender but simply that it was well down the list.

So again let me say that speaking about the idea of women in the episcopate does seem a bit odd to me. Believe in it? I live the reality. But let me also say that if you are experiencing this conversation and my presence as something of a disaster, an earthquake happening out of the blue, than please know you will be a casualty if you do not actually engage the earthquake. Sitting in shock as your house comes down in not healthy. Earthquakes require response and recovery because the one thing that will not happen is that they go away and life continues as normal. Earthquakes change your experience of life and knowing that is the first step to a healthy and life-saving response.

Over 20 years on in the history of the episcopal ministry involving both genders, or as the Canadian Church said, bringing completeness to episcopal ministry, I no longer can actually seriously engage the argument about the validity of the sacraments celebrated by women. The sacraments we celebrate are valid and transform lives much as the sacraments celebrated by men in holy orders. That is because in the lives of the men and women the Holy Spirit has conferred gifts of grace. My successor in the Diocese of Edmonton was ordered deacon and priest by a woman in episcopal ministry who then was a co-consecrator at the episcopal consecration. In the USA there are a growing number of bishops all consecrated by the Presiding Bishop, also female. Apostolic Succession has not been endangered by these episcopal acts. Rather Apostolic Succession is the handing on of the apostolic faith and the authority to uphold and protect it, which has less to do with the pedigree of the episcopal minster than the work of the Holy Spirit. Thirty-five bishops participated in my consecration by far more important; the Holy Spirit was present and active in that ordination. So why all the fuss? Let’s take a closer look.

Beginning in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the seminaries of the Communion began to emphasize the need to critique the tradition. Liberation theology, Black theology and feminist theology, to cite examples, began to highlight the gaps and oversights we had permitted in our reception of the Biblical narrative. Their insight was that Scriptural proclamation had become increasingly the telling of the Story of Salvation in ways which upheld the authority of the powerful and present day office holders. Everyone had their place and was expected to know their place. Gradually, thanks to Liberation, Black and Feminist Theology, with the emphasis on the Story of the Exodus and a re-reading of the Gospels, new insights began. The insights highlighted what had been overlooked and dared to ask what else needed to be heard again as if for the first time. The concern that they brought to the attention of the churches was not a new problem. If one reads about the preaching of the Gospel on the Plantations in the Southern USA during the days of the slave trade, the reality was that the sermons preached to the owners were most frequently on the epistles. Upholding the status quo was an important part of Christian ministry. The Tradition does need to be critiqued and I say that as one who holds the Tradition in high esteem. However by the time we were into 1990’s and frankly into the 21st century as well, there was a distressing tendency to critique the Tradition without first teaching the Tradition. So as you consider the question of the ordination to the episcopate of both genders, in this province, I believe that it is as important to listen carefully to the Tradition as it is to critique the Tradition. For this reason I have been adamant that voices on all sides need to be heard. There is much we can learn from each other. For too long we have been listening only to the voices who agree with us.

For this reason I think it is important to recognize that women have not been part of the ordered ministry of the churches for very long periods of time in church history. Some would say that this is due to questions of headship founded upon Scriptural teaching. Others would say it has to do with the requirement of physical similarity to the male body to the body of the man Jesus. And others would say that it was so in the beginning and always should be.

However, if we look again at the Tradition we notice that in the body of the Scriptures we do have some remarkable examples of leadership, proclamation by, and vocation of both genders. To mention but a few examples, there is Lydia who enables the Gospel to go into Europe by persuading Paul to preach there. Her role is extraordinarily episcopal. Then backing up a touch we have the Pharisee, Saul of tarsus, rounding up the leaders and members of The Way in order to put them to death. Acts 9 clearly says it was men and women that he was targeting. I suggest to you that Paul was enough of an Alpha male that he was most interested in gathering the leaders. Both male and female Christians are his target. This strongly suggests to me that women held positions of leadership in the early church and that this was recognized and acted on by Saul. But as a catholic as well as evangelical Christian I find the strongest argument is the Virgin Mary who grows in her womb the body and blood of Christ, the incarnate Son of God. She is therefore the first celebrant of the Eucharist. “Let it be according to your word.”

The list of arguments goes on and on and I am not going to rehearse them all here. However I will say that what deeply saddens me more than any of these arguments, for or against, is that the church, the Body of Christ, is divided and rent asunder by these arguments. And in fact it is far more than arguments that are at stake. I fear we may be guilty of the sin of idolatry. So let’s back up a moment and remember what is of the greatest importance. We are, all of us, called to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Bishops are the successors of the apostles in every century. To be an apostle, two things are required. First one must be the witness of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. And secondly one must be commissioned or sent by Christ to proclaim the Good News. Mary Magdalene [“I have seen the Lord”] fulfilled both those criteria and hence is called the Apostle to the Apostles. So if we are going to worry about who should be a bishop at this time and in this part of the world, the requirement must be that a bishop, as a successor to the apostles, is able and eager to witness to the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ and be recognized as one who has been sent to proclaim our Lord’s Resurrection to the world. That is why Paul who did not know Jesus in the flesh could claim to be an apostle. It was because he was a witness of the resurrection of Christ in the encounter on the road to Damascus and he was sent out by no one less than the Christ to make this proclamation. To state the obvious: this is all about Jesus and the Resurrection, and not about gender. To say that one needs to have certain gender specific human attributes are more important than what we have received as a gift from Almighty God. And that to me is idolatry and serious sin. So I would suggest that all parties in this need to repent and commit, yet again, to praying for God’s guidance in this matter.

My time will start to run out soon so let me say a couple of things about the matter of women in the episcopate: and the concerns raised with respect to ecumenical dialogue. We all know that the actions of provinces such as Canada, the Episcopal Church, New Zealand and Australia in ordaining women to the episcopate has led to increased tension with other Communions specifically Rome and the Orthodox. It would seem this is particularly true if the Church of England takes the step. Frankly I do not understand that as I believe that the Church of England is one province of our beloved Communion and not the head Office. But let’s ask a couple of further reaching questions here. Does Rome recognize the episcopate of my brother bishops in the Anglican Communion? She does not. I have worked, as the Anglican Bishop, in dioceses alongside Roman bishops who are conservative, even by Roman standards. Has this proved to be difficult? No it has not. In fact I would have to say that in those instances I enjoyed a particularly good relationship, and we were able to initiate projects together with ease. At the end of the day we still did not agree on everything but the level of respect we had for each other was and is immense. In earthquake devastated Christchurch, I have worked most closely with Bishop Barry Jones my brother in Christ in the Roman Church and together we are spearheading an ecumenical response entitles Rebuilding the Faith of Canterbury, to the disaster.

One other personal story: My mentor as a priest and for many years as a bishop was an exceptionally wise and holy Anglican bishop by the name of Henry Hill. Bishop Henry was Archbishop Robert Runcie’s delegate for work with the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox. It was my privilege to preach at Henry’s funeral. Afterwards one of the Orthodox prelates said to Alyson Barnett Cowan, with tears in his eyes, that he so regretted not being able to share the Eucharist with Henry and the other Anglicans on that occasion. HE did not because he knew it would be a stumbling block for his brethren, not because he found there to be a problem.

The decision before the Church of England is of course a decision that only your Church can make. You are presently deciding diocese by diocese. I am aware there is great concern about the outcome tearing the church apart. There are concerns about proper safeguards for minorities. All that only you can decide. But I do want to say that in each of the 3 dioceses I have had the incredible privilege to serve, there have been those who do not agree with the ordination of women to the episcopate. In Edmonton the concern was Anglo Catholic and was about women presiding at the sacraments, and in Christchurch the concern is of the more Sydney minded evangelicals and has to do with women preaching. In every instance we have managed to work together with great respect and mutual support. Following the September and February earthquakes in Christchurch I received numerous telephone calls from the Archbishop of Sydney offering his prayers, financial support and actual fundraising for us. You may remember that Sydney Diocese suffered huge financial losses recently, but that did not stop an initial gift of $10,000 to the Diocese of Christchurch for pastoral and earthquake response ministry, Subsequent gifts were designated ‘to be used at the discretion of the Bishop’. Archbishop Jenson has also invited me to visit and stay in his guest apartment when I need to get away from the devastation in Christchurch. None of this is meant, for one second, to say that I have unique or special gifts at reconciliation. What I am saying to you is that if I can do it, anyone can enjoy a very high level of fellowship and partnership in the Gospel. It is after all our common calling in Christ. The Bishop is the symbol of unity, and whether my brother bishop is Roman, Orthodox, Anglo Catholic or evangelical Anglican, I have never felt that my episcopal ministry has been an insurmountable stumbling block to the ministry that we share in Christ and offer to the glory of God.

In conclusion, I offer you my prayer as this Province continues to seek the mind of Christ, and discern how to serve God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. I pray that as you make your decision Diocese by Diocese, you will be shaped by our calling to give glory to God, to be reconciled in Christ and to proclaim the Gospel in the world our precious Lord Jesus died on the Cross to save. Thanks be to God.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 4 August 2011 at 11:18am BST | Comments (39) | TrackBack
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Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Anglican Coalition offers assistance in Sexuality Reviews

Press release from the LGB&T Anglican Coalition.

Coalition offers assistance in Sexuality Reviews
Tuesday 2nd August 2011 - for immediate use

The LGB&T Anglican Coalition has written to the House of Bishops to offer its help in the forthcoming reviews on sexuality and the church.

Following his announcement of reviews on Civil Partnerships and Guidelines on Human Sexuality by the Bishop of Norwich, the LGB&T Anglican Coalition has written to the Rt Rev Graham James welcoming the reviews, and offering to meet with him in the near future.

The letter states, “We are sure that you will want to consult widely in the review process, and would like to offer our services at an early stage. We hope you will welcome this offer to meet a small team representing the Coalition to discuss how our members can contribute to this work.”

This offer stands in sharp contrast to claims made by Anglican Mainstream that such discussions have already been taking place during the past year.

Chair of the Coalition, Rev Benny Hazlehurst, said, “We are looking forward to the opportunity to engage with the House of Bishops in their work on sexuality, but Anglican Mainstream’s assertion that the reviews have come out of pre-existing discussions with LGBT groups is both untrue and misleading.”

In an open letter to Anglican Mainstream, the Coalition says it read with surprise Anglican Mainstream’s claim that the reviews “followed a year of conversations chaired by the Bishops of Lincoln and Bath and Wells, commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, with leaders of the Lesbian and Gay groups in the Church of England.”

The open letter goes on to say that “Neither the Coalition nor any of its member groups were invited to take part in conversations of this kind.”

If the House of Bishops agrees to such meetings however, they will be in full accordance with Lambeth Resolution 1.10 which calls for a commitment ‘to listen to the experience of homosexual persons’ and the Coalition looks forward to the start of formal discussions.

The full text of the open letter to Anglican Mainstream follows below.

Full Text - Open letter to Anglican Mainstream

Dr Philip Giddings (Convenor)
Anglican Mainstream
21 High Street
OX29 4HE

Dear Dr Giddings

I am writing as Chair of the LGB&T Anglican Coalition, which brings together all the UK-based groups that work on behalf of the LGB&T members of the Church of England.

We read with surprise Anglican Mainstream’s ‘A response to the House of Bishops’ announcement of a review of its Guidelines on Human Sexuality’. It is wholly inaccurate that ‘This review followed a year of conversations chaired by the Bishops of Lincoln and Bath and Wells, commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, with leaders of the Lesbian and Gay groups in the Church of England.’ Neither the Coalition nor any of its member groups were invited to take part in conversations of this kind.

We would question the assertion, with regard to ‘the 1998 Lambeth 1.10’ resolution, that ‘the listening process… was never part of the intention of the 1.10 resolution’. Part c of this resolution called for a commitment ‘to listen to the experience of homosexual persons’, and this was in accord with the earlier calls for dialogue as well as study in Lambeth 1978 Resolution 10 and Lambeth 1988 Resolution 64.

To quote from the subsection report recommended in part a of Resolution 1.10 in 1998:

We have prayed, studied and discussed these issues, and we are unable to reach a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised. There is much that we do not yet understand…

The challenge to our Church is to maintain its unity while we seek, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to discern the way of Christ for the world today with respect to human sexuality. To do so will require sacrifice, trust and charity towards one another, remembering that ultimately the identity of each person is defined by Christ.

You can contact me on

Yours sincerely,

Rev Benny Hazlehurst
LGB&T Anglican Coalition

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 2 August 2011 at 12:30pm BST | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Monday, 1 August 2011

General Synod - questions and answers

The questions asked at last month’s Church of England General Synod, and the answers, are now available online.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 1 August 2011 at 4:51pm BST | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod