Tuesday, 31 January 2012

WATCH: ‘A Way in the Wilderness’

WATCH have announced an event A Way in the Wilderness to be held at the start of next week’s meeting of General Synod.

They will be gathering at St Margaret’s Westminster on 6 February from 11.00 am to 2.00 pm for a panel discussion and service in the course of which they will hear from two of the Anglican Communion’s women bishops about their experience of episcopal ministry and pray for the guidance and blessing of the Holy Spirit on the General Synod.

Details and an invitation to the event are below the fold.

WATCH (Women and the Church)
‘A Way in the Wilderness’
at St Margaret’s Westminster
Feb 6th 2012 11am – 2pm

General Information
This is a critical time in the Church of England’s journey to ordaining women as bishops. Diocesan voting on the draft legislation showed overwhelming support: 42/44 dioceses voted in favour. The final vote on the proposed legislation will take place at the General Synod meeting in York in July.

At the February group of sessions (Feb 6-9), members of Synod will be discussing the results of the diocesan consultation on the draft legislation, a following motion calling for greater provision for those opposed will be debated and the draft Code of Practice (published on Friday 13th January) will also be presented.

The Event
WATCH is holding ‘A Way in the Wilderness’ on Feb 6th at the beginning of the February Synod. We are gathering at St Margaret’s Westminster for a panel discussion and service in the course of which we will hear from two of the Anglican Communion’s women bishops about their experience of episcopal ministry and pray for the guidance and blessing of the Holy Spirit on the General Synod. We are most grateful to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster for making us welcome.

As we pray for a way to be found in the wilderness we will be reminded of God’s promise to bring new life even in desert places. Our service will conclude with a silent prayer vigil in Dean’s Yard. Unlit candles will be held by the congregation to symbolise the light of women’s episcopal ministry that is, as yet, unseen by our Church in England.

WATCH’s aims are to provide the opportunity for supporters of women’s ordained ministry to make a prayerful act of witness at the start of February’s meeting of General Synod. In particular,

  • To express the widespread longing, both within the CofE and without, for women to become bishops.
  • To express the grief and frustration felt at the waste of talent and experience caused by the years of debate on this issue.
  • To pray for Holy Spirit to guide General Synod to an outcome that is life-giving for our Church and brings true reconciliation based on mutual recognition not enforced separation.

Invitation and detailed programme

WATCH (Women and the Church) invites you to join us for


St Margaret’s, Westminster
Monday 6th February 2012
11.00 am to 2.00 pm

11.00 am Welcome & Coffee

11.30 am Panel discussion
Chaired by the Ven Dr Jane Hedges, Canon Steward of Westminster Abbey

The Rt Revd Geralyn Wolf, Bishop of Rhode Island

The Rt Revd Susan Moxley, Bishop of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island

The Rt Revd Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells

The Revd Canon Dr Judith Maltby, Chaplain of Corpus Christi College, Oxford

The Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Speaker’s Chaplain in the House of Commons

1.00 to 2.00 pm Service

Preacher – The Rt Revd John Gladwin. Former Bishop of Chelmsford

The service will end with a silent prayer vigil in Dean’s Yard

Bring a sandwich lunch, a new candle, and dress warmly!

For more information, contact Hannah Cleugh
(Hannah.cleugh@yahoo.co.uk or 01865 341382)

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Not in its backyard

The following article is reproduced here by kind permission of the Editor of The Tablet where it appeared in last week’s issue. thetablet.co.uk

Not in its backyard

The eviction of the Occupy movement near St Paul’s Cathedral is on the cards after the City won its case against the protesters last week. Here, a human-rights expert reflects critically on the role of the cathedral authorities in the affair

Wednesday last week, the High Court gave judgment in favour of the City of London in its ongoing effort to evict the Occupy movement, currently ensconced in tents and other structures around St Paul’s Cathedral.

Though the case had been heard over five days before Christmas, the result cannot have been any great surprise, with the law having appeared stacked against the protesters from the outset. Mr Justice Lindblom found that the law prohibiting obstruction of the highway justified removal of Occupy from public areas and that planning law did the same so far as cathedral land was concerned.

Of course, the protesters pleaded the right to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act but to no avail: the European Court of Human Rights has always been reluctant to extend its protection to those who invade private property in the effort to get heard, and indeed has upheld evictions of analogous (albeit smaller) camps in Europe. So, too, has the Court of Queen’s Bench in Alberta, Canada. Lindblom felt disinclined to blaze the new path that would have been necessary to reach a different decision on the facts before him. The camp’s representatives have said they will appeal, but if permission is refused, their removal could begin as early as this weekend.

The cathedral authorities were not part of the case, but representatives attended the court hoping for a victory over the protesters, supplying evidence with that purpose in mind, but unwilling themselves directly to deploy the law. The City’s job was to do the wishes of its spiritual partners, the first part of which, of course, it has now done with hard-nosed elan.

The camp had arrived at St Paul’s in October last year when the Stock Exchange proved impenetrable. The police did not act initially, and the cathedral itself – in the ebullient and civil libertarian form of the canon chancellor Giles Fraser – was positively supportive. Services continued. The talk was of a presence until Christmas. Early compromises allowed visits to the cathedral to continue. The peaceful nature of the protest was acknowledged by all, the atmosphere good. Treated with respect and properly self-regulated, given, as Giles Fraser was later to say on Newsnight, “nice cups of Anglican tea … and a warm embrace”, a camp such as this might well have grown into a benign witness to the need for radical change, as the anti-nuclear Greenham Common women had done a generation before. And what a gift this would have been to a Church which was about to launch (in November 2011) its persuasive critique of city capitalism, “Value and Values: perceptions of ethics in the City today” (published by the St Paul’s Institute).

But then the church authorities changed tack. The talk was suddenly all of health and safety and of the risk of fire. The advice of professionals in these fields was immediately accepted, leading first to closure of the cathedral (soon shown to be quite unnecessary) and then to a legal action launched with the intention of expelling the protesters. By the time the City stepped in, the cathedral had lost both Fraser and the dean himself, Graeme Knowles.

All flourishing Christian organisations need to steer a careful course between Mammon and morality. On the one hand, there is the wealth, power and influence that flow out of such success, especially if it is millennia old (as with the Catholic Church) or backed by the state (as with Anglicanism): how can one bite the hand that feeds one if the food is so good and one’s corpulent body now so dependent? On the other hand, there is the unsettling example of Jesus himself – uninterested in money; dismissive of luxury and of worldly power; devoted to the needy (or, as we would say today, the disadvantaged).

Some Churches solve this problem by assimilating Mammon to morality – the good are good because they are rich, and vice versa. This is too obviously special pleading for the more thoughtful faiths for whom, however, the problem remains: how can they be rich and radical at the same time? These Churches usually manage to sidestep this dilemma by using their knack of fine rhetoric to call upon others to act. “Value and Values” is in this long tradition of noisy ethical talk. But when the chance came to live their words at modest inconvenience to themselves, the cathedral authorities failed to meet the challenge.

With this judgment now handed down, at the back of everyone’s mind will be the feeling that a rare opportunity has been missed for an heroic religious engagement. Either the camp will go quickly and brutally or the proceedings will come to resemble the Dale Farm debacle, with endless litigation, media summits, appeals, further clarifications of court orders and – eventually – a nasty moment when the camp is physically dismantled by the authorities.

If and when this does come about, the cathedral will have been primarily responsible. Had it adopted Fraser’s line, the protesters would probably be gone by now (as they had always intended), the institute’s report on the City would be a widely admired and much read document, and the Church’s commitment to economic justice would have been given a tremendous boost. Instead, we have this spectacle of a great cathedral acting not as a focus for Christian action but as a grand, religious Nimby.

The chance to undo this damage will not come about – opportunities of the sort offered by the Occupy movement are rare. No doubt there will be many more remarks such as that of the Revd Michael Hampel, canon precentor, who commented of “Value and Values” that “Action is a crucial goal of the protest camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral. We hope that the telling findings of this report can provide a solid foundation for future engagement and highlight issues where action might be of mutual concern for all sides of the debate.” This kind of comment is so within the comfort zone of the Church as to be indistinguishable from complacency.

At Mass at the start of January celebrating the Epiphany, Catholic Christians had Psalm 71: “For he shall save the poor when they cry and the needy who are helpless. He will have pity on the weak and save the lives of the poor.” What kind of an epiphany did St Paul’s offer the world this Christmas season?

  • Conor Gearty is professor of human-rights law at the London School of Economics.
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Monday, 30 January 2012

public opinion surveys on bishops in the House of Lords

British Religion in Numbers reports on the survey behind the claim made by the Sun that

‘Six out of ten Brits think bishops should be booted out of the House of Lords after defeating plans to cap benefits at £26,000 a year.’

As BRIN explains, in Lords Spiritual:

The survey was undertaken online on 24 January 2012, among a sample of 749 adults aged 18 and over, and in the wake of the amendment to the Bill passed by the House of Lords the previous night, which had the effect of excluding child benefit from the £26,000 cap being proposed by the Government. Data tables have been posted at: http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/pbzn4ckvyb/YG-Archives-Pol-Sun-BishopsHouseLords-260112.pdf

Read the full article for reference to an earlier (2010) survey on the same topic, and look in the comments for a further link to yet another recent survey, this one for the Sunday Times.

All this has some relevance to the forthcoming General Synod debate on a Private Member’s Motion on House of Lords Reform.

The briefing papers are here:

Tony Berry and April Alexander
Background Note by the Secretary General

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The Case against the Archbishops’ Amendment

WATCH has published a paper explaining The Case against the Archbishops’ Amendment. This is reproduced in full below the fold.

The reason for doing this now is that next week the General Synod will debate a Diocesan Synod Motion from the Diocese of Manchester. The motion reads:

That this Synod call upon the House of Bishops, in exercise of its powers under Standing Order 60(b), to amend the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure in the manner proposed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York at the Revision Stage for the draft Measure”.

The briefing papers relating to this can be found here:
Diocese of Manchester
Diocese of Southwark (this diametrically opposed DSM will be moved as an amendment to the Manchester one)
Secretary General’s Background Note

The full voting records from the July 2010 debate, when this was previously considered, can be found here.

The Case against the Archbishops’ Amendment.


The Archbishops’ Amendment was presented to General Synod in June 2010 after the Revision Committee had published its carefully crafted and agreed revised draft legislation. It was an untimely intervention. General Synod did not have scrutiny of how it would work legally or in practice. The Amendment proposes that the diocesan bishop should ‘co-ordinate’ some aspects of episcopal ministry with a male bishop for those parishes that request it, rather than ‘delegate’ this ministry as in the present draft legislation. (“Co-ordinate” is an ambiguous phrase which means variously “share with a willing colleague” and “give away entirely” – experience shows that such ambiguity does not serve the church as a whole)

General Synod debated this Amendment in July 2010 and it was defeated. For those who were not then members of General Synod, the debate is well worth reading. It can be found at www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure/general-synod/reports-of-proceedings/july-2010-group-of-sessions.aspx pages 150 - 168

Why do we not support the Archbishops’ Amendment?

A. It proposes an apparently legally ‘tidy’ solution that is not an appropriate answer to a pastoral and theological problem.

1. Only a few words in the Measure would be changed: but they are crucial words, for they are the words that would, in law, give all Diocesan bishops the retention of authority over their entire Dioceses. If these words were changed then the Church of England’s traditional historic understanding of episcopacy within a Diocese would be undermined. A parish would then have two bishops with equal jurisdiction, only one of whom they would recognise and only one of whom would regard the other as a bishop.

2. The Amendment would not satisfy the stated need for ‘sacramental assurance’, since co-ordinate jurisdiction would continue to be with a male bishop, not by law a male bishop who has not ordained women or been ordained by a woman.

3. The wording is apparently simple but the consequences have not been examined. General Synod has not seen any work on how the Amendment would work in practice, or any exploration of unforeseen consequences. The debate in July 2010 illustrated how differently the two Archbishops understood the Amendment, as well as how Synod members struggled to interpret the wording.

4. The parallel with Area bishops or army chaplaincy or prison chaplain falls down because of the fact that in this case one party does not recognise the other’s orders and authority. In the offered parallels each party, and those amongst whom they minister, recognises the authority of both bishops (or priests), who can act interchangeably. In this case they cannot. This changes the whole nature of the sharing, where one party has full recognition and the other does not.

5. If the two Coordinate bishops in a Diocese were to disagree, whose authority would prevail? If the female (Diocesan) bishop’s, then surely this is what is offered in the draft legislation; if the (Coordinate) male bishop’s, then this is the same as statutory transfer, which General Synod resoundingly rejected.

6. A Diocesan bishop is a sign and focus of unity across his or her Diocese. This would be sorely challenged when there would be parishes in almost every Diocese where there were overlapping jurisdictions and two Diocesan bishops, one of whom would not recognise the other.

7. Provincial Episcopal Visitors minister to parishes under the delegated authority of Diocesan bishops who have ordained women, doing so because such parishes are unwilling to accept the ministry of their Diocesan bishops. If this has been acceptable for nearly twenty years, then why suddenly is such delegation not acceptable?

8. What will happen when both Archbishops have consecrated women? Who will be left to consecrate the bishops who are not only against women’s ordination but who believe that a male (arch)bishop is unacceptable and invalidates his orders when he ordains or consecrates a woman?

9. Senior women clergy have repeatedly indicated that they would not be prepared to accept appointment as bishops under such amended legislation. Moreover, the Archbishops have never discussed their amendment with senior women clergy, whereas senior women have been well represented on the Revision Committee and the Code of Practice drafting group.

B. For all its (superficially appealing) suggestion of sharing authority and new models of episcopacy, this amendment is still based on the notion that women are a problem and need to be legislated for, to keep the problem from spreading to the whole church.

1. It would put in law a question mark over the Episcopal orders and authority of female bishops. If a female Diocesan bishop must, in law, share her authority with a male bishop who does not recognise her orders, then her status and authority as a bishop would be called into question. This would perpetuate the sense that the Church is ‘not quite sure’ that women are fully human and of equal value in the sight of God.

2. It might be good for the Church to consider different models of authority – but not to take that step simply because it is women who are consecrated.

3. The co-ordinate arrangements would apply not only where there was a female bishop but in almost every other Diocese: where the Diocesan bishop supports the ministry of women and is prepared both to ordain and to participate in the consecration of women. It is therefore legislation which is based around the idea of women as a problem . . .

4. . . . unless it is possible to “pick your Bishop” on other theological grounds – eg interpretation of Scripture, issues re human sexuality – but who wants to go down that path? We would not even conceive of offering such a choice in relation to race or ethnicity.

5. We seem to be losing sight, through trying desperately to accommodate a small minority, of the fact that the Church has decided that women should be ordained in all three orders. Being held by a majority doesn’t automatically make a viewpoint right, but this viewpoint has been very carefully discerned by the Church and should be implemented in a way that does not undermine its central aim.

C. The current draft legislation offers good provision to those opposed to women’s ordination as priest and bishops, but there are fears about what an extension of the current provision would create.

1. Those with difficulties now have three specially consecrated suffragan bishops who act as Provincial Episcopal Visitors. When the Act of Synod is rescinded, the title of PEV will go but their Sees will not. Presumably they will then become suffragan bishops working as part of the Episcopal teams in Canterbury and York Dioceses, but will also be available to minister in parishes in other Dioceses under local Diocesan Schemes created in response to the Measure.

2. If co-ordinate Bishops, like PEVs, work across a whole province, we are in danger of moving towards the “additional dioceses” model, with jurisdiction conferred directly by virtue of the Measure rather than by delegation from the Diocesan. This was clearly rejected by Synod and would undermine the aim of this legislation to enable people of differing views, all loyal Anglicans, to work together in the service of God and God’s people.

WATCH (Women and the Church)
January 2012

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responses to the Sentamu interview

Updated again Tuesday evening

Libby Purves wrote an article for The Times titled Retreat from your battle against gay marriage. Only Times subscribers can read it, but if you are such a person, it is well worth reading. Here is the link.
A small fragment is reproduced here.

Andrew Brown wrote at Cif belief that John Sentamu’s argument against gay marriage is already lost.

The archbishop of York, John Sentamu, hopes that people will pay attention to other things in his most recent interview than his attack on gay marriage. Fat chance. When he said that the government will be acting as dictators have done if it introduces gay marriage, he put himself squarely in the wrong on a matter that people care about.

Nor does he give what I think are likely to be his real, animating reasons: that he believes gay marriage is bad because it makes being gay look normal and even admirable, and because gay people should not have sex with each other. Around most of the world, and certainly in most of the Anglican Communion, these would be perfectly respectable and uncontroversial things to say. But in modern Britain they are a minority view, and certainly not a respectable one. They are not going to win a political argument – and that’s what he’s fighting here…

Archbishop Cranmer published Sentamu pitches for Canterbury.

Terry Sanderson of the NSS wrote at Huffington Post that Sentamu’s Shot at Gay Marriage Is Only the First Salvo in a Bitter Battle to Come.

John Smeaton of SPUC wrote British government is afraid of the homosexual lobby.

Megan Moore wrote at Conservative Home that The Archbishop of York doesn’t deserve to be called a “bigot” by Twitter’s intolerants.

YorkVision reports YUSU slam Archbishop over marriage remarks. And see also Archbishop of York criticised for “outdated and homophobic rhetoric”.

Peter Tatchell wrote Archbishop Sentamu is “intolerant and out of touch” and also Archbishop Sentamu Has No Right to Block Gay Civil Marriages.

The Uganda Humanist Association writes Sentamu, your words will travel.

JP Floru Director of Programmes at the Adam Smith Institute, wrote in the Telegraph Gay marriage won’t make the world stop turning

…It is interesting to see that in the most recent debate on the issue of gay marriage, the bigots are falling out of the closet left, right and centre. They speak in code. Instead of shouting that “allowing gays to marry will demean Marriage”, they argue that “any marriage other than one between a male and female would change the meaning of marriage”. In other words: We Believe that Your Union is of Lesser Value than Ours – and the Law should Reflect This! Talk of totalitarianism.

Another argument is the “most people don’t want this” one. Well, there probably was a time when most people believed slavery was quite a useful little custom. A democratic majority does not legitimise trampling over the right of individuals to be treated as equal humans. Democracy can only be accepted by all if the power of the state to trample upon individuals is made impossible…

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Saturday, 28 January 2012


Emily Dugan interviews Giles Fraser for The Independent: ‘I’ve spent my life on the naughty step’.

Giles Fraser’s Church Times column this week is Bankers are victims, too, in the City cult.

Christopher Howse writes in The Telegraph that Migraine cannot explain Hildegard [of Bingen] and, in another article, that Christmas ends next Thursday.

Cullen Murphy lists The Top 10 Questions Everyone Has About the Inquisition in The Huffington Post (and gives the answers).

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Friday, 27 January 2012

Don't legalise gay marriage, Sentamu warns David Cameron

Updated Sunday evening

Martin Beckford of the Telegraph has spent the week in Jamaica with the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu.

In Saturday’s Telegraph he has two articles:

Dr John Sentamu: Church must avoid being ‘too middle class’

…While the focus has often been on the introduction of homosexual and female clergy, Dr Sentamu is aware that the Church must do more to avoid its leadership being solely white and middle class.

“I used to chair the committee for minority ethnic Anglican concerns, and we seemed to be making some progress but that now seems to be going backwards. Where we have lost out is black people who had been realised Anglicans, who are now joining Pentecostal churches. That’s a huge drain.”

He said white working-class parishioners were also poorly represented in the Church’s leadership, often being relegated to making tea after services, and highlighted support groups for single mothers and replacing theological books with audio versions as ways to help disadvantaged groups.

“The Church should be a sign of the kingdom of heaven and should be telling us what it will look like. Heaven is not going to be full of just black people, just working-class people, just middle-class people, it’s going to be, in the words of Desmond Tutu, a rainbow people of God in all its diversity.”

Don’t legalise gay marriage, Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu warns David Cameron

NB This article now also includes a video interview. Watching it is recommended.

…But the Archbishop says it is not the role of the state to redefine marriage, threatening a new row between the Church and state just days after bishops in the House of Lords led a successful rebellion over plans to cap benefits.

“Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” says Dr Sentamu. “I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are.

“We’ve seen dictators do it in different contexts and I don’t want to redefine very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time and then overnight the state believes it could go in a particular way.

“It’s almost like somebody telling you that the Church, whose job is to worship God [will be] an arm of the Armed Forces. They must take arms and fight. You’re completely changing tradition.”

Earlier this week, Lynne Featherstone (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Equalities Office) answered this question in parliament on the subject:

(1) what recent discussions she has had with (a) the Church of England and (b) other church groups on same sex marriages in church;

(2) what representations she has received from the Church of England on same sex marriages in church.

The Government will publish a formal consultation on equal civil marriage in March 2012. I have met with a wide range of organisations ahead of this consultation including with representatives from the following church organisations: Church of England, Catholic Church, the Evangelical Alliance, Christian Institute, Quakers and Unitarian and Free Christian Churches. Discussions have been held and are ongoing with other organisations including those representing other faith groups, non-religious groups and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups.

This consultation will not propose any changes to religious marriage. Same-sex couples will not be able, under these proposals, to have a marriage through a religious ceremony on religious premises.


Rosalind English has written this at UK Human Rights Blog: Archbishop on warpath.

Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has thrown a firecracker into the consultation on gay marriage, which is about to begin in March. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph he declared that he did not agree that it was the role of the state to define what marriage is. ”It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are”.

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Women bishops and the February General Synod

Last week’s Church Times carried a detailed report which is now available to non-subscribers: Synod given chance to signal its wishes on women bishops by Margaret Duggan and Ed Thornton.

THE subject of women bishops will dominate the General Synod’s meeting in Church House, West­minster, next month.

Dr Colin Podmore, the new Clerk to the Synod, said at a press briefing a week ago that there were four separate items about it on the agenda, with ten documents to back them. It would be the first time that the membership of the current Synod, elected a year-and-a-half ago, has tackled the subject, and so it would be of great interest to see which way they might go.

The secretary-general, William Fittall, refused to speculate on any outcome. He said that it would be a very significant chapter in a debate that had already gone on for more than a decade. It would be a chance for the Synod to reflect on the draft legislation, and on the Illustrative Draft Code of Practice.

Members would be invited to make suggestions and recom­mendations, but not to make amendments; only the House of Bishops could amend the legislation when it met in May. Should any of those amendments be substantial, the legislation would have to be referred to the diocese again; otherwise, the final vote could be next July…

Scroll down the same page for a second article: Illustrative code by Glyn Paflin.

THE Code of Practice on women bishops cannot be settled until the Measure itself has been passed, but the Synod will debate an Illustrative Draft Code of Practice on the Tuesday of its next meeting.

Drafted by a House of Bishops working party, chaired by the Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock, it supersedes the illustrative draft produced by another group in 2008, owing The House of Bishops debated the new draft code in December, and the Archbishops’ foreword to the report says that the House “does not wish to see any outcome that would entrench radical division or given any impression of a ‘two-tier’ episcopate”. But it is com­mitted to “the most adequate and sustainable provision for theo­logical dissent over the ordination of women”, and seeks “a balanced provision” that will enable all members of the Church of England to “flourish”.

The House has committed itself to three principles: (1) ensuring that bishops do not discriminate when selecting candidates for ordination on grounds of their theological convictions about the admission of women to holy orders; (2) paying heed, when new bishops are chosen to provide episcopal ministry under diocesan schemes, to the theological convictions on women’s ordination of those who issued the Letter of Request for their ministry; and (3) maintaining a supply of bishops who can minister to those unable to accept women bishops…

Earlier this week Andrew Brown wrote for the Guardian that The Church of England’s fudge on female bishops is breathtaking.

The Church of England’s House of Bishops – for which, read the archbishops of Canterbury and York – has explained how they hope to mollify the opponents of female clergy. The proposals are breathtaking.

The archbishops envisage that the Church of England, once it has female bishops, will continue ordaining men who do not accept these women, finding them jobs they will deign to accept, and promoting some of them to be bishops who will work to ensure the continued supply of male priests who refuse to accept female clergy. In fact, the church will pay three bishops (the formerly “flying” sees of Ebbsfleet, Richborough, and Beverley) to work full time against their female colleagues, and to nourish the resistance.

The General Synod, last summer, rejected the archbishops’ plan to fix a reservation in law where the opponents could live as if nothing had changed. Now they have brought back the same proposals, but call them “a code of practice” instead. In theory, this gives both sides what they want. In reality neither will find it easy to accept.

Obviously this will be unacceptable to most supporters of women’s ordination. But the cream of the joke is that it will probably be unacceptable to their principled opponents as well. The unscrupulous ones will, of course, be very happy with the deal.

Despite all these concessions, there will be female bishops, as there are already female priests, and these will be treated exactly the same as male ones – except by the men who don’t want to treat them equally and who believe that God has called them to undermine women’s authority wherever it appears.

This is apparently Rowan Williams’s idea of justice…

To read in full what the archbishops wrote in their Foreword to the Report of the Working Group on an Illustrative Draft Code of Practice, see the first couple of pages of GS Misc 1007, available as a PDF here.

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Monday, 23 January 2012

Government defeated in Lords by a bishop's amendment

Updated again Thursday morning

The Press Association reports:

The Government has suffered a defeat over its welfare reform proposals as peers supported a move to exempt child benefit from the £26,000 benefits cap.

Peers voted by 252 to 237, majority 15, in favour of an amendment introduced by the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, which received Labour backing.

He said: “It cannot be right for the cap to be the same for a childless couple as for a couple with children. Child benefit is the most appropriate way to right this unfairness.”
He argued that, in effect, the cap denied child benefit payments to people whose other benefits had reached £500 a week.

“This cap is not simply targeted at wealthy families living in large houses,” he said. “It will damage those who have to pay high rents because often that rent has increased substantially in the course of their occupancy of that house.”

The defeat was the fifth the Government has received on the Bill, including three on one day earlier this month…

Or, as Channel 4 News reported:

An amendment tabled by the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, calling for child benefit to be excluded from the cap, was passed by 252 votes to 237, a majority of 15.

A Labour amendment to exempt families threatened by homelessness from the cap was rejected by 250 votes to 222, a majority of 28. But 17 Liberal Democrats, coalition partners with the Conservatives, supported it.

The Lords was debating the government’s plans to ensure that a workless household cannot claim more than £26,000 a year in benefits - the average income after tax of a working family. The cap is equivalent to £500 a week for people with children.

Labour backed Bishop Packer’s amendment, despite being in favour of a cap in principle.

Bishop Packer said the cap “failed to differentiate between households with children and those without”, adding: “This cap is not simply targeted at wealthy families living in large houses. It will damage those who have to pay high rents because often that rent has increased substantially in the course of their occupancy of that house.”

The record of the debate on this amendment starts here.

The voting record on this amendment can be found here.

Five bishops voted in favour of the amendment: Chichester, Ripon & Leeds, Leicester, Lichfield, Manchester.

On an earlier amendment: Ripon and Leeds; Chichester

On this amendment: Ripon and Leeds; Chichester

Andrew Brown wrote at Cif Belief that This welfare bill has united bishops like never before.

The Children’s Society issued this Statement in response to the Government’s defeat in the House of Lords with regard to the proposed benefit cap set out in Welfare Reform Bill:

“The Lords have stood up to the Government and sent a clear message in support of children up and down the country.

“The Children’s Society is delighted that the Lords have seen sense today and excluded child benefit when calculating the benefit cap. Children should not be held responsible and penalised for the employment circumstances of their parents.

“Child benefit is a non-means tested benefit paid to working and non-working families. It’s a benefit all households with children are entitled to and is there to help with the cost of having children.

“If the intention of the benefit cap is to promote fairness, it is totally unfair that a small family with a household income of £80,000 a year receive it, yet a large family with a benefit income of £26,000 are excluded.

“The Government must not ignore the fact that the Lords have spoken out to defend the plight of some of the country’s most disadvantaged children”.

The Guardian has a review of media reactions to all this here.

The BBC has an interesting analysis: What is the role of bishops in UK politics?

George Carey My fellow bishops are wrong. Fuelling the culture of welfare dependency is immoral.

The Bishop of Leicester writes in the Telegraph ‘Lord Carey was wrong to defend government’s welfare reforms’.

The Independent has a leading article: Bishops and benefits don’t mix.

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Saturday, 21 January 2012


Alain de Botton, writing in the Comment is free belief section of The Guardian asks Should art really be for its own sake alone? “If art museums are the new churches, perhaps they should end the veneration of ambiguity and start serving our inner needs.”

Also at Comment is free belief Diarmaid MacCulloch writes that Compulsory celibacy is wrong and damaging for all clergy – straight or gay. “Not everyone called to the priesthood is also called to celibacy.”

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that A regiment forms a moral soldier.

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Friday, 20 January 2012

Church of England reports on ACNA

Updated again Saturday evening

GS Misc 1011 has been published: The Church of England and the Anglican Church in North America (PDF).

The document is published over the signatures of the two archbishops.

The final sections read as follows:

15. Where then do matters currently stand concerning ACNA on each of these
three issues, namely relations with the Church of England, relations with the
Anglican Communion and the ability of ACNA clergy to be authorised to
minister in the Church of England?

16. The Synod motion rightly began by referring to “the distress caused by recent
divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and
Canada.” That distress, in which we share, is a continuing element in the
present situation and is likely to remain so for some considerable time.

17. Wounds are still fresh. Those who follow developments in North America
from some distance have a responsibility not to say or do anything which will
inflame an already difficult situation and make it harder for those directly
involved to manage the various challenges with which they are still grappling.

18. We would, therefore, encourage an open-ended engagement with ACNA on
the part of the Church of England and the Communion, while recognising that
the outcome is unlikely to be clear for some time yet, especially given the
strong feelings on all sides of the debate in North America.

19. The Church of England remains fully committed to the Anglican Communion
and to being in communion both with the Anglican Church of Canada and the
Episcopal Church (TEC). In addition, the Synod motion has given Church of
England affirmation to the desire of ACNA to remain in some sense within the
Anglican family.

20. Among issues that will need to be explored in direct discussions between the
Church of England and ACNA are the canonical situation of the latter, its
relationship to other Churches of the Communion outside North America and
its attitude towards existing Anglican ecumenical agreements.

21. Where clergy from ACNA wish to come to England the position in relation to
their orders and their personal suitability for ministry here will be considered
by us on a case by case basis under the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry
and Ordination) Measure 1967.


Episcopal News Service reports this development with the headline Archbishops suggest ‘open-ended engagement’ with breakaway Anglicans.

The American Anglican Council comments on it in its weekly update (scroll down for the article by Phil Ashey).

ACNA itself has now published this statement: Anglican Church Embraces Working Relationship with Church of England and the bulk of it is quoted below the fold.

“We are encouraged by the desire of the Church of England to continue to embrace the Anglican Church in North America and remain in solidarity with us as we proclaim the Gospel message and truth as revealed in Scripture in the way it has always been understood in Anglican formularies,” said Archbishop Duncan…

“As we have demonstrated successfully to the GAFCON primates, the Anglican Church in North America remains committed to our growing relationships with Anglican provinces outside of North America. Our biblical orthodoxy and ministries are strengthening our bond to our Anglican brothers and sisters around the globe. We are gratified that we are already in a relationship of full communion with many Anglican Provinces and look forward to expanding that circle.”

“In that regard, we appreciate the work of the Faith and Order Commission of the Church of England, whose report and recommendations to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York form the basis of the document now released for General Synod, and whose content substantially advances the same ends with the Church of England,” concluded Archbishop Duncan.

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Church Commissioners' Parliamentary Questions: 19 January 2012

The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Tony Baldry MP, answered six Oral Parliamentary Questions and one Written in the Commons yesterday (19 January) covering metal theft, Christian communities in Nigeria and Zimbabwe, marriage, cathedrals and the Lord’s Prayer.

The questions and answers are in Hansard: oral answers and written answers, and are copied below the fold.

Church Commissioners

The hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked-


Metal Theft

1. Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): What recent estimate the Church Commissioners have made on the cost of metal theft from Church of England property.

6. Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): What estimate the Church Commissioners have made of the number of churches from which lead has been stolen in the last 12 months.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Tony Baldry): Ecclesiastical, the insurance company that insures the vast majority of churches, reports that last year alone more than 2,500 churches suffered thefts of lead, and that the cost of the resulting claims was about £4.6 million. Each of those claims represents a loss to a local community and a distraction to parishes from using their resources for local community life.

Diana Johnson: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his response. I know that Members on both sides of the House are concerned about the theft of metal from churches and from war memorials, and we hope that legislation or regulation will be introduced fairly quickly to deal with the problem. Can the hon. Gentleman confirm that Ecclesiastical has placed a cap of £5,000 on claims against thefts of metal from churches? If that is correct, what is he doing about it?

Tony Baldry: Ecclesiastical is a private insurance company; it has nothing to do with the Church Commissioners. It has to make commercial decisions about the cover that it can provide to churches, and it has clearly taken the view that churches that have had lead stolen from them present a higher risk in regard to actuarial cover. That is all the more reason for us to find a resolution to the problem of metal theft as soon as possible.

Gray: My hon. Friend may recall that last time we met I raised with him the issue of metal theft from war memorials that happened to be on church property. Since then, I have had meetings with people at the Imperial War museum, who told me that, of the estimated 100,000 war memorials in England today, only 60,000 are recorded. Will my hon. Friend enter into discussions with the Imperial War museum-perhaps in association with the Heritage Lottery Fund-to find not only funding but volunteers, so that we can complete the registration of all 100,000 war memorials?

Tony Baldry: As we come to the anniversary of the first world war from 2014 to 2018, I am sure that there will be considerable interest in war memorials. In my constituency and elsewhere, parishioners are writing books recording the history of those who took part, and I am sure that the Church would want to co-operate constructively with the Imperial War museum, the War Memorials Trust and any other organisation that sought to ensure that we protect war memorials. The theft of lead from war memorials is a particularly despicable crime.

Christian Communities (Nigeria)

4. Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): What plans the Church Commissioners have to provide support for Christian communities in Nigeria.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Tony Baldry): Lambeth palace is in regular contact with the Anglican Church in Nigeria. Following a meeting with the Primate of Nigeria last year, the Archbishop of Canterbury has continued to be closely in touch with him about the ongoing situation in the region. The Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Justin Welby, is currently visiting Nigeria on behalf of the archbishop. The Church of England supports the work of the Anglican communion in working with the Church of Nigeria to end the murder and violence. It is putting its efforts into supporting movements for peace and reconciliation within the northern and central belt communities of Nigeria.

Mr Nuttall: As my hon. Friend will be aware, attacks on Christians in Nigeria have greatly increased in recent weeks, largely due, it seems, to the activities of the Boko Haram group. Will my hon. Friend join me in condemning those attacks and urge the Church Commissioners, after considering the findings of the Lord Bishop of Durham, to take whatever action is necessary to bring such attacks to an end?

Tony Baldry: I think everyone in the House would agree that to murder people simply for their religion or simply because they are Christians is totally barbaric, taking us back through the centuries. I very much hope that the Government of Nigeria will do everything they can to prevent the continuing murder of Christians. It is particularly disturbing that the person accused of bombing St Theresa’s church just outside Abuja was found hiding in the home of a local state governor.

Several hon. Members rose -

Mr Speaker: I am keen to maximise the number of contributors.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): I think this is the third month in a row in which the hon. Gentleman has had to answer questions relating to persecution or discrimination against Christians. Does he agree that the issue of persecution of Christians-or, indeed, of those of any faith-must now be taken much more seriously by international agencies, by this Government and by other bodies that can play a role?

Tony Baldry: I entirely agree.

Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD): My borough contains the largest African community in Britain. Will the hon. Gentleman consider whether the Church Commissioners might communicate better to Christian Africans in Britain what is being done by the Church in Nigeria and, indeed, in Zimbabwe, which is the subject of the next question? Will he also contemplate sending a small group of Church representatives who are from Nigeria and Zimbabwe to those countries, where they may be able to build a bridge?

Tony Baldry: The right hon. Gentleman has made two very good suggestions, which I will discuss with those responsible at Lambeth palace.

Christians (Zimbabwe)

5. Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): What steps the Church Commissioners are taking to support and monitor the treatment of Christians in Zimbabwe.

Tony Baldry: Following a visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the region, where he and other bishops from southern Africa presented President Mugabe with a dossier of the abuses suffered by the Anglican community over recent years, the Church is very concerned about the increase in hostilities towards Anglicans in Zimbabwe in the past few months. Most recently, on 2 January, local security forces forcibly evicted 80 clergy who had assembled peacefully for an annual retreat.

Martin Vickers: The attacks on the Christian community should be roundly condemned. The Christian community in Zimbabwe will have valued and felt greatly strengthened by the archbishop’s recent visit, but, as the Bishop of Harare observed recently, the persecution continues. Can my hon. Friend assure me that the Church Commissioners, in co-operation with the Government, will continue and, indeed, increase the pressure?

Tony Baldry: I can certainly give that assurance. I think it particularly despicable that it is now necessary to obtain police permission to gather for prayer in Zimbabwe: that is exceptionally sad. We will continue to co-operate with whoever can help us to exert pressure to ensure that Christians in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the world are free to worship as they wish.


9. Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): What recent discussions the Church Commissioners have had with Ministers on the Government’s forthcoming consultation on marriage.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Tony Baldry): There have already been discussions between Church representatives and Government Ministers on this subject, and more are in prospect. It will come as no surprise to the House that the Church of England holds firmly to the view that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman.

Andrew Selous: What reassurance can my hon. Friend give churches in my constituency, which have contacted me about their fear that they may be prosecuted for discrimination if they persist with traditional marriage?

Tony Baldry: The Government have given an assurance that that is not the case. The law states plainly that individual denominations may make perfectly clear that they can continue to ensure that marriage is celebrated between a man and a woman, and the Church of England will continue to do so.


10. Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): How much funding the Church Commissioners have made available to cathedrals in the last year.

Tony Baldry: Next year the Church Commissioners will give Truro cathedral some £348,000 towards the operation and running of the dean and chapter, a 4% increase. The cathedrals building division will of course continue to look sympathetically on any specific request from Truro for support relating to the fabric of the cathedral.

Sarah Newton: I are grateful for that response to the discussions that we have been having. Truro cathedral plays a vital role in the city, not only through its ministry but through its contribution to quality of life and the local economy. I welcome the support that the Church Commissioners are giving to the cathedral, and I hope that they will continue to look favourably on the work that it is doing in its Aspire project.

Tony Baldry: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Nowhere else in England are the early Celtic roots of Christianity so obvious as in Cornwall, with its profusion of local saints. Truro has the distinction of being the first entirely new cathedral foundation since the Reformation. Like other cathedrals, it plays an important part in the life of the local community and the county, and the Church Commissioners will continue to give the cathedral of Truro every possible support.

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman will know that other cathedrals have also suffered from metal theft in recent days; there were reports in the newspapers this week of Manchester cathedral being hit. Given the impact of metal theft and further to the hon. Gentleman’s earlier answer, will he tell us how many churches and cathedrals have applied for support from the listed places of worship grant scheme and whether the scheme is sufficient to meet demand?

Tony Baldry: There will always be considerable pressure on the listed places of worship grant scheme. Let us be clear that there is no way that the Church of England or any other Church can cope with the present level of theft of lead from churches and cathedrals. I hope that the Government will introduce measures to amend the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 as soon as possible to stop that continuing violation of our national heritage.


The Lord’s Prayer

Dr Thérèse Coffey: To ask the hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, what assessment the Church Commissioners have made of the teaching of the Lord’s Prayer in schools in England.

Tony Baldry: The Church of England only has information pertaining to its Church of England schools. There are around 4,700 of these schools and academies across the country, spanning both the primary and secondary sectors.

These schools are assessed on a regular basis by Ofsted and the local diocese. From the denominational inspection reports it is clear that the Lord’s Prayer is in regular use in collective worship in the majority of Church of England schools.

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CofE's Osborne report finally published

The Church Times has today published an electronic copy of the Osborne Report on homosexuality. This should have been published in 1989.

In an accompanying article, the Very Revd Dr Jane Shaw explains the background to its suppression at the time.

When the CofE wanted to talk
A new (all-male) group is rethinking Issues in Human Sexuality, the 1991 report that remains the Bishops’ line on homo­sexuality…

The increasing acceptance of gay men and lesbians in the wider society in the 1970s and ’80s meant that the Church of England had to address the subject. In 1979, a church report, Homosexual Relationships: A con­tribu­tion to discussion, was published, but was considered too liberal by many in the Church.

So, in 1986, a standing committee of the House of Bishops asked the Board for Social Responsibility to set up a working party to advise the bishops. This resulted in the Osborne report of 1989 (chaired by the Revd June Osborne, a member of the Board), which drew on the direct testimony of gay and lesbian Chris­tians…

The full text of the report is available as an 8Mb PDF file.

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Thursday, 19 January 2012

Provisional attendance figures for 2010 released

The Church of England has released its provisional attendance figures for 2010. The press release (copied below) gives a summary of the figures, and links to the full figures.

Provisional attendance figures for 2010 released – marriages up four per cent, national ‘mapping’ identifies at least 1,000 fresh expressions of church
19 January 2012

The latest local church attendance figures from the Church of England for 2010 show that approaching 1.7 million people continue to attend Church of England services each month, and around 1.1 million attend one of the Church of England’s 16,000 churches as part of a typical week.

The figures additionally highlight for the first time the results of innovative Church initiatives, such as the ecumenical Fresh Expressions movement and the Archbishops’ Council’s Weddings Project.

Following extensive work by the Weddings Project and the introduction of the 2008 Marriage Measure, marriages in the Church of England increased by four per cent in 2010.

Across all dioceses the statistics reveal at least 1,000 fresh expressions and new forms of church, linked to the Church of England, reaching into communities. There are an estimated 1,000 fresh expressions within the Methodist Church.

The full statistics are available online, in the Resources sidebar.

continued below the fold

Total attendance

Average Sunday attendance dropped two per cent to 923,700 (2009: 944,400). Average weekly attendance at 1,116,100 (2009: 1,130,600) was down by somewhat less, indicating a continuing shift in patterns of church attendance. Average monthly attendance was 1,645,500 (2009: 1,650,600). The average number of children and young people at services each week was down two per cent at 218,600 (2009: 223,000); while the number of children and young people attending on a monthly basis was fractionally up at 437,700 (2009: 436,200).

Marking life events

Marriages in the Church of England increased by four per cent in 2010 to 54,700 compared to 52,730 in 2009, the biggest increase in any one year over the last 10 years; services of prayer and dedication also rose by two per cent to 4,020, up from 3,940.

Child baptisms increased one per cent to 43,850 in 2010, up from 43,480 in 2009; adult baptisms rose one per cent to 11,160 in 2010, up from 11,010; while infant baptisms decreased by one per cent to 83,260, down from 83,820 in 2009.

Funerals in church and crematorium were down two per cent and four per cent respectively.

Fresh Expressions

The first ever statistical analysis of the Fresh Expressions movement has concluded that there are at least 1,000 CofE fresh expressions of church or new congregations across the country. These aim to provide new forms of church which are different in ethos and style from the church which planted them because they are designed to reach a different group of people than those already attending the original church. The emphasis is on planting something which is appropriate to its context rather than cloning something which works elsewhere.

Around 30,000 people attend fresh expressions each month who don’t attend traditional regular services, equating to an average of around 40 people per participating parish exploring new forms of church - the statistical equivalent of an additional diocese. These 30,000 are included in the average weekly and monthly statistics. Almost all dioceses have reported fresh expressions or new congregations with over half of these initiatives aimed at families with young children. More information on fresh expressions of church is available on the Church of England website as a Powerpoint presentation.

Celebrating festivals

As a result of poor weather conditions and many cancelled services, all-age attendance at Christmas Eve/Day services in 2010 dropped by five per cent to 2,298,400; all-age attendance on Easter Day dropped by one per cent to 1,394,700.

Nine in 10 Church of England parish churches completed attendance counts, which have been verified across all 16,000 Church of England churches by the Research and Statistics Department of the Archbishops’ Council.

Tables including the above figures and a breakdown by diocese, along with the Powerpoint on Fresh Expressions, are available online.


Fresh Expressions is an ecumenical movement to nurture contemporary forms of church life alongside traditional ones. Fresh expressions of church are being formed in a variety of ways, with new communities reaching people such as clubbers, artists and students.

Definition of terms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Occupy St Paul's protesters lose high court eviction battle

The Press Association reports:

The City of London Corporation has won its high court bid to evict anti-capitalist protesters from outside St Paul’s Cathedral.

In a judgment that followed a five-day hearing held before Christmas, Mr Justice Lindblom granted orders for possession and injunctions against Occupy London.

He said that the proposed action was “entirely lawful and justified” as well as necessary and proportionate and refused permission to appeal although the protesters have seven working days to renew their applications directly to the Court of Appeal.

The corporation agreed not to enforce the orders until 4pm on 27 January pending such a move, which is to be launched on Friday…

The full judgment can be found via the UK Human Rights Blog at Occupy London to be evicted – full judgment.

St Paul’s Cathedral issued this statement:

“We have always said that a permanent camp is an unsustainable forum, but would reiterate to the protestors that we have offered a number of alternative platforms for the important issues they raise to be voiced. We are, through those platforms, committed to engage in the continued debate on these issues and believe St Paul’s can be an effective forum for such debate.”

David Shariatmadari reports for the Guardian that Occupy London protesters greet news of eviction ruling with quiet dismay.

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Monday, 16 January 2012

Discrimination alleged in the Church of England

Updated again on 1 February

There were two news reports in Sunday newspapers concerning the Dean of St Albans.
One was in the Mail on Sunday and written by Jonathan Petre, see ‘I’ll sue Church of England if it bars me from being bishop,’ says gay dean. (A later version with a quite different headline appears here.)

The other was in the Sunday Times by Kate Mansey but is hidden behind a paywall. However, I can say that it included a long quote from the memorandum written by Colin Slee and published some time ago in connection with a Guardian news story.

Several other newspapers have followed up these reports. The most thoughtful is the Independent which has today published the following items:

Andrew Brown has this analysis: Why is this gay cleric considering suing the church if he won’t win?

…Look at the small print of its legal opinion on civil partnerships, transparently designed to prevent John from being able to sue for discrimination. No selection committee would ask straight candidates for a job whether they had ever had pre-marital sex, and, if they had, whether they were jolly sorry for it. Yet the Church of England believes that it is legally and morally OK to ask the equivalent questions of gay men: “Whether the candidate had always complied with the church’s teachings on sexual activity being solely within matrimony; whether he had expressed repentance for any previous pre-marital sexual activity.”

That is offensive enough, but the real point is found in the apparently balanced statements of disagreement. “It is clear that a significant number of Anglicans, on grounds of strongly held religious conviction, believe that a Christian leader should not entire into a civil partnership, even if celibate … it is equally clear that many other Anglicans believe it is appropriate that clergy who are gay by orientation entire into civil partnerships.” This formulation gives the game away. It is only conservative evangelical opinion which is described as “strongly held religious conviction”. The liberals merely “believe it is appropriate”, with the implication that their beliefs on this are not religious at all. This kind of nonsense was dealt with decades ago where women priests were concerned. What needs saying, loud and clear, is that the case for liberalism here is every bit as religious, and as theologically informed, as the case for the conservatives…

Two further analyses:

New Statesman Nelson Jones Bishop sacrifice

When it was announced that the Church of England had established an advisory group on human sexuality, consisting of four bishops and a retired civil servant, there was some criticism of the fact that all its members were (ahem) male. But that was only to be expected, and not just because it happens to be a group of bishops, which remains, for the time being at least, an exclusively male club. In Anglican parlance, “human sexuality” is code for, “What do we do about the gays?”

…In the case of the Church of England, there are currently two major sticking points, which may or may not be linked: the question of whether civil partnership ceremonies should be allowed to take place in church, and the question of whether openly gay men, even if celibate, should be allowed to become bishops. In both cases the present situation is one of studied hypocrisy…

Episcopal Café Jim Naughton Misleading media coverage: the latest in the Jeffrey John saga

There is a full report in the Church Times see C of E policy on appointing bishops may face legal test

And the Press column by Andrew Brown is now also available to non-subscribers: An enemy hath spun this

…Right at the bottom of the Mail’s story was the line that “one source said Dr John suggested he would drop his legal threat if he felt he would not be ruled out for future posts.”

Of course, a huge amount turns on whether this source was a friend or enemy of Dr John, because the Sunday Times story and the Mail on Sunday’s headline both invite the riposte that they got from George Pit­cher on the Mail’s web­site.

He wasted no time on the ball, and went straight for the man: “We’re forced to ask how seriously we’re likely to take him as a bishop if we har­bour the sus­picion that he won his post, even by sugges­tion, because he’d declared that if he wasn’t de­livered such-and-such a bish­opric then he’d sue.”

But is that really why Dr John was discus­sing legal action? It is clearly true that Alison Downie has been corresponding with church legal authorities on his behalf. But friends — real friends — of his, and allies, too, suggest that what he was trying to do instead was to ensure that civil partnerships are not in themselves a bar to promotion. That is just as upsetting to conservative Evangelicals as if he were actuated by personal ambition.

It is actually much more difficult for the Archbishop of Canterbury to handle, and much more appealing to public opinion. One begins to see why the story might have emerged from his enemies with the spin that it had.

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General Synod - February 2012 - press release

The usual pre-synod press release has been issued by the Church of England this morning, and is copied below. It provides a summary of the business, much of which has nothing to do with women bishops.

Agenda for February 2012 General Synod
16 January 2012

Women bishops central to General Synod agenda that includes debates on assisted dying, health care, House of Lords reform, and Eucharistic prayers for use when children are present

The General Synod will meet at Church House from 2.15 pm on Monday 6 February until late-afternoon Thursday 9 February.

The Synod will be spending a significant amount of time on the major legislative process designed to make it possible for women to be bishops while also making some provision for those who, for theological reasons, will not be able to receive their ministry. This will be the present Synod’s first opportunity to engage with that process since it was elected 18 months ago.

There will be four separate items of business dealing with different aspects of this complicated process, on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. These include fine-tuning of the draft Measure and consideration of making specific requests to the House of Bishops in relation to the next stage of the process in May. In addition, the Synod will have a presentation and opportunity for questions on the report from a working group on an illustrative draft Code of Practice that would be made once the legislation had been approved. These debates lead towards a possible final debate in July.

Other items of legislative business include the approval of an Order that completes a new framework for the charging of fees for weddings, funerals etc and the revision of a draft Measure amending aspects of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003.

Legislation is an important function of the Synod but not the only one. Its Constitution says its second main function is ‘to consider and express their opinion on any other matters of religious or public interest’. There are some quite important matters of religious and public interest on the agenda for February.

On the Monday, Synod will be asked to approve the sending of a Loyal Address to H. M. the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee. By coincidence there will be an added poignancy in the fact that 6 February will be the 60th anniversary of King George VI’s death and therefore of The Queen’s Accession. Synod will also be invited to approve the appointment of a new member of the Archbishops’ Council, whose name will be announced nearer the time.

Synod will have the opportunity to debate an important matter of religious and public interest in the Private Members Motion on the issue of assisted suicide. Also of interest will be a presentation on the Tuesday about the Anglican Alliance for Relief, Development and Advocacy. This was established by the Archbishop of Canterbury and grew out of the 2008 Lambeth Conference. It aims to co-ordinate the work of the Anglican Communion internationally on relief and development issues.

On the Tuesday evening members of the Synod will join members of the United Reformed Church for a service in Westminster Abbey marking both the 350th anniversary of the departure from the Established Church of those who felt unable to accept ordination by bishops and use the Book of Common Prayer and also the 40th anniversary of the inauguration of the United Reformed Church, which took place in the Abbey.

There is a significant matter of internal Synod business on Wednesday, 8 February. Up to now, the Chair of the Business Committee which sets the Synod’s agenda has been appointed from among the six members directly elected to the Archbishops’ Council. That is a very narrow pool and it is now proposed that in future the Chair of the Business Committee should be elected by and from among the whole Synod. There are a number of other miscellaneous amendments to the Standing Orders.

Synod is in the process of authorizing new Eucharistic Prayers for use at services at which there are significant numbers of children present - at a Communion service in a church school, for example. They have been revised in the light of members’ comments and the Synod will consider the revised texts on Thursday 9 February.

The Synod will also receive a presentation about how the Church plans to respond to changes in the funding of higher education which will have a significant impact on the cost of training new clergy. At present, ordinands receive degrees and certificates from 19 different universities. The proposal is that the Church of England, with its partner churches, should establish a single suite of HE awards with a single set of validation arrangements. Some ordinands will continue to study for general theology degrees of universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, but for those on courses leading to a qualification specifically designed for ordinands there will only be one set of qualifications.

Finally, on the Thursday afternoon there will be a debate on the reform of the House of Lords and a debate about Health Care. The Church of England has always had a strong commitment to the ideals of the NHS. The debate will give the Synod an opportunity to offer a public expression of the Church’s concerns and priorities in the light of its vocation to seek health and healing. There is a particular call in the motion for chaplaincy provision to remain part of the core structure of the NHS, a position recently backed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. There is also a commendation of the work of Anglican agencies and networks in promoting health and wholeness worldwide.

Communicating Synod

Parishioners can keep in touch with the General Synod while it meets. Background papers and other information will be posted on the Church of England website (www.churchofengland.org) ahead of the General Synod sessions.

A live feed will be available courtesy of Premier Radio (accessible from front page www.churchofengland.org), and audio files of debates, along with updates on each day’s proceedings, will be posted during the sessions.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 16 January 2012 at 11:58am GMT | Comments (1) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 14 January 2012

General Synod - February 2012 - online papers

Online copies of the papers for the February 2012 meeting of General Synod are starting to appear online; they are listed below, with links and a note of the day they are scheduled for debate. I will update the list as more papers become available.

Updated Friday 27 January All papers are now online and linked below. In addition they can all be downloaded in one zip file.
Updated Monday 30 January The first eight notice papers are also available and are linked below.
Updated Monday 6 February Links to an addendum for GS 1854C and to more notice papers have been added.

The Report of the Business Committee (GS 1849) includes a forecast of future business, and I have copied this below the fold.

The Church of England’s own list of papers is presented in agenda order.

GS 1848 Full Agenda
GS 1849 Report by the Business Committee [Monday]

Women Bishops legislation

GS Misc 1007 Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure: Draft Code of Practice2012 [Tuesday]
GS 1854A, GS 1854B, GS 1854C, GS 1854C Addendum Diocesan Synod Motion: Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure [Wednesday]
GS 1847 Report by the Business Committee on the Article 8 Reference [Wednesday]
GS 1708B Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure [Thursday]
GS 1709B Draft Amending Canon
GS 1708-9Z Report by the Steering Committee (GS 1708-9Z)
GS Misc 1012 Women in the Episcopate: Future Process

Other papers for debate

GS 1814A Draft Clergy Discipline (Amendment) Measure2012 [Tuesday]
GS 1814Y Report by the Revision Committee

GS 1822A Additional Eucharistic Prayers [Thursday]
GS 1822Y Report by the Revision Committee

GS 1846A and GS 1846B Diocesan Synod Motion: Appointment of Archdeacons [Wednesday]

GS 1850 Approval Of Appointments To The Archbishops’ Council [Monday]

GS 1851A and GS 1851B Private Member’s Motion: Independent Commission On Assisted Dying [Monday]

GS 1852 Draft Parochial Fees and Scheduled Matters Amending Order 2012 [Tuesday]
GS 1852X Explanatory Memorandum
GS Misc 1015 Draft Fees Order, An explanation of the proposed fee levels

GS 1853 Draft Diocese in Europe Measure 2012 [Tuesday]
GS 1853X Explanatory Memorandum (GS 1853X)

GS 1855 Chair of the Business Committee and Miscellaneous Amendments: Forty-Sixth Report of the Standing Orders Committee [Wednesday]

GS 1856A and GS 1856B Private Member’s Motion: Reform Of The House Of Lords [Thursday]

GS 1857 Health Care and the Church’s Mission: Report from the Mission and Public Affairs Council [Thursday]

GS 1858 The Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) (Consequential Provisions) Order 2012
GS 1858X Explanatory Memorandum

GS 1859A and GS 1859B Manifestation of Faith in Public Life [contingency business]

GS Misc 1008 Higher Education Funding Changes [Thursday]

Other papers

GS Misc 1003 Lords Spiritual: Parliamentary Spokespeople
GS Misc 1004 House of Lords Reform
GS Misc 1005 Civil Partnerships in Religious Premises
GS Misc 1006 The 39th Report of the Central Stipends Authority
GS Misc 1009 Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches
GS Misc 1010 Report on Pensions and Remuneration
GS Misc 1011 The Church of England and the Anglican Church in North America
GS Misc 1012 Women in the Episcopate: Future Process
GS Misc 1013 Archbishops’ Council Annual Report
GS Misc 1014 The August Riots, Responding to Austerity and the State of Society
GS Misc 1015 Draft Fees Order, An explanation of the proposed fee levels
GS Misc 1016 Archbishops’ Council Apportionment 2012 and table
GS Misc 1017 Resourcing Christian Community Action: Parishes and Partnerships
GS Misc 1018 Archbishops’ Council response to Richard Moy’s Private Member’s Motion on Visual and Video resources for worship

HBM2 House of Bishops: Summary of Decisions
A(12)1 Appointments Committee: Recent Appointments

Notice Papers

Notice Paper 1
Notice Paper 2
Notice Paper 3
Notice Paper 4
Notice Paper 5
Notice Paper 6
Notice Paper 7
Notice Paper 8
Notice Paper 9
Notice Paper 10
Notice Paper 11
Notice Paper 12
Notice Paper 13
Notice Paper 14
Notice Paper 15

Forecast of future Synod business

July 2012

Legislative Business
  • Women in the Episcopate legislation: Final Approval (subject to the outcome of the Article 7 references)
  • Clergy Discipline (Amendment) Measure – Final Drafting / Final Approval
  • Diocese in Europe Measure – Revision Stage (and possibly Final Approval)
  • Miscellaneous Provisions Measure – First Consideration
  • Anglican Covenant Act of Synod: report on reference to the dioceses
  • Funded Pension Scheme Rules: changes re s.75 debt
  • Fees Orders
Liturgical Business
  • Additional Eucharistic Prayers: [Further Revision Stage or] Final Approval
  • Fresh Expressions: A report on Fresh Expressions, supported by a report on the ecclesiology of Fresh Expressions commissioned by the Faith and Order Commission
  • MPA report on World Mission (relations between mission agencies and diocesan companion links)
DSMs and PMMs
  • One or more diocesan synod motions and private members’ motions are customarily included in the agenda for each group of sessions.

Financial Business

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 14 January 2012 at 4:48pm GMT | Comments (20) | TrackBack
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February General Synod

The Church of England General Synod will meet in London from 6 to 9 February. We have already published the outline agenda and an article about the women bishops legislation.

The usual pre-synod press briefing was held yesterday, resulting in these two reports. Apart from one sentence in each case, they are entirely about the women bishops legislation.

Ed Thornton in the Church Times Women bishops: weathervane debate next month

If the Bishops do amend the legislation, it will be up to the “group of six” — the two Archbishops, the chair and vice-chair of the House of Laity, and the two prolocutors — to decide, after legal advice, whether those amendments have changed the substance of the legislation. If so, it would have to be sent back to the dioceses for further consideration.

Martin Beckford in The Telegraph Archbishops reassure traditionalists ahead of women bishops debates

The two most senior clerics in the Church have stated that they do not want would-be priests to be discriminated against if they oppose the ordination of women.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York also said they would try to ensure there is a continuing supply of traditionalist bishops to cater for parishes who do not want to be looked after by a female bishop.

The papers for Synod are not yet online, but we will list them when they are.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 14 January 2012 at 11:11am GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Rowan Moore Gerety writes in Killing the Buddha about Buying the Body of Christ.

The Guardian comments on a letter from a bishop: Bishops rail against Sunday excursions.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that Running can seem like prayer.

On YouTube there is this: David Attenborough’s - Primate Crisis.

Desmond Tutu writes for The Huffington Post about Made for Goodness.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 14 January 2012 at 10:00am GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 11 January 2012


James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, is the Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons. He is currently presenting a series of three programmes on BBC Radio 4 The Bishop and the Prisoner. So far two have been broadcast and the last is scheduled for next Monday, 16 January, at 8.00 pm GMT.

The BBC has a synopsis for each programme.

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3

If you are in the UK you can listen to the programmes by following the links in each synopsis.

The Liverpool Echo published this preview article by Paddy Shennan about the series: Bishop of Liverpool Rt Rev James Jones talks about his radio series on prisons and prisoners.

The second programme in particular has prompted some attention by the press.

Nadia Khomami in the Radio Times The Bishop of Liverpool: punish our criminals in public
Liverpool Echo Bishop of Liverpool says too many people are being jailed
The Press Association Too many people jailed, says bishop

There are two related articles in the Church Times. They are currently only available to subscribers, but should be available to all on Friday of this week.
James Jones Community sentencing could change society
Paul Vallely Prison reform isn’t just for prisoners

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 11 January 2012 at 10:38am GMT | Comments (3) | TrackBack
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Court rules for Diocese of Virginia in property dispute

From the Diocese of Virginia: Court Rules in Favor of Diocese


Tonight, the Fairfax Circuit Court issued its ruling in favor of the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church in litigation seeking to recover Episcopal church property. “Our goal throughout this litigation has been to return faithful Episcopalians to their church homes and Episcopal properties to the mission of the Church,” said the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, bishop of Virginia.

The court ruled that the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia have “a contractual and proprietary interest” in each of the properties subject to the litigation. The court ordered that all property subject to its ruling be turned over to the Diocese.

“We hope that this ruling will lead to our congregations returning to worship in their church homes in the near future, while finding a way to support the CANA congregations as they plan their transition,” said Henry D.W. Burt, secretary of the Diocese and chief of staff.

Bishop Johnston added, “While we are grateful for the decision in our favor, we remain mindful of the toll this litigation has taken on all parties involved, and we continue to pray for all affected by the litigation.”

The ruling can be found here (PDF).

From the CANA website: Statement by the ACNA Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic

(January 10, 2012) – Seven Anglican congregations in Virginia that are parties to the church property case brought by The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia are reviewing today’s ruling by the Fairfax County Circuit Court that the property should be turned over to the Episcopal Diocese.

The Circuit Court heard the case last spring after the Virginia Supreme Court remanded it in June 2010. The congregations previously had succeeded in their efforts on the Circuit Court level to defend the property that they bought and paid for.

“Although we are profoundly disappointed by today’s decision, we offer our gratitude to Judge Bellows for his review of this case. As we prayerfully consider our legal options, we above all remain steadfast in our effort to defend the historic Christian faith. Regardless of today’s ruling, we are confident that God is in control, and that He will continue to guide our path,” said Jim Oakes, spokesperson for the seven Anglican congregations.

The Rev. John Yates, rector of The Falls Church, a historic property involved in the case, stated, “The core issue for us is not physical property, but theological and moral truth and the intellectual integrity of faith in the modern world. Wherever we worship, we remain Anglicans because we cannot compromise our historic faith. Like our spiritual forebears in the Reformation, ‘Here we stand. So help us God. We can do no other.’”

The seven Anglican congregations are members of the newly established Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, a member diocese within the Anglican Church in North America. Bishop John Guernsey of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic has expressed to leaders of the seven congregations, “Our trust is in the Lord who is ever faithful. He is in control and He will enable you to carry forward your mission for the glory of Jesus Christ and the extension of His Kingdom. Know that your brothers and sisters in Christ continue to stand with you and pray for you.”

The Anglican Curmudgeon has his analysis of the judgment here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 11 January 2012 at 10:05am GMT | Comments (18) | TrackBack
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Monday, 9 January 2012

Diane Abbott’s tweet, an opportunity missed.

In one of my former parishes there was a very energetic ecumenical group which prided itself on the variety of spiritual experiences it could provide for its membership in any given year. When I was approached for the use of the parish church for the annual visit of a linked West African congregation from Birmingham, I asked what the link was about. The reply was that the group liked to watch Africans worship, they are much better at it than we are.

I spent a couple of years in the eighties studying Black theology in an American seminary. During that time I had had to come to terms with some uncomfortable truths about my own race, particularly around the subject of slavery. As I didn’t feel comfortable with hosting African worship as a spectator sport I phoned a friend in Birmingham who is a Black theologian, who introduced me to a further uncomfortable truth. He said that slavery was not the only aspect of our past that I had to take into account when I was thinking about the relationship between our races; there was also colonialism. As an example he cited the way in which members of a colonised people would vie for invitations to social events at the local colonial residence, taking their status by being A-listers at a white event over solidarity with their fellow dominated blacks. He said that he would be thinking in these terms about a professional African congregation which was prepared to make the two-hour journey to a white church in the stockbroker belt, but have next-to-nothing to do with the Jamaican church in their own neighbourhood.

This episode from my past came to mind when we heard on the news this week that a careless Tweet, from Member of Parliament Diane Abbott, to a colleague about how whites tended to divide black people. When the news of this Tweet broke, she was immediately disciplined, and her party machinery moved at lightning speed to mend the damage from the outrage. If Diane Abbott was in error it was in the means by which she expressed the view. The truth that whites have divided blacks is incontestable, and I have no reason to doubt that it remains a present reality. I believe the Labour Party leadership missed an opportunity here, which Ms Abbott unwittingly provided, and it has to do with our national identity, which is inseparable from our national narrative. Who we think we are depends on who we think we have been. Politicians have understandably been cautious about articulating a narrative which has been about the decline of our status as a nation for most of the last century.

On the other hand, much has been made of our status as a multi-cultural nation. When the chef Jamie Oliver can tour the nation, and then produce a best-selling cookbook, full of recipes which we have inherited from the communities which have moved to these islands, then we know that multi-cultural Britain is an idea that his generation is ready to appropriate.

But there’s a catch. Almost thirty years ago I was told by my Afro-American Black Theology professor that it was not possible for a black person and a white person to have any kind of genuine relationship without agreeing a common version of history. In other words, unless the white person could appropriate the uncomfortable facts from our history about our nation’s role in slavery and colonial subjugation, then we would be blind to the key historical events which have shaped people of the African diaspora, and even why they come to call these islands home.

To begin to work on such a narrative is a big ask for politicians. It means becoming a target for tabloid ire, and having to face the anger of members of the public who cling to our colonial past and the notion of our identity being centred on imperial power. A party in the early period of Opposition has much less to lose that the Government, and this may be a way to serve the nation in a way that would bring healing and wholeness. There is a spiritual task here, about seeking the truth, even painful truth, about ourselves in order then to be able to seek harmony with our neighbours, and I include neighbours of all former-colonial races. In the absence of a story on which we can all agree, the vacuum will continue to be filled by the versions of who-we-are peddled by extreme right-wing groups, and we will still see racial violence on our streets. A shared story of how we came to be would be a substantial beginning to how we account for who we are, and what is keeping us from where we need to be as a nation.

Andrew Spurr
Vicar of Evesham

Posted by Andrew Spurr on Monday, 9 January 2012 at 6:38am GMT | Comments (15) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 8 January 2012

Was Jesus faking it?

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’s baptism is almost the start of the whole story. Brief, to the point, Jesus is baptised and he is the (only) one who sees the heavens open; he’s the one who hears the voice, ‘You are my son, the beloved’. Matthew, having done Theology 101, isn’t all that crazy about Jesus being baptised, and he depicts Jesus as virtually going through the motions ‘to fulfil all righteousness’. In Luke, again it is Jesus who hears the words addressed to him — though this time it is after his baptism, while he was praying: a sort of prayer experience. In John, it is the Baptist who attests to Jesus’s baptism.

All those differences aside, I’ve long wondered why Jesus queued up that day to be baptised. If Matthew is correct, how did he feel being the only one not repenting of anything? Or do we take the other accounts at face value? He got baptised: live with it.

Thirty years ago I wrote a brief article suggesting that Jesus could well have felt guilt for social sin, as anachronistic as it was to use that term in that context. But if he is as incarnate as we believe him to be, he would have been the product of a particular culture with all its insights and biases, some of which hurt people (Mark 7.27). He would have had to participate in an unjust socio-economic system - what other option did he have? And, without wishing to psychoanalyse him, he might naturally have felt, as a good Jew, a collective responsibility for the sin of his people. There were reasons to be in that queue.

Since then I’ve wondered if more could be said. In Mark 10.18 and in the parallel Luke 18.19, in a remarkable exchange with the rich young ruler, Jesus would not allow himself to be called good, insisting that ‘No one,’ himself included, ‘is good but God alone’. Matthew, as in his account of the baptism, is sharp enough to realise the same danger here, so he changes the story a bit: instead of calling Jesus ‘Good Teacher’, Matthew has the man ask about ‘good deeds’ instead — with Jesus responding a little less precisely, ‘There is only one who is good’.

The Greek word for good, agathos, is concerned with the moral good and perhaps could be thought of as ‘morally perfect’. Though one can understand why Jesus might instinctively have wanted to deflect praise away from him towards his Father (he was pretty consistent), and though we might appreciate how Jesus eschewed flattery to focus on good actions instead, what if Jesus had meant what he purportedly said? What if this wasn’t only humble hyperbole? Perhaps Matthew was quite right to sense the danger again. No matter how we try to wiggle out of it, Jesus was not claiming moral perfection. Quite the opposite. And though this doesn’t often feature in formal christology, as a divine person with a created finite human nature, Jesus is also morally finite like the rest of us, and would have experienced himself as such (granted, this needs some careful teasing-out).

For the sake of argument, though, let us suppose that Jesus was in that queue. He had honestly come to be baptised just like everyone else: he had wanted to be dunked in that water and he had hoped to emerge different. In response, something new did occur: he was caught up in the Spirit and discovered (whether during the event or in prayer afterwards) that God was truly delighted with him, that his Father loved him to bits. As wonderful as that was, this experience turned his life upside-down, so much so that he had felt driven by that same Spirit into the wilderness, where he struggled to figure out what it had all meant. There he faced his various demons, demons that might have duped him and undermined what had just happened, and Jesus gradually came to understand his vocation: he was called to share what he had received, realising in Isaian terms that he had been anointed by the Spirit to proclaim good news to the poor (taking Luke’s particular ordering of events).

Though others have balked at this idea, Jesus’ baptism seems to have had all the hallmarks of a powerful conversion experience, a real turning-point. Like the evangelist Matthew, some are reluctant to use such language, thinking that it implies a conversion from sin. But if we suspend our Matthean-inspired theological need to make excuses for Jesus, the basic story of Jesus’ baptism is all the more compelling and paradigmatic for Christians: if Jesus needed to experience God’s love so powerfully, do I dare ask for anything less? Should I even dream of following Jesus unless that same Spirit palpably courses through my veins? And, perhaps, should we really associate conversion with sin, with what we do, as opposed to what God is doing?

Joe Cassidy
Principal, St Chad’s College, Durham

Posted by Joe Cassidy on Sunday, 8 January 2012 at 5:00am GMT | Comments (37) | TrackBack
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Saturday, 7 January 2012

Church responses to latest euthanasia lobby report

A group which styles itself as The Commission on Assisted Dying issued a report last week.

The official Church of England response was this: Statement on the report of the Commission for Assisted Dying.

The ‘Commission on Assisted Dying’ is a self-appointed group that excluded from its membership anyone with a known objection to assisted suicide. In contrast, the majority of commissioners, appointed personally by Lord Falconer, were already in favour of changing the law to legitimise assisted suicide. Lord Falconer has, himself, been a leading proponent for legitimising assisted suicide, for some years.

The commission undertook a quest to find effective safeguards that could be put in place to avoid abuse of any new law legitimising assisted suicide. Unsurprisingly, given the commission’s composition, it has claimed to have found such safeguards.

Unlike the commissioners, we are unconvinced that the commission has been successful in its quest. It has singularly failed to demonstrate that vulnerable people are not placed at greater risk under its proposals than is currently the case under present legislation. In spite of the findings of research that it commissioned, it has failed adequately to take into account the fact that in all jurisdictions where assisted suicide or euthanasia is permitted, there are breaches of safeguards as well as notable failures in monitoring and reporting.

The present law strikes an excellent balance between safeguarding hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people and treating with fairness and compassion those few people who, acting out of selfless motives, have assisted a loved one to die.

Put simply, the most effective safeguard against abuse is to leave the law as it is. What Lord Falconer has done is to argue that it is morally acceptable to put many vulnerable people at increased risk so that the aspirations of a small number of individuals, to control the time, place and means of their deaths, might be met. Such a calculus of risk is unnecessary and wholly unacceptable.

The Church Times reported this in a news article by Ed Thornton Assisted dying ‘unwise’, warns Canon

CANON James Woodward, a member of the Falconer Commis­sion on Assisted Dying, this week declined to support its conclusion that there is “a strong case for providing the choice of assisted dying for terminally ill people”.

The Commission, chaired by the former Lord Chancellor, was established in September 2010 “to consider whether the current legal and policy approach to assisted dying in England and Wales is fit for purpose”.

Its report, published yesterday, argues that the law should be changed to allow terminally ill people in the last year of their lives who are mentally sound to ask a doctor to prescribe a lethal dose. A second doctor would have to assess the candidate independently, and alternative treatments would have to be presented. Candidates would have to administer the lethal dose themselves.

The Revd Dr Woodward, a Canon of Windsor, was the sole dissenting voice on the Commission. He said last week that a visit to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland had been his Damascus-road experience. Writing in today’s Church Times, he says: “Fundamentally, we cannot demand freedom to choose at any cost. I understand that there are significant difficulties with the current law. Yet my visit to Switzer­land . . . raised many more ques­tions about the way a culture views life, death, and the freedom to choose…

The full text of Canon Woodward’s article is available at Why I dissented from Falconer.

…It has been a privilege to travel alongside my fellow commissioners, but we have not ended up in the same place. In the end, mine was the single dissenting voice from the con­clusions. My fellow commissioners have accommodated my divergence with generosity. I support the co­herence, rigour, and quality of this work, and hope that it will be read and used as a basis for further research, work, and public debate…

The Church Times also carried this leader article: Assisting the dying to find dignity.

THE Commission on Assisted Dying assembled by Lord Falconer knew that it had a large stone to push uphill. Parliamentary debates too numerable to recall have considered various schemes for euthanasia and found all wanting. A certain level of help with the stone-pushing has been gained by presenting this as a libertarian issue: those nasty, conservative Churches preventing people from doing what they wish. But, in general, the difficulties of regulation and the lack of safeguards have left a large body of opinion unconvinced that a change in the law can be made securely, even before any slippery-slope arguments are deployed…

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opinion for Epiphany

Savi Hensman writes for Ekklesia about David Cameron and Richard Dawkins: misunderstanding Christianity.

Peter Oborne writes about The return to religion in The Telegraph. “With the chill wind of austerity blowing through the country, religion’s warm embrace looks more and more inviting.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury gave this New Year Message on BBC television. You can watch it here.

Greg Carey in the Huffington Post asks What Does The Book Of Revelation Really Mean?

The Economist has published this leader: Christians and lions. “The world’s most widely followed faith is gathering persecutors. Even non-Christians should worry about that.”

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times that Detectives don’t replace God: they seek him.

Gary Nicolosi in the Anglican Journal poses Seven questions every church should ask.

The Church of England has launched a competition to Design a Church Chair! Scott Gunn has some suggestions: Um, chairs?

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 7 January 2012 at 11:00am GMT | Comments (2) | TrackBack
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Friday, 6 January 2012

Epiphany and epiphanies

I’m speaking tonight, the Feast of the Epiphany, not in church but to a gathering of scientists and theologians interested in the interface between those two subjects. It’s really important, and outfits such as the Faraday Institute here in Cambridge do great work keeping the dialogue going and developing public understanding in an often polarised discussion.

Some of the themes that come up are the perennial big ones of origins and ends. In between are other issues of identity and — particularly at the moment — sexuality. The idea of Epiphany gives us a particularly helpful way in to what is a difficult topic. Epiphanies are showings. In the theological and literary tradition they are where two stories intersect, where the things of this world are shot through with the things of the beyond, and they are often the turning point of the story. James Joyce’s Dubliners was for instance explicitly conceived as a sequence of fifteen such events.

In them we are taken into the territory of wonder and mystery, and new meaning emerges. Accompanying people to their threshold is a key part of the work of the church — and whether it is through worship, or the sacraments, or the scriptures, or silence, or the awe of the universe, we see time again that as they encounter the Other their lives are transformed for good. Research too, in my experience, may be 99% perspiration but usually hinges on the 1% of inspiration, the sudden insight, often out of the blue, that sets its direction.

Closed doors are the enemy of epiphanies, the blockers of transformative insight. So my second suggestion, as we address the vexed issues of sexuality and identity, is that we can make common cause across the science-religion divide to keep the doors open, to oppose fundamentalist positions which close down the questions, and then close down the answers. And more positively (since just opposing fundamentalism breeds a sort of fundamentalist liberalism of its own) to sponsor new spaces in which such open discussion can take place.

It’s not an easy path to tread. One of my first experiences as a bishop was the so-called Indaba process at the Lambeth Conference, which deliberately tried to create such dialogue — and was roundly attacked from all sides for not coming down on any of them. Discussion is something an Institute such as the Faraday does rather well, but issues to do with homosexuality may prove challenging even for its members whose churchmanship is varied: so how might we go about it?

Both theologians and scientists have something to bring to the table here to create a dialogue that could just possibly draw in others too. On the theology side Reasoning, in which people of various faiths expound their scriptures together, might prove a useful model for explorative exposition. When the Lambeth Bishops picketed Parliament I was given a copy of the Poverty and Justice Bible, with all the relevant verses highlighted. Far more than any to do with sexuality. So, for instance, how do biblical teachings on justice and sexuality speak to each other?

Then from the science side, we have been quite fleet-footed in relating the Biblical accounts of Creation to our scientific theories about the origins of the universe. Could we read across some of that sophistication to build up an equal expertise in dealing with a verse such as “male and female he created them”? And just what is the current science anyway about male and female? I for one, even though I am relatively conservative on this issue and happy to live within the Church’s guidelines, see it as essential that genuine scientific insights are factored into and not out of our theology.

So — are there ways in which all of us could use our experience and positions to underpin a more creative debate in the church than the one I fear we may end up having? I pray for epiphanies!

David Thomson
Bishop of Huntingdon

Posted by David Thomson on Friday, 6 January 2012 at 4:56pm GMT | Comments (12) | TrackBack
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Looking ahead: The Episcopal Church in 2012

Jim Naughton wrote at Episcopal Café about the year ahead for The Episcopal Church.

A number of comments related to this article were made in an earlier thread here, which was about an English subject: Same-sex Marriage and Disestablishment.

In order to stop the discussion on the latter topic being dominated by Americans discussing something quite different, I have created this article.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 6 January 2012 at 2:57pm GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Thursday, 5 January 2012

Sir Joseph Pilling to chair CofE Bishops review on human sexuality

Church of England press release:

The membership of a group to advise the House of Bishops on the Church of England’s approach to human sexuality has been announced. The Group will be chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling. Sir Joseph, a former Permanent Secretary of the Northern Ireland Office, chaired the group that produced the report on senior church appointments, Talent and Calling, published in 2007.

The other members of the Group are the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev Michael Perham, the Bishop of Birkenhead, the Rt Rev Keith Sinclair, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Rev Jonathan Baker and the Bishop of Warwick, the Rt Rev John Stroyan.

The House of Bishops announced on 1 July that it intended to draw together material from the listening process undertaken within the Church of England over recent years in the light of the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution on human sexuality. It also committed itself to offering proposals on how the continuing discussion within the Church of England about these matters might best be shaped in the light of the listening process. The task of the new group is to help the House discharge its commitment to produce a consultation document in 2013. The membership of another group, advising the House on its review of the 2005 civil partnership statement, was announced on 1 December.

The full text of the 1 July statement.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 5 January 2012 at 2:58pm GMT | Comments (47) | TrackBack
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Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Same-sex Marriage and Disestablishment

Iain McLean has written at OurKingdom about Same-sex marriage and the Church of England: an argument for disestablishment.

He starts this way:

The UK government has promised to launch a consultation on ‘how to make civil marriage available to same-sex couples’ in England and Wales. Note: HOW, not WHETHER. This reflects the astonishing social change in the last two decades in the UK and other liberal democracies. Surveys such as British Social Attitudes show that moral opposition to gay relationships has gone from a substantial majority to a minority in only 20 years. The Coalition is going with the flow, although not as fast as the devolved Scottish government, whose consultation on the same subject has already taken place.

This is a very difficult subject for faith communities, many of which have been left stranded; and many of which have a principled opposition to recognising same-sex relationships in their churches, synagogues, or temples. That opposition must be honoured, if religious freedom is to mean anything; but equally, so must the principles of those who do want to recognise same-sex commitments in their places of worship.

And he concludes:

… If Parliament makes same-sex marriage possible, will the obligation not then extend to offering same-sex marriage to any parishioner?

No. it cannot and it must not. As the Quakers, Unitarians, and Liberal Jews told the Lords last month, religious freedom must mean the freedom to say no as well as the freedom to say yes. Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights says the same thing. In England, although not in Scotland, the current proposal is to exclude religious communities entirely from the arrangements for same-sex marriage. This will predictably come under pressure if the Government’s intention to legislate for civil same-sex marriage in England and Wales by 2015 comes to pass, and/or if Scotland allows religious celebrants to officiate at same-sex marriages. But, in any such extension of permission to religious communities, there must at an absolute minimum be a conscience clause modelled on the existing ones relating to divorced or transgender people. To force unwilling religious celebrants to celebrate same-sex marriage would be deeply illiberal, and plain stupid.

But this blows English-style establishment out of the water. The courts have already ruled that a Church of England parish is not a “public authority”. This ruling was necessary to protect religious freedom. If parishes were public authorities, they would be subject to the public-sector equality duty laid down in the Equality Act 2010. They could not then refuse to marry an otherwise-qualified same-sex couple. In the interests of religious freedom, it is appropriate to insist that the Church of England is no more a public authority than is any other faith community. But then, it is imperative that it be treated in the same way, and subject to the same law, as all the others. True religious freedom does not only permit, but requires, the full disestablishment of the Church of England and the removal of its bishops from the UK’s legislature. The Church of England could remain a “national” church like the Church of Scotland, but without the entanglements that have led it astray. Each faith community must then decide its attitude to same-sex marriage on its own principles and according to its own rules. There must be no bullying of either side by the other; but nor should there be any claims for special treatment.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 4 January 2012 at 2:47pm GMT | Comments (29) | TrackBack
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Power to become children of God

At the end of the school carol service, the headteacher of our church school walked to the microphone to give her votes of thanks, on the way she whispered to me that I was on next, to say a few words and to give the blessing. I was all ready and had in my mind lots of good things to say about the Christmas story; about God in humble places and appearing to the shepherds, lowly people and the like. The headteacher stood up, did the votes of thanks, and then spent a moment talking to the congregation about Christmas and about God in humble places and appearing to the shepherds, lowly people and the like. I simultaneously felt delight that she was on-message and panic that I had been robbed of my lines. As I stood in front of the microphone I struck out into unanticipated territory. I said that while Matthew and Luke, in their gospels, give us our kings and our shepherds, angels and so forth, John begins his gospel with a wedding. That the wedding of Cana was setting the mood of a story which would be telling us what it was like for someone to be truly and fully alive.

Getting into my stride, I said that Christian living was like a dance, learning the steps to move in God’s way, and that John’s gospel was a story of how lives were transformed by this dance.

A couple of days later, I returned to the prologue to John’s gospel, a familiar text, to see what I could preach about on Christmas Day. As I read the lines I had read countless times before, it struck me that I was not far from the truth in describing the gospel as a dance. As my eyes scanned the verses about everything beginning with a still point, I began to contemplate the gap between this origin, and the promise of what we could become if we “received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” [John 1:12]. Yes it was a dance, a dance between being and becoming; between what is and what will come to be.

Suddenly I saw the wedding in Cana where the old ritual jars were transformed, the encounter with Nicodemus a point of disclosure, the meeting of the woman at the well as a holding and hallowing of a shameful history, and so on, as occasions of people coming into contact with something which made them more human than they were before. It went on, to a blind man healed by someone who did not have the right credentials onto the climax of a dead man breathing again. John’s gospel is indeed a dance, a dance into fuller humanity through contact with the source of life.

In the week before Christmas I was intrigued to read David Cameron’s speech to clergy at Christchurch Oxford on the No.10 website. He was speaking of the legacy of the King James Bible, the phrases it has left us in our language, and the fact that the church has been in the forefront of education for the masses and social action. He said that we need to remember that we are a Christian nation, that it is part of what we should stand for, because we have to stand for something in order to know who we are as a people. His speechwriter had done a good job in saying what he thought the audience would want to hear. But he was saying we had to go backwards, conveniently ignoring that a state church had meant our monarchs could not marry Catholics, and Jews were forbidden from reading for a degree at Oxford until the early last century, or that only Anglican clergy can sit in the House of Lords. He spoke of a past maintained by coercion. To this day the Unitarian and Baptist church buildings in my parish do not have doors which open directly onto the street, a reminder of the time where it was not legal for them to do so.

If Christian values have any place in our contemporary public life as a nation, we need to recover what our sacred texts tell us about what it means for human beings to flourish in the way that St John’s gospel offers us, a way of transformation upon contact; a way of re-connection with the source of life.

What does it mean to flourish as a human? This, in a world where there are some very skewed visions about what it means for humans to live well. Look at our rich, look at our celebrities, look at the anger of the dispossessed which spills out of the pubs onto Evesham High Street on a Saturday night.

We need to rediscover what it means to say that, “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” rediscover the celebration and to learn again the dance steps to become the people God intends us to be, and to be the transforming presence God will for his people in the world.

Andrew Spurr
Vicar of Evesham with Norton and Lenchwick

Posted by Andrew Spurr on Wednesday, 4 January 2012 at 7:45am GMT | Comments (6) | TrackBack
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Sunday, 1 January 2012

US Ordinariate is announced

A year after the Ordinariate was established in England and Wales, the corresponding announcements have been made in the USA.

Rocco Palmo Upon This “Rock,” An Ordinariate Is Born

In an unprecedented Sunday announcement — a significant sign of Rome’s degree of seriousness about the effort — the Vatican’s press bulletin gave official word of the erection of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, encompassing the territory of the United States. The national quasi-diocese for the entering groups is the second of its kind, following England’s Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which was launched a year ago this month.

Fr Jeffrey Steenson, 59, the former Episcopal bishop of Rio Grande ordained a priest of the archdiocese of Santa Fe in 2009, has been named the founding Ordinary. A married father of three and Oxford-trained patristics scholar who’s been serving until now as a professor at Houston’s St Mary’s Seminary and University of St Thomas, Steenson’s appointment is effective immediately…

George Conger Jeffrey Steenson to lead the Anglican Ordinariate in the U.S.

The Vatican has appointed the former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande to head up the American branch of the Anglican Ordinariate.

On 1 Jan 2012 the Vatican announced that Fr. Jeffrey Steenson had been named the Ordinary for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The American branch of the ordinariate will be based in Houston, Texas and is the second national jurisdiction for former Anglicans established under the provisions of Pope Benedict’s 2009 apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum coetibus”.

A second former Episcopal clergyman, Fr. Scott Hurd, who was received into the Catholic Church in 1996 and is presently a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, has been appointed vicar-general of the ordinariate for a three-year term, the Vatican announcement said…

The website of the American Ordinariate is here.


The situation with respect to Canada is discussed here by Rocco Palmo On Day One, The Ordinariate Spreads North.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 1 January 2012 at 6:29pm GMT | Comments (49) | TrackBack
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The Naming & Circumcision

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. Luke 2:21 (NIV)

Of the four Gospels, only Matthew and Luke tell the story of Jesus’ birth, and only Luke includes both the naming of Jesus and his circumcision. For Luke, it was important that Jesus was accepted as the Messiah, the one whom Isaiah had prophesied about, and that would have required Jesus to have been involved in the obligatory Jewish religious traditions and rituals, including circumcision.

Luke’s version of the angelic pronouncement is what we know as the Annunciation, with the angel Gabriel speaking directly to Mary about the child she will soon be carrying and telling her what she is to name him. Not only was this baby to be given a certain name, Luke emphasises that Jesus had been given his name even before he had been conceived.

It is easy to overlook the extraordinary nature of Luke’s statement, implying God’s pre-knowledge of Jesus and the role he would assume (the name Jesus translated literally means ‘the Lord saves’). Most of us will have read the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus, and accept that, as one of the Persons of the God we worship as the Holy Trinity, Jesus would have been ‘known’ before he began his life as one of us: God would, of course, know another part of the eternal God-self.

Our understanding of God may also lead us to the conclusion that we have always been known, that we, too, have been both known and ‘named’ before we were conceived. Think of the Psalmist’s meditations on an all-knowing God:

It was you who created my inmost self,
and put me together in my mother’s womb;
for all these mysteries I thank you:
for the wonder of myself, for the wonder of your works. Psalm 139: 13-14 (NJB)

I can think of no better way to start a New Year than with a fresh realization that we are wholly and deeply known to a loving God, and that, whatever our individual ‘name’ may be, our own unique and distinctive calling which we are continually discovering, if we are Christians, we also walk under the banner of the name of Jesus Christ.

None of us knows what 2012 will hold for us or for anyone else, and my prayer for us all is that we will be able to go forward with boldness and confidence, in the name of Christ:

Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. From Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

Christina Rees

Posted by Christina Rees on Sunday, 1 January 2012 at 12:00am GMT | Comments (11) | TrackBack
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